0016: The 100 Best Rock Albums (71-80)
- 71. The Criminal Under My Own Hat - T Bone Burnett: Criminally overlooked, this startling album represents the peak of Burnett's amazing output. Writing slightly cryptic songs that resonate with universal appeal, T Bone managed to create an album both atmospheric and deeply rooted in terrific songs at once. The lyrics and melodies are beyond brilliant, and Burnett gently stretches modern folk to its limits. If you missed this jewel the first time around, dig for it now. There's treasure deep inside Burnett's dark, mysterious mountains.
- 72. Paul's Boutique - Beastie Boys: The album that foretold Beck and influenced countless rap and electronica outfits of the 90s, Paul's Boutique is an endlessly fascinating brew of music as disparate as rock, hip-hop, folk, and country. The samples seamlessly meld with the songs, and those songs mix wild effects and melody with an amazing grace. Licensed to Ill might have caught the world's attention, but it in no way hinted at the magic fusion of alternative rock and rap on display here.
- 73. Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zeppelin: Much of Led's achievements might be over-stated, but this is the album that lives up to the hype. Adding elements of folk to their already mighty fusion of blues and rock, Zep created an huge album capable of encompassing the strange strands of The Battle of Evermore as well as the complicated-yet-straight-forward Black Dog. Stairway to Heaven needs no comment, but the best song here is actually When the Levee Breaks, a song that manages to combine the kinetic blow of metal with the creepiness of their folk experiments. It's the perfect end to Led's greatest album.
- 74. Nevermind - Nirvana: It wasn't the punk-influenced roar that shot this one to the top; it was their hidden weapon. Cobain could write pop songs like nobody's business. Once these classic tunes were melding to that riot music, the world woke up. Radio stations dumped their Poison, Warrant, and Motley Crue albums to join the movement. How could this had been a bad thing? We needed this music, and we were lucky that, for a short time, Cobain delivered.
- 75. The Great Twenty-Eight - Chuck Berry: These are the guitar licks that you still cannot escape. Berry is perhaps the only artist who can compete with Elvis Presley as the creator of modern rock, and the songs on this disc ("Maybellene," "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," "Roll Over Beethoven," and "Johnny B. Goode," for example) gave the new genre some of its best and most-covered classics. Now sadly out-of-print, this disc simply lays out 28 of his best in chronological order, and you can hear the songs that still ring, in some form or another, on the radio today. This is not the perfect Berry collection (or else this would probably rank much higher), but it is the best one released so far.
- 76. Star Time - James Brown: He helped shape soul, may have created funk, and definitely planted the seeds for rap music. James Brown is a true American genius whose value has been obscured by his albums' scatter-shot quality. This box set corrected this, collecting his best work and making a compelling case for Brown as one of the greatest musical inventors and performers of all time. He sang it loud and proud, and our debt to him is beyond measure.
- 77. Shoot out the Lights - Richard & Linda Thompson: Like a wooden knife, this album was carved down to an sharp focus and cuts deep. While the Thompsons have not created an entirely dark work, even the lighter songs seem to provide a depressing contrast to the stark songs of heartbreak and sorrow, and both artists sang with conviction. Oh, did I mention that Richard can play the guitar?
- 78. The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle - Bruce Springsteen: Critics and spin masters were quick to recognize Springsteen's talent, but even they were no doubt not ready for this mature, original work. Taking various different strands of great American 60s rock and slinging them together to create a new sound that was instantly recognizable, Springsteen wrote gorgeous songs with the poetic vision and intensity of the best of the 70s singer / songwriters, but he could also rock with a fury the folkies had foresaken. Born to Run may get the praise, but this earlier album may well be the best of the Boss.
- 79. Dirty Mind - Prince: Dirty Mind strikes the first-time listener as the wild work of a perverted maniac locked inside a studio for a month without stimulation, or, at least, what that work might sound like if said maniac was an absolute genius on par with any R&B artist of the 80s. Or is it R&B? Impossible to tell, since with this album, Prince defiantly tore down any label we may try to paste over him. He injects funk with rock, slick R&B with filthy dance beats, and soul with new wave, creating a massive, new style of pop music in the process. Dirty Mind indeed, but also gifted beyond words.
- 80. Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols - The Sex Pistols: Despite the epic, over-inflated sounds sludging from rock radio in the mid-70s, tight, sparse rock music never really went away. It simmered under the surface, slowly warming up in underground clubs and venues, until, somewhere around 1977, it exploded. England was shocked, America was interested, and rock music never was the same. If this collection of songs doesn't sound as great as the effect it had on the rock world, it is still a sharp, ripping blast of three-chord fury and rage. Johnny Rotten obviously knew more than his press was letting on.
Influence and historical importance mean nothing here. Each and every album is ranked based solely on its own artistic merits. All official releases are fair game; only bootlegs are not considered. This is it - the best rock albums ever.
I will be adding entries as time allows. The list is complete, but I wish to write a bit about each album, so it may be a week or two until all albums are listed. I hope to add at least two or three entries each weekday and more if I have the chance.
Creating this list hurt. Great albums were left on the cutting room floor, and sadly, I fear albums near the bottom of the list may be looked down upon. Make no mistake - any album on this list is a fantastic work well worth your time. The difference between closely ranked albums was microscopic at best.
To prevent this list's size from becoming prohibitive, I am breaking the hundred entries into blocks of ten.