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My All Time 29

February 20, 2010

Call it a fool’s errand. Recently I tried to come up with a list of my favorite recordings of all time. Not such a tough task, right? Well, try shortening that list to twenty nine albums. Most of us would have a hard time squeezing our top records of the last decade on to a list that size.

Why did I choose “twenty nine” instead of a round number like, say, “thirty”? It’s a total gimmick: I turned twenty nine last month. And as I conceived of this little project– sitting on my couch yesterday watching the Olympics and recovering from oral surgery– I thought it would be fun to extend the challenge to you.

So scroll down to the comments box and leave me a list of your favorite albums, confining the number of titles to your age (yes, gray hairs will have the obvious advantage here; but they’ll also have the wisdom and taste to make good on it).

By the way, my list is ordered according to the album’s release date (or, in some cases, its date of composition).

1. Suites for Solo Cello, J.S. Bach

[1717-1723; Janos Starker; RCA; 1997]


2. Somethin’ Else, Cannonball Adderley

[Blue Note; 1958]


3. Kind of Blue, Miles Davis

[Columbia; 1959]


4. King of the Delta Blues Singers, Robert Johnson

[Columbia; 1961]


5. A Love Supreme, John Coltrane

[Impulse!; 1964]


6. Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul, Otis Redding

[Stax/ Volt; 1965]


7. The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death, John Fahey

[Riverboat; 1965]


8. Abbey Road, The Beatles

[Parlophone; 1969]


9. A Tribute to Jack Johnson, Miles Davis

[Columbia; 1971]


10. There’s A Riot Goin’ On, Sly & The Family Stone

[Epic; 1971]


11. Pink Moon, Nick Drake

[Island; 1971]


12. Paul Simon, Paul Simon

[RCA; 1972]


13. Innervisions, Stevie Wonder

[Motown; 1973]


14. On the Beach, Neil Young

[Reprise; 1974]


15. Red Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson

[Columbia; 1975]


16. Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan

[Columbia; 1975]


17. Expensive Shit, Anikulapo Kuti & Africa ’70

[Editions Makossa; 1975]


18. Live in Paris, Nina Simone

[Accord; 1975]


19. Low, David Bowie

[RCA; 1977]


20. London Calling, The Clash

[Epic; 1979]


21. Rain Dogs, Tom Waits

[Island; 1985]


22. The Queen is Dead, The Smiths

[Rough Trade; 1986]


23. Grace, Jeff Buckley

[Columbia; 1994]


24. The Bends, Radiohead

[Parlophone; 1995]


25. Endtroducing, DJ Shadow

[Mo’ Wax; 1996]


26. Black Music, Chocolate Genius

[V2; 1998]


27. Chore of Enchantment, Giant Sand

[Thrill Jockey; 2000]


28. Transfiguration of Vincent, M. Ward

[Merge; 2003]


29. Madvillainy, Madvillain

[Stones Throw; 2004]

45 Comments leave one →
  1. Bradford Taylor permalink
    February 20, 2010 9:36 pm

    A great list. Easier to ask questions about your list than to construct my own:

    1. On the Beach beats out Gold Rush and Harvest?
    2. 36 Chambers?
    3. B on B, but no B on the T?
    4. Leonard Cohen?
    5. Remain in Light?

    Happy Birthday and Kisses,


  2. February 21, 2010 2:23 am

    you and I could definitely hang out.

    I question the inclusion of Three Feet High and Rising. Though i own four De La cds, including this one, I can’t imagine putting it in my top 30. I mean, at least Fear of a Black Planet or something—something seminal.

    In saying this, have i committed to providing my own 30?


  3. vthoward permalink*
    February 21, 2010 4:43 pm

    In defense of Three Feet High, I have three words for you: “Me,” “Myself,” and “I.”

    Unconvinced? Aside from the Prince of hip hop, what DJ ever dared throw Otis Redding and Steely Dan onto the same track, holding them there until they behaved splendidly?

    (Aaron, I know you know about some Steely D. Didn’t you spend a summer driving around in an old station wagon listening to the Dan’s greatest hits on cassette?)

  4. Max Belz permalink
    February 21, 2010 7:34 pm

    I agree almost totally except I’d replace The Very Best of Nina Simone with Little Girl Blue by Nina Simone. I’ll make a list, Vincent.

  5. vthoward permalink*
    February 21, 2010 9:54 pm


    Though you didn’t seem to be arguing against the idea of including “Best Of”s on a top albums list, your comment got me thinking.

    An artist like Nina Simone is hard to represent on this kind of list. Her repertoire was vast, and her stylistic range and energy as a performer made for a thick catalog of surpassing live recordings. It’s difficult to choose a single album that seems to adequately encapsulate her gift.

    But, of course, this problem holds for any big talent, especially one who boasts a strong and versatile live show. And so it’s unfair to put the finest moments of any one artist’s entire career against even a definitive moment in the career of another. In this sense, throwing a “Best Of” into the mix is a bit like cheating. (I decided earlier today to replace Nina’s “Best of” with one of her finest mid-career live recordings.)

  6. Justin permalink
    February 22, 2010 3:40 pm

    Impressive list, Vince. Like an army with banners.

  7. Cole permalink
    February 22, 2010 4:05 pm

    is there a way to do this with album covers?

  8. vthoward permalink*
    February 22, 2010 4:07 pm

    break out your soldiers borger. (I’m not afraid of the innocence mission).

  9. vthoward permalink*
    February 22, 2010 4:12 pm

    cole, i haven’t tried to put album covers into a comment box, if that’s what you mean. Give it a shot. And make sure you give an official nod to the label so I don’t get red taped.

  10. Lowen Howard permalink
    February 22, 2010 8:33 pm

    No particular order. This is not absolute. It’s my “blink” list.

    1. Mos Def – Black On Both Sides
    2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Henry’s Dream
    3. Chocolate Genius – Black Music
    4. Todd Rundgren – Something / Anything
    5. Masada – Live in Seville (which, btw, Max stole from me)
    6. Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
    7. Robert Johnson – King of the Delta Mississippi Blues (saved my life!)
    8. Shellac – At Action Park (the most ferocious music ever)
    9. Bill Evans – Conversations With Myself
    10. Orchestra Baobab – Pirates Choice
    11. David Bowie – Low
    12. Bob Dylan – Shot of Love
    13. Lost Highway Soundtrack (eclipses the film)
    14. Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Collossus
    15. Smog – Dongs of Sevotion
    16. Dwight Yoakam – South of Heaven, West of Hell
    17. DJ Shadow – Entroducing
    18. U2 – Joshua Tree
    19. Sigur Ros – ( )
    20. Radiohead – Kid A
    21. Glen Gould – Variations on Bach
    22. Peter Gabriel – So
    23. Jerry Garcia & David Grisman – Shady Grove
    24. Sam Phillips – Fan Dance
    25. Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
    26. Rufus Wainwright – Want One
    27. The Who – Who’s Next
    28. Jorma Kaukonen – Quah
    29. The Pixies – Doolittle

    • vthoward permalink*
      February 27, 2010 3:58 pm

      I thought the album title “Variations on Bach” sounded fishy, like some record company promotional exec’s cheesy idea of a brilliant pun: “I know we’ll call it “Variations on Bach,” it’ll be a five disc box set, and the first disc will be “Variations on Goldberg Variations.”

      Although “Gouldberg Variations” might be a fitting name for such a project.

      So are you saying that Gould’s recording of “Goldberg Variations” is on your list?

  11. funke permalink
    February 22, 2010 9:22 pm

    I just want to point out that Lowen is not 29 and needs to dock a coupla titles from his list. Other than that, I’ll be back with more. I’m tempted to make my list span a broad, representative spectrum. But I’ll go with what makes me smile.

  12. vthoward permalink*
    February 22, 2010 10:20 pm

    Lowen, there is much to savor on your list. For starters, “Words…words are not my friend.” These words by Dwight color a whole summer of my memory.

    Seeing The Stones and Smog on your list reminds me: A River Ain’t Too Much and Exile on Main Street were very close to being on mine.

    No Beatles? I’m surprised. A memory: A stifling June morning. Summer of 99. You, me, Vernon, The Stewart bros and a handful of other choice souls were stuffed into Robin’s white van, threading an unsteady line down Rte 66 on our way to the Shenandoahs. Among these hazy recollections, one stands out like a patch of broken glass across an Interstate off-ramp: You insisting that The White Album remain on rotation during that trip to Old Rag Mountain. Sprawling, top-heavy and blessed in spite of itself, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting soundtrack for a road trip where all the bets were off.

  13. Bradford Taylor permalink
    February 23, 2010 1:51 am

    Man, that was hard. It’s interesting for me to see the overlap with Vincent and Lowen, Makes me realize that those huge CD folders in the Five Points are responsible for much of this list. Anyway, here’s my list in a very roughly descending order. One more thing: I tried to make a list of the most personally influential albums in my life. Interesting to see the difference. For instance, TIME-LIFE Singers and Songwriters 1972-1973 didn’t make this list.

    1. Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks
    2. Neil Young, Harvest
    3. Bob Dylan, Bringing it All Back Home
    4. Neil Young, After the Gold Rush
    5. Jeff Buckley, Grace
    6. Are You Experienced?, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
    7. Cameron Mackintosh, Les Misérables
    8. The Beatles, Rubber Soul
    9. The Beatles, The White Album
    10. The Grateful Dead, American Beauty
    11. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme
    12. Leonard Cohen, Songs of Leonard Cohen
    13. David Byrne, David Byrne
    14. Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison
    15. Nick Drake, Pink Moon
    16. Tom Waits, Rain Dogs
    17. Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Matt Sweeny, Superwolf
    18. Rufus Wainwright, Poses
    19. Madvillain, Madvillainy
    20. The Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet
    21. Brian Eno, Here Come the Warm Jets
    22. Radiohead, The Bends
    23. Velvet Underground and Nico, The Velvet Underground
    24. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
    25. Jerry Garcia and David Grisman, Shady Grove

  14. funke permalink
    February 23, 2010 8:55 am

    Hm…good stuff. It’s taken a while to get my list together. Making this about favorite albums kind of privileges music post-Pet Sounds, though, skipping past the golden age of A and B sides. When a Beethoven Symphony required a stack of vinyl a mile high.

    Vince was able to throw some token classical in, but the Goldberg Variations were originally conceived as whole — Bach’s own conceptual album. What if I wanted to put Clair de Lune on the list? Do I randomly choose some “Best of Debussy”? Or pick an album that a pianist carefully compiled, but in an order that Debussy never thought of? Interesting, interesting, interesting.

    Making this list also reminded me of how long it has been since I sat down and really absorbed music in album-size bits and pieces. 😦

    And yes, there is music theatre on this list…

    1. Rubber Soul – Beatles
    2. The Cole Porter Songbook – Ella Fitzgerald
    3. The White Album – Beatles
    4. If You’re Feeling Sinister – Belle and Sebastian
    5. Tea for Tillerman – Cat Stevens
    6. Song Tongs – Animal Collective
    7. Into the Woods – Sondheim (American Playhouse version w/ Bernadette Peters)
    8. Pet Sounds – The Beatles
    9. Mikado – Gilbert & Sullivan (a recording of the original D’Oyly Carte Opera cast is available, which is why I have this here rather than Pirates of Penzance…or Trial by Jury…who says you can’t have a little fun with your music, anyway?)
    10. The Messiah – George Frederick Handel – Academy of St Martin in the Fields
    11. Transmigration of Souls – John Adams
    12. Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
    13. Live at Carnegie Hall — Benny Goodman
    13. The Velvet Underground and Nico- The Velvet Underground
    14. Koyaanisqatsi – Philip Glass
    15. The Crane Wife – The Decemberists
    16. Bookends — Simon and Garfunkel (I’d really rather say the 5-disc combo Columbia released that contains all their albums, but I guess that would be cheating…)
    17. Chore of Enchantment – Giant Sand
    18. Hail to the Thief — Radiohead
    19. White Blood Cells – White Stripes
    20. After Hours – Sarah Vaughan
    21. American IV – Johnny Cash

    And these last ones are just part of my Introvert’s toolkit. Nothing makes me feel quite as fully Alone as the following:

    22. Transfiguration of Vincent – M. Ward
    23. Michigan – Sufjan Stevens
    24. Kid A – Radiohead
    25. ( ) – Sigor Ros
    26. Camino – Oliver Schroer (violinist who recorded this album in cathedrals along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail–you can hear the open spaces rustle)
    27. Black Music – Chocolate Genius
    28. Black Yankee Rock – Chocolate Genius

  15. vthoward permalink*
    February 23, 2010 8:09 pm


    there’s a lot of good stuff on your list. I went back and made a few changes to mine this morning (two of the casualties were token classical albums). I cheated. But so what. No list is definitive, unless you write for a music magazine or web site (and, yes, if they paid me, I might easily write something preposterous, such as “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important rock & roll album ever made”; apparently, the rock scribe behind that line from Rolling Stone magazine had not yet heard The White Album.) It is also highly probable that he did not live to hear Miles Davis’ rock album, A Tribute to Jack Johnson.

    You’re right, recordings of classical music don’t lend themselves very well to albums lists, what with long players having begun with rock music. Or at least that’s what rock critics claim. Though Francis Davis stands ready to remind us (especially those of us–like me– who weren’t alive back then) that many performers were releasing closely-related collections of songs as far back as the forties, before the long player was invented. Sinatra put out concept albums before either Dylan or the Beatles (or those Beach Boys, for that matter). Sinatra’s innovation, as Davis puts it, was to make a concept out of mood. He left it to all the young dudes to make concepts out of Big Ideas.

  16. Lowen Howard permalink
    February 23, 2010 10:35 pm


    I would love to hear this Beatles rendition of “Pet Sounds” that you listed. Also, Song Tongs. Is that a companion piece to Sung Tongs?

    And Vincent, just so you know, I actually had The White Album on my list. I took it out in order to include Want One. It’s just not fair. I can do my top three albums, or even top five. but not top 29…and certainly not 27 (which is my proper age).

    Bradford’s list for example, made me feel really inadequate. I didn’t have anything by Neil Young or Lou Reed. Shame! Shame!!

    At any rate, thanks for the warm memory Vincent. Glad we’re passed it though. The White Album belongs. But what matters most is that I possess it in my heart (Max, you still owe me a copy of Seville).

  17. funke permalink
    February 24, 2010 12:16 am

    Ha. I guess I will have to beg forgiveness for compiling the list on the dregs of sleep not yet dispersed by a proper cup of coffee…but who knows, maybe I do have some elusive never-before-released materials in my home collection…

    • Lowen Howard permalink
      February 27, 2010 11:43 am


      I’ve been waiting. Honestly, I’m surprised you didn’t hassle me for the album I attributed to Glen Gould. As far as I know, it doesn’t exist (or doest it???). I meant the Goldberg Variations.

      Great list by the way. I’ll be scouring used record stores over the next couple of years to hear your picks that I’m as yet unfamiliar with. Also, good to be reminded of St. Martin in the Fields. I saw them perform once and was blown away.

  18. Bradford Taylor permalink
    February 24, 2010 1:54 am

    A PM from Vincent just made me realize that I should clarify what I said about “most influential.” I meant to say that I ALSO tried to make a DIFFERENT list of the most influential albums, as opposed to the albums I now consider my favorite. For instance, Singers and Songwriters 1972-1973, Mad About the Classics, and Bob Marley Legend played around the clock when I was younger, but I no longer think of these as my “favorite albums.” Anyway, just in the way of clarification.

  19. funke permalink
    February 24, 2010 8:22 am

    I hear you on changing lists. After I submitted mine, I immediately wanted to issue a recall and modify all over again. Plus, I was somewhat embarrassed that I had leaked my proclivity for Gilbert and Sullivan to the world. But I included it because of the memories, and it’s hard to entirely expunge your childhood from personal taste.

  20. vthoward permalink*
    February 24, 2010 11:22 am


    I feel you on the “influential” list. There are certain albums that really defined whole periods of my younger years. But my love for these recordings was too big and all-encompassing to contain itself. And I was too young to appreciate the music on its own terms. Like the Sinatra song, it had to be “My Way” all the time. I turned the volume up too high too often. I tried to make one album match every mood. I had too many moods. I probably had too few albums.

    And after we broke up, things changed. I’m still sort of too embarrassed to face them straight on. I’m shifty in their presence.

    This list would include: Van Halen’s Van Halen, Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, Gun’s N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Nirvana’s Nevermind, The Beastie Boy’s Check Ya’ Head, Radiohead’s The Bends.

    Grade school now seems like a bit ago. Maybe one day I can run into them and it won’t be weird.

  21. Max Belz permalink
    February 25, 2010 5:49 pm

    This list only contains jazz recordings, mostly between 1950 and 1965. Prior to 1950, jazz musicians didn’t record concept albums so that era is not accurately represented. Nor is jazz fusion, but that’s because I don’t like jazz fusion. Lowen’s going to come back with, “Where’s On the Corner?!”

    I’m 24.

    Kind of Blue — Miles Davis
    ESP — Miles Davis
    Giant Steps — John Coltrane
    Saxaphone Colossus — Sonny Rollins
    Getz/Gilberto — Stan Getz, Joao and Astrud Gilberto
    Sonny Clark Trio (self-titled)
    Sunday at the Village Vanguard — the Bill Evans Trio
    A Love Supreme — The John Coltrane Quartet
    Song for My Father –The Horace Silver Quintet
    Ellington at Newport — the Duke Ellington Orchestra
    The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady — Charles Mingus
    Time Out — Dave Brubeck
    Time Further Out — Dave Brubeck
    Coltrane’s Sound — John Coltrane
    Porgy and Bess — Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
    Study in Brown — Clifford Brown and Max Roach
    Chet Baker Sings — Chet Baker
    Anita O’Day Swings Cole Porter with Billy May — Anita O’Day
    The Oscar Peterson Trio at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival
    Never No Lament: The Blanton-Webster Band — Duke Ellington (compilation)
    Gershwin and Kern/Magician — Erroll Garner
    Jazz at Massey Hall — Charlie Parker
    Little Girl Blue — Nina Simone
    Lady in Satin — Billie Holiday

    • vthoward permalink*
      February 26, 2010 10:25 pm


      there’s a lot on your list that I need to hear. Thanks for throwing this signpost down. So what’s your beef with jazz fusion?

      • Max Belz permalink
        February 27, 2010 3:51 pm

        I don’t know, it seems pained. And to be fair, I haven’t listened to it that much.

        Thanks for starting this project–it’s a cool idea. We haven’t heard from some in the group yet. And I owe a lot of my music appreciation to you–hip-hop, Neil Young, Madvillain, the list goes on.

  22. February 26, 2010 12:21 pm

    hmmm. interesting that there is no pavement on any of the above. though I feel that may be my only unique contribution, i will now waste 30 minutes of time at work to come up w/ a top 23.

  23. Max Belz permalink
    February 26, 2010 4:35 pm

    Lowen, what’s your mailing address so I can return John Zorn to you? Or should I send it to Aaron Stewart?

    • Lowen Howard permalink
      February 26, 2010 9:58 pm

      Yeah, pass it on to Aaron for now.

  24. Lowen Howard permalink
    February 26, 2010 10:00 pm

    btw, thanks for your list. There’s a lot that I haven’t heard. I’m going to keep this list.

    • Max Belz permalink
      February 27, 2010 3:54 pm

      You’re welcome, Lowen. Thank you for your list too.

  25. Kiko permalink
    February 28, 2010 2:56 am

    Per the request of my husband, here are my top 31 albums of my life time. I have chosen these albums based on the albums I played the most on my very first red boombox to my one and only sony walkman to my current cd players. If anyone wants to listen to Petra, I still have the cassette tape. Actually, I have Doolittle, Guns n’ Roses and Michael W. Smith in cassettes too. The soundtrack of my life:

    1. The Prodigal Son by Keith Green
    2. Beat the System by Petra
    3. I 2 (Eye) by Michael W. Smith
    4. Step by Step by New Kids On The Block
    5.Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys
    6. Moving by Peter Paul and Mary
    7. Close to You by the Carpenters
    8. Abbey Road by the Beatles
    9. War by U2
    10. Use Your Illusion II by Guns N’ Roses
    11. Siamese Dream by The Smashing Pumpkins
    12. Doolittle by Pixies
    13. The Sign by Ace Of Base
    14. CrazySexyCool by TLC
    15. Weezer (Blue Album) by Weezer
    16. Mellow Gold by Beck
    17. Fashion Nugget by Cake
    18. Debut by Björk
    19. Post by Björk
    20. The Sound of Music by Pizzicato Five by Pizzicato 5
    21. Hail to the Thief by Radiohead
    22. Amnesiac by Radiohead
    23. Kid A by Radiohead
    24. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill
    25. Aquemini by Outkast
    26. Stankonia by Outkast
    27. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by Flaming Lips
    28. Electric Version by New Pornographers
    29. Give up by The Postal Service
    30. The Icelandic Twins by of Montreal
    31. Be by Common

    • vthoward permalink*
      February 28, 2010 8:58 pm


      you get props for introducing some greats into this list-making business. If I’m not mistaken, Bjork and Outkast are here for the first time. Aquemini and Post are favorites of mine.

      The Miseducation is also solid. I remember we were talking about our desert island lists one night over dinner, and you said Lauren Hill’s solo debut would be a shoo-in on yours. That’s when I knew you had soul, and that you had little patience for “some guys.”

      And Petra? Michael W. Smith? Fearless. Period.

      Your list makes me want to make a second list representing those albums I spun out in my younger years. Few of those albums still get play from me. But they are no less important. But perhaps it’s time I broke out my Keith Greens and my Petras.

      I’m thrilled you graced More Soul with your 31 favs, baby!

  26. funke permalink
    March 3, 2010 9:10 am

    Yay! I contemplated Bjork, Postal Service, Flaming Lips, Weezer and Cake, but sadly they all got axed. Thanks, Kiko!

  27. Kiko permalink
    March 4, 2010 9:28 pm

    Sarah- You didn’t consider Ace of Base!? What?!

    Vincent – Are you saying that some of the albums I listed are not ‘great’?…I felt a strong implication. Maybe it’s because you are tired of me playing you New Kids and Michael W. as of recently. I’ll stop strolling down memory lane…it does make me feel old knowing you don’t know the dance moves to ‘You’ve Got It (The Right Stuff)’.

  28. Lowen Howard permalink
    March 20, 2010 4:02 pm


    Nobody submitted Doolittle?! Ok, quick revision. Pull The Rolling Stones and replace with The Pixies.


  29. March 20, 2010 10:37 pm

    Pull the Rolling Stones and replace with Pixies?! What are you, nuts? There’s no definite article in Pixies!!

    Okay, I doubled your total and excluded jazz and other non-rock garbage. We all know rock is all there is. The only other rule, i think, is that there are no repeated artists in this list.

    I notice that three years dominate: 1975, 1983, and 1995. What do you make of that?

    The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)
    Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced? (1967)
    Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1968)
    The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground (1968)
    The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)
    Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left (1969)
    Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead (1970)
    The Kinks – The Kink Kronikles (1971)
    Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
    T. Rex – Electric Warrior (1971)
    The Who – Who’s Next (1971)
    Neil Young – Harvest (1972)
    The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street (1972)
    Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy (1973)
    Jackson Browne – Late for the Sky (1974)
    Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
    Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks (1975)
    Brian Eno – Another Green World (1975)
    Queen – A Night at the Opera (1975)
    The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers (1976)
    The Eagles – Hotel California (1976)
    Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band – Shiny Beast (1978)
    The Clash – London Calling (1979)
    David Bowie – Scary Monsters (1980)
    Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980)
    The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)
    Peter Gabriel – Security (1982)
    Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes (1983)
    Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones (1983)
    Madonna – Madonna (1983)
    Trio – Trio and Error (1983)
    Van Halen – 1984 (1983)
    The Smiths – The Smiths (1984)
    Prince – Purple Rain (1984)
    U2 – The Unforgettable Fire (1984)
    The Cure – Standing on a Beach (1986)
    R.E.M. – Life’s Rich Pageant (1986)
    The Housemartins – London 0 Hull 4 (1986)
    New Order – Substance (1987)
    Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987)
    Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking (1988)
    Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation (1988)
    Pixies – Doolittle (1989)
    Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
    Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993)
    Luna – Bewitched (1994)
    Weezer – Weezer (1994)
    Guided by Voices – Alien Lanes (1995)
    Palace Brothers – Viva Last Blues (1995)
    The Jayhawks – Tomorrow the Green Grass (1995)
    The Flaming Lips – Clouds Taste Metallic (1995)
    Tricky – Maxinquaye (1995)
    Beck – Odelay (1996)
    Built to Spill – Perfect from Now On (1997)
    Nick Cave – The Boatman’s Call (1997)
    Radiohead – OK Computer (1997)
    Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)
    Gorillaz – Gorillaz (2001)

    • vthoward permalink*
      March 22, 2010 7:15 pm


      Hotel California?! That song– I won’t even start on the album– is nothing more than a burned-out yuppie fantasy that turned out to be a bad trip: Hell is being trapped in a wasted resort with Don Henley and “a lot of pretty, pretty boys” he calls friends. The track is so stillborn that even Joe Walsh’s guitar solo– a by-the-numbers bit of axe work he could have played in his sleep– can’t redeem it. James Gang Rides Again– an earlier and worthier Walsh recording– is exhibit A in the case for why Hotel California is a tired piece of rock n’ roll dreamwork best saved for that section of the time capsule labeled “junk drawer.”

      • March 22, 2010 8:56 pm

        Sorry, man, it’s the essence of rock. Rolling Stone’s #49 of 500 greatest songs of all time. One of the most memorable songs in pop music history—the opening chord progression alone—you must be higher than the Eagles ever were. Seriously, go to corner bar X, get a pitcher of Bud Light, drink a few glasses and let the first strains of Hotel California emerge from the jukebox, and then rethink your position.

        I love Madvillainy, seriously, but please don’t take my rock and roll away. I’m begging you. What does it profit a man to gain all the art galleries in the world, and all the fru-fru retro bebop venues, but to lose his soul?

      • March 22, 2010 10:01 pm

        I should clarify, my posture here is slightly ironic. I do love pop and don’t mind conforming to the masses, in general, but I’d like to think i’m slightly less of a jerk in real life than this mock outrage would make me seem.

        I learned a lot from all of your lists.

  30. March 20, 2010 10:41 pm

    I’d like to add that i think all of your other lists are complete nonsense. Cake? Two Björk albums? Rufus Wainwright? Giant SAND??

    I guess I picked albums i’d throw on the jukebox if i was getting crunk with friends.

  31. Christopher Taylor permalink
    March 26, 2010 11:30 am

    Oooh fun! I love mental masturbation. Seriously though, I’d like to say how much I appreciate these lists. It’s always nice to have five star albums to hear for the first time. I admit I am not as familiar with Bob Dylan or Otis Redding or many of the great artists of the last century as I would like to be. I grew up on CCM; I’ve had a lot of catching up to do.

    Below is a list of my favorite 24 albums. I’ll try not to qualify the hell out of it, but the primary difficulty I had when making this list was the competition between the “best” and my personal “favorites.” I compiled this list quickly and tried to go with my gut – Madonna’s “True Blue” bumping The Velvet Underground’s self-titled is a prime example.

    I thoroughly agree with Vincent, however, about love for some albums being “too big and all-encompassing to contain itself,” and I do often feel “too young to appreciate the music on its own terms.” I’m obsessed with pop, and these days I mostly listen to individual songs. But Sasha Frere-Jones says both of those are OK. =)
    PS – Of course I love the Pixies, The Smiths, Bjork, Sigur Ros, The Rolling Stones, blah blah.


    1.Achtung Baby – U2
    2.Bookends – Simon & Garfunkel
    3.Critical Beatdown – Ultramagnetic MC’s
    4.Demon Days – Gorillaz
    5.Dig Your Own Hole – The Chemical Brothers
    6.Disintegration – The Cure
    7.Kid A – Radiohead
    8.Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
    9.Let’s Dance – David Bowie
    10.Off The Wall – Michael Jackson
    11.Paul’s Boutique – The Beastie Boys
    12.Pet Sounds – Beach Boys
    13.Pure Desmond – Paul Desmond
    14.Radio – LL Cool J
    15.Rubber Soul – The Beatles
    16.Siamese Dream – The Smashing Pumpkins
    17.Songs of Love and Hate – Leonard Cohen
    18.Substance – New Order
    19.Summer Sun – Yo La Tengo
    20.Who’s Next – The Who
    21.The Unforgettable Fire – U2
    22.Time Out – Dave Brubeck
    23.True Blue – Madonna (not ironic)
    24.(What’s The Story) Morning Glory? – Oasis

  32. Christopher Taylor permalink
    March 26, 2010 11:49 am

    !!! Take Madonna off. I forgot about “Songs From The Big Chair” by Tears For Fears. I knew this would happen.

  33. March 29, 2010 6:54 pm

    Madonna and Prince are that without which there is nothing. I think there’s a Latin dictum for that. The dictum applies to Madonna and Prince.

  34. March 29, 2010 6:55 pm

    Sine qua non

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