Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Top 10 Best Rock Albums Ever

I've finally succumbed to that malest of traits: making a list of my favorite music. The trait has been well documented in popular culture, most notably in the movie High to prove I'm male, here is my list. Note I did make two rules: to make it into the top 10, the album had to be at least 10 years old. The reason is that I think it takes ten years to determine if a recording has staying power, ie does it withstand the test of time? Second, I have to still listen to it on occasion. If it just sits on the shelf, well it must not be that special to me. The ten albums in this post have withstood that test and still make it into my CD player. In alphabetical order:

Jethro Tull's Aqualung (1971) is undeniably a classic in my book. The songs are unique, they are very memorable, and it lyrically says things that noone else dares say. Since the first time I heard Aqualung in 1975, I really related and latched on to it. To this day, I listen to it at least a few times a year. It warms my heart. In a weird way.

Okay, I admit it. I was a teenager when AC/DC's Back in Black (1980) came out. I was full of raging hormones, and this album fed every last one of them. It is one of those albums where I have to be in a very special mood to listen to - a heavy partying mood! But I do still listen to it on ocassion...not that I have to dig it out. It is still played quite regularly on the radio and at clubs. Apparently I'm not the only one who loves it.

Apparently America agrees with me on this one, too. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (1973) stayed on the charts longer than any other album ever. And that's saying something. Several on the songs on here (Money, Us and Them, Time) are still very regularly heard in daily life. For good reason. They are excellent. I want to give honorable mention to another Pink Floyd albums that holds a special place in my heart: The Wall (1979). Anyone who was in their late teens when it came out probably can relate.

Now this one will probably surprise you. This probably makes it onto very few Top 10 lists. But I think Brian Setzer's Dirty Boogie (1998) is stunning. It is fun, classic, enjoyable music that always make me want to get up and dance. My wife and I started listening to this when our kids became older and we started getting our evenings free again. That may be one of the reasons I really like it. In any case, it just barely makes it past my "10 year" more albums make it past, this top 10 list may change. To see who future challengers may be, look at the top 20 list.

Any teenager from the 1970s will have no qualms with this selection. Led Zepplin IV (1971) is universally loved and garners and understanding head-nod from persons of my vintage - no explanation needed. An interesting note for the younger crowd: when we used to buy this album on vinyl (gasp! yes we bought actual records), almost EVERY ONE of these damned things were warped. If it wasn't warped when we bought it, it was within six months. We never did figure out why, but it ensured we bought many a copy of Led IV, as it is affectionately called. Honorable Mention: Zepplin's In Through The Out Door (1979).

Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous (1978) is an often overlooked gem. This album has some very fast, moving, hard rocking songs like Jailbreak, Rosalie/Cowboy's Song, and of course The Boys are Back in Town. And it has some very slow, moving ballads such as Dancing in the Moonlight and Still in Love with You.

While raising my kids, I really didn't have time to listen to music much. But a little band called Nirvana caught my attention on TV one night, and it was addiction at first sight. I bought everything I could get my hands on of theirs. I didn't fall for grunge so much as I fell for this one grunge band. Big Time. Because of it's uniqueness, timelessness, and sheer musical beauty I nominate Nirvana's Nevermind (1991) to my top 10 list.

I struggled for awhile on this one. I could not make a top 10 without Queen. But Queen's best stuff is littered over 5 or 6 albums. I narrowed it down to two: Queen's Jazz (1978) is excellent, but it was beat by a nose by A Night At The Opera (1975) which probably marks their zenith...especially due to the inclusion of Bohemian undeniable classic. Oh, and a third great album is The Game (1980) even with it's heavy disco influence...and News Of The World (1977), and...see my delimna?
 I can narrow down my all-time favorite album to one of three.  Aqualung, listed at the top of this post, is one of them. Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic (1974) is another. I can't explain why this album speaks to me so loudly - it just does. Perhaps part of it is because I discovered it after my family had moved across the country in my mid-teens and I was lonely. Maybe it is because the music really is that good. I'll probably never be able to look at P.L. in an unbiased way, but no matter. It is definitely in my top three.
And the third? The album I wasted a great deal of my youth listening to. I was known far and wide as the largest Aerosmith fan in Stillwater, OK. My claim to fame in those years. And my favorite of all Aerosmith albums is Toys in the Attic (1975). I have this album memorized from start to end and can play it in my mind at will. Not sure if I'm proud of that or not. In any case, honorable mention goes to two other Aerosmith albums that are a close second and third in my Aerosmith favorites: Rocks (1976) and Get Your Wings (1974) which is an oft-overlooked gem.

So there it is. My top 10 as of October 21, 2009. Subject to change. Void where prohibited.

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