Let’s Play the Music Games Again – What Are Your Perfect Albums?
Bill Quick

The 60 Best Albums Ever Released – Rate Your Music

I have no idea who this guy is – he’s probably just some guy – but his musical tastes and mine are so congruent that I have 49 of the sixty albums on his list. What I don’t have is Radiohead or Wilco, but given how much of what he does like that I like too, I’m going to check both bands out right away – probably by getting their stuff at Amazon where I can buy the CD and get the MP3 versions tossed in for free – for less money, usually, than the cost of buying the MP3 album verusions alone. (It’s called “Autorip ” – check it out. If you see that word next to the CD, that’s the deal. Buy the CD and have “hard copy”, and get the MP3 cuts uploaded to the Amazon cloud, where you can immediately download them and slap them on whatever player you want to.

But that’s not what this post is about. It’s a leadin to what I really wanted to get started, but I can’t find the original blog post I wanted to cite. Anyway, as best as I recall, the blogger was asking about “perfect” albums – that is, albums without a single bad or even average cut on them. He named three Dylan efforts (the one’s you’d expect, although I hate Everybody Must Get Stoned, so for me that disqualifies Blonde on Blonde. A couple of Beatles disks, including, of course, Sgt. Pepper’s, which to my mind hasn’t aged nearly as well as Revolver or Rubber Soul – or, for that matter, Meet the Beatles. Oddly enough, I seem to recall that both My Morning Jacket and Fleet Foxes were mentioned, but I can’t recall which of their albums were cited. Oddly because those happen to be just about the only two “contemporary” bands (other than Ike Reilly and the Assassination) whose work has caused me to buy more than one of their albums (in Reilly’s case, I bought them all).

So, here’s the deal: What are your nominations for “perfect albums,” why, and what is your favorite song on each one?

As for me, I’ve never understood why either Sgt. Pepper or Pet Sounds should be ranked ahead of Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, which I consider the finest rock album ever cut – not a single cut on the thing is less than great, and more than a few are iconic. But that’s just me. I have twenty-some Dylan Albums and all of Ike Reilly’s six albums in regular playlist rotation on my mobile sound machines. That’s the background music for my daily bike rides.

Anyway, show’em or fold’em. (I’ll leave this top o’the blog through tomorrow so everybody gets a chance to play….)

Posted in Music permalink
Bill Quick

About Bill Quick

I am a small-l libertarian. My primary concern is to increase individual liberty as much as possible in the face of statist efforts to restrict it from both the right and the left. If I had to sum up my beliefs as concisely as possible, I would say, "Stay out of my wallet and my bedroom," "your liberty stops at my nose," and "don't tread on me." I will believe that things are taking a turn for the better in America when married gays are able to, and do, maintain large arsenals of automatic weapons, and tax collectors are, and do, not.

Comments

Let’s Play the Music Games Again – What Are Your Perfect Albums? — 51 Comments

  1. Starship – Blows Against the Empire – Hijack
    Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow – Somebody to Love
    Jefferson Airplane – Crown of Creation – Crown of Creation & Lather
    Jefferson Airplane – Volunteers – Volunteers
    Santana – Santana – Black Magic Woman

    • The first time I heard Blows Against the Empire I didn’t like it. At all. And then I listened again. And again. etc.

      Music is SO idiosyncratic though. Luckily the first mate and I have similar tastes.

  2. Jimi Hendrix – Are you Experienced? – Purple Haze
    The Mothers of Invention – Freak Out – You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here (Well so am I, so am I …)

  3. My wife may not be a hit but it was a classic Entwistle twisted humor classic. Who’s Next ranks up there.

    I’ll add a second. I was building a playlist and I noticed that the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers has a brilliant guitar part on every track, whether acoustic, electric and/or slide guitar. It also had four players involved: Mick Taylor, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ry Cooder. Aside from Jagger, who is a good guitar player, all are top 50 of all time rock guitar players.

  4. I spend more time listening to progessive rock than everything else put together, so I only feel competent to offer an opinion for prog. In that genre, I consider Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and Yes’ Close to the Edge the most perfect albums. (The “Best Albums” list in the post has Meddle for Pink Floyd, but most Floyd fans I know consider Wish You Were Here their peak.)

    Supertramp’s Crime of the Century is pretty close, too. “Hide in Your Shell” is the weak cut. Peter Gabriel’s So album is also close.

    In the last couple of decades, Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing album comes closest to prog perfection. Yeah, to sound all hipsterish, I know you probably haven’t heard of it, but Porcupine Tree has a large and devoted following in the progressive rock ranks. Deadwing put them on the map and got them a major studio contract, under which the band has produced two albums that sold better but don’t come close to the quality of Deadwing.

    It’s an interesting question to ponder, though, because it’s such a tough bar to meet. I think of great albums such as Synchronicity by the Police – marred by the unlistenable “Mother”, which most people probably think is titled “Is That My Mother on the Phone?”. Other great prog bands – ELP, Genesis, Alan Parsons – all seem to have at least one mediocre cut on every album.

  5. The “Are You Experienced” from my vinyl days or now? The original on vinyl was perfect. On CD they added some interesting tracks but not perfect.

    Ok let us get obscure a little. Smithereens 2011. Or Smithereens 11. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. (Ok I understand it is outside the criteria).

    Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out. Keith Richard’s meanest guitar and Mick Taylor’s vibrato writ large, allegro to boot.

    Van Halen I.

    Chuck Berry, Maybelline
    Bill Halley, Rock Around the Clock
    Little Richard, Tutti Frutti
    Buddy Holly, Peggy Sue
    Jerry Lee Lewis, Great Balls of Fire.
    If the above were an EP it would be perfect rnr roots.

  6. @Kennycan: Sticky Fingers is my favorite Stones album. I don’t even own Exile, but maybe I should.

    @Billy: I’d forgotten all about that Supertramp album, but I used to like it a lot. So it goes on my “buy it soon” list.

  7. Gee, Bill. You don’t ask for much. But since I’m still a little doped from surgery yesterday, this is perfect for me to play with! A couple of caveats for my choices: I had to own the album. Now, I own everything the Beatles ever did, but I don’t think they made a perfect album. There’s always something that comes close. I take into consideration production as well, and that’s where The Beatles always end up bugging me. It would have behooved them to occasionally toss George Martin into the dumpster out back, but McCartney had a total hardon for that sound, so oh well.

    Other criteria include that I regularly listen to the whole album, with a big smile on my face not prompted by recreational drugs. The whole thing stands on its own and together. The album also gets regular rotation in the kitchen. Oh, and no live albums. This leaves out a lot of stuff I love listening to.

    This list isn’t in any particular order, so make what you will of it.

    Billy Bragg & Wilco – Mermaid Avenue
    Huh? No. Really. I keep coming back to this album. Take unpublished songs from Woody Guthrie and give them Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweedy, and let them run with it. Not a bad one in the bunch. This is one of those rare albums where everyone gets it right. My fave is California Stars, which should really be California’s state song, if you’re gonna be nice about it and not nominate DK’s California Über Alles.

    Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
    Bob Dylan’s Perfect Album. Everything about it is excellent. It’s such an example of rock & roll perfection that very few things come close. Personal fave? Highway 61 Revisited; Dylan at his Old-Testament-meets-The-Cold-War best.

    Velvet Underground & Nico
    11 incredible songs that changed the direction of Rock & Roll. Every single one is amazing. 1967 was a slack year for most of the big groups of the time, with only this and Are You Experienced as the real standouts, no matter what you think of St. Pepper’s. My fave on this? That’s real tough. I’ll go with I’m Waiting For The Man. This whole album is a nerve jangling opus that out-punks anything that came after it.

    Cowboy Junkies – Trinity Sessions
    Recipe: Take 1 unknown Canadian band, give them an abandoned church to record in, and let ‘er rip. Perfect across the board; order of songs, instrumentation, spare production. Includes a version of Sweet Jane that bought Lou Reed to tears. He’s been doing it their way ever since.

    Marianne Faithfull – Broken English
    Leave it to Marianne Faithfull to make a perfect album where the Stones could not. Incredibly focused and aggressive in a what-have-I-got-to-lose abandon, this album is an outstanding light. Why D’Ya Do It is what I’d go for here; pure acid and venom spit out with rage. If you don’t own the album, you’ve probably never heard it; it doesn’t get played on the radio, that’s for sure.

    Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
    I’ll catch some shit for this one, I’m sure. But it’s perfect. Not a dog in the bunch. It still holds up strong, especially considering Springsteen’s later dreck. Thunder Road was the perfect album opener and is still my favorite.

    Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced?
    I think everything that can be said about this album has been said, so I’m not even gonna try. Always on the kitchen playlist. This is one of those strange situations where both the US and UK versions – different albums altogether – are both perfect. That’s how good this is. Are You Experienced?

    Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!
    As far as I’m concerned, this is the best album of the new century, so far. Just perfect. Combining incredible songwriting and storytelling with some of the best music in decades, every track clicks smoothly in behind the other like loading rounds into a well lubed AR magazine. If you forced me to pick one song, I’ll go with the finisher, More News From Nowhere, an epic reimagining of The Odyssey.

    Patti Smith – Horses
    From the Mapplethorpe album photo to every track, this album screams NYC punk perfection. Everything zings with imagination. Gloria (In Excelsis Deo) is the standout. Patti Smith gave birth to punk.

    Peter Gabriel – So
    Is it 80’s pop incarnate? Sure it is! But, it’s perfect 80’s pop incarnate! Perfect songs. Perfect guests. Perfect production. This is factory made perfection, but perfection nonetheless. In Your Eyes always does it for me.

    Public Image Ltd – Compact Disc
    John Lydon shoots for perfection and scores. A lot of people will go, huh? Everything about this album tends to be underated. I’ve turned more people on to this than I can possibly remember. I say, “Sit down, put on your headphones and listen all the way through. Then do it again.” They rave about it after that. Rise is the perfect song on this perfect album. Anger is an energy.

    U2 – The Joshua Tree
    Over the years, I’ve learned to sorta hate U2. I have issues with them. So, for me to add Joshua Tree to this list makes be bleed from my eyes. It’s perfect. Every note The Edge jangles is perfect. Every word Bono warbles is perfect. Every fucking song on the whole fucking album is perfect. I really hate that it’s perfect, but it is. Running To Stand Still is the best heroin song since, well, Heroin.

    The Who – Who’s Next
    It’s perfect on accident. It’s perfect because Pete Townsend wrote lots of perfect songs for a rock opera and the studios balked at another Who rock opera, so he took a bunch of those perfect songs and made a perfect album with them. Perfect. As a result, we have the perfect Rock Anthem, Won’t Get Fooled Again.

    Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
    I love me some Wilco. I’m a huge fan, and I love their work, but this is where they clocked in at perfect. Experimentation can be tricky, but these guys really figured it out, and took their band in a totally new direction. Fearless. Each song is a standout with musical cues inspired by The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations. Is that quirky perfection, or what? I Am Trying To Break Your Heart is my standout here.

    There were a lot more that I wanted to list, especially old faves. But I just had to admit, that in most cases, they came up short. Maybe by one song.

    Have at it!

  8. Good heavens, Chef. If you come up with stuff like this coming out of surgery, maybe you should put yourself under the knife more often!

    Massive food for thought – a banquet, really.

    Re: Velvets, Reed, Nico – yes. This album just blew me away when I first heard it shortly after release, and it still does. Nobody ever did this shit better, tho Reed himself took a strong shot at it with Transformer. I have both albums, (as well as a Lou Reed greatest which includes stuff from both bands) and I need to set them up on a playlist.

    I’m not a U2 fan either, but I picked up The Joshua Tree in mint condition vinyl out of a Goodwill record bin for a buck, and I keep meaning to rip it to MP3 so I can take it everywhere. I’d’ve loved to have seen them perform it at Red Rocks.

    Patti Smith may be the Holy Mater of punk, but punk never really clanged my bell that hard, so I’ll take your word for it.

    I’ve got Born to Run, the three album live stuff, and a greatest hits from Bruce. The only one that gets regular play is Born, because there isn’t a lemon on it. Jungleland gets my vote for best of, but opinions differ. It’s almost all great, though. I hardly ever listen to his live opus any more.

    For me, the Who is an odd case. I have several of their albums, including the ones mentioned here, and I have them on my mobies. And when I play them, I think, boy, were they ever good. But I don’t play them that often. I wonder why? They are, after all, part of the divine band trinity of Beatles, Stones, and Who (Dylan isn’t a band. Dylan is Dylan – something else entirely).

    Broken English – yes. Another one that used to inspire awe, but has somehow slipped into the mists of memory. I need to get it.

    As far as Wilco, yes, I’ll definitely be checking them out. Cowboy Junkies, too, just for that Lou Reed note.

    Thanks for the comment! Hope all is well and the stitches don’t itch!

  9. Re: Zep – probably because they’ve been overplayed on classic rock stations for decades. Who wants to even think about Stairway again, let alone hear it?

    Re: Tull. I could never stand the band, right from the beginning. Dunno why, just a matter of taste, I guess.

  10. That Cowboy Junkies album is ESSENTIAL.

    Re: Wilco. “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” gets all the love, but I’d point you toward “Being There.” It is a sprawling shambles of a double album, and takes some people a while till it clicks. But once it clicks, it’s perfect. That’s were I started with them, and it’s that album that endures, for me. And, remember, I turned you on to Ike Reilly, so that’s also why I recommend that one to you.

  11. Totally unfamiliar with Reilly. What’s the deal with that?

    And, Bill? I’m doing great. Stitches don’t itch, but I feel like I took a knife to the chest. Which I did. Nothing that good bourbon won’t take care of!

      • LOL, Drach!

        Nothing so drastic. Had my chest port removed yesterday, now that I don’t need it for chemo. There was some debate about it, but the savings in blood thinners are worth it. Goddamn, that shit’s expensive! Anyway, it’s good to have that thing out. Steady stream of bourbon dulls the pain, though really, it’s not that bad. I can just tell The Lady that the bourbon is medicinal. Of course, she’s not buying that, but she doesn’t begrudge me on the other hand… ;-)

  12. Chef, I fucking damned guarantee you will like Ike Reilly. Just download any one of his albums and give it a tryout.

    If your musical tastes are anything like mine (and I think they are) your next purchase will be his other five albums.

  13. I’ll probably keep coming back here as albums come to mind.

    Sigur Ros — “Ágætis byrjun”
    They are an Icelandic postrock band. The lyrics are in Icelandic or a made-up language that sounds like Icelandic. They do swirlng, orchestral, transcendent rock. One of the loudest concerts I have ever been to, and one of the best. Their music hits me deep and gets right to the core of my being. A friend says listening to them is “like have my soul caressed with velvet.” Their music can make me smile like a buffoon and also make me weep. Fave song = “Svefn-g-englar” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtemrZ7-pj0

    Sparklehorse — “Good Morning, Spider.”
    Honestly, I love everything Mark Linkous (genius behind the band in many forms) ever did, and am still bummed he killed himself, because I know his best was still ahead of him. But, this one is my favorite. It got me through some of the worst moments in my life, and was companion to some of the sunniest. I was turned onto this by a sort of girlfriend, and have since passed it along to a whole bunch of others. This is magic. Fave songs = “Chaos of the Galaxy/Happy Man https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIOeErcqW5E and “Sick of Goodbyes” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbDzob84Tok.

    • Re: Sparklehorse: I have this one but rarely listen to it. I ran it this morning when I wasn’t doing much of anything, so I could just listen.

      You’re right. This is a great album, and I don’t think it had a single track on it I could honestly call mediocre, let alone bad. Thanks for making me give it a second listen.

  14. Guided by Voices — “Bee Thousand”
    THE ’90s lo-fi masterpiece. They’ve put out a ton of stuff, some okay, some great. This is the best. Put the Beatles through a blender, include distortion and what sounds like subpar production that serves only to enhance what is great music. Short songs, some with bizarre title and/or lyrics. Fave song = tough, since I love the whole thing, but pressed, I’d say “I Am a Scientist” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zN9x6zckn18

  15. John Coltrane — “A Love Supreme”
    I’ve long loved jazz, but somehow didn’t get around this one till this year. And then I played nothing but it for two weeks straight. It is a revelation. Truly life-changing music, which is not something I’d say if it weren’t the absolute truth. There is no favorite song because it’s all of a piece. If you like jazz at all, you MUST get this.

    • That’s a good one, growler. Yeah. I’d call Loveless perfect. Soon is amazing, and the whole album is mesmerizing in the same way.

      I got to see them live in Richmond a few years back. LOUD! Even with earplugs, the sound assaulted your body. Once you got used to it, it was exhilarating.

  16. Talking Heads — “Remain in Light”
    Where the band fully embraced both African polyrhythms and Brian Eno. The interesting thing to me about this one is how David Byrne’s voice is used as just another instrument. To understand what I mean, listen to the “stereo difference” tracks on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL42CA373FFF9AE487) Byrne’s vocals are seperated or barely audible on most of these, so you can pay full attention to the complexities of the instruments and beats. Fave song = No, not “Once in a Liftime” but “Crosseyed and Painless” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilcD1fHcGB0

  17. I’m listing 10 records that:
    a. I listened to the most, and also
    b. never or hardly ever show up in anyone’s top ten, twenty, fifty or whatever list.

    Lou Reed, Rock n’ Roll Animal
    Randy Newman, Sail Away
    Neil Young, Zuma
    David Bowie, Diamond Dogs
    Joni Mitchell, Blue
    Cream, Goodbye
    Traffic, Traffic
    Byrds, Untitled
    Hot Tuna, Hot Tuna
    Eric Clapton, EC Was Here

  18. The problem with making these lists is they change as you age. Ten years ago I would have listed these as the best albums of all time: Blows Against the Empire, Dark Side of the Moon, Blood on the Tracks, Who’s Next and Tonight’s the Night (Neil Young) and Trinity Sessions. Now I find these to be perfect: Nebraska (Bruce Springsteen), Led Zeppelin I, Zen Arcade (Husker Du), Siamese Dreams (Smashing Pumpkins) and Supertramp 1. I have no idea why I’ve changed because there is no pattern there. I guess it’s just a matter of personal taste.

  19. Exile on Main Street is a great album and a must own. Lots of hidden gems on there. However, it is plagued by the dreaded Double Album Disease. There are some mediocre tracks as filler. Very few DAs ever are perfect albums for just this reason. The White Album had Revolution #9 for instance.

  20. Okay, late to the party and long winded, but here goes.

    I find that not only is musical taste intensely personal and always somewhat in flux, it’s heavily influenced by mood, and it’s generational. So, to choose, I used the following criteria; it’s on my iPod, I’ve been listening to the band (if not the album, although the newest here is 8 yrs old) for better than 10 years, and whether I listen to the album, or I simply play all songs on random shuffle, when the track comes up, I won’t skip it, no matter my mood.

    Tull – Aqualung (Wind Up)
    Floyd – Meddle through Animals (One of These Days, Eclipse, Welcome to the Machine, Dogs)
    Rush – Hemispheres (La Villa Strangiato)
    Metallica – S&M (Bleeding Me) Sorry Chef, yes it’s live, and a best of, but, still.
    Apocalyptica – Apocalyptica (Farewell)

    And here’s where the generational stuff comes in. I suspect most of the geezers (Bill’s word, not mine, please don’t hurt me) around these parts would feel the same about the following as I do most of their lists. That is; they’d get out the knitting needles rather than suffer through it. Seriously, if you think Van Halen is heavy metal, don’t even think of checking out the following.

    Arch Enemy – Doomsday Machine (Mechanic God Creation)
    Opeth – Orchid (In Mist she was Standing)

    Finally, to indulge my inner smart ass, the best album ever recorded? Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto, The Emperor, with Glenn Gould on piano, and Leopold Stokowski conducting the American Symphony. This one doesn’t contain a single bad note, much less a bad track.

  21. I’m sure they would have existed, metal is a European phenomenon rather than an American one, starting in England in the late sixties (Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin), and would have continued to develop absent the American bands. I think maybe the question would be whether anyone over here would have heard of them.

    The American influence is the big 4 thrash bands; Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax, who predate G&R by several years. The (Swedish and Finnish) bands I mentioned up there take their influence from them, as well as the early Brits. The American influence cannot be dismissed, I just don’t think it comes from G&R.

    G&R took their influence from, among others, the Brits, Van Halen and AC DC. Among the American metal bands, they seem to be, along with Van Halen, the only ones who really broke into the American mainstream, but I’m not sure how much influence they’ve had on later acts.

    Conclusions? I dunno, did I draw any, or just ramble? It’s a fun topic, but Mrs InON hates heavy metal, and there are no ‘ead bangers at work. But now I get to do it here, thanks.

    Say, did anyone mention:

    Queen – A Night at the Opera (God Save the Queen)