Rolling Stone – The 500 Greatest albums ever

Rolling Stone recently updated it’s 500 greatest albums of all time, in a fresh print version. It’s good fun and has some nice album artwork and other good photos of well known artists. It is an update of a list originally put together in 2003 (for which I believe I still have this issue, somewhere “in the vaults”), which can be viewed here. I don’t believe the top ten has changed but other entries have been added and therefore some dropped off.

In a previous post I mentioned how I like lists, especially where music is concerned. I don’t take them totally seriously, but they make, for me anyway, interesting reading. Of course any list is subjective and one mans good, is anthers bad, blah blah. Well taking that into consideration I’m still going to have a little fun / gripe at it. Being Rolling Stone, the list is mainly focused on Rock or Pop music, with some Hip Hop, little dance, and little (some what crappy generic term warning) world music. But that is Rolling Stone for you, it’s primarily a rock magazine, so you get what you pay for.

I could loosely divide up the analysis into 1) top ten, 2) albums I own and quibble about the ranking, and 3) albums I don’t have but want, or are inspired to check out, 4) Albums not included. So let’s start with the top ten:

  1. Sgt Pepper – The Beatles
  2. Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys
  3. Revolver – The Beatles
  4. Highway 61 revisited – Bob Dylan
  5. Rubber Soul – The Beatles
  6. What’s going on – Marvin Gaye
  7. Exile on main street – The Rolling Stones
  8. London Calling – The Clash
  9. Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan
  10. The White Album – The Beatles

A similar poll by Mojo magazine in the nineties had the first two reversed but a similar top ten. Whether you agree depends on your criteria. I would agree that there is not a duff album among them. Out of the ten I’m not overly fond of London Calling, but I do realise how good it is, it’s just not a favourite for me. The White album is my favourite Beatles album, but in music history I can see why Sgt Pepper is more significant. This highlights where criteria comes into the equation. My fave Stones album is Sticky fingers (no 64), my fave Dylan album Blood on the tracks (16). I would make a distinction here between favourite albums of all time and greatest albums. I did a post on my favourite albums of all time which are albums personal to me for various reasons. I would suggest this is different to what I might consider the greatest albums, which might take into account a wider context of music history, how influential and so on, plus which genres I want to consider, which is along similar lines to what this list is about.

To add to where I might have changed a few albums in the top ten, I also take umbrage with the position of other albums. Here are a few examples. Wilco’s “Yankee hotel Foxtrot” is at 493 compared to U2’s “All that you can leave behind” at 280. What? 213 places different? I don’t even think that U2 album is that great, certainly not as good as Wilco’s YHF. Radiohead’s “OK Computer” only features at 162. I would likely have this in the top twenty or if not, top ten. But at number 37 is “Hotel California” by the Eagles. I agree with The dude Lebowski on this one, to quote him, “‘I hate the f*ckin’ Eagles, man!” (the same quote which convinced Allen Klein to allow the film the rights to use the Stones song “Dead Flowers”). Is that really better than Ok Computer? I think not. Further comedy with “the Queen is dead” by The Smiths being at 218. Again a stone cold classic, ranked further down the list than three Elton John albums. Three? Sorry Elton, but you are there with the Eagles for me. I would also quibble about The Who’s “Tommy” being ranked at 96 whilst “Quadrophenia” is at 267. I’m not overly fond of Tommy, but I love Quadrophenia, I think it is the Who’s best album. I could quibble about a few more, but I won’t bore you any longer on that point.

I own a lot of music, in fact out of the top 100 here, I have 64 of them, including the entire top ten. There are always things to buy and what I have noticed on the list so far, is a few I definitely want to check out, and have had on my list for a while. They are The Allman Brothers band at Fillmore East (no 49), Dr John’s “Gris Gris” (No ), and Big Star’s “3rd / Sister lovers”. There are a few more but these ones stand out for now. If you asked me again in a month once I’ve read the magazine, I will likely have a few more.

I have mentioned in previous posts, how my music tastes originally developed as an indie kid, and how I like bands like Sugar, The Boo Radleys, The Flaming lips, The Super Furry animals. These days I have much more varied tastes and an appreciation for many albums that might be considered “classic rock”. However the list contains no Sugar “Copper Blue” yet two by Green Day, No Flaming Lips, yet MGMT’s “Oracular Spectacular”, and numerous others I could mention. The Boo Radleys were never even close to big in North America so it is no surprise to not see them, even if I or many others who have heard it, would consider “Giant Steps” a classic. There is no Blur either. What in the top 500 albums ever? But on the other hand, there are entries by PJ Harvey, Arctic Monkeys, Pavement (although not the album I would have chosen).

So the list is interesting, there are hundreds of really good albums.  Not necessarily everything I would have chosen, or in the same order but a lot of good ones. It got me thinking. It is one of the reasons that I like these lists.

Lexicon word of the day: Quack (not the duck speaking definition).

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The 10 favourite music albums ever

Todays post is not so much about writing and again, more about music. I like music lists. I like music polls. I don’t necessarily believe them, or agree with them, but I like to look. Sometimes I find they remind me of good or great albums I already have, or albums that have been over looked, and they make me want to play them again. They can validate your own choices, if you need that sort of thing, which I rarely do these days, or they can give you the opposite, and something to argue against. I love the year end “album of the year” polls. I love the “greatest albums of the …” type polls.

With that in mind, considering my own favourites, my own lists, whilst not something I do a lot, is an occasional fun, if not somewhat trivial exercise. Still, so what? It is occasionally fun. Whilst ranting about the Grammys the other day, I mused on my favourite albums of last year. Today I shall consider my favourite albums of all time. To clarify, this is my favourite albums of all time, not necessarily the albums I consider to be the greatest of all time, which may be both similar and different. So here goes, in order (album title – artist – year):

  1. Beaster – Sugar (1993)
  2. OK Computer – Radiohead (1997)
  3. Giant Steps – The Boo Radleys (1993)
  4. The Soft Bulletin – The Flaming Lips (1999)
  5. Radiator – Super Furry Animals (1997)
  6. Brighten the Corners – Pavement (1997)
  7. The Queen is dead – The Smiths (1986)
  8. The Holy Bible – The Manic Street Preachers (1994)
  9. Copper Blue – Sugar (1992)
  10. Parklife – Blur (1994)
With the following close calls:
  • In Utero – Nirvana (1993)
  • Hatful of Hollow – The Smiths (1984)
  • Back in Black – AC/DC (1980)
  • Star – Belly (1993)
  • Teenager of the Year – Frank Black (1994)
  • The Seldom Seen Kid – Elbow (2008)
  • Dark Side of The Moon – Pink Floyd (1973)
  • In Sides – Orbital (1996)
I realise you could debate what is counted as an album here given that my arguable all time favourite is essentially a mini-album or EP, plus just outside the top 10, “Hatful of Hollow” is a compilation of singles, b-sides, and BBC sessions (and is better than the actual debut album), but for me they are included. I would exclude compilations that either contain more than one artist (not including the main artist plus guest), or compilations of hits, singles or similar. But that is just me. You or I can include what we want.
Also interesting to note is the years when the albums came out. Nine of the top ten came out in the nineties. These were my late teens to mid twenties, a time when generally speaking life was more fun. Actually I should rephrase that, over the last few years, my life is as much fun or mores than it was then. Back then it was a time of less responsibility, and of experiences that shaped the person that I am now. It is when I discovered much of the things I liked, and a time that is now, somewhat viewed through the mists of time, and the hazy glaze of nostalgia. This is not to say that there are not loads of albums I have gotten hold of in the last say, ten years, that are also fantastic, for there are plenty. The above list is just my favourites. A component of the criteria I suppose, is that they pass being a mere fashion, or album of the time, and continue to be there and “great” over a longer period of time, i.e. time shows the album to be just as good. That is why I have no choices from the last few years, they’re quite simply not old enough to be included yet. I’m not sure when that cut-off is exactly, it just needs to feel right. That is also demonstrated by the list not changing too much over time. About 5 to 10 years ago, the list was like this:
  1. Beaster – Sugar
  2. OK Computer – Radiohead
  3. Giant Steps – The Boo Radleys
  4. The Soft Bulletin – The Flaming Lips
  5. Radiator – Super Furry Animals
  6. Brighten the Corners – Pavement
  7. The Queen is dead – The Smiths
  8. The Holy Bible – The Manic Street Preachers
  9. Star – Belly
  10. Teenager of the Year – Frank Black

It is the last two which have changed. So I have some constant favourites. I could, I suppose, build a list of fifty or more although the order would get a little more disagreeable. It is a tough call in the top ten. The point with a longer list might be as much that something is included in it, more so than it’s rank in the list. I wish I hadn’t typed this idea now, I’m probably going to end up doing it. I am now kind of intrigued what might be included, how much of one artist and so on. On my iPod I have 35 days of music and this isn’t everything I own. Yes, I said iPod, there is too much space taken for my iPhone, – and that is kind of scary that iPod is starting to sound slightly out of date already. Although I prefer CD (I have a half decent stereo), and that sounds even more out of date, but i digress.

You can see my choices favour rock and pop more than dance music, only Orbital is near the top. That reflects my music collection at large. There is dance music (e.g. LCD Soundsystem as a recent favourite), and some hip hop, in there, but more of it is rock, pop, folk, alt-country, and things around the edges of that. I may post more on why I like some of the choices, in a later post. You may begin to see here why I like lists. It is the alternative viewpoint of looking at what I own, and they can give me some perspective on it. I like when they make me pick up something I haven’t played in a while and it is good all over again. I think you can tell I like music, a lot more than lists. What would your choices be?

Lexicon word of the day: mendacious.