Monday, January 29, 2007

The 100 Greatest Albums Ever

Music fans will be quite familiar with the concept of the ‘all-time greatest album’ list. Many of these types of lists surfaced around the turn of the century, although a few have appeared since that time (the most recent being Time Magazine’s All-TIME 100 Albums, which was released late last year). Such lists are usually accompanied by some justification for why the albums on the list were selected, citing factors such as musical influence, cultural influence, genre representation, and originality. The authors will also often stress how long they spent compiling the final list, noting with pride how they listened to hundreds upon hundreds of albums, and how they spent hours agonizing over which albums to include on the list, and which albums to consign to the dumpster.

These methods are all wrong. Any list of the 100 Greatest Albums should be able to be written in less than half an hour, depending on how fast you type. Having read dozens of ‘best of’ lists, I now swear by the following rules. If an album seems like it would be a strange inclusion on the list, it’s out. If an album seems like it would be a significant omission from the list, it’s in. If I have to think about an album for more than ten seconds, it’s out. If I have to look through my record collection or go through my bookshelf to remember that an album exists, it’s out.[1] These rules ensure that I don’t ho-hum, dilly-dally, or flip-flop about any album on the list (or at least, about ninety percent of them anyway).

Having said all that, I should add the following qualifications. I reserve the right to kick any album off the list if the weight of public opinion should turn against it. I do not consider the fact that I’ve never actually heard a particular album as a valid objection to its inclusion (how many people have read War and Peace or David Copperfield). I do not consider the fact that I will probably never listen to a particular album as a valid objection to its inclusion. This list is not written by me, but through me. It is the list that you know exists, but you may not want to admit it, because it shows how you like pretty much the same stuff as everybody else does.

With these considerations in mind, the 100 Greatest Albums are as follows:

Back In Black - AC/DC
The Band - The Band
Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys
Paul's Boutique - The Beastie Boys
Abbey Road - The Beatles
Revolver - The Beatles
Rubber Soul - The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles
The Beatles - The Beatles
Odelay - Beck
Paranoid - Black Sabbath
Parallel Lines - Blondie
Parklife - Blur
Blonde On Blonde - Bob Dylan
Blood On The Tracks - Bob Dylan
Bringing It All Back Home - Bob Dylan
Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan
Legend - Bob Marley
Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen
Trout Mask Replica - Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
Tapestry - Carole King
London Calling - The Clash
The Clash - The Clash
A Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay
Hunky Dory - David Bowie
Low - David Bowie
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie
Three Feet High and Rising - De La Soul
The Doors - The Doors
Dusty In Memphis - Dusty Springfield
Hotel California - The Eagles
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John
The Sun Sessions - Elvis Presley
The Marshall Mathers LP - Eminem
Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
Appetite For Destruction - Guns 'N' Roses
Live At The Apollo - James Brown
Grace - Jeff Buckley
Psychocandy - The Jesus and Mary Chain
Are Your Experienced - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Electric Ladyland - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
A Love Supreme - John Coltrane
Plastic Ono Band - John Lennon
Blue - Joni Mitchell
Closer - Joy Division
Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk
Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zeppelin
Physical Graffiti - Led Zeppelin
Transformer - Lou Reed
Forever Changes - Love
The Holy Bible - Manic Street Preachers
What's Going On - Marvin Gaye
Blue Lines - Massive Attack
Thriller - Michael Jackson
Kind of Blue - Miles Davis
After the Goldrush - Neil Young
Harvest - Neil Young
In Utero - Nirvana
Nevermind - Nirvana
Definitely Maybe - Oasis
What's the Story Morning Glory? - Oasis
Otis Blue - Otis Redding
Horses - Patti Smith
Graceland - Paul Simon
Ten - Pearl Jam
Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
The Wall - Pink Floyd
Doolittle - The Pixies
Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea - PJ Harvey
Dummy - Portishead
Screamadelica - Primal Scream
Sign O' The Times - Prince
It Takes a Nation of Million to Hold Us Back - Public Enemy
Different Class - Pulp
OK Computer - Radiohead
The Bends - Radiohead
Ramones - Ramones
Automatic For The People - REM
Beggars Banquet - The Rolling Stones
Exile On Main Street - The Rolling Stones
Let It Bleed - The Rolling Stones
Sticky Fingers - The Rolling Stones
Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols - The Sex Pistols
Siamese Dream - The Smashing Pumpkins
The Queen Is Dead - The Smiths
Daydream Nation - Sonic Youth
Innervisions - Stevie Wonder
Songs In The Key Of Life - Stevie Wonder
The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
Fun House - The Stooges
Is This It? - The Strokes
Marquee Moon - Television
Achtung Baby - U2
The Joshua Tree - U2
Astral Weeks - Van Morrison
The Velvet Underground and Nico - The Velvet Underground
Urban Hymns - The Verve
White Blood Cells - The White Stripes
Who's Next - The Who

[1] I owe a debt to ESPN writer Bill Simmons for these criteria, as he used a similar approach when suggesting what criteria should be used for inducting athletes into the various Halls of Fame.

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