Friday, June 27, 2008

Top Tan List: Albums

There's lots of albums I love. It pains me not to include classics like Dave Brubeck's Time Out, Sam Cooke's Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963, or the Who's Who's Next. However, I think it best to focus on five albums that are just plain important - discs that remain milestones in music, and paved the way for all that other great music. I've also named my favorite tracks, though, in these five cases, every song is worth a listen. Agree, disagree, or, even better, listen!

5) Revolver
One of the Beatles' best, and that's saying something. This album covers the entire pop music spectrum, from groovy sixties rock - "Taxman" - to techno - "Tomorrow Never Knows". The disc displays just how many things these guys were good at. Highlights: "Eleanor Rigby", "Tomorrow Never Knows"

4) Kind of Blue
Like how punk would kill disco years later, cool jazz destroyed be bop, a permutation of jazz that still hasn't recovered. Blame Miles, a man who did so much with so little, especially on this album. He turned the taboo into the norm, crafting songs not out of chords, but out of scales. Only musicians as skilled as the master trumpeter and his band mates could have pulled it off. Highlights: "So What", "Flamenco Sketches"

3) Tommy
Behold the rock opera that paved the way for the work of colorful bands like Pink Floyd to Green Day. Only an album like this one could have been turned into both a movie AND stage musical. The story's right there, and the best way to hear it is on the disc, as Pete and company originally intended. Highlights: "Christmas", "We're Not Gonna Take It"
2) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
This album marks so many events...the beginning of flower power, the first concept album, not to mention a huge turning point for the Beatles. If Please Please Me is your brain, Sgt. Pepper is your brain on drugs. Luckily, all those hallucinogens failed to hamper the Fab Four's ability to create great stuff, with a little help from their friend George Martin and his orchestra. Highlights: "She's Leaving Home", "A Day in the Life"

Shocker: my favorite album isn't by the Beatles?!?

1) Pet Sounds
In his masterpiece, Brian Wilson argues that music is the ultimate form of expression. He's often labeled a genius, but I think even that is an understatement. He's the modern day Beethoven, a master of writing, performing, arranging, and producing symphonies that use our emotions as their motifs. He's the J.D. Salinger of music, a man whose work brings out the feelings of its audience. Plenty of artists try to do that, but I have yet to hear an album that's impacted me like Pet Sounds still does. Highlights: "Don't Talk", "God Only Knows"


  1. All those hallucinogens made them better artists. It's a fact. I'm not trying to promote recreational drug use, but their music would not be the same without the drugs. I will post a hilarious Bill Hicks video later that pokes fun at this. Btw, flower power technically began in San Francisco in 1965 or so. Sgt. Pepper definitely helped it blossom to everywhere else though.

  2. Mainly, the hallucinogens acted as inspiration. The aim of psychedelic music, like the Beatles' mid 60s work, was to capture the experience of being high. Really, really high. But it's not like the Beatles couldn't make good music without drugs. Their early stuff does just as good a job displaying their writing and performing uneven as the early albums are.

  3. Ha, flower power, blossom. One of those wordplay jokes it takes a while to get, like Bill Hicks's "They were so high they had to scrape Ringo off the ceiling with a rake," or whatever he said.


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