I appear to have wandered into a Starbucks.
Utterly bizarre. Weird rambling speech over punky violins, mad subject matters. Sometimes you hear an album and you have no idea if it’s genius or madness. One star? Five? Who can tell?
We need to talk about Puffy. It’s universally acknowledged that this is one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time from possibly the greatest rapper to ever do it. Nobody comes close to Biggie for having it all - lyrical dexterity, whip smart word play, ingenuity and the flow - god that flow - play any beat, any style and he nails it every time, whether swapping verses with himself on Gimmee the Loot, messing with the beat on Unbelievable (‘The gat's by your liver, your upper lip quiver Get ready to die, tell God I said hi’) or that laid back slow flow on Big Poppa. Impeccable choice of producers and beats (The What, Juicy) make for a thrilling, enthralling, near perfect rap album. But we need to talk about Puffy. There’s no doubting his contribution to shaping and developing Biggie as an artist but, my god, let that be enough! We don’t need your lousy skits, hype man contributions and especially not not your wack ass acting on Suicidal Thoughts. Let the man rap! Back down and shut up! It’s Puffy and the skits that made me hesitate over five or four stars … but it’s a tribute to Big that even this cannot ultimately spoil this classic five star (five mics) album.
An album somehow both distilled essence of its time yet also timeless. With nods to 70s soul deep cuts and a melange of styles and genres, Massive Attack made this masterpiece for the ages. Absorbing, flowing, emotional - electronic music was rarely this introspective. And Unfinished Sympathy isn’t one of the greatest musical achievements of the century as the soaring orchestra builds and swells and Shara Nelson’s beautiful vocals ring clear and sweet creating a transformative, epic, maxi and mini track. Exciting and frightening.
Extraordinary, extraterrestrial, talented musicians (the drums are particularly superb) play toe-tapping funk jams with a unique style and swagger. Ingenious.
It’s quite hard going. There is so much sadness behind it. Isolation, loneliness. The up tempo tracks are thrilling. The production is excellent.
Srsly? Must I listen to this garbage? It’s just awful. Self indulgent. What are they trying to say? Is it a mood? I just don’t get it.
An intricate album, melodic and rewarding. Will definitely listen again.
I loved this album! Such fantastic energy, great musicianship and an amazing rock vocal! Earthy, gritty, compelling.
Thrilling in parts but drags in others.
This is perfectly pleasant but... I refuse to believe this is an album I must listen to before I die. Pleasant vocals, pleasant playing but why listen to this when you could listen to Sinatra or Ella sing these standards? Highlights - September Song,
This is terrific. Classic beats (praise to Marley Marl), entertaining lyrics, smooth delivery from the one and only LL. The influence of this album on hip hop was massive - you hear beats and lyrics later ‘borrowed’ by other artists but also the style and swagger. LL raps about anything, broadening rap’s horizons. Such an enjoyable, fun album. Groundbreaking. Loved it. Stand outs - Mama Said Knock You Out, Around the Way Girl, Mr. Good Bar
14 tracks coming in at under 30 minutes - this is what music is meant to be. Get in, blow them away, get out.
Absolute banger. Legitimate album to listen to before you die - not just for itself but also for everything else that came after: No G Funk, Daisy Age hip hop or Neptunes prosecutions without this band. And it’s just so damn funky - impossible to stay still when listening to this. There are a few tracks that overstay their welcome ("Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The Doo Doo Chasers)"). But overall an absolute classic.
Just incredible. Absolutely essential rock and roll and genuinely an album to hear before you die. A brilliant record that captures this electrifying live concert. Absolute thrill.
I just didn’t get it.
A very pleasant album.
I enjoyed this album more than I thought I would - but the bar was set very low! I don’t particularly enjoy the 80s synth aesthetic but I did enjoy Lauper’s powerful voice, except on the final track with her Betty Boop baby voice. I don’t think I’ll listen to this again.
Brilliant album. Great pop songs. Witty, heartfelt, acerbic. One of his best post Smiths records. Highlights: Irish blood, English heart; I Have Forgiven Jesus; First of the Gang to Die.
Exquisitely crafted pop music.
Really enjoyed this laidback electronic sound and Tennant’s vocals.
This is amazing. Like nothing else.
Some pretty good jams on here. A few overstay their welcome but overall a solid album.
Very much of its time. Not sure it holds up as a classic album. Interesting, but I wouldn’t revisit. Ryder’s vocals are fun but Happy Mondays sounds like a party you arrive at too late and everyone is wasted and they’re having more fun than you. Which is probably true.
A really beautiful album. Like a warm hug. Lyrical, melodic.
It’s a great album. They really nail their sound here and you can see how brilliantly the four of them fit together. The first half is amongst the best stuff they’ve ever done. The second half isn’t quite as solid, otherwise this would be a five star album.
Spiky, aggressive, energetic. A great songwriter, brilliant sound. But there is such a dark edge to many of the lyrics - aggressive, voyeuristic, impotent rage at being rejected by women, sexual frustration - that at times it can be an uncomfortable listen. And I don’t know how much of that is Costello and how much is a character. Impressive and unsettling.
I really like this album. Skinner is a great storyteller. Dry Your Eyes is a beautiful track. Blinded by the Lights is stunning.
Just terrific, absolute party album, packed full of samples and sounds, I had an absolute blast listening to this.
I adore this album. It’s as if they wanted to play music like the early Beatles but every time they tried this twisted sound came out instead. Frank Black screeching vocals, Kim Deal’s insistent bass, Joey Santiago’s intricate guitar solos and David Lovering’s sharp drumming - what a combination.
Hmm... a lot of this album felt like adolescent swearing and shouting for shock value with ‘experimental’ production that was little more than quickly turn the volume up and down. Then a few gems would show up - great rock tracks - and just as I started to get into it, there’d be some juvenile, repetitive tracks again to take me out of it. Felt indulgent and deliberately alienating.
Not their best but a great album nonetheless. I love Orbital’s pioneering dance sound. These feel like classical compositions in depth and heft and really elevate the genre. Probably 3.5 stars for me for this particular album but I’m rounding to 4 in case this is the only Orbital album on the list!
An album to respect but hard to admire. The band are clearly talented musicians but I didn’t feel a spark with these songs - which feels especially strange for a supposed live album. Almost too polished - not quite rough enough. There are better examples of their style of hard rock...
Poetic. Lyrical. An album to return to at different times of your life. New meaning will be found. Beautiful songwriting, utterly enchanting.
A real gem of a live album. Foot tapping, energetic, engaging.
Absolute garbage. Repetitive, uninteresting, dated, meaningless new-agey-druggy lyrics, awful sound, terrible singing - tedious beyond belief. Not even close to being an essential album and nothing like the best example of its genre. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
Amazing, power rock. Catchy, great vocals.
It’s pretty hard going to be honest. The noise tends to grate after A while. It’s interesting to see how Nick Cave started out. It’s interesting but not enjoyable.
There are some top tier pop songs on here - Four Seasons in One Day, It’s Only Natural, Fall at Your Feet, Weather With You - but, having listened a lot to this album (especially when younger), I now feel that a lot of tracks just don’t have the same impact. Was it the presence of Tim Finn that screwed up the creative process of the band? It’s definitely my least favourite of their albums.
Great album, maybe not their best but a good indication of the direction the band would go in. Robert Smith had such a compelling voice.
Beautiful, lyrical, ethereal. The opening and closing tracks are exquisite. Kate Bush is in a class of her own.
Fantastic album. Need to listen to this some more. Really like the sound and the overall vibe.
Just sublime. How extraordinary The Beatles were. Their consistency in such a short space of time. Songs that will endure forever. There is so much to enjoy here and a variety of style and mood whilst still sounding like a cohesive record. I really loved listening to this on repeat and has been my highlight so far of this project.
I wish I enjoyed this album more. It just isn’t an album I turn to for any reason. At its worse it sounds like a band using my technology to complain about technology. It’s sonically interesting and atmospheric but musically it leaves me a little cold.
A brilliant album. Has the feel of a classic American song book. Wistful, melodic, romantic. And what a voice.
A beautiful listen, which I need more time with to really rate it. I wasn’t sure I enjoyed it on first listen but I started to get absorbed by the voice and the gentleness the second time. One which linger, I feel.
It’s likeable but not as enjoyable as The Smiths. Feels like this is missing a Marr. There are better Morrissey albums.
A really enjoyable rock album with some great riffs and power vocals. The double entendres and obsession with school girls is a like wearisome, but overall a blast.
Oh! This album was on heavy rotation when I was a teenager. I always loved the attitude and the swagger. And I realise now that this album influenced so many of my future explorations in music (soul, jazz, hip hop). I don’t think anyone else was making music like this and the album was a wrecking ball to the charts - all those ballads and Kylie, Stock, Aitken and Waterman. She sang about subjects nobody else was - feminism, safe sex, motherhood - not a bunch of lovey dove nonsense. I really think Neneh Cherry is a hugely inspirational and influential figure - sassy, London/ European / American, kick ass, feeling, mixed heritage and proud - a great singer and classy rapper. Incredibly talented and underrated. I hesitated when rating the album - if I give this album five stars, am I really saying this album is up there with the White Album or Hunky Dory? You know what? I don’t know. And I don’t care. This is five stars for me. I love this album.
Exquisite. Transports you away from wherever you are.
So many songs to enjoy on this album. I love that their music captures a very specific era and vibe and - mostly - one single adolescent obsession - girls, girls, girls. And it makes the music truthful and sincere. The songwriting will evolve on later albums but this is a sign pointing towards even greater music to come.
Not my favourite genre but as things go a pretty enjoyable bop with enough musical and lyrical variation to keep things interesting. That said, an album I am unlikely to return to too often.
Beetlebum is probably Blur’s finest moment and one of the best songs of the decade. The stabbing guitar, liquid bass line, heavy drum sound playing over the outro is sublime. Song 2 will always be a classic, thrilling track. But for me the rest of the album just doesn’t hold up. I like that they moved in a different direction and the intent with sonic experimentation was fine but it just doesn’t work overall. Some songs rip off Pavement; some rip off Bowie; some rip off old Blur (Look Inside America is a slowed down Country House!). And Damon … as a frontman, I’ve never been convinced he’s enjoying being a rock star. There’s an archness, a distance, a sneer in his lyrics and vocals that at times disconnects me from the music. He’s singing songs about his observances of life around him; he’s at his best when he’s singing from the heart. I want to like this album more but it’s not for me.
A curious album. I enjoyed the opening tracks but there were too many silly voices and meandering psychedelic moments for me to truly get into. An album of its time - not one to revisit.
My fiftieth album from perhaps my favourite band!
Nothing especially stood out for me on this album. The music didn’t capture my imagination. I found it a bit of a chore. It’s possible prog rock isn’t really my thing.
I really like the musical direction that George Michael decided to take with this album and it suits his terrific voice - one of the great rock pop vocalists. The opening tracks (Faith, Father Figure) are classics. However, the album starts to lose its way for me and the ballads are pretty dreary.
A really solid album from The Kinks which showcases Ray Davies' song writing talent. He deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as Lennon and McCartney. And whilst the album isn't replete with hits, it's an enjoyable listen nevertheless, with Davies' eye for observational storytelling holding your attention. Add to that a solid rhythm section and the excellent, under-appreciated Dave Davies on lead guitar and this is one of the best albums of the sixties. And, as if that isn't enough, the album includes Waterloo Sunset - a masterpiece, not just a great sixties record but one of the greatest songs of all time. This is Davies' legacy - a piece of music that will be talked about by future generations.
You hear the opening track and it’s a real blast and the band’s playing and MacGowan’s growling vocals are stunning; and then you hear the second track and you go this is great, such energy, what fun; and then the third track and you go oh this is good; then the fourth and you start to think this is like the other three; and as you continue you think, I might enjoy this music more if I heard the odd track from time to time, rather than a whole albums worth…but there is an undeniable brilliance about The Pogues.
Whilst there are some pretty great slow jams here (and the hilarious Secrets which appears to compare a woman to, er, kfc), the album is more a mess of ideas than an overall cohesive whole. Womack is a talented musician with a wonderful voice. But after reading about his personal life, you gotta say, the man had a hella unpleasant traits.
What an unexpected pleasure. A real treasure trove of wonderful music, brilliantly played.
Costello’s best album. The band sounds great together. I love the stab of the organ over the punchy rhythm section and Costello’s breathless vocals. Classic tracks throughout.
One track is probably enough for lively, loud, undead rockabilly. A whole album has you frequently checking to see how long there is left…
Sounds so fresh - if you told me this was released last week I’d believe you. Fascinating, pioneering sound and points the way for so much electronica to come.
I’m a simple man. I see a Pavement album, I give it four stars; and whilst it’s not my favourite Pavement album, there are some great tracks on here, depsite Malkmus’ impenetrable lyrics.
Ghostface Killah is peerless on this album of grimy storytelling and verbal dexterity. His taste is impeccable,with beats from underground heroes J Dilla (RIP) and MF Doom (RIP), old school innovator Pete Rock and chart topper Just Blaze. The samples are sublime - the old soul tracks gives the album a cohesion often lacking in other rappers’ efforts. If Ghostface isn’t the GOAT then he damn near gets close to claiming the crown with this record.
A pretty enjoyable album and it grew on me the more I listened, despite the fact that only a few tracks really stood out for being distinctive. Of those that did, Bit Part was a really sad song with clever lyrics and Confetti was really catchy. A 3.5 stars but I’m generous and will round up.
If TTD had been working in the sixties, what amazing soul music we would have had. And whilst there are some great tracks on this album like Let Me Stay and Sign Your Name, you never quite feel the music showcases his voice the way it should - the production is a little synth heavy and artificial.
Ice Cube’s third album and it is an aural smack to the face, as he spits and rages about inequality, the treatment of blacks in American society, injustice and police brutality over hard hitting beats. This is more than a classic 90s hip hop album - it’s a protest album in the best tradition of, say, Bob Dylan and it lends the project a satisfying cohesiveness as he responds to the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King and the violence that erupted in LA. A few things jar - the homophobia, antisemitism and misogyny are disappointing (although Cube would argue his views are more complex). And whilst a few tracks don’t quite hit the heights and could happily be discarded (Gangsta’s Fairytale 2, Dirty Mack), cuts like Check Yo Self, Now I Gotta Wet Ya and the immortal It Was A Good Day (one of the greatest tracks of the Nineties) more than compensate.
Loud cocaine rock - if you’re gonna be rock stars be rock stars. No songs about romance or social issues or reflectiveness or politics. Just cobble some nonsense together, turn it up to eleven, have a ball and look the part whilst doing it. And it works. There’s only a couple of weak tracks on this album and Wonderwall will forever be the song that everyone in the university bar sang along to, whatever their usual taste in music. A moment. Well done, Oasis.
On first listen, this album sounds like a self indulgent mess - an in joke that the audience just aren’t in on. But after a few listens you start to appreciate the music (the synths are horrible) and some is even catchy - The Wall Street Shuffle, Oh Effendi - although Hotel sounds pretty offensive to today’s ears, even if the band think they are being satirical.
Whilst admirable for its innovation, it feels a little like a museum piece now. A bit dusty.
Not an album that thrilled me - admired rather than enjoyed. There is a repetitiveness to the music and it’s pretty downbeat.
An album that pulled pop music out of its 80s malaise to kick off the 90s in style - hip hop beats, r&b and gospel influences, supermodels in the video and George Michael’s powerful, soulful voice (the greatest pop singer of his era?). Freedom 90 is a perfect pop record (and what a singalong) and the ballads have real staying power. You feel George Michael is starting to be the artist he wants to be, getting ever more comfortable writing confessional (perhaps?), personal lyrics. A significant improvement on Faith, which also appears on this list, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (is there a more pretentious album title - vol.1 indeed?!?! - I love it!) fully deserves its place on this list.
Ute Lemberg has a fantastic voice and the collaboration with The Divine Comedy is an interesting one but the album doesn’t have enough of a spark to sustain your interest.
This was great power pop - both catchy and twisted. Reading the history of the band alongside is fascinating. Is this the definitive version of this album? What even is a definitive version? The production sounds so fresh.
Fortuitously enough for me, Elvis Costello’s third album appeared in sequential order, having already heard My Aim Is True and This Year’s Model. Fortuitous, because it gave me a chance to really hear his songwriting and musicality develop. The angry spiky first album, gave way to a more fleshed out sound with The Attractions on the second; and this, Armed Forces, builds on everything with a more soulful sound. I also love the depth of songwriting, clever word play and range of subjects (not just aggressive, brooding internal monologues on unobtainable women). This could be his best album yet. It’s terrific.
Quality album - moody, atmospheric, engaging, enigmatic.
Brilliant confessional singer-songwriting, this consistently engaging album is witty, caustic and unabashed.
There are great tracks - title track, She’s Leaving Home, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds- and there are ok tracks - When I’m 64, Lovely Rita - and there is The Beatle’s masterpiece A Day in the Life, which is one of the greatest works of art of the 20th century. The production on the album is excellent throughout and Ringo’s drumming is superb. A surprising mixed bag but something about The Beatles is always compelling even at their less successful.
So many babies were conceived to this record… This album showcases the quality and range of Elvis’ voice compared with earlier ballads and later Vegas mumbling, often straying into blues and jazz. The session musicians dazzle and are a real highlight. And whilst there are no knock-it-out-of-the-park famous hits (and a completely unnecessary near identical vocal interpretation of Peggy Lee’s version of Fever), there is lots to enjoy here.
Pretty trashy. I think Cooper is going for some kind of classic 50's American High School mood - maybe this is the original High School Musical? - and there's something to be said for the nostalgia vibes - but it's just not an enjoyable listen. The lyrics and vocals are tired, the glam rock is all up in your face and it's only the first and final track that really holds your attention. And, dude, if you love West Side Story so much, go listen to the soundtrack and save us from your re-interpretation/cover version. A dud.
Smashes it out of the park every track. What a talented vocalist. We’re all familiar with the screams and wails but I never really listened to how controlled and precise Little Richard’s singing can be. And this is music that just smashes convention - No wonder 50s America was terrified of rock and roll - Richard is singing about sex - doing it, thinking about doing it, asking a girl to do it, all to a grinding, pumping beat. It’s filth, pure filth. And it’s stunning.
It’s soooooo long… meandering, self indulgent… watch as the band congratulate one another for the thirteenth solo in the same track! There is no denying the talent and skill of the musicians is first rate, but it’s a hard one to enjoy.
Perfectly decent, if unexciting British Indie.
There aren’t enough superlatives to give this wonderful album. Joni Mitchell, the original confessional singer songwriter, possesses an exquisite voice and beautiful playing style. This is an album to get lost in and absorbed by. Influential and staggering, Blue is not just one of the greatest albums of the 20th century, it is one of the century’s greatest works of art.
We need to talk about Puffy. It’s universally acknowledged that this is one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time from possibly the greatest rapper to ever do it. Nobody comes close to Biggie for having it all - lyrical dexterity, whip smart word play, ingenuity and the flow - god that flow - play any beat, any style and he nails it every time, whether swapping verses with himself on Gimmee the Loot, messing with the beat on Unbelievable (‘The gat's by your liver, your upper lip quiver Get ready to die, tell God I said hi’) or that laid back slow flow on Big Poppa. Impeccable choice of producers and beats (The What, Juicy) make for a thrilling, enthralling, near perfect rap album. But we need to talk about Puffy. There’s no doubting his contribution to shaping and developing Biggie as an artist but, my god, let that be enough! We don’t need your lousy skits, hype man contributions and especially not not your wack ass acting on Suicidal Thoughts. Let the man rap! Back down and shut up! It’s Puffy and the skits that made me hesitate over five or four stars … but it’s a tribute to Big that even this cannot ultimately spoil this classic five star (five mics) album.
Fun, rocking British indie.
A few tracks stand out but there’s not enough here to merit repeat listening. The production on the vocals is just awful! Sounds like he’s singing underwater!
An exquisite album from an extraordinary artist at the top of her game, PJ Harvey’s song writing and playing hits another level. Beautiful, melodic love songs that rock hard.
Awkward, angular, aggressive. This is a really cool listen if you enjoy dirty bass, screeching guitars and wailing vocals.
An uneasy listen for sure, especially in light of the tragic disappearance of Richey Edwards shortly after recording. The pain comes through in a number of tracks. The punk aesthetic is sincere, the band make a good sound. The production is awful- it’s impossible to hear James Dean Bradfield’s vocals much of the time - which is stupid because the band have something to say. I suspect the record rewards with successive listens but it is tough to hear the pain.
Pixies being their twisted, awkward selves on this fine, fine record. Frank Black screeches his way through track after track of weird subject matter accompanied by a thumping rhythm section and a brilliant solo guitarist in Joey Santiago. Experimental recording techniques keep things lively and the quiet-noisy template inspired numerous bands after this. This alt rock classic features two stand out classics: Where is my Mind? is a beautiful, if unsettling, pop tune and Gigantic, featuring a sublime Kim Deal on vocals and bass, rocks out into a transcendent outro. A brilliant, classic album.
This is a great punk record which keeps the aesthetic - snarling lyrics, in your face electric guitars over a thumping drum and bass rhythm section - but adds depth with the songwriting and structure. Really accomplished and entertaining.
George, maybe if you’d fetched your own damn paper, maybe your old lady wouldn’t have left you! Decent country album and whilst I’ll never love the genre, Jones’ voice is pleasant and the tracks were a fun listen.
An elusive and haunting curiosity. An album to return to. Intriguing.
A great album by The Jam and shows the band working together brilliantly making lively, insightful post punk. Foxton’s bass playing is outstanding, giving the album its drive and energy; Buckler’s drumming is equally energetic; and Weller brings the attitude and style to the guitar and vocals. And whilst there a few undercooked tracks (‘Music for the last couple’), ‘Start!’ followed by the exquisite ‘That’s Entertainment’ (Weller’s ‘Waterloo Sunset’) makes for a sequence of tracks any band would be proud of.
Is a bit of a slog to be honest. And it’s only a brief album! The most interesting thing is reading about Elliott’s background. Dink’s Song is very pretty. But nobody needs folk songs about Boll Weevils or Bed Bugs in their life.
Beautiful guitar work, wonderful singing, an almost dreamlike quality as Taylor sings about turnpikes, county lines, cites and steamrollers - a classic American album.
On their third album, Primal Scream moved away from their bluesy rock and asked house producers to remix their music, creating a chill out/ come down album. In the process, they created two absolute classic tracks in Movin’ On Up and Loaded. But the overall album is lengthy and tracks lack variety for sustained repeat interest. An album to reach for to help you sleep perhaps? That isn’t quite the insult it sounds like though, because that is in the post the dreamlike mood the band want to create for the listener.
On opening, this sounds like a by-the-numbers hard rock album with nothing to offer. But by the end, you really get caught up in the infectious enthusiasm, the reaction of the crowd and the sheer unabashed joy the band spark as they do what they do best - we are here to rock. No pretence, no artifice, no hidden meaning - just enjoy.
It’s clear a lot of craft and love has gone into this alt-pop award-winning album and there are plenty of luscious arrangements of swelling strings to emphasise to the listener just how emotional they should be feeling but for some reason this doesn’t touch you in the heart or grab you in the gut. The whole thing feels a little forced.
A great voice, let down by pedestrian songs with repetitive arrangements.
Is this good? Is this bad? Who knows? It is just uncategorisable. I listen once I think it’s absolute drivel. I listen again, I think there’s something incredible to it. You can tell Eno has some spark of genius/madness and the contribution he made to Roxy Music, Bowie and Talking Heads is discernible from this record. Do I want to listen again? Yes. And also no. I’m not reaching for the album anytime soon. But I am adding it to my library. The three stars isn’t fair but it’s all I have right now. It’s a placeholder until I make up my mind. Is this a one star? Or a five star?
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first: there are way too many skits on this album; there’s a lot of filler tracks which sound far too similar; and the homophobic and rape references are tired and repetitive. Now the good stuff: the lyrical wordplay is astonishing and even at this early stage in his career, Eminem shows huge promise on the road to become one of the greatest rappers to ever do it. And that he does it via this cartoonish, over the top, vile alter ego Slim Shady renders it all the more astonishing. The closest comparison I can think to make is with Slick Rick who told similar, goofy, x-rated stories; but otherwise, Eminem is in a class of his own with subject matter, humour, wacky sound effects, all of which turns him into a cultural phenomenon. And you can see why disaffected youth would be thrilled at this attitude - here is a rapper who, rather than saying he’s the best in the world, is saying he was bullied, feels awkward and makes jokes, letting his hidden inner monologue of odd thoughts become his outer monologue, a deranged steam of consciousness. I can’t give the album five stars - I’m saving the fifth for his next album - and also because the album is far too long - but this is groundbreaking, impactful, powerful stuff.
Debut is a quality album which does not quite reach the artistic and creative heights of Björk’s later work but shows the direction of travel. Björk is one of the greatest artists working in music and possesses an incredibles singing voice - the vocal range, control and passion is unmatched and she reminds me of great jazz singers of the past - and whilst not associated with jazz she can still sell a jazz standard like ‘Like Someone in Love’. Her voice elevated the electronic pop/ house genre on Debut to something more than music danced to in clubs.
Classic songs, beautiful melodies, exquisite guitar playing - an album that seems to capture the mood of the moment as the folky, peaceful, acoustic sixties (Deja Vu, Our House) turns into the gritty, tribal, rocky seventies (Almost Cut My Hair, Woodstock). This is America.
Grand Theft Auto San Andreas let’s goooo!!!!!! Really enjoyed this one - full on late eighties nostalgia - the sound is so crisp and clear! - and the playing is incredible, especially Vernon Reid’s funky guitar solos and Muzz Skilling’s amazing melodic bass. A funk rock fusion to savour- just blast the album and enjoy musicians doing their thing.
Much of the music is lovely. I cannot personally stand the insipid, saccharine Imagine. The lyrics of Jealous Guy sounds like an apologia for a wife beater (hmmm I wonder why?). And for all the peace and love, the attack on Paul on How Can You Sleep? is pretty vile (but again, the music is lovely, especially George’s guitar work). The production is excellent - Phil Spector! What a bizarre choice - what strange company, in hindsight. It’s endlessly fascinating to me that the magic of The Beatles came from the four collaborating and whilst strong, this solo album doesn’t compare to the band but maybe comes closest.
Stunning. The lyrics, the artistry, the variety, the production. A band unafraid to try new things but who take the fans with them. Taxman is a great rock track; Eleanor Rigby is a maudlin, poetic chamber pop track; I’m Only Sleeping a trippy, hippy sixties indie track; Tomorrow Never Knows experimental almost trip hop/dance Indian vibe… and it all works and sounds incredible. Perhaps the album that shows the world The Beatles as artists, making great works of art - more than just a great band. Side note- I nearly docked a star for the insufferable, anodyne, tiresome Yellow Submarine - but, hey, that would of been churlish of me!
A genuine masterpiece. Incredible vocals and orchestration, few albums achieve this level of power, beauty, emotion and passion and remain popular and even catchy. The first five tracks have to be one of the best sequences on any album ever: The haunting synths on Running Up That Hill; the snapping, urgent drums on Hounds of Love; the luscious orchestral arrangements on The Big Sky; the peculiar melodies on Mother Stands for Comfort; and that incredible violin riff on the immortal Cloudbustin’. Amazing, amazing, amazing. These opening tracks alone would earn five stars. And whilst I find the rest of the album elusive and intangible, these tracks reward repeat listening and immersion. Nobody makes music quite like Kate Bush. Iconic. What an artist.
This is a really enjoyable alt-country / rock album with plenty of head nodding, toe tapping tracks (Tina Toledo's Street Walkin' Blues, Firecracker) alongside more thoughtful, lyrical numbers (Sylvia Plath, When the Stars go Blue). And whilst the man is clearly a bit of a wretch, he’s clearly very talented.
My god, I get goose bumps every time I hear Garfunkel’s soaring, angelic vocals over the swelling orchestra in the crescendo of the opening track. Not many albums can do that from the get go. And whilst nothing quite matches the title track, there are some pretty, entertaining, witty and lyrical songs here to enjoy and luxuriate in the harmonies.
Apart from a few energetic and impactful tracks at the start of the album, the shouting and laughing (!) gets a little tired and repetitive.
Occasionally entertaining but mostly unmemorable and juvenile witterings; the band would improve with experience.
There is a breezy light feel to the album and some memorable tracks (Sunday Shining, Even After All), the arrangements are pleasant and the musicianship is great. Overall, though, there’s not enough consistency to make this a great album but is a noble effort nevertheless.
This album is an absolute blast - this is not an album to work to or travel to or read to or cook to or relax to but if you're willing to just focus and give in to the relentless power, speed, volume and energy this is going to put a smile on your face. Lemmy is 100% charisma, surging his way through track after track like he's running and yelling his way out of (or into?) hell.
Really good fun - I loved the horns over the punk rock and the cool swagger. Some of the tracks sounded like they might have influenced The Strokes. One to listen to again.
Catchy, toe-tapping soft rock made all the more spicy by the behind the scenes drama. A fascinating blend of artists, writers and style, unconventional, idiosyncratic but it works. Steve Nicks sounds glorious.
Iron Maiden are hugely popular. They don’t need to add me as a fan. Good luck to ‘em.
Aside from a few tracks with a groove (Hold Back the Rain), there’s an artifice to the sound of Duran Duran, principally conveyed through the nasty synths and drum sounds
This is definitely phat. This is such a brilliant album - big, aggressive, moody. It’s a great techno album that throws in influences from metal, hip hop, jungle and makes a massive sound. Back in the day, you could drop Firestarter or Breathe into the set of any club night - indie, house, rock, whatever - and the place would go nuts. RIP Keith.
Chilled, low key electro that starts well with some catchy, charismatic tunes but loses its distinctiveness as the album continues.
Madonna’s masterpiece. Perfect pop music. Like A Prayer is one of the best songs of the decade.
Trash album from a trash band. Facile, pompous, pretentious, dull twee, insincere and self absorbed. Unpopular opinion - Roger Taylor is the best singer in Queen! Two stars because I ‘You’re My Best Friend’ is pretty nice.
Pretty cool beats and noises. Not sure I’d repeat listen to the whole album but the odd track here and there.
Some excellent tracks (Passenger, Lust for Life, Tonight) and some misses. I imagine if Bowie were singing the tracks we’d declare this a masterpiece. As it is, it’s solid.
I think this might just be a work of genius. Ambitious, poetic, fascinating. I leaned five stars but wouldn’t be fair after just one lesson. But the potential is there.
An incredible achievement- that a band breaking-up can produce an album of such intensity, intrigue and curiosity is simply stunning. This is no songs-by-numbers album but an attempt to push themselves creatively, musically, aesthetically - this album solidifies The Beatles’ status as art. Endlessly rewarding.
There’s some nice tracks on here (Blow Your Mind is a highlight) and a decent example of acid jazz. Is this one for the ages, though? Are there better examples of the genre out there. Yes. Is there a lot of filler in this album - yes. Are you going to enjoy hearing this on a sunny day outside with you friend as it plays in the background? Sure, why not?
What you want: more imaginative, witty and hip-hop/funk influenced dance tracks like Groove is in the Heart. What you get: pedestrian, dull and unimaginative house music (albeit with a great vocalist in Lady Miss Kier).
Brilliant, moody, atmospheric, introspective goth rock. A haunting and memorable experience. It’s a soundtrack to your feelings.
Such a curiosity. What to make of this poetry over synths from the man with the bassiest bass voice in music? I didn’t fall in love at first listen but I think this might be a grower that rewards repeat listening. Three stars for now whilst I work this out.
Important - yes. Hugely influential, created an entire sound, often emulated, never bettered, there are some incredible beats here - Let Me Ride, Nuthin' but a G Thang, Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat - and plenty of mood and novel innovations. It's hard to overstate The Chronic's significance in the history of hip hop and the rise of the West Coast. But - looking back - there are no classic verses on this album. Despite his charisma, Snoop was never a great rapper and Dr Dre isn't a rapper at all (the DOC would surely have featured more but for his tragic vocal accident). The skits are infantile, puerile and, most unforgivably, unamusing. The subject matter barely moves beyond smoking, macking, hoes, fronting and general gangsta BS - when you compare this record with the searing social commentary of Cube's Predator released the same year, this album just has nothing to say. Dre would later perfect the formula with the massive 2001, arguably near single handedly flipping hip hop from niche to the main stream (where EVERY beat in the charts was a hip hop beat). This album leads there for sure and it's a classic in its context but aside from a handful of tracks, age well it has not.
Beautiful music, lovely vocals, gorgeous production, a fine, fine album.
Gangsta country - songs about committing crimes sung to actual criminals. How meta.
Cool, fun, bouncy, brief, lo-fi smash. Girls with guitars - can’t go wrong.
The Slim Shady LP blowing up so fast and Eminem becoming an overnight celebrity created an opportunity for Eminem on his follow-up album to write an excoriating commentary on society in the guise of a deeply unpleasant cartoonish villain who still managed to make people laugh, daring to ask the question - Who is listening to this violent, mysoginistic filth? And why is it so funny? What the hell is wrong with us? This is Em's masterpiece - the verbal dexterity is phenomenal, the choice of beats almost all perfect, the sample choices brilliant (turning Dido's Thank You into a dark reflection on the dangers of hero workship on Stan is a master stroke), even the guests (mostly) don't disappoint. Not all of it is easy to listen to - Kim is really hardgoing (but if this were a film, the actor would be nominated for an Oscar) - and a couple of tracks fall a little short - Drug Ballad and Amityville are the weakest - but the Kill You / Stan / Who Knew / The Way I Am / The Real Slim Shady sequence shows a rapper at the top of his game with something important - and horrible and hateful and funny - to say.
More sublime music from Joni Mitchell, this time with a rock flair. An artist whose work merits repeat listening and will change its meaning over time as you get older and maybe wiser. Superb.
Brilliant album. Like a greatest hits record - but nah this is just our eleventh album. Phenomenal funk, toe tapping, major vibes, genius musicians.
The band MOR DJs turn to when they’re feeling a little edgy. So easy to listen to but surprisingly complex and subversive. I don’t pretend to understand Steely Dan but I was perfectly content listening to this album on repeat.
Once Around the Block is a beautiful, beautiful track. Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn’t thrill. The extended instrumental interludes are a little wearing and the overall impact is that the album becomes a little repetitive. There are other albums of this era and genre I would reach for over this one, and it’s a shame because Damon is clearly a talented guy.
Surprisingly underwhelming! And it’s been five stars all the way so far for The Beatles. That said, you can see the sparks of genius in tracks such as It Won’t Be Long, All My Loving and Not a Second Time - this band are experimenting with the form already and the playing is exemplary. The covers are fun but only fine.
Fascinating curiosity - a little known band whose songs were quite good but better known sung by other people.
A fascinating record and an opportunity for Sinatra to show a softer, quieter side compared with his usual belting vocals. And whilst this album doesn’t hit the heights of his run of albums on the Capitol label, this is one of Sinatra’s better releases on his own Reprise label. Expressive and moving, Insensitive is a real highlight, fitting neatly alongside a slow tempo I Concentrate On You. The orchestrations throughout are marvellous and Jobim’s guitar playing is enchanting. What a special talent he was.
Surprising to see this album on the list, not because B&S don’t deserve to be but because later albums such as If You’re Feeling Sinister, The Boy With the Arab Strap and Dear, Catastrophe Waitress refine the model of easy going, dreamy, chamber pop with catchy choruses even further. This album points to the direction of travel, especially with the witty opener The State That I Am In (although I prefer the stripped back EP version without the added organ). A great band, great live (they love their fans). (If I have your attention, do check out The Avalanches remix of I’m A Cuckoo which is an interesting odd little gem)
A singular band with a singular front man, there’s nobody quite like The Smiths. Highlights - Marr’s playing is superb (and got even better over the years), Lowlights - Morrissey’s schtick gets a little weary over a whole album; his songwriting improves too with later albums - more wit, less sentimentality (and the tunes improve too).
A thrill ride, like a rickety wooden rollercoaster hurtling at speed; driving rhythm section, stabbing horns, charismatic frontman; slick back you hair, rev up your motorcycle, pull on your leathers. Rock music like it should be done - get in, get out fast, look good whilst you do it.
Captivating virtuoso improvised piano jazz concert performance - a wonderful achievement, all the more impressive because of the challenges and adversity along the way (the Wikipedia page is a must read to understand this album). A work of art. Thrilled to have been introduced to this music by this project.
It’s hard to disagree with the talent on display and the toes sure do tap but boy does it feel awkward hearing these art school white boys singing the blues.
A stunning album - I was bowled over. I was expecting a maudlin, moody, introspective album of ballads and whilst there is a bit of that on the second side, this is an energetic, toe tapping, bluesy record which sounds fantastic - like they are being chased by demons and have to get this music out fast! The gospel backing is wonderful and the band just sounds phenomenal jamming together. I think it’s a five star album. A classic.
A pleasant surprise - I thought this would be awful but the man can play and sing and it’s a pleasant album to listen to whilst you’re working - just don’t listen to the lyrics too closely which are mostly just drivel. By no means a classic.
Driven, punky, spiky Britpop with excellent guitar riffs and driven bass, catchy tunes and if they borrowed too much from The Stranglers and Wire the swagger and sneer of Justine and Donna showed they didn’t give a damn.
Feels pretty raw listening to this album - the man sounds gutted after his break up. Sunday Sun is amazing. Some neat songwriting here. Three for now could be a four later.
This is just brilliant. I love the stories, the singing and the playing. The storytelling is oftentimes edge of your seat stuff - what did happen to Sally? Why did you do what you in Knoxville? If this were rap music, we’d be trying to get these evil criminals banned! Evocative of a time and place, this record fully deserves its place in this list.
The highlight of the album is the magisterial Wake Up. All the tracks before it feel like one long introduction and build up to this particular highlight. I find this album quite hard to pin down - I enjoy the music but I don’t know what the band are trying to say. Maybe this doesn’t matter.
Impossible to listen to without contemplating the tragic aftermath, In Utero will forever haunted by Cobain’s death. The album is angry, prickly and unsettling; as well as a band doing whatever they damn well please, despite what must have been enormous pressure to make Nevermind II. The sound is incredible and the energy and musicianship startling. Some tracks are almost unlistenable which makes them intriguing. And what a sign off All Apologies is. Fascinating, infuriating, uncompromising.
Competes with Ziggy Stardust for best Bowie album and therefore competes with every other album in existence for best album of all time. The album which launched Bowie not just as a great songwriter but a true artist, the poetry, musicality, taste and verve of this collection of songs is beautiful and unmatched.
An album somehow both distilled essence of its time yet also timeless. With nods to 70s soul deep cuts and a melange of styles and genres, Massive Attack made this masterpiece for the ages. Absorbing, flowing, emotional - electronic music was rarely this introspective. And Unfinished Sympathy isn’t one of the greatest musical achievements of the century as the soaring orchestra builds and swells and Shara Nelson’s beautiful vocals ring clear and sweet creating a transformative, epic, maxi and mini track. Exciting and frightening.
More fine swamp rock from these talented musicians. Sign me up. Fantastic sounds, exciting vocals, bluesy, folky, gritty, catchy. Thoroughly enjoyable.
What artist fills this album? What poetry? Blowing in the Wind is a standard for the ages; Masters of War takes its place in the ranks of angry, powerful protest songs; Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right is a charming, elegant song; Corrina, Corrina a
Unmemorable, tedious background music.
There’s some wicked tracks here and the lads rock hard. Although the tracks become indistinguishable after a while, it’s fun to dip into once in a while to enjoy the anger and the energy.
Definitely merits a place on this list but more as a curiosity than a classic; an ahead of its time, proto-punk, unpolished, rule-book-tearing blast of noise.
Billie Jo doesn’t care if I don’t care. Well that’s lucky... Anodyne, over polished, facile, faux outrage, mock punk, unit shifting, safe rebellion, fake, fake, fake.
This is when I knew for sure I’d been over generous with my ratings. This is a five star plus! This album is one of the greatest accomplishments in human history- what a privilege to share the planet with this man. The music just pours out of him, reinventing music along the way. Searing social commentary, history lessons, love songs for your beloved (unsatisfied presenting one of the prettiest love songs ever written in Knock Me Off My Feet, Mr Wonder just adds another with the euphoric As), love songs for your baby, straight up dance tracks, autobiography, spirituality - is there a topic Stevie isn’t inspired to write about? And the album isn’t some hodgepodge - somehow these diverse tones find a consistency and cohesion from the beautiful production throughout and the quality of the musicianship. Songs in the Key of Life, indeed.
. It has become fashionable lately to bash Bono and U2. Based on their music, this is entirely unjustified. Their back catalogue consists of beautiful, classic songs - Pride, Where the Streets Have No Name, With or Without You and I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For are songs which join the canon of 20th century standards, alongside the best works of Cole Porter, Smokey Robinson and Lennon & McCartney - and Achtung Baby continues to showcase Bono and The Edge’s skill in creating brilliantly written pop rock. Who’s Going To Ride Your Wild Horses, The Fly, Even Better Than The Real Thing and Mysterious Ways are full of catchy hooks, big sounds and swelling, emotional moments. The stand out track - to rank alongside their very best - is One, a moving track about the end? the start? of a love affair, told simply - not a moment is wasted, no instrumentation too much - pitch perfect. Perhaps the album as a whole doesn’t hold up as a complete, satisfying listening experience but the quality remains high and if you have been bashing Bono give this a fresh listen and a fair hearing.
Waits starts off with the screeching and the junkyard percussion and you can’t imagine a whole album of this- but then he sings a love song of such exquisite beauty and tenderness it knocks your socks off. Nobody makes music like Tom Waits. A unique artist.
Ms Sarah Vaughan sings songs from the great American song book. Utterly captivating voice, terrific jazz band backing.
Fascinating album - ahead of their time in so many ways; lyrical content, song structure, atmosphere - could be a college band from the nineties. Definitely a band and album to explore further.
Specialising in beautiful songs that sound so sad, this is Neil Young singing about whatever he damn well pleases with a hint of underlying anger management issues. Evocative images of waitresses crying in the rain abound and Young wrestling with his inner turmoil ‘ I need a crowd of people/ But I can't face them day-to-day’. Sometimes you want to say just lighten up, Neil. But this anguished melancholy is what he does and we derive great music from it.
Kicks off with some enjoyable folksy guitar and decent tunes, then follows the template to diminishing returns as the album progresses. I’d rather listen to CSNY. That song about calling the operator was a bit much.
Pretty cool noise and way ahead of its time.
This is fairground music. You listen to it on the dodgems or you listen to it at the ice rink. And its fine and it has its place but fundamentally, Norman has a wicked record collection and he knows which ones to sample - but since the originals give you the same vibes, oftentimes, as these remakes and you start to wonder - why don’t I just listen to the original songs instead and enjoy some real skill and artistry?
A trudge through London with tiresome tour guides, Blur spark to life from time to time (End of the Century, To The End) and a couple of tracks are fun the first three or four times you hear them (Parklife, Girls and Boys) but this album hasn’t aged well, as ubiquitous as it was in its hey day; there’s a lot of filler here in search of a song (Bank Holiday, Far Out, Magic America, Jubilee) which can get really tiresome, really fast. When Albarn inclines towards introspection he’s a far better songwriter (‘We kiss with dry lips when we say goodnight’) and can be genuinely moving; but he falls back on a cheat move which is to knock out songs with ‘wry’ observations on other people that ultimately comes across as condescending.
Stunning album, beautiful vocals and incredible musicianship. Transportive, transformative and avoids the label of twee which bedevils much folk music. What a joy.
Tricky wears his influences well to concoct a strange brew of blissed out beats, moody strings, mumbled raps and stunning vocals from Martina Topley Bird. I slept on this album the first time round and now recognise it as a classic. Few artists can sound so confident in their sonic experimentation but so paranoid in their lyrical content. Rewards repeated listens.
Utterly bizarre. Weird rambling speech over punky violins, mad subject matters. Sometimes you hear an album and you have no idea if it’s genius or madness. One star? Five? Who can tell?
David Gray lucked out when he teamed up with this talented producer who elevated these tracks from bland acoustic guitar tracks to bland acoustic guitar tracks with a drum machine. These songs are perfect for underscoring an emotional scene in a hospital drama or police procedural, or for use as sleep aids.
Spooky and atmospheric. Accomplished musicianship and swamp animal sounds. Such cray cray.
Brilliant rock and roll album.
Björk’s masterpiece. A stunning, sensual, beautiful record, delicate and stirring. Minimalist beats gently pulse, celestial chorus soar and Björk’s incredible vocals hold all together. It’s hard to think of a more imaginative artist working today, exploring her own passions, never following the fashion. But here she is, wowing the listener with an extraordinary album quite unlike any other.
What a dreary affair. I have never got Simple Minds and this doesn’t help. What is Jim Kerr singing? Who knows? His vocals are lost in the mix, in favour of synths and echo. A band in love with the sound they are making. Such future! Maybe.
The Roots’ greatest strength is also their greatest weakness; their exemplary musical skill means they can play any style and genre - but just because they can, should they? The album is ambitious, but at times lacks a cohesive satisfying overall mood. But when they’re good they’re very good - The Seed 2.0, Rolling with Heat, Rhymes and Ammo are straight up fire and Black Thought solidifies his reputation as one of the great - but slept on - rappers.
Terrific New Wave album from the iconoclastic Julian Cope, who writes insistent and urgent music which is also catchy. The production dazzles and the throbbing bass, whirling organ and stabbing horns give the tracks an energy and bounce. A highlight from the eighties. BONUS : I don’t normally include singles that were later tacked on to the original album release because they were a hit but I couldn’t finish without acknowledging how brilliant Reward is, one of the tracks of the decade.
Simply astonishing. I cannot quite work this album out but I think it might be a masterpiece. Alternative, antagonistic, rough. A template with many imitators - this was written in 1984! I need more time with this… four for now but could be a five…
Quality album from Neil Young. There is such a rich overall sound you can ease back into. And no singer is quite as distinctive as NY. Heart of Gold, Alabama, Words are real highlights. The orchestral tracks are a couple of low lights and feel out of place. An album which rewards repeat listening.
Yeah, I really like MGMT. This album is pretty epic and spawned plenty of imitators. But nobody quite managed the big sound / ironic sneer / catchy and moody psych pop sound like these guys.
Señor Puente leads an orchestra of extraordinarily talented musicians in joyous, life affirming mambo. It really is a thrill to listen to and the quality of the recording is amazing - you can hear each individual instrument and voice contribute to the sound. And whilst an entire album’s worth might become a little repetitious over time, nevertheless, you still come away with a feeling of intense delight.
Some decent folk rock here - and some limp folk rock as well. Inconsistent - seems like a good track / bad track album with some dreary attempts at goofy humour a real strain on the ear (Don’t Let The Rain Get You Down) but some nice highlights with the opener Darkness, Darkness and the closer Ride the Wind.
I enjoyed this far more than I thought I would. I expected an album of Sincere re-mixes and, let’s be honest, a lot of tracks sound like they could be just that - but there’s a nice mood throughout with some beautiful singing. This definitely taps into a nostalgia for a jungle sound which was briefly all you heard from car stereos and such in London. There are better jungle albums out there, though; and there are definitely 1,001 better albums than this. But it’s a nice enough listen for when you are feeling in the mood.
Extraordinary, extraterrestrial, talented musicians (the drums are particularly superb) play toe-tapping funk jams with a unique style and swagger. Ingenious.
Feigning to capture the live Tom Waits experience - the rambling tales, the gags, the wordplay, the audience interaction - Nighthawks has beautiful and memorable musical moments - the band are terrific - but the replay value is limited. The jokes may have once been funny the first time but diminish with repeat listening which ultimately renders this album one to skip in favour either of The Heart of Saturday Night which precedes it or Small Change which follows.
Classy disco, Rodgers and Edward create brilliant compositions with that unique Chic sound - intricate bass parts and that double recorded funk guitar let’s you know this is a quality record from the Chic organisation.
I’ve never quite grasped where best to listen to Nu Soul. It’s not for the club, it’s not for the car, it’s not for house parties, it’s not for dancing in your room. It might be background music - study music? A whole gig’s worth seems like a chore… It goes without saying he’s got a great voice. But I can’t stand the organ wail and the artificial finger clicks that have to be on every track. It’s just not a style of music I’m ever in the mood to reach for.
Struggling with feelings is never fun. Does listening to a whole double album which reflects those feelings help or hinder? I respect Corgan's self expression and the ambition of this project but I kind of wish he would lighten up. Send some hope (maybe on a deeper dive I would find it but I couldn't devote that much time to a 2hr+ album!). On this album, the hits are terrific - the orchestration on Tonight, Tonight is simply stunning and keeps the track pulsing with energy and verve - and some album tracks stand out - Cupid de Locke, for instance - as charming highlights. Overall, though, this isn't a project which thrills me - sometimes the sentiment, sometimes the length, sometimes the cynicism in me seeing a band wrap up teenage angst for mass consumption (possibly unfair) - one to respect, rather than love.
What an incredible run of albums - Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane. Bowie’s consistency over this period is astounding. There are some absolute classics here - jazzy dance with a horn section on Watch That Man, nutty piano solos on Aladdin Sane, the masterful ‘50s homage Drive-In Saturday, gritty Panic in Detroit, the affecting Prettiest Star and the floor filler Jean Genie. The Bowie reinvention continues apace and he keeps you guessing.
A really solid album. There’s some great melodies here and a sombre, contemplative mood throughout, which feels perfect for autumn. There’s a couple of stand out tracks (Life’s What You Make It, Give It Up) which somewhat define the British new wave sound.
Sheer brilliance. Pure punk with a charismatic vocalist.
I love the Beastie Boys but this is not the album I most frequently turn to. The rock sample / rap innovation is brought to brilliant effect on No Sleep Til Brooklyn, Rhymin’ and Stealin’ and She’s Crafty and there’s plenty of fun wordplay throughout, but the frat boy side of their personality is played out over a whole album’s worth and the Beasties don’t hit their artistic stride until Paul’s Boutique onwards. Nevertheless, a pivotal and critical album in rap history.
This is amazing! The playing on this track is phenomenal and the energy and power off the charts. This is not a genre I’m familiar with but I get the appeal - absorbing and exciting, an incredible sound. I kind of enjoy the angry political lyrics, less so the rebellious teenager stuff (but hey maybe this is as therapeutic as seeing a therapist), but overall a musical smack in the face.
Baffling inclusion on this list. Nothing especially memorable or outstanding on this album. I can think of at least three Teenage Fanclub albums superior to this for a similar but superior sound.
I am all on board with bands who cannot actually play music or compose songs but these guys take it to another, frustrating level. And yet… I still found myself in admiration of some of the tracks and think that perhaps in time this could grow on me. There’s something compelling nevertheless. A three - for now.
I gained a new found admiration for More Than A Feeling with its catchy hook and cool distorted guitar sound. I hoped the rest of the album would match this classic but aside from a few tracks, the album grew into a slightly bloated pop rock / prog rock sound, all very clean and lyrics seemed mostly to be about being in a band which is un-relatable for most of us. Still, a pleasant enough way to pass half an hour.
Behold a band with no soul. For Queen, showcasing a technical guitar solo or vocal gymnastics matters more than writing entertaining or moving songs. Beware a band having more fun playing than you are listening. It’s lifeless drivel.
Great musician, great voice but an unexciting collection of songs with no real stand outs to move or excite you.
Spiky, angular, brilliant.
Weller writes some decent songs in the tradition of The Who and The Kinks in a modern mod /new wave mood delivering a quality album which builds to the masterful Down in the Tube Station at Midnight.
An hour long car ad soundtrack devoid of any heart.
Possessed of a stunning voice, Sade sounds crystal clear and note perfect: and maybe that’s the problem. A little less polish, a little more grit and maybe these tracks would sound a more vivid; overall, then, a disappointment, notwithstanding that the opening two tracks are quality pop singles.
Watch a monster vocalist show the world how it should be done. Raw, energetic, Joplin is backed by an incredible blues rock band that matches her powerful vocals.
There are some real gems on this grunge alt rock album but it lacks consistency. I get that throw away snippets of ideas is part of the aesthetic - and maybe there is an honesty to that which has merit - but it isn’t as satisfying a listen as other records of the era. This could grow on me.
At a time when hip hop was mostly about parties and fashion brands, here were Run-D.M.C, shaking up the template by dropping lyrics with social commentary and slamming the drum machine over rock sound samples. This was ground breaking for early hip hop and kicked the genre along, broadening the horizons. Hard Times, It’s Like That and Rock Box are stand out tracks.
Stunning AfroBeat album. A truly incredible band joined by a masterful Ginger Baker. Fela Kuti is an iconic figure who inspired a generation and stood for resistance to power through MUSIC. What a force. This sound could start a Revolution and we get to listen. We’ve been blessed.
PJ Harvey’s songwriting skills are on full display with this powerful, poetic, impactful collection of songs lamenting the history of England’s wars and the West’s more recent military interventions. Harvey has assembled a team of talented musicians to produce a clear and consistent vision and the album is a cohesive, satisfying whole. The mood is sorrowful and contemplative whilst also pulsating with an insistent tempo and a laconic wit. Harvey’s vocals are soft and exquisite. This is a stunning record and a fine work of art.
It’s literally the same song repeated twelve times! And that song is an absolute dirge. My wife left me! Here are some strings! Tedious beyond belief. How did this get made? I think it might be one of the worst albums I have ever heard.
Brilliant minimalist electronica, great voice, absorbing, an absolute mood that I am here for.
Is it controversial to say I am unmoved by James Brown? I am sure this album is an attempt to capture some of that live magic and I’m sure that was undoubtedly the case to see him live. But on wax, his voice is garbled and indistinct and - excellent musicianship from the band aside - the whole exercise sounds flat: which it surely can’t have been. Maybe you just had to be there…
Evocative, soulful, classy album that stands alone from the movie, worthy of inclusion in this list. Mayfield was never better than here and despite soundtrack music often seeming throw away and disposable, Mayfield’s narrative manages to touch on societal issues lending them added heft and weight. Just a great album.
A near perfect example of the r and b genre, Rhythm Nation 1814 spawned hit after hit and solidified Jam and Lewis’ reputation for producing high quality, radio friendly tracks. And Janet Jackson is such a powerful presence - bold vocals and charisma to spare . Although the social consciousness of her album is over stated, at least there is an attempt at something to say. An album that spawned many imitators and flipped urban music to the mainstream. Really massive record.
Who knew the surf pop dudes could write an album of such exquisite beauty? Pet Sounds is one of the greatest works of art of the twentieth century. Fragile, delicate, poetic, with perfect arrangements and haunting tunes, this album stands alongside the compositions and musical innovations of The Beatles. A transformative album, to take you from where you are to another place and time. The delicate beauty of God Only Knows is a fine love / love lorn song and tracks like Wouldn’t It Be Nice and Sloop John B have a playful enjoyable energy to them. A five star classic and an album which will be remembered and revere in centuries to come.
A classic album full of love, life and passion, has any album so popular been so controversial? Critics argue Simon broke the South Africa boycott to make this album and took a musical genre he had no right to play; his supporters argue he crossed the colour line and collaborated with African artists, helping to hasten the end of apartheid. It is for each listener to determine for themselves how they feel about this album. Judged on the product alone, however, this is an exquisitely crafted collection of songs with Simon at the height of his lyrical powers and an assembly of musicians playing beautiful melodies and memorable polyrhythms. A great singalong album, a road trip album, a unique album in its blend of Western song writing and African music (is Simon flying too close to the sun, evoking Elvis, a white artist accused of stealing black music?) with so many highlights- Boy in the Bubble, Diamonds in the Soles of her Shoes, You Can Call Me Al, Graceland -what a quartet of singles! - Whatever else, Simon took a massive risk with this album and what could have been a colossal, laughable failure turned out to be one of the greatest albums of all time.
A marvellous collection of Afro Cuban music beautifully produced, charming and beguiling.
Absolute filth. Get a bar of soap, Iggy and clean yourself up. Total mess, noisy, clashing instruments, no discipline, learn some real songs you ragged bunch. I loved it.
This curious concept album sees Ray Davies imagine the life of a carpet layer called Arthur. As such, catchy album opener aside, there’s no real hits to be found here, but it is a solid album which showcases Davies’ song writing skills and is a jaunty, smart and engaging curiosity.
Don McLean was my first ever gig. I was 16 years old and I went with my friend and his mum to the Worthing Assembly Rooms. The poor guy deserved much better than that dump. He had a terrible cold and asked for some sweet tea. He wasn’t sure how he was going to get through American Pie at the end. He thought we’d have to sing it for him. And I guess we kind of did. It’s the perfect singalong song - or the chorus is at least. I made it my mission to remember the lyrics, though, and I do still to this day. And with this album of the day, I enjoyed reminiscing to the title track and to Vincent and Winterwood and just like the Worthing Assembly Rooms, Don Maclean deserved better - more recognition, more success, for writing sweet, folk rock ballads that were always pretty, sometimes enigmatic, usually heartfelt.
The air of dread and menace captured on Gimmee Shelter is spine tinglingly atmospheric and the album closer You Can’t Always Get What You Want is a brilliant epic record to float away on. Has their ever been a more momentous album opener/closer? In between, some brilliant musicians play some catchy, engaging tunes of music they enjoy.
A charming, enjoyable alt country album. Immerse yourself in the sound and let it wash over you. just a great American LP.
A perfect distillation of that nineties sound, Hole were kind of alt / kind of pop, tabloid fodder lead singer / artist with integrity, cynical / sell out - holding all these contradictions together in the one hole. And accordingly, it’s one of the best albums of the nineties. It captures that mood so perfectly - disaffected rich kids, LA is so shallow but means the world.
Excellent new wave gem, thoroughly enjoyable. Talking Heads crossed with Roxy Music. Sounds as fresh as a daisy.
Despite the clean cut image, it’s fairly clear that these boys just have one thing on their mind: sex, sex, sex. All the girls in the world are there to be enjoyed. We will harmonise and tell you about it. Proper Americana, fusing country and rock, this is drive-ins and diners and Bobby socks and even some sinister undertones a la David Lynch. Compelling listening.
Talent everywhere on this album. What a wonderful sound. Hypnotic, life affirming jazz.
Common isn’t afraid to show his soft side but doesn’t want you thinking he’s a pushover. Thoughtful, considered, occasionally dull in his earnestness, at least Common is true to self and working hard to express himself as an artist. His lyricism is often on point; his flow a little laid back; and as such, he doesn’t grab your attention like a Jay-Z or Eminem. Occasionally the record fades into the background. But his choice of collaborator in Kanye West is superb, who brings his soul samples and beats to full effect - this is genius Kanye (instead of loopy Kanye) and the soundscape is gorgeous. Be (Intro) is one of his greatest productions - thrilling, heart soaring music with Common’s glorious musings on the future and fatherhood and potential - this, along with tracks like Chi City and Real People, is where the album really comes alive. One more note in the art of sampling - Kanye didn’t just take a stone cold classic and add a beat to it; Mother Nature by Albert Jones is a TERRIBLE track about rabbits and bees and how Mother Nature made you for me - it’s about as by the numbers as a soul record can get - BUT it has this horn section on the intro - super short - and that becomes the heart of this Be (Intro). To dig that out of obscurity, recognise its potential, flip it and make it something greater - well that’s the sampler’s art right there. Kanye is a genius.
An absorbing, intelligent nu soul album with stunning vocals and excellent production, Jazmine Sullivan astutely narrates the complexities of modern dating, relationships and self worth on an album that rewards repeat listening.
Glorious, elegant, flaming singer songwriting from Rufus Wainwright. Some really absorbing tracks with a stylistic strings and drum machine flavour. Normally strings are added to hide the shortcomings of the singer or the singing but not so here - the vocals and music together to make a chamber pop classic.
More heavy metal glee from the Beast, Iron Maiden sure sound like they are having a lot of fun. And if you let yourself get lost in the opera of it all then you will too.
Thundercat just does whatever he pleases and I dig it. The lazy vibe musical aesthetic and stream of consciousness lyrics create a mood that could undeniably aggravate the audience but there is something refreshing in an artist just going for their own style without following current trends - if anything, Thundercat harks back to 70s acid jazz and Steely Dan for inspiration. An absorbing listen, a genuine curiosity, elusive and intriguing.
Melancholy, contemplative, imbued with much sadness, in many respects Five Leaves Left is a tough listen. Drake’s voice is beautiful and the production exquisite but the mood is dour and there is little variety between tracks. Probably a 3.5 but I’ll lean 4 because it is the festive season.
Brilliant dirty blues rock from the other invading Brits, the dark undertones of this recording make the Stones feel like the anti -Beatles; but here they are ploughing their own furrough, upsetting the neighbours, upsetting women and causing all kinds of chaos. Under my Thumb is the highlight - Sinister and unsettling. The experimentation with a variety of instruments adds flavour and the drumming of Charlie Watts (RIP) is exemplary.
Absolute genius in its own way. Essentially, this is the same basic musical setup as The Beatles or Booker T and the MGs but THIS music sounds like it’s from another planet which is terrifying and frightening. Slayer get this sound out of those same instruments. Music is incredible. I couldn’t listen to this too many times but I’m glad I have heard it.
A stunning achievement, Lamar’s insightful, searing social commentary over a jazz infused hip hop soundtrack easily towers over most artists working in any genre today. And artist is the correct description- TPAB is a work of art which will be looked back upon and studied as an artefact of these times and the position of Black Americans in US society. Nobody else comes close to offering this whilst also making listenable, ostensibly mainstream music. Poetic, inventive, dynamic, essential. A masterpiece.
Whilst admirable for a mainstream artist to reinvent their sound so dramatically from album to album, Yeezus mostly fails to land and is a somewhat drab affair which becomes a bit of a chore to listen to. There are undoubtedly moments of inspiration - I’m In It segueing into Blood on the Leaves is a thrilling sound and Black Skinhead a thumping statement - but lyrically, Ye isn’t the greatest rapper and his content focusses too much on debasing women and name checking fashion labels to engage the listener. There are better Kanye albums.
Stunning. Unlike anything I’ve heard before. Completely absorbing. Such depth, such intensity, such reshaping of the world through music. Towering achievement.
Teenage Fanclub are a terrific band and Bandwagonesque is a great album. Their songs stood out from the Brit Pop scene - indeed, they don’t really belong to that genre. Here are finely crafted, folk influenced songs with intricate sung melodies and lead guitar duties shared between the band, with lovely guitar solos. The model was refined further on their next album, Grand Prix, which of their masterpiece - five stars are reserved for that album so four stars for this.
Tracy Chapman sure can write a memorable tune and Fast Car, Revolution and Baby Can I Hold You? are perfect examples. There’s such a sweet sincerity behind this work and an almost naive quality to the music - an accidental pop star whose otherwise quiet acoustic guitar coffee shop songs somehow gained international attention. The album is perfectly fine but you can’t help but feel the polished production is a little too polished and radio friendly - you want to see what Chapman can do bursting out with a little more tempo or urgency, shake up the style, show me more, be grittier. But whatever else you can fault, Chapman’s work is full of integrity and I doubt she gives a damn what anyone else thinks. So good on her. You made a pretty memorable album.
A bit of a slog if I’m honest. Everyone raved about this album at the time but it’s not stood up well. The beautiful Hindi singing elevates the bland dance tracks a little and there’s a few nice touches and flourishes here and there. But not an album for the ages, sadly.
Perhaps Sinatra’s finest album. Perfectly chosen songs to reflect that melancholy, down tempo, heartbreak mood - legend has it Frank recorded in front of a life size cardboard cut out of Ava Gardner - sung with the lightest of touches by the greatest interpreter of popular music, framed perfectly by exquisite Nelson Riddle arrangements. What’s striking is the musical choices - Can’t We Be Friends is simply backed by the beautiful guitar solos of George van Eps and little more than piano, drums and bass, creating a quiet, jazz cafe mood; whilst others, such as the opening track, are backed by a full orchestra which swells and soars - but throughout, Sinatra’s vocals stand out as the focal point, constantly capturing the emotion of the moment, making the listener truly believe the heartache. Sinatra’s artistry is captured beautifully on one of the greatest works of art of the twentieth century.
A beautifully crafted album, cementing Swift's place as today's premier singer songwriter. Poetic, witty, insightful, Swift tells absorbing stories of doomed and sometimes happy relationships. The melancholy autumnal mood of this album is delightful - the production is excellent. Her prolific output is extraordinary - nine albums and she’s only 32 . So much more greatness to come.
When first released, I was too much into Britpop and indie bands to appreciate this album and judged this album as too poppy. Over time, however, I’ve grown much fonder of JLP and turn to it every once in a while for that 90s crystal clear nineties production nostalgic pop guitar radio sound, released at a time when selling aggressively marketed records actually made labels money. Alanis is a hoot, chucking everything into the vocals and sticking it to ex lovers. I’m also reasonably confident now that the lack of irony in Ironic was a deliberate ironic joke. And I was today years old even I learned Flea plays the incredible bass part on You Oughta Know rendering this album the perfect expression of how the nineties sounded.
I will sing unrelatable songs about being rich and famous as a form of therapy and you will listen and I will sell more records that will make me more rich and more famous but I’ll still be miserable so I’ll just keep making more of these and because it’s got a big expansive BritPop influenced sound and I contributed the odd lyric or two I’m now an artist allbeit one with a fairly grating and unsubtle voice lacking in nuance and subtlety (sing big!) and Angels will be played at countless funerals and weddings and montages for charity appeals and let me show you my Mick or Freddy tribute act on Let Me Entertain You (this will open every gig I ever do henceforth - easy!) and the money’s nice but not the fame but what choice do I have?
Although, at times, Springsteen flirts with histrionic and melodramatic motifs in his music via a maximalist sound which risks drowning out any subtlety and poetry in the lyrics (and there is poetry here, but it's almost as if the smart kid in class has to hide it for fear of being laughed at) this is an American classic, chrome wheeled and fuel injected by a great band of talented musicians and Bruce's musings on growing up poor and hard in the city. The Great American Novel in musical form, Springsteen conjures up romantic images of highways, motorbikes, picking up your sweetheart to a Wall of Sound in homage to The Ronette's Be My Baby and the Shangri La's Leader of the Pack ('Look out! Look out! Look out! Look out!').
I think this might be a perfect album.
I could listen to Dylan forever and never quite grasp the meaning of his lyrics. Perhaps the elusiveness is deliberate; maybe we will never get it but the intrigue keeps us returning. On Blonde on Blonde, there are times when Dylan seems to push the listener away - Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35 is an irritating in-joke amongst the band; harmonica solos blast the ear drums; Dylan’s voice lacks any gravitas. But then tracks such as Visions of Johanna, I Want You, Stuck Inside of Mobile… and Just Like a Woman make you reconsider; beautifully performed, produced exquisitely and rewarding on repeat listening. So keep listening forever and try and fail and fail better to understand the twentieth century’s most elusive musician.
When the falsetto began I stopped the track immediately. What was that? But I later dutifully listened to the album and it really started to grow on me. A fascinating, quirky, stylistically different alt offering, trying to provoke the listener into a reaction. Both in your face and listen in the background. Lyrics were often awful! One to ponder.
This flute rocks hard! What a banger - folk tinged, retro sounding, full throated, hugely enjoyable. I love the lyrics alluding to some Victorian past. So much fun.
It’s all toe tapping, dance floor friendly classics (with the exception of the dreary She’s Out Of My Life) and Quincy Jones bring his A game to make an entertaining lush sound for MJ’s really quite astonishing vocal stylings - the breathy grunts and clicks influenced pop music forever, lending what is essentially throw away music the impression it is coming from an emotional place, so emotional that sounds will do better than words. And it works!
Underwhelming psychedelic rock album, neither getting you up to move nor spacing you out, man. Lacking any real panache, pretty lazy production (hippies), very much of a product of its time. Dull.
The greatest selling album of all time. Released in 1983, the album had sold 32 million copies alone by the end of 1983. This is now incomprehensible in the digital, streaming music landscape we find ourselves in and will, simply, never be beaten. Alongside the units shifted, Thriller could lay claim to being the most influential album of all time, too. Every pop record since has tried to sound like Billie Jean. Pop stars couldn't now hope to make it big in the business without paying considerable attention to music videos and MTV airplay - Thriller broke the music video format and forced MTV to playing more tracks by black artists. Baby Be Mine and PYT set the template for R&B music. Beat It fused rock and pop in thrilling fashion. Throughout, MJ nails it with his incomparable vocal talents, honed by years of live performance. MJ was just 24 when Thriller was released. There is one excruciating moment on the record - the ill judged Girl is Mine has the listener mind boggled at the premise there is a woman out there besotted with both Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, who sing about her in a limp, twee and corny style, deciding that a little improvised chit chat midway through the record would be fun. It’s not. It’s embarrassing for everyone. The best thing you could say for it is that MJ’s influence was so strong he could even get a Beatle on his record. That track and MJ’s troubled life almost docked this album a star, but it’s hard to discredit a cultural phenomenon and fail to acknowledge the enormous influence Thriller had on pop culture and, indeed, culture.
There are some terrific riffs and some toe tapping head banging tracks on Zep II but there are also moments which feel a little self satisfied - the extended riffs, the drum solo, the roll-your-eyes-in-embarrassment euphemisms concerning lemons, the LOTR references. From time to time you start to wonder which blues singer they stole the music from. Undoubtedly influential and heavy metal inspiring, just not worthy of the adulation. There are better Zep albums.
Solid solo effort from Mr Meth, sticking to the format that worked so well on the Wu Tang debut album - grimy RZA beats, Kung Fu movie samples, Meth spitting darts. Moody, atmospheric, classy.
Beautiful, etheral and way ahead of its time. Absolutely terrific dream pop.
It's fine and solid, I guess, but it seems inferior to some other southern rock / blues rock bands.
Happy sad indeed. Melancholy, wistful jams, sounding beautiful alongside Buckley’s charming voice.
Stunning phrasing, beautiful arrangements. Spellbinding talent.
Self indulgent clap trap. A band that enjoy showing us how much they enjoy playing their instruments. Hilariously, for a live album, it sounds, at times, like there are ten people in the audience. There’s no atmosphere captured on the record, which is tragic for a live album. Some great riffs to be sure but the songs built around them just aren’t that great. And that drum solo is an absolute low point, as I shuffle my feet on the floor and check my watch wondering just how long is left of the concert…
I get, in part, this is an experiment in what an audience will put up with under the guise of art and that pushing boundaries is necessary in the evolution of music but I really object to just how unlistenable the whole album is - the discordant guitars, the monotonous sound mix, the shouting - and presented in such a way that I am the problem if I don’t ‘get’ it. If I’m square then so be it. An extra star for being on this list, to educate others to avoid at all costs.
Fantastic southern rock album, absorbing tunes, great playing and the majestic Free Bird.
Charming, idiosyncratic, unique; there’s nobody quite like Sufjan Stevens - and whilst his music might border on the whimsical at times, there’s no denying the craftsmanship, delicacy and emotional impact of tracks like Chicago and Casimir Pulaski Day. Fascinating and rewarding listen (close to five stars).
I appear to have wandered into a Starbucks.
A stunning album, full of depth, ambition, sonic innovation and the extraordinary Once In A Lifetime, Talking Heads take their musical experimentation to a new level and create a new wave poly rhythmic art rock fusion masterpiece. Even more surprising for such a complex studio production is how good these songs would sound live on the Stop Making Sense tour. An album born out of creative frustration, recording limitations and antagonism between the band members - from such challenges is born a work of art.
Is this a classic album? Probably not. Is it a touch derivative and trying a little too hard? Probably. Does it feel a little unvarnished and stoned? Yes. Did I play this album on heavy rotation and nod my head along in the car in my early twenties? I most certainly did! Nostalgia gets the rating. It’s a little fun rock rap blues funk New York thing - don’t think too hard, just enjoy it.
Ripley is a village in Surrey, England, lying on the main road from London to Portsmouth. The village includes a coaching inn, the Talbot Inn, which dates back to 1453. The village church of St Mary Magdalen has a fine Norman chancel and is a Grade II* listed building. Eric Clapton was born there. He’s perfectly placed, therefore, to interpret the music of Chicago and the Mississippi Delta. When not content ripping off the music of black Americans, Clapton will happily steal the gorgeous piano riff from Layla (which is still an energetic, cinematic track) from his band mate’s girlfriend, Rita Coolidge.
More Bowie brilliance, an incredible artist, constantly restless, exploring new moods and sounds, even as those sounds unsettle the listener.
A tame affair. Decent for mainstream eighties pop but the bar is set very low. Take On Me is an evergreen, entertaining pop hit but the rest of the album is fairly middling. Underwhelming.
Charming collection of folk songs, if a little repetitive in style.
Utterly ludicrous metal classical pomposity. The quality of the playing is incredible and some of the tracks sound amazing. But you have to really be committed to want two hours of this.
Thumping blues record full of grit and dirt. Waters has bucketloads of charisma and the band are just the finest musicians assembled (the harmonica here becomes a stunning solo instrument). A cold stone classic.
An album of undeniable influence and importance with some extraordinary, visceral tracks - culminating in the highlight ‘Pretty Vacant’ - but listening to so much cynicism at once is wearying and the production is so poor you don’t get to enjoy the individual instruments. This might have been the aesthetic but better someone punk records are available. And there are times when, far from being anarchists, you sense Rotten’s social conservatism coming through on tracks like Bodies. A landmark album to be sure and deserves its place on this list but just not a fully enjoyable album.
Hugely enjoyable soul album with a charismatic front man, even when he does his ‘talking to the audience’ segments.
By turns cynical and sincere, Newman is a hard man to pin down. What does he believe in? Perhaps the intrigue will keep us listening but the lack of trust means we’ll never warm to him.
Fascinating album using mainly voices, Björk’s experimentation is often tricky to listen to but ultimately absorbing. Her singing ability is on a level with the greatest opera singers. Mesmeric.
A beautiful album, O’Connor’s voice is sublime and her song choices are intriguing, managing to cross a range of genres and styles without feeling disjointed. Nothing Compares 2 U is the obvious highlight and loses none of its emotional heft (despite its ubiquity at the time of its release). Black Boys on Mopeds is a quietly seething protest song and The Emperor’s New Clothes gives us a glimpse of what O’Connor’s career as a power pop star might have looked like. A fantastic listen.
A pounder of the piano by his own admission, Elton John, that unlikeliest of rock stars brings an album with the sublime Tiny Dancer, a gorgeous ballard both pounded and belted out, and the charming Levon, followed by a collection of songs that meander and unfortunately suffer from a lack of focus and precision. The weirdest track has a boy from Pinner imagining himself as a First Nation warrior, singing about his squaw and his tomahawk, which reveals in John and Taupin a tendency to lean towards the musical theatrical and operatic which, in truth, they do not always pull off. But John is always charismatic and gets the music over the line through sheer force of will and unusual talent. Not a classic but not a disappointment either.
Pompous, overblown, overlong and grandiose, Brett Anderson wants to be Bowie but lacks - well, almost any of the qualities that made Bowie a genius artist. A tiresome listen.
An intriguing album from an artist with a lot to say, SZA brings late night tales of modern relationships over sparse stripped back beats. Whilst it’s not a classic there’s plenty to enjoy and more to come, no doubt.
Blood on the Tracks genuinely moved me in a way other Dylan albums have not. Beautiful, poetic, personal and emotional, you can feel the anguish and longing through Dylan’s expressive singing and sparse arrangements. A marvellous achievement and one to surely offer greater rewards the more life you have lived.
A nice enough blend of Punjabi sounds, Brit Pop, trip hop and hip hop but some of the tracks sound more like scraps of ideas than fully fleshed out tunes. Souls were sold when Fatboy Slim got involved with the Brimful of Asha remix but at least it brought the band some recognition and the original tune has an enjoyable blissed out vibe.
A charming collection of songs in a folk rock style.
Sparse, urgent tracks propelled along by Copeland’s inspired drumming and Sting’s excellent bass, this doesn’t sound like a band on the verge of breaking up but a band in - well, synchronicity? There’s a compelling groove and mood throughout and, the awful ‘Mother’ aside, a satisfying cohesiveness to these slightly odd and discombobulated narratives. A genuine eighties classic still sounding good today.
16 tracks? I don’t want the deluxe version, I thought. But wait! This is the original version! This will take ages to listen to. But wait again! The album clocks in at a concise 35 minutes! Now that’s an album that breaks down the door, pushes you about for a bit and then gets the hell out of there! Punky, prickly, full of teenage hormones (Teenage Kicks a perfect pop song?), high energy, a really enjoyable album.
A stunning achievement, the great American album. Evocative, moody, transformative, the playing here is superlative. Peerless. An album for the ages.
So much sound, saying so little. What a mess. Proper California vacuity, really testing the listener’s patience.
Not being an ABBA fan, I was pleasantly surprised by this album. No major hits here, but some enjoyable toe tapping pop, albeit sometimes a little overcooked, from a band with swagger and confidence. The opening and title track has some cool futuristic synth sounds with a pulsing beat, One of Us has a peculiar reggae sound which they just about get away with and Two for the Price of One - well I’m still working out what the track is about but I defy you not to sing along to the chorus by the end. A fun album.
Cool fusion of r&b and electronica - all futuristic sounds and soulful vocals - and the production is excellent throughout. Whether there’s enough here to warrant classic status is unclear.
Books have been written about this album. It makes it very hard to say something interesting. You want my take? This is a document capturing a period of social and political history in the US of massive upheaval and a generational divide of such confusion and distance as to feel like foreign entities. Dylan moves from his folk past into a new rock sound and throws all the angst, distress, irony and idealism of youth into a cri du couer that is both humorous, memorable and moving. And whilst we might all spend days listening and analysing and disagreeing on the meaning of his poetry, no popular singer brought such depth to his music whilst also remaining listenable. And if the lyrics aren’t for you, check out the mood on Ballad of a Thin Man and Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues. This was an album of its time and an album for the ages.
Quirky Iceland indie-ska-swing-pop really only noteworthy for Bjork’s incredible vocals.
A glorious celebration of life with a twist of curtain twitching suburban kink. If Oasis were all cocaine arrogance and Blur were introverted heroin, Pulp were Ecstasy and love, reaching out to the misfits and the mis-shapes saying ‘don’t worry, it’s alright, there’s thousands of us who feel like you, fancy a brew?’ Unashamedly making pogo on the dance floor singalong hits and with the peerless Jarvis Cocker, all angles and oddness, yet perhaps the most charismatic front man of the era, Pulp just made you feel loved. The stories on these tracks are fun and absorbing, the music is layered and energetic, never afraid of adding more strings or synths, and the overall effect is a classic album that never loses its lustre with each repeat play and most likely the highlight of the BritPop era.
This is brilliant. A riveting listen, compelling vocals, an alt rock grunge classic. Sounds so good. RIP Mark Lanegan.
There are glimpses of talent along with chaos throughout this live album. Also on show are examples of The Who’s tendency to take a bad idea and double down - these mini operas are tiresome beyond belief and A Quick One, While He’s Away is seriously problematic, particularly in light of Townshend’s later legal troubles. One highlight of the record is actually being able to hear The Ox’s astonishing bass playing - usually on studio albums the bass seems inexplicably pushed down in the mix. That said, The Who were once described as a band with four soloists and that shows here - each seemingly playing their own track, not quite working together as a satisfying whole. There are stretches of the album where the listener can simply doze off - the extended My Generation for one. The best work is the run of older tracks - Substitute, Happy Jack and I’m A Boy - along with the rock and roll covers, where they really do feel like a band making music together.
Undeniable master of the blues, incredible singing and playing and really captures the club atmosphere.
Sounding like a man whose lived and then some, there is an appealing simplicity to the music and a frustrating complexity to the lyrics which renders Cohen a little elusive at times. For a musician where the poetry really matters, there is also something to be said for letting the music wash over you in a mood, although, in truth, if you do this, you may commit the heresy of thinking all the tracks sound alike.
Snatches of brilliance abound here - Only Love Can Break Your Heart turns Neil Young’s dirge into a celebratory moment of recovering from heartbreak catharsis and Nothing Can Stop Us is a charming and uplifting warm and mellifluous track. However, there are also snatches of odd cuts and movie samples to no seeming purpose - it all feels like padding which infuriate where instead you could imagine a glorious electronic song cycle.
The King of Rai, Khaled fuses influences from across the globe to showcase his powerful voice. At times the production is a little over polished and it feels like Khaled has chased the nineties studio sound rather than something more organic (would have loved less drum machine) and Imagine is questionable. Opener Aalach Tioumouni is a menacing banger and C’est La Nuit is a charming ballad.
Has all the makings of a modern classic - smart lyrics, engaging sounds, charismatic rapper, Simz is a proper artist making music to make you think and bob your head. Too new for five stars but that’s the direction of travel we are talking here - she’s that good.
A really enjoyable visit to sixties America, here a band in a groove and mood designed, it seems, to appeal to an older, sophisticated audience not otherwise screaming at the British Invasion bands. If lacking any crazy memorable tracks, still a pretty decent album of its era.
Of course this was recorded in a rented castle near Cologne. Where else could you craft something so extraordinary. Whatever is going on here is truly remarkable - uncategorisable, ahead of its time. You can hear the influence on so many bands to follow. Is it jazz? Hard rock? Prog? Electronica? All these things and none. This project is so incredible - introducing you to bands you had never heard before and being blown away.
It’s a genuine thrill to hear comeback Dylan sounding as poetic as ever with a fine backing band and some tracks (Not Dark Yet) as good as anything he’s ever written. But the production is lousy, losing the vocals in too much echo, rendering Dylan’s voice as just one more instrument in the mix, depriving us of the subtleties, emotions and imperfections in his voice. Still, not enough to spoil a fine album, and interesting to hear a mellower, maturer Dylan.
Cass was in love with Denny. But Denny was in love with Michelle. And Michelle was married to John. As for John… well you can look him up yourself but he was a seriously troubled individual… Yet despite - or because of? - these tensions (I Saw Her Again was written after the discovery of Denny and Michelle’s affair) the quartet made some exquisite sounding records many of which feature here. Despite the gorgeous four part harmonies and seeming uplifting music, the lyrics often hint at something darker - California Dreamin’ sounds like summer but is really a man in a freezing church thinking of leaving his partner - adding layers of depth and nuance. At times the group fall back on perfectly serviceable if a little underwhelming covers of recent soul and pop hits but really hit their stride with their own punchy compositions - Monday, Monday, Go Where You Wanna Go and Straight Shooter are perfect sixties tracks. Their career was astonishingly brief, recording and performing together for just four years, but left a catalogue of era defining music. As for whether they made a classic album during that time - probably not and this isn’t one - but it’s pretty damn good. Sit back and feel the vibe.
I’m not sure - is this sub par New Order or sub par LCD Soundsystem? Either way, not quite enough here to sustain engagement with the record.
Predictable, plodding classic rock. This guy is ready for love.
An album that stops you in your tracks, the penultimate album from Leonard Cohen is the sound of an artist bidding farewell but driven to continue making music and art and is a privilege to listen to. The wisdom, the insight, the emotion all strike you to the core. Not a note is wasted. The music is perfectly pitched to support the breathy, quiet vocal. A heroic effort and one for the ages. (An alternative take from my daughter: ‘Kind of sounds like Lego Batman’)
Perfectly serviceable debut album from CSN but nothing to get the juices flowing, maybe Suite: Judy Blue Eyes aside. The competition shortcomings of Marrakesh Express and Guinevere, rendering them rather dull, will have you crying out for the later addition of Neil Young to the group.
I had never heard Spiderland and on first listen it seems a pretentious affair - especially the iTunes version with 15 minutes of field noises from the quarry the cover image was taken at - but it starts to grow on you with repeated listens as a moody, dramatic, menacing soundscape. There’s no real theme, the lyrics offer us no clue, the spoken word isn’t even poetry and yet there’s something compelling here. What the band were done playing these proto-Radiohead/Mogwai tracks in 1991 is anyone’s guess. Four stars for now but I could see it getting five with repeated listens.
Another extraordinary recording by Lady Soul, a magnificent showcase for her stunning, soulful, expressive voice. Unmatched as a vocalist, blessed with a warm, comforting tone, this is an album to sink into and enjoy not just the singing but the exemplary backing band (a special nod to Tommy Cogbill whose bass work is incredible). Chain of Fools and You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman are recordings for the ages. Rest in Peace, Miss Franklin, we miss you.
A sound so fresh, so clean, the band is tight, the sound is crisp, Street Life is stunning. A real gem of jazz fusion.
This is a great 90s alt album which I was unaware of but really enjoyed - great songs, great vocals, that 90s fuzzy grungy production - I am here for this album. A gem.
FGTH were MASSIVE. Relax and Two Tribes sound like a huge outburst of rage against the system. Great Britain in 1984 - Thatcher’s sweeping social reforms, massive unemployment, miners’ strike, troubled in Northern Ireland, deepening North/South divide and genuine fear of nuclear obliteration - an absolutely awful time to be anything other than obscenely wealthy. And here were a band from Liverpool, making loud, raucous, frenetic music, as maximalist as the excesses of the Tory government but this belonged to them - we’ll sing about sex, we’ll sing about war, we’re blatantly queer and we’re going to be huge. And they were. Radio 1 banned Relax from the airwaves - it made no difference - the song hit number one, followed by Two Tribes (with Relax now occupying number two in the charts - practically unheard of) and Power of Love. Three hit singles. And for a short while, these Lads from Liverpool ran the country - not the fascist regime in Westminster. Anything was possible. Perhaps that explosion of energy explains the shortcomings of this album. The hits and a few other tracks aside, synth pop cover versions do not an album make and perhaps the interference of Trevor Horn meant the creative spark was diminished somewhat when the band tried to make more music. Not a classic album, then, but an important one. Never forget what this band meant. Frankie Says Relax, yeah?
A truly thrilling experience. Sounds like something all out of whack with time and space. Absorbing.
This is an experience to be sure and I think it’s ok with some albums, this being one of them, to say I’m glad I listened to it; the band are very good at what they do; but I’m also glad I don’t have to listen to it again. Well done lads. System well and truly smashed.
Elevates the skill of sampling to the highest art form, Shadow brings a chill out hip hop vibe from classic vinyl and has the heads bopping in the room. It’s such a well crafted album - the entirety sounds like movements from a symphony, so brilliantly is it assembled. Above all else it pushes the boundaries of what sampling is and can do and shows the world this ain’t just stealing from the work of other artists (all artists steal all the time - that’s how you make something new) but is homage, tribute - that Shadow’s instruments are turntables and samplers and hooks and riffs makes him no less a musician. A five star classic.
It’s brilliant. A smack you round the face record with awesome hooks, stunning drums and a front man of irresistible, unlikely charm pouring his heart out (maybe a little too much, as it happens). The whole album has you singing along, head banging along wherever you are. It’s a terrific achievement and modern music would never quite be the same again.
A simply stunning collection of songs, Armatrading surely deserves more recognition for making quietly compelling, engaging music. There’s a breadth to her music - ballads, soul, funk, folk - and her artistry delivers them all expertly. The production is exquisite - lush strings are only added where required and you can hear the contribution of every musician. This is good stuff. Fun fact - The Wire’s Clarke Peters (Detective Lester Freamon, Pawn department hump who turned out to be good police) sings the bass backing vocals on Love and Affection!
Such a bloody boring band. I started singing along to The Drugs Don’t Work before realising it was actually Sonnet. I suppose it’s good that I wanted to sing along? Bittersweet Symphony sure is catchy. It’s fun to bark along to the violin part - ‘ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff’.
It must have been hard even for Marvin Gaye to follow up What’s Goin’ On? (if we skip the Trouble Man soundtrack); having dealt with social issues and the environment, Gaye went for something a little more private, a little more sensual on Let’s Get It On. There are terrific tracks here and Gaye’s genius, especially as a vocalist, is apparent throughout. The backing singers are brilliant, I thought - no, wait, that’s all Marvin (except when it’s The Originals on Just to Keep You Satisfied). The jams are glorious and the only criticism is the brevity - a few tracks feel like kernels of ideas not quite fully formed and at half an hour - well, look, I guess that’s long enough for what Marvin had in mind…
I like that The La’s wanted to make the perfect pop song and the closest they got was the untypical There She Goes but all these tries jangle along, some passable, others tiresome, but it’s a dreary affair lacking much energy or joy, the lyrics especially flat. When There She Goes appeared in a holiday advert in the UK you kind of knew for sure there was no magic in this.
This was an unexpected gem, a high quality, well assembled collection of alt country songs, perfect for a road trip or quiet nights in the evening. Really enjoyable.
A pioneering album that flipped the underground to the mainstream, Goldie hit gold with the chopped up drums, foreboding bass, synth strings and exquisite vocals from Diane Charlegmane (RIP). The scale and scope is ambitious and the album as a whole feels symphonic (no wonder Goldie’s interests turned to classical orchestral music later in his career). It may be overlong and perhaps a little dated but it is an extraordinary record, an example of a musician having a sound in his head with few predecessors and bringing it into life. It’s a really impressive record and whilst it won’t be universally beloved, it deserves its place on this list for its influence and impact.
Here The Doors, the most over-rated band of the 20th century. The hagiography surrounding Jim Morrison entirely undeserved - lousy singer, lousy poet - DID look good in leather trousers (actually quite important for a front man) - and this recording full of near cover versions of blues rock (straight up copies of riffs in some cases), all of which begs the question why? There are tonnes of artists to enjoy instead of these sub par pretentious rockers (and that goddamn Manzarek organ over every fricking track…). So that’s one star for the leather trousers and one star for Riders on the Storm. Cool.
What an extraordinary document of a moment in pop history. What surprises the listener here is how good Dylan sounds live - captivating with just voice, guitar and harmonica in the first half, then absolutely rocking out with The Hawks in the second half. The songs sounds so vivid and vibrant and heartfelt - sometimes more so than their studio record counterparts. The story of his ‘betrayal’ of folk music is so, well, folkloric, that to have captured it here is a glimpse into another world and time. An essential recording and a bootleg to boot.
A glorious Celt Folk inspired Rock record, full of joy and energy, love stories and bucolic imagery. Mike Scott has got something truly magical going on here.
A classy if brief album, bursting with classy jams from that slightly mystical time when British acts were inspired by folk music of the past but pushing into prog rock of the future. Maybe the pure folk stylings aren’t quite as enjoyable as the energy of the opening tracks Glad and Freedom Rider but an impressive record overall. Nod along.
A well loved REM album and much to enjoy here. I’m sure the REM heads will say this is their best album but for us casuals they really improved in scope and ambition. This record feels quiet and gentle and jangly and mellow and comforting but not emotional and thrilling as they would become. Radio Free Europe through to Talk About the Passion is a great sequence to open an album.
Roxy Music. Utterly baffling, weirdly listenable, doing everything possible to distract and distance the listener. I can’t review this! I am confounded. I like it, I hate it. I need more time.
The muse was strong with this one. A fine finale to the life of an artist and showman- what an exit, passing away just a few days after the album’s release, keeping his illness a secret. And no falling back on the obvious or retrodden - still pushing himself, still taking inspiration from others, making something ethereal, haunting, with inspiration from jazz, hip hop, electronica, cabaret yet none of these things either. A swan song, a statement, a Starman.
It’s weird that a sound more likely to evoke sun drenched California surf or Hawaiian beats turns out, thanks to Apache, to be synonymous with New York and that hip hop sound. That break, though… luxuriate in that percussion, the organ, the horns and be transported back to a time of break dancing, graffiti, mcing and djing. What a find that break was, what a time to be alive… In truth, this is little more then a goofy novelty record - no work of art here- but I guarantee it is one of the funnest albums in the list.
There’s no denying Shuggie Otis’ talent and musicianship - performing most of the instruments himself - and his songs are very pretty. But as an album, the focus seems to wander and meandering instrumentals with no real hook or draw lead to a disappointing record. Perhaps more collaboration would have seen Otis soar.
Costello in fine form, comfortable with himself and in total synch with his band. Tokyo Storm Warning and Crimes of Paris are entertaining, searing ditties and the imperious I Want You are highlights. Surely no more sinister, twisted song than I Want You was ever committed to wax?
Whip smart, idiosyncratic, Fiona Apple has been making great records for sometime now and this is one of her best. Subject matter which gets under your skin, percussion and piano loops that get into your head and always that fierce, fiery, impassioned vocal driving the thing along. She might just be a genius.
About as straightforward as Radiohead ever got and it’s very good indeed- the boys sure can play and make excellent rock tracks. The production is extraordinarily good; the blend is great- the guitars sound almost like a Co vocalist alongside Yorker’s impulsive yelps and screams. There are hints throughout of the experimentation that was to follow. Here the building blocks.
Guys, I think his baby left him. The collaborations in the first half are really quite dull and mar the album. But unleash Hooker solo at the end of the record and there’s something special he creates with voice and guitar, slowly drawing you in to the blues. It’s really rather beautiful.
Oh Amy, we hardly knew you… Amy chose her collaborators well - Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi know how to make her voice bedazzle and the production has a fresh modern sound which also echoes the Phil Spector and Motown style. Never better than singing about heart break, Amy shows all that sadness here. It’s an album to return to (although with a few unmemorable tracks it must be said) and the listener is left to wonder… what if?
Could easily be a contender for greatest debut album ever. How a band so young could sound so assured is extraordinary. Turner is a genius observer of the world around him, conjuring up portraits of late night Sheffield. And the music is so so good, catchy and exuberant and thrilling rock. Do believe the hype.
Entertaining bluesy rock album, not shaking trees but a bunch of decent musicians finessing their craft.
That uplifting New Order sound is in full effect here - an electronic band who play their instruments with a relaxed Sumner vocal. I really enjoyed the soundscape - you could float away to it. Summer vibes abound. Run and Vanishing Point the highlights.
A fun little album, grooving up tango with some beats. If it’s a project of limited depth, it is at least clearly created with love. And there’s a very special reason I like this album which shall remain private…
When a legit album starts to sound a lot like a parody of the band, you have to worry for the direction the band are taking. Kiedis’ lyrics are frequently gibberish (sometimes literal gibberish) and the man has nothing to say- all non sequiturs and Dr Seuss rhyming and A level poetry) and renders the whole project a disappointment, despite the talents of Frusciante and Flea. That isn’t to say there aren’t highlights and a lot of it is catchy but for a band with our attention they sure waste an opportunity.
Otis Redding’s powerful, passionate vocals were simply stunning, stop you in your tracks good. Even his outtakes were a thrill. Distilled, here, then, the essence of Otis as he ballads (I’ve Been Loving You Too Long) and dances (Respect, Shake) and even rocks (Satisfaction) his way through a near perfect album. The band are great, the vibrant horns act as his backing singers, creating this wonderful mood throughout. What we lost the day he died, taken too soon. His legacy lives on.
A puzzling album, ambitious in its sonic soundscapes but half formed in some of its ideas - many songs start and fade out without ever building. Somewhat ahead of its time, the psychedelic rock predicts later artists such as Mogwai, Primal Scream and My Bloody Valentine, an intriguing listen but not a satisfying album.
When Led Zeppelin rock hard it is genuinely thrilling to hear such high octane, guitar and drums driven blues rock, originating so much we take for granted today - quiet verse, heavy chorus, thrashing guitar chords and cymbal heavy percussion. It’s quite brilliant hearing Good Times, Bad Times, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You and Your Time Is Gonna Come. Where Led Zepp come unstuck is their attempt to sing the blues which really comes off as a bad tribute to blues pioneers. There’s only so much one can stand from Robert Plant talking about all his Babys and Babies before it becomes ridiculous. How Many More Times is especially grim with his school girl fetish; I Can’t Quit You Babe is a pale imitation of twelve bar blues; and the Plant call / guitar response on You Shook Me is cringeworthy. Pioneering and influential for sure but it may be sacrilegious to say there’s a better band somewhere in there…
Malkmus and the boys make more gold sounds on possibly Pavement’s best album. Quirky, idiosyncratic, Pavement do their own thing and bring others along for the ride. I really love the sound they make, the ambling lyrics, the switches in tempo, the evident ability to make great poppy tunes such as Cut Your Hair and Gold Sounds which they then undercut with shouting or discordant guitar stabs. It’s just them and god love them for that.
At album opening you fear this is some Dylan parody but you realise here is a smart guy using acerbic wit to takedown aspects of American culture and observe flaws in the American dream. Insightful, challenging and a pretty decent musician, John Prine is something of a gem.
I can think of no other artist, with the possible exception of Dolly Parton, to sing songs that are so blatantly attempting to fabricate an emotional response in the listener and yet, despite this cheap trick and an initial roll of the eyes at the audacity, by the end of the track you’re bawling your eyes out. The man sure sold the songs. I know what you’re trying to do, Elvis. You’re not going to get me this time… oh damn why am I crying?
Not even the undeniably catchy singalong karaoke classic Livin’ On A Prayer can rescue this puddle of non-threatening, meaningless, bubblegum metal drivel. Everyone involved in this project has heard heavy metal rock and merely copied the basic building blocks without having any flair, originality or purpose.
Like some looming behemoth these tracks come, pushing all else out of its way, fascinating, beguiling, a curiosity, an influence on so many bands to follow. Commanding.
Perfectly fine, if a little uninspiring. There are some good grooves here and a few that overstay their welcome. The band had something but they also lacked something, maybe that spark which would have made them pop.
A fine, fine album. Go in the garage with your band mates, record some tracks, pick the best take, make a record. Can there be anything finer? Did the neighbours bang on the walls and complain? I doubt it, when the tracks are so compelling and absorbing.
Pure, unadulterated joy. One of the most important recordings of the twentieth century. The playful lyrics and tunes of the Gershwins, the impeccable artistry of Ella Fitzgerald and the classy arrangements of Nelson Riddle come together - this is sheer indulgence.
Thumping beats, coke slinging rap, classic soul samples, RZA creating that dark, dark mood and Ghostface and Raekwon spitting darts. This is grade A stuff. Like a movie for your ears.
Although not usually a genre I enjoy, the infectiousness and commitment of Bob Marley is hard to ignore and there is a freshness and energy to his approach which is winning. So many memorable hits are here and the production sparkles.
So synonymous are The Zombies sound with that Haight Ashbury groovy expansive psychedelic sound of ‘68 you’d assume they were American - but no, these rockers came from the UK - Hertfordshire no less, which is the last place you’d expect to find a scene. Their songwriting, melodies and harmonies and overall moods and production are exemplary and this album is a real gem, evocative, enjoyable and engaging.
Much of the music is pretty decent and I had partly hoped this might be instrumental so I didn’t have to listen to this nonsense story full of Townsend’s weird obsessions. I get that he’s probably working things through but this Tommy metaphor is in such poor taste.
A delightful album full of quality tracks from the folk rock era with some new instrument experimentation going on as well (but you can keep the awful Space Odyssey).
Ballsy of Basie to show a mushroom cloud on the cover in this age of nuclear paranoia and there’s definitely something powerful in these tracks which swing and jump and jive and wail, racing forward, hurtling over its 40 minutes length, perfect for a night on the town leaping from bar to bar. If there’s a distinctiveness lacking between the tracks at times not to worry - this is all part of a mood and sensation. Just keep swinging away and give in to Basie’s skill and talent.
Classy, sophisticated songwriting from the BritPop era yet not quite fitting the swaggering, posing mould of bands from that time, The Auteurs’ New Wave is a beautifully crafted album that rewards repeat listens.
Way more enjoyable than I thought it was going to be and whilst I realise there’s an artifice and facade to the band it wasn’t the worst rock album I’ve heard on this project so far.
Approached with some trepidation given my ambivalence for Melon Collie… I was surprisingly bowled over by Siamese Dreams. Tight, controlled, impactful and bold, this is as perfect an alt rock 90s album as you could wish for. Corgan brings his A game, the production is excellent and the album is an emotional experience without seeming histrionic and all the more powerful for that. 4.5 stars? But I’m in a generous mood so 5 it is.
An album which when you hear it for the first time on a project such as this you wonder- how have I never decided to give this a listen? It’s pretty amazing- it takes you to some other place entirely, one of menacing atmosphere and foreboding. What possible influences could these guys have heard to produce this work of art, something that feels entirely new and challenging. And whilst you can, of course, point to jazz and classic and rock influences, nevertheless, you still feel as if you’re entering some realm, some kingdom that only emerged in front of you, just now. Terrifying and curious in equal measure. Outstanding.
A drab affair, a little bit hipster, a little bit ersatz. Even when he’s opening up emotionally you still feel he’s holding back which is fine , that’s up to him, except he can’t also then sell the record on integrity. The record ends up sounding arch and contrived - I’ll reinterpret folk music for modern audiences - that’s fine, you can end up there - but you just can’t set up to do that without feeling phoney.
The band are great and if you can tolerate Smith’s idiosyncratic vocal style this is a decent post punk record full of northern grit, swagger and cynical wit.
Kanye’s masterpiece. Probably the greatest record of the 2010s. An astonishing record, almost too much to listen to, it’s maximalist sound wrecking havoc on the senses. All the players bring their A game (stand up Nicki Minaj for best verse on the album/best verse of that year) to create a truly compelling album of considerable depth, Kanye putting his innermost, darkest feelings into art, reshaping the world around him as all truly inspirational artists do. Compelling, urgent, essential. Kanye is a genius.
Hands down a favourite of mine, five stars all the way. One of those albums where your favourite track changes with every listen and you discover something new or you missed from previous listens. This collection celebrates love and the feelings that come with it in often acerbic style. As a songwriter, Merritt's wit shines and whilst often popping the pretensions of love, there he also is failing to hide his secret sincerity for romantic love. Soppy at times. And there he goes, trying a jazz song, punk song, country song, calypso, dance music, all loose and never too serious. A handful of songs from the album were played during the register signing at our wedding with The Book of Love filled the room so always special to hear this again. Other highlights - the dazzilingly silly Absolutely Cuckoo; the dour I Don't Believe in the Sun; I Don't Want to Get Over You; The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side; No One Will Ever Love You (a near perfect pop song); the brilliantly funny and moving Papa Was a Rodeo; the glorious Busby Berkeley Dreams; and the frighteningly hilarious Yeah! Oh, Yeah! which was my favourite for a long time. And I was fortunate to hear the entire song cycle live over two nights at the Lyric Hammersmith. The Magnetic Fields were near shambolic but charming and all the guest artists from the record made an appearance. A memorable event. Poor Stephin suffers from a condition which makes any sound heard louder than normal begins to feedback in his left ear at every increasing volumes - when the audience applauded loudly and freely at the end of the night, he covered his ear, which to the audience seemed a bashful gesture, so they cheered and applauded all the more - poor guy, the adulation just made it more painful.
What a debut. Such mature singer songwriting from someone so young, powerful voice, powerful mood. It’s really very good indeed.
Johnny Cash invents a whole new genre - country prison comedy albums - and at least two (two!) of those albums feature on this list! One was enough.
A classic album, no weak tracks, energetic, varied in its musical influences, never standing still, always fighting the good fight. Stand out tracks: London Calling, Lost in the Supermarket, Spanish Bombs, Rudie Can’t Fail, look, at this rate I’m going to just lift all the tracks.
Era defining eerie sounding big breaking music from Portishead near Bristol. Sounds retro and modern in tandem. Beth Gibbons kills it in the vocals, like a glamorous 60s chanteuse in Doc Martens.
Title track aside, there’s not much that stands out on this perfectly fine bluesy rock record tinged with folk. You have to really dig Stewart’s voice to love this more, though.
Is it okay to like the idea of T.Rex and many songs by T.Rex but not necessarily want a whole album of T.Rex? I feel it is sacrilege to say that after a while the perky vocals and the jerky guitar and the hyper horns and the falsetto backing vocals start to grate and interest wanes. Pick some bangers like Telegram Sam and Metal Guru and there you are. T.Rex singles. All you'll ever need.
What to make of this? Ambitious, pompous at times, energetic, self indulgent, frequently enjoyable and frequently ignorable. There’s something undeniably absorbing about the music but maybe something a little off putting about the concepts and the lyrics. May require further listening to appreciate.
Spirited, energetic, in your face rock and roll, rate this how you want the Dolls don’t care. A riot.
There is something simply uplifting and joyous about Dexys - the exuberance, the horns, a bit of ska, a bit of northern soul, a bit of blues, a bit of chanting, a bit of foot stomping - and a charming sincerity from Rowlands. Imaging them in their pomp, 14 band members prowling the stage, smashing out the tunes, playing soul covers… I bet their gigs were legendary. Geno is an absolute monster (and as a side note, I listened to Geno Washington for the first time and boy let me tell you that cleared out the cobwebs!). Fast, furious, infectious.
The title track Sweet Dreams just sounds so amazing and fresh even after all this time, a colossal sound with that pulsing synth bass and dancing chords, along with those sweet pure vocals of Annie Lennox, like cut glass. And there are some other gems here - the opener Love is a Stranger is a moody atmospheric number with an insistent bass and Jennifer is a really cool blissed which feels like it’s from a soundtrack to some obscure Eastern European movie. A few tracks fail to hit the mark - This is the House - but there are more hits and misses, though, overall and a decent album.
An utterly charming, beautifully made recording. A country album that rescues the genre from trite sentiment, facile lyrics and insipid twanging guitars, showing a return to basics - great musicianship, melodies and skilful playing. That The Byrds changed direction is alright with me.
Admirable more than enjoyable. Creating a soundtrack for an album that doesn’t exist, Adamson’s music certainly fits that style of soundscape but if the music serves a film which is not there you feel an archness and hollowness to the project. That isn’t to say some of the tracks aren’t enjoyable - Something Wicked This Way Comes has a groovy vibe and Achieved in the Valley of the Dolls has some nice vocals. Dirty Barry is a horrible track though. Overall, if you’re pastiching Morricone and John Barry, it reaches a point where the listener might as well go listen to them instead. Or watch the movie in context with the music. Can’t do that here.
Talking Heads’ debut album is an up tempo, new wave classic and despite the band being but newly formed there is already a remarkable synergy between the band members captured here which points the way forward to even more remarkable material to follow. The vibe is terrific and Psycho Killer loses none of its impact despite its ubiquity, that driving insistent bass and stabbing guitar riff and Byrne’s odd French and classic soul lyrics render an unique experience.
A delightful album, evocative and poetic and it sounds beautiful - the layering of the instruments, especially acoustic, is exquisite. There is a style and mood and confidence about REM at this point and I appreciate they’ve switched up the template. The four album run of Out of Time / Automatic… / Monster and my personal favourite, New Adventures in Hi Fi (go figure) is really impressive. Stipe is at his most engaging and emotionally connected with this album and there are some real tearjerkers - Drive, Everybody Hurts, Nightswimming, Find the River are truly moving moments. Throw in a but of levity with Sidewinder and Man in the Moon, pick up the tempo with Ignoreland and it’s really satisfying. A modern classic.
For readers unaware of the Man known as Bez, Bex was a member of Happy Mondays. However, no discernible musical contribution, he. Bez’s sole function in the band was to stand on stage and shake his maracas. And that’s what this album is really - party music to shake your maracas, shake your hips, shake your ass. A fusion of dance music and indie which actually works and captures a time and a place. Try not to think to hard and just enjoy the ride.
Man had an ear for a tune and some poetic things to say, with recurring themes of contrasting basements and flights of stairs and comparing women with perfect skin to old school movie stars. Pretty charming and has an air of romance to it and if the production feels a little low key and unvaried at times, at least you feel he made the album he wanted to make.
It may be sacrilegious to say but apart from the title track and You Shook Me All Night Long I can’t say a whole album of Brian screaming and Angus duck walking is quite my thing. There’s a little repetition and a lack of spark to the rest of the record. Fair play - they know what they are doing but I’ll take a pass.
Some really great samba sounds here / - drawing inspiration from Disco, Swing and Kurt Weill keeps it interesting and creative.
A tiresome album from a tiresome band full of their worst excesses - Morrison’s meandering sixth form poetry, shouting and moaning dressed up in pretension coupled with Manzarek’s wailing, screeching organ solos overpowering everything else on the track (which is a shame because the rest of the band are pretty solid). There’s the famous tracks you already know, plus plenty of filler, pale imitations of better blues rock or psychedelic rock where the doped up audience really are imagining The Doors are the key to unlocking the doors of perception, man. The problem is, you can accidentally be that but you can’t set out to be that. Stop trying so hard, guys. Can you imagine being at a gig where this happens?: ‘Morrison was well known for improvising spoken word poetry passages while the band played live.’ If this is his best un-improvised poetry I dread to think what his improvised work was like. Some choice morsels; ‘ Time to live/ Time to lie/ Time to laugh/ Time to die’ ‘ You know the day destroys the night / Night divides the day’ ‘ The days are bright and filled with pain/ Enclose me in your gentle rain’ ‘Here is Jane/ See Jane run’ Dont get me wrong - popular music can be totally disposable and throw away. It doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful. The problem here is that Morrison and the band think they and their music are deep and meaningful. The album concludes as you might imagine - with a ten minute plus self congratulatory number, an attempt at some long form jazz, not so much The End as When Will This End?
Superior singer songwriting full of charm and wit. A really compelling listen.
There’s something very wholesome about Donovan - an integrity and honesty that shines through his work with some lovely arrangements for sitar and guitar. I fear, though, that listening to an albums worth has the listener feeling his work leans towards whimsy. Perhaps better enjoyed occasionally rather than 10 tracks at a time.
A real oddity and not in a good way. Quite a slog, hard to find the purpose of it all.
A remarkable project, bringing Guthrie’s lyrics to life with a still unlikely pairing of Bragg and Wilco which, nevertheless, sounds fantastic - a folk rock record with heart, wit and equality throughout. I felt the combination truly soared. Absorbing and compelling.
It’s Steely Dan, you know what to expect- ultra slick production, smooth instrumentation and those cool Dad vocals. Some tracks are cool- Peg is an obvious classic thanks to De La Soul- other tracks just pass you by, like you’re on the freeway with the top down… and maybe that’s the point.
Wan and whimsical and extremely wearing. A disappointing, unfocused record.
A delightful album, moody and captivating, there is something very satisfying hearing his vocals and guitar together. Jazzy, folky, sometimes a bit rocky.
More of what you expect from Leonard Cohen - songs of thwarted love and philosophy. When it is hard to differentiate between each album does it matter?
An album in which Alex Turner gets to indulge his grandiose side, dreaming of Scott Walker backed by John Barry. It’s perfectly decent but I’d much rather listen to any Arctic Monkeys album and Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino in particular is a far greater expression of a grand, lush sound in the persona of a lounge crooner from the sixties (or the future).
Beck is a puzzling artist whose musical genre mix ups should satisfy (especially with The Dust Brothers onboard - the beats are fresh) but the cut and paste approach combined with Beck’s elliptical lyrics renders the whole project a little flat. There’s no meat on the bones, nothing to grab hold of - no tap along, no sing along, no dance along. It’s a bit of a mess. I’m sure it makes sense to Beck.
Sure, it’s a major moment in the history of hip hop - an album that mixed party tunes with socially conscious raps - and some of the beats and scratches are f-f-f-fresh… but left to their own devices they end up down dead ends, singing love songs to Stevie Wonder and other slow jams when pure hip hop rap would have been preferred. An important record, an influential record but, alas, not a great album by any stretch.
More glorious sounds from Dexy’s including the imperious ‘Come on Eileen’, probably the weirdest floor filler there’s ever been. The energy on the track as the piano and fiddle dance along is infectious. Across the rest of the album, keep those horns blowing. I don’t pretend to understand Kevin Rowland but I do appreciate his artistic flair and commitment to playing whatever the hell he likes. This is an absolutely classic album from the best British band of the eighties.
Brilliant attitude, all snarl and anger, punks that could play and with something to say. An impactful and powerful debut, quite extraordinary as it shook up the music scene. And London’s Burning is one of the finest tracks to ever come out of the UK.
It’s all a bit messy and that’s sort of the point but I doubt I shall return to this album as there are far better punk and proto punk albums out there. Guys, you can get over the shock of hearing the word motherf*cker on an album, now.
As admirable as the project is, it is hard to escape two fundamental factors: one, the tracks somewhat blend together and lack a distinctness which might make the album more interesting and two the vocalists are singing underwater with marshmallows in their mouths making it impossible to work out any sense of meaning to the lyrics. I found the whole thing quite elusive, despite enjoying much of the overall mood which at times could be quite beautiful.
Mad techno sounds and cool beats and includes the classics Wilmot and Theme. Play this in the background to improve your focus.
You could sense the foreboding in the music as the sixties dream starts to dissolve and a darkness sets in- the idealists start to get real. There are some decent moments but not an album which stood out in any particular way.
Sick Timbo beats and Missy’s lyrics on point make for a classic album and even the guest artists add to rather than detract from the whole (not always the case). As with so many rap albums, more judicious editing would make for a shorter, tighter, slicker album (I could do with fewer r and b tracks - Missy, why you *sing* that you such a great rapper?!?). Regardless, a classic, significant and influential record which shook up the hip hop sound and showed female rappers could break out of a mould which up to that point had them having to out-thug the men.
A pivotal Elton John album. The music sounds so good throughout- the high quality musicianship leaps out at you - and the production is excellent, sounding so grand. The four opening tracks are exemplary. For a double album you better be damn sure there’s enough material and unfortunately there are too many tracks without much to commend them (Jamaica Jerkoff being especially egregious). At times there’s a nastiness and misogyny to Taupin’s lyrics which jars today. So many stories here but very little emotional insight or poetry. But let’s be honest, we’re all here for Elton John’s performance and that shines across the record and the energy is infectious.
There are the tracks you already know and love - Voodoo Child, Crosstown Traffic, All Along the Watchtower - and then the rest is a meandering, unfocused mess, jazz-like tracks which go on no particular journey. It’s a massive disappointment from such talented artists.
Great singer but it doesn’t grab me where it matters and the whole thing just passed me by in a gentle sameness.
How to rate a genre I know so little about? Well it was highly polished in the production, super clean and not at all rough; the lads could play and lead vocals were strong; the clips of Reagan and Thatcher were super nostalgic and made me miss the Cold War. It was a pretty fun record which surprised me as I’d always found the idea of Def Leppard underwhelming. Maybe I’m just now that target audience? Gulp.
Initially sceptical that I needed to hear any tango, let alone new tango, I must say the sheer power and beauty of this Nuevo Tango record was staggering. I don’t think there is a piece of music quite like it - passionate, powerful and deep - a jazz recording, a classical composition, nigh impossible to categorise. I found it to be captivating and could not stop listening. A work of art.
A few horror tracks aside (Greensleeves, Ole Man River) and overlooking the overdubbed applauding audience on certain tracks, this is a pretty decent album - Beck’s chosen his collaborators well so that the guitar solos enhance rather than overwhelm the album and Rod Stewart is in fine voice. A decent blues rock record that taps the toes.
A beautiful album, Brother Ray’s prowess on keys alongside that whisky smoked voice is a transportive, enrapturing experience. Whether ballad or big band, there’s none finer. The arrangements are sublime (including two by Quincy Jones), the band are brilliant.
By some quirk, yesterday Ray Charles album was followed by another Ray Charles album today - and I wasn’t disappointed. More beautiful arrangements, singing and playing; evocative of a certain era; charming, delightful and satisfying. These are recordings of the highest quality from a wonderfully talented artist.
My god, the music press went nuts for this one back in the day. But what a drag of an album in time- a tuneless singer, unnecessary theremin, an assortment of sounds and whistles here and there, floaty tracks with no discernible meanings. A pretentious affair with no levity.
A great folk rock record from a talented band, this has you foot stamping and toe tapping right from the off. Brilliantly crafted, no foot placed wrong, joyful.
Like an angry Beatles or a dumber Kinks, The Who make a bright mid decade sound which is far more enjoyable than their later output. As if sensing their inferiority to The Beatles and Kinks who both grew and experimented with their songwriting, The Who subsequently tried to out pretence the others and went for grandiose, overblown rock operas. I think this is maybe where I prefer The Who- play good, keep it short and simple.
Snarling, growling, like a dog in the corner, Mark E Smith is utterly terrifying, all bark and all bite as the band make incredible post punk. I think this might be genius. I think this might be a work of art.
A really enjoyable album which captures the energy of The White Stripes, creating a lot of sound from little more than drums, guitar and effects pedal. The whole project is a blast and was made fast - recording took just a week. There's something raw in Jack White's compositions, as if the tracks are just bursting out of him and he has to get them captured or another song will just push the former out of the way to be lost forever. There's an indiscipline to it which is magical. Indeed, don’t over think it - White’s whole manifesto is captured in Little Room: ‘Well, you're in your little room And you're working on something good But if it's really good You're gonna need a bigger room And when you're in the bigger room You might not know what to do You might have to think of how you got started Sitting in your little room’ This shouldn't work - but it does.
The pirate radio station / commercial jingles format is a fun idea but the band just aren’t witty enough to pull it off. The whole thing is a mess, saved only by some smart playing - but the songs and stories really lack sustained interest. If only they’d had a proper songwriter in the band? And with perhaps the most vomit inducing album cover from a mainstream band of all time, there’s nothing saving this. Please may this be the last Who album I just listen to?
Evoking Motown, The Wall of Sound and classic '60s soul, Adele's 21 is a really strong album, more enjoyable and impactful than 25 which has appeared on this list also. The up tempo tracks are terrific power pop and the ballads are evocative and, despite the luscious production, sound stripped back, raw and emotional, allowing Adele's incredible vocals to shine. In fact, there are times when this album is just overwhelmingly sad and mournful - whether that makes it easy to listen to or not will depend on the listener's mood. A surprise hit and an enormously influential one at that, shaping much of the decade's sound.
Amazing that an album so angsty and introspective can be so listenable. Amidst all the gloom there is some serious musicianship going and a tightness and structure to the music that avoids the excesses, speed and maximalist sound of equally gloomy traditional heavy metal, say. I kind of dug it.
Bad girls and thugs and more girls and legs and TV dinners and girls and sharp dressing and girls and crank up the synths and drum machine and if every track hasn’t been used in a montage in the middle of a movie from the 80s it would not be surprising.
Foot stompingly enjoyable swamp rock - another classic from the brilliant Creedence.
Idiosyncratic, a like experimental. Hard to pin down.
A bloated affair, where the concept weighs down the music and the need to tell what is a pretty unoriginal tale (and somewhat self regarding) requires skit like tracks to move us along between the few highlights - tighter rock record is in here somewhere. The production is as exquisite as you would imagine from Pink Floyd. But overall it does not thrill, it drags.
What’s thrilling about this album is the joy that comes from an artist expressing their full self. Sad moments, more joyful moments, a tough listen in some respects but deserving of its place on this list.
A quirky and intriguing later Beach Boys album with a few tracks evoking that trademark harmonic magic and others using blues and rock to explore themes of student protest and environmentalism.
A brilliantly crafted statement album by this anonymous collective, which sounds completely fresh and bops along with an infectious energy.
The band appear to be in a helicopter of some sort on the front cover and I worry that the flared trousers might catch on something and cause an accident. ABBA have never done it for me aside from the odd track here and there and their final studio album of their original period, The Visitors (which I learned of during this project). It is the same story here. The sound is so over produced as to be overpowering, the album filler tracks are twee, the singles are corny. There is clearly songwriting talent here but I just can’t enjoy this Europoppy stuff.
Ozzy’s performance really sells this album - he is utterly convincing as a man meeting the devil or whatever and fearing for his soul. The band create a haunting and eerie sound as they thrash their way through eight twisted tracks. It really is a fun ride and way more enjoyable than expected.
This album was huge at the time and in a year where hip hop gave us Ice Cube’s The Predator, Dr Dre’s The Chronic, Bizarre Ryde II The Pharcyde and Check Your Head from The Beasties, it was this one the music press went gaga. However, whilst the other albums listed have endured this album stands up not at all well. The beats are under cooked, Speech’s preachy delivery is underwhelming and the overall album has few stand out tracks, Tennessee being the major highlight (here the original version of People Everyday is inferior to the single remix). It’s not as if this album represented a change in direction for rap, away, say, from the gangsta rap that tended to predominate; there were plenty of socially conscious and Afro centric rappers. And in spite of an obvious overlap in tone with acts such as De La Soul, Speech manages to diss De LA’s track Buddy. Imagine dissing De La Soul! But look, they’re still going and good luck to them. They did try something different and they had a massive impact, even if the album had lost a little over time.
Whether you like country or not, there are some finely crafted songs on this album delivered by some magnificent musicians and Price, who is an engaging singer with a great voice. There’s an undertone of darkness and restlessness throughout and you can depict the seediness of the nightclubs Price frequents. Frankly, if you’re not enjoying that fiddling and a backing band known as The Cherokee Cowboys; or you aren’t vibing with songs like Bright Lights and Blonde Haired Women then I don’t even want to know you.
An elusive album, hard to pin down and find its core. There’s something good going on here but what it is I don’t yet know.
In which Kanye deals with his insecurities about not having finished college. The central message attacking education is fundamentally stupid. All that being said - this is one of the wittiest hip hop albums you ever heard and the range of topics and beasts keep the album bopping along. Despite the negativity of the theme, it’s surprisingly light and Kanye really does redefine what rappers can talk about on a mainstream record. All of this maybe made easier by some superb soul samples and Kanye’s skills behind the boards are simply outstanding. Guest rappers bring their A Game - not just in it for the pay cheque - and West straddles the mainstream (Jay-Z, Ludacriss) with the underground (Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli) without feeling like different projects crowbarred together. Despite the length there’s barely a weak track amongst them. Jesus Walks sounds phenomenal, Through the Wire has a whip smart flow, whilst jaw literally wired shut from a car crash, All Falls Down is a great almost-sample (try and find the actually Lauryn Hill sample version) and there’s a lightness to Slow Jamz and Workout Plan unusual on a rap album. This album sounds nothing like West’s later masterpieces but seeds are there for an artist flexing his creative muscles and taking whatever direction his genius takes him.
Lush arrangements and rambling monologues, Hayes’ albums are always an event. Count ‘em - four tracks! Around 10 minutes each! Let them immerse you and go with the flow.
Waits ploughs his own furrow and conjures up disjointed tales of the roughnecks, swindlers and ragamuffins that abound on the docks. These tales are thrilling to hear and the presentation, whilst jarring at first, is compelling with its dissonance, hurdy gurdy and junkyard percussion. Quite a voyage.
I love Outkast but I would pick most any album of theirs over this. Which is not to say this is a bad album - but it is atypical for OutKast as effectively two solo albums released as a double. You rarely get Big Boi and Andre 3000 on the same track and certainly not pairing their lyrical flow across verses. And whilst it is great to hear them let loose individually, there is definitely a sense of quantity over quality which could easily have been solved by a selection of the best from each side. There is a LOT of meandering, aimless sketches, repetitive grooves, peculiar subjects and a lack of focus. Dre sings more than raps - nobody wants to miss out on his great flow! And it pains me to say it. Let’s look at the pluses - there’s a reason Roses, The Way You Move and the globe conquering Hey Ya! (still makes you want to get up and move even on the morning commute) were successful singles - they picked the highlights! They could have done the same for the whole album.
All the Steely Dan trademarks are here - the slick production, the smooth tunes, those smart vocals. I don’t know what it is that elevates Steely Dan from being corny but there is something inspired about the way they do their thing.
Contender for worst album cover on the list? At the Deep Purple concert: CROWD: Play Smoke on the Water! DEEP PURPLE: Here you go! <plays Smoke on the Water> <crowd cheers> DEEP PURPLE: We’d like to play a new song for you now… CROWD: No! Play Smoke on the Water! DEEP PURPLE: 1,2,3,4 <starts playing new song> <crowd gets restless> CROWD: Play Smoke on the Water! <Deep Purple look nervous> <crowd gets more agitated> DEEP PURPLE: <pause> DUM DUM DUM! DUM DUM DA-DUM! DUM DUM DUM DA DUM! CROWD: Yay! Smoke on the Water. (Based on a true story. Probably.)
Another stunning album from Joni Mitchell. If less catchy then Blue or Court and Spark, this is still an exhibition of the songwriter’s craft. Beautiful singing, gorgeous guitar work, poetic and evocative, it’s is a delight to hear the artist create works like this.
What a drab, tedious affair.
Shouting and grunting in a West Midlands accent over the rapidest drums you ever heard on wax, surely Napalm Death are playing with us at times with their single You Suffer lasting just 1.3 seconds? Nevertheless, it’s quite an experience, in equal measures thrilling and absurd.
Beloved of advertisers and sports montage editors everywhere, The Hives create predictable, comforting, post punk junk. Is this meritorious? To be blunt, it differs hardly from cynically crafted synthetic pop bands. Yes, you’ll tap your foot to a few tracks but feel guilty for having done so. As for deserving a place on the list, it is truly baffling. There are many finer albums out there.
Sinatra never sounded better than on this glorious collection of love songs, featuring music beautifully arranged by the peerless Nelson Riddle. It stands as an example of that shining optimism in American popular culture during the 1950s, a confidence and swagger which came from ruling the world in the post war years. Here was Sinatra, coming from rags to riches, handsome as they come, Oscar winning actor and incredible singer, the finest interpreter of popular music and American standards the century ever saw (although maybe Ella would have something to say about that). The future surely never sounded as bright with this album in the background. Here was lyrical romance for the average Joe and Jane, songs comparing love to regular coffee and tea - not high falutin' poetry of mountains and valleys and skies - everyday life, your life and my life, but sounding so sweet in Sinatra's smooth swing voice. The story of the album's finest moment - I've Got You Under My Skin - shows what great art comes from adversity. Sinatra was due to fly to Palm Springs but the music label head, excited by the pre-orders for the album granted the album an extended length, which meant recording three more songs in a hurry before Sinatra disappeared. Calling up Riddle late at night, Sinatra suggested three tunes to try and so Riddle, still feeling an eagerness to please Frank, despite a collaboration of a few years' standing, ferociously works through the night to come up with arrangements for the recording session the next day. Still scribbling in the cab on the way to the studio the next morning on virtually no sleep, Riddle delivers the manuscript to the orchestra who work through the first and second before arriving at I've Got You Under My Skin. Legend has it the band upon playing it through, applauded Riddle for the arrangement (no mean feat impressing cynical, world weary musicians such as these). Sinatra was so keen to get it right that take after take was recorded. The trombone player, Milt Bernhart, whose incredible solo plays during the middle eighth, following the almighty crescendo from the horn section, knowing Sinatra rarely goes beyond four or five takes, saved all his good stuff for the first few recordings. Knowing something special is here, though, and Frank keeps pushing to go again. Exhausted around take ten Bernhart is seething when the booth tell him they can't pick him up on mic clearly enough - could he get closer? Not able to grow in height and saying so, who should be so determined to get it right but there is Sinatra, rolling up his sleeves, fetching a box for Bernhart to stand on. Ahead of take 22, Bernhart is sweating, unsure if he's got another in him. But push on he does and there, there goes the take, the pure magic, with Sinatra batting back everything thrown at him in that final, verse of unalloyed joy. Magic happened that day and we get to enjoy it still to this day. Songs for Swingin' Lovers. One of the greatest achievements of the 20th century.
Sharp and witty, this is an enjoyable, energetic new wave album full of idiosyncrasies and quirkiness. Is there a higher meaning to the lyrics? Who cares? Just enjoy the ride.
Occasional diatribes against God aside, this is a fun, intelligent, hook driven smart pop record with plenty of wit and verve. It is fascinating to see the move away from the early spiky punk to something more mellow and finely crafted. A great reminder that not all albums from the eighties were terrible.
Clearly something in this album captured people’s imagination and there is something ethereal and unique in the soundscape and Morrison’s impassioned, if imperfect vocals, but I found it an elusive and slippery thing, hard to pin down and become absorbed by. Perhaps more listens are required.
Brilliant beats, lively and entertaining. That polyphonic beat with the stabbing horns is infectious.
Entertaining bubblegum pop with an edge as Paul Revere & The Raiders try and out do The Beatles by apeing their style. Stepping Stone is a classic.
It’s a privilege to be introduced to Miriam Makeba and to recognise the powerful impact she made fighting apartheid and sharing South Africa’s story across the globe. Makeba’s vocals are beautiful and she is a genuine entertainer who, judging from this record, knew how to keep her audiences engaged. Deftly spinning from traditional South African songs to a kick ass cover of House of the Rising Sun, clearly she could make any song her own.
Perfectly serviceable rock performance with the classic American Girl (which The Strokes sure owe a debt to). A tap along but lacking memorable hooks.
Aside from the initial opening salvos of Straight Outta Compton and F*ck The Police, both of which sent shockwaves through hip hop with their take-no-prisoners attitude and unapologetic swagger, and one or two other tracks such as Express Yourself, what surprises on a relisten is how underwhelming a lot of the tracks are - mostly posse cuts touching on tiresome topics (money/women) over sparse beats. It’s pretty standard hip hop fare for its time. Its also evident how far ahead of the rest Ice Cube is as a rapper (and doesn’t feature enough). As far as producing goes, the record is surprisingly flat, lacking any depth (Dre would of course improve). A significant record if not a great one.
Witty, smart, engaging and charismatic, Drury sing/talks his Essex tales backed by a pretty damn funky band - that bass on My Old Man is disgusting! Really solid album.
Sorry sir but I’m on holiday and this album is so long it’s taken me ages long to hand in my homework. Plus i have a cold, so the whole thing sounds like a Fever dream, like I’m slipping in and out of lucidity. There goes Miles Davis again, casually breaking the genre and making the world around him new. A genius album from a genius artist. It’s impact is unquestionable.
A memorable album, beautifully constructed, charmingly delivered and haunted of course by its author’s tragic passing. An ironically more upbeat record than we’re used to from Elliott Smith and with a variety in tone and style. A pretty classic album.
A stunning, innovative, compelling and unique record, full of atmosphere and character. Bowie’s artistry is firing on all cylinders, pursuing his own vision, daring us to catch up to him.
Whilst I was surprised to see even two Deep Purple albums make the list, In Rock was the more enjoyable of the two. And whilst they never quite shake the feeling they are having more fun planting than you are listening, there are a few moments here that show the band giving some good rock.
Maudlin and basic, spending time in the company of Eels is a tiresome affair and the worst of sixth form poetry.
Absolutely rock solid Fall album, full of that spiky, angular humour and some terrific tunes behind the muffled vocals.
Shimmers in its understated brilliance, popular this may have been but this in no way detracts from its status as high art. The recording is exquisite, the sophistication in the playing extraordinary. An album to repeat and find new things or to just enjoy and absorb, Time Out is special.
A decent album with a cool electronica/rock vibe, some well chosen guest stars and enjoyable swagger.
Brilliant, uncompromising, making music exactly how they want to, Sonic Youth consistently innovate and fascinate. The dissonance is part of the journey.
A perfect album on a sunny day - Erykah Badu’s exquisite vocals over some laid back nu soul grooves.
The first album to defeat me in the sense that I was unable to find the complete album on any suitable service. Instead I listened to Ozomatli’s first album, which I owned, and selections from some other albums. I like Ozomatli. They mix some styles up together and whilst the whole thing isn’t going to tear up any trees, it’s perfectly decent well made music - Latin flair with hip hop beats. This hip hop head especially enjoys their collaborations with Chalib2na and De La Soul.
It's a great listen, absorbing and intriguing with real moments where the soundscape soars and carries you along with it. Occasionally there is a sense with Pink Floyd's other, let's say 'busier' albums, that the music is overshadowed by the production but with this they complement the other perfectly. There are flashes here and there of haunting solos and melancholy melodies and this helps the album's cohesion. You feel they have something to say and an idea of how to say it. I suspect this one may grow even more on me with repeated listens. Really very good.
Classy country rock album that’s a joy throughout with the only weak tracks being the soul covers, the purpose of which is hard to discern. A snapshot of an era, full of references to drugs, hippies and the draft.
Likely to be one of the funniest albums on the list, The Pharcyde evoke an earlier era of hip hop where a posse of rappers swap verses and lines. What is also striking is the guys are not interested in braggadocio and fronting as so many rappers are - The Pharcyde play up to a goofy, outside image and rap about whatever they want. The production is excellent throughout and there are some great and off beat beats and samples. Overall a superb and entertaining effort.
Intense, demanding and thrilling, it is safe to say nothing else will sound quite like this on this whole project. There is something special when artists make something fresh from the sound around them and here two alto saxophones, two drums and bass make this ridiculous album which throws everything out the window whilst remaining compelling and exciting. It’s definitely challenging but there is something powerful in the emotional response of the listener, whether positive or negative. I think this might be a classic for the ages.
ATCQ straight up bring the funk, the joy, the boom, the bip (the boom, bip) and some sweet jazz samples to hip hop. The interplay between Q-Tip and Phife Dog (RIP) is always a joy to hear. A four star album only because Midnight Marauders and The Low End Theory would get five.
A charming album from Dusty Springfield, who always seems to find just the right songs to cover to suit her voice accompanied by a perfectly arranged orchestra and backing singers. The special something in Ms Springfield's interpretation of these songs seems to be a sense of displacement - a white Londoner with a soulful voice singing mostly American songs, crooning love songs about boys despite being a lesbian, a wholesome image despite addiction to drink and drugs. A sometimes tragic, sometimes heroic figure, Ms Springfield never seemed to quite belong despite being beloved by many.
Even in his youth, Wille Nelson’s vibe seems to have been avuncular pot smoking Uncle. Gently singing songs about red headed strangers and such, this is a brilliant example of outlaw country and an enjoyable concept album. Nelson’s voice is a delight and the guitar playing superb.
M.I.A has made such a memorable album, crammed full of influences from a range of genres but in a style distinctly her own. The swagger and attitude is infectious and tracks like Paper Planes and Bambo Banga fair jump out the speakers. Global, iconic, anti capitalist and a tribute to her mother, M.I.A delivers an iconic album.
A curious album, seemingly classic late sixties folky singer songwriter fare but as the album progresses an experimental undertone begins to appear, as if he’s on the cusp of a musical breakthrough. One to dive into further.
A tiresome album that doesn’t know if it’s slick corporate label rock or trying to be underground grimy and edgy. If you can get past the winning lead vocals some (if you can hear them in the mix), there a splashy drums and laborious guitar solos. Bass is occasionally strong, however.
An album which was everywhere when first released with its punchy guitar stabs, charismatic front man and catchy choruses, perhaps a little shine has faded with time but still an enjoyable listen with Take Me Out, Come on Home and Michael particular highlights.
So crisp, so fine, so cruise on down the Highway. There are some fine tunes on here in that trademark SD style. Fagon and Becker bring the irony.
Too cool for school, detached, robot-like (Daft Punk influenced) electronica and yet something here still intrigues and bounces you along. Do you dance or chill? Maybe neither. Maybe you’re in that tramodol space inbetween.
Perhaps less showy than their first three albums but here PE really get into a groove with social commentary over sick beats. All the players bring their A game - Chuck D is a lyrical beast, Terminator X brings the beats and Flav is the perfect hype man. The fearlessness of the group to say what they damn well please (a surprisingly risky commercial strategy) gives them credibility and an opportunity to change lives and minds. And whilst you won’t necessarily agree with everything said, Chuck D demands you will listen. Couple of side notes - I shook Chuck D’s hand after his gig with Asian Dub Foundation and the man was brilliant with his fans, took the time and had no posse or security or pretensions. The man oozed class and gratitude. Additional side note - you can see how big an influence PE were on Puff Daddy! Evidenced not just by his god awful cover of Public Enemy Number One (hip hop covers being a rare thing - thank god) but by carbon copying the stylings of Flava F across Biggie’s records (and with considerably less style and class). Diddy loved that hype man style. Of course, when Big died and Puff took the lead, he imagined himself to be Chuck D with none of the talent on the mic.
Black Sabbath with their absolute classic album, seriously heavyweight with iconic tracks War Pigs, Paranoid and the thumping Iron Man. The sound is big, the metal is heavy and far from being some dark satan worshiping amorality, Ozzy pleas for peace and humanity. Amazing the scare this album gave people when truthfully, here was a call for acceptance.
Top notch tunes and brilliant musicianship make for some compelling blues music in exile from Timbuktu. Powerful stuff, great listen.
The opening listen is quite alarming as you fear this project will just be babble over a sub par neo Soul soundtrack and yet as the album progresses the appeal of Ocean is that stream of consciousness approach and an insight (or an authentic sounding facsimile) into a man’s inner musings. There are few standout tracks but as a music project it intrigues throughout and consistently engages as you try to understand what the author is about and what he is saying. Perhaps some will feel this is self obsessed but in many ways it is the perfect record for the social media generation.
Ah Nilsson, so hard to pin down. How serious at times, how frivolous at others. Do you even enjoy this musician lark? Because you don’t sound like you are having as much fun as a pop star should be.
Left remarkably little impression.
A fantastic and influential debut album from a talented trio, bringing a new sound and image to hip hop (one somewhat rebuked on their follow up De La Soul is Dead) and recalling the earlier days of classic hip hop. There are so many classic tracks here and is a showcase for the art of sampling, creating something new from something old. Three Is The Magic Number and Me, Myself and I are wicked party tracks, Eye Know is a surprisingly touching hip hop love song and Buddy is an energetic posse cut with like minded acts Jungle Brothers and Q Tip (but seek out the superior 12 inch remix with Phife Dawg, Queen Latifah and Monie Love plus a Kazoo horn section!). The downsides are an obsession with body odour and bad breath and a slew of skits and in jokes which amuse the band but nobody else. For this, a star was almost docked but my love for the band and for some even greater albums that followed since (Buhloone Mindstate, De La Soul is Dead) five stars are coming De La’s way.
A dreamy sound and a departure from the future electronica sound Goldfrapp usually bring, Alison’s vocals soar over lush arrangements. Occasionally straying into CocoRosie territory but nevertheless still a perfectly relaxing album.
There is something really quite special when an album you love but never imagined would make it on the list comes up. And so, here we are, with Frank Black’s second solo album (his first is also pretty good). Unleashed from the now split Pixies (temporarily split, as it turns out) although still working with Joey Santiago who delivers some fine guitar solos, Black indulges his love of space, aliens, conspiracies, sci fi, deserts and his and the water supply to California. Most tracks are short, snappy and punchy, (The Hostess with the Mostest is a nifty slice of diner pie clocking in at 1m 56s) alongside some extended surf rock and ska tracks. At the time, many called this ‘Pixies on the Beach’ and whilst there is light and sunshine here, Black’s oddities and obsession never quite put the listener at ease. But he’s clearly enjoying creating some pop rock tunes, singing not screaming and it makes for a fun, quirky, terrific record.
Makes the whole house shake and bump. A monster of a record. A glorious release, full of the potential in techno, full of memorable tracks and major builds.
Shenanigans ahoy at 1001albumsgenerator towers ‘randomly’ selecting this on the day after the Queens’s passing. As for that other notorious queen, I doubt there’ll be ten days of public mourning for Morissey since his lean rightwards. The mourning has already happened for the man he once was and the music he and the band made. TQID is probably The Smiths finest moment - glorious Bigmouth, fine There is a Light and Some Girls. All that knowingness, that archness, that dismissal of the world. But my god, Morrissey shows no compassion for others even as he entertains the listener. The clues were already there.
A beautiful album from The Kinks, full of nostalgia and longing for a rural England that perhaps never quite existed. Ray could always write a gorgeous melody and Dave and the band could bring it to vibrant life.
Virtually unlistenable. Ali Campbell’s vocals are thin and reedy, the dub is repetitive, the only redeeming quality is the attack on Thatcher’s policies.
On initial listen, a fear that the usual Hendrix tricks are here - indulgent guitar solos, washed out production and unmemorable lyrics- and whilst there’s a bit of that here, on repeat listen there are some outstanding tracks- Little Wing, If 6 Was 9 and One Rainy Wish - great psych rock tracks.
Sway and sleep to this underwhelming album. Nicely constructed but doesn’t get you where it matters.
Making music for a movie that doesn’t exist is like sex without a partner: it’s fine but ultimately joyless… …and don’t be passing off an *actual*soundtrack track by covering Elmer Bernstein’s magisterial The Man With The Golden Arm theme. Point docked.
Smartly done but not giving much by way of emotional response. I found it somewhat impenetrable.
One of the greatest pleasures of this project is discovering albums you would never normally listen to and being struck by how incredible they sound. Beautifully constructed, beautiful arrangements and melodies. I had never heard of Marty Robbins but what a voice - what an image. And as if being a Gunfighter was not enough, the man was a NASCAR driver too! This is simply stunning outlaw country. Utterly bad ass, 100% American. It goes straight to the heart of the American character, captured on wax. Big Iron must surely rank amongst the greatest songs of the 20th Century.
I didn’t realise this list included comedy albums!
As beautiful as the harmonies and the melodies are here, too much sugar can be bad for you and so it proves - a whole album is just too much. Better to dip into the occasional classic - Close to You, We’ve Only Just Begun - like a chocolate from the selection box.
Enjoyable in parts but it all sort of just passed me by in a mass of sound.
Mad rhymes, crazy beats, awesome scratching, Kool Keith makes records like nobody else sustaining this mad character for an entire album. The lyrics are funny and caustic and stunningly inventive - Keith can likely rap about any dang thing. Unusually for a rap record, the skits are actually funny (and fit the album concept). The is a fun, mad journey.
Some beautiful folk rock which sometimes goes hard, this is a pleasure to listen to.
I had listened to this album but aside from the opening track I was surprised how little I remembered. Her follow up effort grabbed me more.
Alas, this does not stir my soul.
Very difficult to grasp hold of, to understand the message or to relate to the mood. Creative, absolutely. Intriguing - I’ll give it that. Perhaps a piece of music to understand on further listens? Maybe. But where to listen? Kitchen, car, commute? Working? Playing? Relaxing (LOL)? How does such music fit your life?
EBTG have a simple formula and it works - blissed out beats, beautiful vocals, a smart of d&b drums. There just enough variety to keep the album interesting and I confess I kept expecting each track to break into their smash hit Missing (Not even on this album) but an enjoyable and satisfying record.
Rebellious, life affirming and powerful. Music here as protest with serious consequences in the real world. Talent oozing from these musicians, jaw dropping polyphonic rhythms, stabbing horns and those charismatic vocals, some record here by Fela.
A pivotal moment in British dance music, bringing a sound system vibe to the mainstream. Improbably, the album features an a Capella version of Back to Life and not the smash hit single club version which was everywhere, all the time. Either way, Caron Wheeler’s vocals are sublime. The album doesn’t hold up all that well - too many limp tracks that fail to excite and sketches for songs not fleshed out - but the impact and influence of Soul II Soul was huge.
Loud, splashy and directionless. Posers. An album which makes you reconsider whether there are as many as 1,001 albums you must listen to before you die.
Alex Benson has a great article on the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, Malcolm McLaren and the thievery of the Burundi Beat. The cynicism which suffuses this band - the look, the sound, the style - all a major money grab, designed to create faux controversy and fill column inches - all of it comes through in this irritating mess of styles nicked from others and lyrics saying nothing. Opportunist and crass. Are they pirates, glam rockers, Mohicans or just w@nkers? In Benson’s words: ‘culture is up for grabs, theft is subjective, people are clay and commerce is king.’
Charming soundscapes created here, dreamlike, well crafted, perhaps a little unmemorable at times but a good album nevertheless.
Like a greatest hits album, the perfect Chic Organisation album - the trademark sound in full flow, double electric guitar, complex bass parts and beautiful vocals. And, sure, the uptempo tracks are more enjoyable than the ballads but what a party.
A fascinating album, very much describing the times but with relevance for today (how little has changed). Scott-Heron and Jackson craft some brilliant jazz/poetry pieces and the tracks are intriguing and compelling. There are a few sleepy stretches but The Bottle brings back the energy.
Jay-Z’s finest album and a hip hop classic. The record is packed full of catchy hooks, nostalgic soul samples and wicked beats, all created to let Jay’s rhymes shine, almost float over the top (Kanye’s influence all over this album, take a bow). Thematically, there’s a lot of score settling and bragging which could tire but there’s enough humour and wit throughout to keep it engaging. Jay also shows respect to the old school, with allusions to classic lines from hip hop’s past throughout and guest spots from Bizmarkie (RIP), Slick Rick (a huge influence) and Q-Tip on Girls, Girls, Girls. The album doesn’t fall into hip hop’s usual trap of being absurdly long and as for collaborations there’s only one in Eminem who, let’s be honest, on this track, murders Jay on his own $#!+, just like Nas said. But it’s a welcome change from albums stuffed with guest stars spitting weak verses and the absence of protégés Memphis Bleek and Beanie Segal is a relief (has any successful rapper discovered any decent rappers cause I ain’t heard any. The Outlawz? Junior Mafia? D12? Please…). Jay fouled up the formula on the tedious double album follow up imaginatively titled Blueprint 2 (with an impressive Roots collaboration on Blueprint Unplugged and an ill advised Best of Both Worlds collaboration with, er, R Kelly in between). Blueprint really captures Jay’s verbal dexterity and his whip smart lines brilliantly who perhaps for the first (and only?) time lives up to his billing as best rapper alive.
Just because you can include an 18 minute long psych rock track, that doesn’t mean you should!
Pixies bring the surf rock in an enjoyable if less dynamic album then Doolittle and Surfer Rosa. The band sounds great and Black’s obsessions with aliens and space are explored here. Velouria is up there with their best, Is She Weird is a moody little number, Down to the Well is Black I’m psychotic mode and The Happening is the surprisingly touching story of an alien going lost and ending up in Area 51.
Treading old ground in many respects - real tough guy shouting about how little respect there is these days, violence to follow if you to continue with the disrespect - this is old man on front porch music in truth. on first listen, I was preparing to knock this album all the way down but after a few listens it started to grow on more. There’s something almost hypnotic about this wall, this brick of sonic pressure, bashing in your brain and I got caught up a little more in some of the riffs. I don’t know, I was having a rough day so maybe this acted like a release valve? Is that the secret to this otherwise unlistenable music?
In which Beastie Boys take us on a tour of their record collection, featuring samples from gems such as "Root Down (And Get It)" by Jimmy Smith, Jeremy Steig's "Howlin' For Judy" (dig that jazz flute) and "Headless Heroes" by Eugene McDaniels. It’s a joy hearing the trio swapping verses in full flow over catchy hooks and heavy beats. There’s an enthusiasm and love for life present throughout, rare in a hip hop record - if this even is a hip hop record with its diversion into rock (the peerless Sabotage) and acid funk jazz fusion jams, mostly instrumental and sounding really freaking awesome for the most part. And despite this cut and paste melange of styles the production is excellent and maintains a consistent mood and vibe throughout. As much as anything, the Beasties had great taste and it shines through in the music they made. A far cry from the brattish teenagers of Licensed to Ill, here are fine artists and musicians delivering a top notch and unique record. RIP MCA. You are very much missed.
Intriguing, curious and wistful. Somewhat indefinable. An album that will surely rewards future listens.
Haunting Exorcist theme aside, how listenable is this really? Does it transport you? Does it amaze you? I fear this is lost on me.
Classic Springsteen tracks here; evocative, moving, memorable tales from the working class man, invariably laid off by the lumber mill or the factory and falling in hard times. If the production is a little splashy, the songwriting makes up for it.
A tricky album to get a hold off and whilst I enjoy Sonic Youth’s audio experimentation for the most part, I couldn’t find a way into this one - more impenetrable than the others, only brightened when Kim Gordon takes the lead.
Firmly placed in the eighties, propelled along by the insistent drum machine and synth sound, here is a moody, gothic, new wave classic. The tracks are catchy, Eldritch is a charismatic front man and the topics are spiky and angular. In lesser hands, the project would seem overblown and pompous but there’s an integrity and consistency throughout which the sisters completely pull off. I was thrilled to find this record and my re-evaluation of eighties music continues.
Impressive roots reggae album with a powerful message and entertaining sounds.
A little underwhelming; Simon seems not yet at the height of his songwriting powers nor Garfunkel at his best as a singer. The match up seems almost forced here. Scarborough Fair, Silent Night and Cloudy just fail to ignite, with excitement only building on some more up tempo tracks - but even Homeward Bound has gotten tired with repetition, same with Feeling Groovy. A curiosity.
Some decent singer songwriting here, a nice vibe.
Part satire of, part sympathy for its subjects, Newman walks a complex tightrope not always with success. For example, if you could listen to Rednecks and sing it as an anthem about yourself, surely the inherent criticism within the satire has failed? And surely there are people proud to stick it to the northern liberal elite by ‘keeping the n-words down‘? Notwithstanding that even in the same song, Newman can’t help but point out the ghettoisation of blacks in northern cities and the conditions in which they live is hardly the success liberals pretend it to be, thus giving further cover to the Redneck racist pride. And if you have to add further songs such as Louisiana to try and explain what you actually think then maybe reconsider what you said in the first place… Newman’s music is sublime throughout, though, taking bluesy roots and New Orleans jazz to concoct an often jovial soundscape in contrast to dark subject matter. And fair enough he wants to explore these subjects and make the audience give some thought to them.
All floaty floaty but what’s it all for? There’s a big ambition sound here which often sounds grand and great and there’s much craft here but I’m left a little cold.
Achingly beautiful, raw in its emotions, the kind of record that stops you in its tracks and demands your attention. Such naked honesty is rare and Cave’s generosity in sharing the processing of his grief will, I sincerely believe, help others dealing with their own. That’s a pretty powerful accomplishment and elevates this album to a considerable work of art.
Songs that sound almost like novelty tracks. A peculiar mix of party music, social commentary and comedy, The Specials were certainly talented but all ideas made it to this album and not all are great. An album to endure rather than enjoy.
It fair bops along and it’s everything you expect. Breaking no new ground, guitar riffs and splashy drums, you know what this is.
A brilliant album, full of exploration, experimentation and some great sounds. TV On The Radio are quite undefinable, hard to pin down, but you keep discovering new things with every listen.
It’s hard to see what makes Eagles distinctive. Much of the album is dull and tiresome with little to excite the listener.
Like a twisted Bond film score - cinematic but unsettling, enchanting but disturbing.
Just vile and kind of offensive.
I love hip hop and I love the pioneers of hip hop but I just can’t get into a whole album of this sound which grates after a while, all electro stabs and synth reworkings of Kraftwerk. And that’s without bringing up the allegations which have been swirling about Bambaataa who, on the balance of probability, seems to be a pretty trash individual.
A pretty thrilling, high adrenaline ride, with a thrash metal band who can actually play and an ear for melody, structure and tone absent from similar band's efforts. The production is uniformly excellent and even though the subject matter is the usual tread through, er, death and facism and crushing uniformity (alright, I'm guessing mostly because I can't really tell), it doesn't mar the great soundscape and mode. Immerse, bang your head or just get some work done - smash the system whilst working for it.
I normally love spiky punky girl bands but The Slits didn’t quite do it for me. Full of attitude and a lack of polish but I just don’t think i vibed off the dub reggae sound. When their most familiar track is a cover of Heard It Through The Grapevine you have to wonder what’s wrong with the rest of this.
Nowhere near as interesting as their work would later get but enough promise to show their potential.
Really pretty awesome. Some amazing sounds in a full on immersive electronic experience. You can see the influence and impact that it had.
Dizzee’s underground grime album made it to the overground and inspired plenty of think pieces in left leaning newspapers marvelling at his wordplay, real outlook on urban life and raw stripped back electro beats. I can’t really blame them - it’s a powerful Debut, he was just a kid and who had heard music like this before if you weren’t on the scene?
There’s just nothing to it, no substance, no depth, nothing very catchy, determinedly radio friendly, Martin’s weedy vocals delivering little in the way of emotional depth.
I suspect this may need further listens to appreciate fully. I certainly found it a challenge but I liked that here was a band just ploughing their own field, not remotely interested in being easy to listen to, covered in distortion.
Entertaining, if rarely surprising, and follows the usual themes of feeling like an outsider, misunderstood and mistrustful of conformity. Of course, to get this huge, you have to play the record industry game a bit and so the rebelliousness pose starts to feel insincere. And boy is this album made with radio friendly play in mind - the production isn't spiky or punky at all but polished like a shiny new pin, but this does keep it fresh and satisfying. And it is of course difficult to listen to without thoughts of Bennington's passing. Who knows what that poor man was really going through, despite the honesty and rawness of his lyrics? Was there more that could have been done to help him reach some peace or did he need to continue re-living his trauma on stage and on record? One hopes his art and self expression did more help than harm - if not him personally then perhaps, maybe, amongst Linkin Park's fans.
Anderson always tried a little too hard with the androgyny and the ambiguous sexuality (despite quite clearly being straight), perhaps in an effort to come across as more interesting. Because aside from a few stand out tracks where Bernard Butler is unleashed on lead guitar and the tempo is quick and the mood is glamorous, there’s too much internalised warbling on the slow tracks. For sure, Suede had something and definitely had their moments, but there’s half a decent album here.
Just brilliant. Superlative playing, incredible mood, creativity sparkling off the record, the joy of the feeling is being there to see something birthed into being. Unsurpassed.
This is brilliant post punk synth pop, really captivating music, sonically interesting, with great energy and rhythm.
Brilliant songwriting, building on their stylish debut to explore ever deeper topics, fizzing with rage at thoughtless politicians and careless society. The production is excellent and shows a surprising depth of use for synths throughout. The energy is infectious throughout and a duet with Neneh Cherry is a welcome surprise.
Probably T Rex’s finest moment - an album jam packed with hits and floor stompers, slamming into the seventies with glam.
In which Todd Rungdren displays his virtuosity by releasing a quadruple album, each side alone a worthy record and distinct from the others. The first side is undoubtedly the best - I’m going to make some stellar pop records, near parodying Carole King, and in twenty minutes (!) write I Saw the Light, one is the greatest tracks of the era. Second side I’m playing around with form and structure and studio effects; third side I’m making some straight up hard rock power pop classics. Oh and I’m playing all the instruments. Fourth side is live tracks in the studio and some more messing around. The guy is a one man Beatles. A freaking genius. What an achievement. Is this the first Ritalin album?
Great music here, ambitious, grandiose, melodramatic. Much to query here - an obsession with Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Neil Young feud, the occasional refrain of ‘Yes but the north is just as racist’ and this peculiar revisionism of George Wallace (a poisonous, racist man who degraded political discourse in the US) - but does render an album to get your teeth into. If a little over long but nevertheless some quality south rock.
A third double album in a row and this is taking up much time! After trashing their album Trafalgar - one of the worst records I have ever heard - I was pleasantly surprised by Odessa. Exemplary songwriting, luscious arrangements, big baroque pop. Ambitious, sure, exhausting, perhaps, but a showcase for the talented brothers.
After three double albums in a row, a short and snappy Santana album, perfectly fine, well made, with a brilliant Oye Como Va and the thrilling Black Magic Woman. Didn’t quite grab my attention but decent.
Absolutely phenomenal record - grandiose, theatrical, absurd but propelled by a commitment to the music and the concept which makes for an incredible sounding experience. The whole thing teeters on the edge of absurdity but manages to pull through. The highlight is a perfectly delivered, Michael Moorcock authored Sonic Attack, a spoken word piece that sums up this sci fi fantasy rock opera.
Such a fun album, B-52s bring that surf sound and have us all bopping along. Never forget that they had a cameo in The Flintstones movie as the BC-52s.
A debut album, no less, with some timeless tracks - truly great songwriting and exhilarating playing - all five artists shine throughout (accepting that Rose might not suit all tastes). Between the hits a few weak tracks but closer Rocket Queen is a hidden gem. The metal heads might balk at GnR but they kept metal going longer than it otherwise would have and pulled many an inferior band in their wake (for better or worse). And Welcome to the Jungle is surely the greatest opener to an album there’s ever been- also the greatest opener to a war movie or a high school movie or a jungle movie or possibly any movie .
This is really impressive pop music. I associate the 80s with tinny fake synth sounds lacking any soul, but in the hands of the right artists, as here, there is way more depth and musicality to it. It helps that the songwriting and vocals are so absorbing and charismatic and all leads to a really memorable experience. For good or ill, these songs will swirl around your brain and if Everybody Wants to Rule the World is overplayed that’s hardly Tears for Fears’ fault. I’m probably 4.5 but feeing generous after a terrible night’s sleep, so five stars here.
An outstanding album, full of vigour and snarl and joy. The songwriting is extraordinary, real emotion, full of pathos and fully realised stories. Fairy Tale of New York has not lost its lustre after all these years and Bottle of Smoke is one of the great songs: an inveterate gambler celebrates his bet coming in, a fifty to the wife, fivers for the kids, everything is right, everyone else is wrong and this is my last ever bet even though the listener knows this to be untrue. Brilliant storytelling.
In which Jack and Meg accomplish plenty with little more than a drum set, guitar and effects pedal. The songs seem to burst out of Jack fully formed with an impulsive energy which carries the listener along. And greatness achieved with Seven Nation Army and The Hardest Button to Button. There’s a decent cover (I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself) and a silly trio song to close out which you don’t really need to hear again.
Chicago do as they damn well please. I was expecting Soul horns which I was familiar with from Chicago 13 but here are Soul and jazz and prog horns. Chicago are playing whatever they damn well please. It’s refreshing in its own way. This is an elusive album but I kind of dig it.
Left wing lyrics over industrial electronic dance music is a proper mood and Heaven 17 deliver an ambitious and unusual album. Ahead of its time in many ways and an admirable record.
Some surprisingly tender moments here from a band I'd always thought of as a bit of a joke and Suggs' lyrics are often poignant and insightful as they celebrate working class life and culture. Our House remains a bold and infectious pop track. But blimey, boys, the black face on the cover and the Indian accents on New Delhi is pretty lousy, even accounting for the times.
Simply stunning - the drive, the propulsion, the energy. Smith’s evocative lyrics, elusive but absorbing, encourage repeat listening and then music is pulsating the whole along. The inspiration this album provided is extraordinary. Is it punk? It’s too focused for that. Punk breaks things. This inspires and leads.
More whip smart super polished disco from Chic. The sound and style are iconic although the slow numbers are a little less engaging than the uptempo. Overall another outstanding album.
I’m afraid Radiohead lost me after OK Computer. I feel it is sacrilege to say so given how much they are admired. And whilst I respect the craft and the talent, I just don’t get to a day when I want to listen to music and think ‘I’ll pop on some mid career Radiohead’. It’s bleak, subdued and unengaging. I get no joy or inspiration from it. And I can’t distinguish one album from another. There, I’ve admitted it. It’s good to get it off my chest.
Blech. At least they tone down the organ.
Take as a given that Winehouse had a voice like no other - powerful sound, fragile frame and a personality which cast a spell. Read between the lines here and its a pretty bleak record, though, despite the upbeat soulful / jazz sound. She sings of toxic relationships and addiction cycles and to look back now one wishes we could have helped Amy get the support she needed. One fears a lot of enablers and exploiters in her life made matters much worse. I hope you're at rest now, Amy.
By any measure a great collection of songs, brilliantly produced and delivered, haunting and atmospheric, smart and engaging. Talent everywhere, repeat listening rewarded.
An absolute glorious mess. 1968 summed up in a record. Changing the world through music, messing up themselves with drugs, everything is possible and nothing is sacred. Joplin burning bright but too, too fast.
Genius oozes from every bar, the virtuoso Prince showing he can make music from damn near any genre out of any damn subject. Social commentary, pop whimsy, deep funk, jazz and soul, all here. Prince out Springsteen’s Springsteen, out Beatles the Beatles, almost out Wonders Steve Wonder. Stand out track - If I Was Your Girlfriend. No other artist at the time had the balls to sing as a woman. Quite a number. Prince singing as he damn well please. Damn.
Pretty singer song writing with a few dark themes of nuclear war but it didn’t grab my attention as I had hoped.
Exhilarating thrill ride from Prince, who fully embraces synths and drum machine creating a futuristic dance soundscape. Kinky as f, Prince goes places no other singer would dare.
Jaunty 80s rock and roll which is pretty entertaining throughout and Rosalita is a classic track.
Paul’s Boutique is like being invited to a crazy house party by three charismatic hip hop kids whose record collection is impeccable. The choice, range and quality of samples is impeccable and elevates the art-form - something new from something old, respectful of the past making something for the future. The infectious energy of the rap rhymes, the back and forth and swapping verses, the messing with the beats - all a joy, all fun, often missing from Hip Hop. Beastie Boys fair spun the formula around from Licensed to Ill, dropping the rock samples for jazz, disco, soul and funk, alienating early fans, selling badly at the time but becoming a classic. Endlessly listenable, always fresh, brilliant from start to finish.
Whimsical Scandi pop, somewhat arch and knowing but able to hold your interest and find a groove or a hook. Clearly ruled the world with Lovefool for a while which is a near perfect pop record and deals with a subject the best pop records do - unrequited love.
Stereolab are fine in spits and spurts but a whole album never quite gets off the ground.
This is a truly extraordinary album, Kendrick delivering a modern classic. Kendrick is peerless right now- nobody else can match him for style, lyricism, artistry and flow. It’s thrilling to listen to an artist have a concept in mind of sounds and themes and deliver so convincingly and boldly too - few rap artists would risk sounding so vulnerable, so minimal and catchy hook free. The maturity from such an early album, the intelligence and insight. Simply stunning.
Chugga chugga chugga chugg chugga chugga chugga chugg chugga chugga chugga chugg
Almost unlistenable and not in a good way.
Fugitive country. The original OG. Brilliant storytelling, influential, charismatic.
Follow up to Blue Lines by MA doesn’t quite hit those heights but a few classic tracks here and the band would go on to redefine their sound even further.
Intriguing and atmospheric, really quite innovative especially for its time.
A great album of deep grooves and classic Hayes: soulful, orchestral, grandiose. A great soundtrack which passes the soundtrack test - listenable and meaningful without the movie.
Buddy Holly wrote incredible, memorable and influential rock and roll music. This debut album already shows us what he could do: Oh Boy, Not Fade Away, Maybe Baby and That’ll Be The Day are now standards. If the quality is a little uneven and some of the tracks feel as if they’ve still one foot in the past - falsetto male chorus and slow crooning ballad- let’s forgive Buddy for the sheer volume of great music he would later add in his tragically short lifetime.
As a hip hop head, I’ve a confession to make: Illmatic doesn’t really do it for me. I get that it appears regularly on best of lists and gets five mics in The Source. Nas’ flow is nice, The beats are smooth. NY State of Mind and Represent are absolute classics (those samples - nice). But there’s not much else I return to regularly. Why is this? I don’t vibe over the other tracks - Nas can’t quite decide on the mood he’s after- a little jazz sample like ATCQ here, a little MJ sample like something more mainstream there - leading to an unevenness overall. Also surprisingly short. A 3,5 respectfully rounded up to a 4.
I did not quite get it. The unpolished sound is a part of it but it is quite unlistenable.
Soulful organ jazz. Jimmy Smith is my man I want to give him a pound.
Utterly cynical hip hop - as manufactured as boy bands, Dre and Eminem show their hand in the video for In Da Club as they train 50 Cent to become the ultimate hip hop star. Take Reasonably charismatic guy with chiseled bod, throw down some heavy Dre beats, write rhymes for him about drugs and drink and hoes and slinging cocaine and partying and getting shot and threatening murder and boasting and bragging, package that up and sell to the masses. Boy, did it work. And as if evidence were needed that here was a guy of limited talent, totally made by others, each successive album sold worse than before as his star waned and the beats just weren't there and Eminem and Dre moved on to other things. 50 got rich, god bless him, and didn't need to die in the process. and yet... and yet, here I am bumping the album, rolling my eyes, thinking there are 1,001 better HIP HIP albums alone better than this, but there I am, joining in with the lyrics and nodding my head and remembering when this was all over the airwaves, playing all the time, and yes in the club and thinking... ...my god but the formula was GOOD.
Quite extraordinary to hear the journey The Temptations made - the socially conscious tracks married with callbacks to earlier soulful numbers. It’s almost disjointed as an album but I guess that’s all directions. The quality of the artists keeps this interesting.
Gripping, grungey, engaging, gets in, gets out, leaves you breathless and wanting for more.
Extremely engaging and listenable, jazz funk fusion crossover. Hancock makes impressive grooves and Watermelon Man is an unusual, compelling version of a classic.
Profoundly moving, deeply personal, pared back with minimal arrangement, Cave delivers a powerful album, trusting his voice to carry the emotion. An extraordinary artist and whilst not all his albums land this is really special.
The Kinks seemed to be in transition in 1966, moving away from straightforward beat music and still working out what they might become- the songs here see Davies start making wry observations on British life and being influenced by music hall which is the direction the band would later take. There are times when Kinks are trying to mimic The Beatles or The Stones and neither work particularly well. When you think that in the same year The Beatles released Revolver and The Stones released Aftermath, Face to Face pales in comparison. Very much a marker on the road for Kinks with their best work yet to come, although Sunny Afternoon became a great anthem for England winning the World Cup.
An elusive album to find, still not sure I have the right one Although most tracks here are on the stated album just in different order. Beautiful singing and Vento de Maio sounded familiar.
Twisted genius at play here- convention breaking, wild and untamed. Richman’s slurred vocals and the rough musical aesthetic make for an aggressive and alienating listen yet compelling at the same time.
A lot of great tracks here, Vega is always interesting and her voice is like honey. Marlena on the Wall might be here stand out track and there’s plenty here to stand alongside.
A delightful Christmas album full of that wall of sound sound. The artists are uniformly excellent and the song choices are smart - adding a melancholic snowless LA monologue to White Christmas is a nice touch. This and the Motown Christmas album are the go to Christmas album in this household. Merry Christmas!
Love this. Such energy for a punk band that can really play. It is kind of astonishing they aren't as huge as The Clash, say.
An excellent record from a brilliant band. There’s a misfit quality to Belle and Sebastian and these songs of outsiders and strugglers makes the listener feel part of a secret club - a club sufficiently large enough to rally the fans on a nascent internet to vote the band best newcomer at the 1999 Brit awards. The album is catchy, charming and witty; the production is excellent, full of beautifully arranged lines and Murdoch’s vocals pulls everything along. Although later albums are even better than this, IYFS gets five stars in case this is Belle and Sebastian’s only appearance on this list. If you liked this album check out the live version of the entire album.
Brilliantly produced indie rock with emotional heft and some stunning tracks (Bloodbuzz Ohio, Terrible Love) although it does tend to blur into indistinctness after a while and loses some of its impact.
Is there a more joyful album on the list than this? The brightness in the production, the up tempo pace, the harmonies, the orchestration and that infectious Mr Blue Sky. Was expecting repetitive prog, found glorious gold.
What we were all thinking? At the time this was huge, a sort of calmer BritPop palate cleanser but my god this struggles to get any heat under it and has not held up at all well. Good for adverts and trailers now.
An enjoyable background album but I’ve never fallen in love with Fleetwood Mac and it doesn’t look like I’m about to start now. PS: I bought that Fleetwood Mac Sat Nav. Totally useless.
How to rate Bob Dylan? Dense lyrics, often opaque, that unsweet singing voice, minimal orchestration, no production tricks. And yet - an artist in full flow, ploughing his own furrow, making statements, holding audiences in his thrall. It is a pleasure to listen to. Subterranean… will be discussed for centuries to come, Mr Tambourine Man will become a traditional song for the ages. Extraordinary.
At first listen I was underwhelmed and felt the album lacked distinctiveness. Wanting to be fair and open minded, however, I persisted and The Suburbs really started to grow on me - anthemic, rich and absorbing. My current assessment is that the album will reward repeat listens as it pulls you into the experience of growing up in The Suburbs - a frequent topic for song writing, usually sneering, but here rather more affectionate and moving.
Oh snap, solid gold five stars here, GZA one of the greatest to ever do. Everything on this album pops - RZA's grimy Kung Fu sampling production, guest stars bring their A-Game and then there is GZA's delivery: witty, elegant, incredible flow, whip smart, near unsurpassed word play. 'Labels' a brilliant idea, perfectly executed, 'Liquid Swords' an infectious, catchy album opener built around an unlikely sample ('Groovin' by Willie Mitchell) and 'BIBLE' a smart and informative closer.
A bravura performance from Nick Cave, a dark, twisted, gothic album full of, well, murder. The imagination, creativity and storytelling is incredible and yet the tunes are still singalong toe tapping. PJ Harvey and Kylie join in for the fun. Cave can conjure such incredible imagery and stories from some fictitious past. Few albums as unique as this in this list.
So unmemorable I didn’t even notice it had finished.
Hugely enjoyable, must surely have sounded so fresh at the time and still does today. White Rabbit is an obvious highlight and Grace Slick’s vocals are terrific - full of menace and ambiguity. Hugely influential and a cultural cornerstone in so many ways, thoroughly deserving of its place on this list.
Sunshine of Your Love aside, this is just self regarding nonsense. Three musicians showing off.
Exquisite. It’s like a prayer or a whisper or a thought. Full of life and fascination, pulling you in. Extraordinary artistry. Unmatched.
Violent Femmes made an awkward, angsty, sexually frustrated record which sounds like nothing else at the time. Creepy yet engaging, disturbing yet funny, this is a high octane burst of brilliant alternative music. With xylophones.
Charming album by The Temptations and whilst there are few standout tracks nevertheless makes for a fine soulful listen. Fascinating to hear early Temptations and see where they later went.
I should surely love this album more and there are some great highlights (I Am The Resurrection) but I’d rather listen to a little Stone Roses than a lot.
Jah Wobble is trying to make something different here and I admire that with its fusion of world hooks and rave culture beats plus Sinead O’ Connor always welcome. Downside is the new agey vibe and come down sound (too bright and shiny and polished in the mix) is underwhelming and ultimately repetitive.
I sort of like what Stereo MC’s are trying to do - electronic dance rap techno mix - and they undoubtedly caught the mood with three massive singles off this album. But Connected was always going to eventually end up in a phone network advert despite the new agey, vaguely spiritual and environmental sentiments throughout the album and there’s just not enough here to sustain interest. Rhyming Dictionary rhymes does not make for compelling wordplay.
Possibly the most influential album in hip hop- underground genre goes overground, merges with before eventually destroying rock music as the basis for mainstream records henceforth, name checks brands to create whole new fashion movements, swagger and pride in full effect. Run DMC make this look good and inspire thousands of rappers that matter. We can quibble over a few tracks that drag but heavy hits here and as for impact this is five stars all the way.
Fairground music. Play this on the dodgems or the roller coaster and you’ll have a wicked time.
Quite enjoyable - part of a scene which was bright and energetic and exciting and so is this.
Aw snap this was all over the radio in the nineties but age has not been kind to this arch, too cool for school, soundtrack without a film, future retro bleeps and whistles. A few bright moments but nobody is seriously enjoying this lighter then air offering.
Spellbinding. Could be a greatest hits album. In many ways, Purple Rain is the perfect encapsulation of Prince’s vision and artistry - maximalist production, big sound, funk and pop and rock influences, incredible vocal and guitar solos and presented in eye catching imagery. An extraordinary accomplishment.
A decent album, good moments, not sure its grabbing me but pleased prog rock was not as scary as all that.
Sublime. Beautiful vocals, excellent playing, American music at its absolute finest.
The biggest selling recording from a musical even though the musical never really existed (although it now does), Bat Out of Hell is surely the most over the top record on this list. A strange inclusion - rock and roll heavy grand opera? Meat Loaf’s charisma as a singer can’t stop this feeling overblown and as a vehicle for Steinman’s ludicrous songs it must have worked - this shifted units.
A short album that seemed to go on forever. The nihilism in the music is palpable. ITs always a fine line between raw and unlistenable. Germs is leaning towards the latter.
Could write a tune and pleasant enough.
A beautifully crafted, classic country album. Lynn puts mistreated southern women and their difficult relationship with their men front and centre and in turn makes this a reclamation of their dignity and pride. My growing love for this music is an unexpected and welcome consequence of this brilliant listening project.
Disaffected, lost, aggrieved, it sure sounds tough being Lorde but from this we get a striking album, with a grand sound from a compelling vocalist.
Another superb offering from LDR who really is something special. The opening tracks are mesmerising and the overall style and mood continues to enthral. And this isn’t even her best album.
There's something quite mesmerising about this album. It still sounds fresh and quite revolutionary as it must have done at the time. And whilst the accusation could be levelled that it is a little repetitive, there is something fascinating about the sound that has been crafted.
Nice bounce to it and some fine melodies, not my favourite genre but a fine listen except towards the end where it kind of melted into one song.
Some funky music here but the horny obsession in the lyrics is wearing and at times pretty offensive. Tricky.
Nothing else quite as good as Sultans of Swing on here but a decent album with a mellow mood.
Lively, energetic and compelling, loved the vibe. A pretty special album.
Pretty damn great. Band sounds awesome, really showcasing their immense musical talent across a range of genres (never expected them to sound so funky) and Plenty truly has one of the best rock voices. And whilst occasional tracks feel a bit cut and paste or unfulfilled, The rest especially the majestic Kashmir make up for it.
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. I don’t imagine I will listen to this again.
These boys sure can play. Entertaining and slick.
Sweet and delicate but so light it sort of flies away and never quite lands.
Thumping, pulsating, nihilistic, chuck it all in. Make it big and large and loud. This album does not let up and although there are times when you'd rather be listening to Talking Heads, eventually the sound overwhelms and there you are mesmerised and bopping along, almost meditating to the music. The track pulse (v.1) is something really rather good.
A great record full of wit and energy.
Quite brilliant - full of vigour and aggression and statement of intent. SOAD sound sincerely aggrieved at the state of the world and are channelling that into changing minds. Far from being nihilistic, although the sound might make you assume that, this is pure artistic self expression. So skilful and technical. Deeply impressive.
Enjoyable nonsense. They found a little niche and went for it. Thank
It has its moments but it also has keyboard solos so a bit up and down.
Ridiculously talented, you can clearly hear the impact Domino had on rock and roll. That voice, that playing, popular music would be immeasurably different without him.
Otis Redding was a huge admirer of Sam Cooke and this live album showcases why - masterful performer, beautiful vocalist, soulful delivery. Where Redding was gritty and soulful, Cooke is clean and soulful - note perfect, still from the heart, with an audience enraptured, practically eating out of his hands. And damn it if Cooke's Bring It On Home to Me isn't a near perfect song. And whilst this isn't a perfect album it is pretty special and a remarkable document in the story of soul.
This is a great vibe and it’s nice to see an artist making their own work without chasing a trend.
Some noteworthy tracks here and Fantastic Day and Love Plus One are certainly stand outs not just on the album but in the decade. As to the rest, the New Wavier the better but not quite enough to get me to return.
Thumping good Cuban Afro Jazz. Big sound, big impact.
Beautifully created and personally meaningful, an album full of rebirth, renewal, natural, spiritual. Simple but complicated harmonies and arrangements abound to leave a truly individual, unique and compelling work of art. And you can sing along to it. Inspired.
It is great hearing two artists really going for it and trying to get what's in their heads out into the world. It doesn't always succeed and some of the cut and paste from world music feels a little pilfered and unearned but a fascinating listen all the same.
A stunning album - idiosyncratic and unusual, Cope follows his own path to make this absorbing album which sound like nobody else.
Confusing Pretenders for a singles band (and an overplayed one at that), this album showed how brilliant they were - new wave, spiky, confident, excellent musicianship, catchy and memorable songs and a lead take no prisoners charismatic lead singer. A great find and an album I would never have sought out before.
A beautiful album with Mitchell trying new forms with some success. When you’re this good a songwriter you can do as you please. Lyrical, beautiful and if it doesn’t quite hit the heights of Blue or Court & Spark, look who Joni is up against - Joni Freaking Mitchell.
Memorable, impactful and unforgettable, a vital album for this list and everything that this inspired. Changed production, shook up music - feels like the first song of the seventies. Hard not to rate this five stars.
So limp. Try hards.
Really quite something - arch, detached, ironic and groundbreaking, these future sounds deliver the goods even today.
Brilliant, witty, daring and powerful, Dead Kennedys turn their ire on the powerful in society and really stick it to the man. Just half an hour long as all punk albums should be and one of the best cover versions of all time.
A band with a plan and a vision and a mission which is pleasing to see - loyalty from fans is deep and albums like this must have excited and thrilled. Whether this moves me … I’m not so sure. The format doesn’t quite grab me. I suspect their later work might appeal more.
Pulp’s masterpiece. Beautifully constructed pop songs with a surprising undercurrent of paranoia and, well, The Fear. The darkness seems to come from Cocker actually achieving his dream of music stardom and critical acclaim only to be hit by - what next? What was that ambition otherwise hiding from me, lurking in the shadow? What did I think that would fix? And here the answer - or the response - on record. The arrangements and orchestrations are sublime and the band’s performances are truly excellent. A great work of art, with a band progressing from observation on Different Class to introspection on This is Hardcore. Magnificent and a worthy come down album to the highs of BritPop. RIP Steve Mackey.
There was this one track I listened to, I don’t know, a few hours ago, with Phil Collins on vocals that was pretty good but I couldn’t tell you what or when - this seemed to go on forever. More patience required for this than I am prepared to give but I admire the scope and the self expression.
A few toe tappers here and an undeniably solid band but lacks that special something. How can Paul compete against the best band of all time?
A few things to unpack here - Carey is an amazing vocalist and this album a sold so many records. And if this project is going to have a nineties soul with hip hop influences this is probably the one to include - here the mainstream shift from pop towards urban sound can truly said to have begun - soon damn near every track and artist would have Dre or Puffy or Neptunes or Wyclef Jean or Timbaland producing and a guest rapper for Street cred. Is this album brilliant? The upbeat tracks are pretty good, the ballads could all be the same song and some of Mariah’s vocals stylings are initiating so no, not take, but I’m going to argue the album fully merits a place here on this list (and I would rather listen to this again than, say, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway).
This list loves Beck - is this album 3 or 4? - but I don’t quite get it. There’s a few cool tracks but nothing really moves you or stands out.
Light hearted and entertaining country record which fair zips along.
Unadulterated lightness and joy burst forth. Prima is on top form, Sam and the band are perfect and Keely is the unsung hero with a beautiful, crystal clear singing voice. The ease with which they all interact is glorious. This is a brilliant swing jazz record and Just A Gigolo / I Ain't Got Nobody would give it five stars all by itself.
If Lauryn had made more records no doubt we’d be talking about her as one of the greatest rappers of all time. And one of the greatest vocalist too. Talented, smart, impactful, proud, unwilling to play the record industry game despite releasing one of the greatest records of the era. Let’s talk misses- the school talk skits add little, some of the collaborations misfire and perhaps the covers are superfluous. But the hits? Ex Factor is incredible, one of the most emotional tracks I’ve ever heard, Doo Wop is an absolutely beautiful and evocative track with a great singalong section, Everything is Everything is hard hip hop echoing Stevie Wonder, as does Every Ghetto, Every City with a playful look back at childhood. With the world at her feet- Hill faded into the background (MTV Unplugged absolutely not what any fan was expecting to hear). Quite an artist.
Of its era, pretty solid, would never dance to this but might help with concentrated, focused work. I’m not sure that is a good thing.
Great to see SFA on the lift and whilst I world pick Radiator over Fuzzy Logic, this is a pretty fun debut and one of the more unusual indie records from the era. The band had their lively rock moments and delivered those well but they really shone on gentler tracks such as If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You. I like the nods to psychedelic rock and their dabble in electronica.
A nice mood and of some interest but lacks grit and heft for sustained interest.
A quite extraordinary album. Love is an underrated artist. If you thought male grunge acts had it bad, my god, their angst and anger was nothing compared to this. Raw, impactful, taking a stand and making a point. My new favourite band thanks to this project.
A puzzling inclusion, neither the best of any particular hip hop sub genre nor distinctive enough to make a significant mark. A few gems are scattered throughout but the album takes a long time to get going and by the time it does interest has waned. Ladd is no doubt an interesting, smart artist and is worth a listen but I can think of hundreds of rap albums to include here over this.
It’s strange that Liam later said this was never meant to be political in the first place when much of its power comes from the context of the Criminal Justice Bill which threatened to criminalise rave culture. It’s what gives the album its focus and energy and elevates the record from mere beeps and whistles.
A terrific record full of spiky fury and dissonant sound, Corin and Corrie swapping lines and punchy guitars, everything you could want from riot grrrl. Four stars only because The Woods should get the nod over this.
Overblown, pompous, cynical music masquerading as sincere but, in all honesty, don't think too hard or look for hidden depths (there ultimately are none) just go with the cosmic stadium rock flow and you'll have a pretty fun time. The music equivalent of a Marvel movie - a guilty pleasure.
Whatever else you might think of the genre, there’s no denying that this is a finely crafted, beautifully assembled collection of songs. The production is excellent and the arrangements are terrific. Williams has a knack for evocative images and storytelling. There’s a veracity and an authenticity to the writing.
A protest record for the hip hop era, full of absolutely banging Bomb Squad beats, quotable and meaningful lyrics from the one and only Chuck D (I shook his hand after a gig, amazing with the fans) and the ridiculous stylings of the greatest hype man ever to do it, Flavor Flav. Influential, enduring and a mesmeric album which pushed the boundaries of what hip hop could be.
Many people consider this to be Pete Doherty’s greatest achievement. I disagree. Doherty’s greatest achievement is successfully completing a Margate cafe’s Mega Breakfast challenge: if you can eat four rashers of bacon, four eggs, four sausages, hash browns, onion rings, bubble and squeak, beans, two slices of thick bread well as a quarter pounder burger and chips in under 20 minutes the breakfast is free.
Sacrilege I’m sure but I feel this album is a little overrated. Undoubtedly talented and yet the influences of Prince, Parliament/Funkadelic, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder weigh heavy like an overcoat, never quite breaking free to feel fresh. And if I was in the mood for that groove there’s no way I’d choose Monae ahead of these. And whilst Monae doesn’t have to be in the same league as these artists, she does have to distinguish the music far enough away from them not to be constantly thinking of them whilst listening to this album. Nevertheless, an artist who will surely make an even greater impact to come.
Sparkles at times, drags at others and my indifferent relationship to Led Zeppelin goes on.
I was waiting for this album to come up. I had a feeling I wouldn’t enjoy it. I wasn’t disappointed.
Pulsating with polyrhythms Youssou N’Dour’s album sounds terrific.