Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ten Favorite Rock Albums

I have no idea why I was thinking of this, but I decided to jot down my ten favorite rock albums. If you ask me this question tomorrow, the list will be different. Also, I can't really say these are the 10 Best Albums Ever, which is how these things are often constructed.

In a fairly random order from 10 to 1.

10. King Crimson, Red. Now, I could be made fun of for this. And God knows King Crimson made some horrible albums (shall we start with Lizard, anyone?) but they also have a few gems. A recent listening to Red made me remember how kick ass this is.

9. Talking Heads, Remain in Light. I'm not sure what I can say about this album that hasn't already been said. For me, it's their best work, though I know others disagree.

8. Neil Young, Tonight's The Night. This album rarely appears as people's favorite Young album. But I think it's a virtually flawless work. I love a lot of his work, including the new Live at Massey Hall album. But this is great. And "Albuquerque" may be the best song ever written about New Mexico.

7. Drive By Truckers, Decoration Day. It's a really hard call between Decoration Day and The Dirty South. They're both great and really I find them fairly interchangeable. While I think The Dirty South is more consistent, Decoration Day's highs are higher. So that's what we're going with. A first rate album that benefits from the addition of the now departed Jason Isbell from the band.

6. Alejandro Escovedo, A Man Under the Influence. Escovedo's best work. Frankly, I find most of his albums slightly less than what they should be. But A Man Under the Influence is virtually perfect. Recorded just before he nearly died, it captures a veteran rocker at his height. And "Castanets" is one of the best songs ever while "Wave" and "Rosalie" are amazing works about immigration.

5. Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life. It's hard to choose just one great Stevie album. But Songs in the Key of Life, and particularly the first disc, is just mindblowingly great. Most of his albums, even the greatest ones, have a song or two that I don't care for much. Not here.

4. The Band, Music from Big Pink. I always see The Band as one of the great tragedies of rock and roll. Those first two albums are so transcedent. But for guys who had toured forever, even with Dylan, they really couldn't deal with stardom. Everyone stopped writing except for Robertson, the songs became lesser versions of previous songs, the drug use got out of control, and the music went to shit. Plus, they couldn't let loose live. But Music from Big Pink--well, wow! I can see why this blew everyone's mind in 1968. The second, self-titled, album is equally good, but I like these songs just a little better, particularly those sung by Richard Manuel, whose voice is just so, so sad. Much like his tragic life.

3. Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks. His greatest album. And it's not even really that close. I wish "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts" wasn't on the album. It's a fine enough song but doesn't really fit here. It also doesn't make a damn bit of sense. But every other song pushes the overall narrative of this album forward. Again, what can I say that hasn't already been said.

2. The Who, Who's Next. I don't really go for the big English acts of the 60s and 70s so much. I mean, they're all pretty good I guess. But I can't get that excited over a Zeppelin, Cream, or Floyd album much these days. It's the same for The Who, except for Who's Next, which is freaking fantastic. My favorite song is "My Wife," sung by John Entwhistle. Everytime I hear it, it makes me mad that Daltrey and Townsend decided to play the night after he died.

1. Marvin Gaye, What's Going On. One of the best albums ever in any genre. There is literally nothing wrong with this album. It's perfect. Of course, Barry Gordy didn't want to record it because it was actually about something. But Gaye did it anyway. Not only the best rock album, but probably the best soul album and certainly the best political album ever made.