• Category Archives Top 100 Albums of the 1980’s
  • Top 100 Albums of the 80’s: 91-100

    Buy Up On the Sun – Meat Puppets

    Buy Up On The SunAmazon

    The Meat Puppets are the strangest & least popular of the triumvirate of 80’s indie-rock bands on the SST label, also consisting of the Minutemen and Husker Du. The Puppets, whose two core members are Phoenix, Arizona bred brothers Chris & Kurt Kirkwood, deliver a sound that is part punk, part psychedelic & part whacked-out country. They can be credited for being progenitors of the alt-country movement but often aren’t because their sound is so singular. Their music gives me images of these guys playing their songs in the middle of the desert while buggin’ out on ‘shrooms at sunset. Though “Meat Puppets II” is their most well-known album, mostly due to the trio of songs covered by Nirvana for their MTV Unplugged album, “Up On the Sun” is actually a nose better. The songs and playing on “Sun” are tighter and more consistently focused than on “II”, though both albums should be deemed as essential purchases for any huge fan of indie-rock or alternative country. Or for anyone who just appreciates great, weird music.

    Buy Swimming Ground – Up On the Sun

    Buy Swimming Ground (Album Version)Amazon

    Buy Two Rivers – Up On the Sun

    Buy Two Rivers (Album Version)Amazon

    Buy Milo Goes to College – Descendents

    Buy Milo Goes To CollegeAmazon

    A bratty group of L.A. punks, who created perhaps the best full-length album release not by Black Flag of the L.A. hardcore scene with “Milo Goes to College”. In a scene not known for many decent full lengths outside of maybe “The Record” by Fear and “GI” by The Germs and the aforementioned Flag, “Milo” stands out for its sharp, furious playing and melodic sensibility- you can think of the album as a bridge between The Buzzcocks “Singles Going Steady” and Green Day’s “Dookie”. It’s as hooky as hardcore gets and much tighter and less sloppy than most of its competition. Their bratty songs and lyrics spout vitriol at nearly everything under the sun but through the lens of a teenager, therefore neglecting most of the bigger political issues of the time. The Descendents’ lyrics are blunt and hilarious for the most part, though there is some unfortunate childish homophobic ranting proving tough to listen to in our thankfully more open-minded modern time.

    Buy Suburban Home – Milo Goes to College

    Buy Suburban HomeAmazon

    Buy Bikeage – Milo Goes to College

    Buy Bikeage Amazon

    98. VAN HALEN- FAIR WARNING (1981)
    Buy Fair Warning – Van Halen

    Buy Fair Warning (US Internet Release) Amazon

    “Fair Warning” is Van Halen’s 4th album as well as the most overlooked of the original David Lee Roth helmed incarnation of the band. I don’t have the numbers to prove it but I believe FW sold less than the other five albums of the band’s first phase as well. The music on “Fair Warning” is comparatively darker and heavier than the usual fun-loving jams of the legendary party band- making the album a fan favorite among true believers. Though it contains no radio hits or even songs played today on classic rock radio (outside of maybe the awesome “Unchained” which has had some limited airplay) the band and in particular Eddie absolutely shreds all over the album- particularly on the unstoppable A side. Though this album is not recommended as a first buy for a new listener, it’s a must buy for any true fan of hard rock or Van Halen.

    Buy Unchained – Fair Warning

    Buy Unchained (Album Version)Amazon

    Buy Mean Street – Fair Warning

    Buy Mean Street (Album Version)Amazon


    Buy Guitar Town – Steve Earle

    Buy Guitar Town Amazon

    The debut album from this sometimes troubled, always fascinating, true blue descendent of outlaw country, is perhaps still his single best album release. From the get go Earle refused to march in lockstep with the traditional, conservative Nashville music industry. Though Earle is a full-blown country artist, he brings a rock n’ roll spirit & swagger to his music. His hard edge and way left of center politics make him a nearly impossible sell to country radio.  The fact that he sticks out like a sore thumb and had limited airplay but was able to interest both country and rock audiences is a great testament to his talent and originality.  “Guitar Town” was his first step in a long & illustrious if sometimes spotty career. He’s a true music lifer and an amazing wordsmith- it doesn’t get much better than, “Well I got to get out while I still can, Got a two pack habit and a motel tan”.  What a start to a great album.

    Buy Guitar Town – Guitar Town

    Buy Guitar Town Amazon

    Buy Someday – Guitar Town

    Buy Someday Amazon

    96. THE CURE- HEAD ON THE DOOR (1985)
    Buy The Head On the Door (Remastered) [Bonus Version] – The Cure

    Buy The Head On The Door (Deluxe Edition)Amazon

    Ever since The Cure’s first singles “Killing An Arab” and “Boys Don’t Cry”- both released in the late 70’s, they had been operating almost as two separate bands. There was the singles band releasing poppier bouncier tracks like “Let’s Go to Bed” and “Lovecats”, and the album band which made gloomy dirges like “Pornography” and “The Top” which stuck them with the “Goth band” label. “Head On the Door” was the first Cure album  to combine those two qualities. As a result they became much more of a household name, particularly in America where they had still been very underground before 1985. Both “Close to Me” and “In Between Days” are on “Head On the Door”- two of The Cure’s best singles to date, but other tracks on the album such as “Six Different Ways” and “A Night Like This” were nearly as good. “Head On the Door” paved the way for even further artistic and commercial success later in the decade.

    Buy In Between Days – The Head On the Door

    Buy In Between DaysAmazon

    Buy Close to Me – The Head On the Door

    Buy Close To Me (LP Version)Amazon

    Buy Searching for the Young Soul Rebels – Dexy’s Midnight Runners

    Buy Searching For The Young Soul RebelsAmazon

    Most in America know Dexys as that one hit wonder band who had that awesome song “Come On Eileen”. As awesome is that song is- and it IS awesome…I never get sick of it!- Dexys already had a thriving career in the U.K. prior to “Come On Eileen’s” release in 1982. “Searching”, the Birmingham, England band’s 1980 debut album, is a combination of Northern Soul, New Wave & and traditional Scottish Music sung with a punk rock attitude. To this day the album really stands alone- I’ve never heard anything like it before or since. Many of the tracks are political in nature, though most concern local issues that are likely impenetrable to the modern American ear. Lead singer, Kevin Rowland sings in a frantic, strangled yelp alongside soulful bass lines and vibrant horns- a tribute to American Soul music with a Celtic influence in a D.I.Y. punk fashion.  One of a kind.

    Buy Geno – Searching for the Young Soul Rebels

    Buy GenoAmazon

    Buy There, There My Dear – Searching for the Young Soul Rebels

    Buy There There My Dear (2000 Digital Remaster)Amazon

    Buy Computer World – Kraftwerk

    Buy Computer World Amazon

    Kraftwerk can be called the first techno group.  The groundbreaking German group’s first album of the 80’s came at a time when the zeitgeist of the time had finally caught up to their influence. Though the group delivered worldwide hit single “Autobahn” in 1974, it was thought of as a novelty song at the time, but Kraftwerk was anything but a one hit wonder.  By the early 80’s the burgeoning synth-pop movement recognized them as their godfathers and by the mid 80’s they were  sampled by electro hip-hop groups like Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force.  “Computer World” was their last truly great album release, but their fifth essential album in a row- it plays like a much deserved victory lap. Ironically one of the first bands to play all of their music on machines, “Computer World’s” examination of modern technology devices and their ramifications are a perfect fit- feel free to comment on what you know best!

    Buy Numbers – Computer World

    Buy Numbers (LP Version)Amazon

    Buy Pocket Calculator – Computer World

    Buy Pocket Calculator (LP Version) Amazon

    93. R.E.M.- GREEN (1988)

    Buy Green – R.E.M.

    Buy Green Amazon

    After flirting with the top 40 mainstream with “The One I Love” off of the previous year’s “Document”, R.E.M. plunged into the pop world headfirst with “Green”, much to the dismay of many of the band’s longtime fans. The Athens, Ga. quartet’s career trajectory practically mirrors that of indie-rock in general and it’s no surprise that the band’s ever growing cult of fans would be overprotective of their commercial success. It’s hard to argue that “Green” was a fairly drastic change in sound. Singles “Stand” and “Orange Crush” and uhhh “Pop Song ‘89” were more pop than anything they had previously released. Though there is a debate to be had about the merit of those songs, even if you hate all three of them there is still much to love about “Green”. “Hairshirt” and “You Are Everything” are two of the band’s loveliest songs. “World Leader Pretend” is a thought provoking masterpiece and one of the few tracks that included the lyrics on their packaging. “Turn You Inside Out” and “Get Up” rock as well. “Green” is another excellent release from probably my favorite overall band of the 80’s.

    Buy You Are the Everything – Green

    Buy You Are The EverythingAmazon

    Buy World Leader Pretend – Green

    Buy World Leader PretendAmazon

    Buy Blood and Chocolate – Elvis Costello & The Attractions

    Buy Blood And ChocolateAmazon

    Elvis’s second stellar release of 1986- the first being the roots-rock affair “King of America”- credited to Elvis’s given name Declan MacManus.  “Blood & Chocolate” was a return to heavier, more punk rock approach of his late 70’s albums after his forays into soul, country & sophisticated pop music genres of his first three 80’s albums and the lower quality of his previous two- particularly 1984’s “Goodbye Cruel World”. “King of America” was a true Costello solo album, but the Attractions, one of the best bands in music, were back and in full force for “Blood & Chocolate”. Elvis & the Attractions may not quite have reached the peaks of “This Year’s Model” or “Armed Forces”, but those are two of the great albums ever, and “Blood and Chocolate” is good enough to stand with both. Costello’s writing is in top form as always and fans of the bitter, spiteful, vengeful Elvis will be happy here. He must have had one bad break-up prior to it. “I Hope You’re Happy Now” and “Tokyo Storm Warning” seethe with vitriol and “I Want You” is a better and scarier ode to obsessive love than “Every Breath You Take”. Though Costello has made many good albums since ’86, he has yet to top “Blood and Chocolate” since.

    Buy I Want You – Blood and Chocolate

    Buy I Want YouAmazon

    Buy Blue Chair – Blood and Chocolate

    Buy Blue ChairAmazon

    Buy Crazy Rhythms – The Feelies

    Buy Crazy RhythmsAmazon

    The Feelies were a spazzy, nerdcore band from suburban New Jersey, who had a polyrhythmic sound that was a mixture of African music and New Wave- not unlike David Byrne and the Talking Heads.  Hard to believe but the Feelies sound was even more nervous and jumpier. The guitars are played quickly using only one or two chords, the vocals are tense and the drums take the lead and do most of the work. This is punk rock but done in a very different way than had ever been done prior to it- nervousness over anger. Though “Crazy Rhythms” had very little actual commercial success it would prove an indie-rock touchstone and would influence many other bands in the future- both sound & image- check out the cover of Weezer’s first album for instance.  You’ll notice more than a slight resemblance.

    BuyFa Cé-La – Crazy Rhythms

    Buy Fa cé-LaAmazon

    Buy Crazy Rhythms – Crazy Rhythms

    Buy Crazy Rhythms Amazon

  • Top 100 Albums of the 80’s: 81-90

    Buy Fear and Whiskey – Mekons

    Buy Fear and Whiskey Amazon

    Fairly, or unfairly, “Fear and Whiskey” is often credited as the first alternative country album. Strange for a band of far-left wing Englanders who cut their teeth on the U.K. punk rock scene of the late 70’s. “Fear and Whiskey” was the Mekons fourth full length album release but their first since 1980. The ramshackle band threw punk, folk, reggae, country & rockabilly music into a melting pot resulting in a sound unique unto itself. The Mekons’ playing is loose and raucous and they cry out passionately against all forms of greed- they often coming off as virulently anti-capitalist. Their music is smart, humorous & full of drunken fun. “Fear and Whiskey” may have influenced much of the roots-rock and alt country that came after it but none of those records still sound anything like it.

    Buy Hard to Be Human Again – Fear and Whiskey

    Buy Hard to Be Human Again Amazon

    Buy Last Dance – Fear and Whiskey

    Buy Last DanceAmazon

    89. GALAXIE 500- ON FIRE (1989)
    Buy On Fire – Galaxie 500

    Buy On FireAmazon

    Galaxie 500 was a group of three Harvard University students who were progenitors of both the shoegaze and especially the slowcore movements that developed in the early nineties.   I never heard the band until long after they broke up- they were an extremely underground during the life of the band, only known to musicians, music writer and very hip college students.  But like all great underground bands their stature and influence continues to grow after their demise.  Lead singer Dean Wareham would also form Luna in the nineties which would also increase Galaxie’s notoriety as Luna was a much more commercially successful band. “On Fire” is the band’s second and best album. The band plays as slowly and as beautifully as the Cowboy Junkies but with much more muscle behind them. There are subtle time changes throughout the album but none of the songs ever reach a crescendo. It’s an album to play on a wintry day or night- perfect for both chilling out and crying in your beer.

    Buy Blue Thunder – On Fire

    Buy Blue Thunder Amazon

    Buy Snowstorm – On Fire

    Buy SnowstormAmazon

    Buy Iron Maiden – Iron Maiden

    Buy Iron MaidenAmazon

    “Iron Maiden” is the debut album from the legendary captains of the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’. If you only know Maiden from its most popular Bruce Dickenson-fronted incarnation, please be advised that Iron Maiden on its first two albums was an entirely different band. Only bassist and founder Steve Harris and guitarist Dave Murray overlap between the two lineups. Though Dickenson is a way more technically proficient vocalist than original singer Paul Di ‘Anno, Di ‘Anno, along with drummer Clive Burr gave the band a much more punk edge than the prog-metal sounding later Maiden. Despite the limited vocal range, the playing on this debut is top notch and fully formed. As so often happens with debut albums, there are loads of great songs here too- Maiden classics like “Running Free”, “Prowler”, “Sanctuary” and “Iron Maiden”, along with amazing ballad “Remember Tomorrow” all appear here. I imagine I’m in the minority but I consider their debut the best thing Maiden ever did- it’s perhaps the best fusion of punk & metal that I’ve ever heard.

    Buy Sanctuary – Iron Maiden

    Buy SanctuaryAmazon

    Buy Prowler – Iron Maiden

    Buy Prowler Amazon

    Buy Swordfishtrombones – Tom Waits

    Buy SwordfishtrombonesAmazon

    “Swordfishtrombones” began a new phase in L.A. singer-songwriter Tom Waits’s career. Not that his barroom poetry and beat jazz stylings weren’t eccentric before, but “Swordfish” is where he got really weird- almost completely reinventing himself as an artist. He ditched the piano & strings prevalent on many of seventies’ albums for horns, carnival music and various percussion instruments. His low register croon became a growl, similar to Howlin’ Wolf or Captain Beefheart. Beefheart is actually the only artist that I’ve ever heard who could be called a precursor to what Waits was doing in ’83- but musically Waits was even more off kilter. Though this music could never be called accessible it is quite wonderful and unique- he is a singular artist and “Swordfishtrombones” is one of the highlights of his vast catalog.

    Buy 16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought Six – Swordfishtrombones

    Buy 16 Shells From A 30.6 Amazon

    Buy Frank’s Wild Years – Swordfishtrombones

    Buy Frank’s Wild YearsAmazon

    86. YAZ- UPSTAIRS AT ERIC’S (1982)
    Buy Upstairs At Eric’s – Yaz

    Buy Upstairs At Eric’sAmazon

    Yaz (known back in their native U.K. as Yazoo) was a synth-pop duo made up of former Depeche Mode and future Erasure member Vince Clarke and future solo artist Alison Moyet. They only recorded two albums as a group together and “Upstairs at Erics” is their first and best. At the time only Yaz, early Depeche & the Human League were playing this type of music and its relative commercial success paved the way for the whole larger movement to come. Vince Clarke’s keyboard lines were simple and spare but very danceable and Moyet has a wonderful, husky voice that drips with emotion and yearning. Contains dance floor classics “Don’t Go” and “Situation” as well as heartbreakingly beautiful ballad “Only You”.

    Buy Situation – Upstairs At Eric’s

    Buy Situation (Album Version)

    Buy Only You – Upstairs At Eric’s

    Buy Only You (Album Version) Amazon

    Buy Trust – Elvis Costello & The Attractions

    Buy Trust Amazon

    Costello is certainly someone you could call a jack of all trades. Throughout his career he has experimented with practically every genre you can think of save Rap & extreme Metal. He uses many of his albums to concentrate on one genre in particular i.e. country music on “Almost Blue”, soul on “Get Happy” and baroque pop on “Imperial Bedroom”. “Trust” his fifth full length album, is the most diverse of his entire career. He runs the gamut of genres within this one album touching on soul, country, punk, new wave, old school crooner pop and even jazz. It comes off as a much more sophisticated album than his previous releases and was a perfect transition into a new decade. Several Costello classics appear on “Trust” like “Clubland”, “Watch Your Step” and “New Lace Sleeves”, but the album is a very worthwhile listen from start to finish.

    Buy Watch Your Step – Trust

    Buy Watch Your StepAmazon

    Buy Clubland – Trust

    Buy ClublandAmazon

    Buy Fables of the Reconstruction (Deluxe Edition) – R.E.M.

    Buy Fables Of The Reconstruction (Deluxe Edition) [+Digital Booklet]

    R.E.M.’s “difficult” third album is a dark & ominous record filled with ruminations on the mythology of the old American south.  After two straight masterpieces, “Fables” was a bit less consistent than their previous offerings, but contains R.E.M. classics like “Driver 8”, “Feeling Gravity’s Pull”, and “Can’t Get There from Here”- the one song that does not carry the moody tone of the rest of the album.  Though it isn’t one of my favorite of their 80’s albums, it is still essential and acts as a bridge between R.E.M.’s folkie jangle pop beginnings of “Murmur”, “Reckoning” and the “Chronic Town” EP and the fuller, more commercial sound they would develop later in the decade.

    Buy Driver 8 – Fables of the Reconstruction

    Buy Driver 8 (2006 Digital Remaster)Amazon

    Buy Maps And Legends – Fables of the Reconstruction

    Buy Maps And Legends (2010 Digital Remaster)Amazon

    83. METALLICA- KILL ‘EM ALL (1983)
    Buy Kill ‘Em All – Metallica

    Buy Kill ‘Em All Amazon

    Year one for Thrash Metal. “Kill ‘Em All” flat-out invented this sub-genre. Normally there is a who/which came first in any birth of a genre argument but I’ve never heard anyone convincingly argue that there was another thrash album that came before this “Kill Em All”. Metallica combined the intricate twin guitar riffing of the best of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands (Priest, Diamond Head and especially early Maiden) with the energy and velocity of punk rock- like Motorhead before them. But Motorhead was punk rock with a Metal attitude and without the same amount of musicianship, intricacy and lengthy songs. Compared to their subsequent albums, the lyrics and subject matter on “Kill ‘Em All” comes off as pretty sophomoric- most every track deals with conquering the world (in no specific way), touring, or tributes to ‘Heavy Metal’ in general. But they were just kids and would further hone their craft on later albums and the time changes all over the record are vintage Metallica and the playing is breathtaking and relentless. As a side note- co-founder Dave Mustaine (of Megadeth) helped write 4 of the tracks on the album before he was booted from the band.

    Buy The Four Horsemen – Kill ‘Em All

    Buy The Four Horsemen (LP Version) Amazon

    Buy Seek & Destroy – Kill ‘Em All

    Buy Seek & Destroy (LP Version) Amazon

    Buy Get Happy!! – Elvis Costello & The Attractions

    Buy Get HappyAmazon

    Elvis’s 4th album is his tribute to Soul music, and his attempt to make up for the very unfortunate comments he made in 1979 in a drunken stupor at a bar to some members of Stephen Stills’ band in which he called Ray Charles “a blind, ignorant ni**er”, apparently because the band members were prodding him and he wanted to be left alone. Elvis, a huge fan and student of all forms of African-American music, still hasn’t fully lived those comments down all these years later. “Get Happy” is a 20 track album which covers many different forms of Soul music- Motown, Northern Soul, deep-southern Soul, and urban Soul ballads. Most of the tracks hover around the 2 minute mark, some under 2 minutes and none over 3 ½ minutes. It plays as a party album. No one would mistake Costello’s music for Disco but this is his most danceable album. Though there is some minor filler, the songs are so short that it doesn’t hinder the flow of the album and there are a ton of Costello classics to keep your ears happy- “New Amsterdam”, “High Fidelity”, “Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down”, “The Imposter” and “Riot Act” to name a few.

    Buy New Amsterdam – Get Happy!!

    Buy New AmsterdamAmazon

    Buy I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down – Get Happy!!

    Buy I Can’t Stand Up For Falling DownAmazon

    81. U2- OCTOBER (1981)
    Buy October (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered] – U2

    Buy October (Deluxe Edition)Amazon

    “October” is the 2nd full length album and by far the least heralded album of the U2’s eighties output. While “October” is minor compared to albums like “The Joshua Tree”, “War” and “The Unforgettable Fire”, it does contain it’s share of U2 standout tracks like live staple and leadoff track “Gloria”, the defiant “I Threw A Brick Through A Window”, and the beautiful and melancholy title track- one of my very favorite U2 songs. There are too many mediocre tracks for “October” to measure up to U2’s classic albums but those three tracks plus others like “Rejoice” and “I Fall Down” allow the album to stand on its own worth- not a misstep but a minor work between their amazing debut “Boy” and their commercial breakthrough “War” two years later.  Hard to believe that this legendary band from Ireland was ever a hungry bunch of upstarts- they were operating on such a high level at the start of their career that even their most minor album deserves a place on this all decade list.

    Buy October – October (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered]

    Buy OctoberAmazon

    Buy Gloria – October (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered]

    Buy GloriaAmazon

  • Top 100 Albums of the 80’s: 71-80

    Buy Scary Monsters – David Bowie

    Buy Scary MonstersAmazon

    “Scary Monsters” was David Bowie’s last great album and also the last in his long line of stellar releases which started in the early seventies. His run between 1971’s “Hunky Dory” and “Scary Monsters” has to be considered one of the best strings of albums in rock history. After Bowie’s Berlin trilogy – a collaboration of experimental and early electronic music with “Low”, “Heroes” and “Lodger” with Brian Eno, “Scary Monsters” saw Bowie returning to more conventional rock n’ roll- his most rock oriented album since 1974’s “Diamond Dogs”. As a result Bowie didn’t really break any new ground with “Monsters”, but being Bowie the album is anything but boring. Bowie re-worked the glam-rock of his earlier records adding some synth sounds learned from his later experimental albums and came up with an updated sound which fit nicely next to the New Wave and post-punk music of the time. Two classics- “Ashes to Ashes” and “Fashion” still see major airplay in the present day, but the album tracks are also more than worthwhile.

    Buy Ashes to Ashes – Scary Monsters

    Buy Ashes To Ashes (1999 Digital Remaster) Amazon

    Buy It’s No Game (Pt. 2) – Scary Monsters

    Buy It’s No Game (Part 2) (1999 Digital Remaster)


    Buy The River – Bruce Springsteen

    Buy The RiverAmazon

    After the impeccably edited one-two punch of 1975’s “Born to Run” and 1978’s “Darkness On the Edge of Town”, “The River” finds Springsteen delivering a deluge of material. Though a theme of the pain & hardships of modern working class life (also addressed on “Darkness”) runs through “The River”, Springsteen peppers the album with upbeat rockers that don’t fit thematically with the rest of the album. Because of this lack of cohesion and a small amount of the lesser tracks being filler, “The River” is not quite able to stand up to Springsteen’s classics albums of the seventies. However, there is so much great material on “The River” that no fan should be without it. The title track and “Independence Day” are two of Springsteen’s best songs and have enough depth to them to build a whole movie around. Springsteen’s first top ten single “Hungry Heart” and the rollicking “Out in the Street” are as tight as any his singles off of “Darkness”. “Fade Away” and “Drive All Night” are two of his most haunting and mournful ballads. There are enough great songs to justify that it’s a double LP/disc length.

    Buy The River – The River

    Buy The RiverAmazon

    Buy Independence Day – The River

    Buy Independence DayAmazon


    Buy Colossal Youth – Young Marble Giants

    Buy Colossal YouthAmazon

    This has to be the quietest punk rock ever made. The Welsh-bred Young Marble Giants make post-punk music stripped down to the bone- guitar, bass, organ & drum machine and hushed female vocals all used sparingly- each note is allowed to breathe with nothing but dead silence between them. “Colossal Youth” is their one and only full length album. All of the space makes their music sound both extremely intimate and rather haunting. They are like the minimalistic flip side of “Pink Flag”- era Wire- stripped down to the barebones but without the fuzzed-out guitars. Current group, the XX are the only band I can think of that sounds remotely similar and they must acknowledge YMG as their most significant influence. For any fan of post-punk music this is an essential purchase. Later reissues of “Colossal Youth” contain the group’s singles and EP’s including their perfect non-album debut single “Final Day”.

    Buy Credit In the Straight World – Colossal Youth (Triple Disc Version)

    Buy Credit In The Straight World (Album)Amazon

    Buy Searching for Mr Right – Colossal Youth (Triple Disc Version)

    Buy Searching For Mr Right (Album)Amazon


    Buy Ghost In the Machine (Remastered) – The Police

    Buy Ghost In The MachineAmazon

    Each of the Police’s five albums is a big jump in musical sophistication from the last and their fourth album “Ghost in the Machine” is no exception. Gone is the reggae-punk of their first two albums, and “Ghost” sounds both jazzier, and more pop than its predecessor “Zenyatta Mondatta”. Sting & co. had updated their sound to employ more synthesizers and an overall sound more forward thinking and in-tune with the new decade. The album spawned three hit singles- “Invisible Sun”, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic”, and “Spirits in the Material World”- the most they had ever had on one album up to that point. These three tracks in my opinion are also the best three tracks on the album. “Ghost’s” commercial success provided a bridge to the worldwide domination they would experience on their next and last album, 1983’s “Synchronicity”. While “Ghost” did have several other great tracks on it such as “Rehumanize Yourself”, and “Demolition Man”, it also contains a fair amount of filler- as does “Synchronicity”. While both are very good albums, neither are the Police’s overall best work.

    Buy Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic – Ghost In the Machine (Remastered)

    Buy Every Little Thing She Does Is MagicAmazon

    Buy Spirits In the Material World – Ghost In the Machine (Remastered)

    Buy Spirits In The Material WorldAmazon


    Buy Thriller – Michael Jackson

    Buy Thriller (25th Anniversary Edition)Amazon

    What more needs to be said about Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”? At this date it is still the single top selling album of all time- not including The Eagles Best of Volume 1 which is a compilation anyway unlike the world dominating “Thriller”.   When “Thriller” came out it was the closest thing to Elvis or Beatlemania that my generation could have experienced. Every single person I knew my age loved it and MJ himself. The album spawned seven top ten singles, including two #’s in “Billie Jean” and “Beat It”, the putrid “The Girl is Mine”- with Paul McCartney peaked at no. 2. Only two tracks on the whole album were not released as singles. The album was on the charts for well over two years and Jackson broke the color barrier with MTV as the first black artist to receive regular video rotation on the new channel. He also set a new standard for video artistry with the “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and especially the 20 minute “Thriller” videos. As great as “Thriller is, in retrospect his album “Off the Wall” from 1979 was an overall better album and Jackson would gradually lose his mojo with each subsequent release after “Thriller”. Still certain songs like “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” and to a lesser extent “P.Y.T.” and “Human Nature” are certainly stone cold classics and though I’m not wild about the title track its universal appeal is pretty undeniable. Though I think “Thriller’s” overall impact trumps its actual artistry and a few songs are overrated to downright annoying, a 6 songs out of 9 batting average is nothing to sneeze at.

    Buy Billie Jean – Thriller (25th Anniversary, Zombie Cover)

    Buy Billie Jean (Single Version)

    Buy Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ – Thriller (25th Anniversary, Zombie Cover)

    Buy Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’Amazon


    Buy Born In the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen

    Buy Born In The U.S.A.Amazon

    The Boss’s concession to his record company after they agreed to let him release his stark, all acoustic, anti-commercial album “Nebraska” in 1982 was that he would pull out all of the commercial stops for his follow-up. And “Born in the U.S.A.” delivers that in spades- in the year of the blockbuster album “U.S.A.” delivered seven top 40 singles and became the biggest commercial success of Springsteen’s career, even eclipsing “Born to Run”. Though Springsteen was already a huge success, “U.S.A.” made him a household name- not just with music fans but with the squares as well. Many hardcore Boss fans (or music fans in general) chastise this album for being over-produced and too commercial. I do find its production very dated and annoying- particularly the sound of the drums and keyboards- and it just about ruins some otherwise well-written songs like “Glory Days” and the title track. For that reason “Born in the U.S.A.” is not one of my favorite Springsteen albums, but the amount of great songs on the album more than qualifies the album as a very worthy release. #1 hit “Dancing in the Dark” may be an extremely commercial pop song but it’s also a wonderfully and tightly written one. Other singles like “Cover Me” and “I’m Goin’ Down” are underrated gems, and steamy ballad “I’m On Fire” is simply one of the best things the Boss ever recorded. Album tracks “No Surrender” and “Bobby Jean” are stellar tracks as well. If you grew up hating this album, please give it another listen with open ears.

    Buy I’m On Fire – Born In the U.S.A.

    Buy I’m On Fire Amazon

    Buy No Surrender – Born In the U.S.A.

    Buy No SurrenderAmazon


    Buy Hex Enduction Hour (Deluxe Edition) – The Fall

    Buy Hex Enduction HourAmazon

    “Hex Induction Hour” was the Fall’s last truly punk rock album, ending the fist period of the band which had initiated with the group’s first singles in 1977/78. After “Hex Induction” they softened up slightly for their impressive run of mid eighties albums featuring Fall leader Mark E. Smith’s wife Brix. Though many of their albums are impressive, and they have great songs scattered throughout their career, I think that “Hex Induction” is the single best album to start with for those interested in the early years of the Fall. The most notable traits of the band are all here- the relentless industrial pounding of the band (including two drummers (!!) ) that somehow maintains a hookiness and swing despite the dissonant racket.  And Smith’s trademark acerbic misanthropy is present as well and never seems to be a put-on- this guy really does seem to hate everything and everybody. For anyone really angry at the world check out mister Mark E. Smith.  Three stone cold Fall classics are here as well- “Fortress/Deer Park”, “Hip Priest” and “The Classical” are all among the band’s best tracks.

    Buy Fortress / Deer Park – Hex Enduction Hour (Deluxe Edition)

    Buy Fortress / Deer ParkAmazon

    Buy The Classical – Hex Enduction Hour (Deluxe Edition)

    Buy The Classical Amazon

    73. NEW ORDER- TECHNIQUE (1989)

    Buy Technique – New Order

    Buy Technique Amazon

    “Technique” is to my ears New Order’s last classic album release and an album where they truly updated their sound as a response to the acid-house/baggy movement happening in their native U.K. It was the most startling transformation the band had made since they changed their name from Joy Division to being New Order after lead singer Ian Curtis’s suicide in 1980. While the band had always been the very best kind of hybrid between dance music and post-punk, “Technique” was the first time when the dance side of the band truly seemed to be winning.  Though more rock-oriented tracks like “Run” and “Love Less” are more subtle updates of their signature sound,  “Fine Time” and “Vanishing Point”, in particular are club smashes and truly made for the dawn of the new decade. New Order had managed to satisfy their old fans while catering to a whole generation of new ones.

    Buy Vanishing Point – Technique

    Buy Vanishing PointAmazon

    Buy Fine Time – Technique

    Buy Fine TimeAmazon


    Buy Power, Corruption & Lies (Collector’s Edition) – New Order

    Buy Power, Corruption & Lies [Collector’s Edition]

    Though every eighties New Order is a worthwhile listen, 1983’s “Power, Corruption & Lies”, is probably the best of the lot. Each of their albums contains at least 1 or 2 all time dance classics and this album is no exception- it has both “Age of Consent”, and their signature track “Blue Monday”, but what makes the album truly standout is how it flows together as a whole. Its influence is also incalculable as it was the first album to merge post-punk with dance music. Though the band dipped its toes in the water with their debut “Movement” is 1981, that album was really only slightly more danceable than the lighter aspects of their former band Joy Division. Where “Movement” was cautious, “PC&L” went full steam ahead and a sub-genre was born. Anytime you hear a modern day dance-rock hybrid track it has very likely taken something from this album.

    Buy Blue Monday (12″ Version) – Power, Corruption & Lies (Collector’s Edition)

    Buy Blue MondayAmazon

    Buy Age of Consent – Power, Corruption & Lies (Collector’s Edition)

    Buy Age Of Consent Amazon


    Buy Speaking In Tongues (Remastered) – Talking Heads

    Buy Speaking In Tongues Amazon

    “Speaking in Tongues” is a strangely unappreciated album by a band has seen its fair share of critical accolades. Prior to 1983, the Heads were the brainiest of the original bands from the New York City CBGB’s punk scene, a band that had already achieved a few left-field pop hits, but also one of THE most critically acclaimed bands of the late 70’s/early 80’s. But with the general public they didn’t become common knowledge until “Speaking in Tongues” and it’s breakthrough single “Burning Down the House”- the band’s first to hit the top ten of the singles chart. Elsewhere on the album, you had the beautiful “This Must be the Place (Naïve Melody)” used famously in the movie “Wall Street” as well as the gospel influenced “Swamp” and “Slippery People” and other should be hit singles “Girlfriend is Better” and “Making Flippy Floppy”. For a lesser band this would have been their signature album but for the Talking Heads it barely cracks the top five. That said they would never make another album quite this good again, though their follow-up “Little Creatures” certainly has its merits.

    Buy This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) – Speaking In Tongues (Remastered)

    Buy This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (Album Version)

    Buy Burning Down the House – Speaking In Tongues (Remastered)

    Buy Burning Down The House (Remastered LP Version )Amazon

  • Top 100 Albums of the 80’s: 61-70


    Buy Tattoo You (Remastered) – The Rolling Stones

    Buy Tattoo YouAmazon

    In my opinion “Tattoo You” is the last great Stones album. Many give that credit “Some Girls” from 1978 or even “Exile on Main Street” from 1972, but I feel “Tattoo You” deserves to be included in that company as well. One reason that it’s relatively underrated is that it’s primarily made up of leftover scraps from various Stones album sessions throughout the seventies, but scraps or not the album is full of great songs and actually sounds cohesive. Side 1 has the rockin’ tracks including biggest hit and concert staple “Start Me Up”, along with the blistering “Hang Fire” and one of Keith Richards best tracks “Little T&A”, but it’s Side 2 that really shines. The side is made up of five Stones ballads including, in my opinion, one of their very best songs “Waiting On a Friend” and the beautiful, relatively unknown “Worried About You”. After 1981 the Stones would never again make an album even a third as good but “Tattoo You” was another notch in the belt of an amazing career full of them.

    Buy Waiting On a Friend – Tattoo You (Remastered)

    Buy Waiting On A FriendAmazon

    Buy Hang Fire – Tattoo You (Remastered)

    Buy Hang Fire Amazon


    Buy You’re Living All Over Me – Dinosaur Jr.

    Buy You’re Living All Over Me Amazon

    Along with Husker Du (courtesy of Bob Mould), Amherst, Ma.-bred Dinosaur Jr. was probably the most responsible in bringing the electric guitar to indie-rock. Dinosaur Jr. leader, J. Mascis, is a magnificent shredder in the tradition of Neil Young with his Crazy Horse band.  It’s tough to come up with D Jr. singular album moment as their greatest moments are spread out throughout their career on various albums, EP’s and singles but “You’re Living All Over Me” is as close to they come to a definitive statement (though the band has come close to matching its quality with two albums made in the past five years). “Living” was their second album release, after the lukewarm Dinosaur, and really took the band to the forefront of indie-rock during its incredibly fertile period in the late 80’s, just before alternative would dominate the commercial landscape of rock music. Though the band plays extremely loud, and Mascis’s nasally whine of a voice wouldn’t exactly play on American Idol, their songs stick to fairly conventional song structures- making their music closer to punk rock than their more experimental peers like Sonic Youth. As a result Mascis & co.brought sing along anthems for the disaffected masses, and helped lay serious groundwork for the early 90’s alt revolution.

    Buy Little Fury Things – You’re Living All Over Me

    Buy Little Fury ThingsAmazon

    Buy In a Jar – You’re Living All Over Me

    Buy In a JarAmazon


    Buy Underwater Moonlight – The Soft Boys

    Buy Underwater MoonlightAmazon

    The Soft Boys were a post-punk band from Cambridge, England who predated and heavily influenced American eighties jangle pop groups like R.E.M., The Posies, The Replacements, all of the groups in the L.A. Paisley Underground scene and Teenage Fanclub in the U.K. Their sound was ahead of its time so they were neither well-known nor commercially successful during their main run in the late seventies and early eighties. “Underwater Moonlight” is the only full length album I own by the Soft Boys but it’s a straight up masterpiece. For anyone who likes R.E.M. or the mid sixties psychedelic folk rock offerings by the Beatles and the Byrds, or righteous power-pop like Big Star, the Raspberries and Badfinger then please check this out. And opening track “I Wanna Destroy You” is simply one of the best rock songs ever made. Lead singer Robyn Hitchcock, a clever and quirky lyricist, would go on to have a long solo career after the Soft Boys disbanded- critically acclaimed if not wildly commercially successful.

    Buy I Wanna Destroy You – Underwater Moonlight

    Buy I Wanna Destroy YouAmazon

    Buy Kingdom of Love – Underwater Moonlight

    Buy Kingdom Of LoveAmazon

    67. DURAN DURAN- RIO (1982)

    Buy Rio (Remastered) – Duran Duran

    Buy Rio (2001 Remaster)Amazon

    Duran Duran allowed me to form a bond with girls in the 6th grade. While most of my buddies were ragging on the British pretty boys, practically every girl I knew was screaming their heads off for them. While I’m the first to say that tween girls have very dubious taste in music- New Kids on the Block anyone?- in this case they were right! Along with “Thriller” & bands like the Police, Duran Duran ruled the music world in the early 80’s. The band only released three studio albums with its original lineup (Lebon, Rhodes, Taylors X 3) and 1982’s “Rio” was by far the best of the lot, their only album that stand as more than a handful of great singles and a collection of filler. It was also the album that truly broke the band worldwide with the help of state of the art videos for hit singles “Hungry Like the Wolf” and the immortal title track. The album also contains the band’s best ballad “Save a Prayer” along with amazing deep cuts like “The Chauffeur”, “My Own Way” and “Hold Back the Rain”. For anyone who says Duran Duran is nothing but fluff play this album for them.  It still stand the test of time.

    Buy Rio – Rio (Remastered)

    Buy Rio (2009 Digital Remaster) Amazon

    Buy The Chauffeur – Rio (Collectors Edition) [Remastered]

    Buy The Chauffeur (2009 Digital Remaster) Amazon

    66. PRINCE- DIRTY MIND (1980)

    Buy Dirty Mind – Prince

    Buy Dirty Mind [Explicit]Amazon

    “Dirty Mind” was the purple genius’s third album and his first great one. Though he had managed a few great tracks in the late seventies like “Soft and Wet” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, “Dirty Mind” was where all of his early promise was able to flourish across an entire album. At eight tracks and under 30 minutes long it was all killer no filler and the first album to combine modern funk and R&B with pop & New Wave. The main focus of the album was sex and Prince was very upfront about it. “When You Were Mine” is about a threesome with his girlfriend and another guy, “Sister” is about incest, “Head” is about well…head, and “Do It All Night” and “Dirty Mind” don’t leave much to the imagination either. Though it was only really a hit with critics and in the R&B world, “Dirty Mind”, paved the way for Prince’s massive commercial successes to come in “1999” and “Purple Rain”.  And more than just a building block to his future triumphs “Dirty Mind” still stands on its own because of its singular sound- Prince himself would never again replicate it.

    Fun fact- early eighties superstar Cyndi Lauper covered the most well-known song on the album, “When You Were Mine”, on her debut 1983 album “She’s So Unusual”.

    Buy When You Were Mine – Dirty Mind

    Buy When You Were Mine (LP Version) Amazon

    Buy Dirty Mind – Dirty Mind

    Buy Dirty Mind (LP Version)Amazon


    Buy The Great Adventures of Slick Rick – Slick Rick

    Buy The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick [Explicit]Amazon

    It’s safe to say that for better or for worse there certainly wouldn’t be a Snoop Dogg without Slick Rick. Rick, originally known as Ricky D., and famous in the rap world for duets with Doug E. Fresh on the two classic old school tracks “La-Di-Da-Di” and “The Show”, has a distinct, slowed down rap flow complete with a British accent. Especially at the time Slick Rick stood out for everyone else in rap- no one sounded anything like him, with the exception of rapper Dana Dane who straight up bit Rick’s flow soon thereafter to lesser notoriety. “Great Adventures” was his first full length release and is one of the pantheon of 1988 rap classics- ’88 is deservedly widely regarded as the greatest year in the history of rap. “Great Adventures” is stylistically all over the map varying between thoughtful life lessons like “Children’s Story”, “Hey Young World” & “Teenage Love” to over the top sexual tracks like “Treat Her Like a Prostitute”, “Lick the Balls”, and “Indian Girl (An Adult Story)”.   Some of his lyrics can come off as embarrassingly misogynistic though mostly in a cartoonish way- there doesn’t appear to be any real malevolence there.  As tough as some of those tracks are to listen to as an adult Slick Rick’s superior flow, unique wit & amazing gift for storytelling ultimately carries the day. Though he never matched the quality and commercial success of his debut album ever again Slick Rick is still considered a legendary and unique figure in the rap world.

    Buy Children’s Story – The Great Adventures of Slick Rick

    Buy Children’s Story [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Hey Young World – The Great Adventures of Slick Rick

    Buy Hey Young World [Explicit]Amazon


    Buy Criminal Minded (Deluxe Version) – Boogie Down Productions

    Buy Criminal Minded [Explicit]Amazon

    South Bronx’s Boogie Down Productions were pioneers in both conscious rap and gangsta rap laying the groundwork for the two most dominant forms of rap music of the early nineties.  Combining the two forms BDP was a far cry from the hedonistic gangsta rap of groups like N.W.A. heard just a year or so later.  Though they dealt with violent imagery their main concern was showing its consequences and stark realities rather than celebrating it.  BDP, and their leader, KRS-One- one of the most thoughtful and lyrical of the early MC’s, were hyper political and shone a light on ghetto life while working to expose of hypocrisy of the ruling powers. The production on “Criminal Minded” was barebones but heavy hitting- similar to that of early Run-DMC, matching their subject matter perfectly. BDP’s first two albums are both classics (the second being 1988’s “By All Means Necessary”) but “Criminal Minded” is slightly better boasting timeless rap tracks like “South Bronx”, “The Bridge is Over”, “9mm Goes Bang” and the title track. This album, along with early efforts by Public Enemy would usher in rap’s golden era which lasted through the early nineties.

    Buy Criminal Minded – Criminal Minded

    Buy Criminal Minded [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Bridge Is Over – Criminal Minded

    Buy The Bridge Is Over [Explicit]Amazon


    Buy Isn’t Anything – My Bloody Valentine

    Buy Isn’t AnythingAmazon

    Though Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine would rise to its greatest heights with 1991’s “Loveless”, “Isn’t Anything” is a damn great album in its own right.  Along with “Psychocandy” by the Jesus & Mary Chain, “Isn’t Anything” helped launch the  ‘Shoegaze’ movement in the U.K.- power rock bent with noise and distortion with a majestic beauty at its heart. And nobody did it better than My Bloody Valentine. “Isn’t Anything” was actually MBV’s second full length album after an unsuccessful and still for the most part unknown debut album in 1985. The production on “Isn’t Anything” is a bit more stripped down and geared more toward dream pop than on “Loveless”, but is still miles away from anything else that any band was doing at the time. The softly sung, and sometimes barely there female vocals create an ethereal vibe amidst all of the chaos. If you are at all a fan of “Loveless”, psychedelic music, distortion or dream pop you must check this album out. Later in ’88 MBV released the EP “You Made Me Realise” which was another step forward for the band and also well worth a purchase (thanks Phil!)

    Buy Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside) – Isn’t Anything

    Buy Soft As Snow [But Warm Inside] Amazon

    Buy (When You Wake) You’re Still In a Dream – Isn’t Anything

    Buy (When You Wake) You’re Still In A DreamAmazon

    62. THE HUMAN LEAGUE- DARE! (1981)

    Buy Dare – The Human League

    Buy Dare!Amazon

    Bristol, England’s Human League were the first synth-pop International superstars. They began in the late seventies as more of a post-punk offshoot with synths but refined their sound for their signature album, 1981’s “Dare!”,  just in time to both influence on and be one of the plethora of early 80’s synth-pop bands. Not only were the Human League the most popular of the acts, they were certainly also one of the very best. Most Americans only know the #1 smash hit “Don’t You Want Me” and perhaps the lesser hit “Love Action” from this album, but tracks like “Seconds” and “The Things that Dreams Are Made of” are just as good. Whereas many of the other New Romantic & Synth Pop of that era are now regarded as embarrassing relics of the time, the Human League and “Dare!” still sound just as good today.  “Dare!” would become a major influence on other amazing synth-influenced groups like Yaz, Depeche Mode & New Order.

    Buy Don’t You Want Me – The Very Best of the Human League

    Buy Don’t You Want Me (2002 Remaster)Amazon

    Buy The Things That Dreams Are Made Of – Dare

    Buy The Things That Dreams Are Made Of (2002 Digital Remaster)Amazon >


    Buy Learning to Crawl (Remastered) – Pretenders

    Buy Learning To Crawl [Expanded]Amazon

    Not so much an album, as a composite of previously released singles, the Pretenders 3rd full length still deserves a place right behind their perfect debut album due to the sheer quality of the tracks on it. After the heartbreaking and unfortunate drug-induced deaths of lead guitarist (and criminally underrated) James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon, lead Pretender Chrissie Hynde was forced to revamp the band with a vastly different lineup. The new lineup frankly couldn’t touch the inventiveness and spunk of the original, but again with stone classics like the scorching ode to midlife crisis “Middle of the Road”, the heartfelt lament to the urban decay of Hynde’s Ohio hometown “My City was Gone”, the touching tribute to her former band members “Back on the Chain Gang” and “2000 Miles”- about being without the one you love the most during the holiday season, it was impossible to dismiss “Learning to Crawl. All four are some of the best songs Hynde would ever write and album tracks like “Show Me” and “Time the Avenger” were excellent as well. Though a few tracks are filler most bands would be proud to call this their best album much less their second best.

    Buy Middle of the Road – Learning to Crawl (Remastered)

    BuyMiddle Of The RoadAmazon

    Buy My City Was Gone – Learning to Crawl (Remastered)

    Buy My City Was Gone (2007 Remastered LP Version)Amazon

  • Top 100 Albums of the 80’s: 51-60

    60. BAD BRAINS- BAD BRAINS (1982)

    Buy Bad Brains – Bad Brains

    Buy Bad Brains [Explicit]Amazon

    Washington D.C.’s Bad Brains were simply one of a kind. An African-American hardcore group who alternated between punk songs and reggae songs- and I don’t mean reggae-inflected punk songs- I’m talking true reggae songs. And unlike the majority of their peers in the punk world at the time, Bad Brains were expert musicians. Their self-titled debut album is both their best and their most raw.  The punk songs are played at blinding speed in one to two minute spurts. Their debut single, the classic “Pay to Cum” is included as well as other hardcore classics like “Banned in D.C.”, “Sailing On”, and “The Big Takeover”, which any fan of the Beastie Boy’s “Check Your Head” will surely recognize.  The reggae songs are chilled out without a hint of punk aggression- it’s like two different bands play on this album.  “Bad Brains” is often dubbed the best East-coast 1st wave hardcore album of all time and I’m not one to disagree.

    Buy Sailin’ On – Bad Brains
    Buy Sailin’ On [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Big Take Over – Bad Brains
    Buy Big TakeoverAmazon

    Buy Pleased to Meet Me (Expanded Edition) – The Replacements
    Buy Pleased To Meet Me [Expanded Edition]Amazon

    “Pleased to Meet Me” is the fifth full-length and last absolute classic album that the quartet of gifted wastrels from Minneapolis released . It was the Mats’ second major label release.  Their major label debut, 1985’s “Tim” had raised the band’s profile considerably giving them more toys at their disposal in the studio. Though I don’t think “Pleased” hold up quite as well as “Tim” or its preceding album “Let it Be”, it still offers its share of musical delights- while moving more toward a pop friendly sound “Pleased” manages maintains the Mats’ ramshackle vibe. “Can’t Hardly Wait” was their most pop offering yet it neither charted nor sold them out- the fact that singer-songwriter/frontman Paul Westerberg could write such a concise pop song while keeping the quality level as high as any of his best work shows exemplifies his huge songwriting talent.  If a song this good and this accessible couldn’t break the band big in the mainstream then they were obviously just way ahead of their time.   Other disc favorites include “Alex Chilton”, Westerberg’s fan letter to the Big Star frontman and major Mats’ influence, the beautiful “Skyway”, one of their loveliest ballads, and lesser known but still stellar tracks like “The Ledge” and “Nevermind”.

    Buy Alex Chilton – Pleased to Meet Me (Expanded Edition)
    Buy Alex ChiltonAmazon

    Buy Can’t Hardly Wait – Pleased to Meet Me (Expanded Edition)
    Buy Can’t Hardly WaitAmazon

    Buy This Nation’s Saving Grace – The Fall
    Buy This Nation’s Saving Grace (Expanded Edition)Amazon

    The Fall have about a million albums and their track highlights are spread out all over the place.  I’m resigned to the likelihood that I’ll never hear all of their albums but from what I’ve heard so far “This Nation’s Saving Grace” is the very best album is their discography. It was recorded during the third major phase of the band, after their initial pure punk early singles, and the still furious ‘Step Forward’ years in the early 80’s. It was the third straight album with Mark E. Smith love interest Brix Smith who had a very notable impact on the band- she made them much more synth-driven and accessible. Important Fall tracks like “Bombast”, “I Am Damo Suzuki” and “Spoilt Victorian Child” are here but buyers please note- only the American release includes the two best tracks on the album- the U.K. ’85 singles “Cruiser’s Creek”, and “Couldn’t Get Ahead” (a perfect song to play after the onset of parenthood!). Again The Fall’s discography can be quite intimidating. Besides a worthy best of, “This Nation’s Saving Grace” is the best place to start.

    Buy Couldn’t Get Ahead – This Nation’s Saving Grace
    Buy Couldn’t Get AheadAmazon

    Buy Cruisers Creek – This Nation’s Saving Grace
    Buy Cruiser’s CreekAmazon

    Buy Shoot Out the Lights – Richard & Linda Thompson
    Buy Shoot Out The LightsAmazon

    “Shoot Out the Lights” is one of the classic break-up albums of all time. Richard & Linda were like an underground version of “Rumours”-era a couple falling apart at the seems creating a document of their crumbling marriage. This is a late night record- please don’t play at the park on a sunny day- every song on it wreaks of sadness, anger and desperation. But behind all of the morbidity you can also find much truth, beauty and understanding. For such a downer of an album it was ironic that it gave the couple their breakthrough and greatest fame in America- while not selling in huge numbers, it topped many critic’s lists in 1982 and gave Richard Thompson, in particular, a cult following that he still enjoys to this day. Like Neil Young, he is both capable of beautiful acoustic guitar playing as well as incendiary soloing- though he is a far more proficient technician on the instrument than Young. Richard & Linda’s swan-song as a couple and as a musical pair is a fantastic place to check him out.

    Buy Shoot Out the Lights – Shoot Out the Lights
    Buy Shoot Out The Lights (Album Version)Amazon

    Buy Don’t Renege On Our Love – Shoot Out the Lights
    Buy Don’t Renege On Our Love (Album Version)Amazon

    56. R.E.M.- LIFE’S RICH PAGEANT (1986)
    Buy Lifes Rich Pageant – R.E.M.

    Buy Life’s Rich PageantAmazon

    In R.E.M.’s great and vast discography “Life’s Rich Pageant” is often overlooked. It was not part of their classic and hugely influential early jangle pop releases like “Chronic Town EP”, “Murmur” and “Reckoning”, nor was it part of their commercial ascendancy, which happened with albums like “Document”, “Green” and especially “Out of Time”. Strangely enough in the late 80’s when I was first getting into R.E.M., “Pageant” was the first album I had heard by them & I loved it. I was annoyed at the hit singles like “The One I Love”, “Orange Crush” and “Stand” and not yet heard anything from those brilliant early releases, but I was lucky enough to have a friend to me on them. The opening four songs- “Begin the Begin”, “These Days”, the beautiful “Fall on Me” and “Cuyahoga” are pound for pound as good a lineup as any other in R.E.M.’s discography and while the album is unable to maintain that pace or quality there are other highlights to be had as well. “Hyena”, “I Believe” and eccentric ballad “Swan Swan H” may not be upper echelon R.E.M. tracks but they fill out the album nicely. Last track (the Mike Mills sung) “Superman” is a standout and has always been a fan favorite. Only a few filler tracks keeps “Life’s Rich Pageant” from being as classic as R.E.M.’s very best albums but it still stands out as a great introduction to one of my very favorite bands of all time.

    Buy Begin The Begin – Lifes Rich Pageant

    Buy Begin The BeginAmazon

    Buy Fall On Me – Lifes Rich Pageant

    Buy Fall On Me Amazon

    Buy Master of Puppets – Metallica

    Buy Master Of PuppetsAmazon

    Though it wouldn’t be until the next album that Metallica scored their first top 40 and MTV video hit, and the album after that before they achieved worldwide commercial domination, Metallica’s third album, “Master of Puppets”, was the album that really put the band on the map outside the insular thrash metal circle. “Puppets” set a new standard in Heavy Metal, bringing speed/thrash metal to the metal mainstream while that same mainstream was in many ways trending toward the softer, more commercial sound of hairbands like Poison, Whitesnake, Dokken & Bon Jovi. Though the album did prove to be their most commercially successful album to date, and received critical props unheard of for any other metal records at the time, it relied on no big singles or any videos at all and most of the tracks on the album were upwards of five minutes.  Metallica was able to reach this kind of popularity without compromise. I wish they would have minded those lessons better on their later releases. While every track on the album is worthwhile, Metallica classics like the opener “Battery”, the 8 ½ minute title track and the slower “(Welcome Home) Sanitarium” stand out above the rest and are three of the band’s very best songs.

    Buy Master of Puppets – Master of Puppets

    Buy Master Of Puppets Amazon

    Buy Welcome Home (Sanitarium) – Master of Puppets

    Buy Welcome Home (Sanitarium)Amazon

    Buy Ride the Lightning – Metallica

    Buy Ride The LightningAmazon

    The best Metallica album is a really tough call. The first three albums are all classics and the fourth offers its share of triumphs as well.  But I put “Ride the Lightning”, the band’s second album, at the top by a nose.  The band showed major growth between “Kill ‘Em All” and “Ride the Lightning”, particularly in the songwriting department. Though the band pretty much invented the thrash metal genre with “Kill ‘Em All”, and the instrumentation and riffing on that album was stellar, the lyrics were mostly one note- lacking any deep meaning. “Ride the Lightning” is a concept album about different fears and phobias- all involving eventual death- by electrocution, suicide, war, disease, asphyxiation, and the grim reaper himself. Now what’s more ‘Metal!’ than that! Metallica also took their ambition to another level on “Lightning”, crafting major epics out of over half of the songs. “Kill ‘Em All” did have some lengthy tracks but there was far less musical sophistication and the tracks frankly felt less epic.  “Fade to Black”, the band’s first ballad, was perhaps their first major musical achievement- it’s still my favorite Metallica track.   They showed that slowing a track down, and using some acoustic guitar didn’t lessen the music’s power one bit.  Again, I wish they would have thought of that while recording “Nothing Else Matters”.

    Buy Fade to Black – Ride the Lightning

    Buy Fade To Black (LP Version)Amazon

    Buy For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ride the Lightning

    Buy For Whom The Bell Tolls (LP Version)Amazon

    *Album not available via iTunes or Amazon

    After two failed albums in the early eighties, country-rock singer songwriter took a full eight years to produce her third self-titled album. Though the album was not a commercial success, it was an immediate critical success and influenced many of her musician peers. Lucinda herself is influenced by female early alt-country pioneers like Emmylou Harris and Rosanne Cash. She was born and bred in the rural deep south and sings in a heavy southern twang, but she bring just as much rock n’ roll to the table as she does country. Her attention to detail as a writer is almost without peer and while she doesn’t have a traditional pretty singing voice the listener hangs on her every note- she is an expert at expressing emotion through her voice, particularly longing and pain. Two of the best tracks on this album were covered by more famous musicians- “Passionate Kisses” by Mary Chapin Carpenter and “Changed the Locks” by Tom Petty, which raised Williams’ profile considerably though it would be another 4 years before she, an infamous perfectionist, would release another album with 1992’s nearly as good “Sweet Old World”.

    Buy Passionate Kisses – Cosmic Cabin Memories

    Buy Passionate KissesAmazon

    *Not available via iTunes

    Buy I Just Wanted To See You So BadAmazon

    Buy Double Nickels On the Dime – Minutemen

    Buy Double Nickels On The Dime [Explicit] Amazon

    “Double Nickels On the Dime” is an anomaly not only in the genre of punk but in rock music overall. It is a double album- nearly 80 minutes long, made up of 44 songs (43 on the cd), nearly all under 2 minutes. But these songs aren’t your typical one note hardcore- these guys could really play. Guitarist D. Boon was one of the best shredders in indie rock outside of Dr. Know of Bad Brains and perhaps Bob Mould of Husker Du- the Minutemen’s main competition. Bassist Mike Watt and drummer George Hurley were also both expert players on their instruments enabling the band to blend elements of other genres into their punk rock screeds. Despite the band’s songwriting and musicality they were recording extremely lo-fi with almost no budget and very limited distribution so anyone into the Minutemen had to be very in the know. They wore their political idealism on their sleeves doing everything themselves- the epitome of truly living the punk rock lifestyle. Almost 30 years later this album continues to influence though it still only appeals to a small cult of people. “Nickels” is still the band’s definitive statement and actually the only album by them that I have ever heard- most of their catalog remains hard to obtain.

    *any fan of the show “Jackass” will surely recognize their track “Corona” as it’s the theme song.  Cool points for Johnny Knoxville I guess…

    Buy Corona – Double Nickels On the Dime

    Buy Corona [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy History Lesson Part 2 – Double Nickels On the Dime

    Buy History Lesson Part 2 [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Strictly Business – EPMD

    Buy Strictly Business [Explicit]Amazon

    Long Island’s EPMD were the unsung heroes of rap’s class of ’88. They were neither political like Public Enemy or BDP nor lyrically groundbreaking like Slick Rick, N.W.A. or Eric B & Rakim. In fact rap duo Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith each rapped in a monotone style, trading rhymes essentially about being better than other rappers and bragging about their own sexual conquests. But with EPMD the whole was more than equal to the sum of its parts. Rather than rapping over the skeletal drum beats like Run-DMC or LL Cool J, or the James Brown samples all over rap during that time, EPMD focused on bass heavy funk & soul music from the 1970’s laying the way for Dr. Dre’s mellow G-Funk rap sound so dominant in the early 90’s. Their debut album “Strictly Business” was devoid of filler unlike so many rap releases at the time- even many of the classics. You can put the album on from start to finish- perfect for a party or just groovin’. It remains a very underrated rap classic to this day. EPMD stayed a model of consistency- releasing four more very good albums in the late eighties and early nineties, even achieving a few commercial successes. Nothing would come close to equaling the quality or impact of their debut however.

    Buy You Gots To Chill – Strictly Business

    BuyYou Gots To Chill [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Strictly Business – Strictly Business

    Buy Strictly Business [Explicit]Amazon

  • Top 100 Albums of the 80’s: 41-50

    50. HUSKER DU- ZEN ARCADE (1984)

    *Not available via iTunes

    Buy Zen Arcade Amazon

    Along with the previously mentioned “Double Nickels On A Dime” by the Minutemen, “Zen Arcade” was the most ambitious album ever attempted by a band in the 80’s indie-rock underground scene. On their first few albums, Minneapolis’s Husker Du played blistering, rapid-fire hardcore punk- mostly tuneless stuff with one song blending into the next. “Zen Arcade” was an incredible leap forward for the band- not only was it more tuneful and song-oriented but it was also more experimental. In between future indie-punk anthems like “Pink Turns to Blue”, “Something I Learned Today”, and “What’s Going On”, are acoustic ballads, tape loop experiments, noisy thrash & psychedelia. The album is not a barrel of laughs- it is filled with political diatribes, and laments to pain, anguish & lovesickness. Husker Du had re-written the rules for what an indie band in the eighties could do. They would go on to have a huge influence on bands like Nirvana- noisy as hell bands that always hid a great melody underneath all of the racket.

    *Tracks not available via iTunes

    Buy What’s Going OnAmazon

    Buy Pink Turns To BlueAmazon

    49. VAN HALEN- 1984 (1984)

    Buy 1984 – Van Halen

    Buy 1984Amazon

    “1984” is often unfairly maligned by old school metalheads as the band’s first sell-out album due to the big pop crossover hits “Jump” and “Hot for Teacher”.  It certainly is the last great Van Halen album before they descended  into the awfulness of the Sammy Hagar years. But more than that “1984”  was a hell of an album- is at least the 2nd best album release of the band’s career, deferring to their self-titled debut. It took the band to much greater commercial heights due mostly to the aforementioned “Jump and “Hot for Teacher” singles and iconic videos  as well as the hard rockin’ “Panama”  and icy ballad “I’ll Wait” which all charted. Though the band had used synths before, they were never as obvious as on “Jump”. But let’s face it- “Jump” and the rest of the above singles are damn good songs and the much of the forgotten “filler” on “1984” is even better. “Drop Dead Legs” has as mighty a guitar riff as any song in the Van Halen canon. “Top Jimmy” is good fun and “House of Pain” and “Girl Gone Bad” are monsters- they are two of the band’s heaviest songs.  There is not a single filler track in the bunch- “1984” deserved its commercial success but also deserves a critical re-evaluation.

    Buy Panama – 1984

    Buy Panama Amazon

    Buy Girl Gone Bad – 1984

    Buy Girl Gone Bad Amazon

    48. MADONNA- MADONNA (1983)

    Buy Madonna – Madonna

    Buy Madonna (Bonus Tracks)Amazon

    This is the one and only album that Madonna made before she was a star.  She hit the ground running with her debut album and never looked back.  “Madonna” grew her profile considerably setting the change for the world domination she achieved her her next album “Like A Virgin”.  As opposed to the more pop driven “Virgin”, “Madonna” was very indebted to the New York City dance scene that helped form her musically and image-wise in the earliest eighties. Madonna delivered three huge pop hits- her first top 40 pop hit, the enduring “Holiday”, “Lucky Star”-her first memorable video, and my favorite “Borderline”.  But after that are dance club only “hits” like the awesome “Everybody” and the white rock dance-rock track “Burnin’ Up”. Five out of eight songs on the album are classics with the very good “Physical Attraction” just away from classic status. Despite some more minor league filler, Madonna’s first album is still my favorite. She has made many great songs since and a few near-great to great albums but I don’t think she ever bettered her debut.

    Buy Borderline – Madonna

    Buy Borderline Amazon

    Buy Burning Up – Madonna

    Buy Burning UpAmazon

    47. ERIC B & RAKIM- PAID IN FULL (1987)
    Buy Paid In Full (Expanded) – Eric B. & Rakim

    Buy Paid In Full – Platinum Edition Amazon

    Despite never coming close to having a crossover hit, Eric B & Rakim were known as the best DJ/MC team by Hip Hop heads during the golden age of rap. Before Eric B came on the scene the dominant sounds in rap were either spare drumbeats ala Jam Master Jay of Run-DMC and Cut Creator of LL Cool J or the electro sounds of groups like Newcleus and Mantronix. While keeping the music minimal, Eric B took rap in a much funkier direction, musically mining much of the catalog of the godfather of funk, James Brown. And Rakim’s flow was without peer. It wasn’t what he said but how he says it (or as Rakim says “It’s not where ya from it’s where ya at”). His deadpan cadence sounds positively menacing without him uttering so much as a cuss word. After the duo launched their career with the 1986 single “Eric B. Is President”/“My Melody” (both included on this album), they followed with their debut full length- ‘87’s “Paid in Full”. While “Paid” does contain some instrumental tracks to highlight Eric B’s turntable skills which sound a bit dated, they do fit in sonically quite well with the rest of the album so they don’t bog the album down too much. And each of the true lyric songs is an absolute hip hop classic- “Move the Crowd”, “I Know You Got Soul”, the title cut and “I Ain’t No Joke”. These tracks, along with the aforementioned debut two-sided single would really help launch the modern rap sound.

    As a bonus check out the Coldcut remix of the title track called 7 Minutes of Madness included on the reissue of the cd- it’s not to be missed.

    Buy I Know You Got Soul – Paid In Full (Expanded)

    Buy I Know You Got SoulAmazon

    Buy Paid In Full – Paid In Full (Expanded)

    Buy Paid In FullAmazon

    Buy Pretty Hate Machine (2010 Remaster) – Nine Inch Nails

    Buy Pretty Hate Machine [2010 Remaster]Amazon

    Along with Ministry’s “The Mind is A Terrible Thing to Taste”, Trent Reznor’s debut “Pretty Hate Machine” was the first industrial album I ever heard or that ever received any commercial traction. Though “Hate” sounds rather tame now compared to Ministry or Nine Inch Nails later output, I still remember how fresh lead single “Head Like A Hole” sounded in 1990. Along with other bands like Jane’s Addiction, Nine Inch Nails was very responsible for helping to bring outsider music to the masses in the pre-Nirvana mania era. Where “Head Like A Hole” is driven by loud guitars, sounding angry and massive, the majority of “Pretty Hate Machine” is more techno driven- taking its cues from Joy Division and the more somber parts of New Order. Some of the beats are dance-worthy but these are anything but carefree and happy songs. Reznor sounds let down in every song- whether by family, society, love or God. Nearly every song is a winner- the great follow up singles “Terrible Lie” and “Kinda I Want To”, the sexually deviant “Sin” and the minimalistic ballad “Something I Could Never Have”- which is so depressing it comes dangerously close to parody. Many nineties bands would take what Reznor did on this album as a template and would flat out ruin the sound but “Pretty Hate Machine” still stands out as a great album and my favorite Nine Inch Nails release.

    Buy Head Like a Hole – Pretty Hate Machine (2010 Remaster)

    Buy Head Like a HoleAmazon

    Buy Something I Can Never Have – Pretty Hate Machine (2010 Remaster)

    Buy Something I Can Never HaveAmazon

    45. RUN-DMC- RUN-DMC (1984)
    Buy Run-DMC – Run-DMC

    Buy Run DMCAmazon

    Run-DMC  debut was as important to rap as the first Beatles album was to Rock music. It may not even be the group’s best album, but it broke more ground than any other rap album before or since. It is indeed, the first great rap full-length album. Before it rap music was primarily found solely on 7” or 12” singles.  Even the few full albums were slapdash affairs equivalent to many of the rock n’ roll records in the mid 50’s- a few killer and lots of filler.  “Run-DMC” also tread a completely new path for rap both sonically and stylistically. DMC dressed as urban street kids- leather jackets, black hats & Adidas with no laces- the antithesis of the glittery showman outfits worn by most of rap’s earliest stars. DMC’s sound, created by brilliant DJ Jam Master Jay was spare and menacing- with minimal drumbeats and scratching leading the way- again taking them in a totally different direction than the rap that preceded them which was mostly caught up in a post-disco haze, mirroring the sound of the early 80’s funk tracks popular at the time. The album contains the group’s groundbreaking 1983 two-sided single “It’s Like That/Sucker Mc’s” as well as the brilliant “Hard Times”- again aside from “The Message” by Grandmaster FLash & the Furious Five most rap songs were silly, party anthems, but DMC was dead serious. “Rock Box” was the first rap/rock record- incorporating elements of heavy metal guitar beating the Beastie Boys at that game by more than a year. “Jam Master Jay” showcases their DJ to nice effect. A few lesser tracks drag the album down slightly but there is more than enough here to justify this album’s classic status.

    Buy Rock Box – Run-DMC

    Buy Rock BoxAmazon

    Buy Sucker M.C.’s (Krush-Groove 1) – Run-DMC

    Buy Sucker M.C.’s (Krush-Groove 1) Amazon

    44. HUSKER DU- NEW DAY RISING (1985)
    *Not available via iTunes

    Buy New Day Rising Amazon

    After the epic double LP tour de force, “Zen Arcade” what would the Huskers do for a follow up? Well they would release two more (this time separate) albums just a year later – “New Day Rising” (the better of the two) and the also great “Flip Your Lid”. With “New Day Rising” further refined their sound by eliminating most of the experimentation and any of the excess of the previous album and delivered an album filled with short and concise noise-pop songs. The sound of the album was a mixture of late 70’s punk and early 80’s hardcore with sixties psychedelia and jangle pop ala the Nuggets bands and the Byrds thrown in the mix. Behind all of the thin production and white noise is an album filled with catchy hooks & melodies- sometimes it takes a bit of digging to find them but they are there. “New Day Rising” would be an inspiration on all lo-fi power pop bands to follow and to me is the group’s definitive statement.

    Buy Celebrated Summer Amazon

    *Not available on iTunes

    Buy New Day Rising Amazon

    *not available on iTunes


    Buy Imperial Bedroom – Elvis Costello & The Attractions

    Buy Imperial BedroomAmazon

    “Imperial Bedroom” is Costello’s foray into classic tin pan alley pop music, an extension of the jazz & pop flourishes that he had delved into on several tracks on the previous year’s “Trust”, which was his most ambitious & varied album up to that time. “Bedroom” is more of a genre exercise than the eclectic “Trust”, but  it’s also more musically complex and heavily orchestrated than anything he had attempted previously. Though Costello already had several masterpieces under his belt by ’82, but “Imperial Bedroom” cemented his legacy as a “serious musician” both among critics and his peers. Before he was an upstart punk, now he could stand alongside the Paul McCartneys and the Elton Johns of the music world. Only a few tracks on the album are among Costello’s most well known- most notably opening track “Beyond Belief” and “Man Out of Time”, which are both on the short list for his best song ever, but there are other standout tracks on the album like “Shabby Doll”, “Almost Blue”, and “Town Cryer”. “Imperial Bedroom” is a sublime album and of all his post 1980 album it’s my favorite.

    Buy Man Out of Time – Imperial Bedroom

    Buy Man Out Of TimeAmazon

    Buy Beyond Belief – Imperial Bedroom

    Buy Beyond Belief Amazon

    42. THE SMITHS- THE SMITHS (1984)

    Buy The Smiths – The Smiths

    Buy The SmithsAmazon

    Even more than The Cure & New Order the Smiths were the best British band of the eighties. The band’s emergence in 1983 drew a line in the sand between the New Romantics and Synth-Pop bands dominant in the very early eighties and the Brit Pop bands of the early nineties.  The Smiths influenced nearly every British band that came after them. The band was indebted to the jangle pop of R.E.M. & the Byrds but they brought much more to the table than just that- throwing in elements of sixties girl group & pop, 50’s rockabilly and of course 70’s punk. Guitarist Johnny Marr was an expert guitar player, playing understatedly with no solos and not a wasted note but chiming riffs galore. Singer Morrissey was one of the central iconic figures in rock in the U.K. at the time.  Though he was only an underground hero in America at the time his stature has grown tremendously since the 80’s and he’s pretty much a household name in this country now.  He is poetic and morose, misanthropic and constantly challenges societies existing mores- particularly in regards to sexuality and meat-eating- very ahead of his time in both cases as homosexuality and veganism have since gained in public awareness. Their debut album contains both of their first two breakout singles of the prior year- “Hand in Glove” & “This Charming Man”- two of their best songs and indie rock classics. Third single “What Difference Does It Make” is also here in addition to phenomenal album tracks like “Still Ill”, “Pretty Girls Makes Graves” & “Reel Around the Fountain”. To show how amazing and prolific the Smiths were right out of the gate many of their other singles weren’t even included on this set. “Hatful of Hollow” was a collection of singles, b-sides & BBC version of “Smiths” released the same year that is nearly as good as the debut. The only reason it’s not included on this list is because it’s technically a compilation, but check it out- it’s a necessary purchase for any Smiths fan.

    Buy This Charming Man – The Smiths

    Buy This Charming ManAmazon

    Buy Still Ill – The Smiths

    Buy Still IllAmazon

    41. AC/DC- BACK IN BLACK (1980)

    *Not available via iTunes or Amazon

    What more is there to say about “Back in Black”? At this point I have every guitar line committed to memory and “Hells Bells”, “Back in Black”, “You Shook Me All Night Long” and to a lesser extent “Shoot to Thrill” have now been played to death by radio. It’s maybe THE definitive hard rock album of all time and one of the top commercial sellers ever as well- an amazing feat considering the band’s fairly narrow appeal- i.e.- most grandmothers aren’t going to like it but it appears that everyone who has ever liked hard rock owns a copy. Ironically “Back in Black” was recorded with the band’s second vocalist Brian Johnson.  Nothing against Johnson- his vocals fir perfectly with this album, but I’m more of a fan of AC/DCD’s original singer Bon Scott.  I think the majority of AC/DC’s best work was done with Scott in the mid to late 70’s before his untimely death of an alcohol overdose in 1980 just prior to the recording of this album. Yet “Back in Black” is without a doubt AC/DC’s best album- it is the culmination of all of the momentum the band had built up through the 70’s. It contains many of their best songs- certainly their most anthemic songs at least, has their best guitar riffs, great production courtesy of super-producer Mutt Lange, and has absolutely no filler. Brian Johnson, while lacking the charisma of Scott, certainly has a similar vocal, a raw, screeching banshee howl that became one of the most recognized voices in heavy rock. The lyrics & songs were also mostly written already- the band tends to focus mostly on sexual metaphors, death & partying all common rock n’ roll subjects for sure. So you won’t necessary learn much from this album but it’s still a blast to listen to 30 years on.

    Hells Bells Not available via iTunes or Amazon

    Back in Black Not available via iTunes        Buy Back in Black Amazon

  • Top 100 Albums of the 80’s: 31-40

    40. RUN-DMC- RAISING HELL (1986)

    Buy Raising Hell – Run-DMC

    Buy Raising Hell [Explicit] Amazon

    I had a tough time deciding on which Run-DMC album I like better- their groundbreaking debut or 1986’s “Raising Hell”?  Though the albums are close to equal in quality I chose “Hell” by a nose.  Along with “License to Ill” by the Beastie Boys, brought rap music to the suburban mainstream and therefore greater cultural prominence and commercial success.  The most celebrated track on “Raising Hell” is “Walk This Way”, DMC’s collaboration with Aerosmith, but that track to me is nothing much more than a cover of the classic Aerosmith version on 1975’s “Toys on the Attic”. The video, played incessantly on MTV, was pretty cool and showed a breaking down of the musical color barriers, but beyond that Run-DMC had already done rap-rock better before this with “Rock Box” and “King of Rock”.  The title track to “Raising Hell” does as well- so much that I think it’s probably my favorite Run-DMC track of them all.  The other singles on “Raising Hell” to me offer much more musically thanb “Walk This Way” as well.  “My Adidas” saw the group laying down its mantra,  “It’s Tricky” is a classic party jam and maybe their most fun jam, “Peter Piper” exemplifies the skills of their great turntabilist Jam Master Jay and and gross out track “You Be Illin’” is flat out hilarious.  The filler tracks are also of higher quality than on the debut- particularly “Proud to be Black. All of this amounts to one of the best rap albums ever made and along with “License to Ill”, “Raising Hell” offered in an era of great rap albums.   Though Run-DMC’s only had one more quality album in them before they began to taper off, with “Raising Hell” they had already done more than enough to ensure their legacy in the annals of hip hop.

    Buy Raising Hell – Raising Hell

    Buy Raising HellAmazon

    Buy It’s Tricky – Raising Hell

    Buy It’s TrickyAmazon

    39. TOM WAITS- RAIN DOGS (1985)
    Buy Rain Dogs – Tom Waits

    Buy Rain DogsAmazon

    “Rain Dogs” was Tom Waits’s follow up the eccentric “Swordfishtrombones” which took his career in a sharp left turn.  Though “Dogs” is in the same vein as its predecessor it actually improves on it. Both albums are played in the same style- Waits brings his carnival barker growl and unusual instruments are found throughout the album.  It’s as far away from a traditional singer songwriter album as you can get. Waits also bring expert guitarist Marc Ribot into the mix as well for the first time- he still plays with Waits to this day.. The songs on “Rain Dogs” stand above the tracks on “Swordfishtrombones” to me as well- particularly Waits classics like “Downtown Train”, “Time”, “Jockey Full of Bourbon” and “Clap Hands”.  If you are new to Waits on want to give him a listen, outside of a career spanning anthology, I think “Rain Dogs” is the best place to start.

    Buy Clap Hands – Rain Dogs

    Buy Clap HandsAmazon

    Buy Jockey Full of Bourbon – Rain Dogs

    Buy Jockey Full Of BourbonAmazon

    38. PRINCE- 1999 (1982)
    Buy 1999 – Prince

    Buy 1999 [Explicit] Amazon

    Though Prince already had a critical smash under his belt with his 1980 album “Dirty Mind”, and his commercial stature a grown even  further (at least in the R&B world) with 1981’s “Controversy”, “1999” was his first true crossover album. Everyone in suburbia now knew Prince’s name after the title track, “Little Red Corvette”, and “Delirious” became huge radio hits and the former two videos were played all over MTV- along with Michael Jackson Prince was integral in breaking down the video channel’s color barrier. Those three tracks are indelible classics- “Corvette” is probably my all time favorite Prince song, but the album didn’t stop at the singles.  Whereas “Dirty Mind” was an airtight thirty minute album, “1999” was long, loose and sprawling, a bold move by Prince. There are only 11 tracks but 7 of them are above the six minute mark. “1999” (the album) was nothing less than taking the Parliament/Funkadelic sound and updating it for the 80’s  “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”, and “D.M.S.R. (Dance Music Sex Romance)” are two favorite album cuts along with the ballad “Free”- one of Prince’s very best ballads. It is hard to believe but Prince was operating at such a high level that he would top “1999” not once but TWICE! later in the decade.

    Buy Little Red Corvette – 1999 Buy Little Red CorvetteAmazon

    Buy 1999 – 1999

    Buy 1999Amazon

    Buy Zenyatta Mondatta (Remastered) – The Police

    Buy Zenyatta MondattaAmazon

    All five of the Police studio albums are pretty great but pound for pound “Zenyatta Mondatta” is my favorite. Though it is more experimental than their two punk-reggae albums before it, it is also leaner and less prone to missteps than their earlier albums. The two big hits are “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “De Doo Doo Doo De Da Da Da”, which helped take the band, already on the rise, into the stratosphere. “Driven to Tears”, “Main in a Suitcase”, and “When the World Is Running Down…” are great album tracks and the album flows well from start to finish- you don’t need to skip a track. While most of the tracks are upbeat in tempo, singer/lyricist Sting does deal with political issues for the first time on several tracks paving the way for heavier themes and on “Ghost in the Machine” and “Synchronicity”. Sting is on record saying the album was a bit slapdash as the band was forced to deliver it to the label in time for their world tour. It makes me wonder how good the finished product could have been if they had more time to work on it- it certainly is a pretty damn great listen as is.

    Buy Don’t Stand So Close to Me – Zenyatta Mondatta (Remastered)

    Buy Don’t Stand So Close To MeAmazon

    Buy Man In a Suitcase – Zenyatta Mondatta (Remastered)

    Buy Man In A SuitcaseAmazon

    36. BLACK FLAG- DAMAGED (1981)
    Buy Damaged – Black Flag

    Buy Damaged [Explicit]Amazon

    Washington D.C. had Minor Threat and Bad Brains but L.A.’s Black Flag was the best hardcore band on thew west coast and 1981’s “Damaged” is their definitive album. Flag had been playing and recording since 1978 but “Damaged” was the first album they recorded with new singer and future punk icon Henry Rollins. Rollins vocals were ferocious and at times downright scary- his guttural screams left little in doubt that he “meant it” man! The song subjects tackle the feelings of teenage boredom and alienation and most notably attacked the hypocrisy of everything that was wrong about the adult world. The songs range from the humorous- “TV Party”, and “Six Pack”- the former a knock on the mindlessness of television and the latter a takedown of fraternity and bro culture, to the dead serious- “Depression”, “Damaged”, “Damaged II”, “Life of Pain”. Guitarist Gregg Ginn’s monster riffs make Flag hardcore’s answer to Black Sabbath. Black Flag are definitely not for every one but anyone who likes pissed off and/or heavy music should give “Damaged” a listen- it will likely be an underground classic for angry teenagers for many years to come.

    Buy Rise Above – Damaged

    Buy Rise Above [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Damaged II – Damaged

    Buy Damaged Ii [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Beauty and the Beat – The Go-Go’s

    Buy Beauty And The BeatAmazon

    The Go-Go’s were the first commercially successful, all girl group who played their own instruments and who weren’t controlled by a male svengali. They were rooted in the late 70’s L.A. punk scene but by the time of the release of “Beauty and the Beat”, their debut album, they were given a commercial sheen so that they could appeal to the masses. Their sound combines girl group harmonies, surf rock guitar, peppy New Wave keyboards and production & just the right amount of punk attitude.  They found the perfect mix on their debut and the result was one of the biggest albums of the whole eighties New Wave era. “Beauty and the Beat” is a delight to listen to from start to finish. “We Got the Beat” (so good that plays over the opening scene in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”!) and “Our Lips are Sealed” were huge hits that still receive airplay today but the whole album is made up of should have been singles. “Fading Fast”, “Skidmarks On My Heart”, “Lust to Love” and “This Town” are just four of my favorites. The Go-Go’s still had some great songs in them after this album but they were never able to duplicate its success- neither commercially nor critically. “Beauty and the Beat” though stands on its own as one of the great debut albums in rock- by a female band or any band period.

    Buy Our Lips Are Sealed – Beauty and the Beat

    Buy Our Lips Are SealedAmazon

    Buy We Got the Beat – Beauty and the Beat

    Buy We Got The BeatAmazon

    34. R.E.M.- DOCUMENT (1987)
    Buy Document – R.E.M.

    Buy Document (R.E.M. No. 5)Amazon

    “Document” was the first R.E.M. album to contain a true top forty hit and it led the way for future R.E.M. commercial juggernauts like “Green”, “Out of Time”, and “Automatic People” and the ascendancy toward becoming one of the biggest bands in rock music. “Document” ‘s pop hit is “The One I Love”. Though I like it a bit more now, in 1987 I couldn’t stand it. Despite my somewhat negative feelings about “The One I Love”, the rest of the album more than makes up for it. The one-two-three punch of “Finest Worksong”, “Welcome to the Occupation”, and “Exhuming McCarthy” are almost a match for “Life’s Rich Pageant” ‘s opening trio of songs. The huge college radio hit “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” is one of the band’s most enduring songs. It’s so well known today that people could be forgiven for thinking that it was the big hit on “Document”. The album contains less filler than “Pageant” as well- where “Pageants” is eclectic and a bit messy at times, “Document” hangs together well. It’s an angry record that rails against the political conservatism of the mid-eighties.  If you love Ronald Reagan this album may get under your skin.  For those people who consider Stipe and R.E.M. annoyingly self-righteousness, “Document” is really where that starts.

    Buy It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) – Document

    Buy It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)Amazon

    Buy Exhuming McCarthy – Document

    Buy Exhuming McCarthyAmazon

    Buy The Unforgettable Fire (Remastered) [Deluxe Version] – U2

    Buy The Unforgettable Fire (Deluxe)Amazon

    U2 had developed a signature sound already over the course of their first three albums- “Boy”, “October”, and “War”.  All three can be considered post punk and carry The Edge’s distinctively chiming guitar licks and Bono’s earnest and soulful if unsubtle vocals- each album was progressively more anthemic and bombastic than the last. With their fourth album, U2 did an about face and began working with producers Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno to produce a much more subtle, layered album that they had ever attempted before. The albums still have anthems- this is U2 after all- but even the anthems are much more textured than tracks like “I Will Follow” ands “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. “Pride (In the Name of Love)” was U2’s first top 40 hit and the six minute “Bad”, about a heroin addict, is possibly the band’s best ever song. Opening track “A Sort of Homecoming”, the bracing “Wire” and the beautiful title track are all amazing songs as well and some of the best ones in the entire U2 canon. The album does contain a few missteps, namely “Elvis Presley and America” and to a lesser extent “MLK”. Even those tracks were quite ambitious even in their failure and signaled that Bono & co. would not be content to rest on their laurels. Though both “War” and “Joshua Tree” get most of the credit for being the best of 80’s U2, “The Unforgettable Fire”, is nearly as good as either and deserves to stand among U2’s best albums.

    Buy Bad – The Unforgettable Fire (Remastered) [Deluxe Version]

    Buy BadAmazon

    Buy The Unforgettable Fire – The Unforgettable Fire (Remastered)

    Buy The Unforgettable FireAmazon

    32. PRINCE- SIGN O THE TIMES (1987)
    Buy Sign ‘O’ the Times – Prince

    Buy Sign ‘O’ The Times [Explicit]Amazon

    “Sign O the Times” was Prince’s second double album of the decade and after the brilliance of “Dirty Mind”, “1999” and “Purple Rain”, “Sign” gives him the authority to commission his likeness to be carved out on the Mt. Rushmore of music. “Sign O’ the Times” was both longer and more ambitious then “1999”. While “1999” focused mostly on lengthy funk jams, “Sign O’ the Times” was his most eclectic album, hitting on hard rock, folk, blues, gospel, smoothed-out soul and of course funk. The album was filled with both party jams like “Housequake”, “Hot Thing” and the single “U Got the Look” (with Sheena Easton) and serious tracks touching on the issues of the day- nuclear war, AIDS, drug addiction, abortion. The title track alone practically covered every one of those issues. “If I Was Your Girlfriend” is in its own way as freaky as any track on “Dirty Mind” and “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” may be the best of the whole lot. “Sign O’ the Times” is an album you can go back to and continue to learn from which each listen- your favorite track on it is likely to change each year.

    Buy I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man – Sign ‘O’ the Times

    Buy I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man [Explicit]

    Buy Sign ‘O’ the Times – Sign ‘O’ the Times

    Buy Sign ‘O’ the Times – Sign ‘O’ the Times Buy Amazon

    31. THE JAM- SOUND AFFECTS (1980)
    Buy Sound Affects (Remastered) – The Jam

    Buy Sound AffectsAmazon

    My wife (girlfriend at the time) turned me on to the Jam in ’96- prior to that I had never even heard them. She is quite a big fan of the Jam and music in general and loves the hits.  But rather than starting me off with a great Jam compilation (and these do exist!) she played me was 1980’s “Sound Affects”, the bands fifth full-length album.  It’s so tight that it does the band justice better than any single comp does.  The Jam had begun their career in 1977 as a punk band heavily indebted to The Kinks and The Who, but “Sound Affects”, was both a more mature and a more pop oriented album that they had ever attempted previously. The band is still criminally underrated and unheard in the States but they were one of the biggest bands in their native England at the time of the album’s release. If you know one Jam song, single “That’s Entertainment” is likely that song. And it is their definitive song- catchy, cleverly worded and beautifully played and sung- it is a must-have in anyone’s record collection. But that song only scratched the surface of the greatness of the album. “Start!” outright steals the bass line from the Beatles “Taxman” but somehow still manages to be great in its own right, making it one of the most successful Beatles rips I’ve ever heard. Album opener “Pretty Green” and follow-up “Monday” are two of my Jam favorites and “Man in a Corner Shop” and “Set the House Ablaze” are standouts as well. Though this album is well thought of by many rock critics, it should be even more highly rated, appreciated and especially heard- it could very well be the most underrated album on this list. The Jam would release only one more studio album before calling it quits. Lead singer Paul Weller would go on to a very successful solo career in the U.K. and would remain, you guessed it, relatively unknown in the U.S.

    Buy That’s Entertainment – Sound Affects (Remastered)

    Buy That’s Entertainment Amazon

    Buy Pretty Green – Sound Affects (Remastered)

    Buy Pretty GreenAmazon

  • Top 100 Albums of the 80’s: 21-30


    Buy Psychocandy – The Jesus and Mary Chain

    Buy Psychocandy (US Release)Amazon

    The Jesus & Mary Chain’s hook was to combine early sixties vocal harmonies (think Beach Boys and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound) with the fuzz and feedback of late sixties psychedelia and underground rock groups like the Velvet Underground. You would think this trick wouldn’t work so well over the course of a whole album but the band was able to make an entire career out this “gimmick” with just some minor tweaks from album to album.  Their debut “Psychocandy” was an instant underground rock classic and was responsible more than anything else  for inspiring the ‘shoegaze’ movement in late 80’s/early 90’s England, showcasing bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive & Ride. Though they toned down their shriek factor and widened their appeal a bit on their later albums the debut remains by far the best and most important of their career.  The production is extremely lo-fi- the feedback can be earsplitting. A friend of mine once called the album the ultimate party clearer. It may not be for everyone but every track on the album is stellar- with the singles “Just Like Honey”, “Never Understand”, and “You Trip Me Up” being three of the biggest standouts. Anytime you hear modern noise-pop like Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls or Times New Viking!, they are indebted to Jesus & Mary Chain more than any other band.

    Buy Just Like Honey – Psychocandy

    Buy Just Like HoneyAmazon

    Buy You Trip Me Up – Psychocandy

    Buy You Trip Me UpAmazon

    29. X- WILD GIFT (1981)
    Buy Wild Gift – X

    Buy Wild Gift [Explicit]Amazon

    The first two X albums were a ferocious one two punch to the L.A. punk scene in 1980 & 1981.“Wild Gift” is part 2 of that one two punch. X were the biggest names in the late seventies/early eighties L.A. punk scene and brought more musicality and arguably more songwriting skills than any other band in that scene. Though they never broke big nationally they were huge local stars and each member of the band stood out individually. Singer/songwriter/bassist John Doe led the way with his distinct baritone. His clever wordplay and insightful cultural commentary were welcome in a scene not prone for nuance. Doe’s love interest Exene Cervenka was also a co-vocalist- their off the rails harmonizing gave the band its unique sound. Guitarist Billy Zoom stood motionless furiously strumming rockabilly punk leads. DJ Bonebrake (his real name!) bashed away at the drums harder and more skillfully than his fellow punk peers.  X could also write mean hooks though their iconoclastc style and attitude left them nowhere near the mainstream.  Check out “White Girl” for a look at the very best of L.A. punk music.

    Buy White Girl – Wild Gift

    Buy White Girl (LP Version) [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy When Our Love Passed Out On the Couch – Wild Gift

    Buy When Our Love Passed Out On The Couch (LP Version) [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Licensed to Ill – Beastie Boys

    Buy Licensed To IllAmazon

    I was in 8th grade, Junior High, and every kid I knew was blasting this album- most knew the lyrics by heart and most still had never listened to rap music before.  It had more impact than any other album where I was from since “Thriller.  At the time many people thought that of The Beastie Boys- three white rappers from the NYC area as a novelty act- there had never been white kids doing rap music prior to them, at least in any broad cultural sense.  But “License to Ill” was no Vanilla Ice-style one hit wonder.  The big single that everyone knew on the album was “Fight for Your Right” thanks mostly to the ubiquity of the hysterical low budget video on MTV but that song was not even close to one of the best tracks on the album- it’s actually one of my least favorite. To this day you can still find “Fight for Your Right”, “No Sleep Til Brooklyn”, “Girls”, “Brass Monkey” and “Rhymin’ and Stealin’” on the radio dial and other tracks like “The New Style”, “Hold It Now, Hit It” and “Paul Revere” are all considered early rap classics. “License to Ill” main subjects are chicks, drugs, beer, partying and overall gross-out humor played over Rick Rubin produced Led Zeppelin guitar and drum samples with a hilarious and sneaky-good vocal interplay between the three rappers- MCA, Ad-Rock & Mike D. The Beastie’s would go on to greater artistic heights later with the revolutionary sample-fest “Paul’s Boutique”, and the hardcore punk & old-school funk dominated “Check Your Head”, but none of course would be possible without “Ill” paving the way. it was a perfect album for the mid eighties, a time when the fresh rush of early 80’s New Wave had worn off and most of alternative and rap music had not yet reached the mainstream. It cleared the air of the stench given off by the increasingly awful hair metal and treacly pop music then dominating the pop music landscape.

    Buy Rhymin’ and Stealin’ – Licensed to Ill

    Buy Rhymin & StealinAmazon

    Buy The New Style – Licensed to Ill

    Buy The New StyleAmazon

    27. MISSION OF BURMA- VS. (1982)
    Buy Vs. (Remastered) [Bonus Track Version] – Mission of Burma

    Buy vs. [Remastered]Amazon

    I had not heard a note by Mission Of Burma before they unexpectedly reunited in 2002. Several friends of mine, notably from Boston begged me to go see them live, one friend even burning me the entire setlist from a previous show as incentive. Luckily I listened to my friends and checked out the show. Afterwards I was inspired to collect everything the band had ever recorded. My friends knew what they were talking about- Burma are legends in Boston, but are not very well known elsewhere. They broke up right after the release of their one full-length album “Vs.”- just as they were beginning to break big in college radio due to the lead singer, Roger Miller, developing tinnitus in his ears. The rest of Burma’s pre-reunion output consists of some 7” singles, a live album, a posthumous compilation of b-sides and an EP called “Signals, Calls & Marches”- all are worthwhile, particularly “Marches”, but “Vs.” is pretty much perfect. Burma blend the power of punk rock with experimental music and collegiate smarts. Like other underground bands before them such as Velvet Underground & Big Star, the band was so good that its popularity actually heightened after their breakup sowing the seeds for the reunion almost twenty years later.. Their reunion proved successful and their three (so far) post-millenium albums are all a worthwhile listen even if none quite match the quality of “Vs.”

    Buy That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate – Vs. (Remastered) [Bonus Track Version]

    Buy That’s How I Escaped My Certain FateAmazon

    Buy Mica – Vs. (Remastered) [Bonus Track Version]

    Buy MicaAmazon

    Buy ‘Straight Outta Compton’ – N.W.A.

    Buy Straight Outta Compton (2002 Digital Remaster) (Explicit) Amazon

    Yet another revolutionary 1988 rap record, “Straight Outta Compton” may have actually been the most influential of them all- for better and for worse. Though released in ’88, “Compton” didn’t reach my suburban ears until well into ’89. Neither radio nor MTV (at the time) would touch the group, but this album was so immediate and different that the word spread anyway. It spread quickly through my circle of friends and the same was no doubt happening throughout the country. The negative press that the group received only heightened public awareness of the album and group. Although 2 Live Crew with its sexist, gross out raps was out at the same time and Oakland’s filth rapper Too Short was hardly a choir boy himself, I had never heard anything so sexually or violently explicit in my life as N.W.A. Their lyrics could be incendiary or just lat out nihilistic- they exposed the harsh truths of ghetto life while at times seeming incredibly numb to the violence and sexism they were practically promoting. But teenager, a rebellious bunch at large, ate it up. The group featured three main rappers including future solo star Ice Cube (also the group’s main writer), M.C. Ren, and the devilish Eazy E. Most of the production was handled by Dr. Dre, using an early prototype of the G-Funk sound he would perfect on 1992’s “The Chronic”, which would become one of the dominant sounds in nineties rap. N.W.A.’s sound was hard hitting and funky. The opening trio of songs- mission statement “Straight Outta Compton”, the notorious “F**k the Police”, and “Gangsta Gangsta” could be the best three openings tracks ever on a rap album. The rest of the album does not quite hold up in quality but does offer some other classics like “”Dopeman”, “I Ain’t Than 1” and especially the Dr. Dre solo rap “Express Yourself” (where he ironically brags about not smoking weed!. I mean his next album was named “The Chronic”…) alongside the other filler tracks.

    Buy Straight Outta Compton – ‘Straight Outta Compton’

    Buy Straight Outta Compton (2002 Digital Remaster) () [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy F**k tha Police – ‘Straight Outta Compton’

    Buy Fuck Tha Police [Explicit] Amazon

    25. X- LOS ANGELES (1980)
    Buy Los Angeles – X

    Buy Los AngelesAmazon

    X’s debut, along with the nearly as good follow-up “Wild Gift” are in my opinion, and with apologies to Black Flag, the best two albums in the history of the L.A. punk scene. Song for song “Los Angeles” just offers up a few more classics- starting with the title cut- my favorite X songs and one of my favorite punk songs ever. You can tell this album is cool before even hearing a note- check the song titles: “Sex and Dying in High Society”, “Johnny Hit and Run Pauline”, “The World’s A Mess, It’s In My Kiss” and the mighty “The Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not”. Doe offers up real poetry in his lyrics- a cut above his peers- a punk rock Chuck Berry. Though the album (and band) can certainly be placed under the ‘Punk Rock’ banner their sound offers up much more variety than just ‘Punk’. Roots rock, Rockabilly & ballads are all part of X’s musical mix. If you don’t like this album you likely have no use for punk rock at all.

    Buy Los Angeles – Los Angeles

    Buy Los AngelesAmazon

    Buy Your Phone’s Off the Hook, But You’re Not – Los Angeles

    Buy Your Phone’s Off The Hook, But You’re Not Amazon

    Buy Pretenders (Remastered) – Pretenders

    Buy Pretenders [Reissue]Amazon

    Although later incarnations of the Pretenders were seen mainly as a vehicle for lead singer Chrissy Hynde, the original band was much more than a female singer with faceless back-up musicians. Lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott is incredibly underrated and still relatively unknown. He is one of New Wave’s best and most inventive guitarists- laying down effects that were as integral to the Pretenders sound as Chrissy’s singing and writing. Unfortunately both Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon died of drug overdoses after the band’s second album release and the band was, of course, never the same again. But damn what a debut album- certainly one of the best debuts in all of rock history. It contains beautiful ballads like the Kinks cover “Stob Your Sobbing” and minor hit ballad “Kid”, along with FM radio staple “Brass in Pocket”, perhaps the Pretender’s most famous song. But for me the less known, more aggressive songs push the album over the top. One of the ultimate F You songs “Precious” leads the album off and “Tatooed Love Boys”, “Up the Neck”, “The Wait”, and closer “Mystery Achievement” are some of the Pretenders represent the best that New Wave punk has to offer. “The Pretenders” sits alongside “The Cars” and “My Aim is True” by Elvis Costello as picture perfect debut albums of the New Wave era.

    Buy Precious – Pretenders (Remastered)

    Buy Precious (2006 Remastered LP Version) Amazon

    Buy Mystery Achievement – Pretenders (Remastered)

    Buy Mystery Achievement (2006 Remastered LP Version)Amazon

    23. U2- WAR (1983)
    Buy War (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered] – U2

    Buy WarAmazon

    Though believe it or not neither “Sunday Bloody Sunday” nor “New Year’s Day”- Modern/Classic Rock Radio staples both- were top 40 hits, “War” was really the first time U2 became more than just an underground band and began to enter mainstream rock. Your grandmother may not have known them 1983 but every kid between the ages of ten to college knew them though they were certainly only half way up the ladder to being the world dominating stars they would become- heroes to baby boomers everywhere. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is a protest, a call to arms, taking its cues from both the rock anthems of the late 60’s and from punk rock, but with a radio friendly accessible quality. As many times as I’ve heard both “Sunday” and “New Year’s Day” both are still two of the bands best songs- particularly the latter. But “War” also contains other amazing tracks like “Seconds” and “Two Hearts Beat As One”- both also still heard (though infrequently) on rock radio today. The desperate “Drowning Man”, the beautiful “Surrender” and their former concert closer “40” are other top notch tracks. Though it’s not quite my favorite U2 album “War” comes pretty close.

    Buy New Year’s Day – War (Remastered)

    Buy New Year’s Day (Album version – Remastered)Amazon

    Buy Sunday Bloody Sunday – War (Remastered)

    Buy Sunday Bloody SundayAmazon

    22. THE PIXIES- SURFER ROSA (1988)
    Buy Surfer Rosa – Pixies

    Buy Surfer RosaAmazon

    Though the Pixies, from Amherst, MA., had released a more the exciting “Come On Pilgrim” EP a year earlier, 1988’s “Surfer Rosa” was their full-length album debut and what a way to start! Opening track “Bone Machine” announces the Pixies presence with authority and then the band leaps straight into “Break My Body” and then terrorizes you with “Something Against You” and “Broken Face”. It was quite clear to me that this was a band that was both really weird and really great. Like many of the oddball bands before them it would take time for most of the listening public to catch up to their greatness. The Pixies now enjoy a reputation far greater than what they had during the lifespan of the band. In my opinion, the only rock bands that compete with them in the late 80’s/early 90’s are Sonic Youth and Nirvana and I am give the Pixies a slight edge over both. Two of the bands most beloved compositions are found smack dab in the middle of the album- the Kim Deal sung “Gigantic” and the beautiful and haunting ballad “Where is My Mind?”, which non-Pixies acolytes will recognize as the song in the closing scene to “Fight Club”. The latter part of “Surfer Rosa” dips slightly in quality and producer Steve Albini’s production is a bit thin & tin-sounding throughout the album, which saves “Rosa” from being my favorite Pixies album- but it’s still a fantastic album and a great debut- a must-have in any rock collection.

    Buy Where Is My Mind? – Surfer Rosa

    Buy Where Is My Mind?Amazon

    Buy Gigantic – Surfer Rosa

    Buy Gigantic (Remastered)Amazon

    Buy Rum S****y & the Lash [Expanded] – The Pogues

    Buy Rum Sodomy & The Lash [Expanded] (US Version)Amazon

    Best album title of all time? Well it certainly is up there at least. The Pogues Elvis Costello produced second album is where the band really began firing on all cylinders. Though the band has several other worthwhile albums and a handful of classic tracks not found here, “Rum, Sodomy & the Lash” is their one, true stone cold classic album. And the best album I can possibly think of to play on St. Patty’s Day. The band combines the fury of punk with the beauty of traditional Irish music. The debaucherous yet lyrically gifted sloppy drunk singer/main writer Shane MacGowan manages to keep ihis wits enough to deliver his best set of songs. The guy looks and sounds like he could fall on his face at any moment, but the band is lost without his exceptional songwriting and storytelling. Every track on the album is good to great but I must list the absolute classics- as there are certainly more than two. Album opener “Sick Bed of Cuchulainn”, “The Old Main Drag”, the beautiful ballad “I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day” (sung by bassist Cait O’ Riordan), “Sally Maclennane” and the anthemic “Dirty Old Town”. All some of the best Pogues songs ever, all distinctly Irish. No band has ever been ben able to blend the sounds of punk and traditional Irish music like the Pogues.

    Buy The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn – The Very Best of The Pogues

    Buy The Sick Bed Of CuchulainnAmazon

    Buy I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day – Rum S****y & the Lash [Expanded]

    Buy I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Every DayAmazon

  • Top 100 Albums of the 80’s: 11-20


    Buy Disintegration (Deluxe Edition – Remastered) – The Cure

    Buy Disintegration (Deluxe Edition – Remastered)Amazon

    “Disintegration”- Matt Stone & Trey Parker’s (the creators of “South Park”) favorite album of all time! Though I wouldn’t go that far, I do agree that it’s The Cure’s best studio album release and the best mope rock album outside of Joy Division of the eighties. Though if you’re a Cure newby you should start at the picture perfect “Staring at the Sea: The Singles” before delving into “Disintegration”. “Disintegration” is long, musically dense & often depressing- a description that the Cure often gets tagged with mostly unfairly. While they certainly have their gloomy songs and albums (see 1982’s “Pornography”), they have normally balanced their goth side with plenty of catchy singles and thankfully “Disintegration” is no exception. “Love Song” is downright romantic and one of the biggest hits that they ever had. “Fascination Street” rocks it out even if the vibe of the song is dark. “Pictures of You” one of their very best, and signature songs, is a heartbreaking epic ballad but it has an instantly memorable hook. Though the Cure scored a few bigger pop hits after this album, like “Friday I’m in Love”, “Disintegration” was the peak of their popularity- the very best album by one of the best bands of the eighties.

    Buy Pictures of You – Disintegration (Deluxe Edition – Remastered)

    Buy Pictures Of YouAmazon

    Buy Fascination Street – Disintegration (Deluxe Edition – Remastered)

    Buy Fascination StreetAmazon

    Buy The Stone Roses (20th Anniversary Edition) [Remastered] – The Stone Roses

    Buy The Stone Roses (20th Anniversary Legacy Edition)Amazon

    The Stone Roses- both band and debut album, were a genuine phenomenon in the U.K., while not much more than a cultural blip in America- popular on college campuses and among hipsters but that’s about it. In the U.K. the album was central to the Madchester rave scene, which combined British guitar pop (ala The Smiths) with electronic dance music and drug addled rave culture. I find the music more guitar based than dance driven but there certainly is an dance element to it as well unseen in American guitar rock at the time. The music on the album is fantastic regardless of its category. “She Bangs the Drums”, “Elephant Stone”, “Made of Stone” & “Waterfall” are all great singles and considered classics of the era, but the 8+ minute “I Am the Resurrection”, the almost 10 minute “Fool’s Gold” and the out of this world “I Wanna Be Adored” (one of my favorite eighties tracks) are what push the album to true legendary status. Singer Ian Brown’s self glorification and matter-of-fact detachment were a huge influence on Oasis and most of the brit pop movement several years later. The Stone Roses only made one more album, the far lesser “Second Coming”, before fizzling out, but their debut stands the test of time as a true classic and period defining piece of music.

    Buy I Wanna Be Adored (Remastered) – The Stone Roses (Remastered)

    Buy I Wanna Be Adored (Remastered)Amazon

    Buy I Am the Resurrection (Remastered) – The Stone Roses (Remastered)

    Buy I Am The Resurrection (Remastered) Amazon

    18. THE REPLACEMENTS- TIM (1985)
    Buy Tim (Expanded Edition) – The Replacements

    Buy Tim [Expanded Edition]Amazon

    Before 1984’s “Let It Be”, Minneapolis’s the Replacements were just a bunch of scraggly punks- virtually unknown outside of the twin cities and the insular American hardcore punk scene. “Let It Be” was so widely regarded and increased the band’s stature so dramatically that they were snatched up by Warner Bros Records to record their follow up, 1985’s “Tim”. Any wariness or doubt from the band’s longtime that the band would sell out was put to rest after the Mats delivered an album nearly the equal in quality to “Let It Be”. Paul Westerberg continued to deliver excellent ballads like “Swingin’ Party” and especially the harrowing “Here Comes a Regular”- a knowing and empathetic takedown of a loser townie, going nowhere alcoholics. The big difference on “Tim” is the band’s ability to deliver epic rockers- case in point “Bastards of Young” has to go down as one of the band’s best songs ever- years later it still sounds generation defining and it’s a punch right in the gut. “Left of the Dial”, and “Little Mascara” are two of the band’s other best rockers. Some of the band’s flailing hardcore is still left over from their early days like “Dose of Thunder” and “Lay it Down Clown”. Compared to the band’s best songs these tracks are filler but their sloppiness add to the album’s character and charm more than takes away from its quality.

    Buy Bastards of Young – Tim (Expanded Edition)

    Buy Bastards Of YoungAmazon

    Buy Here Comes a Regular – Tim (Expanded Edition)

    Buy Here Comes A Regular Amazon

    17. R.E.M.- RECKONING (1984)
    Buy Reckoning (Deluxe Edition) – R.E.M.

    Buy ReckoningAmazon

    “Reckoning” is the brilliant follow-up to the even more brilliant debut “Murmur”, furthering entrenching R.E.M.’s status as one of the best and most important bands of the eighties. “Reckoning” is a return to the jangle pop of the “Chronic Town” EP and away from the stranger, more experimental “Murmur”. Though “Reckoning” was still very much an underground record with relatively lo-fi production, it was their catchiest and most accessible music they had made to date furthering their already good standing with college radio. “So. Central Rain”, “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” and “Pretty Persuasion” were all big college radio “hits”. Great album tracks like the opener “Harborcoat”, “7 Chinese Brothers” and “Second Guessing” round out the album perfectly. As soon as the album is over you’ll want to press play again..

    Buy Pretty Persuasion – Reckoning

    Buy Pretty Pursuasion Amazon

    Buy Pretty Pursuasion

    Buy (Don’t Go Back To) RockvilleAmazon

    16. DE LA SOUL- 3 FEET HIGH & RISING (1989)
    *Not available via iTunes or Amazon

    It’s maddening to think how creative and far reaching rap music could have become if the sample laws weren’t changed after 1989. One prominent sample on a record can now cost a fortune making albums like “Paul’s Boutique” and De La Soul’s “3 Feet High and Rising”, which contain hundreds of samples, nearly financially impossible to produce. But at least these amazing albums were able to be made before the new laws went into effect. “3 Feet High” was the debut album of the Long Island rap trio and a vehicle for producer Prince Paul- one of the most unique and amazing producers in rap at the time- or ever really. The album changed the course of rap and hip hop forever, proving that rappers didn’t have to be street tough to succeed. Rather than relying on the drumbeats or James Brown horn and guitar samples in vogue at the time, Prince Paul was apt to sample pop groups like Hall & Oates, classic rock like Steely Dan, and country music like Johnny Cash- no sound or record was off the table. It’s no wonder that this music brought a whole new group of white suburbanites into the fold and made many of them fans of rap for life. Though De La had a longer career than most and had an excellent if not quite as good follow-up with 1991’s “De La Soul Is Dead”, they were never able to touch the quality of the debut. It is so out of leftfield, the lyrics, samples and even the skits are hilarious and one of a kind and the album boasted classic tracks in abundance- “Jenifa Taught Me”, “The Magic Number”, video hit “Me, Myself & I”, “Tread Water”, “Potholes In My Lawn”, “Buddy” and “Say No Go” are all here. It’s simply one of the best rap albums ever made.

    Tread Water *Not available via iTunes or Amazon

    Say No Go *Not available via iTunes or Amazon

    Buy Remain In Light (Remastered) – Talking Heads

    Buy Remain In Light [w/Bonus Tracks]Amazon

    “Remain in Light” was the Talking Heads’s fourth album, their third with Brian Eno as producer, and their least song-oriented album to date. Taking the track “I Zimbra” from the previous year’s “Fear of Music” album as a template, Eno & the Heads delved much further into African music- combining African polyrhythms with the sound of punk & new wave to create a sound totally new- but that would become massively influential in the decades to come- see Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and anything by Vampire Weekend as the two of the more obvious examples. “Remain in Light” is by far the Heads most danceable album, setting the tone for 1981’s spinoff “The Tom Tom Club” which went to full-on club music. Though the Talking Heads had already had a few successful singles under their belt by 1980, nothing on “Remain in Light” stuck- at least at first. Lead single “Once in a Lifetime” completely tanked commercially out of the gate but has since become quite possibly their signature song (and my personal fave!), alongside “Burning Down the House” Other great album tracks include “Cross-Eyed and Painless”, “The Great Curve” and “Born Under Punches (the Heat Goes On)”. Sometimes great albums just take the general public awhile to fully catch on and “Remain in Light” is a prime example. It remains the signature album statement by one of the best and most important bands of the late 70’s/early 80’s new wave movement.

    Buy Once In a Lifetime – Remain In Light (Remastered)

    Buy Once In A Lifetime (2005 Remastered Album Version )Amazon

    Buy Crosseyed and Painless – Remain In Light (Remastered)

    Buy Crosseyed And Painless (2005 Remastered Album Version ) Amazon

    Buy Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes

    Buy Violent FemmesAmazon

    The Violent Femmes are the quintessential 80’s cult band. Their debut album technically came out in 1983, but the date hardly seemed to matter. They received hardly any airplay at first- not even on college radio. Yet cassette tapes of their debut were passed around by college kids and onto to the younger brothers and sisters in high school and a cultof fans grew organically around the band. Their album became a right of passage for anyone interested in music made left of the dial. The band’s sound is folk- punk played loosely and aggressively with no production budget. The singing by lead vocalist Gordon Gano is bratty and nasal and the bass lines drive most of the songs- the Femmes play aggressive but not loudly. Most of their songs are about teenage alienation but nearly all are filled with humor, no matter how bitter. They are a band that wouldn’t be in existence is not for the Velvet Underground of the sixties and the Modern Lovers of the 70’s, yet they wound both unique and unmistakable. I’m not familiar with most of their material aside from the first album but the debut is pretty much flawless. “Kiss Off”, “Blister in the Sun”, “Gone Daddy Gone”, and “Add It Up” have all become alt rock classics and the rest of the album is nearly as good- particularly “Prove My Love” and “Promise”.

    Buy Add It Up – Violent Femmes

    Buy Add It UpAmazon

    Buy Kiss Off – Violent Femmes

    Buy Kiss Off Amazon

    13. U2- BOY (1980)
    Buy Boy (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered] – U2

    Buy Boy (Deluxe Edition)Amazon

    There are a few U2 albums that really are criminally underrated- “October” is one and “The Unforgettable Fire” is slightly underrated as well. 1988’s “Rattle and Hum” is not as bad as it’s made out to be, but the most overlooked album in U2’s discography is their debut album “Boy”. It’s not despised or even disliked- it’s just not given credit for being the tour de force that it is. The running narrative is that “War” was U2’s great leap forward and that “The Joshua Tree” was their first full blown masterpiece, but honestly if U2 had never made another album after “Boy” they would still be talked about- and “Boy” would likely be more well renowned than it is today. Sure “Boy” is much more simplistic sounding and less multi-layered than many of their subsequent albums but damn what a sound. The Edge already had established his trademark ringing echo guitar sound and every song on the album sounds huge, stadium ready and sung with Bono’s punk rock earnestness. If you played “Boy” for anyone who had never heard their early stuff they would be able to tell it was U2 within five seconds of the first song. The only well-known U2 song on the album is opener “I Will Follow” but there are a handful of should-be classics- “Twilight”, “Into the Heart”, “Stories for Boys”, “A Day Without Me”, “Electric Co” & “Out of Control” still sound just as exciting over thirty years on. “Boy” was step 1 in U2’s plot to take over the world by a band that came fully formed right out of the starting gate.

    Buy Twilight – Boy (Remastered)

    Buy TwilightAmazon

    Buy I Will Follow – Boy (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered]

    Buy I Will FollowAmazon

    Buy Appetite for Destruction – Guns N’ Roses

    Buy Appetite For Destruction [Explicit]Amazon

    “Appetite for Destruction” was one of the two albums (the other being “Nevermind”) in my music listening lifetime that I knew would be a musical and cultural phenomenon the first time I heard it. In the summer of 1987 I saw the video for “Welcome to the Jungle” on MTV’s “Headbanger’s Ball”. The track stuck out immediately amidst the the lame hair metal bands becoming increasingly prominent in the mid eighties- it was loud, sleezy, edgy, weird & fun. It grabbed its influences from both seventies hard rock and arena bands as well as punk rock. There was a danger to this band that was missing in most of the other bands around at the time. I immediately began raving about the band to anyone who would listen and was mostly ignored or even mocked by my friends for it. But months later I got the last laugh with the release of power ballad “Sweet Child O Mine” and the band became a phenomenon. The band re-released “Jungle” the following winter and THEN everyone loved it. As likely anyone reading this list knows “Appetite” has since gone down in the annals of history as one of the all-time classic heavy rock albums of all time. The band’s lyrics and personality, particular leader Axl Rose, are often tough to defend, especially the raunchiest and most mysogynistic songs like “It’s So Easy”, but every track on the album is an ass kicker. The album’s third single “Paradise City” has also become an all-time eighties classic alongside “Sweet Child” and “Jungle” but some of the album tracks, particularly “Rocket Queen” and “Mr. Brownstone” are as good or even better than the three singles. The band would become even bigger, though more precious and bloated, with their double album “Use Your Illusion” 1991 releases but those albums were the beginning of the end for the band. Guns was blown apart by drugs, inter-band feuds and Axl’s bizarre personality. But to this day the legacy of the band is insured due to the perfection of “Appetite”.

    Buy Sweet Child O’ Mine – Appetite for Destruction

    Buy Sweet Child O’ MineAmazon

    Buy Rocket Queen – Appetite for Destruction

    Buy Rocket QueenAmazon

    11. JOY DIVISION- CLOSER (1980)
    Buy Closer (Collector’s Edition) – Joy Division

    Buy Closer [Collector’s Edition]Amazon

    The late, great Joy Division consists of a few underground 12” singles, two perfect full length albums and an odds and sods compilation containing their biggest (by far) single- “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, released posthumously after lead singer Ian Curtis’s 1980 suicide. After Curtis’s death the rest of the band formed the influential and amazing synth pop/pre techno group New Order. So we’re dealing with some serious talent here. Joy Division is probably the definitive post-punk band. Though their earliest singles were released in 1977- during the height of punk’s heyday, and the band resides in the U.K., the mecca of punk rock, they were musically and stylistically far different than bands like the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Buzzcocks and the rest of that ilk. Though Joy Divisions music was stripped down and simple like punk, it lacked punk’s aggression- it was slowed down, very dark and gloomy and much more atmospheric- relying on synthesizers as one of the main components of the sound. It was the biggest influence on and a forerunner of goth music. When 1980’s “Closer” came out it was just thought of as the next album after their amazing debut in 1979 “Unknown Pleasures”. But in retrospect the extreme desperation of the lyrics makes it Curtis’s death seem almost inevitable and the feeling of the album depressingly is the perfect swan song of a band gone long before its should have been. None of the band’s best singles like save for “Isolation” are on “Closer” but the album is practically note perfect from beginning to end and is meant to be played as a whole. It’s sound has yet to be truly replicated.

    Buy Isolation – Closer (Collector’s Edition)

    Buy Isolation [2007 Re-mastered Album Version]Amazon

    Buy Atrocity Exhibition – Closer (Collector’s Edition)

    Buy Atrocity Exhibition [2007 Re-mastered Album Version]Amazon

  • Top 100 Albums of the 80’s: 1-10


    BuyNothing’s Shocking – Jane’s Addiction

    Buy Nothing’s ShockingAmazon

    If “Appetite for Destruction” shook up the stale hard rock/heavy metal landscape of the mid 80’s, then 1988’s “Nothing Shocking” drilled a hole right through it. Dave Navarro’s crunching guitar riffs and wild solos and Perry Farrell’s screaming banshee howl vocals left no listener in doubt that Jane’s Addiction was a heavy rock band, but the band’s far left of center style, it’s neo-hippie values & its general overall weirdness made them decidedly un-Metal. I think that “Nothing’s Shocking” did more than any other album of its time to lay the groundwork for “Nevermind” three years later. “Nothing’s Shocking” was certainly a bit before it’s time and likely would have been nearly as big as albums like “Nevermind” and “Ten” if it had come out a bit later. Along with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s was the consummate late 80’s Los Angeles alternative band and due to lack of national airplay, they were much larger commercially in their native L.A. than the rest of the country. Tracks like “Mountain Song”, “Had A Dad”, “Ocean Size” & “Pigs in Zen” are hard rock classics and it’s surprising to me that they aren’t played all over today’s hard rock/modern rock radio. Two tracks off of their next album, “Been Caught Stealin'” and “Stop” receive the bulk of airplay in modern radio today, along with ballad “Jane Says” which is the one track from “Shocking” that everyone seems to know despite it never being released as a single. As good as “Jane Says” is 6+ minute ballad “Summertime Rolls” is even better. There are no misses on “Nothing’s Shocking”. If you don’t have it pick it up.

    Buy Had a Dad – Nothing’s Shocking
    Buy Had A DadAmazon

    Buy Summertime Rolls – Nothing’s Shocking
    Buy Summertime RollsAmazon

    Buy Let It Be – The Replacements
    Buy Let It BeAmazon

    “Let It Be” was a touchstone album for me. As memory serves I bought it on cassette in 1990 for probably $3.99 or something after seeing it ranked in Rolling Stone’s “Top 100 Albums of the 80’s’ issue. I had already heard of the band and was a fan of the track “I’ll Be You” off of 1989’s “Don’t Tell A Soul” album but I had no idea how great the band really was until I bought “Let It Be”. Aside from the review the album cover jumped out at me as well- the photograph of all four members sitting on the roof seemed to tell so much about the band and I wanted to know and hear more. The cover takes me back to my early twenties when it was you & your best friends against the world. “Let It Be” captures the moment between the Mats early hardcore days and their four album major label stint starting with 1985’s “Tim”. It is the Replacement’s best album, one of the best albums of the eighties, and one of the best albums in the history of indie rock. It is an unbelievably eclectic record- opening track “I Will Dare” is a jangle-pop shuffle with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck guesting on guitar that lays down the gauntlet for the rest of the album. “Sixteen Blue” is an incredibly sensitive ballad about teen angst, where “Androgynous” is a quirky ballad featuring lead singer Paul Westerberg solo with his piano the only instrumentation. Westerberg pours out his soul on “Unsatisfied”, and “Answering Machine”, his vocals expressing more than words ever could. “Let It Be” is rounded out with with some heavier rockers which touch back to their earlier days. songs “Gary’s Got a Boner” is a bit of a one note joke but “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” is ridiculous fun and quite a headshaker to boot. They even do a straight cover of KISS’s “Black Diamond”, showing their influences to be much more than cool indie bands.

    Buy Unsatisfied – Let It Be
    Buy UnsatisfiedAmazon

    Buy Androgynous – Let It Be
    Buy AndrogynousAmazon

    8. U2- THE JOSHUA TREE (1987)
    Buy The Joshua Tree (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered] – U2
    Buy The Joshua Tree (Deluxe Edition)Amazon

    With the release of “The Joshua Tree”, U2’s fifth full length album, the band became the biggest rock band on the planet- heroes to both their longtime Generation X fans and now to the Baby Boomer generation as well. The Boomers had mostly missed out on the U2 bandwagon up to that point, but after the three pronged single attack of “With or Without You”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and amazing opener “Where the Streets Have No Name” the band became inescapable to anyone with an even mild interest in current music. U2 had also stripped down their sound- still anthemic but decidedly less post-punk and more roots-rock/Americana. The new sound fit them well- so well that with all of the great releases in U2’s canon, particularly in the eighties, I would have to say that “The Joshua Tree” is their very best. The above mentioned singles are certainly great songs but they are not even my favorites on the album- album tracks “Running to Stand Still” and “Red Hill Mining Town” bare that stamp and I consider both among the best ten songs that U2 has done period. Though track “Bullet the Blue Sky” is somewhat polarizing I find it to be another album highlight as well as “One Tree Hill” and “In God’s Country”- both solid enough that I still hear them on the radio all these years later. After “Joshua Tree” U2 would delve further into American roots music with “Rattle and Hum” to varying degrees of success but in 1987 they had found a perfect blend.

    Buy Red Hill Mining Town – The Joshua Tree (Remastered)
    Buy Red Hill Mining TownAmazon

    Buy Running to Stand Still – The Joshua Tree (Remastered)
    Buy Running To Stand StillAmazon

    Buy The Queen Is Dead – The Smiths
    Buy The Queen Is DeadAmazon

    The Smiths were a great band- a great singles band, a great albums band and the definitive British band of the eighties. All of their albums are worthwhile purchases including amazing compilations like “Hatful of Hollow” and “Louder than Bombs” that house many of their singles and b-sides. But the Smiths definitive statement is 1986’s “Queen is Dead” album. It’s their most musically diverse and hardest rocking album- particularly with the great and underrated title track. Guitarist Johnny Marr moves from upbeat acoustic pop to rockabilly, from to melancholy acoustic strumming to metallic crunch throughout the album. He is simply one of the most diverse and inventive guitarists in all of rock music And singer Morrissey is at his most satirical and lyrically witty on “Queen”. The singles on the album- “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side”, “There is a Light that Never Goes Out”, “The Bigmouth Strikes Again”- are pillars of the Smiths catalog, but the whole album is so solid that they fit right into the rest of the album. “Cemetery Gates” and the title track are the other standouts but there isn’t a bad song on the album. The Smiths would go on the record only one additional album- the lesser but still great “Strangeways, Here We Come”. Their entire recorded output was released between 1983-87. There are great bands who have been together twenty-five or thirty years who done less than what the Smiths did in those five short years. Amazing!

    Buy There Is A Light That Never Goes Out – The Queen Is Dead
    Buy There Is A Light That Never Goes OutAmazon

    Buy Bigmouth Strikes Again – The Queen Is Dead
    Buy Bigmouth Strikes AgainAmazon

    Buy Doolittle – Pixies
    Buy DoolittleAmazon

    The Pixies “Doolittle”, their second album, was (along with “Badmotorfinger” by Soundgarden) the first cd I ever got- this would have been Christmas of 1991 (yeah I know I was late to the party) and at the time I was only asking for music on cd that I didn’t already have on cassette. I took a chance on the Pixies as I saw the video for “Here Comes Your Man” and really liked the song. I really had no idea what I was in for- the Pixies (at the time at least) were a much tougher sell to late teens/early twenty-somethings who were busy gobbling up music by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins etc… They certainly rocked out like those bands but they were just so much weirder and non radio/MTV ready. I quickly fell in love with the band in the first few listens and set out to collect their whole discography. All these years later I can say that they are my favorite band of that time period- even over Nirvana, the Pumpkins or Sonic Youth. And it seems like the rest of the public has now caught up to them as well- teens and twenty-somethings today revere the Pixies more than many other grunge/alternative bands at the time.. Though all of their albums are great, “Doolittle” is still my favorite- the album is sequenced amazingly well with a great ebb and flow between the rockers and the quieter tunes- and there are highlights throughout- “Here Comes Your Man”, “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and “Wave of Mutilation” are about as accessible as the band gets. “Gouge Away” and “Debaser” are my favorites and two of their loudest screamers- rivaling just about anything Nirvana did. Bassist Kim Deal stars on “La La Love You” and deep tracks like “Tame” and “I Bleed” are phenomenal if unappreciated. While all of the Pixies studio albums are a must “Doolittle” is the best place to start.

    Buy Debaser – Doolittle
    Buy Debaser Amazon

    Buy Gouge Away – Doolittle
    Buy Gouge AwayAmazon

    Buy Paul’s Boutique (20th Anniversary Remastered Edition) – Beastie Boys
    Buy Paul’s Boutique (20th Anniversary Remastered Edition) [Explicit] [+digital booklet]Amazon

    There were three long years between the release of “License to Ill” and the Beastie Boys follow up album “Paul’s Boutique”. The anticipation for “Paul’s” was at a fever pitch by 1989 and it did sell well out of the gate but but many listeners were left disappointed after “Paul’s” proved to quite a departure. Fans wanted more rap rock anthems ala “Fight for Your Right”, and “No Sleep Til Brooklyn”, but what they got to them sounded like an incoherent mess. Album sales quickly grinded to a halt, and “Paul’s Boutique” was deemed a commercial flop. What more can I say other than “Paul’s” and the Beasties were never really made for the frat boys- they are urban, ultra hip and open minded and by shedding much of their former fan base they were able to grow exponentially as artists. “Paul’s” was built on dense, multi-layered samples and beats as opposed to the spare heavy metal guitar riffs and Led Zeppelin drum beat samples of “Ill”- some of the samples were so heavily layered that they were difficult to distinguish- a far cry from the pandering of popular tracks at the time like MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”. The Beasties and producers the Dust Brothers sampled from all different genres- hip hop, classic rock, country, pop, early rock n’ roll and especially funk. The result is a drugged out, psychedelic sound much like later music by artists like DJ Shadow, the Chemical Brothers- the Beasties and Dust Brothers were a huge influence on both artists. The Beastie Boys, all from the greater New York City area, moved to L.A. for the recording of “Paul’s Boutique”. The album is a love letter to New York City. I get as much pleasure from this album now as I did in 1989 as there are new discoveries with each listen. It’s the Beastie’s best and most important release in their long, illustrious career.

    Buy Shake Your Rump – Paul’s Boutique
    Buy Shake Your Rump [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Car Thief – Paul’s Boutique
    Buy Car Thief (2009 Digital Remaster) [Explicit] Amazon

    4. R.E.M.-MURMUR (1983)
    Buy Murmur (Deluxe Edition) – R.E.M.
    Buy Murmur – Deluxe Edition Amazon

    “Murmur” is my favorite album by R.E.M., one of my very favorite bands. It was R.E.M.’s full length debut coming after the well received earlier “Chronic Town” EP and “Radio Free Europe” single. They re-recorded “Radio Free Europe” for “Murmur” and the new version is emblematic of the rest of the album, which is more atmospheric, enigmatic and folky than their previous music. R.E.M. is a true southern band and “Murmur” may be their most southern album. The music on “Murmur” sounds nothing like country music or Skynyrd-esque southern rock, but ever song on it evokes the history, mysrtery and mythology of the region. Like Missisippi delta blues Murmur could have come out of no other region but the south. Singer Michael Stipe’s slurred and garbled vocals and abstract lyrics add to the mysterious vibe. Highlights on the album include “Radio Free Europe”, “Pilgrimage”, “Perfect Circle”, “Catapult” and one of the band’s early defining songs “Talk About the Passion”, but every song on the album gets an ‘A’ from me. “Murmur” is an album worth getting into even if you think you don’t like R.E.M. Though the album sounds like no other band and it is unmistakably R.E.M. it is a singular album that stands by itself in their discography.

    Buy Radio Free Europe – Murmur
    Buy Radio Free EuropeAmazon

    Buy Perfect Circle – Murmur
    Buy Perfect CircleAmazon

    Buy Daydream Nation (Deluxe Edition) – Sonic Youth
    Buy Daydream NationAmazon

    Like the Replacements “Let It Be”, “Daydream Nation” was another album I first heard of through Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Albums of the eighties. And once again I was captivated by the cover. I got to this album a tad bit earlier- senior year of high school rather than college. I spotted a music loving friend of mine with the cassette tape in class and I had to listen to it. He nicely loaned it to me (thanks Todd). I’ll admit the album took a few listens to sink it- to me it sounded so unique- all of the dissonance and distortion made the melodies in the songs impenetrable to me at first. I was no stranger to loud music and had listened to thrash and speed metal all through high school but “Daydream Nation” was a different animal. But once the album sunk with me it became quite the mind blower, opening me up to a world of new music. Opener “Teenage Riot” is one of the all-time greatest rock anthems. It never received any radio or MTV airplay but is still generation defining and is my pick for the ultimate Sonic Youth song in a catalog of many truly great ones. Listening to bands like Sonic Youth and the Pixies in 1989 and ’90 made the 1991/1992 alternative rock explosion seem nearly inevitable to me. Music this good just had to break out into a wider audience Though “Daydream Nation” still sounds avant-garde compared to Sonic Youth’s more mainstream (and still great) follow-up albums “Goo” and “Dirty”, it was the group’s fifth full-length album and at the time by far their most accessible. They had built their sound in the early eighties around the New York City downtown No-Wave and experimental music scene. “Daydream Nation” is the the perfect melding of the art rock scene with more in your face, anthemic alternative rock. It’s a double album, filled with lengthy songs. It’s noisy as hell yet hypnotic and sexy. It’s one of the all-time great guitar albums. Guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo, and bassist Kim Gordon all share lead vocal duties adding more variety to the album tracks. The album doesn’t have a weak moment. It ends with a blast in a three part 14 minute long suite called “Trilogy” which leaves you physically and mentally exhausted by the end.

    Buy Teen Age Riot – Daydream Nation
    Buy Teen Age RiotAmazon

    Buy Eric’s Trip – Daydream Nation
    Buy Eric’s TripAmazon

    2. PRINCE- PURPLE RAIN (1984)
    Buy Purple Rain (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture) – Prince & The Revolution
    Buy Purple Rain [Explicit]Amazon

    Since the late 70’s Prince’s popularity had grown slowly but steadily, first on the R&B charts and then the “1999” album broke him through to the pop and rock crowds as well. Along with Michael Jackson, Prince helped break down the color barrier at MTV as videos for “1999” and “Little Red Corvette” came into regular rotation on the channel. 1984’s album “Purple Rain” was designed to make him a megastar and it, along with its semi-autobiographical “Purple Rain” movie release, did exactly that. The album was a full on blockbuster- it spent a ridiculous 24 weeks at the #1 album spot and was the biggest pop phenomenon since “Thriller”. The album generated five top forty singles (four of them top 10) including two #1 hits in “Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry”, and a #2 hit in the title track. Aside from those tracks, I remember hearing 3 out of the 4 album tracks on the radio as well- even the sexually uncompromising “Darling Nikki” got radio play as well much to the chagrin of the PMRC. Every track on the album was able to stand on its own but complimented the full album. Some people like to look at the eclectic “Sign o’ the Times” album as Prince’s best work and some other even prefer the stripped down funk of “Dirty Mind”. To me “Purple Rain” is by far his best and the highlight of his great career.

    *It’s absolutely torturous for me to narrow the album down to it’s best two tracks- seven out of nine could have that distinction

    Buy Let’s Go Crazy – Purple Rain (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
    Buy Let’s Go CrazyAmazon

    Buy The Beautiful Ones – Purple Rain (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
    Buy The Beautiful OnesAmazon

    Buy It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Public Enemy
    Buy It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back [Explicit]Amazon

    “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” is not only my choice for best album of the eighties, it’s also my pick for best rap album of all time. It exemplifies the reasons why I love rap music. 1. The relentlessly aggressive sound of producers The Bomb Squad who extended the boundaries of what was then possible in hip hop production. The album somehow sounds both atonal and funky at the same time- as noisy as a thrash metal band but as danceable as the heaviest funk. Nearly all previous rap and hip hop was simple and spare, where the Bomb Squad’s production on “Millions” is intricate and complicated. It’s very difficult to imagine a “Paul’s Boutique” or a “3 Feet High and Rising” without it. 2. The use of samples. There is a huge difference between rapping over a single string of beats in a song and calling it your own ala MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, Will Smith etc.. and sampling in an artful way. PE & the Bomb Squad uses countless samples of “Millions” often layered one sample on top of each other. Discovering the original songs- often old soul & funk music opened my ears up to so much more music exploration than simply rap. 3. PE’s provocative & controversial lyrics. PE’s main rapper and mouthpiece, Chuck D, has called rap music “CNN for black people”. Well I’m a white guy from the suburbs and the lyrics blew my head right open as well. Chuck D was unafraid to attack institutionalized racism but also point the finger at his own race for its own failings. I don’t always agree with everything he says or stands for but he never fails to make me think. “Millions” absolutely pummels with rap classic after rap classic- “Bring the Noise”, the media bashing “Don’t Believe the Hype”, “Louder than a Bomb”, the anti-crack “Night of the Living Baseheads”, “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” and maybe the best of all “Rebel Without a Pause”- some of the best tracks in rap and music history. It is a relentless and challenging album not for the faints of heart or eardrum. The album still sounds revolutionary almost twenty-five years later.

    Buy Rebel Without a Pause – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
    Buy Rebel Without A PauseAmazon

    Buy Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
    Buy Black Steel In The Hour Of ChaosAmazon