Nearly there! We're halfway through the list now, covering albums 50 - 26.
#50. THE DOORS – THE DOORS
The most Woodstock album on the list
Cutting through the posers and wannabe’s, The Doors shows how you do surreal rock, especially in an age where social and cultural barriers were broken down with hammers and drugs. The debut album of Jim Morrison and his quartet of acid rock legends, The Doors sees leading guitar solos by Robby Krieger and the mellow presence of Densmore’s drums. I don’t think I can thank the Doors enough for their Blues – rock inspiration, indirectly influencing some of my favourite musicians of all time. Featuring a number of their best-known songs, including Light My Fire, Break on Through (to the Other Side, and the best track The End, a strange combination of drug induced stories and haunting guitar strings. Also, The End was in Apocalypse Now, one of my favourite films ever. Albums like this make me sad that there are another couple dozen I prefer over it, because it’s still a good listen.
#49. OK COMPUTER – RADIOHEAD
Dreams of Electric sheep
Radiohead never rests. They’re a band that has been pumping out album after album of critical acclaim, that have attracted a large following. OK COMPUTER can be an incredibly dreary album at times, but I think I can let it slide as it contributes to the description of a bleak, corporation heavy world. At the time of writing, I’ve listened to the album about four times, and I think I am still confused as to whether I like it. I didn’t fall in love with Radiohead from just this album, like a few other entries on this list have, but I can say I am cautiously optimistic to explore some of Radiohead’s other contributions to music. I can certainly recommend it for its bleak sound and poetic lyrics, but I think it’s another one I need to let mellow for a while yet.
#48. TEN – PEARL JAM
Ten is a fun album. It’s pretty simple, incredibly hard rock and grunge oriented, and is one of those albums that contains a minute and a half guitar solo that breaks up each single. A large majority of Pearl Jam’s most famous songs are found here, including Alive, Even Flow, Black and Jeremy. Listening to each of these songs makes it easy to understand how bands like Nirvana and Red-Hot Chilli Peppers were able to take the stand. It is grunge based for the entirety of the album, but I don’t think that necessarily means it is only for grunge fans. It is an incredibly heavy album, but it’s quite charming and is absolutely worth a listen.
#47. A NIGHT AT THE OPERA – QUEEN
God save our Queens
I think Queen need no introduction. I’ve been a big Queen fan for a while now, one of the most consistently incredible musical acts in musical history, each of its band members have gone down in history as some of the greatest musicians of all time. So how does a great band like Queen produce an album that basically has a little effect? It certainly isn’t bad, it’s Queen! The recent biopic paints this album as some kind of dark horse, that only becomes appreciated after time, sort of like an aged cheese (I don’t like wine enough to make the comparison). There are three songs from this album that most people know: Love Of My Life, You’re My Best Friend, and one of the most popular rock songs of all time, Bohemian Rhapsody. Unfortunately for this album, none of them are my favourite Queen songs, so this album blew over my head more than it should have done. I’m more of a News Of The World and Sheer Heart Attack lad.
#46. LONDON CALLING – THE CLASH
I Fought the Hype… and the Hype Won
The Clash are a pretty textbook rock band. Diet Sex Pistols if you will. Images of trashed hotel rooms, an encyclopaedia of illicit substances and destroyed guitars will always be associated with this band, and alongside this album. The title track is the one almost everyone is familiar with and is a solid representation of the rest of the album, I would argue. Not everything on this list is for everyone, but if you don’t like the head thrashing punk from the mid – late 20th century, London Calling is definitely not going to change your mind, unfortunately. I’m not sure it has aged amazingly, like some other albums, but is a good starting point for The Clash, before moving onto other interesting elements of rock.
#45. FUNERAL – ARCADE FIRE
Arty indie rock
Here’s another album I had absolutely no expectations walking into. At least with most of the albums on the list, I can say I have a fair idea about what to expect from each, but I had no memory of either the artist or the album, so completely blind was the way to go. The one word that surrounds this album seems to be “empowering” with its lyrics that seem to evoke sense of rebellion and encouragement. My favourite track is probably the very final song, In The Backseat where signer Regine Chassagne takes the lead with a song that absolutely hits home, with her almost pained singing topping the album with an orchestral hit. It probably is best experienced with as little knowledge as possible, because it might just blow you away.
#44. METALLICA (THE BLACK ALBUM) – METALLICA
The easy way into metal
Probably the largest name in heavy metal, Metallica has changed the world in many ways. Not just through their infamous legal case Metallica vs Napster, with its implications into the world of music streaming still being felt today, but also through the use of some the most famous albums in metal. This obviously includes the above album, with its ridiculously awesome opening track Enter Sandman, backed up by The Unforgiven and Nothing Else Matters. Metallica also shows growth from its artist, which gradually moved away from the thrash metal you could find in their previous albums like …And Justice For All and especially Master Of Puppets and towards slower, arguably more cathartic yet less complex metal. Whilst its thrumming guitar riffs, courtesy of Kirk Hammet and Lars Ulrich’s powerful drum sets definitely wear a little thin towards the end, The Black Album is a worthy addition to Metallica’s collection of earth – shattering LPs.
#43. ENTER THE WU – TANG (36 CHAMBERS) – WU – TANG CLAN
East Coast rap meets Ancient Eastern philosophy
There’s a fantastic synergy between one of the most famous rap groups of all time. The way Wu Tang are able to work with one another to form an intense album and sound that engages its listener in a manner is one you don’t see too often. Comprised of hip – hop legends like Method Man and Ghostface Killah, 36 Chambers is an unusual experience. As you may have guessed, the Wu – Tang Clan bases its lyrics and soul on ancient Chinese philosophy, as well as pop culture fiction such as the film Shaolin and Wu Tang and various comic books. C.R.E.A.M is probably my personal favourite of the tracks on the album. 36 Chambers is unusual for not featuring any other rap artist, unlike other rap albums on the list. I wouldn’t say it holds their debut album back, but it may have allowed for a little more spice to be thrown into that mix.
#42. BACK TO BLACK – AMY WINEHOUSE
The Cobain of Neo – Soul?
You often hear that art is a reflection of the artists own life. Personally, I think that sentence is used too often and now carries connotations that art can not just be art in itself (years of English literature classes and metaphors just came flooding back to me). But with Amy Winehouse, it is difficult to separate her own life and her music, especially because she was so fond of singing about her own life. This form of writing, in my opinion, makes Back in Black a very intimate and tragic look into a woman whose life was plagued by mental health issues and substance abuse. Reflected by such songs as Rehab, You Know I’m No Good, Tears Dry On Their Own and the lead single Back to Black, it’s difficult to not fall in love with Winehouse’s work and wonder what she may have done in the future, with her distinctive singing voice and guitar work.
#41. THE MISEDUCATION OF LAURYN HILL – LAURYN HILL
One shot, One kill
Miss Lauryn Hill’s debut and, at the time of writing, only album, is credited with breaking neo – soul into the mainstream, and you can see some really clear connections between this album and artists such as Kanye West and Beyonce. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is probably one of the best aged albums on the poster, with music that wouldn’t be out of place in today’s R&B scene. There are some great tracks including To Zion, Doo Wop (That Thing) and Forgive Them Father, which shows an incredibly original work. It’s kind of amazing to see such a hugely influential name in music writing one of the most celebrated albums in the last thirty years, all stemming from one album.
#40. BLACK HOLES AND REVELATIONS – MUSE
A dash of Morricone, a pinch of Pink Floyd…
Dealing with heavy handed themes such as dystopia, raging against machines and space imagery, in a rock oriented, yet coldly synthesised album with mariachi elements and voice dubbing, Black Holes and Revelations was yet another album I went into completely blind. Black Holes and Revelations is probably the craziest album on the poster, with songs ranging from gentle to absolutely manic. This album also represents Muse’s seizing of artistic control over their album, producing arguably their most successful album, drawing on inspiration from southern Italian music, the late Ennio Morricone and Depeche Mode, to name a few. Lead writer Matthew Bellamy describes the album as a build-up to the end of a cycle that dystopian authorities and geopolitics comes to, which either ends with a nuclear war or an alien invasion, which makes me wonder what hell goes through his mind. Highlights from the album include City of Delusion, Starlight and Knights Of Cydonia. The incorporation of rock with stranger elements, as mentioned earlier, makes this an absolute highlight, if not a little overpowering.
#39. ME AGAINST THE WORLD – TUPAC SHAKUR
Making changes to rap
I know that me placing Tupac above Biggie is making a pretty loud statement about a certain culture war, but don’t break your hip jumping to those conclusions there, Mike Powell. I like Me Against The World more than I like Ready To Die, but I think Biggie and Pac are on par with each other in terms of skills. Me Against The World is Tupac’s third album, so at this point, he was experienced in the game. As a result, he has produced some incredible songs, including Dear Mama, If I Die Tonight and the title song, Me Against the World. Tupac has a way of cutting through with his music, and is an incredibly raw experience, while also carrying that polished feeling that makes the album feel very artfully crafted. Even outside of this album, Changes is now one of my favourite raps of all time, sampling one of my favourite songs and simply making it better. Definitely worth checking out if you want to get in 90s rap.
#38. CHANNEL ORANGE – FRANK OCEAN
A jack of all trades
I could call Channel Orange Frank Ocean’s debut album, but there was once a not – insignificant period of time where it was his ONLY album. I kind of wish Ocean would do more music, but I also don’t mind that he is willing to branch out and share his artistry. Knowing the relatively short lifespan that musicians have, whether they fall victim to drugs, murder, suicide, or random Acts of God, Channel Orange runs a significant risk of carrying an artist who could have done more. That is because Channel Orange is an insanely fun mix of psychedelia and neo – soul, which is right up my alley. Thinkin’ bout you is probably Ocean’s most well-known songs, but Pyramid takes me to a special place that I can’t really equate to any of his other songs. ‘enigmatic’ really is the word of the day with Ocean, as Channel Orange tells the relationship of his first relationship with another man, with some of the most unusual comparisons out there. If all his stuff is this good, let him take his time.
#37. SLIPPERY WHEN WET – BON JOVI
Well, that’s what happens when you sweat so much
Following their first two albums that received modest but respectable reviews, Bon Jovi went for a more mainstream approach to their music (the sell-outs…) and released their third album with most of their greatest hits. The glam metal album has a song you may or may not have heard of called Living On A Prayer as well as some other tracks including Wild on the Street, Dead or Alive and Let It Rock. If you’re familiar with any of these tracks, then you have a good idea about what the rest of the album is about, and the type of music you’re going to get. I like Bon Jovi, and a lot of their work, but I’m not crazy about them like a lot of people are.
#36. SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER – THE BEE GEES
Shame about the movie…
OK, forget everything else you have just seen, this is where the albums basically become amazing! And that brings us back to the second half of ‘insanely successful film soundtracks that are probably more successful than the films they were trying to promote’, following on from The Bodyguard. Is Disco dead? Probably, but a lot of music is. Saturday Night Fever’s soundtrack is a nice little time capsule of the disco scene towards the end of the seventies. Using some of the Bee Gees most well-known songs, such as Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever, You Should Be Dancing and How Deep is Your Love, make the album very solid. Guest appearances from various artists such as Tavares, The Trammps, Yvonne Elliman and Kool & The Gang, also give Saturday Night Fever an absurdly fun line-up of old school funk. You won’t find much else on the album (to a fault), so look elsewhere if you can’t stand Disco. Topping the album off is Disco Inferno (BURN, BABY, BURN!), which is a great concentration of almost all disco tropes into a ten-minute song that is absolutely worth the wait.
#35. DE LA SOUL IS DEAD – DE LA SOUL
Always read your contracts
If you’re wondering why I gave you that invaluable, yet well-known piece of advice is because the De La Soul issue is the worst possible thing that could happen to you. If you didn’t know, alternative hop group De La Soul’s contract only allowed for their albums to be produced physically, so as to avoid a copyright infringement on the artist’s work that they sampled for their raps. As a result of this, De La Soul is not on any streaming services, so you won’t find them on Spotify, but I did manage to find them on Youtube. That sucks, because De La Soul is the type of fun rap that emphasises wordplay and bizarre sketches ranging from gameshows to muggings. It’s similar to work by Tribe Called Quest and Run D.M.C, and as such gets an instant recommendation from me. The question is, why include De La Soul Is Dead when Three Feet High And Rising is the superior album?
#34. ABBEY ROAD – THE BEATLES
“I came to England because of The Beatles”
The Fab Four was always going to be here. And for good reason! Abbey Road is probably the most recognisable album from The Beatles discography, with tracks including Here Comes the Sun, Something, Come Together and my personal favourite of the bunch Octopus’ Garden, making up the album. Abbey Road represents a fantastic collaboration from John, Paul, George, and Ringo, all of whom contribute their own creative output in the form of lyrics or the construction of the song itself. Abbey Road is also significant for being the final album created by The Beatles, before Lennon left the group six days before the album was released. Abbey Road is just a great rock album with a light touch of blues, with interesting sounds and a great selection of tracks.
#33. THE CHRONIC – DR DRE
Directly leaving Southern California
Welcome back to more G -rap, with one of the grandaddy’s of the genre who managed to make the list, and I’m glad he did. Dr Dre’s debut album is a great entry point for g – rap, but it’s also a jumping off point for Snoop Dogg before he moved onto his own stuff like Doggystyle. The Chronic is the type of music you would expect from Dr Dre, but also contains a few digs at his former bandmates when he was part of NWA. These lyrics were famously dissected by critics, who accuse Dr Dre of being offensive, but since he was clearly being clever about it, nothing really came about it, other than his world ending career. Getting past the memes, Nuthin but a G Thang is probably my favourite track on the album. If you are looking to get into rap, here is a decent place to start, as well as with Tribe Called Quest
#32. DIANA – DIANA ROSS
A last hurrah for Disco
Motown was just unstoppable at one point. The name doesn’t carry the same, hard hitting weight that it used to hold, but so many good albums are found there. One that I think is fairly overlooked is this album, Diana. Diana was released towards the end discos heyday, where films like Saturday Night Fever took the world by storm, so I like to see this album as the last great Disco hit. I’m Coming Out, in particular, has taken on its own identity in the LGBTQ+ Community, for its rather obvious implications. It’s a pretty great song, with the essential funk rhythm to ensure that it will stay a classic. Upside Down and My Old Piano are also pretty slick as well, with Ms Ross giving her all in each and every song in the relatively short album. I’ve seen in the media that Disco has made a comeback during the unspeakable event that dominated all of the last year, because its light-hearted nature makes it a great form of escapism from the rest of the world’s tomfoolery (and I don’t use that word lightly!). So maybe this album will get the praise I think it deserves in coming years.
#31. AT FOLSOM PRISON – JOHNNY CASH
The best audience ever?
At Folsom Prison gives its listener a great insight into the sort of performer that Johnny cash was. The album is packed with some of the Country genres most well-known tracks, with Cash demonstrating his adeptness on his guitar. The album is obviously recorded in front of the inmates of one of South USA’s most famous prisons, with the prisoners acting as the audience in lieu of a regular audience that one may find in a concert performance (see Live at the Apollo). This allows Cash to centre his songs around the prison which he plays in. At Folsom Prison is an excellent demonstration of Johnny Cash at his best, showing where his outlaw persona originated, showing his laid – back and cool demeanour in between and during songs, and a demonstration that he can perform just as well live as well as in the recording studios. I am glad Cash was able to make the list, but I would have preferred to see the other Highwaymen on the list. Furthermore, At San Quentin is an equally easy listen, and is a great back up piece to an already classic album. But while there is no end to the praise I can give Cash for his outlaw country days, I am a sucker for his later, God – fearing work. So I think I would have chosen American IV: When The Man Comes Around as my favourite Cash album, as it is a hauntingly beautiful goodbye to the man in black and is his best album.
#30. LET IT BLEED – THE ROLLING STONES
Scorsese’s Soundtrack Starter Set
OH HE’S ONLY GONE AND DONE IT! If The Beatles were guaranteed a spot on the poster, then so were the Stones. Although I can’t really say why both were pitted against each other; they’re two British rock bands from the sixties, and that is the most obvious comparison, really. The Rolling Stones are, at least in my opinion, more interesting than the Beatles, not least of all for this stellar conclusion to 60s rock. Let It Bleed is a brilliant combination of gospel rock and folk rock, two genres which can see a lot of crossover opportunities. Gimme Shelter is probably one of my favourite classic rock tracks, but You Can’t Always Get What You Want is a very, very close contender for that title, with a fantastic life lesson behind it. As far as albums go, however, it’s a toss-up between this and Sticky Fingers for the best Stones album. How about settling that argument for yourself?
#29. THE LOW – END THEORY – A TRIBE CALLED QUEST
And the award for the biggest surprise goes to…
If objectivity was barely present earlier, it’s out the window now. As the subtitle says, I had no idea what to expect from A Tribe Called Quest’s second album, which is always a fun way to approach an album. Pleasantly surprised does not do the album justice. I can confidently say that after listening to The Low-End Theory, Quest is one of my new favourite rap acts of all time. Combining soft rap with samples lifted from previous artists, The Low-End Theory shows the genius of four of East Coast Hip Hop’s brightest stars. If someone had somehow went their entire life without listening to rap, this is where I would start them off. Tracks like Check the Rhyme, Buggin’ Out and Scenario make up a pretty fantastic album. But as the infamous meme goes “This is brilliant…but I like this”. The Low-End Theory is awesome, but People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm is probably one of the best debut albums of all time, so start with The Low-End Theory before moving on to other works.
#28. (WHAT’S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY – OASIS
wOuLd’nT yOu LIkE tO kNoW?
Welcome back to the last third of the British Invasion, a mixed affair if ever I have seen one! Blur and Spice Girls didn’t really blow me away like I wanted them to, but I find myself much more inclined to Oasis, and one of the bestselling British albums of all time is a well-deserved accolade. If you know one song from Morning Glory, it’s Britain’s unofficial national anthem Wonderwall, which does steal the show from an otherwise great album. As far as indie rock goes, Champagne Super Nova and Some Might Say are some of my favourite songs in the genre, and Don’t Look Back in Anger is a great follow up to Wonderwall. If you’re interested, Definitely Maybe is a solid debut album for the Gallagher’s, and even features the title song for one of my favourite sitcoms, so give that a listen if you are interested.
#27. FAITH – GEORGE MICHAEL
Hitting the ground running
I had no reason to look forward to Faith. I have never been that fond of Wham, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like this. And after multiple revisits, I am very glad I was wrong, because this album is absolutely fantastic. The first track is a great set up for the rest of the album, with Michael trying to detail his love life during that insidious and uncertain time known as the 1980’s. Proving he was more than a pretty face, George Michael’s Faith is a fantastic mix of light rock, pop and dance music, each as good as the last, ranging from heartbreakingly sad to absolutely insane. Monkey, One More Try, and Father Figure are probably my favourite of the bunch and prove that it’s good to be wrong sometimes. Older is also a great album, so give that a try if you’re interested.
#26. THE STONE ROSES – THE STONE ROSES
Gone in sixty seconds
I remember I was driving my little brother to somewhere, I honestly don’t remember where, when Stone Roses came on the radio. I gave him a potted history, without mentioning when they formed, but he instantly thought that they were a modern band. Musical acts like Stone Roses and Hendrix make me terrified for contemporary artists like Frank Ocean. They aren’t going to be around forever, make the most of them while they’re still here! The Stone Roses is one of the greatest contributions to music Manchester has ever made and is probably one of the best debut albums of all time. Such singles as I Wanna be Adored, Fools Gold, She Bangs the Drums and Waterfall prove that Stone Roses were perhaps one of the earliest pioneers of alternative rock (whatever the hell that actually means), as well as greatly influencing the Madchester sound. I wonder if someone could make a case for The Stone Roses slightly sparking the fire that would become Britpop? This would probably be the point where I would tell you to listen to their other works, but I literally can’t! They only released one pretty basic album after this before breaking up. That sounds like a criticism, but it just makes me appreciate this one more.
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