A top-ten list of my favorite albums – completely subjective and my favorites from beginning to end, generally, rather than the hundreds of songs I love but the rest of the album is less than.
Also, best of/compilations not a part of this.
10. ACDC Back in Black 1980. Puerile and basically the same song throughout, with the thinly-veiled double entendres and Brian Johnson’s gravelly voice, but still amazing because of how quickly they could recover following the death of the legendary Bon Scott.
9. 10,000 Maniacs MTV Unplugged (1993). I have always loved her voice and while I could have arguably included an album or two from her solo career, this one still sounds great, so many years after its somewhat surprising popularity. The band itself was at the end of the Natalie Merchant Era, moving along from each other after performing a great performance consisting of their own numbers and a few cover songs.
8. U2 The Joshua Tree (1987). Easily my favorite U2 album, released in the spring my sophomore year of high school. I can still recall their playing someplace in the Twin Cities that year and being disappointed at my inability to obtain tickets to go. This band was a big deal then, and they became an even bigger deal over the next three decades but they have never been better than they were here.
7. Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon (1973). Despite many only knowing them by the couple of songs played ad nauseum on rock radio since, well, 1973, but this album truly is a masterpiece, if only for the final track Eclipse. To me, these are the most profound lyrics I know of.
All that you touch
And all that you see
All that you taste
All you feel
And all that you love
And all that you hate
All you distrust
All you save
And all that you give
And all that you deal
And all that you buy
Beg, borrow or steal
And all you create
And all you destroy
And all that you do
And all that you say
And all that you eat
And everyone you meet (everyone you meet)
And all that you slight
And everyone you fight
And all that is now
And all that is gone
And all that's to come
And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon …
6. Golden Smog Down by the Old Mainstream (1996). The 90s seemed to be the decade of the “supergroup”, with members of a few various bands combining to record an album or two. And Golden Smog was the Twin Cities’ own supergroup. While I would say that my two favorite Golden Smog songs would come on their next album, Weird Tales from 1998, DbtOM is an album that I know from its first minute all the way through the last, and their concerts at First Avenue will always be such good memories (along with the dozens of Jayhawks shows, the primary band of GS leader and co-founder Gary Louris).
5. The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers (1971). Forever known as the “bulging cock in the tight jeans” album due to the Warhol-conceived cover artwork, I have always considered this to be their masterpiece, settling in-between Let It Bleed and Exile on Main Street, giving us an absolute classic. This was their first released studio album after the disaster that was Altamont and of the new decade, despite nearly the entire album being recorded during the first half of 1969.
4. Guns and Roses Appetite for Destruction (1987). Released in July 1987, this was the 80s album. I don’t specifically recall the first time I heard them on the radio - although I can guarantee that I bought the cassette tape not long after - but I do know that I remember vividly that it was fall of 1987 and the song was “Welcome to the Jungle”. Somehow, this band ended up with the most bizarre career of any band that was this big and that remained relevant. Hair metal, glam metal, pop metal, blues metal, all four terms could easily be applied to this album.
3 and 3A. Nirvana Nevermind and MTV Unplugged (1991, 1993).
This may be cheating but these two sort of were bookends to grunge, and despite a couple on each that I tired of long ago but otherwise, these two are both still so good to listen and reminisce to. So much good music came from Seattle during this period of time, and if you recall back to how shitty nearly all music was in 1990 and early 1991, this was such a refreshing blast of new, polar opposite pop culture. And the MTV Unplugged album is just sublime in so many places, and that was a surprise to me.
2 Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique (1989).
Summer of 1989, a very different, and unexpected, album was released, and it still sounds as good a hundred times later. This was such a change from their massive 1986 release, Licensed to Ill, but it was a good change because I was now eighteen years-old and not fifteen, and Fighting for my right to party sounded very juvenile compared to this sweet and perfect collection of hundreds of samples. An album that in no way could be released. This may still be my most listened to.
1 The Clash London Calling. (1979).
This was the double album – obviously ripping off the boldness of Peter Frampton – that was proof that “The only band that matters” had grown musically, from a very good punk rock band to an all-time great general music band. It was also the only band to have an album named “Album of the Decade” for both the 70s and 80s. It was officially released on December 14, 1979, but, much like Oscar contending movies, the release was layered to fit into both decades – whether this was intentional or coincidental I have no idea. But according to Wikipedia, the 8-track tape was not released until January *wry laughter*. In any case, I never tire of hearing songs from this album on the radio or to just play on Spotify for background music and to serious music fans, that says a lot.
Tony Welch is a writer living in Minnesota.