My Top 12 Classic Albums

Just for fun, here is my list of the best albums of the last 50 years. My criteria are:

  • The album must first be excellent (more than just good) from 1st song to the last, with no “throw-away” tracks (which disqualifies classics such as Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and the Beatles’ Let It Be and Abbey Road (which rocks on side one, but falls apart on side 2).
  • They are albums that I will listen to in their entirety, to the extent that even the order of the songs is important.
  • I will have owned the album on more than one medium, including vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD and mp3.
  • I am listing only one album per artist.
  • I must have first owned it over 10 years ago
  • Finally, I still like these albums just as much today as when they were first released.

The list is not necessarily ranked. Many of my favorite CDs didn’t make this list for one reason or another, even though overall they were great albums. But, I tried to keep this list to the truly outstanding.

  1. Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd.  No explanation necessary here.
  2. Aja – Steely Dan. I own or have owned this on cassette tape, vinyl, CD and mp3; perhaps the only album I can say this about.  It is simply a top-notch album, one that Steely Dan feared they could never come close to again, and they were right.
  3. The Stranger – Billy Joel.  This is one killer album; pure genius, demonstrating that Joel really understood the types of people he sang about.
  4. Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws – Bruce Cockburn. This one always leaves me with a sense of eternity, like I’ve somehow had a glimpse of heaven.
  5. Poetic Champion Compose – Van Morrison. While I’d been a Van Morrison fan for a long time, this CD blew me away. It’s one of the few VM albums were Morrison actually sounds happy, and you just can’t help but be happy with him.
  6. Silk Degrees – Boz Scaggs. Every song a potential hit, with perfect arrangements. Great open road music.
  7. Joshua Tree – U2. Perhaps the last album I bought new on vinyl. In my opinion, U2 has never come close to topping this record.
  8. Rumors – Fleetwood Mac. Having given up on popular music in the mid-70’s, this is the album that got me back to top-40 rock. And I’ve never heard anything quite as perfect as Mick Fleetwood’s drumming on this album.
  9. So – Peter Gabriel. 1986 was a great year, partly due to this.
  10. Icarus – The Paul Winter Project. I saw Paul Winter in concert in 1973, and bought this album at the concert. It was their transition from “ordinary” world folk music to what would eventually be called new age. It needs to be listened to in one sitting, at least 2 or 3 times.
  11. Horrendous Disc – Daniel Amos.  I heard these songs in concert about 2 years before the CD was available due to legal issues with the label. DA’s transition from country-folk to rock was amazing; among other things, it served as inspiration for Collective Soul (the influences, especially on CS’s early CDs are obvious).
  12. Déjà vu – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. A unique collection of songs reflecting the 4 individuals that somehow all fits well together.

So, there you have it.  If I were including newer music, I would probably include albums like Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Coil, The Avett Brother’s The Carpenter or perhaps a Gillian Welch. I had initially included Seal, by Seal, but I usually skip the first cut when I listen to it; otherwise it’s stellar. Other albums I considered included NGDB’s Uncle Charlie, but “Rave On” always kind of annoyed me.  So, I held pretty closely to my criteria.

If you think I’ve erred either in commission or omission, feel free to let me know.

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2 Responses to My Top 12 Classic Albums

  1. Bill says:

    An interesting and diverse list. Some of these records are among my favorites, and some I’ve never listened to (seeing them on this list causes me to want to change that). But I have to jump in to defend side 2 of Abbey Road! I love side 2. I think it’s a brilliant collage and actually prefer listening to it than to the also brilliant side one. 🙂

  2. This is an excellent list of albums. Regarding Billy Joel, I think that “52nd Street” could just as easily be on this list as “The Stranger.”

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