According to legend, in 490 BC, the Greek runner Pheidippides ran from the town of Marathon to Athens, 24 miles away, to announce that the Athenians had defeated the invading Persians. After he announced the victory, he collapsed and died. That, in many ways, is how I feel now that we've finally arrived at my Top 10 favoritist albums ever. I made it! THUMP.
Then again (while mixing Greek metaphors) this is the Golden Fleece, the fire brought down from Olympus, and the head of Medusa all rolled into one. It's also just a list of albums I like a lot. So with much more fanfare than necessary and without further distraction, here is the ten best albums according to me.
#10 - David Bowie - Hunky Dory
I love Bowie's glam period. Ziggy Stardust and all that weirdness. He had his hands in some of the best music of that period, from Lou Reed to the Stooges, and he was producing majestic rockers of his own. This is my primo choice from that period...incredible songwriting and unabashed grandeur woven throughout the music. "Life on Mars?" and "Queen Bitch" are highlights (as is "Changes", but you all knew that) and would later reappear in Portugese as the best part of the Life Aquatic. Listening to his album is to hear an absolute master at the peak of his craft. Favorite Song = "Oh, You Pretty Things"
#9 - Rolling Stones - Some Girls
With apologies to Tattoo You, this is the Rolling Stone's final masterpiece. It's got all the decadence and attitude of their best albums, but with added inflections of disco and glitz. Their version of "(Just My) Imagination" is the definitive one to me, and "Far Away Eyes" is a hilarious riff on country music. "Miss You" is rattles around in my earliest memory banks of childhood, and "Beast of Burden" is a great, great ballad. Favorite Song = "Shattered"
#8 - Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out
The best jazz album ever. Period. As a former band geek I listen to Brubeck's exploration of 5/4 time on "Take Five" and am in absolute awe in his ability to craft one of the most memorable jazz songs in history out of something so unusual. "Blue Rondo a la Turk" and "Three to Get Ready" are absolute classics that everybody knows, even if they don't exactly remember where you know them from. I'll say it again...the best jazz album ever. Period. Favorite Song = "Take Five"
#7 - Soul Coughing - Irresistible Bliss
And here you will find my idiosynchratic side exposed in its fullest glory. I LOVE Soul Coughing. "Move a...side, and let the man go through, let the man go through, through." The day I heard they broke up was the saddest day of my musical life, far surpassing the passing of Dennis Wilson or the release of the Titanic soundtrack. Mike Doughty has one of the most distinct, off-kilter voices in music, and their music was always quirky without being silly. I never ever ever ever get tired of listening to any of their albums, and this is my all-time favorite. Yeah, it's that good. To me, at least. Favorite Song = "Soft Serve"
#6 - Gang of Four - Entertainment!
Another album that has been written about time and time again for it's influence on music. And again, I have nothing to add on that front. All I can say is that the first time I listened to it I felt an incredible excitement, like I'd discovered the Rosetta Stone or something. The stoccato guitars, the subversive lyrics, and it's overall twitchiness are tremendously entertaining (see, just like the title!) and exhilerating. It makes me want to both rhythmically and arhythmically at the same time, which I think is physically impossible. Whatever, it's awesome. Favorite Song = "Natural's Not In It"
#5 - Grateful Dead - Europe '72
I may take some heat for this album being on the list, let alone at #5, but I don't care. Everything you ever need to know about the Grateful Dead can be found here. I'm not a Deadhead, mind you...I'm not into 35 minute-long forays into improvised psychadelia while crowds of tie-dyed hippies slowly wave their pale limbs in the air and complain that their bowls are cashed. I resisted them for a long time because of that image. But a long weekend in San Diego with a buddy who liked them opened my eyes to something I hadn't realized--they were a really good folk rock band. Really, really good. You get the best of everything with this: a live set that highlights some of their best catalog material, most of which is among the best country/blue/folk tunes ever recorded. RIP, Jerry. Favorite Song = "Brown-Eyed Woman"
#4 - Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks
I'm a little surprised that there isn't more Bob Dylan on my list, because I love the man. Yes, he sings through his nose. And what's up with the Victoria Secret commercial? But he doesn't need to apologize for anything, and he never has. His body of work is untouchable, and this, his first "comeback" album, is in my mind his best, and the most achingly beautiful collection of music ever assembled. You can hear a heartbroken, regretful man unspooling stories of lost love, mistakes made, and memories cherished. I don't think I've ever heard anything so emotional as "Tangled Up in Blue," "Idiot Wind," or "If You See Her, Say Hello." Crushing. Favorite Song = "Simple Twist of Fate"
#3 - AC/DC - Highway to Hell
Sex, booze, three chords...what more do you need? Loud. Simple. Perfect. Cheeky has an AC/DC outfit, but Mommy doesn't let her wear it. If Daddy had his way she'd wear it every day. So, by now you get the idea that I like them, right? As previously mentioned, this band was at its best before Bon Scott drank himself to death, and his last album piles on enough minimalist menace and ridiculously awesome guitar hooks to devour and consume a lesser band. And all hard rock bands are lesser bands. I'm staring at the track list and am having a terrible time picking one song to be my favorite, because they are all insane, but since I have to how about... Favorite Song = "Shot Down in Flames"
#2 - Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street
You knew this was coming, didn't you? It's really more like #1B than #2, but whatever. Sprawling, dirty, and complex, it's an incredibly ambitious album that explores and mixes all sorts of genres. Every time I listen to it I catch something I missed the first 60,000 I listened. The best rock and roll album ever. Favorite Song = "Happy"
#1 - The Clash - London Calling
Here we are! My absolute favorite album. It shows up on a lot of "best of" lists, and some of my fellow bloggers have rightfully called it out on their own lists. Where to start? It's incredibly eclectic, with punk, reggae, rockabilly, R&B and straight rock all thrown into the stew and informed with rebellion and blue-collar anger. Each song stands on its own as a masterpiece, and taken together it's a dizzying listen. It was a staple in my car stereo for years, and I would blast "Spanish Bombs," "Guns of Brixton," or "Stagger Lee" with inpunity. I asked our wedding band to play "Train in Vain" and, being a wedding band used to covering KC & the Sunshine Band, they were utterly confused. But they worked up a version for us and afterward the bandleader came over and thanked me for picking it, saying it was the most fun they'd had playing as a band. There's something for everyone on here. It's perfect. RIP, Joe. Favorite Song = "Clampdown"
That's it. FINALLY! I can't believe I have to go back to being original and creative with this blog (or at least start being original and creative) instead of reciting a list of crap I like. What the hell am I going to do now? I'm spent! Maybe a list of creepy things you can see at children's playgrounds and parks. Someone's already done that? Damn....