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The Top 10 Albums of All Time

iStock_000016785741XSmallIn 2012 one of my favorite Strumings was the indisputable Top 20 Records of All Time, as determined by me. I got a lot of grief for that list and some of my suggestions, tunes like I’m Too Sexy (Right Said Fred), 98.6 (Keith), Brandy (Looking Glass) and Dancing in the Moonlight (King Harvest) were among the hits that graced my top 20 records of all-time list. Unfortunately, those records were “one-hit wonders”, so it’s tough to rank the albums that these hits appeared on as great albums.

But once again I open myself up to criticism about my “unique” musical taste, as this first Struming of the new year delivers the official top 10 albums of all time.

The idea of an album is actually a “very vinyl” concept and I have hundreds of vinyl albums to prove it. A great album is collection of songs with many great ones (Greatest Hits albums are disqualified by the way. That’s cheating). Albums have faded in importance. Vinyl was usurped by cassettes, CDs, and MP3s. Alas, in today’s digital music world, the concept of an album is frankly not as important to music lovers or the industry. Just as “Video killed the Radio Star” then maybe “MP3s killed the LP stars” (This is a good idea for a new Buggles song to be played on the final broadcast of MTV, when it is put out of its misery)

Nonetheless, there was a day when the album ruled. Though I began collecting “singles” (aka 45s) in the early 60s, I did not begin to buy albums until the late 60s. Though not on the top 10 albums of all time, the albums below were the first albums I bought:

Hair Loved the music from the Broadway play including Age of Aquarius, Good Morning Starshine, and many others. A little dated now, but good stuff then.

Iron Butterfly/ In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida The 17-minute title song was a personal fave, and later when I was a disc jockey on the weekends at an album rock station (WDHA) in the 80s, was a favorite for the needed bathroom break.

Chicago Transit Authority (their first album) Alas they’ve become a lounge act, but their music was so fresh back in 1969. Questions 67 & 68 rocks. (By the way, what happened to questions 1-66?)

The Who/ Tommy The first “rock opera”. Very heavy. Sure plays a mean pin ball.

Grand Funk Railroad/Closer to Home I’m Your Captain is still a rock classic. Mind expanding song.

Blind Faith Anchored by Clapton & Windwood in their youth, this “supergroup” lasted 15 minutes (though I did see them at MSG in 1969). This was their one and only album

I bought a quad stereo in 1970 for my dorm room at Rutgers to enjoy these and my burgeoning collection. The purchases came fast and furious after these initial selections. In an album era, quality and quantity of good songs on an album were important. One or two great songs and 6 clunkers made for an unfulfilled listening experience, since one usually just dropped the stylus (needle) on side 1, cut 1, always one of the best songs on any album, and listened from there.

Given my age and the declining importance of albums themselves, this definitive list is obviously skewed to the 60s, 70s, and 80s, in fact only 1 album from the 90s appears and none in the last decade. Too bad. It’s my list.

Lastly, you will note that no Beatles & Stones albums appear. You may say that my whole list is bogus as a result. That would be a fair criticism. But given the era in which I grew up, I was SO burnt out from listening to the Beatles & Stones, that even today it’s often hard to hear their music through fresh ears.

So in reverse order here are “undisputed” top 10 top albums of all time, determined by me:

10. Dave Matthews Band/Under the Table and Dreaming

This is the one “new” album on the list. I guess new is defined as less than 20 years old, since the album was released in 1994. I remember hearing Ants Marching and What Would You Say for the first time and thinking, whoa, these are GREAT songs, and moreover a fresh sound. I am over DMB now, but this album is still worthy of #10.

9. Michael Jackson/Thriller

This is a great album, which is now 30 years old, having been released in late 1982. We all know that the late Michael Jackson turned into a freak in this era, but this album is an all-time great one.  Billy Jean, Beat It, Thriller, and many more. And the videos for these tunes were equally brilliant.

8. Marvin Gaye/What’s Going On

This 1971 classic had Mercy, Mercy Me, What’s Going On, and Inner City Blues among its songs. The late Marvin Gaye’s music was evolving and it is worthy of top 10 status

7. Beach Boys/Pet Sounds

It would be understandable if I was burnt out by these tunes too, but somehow I’m not. Wouldn’t It Be Nice and God Only Knows are all-time classics.

6. Sly & The Family Stone/ Stand!

I saw Sly 10+ times in the early 70s. Half the time Sly was 2 or more hours late and probably always in another world. No matter. His music was phenomenal. I Want to Take You Higher, Stand and Everyday People were among the classic cuts from this album.

5. Neil Young/Harvest

I used to laugh at people who liked Neil Young. When I first heard his music I thought he whined his lyrics and the songs were pedestrian. I was wrong. His music has grown on me—a lot. Unlike other artists whose music fades, his gets stronger. Old Man, Needle & the Damage Done, Heart of Gold, all terrific songs from this 1972 album.

4. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band/ Born to Run

This was Bruce’s 3rd album and he was already a NJ legend and god in the NY/NJ/PA axis by the early 70s, but Born to Run, released in 1975, made Bruce a mega star. Thunder Road, Born to Run, 10th Avenue Freeze Out (named for 10th Avenue in my decimated shore town, Belmar, by the way, as is E Street) and many more. This was Bruce’s best collection.

3. Derek & The Dominoes/ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs

Released in 1970, interestingly its uber-famous title track, didn’t gain popularity until 1972. That Clapton fellow again, having left Blind Faith and formed Derek & the Dominoes. Though not officially part of the band, Duane Allman played on most of the tracks. Bell Bottom Blues and Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad? were also classics.

2. The Who/Who’s Next

Saw the Who for the first time at the Forest Hills tennis stadium in Queens where they used to play the US Open. It was just a couple weeks after they released Who’s Next, in which I was quickly wearing a groove in the vinyl. But I remember hearing Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley live for the first time and was blown away in the Summer of 1971. And there were other great songs too–Bargain, Behind Blue Eyes, The Song is Over. It didn’t get better than this…..

Except for #1!

1. Grateful Dead/American Beauty

220px-Grateful_Dead_-_American_BeautyGrateful Dead #1? You bet. There are tons of Dead albums to pick from–studio, live, bootlegs, etc. I never heard a Grateful Dead album that I didn’t like. Yes, I am a Dead Head and proud of it and I could have included several other Dead albums on this list too (Workingman’s Dead in particular). But 1970’s American Beauty is an all-time classic and worthy of #1 status. Sugar Magnolia (which I sang as a slower bed time lull-a-bye to our daughter when she was little), Ripple, Box of Rain, Friend of the Devil, Broke Down Palace, Truckin’ and more. Jerry’s voice even sounded good.

OK, so let the abuse begin. No Beatles, Stones, Clash (I never got them anyhow).  No Hendrix, Led Zep, etc.

Feedback, and even abuse in this case, are welcome. What are your picks? Which ones did I miss?

Other musical Strumings:

Top 20 records of all time

The Same Bands Over and Over Again

Dead Again




More Strumings

28 Comments

  1. Kel Smith says:

    “Thriller” came out 30 years ago? Man, I feel old now.

  2. Please tell me you at least considered Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life and at least one album by a, ahem, woman. :-) Happy new year!

  3. Lonny Strum says:

    Tapestry by Carole King was “bubbling under” as was Songs in the Key of Life, which was in the top 10 in my first draft too. But no Aimee Mann/Til Tuesday, Kelly.

  4. Mark says:

    Lonny, The list needs to be longer :) . Good choices, but other considerations might include: Beatles (Sgt. Peppers, White album, others), Carol King (Tapestry), Led Zepplin (Stairway to Heaven), Simon&Garfunkel (Boxer/Bridge Over Troubled Waters), Jackson Browne (The Pretender), James Taylor (Fire&Rain), Dire Straits (first album). Maybe a little Earth, Wind & Fire, more Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Allman Bros (Eat a Peach)? I’m sure there are lots of deserving albums

    • Lonny Strum says:

      All good choices Mark. But that’s what makes picking 10 so hard. I just heard from Brad A 5 minutes ago. Guess you Richmond folk are still on vaca and have nothing better to do than read my Strumings.

  5. Stuart Marvin says:

    Not too shabby a list, Lonny. Obviously, creating a list of top 10 LPs is subjective, varies significantly by ones age, preferred musical genre, etc. In many respects top 10 LP lists are a bit silly, but not nearly as silly as Wine Spectator’s annual list of the Top 100 wines. Nonetheless, my personal list would include: In the Court of the Crimson King (King Crimson), Ziggy Strardust (David Bowie), Dark Side (Pink Floyd), Songs For Beginners (Graham Nash) and Beggars Banquet (the Stones). I’d endorse Blind Faith and Layla from your list. It’s blasphemous not to include any Stones or Beatles LPs, unquestionably the greatest band to ever record–not a dud in their entire body of work. Long live the LP!

  6. Lonny Strum says:

    All good “Bubbling Unders”, Stuart. In the Court of the Crimson King was also a personal fave. I crancked up my quad stereo for that one. Yes, no Stones or Beatles was blasphemous. Maybe in another 10 years I won’t be so burnt out by their music.

  7. Bill Borton says:

    Lonny, I’m on board with most of your choices, and the list of truly greats needs to be longer, but a few that come to mind are Dave Mason’s Alone Together (remember the marbleized vinyl), Spirit’s 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, Jethro Tull’s Aqualung. The Yes Album, Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East, Johnny Winter And Live, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Genesis’ Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Peter Gabriel’s classic So (I just saw him perform it last fall). I could go on and on.. Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Mountain, Ten Years After, Savoy Brown, Steve Winwood, Robert Palmer, Steely Dan, Gentle Giant, Wishbone Ash……….OK, I’ll stop now.

  8. Lonny Strum says:

    Great choices. Isn’t Peter Gabriel a great performer? Dave Mason. Loved him. Savoy Brown (”Tell mama”) a great tune. You know your music and it’s clear to me that unlike our former President, you did inhale in the 70s.

  9. Dave Purdy says:

    I remember sitting at a bar with you going over the top 200 songs some 12 years ago. I think Meatloaf Bat out of Hell has to be close to the top 10.

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Purdy–

      Had to be even more than 12 years. Left Star Group in 1999, almost 14 years ago. Always loved Meat Loaf. Still do. Paradise by the Dashboard Light is an all time fave. Any song which included a former Yankee (Phil Rizzuto) had to be great.

  10. Rick Simmons says:

    Scary is the day when I agree so much with Mr Borton but I agree on Aqualung, Dark Side of the Moon and Yes and I would add Sgt Pepper.

    Overall not a bad attempt though Lonny – thanks

  11. Rich H says:

    Love your number 1 as you know my preferences for any incarnation of “the boys”. I have to agree with Stuart that age and tastes certainly figure into the list.
    I would have to include Dark Side of the Moon as #2. Several copies of Dark Side of the Moon worm out from those of us who remember needles and cartridges from Radio 437 on Chestnut street.
    I would have to include Greetings From Asbury Park, Yes “Close to the Edge”, Beatles Sgt Peppers, For Something Newer Crash Test Dummies “God Shuffled his Feet” and Kansas’ LeftOverture spoke to me and still do. Event to warrant visits to the Keswick and Sellersville Theatres to see the remnants of those bands. For Something completely different I have to add Bing Crosby’s White Christmas since this is top albums not just rock. A nod to Genesis for “The Lamb Lies down on Broadway” or ‘A Trick of the tail” without Gabriel. STARTING TO SCARE ME THAT MANY OF MY CHOICES ARE FROM the 70′S INCLUDING VAN MORRISONS MOONDANCE and Traffic’s Low spark of High Heeled Boys.

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Yeah, there are are a lot of Pink Floyd fans and not everyone is a Deadheads like us Rich. But in only picking the top 10 you need to leave off a lot of classics. Happy 2013.

  12. Interesting list of your personal favorites, but ANY list of best albums of all time that is conspicuously missing The Beatles is off-base (you can make a strong argument for any one — or all — of three, my personal favorite being “Abby Road”). I would also second the nomination of “Dark Side of the Moon.”

  13. Lonny Strum says:

    Yeah I knew the absence of the Beatles wouldn’t go over big, John. And it’s not that I am not a fan. It’s just too painful to hear their music again and again. I need a break (of 10 years)

    I’m waiting to hear comments on the list from our buddy Ben Bencivenga, though I already heard from his key guy, Dave Purdy above. Hope all is well.

  14. Larry Chrzan says:

    Lots of good choices in your top 10 list Lonny. Glad to see a couple of my favorites in there, Marvin Gaye, Neil Young and Dave Matthews in particular. I’m not a Dead fan so your #1 choice doesn’t work for me, but if you are a Dead fan, I guess you have to do that.

    Others that were previously mentioned, Pink Floyd DSOTM and anything by Led Zeppelin or the Beatles could certainly be in anyone’s top 10. Ones that I would have included: Boston’s first album (an innovative sound at the time and one of the few albums that is consistently excellent all the way through) and America’s first album (the first LP I ever bought and I still play it from time to time, scratches and all).

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Larry, Boston & America were nowhere near the top 10. Obviously I know the Beatles should be. And many are Pink Floyd fans too, so that’s arguable. But any album with Horse With No Name shouldn’t be on the top 10 (though I always liked Ventura Highway).

  15. Ed Callahan says:

    I never had an extensive collection of “33s” but I too agree Thriller is right up there. I lived being reminded of all this great music. Clapton, Carole King, the Beatles are all favorites of mine. I can listen the sound tracks of Phantom, Rent, & Slumdog Millionaire over and over.

  16. Julian Penna says:

    Lonny,
    You forgot the best album of all time, hands down.
    Bob Marley- Legend
    Happy New Year
    Julian

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Alas the late Bob Marley did not make the cut. Don’t worry about a thing, Julian. Every little thing’s gonna be alright.

  17. Bruce Lev says:

    Prince-purple rain, Beatles-sgt pepper/white album/abbey road….cat stevens-tea for the tillerman Moody blues- on the threshold of a dream, miles davis, stevie wonder, earth, wind and fire, sinatra, ella, goodman, hoagy carmichael, hall and oates, midnight oil, inxs, the isley brothers -harvest for the world, James Taylor, Jethro Tull, elvis (the costello version), temptations, the call-reconciled, crowded house, genesis (original), Peter Gabriel-every freakin’ one, Bowie-hunky dory, hendrix, lennon, joni mitchell !!!, the police, sting, fleetwood mac, steely dan-aja, luther, barry white, tom waits, dylan, leonard coihen, dire straits-making movies and brothers in arms….kings of leon, the shins, the smiths, morrissey (alone), oasis, zevon, jackson browne, petty. talk talk, and I love Aimee Mann (hi kelly) radiohead, world party…shuggie otis (my man), sade, scritti politti, sarah vaughan, mel torme, stones, zeppelin, randy newman, R.E.M, Psychedelic Furs, simon with and without garfunkel , CSNY….and Pitbull………ok, maybe not pitbull….now look at your top ten..I’m not feelin’ it…Mood swings meet a different top ten for each day….or maybe in a day…or it could be I’m a libra……thanks for the diversion….xx bruce…

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Ooh, Tea for the Tillerman. Good idea. And Aqualung is a classic. The others, not so much. Earth Wind & Fire? Music that’s played at bar mitvahs can’t qualify. But thanks for the feedback, Bruce. Happy 2013.

  18. My list is kind of quirky: My criteria include breakthrough music/lyrics, and the fact that I listen to the album over and over without getting tired of it. Here’s my list:

    Thriller
    Hair
    Still Crazy After All These Years
    Saturday Night Fever
    Diamonds and Rust
    White Album
    Highway 61 Revisited
    Ziggy Stardust
    Led Zeppelin
    Queen Innuendo

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