50. Little Richard, Here's Little Richard
We've reached halfway. The question that presents itself in the next fifty albums follows this general trend: does the album's historical significance necessitate its position high on this list of greatest albums. With Here's Little Richard this question must be confronted. The thing is, Here's Little Richard presented rock n' roll to the United States in a barnstorming fashion. Little Richard's debut album contained his chart-topping hits like "Long Tall Sally" and "Jenny, Jenny." Listen, these are not songs I would ever listen to again. Not many people would.
But they're important. Right? So, what do we do? Well, I'll start by pointing out that Here's Little Richard holds up far more than Elvis' Elvis Presley – the debut album from the king. So, let's give Li'l Rich some credit for jiving his way into the hearts of millions of Americans. Throughout rock n' roll, soul, and funk, there persists a trend of iconic musicians who have defined their era. Little Richard is one of the firsts – also, you can't fault the man's style, that mustache hasn't aged a day.
49. The Allman Brothers Band, At Fillmore East
Rolling Stone labels this album as "Rock's greatest double LP." It is not. They are wrong.
See, anyone who puts an album by The Allman Brothers Band in at number 49 is just asking to be whacked on the back of a head by a 32-ounce baseball bat. The song "Whipping Post" which come in at just over twenty-three minutes is a great track – for the first six or seven minutes. By minute ten you begin to think, "getting a bit redundant, here." By minute fifteen you enter the territory of "am I wrong? This is getting stupid. Can someone tell them to stop." At twenty minutes, if you haven't already paused the song and set your speakers on fire, you'll be making active plans to firebomb Mercury records for ever releasing such a self-indulgent piece of nonsense.
You may think my criticism of The Allman Brothers is a bit harsh. That's fine by me. That being said I once had a math teacher who, when he wasn't flaunting his knowledge of the best rollercoasters in the country or physically assaulting students for incorrectly performing logarithmic functions, liked to tell us that he once saw The Allman Brothers Band perform 25 straight times. For that reason – and that reason alone – this album should be thrown into the pit of hell alongside Kid A and Trout Mask Replica.
48. Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Def Jam, 1988
It's genetically impossible for a mammal to listen to It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and NOT feel an overwhelming urge to go outside and firebomb a few cars. At least, that's what I'm guessing.
When Chuck D made the decision to break from his brief career as a radio DJ to team up with his sidekick Flavor Flav and DJ Terminator X, he started a chain of reactions that defined the genre of rap and hip-hop as its known today. Their attitude, style, and – most importantly, words presented an entirely different flavor to the budding genre. In the same way that Rock n' Roll needed The Sex Pistols and The Clash to rebuild the culture with a can full of gas and a handful of matches, funk and hip-hop needed Public Enemy. Once the group signed with Rick Rubin and Def Jam – the group that courted Public Enemy's signature more as fans than executives – the infrastructure was complete to support their rise to the top.
The music on the album is gritty, searing, and political, holding no punches from the bands musical and cultural enemies. The echoing soundscapes that tumble from the speakers represent the sound that influenced NWA, LL Cool J, and other gangster rappers that followed. The Beastie Boys were direct disciples, adding their quirky, schoolboy twang to the mix on Paul's Boutique. The album, however, is far more than an expansive soundscape. The political underpinnings that bind the tracks together would serve as a model for the smooth sounds of A Tribe Called Quest, the punchy rhymes of Jay-Z, and even the ironic humor of Kanye West.
It's a shame that there aren't more hip-hop albums on this list. Today, more than ever, the genre has been overrun by pop producers and mumble rappers who brag about spending thirty minutes on a song and spend more time crafting their outfits than their tracklists. Yeah – I sound like an old critic whining about the present, but can you blame me? The music of the present sucks. Hell, that's why every other album on this list came out between 1965 and 1975.
Public Enemy remains on the throne of rap and hip-hop, seated in their rightful place as kings and leaders of an entire genre. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back was their prophetic warning to the world of what was to follow their first foray into taking a subculture mainstream.
If you haven't already – put on the album and listen, absorb, and feel your blood start to boil. If any album embodies a revolution, it's this one. Hear the drummer get wicked.
47. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme
As I mentioned when Miles Davis appeared in the first set of 10 albums with Bitches Brew, I know far too little about jazz to criticize it. That being said, A Love Supreme was one of the first records I ever owned on vinyl. Receiving the album as a birthday present in February a couple of years ago, I listened to A Love Supreme every morning before school for the rest of the year.
After so many repeated listens, I can now confidently say that I still have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to jazz.
46. Bob Marley and the Wailers, Legend
Though I pressed play on Legend dreading the next hour and twelve minutes of listening I would have to endure, I finished the album with a big smile on my face. Reggae is not a genre I know enough about to criticize, but I'll admit I've always had my hesitations. I get that Reggae and Ska have had indescribable impacts on funk and hip-hop in the last forty years, but I much prefer to hear the product of their influence than the root of their inspiration.
Legend, however, presents Bob Marley in his most complete and refined format. Separating the music from the fumes of marijuana, barbecue, and sunscreen associated with his discography, you quickly realize the satisfaction preserved in the simplicity of his songs. Also, even though I've never before listened to Marley intentionally, I realized that I knew almost all of the words to many of the songs. Following this unexpected musical revelation, I can assert that Legend deserves some reference in the canon of significant music. Is it better than some of the James Brown, Led Zeppelin, or The Clash album's it surpasses on this list? Of course not. Is its impact negated by its creation as a compilation of Marley's greatest hits rather than a single album? Yes. But it's not the worst thing in the world, and that means something.
Also, check out this video of Ajax Amsterdam fans singing "Three Little Birds," the song that has developed into their anthem over the last decade. Watching 60,000 Dutch fans singing the song during this year's Champions League campaign has been an enduring pleasure.
45. The Band, The Band
I'm sorry. Really. I am.
This album is way, way too far up on this list. Yes, some of the songs on The Band contain seeds of soul, country, and folk music that other bands would make far better efforts to perfect. But as an entire album, the project falls through. Fair warning: I'm about to rip into The Band for the next three hundred words so feel free to skip to the upcoming album if you are feeling hurt. Just to prove The Band's inferiority; however, I'll preface the review by pointing out that their third most played song on Spotify is their cover of Bruce Springsteen's Atlantic City. End of discussion.
The Band should be remembered for The Last Waltz and their precarious straddling of the '60s and '70s in which they closed the gap between rock and folk music with a shoddily constructed bridge. Ultimately, however, their music leaves much to be desired. They do not express the same songwriting prowess as The Rolling Stones and their music if far less catch than Creedence Clearwater Revival. Also, if you listen to one of the better songs of the album such as "The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down, you'll quickly realize that, if they had done one more take in the studio, they could have recorded a far superior version. Right after the lyric "should never have taken the very best…," you are expecting a succulent pause to lead into the iconic chorus. Instead, you get a drummer who trips over the lead singers vocal, starting his beat two seconds too early. Come on, guys.
I'll grant The Band some cultural reverence forty years after their peak, but musically, I'm afraid they simply aren't good enough. Music from the Big Pink is a far superior claim to greatness, but even that project contains some gaping flaws.
History should remember The Band as a group of talented musicians who were undone by three fatal flaws. First, they have the least creative band name in music history (and don't give me this "they were being ironic" bullshit – if that's the case then the only thing they were being were pretentious assholes). Second, they are remembered for a sendoff concert in which they were not even the main attraction. Seriously, The Last Waltz is Bob Dylan's show. And, last but certainly not least, they are four-fifths Canadian. Oh, and their lead singer sounds like Kermit the Frog if he smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and was a recovering Heroin addict.
We can't be having that in the top fifty. Not today. Not ever.
44. Patti Smith, Horses
Before listening to Horses, my only knowledge of Patti Smith was that she was yet another musician whose most famous song was written by Bruce Springsteen. After listening to Horses, I understand why.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy the album, only it didn't really excite me in any way that may be expected from an album ranked so highly. The shining glory of the project is the persistent energy of Smith's stuttering quirkiness that infuses so many of the album's tracks with an overwhelming sense of paranoia. Unlike many of the records on this list, Horses presents the listener with the singer's personality long before it gets around to revealing the songs. This tactic is punk to the core. Placing the majority of her chips on being an oddity, though, creates an inevitable problem when the producer presses record, and she has to sing.
The hindrance of emphasizing Smith's uniqueness is that many of the tracks result in sounding like far-fetched attempts at crossing into other genres. For example, the reggae vibes of "Redondo Beach" present Smith as more of a drunk Stevie Nicks stumbling her way through a Bob Marley duet than a punk rocker busting down the door on her debut album.
Horses was an enjoyable listen, but I'm afraid it's in over its head this high up on the list. Next.
43. Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon
The Dark Side of the Moon may beat out Kid A and Trout Mask Replica as the most pretentious album on this entire list. The whole project is interminably dull and the only response it inspires from its listener is one 42 minute eye-roll. Rolling Stone describes the album as more of "a single extended piece rather than a collection of songs." Excuse me for a second while I clean the vomit off of my keyboard.
One Pink Floyd album in the top-100 is pushing it. Two is downright insulting. Not today.
42. The Doors, The Doors
Anyone else feel like Jim Morrison needed a good punch in the face? The guy could sing, but he was too dark all of the time. Someone needed to wake him up.
The Doors is a phenomenal album. Not only does it contain a dark presence of anger and resentment that permeates every track but it does so without wasting your time. I know this sounds like a strange comment, but every song on the album is exactly as long as it needs to be. In 1967, The Doors were aware that they were going out on a limb by combining the poppy sound of The Kinks with the grungy, tasty, and satanic urges that Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath would explore years later.
"Break on Through to the Other Side" and "Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)" sound like tracks from the soundtrack of a made-for-tv zombie slasher flick. And I mean that as a compliment. "The End" remains perhaps the most horrifying and attractive song that has ever been produced. When Francis Ford Coppola decided to use the track as the musical thesis of Apocalypse Now, he did so understanding that the use of this single song would transform his film from a cluster of chaotic metaphors into a symphony on the furthest realms of the human mind. The Doors is a masterpiece released decades before its time. It stands as one of the few picks this magazine has placed correctly. Bravo.
No, but seriously, if there's an afterlife, I'm going to find Jim and give him a good slap across the face. I just want to make him smile.
41. The Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
Warner Bros., 1977
When reviewing Rolling Stone Magazine's decision to place The Clash's debut album shortly inside the top-100, I mentioned that, if the Pistols had released more than one record, The Clash would be regarded as the more significant project. So, to an extent, I have to admit that Never Mind the Bollocks is inherently overrated.
In the history of popular music, I do not believe there is a single album that has been so hyped up because of the band's outfits, hairstyles, hair colors, and personalities. But, when discussing The Sex Pistols, that's not necessarily an insult. See, the Pistols' attitude plays such a significant role in their legendary status as the true pioneers of punk. Even today, walking through target you will see tens of 14-year old girls with dyed hair and nose piercings, trying to reflect the sense of punk that the Pistols created so many decades ago. They are usually sporting fewer swastikas and are more addicted to social media that heroin or meth but, still, they are making an effort.
Since the album hit the shelves in 1977, hundreds of bands have fumbled the torch of punk through different stages and genres to the present moment. Punk plays an integral role in the modern culture of music not only by its presence as a source of influence but also as a genuine thread of emotion that dominates the charts.
Now, to the music. The twelve tracks on Never Mind the Bollocks are simply brilliant. From the narcotic howlings on "Bodies" to the flag defiling anthem "God Save the Queen," Never Mind the Bollocks remains seductively pungent even 42 years after its release. "Pretty Vacant," a personal favorite from the album, catches the ear perfectly with Lydon's incessant boredom. The album's most recognizable and culturally significant track, "Anarchy in the UK," sounds like a show tune from a remake of the musical Wicked but instead of teenage witches, the story centers around degenerate drug addicts. It's brilliant.