Favorite Albums of All Time: 80-71

Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list.  This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts.  The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.

250-241 200-191 150-141 100-91
240-231 190-181 140-131 90-81
230-221 180-171 130-121
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101


Artist: Various
Title: This Are Two Tone
Year: 1983
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Specials – “Gangsters”
  • The Selecter – “On My Radio”
  • The (English) Beat – “Tears of a Clown”
  • The Specials – “A Message To You, Rudy”
  • The (English) Beat – “Ranking Full Stop”
  • The Specials – “Stereotype”
  • The Specials – “Do Nothing”
  • Rhoda Dakar with The Specials – “The Boiler”
  • The Specials – “Ghost Town”

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990

Thoughts: I was listening to the “Modern Rock” radio station and heard “Ghost Town” by The Specials and HAD TO HAVE that song.  The thing is that my suburban Connecticut home town’s record stores had limited selections.  I looked everywhere I could think of in the store where I might find The Specials. Finally, I did a last ditch look in the compilations section where I found This Are Two Tone.  Even though the songs were ~10 years old at this time, it is no exaggeration when I say that this album CHANGED MY LIFE!

Bonus Sounds: 2 Tone Records didn’t release many albums as bands like The Beat and Madness moved on to other labels, but a stunning three albums from the label will be on my list.  One great song that’s not on any of these albums is “Nelson Mandela” by The Special A.K.A.


Artist: The Go-Go’s
Title:Beauty and the Beat
Year:  1981
Favorite Tracks:

  • Our Lips Are Sealed
  • How Much More
  • Tonite
  • This Town
  • We Got the Beat
  • You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep)
  • Skidmarks On My Heart

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 80s, although it was my sister’s album

Thoughts: The most successful all-woman rock band of all time released this perfect collection of pop punk gems in 1981.  It seems to get better with each passing year.

Bonus Sounds: The Go-Go’s album discography is small but strong! Their 80s follow-up albums Vacation (1982) and Talk Show (1984) also have a lot of great tracks and Belinda Carlisle’s early solo work is also quite good.


Artist: Kris Delmhorst 
Title: Songs For a Hurricane
Year:  2003
Favorite Tracks:

  • Waiting Under the Waves
  • East of the Mountains
  • Bobby Lee
  • Juice & June (NOT to be confused with Juice & Gin)
  • Hummingbird
  • Hurricane
  • Short Work
  • Mingalay

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2003

Thoughts: Kris Delmhorst was already one of my favorite artists in the Boston folk scene, but this remarkable album saw her further incorporating old-time/Americana influences into music with a contemporary sensibility.  Since most of the songs work on meteorological themes, you could even say it’s a concept album.

Bonus Sounds: This is Kris Delmhorst’s 4th appearance in my countdown (two of her solo albums, one as member of a group, and one compilation).  I’d also recommend the 2005 album Redbird, the eponymous debut of a trio featuring Delmhorst with with Peter Mulvey and Jeffrey Foucault.


Artist: Jolie Holland 
Title: Escondida
Year:  2004
Favorite Tracks:

  • Sascha
  • Old Fashioned Morphine
  • Amen
  • Mad Tom of Bedlam
  • Darlin Ukelele
  • Damn Shame

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2004

Thoughts: A friend gave us this album and the Americana/alt-country/folk rock/je ne sais quoi sound blew my mind.  Jolie Holland was originally a member of The Be-Good Tanyas before going solo and it has the same old timey-goes-modern vibe with an extra kick.

Bonus Sounds: Despite loving Escondida, I never got any of the Holland’s other albums!  I need to address that.


Artist: R.E.M. 
Favorite Tracks:

  • Radio Free Europe
  • Pilgrimage
  • Talk About the Passion
  • Moral Kiosk
  • Perfect Circle
  • Sitting Still
  • We Walk

The First Time I Heard This Album …: late 1980s

Thoughts: R.E.M. were already top ten artists by the time I learned of them, but I enjoyed going back to their debut album.  I can’t imagine what it was like for listeners trying make sense of Murmur in 1983. It’s too melodic for punk, too folk for New Wave, and too cryptic for pop. Despite not being of its time, the songs on Murmur have a timeless quality.

Bonus Sounds: There is one more R.E.M. album coming up, but I like everything the band released in the 1980s, and even have a soft spot for 1998’s Up.


Artist: Pixies
Title: Surfer Rosa
Year:  1988
Favorite Tracks:

  • Bone Machine
  • Gigantic
  • River Euphrates
  • Cactus
  • Oh My Golly!
  • Vamos
  • I’m Amazed

The First Time I Heard This Album …: late 80s

Thoughts: I kind of went backwards with the Pixies from Bossanova to Doolittle to Surfer Rosa.  It took me some time to become accustomed to the harder-edged sound of their debut album, but over a gazillion plays it became an all-time favorite.

Bonus Sounds: More Pixies to come!  The band’s post-80s releases are spotty, but I do like Frank Black’s second solo album Teenager of the Year.


Artist: The Muppets
Title: The Muppet Movie: Original Soundtrack Recording
Year: 1978
Favorite Tracks:

  • Rainbow Connection
  • Movin’ Right Along
  • I Hope That Somethin’ Better Comes Along
  • I’m Going To Go Back There Someday

The First Time I Heard This Album …: College, early 90s, but I knew the songs for much longer

Thoughts: Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher went hard in making the original songs from a movie about puppets road tripping across America some of the most memorable in Hollywood history.

Bonus Sounds:  The Muppets have a considerably lengthy discography including soundtracks from their tv shows and movies, Christmas albums, and various compilations.  I remember liking John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together (1979) as a kid but it’s been a long time since I’ve given it a listen.


Artist: Nirvana
Title: Nevermind 
Year: 1991
Favorite Tracks:

  • Smells Like Teen Spirit
  • In Bloom
  • Come As You Are
  • Lithium
  • Endless, Nameless

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1991

Thoughts: My opinion of Nevermind is colored by the fact that I was 17-years-old and a freshman at college when the album was released and seemingly changed the music industry overnight. Despite the nostalgia I might have for this album, I actually never owned a physical copy of the album, I just listened to it in other peoples’ dorm rooms. Thirty years later, this album still sounds fresh and different to me. Which is strange, because Nirvan were drawing on influences going back decades earlier and have inspired infinite soundalike bands since.

Bonus Sounds: Nirvana’s three original studio albums and the groundbreaking MTV Unplugged in New York live album are all worth a listen.


Artist: Portishead 
Title: Dummy
Year:  1994
Favorite Tracks:

  • Sour Times
  • Strangers
  • Wandering Star
  • Numb
  • Glory Box

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Early 2000s


Probably a perfect album.  Portishead combines a lot of things that were going on at the time in the 90s – hip-hop rhythms, creative samples, and ambience galore.  The music could be described as “chill-out” if only the tension were not constantly be ratcheting up.  The alluring vocals of Beth Gibbons carry the songs into an effervescent place.

Bonus Sounds: Portishead has three studio albums but I’ve only listened to this one.  I guess it’s about time to check out the other ones.  In the meantime, enjoy “6 Underground” by fellow trip hop artists Sneaker Pimps.


Artist: The Beach Boys 
Title: Pet Sounds
Year: 1966
Favorite Tracks:

  • Wouldn’t It Be Nice
  • Sloop John B.
  • God Only Knows
  • I Know There’s An Answer
  • I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times
  • Caroline, No
  • Hang On To Your Ego

The First Time I Heard This Album …: early 2000s

Thoughts: The Beach Boys, a band known for fun songs about surfing and fast cars, put out this album with mature and introspective lyrics and more complex musicality in 1966. It proved to be a stepping stone in the evolution of Rock to a more artistic form of music and the dawn of the Album Era. It took a long time for me to warm up to the Beach Boys were actually really good, serious artists (I grew up in the time of “Kokomo” after all) but this album really won me over.

Bonus Sounds: Good Vibrations.