20. Graceland by Paul Simon (1986)
Simon’s solo masterpiece is great for integrating “world music” and some of the most well-thought-out lyrics ever written. Highlights include “Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes,” “Homeless,” “I Know What I Know,” and the title track.
19. Singalong by Pete Seeger (1980)
Pete Seeger and thousands of voices in Cambridge’s Sanders Theater sing the great folk songs of a generation. Seeger is not really about recordings, but I find this recorded Pete at his best virtually bringing you the concert experience. Favorites include “If I Had A Hammer,” “The Water is Wide,” “Old Devil Time,” and many more.
18. London Calling by The Clash (1979)
This may be the first time that Pete Seeger and The Clash appear in a list next to one another, but they share a certain passion and do-it-yourself ethic, so why not. I’m not the first one to extol the greatness of London Calling so I’ll just tell you my favorite songs are “Lost in the Supermarket,” “Rudie Can’t Fail,” “Guns of Brixton,” “The Right Profile,” the title song and the rest of the whole album.
17. I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One by Yo La Tengo (1997)
I resisted putting every single album by Yo La Tengo in this list, but if you don’t have any albums by this band please get this one. You may also enjoy “Moby Octopad” (and its Mets’ references), “Sugarcube,” “Stockholm Syndrome,” “Shadows,” “Autumn Sweater,” and the rest.
16. So by Peter Gabriel (1986)
There are probably diehard Gabriel fans who roll their eyes at this pick but I say that any album with experimental sounds and clever lyrics that can still be a huge hit is worth remembering. I like all the songs that got played all the time on the radio, and the one from that movie, and then there’s “This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds).”
15. Revolver by The Beatles (1966)
This is my favorite Beatles album and I’m never sure why. Lots of studio experimentation pays off (not to mention drug experimentation), I guess. Favorite songs include “I’m Only Sleeping,” “Got to Get You Into My Life,” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
14. Intersections by DJ Maus (2000)
DJ Maus is a drum & bass DJ we once danced to long ago in Montreal and this is one of her albums I picked up and have been entranced by ever since. Favorite tracks: “Plug,” “Phoneheads,” and “Amon Tobin.”
13. Ten Thousand Mornings by Peter Mulvey (2002)
This is the first and only album on this list that I was present for its recording, albeit briefly and accidentally. Many musicians in Boston hone their skills by playing in the subways and Mulvey paid tribute to this by recording the entire album in Davis Sq station in Somerville. It’s a great mix of cover songs, collaborations with other folkies, and roaring trains in the background. Highlights include “Oliver’s Army,” “Comes Love” (with Erin McKeown), “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind” (w/ Sean Staples), “The Ocean,” and “Two Janes.”
12. Lincoln by They Might Be Giants (1988)
The Brooklyn-based band pays tribute to their Massachusetts’ home town in the title. More importantly upon hearing “Ana Ng” I was inspired to actually turn the radio dial and check out that modern rock station. Other favorites from this album include “Kiss Me, Son of God,” “Cowtown,” and “Purple Toupee.”
11. Citizens Band by The Operators (2002)
Here’s yet another band of people I sort-of-know that broke up…wait a minute, they’ve reunited! Anyhow, some great punk rock from Somerville. Great tracks include “The Old Man Doesn’t Like It,” “Parasite Rex,” “Bottle,” and “Rock City.”
The top ten is next week. I think my writing is getting crappier as the albums get better.