Favorite Albums of All Time: 90-81


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
230-221 180-171 130-121
220-211 170-161 120-111
210-201 160-151 110-101

 

90

Artist: The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem
Title: A Spontaneous Performance Recording 
Year: 1961
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Moonshiner
  • The Whistling Gypsy
  • Brennan on the Moor
  • Tim Finnegan’s Wake
  • Haul Away Joe
  • Young Roddy McCorley

The First Time I Heard This Album …: childhood

Thoughts: The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem were the icons of the Irish folk music revival and part of the soundtrack of my youth.  This album captures an unadorned concert performance with the energy of an audience singing along.

Bonus Sounds: I saw the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem in various permutations as a group or a duo as a kid with my parents (as well as seeing Liam Clancy solo as an adult) so the concert recordings resonate with me best.  Recorded Live in Ireland (1965) is an excellent companion to A Spontaneous Performance Recording and includes the ultimate pub singalong tune “The Wild Rover.” 


89

Artist: Debo Band
Title: Debo Band
Year: 2012
Favorite Tracks:

  • Akale Wube
  • Ney Ney Weleba
  • Asha Gedawo
  • And Lay

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2012

Thoughts: The Boston-based band plays jazz-inflected contemporary Ethiopian music.  I remember the Debo Band being the hit of many local dance parties about a decade ago.

Bonus Sounds: I wasn’t aware of this but the Debo Band released a second album in 2016 called Ere Gobez. Otherwise they do not appear to have been active since then.


88

Artist:Beyoncé
Title: Lemonade
Year: 2016
Favorite Tracks:

  • HOLD UP
  • SORRY
  • 6 INCH
  • FREEDOM
  • FORMATION

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2016

Thoughts: I was certainly aware of Beyoncé before 2016, but Lemonade made stand up and take notice.  The musically eclectic album is a statement on Black feminism in the era of Black Lives Matter and a tribute to Black history and culture.

Bonus Sounds: It’s hard to believe that Beyoncé didn’t follow up Lemonade until just a few weeks.  Renaissance is an exuberant party album.


87

Artist: Parliament
Title: Mothership Connection
Year:  1975
Favorite Tracks:

  • P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)
  • Mothership Connection (Star Child)
  • Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2016

Thoughts: The Mothership, an icon of George Clinton’s P-Funk collaborative, debuted with this album. The album is the pinnacle of Afro-Futurist funk with a collection of party tunes that celebrate the Black community and funk itself.

Bonus Sounds: Parliament’s discography is not as strong as Funkadelic’s but I do love Chocolate City (1975).


86

Artist: Paul Simon
Title: The Rhythm of the Saints
Year: 1990
Favorite Tracks:

  • The Obvious Child
  • Can’t Run But
  • The Coast
  • She Moves On
  • Born at the Right Time
  • Spirit Voices

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1990

Thoughts: This was Simon’s long-awaited follow-up to Graceland.  Whereas the previous album incorporated South African styles of music, The Rhythm of the Saints draws upon musical Afro-Brazilian and West African musical traditions. The album particularly emphasizes percussion which is what made me fall in love with it as a kid, and why I still love it now.

Bonus Sounds:  There’s another solo album from Paul Simon coming up on the list (I bet you can guess which one!) but Simon continues to create interesting new music.  As recently as 2016 he released Stranger to Stranger which included the great track “The Werewolf.”


85

Artist: Courtney Barnett 
Title: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Year: 2015
Favorite Tracks:

  • Pedestrian at Best
  • Small Poppies
  • Depreston
  • Kim’s Caravan

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2015

Thoughts: Australian singer/songwriter/musician delivers witty lyrics with a deadpan voice and a punk rock rage.

Bonus Sounds: Barnett’s follow-up albums Tell Me How You Really Feel and Things Take Time, Take Time are also worth a listen.


84

Artist: Stevie Wonder
Title: Innervisions
Year: 1973
Favorite Tracks:

  • Living for the City
  • Higher Ground
  • All In Love Is Fair
  • He’s Misstra Know-It-All

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

Thoughts:A jazzier sound for Stevie Wonder with some funk sound as well.  “Living for the City” and “Higher Ground” are examples of Wonder at his best, and “He’s Misstra Know-It-All” is a critique of a corrupt President that became all-too-relevant again in recent years.

Bonus Sounds: There’s so much Stevie Wonder to love as in my music discovery of his peak years.


83

Artist: Beck 
Title: Odelay
Year: 1996
Favorite Tracks:

  • Devil’s Haircut
  • Hotwax
  • The New Pollution
  • Novacane
  • Jack-Ass
  • Where It’s At
  • Minus
  • High 5 (Rock the Catskills)

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 1996

Thoughts: Not content to be a one-hit wonder with the quirky “Loser,” Beck made a statement with his first of many great albums in the late 90s/early 00s.

Bonus Sounds:  All of Beck’s albums from Odelay to Guero (which appeared earlier in this countdown) are excellent but I’m particularly fond of Mutations (1998), which shows more of Beck’s folk rock side.


82

Artist: Peter Mulvey 
Title: Ten Thousand Mornings
Year: 2002
Favorite Tracks:

  • Stranded in a Limousine
  • Inner City Blues
  • Comes Love
  • Running Up the Stairs
  • Oliver’s Army
  • Rain and Snow
  • The Ocean

The First Time I Heard This Album …: 2002

Thoughts: A lot of Boston-area musicians practice new songs by busking in the MBTA subway system.  Among them was Peter Mulvey a folk singer/songwriter who got his start in the biz in Boston back in the 90s.  In tribute, Mulvey recorded this album of cover songs live at various subway stations. This may be the only album I was present for the creation of since I saw Mulvey at Davis Square station in Somerville and he told me he was recording an album.

Bonus Sounds: Mulvey has released great albums from 1992 to earlier this month, but my favorites include Glencree (1998), The Trouble with Poets (2000), Kitchen Radio (2004), and The Knuckleball Suite (2006).


81

Artist: The Pogues 
Title: If I Should Fall From Grace With God
Year: 1988
Favorite Tracks:

  • If I Should Fall From Grace With God
  • Turkish Song of the Damned
  • Fairytale of New York
  • Thousands Are Sailing
  • Fiesta
  • Medley: The Recruiting Sergeant/The Rocky Road to Dublin/The Galway Races
  • Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six
  • The Broad Majestic Shannon

The First Time I Heard This Album …:  1988 or 89?

Thoughts: Remember Columbia House?  The catalog description for this album said “The Clancy Brothers meet Sex Pistols” and that was something I had to hear.  In the ensuing decades, Celtic Rock has become so ubiquitous it’s hard to recall how groundbreaking it was to hear fiddles and flutes with electric guitars and punk rock attitude.  But The Pogues have always done it the best.

Bonus Sounds: There’s more Pogues to come, but in the meantime you may want to watch the documentary Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan.

Favorite Albums of All Time: 210-201


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.

 


210

Artist: Courtney Barnett 
Title: Tell Me How You Really Feel
Year: 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • Hopefulessness
  • Charity
  • Need a Little Time
  • Nameless, Faceless
  • I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch
  • Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Courtney Barnett is one of my favorite new artists of the past decade so I was eager to hear this album upon its release in May 2018.

Thoughts: Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett came out swinging on her sophomore album with crunching guitars, punk melodies, and introspective yet socially relevant lyrics.

Bonus Sounds: There’s another Courtney Barnett album coming up on this list but here’s my review of her most recent album Things Take Time, Take Time.


209

Artist: Midnight Oil
Title: Diesel And Dust
Year: 1987
Favorite Tracks:

  • Beds are Burning
  • Arctic World
  • Whoah
  • Bullroarer
  • Sell My Soul
  • Sometimes

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Probably not right after it was released, but definitely within a year or two.  I’m pretty sure I checked it out at the library.

Thoughts: There weren’t many politically passionate leftist rock bands cracking the mainstream in the 1980s, but Australia’s Midnight Oil made a big statement in 1987 with a song about Aboriginal land rights, “Beds are Burning.”  This album kicks off a collection of an intelligent and powerful rock tunes that still resonate 35 years later.

Bonus Sounds: I’ve only scratched the surface of Midnight Oil’s catalog of work and will have to spend some time exploring their other works.  One of my other favorites that just narrowly missed making my 250 Favorite Albums is 1990’s Blue Sky Mining which includes the soaring anthem “One Country.


208

Artist: Bobby “Blue” Bland
Title: Two Steps From the Blues
Year: 1961
Favorite Tracks:

  • Two Steps From the Blues
  • Don’t Cry No More
  • I Pity the Fool
  • St. James Infirmary

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Circa 2005.

Thoughts: I learned about Bobby “Blue” Bland from reading the excellent book by Elijah Wald, Escaping the Delta.  Wald’s history of the Blues discouples the music from the myths and misconceptions that have grown up around it. In one point in the book, Wald notes that while white rock & roll artists insisted on modeling Blues music after the Robert Johnson paradigm, that Black audiences were instead enjoying artists like Bobby “Blue” Bland.  So I sought this album out, and boy was I not disappointed.  Bland’s voice is brilliantly emotive, while his band has the tightness that comes from regular performances.

Bonus Sounds: I need to explore more of Bobby Bland’s discography, but most people should be familiar with his biggest crossover hit on the pop charts, “Turn on Your Love Light,” which became a standard for the Grateful Dead.


207

Artist: Billy Joel
Title: Songs In The Attic
Year: 1981
Favorite Tracks:

  • Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)
  • She’s Got A Way
  • Say Goodbye to Hollywood
  • The Ballad of Billy the Kid

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Mid-1980s?

Thoughts: After achieving stardom, Billy Joel released his first album containing songs from his earlier less-successful albums.  Before The Stranger in 1977, Joel was forced to use session musicians on his recordings, whereas he felt the songs sounded better with his touring band.  He was right, and this album recorded in a variety of venues captures the live band’s performances and Joel’s interaction with the crowds.  The album might even convince a Billy Joel doubter a little bit about why his fan base is so devoted.

Bonus Sounds: I don’t really listen to Billy Joel much these days, but I have a soft spot for him because the first album I ever owned (co-owned with my sister) was 1980’s Glass Houses, kicking off a couple of decades of Billy Joel fandom.  Glass Houses almost made this list and The Stranger was also considered.


206

Artist: The St. Louis Jesuits
Title: A Dwelling Place 
Year: 1976
Favorite Tracks:

  • Blest Be The Lord
  • Lord of Glory
  • Like a Shepherd
  • Glory and Praise to Our God
  • Peace Prayer

The First Time I Heard This Album …: I didn’t know of the existence of these songs as recordings until the early 2000s, but the songs themselves I’ve heard and sung since the early 80s.

Thoughts: Growing up going to Catholic Mass in the 70s, 80s, & 90s meant getting to sing along with some liturgical songs that really slapped! I called these songs “The Catholic Top 10,” only later noticing that a lot of them had the same songwriters – Bob Duford, John Foley, Tim Manion, Roc O’Connor, and Dan Schutte.  Since they were all affiliated with the Jesuit order at the time and working at St. Louis University, they became known collectively as the St. Louis Jesuits.  Their songs were written in response to the reforms of Vatican II which required liturgical music to be in local languages instead of Latin and encourage the full participation of the faithful.  Thus the joyful folk music style, easy to sing along with and hard to forget.  These songs do have sheen of 70s cheese to them, but they still slap!

Bonus Sounds: Richard Gillard is from New Zealand, not St. Louis, and isn’t a Jesuit, but he wrote one of my favorite liturgical songs, “The Servant Song.”  We played this at our wedding.


205

Artist:  Darlene Love, The Ronettes, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, The Crystals
Title: A Christmas Gift for You
Year: 1963
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Frosty the Snowman” – The Ronettes
  • “Sleigh Ride” – The Ronettes
  • “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Darlene Love
  • “Here Comes Santa Claus” – Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Technically, I’ve been listening to these songs every December since infancy, but only during the Rolling Stone 500 did I listen to it end to end.

Thoughts: The talent of the Philles Records recorded this compilation of favorite holiday tunes and the stunning original “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” in the pop/R&B style of the early 60s.  Almost 60 years later, the sound of popular holiday music still shows the influence.  I hate to give credit to Phil Spector since he was exploitative, abusive, and ultimately a murderer, but the sound of his production on this album is quite good.

Bonus Sounds: Two years later, another classic holiday album was released as the soundtrack to the tv special A Charlie Brown Christmas.  I considered including the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s seminal work on this list due to its jazzy interpretations  of holiday staples and the original tune “Christmas Time Is Here,” performed both as an instrumental and with a children’s chorus.


204

Artist: Tears For Fears
Title: Songs from the Big Chair
Year: 1985
Favorite Tracks:

  • Shout
  • Everybody Wants to Rule the World
  • I Believe
  • Head Over Heels
  • Listen

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Circa 1985.

Thoughts: The English synthpop duo Tear for Fears hit it big with this collection of big sounds and emotionally honest lyrics.  This album was in heavy rotation in my collection well into the early 90s.

Bonus Sounds: A Tears for Fears original became even more well known in this interpretation by Gary Jules of “Mad World,” famously used in the soundtrack of Donnie Darko.


203

Artist: The Doors
Title:  The Doors 
Year: 1967
Favorite Tracks:

  • Break on Through (To the Other Side)
  • Soul Kitchen
  • Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)
  • Back Door Man
  • Take It As It Comes

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Sometime in 1988.  One of my first acquisitions of my Classic Rock Period.

Thoughts:  The Doors hit the ground running on this fantastic debut album.  Their sound is more bluesy (including a cover of Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man”) and less ponderous than their later works.

Bonus Sounds: I listened to all The Doors studio albums way too many times in my youth before realizing that the band really had one great album and a decent greatest hits compilation from the rest of their career.  Here are my selections for that mythical “Best of” set (you’ll notice it excludes some radio staples):

  • Love Me Two Times
  • Moonlight Drive
  • Five to One
  • Touch Me
  • Roadhouse Blues
  • Peace Frog
  • Love Her Madly
  • Been Down So Long
  • L.A. Woman

202

Artist: The Beatles
Title: The Beatles [White Album] 
Year:  1968
Favorite Tracks:

  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  • Happiness is a Warm Gun
  • I’m So Tired
  • Blackbird
  • Don’t Pass Me By
  • Helter Skelter
  • Long, Long, Long
  • Revolution 9

The First Time I Heard This Album …: One of the first Beatles albums I acquired back in 1988 (along with the 1962-1966 compilation), partly because I mistook it for a best of compilation.  Boy, was I ever surprised!

Thoughts: The Beatles weirdest album, nicknamed “The White Album” for it’s unadorned cover, is a sprawling collection of 30 tracks on two LPs. The Beatles play with musical genres such as reggae, country, proto-metal, music hall, and avant garde sound. And a lot of the tracks don’t feature all four members of the bands as their splintering interests find them working in smaller groups or alone and with support from outside artists. Despite all this it is a wonderful, wild collection. I can’t imagine what people in 1968 thought when they heard this. Yes, there is the stereotype that everyone was using psychedelic drugs while listening to the White Album but I’m sure there were plenty of “normies” who found listening to the new sounds of their beloved moptops trippy enough while sober.

Bonus Sounds: The Beatles made a lot of great albums, and we will see some coming up on this list (and probably could’ve added more), but here is a post I wrote about some great Beatles songs that you may not know.


201

Artist: Nine Inch Nails
Title: Pretty Hate Machine
Year:  1989
Favorite Tracks:

  • Pretty Hate Machine
  • Terrible Lie
  • Down In It
  • Sin
  • That’s What I Get

The First Time I Heard This Album …: Definitely heard a lot of it in high school when it came out, but I don’t think I listened to the whole thing until I was in college in 1991.

Thoughts: I always remember “Head Like a Hole” playing at a high school dance and losing myself dancing and thrashing about to it to the surprise of my friends, and myself. I’m kind of amazed that this album is from the 1980s because it still sounds “futuristic” to me.  Trent Reznor was a profit of sick beats and unguarded rage.

Bonus Sounds: Another strong contender for this list was Nine Inch Nail’s other masterpiece, 1994’s The Downward Spiral.

 

Album Review: Things Take Time, Take Time by Courtney Barnett


Album: Things Take Time, Take Time
Artist: Courtney Barnett
Release Date: November 12, 2021
Label: Mom & Pop
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Rae Street”
  • “Here’s the Thing”
  • “If I Don’t Hear From You Tonight”

Thoughts: I’ve long been a fan of Australian artist Courtney Barnett, so I’m always excited about a new release.  On this album, the tempo shifts to slower than previous works and Barnett’s singing sounds a bit tired, thematically appropriate to the lyrics that speak of a sense of resignation.  My first sense is that I don’t like this sound as much as Barnett’s earlier albums, but it is still high-quality music worth listening to.
Rating: ***

Related Posts:

Monthly Mixtape – July 2021


I wish I wasn’t always rushing to compile these mixtapes at the end of the month and had some time to write some commentary in addition to posting song links.  But it’s not going to be this month.

John Grant – “Boy From Michigan”

Hallows – “All That Is True Dies”

Ric Wilson – “Fight Like Ida B & Marsha P”

Pixel Grip – “Pursuit”

The Mavericks – Por Ti (Yo Quiero Ser)

Taqbir – “Sma3”

Orla Gartland – “You’re Not Special, Babe”

Courtney Barnett – “Rae Street”

Torres – “Are You Sleepwalking”


 

Previous Mixtapes:



Monthly Mixtape – January 2021


New year? New music!  Here are seven new songs that are music to my ears.

Vagabon – “Reason to Believe” (feat. Courtney Barnett

Dominique Fils-Aimé :: “While We Wait”

Frances Forever :: “Space Girl”

I Self Devine :: “The Disruptor Suite”

alyona alyona – “Дикі танці” (Wild Dances)

Pom Poko :: “Like A Lady”

Femi Kuti :: “Pà Pá Pà”


Previous Mixtapes:



2018 Year in Review: Favorite Songs – The Top Five


If you haven’t read  Part 1 and Part 2 of this list, check them out for the full countdown before continuing.

And Now… The Top Five Songs of 2018!

5. “Nameless, Faceless” :: Courtney Barnett
4. “Make Me Feel” :: Janelle Monáe
3. “Tremelo” :: Young Fathers
2. “Black Willow” :: Loma
1. “No Going Back” :: Yuno

 

 

 

Favorite Songs by Year, 1973-2017

1973 1974 1975 1976
1977 1978 1979 1980
1981 1982 1983 1984
1985 1986 1987 1988
1989 1990 1991 1992
1993 1994 1995 1996
1997 1998 1999 2000
2001 2002 2003 2004
2005 2006 2007 2008
2009 2010 2011 2012
2013 2014 2015 2016
2017

2018 Year in Review: Favorite Albums


It’s the time of the year to list my favorite albums!  What follows are my ten favorite albums listed in alphabetical order by the artists.  Links in the album title go to my full review of the album.

Check out my lists of favorite albums from 20142016, and 2017 as well.


Tell Me How You Really Feel by Courtney Barnett

Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa by Jeremy Dutcher

Sugar & Spice by Hatchie

Remain in Light by Angélique Kidjo

Acrylic by Leikeli47

Roza Cruz by La Mecánica Popular 

Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe

Orquesta Akokán by Orquesta Akokán

Wide Awake! by Parquet Courts

Cocoa Sugar by Young Fathers

Album Review: Tell Me How You Really Feel by Courtney Barnett


AlbumTell Me How You Really Feel
Artist: Courtney Barnett
Release Date: May 18, 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Hopefulessness”
  • “Charity”
  • “Need a Little Time”
  • “Nameless, Faceless”
  • “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch”
  • “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence”

Thoughts:

Australian singer-songwriter Barnett’s second album contains crunching guitars and strong punk melodies over which Barnett’s world-weary voice sings quotidian lyrics of frustration and self-doubt, anger and tenderness, confrontation and ambivalence.  The 90s indie rock sound is aided by the guest appearance of Kim and Kelley Deal on “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence.” But this is not retro music, it’s fully-engaged in the cultural issues of our times, just not in an anthemic, speaking for everyone manner.  If I’d gotten around to making a best albums of 2015 list, Barnett’s debut Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit would’ve been a shoe-in, and Tell Me How You Really Feel builds and improves on that. I’m grateful to be alive at a time when I can hear an artist like Courtney Barnett coming into her own.

Rating: ****

Song of the Week: YOU the Audience Decide!


Okay, so here are four new (to me) songs that I like, but none of them jump out as THE Song of the Week.  So I’m going to let my readers write this post with an unprecedented Song of the Week poll.

Here are the contenders:

Courtney Barnett – “Three Packs a Day”

Jack Klatt – “Forever is Over”

Britta Phillips – “Daydream”

TEEN – “Tokyo” (Warning: Do not Google “Tokyo Teen!”)

Pick a song and decide the Song of the Week!