10. Straight Outta Compton - NWA
The first and best gangsta rap album ever, Straight Outta Compton fundamentally changed the rap world, the music world, and the way inner city anger was communicated. Songs like ‘Fuck tha Police’ and the title song ‘Straight Outta Compton’ both demonstrated the frustrations of urban youth, and their lack of spelling.
9. Division Bell - Pink Floyd
I know, I did NOT pick Dark Side or the Wall to represent Floyd. I picked one of their final albums released in the early ’90s. And it doesn’t even have Roger Waters in it. Cheap, I know. Dirty, I guess. Wrong……NO WAY! This is a fine album that has some very deep themes, interesting lyrics, and that David Gilmour guitar singing throughout the entire album. There is not a bad song on this and the more you listen to it, the better it gets.
8. Greatest Hits 1 - Elton John
Elton John, not Michael Jackson, is the true king of pop. His career spans over 50 years, making top 10 hits in 5+ decades, and has written songs in many different styles. It is hard just to pick one of his albums, but I think his early ‘Greatest Hits’ album is a good start. These songs pre-date 1975, so there are many good ones left off, but ‘Your Song’, ‘Benny and the Jets’, ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’, and his best ‘Rocket Man’ made the cut. Not many albums hold so many great songs. Of course not many albums are ‘Greatest Hit’ albums. Too bad ‘Crocodile Rock’ slipped in there.
7. Berlin Philharmonic Symphony #9 - Ludwig von Beethoven
Beethoven’s magnum opus, Symphony #9 is the coup-de-gras of all symphonic works before and after. This 60 minute menagerie of sound has the most innovative and jarring beginning of a symphony (the miasma of strings flitting around the chromatic scale until they all converge into a strong D minor chord that slaps you in the ass), a second movement that is NOT slow and easy, a third that is used to set up probably the most famous and bastardized melody in history; Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’. And who better to perform such a musical triumph than his Vaterlund…..Germany! The Berlin Symphony is known to be heavy on the bass and volume, just what Beethoven wanted. Although any 9th Symphony performance will do, I say the Berlin one is my favorite.
6. Ride the Lightning - Metallica
Please do not be mislead. People who want to sound smart say ‘Master of Puppets’ is their best. It is not. Old school fans will say ‘Kill’em All’ is their best. That is completely fake news. And outsiders will say the Black album is their best. Ehh….not so fast. Listen here, Ride the Lightning is their best album. Eight songs, all classics, and all make me want to bang my head and kick ass in a mosh pit. From the beginning bars of ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ to the end solo of ‘The Call of Chutulu’, this is Metallica at their best. Hard, fast, catchy bass riffs, and downright awesome.
5. Volume 1 - Afro Celt Sound System
I know no one has ever heard of this group but me. But trust me, they really are a real group. I am not making them up. They used to be under Peter Gabriel’s label. They have had people like Gabriel, Robert Plant, and Sinead O’Connor do songs. They have even toured in the states. Even Seattle!! Anyway, if you don’t believe me and think they are a figment of my imagination, type in ‘Volume 1: Afro Celt’ in YouTube and enjoy. This is the album that launched them into fame…well UK fame….well world music lovers in the UK fame……OK fine!!! They are not famous. But their music is amazing. Just check them out.
4. Fragile - Nine Inch Nails
Trent Reznor is one of the only modern-day musicians that uses old style musical techniques. From his instrumentation (obviously digitized sounds instead of orchestral instruments) to his dynamic/tempo changes to his liberal use of counterpoint, Reznor has a sophisticated and old school musical approach. Oh yeah, his music also varies from thrash techno metal to ambient white noise-ish music. His best album, the Fragile, uses all of his tricks in this massive 120 minute concept album. You get hard core metal, you get soft core non-metal, you get medium-core metallic alloys, all in one. You can’t top that. Well, unless you are one of the three albums rated better.
3. Operation Mindcrime - Queensryche
Another concept album, this hugely ambitious rock opera done by Queensryche did what Tommy and Quadropenia could not do; make this list. This album tells an entire story of a guy who gets kidnapped by the government and is brainwashed. Sounds cool, huh? Well, it is still better than a blind kid playing pinball. Anyway, the concept of the album is secondary to the music. Every song helps tell the overall story (in both lyrics and in dramatic musical tone) and every song is a a borderline classic in itself. There is a reason why this album still has a cult following, because it is just that good. Even non Queensryche fans know of this album and respect. And if they don’t know or respect the album, they are very stupid people who should not be listened to at all.
2. It Takes a Nation to Hold Us Back - Public Enemy
The greatest rap group of all time. Period. They dominate this genre much like Bob Barker dominates the greatest game show hosts list or how steak dominates the best meats list. And ‘It Takes a Nation…’ is the album that is universally agreed upon as their finest effort. Read any magazine like Jet, Ebony, or Ebony Jet and you will find this album at the top of their greatest rap album lists. I know some like their Wu Tang, some like their Biggie, and even some Johnnie-Come-Lately’s like their Jay-Z. But anyone worth their salt knows that songs like ‘Bring The Noise’, ‘Rebel Without a Pause’, and ‘Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos’ are songs that transcend the rap world with hardcore beats, on-point sampling, thoughtful lyrics, and a punishing voice in Chuck D. Even for 2017, this 1988 album still is black to the bone.
1. Box Set CD #3 - Led Zeppelin
The box set that started all box sets; the Led Zeppelin one with the crop circles. We all know it. We all wanted it. And for $50 USD, we could own it. Granted, people who are long time fans of Zeppelin didn’t need to buy their box set; they already had the songs. But for people my age, we didn’t have the pleasure of living in that time, so we needed to by all the songs in bulk. But what a purchase it was; over 4 hours of Zeppelin’s best, from Black Dog, to Stairway, to the Ocean, to all the songs that allude to Lord of the Rings, to the myriad of other songs you love but didn’t even know it was them, this box set has it all. So if all four albums are so rich with amazing music, how did I come up #3?
Well, it is the one with Kashmir; the song I plan to be played at my funeral.