Greatest Albums of All Time (Reviewed)
- 1. THE BLACK SAINT & THE SINNER LADY-CHARLES MINGUS (1963)
- 2. TROUT MASK REPLICA-CAPTAIN BEEFHEART & HIS MAGIC BAND (1969)
- 3. A LOVE SUPREME-JOHN COLTRANE (1964)
- 4. ROCK BOTTOM-ROBERT WYATT (1974)
- 5. FAUST-FAUST (1971)
- 6. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO-THE VELVET UNDERGROUND (1967)
- 7. THE DOORS-THE DOORS (1967)
- 8. ESCALATOR OVER THE HILL-CARLA BLEY (1971)
- 9. LORCA-TIM BUCKLEY (1970)
- 10. TWIN INFINITIVES-ROYAL TRUX (1990)
- 11. DESERTSHORE-NICO (1970)
- 12. THE JAZZ COMPOSER'S ORCHESTRA-MICHAEL MANTLER (1968)
- 13. PARABLE OF ARABLE LAND-THE RED CRAYOLA (1967)
- 14. THE MODERN DANCE-PERE UBU (1978)
- 15. Y-THE POP GROUP (1979)
- The Pop Group's Y is set against a shapeshifting, claustrophic skeleton of instrumental breakdowns, sudden catastrophies, splintering notes free-falling and arising in constantly unpredictable forms. Singer Mark Stewart unleashes sustained, emphatically drawn-out militant screams, calls for help, calls to action, calls to himself, with brutal force and urgency. Monstrous dub lines and the proceeding instrumental assaults collapse and arrange at a blistering, unpredictable pace, forming the sweltering jungles, the rampant neurosis and the omni-present dangers of Vietnam. Y was not merely a punk album against the Establishment; it was much more serious an art than that. Herein lies a palpable sense of the psychological impact of war, the real and the delusional, the helpless sense of entrapment while overwhelming forces emerge from all directions, fraught with the despairing feeling of losing ones grip on asserting the enemy from the protagonist, and hell from reality.
- 16. UNIT STRUCTURES-CECIL TAYLOR (1966)
- 17. HOSIANNA MANTRA-POPOL VUH (1973)
- An extraordinarily beautiful album, Hosianna Mantra merged Eastern and Western world music into a miraculous and free flowing spiritual soundpainting. Due to its almost complete lack of forced, conventional rhythms, the work defied gravity, billowing like the wind, and growing like untouched forces of nature, with Djong Yun's distinctly featherweight, celestial voice generating ghostly cries from the other side of the world. This was a panoramic, pan-determined, and emotionally conscious form of prayer, becoming a timeless, majestic call towards a higher form of spiritual awareness towards the entire human race.
- 18. ASCENSION-JOHN COLTRANE (1965)
- 19. FARE FORWARD VOYAGERS-JOHN FAHEY (1973)
- 20. SPIRITUAL UNITY-ALBERT AYLER (1964)
- Albert Ayler's Spiritual Unity begins with a warm, folkish melody before frantically deconstructing itself into the world of haunted spirits. Employing tremendous, vibrating phrases that encapsulate not only a tumultuous, playful spirit, but a squirming, strangled animal, Ayler's reckless, smothering "techinique" opened the door for a style that would later be partially adopted by such legendary figures as Anthony Braxton. Throughout, Ayler plays with a childish naivette, as if discovering the saxophone for the very first time. These are not passages filled with jaw-dropping skill and astounding technical gifts. These are immediate and playful, at times even blood curdling, exuding the loss, the earnestness, the dumbfoundedness of a child spirit searching for home in the life he left behind too soon.
- 21. FOR ALTO-ANTHONY BRAXTON (1968)
- 22. IRRLICHT-KLAUS SCHULZE (1972)
- 23. DOLMEN MUSIC-MEREDITH MONK (1981)
- 24. NEU!-NEU! (1972)
- Sleek, beautiful, mechanical and a religious experience all the same, Neu! was a completely revolutionary work in rock history. Using iterative patterns to produce songs--not proper songs--but blueprints, skeletons, organisms; as if the essence was all that was left, Neu! crafted some of the most potent and miraculous music of the 70's with their debut. In this strange, simple, singular approach, sublime power was magnified by simply repeating and continuing to emphasize the key strands of DNA within the musical forms, and what results is a reversed dimension of emotional outpouring: Neu! had much more to say by saying less. Sometimes, this is the deepest kind of poetry.
- 25. ASTRAL WEEKS-VAN MORRISON (1968)
- Astral Weeks marked not only a quantum leap in quality for the Irish singer, but for folk music in general. It bridged the gap between jazz, soul and folk and established a new plateau for the folk vocalist with intensely profound, stream-of-conscious passages of hypnotic, dreamy beauty. The album is a thematic masterwork as well, drifting, grasping, clamouring through a series of affectingly personal songs seemingly nostalgic about Morrison's youth and upbringing, the devastation of lost love and lost dreams, while often flooding into the present with emphatic, passionate emotions surfacing. Morrison attacks these subjects and moments with a religious devotion and intensity bordering on self-fladgellation. With Astral Weeks, the trauma and romanticism of love seamlessly merged to create an unforgettable, timeless and overwhelming emotional experience.
- 26. THE SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME-ORNETTE COLEMAN (1959)
- An extremely important album, as it basically marks the birth of the avant-garde in jazz, freeing it from its trappings of the previous decades to become a much more profound, emotionally convictive art, The Shape of Jazz To Come is a true watershed. Coleman composes pieces here that are still awkward and confounding to this day. Despite having an easy to grasp melodic and structural foundation, each takes off on multiple flights of fancy that seems baffling and illogical. There is a created on the fly freedom here, a profound passion and intensity, a sense of joy and wonder at what comes next, and all of the players exude this charm that makes this work so lively and infinitely compelling. The title is completely accurate. Here lies the first significant signs of fully realized compositional freedom in jazz.
- 27. SUICIDE-SUICIDE (1977)
- Without question Suicide's debut is among the most harrowing and revolutionary albums ever made, inventing "psychobilly" from a rockabilly beat by way of minimalist electronics replacing the usual drums and lead instrument of the modern rock band. Throughout, its characters suffer their most personal demons and severe neurosis in lonely, cavernous atmospheres, suggesting a cold, dimming, crude world. Its pummeling, relentless rhythms personify a persistent, throbbing heartbeat, creating a sense of restless suspense, impending doom and hopeless desperation, as claustrophobia, weightless determination and brooding intensity pervade the work, leading to a horrific, shocking and depressingly bleak climax.
- 28. LULLABY LAND-VAMPIRE RODENTS (1993)
- A tour de force of extreme fits of embattled neurosis and complex, unpredictable, shape-shifting compostional maneuvers, Lullaby Land took its maniacal craft to the breaking point. In this frenzied hurricane of multiple personalities contained an extraordinary spectrum of characters, covering a massive body of psychological dilemmas and genres of music. The songs are forced to life by sudden outbursting, gleeful, cartoonish tack-ons, changes in orchestration and startling compositional makeovers. These elements cause an atmosphere parading itself in a non-stop circus of teasing fits of interjection, forcing the listener into an anxious state of perpetual anticipation, enforced to become a willing observer of freakshow nightmares.
- 29. THE GOOD SON-NICK CAVE (1990)
- 30. BITCHES BREW-MILES DAVIS (1969)
- A momentous work, making jazz-rock a worldwide revolution, Bitches Brew was a huge, spacious double album of massive, endless jams. With Davis as the primary composer, the pieces were geared towards build ups that were intense and episodic, usually snowballing into explosive crescendos of great energy and emotional release. There is an infectious synergy displayed by the band which not only points to the composers' indisputable talent, but makes it all the more unbelievable that these aren't the original pieces: they were stitched together by attentive production and engineered to sound like the forces they are. It ranks among the greatest, most seamless editing jobs in music history.
- 31. BLONDE ON BLONDE-BOB DYLAN (1966)
- A sprawling stomp though raucous, richly layered compositions, Blonde On Blonde is an epic, tour de force of folk rock and blues, which marked the most clearcut break for rock as a significant and serious art form. By employing a multitude of bright textural instrumentation working together with great synergy, Dylan was able to create a more expansive, layered sound than had ever been achieved before in rock. This new, more complete compositional aesthetic created the essence of the rock sound well into the decade and proved to be massively influential upon future musicians. It reached its peak with two incredible masterpieces: the winding streaming passages of Visions of Johanna and Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands opened up a whole new world of possibilities with their seemingly endless in-depth endeavors towards greater expression through an intelligent and profound surrealism. Blonde On Blonde is the point where rock, as I know it, was born.
- 32. EVEN THE SOUNDS SHINE-MYRA MELFORD (1994)
- 33. NOT AVAILABLE-RESIDENTS (1978)
- Not Available is a startling, singular achievment. An operatic, cyclical work that is both comical and touching. An overblown, crazed frenzy building towards some strange and demented cosmic euphoria while frequently sabotaging its momentum with unpredictable fits of clumsy melodrama. It exists in a colorful, multi-faceted, fantastical world struck by systematic, universal chaos and characters fraught with illusionary hopes and dreams, playing out its fevered, disorienting tragicomedy, where its ill-timed bouts of wide-eyed emotions inhabit puzzling, shape shifting structures, conveying an exotic, yearning, awkwardly beautiful rendering of the human condition.
- 34. FREE JAZZ-ORNETTE COLEMAN (1960)
- Taking the rules and confines of jazz form and not just twisting or turning them, but annihilating them, Coleman created a storm of controversy with this huge leap forward. The soloists play with an extraordinary flair, seemingly battling eachother for space. Melodies twist and jump and squirm their way in and out of the mix, all of them jubilantly kissing and dancing and diving off and onto eachother. Free Jazz is an epochal, monumental and staggeringly influential work, virtually inventing an entire portion of jazz history. At the time there was little, if anything, to compare to the flat out soaring energy and emotion of the 37 continuous, exhilerating minutes found here.
- 35. THE MAGIC CITY-SUN RA (1965)
- 36. WELL OILED-HASH JAR TEMPO (1997)
- Hash Jar Tempo took the guitar jam to perhaps its ultimate aesthetic with Well Oiled, a mind-blowing odyssey of massive walls of sustained noise, droning, free-for-all jams, and overwhelming feedback and cacophony. With this masterwork of extraordinary technique and endurance, the dueling guitars forged a sound that gave new life and meaning for the instrument and its sound. Through almost mystical forces, these journeys became the entry point to a new spiritual realm of existence. Herein, the secrets of the universe seemed, if not captured, at the very least observed.
- 37. THIRD-SOFT MACHINE (1970)
- Soft Machine's Third is an album of stunning, vast scope, encompassing many different rhythm changes while leading us through detours and surging, relentless percussion and assaulting big band climaxes, each with great synergy and purpose. Third combines the minimalist, electronic purity of Terry Riley's Rainbow In Curved Air, the spaciousness and jazz-rock fusion aesthetic of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew with occasional streams of climactic rushes as in Charles Mingus' The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady. It peaks with Robert Wyatt's astonishing, mercurial epic Moon In June before wallowing in a sea of hypnotic reflection by the conclusion of closer Out-Bloody-Rageous.
- 38. EPITAPH-CHARLES MINGUS (1962)
- 39. YERSELF IS STEAM-MERCURY REV (1991)
- Epic and personal, Yerself Is Steam depicts a maddening dash through an emotionally unstable mind while growing in increasingly overwhelming, more grandiose forms. In doing this, Mercury Rev prove relentlessly experimental, and as if by insatiable fetish in a state of perpetual insomnia, unleash a multitiude of instrumental forces, coalescing into massive odysseys of sound, the result being an exploding variety of nuance and combusting compositional prowess of monolithic proportions.
- 40. ZEN ARCADE-HUSKER DU (1984)
- 41. KICK OUT THE JAMS-MC5 (1969)
- 42. THE ASCENSION-GLENN BRANCA (1981)
- Devastatingly powerful, Branca's The Ascension transformed the no wave sound into an overwhelming, symphonic aesthetic on par with the mammoth works of Beethoven in sheer force of magnitude, and did this by employing an army of ultra-talented guitar players. Their combined, unified sound conjured massive, thick walls of noise, that were not only cold, harsh, abrasive and terrifying, but also transcendant, awe-inspiring and heavenly.
- 43. SAXOPHONE IMPROVISATIONS, SERIES F-ANTHONY BRAXTON (1972)
- Extraordinarily profound, endlessly fascinating, almost unbearably dry, desolate and freakishly otherworldly, Saxophone Improvisations Series F is an introverted, astonishing performance from the great Anthony Braxton. Across a vast scope of compositions, Braxton produces improvised, mathematically formed and rigidly calculated structures that demonstrate an almost insatiable addiction to seemingly evolve meanings from strict changes of rhythms and actions, the pieces coming off as if the maddening production of scientific experiments. Throughout, he concocts hypnotic soundscapes of the utmost solemnity with breathtakingly protruding soloing that borders on and surpasses the most extreme emotional limits, becoming something alien, something shocking and occasionally obscene. On the second side especially, he devolves into mostly science, as intensely thoughtful complications arise while a quiet desperation and near emotionless trauma overtake the work. A truly herculean effort, and a worthy successor to his epochal For Alto four years earlier.
- 44. GEEK THE GIRL-LISA GERMANO (1994)
- 45. MU-DON CHERRY (1969)
- 46. ATLANTIS-SUN RA (1967)
- 47. PITHECANTHROPUS ERECTUS-CHARLES MINGUS (1956)
- 48. UNCLE MEAT-FRANK ZAPPA (1969)
- 49. IMPROVISIE-PAUL BLEY (1971)
- 50. DOUBLE NICKELS ON THE DIME-MINUTEMEN (1984)
- 51. STREAMS-SAM RIVERS (1973)
- 52. SPIDERLAND-SLINT (1991)
- With Spiderland, Slint combined deliberate, jazzy rhythms and pacing with sudden, harsh climaxes to create an atmosphere of desperation and unnerving suspense. As they gradually progress from cathartic, ferociously hard rock to more spacious, deep-seated and haunting songs, the tone becomes bleaker and darker. Spiderland effortlessly morphs into a lived-in experience, a full-fledged horror film hopelessly lost and lonely in its hushed poetry readings and brooding, nocturnal soundscapes, eventually leading to a breathtaking, shockingly real and overwhelmingly tragic conclusion.
- 53. NEW YORK, NEW YORK-GEORGE RUSSELL (1959)
- 54. LOVELESS-MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1991)
- Simultaneously redefining and putting a virtual end to shoegaze, Loveless combined floating, majestic harmonies amidst massive walls of sound to create a marriage between two parallel universes, both melody and caucophony, heaven and hell. These two worlds merged into a hypnotic, mesmerizing wormhole of dreams and nightmares, beauty and catastrophe, colliding to beckon an entrance to a new dimension, a vaccuum withholding, but never quite concealing, infinity.
- 55. CITY OF GLASS-STAN KENTON (1951)
ALBUM RATINGS SCALE
0.0-4.5 NOT WORTH LISTENING TO AT ALL
5.5 ABOVE AVERAGE
6.5 QUITE GOOD
7.0 VERY GOOD
9.5 SUPREME MASTERPIECE
10 ULTIMATE MASTERPIECE
Albums are rated as follows:
Songs are each rated individually on a scale from 0.0-10.0. The album is then rated on overall strength within each of the following 4 categories (in order of importance):
2. Expansion of Content
These categories combine to represent the albums' overall depth and, when accurately rated, will always (from my listening experience) show how well an album will stand the test of time and prove a masterpiece for the long haul (not just a "temporary jolt").