THE GREATEST ALBUMS OF ALL TIME (The Top 5: SUPREME MASTERPIECES)

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  • 5. FAUST-FAUST (1971)

  • MY RATING: 9.5/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:
  • 3. MISS FORTUNE

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 9.0/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT:

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS:
  • Fast 'n' Bulbous (USA) - The 500 Best Albums Since 1965: 300
  • Musik Express/Sounds (Germany) - The 50 Best German Records (2001): 29

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:
  • All Music Guide (USA) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars: 4.5 Stars
  • Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ratings 0-5 Stars (USA, 1979 and/or 1983): 4 Stars
  • Spin's Book of Alternative Albums, Ratings 1-10 (USA, 1995): 8
  • Martin C. Strong (UK) - The Great Rock Discography 7th Edition, Ratings 1-10: 7
  • Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (UK) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars (2002): 3 Stars

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • JULIAN COPE: Like all the greatest Teutonic groups, Faust were brought up with middle-European dances and a staple of folk and tradition which was not 4/4. As a consequence, German bands could get far more complex than U.S. and British bands would ever dare and it still sounds rocking and crazy, rather than a bunch of Twee Smug Gits. Find an old Caravan,Man or Henry Cow LP for 50p somewhere and compare it with this. I'm joking of course.

  • Four years ago, I had dinner with a very successful journalist who told me that he'd had to review Love's "Forever Changes" for Q Magazine now that it was available on CD. Wow, I shouted. You lucky fucker! Yes, he said. But I know it so well I couldn't summon up any real energy, so I just gave it 8/10. "Forever Changes" is a dark achievement. Were it an ancient text or a document it would be hidden from view and spoken of in obscure circles, But because it operates through the medium of Pop Music, it gets tarts like said Journalist giving it 8/10. This is a classic case of a man sleepwalking through life.

  • So now I have to set to and tell you about the first Faust album, and I will not let you down. For a start, its a big 10/10. No, make that 11/10. It defies categories. It's a horrible noise. It's cut-ups to the Nth degree. Part of it is just like Frank Zappa's "Lumpy Gravy" (a funny bit, thank the Goddess.) It is super-gimmicky, syrupy in the weirdest places, and never outstays its welcome. But probably the strangest thing of all is just how good Faust sound when they are creating on the spot moments of rock'n'roll on the epic Miss Fortune. Here they transcend all studio trickery and here they come alive.

  • PHILLIPE PARINGAUX: Germany seems to be the only country on the Continent capable of making a really original contribution to what we call rock music. Here come Faust, who confirm this suspicion, wnich had already been aroused by Amon Düül (and, as a matter of opinion, the former is even better than the latter). The essential reason for this Germanic phenomenon is very probably that these groups - who are neither British nor American and KNOW it - view rock as it is played in its lands of origin with a certain amount of detachment, eliminating to the best of their ability any attempts to reproduce a "feeling" which cannot belong to them; in this way they reject most of the musical elements which form the vehicles of this feeling, taking no more from American or British rock than a state of mind. The elements of their music they look after for themselves, and the fact is that this carries them a good deal further.

  • And so it is with Faust: more than the reproduction of emotions through the human voice, more than the explanation of these emotions through elaborate texts, more too than an instrumental virtuosity which hardly puts the instrunents themselves in question (it's not enough just to plug them into an amp to transform them), more than an exciting, hypnotic rhythm: the group has chosen to retain from all the elements of rock just that which is most neglected today: the investigation of new sounds, an area which is given so much attention on this album that it becomes the album's essential feature. Sound. Electronic and acoustic.

  • The record could have been subtitled "An Application of Technology to Rock'n'Roll". Once again the term rock'n'roll isn't enough to define a music which touches on all the 1imits of contemporary music. Faust hurl themselves regardless of all risks along this impassioned path, and travel to the very farthest esitrelnes of experimentation. The result turns out to be one of the most intense and truly progressive albums in the history of rock. Nothing less.

  • Noises never heard before, strange groupings brought together with a remarkable sense of sound aesthetics, burns and caresses, the grating of metal, the crackling of electricity. All the resources of the studio have been exploited with devouring curiosity - but also with a remarkable sense of proportion. Because - in the game of technique just for technique's sake - Faust risk nothing less than the loss of their soul. The soul remains intact through the crashing and grinding of a music which leaves all coldness behind and which, when it wants to, knows how to affect the emotions. And its intelligence continues through the whole album - behind the delirious, dizzying sounds to which it gives shelter a musical structure reveals itself, presenting a precise schematic profile around which irrational effects can be laid down. A structure which is a good guarantee against the chaos in which all attempts of this kind are in danger of drowning, a structure which is nonetheless flexible enough to allow the spontaneity without which all such experiments would become cold and lifeless - as happens with many of the explorers of contemporary music.

  • Here, moments of mania and moments of peaceful ecstasy are carefully distributed throughout the album, the first piercing, congested, tearing; the second sometimes suggested by the simple presence of an unamplified piano or some obscure recitation. The record opens with a long, jumbled feedback effect behind which one vaguely makes out the Stones singing "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" and the Beatles answering them with ""All You Need Is Love". Irony or homage ? The influence of these two groups on Faust is hardly in evidence - in fact, no influence is in evidence here and you have to bend your ear to make out, here and there, features which wouldn't necessarily be disowned by Zappa or last year's Soft Machine. The album closes with a dialogue between two voices, recited in the Velvet Underground manner. between the two of them an extraordinary, swelling, baroque sound, grandiose, grinding and harmonious, long pieces scattered among the fury of wild, liberated instruments, and moments of held breath, melody.

  • Faust is undisputably a group to be seen and heard. Will the success of the elder Amon draw them to our shores one day ? That would be risking quite a commotion - the objection that a studio work couldn't be recreated on the stage falls to pieces of itself: all the second side of the record was recorded live.

  • Don' t forget Faust.

  • MY REVIEW: Power lines tilted, croaked back and forth in the delirious wind, as ghastly screams echoed between heaven and hell. The sky, mostly black, with hues of purple and filtered green, cast a lengthy shadow to the ends of the Earth. Layers of explosions emerged across landscapes that became more and more bare, inevitably destroying all. Women and children screamed, the wind carrying their last echoes. Men called for their mothers, cried for their pains to end, eventually perishing in a slow burn or a swift, overwhelming burst of lava. A great storm blinded everything, a hurricane of richocheting shards and poles and barns and twisters, and anything else imaginable, careened across yards and houses and lives and fears, wiping it all away for a soon finished history to rot upon. Within days, final, conclusive, volcanic bursts finished off entire populations. Civilizations were buried in ash. Darkness pervaded, and soon Earth became just another barren planet, its greenery and beauty gone, lost, forgotten.

  • I woke to desolation, a wasteland. I felt hungover, lost, like I'd been sleeping for weeks. My head and body ached to the bone. I slowly got up, looked around, stretched. When I tried to stand I collapsed so I just crawled over to a dying lawn a couple hundred feet away. I ate solemnly, chewing on patches of grass and dead leaves and looked around for someone. Just someone to talk to. But there was the lonesome, funereal mourn of death all around. There was nothing, just objects and papers, and disorganized scatters.

  • I felt heavy and exhausted. I missed sleeping with my wife. I missed the giddiness of my daughter. I was drenched in sweat, and I felt like I was bleeding from inside of guilt. I could hear nothing but myself. Was I really the only one left?

  • I cry all the time, sometimes just sitting there, for hours on end balling, my guts spilling out onto the dusty ground. I cry so long that I eventually lose my senses, especially of smell and tactile. My pores feel so dry. My lids get stuck halfway to my pupils. In the morning it rapidly changes from bitter cold to becoming so hot that I just walk around mostly naked and barefoot. I've heard promising noises as I walked to different places, but eventually my joy ceased and apathy crept in, as it was never another person. If I see another dead body I am going to...

  • All I know how to do anymore is to weep and walk...and think I guess...I've always been able to think...anyone can think...well not anyone...there is no anyone anymore...I'm anyone...I like to think of my wife...I loved her...but she's gone...she's ash...the billowing screeches of wind took her body...took every piece of it and scattered it across everything and nothing I'll ever know...I'll never be able to hug her again...she's gone...my daughter...she was so simple and loving and innocent with such a life to live...she was a little flower...but there are no flowers...

  • I always think about that day, the sky opening up and the piercing, blinding light, and the shockwaves, and the earthquakes and storms and outrages and cries for help. It's one huge mishmash of emotion and disarray, of disrelated episodes in a constant, confusing state of influx leading to a harrowing state of nuclear catastrophe and apocolyptic rage. There seems to be an overwhelming sadness in everything. Even objects and the remains of plants are completely, utterly useless and depressing. I miss anything and everything. I wish there were just something. I even miss flies.

  • I found a tire that I enjoy sitting on. Well, I wouldn't say enjoy...but anyway, I sometimes sit there and think. I go over the events in my mind and try and convert my confusions into what was happening, how it suddenly all started and ended and it was all just...gone. It's all very difficult to organize, and very difficult to understand.

  • Sometimes, when I'm bored I play tricks on my mind. If I look at something long enough it starts to fade away, reappearing and disappearing depending on my level of concentration and focus. Yesterday I noticed the funniest thing. I walked past a burnt up gas station and after about 30 seconds I turned around and I couldn't find it anymore. I went back and forth in every direction but when I thought I'd returned to my original position just past the gas station, the markings I'd made were always gone. I just scratched my head and stood there thinking about how this could be. And where was I going in the first place?

  • Today I sat on a turned over shopping cart for hours on end and got to thinking: it's as though we've, or I've, been thrust into an implanted reality, a maze of the imagination, designed against my will, like I'm a pawn in someone's game. Like I'm being watched and teased by a manufactured reality. When I look over my memories of what happened that day, it never seems to be quite the same, and I never seem to be able to get a grip on what actually happened.

  • Could it be that I am the lone living witness to the most gruesome event to ever punish the civilization of Earth? Or is it equally, or more likely, that it didn't happen at all, that I am in a hallucinagenic state, that I am caught in a dream? That I am unaware of what's real, asleep in a coma? That I am dead and everyone I loved is really alive, living freely outside of my own perception? How do I really know if what I am doing is what I am doing, if who I am is who I am? If who we are is even real? How do I know that what life I've lived is a hoax or a con? Some big setup? Some massive intergalactic conspiracy?

  • Have you ever just stopped for a moment and made the simple, amazing assertion of your own being, by ascertaining your personal existence by noticing that your own viewpoint is the only point of which the life lived by you, is viewed? That this is the only viewpoint? And that, despite all other beings presumably possessing the same basic point from which to view, your view is the only view being considered, the only one seemingly in application? How is this possible? That your view is the one, yet so is mine?

  • Is it possible that a universe and an entire track of events exists for each one of us, each one individual and unique, with agreement dependant upon mutual understandings of something perceived? That every single moment that has ever happened is interconnected despite being completely separate, and open to differentiation, no matter how slight, dependant on individual interpretation?

  • That Faust, a supreme masterpiece of sonic inventions, blistering, torturous soundscapes, "found sounds", and seemingly disrelated incidents, is hardly a work of music at all, but a recreation of separate memories formulated together to prove that life, above all, is made up of perception, and that someone in the present could examine these for his own, and that truths can be instantaneous, lasting a few seconds, or that an apparent truth can be formulated over a whole series of events at the will of the beholder, despite having no initial connection whatsoever? That time, perhaps the most integral factor of all, is the greatest lie? That understanding is caused as opposed to reactive? That all events in this universe have no support in reality but that of the understandings as relevant to the beholder? That you, we, are understanding, and therefore, everything perceived by you is understood, under the ownership and discretion of your existence? Does this mean that the hoax, the disaster, the linear, impossible logic of Faust is but wholly created by you, by me?


  • 4. TROUT MASK REPLICA-CAPTAIN BEEFHEART & HIS MAGIC BAND (1969)

  • MY RATING: 9.5/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 9.0/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT:

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS:
  • Fast 'n' Bulbous (USA) - The 500 Best Albums Since 1965: 38
  • Joe S. Harrington, Blastitude (USA) - The All-Time Top 100 Albums (2001): 45
  • Paul Gambaccini - The World Critics Best Albums of All Time (1987): 81
  • Radio WXPN (USA) - The 100 Most Progressive Albums (1996): 74
  • Robert Santelli - Sixties Rock: The 25 Best Albums of the 60s (1985): 23
  • Rolling Stone (USA) - The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (2003): 58
  • Rolling Stone (USA) - Top 100 Albums of the Last 20 Years (1987): 33
  • The Review, University of Delaware (USA) - 100 Greatest Albums of All Time (2001): 79
  • Guardian (UK) - The 100 Best Albums Ever (1997): 49
  • Mojo (UK) - The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made (1995): 28
  • New Musical Express (UK) - All Times Top 100 Albums (1974): 43
  • New Musical Express (UK) - All Times Top 100 Albums (1985): 42
  • New Musical Express (UK) - All Times Top 100 Albums + Top 50 by Decade (1993): 136
  • New Musical Express (UK) - Some of the Greatest Double LPs Ever Issued (1991): 3
  • Sounds (UK) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1986): 64
  • Uncut (UK) - 100 Rock and Movie Icons (2005): 57
  • David Kleijwegt (Netherlands) - Top 100 Albums of All Time (1999): 56
  • Nieuwe Revu (Netherlands) - Top 100 Albums of All Time (1994): 18
  • OOR (Netherlands) - The Best Albums of the 20th Century (1987): 26
  • Berlin Media (Germany) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1998): 28
  • Musik Express/Sounds (Germany) - The 100 Masterpieces (1993): 21
  • Rolling Stone (Germany) - The 500 Best Albums of All Time (2004): 362
  • Rolling Stone (Germany) - The Best Albums of 5 Decades (1997): 27
  • Spex (Germany) - The 100 Albums of the Century (1999): 32
  • Wiener (Austria) - The 100 Best Albums of the 20th Century (1999): 18
  • Rock de Lux (Spain) - The 200 Best Albums of All Time (2002): 25
  • Mucchio Selvaggio (Italy) - 100 Best Albums by Decade (2002): 1-20
  • Pure Pop (Mexico) - The Best Albums of All Time (1993): 71

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:
  • All Music Guide (USA) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars: 5 Stars
  • MusicHound (USA) - Album Ratings 0-5 Bones (1998-99): 5 Bones
  • Robert Christgau (USA) - Consumer Guide Album Grade: B+
  • Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ratings 0-5 Stars (USA, 1979 and/or 1983): 5 Stars
  • Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ratings 1-5 Stars (USA, 1992): 3.5 Stars
  • Spin's Book of Alternative Albums, Ratings 1-10 (USA, 1995): 7
  • Martin C. Strong (UK) - The Great Rock Discography 7th Edition, Ratings 1-10: 10
  • Paul Roland (UK) - CD Guide to Pop & Rock, Album Ratings 1-5 Stars (2001): 5 Stars
  • Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (UK) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars (2002): 5 Stars

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • STYLUS MAGAZINE: But this album, for me, is about the instrumental interplay. It’s widely been described as something like this: Delta blues meets and mates, juicily, with Ornette Coleman skronk, with free-jazz-blowing contagion spreading to guitars, bass, and drums, which scrabble over each other and most often sound like they’re playing different songs at once. (Oh, and some guy with an eight-octave vocal range.) Those who hate it write it off to Frank Zappa’s cheekiness, imagining that this album probably is comprised of rehearsal tapes of a band playing different songs at once. They’re wrong, though, even if they might have a point about its general lo-fi field-recording (literally! Just listen to the between-song bit with two bewildered British onlookers who find Beefheart and gang out in the bushes) aesthetic—see what I mean about every aspect of this album spawning, microbe-style, some movement of its own?—detracting from the purity of the music. We have scratching pre-post-punk in short interludes like the angular “Dali’s Car,” the record’s only rambling, long-ish jams (but only in comparison to everything else on tap, as they’re both over in four minutes), “Moonlight on Vermont,” and “Ant Man Bee,” some anarchic full-band bellowing that even experimental music fans might find hard to swallow (the deafening “Hobo Chang Ba”; the prolonged nocturnal emission of “Neon Meate Dream of a Octafish”), the intricate, Eastern-inflected beauty of the coda to “Veteran’s Day Poppy,” the equally intricate and equally beautiful note-packed, every-direction-at-once “Frownland” and “Ella Guru,” the muted splendor and equally quiet profundity of “My Human Gets Me Blues,” the boiling waters of “Hair Pie, Bake 2”...

  • Like seemingly everyone from Pere Ubu to Sonic Youth to The Minutemen to The Pop Group to Tom Waits to Gang of Four to Erase Errata to, surely, the oddball musical revolutionaries of tomorrow, I've spent a serious amount of time with this record. What is perhaps most striking about my relationship with it is the fact that its secret language (its knotted tangle of guitars and staggering drums, cardboard-muffled cymbals and all) has worked its way into my brain to an almost unsettling degree for something we don't traditionally think of as "catchy." Yet at the same time it's lost none of its mystery. Mystery, that is, and mysterious purity: I can't think of any other record I'm more likely to turn to when it seems necessary to reassert the beauty, the awe, the danger that the best, most adventurous music can bring. Sometimes everything I listened to before this album (and all the artists I was discovering at this time, from Coltrane to Stooges and onward) found its way to my turntable seems like a dim, colorless blur. That's when I realize that this album not only changed the way I listen to, and think about, music; it changed my life.

  • ALL MUSIC GUIDE: Trout Mask Replica is Captain Beefheart's masterpiece, a fascinating, stunningly imaginative work that still sounds like little else in the rock & roll canon. Given total creative control by producer and friend Frank Zappa, Beefheart and his Magic Band rehearsed the material for this 28-song double album for over a year, wedding minimalistic R&B, blues, and garage rock to free jazz and avant-garde experimentalism. Atonal, sometimes singsong melodies; jagged, intricately constructed dual-guitar parts; stuttering, complicated rhythmic interaction -- all of these elements float out seemingly at random, often without completely interlocking, while Beefheart groans his surrealist poetry in a throaty Howlin' Wolf growl. The disjointedness is perhaps partly unintentional -- reportedly, Beefheart's refusal to wear headphones while recording his vocals caused him to sing in time with studio reverberations, not the actual backing tracks -- but by all accounts, the music and arrangements were carefully scripted and notated by the Captain, which makes the results even more remarkable. As one might expect from music so complex and, to many ears, inaccessible, the influence of Trout Mask Replica was felt more in spirit than in direct copycatting, as a catalyst rather than a literal musical starting point. However, its inspiring reimagining of what was possible in a rock context laid the groundwork for countless future experiments in rock surrealism, especially during the punk/new wave era.

  • MY REVIEW: Trout Mask Replica is an extraordinary achievement of limitless scope and imagination, and is possibly the most inventive musical work of the last century. Its blend of comedic timing, vigorous emotional force, evangelical fervor, reflective nostalgic sadness, touching homespun revelations, free associative lyrical ingenuity, explosive escaping phrases and instrumental assaults clashing and splintering and generating from any and all directions is one of the most astounding creations in music history. It is also one of the most courageous statements in the history of art, coming across as reckless and free as Picasso or Pollack, as emotional as Coltrane or Dolphy, as funny and effusive as any great theatre and as broad in scope as many a career. Trout Mask Replica is a singular, jaw-dropping journey through damged psyches, a bombed out, post-apocalyptic landscape, forging dreams while overwhelmed in nightmares, killing time while dying inside, being foolish and ornery, homeless and ramshackle, bestial yet full of sensitivity, understanding and wonder. It is the combative elements of man versus animal fighting eachother for dominance within a single being, the devil erupting while the priest loses faith, attempting to stay alive in a world that is equally sinister and saint, a confusing war-torn no-mans-land that doesn't welcome purity, a paradise of barbarism and hallucinating, crumbling people becoming animals while still understanding youth and creativity, admiring decency while losing it themselves, observing their own humanity while their limping souls search for art in a lost, forgotten cause where no one comes near. On the outside is the unpredictable, snarling beast. A freak of nature, positively bursting out of its skin, eyes darting from side to side, looking for warmth and shelter. But on the inside lies a creator and an artist, blossoming like a flower, preaching as God's eye towards hope for the lonely and deserted.


  • 3. THE BLACK SAINT & THE SINNER LADY-CHARLES MINGUS (1963)

  • MY RATING: 9.5/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:
  • 3. MODE C: GROUP DANCERS
  • 4. MODE D: TRIO & GROUP DANCERS

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 7.0/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT:

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS: N/A

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:
  • All Music Guide (USA) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars: 5 Stars

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • ALL MUSIC GUIDE: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is one of the greatest achievements in orchestration by any composer in jazz history. Charles Mingus consciously designed the six-part ballet as his magnum opus, and -- implied in his famous inclusion of liner notes by his psychologist -- it's as much an examination of his own tortured psyche as it is a conceptual piece about love and struggle. It veers between so many emotions that it defies easy encapsulation; for that matter, it can be difficult just to assimilate in the first place. Yet the work soon reveals itself as a masterpiece of rich, multi-layered texture and swirling tonal colors, manipulated with a painter's attention to detail. There are a few stylistic reference points -- Ellington, the contemporary avant-garde, several flamenco guitar breaks -- but the totality is quite unlike what came before it. Mingus relies heavily on the timbral contrasts between expressively vocal-like muted brass, a rumbling mass of low voices (including tuba and baritone sax), and achingly lyrical upper woodwinds, highlighted by altoist Charlie Mariano. Within that framework, Mingus plays shifting rhythms, moaning dissonances, and multiple lines off one another in the most complex, interlaced fashion he'd ever attempted. Mingus was sometimes pigeonholed as a firebrand, but the personal exorcism of Black Saint deserves the reputation -- one needn't be able to follow the story line to hear the suffering, mourning, frustration, and caged fury pouring out of the music. The 11-piece group rehearsed the original score during a Village Vanguard engagement, where Mingus allowed the players to mold the music further; in the studio, however, his exacting perfectionism made The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady the first jazz album to rely on overdubbing technology. The result is one of the high-water marks for avant-garde jazz in the '60s and arguably Mingus' most brilliant moment.

  • AMAZON.COM: This 1963 recording occupies a special place in Mingus's work, his most brilliantly realized extended composition. The six-part suite is a broad canvas for the bassist's tumultuous passions, ranging from islands of serenity for solo guitar and piano to waves of contrapuntal conflict and accelerating rhythms that pull the listener into the musical psychodrama. It seems to mingle and transform both the heights and clichés of jazz orchestration, from Mingus's master, Duke Ellington, to film noir soundtracks. The result is a masterpiece of sounds and textures, from the astonishing vocal effects of the plunger-muted trumpets and trombone (seeming to speak messages just beyond the range of understanding) to the soaring romantic alto of Charlie Mariano. Boiling beneath it all are the teeming, congested rhythms of Mingus and drummer Dannie Richmond and the deep morass of tuba and baritone saxophone. This is one of the greatest works in jazz composition, and it's remarkable that Mingus dredged this much emotional power from a group of just 11 musicians.

  • MY REVIEW: The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady is a tense, passionate, fierce album that deals directly with the personal chaos Mingus found in his love life. It is a meticulously composed, multi-layered triumph that continually announces its motifs through a hefty series of deft variations, continually building in repeating, masterfully executed climaxes while scaling the walls of ecstacy, the depths of despair, the longing, passion, and weakened knees of love, and the "soap operas" of indulging in sin. It does this with a cathartic vigor that magnifies each stream of explosive emotions into a focused, intensely provocative event, giving emphasis to the gradual, rising phrases as if a feast of sensuality and desire were caught in the charging hormones and emotions that spring up in the most irrepressable of love affairs. It exploits the characters as if twisting them around eachother until each is a relentlessly pursued object of affection, left dizzy and exhausted by whetted appetites rung dry, offering bodies succumbed and their minds bent within an enigmatic, inescapable and confounding drama.


  • 2. ROCK BOTTOM-ROBERT WYATT

  • MY RATING: 9.6/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:
  • 4. ALIFIB
  • 5. ALIFE

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 7.5/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT:

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS:
  • Fast 'n' Bulbous (USA) - The 500 Best Albums Since 1965: 297
  • Pitchfork (USA) - Top 100 Albums of the 1970s (2004): 98
  • Robert Dimery (General Editor) - 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2005): No Order
  • Various writers - Albums: 50 Years of Great Recordings (2005): No Order
  • Guardian (UK) - 100 Albums that Don't Appear in All Other Top 100 Album Lists (1999): 47
  • Mojo (UK) - The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made (1995): 100
  • Mojo (UK) - The Mojo Collection, Third Edition (2003): No Order
  • Mojo (UK) - Top 50 Eccentric Albums of All Time (2003): No Order
  • Paul Morley (UK) - Words and Music, 5 x 100 Greatest Albums of All Time (2003): No Order
  • The Observer (UK) - The 100 Greatest British Albums (2004): 36
  • The Rough Guide - Rock: 100 Essential CDs (1999): No Order
  • The Word (UK) - Hidden Treasure: Great Underrated Albums of Our Time (2005): No Order
  • Time Out (UK) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1989): 55
  • Adresseavisen (Norway) - The 100 (+23) Best Albums of All Time (1995): 101
  • Pop (Sweden) - The World's 100 Best Albums + 300 Complements (1994): 101
  • OOR (Netherlands) - The Best Albums of the 20th Century (1987): 116
  • VPRO (The Netherlands) - 299 Nominations of the Best Album of All Time (2006): No Order
  • Rolling Stone (Germany) - The 500 Best Albums of All Time (2004): 98
  • Les Inrockuptibles (France) - 50 Years of Rock'n'Roll (2004): No Order
  • Rock & Folk (France) - The Best Albums from 1963 to 1999 (1999): No Order
  • Rock de Lux (Spain) - The 100 Best Albums of the 1970s (1988): 15
  • Rock de Lux (Spain) - The 200 Best Albums of All Time (2002): 55
  • Yediot Ahonot (Israel) - Top 99 Albums of All Time (1999): 41
  • Blow Up (Italy) - 600 Essential Albums (2005): No Order
  • Mauro Ronconi (Italy) - The 200 Best Albums of the 20th Century (1998): No Order
  • Mucchio Selvaggio (Italy) - 100 Best Albums by Decade (2002): 21-50
  • Ondarock (Italy) - Rock Milestones (albums added every month): No Order

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:
  • All Music Guide (USA) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars: 4.5 Stars
  • MusicHound (USA) - Album Ratings 0-5 Bones (1998-99): 3 Bones
  • Robert Christgau (USA) - Consumer Guide Album Grade: B+
  • Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ratings 1-5 Stars (USA, 1992): 3.5 Stars
  • Martin C. Strong (UK) - The Great Rock Discography 7th Edition, Ratings 1-10: 7
  • Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (UK) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars (2002): 4 Stars

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • HEAD HERITAGE: Rare and wonderful occasions they are when the hidden hands guide you into contact with music that you never knew you couldn't live without; when you know you've never heard a note of this stuff before but there's a tiny yet proud flame of recognition just sparked off in your innermost; when the way you look at life changes ever so slightly but irrevocably. And of course I cannae guarantee it, but I'll wager there's just a chance that your first experience of Rock bottom might prove to be one such occasion.

  • The dark backdrop to the creation of Rock Bottom's probably far better known than the record itself: Robert Wyatt finds himself lying in a recovery ward after a drunken fall from a bathroom window at some party or other, faced with a couple of four-pipers that Holmes himself would struggle with, namely; how do i get through this? and pertinently, what does a newly-paraplegic drummer do now?

  • Not that I'm trying to be at all flippant about such a personal catastrophe, but Wyatt's own recollections of the period are, with his charcteristic tendency to underplay the hand, far from anguished. At this remove, he's more of the opinion that the tragedy opened doors for him, freed him in many ways from certain hidebound views and behaviours. His notes to the 98 Ryko reissue of Rock Bottom make it clear that the key to his convalescence was a deliberate drift into reverie - allowing the dreamlife to sculpt the music and lead towards new ways of things. Via the ether, sea-change.

  • There's real hurt and anguish in Rock Bottom, the hurt of frayed relationships, the ache of dependency. In a fascinating detail in his notes, Wyatt recalls the initial writing period (pre-fall) in Venice, whilst accompanying his partner Alfie as she worked on Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now, Roeg repeatedly recanting the film's message -"We are not prepared". And that's in Rock Bottom too; the terror of your known world simply washing away.

  • But ultimately, the album glows of rebirth, illustrates the sometime-necessity of surrender if we're to truly overcome - the sea of possibilities behind this first-level world we troll. It's about the pull of the tides, the waters we come from (the geographical and the female), the changeling nature of things under the influence of the full moon (in a recent mag interview, John Balance called Rock Bottom "the most lunar album ever made" and he may well be right).

  • It's also about the relinquishing of the strictly masculine, the schematic, and instead embracing the feminine and the other; Alifie/Alifib (the album's astonishing centrepiece, a babel of babytalk) is one of the bravest, most open-hearted lovesongs you'll ever encounter, honest injun.

  • Perhaps most of all, the album's an open channel, a balm - healing music. Not some new age bubblebath, but a tough succour; no easy answers or convenient resolutions, but still a clear message from somewhere that, yeah, you're not crazy, there is more to it all than just this.

  • In a parallel world, everybody flooded down the shops and bought this instead of Tubular Bells. Not that I've any axes to grind as regards Mike Oldfield - I couldn't name anything he's done in a pepsi challenge, and he crops up with some marvellously spidery and enervated guitar on Rock Bottom's finale Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road - but rather I've distinct reservations about Saint Richard Branson, and I'd have been far happier if the heft of his coffers had arisen because he helped this magical invocation of an album into millions of homes. But how sad can you be when Rock Bottom's still out there waiting for you to discover and cherish? One full moon, treat yourself to a copy and take a little refreshing nightswim back in your mind. Come home for a bit. Drift and revive.

  • ALL MUSIC GUIDE: Rock Bottom, recorded with a star-studded cast of Canterbury musicians, has been deservedly acclaimed as one of the finest art rock albums. Several forces surrounding Wyatt's life helped shape its outcome. First, it was recorded after the former Soft Machine drummer and singer fell out of a five-story window and broke his spine. Legend had it that the album was a chronicle of his stay in the hospital. Wyatt dispels this notion in the liner notes of the 1997 Thirsty Ear reissue of the album, as well as the book Wrong Movements: A Robert Wyatt History. Much of the material was composed prior to his accident in anticipation of rehearsals of a new lineup of Matching Mole. The writing was completed in the hospital, where Wyatt realized that he would now need to sing more, since he could no longer be solely the drummer. Many of Rock Bottom's songs are very personal and introspective love songs, since he would soon marry Alfreda Benge. Benge suggested to Wyatt that his music was too cluttered and needed more open spaces. Therefore, Robert Wyatt not only ploughed new ground in songwriting territory, but he presented the songs differently, taking time to allow songs like "Sea Song" and "Alifib" to develop slowly. Previous attempts at love songs, like "O Caroline," while earnest and wistful, were very literal and lyrically clumsy. Rock Bottom was Robert Wyatt's most focused and relaxed album up to its time of release. In 1974, it won the French Grand Prix Charles Cros Record of the Year Award. It is also considered an essential record in any comprehensive collection of psychedelic or progressive rock.

  • MY REVIEW: Unsettling, oddly alluring, and unthinkably profound, Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom is a true miracle. It is a monument to what can be accomplished in the rock medium and may forever stand as the greatest album in rock history. As an uncanny, cerebral, gradually developing tidal wave of dense, multi-layered emotional outpouring, it unfolds through a series of structurally dynamic religious hymns, deeply affecting in its poetic beauty, enigmatic and explosive as a fertile wonderland of astoundingly moving stream-of-consciousness set to an endlessly flowering prayer that blossoms majestically towards bursting seams of exhausting and intellectually stimulating emotional heights. Rock Bottom is as shattering, as powerful and as subjective and personal as music ever gets. It is one of the very few musical works that heals, that washes away social circuitry and conformist adherence to the status quo, and can propel one on a course towards more vitality, empowering a sense of wonder and creativity and dynamic purpose, a wealth of spiritual unity and an affluence towards heightened awareness and depth, emotional honesty and balance. It is so profound it can actually change one's life. I will never, ever forget the first time I fully cognited on its immense power, such was the clarity, the personal sense of achievement, the rippling effect it had, and continues to have on my very being. If there is but a small handful of works of art I am eternally grateful for, Rock Bottom is one of them, because once its merits fully come to fruition, its power astounds to such degree that its existence, and the fact someone was brilliant enough to actually conceive such a courageous, flat-out, supreme masterpiece, seems all but completely and utterly impossible.

  • Here is the story of the increasing fluctuation of Wyatt's soul, at once shattered and built by undying passion and love for a woman he would eventually marry--a woman for whom he sees a reflection of nature, the sea and the tides, reflections of happiness, dependancy, relief and faith. This is a perplexing, mysterious and provocative look at the intricate nature and complicated landscapes love treads, the strange idiosynchrocies of devotion, confusion, heartbreak and passion, evoking unlikely simularities between profound, matured spirituality and the naive esprit and childish emotional honesty in longing for the care and affection of one's mother.

  • Here is a virtual reinvention of both rock and jazz music, sharing a compositional unity that is fascinating, complex and lyrically illustrative in the vein of Lewis Carrol. Wyatt uses the foundations of folk music to support a dense structure of weaving styles and sounds, creating a richly textured and dynamic haven for his fascinating portrayal of his own life-changing journey, reflections and considerations on his intimate relationship with wife Alfreda Benge.

  • The first half acts as a fluid and gradient entry way into Wyatt's strangely metaphysical and evocative universe. Opener Sea Song is a masterpiece of eerie, luminous folk voiced patiently in the touching melancholia of Wyatt, before lifting into a cognitive and overtaken scat performance, the singer drowns out within his own overwhelming whirlwind of previously suppressed emotions. The patted drumming and perfectly timed keyboard chords are key to the sense of defied gravity, a lunar element presented here and sustained throughout much of the album. A Last Straw is a gateway, moving forward with a unique rhythm, an unorthodox series of angular patterns parallel descending then ascending vocal rises and collapses. All the songs have an immediacy to them, they appear creations of a magician, of God's hand. They are effortlessly suspended in space, growing their own universes, each instrumental or vocal phrase and effect a brushstroke to a magnificant painting. Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road opens a wormhole of constantly changing, wildly pounding bongo drums filling the seams of persistent streams of jazzy instruments set to swimming, magnetic vocals. It is an absolute masterpiece of textures and depth, and a milestone achievement in the conception of scoring "rock" to jazz music. It features some impressive moments of elasticity and jaw-dropping ingenuity when Wyatt's singing gets pulled back into the vaccuum, changing pace and reversing backwards with the vocals and lyrics.

  • Side two is among the most uniquely moving portions of music ever created. Alifib, probably rock's ultimate love song, is one of the most personal, beautiful and singular musical works ever scored. Has Wyatt been born again? Has he embodied another life form? The first half of the song paints a level of sensitivity and deft keyboard mastery rarely achieved by even the great giants of classical music, throughout an intensely dedicated Wyatt continuously whispers the name of his lover, as if lost in a dreamy reverie, helpless and alone in a coma. The second half of Alifib is intoxicatingly melodious, a mantra of religious sacrifice and healing. Here Wyatt erects a prayer of deeply passionate and sacred heights, as he engages in a monologue of baby talk, somehow managing a merger between keen insight and unabashed immaturity. Wyatt's prayers are that of a child locked in the arms of his mother, at least metaphorically. In truth he is asserting his own feelings that he is on the verge of losing her and this is the denouncement of his previous ways, the ultimate sacrifice of self for the coming transformation towards the embodiment of a new man, and facing potential death he is at once magically reborn. He lies there, repeating between passages of mostly nonsensical verbs, that she is his ultimate source of life, that he depends on her above all else, "Alifie my larder, Alifie my larder." And further, "I cannot forsake you. I cannot forsqueak you." It is in this astonishingly personal rendering that we begin to acknowledge the true depths of his character, the dedication and the synergy from Wyatt to his wife, Alfreda. Everything up to this point has been a search and unveiling. Here Robert Wyatt lays himself completely, utterly bare.

  • If Alifib marks the foundation, the birth and beginning of Wyatt's newfound immaturity/maturity, the incredible Alife is its more chaotic twin brother, rising hesitantly then spastically, into a daunting level of visceral freedom, and eventual implosion. In its conclusion breathes a wrestling, spewing saxophone, erupting fountains of emotional turmoil. During its introduction, Wyatt is hesitant and tired as he pronounces a stumbling but verbatim recollection of Alifib. At its close, his wife finally responds as the song boils in a juxtaposition of steaming vigor, denouncing his prayer in a startling nursery rhyme that is both ironically understanding in a sympathetic motherly persona as well as slightly disgusted and decisively dismissive. The closer Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road, is among the most pressing, emphatic and enigmatic stews in rock history. Here Wyatt reaches multiple levels of finality, as sweeping, smashing bursts of cymbal crashes rush towards the coda, backed by a pummeling group of instruments before a magical metamorphosis bleeds out into a heavenly backdrop. This last portion of the song is one of tremendous insight. Wyatt (using Ivan Cutler on vocals) presents a series of scenes voiced in an intentionally unintelligible manner, yet insinuate a haunting, unearthed childish tendency towards violence, while the music in the background and the basic melody upon which the voice sings are both caught in a sea of floating, see-sawing, harmonic beauty. This draws a starkly contrasting, yet parallel view to what began with Sea Song. As rock historian Piero Scaruffi has accurately noted, it bridges the apparent gap between an intense religious hymn and a childish nursery rhyme, thus offering them as one and the same. Perhaps Wyatt is communicating that no matter our form, no matter our age and no matter our personality, we are all innately beautiful, loving and creative spiritual beings. I have a feeling he learned this most of all, from his wife, who helped lead him through and past a tragic accident that year which left him paralyzed from the waist down after his fall from a 4th story window. Thus, Rock Bottom can be viewed as an ode to Alfreda Benge, the woman who understood his complex genius no matter what, and the woman with whom he shared his life with from that point forward.

  • That said, Rock Bottom causes multiple combinations of feelings, ideas and inspirations hitherto unimaginable, and is without easy definition, without singular intepretation; ultimately complete, utterly incredible, and heart-wrenchingly, impossibly life-affirming.


  • 1. A LOVE SUPREME-JOHN COLTRANE (1964)

  • MY RATING: 9.6/10

  • MY FAVORITE TRACKS:
  • 3. PURSUANCE
  • 4. PSALM

  • CHALLENGE RATING: 6.0/10

  • GREATEST MOMENT:

  • CRITICS' LIST RANKINGS:
  • Ben Ratliff (USA) - Jazz: A Critics Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings (2002): No Order
  • Blender (USA) - 500 CDs You Must Own Before You Die (2003): No Order
  • Double Time (USA) - Top 100 Historically Significant Recordings: 23
  • Entertainment Weekly (USA) - The 100 Greatest CDs of All Time (1993): 39
  • Fast 'n' Bulbous (USA) - The Best Albums from 1949-64: 2
  • Fred Kaplan (USA) - Top 100 Jazz Albums of the Twentieth Century: No Order
  • Gear (USA) - The 100 Greatest Albums of the Century (1999): 61
  • Infoplease.com (USA) - Must-Have Recordings (1998): No Order
  • Jazz Online (USA) - Starter Kit: No Order
  • Jazz for Dummies (USA) - 300 to Round Out the Collection (1998): No Order
  • NPR (USA) - Basic Jazz Record Library (2000): No Order
  • NPR (USA) - The 300 Most Important American Records of the 20th Century (1999): No Order
  • Radio WXPN (USA) - The 100 Most Progressive Albums (1996): 19
  • Robert Dimery (General Editor) - 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2005): No Order
  • Rolling Stone (USA) - The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (2003): 47
  • The Recording Academy Grammy Hall of Fame Albums and Songs (USA): Winner
  • The Review, University of Delaware (USA) - 100 Greatest Albums of All Time (2001): 44
  • Various writers - Albums: 50 Years of Great Recordings (2005): No Order
  • Vibe (USA) - 51 Albums representing a Generation, a Sound and a Movement (2004): No Order
  • Channel 4 (UK) - 125 Nominations for the 100 Greatest Albums (2005): No Order
  • Guardian (UK) - 100 Albums that Don't Appear in All Other Top 100 Album Lists (1999): 37
  • Guardian (UK) - The 100 Best Albums Ever (1997): 45
  • John Fordham (UK) - Jazz: Gallery of Classics (1994): No Order
  • Mojo (UK) - The Mojo Collection, Third Edition (2003): No Order
  • New Musical Express (UK) - All Times Top 100 Albums (1985): 76
  • New Musical Express (UK) - All Times Top 100 Albums + Top 50 by Decade (1993): 36
  • Q (UK) - The Ultimate Music Collection (2005): No Order
  • Record Collector (UK) - 10 Classic Albums from 21 Genres for the 21st Century (2000): No Order
  • The New Nation (UK) - Top 100 Albums by Black Artists: 13
  • The Rough Guide - Jazz: 100 Essential CDs (1999): No Order
  • Time Out (UK) - The 100 Best Albums of All Time (1989): 16
  • Wire (UK) - The 100 Most Important Records Ever Made (1992): No Order
  • Pop (Sweden) - The American Music Club: 50 Jazz Albums (1996): No Order
  • Nieuwe Revu (Netherlands) - Top 100 Albums of All Time (1994): 56
  • Jazzguide (Germany) - Recommended Records: No Order
  • Rolling Stone (Germany) - The 500 Best Albums of All Time (2004): 65
  • Rondo (Germany) - Jazz Milestones: No Order
  • Spex (Germany) - The 100 Albums of the Century (1999): 13
  • Wiener (Austria) - The 100 Best Albums of the 20th Century (1999): 8
  • Joan Rimbau (Spain?) - The Ultimate Jazz Collection (1995): No Order
  • Rock de Lux (Spain) - The 200 Best Albums of All Time (2002): 11
  • Blow Up (Italy) - 600 Essential Albums (2005): No Order
  • Il Mucchio Selvaggio (Italy) - 100 Essential Jazz Albums (2004): No Order
  • Mauro Ronconi (Italy) - The 200 Best Albums of the 20th Century (1998): No Order
  • Jazz&Tzaz (Greece) - The 100 Greatest Jazz Records: No Order
  • Showbizz (Brazil) - 100 CDs of All Time (1999): 85

  • CRITICS' RATINGS:
  • All Music Guide (USA) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars: 5 Stars
  • MusicHound (USA) - Album Ratings 0-5 Bones (1998-99): 5 Bones
  • Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ratings 0-5 Stars (USA, 1979 and/or 1983): 5 Stars
  • Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ratings 1-5 Stars (USA, 1992): 5 Stars
  • Rolling Stone Album Guide, Ratings 1-5 Stars (USA, 2004): 5 Stars
  • The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD (6th Ed., 2002), Ratings 1-4 Stars, or a Crown: Crown
  • Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (UK) - Album Ratings 1-5 Stars (2002): 5 Stars

  • CRITICS' QUOTES:

  • ALL MUSIC GUIDE: Easily one of the most important records ever made, John Coltrane's A Love Supreme was his pinnacle studio outing that at once compiled all of his innovations from his past, spoke of his current deep spirituality, and also gave a glimpse into the next two and a half years (sadly, those would be his last). Recorded at the end of 1964, Trane's classic quartet of Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, and Jimmy Garrison stepped into the studio and created one of the most thought-provoking, concise, and technically pleasing albums of their bountiful relationship (not to mention his best-selling to date). From the undulatory (and classic) bassline at the intro to the last breathy notes, Trane is at the peak of his logical yet emotionally varied soloing while the rest of the group is remarkably in tune with Coltrane's spiritual vibe. Composed of four parts, each has a thematic progression leading to an understanding of spirituality through meditation. From the beginning, "Acknowledgement" is the awakening of sorts that trails off to the famous chanting of the theme at the end, which yields to the second act, "Resolution," an amazingly beautiful piece about the fury of dedication to a new path of understanding. "Persuance" is a search for that understanding, and "Psalm" is the enlightenment. Although he is at times aggressive and atonal, this isn't Trane at his most adventurous (pretty much everything recorded from here on out progressively becomes much more free, and live recordings from this period are extremely spirited), but it certainly is his best attempt at the realization of concept -- as the spiritual journey is made amazingly clear. A Love Supreme clocks in at just over 30 minutes, but if it had been any longer it could have turned into a laborious listen. As it stands, just enough is conveyed. It is almost impossible to imagine a world without A Love Supreme having been made, and it is equally impossible to imagine any jazz collection without it.

  • MUSTHEAR.COM: Perhaps the most fully realized work of art dedicated to God since Michaelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel. No other musician has a church of worship built to honor their spirit (The Church of John Coltrane in San Francisco), and no other artist could be more deserving of such acknowledgment. In the liner notes, Coltrane dedicates the record to God as his "humble offering." But Trane was not alone in his dedication. His classic quartet--made up of Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, and Jimmy Garrison--merge to form one transcendent entity, pushing beyond all limits to approach the divine. This recording represents the single greatest achievement of an artist who left the world with an extensive discography full of magnificence. The spiritual intensity of A Love Supreme leaves one profoundly moved and quietly ecstatic. An album to be heard nightly, before bed, like a prayer.

  • MY REVIEW: It opens with a Chinese gong that carries its vibrations across Coltrane's saxaphone bursting through, with a light series of percussion gently bustling beneath, before the bass groove of his now signature "A Love Supreme" theme, a humble, beautiful dedication to God, casts its spell on the work. Coltrane continues to increase a series of wonderful variations on the theme throughout Acknowledgement, a masterstroke of an opening, brilliantly coaxing us along until, kneeled down, a voice comes forth in a gentle, relaxed mantra, singing "A Love Supreme" over and over again, meditating on the theme, before all instruments subside, excepting a lone bass number searching for the way. Coltrane will show them. He will be led forth by God.

  • Resolution breaks through with a monumental melody, towering above all else, and then holds back while a solo for piano dominates the next couple minutes, rising chords move upwards towards the sky, relentless drumming ecstatically following suit, weaving in and out and working off one another. Suddenly Coltrane charges into the mix, repeating a controlled assault on variations of the opening melody, huge phrases calling out to the Lord as he swiftly climbs upwards.

  • Pursuance one of the most emotional, awe-inspiring, towering masterpieces in all of music, is the pinnacle of Coltrane's career. After opening with an amazing series of drum rolls and an outstanding, flawlessly crafted piano number that builds perfectly right into the second phase of the song, Coltrane arrives with such conviction and abandon that it is hard to believe. Here walls come down, we are transported straight into the very essence of undying conviction and spirituality. Each time Coltrane and the climaxing drum rolls meet are moments of the most intense powers colliding. The song ends with a massive percussion climax before some intimate minutes of lone bass are spent repeating Coltrane's meditative themes.

  • The conclusion of Pursuance leads straight into the mesmerizing finale of Psalm. A completely overwhelmed Coltrane plays as if being touched by God. Beneath his extravagant, poignant melody arises great rumblings of percussion, casting an epic spell and a divine conclusion on the work, before each instrument eventually coalesces in unison as the psalm closes.

  • As John Coltrane's masterpiece, A Love Supreme is the most humble offering, a true miracle, an intensely emotional prayer that manages to carry forth undivided by religion or belief. Regardless of faith, it speaks personally to each of us. It is a beacon showing light on the beauty and artistry that raises the humanity in us all.


Author Comments: 

These are my picks for the greatest albums of all time. ONLY MASTERPIECES ARE GOING TO BE ALLOWED ON THIS PARTICULAR LIST (9.0 & ABOVE). I've found true masterpieces to be very rare in music, so these albums deserve special attention and therefore their own list. Rankings are based on my opinion of their merit. To me, the overall greatness of an album is primarily dependant on the four categories listed below. These are the factors I believe to be most important in making up an astonishing and profound musical experience, which is the ideal effect a work of art can have on one. My ratings are derived from a combined score from each of these four factors, in addition to the value I prescribe to each individual album track:

1. PROFUNDITY
-How powerful is it? Does it make me want to cry? Stare forth in awe? Is it miraculous? Does it give me goosebumps? Chills?

2. DEPTH
-How expansive is its content? As a work does it blossom and flourish, or is it just a stand-still of repetitive content? Does it make you feel as though you've endured a full experience by its conclusion, or is it insignificant and slight?

3. INGENUITY
-How inventive is it? Do you feel you are at the hands of great intelligence, subjectively creative ideas, or is it merely an artist or group just trying to get by?

4. CONTINUITY
-How consistent is the album's flow? Does it feel like an uneven hodgepodge, or is it carefully constructed for maximum climax and maximum impact?

All album ratings are based on the following scale:

RATINGS SCALE:

0.0-4.9 NOT WORTH LISTENING TO
5.0-5.4 AVERAGE
5.5-5.9 ABOVE AVERAGE
6.0-6.4 GOOD
6.5-6.9 QUITE GOOD
7.0-7.4 VERY GOOD
7.5-7.9 EXCELLENT
8.0-8.4 OUTSTANDING
8.5-8.9 AMAZING
9.0-9.4 MASTERPIECE
9.5-9.9 SUPREME MASTERPIECE
10.0 ULTIMATE MASTERPIECE

To give you an idea of how I conduct my ratings, and the quality I am looking at here on this list, here are some examples of where I would rate some well-known albums:

0.0-4.9 NOT WORTH LISTENING TO
FOREVER-SPICE GIRLS

5.0-5.4 AVERAGE
BACK TO BEDLAM-JAMES BLUNT

5.5-5.9 ABOVE AVERAGE

6.0-6.4 GOOD
THE FREEWHEELIN' BOB DYLAN-BOB DYLAN
A HARD DAYS NIGHT-THE BEATLES
PABLO HONEY-RADIOHEAD
RUBBER SOUL-THE BEATLES

6.5-6.9 QUITE GOOD
THE BEATLES-THE BEATLES ("White Album")-THE BEATLES
BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME-BOB DYLAN
HUNKY DORY-DAVID BOWIE
IS THIS IT-THE STROKES
REVOLVER-THE BEATLES
THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS-DAVID BOWIE
RUMOURS-FLEETWOOD MAC
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND-THE VELVET UNDERGROUND

7.0-7.4 VERY GOOD
ABBEY ROAD-THE BEATLES
BEGGAR'S BANQUET-THE ROLLING STONES
THE BENDS-RADIOHEAD
BORN TO RUN-BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
DARK SIDE OF THE MOON-PINK FLOYD
LET IT BLEED-THE ROLLING STONES
LONDON CALLING-THE CLASH
THE MOON AND ANTARCTICA-MODEST MOUSE
NEVERMIND-NIRVANA
PET SOUNDS-THE BEACH BOYS
THE RIVER-BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND-THE BEATLES
THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON-SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE
WHAT'S GOING ON-MARVIN GAYE

7.5-7.9 EXCELLENT
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?-JIMI HENDRIX
BLOOD ON THE TRACKS-BOB DYLAN
BLUE-JONI MITCHELL
DOOLITTLE-PIXIES
EXILE ON MAIN STREET-THE ROLLING STONES
FOREVER CHANGES-LOVE
FUNERAL-THE ARCADE FIRE
HORSES-PATTI SMITH
IN UTERO-NIRVANA
LOW-DAVID BOWIE
OK COMPUTER-RADIOHEAD
THE STONE ROSES-THE STONE ROSES
SURFER ROSA-PIXIES
YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT-WILCO

8.0-8.4 OUTSTANDING
THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL-NINE INCH NAILS
FUN HOUSE-THE STOOGES
HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED-BOB DYLAN
IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING-KING CRIMSON
MARQUEE MOON-TELEVISION
PINK MOON-NICK DRAKE
REMAIN IN LIGHT-TALKING HEADS
ZEN ARCADE-HUSKER DU

8.5-8.9 AMAZING
SEE MY "AMAZING ALBUMS" LIST

9.0-9.4 MASTERPIECE
SEE MY "GREATEST ALBUMS OF ALL TIME" LIST

9.5-9.9 SUPREME MASTERPIECE
SEE MY "GREATEST ALBUMS OF ALL TIME" LIST

10.0 ULTIMATE MASTERPIECE
NONE KNOWN

Challenge Ratings are based on the level of challenge an album poses to the listener. By this, I usually mean the degree of experimentation found on the album. The key determining factor is: how much does it diverge from pop music, from what most listeners are accustomed to? Length of tracks and the entire album are taken into account as well. Agreement with these will vary some from person to person, but I've found are usually quite accurate with most anyone, having made these evaluations based on my own experiences as well as numerous recommendations I've given over the years. One can use these ratings to presume how much work he or she will have to put into "understanding" or "getting" the album. Conceptually understanding the artists' vision is key to enjoying it on an ideal level, so these challenge ratings can be helpful in convincing someone to "giving it another shot" while they remain unconvinced of an album that just hasn't appealed to them yet. I should also note that I have observed that the more one persists in listening to and understanding the most challenging albums, the easier it becomes to take on the next one. That said, if you are reading this list and are used to simple, radio-friendly artists such as Nickleback, The Beatles and others, then it is recommended you start on the album with the lowest challenge rating and gradiently work your way up towards the more difficult ones, step-by-step.

The Challenge Ratings are defined as follows:

1.0 EXTREMELY EASY
2.0 VERY EASY
3.0 EASY
4.0 PRETTY EASY
5.0 NEITHER TOUGH NOR EASY
6.0 PRETTY CHALLENGING
7.0 DIFFICULT
8.0 VERY DIFFICULT
9.0 EXTREMELY DIFFICULT
10.0 NEARLY IMPENETRABLE

I would like to thank Piero Scaruffi (www.scaruffi.com) for the immense help he has been in the discovery of many of the albums on this list. I would also like to thank him for his valuable insight in his reviews and through e-mail correspondance (both of which I've occasionally derived some of my own views). Additionally, I would like to thank all the other webzines/publications and their reviewers I've utilized in the CRITICS QUOTES sections of this list, as well as www.acclaimedmusic.com for their existence, without which posting the multiple rankings of many of these albums from worldwide "best albums" polls, would be a real chore.

No Escalator Over the Hill in this list?

I've hardly heard any of it (just samples). I'll be ordering it soon, though I think it may have been out of print the last time I checked. By what I've read about it though, it sounds fascinating and seems bound to make it on, and I definitely want the album.

How would you rate it? Where do you think you'd put if you were to make your own jazz list?

Well, i must say this little selection is very exciting to me; Faust and Wyatt have been off my radar, so i hope to find the same wonderful depths you have (though of course you're much more into avant-garde and risky stuff than i am/have been). I see at Amazon.com Wyatt gets almost unanimous stupendous rave reviews despite being ranked about 65,000 (or was it 6500?) in music sales.

ps; Funeral- Arcade Fire has been sitting in my standby list for buying at amazon for a little while, as i thought it sounded very promising (didn't want to overload my basket), so with your rating, looks like i should go for it!

Funeral is an excellent album. I would definitely recommend getting it. I'm not sure where I rated it on this site unless you're referring to a greatest albums list I posted before this one, about a year ago. Anyways, my current rating of it is 7.8/10. In my opinion it doesn't come close to the full throttle genius found on this list, but it is an amazing album by almost any other comparison.

Rock Bottom is indeed an unbelieveable album. My gushing review pretty much sums it up. Unless you're totally willing to jump full steam into the avant-garde I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as the first one to start with from this list, but on the other hand, it's certainly not unlistenable. The main challenge Rock Bottom isn't difficulty in being able to enjoy it--I enjoyed it from the get-go and it entered the bottom half of this list almost immediately--the challenge is in unearthing its true colors, something that even took rock historian Piero Scaruffi many listens to do. It took me about 30+, but it doesn't have to take this long. I suspect that with my review as a guide (Julian Cope's Head Heritage review is helpful as well) it could be done with much fewer listens, probably rather quickly actually. And while Faust is another work of almost unthinkable genius, it is one of the two most challenging albums here, and I'd only recommend tackling it after gradiently working your way up from easier albums through the most challenging ones and finally, Faust.

I'm about to post a list of the recommended order to tackle these albums in. If you're looking to get into the albums on this list, I'd highly suggest following the order I propose, otherwise you could find yourself getting stuck if you shoot for the really difficult ones first without gradiently working your way up.