If you’re new to this, you might want to go press the ‘What is this?’ button at the top for more details. Can’t be bothered? Fair enough. The short version is that I’m listening to all the albums of the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums of All Time list, for reasons surpassing understanding at this point. If you're not new, you might have noticed the new digs. Feel free to take a look around...
Inside the top 100! Only four more legs to go! I get to chose what I listen to again! Exclamation points! To convey my excitement!
100 The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle: Well this is an unexpected treat. A bit of investigation reveals it to be a forgotten gem from the sixties British psychedelic era, but modern fans of Elliot Smith, Sufjan Stevens and hell, even Ben Folds will find here a forty year old alternative folky pop classic. Really good.
99 Sly & The Family Stone – There's a Riot Goin' On: Funkity funkity funkity funk. I’m kind of running out of things to say about the funk albums on this list other than that they are, indeed, funky. This is fairly enjoyable funk, but I can’t really see any justification for it being so high up this list.
98 Elvis Costello – This Year's Model: Well blow me down if this isn’t a million miles better than the two Costello albums on the last leg, largely because the production here is much more full and rounded than his other stuff. Excellent song writing, great sound, I really enjoyed this.
97 Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan: Now we’re talking. This is Dylan at his caustic, brilliant best. Now that we’re inside the top 100 albums OF ALL TIME this is the sort of benchmark of quality that I expect…
96 The Who – Tommy: …so I’m to be disappointed immediately. This is dreadful. I just don’t get The Who, in the same way that I just don’t get The Stones. Almost every song on here is just dreadful, and the narrative is so crushingly clunky.
95 Miles Davis – Bitches Brew: And we’re back. This is mesmerising, shifting from arrhythmic jazz freak-out to subtle smoky back room jazz and back again, it’s by no means an easy listen, but once it has you it’s utterly gripping. You can see what makes jazz enthusiasts so goddamned intense about their genre; listening to this makes me feel like I’m staring over the precipice of what’s possible.
94 Hank Williams – 40 Greatest Hits: Well, if I don’t make my arbitrarily self-imposed monthly target on this leg of the list it’ll be entirely Hank’s fault. Given my total lack of time for all things country this old school hillbilly country is not quite as objectionable as some of the other bilge I’ve had to listen to, but that’s not to say it’s good either, and these 40 tracks took an awfully long time to plough through.
93 Prince – Sign 'O' The Times: Here come the eighties again, pissing over all musical endeavour with its piss poor production values and drum machines that make me want to drown myself in a bathtub of my own tears. This could well be brilliant, but it sounds so bad that I can’t tell. If I was a betting man I’d imagine it’s as shit as its production.
92 Buddy Holly & The Crickets – 20 Golden Greats: My parents took me to see Buddy: The Musical six times when I was child, so enamoured was I with the pop stylings of Rock and Roll’s most gentle voice. My admiration for his work has not diminished since then, although I imagine your opinion of me has probably just slipped down a notch at that revelation.
91 Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: Having enjoyed so many of Elton’s earlier works on this list, it’s hard not to wonder what exactly happened to the man’s talent. This contains some of his best known songs, from Benny and the Jets, to the positively dreadful Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, to the cloying Candle in the Wind, and I just spent the whole time wondering why none of it was as good as My Father’s Gun or Tiny Dancer.
90 Stevie Wonder – Talking Book: This has to be one of the worst album covers in existence, with a pensive looking Wonder wearing a mumu and playing with some sand, but thankfully the album itself is pretty bloody good. Note to the eighties; this is how you produce electronic sounds, okay? Thanks.
89 Dusty Springfield – Dusty In Memphis: This was one of those albums that floats over you perfectly enjoyably but leaves no trace of an impact. Springfield’s voice is gorgeous, the songs are lovely, but there’s ultimately little here to blow what hair I have left back.
88 Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison: Rolling Stone should probably have just called this number one and stopped there. If you want integrity, if you want danger, if you want artistic honesty, it doesn’t get much more real than this. The ultimate outlaw singer standing up in a prison cafeteria and singing songs to them about being hung for murder, cocaine induced rages and love songs for women they might never see again. It’s breathless, intense and one of the most thrilling albums ever made.
87 Pink Floyd – The Wall: Talk about bloated prog, this is practically unbearable. I’m sure they saw this as a coherent narrative, but to me it just sounds like fistfuls of half formed incomplete song ideas, thrown at the eponymous wall to see if they stick. Some do, but too many ideas peter out after a few minutes and then move onto the next one. There’s some great songs here, but the rest of it is bloody hard work.
86 Bruce Springsteen – Born In The U.S.A.: Earlier on this list I remarked that The Boss’ albums are more enjoyable the less coherent his lyrics are. Well you can hear him perfectly on the slickly produced that make up this, his most commercial album. It’s all perfectly listenable, rousing even, but I’d rather listen to him sounding like he’s hanging stumbling out of a drive thru McDonalds with a half-finished bottle of jack in his hands mumbling about not being able to get his damned Egg McMuffin.
85 Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul: Well dip me in honey and call me Margaret, this is stonkingly good. You know that thing where people’s reputation gets inflated and inflated until you just look at them and wonder how that even happened? Dave Grohl, for instance, or Morrissey. Well in this case that reputation as ‘Lady Soul’ is more than justified. Over this and the next album of the list I mostly just sat staring at the speaker with my mouth open. Amazing.
84 Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You: I refer the honourable reader to the answer I gave a moment ago.
83 The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis: Bold As Love: Speaking of genius… There may be two Hendrix albums deemed to be better than this one on the list (and one that categorically is), but Axis has always been my favourite. I mean, it’s got Little Wing, Castles Made of Sand and If 6 was 9. So try and argue against me all you like, this is the shit, right here. Amazing.
82 Neil Young – Harvest: Yeah this list is really starting to hot up now. Harvest is another completely flawless album, and in Old Man it contains one of my all-time top five songs, or at least top ten. Maybe top fifty. I dunno. How can you rank art? Oh that’s right, you can’t. What am I doing again?
81 The Clash – The Clash: This one came as a bit of a surprise to me because I’ve never had much time for The Clash, or most of the seventies punk era, to be honest. I always thought of it as the ultimate rosy tinted genre, its reputation inflated by the handful of people who were there and went into media jobs after their rebellious phase. Great for ideals and attitude and low on actual quality. But this is great, witty and angry and inventive and still sounding remarkably good all these decades later. Shows what I know, eh?
80 John Lennon – Imagine: Imagine thinking this was good. Imagine having to listen to it. Imagine John Lennon lived long enough to piss away his legacy to the same extent Macca eventually did.
79 Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II: I had an argument with a friend about Zep recently. He argued that they were the uninteresting commercial counterpoint to the far more interesting underground peers. He’s probably right, but it doesn’t change the fact that this album is tremendous. So screw him.
78 Otis Redding – Otis Blue: Recently re-released as a Record Store Day release, I can see why all the vinyl loving hipsters in my Facebook feed were crowing about how good it is. Redding’s voice is astoundingly expressive, and on this range of soul standards he soars, with the exception of an inferior version of Respect. A great listen though.
77 AC/DC – Back In Black: Don’t get me wrong, this is a great ‘rock’ album, but if you’re going to try and convince me that it’s anywhere near as good as anything produced in the Bon Scott era, then you might as well try and convince me that white people with Y chromosomes have it really rough in this world.
76 Prince & The Revolution– Purple Rain: I am quite partial to a soupçon of funk every now and again, but I struggle to see the point of pop’s most diminutive lunatic’s take on the genre. He takes funk and strips out all the earthy drums and the bass and replaces them with hideous casio keyboard tin sounds. Bizarre.
And that's your lot for now. Tune in soon for another leg.