Here is the last installment of my Top 100 Record Albums of all-time. Sorry for those of you waiting for Sergeant Pepper or Astral Weeks, but I am not auditioning for Rolling Stone, but listing MY favorite 100 as I outlined long ago. I hope the more common albums are reminders of how important some of these bands are and that the more obscure ones remind everyone how much great music there is to discover, whether it is in a record store or fair, or an on-line store or catalog.
10. Pink Floyd - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (UK) 1967: This of course is the Syd Barrett led Pink Floyd which has groundbreaking psychedelic space rock mixed in with Syd's whimsical acid drenched children's songs. I wish Jugband Blues from the second album was on this, but it still has some of the finest songs this band could ever come up with. There were some good moments in the Gilmour years to be sure, and Barrett's solo records attract a rabid following (although I find them rather sad), but this is the record where it all came together.
9. Blue Oyster Cult - Blue Oyster Cult (USA) 1972: Although the third album, Secret Treaties, was my gateway to this band and is perhaps the most steady listen of all their albums, it is the debut that makes my list these days. They cover a wide range of territory here with some slow and spacey psychedelic numbers like "Screams" and "She's as Beautiful as a Foot". And it took me at least twenty listens to "Workshop of the Telescopes" before I realized what a great song that was. The playing is solid, the Melzer lyrics are cryptic. It was the perfect listen for high school kids looking to challenge themselves before punk came around or before they were old enough and sharp enough to dig deeper underground.
8. Bad Brains - Attitude (USA) 1982: This was the first full length Bad Brains release and it was on cassette. I got it as quickly as I could and went nuts listening to it on my car stereo while driving over to some punk rock party in Dayton. I ended up taking people for drives a few times that night so we could listen to it over and over. I normally don't want to play things non-stop like that, but this was so addictive and important, it was the only way to go. Blistering punk rock with monster hooks. I saw them on their first tour in Detroit and it only got better live. Glad they finally got the accolades they deserved, but sorry they could never keep a rhythm going in their band business like they could in their songs.
7. Black Sabbath - Paranoid (UK) 1970: Sabbath was another essential band of my youth and is still an essential listen to metal heads and hard rockers everywhere. They created a distinct time and I have little time for the many rock music fans who turn there noses up at this. It is brilliant music which is surprisingly creative and intricate. No one quite sounds like these guys which is true of many of the top bands on this list. There are great moments among the first six albums, but this was the big one for me with lots of hits and cool songs like "Hand of Doom". I still listen to this multiple times every year now in the fifth decade since I first heard it.
6. Wire - Pink Flag (UK) 1977: This was one of the most fascinating documents of the early punk years. I loved the dark, serious nature of their approach and the 21 fully realized short songs crammed onto one LP. I played this on every radio show that I hosted from 1979 to 1980 and I had so many songs and song combinations to play. When Wire reunited and did a 1986 tour of the US to play (only) their new material, they had a New York band open for them who played this album in order, long before All Tomorrow's Parties was around. This is pop music, punk music, and experimentally simple. They are headed back to DC this spring and I am anxious to hear them again as they are smart, distant and accessible all at once. They obviously had a huge impact here with Minor Threat's cover of "12XU" being evident of their influence. Get the second and third albums, too.
5. The Saints - Eternally Yours (Australia) 1978: We loved the Saints back in the early punk days, but it was the first album that did it at that time since it had blistering pace and heavy guitars like few other bands. The second album had horns and more complexity that was more difficult to entirely grasp in the days of 1234 let it rip music. It rocked hard, so there was a lot to like. But it took many years before I fully appreciated the full effect and the timeless nature of the music. The Saints never bonded with the punks and the punk scene. Along with fellow Aussies Radio Birdman (who they also did not bond with), they brought the Stooges/MC5 sound to punk far better than anyone had in the UK or the USA despite almost everyone trying to do so. The Saints box set is an essential collection of songs from the early albums and live shows. The live sound is stunning and there is a nice full version of this album recorded earlier at another studio.
4. Pentangle - Basket of Light (UK) 1969: I have nearly 100 records featuring Pentangle or its five versatile and excellent solo musicians. This is their third record and is generally thought to be their best. The band was a supergroup merging two outstanding fingerstyle guitarists (Bert Jansch and John Renbourn) with a couple of sought after versatile jazz-blues-folk session men (Danny Thompson and Terry Cox) on rhythm section (with stand-up bass). They grabbed a great female singer (Jacquie McShee) who was doing some blues-folk numbers and away they went into uncharted territory. They combined all of their styles into a mystical mix which still mystifies people today. I was fortunate enough to attend their reunion in London a couple years ago and also saw Bert Jansch at the Jammin Java a few weeks back. This album just crackles with masterful playing as it moves from the swinging London pop sounds of "Light Flight" to the dark folk of "Hunting Song". This is the place to start for creative reworking of folk music from the classic era.
3. The Wipers - Over the Edge (USA) 1983: I was pleased to be one of the earliest Wipers fans outside of Portland as I ordered their album right as it came out based on a couple of sentences from some magazine ad. I immediately tried to turn everyone on to them, but it was not as easy as I thought. They had a strong guitar song with speed and hooks that fit nicely in the punk/new wave/power pop scene, but they were not an obvious fit. They were developing a bit of a cult following and did end up making much more sense to people in Europe. When this third album came out, I bought it immediately and practically fell over when I heard the first twenty seconds of the title cut. It was going to be THE Wipers album then and there. Fortunately, the rest of it was brilliant as well. Greg Sage had a perfect touch in incorporating psychedelic rock, punk rock, and dark folk and blues into busy, yet simple songs. He was a very strange and difficult individual from everything I have heard and we have Kurt Cobain to thank for bringing his brilliance a bit more out in the open, but the Wipers still deserved a lot better. This has been number one on my list at different times.
2. Comus - First Utterance (UK) 1971: Tough call between this and Number One below. As I was collecting psychedelic folk records about 25 years ago, a friend asked Byron Coley to play him something from that era that blow him away. He grabbed this record and my friend sent me a tape. I have now bought about six versions of it, flew to Sweden to see the band's reunion show, hired on as their road manager for an aborted US tour, and have gotten to be good friends with a couple of them. And it was refreshing (but not surprising) that Bobbie Watson (the female vocalist/percussionist) is one of the nicest people I have met, yet she is a part of one of the scariest and darkest folk bands of all time. It has been fascinating to see how many death metal fans love this record even though a bass is the only electric instrument. The themes are terrifying and the music is theatrical, but terrifyingly real. They were able to capture the feel of a secret Druidic sect breaking out of the unknown and unleashing their ancient music into the modern world. This is not for the faint of heart and if you want to explore psychedelic folk music, I recommend you start with other bands on the list. Then try this band. You will need the prerequisites to make any sense out of this. I am not sure I fully do, but I will forever enjoy they strange shifts in the songs and how they can go from ugly depraved themes to sheer beauty on one album. No one has ever sounded like this, and few are even in the vicinity.
1. The Stooges - Fun House (USA) 1970: Well, if this isn't the perfect rock album, then I will never hear perfection. The first five songs are note perfect raging protopunk rock songs. The last two add Detroit funk and freakout free jazz into the mix and by the last note, it is easy to determine that nothing has ever sounded like this, not will again. There have been many people have been converted to this since it sold next to nothing in the day (like the Velvet Underground and some others). It is such an important album, that there have been two six-disc releases that document the entire studio sessions including all 28 takes of "Loose". I still love the manic moments of "TV Eye" and the crazed closing of "1970". These are rock moments that sound as good on record as they do when you see the powerful stage moves of Iggy Pop at the live shows. I am so thankful that they reunited and I have seen both the Ron Asheton version and the James Williamson version twice. But if that had not happened and I was stuck with this as my "deserted island disc", I would be almost as happy. I could dissect the component parts, but that is not important. I would say to run and listen to this, but I would guess most of my readers have heard it a few hundred times. But if it is been a while, give it another dozen spins or so. Don't ever let it get too far away from you.