Number 23.   This edition is for the week of August 29--September 3, 2000.
Readers:  last issue, Commentary columnist Matt Drinnenberg dropped a challenge to Mike and myself: since there had been several "Top 10" movie lists written back-and-forth for several issues, why not a "Top 10 music album" list? Qualification: no "best of" or "greatest hits" albums. Mike and I took up the gaunlet and our responses are below.  
The Top Ten Album Showdown
MIKE'S TOP 10
Matt has challenged us to pick out top 10 albums.  Like my favorite movies, it's hard to pick only 10.  So, I'll make a cheap "Survivor" reference (the television show, not the band) and say that if I were to be stuck on a deserted island these albums would hopefully wash up with me (and the record player................preferably one you run with a bicycle like the Professor invented on "Gilligan's Island."  Funny thing about the Professor................he could build a nuclear reactor out of a coconut shell and some palm leaves, but he couldn't patch a three foot hole in a boat!  Since greatest hits albums are not eligible, I've narrowed the choices to these, in no particular order:
    SGT PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (The Beatles):  anointed by many critics as the greatest album of all time.  One of the first concept albums, there isn't a bad song on the record.  The finest example of the way Lennon and McCartney combined their strengths to make great songs:  the optimistic Paul, "it's getting better all the time" and the cynical John, "it can't get no worse!"
    BAT OUT OF HELL (Meat Loaf):  A perfect pairing of songwriter and performer.  Jim Steinman's driving music and Meat Loaf's over the top vocals make this an album I can (and do) listen to over and over.
    THE STRANGER (Billy Joel): The album that put the Piano Man on the map with mainstream America.  From the tender "Just the Way You Are" to the rocking "Only the Good Die Young" Joel reaches inside and touches your emotions.  Today's trivia:  the very first compact disc released was Joel's follow up album, "52nd Street," which went on to win the Grammy for album of the year.
    SOME GIRLS (The Rolling Stones):  It's hard to pick my favorite Stones album......pretty much a toss up between "Goat's Head Soup," "Tattoo You" and this one.  I chose this one because this was the album that really introduced me to the Stones.  Sure I had heard their songs before, but as Matt and his brother Mark were such huge Stones fans, I listened to the entire album one night at work, and by the time my shift was over, I was hooked.
    ABBEY ROAD (The Beatles):  No rules about two albums by the same group.  Another great effort by the Fab Four.  Many memorable songs and some great words to live by.........."and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make!"
    PURPLE RAIN (Prince and the Revolution):  you can't expect a movie man to not take a soundtrack or two.  Contrary to what some contributors to this publication may think, in my opinion Prince is one of the geniuses in the music world.  "When Dove's Cry" is one of the best songs of the 1980's, and was somehow ignored at Oscar time.  Prince did win the Oscar for his song score of the film.
    JAWS (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - John Williams):  One of the most noticeable film scores in history, I see the movie in my head over and over again when I listen to it.  I love  many of John William's penned scores ("Star Wars," "ET," "1941,"The Poseidon Adventure") but this one remains my favorite.
    BAND ON THE RUN (Paul McCartney and Wings):  After a few mild solo hits, McCartney, his wife Linda and guitarist Denny Laine got together in Lagos and put together one of the best albums ever.  It earned McCartney his first solo Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance.  For the curious, the people featured on the cover are (from left to right):  British television host Michael Parkinson, singer Kenny Lynch, Paul, James Coburn, Linda, gourmet cook Clement Freud, Christopher Lee, Denny and boxing champion John Conteh.  I would hope that readers know who James Coburn and Christopher Lee are.  If not..............go to your room!
    THRILLER (Michael Jackson):  Before he became the King of Weird Michael Jackson had a hit record or two.  Mixing his own songs with those of Rod Temperton, he turned to producer Quincy Jones to put everything together.  An incredible success when it was released, it eventually put eight of it's nine songs on the top forty list.  Winner of 8 Grammy Awards, including record of the year, it was for almost 20 years the biggest selling album of all time.  It was recently overtaken by "The Eagles Greatest Hits - Volume One."
    THE HATS - The Unreleased Kitchen Tapes (The Hats):  What else can I say..........rock and roll magic caught on tape. (To new readers: THE HATS was our first "garage" band!---N)
These are my 10 "favorites." Not to be confused with what I think are the BEST IN THE WORLD,  like THE WALL or TOMMY or something.  I'm a guitarist/recordist and they shaped the creature I became...
NOLAN'S TOP 10
1. Van Halen. (Their first album) Changed the rules for rock guitar, plain and simple. David Lee Roth inadvertantly created the "California boy" sound (in style and dialect) that would haunt "big hair" albums thru the ' 80s.
2. Led Zepplin IV. Changed the rules for rock guitar earlier than Van Halen. Created a studio sound that is still emulated, especially the drums. When I first heard "Rock and Roll" I thought I'd lose continence forever. And where do you go after "Stairway to Heaven"?
3. Black Sabbath: Paranoid. Ozzy rules. Always has, always will. No one so convinced me before or since that they were so completely out of their minds like the Oz. Tony Iommi's blazing guitar riffs set the tone for a generation, no question. This is THE heaviest band of all time.
4. Boston. Funny how under-appreciated this is now. Perhaps being labeled a "70s band" killed its potential longevity. At a time I was learning the art of multi-track recording, this was the textbook. New high-water mark vocalist Brad Delp became the next impossible-to-imitate lead vocalist for us garage band leaders. (Robert Plant was the first.) Impeccably recorded album with groundbreaking songwriting.
5. Judas Priest: Unleashed in the East Live: It was while playing "air guitar" to this album one night that I had my epiphany to form BLADE as my first paid band to play clubs. I learned nearly every song. I played covers of these versions until the end.
6. Kiss. I walked into the local Eckerd's Pharmacy sometime in '74 (they sold albums then) and freaked at the cover picture. I immediately knew these guys "got it". They ruled the '70s, but I dis-admired them in the '90s for their--by then--overly obvious crass commercialism.
7. The Beatles. "She Loves You". "I Wanna Hold Your Hand". I'm old enough to remember these guys on Ed Sullivan. I never heard a sound so magnetic in my whole 8-year-old life. And yet, I have never owned this album!  It was their TV appearances that set me into motion. (And started producers thinking about "music videos".)
8. John Lennon: Imagine. I have rarely heard anything so poignantly beautiful in my life. Tried to learn every song. Every song a winner.
9. Cheap Trick: Live at Budokan. Released around the same time as Van Halen, this was the album that broke Cheap Trick nationally. An entirely different approach to rock music and the first with a very pure "retro" rock-and-roll approach, displayed prominently. I procured their earlier albums immediately.
AND NOW GENTLE READERS, I HAVE TO "CHEAT" THE RULES SLIGHTLY. The last selection is not a single album, but a "class" of album--all equally important in their influence on my childhood--and you'll probably be slack-jawed at these revelations. I'm getting guff about it already:
10. The Archies/The Monkees/The Hardy Boys/The Banana Splits(?)--the ficticious bands of the '60s that never really were. I still get shit about being a fan of these to this day, but I can't lie. I was learning guitar at the time, and the sounds on these albums are remarkably clean, considering the primitive equipment of the time. No other album impressed me at the time about the emergence and potential of multi-track recording like Don Kirshner's ficticious cartoon band, The Archies. His other ficticious band, The Monkees were more successful with actual tours wrangled into existence. Altho nobody remembers The Hardy Boys, and I'm not positive that was a Don Kirshner product, I have their only album ( or did they have 2?). And, altho this band was the only one of the 3 created from the git-go as a real touring ficticious band, it was the least successful. I remember seeing them on only one TV show outside of their own before the series was cancelled. The era of  the "instant-just-add-water-pop-band" was over. But the fledgling music video industry had a foundation now. (I'm a lesser fan of The Banana Splits and I'm not sure of their album count, but I loved their theme song.)
AND VERY SPECIAL HONORABLE MENTIONS GO TO:
Help!/Goldfinger/2001: A Space Odyssey/Jaws/Heavy Metal. The movie soundtrack album. These are the only ones that mattered to me.  All were equally influential.

 

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