The top 10 albums of all time defy genre. As far as I’m concerned, the more pop an album is, the less likely it is to get on the list because it tends to have fillers to finish off the album. Rock/jazz/bkues/folk, albums of a certain genre tend to be more compact. All this to say that I find the albums in the top 10 as perfect. Not a bad song anywhere. Classics that have defined a genre, a point in time, a generation.
10. The Beatles—Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles were a pop group until this album was released. With creativity and notoriety comes a sense of social consciousness, even guilt, that makes one aware of deeper things. The Beatles decided to abandon convention here. Let’s not paint them as saints. The Beatles were losing their “pop creativity “and Paul McCartney was even rumored to have died. John Lennon had substance abuse problems. George Harrison was growing in a very creative path that didn’t fit the band’s brand image.
This was going to be one of three things : a calamity, a newfound success, or a step back into pop on the next album. The success of this album, for me, proves that you need to be high to be at your creative best; be it a natural high or whatever. The group blended great lyrics with some fantastic music. It was a perfect arrangement. Every song has a message yet comes back to the essence of the album as a whole. It doesn’t define the group as great musicians, but they are great artists.
Favourite Songs: A Day In The Life; With A Little Help From My Friends
9. Bob Marley and the Wailers— Exodus
It’s difficult to pick a Bob Marley album because I find them all perfect. There is nothing as inviting to absorb as the man who consolidated ska, jazz, and reggae, and made it a universal force. This is a lot from a man who died at 38 years old.
Marley is a musical and lyrical genius. He was a true believer in the Rustaffarian religion’s goal in spreading peace and love. Every chord is so perfectly laced with Marley’s haunting and hopeful vocals. He has influenced dap, hip hop, modern ska,acid jazz, and more. He is to reggae as the Beatles are to rock.
Favourite Songs: Jamming; One Love
This was the start of the acceptance of garage-sounding grunge in the mainstream. Just like Depeche Mode are the masters of Electro Rock, Nirvana are the kings of grunge. It’s hard to get that annoying loud riff in a song to sound sensational. It takes very good arrangement. This is the second to last Nirvana album and every song goes perfectly into the next. The grunge takes a back seat to the sound recording and the album’s message. Some think these are the rants of a suicidal lunatic. It goes much deeper than that. It is the definition of a generation. It speaks to and for the angst of the generation. There are no heroes, just messengers.
Like most literal masterpieces, there is no solution. There is just the present. I listen to this and think of it as a documentary of social commentary, not from the ones witnessing it but from the ones suffering inside it. Yes, there is this anarchist-like fear resonating through most of the songs, yet it empowers us to see this from another point of view and find a way out.
Excellent album because of its social commentary and the popularization of a new musical genre.
Favourite Songs:—Come As You Are; Lithium
7. Morrissey—You AreThe Quarry
This was Morrissey’s first album in years after being shunned by the media and losing some of his creative essence. This album is flawless,a great comeback for the former Smiths frontman that had been apparently washed up. I bought this album,excited by Morrissey carrying a mafia rifle.
The album has mostly heavy-worded alt-rock tunes. It veers a bit from what would be quintessential Morrissey. In fact, Morrissey goes a rung up in the lyrics ladder by not holding any punches and leaving no room for interpretation. The lyrics “I’ve had my face dragged in 15 miles of shit /and I do not like it ” resonate the rebelliousness of the protagonist. He has never been harsher towards the oppressors. Marx would be proud.
Favourite Songs: How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel ; I Have Forgiven Jesus
6. Led Zeppelin—Led Zeppelin IV
The kings of blues-metal outdo themselves on this album. 9 perfect compact tracks that show how Robert Plant can sing and how the other 3 guys were arguably the best at playing their instruments. This is edgy yet familiar. Jimmy Page decided to go back to basics after the poor showing of their previous album. This is a recording that should have its own room in the museum of rock. This is the best hard rock album of its generation. Period. No exceptions.
Favourite Songs: Black Dog; Rock and Roll
5. Johnny Cash— American IV-The Man Comes Around
Johnny Cash defies genre. His unique vocals make every tune here his. He eliminates genre and makes a bunch of albums with many remakes of otgers’ songs. This is “The World According To Cash”, a very imperfect man that makes every song he sings heartwrenching. Here, he can see impending death and we can hear the catharsis in his voice. A bit shakier than usual. A bit more solemn, more heartfelt.
Favourite Songs: Hurt; Personal Jesus
4. The Tragically Hip— Fully, Completely
Canadiana is The Tragically Hip. No matter how much they tried, they had only minimal success abroad. The Hip progressed a lot during the decades, from college radio favourites to progressive rockers. Fully,Completely is the crossroads that consolidates everything and makes them into a great band. One of their last tours was only for this album. Played in its entirety. This is perfection from the first to the last note. From serial killers to hockey, they touch on everything. It’s an album that gets better every time you hear it. It’s traditional old time rock n roll and blues with a clean background. Nothing fancy, just life happening outside your window.
Favourite Songs: Locked In The Trunk Of A Car; Fifty-Mission Cap
3. The Smiths—The Smiths
The Smiths, as their name suggests, brought things and people out of the closet. Mostly, they gave the disenfranchised a voice, be it teen angst, depression, bullying, loneliness, etc. Morrissey’s voice is haunting and Johnny Marr’s guitar clean and crisp. As Marr has said “we like 3-minute songs with straight-to-the-point lyrics.
I chose the Smiths’ debut album because it is alternative rock of a sort that hasn’t been heard before. You can’t pin it down as much as you can’t put it down. You want to discredit them, but that feeling wanes with every passing song and every time you listen to the whole album again. More than later albums, this album has a steady course of an undefined genre. The music and lyrics bring about heartache, tears, and hope. Those less sensitive will be happily surprised with its uniqueness and the musical talent of the entire recording. I guess it’s pop rock mixed with folk and traditional rock and roll. A superlative and extremely underrated album and group. Pure genius.
Favourite Songs: Miserable Lie; Pretty Girls Make Graves
2. R.E.M.— New Adventures In Hi-Fi
The greatest album of the greatest band in the world. This is like a trip on a train where we witness the world passing us in bluesy tones and powerful highs. The mundane existence of everyday comes to life. We enter into the heart of Michael Stipe. It is the defining album of a group that has almost no limits in musical genre and lyrics. This is a theme album, something people usually would have to suffer through for the sake of the band. But we strap on our seat belts and go from a barren wasteland to the heart of Hollywood and back.
After absorbing the message and internalizing the mood of the music, we are never the same again. A masterpiece to say the least.
Favourite Songs: E-Bow The Letter; Leave
1. George Michael— Listen Without Prejudice Volume 1
It should not be very surprising that this is my favourite album of all time. It fits so many criteria. It’s career-changing. It’s bluesy. It’s got great music and vocals.
George Michael is an excellent musician with a wonderful voice. He leaves his pop roots here and just blurts his heart out. He tackles war, depression, greed, heartbreak, missed opportunity, etc. Although the passing listener will probably see this as a bunch of ballads, there are only about 2 ballads on the album. There is a quiet funky jazz groove behind the acoustic guitar.There is even a great mix of James Brown and The Rolling Stones in one song which ends in Michael calmly repeating “You can’t always get what you want7” behind that funky jazz.
A very fulfilling album of joy and pain.
Favourite Songs: Cowboys And Angels; Pray For Time