The Shit List: The Best Albums By Ten Great Bands (That You Can Stream On YouTube In Their Entirety)!


AC/DC

While one must certainly recognize Back In Black's relevance, AC/DC's finest moment will always be Highway To Hell. I would also suggest that anyone who disagrees has not listened to this album recently.  If they had, they would surely concede the album's superiority before Bon sings "I'm on my way to the promised land" on the album's iconic title cut.

Plus, is there any denying the unadulterated awesomeness of "Beating Around The Bush" and "Girl's Got Rhythm"?

)

And let's not forget that we all had a special name for "If You Want Blood (You Got It)" back in the day. That's right, we called it "The PARTY SAVER".

Seriously, it didn't matter what zombified mass of hormonal humanity you had packed like sardines in some sweaty basement, if things started to drag, all you had to do was drop the needle on that riff and let the chips fall where they may.  I have yet to meet the human who does not feel some sort of carnal teenage awakening when those toms start pounding in the intro.

Highway To Hell also contains my two favorite back-to-back AC/DC songs in "Walk All Over You" and "Touch Too Much".

)
Led Zeppelin

Their first.  No argument.  It's not even close.  They could just as easily have called it "Greatest Hits".  Crikey, Side One alone has been the backbone of rock radio for half a century..."Good Times Bad Times", "Baby I'm Gonna Leave You", "You Shook Me", "Dazed And Confused".

That's right, only four songs.  The vinyl literally could not hold any more awesome.  I was three when this album came out.  Oh, to have been a teenager coming-of-age when this album came out.  Anyone who has tried to "come of age" to Duran Duran's Rio knows what I'm talking about.

By the way, "Your Time Is Gonna Come" is the best damn southern rock song ever written.  If you get a chance, the next time you DJ, just play Side Two in its entirety.  Trust me.  You might get a couple funny looks from those not so familiar with the more esoteric side of Zep, a.k.a. "Black Mountain Side", but the beauty and majesty of Jimmy Page's guitar work deserves proper respect.

And then "Communication Breakdown" comes in and tosses the TV into the pool and all is right with the world again. "I Can't Quit You" beats the Stones at their own game (which, I surmise, is the reason the Stones went country soon after).  My only gripe with the album is how jarring "How Many More Times Is" because, let's face it, by that point, we need a cigarette.

)
Cheap Trick

"I'm thirty but I feel like sixteen, I might even know your daddy."

Forget the cartoonish Rick Nielsen, the cheesy '80s ballads, the forgettable movie themes, the near decade without Tom Petersson.  For one brief shining moment, Cheap Trick were a devilishly subversive band singing about murder, pedophilia, and suicide, just to name a few.

Of course, when such songs are sung by Robin Zander, teenage girls find themselves singing along, which makes it all the more rock & roll.

On their oft-overlooked debut album, Cheap Trick were successful in channeling the menace and energy of their live shows into a deliriously potent molotov cocktail still capable of blowing the roof off the sturdiest of dumps.

And yet this was a band of ceaseless musical versatility, capable of unleashing a shimmering ballad like "Mandocello" right after the blistering backbeat of "He's A Whore".

That such an album was so misunderstood, maligned and outright ignored upon its release is one thing, but the fact that it such a well-kept secret almost forty years later just confirms how ahead of this album remains.

)
Death Cab For Cutie

Of all the bands on this list, Death Cab presented the biggest challenge in picking their best album.  For starters, my favorite Death Cab tune ("Photobooth") isn't even on a proper album.  Secondly, each Death Cab album is its own musical universe, beholden to no previous album, which still makes it a complete joy to rip the shrink wrap off every new Death Cab joint that comes down the pike.

Having said that, I have to go with Plans.

I know, I know, Transatlanticism is a great album, too.  In fact, I could very well change my mind before I'm even done typing this sentence, but, in my heart of hearts, Plans is best because it shows that a band can go from being a big fish in a small pond to swimming in the Atlantic (Records) without sacrificing one iota of integrity.  By making Plans, Death Cab proved that it really is all about the music with them no matter what label they're on.

Plus, it has "Soul Meets Body".  And "Marching Bands of Manhattan".  And "I Will Follow You Into The Dark".  What makes this album impossible to ignore, though, is Chris Walla's production, which is completely unobtrusive.  To put it in painting terms, while other producers are painting with oils and acrylics, Walla accomplishes so much with watercolors, allowing the performances and the strength of the songs to shine through.

)
Ramones

This one's easy: Road To Ruin.

As great as the first two albums may have been, the production was crap and as much as some folks would like you to believe that that just adds to their greatness, the truth is that it's really a shame that producer Ed Stasium didn't arrive on the scene earlier.  This album also marks the debut of new drummer Marky Ramone, whose drumming actually propels the material rather than trying to keep up, which was all Tommy Ramone could do.

While I could do without the cover of "Needles and Pins", every original Ramones song one could ever need is found here: "I Wanna Be Sedated", "Go Mental", "Bad Brain", "I Just Want To Have Something To Do', "I Wanted Everything", "I Don't Want You".

The real gem of the bunch, and the one song that could have been a huge single if only someone would have thought of releasing it, is "Don't Come Close".

Sadly, it was downhill from here.

)
KISS

Destroyer.  Rock & Roll Over is a close second.  Love Gun is #3.

Let's face it, Kiss is a band who ultimately helped make albums irrelevent because they often released better versions of those same songs on Alive or Alive II.  Having said that, the production on Destroyer is far superior to that found on Love Gun and Rock & Roll Over thanks to the brief appearance of Bob Ezrin, who is best known for producing Pink Floyd's and Aice Cooper's best work. among others.
Also, musically, the standouts on Destroyer are plenty: "Detroit Rock City", "God Of Thunder", "Shout It Out Loud" and my personal fave, "Do You Love Me?".

)
Echo & The Bunnymen

Oh, the hipsters would have you believe the band were at their greatest during those murky, dark days of Ocean Rain or Crocodiles, but that's only because they've dismissed the band's self-titled 1987 album for being too obviously commercial, as if it is a crime to grow into a formidable rock & roll juggernaut capable of tossing off melodic gems like "The Game", "All In Your Mind", "Bombers Bay" or "Lips Like Sugar".

Lyrically and vocally speaking, Ian McCulloch has never been more on his game and, for once, the band had a producer in Laurie Latham (Squeeze, the Stranglers and Manfred Mann's Earth Band) who recognized the importance of building the album around McCulloch's brooding bellow.  As a result, the band quickly found themselves flirting with worldwide stardom.

)
Rush

Rush's best album contains only seven songs, but every one of them is an essential part of the Rush oeuvre. Also, like Led Zep's debut, Side One is an absolutely brilliant blast of sheer rock perfection at only four songs: "Tom Sawyer", "Red Barchetta", "YYZ", and "Limelight".

That's right, we're talking about Moving Pictures.

When you think about the changing musical times circa 1981, with the advent of new wave, British metal, and MTV, Rush could have easily cut a different album and made themselves completely irrelevant.  Instead, they embraced technology to the extent that synths play a large part in the arrangements without infringing upon the live-in-the-studio performances.  And, on "Limelight", the band come dangerously close to sounding like an actual pop band.

The overall result is an album that brought them skillfully into the '8os and remains their most popular work to date.

)
Wilco

With most other bands on this list, choosing their best is a matter of subjective conjecture, but, in the case of Chicago's own Wilco, there is only one correct answer and that is Summerteeth.  Even now, the album is remarkable for how it stands out from anything the band has done before, or since.  While the stories of Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett being out of their heads during the recording sessions are legendary, the results speak for themselves.

And, for once, Tweedy wasn't self-editing himself any time he wrote a catchy melody, as he admits to having done in the past.  As a result, this album plays like a virtual textbook on how to write and record timeless songs of anguish, desire and heartbreak.  And if there is a more honest, unflinching lyric than that of "Via Chicago", this reviewer has yet to hear it.

Sadly, the fragile house of cards that was the friendship between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett would soon unravel to the point that Bennett was forced out of the band and Wilco would quickly become the jam band of note for esoteric hipsters everywhere.

)
U2

Like Echo & The Bunnymen had done on their self-titled album, when U2 and their producers decided to make Bono's vocals (themselves influenced by Echo singer Ian McCulloch) the focal point, everything seemed to fall into place and the band's music was soon heard everywhere.

The formula had first been employed on The Unforgettable Fire, yielding such winners as "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" and "Bad", but, for Joshua Tree, the band came to the studio with a treasure trove of material: "Where The Streets Have No Name", "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", "In God's Country".  Still, it was "With Or Without You" that served as a sort of "Every Breath You Take" to announce this musical and cultural changing of the guard to the masses.

The Joshua Tree isn't just a great album, though, it is the snapshot of the exact moment in time when a vital band puts all the pieces together to create the one masterpiece for which they will be most remembered.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

No comments:

Post a Comment

Instagram