Saturday, August 11, 2007

The first 100: A look back

I'm one fifth through the list and it's probably good to take a look back. What is there, exactly, about the first 100 records on this list that makes them special?

The first 100 featured albums by 62 different artists. The Beatles led the list with eight albums, while Dylan has five within the first 100. Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones each have four, while Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder each had three. A bunch of bands had two.

The Beatles have four albums in the top 10 and five in the top 20 (actually, top 15). Dylan has three in the top 20. The newest album in the top 100 is U2's "Achtung Baby" (blegh), released in November 1991. The only other album from the 1990s is Nirvana's "Nevermind," released in September of 1991.

Here is my top ten albums (in no order) in the top 100. It is not my top ten of all time, but simply my top ten of the top 100. I imagine

  • The Beatles, Revolver A hands-down rock masterpiece. Despite it featuring my least favorite Beatles song, the rest of the album more than makes up for it. Macca's best melancholy ("For No One"), one of Harrison's most vitriolic ("Taxman") and Lennon's best foray into psychedelia ("Tomorrow Never Knows") are just three of the brilliant tracks.

  • Pink Floyd, The Dark Side Of The Moon Progressive rock's most palatable piece. "Dark Side" is the soudntrack to a million identity crises, temper tantrums, contemplative moments and, of course, acid trips. Darker (no pun intended) than most idiot hippies fancy it, "Dark Side" is a fantastic look into the minds of humans, set to brilliant song.

  • Curtis Mayfield, Superfly The socially conscious funk transition. With much of the '60s ideology falling into oblvision, Chicago's Curtis Mayfield crafted a beautifully ambivalent look at urban decay and the black community.

  • Nirvana, NevermindA generation gets its voice. As much a pop record as a punk rock classic, "Nevermind" gave voice to the children of boomers. As a people gets cozy with affluence, anxiety remains and the angst that bubble underneath was beautifully sculpted into sardonic wonder.

  • Michael Jackson, ThrillerMusic for, well, everyone. Before he became a creepy zombie, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" became the blueprint for dance music. Only Prince came close (but, really, not that close) to Jackson's sheer poppiness and danceability. Every R&B record since has echoes of "Thriller." Every goddamned one. And none come close.

  • Fleetwood Mac, RumoursThe easiest possible listen for such dark music. Fueled by cocaine and breakups, the California rock pioneers crafted a record of anger and fury, totally cloaked in AM radio saccharine. Also, Stevie Nicks actually sounds reasonable.

  • The Clash, The ClashPunk rock perfected. Socially conscious but energetic, "The Clash" explains British political strife in a way that still resonates. Unlike the Sex Pistols, The Clash appear to have brains in their heads, disorted as their message has been since.

  • Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band, Trout Mask ReplicaWeirder than weird. Despite not being conventionally "listenable," "Trout Mask Replica" uses about a million different sounds that all interest a listener. It takes a few times, but eventually, everyone has a "eureka!" moment with "Trout Mask Replica." Just keep listening.

  • Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us BackRap music in the image of a revolution. Before gangsta rap, Public Enemy used Black Panther iconography and militant lyrics to bring the problems of the street to white America. While Flavor Flav brought some much-needed levity, Chuck D was giving it to us straightforward.

  • Led Zeppelin, (untitled)Rock gods at their peak. This will probably surprise anyone who knows me well, as I frequently complain about Robert Plant's voice and mock Zeppelin. Still, the fourth Zep record is so ingraned in metal -- a favorite genre of mine -- that I can't help but love it. Every song is fantastic, even the patently ridiculous "Stairway To Heaven." I listen to it to mock it, but by the end, I'm rocking right along.

No. 101 -- Eric Clapton's first appearance on the list -- comes Monday.

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