When Aaron from Keeps Me Alive approached the blogging community July 29 and asked who would be interested in posting their top 15 albums of all time, I was eager but nervous to participate. Obviously, I have more than 15 favourite albums…could I possibly whittle it down to 15?? It doesn’t hurt to try! I managed, but it was tough, let me tell you!
Admittedly, I was a bit frightened to reveal my favourite albums to all of you, if for some reason my choices in albums might lose me some music cred…But, I have had over a month to figure it out, and I stand by this list. I created a mental scope when choosing my 15 which pretty much came down to two things: sentimentality and sustainability. The albums listed below are both to me. To quote Etta James, “I get a good feeling, yeah!” when I listen to each of these – I never get tired of them, and doubt I ever will.
Without further ado, here are my top 15 albums, in alphabetical order by artist.
AC/DC – Back in Black (1980)
AC/DC is my husband’s favourite band. When we first started going out, I knew a few hits, like Shook Me All Night Long and Thunderstruck, but I didn’t really know much else. Back in Black was the first full album of theirs I listened to, and I got a kick out of every song. From the booming Hell’s Bells to its rocking Rock n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution. Each song makes me feel good to listen to it.
Favourite song: Have a Drink on Me
Barenaked Ladies – Gordon (1992)
I still remember the summer of 1992 when Barenaked Ladies released their first album, Gordon, and how, like Ferris Bueller, everyone from every social group liked it. At my high school, they played Grade 9 over the P.A. the first day of class. Then, they continued with the rest of the album, and everyone could be heard singing along to the album in the halls. It truly was amazing. Not much has changed for me. Aside from the god-awful album cover, I think Gordon is BNL’s best. Every song is listenable and singable; melodic, with a silly element. I still have the same CD!
Favourite song: Enid
Black Crowes – Amorica (1994)
Surprise, surprise! I have loved this album for as long as it has existed. I am still a faithful listener. It ticks all the right rock n’ roll boxes for me: hard-edged and smooth guitars, soothing organs, and Chris Robinson’s voice. I have written about my love for this album already, so read about that here.
Favourite song: Wiser Time
Eric Clapton – Pilgrim (1998)
Not a typical choice for Eric Clapton, I know. But, this album holds sentiment for me.
In March 1998, some big changes were afoot. I had left an 18-month relationship a month before, and about to embark on a new one, who eventually ended up being my spouse. I was also gearing up to look for work after graduating from Canadore College. There was a lot of promise on the horizon. But, some things don’t always go as planned, and my ambition to find gainful employment didn’t meet any success for almost a year after graduating. I had a hard time dealing with this failure, and fell into a serious funk. Thankfully, the hubs was there to help me work through it and keep my spirits up.
What does this have to do with Pilgrim? I actually remember the day the hubs bought this CD and we would listen to it frequently on the road between Pembroke (where the hubs held down a job for a spell) and North Bay where I was living. We fell in love with the record, and obviously with each other. If you have ever listened to Pilgrim, it’s a very non-threatening record. Each song is on the mellow side, and frankly, a little sad. Believe it or not, this was something I really needed in a record during this period in my life.
Favourite song from the album: Circus
Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)
Thriller was the second cassette I ever got (Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down was the first!), and I still have it! It came partnered with my first walkman, a Sanyo Sportster “walkman”. For the first time, I could go on car trips, listen to my music in the car and not disturb anyone else with my music!
Not that Michael Jackson’s funky beats on Thriller would disturb…it would just make everything even more awesome! Originally, it was the video of Thriller that I really liked, but it was songs like Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, PYT, Billie Jean and Beat It that quickly drew me to this record at 9 years old. What can I say – it’s MJ! And it continues to be awesome.
Favourite song: Billie Jean
B. B. King – His Definitive Hits – (1999)
I wrote about the heartbreak I experienced, learning that B.B. King died this Spring. B.B. is one of those artists whose music speaks to me: heartfelt, emotional and passionate. This compilation of B.B.’s music was really my introduction to this phenomenal Bluesman. A Christmas gift to the hubs ended up playing in the car on trips to the camp, and commutes to work. 34 tracks of pure B.B. gold.
Favourite song: Paying the Cost to be the Boss
Led Zeppelin – Boxed Set (1990)
By the start of grade 10, I was hooked on Led Zeppelin’s third and fourth albums. I managed to scrounge enough scratch to buy the cassettes, and I feverishly would listen to each one over and over on my walkman. When Christmas 1990 fast approached, I saw that Led Zeppelin released a boxed set of remastered tracks on the racks of one of the record shops I frequented. I wanted this so bad! But at the time, the cassette set cost $85.00 – that was a lot for a Christmas gift back then.
It was a matter of bartering with my Step-father and Mom that I would forego other gifts if I could get this one thing. My stepdad was fine with this, and surprisingly, my mom didn’t care, so I got the Boxed Set under the tree that Christmas. Aw, man it was awesome!
Those four cassettes lived with me in my book bag even after I graduated from high school. Although many songs are found on Led Zeppelin’s albums, they were all new to me. And the arrangement of the songs on these cassettes was a nice change too. It was also where I discovered my favourite Led Zeppelin song of all time, Traveling Riverside Blues, which wasn’t on any LZ studio album.
I still have the boxed set intact. The cassettes are probably really loose from being played so much.
Favourite song: Traveling Riverside Blues
The Power Station – The Power Station (1985)
The other half of Duran Duran, John Taylor and Andy Taylor, while on hiatus, teamed up with singer, Robert Palmer, and drummer from the band Chic, Tony Thompson, to form the Power Station, a hard rock band with strong guitars, melodic voices and heart-stomping beats. The top track, Some Like It Hot, was a freaking awesome song, with an equally awesome video my sister and I would watch over and over. This was also one of the “forbidden albums” from my youth my mom didn’t like; with lyrics about wanting to “multiply” and the graphic electric lady on the cover with her bewb exposed…we would do our best to divert attention away from the art, and more on the awesomeness of the music. But, damn! I still think that cover is awesome, eh!
And the music! I have great memories with this album from my childhood right up to today. Every song is strong in their own right, down to their less known songs, Murderess, Harvest For the World and Communication. This was one of the hardest rocking albums I listened to at the time…at 10 years old.
Favourite song: Go to Zero
Rush – Chronicles (1990)
What better way to get introduced to a band than by listening to their greatest hits album? That was the situation for me with Chronicles. Rush is one of my favourite bands ever, but back in the early 90s, I was a newbie to their music. No worries, though, when you have high school friends who would lend me their copy of Chronicles. Then, my sister left her copy of this double CD at home when she returned to school after Christmas.
At first, I would only listen to the hits I would recognize, but then sooner or later, I let the entire CDs play from top to bottom…eventually I recognized Rush songs on the radio, and could sing along to them. Then I’d play air drums to Neil Peart’s rolling beats. This definitive collection, although it doesn’t represent the most recent albums Rush has released, Chronicles is definitely recommended to anyone who is curious about what Rush are about. Worked on me!
Favourite song: Subdivisions
Silversun Pickups – Carnavas (2006)
I was introduced to Silversun Pickups by my friend Jim, who lent us an external hard drive loaded with music. The drive had all kinds of music on it, Silversun Pickups’ first album, Carnavas being one of them.
The first song I heard from this album was Well Thought out Twinkles – a hyper-charged song that gripped me from the first riff of the guitar. Then, the next song, Checkered Floor, cut into me with its atmospheric crashing cymbalic ways and odd lyrics [listen to it while driving on the highway with the sun rising – you will get chills]. Continuing on, Lazy Eye, Little Lover So Polite, Rusted Wheel…no filler on this album at all! Being into 90s shoegazer music, the Silversun Pickups was right up my alley, even with it being released in 2006. A very strong debut..and continues to be one of my favourites.
Favourite song from the album: Three Seed
Sloan – Navy Blues (1998)
I think Navy Blues is Sloan’s best album. Having been a fan since Smeared, I had seen this band grow chops, and this one is where they came of age, I think. A mature-sounding album, it showcases hard-edged guitars, with catchy hooks. Every song has something different to offer to the listener, deviating from one standard and providing the listener with a buffet of styles, from hard rock, to Beatlesque.
I still remember the hubs and I sitting at a faux 50s diner in Ottawa when Navy Blues was first released, and Money City Maniacs played over the PA system. The hubs said the song reminded him of Angus Young’s guitar-styling. Today the album reminds me of a shift in my taste in music, as this was around the time I was introduced to AC/DC.
Favourite Song: On the Horizon
The Smiths – Louder Than Bombs – (1987)
Back in 1990, I was introduced to the Smiths by my friend Jenny B, who was my source for alternative music at the time. She lent me her copy of Louder Than Bombs, and for years, I listened to it via a maxell tape I had used to copy from her original cassette (as was how I managed to listen to any music in the 80s and 90s…). Thankfully, I was able to buy the CD version after the tape got eaten by my JVC walkman, because I loved this album.
The Smith’s primary lyicist and singer, Morrissey, gets a bad rap in my household. My husband says he can always tell when the Smiths are playing because Morrissey [in the hubs’ best Morrissey parody singing voice:] “aaaaall-ways sings a semi-tone lowww-wwer than the rest of the baaaaaaannnnnn-da.” And yes, he is seen by some as pretentious and self-important. Despite the naysayers, I love the Smiths’ music and their depressant/ ironic lyrics. You can’t beat the Morrissey / Johnny Marr pairing, and no better way to showcase the Smiths’ talent than by picking up a copy of Louder Than Bombs; it’s 24 solid tracks of Morrissey melancholy, and piercing Marr guitar, and it got me hooked enough to be interested in their other albums.
Favourite song: Hand In Glove
The Sundays – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (1990)
If you haven’t ever listened to Harriet Wheeler’s sweet voice, you don’t know what you are missing. I was first drawn to this band back in 1992 when their hit Here’s Where the Story Ends aired ONCE on MuchMusic. I then went on a search for the Sundays at the five record stores Sudbury had at the time…and I searched…and I searched. Finally, I found their second album, Blind and was instantly curious (and a little creeped out) by its album cover of a doll’s head. I bought the album on the spot and was surprised by how not creepy it was! A year later, I finally located a copy of Reading, Writing and Arithmetic and upon first listen, the CD lived in my player for weeks. Even though in my opinion, RWA is better than Blind, both really have very great similarities; Beautiful melodies that combine some great atmospheric beats with some smooth guitar and Harriet Wheeler’s voice. This album is a treasure.
Favourite song: My Finest Hour
U2 – Achtung Baby (1991)
This choice was a tough one to make, friends! You see, I also love the Unforgettable Fire, but, I do think Achtung Baby is the better.
I used to have (what else?) a maxell tape of Achtung Baby that I would play on my walkman. Not surprisingly, the one of the best albums to listen to while exercising is this one! With its hyper-stereo effects, strong guitars pumping beats and atmosphere, it really is an interesting listen.
Achtung Baby was a far departure from the War and the Joshua Tree days, but I still allowed myself to enjoy this new adventure U2 were traveling down. It has since been one of those albums I select from my iPod at least quarterly, and I never get sick of it.
Favourite song: Zoo Station
The Tragically Hip – Fully Completely (1992)
No one who is a faithful reader of Caught Me Gaming should be that surprised to read this is my favourite Hip album. This was the first album I listened to in its entirety (thanks to my sister), and is arguably their strongest album. I loved the flow of this album too, from the strong opener, Courage all the way to the closing song, Eldorado. I have memories associated with certain songs, particularly At the Hundredth Meridian, that I hope to share in a future post, that will forever bring me back to that time when I listen to it.
Favourite song: Pigeon Camera
Thanks for reading!
Jethro Tull – The Best of Jethro Tull Anniversary Collection (1993)
XTC – Oranges and Lemons (1989)
INXS – Kick (1987)