101-81

Here we go, folks.  Fasten your seat belts as we begin a ride through my record collection!  Here, in the first installment of the Cory-Graham.com Top 100 albums of all time, we’ll detail albums 101-81… yes, I know that there’s an extra one in there, I can’t help it.  I’m sorry.  Please forgive me.

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101. Guru – Jazzmatazz

When hip-hop found itself stagnant, Guru emerged from the basement to deliver a lesson in the fundamentals worthy of The Cosby Show. Blending hip hop and jazz was nothing new, but it had never been done with such talent on both ends. Instead of recycling old jazz riffs into a track, Guru chose to employ a studio filled with live musicians, creating a memorable and powerful musical fusion that even his own subsequent attempts could never match.

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100. The Beatles – Revolver

It’s no secret, I’m not a Beatles fan. I appreciate what they did, and how their efforts laid the groundwork for pop music as we know it… now that I’ve said that, please don’t make me like The Beatles. Revolver, however, stands out as an impressive body of work that features arguably the finest song of their, or anyone else’s career… Elanor Rigby. The album makes the list, if for no other reason, on the strength of that track.

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99. Garth Brooks – Ropin’ The Wind

To be honest, this started as a joke. I went with the 101 instead of an even 100 just to place this record ahead of Revolver without deleting any of my real choices. However, taking a deeper look, who didn’t own a copy of this? If I’m going to truly strip away the pretension, then I must admit to liking the occasional Garth Brooks jam, and what better album to represent the Garthster than this one?

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98. The Replacements – Tim

The opening track, Hold My Life, is one of the most Replacements sounding Replacements songs ever. It embodies the sound and spirit of the band perfectly, as does the rest of this record. It’s hard to remember the days when the holy trinity of indie rock sprung up from Minneapolis, and with the recent passing of Kirby Puckett, the feeling that those days are gone forever is palpable. Since then, countless “scenes” have come and gone, but none have matched the sound and feel of the Twin Cities, if that “scene” had a seminal record, it’s this one.

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97. Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking

You may not remember this, but that guy, Perry Farrell, he used to be in a band called Jane’s Addiction. That other guy, Dave Navarro, he was too! Before they both whored themselves out to waves of shameless self-promotion (and Satellite Party), they were the driving force behind one of rock’s most innovative and exciting acts. It’s relatively safe to say that everyone involved simultaneously peaked with this record, but that does little to detract from its brilliance. If Jane’s Addiction was the most important band of the moment, then this surely was the most important record of the time.

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96. Sly & The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Goin’ On

The legend of this record suggests that anyone and everyone may have actually participated in its creation. Sly has often suggested that every major player in the 70’s r&b and jazz scene dropped by the studio, smoked some hash, did some coke and played a few notes for the reel to reel. The result is an astounding piece of work, clearly fueled by social angst and mind-altering substance. Unfortunately, we’ll never know the full weight of the work, as no one is quite sure who did what and when.

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95. The Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady

From the yalping vocals of Orgasm Addict to the thunderous pop hooks of What Do You Know, this compilation manages to sum up a band that defined a sub-genre of punk rock. Whether executing with ferocity in a bare bones assault on the senses, or seamlessly stringing together guitar fuzz with a horn section, The Buzzcocks were progressive in a style largely limited by itself. Maintaining credibility in the world of punk rock, while remaining current and innovative isn’t just difficult, it borders on the impossible. In fact, I’m not sure that I can name another band in history that did it well, and certainly not as well as these guys.

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94. Manic Street Preachers – Generation Terrorists

Are these guys for real? Just ask the (possibly) late Richie Manic. Replacing the snarl and gravel of earlier works of punk rock with a soft, often high pitched vocal style is tricky… and should be terrible. However, the Manics managed to blend the thunder and politics of punk rock with the dulcet tones of soft-rock pop radio. Somewhere between Slash N’ Burn and Motorcycle Emptiness, most people find themselves scratching their heads, wondering exactly what the hell this band actually is. Well, many years later I still have no real idea, but this album comes as close as any to defining what it might or might not be.

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93. Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full

In all of hip-hop history, there has never been a more magnetic, powerful and articulate (yes, I said articulate) MC than Rakim. Here, paired with Eric B, Rakim’s vocal styling is exhibited perfectly in genre defining classics like Eric B. Is President, Move The Crowd and I Ain’t No Joke. In generations to come, hip hop legends like Nas, Biggie, 2Pac and scores of others would try to mimic that “thing” that Rakim seemed to possess, often coming close but never really getting there. Simply put, Paid In Full is the greatest of all time at his peak.

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92. Willie Nelson – Stardust

Oft maligned by “true fans,” Stardust stands out as one of the Red Headed Stranger’s most interesting and inventive works. Taking a bold step in a new direction (as his friend and fellow innovator Ray Charles had done a few years before), Willie Nelson brought his soulful, unique vocal sensibilities to an handful of classic pop standards, breathing new life into the genre and broadening his audience. When an established country superstar decides to cover Irving Berlin, there are only two directions to go, this one went up… and never stopped climbing.

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91. Girl Talk – Night Ripper

150 + samples, back breaking intensity, around 40 minutes in length. Gregg Gillis’ 2006 release defied logic (and copyright laws) by cramming an entire day’s dance party into a compact arrangement of jaw-dropping tracks, seamlessly blending one into the next and leaving listeners begging for more. Not since Paul’s Boutique had an act so shamelessly, yet artistically sampled so many different tracks, creating new sounds where none existed before and causing me to never again hear Tiny Dancer without thinking of The Notorious B.I.G.

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90. Patti Smith – Horses

Almost everyone has a story to associate with the very first time they heard this particular record. Since theirs are much better than mine, I won’t bore you with a rather lame story of walking around the campus of Morehead State University for an hour, hoping that the cassette in my Walkman didn’t break. However, one thing did become apparent to me that day, this album isn’t meant for car stereos or social gatherings, Horses should be listened to through headphones in total isolation. A perfect example of lightening in a bottle from punk’s only true poet.

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89. R.E.M. – Automatic For The People

Drive may be the best album opener of the 90’s. The droning guitar, paired with Stipe’s hopeless, yet apathetic delivery set an incredible musical tone for an entire generation of wayward slackers with nothing better to do than listen to R.E.M. records. From there, the album spins into indispensable track after indispensable track, never losing steam and growing more beautiful with each listen. Take yourself mentally to a world where Everybody Hurts and Man On The Moon weren’t played into the ground, then listen to them again.

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88. A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory

Once upon a time, hip hop was fun. Songs didn’t alternate between “gangsta mentality” and “bling bling” at every turn… brace yourselves, songs actually had a meaning. In the late 80’s and early 90’s Afrocentrism stood at the forefront of the hip-hop movement, calling for education and revolution. While artists like KRS-One and Ice Cube offered a more aggressive, often violent tone, A Tribe Called Quest bridged racial gaps by focusing on positive, well crafted pop songs. Tribe took 1991 to give us the smooth bass line of Buggin’ Out, the unforgettable horns of Check The Rhyme and the speaker-busting Scenario. For that, I thank them.

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87. The Traveling Wilburys – Volume 1

Once upon a time, an industrious gentleman named Jeff Lynne had an idea. “I’ll never sell a million records on my own,” he thought, “so, how can I work my way onto a guaranteed hit record?” At that exact moment, Lynne glanced at his rolodex and began making calls. As the plan came together, a group of up and coming musicians made their way into the studio. Their efforts paid off, and music history was made. Way to go Jeff Lynne, and thanks for introducing us to those “other” guys. All kidding aside, Tweeter & The Monkey Man is one of everyone’s all-time favorite songs.

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86. Pearl Jam – Ten

I regularly try to forget the entire grunge movement. I’m ashamed of my flannel shirts, I’m sorry that I ever for even one second speculated that Kurt Cobain could have been brilliant… I’m just generally, and genuinely sorry. However, it’s at times like these that I’m reminded of something truly fantastic that came from that entire mess… one of the best albums of my lifetime. Pearl Jam’s Ten hit rock radio like an atomic weapon, doing more to smash conventional rock standards to pieces than any album since its release. The moment that I first heard Even Flow on the radio, I was convinced that music was going to change forever… both fortunately and unfortunately it did.

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85. Dolly Parton – The Grass Is Blue

By law, if you live east of the Appalachians or south of the Mason Dixon, you must regularly give praise to Dolly Parton. Gays in the military, flag burning, abortion… these all provide wiggle room. However, expressing anything other that total admiration for Dolly will not be tolerated. Lucky for us, Dolly has provided the world with some of the sweetest sounds we’re likely to ever hear. On The Grass Is Blue, Ms. Parton focused her talents on the world of bluegrass music, creating the album of a lifetime and one of the most perfect ballads ever created in the album’s title track.

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84. Digable Planets – Blowout Comb

Riding on the heels of the wildly successful Rebirth of Slick, Digable Planets released their ambitious follow-up, Blowout Comb in 1994. Unfortunately, they were never again able to capitalize on the mainstream success they once had, but the jazzy, soulful rhythms of Blowout Comb far surpassed their absolutely stellar debut. This album stands to make a strong point that the perceived “sophomore slump” may just be that, perceived. While album sales may have been in the gutter, the artistic achievement solidified the album as a hip-hop classic, living to enlighten future generations of innovators.

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83. Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model

It’s impossible to discuss pop music without mentioning Elvis Costello dozens of times. In This Year’s Model, the OTHER Elvis unleashes a nerdy, catchy form of pseudo-new-wave-pop-rock anger that, unsurprisingly had gone untapped for generations. In this particular release, Costello personifies the above mentioned sub sect of human emotion in such geek-synth-thrashers as Radio Radio and Pump It Up, while tapping into his bespectacled British island roots (what?) on the classic (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea. A landmark album in a career more full of landmarks than Route 66 (clever, ain’t I).

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82. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses

If we’re going to talk about album openers, no discussion could be complete without the sparse, hollow, yet rich and full sound of I Wanna Be Adored. The self titled debut from the shaggy haired and often overlooked British foursome stands as a landmark achievement, setting the bar for an entire generation of musicians from across the pond. One reviewer describes the album as “capturing a youthful sense of invincibility and ambition,” which I think sums it up quite beautifully. Now, let’s all pretend that 1994’s Second Coming never actually came.

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81. Steve Earle – I Feel Alright

In 1996 a rejuvenated and drug-free Steve Earle returned to his hick-rock roots, unleashing the timeless I Feel Alright on a relatively unsuspecting public. From this point forth, Steve Earle became synonymous with true fringe-country, establishing himself as THE Nashville alternative with breathtaking melodies and “wait, what did he just say? rewind that!” lyrics. While both country and rock radio have chosen to ignore the recent outputs from one of history’s greatest songwriters, fans have remained loyal, causing each of his post-prison releases to reach gold status or better. Don’t worry Steve, they didn’t care much for Johnny Cash either.

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8 Responses to “101-81”

  1. Kevin Says:

    I would write my top 100 albums, but I’m afraid I can’t think of that many. Plus, after talking to you, I think this seems too difficult. Perhaps I’ll just live vicariously through your blog on this one.

    This is a good start. I haven’t heard quite a few of these, so I’m anxious to check out a few.

  2. Daxon Says:

    Well, I’m right in there with you on Blow Out Comb, and even on the Garth Brooks! I am really proud that you put it in there. I also love 96. Sly & The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Goin’ On. There are a good few here that I’ve never listened to and I intend to put them on my Peep that out, Yo! Project list.

  3. Chad Says:

    Is #102. Woo – The Sounds of Skynyrd (Live At The Shroom Festival)? I always loved his rendition of “Ooh that mail, can’t ya mail that mail”

  4. Brinton Says:

    I’m much in the same boat as Kevin and Daxon. Though I’ve heard of almost everybody so far, there are a lot of these albums I’ve not yet given a careful listen to. Of the ones that I have, I can tell you, there is some good work. The Wilburys alone is worth an entire article I’m sure.

    As for Ropin’ the Wind, that was one of the first CDs we ever had around my home. They didn’t sell it with the players did they? You know, the way everybody has the Matrix because it came free with the DVD player? I don’t remember; but the words “Papa loved mama, mama loved me,” well, they just sort of sum country up don’t they?

  5. Vickie Says:

    I thought it was “papa loved mama, mama loved men”……….

  6. Zack Says:

    Alright, I’m an avid Beatles fan and your right, Revolver is an amazing album… but really? Behind Garth Brooks? I’m willing to accept that there is a Garth Brooks album better than a Beatles album but… Dolly Parton… I just can’t believe that someone with their own theme park is rated higher… I guess I’ll give it a shot…

  7. Kevin Says:

    Zack,
    You eagerly proclaim the greatness of Disney’s animated movies. Perhaps you’ve never heard of this “World of Disney” and/or “Land of Disney”…

  8. Top 5 Favorite Theatrical Experiences « The Adventures Of Zack Hightower Says:

    […] by Zack on July 8th, 2007 I don’t know why I’m doing this, maybe Cory’s gigantic favorite albums of all time list has inspired me to do something significantly smaller in comparison… maybe […]

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