Saturday, July 13, 2013


A few years back, before I started this blog, I made a list of my 15 all-time favorite albums and posted it on Facebook. These are albums where there’s no skipping over any tracks to get to the “good” stuff, because it’s ALL good. 

Having taken another look at that list recently, I found that it needed some updating, and what better place to put the revised version than right here at GGG?

Just FYI, I imposed stricter regulations on myself this time. With a few notable exceptions, musical acts were allowed no more than one entry. That said, I allowed separate entries for members of a group on the list who also had a solo career. Also, I expanded the scope to include motion-picture soundtracks. 

And awaaay we go . . . !     

1. WHOS NEXT  by The Who (1971). 

One of the greatest and most consistent-sounding rock albums ever recorded. ’Nuff said. 

2. RUBBER SOUL  by The Beatles (UK version, 1965). 

The first CD I ever got. A fantastic album, and it features “In My Life,” which was my wedding song. 

3. REVOLVER  by The Beatles (UK version, 1966). 

This is really tied with RUBBER SOUL, as I love both albums pretty much equally.  

4. EMPTY GLASS  by Pete Townshend (1980). 

Petes solo masterpiece, as far as I’m concerned. 

5. BRIAN WILSON PRESENTS SMiLE  by Brian Wilson (2004). 

I’d waited for this aborted Beach Boys album since I first read about its supposed forthcoming release in 1988. Sixteen years later, it finally came out, not by the Beach Boys as originally planned, but great nonetheless. I couldn’t stop playing it for months (much to my wife’s chagrin). 

6. QUADROPHENIA  by The Who (1973). 

I first bought this album early in my sophomore year of college, shortly after becoming a Who fan, and I soon found myself torn between it and TOMMY. In recent years, I’ve given QUADROPHENIA the edge because it’s more down to earth and reaches me on a more emotional level.

7. CROSBY, STILLS & NASH  by . . . well, you know (1969). 

A fantastic debut and their strongest work together. True, their second album had Neil Young on it, but I prefer this one as a complete listening experience.

8. PET SOUNDS  by The Beach Boys (1966). 

I bought this album because Paul McCartney raved about it. He was right.

9. RUMOURS  by Fleetwood Mac (1977). 

Some really great soul-baring, gut-wrenching songs about lost love and the anger and bitterness that follows. 

10. SYNCHRONICITY  by The Police (1983). 

Their most solid, consistent album, in my opinion—and I like the quirky stuff on it (“Miss Gradenko,” “Mother”) as much as the commercial stuff that became hits. I have my buddy Nick to thank for getting me into these guys—thanks, Nick!!!!

11. THE NYLON CURTAIN  by Billy Joel (1982). 

This was Billy’s “Beatles” album, and in my opinion, he’s never topped it.

12. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (Original Soundtrack)  by John Williams (1980). 

One of Williams’s greatest film scores, and certainly the best work he did for the Star Wars series. There’s tight continuity with the music from the original film, and his individual themes for Darth Vader, Yoda, and Han and Leia’s blossoming romance are simply perfect. 

13. THE DREAM OF THE BLUE TURTLES  by Sting (1985). 

A great solo debut. I wish his subsequent releases were as uniformly strong as this one. 

14. DARK SIDE OF THE MOON  by Pink Floyd (1973). 

A complete and satisfying listening experience from beginning to end that really transports you to another place. I used to love going to see the laser light show version at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City—the last time went to see it it was one of my first dates with my wife. (Incidentally, it totally works when you play the whole album against the first half of The Wizard of Oz!) 

15. RAM  by Paul & Linda McCartney (1971). 

Critically lambasted upon its release, this has gotten much deserved reappraisal in recent years and is now recognized as one of Paul’s finest solo efforts. “The Back Seat of My Car” is one of my all-time favorite McCartney songs, as is “Too Many People,” which subtly but pointedly criticizes John and Yoko, who, in my opinion, had it coming.      

SUNFLOWER  by The Beach Boys (1970). 

A tragically underrated album that ranks right up there with PET SOUNDS as one of their best. Dennis Wilson should have thrived as a major creative force in the band after this album, and had it not been a major sales flop, perhaps Brian Wilson would not have fallen quite as far as he did after its release. The only real weakness of the album is the sequencing of the songs—which, in this age of iTunes and CD burning, is easily addressed. 

I now open the floor to all comments and inevitable criticisms . . . !

© All text copyright Glenn Greenberg, 2013.


  1. Very interesting list, Glenn. That said, I don't get the love for RAM. It's McCartney, so it's charming and hummable, but, aside from a few tracks (including the ones you mention), I've been trying, and failing, to love it for decades. Give me BAND ON THE RUN or TUG OF WAR or MEMORY ALMOST FULL any day. All brilliant.

    If I had to put only one solo Beatles album on the list, it would be JOHN LENNON/PLASTIC ONO BAND(but you knew that, didn't you?).

    WHO'S NEXT and EMPTY GLASS would go on my list, too.

    I'd put ABBEY ROAD and the WHITE ALBUM ahead of REVOLVER, but they're all so close, and so extraordinary, that it's just a matter of (very subtle) preference. HARD DAY'S NIGHT would make my list, too. (But, really, I'd need one list just for Beatles and Solo Beatles albums because I love so many of 'em.)

    As you know, I'm not a die-hard Beach Boys fan, but you can't argue with PET SOUNDS. "God Only Knows" alone is worth the price of admission.

    Some albums I'd include? Neil Young's AFTER THE GOLD RUSH, Joni Mitchell's BLUE, Bowie's HUNKY DORY, Dylan's BLOOD ON THE TRACKS and...well, I'll stop there. We could do this all day!

    1. Hi Marc!

      I think RAM reaches me on an emotional level, moreso than BAND ON THE RUN, because of the subtext--the then-ongoing feud between Paul and John, as reflected in the lyrics "You took your lucky break and broke it in two," "Too many people preaching practices," and "We believe that we can't be wrong."

      But don't get me wrong--I love BAND ON THE RUN. I'm also a big fan of TUG OF WAR, though "Ebony and Ivory" is a bit saccharine.

      It was tough limiting myself in terms of how many entries a particular act could get, but if I hadn't, the list would be filled with Beatles and Who albums!

      Not a big Joni Mitchell fan, I'm afraid, but I do like AFTER THE GOLD RUSH. Dylan is hit and miss for me. I do have to say that I really liked his stuff with the Traveling Wilburys, particularly "If You Belonged to Me."

      And you're right, we could do this all day!

    2. I agree about "Ebony and Ivory." One of the few weak links on TUG OF WAR. (But just try to get it out of your head!) But most of the album is so amazing I can forgive it.

      BLOOD ON THE TRACKS is Dylan's most...well, Lennonesuqe album, in that it feels so honest and raw. And the songs are fantastic reflections of that.

      I'm not a huge Joni Mitchell fan either, but BLUE is utterly magical. (So much of this has to do with who we were and where we were when we first heard these albums.)

      Yes...all day indeed!

  2. While I prefer the Beach Boy's SMiLE, it isn't as good as Pet Sounds, or Sunflower. I'd count Pet Sounds as Brian Wilson's best and Sunflower as the Beach Boys best.

    I prefer Abbey Road slightly over Revolver and Rubber Soul. How many groups have that great a swan song? (Let it Be was not really "The Beatles".)

    1. You're right, Steven, ABBEY ROAD was one hell of a farewell. So much so that Paul wanted to keep the band going afterwards!

      I have to disagree with you that LET IT BE was not really "The Beatles." It was certainly them, if perhaps not at their very best.

  3. Great list. Who's Next would probably be in my top two or three (with Springsteen's Born to Run and Yes's Fragile being the other two it would wrestle with.)I'm pleased to see the inclusion of The Dream of the Blue Turtles, which I played endlessly in the early to mid-90's. I haven't listened to it in a very long time, so this reminder will put it back into my rotation.

    1. Great to hear from you, Andrew!

      I never could stand Springsteen, I'm afraid.

      I do like Yes, to some extent (I saw them in concert during my freshman year of college)--I've always liked "Rhythm of Love" off of BIG GENERATOR. But I'm not that well versed with their complete catalog, and I don't have any of their albums.

      Happy to turn you back on to DREAM OF THE BLUE TURTLES! :-)

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  5. There's a lot of stuff on here that I did not expect to see. That said, I like the police up through around Ghost in the Machine, which (to me, anyway) sounded like it was generated in a lab somewhere. When Synchronicity came out, to me it continued that trend of distanced artificiality, though it did have a few tunes that were notably quirky. (As you yourself stated. I love "Miss Gradenko.") My favorite tune from that album was "Murder By Numbers," which at the time of the original vinyl release was only available as a B-side.

    And I have to say it: Rumors is right up there near the very top of the list of albums I could go to my grave without ever hearing again. I don't care for the post-Bob Welch Fleetwood Mac at all, and I have a special and borderline-homicidal hatred of Rumors. That album's airplay ubiquity at the time of its release was downright torturous and its songs seemed to play on the radio and TV every waking moment. That album and the plague that was disco were key factors in driving me away from Top 40 pop music and into the realms of heavy metal, punk, obscure oldies, and vintage surf music. And Stevie Nicks's shaky warblings bring to mind what would happen if Tom Bombadil's wife, Goldberry, somehow landed a recording contract.

    And I know it's a bit of a cheat, but my favorite who album — and I do love those guys, especially the drumming of Moon the Loon — is hands down the soundtrack to The Kids Are Alright. Great live stuff and an excellent overview of their output up to that time. I'd already liked Tommy but The Kids Are Alright is the album that made me a serious Who fan.

    Lastly, Ram is, in my opinion, the most underrated of McCartney's solo efforts. A perfect record from start to finish, and "Too Many People" is an all-time classic.

    1. Thanks for weighing in, Bunche--I was anxiously awaiting your response!

      I was lucky in that I was too young when RUMOURS came out to be listening to the radio to such an extent that I would get sick of hearing it. I never really got into Top 40 radio anyway, because I hated how the stations kept playing the same songs over and over again until, as you said, it became torturous. I remember how sick I got of anything off of THRILLER, and there was one summer where I was working at a comic book store and the radio was permanently set to WPLJ and the song "Two of Hearts" by Stacey Q was played seemingly every 20 minutes, leading me to beg the manager--my friend Mike--to switch to 92.3 K-Rock for a little break. He refused.

      I love THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT too, incidentally. If I were to do a list of the 10 best Who albums, it would certainly be on there.

      RAM probably IS the most underrated McCartney solo album, but then again, MCCARTNEY was also pretty reviled when it came out, and I've always loved that one too. I think part of the reason that Paul's early stuff was so hated was because critics blamed him for the breakup of the Beatles, as he was the first to go public about it. They thought he broke up the group to pursue a solo career, unaware that behind the scenes, Paul was trying to keep the band together and JOHN was the one who pulled the plug. So the critics, resentful of what they believed was Paul's arrogance and egotism, really went after him and ripped him apart because they felt his solo stuff wasn't up to the high standards set by the Beatles--unaware that a lot of the stuff on those first couple of albums were actually INTENDED for the Beatles!

  6. Oh, christ, Stacy Q's "2 of Hearts"... One of the songs that will forever in my head be associated with some incredibly ignorant cugine assholes from the valley Stream area.

  7. I put on "Tug of War" the other day for the first time in a while, and it just blew me away once again with what an incredible record it is, even (gasp) the much-reviled "Ebony & Ivory." In the song's defense, it delivers EVERYTHING that we ask for in a classic McCartney song—a big hook, sing-along chorus and clear, simple lyrics. In truth, I suspect what we the public react so violently against is the saccharine, LITE-FM arrangement (ugh, those keyboards) and the duet aspect, which pushes the song deep into the realm of insincerity. Try mentally turning it into a quiet, solo acoustic guitar song with just Paul, and you'll see it starts to "work" again.

    As for your list, no real surprises there, knowing you, except Rumours—which is a great album.

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