Listening to music is great! Everyone loves a good song, like “Thong Song”, “Baby Got Back”, or “Rump Shaker”, but I think we can all admit that a full ALBUM is where musicians truly flex their ‘ass muscles’, as they say.
And therefore we run into a problem with today’s list of some of my favourite albums of all time, because these are NOT the kind of albums that are a coherent collection of original songs made to express one artist or group’s vision at a particular time in their careers.
This list is for the Un-Albums, those collections of music that are put together for different reasons: to compile the best songs over the course of a career, to convey the story and mood of a movie or theme, to pay tribute to someone or something else non-music related, or to capture a live performance.
When I set out to listen to every album that I could think of in order to rank my 30 favourites there was much teeth grinding and a very near mental breakdown that almost had me scrawling album names in blood on the walls of my room like a maniac.
Well, I ripped that all down and from the ashes of nonsense, a fiery red-headed Jean Grey blew a planet destroying kiss at me and the true list shot straight out of my eyes like Scott Summers laser-blasting the shit out of an evil Sentinel.
In the adrenaline rush of seeing those names flash together I noticed that it stretched past the arbitrary 30 that I’d set up for myself in the first place. So like Moses discovering 20 commandments, when the smoke cleared I had a perfectly ranked 60 favourite albums.
Albums 31-40 were ranked and grouped together in the Un-Albums category. Previously I’d even excluded these kinds of albums from the ranking in my zealot-like madness to find unique perfection, but as I’ve been saying a lot lately, it’s time to lighten up. And album released as an album is an album, and worthy for consideration.
And so without further ado, here are my 40-31 favourite albums of all time, the 10 Best Un-Albums according to the completely subjective opinion of Dr. Loser.
10. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – Live in New York City
I saw the the 2002 Toronto stop on this tour where they played for over 4 hours and it was just exhausting to keep up with… and I’m like 30 years younger than this guy! Such a bad ass performance by an old guy makes this album kind of the Taken of music.
9. KISS – Alive
Although technically I found out it’s not really a live album (as in performed before a live audience) since those crowd reactions are just pumped-in sound effects. Still, the drum solo in that 12 minute ‘near’-live version of “100,000 Years“ kicks my ass every time!
8. Soundtrack – Natural Born Killers
This mix-match soundtrack of rock, rap, metal, mellow and weird was expertly crafted to come off like an audio book version of the similarly mixed-up and wacky movie.
7. Nirvana – MTV Live Unplugged
Despite all of Nirvana’s great music, their best album is probably this acoustic live set of odd covers and obscure tracks.
6. Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys
5. Soundtrack – Lost Highway
This is one of my all-time favourite movies from my favourite director of all-time David Lynch making this the all-time most uses of ‘all-time’ in one sentence and thus being possibly the greatest sentence of all-time and almost as looping an confusing as the music in this soundtrack that reminds me of my greatest movie going experience of all-time at Lost Highway.
4. Soundtrack – Shaft
The album that gave me two of my favourite things in life: Isaac Hayes music and Richard Roundtree movies.
3. Metallica – Garage Inc.
This double disc collection of covers (of mostly songs I’d never even heard of before) is like Metallica making their own Dr. Loser blog and listing out all of their favourite songs. Sadly the closest I can get to being like them was playing the incredible 10+ minutes of “Mercyful Fate” (a medley of Mercyful Fate songs) on Guitar Hero – Metallica (and I got damn close).
2. Soundtrack – Colors
This album was the bridge for me between the rap music I’d liked before, such as the Fat Boys and Run DMC, and the next generation of performers who reacted to the mainstream pop rap hits that where coming out in the late 80s and eventually set the quality standard by which true hip-hop would follow.
The touchstone tracks here from Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim, Kool G Rap and DJ Polo, and Ice T, would determine the albums that I would be listening to exclusively for the next couple of years.
1. James Brown – Startime (Box Set)
This one is the biggest cheat on the un-albums list, because not only is it one greatest hits collection, but it’s a box set made up of four of them.
Look… by the time I was born James Brown had already created so much of his groundbreaking music that once I was old enough to appreciate it there was no chance of catching up with all of his random collections and 45s. Then the Star Time box set came out and it was the minimum amount of James Brown that every fan of just plain music must have in their record/tape/CD collection.
A pop music world with the songs on this box set is like comic books without Stan Lee, pro-wrestling without Vince McMahon, martial arts movies without Jackie Chan, and talk radio without Howard Stern… the man was an absolute genius and can never be replaced.
… awh hell, and now just for the fun of it, here is my actual top 30 favourite albums of all time, (also organised by specific theme):
The Classic 10
(critically acclaimed or seminal albums in the careers of some of my favourite acts)
30. Pink Floyd – Darkside of the Moon
29. Fugazi – Repeater
28. Pixies – Doolittle
27. Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
26. Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die
25. Makaveli – the don killuminati: the 7 day theory
24. The Who – Quadrophenia
23. Led Zeppelin IV
22. Run DMC – Raisin Hell
21. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
The Biased 10
(albums that I personally like better than the more traditionally critical favourites from these artists – or just plain like more than most people)
20. The White Stripes – Icky Thump
19. Led Zeppelin III
18. Mos Def – The New Danger
17. Metallica – Death Magnetic
16. Digital Underground – Sex Packets
15. Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking
14. AC/DC – High Voltage
13. Beck – Midnite Vultures
12. De La Soul – Buhloone Mindstate
11. Butthole Surfers – Independent Worm Saloon
The Ultimate 10
(these are the ones I just feel are the 10 greatest albums ever, and of this there can be no debate)
10. Metallica – Master of Puppets
9. Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death
8. Led Zeppelin
7. 2pac – All Eyez on Me
6. The Mars Volta – Bedlam in Goliath
5. D’angelo – Voodoo
4. Tool – Lateralus
3. R Kelly – R
2. GWAR – Scumdogs of the Universe
1. Beastie Boys – Check Your Head
Yes, after much inner struggle, I’ve decided to leap-frog ‘Check Your Head‘ over ‘Scumdogs of the Universe‘, an album that held onto my top spot for decades. On this, well… there may be some debate between me and myself I guess… but check back again with I re-do these lists in 2034!