I'm sometimes asked by people to list my top albums - whether it's best ever, top 3, 5, 10 or whatever. It seems like a pretty easy thing to do at first glance, but once you start thinking about it, it starts to get tricky. I can usually come up with a quick list off the top of my head, without really getting into what constitutes a "top" album. Is it albums that have stuck in my head? Or perhaps the albums that I connect with significant moments in my life? Or maybe the albums that introduced me to a band or a genre?
For this post I thought I'd have another go at it and come up with my top 5 albums of all time. I've selected albums that I have distinct memories of, that had a pretty major impact on my life or musical enjoyment and experiences, and importantly, that I still listen to and enjoy now. So in no particular order of significance...
Appetite for Destruction by Guns n' Roses. Okay, so I went into why this album means so much to me in last weeks' post, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time going into it again - you can read all about it here. I actually stopped listening to this for about five or six years, as I got into a real metal phase for a while, then when I snapped out of it I'd kind of moved on. Then I had it played to me again about 10 years ago and all the reasons I love this album and what it meant to me came flooding on back. In terms of where I am now musically, and how I got here, probably the most important album on my list.
Live at the Fillmore East by Miles Davis. I grew up listening to a lot of jazz - my dad had a huge collection of jazz on vinyl - but when I heard this album it blew my mind. Recorded over four nights in 1970, this showcases Miles at his best - mellow Miles, traditional Miles, Miles the innovator and experimenter. After hearing this I went out the next day and signed up to trumpet lessons, mainly because I'd never realized the trumpet could be so cool. It's definitely the best Miles Davis album I've heard and well before he started to get way into (too far into) electronic music.
...And Justice For All by Metallica. The Black album was actually the first Metallica album I remember hearing, although I might have heard some of the earlier stuff before then, but Justice is the one that stands out for me, and got me into Metallica in a big way (and the start of that metal phase I mentioned earlier). Despite the sometimes shoddy production on it, including the (deliberate?) vandalism to the bass track, the songs are epic slabs of metal and are Metallica at their peak (the Black album is too polished and commercial for my tastes, and coincides with when the cracks started to show in the band and therefore in their music).
Straight Out Of Compton by NWA. Before I heard this, and I did hear it a couple of years after it came out, it made me realise that hip-hop wasn't all happy Will Smith tracks and Hammer pants. This was real music, about real situations, created by the people who lived it. Okay, that last bit might be open to debate, but the feeling in that music, from the strong opening track, right through their diatribes against the police and... oh wait, that was pretty much the whole album, that feeling was what was missing from all the other hip hop I'd heard up until then. I've been a fan of Ice Cube and Dr Dre ever since (until Dre's releases starting getting worse and worse anyway).
Suck On This by Primus. Who knew bass could be the focus of a band? Not me, until I heard Les Claypool noodling away on Primus' first release. And who releases a live album before they've even released a studio album anyway? Primus were never going to be a conventional band, right from the start; you could argue that Sausage, the forerunner to Primus, ensured normality was never going to be an option for them. Their songs are ridiculous tall tales of exploits on the seas, in dark alleys and bars, and on the road, but it's the music that Primus do best. Tim "Herb" Alexander delivers an amazing performance on the drums, including an impressive solo, and Larry LaLonde ain't too shabby either. Frizzle Fry, the follow up and debut studio album, is one of my favourites too, but it's this album that introduced me to Primus and made me want to learn bass (see a theme developing here?).
Now, I know it's a top five list, but since I already dedicated an entire post to Appetite for Destruction, I think I'm entitled to one more pick.
Lateralus by Tool. What's to say about this? Amazing drumming? Check. Big riffs? Check. Wicked vocal effects? Of course. Solid playing, interesting compositions, fun with time signatures? All there. I've been on the Tool bandwagon since Undertow came out, but Lateralus represents the culmination of the Tool journey to me. 10,000 days was a bit same old, whereas with every other release before that they'd pushed the envelope (to quote from Lateralus itself) and destroyed all expectations. Sure, the previous albums were awesome too, and Aenima got them the attention they deserved, but with Lateralus it's like they didn't care so much about winning over new fans, or getting exposure, they just went ahead and made an album that needed to be made. And for that I thank them.
There's a few other albums that should have made this list but it was hard enough settling on five. So to round out my top ten, we've got:
- Reign in Blood by Slayer - best thrash metal album of all time, and has stood the test of time.
- The Real Thing by Faith No More - funky, fast, aggressive and most of all fun.
- Killjoy by Shihad - New Zealand's best rock band ever. Big, loud, chunk riffs and solid playing. Produced by Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman, so it was always going to be awesome.
- Back In Black by AC/DC - another album of big, solid riffs. It's a wall of sound coming down to rock your world and steal your women. Their best album, and then they went and got into screaming solos. Shame.
So, let's hear your top five albums... leave a comment with your list below.