Top 250 Albums of All-Time – 159-150

#159 – Elephant – The White Stripes

Recorded in only two weeks The White Stripes 2003 album , Elephant, was a throw back to pre-1960’s rock n’ roll/blues albums. It was even recorded on antiquated equipment, 8 track tape machine & pre-1960’s gear. it was Jack & Meg White’s 4th album & their Magnum Opus. It also happened to be their major label debut. The fact that a two person band could pump out a quality album is an achievement in it’s own right, but to do it with such precise brilliance is another thing altogether. While Meg does certainly leave alot to be desired as a drummer she does exactly what any other drummer would do when confronted with perhaps the greatest guitarist of his generation, Jack White (who is the subject of a documentary with Jimmy Page & The Edge). The album was so good that Rolling Stone hailed it as “…a work of pulverizing perfection.” Pulverizing being the key word. With songs like “Seven Nation Army” & “Hardest Button to Button” it draws attention to Jack White’s superb guitar ability & perhaps Meg White’s steady drum play as not being overtly fancy. She is the bass in a band where there is none.

Hardest Button to Button – The White Stripes

Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes

#158 – Songs of Leonard Cohen – Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen’s debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, was a backlash to an ever increasing psychedelic movement propagated by the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Leonard Cohen was first & foremost a poet & only in his desire to showcase this poetry did he create this Beatnik style album. His brand of lonely music was a huge hit in Europe, who just enjoying an Enlightened era of art, but was slow to catch on in the States. However, once his song “Suzanne” caught on it was hailed as an instant classic. Written about sculptor Armand Vaillancourt’s wife Suzanne Verdal it becomes a treatise on religion in the second verse. Cohen speaks of “Jesus as he walked upon the water”, but it ends again with Suzanne. The real Suzanne ended up living in her car in Venice, Ca while Cohen achieved stardom & after 1970 they never spoke again.

Suzanne – Leonard Cohen

So Long, Marianne – Leonard Cohen

#157 – Loaded – Velvet Underground

Loaded was Velvet Underground’s fourth album & their most commercially successful. Bassist Doug Yule had this to say:

On Loaded there was a big push to produce a hit single, there was that mentality, which one of these is a single, how does it sound when we cut it down to 3½ minutes, so that was a major topic for the group at that point.

This was also Lou Reed’s final album with tensions about the direction of the band after the growing separation between the group & Andy Warhol. Along with that the overall pop/commercial feel of the album didn’t sit well with Reed’s vision of what Velvet Underground should be, so he left & wasn’t even there long enough to hear the final mix.

Who Loves the Sun – Velvet Underground

Sweet Jane – Velvet Underground

#156 – Ricky Sings Again – Ricky Nelson

Ricky Sings Again is Ricky Nelson’s third album, but the first in which he transcends the teen-pop label he had been saddled with for his first two albums & dives into Rock-a-billy music with long time collaborator James Burton, who went on to become a guitarist in Elvis Presley’s band.

Nelson knew and loved music, and was a skilled performer even before he became a teen idol, largely due to his parents’ musical background. In addition to guitar, he played drums and the clarinet. (He showcased his drum skills in the same episode where he made his singing debut.) Nelson worked with many musicians of repute, including the aforementioned James Burton, Joe Osborn, and Allen “Puddler” Harris, all natives of Louisiana, and Joe Maphis, The Jordanaires, Scotty Moore and Johnny and Dorsey Burnette. While Elvis may have served as the catalyst for Rick’s musical career, his real inspiration was Carl Perkins.

From 1957 to 1962, Nelson had thirty Top-40 hits, more than any other artist at the time except Presley (who had 53) and Pat Boone (38). Many of Nelson’s early records were double hits with both the A and B sides hitting the Billboard charts. When Billboard introduced the Hot 100 chart on August 4, 1958, Nelson’s single “Poor Little Fool” became the first song ever in the #1 position on that chart. In addition to his recording career, Nelson appeared in movies, including the Howard Hawks western classic Rio Bravo with John Wayne and Dean Martin (1959), plus The Wackiest Ship In the Army (1960) and Love and Kisses (1965).

It’s Late – Ricky Nelson

Lonesome Town – Ricky Nelson

#155 – Reasonable Doubt – Jay-Z

Jay-Z’s debut album, Reasonable Doubt, is also consequently his best album. While taking events from his real life growing up in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects, Jay-Z conveys a sense of hopelesness growing up with an urgency to escape the ghetto. His father left when he was 11 & he began dealing drugs in his teens with his new father figurtes being the drug dealers in the neighborhood. He also was one of the forerunners to the subgenre of Gangster Rap called “Mafioso Rap” evident in the opening track, “Brooklyn’s Finest” with the reference to the epic line from Scarface. “Brooklyn’s Finest” also features a cameo from the Notorious B.I.G. which like many songs on the album is considerably longer than most Rap songs coming in at just over four & a half minutes. It like many of the era’s songs relies heavily on sampling from such artists as: Isaac Hayes, The Ohio Players & Ahmad Jamal.

Brooklyn’s Finest (With Biggie Smalls) – Jay-Z

Ain’t No Nigga (With Foxy Brown) – Jay-Z

#154 -Moanin’ in the Moonlinght – Howlin’ Wolf

Born Chester Arthut Burnett (after the 21st President of the U.S. Chester Arthur) Howlin’ Wolf was not only a revolutionary in Blues Music, but also in overcoming stereotypical & seemingly early Blues/Jazz outcomes of succumbing to Alcohol or drugs & either dying young and/or penniless. He came by the name, Howlin’ Wolf when his grandfather heard him trying to yodel along with a popular country song of the day & thought it sounded more like a wolf howling at the moon. His first full length album, Moanin’ in the Moonlight, inspired many an artist such as: Led Zeppelin, the White Stripes, Jimi Hendrix & The Rolling Stones. It is the forefather to the rock sound that inundated the late 60’s early 70’s.

Smokestack Lighting – Howlin’ Wolf

Moanin’ at Midnight – Howlin’ Wolf

#153 – Ritchie Valens – Ritchie Valens

Never before has the flip of a coin meant so much in the history of rock n’ roll. On a snowy night, Feb. 3, 1959, Ritchie Valens won a coin flip with guitarist Tony Alsup & less than 10 minutes later Valens, Buddy Holly & the Big Bopper were all dead in a horrific plane crash in Iowa. At 17 years old Richard Valenzuela became a Rock n’ Roll Martyr. It was in death that he grew as an icon in the Chicano rock movement. It was one month after his death that his self titled album, Ritchie Valens,  was released with songs like, “La Bamba”, “Donna” & “Come On Let’s GO”. Ritchie Valens was the stepping stone for artists like Santana, War & Los Lobos (who have covered many of Valens’ songs). When Ritchie Valens died that night at 17 he was ensured of beomcing a rock icon for decades to come, but without being able to actually see the impact his music had on others one must truly wonder if it was ultimately worth it ot his family & himself?

Come on Let’s Go – Ritchie Valens

La Bamba – Ritchie Valens

#152 – Pablo Honey – Radiohead

Besides “Creep”, the album also included the melodic, perhaps ironic, and Sonic Youth-influenced single “Anyone Can Play Guitar” and U2-like single “Stop Whispering”. Also, on Pablo Honey, are ethereal rocker “You”, fan favourite “Thinking About You”, and “Blow Out”, the latter of which is apparently the band’s personal favourite from the album, and points ahead to their future sonic manipulations.

By mid-1993, “Creep” had become a hit in Israel, then the United States, and then a worldwide hit, finally reaching number 7 when it was re-released during the Autumn of 1993 in the band’s native Britain. “Creep” went on to define the band’s early career, at the expense of anything else on Pablo Honey. The song, whose self-loathing lyrics struck a chord with many fans, was released around the same time as other so-called “slacker” anthems such as Beck’s “Loser” and was seen by some as a part of the grunge movement kicked into high gear by Seattle bands Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Radiohead eventually fell into a media-created niche as the “British Nirvana”, due both to “Creep” and to the equally morose (if not equally successful) other songs on the album. In fact, Radiohead did share similar influences as Nirvana, notably the Pixies and R.E.M., although The Smiths were also a large influence on the band at this time.

However, the band are not unanimously pleased with “Creep”. Although at first ecstatic at their success, they soon came to resent being unable to escape its shadow, inspiring the bitter song “My Iron Lung”. When performing live in 1993 and 1994, much of the audience would often leave after “Creep” had been performed, ignoring all the other material from Pablo Honey. One exception was “Prove Yourself”, a song Yorke removed from setlists after he realised the crowd would always chant along with its disturbing refrain, “I’m better off dead.”

Creep – Radiohead

Blow Out – Radiohead

#151 – All Things Must Pass – George Harrison

All Things Must Pass is the first triple album by a solo artist, the original vinyl release featured two records of rock songs, while the third, entitled “Apple Jam” was composed of informal jams led by Harrison with musician friends and other famous musicians.Received as a masterpiece upon its 1970 unveiling, All Things Must Pass is widely considered to be one of the best albums made by a Beatle as a solo artist. It is certified 6x Platinum by the RIAA.

The outpouring of the wealth of material on All Things Must Pass took many critics by surprise, with Harrison having long been overshadowed by the talents of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, despite the fact that some of his later period Beatles inclusions (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Something,” and “Here Comes the Sun”) were hailed as highlights of their respective albums. Consequently, as Harrison had only placed just a few songs on any given Beatles album, he had amassed many compositions by their break-up, enabling him to release many of them simultaneously on All Things Must Pass.

Harrison had been accumulating the songs he recorded for the album as far back as 1966; both “The Art of Dying” and “Isn’t It a Pity” date from that year. In bootlegged conversations from the Get Back sessions, Harrison revealed that John had rejected “Isn’t It a Pity” three years before, and that he (Harrison) had considered offering the song to Frank Sinatra.

He began writing “My Sweet Lord” while touring with Delaney & Bonnie in late 1969, and would later utilise their backing group “Friends” as an important part of the All Things Must Pass sound. He made one last detour before beginning work on All Things Must Pass, visiting Dylan while the latter was starting sessions for New Morning in May 1970, learning “If Not For You” and participating in a now-bootlegged session.

If Not For You – George Harrison

All Things Must Pass – George Harrison

My Sweet Lord – George Harrison

#150 – Transformer – Lou Reed

Transformer is Lou Reed’s breakthrough second solo album, released in December 1972. Unlike its predecessor Lou Reed, eight songs of which were leftovers from his Velvet Underground days, this album contains mainly new material. Transformer was produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, who had been strongly influenced by Reed’s work with the Velvet Underground. The album features some of Reed’s best-known songs such as “Walk on the Wild Side”, “Perfect Day” and “Satellite of Love”, and made him an international star in his own right.

Although all songs on the album were credited to Reed, it has long been rumoured that “Wagon Wheel” is actually a David Bowie composition. The first single from the album, “Walk on the Wild Side”, became an international success, despite its adult subject matter (it was edited in some countries and banned in others) & is now generally regarded as Reed’s signature tune. “Satellite of Love” was issued as the second single in February 1973.

Satellite of Love – Lou Reed

Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed


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