In deciding to compile this list, I tried to be as honest as possible in that I found myself several times resisting the urge to include albums or musicians that I ‘thought’ I should have on my list but don’t necessarily listen to all that much. For example, there’s a reason I don’t have any jazz on here. I don’t find myself reaching for Miles Davis over R.E.M. so why be a poseur and include it? These are favorites…’MY favorites’. A few notes: I shied away from live albums (hence, no “The Last Waltz”), greatest hits (with one exception), compilations and having more than one album from a particular band. What, was I going to list the ENTIRE Beatles catalog? A few times I did include multiple albums from a songwriter whether it was a solo album or offshoot band, so you may spot a few repeats in that respect. I also could have easily included many local Pittsburgh releases but decided to keep them for a separate list coming soon. With that being said, I hope you enjoy this list as much as I had making it. Hopefully in putting this together, you the reader, will discover something you never heard before or reacquaint yourself with a long, forgotten album. Look out for the remaining installments here every Sunday.
I have to say, this is getting way more difficult in that most of these albums have more than two choice tracks I should link to. Please discover these albums and bands. They will change your life as they have mine. Check out the previous entries for #61-80, #81-100 and the albums that almost made the cut.
41. Cracker-Kerosene Hat (1993) Booo…Camper Van Beethoven breaks up. Yippee…main man David Lowery forms a new band. This is their second album and although I could stand to never hear ‘Low‘ again, the rest of the album more than makes up for it. Choice Tracks: ‘Take Me Down to the Infirmary‘, ‘I Want Everything‘.
42. Radar Bros.-The Fallen Leaf Pages (2005) Merge Records will always be remembered as the label of “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea”, and “The Suburbs”. They will always be remembered by me as when I discovered “The Fallen Leaf Pages” by Radar Bros. I was instantly hooked upon hearing this lazy, hazy, melancholic, pop gem. Was finally able to see the band as they opened for Teenage Fanclub a few years ago. Choice Tracks: ‘Papillon‘,’Government Land‘.
43. U2-The Unforgettable Fire (1984) I saw the ‘Joshua Tree’ tour. I was at the other two or three out of control stadium shows U2 did in Pittsburgh following that one as well. They progressively got more over the top and well, worse. My buddy (brother?) asked me to go to this show at the arena and for some dumb reason I said no. In context, I said no to two invitations to see Stevie Ray Vaughan at The Decade. Yes, I am an idiot. This album is a band knowing they are gonna kick ass and totally delivering. I call it the “Wait Till We Totally Show You What’s Up” Album. Choice Tracks: ‘Wire‘, ‘The Unforgettable Fire‘.
44. Songs:Ohia-Magnolia Electric Co. (2003) Wanna know a secret? I became a concert photographer because of Jason Molina. Blame HughShows solely on him. I was getting into indie rock and I was getting into going to shows and I was getting into documenting those indie rock shows as I was discovering photography. Perfect storm. I had no idea what Jason looked like and said to myself, “This Songs:Ohia guy is awfully camera shy?” Show me a photo of him playing live pre-2004 and I will digress. So I try to find the beast in the wild and this album pops up? Listen…There aren’t many albums as perfect as this one. Fun Fact: He was the one who showed me how to quickly bust open the plastic wrap, exorcise a CD from the jewel case without breaking it, and signed it for me as ‘Jason Magnolia‘ before buying me a whiskey! Choice Tracks: ‘Farewell Transmission‘, ‘Just Be Simple‘.
45. The Kinks-Something Else by The Kinks (1967) So I initially go on a total Kinks discovery exactly one and a half years ago for some uneventful reason and lo and behold, they start re-releasing ‘Deluxe Editions‘ of The the Kinks albums in order and hey, why not buy them all and listen to the mono and stereo versions and read books on the band and actually get to see Ray Davies in concert and totally humble myself in front of my best friend who has been pimping the band since “Give the People What They Want” first came out. Why this album over all the rest? For me it ‘flows’ more so than any other release and the Dave Davies emergence as a ‘heartbreaking’ songwriter makes it hard not to pick it. Choice Tracks: ‘Death of a Clown‘, ‘Situation Vacant‘.
46. Pink Floyd-Obscured by Clouds (1972) I cannot describe to you how much Pink Floyd music I have listened to in my life. I am not kidding. I was introduce to them, by of all people, my future wife as she was listening to “The Final Cut” on a walkman in 1983 during study hall and I asked her, “Who are they?” I bought Ummagumma that day and the rest was history. In the early ’80’s cassettes were made very cheap, especially Columbia Records tapes, which apparently distributed the Harvest/EMI Floyd albums. I TORE through that entire catalog, replacing several titles (one in my Top 5) because I listened to them too damned much. And the one that I love best turns out to be an obscure soundtrack they made as a seemingly throwaway contract obligation. I was thrilled to finally see this movie, pre-VHS, on a big screen at the Carnegie Museum and although the actual film is ‘meh’, the music is anything but. Choice Tracks: ‘Childhood’s End‘, ‘Free Four‘.
47. Opal-Happy Nightmare Baby (1987) Before Mazzy Star scored a worldwide smash with ‘Fade Into You’, the guitarist had a band with another girl singer and they released this one dark, fuzzy, bluesy, ‘vampire-ish’, awesome album that no one ever seems to of ever heard of. I bought this CD when it came out and although I wasn’t into the late ’80’s goth scene that much, I totally flipped over this. I will always be in the minority feeling that Hope Sandoval ruined the band when she joined. Choice Tracks: ‘Supernova‘, ‘Magick Power‘.
48. dios (malos)-dios (malos) (2005) I sorta had a mini infatuation with dios malos when I first discovered them. The band from Hawthorne, California (boyhood home of The Beach Boys, no less) released this sophomore album at the time I was discovering indie rock. They actually came to Pittsburgh a couple times and I became really friendly with the band during those visits. I was hoping they would get ‘Death Cab For Cutie big’ but unfortunately aren’t active as they once were. Still love and listen to this album all the time. Choice Tracks: ‘Say Anything‘, ‘Grrrl…‘.
49. The New Pornographers-Challengers (2007) Yeah, The New Pornos probably have better albums, but like many other band’s releases on this list, I just like this one better. My totally late introduction to the band, I ordered the deluxe edition from Matador with all kinds of cool extras. Demos, b-sides and a live show actually enhance the album rather than commonly provide filler. Choice Tracks: ‘Myriad Harbour‘, ‘All the Old Showstoppers‘.
50. My Bloody Valentine-Loveless (1991) Sooo late to this party. The re-issue of this just last year piqued my interest enough to fall for the whole two disc version of the same damn album. Regardless of the apparent charade, I love this album and cannot believe I wasn’t into this music when it first came out. What was I listening to? Oh yeah, hours upon hours of Grateful Dead. What was I thinking? Actually, I predict this particular album will be way much higher on my list come next year. Choice Tracks: ‘Sometimes‘ (remastered from the analog master), ‘Only Shallow‘ (remastered from the digital master).
51. Centro-Matic-Love You Just The Same (2003) The best quote I’ve ever heard about a band was, “Centro-Matic is better than your favorite band”. I tend to agree with bold assumption, especially after discovering this, their eighth of eventually two hundred or so releases from the songwriter Will Johnson? Seriously, this guy is a musical factory. I saw the band on the tail end of this tour and that show still remains a highlight of my concert going experiences. Stay tuned for more of Mr. Johnson on the list. Choice Tracks: ‘Strahan Has Corralled the Freaks‘, ‘Picking Up Too Fast‘.
52. Matt Mays & El Torpedo-Matt Mays + El Torpedo (2005) My love for all things Matt Mays can be found here. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen him and the boys play in awhile but this album still gets plenty of regular spins in my house. Choice Tracks: ‘Stand Down at Sundown‘, ‘Cocaine Cowgirl‘.
53. George Harrison-All Things Must Pass (1970) The first Beatles solo album is a monster. All those tunes Harrison had stockpiled apparently not ‘good enough’ for Lennon & McCartney to consider for inclusion on the band’s later albums (O.K., ‘Thanks for the Pepperoni’ is amongst the throw-aways here) but with an all-star band assembled, this album is still a classic. Choice Tracks: ‘Isn’t It a Pity‘, ‘Wah-Wah‘.
54. Marah-Float Away With the Friday Night Gods (2002) Marah came out blazing in the late ’90’s with a pair of fantastic albums culminating with their iconic alt-country sophomore effort, “Kids in Philly”. They did a 180 degree turn-around music-wise with this, their next album replacing banjo and harmonica with drum machines and heavy effects laden vocals. Many early fans turned their back on the band but I love this record. Springsteen guests on the opening track but truth be told he is barely audible. If you want the ‘pure’ version of the album, pick up the ‘demos’ version released a few years later called “Float Away Deconstructed“. Choice Tracks: ‘Soul‘, ‘Leaving‘.
55. Son Volt-Trace (1995) When you sit outside a sold out concert in the freezing cold with your brother and best friend and Jay asks from the stage for the management to let you in and they don’t, you might be bitter. I luckily saw them a couple more times in their original line-up before it became Jay Farrar and Co. Some of my favorite memories were talking to original (and Uncle Tupelo) drummer Mike Heidorn who was always super nice. Early nineties concert going was the best. Choice Tracks: ‘Tear Stained Eye‘, ‘Drown‘.
56. Rhett Miller-The Instigator (2002) Why does everyone hate this album? I still don’t get it. The ‘alt-country’ prince goes a little pop and his loyal fan base turns on him? This album has been so great for the ten years I have been counting on it! I LOVE the Old 97’s. I LOVE Rhett solo. It’s like choosing between your siblings at this point. Choice Track: ‘Your Nervous Heart’, ‘Terrible Vision‘.
57. Neutral Milk Hotel-In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (1998) As ‘annoying’ as this album seems to be, it’s endearing uniqueness seems to lift it above the run of the mill all-time classic. I don’t listen to it often but I will never forget the first time I heard it, as anyone else who as ever heard it. I have seen Jeff Mangum a couple times now and both were extraordinary examples of how to totally move a room full of people through your music. Not something I see every day. Choice Tracks: “In the Aeroplane Over The Sea‘, ‘Oh Comely‘.
58. Biirdie-Catherine Avenue (2008) How I stumbled upon this band I will never remember but the impact the title track had on me is immeasurable. I bought both their albums from their website on the strength of that tune and I cannot believe how lucky I am to do so. I love this band. Both of their albums are so good and they better make more music soon. I would kiss Biirdie straight on the mouth if I could. Choice Tracks: ‘Catherine Avenue’, ‘LA is Mars‘.
59. Liquor Giants-Every Other Day at a Time (1998) I’ve pimped this long lost obscure band previously but the thing about this particular album is that it never seems to go away. I always find myself reaching for it because of the songs. Amazing lyrics and melodies that I feel no one ever hears. Their loss. Ward Dotson needs to be recognized. Choice Tracks: ‘It’s Raining Butterflies‘, ‘Kentucky Lounge‘.
60. Bob Dylan and The Band-The Basement Tapes (1975) Many times I wax poetic throughout my life that I wish I was seventeen years old in 1969 instead of two. For too many reasons to expound upon here, one of the most amongst them being the release of “Great White Wonder“. Considered the first ‘official’ bootleg in history that eventually became this album is nothing short of synergistic musical genius. Whether you know the background or not, this album is loose, haphazard and influential beyond that’s come before it or since. It’s like describing ‘The White Album’. You can’t really do it. Choice Tracks: ‘Million Dollar Bash‘, ‘Ain’t No More Cane‘.