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.
It’s hard to imagine as I get closer down the countdown that these albums are even rankable. I mean, I could pick any of these particular albums as an all-time favorite. They literally shaped my musical appreciation over the years and cannot fathom the idea of not discovering them. Check out the previous entries for #11-20, #21-40, #41-60, #61-80, #81-100 and the albums that almost made the cut.
6. R.E.M.-Lifes Rich Pageant (1986) It’s difficult to put in words the importance R.E.M. has had in my life. I purposefully limited to one only the number of albums a single band could have on this list because the IRS albums the band put out at the beginning of their career would clog up most of it. Why this album over the others? It was a toss-up between this and “Fables” but I had to include “Pageant” because this tour was the first time I saw them live, and it’s just so damn good. They are justifiably considered one of the best American bands ever for good reason. Spin this to hear why. Choice Tracks: ‘Begin the Begin‘, ‘I Believe‘, ‘These Days‘, ‘The Flowers of Guatemala‘.
7. Earlimart-Treble & Tremble (2003) What can I say about this band that I already haven’t? This is their fourth album and it was weird how I discovered it. I never heard of them and was browsing music videos on demand of all places when I stumbled upon ‘Heaven Adores You‘. I dug the quirky, primitive visuals in the video but then halfway through the song, I instantly fell in love with the band’s sound. This is and always will be my go to record if I want to turn others on to the magnificence of this amazing, under-appreciated band. My biggest regret so far in my concert-going career has been the fact that I have never seen them play live. I just have to rectify that sometime in the future. Choice Tracks: ‘Heaven Adores You‘, ‘First Instant Last Report‘, ‘Unintentional Tape Manipulations‘, ‘The Hidden Track‘.
8. Neko Case-Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006) The remarkable thing about Neko and particularly this, her fourth album, is her amazing vocals. Yeah, the songs are killer, her band is the tightest in the business and all her other albums are great but on this album her voice really shines. I distinctly remembered listening to this after several dozen of times and suddenly being ‘hit’ with just how transcendentally she sings. Being able to see this tour was a gift that I will always cherish as a music fan. Choice Tracks: ‘Star Witness‘, ‘John Saw That That Number‘, ‘Lion’s Jaws‘, ‘Hold On, Hold On‘.
9. Elliott Smith-Figure 8 (2000) The last album released before Smith’s death in 2003, I admittedly came late to his party and although I like his earlier acoustic efforts, I really love this, his fifth album, which has his backing band ‘rocking out’. This tour came to CMU on Halloween in 2000 and too bad he wasn’t on my radar then, I would have LOVED this show. Choice Tracks: ‘Stupidity Tries‘, ‘Son of Sam‘, ‘Can’t Make a Sound‘, ‘Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud‘.
10. The Beach Boys-The SMiLE Sessions (2011) The expectations were very high for this finally being released decades later but not from me. Yeah, I always knew the myth but for some reason, I imagined (wrongly so) that this was left in the vault because it wasn’t up to par and was probably a haphazard, ‘psychedelic mess’. That finished product is anything but. It’s an American original that contains humor,vision and the most incredible harmonies the Boys ever put down. The four extra discs of the sessions are overkill for sure. Stick to the main album and discover why Brian Wilson is deservedly dubbed a genius. Choice Tracks: ‘Heroes and Villains‘, ‘Surf’s Up (Solo Version)‘, ‘Cabin Essence‘, ‘SMiLE Backing Vocals Montage‘.