A couple months ago we were debating in my house about the best albums of all time. It got me thinking and I sat down and made a list. Why? Because I like lists. It's also a heck of a lot of fun to go through the years. Music is one of those things that can transport us. Just hearing a song or listening to an album can make us 15 years old again. We all live with music.
While trying to make this list just 10 albums, I was struck how many were from the 1990's. It seems I pretty much hit a plateau and fell into a type that I like. It's ok, I am not ashamed of it. I know there are songs released since 2000 that are great as well. But it's harder to crack the "favorites" list, the older I get. I think it's that connection with the past I mentioned earlier that is the main reason for this.
In one way or another these 10 albums have a personal impact on me. Your list would be much different I am sure. It's not about the best, it's about what's important to you. I have a few honorable mentions I will list here to start, then it's on to my top ten with a little bit about each one. Enjoy, scratch your eyes out, listen to music that makes your ears bleed, I don't care. This was fun to write, and even more fun to stroll through time.
Bon Jovi - Slippery When Wet (1986)
Chicago - Greatest Hits 1982-1989 (1989)
Toad The Wet Sprocket - Fear (1991)
Sarah McLachlan - Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (1993)
Hootie And The Blowfish - Cracked Rear View (1994)
Freddy Jones Band - North Ave. Wake Up Call (1995)
Indigo Girls - 1200 Curfews (1995)
John Mayer - Room For Squares (2001)
Mumford And Sons - Sigh No More (2010)
Adele - 21 (2011)
Feel free to add anything in the comments. Part 2 is up. Here's 10 through 6.
10. Tesla - Five Man Acoustical Jam (1990)
There is no huge basis for this here. It beat out the honorable mentions only because of how it makes me feel to jam to this. This is an album you can put on and just let it out. My sister originally had this album, I have no idea why, and I eventually took it over. I love that it opens with the Grateful Dead song "Truckin" and moves seamlessly on to some of their own before covering the Beatles' "We Can Work It Out". The "Signs" smack dab in the middle of the album is not only a great nod to the Five Man Electrical Band, it's the best Tesla sounds on that night. Personally, I love the "Paradise" and "Love Song" that take me back to awkward make out sessions in the basement. I have never owned any other Tesla album, and I never will. But Five Man Acoustical Jam will always be on my playlist.
9. The Samples - Transmissions From The Sea of Tranquility (1997)
I graduated from high school in 1997. One of the biggest influences on my music listening was my buddy Brad. A lot of this list can be derived from music that he and I listened to while growing up. The Samples are a band from Colorado that played the college scene. So having them as one of my favorite secrets as a kid in suburban Chicago was cool. I had listened to No Room, Underwater People, The Last drag, and Autopilot. This was like the best of all of them wrapped in one. "Did You Ever Look So Nice" was the best I had ever heard that song. This album had sort of a spacey flow to it. More like a smoke a joint in the afternoon and drift away than anything else. It's a fun album to get lost in. I still listen to it from time to time.
8. Pink Floyd - The Wall (1979)
This is probably the most famous of all the albums I list here. But it had an impact. When I was a dour 15 year old, this was medicine. Being angry for no reason with a cloud of smoke overhead felt like this record. But it wasn't just the dark and coldness of this, it was a story. What a story as well, yes they made it into a movie, but the images in your head are so much better sometimes. Listening to this album in the dark in an altered state of mind is a must do for any stoner, ever. You ride the emotions throughout. To feeling like you are actually walking on ice in "The Thin Ice", to a man screaming out in pain in "Mother". The first act comes to close after building to a crescendo with "Another Brick In The Wall, Part 3" and fading to black with "Goodbye Cruel World".
The second act starts with us being lost and reaching out to anyone in "Hey You" and continuing until "Comfortably Numb" makes us think hope is lost. But then one final resurgence with "In The Flesh" and "Run Like Hell" before it all comes crashing down and we are exposed forever in "The Trial". By the end you are "Outside The Wall" and perfectly ok with it. The Wall is timeless, a great album for reasons much more than music.
7. Phish - A Live One (1995)
Phish is one of the ultimate jam bands of all time. I didn't really get in to them until 1995. My sister was dating a guy that loved Phish. All I ever heard was that Phish shows were fantastic. Well being a 16 year old kid buying my first Phish album, I didn't know what I was doing. They are fantastic live, there's no doubt about it. I have seen Phish multiple times and have had many better shows on tape or CD. A Live One isn't even one show, it's pulled from a few. But this was my first Phish album. The "Chalkdust Torture" will never sound better, "Gumbo" will never be sweeter, and this will be my favorite "You Enjoy Myself" of all time. That boyfriend of my sister's had a window sticker that said "Won't you step into the freezer?", I never understood until I listened to "Tweezer". Page playing the piano to end "The Squirming Coil" was perfect. I don't think loving Phish will ever go away.
6. Counting Crows - August and Everything After (1993)
This coulda cracked my top 5. This should have cracked the top 5. Why the hell isn't this in the top 5? I don't know. "Round Here" has to be one of the greatest was to ever start an album. Just the slow intro to the band is fantastic. What a great song. This came out when I was just entering high school. It felt like Counting Crows was starting out, I was starting out. The just rainy, gray overtones on so many songs seemed to sum up how it felt to find your own way. "Mr. Jones" is fun but the meat of the record is "Anna Begins", "Time and Time Again", and "Rain King". It's a 3 song arc that shows how versatile they can be. Adam Duritz may sound like he's whining all the time, but he picks it up nicely at the end with "A Murder of One". They have to pick it up because "Raining In Baltimore" rips your heart out just one song earlier. This album will always be in my collection.