Sunday, 13 January 2013

What, no Urban Hymns by The Verve?

I have scientifically determined the 57 greatest albums of all time. There's no need to thank me. I love "all-time top" lists, not least because they feature lists of things which is all I really care about. But when they are about things I enjoy anyway it's an even bigger thrill.

However, all-time top 100 album lists are fraught with problems. If they are voted for by critics, they can often be populated with a high proportion of things that are generally considered "worthy": in other words, albums that we OUGHT to be listening to. Conversely, lists voted for by the general public are likely to be swayed by outright popularity, fads and fashions: these lists can sometimes just be alternatively titled charts of the all-time best sellers. The time and place that a list is made is also a significant factor. A list made by an American audience is likely to feature a lot of releases by acts that no-one in Europe has or ever will have heard of and vice versa. Also, any popular new releases will - due to novelty alone -be propelled to an artificially high position and will often bring a number of albums from an act's back catalogue along with it.


I tried to get around these problems and I'm happy with the list that has resulted. Of course, there are still always going to be difficulties. Births, marriages and, particularly, deaths will always be a significant factor in the popularity of albums but these are a lot harder to eliminate from the equation. Who knows how many voters may have been swayed against including a Michael Jackson LP in their ballot on one day - citing some of his alleged "practices" and "lifestyle choices", only to have tearfully and gratefully put five in on the day after he died. Also, performers who were active before the album as a widely-accepted self-contained artform came into being are pretty unfairly discriminated against. Rest assured that any one of the albums in the eventual list could never have existed without the work of artists like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters or Buddy Holly.

Anyway, here's how it works. I took a critic-voted list from an American perspective, the 2005 Rolling Stone magazine 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and a public-voted list from a European perspective, the Virgin 1000 Greatest Albums of All Time list from 2000. I picked these two because they went beyond a top one hundred. This was important, because then I wanted to make some exclusions. Firstly, I ruthlessly expunged all greatest hits collections from each list's top 100: Rolling Stone was worse for this than Virgin, although the latter was maddeningly inconsistent in which greatest hits compilations it would and would not allow in its chart. Rolling Stone's list, however, lost far fewer titles once I applied the second exclusion criteria: records that were released within five years of that list's publication.

Once I had my two top 100 lists, I then eliminated all the titles that appeared on one but not the other, until I reached an accord between the two. The resulting list contains 57 albums which, science itself would suggest are very good indeed and should probably be residing somewhere within your crevices. OK? Right, here they are then. Prick up yer ears.

(In alphabetical order)

A LOVE SUPREME John Coltrane
ABBEY ROAD The Beatles
ACHTUNG BABY U2
AFTER THE GOLDRUSH Neil Young
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED The Jimi Hendrix Experience
ASTRAL WEEKS Van Morrison
BACK IN BLACK AC/DC
BLONDE ON BLONDE Bob Dylan
BLOOD ON THE TRACKS Bob Dylan
BLUE Joni Mitchell
BORN TO RUN Bruce Springsteen
BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER Simon and Garfunkel
COURT AND SPARK Joni Mitchell
DARK SIDE OF THE MOON Pink Floyd
ELECTRIC LADYLAND The Jimi Hendrix Experience
EXILE ON MAIN STREET The Rolling Stones
FOREVER CHANGES Love
GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD Elton John
GRACELAND Paul Simon
HARVEST Neil Young
HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED Bob Dylan
HOTEL CALIFORNIA The Eagles
HUNKY DORY David Bowie
IT TAKES A NATION OF MILLIONS TO HOLD US BACK Public Enemy
KIND OF BLUE Miles Davis
LED ZEPPELIN II Led Zeppelin
LED ZEPPELIN IV Led Zeppelin
LED ZEPPELIN Led Zeppelin
LET IT BLEED The Rolling Stones
LONDON CALLING The Clash
MOONDANCE Van Morrison
NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS HERE'S THE SEX PISTOLS The Sex Pistols
NEVERMIND Nirvana
OTIS BLUE Otis Redding
PET SOUNDS The Beach Boys
PHYSICAL GRAFFITI Led Zeppelin
PURPLE RAIN Prince and The Revolution
REVOLVER The Beatles
RUBBER SOUL The Beatles
RUMOURS Fleetwood Mac
SERGEANT PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND The Beatles
SIGN O THE TIMES Prince
SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE Stevie Wonder
STICKY FINGERS The Rolling Stones
TAPESTRY Carole King
THE BAND The Band
THE BEATLES The Beatles
THE DOORS The Doors
THE JOSHUA TREE U2
THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS David Bowie
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO The Velvet Underground and Nico
THE WALL Pink Floyd
THRILLER Michael Jackson
TOMMY The Who
TROUT MASK REPLICA Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band
WHAT'S GOING ON Marvin Gaye
WHO'S NEXT The Who

And here's 43 more to make it up to a round hundred, why not? I chose these, so all complaints to the usual address. Any complaints about the first 57 should probably be sent to the Royal Society, however.

ARETHA NOW Aretha Franklin
AT FOLSOM PRISON Johnny Cash
AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE R.E.M.
BEGGAR'S BANQUET The Rolling Stones
BITCHES BREW Miles Davis
BLUE LINES Massive Attack
BLUR Blur
BOOTLEG SERIES VOL. 4: LIVE 1966, THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL CONCERT Bob Dylan
CLOSER Joy Division
DON'T STAND ME DOWN Dexys Midnight Runners
DUMMY Portishead
DUSTY IN MEMPHIS Dusty Springfield
ELVIS PRESLEY Elvis Presley
HARD DAY'S NIGHT The Beatles
HISTOIRE DE MELODY NELSON Serge Gainsbourg
HOT BUTTERED SOUL Isaac Hayes
HOT RATS Frank Zappa
KING OF THE DELTA BLUES Robert Johnson
LOADED The Velvet Underground
LOW David Bowie
MOON SAFARI Air
MUSIC FROM BIG PINK The Band
NEW BOOTS AND PANTIES Ian Dury and The Blockheads
OK COMPUTER Radiohead
PARKLIFE Blur
PINK MOON Nick Drake
RAW POWER Iggy and The Stooges
ROXY MUSIC Roxy Music
SAFE AS MILK Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band
SCREAMADELICA Primal Scream
SEARCHING FOR THE YOUNG SOUL REBELS Dexys Midnight Runners
THE BASEMENT TAPES Bob Dylan and The Band
THE BENDS Radiohead
THE CLASH The Clash
THE MODERN LOVERS The Modern Lovers
THE QUEEN IS DEAD The Smiths
THE SMITHS The Smiths
THIS YEAR'S MODEL Elvis Costello and The Attractions
TIME OUT OF MIND Bob Dylan
TOO-RYE-AY Dexys Midnight Runners
TRANS-EUROPE EXPRESS Kraftwerk
UNKNOWN PLEASURES Joy Division
WITH THE BEATLES The Beatles

There's no need to thank me, there really isn't. This is a free service.

By the way, this post and absurd project were both inspired by my friend Bloop's new project, listening to the NME's list of the 100 best albums of all time from 1993. It's a lot more in-depth, intelligent and considered than this old toot, and you should definitely give it a read.

1 comment:

Chopper said...

That is a very fine list indeed. I admire your pursuit of science, just a shame there's no Pixies on there.

Thanks for the nod towards Bloopington's blog too, that looks like an excellent project.

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