1) Kingston Trio -- Tom Dooley (1958). When I was a child, I
swear this is the album that turned me on to music. I can remember
listening to a scratchy vinyl copy and singing along...all when
I was 6 or 7 years old. As I got older, I looked and looked
until I found a copy of this.
2) Tom Lehrer -- An Evening Wasted (1959). It's funny, it's still hip and sardonic. Nothing like dark sing alongs with lots of humor. And there will never be a better "dance" song than The Masochism Tango.
3) Johnny Cash -- At Folsom Prison (1968). Live.
Honest. Angry. More music I grew up on, and which explains the
country/rock/alt.country stuff i have a fondness for today.
4) The Clash -- The Clash (1977). I know everyone else loves
London Calling, but this is my favorite album by them. You have White Man In Hammersmith Palias -- which doesn't sound at all dated even today. And you have the sheer disaffection of Career Opportunities. Strong
and very powerful.
5) Elvis Costello -- My Aim Is True (1977). Probably the best
opening sequence I've ever heard -- more political disaffection and failed relationships. I first really got into this album as I grew confused in a relationship on my own. Somehow Elvis helped me make sense of it all.
6) Social Distortion -- Mainliner (1981). The album is actually
a compilation of all the early 7" singles. Some of the best mid-term West Coast Punk -- they're angry and loud and they rock. And they do the best cover of Under My Thumb. The first time I heard Social D I stopped in my tracks and said, "why am
I listening to all this new wave crap?"
7) X -- More Fun in the New World (1983). What happened when X grew up -- probably my second favorite album of all time. This is a singalong rock extravaganza -- howling vocals that are somehow more melodic that the older X material. If you ever hear me actually play this album, you might ought to move away.
8) Billy Bragg -- Back To Basics (1984). I heard the song A
New England in 1985 and it changed my life. Period. No more
listening to U2, and thinking of peace, love, and okra. Instead,
this kicks off my socialist period -- the time in my life where
i wanted justice.
9) REM -- Fables of the Reconstruction (1985). When I was 12 years old, i loved hair metal. When i started high school, i loved Madonna and Michael Jackson. In my 3rd week of high school, this kid i sat next to in geometry played REM for me, and my musical tastes took a radical turn.
10) The Jesus and Mary Chain -- Darklands (1987). The ultimate
dark pop album. It's got feedback and fuzz and you can still dance to it. The first time I heard this album, i remember hearing the echos of the title song and just aching cause it was so beautiful.
11) The Replacements -- Pleased To Meet Me (1987). Most people
like Tim, but this is my favorite. Why? It's got the hooks and it's
well structured. And it has Skyway -- the song to which I once fell in love.
12) Scruffy the Cat -- Tiny Days (1987). One of the first real
root rocks/alt.country bands -- this album has more twang per square inch than anything this side of Hank Williams. This band is the first real concert i ever went to -- at the Metroplex in 1987.
13) The Pogues -- If I Should Fall From Grace With God
(1988). The first band to ever really sing to me. County Irish
Punk lead by a man who can't carry a tune but writes some of
the best songs I've ever heard. This is the first album where
they recorded the instruments separately. Shane's songwriting
kicks butt and the band is at their best. This is probably my
favorite album of all time, and has been since 1988.
14) The Jody Grind -- One Man's Trash (1990). Bluesy covers of
old standards and a few originals. A Lounge classic that showcases Kelly Hogan's voice. A completely forgotten masterpiece.
15) Lou Reed and John Cale -- Songs For Drella (1990). The high
points of Reed's New York are higher, without a doubt. But as a story of his life and his losses, Songs for Drella is a gorgeous, lush album. In many ways, this is the last Velvet Underground recording.
16) Black 47 -- Fire Of Freedom (1992). I started graduate school in 1992. I was sitting in a dark apartment in Madison WI, and I hated my life. One day i turned on the radio and heard this brutal Irish voice yell, "My name is James Connolly; I didn't come hear to die." I suddenly felt 16 again.
17) Sugar -- Copper Blue (1992). My favorite guitar pop album
of all time. Period.
18) Soul Coughing -- Ruby Vroom (1994). Bringing the syncopated beat to a white indie rock audience. Each song is incredibly clever and literate...and somehow still edgy. Plus M. Doughty has the most honest attitudes about his fanbase and how they act towards him.
19) Versus -- Stars Are Insane (1994). It's lo-fi! You want to sing
along with it. It's got the most songs about break ups this side of Superchunk, but instead of being angry about the failed relationships, Versus is more....resigned.
20) Weezer -- Weezer (1994). It's fashionable to hate this band --
they did nothing original. They aren't particularly clever or cool. But My God, you can't help but sing along to it and grin like an idiot.
21) Archers of Loaf -- Vee Vee (1995). When i first heard this album, i wasn't as impressed as I was with their earlier stuff. The music sounds the same, and the songs cover the same topics. So what. It's an album that grows on you with repeated listening.
22) Superchunk -- Here's Where The Strings Come In (1995). the best Superchunk album (Foolish is a close second). Mac's still upset about the breakup, only this time he's angry. At the time this came out, my primary relationship was shattering into bits....and Superchunk came to my rescue.
23) Kansas City Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1996). Live recording of 1930s jazz by modern jazz masters, as done for the Robert Altman film. I love 30s jazz....and this recording is better technically than anything produced at the time.
24) The Rock*a*Teens -- Cry (1997). See my entry for The Pogues.
Replace Irish with Southern and Shane MacGowan with Chris Lopez. Sheer brilliance packaged in reverb and 6/8 time.
25) Pain -- Wonderful Beef (1998). Ska punk pop -- highly literate and funny and touching the life of an overeducated music geek. It's no wonder i love this album.