I’m actually surprised that I have not yet seen a list of the best “Best Albums of All Time” lists. Virtually every person with a keyboard who is even tangentially related to music has weighed in at some point or another with their countdown of the best albums that ever were. And, in my humble opinion, they’re usually kind of boring.
For the same reasons football coaches punt on fourth down even when statistics tell them they’d be better off going for it, anyone writing about music for a living doesn’t want to risk losing their credibility by daring to name any album not by The Beatles, Dylan, Rolling Stones, or Chaka Khan at the top of their list. The lists become an exercise of expectations over expression. Consequently, they conjure up a lot more “that makes sense” thoughts than “great fuckin’ album” thoughts.
Music is an intensely personal experience for those who value its ability to stir their emotions. If one were to craft a list of the best albums, but those albums didn’t speak to them personally, then what was the point exactly?
I don’t own Pet Sounds or Revolver or Dark Side of the Moon. I’m sure they’re great albums – I just haven’t felt compelled to actually buy them. So how could I honestly and effectively compare them to albums I do own and experience on a frequent basis? I can’t. Not in a meaningful manner, anyway. So I’ve limited my list to albums I actually own. There are a shit ton of great albums I don’t own – and I’m hoping you tell me what they are and why you love them.
For the purposes of my list, I pay special attention to the concept of “album”. I’m viewing the album as a piece of art to be evaluated in its entirety. The number or magnitude of great songs on an album fall secondary to the median quality of the music; in other words, eleven above-average songs will rate above two seminal anthems surrounded by filler.
Further, an album that elicits an overall vibe or message will rate better than one that delivers quality songs, but no detectable personality; for this reason, greatest hits albums aren’t eligible. The absence of some legendary artists like The Beatles from the list are a casualty of this: I own the “Red” and “Blue” double-discs of Beatles hits that were distributed to all college-age males in the 1990’s, but no actual Beatles albums.
With all that said, here’s the list. Of the approximately six hundred albums I own, these forty-five have resonated with me the most in the time that I’ve owned them. They may not have changed the world, but they made me want to listen to them, and that’s all I can ask of an album.