Are these the greatest albums ever?
Music. It has the power to uplift you, to turn your mood around. It can enlighten, enthrall, enrapture you. For more years than I care to relate, I have loved music. I have collected albums (to you youngsters, that is what we called CD's before there were CD's), 45's (again, single records with one song on one side and another on the other side), cassettes, 8 tracks, and finally CD's over the years. I will attempt to relay what I consider to be the greatest albums from my experiences. My taste is rather broad, but what I buy is actually rather limited, so don't be offended if I do not list one or more of your favorites; it just may be I haven't tasted your favorite artist's works.
I will say that I will not include compilations, greatest hits, or movie soundtracks. I feel that if I am going to call this greatest albums, it needs to be what we the consumer could purchase that is just a regular, work to put it out right the first time album.
Carole King "Tapestry"
If ever a musical work of art was deserving of the title tapestry, this is it. It is a masterful weaving of lyrics and music together, creating something that will last through the ages and be appreciated by far more than just a few old fogeys like myself. To begin with, it has sold some 25,000,000 copies worldwide. It garnered 4 Grammies, and was ranked as the number 36 album on Rolling Stones greatest album listing. Number one hits from it included I Feel The Earth Move; You've Got A Friend (by James Taylor); and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (The Shirelles). Another hit was Natural Woman recorded by Aretha Franklin; it topped out at number 8.
It took over 40 years for this album to be eclipsed as the album spending the most time at number one by a female artist; that was Adele's monster 21, and Tapestry still holds the record for most consecutive weeks at number 1 by a female artist. And staying power? How about more than 300 weeks on the Billboard 200 between 1971 and 2011. That ranks second all time for a solo musical act. If you haven't listened to Carole's music before, you owe it to yourself to give a listen.
Fleetwood Mac "Rumours"
I fell in love with Fleetwood Mac my junior year of high school with their self titled album Fleetwood Mac. The songs on it were an awakening to me, from Rhiannon to Over My Head to Say You Love Me to Landslide to World Turning to I'm So Afraid just absolutely blew my mind. Harmonies and acoustic guitars and phenomenal electric guitars and powerful drums were so unlike anything I had ever heard before. Then came Rumours.
Go Your Own Way, written by Lyndsey Buckingham, about Stevie Nicks; You Make Loving Fun written by Christine McVie about her then lover; The Chain, perhaps written by all about how they needed one another. Songbird, one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard; Gold Dust Woman by Stevie; and of course former President Clinton's favorite, Don't Stop. Silver Springs, a song written by Stevie, was destined to be left off the original album, but was included as a flip side to Go Your Own Way, and later included on the album.
Top to bottom, there is not a weak song on this album. Every song is worthy, every song can stand on its own as a well written and performed work of art. And with sales exceeding 40,000,000 world wide, it stands as Fleetwood Mac's most successful release of all time.
The Eagles "Desperado"
Far more of you will be familiar with The Eagles by their Greatest Hits 1971 - 1975 than are familiar with Desperado, but I guarantee you know the title song. And the amazing thing is this song was never released as a single! Whether it is The Eagles singing it, or Linda Ronstadt or Clint Black or The Carpenters or Neil Diamond or Johnny Cash, this song is a powerful and beautiful as any ever written. There is a timelessness to it that still can be enjoyed today. On a side note, this was played at Pat Tillman's memorial service, as it was said to be his favorite song.
Another song on this album is Tequila Sunrise, a bittersweet song about life. Outlaw Man is a more up tempo song, showing the group's ability early on to change format and style to adapt to whatever the listening audience wanted. Doolin-Dalton is a good song, as it Bitter Creek. While these may not be well remembered songs to a large portion of the world, this was my introduction to a band that I still love today, and opened the door for them to the Hotel California album which was another masterpiece. Over the years I have owned this on vinyl, 8 track, cassette, and CD.
Stevie Wonder "Songs In The Key Of Life"
What a wonderful title! And the songs contained on this album were from everyday life, such as I Wish, which is one of my favorite songs of all time. It is such a happy look back at times we wish we could go back to. The line where he spends his money meant for Church on candy instead puts me right there at 8 or 10 years old, I can tell you. And the great Sir Duke, with its look back at those who went before such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington. And the always popular Isn't She Lovely, written about Stevie's own daughter. How many of us have thought the same thing, thought about the song's words regarding our daughter or girlfriend or wife?
Success? How about #56 on Rolling Stones Greatest Album chart? Or debuting at Number 1 on the Billboard charts? Or 13 weeks at number 1? Or 35 weeks in the top ten? Not too shabby, eh?
Craig Morgan "Little Bit Of Life"
The first time I heard the song International Harvester I WAS behind an International Harvester on Highway 43 in southwest Missouri, and the irony of it was not lost on me. The song is so catchy, so fun, and so true you cannot help but love it and sing along. Then there's Little Bit Of Life, Tough, I Am, and I Guess You Had To Be There. I will tell you, it is hard to pass up any song on here to get to the next one! They all, every one, hit you somewhere, from your heart to your funny bone.
Tough is one of those hit you in the heart songs about is wife having cancer. He had always thought himself tough until he saw how she handled this disease. I Am is another stand up and be proud of who you are songs you will sing out loud while driving down the road. The Ballad of Mr. Jenkins will tug at your heartstrings and bring a tear to your eyes.
The title song Little Bit Of Life is a celebration of life itself, and one we all should keep in our mind, folks. It tells of what is important to the singer, and we should all be so blessed. Morgan sings of life as it is in the better parts of the country, and I wish I lived wherever he is.
Bee Gees "Main Course"
The Brothers Gibb (Bee Gee's) would become the mainstays of the disco era when a little movie called Saturday Night Fever would be released in a year or two, but this album shows you just what kind of potential they had. Nights On Broadway, Jive Talkin', Fanny Be Tender and Come On Over are amazing songs. I flat wore this 8 track out. And then I traded it to my girlfriend's little brother for an electric guitar! I went and bought another one the next day.
Jive Talkin introduced the world to what would become a worldwide phenomenon regarding their falsetto voices, a drastic change form their previous albums. Nights On Broadway is another great song you never get tired of hearing; at least I don't. The album stayed on Billboard's Top 200 list for 74 weeks, peaking at number 14. While other albums may have more sales, or rose higher on the charts, Main Course introduced the world to the Bee Gee's, and many found them after Saturday Night Fever came out, going back to see what they had missed the first time around.
Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin II"
I guess I had better list this one; I played it nonstop for years in my cars it seemed. Even today, the tandem of Heartbreaker and Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman) played back to back on local radio stations forces my hand towards the volume and twists it clockwise as far as it will go. This album is what heavy metal is supposed to be like. Hard, fast, rock, yet still able to understand the words while enjoying the music. It pays homage to J.R.R. Tolkien and Gollum long before The Lord of the Rings was a monumental movie extravaganza, and features some of the most influential lead guitar riffs ever recorded.
And this group never had a single solitary chart topping song. Imagine that. Whole Lotta Love did peak at number 4 though.
Back in the day, to find this group you had to know someone who knew someone who knew someone kind of thing. Because they weren't played on the radio that much, you had to hear their music from someone else who had found them, then you played it and introduced them to others. When you consider this, it is simply amazing to think they have sold nearly 300,000,000 albums worldwide over the years. And in another side note, although not on this album, Stairway to Heaven is another song that was never released as a single but everybody knows it and it remains one of the most requested songs on rock radio.
Another fun thing regarding this album happened to me when I was a junior in high school. I was playing for the local Boy's Club on a traveling basketball team. I was the only white starter, and I drove my 1967 Mustang to a tournament about an hour away one day. There were three African American kids traveling with me that day, and I forced them to listen to Led Zeppelin II the whole way there. I had a Craig Powerplay 8 track with quad speakers, and the way the sounds traveled from one to another, round and around that car blew their minds. They didn't know what was happening to them! They got revenge on the way home though. They borrowed a Barry White 8 track and made me listen to it the ride home. That was my first, my last, my everything Barry White experience.
I think that's enough for now, don't you? There are so very many more that are worthy, but I will stop here for the time being. Who knows, I might make a part 2 to this listing at some point in the future. In the meantime, look these up online and give a listen if you have never heard of them before, or go anyway to revisit if you are familiar with them. Dust off that old record player, slide in that CD, or if you are really lucky, throw an 8 track into your Craig Quadraphonic player and crank up the speakers to let those kids today know what power in sound really is!