Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Everyone loves lists - my top ten classic rock albums

September 9, 2014

I’m a rock ‘n roll baby. Well, being a product of the sixties and seventies, the nineteen seventies, that is, I guess I’d better say I’m a CLASSIC ROCK ‘n roll baby.

Everyone loves lists. Top five. Top ten. Top fifty. Top one hundred. How far can one spread the joy? When it comes to music, pretty darn far. There’s no escaping lists, so if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Right?

Recently I read someone’s blog with their top fifty album picks. Of their picks, I only had TWO of the works. It got me thinking.

“If you were stuck on a desert island and could only choose ten albums…..”

It turned out to be harder than I thought, but not impossible. Ranking them? That is impossible. Each defines a time in my life, good or bad. So here’s my list, with some brief comments on why each album speaks to me.

Agree or disagree, it doesn’t matter. It’s my list, so get over it.

 Madman Across the Water – Elton John (1971)

If anyone has laid down the soundtrack of my life, it has to be Elton. Every song brings back a memory, but none as sweet and soulful as those invoked by “Tiny Dancer”, the first Elton song I ever heard, and still my favorite of all of Elton's song. Elton’s clear tenor and clean piano set the stage for a love affair that has lasted forty-three years, much longer than my marriages. I still sing along every time this song comes on the radio.

 News of the World – Queen (1977)
 From the arena anthem of “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”, to the gut-wrenching love gone awry of “It’s Late,” News of the World is seamless. With less orchestration than previous albums, this album lays the groundwork for the future of Queen. News of the World sparkles, ice cold at times, as it serves up generous helping of male angst and aggression while showcasing the incredible vocals of Freddie Mercury. I saw Queen in concert after News of the World was released. it remains an incredible piece of work.

 Rumours – Fleetwood Mac (1977)
 One of the top-selling albums of all time, worldwide, Rumours rocks with emotion. Every rocker knows the story of the group at this point (find it on Google if you don’t because I don’t have space here). It’s Stevie Nicks asking “have you any dreams you’d like to sell” that drew me in. Maybe I was out of dreams in 1977. Who knows? I saw FM in concert at the old Capital Centre. We waited all day to get good seats and the wait paid off. Rumours still plays as fresh as when it was released thirty-seven years ago.


All the Right Reasons – Nickelback (2005)
 What is it with this album? Other than Chad Kroger’s ass looks good in tight jeans, that is. And that raspy voice (shades of Rod Stewart). I don’t know and I don’t care what it is about this album. I like it. My pick of the album?  “Next Contestant”, a testosterone-driven ditty with a male-to-male caveman message. I’m sure other drivers wonder why I’m grinning like a fool when it plays but I've witnessed first hand the behavior the song is about. Next Contestant is also my ringtone for an unknown caller. 

Anthology - .38 Special

It’s true. I like Southern Rock, and .38 Special are the good, the bad, and the ugly of the genre. When they miss, they miss. But when they strike, it’s chain lightning. Anthology weeds out most, but not all, of the misses and allows the guitars to fall where they may. 

Back in Black – AC/DC (1980)
The true definition of “edgy” to me. It’s not people my age playing songs from this album on the jukebox at the bowling alley. It’s teenagers. The message doesn’t need to be put into words, although it was. “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution, rock and roll will never die.” Back in Black is the ONLY album I have on vinyl, cassette, CD and yes, my God, I actually had it on 8-track. Thank heavens it didn't cost anything to put it on my iPod and Evo. 

Led Zeppelin II – Led Zeppelin (1970)

My introduction to FM radio came screaming out of the air from the land of the ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow. With front man Robert Plant’s painted on jeans and Jimmy Page’s painted on smirk, they climbed a stairway to heaven to prove Zeppelin truly was the hammer of the gods to rock and roll. What more can be said except, "Get the Led out..."

 In Step – Stevie Ray Vaughan (1989)

Stevie who? I’d no clue when a friend presented me with a ticket to a dual concert. Stevie Ray Vaughan first, followed by Gregg Allman on the I’m No Angel tour. By the end of the SRV set, I could be ranked among his fans. SRV is often imitated but there is only one Stevie Ray. The tradgey of his loss is that he'd finally put his life together and had begun to realize the promise of his talent. Only the good die young. 

Psycho City – Great White (1992)
Great White is a frequently bypassed band. Marred by tragedy and substance abuse, the band is no more, but to me Psycho City stands as its proudest moment. Big guitar riffs, perfectly executed piano bridges, and raspy vocals begging for love while acting the cock of the walk merge for some hard driving rock music.

Born in the USA – Bruce Springsteen (1984)
No. It wasn't his ass that made Bruce a star (but it helped). Springsteen came of age with Born in the USA. He’s not been this good since. Cult artist or rock superstar, Bruce both lifted up and tore down middle-class America with the songs on this album. If you hadn’t lived it, you at least recognized it, and I bet you can still sing along to every song.

And that’s my top ten classic rock albums. I have a few honorable mentions, but since the steamer trunk to that desert island has to hold a lot of sunscreen, I just don’t have room for them tonight. 


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