There was a feature in Uncut magazine last month, listing the 200 Greatest Albums of All Time. Greatest, Best, Finest, Most Influential; no matter what how you want to define it, a selection like that is more than a bit subjective, isn’t it? Many of the Uncut selections were fairly predictable. Not that the albums themselves were boring —- most are pretty much classics that are guaranteed to please — it’s just that we’re all used to seeing familiar choices such as Pet Sounds, Blonde On Blonde, Astral Weeks, Forever Changes, Ziggy Stardust, Kind of Blue, Tapestry, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, A Love Supreme, Exile On Main Street, What’s Going On, Are You Experienced?, and After the Goldrush on these sorts of lists, so there weren’t many true surprises.
But the Uncut list got me to thinking about my own Top 200. By no means would I dare to label my choices as a “Best” or “Greatest” list, rather these are simply my favorite albums, those proverbial Desert Island Discs that I’ve played endless times over the years and ones that I could never willingly part with. In the realm of list compilers, I suppose I cheated a bit, picking some hits/best of packages, various artist collections, live albums, and even a couple of boxed sets. But hey, they are my favorites, so I won’t apologize.
Like most listeners, my taste in music was heavily influenced by the music that I heard when growing up, mostly songs on the radio. In my case, the “formative” years were in the 1960s when I started listening to the radio and in the early 1970s when I started buying music. But I’ve maintained a very heavy listening and buying habit in the ensuing decades, so you’ll see a smattering of more recent recordings on this list too. What can I say; I’m a music addict!
I own thousands of albums and I agonized over whittling this list down to “only” 200. I’m sure that I’ll kick myself for missing a few, but looking over the choices, I’m pretty satisfied with them. But confining the list to 200 meant leaving off many great albums, including ones by some of my very favorite recording artists, such as the Temptations, Drive-By Truckers, George Jackson, Allen Toussaint, Otis Redding, Sly & the Family Stone, Joni Mitchell, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, the Go-Betweens, Booker T & the MGs, Glen Campbell, Isaac Hayes, Talking Heads, Lou Reed, the Byrds, and so many others.
These albums are not ranked in order of most favorite, just alphabetically by album title. I’m certain that there are more than a few picks that will strike you as odd or perplexing. My choices could be as obscure as the great Tom Foolery album or the fantastic debut recording by Love Tractor, or something as mainstream as Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, or Agents of Fortune by Blue Oyster Cult, but these are the albums that remain the nearest and dearest to my heart.
The first pick on my list is a good example of my loose criteria: the first two albums by Big Star. I had both albums as a 2-LP import record back in the early 1980s, and now I own the 2-CD package, so in my mind these two albums are inseparable, just one complete blissful listening experience that can’t be divided.