My Top Ten (and Why I like em so much...)
Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young - Deja Vu (1970)
What do you get when you bring four of the best singer/songwriters together during the apex of rock music? --A perfect album. The textures and diversity of Deja Vu are what appeal to me most. The opening tune engages at the outset with an acoustic guitar riff, soon joined by a distinct and inventive base-line, mellow but punctual organ, and incredible vocal harmonies. The cover of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" is second to none in epitomizing and conjuring the Woodstock-era rock genre. I could say something noteworthy about every cut on this album, but I'll spare you the gory details. Instead, if you are not intimately familiar with this masterpiece, I would encourage you to put it on and endulge.
The Who - Who's Next (1971)
I've heard the The Who's music touted as "Maximum R&B". So it is. And since Who's Next is maximum Who, I guess we've got a clear-cut case of Maximum Rock n' Roll here. I love this album as much today as when I first heard it. All I can suggest is that there was magic in the air during the production of this album. The interplay of lyric, instrument, and vocal on each song paint an emotion -- a picture in sound: "Out here in the fields...", "And if I swallow anything evil...", "Watch the police and the taxman miss me...", "I'd gladly lose me to find you...", "I get a little tired of having to say, 'Do you come here often?'", "Pick up my guitar and play..." I only wish it were a double-album!
Loggins & Messina - Sittin' In (1972)
I'll probably take some guff on this one, but for me, Sittin' In is quintessential Folk Rock. This is also an album of excellent production quality, with it's masterful varieties of texture and great song-writing. Like the opening to CSNY's Deja Vu , this album also begins with an inviting guitar rift, soon accompanied in perfect balance by ripping organ and engaging bass, leading on to wonderfully harmonius chorus on Nobody But You. And also like the CSNY offering, the songs on this album vary in style and texture, offering the listener with a full pallette of melodic enjoyment. If you haven't exposed yourself to this lesser-known treat, and you're a fan of Folk Rock in any of its forms, I cannot recommend this album enough.
- Close to the Edge (1971)
Yes is my favorite band of all time, and Close to the Edge is my favorite Yes album of all time, with my favorite Yes song of all time leading off side two, And You & I . If L&M's Sittin' In is quintessential Folk Rock, than, Close to the Edge is quintessential Progressive Rock. Again, variety of musical forms is the key to this album's greatness, but here I must point out the presence of surpassing talent and musicianship. All 18 minutes and 34 seconds of the title track are pure genius -- no instrumental filler at all here. Talk about painting pictures with music!
Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy (1974)
To me, Zeppelin are The Masters of rock music. No artist before, and I feel confident asserting no artist to come, approaches the depths and power of rock music the way Zeppelin did. For me, while Led Zeppelin II and IV are on par as excellent as Houses of the Holy , I like the latter most probably because of the mix: The Song Remains the Same for its indomitable energy, The Rain Song for its astounding etherealness, D'yer Mak'r for its shameless popiness, Dancing Days for its edgy drone, Over the Hills and Far Away for its inviting folkiness, The Crunge for its capricious funkiness, No Quarter for its haunting moodiness, The Ocean for its tuneful free-ness ... What wonderful stuff this is made of.
The Beatles - Let It Be (1970)
I unfortunately was coming of age just when the Beatles disbanded, and Let It Be was the first Beatles album published when I becamse a
wallet-bearing, AOR-aware pre-teen. Caveat, I do
know and understand that there are better Beatles albums. That said, Let It Be is my favorite. First of all, I love the two McCartney ballads, which, with
possibly Maybe I'm Amazed from his first solo LP, are my favorite McCartney ballads of all time. Lennon's "Across the Universe" might also just be my
favorite Beatles-era Lennon ballad. Granted, the Harrison tracks are on the weak side (all though I Me Mine works fine for me). But the Lennon/McCartney shared
tunes are top-notch: Two of Us, I've Got a Feeling, One after 909, and Get Back. Finally, there is a raw-ness, demo-ish, segue-goofiness that makes me
feel (even though I know better) that the fabs were all right and getting along just fine. It is a warm album I will always just love.
Rush - Signals (1982)
Now I know amongst Rush fans, this is not the album to pick as their greatest. And indeed, I would agree on many levels that Moving Pictures is a better album. But for some reason, I find myself listening to Signals more than any other Rush album. Like Who's Next , this album has a tonal consistency that connects with me, and draws me back again and again. The Analog Kid is easily my favorite tune on here (and possibly my favorite Rush tune ... well OK, next to Red Barchetta), but I always look forward to zoning out onLosing It .
Emerson, Lake, & Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery (1973)
There is a piece of me fighting hard with putting this album 8th in my favorites line-up. This may be my most influential album amongst the top ten, and as the years
roll on, one for which I stand more and more in awe. It opens with a bombastic hymn (yes, a bonafide, though English high-church, hymn), exectued
with incredible conviction. Then follows an adaptation of Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto, 4th Movement, 'Toccata'. As a 13 year old, this tune was the first that
opened my eyes to Keith Emerson's interpretive genius, and also tickled my sci-fi side when the UFO's kick in towards the end of the song. I read once that the
Ginastera himself once commented on ELP's version, saying it was 'diabolical'-- and meaning it as a compliment. The rest is not just filler, but I jump to the three
movements of Karn Evil 9 (you probably know Mvmt 1, Part 2 as "Welcome Back my Friends"). Still to this day these compositions amaze me, and the 2nd Movement aged better than
any other experimental rock in my inventory.
Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
What can I say? I was a fourteen year old kid who just got his hands on an album with cool cover graphics, but whose music I knew nothing about. My aunt took me out to purchase the album, and then to her friend's house with an "outrageous" stereo. He was playing the latest Cat Stevens LP when we arrived, but she coaxed him to play my Floyd. My life has not been the same since...
The Outlaws- The Outlaws (1974)
The Outlaws were a pure, Southern Rock band,"The Guitar Army", and the best in their genre. This, their debut album, opens with the perfectly poppy There Goes Another Love Song, and ends with the epic guitar anthem, Green Grass and High Tides . Excellent, raw electric guitar work coupled with tremendous song constructs makes this album worth the while for every lover of Southern Rock, and then some.