(Originally posted on Kriofske Mix, 5/16/14)
In 2004, I blogged about and counted down my 100 favorite albums, writing at least 100 words about each one. My intent always was to post an updated list ten years later. Initially, I thought about posting two entries a week over the course of the year. That morphed into plans to do ten posts of ten brief entries each, similar to my top 50 albums of the 90s, 00s, etc; Still, the more I tried ranking 100 albums in order of preference, the less I was convinced that my readers would get much out of it, apart from the thrill (such as it is) of guessing what would come next. So, on a whim, I arranged the albums in chronological order. In the resultant list, a few interesting patterns emerged. I soon realized I could create some sort of narrative about my taste in music by looking at my favorite albums this way.
Thus, here are essays (expect about 1000-2000 words each) on these 100 favorite albums in chronological order. The list begins in 1966; one pre-’66 album made the cut but will appear in non-chronological order for reasons that will be made apparent when it’s posted. As to why the list has no pre-1966 albums (apart from that one exception), the album (or “LP”, aka Long Playing Record) was invented in 1948, but where pop music is concerned, it didn’t really take shape as nothing more than a receptacle for cash-ins (singles + filler) or compilations (Greatest Hits and the like) until the mid-1960s. The band that arguably made the LP into a pop music art form will appear in two early entries on my list.
Jazz, however, is another story. Early on, the format proved more desirable to this genre with its lengthier-than-average compositions. When compiling a list of ten pre-’66 albums I adore (but not enough to make my top 100), seven of them ended up being strictly jazz, one kinda jazz (Louis Prima’s referred to as a “jazz guy” in the film BIG NIGHT, but there’s a lot more going on in his hybrid, genre-crossing ‘50s output), one humor (Tom Lehrer) and, of course, The Beatles:
The Beatles, RUBBER SOUL
John Coltrane, MY FAVORITE THINGS
Miles Davis, KIND OF BLUE
Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto, GETZ/GILBERTO
Ella Fitzgerald, FIRST LADY OF SONG*
Billie Holiday, BILLIE’S BEST*
Tom Lehrer, THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS
Thelonious Monk, MONK’S DREAM
Louis Prima, CAPITOL COLLECTOR’S SERIES*
Frank Sinatra, SONGS FOR SWINGIN’ LOVERS
(*compilations released after 1966 whose music was recorded pre-’66)
This project isn’t meant to be a fifty-year overview of pop music in general, but simply an account of the music I like, and how my taste developed to where it stands today. Expect some callbacks in the narrative, as I obviously did not hear the albums in this particular order (I thought about arranging the list that way, but I think this way will resonate more with readers). As for ranking by preference, perhaps I’ll determine that once I’ve made my way through the entire list again. I can say that 57 of my top 100 as of 2004 were still there in 2014, while 17 of the current list were released in the past decade. That leaves 26 others I didn’t include in 2004—of course, I didn’t hear many of them until within the past decade, but the few I had heard in 2004 have grown on me considerably since then.
We will begin with a 1966 album that likely did not make many all-time-best lists thirty or even twenty years ago, but does so fairly regularly today…
(also note: none of the albums in the photo at the top are in my list. It’s just an image I took for a college project nearly 20 years ago, when I was an avid collector of cheap vinyl.)