Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Rock Canon.

After compiling my article about (& recommendations for) The Grammy Hall Of Fame, I thought back to compiling rock lists, in a similar way I had for The 501 Greatest Albums Of All-Time list I compiled about a year ago.

But whereas my 501 list was a ranked list, I began to wonder what would happen if I included unranked lists as well, such as the rock entries in The Grammy Hall Of Fame. I wondered what kind of rock canon these albums might form, if I surveyed a fair number of lists to try to make a Top 100 collection.

I ended up creating an inventory from these 10 album lists:

% = Grammy Hall Of Fame (Material Must Be At Least 25 Years Old)
| = Acclaimed Music, 1-200 (Current)
^ = Digital Dream Door, 1-200 (Current)
$ = Bill Shapiro: A Good Guide To CDs (1991)

As I did so, I set a few guidelines:
  • Only rock would be included. Otherwise, albums like Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue, John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, & Frank Sinatra's In The Wee Small Hours would have made this list--all excellent albums, but outside of the scope of the rock canon, which is what I was trying to define.
  • No more than 200 entries to a list would be included. Thus, in a list like Rolling Stone list of 500 (or Acclaimed Music's list of 3000), only the top 200 were used. This was ultimately about content, not ranking.
  • I didn't pool greatest hits albums. I was tempted to at first (as I suspect Rolling Stone must have done in their original 500 list, but I digress), I decided against it. Thus, where Elvis's original Sun Sessions LP appears on the list the below, it corresponds to that exact original LP, not the ones that have since usurped it.
After compiling all 10 lists, I had over 500 individual rock albums. I realized that the number of albums that appeared 5 or more times on the lists was 97, putting me within reaching point of my target canon number of 100.

With over a dozen of worthy albums making 4 lists--including Here's Little Richard, Meet The Beatles!, Janis Joplin's Pearl, The Harder They Come Soundtrack, Neil Young's Harvest, Bob Marley's Catch A Fire, Run-D.M.C.'s Raising Hell, Madonna's Like A Prayer, Phil Spector's Back To Mono boxed set, & The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (each of which are stone-cold classics in my book)--I decided to go a different route to fill in the final 3 spots in an effort to keep things canonical.

Consulting Rolling Stone's original 2004 list of The Immortals: The 100 Greatest Artists Of All-Time, I chose the 3 highest entries who each did not have an album to make 5 lists or more. They were: Little Richard (#8), Buddy Holly (#13), & Sam Cooke (#16). I chose the album for each that had made the most number of lists. This way I could give a jump to a few major legends whose signature work fell out of the scope of the classic album-making era.

With the 100 albums selected, I could take a step back & look at what had come together.

7 albums appeared on all 10 lists. They were:
  • The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds
  • The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • The Beatles ["The White Album"]
  • Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited
  • Paul Simon: Graceland
  • Bruce Springsteen: Born To Run
  • U2: The Joshua Tree 
& of these albums, no Revolver, no Blonde On Blonde, & NOTHING by The Rolling Stones! Yet Graceland makes the cut...

So I checked out the 15 albums that appeared on 9 out of 10 lists. They were:
  • The Beatles: Rubber Soul
  • The Beatles: Abbey Road
  • Bob Dylan: Blonde On Blonde
  • Bob Dylan: Blood On The Tracks
  • Marvin Gaye: What's Going On
  • Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced
  • Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland
  • Pink Floyd: The Dark Side Of The Moon
  • Prince: Purple Rain
  • The Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet
  • The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers
  • The Rolling Stones: Exile On Main St.
  • The Sex Pistols: Never Mind The Bollocks
  • The Velvet Underground & Nico
  • The Who: Who's Next
Compiled with the 7 above, you start to get a more classic sense of the canon. Yet still no Revolver! Also oddly M.I.A.: The Clash's London Calling, The Stones' Let It Bleed, & Nirvana's Nevermind.

Another 20 or so albums appeared on 8 charts, which seemed worthy enough to denote. Thus, all items that appear on 8 or more charts are bolded in the list below. (& the 3 "Immortals" who have less than 5 album hits are italicized.) Even this yielded some surprises, as Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True made this cut, while nothing by The Band, Bob Marley, or Sly & The Family Stone did.

Regardless, the list did ultimately confirm some of my long-held beliefs: Aretha Franklin's I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You trumps her often-slightly-more-celebrated Lady Soul, David Bowie's Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust trumps his currently-hipper Hunky Dory, & Disraeli Gears is the best album Cream ever put together.

But this list is also a testament to those who had several near-great albums, or a lack of critical consensus as has formed around the likes of The Byrds' Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True or Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water. I am thinking specifically of bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival, who had several albums appear on several lists, but none of which pulled ahead enough to make the final 100. (Cosmo's Factory came the closest, with 3 hits.) It's almost as though M.I.A. artists like Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, & The Kinks have been punished for making consistently good albums.

But I digress.

You came here for the list, so here it is.

1. AC/DC: Back In Black *+@%|^&
2. The Allman Brothers Band: At Fillmore East *#+%|^&!
3. The Band: Music From Big Pink *%^&$!
4. The Band *#@%|^&
5. The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds *#+@%|^&$!
6. The Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique *#+@|^
7. The Beatles: Rubber Soul *#+@%|^&$
8. The Beatles: Revolver *+@%|^&!
9. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band *#+@%|^&$!
10. The Beatles ["The White Album"] *#+@%|^&$!
11. The Beatles: Abbey Road *#+@%|^&$
12. Chuck Berry: The Great Twenty-Eight *#@$!
13. Black Sabbath: Paranoid *#@|^
14. David Bowie: Hunky Dory *#+@|&
15. David Bowie: The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust *+@%^|&!
16. James Brown: Live At The Apollo *@%|^&$
17. The Byrds: Sweetheart Of The Rodeo *%|^$
18. Ray Charles: Modern Sounds In Country & Western *#+@%^$
19. The Clash *#|^$!
20. The Clash: London Calling *#+@%|^&
21. Sam Cooke: Portrait Of A Legend *@
22. Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True *#+%|^$!
23. Cream: Disraeli Gears *+%|^
24. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Deja Vu*#+%|^!
25. Derek & The Dominoes: Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs *#+%|^!
26. The Doors *#+%|^&!
27. Dr. Dre: The Chronic *#@|^
28. Bob Dylan: Bringing It All Back Home *#+%|^&$
29. Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited *#+@%|^&$!
30. Bob Dylan: Blonde On Blonde *#+@%|^&$
31. Bob Dylan: Blood On The Tracks *#+%|^&$!
32. The Eagles: Hotel California *#+@%|^
33. Fleetwood Mac: Rumours *#+@%|^&
34. Aretha Franklin: I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You *#+@%|^&
35. Aretha Franklin: Lady Soul *#+@|^&
36. Marvin Gaye: What's Going On *#+@%|^&$
37. Guns N' Roses: Appetite For Destruction *#+|^&
38. Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced *#+@%|^&$
39. Jimi Hendrix: Axis: As Bold As Love *#+%|^&
40. Jimi Hendrix: Electric Ladyland *#+@%|^&$
41. Buddy Holly: 20 Golden Greats *#
42. Michael Jackson: Off The Wall *#+%|^&
43. Michael Jackson: Thriller *#+@%|^&
44. Jefferson Airplane: Surrealistic Pillow *#%|^!
45. Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road *@%|^&!
46.Carole King: Tapestry *#+@%|^&
47. Led Zeppelin [I] *+%|^&!
48. Led Zeppelin II *#+|^&
49. Led Zeppelin [IV] *#@%|^&!
50. Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti *+|^&
51. John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band *#@|^&$!
52. Little Richard: Here's Little Richard! *@%^
53. Love: Forever Changes *%|^&
54. Bob Marley: Exodus *+%|^&
55. Curtis Mayfield: Super Fly *+%|^&
56. Joni Mitchell: Blue *#+@%|^&
57. Joni Mitchell: Court & Spark *%|^$!
58. Van Morrison: Astral Weeks *#+@%|^&
59. Van Morrison: Moondance *#+@%|^&
60. Nirvana: Nevermind *#+@|^&! 
61. N.W.A.: Straight Outta Compton *#+@|^
62. Pearl Jam: Ten #+|^&
63. Pink Floyd: The Dark Side Of The Moon *#+%|^&$!
64. Pink Floyd: The Wall *%|^&
65. Elvis Presley: The Sun Sessions *+&$!
66. Elvis Presley *|^&$!
67. Prince: 1999 *+%|^&$
68. Prince: Purple Rain *#+@%|^&$
69. Prince: Sign 'O' The Times *#+@|^&
70. Public Enemy: It Takes A Nation Of Millions *#+@|^&
71. Radiohead: OK Computer *+@|^&!
72. The Ramones *#+@%|^&
73. Otis Redding: Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul *+@|^&
74. R.E.M.: Murmur *#+|^
75. The Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet *#+%|^&$!
76. The Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed *#+%|^&!
77. The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers *#+@%|^&!
78. The Rolling Stones: Exile On Main Street *#+@%|^&$
79. The Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack *#+%|^&
80. The Sex Pistols: Never Mind The Bollocks *#+@%|^&$
81. Paul Simon: Graceland *#+@%|^&$!
82. Simon & Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water *+@|^&
83. Sly & The Family Stone: Stand! *+@%|^&
84. Sly & The Family Stone: There's A Riot Goin' On! *#%|^$
85. Patti Smith: Horses *#+@|^&
86. Dusty Springfield: Dusty In Memphis *#+%|
87. Bruce Springsteen: Born To Run *#+@%|^&$!
88. Bruce Springsteen: Born In The U.S.A. *#%|^&$
89. The Stone Roses #@|^&
90. Talking Heads: Remain In Light *#+|^$
91. James Taylor: Sweet Baby James *#+%^
92. U2: The Joshua Tree *#+@%|^&$!
93. U2: Achtung Baby *#+@|^&
94. The Velvet Underground & Nico *#+@%|^&$
95. The Who: Tommy *#+%|^&!
96. The Who: Who's Next *#+@%|^&$
97. Stevie Wonder: Talking Book *#@%|^!
98. Stevie Wonder: Innervisions *#+%|^&$
99. Steve Wonder: Songs In The Key Of Life *+@%|^&
100. Neil Young: After The Gold Rush *#@|^&

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