Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Twenty Other Records I Love Almost as Much as Led Zeppelin II

I wanted to go outside 1,001 - or even 100 - of the usual essentials for that this post. There are certainly plenty of records populating the usual lists that I agree are indispensable. That said, there are also dozens rarely listed anywhere, even in genre sub-rankings, that I simply could never be without. My only criteria for this list, aside from general unlistedness elsewhere, is that the albums must be at least two years old in order to ensure it isn't just infatuation. Here they are, twenty records I will never part with, ranked only alphabetically by artist:

  1. Powerage - AC/DC - 1978 Certainly not entirely unappreciated, this Bon Scott classic is all raw and dirty and rocking without any gigantic hits to its name. It's all good but one track in particular, "Kicked in the Teeth," renders it absolutely essential.
  2. Tales from the Thousand Lakes - Amorphis - 1994 Progressive death metal with Scandinavian folk roots, this early release has never been matched again by its prolific creators nor anyone else in the genre.
  3. Heaven Forbid - Blue Öyster Cult - 1998 Ten years after the brilliant Imaginos, BÖC presented an elegantly evil follow-up with the eerie "Harvest Moon" and darkly rocking "See You in Black" and "Damaged." Just because it's not black and white doesn't mean you should pass it up.
  4. Dragontown - Alice Cooper - 2001 Before he went back to his club roots or revisited his campier side, Alice was busy following up the serious hard rock of The Last Temptation and Brutal Planet and has yet to match this one for pure heaviness.
  5. Circle of Snakes - Danzig - 2004 Grind, grind, grind, fucking grind.
  6. High 'n' Dry - Def Leppard - 1981 Not just the best record Def Leppard ever produced, probably one of my Top Ten favorite records of all time. Never since have they been able to balance their metal beginnings with their pop hooks so brilliantly.
  7. Pictures from Life's Other Side - Johnny Dowd - 1999 The lyrical genius of Johnny's debut, Wrong Side of Memphis, met its match with his full band treatment and introduced an essential element to his signature sound with more involvement from the ethereal Kim Sherwood-Caso.
  8. Clandestine - Entombed - 1991 It figures that an all-out death classic from a band I revere would actually be the one to leave out frontman Lars G. Petrov. All vocals here were from Nicke Andersson - and they're just fine. It's death and grind and roll from a young and hungry band and it sounds so damn good.
  9. Morph the Cat - Donald Fagen - 2006 Fagen finds a dark groove in his third solo record and riffs on mortality in a great bookending counterpoint to his genius debut, The Nightfly.
  10. Sin After Sin - Judas Priest - 1977 Prior to any of the huge, huge hits we got a searing set with "Sinner," the definitive "Diamonds and Rust" and my personal Priest favorite, "Starbreaker." Add in "Dissident Aggressor," later covered by Slayer, and you have an utterly fantastic record.
  11. Famous Monsters - Misfits - 1999 Danzig-era will always be tops but with this, their second record, the Michale Graves version of the band hit their stride and offered a massive set of hook-laden horror and a string of modern classics (hell, they even finally paid tribute to Planet of the Apes on this one). It is a damn shame this lineup didn't last a little longer as the legacy of the Misfits name, post-Danzig, may have actually endured.
  12. Bastards - Motörhead - 1993 A latter-day classic from a band whose history is full of 'em, Bastards slows the tempo (by Motörhead standards, anyway), maintains the ferocity and gives us "On Your Feet or On Your Knees," "Burner," "Death or Glory," "I Am the Sword" and "Born to Raise Hell" all in a row. Massive.
  13. The Reincarnation of Luna - My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult - 2001 I have a whole post dedicated to this one already right here. Killer shit.
  14. Fight Songs - Old 97's - 1999 Rhett Miller's lyrical peak and the band still attached to their country roots before diluting their talents in the alt-pop mainstream. "Lonely Holiday" gives their best lines ever with it was a lonely holiday / I was alone you were away / in Fayetteville or in another state / there's so many towns I hate / when you leave me breaks me like a bone / but it's never as bad as when you come home / I've thought so much about suicide / parts of me have already died.
  15. Lotusflow3r - Prince - 2009 Part of a bloated triple-disc Target exclusive, Prince's most recent retail offering is easy to dismiss as excess but the set's centerpiece offers a shitload of nasty guitar and shades of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix around a haunting cover of "Crimson and Clover" and a slew of excellent originals.
  16. Lovers Rock - Sade - 2000 An R&B record without samples, guest artists or heavy electronics. We're reminded here that Sade is a band and their namesake vocalist only a piece of the puzzle. Keyboards, guitars and sax combine with some lovely beats and that voice and, damn it, I'm not ashamed to admit I love every second of it.
  17. Unshaven: Live at Smith's Olde Bar - Shaver - 1995 Country music's finest unsung outlaw in his element with a set of rowdy and raw classics. Miles and miles away from Sugarland and Lady Antewhathe?, these are tough tunes from a dude who never did quite make it big. It's a damn shame.
  18. Divine Intervention - Slayer - 1994 Probably my favorite Slayer record. Epic, dark and just slow enough to add an element of fright to their menace. A new drummer in Paul Bostaph likely necessitated a change to the sound and, while I love Lombardo, the effect on this one was lasting for me.
  19. Coping with the Urban Coyote - Unida - 1999 Another I have a whole post dedicated to, I'll go out on a limb and proclaim Unida's sole release superior to any single album Queens of the Stone Age have ever produced. This one is flawless.
  20. Good to Be Bad - Whitesnake - 2008 No one has any business making a record that sounds this good and this much like 1987 in 2008. No one except Whitesnake. Everything that was ever right about Whitesnake is raging here, on their modern-day renaissance. If only contemporaries like Def Leppard could be this vibrant, this fearless, this willing to embrace the elements of what made them great to begin with.

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