I’m not a huge fan of “Best Of” or “All-Time Greatest” lists, whether the subject matter is music, movies, or sports. But since I’ve decided to create my own list maybe my problem isn’t so much with other people’s opinions so much as I prefer my own much more. In any case, when Rolling Stone (or whomever) comes out with their Best Albums Ever or Best Songs Ever or Best Artists Ever lists it’s usually anti-climactic. Not because the lists are inherently bad it’s just that there’s too much emphasis put on influence on one or too much emphasis on not having the same band appear multiple times in the top 20 when they clearly should be. My favorite example from Rolling Stone is that in 1997 Revolver didn’t make the cut on their “200 Most Essential Albums” issue but then a few years later it was named “The Greatest Album Ever Made”. So, it’s not essential but it’s the greatest ever? Sadly, Rolling Stone never printed a follow-up issue named “Greatest Contradictory Reviews Ever.” Maybe Fine Young Cannibals would have been named “Artist of the Century” while not making the cut for the “Best Bands of the ’80′s” category or something. In any case, here are my criteria for the “80 Best Rock Albums From 1964 Until Approximately 1997″ List:
1) All albums will be judged as having passed the Listenability Test. The Listenability Test is such that at least 90% of the album is comprised of songs you can listen to again and again and not lose its stickiness. For instance, albums like Odessey and Oracle by The Zombies or Los Angeles by X usually make the cut on a Top 200 or Greatest Albums list but, to me, these albums really have no stickiness whatsoever. Each album has maybe 3 good songs and the rest are average at best. They’re the type of albums that are cool to agree with as being significant but you’d never really recommend them to any normal person and try to convince them as being great. They fail the Listenability Test.
2) No live albums, soundtrack or Best Of albums allowed on the list. This list will consist only of studio albums. I like Talking Heads as much as the next person but when their best work, in my opinion, is a live double-album and a Best Of album it doesn’t say a whole lot about their ability to put together a cohesive studio album. I think studio albums should only be allowed on Greatest lists because the studio album should precede the live albums and whatever soundtrack project said band wants to get involved in.
3) Influence is important, but so is the strength of the track list. Basically, in my opinion, the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Velvet Underground are the 4 most influential rock musicians since 1964 and they are prominent among the top 20 of this list. However, it’s their albums’ track list that is the ultimate factor in deciding which albums of theirs are higher. For example, if I was going solely on influence I would pick Revolver from the Beatles as their highest ranking album but I won’t because I think it’s their third best album. Same with Blonde On Blonde by Bob Dylan–many people think it’s his best and I think it’s his third or fourth best.
4) No R&B, hip hop, country music allowed–just rock. As I’ve said before, how can I possibly quantify the significance of N.W.A. or Sam Cooke or Johnny Cash alongside Pink Floyd or Black Sabbath? The short answer: I’m not going to try.
5) What’s with the date range of 1964 until approximatley 1997? Because influence does play a role (however subjective) in my list I have to put the cutoff year at least 10 years from now because I don’t think anything less than 10 years old can put be into any proper “Best Of” greatness be it music, movies, or history. The reason I chose 1964 as the starting point is because that’s the year that rock, in my opinion, really started as it was the year The Animals, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, and The Who all formed.
So, there’s the criteria for my “80 Best Rock Albums From 1964 Until Approximately 1997″ list. If anything I hope it becomes the most popular lengthy-titled list in all the land…