Here we go: the top 20 esoteric/possibly obvious choices of my favorite albums of a decade.
This album won four Grammys. It's a great concert, and oddly my highest-ranked album of 1961.
19. A Hard Day's Night, The Beatles (1964)
I think this is really the culmination of all the early Beatles stuff; still got that R&B/skiffle sound, but the experimentation is about to (tentatively) start.
18. Let It Bleed, The Rolling Stones (1969)
This has my two favorite Stones songs, "Gimme Shelter" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want."
17. Days of Future Passed, The Moody Blues (1967)
Another one I used to listen to on the 8-track.
16. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles (1967)
Whether it's truly a concept album or no, it's still an amazing listen. Since I've entered therapy, I've been engaging in active listening exercises, and this is an interesting one to close your eyes and listen to. There's so much going on sonically.
15. Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Ray Charles (1962)
I love the way Ray draws out country music into an R&B setting.
The best Chicago soul album ever recorded.
13. Let It Be, The Beatles (1970)
Somehow its both the Beatles' most overrated and most underrated album.
12. All Things Must Pass, George Harrison (1970)
Can you imagine how good some of this would've sounded on Beatles albums? That's okay, though, because it sounds spectacular all at once on this set.
11. Songs of Leonard Cohen, Leonard Cohen (1967)
Do you remember my concept of the 3am song coming out of the darkness? This is like the definitive 3am album. Perfect for the dark and stillness.
10. Highway 61 Revisited, Bob Dylan (1965)
Dylan's best album from start to finish, he said, as if he was the first person to ever say that.
9. Rubber Soul, The Beatles (1965)
My favorite Beatles album from beginning to end. My favorite one to listen to. I remember there was a building along I-88 in Chicago that had the album cover painted on the side for a long time... I think it must have been an ad for 97.9 FM.
8. Tommy, The Who (1969)
Another great album to just close your eyes and listen to. Maybe it's a cliche to put it up here, but I just love it.
I have my Mom's vinyl of this, too. I started listening to it in junior high and I'd just play it over and over and over. I love Cat Stevens, but this is easily his best.
6. A Charlie Brown Christmas, Vince Guaraldi Trio (1965)
I can't even describe how much I love this album. The animated special has been ingrained in me for so long that it doesn't feel like Christmas without this album on. I'm not sure what the mixture is that makes this music work--it's sincere without being cloying, and it's bold without being pretentious, and there's something about the sound of the drums and the ease of the piano... it's perfect.
5. Jesus Christ Superstar: A Rock Opera (1970)
The original concept album, with Deep Purple's Ian Gillan as Jesus, Murray Head as Judas, and Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene. Well, I've explained my soft spot for both musicals and certain aspects of the Christ story that don't have to do with moralizing. I first heard this in high school and I can still sing a LOT of it from memory (much to my wife's chagrin, sometimes). It just sounds raw and emotional and fresh to me; it never sounds dated because the emotional vocals are so strong.
4. The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, The Kinks (1968)
Not a single dud track on this fantastic album.
3. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (1963)
Another Christmas staple of just perfect music. I actually despise a large number of Christmas rock songs, but that Wall of Sound production just elevates this stuff, and the vocalists (particularly Darlene Love) are at their peaks.
2. Forever Changes, Love (1967)
To me, the perfect psychedelic rock album. Sometimes I think I could die happy after hearing "Andmoreagain." That's a song to be played at my funeral, along with the Zombies' "Hung Up on a Dream" and Cream's "Dreaming" and, of course, the Beach Boys' "Surf's Up." Which leads me to...
This is probably a surprise to no one. This is my favorite album of all time, bar none, and the album I've related to most over the course of my life. I guess this is actually technically a psychedelic album (given my comments on the previous album), but I've always thought of it more in terms of its baroque pop sound. Does anyone remember a story in Doonesbury where one of the characters was dying and all he wanted was to hear Pet Sounds before he died? That's how much I love this album. To hear it play and to pass on just as the dogs bark at the train on the final track... that would be a pleasant way to go, if you had to. When I'm an old, old man lying in my bed and waiting for the end, put this album on and just listen to it with me. This album just lifts me and lifts me and lifts me to heaven.
And there you have it. I was thinking of maybe going through the Billboard charts and doing a list of my 100 favorite singles of the decade, too. It's also been requested that I do a list of my 100 favorite films of the 60s. So maybe it'll be lists for a while. Who knows?