The 1970’s were filled with great albums and musicians that rocked the airwaves. Among all of these great offerings by bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and The Who; I found myself drawn to Pink Floyd and their brilliant album Wish You Were Here. This one from 1975 is easily Pink Floyd’s best album. When I say best I don’t mean it in terms of popularity or critical acclaim, that one belongs to Dark side of the Moon. But musically and lyrically it is the bands most accomplished piece of work. This album is a great follow-up to Dark Side of the Moon. This is an often overlooked treasure within Pink Floyd’s music catalog. It has survived the test of time well and is finally receiving more attention it deserved when it was first released. It is an essential Pink Floyd album and I mean no disrespect to “The Wall” which is when Roger Waters started to take over, but its the last great album the band produced. Wish You Were Here is very much dedicated to the founder Syd Barrett, who freaked out years before: and there’s funny songs about the evils of the music business (“By the way, which one’s Pink?”), and the touching ones about the band’s mysterious friend. The real star of the show, although, is the amazing production–with David Gilmour getting lots of room for his most creative guitar playing ever. That’s my story and I am sticking to it!
Ok so let’s get this out of the way. I am a true Beatles fan! I didn’t grow up with them because they broke up before I was even born. I did listen to them a lot as a child growing up in the late 70’s and 80’s. My dad played them many times. I began collecting their music in the early 90’s and I appreciate so much that they have done. But it’s so hard to narrow it down to one album. Sure I could say Sgt Pepper’s however, a thing changed for me in 1997. So for that last 14 years I can honestly say something profound that I am sure has been talked about forever. I noticed that the Beach Boys’ 1966 album Pet Sounds was continually mentioned. So in 1997 I officially became aware of this masterpiece. I always dismissed the Beach Boys as surfin’ and California sunshine. So, why the fuss surrounding Pet Sounds? “No one is educated musically until they’ve heard Pet Sounds…It is a total classic record that is unbeatable in many ways”, Paul McCartney once proclaimed. Wow was he right! Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper probably wouldn’t have happened… Pepper was actually an attempt to equal Pet Sounds. What the hell made countless other music stars bow to 1966’s Pet Sounds? I was about to find out. Listening to it numerous times I constantly kept saying that Brian Wilson was so far ahead of his time that we still have not caught up to it yet. Brain Wilson intended for the album as a whole to have been one big hit, rather than just a song or two. It was the whole rather than the individual songs that was important. Part of his brilliance was the ability to take simple lyrics that spoke of basic human feelings and create an emotional impact through his music and harmonies. I remember reading somewhere that the more you live, the better it gets. Pet Sounds’ legacy is that it changed the way albums were recorded and created. What I found out was that this album not only is the best album from the 1960’s but actually paved the way for…..well more than one can possibly imagine.
Honestly out of all the early breakthrough rock & roll artists, none is more crucial to the development of rock and roll music than Chuck Berry. He is this style’s greatest songwriter, the main creator of its instrumental voice, one of its greatest guitarists for sure , and one of its best performers. Quite simply, without him there wouldn’t have been the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and others. If you had to pour out all of Chuck Berry’s early albums on Chess Records (and some of his greatest-hits packages), this would be the one disc to own. The song lineup is perfect, putting together so many classics. This serves as almost a mini-greatest-hits package in and of itself. While this may be simply a collection of singles and what not, it ends up being the most amazing of Chuck Berry’s prime stage of his career.
This brilliant collection of songs from 1940 is a masterpiece. I write this because I am a huge Bob Dylan fan. It is comforting to hear the master at work. No one can argue that the early works of Dylan were inspired by Woody’s works. Woody sings about the most recognizable historic events in farming and worker’s history. This collection describes the events of the Dust Bowl era and the struggles of the working class. The songs can be funny and even sad at the same time. Guthrie uses Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” in a lot of the songs. He adds an unusual twist about how to survive without money. He points the finger at the corporate banks…very similar to the classic literary book. I tend to think of the picture of him with his guitar that has the saying “This Machine Kills Fascists” on it. If you are a fan of folk music, this is a great place to start. This collection of Guthrie hits must be cherished for two reasons. One for the events of the Dust Bowl. The other for being the most important record that would inspire the folk rock movement. Therefore my choice for best record album from the 1940’s.
In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman was a leader of one of the most popular musical groups in America. His January 16, 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City is described by critics as “the single most important jazz or popular music concert in history: jazz’s ‘coming out’ party to the world of ‘respectable’ music.” Benny Goodman’s January 1938 jazz concert at Carnegie Hall was important because it was actually one of the first rock ‘n’ roll concerts! If you are thinking “how this could be?”, you can either watch old clips of young folks at the concert that night, swaying and rocking in their seats, in an excitable manner… or you can just listen to the power exploding from your stereo speakers when you put this 2 CD-set into your player! This is an amazing album; a small slice of American music history. The fact that this kind of madness could be wonderfully caught in a single night just before WWII America simply amazes me. I also enjoyed the crackles.
No CD will truly cover a career of Louis Armstrong in just 25 tracks, but this one is probably as good as it gets. This is honestly the essence of Armstrong. Every track is awesome. If someone is new to collecting Louis Armstrong, I highly suggest picking this one up. This spans most of his life (beginning in the early 1920’s) with all the best cuts. It features some of his finest and creative trumpet playing. There really isn’t a bad song here. Actually, the sound of his horn and his singing makes it impossible for Louis to ever have made a bad track, but this one is a must have for any music enthusiast out there. Armstrong was an American jazz pioneer and an icon. Ken Burns has done a wonderful compilation here. This CD truly deserves to be one of my top 10 favorites of all time! Overall it represents the birth of “cool” from the 1920’s. Louis was a creative genius, and his horn playing was one of the most beautiful and joyous things ever recorded.
The following list of musicians and albums represent what I feel to be the ten greatest albums to be released in ten consecutive decades in a row. It is based on my education and classroom experiences. Through friends, family and my obsessions I found inspiration. Some factors in determining these albums and/or compilations are: I can listen to them numerous times. Some of these artists have stand out performances. Some are based on artist’s best albums, which fall into place with the decade that they originated in. Ultimately this ends up being the top ten albums/artists in my humble opinion. Sometimes the artists pay tribute other times it is just considered their peak performances. In many ways you could say that all decades since the 1920’s are represented but more than that it is also my favorite musicians as well as simply amazing albums and a sample of the best list I could think of that demonstrates the BIG 10 spectacular pieces of music ever……