70. THE ROLLING STONES- TATTOO YOU (1981)
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In my opinion “Tattoo You” is the last great Stones album. Many give that credit “Some Girls” from 1978 or even “Exile on Main Street” from 1972, but I feel “Tattoo You” deserves to be included in that company as well. One reason that it’s relatively underrated is that it’s primarily made up of leftover scraps from various Stones album sessions throughout the seventies, but scraps or not the album is full of great songs and actually sounds cohesive. Side 1 has the rockin’ tracks including biggest hit and concert staple “Start Me Up”, along with the blistering “Hang Fire” and one of Keith Richards best tracks “Little T&A”, but it’s Side 2 that really shines. The side is made up of five Stones ballads including, in my opinion, one of their very best songs “Waiting On a Friend” and the beautiful, relatively unknown “Worried About You”. After 1981 the Stones would never again make an album even a third as good but “Tattoo You” was another notch in the belt of an amazing career full of them.
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69. DINOSAUR JR.- YOU’RE LIVING ALL OVER ME (1987)
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Along with Husker Du (courtesy of Bob Mould), Amherst, Ma.-bred Dinosaur Jr. was probably the most responsible in bringing the electric guitar to indie-rock. Dinosaur Jr. leader, J. Mascis, is a magnificent shredder in the tradition of Neil Young with his Crazy Horse band. It’s tough to come up with D Jr. singular album moment as their greatest moments are spread out throughout their career on various albums, EP’s and singles but “You’re Living All Over Me” is as close to they come to a definitive statement (though the band has come close to matching its quality with two albums made in the past five years). “Living” was their second album release, after the lukewarm Dinosaur, and really took the band to the forefront of indie-rock during its incredibly fertile period in the late 80’s, just before alternative would dominate the commercial landscape of rock music. Though the band plays extremely loud, and Mascis’s nasally whine of a voice wouldn’t exactly play on American Idol, their songs stick to fairly conventional song structures- making their music closer to punk rock than their more experimental peers like Sonic Youth. As a result Mascis & co.brought sing along anthems for the disaffected masses, and helped lay serious groundwork for the early 90’s alt revolution.
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68. THE SOFT BOYS- UNDERWATER MOONLIGHT (1980)
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The Soft Boys were a post-punk band from Cambridge, England who predated and heavily influenced American eighties jangle pop groups like R.E.M., The Posies, The Replacements, all of the groups in the L.A. Paisley Underground scene and Teenage Fanclub in the U.K. Their sound was ahead of its time so they were neither well-known nor commercially successful during their main run in the late seventies and early eighties. “Underwater Moonlight” is the only full length album I own by the Soft Boys but it’s a straight up masterpiece. For anyone who likes R.E.M. or the mid sixties psychedelic folk rock offerings by the Beatles and the Byrds, or righteous power-pop like Big Star, the Raspberries and Badfinger then please check this out. And opening track “I Wanna Destroy You” is simply one of the best rock songs ever made. Lead singer Robyn Hitchcock, a clever and quirky lyricist, would go on to have a long solo career after the Soft Boys disbanded- critically acclaimed if not wildly commercially successful.
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67. DURAN DURAN- RIO (1982)
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Duran Duran allowed me to form a bond with girls in the 6th grade. While most of my buddies were ragging on the British pretty boys, practically every girl I knew was screaming their heads off for them. While I’m the first to say that tween girls have very dubious taste in music- New Kids on the Block anyone?- in this case they were right! Along with “Thriller” & bands like the Police, Duran Duran ruled the music world in the early 80’s. The band only released three studio albums with its original lineup (Lebon, Rhodes, Taylors X 3) and 1982’s “Rio” was by far the best of the lot, their only album that stand as more than a handful of great singles and a collection of filler. It was also the album that truly broke the band worldwide with the help of state of the art videos for hit singles “Hungry Like the Wolf” and the immortal title track. The album also contains the band’s best ballad “Save a Prayer” along with amazing deep cuts like “The Chauffeur”, “My Own Way” and “Hold Back the Rain”. For anyone who says Duran Duran is nothing but fluff play this album for them. It still stand the test of time.
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66. PRINCE- DIRTY MIND (1980)
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“Dirty Mind” was the purple genius’s third album and his first great one. Though he had managed a few great tracks in the late seventies like “Soft and Wet” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, “Dirty Mind” was where all of his early promise was able to flourish across an entire album. At eight tracks and under 30 minutes long it was all killer no filler and the first album to combine modern funk and R&B with pop & New Wave. The main focus of the album was sex and Prince was very upfront about it. “When You Were Mine” is about a threesome with his girlfriend and another guy, “Sister” is about incest, “Head” is about well…head, and “Do It All Night” and “Dirty Mind” don’t leave much to the imagination either. Though it was only really a hit with critics and in the R&B world, “Dirty Mind”, paved the way for Prince’s massive commercial successes to come in “1999” and “Purple Rain”. And more than just a building block to his future triumphs “Dirty Mind” still stands on its own because of its singular sound- Prince himself would never again replicate it.
Fun fact- early eighties superstar Cyndi Lauper covered the most well-known song on the album, “When You Were Mine”, on her debut 1983 album “She’s So Unusual”.
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65. SLICK RICK- THE GREAT ADVENTURES OF SLICK RICK (1988)
It’s safe to say that for better or for worse there certainly wouldn’t be a Snoop Dogg without Slick Rick. Rick, originally known as Ricky D., and famous in the rap world for duets with Doug E. Fresh on the two classic old school tracks “La-Di-Da-Di” and “The Show”, has a distinct, slowed down rap flow complete with a British accent. Especially at the time Slick Rick stood out for everyone else in rap- no one sounded anything like him, with the exception of rapper Dana Dane who straight up bit Rick’s flow soon thereafter to lesser notoriety. “Great Adventures” was his first full length release and is one of the pantheon of 1988 rap classics- ’88 is deservedly widely regarded as the greatest year in the history of rap. “Great Adventures” is stylistically all over the map varying between thoughtful life lessons like “Children’s Story”, “Hey Young World” & “Teenage Love” to over the top sexual tracks like “Treat Her Like a Prostitute”, “Lick the Balls”, and “Indian Girl (An Adult Story)”. Some of his lyrics can come off as embarrassingly misogynistic though mostly in a cartoonish way- there doesn’t appear to be any real malevolence there. As tough as some of those tracks are to listen to as an adult Slick Rick’s superior flow, unique wit & amazing gift for storytelling ultimately carries the day. Though he never matched the quality and commercial success of his debut album ever again Slick Rick is still considered a legendary and unique figure in the rap world.
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64. BOOGIE DOWN PRODUCTIONS- CRIMINAL MINDED (1987)
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South Bronx’s Boogie Down Productions were pioneers in both conscious rap and gangsta rap laying the groundwork for the two most dominant forms of rap music of the early nineties. Combining the two forms BDP was a far cry from the hedonistic gangsta rap of groups like N.W.A. heard just a year or so later. Though they dealt with violent imagery their main concern was showing its consequences and stark realities rather than celebrating it. BDP, and their leader, KRS-One- one of the most thoughtful and lyrical of the early MC’s, were hyper political and shone a light on ghetto life while working to expose of hypocrisy of the ruling powers. The production on “Criminal Minded” was barebones but heavy hitting- similar to that of early Run-DMC, matching their subject matter perfectly. BDP’s first two albums are both classics (the second being 1988’s “By All Means Necessary”) but “Criminal Minded” is slightly better boasting timeless rap tracks like “South Bronx”, “The Bridge is Over”, “9mm Goes Bang” and the title track. This album, along with early efforts by Public Enemy would usher in rap’s golden era which lasted through the early nineties.
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63. MY BLOODY VALENTINE- ISN’T ANYTHING (1988)
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Though Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine would rise to its greatest heights with 1991’s “Loveless”, “Isn’t Anything” is a damn great album in its own right. Along with “Psychocandy” by the Jesus & Mary Chain, “Isn’t Anything” helped launch the ‘Shoegaze’ movement in the U.K.- power rock bent with noise and distortion with a majestic beauty at its heart. And nobody did it better than My Bloody Valentine. “Isn’t Anything” was actually MBV’s second full length album after an unsuccessful and still for the most part unknown debut album in 1985. The production on “Isn’t Anything” is a bit more stripped down and geared more toward dream pop than on “Loveless”, but is still miles away from anything else that any band was doing at the time. The softly sung, and sometimes barely there female vocals create an ethereal vibe amidst all of the chaos. If you are at all a fan of “Loveless”, psychedelic music, distortion or dream pop you must check this album out. Later in ’88 MBV released the EP “You Made Me Realise” which was another step forward for the band and also well worth a purchase (thanks Phil!)
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62. THE HUMAN LEAGUE- DARE! (1981)
Bristol, England’s Human League were the first synth-pop International superstars. They began in the late seventies as more of a post-punk offshoot with synths but refined their sound for their signature album, 1981’s “Dare!”, just in time to both influence on and be one of the plethora of early 80’s synth-pop bands. Not only were the Human League the most popular of the acts, they were certainly also one of the very best. Most Americans only know the #1 smash hit “Don’t You Want Me” and perhaps the lesser hit “Love Action” from this album, but tracks like “Seconds” and “The Things that Dreams Are Made of” are just as good. Whereas many of the other New Romantic & Synth Pop of that era are now regarded as embarrassing relics of the time, the Human League and “Dare!” still sound just as good today. “Dare!” would become a major influence on other amazing synth-influenced groups like Yaz, Depeche Mode & New Order.
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61. THE PRETENDERS- LEARNING TO CRAWL (1984)
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Not so much an album, as a composite of previously released singles, the Pretenders 3rd full length still deserves a place right behind their perfect debut album due to the sheer quality of the tracks on it. After the heartbreaking and unfortunate drug-induced deaths of lead guitarist (and criminally underrated) James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon, lead Pretender Chrissie Hynde was forced to revamp the band with a vastly different lineup. The new lineup frankly couldn’t touch the inventiveness and spunk of the original, but again with stone classics like the scorching ode to midlife crisis “Middle of the Road”, the heartfelt lament to the urban decay of Hynde’s Ohio hometown “My City was Gone”, the touching tribute to her former band members “Back on the Chain Gang” and “2000 Miles”- about being without the one you love the most during the holiday season, it was impossible to dismiss “Learning to Crawl. All four are some of the best songs Hynde would ever write and album tracks like “Show Me” and “Time the Avenger” were excellent as well. Though a few tracks are filler most bands would be proud to call this their best album much less their second best.
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