Albums You Really Like

I’ve been thinking about great albums, or albums that I’ve really like (which is not necessarily the same thing). Some titles have come to mind, and then I can’t remember them. I’m starting this thread to keep track of these titles, and also discuss the albums. We can also discuss the qualities that make a great album or one that you really like.

By the way, I realized that for most of my life a great album was one where I liked most, if not all the songs. The flow of the album from song to song and the way each song worked together to create a cohesive whole weren’t criteria I thought much of, at least not consciously. (Well, I doubt that I did.) As an example, I liked Def Lepard’s Pyromania for this reason. Basically, I thought of a good album similar to a “best of” album.

In any event, here are some albums I really like:

Non-Jazz

  • Steely Dan–Aja
  • Steely Dan-Gaucho
  • Donald Fagen–Nightfly
  • Brand New Heavies–Shelter
  • Arrested Development–3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of…
  • Frank Zappa–Guitar
  • Knead–Knead

Jazz*

  • Brian Blade Fellowship–Perceptual
  • Logan Richardson–Shift
  • James Francies–Flight

(* Trying to focus on albums within the past 30 years)

7 thoughts on “Albums You Really Like

  1. There are lots of reasons to “really like” an album, and none of them is wrong. Pyromania is a great example of your bunch-of-good-songs concept and cohesive whole concept. Especially in context (and in context is also a reason), Pyromania stands out as the album where a band took the sound it sorta discovered on the previous album and fleshed it out for a whole ten songs. It was the album where it found part of its audience, before it found its WHOLE audience (and thus jumped the shark, if you ask me). I will always love Pyromania for the way it excited me about good pop metal, and I’ll always be disappointed in Hysteria for the way it went too far.

    Our classmate Derek said before Def Leppard’s performance in Honolulu, where the band promised to play Hysteria in its entirety, “They were going to play five songs from that album anyway; now they’re going to play the even worse ones too, when they could use that time for their better songs.” It was a good point, but we were in the minority of the audience who was disappointed by this because of course.

    1. There are lots of reasons to “really like” an album, and none of them is wrong.

      Agreed. I do think an album one really likes is not necessarily the same as a great album, though. And I don’t think all definitions of a great album have equal merit.

      Pyromania is a great example of your bunch-of-good-songs concept and cohesive whole concept.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case. I never went back to listen carefully to have a strong opinion.

      Pyromania stands out as the album where a band took the sound it sorta discovered on the previous album and fleshed it out for a whole ten songs.

      Like they found a sound, but refined and perfected it? If so, I think that’s definitely something that makes an album noteworthy. Hmm, I want to think of some examples of this. Any other that come to mind?

      Also, I think what’s interesting is that while some artists take time to find the right sound and perfect it, so to speaks, others seem to find it on the first album. Actually, I think I feel like it might be more accurate to say that they succeed on the first album, while the subsequent albums never really match the first. I think of something like Pat Metheny’s first album as a leader. This is not a great example as his voice definitely developed in a way where later albums might have been better and better expressions. On the other hand, a part of feels like some of the vocabulary he develops, in terms of his soloing, was really interesting and original, and I wonder if his solos in later albums is as original sounding.

      It was a good point, but we were in the minority of the audience who was disappointed by this because of course.

      If the entire album was great, would you have liked this? I’m not sure I would, especially if the group had a lot songs I liked.

  2. More Albums

    Man, I can’t believe I overlooked one of my all-time favorite musicians–Bobby Watson. Sticking with my 30 year jazz rule I’m going with

    Bobby Watson–Tailor Made
    In general I prefer smaller combos over big bands, but I really like when Watson works with a big band. In addition to his compositions, which I like, he seems to have a unique way of arranging the instruments, and I really like it.

    Astral Project–Voodoobop
    One of my favorite groups, and Steve Masakowski is one of my favorite guitarists.

    Non-jazz

    Sarah McLaughlin–Surfacing
    I found this CD in the $1 bin, and I was surprised at how much I liked it. When her stuff first came out, it seemed like perfectly enjoyable singer-songwriter pop, but it’s not something that that made a big impression. Anyway, I don’t really listen to this a lot, but I feel like it’s done a decent job of standing the test of time.

    Basia–Time and Tide
    I love the blend of a Euro pop and samba/bossa nova. There are one or two songs I don’t care for, but overall this is a good album. What’s interesting to me is that, on some level, this sounds like Basia used drum machines and synths in a home studio–but the songs and Basia’s singing shine.

    Anita Baker–Rapture
    When her songs came out, I think I might have grew tired of them as they were overplayed on the radio, but her music on this still appeal to me.

  3. The first couple of albums my sister and I bought with our own money were greatest hits compilations: Air Supply’s Greatest Hits and the Commodores All The Great Hits. Then I bought a couple of albums on my own: Andy Bumatai’s Live in Waikiki and The Sugarhill Gang’s self-titled debut. I was in fifth or sixth grade and hadn’t really thought much about albums and what made them different from singles.

    But then I bought Styx’s Paradise Theater, a concept album, near the beginning of seventh grade, and it influenced the way I thought about albums for the rest of my childhood.

    There was the album cover, for starters. On the front: a beautiful theater with spotlights and a marquee. On the back: the same theater, decrepit and barely standing.

    The tracklist:

    Side one
    A.D. 1928
    Rockin’ the Paradise
    Too Much Time on My Hands
    Nothing Ever Goes as Planned
    The Best of Times

    Side two
    Lonely People
    She Cares
    Snowblind
    Half-Penny, Two-Penny
    A.D. 1958
    State Street Sadie

    It wasn’t one of those SUPER conceptual concept albums, like their next studio album (Kilroy Was Here) would be, or like many of the concept albums I love today. There wasn’t a narrative, and one song wasn’t necessarily followed by the next (with a couple of exceptions). But there were the bookends: 1928 and 1958, the years the historical Paradise Theater opened and closed.

    The idea was that we were listening to the last show played at the Paradise Theater. There were a few lyrical themes (the word “paradise” is in four or five of the songs). While a couple of songs could easily have been on the album before it (Cornerstone, which featured “Babe”), I don’t think any could have been on the one after it.

    That really set the tone for me.

    1. I had the Commodores greatest hits albums as well (in cassette form). Strangely, I also had the Kilroy album. I think my grandparents bought it for me when they went to Japan.

      By the way, what are some of the best or favorite conceptual albums for you?

    2. I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days and still don’t have a good list, but the ones that would definitely make my top 20:
      Extreme II: Pornograffiti by Extreme
      Paradise Theater by Styx
      The Wake of Magellan by Savatage
      Dead Winter Dead by Savatage
      The Last Temptation by Alice Cooper
      Pelagial by the Ocean (this one’s going to make my top 20)
      Testimony by Neal Morse
      ? by Neal Morse
      (Neal Morse is on my mind because I ordered his new album and it’s been delivered and it’s waiting for me in my carport as I type this)
      The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (I’m not actually convinced this is a concept album)

      You’ve all probably heard one song from Dead Winter Dead: “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” which is super popular for TV commercials around the holidays and for those extreme houses with music-synchonized Christmas lights. Also the song that led to the birth of Trans-Siberian Orchestra and probably the demise of Savatage, alas. Trans-Siberian Orchestra makes tons of money every holiday season, with two or three traveling shows in North America, and I wish I could stand up in front of every audience and say, “This music you’re paying $99 for exists in other places! Pick up a Blind Guardian album! or a Within Temptation album!” But whatever.

      1. I’ve heard version of that song, but I don’t if it’s the exact same one.

        By the way, I like Dark Side of the Moon, too. I bought a cassette after college, and used to listen to it while driving. I think you told me that Pink Floyd is considered prog rock. They don’t seem that way to me, but in any event, they’re one prog rock group that I kinda like.

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