Top 100 Greatest Music Albums by desh79 (2021)

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Each generation has its collective moment of optimism followed by a rude awakening, and few arguably came as bitter and traumatic as the Summer of Love of 1967 culminating in two years of riots, assassinations, Altamont and the Manson murders. I'm not suggesting that there's a causal link here, but if my (so far) 40 years on this planet have taught me anything, it's that the good times rarely last and that something unpleasant is always lurking around the corner.

I have no idea whether that makes me a pessimist or simply a realist, but it might help to explain why I love Forever Changes so much. Yes, a very many people have waxed lyrically about Forever Changes's "prophetic" qualities - how it more or less "foresaw" all the stuff that would follow that great big party the year 1967 was supposed to have been (looking at that year's musical output, I'm actually inclined to agree) - thus it's not an entirely original thought to put down here, but this album is basically the musical embodiment of the idea that All Is Not Well so it makes perfect sense to rank an album that reflects a very significant personal outlook of mine as my favourite album of all-time.

Forever Changes was an album I listened to over and over again when I was in my mid-teenage years. I loved the way it juxtaposed beauty and ugliness. The way the music would suddenlt jolt and turn. I was already at a stage where the traditional verse-chorus-verse structure started to bore me, and so I absolutely jumped at anything that had something approaching disruption, pianoforte, anything that broke the mould.

Forever Changes has these moments aplenty. The way The Good Humour Man ends, or the way The Daily Planet's entire verse structure suddenly changes tack into something else entirely. There are "old-fashioned" pop songs too, like Alone Again Or, but not without some very bittersweet lyrics where the hippie outlook of "You know that I could be in love, with almost everyone/I think that people are the greatest fun" is immediately followed by a straightlaced "And I will be alone again tonight, my dear". All Is Not Well.

Some lyrics are, admittedly, signals from Captain Obvious. "Sitting on a hillside/Watching all the people die/I'll feel much better on the other side" was something I deemed the epitome of cool at the age of 16, now I feel like Arthur Lee is beating me to a pulp with the Metaphor Stick, but still, as far as allusions to the Vietnam war go there are certainly weaker lines of prose out there, and all things considered The Red Telephone - particularly its final third - is still a majestic, magnificent and haunting piece of work.

There are other reasons I love this album. For instance, its willingness to be unashamedly sentimental every now and then, like on Andmoreagain. That song is cheesy as hell, but then again there's a part of ME that is cheesy and sentimental and sappy-romantic. Plus, behind Forever Changes's layers of cynicism, Andmoreagain illustrates that there's a childlike innocence that makes the whole thing even more endearing to me.

Chances are the juxtaposition between beauty and ugliness are prone to some kind of personal demons Lee was fighting at the time (and his later biography tragically suggests that this battle went on for several decades), but as with so many very personal works of art, Forever Changes has a universal quality that means that even some German kid living in Cambridge in the mid-1990s could feel addressed and comforted by it.
[First added to this chart: 12/22/2016]
Year of Release:
1967
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Rank Score:
20,584
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Sit down and I shall tell you a tale.

In Cambridge - Cherry Hinton, to be precise - lived an old man called Roger. According to local folklore (and thus something to be taken with a sizeable pinch of salt), he installed bear traps in his front garden to repel unwanted visitors from far and wide. Apparently he liked a pint at the Six Bells pub, somewhere in the area around Mill Road (the "wrong" side of Reality Checkpoint - the C.O.M.M.O.N. that Alt-J, another great Cambridge band, sang about in Bloodflood). He passed away at some point in the mid-00s, news which caused no little despair since this old man, who by all accounts was a bitter recluse in his final years, also happened to be almost singlehandedly responsible for one of the greatest works of art of the 20th century.

Wind back to the mid-90s, when I was 16 or 17 - a colleague of my dad's gave me a copy of Piper on tape. I had heard about this album. I already owned some of Pink Floyd's discography. I loved The Wall, had not quite dug deep enough into Dark Side to really appreciate its genius, thought Careful With That Axe Eugene was a really funny song. I was aware that the group was once led by a guy called Syd Barrett, who took too much acid and was kicked out of the band, End of Story.

Little did I know that Piper is just incredible. Lyrically it's on a level with Lord Byron and Lewis Carroll. Whimsical and profound at the same time - that weird mixture of earthiness and grandiosity that, for some reason, only the English can manage to pull off. And musically, it was such a revolution that it practically invented the genre of Psychedelic Rock. That stuff was already 30 years old, yet I had never heard anything like it! Yes, Revolver had Tomorrow Never Knows, but Piper had Pow R Toc H, it had Bike, it had Astronomy Domine. While Sgt.Pepper-era Beatles and other psychedelic acts consciously searched out their influences, the Floyd almost existed by themselves, in a vacuum. The best art usually does.

Said colleague, by the way, claimed to have been a member of Jokers Wild, the band David Gilmour belonged to before Pink Floyd beckoned, as it became clear that Syd's mental decline was simply too much to handle for everyone involved (and the way Syd was treated was something everyone involved came to regret bitterly later on). Of course, in Cambridge you're always going to meet somebody who claims to have hung out with least one member of the Floyd in the 1960s, but I'm actually inclined to believe them, because Cambridge really is the sort of town where everybody knows each other, especially within the same age group.

Anyway, Roger? The old man, who was once known as Syd? I hope he won his decades-long battle against mental illness and that he died a happy man. It's the least he deserved.
[First added to this chart: 12/22/2016]
Year of Release:
1967
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Rank Score:
11,660
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[First added to this chart: 12/22/2016]
Year of Release:
1989
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Rank Score:
33,157
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You know how music can bring you back places? How sounds can reignite smells, impressions, all kinds of memories? How things that were only momentary or of the moment become permanent.

Whenever I listen to Antennas To Heaven I'm back on the 381 bus from Rotherhithe to Waterloo. I'd pass the dodgier parts of Bermondsey. That pub with the sign reading "ACCOMADATION PROVIDED", a clear case for the Queen's English Society. The motor cyclist bleeding on the ground after an accident outside Elephant & Castle station. The man hit by a bus and getting up again like nothing had happened outside the same station. A lot of things happened outside Elephant & Castle station. The skinhead shouting racist filth on the deck below, one evening before the bus reached South Bermondsey station. Not all of these memories are good, but they're memories.

Context: I'd just moved into a cosy little two-storey flat ("maisonette", as they call it in estate agent speak) with my girlfriend at the time, and started a job as a VT assistant in a shoddy two-bit company/soulless international conglomerate (a mere prelude to my current profession as a documentary film editor, I'm glad to say). It was a period of low income for me, of not much in the way of material things, but it was an optimistic time. I got my first iPod for Christmas 2005. It seems a lot of people did, because in January everybody seemed to be wearing these white headphones on the 381 bus. Or the Jubilee Line. Or the Central Line. Or any line, really. These things were everywhere.

Digressions aside, my commute was a long one, and so music was a steady companion, including this rather strange album with a rather strange title that the folks on RYM couldn't seem to get enough of. Turns out long bus rides are very useful for checking out lengthy post rock albums, as this was also the period I discovered Mono and Explosions And The Sky, but Lift Your Skinny Fists was something else entirely. This was one of the last albums that actually taught me one or two things, things I perhaps acknowledged but never seemed *entirely* open to. That a good rock song doesn't need a vocalist. That *rock* music doesn't need a steady verse-chorus-verse structure and can in fact be arranged like a classical piece and still WORK. That samples work in conjunction with heavy guitars. That this sort of stuff can actually move you like nothing you've heard before. That field recordings and other obscure samples can do even more to signify the corruptions of modern neoliberal capitalism than anything Radiohead or Zappa have ever attempted. It's simply one of these albums that simply has to be listened to to be believed, from beginning to end if you can, otherwise the overall effect is tempered.

This is a masterpiece, both on an objective "Does this work as a piece of music"-level, and on a very personal "Did this album accompany me during a very distinctive period of my life?"-one.
[First added to this chart: 12/22/2016]
Year of Release:
2000
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Rank Score:
18,719
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[First added to this chart: 12/22/2016]
Year of Release:
1973
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Rank Score:
94,956
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[First added to this chart: 12/22/2016]
Year of Release:
1991
Appears in:
Rank Score:
6,547
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For the record, I have absolutely no interest in the FF7 remake. Zero. To me, the primitive (by contemporary standards) graphics and glitchy MIDI sounds are what make up part of the game's charm. You may as well go and remake Dr. Caligari or Battleship Potemkin, but that's probably just me. (Add to that the fact that I haven't touched a games console in more than a decade and this "Aren't J-RPGs great!"-lark I indulge in so frequently is basically an excercise in nostalgia. I am very much a boring old fart who thinks all modern video games are samey and dull and the creative peak of the medium was reached in 1999, but I hasten to add that I obviously stand free to be corrected here.)

Oh, the soundtrack? One of the greatest works of the 20th century if you ask me, but again, that's probably just me.
[First added to this chart: 12/22/2016]
Year of Release:
1997
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Rank Score:
256
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I'll admit that I very occasionally wonder what it would be like to meet my favourite rock musicians and have a beer with them. Paul McCartney would be jolly and jovial (but not without a hint of "Yes, I don't know what it's like to hear Sgt. Pepper for the first time, you're not the first person to say that, you dimwit"). Laurie Anderson would be, erm, interesting. Yoko Ono would probably never stop talking. Lou Reed would be very rude at first but would hopefully warm to me once he realised I was a huge fan with intricate knowledge of his entire back catalogue (Rest in peace, Lou).

Kurt Cobain? What if he had lived and we, through some off chance, would have met in Bryant Park or Piccadilly Circus or a Munich beer garden or wherever my mind takes me? Frankly, I have no idea what I would say to him. I love his music, but what would I ask? What would I say? I genuinely have no idea. Cobain usually came across as a bit tight-lipped and monosyllabic in interviews, so he's a total contradiction in that his art had elements that were profound and essential, yet the guy who made it frankly seemed a bit of a dope (though that is not counting the Jon Savage 1993 interview, which I recommending googling and then listening to in full, it's absolutely fascinating from beginning to end). One could blame the drugs, of course, but that's a topic for another day.

As is so often the case with music (and any other art form), it's the wider, meta repercussion that matters, and Nirvana's second album was basically a moment in history where a style of music that had been part of the underground for the best part of a decade suddenly became mainstream, and in spectacular fashion to boot. Nevermind replacing Michael Jackson's Dangerous at the top of the Billboard album charts was a symbolic moment, make no mistake about that; one that kickstarted a golden era where genres like alternative rock and industrial metal entered the mainstream radar and effectively replaced the poodle rock which had dominated the scene up until that point (as Henry Rollins put it, "Nirvana slayed the hair bands"). I could go on about how the early 90s were generally such an optimistic period with the end of the Cold War, Clinton in the White House, Twin Peaks on the telly, etc, etc, but... again, that's also a topic for another day.

Though I will freely admit that Nevermind initially passed me by when it was released. I knew about it, saw the cover, thought the naked baby was a bit silly and naff, and didn't really pay much attention when Teen Spirit came on MTV. Heck, I was 12 years old at the time, I was too busy playing Monkey Island on my Atari ST and trying to figure out (and mostly failing) how to talk to girls. It was two years later, when the grunge wave had reached Germany proper and both Pearl Jam and Nirvana were about to release their second albums, that I realised something was afoot here. I was 14, just about to enter the Angry Young Man phase of my life, that I found myself slap bang in the target group for this type of music. So the significance of this album only came to me a couple of years late, and Cobain's eventual suicide embellished it, albeit in very tragic circumstances.

Part of the album's commercial success obviously was due to the fact that musically, underneath the layers of guitars, this is very much a pop album, something even the band themselves acknowledged (Cobain initially wanted to call Nevermind's follow up-album "Verse Chorus Verse"). Cobain's self-awareness and self-reflection, apparent through much of his work, not to mention all the diary entries and lyrics that have been posthumously released, suggest that there was a deeply intelligent and thoughtful man hiding underneath this Northwestern lumberjack-shirt-wearing dope. I kid, of course. There's a very good chance I would have liked him a lot and that we would have gotten on like a house on fire, in that parallel world where he decided not to pull the trigger, got himself together, made a few rather non-commercial but absolutely brilliant albums before leaving the music industry, watched his daughter Frances grow up, and lived a long and happy and fulfilled life. That parallel world exists, I'm sure of it. And the beer's on me, of course.
[First added to this chart: 12/22/2016]
Year of Release:
1991
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Rank Score:
53,891
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I had a lot of "Who was more influential, the Beatles or the Velvet Underground?"-discussions on the playground (or the smoker's section at my sixth form, and yes, they really had a smoker's section at my sixth form). I made the point that, while the Beatles made a certain type of rock music popular, the Velvet Underground effectively proved that rock music can be art and that you don't have to enjoy commercial success in order to be influential. (Can I quote Eno here or has that by now become a totally hackneyed, cliched thing to do when talking about this album?)

Admittedly, I was alone in making that point (and come to think I was actually the person who started the argument every single time), but I was right, dammit!

That aside, I was exposed to this album at a relatively young age and it undeniably had a massive influence on the way I approach music.
[First added to this chart: 12/22/2016]
Year of Release:
1967
Appears in:
Rank Score:
60,644
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The only thing I could fault this album for, and this has nothing to do with the actual quality of the output, is that it played a huge part in fuelling the bullshit myth that "Great art has to arise from ARGUMENT and CONFLICT!" because, by jove, were the Beatles in conflict with each other when they made this album. Cue lots of musicians, actors, film directors, literary writers, etc. thinking "Hey, I have to be a total a**hole to everyone around me and I will automatically make great art!". Of course, the myth precedes the White Album (as anyone who belonged to Richard Wagner's circle of friends would probably testify), but I would suggest it didn't really help.

But that aside, the White Album is the Beatles' magnum opus. It's definitely a masterpiece. It even has the obligatory annoying singalong ditty that you really ought to dislike but can't help but, well, maybe not love but at least appreciate (Revolver had Yellow Submarine, Sgt. Pepper had Mr. Kite, this has Obladi Oblada).
[First added to this chart: 12/22/2016]
Year of Release:
1968
Appears in:
Rank Score:
54,612
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Total albums: 100. Page 1 of 10

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Top 100 Greatest Music Albums composition

Decade Albums %


1930s 0 0%
1940s 0 0%
1950s 0 0%
1960s 12 12%
1970s 26 26%
1980s 17 17%
1990s 31 31%
2000s 12 12%
2010s 2 2%
2020s 0 0%
Artist Albums %


The Beatles 4 4%
R.E.M. 4 4%
The Doors 3 3%
Pink Floyd 3 3%
The Residents 3 3%
Neil Young 2 2%
David Bowie 2 2%
Show all
Country Albums %


United Kingdom 44 44%
United States 39 39%
Canada 6 6%
Japan 5 5%
Germany 2 2%
Mixed Nationality 1 1%
Australia 1 1%
Show all
Soundtrack? Albums %
No 96 96%
Yes 4 4%

Top 100 Greatest Music Albums chart changes

Biggest climbers
Climber Up 3 from 38th to 35th
New York
by Lou Reed
Biggest fallers
Faller Down 2 from 35th to 37th
Daydream Nation
by Sonic Youth
Faller Down 1 from 37th to 38th
Hounds Of Love
by Kate Bush

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Top 100 Greatest Music Albums ratings

Average Rating: 
89/100 (from 72 votes)
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This chart is rated in the top 3% of all charts on BestEverAlbums.com. This chart has a Bayesian average rating of 89.3/100, a mean average of 90.1/100, and a trimmed mean (excluding outliers) of 90.0/100. The standard deviation for this chart is 6.8.

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Top 100 Greatest Music Albums comments

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Rating:  
100/100
From 11/27/2020 01:31
I don't know why I never rate people's charts; especially one's that I like. Better late than never I suppose :) Loving the Susumu Hirasawa pick, and your notes are well done.
Helpful?  (Log in to vote) | +2 votes (2 helpful | 0 unhelpful)
Rating:  
95/100
From 11/11/2020 17:07
Very interesting choices! Love the work you put in some of these texts.
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Rating:  
100/100
From 11/11/2020 08:59
Great chart! i love that you included some OST's from movies and games. There are some pretty interesting picks, i gotta listen to a lot of these records!
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Rating:  
95/100
From 10/28/2020 19:08
charis missing, good taste

good chart!!!1
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Rating:  
90/100
From 10/24/2020 19:45
Commenting again! Haha. I need to listen to that Love album again. Godspeed is great! Love REM. Love Big Science by Laurie Anderson, keep moving it up my main chart. White album is fantastic obviously, I even use to consider it my all time favorite but I rarely listen to the Beatles anymore. 17 artists in common, nice!
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Rating:  
90/100
From 09/10/2020 11:53
Excellent mix of albums. I own 90% of them and will definitely check one of the Japanese artists, based on the evidence of our mutual good taste.
Interesting that there are just two German albums in the list......
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Rating:  
85/100
From 09/09/2020 16:15
Pretty good chart, LOVE FFVII
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Rating:  
100/100
From 08/25/2020 06:47
excellent, diversive selections ......
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Rating:  
100/100
From 08/17/2020 16:54
Excellent chart
And I like your notes
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Rating:  
100/100
From 08/16/2020 14:27
U.F Orb and Trans Europe Express alone make this chart a 100
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