My Top 25 albums of all time

This blog reaches the momentous milestone of its 200th entry with this post, so I decided to do something a bit special to commemorate this.

Back in February 2001, I spent a few idle hours deciding on my favourite albums of all time, although this was a far from scientific exercise, as I merely plucked out what I felt were the main contenders and then placed them in order.

This time around, I have spent quite a lot of time listening to contender LPs, rating every track, and then deciding on the best way to rank them – because that’s just the way I roll.

It can’t really be as simple as getting an average score for each song – is a ten-track album full of 7 out of 10 tunes better than one that has eight 7’s, one 6 and one 8, for example?

I ended up using the average score per track with a small weight added for the number of 8/9/10 out of 10 songs, followed by a subjective review of the list to ensure it made sense to me.

Obviously, none of the many (?) people reading this will agree with my ranking, but that’s the nature of the beast.

The old list

Last time, I created a Top 12 for some reason, which is here:

12. Patti SmithHorses
11. The ByrdsThe Notorious Byrd Brothers
10. LoveForever Changes
9. Sex PistolsNever Mind The Bollocks
8. Big StarRadio City
7. The BeatlesRevolver
6. The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
5. The Wedding PresentGeorge Best
4. The BeatlesRubber Soul
3. Bob DylanBringing It All Back Home
2. Frank SinatraCome Dance With Me!
1. The Velvet Underground & NicoThe Velvet Underground & Nico

Just to be clear for anyone just scanning this list – that’s the old version, not the new one! Spoiler alert: this new list is very different, as only seven of those twelve feature in my Top 25.

I ended up rating a total of 142 albums in order to come up with my final 25, so I feel pretty confident I covered anything likely to appear.

There are a few so-called classic albums that I like but which I knew had no realistic chance of making the cut, so I didn’t bother with albums like The Beach BoysPet Sounds, What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye, Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and London Calling by The Clash.

The new Top 25

So, without further ado, and with only limited commentary, here is the Top 25 in the customary reverse order.

25. Nick DrakeFive Leaves Left (1969)

While I also love Bryter Later and Pink Moon, I think this is comfortably his best album, which I first heard via a schoolmate (Stu) when visiting him in Oxford from Sheffield during my first year of university, getting it on CD from Virgin on Oxford Street for £7.49 in February 1992.

24. PixiesCome On Pilgrim (1987)

Without the semi-scientific method I went through, I’ve always thought of Doolittle as my top Pixies album. It does include Debaser, my #1 song of theirs, but there’s also a few lesser tracks on there.

COP benefits greatly from only being eight tracks long, with no duffers.

I first heard it after buying the CD that also includes Surfer Rosa from HMV on Oxford Street for £8.99 in July 1989.

23. Leonard CohenI’m Your Man (1988)

I bought this on cassette shortly after it was released in February 1988, despite getting my first CD player at the end of that month for my eighteenth birthday. I think I’d already got a copy of the 1975 Greatest Hits by that point, again as a purchased tape.

I bought it on CD in February 1992, for just £6.99 from Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus, getting Son House’s Father Of The Delta Blues: The Complete 1965 Sessions double CD at the same time.

This, to my ears, is by far his most consistent album, although you have to forgive one or two production touches of the era.

22. The BeatlesThe Beatles (1968)

Quite easily the most diverse record in this list: proto-heavy metal, 20’s pastiche, musique concrète, country, psych, ska, blues and folk, to name a few genres to feature on what is the greatest double album ever made, for me.

I bought my first CD copy mail order from somewhere called M.A.P. for £19.99 in January 1993, adding the remastered version from Amazon for £13.98 in December 2009, and then getting the six-disc box set from My Beloved Wife for Christmas in 2018.

21. Little RichardLittle Richard (1958)

July 1958’s second LP by the Georgia Peach, issued ten months after he had already retired from rock ‘n’ roll (for the first time), to theoretically devote himself to God.

This is a slight fudge as I’ve never owned this album as such, or indeed any others of his. I bought the 6-CD box set The Specialty Sessions that includes pretty much every note he recorded for that label from 1955 to 1957 and then again in 1964 in January 1993, an early online acquisition from somewhere called Tonal Records, for £34.99.

Side two’s line-up is near perfection: Good Golly Miss Molly, Baby Face, Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey, Ooh! My Soul, The Girl Can’t Help It and Lucille. His debut Here’s Little Richard from 1957 would also comfortably fit into my personal Top 50.

20. Echo & The BunnymenOcean Rain (1984)

I was surprised to rate this album (or any of theirs) quite as highly, but it includes three classic singles in the form of The Killing Moon, Silver and Seven Seas, with none of the remaining six tracks being anything less than very good.

I had a tape of it many years before first getting it on CD, then replacing it with an expanded version from Sister Ray in Soho for £7.99 in January 2004, also buying the Adam & The AntsAntbox box set and Local Information, the sole album by Darren Hayman’s The French at the same time.

19. Joy DivisionCloser (1980)

An iconic album for me, that I first heard when given it on CD by my best mate Kris the day after my eighteenth birthday, so becoming only my fifth CD, as I had received a player and the other four the day before.

For reasons best known to Tony Wilson, this album comes with a “CD Car Carry Case” as well as the standard jewel case!

It’s probably controversial to pick this 1980 sophomore LP ahead of the debut Unknown Pleasures, which although consistently very good has fewer real killer cuts than Closer, most notably the opener Atrocity Exhibition, which I really love.

18. The BeatlesPlease Please Me (1963)

An album I bought on LP back in the mid-to-late 1980’s as The Beatles became my all-time favourite band very quickly, first getting it on CD (at the same time as Rubber Soul) from Tower Records on Queensway for £9.99 in August 1993, then getting the remastered version for Christmas in 2009 (along with ten other remasters!).

Six covers and seven originals, but the sheer zest of the performances ensure there’s nothing below brilliance on show, with I Saw Her Standing There, the title track and Twist And Shout the absolute stand-outs.

17. The Velvet UndergroundThe Velvet Underground (1969)

Their third LP is much mellower in general than the two preceding efforts, but as well as the lovely Pale Blue Eyes and Jesus, the record also features the far wilder The Murder Mystery, before closing with the rare treat of a Moe Tucker vocal on After Hours.

This is another album I had a tape recording of back in the early 1990’s, soon getting it on CD, but then replacing that with a remastered version from HMV at Heathrow in July 1999, when I paid £5.95 for it, also snapping up a Petula Clark compilation at the same time!

16. Bob DylanBringing It All Back Home (1965)

Another album I thought of as being my favourite by the artist which turned out to be #2.

Apart from the immortal Subterranean Homesick Blues and Mr. Tambourine Man, it includes It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), from which I plucked the line “money doesn’t talk, it swears” to somewhat pretentiously pin up amongst various music press posters and photos on my student bedroom walls.

As I mentioned in this nostalgic article: “I distinctly remember looks of disdain verging on horror when I put the cassette of [this] on the sixth form common room music system one break-time.”

It was purchased on CD on my behalf by a university friend called Adrian in March 1990, when he must have taken advantage of a 3-for-£20 deal, also brining me a copy of The Cramps’ brand new Stay Sick! on the same day.

15. The BeatlesA Hard Day’s Night (1964)

The only Beatles album entirely made up of Lennon/McCartney tunes, and the first record in this list to feature a song that I rated the full 10/10 (the title track), a very rare accolade as I only handed that score to five tunes across these Top 25 albums.

I bought this on CD back in March 1995 as part of a 2-for-£20 deal, also buying Morrissey’s Vauxhall And I, Monster by R.E.M. and a Belinda Carlisle best of in the same deal from Virgin on Oxford Street.

I then got a remastered version in the great tranche I received for Christmas 2009, and then the US version of the album that only includes the tracks from the film from a Discogs seller for £11.97 in February 2022.

14. Patti SmithHorses (1975)

One of nine debut albums to make my Top 25, slightly countering the findings of an old blog post of mine, Are first albums always the best ones?.

I bought it on CD many moons ago, replacing it with a remastered version with a bonus track from the now defunct Music Zone for £5.99 on a trip to Liverpool in March 2002, snapping up Madness’s The Rise & Fall and Milestones by Miles Davis at the same time.

13. The TriffidsBorn Sandy Devotional (1986)

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I rated this album this highly, as The Triffids are a band I’ve loved since first coming to them in the sixth form, possibly via a friend called Stu.

They were the first pro band I ever saw live (with Kris and Stu), as detailed here, when I saw them play the Dominion Theatre on Tottenham Court Road in September 1988.

I love every song on this record, but the middle run of Tarrilup Bridge, Lonely Stretch, Wide Open Road and Life Of Crime is a thing of beauty.

This is yet another album I bought on CD, later replacing it with a remastered version with a load of bonus tracks from Amazon for £8.99 in July 2006.

12. The Velvet Underground & NicoThe Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

One of those iconic albums that I first came to in my sixth form, via the brother of a schoolmate, picking it up on CD not too long later, again replacing this with a remastered version, this time from Our Price in Richmond in July 1998.

I bought that as part of a 3-for-£21 deal along with Bee Gees’ disco classic Main Course and Nick Of Time by Bonnie Raitt, two albums I have not played for many years.

This would be far higher on the list were it not for the less stellar final two tracks, but side one especially is sheer brilliance, with the second 10/10 scorer in this list in I’m Waiting For The Man.

11. The BeatlesAbbey Road (1969)

A fabs album that seems to have ebbed and flowed in popularity over the decades, seemingly now the pick of younger generations, perhaps as it is by far the most modern sounding of their records, for better or worse.

However, it is chock full of fantastic songs, with only Sun King and the very brief Her Majesty less than top drawer. Side one is six works of genius (yes, even Maxwell’s Silver Hammer), while side two is dominated by its fantastic suite.

I only had a tape copy of this in my salad days as this was one of the Beatles albums that was in my sister’s collection, so I didn’t bother to buy it on vinyl. I first got it on CD in September 1992 in a 2-for-£20 deal from HMV on Oxford Street, with The Jam’s odds-and-sods collection Extras.

The remastered version came my way for Christmas 2009, while I’d already got a bootleg called The Abbey Road Companion from my friend James on my birthday in 2004.

My birthday sixteen years later then brought me the 3-CD plus Blu-ray box set thanks to My Beloved Wife.

10. The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

This album was frequently rated as the greatest ever made for many years by critics, before undergoing a couple of reversals of fortune.

It may not quite hit the peaks of some of their other albums, but there’s nothing approaching a sub-par track on it.

I got it as a Christmas gift from Adrian in 1992, along with Past Masters Volume Two, then getting the remastered version among the massive 2009 accumulation.

I also received the 4-CD (plus DVD and Blu-ray) box set for Christmas 2018, and then acquired a couple of bootlegs in early 2020 via an American friend of mine who’s a fellow Beatles nut (hi, Bobby!), the Isolated Vocal & Instrumental Tracks and 4-Track Isolations.

Also worth mentioning is the NME compilation cassette of covers called Sgt Pepper Knew My Father from 1988 that includes the likes of The Fall, Billy Bragg, Sonic Youth, The Wedding Present and The Triffids.

9. David BowieThe Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972)

I have often considered Hunky Dory to be my favourite Bowie album, but it is let down by a few lesser cuts (notably Eight Line Poem), whereas Ziggy Stardust is the proverbial all killer, no filler.

I had this on CD for many years before replacing it with the 2-CD twentieth anniversary edition from CD Wow for £12.99 in July 2002, also receiving The Flaming LipsYoshimi Battles The Pink Robots in the same parcel.

8. BlondieParallel Lines (1978)

An album I’ve known and loved since I first started listening to music, as my sister has a vinyl copy that I listened to a lot (or a tape copy) as a callow youth.

I think I had a normal CD version of this album, before getting a remastered copy with bonus tracks from Music Zone in Liverpool in September 2001 for £6.99, also snapping up a copy of Bob Dylan’s then-new album Love And Theft at the same time.

7. The Wedding PresentGeorge Best (1987)

An album that perhaps isn’t always seen as the band’s best, but it’s easily my favourite, which I have loved ever since buying it on cassette in early 1988, having first been exposed to some of its tracks on John Peel’s Festive Fifty of 1987, when four of its cuts made the Top 10.

This album has one of my rare ’10 out of 10’ songs in A Million Miles, which to my ears is sheer perfection.

I bought it on CD very early on, replacing it with the George Best Plus version that I got from HMV in Richmond in December 1997 for the odd price of £8.38, the same amount I also paid for Hurricane #1’s debut album that day, so presumably it was part of a bulk or discount deal that I cannot now decipher.

As a side issue, not only have I only just discovered that Hurricane #1 put out a follow-up album in 1999, but also that they later reformed, putting out another three in the 2010’s, although Ride’s Andy Bell is not part of this new incarnation.

6. Talking HeadsTalking Heads ’77 (1977)

I’ve loved Talking Heads ever since first coming across them in the sixth form, with each of their first four albums being pretty peerless, and the next couple also really very good indeed.

This debut just manages to out-rank Fear Of Music and Remain In Light, partly helped by including one of the lesser-spotted 10 out of 10’s in Psycho Killer.

I had this on tape for a few years before Adrian gave it to me on CD for Christmas in 1990.

5. Bob DylanHighway 61 Revisited (1965)

An album that just moves from one classic to another, which I think I bought on cassette a few years before snapping it up on CD from Jack’s in Sheffield for £6 in June 1991, also acquiring The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Springhouse and New Fast Automatic Daffodils albums at the same time.

4. BuzzcocksAnother Music In A Different Kitchen (1978)

The biggest surprise in this list for me as Buzzcocks are not a band I often think about, but when I do listen I remember how utterly wondrous they are.

I had a tape copy of this before getting the 3-CD Product box set for £29 via Adrian in November 1991, that includes the two other albums and everything else from their first incarnation.

3. The BeatlesRubber Soul (1965)

I put this as my number one fabs’ release back in 2001, but I think that was partly due to being in a bit of a Byrds phase, hence one of their LPs coming in at number eleven, but not getting close to troubling this Top 25. Rubber Soul is their most folk-rock record.

Side one is almost perfect (the five best songs on the album are all here), while side two is hampered slightly by two lesser tracks in What Goes On and Run For Your Life.

While it’s never lauded in quite the same way as the following couple of years, my list presents a strong case for 1965 being the finest ever year for albums, as only that and 1969 feature three times in the Top 25, with 1977 the only other year to appear at least twice in my Top 10.

I had this on vinyl back in the 80’s, acquiring the CDs at the same time as Please Please Me, but adding the three-disc Rubber Soul Sessions bootleg via the Nothing Is Real podcast group on Facebook in February 2022. No doubt there will be a box set along soon, perhaps next year.

2. TelevisionMarquee Moon (1977)

Wall-to-wall genius, with perhaps only Guiding Light dropping off ever so slightly in quality. Unlike the only record that outranks it., it’s very much of a piece, with all the songs along the same vein.

I’m pretty sure I had a tape copy of this back in my student days (no doubt via Kris), before rapidly getting it on CD, although I then ditched that for a version with five bonus tracks from Sister Ray in November 2003 for £11.99 (when I bought a double CD compilation of scouse should-have-been’s The Wild Swans at the same time).

1. The BeatlesRevolver (1966)

I assumed going into this exercise, that this ought to end up at number one, and I’m very pleased to say that it did. That’s despite only rating it as my third favourite Beatles album when I did my previous ranking.

There are literally no sub-standard songs on this. I used to be irrationally against Got To Get You Into My Life¸ but I’ve now learned to love this too.

It ends with one of their greatest ever tracks in Tomorrow Never Knows.

This was the first fabs’ album I bought on CD (again having had it on vinyl in the 80’s), weirdly from Catapilla Records in Exeter in August 1993, for the strange sum of £8.09. I think this must have been on a driving tour of the country with university friend Simon, also a massive Beatles nut.

It was one of the many I got in a remastered version for Christmas 2009, adding the 4-CD bootleg of Revolver Sessions as a download in February 2022, again via the Nothing Is Real group. This will hopefully be added to at Christmas 2022 with the new official box set.

Missing out

Of course, many fabulous albums missed out on being in the Top 25. Apart from the five non-repeats from my last Top 12, notable absentees include Something Else By The Kinks, the third eponymous Peter Gabriel album (aka Melt) and Carl Perkins’ debut Dance Album, all of which are probably in my Top 30.

The most significant artist not to appear at all is The Fall, still possibly my second favourite band of all time. I suspect This Nation’s Saving Grace would settle within my Top 50 if I ever did that properly.

There’s no solo Beatles in here, but George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass would have just scraped in at #25 if I had ignored the third Apple Jam disc which drags down the average. Macca’s Band On The Run and Ram, and John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band are also very strong candidates for a Top 100. One day I may get around to that…!

Some final thoughts

It’s a shame, but no real surprise to me, that the most recent record in my Top 25 is from 1988. That is certainly not to say that there haven’t been a whole host of great albums released since then, although the ones that have lived with me for decades are those that I have played the most and have been absorbed into my psyche more than others.

1993’s Frosting On The Beater by The Posies and Ryan Adams’ first two albums from early this millennium would likely nestle in my Top 100, but it’s probably too soon for anything from the last twenty years to be ready for that accolade.

Also worth noting is the hefty bias towards white, male, Anglo-Saxons in my list. Patti Smith and Debbie Harry are the only women to front LPs, with Tina Weymouth, Nico, Jill Birt, Moe Tucker and Kim Deal the other vital females to feature.

Non-white acts would almost certainly appear in my Top 100, such as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix and Arthur Lee’s Love.

A side note of interest no doubt only to me is realising that while I own t-shirts honouring thirteen of the seventeen acts in this Top 25, four of those are actually of the albums in this list themselves.

Playlist

Here is a link to one killer track off each of these Top 25 albums on Spotify:

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One response to “My Top 25 albums of all time

  1. Pingback: The 1000 Album Challenge | undilutable slang truth·

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