I’m a black guy who listens to rock music. That’s really weird, seeing as rock is a predominantly white genre and all black guys are “supposed to” listen to hip hop. But let’s face it–rocking out is awesome. Thrash is amazing. Grunge kicks ass. Alternative rock is a killer. I have never met the guy who stopped listening to rock. Ever. Even some staunch Christians listen to rock, albeit in a different form known as Christian rock. I mean, the sound of drums in your chest, beating alongside your heart–that feeling is close to heaven. With that being said, let us look at the essential albums that have come to define the genre and all its offshoots. Every week, I will discuss 10 albums, one from each genre. The list will finally be rounded off by a Top 50
10. PJ Harvey – Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea
This is my all-time favorite album, and yes, all bias aside, it rightfully belongs on the list. Why? For one, it sums up alternative rock in one awesome package. There are greater albums, but this is an essential listen for anyone who is an alternative rock fan. Plus, it helps to have won the Mercury Prize twice.
09. Nirvana – Nevermind
Sure, Rolling Stone has a hard-on for these guys. Sure, Kurt Cobain wasn’t all that legendary, as many detractors like to say. But let’s face it, this album rocked the world. Everyone was selling out (even Metallica sold out), but these three ordinary guys created the most enduring piece of grunge ever made. Don’t believe me? Listen to “Smells like Teen Spirit” one more time.
08. Tool – Ænima
They have a disgusting name, no doubt, but play awesome music all the way. This neo-prog album stands head and shoulders above any other in the genre. With philosophical discussions throughout and a nod to controversial comedian Bill Hicks, this is the thinking man’s metal album.
07. Metallica – Master Of Puppets
Thrash at its finest hour. This album is the reason Metallica is the #1 thrash band in all the world. Fast, aggresive and mindbending, this is the Thriller of thrash. And be it twenty years from now, this album will remain an undisputed classic.
06. Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against the Machine
The fathers of rap metal! This album is an audiophile’s heaven, a young rebel’s best friend and a politician’s hell at the same time. How they managed to pull it off remains out of grasp. Bass lines: majestic. Drums: wicked. Rapping: Awesome. But the ultimate clincher here is Tom Morello’s disturbingly cool guitar playing. No one is allowed to be that good with a guitar–no one. All in all, this was the ultimate height of the marriage of rap and metal.
05. Nick Drake – Bryter Layter
Folk rock never had a better album. The depressing Nick Drake creates a masterpiece from the ashes of his failed first album. There is enough melancholy to make it a Drake record, but compared to Pink Moon, this is really upbeat. Highway 61 Revisited was close, but in an essentials list, the title goes to Nick Drake.
04. The Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks
Really, who had a better punk album than this? …. I thought so too. Noisy, intense and angry, Rotten’s “bad” singing on this album carried it to the heights of punk respect. It is an essential album for every punk fan. Nuff said.
03. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
On this list for critical acclaim as much as musicianship, The Beatles outdid themselves on this masterpiece. But still, #1 in the world may be a teeny weeny bit overdoing it. All that said, this record is essential because it simply is a masterpiece in art. Pet Sounds is actually close, if not the more creative album. But then again, any rock fan, no matter the genre, who has never heard this album, is still an incomplete fan.
02. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
When bands fight like these guys, they do not create music, much less classic relationship albums. This is the ultimate relationship rock album, and all things notwithstanding, a fine, fine work of art. Don’t believe me? Listen to track two, “Dreams,” and soak it all in.
01. Led Zeppelin – IV
The album is the masterpiece of an era, a majestic work of art. “Stairway to Heaven,” although overexplained, cannot be called anything but majestic. And the predecessors to heavy metal laid down one of the blueprints, the other being Black Sabbath’s eponymous debut, a masterpiece and an essential record in its own right.