The wonderful thing about music is how personal it is. One person’s gold is someone else’s crap. My only rule when compiling this list was to choose only 1 album per artist. So, I now present my top 30 albums of all-time, in no particular order, other than my #1.
Rubber Soul: the beatles
The Beatles have been the most impactful band in my life and I could easily have had every one of their LP’s on my list. However, if I had to choose one, this would be it. On Rubber Soul the “Mop Tops” had evolved into deep songwriters. Songs like, In My Life, Norwegian Wood, Girl and Nowhere Man, all brilliantly showcased John Lennon’s ability to bluntly tell personal stories. Paul McCartney, meanwhile continued to produce hit after hit with, Drive My Car, Michelle and You Won’t See Me.
Hotel california: the eagles
While Don Henley and Glenn Frey were the driving forces of the Eagles, this album showcased the entire band. Joe Walsh made his Eagles debut, and along with Don Felder, produced one of the most memorable guitar solos of all-time in the title track. This was Randy Meisner’s final album with the Eagles and delivers a great vocal in Try and Love Again.
New world record: electric light orchestra
Jeff Lynne has to be one of the most underrated songwriters. The man is the master of “the hook”. Throw in his ability to blend rock and classical sounds and you have something incredibly unique. Livin’ Thing, Telephone Line and Do Ya are all songs that sound as good today as they did in 1976.
Appetite for destruction: guns n’ roses
Like most of the world, I was late to the party on this ground breaking album. Welcome to the Jungle did nothing when it was first released, but now it’s heard in arenas and ballparks pretty much everywhere. This, to me, is the album that bridged hair metal and grunge. Sadly for GnR, the debut was so good, they were never able to match it.
Long before Don’t Stop Believing became the most played song around the world, I was cranking this LP on my turntable. This was Journey’s first album with keyboardist Jonathan Cain, who completely changed the overall sound of the band. Songs like Stone in Love, Who’s Crying Now and Open Arms bring me right back to the summer of 1981.
In through the out door: led zeppelin
I’m sure many true Zeppelin fans are shaking their heads with this selection. Why not Zeppelin 1, 2 or 4? Yes, all great albums, but at the time of this release, I was 10 years old and beginning to discover the passion that stemmed from listening to music and it spoke to me. John Bonham was arguably rock and roll’s best drummer, ever ; just listen to Fool in the Rain. Sad this was to be his last.
Pyromania: def leppard
This is the album that turned me into a full fledged hair-rocker. While Mutt Lange put his stamp on this, it wasn’t as overproduced as their follow up, Hysteria, which is also an amazing LP. Photograph, Foolin’, Rock of Ages…this album is loaded with great songs.
The wall: pink floyd
As the youngest of 3 kids, I was exposed to the music of my older brother and sister. I remember my brother bringing home this double album and the moment I heard Another Brick in the Wall Pt2, I was hooked. As the years went by, I discovered tracks like Hey You and Young Lust, that make this such a deep LP.
Dirty deeds done dirt cheap: ac/dc
For many, Back In Black was their first exposure to AC/DC. While this album was released in Europe and Australia in 1976, it didn’t drop in North America until 1981, more than a year after Bon Scott died. I love Brian Johnson’s voice, but this album made me realise how much better they sounded with Scott.
5150: van halen
Speaking of bands moving on with new singers, Sammy Hagar had huge shoes to fill when David Lee Roth left after the 1984 album. I remember where I was the first time I heard Sammy with Van Halen. Q107, in Toronto, debuted Why Can’t This be Love and the second it began, I knew this was a different band than the one with Roth. It didn’t take long for me to accept Sammy, and to this day, Dreams remains one of my favourite songs of all time.
Bat out of hell: meatloaf
This was another album of my older brother’s that was constantly spinning on the family turntable in late 1977. Years later, when I was in highschool, every dance included Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad and Paradise By the Dashboard Light. Of course in 77, I had no idea what that song was about. I just found it cool to hear baseball play by play in it.
American idiot: green day
I was already a big Green Day fan prior to this album, but this still blew me away. Concept albums can be great if they are done well. I always listen to this album from beginning to end, so it’s safe to say this one definitely hit the mark.
John lennon/plastic ono band: self titled
The Beatles had just split and Lennon took a hard crash into reality. In the song, God, he laments, “The Dream is over”,“I was the walrus, now I’m John”, and also included the lyric “I don’t believe in Beatles”. Lennon was in so much emotional pain and you can hear it clearly in songs like Mother and Isolation.
Tom petty & the heartbreakers: damn the torpedos
Maybe I’m a little biased as I’m in a TP tribute band, but long before We Ain’t Petty, this album got worn out on my turntable. The overall sound of this record is outstanding and that credit goes to producer Jimmy Iovine. We Ain’t Petty does 5 songs off this album, more than any other Petty release.
The game: queen
It’s amazing how many of my favourite albums were released from 1977-80. That’s mainly the influence of my big brother,who was always playing records. This, however, was the first album that I bought for myself. At the time, I loved the shiny tin foil like cover, but as soon as the needle went down, the otherworldly whine of guitars followed by Freddie’s melodic voice was almost hypnotic to me. It wasn’t long until I went much deeper into the Queen catalogue.
Thunder seven: triumph
1984 was a very impactful year in my life. I got my first Sony Walkman, my first part time job, and went to my first arena concert. A friend of mine was a huge Triumph fan, so I had heard songs like Magic Power and Hold On, but this album just blew me away, and when I saw them live, with all those lasers and pyro, I became a fan for life.
Collective soul: self titled
As the 90’s began, I was very reluctant to change with the times. I wasn’t ready to give up hair metal and straight ahead rock and roll. That is until I heard this album. This was the perfect album to introduce me to the 90’s sound. I love guitars, vocal harmonies and catchy melodies. This album had it all.
Slippery when wet: bon jovi
When most of my friends were grunging it out in the early 90’s, I was still bopping to Bon Jovi. While they’ve managed to last through 4 decades, this was their peak. Big hair, guitars, keyboards, harmonies and choruses you can’t help but sing along to. Every song on this album could’ve been a single and they still sound fresh today.
Many of you may be surprised to see this on my list, but I love this album. P!nk’s voice is raw, and her lyrics are personal,”Tired of being compared, to damn Britney Spears. She’s so pretty. That just ain’t me.” There’s no beating around the bush. Sure, it has its “poppy” moments, but there’s enough edge on it to be cranked in the car.
Sports: huey lewis and the news
Here we have the straight ahead Rock N Roll I was referring to. This won’t be on many “best albums” lists, but it holds a special place in my memories. It was 1984 and that summer I had a girlfriend who lived out of town. I’d visit her on weekends, riding on a greyhound bus and listening to this cassette on my walkman. The cassette lasted longer than the relationship.
Bad habits: the monks
The best album many of you have never heard of. Before there was Green Day, The Monks had the market on pop punk. The band was from England but their biggest success came right here in Canada, in fact their 2nd album was only released in our fine country. If you’re unfamiliar, I highly recommend you give this a listen.
Dr. feelgood: motley crue
By the time the album was released, in late 1989, hair metal was on it’s way out but Motley Crue stayed above the curve by offering up something different. With Tommy Lee driving the ship, the band added a funky groove to their sound, something bands like Extreme took to the next level. I had been a Crue fan for years, but figured they were done after Girls, Girls, Girls. Thankfully, I was wrong.
Aladdin sane: david bowie
It was difficult for me to pick just one Bowie album. It was a tossup between this and Ziggy Stardust, but the more I listen to Aladdin Sane, the more I discover the genius that was David Bowie. This album has such a diverse collection of sounds and styles. It kind of reminds me of what the Beatles liked to do. The piano playing from Mike Garson is a big part of that sound.
All things must pass: george harrison
Abbey Road proved once and for all that George Harrison was ready to escape the shadows of Lennon and McCartney. With the Beatles now a thing of past, this was his time to shine, and did he ever, with a 3 album set filled with songs he’d been banking for years. The title track, in fact, was turned down by the Beatles. Harrison also shows off his signature slide guitar sound, just another thing he was underrated for.
Ten : pearl jam
I finally discovered the 90’s, but by the time I did, the century had turned. The wonderful thing about great music is that it never goes away. Sure, I had heard songs like Jeremy, but when I eventually gave this entire album a listen, I discovered what all the fuss was about. Eddie Vedder is such a brilliant vocalist and songwriter and this debut album opened up a door for me, leading me to a band that, in my opinion, is the best one to come out of the decade.
A farewell to kings: rush
What kind of Canadian would I be without a Rush album on this list? It’s so hard to pick just one, but there’s something about this album that makes me want to play it again and again…always with headphones. Closer to the Heart was the big single off this album, but for me, the title track and Xanadu were the highlights .
What’s the story morning glory: oasis
Ok, this is one 90’s band I actually loved in the 90’s. The first time I heard Wonderwall, Strawberry Fields Forever immediately came to mind. Some people are put out by the idea of a band trying to sound like the Beatles. When it’s done well, and Oasis did it remarkably well, I applaud it. It’s too bad the brothers were so dysfunctional, although that maybe what made this work.
Breakfast in america: supertramp
The Logical Song was one of the first singles I owned and when my big brother came home with the entire album, I couldn’t stop listening. This was Supertramp’s 6th album, but the first one to really produce hit singles, and this one was loaded with them. I’ve never considered myself a huge prog rock fan, but this LP motivated me to dig deeper into the genre with bands like Yes and early Genesis.
The grand illusion: styx
Long before I picked up a real guitar, my brother and I used tennis racquets and put on make believe concerts. More often than not, Styx was the group we were rockin’ to. From the moment I heard his voice, Tommy Shaw was always the guy I wished I could sing like. Even now, at the age of 63, the dude still has a remarkable voice. Canada’s own Lawrence Gowan is now a fulltime member of the band and they sound better than ever.
The cars : self titled
Yet another band and album my big brother turned me on to. I’m not sure how you’d categorize them, although some say this was the first “new wave”band. In in my opinion, this is one the greatest debut albums. Ric Ocasek was the one who wrote all the songs, but it was the voice of bass player Benjamin Orr that really did it for me. For some, it’s hard to tell the two apart, but Ocasek once said, “when I write a song and need a really good voice on it I give it to Benjamin”. That’s evident on Just What I Needed and Bye Bye Love.
Goodbye yellow brick road: elton john
Born to run : bruce springsteen
Rumours : fleetwood mac
Uh huh : john cougar mellencamp
Live rust : neil young
Ram : paul mccartney
Zenyatta mondatta : the police
Tommy : the who
Permanent vacation : aerosmith
Jagged little pill : alanis morissette
Eliminator : zz top
Pet sounds : the beach boys
This is Big audio dynamite : bad
boston : self titled
Reckless : bryan adams
Live at budokan : cheap trick