Its pretty simple. I picked albums and songs I like. I consider myself
an "album guy". I like albums that play well as a unit, as opposed to
albums with great songs, that otherwise have filler, weak moments,
inconsistent styles, or tend to drag. An example of the latter might
be Black Market Music
by Placebo. When I first heard this album, I figured it was easily
a top 50 album. There is so much great material on it. The problem is
that it doesn't close strong, drags, and has too much filler. It still
managed to come in at about #109, so it is worth picking up. This isn't
to say that there are not great songs on these albums; in most cases there
are. More importantly, tho, the weak moments are rare, brief, and
work in the context of the albums, and the great songs don't overly
overshadow the other moments.
As of 12/31/03, the AMG had
234,965 rock albums in its database. It would take 20 years of
continuous 24/7 listening to hear all of this material just once.
I'm lucky if I've heard 2% of it, so, despite being open minded
and going out of my way to hear stuff off the beaten path, we are
victims of label, radio station, and other social filters. This
is sad, but this is life. And while there is plenty of obscure
stuff that made the list, I've found in my listenings that most
obscure stuff, in terms of percentages, is obscure for a
Critics are often comittees who pick albums they have to pick. I
pick albums that move me. Its more fun that way; I'm free to embarrass
myself whilst critics must put aside personal taste. Not that the
critics aren't smart people, but why to we keep seeing such
mediocre to very good, but not great albums such as Never Mind
the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, London Calling,
Nevermind, etc. on these lists?
The reason is that these are breakthru albums, albums that opened a
new style of rock to a wider audience. That doesn't make them great,
just historically significant. These albums tend to get picked.
Nevermind, for example, has one good song and lots of
mediocre material that is no different but perhaps a cut above
anything else that was going on in the alternative universe at the
time. But that one song ushered in grunge/alternative to a mass
audience and killed the
mass audience's hair metal. But I don't think the album plays (nor
has it aged), that well. The overplay of its material hasn't helped.
So, these albums look good compared to their peers in the same
style, because there aren't many peers in that style, and seem
refreshing to what is popular (and hence stale). I think
that is why they get picked; they seem better in a relative sense
at the time. But in an absolute sense, I don't think
they are great, nor compare well to the wider universe of rock
albums outside their style, especially in more established styles.
When I pick, I ignore style, so this effect doesn't help an album.
When you think about it, a mature style will offer better material
than a new style, or the first breakthru album in that style, as
there are more artists (bigger talent pool), and
more time of experimentation, growth, and refinement. That explains
my picks of Iced Earth, for example, absolute masters of a refined,
yet dead end or out of favor style, and why great material like this
is overlooked by those who have to make a living in the music biz.
I call this whole concept the "Beatles Effect" -- great and popular
against peers and circumstance.
Being overplayed hurts. If an album or song has been so played
to death that it has lost its magic, it falls down or off the
charts. That is unfortunate, but it may indicate "failing the
test of time". I'm not sure if truly great material can be played
ad nauseum and remain truly great. Some of these albums I've played
a ton, and they are still there, so they have survived against their
weaker, overplayed peers.
For material to be considered, it must be listed in the AMG under
"Rock", or, if listed under another genre, have at least one style
that is in the rock genre (e.g., Folk/Folk Rock; World/Worldbeat).
In these cases, the styles are fusions that use rock structures and
arrangements to enough extent to be recognizable as rock music.
I like lots of other music in other genres (most notable Celtic),
but did not wish to go beyond rock for this. It is hard enough
comparing against styles; rating across genres is too much.
All albums are the original CD versions (or vinyl where no CD
edition is available) with the original track listings. Lately,
the record labels have been reissuing some of these albums with
lots of bonus tracks, sometimes alternates takes, mixes, and outtakes
of the same songs on the albums. While there are often rare gems in
these extra tracks, I tend to think that these additional
tracks dilute the quality of the original recording, and are not exactly
what the artist intended, so I ignore these versions, and recommend
seeking out the original, pure versions, unless the sound improvement
of the reissue is worth the additional cruft of all the filler that
drags out the album. In most cases, these reissues would not make
the top 100 cut, as I am extremely intolerent of cruft, drag, and
I debated a bit whether to allow compilation albums. In general,
I don't particularily care for compilation albums; they often don't
play well, as the material is brought in from different times in
the artist's development. However, if a compilation album sounds
good and plays well as an album, why not include it? For example,
C5's compilation of Caravan sounds so well as an album, and sounds
like it could have been recorded in one session. The bottom line
is that it is great, so it should be on the list. Allowing
compliations also eliminates ambiguous situations such as what is
Gordon by Barenaked Ladies, or Days of Purgatory
by Iced Earth.
I did have a couple rules: no box sets (must be 2 discs or less),
and must be by the same artist (with compilations of a band and its
principal member's solo material being ok).
The number after the date in the album listing is the highest chart
position achieved by the album on the main Billboard chart of the
time. 31 albums did not chart, leaving 69 to chart at #200 or
better. Of those, 55 charted at #100 or better, 35 of those
managed to make the top 40, 21 made the top 10, and 7 reached #1.
There is obviously a lot of great music out there that did not make
the cut. I thought very long about making it a top 200 album list;
the material is certainly out there, but I decided limiting at 100
forced harder decisions, and thus makes the list stronger.
These lists were put together 12/31/2003.
Please don't e-mail me asking me to sell or rip any of my albums.