1. BORN TO RUN - Bruce Springsteen 1975 A+
If rock and roll means transcendence at any cost, improving yourself when you cannot improve the world around
you, jumping in a car and getting the hell outta here, taking that girl with you because it couldn’t be the same without
her, shouting at your invisibility in a world that doesn’t give a shit that you can’t be seen, being true to yourself
no matter what anyone has ever told you or done to you, letting your heart break over and over because that’s what it’s
there for, getting up, dancing, singing and running as if your life depends on it, staying young in your heart and mind as
long as you can, because if you grow old, it’s over…that’s it…get in the ground...your time’s
up!…Then this is the greatest rock and roll document ever by the greatest rock and roller ever.
2. THE STRANGER - Billy Joel 1977 A+
This is pop music as I want it, as I’ve always wanted it, having grown up on it and the music of its
key inspirational figure, Paul McCartney… This is music of melody and harmony and a voice that is to me like the air
I breathe. You take for granted the things you need the most to survive. Air, water, food, love, Billy. It’s as
simple as that. And just because most of it has been played ad nauseum on the radio for three decades doesn't mean the
songs aren't still fresh. It's not their fault they were played so much. When you're a song as good as "Only The Good Die
Young" or "Get It Right The First Time," you're going to be played on the radio ALOT. Maybe the best "Pop" album ever.
3. SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE - Stevie Wonder 1976 A+
Arguably the best double album ever created. The only thing wider and deeper is GOD. But Stevie does
a fine job celebrating The Maker at every turn. It’s exhausting, invigorating, Life itself. There is no other popular
music like this anywhere. Not even on Stevie's other albums. Well, Innervisons comes pretty close.
Other than that, nothing. (Except Talking Book maybe.) Well, alright, there are a few that are like
it in terms of God-given miraculous greatness, but not many.
4. WHO’S NEXT - The Who 1971 A+
The best set of songs from the best rock songwriter ever. The record that set the stage
for Born To Run, that pissed all over the monument that was Tommy, the
record on which all four members of the greatest rock band of their (or any?) time matured together to bring forth music of
such epic joy that you cannot hear or feel it without knowing decisively there is not only an absolute being of infinite breadth,
goodness and love, but that this being does indeed care about humanity and wants us to survive and carry on. The introduction
to "Baba O'Riley" is proof. Especially when Paul O'Neill strode to home plate with the strains of it booming through Yankee
Stadium. No doubt, there is GOD.
5. LED ZEPPELIN IV 1971 A+
The watershed. Where it all comes together in one sweeping gesture. The hardest rocking band ever doing half
their masterpiece acoustic. After The Beatles, Led Zeppelin is the most colorful music in all of Rock. And this is the beginning
of their brightest period. The greatest albums are worlds unto themselves, realms of existence that you are invited to enter
and experience as you see fit. Like the world itself, there is nothing missing. It’s all there to find if you choose
to go looking for it. This is one such beautiful planet. And don't let anyone tell you "Stairway To Heaven" isn't the greatest
Rock song ever, because it is. There are many reasons it spent more than a quarter century at the top of all those
Classic Rock radio lists. Jimmy Page's guitar solo, for one. Not to mention the drumming and the singing.
6. BLUE - Joni Mitchell 1971 A+
Naked, true, and achingly beautiful, the finest singer-songwriter record ever. If you want to feel
something, start here.
7. THE WALL - Pink Floyd 1979 A+
You know that mush I just said about great albums being worlds unto themselves? This is one so well-constructed,
so meticulously laid out, that that alone makes it as scary as it is. It’s a schematic of a nightmare, or many nightmares,
hurled upon humanity by itself. And if the cycle continues, we’re in big trouble. The architecture of this building
alone, however, turns out to be worth every second of the nightmare. And when you add the soothing paint brush of Dave
Gilmour to the bleak-white concrete canvas, it’s quite breathtaking, isn’t it? The vocal trade-off between Dave
and conceptual mastermind Roger Waters on "Comfortably Numb" is the last moment of pure Beatles in rock music. This was further
made evident at the historic Live 8 concert in London when Rog, Dave, Nick Mason and Rick Wright momentarily
buried all the hatchets and came together over Africa in a noble attempt to at least begin helping to heal
8. CLOSE TO THE EDGE - Yes 1972 A+
This has always been a favorite of mine, but as I get older, it gains in power, beauty and innocence. The
title piece is a symphony as big as the whole of planet Earth. Like a forest or a jungle of Exploding Life. An impressionist
work by five egghead Englishmen who could play and arrange their asses off. And the voice of the elven Jon Anderson carries
with it a humbling hope. I am deeply moved by the power and goodness of this music. The last time they
were ever this focused, by the way. "And You And I" is a good idea of Love.
9. AJA - Steely Dan 1977 A+
This is Jazz Beatles, as "perfect" as pop music gets. Sometimes, I like hearing "perfect" pop music. In this
case, I like it a lot. But these guys are the only ones who ever pulled it off. Anyone else who tries never even gets
near it. It turns all blowhard and pretentious. For instance, Steve Gadd's drumming on the title track is one of
the finest musical performances by anyone ever. It’s as good as "pop" ever got. The writing, the singing, the nasal
sarcasm, the sound, the playing, the production, the grooves, the vibe, the hippest of unhip New York outcasts marooned
in sunny LA longing for NY and all its pizza places and delicatessens…A masterpiece of verve and dislocation. When the
great Donald Fagen sings "Learn to act the saxophone and I play just what I feel," don't believe he isn't feeling anything,
whether or not he ever plays a note.
10. 52nd STREET - Billy Joel 1978 A+
He’s my guy, always has been, always will be. For the lead vocal on "Honesty" alone, this is a masterpiece.
But then there’s the suburban genius of "My Life," the jazz club genius of "Zanzibar," the steely genius
of "Stiletto," the Latin genius of "Rosalinda’s Eyes," the Brooklyn genius of "Half A Mile Away," and the ultimate
Righteous Brothers genius of "Until The Night." Think I’m over-using the word ‘Genius’? No. Not one bit.
No matter what anyone has ever said about him, he is one.
And so are all of the amazing people on this little list. I say thank you to God for each one of
them on a regular basis.