100 Albums Bucket List, Ranked

 

By Christian Thomsett

 

During Lockdown last year, I wanted to make the most of my time by trying out something new. The opportunity to make a couple quid at work was out the window as my family were shielding during this time, so none of us were allowed to work. So instead of twiddling my thumbs in silence, I decided to buy a poster with 100 albums on them and take the time to listen to every single one of them; this meant I had graduated to twiddling my thumbs with music behind me.

As I listened to each album, I thought it would make a pretty interesting, if lengthy, blog post to express my thoughts on each album, and rank them accordingly. So that’s what I have been doing since August, last year.

A couple of disclaimers! There will be one or more albums that aren’t on the list that you think should be, so don’t be put off if I didn’t talk about it here. It just wasn’t on the poster, so I haven’t ranked it. There are more than a few albums I don’t think should be on the list, and I can think of a few replacements, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

And the second disclaimer is that these are all my personal opinions.  Music is probably the most opinionated form of media in existence because people have such finely tuned tastes, but that means there isn’t that much overlap of opinion in some areas. So if I don’t like your favourite album ever, don’t take it as an attack. If anything, you are in a better position for enjoying something I can’t enjoy.

You can buy the poster on Amazon at this link

With all that said and done, here are albums 100 to 76. Enjoy!

 

#100. THE IMMACULATE COLLECTION – MADONNA


Only thing older than The Bible is Madonna

I’m going to start with some compilation albums first, because I don’t think it’s fair to compare studio albums to what is meant to be a collaboration of an artist’s best works. So we’re getting them out of the way first and starting with my least favourite. I certainly wouldn’t classify The Immaculate Collection as “not my thing”; Madonna is a great singer and a brilliant writer. She performs her heart out on stage and is responsible for some of the most famous 80s ballads out there. There’s a load of great singles on the album as well, but that is to be expected: it is a compilation album after all. Material Girl is one of my favourites, along with Crazy for You and THE Madonna song, Like a Virgin. The Immaculate Collection has the unfortunate pleasure of having to compete with three other great compilation albums that are by artists that I prefer, but I certainly recommend giving it a listen.

 

#99. GOLD – ABBA


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Alan Partridge, Knowing Me, Knowing You, A – ha

Eurovision has produced some absolutely incredible acts, some for the absolute wrong reasons. But we can thank Eurovision for launching this Swedish supergroup. Personally, I associate ABBA with long car rides to school with my mum playing the album on repeat, so I was very familiar with ABBA’s work. I do like them, but those memories are painful. It’s not you, it’s me. That being said, listening to Gold was a refreshing trip down memory lane, and reminded me how much good stuff ABBA has produced. In all honesty, I think I hate Voulez – Vous, but the rest of the album has, as you would expect from the Greatest Hits of any band, some otherwise awesome songs. For my money, I Have A Dream and Fernando are easily my favourite songs. Might have preferred an actual album to rank, but considering Gold’s popularity, I think I am fine with its position.

 

#98. SONGBIRD – EVA CASSIDY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A collection of melodies from a tragically short life

Eva Cassidy is a strange case of an artist reaching her worldwide fame when she stopped working. Despite receiving critical acclaim during her lifetime, especially for her stunningly fragile singing voice, it was only when this album was given to BBC Radio 2 host Terry Wogan after her death that she absolutely skyrocketed. Songbird, comprised of a variety of slow tempo Gospel, R&B and Jazz tracks, shows that Cassidy had a huge range of vocal capabilities, partnered with her guitar and interpretations of each song. Fields of Gold and Over the Rainbow and similar tracks are made all the more beautiful when her tragic death is taken into account. A common theme about a number of the albums on this list, especially towards the end, is that they become separated by my personal preferences, as opposed to objective quality. Songbird does fall victim to this, but that shouldn’t put you off from listening to it!

 

#97. LEGEND – BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Misleading masterpiece

Bad experiences had left me feeling cold to Bob Marley until I listened to Legend. Pretentious university students (present company withstanding) who had no idea how angry Marley could be, coupled with some more personal stories just wrote him off for me. That being said, I’ve always wanted to give my younger self a well – deserved sucker punch. Legend is a great compilation of The Wailer’s best work, and showed me what I was missing out on, despite its incredibly ‘safe’ selection of songs that paint Marley as an incredibly mellow figure. Jamming and Redemption Song are my comfort zone, where The Wailer’s reggae roots of self – emancipation and relaxation shine. I Shot the Sheriff, Exodus and Buffalo Soldier are also stand out songs. It does frustrate me that I can’t put it much higher on the list, but it isn’t fair to put an album against a compilation of an artists best, cherry picked work.

 

#96. NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, HERE’S THE SEX PISTOLS ­– SEX PISTOLS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bollocks being the operative word

So now that we’re done with the compilation albums, we can start with my least favourite album on the poster. There really is no denying the impact that Sex Pistols had on the world, let alone British culture. Being active for only three years, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is the only album the Sex Pistols released. With this, they kick started the punk movement in England, inspiring questionable fashion choices and governmental opposition composited by their now infamous interview on Bill Grundy’s show Today. You may have noticed I’ve said nothing about the music yet, because I don’t have much to say. I like its anarchistic vibe, but the sound is almost unbearable. I wonder if you could make a case for the sex pistols being a great case of style over substance. Of the numerous articles I’ve poured through relating to Sex Pistols, all of them reference their off – stage antics, which may not be fair considering how long they were around for. Punk rock at its best can be an incredibly active representation of a person’s socio – economic background, which is clearly what Sex Pistols were emulating. It must have been a truly awful period of strife in Britain for this to have taken off. But never let anyone tell you that “all rap sounds the same” if they still think listening to Sex Pistols counts as a personality trait.   

 

#95. The Fat of the Land – The Prodigy

I’m a migraine starter

Normally, if I don’t like an album, its either because I think the songs sound too similar, the album is simply forgettable, or the genre just isn’t for me. Fat of the Land is a wonderful combination of all three. Well, that isn’t actually true. I like a couple of their hits in small moderation, like Invaders Must Die. The Prodigy clearly have a thing going for them, because even I know the impact that they have had on the Electronic music industry, and I recognise a few of the songs, like Firestarter and Smack my B***h Up. but an entire album of Electronic music that sounds eerily similar isn’t a great example. We’ll chalk this one up to ‘doomed from the start’. 

 

#94. IS THIS IT – THE STROKES

…was that it?

Legend has it that this albums success was of such a high quality that a bidding war started between managers to sign on The Strokes. Why, I have no idea, because I really don’t see why the album is as successful as it is. Is This It is a staple of early 2000s Indie rock that apparently changed everything for the genre. Maybe it is because I’ve heard so much of this kind of music in my life that I’m sick of it (the phrase ‘often imitated, never duplicated’ comes to mind). The drumming work is certainly impressive, and it sounds like the type of garage rock that is pretty hardcore, but Julian Casablancas lead vocals has this weird, almost static – like effect over it that just made all of the songs blur together.  I couldn’t shake the fact that the album is 36 minutes long, and it felt almost twice that time, even on multiple listens. I get the sense that I would like it if I got used to it, but the same can be said about being boiled alive. Listen to American Idiot by Green Day or the shockingly absent Hot Fuss by The Killers. Then again, I listened to one of The Stokes most recent works and that was much more bearable! So maybe I shouldn’t count The Strokes out just yet.

 

#93. SPICE – THE SPICE GIRLS

Wannabe doing anything else

I am fairly sure that Spice Girls are the only artist(s) on the poster I truly dislike. Well, not truly. I like Say You’ll be There. That’s it. Wannabe is the best-selling single by a girl group and Spice is also the bestselling album by a girl – group (????). Compounded by its legacy, alongside other Brit – pop groups like Oasis, Blur and Pulp that make up the British Invasion of the 90s, Spice was always going to be on the poster. But I would like to think that the album wouldn’t have been on there if it weren’t for its success. I like that the Spice Girls each have their own personality (sporty, scary, ginger, baby, posh) and they obviously did something to make themselves so successful, somehow more so than the infinitely superior Destiny’s Child or TLC or The Supremes. Listen to them instead, support better artists!

 

#92. + - ED SHEERAN

Putting myself in public crosshairs…

Ed Sheeran is like peanut butter. I understand the appeal. I would never take it away from anyone. But I’m not going to stand in line for it. I can very safely say (well, nothing is safe at this point) that Sheeran has created an ingenious pop – folk sound, that is so infectiously recognisable that you couldn’t possibly confuse him. Objectively, I can admit that he has created a sound that can be linked to him at its strongest. He also seems like a nice guy. His music just doesn’t appeal to me. + capitalises on Sheeran’s instantly recognisable sound by creating some well-crafted songs that I think I can recommend to most people. But his music doesn’t appeal to me, I find it a bit irritating. Like peanut butter.

 

#91. IMAGINE – JOHN LENNON

I don’t wanna! I DON’T WANNA!

Out of every album on this list, this is the one I was dreading the most. I already hated the title song of John Lennon’s album well before I started this quest. AND THEN, in one of the most hilariously misguided and out – of – touch publicity stunts I have ever seen, Wonder Woman’s own Gal Gadot thought that a great use of her time (but coincidently, not her millions of dollars) was to start a karaoke of a song I already hated, thinking that it would somehow make the world feel better about one of the most prolonged and horrific tragedies in recent memory. So, objectivity was out of the window on approach. But you know what? It wasn’t THAT bad! I still don’t think of Imagine as anything other than a particularly boring song, but the rest of the tracks on the album are fine and reminded me of one of my favourite Beatles works, the White Album. Imagine has clearly touched millions of people around the world, being re-released six times! I can assume I may like Imagine as an album as I think about Lennon’s interesting views on the world and his former bandmates (of which the album reflects heavily) but, at the time of writing, I can confidently say I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would.   

#90. DAMN THE TORPEDOES – TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS

The most disappointing album on the list

On paper, I should love Tom Petty. A world renowned 70’s rocker, who didn’t stop playing until his tragic death in 2016. This should be my bread and butter! And yet I could not shake the fact that I struggled to remember the last song I heard as the album went on. Petty’s voice is certainly distinctive but doesn’t excite me in the same way that Robert Plant’s or Pete Townshend does. It is certainly an easy listen, but there are much better albums on this list to listen to, from artists who are much more distinctive. I have the feeling Damn the Torpedoes may not have been the correct album for this list, as it certainly left me with a sense of anti-climax after I finished it. It’s not bad, but it was so not what I was expecting it to be.

 

#89. CALIFORNICATION – RED HOT CHILLI PEPPERS

Cheese and chalk and riots at Woodstock

I like the title song Californication and Savior. They’re good tracks that I like to listen to fairly regularly. I also like Under The Bridge, even though it isn’t on the album. And the album cover is haunting, with its stark, contrasting colours that really pop. I’m getting the stuff I actually quite enjoy about the Peppers out of the way before I absolutely tear into this album. I love rock music and I love rap, but I hate rap rock. Bands like Limp Bizkit and RHCP are nails on a chalkboard for me, and prove that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. It’s a shame really, because when the band devote themselves to their exclusively rock tracks, they can actually sound pretty excellent. But if you can avoid this album, then you aren’t going to lose too much sleep, at least not as much as me.

 

#88. KIND OF BLUE – MILES DAVIS

Jazz! For better or worse

Jazz – infusion is everywhere in the music industry and is certainly one of my favourite forms of music. Mild spoiler, but the number one spot on this list is an almost perfect jazz infused album. Pure jazz is great, and has huge historical connotations, but isn’t always for me. Listening to pure jazz is similar to drinking straight mixer. Its nice most days of the week and at most times, but you could do a lot more with it if you added something else to it. Enter Miles Davis, with his impressive work on the trumpet. It’s great to have on in the background, as a purely instrumental piece, if you are working on a different project. It’s quite a short album, in terms of track listing, boasting five tracks with a certainly recognisable sound, but it becomes lost in very long tracks that all see Miles Davis performing on his trumpet. Certainly not bad by any means, and brass instruments like the trumpet can be found anywhere in music, and I’m asking an almost 80-year-old album to encapsulate jazz infusions that hadn’t even happened to Davis yet. I can understand that it is a good album on its own, however.

 

#87. GLASS HOUSES – BILLY JOEL

Glass Houses isn’t even the best album by Billy Joel

Perhaps out of all of the albums on this list, the addition of Glass Houses confuses me the most. I doubt many of you reading have even heard of this album, but when people think of Billy Joel, do they not think of his hit single and album, Piano Man? Or Uptown Girl? Why not put those two in Glass Houses place? The corresponding icon for Glass Houses on the poster is a person playing the piano, so why make me listen to a pretty standard album when you’re going to reference another album entirely? Whatever. As you may have guessed, Glass Houses is a rock album by Billy Joel, not as interesting as a lot of his other works but doesn’t get me worked up enough to merit any strong reactions to it. I would say it’s more in line with Uptown Girl, with its upbeat rock tones medium paced energy. Listen to The Stranger or Piano Man instead.

 

#86. MOONDANCE – VAN MORRISON


The most American album by a Non – American

Van Morrison’s third album means a lot to a number of people. I’ve seen this album quite a few times in my life and can safely declare it an album. Yes, they don’t pay me nothing at all for no reason! Moondance is a very soft combination of Irish folk and R&B, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say he is my go-to album so I can relax. Morrison’s original and twangy voice carries the simple melody, often accompanied by guitars and pianos. Moondance’s lyrics are incredibly poetic and reflects the time he spent on the Catskills wonderfully, His links to Bob Dylan are also prevalent, as the album also carries soft country vibes, which I know is a turn off for many people (admittedly me on occasions). Moondance certainly isn’t dispelling the belief that all country sounds exactly the same, but as long as there are audiences for it, it will work. 

 

#85. DOOLITTLE – PIXIES

Monkey on the car…

Don’t let the title fool you, the pixies are anything but magical. Another case of incredibly heavy rock and metal labelled alternative rock. Pixies defines itself with images of surrealism and biblical ultraviolence, behind the thrashing guitars and pounding drums. Like Is This It, there is a sound effect behind lead singer Black Francis that I really don’t like, or it might be just his regular voice, I wouldn’t know because I have no incentive to revisit the Pixies. Generally speaking, that is how I separate the wheat from the chaff in this situation. Normally it takes a couple of resits before I really like an album, but I don’t think I will be revisiting Doolittle any time soon. The album cover is interesting though, fairly representative of what you’ll get.

 

#84. ORIGINAL PIRATE MATERIAL – THE STREETS

If you have to ask, you’re streets behind

Original Pirate Material is probably the least professionally produced album on the list. That certainly works in its favour, combined with the London tower block and the fact that it was recorded in Mike Skinner’s home, definitely gives it a grounded feeling. Each of the rap songs on the album are quite phonically void, especially in the background noise, like Prince’s aversion to using bass guitars in his music. If you take Ghost Town by The Specials, and add cockney rapping, you’re basically halfway there.  OPM is quite a funny album as well with one track seeing a conversation between two men about the legalization of marijuana. I have felt no need to revisit the album, so it probably isn’t for me, but it might be worth a check out.

 

#83. DEAN MARTIN SINGS­ – DEAN MARTIN

Ain’t that a kick in the head?

Dean Martin has established himself in Western culture as a staple in Pop Traditional and Jazz, for his incredible baritone voice, his successful blending of Italian American culture into his songs and the charisma he oozes. There are many ways people know Dean Martin, whether through his music or films. How could he not be higher on the list? Dean Martin Sings, I feel, doesn’t represent The King of Cool at his best, which is what I feel every album on the list should do.  It is a serviceable debut album, involving a couple of recognisable hits, such as That’s Amore! And I Feel a Song Comin’ on and partially demonstrating a selection of Dean Martin’s brilliance. But there are better albums to listen to, which shows Dean Martin at his finest. You could certainly do a lot worse in terms of an album you can listen to, but I would rather listen Everybody Loves Somebody or Hey, Brother pour the Wine, which has the more recognisable hits. 

 

#82. I DO NOT WANT WHAT I HAVENT GOT – SINEAD O’CONNOR

Something about a picture of the Pope?

Sinead O’Connor’s second album is certainly a memorable one as a whole. O’ Connor’s voice is clearly the centre piece for the album, similar to that of Sinatra and Pavarotti, which she can certainly be admired for. The titular song is left at the end of the album and features no other instruments other than her voice for almost six minutes. She certainly leaves no room to breathe between verses and is an excellent piece from her. However, my absolute favourite song is Nothing Compares 2 U, which she covers brilliantly from Prince. I would love to talk about the rest of the album, but admittedly it blurs together on first and second listen. I’ve noticed that a lot about these types of albums, when a singer is expected to support an entire album by themselves, not by the music they’re playing. Not to disrespect their talent, everybody on this list can play circles around me, but I am surprised how many of my favourite singers are so low on the list.

 

#81. BLUE LINES – MASSIVE ATTACK

Trip hop and symphonies

I see the word ‘sleek’ used to describe Massive Attacks debut album; it is basically everywhere. Blue Lines is part of the 90s trip hop era, arguably kicking the entire genre off, an album that was only created after the band was kicked off the sofa into a friend’s recording studio. But it is admittedly difficult for me to describe its sound. It’s certainly based in electronic, the kind you can put on in the background and do something else to (see Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue) but the album as a whole is quite varied, with instruments such as drums, turntables and soft vocals. Massive Attack are probably at the forefront of ‘Bristol Sound’, often associated with punk and acid jazz. You may recognise Massive Attack for their infamous single Unfinished Symphony, which I don’t think is a fair representation of the album. It’s a great song though. Its evidently not my favourite kind of music, however.

 

#80. HOTEL CALIFORNIA – THE EAGLES


Another Disappointment

Despite every fibre in my body screaming at me to recite The Dude’s take on The Eagles from The Big Lebowski, I don’t think I can summon the effort. He is right to prefer CCR, though. The lead single, Hotel California is probably one of my favourite rock songs of all time. Haunting woes about the deeply flawed American Dream as well as an awesome guitar solo at the end of a song is basically all I need to keep listening for the rest of my life. The rest of the album is…alright? Hotel California does something which frustrates me about a lot of albums (some of which are on here), where they will have a fantastic lead single that doesn’t really reflect the album as a whole. That probably isn’t much of a problem nowadays, when most of us choose what songs we want from which albums to listen to on Spotify or the like, but I had to listen to 100 albums so you didn’t have to (thank me next time you see me). In conclusion, great opening and closing songs, listen to Creedence Clearwater Revival instead. 

 

#79. LIVE LIKE YOU WERE DYING – TIM MCGRAW

Good life lesson, odd music

I’ve got to say, this poster really does country music a disservice. There are four albums on the poster that are wholly country, and one of those four is a man who looks like he walked off the set of one of the Magic Mike movies.  Live Like You Were Dying is comprised of a lot of the worst parts of country music. The strange writing style, the feeling you aren’t listening to any different tracks, and a bible bashing arrangement. I mean, gospel rock and soul are obviously based on church hymns, so they find their souls rooted in religion. But this is the kind of album which thinks Drugs or Jesus (actual song name) is suitable for its audience, which it probably is. The nicest thing you can say about this album is that it is pretty sincere in its message. Live Like You Were Dying is exactly the kind of music you would expect from the title, but it is still a light-hearted song. However much I don’t like this Humble and Kind, whilst not on this album, is the peak of this sincerity. It’s a pretty beautiful song that puts the rest of this album to shame.

 

#78. NO FENCES – GARTH BROOKS


Biden’s man in the South

Of all of the 100 albums on this list, Garth Brook’s No Fences is the only album I had to pay actual money to listen to. None of his work is available on the internet or streaming services because he has an aversion to his work being streamed, and as a result, is only available through physical copies. I am not kidding, I’ve seen 80-year-olds with more ambition to keep up with the times than this country millionaire. So to say he fell on the first hurdle would be an understatement; the only way he could have fell harder was if I had to pay to recite the title. But what do you know? The album is pretty alright. Country music gets a bad rap because it’s perceived as an inherently conservative form of music (pretty ironic for a man present at Biden’s inauguration). I think there is some fantastic country music, and some names will appear on the list later. But Garth Brooks isn’t one of those names that I particularly enjoy. 

 

#77. WHATVER PEOPLE SAY I AM, THAT’S WHAT I AM NOT –ARCTIC MONKEYS

Frostbitten Anarchoprimitivists

Any album I struggle to remember at least the basic tunes of one song raises immediate red flags when I come to write about them. Granted, it has been at least four or five months since I last listened to Arctic Monkeys debut album, but that adds to the issue. Alt – rock bands are massively hit or miss for me, simply because alt rock is such a vague title, and could refer to so many forms of music. I’ve had to revisit Whatever People Say I Am but I wasn’t exactly thrilled to do so, which is a shame because I have heard a lot of good things about Arctic Monkeys. Their hard rock, in your face attitude may work for some, but as someone who hasn’t really delved into their work, I wasn’t too impressed. Maybe I’ll feel differently about it soon. Maybe…

 

#76. BOY IN DA CORNER – DIZZEE RASCAL

Straight from East London is one of the pioneers of Grime music, Dizzee Rascal. I don’t know how long I’ve been listening to Dizzee Rascal, but its been as long as I can remember. Whilst not my favourite album in his line up Boy In Da Corner brings a raw form of exciting music, with his explosive rap and booming voice. You can tell Dylan Mills extremely personalised form of music has had its effect on the music industry, especially in urbanised Britain. Fix Up, Look Sharp, Jus’ a Rascal and Jezebel are all great, unique songs that showcase a lot of why I really like Dizzee Rascal. Boy In Da Corner is good, but some of his later work, particularly Tongue N Cheek take me back to a time before I even realised, I wanted to become a journalist. If you don’t like Boy In Da Corner, Tongue n Cheek might tip your fancy.

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100 Album bucket list (100 - 76)