Archive for the top 10 lists Category

The Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums of All Time

Posted in music, top 10 lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on Tuesday, 2010 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Narrowing down the Best Hip-Hop Albums of All Time to ten is a challenge. If you search the internet and ask all your friends, you will likely get a lot of similar lists (but there will always be differences and debates). In fact, there could probably be a great top 10 list of incredible rap albums that were left off the list below (hence the 15 honorable mentions). Choosing only ten was difficult enough, so these are not ranked and appear chronologically.

Public Enemy – It Take a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
Please disregard any list of the best hip-hop albums of all time if this isn’t on it. Nothing ever sounded like this before, and only a few imitators and some other Public Enemy albums sounded like it after. “Bring the Noise” wasn’t just a song title, it was a mission statement. The music, the lyrics, the message, Chuck D’s clear delivery: this was an album that simply couldn’t be ignored.

De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
While Buhloone Mindstate or Stakes Is High might be their “better” album, there’s a reason “3 Feet High and Rising was and still is hailed as a classic. They made it cool to be peaceful and artsy. For better or worse, they practically invented the hip-hop skit and certainly broke ground by sampling off the beaten path stuff like Steely Dan and French language instructional tapes.

A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory (1991)
Straight-up beats, rhymes, and life propel this jazzy masterpiece into almost everyone’s Top 10. Often imitated but never matched, this is the kind of album that even impresses people who think they don’t like rap.

Nas – Illmatic (1994)
Perhaps the undisputed classic rap masterpiece. Expert beats and production from DJ Premier perfectly showcase the lyrical fury and on-point delivery of a young Nas on his incredible debut.

Gang Starr – Hard to Earn (1994)
A bit of a hidden gem here, though most hip-hop fans are down with Gang Starr (Guru and DJ Premier). They had several good albums, but this one is a real standout.

KRS-One – KRS-One (1995)
KRS-One probably deserves his own list collecting his Boogie Down Productions albums with his best solo stuff. Most lists usually have BDP’s By Any Means Necessary, and rightfully so. But this one is the true banger.

GZA/Genius – Liquid Swords (1995)
One of the first and best solo albums from the extended Wu-Tang Clan family. While it’s certainly hailed as a classic in the hip-hop community, this is the needle in the haystack that the masses have never heard of.

OutKast – Aquemini (1998)
The pre-cursor to their future classics like Stankonia and Speakerbox/Love Below, this one has all the elements and was so original and so perfectly executed by Andre 3000 and Big Boi. It not only put the South on the hip-hop map, it pushed the envelope of what rap music could be.

The Roots – things fall apart (1999)
It’s so hard to pick just one album from the Roots, and since their live show is so legendary, they aren’t usually found on lists of the best rap albums of all time, but they should be. “Illadelph Halflife,” “Game Theory,” the eclectic “Phrenology,” or raw “Do You Want More” could easily make this list. But “things fall apart” was hip-hop artistry from a band just hitting their stride.

Mos Def – Black on Both Sides (1999)
Mos Def’s collaboration with Talib Kweli (Black Star) could be in this spot, but Black on Both Sides gets the nod. It’s sprawling yet consistent, lyrically driven but very musical and textured. This is another great album that may have slipped through the cracks of the collective (un)consciousness.

Honorable Mentions:

N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton
Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die
Dr. Dre – The Chonic and Chronic 2001
Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
Wu-Tang Clan – 36 Chambers
Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
Black Star – Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star
Boogie Down Productions – Edutainment and By Any Means Necessary
Raekwon – Only Built for Cuban Linx (and pt 2)
Jay Z – The Blueprint
Run DMC – Raising Hell
EPMD – Strictly Business
Redman – Doc’s Da Name

The Best Albums of 2009

Posted in music, top 10 lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on Wednesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

It’s that time of year when self-absorbed bloggers and music geeks prepare their Top 10 Albums of the Year lists. Of course, the mainstream media trots out Beyonce and U2 while the hipsters try to out-obscure each other by only choosing albums by artists that no one has ever heard of. I guess I’m somewhere in between, so some of you will find my list a bit too mainstream (Pearl Jam, Jay-Z) while others of you will raise an eyebrow at the lesser-known stuff (Polvo? Magnolia who?).

Since I couldn’t narrow it down to just 10 albums, I cheated creatively by breaking it into categories plus two Top 10’s. It doesn’t matter. I think there are more albums on this list than there are readers of this blog.

Best Rock Album
Polvo – In Prism

Best Americana/Alt.Country Album
The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You

Best Hip-Hop Album
Raekwon – Only Built For Cuban Linx 2

Best Jazz Album
Allen Toussaint – The Bright Mississippi

Best Traditional R&B / Rockin Soul Party Album
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears – Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!

The Top 10 Albums

Them Crooked Vultures

The Dead Weather – Horehound

Mos Def – The Ecstatic

Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses – Roadhouse Sun

Sonic Youth – The Eternal

The Black Crowes – Before the Frost/Until the Freeze

Pearl Jam – Backspacer

Regina Spektor – Far

Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard – One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Music From Kerouac’s Big Sur

The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love

The Next 10 (this list goes up to 11!)

Patterson Hood – Murdering Oscar

KRS-One and Buckshot – Survival Skills

Magnolia Electric Co. – Joesphine

John Wesley Harding – Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead

Mars Volta – Octahedron

Wilco (the Album)

Eminem – Relapse

Ben Kweller – Changing Horses

Jay Z – Blueprint 3

Levon Helm – Electric Dirt

Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band – Outer South

Best Remaster/Reissue
The Beatles catalog 09.09.09

Best Re-imagined/Re-recorded Album
Stephen Marley – Mind Control (Acoustic)

Best Live Album
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – The Live Anthology

Best Collection of Outtakes/Unreleased Odds’n’ends
Drive-By Truckers – Fine Print

Rick Rubin’s Resume

Posted in music, top 10 lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on Friday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Actually, Rick Rubin’s Resume would be a cool name for a band, assuming he didn’t sue you. Anyway, wow. He not only has produced influential debuts from the Beastie Boys to LL Cool J to Run DMC to Public Enemy, but in the process proved that rock and rap could co-exist. He’s pretty much responsible for Johnny Cash’s late-career comeback and produced the flourish of albums at the end of Cash’s life. He produced a mid-career masterpiece for Tom Petty, almost all of the Slayer albums, and I think every Chili Peppers record since and starting with the classic Blood Sugar Sex Magik. He’s done solo/acoustic records for Neil Diamond and Jakob Dylan, alt-rock stuff like Slipknot, and produced the album that contains “Baby Got Back.” Most recently he got the unfocused and feuding Metallica to stop putting out crap and make a classic-sounding Metallica album and then produced a great rootsy folksy ditty for indie favorites the Avett Brothers. That kind of variety is what makes him incredible. He’s done everything at every end of every spectrum and everywhere in between and most of it is great. Sometimes all within the same year.

He started work with U2 on their most recent album but those sessions were shelved and never heard, as the boys when back to Lanois/Eno to do No Line on the Horizon. I heard, or read… or read on the internet that someone heard… anyway, this reliable source said that Rubin is a hardass, and he won’t just take and record the first 10 songs you show up with. He’ll send you back to write more and tell you to do better. Maybe Bono and the Edge didn’t like that and they wanted Yes Men at the controls? Maybe Rubin thought U2’s new stuff sucked and told them to get lost? Who knows. Just adds to the legend.

But the real legend is in his resume. It’s one thing to say “damn, go read this guy’s Wiki page!” It’s another to then realize that there’s a separate Wikipedia page for his Album Production Credits! Check out his bio on allmusic.com and click “credits” and take a look.

My Top 10 Favorite Albums Produced by Rick Rubin:

1986: Raising Hell – Run-DMC

1987: Yo! Bum Rush the Show – Public Enemy

1988: South of Heaven – Slayer

1991: Blood Sugar Sex Magik – Red Hot Chili Peppers

1994: American Recordings – Johnny Cash

1994: Wildflowers – Tom Petty

2000: Renegades – Rage Against the Machine

2003: De-Loused in the Comatorium – The Mars Volta

2008: Death Magnetic – Metallica

2009: I and Love and You – The Avett Brothers

The Top 10 Albums Produced by Rick Rubin that didn’t make the list above:

1985: Radio – LL Cool J

1986: Licensed to Ill – Beastie Boys

1986: Reign in Blood – Slayer

1987: Electric – The Cult

1988: Danzig – Danzig

1998: Chef Aid: The South Park Album – South Park

1999: Californication – Red Hot Chili Peppers

2001: Toxicity – System of a Down

2002: American IV: The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash

2002: By the Way – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Best Albums of the Decade 2000’s

Posted in music, top 10 lists, Uncategorized with tags , , , on Friday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Originally, I set out to compile my list of the Top 20 Albums of the Decade. The 2000’s. Or the Aughts. Yea, I guess we never got around to naming this decade and now it’s already ending. I thought I was realistic by not even attempting a Top 10 Best Albums of the 2000’s, but it turns out even 20 proved difficult. And once I passed 20, the albums just kept flowing and then I thought “okay, Top 40 would be good, since “Top 40” is sort of a tried and true phrase in popular music. Then I hit 50. OK, I’ll do a Top 50, why not! Then I got to 52 and beyond and finally just gave up and let myself list all the great albums I loved this decade and not worry about cutting any out just to keep the list at 20, 40 or 50. So I ended up with 65. Seems a bit excessive, sure. But it’s still only about 6 or 7 per year. And I easily could have added a few more. Actually, I could just call this a Top 50 Best Albums of the Decade list because they’re not numbered, and if you actually read through it and count the exact number of albums, I’m just glad you’re on my blog.

Please add your Top 5, 10, or 65 favorite albums of the decade (or point out my glaring omissions) in the comments section. Now, on with the list…

Mos Def – Black on Both Sides (1999)
First album on the list and I’m already cheating. This one came out just a couple months before 2000, and is such a great album. One of the best hip-hop albums of all time, even if you don’t see it on such lists in the mainstream media. So why not kick off this list with the last great album of the previous century?

2000

Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R

OutKast – Stankonia

Aimee Mann – Bachelor No. 2, or the last remains of the dodo

Talib Kweli & Hi Tek – Reflection Eternal

Radiohead – Kid A

U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind
It’s pretty easy to hate on these grandiose mega-stars, but this was and is a truly great U2 album made several years after most of us figured they’d never do it again.

D’Angelo – Voodoo

Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele

2001

Bob Dylan – Love and Theft

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
This one would probably make the list even there were only 5 albums on it. Songwriting, atmosphere, and using the studio as an instrument without getting too cute or overdoing it. It’s all here, a classic peak from a great band.

Tool – Lateralus

Jay Z – The Blueprint

Whiskeytown – Pneumonia

2002

Sonic Youth – Murray Street
This is how I love my Sonic Youth. This album and the three that have followed are all really good. I actually like this (and those other recent ones) more than their old classics. Blasphemy for hardcore SY fans and a nation of hipsters, I know.

Elvis Costello – When I Was Cruel

Bright Eyes – Lifted, Or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground

The Roots – Phrenology
A bit all over the place stylistically and a bit long, but still mostly brilliant. It’s like their White Album.

2003

Drive-By Truckers – Decoration Day
The underrated gem in their stellar catalogue. I shoulda/coulda put all of their albums from this decade on the list.

Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

Mars Volta – De-Loused in the Comatorium
Crazy intense mindfuck jams mixed with tribal rhythms and pure relentless rock fury.

The White Stripes – Elephant

The Jayhawks – Rainy Day Music

OutKast – Speakerbox/The Love Below
Split into two mostly solo discs, illustrating the two sides of the OutKast coin and allowing BigBoi and Dre to let each of their distinct musical personalities shine while still feeling like a(nother) brilliant OutKast record.

Songs: Ohia – Magnolia Electric Co.

2004

Masta Killa – No Said Date
A lost gem from an underrated member of the Wu-Tang Clan. The Wu family has put out so many albums over the years (and a few duds after the initial string of classic solo joints) that it was easy for this one to get lost in the shuffle. Do yourself a favor and track this one down, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Ryan Adams – Love Is Hell

PJ Harvey – Uh Huh Her

Jello Biafra & the Melvins – Don’t Breathe What You Can’t See
Legends team up for some post-9/11 punk fury and rockin’ jams.

Green Day – American Idiot

Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose

Danger Mouse – The Grey Album
A classic mashup of The Beatles White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album. Somehow it works beyond just the novelty and is a truly great listen.

2005

DJ Muggs/GZA the Genius – Grandmasters

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Howl

Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

Damian “Jr Gong” Marley – Welcome to Jamrock
Title song is one of the hottest tracks of all time. The rest of the album is also very solid.

My Morning Jacket – Z

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals – Cold Roses

Common – Be

The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan

2006

Tom Petty – Highway Companion
A vastly underrated album from TP. Is it possible that this is his best album, so late in his career? It’s certainly great enough to be in that discussion. Check out this hidden gem if you missed it or ignored it a few years ago.

The Roots – Game Theory

Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped

Built to Spill – You in Reverse

Bob Dylan – Modern Times

2007

Terence Blanchard – A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina)
Haunting, moving, and uplifting sounds from one of the true jazz greats of this generation.

Band of Horses – Cease to Begin

Stephen Marley – Mind Control

Public Enemy – How You Sell Soul To a Soulless People Who Lost Their Soul?
Another one that slipped under the radar. It’s really hard to make a great hip-hop album these days (or maybe it’s just too easy to make bad ones that still sell a lot), and I think it’s really hard for a legendary group to do it almost 20 years after they made a couple of the best hip-hop albums of all time. Sure they’ve had a few duds in between, but this one hits the mark.

Robert Plant/Alison Krauss – Raising Sand

Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Radiohead – In Rainbows

2008

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – Real Emotional Trash

The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely

Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!

Beck – Modern Guilt

Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis – Two Men with the Blues
Odd pairing, but terrific results. Really fun album… while the two main men don’t disappoint, Wynton’s solid backing band keeps it moving.

One Day as a Lion – One Day as a Lion

2009

John Wesley Harding – Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead

Polvo – In Prism

The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You

Black Crowes – Before the Frost/Until the Freeze

Ryan Bingham – Roadhouse Sun

Raekwon – Only Built For Cuban Linx 2

Jack White This Decade

Posted in music, top 10 lists, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on Tuesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

I’m working on my "Best Albums of the 2000’s" to be posted soon. A Top 10 seemed too limiting, so I was gonna do 20. Looks like it’s gonna end up being a Top 50. It’s tough being a music nerd. In the meantime, here’s what Jack White has done this decade. What’s up with 2002? What a slacker!!

2000: The White Stripes, De Stijl
2001: The White Stripes, White Blood Cells; White founds Third Man Records
2003: The White Stripes, Elephant; White contributes to Cold Mountain soundtrack and appears in the film
2004: White produces and performs on Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose
2005: The White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan
2006: The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers
2007: The White Stripes, Icky Thump
2008: The Raconteurs, Consolers of the Lonely; White records “Another Way to Die” with Alicia Keys for Bond flick Quantum of Solace
2009: The Dead Weather, Horehound; White Stripes tour film Under the Great White Northern Lights premieres at Toronto Film Festival; White stars in guitar love-note doc It Might Get Loud with Jimmy Page and U2’s The Edge

Associated Content Publishing Me

Posted in misc.blurbs, music, top 10 lists with tags , , , , , on Friday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Just wanted to give you a heads up that Associated Content has published my “T0p 10 Country Albums” originally posted here on the blog. I could eventually get paid for page views, so please click on over and check it out and pass the link on to others.

Top 10 Best Country Albums Ever

Thanks!

Wow, Has It Been That Long?

Posted in misc.blurbs, music, top 10 lists on Monday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

My little unplanned break from active blogging has suddenly turned into close to two months of no posts at all. I’d apologize, but I doubt anyone’s really checking this site daily or weekly looking for stuff to read.

And really, if I don’t have much worthwhile to write about or share with you (assuming “you” even exist), then why fill the space with posts regurgitating the news of the day followed by my snarky comments and criticisms?

So I just wanted to drop a quick note as a place holder to show I’m still here and the blog is still going. Not sure where or when…. but it’s going.

With that, I’ll leave you with a Top Ten list of stuff I’ve really enjoyed listening to recently:

1. John Wesley Harding – Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead
2. Prince – Lotusflow3r and MPLSound
3. Silversun Pickups – Swoon
4. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – Outer South
5. Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
6. Otis Taylor – Recapturing the Banjo
7. Allen Toussaint – The Bright Mississippi
8. Jerry Garcia Band – Kean College 1980
9. Tom Petty – Highway Companion
10. My 17-month-old son talking more and more every day

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