500 Greatest Albums Ever!! (Really??)

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All of this began with an email from Van.  Several emails, in fact.

Van and I have similar, but diverging, musical tastes, which makes sense because we have similar, but diverging, backgrounds – suburban males of about the same age, but differing in ethnicity and [likely] childhood economic background.  Both of us attended college in the late 80s, both of us play a little bit of guitar (or bass, in my case) and have played with different bands. We tend to like guitar-based rock, although I (being a bit older) seem to have more of a fondness for “Classic Rock,” and Van seems to be more tolerant of non-guitar-based music than I am.

In any case, we are both rather open-minded in our musical tastes as they relate to popular music from the past 60 years or so (although Van – to my mind – really doesn’t worship The Beatles enough, so he can’t be all THAT open-minded).  We’ve enjoyed discussing music over the past 18 months or so in which we’ve gotten to know each other.

One of our favorite topics of discussion is the relationship between music critics and music.  Many of these discussions have originated as talks about the awesomeness of Van Halen. A simple précis of all those discussions would be the following: Music critics are full of shit.  (Interestingly, googling the phrase “music critics are full of shit” only returns 88 results.  Even more interestingly, only 82 of those results are from online forums dedicated to Rush.)

I must confess that the literary genre known as “criticism” has always seemed a bit silly to me.  Whether one writes about art, movies, dance, literature or music, at its core criticism is merely one person’s opinions.  That person may be able to beautifully commit to the page cogent arguments for, and impressive, well-researched defenses of, a position for, or against, the merits of a particular painting/film/ballet/novel or CD, but when it’s all boiled down the only thing a writer can truthfully say about a piece is whether or not they appreciated it.  (I won’t say “liked,” as it is possible, I think, to appreciate something without really liking it.  It’s how I feel about Bruce Springsteen, Derek Jeter, Fiber One bars, etc.)  All the rest is just opinion – no matter how widely shared that opinion is.

So, for example, when all those lists of “Best Ever” are compiled for magazines, newspapers, and an endless string of VH1 programs featuring recycled MTV footage and “experts” no one has ever heard of, they are really just peoples’ opinions. Even if almost everyone agrees on something, there is no way to truly quantitate what makes art “good” or “bad.”  So, the guy who says Kraftwerk is as good as The Beatles isn’t really wrong, he just shares a different opinion than me.  And a billion other people.

So, anyway, back to those emails that started this whole thing.  Earlier this year, Rolling Stone released its 500 Greatest Albums Ever issue. Van and I were unimpressed, to say the least.  “Greatest?  Who says?” (Okay, that question is answered in the introduction to the piece.) And secondly, by what measure?

This is my first post. I’d better stop there. I’ll have more to say later.
Happy MLK Day!
ERM

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5 Comments

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5 Responses to 500 Greatest Albums Ever!! (Really??)

  1. Sullyfish

    Just to add to the general disdain expressed regarding the Rolling Stone top 500:

    Three Tom Waits albums……but no Jeff Beck albums? (the Yardbirds don’t count)

    Two Janet Jackson albums……..no Joe Jackson- Look Sharp?

    • ERM

      It sure ain’t the same list that I would generate.

      But what would be on my list?? I still haven’t figured that out.

      Thanks, Sullyfish
      ERM

  2. Van

    To think a simple whiney conversation about the snooty nature of top album lists would lead to a blog! The real difference btw eric and me is that he took the negative vibe and turned it into something productive. I on the other hand continue to complain about album/book/movie reviewers. They dont seem to have a grasp of a broad swath of tastes. Just what they heard feshman year at college. It seems as if their college dorms were not listening to old school rap or van halen, just the smiths and the cure. And drew inspiration from old timers like elvis costello. Who are all great but still narrow. But i digress…great job eric!

    When we first started talking i said my three favorite bands of all time were the who the stooges and van halen. Those remain for me. Figuring out top albums is a lot harder. Albums and songs hit you at different points in diff ways. And they mean diff things at those diff stages. Without much thought i can say a few of my top albums would include: whos next, the who sings my generation, quadraphenia, fun house and raw pwer by the stooges, van halen 1,2, fair warning and diver down, marvin gayes whats going on, pet sounds, public enemys it takes a nation of millions, never mind the bullocks, the ramones, the clash , xray spex germ free adolescents. I am leving out several bluea standards on purpose. More later thx eric!

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