The question today is pretty simple: What 5 albums have you listened to the most?
Seems straightforward enough but cranky kind of guy that I am, it comes with a few guidelines
a) Must be based on entire albums. You don’t have to have listened to all the songs equally but the question isn’t “what song”, it’s “what album”. Tracks you heard over & over on radio don’t count toward the listening requirement, neither does “Mix Tape #7” that had songs from 7 different bands. No, not even if you wore out that mix tape, sorry.
b) This is about time spent listening, not necessarily your all-time favorite albums. The two lists would probably be similar for many people but they’re actually two different questions. For example, you may have liked something better in a different part of your life but had less time to listen. Whatever the case, the question in play is about the repeated listening, not your critique.
c) The format doesn’t matter. Album, 8-track, cassette, CD, they all count the same for the purpose of the question. Given the popularity of single tracks in the digital era, I’ll accept the notion that multiple tracks from the same project could be the rough equivalent of an album. Those you didn’t buy would be a cheaper equivalent to fast-forwarding is my logic here. That’ll offend some musical purists I’m sure, but this is a somewhat casual list, it’s not going to define anyone’s place in musical history.
This popped into my head today when I saw a picture of one of the covers on my list & I was struck by how familiar the cover was to me. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I saw that image in the passenger floorboard of my car where the cassette case had fallen, so often that what flashed into my head this afternoon was it lying in that spot. Not just the cover or the case mind you, but it almost glowing at me from the assortment of newspapers & fast food rubble that usually dominated my car.
In coming up with my own list, I was surprised by a couple of things. First, by the prominence of live albums. Generally speaking I’m not a live album kind of guy, I prefer the studio cuts more often than not because of better audio, more familiarity (in the case of those songs that got airplay at least). The second surprise was how narrow the window of release for the first three that grabbed places on the list turned to be. I knew that I listened more when I was younger but wouldn’t have guessed that less than a year separated my top three. I believe the common thread between them isn’t actually so much the release date as it is how well each of them replicated the experiences I had seeing the bands live, usually right down to the set list.
Without further ado, here’s my five
1) Triumph Stages (1985) — From the opening track When The Lights Go Down to the encore of Fight The Good Fight, this was outstanding from start to finish. Rik Emmett’s solo Midsummer’s Daydream was so good that even it didn’t get fast-forwarded very often. Among rock bands (as opposed to metal bands), no one captivated me more than this underrated Canadian trio.
2) Scorpions World Wide Live — They say you never forget your first, and that’s true with me for the Scorpions, who headlined my first arena rock show. Rock You Like A Hurricane was still fresh at this point & was a highlight of both the live show & this album, but what kept me coming back to it day after day was the quality of the entire body of work. This album functioned, for me at least, as a Greatest Hits collection of sorts, hitting many of the high spots of the 8 albums that preceded the Love At First Sting tour where these tracks were recorded.
3) Iron Maiden Live After Death (1985) — Recorded during the Live Slavery tour, this album made the phrase “scream for me Long Beach” household words … at least in houses were metal was spoken. The Kerrang! magazine review summed it up by calling it possibly the greatest live album of all time. You could easily remove the “possibly” and get no argument from me. 1 hour, 42 minutes, 03 seconds, and not one of them wasted.
4) Dokken Tooth and Nail (1984) — Sandwiched between a promising debut and a more successful follow-up, this remains my favorite Dokken album. Three singles, Into the Fire, Just Got Lucky and Alone Again, certainly did nothing to hurt this record but for me, the incessant replays came just as much from the rest of the tracks. The aggression of the title track, the attitude of Bullets to Spare, and the uptempo angst of Heartless Heart. Something for almost every mood of a 17 year old male but my love for this album lasted a whole lot longer than any of those moods.
5) Johnny Horton Greatest Hits (1961) — Didn’t see this one coming, did you? I doubt I’m unusual in having had at least one favorite album among those in their parent’s collection. This one was mine, thanks largely to story songs like Battle of New Orleans, Sink the Bismark, and Johnny Reb. Meanwhile North to Alaska was good enough for John Wayne, it was plenty good enough for me to. While this might be a sentimental favorite of mine, it deserves a spot on my list as much as anything, I imagine I listened to it probably more than my parents combined despite them having several years head start.