My Imaginary Top 100 Ballot Submitted to Rolling Stone for its “500 Greatest Albums of the Rock and Roll Era” (NEAR-FINAL DRAFT–I still haven’t even gotten off the couch to scan the stacks for insane omissions.)

This is a work in progress. Finally at least, I am following my own questionable rules. What I’m striving for is a balance between the canon, which deserves critical attack but is not always in error, and my own lifelong habits–I know this music like the back of my hand, and if I return to something over and over, that’s no minor thing. Eventually, I will post a more stable list. Stable–that’s hilarious.


*I must have returned to the album on a very regular basis–thus, it is a favorite.

*The album satisfies my gestaltist persnicketyness: as a whole, it is very effective.

*Compilations (*) are allowed ONLY if the artist represented made no consensus-approved CLASSIC album-as-album.

*10 single-artist compilations maximum are allowed.

*5 single-artist box sets (#) are allowed BUT they count toward the compilation maximum, and I must have returned to them repeatedly.

*Unlimited various artist compilations ($) are allowed.

*Unlimited various artist box sets (@) are allowed, but I must have returned to them repeatedly.

*5 “twofer” (%) CDs maximum are allowed ONLY if they were legitimately released in that form.

*1 album maximum may be included for each artist (if they appear otherwise in a group formation, that’s cool).

*Style: the album must have a pinkie-toe dipped in the pond of rock and roll.

*Span: 1954-2019.

The List:

  1. The 5 Royales – Dedicated to You
  2. King Sunny Ade – Juju Music
  3. Beatles – “Yesterday” and Today
  4. Big Star – Radio City
  5. Black Uhuru – Red
  6. James Brown – Live at the Apollo
  7. Chuck Berry – The Chess Box *#
  8. Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band – Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)
  9. Joe “King” Carrasco and the Crowns – s/t
  10. James Carter – The Real Quiet Storm
  11. Ray Charles – The Birth of Soul *#
  12. Chic – Real People
  13. The Clash – London Calling
  14. The Coasters – 50 Coastin’ Classics*
  15. Ray Condo & The Ricochets – Swing Brother Swing
  16. Elvis Costello – King of America
  17. The Cramps – Bad Music for Bad People
  18. Culture – Two Sevens Clash
  19. Miles Davis – Jack Johnson
  20. Dead Moon – Echoes of the Past*
  21. Bo Diddley – s/t
  22. The Dirtbombs – Ultraglide in Black
  23. The Drifters – The Drifters’ Golden Hits*
  24. The Drive-By Truckers – The Dirty South
  25. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
  26. Joe Ely – Honky Tonk Masquerade
  27. Eric B. & Rakim – Follow the Leader
  28. Roky Erickson – I Have Always Been Here Before*
  29. Tav Falco & Panther Burns – Midnight in Memphis
  30. The Fall – I Am Kurious Oranj
  31. Flipper – Generic
  32. Flying Burrito Brothers – The Gilded Palace of Sin
  33. Aretha Franklin – Spirit in the Dark
  34. The Go-Betweens – Tallulah
  35. The Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead
  36. Al Green – Call Me / Livin’ for You %
  37. Merle Haggard – A Working Man Can’t Get Nowhere Today
  38. Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced? (UK version)
  39. Howlin’ Wolf – Howlin’ Wolf / Moanin’ at Midnight %
  40. Linton Kwesi Johnson – Making History
  41. George Jones – Burn the Honky Tonk Down *
  42. King – We Are King
  43. The Kinks – Something Else by The Kinks
  44. Bettye LaVette – I Got My Own Hell to Raise
  45. Jerry Lee Lewis – Live at the Star Club
  46. Love – Forever Changes
  47. Bob Marley and The Wailers – Live!
  48. Mekons – Rock n Roll
  49. M. I. A. – Kala
  50. The Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime
  51. Joni Mitchell – Blue
  52. Van Morrison – Moondance
  53. Motörhead – Orgasmatron
  54. Muddy Waters – Hard Again
  55. Willie Nelson – Spirit
  56. New York Dolls – s/t
  57. Nirvana – MTV Unplugged
  58. The Nomads – Outburst
  59. Lee Scratch Perry – Roast Fish, Collie Weed, and Cornbread
  60. PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love
  61. The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy & The Lash
  62. Prince – Dirty Mind
  63. Professor Longhair – Crawfish Fiesta
  64. Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
  65. Purple Mountains – s/t
  66. Ramones – It’s Alive!
  67. Otis Redding – Dictionary of Soul
  68. Lou Reed – New York
  69. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: Greatest Hits, Volume 2*
  70. The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street
  71. Sonny Rollins – Sunny Days, Starry Nights
  72. Rosalía – Malamente
  73. Jimmy Rushing – With the Big Brass / Rushing Lullabies %
  74. Sonny Sharrock – Ask the Ages
  75. Billy Joe Shaver – Live at Smith’s Olde Bar
  76. The Sir Douglas Quintet – The Best of the Sir Douglas Quintet*
  77. Sly & The Family Stone: …there’s a riot goin’ on
  78. Huey Piano Smith – Having a Party with Huey Piano Smith and the Clowns
  79. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
  80. The Staple Singers – The Best of the Vee-Jay Years *
  81. Gary Stewart – Out of Hand
  82. Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells a Story
  83. Swamp Dogg – Total Destruction to Your Mind
  84. James Talley – Woody Guthrie and Songs of My Oklahoma Home
  85. Howard Tate – Get It While You Can
  86. Tracey Thorn – Record
  87. Various Artists – The Doo Wop Box @
  88. Various Artists – Girl Group Sounds: One Kiss Leads to Another
  89. Various Artists – It Came from Memphis, Volume 1 $
  90. Various Artists – Nuggets: Original Artyfacts (box version) @
  91. Various Artists – Sweet Soul Music $
  92. Various Artists – Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound $
  93. Velvet Underground – 1969 Velvet Underground Live
  94. Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones
  95. Keith Whitley – I Wonder Do You Think of Me
  96. Lucinda Williams – S/T
  97. Wussy – Attica
  98. X – Wild Gift
  99. X-Ray Spex – Germfree Adolescents
  100. Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps

Face-first Into the Fire: The Best Albums of 2020, 75% of the Way Across the Coals

I have found 80 albums of freshly recorded music (and 40 archival releases launched in 2020) to be substantial fuel to keep me moving forward through this mire. The bolded items (and those represented in the above slide show) are new to the list. Dig in, my curious friends.

  1. Run The Jewels: RTJ 4
  2. Gil Scott-Heron and Makaya McCraven: We’re New Again–A Reimagining
  3. Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters
  4. SAULT: Untitled (Black Is) 
  5. 79rs Gang: Expect the Unexpected
  6. Princess Nokia: Everything is Beautiful
  7. Boldy James & The Alchemist: The Price of Tea in China
  8. Fire! Orchestra: Actions
  9. Body Count: Carnivore
  10. Tee Grizzley: The Smartest
  11. Serengeti & Kenny Segal: AJAI
  12. Neptunian Maximalism: Éons (band name and album title of the year, based on music’s justification of same)
  13. Marx Lomax II: The Last Concert—Ankh & The Tree of Life
  14. Mark Lomax II: The 400 Years Suite
  15. The Third Mind: The Third Mind
  16. Jyoti: Mama You Can Bet!
  17. Hamell on Trial: The Pandemic Songs
  18. Kahil El’Zabar: Spirit Groove (featuring David Murray)
  19. Roisin Murphy: Roisin Machine
  20. Drakeo the Ruler & JoogSzn:Quit Rappin
  21. KeiyaA: Forever, Ya Girl
  22. Anna Högberg Attack: lena
  23. The Good Ones: RWANDA, you should be loved
  24. Cornershop: England is a Garden
  25. Shabaka and The Ancestors: We Are Sent Here By History
  26. Bob Dylan: My Rough and Rowdy Ways
  27. Bette Smith: The Good, The Bad, and The Bette
  28. Charles McPherson: Jazz Dance Suites
  29. Florian Arbenz & Greg Osby: Reflections of The Eternal Line
  30. Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You
  31. Kesha: High Road
  32. SAULT: Untitled (Rise)
  33. Bobby Rush: Rawer Than Raw
  34. Thiago Nassif: Mente
  35. Steve Earle: Ghosts of West Virginia
  36. Princess Nokia: Everything Sucks
  37. Lido Pimienta: Miss Colombia
  38. Elizabeth Cook: Aftermath
  39. City Girls: City on Lock
  40. Bettye LaVette: Blackbirds
  41. Mike & The Moonpies: Touch of You–The Lost Songs of Gary Stewart
  42. James Brandon Lewis and Chad Taylor: Live in Willisau
  43. Ammar 808: Global Control / Invisible Invasion
  44. Various Artists: New Improvised Music from Buenos Aires
  45. The Human Hearts: Day of the Tiles (EP)
  46. Carlos Nino and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson: Chicago Waves
  47. Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids: Shaman!
  48. Moses Sumney: grae
  49. Apollo Brown & Che Noir: As God Intended
  50. Al Bilali Soudan: Tombouctou
  51. JD Allen: Toys / Die Dreaming
  52. No Age: Goons Be Gone
  53. Jeff Parker: Suite for Max Brown
  54. Alicia Keys: ALICIA
  55. Grimes: Miss Anthropocene
  56. Babe, Terror: Horizogon
  57. Dehd: Flower of Devotion
  58. The Ridiculous Trio: The Ridiculous Trio Plays The Stooges
  59. Burna Boy: Twice as Tall
  60. Conway the Machine: From a King to a God
  61. Mr. Wrong: Create a Place
  62. Little Simz: Drop 6 (EP)
  63. Various Artists: Eyes Shut, Ears Open–A Burning Ambulance Compilation
  64. Moor Jewelry: True Opera (EP)
  65. Teodross Avery: Harlem Stories – The Music of Thelonious Monk
  66. K. Michelle: All Monsters are Human
  67. Asher Gamedze: Dialectic Soul
  68. Laraaji: Sun Piano
  69. Tiwa Savage: Celia
  70. Jinx Lennon: Border Schizo Fffolk Songs for the F****d
  71. Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra: If You Listen Carefully, The Music is Yours
  72. Beauty Pill: Sorry You’re Here (EP)
  73. Steve Arrington: Down to the Lowest Terms—The Soul Sessions
  74. Etuk Ubong: Africa Today
  75. Swamp Dogg: Sorry You Couldn’t Make It
  76. Julianna Barwick: Healing is a Miracle
  77. Speaker Music: Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry
  78. Lori McKenna: The Balladeer
  79. Public Enemy: What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down?
  80. Old 97s: Twelfth

Reissues and Past Recordings Freshly Excavated

  1. Various Artists: Daora–Underground Sounds of Urban Brasil
  2. Wussy: Ghosts
  3. Dennis Gonzalez: Forever the Falling Stars
  4. Various Artists: Turn Me Loose, White Man
  5. Thelonious Monk: Palo Alto
  6. Peter Stampfel and The Bottlecaps: Demo ‘84
  7. Various Artists: Saint Etienne Present Songs for the Fountain Coffee Room
  8. Milford Graves & Don Pullen: The Complete Yale Concert
  9. King Ubu Orchestru: Concert at Town Hall – Binaurality Live 1989
  10. Luiz Carlos Vinhas: O Som Psicodelico De L. C. V.
  11. Oneness of Juju: African Rhythms 1970-1982
  12. Junior Byles: Beat Down Babylon (Deluxe Reissue)
  13. Various Artists: Soul Love—The Black Fire Records Story 1975-1993
  14. Tony Allen: No Accommodation for Lagos
  15. Various Artists: All Aboard! The CN Express—Rock Steady and Boss Reggae Sounds 1967-1968
  16. Ranil: Stay Safe and Sound!
  17. Lee Scratch Perry with Seskain Molenga and Kalo Kawongolo: Roots from the Congo (reissue)
  18. Hiroshi Yoshimura: Green
  19. Milton Nascimento: Maria Maria (reissue)
  20. Jon Hassell: Vernal Equinox (reissue)
  21. The Awakening: Hear, Sense, and Feel
  22. Bessie Jones: Get in Union
  23. TEST: TEST and Roy Campbell, Jr.
  24. Joe McPhee: Black is The Color
  25. Various Artists: Stone Crush—Memphis Modern Soul 1977-1987
  26. Walter Bishop Jr.: Coral Keys
  27. Observer All Stars & King Tubby: Dubbing with the Observer (reissue)
  28. Roky Erickson / 13th Floor Elevators: You and Me and I (Live)
  29. Bryan Ferry: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, 1974
  30. Fela Kuti: Perambulator
  31. No Trend: Too Many Humans/Teen Love (reissue)
  32. Pharoah Sanders: Live in Paris 1975
  33. Nina Simone: Fodder on My Wings
  34. Yabby You & The Aggrovators: King Tubby’s Prophecies of Dub (reissue)
  35. Various Artists: Léve Léve – Sao Tomé & Principe Sounds ‘70s-‘80s
  36. Various Artists: Soul Jazz Records Presents Black Riot—Early Jungle, Rave, and Hardcore
  37. Lee Scratch Perry: Play On, Mr. Music
  38. Various Artists: Maghreb K7 Club–Synth Rai, Chaoui & Staifi (1985-1997)
  39. Brother Theotis Taylor
  40. Black Ark Players: Black Ark In Dub