I did a list of my 20 favorite a while back and I broke things up into decades, so it looked like I know more about music than I actually do. But when I'm very honest with myself, I have to admit that, while I wish my favorite records were by hip, cool pop bands or respectable punk bands (or Led Zeppelin), the truth is that I LOVE crappy music. Bad, long-haired metal. That was the music that made me fall in love with music in the first place. So, this current list more accurately reflects the music I love, even though I know it's bad. These are my all-time 20 favorite record albums. Read 'em and weep.
Cherry Pie by Warrant
Why it's here: Because this record contains a near-perfect combination of catchy hooks, loud guitars, and sophomoric lyrics. Because the video for the title track is seared into my memory like it was my first kiss (not all that impressive, really) or my first acid trip (still waiting on that one). And because the riff from "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was one of the first rock riffs I learned to play and it sealed my desire to play loud rock guitar.
The best thing about it: It's vapid, dopey, and about as deep as a birdbath, but it's FUN.
Back for the Attack by Dokken
Why it's here: Between George Lynch's searing licks and Don Dokken's soaring vocals, Back for the Attack was full of virtuoso performances. Lynch's guitars sounded like the stuff nightmares are made of, and that's a good thing. And "Kiss of Death" is still one of the best opening tracks I've ever heard, making you NEED to hear what the rest of the record sounds like.
The best thing about it: George Lynch's screaming lead tone. This was the first record where I was drawn to the guitar solos because of how they sounded instead of how many notes were jammed into them.
Twilight of the Thunder God by Amon Amarth
Why it's here: A lot of themed metal bands are very hard for me to take seriously. Not Amon Amarth. Holy shit, these dudes are scary. Singer Johan Hegg's deep, booming roar sounds like Galactus's tummy grumbles when he hasn't eaten for a while. The rest of the band is as heavy as heavy gets, but the riffs are catchy, even melodic and hummable. If you're looking for a soundtrack for Ragnarok, or if you just want some kick-ass tunes to drive around to, look no further.
The best thing about it: The half-time riff midway through the title track. So heavy, so moshy, so awesome!!
King of Clubs by Paul Gilbert
Why it's here: When metal died off here in the States, I found that I really enjoyed singing along with my car stereo. The only problem was that the folks singing on most my CDs were much better than I was, and I felt embarrassed trying to keep up with them. Gilbert, former (and current?) axeman for Mr. Big, solved that for me by putting out this collection of hooky, singable songs and by having a voice that's not any better than mine. SCORE!!
The best thing about it: Getting caught singing along with it at a stop light and getting a round of applause from the car next to me. Yes, that actually happened once.
Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses
Why it's here: Because it sounded like pissed-off Axl Rose was sneering and yowling over a bed of a billion pissed-off guitars. And Duff McKagan's bass made me take notice. And Steven Adler's drumming was monstrous. But mostly because Appetite was way more pissed off than the whole hair rocker crowd while not being as scary as a lot of heavier metal bands. Yes, there was a time when really heavy bands scared me.
The best thing about it: Slash's bad-ass solos proved to me the you could say more with two well-chosen notes than you could with a billion poorly-chosen notes.
Ashes of the Wake by Lamb of God
Why it's here: For a long time, I was out of metal, choosing to jam out to the sweet melodies and buzzsaw guitars of power pop bands. With Ashes, Lamb of God slapped me upside the head, woke my ass up, and pulled me back into metal. Plus, it made me wanna get better at plying guitar, though that hasn't really happened yet...
The best thing about it: The title track, an instrumental guitar-gasm that's so chock full of shredding leads and killer riffing, it could be a course on how to play metal guitar all on its own.
Weezer (The Blue Album) by Weezer
Why it's here: In the middle of the glum and gloomy 90s, there was this oasis of fun, tuneful, silly songs about choo choo trains, surf boards, and vacations. Not only that, but "Buddy Holly" would have you singing along by the second chorus, even if you didn't know the song. And it all ends in a beautiful climax of feedback and guitar noise on "Only In Dreams". It's a perfect crank-it-up-and-sing-along record, and it convinced me that I could write and sing my own songs on guitar. A good time and an inspiration. What more can you ask for?
The best thing about it: Either the rush that comes over you during the finale of "Only In Dreams" or the feeling of power that comes while singing "Say It Ain't So" at the top of your lungs. I haven't decided yet.
We Are In Love by Harry Connick, Jr.
Why it's here: My buddy James used to drive around in an old orange Subaru hatchback, with this record playing, and singing along. It didn't take too long for me to get into singing along with Harry, too. More than any other album, We Are In Love is responsible for my love of singing along with my car stereo. And that's one of my favorite things.
The best thing about it: That you don't need a lyrics sheet to figure out what he's singing.
Axis: Bold As Love by Jimi Hendrix
Why it's here: Anybody who tries to play rock guitar these days owes Jimi a debt. The dude influenced sooooo many guitarists, who in turn influenced even more players, that you're proboably influenced by Jimi, even if it's an indirect influece. This is my favorite Hendrix record. It contains my favorite Hendrix track ("Spanish Castle Magic"... So heavy...), and it opened up a new world of blues, soul, and R & B guitar playing to me.
The best thing about it: I love that this record opens with an intervew between a talk show host and an alien. I've often wondered if Jimi was actually from another world. He was just so far ahead of everybody else...
Powerslave by Iron Maiden
Why it's here: Dave Murray and Adrian Smith are one of the greatest guitar tag teams in metal. Their harmonies, solo trade-offs, and galloping riffs indoctrinated a whole generation of guitar players, myself included. And Bruce Dickenson's wail is one of the most god-like wails in metal. This record jumps into the fray with "Aces High" and just never stops.
The best thing about it: The imagination and the way Dickenson told stories with the lyrics. Many country "artists" pride themselves being musical storytellers, but the storytelling in Maiden tunes blows all those country guys and gals away.
Pornograffitti by Extreme
Why it's here: Simply put, this is here because I wanted to be Nuno Bettencourt after I heard this record. I wanted to be as cool as him. I wanted to look like him. Most of all, I want to play guitar like him. Plus, the songs are pretty catchy, and this band could throw down some jaw-droppingly pretty music when they wanted to.
The best thing about it: If you weren't careful, you could make "Get the Funk Out" sound an awful lot like "Get the F**k Out". It was kinda funny.
Persistence of Time by Anthrax
Why it's here: I loved a lot of older Anthrax tunes, stuff like "Madhouse", "Caught in a Mosh", and "Be All End All". But I didn't really love Anthrax until I heard this record. It's heavy. It's brutal. It's not stuffed full of jokes or pop culture references. There's nothing wrong with jokes or pop culture references, but sometimes you just want a metal band to kick ass. And, good Hell, does Anthrax kick ass on P.o.T. The surprise of it all is probably why I love this record so much.
The best thing about it: The triple-punch combo of "Intro to Reality", "Belly of the Beast", and "Got the Time". You get a tuneful instrumental track that leads into a pretty kicking, brutal metal tune, which in turn segues into a surprisingly awesome cover of a Joe Jackson song. Good stuff!
Strength by Enuff Z'Nuff
Why it's here: I have a weakness for music featuring catchy vocal melodies and loud guitars. So how could I not love a band that sounds like the "hair metal Beatles"? Z'Nuff actually got forced into doing the whole hair metal thing by their label, but they later evolved into a stellar power pop outfit. But this album has so many awesome, sticky choruses, so many fun to sing along with hooks, and so much harmonized vocal beauty, that it's their best work, for my money. Plus, "Goodbye" is the best power ballad I've ever heard.
The best thing about it: "Time To Let You Go", the record's closing track, is perfect, beautiful, weepy, acoustic guitar-driven perfection.
Diary of a Madman by Ozzy Osbourne
Why it's here: There were a bunch of guys who tried to fuse metal guitar to classical music composition. Most of them were kind of wankers who just used the endeavor as an excuse to spray a billion notes in all directions. But Randy Rhoads was different. He used classical concepts to add drama and epicness to Ozzy's songs. And, in my opinion, it never got better than it did on "Diary".
The best thing about it: The creepy opening acoustic guitar on the title track. It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
As Daylight Dies by Killswitch Engage
Why it's here: The riffs, the arrangements, Howard Jones's singing/screaming... It's all awesome. But what puts this record over the top for me is the guitar sound. It's thick, it's juicey, it's lush... It's beautiful in its own way. This record also has to be here due to the sheer number of times I've listened to it without getting sick of it. Seriously, I've spun this record A LOT.
The best thing about it: Imagining all the shit Adam D gave the rest of the band while making this record. Stuff like that makes me laugh.
Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughan
Why it's here: This record was my gateway into the blues. And it taught me how much power a clean guitar tone could contain. Nuff said.
The best thing about it: The amount of energy SRV puts into every note. And the amount of feeling he wrings out of each note.
Defenders of the Faith by Judas Priest
Why it's here: Because this is the first real metal record I ever bought. I bought it because I liked the cover artwork and it blew my brain out the back of my skull. I hadn't experienced that feeling before and I haven't felt it since. This record sealed my fate as a metalhead. That's why it's here.
The best thing about it: Rob Halford's awesome syncopated screaming at the end of "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll". It's pure metal perfection.
Hysteria by Def Leppard
Why it's here: This is the record that kicked open the door to heavy rock music for me. Not that it's a very heavy record. It's not. But the guitars are still loud, and Rick Allen's drumming is volcanic. It may be the best-sounding album I've ever heard. Best of all, I don't feel stupid or embarrassed listening to Hysteria now. I feel kinda dumb listening to a lot of the hair bands I used to love (like Warrant, Poison, etc.). But Hysteria still sounds as awesome.
The best thing about it: The gorgeous, shimmering guitar sounds. They blew my mind when I was a kid and didn't know anything about recording music. Now that I know how they got those tones, I still get goosebumps.
Rust in Peace by Megadeth
Why it's here: The first track contains lyrics about The Punisher. The second track is a kick-ass metal jam about a bunker full of dead aliens. If those were the only two songs on the record, I'd love it. But you get a bunch of other killer tracks performed with astounding technical skill. Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman duel guitars with shredding abandon and eyebrow-scorching fury. Nick Menza's drumming is complex but he always holds the beat. And Dave Ellefson's bass is the glue that holds the whole thing together. And it all frakking rocks!
The best thing about it: Did I mentions there's a song about the bunker where the government is keeping dead aliens? It's sci-fi AND it's metal. It couldn't be more perfect for me of Godzilla showed up and nuked everything in sight with his radiation breath.
Pinkerton by Weezer
Why it's here: I have a deeply personal relationship with this record. It got me through some very dark times in college. Pinkerton is the first record I ever heard that I could relate to on a personal, emotional level. It sounded like River Cuomo was going through the same bullshit I was. Because of that, this record has become part of me in a way no other record ever has. That said, the day I can listen to Pinkerton with thinking "This sounds a lot like my life" will be a great, great day.
The best thing about it: The fact that on "Falling for You", River perfectly captured that "Oh shit, I think I like you" feeling I get when I meet someone I'm interested in. I may be interpreting it wrong, but that sure sounds like what he's saying.
So, there you have it. My 20 favorite records ever. I'd love to have better musical taste. But you know what? Somewhere, there's a universe where my taste in music is considered outstanding and your taste in music sucks nutsack. So there.
Anyway, feel like sharing some of your favorites? Leave a comment.
Also, my 20 Favorite Films of All Time countdown is coming soon. Like probably in a couple days. Til then, I'm outta here like last year!