I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been putting off writing this post for weeks now, if not months. Sure, I knew it was something I wanted to write -what music fan doesn’t relish the opportunity to talk about their favourite albums of all time?- but seriously, I didn’t actually know if I could.
Every time I came close to putting together a definitive list of the albums that I thought stood head and shoulders above anything else I’d ever listened to, I’d rediscover some old classic that brought up fond memories of a certain part of my past, and I’d convince myself that I just had to find room for it on my list.
In the end, just the thought of including one great collection of music but leaving out another filled me with far more fear and confusion than such a frivolous task should really demand. So I’d give up, and I’d start working on other writing projects instead, like 52 Songs That Changed My Life, or My 12 Favourite Films of All Time.
Eventually, I just had to say fear be damned, and get on with it, which is what I’m about to do here with you today.
The more I think about it, the more I realise how much my favourite albums speak volumes about the time that I grew up and the kind of things that shaped my formative years. A good portion of this list features albums that came out in the 1990s, and whilst I’m sure others would argue with me that albums which were technically better have been released before and since, that isn’t the point.
This isn’t a list of The Greatest Albums of All Time as defined by some strict criteria. The only criteria is the albums that I love to listen to, that I can listen to right the way through without getting bored, and that make me feel good the entire time. Isn’t that all a great album should be anyway?
I certainly think so, which is why I’m finally ready to share with you what I consider my top ten favourite albums of all time.
1: Pearl Jam – Ten
I don’t make enough of my love for Pearl Jam, especially when it comes to waxing enthusiastically about artists like Counting Crows and Metallica. I consider those bands to be among my top three all-time favourites because their greater body of work really appeals to me, because I could go through any one of their albums and come up with a strong enough argument to include it on this list.
Pearl Jam are different. I love Pearl Jam. I consider their headline show at Leeds Festival 2006 to be easily the best gig I’ve ever been to, but I’d be lying if I told you I regularly listened to much of their back catalogue outside of VS. and this, Ten, their glorious debut which sounds as dramatic, epic, and incredible today as it did when it was released back in 1991.
There’s just something about this album that makes me feel something in a way that is more powerful and personally profound than just about any other album I’ve ever listened to. I can listen to songs like Black and feel on the verge of tears, I can go through singles like Jeremy and feel ready to thrash around, ready to unleash an age of pent up rage. And then there’s Alive, a song so powerful and brilliant that I did actually cry when they played it live at the aforementioned Leeds gig.
If the sign of a good album is that it enables you to really get in touch with your own emotions, Pearl Jam’s Ten is far and away the greatest album ever written.
2: Counting Crows – August & Everything After
Given how much I’ve doted on Counting Crows on this blog in the past, it should come as no surprise to find the band right at the top of my list.
To be honest, I debated between this and their follow-up album, Recovering the Satellites in the number two spot. Both have a special place in my heart and are truly incredible pieces of work, but in the end, I had to give it to the one album that made me such a die-hard Crows fan in the first place.
Admittedly, I first discovered the band a few years after August & Everything After was released. The DJ at our local rock club would regularly play Mr. Jones, the album’s stand-out single and to-date one of the band’s best-known hits.
I fell in love almost instantly, and went out searching for other Counting Crows songs. Unfortunately, the first one I found was Colorblind. After the lively, rock ‘n’ roll feel of Mr. Jones, this just wasn’t what I was expecting, and not the kind of vibe I was looking for.
Almost immediately, I gave up on Counting Crows and vowed never to return.
Then, somebody mentioned to me that I might be better served by tracking down the band’s debut album and giving that a listen instead.
So I did, and fell hopelessly in love.
August and Everything After is a truly beautiful album in every sense of the word. From the twinkling guitar and haunting lyrical narrative of Round Here to the combination of feel-good tempos and thoughtful lyrics of A Murder of One, there isn’t a single song on this album that I don’t absolutely adore.
It was this album which ultimately introduced me to the one band I consider to be my favourite of all time, and this album which is perfectly deserving of the number two spot on my list of my ten favourite albums of all time.
Part 2 of My Top Ten Favourite Albums of All Time will be published next Friday, February 17th.