By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

My top 25 albums: Let the arguing begin!

Bob Dylan with Allen Ginsberg. Photo (cc) 1975 by Elsa Dorfman.

A little over a year ago I began compiling a list of my favorite 25 albums. I finally finished last week. It was a fun exercise that forced me to think about the music that has meant the most to me over the years. My only self-imposed rule was to limit myself to one album per artist. Otherwise I’d probably have seven or eight Dylan albums here.

And how wonderful was it to find a photo by my late friend Elsa Dorfman that I could run with this.

If I did this again, I’m sure it would come out differently — but probably not too differently. Here, then, is the complete list, with links to what I wrote about each of them. Let the arguments begin!

  1. Bob Dylan, “Blood on the Tracks”
  2. Bruce Springsteen, “Born to Run”
  3. Miles Davis, “Big Fun”
  4. The Rolling Stones, “Exile on Main Street”
  5. McCoy Tyner, “Enlightenment”
  6. Derek and the Dominos, “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs”
  7. Carla Bley and the Jazz Composers Orchestra, “Escalator over the Hill”
  8. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”
  9. Al Green, “Greatest Hits”
  10. “Lyle Lovett and His Large Band”
  11. John Prine, “The Missing Years”
  12. Van Morrison, “Astral Weeks”
  13. Tom Waits, “Franks Wild Years”
  14. Charlie Parker, “Bird/The Savoy Recordings (Master Takes)”
  15. “The Essential Johnny Cash, 1955-1983”
  16. Paul Simon, “Graceland”
  17. Various artists, “The Harder They Come”
  18. Neil Young, “Decade”
  19. Muddy Waters Day at Paul’s Mall
  20. “The Essential George Jones”
  21. “The Beatles” (the White Album)
  22. Aretha Franklin, “Amazing Grace”
  23. Lucinda Williams, “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”
  24. Christopher Parkening, “Parkening Plays Bach”
  25. Mavis Staples, “We’ll Get By”

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  1. There’s a lot of good stuff on here, but I’m curious where you’d rank U2’s Achtung Baby? I think that album would be very high, if not number 1, on a lot of Gen Xer’s lists.

    In and of itself that doesn’t mean much, but I think it just highlights interesting generational differences.

  2. Jeff

    All worthy choices. Any list that includes “Car Wheels” is fine by me. Maybe honorable mention for Los Lobos, “Kiko”?

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