The problem with rock music is that there are too many rock music critics. With the birth of the internet, this virus of self-important blowhards has hit critical mass. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great rock writers out there; there are a ton I read on a regular basis.
My problem is going all the way back to the 1950’s, this genre of music has been reported on by paid off DJs and failed musicians. Finding a great rock writer is like finding a diamond in the rough. So we have been subjected, for years, to being spoon feed “critically acclaimed” rock albums. In most cases these are not even the best work by the artist in question.
The following albums are prime examples of “critically acclaimed” rock albums. Some are not good, others are not the best of breed for the band while others are not even rock. Still, year to year these gems end up on lists of the top albums in rock history. I am hoping today we can finally get these discs off of those lists.
Van Halen: Van Halen – The problem I have with Van Halen albums in general is that they are too short. Most of the early Van Halen disks are only 15 minutes per side. When you strip away the novelty songs and cover tunes you have 20 minutes of music. Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing is legendary and the early song writing is unparalleled. The problem here is there is there is just not enough bang for your buck. For my money, I think Women and Children First is the best of breed for this band. No filler, no covers, just 33 minutes of great tunes.
Guns and Roses: Appetite for Destruction – There is nothing to see here. Appetite for Destruction is nothing but a collection of riffs. Cool riffs, but just a pallet for Slash’s guitar. When you look at this album from a distance it sounds like most of it came out of a weekend jam session. If you strip away Slash’s guitar, you have every other hair band album to come out of the late 80’s. If you are really jonesing for Slash’s guitar, pick up some Velvet Revolver. The song writing is better and you don’t have to sit through Axel Rose’s whinny vocals.
Peter Frampton: Frampton Comes Alive – This is a prime example of stretching way too far to fill two disks. If this 70’s concert was boiled down to one disk it could be one of the greatest live albums of all time. Unfortunately, the double live disk was a huge gadget in the 70s. This was a cheesy way to charge twice as much for an album. There are only 2 or three songs from the disk that see the light of day in AOR rotation. Even those songs are not anything you would call legendary. If you want to pick up a Peter Frampton live disk, pick up Humble Pie: Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore
The Beatles: Let It Be – I understand that Let It Be is The Beatles return to a simpler format. What they succeeded in producing is 4 or 5 great songs surrounded by novelty tunes and blues jams. The Beatles left most of the producing duties of this album to Phil Spector. Spector took what was to be a stripped down album and added his famous wall of sound. Members of The Beatles have themselves voiced disappointment in the final product. If you are looking for a stripped-down Beatles album I would suggest you pick up Rubber Soul.
Metallica : The Black Album – Though this is the most successful Metallica album commercially, it is also the most boring Metallica album… ever. The Black Album marks the Metallica transition from a cool underground metal band to an Mtv pop sensation. The Unforgiven and Nothing Else Matters let us know that this once uber-cool metal band had succumbed to the power ballad formula. If you strip the Mtv window dressings away from this disk you are lucky if you have 15 or 20 minutes of good metal. If you want to hear a best of breed Metalica album go buy Master of Puppets.
Led Zeppelin: IV – This has to be the weakest album by the greatest band ever. This record continues to get listed as one of the greatest albums of all time. This is while it is not even the strongest of the Led Zeppelin catalog. Yes, this disk has songs Misty Mountain Hop, Four Sticks and Stairway to Heaven. This disk was also followed by albums Houses of the Holy, Physical Graffiti and Presence. Also within this time line The Song remains the Same was released. The greatest rock movie/soundtrack to ever be released to date. It gave us Stairway to Heaven and that alone is more than enough for narrow-minded rock critics. If you want to pick up a classic Led Zeppelin album get yourself Physical Graffiti.
U2: The Joshua Tree– At some point in their history U2 went from being a cutting edge band to being a liberal infomercial. In my eyes this happened somewhere around the release of The Joshua Tree. Bono became self-aware and realized that he and he alone was the most politically important person on the planet. The Joshua Tree is the point where U2 officially was no longer a punk band and officially became the anthems for drunken frat boys. If you really want to find out what this band is about pick up any of their first three albums.
AC/DC: Back in Black – As Highway to Hell was becoming an international hit. AC/DC was burying their lead singer Bon Scott. Scott had fronted the Australian quintet since 1973. Back in Black, without a doubt, is Bon Scott replacement Brian Johnson’s best AC/DC album. Back in Black still does not come close to any of the work Bon Scott put into the band. Bon Scott’s last album Highway to Hell is without a doubt the best of breed for this band. If you are looking to capture the whole essence of AC/DC pick up For Those About To Rock. This is a disk that you will never see drunken cougars dancing to at last call in a Chinese restaurant lounge.
Queen: A Night at the Opera – Though this disk has some incredible music on it, it also has a lot of filler. If Queen had taken their time and made A Night at the Opera and Day at the Races one disk it could have been the greatest album in rock history. Instead, by trying to keep up with EMI’s schedule, they produced two mediocre albums with extraordinary songs. A Night at the Opera shares a distinction with Led Zeppelin IV… Having one of the biggest songs in rock history on your disk can give you street cred. The problem is when real music historians looks at songs like Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon and “39 that cred goes right out the window. If you are looking for an end to end great Queen album pick up Sheer Heart Attack or Live Killers.
Michael Jackson: Thriller – Why this album gets mentioned as a rock album baffles me. Having Eddie Van Halen play guitar on an album does not make it rock. Steve Lukather played on Beat It also, can we give him some props? This album, while it is good, is no more rock than Lady GaGa’s last piece of shit. Thriller is pop pabulum and that is all it will ever be. This autobiographical journey into the sexuality of Michal Jackson is as confusing as the man himself. Be this a pedophiles’ dairy or the diary of a pervert, Thriller will be forever as stained as Micheal Jackson’s reputation. With songs like Baby Be Mine and Pretty Young Thing rounding out the play list I think this album can be left off all top ten lists from here on out.