Top 20 albums of all time?

Just what the world needs: another top 20 albums of all time list, courtesy of the Y! Radish Music Blog. This list is a bit different from the usual critical assessments because it seeks to be more objective and empirical, weighing factors such as album sales, “critical rating value” (an amalgam of critical reviews), and number of Grammy Awards won. (The approach reminds me of those convoluted formulas that The Wall Street Journal uses to assess baseball and football players.) After all the dust settles, the Top 5 albums are:

5. Abbey Road, the Beatles.

4. Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin

3. Thriller, Michael Jackson

2. Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd

1. Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder

You can see the complete list here. I love these kinds of lists. They confound, inspire debate, and, hopefully, force us to think more critically — none of which I’m going to do here. But I do have some random thoughts:

  • I admire Stevie Wonder; but I cannot remember the last time I played Songs in the Key of Life. How many of your friends own it?
  • There are four Led Zeppelin albums on this list. Now, I love Led Zeppelin. But I also know full well that in its day, the band was consistently bashed by critics. It wasn’t until well after the band broke up that it achieved critical respectability. I wonder how well this list takes into account critical response at the time the albums were actually released?
  • An album’s staying power is a worthy measure as noted by the formula employed by the Y! Radish Music Blog. But by definition, newer bands are penalized simply because their work hasn’t been around as long. I don’t know how else you can explain Radiohead being completely shut out of this list.
  • It’s a hoot to see Van Halen crash the party like a drunk uncle at a wedding reception, making Number 14 on the list with its eponymous first album. But how on earth did George Michael sneak in?
  • No Rolling Stones? No Doors? No Dylan? I’ll tell you why: the list fails to take into account an album’s influence on other albums, which is why The Doors or nothing by Dylan made the cut.
  • Fortunately the list assigns very little weight to Grammy Awards won, but I question why the Grammy Awards should have been a factor at all. The Grammy Awards are notoriously out of touch with the times. This is the esteemed organization that honored “Winchester Cathedral” over “Eleanor Rigby” for best rock & roll recording in 1966. Enough said. I would stay as far away from the Grammy Awards as I could just in priniciple.

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