26. Robert Palmer- Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley
It wasn't the first time we heard Robert Palmer sing, having been on record with Vinegar Joe and The Alan Bown. But "Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley" may have been the first time we noticed. A solo debut with members of both The Meters and Little Feat as your backing band, you will have no choice but to fall into its pocket from the opening seconds, and it is so deep, you will need to crawl your way out by the end of Side Two. Palmer continued to make solid records, each veering further away from the grooves of "Sally," though that is not to say his later records were anything to dismiss. Even his MTV hits had some seriously funky shit coming through the iconic but icy videos. But it's "Sally" that remains his best and my favorite.
27. Iggy Pop- The Idiot
Iggy produced by Bowie. How can you go wrong? Well, if you asked me when it was released in 1977, my ignorance and arrogance would have counted all the ways. What didn't stick 40 years ago, took hold some time in the 80's and never let go. "The Idiot" is Iggy's masterpiece. Cold, dark, grimy and groovy. It has become one of my favorite records of all time. "Sister Midnight," "Funtime," "Baby" and the superior, original version of "China Girl" all live here. Not enough is said about David Bowie as a producer, probably because there just isn't enough work. But for the trilogy of Mott The Hoople's "All The Young Dudes," Lou Reed's "Transformer" and Iggy Pop's "The Idiot" alone, Bowie's genius behind the boards should be praised.
28. James Booker- Live At Montreux
Booker, the "Bayou Maharajah," the "New Orleans Piano Wizard," had his fans and followers for years, but it wasn't until Lily Keber's excellent documentary from a few years ago, that James Booker's otherworldly talents reached more than the handful of New Orleans disciples who had known all along. The album "Classified" is for sure, the definitive record. There aren't many to choose from, as Booker's behavior was so erratic, it was a miracle he stayed anywhere long enough to record a side's worth of music. But I'm choosing "Live At Montreux" for one reason. The performance of "True." It is quite simply, stunning. It has everything Booker could do that so many could not. It's not just the piano playing, which is ridiculous. Or, the heart shredding vocals. It's the effortless way he does both and that look on his face as if he knows, it ain't nothing. The whole set is fine. Maybe it's lacks a bit of the fire it could have had with better backing musicians. But, I cannot live without "True," so it goes in the coffin.
29. Queen- A Day At The Races
Hot off the heels of the mind-blowing success of "A Night At The Opera," Freddie and the boys return with, what at first, was hardly a bang. Were we put off by the second Marx Brothers steal? By the similar album cover? Hard to say now why the reaction to "A Day At The Races" was lukewarm at best. But in many ways, I think this is a better record than "A Night At The Opera." It has all the pomp of a Queen record. There is Brian May's signature guitar sound. Fantastic vocals from all involved. And, most important, tighter songs. "Races" is a bit more radio friendly, and for my money, that makes it a stronger listen. "The Millionare Waltz," is a mini-suite that gives "Bohemian Rhapsody" a run for its money. Brain May's "Long Away" is as beautiful as a pop song gets. Hell, it's almost power pop. "White Man" rocks hard with some of May's finest guitar work. And of course, there is a Freddie Mercury's masterwork, "Somebody To Love."
30. Todd Rundgren- Liars
In 1989, Todd Rundgren released "Nearly Human," a big sounding return to the pop and soul of his 70's work and one of my favorite Todd records. Then, for my ears, The Dark Ages came. From 1990-2003, Rundgren fans had to deal with experiments in interactive music, weak attempts at electronica and rap, remixes, fan club only songs, bossa nova reworkings of classic Rundgren material and live archival releases. It was a crappy time in the music industry and always the innovator, Rundgren tried to stay ahead of the game, or at the very least, keep up with the changing times. (That is my half-full glass.) But in 2004, we got "Liars," one of Rundgren's most-inspired records and one of my three fave Todd records of all time. He was still dabbling in dance and electronica, but what makes this work so well is that, there is soul underneath it all. The songs are there. Strong and topical. Heartbreaking and brilliant. His voice is as good as it was in 1977. The mellifluous harmonies are all over the place, as are the hooks. "Liars" was a return to form and a huge critical success.
Even Joe Jackson had to write about it:
"Liars is All Todd Plus Computers, and although I personally miss some of that old lo-fi messiness, it still couldn’t be anyone but him. The songs are consistently both soulful and clever, and need to be listened to a few times. Though this isn’t a ‘concept album’, there is a theme running through it: a search for truth and a frustration with all forms of dishonesty. Many of the songs have a searching, yearning quality; some are sad, some angry, and some funny (for instance Soul Brother and Stood Up, which are not only funny but wildly catchy, and would have been huge hits in a more righteous universe). The whole album sounds surprisingly contemporary, or rather, timeless; Rundgren’s distinctive and very cool harmonic tricks are all over it (the downward modulations in Stood Up, for instance, make me smile every time); and his voice hasn’t aged a day."