Greil’s Top 40 LPs circa September 2020

In response to a couple Ask Greil inquiries, here’s the Top 40 GM submitted to Rolling Stone for their recent Top 500 Albums of All-Time list—“in no order other than how they occur to me and only one per performer.”

Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers
Bob Dylan, Time Out of Mind
Rolling Stones, Aftermath
Beatles, Rubber Soul
Prince, Dirty Mind
Cream, Fresh Cream
Howlin’ Wolf
Crickets, Those Chirpin’ Crickets
Who, Happy Jack
Clash, London Calling
Black Uhuru, Sensimilla
Pere Ubu, Dub Housing
ZZ Top, Eliminator
Burning Spear, Garvey’s Ghost
Van Morrison, The Healing Game
Miracles’ Greatest Hits Vol. 2
Randy Newman, Sail Away
Elvis Presley, From Elvis in Memphis
Sly and the Family Stone, There’s a Riot Goin’ On
Jimmy Cliff et al, The Harder They Come soundtrack
Coasters, Coast Along with the Coasters
Beach Boys, Shut Down Vol. 2
Oldies But Goodies
Mekons, Fear and Whiskey
Gang of Four, Entertainment
The Band, Music from Big Pink
The Stax-Volt Revue Live in London Vol. 1
Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska
The Raincoats
Lou Reed, Street Hassle
Sleater-Kinney, Call the Doctor
Chuck Berry Twist
Bo Diddley’s Beach Party
Elvis Costello, This Year’s Model
Geto Boys, We Can’t Be Stopped
Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club
Bill Clinton Jam Session–The Pres Blows
Public Image Ltd., Metal Box
Bettye LaVette, Things Have Changed
Prince Buster, Judge Dread Featuring Prince Buster Jamaica’s Pride

I could go on.


12 thoughts on “Greil’s Top 40 LPs circa September 2020

  1. So the most obvious question (well, 2nd-most after “why Bill Clinton’s recording?!”) is, which of the zillion versions of Oldies But Goodies do you have in mind?

    • I’m sure Greil means the original Art Laboe LP versions – with the “Dreamy” Side 1 and the “rockin'” or “jump” side 2. And there aren’t “zillions”…only about 14 or 15 volumes. Again, these are the original LP volumes on Original Sound. Some are available to listen to in their entirety on YouTube. Don’t fall for the repackaged CD versions – they’re totally different – and confusing. Although the Time-Life CD box set version is quite good…but it misses the warmth of the the dreamy/rockin’ experience.

  2. Quirky album choices (“Happy Jack”? Really?) but mostly from the kind of warhorse artists the new RS list has begun the process of transitioning away from. Women drastically under-repped here (Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” doesn’t even get its ritualistic mention). And aside from Stax and Sly Stone nothing on here that brings the funk, at least not for me. Sorry Greil. Without Stevie Wonder or Prince in your pantheon it’s no sale. If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.

    • I’ve seen and heard Greil remark many times over the years that he doesn’t care for Joni Mitchell’s work. A phrase I recall him using at least once is “…full of self-regard.”

      I disagree with him, and agree that Blue is a great record, but anyway, if he was going to go out of his way to include more women, it’d more likely be PJ Harvey, Sleater-Kinney, Lana Del Ray, the Slits, or some other female artists about whom he’s written admiringly.

  3. I assume that Greil’s list is trying to suggest 1) there are a lot of great albums out there (ergo stopping at 40 with “I could go on”) and 2) any attempt to codify them is counterproductive if not silly. And if he was trying to be definitive he would have never have forgotten Rod Stewart.

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