Bob’s Favorite Non-Jazz Albums

Bob Bennett

PREFACE:  I have been informed that Devin doesn’t want us listing a whole lot of multiple albums by one artist [ED. I didn’t say that, I just said that I was going to try to avoid it myself].  Sorry, but that’s just not happening.  These are supposed to be our favorite albums, and if that’s the case, then this is a representative list.  Those of you who know me, or who have even heard about my obsession with one particular individual’s music will not be surprised at this list.

A couple things I just couldn’t fit but wanted to make mention of:  The Who’s Quadrophenia, Bruce Springsteen’s Tracks and Born in the U.S.A. and Van Halen II

15. Lewis Black – The White Album

Hey, who said it has to be only MUSIC on this list?  I thank guitarist Travis Mattison for hipping me to Lewis Black many years ago and his stuff always kills me.  This album, one of his earliest, always makes me smile no matter how many times I listen to it.  And with all respect to The Beatles, if I had to pick only ONE White Album, this one wins….

14. Jim Croce – 50th Anniversary Collection

It’s unbelievable to me the amount of quality music that Jim Croce recorded in such a short time.  He only had a couple studio albums released prior to his death, so there really isn’t much to choose from.  For this reason, I’m going with this collection which actually doesn’t cover everything but does grab most of it.  Jim Croce was an incredible storyteller whose songs paint a vivid picture every time you hear them.

13. The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

The most soulful Stones record ever.  “Beast of Burden” is one of my all time favorite tunes, and I was thrilled to see them start throwing it back in the live show.  Just as general commentary, it also seems to me that Mic Jagger’s voice continues to sound incredible regardless of his age.  There’s a reason these guys have been pulling in huge crowds for decades.

12. Sam Cooke – Portrait of a Legend: 1951-1964

How do you select one record from the man who invented soul?  Although I was familiar with Sam Cooke, it wasn’t until my brother let me listen to this album that I really began to appreciate his incredible talent.  Simply an amazing collection here.

11. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II

Here’s another instance of “where do I start?”  When you have a band who never recorded a sub par album, which one do you pick?  Everything these guys did was incredible.  For me, LZ II stands out because of the power of the record as a whole.  It flows seamlessly and just never stops.  But Led Zeppelin’s entire body of work could be described that way.  For this, really, you could just say “pick one”….

10. Richard Pryor – …Is It Something I Said?

“We are gathered here today….”  The word is overused, but here it’s applicable: Richard Pryor was a genius.  Perhaps the most influential comedian in history, you can walk into a room, say that first line and nothing else…and everybody will crack up.  This album starts with one of my all time favorite routines, Pryor’s “preacher” delivering a eulogy.

9. AC/DC – Live: Collector’s Edition

The two disc version, not the single disc version they put out.  These guys haven’t changed a thing about their music in over 30 years…and I hope they never do.

8. Stevie Wonder – Innervisions & Songs in the Key of Life

Nothing needs to be said here.  If you don’t own these records, go buy them…NOW!

7. KISS – Double Platinum

Yes, you read correctly.  I’ll pause a moment so that everyone can collect themselves….

I’m not really crazy about the whole “no compilations” rule that Devin put out there, and since I have seniority here, I’ll just ignore it for this particular album.  As you can tell from the other albums on this list, I make no bones about being a huge classic rock fan.  And yes, I’m a big KISS fan.  It’s actually hard for me to pick an album of theirs because there’s a lot of stuff I love strung out over multiple albums.  For me, the first six studio albums these guys did are pretty standard listening.  Most KISS fans would list Alive here, and while I’m always a fan of live over studio, with this band I prefer the opposite because of one thing: Paul Stanley.  I’m sorry, as big a KISS fan as I am, I would be forever grateful if Gene were the only one allowed to talk.  Stanley is right there with Kevin Cronan of REO Speedwagon & Ted Nugent as the most annoying front men in rock history.

So for this reason, I’m taking Double Platinum.  I’m also taking just the one KISS record to make room for the multiple Springsteen records that will be listed in a moment….

6. Van Halen – Van Halen

This was an incredibly close call between Van Halen’s first and second albums.  It’s kind of a toss-up, but I chose the inaugural release because it has my all time favorite VH tune, “Feel Your Love Tonight”.  From 1989 until probably 1995, I listened to Van Halen constantly.  I was a Van Hagar guy when I was younger, and a Van Roth guy as I got older.  Better singles with Dave, better albums with Sammy.  Regardless, they’ll always be a favorite for me.  With the early Van Halen albums, I always thought that Eddie’s intro riffs were incredible.  “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” the aforementioned “Feel Your Love Tonight,” “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “ Jamie’s Cryin”” all exemplify that on this album.


5. Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town

This album didn’t make my original list, but I must have been suffering from head trauma that day.  With the recent release of The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story, I was reminded just how incredible this record really is.  Also, I was fortunate enough to be in the audience at Giants Stadium when Springsteen & the E Street Band performed this record in its entirety as part of the Stadium’s final concerts.  I continue to be amazed when I think this was the follow up to Born to Run.  How do you follow up a masterpiece?  With another masterpiece.

4. Bruce Springsteen – The River

Although Darkness is incredible, my #2 Springsteen studio record is without question The River.  This is really two independent records woven together.  On one hand, you have the follow up to Darkness that continues telling those stores, with mid-tempo tunes that paint an exceptionally vivid picture of family and blue collar life.  Also found within is a completely opposite, pop-driven, “party” record that evokes good times.  The latter is how I’ve always seen this album.  “Sherry Darling,” “Hungry Heart,”  “I’m a Rocker,”  “Crush on You,” “Out in the Street” and “Ramrod” are all here, and are all some of my favorite Springsteen rockers.  If those don’t put you in a good mood, nothing will.

3. Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run

You didn’t actually think I’d leave this off, did you?  Listening to the album in its entirety gives you an unbelievable appreciation for everything that went into it.  When you think of the songs included here: “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” “Backstreets,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” “She’s the One,” “Jungleland”…they’re all remarkable in and of themselves.  To think they all came from one record…that they were put together as one piece of work?  To me, that’s pretty astonishing.  If you’re ever inclined, watch Wings For Wheels: The Making of Born to Run, Thom Zimmy’s documentary that was included in the 30th Anniversary edition box set.  It will give you an even deeper appreciation for the album.  This is by far my all-time favorite studio record of Springsteen’s.  But it’s not my all-time favorite record…those would be….

2. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Hammersmith Odeon, London ‘75

Released thirty years after being recorded, this was Springsteen’s first gig overseas.  The album was initially released in DVD format only, with the Born to Run 30th Anniversary box set.  A short time later, they put the concert DVD out as a double CD, thankfully for all.  I won’t go into the history behind the date (you can read up on it if you’re so inclined, it’s a pretty good story), but the band’s performance is absolutely electric.  They had just finished recording Born to Run, so most of that album is performed here.  There are also incredible versions of Springsteen live staples like “Rosalita” & “Kitty’s Back”, which simply burn the house down.  To top things off, the band throws in “Detroit Medley” and “Quarter to Three”, great covers of classic soul music.

1. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Live 1975-85

I know, you were patiently waiting to see exactly WHICH Springsteen album would make the top for me.  No Devin, I’m not cheating on this one by selecting a “Best of” compilation like I did with the KISS listing.  This may be compiled from live performances over a decade, but it was a single release and none of the material was previously available.  What’s great about this one is you get to hear Bruce & the band develop over the course of a decade.  From the early club dates to the stadium shows on the “Born in the U.S.A.” tour, this has everything.  When this thing first came out (Christmas 1985) my brother and I wore out the cassettes (it initially was release on 3 cassettes, 5 LPs or 3 CDs).  We played the first cassette so much that it took us a week or more to realize that Columbia had screwed up and included two copies of one cassette and we were actually missing one-third of the set.  Luckily for us, even though we had opened it and played it non-stop, the store took it back and gave us a new one.  This was my first introduction to “Rosalita”, Springsteen’s long-time closing tune that he actually stopped playing live from 1984 until 2003.  For years, my brother and I listened to that version, hoping that one day we’d finally get to hear it live.  When we did (at Comisky Park in Chicago in the summer of 2003), it brought everything full circle.  50,000 people singing along made it a very memorable moment.

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