No.25 – James Brown, ‘Live at the Apollo’

What is it?: A standup routine presented by Michael McIntyre Our first live album so far, from none other than the Godfather of Soul himself.

What’s it like?: I mean… I do enjoy James Brown but this isn’t really what I expected of the highest-ranked album of his on the list. This was an excellent live album, I’ll give it that, but I didn’t particularly feel like it let me get to know his music at all.

I guess if you really, really like live albums, like if live albums are your thing, this is one of the best you can get. But if you just fancy a bit of James Brown right now, this ain’t the one.

It didn’t even have ‘I Feel Good’ on it.

When to listen to it: The Apollo Theater, Harlem, in 1962 is probably a good shout.

Verdict: A good live album, a mediocre entry to the list, a bad choice for Baby’s First James Brown Record.



No.24 – Stevie Wonder, ‘Innervisions’

What is it?: A “landmark recording of [Wonder’s] classical period”, according to Wikipedia, and his sixteenth album. Dude was prolific, I’ll give him that.

What’s it like?: It’s official, folks: the list has finally shifted away from dad music and into mom music territory.

I loved this, actually. It isn’t just a collection of songs that somehow fit together, it’s an album, you know? ‘Innervisions’ is entirely cohesive, with the themes and music blending perfectly, and barely faulting on its way. Almost every song is worthy of a listen in its own right, but as an album it works juuuuust nice.

When to listen to it: When it’s late at night, you’re in the flat on your own, and you just feel like doing something special for yourself. Pour a glass of wine, run a bubble bath, and stick ‘Innervisions’ on.

Verdict: Enjoyable.



No.23 – John Lennon, ‘Plastic Ono Band’

What is it?: A solo album from one member of a band who may look a bit familiar by now.

What’s it like?: Just when I was starting to think, hey, we haven’t had a Beatles record in a while, the list cheats and throws us this.

I’ll be honest, I really don’t like Lennon enough to even bother with this one. This was the first album on the list that I saw and thought ugh, no, and went ahead and skipped. There’s really only so much of the unbearable shiteness of Lennon a gal can take, and we’ve reached my limit.

When to listen to it: Whenever you like, just don’t use my speakers.

Verdict: I have no idea.



No.22 – Robert Johnson, ‘The Complete Recordings’

What is it?: A collection of recordings by blues legend and crossroad enthusiast Robert Johnson.

What’s it like?: If Johnson really did sell his soul to make this music, fair play to him.

I haven’t listened to as much blues in my life as I’d like, but even I know it’s rare to find it as good as this. Johnson is a pioneer and insanely skillful, equally as a guitarist, a singer, and a songwriter. The album positively hums with talent.

The multiple takes got a bit tiresome – I don’t necessarily need to hear a track twice in a row but slightly different – though I see why they’re there.

It honestly doesn’t matter what my opinion is on this record. You should listen to it.

When to listen to it: While sipping a whiskey and applying for a job as Lucifer’s PA.

Verdict: A vital collection, even if it’s not your standard background music. Sit down and take this one in.



No.21 – Chuck Berry, ‘The Great Twenty-Eight’

What is it?: A comprehensive collection of songs by the legendary Chuck Berry that – oh jesus there really are 28 songs on this album

What’s it like?: I’m thrilled an artist like Berry was included on here, and so high up as well. Given how inspiring and vital he was to most of our modern rock and pop music, it’s no surprise that this, a collection of some of his best work, is pretty darn good. Its only downfall is that it goes on for a very long time – 28 songs – and that means some of the tracks tend to get a bit lost.

Between me listening to the album and actually posting this review, of course, Berry has sadly passed away at the grand old age of 90. He achieved a heck of a lot in that time, and it started with the songs on ‘The Great Twenty-Eight’ – and although not every song is a 10/10, I really recommend giving it a listen.

When to listen to it: When you have a lot of time to kill and want to celebrate the life of one of music’s greats.

Verdict: Rest in peace, Chuck.



No.20 – Michael Jackson, ‘Thriller’

What is it?: The youngest Jackson brother serving casual white tie realness and making some good music while he’s at it.

What’s it like?: Apparently ‘Thriller’ is “better” and “more influential” than ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’. Whatever, Rolling Stone, whatever.

Anyway. ‘Thriller’. If I remember rightly, this is the biggest-selling record in the UK, ever – and lord knows it’s iconic. It’s a surprise it hasn’t appeared until no.20 on this list. This is Jackson at his best, pumping out classics like ‘Beat It’ and ‘Billie Jean’, and making those squealing sounds we all love.

There are a few dud tracks present, though – more than I would have expected, actually – and that was a little disappointing. But on the whole, it’s clear ‘Thriller’ deserves its iconic status.

When to listen to it: When you have something to celebrate and want to do it in style, baby.

Verdict: It’s fab, but I do see why it only just cracked the top 20.



No.19 – Van Morrison, ‘Astral Weeks’

What is it?: Okay, before I continue with this review, let’s just address the elephant in the room: we’re nearly at the end of the top 20 greatest albums of all time, and there’s still no sign of Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’, i.e. the single best piece of music ever recorded. Disgusting, right? Utterly unbelievable? I can only assume that the Rolling Stone staff just have appalling taste and have put it, for some reason, as low down as no.20. Anyway. Whatever.

What’s it like?: It’s a sad-sounding man cawing dismally and a little too slowly over plucked guitars and occasional percussion.

‘Astral Weeks’ very much epitomises ‘it’s probably great if you’re into that sort of thing’, and unfortunately this album (and Van Morrison as a whole, I suspect) is merely on the outer fringes of the sort of thing I’m into.

On a side note, I absolutely love the album art.

When to listen to it: In a field somewhere on a summer’s day when you’re feeling a little bit heartbroken.

Verdict: Ehhh, it’s fine. I wouldn’t listen to it again though.