Top 5 Debut Albums/CD’s of All Time
There have been some auspicious debuts in Rock and Roll. These have to rank near the very top. Not necessarily my favorite records of all time. These are not desert island discs -at least for me. All have been highly influential and feature great songwriting. The main thing they share, is each one came on the scene like a comet. The Beatles, Clash, or Bruce Springsteen – all of whom had terrific debuts – they weren’t as fully formed in the sense that these five were. Some may even argue that the five below are their best works.
An omission here is Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses. The genie came out of the bottle on that one, and they are still trying to get it back in. Feel free to replace any of the below with Appetite.
- Are You Experienced – Jimi Hendrix Experience
Jimi Hendrix was a phenomenon in London making the British scene like Austin Powers with his single Hey Joe. This record, uneven in parts, presents a fully-formed future icon who revolutionized the guitar with each over-driven E7#9 chord (and there are many).
The superior US version shows remarkable range. From the hard rock of Purple Haze to the blues of Red House: from the tenderness of The Wind Cries Mary, to the experimentation of Third Stone from the Sun, no record ever before or since said “hey world look at me, the world will never be the same.”
It hasn’t been since.
- The Pretenders – The Pretenders
In the middle of US punk importation of bands who had attitude and no musical aptitude came the odd combo of Ohio native Chrissie Hynde with her band of from the UK. Every song encapsulated the angst of the Clash, with the pop sensibilities of the Kinks. It was a delicious combination made even more so when their leader said, “not me baby, I’m too precious, F off!”
James Honeyman-Scott was a guitar chameleon, playing a dizzying display of rhythm and single note lines behind Martin Chambers beefy drumming.
The star though was the enigmatic front-woman whose vulnerable-yet-strong vocals and terrific songwriting would carry her career for decades with a variety of bandmates.
- Boston – Boston
Saturated guitars, overdubbed vocal harmonies, and songs that came out of some sinister time-less machine have ensured that thirty years after the fact, somewhere a track from this debut is playing somewhere. As much as I dislike this record, I can not deny its craftsmanship and durability.
Mastermind Tom Scholz created in his basement enough songs for two mega-selling, genre producing (corporate rock!), arguably great records. The late Brad Delp’s vocals are terrific, even if no one could recognize him in a police lineup and their life depended on it. Without Delp, Scholz is just another tall vegetarian with a guitar and degree from MIT.
- Elvis Costello – My Aim is True
The reflective singer songwriter wave was over. The wimpy Topanga Canyon guys had put a fork in the genre spewing ersatz introspection, Joni turned to Jazz, and Cat Stevens was praying he wouldn’t drown (ending his career in the process).
Then came this record. A new kind of singer songwriter named Elvis. From the poignancy of the title cut to the hard Farfisa-rooted ska of Watching the Detectives. This was a stunning debut of an artist who is still relevant today, either as a musician or host of the TV show Spectacle.
- Van Halen – Van Halen
Rock guitar stunningly reinvented. Edward Van Halen grabs the torch that began with Chuck Berry and was most recently in the hands of Hendrix. By the time you are finished Running with The Devil, EVH makes guitarists all over the planet weep with the solo guitar instrumental Eruption, where dive bombs and right handed finger tapping are both introduced and expanded in the same song.
Then there is the rest of the album.
David Lee Roth might be the best front man in the history of rock. He could kick the crap out of Roger Daltry’s, sleep with more chicks than Rod Stewart, all while makingthe guys laugh their asses of. The Van Halen Lee Roth combo was irresistible and more than other band brought some much needed fun back to rock and roll.
Any list like this is bound to have detractors.
Boston will take the most tomatoes. They will never make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the rest will. Let me ask you, if you had to choose between Styx, REO Speedwagon, and Boston who do you choose?
Then there are the critics darlings, which maybe sold a collective million copies collectively. I am talking about Leonard Cohen, Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, MC5, Love, and the Talking Heads. These records didn’t sell for a reason, they suck. They are the musical equivalent of Beowulf, historically interesting, but God bless you slogging through them.