Hard to say whether this or the next one is better. Both are classics IMO. Some amazing Dylan songs (two sung definitively by Manuel to the point that I have trouble hearing Bob sing em) put it over the top. a unique sound for that time that really hasn't been replicated (because musicians aren't that versatile or interesting nowadays and play with their laptops instead of learning to play little teeny guitars or whatever).
-Randy Newman, Sail Away
I don't know much about him or his discography, but this is the most famous one and is very enjoyable if you're in the mood for Randy and his piano. great lyrics.
-The National, Boxer
I'd echo everyone else here; nothing compelling about them despite all the praise.
-The Modern Lovers, The Modern Lovers
Great if you buy into it. Richman has great charm and lacks pretentiousness. Big VU influence but enough humor and rocknroll enthusiasm to make it refreshing still.
-Flying Burrito Bros, The Gilded Palace of Sin
Well, if you don't like country, you might not be able to handle it, despite some of the rock/psych touches. I think it's an absolute beaut, but I lap up all the Byrds/Parsons etc country-rock stuff from this era.
So much to discover w/ P-Funk. This is their first record with the two guys from James Brown's band. I'm more partial to their earlier stuff (both in Parliament and Funkadelic form), so think of this as a litmus test for their middle period and onward... if you don't dig it, don't give up on trying Maggot Brain, Free Your Mind, Osmium (I might be in the minority on this one) or Chocolate City (although Choc City is closer to Mothership than the earlier stuff).
-Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
My favorite hip-hop album of all time, just as the Beatles will always be my favorites; two utterly boring choices, and not necessarily music I listen to over and over again (far from it), but they still feel like the right choices. I dunno... you're not 15 anymore, Eric (I assume), so maybe there's zero chance this will mean anything near as much to you. it's quite dated by now, but I think RZA's production work here is untouchable (so spare and raw), and for me it's refreshing to hear some of the Wu in their younger, more hungry days (in particular, Ghostface sounds utterly different than what he would become later on). Ol Dirty, Inspectah, Method, and *especially* GZA are all on top form. but again... not sure where you stand on rap music in general... for me, this was the album that got me into real hip-hop, so I treat it a lot more reverentially than a newcomer might (then again, if you look at RYM or something, *everybody* loves this album, apparently).
-Swans, Children Of God
I always think of Swans as having 3 phases, although it's not entirely cut and dry. There's the pre-Jarboe era, Jarboe, and post-Jarboe era. This is firmly in the Jarboe era, and definitely seen as one of the best of that time (or of the band's discog, period). They're sort of toeing the line between pre-Jarboe and Jarboe here; there's still a few blasts of their signature pounding industrial sound, but they're starting to get all Jarboey, meaning gothy and more melodic, although they'd get even *more* melodic (and faster) for their upcoming albums. Personally, my fav Swans is their early stuff, but I have to be in the mood for it (that mood comes more often than you might think, bahaha); I find their Jarboe-heavy period (and their last few records) to be very very interesting but at times a bit dull.
GZA is probably my favorite rapper. it doesn't really matter what he's saying; his voice alone is so authoritative and free-flowing that it simply sounds like he is the best, even if his words are just a stream of consciousness cloud of city/drugs/crime. I always find new little phrases from him that I didn't catch on to before. He sounds so effortless. and RZA is on top form here, much more closer to his signature style than Enter The Wu-Tang, which is a lot more cinematic (though still full of kung-fu influence). For many, this is the best Wu-Tang ever put out; it certainly comes close, although I feel quite strongly about a couple of Ghostface's early records too (plus Only Built 4 Cuban Linx). But honestly, you don't know hip-hop without being familiar with this and Enter The Wu-Tang. (***extra Wu-Tang discussion: Here's my progression of favorite Wu-Tang members through the years -- Method --> Ol' Dirty --> Ghostface --> GZA. Who's your favorite? I must know...)
-John Coltrane, Ascension
I'm no jazzbo compared to someone like Matt, but Coltrane is Coltrane, and this is a big release considering it's pretty much the jumping-off point for Coltrane to get into free jazz. It's not *totally* off the wall, though, at least I wouldn't say so (compared to, like, Ornette Coleman's free jazz stuff from a few years earlier). So it depends on what you can handle... but good god, the players on this record... Coltrane of course, but also the impeccable rhythm section of Jimmy Garrison and the brilliant Elvin Jones, the untouchable McCoy Tyner on piano... not to mention Pharoah Sanders and Freddie Hubbard. Again, I am far from a jazz expert but that's a serious f*ckin lineup, and I'm probably leaving out a few noteworthy folks. I think if you're interested in jazz at all you have to hear this a few times.
well I just spent a lot of time on this instead of working... I love my job hahaha. thanks for starting this thread; I like discussing 'obvious, critical darling' albums, even if it merely results in me talking and no one listening, and actually I'm inspired to play of these artists myself. happy new year...