500 ESSENTIAL POPULAR MUSIC ALBUMS (1954-1999)
Have you ever wondered why “top 500 album” lists like those offered by Rolling Stone magazine and others are always filled with boring crap? So do we, which is why we asked the cultural historians at Fabbrica Sodoma to give us their own opinion on the matter.
Fabbrica Sodoma have selected and/or curated 500 CDs of music, containing a total of approximately 5,000 individual tracks; the CDs range in duration from 11 minutes to over 70 minutes, and contain between 1 and more than 30 tracks. The definition of an album for the purposes of this survey is therefore simply any CD with music on it. No other restrictions were applied, except for the time period of the recordings (1954-1999).
In summary, Fabbrica Sodoma selected what they consider to be the most essential recordings from the time period and arranged them as 500 albums – some of which have previously been released in identical form, some of which have previously been released in different form, and some of which have never been released at all. Pre-existing albums were selected first and foremost, but to obtain 500 essential albums it was necessary to group some recordings in new configurations.
The albums are presented in chronological order – by recording date rather than release date – and not in any order of merit. In this way the reader will be afforded a sense of how pop and rock music, and all its sub-genres, styles and technologies, evolved from the time of rock and roll’s ur-recordings until popular music’s creative demise towards the end of the millennium.
Just under 20% of the albums in the list are compilations, and most of them were curated specifically for the purposes of this survey. Although these compilation albums are constructs which do not exist in “real life”, interested readers are strongly encouraged to recreate them for their own personal listening by purchasing and downloading the relevant tracks from their preferred official MP3 provider.
In a few cases, albums whose final form was dictated by a record label rather than by the artist – usually to enforce minimum running times or to include “commercial” material – have been stripped back to their original essence.
Millions of records were released in the time period covered by this survey – and most of them were, at best, uninspiring and mediocre. The main reason why other lists of “best” albums are filled with boring music is the phenomenon of “received wisdom” – people believing that a certain record is good just because other people say it is. Time to think again, and listen carefully for yourself.
For those interested in additional context, Fabbrica Sodoma suggest the following two compilation albums as essential precursors to the birth of rock and roll:
HELLHOUND ON MY TRAIL
A1: SWEET HOME CHICAGO (3:00); A2: COME ON IN MY KITCHEN (2:53); A3: 32-20 BLUES (2:51); A4: CROSS ROAD BLUES (2:41); A5: WALKING BLUES (2:31).
B1: STONES IN MY PASSWAY (2:31); B2: ME AND THE DEVIL BLUES (2:38); B3: TRAVELLING RIVERSIDE BLUES (2:50); B4: MILKCOW’S CALF BLUES (2:18); B5: HELLHOUND ON MY TRAIL (2:37).
CATEGORY: DELTA BLUES | DURATION: 27 MINUTES
ANGEL OF DEATH
B1: THE PALE HORSE AND HIS RIDER (2:55); B2: I HEARD THAT LONESOME WHISTLE (2:28); B3: YOUR CHEATIN’ HEART (2:44); B4: ANGEL OF DEATH (2:23).
CATEGORY: COUNTRY | DURATION: 25 MINUTES
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF ROBERT YOUNG (1964-2014)
“ÆTERNUM VORTICE LACRIMARUM SOMNIAT”