To be “great”, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is to be of ability, quality, eminence considerably above average and “greatness”, is defined as the quality of being great, eminence or distinction. Simply put, if you are great at something people will notice, rejoice in, celebrate and hopefully, pay money to be apart of your greatness in some shape or form.
As we know, greatness comes in all different forms. From a musical perspective, the Beatles were considered a great band, Bono and Freddie Mercury are considered great vocalists due to the unknown range they had during their peak years. Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Dave Gilmour are all considered great guitarists, due to the amazing music they’ve created over the years and the technicality of their playing. Part of what makes up the greatness, found within these people, is the ability to rise above everything and everyone around them. They can take a performance and make it so that you don’t even notice any other individual on stage at that time.In some situations you will find that a pairing or grouping of people, (those who lean towards the higher end of the greatness scale) can lead to the creation of something even greater.
Let’s use Fleetwood Mac as an example. Stevie Nicks, as a solo artist, would be considered a great vocalist/performer. She has spent years honing her talent to the point where she is loved both professionally and critically. Lindsey Buckingham has also spent years mastering his art, and much like Stevie Nicks is applauded by the masses for his work. Now put these two together and they form the driving force behind one of the greatest bands to ever grace this planet, Fleetwood Mac.
Of course, this is not always the case. Bono might be considered a great vocalist but I don’t think many would consider The Edge a great guitarist. He has perfected his craft and what he brings to the table has allowed U2 to become the biggest band in the world but I don’t think people would be lining up to see The Edge play a show at Carnegie Hall.
Now you don’t need to be a worldwide performer to be great at something (although it does help to solidify the level of greatness). I’ve had teachers who were great at their job and I have friends who are also great at what they do, but for this piece we’ll keep it both worldwide and musical.
I have to admit that I have the pleasure of being surrounded by individuals who are extremely, musically diverse, which often leads to text messages and/or emails telling me that I should check out a certain band, or asking if I’ve heard the newest track from whomever. Some of the suggestions have been complete duds and some of them have been brilliant. One of those text messages I recently received was about a great run of songs from the Lumineers debut album. At that point I proceeded to my iTunes, hit play, and listened. What I heard was a solid span of music, something that could still be in my playlist five years from now, but nothing I would consider great. (don’t get me wrong, I do love the album and had it in my top 10 of 2012, but 10 years from now I doubt people will be discussing the impact that this album had on their lives)
This would eventually lead to a discussion about other bands and my discovery that this individual, who has texted me often about songs/artists to check out, had no real experience with Fleetwood Mac. I must admit that this came as quite a shock to me. I had just assumed that everyone who listens to music, at some point in their lives, would have sat down to digest Rumours. The opening five songs were all hits for the band and are very easily recognized. This is Fleetwood Mac were talking about here; one of the top 15 bands of all time. (in my opinion)
This got me thinking about other great albums which were filled with hits that would bleed over the airwaves for years and years. I started at the beginning (the A’s in my iTunes) and proceeded to go through my library. What was most surprising was the fact that many of the great albums would have two great songs followed by something mediocre. At this point I flipped an email to a few friends and the following is the list which we were able to put together.
Before we get to the list, there are a few things you should know.
1st, there will be two lists. The first list will consist of five albums that you all know and recognize. They could be considered classics. The second will be broken down into two sections; five are albums/bands which you may not yet know, and they may not ever find themselves on the cover of The Rolling Stone but were still able to put together a great run of songs and the second group of five consists of my fav. albums/bands.
2nd, the albums on this list could not be greatest hits or compilations. They were created, produced and sold as original pieces of work at the time.
3rd, there had to be at least 3 songs in a row to make this list and each song had to be a hit, or if not a hit, at the very least a very well known track by the artist. Obviously you could say that any song could fit this bill, but let’s just have some fun and pretend your apart of the masses.
Finally, as with all of my lists on the site, there is no particular order of preference or relevance.
The List You Know
1 – The Beatles (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)
This iconic album is best recognized as the album that has the cover filled with all of those famous people, however once you hit the play button, you quickly realize that it’s not just a flashy cover. The first four tracks are all easily recognized, loved and still to this date, used in movies and television commercials (showing how much staying power these songs all had). Tracks 1 – 4 – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, With A Little Help From My Friends, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Getting Better
2 – Fleetwood Mac (Rumours, 1977)
This might have been the 11th studio album for Fleetwood Mac, but there is no denying that Rumours best represents what would be known as the Fleetwood sound. With over 40 million sales worldwide, Rumours, allowed the band to sky rocket to new heights professionally, helping to maintain a career that would span over 30 years. Tracks 1 – 5 – Second Hand News, Dreams, Never Going Back Again, Don’t Stop, Go Your Own Way
3 – Rush (Moving Pictures, 1981)
I have to admit that up until a Facebook post made a couple of weeks ago, my Rush listening experience was next to nothing. Aside from a few of the hits, I couldn’t really name any of the songs, nor did I particularly care if I ever did but when I had read the statement that Moving Pictures, was “the best rock record ever” I had to have a listen. Needless to say I was blown away. (let me say this, I’ve always understood that this band had possessed insane amounts of talent and that musically they were considered beastly) Starting at track 1 and continuing on for the next 20 minutes, Moving Pictures is an album that everyone needs to at least hear once. I can honestly say that it has found its spot in my collection…..and they’re Canadian!! Tracks 1 – 4 – Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ, Limelight
4 – Pink Floyd (Dark Side Of The Moon, 1973)
When Pink Floyd first took off, they were more of an experimental, acid rock band, but by the time they had landed they had become a well polished, musical experience that would create two of the biggest concept albums to ever grace this planet. One of those just so happened to be Dark Side Of The Moon. Originally I wasn’t going to place this album on my list for the simple fact that you could argue that because this album is so good, track 1 through 10 could be on there, but after a few listens I decided that there are a few spots where the album might be a little less memorable. (as stand alone tracks, but still very important to the entire listening experience of the album) Musically this album is filled with ideas, sounds and concepts which other bands have never been able to reproduce. One could argue that it could be the greatest album to ever be recorded. A cool little piece of trivia about this album is that it had spent 741 weeks on the music charts…..mind blowing. Tracks 4 – 7 – Time, The Great Gig In The Sky, Money, Us and Them
5 – Michael Jackson (Thriller, 1982)
How could we not have a list like this and forget about the king of pop. Spawning 7 hit singles, all within the top 10, Thriller became an instant classic over night. Building on the sound which would define his prior album, Off The Wall, Jackson would hone the RnB/pop tones and blow, both critics and fans, away. Over the past 15 years, bands and artists have tried to recreate the perfect pop album and some have come close, but as we know close is only good in horseshoes. Thriller stands alone on the top of the hill, while all other pop albums hopelessly try to find their footings below. Tracks 4 – 8 – Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean, Human Nature, P.Y.T.