A quick but comprehensive list of some of my favorite albums of all time.

If you’ve been following this site for a while, you’ll probably notice that my musical tastes are all over the place. I like almost anything, from classic rock to gangsta rap to metal to J-pop. Hell, as I write this I’m listening to a hardstyle EDM playlist.

Car rides with me often leave my passengers very confused. My car is the only place on Earth that you’ll hear Hatsune Miku come on after Dr. Dre. After Miku? Slaughter to Prevail. After Slaughter to Prevail? Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra doing a fucking duet (“Some Velvet Morning”, in case you were wondering). At some point, Snollebollekes also gets thrown into the mix. Most people I know tend to gravitate towards one style of music, even if they do like a few songs from other genres. Not me, I don’t have a favorite genre. I’ve said before that I believe music is the essence of humanity captured in tonal form. When humanity finally reaches out into the stars and starts encountering alien life, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that our ability to create and enjoy music is among one of the most unique abilities in the universe. When’s the last time you heard of an alien abduction victim saying that they heard music playing aboard the aliens’ ship?

Anyway, I’ve put together a list of albums I like, in no particular order. Think of this series as “AJ’s Anime and Manga List“, but for music albums.


1. Tommy by The Who

Okay, I actually lied about this list not being in any particular order.

Tommy by The Who might actually be the greatest album ever made. It’s definitely my favorite album of all time.

Everyone knows the song “Pinball Wizard”. What many people in the younger generation don’t realize is, the song is actually one small part of a larger story. Essentially, Tommy is the story of the deaf, dumb, and blind kid from “Pinball Wizard”, told in the form of a rock opera.

Incidentally, it’s also one of the first albums to be billed as a rock opera. While not the first group to make a rock opera album, The Who were certainly pioneers of the concept, and the success of Tommy would pave the way into the 70’s for more popular rock operas like Jesus Christ Superstar, The Wall, Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and Bat Out of Hell. Rock operas would continue to thrive into the 80’s with albums like Styx’s Kilroy Was Here (“Mr. Roboto”). Even in more recent times, we have bands like Dream Theater and Green Day keeping the concept alive (I’ll talk more about this later in the article). I could probably do an entire article on rock operas, and maybe one day I will.

Tommy tells the story of Tommy Walker, a young boy who was traumatized from witnessing his dad kill his mother’s lover. The trauma caused him to disassociate himself with the world around him, turning him into the “deaf, dumb, and blind kid”. From there Tommy goes through a bunch of shit, like being abused by his cousin, molested by his uncle, and given LSD by the wife of a quack healer. Eventually Tommy discovers that he has the ability to feel vibrations better than most people, and applies that ability to playing pinball. As a result, he starts gaining a following. Eventually Tommy overcomes his dissociative disorder when his mother smashes a mirror that he had been staring blankly at. Able to use all his senses again, Tommy attempts to start a religious movement, but meets failure and in the end reverts back to his dissociative state.

Now imagine all of that, but in the form of a 60’s rock album. Each side of the album (hey remember those days before CDs when you actually had to flip media over to hear everything?) is a carefully crafted and orchestrated masterpiece, with every note and lyric coming together seamlessly to tell Tommy’s story. This isn’t an album where you can just pick and choose a couple of songs to listen to (despite “Pinball Wizard” being the album’s hit single), this is an album you need to listen to from start to finish with no interruptions. Pete Townshend is a genius, and Tommy stands as a testament to that claim.


2. Rust in Peace by Megadeth

Whenever someone tells me that they’ve never really listened to Megadeth, this is the album I put on for them.

Rust in Peace is the definitive Megadeth album, and there’s really no question why. It features the band’s best lineup, with Marty Friedman and Nick Menza making their Megadeth debuts. Mustaine himself was also in his prime, and his guitar work on this album shows why he’s one of the greatest metal guitarists of all time. Even the album art is incredible, and is one of my favorite album covers of all time (perhaps another series we can do?).

Rust in Peace also has what’s, in my opinion, Megadeth’s best song, “Hangar 18”, though that might just be my sci-fi bias talking. It also has other great songs like “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due”, “Tornado of Souls”, and “Rust in Peace… Polaris”, all of which are some of the band’s biggest bangers. That’s not to say the other tracks aren’t good too, “Five Magics” and “Lucretia” are pretty underrated songs that I don’t hear a lot of Megadeth fans talk about. I can’t think of one bad thing to say about this album or any of the songs on it. A lot of 80’s metal albums feel like they’re just a couple of singles mixed in with mostly half-assed filler tracks, but every song on Rust in Peace feels like time and effort was put into it.

If you’re trying to turn someone on to Megadeth, you just can’t go wrong with this album.


3. The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem

If Rust in Peace is Megadeth’s definitive album, then The Marshall Mathers LP is Eminem’s.

The Marshall Mathers LP was the album where Eminem really began to find his feet and properly develop his style. The Slim Shady LP, which came before it, wasn’t bad. It certainly had that comedic edge that made Em stand out. It even had that emotional edge that also made Em stand out. But those edges were still kind of rough. The Marshall Mathers LP polished those edges, making for a great album that was full of emotion but still didn’t take itself too seriously at the end of the day.

For me, the emotional intensity is what stands out the most in The Marshall Mathers LP. Sure, the album still carried that comedic undertone, but it was largely dominated by the mix of drug-fueled emotion that Eminem was feeling at the time. The success of The Slim Shady LP had catapulted Em to the forefront of the rap world, at a time where he was struggling with not only severe poverty, but also his tumultuous relationships with Kim and his mother. On top of all that, the FCC and parental groups were viciously attacking him for his lyrics, which were viewed as misogynistic and overly-violent. Rather than let the pressure beat him down, Em put his feelings to paper and recorded a powerful and captivating album with songs like “Stan”, which highlights his reluctance to be seen as a role model. Then of course there’s “Kim”, which is literally an entire song about killing his wife. Eminem already explored this in his previous album with “’97 Bonnie and Clyde”, but “Kim” takes it to the next level, portraying the rage-fueled murder through intense and aggressive lyrics in an equally intense and aggressive voice. The song’s raw, gritty, and unfiltered essence leaves absolutely no doubt that Kim Mathers has wrought emotional havoc upon Eminem, and that he would love nothing more than to enact the vengeance that his song portrays.

Even the album art captures the emotional intensity and serves to highlight the contrast between The Marshall Mathers LP and The Slim Shady LP. Whereas the cover of The Slim Shady LP was simplistic and had the title written crudely in multi-colored letters, The Marshall Mathers LP had a darker more serious tone to it in both of its covers. The primary cover featured Em sitting in front of his old house in sepia, and the alternative cover had him huddled up in front of empty pill bottles.

The album also includes contributions from other talented rappers, like Dre, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Xzibit, and the guys from D12. “Bitch Please II” is okay, but “Under the Influence” is definitely my favorite collab track on the album. Em and the rest of D12 can get fucked up on God knows what drugs, rap about complete nonsense, and still manage to sound good doing it. That’s pretty damn impressive. Also, Bizarre is fucking nuts, and I love every second of it.

The Eminem Show and Encore are great albums too, I’ll probably cover them in a later article, but The Marshall Mathers LP is definitely Em at his finest in terms of emotion.



4. River of Dreams by Billy Joel

I don’t typically like doing “Top Five Favorite” lists of anything let alone musicians, since my tastes change depending on what kind of mood I’m in. But if I was forced at gunpoint to make a list of my top five favorite musicians at any given time, I’m 99% certain that Billy Joel would consistently make that list. He’s one of the most talented performers of the last 40 years, I can’t think of a single bad song in his entire catalog of music.

It’s hard to pick a favorite Billy Joel album, because they’re all so damn good. You’ll probably see me including a Billy Joel album in each future “AJ’s Favorite Albums” article that I do.

The first Billy Joel album I’m going to talk about is River of Dreams.

Originally I was going to talk about Stormfront in this article, but in the end I went with River of Dreams because it holds a special memory for me, namely being eight years old and riding in the car as my mother drove me to Pittsburgh to visit my grandma. There was one cassette tape that mom was always guaranteed to play during that drive, and that tape was River of Dreams. My mom is a bigger Billy Joel fan than me, I guess that’s where I got it from. Even today when I drive out to Pittsburgh I make sure the album is queued up on Spotify.

This album just has so many great tracks. It opens up with “No Man’s Land”, a sharp commentary on the increasing urbanization and erosion of small town America. Then it follows that with “Great Wall of China”, which was a “Fuck you” to Billy’s old manager, and also made for a great “Fuck you” to an ex-girlfriend of mine after changing a few lyrics around. Following that song is “Blonde Over Blue”, a song that on the surface seems like it’s just another song about Billy’s wife Christie Brinkley, but is actually an ode to any muse or inspiration that can pull someone out of their depression (Christie being the “blonde” who pulled Billy out of his “blue” mood). “Shades of Grey” is a song that is definitely applicable in today’s tense political climate, being about seeing the other side’s point of view. And of course, there’s the title track “River of Dreams”, a tale of soul searching with an almost tribal vibe to it that you’ll find yourself humming or singing all day once you listen to it. I also swear the instrumental version of it was in Sonic 3D Blast on the Sega Saturn, but Google doesn’t seem to agree with me on that.

River of Dreams is a great album with catchy songs, and chock full of some of Billy Joel’s most underplayed hits.



5. American Idiot by Green Day

We opened this article with a rock opera, so it’s only right we close it with one too.

I’m talking about American Idiot by Green Day.

Most people don’t realize that this album is a rock opera, despite the fact that they turned it into a successful Broadway musical in 2010 (which also got its own album release). Time and time again I find myself having to explain to folks that all of the songs on the album are basically interconnected. I guess it’s understandable that people wouldn’t realize this, since most people were only exposed to the album by the radio playing certain songs as singles. Just like with Tommy, you have to listen to the full album from start to finish to get the full experience and really understand what the album is about.

The album tells the story of a young man known as Jesus of Suburbia growing up in a post-9/11 world while the invasion of Iraq is in full swing. It’s basically about JoS trying to make sense of and find his way through a seemingly senseless world in the typical ways a cynical teenager would, through sex, music, drugs, drinking, and being generally rebellious. He even goes so far as to have a split personality/alter-ego, “St. Jimmy”. American Idiot isn’t a rock opera in the same sense as Tommy was, the story is told in a more disjointed less-direct way.

Like I said earlier, most people don’t realize the album is a rock opera because the radio tends to plays some of the tracks as singles. Chances are you’ve heard “American Idiot”, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, “Holiday”, “Jesus of Suburbia”, and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” on your local rock station. The true strength of this album lies in the fact that it has multiple tracks that are also good enough to serve as stand-alone singles. Compared to Tommy, which aside from “Pinball Wizard” really can’t be broken up into singles. You’ll get the full American Idiot experience if you listen from start to finish, but you can also listen to many of the tracks individually and still enjoy them. “Jesus of Suburbia” is comparable to a modern day “Bohemian Rhapsody” in that it’s a longer song that encompasses several styles and tells a story (or rather, part of a larger one). The same can be said for “Homecoming”, which is honestly my favorite track on the entire album. There really isn’t a bad song on the entire album. Like with Rust in Peace, every track feels like time and effort was put into it. There’s no filler on American Idiot, just good music the whole way through.

This album also holds sentimental value to me. Not only did it get me through my senior year of high school, it also got a 17 year old me quite a bit of play with the ladies. I recall many evenings in various basement rec rooms with the local Catholic school girls listening to this album while fooling around. The girls loved Billie Joe Armstrong, and since he wasn’t there I was the next best thing. American Idiot was one of the best wingmen I’ve ever had.

I’ve also listened to the album for the Broadway musical, and it’s just as good as the original album. I just wish I was able to actually see the Broadway show when it was going. We’ve just passed the 20 year anniversary of the album, and I’m very surprised there wasn’t another run or at least a release of a recording of the play on a streaming service. What the hell are you guys doing? Throw me a damn bone here, Billie!

This will always be my go-to Green Day album thanks to its great songs and the memories it helped me create.

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By Angry_Jerk

The CEO/Editor-in-chief of AJnet, and the current king of internet ranting. Hailing from the fine village of Northeast Philadelphia, AJ has been creating content on the internet for over 15 years. None of it has really been funny or entertaining, but he keeps trying anyway. When he’s not creating new articles for the site, he can be found hitting the weights, watching anime, or playing retro video games.