The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
1001 albums you must hear before you die updated edition REVIEW

1001 albums you must hear before you die

(updated edition)











I love books like this: they always generate a healthy debate, and even though the format has been done to death it still stands up. The best things about books like this though is that they demand as little or as much attention as you want to give them; and whereas I find it hard to believe that anyone might approach this from end to end without flicking the odd entry, it’s ready made for dipping, flicking and using as a robust guide to filling in possible gaps in your collection. Before I even start the review I can guarantee you it’s well worth the $39.99 cover price based on weight alone!



Oddly enough for me, and unlike with the rules that apply to fiction, it was the beginning and the end that I knew or cared the least about. The 1950’s for me musically is all very well and from a historical point of view it’s interesting to see where some of the roots of the music we love today came from but I find starting with the 50’s a little arbitrary and I’d have at least liked to have seen something that gave a bit more of a nod to early classic blues and even jazz than the years 1957-1959 (a decade in three years) covered in a few pages. Of course it’s always easy to argue that point after all history and where yiu stick that first mark is very arbitrary.


At the other end of the scale, I care little for the ‘decade’ from 2000 and 2011 (that’s 12 years guys) and judging by the size of the Chapter it seems to be a feeling shared by the Editor judging by the relative slimness of that Chapter even with the inflates year count.


Any exercise like this is always going to be a balancing act even if 1001 does seem like a pretty large number (at 45 minutes an album on average it is over a month of solid back-to-back listening after all). So the approach is to really look at things from two solid points of view: ‘album sales’ - all the big sellers are covered here, even if you think on occasion grudgingly; and ‘critical acclaim’.


The critical acclaim part is of course the contentious issue (or the interesting issue if you care to look at it with a more open mind and ear). Especially early on you see a number of albums covered that can only be there for their alleged influence on other artists. There’s also a smattering of what you might consider ‘arty’ inclusions (look for the word fusion, or anything that you have honestly never heard of even in passing). Don’t get me wrong no one is telling you to listen to everything here (OK so maybe the title implies that) there’s merely a suggestion as to why some of the titles are so important. But we all generally know what we like and what we might not like so as a ‘hitchhikers guide’ it works beautifully.  


The benefit of hindsight is of course a wonderful thing and you can’t help but feel that some earlier albums are there because over time they have been critically appraised rather than actually really listened to again.


later works are split largely 50:50 between ‘critical pets’ and ‘best sellers’ and in truth things take a huge turn for the worse in the 90s which just seem to include a number of albums that did nothing but which critics believe would have somehow changed the world if we'd listened to them at the time. And that of course is the beauty of art – it’s all in the eye of the beholder but I’m sure you won’t be rushing out to fill yourselves immediately anyway…


On pure ‘column inches’ (God that phrase sounds so old these days) the 70s takes the prize; strangely followed by 90s then by the 80s then the 60s.  Now ask a million people about great decades In music and I suspect that the 90s might be bumped down a couple of places.


For me personally the 90s is probably my least favourite period, even though due to my age the nineties was my record buying peak. It was a time where shoe-gazing and the dullness of (modern) R’n’B and repetitive Rap saturated us with some really dull and unpleasant sounds. Looking at my collection now it’s strange that there’s not a lot there from that decade, while conversely there's far more from the three preceding decades. Maybe I’m just living in the past?


The 2000s is solely ‘critic’ territory: the place of real dross and a number of bands who seem simply an arty idea gone too far. Thankfully you imagine with the benefit of hindsight this chapter might just be omitted pretty much all together.


Elsewhere it’s nice to see that thankfully there is also no Celine Dion or Whitney Houston within the pages, though we are subjected to a little Mariah Carey.


For me the meat of the book at the real enjoyment is the bulk of what we have left the ‘Golden Era’ of the 60s and 70s along with the mixed bag of the 80s.


Reading through the decades, though, it does really seem that the 70s was that perfect storm in music. So much quality that expanded from the 60s and yet took its own new directions and created its new genres that then went on to inspire some of the best work of the 80s, 90s and subsequent decades. We’ve got Classic Rock, Hard Rock, Southern Rock, Prog Rock, the beginnings of Goth and Electronic Music; there’s Blues and Soul; then there’s Disco, Punk, Glam and Glitter. Not to mention the birth of the stadium bands and singer-song-writers as well as Reggae and funk. Some of the best works of the 60s greats too. It’s a wonderful decade beautifully chronicled. It’s heartening to think I was right all along the best music of all was made in the Seventies.


Best of all about a book like this is when you find an album, or band you love that you were sure wouldn’t be critically cool enough to be in here, and that I guess is the art and the artistic license of the editor at play. I was not completely surprised to find New York Dolls in here but heartened to find the likes of The Black Crowes and even Hanoi Rocks.


Of course if you are a die-hard ‘genre embedded’ fan this may not suit you very specific demands, but let’s hope it loosens the blinkers a little. And if you’re looking for the full-time scores, then Dylan and The Beatles just edge it over the Rolling Stones…


Highly recommended.



Mark Diggins


1001 albums you must hear before you die updated edition REVIEW 2013