Welcome back to YDCS! I’ve been working on a project for a couple of months now and I’m finally ready to unveil it. I’ve spent months putting albums in and out of this list, adjusting the order, taking them all out to try again, and finally settling on my Desert 10. “What is a Desert 10” you might ask? Your Desert 10 is the ten albums that you would take with you to a deserted island to listen to forever. Basically, if you could only listen to ten albums for the rest of your life, what would they be? The rules are simple: No compilations, “Best Of” Albums, and no box sets. Each album must be the original release. With that, we’re going to hop right in! I hope you enjoy my Desert 10 and encourage you to put together your own as well!
In the Wee Small Hours– Frank Sinatra
It’s not a rock album, but In the Wee Small Hours was Frank Sinatra at his finest. His silky voice is irresistible on this album and still has an ability to enchant people to this day.
Trout Mask Replica– Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
An album that pushed what we could call music. Many portions feature spoken word and the whole album was written by plucking out melodies on a piano and a horn, by a man who had no idea how to play the piano or the horn, nor had an idea what a time signature was.
Takin’ It To The Streets– The Doobie Brothers
I love the Doobie Brothers and it hurt me to not include them in the Desert 10. Unfortunately for the Doobies, most of their best songs are spread across multiple albums, making it difficult to pick just one to include without breaking the rule excluding ‘Best Ofs.’ If there were one that would make the cut, it would be Takin’ It To The Streets for having three of my favorite songs by the Doobies, the eponymous song, “Wheels of Fortune,” and “It Keeps You Runnin’.”
This is my second favorite Rush album, and it almost bumped the Number 10 album off the list. Hemispheres is a musical masterpiece and one of the best displays of musicianship that Rush ever put to record. They were quoted as saying that it was the most technically challenging album that the wrote, and listening to it you’ll believe it.
One Of These Nights– Eagles
One Of These Nights holds a special place for me as the first album to really get me interested in the Eagles and folk rock in general. For that, it almost made my list. Ultimately, I think there is one other album that is a better representation of what the Eagles were as a band.
From The Mars Hotel– Grateful Dead
From The Mars Hotel was the album that I played with including the most because every song on the album is really good. “Scarlet Begonias” is one of my favorites of all time and “Loose Lucy,” “US Blues,” “Ship of Fools,” and “Pride of Cucamonga” are right there next to it. Ultimately, it came down to would I want to listen to the Grateful Dead for the rest of my life. Answering that honestly my answer was no. I love the Dead, but there are other albums that would be easier listening.
Dad’s Desert 10
10. Animals– Pink Floyd
We open the list with my favorite Pink Floyd album and one of their best concept albums, Animals. The idea to write an album portraying British society as different animals based on their class was the perfect way for the band to describe their problems with the class system. “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” is one of the best songs on the album and the instrumentation was so innovative (particularly using the guitar and a squawk box to imitate pig squeals) that it still doesn’t get old to listen to.
9. Aqualung– Jethro Tull
At Number 9 we get Jethro Tull’s fourth studio album, Aqualung. They had been bubbling under the surface of mainstream prog rock for a few years before this album came out, and all of the work that they put into their first three albums came to fruition on this one. There’s really not a bad song on the album, and listening to a band headed by a flautist is truly a unique experience. The highlights are the song of the same name, “Aqualung,” but also include “Cross Eyed Mary,” “Hymn 43,” and “Locomotive Breath.”
8. Bat Out Of Hell– Meat Loaf
Bat Out Of Hell is an album that means so much to me. Every time one of the songs on this album comes on the radio, I instantly think about my Dad and singing the whole album with him in the car. We love Meat Loaf and Bat Out Of Hell, and the album is absolutely spectacular. It’s hard to believe that Meat Loaf could barely get a record deal for this one, considering that it would go on to be one of the best-selling albums of all time and a landmark for rock opera. If I were on a desert island, Bat Out Of Hell would let me rock out, and I’d be thinking of my Dad every time I played it. That’s good company. Check out “Bat Out Of Hell,” “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth,” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”
7. Led Zeppelin IV– Led Zeppelin
Three words: Stairway. To. Heaven. Led Zeppelin IV is so much more than “Stairway to Heaven,” but that’s a real high point. Led Zeppelin IV was a landmark album for rock music and proved that people wanted to hear long-form rock music. It was one of the first true mainstream progressive rock albums too, and I don’t think that the genre would have seen as much popularity without the benefit of some of the longer songs on this record like “When the Levee Breaks” or the more artistic songs like “The Battle of Evermore.” Prog rock acts were playing and performing, but Led Zeppelin IV gave them a leg to stand on.
6. Hotel California– Eagles
I wanted to include multiple Eagles albums in my Desert 10 but made myself settle on one, so I went with Hotel California for two reasons. First, I think it’s the best representation of the Eagles sound after having taken a few albums to come in to their own. This could arguably be extended to One Of These Nights as well, but there’s just enough experimental tracks on that album that it didn’t quite feel complete (See “The Sorcerer”). Second, I think that Hotel California had better singles than One Of These Nights. I love “Witchy Woman” and the song “One Of These Nights,” but “Hotel California” is literally the baseline for the modern guitar solo and “Victim of Love” and “Life in the Fast Lane” scratch the same itch for tight vocal harmony that I want from the former tracks. Great album and deservedly regarded as one of the best.
5. Are You Experienced?– Jimi Hendrix
Halfway through the Desert 10 and it’s time to talk about the first album from Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced?. I like this album because it’s chock full of rock classics and lots of hidden gems that never make it on to ‘Best Of’ lists of Jimi’s work like “Fire,” “51st Anniversary,” and “Third Stone From The Sun.” It also features some of Hendrix’s most iconic songs like “Purple Haze,” “Hey Joe,” “Manic Depression,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” and “Foxey Lady.” All in all, this album just has too many big hits to exclude. The only song I wish it had on it is “Little Wing,” but I could live with “The Wind Cries Mary” in its place.
4. At Fillmore East– Allman Brothers Band
The only live album on this list, At Fillmore East is one of those albums that everyone talks about because it was a legendary, two-night performance from the Allman Brothers, but listening to the album you realize how good those shows really were. The whole band was firing on all cylinders those nights and laid down one of the best southern rock albums ever. Even at 78 minutes long, the album never feels long and will keep you entertained the whole way through. High points on this record are the immoral 23-minute long rendition of “Whipping Post,” “Hot Lanta,” and my favorite, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”
3. Paranoid– Black Sabbath
Coming in at Number 3 is Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. While all of the albums on this list are my tops, Paranoid was one of the first albums that I listened to as part of Your Dad’s Car Stereo that made me think “This album couldn’t be any better, even if they tried.” The album has moments where you know it’s a rocker, moments that slow down to give you a break, and it’s one of the best displays of musicianship on this list. Let’s not forget its historical significance either as one of the precursors to heavy metal! When you put it all together, Paranoid is one of the most complete rock albums ever recorded. High points include “War Pigs/Luke’s Wall,” “Electric Funeral,” and “Hand of Doom.”
2. Close To The Edge– Yes
It may only be three songs long, but progressive rock would have never reached its true potential without those three songs that make up Close To The Edge. Nearly every major prog rock act has acknowledged that Close To The Edge influenced them in some way to follow the way of prog. It’s truly a beautiful album that features shining vocals from Jon Anderson, masterful, emotional guitar from Steve Howe, and some cool keyboard parts on everything from claviers to church organs from Rick Wakeman. I love the whole album, but if you don’t have time to listen to the whole album then “Siberian Khatru” is a must-listen-to song and will give you an idea how the whole album sounds.
1. 2112– Rush
My favorite album. I may have mentioned it on the blog during my review of 2112, but I think this is the perfect album that all others will hope to rival. The song of the same name is perfectly constructed and features so many ‘moments’ that you’ll hear something new each time you put it on. “The Twilight Zone” and “Lessons” are complete rockers, “Tears” is a beautiful, emotional ballad, and “Something for Nothing” rounds out the album with a barn burner! For me, 2112 is classic rock and what I think of when I think of prog rock or classic rock in general.
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