My favorite 100 albums of all time: #23 ("The Joshua Tree")

Album cover "The Joshua Tree" by U2It's a little daunting to try to find something original to say about an album like The Joshua Tree. Released in 1987, The Joshua Tree sold something like 25 million copies, While it's no Rumors or Thriller, The Joshua Tree has been rather thoroughly reviewed many times over.

I was aware of U2 before The Joshua Tree, but I couldn't say that I was a major fan of the band. But when The Joshua Tree came out in '87, it really couldn't be ignored. It was all over the radio, MTV, and appealed to kids my age as well as aging boomers trying to keep up with current music. (Boomers who were probably younger than I am today, I might add. Sigh.)

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My favorite 100 albums of all time: #24 ("The Game")

Album Cover "The Game" by QueenQueen's The Game will probably be best remembered for two things, "Another One Bites the Dust," and the first album from the band that featured the use of a synthesizer. I remember it best because my family had the album on 8-Track and I played it incessantly.

I'm not sure when we got a copy of The Game or whether it was my mother or father who brought it into the house. But I loved "Another One Bites the Dust" from the radio, and absorbed the entire album once I could play it at will. The "nice" thing about 8-Tracks compared to records was that they would play forever until you hit "stop." My parents might not have viewed this as a feature.

It was also a musical clue that I didn't quite understand at the time. On the cover of the tape it had a one-liner about this being Queen's first use of a synthesizer. I spent a lot of time trying to puzzle out the importance of this, but given that the band had used some of the very limited real estate on the cover to proclaim (or disclaim) this, it must have been important.

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My favorite 100 albums of all time: #29 ("Starfish")

Album cover "Starfish" by the ChurchIf it weren't for lucking into a few decent mix tapes and dubs of entire albums, I'm not sure what my musical tastes would be like today. Case in point, Starfish by The Church.

Starfish landed on my radar thanks to a guy named Kent who loaned me a mixtape with "Under the Milky Way," "Reptile," and one or two other songs off the album. (Not the entire thing, though, I had to dig that up myself shortly after.)

Musically, Starfish is unassailable. It's a perfect album, start to finish. The Church are completely dialed in and the whole album works as a cohesive unit. But it also sends me back to 1988/1989 and reminds me of long drives at night, coming home from work or dates with the car window down and enjoying the night air. Starfish is the kind of album that makes you drive around the block a few times if a song isn't quite over when you get home.

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My favorite 100 albums of all time: #56 ("I'm Your Man")

Album cover "I'm Your Man" by Leonard CohenThere are two kinds of people: Those who appreciate Leonard Cohen, and those who are wrong. I present as evidence Cohen's eighth studio album, I'm Your Man.

Released in 1988 with heavy use of synthesizers and drum machines/electronic drums, I'm Your Man should sound dated. Indeed, if you focus on the backing tracks for the songs on this album, you'll notice the distinctive sound of cutting-edge mid-80s technology. But it's the songs, the lyrics, and the voices that propel I'm Your Man – and Cohen's voice, the lyrics, and his backing chorus are timeless.

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My favorite 100 albums of all time: #76 ("Standing on a Beach / Staring at the Sea")

"Standing on a Beach" cover Today's pick is a look at the early work of The Cure. Standing on a Beach and Staring at the Sea are co-sharing the pick for #76, because the titles are almost the same album. Let me explain…

My introduction to this was in the late 80s, when I was still really new to The Cure and looking for the most bang for my buck. I found it in the cassette version of Standing On A Beach • The Singles (And Unavailable B-Sides). This is The Cure's early stuff, just up to 1985, so it's before the band really hit the charts with Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me.

This extended play cassette had most of the singles as well as their b-sides. However, this sequence has not been duplicated on CD, and CD releases under the title Staring at the Sea have tracks not found on this collection but also omit the b-sides. No doubt a combination of media limitations (an extended play cassette can hold more songs than a CD), record companies grabbing money with both hands from completists (guilty), and the whims of the folks who put the tracks together.

So, I have to vote for both here, and have even gone to the lengths of re-creating the track order using The Cure's Join the Dots collection and other albums for my listening pleasure. So let's talk about all the goodness on these releases. All told there's 29 tracks between the various versions of the albums, so I'm just going to hit a few highlights on this one.

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My favorite 100 albums of all time: #89 ("Singles – 45's and Under")

Album cover - "Singles - 45's and Under" by Squeeze This isn't exactly in the "going uphill to school both ways, in the snow!" territory, but here's something kids today can't relate to: buying an album, cassette, or CD in its entirety without hearing more than one or two cuts.

But that's exactly how I built most of my music collection in the 80s: scraping up enough money for one album at a time, and taking a chance on whether I'd like the entire thing, or just one or two singles. So when a band released an album that was all singles, that was the obvious choice.

And that's exactly what Squeeze's Singles – 45's and Under is, an album of the band's singles from 1978 to 1982. Twelve radio-perfect slices of new wavy goodness.
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