Cultural Bias #80: 12 Perfect Albums

Driving home one night, Donald Fagen’s “Ruby Baby” filling my car via XM Radio, I was reminded that The Nightfly is a perfect album. This simply means that I love every song on it. It got me thinking about other albums that pass this (subjective!) test. So, I thought I’d list a dozen of them.

Some of these would make my Top-10 list of all-time. Some would not. Contradiction? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic (1974) is a masterpiece, but I was never crazy about its biggest hit, “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number.” The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street (1972) would make my Top-10 list despite its clunkers. (They should have made like Johnny Winter and released an album-and-a-1/2 with a blank 4th side.) I cherish Van Morrison’s His Band & The Street Choir (1970) despite its couple of downer songs. Get the rationale?

OK, here’s 12 albums I love from start to finish in chronological order:

1. I Never Loved a Man (They Way That I Love You) by Aretha Franklin (1967). “Hey 19, that’s ‘retha Franklin. She don’t remember the Queen of Soul.” – Steely Dan

2. Abbey Road by The Beatles (1969). Hey…. it’s the Beatles.

3. Livingston Taylor (1970). I played this album through to the other side my junior year of high school.

4. Good Old Boys by Randy Newman (1974). On the off chance that anyone turns my life into a movie — S.T.V., I know — this album will have to serve as the soundtrack of the college years.

5. Karla Bonoff (1977). The poor man’s Linda Ronstadt. Should’ve been huge.

6. Heaven Help the Fool by Bob Weir (1978). It’s out & official: some “Robby Moore Music” makes the cut.

7. NRBQ at Yankee Stadium (1978). The perfection even extends to the album cover’s classic Q humor.

8. The Nightfly by Donald Fagen (1982). See above.

9. Christine McVie (1984). The “other girl” in Fleetwood Mac. Holds up after 25 years.

10. Cold Snap by Albert Collins (1986). The “Master of the Telecaster” serves up a flawless mix of blues across a spectrum from hard drivin’ to deep & aching love gone wrong.

11. Exit 0 by Steve Earle (1987). Best songwriter of the 80s caught halfway across the bridge from country to rock.

12. Room for Squares by John Mayer (2001). The first time I heard “No Such Thing” on WCLZ, I called the station to see who it was. From listen #1, you could tell he had the goods.

Happy New Year and let the rebuttals begin! Onward, Malcolm Gauld