Frosh v. Soph Albums

I’m a big fan of the Lefsetz Letter, a several-times-weekly e-mail that an L.A. baby-boomer (by way of an Eastern upbringing spent in CT and college at Middlebury) named Bob Lefsetz writes about music, popular culture, current events, and assorted topics. He’s provocative and anything but wishy-washy.

On a recent post, he got on this jag he called “Best Second Albums EVER (or, No Sophomore Slumps!): Those Artists Whose Second Albums Topped Their Strong Debuts (or at least gave it a run for its money!).”

He explains, “As the cliche goes, ‘You have your whole life to write your first album, and only eighteen months to write your second one!,’ so the pressure’s on when it comes time to follow up that strong debut release.”

After reading some of Bob’s selections, I got to thinking about my own favorites and figured I’d serve them up here for your reading enjoyment.  I would love to learn yours. However, before you start spreadin’ the news, heed Bob’s proviso:

“Remember, the artist must have a good first AND second album…we’re not looking at One Hit Wonders, or Strong Growers (those who grew dramatically between their first and second albums)…Those are different themes altogether!”

So, here are my choices… Five Great One-Two Punches (In Alphabetical Order):

The Band 
Music from Big Pink vs The Band

Steve Earle
Guitar Town vs Exit O
– Best songwriter of the 80s caught halfway across the bridge from country to rock.

Van Morrison
Blowin’ Your Mind vs Astral Weeks
– On the one hand, I’m leaving out all The Them stuff. On the other, he followed Astral Weeks with 5 consecutive (and annual) gems: MoondanceHis Band & The Street ChoirTupelo HoneySt. Dominic’s PreviewHard Nose the Highway. (And if you don’t think Hard Nose qualifies, the next year (‘74) he released one of the all-time best live albums in It’s Too Late to Stop Now.

Sly & The Family Stone
A Whole New Thing vs Dance to the Music

James Taylor
James Taylor vs Sweet Baby James

Ry Cooder
Ry Cooder vs Into the Purple Valley

I’ve showed you mine. Show me yours.

And if you would like to subscribe to the Lefsetz Letter — It’s free! — here’s the link:

Onward, Malcolm Gauld