Number 22: The Clash - London Calling (1979)
When I bought the Rolling Stone magazine with the best albums of the 80's at the end of that great decade, I was amazed by how many records that were listed that I never bothered to listen to. At the top of that list was The Clash's London Calling double lp. I bought the CD and was instantly impressed by the naturalistic songwriting, punky energy and ability to adapt to different sounds. Going in, the only song I knew was the hit Train in Vain which I liked. After playing the disc a few times, I was impressed with the hard slamming rock of Clampdown, the whimsical Lost in a Supermarket, the swing style Wrong 'Em Boyo and the reggae driven The Guns of Brixton. All of the songs on this record had a feeling of almost gleeful creative excitement. The title song has gone on to be regarded a bona fide classic rock, er, classic. Sometimes the critics get it right.
Number 21: Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run (1975)
The album where The Boss stripped back the rambling lyrical delivery and rambunctous Jersey Boardwalk arrangements to deliver bracing common folk anthems about cuttin' loose, breakin' away and gettin' out in those hard driving cars of the night. A masterpiece of Heartland rock, the title song alone is worth the price of admission with its hyperactive pace, clenched teeth thrust and wild sax solo. Outsiders had a theme song for their independence in Backstreets while we all fought our way through the majestic Jungleland. And if that's not enough, the poetic grandeur of Thunder Road remains a highpoint of songwriting by anyone anywhere. It was here that The Boss was truly born, amid those burnt out shells of Chevrolets.
Number 20: Prince - Sign 'O The Times (1987)
You might think that like many people "1999", "Purple Rain" or "When Doves Cry" made me a Prince fan. But no, it was actually "U Got The Look" that got me into listening to one of the best artists of my generation. Prince's catchy dance floor duet with Sheena Easton could not be denied it's greatness and became a Top 10 hit. I bought the cassette and it became a gateway to the rest of the Purple One's work. Sign 'O The Times is the album that to me had everything Prince did well while at the top of his powers. The music is tight, timely (in the context of 1987), hooky and personal. You want sleazy Prince? There's "Hot Thing". Slow jam Prince? "Slow Love" Religious Prince? "The Cross". Jam band Prince? "It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night". James Brown Prince? "Housequake". Psychosexual Prince? "If I Was Your Girlfriend".
Even politics shows up in the form of the reggae lead single title track. Sign 'O The Times serves as a portrait of an Artist at a time when their ability to express their ideas is almost cosmic. A fantastic record and staggering achievement.