A look at 5 star albums that represent sheer brilliance in song writing and lyrics

Queens Of The Stone Age "Songs For The Deaf" (2002)

The 3rd album from QOTSA, released in the autumn of 2002. After the brilliant "Rated R" from 2000 this to me surpassed everything they had recorded to this point, and I don't think they will ever top this. On a personal note they would have to get Nick Oliveri back into the fold to have any chance of that, but as of this moment I don't see it happening. I think Josh and Nick will work together again in a few years' time but it is still probably too raw for both of them.

In the UK the first release on CD featured 2 bonus tracks along with a free DVD. The bonus tracks, which featured after the hidden track "Mosquito Song" were a live recording from the L.A. Troubadour of "The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret", which featured the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl on drums (he had joined QOTSA for the recording of "Songs For The Deaf" and also featured on a tour for a few months in the spring and summer of 2002), and a cover of The Kinks' "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy".

Black Sabbath "Sabotage" (1975)

The 6th album from Black Sabbath, and to me it is their best. I have a huge affection for the 2nd album "Paranoid" from 1970 which is rightfully most fans' favourite album but there is something I just prefer with "Sabotage". This was an album recorded against a backdrop of lawsuits and a court case brought by a former manager against the band and their management of the time. Despite what has been said by members of the band (especially around the time of the album's release) I think it is brilliant and the peak of everything that made them the best heavy metal band in the world.

Soon after this album the conflicts, the wish to try a new direction, the drugs and the changing metal scene all conspired to bring to a halt the classic line-up, before Ozzy was eventually fired in 1979 and the rest of the band opted to continue with former Elf and Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio.

Faith No More "King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime" (1995)

At University in Glasgow I lived amongst others with two guys who also loved Faith No More. The thing was that we each had a favourite album of theirs, each was different. 1989's "The Real Thing" and "Angel Dust" from 3 years later were both excellent, but something about "King For A Day..." really clicked with me.
Often mentioned is the lack of keyboards, and the slight guitar sound change (previous guitarist Jim Martin had been ousted from the band by now) but I still love this album. 14 tracks, and such a mixture of rock, lounge-lizard ballads and the usual weirdness that only Mike Patton could create. Combined with great art from celebrated novelist Eric Drooker this whole package is one I still listen to all the way through to this day.

Madonna "Confessions On A Dance Floor" (2005)

An amazing album, when I first bought it I never stopped playing it, and it is one of those albums that you listen to and your favourite track changes from time to time and you discover new things in tracks you perhaps overlooked. It was with great excitement back in August 2006 (using some of the money luckily won on the Euromillions earlier that summer) that I headed over to Hannover to see Madonna on the "Confessions Tour". What a night. What an album.

Iron Maiden "Live After Death" (1985)

Only the best live album ever created. Paul GilIbanks (Mr. Orange / "Run, Small Thing!" / creator of Scobie (and shit) Rengis) awoke my interest in this album at University in 1st year, at the Dalrymple halls of residence. I always wondered if they used Churchill's Speech when they played Germany back in 1984? Or perhaps that intro was only added as the tour progressed to North America during '85? Anyway this is such a perfect live document of a classic band, I must have this album across all formats at least 15 times. If I see a copy languishing in some cheap music bin in a shop I usually 'rescue' it. The accompanying video (shot on night 2 of a 4 night run in Long Beach Arena, California) was equally good. It takes balls to write a 13 minute song about some poem that is over a hundred years old...then play it on stage, but 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner' is such a brilliant song. When Maiden released their brilliant 2CD "Best Of The Beast" in 1996 I was surprised but delighted that they put that song from this album on one of the CD's. Even knowing it would take up a large amount of space and prevent some other song from appearing, they did it.

Karma To Burn "Karma To Burn" (1997)

At the end of my extended University life I was starting to pick up on bands you could describe as 'Stoner Rock', whether you like that term or not. However this one slipped out quietly and I was only turned on to it when my friend Mudge played it to me in 2003, before a night out at The Cathouse. An album of great songs and instrumentals. I picked up the CD and found out more about the band (they are no longer around) - all the stuff with their record company, the vocalist that the band never wanted in the first place etc. A brilliant album.

Ben Folds Five "Whatever And Ever Amen" (1997)

Back in 1997 I was wandering around one of the several 'Missing' music stores that existed in Glasgow (this was one of two at the time in Oswald Street). Anyway I was in trawling through the second hand stuff as usual when the staff put on this CD. I really liked the sound and picked up on the great humour straight away. By the time I got bored of what I was looking for I asked at the counter what it was and remembered having seen the 'Battle Of Who Could Care Less' video on 'Top Of The Pops'. 'Song For The Dumped' was priceless, and Mudge would forever then refer to it as 'The Black T-Shirt Song'.

Led Zeppelin "Houses Of The Holy" (1973)

Another band where it is so easy for people to have a favourite album, and it always varies. Plenty of people love their fourth album, plenty love "Physical Graffiti". But here again I identify most with this album, and you would struggle to open an album with 2 better songs. 'The Song Remains The Same' and 'The Rain Song' sit so well together. This album suffers from being sandwiched between the above two but I think it's better.

The Associates "Sulk" (1982)


Crikey. Where did this one come from? I don't remember them appearing on 'Top Of The Pops' several times in 1982 but this is easily one of my favourite pop albums ever. Or is it alternative? Who cares, the influences may be well documented but this really was an album so far ahead of its time. Great, inventive melodies, songs, lyrics and attention to detail in creating some of the strangest sounds to be recorded in a studio. From a band not afraid to record the sounds from a typewriter or a vacuum cleaner.

Nirvana "Nevermind" (1991)

I don't deny that In Utero (1993) is a great album too, but if you feel it is a better album you are lying. It may have the production that Kurt was perhaps looking for as a more accurate representation of Nirvana's true sound, but track for track the songs from Nevermind were just better.

The Human League "Dare" (1981)

I only first heard this album in 2004 when I rescued it (actually the 21st Anniversay edition also featuring Love And Dancing) for 3.99 in MVC in Perth. I listened to the first track (The Things That Dreams Are Made Of) and was astonished that it still sounded so good today and that the album is full of great tracks. Have now seen them live 3 times, they have a great sound and add to that a decent lights and video screen show. The gig in December 2007 in Glasgow included a complete performance of this album.

Danzig "4p" (1994)

Another one picked up from my days in Glasgow. Take a bow Nick Edge from my time in Topographic Science. Singled out as a fellow metaller he gave me a tape one day, after I had mentioned enjoying the video and song for 'Cantspeak'. I didn't know any other Danzig at that point, not even 'Mother' but it wasn't to be long before I picked up the rest (Mudge lent me his limited edition version of "How The Gods Kill" later on). Nick recorded onto tape this album for me, and threw in some Frank Zappa. Those extra tracks were pretty crap to my ears but I attempted to wear out the rest of the tape before I bought it on CD myself.

Kyuss "...And The Circus Leaves Town" (1995)

This is like the Faith No More situation from above. A band where "Blues For The Red Sun" and especially "Welcome To Sky Valley" were fan favourites but I loved this album the best. I had missed an opportunity to see them live in 1994, so the following year when FNM announced a tour in the U.K. where Kyuss would support meant that I was very happy. Then FNM cancelled, allegedly due to record company pressure as "King For A Day..." was not selling as well as they had hoped, after "Angel Dust". It would have been a chance for me to see two of my favourite bands touring 2 brilliant albums. Ach well, I followed Josh's career after that, and his next band quickly became one of my favourites.

Red Hot Chili Peppers "BloodSugarSexMagik" (1991)

The first thing about this album: value for money. 17 songs, almost all of them excellent. A big underground, underrated band by the time this appeared in 1991. They had achieved some success and publicity from "The Abbey Road E.P.", the sad death of Slavel Hillek their guitarist, and the "Mother's Milk" LP. However "Under The Bridge" changed all that, but there is so much more to this album than that one song

Rage Against The Machine "Rage Against The Machine" (1992)

A lot has been said about this album since 1992. First crossover album, strong political lyrics etc etc. It is simply a collection of brilliant songs delivered in an unmistakable, infectious way. So many highlights, this album really gets you going in the car or on the dancefloor when the harder edged songs come on. After this they never matched the songwriting here. Now they are back however, that could change, but has the political map and music scene changed since they went their separate ways originally in late 2000?

Alice In Chains "Dirt" (1992)

Craig introduced me to this one. With his blossoming love of grunge in 1991/1992 and being the only person I knew who had Sky (satellite TV) we were having our eyes opened to rock music. Along with Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden there was so much quality music coming at us, and this band had such a brilliant mix of people, and Layne and Jerry's vocal arrangements and harmonies I find incredible. Such a strong effort from start to finish, again this is the sort of album that many people can own and each will have a different favourite track.

Megadeth "Peace Sells...But Who's Buying? (1986)

For about a year I thought this was their debut album until I saw "Killing Is My Business..." one day in Our Price in Perth in about 1992. Anyway, this is still their best album to date, not a bad track on it, and it is such a jump in terms of playing and songwriting from the debut (even allowing for the excellent remastering job Dave Mustaine did on that one in 2002). Absolutely brilliant.

Supergrass "In It For The Money" (1997)

The title track is how you should start an album. The opening track might not have made it as a single or even a track that radio would often play but it is one of the strongest on a brilliant collection of songs. A great mixture of pop, rock, weirdness and cute little songs. I think this has a lot of crossover appeal, stuff like "Richard III" and "Sun Hits The Sky" are liked by people of all musical faiths.

Phil Collins "Face Value" (1981)

An album from my childhood, this one featured in many car journeys along with The Beatles and ABBA. The Genesis albums around this time weren't brilliantly strong, he was going through a divorce and nobody could have predicted how successful his solo career would be, but the songs are here. Produced, written and played mostly by himself he does a great Beatles cover, reworks a recent Genesis hit in an upbeat funky style and writes great, personal songs. Not a fashionable artist but this and his later live album are both fantastic.

Type O Negative "October Rust" (1996)

I had heard rumblings of this band in 1994 as certain songs from 1993's "Bloody Kisses" found their way into the mainstream, but my 1st experience of them was at the Monsters Of Rock in 1996 on the Kerrang! (Second)Stage. I caught their set and met them, and even though "October Rust" was still to be released I was blown away by their sound, especially the vocals. Along with ABBA and The Beatles, I couldn't believe what great, harmonius sounds they achieved live and in the studio. This album is so long and has so many great tracks. Wether you believe that the record company put pressure on them to produce something more mainstream and commercial, and that the next album would rebel against this one, it doesn't matter. Not to everyone's taste I know, but the production on this album to bring all the heavyweight compenents together is astounding. I bought this album off Burney as he wasn't fond of it and I even got the Type O Negative promotional credit card that he got as he bought it on day one.

Duran Duran "Rio" (1982)

The perfect 80's pop album from the best band of the 80's. Even the tracks that are not as famous like "Last Chance On The Stairway" or "My Own Way" are excellent. "Hungry Like The Wolf" is certainly up there with "View To A Kill" as my favourite Duran Duran songs. I did like them back in the early 80's but couldn't admit it as in those days only girls could like them, and the concept of boy bands was way different to today's nonsense. I have been lucky enough to see them twice since the classic line-up got back together, and the second time I was down at the front, in line with John Taylor. I wanted to be wearing knickers that night just so I could throw them at him...

Metallica "Master Of Puppets" (1986)

For ages I thought 1984's "Ride The Lightning" was better but over time I have seen the true power of this album. Maybe I am weaker than Luke Skywalker after all. Not a bad track on this album, and it was a priviledge to be at Download / Donington in 2006 when they surprised a lot of people by playing the whole thing live, in order, to mark the 20th anniversary of this ground-breaking album.

Paradise Lost "Icon" (1993)

Think I wore out the tape of this that Craig bought for me at Xmas '93. We had heard "Pity The Sadness" on MTV and liked that, and I had seen them support Sepultura just before Xmas, but I fell under the spell of this album straight away. Much better production and classy songs compared to "Shades Of God" from the year before. Brilliant, and they followed this up with something just as good. Well on form at this point - the glory years!

Slayer "Reign In Blood" (1986)

It was rumoured that when Slayer played this album in the studio they managed to speed up their playing and bring the timing down by a few minutes to 28 minutes. Incredible. So listenable, and I'm not sure there is an album out there that finishes with a better 'one-two' than Postmortem & Reigning Blood.

Ozzy Osbourne "Blizzard Of Ozz" (1980)

In 1979 when Ozzy was fired from Black Sabbath he was in a complete mess. He was living in a hotel in L.A., getting drunk all day and not knowing what to do. With the help of future wife Sharon Arden, who would manage him, and the inspirational partnership with young guitarist Randy Rhoads he set about building a solo career that he had already hinted at as far back as "Am I Going Insane (Radio)" from "Sabotage" in 1975.
The production might not be fantastic looking back but Ozzy's rebirth is contained in these songs. Excellent songwriting with Rhoads' brilliant guitarwork ensured people would not forget Ozzy, and he would soon overtake Sabbath in a short space of time as the 80's began. His best solo record without doubt.

Black Sabbath "Paranoid" (1970)

Just one of the greatest heavy metal albums ever. The band still had no great idea what they were doing, no master plan. Just rattled out these songs including the title track which was written in just 5 minutes, to add a bit more running time, and just look what happened. A number 4 single, and the chance to play 'Top Of The Pops'.

UFO "Strangers In The Night" (1979)

Only one of the greatest live albums ever. In 1999 it was made even better with two bonus tracks (I always wondered why a tour slot to promote current album "Obsession" hardly contained any material from the album), and now resequenced as well, and it now makes more sense, especially some of the stuff Phil Mogg talks about.

Track after track of genius. When a band decide to record and put out a live album it really has to be at the right point in their career - you need the interest to be there, and have enough good songs to make it like a greatest hits album but be live, it needs to have great performances and be well produced. This has it all. An absolute classic and the essential UFO album.

Guns 'N' Roses "Appetite For Destruction" (1987)

This is the sort of album most people own, and I shouldn't have to say anything about why I think it is brilliant. Probably one of a few albums that you might find in the collections of people of all musical tastes. A true classic in every sense. Amazing to look back and think it wasn't until about 1989, two years after it's release that people really stood up and took notice of them.

Radiohead "OK Computer" (1997)

This was their 3rd album and I think they were taken aback by the success of "The Bends" two years prior to this album. Perversely they wanted to try and shake off the image they had and make what they thought was an experimental album to get rid of some people who had bought that album as an accessory, a sort of album that you had to own at the time. However they then created "OK Computer" which was even better. What an accident. I think of this as the perfect album to listen to on a cold evening in Edinburgh at New Year. Because I did. Some albums stongly evoke memories of times and places and this is certainly one of those for me. Very atmospheric.

Paradise Lost "Draconian Times" (1995)

Was at University in Glasgow and this one came out in the summer of 1995. After loving "Icon" so much already I was eagerly waiting for this one to come out, and went down to the Missing store in Oswald Street (no longer there any more) and was waiting as the shop opened to buy it. The first copies came as a strange boxed digipak with a separate A4 signed print of the cover art. An excellent album, really strong all the way through. I don't think the final track "Jaded" is their best but all the rest are brilliant.

Stevie Wonder "Talking Book" (1972)

Mr Richard Bramley. Congratulations on your marriage in Spain.
Despite liking shit like the Mull Historical Society (and probably Teenage Fanclub etc) you have some excellent music taste and this is one of them. I already had "Songs In The Key Of Life" in 2001 during one of my visits with Craig and Laura to your Shandon residence in the Gorgie Road, but I heard this album for the 1st time and was very impressed. I now listen to it more than "Songs..." probably due to the difference in length, but so many of these tracks are so strong and there isn't really any filler on this one.