likethebike wrote:But should that [cultural impact] be a criteria in evaluating the "greatest" album? If you were to do that then "Sun Sessions" would have to be even higher.
Ultimately, yes. A creative work can be judged in a number of ways: in relation to the artist or group’s previous and/or future work, it can be reviewed in relation to the genre as a whole, and it can be seen with regards to other art of the time. These things need
to be taken into consideration when making a list like “500 Greatest” because if you don’t, what have you got left? Personal taste. The list would be completely different every year if it were compiled by different people, and there would be no discussion or arguments to reason why any song or album should be at the top. Realistically speaking, I think very few people would place Pepper’s
as The Beatles’ best album because – at least, musically – it’s simply not their best (when considering lyrics, melodies, the quality of the playing, etc.). I suppose clearer examples in this case are ‘songs’ like “Revolution 9” or “Tomorrow Never Knows.” They may deserve to appear near the top of a list of ‘greatest’ works because of cultural impact, but I would hardly consider them great pieces of music. You’re right in saying that these lists are created not just to create discussion and remind people that it’s out there, and they also serve to show people (from any generation) where (Rock) music came from. And whether we all agree or not on whether Pet Sounds
are the greatest albums of all time, I suspect most will agree that they are at least great, and lists like these serve to remind those that haven’t heard them that they should.
And in that respect, I do feel the lists succeed, at least they have for me. I was a bit amazed by rockinrebel’s surprise at London Calling
’s high placement on the list, since it was precisely its great reputation (AMG
calls it “a stunning statement of purpose and one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever recorded,” for example) that inspired me to seek it out sometime early in 2004. (Yes, I did pick up the stellar ‘25th Anniversary Edition,’ but not before I had heard the whole album first.) I had heard about the album’s tremendous stature at least a few years before I ever heard it, and the same is true for Pet Sounds
and Sgt. Pepper’s
, for example.
And likethebike and rockinrebel already hinted at this direction, but then clearly the discussion turns back to Elvis. Why isn’t he higher and more prominent on the list, and if he were, which albums should be on there? (And who’s to blame that he’s not?) The music on The Sun Sessions
may have had a cultural impact, but the LP itself is hardly notable (being a 1976 release). From Elvis in Memphis
is great from start to finish, but it’s gone largely unnoticed – then and now. So how can we decide what should make the cut? I think the solution is not to make a “Greatest Albums” list, but a “Greatest Pieces of Music” list. This would allow creators to include singles artists equally well (and this would make The Sun Sessions
a more likely candidate, since the focus is no longer on the LP itself but the music it contains), although the result would be an unusual one. The difficulty is of course that these are then different media that might be hard to compare. How do you convincingly argue that the “Hound Dog”/ “Don’t Be Cruel” single is greater than Sgt. Pepper’s
? And if you place the “Strawberry Fields Forever”/“Penny Lane” single near the top, does Pepper’s
still deserve to be up there? They would be there for many of the same reasons, and perhaps putting them both there would be redundant and slighting to other artists.
[Side Note: Greg, I created this is in the Off-Topic section because the main topic of the post – the list of greatest albums according to Rolling Stone
– has little to do with Elvis, regardless of his placement on the list. The discussion is about determining the greatest albums of all time, and this involves all artists, after all.]