I’m an album guy. A great song is a great song but a great album is a life changer. If you have AC/DC’s “You Shook Me” in your mp3 player but have never heard the album Back In Black from beginning to end I can comfortably say your life has been a waste up to this point. A great album has a flow. It is littered with peaks and valleys. It takes you on a journey. Whether a concept album like Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime or just the perfect sequence of sleazy rock like Guns N Roses Appetite for Destruction a great album is more than the sum of its parts. The songs by themselves suffer without the bookends of the album it’s from. I mean. The idea of cherry picking a song off an album like Pink Floyd’s The Wall is ridiculous. Right?
There are plenty of iconic classic albums in every genre. But to the more sophisticated ear there are also great albums with less of an iconic status. Often times these hidden gems aren’t given a chance because they break the stereotype of what we perceive a given band to be. For many the name Black Sabbath instantly conjures up the image of Ozzy. And when people think of KISS they aren’t likely to think of dark brooding lyrics about emotions. But why let our own preconceptions rob you of an enjoyable experience?
So with the latest episode of the Decibel Geek Podcast, Buried Treasures 2, being unsung songs from bands you love I came up with 5 albums that you probably haven’t listened to but definitely should. For this category I limited myself to bands that have at least one all time iconic masterpiece. The “You must have sex with your hand at least once while listening to before you die” album. The reason being there are soooo many bands you’ve never heard of who have released brilliant records. It would be difficult to limit myself to 5. Also the albums I picked were all critical and commercial flops.
Black Sabbath – Eternal Idol. As much as Ozzy leaving left the future of Sabbath in the air, it was really Dio’s departure that started the roller coaster that became Sabbath in the 80’s. I had a hard time choosing between this record and 1983’s Born Again. The fact that I’m not sure there is a more obscure record by a band on this list made me go with Eternal Idol. After being forced by Warner Bros. to release his solo album Seventh Star under the moniker of Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi thought the next album should be more Sabbath-y. And man did he come through. This album is loaded with riffs straight off of Lucifer’s taint. You can actually feel the devil stealing your soul while listening to this record. It is the first Sab album to feature Tony Martin on vocals and it’s the best. Sadly by this point Sabbath was largely viewed as a real life Spinal Tap. Tony Martin was at least the fourth singer since Ian Gillan left in 1983 and of those four only two managed to make a record that was officially released. This heaping slab of metal holds its own with ANY Sabbath record. Key tracks: The Shining, Nightmare and The Eternal Idol
Guns N Roses – Chinese Democracy. This album is to rock as the Hughes H4 Hercules is to aviation. Rumors circulating for over a decade. A guitarist recording his parts in a make shift chicken coop. Talk that there was actually no usable music. Axl Rose had gone Brian Wilson and was just madly whittling away. Chinese Democracy became a term used to describe something that was bloated and incomplete. By the time it was released it was largely ignored because people who would’ve cared were now 13 years older and had kids and mortgages and shit like that. Which is too bad because it’s a brilliant album. And of course many were turned off by the idea that a band that only featured Axl Rose was calling itself Guns N Roses. But the record really delivers. Today we confuse polished production as teen pop recorded with generic presets that make everything stay in time and sound in key. Chinese Democracy is about as produced a record as you can find. It’s slick production is actually part of its brilliance. You can hear each note being recorded. No matter how good the music or production is this record will never get a fair shake and that’s too bad because if you haven’t given this record an open ear then you are really missing out. Key Tracks: Chinese Democracy, If The World and Sorry
KISS – Carnival Of Souls. Rocking all nite after partying every day takes its toll on you after 20 years. Right smack in the middle of grunge’s brief dominance KISS made a cash grab and called it Carnival Of Souls. They hired grunge guru Toby Wright to produce, tuned down their guitars and started writings songs about their dead friends and being so filled with hate they have actually become the embodiment of it. This was clearly an example of a band who needs a mirror to see their greatest days taking a stab doing what the newer and cooler kids were doing. To be fair, the grunge movement offered KISS their first taste of mainstream acceptance. Whereas in the 80’s KISS’ contemporaries’ found it “un-cool” to have been influenced by KISS, grunge era bands seemed to contain at least one proud member of the KISS Army. That said they were dangerously close to becoming a club band in 1995 so they made a run at doing the music that was popular at the time. It’s not classic KISS. But it’s fucking awesome. They may have been faking it to an extent but what they came up with is a great album. The only miscue was letting Bruce Kulick sing a song. Also, hindering any chance people would ever hear this record, KISS shelved it before its release to reunite with original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss and embark on a make-up slathered reunion tour. When they finally dumped this on the public a couple years later they didn’t even bother putting a real album cover on it. Too bad though. Cause it kicks ass. Key Tracks: Childhoods End, I Will Be There and Master & Slave
Judas Priest – Turbo. At least now it’s ok to call this album gay. After a decade of defining what Heavy Metal meant and releasing back to back monstrous metal masterpieces with Screaming For Vengeance and Defenders of The Faith Judas Priest decided to take a stab at using synthesizers. Which of course made most of their fans commit suicide. I get how some view this as a betrayal on the level of Metallica cutting their hair but take a moment and listen to the record. It’s really fucking good. I suppose Rob Halford could sing the obituary section and it would sound metal but this record has some great music on it. Sure it’s a little slicker than you expect from Priest but so what. Metal guys are too touchy about shit like this. Quit eating that hot dog sideways Beavis and just listen without prejudice. Key tracks: Turbo Lover, Locked In and Out In The Cold
Van Halen – 3. If Van Halen had a red headed step child its name would be 3. Before we knew Eddie was the one who was bat shit nuts and not those crazy singers, he kicked Sammy Hagar out of the band because Sammy wasn’t enough of a team player to leave his wife’s side hours after welcoming a child into the world to help pick tracks for a greatest hits album. He filled Sammy’s spot in the band with perfectly capable Gary Cherone known mostly for his work with Van Halen clone Extreme. Pretty much hated before its release Van Halen 3 never had a chance. It’s the little record that couldn’t. Eddie was forced to reunite with Dave, then Sammy and then Dave again. The lack of “nice things” said about this record must’ve taken its toll on Eddie as aside from scoring a porno, he hasn’t released any “new” material since. But this record is good. It’s at least as good as its predecessor Balance. If not great. I promise. There is some great music on here. But you don’t care. You just got Van Halen all figured out don’t you. This record and Chinese Democracy are the two records I can’t seem to find or convince anyone of their brilliance. Two words. Your loss. Key tracks: One I Want, Dirty Water Dog and Ballot or the Bullet.
Perception. Lack of promotion. A change in the music scene. The bottom line is don’t let something like who’s in a band make it so you miss out on an otherwise great album. Unless that guy is Myles Kennedy then by all means. That guys voice just makes me want to peel the skin off my penis. What are you thinking Slash?
Click on the Amazon link on the main page to buy all of these amazing records.