2. Pink Floyd, The Wall. Believe it or not, this was a tough call for me. Because of my self-imposed limit of only one Top 50 album per band, I had to choose between The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon, a hellish task for anyone but especially for a committed Pink Floyd lover. And also, Meddle, an egregiously overlooked album. While the first two get most of the acclaim, Meddle contains one of the most mind-blowing and awe-inspiring songs of all time: "Echoes," a psychedelic descent into the underworld and back again with Roger Waters and David Gilmour as your guides instead of Virgil (you know, like in the Divine Comedy). It takes up an entire album side, and yet there's not a wasted moment in the whole song. Damn! And Side A is not too shabby, either ("One of These Days," "A Pillow of Winds," etc etc.)
So how to choose between The Wall and Dark Side? Again, it's not easy. (Damn!) But there were a few factors favoring The Wall: A) Dark Side has already gotten a lot of glory from staying on the charts longer than any other album in rock history. B) The Wall is a double album. Twice the fun. C) The Wall is also a movie. Not just any movie - one of the best rock-related movies ever made, too. (Is anyone out there going to deny it??? Please.)
So, I reluctantly gave the nod to The Wall, even though it slips a little right at the end, especially "The Trial." But before then ... oh mama, what an album. All the torment in Roger Water's life - the death of his father during WWII, the painful childhood, his rage at Nazi Germany and the English educational system, his conflicted relationship with fans and his own culpability in buying into the excesses of rock-star life - somehow all gets channeled into this cohesive work of amazing rock music. And it seems that every other song has a filthy David Gilmour guitar solo - what other album has so many filthy guitar solos? Just filthy. I can't decide which is my favorite: "Comfortably Numb?" Does that beat out his raging, filthy solos in "Run Like Hell" and "Young Lust," or the guitar work in "In the Flesh" and its reprise? I don't know. And then the little treasures, like the quiet, beautiful piano in "Nobody Home." And the sound effects: the sound of a descending dive bomber, abruptly seguing into a baby's cry. Just cool as hell.
This is the album that tore one of my favorite bands apart, to the point where they could never really get it together again. Their follow-up album, The Final Cut, was a forgettable mix of leftovers from The Wall, and the last album made with the intact line-up. Pink Floyd continued on without Roger Waters, but probably shouldn't have. Everything that followed The Wall was just an afterthought. It may have torn the band apart, but what a way to go.
(A final note: check out the bluegrass version of The Wall by Canadian band Luther Wright and the Wrongs! Both reverential and hilarious.)