Catch up with #81-#90 and 91-100.

#80. Ozzy Osbourne | Blizzard of Ozz

Released: 3/27/81 | RIAA certification: 6X Platinum

Fun Fact: “Wine is fine, but whiskey’s quicker…”

Ah, Ozzy’s very first solo effort.  This album is epic for so many reasons.  Let’s just get the obvious one out of the way, though: Randy Rhoads.  Only two albums with the guy (and arguably Ozzy’s two best ones), and he helped redefine Ozzy as a solo act and influence thousands of guitarists before his untimely death at the age of 25.  His neoclassical arrangements set the standard for others to follow.  He was the perfect counterbalance for Ozzy at this point of his career, and the great songs on this album are evidence.

Blizzard of Ozz was surrounded by controversy.  It was the album the all parents (including mine) feared; I remember being told that I was not allowed to own or listen to it (not like that stopped me).    The cover features some sort of one-horned skull and Ozzy crawling around in a cape while holding a cross in a fairly menacing manner — you can bet that got some parental units all stirred up in the Midwest, especially in the 80s when all metal acts were suspected of being active satanists.  Throw in that he released a song called “Mr. Crowley” as a single, and it topped (for a while, at least) every mom’s enemy-number-one-of-my-impressionable-teenager’s-brain list.  Now, add to that the fact that Ozzy actually got sued over the song “Suicide Solution” by some parents who blamed his music for the fact that their son killed himself (you know, instead of taking personal responsibility for never communicating with him or identifying clinical depression or something), and the result was a regular powder keg of contention.  The funny thing about it is…the music is awesome but relatively harmless.  If any of said concerned adults had actually listened to the music, they would have found songs promoting love and condemning shallowness and hate.

In the end, the truth about this fantastic album won out over time, and it went on to go platinum six times (essentially solidifying it forever as a metal mainstream breakthrough).  The big single from Blizzard, “Crazy Train,” is now not only no longer feared, it’s featured as the chosen road trip family singalong in a freaking Honda commercial.  How times change.

I’d just like to state for the public record that you were wrong, Mom. (Grez)

#79. Husker Du | New Day Rising

Released: January 1985 | RIAA certification: none

Fun Fact: According to Wikipedia, New Day Rising “helped set the template for alternative rock for the next decade.”

Released just six months after the epic double LP Zen Arcade, New Day Rising was an even more shocking display of chutzpah, compared to the MTV-endorsed airwaves of 1985. Released the same month that music world royalty was recording “We Are the World”, Husker Du was heeding their own certain call, making a plausible case as America’s best band. The Twin Cities trio announced their presence with authority via the scorching title track, surely one of rock’s most powerful opening salvos. Grant Hart’s machine-fire drumming and Bob Mould’s crazed declarations of a NEW DAY RISING (whatever the hell that means) set the stage for a confident aural blend of noise and melody rarely seen in the modern rock canon. Hart’s pop sensibilities flourished with the fuzzy love poem to “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill” and especially the absurdly romantic “Books about UFOs” (complete with rollicking piano fills!), while Mould’s mature songwriting was on full display with the intricate “Celebrated Summer” and the quiet gem “Perfect Example.” Plus there’s the old-fashioned buzzsaw blasts “Folklore” and “I Don’t Know What You’re Talking About” to keep the old punks happy. Many fans prefer ZA or the brilliant Flip Your Wig, which would follow a brief eight months later, but it was this masterpiece that would set the buzz bar to almost unreachable heights, cementing the Huskers’ place in the indie rock pantheon.  (Dan Paquette)

#78. Metallica | Ride The Lightning

Released: 7/27/84 | RIAA certification: 5X Platinum

There was never any question that Metallica could thrash — they proved that beyond the shadow of a doubt on Kill ‘Em All. That they could also write songs, however, was the unexpected revelation that Ride the Lightning offered.

They tried to hide it. Beginning an album with the utterly out of control “Fight Fire With Fire” was a good way to make the statement that they were going to take the sound of Kill ‘Em All and just make it louder, faster, and harder than they ever did before. When the title track follows, however, a shift happens. “Ride the Lightning” is a symphony of a song, not following a verse-chorus structure so much as it does a series of movements. It is still heavy, it still thrashes, and Kirk Hammett’s solo is one of the best he’s ever done, but it’s all mapped out. It’s not a spontaneous thrash jam they happened to turn into a song, it is an honest-to-goodness meticulously-designed masterpiece, on an album with multiple.

“Fade to Black” gets a lot of the attention because it’s a precursor to what they would become, balancing the slow and thoughtful first four minutes with a huge, fast, crowd-pleasing climax. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” contains at least two of their signature riffs, and “Creeping Death” careens forward in much the same way as “Ride the Lightning” did — in movements, for six and a half scintillating minutes. Closing with the beautifully building instrumental “The Call of Ktulu” was perfect, offering a hint of peace before putting on one more instrumental clinic that imitators could only hope to live up to.

James Hetfield was still perhaps the least subtle lyricist around at that point, and they still occasionally fell into the old trap of thrash without purpose, but Ride the Lightning‘s highest highs surpass anything else they’ve ever done. (Mike Schiller)

#77. Husker Du | Zen Arcade

Released: July 1984 | RIAA certification: none

Fun Fact: All the songs on Zen Arcade, save two, were first-take recordings.

It’s grubby-sounding, and overlong. It stays in the same place for too long as often as it ping-pongs wildly from genre to genre. We can lob criticisms at Zen Arcade all day, and debate its placement in the Husker Du pantheon (#1 in popularity and name recognition, certainly, though fan consensus varies); what’s not debatable is that this sprawling double LP is thrillingly alive, the first-take motif working wonders for the aura of unpredictability that lingers around the proceedings, each song pulsating with spontaneous energy, new melodies unspooling every minute or so. The ominous, bitter “Never Talking To You Again” is a highlight, but Zen Arcade barrels through highlights so breathlessly that pointing them out becomes futile. It’s a singularly unique album experience that way. (Drew)

#76. The Time | What Time Is It?

Released: RIAA certification: 8/25/82 | RIAA certification: Platinum

Fun Fact: 777-9311 was the real phone number of Revolution guitarist Dez Dickerson. Needless to say, after the song hit, he had to change it.

The album’s title became Morris Day’s battle cry. Morris and the boys would have to wait one more album to have significant crossover success (via “Jungle Love”), but in their all too brief run, the band never issued a more solid slab of Minneapolis funk than What Time is It?. As with the other Time projects of course, it was hardly a group effort. Prince wrote and recorded all of the tracks, save for “OnedayI’mgonnabesomebody,” co-written with Dez Dickerson. But the image that Prince had crafted for The Time as well as Morris Day’s perfected gigolo persona successfully conveyed a facade of this being one of the tightest funk outfits of the early 1980s (to be fair, they were one of the tightest funk outfits of the ’80s when they hit they stage). It’s pretty mind blowing to put this into perspective. Prince had released an album a year since 1978. In 1982, he wrote, recorded, and released a solid double LP (1999), the eponymous Vanity 6 LP, and What Time is It?. That’s four LPs worth of high quality material in a calendar year. Incredible. What Time is It? includes some of the purple one’s funkiest tracks – “Wild and Loose,” “The Walk,” and “777-9311,” the latter of which easily ranks as the best drum and bass lines in Prince’s oeuvre.  (Dr. Gonzo)

#75. Eric B. & Rakim | Paid In Full

Released: 7/7/87 | RIAA certification: Platinum

Fun Fact: Although the album’s production credit is given to Eric B. & Rakim, it’s long been alleged that two tracks (including “Eric B. Is President”) were in fact produced by Marley Marl. Also, “President” was originally conceived as an answer record to Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”

I’ll paraphrase a story I told at some point before. The first time I heard Rakim’s voice was in the late summer of 1987. I was living in Michigan at the time, and I was listening to whatever WJLB’s top 8 at 8 countdown was at the time. “I Ain’t No Joke” was the #8 song. Michael Stipe notoriously compared his reaction to hearing Patti Smith’s Horses for the first time as akin to having a piano dropped on his head. That’s pretty much equal to the way I felt the first time I heard Rakim’s voice.

The coolest thing about Rakim back then was… his coolness. No matter what he was talking about, you never got the impression that he was trying too hard. While Run-DMC and LL Cool J were busy screaming most of the time, Ra was laying in the cut, dropping smooth verses. When matched with Eric B (or whoever produced the damn album)’s James Brown samples, Paid In Full was a hip-hop revolution, setting the stage for much of what followed for the next couple of years and even today. Listen to the financially-motivated rhyming of Rick Ross and consider the fact that he’s just a faded, faded facsimile of Rakim. Hey, Michael Jackson never had to apologize for Chris Brown, right? (Big Money)

#74. The Replacements | Tim

Released: October 1985 | RIAA certification: none

Fun Fact: After performing “Bastards Of Young” and “Kiss Me On The Bus” on Saturday Night Live, The Replacements were banned from ever appearing on the show again.

It’s always a precarious position when a much-beloved indie band jumps to a major label. Fans worry that their precious indie idols will sell out and cater to the masses. Label reps clinch their fists hoping that they didn’t make an epic mistake by signing this ragtag group of alcoholics from Minneapolis. The Replacements maintained their integrity onTim, though it was a mere blip on the charts. The album continued the ‘Mats move away from the shabby, snotty punk tunes of their first few records toward a more accessible (though still decidedly “alternative”) sound. Paul Westerburg’s lyrics also continued to evolve past the amusing but admittedly juvenile verses on the band’s earlier albums with more introspective tunes such as “Swingin’ Party,” “Little Mascara,” and “Here Comes a Regular.” But there’s plenty of high quality, straight up rocking here, too – “Dose of Thunder,” the rebellious “Bastards of Young,” and (my personal favorite) The ‘Mats anthemic ode to college radio, “Left of the Dial.” There would be three more Replacements albums before the band ultimately imploded. Though I’m a fan of the band’s later work, many panned it as pandering to the mainstream and losing sight of the band’s punk / DIY spirit. That spirit is alive and well on Tim, what I’d consider to be the quintessential Replacements album.  (Dr. Gonzo)

#73. Metallica | …and Justice for All

Released: 8/25/88 | RIAA certification: 8X Platinum

…And Justice for All is an interesting chapter in Metallica’s history. Some fans shun it because it was the first album that didn’t feature the late Cliff Burton on bass; some criticize its dry, chalky mix; some gripe at the lengthy songs (the shortest, album closer “Dyers Eve,” clocks in at 5:13); and some simply overlook it, as it came after the revered Master of Puppets and before the commercial monster that was Metallica (aka The Black Album). Hell, a friggin’ Jethro Tull album beat it for the Best Metal Grammy in 1989. And yet, Justice is a beast of an album, finding Metallica exploring territory that unrelentingly dark (even for Metallica) and uncompromisingly heavy. The songs were more complex than ever before or since, featuring breakneck time changes and Kirk Hammett’s best solos on record. James Hetfield’s lyrics reflect anger at the political and legal systems: The title track, “One,” “Harvester of Sorrow,” and “The Shortest Straw” are all seriously dark songs. But in 1988, there were plenty of bands singing about booze and chicks. Metallica had MTV viewers watching and requesting a video (“One”) about the unrelenting pain of war. A big flaw of the album is the sound mix, Lars Ulrich’s drums sound like they were recorded in a broom closet and you can’t even detect that Jason Newsted is playing bass on the record. If any album deserved a re-mastered edition, it’s this one. Forget the hits and the massive success of The Black Album, I’ll take Justice any day of the damn week. (Jay)

72. Elvis Costello & The Attractions | Trust

Released: 1/23/81 | RIAA certification: none

Fun Fact: According to Elvis himself, This was easily the most drug-influenced record of my career… It was completed close to a self-induced nervous collapse on a diet of rough ‘scrumpy’ cider, gin and tonic, various powders… and, in the final hours, Seconal and Johnnie Walker Black Label.

After the Motown/Stax infused brilliance of Get Happy proved to his naysayers that his days as the “angry punk” were a thing of the past, Elvis and the boys returned in less than a year with this eclectic mélange of well-crafted tunes. With the trusty Nick Lowe still at the production reins, Trust emphatically brought Costello into the 80s as he was able to easily shift styles at will over the course of the record. The jazzy putdown “Clubland” (one of keyboardist Steve Nieve’s finest moments) opens the festivities and was quickly followed by forays into Bo Diddley beat (“Lovers Walk”), rockabilly (“Luxembourg”), honky tonk balladry (“Different Finger”), dramatic cabaret piano (“Shot With His Own Gun”) and power pop (“Fish ‘n’ Chip Paper”).  With this newfound flexibility, Costello wore the influence of his contemporaries on his sleeve, retaining his spot at the head of the new wave class. Of course, his  wordplay was as sharp as ever, using the Thatcher government as inspiration for his lyrical daggers.  In hindsight, the reputation of Trust suffered  from unfair comparisons with his first four albums as well as Imperial Bedroom, the oft-described baroque pop masterpiece that shortly followed. Thirty plus years later however, his most underrated work more than holds its own in the impressive EC canon.  (Dan Paquette)

71. Marvin Gaye | Midnight Love

Released: October 1982 | RIAA certification: 2X Platinum

Fun Fact: “Sexual Healing” was the longest-running #1 R&B single of the Eighties, holding on to the top spot for an impressive ten weeks.

For Marvin Gaye, Midnight Love represented a return to commercial dominance after a half-decade in the wilderness. Well, the wilderness wasn’t from an artistic standpoint: Here, My Dear and In Our Lifetime are both excellent albums. But they didn’t sell well, and Midnight Love managed to restore Marvin’s chart luster. The key? Marvin’s customary mix of the sacred and profane. As with his landmark Seventies albums, Marvin aimed for the head, the heart and the feet. While the album was recorded in Belgium, it had a distinctly up-to-date American flavor to it, with synthesizers and drum machines at the fore. Even with the reliance on electronics, if anyone had the power to melt a drum machine and give it soul, it was Marvin. From the frenetic “Midnight Lady” to the tender ballad “Til’ Tomorrow,” Midnight Love is a clinic on soulfulness, and the only shame is that Marvin didn’t live long enough to follow it up. (Big Money)

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