Making albums is a tricky business; making a perfect album even more so. An artist might have three or four bangers on their record but the rest of the tracks will be pure filler. It happens, inspiration doesn’t always strike.
Some albums, though, are true masterpieces, each song being special and essential to the whole work. With that in mind, we asked Tone Deaf readers what they deem to be a perfect 10 album from start to finish and here’s what they came up with.
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Ten – Pearl Jam
The debut studio album by Eddie Vedder’s crew is one of the seminal grunge records. Arriving in 1991, it would be one of the albums that defined alternative rock in that decade. It starts with a triple hit of ‘Once’, ‘Even Flow’, and ‘Alive’, which must be one of the strongest opening runs on an album ever. And that’s without mentioning ‘Black’ and ‘Jeremy’ which follow later. What a band, what an album.
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Abbey Road – The Beatles
The 11th album by the British icons might be better known for THAT legendary album cover but the songs on it are just as good. The rollicking stomp of ‘Come Together’; the strange Ringo Starr number ‘Octopus’s Garden’; the tender and beautiful George Harrison classic ‘Here Comes the Sun’. There’s a reason that many critics cite the 1969 record as the best The Beatles ever were, which is saying a lot.
Purple Rain – Prince
Oh Prince, you beautiful one-of-a-kind. The soundtrack to the 1984 film of the same name dominated its decade like few other records have managed. Purple Rain spent a mammoth 24 weeks atop the U.S. Billboard 200 and was present on the chart for a total of 122 weeks. It sexual and sensual, psychedelic and funky. Backing up the famous title track were other grooves such as ‘When Doves Cry’, ‘The Beautiful Ones’, and ‘Let’s Go Crazy’.
The Blue Album – Weezer
Ok, ok, get the standard Weezer jokes out of the way: yes they’ve been going too long; yes they’ve become a ‘dad rock’ parody of themselves; yes, it’s just uncool to like them. But the alternative rock band’s debut album from 1994 is undeniably excellent, a power pop riposte to the domineering form of grunge at the time. ‘Buddy Holly’, ‘Say It Ain’t So’, and ‘Undone – The Sweater Song’ are true classics and the rest was resolutely humorous and melodic too. Whatever you think of them now, in the middle of the 90’s Weezer were real talents.
The Colour and the Shape – Foo Fighters
The second studio album by Dave Grohl and co. honestly should be called a perfect 10 for having ‘Everlong’ on it alone. Seriously. The remainder of the record was excellent too luckily, a potent mixture of hard-hitting rock and more introspective ballads. The Colour and the Shape really helped to shape Grohl after his time in Nirvana. It was nominated for the Grammy in 1998 for Best Rock Album and is still the band’s biggest selling album in the U.S.
The Downward Spiral – Nine Inch Nails
This concept album from 1994 might be a difficult listen but it’s an impactful one. Detailing the destruction of a man from the beginning of his downward spiral to his death by suicide, it received even more attention due to Trent Reznor’s public battles with substance abuse. Sonically it was masterful, boasting elemental textures of industrial, metal, even techno. The Nine Inch Nails atmosphere on The Downward Spiral would be much imitated but rarely bettered.
Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette
The Canadian singer’s third album saw her take a formidable turn to alternative rock from dance-pop and how that move paid off. The songs become anthems of doomed love and broken relationships, filtered through Morissette’s signature angsty voice. With over 33 million copies sold worldwide, it’s one of the best-selling albums of all time. It was nominated for an incredible nine Grammys, winning five of those. Oh, and Morissette just so happened to be just 21 at the time.
The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
If you ask someone to name a masterpiece album, chances are that this Pink Floyd classic won’t be far from their minds. Dealing with intense themes such as mental illness, greed, conflict, and death, it was born out of a period of sadness and stress for the band, after the departure of Syd Barrett due to mental health issues a few years prior. A commercial titan, it catapulted the British group to worldwide fame, being certified 14x platinum in the U.K. in the process. It’s hard to comprehend just how influential Pink Floyd’s creation was on the future of rock music.