Any sort of listing of ‘greatest this’ or ‘greatest that’ when it comes to music is always subjective. So here is a list of my favorite secular albums that is totally based on my opinion and two criteria:
First, the album has to be good from start to finish. This is not about greatest song or even greatest few songs. Rather, these albums have only a few ‘filler’ songs. Most albums have one or two (or at most three) great songs, while the rest are just ok (if not outright bad). But the really good albums by really good artists minimize these tracks (mostly because they are just good musicians writing good songs). When you get an album with 9-12 good songs, and a few great ones, then you have a good album.
Second, the album has to stand the test of time. There were many albums that in their day were good, but as time went on, they became less and less appealing (I loved MC Hammer back in the day, but I can honestly say that I never pull out any of his old albums to reminisce). All of the albums on this list are ones that I still enjoy listening to (some more than others).
Alrighty then, with the criteria out of the way, here are my top 5 secular albums:
5. Bon Jovi “Slippery” I remember getting this tape for Christmas when I was just learning to enjoy music. I listened to it over and over again. I think I memorized not only the lyrics to every track but also the guitar solos (I could play a mean air guitar). Jon and Richie were at their best on this one and I still turn it up loud when ‘Wanted dead or alive’ comes on. In honesty, I don’t listen to this album much anymore but that has a lot to do with the fact that my wife is no fan of 80’s hair bands. So much for living on a prayer.
4. Van Morrison: “Moondance” Morrison had some great songs (‘Brown-eyed girl’ always comes to mind), but I think this was his best album. The title track is probably my least favorite (a little too jazzy for me), but the rest of the songs are great. ‘Caravan’, ‘Crazy Love’, ‘Into the Mystic’, ‘Brand New Day’, are all really good songs.
3. U2: “Joshua Tree” I was never a huge U2 fan, but this album was great. They got everything right musically and their song writing is at its best.
2. Pearl Jam: “Ten” Pearl Jam got big while I was still in high school. Everyone was recovering from the hair bands of he 80’s (see above) and the grunge scene blew up overnight. And even though many of the bands came and went, Pearl Jam was unique from the beginning. Truth is, it seems like so many male vocalists for the past 20 years have been trying to sound like Eddie Vedder and most have failed. They are still putting out albums all these years later, but this was their best.
1. Counting Crows: “August and Everything After” I am a pretty big Counting Crows fan. Adam Duritz is one of my all-time favoirte song writers. I got to see them live at the Ryman in Nashville and they put on a great show. And I love their first album. There is not a bad song on the whole thing. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to this album on a long road trip. The songs that made it to the radio were good (‘Mr. Jones’, ‘Round Here’, ‘Rain King’) but some of the best songs did not (‘Sullivan Street’, ‘Omaha’, ‘Raining in Baltimore’). The skip button is not needed when listening to this one.
So there you have it, my subjective list of my top favorite secular albums. Obviously so many others could be listed, but these pass the test of having few filler songs and still being great today.