The Impossible Task: Two Albums that Sum up Rock n’ Roll

Fellow blogger Dark Star Review, site here, came up with an interesting concept that he said I could share. I will here quote him:

“If someone asked me to sum up, to define rock and roll in two albums – two albums that encapsulate the entire DNA, the power, the glory, the excess, the messy, vibrant artistry of rock and roll,” and then he goes on to name his choices for those two albums. This is, of course, an impossible task. It cannot be done. It shouldn’t be done. How DARE it be done? Therefore I will also do it. 😀

I love both of his choices. But of the two, there’s only one we completely agree on – Exile on Main Street, by the Rolling Stones. I will let him tell you his other one should he happen to read this and choose to. Or peruse his site.)

As I said in my original post, “[‘Exile’ contains] straight-up rockers, swampy blues, more commercial-sounding Stones stuff (“Tumbling Dice,” “Happy”), country, gospel, ballads, more blues and just plain uncategorizable stuff.”

Not to mention shit-scraping, Mick Taylor, a tribute to activist Angela Davis and the great “All Down the Line.” So it’s a double album which gives it breadth but it’s also got depth. And with that variety, it gives the listener a very good idea of where blues-based rock was at that point in time (1972).

For my second choice, I had to really think about it. Springsteen? Elvis? Prog-rock or soul to add another dimension? But when I thought about it – when I really thought about it – I realized it could only be one band. That band would be… {drum roll}

The Beatles. {chorus of trumpets!} Not because I needed to balance it out with the Stones. But because, well, name me one other band that so effectively moved rock n’ roll from Point B (post-Elvis, post-Chuck) to what it evolved to. And in such a short time. Or had that kind of worldwide impact. But that wasn’t enough because the album also had to meet the stated criteria.

And so, I narrowed it down to five possibilities: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, The White Album, Abbey Road. (The Stones have a bunch of great albums too but ‘Exile’ best meets the criteria). And in thinking about it – and truthfully, I never did think about it before – isn’t The White Album (real name: The Beatles, released 1968), to some extent the band’s ‘Exile?’ Or vice-versa?

Think about it. Double album, variety of styles (rock, blues, avant-garde, country, ballads, great Lennon songs with weird lyrics (“Happiness is a Warm Gun”), McCartney British music hall (“Honey Pie”), songs about Yoko, songs with Yoko, Paul’s dog, John’s mother, Mia Farrow’s sister, two songs sung by Ringo. And George gets four songs! One of which contains an Eric Clapton guitar solo on a Harrison guitar classic about the guitar. Another of which is a song about Eric’s love for candy and its effect on his teeth. (“Savoy Truffle.”)

Unlike ‘Exile,’ which to me is the Stones’ greatest album, I’m not convinced The White Album is the Beatles’ greatest (Abbey Road?) But that wasn’t the question. It is messy, rock n’ rolly, etc.

So there it is. What about you, Dear Reader? Do you have the cojones to go for it? Can you distill the essence of rock n’ roll into just two (2) albums and convince the (totally non-existent) jury? I am totally cognizant of the fact that others might not even consider these two albums.

So I’m pretty sure my thirty-something nephew would say Appetite for Destruction and The Downward Spiral. Or Antichrist Superstar. (Guns n’ Roses, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson respectively). And someone else might say Ramones and, I don’t know, London Calling.

So give it a go. Post comments freely. No value judgment here. It’s all good. Because, as an ancient philosopher once said, it’s only rock n’ roll.

2 thoughts on “The Impossible Task: Two Albums that Sum up Rock n’ Roll

  1. London Calling’s a good choice, but it might be a bit too tight, focused and impeccably produced 😉
    The White Album is a damn good choice: so much stuff going on in that album, just like Exile.

    Thanks for the nod, by the way 😀


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