Everytime I’m kind of lost for ideas of what to write I resort to lists. It’s one of my favorite pastimes and certainly one of the reasons why I loved Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity” so much.
So now you know: everytime you see a Top 5 anything at the blog it means I’m having a little bit of a writer’s block.
And as is the case today, I decided to choose my favorite debut albums of all time. However, there’s a catch. I’ll follow two rules: 1- As with anything related to popular music, The Beatles are out. It’s unfair with the rest of the world. They were not from Earth (and I sincerely believe this to be true). 2- Debut albums on this list are real debut albums. Nobody in the band was involved in anything else before. Therefore, Dio’s “Holy Diver”, Ozzy’s “Blizzard Of Ozz”, Rainbow’s “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow”, Asia or Bad Company’s self-titled, and many others are not eligible. So here we go:
# 5 – Foreigner – Foreigner
It’s not an accident that Foreigner is the second best-selling band of all time at Atlantic Records, losing only to Led Zeppelin. When you start your career with something this good, the sky is the limit.
Feels Like The First Time, Cold As Ice, Starrider, Long, Long Way From Home and Fool For You Anyway are staples of Foreigner’s live shows till this day and the wonderful guitar of Mick Jones and Lou Gramm’s marvelous voices are unparalleled. This record built the blueprint of the whole AOR genre that would flourish in the eighties.
# 4 – Guns and Roses – Appetite for Destruction
No, I’m not a Guns and Roses fan, but this record borders on unbelievable. There are 12 songs in there and they are all brilliant. Channeling all LA decadence, sleaziness, drug use and debauchery that Guns members were living at the time, this record (alongside Mötley Crüe’s Girls, Girls, Girls) portrays a Sunset Strip obscure and festive at the same time.
Welcome To The Jungle, Paradise City, Sweet Child O’ Mine, My Michellle, Mr.Brownstone, became Rock anthems, even if the band itself never recorded anything worth mentioning afterwards.
# 3 – The Black Crowes – Shake Your Money Maker
What happen if you put the best bits of Led Zeppelin, The Faces and The Rolling Stones together? The Black Crowes and this masterpiece in 70’s Rock. The whole band is firing on all cylinders but Chris Robinson is just an unbelievable singer. He really channels his inners Stewart and Plant and come out with something wonderful.
The wonderful ballad She Talks to Angels, the rockers Jealous Again and Stare it Cold and a memorable rendition of Otis Redding’s Hard To Handle are just a few highlights of a triumphant album.
# 2 – Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
What can I say? The record that gave birth to Heavy Metal? No, this record gave birth to every style of Metal you can imagine. Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal, Death Metal, Doom Metal, Gothic Metal, etc. They all drank from Sabbath’s debut album well.
Actually, they didn’t drink from the album they drank from the single chord that opens the album, its title-track. Nobody had ever heard nothing like that at that time and coupled with bells, rain, thunder and Ozzy’s sorrowful vocals, this one could really scare some parents and grandparents.
And there are other great moments in there: N.I.B., Behind The Wall Of Sleep, The Wizard. Not to mention the slightly scary witch on the cover.
# 1 – Van Halen – Van Halen
Of all the records that I wrote about it here, none brings virtuosity, songwriting and innovation like the Van Halen debut.
When Eruption, uh, erupted (pun totally intended) from the speakers into the unsuspecting ears of the listeners, everybody asked: “Who the hell is this guy?” The answer was Eddie Van Halen, probably the greatest of all time.
Nobody quite understood what he was doing to the guitar, a feeling that some people had had more than a decade ago when they heard Jimi Hendrix for the first time.
But Van Halen’s debut didn’t rely only on guitar pyrotechnics, it had the songs to back it up with great backing vocals, wonderful drumming and the singer. Dave Lee Roth was never brilliant, but nobody could sing those tunes like he could. Real odes to partying, drinking and screwing.
Runnin’ With The Devil, Eruption, Ice Cream Man, I’m The One, Janie’s Crying and a killer cover of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me, are responsible to make this the greatest debut ever.
Listening: Hail Of Bullets – The Rommel Chronicles
Tedeschi Trucks Band – Made Up Mind
Steve Stevens – Atomic Playboys
Heart – Private Audition
Chariot – Burning Ambition
Watching: Rock Of Ages (movie)
Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal”.
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