What makes a classic album? Have you ever asked yourself that. Obviously like favorite jelly bean colors, everyone has favorite albums that they think truly are classic. But the question remains, what is a classic album? Is there a criteria? Perhaps within the next few lines I'll create one.
First, the level of fame by an artist has nothing to do with whether or not an album is classic. Some of the greatest artists in the history of the genre have never produced what could top to bottom be called a classic. Chuck Berry wrote classic songs. Elvis sold billions of records. In either case, however, can you name an album they produced that is a classic? Though both may well be ranked among the all time greats of rock and roll, neither ever produced an album worthy of such nomenclature. There are many others, of course, in this same vein from all eras.
For me, it's very difficult to draw the line between great and classic. But I think the concept comes down to the exact combining of elements that create greatness. It isn't a great song necessarily. It is not always the existence of even the most popular song by a band. It is just the combination of all the elements and how the conspire to create a classic. For example, the Beatles produced nothing but classics in the eyes of many. Yet when push comes to shove, Sgt. Pepper time and again is the one people point to as a "game changer" in rock and roll. The reason isn't because it had one of their biggest hits on it. In fact, top to bottom it actually is devoid of a massive hit. Yes, it does have "With a Little Help..." and "A Day in the Life" as well as many other wonderful songs. But does it compare to the hit parade they produced in the early part of their career?
I think there is a moment in time when bands reach their pinnacle. Most may not even realize it. I suspect few do. But artists and bands will at some point have just the right players, just the right combination of producer, muisicians, singers, songs, etc..., that make for a classic album. Many, as I'm sure you know, are initial offerings from bands like the debuts by Boston, Van Halen and The Doors to name but a few. The reason for this is simple actually. They worked on the songs for years in front of audiences honing them to a point where they truly had the best collection they could piece together. Most albums are written in the course of a few months. First albums by bands are often written over a period of years. Bands routinely have far more songs read to record for that album than they do for all the others that follow combined. Why do you think George Harrison's first solo album, "All Things Must Pass" is a "triple album"? In the day, such releases were unheard of. But George had so much material from having been shut out from composing for the most part with the Beatles, that he put all of his work on his first solo album. Arguably, the album is his greatest. I'm not going to argue the point here. But the bottom line is, the album is a classic.
And so over the next few weeks, we will look at some of the classic albums of the rock and roll genre. Let's see if you agree with my choices.