A while back I tried to come up with my top 50 albums of all time. One rule was that I couldn't pick more than one album by any band. Here are my top 10 albums from that list. I'll add comments later.
1) The Kinks THE VILLAGE GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY - Ray Davies is my favorite lyricist and this is my favorite Kinks' album. Almost every song is outstanding. My favorite track is "Big Sky." Davies perfectly conveys the sense that he's out of step with contemporary times (something many of us can relate to). Other essential Kinks' albums are: ARTHUR, SOMETHING ELSE, FACE TO FACE and MUSWELL HILLBILLIES.
2) The Beach Boys PET SOUNDS - Brian Wilson's masterpiece. My favorite track is "God Only Knows" - but I've heard it seven million times. According to my girlfriend it's a cursed wedding song (so be careful). Other essential Beach Boys' albums (get the two-fers on CD) are: SUNFLOWER/SURF'S UP, SMILEY SMILE/WILD HONEY, TODAY!/SUMMER DAYS (AND SUMMER NIGHTS!), FRIENDS/20/20.
3) The Beatles REVOLVER - I love the mid-period Beatles stuff the most. On this album you get George experimenting with Indian music, Lennon getting a little weirder, Ringo being goofy and super solid Paul. Impossible to pick a favorite track (anything but "Yellow Submarine"). Ranking my other favorite Beatles' albums would look something like this: RUBBER SOUL, ABBEY ROAD, HELP!, WHITE ALBUM, SGT. PEPPERS, etc....
4) Neil Young AFTER THE GOLD RUSH - I love Neil's singer/songwriter albums more than his rockin' Crazy Horse stuff. There's so many good love songs on this one - "Birds" is one of the best breakup songs ever. Other key Neil Young albums are: COMES A TIME, ZUMA, HARVEST, TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT, ON THE BEACH, etc....
5) The Rolling Stones BEGGARS BANQUET - Back to their Blues roots. The key song for me is still, "Sympathy for the Devil." Other key Stones' albums: EXILE ON MAIN STREET, STICKY FINGERS, LET IT BLEED, BETWEEN THE BUTTONS, SOME GIRLS, etc.....
6) Love FOREVER CHANGES - This blog is named after the last song on this record. Each time I listen to it new things stand out. It's is a middle finger to San Francisco's tie-dyed hippies and the summer of love. "Alone Again Or" is my favorite track. Wes Anderson used it quite well in BOTTLE ROCKET. Also get your hands on the albums: DA CAPO and LOVE.
7) Big Star #1 RECORD/RADIO CITY - This is actually two albums, but since i've only owned the CD two-fer I've always thought of them together. #1 RECORD is the first 12 tracks and features songwriter Chris Bell. The last 12 tracks are RADIO CITY and don't feature Bell as a songwriter. This is the first album on this list with a few lesser tracks, but the standouts are so stellar that it still made it. Great power pop and nice acoustic ballads. The best track might be "Thirteen" or it might be "Septembur Girls."
8) The Zombies ODESSEY & ORACLE - This album always puts a smile on my face. I like all the tracks but usually skip over the most famous, "Time of the Season" (feels dated and there's just too much baggage with it). "This Will Be Our Year" is a standout. Also pick up one of their singles compilations like SINGLES A'S AND B'S.
9) The Byrds SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO - This album is kind of a cheat because it gave me the chance to put both the Byrds and Gram Parsons on the list. More covers than any of the other albums on this list. My favorite track is "Hickory Wind." Other great Byrds' albums are: YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY, THE NOTORIOUS BYRD BROTHERS and the Gene Clark tracks on the first two albums. Other Gram Parsons-related records to pick up are the Flying Burrito Brothers two-fer GILDED PALACE OF SIN/BURRITO DELUXE and the Gram Parsons two-fer G.P./Grievous Angel.
10) Nick Drake PINK MOON - Beautiful singer-songwriter album. Solid all the way through, but if I had to choose I'd say "Which Will" is my favorite track. I'd buy this album first then FIVE LEAVES LEFT then BRYTER LAYTER and if you want even more TIME OF NO REPLY.