The Retro Network is presenting another Round Table, where members come together to discuss a common theme. This Round Table features some of our favorite albums. Check out the alumni’s favorite albums, then use the comments section to chime in with your thoughts on their picks, and add your own favorite album and why you picked it.
My pick for favorite album is Operation: Mindcrime from the band Queensryche. Released in May of 1988, the concept album/rock opera about governmental corruption, corporate greed, and revolution, tells the story of Nikki, a drug addict who becomes disillusioned with the corrupt society of his time and reluctantly becomes involved with a revolutionary group as an assassin. The band was hardly the first to tell a complete story with an album – The Who, Pink Floyd, and Rush had all attempted it before- but they were the first popular 80’s metal band to do so. Even before this album, the Bellevue, Washington quintet had been referred to as “the thinking man’s metal band” but Operation: Mindcrime was a quantum leap for them both musically and lyrically. The album was unprecedented at the time and remains thematically relevant three decades later.
I remember the first time I heard anything from the album. My buddy, David, and I were sitting in the Mcdonald’s drive-thru one Friday night (as teenagers were known to do in our little hometown of Bartlesville, Oklahoma) when another kid, John Tackett, nearly jumped through our car window. John was the Eddie Munson (for the uneducated, see Stranger Things) of my day. A totally nice guy but a bit of a loner, a bit of a stoner, and a pure metal head. I owe quite a few first listens to John who was seemingly onto bands and albums before anyone else was. This night was no exception. Hanging halfway into the car and waving a cassette case in our faces, he raved on and on that we needed to listen to this new album from Queensryche. Dave and I both played guitar, were in a band together, and had listened to the band before but probably wouldn’t have counted ourselves as “fans”. That was about to change. We relented and took the tape from John. For the next couple of hours, we drove around listening to the tape, dumbfounded. We had never heard anything like it. After dropping me at my house at the end of the night, Dave apparently went home and listened to it all night. The next morning he called and told me that I need to go buy myself a copy immediately and listen to it. I did and ended up listening to it all that weekend, hearing something new in my headphones every time I replayed it. I was mesmerized. The album is a masterpiece. The production, the execution, the writing, and the performances are all flawless. I still listen to this album AT LEAST a couple of times a month. It never gets old. A couple of years after the album came out, the band embarked on a tour where they performed the album from start to finish with a full-stage production. I’ve never seen anything like that since just as I have never heard anything like this album since.
One of my favorite albums from prior to 2000? Did they make music after 2000? I jest, but actually analyzing my music library, most albums I listen to were from the 60s to the 90s. One I really loved in high school was Led Zepplin IV. I had this on cassette and it got pretty heavy play in my senior year rotation. Where it really got showcased though, was in my old light blue 1981 Chevy Malibu, four-door sedan. Typically when someone from my era talks about driving a Chevy Malibu when they were a teenager, people picture a glorious example of American muscle. That is not in this case, as in the ’80s a Malibu looked more like something that grandma would drive, and indeed, this was given to me by my Grandma Elaine.
This car had a radio that only received an AM mariachi station, no working speedometer, and it smelled of Grandma’s cheap cigarettes. What does this have to do with Led Zepplin IV? Well, lacking any other way to play music in the Big Blue Malibu, I loaded a cassette player up with two pounds of batteries and blasted Zepplin as loud as those low-quality speakers would allow. My car may have been a silver hair deathtrap, but the moment that Black Dog came on, with “Hey hey mama” it all faded away and transformed into the badest ride in town. Cruising down the highway with the speakers straining to overcome the sound of the wind blasting in from my open windows, I was on top of the world.
That car is long gone now, and I drive vehicles with actual built-in working sound systems, but I still throw a copy of IV in on occasion, and when those first notes hit, I’m transported to vinyl seats, stale cigarette smoke, and I’m wearing an 18-year-old’s grin.
Christopher Bailey – the newest addition to The Retro Network and winner of the TRN Summer Camp 2022 writing contest with his entry of Downhill Daredevils.
No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom was released in October of 1995, yet the frequent airplay of several singles makes it feel like I had been listening to it since the end of my senior year of high school earlier that summer.
For some reason, I thought I received it from my best friend as an eighteenth birthday present, but now I’m thinking it must have been either a Christmas gift or for my nineteenth birthday instead.
The front cover of the CD is a nod to late 1940s-50’s pop art, with Stefani posed like a pin-up girl of that era. Instead of wearing pumps with her red tank dress, she’s wearing laced-up red boots. Her bandmates are posed around a decimated orange tree and there are flies and rotting fruit on both the front and back cover.
Karen Flieger – one of the very talented writers here at TRN, and the author of the Toy of the Week ongoing series.
If I had to guess which album I’ve listened to the most (front to back) over the course of my life, it would likely be ‘1984’ by Van Halen. The singles like “Jump”, “Panama”, and “Hot for the Teacher” and their music videos were what connected with me first as a kid. I have vivid memories of hearing “Jump” at our local roller skating rink and trying to jump in the air without falling.
I actually didn’t own the entire album until the late ’80s but it’s been one on constant rotation through this day. Hearing the first track on the album, the synthesized “1984” intro to “Jump”, was really mind blowing. I really enjoyed the new wave artists of the ’80s and the way Van Halen blended keyboards and synth with rock n’ roll was what really drew me in.
And while David Lee Roth gets the spotlight for his vocals, I really think ‘1984’ showcases Michael Anthony and Eddie Van Halen’s backing vocals which really shine on tracks like “Drop Dead Legs” and “I’ll Wait.” But the entire album is so good. I have vivid memories of it being the background music to many Madden Football contests on Sega Genesis at a friend’s house and also blaring it from my first car in the mid ’90s. Now, it’s comfort food for my music soul.
My favorite album of all time is Dr Dre’s 2001 (released in 1999). Although I’m not a fan of today’s Hip Hop, this album hit at the right time for a 15/16 year old trying to “fit in” in high school. Track 4’s Still D.R.E is still one of my fav rap songs of all time.
Forgot About Dre and The Next Episode are also the other top hits on this album.
My best memory of this album was that I got it (along with 6 or 7 other CD albums) for a penny by join in the BMG Music Club. I had no idea how the music club businesss worked at the time but was surprised when weeks later the albums I checked off on the form actually arrived. And how I left BMG unscathed I haven’t a clue because I don’t remember paying for any other CD afterwards!
Chad Droze – TRN VIP
I was a bit of a late bloomer and didn’t really discover or get into Nirvana until 1992. I was quickly a fan and played Nevermind on loop. But even at that, I would consider myself just a casual fan of them. But when Unplugged came along, that changed. While I enjoed their normal hard and dirty sound, Unplugged was different. It was emotional. It was raw.
I’ve probably listened to the album several hunded times, and I still get goosebumps at various points during their performance. Kurt Cobain seemed to bare his soul on the night it was recorded, and just let all of his emotions come out through his guitar and performance. In some ways it can be viewed as a tragic performance, as he took his own life just a few months after the recording. But I’ve always seen the beauty of the music, and felt the magic of the performance, making it just about my favorite album of all-time.
Mickey Yarber – co-founder of The Retro Network, and Content Coordinator.
So there’s some of our favorite albums. Remember to use the comment section below to share your favorite with us.