If you feel the need to expose a high schooler to some real music or, if you want to give that fifty something on your list a blast from the past, consider these stone age classics that just get better as time goes by.
The Beatles White Album – The band was starting to fall apart, the drugs were starting to get to John Lennon and all the boys in the band were trying to cope with the incredible ride that took them from a Liverpool bar band to four of the most famous people in the world in less than ten years; no wonder they broke up. The White Album is a document of the band in yet another transition; they were starting to despise each other but they could still make some great music when they tried. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” shows what a great songwriter George Harrison was; it’s a shame he didn’t get more exposure throughout the band’s history.
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin – Quite a collection of songs for a group’s debut album, from hard hitting in your face rock to classical to experimental, the album gives a true taste of things to come for this talented group of four. Jimmy Page gets a lot of attention for his guitar and the band was his idea but, the mixture of all four really put them on the top shelf of rock bands. They were known for their hard partying ways back in the day, but those crazy days are long gone now leaving the music that still stands strong.
Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here – Dark Side of the Moon gets all the attention but, I’ve always felt Wish You Were Here was the band’s most mature and cohesive work. “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is a spot on and thoughtful ode to former bandmate Syd Barrett, “Welcome to the Machine” is tinged with Orwellian paranoia, ” Have A Cigar” is the best send up of the music biz ever written and “Wish You Were Here” has those vocal and musical hooks that just won’t get out of your head.
The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street – The Stones are known more as a live band and most people never really pick up on the nuances that made them one of the best recording artists to ever roll down the pike. This album is a showcase for the band’s versatilty, they go from fast paced rock to country to soul to the blues without setting a foot wrong. Mick Jagger wrote some of the best lyrics you’ll ever hear during this period and the combination of Mick Taylor and Keith Richards’ guitar playing is something to be savored.
The Who, Who’s Next – Perhaps the half of the band that’s left has gone to the well one time too many, but they were one of the best rock acts to ever grace an arena stage. They did indeed put on a great show but, once again, their abilities in the recording studio were nothing to sneeze at. There’s the FM rock standards, “Baba O’Riley”, “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, plus the more nuanced “Getting In Tune”, “Going Mobile” and “Bargain” that really puts this one in the classics category while it shows Pete Townsend’s mastery as a songwriter, arranger and his uniqui guitar style.