Monday, February 28, 2011





At long last, the moment has come to unveil my list of debut albums. The SUPER 8, as it were. When putting this list together, I really tried to evaluate the debut album as a piece of work, regardless of where the artist ranked among my favorites. Frequent visitors to my blogs may be stunned to see that Todd Rundgren is absent, but the truth is, his solo debut (as well as the Nazz and Utopia debuts) were not as solid as the eight here.

So without further rambling, let's get to the music!

PLEASE NOTE: The album covers and the quoted song lyrics link to a sound byte for one of the songs on each album.

In descending order, here are my picks for the best eight debut albums!


Is there anyone between the ages of 45 and 50 who has not done a duet to “Paradise By The Dashboard Light?” Heck, in my high school and college years, that was so ingrained in the courtship ritual, it was practically foreplay.

Normally, the production, guitars and background vocals by a certain Todd Rundgren would make this my number one debut, but between 1977 and 2011, a funny thing happened.

I got old.

And these song lyrics just do not hold up that well after all this time.

“It was a hot summer night and the beach was burning
There was fog crawling over the sand”

Don’t get me wrong-Steinman is a master at making a cliché a song, and paints some powerful images. As masterful as the music is on this debut, the lyrics simply do not hold a candle to some of my other choices, even those from the same era (compare to Rickie Lee Jones, for example).


Although Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys get credit for inventing the “punk” Irish sound, people seem to forget that we owe this sound to the Pogues, and it was Black 47 who brought it to America.

Discovered by Ric Ocasek (once and soon-to-be-again of The Cars), the band is still a fixture in NYC after more than twenty years and a dozen albums (a new compilation is released next month).

“Her father said you’ve got two choices:
Castration-or a one-way ticket to New York”

This one is still their best, and I pull it out at least every St. Patrick’s Day. Black 47 and green Guiness-life cannot get much better than that!


You all know Jonathan Edwards. All I’d have to do is play the first song on side two of this album, and you would all say, “Oh that’s who this guy is.”

“Sunshine go away today, don’t feel much like dancing”

As is often the case, the song that got the radio airplay is far from the best song on the album, and this is one folk-ified bluegrassy classic album!

In a perfect world, you’d all own a copy and I wouldn’t have had to say anything. All I can do is say, if you like folk music, go get this while it’s still in print and I promise you you’re going to like it!


The sign in the window of Cherry Hill, NJ’s Compact Disc World read “If Elton John Were A Woman, He Would Have Released “Little Earthquakes.”

Not a huge Elton fan (gay I could overlook, but those friggin sunglasses!), I still thought that was a rather bold statement and bought the album on spec.

“Why do we crucify ourselves, ever day”

Emotionally and musically intense, Little Earthquakes shows that the piano is as much a rock & roll instrument as the guitar. Tori Amos's debut (if one disregards Y Kant Tori Read, a band album well worth disregarding) is at once listenable and challenging.

A child prodigy and minister’s daughter, Tori takes on topics from sex to gender to religion in an uncompromising manner. By the time the album gets around to "Me and a Gun," sung hauntingly by Amos without accompaniment from her piano, the juxtaposition of Amos' sweet voice and the emotional complexity of her lyrics is both familiar and shocking.


They were playing this album in Zia Records in Phoenix, Arizona on one of my last business trips out before accepting a transfer. I bought the CD on the spot, and most people I have played it for have purchased a copy, too.

Born Ted Horowitz, Popa Chubby is a true native son of the Big Apple. He grew up in the neighborhood immortalized in Robert DeNiro's film "A Bronx Tale."

“I was looking back to see
If she was looking back to see
If I was looking back at her”

Don't mistake the rapper looking Chubby on the cover and the word Booty in the title. This is the blues, and in my opinion it still remains the best blues rock album of the 90's. Combine tasty guitar licks, great songwriting, and witty and cutting lyrics, and you have a recipe for true blues rock delight.


It starts with a sunrise, it ends with "one star shining," and in between it is vintage Tom Waits, with waltzes, lullabies, blues, and jazz. Driving songs, drinking songs, and even a country tune (Rosie).

Songs of such quality that they’d be covered by acts such as the Eagles and Hootie And The Blowfish and turned into hits. Even Meat Loaf did a cover of Martha on a late 90’s release.

Here is a line that illustrates why I think this man is pretty much neck and neck with Dylan and Todd Snider:

"Every time I hear that melody, something breaks inside."

Everybody should own this. I have spoken.


The breezy melodies and jazz stylings of Rickie Lee Jones's debut album are usually found in the works of more mature pop artists.

Far more mature a debut than a 23-year-old would be expected to deliver, one must remind one’s self that Jones's perspective was shaped hanging out in mid-1970s Los Angeles with barroom troubadours Tom Waits and Chuck E. Weiss (the same Chuck E. that fueled her Top 10 hit), a pair of mentors that would make for some colorful storytelling, with ballads about automobiles and broken hearts, howling at the moon and the Sinatra-esque "After Hours" with a lonely Jones singing to a lamppost.

Listen to “Saturday Afternoons In 1963” and I dare ya not to get all misty-eyed thinking of that room in the house where you grew up that you felt safe in.

"So hold on to your special friend

Here, you'll need something to keep her in :
'Now you stay inside this foolish grin ... '
Though any day your secrets end
Then again
Years may go by"


As has been discussed elsewhere on this blog, this album gets my vote for the best release of the nineties.

The old cliché is that you have your whole life for your first album, and Snider certainly made use of the time. Similar to Rickie Lee Jones, these songs show a maturity far beyond the young man’s years, as well as giving a glimpse into a rare storytelling talent.

With this release, Todd Snider set a bar for songwriting excellence that has not yet been attained by his competition. If, as Stephen McCarthy and I agree, his peers are Dylan and Waits, even those two giants have not produced an album of this quality in the last two decades.

I won’t rehash my review-you can go read the post if you have your doubts, but you need to add this album to their collection if it’s not already there.

"Tell all these people at the end of the line

Somebody's coming
Tell all these people holding "I'll work for food" signs
Somebody's coming
Somebody's coming that don't need your vote
Gonna rattle your cage and rock your boat"

Thanks again to Stephen T. McCarthy of STUFFS and FFFF for the idea. Thanks also to Arlee Bird of TOSSING IT OUT and ALEX J. CAVANAUGH of his eponymous blog for promoting this exercise.

This was not as easy as I thought it was going to be. First of all, me leaving Rundgren off of a "top" anything list is kind of like breaking all ten commandments at once. Second, a whole slew of debut albums came into consideration.
These are some of the other albums that were considered. This was not as easy an exercise as I thought it was going to be. Here are just some of the other titles that were debated:

Blessid Union Of Souls “Home”
Bodeans “Bodeans”
Elvis Costello “My Aim Is True”
Christopher Cross “Christopher Cross”
Sheryl Crow “Tuesday Night Music Club”
Counting Crows “August And Everything After”
Dire Straits “Dire Straits”
The Doors “The Doors”
Steve Forbert “Alive On Arrival”
Guns ‘N’ Roses “Appetite For Destruction”
The Knack “Get The Knack”
Nils Lofgren “Nils Lofgren”
Lynyrd Skynyrd “Pronounced”
Marillion “Script For A Jester’s Tear”
The Outfield “Play Deep”
Graham Parker “Heat Treatment”
Pearl Jam “Ten”
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers “Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers”
Liz Phair “Exile In Guyville”
The Police “Outlandos d’Amour”
Bruce Springsteen “Greetings From Asbury Park”
Talking Heads “77”
Van Halen “Van Halen”
Weezer “Weezer” (blue)

Thanks to everyone who participated-I promise to visit your lists in the next day or two. Anyone who didn't participate, may I suggest you consider Arlee Bird's Blogging A To Z Challenge in April, co-hosted by many other fine blogs and sure to be a lot of fun.


1. DiscConnected

2. Alex J. Cavanaugh

3. Stephen T. McCarthy STUFFS

4. Arlee Birds Tossing It Out

5. Nicole Ducleroir


7. HalloweenOverkill

8. Kelly Polark

9. welcome to my world of poetry 

10. Love In The Truth

11. Eeleen Lee

12. Sober, Chronic, FABULOUS!

13. el-vox

14. Yellow Matter Custard

15. Dance on Fire

I'd also encourage you to look at some of my older posts to learn about some recent releases and older classic albums that you may be interested in checking out. And I'll have a new album in the spotlight tomorrow!


  1. Thanks for hosting the fest! G'n'R was actually the first album that came to mind when I was selecting discs.

  2. Wow, I'm so impressed you acknowledged Tori in your top 8. She's my all time fave artist.
    I haven't heard any of the other albums you listed... lol... let me climb out from under my rock now.... :)

    This was fun!

  3. I did not know a few of yours but that's understandable living across the big pond but I simply adore Bat Out Of Hell by Meatloaf,
    it brings back memories when my family were still at home and my eldest used to play it continuially. Thanks for the memory , I enjoyed taking part but I expect no-one has heard any of mine, usual. but it's the taking part that counts.


  4. Classic choices here that did not surprise me too much since I had read previously what you had thought of these.
    I used to be a big "Black 47" fan. Even went to see them at the HOUSE OF BLUES in Hollywood. They were excellent.
    I concur on "Jonathan Edwards" even though I haven't heard that album in nearly 40 years. But I remember listen to and liking it a lot.

    Maybe I need to pull out that "Tori Amos" album again as I have it in my "don't care for too much" stack of CDs. I didn't dislike it, but it was not one that particularly grabbed me.

    Enjoyed the Super 8, but I guess I would have felt better about having a choice of 20.

    Tossing It Out

  5. Man you have some great selections and mentions here. Rikki Lee, saw her a couple of years ago in a small bar! Wishing now I had signed up fot this, next time dude :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  6. Thanks so much for hosting this blogfest! I love music!
    I don't recognize some names on your list, but love discovering new bands so will check them out. I love "Paradise by the Dashboard Light". And the Doors album almost made my list too!

  7. Great list! Many of your picks are unknown to me, but my interest is piqued thanks to your discussions of each. How did I not put Meatloaf on my list?? Awesome album, for sure.

    Thanks so much for hosting this blogfest. I'm enjoying it!

  8. Unfortunately I couldn't get the linky tool to work for me. I'm new to blogging (and sort of a computer dummy--so a lot of that tech stuff flies under my radar), but I did participate anyway. I'd agree with your pick on Ricky Lee Jones, I think I listen to her album, Flying Cowboys, a bit more however. But yes, her debut is a mature effort beyond her years. Some of your picks I don't have so it gives me a chance to pick up something new ;), and some I've never heard of, and discovery is part of the fun. Great list, I'm anxious to see what others have picked.

  9. Thanks all for the comments and participating. I'll be making my way to your lists over the next day or two (hard to spend too much time blogging while in the office).

    PK & Lee-"Little Earthquakes" floored me when I listened to it, and I bought it without hearing a note-just based on that promo poster comment. Seeing her live with just a piano was also incredible.

    Yvonne, Kelly & Nicole- "Bat Out Of Hell" was the closest I could get to having Todd Rundgren on my list (he produced it, sang and played on it) but it really was something I listened to regularly for a long time.

    Jules & El Vox-I think if there were no Rickie Lee Jones, Tori Amos might not have gotten her shot, and they both probably owe a debt to Patti Smith for making unconventional song structures marketable.

    Alex- G 'N' R certainly made an impact on two decades with that strong debut. Weaning the list down to eight was tough!


  10. Awesome list! Love the inclusion of Tori and Tom Waits, he made my honorable mention. Haven't heard of some of the other artists, I'll have to give them a try.

  11. DISCDUDE ~
    I am totally - TOTALLY! - stunned not to find Todd Rugrat and Utopia on this list! But I applaud your objectivity.

    >>.....If Elton John Were A Woman, He Would Have Released “Little Earthquakes.”

    You mean he's not?! Hmmm... and here I've been convinced for years that he was Janet Napolitano in big glasses!

    Man, Todd Snider absolutely nailed the stuffs down with these verses:

    Somebody's coming who's been here before / If you think you're outta chances, well you've got one more / 'Cause Somebody's coming that's gonna change everything

    Somebody's coming that don't need your vote / Gonna rattle your cage and rock your boat / Somebody's coming like a thief in the night / Gonna stand by his people when we're too weak to fight

    I gotta publicly thank you again for the introduction to Todd. That was an A-1 move on your part!

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  12. Uh, oh. Can't find the linky list of participants. Is it just me??

  13. A couple people have mentioned that the link list is gone. Odd-I see it. Maybe in my unfamiliarity I messed up the set up. In retrospect, I wish I'd left it open to new entrants through today.


  14. As far as I know, any Meat Loaf album that does not contain Steinman-written songs is not worth listening to. I was just about to ask where the Rundgren was, but see you managed to sneak him it with his work on "Bat"!! Lol!
    I really like Tori Amos, but want to love her more than I do. Perhaps it's time I gave her another chance to suck me in?
    I'm gonna' have to look into Ricki Lee Jones. I must admit to you that I am unfamiliar.
    Thanks for inviting me to the blogfest.


  15. James-

    The Loaf albums without Steinman had moments but were hit and miss. They struck gold on the two "Bat" efforts with all the same players (Steinman songs and Rundgren producing).

    If you are a fan if these two albums, Steinman produced a girl group called Pandora's Box ("Original Sin") in the early 90's that was as good as either "Bat" album. And there was also a Steinman solo album, "Bad For Good" that was pretty good as well.

    Thanks again for joining the blog hop!


  16. Popa Chubby--yeah, he totally looks like a rapper, which I would have overlooked. One of the things I miss about the Mom & Pop concrete record stores is that actually played new releases as they'd come in that week and stuff, allowing the customers to discover new music as they shopped. Those were the days.

  17. What an interesting and amazingly cool list. I'm sorry I was not able to participate. Tom Petty, Pearl Jam and G'n'R would be on a list from me. Also the Grateful Dead's The Grateful Dead.

  18. Melissa-

    I'm sorry-I thought I had responded to your comment. I'd still be interested in your list if you want to leave it as a comment (or post to your site and I'll add a link to it here).