After a glorious first album, pressure is always on for a band to top their debut with an even stronger second album. Often bands fail and we have what is called in the music industry - The Sophomore Slump. Someone once said that a band has their entire lifetime to write their first album, and only six months to write their second. Let's have a look at some second albums that are among the best. The following list is in a loose order, so when I look at this a week from now, most likely I'll want to shift things around. :) I put exact release dates for some of the debut albums so that you can see how quickly some of the older bands actually put out their second album.
20. Radiohead - The Bends
Release Date. March 13, 1995
Notes. The Bends definitely surpassed their debut. A really fine second album, setting the stage for 1997's OK Computer.
Key Tracks. Fake Plastic Trees, High And Dry, My Iron Lung
19. Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure
Release Date. March 23, 1973
Preceded by. Roxy Music (1972)
Notes. The last Roxy Music album to feature Brian Eno. The first two have always been my favorites.
Key Tracks. Do The Strand, In Every Dream Home A Heartache, For Your Pleasure
18. Pixies - Doolittle
Release Date. April 18, 1989
Preceded by. Surfer Rosa (1988)
Notes. An excellent followup to the wonderful Surfer Rosa.
Key Tracks. Debaser, Wave Of Mutilation, Here Comes Your Man
17. Big Star - Radio City
Release Date. February 1974
Preceded by. #1 Record (1972)
Notes. Classic. R.I.P. Alex Chilton.
Key Tracks. Back Of A Car, September Gurls, I'm In Love With A Girl
16. Christian Death - Catastrophe Ballet
Release Date. 1984
Preceded by. Only Theatre Of Pain (1982)
Notes. A whole new band accompanied Rozz Williams for this dreamy second album. Rozz's vocal delivery matured for what is my favorite album with his name on it.
Key Tracks. Evening Falls, The Drowning, The Blue Hour
15. David Bowie - Space Oddity
Release Date. November 7, 1969
Preceded by. David Bowie (1967)
Notes. Most people think of this as his debut album, but his true debut occurred in 1967 with his quirky self-titled record.
Key Tracks. Cygnet Committee, Letter To Hermione, Space Oddity
14. U2 - October
Release Date. October 12, 1981
Preceded by. Boy (1980)
Notes. A lot of people will disagree with me on this one, however I've always loved October. While not as strong as Boy, it's a complex album and worth it to those that give it the required attention it deserves.
Key Tracks. Gloria, October, Scarlet
13. Nirvana - Nevermind
12. Iggy Pop - Lust For Life
Release Date. August 29, 1977
Preceded by. The Idiot (March 18, 1977)
Key Tracks. Neighborhood Threat, Some Weird Sin, Lust For Life, The Passenger
11. The Smiths - Meat Is Murder
Release Date. February 14, 1985
Preceded by. The Smiths (1984)
Notes. Any album by The Smiths is great. Oh yeah, How Soon Is Now is on this album too. :)
Key Tracks. That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, Well I Wonder, Meat Is Murder
10. R.E.M. - Reckoning
Release Date. April 9, 1984
Preceded by. Murmur (1983)
Notes. A brilliant followup to their debut. Out of all of the R.E.M. records, this is probably the one that hits my turntable the most.
Key Tracks. 7 Chinese Bros, So. Central Rain, Harborcoat
09. Black Sabbath - Paranoid
Release Date. September 18, 1970
Preceded by. Black Sabbath (February 13, 1970)
Notes. Recorded in just 6 days. Classic.
Key Tracks. Paranoid, Planet Caravan, Electric Funeral, Iron Man
08. Oasis - (What's The Story) Morning Glory?
Release Date. October 2, 1995
Preceded by. Definitely Maybe (1994)
Notes. This album was huge. Great songwriting. Period.
Key Tracks. Wonderwall, Don't Look Back In Anger, Cast No Shadow
07. Lou Reed - Transformer
Release Date. December 8, 1972
Notes. Produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson. You own this right?
Key Tracks. Walk On The Wild Side, Vicious, Perfect Day, Satellite Of Love
06. The Doors - Strange Days
Release Date. September 25, 1967
Preceded by. The Doors (January 4, 1967)
Notes. Look at the release dates above - 7 months separated the first and second Doors album. Incredible.
Key Tracks. People Are Strange, Strange Days, You're Lost Little Girl
05. Gram Parsons - Grievous Angel
Release Date. January 1974
Preceded by. GP (1973)
Notes. Grievous Angel came out after Gram died in September 1973. Many will disagree, but this is my favorite of his two solo albums.
Key Tracks. Return Of The Grievous Angel, Love Hurts, In My Hour Of Darkness
04. Led Zeppelin - II
Release Date. October 22, 1969
Preceded by. Led Zeppelin (January 12, 1969)
Notes. Wow. I don't know what else to say.
Key Tracks. Ramble On, What Is And What Should Never Be, Thank You
03. Jimi Hendrix Experience - Axis: Bold As Love
Release Date. January 15, 1968
Preceded by. Are You Experienced (1967)
Notes. From the cover art to the guitar playing, just an amazing record.
Key Tracks. Little Wing, Castles Made Of Sand, If 6 Was 9
02. Joy Division - Closer
Release Date. July 18, 1980
Preceded by. Unknown Pleasures (1979)
Notes. Released shortly after the death of Ian Curtis, Closer is an incredible second and final album in the Joy Division legacy.
Key Tracks. Means To An End, Eternal, Decades, Twenty Four Hours, etc.
01. Jane's Addiction - Ritual De Lo Habitual
Release Date. August 21, 1990
Preceded by. Nothing's Shocking (1988)
Notes. I think of the live XXX album as the first, but for the sake of this list, Nothing's Shocking is the first studio album - so Ritual will count as their second.
Key Tracks. Three Days, Then She Did, Classic Girl, etc.
Audra - Going To The Theatre
Release Date: April 23, 2002
Preceded by: Audra (July 11, 2000)
Notes: Cabaret Fortune Teller, which was written in the studio during the Theatre sessions, was almost left off the album in favor of another song. It ended up being a lot of people's favorite song from the album. :)
Key Tracks: Midnight Moon Swing, Cabaret Fortune Teller, There Are No Snakes In Heaven
Other excellent second albums