Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The 1980s: 25 of the Best Debut Albums

Some amazing artists began their career in the 1980s. While some developed stronger albums as their career progressed, others created masterpieces - straight out of the gate. I always find it fascinating how a band/album can mean so much to one person, but nothing to another. For that reason I've encouraged some of my readers and friends to contribute their Top 5 picks for comparison. This list was insanely difficult to compile. I found that ranking them changed on a daily basis - so what is presented to you today is a snapshot in time, and by no means fixed in stone.

I encourage you to leave your Top 5 list in the comments section at the bottom of the page, or you can always interact with me and my readers over at the Life On This Planet Facebook Page. Please keep in mind that for this list, EPs (such as Come On Pilgrim, Chronic Town) weren't counted as a debut album, except for the instance where the band didn't ever release anything else. Okay, I think that about covers it. 

* If you would like to purchase any of the albums on my list, click here.



25.  Steve Vai - Flex-Able 
Released in January 1984 
Produced by Steve Vai 
Key Tracks:  Salamanders In The Sun, Call It Sleep, Junkie 
How it ranks with the rest of his catalog:  It may seem odd that I'm including a Steve Vai record on my list, but this album is a big part of my youth. My brother bought it on vinyl back in the day, and it's such a fun, out-there record. Passion And Warfare was the more polished, popular followup, but Flex-Able is definitely my favorite Vai recording. 

24.  Beastie Boys - Licensed To Ill
Released on November 15, 1986
Produced by Rick Rubin, Beastie Boys
Key Tracks:  Brass Monkey, Fight For Your Right, No Sleep Till Brooklyn, Girls
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  Listening to this in the car last week, I was so amazed by how cutting edge it was for 1986. So clever, witty and down right fun, the Beastie's debut is a classic. Over the years, they've continued to release some rad albums. Sadly as I type this, Adam Yauch aka MCA has passed away today at the age of 47. RIP.

23.  Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood 
Released on June 13, 1983 
Produced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Richard Mullen 
Key Tracks:  Lenny, Pride And Joy, Mary Had A Little Lamb 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  SRV started his recording career strong on Texas Flood, never sacrificing the quality of his writing, and musicianship up until his premature death in 1990. Even his posthumous release, The Sky Is Crying, was stellar. 

22.  Sinéad O'Connor - The Lion And The Cobra
Released on November 04, 1987
Produced by Sinéad O'Connor, Kevin Moloney
Key Tracks:  Mandinka, Jerusalem, Jackie
How it ranks with the rest of her catalog:  A stunning debut that introduced the world to her amazing voice. I am a fan of O'Connor's entire catalog, but for a favorite... I would go with her second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got. Favorite song by her: 'Black Boys On Mopeds.'

21.  The Church - Of Skins And Heart 
Released on April 13, 1981
Produced by Chris Gilbey, Bob Clearmountain 
Key Tracks:  The Unguarded Moment, Is This Where You Live, Bel-Air 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  The Church has managed to continuously release quality LPs through the years. Of Skins And Heart is a remarkable debut, but Heyday, Seance and Starfish are my three faves. P.S. Since there are many editions of this LP, my key tracks are ones that appear on all of them. :) 

20.  Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine 
Released on October 20, 1989 
Produced by Trent Reznor, Flood 
Key Tracks:  Head Like A Hole, Ringfinger, Down In It 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog: This was my first exposure to NIN back when it was originally released. While I have all of their albums, I can't say that I am super familiar with all of the intricacies of their catalog. This was a hell-of-a debut record and still holds up well. 

19.  The Jesus And Mary Chain - Psychocandy
Released on November 01, 1985
Produced by The Jesus And Mary Chain
Key Tracks: Just Like Honey, Cut Dead, Never Understand
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  'Just Like Honey' kicks off the album with total brilliance. Amidst all of the noise and chaos, the Reid brothers always pack each tune with a catchy melody. In picking a favorite by the JAMC, I'd go with their sophomore LP Darklands.

18.  Steve Earle - Guitar Town 
Released on March 05, 1986 
Produced by Emory Gordy Jr, Tony Brown 
Key Tracks:  Someday, Fearless Heart, Guitar Town 
How it ranks with the rest of his catalog:  Although Steve Earle had been performing and recording since the 70s, he didn't make his debut album until 1986's Guitar Town. His body of work crosses many genres, and this seems to be the one that I always go back to. 

17.  Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard Of Ozz 
Released on September 20, 1980 
Produced by Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads, Bob Daisley, Lee Kerslake 
Key Tracks:  Goodbye To Romance, Crazy Train, Suicide Solution 
How it ranks with the rest of his catalog:  The first and absolute best solo LP from Ozzy. Two words: Randy Rhoads. The young guitar player only played on one more studio album with Ozzy, before dying in a tragic accident. 

16.  Love And Rockets - Seventh Dream Of Teenage Heaven 
Released on October 11, 1985 
Produced by John A. Rivers, Love And Rockets 
Key Tracks:  Saudade, Haunted When The Minutes Drag, If There's A Heaven Above 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  Love And Rockets started with a bang, and their debut album was the first in a string of four really strong records that ended with their self-titled LP in 1989. 

15.  Peter Murphy - Should The World Fail To Fall Apart
Released in July 1986
Produced by Ivo Watts-Russell, Peter Murphy, Howard Hughes
Key Tracks:  God Sends, Canvas Beauty, Final Solution
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  After Bauhaus ended, PM released an EP - with Japan's Mick Karn - as Dalis Car, before recording his solo debut. Although the production is a bit dated, STWFTFA is a remarkable beginning to a majestic solo career. Just listen to 'God Sends' - brilliant. Most will cite Deep as their favorite of Murphy's solo LPs, but for me it doesn't get any better than 1995's Cascade.

14.  Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction 
Released on July 21, 1987 
Produced by Mike Clink 
Key Tracks:  Sweet Child O' Mine, Welcome To The Jungle, Paradise City 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  It's hard to believe that this record is now 25 years old! The Use Your Illusion LPs, which followed Appetite, had some real gems, but I think their debut stands at the top. 

13.  Christian Death - Only Theatre Of Pain 
Released on March 1982 
Produced by Thom Wilson and Christian Death
Key Tracks:  Romeo's Distress, Cavity, Spiritual Cramp
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  Singer Rozz Williams was just 18 years old when their debut LP was released. The lineup present on OTOP never made another album together, however Rozz returned two years later with a brand new band and their absolute best record, Catastrophe Ballet

12.  Metallica - Kill 'Em All 
Released on July 25, 1983 
Produced by Paul Curcio, Jon Zazula 
Key Tracks:  Seek And Destroy, The Four Horsemen, Hit The Lights 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  Although it's a solid debut, it doesn't get much better than Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets for Metallica. But man, it's a killer first record. 

11.  Pixies - Surfer Rosa 
Released on March 21, 1988 
Produced by Steve Albini 
Key Tracks:  Where Is My Mind?, Gigantic, Break My Body, Bone Machine 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  First off, you may be thinking 'Come On Pilgrim is their debut!' - however, I'm going with the widely accepted status that Pilgrim was a mini-album or EP. For me, Doolittle is the best Pixies LP, though many will say it's Surfer Rosa

10.  The Stone Roses
Released in March 1989 
Produced by John Leckie 
Key Tracks:  Made Of Stone, Waterfall, I Wanna Be Adored 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  Well, since they only made two proper LPs, this is without a doubt the pinnacle of The Roses' short recording career. It took 5 years for a followup, and then the band was done. 

09.  The Psychedelic Furs
Released on March 07, 1980
Produced by Steve Lillywhite (with some tracks on the US version by Martin Hannett)
Key Tracks:  Imitation Of Christ, Sister Europe, India
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  Dark and experimental their debut was, but the band hit their pop stride with 1983's Mirror Moves, but the rawness of their debut is one of their best.

08.  Nirvana - Bleach 
Released on June 15, 1989 
Produced by Jack Endino 
Key Tracks:  Negative Creep, Blew, School 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  Sludgy and raw, such a rad debut. Of course, Nevermind was their huge success, but this is the first album I put on when I have the need for some Nirvana. 

07.  Morrissey - Viva Hate 
Released on March 14, 1988 
Produced by Stephen Street 
Key Tracks:  Late Night Maudlin Street, Suedehead, Everyday Is Like Sunday 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  Morrissey has released several great albums in his solo career, and his debut is definitely a high point. This album contains 'Late Night, Maudlin Street' - my absolute favorite Moz solo piece. 

06.  R.E.M. - Murmur 
Released on April 13, 1983 
Produced by Don Dixon and Mitch Easter 
Key Tracks:  Talk About The Passion, Sitting Still, Perfect Circle 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  Hmm... This is a tough one. I'm going to say that Murmur, and its followup - Reckoning - are the two absolute best records from R.E.M. 

05.  Bauhaus - In The Flat Field 
Released on October 1, 1980 
Produced by Bauhaus 
Key Tracks:  Double Dare, In The Flat Field, Nerves 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  There is not a bad album in the Bauhaus canon. The guys were experimental from the get-go, and grew with each subsequent release. I even dig their 'reunited' album, 2008's Go Away White.

04.  The Smiths
Released on February 20, 1984 
Produced by John Porter, The Smiths 
Key Tracks:  Suffer Little Children, Reel Around The Fountain, Hand In Glove 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  Every record by The Smiths is a gem, but The Queen Is Dead is by far my favorite. 'Suffer Little Children' - my pick for the best Smiths' song - is on this album.

03.  Psi Com
Released in July 1985
Produced by Psi Com, Ethan James
Key Tracks:  Human Condition, City Of 9 Gates, Xiola, Ho Ka Hey, Winds
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  Normally I wouldn't consider a 5-song EP to be a band's debut album, but since Psi Com ceased to exist after this, there never was a full-length album - therefore it would be totally unfair to leave these 30 minutes of brilliance off of the list. Psi Com was Perry Farrell (vocals), Aaron Sherer (drums), Vince Duran (guitar) and Kelly Wheeler (bass). Do yourself a favor and buy this one.

02.  U2 - Boy
Released on October 20, 1980
Produced by Steve Lillywhite 
Key Tracks:  I Will Follow, Out Of Control, The Electric Co., An Cat Dubh 
How it ranks with the rest of their catalog:  The first 3 U2 records mark the first chapter in their career. While most cite War as their favorite of the three, I'm always quick to go with Boy. It has so much youthful energy, a great guitar tone and is pretty damn rad for a first record. 

01.  Jane's Addiction
Released on May 15, 1987
Produced by Mark Linett, Jane's Addiction
Key Tracks:  My Time, I Would For You, 1%, Whores, Trip Away, etc.
Why It's The Best Debut Album Of The 1980s:  Jane's Addiction represented the absolute best qualities in rock music that came out in the 1980s - they were unique and dangerous. With the start of Stephen Perkin's drum fill on the beginning of 'Trip Away,' the Triple X album - as my brother and I have always called it - immediately takes me back to when I first heard it... back when some bands were shrouded in mystery, and the internet wasn't there to give us all of the answers. I've listened to this album hundreds of times - it is, without a doubt, the best debut album of the 1980s.

Let's hear from some of my readers and friends... 

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Cyrus Christian
Orange County, CA

05.  The Pretenders
04.  REM - Murmur
03.  Pixies - Surfer Rosa
02.  The Stone Roses
01.  The Chameleons UK - Script Of The Bridge

"Personal obscure favorite... influenced everyone, but no one will admit it!"

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Thom Gabaldon
Phoenix, AZ

05.  Altered Images - Happy Birthday
04.  U2 - Boy
03.  Big Country - The Crossing
02.  Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
01.  Laurie Anderson - Big Science

"Not only was she "weird," what she did for weird was nothing short of astonishing; she took avant to the mainstream...she made pop avant and yet though rounding some of the edges of avant garde made it accessible for pop audiences without really diluting the stranger, more daring elements...not only in this, but by being one of the few artists who was successful in tying the very pretentious world of art to the very open world of music...most before her (stockhausen, glass, even zappa to a certain extent) tried to keep the rough, odd signatures of their craft and therefore only "artists" were able to "grasp" what they were trying to accomplish...laurie knew that musicians were also called "artists" and that music is an art form...people to this day still have this separate idea of the two and that is their detriment....laurie bridged it and thus not only creating a fantastic debut, but with her vocal, poetic imagery, with her musical daring, with her artists eye and musicians ear, created one of the most endearing albums of all time"

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Joseph Russomanno
Chandler, AZ

05.  Duran Duran
04.  Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction
03.  REM - Murmur
02.  U2 - Boy
01.  Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - Texas Flood

"Every song is a gem, including “Love Struck Baby,” "Pride and Joy” and “Lenny.” The genius and style that would follow were already on clear display."

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Bart Helm (Audra)
Mesa, AZ

05.  Metallica - Kill 'Em All
04.  Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood
03.  Psi Com
02.  Toasters - Skaboom!
01.  Jane's Addiction

"Great lyrics. Energetic. Great album."

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Mark Heaton
Detroit, MI

5.5  The The - Soul Mining
5.5  Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine
04.  Lords of the New Church - Lords of the New Church
03.  Tears for Fears - The Hurting
02.  This Mortal Coil - It'll End In Tears
01.  The Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy

"With a combo of the Velvets and 50's and 60's doowop, it knocked me out. One of the greatest albums ever."

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Lew Breeze
San Diego, CA

05.  The Psychedelic Furs
04.  Ultravox - Vienna (I suggest this as a debut, as it was Midge Ure's debut with the band)
03.  Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Welcome To The Pleasuredome
02.  Pet Shop Boys - Please
01.  Peter Murphy - Should The World Fail To Fall Apart

"Obviously a “top” album should be something you still listen to often, which I do the most with this one. Don’t know what else to say about it, other than it’s an excellent album! I can’t say it got me into Peter Murphy, because I only discovered this one after Love Hysteria. If I were more into Bauhaus at the time, I may have discovered STWFTFA first, but it didn’t work out that way."

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William Kilby
Los Angeles, CA

05. New Order - Movement
04. Duran Duran
03. Peter Murphy - Should The World Fail To Fall Apart
02. Oingo Boingo - Only A Lad
01. The Smiths

"I think the Smiths debut belongs on the top because it was a sign of great things to come. It was a pretty dark album too with songs like 'The Hand That Rocks The Cradle' and 'Suffer Little Children' but what really shines is Morrissey's lyrics. People call The Smiths depressing but I see them as more emotional. There's a certain rawness in this recording and it's the rawness of the recording which makes you focus your attention on the lyrics more. Johnny Marr is also one of the best guitarists ever, you can see the influence from bands like REM too. It's a great album overall."

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