Ten Most Overrated Albums In Rock
I consciously left the albums listed below off my Top 75 and Album of the Year lists because they don't live up to their reputations. Often the most critically hailed album a band puts out isn't their best. Sometimes critics mistake "innovation" and "historical importance" for the prime value an album should possess, which is simple enjoyment - in some cases even listenability! Here are the, ahem, masterpieces:1. Van Morrison: Astral Weeks(1968)
I've just slayed some sacred cows with this list, and before you flame me, remember this: it's only rock'n'roll. My tastes aren't your tastes, and I've endured ignorant and infuriating reviews of artists and albums I love all my life. Sometimes I actually learn something from those negative reviews. There are no "sacred" works of art beyond criticism - even Shakespeare has his deserved critics (George Bernard Shaw didn't like him, and he wasn't an idiot). What gets overpraised today often gets forgotten by future generations; hopefully the good survives, but we can't guarantee that. All of the albums I listed were albums that were praised to excess, albums that I looked forward with excitement to listening to - and inevitably wound up disappointed with, because they didn't earn (in my ears) that excessive praise. I actually wanted to like these albums, but honestly couldn't, and I felt this needed to be pointed out.
P.S. Looking back at my list, I see that all of the records I've chosen are baby boomer classics from the '60s and '70s. It's not that there aren't plenty of overrated records from my generation - I could have slapped on here half the British bands gracing the cover of the NME (ex: Jesus and Mary Chain's Psychocandy), and far too many flannel-clad American alternaboys who have good taste in music but can't create much of their own (ex: any band who made any record on the SubPop label). It's just that the baby boomers have dominated our culture so long that a lot of mediocre music from the '60s and '70s has been elevated to a canonical status it doesn't deserve, and so I justly took some long overdue potshots at selected examples of it. I doubt any of the music from Generation X will be overrated in the same way, because for various reasons nearly all the great rock'n'roll since the advent of punk/new wave has been underground, or at least on the margins. People gaze fondly back on the '60s because the Beatles and Stones topped the charts; today the Spice Girls and Marilyn Manson do. Which is to say that Top 40 existed in a real sense in the '60s and that really great bands really did get on the radio. Not so now; the best band of '90s is a huge in Halifax, obscure everywhere else outfit called Sloan, and I know there are plenty of great bands in the '90s I might even like better if I had half a chance of ever hearing them. That also goes a long way to explaining why I slighted '90s albums in my Top 80 list - there's as much great music in the '80s and '90s as there was in the '60s and '70s, it's just so much harder to find. Oh, and here's one last rule of thumb: any band or performer who graces the cover of Spin is overrated. Except for that one that dubbed Paul Westerberg "the heart of rock'n'roll" - right on!
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Thank god somebody took out their pistol and shot down albums like Sgt. Pepper, the Band, etc. I enjoyed it. Although, I don't agree with all the bands you verbally destroyed, I admire the fact that you had the guts to do it. Keep up the good work, ol'chap! Oh, and I read your reviews of the Kinks albums, and I think you really should look up Percy. Despite the fact that it's a soundtrack to a bad movie, it's got some great songs on there -- namely Willesden Green, Where Love used to Be (found on the Great Lost Kinks Album), and others.
Just thought I'd pat you on the back for a job well done....______________________________________________________________________________
Drew Sherrick, firstname.lastname@example.org
I found your list of the most overrated albums interesting and actually agreed with more of it than I initially thought I would (in fact, now that I think about it, I have reservations about every album on this list - Including V.U. & Nico, an album which is almost beyond criticism in my eyes). Also, I found your list to be one of the few honest appraisals of most of these albums that I've come across. So, I thought I'd provide you with my own reactions to the list.
1. Van Morrison: Astral Weeks (1968)
2. Beatles: Sgt. Pepper (1967)
3. Rolling Stones: Exile On Main Street (1972)
4. The Who: Tommy (1969)
5. Patti Smith: Horses (1975)
6. Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols (1977)
7. Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)
8. Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
9. The Band (1969)
10. Derek and the Dominoes: Layla (1971)
Wow, I've been rambling. I hope you enjoy my comments on your list and I would like to know what you think. Thanks for your time._________________________________________________________________________________
George Starostin, email@example.com
I was shocked SPEECHLESS by your top 10 overrated albums, as well as by your attitude towards rock music in general. As far as I can tell, you dismiss ALL the so called "prog-rock" bands with a single wave of your hand while at the same time embracing most punk bands just because they're punk. According to you, the words "complex/artsy" and "good/enjoyable" are purely incompatible. Unfortunately, this only suggests that your musical experience is somewhat limited. Anyway, how can any person who says that "he hates opera" (as a GENRE!!!) assume that his opinions on music are to be valued is way beyond me. I am not saying that prog-rock and art-rock embody the best sides of rock music. But I am able to distinguish between GOOD prog-rock/art-rock (late Who, early Jethro Tull and Yes, etc.) and BAD prog-rock/art-rock (Genesis, some King Crimson, etc.) While you, on the other side, just do not take enough time to listen to such kinds of music, preferring to get some ass-kicking out of the banal (and absolutely monotonous) three-chord punk gruffs. Again, I'm not saying that ALL punk is bad - bands like The Clash are quite unique, and, after all, New Wave grew out of it. But, once again, music is divided into GOOD and BAD - it is not divided into COMPLEX (which is BAD for you) and SIMPLE (which is GOOD for you). Let us hope the period of your musical growth is not over yet.
Now, to the "overrated" albums:
"Sergeant Pepper" - yes, it is overrated. It is just another great Beatles' album which came out at the right time. But you overdid the anti-hype. You rate it as significantly lower than the others! That's totally crazy, and you should just cool it. It may not be better, but it is definitely not worse. You like Revolver, and you like Magical Mystery Tour, - this album is a cross between them! Come on now. Cool it down. Just because the critics go nuts over it doesn't mean you have to go nuts over it, too.
"Exile On Main Street" - a little overrated, but not because it's "white boys playing the blues", rather because it's a double album and they didn't have enough material. "Satanic" is certainly underrated, but I start to think it isn't any more.
"Tommy" - your sentence about "opera" is one of the most stupid phrases I've ever read on the Web (and I've read quite a few). Opera is as pretensious as YOU make it, and "Tommy" is certainly not pretentious. Who do you call "ignorant snobs", I wonder... just because you cannot understand art when you see it does not mean that it does not exist. At least, if you cannot understand it, be modest and keep silence instead of looking like a complete idiot. As for "Tommy", it still stands out as the most brilliant and entertaining plot in any rock opera or concept, the music is great (there are more memorable guitar riffs than anywhere else), and it is not pretentious at all. It's HUMBLE. "Who's Next" is pretentious. But yes, "Face Dances" and "The Who Sell Out" are overlooked.
"Velvet Underground & Nico": overrated, but still sounds good enough to me. Don't diss it: it's still a great album.
"Layla": overrated, but once again you cannot appreciate true art when you see it.
Anyway, like you said yourself. Yes, there are no works beyond criticism. But "criticism" and "anti-hype" (which I hate as much as I hate hype) aren't the same thing. Once again - cool it, listen to different types of music, and grow. Overcome yourself. It's just a psychological factor.__________________________________________________________________________________
Grant J. Mosesian, MosesianGJ@ems.com
Sgt. Pepper is an easy shot to take. Ok so it's not the Bible of modern music. But its hype is warranted if put into the context of the times, for two reasons. 1.) There was nothing really like it ever heard. Not as quality anyway. Even down to the blending of songs. And 2.) the countless of horrid attempts at the dreaded "Concept" albums that Pepper invented. Like the record or not but enough bands thought it was cool enough to waste their times trying to reproduce it.
Same goes for Tommy. Corn ball as it can be, lots o' 70's bands tried the old opera gag after it. Lots of times stuff becomes famous for what it spawns. It's the nature of entertainment.
As far as Van Morrison, I'm not sure he even belongs on any kind of list whatsoever. When one of his "songs" comes on the radio I like to dare people to tell me what the lyrics are. No one has won yet.
Every Stones album is overrated. I like the Rolling Stones songs a lot, it is just a shame that they have to be playing them. I'm not sure that their playing skill would get them signed on an Indie label today.
The Talking Heads were a product of their time and would never fly in another period of music. But I guess you can say that of many a band.
Right on about the Velvet Underground and their NYC connects. If they were from Duluth Minnesota, would anyone know their name? I certainly think not.
I couldn't sit through a Sex Pistols album more the twice with a gun to my head. The beginning of punk. Whoopee doo. I wish I knew I could have spit blood, banged on a guitar and whined about a queen to start a "revolution" in music.
It took Big Mouth Natalie Merchant to make people hear the name Patti Smith. So overrated might be overpraise.
I just to despise Clapton until my girl-friend got me into him. He is just a case of a tremendous musician in need of song writing. Its rare that some guys can do both. And could occasionally but not that often. Hence the 50 million cover songs. Layla while not super duper is still entertaining. And he sure does rock live. That is where he really shines.
The Band? You mean the guys that hung around with Bob Dylan? Which brings me to the name I'd like to add to the list. Bob Dylan himself. Lyrical genius no doubt. But why does he have to make us hear HIM sing them. Argh! See one of my little hang ups is I have to like the vocalist in order to like the music. And Bob's dying cat style just drives me nuts. The songs are great when someone else is singing them. Sounds shallow I know but just try listening to his voice during the late 60's. Ouch.____________________________________________________________________________________
tony souza, firstname.lastname@example.org
Like your site, like your comments (even though I don't always agree). Keep up the good work and don't let anybody tell you not to voice your opinion. For me, this is the reason I like going to these sites-- to hear other people's opinions n records that I have heard through the years.
I agree completely about Patti Smith, I have always thought she was overrated. The Band I like a little better than you do but I understand why some people can't get into them. Clapton's solo studio work has always been inconsistent, that's why I only have live albums of his. V.U. I can't comment on because I don't have their albums. The Beatles were both innovative and commercial at the same time and they never made a bad album, so I can't agree with you on that one. As for the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street", I can't say one way or the other other than the fact that I've always thought "Tumbling Dice" was overrated. It's a good song but I just don't see where it's that much better than any of the other classics they've done. The Talking Heads album I don't consider a classic in the first place (although it is a good album) and the Morrison album I don't have although he is a legend. The Who's Tommy, I think, is classic; it just wasn't produced very well. The Sex Pistols may have made an overrated album, but it's one that a lot of bands point to as their inspiration for getting into music (I'll leave that up to you to decide whether that's good or not).
I used to own and listen to prog rock back in the '70s and while I enjoyed it then, I don't feel that the music has aged very well. Pretty much all of the prog-rock albums I have gotten rid of.______________________________________________________________________________________
First of all, I have to compliment you on your site. You have obviously put alot of work into your reviews, and it shows. They are all well written; I enjoyed reading them even if I disagreed with your appraisal of the musicians.
I have to enquire about your deep hatred of Patti Smith.
I started by reading your 10 most overrated albums of rock, in which Patti Smith's Horses is number 5. I could accept this. It is overly praised by many. I shrugged your vicious review of her off, although I winced when you referred to her as a drug addled babbling bag lady.
So I read more of your reviews....AND YOU KEPT INSULTING HER!!!! It seemed you took every opportunity to mock her. I'm not really complaining, after all, you have the right to your own opinion, blah, blah, blah. I just feel you may have read one too many pretentious rock critic praising Horses, and expected too much out of one little album. Try listening to it again, and just try to appreciate her powerful vocals and personality that drives the music. Or even better, listen to Gone Again, her truly best album.
Patti Smith is important (somewhat) in rock history because she was a powerful woman who followed the punk DIY spirit and "did it", before everyone and their pet hamster had a band. Her music is good because she believes. Kim Gordon (of Sonic Youth) once wrote something about how people liked rock to see people believing in themselves, and acting on it. (I can't believe I'm quoting somebody in this) Patti Smith was the first woman to do this, and be successful. You have to at least admire a rather plain, mousy woman who could belt out those words. I'm starting to repeat myself, but she was a strong woman, the first one in rock. Can you imagine Stevie Nicks going on stage and singing "Rock and Roll Nigger"? Patti had the true spirit of rock n roll.
Allright, that's enough. My irritation is irritational, I know. Many of her songs were, I admit, crap. I just like her, and so it upset me when you kept poking fun at her. Nothing personal against you. I really do like your page, really. It even inspired me to write my own. So I'll let you dislike Patti on your page, and I'll dislike Fleetwood Mac on mine.
I don't know why I picked Fleetwood Mac out of the other bands you seemed to like that I don't, I just did.
Thanks for letting me rant.Rich Bunnell, email@example.com
I haven't yet got myself aquainted with many of the "rock classics" of the '60s and '70s, so I only have a couple of albums on the "Top Ten Most Overrated" list to address.
First off, Sgt. Pepper really isn't that bad of an album, but since it's the one which is most associated with the Beatles it's any music critic's biggest target -- but really, people, what's wrong with "Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite"? Am I the only person in the world who thinks that's a really cool song? Anyway, in my opinion if you slam Sgt. Peppers you have to slam the other Beatles albums because to me it doesn't really sound all of that different from the rest of the later Beatles albums-- it just attempts a concept, and very loosely I might add.
As for the band I'm all the more familiar with, my beloved Talking Heads, I can't see how "More Songs" is an over-rated album-- I mean, look at each review page! Wilson & Alroy slam it. Prindle slams it. That Pop Kulcher guy slams it. Donald X (there's a link to his page from W&A's FAQ) Everyone slams it! It isn't overrated anymore! That said, I personally find it to be an amazingly enjoyable album, especially compared to the band's debut, i.e. "Ooh! It's so simplistic, so therefore it's so genius and lovable even though it basically has no good songs on it except for 'Psycho Killer!' Screw the following album, even though its production and songwriting outweighs this 100 to 1!" However, like one of the previous commenters said, "Remain In Light" is without a doubt their masterpiece. Go find that album and slam it and place it on this list because if you don't like it then you can call THAT one "overrated." But be prepared for a rather lengthy flame mail from me.Mesawhaw@aol.com
I commend you for your overrated list, but...
Some people take it WAY TOO PERSONAL when they find out that *not* everybody out there, likes what they like. (lighten up, George Starostin) Just because all the 'rock critics' out there seem to like something, doesn't necessarily mean I have to. Critics are just a guide to what's out there and nothing more.
I also wanna point out that not everybody of my generation (late-70s/early-80s) went in for what was then 'currently fashionable' either. For example, I never went in for the "punk rock" thing (I agree with you here, George) even though I knew people in my age group who really dug it a lot. I just didn't see much to it other than how monotonous and banal it sounded. Nothing but poor, amateurish musicianship. (Television, Clash, Sex Pistols, etc...) But then, that's just my thing and nobody else else *has* to like it.
I'll add a few more comments here...
A few years ago, I too mentioned to a friend how overrated "Sgt. Peppers" was and a look came over his face like, 'how dare you' as if I dissed the Bible or something. Jeezzz, man... As a dear friend as he was, I still didn't back down and we eventually just had to agree to disagree. That's how things are sometimes, folks. SUR-PRISE.... (yawn.....)
And yeah, I don't care much for the rock opera, "Tommy" either, although it does have a few good tunes on it. It's not a matter of 'overcoming myself...,' but more a matter of whether the groove appeals to you or not. For me, it don't and I'll just leave it at that. Let someone else pull their hair out over it, not me.
Pretty much agree with your list *except* for "Exile on Main Street". To me, it was one of the best rock'n roll albums of the 1970s and I remember wearing down the grooves of my old double-LP until it was non-playable. ALL four sides....
Oh, and I won't pull my hair out over what you said about it Burks, I promise you. (laughing)
Gotta go now, but in short; everyone should follow their own muse. If there's common ground over something, gaa-reatt........... But remember that there are NO requirements out there that I have to like something just because 'everyone else' does. And that includes the critics, professional or otherwise. It (the music) may happen, but if it don't, then it don't....
Get over it...Mark Bentley, firstname.lastname@example.org
You are spot on with Astral Weeks, a consistently overrated, rambling, poorly conceived sham of a record. For the flipside - a great album in a similar vein - try David Crosby's If I Only Could Remember My Name, which is a gem.
More recent albums than those on your list that critics seem to love but to my ears are either over-earnest, callow, pompous, unlistenable, or just plain shameful include Primal Scream's Screamadelica, anything by those soft-rock charlatans the Manic Street Preachers or misguided retro-grave robbers the Verve, and the baggy-trousered students of Gomez.
These are UK bands, for which I apologise. Oasis' records are piss-poor too, but then we knew that already. There is no sport in hunting that particular quarry. And I almost forgot - isn't the first Stone Roses record consistently disappointing? A steaming mix of undeserved ego and teenage angst. Uninventive, retarded, and musically infantile. Fools Gold, though, was a great single...
Although I have a soft spot for the record, Nevermind by Nirvana is not quite the cherry on the cake everyone pretends it to be... five great songs in a row and then mawkish reworkings ad infinitum? It is loud, influential and massively enjoyable nevertheless. And what about Jeff Buckley's Grace? Again some fine tracks but undermined by Freddie Mercury style swooping... Is it any coincidence that the main players on both these records are dead? Could this be a factor in endless and lavish critical praise? But now I'm ranting...
Anyway, let's slay some more recent sacred cows... Beck? Badly Drawn Boy? Radiohead? (cheer up lads!!!!). Almost any new guitar music? It's such a shame...
B. Burks: I had plans for a list of overrated '90s music, and now Mark's beaten me to the punch -- can't say I disagree with most of the bands he lists.Gustavo Rodriguez, email@example.com
I've found that so many people in my generation (I'm 28) have really downgraded the Band's work in recent years. I agree with many of your reviews and with several of your choices for the overrated album list. But the Band? You think their music is LABORED? I have to disagree with you. Right now people tend to dump on roots music as well. That may be justifiable at times, but in my opinion it's our music's history that will always help point the way towards the new stuff. The Band could not be called overreverent to old music either. Theirs was a really bold and unique blend of the old and forgotten and the new and innovative. Saying what you said almost leads me to believe that you didn't actually listen to this record. Otherwise you'd have noticed that a song like "King Harvest" has a foot in the future and the past. I've never heard another song quite like it. And the writing here is superb. "The Unfaithful Servant"? "Whispering Pines"? You failed to name any of these "overrated" songs or even back up your statements with any insights of any particular critical value. If you're going to slaughter a sacred cow (and I'm all for it when it's called for) be ready to really back up your statements.
As for some of the other entries on your list, I love Van Morrison deeply, but I too just can't get into "Astral Weeks." Believe me, I've tried. Underrated Van Morrison?--I'll say the "Tupelo Honey" album or maybe "T.B. Sheets"--Several of the songs from "T.B. Sheets" were "reworked" and de-funked for "Astral Weeks."
Sgt. Pepper without a doubt. "Revolver" is their best. It's their most diverse album and it is the most balanced in terms of contributions from all four members. Paul's dominance on Sgt. Pepper is a little overbearing. George only has one song and it's nowhere near his best. Sgt. Pepper is perhaps their greatest achievement if you're talking about innovations in recording and production techniques, but this is not the Beatles' strongest set of songs! And that was their greatest strength--songwriting!! And the songs on Sgt. Pepper are good, but the majority of them are not truly great. I must say though, Sgt. Pepper has the greatest finale of any album in rock and roll. In fact "A Day in the Life" may be their greatest song.
Another album with a great last track is "Tommy." I have to disagree with you. I'd argue that this album is almost underrated. A lot of people give this album a hard time and critics still debate over it today. I admit when I listened to it as a teenager it bored me, but in recent years I've been able to appreciate it for what it is--an ambitious if sometimes overblown work of art with some fantastic individual parts. There is some very impressive songwriting here. Townsend's best work as a writer can be found here. When all's said and done, the opera thing is just a gimmick. Ignore it and take this one song by song. Not everything works but don't overlook it completely. Overrated? Try "Quadrophenia."
Velvet Underground and Nico? Yeah, it's overrated, but I've always thought that their last two albums are very underrated. Those last two are my favorites, frankly, because they are excellent rock/pop records and not much else. The Velvets are less interesting when they're straining to be avant garde. I'll take "Jesus" over "Heroin" anyday.
Patti Smith's Horses? Her heroic stature was the result of a conspiracy led by rock critics. I'll say no more.
Layla? I can see how you think this is overrated, but I'm not sure I agree. When I'm in the mood, this album can do it for me. It's blasphemous to say this but I do think that Duane Allman AND the Allman Brothers are overrated. I know his slide playing is unique and distinctive and technically amazing, but something about Duane Allman's style has always annoyed me.
Other overrated albums you didn't mention:Trout Mask Replica: Captain Beefheart
Oar: Skip Spence
Rumours: Fleetwood Mac
Anything by the Doors
We're Only In it for the Money: Frank Zappa
Big Star: #1 Record/Radio City
American Beauty: Grateful Dead
Surrealistic Pillow: Jefferson Airplane
The Stooges: Funhouse
And to George Starostin--chill out, man! We've corresponded in the past and I've read your writings before, but I've never seen you get so personal and downright nasty. It was a shock to see you get so defensive and churlish. What's wrong with you? That's not like you. And don't be a hypocrite and tell people they should open their minds and listen to different kinds of music when you admittedly barely embrace any music before or after the 60's and 70's. After all I didn't try to imply that you were an idiot when you pissed all over Motown, practically ignoring its impact on the bands you worship. We just agreed to disagree as the cliche goes...SuprLoud@aol.com
whoever said funhouse was overrated deserves to die. okay, maybe that's an overstatement, but Funhouse changed my life. Granted, only the first three songs are true classics, but boy do they rock - the lyrics are meaningless, but who cares? It's perhaps the most depraved, evil-thick rotten boiling hellfire pit of a record ever released. so i said it. and on to your choices, mr. burks.
I agreed with much of what you said. sgt. pepper - wow that one is overrated. a mediocre beatles record - mediocre?!! beatles?!! sad but true - with a couple incredible moments, mostly courtesy of lennon, who didn't even come up with the sgt. pepper concept, and some then-innovative, now-barely-recognizable tape experimentation, does not a masterpiece make. that said, exile on main street is probably the best stones album i've ever heard, and one of the grittiest albums out there to boot, but i'm a little ambiguous about whether it's overrated. i do agree, on the other hand, that the stones were at their best as a singles band, but on exile on main street they finally a convincing blues-rock brew that carries for more than a couple of songs, and for that there's something to be said. layla by derek and the dominoes is intriguing, but i have to agree sometimes it drags a bit. however, since i grew up in the cd age and have this on vinyl, i haven't listened to it that much and suspect it'll grow on me. the velvet underground & nico - this album took at least a year for me to figure out. the first time i heard it i didn't get it at all. however, there is some powerful stuff on here. even though it's not well-played, it's incredibly innovative and sounds like nothing anybody else was putting out at the time. at the same time, i often get the feeling popular name-check them for credibility's sake, not because they were a real influence, because virtually no popular acts sound anything like the velvets. influence or "influence"? i've yet to figure that one out, though i really like some of the music these guys put out, especially the later stuff.
never mind the bollocks - here's one that's WAY overrated. with just TWO great songs - the first two tracks - this record probably wasn't even worth my $4.00. I just can't figure out what everybody likes about them. and i swear, the version of "anarchy in the u.k." here is not the single version; it sure sounds inferior. man, you should have slammed this one more. I'll take the Ramones, the Clash, Gang of Four, Buzzcocks, Wire, Joy Division, etc. over this any day. a McLaren-induced media hype, clearly these guys weren't the real thing. 'nuff said.
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