Who Had the Best Six Album Run?

On the next episode of Sound Opinions this Friday, they’ll discuss who had the best four album runs, “the best grand slams in pop history.” In 2015, there are no shortage of bands who now have catalogs of ten, twenty, even thirty albums. It doesn’t seem hard to think of a lot of bands who had four consecutive great albums. Unless you’re a punk fan, then you’d be kind of hard pressed, as most broke up before releasing four albums, let alone four great ones (The Sex Pistols, X-Ray Spex, Buzzcocks, Wire, The Ruts). Those that didn’t, often have their run broken up by a dud, like The Damned with Music For Pleasure (1977).

Inevitably, classic rock becomes the default in these discussions, which could get boring. In a popular poll, no one would likely touch The Beatles, with Dylan, the Stones and perhaps Led Zeppelin fighting it out for second. Of course I can’t resist weighing in. I was born for this task, seeing as I’ve kept up a list of all my favorite albums since I was about eight! Back then, it was a no-brainer, as Electric Light Orchestra and Queen were the only bands I owned four or more of their records. The Beatles would factor in if I counted my mom’s albums. ELO is still in my top 40, but someone has managed to beat out the Beatles, as far as I’m concerned. Ozzy Osbourne, a huge Beatles fan, would probably be horrified by this assertion, but I’m not saying Black Sabbath were a better band than the Beatles. Just that they had a slightly greater consecutive run of classic albums that I continue to enjoy and listen to more, which also influenced a ton of other music that I love.

Dylan and the Stones do follow closely after Sabbath and the Beatles. How could they not? While The Clash would be a top punk choice for many, mine is The Birthday Party at #14, unless you count The Jam as punk, then them at #12. However the fifth spot is taken up by a metal band. No, not Metallica. Iron Maiden! Followed by The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, Led Zeppelin, Talking Heads and Thin Lizzy. My highest ranked recent band would be the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at #13, TV On The Radio at 15 and Witchcraft at 16. Graveyard could be close, however they only just released their fourth album a couple weeks ago so it’s too soon to judge.

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But what if you extend the run to six albums? That could get more interesting, with an arguably smaller pool of candidates. For me, the top three remain the same, with Black Sabbath maintaining the lead over The Beatles, and Dylan in third. The Stones drop to #13 due to relatively less consistency than Led Zeppelin, who took the four spot based on the strength of their first six albums that against all odds still reward repeat listens after all these years. For a while, I was saying that Thin Lizzy actually had a slightly better six album run than Zeppelin. They might have had an edge were it seven albums, as Vagabonds In The Western World (1973) would balance out Night Life (1974). However, after much consideration, I had to make peace with Physical Graffiti. I owned the album since I was a kid and I always struggled with it, feeling like the sprawl had too much filler and obvious signs that the band was already in decline. It’s still not my favorite, and I often prefer Presence thanks to Page’s really unique, challenging guitar playing. But it’s far from a dud.

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Thin Lizzy come in at #5, with Colour Haze taking the #6 spot. Probably the most unusual choice in my list, but not surprising if you read this site (see my tribute from 2011), it’s simply an incredible, flawless (I’d say eight of their 11 albums are about perfect) run of guitar rock that has dominated my playlists for the past decade. They may not have the kind of audience as the more well known classic bands, but those who have followed them, they know what I’m talking about.

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But what about David Bowie? He had a nearly flawless run of not six, not eight, not ten, but twelve albums from 1969 to 1980. I say nearly, in that right in the middle of that run, he did Young Americans (1975), not counting the all-covers tribute project Pin-Ups (1973). While some hate it, I don’t think it’s a dud at all, and was pretty influential in expanding the audience of Philly soul. I’ve got him at #11 for the 4 album run (Low through Scary Monsters), and just 37th for the six album run. But for a dozen, or even ten, no one else comes close. Well, arguably maybe the long-running Norwegian psych prog Motorpsycho. They put out so much damn music, including double and triple albums, that I’m still absorbing and getting a grip on their massive catalog, but they’ve been a favorite for many years now. Fela Kuti is another prolific artist with a massive catalog who could contend for the spot of a dozen or more run after Bowie. I left off jazz, as that would blow it wide open with John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Miles Davis for starters.

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There’s plenty of potential candidates I could see others making arguments for who are certainly viable, but just didn’t make it to the top of my own list — Tim Buckley, Sweet, Amon Düül II, Motorpsycho, Joni Mitchell, Free, Aretha Franklin, XTC, The Cure (all the above were just outside my top 40), Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder, Isley Brothers, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, Yes, Genesis, Neil Young, Creedence Clearwater Revival, ZZ Top, Steely Dan, Serge Gainsbourg, Motörhead, etc.

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  1. Black Sabbath
  2. The Beatles
  3. Bob Dylan
  4. Led Zeppelin
  5. Thin Lizzy
  6. Colour Haze
  7. Can
  8. The Kinks
  9. Bob Marley
  10. Iron Maiden
  11. Funkadelic
  12. The Fall
  13. The Rolling Stones
  14. Fela Kuti
  15. Radiohead
  16. Captain Beefheart
  17. Curtis Mayfield
  18. Melvins
  19. Rush
  20. AC/DC
  21. Electric Light Orchestra
  22. Judas Priest
  23. Fugazi
  24. Hawkwind
  25. PJ Harvey
  26. David Bowie
  27. Al Green
  28. Temptations
  29. Electric Wizard
  30. Mastodon
  31. Tom Waits
  32. Sonic Youth
  33. R.E.M.
  34. Opeth
  35. Hüsker Dü
  36. Slayer
  37. Sleater-Kinney
  38. Queens Of The Stone Age
  39. The Flaming Lips
  40. Nação Zumbi
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