The 20 Most Underrated Albums of All Time

I went for a nice run the other day with the iPhone’s music player on “random” just to see what long-forgotten surprises it might dredge up from corners of its flash drive.  Somewhere during the third kilometre, it threw up “Set Me Free” from The Sweet’s 1975 post-glam album, Desolation Boulevard. 

(For the pedantic and completists, I’m speaking about the North American reissue, not the original UK release which, although has its merits, is not as solid.  It does feature a killer version of The Who’s “My Generation,” though.  And “The Man with the Golden Arm” includes the nascent drum parts for “Ballroom Blitz.”  Listen below for more.)

This was–is–one of my all-time favourite albums. It was on in the background for every single essay and paper I had to write between Grade 9 and the end of university. Every. Single. One. And as long ago as that was and as old as this record is, I had to stop running and place the whole thing in the queue.

I was reminded what a damn good record this is: solid pop-metal (KISS-like, but smarter and with better musicianship) that foretold the rise of Def Leppard, Twisted Sister and even Motely Crue in a few years.

Side one starts with “Ballroom Blitz,” a fine piece of work by the team of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn (they wrote all the material for side one on the North American release).  Side two contains “Fox on the Run,” an original composition that was also a sizeable hit.

Other tracks flew by:  “AC/DC” (later covered by both Joan Jett and Vince Neil), “Sweet FA” (which still shows up on Ozzy’s Boneyard on SiriusXM) and “No You Don’t” (one of the tracks that inspired me to take up the drums.)

I did my next kilometer in 5:32, which is pretty good for here in Mauritius where the daytime humidex is around 41 degrees or so.

Later, in a pool of roiling body juices, I asked myself, why is Desolation Boulevard not remembered more fondly?

Coincidentally (or perhaps not, given that it was Record Store Day) I later ran across this list of the 20 most underrated albums of all time.  It goes a little deeper than I might–Perez Predo, Kitty Wells–but there are some good thought-starters here.

So here’s the challenge:  what are the albums you believe are criminally under-appreciated and deserve more love in retrospect? As you ponder that, check out this stream of Desolation Boulevard beginning with the original European version.

http://youtu.be/9FDSMuKA_q4

And now the full North American edition featuring all manner of bonus tracks.

http://youtu.be/0B-ZVZgy_tY

 

 

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

16 thoughts on “The 20 Most Underrated Albums of All Time

  • April 20, 2014 at 10:35 am
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    Not to sound like a Gary Numan fanatic (as per my last post on here), but his Telekon album is fantastic, and always over shadowed by The Pleasure Principle. Also, his latest album, Splinter, is very very good. Thanks for the heads up on that one, Alan!

    Reply
  • April 20, 2014 at 12:29 pm
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    Been finally getting into Numan. I’ve had the Pleasure Principle in my collection forever, but I never bothered getting more… until I discovered Splintered.

    I guess my favourite underrated album would be BrainBloodVolume by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. Maybe too different for their fans, or didn’t sound enough like grunge to be popular at the time. I think it’s aged really well, super unique-sounding to this day. Didn’t sell enough copies, and the band couldn’t afford to stay a band.

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    • April 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm
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      er, Splinter, not Splintered.

      Reply
  • April 20, 2014 at 5:05 pm
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    The Best Of The Association. Way better harmonies than The Beach Boys, lush arrangements, and impeccable pop hooks

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  • April 21, 2014 at 9:26 am
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    I was 12 when Desolation Blvd came out… one of the first albums I ever bought. The reason it’s underrated is because the two big singles got over-played to death. I remember “Fox on the Run” being played on an endless loop at the CNE in 1978. Things like that tend to undermine the credibility of the entire album.

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  • April 21, 2014 at 10:35 am
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    Soup by Blind Melon.
    They were really screwed by the success of No Rain, and just couldn’t follow up properly. But I think Soup is just a fantastic album that you can probably grab in a bargain bin for 1.99.
    Which is a bloody shame.

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    • April 21, 2014 at 11:27 am
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      Totally agree. Amazing album. There was a long time where I felt that I was the only person that owned it, lol!

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      • April 22, 2014 at 4:11 pm
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        Thanks man!
        I feel the same way. No one seems to know it exist.

        Reply
  • April 21, 2014 at 10:57 am
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    My pick is Television’s second album. Marquee Moon still gets all the attention and it is great but when I’m streaming a Television album it’s nearly always Adventure. Perhaps I’m simply rooting for the underdog but I’ve always connected emotionally to Adventure in a way that I never have with MM. The record following the brilliant debut disappoints more often than not but I be there’s a number of underrated second efforts out there.

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  • April 21, 2014 at 10:58 am
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    Forgot to add that I love Desolation Boulevard and my teenage kids do too.

    Reply
  • March 5, 2017 at 7:47 pm
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    Tanx by Marc Bolan and T.Rex. It’s predecesors Electric Warrior and The Slider got all the critical acclaim and when Tanx came out I was disappointed but it gradually grew on me and today it’s my default T.Rex.

    Reply
  • April 17, 2017 at 9:28 am
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    Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins is pure genius. I know it made Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list (#362), but I still feel this album doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Probably should be in the top 10.

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  • April 17, 2017 at 11:01 am
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    Porcupine Tree- Deadwing. Awesome listening in 5.1 surround DVD-A

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  • April 17, 2017 at 11:11 am
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    Loved “Desolation Boulevard” and “Give us a Wink” too !

    I always wondered why “Action” never got covered during the hair band 80’s, it seemed to be a perfect fit for the times…

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    • April 17, 2017 at 2:08 pm
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      I am a MAJOR Sweet fan. I have all their stuff, including a whack of bootlegs.

      Reply
    • May 24, 2017 at 11:01 pm
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      Def Leppard covered “Action.” I don’t know exactly when, but it was a B-side that turned up on ‘Retro Active.’

      Reply

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