I guess I had better begin by defining "perfect." There are hundreds of "classic" albums out there. There are lots of "great" albums, too. But how many albums by any artist can be comsidered "perfect"? That is, without any flaws whatsoever. No filler, no ill-considered cover songs, no throwaways, nothing to ruin the flow of an album. For example, I'm a MAJOR Bowiephile. Practically obsessive. Have all of his recordings. If you ask anyone what his greatest album is, the most frequent response would be _Ziggy Stardust_. Fair enough, but smack in the midle of things, at the end of what was side one of the LP, is Bowie's cover of the Ron Davies tune, "It Ain't Easy." It's not a bad song at all, or even a bad performance, it just kind of upsets the order of things, marring what would have been an otherwise "perfect" album. Now, what are some examples of what I'd consider "perfect" albums? A few come to mind. The first one I thought of, and the one that engendered this discussion is Richard & Linda Thompson's _I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight_. Every song, from the beginning acoustic strum slashed by a ripping electric guitar fill of "When I Get to the Border," to the dark fading conclusion of "The Great Valerio," is an unqualified gem. It all works seamlessly.
Othersw that come to mind are Bob Dylan's _Blood on the Tracks_, Elvis Costello's _Imperial Bedroom_, Neil Young's _Tonight's the Night_.
In terms of true, utter perfection, where there's not a note out of place and so forth, I'm putting in three albums. Kind of Blue (Miles), A Love Supreme (Trane), and Abbey Road (the Beatles). There are about fifty others that come very close (honorable mentions to the Stones' Sticky Fingers and Stevie Wonder's Innervisions!), but those are the ones that strike me as "perfect."
I think that abby road could have done without maxwell's Silver Hammer and Sgt Pepper could have done better without Within You Without You. Both I think are second rate and out of place on their albums. Just one mans opinion. Check out Nick Drake's three albums. All consistant and every song one all three is great. Each creats a single musical mood with every single song filling that mood.
While the overall songwriting is better on London Calling, I'd have to say that The Clash's self-titled debut is not a second too long, not a filler to be found, and every song goes together as one solid musical statement.
This is a very hard thing to really do because even most of my favorite albums are not "perfect" albums by this definition.
Abbey Road definitely is a perfect album. If Abbey Road is a dramatic film, then Maxwell's Silver Hammer is the comic relief. It does nothing to take away from the rest of the album, rather it adds to it as far as I'm concerned.
Pixie's Doolittle album is another one that has better overall songwriting, but Surfer Rosa has not a single bad moment on it (even though Steve Albini's recording techniques are terrible).
I would desperately love to agree with A Love Supreme, as much as I love that album, but I cannot. The end of the first song goes on way too long. I am a patient person, and I love Coltrane, but that end section where it repeats the same four notes over and over again just kills me every time I listen to it. Before that and after that, the album is note perfect. I will step out on a limb, though, and say that Ascension is everything that it should be and everything he wanted it to be. I'll probably catch flack for that one.
I'll totally agree with the Miles Davis' Kind of Blue choice.
A lot of blues albums are very repetitive, but there's something about Magic Sam that is so wholly unique. His first album is flawless in every way.
The Fall have released a lot of really amazing albums, but after thinking about it for a while, I can really only say that their first album is the only one that is perfect through and through, even though the song writing got much better afterward.
There are so many other albums I want to add here, but all of them have the common trait of having one major flaw or one song that's out of place or something. Perfect albums are just so rare. And greatest hits collections don't count.
Sum up: The Clash - The Clash The Beatles - Abbey Road Pixies - Surfer Rosa John Coltrane - Ascension Miles Davis - Kind of Blue Magic Sam - West Side Soul The Fall - Live At The Witch Trials Television - Marquee Moon
I agree with Tonights the Night and I would inckude Harvest. I didn't think Within you Without you was bad from Sgt Pepper. In fact I thought it was underrated. Shes Leaving home makes me wince everytime I hear John Lennon singing "fun is the one thing that money can't buy" very trite for the Beatles. I didn't think Fixing a Hole and Getting Better were that great either. If Magical Mystry Tours second side haden't been cherry picked I think it would hands down be the best of all time. You could make an argument it shouldn't even matter since the songs were never released previously on an album. But aside from Magical mine is Dark Side of the Moon.
I forgot to add Miles Davis' Some Kind of Blue is right there too. The liner notes say Duane Allman listened to this album over and over. A lead guitarist could learn a lot deom this album even though there isn't guitar music.
Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde On Blonde, Blood On The Tracks, Love and Theft Neil Young - On The Beach, Tonight's The Night, After The Gold Rush Tom Waits - Closing Time, The Heart of Saturday Night, Rain Dogs, Alice Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run, Nebraska Beatles - Revolver, Abbey Road Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Radiohead - Kid A, In Rainbows, (OK Computer -fitter happier) Iron and Wine - The Creek Drank The Cradle, Our Endless Numbered Days John Coltrane - Blue Train, A Love Supreme Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antartica My Morning Jacket - Z, It Still Moves Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds Brian Wilson - Smile Van Morrison - Moondance, Astral Weeks maybe some other stuff...
Exiles on Main Street Blood on the Tracks The Best of Thelonious Monk: The Blue Note Years Science Fiction Ornette Coleman This Year's Model Elvis Costello Rock of Ages The Band LP Stretchin Out in Bootsy's Rubber Band If Only I Could Remember My Name David Crosby The Royal Scam Steely Dan and i'm sure I'm leaving a lot of others out