Monday, August 23, 2021

The M4B Radio 200: M4B Radio's Greatest Albums Of All-Time (200-176)

Listen to the countdown here!

200. Thrice - Vheissu (2005)
Thrice spent the first few years of its career playing loud and occasionally screamy music, but for their fourth studio album they wanted to try something different, and in the process they created one of the defining Unkiecore albums. Its title and album art influenced by the literature of Thomas Pynchon, Vheissu introduced new elements to Thrice's sound that helped set them apart from their peers.

Despite the album's heaviness, the band's members strove for a more experimental sound, taking influence from the final two albums from Talk Talk, a British band that achieved commercial popularity with synthpop music but veered away from it to create experimental music of a subgenre where they use rock instruments to create non-rock sounds called post-rock.

Everything different Thrice tried came together and flowed seamlessly, from the Morse code-opening strains that lead into the anthemic lead single "Image Of The Invisible" to the twinkling music box sounds interspersed in "Music Box" to the electronic music elements on the slow burning "Atlantic" and the towering closer "Red Sky", and in the concert favorite "The Earth Will Shake", everything from acoustic blues to Hammond organ to a cappella chain gang vocals. Vheissu is widely regarded as Thrice's best album for its musical experimentation while also retaining its roots in heavy music.

199. 3 Doors Down - Away From The Sun (2002)
With their second album, 3 Doors Down faced the challenge of showing the world there was more to them than "Kryptonite", their breakout hit from 2000. Recorded with the late Rick Parashar, who also went behind the boards on Pearl Jam's Ten and Temple of the Dog's lone album, Away From The Sun showcased the band's strengths as reliable post-grunge hitmakers. It effectively balanced their hard rock and power ballad sides, producing both rock and pop radio hits in the process. Lead single "When I'm Gone", notable for documenting a 2002 performance aboard the USS George Washington spliced with footage of the U.S. military and dedicated to support the troops serving overseas in the War on Terror, was a hit on both.

Away From The Sun was the first of two 3 Doors Down albums, the second being their 2008 self titled release, to land two #1s on Freaky Fly Bry's Top 100. "When I'm Gone" and third single "Here Without You", the band's second biggest hit of their career, each spent a month at #1 on the chart. And in a moment of core Bryan artists meeting core JessieLou artists, Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson played guitar on the album's eighth song, "Dangerous Game."

198. Britney Spears - In The Zone (2003)
This era perfected what Britney started on her last album by distancing herself from the image she cultivated in her early career and experimenting with different sounds. Veering into dance pop, hip hop, techno, R&B, the Bond-meets-Bollywood stomp of the era's biggest hit "Toxic", and the vulnerable piano balladry of closing track "Everytime" - a song that gave DJ Bryan chills upon his first time hearing it - In The Zone is the sound of Britney Spears finding her voice, four albums into her highly successful career.

The darker and more dance oriented sound, which would pave the way for her following album Blackout, was the result of Britney's desire for musical and lyrical growth on the album. In an interview with Rolling Stone, she said, "Of course I'm not doing '...Baby One More Time' and those massive hits anymore. I think this record is where I am at right now in my life. It's sensual, it's sexual. I'm probably writing about that subconsciously because I don't have that right now." The range of musical styles explored on the album owed to the many collaborators she worked with through its conception including those who made the album like the Ying Yang Twins, Moby, Cathy Dennis, P. Diddy, and Avril Lavigne's early songwriters The Matrix, and those that didn't like James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and even Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit.

Britney's destiny was sealed on this album when the pop icon of her generation got the endorsement of a prior generation's pop icon - Madonna, who recruited Britney, Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott for an attention-grabbing MTV Video Music Awards medley months prior to the album's release, joined Britney on the album's opening track and lead single "Me Against The Music". Created by a songwriting and production team that included future R&B hitmaker The-Dream, "Me Against The Music" was not intended as a duet but was reconstructed as such after Britney successfully landed Madonna for the song.

But the song that would define the era was its followup, "Toxic". Early 90s pop singer Cathy Dennis, who co-wrote Kylie Minogue's 2002 hit "Can't Get You Out Of My Head", co-wrote the song with the Swedish songwriting and production team Bloodshy & Avant and offered it to Kylie, but she turned it down. The song was both a major pop radio hit and also won her respect and credibility in the music press, with the song appearing on many critics' best of lists for 2004 and the 2000s decade, both the song and In The Zone helping over time to establish pop music as a valid art form with music critics on par with rock and hip hop.

197. Rush - All The World's A Stage (1976)
When Geddy Lee was 15, he was desperate to see Cream in concert. The power trio of Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker and one of Lee's key influences were playing a concert at Toronto's Massey Hall in 1968, but the future Rush frontman couldn't get anyone to join him. So he went alone, sitting in the balcony. He recounted in an interview with CBC that it was "life changing" for him.

Eight years later, Lee played Massey Hall with Rush for three nights in June 1976, and the performances were recorded for their first live album, All The World's A Stage. This album captures the entire setlist that was regularly performed during headlining shows of the 2112 tour. However, due to technological limits of approximately 20 minutes per side on vinyl, the album's sequencing differed from how the set list was actually performed. The album's liner notes described the album as the end of "the first chapter of Rush" and would mark a trend in the band's run of releasing live albums after every four studio albums.

Lee has described All The World's A Stage as his favorite of Rush's live albums because it was their first and it was a very raw performance. He defended the album during the Throw Down segment of an episode of VH1 Classic's That Metal Show where he appeared alongside Dream Theater's John Petrucci, but Rush's following live album, Exit... Stage Left, was the preferred favorite among the hosts.

196. The Angels - Face To Face (1978)
Known in the US as Angel City (not to be confused with a Eurodance group of the same name) to avoid confusion with similarly named artists including fellow hard rockers Angel and the 60s girl group The Angels (whose biggest hit, the chart-topping "My Boyfriend's Back", featured a young Ronnie James Dio playing the saxophone), Australia's The Angels rose from the country's pub rock scene to become one of its most premier live acts. The Australian musicologist Ian McFarlane described the band's sound as "high energy" with "powerful guitar riffing and muscular yet supple rhythm section" that defied categorization, aided further by frontman Doc Neeson's theatrical edge.

Face To Face proved a landmark release for The Angels, becoming certified four times platinum and ranking in the 2010 book 100 Best Australian Albums. Despite not achieving major success outside of Australia and New Zealand, The Angels' blend of punk and metal won them some high profile fans over the years. Mike McCready of Pearl Jam counts them as an influence, writing in a 2012 Facebook post about growing up listening to The Angels, "That is the Australian music that meant so much to me, maybe because me and my friends were the only ones who knew them."

195. The Cranberries - Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? (1993)
Before and after their peak, few bands sounded like the Cranberries. With songs that alternated between the ethereal, serene qualities of dream pop and the edge of alternative rock, anchored by the instantly recognizable mezzo soprano vocals of frontwoman Dolores O'Riordan, the Cranberries could go from an airy tone to urgent sounding belting within moments.

Originally known in their native Ireland as The Cranberry Saw Us, the band took shape after O'Riordan was asked by the other members to record vocals for the jangly, 80s indie inspired instrumentals they crafted. The first time they heard her demo of "Linger", they knew something special just crossed their paths. Noel Hogan, the band's guitarist and co songwriter, described first hearing O'Riordan's voice by saying, "she was so small and quiet... then she opened her mouth and this amazing voice, this huge voice came out for the size of her ... how come she's not already in a band? ... That day changed our lives."

Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? sold millions worldwide on the strengths of the dream pop classics "Linger" and "Dreams". Its style would prove an influence for a number of 90s influenced indie musicians, including M4B genre hitmaker Hatchie, whose songs "Sure" and "Her Own Heart" sound like they wouldn't have been out of place on the album.

And the album continued to inspire M4B members when the surviving members of the band unveiled a super deluxe edition in late 2018. The outtake "Iosa" (sung in Irish Gaelic, with the song's title translating to "Jesus" in English) reached #30 on the Globalchart and #3 on the M4B Radio Top 40.

194. Metallica - Ride The Lightning (1984)
While their next album Master Of Puppets would prove to be their creative peak, Ride The Lightning laid the groundwork for what would follow. Metallica expanded upon their roots in thrash metal starting on this album by evolving musically with its use of acoustic guitars, harmonies and extended instrumentals.

Guitarist Kirk Hammett came up with the title from the Stephen King novel The Stand, a phrase used in the book to describe execution by the electric chair - a theme that the band built upon through the title track's lyrics and the album cover depicting an electric chair surrounded by lightning bolts. What separated Ride The Lightning from its predecessor, Kill 'Em All, was an aesthetic that metal music journalist Martin Popoff was quoted as saying is "sophistication and brutality in equal measure." Credit for this goes to the band's late bassist Cliff Burton, who dispensed his knowledge of music theory to his bandmates in the making of the album.

Ride The Lightning has no shortage of highlights. Its title track, co-written with ex-member and later Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine, is a raucous rager that featured some of Kirk Hammett's speediest shredding. "Creeping Death", about the plagues of Egypt, and "For Whom The Bell Tolls", inspired by the novel of the same title by Ernest Hemingway, showcased the band's ability to blend heavy music with melodic and hooky vocals, not only inspiring their future work but also becoming so enduringly popular - "Creeping Death" frequently appears at or near the top of lists of Metallica's best songs - that they're live staples to this day. And despite harsh criticism from metal audiences at the time of its release, "Fade To Black", which starts off as an acoustic ballad but transitions into a second part that is far heavier, was widely acclaimed by critics for adding a new dimension to thrash metal.

193. Rush - Exit... Stage Left (1981)
The second of Rush's live albums is considered the gold standard from their career, showcasing them at the height of their popularity with the live tracks benefiting from more advanced production technology. Capturing performances from both the Apollo in Glasgow, Scotland and the Forum in Montreal, Quebec in their native Canada, Exit... Stage Left got its name from the catch phrase of the classic cartoon character Snagglepuss, and Neil Peart said in an interview that the band tried to get Snagglepuss's tail in the cover but backed down upon realizing how expensive it would have been to get the rights to do so.

Peart said in an interview quoted on Rush's website that capturing flawless performances from the 50 reels of recordings they had to work with became extremely tricky. Peart admitted, "Yes, we made a few repairs to the record. A part here and there would ruin an otherwise perfect song, so we patched up the odd bit. Sometimes we had hit the wrong thing or gone suddenly out of tune. It would be so much easier if we were perfect." They edited technical faults using parts from other performances, and frontman Geddy Lee said that in some cases the band even created new performances in the studio to correct out of tune guitars.

But the work in effectively capturing what Rush's tour to promote their classic Moving Pictures album was like made for not only a milestone live album of their career, but for all of rock music. In 2004, Classic Rock Magazine readers selected Exit... Stage Left as one of the ten best live albums of all time.

192. The Stampeders - Carryin' On (1971)
*Pipas out*

191. Jerry Cantrell - Boggy Depot (1998)
Jerry Cantrell was a reluctant solo musician. Alice In Chains was his creative space, treating the band as his main priority for most of his career. He only went solo after the indefinite hiatus of his band, the result of the increased drug use and deteriorating health of co-frontman Layne Staley. The resulting album was in some respects an Alice In Chains album without Layne Staley, as Sean Kinney did all the drums and bassist Mike Inez contributed on three songs including "Cut You In" and the Jerry Cantrell Book Club highlights "Jesus Hands" and "Devil By His Side".

Named after a ghost town in Oklahoma in an area where Cantrell's father grew up, Boggy Depot was all over the place. Singles "My Song" and "Dickeye", as well as the deep cut "Jesus Hands", follow in the lineage of some of Cantrell's best work with AIC in sound and lyrics. But there's more experimentation in the mix, from the borderline trip hop sound of the 6+ minute "Settling Down" to outlaw country influences coming through on songs like the penultimate track "Between" and the blend of acoustic rock and ska-like horn freakouts on lead single "Cut You In", which features Fishbone's Angelo Moore providing the aforementioned horns.

Critics didn't know what to make of Boggy Depot when it came out. Rolling Stone described it as an unmemorable album and labeled it "Alice In Handcuffs". The AV Club nominated it as one of the least essential 90s solo albums and unfavorably compared Cantrell's solo work to Creed and Days Of The New. Yet it would prove an essential for JessieLou and listeners of The Book Club thanks to the songs' appearances in the series.

During this era, Staley went to see Cantrell's solo concert on Halloween 1998 in Seattle and welcomed Staley to join him on stage. He never did.

190. Phil Collins - No Jacket Required (1985)
Phil Collins had his legacy set by the mid 80s. He was an influential drummer - later also its singer - in the progressive rock band Genesis, which under Collins' stewardship would pivot to an AOR sound that was dominant on both FM radio and MTV. He had "In The Air Tonight," iconic for the buildup to its climactic drum break, one of the best in rock music history. It's a string of success most musicians would have killed for. Had Phil stopped there, he would have done OK in life. Instead, No Jacket Required made him a superstar.

Collins was building up to the moment thanks to a string of pop and rock hits in the early 80s, most notably "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)", which became a signature song of his solo career following its use in the film Against All Odds. On No Jacket Required, his prior success served as a gateway to an album full of 80s pop landmarks, including the Prince-inspired "Sussudio", live favorites "Who Said I Would" and "Take Me Home", and the song whose music video begat the enduring nickname "Cowboy Phil," "Don't Lose My Number".

Following the success of "Against All Odds", Collins had developed a reputation for recording love songs that became major hits. He made No Jacket Required as an attempt to break out of that box. Most of the hits from the album came from Collins' experimentation with drum machines and lyrical improvisation. "One More Night", the lead single and first of two #1 hits from the album, came from his attempts to make a beat similar to the Jacksons. "Sussudio" was a placeholder chorus that Collins intended on replacing but kept as it was. And "Don't Lose My Number", the fateful Cowboy Phil song, was sketched as what a New York Times reviewer described as a vague outline of a melodrama that doesn't tell the whole story - so much that even Collins himself admits he's not sure what the song is about.

No Jacket Required to this day is considered the essential Phil Collins solo album. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where he was inducted as a member of Genesis, ranked it on its Definitive 200 albums list, and the UK's Brit Awards nominated it in 2010 among the best British albums of the last 30 years. Yet, Collins retrospectively has grown to dislike it, saying in a 2016 Rolling Stone interview: "At the time, I wasn't being me. I've grown up a bit now and much prefer to play songs that are me. I only play a bit part in that one."

189. Natalie Imbruglia - Left Of The Middle (1997)
In 1998, one of the most inescapable songs on top 40 radio was Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn", a midtempo rework of an acoustic rock song by a Danish band called Ednaswap. "Torn" was the only major hit for the Australian singer, but its parent album Left Of The Middle was a global hit, showcasing her strengths in what was at the time a crowded field of alternative rock-inspired female musicians inspired by the success of Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill.

"Torn" and its followup, "Wishing I Was There", were aimed squarely at the hot adult contemporary market for their alt-pop sound. But there was more to her than those songs led audiences to believe, as heard on her borderline hard rock turns on "One More Addiction" and European hit "Big Mistake" and the Tori Amos-esque piano balladry of "Smoke".

But it was "Torn" that helped propel the album to its success. It went on to sell 7 million copies worldwide in part thanks to "Torn", which spent a double digit number of weeks at #1 on the radio charts in both the UK and the US, despite not reaching #1 on the singles chart in the UK and being ineligible to chart on Billboard's Hot 100 at the time. Left Of The Middle remains the biggest selling debut album for a female artist from Australia.

In addition to cultivating a wave of new artists bearing 90s influence, namely Soccer Mommy, who said she used "Torn" as a reference point for her 2020 song "Circle The Drain", Left Of The Middle also was a formative influence on DJ Jessica as one of the first albums she bought.

188. Basement - Promise Everything (2016)
In 2012, Basement's star never had a chance to become ascendant. Just before the release of their second album Colourmeinkindness, the band announced they were breaking up due to "personal commitments." After a US tour and final shows in the UK, Colourmeinkindness debuted without the band behind it sounding the alarms for it. Frontman Andrew Fisher went back to school to become a certified teacher, while his bandmate and brother James Fisher was finishing art school. Guitarist Alex Henery hung around in Boston to do photography for the band's then current label, Run For Cover. Yet, Basement had life left in them beyond their supposed swan song. The band reformed in 2014, started working on a new album, and then near the end of the following year, that album was announced for an early 2016 release.

For Promise Everything, Basement took the subtle grunge and early emo influences of their previous album and doubled down on it. Almost every song sounded like it would have been big in the 90s. Songs like the title track, "Hanging Around" and "Lose Your Grip" find their pull through the crunching distorted guitars in the mix, building on their channeling of Nirvana and Sunny Day Real Estate in their sound. They also tried their hand at more melodic rock than their previous albums, allowing the band to deliver certified alt-rock anthems like "Aquasun", a minor M4B genre breakthrough in 2016 that was the #1 song of DJ Michael's personal chart, the Burner 50, for that year.

The ascendant star Basement never achieved in 2012 did come with Promise Everything, which got the attention of the pop punk and alt rock institution Fueled By Ramen. The band signed with them a year after the album came out and re-released it with a couple of bonus tracks. It would pave the way for an even bigger moment with their 2018 album Beside Myself and the major M4B genre hit "Disconnect". But for expanding on and perfecting their sound, Promise Everything remains a high point for them.

187. Chris Cornell - Euphoria Mourning (1999)
When Soundgarden broke up in 1997, its members split off into a wide range of new projects. Frontman Chris Cornell tried his first foray into a solo career, showcasing his versatility as a musician by experimenting with slower and more melodic music and vocals than he was previously known for in Soundgarden.

For Cornell's solo debut Euphoria Mourning, he turned to a rhythm section that included the singers and multi-instrumentalists Alain Johannes and the late Natasha Shneider, both of the rock band Eleven; they would go on to significantly contribute to Queens Of The Stone Age's 2002 album Songs For The Deaf. (They also were notable for conducting a mock interview with Soundgarden to promote their 1996 album Down On The Upside, where they asked questions that included how they felt about being referred to as Frowngarden.) Their contributions ranging from guitar and bass to tabla, tambourine and organ helped enhance a psychedelic pop element to the album.

It's best known for its lead single, "Can't Change Me", which Cornell wrote about what he described in an interview as "kind of a sad discovery that this singer is involved with this person that has amazing powers to help people and change things positively, and he's realizing that none of it is really rubbing off on him." He added that the composition has some influence from Soundgarden's past work like "Blow Up The Outside World".

The album also features a recording of the Superunknown outtake "Flutter Girl", tributes to his first wife Susan Silver ("Moonchild") and his late friend Jeff Buckley ("Wave Goodbye", and on the song "Preaching The End Of The World" he helped popularized the phrase "seeking a friend for the end of the world," a phrase as ubiquitous on online dating apps as women who ask for "the Jim to my Pam" (in reference to the romance between two of the key characters in The Office).

Despite positive reviews upon its release, Euphoria Mourning failed to make a lasting impact. But Chris Cornell becoming a core JessieLou artist in 2019 raised the album's profile on M4B.

186. Rise Against - The Sufferer & The Witness (2006)
With their mainstream breakthrough, Rise Against delivered the Chicago punk scene's answer to the Foo Fighters, whose strength lies in their consistent ability to deliver hooky, fast paced and melodic rock songs with a high replay value. The Sufferer & The Witness remains their best example of their work.

Despite a minor success on the alternative charts with the singles from their previous album Siren Song of the Counter Culture, the band's members were dissatisfied with the end result because producer Garth Richardson polished up their sound too much. So they decided to return to their earlier work and reunite with the producers behind their beloved 2003 album Revolutions Per Minute. On The Sufferer & The Witness, they created an album with what an Allmusic reviewer described as "one shout-along, mosh-worthy song after another."

Contributing to the urgency of the songs are the political and social themes explored throughout the album, whose opening track, "Chamber The Cartridge", criticizes general apathy toward political and social issues. Lead singer Tim McIlrath described the band's body of work as saying, "I think that a lot of the problems we deal with today in the world are the ones that have been plaguing society for centuries and probably will be here a hundred years from now ... There's a bigger picture than just the Bush administration and specific problems of 2006, and I want people to relate to that, even if they're listening to it 10 years from now."

185. Alanis Morissette - MTV Unplugged (1999)
Alanis Morissette tempered her edges in the years after Jagged Little Pill, and her Unplugged concert and album foreshadowed what would come in her later career.

In addition to songs from her first two international albums, Morissette dug deep into her catalog and did outtakes from her albums, like "Princes Familiar", a song she dedicated to "all the dads", and "No Pressure Over Cappuccino", which was intended for Jagged Little Pill. The Unplugged rendition of Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie track "That I Would Be Good" was released as a single, and her cover of "King Of Pain" by the Police was highlighted as a standout.

184. No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom (1995)
Tragic Kingdom, its title evocative of a theme park with a famous mouse mascot located not far from the band's home turf, came together after an independently released album of ska punk songs sold triple what their major label debut in 1992 did. The citrus crate label inspired cover art sets the tone for the record - sweet sounding songs with a bitter tone.

Gwen Stefani took over lead songwriting duties from her brother, Eric, who was the band's keyboardist until he left over a disagreement with their record label over the use of musicians outside the band. He went on to become an animator for The Simpsons, even animating No Doubt into the fictional Hullabalooza festival. (The band didn't have a speaking role.) Gwen Stefani's most defining influence in the album was moving the band closer to more commercially accessible music and lyrics, writing about her life experiences including her breakup with bassist Tony Kanal, which inspired the album's third single and biggest hit, "Don't Speak". Gwen and Eric Stefani co-wrote the song, originally intended as a love song with a 70s rock inspired arrangement. But Gwen Stefani retooled the song after her breakup. With Kanal playing on the song, "Don't Speak" feels like the Rumours of 90s alternative.

Throughout the album, Gwen Stefani proved a commanding and charismatic frontwoman, who was naturally comfortable with the band's core ska material as she was with experimenting with Blondie-esque new wave ragers like "Just A Girl", a song that made her a feminist icon. It almost sounded like the album was a way of positioning herself for the successful solo career that would follow a decade later.

Tragic Kingdom was one of the late 90s biggest selling alternative rock albums, helped in part by the radio dominance of "Don't Speak", and it made No Doubt and Gwen Stefani household names. They remain an influence for many modern pop musicians.

183. Rainbow - Long Live Rock 'N' Roll (1978)
Ronnie James Dio ended his run as Rainbow's lead singer on a high, on top form from start to finish. The title track is a natural crowd pleaser, blending AOR melodies, abstract verses and a monster of a chorus to craft what's one of the most popular songs of Dio's catalog. "Gates Of Babylon" builds on the Eastern influences of their previous album's "Stargazer" with a suspenseful orchestral backing and some of Ritchie Blackmore's most powerful solos. "Kill The King", part of the band's live sets prior to its recording for the album, arrives on the album's second side fully formed, with a fast paced riff and fantasy themed lyrics that exemplify what the band's Dio era was all about.

Long Live Rock 'N' Roll is not only considered one of the best albums of Dio's career, but of heavy metal in general. It's cited as an influence on the subgenre of power metal because of its fantasy themed aesthetics.

182. Jerry Cantrell - Degradation Trip (2002)
Loss hanged over many of the great albums of the grunge era, and Alice In Chains frontman Jerry Cantrell expanded on that with an album whose songs included lyrics that seemed to foreshadow his former bandmate Layne Staley dying from his drug use. Released first as a single album and then as a two volume double album, the songs on Degradation Trip came from a low point in Cantrell's life, when he was heavily using drugs and alcohol and interest in his music was fading as Alice In Chains was on indefinite hiatus with Staley's deteriorated health and his record label lost confidence in the album.

What could have been a curse turned a blessing in disguise. Cantrell made the songs on Degradation Trip without the interference of record executives, instead making the music independently and taking it to a label after. Roadrunner Records - which later would release Rush's final studio albums - took a chance on the new songs, on the condition Cantrell narrowed his collection of 25 songs to fit a single disc. All the songs intended for the album would see release months later on a double disc second version, Degradation Trip Volumes 1 and 2, that followed Cantrell's originally intended sequencing.

The album's heavy sound is owed in part to the involvement of Ozzy Osbourne's rhythm section, which at the time included Robert Trujillo, whose next gig was as bassist for Metallica, and Jim Bordin, drummer of Faith No More. Cantrell's state during this time owed to the dark lyrics, with the pair of songs that opens the album, "Psychotic Break" and "Bargain Basement Howard Hughes", inspired by a self-imposed isolation Cantrell went through during the making of the album, and their reflection of dead friends prophecized the death of Staley. The album's aesthetic was balanced by songs like the second single "Angel Eyes", a more mellow and midtempo song, and the upbeat "She Was My Girl", which first appeared on the soundtrack of the 2002 film Spider-Man.

The songs on Degradation Trip made up the vast majority of highlights from a March 2021 Book Club episode spotlighting Cantrell's solo career, where JessieLou declared him a core artist and reassessed her final verdicts from previous AIC episodes.

181. Guns N' Roses - Use Your Illusion I (1991)
Matching or besting the all killer, no filler of their breakout album Appetite For Destruction would prove to be an unattainable feat for Guns N' Roses, but during the two album Use Your Illusion era, they went for the next best thing: a feat of musical diversity and lyrical maturity with its fair share of super sized epics (of both the song and video variety) to boot.

Use Your Illusion II was the bigger selling album, mostly because of the inclusion of "You Could Be Mine", which was a major rock radio hit because of its use in the hit movie sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But I had the better set of songs - extra points for having no songs called "Get In The Ring" and "My World" - kicking things off with the super heavy "Right Next Door To Hell", inspired by a bad experience with a next door neighbor, and progressing with Appetite-esque hard hitters like "Back Off Bitch" and "Garden Of Eden". The album also launched a pair of songs into the top 10, the power ballad "Don't Cry" and the 9-minute epic "November Rain", an icon of its time thanks to its equally epic video depicting frontman Axl Rose marrying his then-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour and later grieving at her funeral.

180. Lita Ford - Lita
On her third studio album, former Runaways guitarist Lita Ford followed in the steps of her one time bandmate Joan Jett and became a household name on her own. Lita smashed the glass ceiling of the male dominated glam metal scene that dominated rock music in the 80s and landed a pair of enduring top 15 hits that carved out a place for women aiming to make it into metal music.

Lita proved a more accessible work than her previous album Dancin' On The Edge, but not without the teeth. "Can't Catch Me", co-written with Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister, combines the high speed ferocity of Motorhead's combination of punk and metal with an irresistible chorus. "Falling In And Out Of Love", co-written with Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx, added a bluesy flair to glam metal. The album was also notable for featuring some of the major players of Pat Benatar's career. Her rhythm section of bassist Don Nossov and drummer Myron Grombacher were featured throughout the album, and Mike Chapman, who co-wrote "Love is a Battlefield", produced the album and also co-wrote two songs, Back to the Cave and Blueberry.

The album was best known for its hits "Kiss Me Deadly" and "Close My Eyes Forever", the latter a duet with Ozzy Osbourne. Lita and Ozzy's paths crossed thanks to Lita's career being managed by Ozzy's wife Sharon at the time. The pair co-wrote "Close My Eyes Forever" by accident after a night of drinking in the studio. And what a memorable accident it was - apart from becoming the commercial peak for both artists, it's one of the most important core JessieLou songs, remaining an all time favorite of hers since first discovering it in 2007.

179. Kelly Clarkson - All I Ever Wanted (2009)
Boldly following her 2000s pop landmark Breakaway with the musically divergent My December in 2007 was a point of contention with Kelly Clarkson and her label. Executive Clive Davis didn't promote the album because he felt it wasn't radio ready enough, and he pressured Kelly into making a pop friendly followup.

The history of All I Ever Wanted is as embattled as the one that led Kelly to that point. Her work with the singer, songwriter and producer Ryan Tedder, lead singer of OneRepublic, yielded the album's third single "Already Gone", which many pop music observers pointed out was extremely similar to Beyonce's "Halo", which Tedder also wrote and produced. Clarkson also took issue with the cover art, criticized for its Photoshopping of her natural look, and disliked the album's intended title, Masquerade, for sounding too similar to other pop albums released at the time like Britney Spears' Circus and Pink's Funhouse.

Despite the behind the scenes issues, it was the music that mattered in the end, and it only furthered Kelly's standing as one of the most beloved artists of M4B Charts Central's core members. "My Life Would Suck Without You" and "Already Gone" were her 7th and 8th Globalchart #1s.

178. Bad Religion - Suffer (1988)
Suffer is the first in a series of three albums that California's Bad Religion released from 1988 to 1990 dubbed the "holy trilogy", not only considered the best albums of their career but also albums that helped blaze the trails that brought other West Coast punk bands like Green Day and the Offspring, both of whom will appear on this list later, to blockbuster success in the mid 90s. But it almost never happened - the band nearly called it quits years before Suffer was released.

Ironic given the band's skill in short and punchy songs expressed on these albums, Bad Religion's members were fans of progressive rock, a genre filled with lengthy, challenging songs including multi-part suites that can fill entire sides of records. Following a debut album in the early 80s full of the short, fast and loud songs that dominate the band's peak material, they followed it up with a progressive rock record. The result, Into the Unknown, was a critical and commercial failure. It was enough to end the band.

But a live reunion of the band helped get them back in the studio, and in its wake they seemingly effortlessly cranked out Suffer, with 15 songs in 25 minutes that are a fireball of hard rock energy, biting with brutally honest lyrics including million dollar words like obsequious and rapacity, and in the process inventing the West Coast punk rock that dominated alternative music in the mid 90s. Suffer is considered one of the best albums of 1988 and remains influential on heavy music to this day.

177. Lifehouse - No Name Face (2000)
In the late 90s, Jason Wade began writing songs as a way to cope with his parents' divorce. He would eventually begin recording them when he formed a band with his next door neighbor upon moving to Los Angeles. That band, originally called Blyss, would start making a name for itself by performing at colleges and churches. They made a demo for Dreamworks Records, re-recorded most of the songs from the demo sessions for a full length album, and changed their name to Lifehouse. The rest is history.

Wade came up with the band's name, sharing a moniker with an unfinished and unreleased rock opera by The Who, by summarizing how the songs his band made are about his life and about life's circumstances. It would be a running theme of the band's debut album, No Name Face, released near the end of 2000 to mostly positive reviews that considered the band's lyrics above many of their contemporaries.

The album, of course, is best remembered for "Hanging By A Moment", which became a sleeper hit following its late 2000 release and was the #1 hit of 2001 in the U.S. despite only reaching #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. (It would rank #2 in the 2000s #2s episode of 20Hitz behind "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" by Green Day.) Wade recalled in an MTV interview coming up with the song in a short frame of time: "I was eight songs into finishing the record, doing a vocal, and I heard the melody in my head before it was written. I couldn't tell if it was a song on the radio that I had heard or if it was a song my friend wrote or something. I picked up a guitar and it was kind of creepy, because the song was almost already written by itself. Within five minutes, the lyrics and everything else were finished. We tracked it the next week and it ended up being the first single. It was funny, because I felt there was another song that needed to be written during the project that was more upbeat and less moody."

While "Hanging By A Moment" was the song everyone remembers, its other tracks still connected on M4B. The followup single "Sick Cycle Carousel" remains a cult favorite. "Unknown" gained wider attention on the station in 2018 when JessieLou played it on The Book Club in a memorable two part episode spotlighting Ari's personal chart. Most notably, early member Dan won the inaugural M4B Song Contest in 2004 by submitting the deep cut "Everything", notable for its use in the TV series Smallville, in the final round.

176. Queen - The Game (1980)
Popular musical conventions exist often to be broken. For Queen, their brand was built on making their first seven albums with no synthesizers - a fact they proudly displayed on the back covers of each of those albums. So when The Game opened with the sounds of an Oberheim OB-X on lead track "Play The Game", it would have been completely dumbfounding for the listener to realize they're listening to a Queen album. Yet, all the hallmarks that made Queen a top tier rock act in the 1970s are intact on The Game, particularly the powerhouse vocals of Freddie Mercury and the distinctive guitar work of Brian May.

The band's members worked on The Game in Germany with the recording engineer Reinhold Mack, who was instrumental in encouraging Queen to diverge from their typical processes in the making of the album. Brian May recalled in an interview, "We thought there was only one way of doing things, like doing a backing tracks: We would just do it until we got it right. If there were some bits where it speeded up or slowed down, then we would do it again until it was right. We had done some of our old backing tracks so many times, they were too stiff. Mack's first contribution was to say, 'Well you don't have to do that. I can drop the whole thing in. If it breaks down after half a minute, then we can edit in and carry on if you just play along with the tempo.'"

Inspired by that approach, Queen broke all their own rules in the making of The Game, trying anything and everything out from the rockabilly of pre-release single "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" to the slow burning, late period Zeppelin-esque "Dragon Attack" - a live favorite during the band's early to mid 80s concerts - and the electronic influenced "Coming Soon". Of course, there was "Another One Bites The Dust", released as a single at the insistence of Michael Jackson, which borrowed from disco and funk, primarily "Good Times" by Chic. Queen's incorporation of these influences was rewarded with one of the biggest selling singles of their career.

The Game overall enjoyed lasting success, remaining to this day Queen's best selling studio album in the U.S. It stands as one of the most important fusions of rock and dance music in the last 40 years, and one of the moments when breaking the rules helped musicians tread uncharted ground.

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