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Best Albums Of All Time?


Raspbernie

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The Top 20 Albums of All Time (For Real)

—Yahoo! Music Playlist Blog

I completely understand the frustration of "best of lists", and I can assure you that I read hundreds of comments here on the Yahoo Music blogs whenever we post one. Many times our "best album" lists generate thousands of comments. And although many of the remarks are ridiculous, many are valid in a subjective sort of way.

For this playlist I wanted to find the true top 20 albums once and for all, but to do this I needed to clear my mind of all opinion and approach it as a science. My own personal taste did not influence this list in any way. In fact, I would have made many different choices, but the time I put into collecting the data and crunching the numbers leaves no doubt in my mind that this is the most accurate top 20 album list in existence.

To begin with I had to set the parameters, and I have set them as follows:

1. The list is based on the American market - I did this only because I had mounds of detailed data on the American music market at hand- to include the whole world or even Europe would increase the complexity of the analysis greatly - So this is really the "Top 20 Albums of All Time (To Americans)"

2. "Greatest Hits" albums and live albums were not eligible. The idea here was to identify the very best true albums, not compilations that cherry pick the best songs from an artist's career.

3. The following mathematical formula was used:

"Album Staying Power Value + Sales Value + Critical Rating Value + Grammy Award Value"

Now if you wish to argue, I welcome intelligent comment on how to hone the formula further, but please try to control the passionate fan-speak that drives so many of the comments. Remember, the idea is to completely remove your personal opinion from the process.

To offer a bit more detail on the components of the formula:

The initial group of albums selected was based solely on sales. Please know that I believe sales alone are probably the worst measure we have of an album's quality and I will speak to how I addressed this problem in a few. But as a starting point sales made the most sense. Sales are by no means the only measure of a "great album", but without big sales an album doesn't have much footing on which to claim the moniker "greatest". A vote with a dollar is a much stronger indicator than any other.

I looked at the biggest selling albums of all time in America based on actual RIAA data - this produced 71 non-Greatest Hits/Live albums that have all sold over 10 million units. Any of these that sold more than 10 million units received a 1% Sales Multiplier for every 1 million units sold over 10 million.

Sales Value = Sales Multiplier X Staying Power Value

Next, I determined what the Staying Power Value (SPV) was of all 71 albums. To determine Staying Power Value I looked at used CD sales data to determine how well each album's value has held up over time. For example, in the secondary market you can expect to pay around $9.50 for a copy of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, but you would only pay $1.38 for a copy of Cracked Rear View by Hootie and The Blowfish. The Staying Power Value is important because it shows what the current value of the album is in the marketplace. So it's a good reflection of supply and demand. Rumours sold 19 million copies and Cracked Rear View sold 16 million. Rumours gets more points for selling more units, but even more important than the higher overall sales figures is that people want to hold onto their Fleetwood Mac CD, but don't mind parting with their Hootie CD. SPV captures this. In simple terms, Staying Power Value reflects current supply and demand for each album. *Please note that for double albums we reduced the SPV to align with a standard-length album.

So if we take the previously mentioned SPV of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album and multiply it by that album's Sales Multiplier of 9% (1% for each million sold over 10 million) we get $10.38. But this only shows us how much people still desire the album + how many have sold at retail.

The next part of the formula takes into account critical acclaim.

I would agree with anyone who says a critical review means nothing, but when you start to see a pattern among the critics the data becomes much more reliable. If ten out of ten reviewers give an album 5 stars chances are good that the album is a winner. Basically the more reviews you average the more reliable the rating.

For the Critical Rating Value I looked at multiple reviews for each album from a diverse cross section of music magazines, newspapers and music review websites to come up with the average review number for each based on a 5 star scale. From these ratings I assigned a Critical Rating Multiplier to each album ranging from 0% to 10%.

So now our formula has factored in critical acclaim making the end result more reliable.

Ratings Value = Sales Value X Rating Multiplier

The final portion of the formula is the Grammy Award Value and it simply looks at how many Grammy Awards each album has won. Our formula already has the voice of the people (Sales Value) and the voice of the critics (Critical Rating Value) so the only missing component is the acclaim each album holds among it's peers. The Grammys are an industry specific award and are the best reflection we have of how the music business itself feels about an album. I would agree that this is the least important of the components in our formula, and as such each Grammy award adds only a .5% bonus. So an album that wins 4 Grammys would receive an extra 2% to it's value. This in my estimation is a fair weighting to give for a Grammy award.

So now I give you The Top 20 Albums of All Time based purely on the analysis provided above and devoid of any personal opinion.

#20. Faith - George Michael

Year: 1987 Units Sold: 10 Million

SPV: $9.19 Rating (Stars): 4 Grammys Won: 1

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $9.79

#19. Appetite For Destruction - Guns N' Roses

Year: 1987 Units Sold: 15 Million

SPV: $8.81 Rating (Stars): 4 Grammys Won: 0

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $9.81

#18. Purple Rain - Prince

Year: 1984 Units Sold: 13 Million

SPV: $8.74 Rating (Stars): 4.75 Grammys Won: 2

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $9.82

#17. Houses Of The Holy - Led Zeppelin

Year: 1973 Units Sold: 11 Million

SPV: $9.10 Rating (Stars): 4.5 Grammys Won: 0

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $9.93

#16. Born In The U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen

Year: 1984 Units Sold: 15 Million

SPV: $8.91 Rating (Stars): 5 Grammys Won: 0

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $10.29

#15. Nevermind - Nirvana

Year: 1991 Units Sold: 10 Million

SPV: $10.07 Rating (Stars): 4 Grammys Won: 0

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $10.67

#14. Van Halen - Van Halen

Year: 1978 Units Sold: 10 Million

SPV: $10.23 Rating (Stars): 4.25 Grammys Won: 0

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $10.84

#13. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac

Year: 1977 Units Sold: 19 Million

SPV: $9.52 Rating (Stars): 5 Grammys Won: 1

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $11.47

#12. The Wall - Pink Floyd

Year: 1979 Units Sold: 23 Million

SPV: $10.20 Rating (Stars): 4.75 Grammys Won: 1

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $12.51

#11. The Joshua Tree - U2

Year: 1987 Units Sold: 10 Million

SPV: $11.50 Rating (Stars): 4.5 Grammys Won: 2

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $12.54

#10. Metallica - Metallica

Year: 1991 Units Sold: 14 Million

SPV: $12.08 Rating (Stars): 4.25 Grammys Won: 1

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $13.38

#9. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin

Year: 1969 Units Sold: 10 Million

SPV: $12.83 Rating (Stars): 4 Grammys Won: 0

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $13.60

#8. Hotel California - Eagles

Year: 1976 Units Sold: 16 Million

SPV: $12.00 Rating (Stars): 4.75 Grammys Won: 0

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $13.81

#7. The White Album - The Beatles

Year: 1968 Units Sold: 19 Million

SPV: $12.00 Rating (Stars): 5 Grammys Won: 0

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $14.39

#6. Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zeppelin

Year: 1971 Units Sold: 23 Million

SPV: $12.42 Rating (Stars): 5 Grammys Won: 0

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $15.44

#5. Abbey Road - The Beatles

Year: 1968 Units Sold: 12 Million

SPV: $14.94 Rating (Stars): 4.25 Grammys Won: 1

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $16.23

#4. Physical Graffiti - Led Zeppelin

Year: 1975 Units Sold: 16 Million

SPV: $14.31 Rating (Stars): 4.75 Grammys Won: 0

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $16.38

#3. Thriller - Michael Jackson

Year: 1982 Units Sold: 27 Million

SPV: $13.49 Rating (Stars): 4.5 Grammys Won: 4

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $17.39

#2. Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd

Year: 1973 Units Sold: 15 Million

SPV: $16.08 Rating (Stars): 5 Grammys Won: 0

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $18.57

#1. Songs In The Key Of Life - Stevie Wonder

Year: 1976 Units Sold: 10 Million

SPV: $16.84 Rating (Stars): 5 Grammys Won: 2

Calculated value per unit based on the formula: $18.71

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I don't agree with this ranking either, but there's no denying that "Songs" is one (actually two) incredible album that covers a wide musical range, hardly touched by anyone else. I've never seen it ranked on a "Best Albums" list before, so this is a pleasant surprise for me.

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"I think it's pretty clear to everyone that just because an album sold many units doesn't necessarily make it a good/great album."

Definitely agree, but this guy took great pains to point out repeatedly that his "top 20" albums are simply those which scored the highest in his convoluted formula....a formula which is 3/4 based on sales, the current value of an album, and awards won.....all of which can be objectively measured by anybody who wants to take the time or effort. Only 1/4 of the formula even considers anybody's opinion at all - the critical rating....a rating which isn't his, either, although he could have cherry-picked the sources for ratings that he used.

While I personally think this list is as idiotic as any other, at least it's less subjective than most you see.....although I question using Grammy awards in any kind of a formula like this. Over the years, the # of categories have multiplied, making it considerably easier to win one over the past 20 years or so.

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Hard Days Night

Beatles For Sale

Marshall Crenshaw [debut]

Present Tense [shoes

Ziggy Stardust

Today [beach Boys]

For Certain Because [The Hollies]

Oddesy & Oracle [Zombies]

Starting Over

Flowers [stones]

Pure Pop For Now People [Nick Lowe]

Rumours

Parallel Lines [blondie]

Mars Needs Guitars [Hoodoo Gurus]

#1 Record [big Star]

There's 15 off the top of my head.

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"I guess they forgot about an album titled "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"......"

No, I doubt it....but I'll guarantee you that Sgt Peppers does NOT place that highly using this guy's formula (great reviews BUT didn't win Grammies, sales weren't that high, and I'm guessing its staying power value isn't that high either).

Regardless of what you or I think about his rating system, it totally eliminates one's opinion of what's "good" or "bad", which, let's face it, is 100% subjective. Hence, the idiocy of all such lists!

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"Pepper" was actually the only Beatles' album to win an album of the year Grammy. The Grammy part of the equation is extremely skewed as the Grammys were slow to recognize rock acts so artists like Sinatra or Streisand would have a huge advantage over The Fabs in the '60s. "Pepper" also sold extremely well staying on the charts for two years and re-entering numerous times over the years. It has sold 11 million in the US, won the Grammy for best album, and is generally picked by most critics as the most important album of all time (although most Beatles fans don't think it is their best album). But it's not on the list?!?

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Re: Sgt. Peppers - Barb - You're correct. Shows how little I know (or care) about Grammies AND the Sgt. Peppers LP!

Since its domestic sales are 11 million, which is greater than 4-5 of the listed albums, and it won multiple Grammies, it appears the only thing dragging it down would be its Staying Power - how it's held its value over the years OR reviews by critics.....(??? does not compute)

I agree with Art's comment directly above....

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Staying power is an interesting factor too... as it denotes resale value? By the time many of these on the list were released as CD's they had been packaged and repackaged so many times that the CD's started life as a "Bargain Buy" because there was so much saturation... Take Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" as an example, I think the first time I saw it in CD format it had one of those "Bargain Buy" stickers... even though it too had incredible staying power on the charts as evidenced by something like 34 Million copies (though I'm not sure how many of those are domestic, I can't imagine that world-wide sales did more than equal US... which would put it at 17 million/17 million...) and continues to average 200,000 NEW sales every year...

So I'd be interested in knowing where this classic album fell to on this writers list...

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While I don't have a clue exactly how this clown determined staying power/resale value, that's gotta be the reason why "Sgt. Peppers" didn't make his list. And it's true that you can usually find used copies of it practically being given away at used CD/record stores....due to people upgrading their copies by purchasing the latest re-mastered/re-mixed/re-whatever version, I'm guessing. Still not sure, though, why this should be a numeric factor in his equation, or what its significance is......(????)

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I can understand why "Greatest Hits" albums were not included, but I don't understand what difference a live or studio album makes. If a studio album was recorded in one take with all the musicians playing at the same time isn't that a live album? Maybe the only recording of an artist playing a particular set of songs is live, why shouldn't that album be included?

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