As the blogmasters were DJs in a previous life, we met many winery owners in Virginia over the last ten years as we marketed our side business. So we thought now would be an appropriate time to mix tunes with grapes. This is the third entry in our analysis of what we believe are the best albums of the classic rock and roll era (generally considered to be the mid '60s to the mid '90s). We took a lot of time to carefully pair these albums with our favorite wines/wineries in the state.
If you want to get caught up on the previous lists, click here. And we will suggest a Virginia winery/wine to experience while listening to this album (bonus points for vinyl).
Part 3: 50 to 26
50. Making Movies/Dire Straits (1980)
After the disappointing sales and critical reception of their second album, Communiqué, Knopfler and company came back in full force with Making Movies, considered by many to be the band’s best album. “Tunnel of Love,” the kick off track, takes the listener on a rock and blues ride for over eight minutes; the song remains a Knopfler concert favorite to this day. The timelessness of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Skateaway” speak for themselves, and the band just rocks the hell out on “Solid Rock” and “Expresso Love.”
Suggested wine pairing: New Kent Winery White Merlot.
49. The Doors/Doors (1967)
The Doors took the summer of love on a hard-edged jazz and blues rock detour with their debut in 1967. “Break on Through” and “Light My Fire” remain quintessential Doors tracks to this day, and “The End” is still analyzed by "herb"-smoking English majors. But some of the best tracks are the lesser known gems: “Soul Kitchen,” with its incessant Manzarek organ and relentless Densmore drumming, and the two covers seemingly tailor made for Morrison: “Back Door Man” and “Alabama Song.”
Suggested wine pairing: Corcoran Vineyards Black Jack Chambourcin.
48. Crime of the Century/Supertramp (1974)
A year after Dark Side of the Moon, but five years before The Wall, prog rock favorites Supertramp crafted a Pink Floyd-esque concept album about mental illness leading to murder with Crime of the Century. After listening to the first track “School,” fans have to wonder if Roger Waters got some ideas for his 1979 Floyd magnum opus. Another cut, “Dreamer,” oddly became a Top 20 hit for the band as a live version in 1980, a year after Breakfast in America topped the charts. “If Everyone was Listening” is so atmospheric and beautiful, it’s hard to imagine the song is about a sociopath.
Suggested wine pairing: Otium Cellars Blaufränkisch.
47. Purple Rain/Prince and the Revolution (1984)
If you were alive in 1984, you could not escape this record. The movie may be considered ‘80s cheese by today’s standards, but the songs still sound great. And it’s quite hard to believe a silly ditty such as “Darling Nikki” was censored in this day and age of in-your-face obscenities found in hip hop and rap songs.
Suggested wine pairing: Horton Vineyards "Black Cat" Chardonnay.
46. Desperado/Eagles (1973)
The Eagles’ second album was a theme album about the American west. Amazingly, none of the songs from the album were big hits (not even the title track, one of the band’s most enduring tunes; the song was not released as a single). “Saturday Night” is one of the Eagles’ most underrated ballads, a Meisner, Henley, Frey, and Leadon collaboration as good as anything from their more successful albums which followed.
Suggested wine pairing: Desert Rose Ranch Winery Ole Moo Moo white blend.
45. Rumours/Fleetwood Mac (1977)
The album that turned rock and roll into a soap opera. Rumours was the soundtrack of the late ‘70s, with four singles reaching the Top Ten, and several more hitting the AOR (album-oriented rock) station airwaves. Exactly ten years later, the band released Tango in the Night, a semi-sequel, albeit less angry. And twenty years later in 1997, the Buckingham/Nicks incarnation of the Mac would embark on a world tour to support their album The Dance, and the songs which were “bitter” in 1977 became “bittersweet” in 1997, according to Lindsey Buckingham. You cannot be a fan of popular music and not have this CD or album on your shelf.
Suggested wine pairing: Cave Ridge Vineyards Syrah.
44. Summer Days (and Summer Nights)/Beach Boys (1965)
The best of the Beach Boys’ pre-Pet Sounds records (although some purists might make cases for Surfer Girl or Beach Boys Today!), the “sailboat record” has its share of cringe-inducing tracks (typical for the early Beach Boys records). Skip over tracks like “Salt Lake City” and “Amusement Parks USA,” and surround yourself in the sounds of “Help Me Rhonda” and “California Girls,” two of the Boys’ most famous songs, as well as lesser known Brian Wilson gems (“Girl Don’t Tell Me” and “You’re So Good to Me”), which paved the way for Pet Sounds a mere year later.
Suggested wine pairing: Cardamon Family Vineyards Emilia Rosé.
43. Thriller/Michael Jackson (1982)
This one needs no introduction, although some would argue 1979’s Off the Wall and even 1987’s Bad are better, more consistent records. Thriller was the right album at the right time, released in the infancy of MTV, and dominating both the airwaves and MTV (and “Friday Night Videos” for those unlucky “we don't have our MTV” households in the mid ‘80s). All but two tracks from the album hit the Top Ten, a record that has yet to be broken (sorry, One Direction….) An album that sits comfortably next to Rumours and Saturday Night Fever in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Suggested wine pairing: Wisdom Oak Winery North Garden Red.
42. Sheryl Crow/Sheryl Crow (1996)
This is the youngest album in our Top 100 list, which is a bit disheartening. Since the release of this album, the pop landscape has been littered with the music of alienation: Rap, teeny-bopper, derivative punk (Green Day, we're talking to you), and hip hop, and mediocre albums from stars who got their big break from a live talent show, not the old fashioned “take your album on tour and introduce the country and the world to it” way. Sheryl Crow’s second album is a mature sophomore effort, better than her scattershot first album Tuesday Night Music Club. Crow continues to make fine albums to this day, but none have surpassed the “every track is stunning” beauty of this album.
Suggested wine pairing: Maggie Malick Wine Caves Petit Manseng.
41. Tea for the Tillerman/Cat Stevens (1971)
The Greek-tinged Teaser and the Firecat may have sold more copies in the early ‘70s, but this is the essential Cat Stevens album. “Wild World,” “Where do the Children Play?,” “Father and Son,” and “Hard Headed Woman” still sound great today. Stevens, before he crossed into a more controversial world spotlight, was a tunesmith whose Nick Drake-esque delicate tunes resonated with a generation of music fans.
Suggested wine pairing: Doukenie Winery dry Riesling.
40. There Goes Rhymin' Simon/Paul Simon (1973)
Although many critics and Simon fans would put his 1986 comeback album Graceland in their top 100, “….Rhymin’ Simon” is our choice for Paul Simon’s best solo album. The album’s big singles (“Kodachrome,” banned in the UK for what they thought was promoting a commercial product, and “Loves Me Like a Rock”) still sound fresh today, and Simon sings with a level of honesty only hinted at in the Simon and Garfunkel albums. “Something So Right” is one of the best love songs of the rock era.
Suggested wine pairing: Miracle Valley Vineyards Sweet Michelle.
39. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road/Elton John (1973)
EJ’s 1973 double album is probably his most popular album (not including his Greatest Hits collections, which have actually sold more copies). He and Bernie Taupin conjured up a trick bag of graceful pop songs, epic seven minute tracks which remain concert staples (“Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding),” tribute tunes (the immortal “Candle in the Wind”), balls out Who-like rockers (“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”), and even a few reggae tunes. Not EJ’s best album according the Notebook (read on), but a worthy addition to every music library.
Suggested wine pairing: Ox Eye Vineyards Shy Ox blush.
38. Dark Side of the Moon/Pink Floyd (1973)
The quintessential Floyd album, according to most casual listeners (although a few other Floyd albums ranked higher on the Notebook's list). This album has become mystical in its reputation, and although we’ve all heard the songs so many times, the music still sucks us in from the very first heartbeat. The enchanting flow of the album, the lava lamp-invoking sound effects, the "Wizard of Oz" connection—there is a reason this album spent over 15 years on the Billboard Album Chart.
Suggested wine pairing: Hidden Brook Winery Cabernet Sauvignon.
37. A Space in Time/Ten Years After (1971)
When lead singer and guitarist Alvin Lee passed away in 2013, a new generation of music fanatics sought out his work with his old band, Ten Years After. A Space in Time is the band’s masterpiece, containing not only their most recognized song (“I’d Love to Change the World,” with lyrics more timely now than they were in 1971), but blues rocker jams on par with the likes of the Allman Brothers and Traffic, David Bowie-esque glam rock, and Yes/ELP prog rock.
Suggested wine pairing: Vineyards at Lost Creek Tranquility Rosé.
36. Stealers Wheel/Stealers Wheel (1972)
“Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty were a duo known as Stealers Wheel...When they recorded this Dylanesque, pop, bubble-gum favorite...from April of 1973 that reached up to number five...as K-BILLY's ‘Super Sounds of the '70s’ continues.” And, Steven Wright, the rest of the album is not too bad either. A masterpiece, in fact, full of meticulously arranged Beatlesque/Badfinger (not really “bubble gum”) tunes, some of which are downright bizarre (“José,” which was the B side to the “Stuck in the Middle with You” single). A forerunner to Scottish pop ranging from Al Stewart to Bay City Rollers, not to mention the solo career of the late, great Gerry Rafferty, which peaked in 1978 with his album City to City and the single “Baker Street.”
Suggested wine pairing: Fincastle Vineyard Chardonnay.
35. Born in the U.S.A./Bruce Springsteen (1984)
The Boss’s second of three appearances on our “Hot 100.” This was his classic of the 1980s, although the moodier side of the Notebook occasionally prefers the 1982 acoustic classic Nebraska. Coming after the double, extremely uneven 1980 album The River and Nebraska, Bruce focused on creating a damn near perfect pop album, with six songs per side, and no songs over five minutes long. The Reagan Era-weary American music fans were ready for the Boss, and sent a record-breaking seven singles from this album into the Billboard Top Ten. The tunes spoke to the working class more than any Bruce album before it. Bruce at his peak; even the B-side to the first single, “Dancing in the Dark,” received major airplay….although sadly “Pink Cadillac” does not appear on the recent remaster of this great album.
Suggested wine pairing: King Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc.
34.Brothers in Arms/Dire Straits (1985)
Mark Knopfler and company took the experimental, jazz-based tone of their previous album, 1982’s overlooked Love Over Gold, and merged it with the radio-friendly sensibilities of 1980’s Making Movies and their 1978 debut album. The result was an unexpected world-wide smash, fueled by the catchy single (and accompanying groundbreaking music video), “Money for Nothing.” The rest of the album did not receive the constant exposure of “Money for Nothing,” which leaves those unfamiliar with the other songs in for a real treat. From “So Far Away” to “Ride Across the River,” the album simply transports you as the best rock albums do.
Suggested wine pairing: Blue Valley Vineyard Celebration red blend.
33. Modern Times/Al Stewart (1975)
While 1976’s Year of the Cat is the album Stewart is most remembered for, the album that preceded that is even better, filled with catchy hooks and bitter lyrics which are masked by Stewart and producer Alan Parsons’ lush production. “Carol” was a minor hit that paved the way for his two Top Ten singles in the latter part of the decade (“Year of the Cat” and “Time Passages”). Sensitive male lyrics don’t get any simpler than “Not the One”: “And you're not the one she's thinking of. And you're not the one she really wants. Just a point along the line....she's leaving from.” We’re not exactly sure what he’s talking about in the Jerry Garcia-esque “Apple Cider Re-Constitution,” but we believe the album makes a fine pairing with…….Cobbler Mountain Cellars Hard Apple Cider.
32. All Things Must Pass/George Harrison (1970)
As far as the solo Fabs go, Paul and John both had contenders for our list (Paul’s Band on the Run and John’s Imagine), but the solo Beatle album we continually reach for remains All Things Must Pass, George’s ambitious (originally released on three albums) collection of songs that were rejected by McCartney and Lennon for the later Beatles albums. Nevermind the “He’s So Fine”-soundalike accusations (and lawsuit) behind “My Sweet Lord;” the song will be remembered years from now when “He’s So Fine” is swept from the conscience of those who actually remember it on the radio. The rest of the album is wonderful and timeless as well.
Suggested wine pairing: Winery 32 Merlot.
31. Hotel California/Eagles (1976)
The album that nearly every rock music fan possess, the zenith of the Eagles’ popularity (although truth to be told, their popularity has never waned; their first Greatest Hits collection recently knocked Michael Jackson’s Thriller off the top of the “Best Selling Albums of All Time” list). A loose concept album about the dangers of the southern California lifestyle in the mid ‘70s, the album is almost Beatles-esque in its mystic, complete with an urban legend about the “devil worship party” on the cover.
Suggested wine pairing: West Wind Farm Winery Galena Creek red blend (not quite "pink champagne on ice," but our favorite wine from this beautiful location).
30. Sunflower/Beach Boys (1970)
During the not-so-love era between 1969 and 1972, the mellow, laid back, “love one another, and love the environment” vibes of the Beach Boys didn’t quite fit in with the times. The maestro of the band, Brian Wilson, confined himself to his bed, for months on end, grappling with a myriad of addictions and mental health issues. So it’s amazing the band pulled off this beguiling, masterful, wholly unappreciated gem; some music critics put it at the same level with Pet Sounds. Download the pop ear candy love song “Our Sweet Love,” or Dennis Wilson’s jazz-tinged “Slip On Through,” or Mike Love’s psychedelic wonder “All I Wanna Do” for a few tastes.
Suggested wine pairing: Crushed Cellars Vidal Blanc.
29. 461 Ocean Boulevard/Eric Clapton (1974)
Southern Florida comes shining through on Clapton’s magnificent album, undisputedly his best solo record. From the best known tracks, “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Let it Grow,” to the lesser known tracks like “Please be with Me” and “Give Me Strength,” this album truly soothes the soul.
Suggested wine pairing: Shenandoah Vineyards Founder's Reserve Chambourcin.
28. In Through the Out Door/Led Zeppelin (1979)
Led Zepp’s first appearance on our list is their “John Paul Jones album." Jimmy Page’s searing guitar dominated their previous album, 1976’s Presence, but for In Through the Out Door, Jones’ electric keyboards took center stage, which seemed appropriate for the disco era. The 10-minute plus track that opens side 2, “Carouselambra,” merges the psychedelia of their earlier albums with late 1970s Studio 54. “Fool in the Rain,” “In the Evening,” and “All My Love” are worthy classics in the same camp with “Stairway to Heaven,” “Ramble On,” “D’yer Maker,” and so on and so forth. And after tackling James Brown on Houses of the Holy, the band mimics Elvis Presley wonderfully on “Hot Dog.” The most fun Led Zepp had in the studio for sure.
Suggested wine pairing: Granite Heights Winery End of the Road red blend.
27. Electric Warrior/T. Rex (1971)
T. Rex (and arguably Lou Reed’s Transformer, a sister record for Electric Warrior in many ways) defined the glitter/glam movement in many ways, while a former mime from England (or Mars, perhaps) was continuing on his mystical interstellar odyssey (more on him later). Every song on this album still sounds "hell yeah!" and puts you in the mood for partying…..”Get it On” and “Jeepster,” of course, but don’t forget “Cosmic Dancer,” “Mambo Sun,” “Rip Off,” “The Motivator…” The whole damn thing.
Suggested wine pairing: Pearmund Cellars Viognier.
26. Innervisions/Stevie Wonder (1973)
Stevie Wonder was on an unprecedented creative roll between 1972 and 1976….even the Beatles couldn’t lay claim to the number of Grammys collected by Wonder during this period. Innervisions is the best album in a streak of great albums (Music of My Mind to Songs in the Key of Life). Urban issues, social issues, race issues, economic issues, love issues, death issues, and even a pie in the face to the Commander in Chief of the time…..it’s hard to believe, hearing this album now, that Berry Gordy initially wanted nothing to do with the album.
Suggested wine pairing: Potomac Point Winery Abbinato red blend.
Click The Big Ones....(the Top 25)..................