Ok, just to be clear, this list is the worst albums by some of my favorite artists. Therefore, you aren’t going to see Ace of Base, Spice Girls or Mariah Carey.
Number Ten: Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 3. So you probably already know that I excluded Traveling Wilburys from my supergroups article, and this album was one of the reasons why. One would think with all the talent in the room they would have given us more, but they didn’t. Think about it – with Roy Orbison’s falsetto voice, the masterful songwriting of Bob Dylan, and I’m still not quite sure what Jeff Lynne brought to the table. Unfortunately, Orbison died before this recording, leaving the three worst singers to carry the record. It’s a shame that they made two such mediocre albums unlike past supergroups Cream, Blind Faith, and The Dirty Mac (yes I know Clapton was in all three bands). The potential was there, but poorly executed.
Number Nine: Cut the Crap. I don’t know what the hell happened to the Clash on their final release, except for they were running for the finish line. I mean, coming off such a stellar recording as Combat Rock, one would only assume they would want to go out on a high note. Cut the Crap was released in 1985 to critical disappointment. The record lacked the depth that we had come to expect from these British boys. The album was such a disappointment, that even iTunes doesn’t carry it. Joe Strummer fronted the band last time I checked, so the absence of Mick Jones shouldn’t have been a huge loss. Hell, it wasn’t even mentioned in the documentary The Clash: Westway to the World and was also absent from the box sets Sound System and 5 Album Studio Set. Whatever it was, the Clash have been trying for years to bury the album, but there’s just one problem: it’s already been released.
Number Eight: Thank You. Duran Duran tried to make an album in the same vein as Bowie’s Pin Ups, but failed tragically. While Lou Reed praised the remake of “Perfect Day,” the remaining tracks were lackluster, to say the least. They “attempted” to cover songs such as Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” and the Doors’ “The Crystal Ship” and murdered them both. The attempt to cover Led Zeppelin for anyone is tricky, if not impossible, but Duran Duran’s version slowed of “Thank You” to a slow and boring crawl. They even took a stab at Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines” as if they could rap. Obviously, it was disappointing to fans who were mostly teenage girls who had never heard the artists they attempted to cover.
Number Seven: Born Again. I always loved Black Sabbath, even through the Dio period, but they lost me with the release of Born Again. Replacing Ronnie James Dio with Ian Gillan wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but by the time of its release, it was a bit Spinal Tap-ish, especially the track “Stonehenge.” The songwriting took the band out of their comfort zone as Gillan wrote about sexual conquests and car accidents. Long gone were the days of what made the band unique as they didn’t reference topics such as Lucifer. Despite patting himself on the back, Gillan was the only member who actually thought the album sounded good as the rest of the band thought it was horrible. With adolescent themes and a muffled mix, this was the worst album that Black Sabbath ever recorded.
Number Six: Outside. David Bowie couldn’t have farted louder with the release of Outside. I know he was experimenting, but the only viable songs on the entire album were “Strangers When We Meet” and “Outside.” The remainder of the album sounds like the B-side of Low and “Heroes,” which I listened to one time. It was produced by Brian Eno- no surprise there as Eno’s solo work is similar. Sorry, but I’ve always found trance music a bit boring, although it’s great to play while falling asleep. I gave Bowie a pass on this disc, and so far, he hasn’t disappointed me yet.
Number Five: In Through the Out Door. Let me start by saying, I LOVE Led Zeppelin and have since I was a dazed and confused teenager. I’m enjoying the remastered albums which house some additional tracks. However, I was 17 when they released their eighth studio album, and even then, I was displeased with In Through the Out Door. What could have been their swan song was far removed from the sound they created in their earlier work. I am fully aware that artists grow and change, but this was a drastic change and I wasn’t prepared. The only track that represented the band’s original sound was “In the Evening,” and even that was a stretch as the band used a synthesizer way too much.
Though they had used it very sparingly on Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti, this time around, it practically took over as the dominant instrument. Page’s guitar was almost silenced through much of the recording as the band issued some rather disposable tunes. “Hot Dog” and “Fool in the Rain” only added to my disappointment. Though I give the band kudos for issuing the album in a brown paper bag, that wasn’t what we paid for. We paid for Jimmy Page’s slashing guitars and Robert Plant’s incredible voice. We only got the latter of the two.
Number Four: The Cosmos Rocks. While Rodgers made it clear that he was not replacing anyone, when you give the microphone to a new singer, you have replaced the lead singer. With that being said, I have no idea what Brian May was thinking when he thought he could replace the greatest frontman of all time, Freddie Mercury. But apparently, he did as Paul Rodgers took over the coveted spot for a bunch of concerts and one album, The Cosmos Rocks, in 2008. The former Bad Company frontman was an odd choice as Rodgers’ voice is much more suited for bluesy rock and not Queens’ brand of art rock. A typical set list would include Queens’ “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” How they managed to pull of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is beyond me.
But I regress, the album is kind of sad as the band tried to relive their “glory days.” The songs are typical rock songs about women, cars and sex. They do a mediocre take on the Del Shannon classic, “Runaway,” but that was the highlight of the album. As one reviewer stated, “The lyrics were stupid, trite, a bit offensive and bound to have an undermining effect on whatever musical efforts they put behind it,” and I couldn’t agree more. There is a time to stop, reevaluate and move on to other projects rather than relying on the past.
Number Three: Victim of Love. Either Elton John was on some serious drugs or just completely lost his mind; Victim of Love was a major stinker. John, who had always been a leader, became a follower as he jumped on the disco bandwagon. But there was just one problem- disco was on its last legs. Long gone were the masterful Bernie Taupin lyrics that we had become accustomed to. John’s attempt to record without the presence of Taupin was a serious mistake as he redid the Chuck Berry classic, “Johnny B. Goode,” with a disco beat. What? Elton John played no instruments nor did he penn any songs for this recording. I, for one, am glad it only clocked in at 36 minutes.
Number Two: Back to the Egg. Paul McCartney is a treasure. His post-Beatles recordings were great, and his band, Wings, are among my favorites, but were all surprised at the lack of depth with Back to the Egg. The loss of members, guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Joe English, following the Wings Over America Tour didn’t mean he could get away with murder. Their previous album, London Town, was well received by critics and sold well, even though it housed no strong singles with the exception of “With a Little Luck.” So, hopes were high for the band’s follow up. I, like many teens of the 1970’s, waited outside the record store the day it was released. Once it was in hand, we raced home, put the album on the turntable and sat there with a blank face. Was this the same band?
The record found McCartney in a transitional phase as he tried to appeal to the youth generation with hints of new wave and punk. Critics hated it as much as fans did. A Rolling Stone critic said, “The sorriest grab bag of dreck in recent memory.” Despite poor press, the album would be certified platinum in the US. It seemed to many of us that McCartney assumed that as long as his name was on it, it would be a hit. Reality check Sir Paul, we aren’t that stupid.
Number One: The Beatles Anthology. Ok, I’m gonna catch hell for this one, but I’m fully prepared. And I should say, I’m a Beatles freak. I have been listening to them since I was five years old and still do to this day. I’m not referring to the DVD series, which I found awesome, but rather the CD’s. The first in this series was previously unheard material from the Quarrymen, demos from the Decca Records audition tape, as well as Pete Best’s early contributions. It also housed some demos and outtakes from the mop top era Fab Four, and since I was never a huge fan from their 1963-1965 period, I wasn’t so eager to spend my hard earned money on this set. I had about zero interest in these recordings as they scratched and didn’t sound good on even the finest stereos. Besides this, I could give a flying f*** about the Quarrymen.
The second discs in this series found the Beatles through the band’s psychedelic period from Help! to the Magical Mystery Tour. Again, I didn’t care about the demos and outtakes and didn’t feel the need for three versions of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” And the third set focused on the White Album, Let it Be and their swan song, Abbey Road. Again, it was riddled with outtakes and songs that would find their way onto post-Beatle albums. While many of you will disagree, for my money, it was probably best to keep these recordings vaulted.