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Pazz N' Jop: The forgotten albums

With the August 20 site update most likely being the last one before The Big Expansion, it seems like a good time to take stock of the current Top 2000 and contemplate the way that some albums once considered among the very best of their year of release have failed to stand the test of time.

The Village Voice's annual Pazz N' Jop poll of dozens (now hundreds) of rock critics, initially conducted in 1971 and then every year since 1974, is the best barometer of what critics (at least in North America) have considered the best records at a given point in time. Most of these records have stood the critical test of time quite well; out of the 320 albums that have made the P&J top ten over the years, 297 of them are in the Acclaimed Music Top 2000 as of August 20.

But then, 23 are not. Think about that. When they first came out, enough critics thought highly enough of these albums that they placed in the top ten on the most respected rock critics' poll in America. Fast-forward to today, and they're nowhere to be found among a list of two _thousand_.

Two of these 23 -- JUJU MUSIC by King Sunny Ade and His African Beats (#4, 1982) and the compilation THE INDESTRUCTIBLE BEAT OF SOWETO (#10, 1986) -- are ineligible for the Acclaimed Music Top 2000 under its current guidelines. When the genre expansion takes place, both may very well appear on the new list. But these 21 albums do not have that excuse:

JOY OF COOKING (#6, 1971)
GRATEFUL DEAD (#7, 1971)
Garland Jeffreys, GHOST WRITER (#9, 1977)
Prince, CONTROVERSY (#8, 1981)
Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, JONATHAN SINGS! (#8, 1983)
Aretha Franklin, WHO'S ZOOMING WHO? (#9, 1985)
Pere Ubu, THE TENEMENT YEAR (#7, 1988)
Elvis Costello, SPIKE (#7, 1989)
Paul Simon, THE RHYTHM OF THE SAINTS (#7, 1990)
Prince, GRAFFITI BRIDGE (#10, 1990)
Chris Whitley, LIVING WITH THE LAW (#9, 1991)
Jimmie Dale Gilmore, SPINNING AROUND THE SUN (#7, 1993)
Neil Young [w/Pearl Jam], MIRROR BALL (#5, 1995)
Los Lobos, COLOSSAL HEAD (#5, 1996)
Steve Earle, I FEEL ALRIGHT (#6, 1996)
Amy Rigby, DIARY OF A MOD HOUSEWIFE (#8, 1996)
Sleater-Kinney, ALL HANDS ON THE BAD ONE (#10, 2000)
The Coup, PARTY MUSIC (#8, 2001)
Danger Mouse, THE GREY ALBUM (#10, 2004)

The absence from the top 2000 of MIRROR BALL and COLOSSAL HEAD is especially odd, as both made the P&J top five. Signs of the times: MIRROR BALL finished ahead of, among others, POST and (WHAT'S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY? COLOSSAL HEAD finished ahead of EMPEROR TOMATO KETCHUP and DIFFERENT CLASS.

Re: Pazz N' Jop: The forgotten albums

I see two reasons most of these albums have been 'forgotten'
1. Critics tend to love certain artists and praise anything they do in the moment before realizing the work isn't always great. I mean, GRAFFITI BRIDGE one of the best albums of the year? Come on!
2. Some albums don't catch on enough commercially or in a pop culture sense to stay fresh in the minds of sources when they do all-time lists.


Controversy BELONGS in the top 2000! I'd put it ahead of Dirty Mind in a heartbeat!

Graffiti Bridge was in the top 2000 until very recently. I would consider it worthwhile of inclusion if it only included the Prince tracks.