After completing the 2012 Top 10 albums list, which I called the hardest year to pick in the many, many years I’ve been ranking music, I decided to go back and revise all of the earlier lists–to take thirty-odd years of music listening since I started making these lists and see how things have changed.
Not surprisingly, the answer is “a lot.”
I did try to stick with a few rules that I’ve been applying to the lists over the past decade or so, some of which necessitated even more changes in the originals than I was planning on making:
1. No more than one album per artist per year.
2. Releases must be EP-length or greater (in the age of the three-inch CDS, I now use twenty-two minutes–the minimum amount of time that forces you to use a five-inch CD–as the minimum length for an EP).
3. Live albums (unless composed entirely of otherwise unreleased material) and compilation albums were excluded from consideration.
4. Rules are made to be broken–but only in the most exceptional of cases.
And so, on the pages below this (a decade apiece), the ten best albums of each year from 1979 to now as I see them now, rather than as I saw them then. Rather than ranking them from 1-10, it’s “album of the year” and the other nine in alphabetical order.
Asterisked albums are those that remained from the original list I compiled that year. Double-asterisked albums are those that were originally Album of the Year and have remained so after revision.