The mp3 revolution has pretty much done away with albums, as evidenced by sagging sales and angry celebs like Lars Ulrich and Dave Matthews. Personally, I'm a big fan of mp3s and the shift in the music consuming public to a single-song consumption model. I can't tell you how many CDs I've bought because of one or two good singles only to get burned with an album of crap. A consumption model that allows the consumer to only pay for the music they really want is a great step forward, in my opinion.
That said, there's something very special about an album on which the musician/band is able to sum up the entire feeling of the record perfectly with the first track. They manage to set the tone and then live up to that promise for the remainder of the album. So, I thought I'd share my favorites and leave it open to people to post theirs as well.
First up, Led Zeppelin I - "Good Times, Bad Times" These guys are the masters of the Track One. Good Times, Bad Times not only manages to set up a great first album from one of rock's greatest bands, it also manages to set the tone for everything they came to do afterwards.
Audioslave - "Cochise" God damn, that's a good track. In the age of mp3s, these guys actually managed to get me off my ass and over to the store to buy the album. This thing doesn't disappoint. Cochise sets a great tone for a solid album that doesn't relent. I haven't been this excited about a (relatively) new band in a long time. And they sure beat the hell out of other supergroups like Asia.
Fiona Apple - "Sleep to Dream" If you don't listen to Fiona Apple, you should. Something's wrong with you if you don't like her stuff. Hers is a music that drips with a candid and poetic honesty that is so startling it'll make you feel like you're guiltily reading someone's extremely well-written diary. The production work on the album rocks. The song writing is slick. The vocal performances are spot on. Great stuff. And with "When the pawn ..." she only got better.
Beck - "Sexx Laws" Track One off of Midnite Vultures is the perfect Beck track one. I've been a Beck fan for years now and with each album, there's usually a hefty mix of stuff I like and stuff I don't. Midnite Vultures, to me, is the best work he's done and Sexx Laws introduces you to it perfectly.
Radiohead - "Airbag" As far as I'm concerned, and I know this is debatable, Radiohead achieved perfection in 1997 with OK Computer. Since then, I feel like they've been wandering. But OK Computer is perfectly produced and held together by rock solid song writing. Their more experimental stuff later on (Kid A, et al.) lost the focused clarity of their writing that is so clearly evident on OK Computer. From the opening guitar lick of Airbag to the final triangle "ting!" of Tourist, The, the album flows beautifully. Airbag is the perfect start, especially because it feels like it leads directly from their previous album The Bends, as if Airbag and OK Computer were inescapably the next logical step in their careers.
Tori Amos - "Crucify" Track One off of Little Earthquakes. To me, Tori Amos is another artist who's really lost their focus over the years. Yes, she's a bit of a nut bag and that might have something to do with it. But, that aside, her early stuff was very clear in its intent and execution. Crucify is a great introduction to who she is, what she is all about, and again estabishes a great tone for what remains as one of her best albums. My favorite album of hers is "Boys For Pele" but track one on that album isn't nearly as good.
Alanis Morrisette - "All I Really Want" Story time. It's spring, 1995. I walk into the record store on the second floor of the Granite Run Mall just as this song begins playing over the store's speaker system. I proceed to stand in the middle of the Hip Hop section captivated for the entire length of the track by things I hadn't heard in years worth of flannel-induced grunge. Harmony. Vocal range. Production. Tight, frank, honest songwriting. I come to find out later its by the Canuck I keep hearing yell "You Oughta Know" on the radio. That album is still fantastic and this track is its perfect opener.
I'm sure there are others, but those are the first batch as it's about time for me to head off to lunch and I should really get something done other than write my blog.