[This was one of the very first Listomanias I posted -- back in 2007 -- and to be honest, I had totally forgotten about it until the other day. In any case, I think that thematically it's pretty cool; I've expanded it and made a couple of substitute nominations, as always, just to keep my hand in. -- S.S.]
Sophomore Albums That Surpassed (Artistically) The Really Good Debut Albums That Preceded Them!!!
You know the cliche -- you have your entire life to write your first album, and then you have six months to write your second, which is why a lot of followup albums disappoint. Perhaps the most obvious example is Pretenders II; an estimable work with some terrific songs, but small beer compared to the epochal first one. (More recently, think of the second Hootie and the Blowfish album, or rather, please don't think of it, as Hootie sucked right out of the gate. Although Fairweather Johnson was a really great title...)
In any event, what do you think are the albums that best avoided the usual sequel slump?
Submitted for your approval, my Top Seven would be......
7. MC5 -- Back in the USA
The 5's debut -- recorded live -- was often impressive as a political and musical template, but the songwriting was inconsistent and the whole thing ultimately devolved into aural sludge at some point. However, the followup -- despite the fact that Jon Landau's production sucks hippo root -- featured short concise songs that totally rocked and got the band's revolutionary message over with a surprising level of wit and irony. A great record, from stem to stern.
6. The Byrds -- Turn! Turn! Turn!
Not perhaps so staggeringly innovative as the first album -- which, after all, invented an entire new genre and sound -- but some of the songwriting and performances (the above Gene Clark masterpiece, for example) clearly surpassed the debut.
5. Marah -- Kids in Philly
Their indie debut was promising, but this one is one of the great records of the 90s -- an all but perfect mashup of Bruce Springsteen and the Replacements. They've never even come close to equaling it, alas. I should add that it is one of my longtime dreams to play the song above at very high volume in a band onstage somewhere.
4. Buffalo Springfield -- Buffalo Springfield Again
Not a dud song in the bunch, and production-wise it makes their first album sound like it was recorded on Edison cylinders.
3. Amy Winehouse -- Back to Black
Because we like to have something recorded in this century.
But seriously, folks -- Winehouse's debut album was the work of a talented journeyman with a lot of great influences. The followup, however, was the work of a fully formed artist.
2. Bruce Springsteen -- The Wild, the Innocent and the
The Boss's first album had its moments and changed a lot of lives, my own included. But this one? It sounds, still, like the kind of music that contains multitudes, the kind of rock-and-roll you only vaguely remember from the best dream you ever had.
And last but definitely not least....
1. Elvis Costello and the Attractions -- This Year's Model
Inarguable, I think, and thus further exegesis on my part would be surperfulous.
Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?