One of the most thrilling records cut during Dylan’s decade of unparalleled brilliance, Highway 61 Revisited weighs in with 9 tracks of sublime garage, blues and folk rock.
The epic ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ needs no introduction even to the casual music fan, but the achingly beautiful ‘Queen Jane Approximately’ and ‘Desolation Row’ might. Making the most of having a full electric band at his disposal, Dylan unleashed the double garage-rock assault of ‘Tombstone Blues’ and ‘From A Buick 6′ on unsuspecting ears.
The folk troubadour shed his skin for the first time on this album to unveil a snarling, streetwise hipster. The lyrics are as tight and impenetrable as they would ever be, and Dylan set the bar so high on this record that it was almost inevitable he would occasionally stumble in the years that followed.
A masterpiece and landmark record in rock ‘n’ roll history.
Try also: Bob Dylan Blonde On Blonde (Columbia, 1966). Love And Theft (Columbia, 2001). Modern Times (Columbia, 2006).
2. The Modern Lovers The Modern Lovers
Massachusetts’ The Modern Lovers successfully bled their youthful exuberance and longing into an exceptionally strong set of nine rock ‘n’ roll songs.
Heavily inspired by The Velvet Underground (and mostly produced by one time Velvets member John Cale) the album opens with the yearning, escape to the highway anthem ‘Roadrunner’ and simply rocks until its final note.
Frontman and undisputed leader of the band Jonathan Richman slurs his words in typical teenage fashion, but ends up chronicling perfectly the dreams and desires of many American youths.
The songs – many of which are laced with a haunting organ sound – are uniformly strong, but the witty chronicle of the pitfalls of dating (‘Pablo Picasso’) and heartfelt paeans to the 1950s (‘Old World)’ and the USA (‘Modern World’) stand out as true classics.
Despite its slower, more affecting numbers such as ‘Hospital’, the album is now widely cited by critics as an early example of proto-punk. What is certain though is that The Modern Lovers is a must for any youth travelling the long open American highways for the first time.
Try also: The Modern Lovers The Original Modern Lovers (Mohawk, 1981).
3. Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison
“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash…”
After a brief introduction, the man in black begins this legendary live set from the notorious Folsom Prison.
The album’s sense of rebelliousness – allied with the driving rhythms of Cash’s brilliant backing band and an impressive vocal performance from the King of outlaw country – make this set a real adrenaline rush, and a great record for the open road.
With Cash favourites ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, ‘Busted’, ‘Give My Love to Rose’ and ‘Jackson’ among the 19 songs performed here, the chances are you will be applauding as enthusiastically as the watching inmates by the end of the record.
Try also: Johnny Cash At San Quentin (Columbia, 1969).
4. Creedence Clearwater Revival Chronicle
Some greatest hits albums become classics themselves, so well do they encapsulate an artist’s career. Bob Marley’s Legend is one example. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Chronicle is surely another.
The first compilation of the California roots-rock legends sublime back catalogue contains 20 of their finest cuts. From the swamp rock stomp of ‘Susie Q’ to the nostalgic and funky ‘Green River’ and through to the irresistible ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and ‘Proud Mary’, there is strictly no filler here.
John Fogerty’s growling, impassioned vocals and the band’s often pounding assault lend songs like the thrilling anti-war tirade ‘Fortunate Son’ and the fiery cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkin’s ‘I Put A Spell On You’ their weight.
Chronicle is so crammed full of hits there is no way you will need to skip a track.
Try also: Creedence Clearwater Revival Green River (Fantasy, 1969). Willy & The Poor Boys (Fantasy, 1969).Cosmo’s Factory (Fantasy, 1970).
5. Pavement Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
Arguably the most radio-friendly of the five albums of perfectly imperfect indie rock released by the band in the 1990s, Pavement’s sophomore effort Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain is a record that oozes sunshine, beer and good times.
The Stockton band’s home state of California features heavily in the album’s lyrical narrative, and the overall vibe of the record – with its casual and appealingly ramshackle melodicism – is carefree and fun.
The laid back, country-tinged jangle of ‘Range Life’ is the centrepiece of the album, and a fine representation of how Pavement had radically shifted from their fuzzy, lo-fi beginnings to become a more fully-fledged band. And the wittily nostalgic ‘Gold Soundz’ and tongue-in-cheek ‘Cut Your Hair’ even briefly threatened to push Pavement into the mainstream.
A truly classic album that just has to be played out on the road.
The undisputed king of country rock, Gram Parsons only had the time to release two solo albums during his all to brief lifetime.
Whilst his work with the Flying Burrito Brothers, The Byrds and International Submarine Band deservedly earned him strong critical notices, it was on his solo records where his talent really blossomed.
GP and Grievous Angel are simply the finest country-rock albums ever made. From the beautiful ‘A Song For You’ and ‘Still Feeling Blue’ to the stunning rendition of ‘Love Hurts’ with natural companion Emmylou Harris, there is so much to enjoy.
Available in a single CD format, GP and Grievous Angel seamlessly follow each other and provide a fitting bookend to the life of a remarkable artist.
A free-wheeling spirit who loved nothing more than to drive out into the wilderness on his beloved motorcycle, it is surely a fitting tribute to the man to play these fine records out on the road.
Wrongly viewed by some as a Pavement side-project (the band actually started up roughly the same time as their critically acclaimed cousins) the Silver Jews turned out a really fine blend of lo-fi, indie and country rock over the course of six albums.
And though Malkmus’ input was often significant, the Jews were David Berman’s band.
On American Water, both Malkmus and Berman are on top form. Berman’s lyrics are as poetic and witty as ever (in particular on the brilliant opener ‘Random Rules’), while the two trade vocals and guitar on the sublime ‘Smith and Jones Forever’, ‘Honk if your Lonely (Tonight)’ and ‘Federal Dust’ .
The clean, sunny production gives the album a classic feel, and there is no doubt in our mind that American Water deserves to be labelled as a modern classic.
Try also: Silver Jews Starlite Walker (Drag City, 1994).
8. Modest Mouse The Lonesome Crowded West
Isaac Brock and co. were elevated to indie rock royalty upon the release of this adventurous set in the autumn of 1997.
From the first seconds of abrasive opener ‘Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine’ to the epic closing track ‘Styrofoam Boots/It’s All Nice On Ice, Alright’, The Lonesome Crowded West is an enthralling assault on the senses.
Brock’s amateurish vocals and playing add to the indie authenticity, and the band plays alternately loose and funky (‘Lounge’), heavy (the aforementioned ‘Teeth…’) and melancholy.
Lyrically, the album focuses heavily on the underbelly of American life on the road (‘Long Distance Drunk’, ‘Trucker’s Atlas’, ‘Out Of Gas’) as well as Brock’s strong religious doubts and general angst at the state of the world. Stand-out tracks include the quietly reflective ‘Heart Cooks Brain’, big-business lamenting ‘Bankrupt On Selling’ and simply stunning ‘Trailer Trash’.
Be sure to turn this one up loud.
Try also: Modest Mouse The Moon And Antarctica (Matador, 2000). This Is A Long Drive For Someone For Nothing To Think About (Up, 1996). & Good News For People Who Love Bad News (Epic, 2004).
9. Bruce Springsteen Born To Run
There was no way we could justify omitting The Boss’s classic ode to highway escapism, Born To Run, from this list.
From the opening blasts of harmonica and piano that kick of the moving ‘Thunder Road’, everything about the album is the right side of grandiose.
There are no half measures here, as Bruce and his loyal E Street Band throw everything into the mix, with mostly stunning results. The epic ‘Backstreets’ powers along on an epic piano line, while ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’ remains the grooviest thing Bruce has ever committed to tape.
And of course, there is the title track. The chrome-wheeled escape to the highway anthem that made Bruce an international star.
Though much of Bruce’s output is great for the American highway (we recommend the achingly spare vignettes of Nebraska, sprawling double LP The River and hit factory Born In The U.S.A.), Born To Run is still the original and best.
Try also: Bruce Springsteen Nebraska (Columbia, 1982). Born In The U.S.A. (Columbia, 1984).The River (Columbia, 1980).
10. The Beach Boys The Very Best Of The Beach Boys
Pet Sounds is without question the Beach Boys’ finest studio album, but both its complexity and melancholic interludes mean that this excellent compilation is a better – and more straightforward – record for the road.
The brilliance of Brian Wilson and co. is undoubted, but it is also true that – Pet Sounds apart – they were often inconsistent on their records.
So it is most welcome that The Very Best Of The Beach Boys does such a good job of gathering together their finest feel-good hits (‘Surfin’ USA’, ‘Surfin’ Safari’, ‘Go0d Vibrations’, ‘Darlin”) whilst including a select few of the more emotionally resonant cuts (‘God Only Knows’, ‘Caroline No’) onto one great album.
Nobody soundtracks a trip to the beach better than these guys.
Try also: The Beach Boys Smiley Smile (Capitol, 1967).
11. Japandroids Celebration Rock
Though it was only released in 2012, there is little doubt in our mind that Japandroids’ Celebration Rock will become an on the road staple for exuberant adventures worldwide.
There are few records that tick as many boxes as this one for a road trip. Soaring rock anthems? Check. Sing-along choruses? Check? Daft lyrics about women, hell and youth? Check.
What Japandroids lack in lyrical and musical subtlety they more than make up for in sheer noise and plentiful hooks. If ‘The Night Of Wine And Roses’ and ‘Fire Highway’ don’t get you singing along and tapping your foot incessantly, then you are probably dead.
Guitarist/singer Brian King and drummer David Prowse play with such love of what they do it is tangible and endearing. The Vancouver duo have even admitted they make albums so that they can tour the world, rock audiences and party until the wee hours.
Close to being the perfect record for late-teens or twenty-somethings about to hit the road on an epic adventure. The clue’s in the title.
The Soft Bulletin is one of the most uplifting and enthralling records you can wish to hear. Wayne Coyne and cohorts created a masterpiece of psychedelic, space rock that is as sonically daring as it is immediately catchy.
Coyne’s surreal lyrics and passionate vocals complement the music perfectly, and The Soft Bulletin flows coherently as an album.
From the breathtaking ode to brave scientists ‘Race For The Prize’ and emotionally powerful ‘A Spoonful Weighs A Ton’ and ‘Waitin’ For A Superman’, the highlights are numerous.
A heady mixture of perfect pop and fearless innovation, the multidimensional, layered sound of The Soft Bulletin will rock your socks as well as your speakers.
Oh, and the cover photograph is of Jack Kerouac’s legendary travelling companion Neal Cassady. Nuff’ said.
Try also: The Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (Warner Brothers, 2002).
13. The Stooges Raw Power
Raw Power is an ugly, grimy and relentlessly bleak record. It is also a goddam brilliant one.
The Stooges- like their contemporaries The Velvet Underground- were gloriously out of step with the prominent musical trends of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
On Raw Power, Iggy Pop’s sleazy vocals, new member James Williamson’s screeching guitar, and brothers Ron and Scott Asheton’s primitive bass and drum attack, establish that the rock underground is alive and well.
The tunes here are strong, certainly stronger than David Bowie’s notoriously thin production. The barnstorming opener ‘Search And Destroy’, defiantly vulgar ‘Penetration’ and the title track ooze menace and the extreme end of rock ‘n’ roll danger.
Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain would write in his journals that Raw Power was his favourite ever record. If you want a dirty, loud rock ‘n’ roll record for your road trip, you can do a lot worse than follow Cobain’s recommendation and take this one.
Try also: The Stooges Funhouse (Elektra, 1970).
14. Buena Vista Social Club Buena Vista Social Club
(World Circuit, 1997)
After celebrated American musician Ry Cooder travelled to Cuba to make a documentary on several Cuban musicians, the idea of them recording an album together quickly gathered pace.
Buena Vista Social Club– named after a members only club in pre-Castro Cuba- was the result, and it was to become one of the greatest and most successful albums in Latin music history.
The album is a real treasure trove of compositions, many of which had been around for decades but had not been heard by International audiences.
The ageing band- many of whom would die less than a decade after its 1997 release- played with such happiness and freedom on tracks such as ‘Chan Chan’ and ‘De Camino a la Vereda’ it is tangible.
Play it while travelling through Latin or Central America. A landmark record.
Try also: Buena Vista Social Club At Carnegie Hall (World Circuit, 2008).
15.Tom Petty Full Moon Fever
Perhaps the cheesiest record on the list, Tom Petty’s first official solo album away from the Heartbreakers is still a hoot.
Co-written and produced by Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne, Full Moon Fever is so loaded with radio-friendly hooks it’s practically bursting at the seams.
The irresistible melodies and swooping choruses make ‘Free Fallin’ a group road trip gem, despite the undeniably trite lyrics. And the defiant ‘I Won’t Back Down’ and dirty heartland rock of ‘Running Down A Dream’ will have you tapping your foot no matter how hard you try to resist.
Undeniably glossy, and tied to it’s late 1980′s era, Full Moon Fever is nonetheless a hugely enjoyable record that will get you singing along. Perfect for a group road-trip.
Try also: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Damn The Torpedoes (MCA, 1978) and Greatest Hits (MCA, 1993).
16. Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland
Electric Ladyland was Hendrix’s third and final album with the original Experience. And it is arguably the finest of his career.
Hendrix’s guitar playing and vision was simply not of our planet, and the incredible music and innovations he created in his short lifetime are captured on this record better than anywhere else.
‘Crosstown Traffic’, ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ and the superior cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ have all rightly became celebrated classics in the rock ‘n’ roll canon.
As the late comedian Bill Hicks regularly noted in his stand-up, Hendrix was simply on a different level to most other musicians, and had the will to go places no others had gone before.
A must-have record.
Try also: Jimi Hendrix Axis: Bold As Love (Reprise, 1967). Are You Experienced? (MCA, 1967).
17. R.E.M. Automatic For The People
(Warner Brothers, 1992)
The eighth studio album from the Athens, Georgia band R.E.M. was a deserved critical and commercial success, and the beautiful and melancholy Automatic For The People is surely up there with Murmur and Reckoning as the band’s very best work.
Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Bill Berry and Mike Mills enlisted the help of a number of session musicians to find the haunting and timeless sound they wanted for the album, and those viola and cello players coupled with Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones’ string arrangements really succeed in creating a powerful and moving listening experience.
From the epic opener ‘Drive’ to the fitting closer ‘Find The River’ (dedicated to Stipe’s late friend, the actor River Phoenix) Automatic For The Peopleresonates with beauty.
Stipe’s impassioned vocals give extra gravitas to songs like ‘Everybody Hurts’, ‘The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite’ and ‘Try Not To Breathe’, and it is little wonder the record is a firm fan favourite.
Automatic For The People is simply put a majestic record, and despite its deeply melancholic sound and subject matter it is one which perfectly compliments a long drive out in the American West or South.
Try also: R.E.M Murmur (I.R.S. 1983) Reckoning (I.R.S. 1984). Fables Of The Reconstruction (I.R.S. 1985).
18.The Velvet Underground Loaded
The final album the Velvets would make before Lou Reed would leave the band to strike it out on his own, Loaded was famously conceived and titled following a meeting with Atlantic Records in which Reed was instructed to make an “album loaded with hits.”
And uncharacteristically, the notoriously deviant Reed went and did just that; creating an album as beautiful and hook-laden as Loaded without denigrating the trailblazing legacy of what the band had done before.
Many of the songs that would become the band’s best known are here; the wonderfully melodic ’Sweet Jane’, playful homage to radio ’Rock & Roll’ and the beautiful ‘New Age’.
Loaded hardly made a dent commercially upon release in 1970 but is still regarded by critics as a great success. Like the other three records in The Velvet Underground’s canon (and the 1985 compilation VU), this album is simply essential.
Try also: The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground & Nico (Verve 1967). VU (Polygram, 1985).
19. Minutemen Double Nickels On The Dime
Double Nickels On The Dime is the record where all the promise the three guys from San Pedro had shown on their previous releases was fully realised.
A sprawling double album of no less than 43 songs, there is barely any filler.
The title is a clever mocking of US conservatism, specifically the US highway imposed speed limit of 55mph (the cover depicts Mike Watt driving exactly 55 approaching their hometown of San Pedro). The band’s defiant left-wing politics feature heavily in the lyrics of many of the songs, but the strong melodies and constant stylistic changes are the most immediately noticeable facets of the album.
D. Boon sings and plays lead guitar as if his life depends on it, and the driving, elastic bass of Mike Watt and frantic drumming of George Hurley are a perfect foil for the big man.
There are so many gems here, not least the moving and funny ‘History Lesson, Pt. 2′, ‘bluesy lament ‘Jesus and Tequila’ and pounding ‘Two Beads At The End’.
The anthemic ‘Corona’ -which became the band’s signature tune with the US show Jackass using it as its theme- is arguably the album’s ultimate highlight.
Tragically, the Minutemen would come to an abrupt end following Boon’s death in a van accident in December 1985, but their mark on independent music was already well made.
Try also: Minutemen 3-Way Tie (For Last) (SST, 1985).
20. Paul Simon Graceland
(Warner Brothers, 1986)
One of those albums seemingly beloved by everyone, Graceland seems so effortless in its perfect blend of African rhythms and Simon’s classic pop sensibilities that it is easy to forget just how radical it was upon its release in 1986.
Beginning with the uplifting and optimistic ‘Boy In The Bubble’, Graceland just keeps on giving.
The irresistible ‘Gumboots’ and ‘Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes’ are followed by the worldwide smash hit ‘You Can Call Me Al’ and the sublime ‘Under African Skies’.
It goes without saying that Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the other African musicians on the record are as much of the stars of the album as Simon himself, and thankfully they would go on to achieve the deserved international success the heinous apartheid regime had denied them.
Joe Strummer famously picked this out as one of his favourite records, and one that inspired his exploration of world music. There is no doubt Graceland is an essential record for any collection.
Try also: Paul Simon The Rhythm Of The Saints (Warner Brothers, 1990)
21. Wilco Being There
A sprawling double album encompassing everything from alt-country, folk, rock ‘n’ roll and psychedelia, Wilco’s epic Being There just has to have a place on our list.
Jeff Tweedy and cohorts really raised their game after the commercial and critical disappointment of their fine but ultimately rather formulaic 1995 début A.M.
Opening with the downcast and reflective mood piece ‘Misunderstood’, the album just keeps on giving, changing direction dramatically at almost every turn. Crunching rockers like ‘Monday’ and ‘Outtasite (Outta Mind)’ are followed by country-tinged acoustic ditties like ‘Forget The Flowers’ and achingly beautiful piano laments like ‘Red Eyed And Blue’.
The hit-ratio is incredibly high and consistent, but other stand-outs include the blistering ‘Hotel Arizona’, autumnal ‘Sunken Treasure’ and majestic ‘The Lonely 1’.
Tweedy and the boys would move away from the sound of Being There and into perfect orchestral pop territory of 1999’s Summerteeth. An increasingly rewarding and varied career would follow, but Being There remains a high point in the band’s history, and a deserves to be played out on the road.
The wisecracking hipster Beck Hansen emerged from the Los Angeles music scene with this striking début album in 1994.
Opening with the stunning ode to self-loathing, ‘Loser’ (which unexpectedly found heavy rotation on MTV at the time), Mellow Gold hits the pay-dirt with startling frequency.
The album chronicles the dive motels, angry truck drivers and fast food outlets that litter the long open roads throughout America. Beck’s trademark wit, vocal flexibility and cavalier genre hopping are all present on Mellow Gold, with the album jumping effortlessly from the more conventional, folky musings of ‘Nitemare Hippy Girl’ to the trashy, hip-hop sampling ‘Beercan’.
Beck would mature as a songwriter as he got older, but Mellow Gold is a colourful, funny and memorable trip through his youth.
Neil Young’s second album- and first with Crazy Horse- has always been a favourite of fans and critics alike.
After Young’s folk rock group Buffalo Springfield called it a day, the Canadian native scored a moderate success with his self-titled début as a solo artist. But Young would really progress and mark out his own sound on his second long player, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.
Though it contains several fine, country and folk-based songs (chiefly ‘Round & Round’ and ‘Running Dry’) it is perhaps the rockers that make the biggest impression.
The ragged, loose and lengthy ‘Cowgirl In The Sand’ and ‘Down By The River’ were like little that preceded them in 1969, and have proved startlingly influential ever since. And the crunching electric guitars of Young and cohort Danny Whitten makes ‘Cinnamon Girl’ the perfect pop/rock song that it is.
The free-wheeling, heavy rocking spirit prevalent on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere mark it out as a great record for the open road.
Try also: Neil Young Tonight’s The Night (Reprise, 1975).
24. Guided By Voices Bee Thousand
Dayton, Ohio’s now legendary lo-fi rockers Guided By Voices were still largely a group of unknown amateurs when Bee Thousand became a word of mouth hit back in 1994.
The breakthrough album which made them darlings of the American underground, it is perhaps a little ironic then that Bee Thousand was mainly inspired by British invasion rock (though punk and progressive rock influences are prevalent too). The most immediately noticeable thing about the record outside of its incredibly catchy songs is the lo-fidelity production, and the Guided By Voices aesthetic could perhaps best be described as The Beatles with shitty equipment.That is meant as a compliment, and the four-track production technique arguably serves to make the songs even more vibrant and affecting.
Prolific songwriter and band leader Robert Pollard, who worked for some time as a teacher before fulfilling his rock star dream, managed to pull together many of his best songs for the record, with such memorable compositions as the riff-heavy ‘Tractor Rape Chain’, Beatlesque ‘Echo’s Myron’ and incomparable ‘I Am A Scientist’ among the generous 20 tracks.
Pollard’s song-writing partner Tobin Sprout offers up some equally fantastic songs (‘Awful Bliss’, ‘Ester’s Day’ to name but two) and the band, though evidently not professionals, is in fine fettle throughout.
Most of the songs barely make it past the two minute mark, but they are so full of melodies, twists and creativity it would be superfluous to want more. Bee Thousand is an exciting, almost transcendent record that is brimming with ideas and possibilities, so it would surely be a sin not to take it on a spontaneous road trip.
25. Flight Of The Conchords Flight Of The Conchords
(Sub Pop, 2008)
The deadpan comedy-folk duo from New Zealand thankfully decided to release the array of smart, funny, folk/pop- and comedy rap- songs that featured in the acclaimed HBO show on an album.
It certainly helps if you are familiar with the brilliant first season to get all the jokes in the songs, but it is not essential. Even without having seen it there is so much good music and comedy to enjoy.
Take the hilarious Marvin Gaye parody ‘Think About It’ and Pet Shop Boy’s send up ‘Inner City Pressure’ as prime examples. Then add the hilarious hip-hop failure of ‘Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros’ and heartfelt tribute to the fairer sex, ‘Ladies of the World’.
The most amazing thing about it all is that the music is almost as good as the comedy, and miles better than what passes for Top 40 radio these days.
This album and its follow up I Told You I Was Freaky (the pick of season 2′s songs) are brilliant for a road trip with a sizeable group.
Try also: Flight Of The Conchords I Told You I Was Freaky (Sub Pop 2009).
26. The Replacements Let It Be
Like The Modern Lovers’ eponymous début also featured on this list, The Replacements’ Let It Be is a coming of age classic.
The band’s magnum opus, Let It Be is quite simply one of the greatest rock records of the 1980s, and it is still as powerful and relevant today. Though the ‘Mat’s wilfully shambolic and brash nature is still evident (‘We’re Coming Out’, ‘Seen Your Video’) singer and guitarist Paul Westerberg decided the album would also include a few more serious and emotionally affecting numbers.
And boy, does he deliver on that promise. The spectral piano ballad ‘Androgynous’ and emotionally powerful ‘Unsatisfied’ are two of the ‘Mats most beloved songs, and it is easy to understand why. And somehow the seemingly disparate and incompatible mix of the silly (‘Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out’, ‘Gary’s Got A Boner’) and the sincere (‘Androgynous’, ‘Unsatisfied’, Sixteen Blue’) holds together perfectly.
As Mark Richardson pointed out well in a retrospective review for Pitchfork, the playful tracks on the album serve to lighten the mood, allowing the emotionally resonant cuts to hit home with more power and surprise. And given that teenage years are largely about the emotional ups and downs, it all makes perfect sense.
Let It Be practically covers everything in the male teenage/twenty something experience. From hopelessly declaring love (and dissatisfaction), deploring your girlfriend’s answering machine, having your tonsils out and getting a boner. Essentially the definitive teenage rock album then, and a near must for teens about to experience a road trip for the first time.
Try also: The Replacements Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash (Twin/Tone, 1981). Tim (Sire, 1985).
27. The Doors L.A. Woman
Effectively the final Doors album following singer Jim Morrison’s untimely death (not many count the Morrison-less Other Voices), the rousing blues of L.A. Woman is a fitting and dignified way to bow out for the original quartet.
The album contains some of the band’s best known and most loved songs, and more importantly for us, many of them are rousing anthems for the road. ‘Riders On The Storm is a renowned road trip classic, and the title track perfectly documents the seedy side of Los Angeles on a long cruise through the city.
The title of the slow blues jam ‘Cars Hiss By My Window’ speaks for itself, while the more forceful bluesy stomp of ‘The Changeling’ and ‘The WASP (Texas Radio And The Big Beat’) practically beg to played at full volume down that lengthy Texas back road.
Throw in the perfect pop of ‘Hyacinth House’ and ‘Love Her Madly’ and the eerie and disturbing ‘L’America’ and you have yourselves a damn good road trip album. Thanks, Jim!
Try also: The Doors The Doors (Elektra, 1967). Morrison Hotel (Elektra, 1970).
28. The Band The Band
Though the majority of their members were Canadians, roots rock group The Band somehow ended up as expert chroniclers of American history and tradition.
After successfully stepping out of the shadow of their friend and mentor Bob Dylan with their stunning début LP Music From Big Pink in 1968, The Band returned a year later with an even more accomplished effort.
Canadian guitarist Robbie Robertson largely took control of the song-writing duties for the self-titled sophomore release, and lyrically he focused even more heavily on American folkore and mythology.
The music itself is delightful, the group’s spirited playing and harmonising a joy to behold. Stand-outs include the Confederate Civil War yarn ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’, union worker lament ‘King Harvest (Has Surely Come)’ and the ramshackle rock of ‘Rag Mama Rag’ and ‘Up On Cripple Creek’.
Play this incredible, timeless album as you drive through the American south.
Try also: The Band Music From Big Pink (Columbia, 1968).
29. Neutral Milk Hotel In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
One of the most beloved indie rock albums of all time, Neutral Milk Hotel’s sophomore album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is a must for a California road trip.
A kaleidoscopic, marching band waltz into the warped imagination of band leader Jeff Magnum, the record somehow pulls together such disparate themes as the death of Anne Frank, an all-encompassing lust and spiritual dreams into one very strange, but oddly compelling, narrative.
The songs, performed with great emotion and intensity, seamlessly flow into one another, just as they did on the band’s 1996 début On Avery Island. And though it is near impossible to even try and work out what Mangum is going on about in any given song (there’s something to do with sexual anxiety and strange thrill to be alive) this doesn’t inhibit the any enjoyment of the music.
The songs are uniformly fantastic, a variety of ornate instrumentation and effects are used to create a heady brew. The title track is a clear highlight, as well as the intense ‘Two Headed Boy’, three parted “The King of Carrot Flowers” and plaintive ‘Communist Daughter’.
A left field choice perhaps, but a record that encapsulates freedom and the thrill of being alive.
Try also: Neutral Milk Hotel On Avery Island (Merge, 1996).
30. Miles Davis E.S.P.
Finally, if you want to follow the lead of Sal Paradise and Neal Cassady in playing jazz as you cruise down those long highways, then Miles Davis’ E.S.P. is a good bet for your journey.
Released in 1965, the album was recorded over two days, and the spontaneity and improvisation in Davis’ and his band’s performances is clear.
The title track and ‘Little One’ showcase the free-wheeling spirit of the album perfectly. Though not as ground-breaking as Bitches Brew or beloved as Kind of Blue, E.S.P. is still an adventurous and accessible record, and one of many great LPs in Miles Davis’ canon.
Try also: Miles Davis Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970).