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Essential Long Island Albums

From Billy Joel to Public Enemy to Brand New (And LOTS more...)


By Heather Harrington

When I first set out to make a list of the best albums by Long Island artists, I had originally planned on doing a Top 10; but then I realized, this is Long Island, and just picking 10 artists would be virtually impossible, so I threw out the numbers and just listed albums. My first question was, “What makes an album great?” Well, all the artists on this list have in some way influenced the scene they are in; have had some success (be it regional or world-wide) and whose songs have practically been embedded into our brains. These are the albums I think every respectable Long Island music lover should have on their iPods, broken down by genre (this means some genres have more artists then others). Just a little note before we start: These are my picks, so don’t get too hurt if I didn’t put your favorite band on here. (But feel free to mention all your favorite LI bands in the comments.) Let’s get started:

POP/ROCK


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Blue Öyster Cult, Agents of Fortune (1976)

This platinum-selling record peaked at #29 on the Billboard charts, and was the band’s greatest critical success. Agents of Fortune was voted one of the 10 best rock albums of 1976 by the Village Voice, and who can forget the famous Saturday Night Live sketch with Christopher Walken needing “more cowbell? Listen to: “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”

Billy Joel, The Stranger (1977)

Many people will argue that Piano Man was Billy Joel’s shining moment, but honestly, the cover of that record gave me the heebie-jeebies when I was younger. In turn, I picked up The Stranger. While Joel had received moderate chart success with his other records, this is considered his breakthrough. This record spent six weeks at #2 on the Billboard charts, went 10x platinum (certified diamond) and crushed Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water to become the best selling album on the Columbia Records imprint at that time. It’s also the album that caused everyone to go on a wild goose chase trying to figure the spots he referenced in his ballad of Brenda and Eddie. Listen to: “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant”

Pat Benatar, Crimes of Passion (1980)

Pat Benatar hails from my home town of Lindenhurst, and actually, her old house is in walking distance from mine. This isn’t why I put her on here though; her album Crimes of Passion peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts and is still her best selling album to date. Her video for the song “You Better Run” was the second video ever to be played on MTV back in 1981. The album is full of recognizable hits that have been covered by everyone from Martina McBride to Alvin and the Chipmunks. Listen to: “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”

Twisted Sister, Stay Hungry (1984)

This was the third release from the glam rockers, featuring two of their biggest hits, and going 3x platinum. Stay Hungry helped the band garner an international fanbase with its commercial sound. The album still remains the biggest commercial success of the band, and is considered a classic among hair band fans. The band got a lot of slack about their videos portraying violence against parents and teachers, but it’s like they say, you just can’t stop the rock. Listen to: “We’re Not Gonna Take It”

Eddie Money, Can’t Hold Back (1986)

When I was first thinking of artists to put on this list, I automatically started singing Eddie Money. Can’t Hold Back was his sixth studio album; it reached #20 on the Billboard Top 200 and has been certified platinum. Eddie Money has made a comeback into pop culture recently, with his songs on the soundtrack to many ’80s-themed parties, and his two tickets to paradise led him to constructing a musical that was performed at the Dix Hills Performing Arts Center in 2009. Listen to: “Take Me Home Tonight”

Mariah Carey, Daydream (1995)

This was Carey’s fourth studio release and the start of who she is as an artist today (well, before she had a nervous breakdown and ended up marrying Nick Cannon). Daydream reflected more of Carey’s interest in R&B and hip-hop, a change that was not so well received by her Columbia Records label, but was praised by the critics. The album eventually became her second-best selling record, reaching diamond status, and was even awarded the 116th spot as most influential/popular album in history by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers in their Definitive 200 Albums of All Time list. Not to mention, Daydream is in the top 5 best selling albums of all time in Japan. Listen to: “Always Be My Baby”

POP-PUNK/HARDCORE/INDIE/EMO/ALTERNATIVE

Silent Majority, Life of a Spectator (1997)

This album didn’t mark the first time any Long Island band tried to mix melodic sounds with hard, fast aggression, but Silent Majority sure were the ones who made the biggest impact. So many bands that followed have tried to match the I’m-gargling-with-gravel growl that vocalist Tommy Corrigan has on this record, and here’s a tip for those still trying: you’re not going to get it. Listen to: “Polar Bear Club”

The Rookie Lot, The Rookie Lot/Yearly 7” split (1998)

Before Brand New, before Crime in Stereo, before the Movielife, there was The Rookie Lot. The band (comprised of Jesse Lacey, Brian Lane, Garrett Tierney, Brandon Reilly and Alex Dunne) were only together for about a year, and only produced this one record. The songs on this split are very raw and extremely hard to come by, but they’re catchy as nobody’s business. Listen to: “Museums”

Inside, Seven Inches to Wall Drug (1999)

I can’t start talking about Taking Back Sunday, Brand New and the wave of LI emo bands without paying respect to the ones who started it all. Inside was the perfect blend of slow and melodic, with charging guitars and powerful vocals. Seven Inches to Wall Drug is a compilation of single tracks from the band (and also a complete live set) that showcased just how much talent this band possessed. They broke up in 1999, but fans were lucky enough to relive Inside’s energetic live shows when the band gave a two-day reunion show back in January. Listen to: “Sandra”

Kill Your Idols, This Is Just The Beginning EP (1999)

Kill Your Idols were probably one of the hardest, angriest bands NYHC had to offer, and this EP proves it. It may only be eight songs long, but This Is Just The Beginning is filled with furious vocals, terrorizing guitars and enough hardcore energy to power the entire Tri-State area. Listen to: “Can’t Take It Away”

Glassjaw, Worship and Tribute (2002)

Worship and Tribute marked a drastic change for Glassjaw; instead of the brutal metal influence they had on their first record, the band opted for a more experimental-rock feel, mixing all different types of styles from jazz to Afrobeat. Although some songs on the album would stand up to (and maybe even surpass) the aggression that was on their first release, vocalist Daryl Palumbo has been quoted saying that Worship and Tribute is the most optimistic record the band has done, which is saying a lot from the guy who on their first record sung about signing his name in the blood from his slit wrist. Listen to: “Ape Dos Mil”

Taking Back Sunday, Tell All Your Friends (2002)

Not only was this TBS’s debut record, but it was also the one that led to a much-publicized scene beef between them and former-BFFs, Brand New. Tell All Your Friends spawned three singles for the band, and is still considered the band’s best album (I bought the record twice, since I played one to death). The album is catchy, bouncy and at times whiny, but it helped carve out TBS’s signature style of dueling vocals, fast tempo guitars and self-deprecating lyrics. Plus, who can deny the Lazarra/Nolan combo? Listen to: “There’s No ‘I’ In Team”

Brand New, Déjà Entendu (2003)

This album was immensely different than Brand New’s first release, Your Favorite Weapon. Critics praised the band for their meaningful lyrics and more powerful sound. Lyrics on Déjà were much more mature than those of their debut, focusing more on the angst and emotion that vocalist Jesse Lacey was feeling at the time. Déjà Entendu really was the album that broke Brand New into the mainstream, eventually becoming certified gold in 2007. Listen to: “Play Crack the Sky”

Latterman, No Matter Where We Go…! (2005)

Let me just preface this by saying, I am a huge fan of gang vocals and sing-along harmonies in songs, and that’s exactly what you can expect from this album. The entire record is filled to the brim with fun, catchy pop-punk hooks and melodies, and centers around themes of loyalty to friends and the ones you love. What could be better? Listen to: “Fear and Loathing on Long Island”

The Movielife, all

With every other band/artist on this list, I was able to pick a definite album that I think is their best. Then I came to the Movielife, and they are my only exception; I tried to pick just one album that I think is the bands absolute best, and I just couldn’t. Each of their records sums up the energy of this band so perfectly that I have no choice but to name them all. Listen to: It’s Go Time (1999)-“Read My Lips”, This Time Next Year (2000)-“Me and You vs. Them”, Has a Gambling Problem (2001)-“If Only Duct Tape Could Fix Everything”, Forty Hour Train Back to Penn (2003)-“Jamaica Next”

HIP-HOP/RAP

Eric B. and Rakim, Paid in Full (1987)

This album is credited in starting the “golden age of hip-hop.” Rakim’s rapping style set a precedent and a standard for all other MCs to come. Eric B.’s heavy sampling throughout the record also became influential in hip hop production. Since its release, Paid in Full has been regaled as one of hip hops seminal albums.
Listen to: “Eric B. for President”

De La Soul, 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)

This album is continuously placed on ‘greatest albums’ lists by noted music critics and publications. Lyrically, the album was considered to be very different for its time; it trades profanity for more heartfelt, humorous lyrics. This record has also been referred to as the “Sgt. Pepper of hip-hop” by the Village Voice. Listen to: “Me Myself and I”

Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet (1990)

This record is one of hip-hop’s greatest and most important albums. It was the third album for Public Enemy, featuring Chuck D., Flavor Flav and the Bomb Squad at their most hard-hitting and angry. Fear of a Black Planet debuted at #40 on the Billboard charts and was certified platinum. Listen to: “911 is a Joke”

LL Cool J, Mr. Smith (1995)

After releasing the not-so-popular 14 Shots to the Dome, this was a comeback release for LL, and went on to reach 2x platinum and spawned three top 10 hits. Mr. Smith was a slight departure for what listeners were used to hearing from LL, instead of his hard-hitting rap; he went for the more soulful ballads which he’s now famous for. Listen to: “Doin’ It”

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