The 5 most overlooked albums of all time
7th July 2020
All record collectors love a rare vinyl. But what about the songs and albums that aren’t necessarily rare but unsung heroes of the time and are falling under the radar? Records that should have been smash hits but instead barely broke the surface. Whether that’s unknown artists or some of the most famous singers and musicians around. There are so many albums out there that have been overlooked, we scoured through them all and have picked our top 5 –
1. John Stewart – California Bloodlines
Named by the Rolling Stones magazine as one the 100 best albums of all time but barely known outside of its core fan base. This album features some of the same musicians that were used for Bob Dylan’s Nashville skyline and the song ‘Mother Country’ was used during the Apollo 11 spaceflight mission as well as featuring in the documentary. John was also famous before his solo release, he was originally part of the Kingston Trio, one of the main musical architects of the Americana folk music movement in the 60s. And if that wasn’t enough, he was one of the songwriters for The Monkees and wrote the hit ‘Daydream Believer’. All of this background should have made this album a 60s hit and a timeless classic but was instead only successful with critics and a core group of fans and was never commercially successful, with most people not even aware he had a solo career. A definite one for the overlooked album list.
2. Frank Sinatra – Watertown
Frank Sinatra is of course a household name, as are his many timeless classics. But Watertown, written by Bob Gaudis and Jake Holmes, has somehow managed to stay under the radar since its creation in 1969. And that’s not because it was a dud album by an otherwise musical legend, it was actually Sinatra’s most ambitious concept album and the most complex in terms of curation. Watertown has a fully-fledged story woven into each track where each song is part of a musical plot. It’s an album that provides brief lyrical snapshots that feel like musical love letters and which tell the tale, from start to finish, of a man’s ordinary life split apart by pain. Sinatra, the narrator, perfectly encapsulates the sound of a broken man. The sound is also very unlike Sinatra, and is a conscious attempt at rock oriented pop, with prominent electric guitars, keyboards, drum kits and light strings. Sinatra also artfully draws out the warmth and nostalgia in the otherwise painful story, as he does so well with his more famous chart hits. The album was actually out of print until recently and is now circulating again which has pricked up people’s ears to his most underrated album and has got critics wondering why it never created the buzz it originally deserved.
3. George Benson – The shape of things to come
Benson is one the greatest living jazz guitarists as well as a singer songwriter, and excels at nocturnal jazz and blues. His album was produced while he was in the midst of being repackaged by his label as a more ‘accessible’ guitar star. But he managed to get this record out just in time and before they managed to smooth out his creative edges. You really feel like Benson is being his true self on this album, not caring about what might please his more mainstream audience and is the reason why it remains one of the most undisputed jazz classics, although it’s his least famous album. The sound is what grabs your attention, it’s punchy with killer guitar solos and keyboard riffs and is unapologetically experimental. Basically, if you like free jazz and have never heard about this album, give it a listen.
4. T2 – I’ll work out in Boomland
One of the most obscure albums not only on our list but of all time. With only 4 songs on the album and the only ever record produced by T2, a British progressive rock band and power prog trio, it also still managed to hold its own. The unknown band and their relatively off the wall sound has managed to keep this record under the radar, even though it is a quality and thought through set of songs. And although this is there only known musical output, the tight playing, well-curated tracks and strong vocal performances have had music critics and progressive rock fans declaring it as one of the best albums of all time for the genre. A kind of drop the mic moment for progressive rock. The album is also very experimental, with jaunts into psychedelic and jazz-rock. The song ‘In Circles’ is a good example of how the band uses its tight musical restraint on its fiery and otherworldly sound to produce such a unique and quality piece of musical gold. And the cover reflects the care and time taken to produce the album, a definite stand-alone piece of artwork.
5. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
Released in 2007 and one of our most recent picks, this album stood little chance of making lyrical waves because it was sandwiched between the band’s iconic Funeral and The Suburbs albums. Its eerie and distant sounds has also affected its radio and commercial capabilities. But this album shouldn’t be sniffed at. Its seamless flow and thoughtful lyrics as well as its playful use of music make it a worthy listen. The album is arguably Arcade Fire’s most experimental. Its inventive guitar work or steamy drums to its no holds barred Gothically gloomy sound akin to funeral processions, makes it a markedly different sound compared to the band’s other two hit albums. The best part of Neon Bible is that it curbs back on thrill to produce a very controlled and thought-through sound with gradual crescendos and a lyrical story. It’s the kind of album that might not have made as much noise as Funeral or the Suburbs but has a very long shelf life and is perfectly curated for a back to back vinyl listen.
Do you agree with our 5 most underrated albums of all time? Do you have some others that you think we should all definitely listened to? Comment below so we can have a listen too! And if you’d like to read more about music, records and vinyl protection have a look at our blog or sign up to our newsletter below to get everything you could ever musically need straight in your inbox.