The 23 Album Challenge: Listening Challenge #1

One of the many themes that you will encounter from now to the end of October is the Top 23.   The number 23 means a lot to me, as I will be turning 23-years-old on September 3.

The very first entry and my very first challenge to you, the readers, involve the 23 albums you must listen to before the end of 2011.

All of the albums that I chose represent the best in pop, rock, R&B/Soul, soundtrack, and hip-hop.   Below you will find the album name, artist, the year it was released and a brief description of the album.

After listening to an album, please comment on My Facebook Fan Page and some of your comments will be posted in a later blog post!

Happy Listening.

Dangerous, Michael Jackson, 1991

The King of Pop’s fourth album was a sharp departure from his previous three solo albums.   Gone was the smooth sounds and direction from Quincy Jones and more incorporation of the New Jack Swing-style of music.    Jackson’s album featured cameos from Slash on “Black or White” and “Give It to Me’ and messages of hope with “Will You Be There,” “Heal the World” and “Keep the Faith.”

River of Dreams, Billy Joel, 1993

Grammy Winner Billy Joel produced an equivalent of music gold with this album.  Mr. Joel tackled the issues facing America including the rise of corporations taking away small towns in “No Man’s Land.”   Another stand out track includes the inspirational “All About Soul,” which features a gospel choir that joins the band in the song’s chorus.    Don’t forget to listen to “Famous Last Words,” “Great Wall of China,” “Blonde Over Blue” and the title track.

My World, Ray Charles, 1993

The Genius released one of his last studio albums in the early 1990s.  This album puts the listener on an incredible journey.   A highlight of the album is Charles’ covering of Leon Russell’s “A Song for You.”  This brilliant arrangement and Charles’ vocals feels like we are listening to him perform it live.   Do not forget to check out “Let Me Take Over,” “I’ll Be There,” and the title track.

The Lion King (Original Soundtrack), Elton John & Various Artists, 1994

Many people will remember watching this now Disney classic in theatres and listening to the accompanying soundtrack that featured the collaborations music from Sir Elton John and lyrics from Tim Rice.   Do not miss listening to Elton’s version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” a very young Jonathan Taylor Thomas’s energetic “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” and Jeremy Irons’ sinister rendition of “Be Prepared.”

Tapestry Revisited-A Tribute to Carole King, Various Artists, 1995

This album brings together several of music’s biggest names to perform their renditions of legendary Singer-Songwriter Carole King’s classics.  There are many standouts from Rod Stewart’s “So Far Away” to the Bee Gees’ rendition of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”   One of the surprises that will be interesting to the listeners will be the gospel rendition of “You Got a Friend” featuring Aretha Franklin, BeBe and CeCe Winans.

HIStory-Past, Present and Future-Book 1 (Disc Two), Michael Jackson, 1995

If you know all of MJ’s classics skip to disc number two.   Disc two will feature new material from the King of Pop.  One of the best things about this album was the way Jackson expressed him through his songs including anger and frustration in “D.S.” and “Scream,” which are collaborations with Slash and his sister, Janet, respectively.    Songs that are overlooked including “Stranger in Moscow” and “Earth Song” will stand out to listeners.

Nine Lives, Aerosmith, 1997

“America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” takes the best of many worlds.  One standout is “Taste of India,” which features the band pounding drum mallets on their guitars to simulate instruments that would be used in Indian music and it will make listeners feel like they are in India.  Another song is the bluesy “Pink” and Desmond Child penned “Hole in My Soul.”

The Dance, Fleetwood Mac, 1997

Fleetwood Mac (the classic Rumours line-up) performed 17 of their classics and new material in front of a live studio audience.   After hearing “Rhiannon,” “Go Your Own Way” and “Don’t Stop,” listeners will find that the band has musically aged gracefully.   Also don’t forget to listen to the new twists of Mac classics like “Say You Love Me” and  “Tusk.”

Come on Over, Shania Twain, 1997

This album features catchy lyrics and great vocals from the team of Canadian Country Icon, Shania Twain, and her ex-husband, Robert John “Mutt” Lange.   “You’re Still the One” is still a great single even being on the airwaves of radio stations after 14 years.   “That Don’t Impress Me Much” is a very humorous song that will make everyone laugh and tap your foot at the same time.  “You’ve Got A Way” is a great slow dance song for a wedding or a prom.

VH1 Divas Live, Various Artists, 1998

What happens when you put six of the biggest female singers of all time and put them on one big stage?  You get VH1 Divas Live.  This special that benefited The Save the Music Foundation featured phenomenal performances from Gloria Estefan’s cover of “Turn the Beat Around” to Aretha Franklin’s duet with Mariah Carey on the Queen of Soul’s classic “Chain of Fools.”  Another highlight of the concert featured Celine Dion and Carole King performing “The Reason” live for the first time and “You’ve Got a Friend” that featured Dion, King, Estefan and Shania Twain.

My Love is Your Love, Whitney Houston, 1998

The Voice’s first studio album since I’m Your Baby Tonight featured great songs including the Diane Warren penned “I Learned from the Best” and “You’ll Never Stand Alone” and the Wyclef Jean penned title track.  But the song that is considered a highlight is Houston’s duet with R&B diva Mariah Carey on “When You Believe, ” which was featured on “The Prince of Egypt” soundtrack.

Millennium, Backstreet Boys, 1999

When the Backstreet Boys arrived on the music scene in the mid-1990s, the bubble-gum pop scene exploded.   This album made everyone (especially the girls at Indian Valley Elementary School) Backstreet Boys crazy.   One of the reasons why the album was successful is due to the great songwriting and production team of Max Martin, Rami Yacoub, Kristian Lundin, Andreas Carlsson and Robert John “Mutt” Lange.  Here’s an interesting fact: Brian Littrell co-wrote several songs of the album including “Larger Than Life” and “The One.”

Tarzan (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture), Phil Collins, 1999

Disney produced numerous cartoon classics during the 1990s and one of their final stories was an adaptation on Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan.  Phil Collins and Mark Mancina created magic through song that intensified the moviegoer’s experience.   Collins’ version of “You’ll Be In My Heart” won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Original Song.   Also do not miss listening to Phil Collins and *NSYNC’s version of “Trashin’ the Camp.”

Oops…! I Did It Again, Britney Spears, 2000

Britney Spears entered the New Millennium newly crowned as one of pop music’s newest princesses.   Spears released four singles off of her sophomore bubblegum pop album including the title track, “Lucky” and the Shania Twain-Robert John “Mutt” Lange penned “Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know.”  Spears also covered the Rolling Stones’ classic “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”  This album received a ‘B’ from Entertainment Weekly.

America: A Tribute to Heroes, Various Artists, 2001

Our world changed 10 years ago when terrorists used airplanes to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.   Despite the dark events that took place that day, America and the world watched on September 21, 2001 as some of the best talents in the United States and the world gathered for a benefit concert that raised money for all of the victims’ families that were affected by the attacks.   Stand out tracks include: “My City of Ruin,” “Walk On,” “New York State of Mind,” “Hero (Mariah Carey’s version)” and “There Will Come A Day.”

The Rising, Bruce Springsteen, 2002

The Boss’ 12th studio album was monumental for two reasons.  First, this album was the first time in 18 years that the full E Street Band accompanied Springsteen.  Secondly, this album was based on Springsteen’s thoughts and reflections after the 9/11 attacks.   This album received a five-star rating from Rolling Stone and won the 2003 Grammy Award for Best Rock Album.   “Into the Fire,” “Empty Sky,” “Mary’s Place” and the title tracks are worth listening.

Stripped, Christina Aguilera, 2002

When Christina Aguilera released Stripped in October 2002, it showed a positive turning point in her career.   Even though the album received mix reviews from critics, Stripped released five singles including the Linda Perry penned “Beautiful,” which earned Aguilera her third Grammy Award.  Other songs that listeners should check out include “A Voice Within,” “Fighter” and “Can’t Hold Us Down.”

Say You Will, Fleetwood Mac, 2003

Fleetwood Mac’s first studio album in eight years featured the return of Lindsey Buckingham and the absence of longtime member Chrsitne McVie.  Despite McVie’s absence, Buckingham and Stevie Nicks provide great tracks to this rock album.  Listeners will enjoy listening to the title track, “Miranda,” “Throw Down” and “Peacekeeper.”

Genius Loves Company, Ray Charles & Various Artists, 2004

The Genius’ final studio album was released posthumously after Charles’ death.  Genius Loves Company featured the late and great Ray Charles performing with some of music’s biggest stars including Gladys Knight, Willie Nelson and Michael McDonald.  Duets that listeners should listen to include “Here We Go Again” with Norah Jones, “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” with Elton John, “Sinner’s Prayer” with B.B. King and “Crazy Love,” a live duet with Van Morrison.

Monkey Business, Black Eyed Peas, 2005

The Black Eyed Peas’ second album with Fergie launched in 2005 with four hot singles including “Pump It” and “My Humps.” Despite mixed reviews from Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone, the album featured collaborations with Jack Johnson, Sting and the late James Brown.  Also do not miss “Don’t Phunk with My Heart” and “My Style” which features Justin Timberlake.

Duets-An American Classic, Tony Bennett & Various Artists 2006

One of 2006’s best albums featured legendary crooner Tony Bennett collaborate with a mixture of rising stars and icons in the music industry that included Barbra Streisand, Sting and John Legend. The tracks that will stand out to listeners could include “For Once in My Life” with Stevie Wonder, “Rags to Riches” with Elton John and “If I Ruled the World” with Celine Dion.

Spirit, Leona Lewis, 2008

The United Kingdom’s version of Simon Cowell’s reality competition X-Factor introduced the United States to winner Leona Lewis with her debut album: Spirit. Lewis’s powerful vocals can be heard on “Bleeding Love,” “Better In Time,”  “Forgive Me” and her mentor Simon Cowell’s co-penned “Footprints in the Sand” that will blow listeners away.

The Union, Elton John & Leon Russell, 2010

What happens when you bring two veteran singer-songwriters from two different countries? For his 30th studio album, Sir Elton john teamed up with rocker Leon Russell that featured songs co-written by longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin and from John and Russell themselves.  This album will take listeners on an incredible musical journey that includes “Hey Ahab,” “The Best Part of the Day,” “If It Wasn’t So Bad” and “Monkey Suit.”

Copyright 2020 Jacob Elyachar