Feels Like the First Time – Best Debut Albums of All Time
Although these days, you are more likely to find me listening to bible study radio or a podcast, occasionally I still break out the tunes. Sometimes it’s easier to slog some miles on the treadmill or the elliptical with some good music. Just like my Best Live Albums list, I have specific criteria for an album’s inclusion into my best debut albums list.
Some of my decision criteria is reflective. As we look at these in the rear view mirror, what happened to the band or the personnel years later might weigh in to how I feel about the music. While some of my choices will be obvious baby boomer nods to classic rock, others will reflect the life changes over the years.
Criteria for Best Debut Albums
The number one criteria for inclusion on this list is that the entire album should be listenable. You desire to hear the whole album out of love for the music, not obligation to just get through it. The best debut albums should convince you that every song was a hit. You should actually be surprised to learn that a particular favorite song on the album was not a chart topper.
Obviously, a best debut albums candidate should be one you desire to listen to periodically, and even desire to own. Granted, today you don’t need to own any physical media to enjoy an album, so take that with a grain of salt. Perhaps we can acquiesce to “I would own it if I had to”.
Finally, you’ll discover that there are hundreds of best debut albums that are not on my list. Why? Because it’s my list. These are albums that moved me, and interested me and me alone. Albums that I have owned over the years, and listed to repeatedly, in their entirety.
Boomer’s List of Best Debut Albums
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell
With both Meat Loaf (Marvin Lee Aday) and Jim Steinman now gone, the huge legacy they left together began here, with Bat Out Of Hell. Brilliantly engineered by Todd Rundgren, every song is a timeless classic that exposes the genius of these three men and their supporting band mates. I could talk for hours about this album, the men and women involved, and the enduring legacy they created. I own every Meat Loaf album.
Keith Green – For Him Who Has Ears to Hear
If you have come to faith in Jesus Christ, then you have probably heard of Keith Green. His music is lyrical genius taken to the next level. In his time, Keith was somewhat controversial…spelling out thoughts that were true…but everyone was too afraid to say. His debut album, For Him Who Has Ears to Hear meets all of Boomer’s criteria for Best Debut Album. Track #4, When I Hear the Praises Start, is Boomer’s Favorite.
Foreigner – Foreigner
Foreigner’s debut album, Foreigner, is a great example of an album that only had three commercial hits out of the 10 original songs, yet every song was a hit in my eyes…or ears as it were. The best way I can describe Foreigner’s music when it came on the scene back in 1977 was clean and sharp, every note accounted for. That music holds up today.
The Knack’s debut album, Get the Knack, was unique for me in many ways. Like The Cars, the Knack’s debut album was my first taste of the Punk/New Wave music we’d all start to see. Get the Knack only had a couple of commercial hits, but entire album was good. I had the unique distinction of being able to listen to this album daily for a couple of weeks during study hall in our High School library, courtesy of wireless headphones provided by the library. Me and a few buddies would listen to this album together, jamming and giggling like…well, teenagers.
The debut album by Trent Willmon of the same name is one of the finest treatise’s of musicality, singing, songwriting, and arranging you’ll ever find in your time on earth. Now ask me how I really feel about it. I submit that this is one of the best debut albums of all time, anywhere, in any genre. Every song is gold.
What torqued me the most about this album was that it only had two commercially successful hits. While artists like Kenny Chesney, quite good in their own right, could record themselves taking a crap and the country music propaganda machine would pass it off as a #1 hit…the nine other works of art on Trent’s debut album went largely unnoticed.
As I understand it, it was much the same for the next two albums or so and Trent finally hung up his boots and now writes hit songs for the artists that the machine deems worth of promoting. Popular broadcast radio is a joke.
As we alluded to earlier with The Knack, The Cars helped usher is a punk/new wave hybrid sound in the late ’70s & early ’80s. All nine tracks on the debut album are excellent, successful songs worth listening to today. Certainly a worthy candidate for best debut album. Without a doubt, the late Rick Ocasek was a lyric genius. Interestingly, to me any way….The Cars was the first concert I attended.
Big & Rich – Horse of a Different Color
The first time you listen to Big & Rich’s debut album, Horse of a Different Color, you’ll likely be inclined to think…what the hell did I just listen to? Subsequent listening however will tune you in to the creative genius cooked up by John Rich and Big Kenny. The album is a delight…a wild country ride with some hard rock chords and even a little….rap. There, I said it. Rap…yes this country album has rap, courtesy of Cowboy Troy. The golden tones of John Rich always remind me of the Eagles. This is definitely one of the best debut albums of all time.
Boston – Boston
It’s almost not fair to talk about Boston’s debut album and somehow not include their second album, Don’t Look Back. Both of these albums were chart toppers that I seemingly played back to back for years. Every song on both albums is amazing, and still hold up today. Both feature the genius of Tom Scholtz, and the unparalleled voice of the late Brad Delp.
Switching our focus back to the self-titled debut album, Boston 1 as I like to call it, the album meant so much to me as a teenager. I won’t describe why or how the songs on this particular album moved me so much. I actually couldn’t listen to it for many years. The story of the album’s creation in Tom Scholtz’ basement is legendary.
The intro to More Than a Feeling is unmistakable. The guitar solo in Hitch a Ride is heart-wrenching. Dare I go on? This was the perfect album at the perfect time for baby boomers in 1976. As of today, this album is 17X Platinum, and is possibly the greatest of the best debut albums.
Van Halen’s self-titled debut album showed up in 1978. Although it hit the scene three years before MTV hit the airwaves, Van Halen was seemingly made for TV. While baby boomer kids were listening to and enjoying Eddie’s guitar work and DLR’s unique vocals, it would be a few years before we would see their bombasity at regular intervals on the boob tube.
They were at the time very exciting to listen to, jam to, rock to, and party to…made all the more fun by David Lee Roth’s jumping around and screaming. They had success with following albums, and then of course the split and the work with Sammy Hagar. To me however, this debut album captures the magic and the wonder that some guys with some real talent and energy were just dying to express.
I’m sure there are many that are missing from this best debut albums list, but that’s fine. The albums on this list are the ones that I owned on vinyl, replaced on CD, and downloaded on Digital.
It’s not a particularly eclectic list…there is a lot of music I listened to that I just never felt like I needed to own, or listen to quite as often. There’s also a ton of music that I favored that were not debut albums. As such, many of my favorite albums are not listed here.