Who Has Had The Longest Unbroken Run Of Great Albums…? (Clue: It’s Not The Beatles)


A friend and I were debating who has had the longest consecutive run of classic albums in order to settle another argument. 

Which is cheaper? Buying records online or buying in shops?

Our scientific method was to each buy the same set of albums – and we thought that buying a set from one artist might be the best way. The question was, which musical act should we pick? We didn’t want to be saddled with Neil Young’s ’80s output, or any albums featuring Liam Gallagher released after 1995.

It’s funny how musicians can have a great album, or run of albums, and then put something out that for a myriad of reasons, perhaps substance-related or tired-from-a-life-on-the-road-related, falls flat. 

And it’s usually when I jump on board. 

The number of times over the years I have fallen in love with a band’s back catalogue, bought all the albums, and then finally caught up. They’re about to release a new album! It’s the morning of release, I hurry over to the record shop, five ninety-nine in sweaty hand,* ready to hand over to a moody goth at the counter. 

Of course, it’s almost always that release that the band decided they’d have an off-day. 

Sometimes it’s hard not to take it personally. It’s as though they wait for me…

“What’s that? Steve’s finally caught up with us has he? Right, time to dig out that jazz fusion LP we’d always wanted to record…”

Or to put it another way, I’m sure we can all remember exactly where we were when we first heard “Be Here Now”, R.E.M’s “Monster” ** or that second Razorlight CD…

To be fair, if ever any musicians (God forbid) read this blog, they’d probably feel the same way. 

“It’s never been as good as that first Beatles series he did….”

Back to the matter in hand…

We chose an artist who managed a run of eight great albums in a row. This artist also managed two live albums in that time. Their back catalogue is desirable and is still relatively affordable.

But who has a great eight-album unbroken run?

We started with the obvious: The Beatles. 

“Thirteen albums. All classics” I stated confidently. 

“Hmm.” My friend Chris had a think. “Beatles For Sale” and “Yellow Submarine” are pretty average” he countered. 

He looked up the albums on his phone. “I know it’s a bit sacrilegious to say so, but they had kind of run out of puff at the time of Beatles For Sale – they’d been on tour a lot and it’s full of cover versions. The run from “Help!” to the one before Yellow Submarine – The White Album – is……..only six albums. 

“Surely there are better runs than that?” I countered, “The Stones?”

“Not unless you think “His Satanic Majesties Request” or “Goats Head Soup” are all-time classics…” said Chris in a tone of voice that suggested if I did think that I would need my head examined. We put their best run at four albums from Beggar’s Banquet to Exile. 

“Dylan?”

We examined our phones again. We reckoned six albums up to “Blonde on Blonde”. Whilst decent enough, perhaps John Wesley Harding contained insufficient rock-solid Dylan bangers and thus fell short of classic status? 

“Neil Young?”

Wikipedia was getting a run out. We were in danger of increasing their funding need for the year. 

We decided Neil Young only managed three studio albums in a row before “Journey Through The Past” stunk the place out. 

“The Ditch Trilogy plus Zuma makes four before American Stars and Bars, but there’ll be debate around Time Fades Away in the middle of that lot. Not least by Neil Young.”

We mused on what we did about settling such arguments before the advent of smartphones. Did we go to libraries to satisfy our knowledge? Discographies seemed unlikely material to appear in such important depositories of knowledge as Pears Cyclopaedia or even the 1984 Smash Hits Annual. We decided that libraries probably kept strict hours anyway and people likely just went down the pub and whoever seemed the most certain won the argument. 

“Led Zeppelin…?”

Did “Presence” or “In Through The Out Door” drop the standard slightly? Either way, that was still an impressive six or possibly seven album stretch. 

So who managed eight in a row?

Bowie? Well, yes. In fact we agreed that Bowie managed up to a dozen, depending on your love of The Man Who Sold The World or Let’s Dance. 

But we did a Bowie bet a few years ago. 

Rather than re-run the whole conversation, here’s a pictorial representation of what we came up with. It’s clearly subjective, and you’ll have your own favourites. Feel free to hurl gentle abuse in the comments section if we’ve dissed your favourite. Apologies to fans of The Killers, (especially if you liked Side B of Hot Fuss)…


Aretha Franklin managed eight in a row. 

Her run of albums on Atlantic Records from “I Never Loved A Man The Way That I Love You” to “Young, Gifted and Black” is as strong as almost any run in popular music. You might even include the gospel album Amazing Grace as a ninth. It sold two million copies. It’s great. 

….If you like that sort of thing. 

From a record collector’s perspective, there’s some nice plum Atlantic labels of the kind Led Zeppelin collectors pay hundreds for. Doubtless there will be variations on a theme there too…

And Aretha’s albums are just about affordable still. Without generalising too much about the record collecting fraternity, it does appear that sixties and seventies soul / RnB is more desired in 7″ form than it is on album, and this keeps demand for the albums (and therefore prices) on an even keel. 

We set ourselves the task of picking up each album for less than a tenner, if we had enough time. 

So we began. 

And as I tell you what happened, we’ll also take a look at the stories behind Aretha Franklin’s run of eight great LPs too…

  • *showing my age here. 
  • ** Monster actually sounds good now, but seemed a crushing disappointment at the time. 


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32 replies

  1. Loving the article as ever – I reckon maiden have got a shout from iron maiden up until seventh son which (including live after death) is eight albums. I reckon some people will say killers is less than classic but those people are fools.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Three words. Somewhere In Time.
      We didn’t count live albums….

      Like

      • really Somewhere in Time not a classic? It’s a pretty essential album for me but now I think about it I can see where you are coming from (Deja Vu/Loneliness in particular) but maybe it’s not just the songs – other reasons I love this album are:

        – the other worldly production – I got into Maiden after hearing Fear of the Dark and filling in the back catalogue from there (talk about starting off a low base!) so I heard most of the classic albums in quick succession. This one sounded totally unlike any of the others – a real mysterious and eerie quality to how it sounded which I loved
        – The artwork. Best maiden album cover by a country mile
        – The emergence of A Smith as a songwriting force. Never mind all the chat about Blaze not being up to the job, the reason Maiden struggled in the 90s was that Steve was carrying the songwriting on his own in Bruce and particularly Adrian’s absence. For me, Adrian’s return is the main factor why they’ve had two late career albums that can be ranked as classics (AMOLAD and Book of Souls)
        – Bruce’s stage outfits – A samurai outfit with working neon tubing? A snakeskin catsuit cut to the waist with an Eddie belt and a ruffled silk shirt? His songwriting may have been conspicuous by its absence on this one but he was bang on the button as far as his wardrobe went

        Hm, reading this back it’s possible I’ve spent too much of my life thinking about this. My mum genuinely thought I’d grow out of heavy metal.

        Fair point on the live album, although LAD is a classic!

        Liked by 2 people

      • You put forward a good defence. I bought the album on the day of release and loved it, and it does have the best artwork.
        And of course, this is all subjective.
        I think my Iron Maiden run though would begin with the debut and end with Powerslave, and you’re right, there are a few people who wouldn’t give you Killers in that run.

        Like

    • Killers thru No Prayer – 8 9 including LAD…and it should.

      The Kinks- Kontroversy thru Showbiz – 8 not including the soundtrack to Percy

      Rush -2112>Signals 8 including Exit Stage Left. 10 if you go up to Power Windows but personally I dont like Grace Under Pressure. Too subjective for me!!;)

      Like

  2. Cool when debates like this pop up from friends just discussing music! For my listening tastes though which is hard rock I would put VH in there with the first 6 Roth Albums being classics…
    Great read!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You forgot Radiohead! Pablo Honey nothing special, but The Bends through to A Moon Shaped Poll is eight, I think.

    I could make a case for Elvis Costello too, from My Aim is True to at least Blood and Chocolate.

    Like

  4. I’m not suggesting him just to be ever-so under the radar, honestly, but I think the great Jackie Leven made one ace album after another. After putting out an obscure LP as St John Field in 1971, there’s a big gap until he comes back with the fantastic Doll By Doll who released 4 albums (some say 3, plus one stylistic left swerve which should have been released as a solo album) bursting with quality writing, playing and singing. Another gap while he concentrates on enjoying heroin way too much, then a run of around 30 albums, each of which has several songs which leave rock critics weeping bitter tears of envy.

    He should have been rich and successful. Only death was able to stop him from releasing at a rate which makes a mockery of the struggling 3 albums a decade work rate of today’s preening charlatans. When his record company complained he was making too many records, he simply released them under the alias Sir Vincent Lone. His generosity was a rare thing, too – giving space on his records to other artists so they could get one or two of their songs into the shops.

    Start with “Fairy Tales for Hard Men” and work back and forward in time from there. Although it doesn’t matter where you start. You’d be unlucky not to walk out of a shop without an armful of consecutive shit hot records.

    The only catch might be, how easy it is to find his stuff on vinyl. The Doll By Doll LPs certainly turn up on Discogs regularly, but the Jackie Leven market might be better suited to a challenge of “how many can we actually find from any source?”

    3 others who usually put out very very good records – Graham Parker, Kate Bush (quite slowly I must say) and PJ Harvey.

    BTW I’m not having a bar of this Beatles For Sale is crap, crap. No Reply, I’m a Loser, Baby’s in Black, I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party, Eight Days a Week…flawless playing, harmonies from heaven…come on.

    Cheers, Dave

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I immediately thought about Genesis, I’m a fan that’s for sure but I’d say from Trespass to And Then There Were Three, or even Duke which is great, 9 fantastic albums in a row 🙂 (Yes as well, from the Yes Album to Drama)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting, but the responses here so far already point out the problem with the plan: “Great Albums” is a highly subjective term. What defines “great” or “classic”? Whether you feel all the artist’s albums in the run are great or not, your should pick an artist whose run will be the easiest to acquire; both the “great” albums and the “average” albums in it will be priced accordingly for you both…

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right about it all being subjective – but it’s nice to have a chat about what we all think about these musicians.
      We decided we wanted to actually own the albums we bought, and this was the artist we thought would be the most of interest, and who wouldn’t (hopefully) break the bank.
      Thanks for your thoughts and hope you enjoy the series.

      Like

  7. I’d have thought that Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and The Mothers Of Invention would all be in with a shout in terms of “classic” runs. not too sure about availability however.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My first thought was Bowie! I’d have been more generous to the Stones, but hey, I’m biased…

    Also, Aretha. I just love her. Love love love. You go, girl! Aretha FTW!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great analysis, and hard to argue with Bowie as the winner. Can I suggest adding Stevie Wonder into the mix? The streak of 6 albums from “Where I’m Coming From” to “Songs In The Key Of Life” is as good as it gets. Then you remember it was pretty much just him coming up with everything…and he’s blind…and it’s hard to imagine any artist has ever put together such a streak of greatness.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Not a big fan of Bowie, but I can see why he’s at the top of the List.
    Gonna to throw another band in There…..King’s X
    Their first 7 albums, I would Say are Up there!
    Very under-rated Band.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. My first thought was The Flaming Lips (from In A Priest Driven Ambulance to Embryonic), but Zaireeka spoils that. Dang. Then I thought “Nick Cave”. Take your pick from where to start, but he’s had a stellar run of great albums.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wilco – ten studio albums in and not a duff one to be seen.
    “a sonic shoulder to cry on”

    Like

  13. Or Miles Davis “E.S.P.” to “On The Corner” – eleven LPs

    Like

  14. Looking forwards to this one – couldn’t agree more about Bowie – he was a law unto himself, but Aretha will be interesting 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I’m not really surprise to see that Bowie has the record, no pun attended 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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