Music Lists Are Us: Favorite '80s Albums by year with brief comments


Favorite Albums of the '80s by year with brief comments


Hotter Than July by Stevie Wonder (maybe the best album of 1980 by my favorite artist of the '70s)

Common One by Van Morrison (criminally underrated; one of his best)

Naughty by Chaka Khan

Happy Woman Blues by Lucinda Williams (lauded critically, from Smithsonian Folkways)

Glass Houses by Billy Joel (3 huge hit singles; tracks 1,3 & 4, plus 3  ace non-hits; tracks 5, 8 & 10)

Crawfish Fiesta by Professor Longhair (Henry Roeland "Roy" Byrd--"Fess" for short)

Aretha by Aretha Franklin (her superlative voice elevates even mediocre material)

Give Me The Night by George Benson (jazz/pop/soul amalgam; won 4 Grammy awards)

The Swing of Delight by Santana (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter & Carlos S.)

Roses in the Snow by Emmylou Harris (folk-y, bluegrass-y, Emmylou-y)

Me, Myself, I by Joan Armatrading (woefully neglected artist; killer band)

Mr. Hands by Herbie Hancock (Jaco P, Sheila E, Wah Wah Watson, Tony Williams, Ron Carter)

Gaucho by Steely Dan (always great.  I hate the less-than-meaningless term, "yacht rock", though) 

Mad Love by Linda Ronstadt (Her 7th consecutive, deservedly million-selling album)

Fame (movie soundtrack) by Irene Cara, Paul McCrane, Michael Gore & and others

The Blues Brothers (movie soundtrack) by various artists (Ray Charles, Aretha, Cab Calloway, etc)

Changes by Etta James (a recent discovery for me--this album, not Etta; soulful, bluesy vocals)

One Trick Pony by Paul Simon

This Time by Al Jarreau

Double Fantasy by John Lennon & Yoko Ono


Shake It Up by The Cars (I listened to this with a friend when it was new, I still like it)

Dedication by Gary U.S. Bonds (rock n roll comeback album of the decade--maybe the century)

Walk Under Ladders by Joan Armatrading (with Thomas Dolby, Andy Partridge & Jerry Marotta etc)

Somewhere in England by George Harrison (I like almost everything by this former Beatle)

Bella Donna by Stevie Nicks (charismatic artist, distinctive vocalist, knows how to collaborate)  

Breakin' Away by Al Jarreau (3 Grammy noms, 2 wins, #1 on the Jazz & the R&B charts)

Dad Loves His Work by James Taylor (I like some of the non-singles more than the singles)

Love All the Hurt Away by Aretha Franklin (almost anything she sings is worth hearing)

Word of Mouth by Jaco Pastorius (with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Toots Thielmans, Jack DeJohnette, Michael Brecker, Don Alias, etc., etc.)

Zebop by Santana (I love the combo of timbales & congas with Carlos's stinging jazz fusion guitar)

The Dude by Quincy Jones & various artists (12 Grammy nods, 3 wins; James Ingram's debut)

Juice by Juice Newton (I didn't care much about country music before Juice Newton)

As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls by Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays (if u care about jazz, listen 2 it)

Golden Lady by Abbey Lincoln (one of many jazz talents worthy of wider recognition)

I Love Rock n Roll by Joan Jett (one of my favorite rocking artists & rocking albums)

Alright Again by Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown (great "big band" sound; jazz/blues hybrid)

See Jungle! Bow Wow Wow (Burundi-Beat drums, great guitars, enigmatic title, album cover)


The Nightfly by Donald Fagen (nostalgic/optimistic lyrics, one of the best-made recordings ever)

Classified by James Booker (the flamboyant one-eyed New Orleanian junkie genius piano virtuoso)

Chaka Khan by Chaka Khan

Wild Things Run Fast by Joni Mitchell (the most important female musician of the 20th century)

Night & Day by Joe Jackson (I bought it for "Steppin' Out", but the rest of the album is just as good)

Fodder On My Wings by Nina Simone (eclectic mix of jazz, blues, folk, gospel, African, etc elements)

Bobby McFerrin by Bobby McFerrin (a very original "vocal jazz" debut, for lack of a better term)

The Nylon Curtain by Billy Joel (Where's the Orchestra, Allentown, Laura, Scandinavian Skies)

Get Closer by Linda Ronstadt (no one else can sing like Linda Ronstadt)

Jump To It by Aretha Franklin (have you noticed how much I appreciate Aretha Franklin?)

Marshall Crenshaw by Marshall Crenshaw (power-pop, melodic and fun)

Shango by Santana (have you heard how writing on music is like dancing about archtecture? )

Wynton Marsalis by Wynton Marsalis (his stellar debut with Herbie Hancock, brother Branford, et al)

Shoot Out The Lights by Richard & Linda Thompson (her voice is magical; he writes/plays/sings+++)

Too-Rye-Ay by Dexy's Midnight Runners (like it most for "Come On Eileen", but the rest is good too)

On The Line by Gary U.S. Bonds (with a little help from The Boss & The E. Street Band)

Phil Seymour 2 by Phil Seymour (a Power pop legend, gone too soon, but his music lives on)

Whatever Happened to Love? by Betty Carter

Beat Music by The Spongetones (wonderfully Beatlesque, what could be wrong with that?)


Punch the Clock by Elvis Costello (1 of the most productive,consistent acts; love ...I Write the Book)

Think of One by Wynton Marsalis (classical & jazz virtuoso, composer, bandleader, etc.)

Riding With The King by John Hiatt (A critical, but not commercial, success; great singer/songwriter)

The Key by Joan Armatrading (songs; Drop The Pilot & I Love It When You Call Me Names, etc.)

Murmur by R.E.M. (Stipes' dense, enigmatic lyrics, Buck's chiming, jangly, Byrd-sy guitar)

Hello, Big Man by Carly Simon (this flew under my radar back then; subtle, timeless, sensual)

Two of the Few by Oscar Peterson & Milt Jackson (two all-time great jazz artists; piano/vibes duets)

Infidels by Bob Dylan (Dylan's return to "secular" music after his brief gospel music detour)

Sergio Mendes by Sergio Mendes (Sergio didn't write or sing any of this, but his name is on it)

One More Mile by Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown (did I mention he plays the fiddle too?)

Burning Farm by Shonen Knife (Kurt Cobain chose them as Nirvana's opening act on tour)

Synchronicity by The Police (straddles critical acclaim with commercial popularity)

Bad Influence by Robert Cray (strong early showing from the soul-blues singer/songwriter/guitarist)

What's New by Linda Ronstadt (country/popstar's tribute to the Great American songbook)

Grooves in Orbit by N.R.B.Q. (The best band you never heard; artsy rock/jazz/country/blues)

A Tribute to My Friends by The Oscar Peterson Quartet (with "Virtuoso" guitarist Joe Pass; A+)


How Will The Wolf Survive by Los Lobos (a perfect mix of Americana & traditional Mexican music)

Diamond Life by Sade (count me among the millions who fell for this chanteuse & her music)

Heartbeat City by The Cars (some of their best songs help make this one of their best albums)

Hot House Flowers by Wynton Marsalis (The Marsalis family is a large part of my jazz journey)

Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth by Joan Jett (good songs; great rock album title)

Milk and Honey by John Lennon & Yoko Ono (Guess who wrote the better songs on this album)

The Voice by Bobby McFerrin (years before "Don't Worry...", Mr. M. redefined the art of singing)

Lush Life by Linda Ronstadt (the hits keep coming; her 8th platinum selling recording)

Rejoicing by Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden & Billy Higgins (Ornette C. Tunes + originals by the band)

Echoes by the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ helped move jazz from the bar to the concert hall)

All Over The Place by The Bangles (debut album; Going Down to Liverpool, Hero Takes a Fall, etc.)

Talking to the Sun by Abbey Lincoln (great vocal jazz; not dependent on the same tired standards)

About Face by David Gilmour (another side of the genius Pink Floyd songwriter guitarist singer)

From the Heart by Johnny Adams (New Orleans' own "Tan Canary'; a great jazzy bluesy soul voice)

The Crossing by Oregon (world fusion, new age, chamber jazz with tabla, oboe, sitar, etc.)

Learning to Crawl by The Pretenders (songs; Back on the Chain Gang & 2000 Miles, others)

Reckoning by R.E.M. (sophomore release from Athens GA. four doesn't fall victim to typical slump)

Aerial Boundaries by Michael Hedges (guitar great fuses jazz & classical &c. into incredible music)


Out Of Africa (movie soundtrack) by John Barry (a really beautifully written score; one of his best)

Whitney Houston by Whitney Houston (so many hits; that exquisite voice)

The Dream of the Blue Turtles by Sting (with a band of jazz musicians, Sting grew his sound; great)

The Broadway Album by Barbra Streisand (her best album; the best of many)

Mambo Diablo by Tito Puente (62 year old Mambo/Latin Jazz legend still getting it done)

Black Codes From The Underground by Wynton Marsalis (5 star post-bop quintet; 2 Grammy wins)

Who's Zoomin' Who? by Aretha Franklin (her '80s apex; Freeway Of Love, et al.)

A Cappella by Todd Rundgren (voice only; Hodja, Honest Work, Mighty Love, Pretending...)

Vocalese by Manhattan Transfer (12 Grammy noms--only MJ's Thriller had more; topnotch)

Waiting for the Rain by Hugh Masekela (masterfully weds African music & jazz, with political lyrics)

Promise by Sade (sultry vocals, smooth saxophone, gentle acoustic guitar, soothing, soulful)

Fables of the Reconstruction by R.E.M. (I skip track 1;  tracks 2 -11 would be one of their best LPs)

The Ballad of Sally Rose by Emmylou Harris (commercial fail, but I think it's still pretty great)

Village Life by Herbie Hancock & Foday Musa Suso (another jazz/African fusion album; also good)

Lost and Found by Jason & The Scorchers (debut album from these Americana rockers; their best?)


Graceland by Paul Simon (with Los Lobos, Linda Ronstadt, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, etc.)

The Mission (movie soundtrack) by Ennio Morricone (great composer's best music score ever)

Romances for Saxophone by Branford Marsalis (classical treat from the 1st son of jazz's 1st family)

Different Light by The Bangles (Manic Monday, Walk Like an Egyptian, September Gurls, etc.)

Any Old Time by Carmen McRea (one of the top female jazz singers of the 80s, or ever; good songs)

Tango: Zero Hour by Astor Piazzolla (amazing tango composer and performer; emotionally moving)

Famous Blue Raincoat by Jennifer Warnes

Song X by Pat Metheny & Ornette Coleman (with Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette; great free jazz)

Pretty Little Baka Guy by Shonen Knife (all-female Japanese indie/punk trio; bubblegummy lyrics)

The Last of the True Believers by Nanci Griffith (recently departed Texan; unforgettable voice)

Aretha by Aretha Franklin (her 31st, 7th gold, 3rd titled "Aretha"; cover is the last art by Andy Warhol)

Real Life by Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown (I haven't included many Live albums; this is an exception)

Fore! by Huey Lewis & The News (the first to have 5 Billboard top-ten, hot-100 singles on one album)

For Sentimental Reasons by Linda Ronstadt (her 3rd collab with renowned arranger, Nelson Riddle)


Document by R.E.M. (It's The End...I Feel Fine, The One I Love, Finest Worksong, etc.)

Whitney by Whitney Houston (completed her run of 7 #1 hits in a row, surpassing The Beatles)

Empire of the Sun (movie soundtrack) by John Williams (one of his many great movie scores)

By The Light Of The Moon by Los Lobos (La Bamba was bigger, but this one's great all the way thru)

The Village by Henry Butler (one of my favorite piano players; staggeringly talented)

Bring the Family by John Hiatt (Memphis in the Meantime, Have a Little Faith..., Thank You Girl, etc.)

Trio by Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton & Emmylou Harris (this is a perfect country album)

Softly by Shirley Horn (Ms. Horn was under my radar for years, but she is low-key amazing)

Blues for Salvador by Carlos Santana (His band made the album Freedom in '87, but this is better)

Cloud Nine by George Harrison (When We Was Fab; the last solo album George released in his life)

Famous Blue Raincoat by Jennifer Warnes (songs by Leonard Cohen; an important cover album)

Uptown by The Neville Brothers (the '80s sound has dated poorly, but when Aaron sings it soars)

Canciones de Mi Padre by Linda Ronstadt (timeless songs by Ms. Ronstadt's timeless voice)

Psonic Psunspot by Dukes of the Stratosphear aka XTC (Vanishing Girl & Brainiac's Daughter)


Brian Wilson by Brian Wilson (Brian's back; Love and Mercy, Let It Shine, Melt Away, etc.)

Tracy Chapman by Tracy Chapman (Fast Car, Talkin' 'bout a Revolution; The new voice of 1988)

La Pistola y El Corazon by Los Lobos (a Spanish language album; Mariachi, Tejano, Ranchera, &c)

Green by R.E.M. (songs; Stand, Orange Crush, Pop Song 89, Get Up, You Are The Everything)

Take 6 by Take 6 (won Grammy awards in gospel and jazz categories; great a cappella harmonies)

Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm by Joni Mitchell (with Willie Nelson, Peter Gabriel, Wayne Shorter et al)

Traveling Wilburys by The Traveling Wilburys (Bob, Roy, George, Tom & Jeff; THE supergroup)

Seven Year Itch by Etta James (a major comeback album; from addiction and incarceration, etc.)

Trio Jeepy by Branford Marsalis (with Jeff  "Tain" Watts on drums and Legend Milt Hinton on bass)

Irish Heartbeat by Van Morrison & The Chieftains (2 great acts that sound great together)

Stronger Than Pride by Sade (I believe all of her studio albums are going to make my list)

Watermark by Enya (the best-selling solo Irish artist of all time... so far; & one of her best discs)

I'm Your Man by Leonard Cohen (songs; Everybody Knows, Tower of Song, the title track, others)

Simple Peasures by Bobby McFerrin (whether or not u like his big hit, the rest of the disc is aces)

Sangoma by Miriam Makeba (aka Mama Africa; the title references traditional African healers)

Slow Turning by John Hiatt (Drive South, Feels Like Rain, Tennessee Plates, the title track, etc.)

The Indescribable Wow by Sam Phillips (Beatles-y, Powerpop-y; with T Bone Burnett in the band)

Look What I Got by Betty Carter (well-deserved Grammy winner for best female jazz vocal)

Space Wrangler by Widespread Panic (really solid independent jam-rock debut)


Indigo Girls by the Indigo Girls (weave lead & counter-melody vocals as well as anybody)

Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz (I Build...For Us, Does Anybody...Care, title track, Mr Cab Driver, &c)

Close Enough For Love by Shirley Horn (is jazz sometimes too chaotic or too much? this is 4 u)

Oh Mercy by Bob Dylan (may be his best album since Blood On The Tracks in 1975)

Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind by Linda Ronstadt (4 Aaron Neville duets & more)

Miltons by Milton Nascimento (5 time Grammy winning Brazilian singer/songwriter; 45 albums)

Avalon Sunset by Van Morrison (a critical & commercial success; very upbeat & accessible)

Jump World by Cassandra Wilson (original, avant-garde, funky; Wilson at her modernist apex)

State of the Heart by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Yellow Moon by The Neville Brothers

Crossroads by Tracy Chapman

Volume 3 by the Traveling Wilburys (missing Orbison, nevertheless they persisted)

Something Real by Phoebe Snow

Walking on a Tightrope by Johnny Adams (his voice reminds me a bit of Lou Rawls & that's good)

The Stone Rose's by The Stone Roses

Standing My Ground by Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown

Full Moon Fever by Tom Petty

to be continued

Level 59
Nov 15, 2021
Can you try to make your formatting a bit more original? I feel like all blogs these days are just a single heading and then a bunch of text. Also, just listing songs isn't that creative and I'm wishing you added something more to make the blog more of an interesting read.
Level 74
Nov 18, 2021
Isn't The Wall from 1979? Interesting list, I haven't heard nearly anything on here - I'm not a big fan of the 80s in general. There's only been a handful of 80s albums I've both heard and enjoyed, namely:

Blood Fire Death by Bathory

Moving Pictures by Rush

Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails

Reign in Blood by Slayer

and pretty much everything by George Strait but particularly Strait From The Heart

...but I've been meaning to check out the decade more so I might do that at some point.

Level 62
Nov 18, 2021
You're right about The Wall. Though it was very successful in 1980, it was released in November 1979. Thanks for catching that. Wow, George Strait seems a little out of place in that list of favorites, but I do appreciate the diversity of styles. You won't find anything like Slayer in my list, and very little mainstream country, but with an open mind (which I'm guessing you have) and open ears--I think you will find some artists in my list to appreciate. I cast a pretty wide net myself; Soul, Jazz, Classic rock, Flamenco, Movie Soundtracks, Blues, Folk and others are all included
Level 62
Jan 8, 2022
Coincidentally I just recently found out I am related to the namesake of the band Bathory; The Countess Erzsebet Bathory de Ecsed aka The Blood Countess. She is my 9th cousin 14 times removed.
Level 40
Nov 21, 2021
nice update
Level 62
Nov 22, 2021
Thank you. It will take a while to add commentary to all my lists