14 Underrated Albums
The performers are celebrated; the albums not so much.
Critics and audiences are fickle, and even the most beloved performer sometimes releases a disc that is met with raised eyebrows and a rapsberry. Here’s a list of albums that were too forward looking, too weird, too out of character, or simply too unlucky to get their due. It’s in chronological order, from earlierst underrated to the most underrated of more recent vintage.
1. Anton Webern: Concerto for Nine Instruments (1951)— Rene Leibowitz, Jacque Louis Monod, Bethany Beardslee
Classical music listeners prize audio quality, and so these pioneering American Webern recordings aren’t much discussed or listened to. Which is too bad, because the scratchiness and scrappiness gives the album a great deal of charm and soul—not words generally associated with Webern. The performers pursue their odd sounds and honks with a lyrical, clunking joy. If you aren’t an enthusiast of impenetrable art music already, this is a great place to start.
2. Pain in My Heart (1964)—Otis Redding
Redding’s first album is generally considered a solid prelude to greatness rather than greatness itself. But awesome as his later recordings are, there’s no joy like listening to one of the best performers of all time find his rough, exuberant soul. The song selection leans towards proven classics like “Stand By Me” and “You Send Me.” Redding takes Booker T. and the MGs for a stroll through the familiar changes, laughing at his own vocal limitations (he doesn’t have the range of Ben E. King) and at his own mastery despite those limits. Also, any album with Redding’s own “These Arms of Mine” is spectacular, no matter what else is on it.
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