Four in a Row

One of my favourite podcasts, Sound Opinions, put out a repeat of their ‘Grand Slam’ episode this week that got me thinking. Apparently, a grand slam in baseball is when there are people on all three bases and the batsman hits a home run, meaning that a maximum four points is scored (I’m sure that that description sounds like an American explaining LBW!).

So, the challenge is to think of an artist/band that made FOUR great albums in a row. Sound Opinions went for Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Sleater-Kinney, Blur, XTC, Husher Du and the Velvet Underground.

It’s more difficult than it sounds, but I think I’ll choose Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Smog. Two similar artists who were both on an amazing creative roll at around the same time.

For BPB, from 1999’s “I See a Darkness” debut through to 2006’s “The Letting Go” (with a load of collaborations and aliases in between) is four albums of near perfection, peaking with “Master and Everyone” in the middle.

Smog took a bit longer to warm up and had already released several albums/mini-albums before his first masterpiece “Knock Knock” in 1999 through to “Supper” in 2003, again peaking in the middle with “Dongs of Sevotion”.

Well, that’s my pick (for now!), any other Grand Slam suggestions?

91 thoughts on “Four in a Row

    • After my own heart here, i probably have nothing to add, Except i might swap out Goat’s Head Soup for Satanic Majesties. They’re not the greatest rock and roll band in the world for nothing.

    • Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers. That’s just a brilliant run. As a bit of a Stones’ obsessive I have to say that if they had waited a year and put the best of GHS with IKIORnR on one album then they would’ve had the brilliant fifth. If they’d dropped/edited the filler on SM and added in the We Love You/Dandelion single that’d’ve been ace too.

  1. btw, as a sports nerd :), let me add that golf and tennis have four ‘major’ championships, and winning all 4 in the same year is known as a Grand Slam.

    Marketers, being the sort of people they are, started attaching ‘grand’ and ‘slam’ to all kinds of tournaments to make them seem more important.And then someone got the idea of a ‘career grand slam’ if you win each of the four majors sometime during your career. But that’s the equivalent of four great albums in a band’s life vs four in a row. A few have done the former; almost no one can do the latter.

  2. Bill Callahan has done it again, having dropped the Smog alias.

    Woke on a Whaleheart
    Sometimes I wish we were an eagle
    Dream River

    Master and Everyone is a masterpiece. In a conversation once about the length of CDs as opposed to the old 40 minute maximum of vinyl and how it often diluted the strength of what should be a great album, i cited that as 36 minutes of perfection.

  3. If I could only discount “For the Roses” which, I reckon, is only “pretty good”. Never been keen on that Don Juan album either although I know Blackcombe rates it very highly and I keep meaning to go back and try again.
    Blue, Court and Spark, Hissing of Summer Lawns and Hejira. All fantastic but sadly not quite consecutive.

  4. I’m holding out hope for Patrick Watson doing the slam. Admittedly, I didn’t realise how great he was until I saw him live but I’m now on a mission to convert the world.

  5. AC/DC: If You Want Blood You’ve Got It; Highway To Hell; Back in Black; Dirty Deeds Done Cheap (US release) or if you discount that as it was first published in 76 – For About To Rock We Salute You

  6. How about Miles Davis?

    Filles De Kilimanjaro, In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson.

    Of course, you have to like electric Miles in his fusion mode.

    • Great mix. Hard to beat in terms of his development across any 4 albums.

      Then again, and depending on the extent to which live releases could be considered (though the ones I mention were indeed actual “albums” of their time) you could also take Walkin’/Cookin’/Bag’s Groove/Relaxin’ from ’57-’58, or Round about Midnight/Miles Ahead/Ascenseur pour l’échafaud/Milestones/Porgy and Bess/Sketches of Spain/Kind of Blue/Someday my Prince will come/Live at the Blackhawk from ’57-’61, or ESP/Miles Smiles/Sorcerer/Nefertiti with or without Live at the Plugged Nickel from ’65-’67, or On the corner/Big Fun/Get up with it/Agharta/Pangaea from ’72-’75… depending on your definition of “great”, all of the above named albums have made someone or other’s list at some stage. Well, perhaps not “Big Fun”, but I like it.

      • I thought about the Milestones/Porgy and Bess/Sketches of Spain/Kind of Blue sequence too. I think that when it comes down to it, there aren’t many poor Miles albums.

      • Yep, only a couple of dips in the Davis discography, mainly when drugs, medication, injury or the consequences of his actions became too much… getting off heroin pre- ’55, then the stasis of the post-Coltrane period and marriage break-up 62-64; the tentative steps towards electric instruments in ’68; the Keith Jarrett cul-de-sac of ’71, and depending on how charitable you are, the entire eighties (though you can’t really quibble with the Grammy for Tutu and the live stuff was generally good.)

  7. I’ll have to go with release sequence, as some of the studio/live recordings overlap, but this is the early GD sequence:
    Anthem of the Sun,
    Workingman’s Dead,
    American Beauty,
    Grateful Dead (aka Skull and Roses),
    Europe ’72.
    Not a single dud track and many of sublime quality.

  8. Peej’s first four are pretty darned special (I’m not as keen on Stories from the City…):
    Rid of Me,
    To Bring You My Love,
    Is This Desire?

  9. I’m in the Chris camp except in my case it’s BMW. Here’s his list for Island, there’s several prior.
    Studio albums

    The Wailing Wailers (1965)
    Soul Rebels (1970)
    Soul Revolution (1971)
    The Best of the Wailers (1971)
    Catch a Fire (1973)
    Burnin’ (1973)
    Natty Dread (1974)
    Rastaman Vibration (1976)
    Exodus (1977)
    Kaya (1978)
    Survival (1979)
    Uprising (1980)
    Confrontation (1983)
    Live albums

    Live! (1975)
    Babylon By Bus (1978)

  10. Now I would rate all of the first four Talking Heads albums as great recordings.
    In fact, I think they’ve all been named as album of the year by various publications – no two by the same mag so far as I remember. Plus all in Rolling Stone’s list of the top 473 most lovely albums or whatever it is.
    I’m making some of this up. You can tell, can’t you? Anyway, the point is I like all of them a jolly lot.

    Talking Heads: 77
    More Songs About Buildings and Food
    Fear of Music
    Remain in Light

  11. Must add the first five Allman Brothers Band until the one released after Duane’s and Oakley’s deaths. Even discounting Filmore East, the four studio albums make an impressive list.
    * The Allman Brothers Band
    * Idlewild South
    * At Fillmore East ’71 (best live album ever)
    * Eat a Peach
    * Brothers and Sisters

  12. No donds for me on this one, but i’ll still stand by it as a very good run.

    Outlandos d’Amour
    Regatta De Blanc
    Zenyatta Mondatta
    Ghost in the Machine

  13. I think that Little Feat had a great sequence with Sailin’ Shoes, Dixie Chicken, Feats Don’t Fail Me Now and The Last Record Album. You could make a case for five in a row if you add Time Loves a Hero at the end, but I am not sure it is as good as the preceding four albums.

    • yep, certainly thought of that. Didn’t post it because there was that inconvenient Yesterday and Today album tucked into the run, but i think it’s fair to overlook that.

  14. Alas, if Jimi had lived anpother year we might have had 4. Unless you wanna count Band of Gypsies. Which i’d be inclined to do if only for Machine Gun.

  15. Yes Had a good run too.

    The Yes Album
    Close to the Edge
    Tales From Topographic Oceans (I’d have left this one out, but i’m sure Alfie would never let me, so they get four then.)

    Amyone wanna make a case for Pink Floyd? Not me, i’m not familiar enough with a lot of the albums.

    • I don’t think it is possible with Floyd. They tend to have dodgy stuff interspersed with the good ‘uns. I mean, Obscured By Clouds is OK, but it interrupts the line from Meddle to DSOTM and beyond.

  16. Mountain Goats (Tallahassee through Get Lonely). Stranglers’ 1-6. Magazine. Killing Joke’s Pylon and the 3 before.

    Clash & Smiths both had weaker 2nd albums.

    • With you on the Clash. I loved Give Em Enough Rope when I was 15 but I find a lot of it hard to listen to now.
      Killing Joke I find very uneven. They made two of my favourite ever albums, then followed them up with Revelations which to this day I don’t quite get. Some good stuff on the recent ones, but the last one to really have an impact for me was Killing Joke (2003)

  17. Going back to the days when I used to buy multiple albums rather than downloading tracks, most of the ones I can think of came in threes. But I’ll go with Al Stewart:

    Bedsitter Images
    Love Chronicles
    Zero She Flies

  18. Starting off with stuff other people might actually be familiar with

    Echo & The Bunnymen: Crocodiles, Heaven Up Here, Porcupine, Ocean Rain

    Thing is that Ocean rain is for me the weakest, far from “the greatest album ever made” but it does have some great stuff on it.

    On a related matter my brother-in-law who’s tastes are in the Beatles through to Oasis/Kasabian area has been expressing curiosity about the Bunnymen. Where do you think he should start, fellow Bunnyfans?

    • What Do You Want To Do….. Is very Beatley, but doesn’t bother me as much as Ocean Rain’s excesses. More like a Mac solo album, though, as Will isn’t given much to do.

      Perhaps Mac channelling Paul is better than his attempts at John?

    • If he likes Oasis/Kasabian he’d probably like Ocean Rain more and be able to take Mac’s daft lyrics. Get him one of the reissue copies with extra tracks.

      I think those are four classic albums, though I only ever listen to just over half of Ocean Rain and fade the other tracks in and out.

      • All I’ve got these days by them album wise is the first 4 , the reissued versions you mentioned. I’m going to lend him all of them but recommend that he start off with Ocean Rain as I think that’ll be the most accessible for him.

  19. I’m not sure about Paranoid Visions. I think they just miss out because Escape From The Austerity Complex is great in places, but very uneven. Otherwise they’d be in – the new album is the best they’ve done.

    • I thought of Bowie but binned it pretty quickly – for me Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs can’t come close to Hunky Dory and Ziggy. If anyone wants to make a case for Space Oddity feel free – I don’t think i ever even listened to the album.

      • Amy – yep, I’ll take David Bowie (Space Oddity) and the following three :MWSTW, Hunky Dory & Ziggy. DB (SO) is choc full of gems – Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud, Letter To Hermione, Memeories Of A Free Festival to mention three.

      • Hiya Al!

        Ok, you’ve convinced me to give Space Oddity and TMWSTW a go soon – I only know the title tunes from both of those.

        (ps – I’ve got no soul either, i only really like Fame from that album.)

      • Man Who Sold the World is a fantastic album.

        I went to see Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey’s travelling band Holy Holy play the whole album (plus a view more of Bowie’s greatest hits) earlier this year.
        Glenn Gregory and a few guests like Marc Almond on vocals. Sounds kind of daft but it was a genuinely great night out. I must be getting old.

  20. Shaky fanboy time, Siouxsie & The Banshees first 4 LPs : The Scream, Join Hands, Kaleidoscope and Ju-Ju. Went right off them for a while but listened to these recently and they still hold up pretty well.

    On firmer ground with the Beastie Boys from Paul’s Boutique to Hello Nasty.

  21. Sonic Youth: Dad Moon Rising; Evol, Sister, Daydream Nation, Goo, Dirty. Add in the stand alone singles and covers but disregard most of Ciccone Youth and that’s pretty phenomenal stuff. The albums that come after that are also brilliant for the most part but NYCGF is mostly up it’s own arse.

  22. REM: Murmur, Reckoning, Fables, Pageant, and Dead Letter Office to collect the singles, b-sides, flexi, etc. releases.

    Simple Minds (seriously!): Real to Real, Empires and Dance, Fascination/Sister, New Gold Dream. A completely different beast to what came after.

    • I tried with a couple of those early R.E.M. records, but I just couldn’t get into ’em – maybe you had to be there at the time.

      • I’ve heard that before, so I guess it’s true. They came along just at the right time in my life and at a time when the US rock underground – hardcore, Sonic Youth/Swans, paisley underground – had a lot going for it for two years or so. What I loved then was that R.E.M. were:

        melodic but fast; unpolished but knew how to connect and work with a crowd; very southern US colloquial but looked beyond their own surroundings – and they toured the UK a lot those early years; played very direct covers but were mysterious in their own tunes; had pretty ballads but never a straight love song; indecipherable lyrics but catchy choruses; obvious influences but a style of their own; well-produced but not with the 80’s overkill.

        I think most fans would go for Document, Green, Out of Time, Automatic but for those fans who were there from the start, I think the first four are hard to beat. It was weird watching them become more popular and realising that they were going to massive one day. It wasn’t by design, it was just the way that were developing.

  23. The Temptations: Puzzle People, Cloud Nine, Psychedelic Shack, Sky’s the Limit, Solid Rock, All Directions, Masterpiece… A little pruning here and there and maybe combining a couple of albums would’ve helped give them a stronger reputation as an albums band… but those voices the Sly Stone influence; Mayfield and Hayes songwriting influence; Whitfield and The Funk Brothers providing the sounds and orchestration . . . absolute pearlers.

    • And Sly and the Family Stone from Dance to the Music through to Fresh. And Marvin Gaye from What’s Going On, Trouble Man, Let’s Get it On up to I Want You is just ace. Sly’s Fresh brings to mind D’Angelo who has three great albums.

  24. Would it be tempting fate for me to just assume that a) there will be a fourth Katzenjammer album and b) it will also be great?

    They are currently crowd-funding a recorded-direct-to-vinyl live in studio album but, that may not count.

  25. Re Bowie

    Aladdin Sane was released 6 months before Pin Ups so MWSTW/Hunky Dory/Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane would be a viable fourfer and pretty much unbeatable for me

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