The Second Time Around – Did the Artist Improve? My 1000 Favorite Sophomore Albums

The dreaded second album – will that new artist grow or will they flame out? It’s the old sophomore jinx adage, be it a rock artist, an athlete or a television show. The bottom line is can they be as good as they were the first time around? Back in 1976, Major League Baseball was toasting a new wunderkind pitcher by the name of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. The guy was a folk hero with some strange on-mound antics, such as getting on his knees to clean off the pitching rubber, and a terrific win-loss record for the then-hapless Detroit Tigers. After being name Rookie of the Year and influencing a group of pre-teens in my neighborhood to recreate his antics while playing baseball in the one of the many empty lots, Fidrych dealt with a serious of injuries that truncated the promise he showed that rookie year.

On the musical side, in 1979 there was The Knack, who released one of my favorite albums that year. Unfortunately, the band made a series of stupid, self-caused errors during what should have been a triumphant rookie year. Instead of performing on the Grammy Awards program, Saturday Night Live AND American Bandstand, the band tried to move from small venues to arenas while on tour. Then came the requisite backlash, reliance on cocaine, the inflation of egos AND the dreaded rushed second album, which was just the rejected songs from the debut album. Second rate songs meant a second rate album, all of which translated into a shortened career. And that was too bad for such a talented L.A. band to have flamed out so quickly. Unfortunately, the sophomore slump is more common than one might think.

However, there are a number of artists who created better seconds albums, or at least one that was nearly as good as the first. And, it is those terrific sophomore albums that I am celebrating today. So, on with the countdown (once again, I will eschew the synopsis since many of these albums appeared in my 1000 favorite albums series).

100. Roadmaster – Sweet Music (1978). Indy’s favorite sons were poised for the big time after this terrific Styx-influenced album. Unfortunately, musical tastes were about to abruptly change, leaving my boys wondering what had just happened.

99. Heart – Little Queen (1977)

98. Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)

97. The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow (2003)

96. Ryan Adams – Gold (2001)

95. The Cranberries – No Need to Argue (1994)

94. Nick Lowe – Labour of Love (1979)

93. The B-52’s – Wild Planet (1980)

92. Run-DMC – King of Rock (1985)

91. Raspberries – Fresh (1972)

90. Randy Newman – 12 Songs (1970)

89. Ramones – Leave Home (1977)

88. Rickie Lee Jones – Pirates (1981)

87. System of a Down – Toxicity (2001)

86. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (1991)

85. Iggy Pop – Lust for Life (1977)

84. Warren Zevon – Warren Zevon (1976)

83. Lionel Richie – Can’t Slow Down (1983)

82. The Monkees – More of the Monkees (1967)

81. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis: Bold as Love (1967)

80. X – Wild Gift (1981)

79. Billy Joel – Piano Man (1973)

78. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll (1981)

77. The Psychedelic Furs – Talk, Talk, Talk (1981)

76. The Cult – Love (1985)

75. Kanye West – Late Registration (2005)

74. The Smithereens – Green Thoughts (1988)

73. Stone Temple Pilots – Purple (1994)

72. Vampire Weekend – Contra (2010)

71. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1968)

70. M.I.A. – Kala (2007)

69. Radiohead – The Bends (1995)

68. The Black Crowes – The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (1992)

67. Gin Blossoms – New Miserable Experience (1992)

66. The Police – Regatta de Blanc (1979)

65. Paul McCartney – Ram (1971)

64. Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)

63. Sugar – File Under: Easy Listening (1994)

62. Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral (1994)

61. Pearl Jam – Vs. (1993)

60. George Michael – Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 (1990)

59. The Bangles – Different Light (1986)

58. Hole – Live Through This (1994)

57. Foo Fighters – The Shape and the Color (1997)

56. Queen – Queen II (1974)

55. Prince – Prince (1979)

54. New Order – Power, Corruption & Lies (1983)

53. Fine Young Cannibals – The Cooked & the Raw (1988)

52. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (2014)

51. Billy Squier – Don’t Say No (1981)

50. The Stooges – Funhouse (1970)

49. Chic – C’est Chic (1978)

48. Wham! – Make It Big (1984)

47. Metallica – Ride the Lightning (1984)

46. The Cars – Candy-o (1979)

45. Lady Gaga – Born This Way (2011)

44. Jellyfish – Spilt Milk (1993)

43. The Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993)

42. Daft Punk – Discovery (2001)

41. D’Angelo – Voodoo (2000)

40. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – You’re Gonna Get It! (1978)

39. TLC – CrazySexyCool (1994)

38. The Smiths – Meat Is Murder (1985)

37. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)

36. Hüsker Dü – Zen Arcade (1984)

35. Taylor Swift – Fearless (2008)

34. Elton John – Elton John (1970)

33. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver (2007)

32. Duran Duran – Rio (1981)

31. Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

30. The Beatles – With the Beatles (1964)

29. Carole King – Tapestry (1971)

28. A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory (1991)

27. Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)

26. Joy Division – Closer (1980)

25. Paul Simon – There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (1973)

24. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995)

23. Adele – 21 (2011)

22. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II (1969)

21. Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990)

20. Culture Club – Colour by Numbers (1983)

19. Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair (1985)

18. The Time – What Time Is It? (1982)

17. Paul Weller – Wildwood (1993)

16. Cheap Trick – In Color (1977)

15. Bruce Springsteen – The Wild, the Innocent & the E-Street Shuffle (1974)

14. Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)

13. Madonna – Like a Virgin (1984)

12. Weezer – Pinkerton (1996)

11. Chicago – Chicago II (1970)

10. Marshall Crenshaw – Field Day (1983)

9. Big Star – Radio City (1973)

8. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)

7. R.E.M. – Reckoning (1984)

6. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black (2006)

5. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – This Year’s Model (1978)

4. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Abandoned Luncheonette (1973)

3. Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

2. Pixies – Doolittle (1989)

1. The Band – The Band (1969)

And, that, my friends, are my favorite sophomore albums in an artist’s catalog. See you next time with the best third albums list. Peace.

Author: ifmyalbumscouldtalk

I am just a long-time music fan who used to be a high school science teacher and a varsity coach of several high school athletic teams. Before that, I worked as a medical technologist at three hospitals in their labs, mainly as a microbiologist. I am retired/disabled (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome), and this is my attempt to remain a human. Additionally, I am a serious vinyl aficionado, with a CD addiction and a love of reading about rock history. Finally, I am a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Hall & Oates, Springsteen, Paul Weller & his bands and Power Pop music.

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