FUV's All-Time Fave Debut Albums

by WFUV Staff
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Fiona Apple
Tidal (1996)

Fiona Apple's debut Tidal stands as one of the less appreciated masterpieces of the last twenty years, though it was hardly ignored at the time. The lead single, "Criminal," won a Grammy, but reaction to its video distracted from the artistic work. Simple conclusions regarding the then-teenaged artist were dangerous to draw, however, as the woman and her music are anything but simple. The breath control, tonality, and dynamics of Tidal are masterful, her lyrics jarring -- bold with life experience, patent honesty and emotions -- and her piano playing worthy of her compositions and vocals. (Eric Holland)

Crosby Stills & Nash
Crosby Stills & Nash (1969)

One of them had been a Byrd, another was part of The Buffalo Springfield, and the English member of the group came from The Hollies. Legend has it that Cass Elliot of the Mamas and Papas brought the three of them together with the thought that David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash could create some beautiful music as a trio. In 1969 they released their debut album, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and it was a remarkable mix of their singing and songwriting talents. From the opening track, "Suite Judy Blue Eyes," to the closing "49 Bye Byes," it remains one of the great albums of the rock and folk era. (Dennis Elsas)

Norah Jones
Come Away With Me (2002)

This is a big question which I enjoyed over-thinking. 2013 was an especially good year for new artists, and the fertile late '70s was my prime time for music discovery. But my pick goes to Norah Jones' debut -- an album that was a huge, unlikely success (25 million sold!) and introduced us to one amazing, ever-evolving artist. The song selection, production touches and distinctive vocals make this album timeless. And it really displays Norah's wide taste in music, with songs made famous by Nina Simone, Hank Williams and Duke Ellington. We were already hip to Norah, as she'd been on Idiot's Delight with Vin Scelsa, and I'd seen her perform at Makor, but this debut defies categorization. (Rita Houston)

King Crimson
In The Court of the Crimson King (1969)

King Crimson exploded on the scene with a sound unlike anything that had come before. Combining the improvisational qualities of jazz, the grandiosity of classical and the power of rock, King Crimson's debut is one of rock's seminal works. Utilizing the orchestral sound of the Mellotron, various wind instruments, drumming that was both propulsive and gentle, surreal lyrics and dramatic vocals, King Crimson created a world of dread, majesty and ethereal beauty. Enhancing the experience of In The Court Of The Crimson King was the stunning artwork that graced the album's packaging. It was the perfect marriage of music and visual art. (Darren DeVivo)

Ray LaMontagne
Trouble (2004)

Upon hearing Ray LaMontagne's Trouble, it was immediately clear that I had discovered an artist with a lot of promise. LaMontagne's soulful, weathered voice and his songwriting chops (something in those chord changes) put him at the head of the class of 2004. Add in just enough production from Ethan Johns and you had an album you could slip into like your favorite pair of jeans. Songs like "How Come," "Hold You in My Arms" and the title track made it tough to settle on a favorite. Ever since, the promise implicit in LaMontagne's debut has been fulfilled and reaffirmed with each successive album. (Corny O'Connell)

Massive Attack
Blue Lines (1991)

Few bands aroused the nascence of an entire genre as brilliantly as Massive Attack did on its 1991 debut, Blue Lines. Journalists tagged the Bristol collective's deconstructed hip-hop, shaded with sinister after-midnight shadows, as trip-hop, but Blue Lines reached beyond those perimeters, erupting as one of the great urban manifestos of love and life gone awry. The album's nine tracks shudder and growl with reluctant, flinching beats ("Five Man Army"), anguished arias ("Unfinished Sympathy") and urgent, sotto voce volleys ("Daydreaming"). Led by the politically fearless Robert Del Naja, Massive Attack's subsequent output remains as provocative and relevant as its groundbreaking debut. (Kara Manning)

Beth Orton
Trailer Park (1996)

It was the album cover that grabbed me first. And almost as proof of how timeless this album is, it would be totally in vogue today, with its Instagram-style, retro-looking cover. When Beth Orton's debut arrived, it was during the height of the trip-hop explosion in the UK, and on the heels of her work with the Chemical Brothers' Exit Planet Dust. Trailer Park was among the very first albums to blend folk and electronica, and its groundbreaking style led to widespread critical acclaim and accolades. I remember hearing the haunting opening song, "She Cries Your Name," as a revelation. It got under my skin, where it still lives to this day. (Carmel Holt)

John Prine
John Prine (1971)

When I first met John Prine, he'd just given up his day job as a mailman in Maywood, IL, and, along with Steve Goodman and Bonnie Koloc, was spearheading a Chicago folk revival. Championed by Kris Kristofferson, he signed with Atlantic Records, and his 1971 self-titled debut album proclaimed a major new songwriter. What classics: "Sam Stone," "Illegal Smile," "Angel from Montgomery," "Paradise," "Hello in There," etc. These vivid portraits of real people and places (a returning veteran, an unhappy wife, a ravaged Kentucky landscape), told with deceptive simplicity and a sly sense of humor, have been often covered and had enormous influence on several generations of songwriters since. (John Platt)

R.E.M.
Murmur (1983)

Alternative Rock Radio starts here. The college-darling full LP debut by R.E.M. shifted the AOR radio era into a new gear. In that summer of synthy Brit-pop and post-punk, American roots music and alternative media found solid common ground following Murmur. "Catapult," "Radio Free Europe," and the wise-beyond-its-years "Talk About The Passion" combined songwriting chops with the jangly impressionistic sound that R.E.M. patented as the new "new wave." I programmed Murmur as WFUV's Music Director then, and I play it as a host now, with pleasure and warm memories. (Paul Cavalconte)

The Sex Pistols
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols (1977)

Although The Sex Pistols only released one studio record in their short career, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols remains one of the most influential albums ever. While the punk scene in the U.S. in the '70s was centered in New York City, the Sex Pistols spearheaded the movement in the U.K. Armed with their anti-conformist attitude, raw energy and a slew of great songs, the band runs through this album with spit and vinegar in full force. The term "timeless classic" is a little too warm and fuzzy to describe this one, but it certainly deserves to be recognized as one of the most important debuts of all time. (Russ Borris)

The Strokes
Is This It (2001)

I chose this album because: 1) I think it's the best album they've ever done; 2) I still to this day enjoy every single song on it; 3) This might be one of the albums I've played the most times. When I first got it, as soon as the album was over, I would just go right back to number 1 and start all over again. I loved the way Julian Casablancas crooned in his rock and roll garagey way. This band was the epitome of "cool" to me. When I first heard them, I thought this was the dawning of a great new era of music. (Alisa Ali)