I am not alone in considering Music From Big Pink by The Band the winner of that award. Others who concur are George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Al Kooper.
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There are a lot of "great" debut albums, though I’m reluctant to characterize any record as "greatest":
Rickie Lee Jones self titled album is fabulous, musically and sonically. No need to buy an audiophile pressing; a standard issue Warner copy is fine.
Black Sabbath’s first album is wonderful- it is slower, and has fewer songs that are embedded into everyone’s DNA, but it is genre defining and templated what the band would do at its best (UK Swirl recommended; great artwork as well).
Chris Whitley’s Living with the Law- his most accessible, brilliant, original Columbia pressing fine, better is the National Steel promo version with fewer tracks and better sound.
Lucifer’s Friend-s/t- a hoot, German Philips (the reissues I've heard are all lackluster), combining the vocals of Heep, the heaviness of Sabbath and organ power of Purple with some slightly off-key Zep riffs played on horns (could be Mellotron).
Zep 1- blah sonics, but the only Zep album I keep coming back to since its original release.
Pronounced Lynyrd Skynyrd- Al Kooper wasn’t wrong here either.
Free’s Tons of Sobs- Kossoff, plus Paul Rodgers, Simon Kirke and Andy Fraser, produced by Guy Stevens. Their bluesiest album, loose, unvarnished and addictive. Island pink label, but today, tres cher for a good copy. They got more polished and more pop/rock as time went on, and lost that mojo.
Jimi- Are You Experienced- both the UK and US versions. Less esoteric than his later albums, but man, what an opening statement!
To name a few. (Yeah, I’m down with Big Pink as a great listen and an important album- hard to argue that).
I’m sure there are many more.
Wishbone Ash- s/t- MCA UK
Crimson- In the Court- UK pink label- tough ride on that mix; Steve Wilson’s remix enables you to hear Greg Lake’s voice on the song "Epitaph" and should eventually be released on vinyl separately.
Sorry not confined to ’60s-’70s rock, where I also spend a lot of time, but much of the above is that period.
Another contender is the debut by Moby Grape. And Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks, Iris Dement, Lou Ann Barton, Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Dave Edmunds, Rockpile (their sole album under that name), The Traveling Wilburys, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Blasters, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Los Lobos, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Steve Earle, The Dwight Twilley Band, and can’t leave out the first Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and album like no other (except their others ;-) .
First off, great topic! Secondly, I've got to admit that the debut albums by The Doors and Led Zeppelin were the first two that came to mind.
However, I think "All Things Must Pass" by George Harrison qualifies. "Wonderwall Music" was a film soundtrack and a vanity project; plus, it was released while he was still in the Beatles. "All Things Must Pass" was a proper debut from him as a solo artist. I'd also give a vote to "Grace" by Jeff Buckley.
"Honorable mentions" for the debuts by Crack The Sky and The Pretenders.
I just can't see any of them having more of an impact and following than the Boston album. I rate them as my # 1..And they were instant stars . Every song on the album is killer and a huge hit. At least almost every one. I actually liked the first Eddie Money album. I played the heck out of that thing. Someone mentioned Crack the Sky. Their home town was a couple city's over from me here in eastern Ohio. They were always so under rated.
Ummm, Aqualung was not Tull’s debut album.
I forget which one was but...
As for the bad sonics on Zep 1...?
It was a long time coming before I would have anything resembling a “decent” stereo in them days. My second eldest brother came home one afternoon and tossed it on the house “hifi” - a tube powered faux walnut Magnavox console that dilineated our living room from our dining room. If the pressing or engineering was poor I would not have known it because the Magnavox faux walnut console stereo no doubt wasn’t up to the task of making that obvious to me. And I wouldn’t have cared anyway.
That aside, perhaps the most obvious one bandied about here is Big Pink. Me and my Zep, Stones, Who contemporaries could recognize that achievement even then. I also have to grudgingly agree to Boston’s debut simply due to its immense impact if nothing else. Can’t really argue that. It was HUUUUGE.
And thanks to the member below who mentioned Chris Whitley. I never heard his debut in real time, discovering him only after he passed away to the tune of “Narcotic Prayer.” I play his playlist on my server constantly.
Fun forum - keep it up!
+1 on Can't Buy a Thrill-- great playing, virtually every song radio friendly, pretty timeless and decent sonics.
On Zep 1, I don't find any of the Zep albums to be particularly good recordings. (Yes, I have the grails, plums, RLs, Classic 45s in some cases). The best sounding Zep 1 among US East Coast, US West Coast firsts, early UK Plum (not a turquoise), Classic 33, 45 that I have here is a Japanese 2nd pressing. It has a little more clarity and punch than the others. The other one that sounds better than most is the SHoffman Forum 'fav' Piros remaster, pressed at Monarch in the mid-'70s with certain deadwax that I can't remember off the top of my head.
#1 Record- Big Star.
Here Are The Sonics- The Sonics.
Are You Experienced- Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Surfer Rosa- Pixies.
The Stooges- The Stooges.
New York Dolls- New York Dolls.
The Undertones- The Undertones.
The Modern Lovers- The Modern Lovers.
Damned, Damned, Damned- The Damned.
Trace- Son Volt.
!!Destroy-Oh-Boy!!- The New Bomb Turks.
Kill City- Iggy Pop & James Williamson.
Roky Erickson & The Aliens- Roky Erickson & The Aliens.
Last 40 years, huh?
Pablo Honey - Radiohead
Jeff Buckley - Grace
A.M. - Wilco
Something About Airplanes - Death Cab For Cutie
Definitely Maybe - Oasis
Stone Roses - Stone Roses
Methodrone -Brian Jonestown Massacre
Parachutes - Coldplay
Should The World Fail To Fall Apart - Peter Murphy
Out Of The Silent Planet - Kings X
Bleach - Nirvana
Foo Fighters - Foo Fighters
Accelerator - The Future Sound Of London
Facelift - Alice In Chains