Ann Powers has done the world a huge service by spearheading the TURNING THE TABLES project at NPR Music; the canon of “great albums” is bullshit with only token female representation, and Powers and her compatriots are doing their damnedest to right some of that wrong. To close the first year of TURNING THE TABLES, they want to know what everyone else thinks are the greatest albums ever made by women.
My list only includes no albums released since 2000, which I recognize is potentially problematic. But in coming up with my list, I went with the albums I go back to time and again and wear out over and over. That’s not to say there are no great albums made by women in the past quarter-century — see below — but for me, none of those have yet made grooves in my soul like these 10.
About the albums that did make my list: Grant changed the game for CCM with Unguarded; Wendy and Lisa’s debut proved to the world just how much Prince got from his lieutenants; the anti-Anita Bryant benefit album Lesbian Concentrate is proto-riot grrl with acoustic guitars and in some cases more sexual politics; Ndegeocello’s soph effort is a remarkably realized vision that pointed the way to what would come from her; Rapture is the only quiet storm album you need. As for my #1, Williamson’s The Changer and the Changed is written, produced, mixed, engineered, recorded, and performed by women, and it truly dumped a lot of notions of what women in music could do, right upside down. These are beautiful songs by and for women, and “women’s music” such as we know it wouldn’t exist without this landmark record.
1. Cris Williamson, The Changer and the Changed
2. Anita Baker, Rapture
3. Meshell Ndegeocello, Peace Beyond Passion
4. Diana Ross, diana (1980)
5. Various Artists, Lesbian Concentrate: A Lesbianthology of Songs and Poems
6. Aretha Franklin, Amazing Grace
7. Wendy and Lisa, Wendy and Lisa
8. Amy Grant, Unguarded
9. Joni Mitchell, Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm
10. Mary J. Blige, Mary
And a further five from this century:
1. Carly Rae Jepsen, E*MO*TION
2. Meshell Ndegeocello, Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape
3. Mary J. Blige, Strength of a Woman
4. Lee Ann Womack, There’s More Where That Came From
5. dumblonde, dumblonde