Ted Nugent's 11 greatest albums of all time
"There's certain things that are just perfect," says guitar legend Ted Nugent. "My life is perfect. My music is perfect. The hunting, the fishing, the trapping is perfect. Mrs. Nugent is perfect. My kids are perfect.
"My new song, I Still Believe, that's perfect, too," Nugent says. "It pretty much sums up how I continue to believe in mankind, the American Dream, truth and logic and this experiment in self-government. It's about how I still believe that the US military heroes are better and more knowledgeable and warrior-like than the rest of us. So it's about some of the things in life that are perfect."
The actual definition of “perfection,” according to the Motor City Madman, is “something that, on the one hand, is totally subjective. But on the other hand, there are things that are so plain to the naked eye and ear that, I’m sorry, you just know it, you feel it – and that includes some of the great records that we’ve all been blessed with.
Nugent claims that a great album can be defined by one word: spirit. "But it has to be the kind of spirit that’s delivered by gifted virtuosos," he stresses. "That explains the difference between Tres Hombres by ZZ Top and a Ramones record. The Ramones record might be a tsunami of spirit, but I like the ultimate delivery of the spirit to be musically phenomenal.
“The records I’ve chosen here make good on that last promise," he states. "They celebrate the human spirit of defiance, excellence and independence. And here’s the real test: When I put them on in my truck, my truck goes faster. To me, that’s a universal mark of great music, when it makes you drive fast!”
First up: James Brown - Live At The Apollo
James Brown - Live At The Apollo (1963)
“James Brown so embodied a human being at peak performance, and his music reflected this in countless, powerful ways.
“The emotional, genuine delivery of every lyric and his every greasy step, along with the demands of superior excellence that were made on his band, The Famous Flames - it all struck such a chord with me as a guitar player, because it was always about the music.
“I’ve never noticed trends or fashions, and none of that mattered with James Brown anyway. The spirit, energy, belief and soul that he and his band delivered on this album is the benchmark for all musicians everywhere.”
Listen: James Brown - Night Train
The Rolling Stones - England's Newest Hit Makers (1964)
“Here’s the optimum utilization of the electric guitar. What James Brown and so many important black artists taught us were laid down by The Rolling Stones on this record.
“The band was young and raw and virtually uninhibited - just a gang of garage band maniacs! They put every ounce of their spirit into emulating and revering the black American rhythm and blues and gospel that they took their cues from.
“Every piece of great music took something from grinding, beautiful black music. Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins - the Stones delivered it with a heretofore unprecedented authority. A group of limeys interpreting American music better than Americans themselves? [laughs] That’s a magical thing. Truly extraordinary."
Listen: The Rolling Stones - I Just Want To Make Love To You
Little Richard - Little Richard (1958)
“When I first head Good Golly Miss Molly and Lucille - and, of course, Tutti Fruitti, though that was on a different album - the entire earth shifted. The guy whipped us into a frenzy and taught us that there were no boundaries or limits whatsoever.
“It’s like he was saying, ’You think you’ve heard screams before? Well, try this on for size, boy!’ That’s how volcanic he was. My God, the opening volley by Little Richard is a stunning achievement.”
Listen: Little Richard - Good Golly Miss Molly
The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones, Now! (1965)
“Another great one from the Stones. This one featured remakes of some classic American blues tunes, but what’s so fantastic about it is how the band had hit a stride in the irreverent, sassy, primal scream department.
“They played far beyond their years here. I would say they owned every American band when it came to virtuosity, tightness and believability. If you were a young group, you couldn’t play a concert without referencing these songs and what The Rolling Stones were doing with their matchless interpretation of black American music.
“My bands in Detroit used this album as a leaping-off guide for our own musical adventures. Required listening.”
Listen: The Rolling Stones - Little Red Rooster
The Beatles - Revolver (1966)
“As a guitarist and a music lover, I have to give it up to The Beatles and Revolver. Once again, here’s a bunch of whitebread guys from England interpreting black music - yes, they are! - with absolute authority, and in doing so, they turned it into something that was uniquely their own.
“It’s a sonic adventure, of course. But what I love is the confidence level and buoyancy that is all over this record - all without losing the groove. Yes, Elvis established this to a large extent, but The Beatles attacked it with an edge and a spirit of invention that is unparalleled.”
The Beatles - Got To Get You Into My Life
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced (1967)
“Good Lord! Yes, I’m a guitar guy, but more than anything, I’m a music-loving guy. And when this came out and that brother showed up with that look and that defiant, outrageous new sound, let me tell you, it was a sucker punch to the jaws of music lovers everywhere.
“Much like Little Richard, Jimi said, ’Yeah, you think that’s high energy? You think that’s outrageous? You think that’s noisy? Try this on for size, white boy!’ [laughs] He made sounds with that Strat that people couldn’t even imagine - that's how utterly fantastic he was.
“The lyrics, the melodies, the soulfulness, the virtuosity of the playing…it was one of the most complete musical experiences ever. Ever!”
Listen: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Purple Haze
The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
“I’ve got to go back to my Beatles. Again, it’s the defiance factor. They wrote songs with incredible melodies and clever lyrics, and delivered them with such inventive vocal harmonies and musicianship. The skill and imagination that is all over this album is mind-boggling!
“But they always had a primal pound. Good ol' Ringo, the whitest drummer in the world, playing with the blackest grind and groove around. That little limey! You’d close your eyes, open ’em and see Ringo, and you’d go, ’That can’t be the drummer I’m hearing.' He was fantastic, just beautiful.
“And, of course, what the record represented, it was paradigm-shifting achievement that changed music and affected how we viewed everything. You have to give it up for this album, you just have to.”
Listen: The Beatles - Good Morning Good Morning
Motown Chartbusters, Volume 1 (1967)
“I can’t go anywhere without Motown, and I’d have to include this compilation album. What a collection of great songs and great artists. Martha And The Vandellas, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye - these are true giants.
“You can’t pick a favorite, so you have to go with them all. This is a complete musical education. Such brilliance and authority of performance…How could anybody top this?
“And I have to tip my hat to the magical and unique playing of the mighty Funk Brothers. What would life be without them? What a gift they gave us. They drove the engine to these songs. In fact, with all due respect, I call my band The Funk Brothers. Every night that we go on stage, we pump our fists and yell, ’The Funk Brothers live!’ And then we go out and try to grind it out like the real Funk Brothers.”
Listen: The Four Tops - Standing In The Shadows Of Love
ZZ Top - Rio Grande Mud (1972)
“My buddies, ZZ Top. It’s a toss-up between Tres Hombres and Rio Grande Mud, but if I have to choose one, it’s Rio Grande Mud. I love the gruck and the grind of everything soulful and bluesy that ZZ Top bring on this record.
“Just Got Paid and Francine are classic pieces of musical power that, to this day, drive my own musical visions and dreams. The way those three guys embodied their black influences and delivered them in such a spirited manner is a wonderful moment in time.”
Listen: ZZ Top - Francine
Van Halen - Van Halen (1978)
“Here I go back to that word again: spirit. Great garage bands have always had spirit. But when you have the unquestionable musical genius of Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen, along with an outlandish frontman like David Lee Roth, it’s a moment in time that will never happen again. They just nailed it!
“I was right there, too, because Van Halen opened up for me on my 1978 tour. I remember watching them play and thinking, All right, we’ve got something here! [laughs] ’Hey everybody, you might wanna check these boys out, ’cause this quartet is kickin’ some ass!’” [laughs]
Listen: Van Halen - Runnin' With The Devil
Ted Nugent - Ted Nugent (1975)
“Because I’m Ted Nugent, I’m going to name my last choice as Ted Nugent, the Ted Nugent album. This is the one with Stranglehold, Hey Baby, Motor City Madhouse, You Make Me Feel Right At Home and so many others.
“We still perform these songs all over the world. The e-mails that I get from people, telling me that this is their favorite record of all time, and that it touches their spirit and drives them every single day, almost 40 years later - hey, I have to agree with them! [laughs]
“We’re still in rehearsal for the I Still Believe tour, and we play all of these songs. They’re very upbeat, they embody the spirit of the black groove… So, I’m gonna give it to my own ass. Why not?”