The 100 Greatest Lesbian Albums (of All Time): 25-1

Here is the last installment of our 100 Greatest Lesbian Albums of all time. Look for albums by Shawn Colvin, Stevie Nicks, Janis Joplin, Brandi Carlile's The Story (who is featured on Grey's Anatomy The Musical Event episode), Heart, Wendy and Lisa, Lady Gaga, Liz Phair, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Alanis Morissette, Sinead O'Connor, Joan Armatrading, k.d. Lang, Ferron, Me'Shell, Dusty Springfield, Chris Williamson, Eurythmics, Ani DiFranco, Janis Ian, Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, Sophie B Hawkins, Tracy Chapman and Sarah McLachlan. 
By: SheWired Editors
March 31 2011 12:10 PM

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, an album is a collection of songs, but it is also “ a book with blank pages used for making a collection.” And that is the definition that most intrigues for our purposes in compiling The Greatest Lesbian Albums (Of All Time) – the idea that a collection of recordings has the power to create an indelible impression on the listener. Certainly, lesbian music fans have lovingly co-opted albums for decades to help provide aural snapshots of their experiences.

While spectacularly crafted albums can elicit visceral responses from listeners universally, it feels even truer for the LGBT listener, who continually turns over a phrase, a lyric, a harmony to infer a sense of solidarity with the artist.

In endeavoring to nail down The 100 Greatest Lesbian Albums (Of All Time) we enlisted the help of lesbian friends, colleagues, musicians and entertainers spanning 6 decades in age and asked them to name the albums that provided the soundtrack to their lives as women.

With singer songwriters of the seventies, punk divas, folk goddesses, gutsy rockers, jazz chanteuses and synth pop darlings, please enjoy our final part of the list list, continuing below with albums 25-1. If you don’t see your favorite album this week, you may see it in the list of albums 100-76, 75-51 and 50-26)

25. Shawn Colvin, Steady On

Singer songwriter Shawn Colvin enjoyed mainstream success in the late 90’s with her hit “Sunny Came Home” but it was her excellent debut “Steady On” that garnered her a devoted lesbian fan base. Women related to Colvin’s insightful lyrics and spot-on guitar playing on songs like “Diamond in the Rough” and “Shotgun Down the Avalanche.”

24. Stevie Nicks, Bella Donna

Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks proved she could stand out as more than part of an ensemble with “Belladonna.” Her “Edge of 17” became an instant classic beloved by the ladies for decades to come.

23. Janis Joplin, Pearl

The unapologetic First Lady of Rock Janis Joplin’s mélange of rock and blues illustrated the sensibility of an era on “Pearl.” Hits including the anthem “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Mercedes Benz” helped make the album an adulterated success.  The strength and pain the bisexual Joplin conveyed still appeals to women of all ages.

22. Brandi Carlile, The Story

A singer songwriter for a new generation, Brandi Carlile identified as a lesbian as early in her career as 2002, but it was 2007’s “The Story” that shot her into the limelight. It didn’t hurt that the album’s title song got a boost from being featured on Grey’s Anatomy!

21. Heart, Dreamboat Annie

Two of the world’s most talented musical sisters, Ann and Nancy Wilson were and are the perfect balance. With Ann’s outrageous, soaring rock vocals and Nancy’s stellar guitar chops, Heart gave the boys a run for their money when “Dreamboat Annie” was released in 76.

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20. Wendy and Lisa, Wendy and Lisa 

Prince’s protégés Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, with their oft andro/glam look and funk/pop sound, caught the girls’ attention in the late 80’s. Their debut, self-titled album in 1987 proved that Wendy and Lisa were more than eye candy on Prince’s projects and they gained a huge fan following, many lesbians among them.

19. Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster

A tireless LGBT rights activist, Lady Gaga’s “The Fame Monster” sealed her longevity as a pop diva. With mega-hits including “Bad Romance” and “Telephone,” -- the video for which exhibited distinctly lesbian tendencies -- Gaga became a pop icon for the ages to the LGBT community.

18. Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville

A widely critically acclaimed album Liz Phair’s “Exile in Guyville” offered a lo-fi sound teeming with thoughtful lyrics that put her smack on the radar of budding lesbians looking for an indie sound in the early 90’s. 

17. Sweet Honey in the Rock, Live at Carnegie Hall

With an ever-changing line-up up of vocalists Sweet Honey in the Rock’s intricate harmonies and songs that get at the heart of civil and human rights have long made them a favorite of lesbian listeners since their 1973 debut. Their “Live at Carnegie Hall” release captures the best of 15-plus years of the group’s early work.

16. Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill

A hot Canadian vocalist teeming with angst, Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” became an international juggernaut of an album that offered a singer/songwriter sensibility infused with rock/pop aching and longing. While the album was her third studio release it was the one that skyrocketed her to stardom, gathering droves of loyal lesbian fans along the way. 

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15. Sinead O'Connor, The Lion and The Cobra

A fierce woman with, at once, haunting and soaring vocals Sinead O’Connor became a college radio station darling with “The Lion and the Cobra,” unleashing a sound like no other. When O’Connor, sporting her signature shaved head, appeared on the Grammy’s to perform her battle cry “Mandinka,” she stopped viewers in their tracks. A feminist and political button pusher O’Connor became an instant icon to budding lesbians in the late 80’s.

14. Joan Armatrading, Joan Armatrading

With her blend of jazz and soul with a singer/songwriter lyrical sensibility Joan Armatrading is considered among the forerunners of the women’s music scene. Her eponymous album featured her first top 20 hit “Love and Affection,” a song that describes her fans sentiments about her. 

13. k.d. Lang, Absolute Torch and Twang

An out lesbian who described her early style as “cow punk” k.d. Lang’s “Absolute Torch and Twang” delivers a mélange of her best stylings featuring her early cow punk feel and telegraphing the outstanding crooning that would become the hallmark of her hit “Ingenue.” From the whimsical “Big Boned Gal” to the ballad “Three Days” the album showcases her amazing range.

12. Ferron, Shadows on a Dime

The ostensible Godmother of women’s music, Ferron’s thoughtful, impassioned songwriting and vocals have influenced generations of female musicians including Ani DiFranco, The Indigo Girls and Bitch. “Shadows on a Dime” is a stunning showcase of work from a rebel and a pioneer.

11. Me'Shell, Peace Beyond Passion

Grammy winner for best R&B album of 1997, Me’Shell Ndegeocello’s release that followed her stunning debut “Plantation Lullabies” offered a distinctly political/button-pushing bent with songs like the powerful “Leviticus Faggot,” which peaked at #15 on the Dance Music/Club Play charts. Renowned for her killer bass licks Ndegeocello’s second release resonated for gay women.

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10. Dusty Springfield, Dusty In Memphis

Widely considered one of the greatest albums of all time, we would have been remiss not to include “Dusty in Memphis” in our top ten. Springfield, who happened to be a lesbian delivered a classic album beloved for decades to come that contained hit after hit, including the sexually free “Son of a Preacher Man” and “Windmills of My Mind.” 

9. Cris Williamson, The Changer and The Changed

The best selling album from the lesbian-owned and run Olivia Records, Cris Williamson’s “The Changer and the Changed,” is considered a benchmark collection of songs that helped usher in the era of women’s music. From “Waterfall” to “Sister,” Williamson’s work epitomizes women’s music. 

8. Eurythmics, Touch

Eurythmics second album “Touch” showcased Annie Lennox’s pristine vocals on songs ranging from the eerie hit “Here Comes the Rain Again” to the feel-good love song “Right By Your Side,” and “Who’s That Girl.” Aside from her amazing voice, Lennox’s gender/bending appeal was unprecedented and inspired a generation of new wave girls to buzz their hair and dye it shocking red.

7. Ani DiFranco, Dilate

As wildly prolific as any singer/songwriter in history, Ani DiFranco churned out a classic album for just about every year of the 90’s, but it was her seventh release “Dilate” on which she took her acoustic/folk leanings and amped them up with “Dilate’s” collection of outstanding songs including “Untouchable Face” and “Napoleon.” The woman who coined “Every Tool is a Weapon if You Hold it Right” had fully come into her own.

6. Janis Ian, Between The Lines

Appealing to outsider status, Janis Ian’s single “At Seventeen,” off of “Between the Lines, was a paean to pariahs and wallflowers that has resonated for decades. While Ian would not come out publicly as a lesbian for many years after the album’s release, her beautiful songs bore a distinctly queer bent.

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5. Indigo Girls, Swamp Ophelia

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers had long been favorites with their lesbian fans by the time they released the excellent “Swamp Ophelia,” on which they openly appealed to the ladies with songs like “Power of Two” and “Least Complicated.” Released about 10 years after their debut album, “Swamp” endeared them to the next generation of young lesbian listeners.

4. Melissa Etheridge, Yes I Am

While Melissa Etheridge had come out publicly several years before “Yes I Am’s” release she full-on declared it in song with the title cut. The album spawned mega-hits with “Come to My Window” and “I’m the Only One” and became a coming out template of sorts for gay women.

3. Sophie B Hawkins, Tongues and Tails

Sophie B. Hawkins declared “Damn I Wish I was Your Lover,” on “Tongues and Tails,” and with the use of the pronoun “her” garnered legions of girl fans. The sexually fluid Hawkins’ transparency about her attraction to women was wildly refreshing when the album was released, and her fans have rewarded her for it with absolute loyalty.

2. Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman

Unlike anything that was on the radio in 1988, Tracy Chapman’s self-titled debut was the acoustic album heard round the world. From her mega-hit “Fast Car,” about escaping a bad relationship, to the continually relevant “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution” to the gorgeous love song “Baby Can I Hold You” Chapman’s debut instantly catapulted her into the hearts of gay women.

1. Sarah McLachlan, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

A stunning realease from start to finish, Sarah McLachlan’s third full-length album launched her past her appeal with indie music lovers to stardom with her ethereal songs melded with pristine vocals on tunes like “Possession,” and “Fear” and with the whimsically sexual “Ice Cream.” Of the hundred or so women we polled to compile our list “Fumbling” turned up on nearly every one. Aside from being just plain great aural pleasure one respondent may have put it best when she said that it was also great sex music.

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