FEATURE: The One-Album Wonder: Artists Who Released Just the One Genius Record




The One-Album Wonder


IN THIS PHOTO: Lauryn Hill/PHOTO CREDIT: Anthony Barboza/Getty Images  

Artists Who Released Just the One Genius Record


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 IN THIS PHOTO: The Postal Service/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I will be looking at a very special female icon and I want to concentrate on a few other topics. At the moment, I have been thinking of those artists who only managed to release one truly great album. Maybe the fact they only released one album at all was because of tragedy or a short career. Other acts have released a lot of albums and maybe they only struck gold that one time. There are a number of reasons why we sometimes get that brief flash of brilliance but, rather than wonder what happened and look for answers, we need to enjoy that album and cherish it. I have been thinking about the artists that put out that very special album that captures the mindset and, even if they did not reach those heights again, we were given this glorious, single offering. There might be others I have forgotten but, if I have, let me know. Here, then, are ten artists that brought the world a truly sensational album but were not able to…

 IN THIS PHOTO: Jeff Buckley/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

MATCH those heights again.



The La’sThe La’s

Release Date: 1st October, 1990

Labels: Polydor/Go/London

Producers: Steve Lillywhite/Bob Andrews

Standout Tracks: Son of a Gun/Timeless Melody/Way Out

Total Number of Studio Albums: One


But where so many guitar pop bands seem inhibited by tradition, the La's were liberated by it, using basic elements to construct their own identity, one that's propulsive and tuneful, or sweetly seductive, as it is on the band's best-known song, "There She Goes." That song is indicative of the La's material in its melodic pull; the rest of the album has a bit more muscle, whether the group is bashing out a modern-day Merseybeat on "Liberty Ship" and bouncing two-step "Doledrum," or alluding to Morrissey's elliptical phrasing on "Timeless Melody." This force gives the La's some distinction, separating them from nostalgic revivalists even as their dedication to unadorned acoustic arrangements separates them from their contemporaries, but it's this wildly willful sensibility -- so respectful of the past it can't imagine not following its own path -- that turns The La's into its own unique entity, indebted to the past and pointing toward the future, yet not belonging to either” – AllMusic

Key Cut: There She Goes

Jeff BuckleyGrace

Release Date: 23rd August, 1994

Label: Columbia

Producers: Andy Wallace/Jeff Buckley

Standout Tracks: Grace/Last Goodbye/Lover, You Should’ve Come Over

Total Number of Studio Albums: One


After burnishing his vocal delivery to a haunting glow by playing on Manhattan’s Lower East Side punk-folk scene, this son of folksinger Tim Buckley now outstrips dad with a dreamy and stunningly original set of songs. Buckley’s voice falls smack between Freddie Mercury and Art Garfunkel, sounding like an angel and devil wrapped in one. Too good to be true” – Entertainment Weekly

Key Cut: Hallelujah

Lauryn HillThe Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Release Date: 25th August, 1998

Labels: Ruffhouse/Columbia

Producers: Lauryn Hill/Che Guevara/Vada Nobles

Standout Tracks: Lost Ones/Ex-Factor/Everything Is Everything

Total Number of Studio Albums: One


Ms. Hill didn’t just gain inspiration from this philosophy; she quite literally inherited it. Half of Miseducation was recorded in Jamaica at Marley’s own Tuff Gong Studios. The baby she carried was conceived with Rohan Marley, son of Bob. From this regal lineage, Miseducation strikes out with the lionhearted courage of a crusader. But it can’t stay there. Metaphors of God soldiers and Lions of Judah are good as far as they go, but they don’t go far enough. The problem is that such a worldview is fundamentally male, which is to say more ubiquitous than correct. Lauryn Hill was tasked with something more difficult than that: to walk a series of intertwined tightropes specific to young black women. To be vulnerable, but fearless. To tell the truth, but look beautiful in doing so” – Pitchfork

Key Cut: Doo Wop (That Thing)

Amy WinehouseBack to Black

Release Date: 27th October, 2006

Label: Island

Producers: Mark Ronson/Salaam Remi

Standout Tracks: Rehab/Love Is a Losing Game/Tears Dry on Their Own

Total Number of Studio Albums: Two


Starting with the pungent single Rehab, everything is in its right place: the exuberant neo-Motown swing supplied by producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi; the rich, sinewy vocals, somewhere between Lauryn Hill, Beth Gibbons and Etta James; and the thoroughly modern songwriting, in which infidelity is betrayed by a telltale carpet burn (You Know I'm No Good) and a lover is less desirable than a good supply of weed (Addicted). On the latter song she triumphantly declares: "I'm my own man." Only a fool would argue” – The Guardian  

Key Cut: Back to Black

The Postal ServiceGive Up

Release Date: 19th February, 2003

Label: Sub Pop

Producers: The Postal Service

Standout Tracks: The District Sleeps Alone Tonight/Recycled Air/We Will Become Silhouettes

Total Number of Studio Albums: One


Songs like "Nothing Better," a duet that plays like an update on Human League's "Don't You Want Me?," and the video-game brightness of "Brand New Colony" sound overtly like the '80s brought into the present, but the tinny, preset synth and drum sounds on the entire album recall that decade. Sometimes, as on "Recycled Air" and "We Will Become Silhouettes," the retro sounds become distracting, but for the most part they add to the album's playful charm. The spooky ballad "This Place Is a Prison" is perhaps the most modern-sounding track and the closest in sound and spirit to Gibbard and Tamborello's Dntel work. The crunchy, distorted beats and sparkling synths recall both This Is the Dream of Evan and Chan and Björk's recent work; indeed, this song, along with the "All Is Full of Love" cover Death Cab included on their Stability EP, could be seen as an ongoing tribute to her. Overall, Give Up is a fun diversion for TamborelloGibbard, and their fans. It doesn't scale the heights of either of their main projects, but it's far more consistent and enjoyable than might be expected” – AllMusic

Key Cut: Such Great Heights

Sex PistolsNever Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

Release Date: 28th October, 1977

Label: Virgin

Producers: Chris Thomas/Bill Prince

Standout Tracks: God Save the Queen/Bodies/Pretty Vacant

Total Number of Studio Albums: One


Never Mind the Bollocks perfectly articulated the frustration, rage, and dissatisfaction of the British working class with the establishment, a spirit quick to translate itself to strictly rock & roll terms. The Pistols paved the way for countless other bands to make similarly rebellious statements, but arguably none were as daring or effective. It's easy to see how the band's roaring energy, overwhelmingly snotty attitude, and Rotten's furious ranting sparked a musical revolution, and those qualities haven't diminished one bit over time. Never Mind the Bollocks is simply one of the greatest, most inspiring rock records of all time” – AllMusic

Key Cut: Anarchy in the U.K.

Derek and the DominosLayla and Other Assorted Love Songs

Release Date: 6th November, 1970

Labels: Polydor/Atco

Producers: Tom Dowd/Derek and the Dominos

Standout Tracks: Bell Bottom Blues/Key to the Highway/Tell the Truth

Total Number of Studio Albums: One


"Layla" is a very unique piece of music because of its rather contrasting movements. It begins as an eruptive, guitar-driven song, but as it progresses it transcends into a delicate piano ballad. Eric Clapton's performance in this song is among one of his best. The guitar solos are fiery and aggressive, expressing all of the intensity and frustration that seems to posses our emotions when we're in love. The latter half of the song is just as mesmerizing, providing a sensitive yet affectionate sound induced by the coalescence of Duane Allman's soothing slide guitar and Bobby Whitlock's sentimental piano arrangements. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is often recognized as one of the definitive releases in classic rock, and it is certainly one of Eric Clapton's finest efforts. The bluesy sound that coats the music of the album will be sure to prove itself as a captivating listen to the very end” – SputnikMusic   

Key Cut: Layla

Minor ThreatOut of Step


Release Date: April 1983

Label: Dischord

Producers: Don Zientara/Minor Threat

Standout Tracks: Think Again/No Reason/Out of Step

Total Number of Studio Albums: One


Lyle Preslar and Brian Baker both have at the guitar this time through and do the instrument proud, creating memorable, snarling riffs that rip out of the speakers without apology. Jeff Nelson's drumming is equally powerful, but Ian MacKaye's outraged performance provides the real killer touch. Even if it requires the lyric sheet to catch what's being said in particular, there's less in the way of declarative statements of purpose and more expressions of looming worries, his conversational asides adding a touch of melancholy even at the most high-volume moments. Besides a re-recording of "Out of Step" from the In My Eyes EP, other high points include "Look Back and Laugh," an uneasy but ever-more-tightly wound confrontation with the reality of growing apart being entangled with growing up, and the powerful "Think Again." There's a secret highlight, though -- "Cashing In," appearing unlisted at the end and showing that MacKaye and company had a definite sense of humor, pokes fun at their own glowering image even while rocking out with aplomb (and including, of all things, a concluding burst of strings)” – AllMusic

Key Cut: Betray

Buena Vista Social ClubBuena Vista Social Club

Release Date: 16th September, 1997

Labels: World Circuit/Nonesuch

Producer: Ry Cooder

Standout Tracks: Pueblo Nuevo/Candela/Buena Vista Social Club

Total Number of Studio Albums: One


The impromptu band Buena Vista Social Club was assembled by legendary guitarist Ry Cooder during a trip to Havana. Cooder gathered some of Cuba’s most exquisite players, including 89-year-old guitarist Compay Segundo and pianist Ruben Gonzalez, and recorded in a wide range of styles, both modern and traditional, in Buena Vista Social Club. The rhythms vary, but the sound is gentle yet flamboyant throughout. It brims with warmth” – Entertainment Weekly

Key Cut: Chan Chan

The Modern LoversThe Modern Lovers

Release Date: August 1976

Label: Beserkley

Producers: Robert Appere/John Cale/Allan Mason

Standout Tracks: Pablo Picasso/Hospital/Modern World

Total Number of Studio Albums: Two


What reads as contradiction is simply one effect of Richman's irresistible inclusiveness. It's what sets him apart from the Velvets, the Ramones, the Stooges and the like-- acts attracted to themes that matched their ragged sounds. Richman's music is tough, but he is not. He loves the old world, he loves the modern world. He loves rock'n'roll, he loves girls, he loves America, and most importantly, he loves you. Leave the anomie of "1969", the sleaze of "Waiting for the Man", or the mean streets of "53rd & 3rd" to the tough guys. Richman wants to rock you just like all the others, but he also wants to give you a big hug when he's done” – Pitchfork

Key Cut: Roadrunner