15 of the best albums to come out of Georgia

Some notable albums over the years are from Georgia artists, including James Brown, R.E.M., Usher and The Allman Brothers Band.
Some notable albums over the years are from Georgia artists, including James Brown, R.E.M., Usher and The Allman Brothers Band.

From the Allman Brothers to Zac Brown Band, these memorable compilations come from the Peach State.

Shortly after deciding that a story compiling some of the best albums to come out of Georgia would be a good idea, we had a second thought: this is an insane endeavor.

The state is home to a breadth of superstars in nearly every genre — rock, rap, country, Christian, R&B — and whittling a manageable list took serious contemplation.

Many of these picks don’t align with the artist’s most commercial work — that wasn’t the point. We’re more interested in artistic-ness and longevity and how these albums brought attention to Georgia musicians.

This rundown doesn’t include such icons as Ray Charles and Otis Redding, whose key work in the 1960s happened before our starting point of 1970.

Your comments and personal picks are welcome, but save your ire. We know this — as with most lists — is incomplete. But we also don’t have unlimited space and, well, not every Georgia artist has proven his or her durability.

Here are 15 significant recordings, presented in alphabetical order.

“Eat a Peach”

The Allman Brothers Band, (1972)

Released shortly after the tragic death of Duane Allman, the album, which was also recorded under the duress of drug issues among the band, is a blend of studio work (with and without Duane) and live cuts from ABB’s 1971 Fillmore East shows. It’s stocked with resonance, including Gregg Allman’s ode to living fully, “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More,” a nearly 20-minute live “Mountain Jam” and the song noted to be Duane’s favorite, “Melissa.”

The B-52s' debut arrived in 1979.
The B-52s' debut arrived in 1979.

“The B-52s”

The B-52s, (1979)

It took a decade for the band to break into the mainstream with the “Love Shack”-boasting “Cosmic Thing.” But by then, the Athens misfits had polished their sound, and while still idiosyncratic compared to their MTV peers, the quartet wasn’t nearly as eyebrow-raising as on their debut, which showcased an early affection for funk-pop coupled with sci-fi kookiness on “Planet Claire,” “Rock Lobster” and “Dance This Mess Around.”

“The Payback”

James Brown, (1973)

From the epic opening title track — seven-plus minutes of steamy revenge funk and an insinuating guitar line that has been sampled a billion times (hello, En Vogue) — to the ragged emotion and unfettered soul of “Doing the Best I Can,” the album encapsulates peak Brown.

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“Collective Soul”

Collective Soul, (1995)

No one will accuse the Stockbridge-reared band of shattering the mold. But during a period of naval-gazing mope-rock, their sweeping ballads (“The World I Know,” “December”) and guitar crunchers (“Gel”) offered a melodic alternative coated with a sheen rather than grunge.

Goodie Mob's 2020 album, "Survival Kit," features Andre 3000, Big Boi, Chuck D and others.
Goodie Mob's 2020 album, "Survival Kit," features Andre 3000, Big Boi, Chuck D and others.

“Survival Kit”

Goodie Mob, (2020)

A worthy bookend to “Soul Food,” the 1995 debut from CeeLo Green, T-Mo, Big Gipp and Khujo, the group’s latest is a deft combination of gut-punching lyrics and fluid musicality that should enhance their relevancy. Even the elusive Andre 3000 recognized these songs unfurled potent messages and graced “No Cigar” with his presence.

“Rites of Passage”

Indigo Girls, (1992)

The fourth album from Amy Ray and Emily Saliers builds on the deft balance they crafted with “Closer to Fine” and “Kid Fears” — socially reflective folk songs underscored by mellifluous melodies. On this, the duo offers layered acoustic guitars (“Galileo”), listen-in-the-dark heart-piercing lyrics (“Ghost”), reflections of true stories (“Chickenman”) and a rootsy read of Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet.”

“A Lot About Livin’ (And a Little ‘bout Love)”

Alan Jackson, (1992)

Buoyed by a pair of No. 1 hits — “Chattahoochee” and “She’s Got the Rhythm (And I Got the Blues)” — Jackson’s third studio release became his first to ascend to the top of the country album charts. The Newnan native always endeared with his combination of aw-shucks grins and warm twang of a voice. But as the country waltz “(Who Says) You Can’t Have it All” proved, Jackson was also an adept tear-in-your-beer balladeer.

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“Chicken-n-Beer”

Ludacris, (2003)

Always a clever lyricist, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges drafted an anthem that remains a club favorite (“Stand Up” — with production by Kanye West) and drenched his fourth album in sex-obsessed themes (“Splash Waterfalls” “P-Poppin”). The Atlanta legend made headlines for his feud with Bill O’Reilly, but landed the last word with “Blow It Out.”

“Aquemini”

OutKast, (1998)

To be clear, nearly every album in OutKast’s repertoire could be picked as their most notable, so clever, fiery and fresh as they are. But the one titled after the astrological signs of Big Boi (Aquarius) and Andre 3000 (Gemini) gave us the ingeniousness of “Skew It on the Bar-B” (“Old school players to new school fools”), “Rosa Parks” and “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1).”

“Murmur”

R.E.M., (1983)

It was the beginning of alt-rock when R.E.M. jangle-guitared their way in from Athens with “Radio Free Europe.” Michael Stipe’s lulling vocals on “Talk About the Passion” and “Perfect Circle” (listen with headphones for the full snare drum effect), coupled with the effortless beauty of their song structures were indicators on the band’s debut that greatness was imminent.

“Paper Trail”

T.I., (2008)

As he awaited federal weapons charges in November 2007, T.I. channeled his anxieties into songs for his sixth studio record and returned to his songwriting roots of penning his lyrics on paper (hence the title). “Whatever You Like,” “Live Your Life” (with Rihanna) and “Dead and Gone” (with Justin Timberlake) are among the album’s many noteworthy tracks.

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“CrazySexyCool”

TLC, (1994)

The bestselling American girl group of all time, the trio of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes utilized the skills of Atlanta producers including Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri and Organized Noize for their second album, their breakthrough release steeped in hip-hop-pop-funk. “Diggin’ On You,” “Waterfalls” and “Creep” signified their talents to make you think on the dance floor.

“Confessions”

Usher, (2004)

Produced by Jermaine Dupri, the fourth album from the prince of R&B seesawed from the rubbery dance groove of “Yeah!” to the painfully naked emotions of ballad “Burn” to the strutting rhythm of “Caught Up.” Usher’s talents are chameleonic, and this album captures all of them.

“Hearts in Armor”

Trisha Yearwood, (1992)

The Monticello native hit immediately with “She’s in Love with the Boy” from her self-titled debut. But her sophomore effort the following year — which followed a divorce from her husband — mined emotional gold. “Down on My Knees” and “Say You Will” remain memorable, while “Walkaway Joe” is still a staple in her live sets.

“Uncaged”

Zac Brown Band, (2012)

Nothing about ZBB has ever been conventional, yet the band’s incorporation of roots, reggae and even a little R&B on their third album bewildered country music traditionalists. The band paid no mind and flourished with Eagles-like harmonies (“Sweet Annie,” “Goodbye in Her Eyes”) and a Southern rock bop (“Jump Right In”).

Honorable mentions

Run the Jewels, “RTJ4”(2020); Travis Tritt, “It’s All About to Change” (1991); Gnarls Barkley, “St. Elsewhere (2006); The Black Crowes, “Shake Your Money Maker” (1990); Sugarland, “Bigger” (2018); Future, “Hndrxx” (2017); Brantley Gilbert, “Just As I Am” (2014); Arrested Development, “3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of...(1992); Monica, “Miss Thang” (1995); Jason Aldean, “My Kinda Party” (2010).

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