If you're a music fan, you undoubtedly have favorite albums, the ones you've listened to over and over through the years and never tire of hearing.

In that mix there are probably a few "masterpieces," albums seen as landmarks, like The Beatles' "Abbey Road," Carole King's "Tapestry," AC/DC's "Back in Black" or Joni Mitchell's "Blue."

It's also likely, though, that you also have albums that you personally consider to be masterpieces, even if they're not particularly well-known. They may not necessarily be hits; in fact, they probably aren't. But they've found a place in your musical heart.

For me, that list includes:

* "Late for the Sky" by Jackson Browne. I picked up the album for the tunefully rocking "Walking Slow," which I'd heard on the radio. The first time I listened to all of "Late for the Sky," I was stunned — the emotions, the depth of the lyrics, the melodies. It's the album I put on when I just want some quiet contemplation.

* "Queen II" by Queen. Yes, I know everyone thinks of "A Night at the Opera" as Queen's masterpiece, if only for "Bohemian Rhapsody." On "Queen II," though, the band was still in its hard rock/prog stage. Side Two (or Side Black, as it's called on the album) is like Side Two of "Abbey Road," a long medley of songs and snippets of songs that were tied together into one.

* "Waking Hours" by Del Amitri. Not a whole lot of people know about Del Amitri, but they should. They had one hit in the U.S., the slight "Roll to Me," but that's a pale example of the band's music. Crazy melodic, wonderful lyrics, music that can beautiful and edgy.

* "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" by Genesis. One of the great disappointments in my musical life is never seeing a concert by the prog-rock/Peter Gabriel version of Genesis. The tour for this concept album was said to be overblown, but heck, that's what would be needed by "Lamb."

* "Quadrophenia" by The Who. "Tommy" gets more attention, but "Quadrophenia" has far more edge and meaning to it. A concept album about Jimmy, a teen in the 1960s who has four different personalities, it weaves from the ferocious "The Real Me" to the swelling theatricality of "Love Reign O'er Me." Absolutely brilliant.

* "Casino" by Blue Rodeo. The Canadian country-rock band has more amazing songs than you can count. Don't be scared off by the "country-rock" tag. Along with its approachable tunes in that style, the band also takes some forays into semi-psychedelic lands.

Send me the albums that you consider masterpieces and, if I get enough responses, I'll do a follow-up column.

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Shawn Ryan

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