MEDIOCRITY: Which mediocre album released by an artist or band became a big hit mainly due to riding on the coattails of their enormously successful prior album?

Muiris Mac Cartaine, Listens to a lot of Music answered ....

Monster by R.E.M. is a contender, it was a chart topper in 1994 and and only good in parts. The band heavily toured the albums rockier sound but it’s predecessor Automatic for the People was also successful and is one of the top REM albums of all time.

I’d be reluctant to call the big selling #1 Born in the USA mediocre but it’s bleak predecessor Nebraska by Mr Springsteen is more the classic.

Likewise Neil Young’s earlier chart topper Harvest, it’s predecessor After the Gold Rush is for me a meatier album but Harvest has a lot of craft too.

The #1 Wings Over America live album (triple? I can’t remember) is probaly Paul McCartney riding on the coat tails of his enormously successful career.

Dylan’s double album of covers Self Portrait pales compared to John Wesley Harding and his 60s output but still managed Top 5 & even #1 in a few countries, Dylan could do no wrong in the eyes of many but this was the first time he’d faltered in his career.

For me the Who’s U.S. breakthrough Tommy pales compared to it’s wonderous predecessor The Who Sell Out but it didn’t ride that albums coat tails, the band were a superb live act and Tommy does have some great tunes but compared to their homage to 60s radio The Who Sell Out?

Wu Tang Clan’s debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is a classic that sold well and was just outside the U.S. Top 40, their second Album, the sprawling Wu-Tang Forever was a trans Atlantic #1 but the debut is the classic.

A lot of craft and sheen went into Bowie’s 80s breakthrough Let’s Dance but it’s experimental predecessors Scary Monsters, Lodger, Heroes, Low & Station to Station is where a lot of his reputation lies and a rearranged track from this period China Girl one of it’s best songs. l’ll have Ashes to Ashes over Let’s Dance any day.

And on the subject of dancing Lou Reed’s U.S. Top 10 album , the mediocre Sally Can’t Dance followed 3 better albums, #29 Transformer, #98 Berlin #45 Rock ’n’ Roll Animal. Well maybe two great studio ones and an ok live one.

But onto a personal favourite;

Adventure, the second album by NYC group Television hit the UK Top 10 in 1978, it’s solid, but their debut & Top 30 album Marquee Moon is their real classic. The UK Music Press were almost reverential in it’s praise for 1977’s Marquee Moon which encompassed songs the band had honed for over 3 years live by lead guitarists Tom Verlaine & Richard Lloyd, a mix of the etheral & robust. The similar expectation for Adventure somehow propelled it into the Top 10 but only parts of the album catch fire.

Television were one of the pioneering bands that played a club CBGBs in the Bowery, NYC in the mid 70s, Ramones are well known (or the punk) punk pioneers from this scene, Talking Heads & Blondie were artistically & commercially successful and the Patti Smith Group to a lesser extent but ignored in their homeland Television, are first amongst equals amongst these questing bands principally for Marquee Moon whose sound pointed towards 80s Alterative Rock.

Finally l’ll leave on a sour note, the abomination that is Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called to Say I Love You single on the accompanying Woman in Red Soundtrack Album was a great success but pales next to Master Blaster & Hotter than July Album and Wonder’s wonderful 70s album & single output.

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