Here is the first top ten installment, and let me tell you, it was a tough one. 1979 will certainly not go down as a banner year for hard rock/heavy metal. In fact if you had asked me to name my top 15, it would probably include some real turkeys (thanks PKD) like Kiss' Dynasty (sorry Strutter71) or Rainbow, or even Marsielle.
In any case, there are some selections here that would never find their way into a top ten in any of the subsequent years I will we writing about, but one could interpret that as these bands are innovators in the field of hard rock/heavy metal and as such their place in "history" (at least as seen by T-_Bone) is secure.
10. Accept - Accept
It's hard to believe this album cracked the top 10. I listened to it again yesterday, and it was not quite as bad as I remember it, but I wouldn't say it's a good album. There are a couple of pointless ballads, and silly lyrics and unmemorable riffs mar many of the heavier songs. With that said however, while listening, you can see that there was greatness in there somewhere, it just took a couple of albums for it to be unleashed. Not bad for a "first album".
9. Saxon - Saxon
Another first album, and another mediocre release. It wouldn't take Saxon as long as Accept to reach greatness, but they did not achieve it here. Spotty and inconsistent, the shining moments are few and far between. Overall, the high point(s) "Stallions of the Highway" is better than anything achieved on "Accept" so that is why this album gets the 9 spot by a hair.
8. ZZ Top - Degüello
I am a casual fan of ZZ Top. I saw them live and they were great. This album is actually one of their best, and it has a really nice groove. Certainly not heavy metal, but it is a great rock album nevertheless.
7. Scorpions - Lovedrive
Again, this was an album that I liked more than I expected to when I first heard it. I first heard the Scorpions in 1982 with "Blackout", and their sound got more commercial from there. "Lovedrive" is more raw than the polished sound the Scorps had in the 1980's, and as a whole their albums preceding their break-through are my personal favorites.
6. Van Halen - Van Halen II
Van Halen was so ahead of many of their contemporaries in terms of production and sound quality, not to mention Eddie's technical ability. Maybe it is because they had a major label behind them, but their sound seems so much louder and cleaner than many of the albums of this era. "Van Halen II" picks up where the first album left off. Not as consistent or brilliant as the first album, but still a very solid release.
5. Motörhead - Bomber
4. Motörhead - Overkill
The legendary Motörhead released their second and third albums in 1979, and while they had not quite hit stride, these two albums are really good. Influential beyond what they are recognized for (at least on this side of the pond), there are many high points on these two albums, and they are always a good listen. Not technically brilliant, but well done. Perhaps if I had become a fan of Motörhead earlier on, there would be more of a distinction between these two albums, but being a "recent" fan (15 years) these two go together for me.
3. Riot - Narita
A little bit of a surprise pick here. Riot are (were?) a New York based metal band in the same vain as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Riot were a bit ahead of the pack (their first album coming out in 1977) in terms of the two-guitar attack, which is executed very well here. Ironically, the cover of "Born to be Wild" is a low point for me, where as I would bet that back in 1979, this was the "selling point" of this album. In any case, "Narita" sounds a little dated, but overall is a very good album in a year of relatively sub-par freshman and sophomore efforts.
2. AC/DC - Highway to Hell
The last album of the Bon Scott era, and my personal favorite AC/DC album. Brian Johnson would come in and AC/DC would go on to release Back in Black and its clones a dozen or so times over the next 25 years. The Bon Scott albums all have a distinct feel to them, and this one is the best of the them.
1. Judas Priest - Unleashed in the East
My first rule of the top 10 project was no greatest hits albums, and no live albums. Sort of. A live album would be considered eligible if it met certain criteria, and that would be re-defining the tracks presented. Unleashed in the East does this by leaps and bounds. Maybe it is having a proper drummer, or the cohesion of the band was better then it was when "Sad Wings of Destiny" came out in 1976. Whatever the case, Unleashed in the East is the best album of 1979 by a mile, hell by a parsec it is the best album of 1979. Very few albums are "essential" to a metal collection, maybe 10, but this is one of them. An excellent performance by the hot leather dude and company. I can even forgive Tipton's little mistake in Sinner.