Top Ten – Jimmy Buffett Studio Albums
Today, I am starting my top ten blog with a top ten list of my favorite singer/songwriter, Jimmy Buffett. This top ten list will partially reflect my own preferences, as well as reflecting the commercial success of each album. This list is also limited to just studio albums, so no live or compilation albums are listed here.
10. A White Sport Coat and A Pink Crustacean
A White Sport Coat and A Pink Crustacean was Jimmy Buffett’s first major release to chart on the Billboard Top Country Albums Chart, peaking at number 43. It was the first album with the Coral Reefers credited as his backing band. Additionally, it was also the first album of Buffett’s Key West phase. With a sound that was distinct from most contemporary country albums, it spawned the gulf and western genre. Thanks to classic fan favorite tracks like “He Went to Paris” and “Grapefruit—Juicy Fruit” and the popular novelty song “Why Don’t We Get Drunk (and Screw)”, A White Sport Coat and A Pink Crustacean is an enjoyable discovery for anyone that hasn’t experienced early Jimmy Buffett.
9. Living and Dying in 3/4 Time
Released less than a year after A White Sport Coat and A Pink Crustacean, Living and Dying in 3/4 Time continued Buffett’s Key West phase. It failed to land on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. However, it was the first of many of his albums to land on the Billboard Top 200, peaking at number 176. Living and Dying in 3/4 Time owes much of it’s success to the timeless classic “Come Monday”. It landed not only at number 58 on the Hot Country Songs chart, but also number 30 on the Hot 100 and number 3 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks charts, exposing Buffett to a much wider audience.
8. Last Mango in Paris
Over the course of his career, Jimmy Buffett’s sound shifted between island and country. Peaking at number 7 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and number 53 on the Billboard 200, Last Mango in Paris continued a trend towards the country sound that Buffett began with his previous album. Not only adding concert staples “Gypsies in the Palace” and title track to Buffett’s catalog, it also introduced solid B-sides with tracks like “Frank and Lola” and “Jolly Mon Sing”, making Last Mango in Paris a solid album.
7. Coconut Telegraph
Released in February 1981, Coconut Telegraph continued the gulf and island theme of Jimmy Buffett’s catalog from the 1970s. With the track “It’s My Job” reaching number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart, Buffett collaborated with future 8 time CMA Musician of the Year, Mac McAnally, for the first time, beginning a musical relationship spanning 4 decades. Coconut Telegraph is balanced with coastal inspired songs, such as “The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful” and the title track, and more introspective songs like “Growing Older But Not Up” and the aforementioned “It’s My Job”.
Though at the time of release it was critically panned, Volcano was considered a commercial success, peaking at number 14 on the Billboard 200 and number 13 on the Billboard Top Country Albums charts. Additionally, three singles, “Fins”, “Volcano”, and “Survive”, found success on the singles charts, with “Fins” and “Volcano” becoming Buffett standards. Not only were 3 tracks from this album on the multi-platinum compilation, Songs You Know By Heart, but it is also the only studio album that Buffett would later re-record as a live album.
5. License to Chill
Many musicians spend their later careers trying to recapture their glory days. Meanwhile, the biggest commercial hit album of Jimmy Buffett’s career came when he was 57 years old. Topping both the Billboard Top Country Albums and Billboard 200 charts in the summer of 2004, License to Chill is one of the most unique studio albums of his career. 11 of the 16 tracks were covers, while 9 featured established country stars. Whether it is the duet with Martina McBride on “Trip Around the Sun”, covering the Hank Williams classic “Hey, Good Lookin'” with Clint Black, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, and George Strait, or the title track “License to Chill” with Kenny Chesney, this album has something for everyone to enjoy.
After a 5 year recording hiatus, Jimmy Buffett returned with Fruitcakes in 1994, his first platinum selling album since 1978. It peaked at number 5 on the Billboard 200 chart. While the 1980s saw Buffett’s musical style lean more towards country, Fruitcakes shifted more towards rock and back to tropical music. With a memorable title track in “Fruitcakes,” great covers like “Uncle John’s Band”, and other solid original songs like “Everybody’s Got a Cousin in Miami”, Fruitcakes marked the beginning of Jimmy Buffett’s renaissance.
3. Son of a Son of a Sailor
Son of a Son of a Sailor contributed to the first peak in Jimmy Buffett’s career, becoming his second platinum album. It peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Top Country Albums and number 10 on the Billboard 200 charts. Buffett’s sound is hard to describe on this album. “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Livingston Saturday Night” have a definite rock sound. However, the title track and “Cowboy in the Jungle” have a more country sound. Son of a Son of a Sailor is a reflection of Jimmy Buffett’s full range.
Jimmy Buffett’s Key West phase spawned some of his best work. On A1A, Buffett continued to blend his country and coastal influences. It reached number 25 on the Billboard 200. A1A only had one single that charted, “Door Number Three”. However, “A Pirate Looks at Forty” is considered one of his best written songs.
1. Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
One word says it all: “Margaritaville”. That one track on Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes launched an empire. It is the anthem of his legions of parrotheads. Jimmy Buffett’s greatest hit spawned restaurants, blenders, and a radio station. This album would have been in his top 10 without that song. But due to “Margaritaville”, it takes the tops spot on my list.
I hope you enjoyed this top ten list. Let’s discuss it in the comments below.