Where did THAT come from? - Artists who put out one awesome work

Sometimes, an artist (I’m mostly thinking of musical artists, but this can happen in any creative field) will put out a work that is SO much better than all their other work, you wonder why the muse hit them so perfectly!

Some examples:
Queensryche was a decent hair metal band. Then they released Operation:Mindcrime, which in my opinion is the best metal album of all time. Then they went pop and never approached those heights again. Where did the inspiration for that one album come from?

Another, more controversial one - Green Day was a successful pop punk band, who had released a bunch of good if not awesome CDs. Then came American Idiot. Blew me away! Their albums since then have been their usual good quality, but nowhere near* Idiot*.

Note: This really only applies to artists who have a decent amount of output. So while Harper Lee obviously never wrote another novel as good as* To Kill A Mockingbird*, you can’t compare it to her other work because there is none. And while In The Aeroplane Over The Sea may be great, there isn’t exactly a lot of Neutral Milk Hotel/Jeff Mangum stuff out there besides it.

I’m sure there are other prolific artists that have that one work that blows all their other stuff away - let’s hear about it!

I haven’t read anything else by Bram Stoker, but the stuff I’ve read *about *Bram Stoker says that ***Dracula ***is about 50 times better than any of his other books.

For me, personally, **Tarzan is a lot better than anything else I’ve read by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Princess of Mars is a sturdy, competent adventure sci-fi, and Land that Time Forgot is bleah, but ***Tarzan ***had me near tears at the end.

And I like the Beach Boys, but Good Vibrations just boggles my mind.

Love-“Forever Changes”. Their other stuff isn’t bad but this is far better than anything else and is probably my favorite album of all time.

George Harrison as a solo artist - All Things Must Pass is easily better than everything else he did solo, put together.

David Quammen is a very good writer about the natural world and what we know about its workings. But The Song of the Dodo, his book about the history of how we came to know what we know about evolution and extinction, is IMHO one of the best nonfiction books on any subject, by anyone, ever.

“Pitying You Wretched Unenlightened Rubes and Yahoos” was pretty good, though.

Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville is an amazing album, and nothing else she has done has even come close. In fact, the bland mundanity of her subsequent albums have made people less inclined to accept the incredible sonic awesomeness of Exile for what it is.

One example that I’m currently stupefied and amazed by is the new album from metal core band A Life Once Lost, Ecstatic Trance. I picked it up shortly after it’s release last November, but didn’t really start listening to it until mid-December. It’s fucking brilliant. Like, “I can’t stop listening to it” brilliant.

I wasn’t familiar with the band at all, so I started doing some research.

The band has been around for close to 14 years now, bringing their own brand of Philadelphia metalcore to the world. I bought all their previous albums, to see what I had been missing.

And the answer was: not much. Their previous albums are decent metalcore, but nothing brilliant. Kind of a Meshuggah vibe to their sound, but nothing in there that made bells go off and shit.

Their new album is nothing like their old material. It’s trance-y metal, like if Chrome suddenly got aggressive. The lead guitar work is superlative, the songwriting eschews even metalcore’s loose conventions, and each song is so dense that it takes repeated listening to hear everything going on in each track.

Apparently the two guys who started the band fired everyone a few years ago in order to move their sound into new territory. From what I’ve been able to find online, I think the two of them wrote and recorded nearly everything on the album except the drums. It was a huge risk artistically and commercially, but obviously (to me) it was the best thing they could have done for themselves. They may have even come close to forging an entirely new sub-genre of metal, and that alone is noteworthy; the fact that they did it with such an awesome chunk of sonic pie blows me away.

I love it when someone steps up their game, even if it’s just for a brief, shining moment.

George Orwell had Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, a few lesser novels (including some interesting semi-autobiographical work like Down And Out In Paris And London), and a large number of essays that basically prefigure his two main novels. He certainly has the volume, but his two main works outshine everything else in much the same way the sun outshines all of the other stars. It doesn’t help that much of his other work is so thematically similar to his two big novels.

Joseph Heller - Catch-22
J.D. Salinger - Catcher in the Rye
Samuel Taylor Coleridge - The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner
Jack Kerouac - On The Road
Dennis Hopper - Easy Rider (as a director)
Norm Cash - 1961 baseball season Detroit first baseman
Steve Fisher - 1989 NCAA basketball tournament Michigan coach
Don Larsen - Game 7 1956 World Series Yankee pitcher
The Band - Music From Big Pink
Otis Redding - Sitting on the Dock of the Bay
Ray Charles - Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music Volume One

I never read any of the ones you mention (probably because two of them were assigned), but I did read Burmese Days and thought it was wonderful. Of course I was 15 or so.

I have read all of Orwell’s novels and think he is actually mostly very good. My favourite Orwell is actually Coming up for Air. I think with Orwell it’s not that he varied a lot in quality it’s that two of his works for whatever reason became far more famous than the others. Presumably because they dealt with a particularly hot topic of the time. When it comes to novels he also really was not very prolific so actually two out of seven of them being considered great actually represents virtually 30% of his output which is not too bad a hit ratio. I would actually personally say three out of the seven are great so that puts him at almost 50% which is none too shabby.

The song “You Get What You Give” by the New Radicals.

Orwell might be a bad example - he was first and foremost a journalist, even though nowadays people know him for his novels. But he only wrote six pieces of fiction, and two of them are all-time great classics, which I’d say is a pretty good batting average.

Slightly unfair, 'cause she didn’t write anything else, but Harper Lee wrote one of the truely great American novels, then basically didn’t publish another word for the rest of her life. In her case, it was (in her own words), " I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again"

David & David published one very good album in the late 80s, and weren’t ever really heard from again.

Larsen’s perfect game was game 5

I’d go for Pet Sounds, myself. I like the Beach Boys other work well enough, but Pet Sounds is just transcendant.

I don’t really agree with American Idiot being head-and-shoulders above everything Green Day has ever done (I’d actually peg their best album at Dookie, although American Idiot is a close second), but I’ll put in my own controversial vote and go with GnR’s Appetite for Destruction. I’m just not a fan of anything they’ve done since.

I also agree with Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. There’s a couple good tracks on the next two albums, but nothing comes close to her debut.

By all accounts Steig Larsson was a hack journalist before coming out with the “The Girl…” trilogy, unless you believe those that claim his wife wrote them.

Joe Johnston directed a series of mediocre-to-good action adventure movies; some are well-liked, but none are really much more than throwaway entertainment.

He also did October Sky, a straight biopic about teenagers with an interest in rocketry in the 1950s. It’s a far better movie than any of his others, and in a completely different genre.

If we are introducing sports figures into this, then I’ll add Buster Douglas.

Well, there’s Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball, and then Halle Berry in everything else.