Published Jan 04, 2012This winter saw the release of another high-profile posthumous album, as recently departed mega-star Amy Winehouse was honoured with the collection Lioness: Hidden Treasures. So now is as good a time as ever to take a look back on some of the greatest posthumous albums of all time.
The ten albums listed here aren't simply vaults-clearing B-sides collections or bottom-scraping compilations of material that never deserved to be released in the first place. Rather, these are the lost classics that, in some cases, hold up against the artists' best work.
So it's with an apology to Amy (whose Lioness didn't make the cut) that Exclaim! offers its Top 10 Posthumous Albums of All Time, listed in order according to quality and canonical importance.
Top 10 Posthumous Albums of All Time:
10. John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Milk and Honey
Artist death: November 8, 1980
Album release: January 27, 1984
Just three weeks before Lennon's death in 1980, the Beatles legend released Double Fantasy, a call-and-response collection of songs with his wife Yoko Ono. In early 1984, this sequel arrived. Once again featuring songs from both husband and wife, it contained some of Lennon's final recordings, plus some touched-up and newly recorded material from Yoko. The material isn't quite as stirring at Double Fantasy -- there's nothing on par with "(Just Like) Starting Over" or "Beautiful Boy" -- but everyone ought to hear the final work of arguably the greatest pop songwriter ever.
9. 2pac - The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory
Artist death: September 13, 1996
Album release: November 5, 1996
The late rapper has been remembered with more posthumous releases than we care to count, but this very first one, recorded around a month before his 1996 murder and released less than two months after, is the one that left the most lasting impression. Even more significant than the music was the fact that this album helped to spawn endless conspiracy theories about Tupac Shakur's supposedly faked death thanks to its supposed hints that he would be reborn under the alias Makaveli.
8. Elliott Smith - From a Basement on the Hill
Artist death: October 23, 2003
Album release: October 19, 2004
When the beloved sad-sack songwriter tragically died in 2003, he was partway done what was to be his sixth album. The sessions included over 30 songs and the album was reportedly slated to be a double-disc, but producer Rob Schnapf and Smith's former girlfriend Joanna Bolme were hired and whittled the tracklist down to 15. Okay, so this album -- released almost exactly a year after Smith's passing -- is a bit of a mess compared to masterpieces like Either/Or and XO, but stone cold stunners like "King's Cross" and "A Fond Farewell" make this a must-have.