I have often said that you don't know a good band/ musician/ singer/ singing group until they release their second record.
There are many great first records, especially when a band has a unique sound, or succeeds at blending multiple genres. Some bands with successful first albums have crappy second albums: Boston, Ace of Base, and The Cars come to mind off the top of my head.
Then there are bands with very strong second records who, whether I liked them or not, were destined to become big stars: Steely Dan and The Police are two bands I would never miss if their music vanished; but there is no taking-away the brilliance of their first albums.
Then there are those great first records followed by a series of wonderful records: The Beatles, The Who, Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Bruce Springsteen, and The Rolling Stones come to mind.
Then there is the band that releases a great first record and never releases another to be judged one way or another: Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols might be the best example.
And then the artist whose first record was a total yawner, but set into motion an unstoppable career: David Bowie and Prince come to mind.
In more modern times, P!nk has released a string of great records, while Lady Gaga's second release places her squarely in in the camp of crap follow-ups. Time will tell if she is the real thing or not.
I notice that this list so far is amazingly white. You'd never know I grew-up listening to The Supremes, The Temptations, The Miracles, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and the rest of the Motown stable of brilliance, along with James Brown. In my memory, though, these artists released singles, not albums.
It wasn't until Stevie Wonder's string of wonderful releases in the 1970s that a Motown artist's work was critiqued in album-form. Innervisions, Talking Book, Fulfillingness' First Finale, and Songs in the Key Of Life, is a string of releases that rivals all of his contemporaries' and many of those who came before and after him. It is rare for an artist to release so many incredibly successful and creative albums in a row (especially in such a short period of time).
Marvin Gaye's string of What's Going On, Trouble Man, and Let's Get It On is also quite a legacy.
Then there is Black Sabbath. Four great releases in a row: Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master of Reality, and Black Sabbath Vol. 4 define the scale by which future metal bands would be judged.
I could go on and on, of course, and so could you. So that is enough from me for now.
I hope you'll share yours. Tell all!
I found this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article amusing: Fab Firsts: The Top 25 debut albums in rock history. Perhaps you will too.