My Favourite Albums

3 Notes:

1: The concept of ranking and listing albums that have meant a lot to me overtime seems a little blasphemous; I can just about manage songs, but generally I prefer to view my album collection as a messy amalgam of many different moods and sounds.
2: Their is a distinct difference between ‘finest’ and ‘favourite’. Favourites are usually albums that I have enjoyed a lot overtime due to personal significance (attitude, meaning), whereas ‘finest’ usually relates to the more tangible aesthetic, for example: The musical skill or absence of it (often a good thing) and how well the album works as a logical (or joyously illogical) sequence of tracks. And finally:
3: I have limited it to a holy trinity, as my favourite albums, like most rabid music collectors’, are constantly changing. These 3 are both my favourites, and the least likely to be displaced in the future.

1: The Band: S/T, 1969
 
For a reserved suburb-dweller, this has proved to be the most consistently magical and characterful album I know. That it manages to achieve those three glorious adjectives both musically and lyrically is a joy, and the reason the Band can evoke these images of Americana and the ‘old ways’ so vividly, is that they recorded them like that. The rough, warm sounds and lyrics that you hear were recorded by four guys in an environment with that very aesthetic. All you need do to be teleported right there is to look at the rain-soaked faces on the cover, surrounded by that simple, earthy brown on a winter’s evening and revel in the amazing songwriting.

2: Led Zeppelin: IV, 1971
Led Zeppelin were the first band I loved, and I still consider them to be the greatest ‘albums band’ ever. It’s difficult to relent from using superlatives when talking about one of the most legendary albums ever cut, but this one truly exemplifies the romantic idea of the rock LP. It feels like the record has been wittled down so organically to a golden formula of 8 tracks, all wonderfully varying and organically constructed, that ultimately exceed the sum of their parts. Though some critics may dismiss the Zep because they were too big, too elaborate and had their own jumbo jet, those who can look further than that can see the intangible chemistry and aura of the recording process and see an album that achieves something that (to me at least,) no other has achieved: Sorcery. Or something very close to it.

3: Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Rust Never Sleeps, 1979

Neil Young reinvented himself in the late 70’s. Or did he? Whereas David Bowie often clearly changes his persona and style of music to fit the new trends and puts his own spin on them, Neil Young didn’t need to become more aggressive and rough to suit the new Punk revolution; it was already part of him, and traces of this style can be found in patches in his earlier work. However, this time Young blended all of his previous qualities into this apocalyptic brew that called the end of the 1970’s like a raucous battle cry. Just think of the second side as literate hardcore. As for side one, Neil’s lyrics and acoustic songwriting never have as much meaning and attitude as this. Rust Never Sleeps is the most moving piece of rock music I know.

Other interchangeable omissions described in one goofy sentence:

Yes: Close to the Edge – For the sheer prog majesty
The Rollling Stones: Exile on Main Street – The ultimate grizzled double album.
Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde – Literary, modernist lyrics and Nashville session guys makes one heck of a heady brew.
Camel: The Snow Goose – Entirely instrumental proggy grandeur mixed with tender melodies.
Bryter Layter: Nick Drake – Pastoral English folkieness.
Miles Davis: Jack Johnson
– A reminder that only the greatest jazz musician of the 20th century and his homies could actually rock it harder than anyone else for more than 20 minutes straight.
The Smiths: The Queen is Dead
– It makes me proud to be English.
Randy Newman: 12 Songs 
– Are you alienated? So is he, and he loves it!
Little Feat: Little Feat (S/T) – The Great Lost Rock Album.
Steely Dan: Countdown to Ecstasy – Wanna read my review?

Countdown to Ecstasy

For notoriously anal perfectionists, STeely Dan managed to pack in a sense of energy and fun in their second LP in 1973, one that could be as tight as any soulless studio pop, but simultaneously with the lyrical and musical vibrancy and animation that the Stones had in abundance (a strangely ironic golden combination rarely achieved). While Aja remains an album of equal perfection, Countdown has the edge for sheer rock miscellany.

Kicking off with Bodhisattva, tangibly rockin’ track with a guitar solo like lava, the Dan’s dry humour is immediately apparent in the irony of its cosmopolitan title. From the start, it seems that no living category of person on Earth will escape the wrath of Becker and Fagen’s modest condescension (not even themselves, it turns out).
Razor Boy and Pearl of the Quarter shows us that this band can feel love, and King of the World, in its apocalyptic visions displays that they can be deeply human. It’s a shame that naming yourself after a sex toy from any William Burroughs novel may be very ‘lower-sixth’.

One of my absolute favourites, and a faultless record if I’ve ever heard one.

Note: The 1999 remastered CD’s are brilliant. Very well remastered, and with expansive and typically neurotic liner notes from Becker and Fagen.

Goof: Bard College is a private liberal arts school’, located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.’  Sounds to me like a recipe for a good cynic.

10 El Supremos out of 10

 

Sprawling Doubles!

I’ve never been a Clapton devotee (I’ll take Jimmy Page for showmanship and awe), but the combined work of Jim Gordon and Duane Allman makes this one of the best double albums in rock, a different greatness to that of ”Exile on Main St”, which relied of its inherent rock ‘n’ roll sloppiness for its ultimate majesty; what I like about Exile is that it tires me out with its massive depth. Layla is passionate, but exposedly so; Clapton’s obsession with Pattie Boyd could tire you out, but luckily the man really can sing the blues. Just like a good double album, this is an abnormally rich experience.

9 Thorn Trees out of 10

A thrilling update of the classic rock double album, Sign o’ the Times was a very informal breakthrough for Prince. Sign o’ the Times displays that, luckily, Prince’s commercial cunning never outweighs his experimental audacity. It’s rough and often confused, and therefore is more quintessentially rock ‘n’ roll than the album above. If Purple Rain was too archetypal of the 80’s style (do the screams at the end of ‘The Beautiful Ones make you cringe a little?), this album beckons the end of that decade as apocalyptically as Rust Never Sleeps did for the 70’s. Might I add, what better time to do it than 1987. Damn that artforsaken decade!

10 Housequakes out of 10

When The Wall was released in 1979, it’s very difficult to understand why anyone wanted to listen to Pink Floyd; not just their albums, but what they actually had to say, which turned out to be very little. Animals was the turkey of the year, and the Floyd had turned bitter, due to Punk’s genocide of ‘classic rock’. The poor old guys had too much money. Sadly Roger Waters failed to one-up his more relevant contemporaries. But here’s the bomb: He’s still touring with it today! That is not commercial bravery, and it wasn’t back then.

Ezrins out of 10