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?