A few days ago, a friend from back home had a bit of fun on his Facebook page by posting a list of his ten favorite albums, as it appeared to him on that particular day. I was one of several who responded with my own list. Here is mine with a bit of explanation as to why I picked what I picked, plus a bit more about those albums that were “bubbling under” for me.
Do these albums represent a cross section of my musical taste? Not by any means, in fact this collection just scratches the surface of the music I like. Did I stop listening to new music after 1975? It would seem so from the selections I have chosen, but I am almost sure that is not true. In fact a quick scan of my music collection confirms that I still get hold of new music in 2014. Why no Beatles, Stones, Neil Young, Richard Thompson records in the list? Well there are a few in the “bubbling Under” section, but with the possible exception of “Exile On Main St”, none of their albums feel as complete to me as those I have chosen. I haven’t gone for any “Best Of’s” as that just defeats the purpose.
I think these LP’s do all come from a time when record collecting was new and exciting to me. The music contained within has captured my heart in some way, and I can’t let go. I do think that everything I picked stands up as a whole album, there are hardly any fillers in there. I don’t believe that can be said about too many albums, then or now.
So, here are my Top 10 fave albums as of 07/08/14, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
I first heard parts of this round at my Uncle Jim’s flat in Highgate when I was 6 or 7. I had nothing to judge it against then. It just seemed magical, luring me away to some amazing place unlike anything I had ever encountered. Now when I hear it, with a lifetime’s worth of music to judge it against, I still think that. To take a piece such as Rodrigo’s Concierto De Aranjuez and replace guitars with horns with such brilliant results is an indication of rare genius. Key Moment? “Will O’ The Wisp”. Miles borders on breaking into the kind of bop he was then known for, but keeps things going in his own Spainish inspired groove.
In 1973, John Martyn had released what was probably his most commercially successful album, “Solid Air”. Although his echoplex guitar style had been featured on that album, particularly on “I’d Rather Be The Devil”, a take on an old Skip James blues tune, the album in total was very accessible, with songs such as “May You Never” and “Over The Hill.” The accepted industry approach would have been to wait a year or so before releasing another album in a similar vein, thus building on the success of the last release. This was not the way such an artist as JM operated though. Within six months he had released “Inside Out”, uncompromisingly experimental and challenging in it’s approach. Using musicians such as “Traffic” members Steve Winwood, Chris Wood and Remi Kabaka as well as the likes of Danny Thompson on bass, the record has a loose, jazzy feel without actually being jazz. It does still have great songs however, such as “Fine Lines”, “Ways To Cry” and my favorite “Make No Mistake”. The traditional instrumental “Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail” sees Martyn’s electric guitar mimicking bagpipes to some extent. Like “Sketches Of Spain”, this is music to be lost in, music capable of transporting the listener to somewhere else, somewhere good.
Key Moment?: “Outside In.” Is this mostly instrumental piece informed by Pharoah Saunders? Perhaps, but the driving force here is John Martyn and his echoplex fueled guitar, the track driven on by the outstanding guest musicians.
Peter Green’s swansong with Fleetwood Mac. No contributions from Jeremy Spencer here to speak of although he was still a member of the band. Just Peter Green and Danny Kirwan’s heart felt contributions, alongside some jamming elements (“Searching For Madge”, “Fighting For Madge” and “Underway”) which had become a vital feature of the band’s live performance. Green’s songs range from the raw and revealing “Showbiz Blues”, the rowdy anthem to masturbation that is “Rattlesnake Shake”, the complex “Closing My Eyes” which evokes the techniques employed in the single “Man Of The World” and the song that I consider Green’s crowning glory, “Before The Beginning.”
Key Moment? “Coming Your Way.” Mick Fleetwood’s percussion, Danny’s haunting voice and the dueling guitars of Kirwan and Green combine to draw one into the album.
Often cited as being the greatest live album of all time, I actually think it to be more than that. The original Allman Brothers Band had just a few short years in which to make their mark, but this album shows a band in rare form. The blues, rock and to a lesser extent country influences are on display, but their whole approach is informed by a jazz aesthetic. The Allman’s jam here, but it is almost always a focused jamming. (“Mountain Jam” being the possible exception.) Tight passages of play give way to improvisation, with Duane Allman, brother Gregg and Dickie Bett’s taking their turns, powered by the dual drumming of Trucks and Jaimoe and the great Berry Oakley.At a time when I think rock was dumbing down to an extent, chasing the quick gratification of simple riffs and bombast, their is thought behind what the Allman’s were doing.
Key Moment? “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reid” The best way to describe what music means to me is to just play this track.
Known as the “Dog and Dustbin” album to identify it from the other album just called “Fleetwood Mac” , this was Peter Green’s second appearance on album after John Mayall’s “On The Road.” At this point just a four piece, album time is pretty much shared between the Peter Green led tracks, where the band is effectively a three piece, and Jeremy Spencer’s Elmore James impersonations/recreations. Although Spencer’s Elmore stuff would get a little tired by the next album, they seem fun here, and his piano take on Robert Johnson number “Hell Hound On My Trail” is perhaps the best thing he ever recorded. It is on the Green tracks where the album really takes off. In particular on songs like “I Loved Another Woman”, based on a Howling Wolf template, and featuring heart wrenching guitar and vocals. The solo acoustic “World Keep On Turning” is another highlight.
Key Moment? Without a doubt, “Merry Go Round”, an outstanding slow blues, and the recording that drew me in to Green’s musical universe and the wider world of blues.
I was gabbing on Facebook the other day about favorite guitarists and a friend whose musical knowledge and opinions I rate very highly said that he just didn’t “get” BB, despite trying. I know he is not alone, I once took a friend to see him in concert, and she declared, “This isn’t the blues, it’s cabaret!”. By then it was probably a combination of the two, but at his peak BB had the ability to move me both with his voice, and with those sweet 3 or 4 note clusters of lead guitar playing, complete with the spaces in-between. This mid 60’s live album captures him at his very best .
Key Moment? “How Blue Can You Get”. “I gave you seven children…now you wanna give ’em back.”
Something was going on at Motown in the early 70’s. The studio sound was getting funkier and artists such as Edwin Starr, The Temptations and Stevie Wonder were singing about social issues such as race, poverty and war on songs you could still dance to. Marvin Gaye was at the forefront of that with this album, telling us what was going on, and imploring us to “Save The Children.” One of the first popular music records to recognize ecology as an important issue, it is also one heck of a record from a musical standpoint. Orchestral arrangements shake hands with rawer funk, Marvin’s voice never sounded so good. One record that I believe has to be listened as a whole every time.
Key Moment? “Inner City Blues” Marvin sees what is going on in the hood and what he sees makes him want to holler.
Possibly the least known of the albums I have selected, and probably my favorite from all of them. Produced by Lindisfarne bass player Rod Clement, this is a backward looking album, with Bert looking back on the old folk club days of the 60’s on tracks like “Daybreak” and “Three Cord Trick”, and even back to his childhood elsewhere. There are traditional tunes here, notably “The Curragh Of Kildare”, but there are more original songs here than on earlier solo or Pentangle releases. His acoustic guitar playing is beautiful, and his voice has this wistful quality, almost as if he is singing a lullaby, even when he isn’t. In the 37 years since this album was first released, the magic has never worn off for me.
Key Moment? “One To A Hundred”. Bert takes us back to the time when his childhood friend died in an accident, and we learn of this tragedy through the eyes of young Bert who doesn’t quite understand what is happening at the time. Touching, sensitive writing that moves me to tears every time.
If The Who’s career seemed a bit like a pissing contest at times, the cover art implies it really was the case here. Considering that this album was culled to some extent from the then abandoned “Lifehouse” project, it holds together as a cohesive album in it’s own right. Songs like “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Baba O’Reilly”” are epic in their scope, almost symphonic in a way, and certainly deserve to be remembered as more than just TV theme tunes. If I had any criticism, I would say that “Behind Blue Eyes” is a little cloying, but that is a minor quibble.
Key Moment? “Bargain”, a bargain struck between the sweet and sticky sides of Townsend’s writing.
This album was distributed by John Martyn and his wife Beverley from home as his record label Island did not want to bring it out. A sad decision, as it is such a vibrant LP. Martyn used Danny Thompson on bass and the great free jazz improviser John Stevens on drums, and they jam on several of John’s best loved songs of the time. They are performing without a net here, and it a glorious thing to witness.
Key Moment? “Outside In” The three musicians weave in and out of each other in an incredible way. Martyn’s echoplex technique at it’s finest.
BUBBLING UNDER? It was hard for me to include some artists whom I love, but who spread their greatest wares over many releases without having one killer record with gems all the way through. Probably at number 11 on my list was The Stones “Exile On Main St” and on many days, it would have been in my top 10, as would “Never Mind The Bollock’s, Here’s The Sex Pistols”. Other albums bubbling just under the Top 10 would include “Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars”, “Blood On The Tracks”, Neil Young’s “On The Beach” and Nick Drake’s “Five Leaves left” as well as Cannonball Adderley’s “Somethin’ Else” which is truly a Miles Davis album in all but name.