My Top 10 Albums

As suggested earlier, here’s a post we can all dance around… Here are my Top 10 Albums with a sentence or two about each as a template to get you started. The Moderator has kindly given us a bit of leeway to include compilations, soundtracks and greatest hits … so here we go…

 

John Lennon: Plastic Ono Band

Hard to describe the impact this had after Abbey Road. Raw, honest and brave. Probably has to go at No. 1 as the best album ever made. Followed by, in no particular order…

 

 

Steely Dan: Can’t Buy A Thrill

The Dan’s first and most pop-oriented album. Well-crafted songs, original and intelligent lyrics, beautifully sung by David Palmer, great arrangements, great playing and benchmark production with absolutely no filler.  Still stands up over 40 years on. Timeless.

 

 

Nick Drake: Five Leaves Left

The most original songwriter of any era — and an exquisite record with Robert Kirby’s string arrangements. Everybody believed in him — except the one person that really needed to…  Nick Drake died at the age of 26 in enigmatic circumstances.

 

 

Van Morrison: Astral Weeks

The album was recorded in a day, semi-improvised, with the premier jazz players of the day. This album set a benchmark which only Nick Drake managed to touch.

 

 

The Verve: Urban Hymns

Every track is a winner here.  Great band sound. Like all great albums, not simply music, but a friend for life.

 

 

Brian Eno: Another Day on Earth.

A delicate ‘less is more’ chilled album you will not tire of listening to.

 

 

 

Jimmy Guiffre Trio: The Train and the River

My favourite jazz album. Bluesy jazz guitar, bass and sax trio. Having no drums allows the fluid rhythmic playing that expresses the album’s title.

 

 

Peter Gabriel: Passion (soundtrack)

My favourite ‘world music’ album — real world.

 

 

 

Jimmy Cliff: The Harder They Come (soundtrack)

My favourite reggae album — all the top artists, all their best tracks.

 

 

 

Abba: Greatest Hits

All the great songs in one place — a pantheon of 3-minute wonders, neither cynical nor clever, just one indestructible diamond after another. (I’m including Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 ‘cos my list goes up to eleven 🙂

Posted in Music | 61 Comments

61 Responses to My Top 10 Albums

  1. David Crosby says:

    Jumping in a bit late…
    1. Ziggy Stardust, Bowie
    2. Number One Record, Big Star
    3. All Mod Cons, The Jam
    4. The Voyager, Jenny Lewis
    5. I’m With Stupid, Aimee Mann
    6. Back To Black, Amy Winehouse
    7. The Impossible Bird, Nick Lowe
    8. Skylarking, XTC
    9. Revolver, Beatles
    10. This Years Model, Declan McManus and The Attractions

    Hard choices. As far as your former (it might be a stretch to say friend) but I could easily go with My Aim Is True, Get Happy, Trust or Imperial Bedroom. I’m a Stones fan as well but left them off the list. I might also have chosen Abbey Road for the Harrison songs but Lennon’s songs on the album are saved only by Paul’s production.

  2. Jerry Cohen says:

    My Ten. Almost succeeded in not naming any one artist more than once.

    1. Exile On Main Street – The Rolling Stones at their greasy blues/r&b fueled best
    2. Get Happy!!! – 20 Hits, 20!
    3. Blonde on Blonde – Bob, the players, and the songs come together perfectly
    4. Abbey Road – The Beatles swansong, with hints of what the future might have sounded like.
    5. Who’s Next – Firing on all cylinders
    6. Songs of Love and Hate – Leonard Cohen
    7. Plastic Ono Band – John Lennon tells us the dream is over. Ringo never sounded better
    8. Pleased To Meet Me – The Replacements. A truly great and underrated band.
    9. The Beatles – The Beatles – 30 Hits, 30!
    10. Darkness on the Edge of Town – Bruce gets darker after the Born to Run phenomenon.

  3. Jerry Cohen says:

    I agree with you re Revolver vs. Rubber Soul…Plastic Ono Band was also huge for me. First Beatle post-breakup LP I bought, and I was blown away then (as I still am) by the raw emotion and almost primitive playing on that record (best Ringo snare sound ever!). Klaus Voorman was no McCartney, but he was no slouch either. Fantastic record.

  4. Mike Miller says:

    I’ve been absorbed in “Urban Hymns”. I see why it was on your list. Thanks for the tip.

  5. Mike Miller says:

    Just read this from a Steve Nieve interview:

    What was your craziest concert memory?
    Well I’ve got so many crazy concert memories, it’s difficult to know which one to choose. I’m going to choose this one: When we were back in the previous century, we were touring on a bus and it was right when video machines were invented, but the problem with having one of the first video machines was that there were very few video tapes and so we only had two tapes, one of them was Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, and the other one was A Clockwork Orange and it soon became well known that we were constantly watching A Clockwork Orange, so the fans were constantly showing up to our concerts dressed as Alex and there was one guy in particular who was really beautifully made up as Alex with the costume and makeup, but he was in a wheelchair. And because he was in this wheelchair, he was wheeled to the front row of every concert he came to and he came to every single one. It wasn’t until a few months after we noticed this guy sitting in the front row, that anyone figured out that built into his wheelchair, he had microphones in the arms and a very expensive technical system under his seat, and he was actually the guy who was bootlegging all our concerts.

  6. Mike Miller says:

    I’d say my list is influences and favorites in chronological order.
    10 selections wasn’t really enough!

    The Byrds-Mr. Tambourine Man: An early influence as a teenager. The original “Jangle Band”. Great collection of Gene Clark (a Kansas City native) songs and covers. I had read once that McGuinn was the only one who actually played on the recording with the group doing the vocals.Maybe the “Wrecking Crew” did the rest. Great example of the ‘60s “Columbia” sound.

    Beatles “Revolver” and the singles around it. I wore out the “Rain” side of that single. Fascinated by Paul’s bass line.

    Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” and “Good Vibrations” Truly amazing work. Who would have thought Brian Wilson would be the last brother standing.

    Cream “Wheels of Fire” Live “Crossroads” and “Spoonful” and “White Room” on the studio side. Enough said.

    The Who “Live at Leeds” Original release and reissues. This is my number one record of all time. From ’69 to ’71, no one could touch these guys. Not even the “ God Almighty Led Zep” that so many of the young bands today idolize. An 8-track recording with the original release mixed in Pete’s home studio. Also worth mentioning is the recent released “Live at Hull” show recorded the next day. Same show, but a bit different. A must for hard cores.

    The Who “Quadrophenia” In my opinion, their best studio album. Didn’t do well in the US for the obvious reasons.

    EC & The A’s “50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong” (Bootleg) This live recording from the Agora in Cleveland (12-5-77) includes material from MAIT and TYM. My first introduction (with the SNL appearance as an exception) to the sheer talent of the group. The bass is nice and loud as well.

    The Specials “The Specials” Really excellent and fun record. Not sure what EC’s contribution was here, but maybe it was to just stay out of the way.

    U2 “Boy” I love Steve Lillywhite’s production and his ability to create the dense atmosphere presented here. In my mind, a classic, one of their best. I remember reading that Steve Levine claimed that the Edge copied his style.

    XTC “Oranges and Lemons” I enjoy all the XTC recordings, but always seem to gravitate to this one.
    Colin Moulding is another favorite bass player.

    • Bruce says:

      I know ten selections isn’t enough — but it’s good to really have to think about it. I was shocked that none of my ten had room for Jamerson, McCartney, Entwistle or Duck. And that there was quite a lot of string bass and acoustic guitar on it — which isn’t like me at all!

      • Mike Miller says:

        You’re right. I had to think quite awhile about it, hence my slow response. Most all my listening has been pop and rock, evident in my list. Of your picks, I was surprised at first with your number 1, but after a couple of minutes it made sense.

      • Bruce says:

        You’re right about the Who – nobody ever put out better rock music than those boys in that era.

      • Mike Miller says:

        Sounds like I’m a Led Zep hater. Not really. Thought their first album was great, but I suffered extreme “Stairway” burnout. I haven’t read any more about the claim that they ripped off Spirit.

      • Bruce says:

        I understand completely — I played Led Zep 1 to bits — but I still think the Who were the boys. I’m very familiar with Spirit’s work too — a great band. There’s a strong likeness to the Spirit track, but I wouldn’t call it plagiarism. A bit like U2’s Vertigo and Pump It Up 🙂

      • Mike Miller says:

        I think a lot of the popularity of LZ with the young bands was Bonham’s drumming. I always wondered how they got that big sound on their records.

        http://westendstudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Big-Kick.jpg

      • Bruce says:

        He’s the loudest drummer I ever heard — an absolute monster.

  7. A harrowing experience from last night:

    The cellar of the old house was dingy and dark, and as I led my clients down the rickety wooden stairs to inspect it, I could only pray silently that no horrors awaited us down in that miserable cavern. By and by, we examined the grimy and forbidding cinder-block rooms, looking over the plumbing and electrical systems, checking for water damage, etc, and when this had been completed, began back towards the stairs. When I turned the corner, I was suddenly hit with a wave of mortal terror that gripped my body, as I found myself face to face with an unholy abomination – glowing, demonic eyes stared back at me from a face that looked more bestial than human. Steeling myself against the horrid creature, I summoned up enough strength to draw my iPhone and snap this bone-chilling image….

    http://postimg.org/image/dakixjnpp/

  8. Jeff Owens says:

    Urban Hymns — inspired choice, sir. Drinks all around on that one — Nick McCabe is a criminally under-recognized guitarist (over here, anyway). Enjoyed your list! You’d mentioned Rutger Gunnarsson a while back, which prompted me to really listen, and what an embarrassment of riches it turned out to be. Would love to know what your next ten would be …

    Best as always,
    Jeff

    • Bruce says:

      Hi Jeff, thanks for stopping by — hope you’re keeping well. Yes … how about the next hundred and ten? The top 10 would chhange on anay given week — it’s a hopeless task, but I think I got as close as I could. We could do a top 20 bass players, soon maybe — but no-one would be allowed to vote for themselves 🙂

  9. David Witherington says:

    Hi, Bruce. Great choices…I have most of them and am familiar with all but The Verve (were they a 90’s band?) Anyway, after your review, I WILL be checking that album out. Here’s my Top 10 at the moment. Among my literally hundreds of favorite records since childhood, these sort of defined their artists’ genres in my mind. They are:

    1.The Beatles- Revolver (for its sheer variety in songwriting craft, from a children’s song (“Yellow Submarine”) to a classical chamber ballad (“Eleanor Rigby”) and John’s two psychedelic masterpieces (“Tomorrow Never Knows” and “She Said She Said”) . And the pop songs were never brighter! The Beatles at the top of their form in every way.
    2. The Rolling Stones- Aftermath (a combination of the US and UK versions- it’s all indispensable). This is rock and roll:)
    3. The Who- My Generation. An astounding debut from a band that continued to astound.
    4. The Kinks- Something Else. The brothers Davies at their finest.
    5. Bob Dylan- Blonde on Blonde. This was the peak of an incredible run since his debut. 1966 was a great year for rock and roll.
    6. Elvis Costello and the Attractions- Get Happy!!. I was 18 when it came out and a senior in high school. Already a fan since the SNL debut, you guys knocked me out with this one. EC was already the most prolific writer of the new wave, but 20 songs on one LP was unheard of unless it was a K-Tel compilation. hehe. This album is much more than the soul motif it is known for. There is country (“Motel Matches”), ska (“Human Touch”) rock and roll (“Five Gears in Reverse, “Beaten to the Punch” just to name two), grand pop (“King Horse”) and the most beautiful lilting melody that Elvis ever wrote in “New Amsterdam.” Your mind-blowing melodic bass shines on this album, Bruce. It keeps the party alive with Steve’s organ splashes and fills dancing around your bass lines. Elvis Costello and the Attractions at the top of their game.
    7. The Clash- London Calling. To me, this is their peak (as strong as their first 3 albums and much stronger than “Sandinista” forward). Srummer/Jones hit their stride on this epic double album. I love that its biggest hit was the hidden track “Train in Vain”!
    8. American Graffiti- Soundtrack. In 1973, this double LP opened my 12-year old ears to original 50’s rock and roll for the first time. I am eternally grateful. It made me seek out rockabilly and doo-wop for the first time. Every track is priceless!
    9. The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Box Set 1959-1968. My introduction to Memphis soul and R’n’B. Otis, Sam & Dave, Rufus, Carla, Albert, Eddie, Johnnie and many others with their greatest tracks, mostly backed by the phenomenal Booker T. & The MG’s. Mmm…Memphis stew is good food.
    10. Nuggets. The original double LP (compiled by Lenny Kaye of The Patti Smith Group) was my introduction to the 60’s garage and psych underground. Wow Wow Wow…The 13th Floor Elevators, The Seeds, The Shadows of Knight, The Electric Prunes, The Count V…and the list goes on. Not a dud here. Thanks to Lenny for blowing my mind with his favorite records. I’ll never be the same.

    Anyway, those are my current desert island picks. Thanks for making me think about it, Bruce! This was fun. 🙂

    • Bruce says:

      I think your choice is better than mine! There’s been a bit of a Rubber Soul vs Revolver debate on here. Like you, I tend to fall on the side of Revolver. Aftermath, as you probably know, was ‘the model’ for This Year’s Model. Like Bowie with the A-sides of Heroes and Low, Dylan could’ve topped BoB with a double album of Bringing it All Back Home and Highway 61. The Who first album is an astonishing debut — The Kids Are Alright. We used to play the Nuggets compilation a lot on the tour bus — the Knickerbockers “Lies” was my personal favourite, but as you say not a dud amongst them. EC used to play that Clash album in the shower every morning! Your choice of compilation Stax/Volt singles makes me wonder why I never thought of it. The way Green Onions comes in on American Graffiti still gives me a shiver. (I’ve got a clip of me playing along with Memphis Soul Stew which I’ve been meaning to post on YT). Thanks for your comments, David. I know you’ll like the Verve album now.

    • Roddy Ring says:

      I met the same Revolver v. Rubber Soul dilemma and in the end chose to leave them off because I figured the Beatles wouldn’t lack for mentions from others. But I tend to favor Rubber Soul. If I had included compilations/soundtracks, I still would have forgotten American Graffiti, I don’t know why. One of my elder sisters had that and I played it until the sleeve fell apart and it was a skipping, popping, crackling mess.

    • David Witherington says:

      Hey, thanks Bruce! I love your anecdotes…I just hope that I can listen to “London Calling” again without thinking of EC in the shower… LOL. That cracked me up. Man, I just listened to The Verve’s “Urban Hymns.” You are right. That thing is like listening to your conscience, and the hope that underlies the melancholy . The title “Urban Hymns” is perfect. A surprisingly easy connect because you are right. These are songs that inspire…our friends indeed. I will check out their singles collection next. I’m impressed! Thanks for the inspiration. Take care.

      • Bruce says:

        Fortunately I didn’t see him in the shower! Yep the Verve’s Richard Ashcroft writes honestly about his battle with depression in a way that we can all translate to our own situations. I also like the band’s homogenous texture which I find more inviting than Oasis.

    • David Witherington says:

      Yes, I agree. Perfect sound for those lyrics, like the soundtrack to his soul. He picked good band mates, that’s for sure.

  10. Paul Inglis says:

    I have all those albums except the Jimmy Guiffre Trio … and rate them all highly. Here’s how I feel this week:

    The Beatles – Rubber Soul. This is the one where the boys turn into men. Paul gets interesting on bass, George finds his voice, John raises the lyrical bar and Ringo …. just check the drums on “The Word”!

    David Bowie – Station to Station. Other than those mid-eighties atrocities, where he sounds like a guest star on his own albums, Bowie generally gets it right. However, the killer combo of Carlos Alomar, Dennis Davis and George Murray gave Bowie his best backing ever – from Station to Station to Scary Monsters. The only fault of this album is that it doesn’t have enough songs , although the title track probably counts as three!

    Kate Bush – Never For Ever. Some people think she’s mad as a cut snake, but what a voice! A true original.

    The Attractions (featuring Elvis Costello) – Imperial Bedroom. Timing is everything. This record changed my life.

    Graham Parker and the Rumour – Squeezing Out Sparks.

    David Byrne and St. Vincent – Love This Giant. I could have listed some Talking Heads albums, or My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Byrne/Eno or St Vincent’s own albums, but I think that she, like Byrne, works best in collaboration. It’s also an album from the current decade!

    Ed Kuepper – Rooms of the Magnificent. Not much of a singer, but there’s just something about this guy.

    The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street. There it is – a great party record.

    Prince – Parade. Effectively the great soundtrack to a terrible movie.

    Steely Dan – The Royal Scam.They never made a bad one. Ask me another day, I might pick a different one of theirs.

    Honourable Mention:

    Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks. I didn’t always rate this so highly, but it gives me shelter from the storm etc.

    • Bruce says:

      I can’t argue with any of that, though I don’t know Ed Kuepper. Station to Station used to be last track I listened to in bed at night! Any Steely Dan album would make the cut. And yes, Kate Bush was the most original artist of her era. Interesting comment re Rubber Soul, as I always had Revolver down as the quantum leap — but I do get your point.

      On my own list, I forget to make space the John Mayall with Eric Clapton “Beano” album. Although I think that Peter Green turned out to be a better pure blues player, I listened the shit out of that Clapton album and even learned a few of the solos note for note — which astonished the Attractions’ guitar tech one evening!

      • Paul Inglis says:

        As much as I like Revolver, I’ve got a real soft spot for Rubber Soul. If Revolver had ‘Rain’ on it then I’d be persuaded to switch.

        That Mayall album, yes for sure that’s some of Clapton’s finest work. Agree about Peter Green though. I imagine that the Attraction’s guitar tech would have been shocked/impressed to hear a guitar properly handled – and good solos to work with!

      • Bruce says:

        I made sure he reported his observations to EC 🙂

      • Mike Miller says:

        “Revolver” is on my list, but with the album I’d have to include the singles around it. “Paperback Writer/Rain” and Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane”. To me, this is their peak period, and I’m sure I would get some argument on that. I’m finding it tough to name 10 as best. Since the Mod has granted some leeway, I will probably vary from the original format, slightly.

      • Great bass part on Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights.” Played by Andrew Powell.

      • Paul Inglis says:

        Kate certainly gets some good people to contribute to her albums. She’s no slouch on the keys herself, of course.

      • Bruce says:

        Off topic — I know we were lamenting that most of these records seem to belong to back in the day, but I was pleased to see that Royal Blood were just voted best British band at last week’s Brit Awards (rather overshadowed by Madonna “accidentally” falling down some stairs and making the front pages of every paper and national TV).

      • Paul Inglis says:

        Royal Blood? Don’t know too much about them – I’ll remedy that. One of things about the new stuff is that it’s hard for modern artists to really stand out because theres’s such diversity now. Mind you, the old rule that 95% of everything is rubbish still applies.

      • Bruce says:

        Royal Blood are a duo — bass and drums. Mike Kerr, the bass player, puts his bass through a series of octave droppers and adders that he switches on and off in varioius combinations to sound like an entire band. Check out their Little Monsters video. Highly original talent. They’re in the other 5%.

      • Paul Inglis says:

        I’ve picked up their album. Have to give it a good listen now…

      • Bruce says:

        It’s a good album whenever you need picking up yourself!

      • Paul Inglis says:

        That Royal Blood album is a good bit of noisy fun, thanks!

      • Bruce says:

        I can’t understand why no-one else thought of doing that with octave boxes years ago.

  11. Mike Miller says:

    This may not be on my list, but it should be on someone’s….

    http://westendstudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/LM.jpg

  12. Oh man. I have the Can’t Buy A Thrill record cover up on my wall, right behind me. Although I grew up in the era of CDs, and later, MP3s, the first time I heard that album was on a record, back in college, so around 2004 – also the same time I discovered medicinal herbs. Coincidence? I think not.

    “Sweet And Dandy” from the Harder they Come soundtrack is MY FAVORITE REGGAE SONG OF ALL TIME. Unbelievable harmonies.

  13. Toby Jug says:

    “The best country record is the one that stays in the sleeve.” Would that include Almost Blue – or would you rather not talk about that one.

  14. Roddy Ring says:

    agreed

  15. Roddy Ring says:

    Very nice list. I will admit to having never heard of Nick Drake, I’ll have to give that a listen. Nor am I very familiar with The Verve and the Guiffre Trio. I’ll check those, too. My son has recently taken up ABBA, and plays those very discs constantly, so I’m not in a position to discuss that choice objectively.

    • Roddy Ring says:

      Off the top of my head, in no particular order, the albums that I’ll listen to start to finish because, in my expert opinion, there’s not a stinker in the bunch. I’ve avoided compilations because they are designed specifically to meet that criterion (and it would make my list too long). My list goes to 11 also since you’ve already cheated and I had to cut several good’uns to get to this number.
      NRBQ – At Yankee Stadium
      Steely Dan – Royal Scam
      Johnny Cash – Unchained
      Whatsisname & The Attractions – Get Happy
      John Hiatt – Bring the Family
      Tom Petty – You’re Gonna Get It
      Marshall Crenshaw – Marshall Crenshaw
      Joe Jackson – Look Sharp
      Little Feat – Waiting for Columbus
      Graham Parker – Squeezing Out Sparks
      Talking Heads – Fear of Music

      • Bruce says:

        You can’t fault anyone’s list because the entire exercise is subjective and that’s the point of it. Any Steely Dan album is a contender. I’d maybe put Talkling Heads 77 on my longer list. I agree with you about compilations buthow else with singles bands like Abba how else would you get a definitive disc. And as mentioned on an eralier comment, if Bowie had put the songs sides of Low and Heroes on one album it would’ve been a strong Top 10 contender in many peoples eyes. Get Happy!

      • Roddy Ring says:

        Steely Dan, Talking Heads, ECAT and a couple of others had other albums that met my “sans stinkers” standard, but I had to trim the list somehow. I also eliminated a few country and bluegrass records for the benefit of the moderator.

      • Bruce says:

        The best country record is the one that stays in the sleeve. But I listen to quite a lot of Gaelic music which is root music for a lot of country, so I’m not all bad.

      • Roddy Ring says:

        You’ve probably noticed that most of the best records ever made were produced somewhere between 1977 and 1987. An absolute coincidence that those are the years of my life numbers 13 through 23.

      • Bruce says:

        I know, it’s a problem that we’re all turning into nostalgic old gits — that’s why I was pleased to include Eno, which isn’t quite so ancient. Don’t worry, I’m going to do a Top 10 EDM post next. All the best tracks were done between 1997 and 2007 🙂

    • Bruce says:

      If nothing else give Nick Drake a listen — absolutely sublime songs with a completely original approach. Abba has still got to be better than Jethro Tull 🙂

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