My top 10 albums of all time

Posted on August 21, 2014

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My Top 10 albums of all-time

By rights, I shouldn’t even be putting this together. But for years I’ve threatened to put an all-time album list together. I was just concerned/scared of what people might think of me for a) leaving out this album and b) wondering why the bloody hell that album was included. Because it’s s**t you loser.

I won’t make this too long an intro to the main event at the risk of inflating my own ego (even though it’s my blog), but the purpose of this compilation of my favourite albums ever is to highlight the songs that have the biggest staying power over the years. They also in one way or another represent a certain point in my life, as music like no other medium can do. In my humblest of opinions, every record on this list is timeless. They sound as good now as they did when they were released or when I listened to them for the first time. Granted, some were growers too but same rule applies.

So without further ado, here are your top ten records pop pickers:

10. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)

Has there ever been a time where a credible magazine hasn’t included a Beatles album on their Greatest Of All-Time list? No, I can’t think of a time either and I’m not going to break any molds this time. Abbey Road might not necessarily feature on many people’s favourite countdowns, but the reason I rate it as highly as I do is because it’s one that takes its time on you.

Upon first listen, you’ll think it’s pretty cool. Second time, you’ll probably get the same feeling. But that third time and onwards, you are hooked. I like to think of Abbey Road as the sum total of the best bits of Sgt. Peppers and Revolver – resulting with this.

 

9. Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)

It was a straight choice between this and Off The Wall. It’s as simple as that. While the latter was the best album Motown never put out, Thriller had Michael Jackson and producer Quincy Jones at the very top of their game at the helm of this project. That’s why Thriller gets the nod. Sometimes selections are down to very minute details so it’s a testament to MJ that he should be even considered for more than one album.

You probably don’t me to wax lyrical about how this is the best selling album ever with the lead track having a video with lots of zombies. But it might be easy to forget what other tracks are the dogs bits – like Baby Be Mine, Human Nature, P.Y.T., ah who am I kidding, the whole thing is a pop masterpiece.

 

8. Rival Schools – United By Fate (2001)

This is undoubtedly the curveball album on the list and the one that may get egged at. They say that your schooldays are the best of your life are either liars or former bullies. One thing I can take from my years of torment from my teachers and classmates is United By Fate. I regarded it as my album which saw me right through to my first year at university. To this day I still retain the ticket stub from their warm up show before Reading in 2002 at the Underworld in Camden. They played the entirety of United By Fate, with a couple of b-sides as an added extra and my ears rang for about a week, though I prefer the term ‘my ears were still on a high and the big comedown that followed.’ It lives long in the memory.

As far as the album itself goes, it’s melodic post-hardcore done very, very well. Walter Schriefels before this was involved with Gorilla Biscuits and Quicksand – both excellent at what they do, but Rival Schools was my entry point into Screifels back catalogue of material and based on sentiment, coupled with this being a f**king amazing record, it couldn’t not make my list.

Highlights are Used For Glue, Good Things, My Echo, ah screw it, just listen to it from start to finish and see if you skip a track. Which I very much doubt you will.

 

7. Jeff Buckley – Grace (1994)

Now for the customary tearjerker – Jeff Buckley unlike very, very few people on Earth can tug at my heartstrings and make me feel more emotional than I’d like to admit. I’m a sensitive soul at heart after all. ‘Grace’ is an album to dim the lights in the living room, light candles and sit still to. Amongst other clichés I’m sure you can muster for adult pop music.

It’s also hard to believe this album is now 20 years old. What’s even harder is putting words down to describe it. Because it has a lot of sentiment attached to it, there’s an undeniable beauty to ‘Grace’. Jeff Buckley was an immense talent with a guitar playing ability and falsetto to make angels weep.

The best song on this album is a Leonard Cohen cover – ‘Hallelujah’. Annoyingly, it’s mistaken as the original because of its exposure to a wider and younger audience thanks to the TV show, The OC. Bastards. But that in no way casts a shadow over the rest of the record, as ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’, could be the one song that encapsulates what is to lose a love. ‘Mojo Pin’ and ‘Grace’ are about dreams and our ability to try and interpret them.

Jeff Buckley was a one-off. Guess it must run in the family.

 

6. The Lemonheads – It’s A Shame About Ray (1992)

The album to pick of their extensive back catalogue, this is undoubtedly their masterpiece and a slice of critically acclaimed grunge/pop/indie/Americana. It spawned a ‘fluke’ hit with the re-issued bonus track, ‘Mrs Robinson’. Yes, a cover by Simon & Garfunkel and yes, it was also on Wayne’s World.

That aside, one might know more about the Lemonheads than one might think. For instance, the video for ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’ features Johnny Depp, there’s the aforementioned Wayne’s World feature and Evan Dando became a teen heartthrob almost overnight. Remember when Courtney Love was quoted to have had ‘impure thoughts’ about Dando when he was at Messrs. Cobain residences? With that smooth, silky voice and glistening hair, who wouldn’t?

As for stand-out tracks, every song is a pop melodic gem. Everything from the opening ‘Rockin’ Stroll’ to the closing ‘Frank Mills’ (or ‘Mrs. Robinson’ to those that own the re-issue). On a personal level, ‘Confetti’ (A little note to mention – track two on pretty much every Lemonheads album is a TREAT.),’It’s A Shame About Ray’, ‘Alison’s Starting To Happen’ and ‘Bit Part’ are songs that ought to and no doubt will be sung in another twenty years from now.

 

5. Oasis – Definitely Maybe (1995)

In many ways, this is the album that kicked it all off. As a bright-eyed and animated 10 year-old – my older cousin was a huge Blur fan. Every time I went around to visit during school holidays, there were posters of the London foursome surrounding her room at every which way I looked. Back in the Blur vs Oasis showdown, I pitched firmly in the latter camp, for a number of reasons – but the biggest one of all was that they left many Britpop bands lying in their wake and that they didn’t give a flying f**k for anything. A far cry from today where everyone’s as dull as a grey sock.

And those songs – they were aspirational, with lofty ambitions of living the dream to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. Liam and Noel Gallagher made great copy for interviews. And they made a great opening statement and their message abundantly clear with the opening track; “Tonight, I’m a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star.” A helpful tip for bands: If you’re going to make your intentions known from the off, you could do a lot worse than follow Oasis’s example.

 

4. The Smiths – Meat Is Murder (1985)

My favourite band in the whole wide world, ever. The best British band of the last 30 years and no one’s been as good since. Why are they not no.1 on this list? Because though Meat Is Murder is by rights a masterpiece, it just falls short ever so slightly. For many, it’s probably the least favourite of Smiths LP’s considering their recorded output. Not me though. This is my personal pick of the bunch. Plus the highlights on this album are aplenty.

‘The Headmaster Ritual’ would be the summit for any normal band. Not the Smiths though. ‘How Soon Is Now’, ‘What She Said’, ‘Well I Wonder’ – all right out of the A material draw. ‘Nowhere Fast ‘ perhaps has my favourite lyric of all time, telling of the indifference and ambivalence of Morrissey’s existentialism: ‘And when I’m lying in my bed, I think about life and I think about death. And neither one, particularly appeals to me.’ If you ignore the preachy, bleating cows being put to death and the unholy stench of murder on closer, Meat Is Murder, this is a very, very overlooked album.

Click here for 20 things that you probably didn’t know about Meat Is Murder on Shortlist.

 

3. Pixies – Doolittle (1989)

If there’s one album to soundtrack my university years, it’s probably Doolittle. In spite of the grossly fickle The New Wave Rock Revolution peddled by the NME spearheaded by the Strokes, White Stripes and any other band with a The in their name, Doolittle remains ageless, timeless and near peerless. It was brought to my attention by a close mate within my halls of residence who was into 90’s American indie and wouldn’t stop raving about it. I downloaded it via his intranet files and was instantly hooked.

Every track follows a formulaic procedure: quiet bit, shouty bit, quiet bit and even shoutier bit. Simplistic sure, but it bloody works. The opening chorus to Debaser would have anyone furrow browed: “I AM UN CHIEN ANDELUCIA!” To me, it didn’t and still doesn’t make any sense. But I’m going with it. And if there’s a soul out there that dislikes ‘Here Comes Your Man’, it’s a very dark and miserable place I want no business being anywhere near.

 

2. Television – Marquee Moon (1977)

There are records that are based on a concept. There are some that are a collection of songs put together for the sake of putting an album together. And there are records that are all of the above and then some. Marquee Moon is a stand-alone album in that the song-craft, imagination and talent within the group are beyond what we mere humans can understand.

At times, it’s otherworldly. I’m pretty sure that the reason Gibson guitars were created was because they were made to play especially for this record. Marquee Moon is the pinnacle all artists and bands must aspire to. That level sets the high watermark for all to follow. There is no bigger compliment I could give an album. And how about that 10-minute opus of the track Marquee Moon? Genius in this case is a word that’s understated.

And yet, it’s no.2 on my list. But let’s not focus on ranking here, this is a celebration of the greatest album to emerge from the New York punk scene in the 70’s. Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd, Fred Smith and Billy Ficca – all supreme talents in their own right – put their tracks together in the studio as though they’re all playing a different song to one another in terms of song structure. And it still works somehow. It’s not as abrasive or traditionally punk rock as opposed to what their peers looked or sounded, but that’s exactly what set them apart. They were that good – they didn’t need to be.

 

And at number 1….

 

Find out tomorrow.

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