I was recently nominated by a friend (Waddup, Dezza G) to share my Top Ten Albums on facebook. I don’t normally go in for these kinds of things, but it’s a Top Ten list (great) – of albums (perfect).
So, alright then.
But facebook is not the forum for the kind of lengthy discussion this necessitates, so here they are.
In the spirit of High Fidelity, I've shown my work, pretending to be a music journalist.
Obviously this list would be different if I made it tomorrow, when you’re reading this.
But I’m not, I’m making it today, when I’m writing it.
(I’m writing to you from the past.)
If I was making the list tomorrow, after you read it, it would be different (then I’d be writing at you from the future).
But I’m not, I’m writing it now - which is actually the past. I think it constitutes past perfect tense, for grammar fans.
If I’m way off, they won’t be slow to let me know, yo (you know who you are, let's have it).
Making the definitive Top Ten List Of Albums is basically impossible to achieve, like the ideal of perfection; the point is to strive for it, even knowing it is unattainable.
This...this is the human condition (at its best).
The first draft read like a list of classic albums, the kind Channel 4 used to spend five hours counting down from 100 to 1 with talking heads smiling as they remembered the first time they heard Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes, or whatever. I just thought of them in the same way that everyone making those lists must have: well, I’ve got to have Pet Sounds, it is great. And there can’t be a list like this without something by Stevie…and The Beatles.
So I made a separate list for classic albums that are really ruddy brilliant that I have got but don’t listen to very often.
Or do listen to, but prefer other albums by the same artist.
The list is more like my favourite albums that are widely regarded as classics.
Top Ten "Classic" Albums:
Songs In The Key Of Life, Stevie Wonder
Not even his second-best album. Not even his best album of the 70s. Genius.
Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars, David Bowie
Yeah. I was late to the party on this one, but it’s ace. It must have sounded like it came from the moon in 1974, and then every record company quickly found some glam shit that sounded a bit like it and it was copied, poorly, without the imagination, again and again. That's what happens in pop music.
Pet Sounds, Beach Boys
In 1966, Brian Wilson heard Rubber Soul by The Beatles and thought: “It’s on.” He was competitive, and wanted to make an even better, more innovative album. I prefer it to Rubber Soul, for what it’s worth. God Only Knows is one of the best songs ever recorded; it's absolutely perfect.
OK Computer, Radiohead
I was 16 when this came out. Impact much? Ummm, like, totally.
Didn't hear it all the way through until it had been out for a few months, then listened to it on cassette
(them was the days) on the bus on the way home from college (uh huh) and obviously it blew my away. I thought: this is my generation's Dark Side Of The Moon. And then I thought: I can't be part of this generation, because I keep commenting on it as if I'm outside of it....not better, per se, just aloof. Well, not aloof, just outside of. The implication being, of course, that it's better to be outside the cage looking in. So, yes, better.
What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye
Released at the height of the Vietnam War (or The War Against Hollywood Imperialism, as it’s known
in Vietnam) in 1970, a cry of anguish, a song of praise, a plea for sanity, a call of righteous anger and a
funky mother. This is universally recognised as a classic for good reason.
I sang the title track at karaoke in Brooklyn a few years back. Good times.
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, Public Enemy
If Ziggy Stardust sounded like it came from the moon, imagine what a smack in the face this was for
the mainstream record-buying public in 1989. Everything about the record is calculated to be combative
and challenging, from the name and the cover to the Bomb Squad’s collage-of-samples production style
(again, fairly innovative at the time, much copied since).
The Queen Is Dead, The Smiths
My favourite band, but not their best album, whatever the readers of Q magazine may say.
The Velvet Underground and Nico, The Velvet Underground and Nico
So cool. So very, very cool. Also, I'll Be Your Mirror is poignantly beautiful.
Blue, Joni Mitchell
Classic example of the Sad Music Is Uplifting theory. Gray told me it was written after Graham Nash
proposed to Joni Mitchell and she turned him down. Little Green and River, in particular, are absolute
heart-breakers. It's a devastatingly beautiful record.
The Times They Are A-Changin’, Bob Dylan
An introduction to the heady world of finger-pointing songs - or, at least, ones I could relate to: I'd
heard a few of these, by Scots about the English, or by Irish about the English, sung by my parents and
others. It made it easier to relate to Dylan's songs about civil rights in the USA.
I didn't even realise when I first heard these songs that Medgar Evers and William Zanzinger were real
people. This album is the perfect example of popular music as journalism.
Graceland, Paul Simon
Yes, like absolutely everybody born in the 70s or 80s, I was raised on this album. It was the soundtrack
to an 80s childhood, and, for me, many long car trips to Glasgow. And, yes, I still love it. When You
Can Call Me Al comes on the jukebox, all but the most curmudgeonly contrarian (bless them) sings
Top 10 Albums That Didn't Make The Top 10 List:
Our Endless Numbered Days, Iron & Wine
Ill Communication, Beastie Boys
Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Pavement
The Rhythm Of The Saints, Paul Simon
The Low End Theory, A Tribe Called Quest
Horses In The Sky, A Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band
(At The Bierkeller (I know, I know, the fucking Bierkeller) one November night circa 2005:
"Hello, we are A Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchesra and Tra-La-La Band, from Montreal, Quebec,
Canada. We're feeling kind of goofy, and we hope you are too. This song is called God Bless Our
Dead Marines" About six minutes into that opener, I turn to Gray Rimes:
"What album is this one on?"
"Horses in the sky"
"How much are the albums on the merch table?"
"Can I borrow twelve quid?"
Strangeways, Here We Come, The Smiths
Labcabincalifornia, The Pharcyde
6 Feet Deep, Gravediggaz
For Once In My Life, Stevie Wonder
Top Ten albums That Didn't Even Make The Above Nearly List, For Some Reason:
Resurrection, Common Sense
Meat is Murder, The Smiths
I Got Next, KRS One
You Are The Quarry, Morrissey
So Long And Thanks For All The Shoes, NOFX
36 Chambers, Wu-Tang Clan
The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill
Fear Of A Black Planet, Public Enemy
How To Leave A Room, Z+
Top Ten Favourite Artists Who Didn't Feature In Any Of The Other Lists:
Belle & Sebastian
Yo La Tengo
Red House Painters
So, what we’re left with is the proper Top Ten: the “best” albums ever, only in the sense that they’re my favourite at the moment I make the list.
Anyway, after much fanfare, here we are.
Clayton Blizzard's Top Ten Albums:
In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Neutral Milk Hotel
Black On Both Sides, Mos Def
Hatful Of Hollow, The Smiths
Sounds Of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel
Things Fall Apart, The Roots
I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, Bright Eyes
The Archandroid, Janelle Monae
Elephant Eyelash, Why?
OK Computer, Radiohead
The Flying Club Cup, Beirut