Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Not An Advertisement, Though That's An Opinion...

I do look forward to my monthly Uncut magazine. When it arrives by post, I diligently work through it from the front, quickly checking the regular First Cuts and features. But what I'm rushing to in the first instance is the Reviews section, not surprisingly. I enjoy others' reviews, especially the bulk of the necessarily concise ones, and like discovering what's new, and agreeing or disagreeing with opinions of those I already know. One of the longer reviews in this month's edition is about Amy Winehouse's posthumous release Lioness: Hidden Treasures by Garry Mulholland. It is a fond and appreciative review, sensitive to the situation - as one would expect - and convincing in its honest appraisal.

Reviews are always first and foremost about opinion, as well as knowledge and understanding. It's about preference. So I also enjoy appraisals that come at the end of the year, for example The 50 Best Albums feature. Differences of opinion are no more than that, but it's fun to get into those differences. Uncut chose PJ Harvey's Let England Shake as their number 1. I wouldn't place it very high at all, not liking its essentially dissonant sound, but respect fully its intelligent and timely reflections on war. I know many commentators would give considerable weight to the integrity of that intellectual creativity. Quite right, but it just didn't work for me.

Uncut's number 2, Gillian Welch's The Harrow & The Harvest, would be my number 1 without any problems. Josh T Pearson's Last of the Country Gentlemen is at their number 5 and that sounds fine. Their 17 for Feist's Metals is too low for me, and their 15 for Wilco's The Whole Love too high. Ry Cooder's Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down at their 20 is also, for me, harsh, and here's an album that mixes caustic reflections on political and financial ineptitude with musical excellence - a marriage of content and creativity I don't hear in the Harvey. Uncut top 20s that seem sensible are Tom Waits' Bad As Me, Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues, Laura Marling's A Creature I Don't Know and Bon Iver's Bon Iver. Also sensible at 10 and 4 respectively are The War on Drugs' Slave Ambient and White Denim's D.

Where's Ryan Adam's Ashes and Fire, Glenn Campbell's Ghost on the Canvas, Jeff Bridges' Jeff Bridges and Shelby Lynne's Revelation Road? And I could go on but it would take us further up the long and winding road of opinion and difference. You can travel there on your own, and I hope you do.

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