Sunday, 24 April 2016

Top Fifty Albums - Final List and Observations

I Haven't Included Chicago Transit Authority's First and That is a Mistake

I started a ‘Top Fifty’ albums category on this site some years ago, but have left it behind, so to speak, of late. However, I returned to compile a top fifty albums for another venue – thinking I would search here and just include the number I had got to – only to find I had actually achieved my fifty [with some tweaking….].

That tweaking consists of, [1] including John Martyn’s six solo albums from and including Bless the Weather [not entirely reviewed yet, so a next task], and [2] splitting Chris Smither's first two albums into each, having initially cheated and included that twofer as a one. Oh the shenanigans.

So I am posting this Top Fifty Albums list now with a few comments. The first is to say that this list isn’t in a chronological order of preference – I really don’t have the stomach to attempt that, and it wouldn’t be that meaningful. What I do know, however, is that John Martyn’s Bless the Weather would always be first. And is.

The second is a quick extension on the gist of what I was writing about in my previous post about Prince’s death and my liking for his music. I made the distinction – quite an obvious one – that ‘favourites’ in music [and other things, I presume] cannot just be based on the music: it cannot be divorced from the thoughts, feelings, empathy, emotions and so on attached to these, and this reality comes to mind because the selection consists almost entirely of albums with which I ‘grew up’ – so I mean that literally but also in other respects, perhaps in terms of musical taste-shifts, though the list wouldn’t suggest there was much of that.

Most of the favourite albums appear around the late 60s and early 70s period, an influential one in my life as a teenager and young adult. John Martyn being a favourite individual artist, his last in this list was produced in 1980, so there are exceptions. Other exceptions are clear to see, for example, Gillian Welch’s Revival because she has become such another individual and consistent favourite, and Ron Sexsmith’s eponymous album because it is outstanding.

But two others are perhaps more interesting in how they cross over in terms of reasons for being favourites. Pearl Jam’s Ten, 1991, is special because it is brilliant, but because I was in the States visiting family when I first heard, yet also that particular grunge sound was quite reminiscent of the rock I had ‘grown up’ with and it hit that nostalgic nerve with a sense of the comparable new. But mostly because it is first-to-last track brilliant! The second is Brad’s Shame, 1993, shared with me by a good friend and entirely new at the time, but also because it had at this time in the early 90s a re-emergence – like PJ – of  that ‘familiar’ rock sound, though it has its own distinctions that you can read about in my review.

All of this and other apt detail will be in each individual album review. Just a few final observations, for those interested. I could have included many more James Taylor, America and Eagles albums in the Top Fifty because they produced similar quality, if not better, to the ones I included with subsequent work. Affinity only produced that one album [though subsequent recordings and compilations have appeared]. NRBQ never produced another album like the eponymous one I have included, though continuing as a great band. Juicy Lucy’s inclusion is by and large for one song – read the review.

So, here it is, for a sense of completion as much as anything else, and as ever, I have written this to explore and organise my own thoughts on the process.

I may go for another 50 Newer Album Favourites, though I doubt this: perhaps 25. Maybe just top fifty songs. Or stop being anal. Bless the Weather would be the top song. Jason Isbell’s Elephant would be second. I think. And I am thinking.....

John Martyn - Bless the Weather, 1971
Richie Havens - Alarm Clock, 1971
Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland, 1968
Jimi Hendrix - Axis Bold as Love, 1967
James Taylor - Sweet Baby James, 1970
Buddy Rich – Swingin’ New Big Band
Bert Jansch – The Bert Jansch Sampler
Fill Your Head With Rock – CBS Compilation
The Byrds –Ballad of Easy Rider
John Martyn - One World
Donovan - A Gift From A Flower To A Garden, 1968
Eagles, Desperado - 1973
John Martyn - Inside Out, 1973
Quintessence - Quintessence, 1970
John Coltrane - On West 42nd Street, [1957]
The Nice - Ars Longa Vita Brevis, 1968
Brad – Shame, 1993
The Fugs - it crawled into my hand, honest [1968]
America - America [1971]
Brewer and Shipley – Shake off the Demon, 1972
Manfred Mann Chapter III - Same [1969]
Affinity – Affinity
Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Teddy Thompson – Separate Ways
Chris Smither – I’m a Stranger
Chris Smither – Don’t It Drag On
Joni Mitchell -  Blue
Gillian Welch - Revival
Ron Sexsmith - Ron Sexsmith
Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced
Hoyt Axton – My Griffin is Gone
Juicy Lucy – Lie Back and Enjoy It
Tir na Nog – A Tear and a Smile
The Isley Brothers - Harvest For The World
Rickie Lee Jones, 1978
John Martyn - Solid Air
The Greatest Show on Earth - Horizons
Al Green - Greatest Hits,
John Sebastian - The Four Of Us
NRBQ - NRBQ [1969]
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Blood, Sweat and Tears – Same
Curved Air – Air Conditioning
Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan – Brief Replies
Free – Ton of Sobs
Steve Tilston – Songs From the Dress Rehearsal
The Doors – Waiting for the Sun
Pearl Jam – Ten
John Martyn – Sunday’s Child
John Martyn – Grace and Danger

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