1 Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys
In response to the American issue of 'Rubber Soul', Brian proclaimed to anyone that was willing to listen that his band The Beach Boys were going to make an album like that, an album 'almost of twelve folk songs'. So, 'Pet Sounds' emerges with thirteen songs, 'Sloop John B' only included at the record companies behest. It's quite clear to see what Brian's intentions were, but The Beach Boys were never going to copy The Beatles exactly - they couldn't quite do it, for a start. Brian instead took side two of 'The Beach Boys Today' album as his template for an entire album of lush, orchestral pop. Brian's falsetto was put to good use and Carl, who had previously only sung lead on one Beach Boys song, got to be the one to sing 'God Only Knows'. Routinely lauded in best album polls, and with good reason - 'Pet Sounds' was the breakthrough for the group in the UK and Europe.
2 Revolver - The Beatles
A strange one this as The Beatles were knocked into number two spot by The Beach Boys in the end of year polls; some commentators were even speculating whether The Beatles, were in fact, 'over'. You know, 'Please Please Me' got better reviews than 'Revolver' did upon initial release. Over the decades of course, 'Revolver' has emerged to rival 'Sgt Peppers' as the fans first choice of Beatles album. It's certainly sonically adventurous with backwards taping, overdubbing - and in 'Tomorrow Never Knows', a template for dance acts in the 90s. The Beatles did it all with George Martin, two guitars, one bass and one Ringo. George Harrison may have remarked that he didn't feel 'Revolver' was any step-up from 'Rubber Soul'. I would have to disagree with George there - the production here is state of the art, whilst still keeping The Beatles guitar rock origins firmly intact.
3 Trout Mask Replica - Captain Beefheart
Moonlight on Vermont affected everybody Even Mrs. Wooten well as Little Nitty. Even lifebuoy floatin' with his lil' pistol showin' 'n his lil' pistol totin'. Well that goes t' show you what uh moon can do. No more bridge from Tuesday t' Friday, everybody's gone high society. Hope lost his head 'n got off on alligators, somebodies leavin' peanuts on the curbins for uh white elephant escaped from the zoo with love - goes t' show you what uh moon can do. Moonlight on Vermont. Well it did it for Lifebuoy and it did it t' you and it did it t' zoo and it can do it for me and it can do it for you - Moonlight on Vermont. Gimme dat ole time religion, gimme dat ole time religion - don't gimme no affliction, dat ole time religion is good enough for me, uh, it's good enough for you. Well come out t' show dem, come out t' show dem - gimme dat ole time religion, it's good enough for me. Without yer new affliction, don't need yer new restrictions, gimme dat ole time religion - It's good enough for me.
4 Five Leaves Left - Nick Drake
A case can be made for each of his three albums, yet it's 'Five Leaves Left' I keep coming back to. For a debut, it's incredibly accomplished and smooth, yet the engineers have allowed Nick's guitar sound to come across naturally and organically. Even a tune such as 'Way To Blue' - the sound remains warm, intimate and friendly - even when played soley by a string section. 'Fruit Tree' proved prescient considering Nick never found wider acceptance until after his passing. 'River Man' which follows the sublime 'Time Has Told Me' is perhaps Nick's finest composition, guitar hypnotic, the strings beautific and the lyrics mysterious. Recently discussed on 'The Classic Albums Podcast', 'Five Leaves Left' will certainly be a delicious discovery for all who have yet to 'find Nick Drake'.
5 Notorious Byrd Brothers - The Byrds
The near-classic line-up of Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke entered the studio with Gary Usher to work on the fifth Byrds LP. Inter-band tensions resulted in Crosby and Clarke not lasting the distance. The remaining duo of Hillman and McGuinn finished their own songs, finished David Crosby's songs and added in a lush, heavenly cover version of 'Goin' Back' by the Goffin/King writing team. Laced with psychedelic production effects that manage to enhance rather than detract, 'Notorious Byrd Brothers' remains a masterpiece of production and arranging to this day. The band were severely fragmenting, yet 'Notorious Byrd Brothers' edges out the far more famous 'Younger Than Yesterday', although ask David Crosby and he'd be very unlikely to agree.
6 Blonde On Blonde - Bob Dylan
It's very rare, nay impossible, for song lyrics to appear as great when written on the page as they do when sung. 'Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands' is just one example of a Dylan 'Blonde On Blonde' composition whereby the lyrics function equally as well as written poetry as they do when sung out loud. A double album, Blonde on Blonde works equally as well split into four distinct parts as it does listened to as a whole. If 'Rainy Day Woman' kept up Dylan's controversy quotent, songs such as 'Visions Of Johanna', 'Just Like A Women' and the aforementioned 'Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands' proved, as if proof were need, that Dylan could sound loving, sympathetic, romantic and emotional. Emotional, yet his voice is controlled. Indeed, the much maligned Dylan singing voice is arguably at its greatest throughout 'Blonde On Blonde's' fourteen tunes. Overall, this is quite simply put, a timeless and unforgettable LP.
7 The White Album - The Beatles
You had to show The Beatles were human, didn't you? The long-running debate whether 'The White Album' would have been better as a single album continues to this day. I like the whole shebang as it is, tracks like 'Revolution No 9', to use an blindingly obvious example, prove that The Beatles were human, after all. Indeed, all sorts of undercurrents of emotions permeate the grooves of 'The White Album' and that's ignoring the songs themselves, and what songs - McCartney pens a couple of his finest rockers, Lennon gets tired and spins off a gorgeous song or three in the process. George pens a stinker ( 'Piggies' ) and a gem ( 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' ) and by the time Ringo gets to grips with the deliberately sentimental 'Goodnight' you definitely feel as if you've been on a journey. Few other bands, if any, could have done something quite like this - it's both exhausting and brilliant and, lest we forget, very human.
8 Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan
How come this sounds so much better as a 'rock' album than anything The Beatles or The Stones had done? Is it because Dylan was much closer to the roots and traditions that had influenced the development of this music? Even Dylan's own half-electric 'Bringing It All Back Home' sounds positively anemic in comparison. Rich and powerful tunes such as 'Like A Rolling Stone', 'Ballad Of A Thin Man' and the title track are all here. Dylan subsequently wrote some more songs ( 'Blonde On Blonde' material ) went on tour, got booed on tour and for a moment, appeared to be the most important artistic figure on the entire planet. Dylan would hold court whilst members of The Beatles and The Stones attended. Such a maelstrom may never occur again, yet we can remember it by listening - the tensions and fires are certainly all present and correct. A final point to remember? "The geometry of innocent flesh on the bone / Causes Galileo's math book to get thrown / At Delilah who sits worthlessly alone / But the tears on her cheeks are from laughter." Indeed.
9 Piper At The Gates Of Dawn - Pink Floyd
We know the story of Syd, don't we? A painter, an artistic spirit, a dreamer and an eccentric. His lyrical flights of imagination are given free reign on 'Piper At The Gates Of Dawn', tempered by the efforts of Rick Wright, Roger Waters and Nick Mason. An album that had a massive and profund effect on bands in the UK circa 1967, truly ushering in a new, UK brand of psychedelia. From the nursery rhyme of 'Bike' through to the epic jam of 'Intersteller Overdrive' right back to 'Astronomy Domine' - a tune Pink Floyd continued to play live throughout their long career. It may well have taken Pink Floyd until 1973 to really better 'Piper', yet fans of Syd will argue whether they ever, in fact, did better 'Piper'. Much like William Hartnell laid down many of the foundations and 'rules' of TV SCI/FI show, Doctor Who - Syd laid down the foundations of Pink Floyd, the same foundations they never truly forgot that saw the Floyd go onto becoming one of the biggest selling groups of all time. This debut is sheer class, by no means an inferior effort, and there's no need to approach it with caution.
10 Scott 4 - Scott Walker
This Scott Walker masterpiece was the very first Scott Walker album I purchased - on cassette, no less, sometime in the early 1990's. I bought it because it was cheap and the the cover intrigued me, rather than any deep-felt interest in Scott at the time. Oh my god, how I adored this album the first year I listened to it - like music from not just a different decade, but an entirely different musical world! I don't know why now, but 'Angels Of Ashes' always made my grin - the humming parts he does, coupled with those corny yet marvellously arranged strings. Not just 'Angels of Ashes' of course, I liked the fact the album was a tidy thirty-four minutes or so long, easily digestible in a single sitting. The 90 seconds of 'On Your Own Again' are still among my favourite 90 seconds in music, Scott's vocals are enough to make a man cry. He had moved away from the anthemns of 'The Walker Brothers' towards entirely his own, often lyrically cryptic, compositions. The music was hardly avant-garde however and after four hit albums, it was something of a surprise when Scott 4 disappeared without trace and effectively sent Scott into early 70s cabaret hell, before he decided to disappear altogether, baring intermittent re-appearences since.
11 Astral Weeks - Van Morrison
In another place sits 'Astral Weeks'. A voice rises through the blues, a heart seeping through - "beside you, beside you" - like a mantra. It stays with you, rain falls right on time. There's such devotion, emptiness, yet utter beauty expertly expressed. Little details, "a scrapbook stuck with glue" - distinctive, exotic guitar. Flute, superb jazzy bass lines - so very much going on, quietly, perfectly complimenting the vocal performance. Van Morrison sings so much from the heart that sometimes it's too much. Devotion to music, devotion to feeling and soul. 'Astral Weeks' is one of those albums, timeless of course - disappointing if you walk straight into it as if blindly walking drunkenly into a wall, but that's only natural. 'Astral Weeks' is something to be unravelled, to tug at your heart and invite you to discover your soul - and the soul and deepness of feeling of others.
12 Friends - The Beach Boys
Released in 1968, 'Friends' was the Beach Boys then worst selling album and I believe also Brian Wilson’s favourite Beach Boys album. Short songs maybe, and simple tracks even - yet there is such feeling here! 'Friends' hits the spot every time, whatever and every mood you may be experiencing. Many of the songs on 'Friends' were written by the group in collaboration with Brian, both music and lyrics. Brian's 'Wake The World' I can listen to ten times in a row and still it remains fun and interesting. Dennis gets his writing chops going, 'Be Still' being a lovely quiet meditation with 'Little Bird' working as a definite highlight - so good, it could sit on any Beach Boys record and not seem out of place. This 'Friends' album is a modest thing of splendour, then. For a very humble release, this really does have a certain melodic magic surrounding it.
13 The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground
The album that invented 'indie' music, they say. Well, the group were actually signed to a major label thanks to the involvement of Andy Warhol. Lou and John were stuck with Nico, whom Andy wanted involved. Nico's vocals actually hugely help, providing both variety and a certain distinctiveness. Lou Reed writes and sings about drugs and the low-high-life. John Cale gets to sing the beautiful 'Sunday Morning', a song about paranoia. Who ever even knew John Cale could sing so well? Everything about 'The Velvet Underground & Nico' is iconic, right from the banana sleeve cover to the contents within. It's easy these days to underestimate how much of a shock this music will have seemed to many 'back in the day'. It still resonates with bloody-mindedness and remains an essential component for any kind of comprehensive music collection.
14 Liege And Lief - Fairport Convention
Dave Swarbrick became a full-time Fairport member and although this line-up only lasted the one LP, it can be seen as the classic Fairport line-up. 'Liege And Lief', as well as being a hugely influential album, is also a very rounded listening experience - the running order and the seamless nature of it all persuasive. Sandy Denny on vocals, it can be argued, was at her peak here and the chemistry she enjoyed musically with Richard Thompson is plain for all to hear. A smattering of originals line-up alongside the electrified trad-folk songs and they all sound as if they have come from the same well, so to speak. We've ballads, we've rock, we've folk-rock and in 'Matty Groves', we've possibly the finest eight minutes Fairport ever comitted to tape.
15 We're Only In It For The Money - Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa prods and pokes fun at any number of psychedelic iconography and changes his sound in the process. The garage-rock, rhythm and blues, doo-wop and avant-garde roots Zappa displayed on 'Absolutely Free' and 'Freak Out' have been replaced by a mixture of pop, rock, jazz and avant-garde. Always with the avant-garde! This isn't an album you'll easily get into, yet that old cliche of 'repeated plays reaps rewards' is especially true in the case of 'We're Only In It For The Money'. The music is absolutely excellent, the arrangements are perceptive and the lyrics humorous - there's a lot here ultimately to focus on. It's good, the album has a lot of depth for an album full of 'novelty' lyrics and 'dumb' music. Even after all these years, it's still possible to misunderstand Zappa. I'll tell you what, in tribute to the great man - grow a moustache, smoke a cigar and raise a glass.
16 Beach Boys Today - The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys never get the acclaim afforded to The Beatles or The Stones, do they?. There are of course reasons for this, decades of Mike Love touring around his band of session muscians - singing only the fun in the sun and surf songs has given many the impression that's all The Beach Boys have to offer. Well, you might get 'Pet Sounds', but beyond that? You can go forwards, to 'Smile', 'Sunflower' or 'Holland' - but how many of you go backwards? 'Today' was released in 1965 and can be seen to be The Beach Boys 'Rubber Soul'. Ignoring the skit that closes the album, we've a first half dedicated to upbeat tunes displaying marvellous energy and arrangements then a second half which operates on a par with much of 'Pet Sounds', three or four sumptious ballads including this writers favourite, 'Kiss Me Baby'. Worth picking this album up either on vinyl or the most recent CD Reissues to really be able to appreciate the music Brian would saturate the tape with. The likes of 'Please Let Me Wonder' and 'Kiss Me Baby' have layers of emotional resonance, not a single note wasted.
17 Mr Tambourine Man - The Byrds
What happens then when you take a Dylan song, a smattering of twelve-string guitar borrowed off The Beatles, and the intro to The Beach Boys 'Don't Worry Baby'? Well, only one of the greatest singles ever released, that's all! The album, terrible artwork aside, isn't any kind of cheaply put together early sixties hit plus filler, neither. The Byrds rework a couple more Dylan tunes, cover an old welsh mining song in spectacularly beautiful fashion and also, thanks to Gene Clark, get in a few quality originals. Gene was almost like a one man Beatles and McGuinn clearly fancied himself as something of a Dylan man, but for the lead title track, McGuinn astutely placed his vocal somewhere between Lennon, Dylan and Brian Wilson. He turned it into something spiritual. Elsewhere, Gene Clark's 'I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better' has stood the test of time equally as well. The sound of the album is terribly evocative, what with the ringing rickenbacker guitar married to the glorious three part vocal harmonies. What else? Well, any Byrds 'Hits' compilation inevitably excerpts around a good half of this album, 'nuff said.
18 The Who Sell Out - The Who
'The Who Sell Out' is unique in their fantastic catalogue of albums. The Who may primarily be seen as a classic rock type act, but back in the mid to late Sixties, they made some terrific pop singles. 'The Who Sell Out' was Pete Townshend trying to demonstrate that yeah, he was as good as a Brian Wilson or a Paul McCartney. Well, why not? So, this is a concept album of sorts, structured to sound like a pirate radio show. This means we've songs of differing styles, yet the powerhouse Who rhythm section still provide that link throughout that means this isn't a disparate joining of random elements. 'I Can See For Miles' was thought to be Pete's crowning glory, yet it's relative chart failure clearly hurt. It's a great, booming monster of a song ten times louder than whatever else was hitting the hit parade at that time. Overshadowed frequently by 'Tommy', 'Quadrophenia' and of course by 'Who's Next' - 'Who Sell Out' is actually a brilliantly written selection of songs that are fun to listen to. Is that enough? Of course it is, more than enough, i'd say.
19 The Songs Of Leonard Cohen - Leonard Cohen
How good was I in September 2003 picking up both 'Safe As Milk' by Captain Beefheart and 'Songs Of Leonard Cohen'? Kept me going for months, did those albums. I'd play them back to back and although they absolutely are nothing like each other, it's clear that both artists were uncompromising. It's more obvious with Beefheart, with Cohen's carefully crafted lyrics, dour singing voice and simple guitar/vocals performances somehow lend this album a kind of artistic purity. It's not Donovan, you know? Several of Cohen's most famous compositions are present, from 'So Long Marianne' through to the beautiful opener, 'Suzanne', which REM would later re-work on their eccentric 'Up' album. Leonard Cohen as a writer of tunes? 'Suzanne' is a tune, his vocal provides the tune that's inherent in his lyrics. Again, like Dylan, Cohen can write lyrics that work equally as well as poetry on the page. 'The Songs Of Leonard Cohen' made waves in the UK and Europe and is something like a heart-warming fire for the soul. Yes, indeed.
20 Something Else - The Kinks
It's my firm belief, although certainly not everybodies, that The Kinks circa 'Waterloo Sunset' were at their absolute peak. 'Something Else' is the album from the same time-period. It contains 'Waterloo Sunset' but there are several other songs that can live alongside it. 'David Watts', later covered by The Jam, explodes out of the speakers to use cliched reviewer speak. Dave Davies pens 'Death Of A Clown', a UK number two hit single. Ray responds with the stunning 'Autumn Alamanac', a bonus track on all recent CD-Reissues of 'Something Else'. Dave is in fine form generally, I adore 'Funny Face', a seemingly simple, modest kind of song yet the self-production, the confident playing - supremely melodic bass lines, by the way - all get this and the other songs here under your skin. Besides, any album that can confidently accomodate 'Waterloo Sunset' without it overshadowing everything else has to be worth your investigation, doesn't it?
21 White Light/White Heat - Velvet Underground
I can't type exactly the words I want to for this one. It won't get past the e-mail filters where i'm currently typing, let's put it that way. So, instead, let's focus less on specifics and more on generalisations. 'White Light/White Heat' has a very muddy, dirty sound. Sounds like it was recorded in a cave using an old, portable tape recorder. 'Sister Ray' gave birth, quite possibly, to Jesus And Mary Chain. Distortion wasn't invented by Velvet Underground, but they used it here in such an uncompromising way. The black cover artwork is perfect for the dark contents within, the most bizarre of which is John Cale's spoken vocals telling the tale of how a guy named Waldo mailed himself to his girlfriend as a surprise, but in order for her to get into the packaging, ends up being sliced to death. Lovely! Not everyone's cup of tea this album, it's fair to say. Yet, listening to this, it's not so much of a jump anymore to Lou's solo monstrosity 'Metal Machine Music'. 'White Light/White Heat' does have actual songs though, in case you were wondering. Play all seventeen minutes of 'Sister Ray' at top volume and annoy your spouse, your neighbours and, possibly, yourself. It's uncompromising with a captial 'un'.
22 The Doors - The Doors
They called themselves The Doors, as in ‘the doors of perception’ and for this debut LP only, keyboard player Ray Manzareks left hand became the groups bass player. His Fender Rhodes wasn't too reliable in recording studios, so they switched for later LPs towards using session bass players. For me, the distorted bass sound that's present here thanks to Ray's primitive Fender gives The Doors debut LP a certain edge. It certainly lends 'The Doors' a different sound to their other LP efforts. The long extended soloing in the middle of the LP version of mega-hit ‘Light My Fire’ takes its inspiration directly from Jazz, its hallucinogenic. A similar, although much shorter break, was featured on opening song ‘Break On Through’. Two and a half minutes of perfection. Everything The Doors ever were or would be is right here. An album that bears up well to repeated listening. A classic debut that even manages to have classic artwork on its front sleeve. The way Jim Morrison's face is shown coming out at you is striking - everything combines together to provide a wonderfully complete and superb album.
23 Face To Face - The Kinks
'Sunny Afternoon' is the second to last song here, placed on the album ( no doubt at the record company's request ) seemingly as an afterthought. The good thing is it doesn't overshadow everything else. In much the same ball-park are songs such as 'Dandy', 'Too Much On My Mind' and the lovely droning 'Fancy'. Something else ( ha! ) to bear in mind when listening to 'Face To Face' is the then ban of The Kinks from touring the United States. A now legendary incident resulted in The Kinks being unable to directly promote their material in the US. It may just be coincidence that The Kinks turned towards their 'englishness' for 'Face To Face' and the string of albums that followed. love the keyboard/piano sound that opens 'Session Man'. Adore the bass sound and story-telling lyrics of 'Rosy Won't You Please Come Home', a Ray Davies kitchen-sink drama of sorts. The bursting rain of 'Rainy Day In June' that musically feels as if a torrential downpour really is blowing across you. The original 14 track 'Face To Face' album was the first, but happily not the last time The Kinks were artistically matching the finest long-playing efforts the greatest artists of the sixties produced.
24 Our Mother The Mountain - Townes Van Zandt
The second track, the stunning melancholy of 'Kathleen', features thick ominous strings which combine with Townes voice and guitar to wonderful effect. Townes was a guy that really could write, mixing folk, country and Hank Williams. His songs are stunning things, for example the delicate and sweet 'Like A Summer Thursday' sees Townes, guitar and harmonica and nothing else other than a gentle sway and a painting of a beautiful lady in words. Poetry! We've got three 'mountain' songs here, something that comes up a lot in the work of 'Townes Van Zandt. Well, mountains are the nearest we can get to heaven on earth. Through history, mountains have represented eternity, firmness and stillness. The constancy and stillness of the mountains provide comfort in an uncertain world and that's 'My Proud Mountains'. There's little lightness on the surface of the album and many of the songs concern heartbreak and loss. To gain the complete picture however you need to hear the full album. It weaves in and out of the same themes and whilst it won't be to everybodies taste, in an ideal world it should be, just for the sheer artistry on display. Country singer Steve Earle, for example, once proclaimed Townes an even better writer than Bob Dylan and that he'd stand on Dylan's coffee-table and tell him so. Mr Dylan, consider yourself told!
25 Sgt Pepper - The Beatles
This albums reputation goes before it of course. Even though this isn't a concept album as such, it remains the very first concept album in popular public consciousness. Anything described by a whole load of people as the greatest album ever made is going to have a tough time winning over certain sceptics. It actually took me a good while to realise what this album has to offer the listener. Trying to listen to the album for what its not instead of what it actually is may leave you slightly disappointed, which would be a shame. We have a collection of good songs here, pretty much all of them - even Georges 'Within You Without You' is a good song. Yes, even that! Has anybody noticed the melody in that thing? It flows into 'When I'm Sixty Four' of course and that transition is a thing of pure genius. No other word for it. A complete contrast - a stupidly happy bass line, an English music hall feel and a little part that threatens to go outwards and outwards but just holds back. 'Fixing A Hole' benefits from McCartney's melodic bass lines, and the harmonies. The harmonies! Perfectly and subtly placed but always in exactly the right places. 'She's Leaving Home' is beautiful, 'Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite' has a great Lennon vocal and 'A Day In The Life' amongst other things boasts a great Lennon vocal. Yeah, it sounds like the end of the world with the noise and the strings and everything else. The kitchen sink. It makes me smile though, and so does 'Sgt Peppers' as a whole.
26 Randy Newman - Randy Newman
This is a special album. It has it's flaws - a relative lack of variety and a relative lack of differing sounds. The music in it's sparseness, in it's Piano and strings form, may leave some yearning for something a little more full instrumentally. But, there is just something about this album, this one album here, this twenty eight minutes, five seconds of music. It almost leaves you feeling as if you've experienced an important part of life and living, for the first ever time. This Randy Newman debut, titled 'Randy Newman Creates Something New Under The Sun', sold an astonishing 4,700 copies upon release. This perilously low figure prompted his label to re-package the debut under the easier title of 'Randy Newman' and promote it with full page ad's in the press under the heading, "Once You Get Used To It, His Voice Is Really Something!" Oh, let's talk about that voice, whilst we're here. I love singers who when they were in their twenties, early thirties - sounded like they were sixty. It's a lazy sounding voice, a voice that seemingly shouldn't be having any business singing a song at all, but it's not the sound of his voice that actually impresses in any case, it's what Randy does with it and the songs he writes. He can sound beautiful, so very affecting. Let's just say his voice is an acquired taste, but when you have acquired it, you won't want to let go of it too easy. He's made numerous LP's, but the simple 'Randy Newman' still holds onto a special place in my heart.
27 Out To Lunch - Eric Dolphy
A big favourite of Frank Zappa, was 'Out To Lunch'. Eric Dolphy was moving forwards, experimenting, acheiving. This is challenging, free form and experimental, sometimes dissonant but always melodic and rewarding Jazz music. It was sadly to be his final studio album before his life was tragically cut short. Richard Davis plays bass on the LP, and I don't know what else he did after this record, but he deserves a medal for his contributions here. I've also been told it was the same Richard Davis that led the musicians that played on Van Morrison's 'Astral Weeks', so we have a link there to another album feature in this list. This music is melodic with percussive invention and strange senses of time. The thing is, everything sounds strange, everything here sounds spooky, and different, and bizarre. Yet, after a while, everything seems perfectly natural - as if this is the only way Jazz could possibly ever be played - with imagination, daring and flair.
28 I Hear A New World - Joe Meek
Joe's obsession with all things outer-space lended the album its concept, even if his backing band at the time weren't particularly fond of being christened 'the blue men' and being asked to go on stage wearing costumes and asked to have their faces, etc - painted entirely blue! Needless to say, 'Rod Freeman and The Blue Men', as Joe had indeed christened his band for this release, weren't too happy! Anyway, to get the outer space sounds of the moon and beyond that Joe desired, he used a mixture of Hawaiian guitar, bass, drums, a deliberately out of tune piano. He used combs, running water, treated electronics and a wide variety of other percussive and pioneering mixing effects. The sounds produced are unlike sounds you will hear anywhere else. Utterly distinctive and original sounds are all over this LP. 'Love Dance Of The Saroos' is a particular favourite of mine, the melody utterly delectable. The way the sound is painted around the melody, the way the echo and percussion has been used. It's hard to believe, but it's true that 'Love Dance Of The Saroos' sounds like the kind of material Brian Wilson was producing in 1967 and 1968. Instrumentals that forgoe any kind of basic rock form in favour of reaching truly for the heavens and reaching truly for sounds and places that can only be imagined. So, ambitious? Well, yes. Ambitious, at other times astonishing, at other times scary and other times beautiful and beautifully funny. That's Joe Meeks 'I Hear A New World', recorded in 1960, of all times and now hugely influential upon many electronica artists.
29 Unhalfbricking - Fairport Convention
Three Dylan covers, a brace of impossibly beautiful Sandy Denny songs and much else besides. How about 'A Sailor's Life', which featured the then guesting fiddle maestro Dave Swarbrick? 'A Sailor's Life' is on another planet, a dreamy, stunning jam. Starts so softly and Sandy appears nervous and tentative, and reportedly was when she sang the vocal. The band ebb and tide behind her, perfectly evoking the movements of a sea as the sailor loves and loses. Richard Thompson aides Sandy everwhere she touches this LP with his often stunning, always sympathetic and empathic guitar playing. Sandy pens stunning lyrics for the oblique 'Autopsy' and writes one of the great modern folk tunes in 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes', a song she actually wrote when she was a mere 19, yet this is a song with a rare knowing and it's also a song that anybody who falls for Sandy and Fairport will never, ever forget. You know, one of those very special moments in popular music, although of course, Fairport were always more influential than popular. This was drummer Martin Lamble's last record with the band, incidentally. Fairport's van crashed on the M1 motorway, Martin Lamble was killed along with Richard Thompson's then girlfriend. 'Unhalfbricking' was pieced together by producer Joe Boyd, Sandy's mum and dad are the cover stars. It broke Fairport through in the UK to the point where there was genuine anticipation from those in the know for the follow-up, which just happened to be the mighty 'Liege and Lief'.
30 Village Green Preservation Society - The Kinks
As The Beatles released 'The White Album', as The Rolling Stones were redefining themselves and coming back more powerful than ever. As blues-rock bands were formed up and down the country. The Kinks were releasing an album about village-greens. An album that takes another Kinks view of England, that of the English countryside. 'Village Green Preservation Society' was as far away from almost everything else that was happening in popular music at the time, that its no small wonder really it didn't sell. It's a shame, as greater exposure for this work would have reversed the common perception of The Kinks as a singles act. Following on from 'Face To Face' and 'Something Else', this album proves that The Kinks were putting together a string of albums as strong as anybody. The genesis for this album went back as far as 1966, with the recording of a song titled 'Village Green'. Two years later, Ray's concept is fully fledged, 'Village Green' is joined by the title song and 13 other pieces of escapism and story-telling. It's a beautiful work, a gentle album that infuses a picturesque countryside sunday picnic 'thing' with doses of charm and humour. Everything combines well to provide a lasting timeless appeal. No obvious stand-outs, no Kinks hit singles are present, yet the whole is hugely impressive.