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OT: My Top 10 Albums Of All Time (Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me) April 21, 2008

Posted by Richard Foote in Music.

Thought I might post something a little different from the usual technical stuff and share my favourite Top 10 albums of all time. My rules are basically an artist can only have the one album and it can’t include any compilations or greatest hits albums. Interestingly, 5 of the 10 can be considered “concept” albums of sorts, so I’m obviously a sucker for a good theme. So here goes …

10. A Rush Of Blood To The Head – Coldplay 2002

I love Coldplay and all three of their albums. They write really good songs which don’t need to be over produced to bring out their magic. They’re also a really good “band” with each member bringing a special ingredient to their music. This is one of those albums where once you’ve heard a track, you’re a little torn as you want to hear the track again but you also want to hear the next track as well. Always a sign of a good album. I prefer this album of the 3 as it just seems to have a bit more range. From the frantic pace of Politik to the mellowness of Green Eyes, it just has catchy songs one after the other. Britpop gets no better than In My Place, Clocks and The Scientist. The album as a whole has a dreamy, spacey quality that just sucks you in. Highlight: Clocks

9. 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 – Midnight Oil 1983

Australia has produced some really great, gutsy bands but none better than the Oils. Although both of their followup albums, “Red Sails In The Sunset” and “Diesel and Dust” are also truly great albums, this is their masterpiece. Much of the album is political in nature, but it’s performed with such passion and drive that you just want to jump up and down with them. Although more than 25 years old, many of the themes and issues are probably more relevant now than they were back then, a quality of several of the albums on my list. However, it’s the actual song writing that’s so impressive, with classics such as “Read About It”, “Power and the Passion” and “US Forces” sounding just as fresh and vital as always. The production is also amazing adding to the atmosphere and raw power of the whole recording. Highlight: Maralinga 

8. The Velvet Underground and Nico – Velvet Underground 1967

This album is really important to me. I first heard to it back at the time when Abba and disco were the “in thing”. However, this really opened up my eyes (and ears) to the fact dark themes are also worth writing and singing about and that there was this whole other world of music that you couldn’t readily find on the radio or on Top of the Pops. I remember thinking just how different and amazing this was and how much more real and rebellious it was than much of the punk stuff that was making its mark. It’s a unique album and incredibly influential and remarkably recorded in 1967 during the so-called Summer of Love. With a backdrop of some of Andy Warhol’s favourite themes; drugs, sex and death, John Cale’s soundscapes, Maureen Tucker’s drumming, Lou Reed’s manic guitar, Sterling Morrison’s throbbing bass and the unique flat tones of Lou Reed and Nico’s vocals simply sound amazing. A stunning musical statement that in many ways has never quite been matched. Highlight: Heroin.

7.  The War of the Worlds – Jeff Wayne 1978

When I was about 12 or 13, I was really sick with a bad infection and had to spend 10 long days in bed. My Dad popped down to the local library and got me a few books and this new Sci-Fi musical tape to cheer me up a bit. So started my love for this album. This album has everything, a great story, fantastic music, brilliant performances from a great cast and the incredible voice of Richard Burton holding it all together. The key though is the music and the huge production which sounds so BIG. Jeff Wayne combines hard rock with a musical theatre sound which transports the listener on this incredible, thrilling journey. I still love it. Uuuuuullllaaaaaaa !!  Highlight: The Eve Of The War.

6. Lust For Life – Iggy Pop 1977

There is no one quite like Iggy Pop and there’s nothing quite like an Iggy Pop concert. The guy has so much energy, it’s simply impossible to replicate it on a record (although Raw Power comes close). I love The Stooges and I love everything he’s done since but for me, Lust For Life, recorded during his Berlin period with Bowie, is where he recorded the perfect Iggy Pop album. From the driving, addictive rhythm of the opening title track made famous on the Trainspotting soundtrack, it includes such gems as Sweet Sixteen, Some Weird Sin, The Passenger and Success. Although some of the themes are a little dark (Tonight for example is world’s apart from the version re-recording by Bowie years later), there is a general sense of optimism which makes this a personal favourite. The photo of Iggy on the cover is a classic. Highlight: The Passenger.

5. The Beatles (White Album) – The Beatles 1968

The Beatles are without doubt the most influential band there’s ever been and their music is just as catchy, interesting, moving and relevant today as it was 40 years ago. Picking just one of their albums is no easy task but perhaps only because I get two albums worth of material, the so-called White Album is my selection. Full of truly classic material, this for me is The Beatles at their best although sadly it also represents the beginning of the end in so many ways as well.  They’re still experimenting and pushing the boundaries but manage to include songs such as Back In The USSR, Dear Prudence, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Happiness Is A Warm Gun,  Birthday, Helter Skelter, the list just goes on and on. The only downside was having to get up all the time to change the records over after each side, thank goodness for MP3 players these days. Tempted to place this at No. 9 on the list … Highlight: While My Guitar Gently Weeps

4. Amused To Death – Roger Waters 1992

I feel like I’m cheating a little as Roger Waters features heavily on another of my Top 10, but this is a solo effort and so passes. Inspired by the book “Amusing Ourselves To Death” by Neil Postman, the album is a contempt filled analysis of how TV has made society numb to the horrors the TV pictures so often portray. As a “monkey” randomly switches between different TV channels, wars become nothing more than another form of entertainment to be “enjoyed” with a bunch of friends over a few beers and popcorn. However, it’s not only just the lyrics that are so powerful here, the music is just as important and captivating. Featuring the superb Jeff Beck on many of the tracks, Perfect Sense, The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range, It’s A Miracle and the title track are just some examples of where the music shines just as bright. They sound incredible live in concert too BTW. Sadly, the whole concept behind the album is probably more relevant today than its ever been. I’ve no doubt if David Gilmour featured on this album, Amused To Death would be considered by many as a Pink Floyd masterpiece. Pink Floyd however are coming up soon enough. Highlight: Perfect Sense.

3. OK Computer – Radiohead 1997

Both “The Bends” and “Kid A” would both be worthy members of my top 10 list, but OK Computer is the Radiohead masterpiece. A collection of gems loosely based on how computers, transportation and technology generally have all contributed to make humans just that little bit less human, this album is simply one great track after another. The overall production is also so good and lush that each individual track genuinely sounds like a mini epic in it’s own right (except perhaps Paranoid Android which sounds like a huge epic). Thom Yorke’s singing is brilliant throughout with Exit For a Film for example sending shivers upon every listen, but the overall soundscapes produced by the other band members make this an excellent “sounding” album. Paranoid Android is undoubtedly a musical Ben-Hur but Airbag, Exit Music, Let Down, Karma Police, Climbing Up The Walls and Lucky are all grand in their own ways as well. As for the other tracks, well No Surprises there, they’re bloody good as well. Even the much maligned Fitter Happier fits in perfectly within the overall mood and ambiance of the whole piece. Highlight: Paranoid Android.

2. The Wall – Pink Floyd 1979

Boy, I could have picked any number of Pink Floyd albums but in the end, The Wall just pips some of the others. Written primarily by Roger Waters and somewhat autobiographical, the album tells the “story” of the slow decline and disintegration of poor Pink, a rock star with too many mental scars to cope with stardom. Building “Walls” between himself and his past ultimately only makes matters worse and is perhaps the albums key message. However, as ever, it’s the music that really counts and here Pink Floyd manage to (just) work together to produce a collection of classic tracks. Although Roger Waters clearly dominates, David Glimour’s general contributions are vital in the context of making the whole album the musical masterpiece that it is. Another Brick In The Wall, Young Lust, Hey You, Comfortably Numb and Run Like Hell for example are all about as good as it gets. It’s an album best enjoyed from start to finish with a pair of headphones, a comfortable lounge, a cold beer and 80 or so free minutes to reminisce where you were when you first heard Another Brick In The Wall. Highlight: Comfortably Numb.

1.  The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars – David Bowie 1972

Of course, it had to be a David Bowie album, but picking the one was not easy. Hunky Dory almost got there but in the end, if I had to get rid of all my music and keep just the one album, this would be it. This remarkably was the very first album I ever bought and the fact it’s my favourite is pretty amazing really, if only for it passing the test of time so well. Although this was the album that finally brought Bowie fame, it was as much his amazing stage act and remarkable appearance that brought him so much attention. Which in some ways distracts slightly from what is ultimately a fantastic, straight up rock ‘n’ roll album. Based in some future time when the Earth only has 5 years before some catastrophe destroys all life, it loosely tells the story of an alien, “Messiah” rock star who manages to give people something worth living for before the pressure of stardom and human weaknesses brings it all crashing down. Five Years is probably the best opening and Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide the best ending to any album, but the collection of songs in between are just as amazing. Moonage Daydream highlights just what a great guitarist and right-hand man Mick Ronson was, Starman is a song that probably generated the best Top Of The Pops performance by any artist, whereas songs such as Hang On To Yourself, Star, Ziggy Startdust and Suffragette City are probably some of the best rock songs ever written. Surprisingly for such futurist themes, it doesn’t feature any synthesisers, only standard rock instrumentation and yet it sounds so fresh as if it’s still based on music that will come sometime in the future. May Ziggy play guitar for many more years to come !! Highlight: Moonage Daydream.

If you haven’t listened to any of these albums before, do yourself a favour and give them a go 🙂