Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Top Ten Albums Part 1

In a shameless attempt to write about something because I can’t think of anything else to write about, (and as a follow on to the recent Channel 4 programme “The 100 Greatest Albums”) here are the first five albums that made it into my all time, top ten greatest albums of all time… ever! Part 2 will follow once I’ve scoured the attic for my old vinyl* LP* records*.

The Police – Outlandos D’Amour
One cold winter’s Sunday night in 1978, after having polished off a lovely dinner of mince and potatoes (smothered in salad cream*) followed by jelly and ice cream (raspberry ripple, I think), I was listening to the Annie Nightingale show on BBC Radio 1. She started gushing about a great new song by a band called The Police and when she eventually got round to playing ‘Roxanne’, I was hooked for life. It was unlike anything else I heard on the radio (or ‘wireless’) at that time and when I finally got hold of this debut album I think I must have played it every day for the next five years.

From the thunderous opening salvo of drums* on ‘Next To You’ to the closing rambling reggae rant of ‘Masoko Tanga’ this album is ten peerless examples of class pop music at it’s best. Even the token Andy Summers contribution ‘Be My Girl’ is pretty decent. Their first and still, by far, their best.

Billy Joel – The Stranger
I think I also bought this record in 1978 but I know for a fact that I bought it on a Saturday because afterwards I went to the York Café in Falkirk High Street to pour over the lyrics-covered inner sleeve and have a celebratory plate of their unfeasibly large and greasy chips*.

‘Just The Way You Are’ was the big soppy radio hit at the time and drew unfair comparisons to Barry Manilow but the overall mood of the record is probably closer in style to Bruce Springsteen. The stories contained within ‘Moving Out’ and ‘Scenes From An Italian Restaurant’ would paint vivid pictures to me of how New York should look and feel and matched up perfectly with reality some twenty or so years later when I finally visited the city.

Few songwriters write melodies as memorable as Billy Joel and ‘She’s Always A Woman’ is almost perfection… oh, and its one of the three songs I can play on the piano.

Frank Sinatra – Songs For Swinging Lovers
During my late teens, I remember coming across my Dad’s Frank Sinatra albums in an old wire record rack and peering at them with a curious mix of interest and disdain… like the way I look at broccoli*. This, surely, was music that I would not understand or enjoy but as soon as I tentatively placed the record on my turntable* and cranked up the music centre* the attraction was instant. Perhaps it was the semi-familiar melodies or the inventive lyrics but I found I could learn these songs with ease.

I eventually bought ‘Songs For Swinging Lovers’ in a second hand record store in Glasgow* during my first and final year at university and the album does exactly what it says on the tin. Every song here quite literally swings, from Cole Porter’s ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ (still the greatest karaoke song to perform ever) to Gershwin’s ‘Our Love Is Here To Stay’. Even ‘Old Devil Moon’, so often a slow, bluesy burner gets the lighter-than-air Nelson Riddle touch on its arrangement.

Guys, if you’re looking for a seductive soundtrack to play after she’s “just popped up for a quick, late night coffee” then this is it… as long as you’re both over forty, enjoy long walks in the rain and the occasional set or two of badminton.

Carole King - Tapestry
I considered many female singer songwriters* for this top ten list but Carole King’s ‘Tapestry’ soared high above them all as an easy pick. By the time she released this album in 1971 Carole King was already a successful, if slightly obscure writer of songs for other artists including The Monkees ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’, The Shirelles ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ and Aretha Franklin’s ‘You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman’.

That latter track is included on ‘Tapestry’ along with classics ‘It’s Too Late’, ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ and the heart wrenching ‘So Far Away’ but in truth, every track on this album is a stand out. I’d love to say I discovered this record at an early age but it was fully 25 years after it was released when I finally picked up a copy. Not a month’s gone by since though when I haven’t played it.

Guys, if you’re looking for another seductive soundtrack to play after she’s “just popped up to see your giant new plasma screen” then this is definitely, DEFINITELY it.

U2 – The Joshua Tree
The day I bought this album in 1987 I went for a job interview with a finance company called North West Securities. The interview was short (don’t think I even removed my snorkel parka jacket*) as I feverishly clutched the plastic bag containing the record and barely registered what was being asked of or said to me. After rushing home and playing it over and over again that evening, I swore I’d finally ditch the rollercoaster world of high finance and go traveling across America spreading the gift of song wherever I could. Sixteen short years later, I did just that and this album was a must-have soundtrack as I drove from Florida to California.

As good as this album is it doesn’t come close to doing justice to the songs once you’ve heard them played live. Get your hands on a copy of the 1989 documentary ‘Rattle & Hum’ and I defy your spine not to tingle during the helicopter shot of Sun Devil Stadium in Arizona as the opening strains of ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ reach a crescendo.

By the by, I’ve got a spare ticket to see U2 play at Hampden Park in Glasgow on June 21st this year. Anyone interested?

*Glossary of Terms
For anyone under thirty, here’s some further explanation of words and phrases with which you may not be familiar.
Record – Crazy as it may seem, before the charts were made up of songs ‘downloaded’ from that internet thingy, human beings had to physically leave their homes and go to a store which sold music recordings as in, "I'd like to purchase a record please."
Vinyl – A hard waxy compound on to which music recordings were etched to make records. Usually circular in shape and black in colour.
LP – Short for ‘Long Playing’ i.e. a record made up of several songs that played for a longer duration than a ‘single’ which contained only a single song not counting the b-side which was the opposite of the a-side. Clear?
Salad Cream - Similar to mayonnaise only edible.
Drums – Not an electronically produced beat but a musical instrument that requires to be struck in order to emit a sound. No, really.
Chips – Like French/freedom fries, NOT crisps!
Brocolli – Small, bonsai type vegetable created by Satan.
Turntable – A flat, circular receptacle which, with the help of electricity and a fancy needle arrangement, spun round to play vinyl records.
Music Centre - The greatest invention of the late 70s; an electrical miracle which contained a radio AND a turntable (see above) for playing records AND a cassette player for playing cassettes*.
Cassette – A format of music recording where the music was recorded on to a little brown tape like the ones they used on ‘Mission Impossible’*.
Mission Impossible - Greatest television show of the late 60s/early 70s.
Glasgow – City in Scotland that’s home to the greatest football team in the world, Glasgow (gettit?) Celtic.
Singer Songwriter – Someone who writes AND performs their own songs. Imagine that.
Snorkel Parka Jacket – Trendiest fashion statement of 1987… and all of the previous ten or so years.


At 26/4/05 7:22 pm, Blogger carl said...


At 28/4/05 10:31 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Carole King! And I'm with you on Billy Joel as well - he must be retro as he is suddenly acceptable again...
And I LIKE broccoli.
Speaking of outlandish, me and Catherine are thinking of taking nicknames when we move to Barcelona, or Barraicin and Bristin, which mean tiptoe and knickers...hehehe. Wharriyetink? I'll be Bristin of course!

At 28/4/05 10:37 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, and I prefer Mayonaise, which was invented by an Irish chef in the French army called McMahon, and was known as McMahonnaise, before it became Mayonaise...and Vinyl is a plastic compound which is extremely hazardous to the environment, as it releases many toxins during production...so buy pvc-free Vinyl lads!
(aren't you glad I told you both those things - fountain-of-knowledge-bhreatnach, that's me!)

At 28/4/05 7:33 pm, Blogger DC said...


Glad to see that u2 haven't grown out of liking music from your teens- although there have been some developments - did I hear you right -Carole King , Carole... King ? I don't think the regression therapy is working 100%.

Billy Joel - thank you for leading rousing renditions of For the Longest Time ( featuring Big Al's harmonies & about 6 others shouting !) in the underpass on the way home from The Burns Bar/Wheatsheaf/BTW.

What's the definition for Old Jock?

I didn't know you liked THe Police --ha ha- how's Sting doing - bet you bought HIM a pint !

At 2/5/05 10:05 am, Blogger Neil said...

What IS this whole 'owe me a pint' thing? Didn't I bring you rolls, saugages, ginger cake? Anyway, you don't bring me flowers anymore!

At 4/5/05 6:56 pm, Blogger DC said...


There is no "owe"- I'm just hopeful and like pints.

Yes you did bring goodies, but you forgot to mention that after I cooked for you, you ate everything & ran away with the leftovers. More tea Vicar?


At 12/5/05 10:43 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hehehe. You guys should get married. Ah Neily neily - tis a gas world at de end of de day all credit TOO de gaffer!


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