Tricky, this one – many people would argue that one’s top ten albums are one of the most important and revealing lists a person can publicly make. I’ve always maintained that in my hypothetical Desert Island Discs list, I’d take 5 copies of Dark Side Of The Moon just in case one or two of them got scratched. Unfortunately though in the context of one’s top ten albums that only leaves you with a list of six different albums.
If we’re talking top 10 in that sense:
1. Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd) (x 5 copies)
Quite simply, my favourite thing ever. I don’t know what I can say about it that adds anything to the massive body of information people have already written about it. I mean, the thing was in the album charts for 14 years. So what do I like about it? The lyrics speak of the human experience. The music’s texturally interesting – sometimes dreamy, sometimes cynical, intense, relaxing, bleak, rich. The hair on the back of my neck stands up every time I listen to The Great Gig In The Sky. Of course it’s massively hyped: anything this size is going to be. But I don’t for one second believe that it’s all unjustified hype. Matter of fact, think I’ll put it on right now.
2. Blood Sugar Sex Magik (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Admittedly this one is as much about importance & memories as it is about the actual music. Although I don’t think there’s any denying that this is RHCPs best release – it’s certainly the one that fired them into mainstream acclaim, and for me it epitomises the laid back funky sound that I love them for. Released in 1991 it was also very much a part of my mid to late teens, an amazing time for me when I made an amazing group of friends – many of whom I still keep in touch with as close mates.
3. Mothership (Led Zeppelin)
Released in 2007, this compilation is the perfect argument solver – I don’t think I could ever pick a single Led Zeppelin album, and certainly would struggle to name my favourite… but in terms of the best selection of songs on an album (not a box set), Mothership’s the way forward.
4. No Quarter (Jimmy Page & Robert Plant)
Not that I’m Led Zeppelin obsessed (I am), but No Quarter for me provides some excellent alternate versions of some of my favourite songs, performed with the genius & skill of Page & Plant, but featuring the stylistic musical excursions the project took into other musical cultures.
5. Decksanddrumsandrockandroll (Propellerheads)
Top album for grooving out, with some really strong material: Echo & Bounce, Take California, History Repeating, Bang On, and the best thing from The Matrix Soundtrack, Spybreak!
6. Exhile on Coldharbour Lane (Alabama 3)
I’ve really gotten into A3’s style of country/blues/acid house, and their first album gets a proper old workout in my iTunes regularly. As a sidenote, I love that they’re not a 3 piece, and none of them are from Alabama.
And then assuming we in fact mean top 10, and I’m only allowed one of each, then we make the difference up with:
7. Out Of Hell (Baterz)
I miss Baterz. I really really do. He was a brilliant singer-songwriter with a wry sense of humour and an air of feral aristocracy, and having him on this planet made it just that little bit sillier. Out of Hell contains some of my all-time favourite songs – “Zombie Girl” (the only song I’ve heard that begins with the words “Today my girlfriend died”), “Spidermother”, the touching ballad “Target’s Air Conditioner”, and the magnificent “Giant Squids”. It wasn’t strictly a comedy album: more the workings of what I thought was a fascinating mind.
(Incidentally, in case there are any Baterz enthusiasts reading this who don’t know already – the tribute album Great Big Squiddy Fun is now out & available. I like it a lot.)
8. Joe’s Garage (Frank Zappa)
Speaking of insights into a fascinating mind, Frank’s music would never feature on a list entitled “easy listening”, but over the last couple of years I’ve grown to love his attitude. I’ve picked Joe’s Garage from Frank’s prodigiously large catalogue almost entirely because it contains the phrase “model XQJ-37 nuclear powered pansexual roto-plooker”.
9. Schwang (Goose)
Awesome 16 piece funk/soul/jazz combo from Adelaide & Melbourne – I’m always impressed that they can coordinate so many people to ever put on gigs in the first place… A great, bright, funky, fresh sound.
10. Off The Deep End (Weird Al Yankovic)
Weird Al is another musician with prodigious output, and has maintained a career through his amazing eye for detail in mimicry along with his brilliant sense of humour, and ability to embrace multiple musical styles. My only criticism of him is that I get a bit bored with his middle-of-the-road tendancy to write songs about food, however even those are always pop-parodies of exceptional pedigree. Off The Deep End contains the spot-on song parodies Smells Like Nirvana, I Can’t Watch This, and Blame It On The Drain, as well as the stylistic Beach Boys parody Trigger Happy, and one of my favourite original Al songs, You Don’t Love Me Anymore (which I ill-advisedly attempted to sing at a talent night at the age of about 16).
Irritatingly, Robert Plant & Strange Sensation’s “Live in France” recording hasn’t been released as an album, so I can’t put it into the list.