Saturday, 30 November 2013

‘Best’ albums of the past 50 years

A lot of things happened fifty years ago. 1963, for example. No, wait, hang on a minute, something’s gone wrong there…

Okay, what I meant to say was that 2013 is a big year for 50th anniversaries. Last weekend alone gave us the assassination of JFK and the launch of Doctor Who (Most agree that one of these was a good thing and one bad, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is which), but while I could discuss pop delights from I’m Glad I’m Not a Kennedy to Doctor in Distress, probably the most relevant anniversary to mention in the context of a music blog came earlier in the year, namely the release of The Beatles debut long-playing record (as such things used to be called), Please Please Me.

It’s the oldest album I own, and in thinking about its great age I realised that my collection boasts at least one album for every year since. So I thought I’d see if I could pick my favourite album from each of the past fifty years. As it turned out, some years were easier than others, so for the purposes of what follows, if I couldn’t narrow it down to a single (or a double!) album for any given year I’d choose 3. And if I couldn’t narrow it down to 3 I’d chose 5! And if…okay, I stopped there, but there are some years where I could have listed 10 quite easily (1970 and 1988 spring to mind).  

I should mention that to be a contender these albums have to be in my collection (and by that I basically mean ‘on me iPod’) now, so albums once owned that have died, and somehow not been replaced (Here’s looking at you, Ziggy Stardust) or I only ‘own’ in the sense that I have a copy on vinyl languishing in a box back in New Zealand (The Hollies criminally overlooked A Crazy Steal fits this category) were not considered. Nor were live albums, compilations, or talking books.

Now, it goes without saying that you won’t agree with some/many/any of my choices, and that is absolutely fine (by all means post your own lists in response!). But whether they’re obvious ‘influential/important’ works (Not many of those will appear, to the great shock of nobody. But that’s what AMG’s dull as dishwater ‘Allmusic loves XX Year’ features are for. I find it disturbing enough that I’ve listed as many as two albums that made it into NMEs ‘Top 25 albums of all time’ list!) or obscure AOR releases, heard by precisely nobody who doesn’t visit on a daily basis, what all of the below  albums have in common is that they continue to delight with every listen, in many cases years after I first heard them. To me that constitutes ‘greatness’ enough and the critics can go hang!

1963:     The Beatles – Please Please Me

1964:     The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night

1965:     Paul Simon – The Paul Simon Songbook

1966:     The Beatles – Revolver

1967:     The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

1968:     Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends
                Gordon Lightfoot - Did She Mention My Name?
                Blood, Sweat and Tears – Child is Father to the Man

1969:     Chicago – Chicago Transit Authority

1970:     Stephen StillsStephen Stills
                Dave Mason – Alone Together
                Chicago – Chicago II
                Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – Déjà vu
                James Taylor – Sweet Baby James

1971:     Gerry Rafferty – Can I Have My Money Back?
                David Bowie – Hunky Dory
                Caravan – In the Land of Grey and Pink

1972:     America – Homecoming
                Gordon Lightfoot – Don Quixote
                Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick

1973:     Paul Simon – There Goes Rhymin’ Simon
                Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy
                The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me

1974:     Gordon Lightfoot – Sundown
                Stealers Wheel – Ferguslie Park
                Boz Scaggs – Slow Dancer
                Poco – Cantamos
                Kansas – Kansas

1975:     Seals and Crofts – I’ll Play For You
                The Band – Northern Lights – Southern Cross
                Kansas – Song for America

1976:     Kansas – Leftoverture
                Eagles – Hotel California
                Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees
                Neil Diamond – Beautiful Noise
                Jackson Browne – The Pretender

1977:     Billy Joel – The Stranger
                Chicago – Chicago XI
                Harry Chapin – Dance Band on the Titanic

1978:     Toto – Toto
                Gerry Rafferty – City to City
                Magnum – Kingdom of Madness
                Burton Cummings – Dream of a Child
                Billy Joel – 52nd Street

1979:     Pink Floyd – The Wall
                Toto – Hydra
                The Alan Parsons Project – Eve

1980:     Boz Scaggs – Middle Man
                Burton Cummings – Woman Love
                Dire Straits – Making Movies

1981:     Rush – Moving Pictures

1982:     Magnum – Chase the Dragon
                Gordon Lightfoot – Shadows
                Gerry Rafferty – Sleepwalking
                Asia – Asia
                Billy Joel – The Nylon Curtain

1983:     Journey – Frontiers
                Magnum – The Eleventh Hour!
                Le Roux – So Fired Up
                Paul Simon – Hearts and Bones
                Kansas – Drastic Measures

1984:     Toto – Isolation
                Survivor – Vital Signs
                Chicago – Chicago 17

1985:     Magnum – On a Storyteller’s Night
                Mr. Mister – Welcome to the Real World
                Rush – Power Windows

1986:     Jackson Browne – Lives in the Balance
                Billy Joel – The Bridge
                Journey – Raised on Radio
                Eddie Money – Can’t Hold Back
                Bruce Hornsby and the Range – The Way it Is

1987:     Marillion – Clutching at Straws

1988:     Gerry Rafferty – North and South
                Magnum – Wings of Heaven
                Toto – The Seventh One
                Kansas – In the Spirit of Things
                Survivor – Too Hot to Sleep

1989:     Marillion – Seasons End
                Starship – Love Among the Cannibals
                Steve Lukather – Lukather

1990:     Paul Simon – The Rhythm of the Saints

1991:     Marc Cohn – Marc Cohn
                Marillion – Holidays in Eden
                Shadow King – Shadow King

1992:     R.E.M. – Automatic for the People
                Toto – Kingdom of Desire
                Magnum – Sleepwalking

1993:     Billy Joel – River of Dreams
                Al Stewart – Famous Last Words
                Jackson Browne – I’m Alive

1994:     MarillionBrave
                Martin Page – In the House of Stone and Light
                Steve Lukather – Candyman

1995:     Marillion – Afraid of Sunlight
                John Wetton – Battle Lines
                Bruce Hornsby – Hot House

1996:     Asia – Arena

1997:     Marillion – This Strange Engine

1998:     Bob Catley – The Tower

1999:     Toto – Mindfields
                Robert Lamm – In My Head
                Marillion –

2000:     Kansas – Somewhere to Elsewhere
                Beckley-Lamm-Wilson – Like a Brother
                Porcupine Tree – Lightbulb Sun

2001:     Marillion – Anoraknophobia
                Radioactive – Ceremony of Innocence
                Journey – Arrival

2002:     Porcupine Tree – In Absentia

2003:     Gary Hughes – Once and Future King

2004:     Marillion – Marbles
                Asia – Silent Nation
                Seventh Key – The Raging Fire

2005:     Porcupine Tree – Deadwing

2006:     Toto – Falling in Between

2007:     Magnum – Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow
                Danny Vaughn – Traveller
                Rush – Snakes and Arrows

2008:     Martin Page – In the Temple of the Muse
                Marillion – Happiness is the Road Vol. II: The Hard Shoulder
                Jackson Browne – Time the Conqueror

2009:     Transatlantic – The Whirlwind
                Magnum – Into the Valley of the Moonking
                Native Window – Native Window

2010:     Steve Lukather – All’s Well That Ends Well

2011:     Magnum – The Visitation
                Yes – Fly From Here
                Fergie Frederiksen – Happiness is the Road
                Edison’s Children – In the Last Waking Moments...
                Serpentine – Living and Dying in High Definition

2012:     Marillion – Sounds That Can’t Be Made
                Rush – Clockwork Angels
                Magnum – On the 13th Day
                (For the rest of my 2012 top 10 see HERE)

2013:     TBA!