My favourite albums – 21–30

As I have gained a day at home this weekend, here’s the next unlikely bunch of 10 personal favourites.

#30 Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends: This came along at the same time I was heavily into Hendrix, the Who, Cream and newly-electrified Dylan. The album gets heavy coverage on my blog here, with a full critique. ‘Save the Life of my Child’ still strikes me as a fantastic creation over 40 years on and pretty much typifies why I love this album so much. Everything’s bang on the money – performance, production and composition. The whole album is testament to the old adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and although it has its weak moments, these seem less important as time goes by.

#29 Groundhogs – Split. I came to this album quite late – about 5 years ago – but it’s now a firm favourite. Tony McPhee created a strange blend of proto-Stoner rock with a touch of 1960s British blues band, lots of great guitar and some distinctly psychedelic touches. Remarkably, this mix doesn’t sound dated and the band deliver it with such aplomb that you’d never guess that Split itself – parts 1 to 5 and half the album – was about McPhee’s nervous breakdown after the band’s earlier successes. It’s ugly stuff…but somehow beautiful at the same time. If you’re into Stoner rock bands like SUNN 0))) then you’ll know what I mean.

#28 Greatdayforup – God Loves a Sinner: Not proto Stoner rock, but the real thing this time. I love this genre – lots of guitars, often a bit psychedelic and – above all – heavy and rocking. It’s what attracted me to rock in the first place. But back to this album…Sometimes I think that the opening track ‘Golden Arms’ is perhaps the only track I’ll ever need. Spacey vocals, guitars that induce migraine and a relentlessness that is hypnotic. Think Sabbath crossed with Nirvana or the Foos and you’ll almost be there – but not quite…

#27 Was Not Was – Born to Laugh at Tornadoes: Normally studio guys’ albums are a pile of shite, but Don and Dave Was assembled some great albums and this is perhaps their most eccentric and least soul based. Guests include Ozzy, Mel Torme, Marshall Crenshaw, Wayne Kramer and Mitch Ryder and the material is as varied as the guest list indicates. You’ve got soul, techno, rock and roll and ballads all with bizarre lyrics. Rolling Stone magazine made it their album of the year in 1983 – the year ‘Thriller’ came out. Forget that album, the Wases created something far better!

#26 Joe Jackson – Big World: Recorded live – but in front of an audience instructed to not applaud after each song and make no other noise at all – I’m including this because it’s all original material and wasn’t meant to be a live album per se. With a nicely stripped-down band – Joe on keys with guitar, bass and drums – it’s a far cry from his first two small combo albums. Vinnie Zumo on guitar is a real asset with beautiful chordal fills which make the sound really big. Honestly not a duff track on the album – in spite of none of the songs really considered to be amongst his ‘classics’. Current favourite track – Home Town. All about Portsmouth, but affectionately so.

#25 Rage Against the Machine – Rage against the Machine: I hated this when I first heard it, but after being asked to teach someone all the bass parts on it I grew to love it. Tom Morello rewrites guitar playing after the excesses of shred and the rhythm section kicks bottom. Again, a large part of the attraction of this album to me is that it reminds me just why I love rock music so much. It’s loud, exciting and obnoxious with plenty of guitar and most of the time that’s all I need to keep my ears happy. No favourite tracks – they’re all good.

#24 Ian Dury and the Blockheads – New Boots and Panties: I miss Ian greatly – his humour, his enthusiasm and his geezer persona. Great lyrics where aggression meets sentiment and fantastic music – courtesy of Steve Nugent and Chas Jankel. And what a band…the Blockheads were just perfect with Ian in every way – from rock and roll, through funk to vaudeville. Only one duff track lets the album down – ‘Blackmail Man’. The rest is sheer perfection.

#23 Family – Music in a Doll’s House: Classic British psychedelia from a band who soon dropped the genre in favour of a strange blend of the pastoral, out and out rock swagger and jazz fusion. This was one of the defining albums of psychedelia for me with backwards violins, strange stereo panning and trippy lyrics. It isn’t classic Family as most people remember the band, but it is a fine offering all the same. My favourite tracks are ‘The Chase’ – with the late Tubby Hayes on sax I believe – and ‘See Through Windows’ which is just downright bizarre. Roger Chapman brays as usual, but a little less so on this album.

#22 David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: Bowie’s first album with his own band and what a cracker. Mick Ronson – a personal hero of mine and more than a mere guitarist – impresses throughout with his guitar, piano and string arrangements and Bowie really immerses himself in the parallel universe he creates. ‘Moonage Daydream’ is amazing with superb guitar and nasty lyrics and the twin attack of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and ‘Suffragette City’ is one of rock’s greatest triumphs. I almost chose ‘Aladin Sane’ but it’s not as cohesive as ‘Ziggy’. A 5 star album.

#21 Masters of Reality – Masters of Reality: More Stoner rock and occasionally played 5 or 6 times on the trot given the time and right occasion. Chris Goss is the kingpin here and this really is his album. Highlights? Well,  ‘John Brown’ is a sort of acoustic nursery rhyme with some great slide guitar and ‘Kill the King’ has what could possibly be the best guitar riff of all time. Reference points probably include Cream, Led Zep and the blues, although the mix is so spiked with Goss’ stoned slant on things that the influences aren’t always so obvious. Hard to find – I know because I eventually ended up buying a secondhand CD from Canada – but worth it.