My favourite albums – 71–80

And so it continues…here’s #71 to 80 in reverse order as always.

#80 The Yardbirds – Roger the Engineer: In many ways one of the most influential bands this country has ever produced, if only for the triumvirate of guitarists – Clapton, Beck and Page – that passed through its ranks. This is their most sophisticated album and sees Beck nailing himself a place in rock history with some excellent guitar work. It’s basically blues with psychedelic touches. The expanded version is worth getting as it has some nice extras including Beck and Page’s only recordings together.

#79 The Band – The Band: Who needed Dylan during his sabbatical when you had the Band? In many ways the most perfect example of Rock Americana ever produced and the yardstick by which I measure many other acts. It moves between aching poignancy and hedonistic joy touching all points in between and the musicianship is stunningly good. More talent than one band should ever have with several lead vocalists and multi-instrumentalists. We shall not see their like again.

#78 Kate Bush – Never For Ever: Every so often rock throws up a real oddball who refuses to compromise and our Kate is surely one of these. This was a hard choice but it clinched inclusion because of the combination of the weird and the poppiness. The then new Fairlight CMI was heavily featured along with drum machines but this didn’t make the sound sterile because of the otherwise largely ethnic instrumentation and Kate’s own vocal dynamics. ‘Delius’ is a perfect song to play on a hot summer’s day – try it!

#77 Bebop Deluxe – Sunburst Finish: This really sounds self-indulgent today but I still love it. Bill Nelson never sounded as good again, with lead guitar to the fore and some amazing songs.  ‘Blazing Apostles’ still has lyrics applicable to today and other songs feature dystopian future worlds, mental turmoil and groupie homages. But it’s the guitar that really makes this album with ‘Crying to the Sky’ a stand out in a Hendrixy way.

#76 Patto – Roll ’em Smoke ’em Put Another Line Out: Patto’s guitarist, Ollie Halsall, is probably the best guitarist that no-one’s ever heard of. Playing amazing legato lines that would take another 15 years to become part of every wannabee shredder’s musical vocabulary, he was a true original. However, this is a deeply-flawed album with some attempts at humour that fail dismally. Despite this there are glimpses of Ollie’s majesty and he plays some neat piano too. In a  fairer world, Ollie would still be alive and very, very famous.

#75 Cardiacs – Sing to God: How do you start to describe this band? They’re a bit punky, a bit psychedelic and a bit prog rock…plus they’re bloody barking, with James Joyce style lyrics. File under quirky, and if Jon Poole’s cut-up solo on ‘Fiery Gun Hand’ doesn’t float your boat then you have no musical taste whatsoever.  Now on hold due to leader Tim Smith’s heart attack – almost fatally ironic – they could still return. We live in hopes…

#74 Toto – Isolation: Often dismissed as bland US AOR, Toto are a bit more than that. On this album, the band is almost entirely composed of its original members but still having problems finding a lead singer. But it’s the instrumental aspect of Toto that appeals to me. Steve Lukather, in particular, shines on guitar with some monster riffs and soloing. ‘Stranger in Town’ and ‘Change of Heart’ are my favourites here but – along with most of their albums – there’s also too much schmaltz in the form of lugubrious ballads. So, another flawed album but the gems make the trip worth it.

#73 Poco – Rose of Cimarron: The title track is worth getting the album for. It’s Byrdsish with some nice electric 12 string underpinning the sort of song that only Usanians could write with a certain grandeur and love of the wide open spaces. The rest of the album manages to steer clear of Eagles blandness and Rusty Young impresses with his virtuoso playing of anything with strings and frets. Can’t say any of the other of their 20-odd albums does much for me, though.

#72 La Bottine Souriante – La Mistrine: As my self-imposed ‘no live albums’ rule excludes their amazing ‘En Spectacle’ from this list, this album will have to do. Formerly a Quebecois folk band, once they acquired a pianist and a brass section they mutated into a sort of salsa-celtic hybrid which just simply fucking rocked and became the best live band I’ve ever seen. They have no percussion as such but the violinist sits and taps with his feet – but this is no ordinary tapping. You can’t hear this band anymore live. The two frontmen – including the tapper – left and the band is now a shadow of its former self. But buy ‘En Spectacle’ – it is truly music for the heart and feet and would have been the #1 album in this list.

#71 Neu – Neu2: Krautrock! Beauty through repetition, the opening track ‘Fur Immer’ has a relentless beat and hypnotic vibe that pre-empted Stereolab  and has to be played loud through headphones and in the dark – trust me. Although the other tracks are OK – some are simply speeded up or slowed down versions of the same track – it’s Fur Immer that guarantees them a place in my musical heart. It lasts 11 minutes but I could listen to it if it was 11 hours long.