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National Album Day – Our Top Ten

October 13, 2018

You’d be forgiven for thinking the art of the long player has been somewhat lost of late, as painstakingly curated playlists replace albums and the technical constraints that dictated the format in the first place have, one by one, fallen away.

But we’re not here to mourn, tremendous albums continue to be made and we’re celebrating by running down – in no particular order – what we believe to be the ten finest records made by Legacy artists.

(Today, at least, ask us again in a week and we’ll probably be arguing passionately for some changes. But that’s the fun.)

Visit www.wearevinyl.co.uk for all these classics and more.

Bob Dylan ‘Blood On The Tracks’

There’s no way to pick a top Dylan album without provoking howls of outrage from some quarter or another. Sure, ‘Blood…’ doesn’t have the era-defining politics of ‘The Times They Are A Changin’, the chaotic inventiveness of ‘Blonde On Blonde’ or the huge cultural impact of ‘Highway 61 Revisited’. It doesn’t even contain the best ever Dylan song. That honour goes to ‘Street Legal’ and ‘Changing of The Guards’. Please feel free to write in.

But ‘Blood On The Tracks’ is perhaps the most Dylan-esque Dylan album of them all. Deeply personal, with a musical style roughly halfway between raw folk and the man’s more elaborate productions, it’s a record that’s aged incredibly well, now widely acknowledged as a classic despite a rather lukewarm initial reception.

‘Tangled Up In Blue’, ‘Simple Twist of Fate’, ‘If You See Her Say Hello’ – these are all justly renowned, but for us, today, it’s the jaunty balladry of ‘Lily, Rosemary & The Jack of Hearts’ that is the album’s high point, a wonderfully twisting tale with a dark heart.

Bruce Springsteen ‘Nebraska’

Your favourite Springsteen album tends to depend on what sort of artist you think he is. The received wisdom, that Rednecks punching the air and roaring along to ‘Born In The USA’ are unaware that it’s a scathing critique of American foreign policy, rather misses the point that Springsteen is, and always has been, different things to different people.

If your Springsteen is the bandana-ed stadium filler of ‘Born In The USA’ then you’re unlikely to agree with our choice. Likewise, if you feel the no-punches-pulled politics of ‘Wrecking Ball’ better define the man, you might feel we’ve missed the point.

But if your Springsteen is the unflinching witness to the darkest side of the American Dream, then there can be no choice but ‘Nebraska’. As bleak as the badlands of its namesake state, there’s no air punching here, no stars and stripes and not a single opportunity for misinterpretation, wilful or otherwise.

Prince ‘Purple Rain’

Any analysis of Prince’s back catalogue (which Legacy recently won the honour of curating) tends to come down to a two horse race between the astonishing ‘Sign O’ The Times’ and ‘Purple Rain’. Both amazing records.

That, in turn, tends to come down to whether you prefer the scathing title track, ‘Sign O’ The Times’, or the more esoteric but no less powerful ‘When Doves Cry’. Both incredible songs and high points of their respective records.

In the end, for us, the tie is broken by ‘Purple Rain’s title track. Brash, inventive and just so damn sexy – it’s the quintessential Prince track.

The Clash ‘The Clash’

‘London Calling’ is, with good reason, the record most people think of when their thoughts turn to Joe Strummer and crew. But the often criminally overlooked eponymous debut is what we’re celebrating today.

There’s a raw, fizzing energy here that became inevitably diluted on later records. Not that anyone’s complaining about ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’, but ‘White Riot’, ‘Hate & War’, ‘London’s Burning’, ‘Garageland’ and pretty much every other track on ‘The Clash’ burns with a desperate energy that’s rarely found anywhere but on a band’s opening salvo.

‘I’m So Bored With The USA’ and ‘Career Opportunities’ in particular homed in on their targets with the kind of precision-guided furious relentlessness that their peers could only dream of.

Manic Street Preachers ‘The Holy Bible’

The Manics’ evolution from furious glam punks to polished stadium fillers has, at times, divided their fanbase as neatly as it has their back catalogue.

But whichever side of the line you stand, ‘The Holy Bible’ stands out. Unflinchingly savage at times, incredibly melodic at others, it’s a powerful piece of work lent still more weight by the tragic history surrounding it.

‘Faster’, ‘Revol’ and ‘P.C.P.’ shamelessly displayed the band’s infectious hooks (razor sharp, even then) while the likes of ‘This Is Yesterday’ and ‘She Is Suffering’ gave early hints of their stadium filling potential, even on this most brutally uncompromising record.

Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’

Few records come more laden with weighty accolades than ‘Kind of Blue’. The iconic record has been variously described as the greatest Jazz record in history, the most influential album ever recorded and Davis’ personal best – itself no mean tribute.

The album was recorded over just two sessions in New York City, 1959 by Davis’ ensemble sextet of John Coltrane and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb, with pianist duties split between Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly.

Working from the simplest of modal sketches – no chord progressions, no harmonies, certainly no complete score – the sextet produced a timeless masterpiece.

Carole King ‘Tapestry’

The most successful singer/songwriter to emerge in the latter half of the 20th Century, Carole King is a musical colossus, producing more than a 100 Billboard Hot 100 hits between 1952 and 2005.

King has made 18 solo albums, to great commercial success and critical acclaim. However, when selecting a first among equals, her crowning achievement is undoubtedly 1971’s ‘Tapestry’.

Spending fifteen weeks at number one upon its release, selling 25 million copies to date and winning King four Grammys – including Song of the Year, the first time it was awarded to a woman. Carole King then; breaking boundaries and hearts in equal measure.

Lou Reed ‘Transformer’

Second solo album from New York’s premier poet, ‘Transformer’ is responsible for the most of the tunes that have made Reed such a towering, if shadowy, figure over the years. The likes of ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ and ‘Perfect Day’ are familiar to millions despite their passing acquaintance with the man himself.

Produced, in part, by David Bowie and released in 1972, ‘Transformer’ has aged incredibly well, its relatively lukewarm initial response (the feeling was that Reed was riding Bowie’s coattails somewhat) giving way to an increasingly powerful presence on ‘Greatest Album Ever’ lists.

Reed may have made other, more urgent, records, but for anyone who believes that music should be the broadest of all possible churches ‘Transformer’ is the only choice.

Johnny Cash ‘American IV: The Man Comes Around’

Given the huge variety of material released by Johnny Cash throughout his incredible career it may seem perverse, morbid even, to select the very last studio album released during his lifetime. Either one of ‘At San Quentin’ or ‘At Folsom Prison’ could be said to have had more impact, while ‘Highwayman’ saw him assemble a supergroup rarely seen before or since.

But ‘The Man Comes’ around illustrates the Man In Black’s timeless appeal like no other, the ubiquity of ‘Hurt’ following Cash’s death has done nothing to dilute the achievement of a grizzled old country star effortlessly making a modern industrial rock track entirely his own.

Elsewhere the title track itself, Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’ the traditional ‘Streets of Laredo’ and many, many more demonstrate the breadth of Cash’s appeal, ability and ambition better than any historian.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience ‘Are You Experienced?’

The quintessential Hendrix album. Acclaimed both critically and commercially upon its release in ’67, ‘…Experienced’ is that rarest of musical beasts; an immediate hit that goes on to wield enormous influence decades later.

The impact of Hendrix in general, and of tracks like ‘Foxy Lady’, ‘Hey Joe’ and ‘Purple Haze’ in particular, is hard to overstate. There’re few corners of the rock firmament that don’t owe him some kind of debt or other.

Visit www.wearevinyl.co.uk for all these classics and more.

National Album Day – Our Top Ten

National Album Day – Our Top Ten

You’d be forgiven for thinking the art of the long player has been somewhat lost of late, as painstakingly curated playlists replace albums and the technical constraints that dictated the format in the first place have, one by one, fallen away. But we’re not here to mourn, tremendous albums continue to be made and we’re celebrating by running down – in no particular order – what we believe to be the ten finest records made by Legacy artists.

Read more