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Monday, 17 May 2010

My Favourite Album(s)

From time to time I get asked what is my favourite album. I have to confess that I always find it difficult to name just one, so for the purposes of this blog I will name a few albums that I treasure but by no means is it conclusive and is not in any particular order (if I get some time I'll post about a few more).

The Alarm are one of my favourite bands ever. Even today they are still going strong (albeit with a different line-up to what is on 'Declaration') and are still writing great anthemic rock and roll. I am hard pressed to find a bad track on this album and trying to think of one standout track is nigh impossible.

The release of this album set in motion a renewed love for music after falling out with Punk music when it became consumed with Speed Metal and Oi. It also has opened the door to some of my most lasting friendships with folks from all over the world.

Reggae has always been something I have loved going way back to the old Prince Buster tunes and the 1970's Trojan releases. Trying to pick out my favourite of all Reggae albums though was not easy. I had a short list of three: 'Two Sevens Clash' by Culture, 'M.P.L.A.' by Tappa Zukie and 'The Best Dressed Chicken in Town' by Doctor Alimantado. The good Doctor won out. Whilst most people were fussing over Bob Marley, it was guys like Dr. Alimantado that I thought were doing some of the finest Reggae around. This particular album is loaded with great tunes like 'I Shot the Barber', 'Poison Flour' and 'Johnny Was A Baker'. Also worth checking out is his album 'Born for a Purpose'.

'Damned, Damned, Damned' was of course the first UK Punk album and although bands like the Pistols and The Clash thought The Damned as just a comic act this album was the total opposite. If 'New Rose' was anything to go by then you knew that the album was going to be a scorcher. Twelve slices of fast and furious punk that was like a sonic assulat on your eardrums! The final track on the album is a classic look back to the founding fathers of punk, The Stooges and goes to show that The Damned were a band to be taken seriously. On their third album, 'Machine Gun Etiquette' they would cover MC5's 'Looking At You' and prove again that they were still a force to be reckoned with.

Next to 'High Land, Hard Rain' it is quite possible that 'Stray' is one of the finest releases that Roddy Frame, under the banner of Aztec Camera has ever released. It had been three years in the making after the highly successful 'Love' album and whilst that album had been full on dance/pop, 'Stray' never stuck to one particular formula. Of all the Aztec albums 'Stray' embraced everything from full on Rock and Roll to sensitive Jazz. This would normally be regarded as a recipie for disaster but Roddy Frame pulled it off. Tracks like 'Good Morning Britain' (a collaboration with Mick Jones), the wonderful single 'The Crying Scene', 'Get Outa London' and 'That's How It Is' form the hard rockin spine of the album and whilst they are good tracks it is actually the quieter ones that make this album stand out. 'Stray', 'Over My Head', 'Gentle Kind', Notting Hill Blues' and the beautiful album closer 'Song for a Friend' show off Frame's talent for writing beautiful songs (something he has continued to do as a solo artist).

A quick word in passing about the 1984 release 'Knife' produced by Mark Knopler. This album was totally slated by critics and is still regarded as one of the worst albums that Aztec Camera ever released. I think that is a bit too harsh because apart from the over indulgent title track it it includes some of Roddy's best moments.

This album was the make or break for Springsteen after his first two albums didn't do so well (but a listen to both 'Greetings from Asbury Park' and 'The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle' will show you that they are both quality albums.) And what a cracker of an album it is! So much has been written about it over the years that I scarcely need to heap any more praise upon it. It has only eight songs on it but the stories those songs tell laid the foundation for my longing for life, travel, love and a host of other things. 'Thunder Road' sets off the journey and it's a wild roller coaster ride the rest of the way.

Springsteen of course has recorded many great albums but none come close to topping 'Born to Run' - though saying that, 'Nebraska' comes a very close second!

I was never a Mod but there were a number of Mod bands that I had the pleasure of working with and loved their music (Long Tall Shorty, Secret Affair, Purple Hearts & The Teenbeats to name but a few). The Chords were one of those bands. They put out a number of cracking singles ('Maybe Tomorrow' quite possibly their best) and one of the great debut albums of all time (well according to me anyway!) in 'So Far Away'. The Jam were always considered the front runners when it came to Mod music in the '80's and whilst I liked a lot of material that Weller & Co released, it would be wrong to not to place The Chords in second place. Live they were stunning to see and the twelve tracks that made up their debut showed that they meant business.
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