This one looks at what I consider to be the most important albums ever made (at least, in my collection).
I hope you agree/disagree with some and, of course, that you will be incredulous that I could miss a certain album you think is vital for anyone’s collection. Tell me about it here!
I start with number 10 and then work my way down to the very bestest album in the whole world. Don’t sneak a peek – read the texts and work your way down without cheating!
Then, after you have finished tutting and shaking your head in disbelief, write a comment and tell me what I missed. I may well agree, of course. Either way, I would love to hear your recommendations.
Well, here goes:
10 – Arnob – Chaina Bhabish
Arguably the artist in the current Bangladeshi musical youth culture, this young man is actually very talented. He has a big following in Bangladesh and his music would fit in anyone’s collection. In some ways that is his biggest weakness as much of what makes Bangladesh’s musical heritage so interesting is missing from his music. We get a subtle fusion of Bangla with Western, but with the latter rather more prominent. Nevertheless, this is an excellent album and the opening tack Amar Hariye Jawa is beautiful and haunting in equal measure.
9 – Kate Bush – The Hounds of Love
The first pop artist I fell in love with as a boy as she did things with a cello I never expected to see on Top of the Pops. Once over the lust and a little bit older I came to adore her music. No silly love songs, no boppy dance music, instead, clever, thoughtful music often playing on great literature, or reinterpreting so-called World music in startling new ways. Experimental yet tuneful, her music delights both ear and mind. This album, above all, is considered her very best and, for me, it kicks in halfway through with And Dreams of Sheep followed by the disturbing and brilliant Under the Ice. This music, once past the tracks that hit the charts, just gets under your skin and leaves you disquieted. It is music I can’t ignore.
8 – Jamie Cullum – Catching Tales
Many people tell me that Cullum’s first album Twenty Something was much better than Catching Tales. I heard the second album first however and was hooked. A brilliant Jazz pianist (whose licks make me feel like a total beginner on the piano again) and smooth Ratpack voice, it is his own compositions that I enjoy the most. London Skies, Photograph and 7 Days to change you life are superb with lyrics that make me think, smile and go “damned right Jamie.”
7 – Sting – Dream of the Blue Turtles
The man with the croakiest voice in the business since Louis Armstrong, Sting became worth listening to after he started to do solo work and move away from The Police. His solo albums are all brilliant and if you do not know his work then I recommend Ten Summoner’s Tales to begin with. This album hooked me, in part, through the great Jazz fusion running throughout but mostly because of Moon Over Bourbon Street. This track musically portraying the famous vampire character from Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire made a big impact on me long before trendy good-guy vampires were popular. I loved the irony of the idea and the beautiful plucked cello line by Sting makes the track perfect.
6 – Queen – Best of Part 1
You can guess by now that I like stuff that is a little different and maybe a touch cerebral. Queen, however, are one band that touch that spot for me and make such a damned good tune you just have to belt out “Don’t stop me now” at the top of your voice. I could recommend A Night at the Opera or even A Day at the Races as excellent albums to go with but, for me, the Best Of Part 1 has a collection of the most faultless Rock tracks you will ever hear. Fat bottomed girls you keep making the rocking world go round…
5 – Holst – The Planets
No classical so far. Time to change that. There are many, many wonderful orchestral, piano and other works out there that this is an impossible task.
So, I go for Holst and his famous Planets as an entirely personal choice. Amazing music, I still intend to transcribe the entire thing by ear one day just for what it will teach me about how to use an orchestra. Alas, time is running out…
Mars, of course, is very famous and great to get any young lad banging out a 5/4 beat with his fists in a way no other piece can do. I don’t care what anyone else says though, Venus is, officially, the most sublime and beautiful piece of music in the world (IDST). It melted my heart the first time I heard it and it still does so 25 year later.
4 – Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
More jazz. Some aficionados look down on this album because it is so famous but I think that kind of inverse snobbery does nothing for music. Massively influential when it came out in 1959, it continues to be arguably the most important jazz album of all time. This is not to say that there are not other influential albums but the number of people it affected and the direction it led jazz is indisputable.
For me, this is the ultimate chill out album. Perfect for those not sure they like jazz, his playing is magical and soothing. Freddie Freeloader is a classic track whilst All Blues is soothing whilst boppy at the same time. Every track on this album is perfect and was taken in one recording. There are no edits here. From start to finish, every musician got it right.
3 – Ravi Shankar – Raga Charukauns
Although often referred to as Indian, Shankar is actually a Bengali and so no surprise then that, in 1971, he persuaded George Harrison to give a charity concert creating awareness in the world about Bangladesh’s plight as it fought at great cost to free itself from Pakistan.
Shankar is, without doubt, the finest Sitar player in the world and you can safely pick any of his albums to enjoy top quality music. I have yet to hear a recording of him playing Raga Lalit (my favourite raga on any instrument) but Charukauns is good enough. Listen and enjoy the mysticism ofIndia andBengal as it moves over you, through you, playing with your heart and you mind with every note.
2 – Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club’s Band
Possibly the most influential pop/rock album in the world by definitely the most influential band in the world. Sgt. Pepper’s was also the first real concept album with all the tracks linked with a theme and the whole album pretending to be a live concert by a fictitious band. Every track a winner, complete with conspiracy theories about the meaning of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, A day in the Life and even what is meant by the flowers on the front of the album cover! Lots of hidden meanings and clever tricks including the use of a dog whistle right at the end to annoy all the dog lovers playing the album. I say right at the end – or is it?…
1 – Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
Those of you who know me well will not be surprised that Pink Floyd come top of my list. Those who know me really well might be surprised that I have not chosen The Wall especially as it is constantly voted as one of the top best albums of all time.
You may also be surprised that, these days, I would I could have chosen Wish You Were Here, Meddle, Obscured by Clouds and possibly even Animals over the Wall but plumped for Dark Side instead. Why?
After having lived in Bangladesh and learned so much about its people over the last 5 years, I have seen and heard of so much suffering of the people and for our dear friends and family here, an album that looks at the ugliness of the West is just too much for me now.
But the message this band have – that of the world driving itself mad and modern society is turning itself into an inhuman machine – is absolutely still a driving force and belief in my life and I hope I will fight against it all my life despite being a teacher and part of it. Dark Side gives this message clearly and with the most fantastic combination of lyrics, sound effects, technology, harmony, melody, guitar solos and keyboard work. I defy anyone to prove to me that there is an overall better album in this genre than Dark Side of the Moon.