I was once asked to list ten of my personal favorite albums, with a brief note on each for a proposed book compiling such lists from various musicians.
The albums I chose are ones that have made a particular and lasting impression.
The book never saw publication, and I posted the list on the old Lustmord forum a few years ago.
My passion for music remains the same as it did then, and the quest continuos to relive that sensation one only gets when hearing a great album or artist for the very first time.Having to restrict my choices to ten for the purpose of this exercise, the ones that continue to particularly stand out for me are:
The Clash: The Clash. (CBS 1977)
(The original British release, not the American version, which has different tracks)
Along with the Sex Pistols’ “Bollocks”, the album that spawned a thousand imitators (dam them). Angry, fresh, and above all vital. While there are many good arguments as to why this isn’t the best Clash album, it’s the one that did it for me. A real breath of fresh air when it came out, and those who weren’t around at the time often seem to forget just how different to everything else this was.
I saw The Clash live numerous times in the late 70’s when they played to 200-300 people and for a time they really were “The only band that mattered”. Forget the imitators, this is the only punk album you need.
Throbbing Gristle: 2nd Annual Report. (Industrial Records 1977)
Like most exceptional releases, I first heard of this album via word-of-mouth and it proved difficult to track down due to the original limited run of 785. It was most definitely worth the effort. This was about as different an album as I’d heard, in a period when I was actively seeking out and listening too a lot of experimental and ”new” electronic music. Most of it too pretentious for its own good.
Brutal, powerful and unnerving. it blurred the line between music and noise and began a new language of its own.
This was a statement cried out aloud, and a gauntlet thrown at the feet of those who claimed they broke barriers with punk. A gauntlet that hardly anybody has been willing to pick up since.
Beginning here, TG influenced a generation of musicians who went on to influence others.
(Just don’t even get me started on the diluted and rather meaningless so-called “industrial” music that came later).
Chris and Cosey of TG became (and remain) two sear friends and were instrumental in my starting down my own musical path when they encouraged me to do so. So blame them not me.
Agustus Pablo: King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown. (Clocktower & Yard International 1977)
The space between the notes defines dub. Exquisite placement of sound and texture. The album to play people who have never heard real dub. If they don’t get it, well, they can just fuck off.
This album made me aware of the concept of using the studio as an instrument, which was a major influence (as a “professional non-musician”) on the way I work.
Also recommended is Jacob Miller’s “Who Says Jah No Dead” album from who’s vocal cuts on that album most of these dubs derive.
If I had one favorite album this would probably be it.
Joe Gibbs and the Professionals: African Dub Chapter III. (Joe Gibbs 1978)
Largely the work of engineer Errol Thompson (who also engineered “King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown”). Dub goes over the edge with sound effects that literally include the kitchen sink, and its all the better for it. All held together by some classic root rhythms. Essential.
Kraftwerk: The Man Machine. (EMI 1978)
An album that I bought on the day of release. Like all Kraftwerk, on first impression, pure in its simplicity, but the execution is far from simple. While oft imitated, nobody comes even close to Kraftwerk. This album was almost omitted from the list, but only to make room for their 2005 live album Minimum Maximum, but The Man Machine wins for being such an inspiration at the time. You should still run out and buy Minimum Maximum too though.
Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures. (Factory Records 1979)
The band that went so far over the edge that they never came back, and this album mapped out that journey right from the beginning..Despairs, remorse, regret and they sound as if they really mean it. And of course, as testified by Ian Curtis’ suicide that marked the end of the band after two albums (of which this is the first), he at least most certainly did.
I bought this album the day after (unexpectedly) seeing them live when they supported The Buzzcoks on a tour to promote this album. Still after all those years the best and most electrifying show I’ve been to, and this album is only a glimpse of that performance, but better than no glimpse at all.
Little Axe: Slow Fuse (Wired Recordings 1996)
As good as the first album “The House That Wolf Built” is, this is where all the ingredients (tight grooves, dub and blues) come together for a perfect blend, masterfully captured by Adrian Sherwood’s production, which retains the playfulness and touch of chaos that makes his mixes so good, but within a more restrained and mature content.
A perfect blend of that Tackhead/On-U sound mixed with the tonality and richness of delta blues, with grooves as only Le Blanc, Wimbish and McDonald can fashion.
Try and search out the long deleted Australian limited edition release if you can, as its extra disc of otherwise unavailable versions and remixes is well worth getting.
It’s a real shame that Moby’s tepid attempts at fusing blues gathered more attention and unfortunately success than did Little Axe, as the latter do it so much better and did it first.
Martin Denny: Exotica 90. (Insideout, Japan 1990)
A Japan only release, recorded in Tokyo and Hawaii in 1990. Including versions of some of Denny’s hit’s from the 1950s, including some with added vocals. While I was familiar with and enjoyed Denny’s material, it wasn’t until being exposed to this album in 1990 during vacations in San Francisco and Los Angeles that I really grew to love it. Perfect for playing while driving around California in an open-top car. Purists will probably prefer the early recordings, but while I have them all, I have a soft spot for this one.
Bohren and der Club of Gore : Black Earth (Wonder 2002)
David Lynch meets Miles Davies at 3 am in a smoke-filled basement one dark night in 1958.
Jazz so slow it hardly moves, midnight black and cold. Add Mellotron and the result is perfect.
So far their albums after Black Earth have failed to capture the mood they caught here unfortunately.
Reissued by Ipecac Recordings in 2004.
Beyond dub techno (which they instigated), Moritz von Oswald and Mark Ernestus at the creative and technical peak of their collaboration. While I have all of their work together, this is the one that really stands out for me. Solid bass-lines, perfectly spaced and utilized production and a groove that keeps pulling forward. One rhythm reworked with subtle mastery over eleven tracks. Few are capable of this kind of sound.
Albums that I would have included if I wasn’t restricted to ten would be:
Various Artists: Headz (MoWax)
Vangelis: Blade Runner (I recommend the 4CD “29th Anniversary” edition)
Tangerine Dream: Rubycon