As a sequel to the posts yesterday and the day before, today part 3, the last one, numbers 10 to 1.
10. The Beatles – Abbey Road
Well, The Beatles. As a child I only knew the red and blue compilations. My father owned them. I favored the blue one. Later on I learned that this was the studio period of The Beatles. During this period they made their best music. It started with Revolver, which was released in the year of my birth. It contains my favorite Beatles song: Tomorrow Never Knows. The praise bestowed upon Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is something I don’t completely understand. It contains (too much) filler. But The White Album and this Abbey Road are fantastic. And, despite my John Lennon preference, the closing medley of Abbey Road (You Never Give Me Your Money / Sun King / Mean Mr Mustard / Polythene Pam / She Came In Through The Bathroom Window / Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End), is phenomenal and entirely by McCartney.
Also recommended: Revolver, The White Album
9. The Smiths – Hatful Of Hollow
Morrissey’s ‘weltschmerz’ was, is and remains entertaining. Couple this with the perfect music by Johnny Marr and you get one of the best bands of all time. During their five-years existence they made so many beautiful songs. Certain lyrics stay with me forever:
- ‘There’s a club, if you’d like to go, you could meet somebody who really loves you.’ So you go, and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home, and you cry and you want to die
- And, if a double-decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die. And, if a ten-ton truck kills the both of us, to die by your side… well, the pleasure – the privilege is mine
- For there are brighter sides to life and I should know because I’ve seen them, but not often
- I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now
8. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Abbatoir Blues / The Lyre Of Orpheus
In 1984 the first album by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, From Her To Eternity, was released. I thought it was so good, so unusual and so innate. A Box For Black Paul in particular was my favorite. I had never heard anything like that. The next two albums, The Firstborn Is Dead and Kicking Against The Pricks, were great too. After that I lost sight of Nick Cave. Years and years later he releases this absolutely fantastic (double)album. Every song is good on this album. The following albums maintained the high level of this one. Currently, he’s at a (creative) peak, boasting a back-catalogue to die for. In November 2013 I saw Nick Cave live again. I was blown away, impressed and in awe for months and months after. I immediately tried to get tickets for the next scheduled concert in Amsterdam about two weeks later and that proved to be of the same quality and intensity. Nick Cave: extraordinarily good and powerful, musically as well as lyrically.
7. David Bowie – Low
My real introduction to Bowie was in 1977. I must have heard (or seen) his music before, but I guess that didn’t click. I was watching Toppop (a famous weekly music television show in Holland, which ran from 1970 to 1988) and saw Sound And Vision. The video to the song contained various images and clips (from the movie The Man Who Fell To Earth). But that music! The long intro, those synthesizers, the incredible drumsound. I was deeply impressed. Later that same year the song “Heroes” was released, which proved to be even more beautiful, one of the best songs ever made. Still it took some years before I could buy both albums that contained those songs, Low and “Heroes”. And still, how great are these albums! I prefer Bowie’s so-called ‘Berlin-trilogy’, to which both albums, and Lodger, belong. So much music on these albums have proved to be innovative. As far as I’m concerned this music isn’t as time-boxed as the preceding glamrock, even though Bowie made some truly fantastic songs during that period (Life On Mars?). I remember reading/seeing somewhere that, at the time of the ‘Berlin-trilogy’, Iggy Pop recommended to Bowie to use his voice in a different way, in a lower register. Perhaps that’s the reason I prefer his latter music more. The exhibition I visited with Rachid in December of last year was impressive, for it became abundantly clear just how important Bowie has been within so many areas. His last album is also beautiful. His passing early this year came as a shock. Bowie was a very great, great Artist (and justly so with a capital A).
Also recommended: “Heroes”, Lodger, Scary Monsters, 1. Outside, Blackstar
6. Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love
Until Born In The USA Bruce wasn’t really my cup of tea, but with the release of 5-vinyl disc Live 1975-85 and this album that changed completely. Tunnel Of Love is a very laid-back album, with beautiful lyrics and sparse music, but what eloquence. The first single of this album, Brilliant Disguise, is still one of my favorites. Because I obtained tickets to the June 29th 1988 show (and was still employed at Concerto) I bought the entire back-catalogue. I had missed out on quite a lot. Darkness On The Edge Of Town, particularly was an eye-opener. The concert was fantastic, in which Springsteen effortlessly broke through the 3-hour limit and seemed as energetic at the end of the show as he was at the beginning. After the tour The E Street Band was disbanded and a less inspired period commenced, but at the time of the 2002 release of The Rising everything turned out well after all. Happy to say I have seen more than a couple of times. Springsteen touches the heart. In Paris (07/05/2012) the emotion was almost unbearable during Racing In The Street. Fortunately I will see him again later in the year. Can’t wait. Springsteen is Rachid’s favorite and he will see him for the third time this year, which makes it all even greater.
Also recommended: Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Live 1975-85, The Rising
5. Sly & The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Goin’ On
An essential link in (psychedelic) funk. As a young boy I knew Family Affair, a song on this album, from a ‘Alle 13 goed’-kind of album, which my father owned. Years later (Concerto again) I bought this album, which is so dark, mysterious, strange and unique. The popalbum which features a drumcomputer (of better yet: a rhythm-machine) for the first time so prominently. Very rhythm oriented music in which the (Vietnam) war, civil-rights escalations, (excessive) drug use and the Jehovah conviction created a symbiosis. The typical sound of this album was, according to legend, created because Sly invited people into the studio daily and let them contribute to the album, out of courtesy or because he was too high, and after that erased their contributions again. Because of this the tapes were so severely damaged that the production seems kind of monotone. However, it enhances the special, alienated character of this extraordinary album, that, despite my attempts, can’t be put into words. Essential listening.
Also recommended: Greatest Hits, Fresh
4. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
The first concept album coming from Motown and the first soul/funk concept album. Marvin Gaye wanted freedom, he had enough of the prefabricated Motown sound and songs. Nobody within the Motown organisation wanted it, in the least Berry Gordy himself, but Marvin persisted and delivered this phenomenal album. From start to finish, everything is great, everything fits, the mix is flawless; the themes (still) up to date. Just realizing he all figured this out by himself and created it too, is unbelievable. Splendid!
3. LCD Soundsystem – The London Sessions
One of the most original band of this millennium. Only releasd three albums. LCD Soundsystem is a unique band with a unique sound. The mix of dance, funk, rock and even punk is unparalleled. James Murphy is a sound wizard. The first thing I heard was Losing My Edge, a song that deals with a music lover who likes everything and emphasizes the/his relevancy ever so much and desires to be/have been a part of that. The first album (LCD Soundsystem) was extremely good, the second (Sound Of Silver) even better and the third (This Is Happening) as good as the second. After that it was over, unfortunately. I only saw them live once, but that was impressive and unforgettable. All My Friends is one of my top 10 songs of all times. It is contained on this album. A semi-live album, for it was recorded for a radio-show. It provides a good indication of the 3 studio albums and proves how great this band was as a live band. The good news is they’re back together again, with a new album and tour underway!
Also recommended: LCD Soundsystem, Sound Of Silver, This Is Happening
2. D’Angelo – Voodoo
D’Angelo, or how something can come close to the undisputed number 1. This album is an absolute masterpiece. It is dark, sexy, funky and pure genius. Particularly Questlove’s drumming is inimitable. Just behind the beat and flow. It sounds weird and addictive. I have played this album countless times and waited for years and years for the follow-up. In 2002 tickets went on sale for a show at the Ahoy in Rotterdam; I got tickets, but the show was cancelled. D’Angelo had an addiction, lost his mind, was ill, got arrested, became obese and neglected himself, acquired a writer’s block, was inconsolable by the death of friend J Dilla and couldn’t handle the fame. The attention for his (trained) body annoyed him terribly. D’Angelo seemed to have become a victim of his own success. Midway 2011 messages were released that the new album was 97% done. One year later he suddenly appeared at Paradiso and performed a great show. Again one year later the album was supposedly 99% done. Without any warning it was released at the end of 2014: Black Messiah. It was worth the wait (15 years!). Completely different from Voodoo, but genius nonetheless. The Paradiso shows from 2015 are among the best I have seen in my entire life. I hope his production-rate will rise; three albums in over 20 years is just too little, especially if you count in his abilities.
Also recommended: Brown Sugar, Black Messiah
For those who know me, this isn’t a surprise. To be really fair this should contain all output by Prince from 1980 to 1988, including all the music and songs he wrote for others, records he played, recorded and released under pseudonyms and everything he recorded but didn’t release (and found its way to the public through bootlegging). Just to be complete; this entails Dirty Mind, Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day, Parade, Sign O’ The Times and Lovesexy: the albums that carry his name. Added to this are a number of not released albums, like Dream Factory, Crystal Ball and (the most famous example) The Black Album.
Also included are all related albums: Apollonia 6 – Apollonia 6; Sheila E – The Glamourous Life, Romance 1600 and Sheila E; The Family – The Family; Jill Jones – Jill Jones; Madhouse – 8 and 16; The Time – The Time, What Time Is It? and Ice Cream Castle; Vanity 6 – Vanity 6.
To top that off all kins of songs for others, like Kenny Rogers (You’re My Love), Stevie Nicks (Stand Back), The Bangles (Manic Monday), André Cymone (The Dance Electric), Nona Hendryx (Baby Go-Go), Deborah Allen (Telepathy) and Sheena Easton (Sugar Walls), etc., released through such pseudonyms as Alexander Nevermind, Joey Coco, Jamie Starr or Christopher.
Besides the music: 3 movies (Purple Rain, Under The Cherry Moon and Sign O’ The Times), 7 tours and constantly and always recording. Hundreds and hundreds of songs. One even better than the other. What he accomplished during these 8 to 9 years is unparalleled and completely unique.
In May of 1984 I was in my regular bar and heard this strange guitar sound, a voice going from left to right (or the other way round) followed by a mechanical funky beat. The synthesizer motif was a great hook. No bass, great lyric and, at the end, in the background screaming, more guitar. After about 5 minutes it was done. I remember running up to the DJ demanding to know who, what, how, where, that song! He held the cover up of When Doves Cry by Prince. Prince? That could not be? Didn’t he make dance music? The maxi single turned out to be an American import. Soon, it would also be available in the Netherlands. As soon as it was, I bought it and a lifelong admiration (and addiction) was underway. To this day, every time I hear it, there is still the amazement about the song itself, the audacity to make it sound the way it sounds, the realization he wrote, performed, sung (including his own background vocals) and mixed it, all in one day. The same year the album Purple Rain was also acquired and the collecting began, all B-sides (!) and keeping up with news about the successor, which was, reportedly, already done before Purple Rain the movie was released to movie theaters. I saw the movie in a movie theater (great!). The following year Around The World In A Day was released. I bought the album on the new format that was going to be big, the compact disc. I didn’t have a player yet, nor the money for it. When the player finally arrived in 1986 I had 3 cd’s (all Prince), including the then just released Parade. What an album was that! I had never heard an album that sounds like that one, still haven’t. When Sign O’ The Times was released, at the end of March 1987, I bought both cd’s in the weekend. The next day I heard Housequake, The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker and If I was Your Girlfriend for the first time. Again a revelation! The excitement whenever something new was released seemed to never stop. May 1988 saw the release of Lovesexy. Once again a masterpiece and again an album that (still) doesn’t sound like any other album.
In 1986 music magazine Oor placed Hij komt! (He is coming!) on the front page. Everyone knew what it meant: Prince would come to Holland. I had to be there. In the early morning of August 1st 1986 me and a friend joined the queue for the shows that would take place within a week or two. We managed to get tickets for August 18th. I finally would go and see Prince. And it was unbelievable; starting behind a closed curtain, Around The World In A Day. Halfway through the song the curtains flew open and there was The Revolution. Within the time frame of half an hour a dazzling number of songs were played, all in new arrangements, connected with ingenious bridges and musical riffs, with a lot of horns and extremely funky. The first moment of (relative) rest came with Do Me, Baby. Everything was different after that. The way this sounded and was performed. The sheer control he had over his band, his voice, his performance: it was impressive and terrifyingly perfect. This concert was to be my first (of many) bootleg. I must have played the recordings thousands of times. I know every hook, every yell/scream , every start/stop of The Revolution (Good God!). 40 Prince concerts would follow in many towns, countries even (once took a plane to Zürich with my friend Bram). Another concert that must be mentioned is the one that took place on September 9th 1988. Prince would close his genius Lovesexy tour in Europe with an extra show. Initially a location was scouted in Holland, but a suitable venue could not be found at such short notice. Dortmund (Germany) fit the requirements. However, because the show was to be recorded and broadcast throughout Europe at the same evening, Prince requested that the audience was predominantly Dutch, because that was the most receptive audience, as far as he was concerned. Once again: I got tickets! There we went: in a van filled with friends; it became one of those unimaginable experiences. On the way home the concert we just witnessed was aired on the radio. When we got home watched the video recording of the television broadcast. Unforgettable!
One of the great things Prince (still) does are the so-called aftershows. After the ‘regular’ show, continue in a small venuse or club and playing things which are not part of the rehearsed catalogue. The most well known is the aftershow at Paard van Troje at The Hague, Holland on August 18th 1988, because the show is (very) well documented through the release of (soundboard) bootleg recordings: one of the ‘must-have’ Prince bootlegs. I have been able to witness some aftershows and every time it’s special to witness such a great artist in a smaal venue (like Paradiso).
The movies: Purple Rain is one long videoclip, which works perfectly. The acting is silly at times, the story too thin, but the music is incredible. Particularly Morris Day is extremely funny. Under The Cherry Moon was released in 1986. The story was even thinner than Purple Rain‘s one and the movie was condemned worldwide, contrary to the soundtrack (Parade) to the movie. I don’t recall seeing the movie in a theater at the time, so I probably saw the movie around 1988, on my brand new videorecorder, for the first time. I think the movie is rather funny and I do enjoy it. I saw the concertmovie Sign O’ The Times in a movie theater in Amsterdam in 1988 with my mother (who has seen Prince live twice). The movie is great. It’s a pity though that halfway through the movie U Got The Look gets shown. It kills the flow of the concert. It does give a fairly good impression of the tour, especially during highlight Forever In My Life. During his heyday two video’s were also released: Prince & The Revolution Live! (Syracuse, March 31st 1985) and the already mentioned Dortmund concert (under the moniker Lovesexy Live). The last one is a perfect introduction to everything Prince is and can do.
In closing the bootlegs. After I acquired the recordings of my first Prince show, I also wanted recordings of the Sign O’ The Times tour show I witnessed. Through the help of some of my colleague’s at Concerto I bought my first cd-bootleg at the end of 1988 (The Black Album and Lovesexy Live In Germany). I have collected hundreds of them and find myself playing the bootlegs more often than the officially released music. I tend to prefer the live recordings, but I, obviously, also like like much of the never (officially) released output.
After 1988 it all became somewhat less interesting, even though Batman and Graffiti Bridge had their great moments (The Future, The Question Of U, Joy In Repetition, Thieves In The Temple). But with the release of Diamonds And Pearls it was inevitable: it was seriously becoming less. O(+>, which was released the following year, was slightly better, but after that the war with Warner Bros. commenced and the ‘slave’ period was about to begin. Still some moments of genius: The Gold Experience (1995) and The Rainbow Children (2001), even though the last one is rather controversial, because of the lyrical content (Jehovah’s Witness inspiration and dogma’s abound). I also liked N.E.W.S. very much. Then he decided to make hit records again, something in which he succeeded, but I lost interest. By the way, his latest release (HITNRUN Phase Two) is pretty good. The two 2014 album,s are pretty good also. Despite his officially releases music being less inspired, Prince as a live act is still unprecedented.
Top songs (selection of officially released material): Head, Controversy, 1999, The Beautiful Ones, When Doves Cry, 17 Days, Erotic City, Paisley Park, Condition Of The Heart, America, Hello, Girl, Girls And Boys, Mountains, Kiss, Sometimes It Snows In April, Sign O’ The Times, Housequake, Hot Thing, If I Was Your Girlfriend, It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night, Alphabet St, Lovesexy, Positivity
When Doves Cry cover: discogs.com
Regular album images: allmusic.com