Saturday, 18 January 2020

The Saturday list #248 - Ten classic albums whose musical legacy outlived all the artist

First of all, let me state that I've blatantly  nicked this  idea. The original compiler of the list is Darren Johnson. For those of you who don't know Darren, he is the Johnson who made his name in City Hall and is the Johnson who should be Prime Minister! He was the Green GLA Rep. I got to know Darren as he was (and still is) a keen supporter of the Save London Music campaign. Since his retirement from City Hall, he's reinvented himself as a music blogger and does it rather well, specialising in Heavy Rock, 60's Glam and Folk.

Darren only chose five albums, I am going for ten (as that is the magic number for Saturday lists). As Darren has picked five absolute crackers, which I fully endorse, I have the pleasant task of picking a different selection.

Image Copyright Island Records
1. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black. I could start at no other place. Amy changed the  music scene, she brought the art of singing great songs extremely well back into vogue. The fact that she was a studio customer and planning to record an album of acoustic tracks with us (Mill Hill Music Complex) when she passed away makes it hard for me to listen to this album without welling up.

The influence of Amy is still all around us. Every decent female vocalist to emerge since has given her a nod. Her delivery and  charisma set a new benchmark and as someone who saw her in action rehearsing and song writing it was clear to me just how special a talent she was

Copyright -  Harvest/EMI / Capitol Record
2. Syd Barrett - Barrett. Syd Barrett was perhaps the ultimate troubled genius. He was the force behind early Pink Floyd and as far as I was concerned, when he left so did any interest I had in the bands music. His own solo albums are fragile gems. The music is often weird, mostly wonderful and at times truly bonkers. I bought this album after Knox, the lead singer of the Vibrators released a solo version of one of the Tracks 'Gigolo Aunt'. I was a tad surprised and collared Knox, he advised me to buy the album. He also told me that any British artist who had ever written anything interesting had this in their collection.

If Knox said it, it must be true! If you want to be a truly great artist, you know what you need to do if you don't have a copy.

Copyright Motown Records
3. Marvin Gaye - Lets get it on. This is the album that reshaped Motown. Marvin Gaye had been going through a period of writers block. Following the success of Gaye's previous album, he'd been given a new contract and more artistic control. The result was Let's get it on. It was far more experimental than previous Motown offerings and lead the label to open up to new directions that it had previously been shy of. A whole generation of soul singers use this album as the starting point and reference for how to make soul music. The songs are overtly sexual and give a hint to the turmoil which drove Marvin Gaye. It is a masterpiece beyond peer.

Copyright - EMI records
4. X Ray Spex  - Germ Free Adolescence. When punk rock exploded on the scene, for the very first time female artists had a degree of equality and control. Poly Styrene of X Ray Spex was perhaps the most unique and influential of all. Neither Poly's looks or vocal style were what the music industry had previously thought commercial, yet the brilliance of the songs she wrote and the connection with her audience, shy, awkward, teenage misfits (like me at the time) was beyond parallel. Watching Poly on Top of the Pops was both liberating and empowering. Poly is the only music star who I shed a real for when she passed away. I saw her last  major London show at The Roundhouse and she was amazing. Her influence lives on.

Copyright - Track records
5. The Heartbreakers - L.A.M.F. The Heartbreakers were perhaps the most influential of all of the primal punk bands. When they turned up in the UK, they were a seasoned, well oiled band. They could deliver a set, work and audience and they rocked. On the darker side, they also brought  smack into the UK Punk scene, John Lydon has always held them responsible for the demise of Sid Vicious. L.A.M.F.  is an absolute classic, which has been rather overlooked by many, but for people around in 1977 it was a must have album. Whilst most of the tracks are full on rock and roll, Johnny Thunders rendition of "It's not enough" showed the depth and musicality of the band.  The UK  Punk scene would have been a very different beast without The Heartbreakers and LAMF. Only Walter Lure is still alive from the line up. Being a Heartbreaker was not a healthy occupation.

Copyright - Island Records
6.  Bob Marley and The Wailers - Live. I think everyone knows the influence of Bob Marley and The Wailers. Possibly the most recognisable artist on the planet. I thought long and hard about which of his albums was the most important and settled on the Live! album. For many, this was the album where we got to know Bob Marley. I was surprised to learn that it only reached no 38 in the UK charts, as everyone I knew seemed to have a copy. The liver version of No Woman No Cry from the album was a hit single. Like many young punks in 1977, the rallying cry of "Get up, Stand up" was something that resonated. Without Live! with its raw energy, I doubt that the young white punk audience that reshaped music in the late 70's would have got reggae when they did.

Copyright Brunswick Records
7. Buddy Holly - The Chirping Crickets. The tragic death of Buddy Holly in 1959 robbed us of one of the greatest stars of Rock and Roll. Buddy Holly is another artist I must thank Knox for getting me into. He did a solo version of Well Alright and on hearing this, I realised what a great song it was. I procured the three studio albums, soon settling on the first as my favourite. Songs like Not Fade Away and That'll be the day are works of genius and have been covered by the likes of The Rolling Stones and Ringo Starr. The influence of Buddy Holly seeps through the pores of all good Rock and Roll. If you have never listened to this album, make the effort as it is absolutely brilliant.

Copyright Casablanca Records
8. Donna Summer - Love to Love You Baby. When I first heard the single of this track, I was completely unprepared for it. It is perhaps the sexiest piece of music ever recorded. It took me a long time to realise what an influential piece of music Georgio Moroder had made. This song defined the sound of electronic dance music. It also broke barriers with its overt sexiness.  The A side was a 16 minute version of Love to love you. The B side had rather provocative songs such as Pandora's Box and Virgin Mary. If you want to know how to make great electronic dance music, which will last for a very long time there really is no better place to start than by deconstructing this album. As a young punk I sniffily dismissed it, but in around 1981 I actually listened to it properly and realised it is a masterpiece.

Copyright Columbia Records
9. Johnny Cash - At  Folsom Prison. Yep, I know this isn't the cover, this is the single, but I love this picture far more than the album cover, so forgive me the indulgence (click here to see the real cover). The influence of Johnny Cash is far too great for a couple of sentences here, but this album's legacy is something else. A hit album recorded live in a prison really was something else. In the USA the populace take a dim view of offenders and state prisons are harsh places, where punishment rather than rehabilitation is generally the order of the day. Johnny Cash took popular music out of its comfort zone and explored the dark side in a way few ever can pull off successfully. Everything about Johnny Cash has been borrowed. The look, the vocal style, the songs. The one thing that hasn't is the authenticity.

Copyright RCA Records
10 . David Bowie - Station to Station. I have to admit I was mildly surprised when I saw Darrens list missed Bowie. I then realised perhaps why he didn't choose a Bowie album. Which one? There are so many and they are so varied and so many are influential. I settled on Station to Station for a number of reasons. It is the album that sounds least dated. It signalled the end of his coke addled rock star phase. He'd moved on from Glam rock with Young Americans. Low saw him move to Berlin and get his head together. Station to Station is glorious. I think the reason it is so influential is that it demostrated that Bowie could reinvent himself and take his audience with him. It is musically far more interesting than any of his previous albums. It took chances and changed our perception of  Bowie. That is a message that many successful artists took on board. Brian Eno called it one of the greatest records of all time. Who am I to argue.

I made a playlist of my ten picks from these albums. Enjoy

Have a great weekend!

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