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Friday, November 25, 2011

Article: Desert Island Discs - 10 Of The Greatest Albums Ever Made

I don't like to think of myself as a geek, but knowing how often I've made a list of all my favourite things of various sorts, then I'd have to admit to being a little bit of a nerd-bucket. When it comes to music though, I think we all do it. As lovers of the artform, we are all eternally locked in our own private tribal battles over whether something is "the bollocks" or "just plain bollocks". To seal the deal, of course, we keep in our minds (or commit to paper) which few choons we'd take with us when we're journeying out on foot, by public transport or in the car or when we pack up to go on holiday.

Well, your "Desert Island Discs" list is your list of the ones you would take with you to a desert island, your own tropical sandpile, for an indeterminate amount of time. This is the place where modern civilization matters little and having your favourite music with you is the key to maintaining sanity. The whole concept might struggle to work in reality, what with battery issues and the like (I'm imagining some kind of solar powered MP3 player and a pair of headphones), but just go with it. This is your ultimate list - the, and I've expanded the format a little to suit here, ten albums that mean more to you than any others.

The list below are the ones I'd want by my side. I encourage you to consider them (take a chance and spin them, be it for the first or the hundredth time) when making your own minds up.


Nirvana - Nevermind (1992)
Album highlight = Lithium
How could you not take this? It changed the face of rock music. It brought a whole underground scene up and into the mainstream. Some actually attribute the death of hair rock to this very album. It certainly ended badly for it's creator but it doesn't change the impact it had on us, nor the infectious songwriting that lurks within it's baby blue cover. And yet, I still struggled to decide whether I'd take this or Nirvana's reactionary In Utero or their masterfully understated live performance as they went Unplugged In New York.

Metallica - "The Black Album" (1991)
Album highlight = Wherever I May Roam
You can keep your Master Of Puppets and your Ride The Lightning; this is Metallica's masterpiece. It manages to perfectly align anthemic melodies with addictive lyricism and backs it all up with a hefty dose of groove-heavy thrash metal. Every single track is a winner. There are simply no weak tracks. And next year, they're performing the thing in its entirety - Download Festival 2012 can't come soon enough.

Megadeth - Countdown To Extinction (1992)
Album highlight = Architecture Of Aggression
It's beyond me how far removed this album is from anything else Megadeth have created. Not even Rust In Peace comes close. When you consider that most bands struggle to stick two cracking songs side by side, it blows your mind to learn that Countdown's opening salvo manages five. Five of the greatest songs you'll ever hear, one after another. And this thing doesn't even seem to wane with age. It's still as staggering as it was 19 years ago. Yep, come next year, we'd better be lauding this bad boy's 20th anniversary.

The Doors - L. A. Woman (1971)
Album highlight = L.A.Woman
I've been in love with this album for a long time. It's not just "Riders On The Storm" that swings it, it's the whole laconic feel that the album is wrapped in. From the title-track's rickety Hammond organ and rocking vibe to the staccato hep of "Been Down So Long" and the blissed-out sashaying of "Hyacinth House", the album flows through the emotions better than any other I own. It's a complete joy.

Iron Maiden - Powerslave (1984)
Album highlight = Back In The Village
Maiden have played such a major role in my life - they've helped me through times both good and bad. No album of theirs is more deserving a place than Powerslave. I'd take Killers, Number Of The Beast, Live After Death and No Prayer For The Dying too if I had space. Both "Back In The Village", their finest moment, and the instrumental braggadocio of "The Duellists" demand I take this. Add on to that "Aces High", "2 Minutes To Midnight" and the epic "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" and you'd have to agree I made the right choice.

Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger (1991)
Album highlight = Searching With My Good Eye Closed
I love the way grunge, as a genre, sucks up the mischievous stoner underworld and the fearsome rock middle ground. It's still alive today but no-one affected me quite like the combination of it with the vocal of Chris Cornell. He doesn't sing so much as he transmits emotion. Add to this, the fact that I experienced the most intense musical experience of my life whilst listening to this album being toured, and you can see why it's lying there in my trunk.

Machine Head - The Blackening (2007)
Album highlight = Aesthetics Of Hate
Machine Head did the impossible with this album; they surpassed one of the greatest metal albums of all time - their own Burn My Eyes. You just have to listen to the majesty of "Halo" and the nail-gargling 10-minute multi-part "Clenching The Fists Of Dissent" to see how they did it. In fact, the album was so good they toured it for four whole years. Jesus wept, that's impressive.

Pearl Jam - Ten (1991)
Album highlight = Even Flow
Pearl Jam's debut has everything. It is an album so perfect in design and delivery that they will never top it. If they do, I'll eat my hat. Every single track has its own voice, its own vibe and its own place. Ten has sold 10 million copies and is pretty much on every list of greatest albums of all time. No surprise then that when it was re-released for its 20th anniversary, it sold 60,000 copies in its first week. It's a masterpiece.


Oh, and here's another ten albums I'd leave my clothes behind to squeeze in:
Faith No More - Angeldust (1992)
The Verve - Urban Hymns (1997)
AC/DC - Highway To Hell (1979)
Lamb Of God - Sacrament (2006)
Gojira - The Way Of All Flesh (2008)
Rage Against The Machine - Rage Against The Machine (1992)
Isis - Wavering Radiant (2009)
Biffy Clyro - Infinity Land (2004)
No Made Sense - The Epillanic Choragi (2009)
Funeral For A Friend - Casually Dressed & Deep In Conversation (2003)
Mastodon - Crack The Skye (2009)
Chimaira - The Infection (2009)

Truth be told, all these are pretty much in order, but of course it's an ever-changing, ever-evolving list. Some are inked in, some are pencilled in. All are absolute works of art. You think otherwise, you know where I am.
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