7 Great Albums
1. Love – Forever Changes
Released in 1967, this album should be all flower power and vacuous anthems about peace and love and the dawning of new ages. It’s not. The arrangements are beautiful but there’s something else, something darker behind the lyrics. I remember being baffled the first time I listened to it, but the songs grow on you. My favorite tracks are “Alone Again Or” and “Old Man,” both written by Bryan MacLean, and sung in his peculiar, haunting style.
2. GZA – Liquid Swords
I got into WuTangClan late, which due to my middle-class upbringing in Windsor, England, probably isn’t surprising. Eminem was the limit of my HipHop knowledge until I reached my late teens, and found UK HipHop, then traced my way back through Jay Z, Outkast, Busta Rhymes, and more, to the beginnings in New York. I love most of it, but my favorite by far is the best of the WuTang solo projects, in fact almost a full WuTang album, Liquid Swords by GZA (The Genius). There’s just something magical about this album. RZA’s production is genius, all dark samples from old Kung Fu movies and minimal beats. GZA and the guests respond with dark poetic lyrics that flow effortlessly from track to track. Much of my novel was written with this on repeat, hoping that some of its energy would rub off.
3. Skream – Skream
Skream’s moved on to other gigs and other genres since this album, understandably. Dubstep’s moved on too, becoming a Fratboy Frankenstein’s monster of the genre it used to be. But I haven’t. It’s one of the first dubstep albums I ever heard, and I’ve never forgotten the thrill of hearing it for the first time. Might not be to everyone’s tastes and probably best heard in a South London club in the late 2000s, but failing that, a set of decent headphones will do. Sparse beats, heavy bass. What more do you need?
4. The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St
I was always a Beatles fan growing up, thinking of the Stones as an R&B copying gang of London reprobates. Now I realize I was an idiot. Behind the outward swagger are a band that loved the roots of Rock&Roll, and furthered it through great playing and great songs. Other albums have classic tunes, better singles, but Exile on Main St is my favorite, to my mind the most complete Stones album. They might have been strung out on drugs but they were playing at their absolute peak.
5. James Blake – Overgrown
A collision between electronic music and old school songwriting. Difficult to describe the beauty of this album. Best to listen and find out for yourself.
6. Travelling Wilburys – Vol 1
The supergroup to end all supergroups. Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. Despite all the talent present, Orbison’s voice blows them away on “Handle with Care,” and “Not Alone anymore.” That’s not to say that the rest of the tracks aren’t great though. There’s a reason this album was such a surprise hit.
7. The Coral – The Coral
This album may have made it to a few US ears through the use of “Dreaming of You” in an episode of Scrubs, but it never reached the critical heights I think it deserved. Maybe it’s just too strange, too psychedelic, but I love it. Like Forever Changes, it’s one of those unclassifiable classics, not fitting into the trends of the time, or any time, a mishmash of different influences, written and performed without thought of commercial success, beyond making the best album they possibly could. The Coral have released plenty of good albums since, but this will always be my favorite, the rawest of the bunch, 31 short minutes of psychedelic genius.