top ten albums

  • Ten albums that shook my world

    My friend Ruth Benton asked me to offer up 10 albums that had helped to form my taste in music. It’s one of those pass-it-on Facebook challenges, but this one really does act as an interesting glimpse into your past. Call it online therapy. 

    No explanation was required on Facebook, but if you’d like to know why I chose what I chose, here goes…

    Bruce Springsteen – Live 1975-85

    When I got this live compilation spread over three bootleg tapes in my early teens, it blew me away. Full disclosure: I spent the next several years rocking in my bed almost every night, being Springsteen on stage playing to packed stadia. 

    Dire Straits – Alchemy

    Yes, another live set. Most music is better live, and when a guitarist is as good as Mark Knopfler, the more rein he has, the better. This was also on tape, of course, but not bootlegged, amazingly. Sublime plucked strings. My favourite guitarist. Tunnel of Love (for 10 minutes).

    Rachid Taha, Khaled & Faudel – 1, 2, 3 Soleils

    OK, another live album. I bought this on a stopover in Abu Dhabi airport on the strength of the shop assistant’s recommendation. My first experience of rai music – as we ascended over Arabia – was transcendental. Khaled is the man with the golden voice. 

    Talvin Singh presents Soundz of the Asian Underground

    This compilation of British Asian dance music feels like my London album. It felt to me like a coming out ceremony for a more multicultural British identity, and it felt good. Just listen to this… 

    The Black Crowes – The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion

    These good ‘ol deep southern boys mainlined blues-rock straight from the source. Lead singer Chris Robinson’s lyrics were mostly gibberish, but his gaunt androgynous sense of style was awesome and I tried hard to perfect it. 

    The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers

    My parents had their old LPs in a sideboard behind the sofa. I found it. The rest is history. The Rolling Stones always had a soul The Beatles couldn’t match (let the debate commence!) and this album is the perfect balance between the old blues and the new rock. I rest my case

    Led Zeppelin II

    Another from behind the sofa. I also found Led Zep I among my Uncle James’ possessions in the attic over my grandparent’s garden room. It’s a close call, but the second album just has it. The ultimate ecstatic British schoolboy interpretation of classic blues. This is how to open an album.

    The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy & The Lash

    In the mid-80s, my whole family went Celtic crazy (well, a whole swathe of England did actually). Shane MacGowan must be one of the best songwriters of his generation, and the way he honours and reimagines the Irish tradition is epic and iconic

    Flanders & Swann – At the Drop of a Hat

    And suddenly, some 50s West End after-dinner entertainment. You see, it’s not all blues-rock. Michael Flanders was a comic genius, and his on-stage patter felt of a piece in my mind with the PG Wodehouse books, Oscar Wilde plays and Stephen Fry skits I was devouring at the time.

    Paul Oakenfold – Live at the Ku Club, Ibiza, 1995, Radio 1 Essential Mix 05

    And then the era of the album was over… Mix tapes offered up a whole new way of listening to music, more like classical in that it went on for hours without end. This set includes the sublime ‘Odyssey to Anyoona’ by Jam & Spoon and still takes me to higher places. 

    More music? Bruce Springsteen’s latest album, Western Stars, got me thinking: Are Nomads Bad?