Friday, August 19, 2011

Favourite Albums?

The Guardian is running a series of articles where their music columnists (one by one) choose their favorite albums, e.g., here. The authors select albums that mean or have meant the most to them, which may or may not correspond to the albums they think are best in some relatively rigorous, defensible, quasi-objective sense.

Most of the writers so far have chosen albums that they first encountered during their teenage or college years, and for the most part they've further chosen albums that were further actually released then. That's as one might have predicted: you were maximally open to new things, and you were there when this great thing happened. I have my own bunch of faves in that vein, e.g., Off the Wall, The Lexicon of Love, A Walk across the Rooftops, Meat is Murder, Tallulah, Weezer (Blue Album), OK Computer, Second Toughest in the Infants, Vespertine, etc..

But, like many people presumably, I have a bunch of faves that don't fit this model. For example, Hunky Dory, the Superfly Soundtrack and Freewheelin' are three real comfort albums for me despite the fact that I don't have an 'I was there/This was mine' connection with any of them. And some of my most precious, oft-returned-to albums are true compilations of older materials: the Beatles Red and Blue double collections, e.g.,

the Bacharach box set 'The Look of Love':

and the Verve Records collection of heartbreak standards, 'When Love Goes Wrong', which I flat out adore:

Here's the latter's unbeatable track-listing (with my 7 absolute favourite tracks bolded):
1. Good Morning Heartache Billie Holiday
2. Born To Be Blue Chet Baker
3. It Never Entered My Mind Johnny Hartman
4. Everybody's Somebody's Fool Lionel Hampton
5. A Woman Alone With The Blues Peggy Lee
6. A Woman's Intuition Beverly Kenney
7. Everything Happens To Me Frank D'Rone
8. I Fall In Love Too Easily Shirley Horn
9. Here's That Rainy Day Helen Merrill
10. I'm Through With Love Arthur Prysock
11. I'm A Fool To Want You Dinah Washington
12. What Will I Tell My Heart? Billy Eckstine
13. But Not For Me Sarah Vaughan
14. Reaching For The Moon Ella Fitzgerald
15. Gloomy Sunday Mel Tormé
I picked up this compilation reduced to $4.99 (or something equally farcical) and it's probably the single best purchase I've ever made. I suspect that some people would regard this as a multiply unfair or inauthentic choice for 'My Favourite Album'. But these are some of the best recordings by some of the best performers of some of the best songs ever written. It's just a fact as far as I'm concerned that no one artist or group can compete with what amounts to the whole of (wretched!) human experience distilled (the disc is so awesome that fantastic tracks from Holiday and Fitzgerald aren't in the top tier of stuff on it!).

If I'm honest about my preferences now and don't overweight nostalgia for, as it were (thanks Morrissey!), 'lay in awe on the bedroom floor', teenage and extended teenage enthusiasms then When Love Goes Wrong has to be my choice. The Bacharach box and the Beatles' double collections probably contend with Hunky Dory and Off the Wall and Tallulah for second.

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