Monday, 25 August 2008

More music, more music, more music Part 2

Okay two down (Metallica's Master of Puppets and U2's The Joshua Tree) down - guess that means I need to find another eight albums for my list.

I have to move onto one of my favourite bands - King Crimson. I pondered this one for a while. I like this band immensely but which album above all others. I know I never said I was only going to pick one album per band but somehow it seems right to. Listing ten albums by the same band (say Dream Theater, more on them later) wouldn't really say much about me - except look at the sad Dream Theater fan.

So I thought about their debut album - In the Court of the Crimson King. It's an absolute classic, but is it their best? To be honest it is a bit floaty at times. The opening track - 21st Century Schizoid Man is inspired. I have no idea what effect this would have had in 1969 when the album was originally released. It was good and fresh sounding when I first heard it more than a decade later, but in 1969 that track must have been truly scary.

So onto their other albums. The second and third albums (In the Wake of Poseidon and Lizard) sound very much like a band in transition, one trying to find out what it should be (which it was with it's ever changing line-up). So they're out. I'll come back to their other 1970s albums later.

Their 1980s reformation albums (Discipline, Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair) I found okay - but the production sounds odd to me so, even though Tony Levin was on them, I simply couldn't pick one of them.

The 1990s sextet incarnation produced their most extreme albums - most noticeably Thrakattak and the ProjecKt albums. But picking one of these, enjoyable though I found them (yes I am weird), might be considered a little pretentious. The ConstrucKtion of Light was pleasant enough listening but not exactly full of new ideas - something KC are renowned for.

So it has to be one of their best 1970s albums. And I've chosen the last of their 1970s studio albums - Red. Starless and Bible Black is wonderful but I find Red stunning so there - now we are three.

Well I've waited long enough - I must include a Rush album. Now I am not going to go off on one here. No way am I going to start debating the relative merits of each album, and how the band change over the thiry plus years since their first album. I'm able to, but who'd read it. No, let's get straight to the point - it's Moving Picture hands down. Permanent Waves came close but the decision was never in doubt.

Album 5, band 5. Band is easy. The first band I ever listened to was The Who so there MUST be a Who album on my list. Again like Rush there is no question, no debate. It's Who's Next. This album has the greatest ever rock song (in my opinion) in Won't Get Fooled Again. Add to that Baba O'Riley, My Wife and Behind Blue Eyes. So for those I can even forgive the line "I'm just a hippie gypsy" that Townshend came out with in Going Mobile.

My progressive rock instincts come to the fore for album 6. It's Yes's Fragile, released in 1971. Rick Wakeman joined to band for this album and it's where it all came together for me. Okay Close to the Edge is brilliant, and often considered their best, but an album that contains Roundabout, Long Distance Runaround and Heart of the Sunrise. Together with Starship Trooper and I've Seen All Good People on The Yes Album - incredibly also released in 1971, these songs are what Yes are in a nutshell. Absolutely brilliant.

Album 7 is Dream Theater's Metropolis Part II: Scenes from a Memory. I'd been vaguely aware of Dream Theater prior to this, but never a diehard fan. This album though I found to be the clincher. It's truly great. Metallica crossed with Pink Floyd - not a mix I would have thought could be successful but I was wrong. This is the business.

Away from progressive rock and heavy metal I have to include an album by a band of the generation that seemed intent on ridding the world of all the dinosaurs - the punk era. Not a punk band though, much as they may have been lumped together with them in their early days, The Jam certainly played a simpler version of music than the Pink Floyds, the Emerson, Lake and Palmers and long-caped excess-driven acts of the mid 1970s.

But strangely enough it is when they, themselves became more complex in their arrangements that they reached their best. Their final studio album The Gift is brilliant. It retained much of the aggression and energy of their earlier albums but took the 1960s influenced mod-revival to its greatest height. It comes complete with horn sections, funk rhythms and truly great songs. What more could you want?

Two to go...

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