A little while ago I listened in to a conversation about the best albums ever made. Annoying thing is I cannot remember where it took place. It could have been on TV, on the radio (but I only listen to Radio 4 so that's not all that likely) , in the pub, on a train or pretty much anywhere. I blame an aging brain for not remembering the exact details of when and where...
However my half-formed memory did leave me pondering the idea. Not original I know. I guess just about eveyone has done this over the years but it has bugged me. I have listened and relistened to a number of albums trying to work out which I considered best. I've been trying to leave aside personal feelings towards certain albums for associative reasons. I like Rush's 2112 (the first of their albums I listened to) and Hold Your Fire (as it was the album that confirmed me in 1987 as a die-hard Rush fan - guess it came along at the right moment) but I wouldn't put either down as their best - even if 2112 is stunning, the power in the performance on the side-long title track is incredible. (Oh God, describing it as side-long dates me a little doesn't it.)
Likewise with Yes and 90125 - it came out when I knew a couple of Yes songs but hadn't bought much. In fact at that time the only Yes album I'd bought was Tormato - not exactly the best introduction to their 1970s output.
I also needed to remove all compilations from my thoughts. The first album I ever bought (with saved up pocket money) was a European compilation - The Best of the Last Ten Years '64 - '74 - The Who. That's the one that really hooked me onto rock music thirty years ago or so. So that had to be pushed . As did a wonderful Beach Boys compilation I bought not long after - and yes I did originally check out the Beach Boys because I'd read Keith Moon (Who drummer) was a big fan.
Next thought was Live Albums - should they count? Most live albums contain no new songs - okay there are some exceptions to this, but general it's just old material in a new form. Should they count? This one was simple - YES! I love live music. I don't get to see all that much of it these days as many of the bands I like simply don't play anymore, or it they do it's not regularly. So they only way to hear them "play" is via live albums or concert DVDs. So they're in.
Okay, rules set - then came the tricky moments. If I limit myself to 10 albums, what should I include? I want the list to sum up me - and I want it to be honest. I don't want to lie and try to make it seem as though I have great music taste. I have my music taste, pure and simple. good or not is merely a matter of personal opinion.
I will admit I do get a bit snobby when it comes to music. But this isn't in the form of my taste is better than yours - I just don't get when people don't have a defined music taste. When I talk to people who say they like music but just listen to what is on the radio at any given moment I cannot fathom it. Surely they MUST have a favourite? If not, it does not compute with me. But it's their lives...
Anyway back to mine and the matter of subjective taste. I'll give you one quick example which will become a little more in context the more I type. I like Billy Joel's Songs From the Attic live album. Don't ask why - I just do. I'm not overly a fan of Billy Joel. I've bought his early albums from where the tracks on this 1981 live album originate and they haven't quite clicked. But live is different. It's not good enough to make my list though.
So, enough preamble - time to make a choice. The first one is easy for me. One of the albums I've loved since I first heard it - Metallica's Master of Puppets. Now I was never an out and out thrash fan back in the 1980s. I'm still not. If we exclude the Metallica albums I own (all of them of course) you might find half a dozen Thrash albums in my entire collection - ten at the most. But this one album I find stunning. The Black Album, Load and Reload all come close, but none for me match this one superb set of songs.
The second choice was also easy. And unfortunately it's an album my wife does not like (not the only one to appear on this list I have to say). Unlike the ones we'll get to this has nothing to do with the music. U2 were one of the most popular bands to hear around University campuses when we were both students. And The Joshua Tree was played to death. I'll admit I may have been one of those who did play it - although not as regularly as some.
For the same reason my wife has a dislike of The Smiths, so if I ever want to listen to anything by them I have to wait until she is out of the house. The only track of theirs she can listen to - and likes a great deal in fact - is How Soon is Now, good news for me as it's one of my favourite tracks...
...Part Two to follow.