FAVES AND WAVES

Some time in mid-1999, a music-mate and I decided to compile our one hundred ‘Best Albums Of All Time’ lists to celebrate the end of the millennium. To make things more interesting, a handful of other friends and acquaintances were invited to do the same. As you might imagine, there was considerable discussion (if not heated argument) around the rules and restrictions to be applied. A couple of illustrations might convey the flavour, if not the passion.
Banning compilations, for instance, essentially excluded any artist who was dominant in the singles era of the 50s or early 60s. So no Everly Brothers, for example. All very well to can ‘Live’ albums, but what exactly is a ‘Live’ album? Many classic early 70s Australian albums were recorded live in front of a small invited studio audience. Is that ‘in concert’ or simply cut-price recording? Are ‘Various Artists’ albums legitimate? Any restrictions on multiple entries by the same artist?
In the end it was agreed to pretty much let anyone include whatever they liked. Anything else was just too much like hard work.
And compiling the lists was work enough. As you can see from the photo of my list, it took me half a year to complete my Top 100, and I was first across the finish line.

2000 list

The sharing process was somewhat underwhelming, when it finally occurred around Easter 2000. People responded to titles they recognised but showed little curiosity about the unfamiliar. For my friend BB, whose tastes are the most eclectic and least mainstream of anyone I know, it was an experience he described thusly, “I don’t recall being entirely convinced that it had fired up sufficient stimulating conversation to justify the effort expended.” BB is a master of understatement.

A decade or so later the same mate suggested repeating the process. I had my doubts, principally around my increasing suspicions about the concept of ‘Best’. I have actually written a thousand word piece on this very topic, but I’ll spare you that and cut to the chase: no-one can possibly assert what is best. The requirement to know all genres, all modes, moods, styles and practitioners across all eras is manifestly impossible yet it is only from this all-knowing perspective that any claim of ‘Best’ can be made. Everything else is opinion and preference.

Which leaves us with just one defensible criterion: What are my favourite albums?

So the idea of definitive lists faded until my mate’s son, now a committed accumulator of CDs, invited participation in another Top 100. Wanting to connect with him and respect the idea, I made a copy of my collection spreadsheet and started deleting albums. You see, one of the many problems of lists is the challenge of bringing albums or artists to mind in any systematic manner. So I thought that if I started with my whole catalogue and used a process of reduction rather than accumulation it might invite more inclusion.
This strategy was rather too successful. I managed, by dint of hard editing, to reduce the list to just over 200… and there I stalled, finding it nigh on impossible to exclude further albums without diminishing the picture of my listening pleasures to a mere sketch. Misleading though it is, here is page one of that list, bearing the rather grandiose title ‘5 Star Albums’.

2013 list

S’pose I could simply have creamed the first 15 off this list and spared myself a lot of time and effort…

The numerical rankings rankled. Why is King Crimson’s seventh album at #6 and Pink Floyd’s debut at #7? How could that possibly be justified or even explained? As I printed the page for inclusion in this article, I mused about removing the interval level league ladder and having ordinal level groupings instead. That is, sections of albums where each entry in that band has equal status. Sort of like a Celebrity A List, B List, and so on. But this still involves murky decision-making and indefensible comparisons. Better to drop the whole thing before madness sets in. Or sets further in.

Which is why, when Aaron at keepsmealive proposed a simultaneous group post on ‘your 15 favourite albums’ I ran from the room, gibbering incoherently. Fifteen? I couldn’t manage 200 last time I tried! It seemed, to my fevered brain, akin to presenting a photographic portrait of yourself showing less than 0.25% of your body and announcing it a true likeness.

Self-portrait, 0.22%

Self-portrait. How am I looking?

Then, when all the posts appeared, I got it.

It isn’t about thoroughness or accuracy. It isn’t even about the music. It’s simply a bunch of people waving a little flag to folk in different parts of the world saying, ‘Here I am! Hello!’ And while the flag should not be confused with the flag-waver, still the semaphore message is friendly and fun and a reminder that one thing we have in common is a love of music, whatever individual meaning that holds for each of us.

So although I knew I’d be coming very late to the table, I decided to break out the bunting. But how to make it manageable? Several ideas were entertained then rejected:

Fifteen Favourite Progressive albums (You must be kidding; it’s my largest grouping other than jazz)
Fifteen Favourite Albums from 1973 (Did this. Couldn’t get below 40 titles from the 270 on offer)
Fifteen Favourite Jazz albums (See above)
Fifteen Favourite Debuts (Sort of done this already, here)
Fifteen Essential Albums

Oh dear. Stuck in the swamp of Opinion again.
Finally, exhausted, I decided, in honour of Aaron, to go alphabetically and choose favourite albums in the As. The pool was a little over 200, so even that took a while, but it became manageable when I allowed some choices to be indicators of a genre or style of music I enjoy.

So here are fifteen little flags from Melbourne, well after the party is over, but nonetheless waved with affectionate vigour in the hope that you, dear Vinyl Connection visitor, might enjoy the colour and movement from a flag-waving chum. You might even be interested in some of the music.

*

Amon Duul - Yeti

AMON DÜÜL – Yeti [1970]
A sprawling, unpredictable blunderbuss of an album that doesn’t so much ring the doorbell of the doors of perception as smash through them in a Panzer. A krautrock classic.

Roy Ayers - Virgo Red

Roy AYRES UBIQUITY – Virgo Red [1973]
A prime slice of soul jazz with a slurp of funk. Perfect Saturday morning music. I love vibes; especially good ones.

Atomic Rooster - Made in England

ATOMIC ROOSTER – Made In England [1972]
There was a time when I was deeply into the Rooster’s doom-laden heavy prog. This is not my fave but it’s here to represent my love of album design. I have three copies of this, all with different denim. One day I’ll find the pink one. And the brown one…

John Abercrombie - Timeless ECM

John ABERCROMBIE – Timeless [1975]
Either the first or second ECM album I bought. Still love Abercrombie’s guitar playing and will write about Timeless some day. Fabulous cover too.

A Triggering Myth

A TRIGGERING MYTH – The Remedy of Abstraction [2006]
Stumbled across this band/album a year or so back and took a punt based on cover, instrumentation, track lengths… Excellently composed and played modern progressive music. Result!

Apples in Stereo - Travellers in Space and Time

APPLES IN STEREO – Travellers in Space and Time [2010]
Hard to know what to pick from this endearing power pop project of Robert Schneider. Each album is packed with well-constructed melodic guitar-based alt-pop.

Elvind Aarset - Electronique Noire

Elvind AARSET – Électronique Noire [1998]
In addition to being the first entry in the ‘A’s, Mr Aarset is a guitarist. On this post-jazz/trans-genre CD he (and I quote from the liner notes) ‘Performs all guitars: straight, treated, e-bowed, looped, ugly and pretty’. This is exciting, exploratory, yet often very engaging instrumental music.

Ash Ra Temple - Inventions for El Guitar

ASH RA TEMPLE (MANUEL GOTTSCHING) – Inventions for Electric Guitar [1974]
One of the most extraordinary solo guitar albums I know. All done with delays, echo, effects, it traverses a mesmerizing and often surprisingly groovy interplanetary landscape. One of the few precious German LPs I didn’t sell when I bought the CD.

Johnny Almond - Hollywood Blues

Johnny ALMOND MUSIC MACHINE – Hollywood Blues [1970]
Utterly infectious blues infused jazz from British sax player who joined John Mayall for a couple of excellent albums around this time.

Ayers Rock - Big Red Rock

AYERS ROCK – Big Red Rock [1974]
Saw this Aussie band a few times in the 70s. As well as enjoying their unique sound, I was also introduced to the jazz-funk of Weather Report via their cover of ‘Boogie Woogie Waltz’ on this album. They appeared in an early VC post.

Absolute Elsewhere - In search of ancient gods

ABSOLUTE ELSEWHERE – In Search of Ancient Gods [1976]
An obscure synthesiser album that does indeed sound like it could be a von Däniken soundtrack. Written and performed by one Paul Fishman on keyboards, with William Buford on drums. Note tell-tale JB graffiti.

Ariel Strange Fan Dream

ARIEL – A Strange Fantastic Dream [1973]
One of my enduring favourite Aussie LPs. Closest thing to Art Rock we came to down under; catchy and edgy. More here.

Agitation Free - 2nd

AGITATION FREE – 2nd [1973]
All three 70s studio albums are different and marvellous. Picked this because it was the first one I heard. Loved spinning it again last night, grooving to the inventive and often surprising musical twists and turns.

Australian Rock 71-71 Havoc

AUSTRALIAN ROCK 71-72 [1972]
Lobby Loyde, Carson, Aztecs… This compilation of early Aus-rock burst with larrikin energy and sunburnt swagger. Apparently this one is quite valuable in monetary terms as well as historical and musical.

Arnold - Bahama

ARNOLD – Bahama [2001]
UK band who produced a couple of albums of lush but loose dream pop then seemed to disappear. File with Beatles, Big Star, Bowie (Man Who Sold The World era).

Allman Brothers Band - At Fillmore East

THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND – At Fillmore East [1971]
Probably closest to the mainstream of the albums here, Fillmore East is a fantastic live album showcasing the instrumental skills of the band. Side four is ‘Whipping Post’… Sometimes I feel like I’m dying.

Thanks heavens for music.

*

41 comments

  1. ARGH!! I have been after an LP of `In Search of Ancient Gods’ since I started collecting and read about it on the long-defunct `Vintage Prog’ site. It still eludes me to this day.

    Also, for some reason, the cover of the amazing `Second’ by Agitation Free always makes me think of a vagina. I mentioned this to a Prog friend who looked at it and said `Great, now so do I…’! Clearly I’m the one with the issues here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See your analyst, bro.
      I’m delighted that you know Absolute Elsewhere. It is certainly obscure. Did you notice the price in the top left corner? And is that what produced the ARGH?

      Like

      1. aussiebyrdbrother · · Reply

        Dang, didn’t even notice the price! Double ARGH! No, the simple taunting of owning the album itself was more than enough for me to shed a tear!

        Many years ago I did pick up a beautiful French prog rarity on LP for a couple of dollars, Pentacle’s `La Clef des Songes’, however across the beautiful front cover was written in thick black texta `FILE UNDER FRENCH SECTION’…obviously from a DJ’s collection.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I actually did a vinyl transfer of this to CD. Would be more than happy to make you a burn as compensation for your suffering.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeti almost made my list but about that time my almost’s was driving me insane.
    Nice twist on the idea, now you have to do the whole alphabet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL. But you know, that would probably be as good a theme for a blog as anything else.

      Like

  3. […] Blog – Top 15 on the 15th Neil at Time We Left This World Today – 15 is not enough… Bruce at Vinyl Connection – Faves and Waves Geoff at 1001 Albums in 10 Years – Top 15 Albums Ovidiu Boar at Tangled […]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmm…. Interesting post. Let me think…

    Yes. This is my favourite list.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Phew. For a moment I feared you might say it was the Best!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Argh, no. How could I possibly decide that?!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Glad you’ve been paying attention. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  5. It is an endless pleasure to find that each time I think about a favourite tune/ album that the list has swayed and moved on in a drunken Conga line kind of way. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is certainly what they do, isn’t it DD? Especially when you’ve had a few Mai Tais.

      Like

    2. Five albums that consistently please me after repeated playing are, in no particular order: Brilliant Corners (T. Monk) No room for Squares (H. Mobley) Red Clay (F. Hubbard) Kind of Blue (M. Davis) and Speak No Evil (W. Shorter). Note that C. Mingus does not make the cut this week and possibly because some from your five star list will break into the Conga line, he may not may not make it back in time for the Grand Final.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank heavens Mingus is immortal, then!
        Rest if the list is all high class jazz, DD. Only one I don’t know is the Mobley.

        Like

  6. It’s interesting to see how your list changed between 2000 and 2013: in the top 10, Van Morrison, the Stones and TFC dropped out completely. Dylan dropped, Ziggy rose. Miles Davis and Pink Floyd are represented by different albums. One Beatles LP vanishes, one appears (along with XTC, King Crimson and Santana), and one stays, though at a slightly lower ranking. The constant is Fagan and Becker at #2. (Love that album; Peg and Home At Last are among my favorite SD tunes). I have to admit that, of your A list, I’d only ever heard of the Allman Brothers. Lame, no? I learned a new word from reading this post; any day in which I learn something new is a good one, so thank you for that. The word? Larrikin…I love it…need to drop it in a sentence sometime. And finally, I’m donning my medical cap yet again to point out that the image on the Electronique Noire cover is a CT scan of the ethmoid sinuses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Loved your report on the list-shifts, JDB. A trend away from mainstream is a characteristic of my listening generally over the past decade; it is more about exploring than re-playing these days. So nothing lame about not knowing much of this music. I think your observations support that trend, though I was surprised at the disappearance of Teenage Fanclub; an oversight, I believe, as ‘Songs from Northern Britain’ remains, for me, an A-List album.

      Larrikin is a great bit of Aussie slang, eh? Let me know how you go deploying it in Boston. 😉

      I value your medical input highly. Having examined the x-ray, what’s the prognosis for the dude’s nose?

      Finally, I know you medical folk are always very busy, but I’m still awaiting the report on last week’s cover post…

      https://vinylconnection.com.au/2015/09/15/12-more-handy-album-covers/

      Like

  7. The majority are new to me here Bruce – but that’s part of the fun, learning through flag waving!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Personally I think the letter ‘A’ is so passé, ‘D’ is where the really cool kids are hanging out these days.

    I really like the look of ‘A Triggering Myth’ btw.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I came here to tell you that I love the CD shelves in the background of that picture (I am all about proper CD storage solutions), but I stayed for the excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Aaron, especially as you are directly responsible!

      A mate generously built those shelves for me. Magnificent aren’t they?

      Like

      1. Haha I’ll take the blame! 🙂 Although I have to say, please stop me the next time I have one of these brain farts. This process was incredibly difficult for me, like choosing between children! You just shouldn’t do it. All my musics should be in one big happy pile! Of course, I didn’t see that from the outside when I got all caught up in the idea and that is why I need someone with a clear head to say ‘hey! snap out of it!’

        Those shelves are brilliant!!! I have something faily similar but they’re from IKEA. They do the job, but they don’t have the same story as yours, and they weren’t built by a friend (mine were built by me, drunk on wine, at 2 a.m.). Thanks goodness for good friends with excellent skills! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Great stuff. I’ve often gotten involved in the ‘list’ shenanigans over the years. Actually had a 100 list compiled a fair few years back myself. Don’t think much of the stuff on there would make the list now right enough!

    As for the As, I’m really intrigued by Strange Fantastic Dream – even just for the artwork.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a link to the post from a little while back that might (a) augment, or (b) diminish your interest!

      I think that seeing such lists as temporal snapshots is probably the healthiest way to proceed James.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Took me a while, but I got there. A Strange Fantastic Dream definitely sounds like the kinda record that I would dig, so that’s added to ‘that list’. I’ll need to pick up the EMI (Australian) release, though, cause I don’t like the cover of the Harvest (UK) one. Don’t you just hate it when that happens!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It is such an interesting album; glad your ‘Intrigued’ button was pushed.
          I only saw the UK cover recently, in a FB Vinyl group. Ghastly! Given what the original vinyl goes for here, considering the CD might be worthwhile, though even that is uncommon. Still, we have to have our ‘grail’ albums, don’t we?

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Ghastly might be an understatement, Bruce.

          … perhaps following your recent themed covers posts, a ghastly alternative covers version might be good fun!

          Like

  11. Thom Lieb · · Reply

    Very interesting recounting of your thoughtful exercise! I just recently found my Top 10-ish lists for the 1970s and 1980s, likely put together around 2000. Interestingly, some are still among my all-time favorites, but some I barely recognized.

    I know virtually none of your Aussie favorites, although an Australian artist is so far in the running for my favorite artist of this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Thom. Looking at old ‘favourite’ lists is maybe a bit like looking at very old photographs, eh? “Now where the heck was this taken?”

      Tame Impala, perchance? Or something else…

      Like

  12. What a great list. ‘Aja’ at number 2? I find that fair.

    The fact this was actually typed up on what looks like an actual typewriter, well this list should be displayed in the Smithsonian.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As should the author.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. And Abercrombie. I really need to grow my collection.

    Like

    1. I would recommend ‘Timeless’ unreservedly. It’s brilliant and, er, timeless. And from reading your blog, right up your alley, I’d imagine.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s on the list now.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Terrific. BTW, just ordered the Brian Ellis you reviewed recently. Chalk up another one to jhubner73.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I just snagged a VG copy of Timeless on Discogs for $7, including shipping.

          Chalk one up for VC as well.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Ha ha – quick work!. That’s brilliant. And a great get – you’d be lucky to find one in a shop for twice that price here.
          PS. After all this time, is it appropriate to ask what the ‘J’ is for? i.e.: how you like to be addressed?

          Liked by 1 person

        4. J is for John. I just go by J for the mysterious aspect. I’m rather boring in real life.

          Liked by 1 person

  14. […] sixth album is a case in point. It has long been a favourite —as seen in those troublesome ‘Best’ lists— yet I have baulked at the prospect of trying to share something of its enduring magic. Well, […]

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  15. Interesting pick of “Travellers in Space and Time” to represent the Apples here (noting that you do agree it is ‘hard to know what to pick’ from them). What do you think of it? Last time I was around at your place the vinyl copy of it had just arrived.

    Also, very engaging piece – effectively summarises many of the long debates we’ve had about this subject!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’d really be interested in hearing that Johnny Almond record.

    Liked by 1 person

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