Gerry’s Top Sixty Albums of the Decade Part One
December 14th 2009
Here it comes day by day …. Gerry’s countdown of the grooves he was listening to over the decade. First things first, this is my chart so the criterion is made up by me. It is mostly new things which came out over the ten years, but also includes some compilations and reissues. Second, looking back on it is interesting to see what is missing. So no ‘latest things’ such as Panda Bear or Fleet Foxes (bought and stuck on amazon within days of purchasing), and no Franz Ferdinand or Arctic Monkeys, who are fun but derivative.
More importantly, as anyone who knows me will know there are some of my major influences conspicuous by their absence. Thus, no Frank, Fred Astaire, Tony Bennett, Miles or Ellington, and that is for the reason that not one album of theirs stood out in the decade that I listened to a lot. Feels wrong to have a best of without Frank, so with apologies to David Torrance, here goes. Each day this week I will be publishing a chart leading to the No. 1 on Friday!
It is also fun to note that the only other time I have ever attempted to do my best of a decade was years ago as a spotty teenager when I had a regular pop column reviewing albums and singles each issue in the community paper ‘Ardler News’ and at the end of the 1970s I attempted an overview of a decade I had no real understanding of.
Well many years later it does not feel as if a decade has passed since George W. ‘stole’ the 2000 US elections and then Tony Blair decided to become his best pal. A decade without a name (the noughties), has felt musically less like a decade than the 80s or 90s. And then we have the influence of Simon Cowell, returning music to the era of the pre-Beatles pop svengali. Anyway on with the countdown ….
60. Let No Man Steal Your Thyme, Shelagh McDonald, 2005
This wonderful album collects all the tracks from her only two albums, ‘Album’ and ‘Stargazer’ from 1970-71 and lots more. Early Joni Mitchell ‘I Had a King’/’Song to a Seagull’ meets Sandy Denny, McDonald was from Scotland and then after this creative burst, disappeared never to be found. Much more deep and tuneful than Yashti Bunyan.
59. Dreamland, Robert Plant, 2002
Sir Percy himself and the album that turned me on to his solo stuff. I much prefer the fun, play and melody of this to his ‘bluegrass’ album ‘Raising Sand’ with Alison Krauss which I found a bit earnest. An album of covers which just beats nearly all comers in that corner (Bowie, Lennon et al), shaped by Percy and a rocking young band! Great version of ‘Song to the Siren’.
58. Space Shift, Steve Spacek, 2005
Smooth, sophisticated soul funk dance grooves. Spacek is apparently from the band Spacek who I had never heard of when I came across this. Think George Michael in his dreams crossed with NYC 90s dance grooves mixed with Leon Ware and Marvin mid-1970s and you have ‘Space Shift’.
57. The Grey Album, Danger Mouse, 2004
An important album and fantastic musically as entertainment and historically. It is just filled with fun and exuberance. ‘The White Album’ crossed with Jay Z’s ‘The Black Album’, it works just so much more than the Beatles rather tired and laboured ‘Love’ official release. Given the insufferable deification of the Beatles (where will it end?), this is both an exercise in po-mo culture and demytistifcation and part humble tribute.
56. Has Been, William Shatner, 2004
When I heard Captain Kirk’s version of ‘Common People’ I thought the entire album would be made of similar spoofs and jokes, but it is not. Produced and part written by Ben Folds these songs can only be seen as part-autobiography, part fascinating reflections on fame and living in the public eye.
55. We Love Life, Pulp, 2001
The last Pulp album and after the downer of ‘This is Hardcore’, the band choose to leave on a positive note. There are some great Jarvis lyrics here, about trees, the joyous ‘Bad Cover Version’ referencing one of Scott Walker’s turkeys (produced by one S. Walker) and loads more, but even more markedly, is the sound of a band rocking out and enjoying themselves, particularly on the epic last track, ‘Sunrise’.
54. Between My Head and The Sky, Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band, 2009
It took me a while to appreciate Yoko musically despite my love from an early age of ‘Walking on Thin Ice’. This is a brilliantly left-field, challenging and musically original album from a woman who is 76 years old. There is more imagination, play and awareness of the power of the groove here than on most things this decade. And hats off to Yoko working with her son Sean and daring to revive her and John’s moniker, the Plastic Ono Band.
53. Blueberry Boat, Fiery Furnaces, 2004
Brother and sister Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger make music that is ambitious and defies categorisation, part post-punk, part-post-prog, a rambling eighty minute album filled with a travelogue of strange melodies, diversions and themes, ranging from war to slavery and the complications of love.
52. In Rainbows, Radiohead, 2007
I had to have one Radiohead album and it was either this or ‘Kid A’. I choose this for a number of reasons: one being the occasion Radiohead created releasing this on the internet, another being I just love a number of the tracks. Also three cheers to any major band who called an album, in tribute to George W., ‘Hail to the Thief’.
51. We’ll Never Turn Back, Mavis Staples, 2007
Mavis covers a range of songs associated with the hopes and dreams of the 1960s US civil rights movement, with Ry Cooder producing and playing. This more than her comeback album of a few years previous is a dynamite collection, bringing the themes of the past into the present, and doing so with a knockout selection of songs and intoxicating soul and blues sound.