Record Collecting; the landmark album way.

Record Collecting: The Landmark Album Way.

(Argument Starter)

The subject of this piece is something that I began to think about when I sold my vinyl record collection back in 1999, but the trigger for writing it was a feature in the Christmas 2018 edition of "Record Collector" magazine.  It seems that 2018 marks 70 years since the first commercially issued thirty-three and a third RPM vinyl record album, so the magazine selected one key album for every year from 1948 onwards.

My vinyl collection was built with the intention of forming a history of rock'n'roll (that second part, the 'n'roll, is essential unless you replace it with "and soul"), and when the time came to rebuild it on CD - not least to save space - I had a rethink on how to go about it. My solution at the time was to concentrate on compilations and "best ofs" on the grounds that artists' best work tended to be found on singles and that you don't walk down the street whistling albums. (This is the Dave Marsh "Heart of Rock and Soul" argument).

This is fine as far as it goes but having pretty much completed such a collection on this basis, I concluded that it was not 100% satisfactory. It is undeniable that for a number of years the album became the basic unit of consumption, and that many artists made albums that stood up as coherent artistic statements rather than a series of recordings just flung together to increase profits. Indeed, even in this age of talent show winners who have no artistic vision and are prepared to do whatever they are told in order to get their 15 minutes of pop-star fame, there are still musicians around who treat the album format with respect and produce worthy bodies of work.

 Where rock'n'roll (or rock and soul) is concerned I think it is reasonable to claim that this began with records such as "Highway 61 Revisited," "Rubber Soul," and "Otis Blue" in 1965. A television show a few years ago presented by Danny Baker dealt with this subject and proposed a "Classic Rock Album Era" lasting roughly from the mid-60s to the end of the 70s. My first step in deciding which albums would complete this section of my collection was to devise a schema: one album per annum for the fifteen years 1965-1979 inclusive with no artists represented more than once. This was clearly insufficient, so I then chose a second album for each year, still allowing no repeats. This gave rise to the following list:

                                           FIRST CHOICE                                                               SECOND CHOICE

1965                          Highway 61 Revisited                                                               Otis Blue

                                           by Bob Dylan                                                                by Otis Redding

1966                                       Revolver                                                                        Pet Sounds

                                            by The Beatles                                                             by The Beach Boys

1967             I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You                                      Something Else

                                        by Aretha Franklin                                                               by The Kinks

1968                                Electric Ladyland                                                      Sweetheart of The Rodeo

                            by The Jimi Hendrix Experience                                                    by The Byrds

1969                                        The Band                                                                            Stand!

                                              By The Band                                                        by Sly and The Family Stone

1970                     Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs                                           Cosmo's Factory

                                    by Derek & The Dominoes                                      by Creedence Clearwater Revival

1971                                   What's Going On                                                                Who's Next

                                             by Marvin Gaye                                                                 by The Who

1972                               Exile on Main Street                                The Harder They Come (Original Soundtrack)

                                       by The Rolling Stones                                                    by Jimmy Cliff et al

1973                                       Innervisions                                                                     Call Me

                                           by Stevie Wonder                                                            by Al Green

1974                           It's Too Late To Stop Now                                                     Pretzel Logic

                                            by Van Morrison                                                             by Steely Dan

1975                                       Born to Run                                                               Physical Graffiti

                                        by Bruce Springsteen                                                       by Led Zeppelin

1976                                   Station to Station                                                          Hotel California

                                              by David Bowie                                                              by The Eagles

1977                                            Exodus                                                                           Rumours

                                by Bob Marley and The Wailers                                             by Fleetwood Mac

1978                          One Nation Under a Groove                                                 This Year's Model

                                              by Funkadelic                                              by Elvis Costello and The Attractions

1979                                  Rust Never Sleeps                                                                    Risque

                                    by Neil Young & Crazy Horse                                                        by Chic

Still not good enough, so I thought I would choose one album per year for each year of the 80s….same rule still applying.

1980                            Remain in Light by Talking Heads

1981                            Red by Black Uhuru

1982                            Thriller by Michael Jackson

1983                            Murmur by REM

1984                            Purple Rain by Prince and The Revolution

1985                            Rain Dogs by Tom Waits

1986                           Graceland by Paul Simon

1987                           The Joshua Tree by U2

1988                          Copperhead Road by Steve Earle

1989                          Like a Prayer by Madonna


Now I do appreciate of course that many artists who might be considered "major" are missing from these lists, and I could start another list here and now to name some of them, but I won't. Instead I will merely refer you to the subtitle of this piece.


December 2018

As the sub-title invites comment and opposing opinions, here's Alan's........

Vinyl collecting: hmmm, interesting article by Phil regarding 'Landmark' collecting via a "solution...... to concentrate on compilations and "best ofs" on the grounds that artists' best work tended to be found on singles and that you don't walk down the street whistling albums."

Now, I do have a few 'Best/Greatest Hits of...' and single artist compilations, plus more than a few compilations of soul, garage (US '60's variety), psychedelia and other genres, but they tend to be where the original singles or artists were obscure, even back in the day! Serial compilations such as 'Nuggets', 'Pebbles', 'Rubble' (see what they did there?) are invaluable to lovers of US garage punk and psychedelia with each album guaranteeing some invaluable treasures where the band would prove the theory that every band had at least one two minute thirty second classic track in their repertoire (well, sometimes!!).
To base, or replace a collection on these though??? Well, even Phil seems to have seen the error with that particular logic. The ultimate destination for those going down that route would surely be.... downloading!!!
Hopefully Phil is, even as I tap on my lap top, either replacing some of those treasures he sold or investing in some new delights. I know I still regret selling some albums when suffering from a temporary financial imbalance and, even when I have managed to replace them... it ain't quite the same. Catching up on those missed first time around, however (and there are plenty of those), is a continuing delight!!
Certainly, when I peruse Phils listing (particularly the first 8 years) I realise I have a dozen of the 16 listed (with another two artists in the same period being in my collection with different albums).For me, the late '60's and early 70's saw an unhealthy interest in 'prog-rock' (but I was still unable to find a place for 'In the court of the Crimson King'!!) and singer/songwriters. After 1972, however, we do tend to diverge (although I do have albums by seven of the artists from the '73-'79 period too) as I took the route through 'pub rock' to punk and onwards to such later artists as P J Harvey, Radiohead, Portishead and Spiritualized.
My continuing love of psychedelia saw me investing in the US 'paisley underground' sounds of Rain Parade, Long Ryders and others, as well as collecting (the '60's influenced) REM from their first album to their last (almost exclusively on vinyl too!). 'Post punk' is in there too with the ever rewarding (if slightly depressing to some) sounds of Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees. However, great albums seem to come along much less frequently than 1965-69, or perhaps it's an age thing? Current favourite (Polly excepted) is Iron and Wine.... but is he that different to, say, Jon Martyn I wonder?
All 'lists' are, by definition, subjective and, although Phil posits that 'many artists who might be considered "major" are missing' from his listing, the inclusion (by Phil?) of Fleetwood Mac, U2, Prince, Bruuuuuuce and Michael Jackson does tend towards the, dare I say it, conservative spectrum? 'Nowt rong wi that' either.... I would NEVER criticise anyone's choices of music, author, poet, artist or any other cultural outlet. We all enjoy  what we enjoy and criticism very rarely changes an opinion anyway! Is Robert Fripp the greatest living guitarist? 'Course he is sez I!!! Others, however, may disagree.
So, accepting that polemic..... here's the listing from my own collection (which does tend towards the obscure in places!!) for the '65-79 period. And the caveats? It seemed that no-way could I include, say, Hendrix's first, ground-breaking, era defining 1967 album without leaving out Love's masterful 'Forever changes'. So, in he went with the equally ground-breaking, era defining '...Ladyland' opus. Similarly, 1977 proved equally problematic (as indeed did every other bluddy year!!), plus there is a total absence of soul and Motown so, probably like Phil and anyone else with the patience to get this far, any list I drew up would omit favourite/important albums and would/could change if I drew up another listing later tonight.
So, here they are:

1965: Beatles: Rubber Soul
          Who-My Generation.
1966: Small Faces-Small Faces (Decca label)
          Thirteenth Floor Elevators-Psychedelic sounds of..... (US only, 1977 UK release)
1967: Velvet Underground- The Velvet Underground and Nico
          Love- Forever Changes
1968: West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band- A child's guide to Good and Evil
          Jimi Hendrix- Electric Ladyland
1969: Crosby,Stills and Nash- Crosby, Stills and Nash
          Van Morrison- Astral Weeks
1970: Van Der Graaf Generator- The least we can do is wave to each other
          King Crimson- Lizard
1971: Joni Mitchell- Blue
          Carole King- Tapestry
1972: Roxy Music-Roxy Music
          Bob Marley and Wailers- Catch a fire
1973: Various Artists- Nuggets (Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968)
          Peter Hammill- Chameleon in the shadow of night 
1974: Kevin Ayers- The confessions of Dr Dream
          John Cale- Fear    
1975: Doctor Feelgood- Down by the Jetty
          Patti Smith- Horses
1976: Ramones- Ramones
          801- Live
1977: Wire- Pink Flag
          Eno- Before and after science
1978: X Ray Spex- Germ Free Adolescents
          Joe Gibbs/Professionals- African Dub Almighty Chapter 3
1979: Joy Division- Unknown Pleasures
          Cure- Three Imaginary Boys

Enjoyed the subject Phil... let's do it some more!!!!

Alan (Hope I got all the years right!!)

January 2019