Record Collecting; the landmark album way.
Record Collecting: The Landmark Album Way.
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.
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
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
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!!)