Monday, February 22, 2010

A Top Ten With A Difference

The Nevstar is once again struggling to find great new albums to listen to. So it was timely that a regular reader suggested a potential Top Ten list which I felt warranted a little more attention.

Our listening tastes are generally dominated by 2 - 3 genres. But if we wish to branch out from that which we know, it can be a bewildering and stultifying experience. What, for example, is the best jazz album to start from the thousands listed on Amazon? Well, the answer for all eternity shall now be to turn the invaluable Nevstar Music Guide with a dozen albums from the major musical genres which are, in my opinion, the best place to start.

Now its important to forestall comments by stating out the outset these are not necessarily the best albums, and in fact, some of the choices may even offend some purists. What we are seeking here instead is a palatable introduction to a new genre in order to kindle interest in learning more. In each case, I have listed one album to start with and then a couple more to expand your collection.

Listed alphabetically by genre here are 12 albums (I told you it was a top ten with a difference!). If you purchase them all, it will ensure that you never hear that all to common lament from a party guest.... "But you dont have any (insert musical genre)!"


Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton : John Mayall

This is certainly likely to be an affront to many a blues fan who consider blues to be synonymous with black faces. But John Mayall was instrumental in popularising the blues to a wider audience, and his collaboration with an 18 year guitar legend by the name of Eric Clapton is an outstanding introduction to this emotionally resonant and powerful musical form.

Listen to or purchase here

If you like this then try:

The Healer : John Lee Hooker
Live at the Regal : BB King


Symphony No 5 in C minor - Ludwig van Beethoven

Perhaps the easiest choice of any genre, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is a brilliant place to shake any notions that classical music is dull and tedious. It begins with perhaps the most famous four notes in musical history in the unmistakable Da-da-da-DAH! But the rest is equally thrilling and with the four movements taking barely thirty minutes, it's an accessible yet hugely enjoyable introduction to the delights and riches of 19th century pop music.

Available to listen/purchase free here.

If you like this then try:

Piano Concertos 20&21 : Mozart
Nutcracker Suite : Tchaikosvky


Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs - Marty Robbins

Marty Robbins was one of the original country and western singers and his best album is a romp through a suite of songs based on the largely mythical characters that inhabited the Wild West. As such, this brilliant collection of tracks provides a perfect entry point to an enjoyable genre which is unfairly maligned thanks to some egregious 'talents' that hijacked it in the 70s and 80s.

Listen to or purchase here

Next try:
Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison - Johnny Cash
Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 1 & 2 - Ray Charles

Dance Music

Leftism - Leftfield

The Nevstar freely acclaims that this selection is not his own, but it was this very album that a dance music aficionado recommended to me when I enquired about the best place to start. Dance music has multiple genres, but the chill-out genre such as this effort by Leftfield is a good place for 'rockers' to head first. It allows them to sample the rhythms and melodies replete in dance music without being turned off by some of the aural assault techniques practised by the more energetic sub-genres.

Listen to or buy here.

Next try :
Blue Lines - Massive Attack
Dig Your Own Hole - Chemical Brothers


Blue - Joni Mitchell

Similar to country music, folk is a genre that often carries unwarranted opprobrium. But one of music's foremost purposes is to match your mood, and folk is the perfect companion to moments of solitude and introspection. There is no finer exhibition of this than the perfectly titled Blue by the incomparable Joni Mitchell. A gift from the heavens which no serious music collection should be without.

Listen to or purchase here

Then try:
Five Leaves Left - Nick Drake
Shoot Out the Lights - Richard & Linda Thompson

Heavy Metal

Back in Black - AC/DC

Really, could it be anything else? Back in Black is a great, great album featuring everything that is great yet also silly about heavy metal. Monster riffs, showboating guitar heroics, smutty lyrics and a sense of political incorrectness locked perpetually in the 50s. Rock and roll aint noise pollution ladies and gentlemen but it sure is a lot of fun.

Listen to or purchase here

If you like this, then try:
Appetite for Destruction - Guns and Roses
Metallica - Metallica


Kind of Blue - Miles Davis

If you are stuck in a record store looking to make your first purchase of a particular genre (and momentarily without the Nevstar Music Guide as an aid), a rule of thumb may be to simply purchase the albums made by the best musicians. Jazz played by the lesser talented can be trying, to say the least. But Kind of Blue by the incomparable Miles Davis has perhaps the finest array of talent ever collected on one record. If you dont enjoy this album, move along. You will not ever be a fan of jazz. Read here for a fuller review.

Listen or purchase here.

If you like this, then try:
A Love Supreme - John Coltrane
The Köln Concert - Keith Jarrett


Never Mind The Bollocks - The Sex Pistols

Unlike jazz, punk is not about the best musicians. It was more about the attitude than the sound. Punk is a statement; a movement; an attitude. For all of these, head straight to "S" section of your record store and pick out the one and only album by the Pistols. Its got energy, anarchy, passion and vitriol. Indeed, you could make a case that its the only punk album you would ever need.

Click here for a fuller review.

Listen to or purchase here.

If you like this, then try:
London Calling - The Clash
Ramones - The Ramones


It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back - Public Enemy

Rap can be a hard genre to like. Some argue persuasively that its not even music. But that misunderstands that one of the primary utilities of music is collegial. It momentarily unites people from their disparate lives in recognition of what they have in common. Look around next time you sing the national anthem and perhaps wonder how much you have in common with the person next to you apart from nationality. Well, rap music is the national anthem of black youth and no album evokes this notion better than this revolutionary album by Public Enemy.

Reviewed in more detail here.

Listen to or purchase here .

If you like this then try :
Licensed to Ill - Beastie Boys
Straight Outta Compton - N.W.A.


Legend - Bob Marley

Those who know me well will be aghast at my selection here. I have raged widely, loudly and often about the destructive force and insidious creep of the "Greatest Hits" phenomenon. But, looking around reggae albums, there is simply no better place to start than Legend, the greatest hits of Bob Marley. Without Marley, reggae would probably not be known globally as a music genre in the first place. He popularised it for a global audience without betraying its working class Carribbean roots. Perhaps the most apt album title of all time.

Listen or purchase here.

If you like this, then try:
Live! - Bob Marley & The Wailers
Labour of Love - UB40


Revolver - The Beatles

I initially didnt include Rock as a genre reasoning that everyone is probably already familiar with the best rock albums. But I then realised that's a very idiosyncratic point of view. There are likely to be thousands of people, perhaps of older or younger generations, who simply dont know or are not familiar with the best rock albums. The easiest and safest introduction to the music form is undoubtedley The Beatles. Not liking them is akin to not liking the sun in the words of a famous rock critic. Revolver is the best place to start for any Rock neophyte as it contains all the elements of what makes rock so exciting and vibrant.

Listen to or purchase here.

If you like this, then try:

The Bends - Radiohead
Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band


Whats Going On - Marvin Gaye

Soul music developed a social conscience in the early 70s as the music moved from the sugary sweet pop music courtesy of the likes of the Supremes to more challenging fare. No album represents this better than the magnificent What's Going On by Marvin Gaye. It was and is a landmark album showcasing more socially aware lyrics set against a kalediescope of musical ideas. You could compare it to moving from comics to novels; Jughead to Jane Eyre. If you are not already familiar with this album, then go out and purchase it now. Dont worry, I will wait.

Reviewed in full here.

Listen to or purchase here.

If you like this then try:
Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul - Otis Redding
Songs in the Key of Life - Stevie Wonder

Now, this is a Top Ten list that just begs to be argued with. Got a suggestion for a genre that wasnt mentioned or vehemently disagree with one of my selections. Send me an email, or make a comment below. A hat tip to Rob whose idea this was in the first place.

Thats all for this month. Look for another update in May with a review of a new album that has barely been out of my CD player since I purchased it.



Anonymous said...

Excellent top 12 Nev and idea Rob. Marbecks recommended that very album when I asked about starting to listen to jazz.

As a slight twist on the theme - what albums (individual artist or bands) would you recommend to a male who doesn't have many/any female artists in his collection - and vice versa.


Gary Bury (Mediaburst) said...

Nice, was it me or Rob who pushed you in the direction of Leftfield?

I'm also liking your inclusion of Public Enemy, very open minded of you ;-)!

Oh, and where the Pop section? Come on Nev, I know you have Robbie and the Spice Girls knocking around somewhere!

Catherine said...

Hey nev! Catherine here. Are you going to do a top 10 albums of 2010 come on...