Gerry’s Top Sixty Albums of the Decade Part Five

December 17th 2009

Nos. 20-11

Just like the chart of olden days into the Top Twenty. Cue CCS ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and Jimmy Saville with cigar! It is interesting to note what didn’t make my list. So as I said no Sinatra and I kind of feel guilty. The one Frank release which could have made it was ‘Sinatra in Hollywood’, a brilliant and comprehensive collection of all Frank’s film music – which is saying something – and which had for the first time the theme music for the stupendous ‘On the Town’ (one of the great tributes to the city).

I love Brazilian music and soul, the former one of my big discoveries this decade, and lots of wonderful things are missing from both. Gilberto Gil’s album with Jorge Ben which is simply titled with their names has them one night in 1975 learn a pile of songs and with minimal rehearsal record them through the night. And soul wise it was a great decade: with Betty LaVette making a stand out album with the rock band Drive-By Truckers (more of them later) called ‘The Scene of the Crime’.

Also missing are loads of people who I love individual songs of. Special mentions to Jock Scott’s hilarious drinking song ‘Barcelona’, ‘Zaz Turned Blue’, combining Mel Torme and Was (Not Was), and Le Tigre’s ‘New Kicks’ (which samples peace protests from around the world against the Iraq war).

20. I am the Drug, Salon Boris, 2006

This is a striking sounding album from Glasgow based, Russian origin Salon Boris fronted by Tatyana Bugayev who combines a cold, detached vocals with an air of euro trash and electro pop. This is the sort of music Goldfrapp could only dream of, and it acknowledges the attractions and ambiguities about Western society, playing with their love of the Beatles and Elvis on ‘Bride of Boris’ and satirising the march to war and hypocrisy of Blair and Bush on ‘Weapon of Mass Distraction’.

19. Caroline Now: The Songs of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, 2000

This was the first in what turned out to be a decade and (appropriately) wave of Brian tributes, and the best and most genuine. German cool indie label Marina bring together 24 artists including lots of Scots artists (Malcolm Ross, Norman Blake, the Pearlfishers). What makes it special is the range of Brian and Beach Boys songs a couple of which even I didn’t know: ‘Stevie’ covered by Saint Etienne and the moving last track, ‘Almost Summer’ by Kim Fowley. A fitting, warm welcome back to Brian in the decade he really did come back!

18. Candy Philosophy, Michael Marra, 1993

Michael Marra is a national treasure and gentleman and yet despite this nearly all of his ‘official’ releases are out of print, ‘Turned Sober’ excepted. This is one of Marra’s most fully conceived albums containing some of his best songs and all his hallmarks: his hollowed out, charming voice, stark arrangements and utterly brilliant Randy Newmanesque lyrics. He reflects on the power of love and a single kiss on ‘True Love’ and invokes his surrealism in ‘King King’s Visit to Glasgow’. A special mention should also go to his recent songs (not on this), ‘I am Shirley McKie’ and ‘The Flight of the Heron’ on Gil Scott-Heron’s dad playing for Celtic.

17. Dap-Dipping with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, 2002

Sharon Jones is one hot soul diva and a former prison warden to boot! This is one awesome soul album, Sharon’s debut, and the one that launched her and the Dap-Kings career (who ended up backing people like Amy Winehouse on ‘Back to Black’). There are some superb originals here and a perfect cover giving new light to Janet Jackson’s ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately’. One of the best gigs of the decade was seeing Sharon and her syncopated, funk band at the Sub Club, Glasgow, young Glasgow dudes dancing on stage, plus I got a big hug from Sharon at the end!

16. The Esher Demos, The Beatles, 2009

What left is there to say about the Beatles? Well an awful lot if EMI and Macca have their way, but while the excitement and monies were on the reissue box sets, this came out at the same time. This is the best ‘bootleg’ yet of the famous ‘Esher Demos’ of May 68 when the Beatles cut acoustic versions of most of ‘the White Album’. This is from John’s personal copy of the sessions and in stunning sound. It all has the air of the summer of love, post-India before things fell apart, and a ‘Beatles Unplugged’ Session. How long will it take EMI to release this as a legit album?

15. The Nightfly Trilogy, Donald Fagen, 2007

Fagen has recorded three solo albums which have a loose theme of the past, future and present, so here he presents them with an album of odds and sods. Two of the three are masterpieces: ‘The Nightfly’ and ‘Morph the Cat’; the former a beautiful send off to the early Steely Dan years and captures the simultaneous hope of the Kennedy years and ever present fear of nuclear Armageddon all on one song, ‘New Frontier’. A lavish package which adds to the understanding and enjoyment of all three albums and packed with (almost too many) extras!

14. 12 Crass Songs, Jeffrey Lewis, 2007

What a strange, brilliant and perfect creation this is! Who would have thought it possible? Take twelve Crass songs, the discordant, tuneless, anarchist beat combo of the late 70s and re-interpret them as modern folk songs. And amazingly thirty years on these are revealed as biting, insightful, completely relevant folk songs which give voice and opposition to the corporatisation of the world. ‘Punk is Dead’, ‘Do They Owe Us A Living?’, ‘Securicor’ and many more sound like mini-manifestos raging with humour against the machine!

13. White, Nino Katamadze, 2006

Nino is a Georgian pop diva who comes across like a mix of a French chanteuse produced by the Pet Shop Boys for a theatrical setting! ‘White’ is apparently her breakthrough album, and sold well outside of the Transcausian Republic of Georgia, one of the most fascinating and beautiful places in the world and a nexus and crossroads of many different cultures. Having said that Nino’s songs also reflect an understanding of Georgian folk culture, stories and mythology, and this album has it all. Absolutely enchanting and a unique talent!

12. Vagarosa, Cue, 2009

Ceu is one of Brazil’s latest ‘hot’ young things, championed by people like Charlie Gillett in the UK, and this is a stellar album. While firmly rooted in Brazilian rhythms and grooves, it has all sorts of other things going on: trip hop, jazz, soul, funk and lots more, while always sounding more than an exercise in plagiarism. The songs are tight, captivating and have an element of bliss about them as they drift in and out, and melodies and arrangements take interesting detours. A major new talent from Sao Paulo whose name in Portuguese means ‘sky’ or ‘heaven.

11. It’s My Thing, Marva Whitney, 1969

This is a lost soul classic now rightly finding its place! Whitney was one of James Brown’s ‘funky divas’ and this is her only solo album from that period, with his backing band and the man himself making an appearance on ‘Sunny’. The band are of course spectacular, Whitney cuts it up on ‘It’s My Thing (Part One)’ and yet also knows how to caress a subtle melody. Upon its reissue in the noughties, Whitney came back with a great album, ‘I Am What I Am What I Am’, tight backing band and starting touring again! Another great Camden Jazz Café night, where it clearly meant quite a lot for Marva to be singing and playing again.

And Friday morning …. What you have all been waiting for!

The Top Ten and Number One!