Gerry’s Top Sixty Albums of the Decade Part Two

December 15th 2009

Here is Part Two; numbers 50-41 ….

50. Singing for Life: Songs of Hope, Healing and HIV/AIDS in Uganda, 2007

What an unbelievably life-affirming album this is. Addressing one of the most serious issues of our time: the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, ‘Singing for Life’ details the response of Ugandan musicians. With titles such as ‘Death is Bad’, ‘AIDS Finished Us’ and ‘The Graveyard is Our Home’ some might think this a bleak listen, but it is a celebration of the human (and musical) spirit.

49. My Everything, Anita Baker, 2004

I have also been a Baker aficionado since ‘Rapture’ and ‘Sweet Love’ in 1986 and this is her first album in over a decade. The good news is she is back unchanged and with a bang. Proof that smooth, sophisticated soul does not have to be bland. And the songs reflect proper adult themes, ‘Men in My Life’ about her husband and boys, ‘In My Life’, a gorgeous tribute to grown up desire and attraction.

48. Eddi Reader sings the Songs of Robert Burns, 2003

I have never really been in my heart much of a Reader fan (I mean Fairground Attraction for goodness sake!) and not much of a Burns’ true believer either. This is a beautiful Scots folk album, setting Reader’s voice in subtle settings and giving life to the spirit of Burns. The whole thing has the feel of a joyful, warm Hogmanay.

47. Keep Reachin’ Up, Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators, 2005

Willis is an American living in Helsinki and this album reflects the strength of the ‘nu soul’ scene there with a Finnish backing band, the Soul Investigators. It has timeless tunes such as ‘Feeling Free’ and ‘If this Aint Love (Don’t Know What Is) which sound like soul standards. My only niggle which was amplified when seeing them live at Camden’s Jazz Café is that on the album and live the band are always just too restrained and never ever cut loose!

46. The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, Rickie Lee Jones, 2007

A fascinating album from a major creative force and troubadour. This is a ragged, raw, immediate sounding album filled with a hypnotic power and a real sense of taking risks. The theme of the album is exploring the words of Jesus in the loosest definition, not a religious sense, and thus ranging across a vast array of universal themes and putting them in a new light.

45. Dear Heather, Leonard Cohen, 2004

Pre-touring Lenny turns 70 and turns his attention to life, love and mortality – so no great change there then! Upon release there was a potent sense that Lenny consciously was aware that this might be his last word, and an air of closure imbues the whole album. He looks back on the life of a ladies man on ‘Because of’, addresses 9/11 on ‘On That Day’ and puts the experience of being hurt in the context of a life of hope and learning on ‘Villanelle for Our Time’. His final studio word?

44. Let’s Change the World With Music, Prefab Sprout, 2009

One of the greatest British singer-songwriters and the rumoured and until now never released follow up to ‘Jordan: The Comeback’. This album is Paddy’s demos without Wendy and Martin, but it feels absolutely complete and finished and a tour de force. It is in every sense the sequel to the magnificent ‘Jordan’ and follows on from it exploring the joy of music, the power of religious imagery and the history of humanity. Full of joyous hooks and lyrics; ‘I Love Music’ rhymes Miles, Irving Berlin and Nile and ‘Nard (of Chic fame)!

43. Evolution: The Polydor Anthology, Roy Ayers, 1995

This is my introduction to Roy Ayers and a 31 track best of which covers twenty years of the man’s music. It thus covers a vast musical landscape while always having a coherence, from the early 1970s political and social commentary with Ubiquity leading to the latter soul funk, all of which influenced acid jazz and 1980s dance. Sadly many of Ayers’ great 70s albums are still out of print making this a great place to start.

42. Willard, John Stewart, 1970

John Stewart was a member of the Kingston Trio and writer of ‘Daydream Believer for the Monkees, and ‘Willard’ is one of his great albums. The other ‘California Bloodlines’ was released the year before, and it is difficult to choose between them. This is a big, romantic American album, filled with characters, stories of outlaws and the importance of freedom.

41. Tender Pervert, Momus, 1988

I had to have a Momus album – ala Neil Currie – and he has had a great last few years, publishing a dark novel and the utterly brilliant ‘Book of Scotlands’, containing 150 fictional parallel Scotlands. ‘Tender Pervert’ is the work of an Oscar Wilde-like indie genius. Songs such as ‘I was a Maoist Intellectual’, ‘The Homosexual’ and ‘A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy Parts 17-24’ are the sort of songs Morrissey would kill for. And this guy is from Paisley!