Gerry’s Top Sixty Albums of the Decade Part Four

December 16th 2009

Nos. 30-21

30. Post-War, M. Ward, 2006

This sound very old and very modern, fragile and unique and covered in a sepia-toned mood with Ward’s vocals as if they are coming from the past and the future. It all creates a very distinct atmosphere, with the ghost of Dennis Wilson in there alongside a cover of Daniel Johnston. This album follows his ‘Transfiguration of Vincent’ which is also superb, containing an acoustic, spellbinding cover of Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’.

29. The Drift, Scott Walker, 2006

This is music matching the dark moods of the early 21st century, dark, brooding and intense, and full of insight and a sense of history and the act of remembering. Walker’s muse covers serious subjects: genocide in Bosnia, Mussolini’s mistress, but the biggest leap imaginatively is the track ‘Jesse’ comparing Elvis Presley’s twin brother who died stillborn with the attacks on 9/11, seeing them both as ‘twin towers’. Utterly brilliant and the work of a genius. I am glad someone has the courage and vision to make music like this.

28. Frank, Amy Winehouse, 2003

That Amy was a major talent and had ‘unfinished issues’ was apparent the moment this came out. For a start, there is the music here which sounds more late Billie Holiday than a 19 year old. Its cool, laid back jazz with great songs, delivery and songs, ranging subject wise from dating to boyfriends, sex, love and the music business. I saw her live just after this came out and it was a near total car crash. But this is timeless and personally I prefer it to the soul nostalgia of ‘Back to Black’.

27. Sunflower, The Beach Boys, 1970

The story of the Beach Boys is one of joy, pain and a dysfunctional family and  patriarch (just like the Jacksons). This album represents the beginning of a new Beach Boy era, and one where the band began briefly to operate as a group. Dennis Wilson continued to grow as a composer, Brian contributed a couple of perfect songs, and the group harmonies reflect that these are now grown men singing. An album worthy of being the equal of ‘Pet Sounds’.

26. Spirits, Gil Scott-Heron, 1994

It is tough sometimes being a trailblazer. Gil basically invented rap and hip hop before the era of bling (along with the Last Poets). Spirits was Gil’s first album for a decade, and until 2010’s new album, his last word and this is a bare, brave, honest album. This is a man looking back on his mistakes and taking account, reflecting on the young turks of rap on ‘Message to the Messengers’, and understanding his own shortcomings on ‘Don’t Give Up’.

25. India, Gal Costa, 1973

Gal Costa was one of the major figures of the Brazilian ‘Tropicalia’ movement of the late 1960s (along with Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil). She produced some wayout records then the equal of anything the US or UK created, but by this album her sound had evolved. This is characterised by Costa’s inventiveness musically and constant searching and pushing, aided by Gil’s guitar playing and arrangements.

24. Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys, 2006

The brilliant producer Hal Willner pioneered the alt tribute album from the 1980s on (Kurt Weill, Disney, Nino Rota), but then had a quiet noughties til this – a 43 track of a monster tribute to folk culture which is sure to annoy traditionalists, but is a bona fide treasure trove. Willner brings together his biggest A list yet (Sting, Bono, Bryan Ferry?) which nearly overpowers the whole thing, but there are so many gems here: ‘Boney was a Warrior’, ‘A Drop of Nelson’s Blood’ and ‘Baltimore Whores’.

23. Tales from Turnpike House, Saint Etienne, 2005

A Saint Etienne concept album about the day in the life of a group of friends sharing a house and is filled with their usual feyness, optimism and pop hooks. Opening with the gorgeous harmonies of ‘Sun in the Morning’ and ‘Milk Bottle Symphony’, it moves on to ‘Teenage Winter’ which cites with sadness the passing of an age, Subbuteo, charity shops shutting down and ebay. It is not completely perfect pop, as David Essex appears for a cameo on ‘Relocate’, which is just plain wrong: evoking equal parts ‘War of the Worlds’ and some of the worst 70s MOR!

22. The Dreaming City, 2007

A concept album about Glasgow and the future. This sounds in the abstract and the actuale a bit ‘prog’ to me which is strange because this is the one musical album I have co-produced in my life so far, also hosting the launch gig at Glasgow’s legendary Sub Club. The music here is very left-field and experimental, and yet, evokes some of the feel of film noir used by some of the jazz greats in the 1950s. A special mention to the two glorious versions of ‘That Change is Nothing’.

21. Moor Fire Burn, The Moors, 1995

A striking Scottish album which was recorded by Linn Records and never officially released. This is like the twin brother to early Blue Nile, beautiful, slowly paced songs and sparse arrangements to create something very special. Carol Moore’s vocals are haunting and mesmerising, and it is a mystery why Linn never released this. Maybe someday someone will and bring this little thing of beauty properly into the world.

Tomorrow Nos 20-11 and Friday 10-1 …..