Gerry’s Top Sixty Albums of the Decade Part Three

December 16th 2009

Nos. 40-31

40. America Brasil, Seu Jorge, 2008

Rio born Jorge broke through with the music for the film ‘City of God’ and then at some point did an album of Bowie covers in Portuguese which got a lot of attention, but passed me by. This is an album of his own compositions, which while varied in style, has an overall sense of up-beatness, the spirit of bossa nova, being breezy and filled with life and vitality.

39. In a Bad Mood, Geraint Watkins, 2008

Watkins is one of these Dave Edmunds like figures who has long been in the music business, but more played the role of session man, rather than come out front himself. The mix on this album is part-blues, part-shaped by the spirit of Welsh working class miners’ colliery bands and evokes an aura of old-fashionedness in places without becoming too explicit or claustrophobic. In this there is some similarity to Michael Marra but crossed with Peter Skellern and Edmunds.

38. A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina), Terence Blanchard, 2007

This is a modern jazz masterpiece and Blanchard’s soundtrack for Spike Lee’s ‘When the Leeves Broke’, his film about the tragedy and disgrace of Hurricane Katrina. An air of elemental power, destruction, frustration, loss and hope pervade this whole enterprise, which opens with ‘Ghost of Congo Square’ and the chant ‘This is the tale of God’s Will’ and concludes with ‘Dear Mom’, a tribute to his mum, who lost her house, but survived.

37. Travelogue, Joni Mitchell, 2002

Late era Joni. One minute she retires from the music business, then Sinatra like, she comes back with a covers album of oldies, and then follows up with this, covering her own songs. The comparison with Frank is apt, for Joni takes 22 of her songs from across her career, and re-interprets them with orchestral arrangements, and even more strikingly, a voice that is older, darker and more husky.  Many of the songs here take on completely different feels, such as ‘Hejira’ and ‘Amelia’, while the reflective ‘Chinese Café’ feels even more apt here than in its original setting.

36. The Sound of Girls Aloud: The Greatest Hits, 2006

What has happened to wonderful, disposable plastic pop? Well there was Simon Callow and there was Girls Aloud, who came from ‘Popstars: The Rivals’. This contains some of their greatest and most catchy hits, ‘Sound of the Underground’, ‘Biology’ and ‘Something Kind Ooooh’. Only brought down from pop perfection by some unimaginative cover versions.

35. Scottish Women, 2002

Here is a small Scottish treasure. A group of Scottish women performers tour the country playing traditional songs about women. The artists include Margaret Bennett, Ray Fisher, Karine Polwart and Sheena Wellington, and the songs are filled with history, humour and putting up with Scottish men (obviously!).

34. Trans, Caetano Veloso, 1972

Veloso is one of the most influential musicians in the world in the last century, and hailed in Brazil, sometimes being called ‘the Brazilian Bob Dylan’, which underplays his influence. He and Gilberto Gil, dangerous young radicals at the time, were first jailed and then exiled by the Brazilian dictatorship, and after a period in London, this is the album Veloso cut upon his return. Full of folk rock touches, the wonder (as well as alienation) of his exile can still be felt in tracks like ‘Nine Out of Ten’ and ‘It’s a Long Way’ with lyrics in both English and Portuguese.

33. A Man in a Room, Gambling, Gavin Bryars and Juan Munoz, 2002

Bryars is the foremost post-war British post-minimalist musician, responsible for such seminal tracks as ‘Jesus Blood Never Saved Me Yet’ (covered by Tom Waits). He takes ten pieces, all five minutes long, and conceiving of them as Radio 4 pieces after the Shipping Forecast, invites Juan Munoz to recite different perils from a guide on how to gamble. The overall effect is like a liturgy, very late night and atmospheric. This is the full 2003 version not be confused with a shorter earlier edition, and tragically Juan Munoz died before the album was ever completed.

32. Restless Soul, The Proclaimers, 2003

The fabulous Proclaimers have been a constant in my life since their musical breakthrough with ‘This is the Story’, but they did disappear for a while with writer’s block. This catches them at the beginning of the comeback, and finds a different Craig and Charlie from the days of Thatcher, more concerned about the personal, and reflecting on being men grown up, their dads and bringing up their kids.

31. Primordial Lovers, Essra Mohawk, 1970

Mohawk is a bit of a hidden treasure and this is one of her greatest moments, combining folk, blues and a bit of psycho rambling in hypnotic arrangements and songs. Tracks such as ‘I am the Breeze’, ‘Spiral’ and ‘I Have Been Here Before’ have an otherly feel and vocal, and yet are also folk; the latter track captivated David Crosby who used it as inspiration for ‘Déjà Vu’ (whether that is a good thing or not!).