This seemed like a great idea when Nick came up with it - pick your top 10 all-time albums from the 6,000+ that you own. However, it proved to be an impossible task as there are just too many albums with too much emotional baggage associated with them to be able to think of them as just a musical oevre.
In the end Nick did not make his selections based on qualities of musicianship, production or any other de-personalised qualities. These are effectively his Desert Island Discs charting the musical mileposts through his life. With so many albums to select from this is an imperfect list and there are fabulous albums that should be on there, but just didn't quite make it. The exercise took over three months in order to factor out and mood peaks that may have unfairly effected the selection process.
The simple rules were - no compilations and no live albums. What emeerged was a list steeped in history with half the selections from 1973/74 and nothing newer than 1990. Is this an indictment of the msuic industry over the last 20 years? Not at all - it goes to show that for an album to achieve Top 10 status you have to live with it for a long time until it has become part of the fabric of your life.
So, without further ado here is the list. It's in alphabetical order, as ranking from 1-10 really was a giant step way too far! You may scoff or raise an eyebrow, but try doing the exercise yourself and see how difficult it is.
ABC - The Lexicon Of Love -1982
This is Nick's only dancefloor contender in the list. You may recall ABC as men in gold lamé suits on Top Of The Pops and written them off as tacky New Romantics, but that would be missing the point totally. This is an album of love - the way it makes your heart soar and in the next instance how it can break the same heart. There are the three minute moments of pop perfection such as Poison Arrow and The Look Of Love, but it is as a whole that it works so well. It captures the spirit of new romanticism without drowning it in layers of synthesisers and Martin Fry imbues the lyrics with just the right amount of pathos and despair.
Marc Almond - Enchanted -1990
Nick has a love of musical theatre and thsi si the album that captures the spirit of the musicals - it is pure theatre from start to finish. Each song is a vignette, telling a tale of love, despair, revenge or some other emotion and Marc Almond is the perfect narrator. Marc is so much more than just Soft Cell and his solo work reflects this with him showing his love of Jacques Brel and other similar composers. He is able to infuse these songs with real emotion and demonstrates that he has a voice better suited to musical theatre than his more upbeat offerings and there is a sense of an artist really enjoying himself running through the album.
Blue Öyster Cult - Secret Treaties -1974
This is Nick's favourite band, but it was a tough call as to whether any of their albums would make it onto the list and then which one it would be. This was their third album and their last studio outing before Don't Fear The Reaper made their name and derailed them somewhat into a career-long search for a follow-up song to equal or better it. This is a rock (not a metal) album by the original and best line-up with many songs that have gonme on to become concert staples even 35 years later. There is a great mix of guitars and keyboards throughout and the album closes with the atmospheric classic, Astronomy.
Jellyfish - Bellybutton -1990
Jellyfish are the encapsulation of all that is good in power pop. There are lashings of Beach Boys, Beatles and Byrds influences throughout without this ever sounding anything other than completely original. The songs have a quirky feel to them while carrying strong melodies, featuring fabulous harmonies and having a sense of fun. Sadly, Jellyfish only made two albums (Spilt Milk was so nearly on this list too) but have achieved legendary status in the power pop world and are still used as a measuring stick for new acts today. This is the good-time album on the list!
Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road -1973
Elton has become a national treasure and has released many teriffic albums and singles, but this is the one that stands head and shoulders above the others. Bernie Taupin's lyrics tell wonderful tales and Elton has married them to unforgettable tunes - look no further than Candle In The Wind as an example. The album goes from out and out rocker to touching ballad, hitting all the points inbetween. Nick and his cousin Anders' rendition of the title track in the piano bar of The Sheraton in Stockholm will live long in the memory of those who were there!
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Pronounced -1973
From the first time he heard this album Nick was hooked! This album seemed to spawn a whole new generation of southern rock and place the genre firmly on the musical map - a phenomenon not dissimilar to what Guns'n'Roses did for hard rock nearly 20 years later. A band with three lead guitarists was almost more than any 13 year old could take! There is a raw edge to these songs that suit Ronnie Van zant's vocals to a tee and the band show that they really can rock across the whole album. Although Freebird is the crowning glory, each track on this album is really strong and well played. The album still sounds as fresh today as it did when Nick first played it in 1973!
New England - Explorer Suite -1980
This is the one band on the list you've probably never heard of. It dates from the zenith of the pomp rock era and is a hidden gem of its kind. The band's eponymous debut also nearly made it onto the list, so what is it that makes New England so special? The songs are incredibly catchy with soaring choruses and layers of harmonies that are nectar on the ears. There are strong keyboards throughout as well as great guitar solos and the production is really crisp. The lyrics aren't the album's strongest point, but that is quickly forgiven as you let the sound wash over you. The title track is pure pomp rock perfection - miss it at your peril!
Pink Floyd - The Dark Side Of The Moon -1973
There can be nothing left to say about this album that hasn't already been said in many places. However, Nick remembers first playing this on his mono record player and then being re-awakened when he finally moved onto a stereo record player. Many teenage evenings were spent with this album playing in a darkened bedroom with some new nuance being found on each listen. There's never really been anything released quite like it since - a true classic.
Television - Marquee Moon -1977
Here is another genre defining album. Just as the punk movement was getting underway out came Marquee Moon that created the template for the whole indie sound of the 80's, 90s and beyond. The guitar sounds on this album were a revelation at the time and are the perfect foil for Tom Verlaine's vocals. They failed to follow up on this debut, but it stands out as an album because of the strength of the tunes and its unique sound.
The Who - Quadrophenia -1973
This just pipped Who's Next onto the list. Concept albums and rock operas are normally a bit of an ordeal with tons of filler, but Quadrophenia avoids these pitfalls and is a powerful album from start to end. Pete Townsend's tribute to the Mods'n'Rockers era features great sonds interwoven with the four themes of the album that keep popping up throughout. There are great vocal moments as well as Townsend's trademark guitar and Keith Moon's unique drumming style that carry the album. The film of the album is OK, but not a patch on letting your imagination do the work while the music plays. Love Reign O'er Me is the highpoint of The Who's career and you will keep singing it over and over long after the album stops playing.