Album

No.16 – Bob Dylan, ‘Blood on the Tracks’

This was a pleasant surprise. I always kind of wrote Dylan off as being a bit trite and overrated, but ‘Blood on the Tracks’ is actually… I mean, it’s really good. I liked every single track. Imagine me saying this in that very British way where your voice goes up at the end of the sentence that makes you sound mildly surprised when actually you’re deeply astonished by the situation.

The album sounds fresh – if you’d played it to me and told me it was, I don’t know, Conor Oberst’s latest record, I’d have said Wow, when did Conor Oberst start being good? and would just completely accept that it’s a 2017 release.

It’s through ‘Blood on the Tracks’ that I can really see how much Dylan has influenced modern folk, indie, and pop music: melodies that speak for themselves, lyrics that just feel right, and a balanced attitude towards production that makes every element enjoyable.

My profoundest apologies to ol’ Bobby for doubting him. He is a Nobel Prize winner, after all.

When to listen to it: In a meadow somewhere, either in spring or autumn, but not summer or winter.

Verdict: Liked it enough to add it to my Apple Music, and I might download it to listen to on my commute. Conor Oberst wishes.

8/10

Album

No.15 – The Jimi Hendrix Experience, ‘Are You Experienced’

Yeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!

That’s the best, and most accurate, review I could possibly give of the first Hendrix album of the list. YEEAAAAHHHHH, I inwardly yelled as the opening riff of ‘Purple Haze’ came in. YEEAAAAHHHH, my mind screamed every time I recognised a song that I never have the chance to really enjoy on its own. YEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH I had to try and stop myself from saying out loud as Jimi kept the licks comin’.

‘Are You Experienced’ speaks to a very specific mood – and thank heck I was in that mood when I listened so I could properly enjoy the yyeeeeaaaaahhhh factor. I reckon this’ll be one of my go-to albums next time I’m in that mood too.

When to listen to it: When you need to get pumped, or when you want to seduce a very energetic person. Also works for when you’re cleaning the house.

Verdict: YYYYYYEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!! but such a mood would get exhausting when experienced 24/7.

7/10

Album

No.14 – The Beatles, ‘Abbey Road’

Yeah, no, this is too much Beatles – we’ve talked about this. ‘Abbey Road’ is fine but it’s nowhere near as good or interesting enough to even bother reviewing compared with some of the albums we’ve got coming up.

One thing I do love about this album, however, is one of my personal favourite pieces of Beatles-trivia-slash-conspiracy-theories: the cover art famously proves that Paul McCartney had in fact died and been replaced by an impersonator. We can tell he’s dead because he has bare feet – I guess ghosts don’t need shoes – and because the car on the road is headed right for him. And he’s stepping forward with a different leg from the others, which shows he is different, specifically that they are alive and he is dead.

The best thing about this theory – sorry, I mean fact – is that they obviously managed to replace the old Paul with someone who is talented enough to continue writing music at the same calibre as the old one and have just as successful a career. Well done, guys.

When to listen to it: While writing up a business plan for your new line of shoes for ghosts, which you’ve named Phantom Phootwear.

Verdict: Who cares?

6/10

Album

No.13 – The Velvet Underground & Nico, ‘The Velvet Underground’

Guys! GUYS! It’s a woman! Our first woman of the list!

Sure, it’s a bit disappointing that the first credited female musician is just an add-on, and the album title is the name of the artist who is not her, but hey.

And actually… ‘The Velvet Underground’ is disappointing in a few other ways too.

Given how much of an influence this band have been on a number of my favourite musicians, and given how high up on the list the album is, and given how iconique the album art is, I was expecting a lot more from this. For the most part, nothing really caught my attention besides the songs I already knew. It seemed to just chug along semi-pleasantly.

But then again – it could just be that the format of this challenge doesn’t really lend itself to albums that are growers, which ‘The Velvet Underground’ could well be. All the albums here that I haven’t heard before are only getting one or two listens, for the most part, before I give a verdict. That’s no good for records that you have to get to know, or ones that slowly reveal themselves over time. So, I’m reluctant to write ‘The Velvet Underground’ off, because I get the feeling that it is one such record.

Anyway. I just looked up Nico on Wikipedia and her friends apparently described her as racist and ‘Nazi-esque’ so uh… charming.

When to listen to it: Sitting on a pile of cushions on the floor with a group of friends, passing a joint around, not saying a word, but actually thinking some quite racist words.

Verdict: I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for now.

5/10

Album

No.12 – Miles Davis, ‘Kind of Blue’

I’m sorry, Miles, I really am. You know those albums where you can tell the musician is good – and Davis is superb – but it just doesn’t do it for you?

I mean, heck, I even enjoy the sound of jazz… but I was raised on modern pop and rock, and as a result I simply cannot do music that doesn’t have vocals.

I feel like I should return my music snob licence just for writing that.

Miles – forgive me. You’re fantastic. Sadly, I am unappreciative scum, so I’m going to have to politely decline ‘Kind of Blue’.

When to listen to it: Right, give me my music snob licence back so it can be revoked again for the comment I’m about to make. Miles Davis’ ‘Kind of Blue’ primarily reminded me of the music in the Sims 1 expansion pack ‘Hot Date’. You should listen to ‘Kind of Blue’ when you’re building a downtown lot for your first-gen Sims to smooch in. God, Miles, I really can’t apologise enough.

Verdict: It’s not for me.

4/10

Album

No.10 – The Beatles, ‘The White Album’

All right, confession time. For all the shit I talk about The Beatles, I actually love ‘The White Album’. It’s awesome. It feels just as fresh as if it had been released this year. I thought that when I heard it 10 years ago and you know what, I still think it now.

A fun fact about this record: Charles Manson listened to it a lot in prison – pre-Family and pre-murders – and thought the band were trying to communicate the end of the world to him. Helter Skelter was supposedly what the apocalypse would be called; Revolution 9 was what he and his Family would hear going on in the outside world as it ends; and I can’t remember what he thought Piggies was about but I’m pretty sure it was something super racist.

Anyway, even outside of all the grim history of this album that appealed to 16-year-old goth Kim in the first place, it’s brilliant. The tunes are melodic, they’re passionate, and they’re varied. Here the four experiment with folk, baroque pop, heavy rock, and outright experimental stuff – and every time it seems to work and create something worth listening to.

When to listen to it: When you’re a literal murderous sociopath stewing in the clink, apparently.

Verdict. It’s good. Oh man, it’s good. Still a bit tired of listening to Beatles though.

8.5/10

Album

No.8 – The Clash, ‘London Calling’

Oh, I am loving this.

Despite being a hella, ultra punk teenager, ‘London Calling’ has somehow escaped my musical grasp for a really long time – it’s just one of those that I never quite got round to listening to.

Hats off to this challenge for finally getting me there. This album rules.

I don’t need to talk about all the subsequent artists who this has obviously influenced, because it’s quite clear that this was not just a seminal punk album but a seminal mainstream rock one too. Strummer’s disaffected drawl, the band’s uninhibited energy, the whistleable riffs and hooks – it’s doing something special. I love it.

When to listen to it: In the pub after a jolly good protest somewhere outside Downing Street.

Verdict: What can I say? It’s great. It’s worked hard over the years. It’s still exciting after four whole decades.

8/10