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Old 01-04-2023, 09:07 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default 1001 of Trollheart's Favourite Albums

1001 of Trollheart’s Favourite Albums

All right, let’s do this. First, this is NOT a list of the 1001 Best Albums Ever, nor 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. It’s not even a list of the 1001 albums I think are the best. It’s simply 1001 albums I personally like, a lot of which I love, presented in no order and not ranked. I said RANKED! Jesus, you people! I’m quite aware that most of you will think this list lame and unadventurous (hey, it’s me after all) and that the larger percentage will be albums few if any of you have any interest in, or even know. It will also be more than a little what I guess you lot would call mainstream, though I like to think there’s a decent mixture of genres in here. Let’s put it this way: don’t expect Swans or The Fall or anything like that. Oh, the air is absolutely filled with the absence of gasps!

Before I arrived here, I had a) little money and b) no access to the internet, so I bought what I liked and stuck to it, which means you’ll find a lot of albums by the same artists here. But thanks to you guys I’ve been bullied, cajoled, jeered, tricked and in some cases even encouraged into trying artists and albums I would never have thought of trying - many of which I didn’t even know of - and some of them have found success with me. So there are albums here that would never have been in my collection in, say, 1990 or even 2000. However I am not one of those people who looks back and says “What was I thinking, listening to that?” The artists I listened to when I was 18 are still in my collection; perhaps that’s an indication of a lack of growth, I don’t know. Nor do I care. I don’t dump old artists for new, and I can’t really think of any artist I used to listen to that I would not and do not listen to now.

I’m under no illusions anyone is going to try any of these albums, but if someone sees something and is tempted then that’s great. Mostlyyou can of course expect a lot of prog, a lot of AOR, straight rock, pop and a mixture of other genres. I’ll be trying to give my personal reasons why I like a particular album and telling you about it, and as many of the albums I’ll be talking about have been reviewed among my over 2,000 album reviews now, I’ll be providing links if anyone wants to read more about it and see what I had to say.

Note: I will be ranking either the top 100 or 50, haven't decided which yet, but the rest are in no order.

Note on note: No I won't. In one of my trademark changes of heart, I've decided against this. Just can't pick 100. It's like trying to choose which of your children to save. So I'll just go with no order for the entire thing.

Oh, and thanks to the returning Comus for giving me the kick to do this, which I've been meaning to do for more years now than I care to, or can, remember.

Right, that’s it. Off we go.

1001


Album title: Lead Me On
Artist: Amy Grant
Nationality: American
Year: 1988
Genre: Contemporary Christian Music (shut up)
Chronology: 8 of 19 (so far)
What this album means to me: I was pleasantly surprised, as I had never to my knowledge bought a CCM album before (had a CCR one, sure), in fact I didn’t even know what it was at the time.
Highlights: Lead Me On, Saved by Love, Faithless Heart, What About the Love, If These Walls Could Speak, Say Once More
Lowlights: Sure Enough, Wait for the Healing
Lyric of the album: “I looked into the mirror, proud as I could be/ And I saw my pointing finger pointing back at me/ Saying who made you accuser? Who gave you the scales?/ I hung my head in sorrow; I could almost feel the nails.” - “What About the Love” (Rhonda Fleming, Janis Ian)

To this day, I have no idea why I bought this record. I feel it may have been on one of those odysseys I used to make into the town centre in search of second-hand records, but even then, why I was attracted to this I have no clue. I’m glad I was though. To my surprise, today, I find that Amy Grant has sold over 30 MILLION albums, and is known as one of the biggest selling CCM artists, this album being in fact number one in the book The Top 100 Christian Albums.. Right. You don’t care. Neither do I. The point is, to stumble - apparently completely by chance - across an album of this quality by someone I did not even know, is rare to say the least. To find it’s a CCM album is even rarer.

Now, I have nothing particular against CCM or any Christian music. I’m not a believer, though I was brought up as a Roman Catholic, but then I am Irish. I’ve listened to Christian metal, and thought it was damn fine. I’ve listened to Neil Morse witter on about God on plenty of his albums, and even listened to some Casting Crowns. Hell, I’ll listen to anything if it’s good and I enjoy it. Doesn’t mean the message they try to send (if they do, which they don’t always) in the lyric gets to me. But even at that, this is different. Amy Grant does mention God a few times (and “Saved by Love” is surely a cover for “Saved by God”) but not so much that you feel battered over the head with a statue of Jesus or whatever. In essence, this is basically a pop/rock album that mostly ticks all the right boxes.

There are duff tracks on it, but man are there some good ones. The soft, almost reverent (not in that way, I hasten to add) ballad “If These Walls Could Speak” is the song of a woman telling her lover how much he means to her, “Saved by Love” is in fact a soppy love song but rides on a really nice guitar line and manages to stay this side of slushy, while the standout, for me, “What About the Love” is a powerful indictment of do-gooders and the state of the world today, that manages very deftly to avoid (sorry) preaching and has a real tinge of bitter anger in it. Look, a woman who apparently made her career on two chart singles, one called “Baby Baby” and one with Chicago’s Peter Cetera is not the kind of artist I would expect to be putting out an album of this maturity, and Wiki does say it was a less poppy album than her previous, so maybe I just got lucky in getting this one. I did buy Heart in Motion, the next one, and was heartily disappointed.

This is not a perfect album by any means. There are tracks I skip. You can see some above, and while they’re not bad tracks per se, they do lower the overall quality of the album, though the others make up for the bad ones. But when you buy an album (for whatever reason) by someone you don’t know - without even a single for guidance, unlike Jane Wiedlin’s Fur, bought on the strength of the single “Rush Hour”, a decision I regretted - and you end up with a great album you can play occasionally, it’s a win for me. It also shows that not every CCM album has to be Holy Joes or Janes praising God (though it often is, I’m sure): sometimes it’s just a really good pop, rock or even metal album. And whether you believe or not, music is a religion at whose altar we all worship, regardless of personal creed, or the absence of one.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6uh...cheqObfckPmqnL

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Old 01-05-2023, 12:50 PM   #2 (permalink)
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1000

Album title: Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine
Artist: Daryl Hall
Nationality: American
Year: 1986
Genre: Pop/Rock
Chronology: 2 of 7 (so far)
What this album means to me: Not all that much but it was interesting
Highlights: Dreamtime, For You, Right as Rain, What’s Gonna Happen to Us
Lowlights: Wasn’t Born Yesterday, Next Step, Let it Out
Lyric of the album: Nothing comes to mind.

I thought about leaving this one out. I mean, there’s no way I’m going to pretend this is one of my favourite albums, so what’s it doing on the list? Well, I have to admit to a sneaking admiration for the way Hall has approached this album. After years of mainstream success with his partner John Oates, and being known as the voice behind such hits as “Maneater”, “I Can’t Go For That” and “Kiss On My List”, he could easily have taken the route of getting someone - or several someones - to write a bunch of hits for him, and putting his voice to them climbed the charts again. That’s not what he did though. Almost everything here is written or co-written by him, and while some tracks do bear a resemblance to the style of Hall & Oates, many are taking him well outside that comfort zone.

He tackles everything from AOR and arena rock to pop and jazz and of course ballad, even a bit of world music thrown in. (Look, I’m not sure about the jazz: it’s been ten years since I reviewed this, but chances are I remarked somewhere about jazz influences). It’s not what you’d call a stunning change, but it’s also not what you might expect from the mainman of what was once the premier “white boy soul” band, or duo, of the 1980s. Truth to tell, this album is riddled with poor or sub-par tracks, but the ones that shine really shine, and in effect though there are only about four of them, they’re so much better than the weaker ones that they almost make up two tracks each, if that makes sense.

Basically, the album is a surprise, though not anything like a shock. You’ll recognise the familiar voice, just he may be singing songs you might not have expected him to. Tender ballads such as the gloriously laid-back “Right as Rain” or the yearning closer “What’s Gonna Happen to Us”, with its eco-friendly tilt, sit alongside power rockers like “Dreamtime” (the hit single from the album, got to number 5) and the standout “For You”, which has a hook that just gets lodged in your brain and won’t let go. It is, I think, a brave decision; not only does he do all or most of the songwriting, but he plays just about everything and even produces the album. This is, in all and every sense of the word, a solo album. AND there’s no sign of a “guest spot” for his partner, which is nice, as he could easily have fulfilled that cliche, but chose not to. Or maybe Oates told him where to stick it. Either way, the album is not a cavalcade of pop stars helping their mucker out: there’s barely anyone here I know. Okay, there’s Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics and a guy from the Pretenders, and Bob Geldof and Joni Michell lend their voices to the backing on one or two tracks. Michael Kamen is there too, conducting the orchestra. But that’s it.

I personally feel it’s a courageous decision he made, and while Christgau may sneer at his attempts - and I wouldn’t necessarily correct him - I feel Hall gets it right here few enough times to justify the price of the album. There’s a lot of filler, but now and again there’s a killer, and those are the ones worth waiting for.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-CJzeup-FM&t=1s

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Old 01-06-2023, 06:08 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm glad I didn't set an expectation to write more than a line or two for each of my entries, of course I set other, more ridiculous limitations...
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classical music isn't exactly religious, you know?
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Old 01-06-2023, 06:12 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Yup. I'm struggling at the moment to find 1001 (up to about 500) even with no real restrictions on how many albums I take from each artist. I'm also canning my idea of a top 100: just can't choose. But as you know, it's harder than it looks.
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Old 01-06-2023, 10:29 AM   #5 (permalink)
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999.


Album title: Filosofem
Artist: Burzum
Nationality: Norwegian
Year: 1996
Genre: Black Metal, Dark Ambient
Chronology: 3 of 12
What this album means to me: This was one of the first albums on which I realised black metal, as such, could be awe-inspiring and breath-taking. It gave me quite a problem, due to its being created by a known murderer and Nazi who liked burning down churches. I’m still struggling with that today, to be honest.
Highlights: Pretty much all of it
Lowlights: None; could do without the scratchy, screeching vocal, but then, this is black metal
Lyric of the album: Not a chance, pal! ????

Like I say above, this album, and this artist, produces a real moral dichotomy in me. Can I reconcile the man’s many crimes and his outspoken far-right, neo-Nazi views with the gloriously gorgeous music I find here? The only real answer I found was that I couldn’t, in all honesty and fairness, having listened to this just dismiss it on the ground of his political views and actions. It has been a long time since I had heard anything quite so ethereally beautiful, and really I sort of felt like someone being ushered through the black flaming doors of Hell into a room where the most stunning and emotional music I had ever heard was playing. Conflicted? You bet your (after)life I was.

But I managed to, with some difficulty - put to one side the man and his beliefs, to say nothing of his crimes (which, I suppose to be fair to him, he has paid for - it’s not like he literally got away with murder, and hey, it was only Euronymous, who wanted to die anyway). Sorry if that’s insensitive, but a man who inhales a dead crow before going on stage every night was never going to be long for this world, not that that excuses murder. It raises valid questions though. If a serial killer paints beautiful paintings, should we praise him as an artist? Can we divorce the man from his crimes, and more to the point, should we? Are we, in some ways, condoning those crimes by saying but look at the good he did! It’s a question I wrestle with a lot, and to be honest I have yet to come up with an answer.

But music like this simply can’t be ignored. I suppose, had I not known who Varg Vikernes was (thanks Batty) I might have felt differently about this album and just enthused about it. I still do. Enthuse, that is. But it’s with a certain sense of guilt, not that that stops me either listening to it or recommending it. Which I do. Recommend, that is. If you like haunting, challenging, soothing and sometimes shocking music. Don’t expect to understand the lyrics though, what there are of them.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-ZVkESecXk
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Old 01-06-2023, 07:59 PM   #6 (permalink)
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998


Album title: Speak Slowly
Artist: The Stars of Heaven
Nationality: Irish
Year: 1988
Genre: Pop Rock, Indie Rock
Chronology: 2 of 2
What this album means to me: I think it was one of the first albums by an Irish band (U2 and Thin Lizzy aside of course) that I found I could really enjoy. Generally, I had found (and I may have been looking in the wrong places of course) that Irish rock, or even pop, was pretty embarrassing and disappointing. I loved this album, and the fact that it’s such a rarity makes me love it even more now.
Highlights: Every Other Day, Lights of Tetuoan, What Else Could You Do, 2 O’Clock Waltz, Little England, Unfinished Dreaming
Lowlights: None
Lyric of the album: I really can’t remember; I just loved them all.

I may very well have bought this album for the cover. In case you don’t know, that’s a picture of the wheel of a train engine on the front, but as you won’t know unless you’re a) Irish and b) as old as me, it’s in the old colours of the rail company CIE (it’s Irish, don’t ask) who are now Irish Rail, or Iarnrod Eireann. All the trains are now green (how predictable) but back when I was young they were all orange. Not quite sure why, as traditionally orange is the colour of Protestantism and the North, as shown on our flag, but there it is. Some of the buses were too, though most of them were, again for some odd reason, cream and navy. Hmm. Anyway I might just have liked the cover, and if that’s why I bought it, I’m glad for two reasons. One, that I now have a perfectly-preserved photo of a train (well, the wheel of one) like the ones I used to go on, and two, the album turned out to be great.

The band didn’t last long, putting out two albums and an EP (this being their last) before splitting in 1990, but they are, to my mind (and that of some others too I believe) the great could-have-beens of Irish rock. I mean, the tag says pop rock and indie rock, but really this album is more country rock than anything. It just bristles with great tracks, and there’s really not a bad one among them. The singer had a lovely soft yet powerful voice, quite suited to this kind of often laid-back country rock, and the guitarists knew what they were about. It did quite well in Ireland, and one of the tracks was even covered by Everything But the Girl, but let’s be honest here: the Stars of where? Nobody knows them, and probably nobody ever will. That’s a real shame, because this album, which is really hard to find though I see now YouTube finally have it, is worth investing the time to give it a listen.

Unfinished dreaming, indeed.

https://youtu.be/6ufMXCu5TJE
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Old 01-07-2023, 04:19 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Filosofem is an excellent album, I didn't much gel with it when I was younger because it is quite soft as far as black metal albums go, but it is very accessible for this reason. Ignoring Vargs actions outside a recording studio this definitely deserves the praise it gets and more.

That being said:

Quote:
It will also be more than a little what I guess you lot would call mainstream, though I like to think there’s a decent mixture of genres in here. Let’s put it this way: don’t expect Swans or The Fall
Swans and the Fall aren't mainstream?
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classical music isn't exactly religious, you know?
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Old 01-07-2023, 06:12 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Hell no.
Not to me anyway.
Mainscream maybe. I have no interest at all in either band.
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Old 01-10-2023, 07:47 PM   #9 (permalink)
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997

Album title: Darkness on the Edge of Town
Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Nationality: American
Year: 1978
Genre: Rock
Chronology: 4 of 21 (to date)
What this album means to me: I think it may have been the third or fourth Springsteen album I bought, and I loved every track on it. Still do. Some stone-cold classics and some incredibly mature, and dark, songwriting on it.
Highlights: Almost everything
Lowlights: Adam Raised a Cain
Lyric of the album: You’re born with nothing, and better off that way/ Soon as you got something they send someone to try to take it away” - “Something in the Night”

I’m sure nobody agrees, but I don’t care; I see this as the third in a trilogy of Springsteen album that really made his name and brought him from being just another songwriter and on the road to being a treasured American icon. Bowie has his “Berlin Trilogy” and well, I’d call this “the Jersey Trilogy” except that doesn’t make any sense, but for now it will do till I think of something else. Basically what I’m saying here is that after two, to be fair, reasonably mediocre albums, the third of which had to work or he would be dropped, New Jersey’s favourite son came up with a formula on Born to Run that just worked and cracked the market for him, but it wouldn’t be until the album after this that he would have a proper radio presence and hit singles. Nevertheless, I feel that here the Boss tied down the overall theme that forever after ran through about eighty percent of his songs, and which was somewhat snidely referred to by Prefab Sprout on their hit single: cars and girls.

Look at Born to Run: it’s a superb album, yes, no question, and it opens with a car in the first song, but the car is never identified. It’s merely a way of getting out of the one-horse town, a literal vehicle for escape, and almost a metaphor for freedom. I think there’s one car named - or one vehicle brand anyway - on the whole album, and that’s in “Jungleland”, the closing track, where he throws out the name Dodge. But here we have songs about cars being raced in the street, with a lot of technical details about "fours on floors" and "fuely heads" and such, cars being “burned in one last fight”, and it leads into a repeating motif that starts to run through his work, with “Candy’s Room”, “Racing in the Street”, “Prove it All Night” and the title track all featuring girls or women, where on the previous album, again, they were there but kind of only bit-players. Well that’s not fair: Mary is the possibly unattainable prize in “Thunder Road” and Wendy is the wild thing in “Born to Run”, but the album isn’t overly concerned with the female of the species. After this, you can’t turn around without bumping into a hot chick or a hot rod.

But the writing on this album is perhaps darker than on any other Springsteen effort until maybe The Rising, with morose ruminations on (again) being stuck in a one-horse town, trapped in a bad relationship, fighting for your love and eventually skulking in some nameless town poring over your regrets. Like the other three albums in this so-called trilogy I’m inventing, the album starts with an uptempo song and ends on a downbeat one. The characters that people Springsteen’s songs are, like those of Waits, broken people, down on their luck or stuck in a rut trying to get out. They are not heroes. They never will be. They never can be, and he doesn’t want them to be. They’re ordinary folks going about their ordinary business, just trying to survive. And like most of Springsteen’s songs, it’s the ordinariness, the commonness of the protagonists that make them so deep and so personal, and so memorable.

The thing about Darkness on the Edge of Town is that it isn’t a happy album. The songs deal with loss, regret, frustration, anger. Even the “love song” on it is nothing more than a man trying to assert his manhood by sleeping with a girl and strutting about it afterwards. The next album would see Springsteen level out the songs somewhat, with some real catchy and upbeat ones, thus a number of hit singles and his profile going even more worldwide. But there’s a cloying, claustrophobic feel about this album that, leaving aside for the moment the slab of acoustic wonder that is Nebraska, I believe he never really recaptured, not even on the bleak album to end all bleak albums, Nebraska. Could be that his attitude towards life changed, or he just decided the - commercial, record-buying - world wanted more happiness in their lives and not so much tragedy, but Darkness on the Edge of Town stands as a kind of monument, I feel, to an artist standing staring over the precipice, and wondering where he goes from here.

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Old 01-11-2023, 10:31 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I absolutely adore this album, the Boss is at his best when reflects the frustrations of the time. I think my favorite songs are from different albums (mostly from the less consistent River, which is probably also my favourite album but I'd have to relisten to everything), but this is such a banger of an album that doesn't miss a single beat.
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