This is part 10 of an ongoing series where the kind folk of the music business reveal their favourite album of all time.
Ask people in the music industry the seemingly simple and straightforward question, “What is your favourite album of all time?” and you’ll find that it’s not always easy. After all, my industry peers listen to hundreds of albums a month – thousands of songs during that time. Because the question isn’t the best album of all time – the one that’s made them the most money in sales – but the one release they personally can’t live without, that one title they have two copies of in several formats, in case one breaks. It’s also about that album that for them has the best back stories and the one that has the most meaning in their lives.
Noah Barron, writer for Resident Advisor
Viva Hate, Morrissey
I was a junior in college studying for a year overseas at Oxford and had begun digging deeply into the music of the Mancunian bands that were a little before my time — Joy Division, Stone Roses and of course, the Smiths. The university library loaned out CDs and I would take them back to my flat on the High Street and copy them painstakingly to my hard drive, those angsty, jangly, yearning records that perfectly evoked what I was feeling — the smug loneliness of an outsider with a turned-up peacoat collar and a pretentious literary paperback in the pocket, alone with a cigarette and a pint in a pub.
And then I discovered Viva Hate. Gone were the rockist leanings of Johnny Marr’s hyperactive guitar, replaced by the contemplative, playful, deeply sad sonics of Vini Reilly (a.k.a. the Durutti Column) guesting on lead. Morrissey’s lyrics and voice had grown too. He was no longer a boy rejecting manhood — he was a man rejecting humanity. The stung rejection of “Last Night on Maudlin Street” spoke to me as I walked solo down Oxford’s own (identically pronounced) Magdalen Street. The sneering croon of “Suedehead,” the ironic refrain of “come Armageddon, come,” from “Everyday Is Like Sunday” … these were darker, prettier, funnier songs than I had ever heard before, unyoked from the requirements of being the pop band that the Smiths labored under. I bought a vinyl copy of the record in a little shop off Gloucester Green even though I didn’t have a record player.
I don’t spin Viva Hate much these days. Perhaps I’ve grown out of it a little. Morrissey has always flirted with a Peter Pan view of life, flipping between mockery and envy of those who fall in love, get married, take jobs, have babies and grow old along conventional paths. But when I am in a certain mood where I need an old friend to remind me that I haven’t given up or sold out, not really anyway, and that I’m not one of them, I’m still among the defiant, wearing belted coats and fey ways like armor, I put it back on. I know Moz forgives when near the end in “I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me” he acknowledges that the pressure to change, to move on is strange and very strong. It’s a blast of English drear, the chill that accompanies the winking ghost of myself from a different time and place.
Zack O’Malley Greenburg, Senior Editor, Forbes Magazine and Author of “Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner To Corner Office”
My uncle gave it to me when I was in sixth grade and it redefined the idea of good music for me. I listened to the CD so many times it broke — physically cracked — which never happened to me before or since.
Russ Empey, Music Director, CJAY FM, Calgary, AB
Landing On Water, Neil Young
Released in 1986 on Geffen Records, Neil was a little pissed off at the time, taking a lot of heat for trying some different artistic directions. He was actually in the process of being sued by the head of his record company, David Geffen for making, “unrepresentative, uncommercial music”. Which was true, he’d done 2 experimental synth albums, a rockabilly album and a country album just before this one. They were all commercial and critical failures. But in my mind, it was the time of Neil’s greatest work and if the critics and public don’t like it, who’s to say it’s a failure. When it comes to great music, it usually takes most a few years to catch up anyway. He’d been experimenting with synths since 1981’s “Re-ac-tor” when he started using the synclavier. This album would be the climax of that experiment. There’s no bass player credited on the album, the sync takes that role. This only adds to the overall sound of the album. And it features easily one of my favourite performances from a drummer. Steve Jordan is the man on the kit and the combination of the ‘whap’ of the acoustic drums along with synths and Neil’s crunchy, sloppy guitar gives it a great sound. He doesn’t get too fancy with fills or anything, keeps it nice and simple. The production is great too, especially for the time. Alot of music recorded in the 80’s sounds very dated, especially 1986! And especially the drums, everything was about electronic drums for most of the 80’s, this album has the exact opposite. There’s such a great sound to the drums, crisp and loud, but not too overbearing. And simply, some of his coolest songs too. I actually had the CD first, in the late 80’s when I first came upon this album. Lost that along the way and picked up a copy on vinyl, tres cool! Some hilarious videos for this one too, Neil most have been in a silly mood. I’ve seen clips for, Weight Of The World, People On The Street, Touch The Night and Pressure. Watching Neil Young tap dance through the streets of San Francisco in white tux and tails is classic! The lyrics are fantastic on this record, too.
Andy Mesecher, Associate Editor at Music Connection
El Cielo, Dredg
Released in 2002, the record was like nothing I had ever heard before… progressive rock mixed with jazz transitions, vocals recorded through a trumpet, Japanese spoken word, and a depressing choir leaving the listener with one last breath, making one want to listen all over again. Years later, I learned the concept of the album (the struggles of sleep paralysis and dreams/nightmares within) making it the elite choice in my collection. Sad that it didn’t sell as well as its follow up “Catch Without Arms.”
Ricky Lam, writer, Toronto-based music blog Panic Manual
Dog Man Star, Suede
I love the drama, the swagger and the theatrics of the album. I love that it’s an album and not a collection of songs. Dog Man Star also contains my favorite song ever, The Asphalt World, a ten minute opus that paints a grey and seedy world like no other. Combine that song with the chaos that is We Are the Pigs, the sadness of the Two of Us and the anthemic Wild Ones and you have yourself a hell of an album.