Looking at your social media accounts can yield interesting and sometimes unwelcome surprises. For many years I had somehow managed to fly under the radar and avoid being nominated to participate in the various “challenges” that never-endlessly circulate, but my number was up this week.
One of my dear friends (thanks Dave) tagged me to participate in the “Top 10 Album Challenge”. Basically, what are my top 10 favourite albums, what really made an impact and what is still on my rotation list.
I typically despise these kinds of lists. Every time I see a post or an article (I’m looking at you, VinylMePlease) about some “top 10” of anything, a completely irrational anger begins to boil. Who arbitrarily places limits on how many of a thing that I can or cannot like? Are we not limited enough in society as it is without these needless psychological cells we put ourselves in? OK, I have some kind of problem, and its probably more like a panicked reaction. I know it’s for “fun” but nevertheless that little notification was definitely unwelcome, initially.
Of course I could completely ignore it. Not give in to the mind games and continue moving forward with my life. Then I started thinking about it. Then I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Other tasks I was supposed to do, brain cycles I was supposed to use on more pertinent things were being utilised thinking about what 10 of my favourite albums actually are. This was music, one of my two mistresses, what was I afraid of?
I am a thinker. I muse and I most definitely dwell. I began my attempt at this challenge pragmatically, what would qualify without me even “thinking” about it. It was 3 albums, followed by 3 artists. The 3 artists had several albums that could be in this list but which was more significant? The others needed a bit more thought, though one I completely neglected until I flicked past it and it struck me light a bolt of lightening.
I took the desert island discs approach to some of this. If these were the only 10 albums I could listen to for the rest of my life, who had to be there? What songs could I not bear to miss? Which albums are my masterpieces? This is an album list after all. This must be all killer, no filler, no exceptions.
There are many other artists whom I love, Queen, Michael Jackson, Rush, Tony Bennett, Koda Kumi, (I’ll stop here or this could go on for a while) but do they have that one album, start to finish, that really sings to me? I compiled a loose list and started listening to some of these records again, then realised if I had to think too critically about their inclusion, then perhaps they don’t belong.
I probably took this far too seriously. I could change my mind tomorrow and who would know, who would actually care? Therefore this is a snapshot into the state of my mind during June 2018.
The “challenge” did say that comments were not necessary, however if an album deserves such a lofty place in ones collection, there must be a reason and surely a story. In no particular order;
THE BEATLES : LET IT BE… NAKED (2003)
Why not start with controversy. I am somewhat a late comer to The Beatles. They were constantly on the radio and home stereo when I was growing up but they were my parents music. That being said, the melodic genius of Lennon and McCartney was burned into my young brain, so that I probably knew their music better than what I deemed as my own.
It would be easy to say that the greatest Beatles record and greatest record of all time is “Sgt. Peppers”. The story of it is compelling, though the final product isn’t exactly what the lads envisaged. “Let it Be…” is almost the parallel of that, started off to be one thing and ended as something else. It’s also a pressure valve about to explode and it was nearly the end.
Paul McCartney, expressing displeasure with the way Phil Spector “enhanced” the original “Let it Be…” released “Let it Be… Naked” in 2003. Remixed and resequenced (running order has changed, “Don’t Let Me Down” is included and the little interludes “Dig It” and “Maggie Mae” have been excluded) it is now supposedly closer to the original vision. This is a more serious and raw record than its ‘70’s namesake. I applaud the audacity that Paul exerted in even attempting “Let it Be… Naked”. That’s one mighty itch to scratch after 30+ years.
“… Naked” flows better. What a killer opener to have with “Get Back”, thats how you start a rock record. Ending with “Let it Be”, given where the album sits in the discography (“Abbey Road” should technically come after it, but “Let it Be” was released after the band broke up) should have been a real message as the last song on the last album. Paul felt that the choir and strings on the original albums version of “The Long and Winding Road” ruined what was a simple piano ballad, however it’s probably the only song on “… Naked” that I felt regressed too far. It definitely lost some of it’s majesty. Putting “Don’t Let Me Down” on the album where it belongs is very welcome, it’s too good to be relegated to a b-side.
I grew up with The Beatles and as the years go by they form more and more of my musical personality. They were also before my time. I’ve been exposed to their catalog as a body of work, not release after release and this just keeps bringing me back to “Let It Be… Naked” as a cohesive representation of what The Beatles are to me.
FRANK SINATRA : SINATRA AT THE SANDS (1966)
Including “Best Of’s” or compilations in any kind of list is generally considered cheating. What about live albums? It’s usually still a compilation of sorts though a live album can also constitute a special event captured at a moment in time. Kiss didn’t really sell many albums until “Alive” was released, where the raw energy of the band translated for the first time into your HiFi at home (though in that case it was touched up afterward, but we won’t get into that).
“Sinatra at the Sands” is one of those moments in time. Frank is a pure born entertainer and like his contemporaries Dean Martin and Tony Bennett, his talent for singing is as effortless as talking or breathing. I wasn’t born in 1966 but this album is one of that rare species that puts you in the room. I can taste the whiskey, smell the cigarette smoke and my stomach hurts with the laughter.
Almost switching between song and comedy routine, this is Frank at his absolute best and is what really made me adore this man. When I was in my late teens I attempted singing lessons. Whilst I was trying to belt out some modern song or another at the time, my teacher kept telling me to calm down and start with the basics. Learn some Frank Sinatra tunes and concentrate on pitch and rhythm, crazy dynamic range and vocal gymnastics could wait. I of course ignored him, to my detriment of course and also for my ears to regret. It would probably be a good 10 years after this advice that I would really discover “The Chairman” and how incredible he is, maybe it’s a maturity thing?
I now have a decent Sinatra catalog and he is one of the few artists who I can listen to irrespective of mood, his voice soothes the soul. In “Sinatra at the Sands” the band is tight (as would be expected when you’ve got Count Basie and Quincy Jones involved) and opens with Frank saying “How did all these people get in my room?” just before breaking into “Come Fly With Me”. It’s impossible to not smile, break into a little dance and let your cares melt away whilst this record is playing.
A further tip of that hat to how good this record is, there are now bands touring that are covering this album. Covering a live album! It’s timeless.
DEF LEPPARD : HYSTERIA (1987)
“Hysteria, when you’re near” is the perfect line for my favourite album of all time. It doesn't need thought. I’ve listened to it the most, for the longest time (29 years) and I own more copies than anyone needs in a lifetime (and I’m not finished).
Hysteria is also not really “my” album. It’s my brothers. We first saw the music video for “Rocket” together during its single release in January, 1989. Aside from what our parents would listen to, neither of us really had our own taste in music at this stage. We put our tape deck in front of the TV and recorded the song, then listened to it over and over, and over again.
Still, it was my brother who loved it more. Our birthday’s were coming up and we’d both asked for albums, my brother wanted “Hysteria” and I’d opted for Poison’s “Open Up and Say Ahh!”. I remember telling our neighbour at the time that I was going to play it loud. What an annoying kid I was. What ever magic lay inside my brothers cassette tape captivated both of us. It wasn’t long before my Poison tape was cast aside and Def Leppard took over.
“Hysteria” and eventually all of Def Leppard’s music became an obsession for the both of us, even mum really liked the song “Love Bites”. I read on the back cover how they’d published a book about the making of the album. Called “Animal Instinct” (which was originally the working title of the album) we were dismayed that it was only available by sending money overseas. We were kids, we didn’t know how that worked. Can’t we just buy it at the book shop?
This love went far beyond just sitting in our room/s and listening to the album. We created our own Def Leppard with our soft toys and would have an elaborate stage show in front of a “live” soft toy audience. We had these little plastic guitars and a keyboard (there isn’t a keys player in Def Leppard, but thats what we had), then created a drum set out of pencils and Itty Bitty Bins (yep, some genius made characters out of rubbish bins and to my surprise, they still exist). The stage itself was a giant whiteboard, upside down, with a massive DEF LEPPARD logo drawn in the middle. The concerts would last for hours with multiple set lists of the album from front to back.
When we weren’t listening to the album, or pretending to be the band, we were watching the “Historia” VHS tape that was released in 1988. It had all the promo videos from “Hysteria” (minus “Rocket”) as well as all of the earlier videos the band had done. Our favourite video from the album was the original version of “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, we found it hilarious (maybe less so now. I still think their best video is for the track “Me and My Wine”).
Since those early days, there is no other album that holds such significance and personal meaning. As is life, this meaning has grown over the years. Through the good, the bad, happiness and tragedy, there are still so many more stories I could tell. “Hysteria” is still my brothers album and no matter where he is, whether those songs playing are in my ears or in my head, we are together.
SADE : LOVERS ROCK (2000)
My love affair with Sade runs deep, though is still somewhat a “new” flame. I already knew the songs “Smooth Operator”, “The Sweetest Taboo” and “No Ordinary Love”, so I borrowed my sisters copy of “The Best of” from 1994 to become more acquainted. I probably didn’t pay that much attention to the whole thing but came away really enjoying the groovier numbers, painting a picture in my head what the band was about.
As I’m an albums guy, I remember heading to one of the local music shops and finding “Lovers Rock”. This was one of the stores that had a listening station, so you could try before you buy and as far as I was concerned, that saved me a “bad” purchase. Every track was mellow with a slow tempo. This was nothing like what I remembered from the “Best of”. Where did that band go? (to be honest, I didn’t know Sade was the name of the band then, I just thought Sade, the singer, was a solo artist). As I’d only borrowed the “Best of”, this pretty much shelved Sade from my listening.
Quite a few years went by and one day my brother and I were watching “The Sinbad Show”. In the show, there was a Sade poster on the wall of the set and in one particular episode it was announced there would be a tour. Sinbad (well his character) lost his shit. I found this kind of odd for a sub plot in a fictional TV show and began wondering again, what was so exciting about Sade? (incidentally, I would end up sitting in front of Sinbad at a 2011 Sade show in Los Angeles. I told him my story and that I wouldn’t have been there without his show. He didn’t seem to care but I was blown away how events in life can sometimes come full circle).
I went back to the drawing board and things escalated rapidly. The music now clicked. It spoke to me. The musicianship, the song writing, her voice, their live show, everything about this band made my heart rejoice. To this day I’ve not been able to find a single band that carries the vibe and feeling of Sade. In an industry where everything has been done a thousand times, it’s refreshing that there is still one group that is unique.
Selecting which album I was going to include here was a difficult choice. “Love Deluxe” and “Lovers Rock” are my favourites, they are both tremendous pieces top to bottom. “Love Deluxe” contains “Kiss of Life” which is my most cherished Sade song, lending some weight to it’s appearance, however “Lovers Rock” atmospherically almost feels like a concept album. “King of Sorrow”, “All About Our Love”, and “By Your Side” are still in the live set and the rest of the track list, including the beautiful title track are pure bliss.
Above all, “Lovers Rock” has a story. I completely dismissed it once upon a time and now I can’t do without it.
PAT METHENY GROUP : OFFRAMP (1982)
My introduction to Pat Metheny came by way of a news article I read where he was asked and therefore shared an honest opinion on Kenny G (its here). I was used to the West Coast/East Coast hip-hop beef but here were a couple of jazz guys going at it, or so my first impressions were. I didn’t really have any feelings about Kenny G one way or another but I did have an urge to discover more about Pat Metheny.
The first album of his I bought is the Pat Metheny Group release from 1997 “Imaginary Day”. This is, what I would say, my first real jazz album. I had George Benson’s “Best of” but it’s largely his 80’s vocal output which is more commercial. What I heard from “Imaginary Day” was incredible and confusing at the same time. I’d already been listening to some progressive metal by this stage and I thought that was complicated but it was nothing like this.
I started slowly, picking up “The Way Up” next, followed by Pat’s collaboration with Brad Mehldau and a few others. I also managed to see him live at Carnegie Hall in 2007 on the Metheny Mehldau tour. Despite a growing appreciation for his music and his guitar playing, individual songs and melodies weren’t really being retained. I’d listen to the albums and enjoy it, but when it was over I couldn’t distinctly remember any of it.
October, 2014, Pat was touring with his Unity Group project and they were playing Hamer Hall at The Arts Centre in Melbourne. A little way into the set a song started with this gorgeous pulsing latin rhythm, floating synth pads and guitar synth lines reminiscent (to me anyway) of an accordion (at least during the first half of the solo). I was transfixed. I was no longer in the room but whisked away to somewhere in South America, where the sun was setting, the sea was golden and the night was warm. What was this song? Had I missed it completely? Yes and no.
After researching various set lists for the tour, I finally found it. This amazing composition was “Are You Going With Me?” and I had a live version of it on the Pat Metheny Group “Travels” album and a reworking on the Anna Maria Jopek collaboration album “Upojenie” but not the original studio recording. That belonged on “Offramp” which was absent from my discography at the time. That needed to be rectified.
“Are You Going With Me?” is my Pat Metheny epiphany. From that moment it all made sense. The album on which it first appeared, “Offramp” is incredible. “Barcarole” sets the mood with a blistering Synclavier, leading into the aforementioned “Are You Going With Me?. “Au Lait” has moments reminiscent of a sombre circus, with a beautiful piano solo heading out of the track over almost monk like vocals. “Eighteen” picks up the tempo in an almost Rock n’ Roll fashion, “Offramp” is frantic improv. “James”, to quote Mervyn Cooke is “breezy”, a fairly laid back melodic number and “The Bat Part II” gently rounds out this magnificent album.
“Offramp” really unlocked the door for my understanding of not only Pat’s playing but jazz fundamentals on the whole.
STEELY DAN : AJA (1977)
Now hate is probably far too strong a word, though I probably used it in my formative years. I’d refer more to it as a strong disliking. In the 1990’s there was a VHS tape called “NBA Jam Session”, which was a highlight reel of various NBA basketball players set to music. It was cool. Lots of exciting plays, slam dunks and athletic players set to kick ass hip-hop beats and booming bass lines.
Except there was one song which was the soundtrack to the “old guys” segment. It was full of archive footage, retirement commentary and classic basketball moments. This song was Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years”. What was this doing here? It’s not a hip-hop ode to the slam dunk like Bel Biv DeVoe’s “Above the Rim”. It broke the flow. It wasn’t a modern jam. It was so old and for a the teenager that I was, it accompanied the most boring segment of this video and was fast forwarded over every. single. time. I “hated” this song.
Fast forward again, this time myself, a number of years and I ended working in the field of mid to high end HiFi. Developing an appreciation for what a serious stereo can do for your listening experience (I’d also studied audio engineering, these areas were very complimentary), I would focus not only on the feeling I got out of certain songs and artists but also how the sound design was constructed. Listening to beautifully crafted albums on an equally beautifully crafted stereo system in a carefully considered listening environment is quite an engaging and somewhat emotional experience. There are moments and details that you can perceive in the music, that you had no idea were hidden in the deep layers of sound you are listening to.
The place I worked sold equipment but we also had a few records and CD’s. These were predominantly high quality pressings by companies such as Mobile Fidelity and Analogue Productions, or were 180 gram + pressings of albums that were considered “pristinely” recorded. After all, we were selling HiFi and wanted to be able to demonstrate the best recordings on the best equipment.
There were a number of albums that constantly stared me in the face. One of these was a band that had reared their head again in my life, Steely Dan and the jet black cover, with what appeared to be mysterious Japanese woman, of their 1977 album “Aja”. How do you say it? A-ja? No, it’s pronounced “Asia”. Again some 15 years later this Steely Dan was taunting me. Why is this record here? “Reelin’ in the Years” was crap. Of course, I was the idiot. I started researching this album, reading reviews, I needed to understand what it was doing here.
As is my style, I placed an order with CDJapan for my own copy of “Aja”. It wasn’t good enough to just find a copy locally, the allure of this album and pain staking process to record it justified finding the best copy I could. Japanese record companies put far more attention into the manufacture of Compact Discs than any one else. Their pressings constantly are regarded as the best of any disc (and most vinyl for that matter) and whilst it’s likely all smoke and mirrors, they have attempted to prolong the CD’s life by inventing technologies as SHM-CD and Blu-Spec CD amongst others.
Upon pressing play, I was immediately captivated by what I was hearing. From the opening notes of “Black Cow”, which I’d known as the sample used in the Peter Gunz and Lord Tariq track “Deja Vu (Uptown Baby)” a giant smile grew and stayed there. “Aja”, “Deacon Blues”, “Peg”, “Home at Last”, “I Got the News” and “Josie” constitute 40 minutes of jazz rock, sonic perfection. A particular favourite is the middle section of “I Got the News”, the change up is brilliant, with glorious harmonies and it really accentuates the groove of the song.
The meticulous nature that this record was created under is both evident and completely transparent. Walter Becker (may he rest in peace) and Donald Fagen were reportedly the ultimate control freaks during recording which culminated in such a diverse and amazing guest list; Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Michael McDonald, Wayne Shorter, Timothy B. Schmidt, Joe Sample and many others. The guitar solo on “Peg” for instance was recorded by 7 different guitarists before Jay Graydon’s attempt, which is the one that ended up on the track. It would appear that this attention to detail would crescendo on their next album “Gaucho”.
Needless to say I am now a Steely Dan convert. As soon as “Aja” was over, I ordered the remaining discography and can happily say that I now really dig “Reelin’ in the Years”.
ROACHFORD : PERMANENT SHADE OF BLUE (1994)
Roachford’s “Permanent Shade of Blue” was the first compact disc I ever bought. It was 1995 and for 2 weeks I would be doing work experience away from school. Ideally this work experience was at a business that was somewhat related to what we wanted to do when we left. I wanted to be an architect so I “worked” at 2 drafting companies for a week each, where I was paid the handsome sum of $5 per day.
It was my second week and the radio was on all day in the office. There was one song that I noticed in heavy rotation that really caught my attention. That song was “This Generation” by the band Roachford (the song was actually released as a single the year before). With an almost galloping rhythm, anthemic chorus, tasty guitar chops and piano licks this track can be credited with basically bringing me out of a musical coma.
For about 3 years prior to hearing this song, I was in my musical dark ages. I don’t recall listening to much at all, if anything. The music I’d loved when I was younger, the ’80s pop and “hairbands”, was defunct as far as I knew (I didn’t have the internet to tell me any different) and grunge had taken over. Yet here was something here that captivated me. It felt familiar and new at the same time.
At the end of my second week, with my pay packet in hand, I bought my first CD with my own real money. Sure, I’d earned “pocket money” but this was “work money” and all my music before this point was on cassette tape. I did have to listen to it on the living room stereo, I didn’t have my own CD player yet.
From the opening bars of “Only to be with You” this album is again all killer, no filler. The atmosphere and coherence of the album is really a case of the whole is greater than the parts. The singles are catchy but this album is deep, even the little interlude “Gus’s Blues” is perfectly placed and lends emotion to “Do We Wanna Live Together”. The siren wail intro to “Emergency” continues the tempo of the opening trio of rockers, “Ride the Storm” is gorgeously melodic and it all comes home with the amazing gospel inspired “Higher Love”, which is probably my favourite track on the album. The bass line funk introduced at the end of the track along with the organ really brings it to church.
23 years later and I still adore this album. The nostalgia is strong, thats for certain, but I don’t really feel like its aged. The production still sounds fresh and the songs are as brilliant today as the day it was released. Time to see if my CD still plays!
A bit of trivia about this album. Whilst “A Permanent Shade of Blue” was released globally on CD and Cassette, it was only ever released on vinyl in Holland. This made it extreme hard to find but perseverance pays off!
LIANNE LA HAVAS : BLOOD (2015)
Lianne, Lianne, Lianne. I am so enamoured with this woman. She is incredible. Her voice is drenched in soul, her guitar chops are sensational, her songwriting is pure melody and she often tours and headlines by herself, that’s right, solo. No band required.
I don’t exactly remember where I first heard about Lianne but it was fairly recent, either just before or just after “Blood” was released. I was reading a website and as the internet does, leads you from one place to the next. I either first saw her video for “Lost and Found” or her appearance on the NPR “Tiny Desk” series. What I do remember is both of those videos had a very lasting impression.
“Lost and Found” I actually felt was quite a disturbed song. When I listen to music, I tend to be drawn to the overall melodic delivery and concept of a song harmonically, lyrics themselves generally pass me by on the first listen or so (unless they are incredibly bad, then they really stand out). “Lost and Found” really haunted me, how such a sad message (or what I interpreted as a sad message) could be delivered in such mesmerising way and the guitar playing, wow! Who was this?
Lianne’s look, sound and style grabbed my attention and haven’t let go since. I’ve been fortunate enough to see her live twice and can’t wait to see her again. One of these gig’s she performed 100% solo and the other she had a pianist accompany her for a couple of songs, so maybe 90% solo. Her personality really knows how to work the crowd, who are with her the whole way. She’ll make jokes, gestures and the odd mistake, then just smile and on to the next chord.
This brings me to “Blood”, her sophomore album. It’s the “youngest” album I’ve included here but it’s songwriting is so mature. Every song is a work of art, they are beautiful. My favourite song written by anyone since this album was released is track 4, “Tokyo”. It’s indescribable what I feel about this song. It’s got funk, it’s got classy and clever lyrics, it’s got groove, it’s just about perfect.
The last track “Good Goodbye” is incredibly difficult for me to listen to due to personal circumstances. Whatever meaning I’ve taken from it hit me the first time I saw her live. There was a particular energy in the room and her performance, maybe it’s when the lyrics first sunk in. Even with the difficulty, her voice and melody are so sweet I have to hear her, it’s like she’s telling me it’ll be ok.
I could talk about this album forever. Every track is killer, melodic, it’s an evolution from it’s predecessor and leaves me very excited for what comes next. On top of that, as if the album itself wasn’t enough, Lianne not long after released a companion EP that features solo renditions of 5 of the tracks and a new one. Unfortunately for physical media collectors, there is no CD version of the EP but I did find a CD quality digital download (16 bit, 44.1Khz) available online from 7Digital.
Lianne is the first artist in a long time where I really want to hear everything she does. I’ve chased down singles, EP’s and promo’s for radio edits, extra tracks and remixes. It takes an extra special artist to elevate to that level in my book.
MILES DAVIS : SOMEDAY MY PRINCE WILL COME (1961)
My relationship with Miles Davis started, presumably as many do, with “Kind of Blue”. My musical palette was developing, I knew who Miles Davis was, I didn’t really know anything about jazz but I did know that “Kind of Blue” is the ultimate Miles Davis and possibly jazz record. What a place to start.
I’d been listening to relatively complicated music, mostly in the form of progressive rock and metal with some forms of jazz. Bands like Dream Theater, Fates Warning and Rush where multiple time signatures, key changes and relatively long songs were the norm, interwoven with melody. My jazz exploits where predominantly with Pat Metheny (though probably only a couple of albums at this point, which I hadn’t really digested) and Jan Garbarek (his record “Twelve Moons” is mesmerising).
“Kind of Blue” was great but still didn’t quite capture my full attention, though “So What” does grow on you fast. I left it parked on my shelf for a while, whilst I ventured off into other areas. I’ve learnt, if you are the type that is open to it, to let your palette develop at it’s own pace. There is no need to force it. There are numerous artists that I couldn’t appreciate on my first, or even second attempts. Sade and Led Zeppelin are examples. I liked bits but didn’t get it. As of writing this, I still don’t “get” Zeppelin. I understand their place in the bastion of music history but the right combination of timing and mood to indulge haven’t lined up.
I was drawn further and further into jazz. The aforementioned Pat Metheny helped it click and then I ventured back to the earlier years, mainly by the singers. Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday predominantly and whilst not a jazz singer, “The Chairman” himself, Frank Sinatra. Frank may have been swing and big band but to my ear at least, there was enough commonality from a musical standpoint that connected his music to the jazz scene. My ear for more complex composition was also growing with more progressive music, as well as dipping my toe in the waters of classical music and opera. This pushed me back in the direction of Mr. Davis.
“Sketches of Spain” was my next Miles record and from there the flood gates opened. Almost literally, as I bought the “Complete Columbia Collection”, 70 CD’s worth of Miles Columbia music output. If you’re going to do something, do it properly.
From digesting this vast output, then his Prestige years, his biography, the vast collection of live records and session box sets, the record I really love going back to is “Someday My Prince will Come”. Down Beat magazines Howard Mandel once commented that it was among Davis’ most “intentionally seductive programs" and I think that sums it up perfectly. Maybe that also has something to do with Frances on the cover but it’s the one Miles Davis record that I’ve gone to the most lengths to find out of print copies of and go back to time and time again.
The title track (which I didn’t actually realise until recently was from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”) and “Teo” include solo spots from John Coltrane, who had left the group by this stage thus making this a swan song of Miles and ‘Trane on record, perhaps also adding to the allure of this album (I’ve also become a big Coltrane fan).
“Someday my Prince will Come” is beautifully captivating and encompasses a perfect blend of all the right elements from my favourite period of Miles’ career.
DEF LEPPARD : ADRENALIZE (1992)
It must have been during the start of 1991, I remember mum telling me that one of Def Leppard’s guitarists had passed away. Not having really experienced loss (my grandfather had passed away but I didn’t really know him) I didn’t understand the significance of this news, my take was there is no more Def Leppard.
March 1992, it turns out I was wrong. The single “Lets Get Rocked” was released and had the coolest video I had ever seen. Reportedly the most expensive video clip produced at the time, it was a 3D animated extravaganza that really spoke to this pre-teen adolescent. Sure enough there were only 4 band members present in the video and it was only then I knew it was Steve Clark whom had passed. The song was catchy, full of energy and I loved it.
“Adrenalize” was the first time we’d preordered anything and what a joyous day it was when the new Def Leppard tape had arrived! Of course mum had to drive to the store to pick it up. It was immediately slotted into the set list for the next soft toy Def Leppard gig and the crowd went crazy. My brother and I listened to it everywhere we went. Unbeknownst to us, Def Leppard would tour in ’92 and it’s one concert I really wish we’d seen.
Where “Hysteria” was my brothers Def Leppard album, I’d say “Adrenalize” was mine. I recall spending a lot more time alone with it, particularly in my headphones as I rode up and down the street outside our house on my bike, or just laying on the floor staring at the ceiling in my bedroom. I was always entranced by the power of the song “White Lightening”. It was almost a more epic version of “Gods of War” from “Hysteria”, though it would be years until I’d find out it’s an ode to Steve. I’d liked the song “Heaven Is” until I saw the video, which was kind of dumb and I couldn’t stop picturing it whenever that track would come on. I eventually got over that. It’s too great a track with a very sing song chorus and I love the guitar solo.
“Adrenalize” gets a lot of criticism for both its song writing and being too over produced. I can certainly understand these points of view and perhaps it’s more of a product of its time and place than the albums that came before it. It’s also the brave face of a band of brothers, dealing with the fall and loss of one of their own. How do you move forward from that?
I have nothing but high praise for this album. Yes the nostalgia is strong. Even the parts of it that I once grew weary of (“Make Love Like a Man” and “Personal Property”) have grown brighter. The middle section of the record, “Tonight”, “White Lightening” and “Stand Up (Kick Love into Motion)” are a holy union of everything I love about this band. “Stand Up” in particular is my undisputed favourite song by anyone, it is perfect melodic bliss and I get goosebumps from the moment the volume swells happen at the beginning till the fade out at the end. Maybe one day the guys will play it live?
Thus concludes my top 10 favourite albums. If you’re still here, thanks for coming on the ride. This whole exercise has been somewhat therapeutic and listening to these albums whilst writing this has made me fall in love with them all over again.