desert island discs – the challenge


Well it all started with a conversation I had with Nick Lawrance after the Top Eight Books were published. It went along the lines of:

Nick: So, can we do top ten albums next, then? Can we?
Me: Oh, go on then.

So, here we go then. The rules are:
1. No greatest hits or compilations or various artists except for item 2 below.
2. Soundtracks are allowed (I relented after a serious onslaught by Orlando over a full weekend away in Brisbane).
3. Where possible, be specific about the version of the album you are talking about (eg, the original on vinyl, or the 2004 remastered edition).
4. Albums don’t have to be in order (ie favourite at number one), just the ten last albums you would like to be left with in the world.
5. Give a reason as to why it makes your list.
6. List your favourite track on each album if you have one.

Answers by email or comment please. You have until 31 October 2006 to respond, then I will collate the responses and publish here.

I have created my top ten for starters. You will find a link to my list on amazon.co.uk here.

1. Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees 1976

This album reminds me of my brother. More specifically, it reminds me of my first ever trip to new York in 1989. I stayed with Bernard and Naomi in their house in Amityville, Long Island (it was right around the corner from the Amityville Horror house) and played his records for three weeks. Almost twenty years later – and a full thirty years after its release – I still listen to this album in its entirety probably every month or more.
Favourite track: Harbour Lights

2. Buena Vista Social Club Buena Vista Social Club 1997
I first heard this album on a hot summer’s afternoon in a friend’s London garden. Even now, the first bars of “Chan Chan” make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Pause and allow the richness of the music to transport you to Cuba. A genuine masterpiece.
Favourite track: Chan Chan

3. Earth, Wind & Fire All ‘n’ All 1979
This was a toss-up between I Am and All ‘n’ All (in the absence of a Greatest Hits). In the end I simply counted the tracks on each I couldn’t do without, and this album won by a hair. EWF make joyful, intelligent, soulful, uplifting music capable of lifting anybody’s spirits.
Favourite track: (if I must) Jupiter

4. Maxwell Urban Hang Suite 1996
This is one of those albums I played on constant loop for months after I bought it. Maxwell’s voice is angelic, and the full-band, heavily-produced R&B sound is rich and sweet.
Favourite track: Whenever Wherever Whatever

5. Michael Jackson Off the Wall 1979
Probably one of the best albums ever made. Destined to make you get up and dance, this was, in my opinion, the best album Michael Jackson ever made. The depth of emotion he conveys in this soulful, funky album is complete: his unselfconscious whoop of laughter in the middle of “Get On The Floor” is completely infectious, and contrasts with his tears whilst singing “She’s Out Of My Life”. The remastered version you can buy now has interesting interviews with Quincy Jones, and a couple of demos where you can hear Michal bickering with his siblings.
Favourite track: sorry, can’t choose

6. Missy Elliott Under Construction 2002
This was the first Missy album I ever bought. I’m not a natural hip-hop fan but I love Missy’s in-your-face attitude, her confidence, her humour. Under Construction is a lot mellower than most of her previous work (she was grieving for her friend Aaliyah at the time) and there are some great old-school-sounding songs on there.
Favourite track: Work It

7. Planxty Live 2004 2004
Never mind U2: Planxty was Ireland’s very first super-group. They broke up in the early 80s and we thought we would never hear them play together again. Twenty years later, they got together for some low-key sessions in Lisdoonvarna, and finally played the tiny Vicar Street in late 2004. It wasn’t enough. The Point Theatre was booked and six nights sold out in one day. Hearing these men play again is like a homecoming for most Irish people: we are privileged to have lived when they collaborated. When Liam Og O’Flynn chimes in with the uileann pipes about a minute into the first track, it’s magic.
Favourite track: The Starting Gate

8. Prince Sign o’ The Times 1987
It’s hard to pick just one Prince album when you possess his entire back-catalogue. This is one of his most eclectic albums, from the pure funk of Housequake to the pure romance of Adore. His humour shines through, he doesn’t take himself very seriously, and, above all, his musical genius is all over this album.
Favourite track: Housequake

9. Talking Heads Stop Making Sense 1984
The 1983 movie Stop Making Sense played a midnight show in Dublin’s Ambassador Cinema for years. This was break-through New York conceptual art meets the Top 40 and we loved it. The album (re-released in 1999 with almost all movie tracks on) is still a classic. David Byrne’s reedy voice adds a weirdness to the already complex funk of the melodies. And who can forget the Big Suit?
Favourite track: Girlfriend is Better

10. Luther Vandross Give Me The Reason 1986
Ah, Luther. What will we do without you? This was almost the point at which I broke my own “no greatest hits allowed” rule. How do you choose when considering an artist who was better known for his individual hit singles than his albums? How do you select only a tiny handful to listen to for all time, and forget the rest? This was almost an arbitrary selection in the end, but as seven out of the nine tracks were released as singles, it was the best value I could find. Nobody will ever sing a love song like Luther.
Favourite track: So Amazing

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