Essential Listening: My favourite albums at midlife

I always write something for this blog once a month. Normally, there’s always an idea, or something going on to have an opinion on.

This month presented a problem, or a void to be specific. I’ve got a few bits of writing I could develop, but whether they’re suited to the short story format is debatable.

I’ve already had my say on the looming 2022 World Cup being held in Qatar, an abominable show of the hypocrisy and tone-deaf corpulence of the governments and financial elites who steal from us (please, listen to this man), at the gift of FIFA corruption and the exploitation of slave labour.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is going as poorly for Putin as his latest facelift, but this humiliation (I’m referring to the invasion and the ill-equipped Russian army, not the facelift, though maybe the invasion was a distraction from the facelift?) means it looks set to last a while yet, and it could potentially escalate.

Do you want to read another boring rant about the political farce perpetually unfolding in Westminster? That the lettuce outlasted Liz Truss could make the impressionable believe that judgement always eventually calls on cronyism and incompetence. Boris’s misguided attempt to become leader again should disabuse that one. It was fitting that the glazed eyes of a lettuce portrayed more depth and authority, in fact just life, than the now ex-Prime Minster when she was speaking like a badly coded NPC during her numerous car crash interviews and speeches. It’s never a good sign when the person at the top of the power structure wears the confounded expression that you’d see on a Labrador watching a Ted Talk.

Maybe I could’ve written a call to arms insisting that we all laugh at Kanye West – sorry it’s ‘Ye’ now, my mistake – and the immolation of his entertainment career/empire (none of his musical output is on this list, I assure you). But since when are clowns and dickheads funny?

I’m in my forties now and I’m Wee Jimmy Krankie about that. If I’m presumptuous my glass is currently half full. Physically I mostly feel the same as I did fifteen years ago, but I know I am getting older. Things, and the drive to do them (but not necessarily the right things) increasingly feel more urgent, as you realise that your time to indulge in forms of hedonism while you’re still physically able is finite. That, in a nutshell, is the essence of a mid-life crisis. Fear not of death but impending erosion of the last remnants of youth. I’m not quite aching in the places I used to play as the prophet once said, but getting out of bed is just a wee smidge harder than it used to be. Penis-extensions, hair transplants, liposuction, maybe some pec and ab implants, a twenty-year-old Russian mail order bride to replace your cantankerous sagging wife or buying a flash convertible are the alpha clichés. My mode of resistance to the sand of my youth slipping through my fingers appears to be beta as fuck – compiling a list of my favourite albums. So, a big thank you to my existential anguish for motivating this month’s blogpost.

I’ve always been enticed by the truism that someone’s taste in music, what albums they own, particularly Vinyl records, offers considerable insight into who someone is. It’s similar to analysing a tree stump to find its age. Your album collection reveals a social and cultural genealogy, the time and place you occupied, who your parents are or were, who your friends are and the milieus you inhabit and inhabited. So I consider this list a form of introspection.

The art should never be ranked crowd will roll their eyes at undertaking a ranking of the most subjective of mediums, and claim it to be the height of bad taste. To that I say who cares about taste, as long as it’s genuinely yours, and anyway, they’re bigger bores than me who can get fucked. I take on board the valid criticisms, sincerely. Try as we might to resist, what’s fashionable always permeates what we listen to. My mood and place often dictates what I want to listen to. Feeling introspective? Slap on some Lenny Cohen or Bob Dylan. Jacked to the tits, feeling like a boss, a bit of James Brown is just the ticket.

To cut through any biases created by temporary fits and whims I’ve only selected the albums I listen too regularly. Regularly means several times a year, and that I do return to them consistently. Lazily I used the play counter on my media library to guide me as I have a lot of music. This produced a troubling revelation, that I don’t listen to the vast majority of music that I have, and I suspect that’s quite common. If I sorta dig something but forget about it, or only listen to one or two songs from an album, there’s no chance it makes the cut here.

When making such a list it’s essential to be truthful. Let’s start with the motivation, this is a list about my listening tastes today (and my life to this point). Best of music lists can be felled by various forms of disingenuousness. No pandering to a consensus or to be proportionally representative to specific characteristics; sex, genre or race, and no showing off, there’s going to be a lot of well-known stuff on here (the kind that often populates these lists on commercial music websites). I’m suspicious of a top albums list chalk full of esoteric bootlegs, mixtapes or largely unheard acts.

A few other housekeeping notes about the list. I’ve listed a hundred, couldn’t pare it down any further without spending too much time (remember, it’s of the essence) on what to leave off. It’s in descending order. Normally I don’t believe in hierarchies when doing my best of year lists every December, but the ranking is for my future selves to disagree, scoff at and ridicule how my taste has shifted ten, twenty, and thirty years (if I’m lucky) from now. And it’s not restricted to albums, there’s some mixes, comps, reissues and singles in my top hundred. My Favourite mixes, singles, bootlegs and albums at midlife is a bit bloated for a blogpost title.

Anyway, enough rambling, you’re gonna scroll through the albums covers or maybe go straight to the top of the list to see who’s first, and that’s totally fair. Life’s too short, and, as I’m finding out, it’s going too quickly.

100. Various – Logical Progression (1996)

99. Portishead – Portishead (1997)

98. Ghostface – Supreme Clientele (2000)

97. Pet Shop Boys – Introspective (1988)

96. Gil-Scott Heron – Reflections (1981)

95. David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971)

94. Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill (1972)

93. Various – Pop Ambient 2002 (2001)

92. Third Side Of The Tape – Lil Ugly Mane (2015)

91. Coil – The Gay Man’s Guide To Safer Sex +2 (2019)

90. Roisin Murphy – Roisin Machine (2020)

89. Neu! – Neu! (1972)

88. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (1986)

87. Gram Parsons – The Complete Reprise Sessions (2006)

86. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the WU-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)

85. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti (1975)

84. Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

83. Rhythm & Sound – Rhythm & Sound (2001)

82. Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966)

81. Scientist – Scientist Encounters Pac-Man (1982)

80. Muslimgauze – Iranair Inflight Magazine (2003)

79. Lee Morgan – The Rajah (1984)

78. Soichi Terada – Soichi Terada Presents Sounds From the Far East (2015)

77. Bark Psychosis – Game Over (1997)

76. Eddie Kendricks – People…Hold On (1972)

75. The Other People Place – Lifestyles Of The Laptop Café (2001)

74. Massive Attack – Protection (1994)

73. George Harrison – All Things Must Pass (1970)

72. Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love (1985)

71. Pavement – Terror Twilight (1999)

70. Skepta – Konnichiwa (2016)

69. Kevin Ayers – Whatevershebringswesing (1972)

68. GZA – Liquid Swords (1995)

67. Lou Reed & John Cale – Songs For Drella (1990)

66. The Auteurs – New Wave (1993)

65. Moondance – Van Morrison (1970)

64. Farben – Textstar + (Reissue) (2022)

63. Sleaford Mods – Divide & Exit (2014)

62. Monoton – Monotonproduckt 07 (1982)

61. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme (1965)

60. Faust – Faust IV (1973)

59. Goldie – Timeless (1995)

58. Les Rallizes Dénudés – Heavier Than A Death In The Family (2002)

57. Todd Rundgren – Something/Anything? (1972)

56. Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works (1992)

55. A Guy Called Gerald – BBC One Essential Mix (1995)

54. Alex Cameron – Jumping The Shark (2014)

53. Jackie Mittoo – The Keyboard King Of Studio One (2000)

52. Donny Hathaway – Live (1972)

51. Bob Dylan, Ronnie Wood & Keith Richards – Voices of Freedom (Bootleg) (1985)

50. David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972)

49. Judas Priest – Unleashed In The East: Live in Tokyo (1979)

48. Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou – Ethiopiques 21 (2006)

47. The Endless House Foundation – Endless House (2011)

46. Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life (1976)

45. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (1971)

44. Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen (1985)

43. Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland (1968)

42. Joan Baez & B.B. King – Live at Sing Sing Prison (1972)

41. T. Rex – The Slider (1972)

40. Dream 2 Science – Dream 2 Science (1990)

39. Talking Heads – Live in Rome (1980)

38. Can – Tago Mago (1971)

37. Various –  The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus (1968)

36. TM404 – TM404 (2013)

35. Mobb Deep – The Infamous (1995)

34. Red House Painters – Red House Painters/Rollercoaster (1993)

33. Bob Dylan – Bringin’ It All Back Home (1965)

32. Scott Walker – The Drift (2006)

31. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig Lazarus Dig (2008)

30. James Blake – CMYK (2010)

29. Miles Davis & John Coltrane – The Complete Columbia Recordings (1955 – 1961) (2000)

28. Prince – Sign O’ The Times (1987)

27. Jon Hassell – Vernal Equinox (1978)

26. Horace Andy – Dance Hall Style (1982)

25. Erykah Badu – Baduizm (1997)

24. Galcher Lustwerk – 100% Galcher/Blowing Up The Workshop 12 (2013)

23. Dr. Octagon – Dr. Octagonecologyst (1995)

22. The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main St. (1972)

21. James Brown – The Payback (1973)

20. Fairport Convention – Unhalfbricking (1969)

19. Leonard Cohen – The Future (1992)

18. Basic Channel – Quadrant (1994)

17. John Martyn – Solid Air (1973)

16. Alice Coltrane – Journey In Satchidananda (1971)

15. LCD Soundsystem – 45:33 (2006)

14. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)

13. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country (1969)

12. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971)

11. Prince – Purple Rain (1984)

10. Spacemen 3 – The Perfect Prescription (1987)

9. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground (1969)

8. DJ Sprinkles – Midtown 120 Blues (2009)

7. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

6. Frank Ocean – Blond (2016)

5. The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed (1969)

4. Madvillain – Madvillainy (2004)

3. KLF – Chill Out (1990)

2. Clifford Jordan Quartet – Glass Bead Games (1974)

1. Steely Dan – Aja (1977)

About Wichita Lineman Was A Song I Once Heard

Wichita Lineman Was A Song I Once Heard. 'Mediocre blogger and a piously boring and unfunny writer'. Enthusiastic purveyor of the KLF sheep.
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