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Brian Eno – Another Green World

Brian Eno – Another Green World

Coming from a man who described himself as a “non musician,” Another Green World is an extraordinary album. Whether or not you would describe him as a musician, (I do), isn’t really the point here – he enlisted the help of some very powerful and talented musicians to help him, including Robert Fripp, John Cale and Phil Collins – it is the quality and innovation of the compositions that make this a masterpiece.

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

A new album by Pink Floyd was always something to be savoured. Right from the early days I marvelled at the magical album titles that this band came up with, A Saucerful of Secrets and Piper at the Gates of Dawn both triggered images of far off lands populated by far-out people and, although they did not entirely deliver on the promises made by the title, they were good – bloody good. Moving on we had Meddle, Atom Heart Mother and UmmaGumma all of which were indicating the direction of travel for the band who were building up quite a following not just in London where, for a while, they had a residency at the infamous UFO club, home of the weird, the wacky and the wonderful. Then we were knocked for six by something that emerged from Abbey Road studios that was not by the Beatles – Dark Side Of The Moon was months in the making and broke new boundaries in a way that even Sgt Pepper had not done. It is a masterpiece of considerable scope and power and is one of the best selling albums of all time.

King Crimson – In The Court of the Crimson King

King Crimson – In The Court of the Crimson King

In The Court of the Crimson King was a debut album by a brand new band, an album which was to become one of the most influential and memorable progressive rock album in the history of the genre. In The Court of the Crimson King was recorded and released in 1969 by a group of stellar musicians led by Robert Fripp. In addition to the virtuoso lineup they also had the luxury of a dedicated lyricist, Pete Sinfield who penned the lyrics to all the songs which made up this epic masterwork.

The album opens with 21st Century Schizoid Man. It’s like being head-butted by a jukebox in full flight. No prisoners are taken, Schizoid man is ferocious, angry, dangerous, heavy jazz/rock that, way back then and to this day, boggles the mind. A perfect opening to a perfect album on which the best is still to come.

 

Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells

Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells

Including Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells in a list of “musical masterpieces” is not a particularly bold step. Few would argue that this timeless masterpiece was created by a hugely talented artist who was still a teenager at the time of its conception. Using Richard Branson’s Manor studio during times when it was not booked out to other artists, Mike Oldfield was able to painstakingly piece together multiple instrumental tracks, (all of the instruments being played by him), and end up with something the like of which had not been heard before.

Branson was, allegedly, reluctant to release Tubular Bells because it didn’t have any lyrics. With the exception of the grunting caveman on side two and Viv Stanshall’s elegant roll-call of the various instruments used in the piece, (well, some of them anyway), this is a completely instrumental piece. A mesmerizing, journey full of high points – magical. The world had never heard its like before, or since.

DJ Jon Peel reviewed the album for The Listener magazine and described it as follows: “a new recording of such strength and beauty that to me it represents the first break-through into history that any musician has made” Jon knew a great album when he heard one and the above quote from his review sums it up perfectly.

Yes, Mike has released many more albums, some of which further develop the Tubular Bells theme, but he could never surpass the tingling, mind expanding wonder that you experience when listening to this masterpiece.

Joni Mitchell – Blue

Joni Mitchell – Blue

Aged Just 28, she gave us Joni Mitchell Blue

Joni Mitchell created Blue in 1971, in Hollywood, pretty much all by herself, except for an engineer (Henry Lewy) and musical contributions on a small number of tracks by James Taylor (guitar) Ross Kunkel (percussion), Stephen Stills (bass and guitar on 1 track) and a beautiful example of ethereal slide guitar on a couple of tracks by notable session musician “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow.

Often I nominate a single track as being a masterpiece but, from time to time, I put forward an entire album, as is the case here with Blue. There are brilliant individual tracks on this album which probably qualify as masterpieces in their own right, (“The Last Time I Saw Richard” being a case in point. Even if you don’t know anyone called Richard, this will do the business – watch out Proust, I’m time-travelling again). Mitchell wrote all of the songs and played most of the instruments. It deserves to be listened to as a whole and only takes around 45 minutes.

Joni Mitchell Blue recorded and released in the same year

Blue was released on June 22, 1971 by Reprise Records. It was her fourth album and she was no stranger to success and critical acclaim by this point with such triumphs as “Both Sides Now,” “Chelsea Morning” and Big Yellow Taxi all to her credit before Blue was released. Although her first three albums, (Song To A Seagull 1968, Clouds 1969 and Ladies of the Canyon 1970), had all been successful, there was something bubbling under the surface, waiting to get out. Blue was that something. Not an obvious contender for commercial success – the songs are, to a large extent, less “upbeat” than her earlier works and more difficult to relate to for many – it was nonetheless highly regarded by both critics and other musicians alike, not to mention the record buying public who sent it to number 3 in the UK charts.

I realise that I’m not being very original in putting Joni Mitchel Blue forward as a masterpiece – many others have done so before me and it appears on several “best album ever” type lists including the otherwise largely nonsensical Rolling Stone 500 Greatest albums list which comprises of some truly great albums and many others which are merely good, but not great.

Joni Mitchell official website – https://jonimitchell.com/