I admit I suffer from the Lorax syndrome. Most normal people (i.e. those not obsessed with the Dr Seuss book for some reason) label it ‘greed’ – or ‘avarice’, if you want to appear extra classy. I never really stop to look back at what I’ve already got and been given; just looking for the next thing to snatch up. And, generally, wanting more records and CDs is one of the lesser vices for greed to latch itself onto. But with my CD collection standing at nearly 250 strong, and a small crate of LPs and singles, I really should take a look back through them more.
So that’s sort of the aim of this whole thing. Not to ‘flex’, as I’m sure it may sound, but instead to look back through my physical media and pick out a few of those I feel deserve explicit mention; that are noteworthy to me. They may be rare, collectible, have a pretty awesome cover or represent a specific period in my life. They may even be tied to a particular memory. Or, they may just go hard, as they say. And regardless, it’ll have got me to take some time out of a (very) not-busy Friday afternoon and reflect on what I’ve been lucky to collect. Think of it as a sort of Storage Wars meets 10 Records that Shaped My Life and Desert Island Discs. I’m sure it’ll catch on. Probably. Anyway, here’s my choices for the CDs.
AC/DC – Back In Black, 1980 – Though I reluctantly admit I don’t listen to as much of them anymore as I really should (having probably exhausted myself from blasting every track of theirs on Spotify to the point that, 4 years on, they’re still my Top Artist by a landslide) – AC/DC’s legendary 1980 release, Back In Black, was really what got me into music, full stop. I remembered a song of theirs I had heard from an Iron Man film a few days earlier and from there went in search of all the band’s rich tapestry. Three songs from this record (and ‘Thunderstruck’ from The Razor’s Edge, released ten years after) formed the basis of my first playlist. And now I’ve got all their studio albums on CD. This was the first CD of my own that I ever opened (on my 16th birthday) and I still have it today. I couldn’t compile a list like this without including it. Back In Black was my window into music. And it still sounds just as flawless today.
Def Leppard – Best Of, 2004 – One of the Big Three I often quote in my musical heritage. I got a copy of this compilation on CD for my 16th birthday, too, and never looked back since. Leppard and Bon Jovi (thus the Trinity is complete) solidified my timeless love for all things flashy and glam in rock/metal, even if the band would try to distance from such a label themselves. From the timeless ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ (as well as ‘Love Bites’, ‘Animal’ and ‘Armageddon It’ of 1987’s monumental Hysteria, to earlier, rawer tracks from the band’s High ‘n Dry/Pyromania years, I find this compilation is really all you need; despite varying ‘Greatest Hits’ packages appearing since. It packs the rarer inclusion of The Sweet’s ‘Action’ (from 1983’s Retro Active), as well as later studio tracks like ‘Long, Long Way to Go’ and ‘When Love And Hate Collide’. Hard rock, glam metal and poppy hooks galore. Though I’ve got most of this CD’s inclusions in studio album form now, it remains a staple of my collection.
Bon Jovi – New Jersey, 1988 – This one very nearly lost out to a CD copy of Jovi’s second effort, 7800 Fahrenehit, but New Jersey had to win. It’s one of the first albums by the band I ever got, and the simplistic cover alone pulled me in. Bolstered with standout hits like, ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’, ‘Born to be My Baby’ and ‘Bad Medicine’, I must have worn this CD out. It’s a brilliant album that best encapsulates glam rock, circa 1988. You can just smell the hairspray in the choruses. Even the filler on New Jersey is more than listenable.
T.Rex – Gold, 2018 – I don’t really have any studio albums of T.Rex on CD so this had to do – but to be fair, 2018’s Gold really does feature pretty much every era of the iconic, Bolan-boasting glam band, from their folky Tyrannosarus Rex days, to Electric Warrior, the band’s decline (with Bolan’s Zip Gun and Futuristic Dragon) and ultimate revival with Dandy…. Followers of the e-zine will note my recent exploration of Bolan and his music; and they certainly are a newer addition to my lexicon of bands I just like. But nevertheless, they are a timeless part of British music, and music in general. Across three CDs, I’ve listened to every track thrice, at least. It’s at the beginning of my CD tower’s ‘Glam Section’ for a reason.
David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972 – Similar to the mighty Bolan, Bowie had to end up on my list, too – though I picked this CD up a little earlier. During the early days of my first year at uni, when I was not editor of this humble magazine and, indeed, a simple contributor, I went along to an ‘Album Listening Event’ where we turned up and, well, listened to an album, really. The album in question was, undeniably, a classic – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. We’ll just refer to it as Ziggy Stardust from now on because everyone else does; and my fingers simply cannot be bothered. I went into hmv one day and saw they were selling Ziggy on CD so, in preparation (the Daniel Day-Lewis of compact discs) I bought it and listened to it soon after. It was probably a few years before I totally absorbed the album’s complexity and wonder, but now I adore every track on it. Pure talent; truly sublime. I’ve listened to Bowie albums and collected them hence, but it all starts with our favourite starman.
INXS – Live Baby Live: Wembley Stadium, 2020 – Something a bit more recent now; from recording to release. I’ve liked INXS for many years. And for many years, a 2CD ‘Very Best of’ the Aussie pop-rockers was enough. Still, I branched out into individual records, (such as 1987’s Kick and its follow-up, X), but when, last year, it was announced that the band had remastered their legendary 1991 gig at Wembley Arena for the big screen – working hand-in-hand with the legendary Giles Martin – I knew I had to go along. It was absolutely superb, and stands in my top three of gigs I wish I could have beheld in person. The CD arrived on pre-order a few days before, and even in simple audio form, it rocks. A captivating performance across two CDs. And a pride of my collection. One of a few live performances worth immortalising.
The Cult – Live Cult, 1993 – Another live selection and this time from Bradford-born headbangers, The Cult; a band that, I’ve always maintained, are hugely underrated. Even at their prime (the 1980s) they were seen as perhaps too alternative, until they shifted toward more mainstream stadium rock at the turn of the decade. Now, they’re largely knows for ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ and that’s it. But as 1993’s Live Cult (filmed two years prior at the Marquee Club in London) proves, Ian Astbury, Billy Duffy and co. can put on a colossal set of hard rock, epic opening riffs and explosive choruses; with spine-chilling performances of 1987’s ‘Lil’ Devil’ and ‘Rain’; a hit from ‘85’s Love. I listen to relatively few live albums; I’m persuaded to buy them less so. But this one is just rock ‘n roll perfection.
The Cult – Sonic Temple 30, 2019 – Yes, the same band twice. I know. But this time, a box set. And, my, what a box set indeed. When The Cult announced they were reissuing their titanic ’89 release, Sonic Temple, with all the 12” mixes, outtakes, demos and live side dishes attached, I was hooked. When I saw how the thing was going to look, I practically squealed. The redone cover – of Duffy’s defining stance underneath a temple’s outline, complete with no-doubt Native American-inspired crosses and circles – is incredibly pleasing to look at. And the images and notes inside are nothing short of enthralling. It’s like a damn novel, seriously; and proves just as sweet as the music itself. The album, of course, is home to the ear-igniting ‘Fire Woman’, ‘Sun King’ and ‘Sweet Soul Sister’, as well as ever-mesmerizing ‘Edie (Ciao Baby)’. It stands out on my shelf – and not just because it dwarfs everything around it.
Tom Petty – An American Treasure, 2018 – When American guitarist and leader of the Heartbreakers, Thomas Earl Petty, died in late 2018, I was distraught. He is quite possibly my favourite musician of all time; with familiar lyrics, sharp riffs and a real sense of classic rock mastery. From the band’s 1975 debut to bluesy later albums, Mojo and Hypnotic Eye, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers have tried a lot out; and got it spot on pretty much every time. His work solo, and with Mudcrutch, prove just as flawless, Petty serving to be one of those artists with a real treasure trove to explore. As a result, the late Petty’s family and fellow Heartbreakers put together a 4CD selection of favourite tracks, defining chart-hits, deep cuts and outtakes. Behold; An American Treasure. The package is beautifully crafted; with notes on every inclusion and never-before-seen images of the rock ‘n roll titan himself. I remember opening this for the first time and being blown away by the quality of it. By far one of my favourite CDs, and a fantastically-done tribute to Tom Petty.
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (50th Anniversary), 2017 – The Beatles are, I really don’t have to say, timeless. Anyone who likes pop or rock in any form has to lay claim to liking at least one Beatles album, let alone track. And whilst I’ve been infatuated with their infamous White Album, and have a soft spot for Magical Mystery Tour, it’s the iconic Sgt. Pepper’s… that takes the top spot for me. Every track is magnificent, complex, and yet so simple. Not to mention infectious. I picked this up (the 2CD version, technically) in hmv and was taken aback by how good the 2017 mix proved to be. Never before has a remaster/remix brought so much out of the original recordings – to the point that I can’t listen to them anymore. An already flawless album was given a new lease of life and by Christ, what a lease it is. The packaging, too, is really magnificent.
Fleetwood Mac – The Very Best Of (2CD), 2009 – I feel a bit like I’m taking the easy way out by including so many ‘Greatest Hits’ in my list but, in all truth, isn’t that where most of us start with out favourite bands? ABBA: Gold sold millions for a reason. Though Fleetwood Mac went on to become one of my favourite bands of all time (and this reflected in the shelves of my CD tower), it did, admittedly, stem from Warner’s ‘The Very Best Of’, which I picked up around late 2016/early 2017. The mix of pre-Buckingham Nicks, Peter Green-infused British blues, with post ’75 pop rock and hard riffs was perfect for me; and proved a testament of how this band could change and adapt, no matter what was thrown at it. ‘World Turning’, ‘The Chain’, ‘Go Your Own Way’, ‘Little Lies’, even the inclusion of 1997’s Lindsey Buckingham-orchestrated rendition of ‘Big Love’ – all found their way into my brain on an hourly basis, and the band basically became the soundtrack to my college days. There’s so much emotion invested in these three-minute chunks and years’ worth come through. Still got the CD. Still play it regularly.
The Traveling Wilburys – The Traveling Wilburys Collection: Third Edition, 2007 – In somewhere around 2018, someone bought me the ultimate collection for fans of the supergroup, The Traveling Wilburys. The group comprised of rock legends Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty, the band penned two albums, Vol. 1 and Vol. 3 (with 3 lacking Orbison due to his unfortunate passing). Both are a thrilling ride of Beatles’ pop, American rock, and general jams between five genuine friends. The Collection includes both recordings, as well as a fascinating documentary into the fate-fuelled story of such a band, and promotional music videos. The package has been released a few times over the years; complete with stickers and photocards. I’m the kind of sad fan that loves that kind of thing, so, when I received it, I nearly cried (probably). It remains one of those box sets that’s truly remarkable.
Queen – The Miracle, 1989 – To longtime Queen fans, this particular album’s inclusion may prove a touch baffling. Whilst no one can doubt that 1989’s The Miracle had its moments (‘Breakthru’, ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘I Want It All’ and the title track itself), it’s ‘filler’ can be easy to look over (with the record’s first two tracks trying to reach what’s about to come in grandeur, and bleeding into one another as if to mimic the band’s early days). Nevertheless, at the time, I firmly believed this was the band’s best effort, and it was the first of many Queen albums I bought. I still like The Miracle to this day, (with ‘Scandal’ proving a minor success and deserving, really, more), and the record as a whole deserves a place due to the window it opened up for me. I had previously written off Queen – on account of finding a lot of their greatest hits a touch overplayed. This CD marked a time when I gave them a second chance, and quickly became obsessed.
Brian May – Back to the Light, 1992 – Just as Queen became one of my biggest artistic passions, so did the band’s guitarist (and singer-songwriter, from time to time), Brian May. The iconic, Red-Special wielding astrophysicist has his own musical career that can be somewhat overlooked from time to time. His 1992 solo debut, Back to the Light, proves just how gifted the man is in his own right – in a studio without the likes of Deacon, Taylor and Mercury (who had, tragically, passed on at this point). Back to the Light treads real hard rock (a penchant of May’s) to acoustic ballads and anguish-filled odes. ‘Let Your Heart Rule Your Head’ and ‘Only The Good Die Young’ reflect the inner turmoil of the guitarist, at a time when he set off with his own band after losing one of his closest friends. ‘Back to the Light’, ‘Resurrection’ and ‘Love Token’, however, show the Doc at his fiercest; backed with blistering guitar, epic choruses, and thunder from Cozy Powell himself. One of my favourite albums, one of my favourite CDs. And so criminally overlooked.
Lindsey Buckingham – Out of the Cradle, 1992 – 1992 also marked the release of Lindsey Buckingham’s third solo album. Out of the Cradle is an album packed with emotion and heartbreak; wrapped in cryptic lyrics and served with a hearty slice of piercing guitarwork from the man himself. By this point, Buckingham had parted from Fleetwood Mac and was well into establishing himself as a formidable force, solo. Highlights of the album include ‘Wrong’, ‘Countdown’, ‘Soul Drifter’, ‘Street of Dreams’ and ‘Turn It On’. In short, the whole record is worth a spin – and, as with Buckingham’s former ensemble – Out of the Cradle embodies a particular period of my life.
Bryan Adams – Reckless, 1984 – Bryan Adams is just such a great rockstar and sounds killer to this day. 1984’s Reckless built on the pop-rock mastery of Adams’ previous record, Cuts Like A Knife, doubling down on the iconic guitar openings and tales of the heart. From ‘Summer of ‘69’ and ‘Run To You’, to ‘She’s Only Happy When She’s Dancin’’, ‘It’s Only Love’ and ‘Long Gone’; when I put this CD on for the first time, I was just blown away. Adams cemented his skill for me with ‘91’s Waking Up The Neighbours. But Reckless is so tough to beat. And to me, always a welcome mainstay of my collection.
Electric Light Orchestra – Secret Messages, 1983 – Similar to Queen’s The Miracle, ELO’s Secret Messages isn’t viewed to be the band’s magnum opus. Much less so, in fact. Secret Messages marked a time when ELO was in turmoil; with singer-songwriter (and all round mastermind) Jeff Lynne pretty much done with the band by now. The record is home to a few standout hits, ‘Four Little Diamonds’, ‘Danger Ahead’ and ‘Rock ‘n Roll Is King’, for instance, but largely the album is a shadow of what once was – certainly worlds apart from Out of the Blue or Discovery. But I still have a soft spot for deeper cuts like ‘Secret Messages’, ‘Loser Gone Wild’ and ‘Bluebird’. It just came about at the wrong time. And wasn’t what Lynne initially intended. And became itself dated the instant it referenced infamous ‘80s ‘Satanic backmasking’. But, put those aside for a minute. It marked a real dive into the Electric Light Orchestra. And that symphonic pop-rock is what I came to love.