A few weeks back, I started a feature where, essentially, I had a look back through my music collection – CDs and vinyl – to pick out a few which would create an interesting list. The only real criteria to get on said list was to be a phenomonal album, represent something meaningful in my life, prove a fascinating – if forgotten – piece of musical history, or all three. I managed to get my CD list down to… a somewhat concise compilation. Anyway, here are the records I’m most content with owning. And in case you’re new around here, I’ll save you the time: they’re pretty much all rock. Sorry.
Bon Jovi – Bon Jovi, 1984/2016 – It was so tough to pick between this one, or the band’s 1985 follow-up, 7800 Fahrenheit (an album I love, and have reviewed before – as well as fought over in CD form), but the New Jersey glam giants’ debut just had to win it for me. Especially on remastered, 180g pressing. It sounds brilliant, the cover is so incredibly ‘80s – of an over-saturated, particularly androgynous Jovi staring on in the lights of the midnight street; an escort behind (possibly symbolic of the album’s lead lady, ‘Runaway’). And on twelve inches, too? I love this album, possibly more than their ’86 breakthrough, Slippery When Wet, and that’s saying something. I spin this one on the regular. People say that, right?
Brian May + Friends – Star Fleet Project, 1983 – X-Bomber was a Japanese TV series that aired from 1981; featuring the likes of aliens and ships that could transform into mega, Gundam-style robots. It was dubbed in English, aired on ITV – of all channels – and renamed Star Fleet in the UK.. Even wilder is that, after his son became obsessed with the show, Queen guitarist Brian May was persuaded to cover the show’s opening theme; along with Eddie Van Halen himself. The result is a 12” ‘Mini LP’ featuring the title track; a guitar-driven synth rocker, as well as a nigh-on-thirteen minute blues jamming sesh. It’s a brilliant piece of music, and an awesome piece of artistic history. Everything about it is so niche, and so fascinating. I had to include it; truly one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given, in all honesty.
The Cult – Sun King/Edie (Ciao Baby), 1989 – I’ve always loved 12-inch singles. I don’t know why – maybe it’s the casual pomposity of it, or the extended/alternate/’hidden’ mixes of A-sides and B-sides – but they hold a special place in my heart. Now take my undying love for The Cult, and especially two songs from their ’89 release, Sonic Temple. Namely, the steaming opener, ‘Sun King’, which pumps like nothing before, and the ever-haunting ballad, ‘Edie (Ciao Baby)’ that reaches an almighty climax. Picture my surprise as I discover both were released in a double A-side, on 12”. Oh, and it’s also packaged in a shiny, holographic wallet because this was still technically the 1980s and they needed to tempt you further. I picked it up for fairly cheap on eBay, and have fallen in love with this particular record ever since. It’s beautiful, and actually, sort of, a piece of real music frozen in time. (Yes, I know that’s what records are, technically) When holograms were used. Why aren’t they anymore?
Def Leppard – Pyromania (Red Vinyl), 1983/2018 – Yes, yes, I’m a sucker for limited edition things. But I already loved Def Leppard’s Pyromania even when it was on woeful black. It’s a brilliant introduction to glam metal – especially the British variety – with standout hits like ‘Photograph’, ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘Foolin’’. But it’s the album tracks; ‘Die Hard the Hunter’, ‘Too Late For Love’ and ‘Action Not Words’ that really hammer home the quality of this record. As part of a recent ‘album day’, hmv reissued the classic hard rock piece on red vinyl. I went in for a browse. I left £30 down. I held no regrets. I still don’t.
Ghost – Infestissumam, 2013 – Ghost are just perfect to me. Fantastically-written stadium anthems and ballads set to Satanic verses and devilish imagery. A frontman (until recently) cloaked in anonymity; prancing around onstage in tight trousers and religious vestments. Ghost are a spectacle; on an offstage. And whilst they (or more, Tobias Forge) have penned four legendary records, 2013’s Infestissumam wins it for me – and it’s a record I really love. Every song on it – from the stomping opener of ‘Per Aspera Ad Inferi’, to iconic ‘Year Zero’ and ‘Ghuleh / Zombie Queen’ which is forever ethereal – is nothing short of masterful, and the cover is downright chilling. Plus, it appears the standard European release of this bad boy comes on translucent red vinyl. One hell of a bonus.
Ghost – Prequelle (Signed), 2018 – Okay, yes, I already said that Infestissumam is my favourite Ghost album, but their latest offering (as of writing), Prequelle, may just prove a close second. It was the first to released since my indoctrination with the band – and I remember avidly playing its first single, the epic ‘Rats’, when it was released online through a Swedish radio station. ‘Faith’, ‘Miasma’, ‘Dance Macabre’, ‘Pro Memoria’; 2018’s Prequelle has got it all in terms of rock and metal subgenres – and what’s more, it focuses on the Black Death. Rad! This particular record of mine was bought for a signing event in Oxford Street. It never leaves its frame. And it never will. My pride and joy.
INXS – Kick (Abbey Road 1/2 Speed Mastering), 1987/2017 – INXS. Truly the master of dance-pop and rock all rolled into one. Kick is a bit like ABBA: Gold, Born in the USA or Rumours in that, chances are, one of your parents owned this on vinyl back in the day; regardless of what they generally listened to. Kick is so universally loved because it contains aspects of everything that makes music good. And fun. Playful lyrics, Michael Hutchence’s sexually charismatic husk, downright flawless guitar riffs and big choruses you can both dance and bang to (Head-wise, I mean). Come on, the album boasts ‘New Sensation’, ‘Need You Tonight’ and ‘Never Tear Us Apart’. All in one LP. Its opener, ‘Guns in the Sky’, proves a punchy introduction, with ‘Mystify’ and the title track solidifying just why INXS were masters of their field. I always wanted this album on wax and I finally managed to get hold of a copy fairly recently – with the added bonus of being the ½ Speed Mastering version reissued from Abbey Road Studios. In short, the slower cutting means the songs are less compressed and thus, sound infinitely better. Wasted on a audio-ameteur like me, but still undeniably cool.
Lindsey Buckingham – Go Insane, 1984 – Just as Buckingham’s follow-up, Out of the Cradle, has its fair share of emotional rockers, his ’84 release, Go Insane, is crammed with wonderfully iconic tracks; namely in how dated they are by now. Overdubs, drum machines, a lot of synth, even a six-minute suite tribute to Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. It’s so unapologetically ‘80s and remains almost wall-to-wall infectious with every spin. ‘Slow Dancing’, ‘Go Insane’ and ‘Loving Cup’ are definitive highlights of Buckingham’s career; even if he’s gone down a mellower route since. The sleeve design of this one is something to gawk at; but entertaining, nonetheless. A proud inclusion.
Queen – Jazz (Picture Disc), 1978/2018 – The title of ‘favourite Queen album’ would probably have to go to News of the World, or 1980’s The Game, for me. But ultimately, picking your favourite Queen album is a bit like picking which limb you’d like to lose first. It’s tough. Either way, I do have a soft spot for Jazz, released between both the aforementioned giants of chart success. Jazz is home to the iconic rockers, ‘Bicycle Race’, ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ and ‘Don’t Stop me Now’. The album’s Arabic-inspired ‘Mustapha’, Brian May’s heartfelt ‘Leaving Home Ain’t Easy’ and arena-stompers, ‘Dead On Time’ and ‘If You Can’t Beat Them’, prove that Jazz has formidable deep cuts, too. This particular version of the timeless release came out in late ‘18, on stunning picture disc – and limited to only 1978 copies worldwide (see what they did there?). I will eternally lament that I forgot to snag a copy of this year’s similar The Game release. But I still revere my limited copy of Jazz a bit too much.
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses, 1989/2014 – I won’t lie, I never intended to get this one on record. I loved the album – in truth, probably one of my favourites of all time in just how flawless it is – and had it on CD. But then I bought someone a copy of the Labyrinth soundtrack on vinyl and was told I could get another record for basically free. In no time I walked up to where this beauty was being displayed and snatched it instantly. A perfect record, and there’s little else to say. I try to spin this one at least once a month. More, vigorous studying permitting. One of those few albums wherein every song is legendary.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Southern Accents, 1985/2017 – Tom Petty (and the elusive Heartbreakers) probably feature in my record collection more than any other artist. I must have around eight or so of his studio efforts; and picking one was, well, you’ve already heard the limb analogy. In the end, though, I picked Southern Accents. Full Moon Fever is through-and-through perfection, and the Heartbreakers’ breakthrough, Damn the Torpedoes, is full of glorious rockers galore. But 1985’s …Accents sums up the band at its best. Southern roots dressed in funky flairs, hippie headbands and hard rock leather. ‘Rebels’, ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’ and ‘Dogs on the Run’ still guarantee me goosebumps to this day. Not to mention the sleeve is just staggeringly beautiful.
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (35th Anniversary Super Deluxe), 1977/2013 – Okay, this one is definitely cheating. But it includes a vinyl copy of the album in it. And it’s Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. I’ve ticked your mandatory box so let me be. All jokes aside, I’ve made my case by now as to how much I love British-American rock band, the Mac, and naturally this extends to their best-selling LP, 1977’s Rumours. It’s one of the best-selling albums of all time for a reason – with every track promising a heartbreaking chorus, infectious riff or, as is often the case, both. This anniversary edition of the album, released in 2013, includes four compact discs worth of content; from remasterings to outtakes, demos to early drafts and live recordings. It also comes with the ‘Rosebud Film’, an intimate behind-the-scenes documentary following the band on their massive Rumours world tour. Oh, and, yes, the album on vinyl, too. Which sounds great, and looks spectacular. I guard this box set with my life; possibly more than the similarly-packaged Tango in the Night release a few years back.
AC/DC – Let’s Get It Up (7″ Single), 1982 – My ex bought me this one, and it remains the first vinyl record I ever had. One of AC/DC’s more obvious songs, ‘Let’s Get It Up’ emerged from the band’s 1981 release, For Those About To Rock (We Salute You), and remains a lascivious tongue-in-cheeker all these years later. I remember putting this on the record player for the first time; perspiring profusely from not knowing if I was doing it right. First times, eh? You never forget. And in this case, I am more than glad. A worthy entry in my list.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Don’t Come Around Here No More (7″ Japanese Promo), 1985 – In my previous iteration of this feature, I explained my love for American rock ‘n roll outfit, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. And, whilst it’s hard to pick just one ‘definitive’ favourite of theirs, ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’ – from the band’s sixth LP, Southern Accents – comes pretty damn close. A slice of psychedelic, Lewis Carroll-esque pop rock, it features Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame) on the sitar, and Petty at perhaps his fiercest. I have a love for cool, little, limited edition things; and this Japanese promotional copy of the 7” single fills such a quota. What interests me (and probably no one else) about this item is how it still has the large, jukebox-specific hole in the centre of the record, something you wouldn’t expect to see so late on.
Liam Gallagher – Shockwave (7″ Etched Single), 2018 – In 2017, former Oasis co-star, Liam G, released his first solo record unto the fold, entitled As You Were. It proved a really rather impressive selection of pop rockers – with a healthy dosage of Oasis callback in its sound, as well as something fresher, something newer, something different. I picked that one up on CD, and, as another year passed, Gallagher announced his follow-up, Why Me? Why Not. The first single from that album, ‘Shockwave’, proved a stomping testament to the raw power of rock ‘n roll. In case you’re unfamiliar with LG singles, he always releases them on vinyl with one side etched; the song’s lyrics spiraling toward the record’s center. I only bought one such single – and it was this one. A great song. A biblical looking single.
Queen – It’s Late (7″ Single), 1978 – Is this possibly my favourite record of the collection? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the day. But it could well prove my favourite single, that’s for sure. I’ve always maintained how good a year 1977 was for music – seriously, look it up; Styx, Meat Loaf, ELO, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, all enjoyed colossal success – and perhaps it’s best offering was Queen’s News of the World; a glut of finely-penned studio tracks harking back to classic rock in its purest form; without the iconic overdubs and studio effects of the Mercurian band. The album itself is great, but possibly my top pick for the record is Brian May’s ‘It’s Late’, a six-minute, bite-sized rock opera that packs one of Queen’s best – and most overlooked – riffs. The song was released as a single in only a select few territories, and can go for a high price online. Picture my shock as I get my hands on a copy for a fiver and, even better, it’s the full-length version. I nearly cried.
So there, my picks for my favourite records. Some of them are somewhat rare, others interesting insights to musical history. All of them rock in one way or another. I certainly had fun rifling back through my little box of vinyl and reigniting my love for the ones I picked up in the first place. I would highly recommend others doing the same; whether it’s records, CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks (remember those? I mean, I don’t, I was born in 2000 but still) or even just your digital library. It’s easy to forget what you’ve got.