‘The fact Ed Sheeran graces that list is an abomination...’ So who’s in the official ‘20 top albums’ chart? And what do YOU think?
PUBLISHED: 19:24 11 October 2018
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The first ever National Album Day is almost here. The sales figures say one thing, but who’s your favourite?
The music album is 70 and yet sales continue to thrive: In 2017, 135million were bought in ‘hard copy’, downloaded or streamed – up 9.5% on 2016. Steven Russell reports on the first (long-overdue) National Album Day
Without further ado − The top 20:
The all-time Official Studio Albums Chart (in alphabetical order) as compiled by the Official Charts Company and based on sales and streams dating back to 1956
Adele – 21 & 25
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Dido – No Angel
Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms
Ed Sheeran – X
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
James Blunt – Back to Bedlam
Leona Lewis – Spirit
Meat Loaf – Bat out of Hell
Michael Buble – Crazy Love
Michael Jackson – Bad & Thriller
Oasis – What’s the Story Morning Glory
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
Shania Twain – Come on Over
Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water
Simply Red – Stars
The Verve – Urban Hymns
• A total of 33 different acts are in the top-40 chart – one with three albums – while five acts have two albums, including Adele and Michael Jackson. The list features 18 bands, 10 female artists and 12 males. Of these, 25 are British acts, eight are American, four Canadian, two Irish and there’s one US/UK band.
More at @AlbumDayUK and nationalalbumday.co.uk
So much for the stats and charts… what do our hearts and souls say?
Ross Bentley: One of my faves is What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye. A sweeping, epic album combining sweet soul sounds and social commentary – Marvin and Motown at their peak. It blew my mind at 14 when I first heard it and it still stands tall today.
Paul Geater: Actually a pretty good list, but I don’t see that Adele and Michael Jackson are/were so supremely talented that they deserve two entries while everyone else has one!
Deep Purple’s Machine Head and Led Zeppelin IV (Stairway to Heaven et al) really do deserve a place on the list as the soundtracks to my young teenage years.
And the impact of Never Mind the Bo**ocks by the Sex Pistols cannot be under-estimated. Great album? Not sure. But it set a nuclear device off under the music industry!
Dominic Moffitt: The fact Ed Sheeran graces that list is an abomination. Favourite album ever: Queen, A Night at the Opera
Liz Nice: These lists are so hilarious because everyone reads them and says “got that, hated that”. Clearly the best album ever is Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry because the first time I heard it I sat there open-mouthed, barely able to contain myself, waiting for the song coming next.
Come Back to Camden in particular is awe-inspiring; not sure there has been a better song ever about lost love – it still gives me chills whenever I hear it. And of course, it’s my opinion that counts!
Michael Bailey: Dark Side (of the Moon) paved the way for so much after it, extends across so many human emotions and is timeless. It’s a work of art.
Charlotte Smith-Jarvis: I absolutely love the Rumours album by Fleetwood Mac. Stevie Nicks’ exquisite voice. The dramatic changes of pace and style throughout. The guitar strumming. It’s the album you’ll most often find me cooking along to of a Sunday afternoon.
It has brought us so many classic hits. The Chain (an amazing song sadly mostly associated these days with Top Gear). Dreams (I admit I’m also a big fan of the Corrs’ version). And Go Your Own Way – which begs for you to sing along at the top of your lungs in the car!
If you could magically add Stevie’s hauntingly-beautiful Landslide (from the 1975 eponymous album Fleetwood Mac) this LP would be perfection. That song always, always makes me sob.
Rosanna Elliott: Paul Simon’s Graceland is my favourite album ever. There’s not a single dud track from the euphoric instrumental break in You Can Call Me Al to the melancholic refrain in Homeless.
Simon’s lyrics are masterfully both flippant and profound simultaneously, and the title track is one of the most poignantly beautiful songs I know.
The eighties was such a wonderful decade for music and Graceland doesn’t feel dated today – every time I play it I just think this is so brilliant!
Jayne Lindill: I can’t believe there’s not a David Bowie album on the list!! So many possibilities – Space Oddity, Hunky Dory… but I’m adding The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars – his fifth album, released in 1972. Genius!
David Hannant: My favourite album is Radiohead’s OK Computer. It was so ahead of its time; still sounds just as fresh 20 years later. It’s one of the most innovative albums of all time and proves there are no limitations when it comes to producing a rock album.
As for the “official” 20, some very, very, very strange (albums). Less said about Ed Sheeran, Simply Red and Blunters the better... glad to see Dark Side and Rumours included, though.
Lynne Mortimer: My album collection comprises a select number of Greatest Hits (various artists) and the all-time greats – why is Carole King’s Tapestry not on this list?
The album that makes me feel young, gives me a big nostalgia kick and always makes me feel glad to be alive is Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. Take the early-morning sunshine on a warm summer’s day and play Astral Weeks undiluted.
David Vincent: Sgt Pepper is not my favourite Beatles album. I do like some of the “modern artists”, like Adele and Ed, and I play Sheeran’s X in my car a lot. But my nomination for favourite album is Carole King’s Tapestry − loads of fantastic songs covered again and again. I saw her perform it at Shepherds Bush the first time around. Magical.
And my unusual nomination? Evanescence − Fallen. The voice of an angel with a touch of the devil.
So why do albums matter?
It’s the early summer of 1982 and we college pals cruise the byways of East Anglia – the punchy sounds of 1977’s Bat Out of Hell masking the engine noise of Patrick’s* car. (*Name changed in case he wants to forget those days. And why wouldn’t he?) We owe him much – the only one of us with wheels, and the only one of us with a decent collection of albums (I think we still called them LPs then). On cassettes…
That car served us well, though in our youthful ignorance we treated it appallingly. One day it had endured enough and refused to start. We applied the full extent of our collective automotive knowledge and, an hour later, found it short of oil. So short that not a drop of Castrol GTX registered on the dipstick.
But when it was moving, which was most of the time, it gave us independence. On warm evenings (they all were, back then) we could escape our lodgings and an unfamiliar town and head off to new, nicer places and forget the impending exams.
And that’s where albums really prove their worth: Combine a series of vibrant songs (played at decent volume) with the sense of movement you get while driving – with the sun shining, the breeze caressing you, and your dreams of an amazing and bountiful future yet to be disappointed by reality – and they lay down the soundscape of your life.
So while I’m not really a fan of Meatloaf, Bat Out of Hell will always transport me back 36 years – and never needs topping up with oil, either.
Which is why the first ever National Album Day – powered by the musical muscle of the BBC – is such a good idea. Singles are often like sugar hits: gone in 60 seconds; albums are the full four-course meal that fills and satisfies.
There’s another reason. LPs (can’t resist calling them that) have their hit singles and they have their duff tracks, but they also have songs that slip under the radar and yet are such a joy when you come across them.
Many of those albums are celebrated today when the British music community unites to laud them – and, better, simply play them.
At 3.33pm today, we’re all asked to stop what we’re doing, sit back, relax and play an album of choice in full, from start to finish. (Best postpone your involvement if you’re driving at 3.30, or doing brain surgery.)
There’s lots of stuff to enjoy on the Beeb at different times. One not to miss is Pick of The Pops on BBC Radio 2 on Saturday the 13th, from 1pm to 3pm. Paul Gambaccini runs down the list of the 40 best-selling albums of all time. Compilations and “best ofs” don’t count, but expect to hear tracks from Amy Winehouse, Fleetwood Mac, The Spice Girls and Michael Jackson.
NAD organisers want to learn our ultimate National Album Day records of choice. Let them know by using #NationalAlbumDay and @AlbumDayUK
For more general details: nationalalbumday.co.uk
PS: An honourable mention from me for ABC’s debut studio album The Lexicon of Love – out in June, 1982, and a rival to Meatloaf. Remember big-sound tracks such as The Look of Love, Poison Arrow, Tears Are Not Enough, and All of My Heart?
Not every song was brilliant in 1982, though. For every Town Called Malice (hooray!) there was a The Lion Sleeps Tonight (ugh!)
Sgt Pepper not The Beatles’ greatest – Andrew Clarke, arts editor
What makes a great album? It’s difficult to say. It’s certainly not a disparate collection of hit singles. In the age of streaming and Spotify, the art of creating a great album seems to be a dying art. A great album is a recording where the individual tracks contribute towards a uniform sound or a thematic whole. A great album is a collection of songs which have been conceived and sequenced to be listened to together and regarded as a complete piece of work in its own right.
The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is often proclaimed as a great album. It was certainly conceived of to be listened to as a whole, and the packaging is brilliant: from Peter Blake’s iconic cover image to the inclusion of a lyric sheet and collectible Sgt Pepper cut-out badges and false moustache.
But, while Sgt Pepper wears the trappings of greatness very well, it is not The Beatles’ greatest work. If we were drawing up a list of Desert Island albums I would certainly rank The Beatles’ previous album, Revolver, and their final recording, Abbey Road, as better, more cohesive works than Pepper, which I felt was always too self-aware.
The songs on those other albums were of a consistently higher quality.
As for my own list, I would have to include the following: The Rolling Stones’ 1972 epic Exile on Main Street, Derek and the Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Cream’s Disraeli Gears and Elvis’s 1969 return to splendour From Elvis In Memphis.
A great event (though sold out) is at the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts in Stowmarket on Saturday, October 13.
Ray Davies, co-founder of 1960s band The Kinks, was coming to be interviewed. Unfortunately, he is ill – but stepping in is brother Dave, who jointly formed the group.
The evening celebrates the 50th anniversary of The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. There will also be a full album playback of John Peel’s vinyl copy of the record on a world-class audiophile sound system.
On Sunday, October 14, there’s a similar format featuring Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and celebrating the 30th anniversary of Daydream Nation. Again, John Peel’s personal copy of the record will be played.
Tickets for Sunday’s late-afternoon event are still available.
* In Bury St Edmunds today, Vinyl Hunter Recordings launch local band Sun Scream’s 1st EP, Big Red Lazy Sun, on limited-edition lilac vinyl.
It’s at 56 St John’s Street. At 3.33pm Vinyl Hunter will be playing the all-time top album, as voted for by customers, with Sun Scream performing tracks From Big Red Lazy Sun.