With downloads and streaming, we now have access to more music than ever before. And all that music can seem a little daunting; where to start? So, over a series of articles, I am going to compile a list of 100 albums that have had an impact on my life in some way, that I think you should listen to. The list is in no particular order- it would be impossible for me to choose which I love the most! But there will be a range of genres, and all kinds of musicians, so if you need some musical inspiration, look no further!
‘Songs in the Key of Life’ - Stevie Wonder - First on my list is a classic, an album widely regarded as one of the best albums of all time; I have to agree. The album is jam packed with soul and funk tracks that touch upon the key aspects of life, as you might well imagine. Musically, the compositions are genius. Nowhere else will you hear such innovative melodies, bass lines and lyrics. ‘Ordinary Pain,’ starts off as a relaxed soul song, lamenting the pains of love, before it suddenly metamorphosizes into a vibrant funk piece, with dynamic female vocals. For me, it is the best song on the album. ‘As’ is another stand out piece with truly wonderful lyrics, again, with uniquely catchy chords.
Perhaps the thing that truly makes ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ so important, is its surprising relevance even today. I was lucky enough to see this album performed live at the British Summertime Festival, and the audience connected deeply with every song. It’s an album that deals with love, loss, poverty, injustice, the wonder of child, and everything inbetween. For that reason alone, ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ is well worth a listen.
Notable songs: Ordinary Pain, As, Village Ghetto Land, I Wish.
2) ‘Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon’ - KT Tunstall - This is the album that began my love of Folk music. Previously unimpressed with the genre, I stumbled upon this album, and utterly loved it. Despite being released in 2013, it is distinctly different to most other music that was even remotely popular in that year. Indeed, it is very different from Tunstall’s previous efforts. The album is in many ways stripped back, with beautifully simple arrangements, which really show off the instruments and the composition itself. Tunstall’s individualistic voice shines through the whole album. Classic guitars, whistles, accordions, and clarinets feature among many more instruments that you would not find in any pop ensemble. All of this complete with well-crafted imagery rich lyrics that could bring you to tears, makes for a wonderful album.
Notable songs: Invisible Empire, Crows, Honeydew, Feel it All
3) ‘Tales of Mystery and Imagination’ - The Alan Parsons Project’ - A progressive rock offering from the 70’s that still captures the imaginations of today’s audiences. It is a concept album, that focuses on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. For those of you with an interest in Literary things, this is the album for you. It features divine harmonies and lush orchestrations, centred around Poe’s poetic language. This album is unlike any other you will ever listen to, and worth listening to for the complex compositions, and the interesting lyrical ideas that stemmed from Poe.
Notable songs: To One in Paradise, The Cask of Amontillado, (The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether
4) ‘Gladiator: Music From the Motion Picture’ - Hans Zimmer - This album is one of the finest soundtracks of all time. Hans Zimmer is on top form, with haunting compositions and utterly perfect orchestrations, as performed by the Lyndhurst Orchestra. The score more than compliments the film, and even on its own, can create the feel for all of the scenes. You can readily feel the mingling of thrill and fear within the gladiator fights, the sheer sorrow from injustice, and the hope that echoes within Lisa Gerrard’s powerful lyrics in ‘Now We are Free.’
This is a modern classic, and if you have any interest in film music, you will almost certainly love it.
Notable songs: Now We are Free, Earth, Elysium
5) ‘Sogno’ - Andrea Bocelli - An album for those who think they don’t like Opera. Serious Operas can be extremely long and potentially uninteresting if you do not invest the time and effort, but Bocelli brings all the most brilliant aspects of opera together, but without losing the sense of accessibility. I grew up with this album, hating it as a child, reaching the age of about twelve, and realising I loved it. The instrumentation is gorgeous, but it is Bocelli’s voice alone that makes the album so magnificent. His vocal tone is better than that of liquid honey. He sings every note with ease, but yet, with a wonderful kind of warmth that many opera singers never achieve. This a great album for expanding your musical taste to that of classical and operatic music.
Notable songs: Canto Della Terra, Immenso, The Prayer