UK Music Staff Choose Favourite Albums for National Album Day

We've compiled our staff picks ahead of the celebration on October 13

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8.10.18: October 13 marks the first ever National Album Day – a celebration of the artform and a demonstration of why it needs protecting. As part of the preceeding week’s commemorative efforts, the UK Music team have compiled their favourite albums and explained how and why they’ve made such a difference to their lives:

Michael Dugher, CEO
Paul McCartney and Wings – Band on the Run

Band on the Run is an album of total perfection that established McCartney’s genius outside of the Beatles. Just like Sgt Pepper, which was McCartney’s personal vision, Band on the Run is a great ‘concept album’.

It was a global hit record, certified triple platinum in the US and becoming EMI’s top selling album of the 1970s in the UK. Exquisitely recorded in the face of adversity – half the band had literally done a runner and left the group on the eve of the recording sessions in Lagos (where the primitive studio wasn’t quite fully built yet!) – the late, great Geoff Emerick got a well-deserved Grammy for the engineering. Transferring many of the eight-track recordings to sixteen-track plus some further overdubs at AIR Studios (where the hit single Jet was recorded), the album manages to create a sound that is both lavish – listen to the superb orchestral arrangements (recorded in a single day) by McCartney and Tony Visconti – and yet at the same time beautifully simple.

It showcases McCartney’s unique talent as both a diverse, innovative, master songwriter and a virtuoso multi-instrumentalist. It has a nice front cover, another essential ingredient of a good album, and I like the fact that it’s quite a small album – just 40 odd minutes with only nine or ten tracks (depending on which version you have).

The final song on the album, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five, takes the album to a complete crescendo that includes a reprise of the title track that bursts in right at the climax, only to quickly fade out again. The perfect coda for this timeless masterpiece.

Tom Kiehl, Director of Government & Public Affairs
Joy Division – Closer

I first heard Joy Division in 1994 on a repeat of “Sounds of the 70s”. Ian Curtis’s manic performance of Transmission blew me away. There is still a market for people wearing t-shirts of their debut album Unknown Pleasures yet Joy Division’s real legacy is their masterpiece second album Closer. Admittedly it is bleak and devoid of hope, but for me it’s brilliance lies in Curtis’s willingness to make his final creative act an insight into his troubled state of mind and producer Martin Hannett’s ability to accompany this torment with such beautiful music. Closer sadly shows the album format can be a matter of life and death.

Ele Hill, Director of Operations and Head of Diversity
Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

Among my friends this is the album that comes out every time we want a sing along…unfortunately it doesn’t appear that repeatedly singing songs after a few drinks means that you memorise the words. It’s a concept album in a world with not enough concept albums, and one that I return to year after year.

Vincent Moss, Director of Communications
Squeeze – Greatest Hits

If you’d asked a few years ago, I’d have probably said my favourite album was Talking Head’s fourth album, released in 1980, Remain in the Light. The band and Brian Eno produced an astonishingly innovative piece of work.  Its experimental brilliance has been rarely matched, though the Velvet Underground’s 1967 debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico is in the same league.

Today, and purely for their lyrical genius of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook (the Lennon and McCartney of their generation), it has to be Squeeze. Their second album Cool for Cats (1979) was their best – but my favourite would be one of their many compilations – Squeeze Greatest Hits. I know – what a cop-out!

Natalie Williams, Head of Research
Snoop Dogg – Doggystyle

My Aunt bought this for me for my 13th Birthday under the direction of my cousin and it was evident that she had not listened to the album before she bought it for me. It was my first introduction to G-Funk and I didn’t really listen to the lyrics until I was a lot older as I was more interested in the beats. This was Snoops Introduction to the world and cause so much controversy in the US and UK for the explicit lyrics. This was my first real introduction to West Coast rap and even now to this day I can still recited all of the lyrics. The good and the bad.

Oliver Morris, Director of Education and Skills
John Martyn – Solid Air

This album is something of a musical inheritance for me as it is well-loved by my dad who introduced me to it at an early age. It is a masterclass in songwriting and understatement and moves seamlessly between everything from the much-loved classic May You Never to the dark and brooding soundscape that is I’d Rather be the Devil (a cover / reinterpretation of Skip James’ Devil got my Woman).

Martyn’s lyricism is second-to-none. He has penned some of my very favourite lyrics ever that draw on a range of styles including American Blues, British Romanticism and Folk. From the mesmerising ‘You curl around me, like a fern in the spring’ in Go Down Easy to uplifting ‘I don’t want to know about evil, only want to know about love’ in Don’t Want to Know their simplicity belie their beauty and depth.

Martyn is also a guitarist and composer of great technical ability and feeling. He is willing to experiment in quite dramatic ways with refreshing results but equally none of his more ‘standard’ tracks sound lazy or trite. There is thought involved at every level. The musical tour-de-force is contributed to by such brilliant performers as bassists Danny Thompson and Dave Pegg – who really provide the backbone of the album (it wouldn’t have quite achieved the heights it did in my mind without Thompson’s acoustic bass contribution) – and others including members of Fairport Convention.

Very different in style and timbre to many that made my shortlist (including Ian Dury, The La’s, Stevie Wonder) it is however an album that flows seamlessly and entrances the listener. The songs not only stand up to scrutiny on their own but the movement through the tracks on the album is perfectly judged. It is this strength in depth but also of structure that makes Solid Air my favourite album.

Florian Koempel, Legal Counsel
dEUS – Worst Case Scenario

dEUS first full album still is my favourite album some 25 years after its release. ‘Worst case scenario’ a fitting title for this in fact indescribable album. A musical narrative from  the first powerful chords of ‘suds and soda’  through the melancholic ‘hotel lounge’ to ‘secret hell’ This beautiful music and Tom Barman’s broken voice still provide the positive energy to get me through the MD’s dark days in 2018. If this is the ‘first draft of the worst case scenario’ bring it on indeed!

Megan White, Digital Communications and Events Officer
The Libertines – Up The Bracket

The sound of a band on the cusp of infamy. Before the drugs and fighting and prison sentences came Up The Bracket, a triumphant hook-laden debut, paying tribute to Tony Hancock and The Clash in equal measures – and produced by the latter’s Mick Jones. Early attempts to get the band signed fell flat, but after The Strokes’ success, they parted ways with Johnny Borrell (later frontman of Razorlight) and took another shot at the big time.

Crashing open into Vertigo, the 36-minute journey takes listeners on a wild ride through the minds of Barat and Doherty, through the May Day riots of 2000, the Kray twins and The Good Old Days. It’s an album I’ve cried to and laughed to in equal measures, one for the beginning of nights out and the end, and I have so many memories associated with every song on it. It’s a truly magical album, a classic debut – but it all went downhill after that.

Felicity Oliver, Public Affairs Officer
The Killers – Hot Fuss

This album holds lots of happy memories for me, from listening to the CD on repeat after school with my best friend to screaming along to them at Glastonbury last year. Nothing quite signals the end of a great night out like grabbing your mates and shouting ‘Mr Brightside’ at the top of your lungs! For me, this album will never get old.

Beatriz Ribeiro, Business and Design Officer
N Dubz – Uncle B

Watching Channel U (now AKA) was part and parcel of growing up in London. I remember the first time I heard “I Swear” and having to rewind it to record on my phone. Uncle B didn’t drop until 2008 and I was so excited to get home and listen to it, since then it’s been a go to. The music-evoked nostalgia takes me back to a simpler time – when a Freddo was 15p!

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