Thursday, 5 August 2010

Icon #62 The Most Iconic Albums Ever


It was close.  Really close.  All day long it looked like a draw between Pink Floyd and the Beatles for top spot and in the end that's exactly what happened.


Floyd's Dark Side of Moon is up there in my top ten albums of all time (as are a few others on the list).  It's not my favourite Floyd album but like Sgt Pepper's it's the complete package.  Iconic cover image, check.  Ground breaking use of sound, check.  High concept, check.  Arty, check.  Dark Side came out during that period when Waters and Gilmore were making their differences work, so Waters wrote the words and Gilmore sung them and brought them to life with his guitar.  Wish You Were Here, the follow up to Dark Side is probably a better example of that, some of Dark Side hasn't dated well in places (On the Run sounds like it's out of some bad 60s SciFi flick) and it's the quiet moments on the album that work best.

The chiming of the clocks that brings Time to life still sound fantastic when you crank it up and after the intro is done the song is just acoustically brilliant, it's also when Gilmore's guitar springs to life for the first time.  There's the whole drugged up, spaced out vibe throughout the album, but here the guitar just soars.  Yes it's indulgent and over the top, but once you get seduced by the guitar playing you can't really go back.

Money is one of my favourite Pink Floyd songs, the cash registers ringing is such a great sample in the days before samples.  Great Gig in the Sky is the sound of a rock band trying very hard to be something more than that.  But where they nail it best is on Us and Them, just a beautiful song.

It's of its time but it still sounds dense and interesting 37 years after it got released.  

I could go on and on about Dark Side of the Moon.  It's flawed genius for me and arguably one of the big reasons punk happened but it still captures the imagination.  That Floyd survived punk in a way that so many other bands didn't is about the quality contained within.  You should own this album.

The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band in 1967.  Personally I have other Beatles' albums I'd put above it but as an iconic album there's nothing that quite compares in terms of influence.  (That the 'Beatles vote' got divided is telling.)  It's chock full of classics, but then nearly every Beatles album is, so why is Sgt. Pepper's so coveted?  

Like Floyd it's the sound of a band at the peak of their powers, McCartney and Lennon's song writing buoyant and full of vibrant imagery.  At times it to is self indulgent and also imbibed with drug references and an almost stoner feel.  Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is the classic example of that, but what was Lennon on when he wrote his part to A Day in the Life?  That song sums up the Beatles for me, the way that Lennon and McCartney could take a theme and come at it in a completely different way and still make something sound cohesive and amazing.  

Harrison's big moment, Within You Without You, probably stands the test of time better than any other track and it was recorded with session musicians.  The sitars and classical instruments dancing with each other in a heady mix that sounds like it was recorded yesterday.

Sgt. Pepper is a great album, its influence is everywhere but for me part of its appeal is that it sounds so different to anything that their peers were making.  Yes, lots of bands have replicated the sound and style of the Beatles since but back in the late 1960s it was just miles ahead of everyone else.  You could argue it still is.

Today's post is dedicated to everyone that voted, big thanks for taking part.