When we recruited our latest writer, Matt Hall, we figured the best way to introduce him to the Secret Sound Shop community would be for him to tell us about his favorite album. For those of you not familiar with this feature, ‘My Favorite Album’ is about asking people involved in each corner of the music industry what their favorite album is, how it has influenced their musical journey and lead them to that corner. So everybody meet Matt, who works in law by day and plays in music by night.
Matt’s favorite album is Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. This is why…
When asked by Messrs Holleran and Jones to not only name my one beloved album of all time, but to describe the various intricacies of why and how this has guided to me to my now, eclectic range of music (Supertramp and A Tribe Called Quest, anyone?) as well, I have to admit I was immediately come over with a sudden case of writer’s block and wanted to hide behind a veil of anonymity to mask a whole host of awkward home truths about a 24 year-old living in a 55 year-olds music bubble.
For me, there is a definitive choice of 4 albums. Hereinafter follows a list of the last 3, the ‘rational’ explanations behind not picking them, and the Number 1 – my ultimate choice.
Meat Loaf: Bat out of Hell II
The reason why: Simply put: a masterpiece of operatic rock drama and EVERYONE’S guilty pleasure, and the first album I ever owned coincidentally. Any album containing the songs with words “Life is a Lemon” and a guy feigning, somewhat disturbingly, to be a wolf in his ill-judged bid to try and seduce a young (and highly naive) woman (“I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) – the best karaoke song of all time FYI), is worthy of any vote on any ‘Best Of’ List.
The reason why not: Simply put, it would be highly embarrassing to state this is the album that shaped my future music landscape (even though it most likely did). In Lehman’s terms: this would be the kind of person who thinks Justin Hawkins from The Darkness is a genius of the modern age. That I am not reading to admit. Yet.
Guns N’ Roses: Appetite for Destruction
The reason why: Epic. Quite simply a colossal multitude of guitar solos from a bygone blues era (Rocket Queen/Mr Brownstone), which could only have been written by a wizard (or someone continuously high, as is more likely the case), combined with the rhythmic vocals of someone who really sounds like he shouldn’t have testicles (‘Welcome to the Jungle’/’Sweet Child O’ Mine’).
The reason why not: Do not let anyone tell you this is not an incredible listening experience – it is. Be far from it for me to not enjoy wailing happily away to songs about Class A drugs (the majority of songs expressed Axl’s adoration for Heroin – Mr Brownstone/Rocket Queen/Paradise City/Nighttrain/Out Ta Get Me), there are simply other better albums which have been made.
The Doors: The Doors
The reason why: Closely missing out on the top spot. A late bloomer to The Doors, admittedly I struggled to see the hype surrounding this album. My Dad – ‘unfortunately’ my greatest musical influence (growing up listening to the likes of Whitesnake/Thunder/Rainbow/ Genesis and Def Leppard did rather restrict me to a one-genre route of subsequent development) really did not like good ol’ Mr Morrison, and thus I did not either. Fast forward ten years – I now have a canvas of Jim on my wall, whilst my pathetically incompetent iPhone/iTunes library holds pretty much any ever recording by The Doors. The Doors is a collection including, but not limited to, a delectable infusion of rock, blues, classical, jazz and poetry with all of Morrison’s swagger and brilliance etched into every lyric and note. A hypnotising introduction to the world by one the world’s greatest ever, if not short-lived, bands.
Reason why not: Clutching at straws with this one; the only reason this album, is not Top Trump is purely down to the fact that it opened the world of The Doors, and then only left it slightly ajar for succeeding albums. The songs ‘LA Woman’, and my personal favourite ‘Peace Frog’, are subsequent favourites, but little compared to such masters like the Oedipal production of ‘The End’ and enchanting poetry of ‘End of the Night’.
The Number 1 Spot:
Fleetwood Mac: Rumours
Reason why this is Numero Uno:
Spectacular. Stunning. Magnificent. All words which ably support Rumors. The type of album which never grows old, never gets too tiring to listen to and which propels you to bitch slap anyone who DARES suggest when hearing ‘The Chain’ – “Oh, this is the Formula 1 theme tune, isn’t it?”
Before Rumours, Fleetwood were moderately successful – albums like Future Games and Bare Trees were received politely by the public; yet Rumours went off on a beaten track ridden with success – the likes of which had never been seen before by the band.
Written, delivered and performed while the band was in a spectacular state of turmoil: drinks, drugs and divorce were the menu of choice for Fleetwood at this time. Not one couple, but two couples within the band were splitting up (John and Christine McVie’s marriage; Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nick’s long term relationship); amidst various drug/alcohol afflictions, affairs and spending 6 mammothly long months in a recording studio; is the epitome of why this is such an inspiring album. Few bands undergo as many changes, and in as short a space of time, as Fleetwood Mac prior to making Rumours. The emotional turmoil is laid bare for all to see: gone were the days of quirky upbeat tracks like ’Hypnotized’ and ‘Spare Me a Little of Your Love’ and in came the stunning ‘Songbird’ (my favourite ever song), the melancholic ‘Oh Daddy’ and the upbeat, yet very candid, ‘Go Your Own Way’ (it doesn’t take a genius to realise what this meant for the band).
Turning this turmoil into a highly-charged, brutally honest, review of the private lives of each and every member, every intricate personal tension ignited nigh on every song on Rumours. Masterminded by Buckingham, with his efforts including ‘Go Your Own Way’ (perhaps the most popular of the album), ‘Second Hand News’ and ‘Never Going Back Again’; Nick’s ‘Dreams’; Christine McVie’s ‘Don’t Stop’ and the only song on the album composed by all members – ‘The Chain’; collectively touched the public’s sentimental and rueful nerve. It is an exceptional composite of musical tastes – Buckingham continuously hones, and sharpens the vocals of McVie and Nicks, into something so polished that one would never have known that either member had broken wind in front on the other, let alone the dilemmas listed above.
Rumours is simple, and moreover it doesn’t try to be something it isn’t and tells a consistent, harrowing tale of four members to the extent that you could forgive anyone for thinking that they are eavesdropping on painful intimate truths upon listening. Yet, this is what strikes resonance with the album – the ability and raw emotional power it has when touching the public’s nerve, and conclusively why it is effortlessly my greatest album of all time.
On a side note, the other albums that got so very, very close…
The Cure: Disintegration
Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon
Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV
The Velvet Underground and Nico: The Velvet Underground
Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited
Welcome to Secret Sound Shop Matt!