Back to Black: 2013 a year in vinyl (part 3 of 3 – the final five!)

So, that’s 2013 over with and looking through my modest and new record collection I’m thinking to myself that I’m pretty pleased with it.  A fair few of my favourite albums in there.  Some being long established favourites and some new.  I’ve gotten to know each record real well, too.   Anyhoo, while not a list of the best albums in the collection, this is a run-down of my favourite 15.

# 5 – The Doors – Strange Days
A gift from my brother, this one. He had both this and Waiting for the Sun and told me they were mine if I wanted them (truth be told, he had a bit of a hand in starting my collection by throwing a fair few of his unwanted records my way). This one, though, well, it’s always been a favourite and it’s great to have it on vinyl. So cheers again, young-blood!

While the songs existed when they put together their debut, I’ve always thought they were a bit more interesting and that’s always why I’ve found this album to be vastly superior.  Some would maybe take the debut above this and say they’d picked the best of the bunch on that one, but I reckon this one is the one that stands out.

I dare say it would be safe to assume that the success of the debut was the reason they could be more ambitious with this one, though.  Listening to this thing it’s clear it’s a psychedelic masterpiece.  And bonkers.  That’s just my opinion of course.

# 4 – Johnny Cash – The Fabulous Johnny Cash
Another bargain (£2.50) purchased at a record fair back in June.  Couldn’t believe my luck.  I could write a book on how much I love this album, but I’ll keep it brief.  Essentially, though, it’s one of the best albums ever.  That’s just a fact.  Absolutely every song is incredible, with the Cash originals really raising the bar.  I mean, he had great singles for Sun, but here he’d honed his craft.

His voice is in it’s prime and while the instrumentation remained spare and the bones of the sound, Columbia allowed it to be somewhat more polished than those early singles.  Waxing lyrical on Cash is largely expected of me, I know, but it’s consistent from start to finish.

Despite being one I had been familiar with for a number of years, the vinyl has made it more accessible to my wife and it’s established itself as a favourite around these parts!

# 3 – ZZ Top – Tres Hombres
This has established itself over the year as one of my all-time favourite albums; I really can’t believe I never paid any attention to these guys before now!  Man, it’s filled with blues, twisted riffs and utterly infectious songs.

… and I’ll go on record as saying that, in my opinion, there’s not an opening to an album in the history of recorded music that comes close to Waitin’ for the Bus and Jesus Just Left Chicago, while Precious and Grace, La Grange and the Sheik are just all sorts of awesome.

Folks still think I’m having something of a laugh when I say “I was listening to ZZ Top” or “ZZ Top are amazeballs”. But everyone has to own, or at the very least listen to this one.  Huge thanks to Craig Hughes for insisting that I look a bit closer at ZZ Top – I’m digging each release I find and even Eliminator has won me over!! (no, seriously, it has)

# 2 – Johnny Cash – Orange Blossom Special

Long been a favourite.  Not just favourite Johnny Cash album, but a favourite of all-time!  Others will have their favourite Cash albums and better writers than me will tell you just how damn major those albums may be – both to them and for popular music.  Again, I could write a book about this and talk to folk for hours on end (sorry to those that I now know how important this album is), but again, we’ll keep it brief.

Orange Blossom Special was the first that I properly listened to. It was the point where I viewed Johnny Cash as the most important of all my influences.  There was no pigeon-holing him as a ‘country western singer’, cause he done what he wanted.  Here he took on Dylan’s folk, as well as songs about murder, prison and a train. He made me smile and importantly he made me think.  On You Wild Colorado, he wrote a song that stopped me in my tracks.

… and I still feel like that when I hear this one, so I was mighty chuffed when I picked this one up in the Record Fayre back in September. For just £3, too.  I was like an excited kid in the candy shop, grabbing this close to my chest and guarding it with my life.  Or, these days an excited kid in Game on GTAV release day.

feattftpt# 1 – Spirit – The Family That Plays Together
Picked this up for £6 in Missing. One of them no hesitation purchases (“aren’t they all?”, my wife would ask!). Big fan of Spirit, though I never really delved much deeper than the first 4 albums until this year. Anyhoo, this one and Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus were on my list for picking up again when I got the record player. I managed to get both!

Twelve Dreams … is the one folks pick out as being the bonkers psychedelic masterpiece, but The Family That Plays Together is looser, and, for me, the perfect marriage of Strange Days-era Doors psychedelia and 60s pop. Utterly infectious, too.  You can pretty much draw a line to everything that’s good about alternative rock, ‘stoner rock’ or ‘desert rock’ from this album.  Or at least this band (and The Doors and ZZ Top, of course).

Of all the albums I’ve picked up on vinyl this happens to be the one I’ve re-evaluated more than any other – in terms of judging albums based on their sides, there are very few that equal side A of The Family That Plays Together. It’s perfect.

Seriously, go out and get some o’ this.

So there you have it, my favourite 15 records that I picked up this year.  There are a fair few more, but you need to draw a line somewhere, right?  As well as the thanks to folks who threw records my way, I can’t speak highly enough of those folks who decided to off-load these to the various record stores and charity shops.  Without their actions, they’d never be in my collection!

So, aye … vinyl.  I love it!



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