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Music - CD Catalogue: Pop

Pop CDs I own.

The 'Released' column indicates the year of the album's original release, whether on vinyl or CD. Tracks after '+' are bonus tracks, i.e. added to a CD reissue of a vinyl album, or present only on limited editions.

Ratings are based on a combination of objective merit and personal taste. I don't go in for the Amazon.com convention of giving five stars to anything I like - here, four stars means it's excellent, five stars means it's perfect.

Actively pernicious | Largely dispensable | Has its moments | Life-enhancing | Life-transforming

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Artist Title Rating Released Tracks Notes
A
ABBA Voulez-Vous 1978 10+3 Abba's disco album. Full of top tunes, and not just the singles. Quality bonus tracks too.
ABBA Super Trouper 1980 10+2 Lots of classic pop here, but Benny and Bjorn also seemed to have developed a misguided taste for saccharine ballads. The bonus tracks are a bit substandard, too.
ABBA The Visitors 1982 9+4 The group's last new studio album, permeated by an appropriate sense of melancholy. One or two duffers, but the bonus tracks easily redress the balance.
ABBA Gold 1992 19 Almost all the UK singles - for "Under Attack" and "The Day Before You Came", get The Visitors. What's here is of course timeless, though over-familiarity perhaps makes it harder to enjoy than it deserves.
ABC Beauty Stab 1983 12+1 The critics who slated this because it lacked the glamour of 'The Lexicon of Love' failed to spot that it actually has good songs.
ABC How to be a Zillionaire 1985 10+4 A neglected collection of tongue-in-cheek party tunes. One day its time will come. Perhaps.
ABC Gold 2006 30 As good a "greatest hits" as you could wish for. Don't get too excited by the track count though - CD2 is all remixes.
AC/DC High Voltage 1975 9 Some superb no-nonsense riffing, taking up where the Stones leave off. The glam-rock-influenced second half lets it down a bit.
AC/DC Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap 1976 9 Only three songs really cut it here: the title track, "Squealer" and the surprisingly moving ballad "Ride On". The rest are rather dated 70s chuggers.
AC/DC Let There Be Rock 1977 8 The first album that's recognisably AC/DC from start to finish: no more glam, just slab after slab of classic hard rock. Were it not for the low-voltage "Overdose", this would be perfect.
AC/DC Powerage 1978 9 Possibly their most consistently good record, but for sheer exhilaration it's pipped by "Let There Be Rock".
AC/DC Highway to Hell 1979 10 A full-throttle commercial assault on America. As a generic heavy metal album, it's good, but for all its loudness it lacks something of the wit and fire of its predecessors.
AC/DC Back in Black 1980 10 Lead singer choked on his own vomit? Then get yourself a new one and make the best hard rock album of all time.
AC/DC For Those About to Rock... 1981 10 Quality stadium rock, distinguished by expert riffing and Brian Johnson's demented high-pitched squeal. Tails off a bit in the second half mind you.
AC/DC Flick of the Switch 1983 10 A couple of tracks rise to almost the usual standard, through simple application of a tested formula; but even they are unmemorable and do not truly rock.
AC/DC Live 1992 11 Assaults your pleasure-centres like a Viking pillage.
AC/DC Ballbreaker 1995 11 Their sound's a little softened (a very little) by the slick production, but this is a rock-solid collection of tunes and riffs.
The Adventures The Sea of Love 1988 9 Chiming electric pianos, lush production, tried-and-tested power chord sequences: this was the sound of late 80s Celt-rock. Fortunately a handful of songs transcend the formula, including the gloriously gloomy single "Broken Land".
Air Moon Safari 1998 10 Pleasant ambient doodlings from French keyboard/multi-instrumental duo. The main problem is staying awake long enough to hear it all.
Marc Almond The Stars We Are 1989 10+3 High camp with a strong Hispanic influence. Very different from Soft Cell's work, though similarly marked by Almond's ear for a good tune.
Marc Almond Enchanted 1990 10 Stylistically similar to "The Stars We Are", but more synth-based, and with the camp valve opened to the max. Substandard, though "Waifs and Strays" and "Death's Diary" are superb.
Marc Almond Tenement Symphony 1991 11 Almond teams up with old bandmate Dave Ball, and producer Trevor Horn, to provide a stomping, synth-drenched 80s retro-fest.
Alphaville Forever Young 1984 10 Most regard these Germans as New Romantic also-rans, but on the contrary, they were in the first rank of tunesmiths.
Alphaville Afternoons in Utopia 1986 10 Cheesy Euro-tunes that seem to be in search of a musical. So naff it's cool? Hardly, but recommended for those with no shame.
Alphaville The Breathtaking Blue 1989 10 The Teutonic synthmeisters get ever weirder. Less NewRo melodrama than in their earlier stuff, but distinguished by lush production and inventive tunes.
Alphaville Salvation 2000 15 The sad spectacle of a group trying to relive its 80s glory days, but devoid of ideas or enthusiasm.
Tori Amos Little Earthquakes 1992 12 A mix of irritating sub-Kate Bush oddities and poignant confessional ballads. The latter are real gems.
Tori Amos Songs from the Choirgirl Hotel 1998 12 Kooky and original but not really my bag, as it were.
Anastacia Not That Kind 2001 12 The 4 or 5 raunchy tracks work well, but the overrepresented power-ballads are nauseating.
Arcadia So Red the Rose 1985 9 Atmospheric potboiler by three-fifths of Duran Duran, with some good tunes and all the pretentious melodrama you could wish for.
The Associates Wild and Lonely 1990 11+5 Some excellent songs here; the "off-the-shelf" synth backings are sometimes bland in themselves, but have the advantage of throwing Billy MacKenzie's marvellously impassioned vocals into impressive relief.
B
Banderas Ripe 1991 10 At the dog end of this album of anodyne dance tracks come three gorgeous tunes: "Too Good", "It's Written All Over my Face" and "Never Too Late". None were singles for some reason.
Peter Baumann Phase by Phase 1996 14 A compilation of solo efforts by the longstanding "guest" member of Tangerine Dream during the 1970s. The pieces are more minimalist in texture than TD's recordings, but many of them are pretty. Others, it must be said, border on the unlistenable, particularly those in which Baumann takes the mic.
The Be Good Tanyas Blue Horse 2000 12 Kooky Canadian neo-folk. It's fun, fey, laid-back and a bit repetitious. I'm not suggesting these women are dope-heads, although let's face it, it would hardly be a surprise if they were.
The Be Good Tanyas Chinatown 2003 14 Pleasant, but musically there's no real development from "Blue Horse", in fact it could almost be the same album, which makes buying it rather pointless.
The Beatles Rubber Soul 1965 14 Some top tunes with a soupcon of darkness, as the Beatles teeter on the brink of psychadelia.
The Beatles Help 1965 14 Cheery and tuneful - the Beatles' last straight pop album.
The Beatles Revolver 1966 14 The Beatles start freaking out. Groundbreaking, though not all the experiments have stood the test of time.
The Beatles The Beatles 1968 30 A massive experimental mishmash. Contains many of the group's best tracks, a few of their worst, and some that are just odd.
The Beatles 1962-1966 1973 26 Most of the tracks here can be found on original albums, but not to own 'I Feel Fine', 'We Can Work It Out', 'Day Tripper' and 'Paperback Writer' would be criminal.
The Beatles 1967-1970 1973 28 A one-stop shop of pop: the classic compilation of the group's late material.
The Beautiful South Quench 1998 13 Little that's memorable here, except for 'Perfect 10'.
Bee Gees The Record: Their Greatest Hits 2001 40 Nice to have almost all their classic tunes on one album, even if recordings by other artists were sometimes more characterful.
Big Country The Crossing 1983 10+4 Guitars resembling bagpipes may sound a stupid idea on paper, but it's a testament to BC's energy and conviction that they filled their whole debut album with them without ever sounding ludicrous. Passionate and authentic, this is massively uplifting Celtic rock.
Big Country Through a Big Country: The Greatest Hits 1996 16 After a brilliant debut, Big Country lost their way somewhat, no doubt not helped by singer Stuart Adamson's tragic alcoholism. But at least half the tracks here are worthy testament to his passionate spirit.
Blancmange Second Helpings - The Best of Blancmange 1990 12 Not the catchiest of 80s synth duos, but by some margin the funkiest. A bit mad too.
Blondie Atomic: The Best of Blondie 1998 19+2 Classic breezy post-punk pop. It has attitude, variety more catchy tunes than you can shake a stick at.
Blur Blur 1997 14 Different, but rather too weird for my taste.
Blur Think Tank 2003 13 Strikes a delicate balance between weirdness and commerciality - hats off to 'em.
David Bowie Scary Monsters 1980 10 Some of the Dame's finest singles came from this album, including 'Ashes to Ashes' and 'Fashion'. So if not all of it equals those moments, you can hardly complain.
David Bowie The Best of David Bowie 1974/1979 1998 18 Wouldn't call myself a fan, but I can see the point of him.
James Dean Bradfield The Great Western 2006 11 Has the good tunes and the melancholy of a Manic Street Preachers record, but lacks the passion.
Jackson Browne The Next Voice You Hear: The Best of Jackson Browne 1997 15 Browne's voice is appealing but there's something rather characterless about all this.
Bucks Fizz The Best of Bucks Fizz 1996 16 I bought this because I like 'I Hear Talk'. There, I've said it.
The Burning Bush Klezmer and Hassidic Music 1998 17 Wonderful Yiddish folk music that's full of ambiguity: immediate and ingenius, tragic and jolly.
Kate Bush The Kick Inside 1978 13 First album from the teenage genius. Her mannered, screechy vocals are an acquired taste, but Lordy, what songs.
Kate Bush Lionheart 1978 12 Rather too much silliness going on here, and also too much bland, lifeless playing by session musicians.
Kate Bush Hounds of Love 1985 12+6 One of Bush's two classic albums (the other being "The Kick Inside"). Too odd to be instantly appealing, but once you enter her world, it's an interesting place.
Kate Bush The Sensual World 1989 11 Would be a complete waste of plastic, were it not for 'This Woman's Work', which alone merits an extra star.
C
Cast All Change 1995 12 Breezy Scouse guitar pop. The persuasive energy offsets the terrible lyrics.
Mary Chapin Carpenter Come On Come On 1992 12 Some decent songs, nicely sung.
Mary Chapin Carpenter A Place in the World 1996 12 She sings well and she can write a good tune, but her lyrics are trite drivel.
Mary Chapin Carpenter Time, Sex, Love 2001 14 I've only listened to this once, and that was once too much. Bland, sentimental tripe.
Cluster Sowieso 1976 7 Experimental Krautrock. Intriguing, but pipped by Neu! and Tangerine Dream in the atmosphere stakes.
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions Rattlesnakes 1984 10+4 Some gorgeous tunes whose impact is lessened by very pretentious lyrics and 80s vocal indie-mannerisms.
Ry Cooder Why Don't You Try Me Tonight? The Best of... 1986 12 Tastefully-performed songs by the legendary Blues singer/guitarist.
Julian Cope Floored Genius: The Best of Julian Cope and the Teardrop Explodes 1979-91 1992 20 Ever kooky, and yet unlike many icons of indie cool, he never regarded pop as a dirty word.
The Cox Family Everybody's Reaching out for Someone 1993 12 Sweetly performed bluegrass that consistently stays the right side of sentimentality - quite an achievement given the some of the lyrics.
The Cox Family Beyond the City 1995 13 Ignore the odd cheesy lyric, and revel in the melodiousness and the quality pickin'.
Sheryl Crow Tuesday Night Music Club 1993 11 Competent, superficial Californian rock. Many styles of music are covered without leaving much of an impression, apart from the funky single 'All I Wanna Do'.
Sheryl Crow Sheryl Crow 1996 14 Much better than the first album. Good songs, even if the lyrics are largely meaningless and sung with all the passion of airport announcements.
Sheryl Crow The Globe Sessions 1999 13 'My Favorite Mistake' is a decent song, the only thing here that hits the mark.
Sheryl Crow C'mon C'mon 2002 15 Some good songs, all given the dreary Crow chug-chugging AOR treatment.
Sheryl Crow Detours 2008 15 Illness, mid-life angst and political outrage rouse Crow from her creative torpor. Good tunes, skillful arrangements, and songs sung for once as though she means it.
Crowded House Woodface 1991 14 A classic of pipe-and-slippers pop.
Crowded House Together Alone 1993 13 Some good songs, some rather pedestrian ones. A mysterious ambience.
Crowded House Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House 1996 19+15 A well-chosen 'best of' that includes some good new tunes. The 15-track limited edition live CD makes this a top recommendation.
The Cult Electric 1986 10 Overnight, these Goths turned into Rolling Stones/AC/DC soundalikes. They did it fairly well, as it happens.
Billy Currie Transportation 1988 8 Exhilating swirling synthfest - an excellent mix of Ultravox-style melodrama and more subtle meditative pieces.
Billy Currie Push 2002 11 Synthesised atmospherics and melodrama, much of the latter being in the vein of Ultravox, Currie's old band. Some of the melodies are rather banal, but as a whole this is both a relaxing and an uplifting listen.
Billy Currie Still Movement 2004 11 Pleasant but mostly unexciting collection of meat-and-two-veg ambient tracks. Two more up-tempo pieces lift it - the retro "Simultaneity" with its 70s-style laser zaps, and the funky "Highfalutin".
D
Daft Punk Homework 1996 16 French instrumental dance music. Lazy and immensely banal.
Del Amitri Waking Hours 1990 10 Good lyrics, and pleasant to listen to - possibly a bit too adult for its own good though.
Del Amitri Some Other Sucker's Parade 1997 15+1 Soft Scottish rock. A bit dull.
Depeche Mode Speak and Spell 1981 11+5 The first DM album was mostly written by Vince Clarke, and therefore sounds like Yazoo with a yobby bloke on vocals. Naff and dated, though 'Just Can't Get Enough' is still quite fun, and 'Any Second Now' is gorgeous.
Depeche Mode Construction Time Again 1983 9 Depeche Mode transform themselves from wimpy synthpoppers to Industrial pioneers. Seminal, and still sounds top 20 years on.
Depeche Mode Some Great Reward 1984 9 The follow-up to 'Construction Time Again' was another Industrial classic - this time with a tauter, more urgent sound.
Depeche Mode The Singles 81-85 1985 15+2 The early Depeche Mode were always difficult to take seriously, but they did produce some classic pop tunes.
Depeche Mode Black Celebration 1986 11+3 Some really good songs, and full of original ideas, but the production is gutless.
Depeche Mode Music for the Masses 1987 10 Not their best collection of songs, but the meaty, satisfying sound compensates.
Depeche Mode Violator 1990 9 One of the darkest DM albums, with almost guitar-like screeching and weird sampled segues. A grower.
Depeche Mode Songs of Faith and Devotion 1993 10 The last Mode album with Alan Wilder, and (until 'Playing the Angel') the last one that was half-decent. A solid effort, though the arrangements and sampling lack somewhat the imagination of the earlier work.
Depeche Mode Playing the Angel 2005 12 "The Mode" finally find their feet again, a decade after Alan Wilder's departure. Some good tunes and an exciting sense of menace - but someone really should tell Martin Gore that no one's interested in his low-tempo introspective dirges.
Destiny's Child Survivor 2001 18 Most of this album is rubbish but that still leaves a worrying 6 or 7 tracks that I quite like. May God have mercy on my soul.
Neil Diamond The Greatest Hits 1966-1992 1992 37 For legal reasons, Diamond's songs from the early 70s are represented here by very dodgy live versions. Therefore, 'The Best of Neil Diamond' (q.v.) is an essential complement.
Neil Diamond The Best of Neil Diamond 2000 20 (Mostly) original versions of Diamond's mid-period songs. Some are classics; all convey an overwhelming sense of yearning and existential ennui, or something.
Dire Straits Love Over Gold 1982 5 Includes the epic "Telegraph Road" and "Private Investigations", together with three tracks of quite spectacular forgettableness.
La Düsseldorf Individuellos 1980 9 The most melodic album from Klaus Dinger's post-Neu! project. Good New Wave stuff, though several tracks turn out to be almost identical.
Duran Duran Rio 1982 9 Oh admit it - they *did* write good songs, even if they couldn't play their instruments to save their lives.
Duran Duran Greatest 1998 19 The group plunged from the public view in 1985 - however, as this compilation shows, a rivulet of top tunes continued to trickle forth.
Ian Dury Reasons to be Cheerful (The Very Best of Ian Dury and the Blockheads) 1999 18 Cheeky, life-affirming Cockney funk.
Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited 1967 9 I guess I'll just never be a Dylan fan.
Bob Dylan Blood on the Tracks 1974 10 He can write nice tunes and his voice is evocative - but the songs just go on and on. Perhaps one day I'll understand what the fuss is about.
E
Echo and the Bunnymen Ocean Rain 1984 9+8 Great tunes, nice production, wacky Scouse lyrics, wobbly vocals. A classic from the non-synth side of the early 80s fence.
Echo and the Bunnymen Seven Seas 2005 15 A reasonable "best of" from one of the more tuneful indie bands of the 80s. Missing a lot of their best moments though.
Electribe 101 Electribal Memories 1990 9+2 I bought this for the thrilling Canny 12" Vocal mix of "Talking with Myself". Unfortunately, unremixed, the group's sound was altogether more low-key, indeed one might say soporific.
Electric Light Orchestra All Over the World - The Very Best of... 2005 20 These opulently produced pop nuggets from the 70s and early 80s have aged surprisingly well and in their naff way are really quite uplifting.
Brian Eno Music for Films 1978 18 10/10 for atmosphere, but there's little of interest going on here compositionally.
Erasure Wonderland 1986 11+3 Not so much the first Erasure album, as the last "Vince Clarke" album (after Depeche Mode's "Speak and Spell" and Yazoo's two discs). The production's dated, but with Andy Bell yet to exert his full (dubious) influence on the songwriting, the tunes are all too fab for that to matter.
Erasure The Circus 1987 10+3 Some good old-school pop tunes and some quality synth-work, but also many foreshadowings of the blandness that was to predominate during the 1990s.
Erasure The Innocents 1988 11+2 Stephen Hague's lush production makes for a more atmospheric offering than usual. Perhaps it's rather formulaic, but it's laden with pop hooks, and contains a handful of genuinely well-crafted songs. For all-round appeal, possibly the duo's best album.
Erasure Pop! 20 Hits 1992 21 With Erasure, Vince Clarke never reached the heights of tunesmithery he did with Yazoo, but let's not let that spoil the party.
Eurythmics Touch 1983 9+7 Contains a few classic singles, but on the whole this hasn't aged too well - too many clichéd synth motifs, too many pretentious lyrics, and too much "edginess" trying to substitute for good tunes.
Eurythmics Be Yourself Tonight 1985 9 Annie and Dave at the peak of their success, halfway on the journey from synth pop to yuppie rock. Perhaps too slick for some tastes, but full of musical flair, and without a single duff track.
Eurythmics Revenge 1986 10 Eurythmics attempting to show that they could rock, and kind of succeeding. Bland on first listening, but it grows on you.
Eurythmics Savage 1987 12 Eurythmics return to their synth roots. But this is a deeper, darker album than "Sweet Dreams" or "Touch", with the chirpy dance tunes throwing the embittered lyrics into sharp relief. Top marks for Dave Stewart's crisply atmospheric production.
Eurythmics We Too Are One 1989 9 A rock album, sitting on the other side from "Revenge" of the synth-based "Savage". Like "Revenge", it has atmospheric qualities that don't strike you until after a few listens.
F
Finn Finn 1995 11 Neil and Tim Finn of Crowded House mess around in a studio. Patchy.
Neil Finn Try Whistling This 1998 13 Sounds very like Crowded House, which is what you want.
Neil Finn One Nil 2001 12 Nil nil more like - a real goalless draw of an album. Finn seemed to have lost (hopefully temporarily) his ability to write good tunes.
Franz Ferdinand Franz Ferdinand 2004 11 A bit art-house, a bit punk, a bit disco: all told, a complete musical pastiche of the late 70s. They're at their best when they give full rein to their exceedingly funky rhythm section.
Franz Ferdinand You Could Have It So Much Better 2005 13 FF take heed of the critics and broaden their style, adding McCartney-esque ballads and full-on pogoing punk to their sound. At first they seem to be trying a bit too hard, but the more you listen, the more you appreciate their brilliant tightness as a unit.
Franz Ferdinand Tonight 2009 12 More of the same, really: quite funky but with little to distinguish one track from the next. Towards the end, some tentative synth noises suggest a future direction, if the critics will let them get away with it. I say, go for it!
Edgar Froese Aqua 1974 4 Early solo album from the mainstay of Tangerine Dream. Pleasant listening, but not up there with the group's best stuff.
Edgar Froese Stuntman 1979 6 Possibly his best solo album. The catchy and rather clever Jarre-esque title track stands out for instant appeal, but the rest offers atmospherics aplenty.
Edgar Froese Pinnacles 1983 4 Lovely minimalist atmospherics inspired by the Australian landscape.
Edgar Froese Ambient Highway, Volume 1 2003 4 More slick than his, and Tangerine Dream's, earlier stuff, but certainly superior to the group's vapid recent albums. Nice background music.
Nelly Furtado Whoa, Nelly! 2000 15 She's got spirit and attitude, but not, on this evidence, a great songwriting talent.
Billy Fury The One and Only Billy Fury 1998 20 I bought this for £3 because it had 'Wondrous Place' on it. I didn't have high expectations of the rest of it, which was just as well.
G
Peter Gabriel So 1986 8 Without taming his experimental streak, Gabriel produced an album of unprecedented soulfulness. Arguably the high point of his career.
Peter Gabriel Us 1992 10 An attempt to recreate the magic of 'So' that doesn't really come off, though it has its moments.
Peter Gabriel Hit 2003 30 A few classics here, but quite a bit of this music is more interesting for what it attempts than for what it achieves.
Dick Gaughan Handful of Earth 1981 10 Less cheesy than your average folk album. I prefer his rockier stuff, though.
Dick Gaughan Prentice Piece 2002 21 A compilation from across the folk singer's career. His heart-on-sleeve ultra-Scottish lefty stance isn't of universal appeal, but his voice, both sweet and abrasive, has magic to it, and the production is very well-judged.
Genesis Turn It On Again: The Hits 1999 18 A bit misreprentative perhaps, as they were going ages before they had any hits as such. So this focusses very much on their more commercial material. I don't care - I only bought it for the title track and "Abacab" (am I the only one who likes that song??).
Goldfrapp Felt Mountain 2000 9 Atmospheric, if a bit self-consciously kooky.
Martin Gore Counterfeit Vol. 2 I bought this because occasionally Gore has proved himself a decent songwriter for Depeche Mode. Realising subsequently it's all cover versions, I didn't even listen to it, which is possibly unfair. One of these days I'll check it out. Helpful huh?
Gorillaz Demon Days 2005 13 Earth-pounding beats, catchy synth hooks, a bit of rapping, and that's about it. Throwaway stuff, but intriguingly weird. Good driving music.
Herbert Grönemeyer Mensch 2002 11 A decent and consistent effort by Germany's number 1 solo rocker. Grönemeyer's powerful voice, and decent lyrics, make up for a lack of true musical individuality. The slower, personal songs are rather maudlin, and the most moving thing here is the heavy but poetic electro anthem "Zum Meer".
Herbert Grönemeyer Schiffsverkehr 2011 12 The notes for "Mensch" apply largely to this disc too: it's good but not spellbinding. Once again, a cryptic hymn to the ocean (the title track) steals the show.
Grand Drive Road Music 2001 11 There may be good songs on this album, but so awful are the singer's vocals that I couldn't make it past the second track.
David Gray Sell Sell Sell 1996 12 A nice song, repeated 12 times.
David Gray White Ladder 1998 10 Fab, wistful, romantic songs. Genuine soulfulness runs the gauntlet of mannered Dylanesque vocals and banal lyrics, and comes through unscathed.
David Gray A New Day at Midnight 2002 12 Listened to individually, many of these tunes are superb: Gray can do "plaintive" as well as anyone. But here he does nothing else, and the result is ear fatigue.
H
Daryl Hall and John Oates The Very Best of Daryl Hall and John Oates 2001 18 Laid-back chord sequences, emotion-free vocals, vacuous lyrics: Hall and Oates represented everything that was smug and superficial about the 1980s. Disquietingly though, they represented quite a lot that was enjoyable about them at the same time.
Albert Hammond The Very Best of Albert Hammond 1988 16 Writer of classics like 'The Air that I Breathe' and 'When I Need You', unfortunately Hammond is an undistinguished performer of his own material. Only 'The Free Electric Band' doesn't cry out for a cover version.
Hard-Fi Stars of CCTV 2005 11 For all their "disaffected" posturing, these latter-day Middlesex mods have about as much to say as Justin Timberlake. Still, no faulting the good tunes, tight rhythm section and atmospheric production.
Emmylou Harris Heartaches and Highways: The Very Best of Emmylou Harris 2005 20 Not as cheesy as country music can be, and contains some tolerable stuff.
Heaven 17 Penthouse and Pavement 1981 9 Side 1 is rather contrived "white soul"; side 2 is what the group did best: daft but catchy synthpop. On the whole, a bit overrated.
Heaven 17 The Luxury Gap 1982 9 Heaven 17 added a liberal dose of soul to the standard early 80s electro-pop sound, to produce a subtle but satisfying flavour. The magic ingredient was probably the fab songs.
Heaven 17 How Men Are 1984 9+4 By this time, they were starting to get too clever for their own good, though "Sunset Now", "This is Mine" and "(And That's No Lie)" (sic) continued the stream of classic singles. The bonus tracks are a waste of space.
Heaven 17 The Best of Heaven 17 1992 16 Smug, charisma-free lefty trio purveys track after track of clever, top-quality synthpop.
Heaven 17 Bigger than America 1996 12 They joined the acid house bandwagon rather late in the day, and were a bit old to rave like good 'uns, but this album partakes of the scene's optimistic vibe, and holds the group's best collection of songs since 'The Luxury Gap'.
Heaven 17 Before After 2005 10 The group takes the best dance grooves of the early 00's and polishes them to perfection. The flaws - a lack of great tunes, and Glenn Gregory's straining with the high vocal registers - don't stop this being an addictive and uplifting experience.
Heaven 17 Naked As Advertised 2008 9 Re-recordings of some of the group's early songs, based on the backing tracks from their recent live shows. They rather lack the energy of the originals, but some of them are worth having. The understated cover of the Associates' "Party Fears Two" is excellent.
John Hiatt Meet the Family 1987 8 Sure, it's got Ry Cooder and Nick Lowe on it, but what the over-enthusiastic critics failed to mention is that the songs just aren't up there with Hiatt's best. Overrated.
John Hiatt Slow Turning 1988 12 An enjoyable slice of middle-aged rock that gets better with every listen. Both Hiatt and his band perform with character and exuberance. Superb, witty lyrics.
John Hiatt Perfectly Good Guitar 1993 13 Run-of-the-mill solo rocking.
John Hiatt Walk On 1995 13 Hiatt's recurrent problem once more in evidence: not enough tunes to fit his excellent lyrics into. A couple of decent moments all the same.
John Hiatt Crossing Muddy Waters 2000 11 Pared-down, largely acoustic roots music with fantastic mandolin and guitar playing by David Immerglueck. Absolutely brilliant - why can't all Hiatt's albums be like this?
John Hiatt The Tiki Bar is Open 2001 11 Hiatt and his band The Goners in bland radio-rock mode. A shame, as there seem to be one or two decent tunes in there struggling for life.
John Hiatt Beneath this Gruff Exterior 2001 12 Features some nice slices of the rootsy rock that Hiatt does so well, but when he tries to sound more "modern", he isn't half boring.
John Hiatt Master of Disaster 2005 11 Good lyrics, predictable tunes and arrangements - a trend bucked only by the excellent "Find You at Last".
Mark Hollis Mark Hollis 1998 8 Continues where his band Talk Talk left off - introspective and mellow, but perhaps lacking the instrumental subtlety of the group's late work.
Horse The Same Sky 1990 10 A little-known band that produced mostly bland unmemorable power-pop, but the one wonderful melodramatic classic "Sweet Thing".
Hot House South 1988 10+2 Somewhat pretentious soul with M People's Heather Small on vocals. 'Hard as I Try' is a classic, though, and the cover of 'Crazy' is also good.
Human League Dare 1981 10 Classic tunes, and - unusually for the time - unpretentious lyrics. A loveable period piece.
I
INXS The Swing 1984 10 In their early days INXS presented an original blend of funk, rock and electronica. It was a lot more intriguing than their later music, even if the production was all over the place.
INXS Listen Like Thieves 1985 11 Their best album, I reckon: they'd finally decided they were a rock act rather than a New Wave one, their songs were catchy, and in their unashamedly commercial way they genuinely kicked arse.
INXS Definitive INXS 2003 21 Oddly disappointing. There's too much from the overrated 'Kick' album and not enough from their slightly quirky earlier days. Of the later tunes, why the rockin' 'Heaven Sent' isn't included mystifies me, as it were.
Billy Idol Whiplash Smile 1986 10 Awash with synthesisers and without a real drumkit in earshot, this album showed that rock could be high-tech - as long as you have the right producer (Keith Forsey), a mad guitarist (Steve Stevens) and a singer passionately committed to the Elvis/Jagger ideal.
Billy Idol Greatest Hits 2001 16 Unpretentious cartoon rock. I still think all his best stuff is on 'Whiplash Smile' though.
J
Joe Jackson Night and Day 1982 9 A high concentration of classic singles here. Pretty good all in all, let down chiefly by Jackson's misguided vocal attempts to convince us he's from New York rather than Portsmouth.
Michael Jackson Off the Wall 1979 10 Yes, once he was genuinely funky, even if he didn't always hit the heights of the title track and 'Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough'.
Michael Jackson Thriller 1984 9+3 If you were alive in 1983, you already know every song on this album - but a good handful of these slices of pop-funk remain classics.
The Jam Sound Affects 1980 11 Nice 'n' angry, though doesn't contain any of their classic tunes.
The Jam The Very Best of the Jam 1997 21 Tuneful nuggets of bile.
James The Best of James 1998 18 I can't decide if I find this depressing or uplifting. One thing's for sure - it's choc full of good songs.
Japan Exorcising Ghosts 1984 11 The arty new-ro outfit's finest moments. Seen now, the best track is the funereal, almost synthless 'Nightporter'.
Billy Joel An Innocent Man 1983 10 I'm not convinced you need anything here that isn't on "The Ultimate Collection".
Billy Joel The Ultimate Collection 2000 36 He's not hip, but he's never needed to be: he writes great tunes and great lyrics.
Jon and Vangelis The Best of Jon and Vangelis 1984 9 Pretentious synth-pop that is irritating and uplifting in equal measures.
Howard Jones Human's Lib 1984 10 Jones, huge for a couple of years, is now is a largely forgotten figure of the 80s. Despite the woeful vocals and the dated production, I retain a soft spot for this record. It has some great synth hooks, and "Hide and Seek" is perhaps the best song ever about God.
Quincy Jones The Best of Quincy Jones 1998 16 Pleasant funk from one of the great dance producers. "Ai No Corrida" is easily the best thing here.
K
Kasabian Kasabian 2004 13 If you crossed the Happy Mondays with early Simple Minds, and you were very lucky, you might end up with something like this. Atmospheric and loud - though they may need to learn some new chords at some point.
Kasabian Empire 2006 11 A bit more experimentation with rhythm than on their first album, and somewhat fewer catchy tunes, but otherwise it's more of the same druggy, menacing melodrama. Not bad.
Keane Hopes and Fears 2004 12 No guitars, dramatic piano flourishes, anthemic choruses - it's just like the 80s! Too often, however, the line between sensitive and wet is overstepped; and anyone expecting an album's worth of classics on the strength of 'Bedshaped' and 'Everybody's Changing' will be disappointed.
Kelis Kaleidoscope 1999 14 R&B with a veneer of 'hardness' and plenty of swearing.
Carole King Music 1971 12 Unobjectionable, but not a patch (so to speak) on 'Tapestry'.
Carole King Tapestry 1971? 12 Here King made her own recordings of songs she'd written for others in the 1960s. Classic follows classic.
Kiss Revenge 1992 12 Lairy heavy metal with pretty bad lyrics. Still, does what it says on the tin, and in a few cases, considerably more.
Mark Knopfler Golden Heart 1996 14 One can't help but feel making music comes a little *too* easily to Knopfler. This smooth roots music is never less than pleasant to listen to, but rarely more than that either.
Kraftwerk Radio-Activity 1975 12 Atmospheric and, for an experimental album, very listenable - especially the melodious title track.
Kraftwerk Trans-Europe Express 1977 7 Contains much repetitious, tuneless experiementalism. But 'Europe Endless' is 10 minutes of sheer melodic bliss, and the best thing the group ever did.
Kraftwerk The Man Machine 1978 6 One of the group's most consistently tuneful albums. Includes their most famous song, 'The Model', but the other tracks are easily equal to it.
Kraftwerk Computer World 1981 7 Funky yet relaxing. There's something about the combination of simple, sweet melodies and metronomic beats that is immensely soothing, and can't help but put a smile on your face :)
Kraftwerk The Mix 1991 11 Somebody seemed to think these synth tracks from the dawn of time would be good contenders for an acid house upgrade. Not really: where minimalism is of the essence, more can only mean less. The exception is the upbeat, post-Chernobyl reworking of "Radio-Activity".
Alison Krauss and Union Station Live 2002 25 A bonzer collection of bluegrass, country and blues songs, that mostly avoids sentimental excess.
Alison Krauss and Union Station Lonely Runs Both Ways 2004 15 Another mix of sweetly sung folkish songs, and more upbeat bluegrass stuff. Nice, but could use a bit more bite.
Alison Krauss and the Cox Family I Know Who Holds Tomorrow 1994 12 Religious bluegrass and gospel efforts from a team-up of two quality country acts. Some of the renditions are sublime, some make the best of dull material, while "Loves Me Like a Rock" is spoiled by Sidney taking the mike.
L
Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin III 1970 10 Favours the folky bluesy Zepp over the rockin' one.
Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin IV 1971 8 Rocks, in a most satisfactory fashion.
John Lennon Lennon Legend 1997 20 Possibly all the solo Lennon you'll ever need. Faintly depressing.
Lone Justice Lone Justice 1985 10 Spunky garage/country rock. Best song is Tom Petty's 'Ways to be Wicked' - an unregarded classic.
Nick Lowe Basher: The Best of Nick Lowe 1989 25 Some fine songs here, in a variety of styles. What's missing is the mellow singing voice, and the emotional depth, that he surprisingly acquired in the 1990s.
Nick Lowe The Impossible Bird 1994 13 Ageing pub-rocker loses lover and expiates grief in once-in-a-lifetime gush of totally rocking R 'n' B grooves. Moving ballads are thrown in for variety, and the result is nigh-on perfect.
Nick Lowe Dig My Mood 1998 12 Lowe further investigates his late-found talent as a crooner, keeps the songwriting up to scratch, and delivers another top disc. Lower-key than "The Impossible Bird", but good stuff.
Nick Lowe The Convincer 2001 12 A good collection of laid-back songs with witty lyrics, sung in Lowe's appealing, emotive late-period voice.
Nick Lowe At My Age 2007 12 More pretty good songs in a style you might call "English country". That said, some tracks are a bit too easy on the ear, and his persona of lonesome ladykiller is starting to wear a little thin.
Shelby Lynne I am Shelby Lynne 1999 10 Smoky blues from troubled Alabama belle. The songs are a mixed bag, but brilliant at best.
M
Manic Street Preachers Generation Terrorists 1992 18 Sometimes exhilaratingly punky, sometimes exhilaratingly anthemic, but more often just bog standard teenage indie-rock, this is largely an affair of quantity over quality.
Manic Street Preachers The Holy Bible 1994 13 Juvenile, pseudo-political punk, irritating but musically competent.
Manic Street Preachers Everything Must Go 1996 12 The Manics' first album after Richie James' disappearance. Critical goodwill caused it to be overrated on its release, though it has its share of decent songs.
Manic Street Preachers This is My Truth Tell Me Yours 1998 13 Mostly low-key and depressing, but one of the Manics' most consistent albums. Good songs, executed with passion.
Manic Street Preachers Know Your Enemy 2001 16 A lot of filler here, but when it rocks, man does it rock.
Manic Street Preachers Forever Delayed: The Greatest Hits 2002 20 Even though many of their best tracks haven't been singles, that's not to say that a collection of the latter - plus some decent new songs - isn't a jolly fine investment, Sir.
Manic Street Preachers Lifeblood 2004 12 Starts off drearily, then halfway through comes a slew of atmospheric classics.
Manic Street Preachers Send Away the Tigers 2007 10+1 One of their best, with a good number of massively rousing songs and none that are awful. (If you didn't think John Lennon's original of "Working Class Hero" could be equalled, make sure you stick around for the hidden bonus track.)
Manic Street Preachers Journal for Plague Lovers 2009 13 The band put some lyrics bequeathed them by former member Richey Edwards to music. As a whole, it's a bit raw for my taste, though as usual there are some decent songs.
Aimee Mann Whatever 1993 13 The melancholy of 'Everything's Different Now' (see 'Til Tuesday) starts to stew into the sludge of dreary self-pity in which Mann remains stuck to this day. But at least back in 1993 she still knew how to write good songs.
Aimee Mann I'm With Stupid 1995 13 Arch, bitter and in many cases rather naff songs about being miserable. It grows on you, but as her work with 'Til Tuesday showed, Mann could do better than this.
Aimee Mann Magnolia 1999 12 Music from the film. Only 'You Do' matches the songs Mann wrote with 'Til Tuesday.
Aimee Mann Bachelor No. 3 1999 14 Contains many of the same tracks as the 'Magnolia' soundtrack; the others, sadly, are no better.
Aimee Mann Lost in Space 2002 11 Mann cruelly opens this album with one of the best songs she's ever written ("Humpty Dumpty"), then punishes the listener with slab after slab of forgettable gloom-mongering.
Aimee Mann The Forgotten Arm 2005 12 A higher concentration of good tunes than on her previous outings, but she might have tried a bit harder with the arrangements - the overall style is somewhat monotonous.
Mansun Attack of the Grey Lantern 1997 11 Intriguing - they seemed a band with promise at the time.
Maria McKee Maria McKee 1989 11 Anguished, country-tinged songs by former Lone Justice singer.
Maria McKee Peddlin' Dreams 2005 12 McKee writes some excellent songs, and gives her all in singing them. The only complaint here is a certain saminess of style, but all told, it's good stuff.
Sarah McLachlan Touch 1989 9+1 New Age Canadian folkiness. Screechy yet at the same time rather bland.
Joni Mitchell Clouds 1969 10 Excellent songs, let down by occasionally naive 'hello trees' lyrics.
Joni Mitchell Ladies of the Canyon 1970 12 Pretty dull except for a couple of tracks.
Joni Mitchell Blue 1971 10 Introspective, intense, wistful - an all-time bedsit classic.
Joni Mitchell For the Roses 1972 12 Mitchell matures, mellows and gets slightly into jazz. There's little of the old angst here, which is nice for her - but a bit boring for the rest of us.
Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill 1995 12 First proper album from kooky rock chick. Full-on.
Alanis Morissette Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie 1998 17 More introverted than 'Jagged Little Pill'. Some terrible lyrics.
Alanis Morissette So Called Chaos 2004 10 It rocks well enough, but someone should really have a word with her about those lyrics.
Giorgio Moroder From Here to Eternity 1977 9 Uplifting collection of first-generation synth tunes from the grandfather of trance. Ignore the daft lyrics and you are in for an "eargasmic" treat.
N
Peter Namlook and Klaus Schulze Dark Side of the Moog, Vol 7 1998 6 Er... pretty similar to Vol. 8, which was the first I reviewed; perhaps slightly less memorable. Still, it knows exactly what it wants to do, which is take you into the Zone, and it does it with optimum efficiency.
Peter Namlook and Klaus Schulze Dark Side of the Moog, Vol 8 1999 6 Quality, spooky ambient music from a team-up of first- and second-generation German synthmeisters. Somewhere between 70s Tangerine Dream and The Orb, and every bit as tasty a trip as that sounds.
Peter Namlook and Klaus Schulze Dark Side of the Moog, Vol 10 2005 6 Agreeable, but definitely tending to the bland in places. There is one particularly splendid track, Part 6: an ultra-grandiose evocation of numinous transcendence.
Neu! Neu! 1972 6 Psychadelic, hypnotic early Krautrock. No vocals, which is all to the good. A grower, and excellent driving music.
Neu! Neu! '75 1975 6 Uplifting early synth rock - unusual without being perversely weird. I prefer the instrumentals to the punky vocal tracks, though both styles were very influential on later bands.
New Order Power, Corruption and Lies 1983 8 New Order's preferred method of composition was to create a sequenced dance rhythm, leave it running for five minutes, and then switch it off. Still, there's no faulting the rousing "Your Silent Face", except to say that it's meaningless and incompetently sung.
Gary Numan Strange Charm 1986 8+5 A dance-flavoured album from the dog end of Numan's 80s career. It's quite dated, especially lyrically (check out all the "Whatcha gonna do?"s), but he still had the touch. "My Breathing" in particular will send the blood rushing to the head of any synth-obsessive.
Gary Numan Premier Hits 1996 18 Best known for his first-generation electro anthems "Are 'Friends' Electric?" and "Cars", Numan actually had surprising musical range, as evidenced by his funky early 80s material and the odd, sinuous "Stormtrooper in Drag". Full of classics, this.
O
OMD Architecture and Morality 1981 9+7 The defining moment of their career, containing three classic singles. Surprisingly weird in places.
OMD Dazzle Ships 1983 12 Atmospheric and highly experimental; strangely pleasant listening. Andy McCluskey's offkey vocals are at their anguished best on the excruciatingly miserable 'International' and 'The Romance of the Telescope'.
OMD The Best of OMD 1988 15+3 Required by OMD completists who own 'The OMD Singles', because it includes the chirpy, oft-overlooked 1985 single 'Secret'.
OMD The OMD Singles 1998 18 Varied, inventive tunes from one of the best 80s synth bands. The early songs are all classics; the later tunes are less arresting but have an appealing romantic melancholy.
Mike Oldfield The Platinum Collection 2006 46 Listen to some of the arrangements, melodies and key sequences on this collection and you're forced to acknowledge that Oldfield is not just an original, but a true genius. Unfortunately though, he's a deeply misguided one, as the sickly late New Age work, and the frequently terrible lyrics, make manifest.
Roy Orbison Mystery Girl 1989 10 The guy can't half sing, but only 'She's a Mystery to Me' really grabs me personally.
Orbital Orbtial II 1992 10 Agreeable instrumental acid house, though without the aid of drugs, it doesn't stand up to much scrutiny.
P
Passengers Original Soundtracks 1 1995 14 U2 go ambient, under the direction of Brian Eno. An interesting experiment.
Pet Shop Boys PopArt: The Hits 2003 35 Cynically formulaic synthpop by smug, opportunistic duo who dominated the UK charts in the late 80s. You knew their game but couldn't help occasionally yielding - ooh, the tarts.
Tom Petty Greatest Hits 1993 19 Tom Petty is one of rock's most resilient also-rans. He's no genius, but there's something appealing about his wistful American rock.
Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon 1973 10 Seminal maybe - but not big on tunes and, being brutally honest, pretty dated.
Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here 1975 5 Full of fab atmospherics and plank spanking.
Pink Floyd The Wall 1979 26 Apart from 'Comfortably Numb' and one or two other tracks, I find this pretentious and much overrated.
Pink Floyd Distant Sound of Thunder 1988 15 Live album, with Dave Gilmour's competent vocals making it hard to regret Roger Waters' absence. Check out the extended guitar solo on 'Comfortably Numb - bliss, man.
Placebo Without You I'm Nothing 1998 12 Brian Molko has a good voice, but this is mostly quite depressing stuff.
Placebo Black Market Music 2000 12 Brooding, grungy student music. OK for certain moods.
Robert Plant Now and Zen 1988 10 A rather incoherent collection of songs, as Plant tries a little too hard to show his range; also, there are too many keyboards. However, 'Ship of Fools' is a song that the world should know about.
Pulp DIfferent Class 2006 12 Feeling arty, angry and alientated? Get this.
Q
Queen Greatest Hits 1981 17 Classics of camp-rock, if there is such a thing.
Queen Greatest Hits II 1991 17 Several classics, but in their latter years the band lapsed rather too readily into self-deprecating camp.
R
REM Eponymous 1988 12 Some good songs but I prefer the meatier sound of their mid-90s records.
REM Automatic for the People 1993 12 REM at their folkiest, and, by the critics' consent at least, their best. Haunting, and with only one duff track (the dreary rocker 'Ignoreland').
REM Monster 1995 12 Loathed by the critics because it wasn't Automatic for the People Part Two. In fact, a top rock album, both angry and atmospheric.
REM New Adventures in Hi-fi 1996 14 No-nonsense rock - powerful but with a twist of widescreen melancholy. Like 'Monster', underrated.
REM Up 1998 14 REM go for a more slick, keyboardy sound, but it doesn't work.
REM In Time: The Best of REM 1988-2003 2003 18 Covers the band's most successful and (in my opinion) best period. Includes some decent new songs.
REM Around the Sun 2004 13 Michael Stipe's melancholy vocals improve as the years go by, but unfortunately the band's songwriting shows the opposite tendency.
Gerry Rafferty Baker Street 1998 16 Should soft rock be made illegal? The jury's out, and both sides have presented this compilation as evidence.
Bonnie Raitt Nick of Time 1989 11 Competent blues, though only 'Have a Heart' really does it for me.
Dave Rawlings Machine A Friend of a Friend 2009 9 Gillian Welch's performing partner takes the mike, with Gill in the background. It's quite good, but very derivative of various 60s folk-rock acts: unlike his partner, Rawlings has yet to find a real voice of his own.
Razorlight Up All Night 2004 13+1 21st-century yoof discovers the Boomtown Rats. Some OK songs here, but it sounds as though it was recorded in a garage (and not in a particularly good way).
Robbie Robertson Robbie Robertson 1987 9 Nine excellent rock songs, some of them rather let down by the fussy production and Robertson's feeble vocals.
Rolling Stones Let It Bleed 1968 9 One of their best - even if, let's face it, it can only be downhill from "Gimme Shelter" which opens it.
Rolling Stones Hot Rocks 1964-1971 1986 21 All the classics from the early years.
Diana Ross Diana 1980 8 'Im Coming Out' and 'My Old Piano' are OK, and 'Upside Down' may be the best dance tune of all time, but the remaining 5 tracks here are utterly forgettable.
Michael Rother Flammende Herzen 1977 5+2 Simple instrumental tracks from the mellower half of Neu!, that build up from quiet beginnings to exhilarating futuristic swirls of synth and guitar, against backdrops of hypnotically pummeling drums. Produced by Conny Plank, whose later protegés Ultravox were clearly, and quite rightly, inspired by it.
Michael Rother Sterntaler 1978 6+3 The style of Rother's second solo album is similar to "Flammende Herzen", but less overtly dramatic - the guitar playing has some of the mellowness of Mike Oldfield about it. Not remotely edgy, but there is something quietly heartfelt about it that ends up grabbing you.
Michael Rother Katzenmusik 1979 12+3 Another nice album by the "Neumeister", though it borders on the saccharine at times.
Roxy Music Manifesto 1979 10 'Dance Away' and 'Angel Eyes' are available on Roxy's Greatest Hits album. The other 8 tracks here, which are useless, aren't. Go figure.
Roxy Music Flesh and Blood 1980 10 Plusses: 'Oh Yeah', 'Same Old Scene', 'Over You' and the nice ladies on the cover. Minusses: everything else.
Roxy Music Avalon 1982 10 A yuppie classic - intoxicatingly romantic, if you like that kind of thing, which I most definitely do.
S
Johannes Schmoelling Wuivend Riet 1987 6 Quirky synth tunes written for some bizarre Dutch play about reeds.
Johannes Schmoelling The Zoo of Tranquillity (original) 1988 7 Imaginative, poppy instrumentals inspired by Paul Spooner's cute automata. This original CD is almost impossible to get hold of for sensible money, but if you're lucky enough to find it, it's much superior to the later re-recording.
Johannes Schmoelling White Out 1990 7 Seven superb synth instrumentals inspired by a TV documentary on Antarctica. Proof that melody and atmosphere need not be mutually exclusive.
Johannes Schmoelling Songs No Words 1995 9 A collection of trite piano tunes. The implicit comparison with Mendelssohn is rather a liberty.
Johannes Schmoelling The Zoo of Tranquillity (re-recording) 2003 9 Re-recording of the 1988 record, with many of the old synth sounds replaced by piano, all but ruining a couple of tracks. Still, worth having if you can't get the original. The new pieces are OK if hardly essential.
Johannes Schmoelling Instant City 2006 11 Certainly pleasant to listen to, but really pretty unadventurous compared to his early solo work.
Scissor Sisters Scissor Sisters 2004 11+2 The knowingness of this hyper-camp New York rich kid outfit makes them difficult to love, but this is still a lot better than most of the pap from the mid-"noughties".
Scissor Sisters Ta-Dah 2006 12+1 The group expand their range a little beyond Elton John and Bee Gees pastiches - now they can do doo-wop, New Romantic and Prince as well. Despite their refusal to attempt anything remotely original, it must be said this album really contains some quite splendid songs.
Scritti Politti Cupid and Psyche 85 1985 9+4 Smartarse postmodern dance tracks. Catchy and uplifting summer music.
Scritti Politti Provision 1988 9+2 Underrated follow-up to 'Cupid and Psyche'; if anything, the production is even slicker, making for a superlatively funky experience.
Scritti Politti Anomie and Bonhomie 1999 11 A disappointment. Green drafts in rappers in a wasted attempt to appeal to yoof; worse, the songs are just useless.
Scritti Politti White Bread Black Beer 2006 14 Green offers a new, mellow take on the old 80s Scritti sound, showing the surprise influence of late Simon and Garfunkel. While a smattering more funk wouldn't exactly have gone amiss, this is a splendid return to form on the songwriting front.
The Shamen Hits and Mixes 2006 39 Slightly tongue-in-cheek but expertly executed acid house from the early 90s. Includes excellent nonsensical rapping by Mr. C.
Shriekback Oil and Gold 1985 10 Grizzly evocations of vaguely demonic goings-on. The brooding slow tracks don't do it for me, but the hilariously over-the-top stomper "Nemesis" certainly does.
Carly Simon Coming Around Again 1986 11 Simon largely put the songwriting on autopilot for this 80s commercial smash - yet as bland and soppy as she can be, her voice works magic. For certain moods, this sort of stuff can't be beaten.
Carly Simon Have You Seen Me Lately? 1990 11 Wry songs that reveal Simon as a intelligent, philosophical thinker and a first-rate tunesmith.
Paul Simon Paul Simon 1972 11 Contains 'Mother and Child Reunion', 'Me and Julio', and a host of far less memorable efforts.
Paul Simon There Goes Rhymin' Simon 1973 10 Simon takes on board many musical influences but spews out something uniquely his own. Includes the fab 'American Tune'.
Paul Simon Live Rhymin' 1974 12 OK, but marred by gimmicky gospel arrangements that show neither the songs nor Simon's voice to best effect.
Paul Simon Graceland 1986 11 Simon's evocative voice set off by slick South African rhythms. A very adult album, with all that implies; a grower.
Paul Simon The Rhythm of the Saints 1990 10 Simon's jungle jaunt. The emphasis is on rhythm, making the songs some of his least memorable. But after a couple of listens the atmosphere gets to ya.
Paul Simon You're the One 2000 11 Simon certainly hasn't lost his touch, but as he reaches the end of middle age, his songs get ever more melancholy. No 'Kodachrome' here, kids.
Paul Simon Surprise 2006 11 Paul Simon and Brian Eno might sound an unusual and creatively potent combination, but listening to this you get the feeling they just don't understand each other. And to be honest, Simon's way with a tune isn't what it once was.
Paul Simon The Essential Paul Simon 2007 36 Very little to complain about with this compilation, which includes pretty much all his solo classics.
Paul Simon So Beautiful or So What 2011 10 A welcome return to form, with Simon contemplating spiritual themes to interesting rhythms.
Simon and Garfunkel Sounds of Silence 1965? 12 Naive perhaps but less pretentious than their later albums.
Simon and Garfunkel Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme 1966 12+2 Smug, pretentious songs with lovely tunes.
Simon and Garfunkel Bookends 1968 12+2 A bit weird in places, but conveys with amazing vividness the mood of late 60s New York. (Maybe.)
Simon and Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water 1970 11 Self-conscious and posturing - but every song a classic.
Nina Simone Blue for You: The Very Best of Nina Simone 1997 20 Any song could sound like a classic when projected by Simone's haunting voice. As it happens, lots of these songs are classics in their own right. A double recommendation, then.
Simple Minds Empires and Dance 1980 10 Interesting to hear where the group's roots were, but they didn't yet have much to offer that distinguished them from other experimental synth bands of the time.
Simple Minds Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call 1981 13 At first the weirder tracks disappoint next to 'The American', 'Love Song' and 'Theme for Great Cities', but slowly they have their trippy way with you. Naughty!
Simple Minds New Gold Dream 1982 9 Atmospheric, intoxicating, celebratory - sounds like nothing else.
Simple Minds Sparkle in the Rain 1984 10 Simple Minds' first rock album, with only the odd, ghostly splash of synth recalling their earlier sound. It made more sense in 1984 than it does now, but the visionary optimism and Mel Gaynor's rhythmic fireworks still make it an uplifting listen.
Joyce Sims Come into my Life: Her Greatest Hits 2008 12 Late 80s funk soul from a diva of short commercial shelf life. Most things here sound like lesser versions of her quality hits "All and All" and "Come into my Life".
Sisters of Mercy Floodland 1987 8+2 The apotheosis of Goth.
Sisters of Mercy Some Girls Wander by Mistake 1992 19 Early songs by the Godfathers of Goth. Largely lacks the irony and grandeur of 'Floodland', though the growling cover of 'Gimme Shelter' is good for a laugh.
Patti Smith Group Easter 1978 11+1 Contains the classic 'Because the Night' and various other punk-influenced rock tracks of limited interest.
The Smiths Singles 1995 18 Miserable and yet somehow (at least in parts) uplifting.
Soft Cell The Singles 1986 11 Unashamedly commercial synthpop on sleazy themes. For me this is *the* sound of the early 1980s.
Bruce Springsteen Born to Run 1975 8 Reasonable but in my opinion, he hadn't yet acquired the depth to carry off slow stuff, or - except for in 'Born to Run' and 'Jungleland' - fully got the hang of rocking.
Bruce Springsteen Darkness on the Edge of Town 1978 10 I've yet to listen to this properly, but on first listening it sounds like a 3-star job to me.
Bruce Springsteen The River 1980 20 20-track monster with a consciously "live" feel. Some great music here at the loud and quiet ends of the spectrum, but the mid-paced stuff in between doesn't quite cut the mustard.
Bruce Springsteen Nebraska 1982 10 Simple acoustic yarns about Yankee drifters, loners and losers. Engaging, if gloomy.
Bruce Springsteen Born in the USA 1984 12 Mostly upbeat, though the songs are always tinged with melancholy. That ambiguity is the essence of Bruce and why he's strangely inimitable.
Bruce Springsteen Tunnel of Love 1987 12 Favours the introspective Bruce; a bit more rockin' wouldn't have gone amiss.
Bruce Springsteen Human Touch 1992 14 A generous helping of Bruce, with rockers and ballads carried off with equal conviction. Many felt he was past it by this stage, but I won't have that.
Bruce Springsteen Lucky Town 1992 10 An afterthought from the recording of 'Human Touch', but every bit as good as its companion album. Raw, passionate and bleeding sincerity.
Bruce Springsteen The Rising 2002 15 Songs about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Well-intentioned, but a bit trite.
Bruce Springsteen Devils and Dust 2005 12 A return to the depressing territory of "Nebraska", with some top moments but its share of filler.
Bruce Springsteen We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions 2006 13 Covers by Springsteen and a huge posse of other musicians of songs made famous by Pete Seeger. Very rough and ready, and not really my thing, but good of its kind.
Squeeze East Side Story 1981 14 A slew of hit singles justifiably issued from this album. The tunes and lyrics are excellent - but the cool-headed archness, and Glenn Tilbrook's uninvolved vocals, make this a less likeable record than it perhaps should be.
Rod Stewart The Story So Far 2001 34 Rod has the ability to make any song his own - unfortunately, some would say, but I say respect to the gravel-throated old romantic.
Barbra Streisand Guilty 1980 9 Say what you like, but (a) the woman can sing; (b) the Gibb brothers wrote some corking songs; and (c) 'Woman in Love' in particular is musical gorgeousness of the highest order. The undeserved naff image of this album simply doesn't do its content justice.
The Style Council The Style Council Collection 1996 20 Much-derided at the time, 'The Council' did produce some top songs.
Donna Summer Endless Summer: The Best of Donna Summer 2004 19 All the great diva's finest moments but BE WARNED: the version of 'I Feel Love' here is not the full 5-minute version. Therefore you MUST get that somewhere else, such as on 'The Very, Very, Very Best of 70s Disco" (q.v.).
Alicia Svigals Fidl 1997 16 Violin-based Klezmer pieces, haunting and played with ferocious spirit. Brilliant.
T
Talk Talk The Party's Over 1982 9 Dated sixth-form synth rock. 'Today' is OK I suppose, in its ludicrous melodramatic way.
Talk Talk It's My Life 1984 9 The adult side of New Romanticism. Imaginative arrangements, excellent songs. Needs a couple of listens to get into.
Talk Talk The Colour of Spring 1986 8 Ou sont les synthesisers d'antan? Talk Talk throw off their New Romantic garb for good, bring the tempos down, and produce an album of introspective fabness.
Talk Talk Spirit of Eden 1988 6 If Mark Hollis got any more introspective, he'd disappear completely. As remote as this album is, it is a strangely soothing experience - a communication, one feels, from the very edge of life. (That's rather pretentious - Ed.)
Talk Talk Asides Besides 1998 28 Two CDs: one of bloated 12-inch singles; the other capturing one of the best B-side canons in pop.
Tangerine Dream Alpha Centauri 1971 3+1 Very early synthscapes by the Teutonic hippies. Intriguing, but you'd surely need to be in a very strange state of mind to actively enjoy it.
Tangerine Dream Phaedra 1974 4 Odd, almost inhuman electronic soundscaping. A good way of leaving civilisation behind for a while.
Tangerine Dream Rubycon 1974 2 See notes for 'Phaedra' - it's pretty similar.
Tangerine Dream Ricochet 1975 2 Live electro-weirdness. No album takes me into the "Zone" like this one.
Tangerine Dream Stratosfear 1976 4 The group moves on from the amorphous doodling of their earlier albums, and adds a few acoustic sounds into the mix (Ennio Morricone is a clear influence). The result is odd and rather intriguing, though less of a total chill-out experience than normal.
Tangerine Dream Encore 1977 4 A meaty 80-minute helping of the group, recorded live in the USA. Fantastically atmospheric.
Tangerine Dream Force Majeure 1979 3 This album's sound is cool and bracing: like a spring day after rain. More guitars than usual. Finishes off with the edgily hypnotic "Thru Metamorphic Rocks".
Tangerine Dream Pergamon 1980 2 A live album that uses much of the same material as 'Tangram'.
Tangerine Dream Tangram 1980 2 Relaxing, though for me it has a chilly, slightly depressing feel.
Tangerine Dream Exit 1981 4 This is the album that introduced the group's pop phase, with the exhilarating 'Choronzon' the stand-out track. But it's not short on atmosphere, either. Cool!
Tangerine Dream Logos 1982 3 Pleasantly trance-inducing electro-doodling, interspersed with catchy pop tunes. Recorded live.
Tangerine Dream White Eagle 1982 4 The 'Dream's most rhythmical album, almost sounding like dance music at times. It's a far cry from the otherworldly 'Phaedra', but it's no less enjoyable, on its own terms.
Tangerine Dream Hyperborea 1983 4 An atmospheric evocation of the Arctic wastes that for some unfathomable reason includes lots of sitar-like sounds.
Tangerine Dream Poland 1984 4 A live album consisting of upbeat pop melodies connected by atmospheric doodlings. A good introduction to the group's Johanness Schmoelling period work.
Tangerine Dream Le Parc 1985 9 This is the TD album for Jean-Michel Jarre fans: replete with pop tunes, lushly produced and without a segue in earshot. Despised by purists, but liked by most casual listeners. It works.
Tangerine Dream Underwater Sunlight 1986 6 For me, this is the last really good TD album. Classically-trained keyboardist Paul Haslinger adds compositional know-how to the group's synth sound, with convincing results.
Tangerine Dream Livemiles 1988 2 Has its moments, but much of this album lacks either atmosphere on the one hand, or good tunes on the other.
Tangerine Dream Mars Polaris 1999 10 Comeback? Schmomeback. The band spews out grandiose electro-chords ad nauseam, never once looking beyond the obvious compositionally or sonically. Still, offensive it ain't.
Tangerine Dream The Bootleg Box Set Vol. 1 2003 9 Recordings by punters of some of TD's mid-70s concerts. Recording quality is mostly surprisingly good, and even where it's not, that only seems to enhance the music's remoteness. A must for "Dreamheads" - especially the Bilbao concert, quite unusual with its pseudo-jungle sound effects.
Tangerine Dream The Bootleg Box Set Vol. 2 2004 26 Late-70s and early-80s bootlegs of the group's live concerts. Some of the material is more or less duplicated from studio albums, and lots of "Encore" is here too. Therefore not quite as good value as Volume 1, but again, fans shouldn't think twice about acquiring it.
Tangerine Dream Jeanne d'Arc 2006 9 See notes for "Mars Polaris". As far as I can tell, it's the same album with one of the tracks lopped off. (I don't know which.)
Tangerine Dream Live in Preston, November 5 1980 2006 14 Another bootlegged live recording of the "Dream". Don't be put off by the less than glamorous venue - this is another classic collection of electro-doodlings.
Tangerine Dream Hyperborea 2008 2008 5 A surprisingly good re-recording of one of the group's most accessible 80s albums, which wraps the atmospherics of the original in a smoother, more subtle sound. Top job.
Tangerine Dream Tangram 2008 2008 7 A woefully misjudged, dancified reworking of the first Schmoelling-period album. The cool, enigmatic sound of the original is pumped full of steroids, to grotesque effect.
Tears for Fears The Hurting 1983 10+4 Catchy pop songs about child neglect. Hardly a barrel of laughs, but top stuff nonetheless.
Tears for Fears Songs from the Big Chair 1985 8+7 This yuppie favourite seemed so "of its time" in 1985, it's a surprise now to hear how good it is, and how well it's aged. The songs are all top-notch and executed with passion and precision.
Tears for Fears Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits 82-92) 1992 12 Hits from the first three "Fears" albums, plus the rather good 1992 single "Laid So Low". Can't say fairer than that.
Tears for Fears Everybody Loves a Happy Ending 2004 12 Curt and Roland reunite. Everything about this 60s/early 70s-flavoured album is tasteful and competent, but nothing about it is at all exciting. The passion is all gone.
10CC The Very Best of 10CC 1997 18 'I'm Not In Love', 'The Things We Do For Love' - classics. But if you're wondering why so many of the other tracks here are unfamiliar, a quick listen should offer clarification. When the 70s were bad, they were terrible.
Richard and Linda Thompson I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight 1974 10+3 One should be open-minded about everything, even folk music, but when when one finds it irritating as heck one should say so. Even "Does He Have a Friend for Me?" is far surpassed by Maria McKee's cover version.
'Til Tuesday Voices Carry 1985 11 Good tunes, naff lyrics. A talented AOR band finding their feet.
'Til Tuesday Welcome Home 1986 10 Fortunately, 'Til Tuesday performed their songs with infinitely more taste than they dressed.
'Til Tuesday Everything's Different Now 1988 10 Catchy, upbeat pop tunes about real-life heartbreak. Slick yet deep, and every song top quality.
U
U2 The Unforgettable Fire 1984 10 Quite atmospheric, but has dated surprisingly badly. And the youthful Bono's vocals have little to recommend them.
U2 The Joshua Tree 1987 11 Undeniably pretentious, but the yearning melodies and The Edge's shimmering fretwork save the day.
U2 Achtung Baby 1991 12 The 'irony' is laboured, the lyrics are dire, and even the tunes barely register in the memory. So why is this album a classic? Dunno, but it is.
UB40 The Best of UB40, Volume 1 Buying this album made me realise I liked UB40 less than I thought.
Ultravox Vienna 1980 9 Po-faced, pretentious, nonsensical and almost totally irrelevant to the 21st Century. Nevertheless renderered essential by the title track and the brilliant instrumental 'Astradyne'.
Ultravox Rage in Eden 1981 9+3 Ultravox's most consistent album. It makes no sense at all, but it's rousing stuff, full of synth-rock classics. The quality bolted-on B-sides compensate for a couple of substandard tracks on the original album.
Ultravox Quartet 1982 9 'Hymn', 'Reap the Wild Wind' and 'Visions in Blue' are good enough songs to rise above George Martin's lacklustre production (one senses he wasn't really a fan). The lesser tunes certainly suffer for it, though.
Ultravox Lament 1984 8 The last decent Ultravox album. As usual, risibly pretentious, but saved by pounding rhythms and good tunes.
Ultravox Original Gold 1998 30 An incoherent collection of singles, album tracks and B-sides from the Midge Ure years. No neglected classics here, but Midge's solo cover of 'No Regrets' and a couple of the instrumentals are worth having.
Ultravox! The Island Years 1999 16 Only one group was more preposterous than Midge Ure's Ultravox, and that was the John Foxx-led Ultravox! (sic) that preceded it.
The Undertones Teenage Kicks - The Best of the Undertones 2001 20 Feargal Sharkey's vocals add something weirdly soulful to the punk sound. Needless to say, the best-known songs are also the best, but there are a few hidden gems here too.
Midge Ure The Gift 1985 11 The pointy-sideburned one's first solo effort. Quite similar in sound to Ultravox, if a little more reflective and with slightly less pretentious lyrics.
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Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons The Definitive Frankie Valli and the Four Seaons 2001 26 Only a superlatively irritating voice could spoil such a treasure trove of classic pop tunes as this. Sadly, Frankie rises to the challenge almost every time, only just curbing his falsetto excesses in time to make 1975's "December 1963" a good reason for owning this collection.
Various The Best of James Bond (30th Anniv. Collection) 1992 19 Original versions of all the Bond themes up to 'The Living Daylights'. Every one's a winner!
Various 20 Greatest Western Themes 1994 20 Arggh! NOT the original movie/TV themes, but disco-muzak recordings of the type that any sane person can see should be illegal.
Various Ambient Acoustic 1996 30 The sound of snails crawling across keyboards (Disc 1) and guitar strings (Disc 2).
Various Shaken not Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project 1997 11 New versions of some Bond themes by guest artists. Some are unrecognisable and some are unimaginative retreads, but most get top-notch treatment. (Pulp's version of 'All Time High' is notable for being better than the original.)
Various The Very, Very, Very Best of 70s Disco 1998 34 Many excesses of naffness here, but boy is it a nostalgia-fest.
Various The Best of Dance 98 1998 44 I can't remember why I bought this.
Various Rave Anthems 1998 41 Naff but uplifting dance tunes from the early 90s.
Various Dance Anthems Vol. 2 1998 40 A few classics, but a lot of things you presumably need to be on drugs to enjoy.
Various O Brother, Where art thou? (Music from the Motion Picture) 2000 19 This film did the impossible and made bluegrass music hip for 5 minutes. That could only have happened with top-notch material that undermines country's sentimental image.
Various House Classics 2004 54 A nice selection of old school and early 00's tunes, all for £3.
Various Funk Soul Classics 2004 39 A quality selection of lightweight disco choons from the late 70s and early 80s.
Various Electric 80s 2005 46 Some of the best-loved synth tunes of the 80s - several in 12" versions, which aren't always as pointless as you might expect.
Various Funky House '06 2006 42 Utter throwaway rubbish, with barely anything resembling a song. Who cares though? It's House, and it's funky.
Various 100 Hits: Disco 2007 100 A good value compilation, centred on the genre's 70s heyday but with some later stuff thrown in. There's something here for everyone to love, something for everyone to hate.
Visage The Damned Don't Cry 2000 16 One of the most ridiculous of all New Romantic acts: no irony should be inferred from Steve Strange's dress sense. For all that, the opening bars of 'Fade to Grey' still send a shiver down my spine. Oh God.
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Jennifer Warnes Famous Blue Raincoat 1987 9 Leonard Cohen's songs are better than his singing, which admittedly isn't saying much. Getting Jennifer Warnes to sing them instead is therefore a good idea. Shame about the lyrical pretentiousness, though.
Gillian Welch Revival 1996 10 Haunting folk/blues with an undercurrent of dreamy strangeness. Every song beautifully written, beautifully sung, beautifully arranged.
Gillian Welch Hell Among the Yearlings 1998 11 Similar to "Revival", but with more banjos. It's pleasant, but doesn't have the same magic as the earlier album: the tunes tend to the throwaway and the lyrics are sometimes daft.
Gillian Welch Time (The Revelator) 2001 10 Old-school folk-pop with good tunes and generous helpings of both irony and emotion.
Gillian Welch Soul Journey 2003 10 Welch expands her sound, with ambivalent results. On many tracks both Welch and the backing musicians play like an ME sufferers' collective; and despite some good songs, an equal number get by on a great deal of repetition.
Gillian Welch The Harrow and the Harvest 2011 10 A return to the folky style of the earlier albums. It's engaging, and definitely better than "Soul Journey", but it lacks the intensity of "Revival" and "Time".
Paul Weller Wild Wood 1993 16 Weller's 90s comeback album. Can't say I listen to it much.
Paul Weller Stanley Road 1995 12 Weller on a songwriting roll. However, his voice gets irritating.
Paul Weller Illumination 2002 13 Warning: If you see a CD on offer for £3 on the home page of the HMV Web site, DON'T BUY IT.
Steve Winwood Arc of a Diver 1980 7 Less polished than his later solo albums, but the songs are compositionally more ambitious. Includes possibly the only instance of the phrase "My rock 'n' roll is putting on weight" ever recorded.
Steve Winwood Back in the High Life 1986 8 Some classics, some rather forgettable efforts, but nothing that's less than tasteful.
Steve Winwood Roll With It 1988 8 Winwood at his best: he could almost give white soul a good name.
Steve Winwood Refugees of the Heart 1990 8 Another reasonably solid Winwood outing, though it peters out towards the end.
Steve Winwood Junction Seven 1997 11 A couple of classics, but much of it is 'Winwood-by-numbers'.
Steve Winwood Nine Lives 2008 9 Latin-influenced rhythmical intricacy that's a bit short on memorable tunes. "The Raging Sea", mind you, is as funky as it gets.
The Wonder Stuff If the Beatles Had Read Hunter... The Singles 1994 18 Punchy lyrics, integrity and some good songs... though not quite enough of the latter.
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Y
Yazoo Upstairs at Eric's 1982 11 The beeps and gurgles sound very dated now, but that's probably part of the charm. And the catchy tunes, of course.
Yazoo You and Me Both 1983 11 Further adventures in catchy but melancholy synthpop. Both Vince and Alf are on top songwriting form.
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