Danny Baker’s Great Album Showdown is looking to identify the Finest Album of All Time. Starting on 5th February and continuing over three episodes on BBC4 Danny and his team of experts will decide which were the best Rock, Pop and R&B albums ever made.
This sounds to me like a Thoroughly Good Idea. I was wondering when someone was going to sort that out for me…
Mind you, I can think of no-one better than Danny Baker to chair this debate and it’s great to distract him from football for an hour or two and get him on to the subject of music. Danny Baker was formerly a writer with The NME back when being a writer at The NME was almost as glamorous as being in one of the bands they wrote about. Given they tended to write about bands like Sham 69, that’s rather damning him with faint praise, of course. Danny will be joined by Stephen Street – producer of The Smiths, Blur and Kaiser Chiefs plus Kate Mossman, music writer from The Guardian, to discuss the best Rock record in the first show.
The biggest flaw I can find thus far is that they are also asking Jeremy Clarkson to contribute some ideas. Not that I have any objection to Mr Clarkson per se. Were the debate around which was the finest Ferrari of all time, or perhaps whether an old sports jacket should be worn with jeans (not with that haircut, I would suggest), then Clarkson’s your man. If I wanted to hear a pithy and slightly scathing review of the latest Ford Tippex perhaps spoken in a voice that ACCENTUATES CERTAIN WORDS then I’d ask for Jezza every time. I’d certainly call upon the great man if I wanted someone to make some slightly rude remarks about a third world country and their hygiene / cuisine / manufacturing capabilities / propensity to take naps during the day instead of working. However, I can’t help feeling that Clarkson’s appointment on a music panel can only lead to Genesis’ Selling England By The Pound, The Doobie Brothers, and Pretzel Logic by Steely Dan getting rather more airtime than they perhaps deserve…
The elephant in the room, of course, is that four people are going to struggle to solve one of Life’s Great Mysteries Once And For All in just an hour. It takes me longer than that sometimes to find a pair of matching socks. It might take much of that time just deciding whether The Beatles are Rock or Pop (I’m going for Pop).
But well done to them for trying.
Leaving aside the sheer lunacy of weighing up whether Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is a greater record than either Black Sabbath’s Paranoid or Bruce Willis‘ The Return of Bruno, I do like the fact that the album is being celebrated. Whilst others consume downloads
like footballers consume page 3 girls like butterflies flit between flowers sampling from each, I prefer to spend a little time with each artist. It seems unfair to just pop in for a quick cup of tea and then disappear off. I like to stay for a chat and a slice of battenburg. I know everyone else is watching YouTube downloading individual tracks or thrilling to the delights of pressing the shuffle button on their iPod so that a track by Lana Del Ray pops up alongside Voivod.
But I still believe the album is the best way to get a sense of what a band or singer is all about. A single can be great, but is sometimes more prone to being unrepresentative of an artist. (Not always: In the case of Jedward you don’t need to hear more than a few notes of a single to know they are irredeemably terrible).
Albums also help when you look back at older music. When you see a Picasso and know it’s, say, from his Blue Period you can contextualise what was happening in the world at the time and what the artist was going through. Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks is his break-up album. Low is from David Bowie’s Berlin period. New Kids On The Block’s entire back catalogue is from their utter garbage period. These were all lasting statements of where the artist was at that point in time. It carried weight.
But whilst we wait for the show to air, perhaps the readership of Every Record Tells A Story can reach a verdict on The Greatest Rock Record of All Time?
Here’s a poll: if you want to have your say I have come up with half a dozen suggestions – why not vote for your favourite – and let’s see what conclusion we reach…?
Perhaps I’ll email Danny Baker with our conclusion and see what he has to say…
Danny Baker’s Great Album Showdown is broadcast at 9pm Tuesday 5th February.
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