I enjoyed this celebration of music albums and how they affect our lives. My favourite part was the introduction by Tom Gatti (deputy editor of the New Statesman), in which he traces the history of albums, the threat from the trend for streaming and shuffling individual tracks, discusses format snobbery and talks about some of the most important albums in his life (including Radiohead’s The Bends, which is also one of mine). This is followed by fifty short pieces in which writers – some I already knew of, some I didn’t – talk about albums which mean a lot to them. It’s supposed to be about albums that are, or were, ‘cherished’ but not necessarily favourites.
There is a diverse representation of writers, genres and musical eras. David Bowie and Joni Mitchell are each featured twice. I hadn’t heard of some of the albums, while others I knew of but were not to my taste. However, I was quite excited to see four of my very favourites included: The Beatles’ Revolver (thank you, Alan Johnson), Kraftwerk’s The Man-Machine (via Neil Tennant), Radiohead’s OK Computer (from Sarah Hall) and Talk Talk’s The Colour of Spring (Jason Cowley). I do think there is a bias towards the albums or musicians that critics usually cite as the greatest. Everyone will be judged by their music taste in a book like this. No one is going to contribute something that will render them terribly uncool. Unless they did, and it wasn’t included. There are at least two snipes at Genesis (why do ‘musos’ hate them so much?), which reminded me of Paul Morley in A Sound Mind (also published by Bloomsbury) shuddering to think that a Genesis track could be the last song he ever heard.
Some of the pieces were very interesting, while others I had to skim. I preferred the writing which focused mainly on memoir, as it was more readable than descriptions of the music. In summary, I liked the book but not enough to want to re-read.
Thank you to Bloomsbury for the advance copy via NetGalley. The book will be published on 10th June.