There are too many albums: how can anyone choose just five? There is too much music that has touched me over the years: made impression, stayed with me, left memories. For this list of five albums, I tried to think of five albums that have been with me for a long time: that means they’re all various kinds of old. I picked albums I can listen to anytime, anywhere, all the way through. Could the list be longer? It could indeed, but if stranded on a deserted island, I’d be pretty happy with this soundtrack.
The Beatles – ‘Help’ (1965)
By the time I found this album in my parents’ LP-collection, The Beatles were broken up, though John Lennon was still alive (just to anchor that in the far-far away time of my youth). I was maybe eleven? I remember listening to it and being completely and utterly blown away. Surely I must have heard the band before, but I don’t think I’d ever really listened to them. It was like being struck by lightning, and I immediately ran over to my best friend’s house with the LP under my arm and made her listen to it. I could put a lot of Beatles albums on this list (Abbey Road and The White Album come to mind), but this one definitely caused an explosion in my mind.
Sinéad O’Connor – ‘The Lion And The Cobra’ (1987)
This album stunned me when I first listened to it in 1987. It was because of the music, yes, but more than that, it was the lyrics and the vocals that really pierced me through and through. It spoke to me as a young woman in a way that few albums ever have. ‘Troy’ remains one of my all-time favourite songs, and one of my all-time favourite vocal performances. (Just listen to her scream: “I’d kill a dragon for you!”) Say what you will about O’Connor (and her life certainly hasn’t been an easy one), but she had a voice that is/was fierce, beautiful, and can cut and soothe you in the same breath. And her lyrics? Her lyrics are poetry, and amazing poetry to boot.
U2 – ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ (1984)
I loved U2 with a passion for a long time: both Boy and War were amazing albums, but for me, this album is the pinnacle of their work. Strange, dreamlike, mesmerizing… it’s a thing of ethereal beauty and soul-bending power. The band never quite went this way again, and since The Joshua Tree their sound has become something else, and it just doesn’t move me as it once did. No harm, no foul: they’re older and so am I. Still, this remains an album I could listen to forever and never get bored with.
Politically aware, blending poetry and music, and singing with a voice that speaks honestly and full of emotion, but without pretense: Chapman can do no wrong, as far as I’m concerned. It was a revelation to hear her first album, because it was so stripped down and down to earth. Her music still holds up after all these years, it still feels new and fresh, because of the lack of fuss and gloss. A classic.
AC/DC – Back In Black (1980)
This is quintessential hard rock, to me. The kind of music that will make you headbang whether you want to or not. I considered several Led Zeppelin albums for this list, and yes, Led Zeppelin is a superior band, and tracks like Black Dog, No Quarter, and When The Levee Breaks are perhaps more profound and multi-layered musically and lyrically than AC/DC, but Back In Black stands out because it’s the very definition of “all killer, no filler”. This album is no-brains, but all heart, guts, and libido, chock-a-block with blistering, rumbling hits. As soon as I hear that bell toll for ‘Hells Bells’ at the start of the album, it’s ON. I still kind of wish that the tune Back In Black would play whenever I enter a room: like a theme-song. Something to strive for, I guess!