Saturday, 23 October 2010

Three in a Row

Nominate one band or artist to have released three classic albums in a row. It’s a question I used to ask a lot at parties. It’s a great ice breaker, whatever the company, whatever the tastes (or lack of taste). And it’s a question I’ve been thinking about again recently.

For the record, my three in a row album nominations are Dylan’s ‘Bringing It All Back Home’, ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ and ‘Blonde on Blonde’. Recorded between January 1965 and March 1966, this trilogy represents Dylan’s at the apex of his song writing skills, the absolute pinnacle of his career. While he may have peaked, periodically, in the forty odd years since they were released and may, arguably, have recorded better albums, there is no other time that has witnessed Bob Dylan in such a sustained period of lyrical genius. None of which should come as any great surprise to anyone who knows me.

So I’ve been again posing this question to my fairly eclectic set of friends. The results are interesting. Firsts are common. The first three Clash albums have come up a couple of times, while my mate, Ian, went for the first three Queen albums. The Clash are an obvious, but not unappealing, choice, while the first three Queen albums are indeed brilliant and much underrated.

I canvassed a lot of female friends but this is a curiously male question, arising out of our need to order the world, catalogue it and draw up lists of the most trivial nonsense. “I don’t know,” my mate Sue responded, “how many albums have Elbow done?” She seemed to have missed the point, the question wasn’t, name three albums. My cousin, musician Helen Maher, said she would at a stretch pick the first three Tori Amos records, but she’s not a huge of fan of ‘Boys for Pele’, which I agree is a bit uneven. And I was extremely proud of my brother’s girlfriend, Caroline, who after telling me her mind always goes blank whenever anyone asks her for her top 5 films etc., came up with Faith No More’s, ‘The Real Thing’, ‘Angel Dust’ and ‘King For a Day (Fool For a Lifetime)’. A legendary choice Caroline.

So it’s interesting that while being a very male question, the best answers mostly came from women. American friend, Ehrinn, said she didn’t have one, but then did some research and came back with ‘Love Over Gold’, ‘Brothers in Arms’ and ‘On Every Street’ by Dire Straits. Her friend down in Arizona, Kera, nominated Porcupine Tree, an English band I’ll confess I’d not heard of before. I’ve heard about little else since (only kidding Kera). But my favourite answer ever is from my mate, Michelle. “Radiohead.” she said. Ok, I replied, which three? “Any three, they’re all brilliant.” I cannot in all conscience disagree.

There were some surprises. My oldest friend, John, says there aren’t three. He likes my choices, but he’s not a big fan of ‘Blonde on Blonde’ (too much harmonica for his liking). I’d expected my cousin’s boyfriend, the musician Steve Parry, to come back with Miles Davies or Coltrane or something, but he instead went for ‘Foxtrot’, ‘Selling England’ and ‘The Lamb Lies Down Broadway’ by Genesis. I don’t know them well enough to comment. The prize for coolest answer though goes to my brother, Rich ‘The Force’ Maher, bass player with metal outfit, Against All, and all round metal musicologist. He picked, Clutch: ‘Pure Rock Fury’, ‘Blast Tyrant’, ‘Robot Hive/Exodus’. Nice one Force.

So then me and Rich started talking about four in a rows. Tricky. I could tag ‘John Wesley Harding’ to the end of my choices for four Dylan in a row. The first four Led Zeppelin we agreed were a definite. There is also the first four Black Sabbath albums, which is what Henry Rollins believes El Nino should be renamed. "Bakersfield, California, was destroyed today by the first four Black Sabbath albums.” Sounds a much more frightening prospect than, The Child. Five in a row? Now that’s almost impossible, even Bob can’t manage that. The first five Queen, possibly. It’s hard enough for bands to produce five good albums in a row, never mind five classics.

Anyway, join this entirely trivial debate and add your nominations for three in a row classic albums, as well as four in a row, five in a row etc.


1 comment:

  1. Predictably enough I would go for:
    Captain Beefheart: 'Trout Mask Replica','Lick My Decals Off, Baby','The Spotlight Kid' or
    Half Man Half Biscuit: 'This Leaden Pall','Some Call It Godcore','Voyage To The Bottom Of The Road'