The more I think about it, 1986 couldn’t compare with a decade earlier, not really. But it was exciting for me to have to make some real decisions about my Top 5 nevertheless. With 1987, I am faced again with the question: “Are there even five albums that I consider worth including?” As you’ll see below, the answer is “yes.” But that “yes” is accompanied by the realization that, despite my wide-ranging tastes, I haven’t heard but the tiniest fraction of everything that’s out there. So, drawing (as ever) provisionally and subjectively on that tiniest fraction, my Top 5 Albums of 1987!
5. GAUDI (The Alan Parsons Project)
APP’s final record finds them drawing inspiration from the life and work of Spanish architectural iconoclast Antoni Gaudí. The concept doesn’t really follow through except for the spectacular “La Sagrada Familia” and the concluding instrumental “Paseo de Gracia,” but in-between you get the bittersweet ballads “Closer to Heaven” and “Inside Looking Out,” which prove that, in addition to being an underrated songwriter, Eric Woolfson was an underrated singer as well.
4. TANGO IN THE NIGHT (Fleetwood Mac)
I actually picked up Tango in the Night because I was so enamored of last year’s Days Are Gone (Haim), which owes a deep, obvious debt to hits like “Big Love” and “Little Lies.” And like many Buckingham/Nicks-era Fleetwood Mac efforts, this is an album that soars on its singles: “Everywhere” in particular is one of the most gloriously stick-in-your-head pop songs of the late 80s. But if you have a sweet tooth for soft rock like I do, album cuts like “Seven Wonders,” “Caroline,” and “You & I, Pt. II” are equally toothsome.
3. IN MY TRIBE (10,000 Maniacs)
Topical songs can be difficult to pull off, between avoiding simplistic politics, ham-fisted lyrics, and musical triteness. 10,000 Maniacs manage it quite well with In My Tribe, though, setting smart, compassionate songs about child abuse, illiteracy, and war against a backdrop of soulful organ and jangling guitars–and working in a Cat Stevens cover while they’re at it–that keep the proceedings from sinking beneath such weighty subject matter.
2. SENTIMENTAL HYGIENE (Warren Zevon)
After five years out of the spotlight, Warren Zevon enlists most of R.E.M. and a cast of collaborators ranging from Bob Dylan to Neil Young to Don Henley to Brian Setzer to Flea, of all people, to stage his comeback. Sentimental Hygiene doesn’t feel star-studded though – these songs are too honest and heartfelt, drawing on Zevon’s struggles with drug and alcohol addiction and broken relationships for his best record in a decade.
1. CLOUD NINE (George Harrison)
Like Warren Zevon, George had been out of the spotlight for half-a-decade when he teamed up Jeff Lynne to record Cloud Nine. Lynne’s mix of Beatles-esque classicism and late-80s gloss is the perfect complement to George’s strongest set of songs since All Things Must Pass. Actually, song-for-song, I’d say it’s even better than All Things Must Pass. Granted, that might be because “When We Were Fab” and “Got My Mind Set On You” were my points-of-entry for George’s solo work; but it might also be because “This Is Love” ranks only below “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something” as my all-time favorite Harrisong.
- Classic Photos: George Harrison Meets Bob Marley (sonicmoremusic.wordpress.com)
- Christine McVie Is Permanently Returning to Fleetwood Mac (popwrapped.com)
- Faev snogs: Natalie Merchant & 10,000 Maniacs, “Don’t Talk” (adjameson.wordpress.com)
- Warren Zevon – Sentimental Hygiene (albumdujour.wordpress.com)
- Songs of Note #14: “La Sagrada Familia” (thepalaceat4am.wordpress.com)