The Guardian’s 1000 albums to hear before you die

The Guardian began its series of five pull outs yesterday (Saturday) with the first 200 of an alphabetical list (by artist) of 1000 albums chosen by their writers. It’s limited to one per artist and can be found here:

Of course, the blog is rapidly filling up with “how did you leave out such and such” and “what is that tosser so and so doing in there” comments. Inevitable really. There are also a fair few who question the point of the exercise altogether. The thing is with lists like this, they are always fun to do, but inevitably less fun to read because no matter how much you agree with many of the selections there will always be some unforgiveable piece of crap that finds its way in, and equally something very dear to your heart that gets ignored.

I used to get terribly worked up myself about the injustices that crop up in such lists, but now I maintain a Zen-like calmness about them. Maybe that’s actually more an arrogant aloofness, I don’t know. I’ve merely raised a surprised eyebrow at some of the entries / omissions and left it at that.

Nevertheless, I do think there is some value in such lists. With record shops closing right, left and centre, the only access to music outside of the internet in many towns is in Asda or bloody Tesco. Which is no choice at all. On line, of course, virtually everything is available to be heard and/or bought, but how do you start if you don’t know what you’re looking for in the first place? It’s all very well people arguing the toss about which Chills album should have been included, but for many people a list like this is the first time they’d ever come across a mention of the band. And if it leads to one person finding a record they like which had hitherto been unknown to them, than surely that’s job done.

Obviously in writing a blog like this, I’ve got a fairly confident view of what is good and what isn’t. And I like to think I can back that up with a decent knowledge of what’s what and who’s who. But I’ve still found some entries of interest – Rabih Abou-Khalli, Ellen Allien, the Bad Plus, Bellowhead and Ruth Copeland are all new names to me, and all sound like they are worth further investigation. So it may be easy to quibble and nit-pick, but I think it’s an exercise worth doing and that has been done well.

And I am particularly pleased to see the Chi-Lites’ A Lonely Man mentioned. One of the great seventies soul albums which I’ve never seen mentioned in any list before.


2 responses to “The Guardian’s 1000 albums to hear before you die

  1. These lists are always generate more irritation than illumination. If you’re buried-happily-under the weight of music you discover for yourself they’re no use at all. if, on the other hand, you buy one cd a month and don’t know where to turn for new directions there isn’t enough detail in the capsule reviews to make them particularly helpful. All of which said, The Guardian’s 1000-awful rubric aside-is better than I expected, largely because it includes lots of non-rock records, each artist is limited to one selection, and there’s no ridiculous attempt to grade them in order of so-called ‘quality’ or ‘importance. If part of the motivation for this list is to highlight neglected titles/artists why not do this on a weekly basis? It could alternate with David Thomson’s column on the back page of the Friday Review.

  2. I would agree that a weekly feature with more in-depth treatment of each record would be of more use, but it wouldn’t have the same headline grabbing kudos / sales increasing potential as a collectible set of supplements. Go into the Music books section at Borders or Waterstones, and the shelves are groaning with “list” books along the same kind of lines. People buy ’em, just like they buy stuff like Ben Schott’s Miscellany books by the hundreds of thousands. So I guess they fulfill some kind of psychological need. Maybe there’s the seeds of an Open University thesis there for you Rae!

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