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50 Greatest Album Tracks - Sunday Telegraph


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Yet another of these 'greatest' lists. Zeppelin in at number 19 with Battle of Evermore. IMHO there should have been multiple LZ entries, particularly from Physical Graffiti.


The Sunday Telegraph (London); Nov 21, 2010;


(Copyright © Telegraph Group Limited 2010)

1 Pink Floyd Summer of 68

Atom Heart Mother, 1970

Keyboard player Rick Wright here contributed by far the best song to Floyd's most underrated album. Lovely, swirly brass; lashings of trippy English pastoral; ace key and tempo changes. Best moment: 'Goodbye to you. Charlotte Pringle's due', natch.

2 REM Swan Swan H

Life's Rich Pageant, 1986

Probably the most quintessentially REM-ish song the band ever wrote. It stands for Swan Swan Hummingbird, of course, and like so many tracks from their cultish, early, gnomic, mumbly period is almost entirely incomprehensible and thus happily free of leaden political significance. The melody shimmers with a gorgeous melancholy; the guitars are like Lennon's on Working Class Hero.

3 Stevie Wonder Isn't She Lovely? Songs in the Key of Life, 1976

The Motown singer refused to release this as a single. It became one of his best-loved melodies none the less.

4 Arcade Fire Haiti Funeral, 2005

A career-defining single for most other bands, there were enough outstanding highlights on Funeral to leave this untouched.

5 Kate Bush Mother Stands for Comfort Hounds Of Love, 1985

In 1985 British popular musical taste reached an avant-garde high. Despite being full of difficult, weird songs such as this one, Hounds Of Love ousted Madonna's Like A Virgin from the top spot.

6 Oasis Married with Children Definitely Maybe, 1994

The keenly observed, bitterly cruel lyrics provided an early indication of Noel Gallagher's formidable songwriting talent.

7 The Killers Sam's Town, 2006

All the Killers' best songs sound like retro classics you have loved for ever, this impossibly catchy one sounding like the missing link between early Eighties British synth pop and Bruce Springsteen.

8 The Smiths Cemetry Gates The Queen Is Dead, 1986

'So we go inside and we gravely read the stones.' Oh, you japesome punster, Morrissey. Though Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others is catchier, this sun-shunning, poetic-name-dropping, bedsit-angst-fest with its famously misspelt title is about as Smiths as you could ever get.

9 The Clash Jimmy Jazz London Calling, 1979

Delivered with drunken elegance, Joe Strummer proves there's more to punk than attitude and power chords.

10 Franz Ferdinand Jacqueline Franz Ferdinand, 2004

'It's always better on holiday' runs the Glasgow band's supremely catchy chorus. Yes it is.

11 Velvet Underground Venus in Furs Velvet Underground & Nico, 1967

Thumping, incessant and threateningly demonic, Venus in Furs is the highlight of the New Yorkers' Andy Warhol-produced album.

12 Jay-Z Takeover Blueprint, 2001

Providing the highlight of Blueprint, his career-best album, Takeover is a witty and merciless attack on his rapping rival, Nas.

13 The Stone Roses Song For My Sugar-spun Sister The Stone Roses, 1989

The Mancunian four-piece packed their debut with spellbinding pop melodies like this, influencing a generation of Brit-poppers.

14 Genesis Supper's Ready Foxtrot, 1972

'Walking across the sitting room I turned the television o-off...' You're not supposed to admit to liking winsome, early Seventies, public-schooly progressive art rock songs lasting more than 20 minutes.

Dig the trippy key change at 1.58. Gabriel, Collins: you had it once...

15 Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Country Girl Deja Vu, 1970

Even by CSNY's considerable standards, the harmonies essayed here on this masterpiece of portentous hippy-folk rock are so complex the whole edifice threatens to collapse like Miss Havisham's wedding cake. Then Young's winsome, sweet, quavery little-boy-lost voice comes to the rescue 'Country girl I think you're purrtyy...'

16 The Streets Wouldn't Have it Any Other Way A Grand Don't Come for Free, 2004

Should he stay in with his girlfriend or go out? This dilemma inspires one of The Streets' finest moments.

17 The Kinks This Time Tomorrow Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, 1970

Ray Davies recently re-recorded this with Mumford & Sons but it's the original that shows the songwriter in his absolute prime.

18 David Bowie Oh! You Pretty Things Hunky Dory, 1971

Rick Wakeman's lithe, perky piano intro whets the appetite for one of the sweetest songs Bowie ever wrote. Everything's perfect: the melody, the bizarre lyrical mash up of Aleister Crowley weirdness with cosy domesticity, all delivered with such artless charm: 'I've made some breakfast and coff-ee-ee-eee...'

19 Led Zeppelin The Battle of Evermore Led Zeppelin IV, 1971

Besides having the best mandolin intro ever, The Battle Of Evermore is quite possibly the finest flowering of Zep's epic 'Gandalf waggles his pointy slippers' folk rock phase. Middle Earth trembles.

20 Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Chile Electric Ladyland, 1968

Fifteen minutes long, this extended version of Voodoo Chile finds Hendrix in devastating form.

21 Radiohead Exit Music (For a Film) OK Computer, 1997

This atmospheric but simple guitar-led track provides a heart-stoppingly beautiful counterweight to Radiohead's more intricate output.

22 The Cure Last Dance Disintegration, 1989

The Cure's singles tended to be unrepresentative, poppy kitsch like Love Cats. You'll only find the true essence of the Cure's rainwashed gothic melancholy on their album tracks like this, so bleak you can almost smell the angst, despair and patchouli. Nice tune, though.

23 Roxy Music In Every Dream Home a Heartache For Your Pleasure, 1973

No song ever captured the Roxy at their most Pirelli-calendar, art-school glam-rock kitsch better than this paean to modern living, addressed adoringly to a sex doll. Best bit? The huge instrumental break that follows: '"I blew up your body...But you blew my mind!'"

24 David Bowie Five Years The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972

Behind Bowie's most celebrated alter ego lay a threatening and dystopian world-view, as this anthemic lament shows.

25 Johnny Cash The Mercy Seat American III: Solitary Man, 2000

Every cover song the Man in Black did was better than the original and this one with Hurt is his greatest. That ravaged, wise, bleak, Old Testament prophet's delivery convinces you that Cash really is up there on death row, strapped to his chair, uttering his last words.

26 The Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter Let it Bleed, 1969

Written while Keith Richards' unfaithful girlfriend was with Mick Jagger, this is a rallying call against violence, pain and obviously infidelity.

27 Al Green Light My Fire Al Green Gets Next to You, 1971

The Doors' frantic hit remade as a slow-burning, last-two-people-in-the-bar lust song for grown-ups who know what they're doing. For a faster, equally brilliant and also album soul alternative, try Stevie Wonder's version from two years before.

28 Bruce Springsteen. Trapped We are the World (USA For Africa album), 1985

Springsteen. donated this cover of a Cat Stevens-produced Jimmy Cliff hit - about being stuck in and ruled by a relationship - to the 1985 album by the US version of Live Aid. Airplay alone soon saw it become a rock chart-topper.

29 Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway For All We Know Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, 1971

This Coots/Lewis standard from 1934 is heartbreaking enough in Nat King Cole's famous version, even though, under scrutiny, the lyrics suggest a slick-talking seduction effort. Slowed down, stripped back and injected with extra sadness in the form of Hathaway's utterly tender voice, before a false ending and a ghostly piano reprise, it'll floor you every time.

30 Stevie Wonder Creepin' Fulfillingness' First Finale, 1974

Luther Vandross knew this crepuscular, desire-driven ballad from an inexplicably overlooked Stevie Wonder album was a winner chorus. His Eighties cover became one of his most beloved hits, despite being no threat to Wonder's original.

31 Neil Young Cowgirl in the Sand Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, 1969

You want check-shirt wearing, feedback-fuelled hairy dudes singing about the magnetic lure of dangerously foxy chicks and rock-star drugs? Chuck out your Kings of Leon collection and put this 10-minute monster on loop.

32 Pulp Underwear Different Class, 1995

Modern songs portraying sex as threatening and murky are rare, and one this accessible is unique.

33 Joni Mitchell Down to You Court & Spark, 1974

Joni Mitchell is the most accomplished lyricist pop has ever known, and from the end of the Sixties to the mid-Seventies her words, voice and melodic invention were peerless. Mitchell excels on vocals, clavinet and the messiness of modern love.

34 Stephen Stills Johnny's Garden Manassas, 1972

Crosby, Nash and Young's sometime bandmate joined ex-Byrd Chris Hillman and a host of Latin musical talent to create a new form of funky, folk rock. Any commuter will find much to love in this number about working for the man to fund an escape to a pastoral paradise.

35 Bonnie Raitt Baby Mine Stay Awake (various artists), A&M, 1998

Dumbo's gorgeous mother-child ballad retooled by Raitt and the Was Not Was mob as a sublime love song from an unlikely album of muso Disney covers.

36 Pixies Hey Doolittle, 1989

The band's second album is so packed with breakout hits - Debaser, Here Comes Your Man, Monkey Gone To Heaven to name a few - it's easy to overlook this little number. Strand by strand it's an odd combination: the Mexican-leaning guitars, the tortured tear and ragged grunts of Frank Black, Kim Deal's plaintive refrain and the sexually charged frustration of the lyrics; but it coalesces beautifully in a way only the Pixies can.

37 The Beatles A Day in the Life Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967

John Lennon and Paul McCartney had drifted apart by 1967 but this ambitious masterpiece shows they still complemented each other perfectly.

38 Bob Dylan Dark Eyes Empire Burlesque, 1985

At the end of his synth-pop album the great man triumphantly returns to his earlier acoustic sound.

39 Bruce Springsteen Out in the Street The River, 1980

Such euphoric 'blue-collar' tracks provided a counterweight to the Reagan era and still sound urgent and powerful today.

40 Weezer Across The Sea Pinkerton, 1996

Pretty much any song from Weezer's then ignored, now lauded second album stands out. Loosely based on Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly, this song in particular, inspired by a letter from an adoring Japanese fan, laid singer Rivers Cuomo's loneliness bare, his randy daydreams brought to the fore over a bed of simple fuzzed up chords and a matchless sing-along melody.

41 Jeff Buckley Everybody Here Wants You Sketches For My Sweetheart the Drunk, 1998

From the four-track demos and early studio versions Buckley left behind after his tragic drowning in the Mississippi River in 1997, Everybody is the singer at his most pared back, but the effect is no less stunning. His vocal richly evocative, heady with lust and romance, it is quintessential Buckley and another poignant reminder of what was lost.

42 Pavement Here Slanted & Enchanted, 1992

No song encapsulates the melancholic gaze over the end of an era quite as eloquently as California's lauded lo-fikings, and musically Coldplay's Yellow bares the traces of it. In a rare moment frontman Stephen Malkmus eschews his penchant for obtuse lyrics for a more direct line of communication. A frequent set-closer during this year's sell-out reunion shows, Malkmus concludes: 'Last time, last time is the best time.'

43 Sufjan Stevens, Casimir Pulaski Day Illinoise, 2005

Religious overtones, loss of a loved one, breathless romantic attraction and warmly wrought nostalgia all coexist in this softly spun, banjo-twangled, French horn-assisted track. Here Stevens's neatly observed lyrics and intimate delivery could melt the most hardened of hearts.

44 The Emotions Blind Alley Untouched., Stax/Volt, 1971

Isaac Hayes on the drums, co-writer David Porter playing the piano, and four of the most sampled bars of all time make this girl group classic about putting off an overattentive suitor the gift that keeps on giving.

45 The Opera R Kelly R, 1998

You don't really have to approve of his extra-musical predilections or lyrical approach to know that R Kelly is the most naturally talented pop star and melody maker since Prince's late-Eighties heyday. This short, strange, pseudo-classical effort is the perfect song to play for those doubters who think they know R Kelly's limits.

46 Bob Dylan, It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)

Bringing It All Back Home, 1965 Dylan was just 23 when he released his divisive acoustic/electric album Bringing It All Back Home and on It's Alright, Ma he delivers a cascading, incendiary invective, a breakneck downpour of words he seems powerless to stem.

Several of the lines from the song have found their way into collections of quotations, with Jimmy Carter famously using 'he not busy being born is busy dying' in his presidential nomination acceptance speech.

47 Aretha Franklin Ain't No Way Lady Soul, 1968

Written by her sister, this understated beauty was obscured by the day's more boisterous hits. It's been a grower ever since.

48 Prince The Cross Sign o' the Times, 1987

Unlike most of the royal canon, this track from Prince's most virtuosic phase is virtually funk-free, instead following the rock ballad route for a goose-pimple generation song about belief that swells a la Stairway to Heaven and ends with a snippet of singing angels, and could probably take you right to the pearly gates by force of faith alone.

49 Van Morrison Caravan Moondance, 1970

Possibly the most monumental pop song ever, and it got grand live run outs on Morrison's own classic live album It's Too Late to Stop Now, and The Band's The Last Waltz. Just brilliant, and definitely the last word in summer night campfire classics.

50 Jackson Browne These Days For Everyman, 1973

Browne originally wrote this for Velvet Underground associate Nico. A few years later, when he was the young, talented, handsome songwriter who all the hot girls in California wanted to know, he covered it on his own debut album, and managed to make it even more gloriously depressing than before.


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Although I agree that there should (and could) be many more Zeppelin songs, It is interesting that The Battle of Evermore was chosen. It's not usually a song the music media chooses from their archive to talk about. They were right about it being a great song though.

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Greatest/Best of/Top lists are simply page-fillers for lazy editors. Guaranteed to create some minor debate among saddos like us for a while, then who cares?

Such lists are about as relevant as a Best Looking Chicken on a Farm competition.


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