Considered by many to have released some of the best pop albums during the ’80s, Prefab Sprout are re-releasing one of their most critically acclaimed – a fully remastered and expanded Steve McQueen. To celebrate, we asked singer/songwriter Paddy McAloon for his favourite albums:
Station To Station, David Bowie
Throughout the record he sounds like a lost soul, a man desperate to be in a state of grace. Firstly, there are only six songs on the album, so each song in something of an epic. Everything about it is extraordinary.
Snowflakes Are Dancing, Isao Tomita
This is an album of Debussy’s music performed and programmed by the brilliant Japanese synthesist Isao Tomita. It isn’t easy to squeeze such glorious textures out of electronic circuits. Snowflakes Are Dancing is the aural equivalent of a cathedral built out of matches.
Space Is The Place, Sun Ra
An American bandleader and pretty “far out” jazz composer, Space Is The Place is a soundtrack album and contains everything from atonal synthesizer shrieks to space chants. Sun Ra is something of an acquired taste, but I like to listen to this when I’m bored with my own music and want to blow the cobwebs away.
The Idiot, Iggy Pop
His style is succinct, lean and unpretty. There are pithy sketches of urban nightlife – like “Nightclubbing” and “Funtime” which are a wonderful mixture of the grim and the hilarious.
Aja, Steely Dan
Aja is polished close to sonic perfection. Whoever made it knew exactly what they were doing. Apart from the lyrics it had practically no sharp edges. Back then I was a sucker for anything with a bit of melodic grace, intelligence, wit and mystery. Although I came to see that Steely Dan were cryptic rather than mysterious, they provided most of the things I was looking for.
What’s Going On?, Marvin Gaye
If pop music has any masterpieces, this is one of them. The music is sublime, the bass lines in particular are miraculous – and, if you’re a person who thinks “Sgt Pepper” or “Pet Sounds”, or something by Oasis is the greatest album ever made, you owe it to yourself to hear this record.
Back To Mono, Phil Spector
Phil Spector understood the secret of making great records, and the famed wall of sound is a mere technicality, a means to an end. The secret that Spector possessed is this: ATMOSPHERE IS EVERYTHING.
The best rhythm guitarist and the best bass player in the world decided that a record should either make people dance, or make lurrve. They got very rich proving themselves right.
Westside Story, Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim
Have you ever come across an advert for a musical that says “Squirrels! – Now in its 5000th year!” or “Space Monkeys – The most popular show ever!” Well ignore them. Have a listen to Leonard Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story’, it is still the hippest, coolest musical on the block.
Shaved Fish, John Lennon
Most ‘Best-ofs’ sound like compilations. This one works as an album for me. Why? Partly, it’s to do with the production – Lennon liked a certain sound, involving slap back echo – and it’s also to do with the mood of the songs; many of them are slogans set to music. But mostly it’s because he was such a direct, honest, and inspired songwriter, and THAT voice unites the whole package.