Worcester based poetic, Singer-songwriter Wes Dance unveils his Perfect 10, the ten albums that help define his life.
1. The Beach Boys – Friend
This album is definitely an overlooked classic. The arrangements and variations in instruments and musicality are just perfect, from the church bells on ‘Be Here in the Morning’ to the wild harmonies on ‘Little Bird.’ Incidentally, Friends is the first album with songs by Dennis Wilson, who would go from strength to strength, and become my favourite Beach Boy songwriter after Brian. The whole album is rich, beautiful and seems effortless.
2. Gene Clark – No Other
Gene Clark was the best songwriter in The Byrds and this album is a fine example of Clark’s talent. No Other is an album that grows with each listen, yet still remains a mystery after a thousand spins. The lilting sadness in Clark’s voice and his melodies are mesmerizing – his voice is taut and soft all at once. ‘Strength Of Strings’ is constantly pushing upwards, it is the musical equivalent of yearning – listen to it when you first wake up, it’ll change your life. The album is a marvel and needs far more recognition.
3. The Flying Burrito Bros. – The Gilded Palace of Sin
Everyone should read about the history of Gram Parsons, but I won’t go into that now. Parsons’ song-writing on this album with Chris Hillman is fantastic. The albums a great big bowl of Californian fun – it’s a young album, careless and wanting. On ‘Wheels’, Parson’s sings ‘we’re not afraid to ride, we’re not afraid to die’ and you believe it. Sneaky Pete’s pedal steel playing swathes the whole album saturated in fuzz – I wish more people played pedal steel in this way. The album has some great white soul moments too: Parson’s singing on ‘Hot Burrito’ #1 and #2 always blows my mind.
4. Van Morrison – Into the Music
Another unique and incredible singer. The band on this album are so good, it’s ridiculous. Mark Ishlam’s horn arrangements add a Philly Soul feel to Van’s elegiac song-writing, and the fiddle and penny-whistle work is wondrous. Many a time, many moons ago, a friend and I would drink brandy and listen to this album until the early hours without saying a word in awe. Another friend recently suggested there is no more an epic way of doing the dishes than washing them to ‘And The Healing Has Begun.’ It makes the mundane become phantasmal.
5. Bob Dylan – Desire
I was 18 and went on a Christmas shopping trip with a friend, meaning to buy family presents we ended up in the pub all day and later I bought this album. On returning home I put it on and the first opening chords of Hurricane were like an epiphany. The sound of the guitar, the drums, and Rivera’s violin, Dylan’s caustic tone, all rich in reverb, made perfect sense in my mind, it was a crossroads on how a record could be recorded and sound.
6. Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space
Everything about this album is incredible: The bells, the orchestral arrangements, the gospel vocals, the way Pierce sings like Lou Reed over these amazing musical landscapes, the circular motion of the music like its evolving in front of you, the stooges-esque guitars, the random harmonicas, the use of synths, I could go on. I love this album, it’s a masterpiece.
7. Manic Street Preachers – The Holy Bible
This terrifyingly ferocious album is not recommended to listen to on a dark street if you want to maintain your trust in humanity. The whole album stinks of a mental breakdown, everything is being torn down and everything is alien. From Nazi’s to castration the whole album is a butcher’s cleaver, it meanders in the grey spaces of life, where one should not mentally wander in reverie. A fantastic record: the musical equivalent of William Burrough’s Naked Lunch.
8. Brian Jonestown Massacre – Give it Back!
This was the first album I bought by the BJM, and this is the reason it’s on the list, my introduction to the wild, strange, and revolutionary world of Anton Newcombe. I adore this band. Newcombe’s idea are fantastic: the sound of their records, the guitars, the spontaneity of the music, all remind me of drunken summers being an angel head. ‘Servo’ is a stand-out track, based around three chords with an amazing guitar riff. The film Dig! Is an awesome introduction to this band.
9. Beck – Sea Change
Like Dylan’s Desire, this was another album where the overall sound pulled apart a mountain in my mind. The sparse use of keyboards and guitars that patter across Beck’s rhythm are pictorial, in the sense that they open the lyrics and the chord arrangements to broader landscape. The string arrangements are cavernous. Every instrument is gregarious to the other, creating a vast painting of colours across Beck’s skeletal chords. ‘Little One’ is tantamount to a Buddhist satori when the chorus rises like a sun about to super nova.
10. Tom Waits – Blood Money
I could pick any Tom Waits album, but randomly for idiosyncratic deliciousness I will pick Blood Money. A wonderful album: at turns disjointing (see ‘Starving in the Belly of the Whale) and at turns beautiful (see ‘Lullaby.’) Its 1920’s Jazz, its eastern European gypsy, and ‘God’s Away on Business’ is an amalgam of these styles verging on hardcore punk. The lyrics are insane, genius and hilarious: ‘the more that that the monkey can climb; the more he shows its tail.’ Blood Money is a hoot; masochistic and jollying in the evil of the world! Everybody roll!