The Smell of the leaves, from the magnolia trees, in the meadow…

At the risk of going all Mojo/Uncut on you, I’m going to make a list of some of my favourite records. This not a pathetic attempt to up my circulation, (despite all appearances), there is a reason for it.

The other day, I was at the pub with my friends Tom and Rob when out of the blue Rob says,

“Top ten albums of all time, then?”

Now, I have spent many hours of my life building up to this moment, shuffling and reshuffling a few choice records until I knew the top three (or four) instantly. The Band, Forever Changes and Exile on Main Street (obviously), with Astral Weeks having drifted out to a distant fourth as I’ve grown older (at one stage it was Number 2).

But after that, I suddenly realised, I was struggling. I really couldn’t put together the rest of the top ten – there were just too many to choose from. I was acutely aware that my main four were sixties (or early seventies) records – anyone looking at that would think my music world fizzled out in 1972, in a crumbling mansion in the south of France.

What about all those modern records that I love? In a few years time, will Gulag Orkestar still seem the shining gem it does now? Which Gorky’s records should I include? Which Byrds record? Then there’s the feeling that all my records are made by white folk (I know… Arthur Lee…), don’t I like any black music? What about Al Green and Bob Marley? OMG! What about ska, reggae and the Upsetter?

In short I blew it. I dithered and dried up and totally missed my window. The moment was gone and I let myself down. And it’s been eating away at me for over a week now… (To the extent, I confess, that I’ve spent no little time hovering around my CD shelves with pen and paper. Sad, me?)

I’ve narrowed it down to about twenty, but it’s still pretty fluid, so the list won’t be appearing here yet (if ever). But one thing of which I am sure and remain unshakeable on is that my favourite ever record is the Band’s eponymous second album. It’s a wonderful (wonderful) piece without a weak track on it (Tom, btw, suggested that Exile on Main Street was patchy… controversial?). It started a whole new genre of modern music and it’s impossible to imagine the output of Wilco, Ryan Adams, Sufjan Stevens or Calexico without The Band.

I love the way they look (weather-beaten, unwashed, bearded), the autumnal colours of the sleeve and the range of the instrumentation of the songs. I’ve always been fascinated too by the way it feels like a record out of its time  and refers to past events as if they were just a couple of years ago, still fresh in the memory.

Here’s a magnificent clip of the Band rehearsing my favourite track from the record, King Harvest Has Surely Come…

And if you don’t like this, well, there’s going to be a parting of the ways, my friend…

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