This Saturday 12th October is National Album Day and the theme this year is ‘don’t skip’ which explores the benefits of taking time out to listen to an album from start to finish. Music fans are encouraged to let their favourite albums be the antidote to the fast-paced and hectic lifestyle of the modern world.
Something the world’s only manufacturer of vinyl jukeboxes knows all about. Sound Leisure, based in Leeds, has been making jukeboxes for over 41 years. They’ve even got a limited-edition Sgt Peppers album design jukebox licensed from Apple corp, of which only 99 will be made. After the master-craftsmen and women handmake each classic jukebox, each of the machines are tested with vinyl records for sound quality and clarity.
The family-run business is well versed in getting customers to listen to music properly, not just having it on in the background. So ask yourself, when’s the last time you sat and really listened to music?
Chris Black, managing director at Sound Leisure comments:
“We test jukeboxes all day every day, and it’s important each note sounds crisp and clear. No other for-mat serves music quite like vinyl, and it’s no wonder sales of our vinyl playing jukeboxes have risen over 500% in the last two years.”
“These are the albums our team always use to test our vinyl jukeboxes. A lot of them have been mastered using vintage equipment so you can hear the authenticity, no one has messed with them since they were first pressed, and as a company that manufacture memories, we don’t believe it gets any better than those original sounds. Of course, with younger members of our team there are some more recent albums on the list that they feel really puts a jukebox through its paces.”
Ten albums that sound awesome on vinyl
1. Beck – Odelay
1996, DGC Records – producers: Beck Hanson, Dust Brothers
Although Odelay is Beck’s fifth studio album, it sometimes feels like his first, re-inventing himself and catapulting him into 90s cult status amongst indie and hip hop listeners alike. Odelay is Beck’s most successful album to date and appears numerously in lists of the greatest of the ’90s and all time.
Sonically the album combines elements of Rock, hip hop, folk, Americana and psychedelia into definitely has that 90’s “sampled” vibe to it. The production (the main producers were the, now legendary, dust brothers) who layer these elements together seamlessly. The listener is washed over not only by killer beats and bass but subtle acoustic guitar, banjo and Beck’s tight vocals. It doesn’t feel overwhelmed in one genre and you are never sure when another subtle sound or intricacy will float to the top of the mix.
2. The Beatles – Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
1967, Parlophone Records, producer: George Martin
Arguably the greatest album ever produced and The Beatles (and George martin’s) Magnus Opus. The album is more than just an amazing collection of songs, it’s one of the first concept albums and the packaging and graphical quality of the artwork is as much to recommend it on vinyl as the audio. Holding the sleeve whilst listening is highly recommended, read the lyrics (it’s the first LP to include lyrics printed on the cover) and soak up every note of the record.
When listening, ensure you have relatively close stereo speakers as often, due to the 4 track bouncing system The Beatles used to record, if you have speakers too far apart, or even in the next room you will miss part of the recording, often the vocals. The remastered versions are exceptional quality and this album really should be in any vinyl collection.
3. Patrick Watson – Close to paradise
2006, Secret City Records – Producer: Patrick Watson, Jace Lasek, Jean Massicotte
An incredible album that mixes acoustic instruments and an orchestral feel with electronic elements and sound FX. Combining Watsons high soaring vocals and unique song structures to create an album able to transport the listener to another space completely. A high-quality system or quality headphones will allow you to hear every sonic subtlety.
4. RadioHead – Ok Computer
1997, Parlophone Capitol, Producer: Nigel Godrich
The second album from RadioHead took a big departure from their initial release ‘The Bends’ and set them apart from just another “guitar band.” The band were experimenting with technology more in the studio as well as creating more complex compositions and instrumentation in their recording. Songs like “Paranoid Android” and “No surprises” sound incredible on a heavyweight vinyl allowing Thom York’s vocals to exhibit every vulnerable break and breath.
5. Ian Brown – Music of the Spheres
2001, Polydor, Producer: Francis Dunnery
Although the Stone Roses 1st album will top most #dontskip best album ever made lists, sonically it feels a little underwhelming consisting of the standard “guitar-based” indie sound of the age. “Music of the sphere’s”, however, is frontman Ian Brown’s second solo album and offers a much more varied range of sound and production. From the initial opening track of F.E.A.R through the second track “stardust” and onwards, the songs are simple and Browns vocals are understated as you would expect but supported by layered instrumentation and electronic beats. It takes you on a journey through highs and lows and engages you to listen.
6. Air – Moon Safari
1998, Virgin, producer: Air
French band Air’s debut album is the perfect Sunday morning listen, grab a cuppa and position yourself perfectly. Mellow and beautiful it fades in with a subtle electronic and percussive beat and from then on, track after track you are in electropop heaven. Never overpowering, even when the second track “sexy boy” introduces itself with a guttural synth bass, Moon Safari keeps its self perfectly balanced and allows the synths and vocals from Beth Hersch to wash fully over you. Bliss.
7. Jeff Wayne – War of the Worlds
1978, Columbia, Producer: Jeff Wayne
For most kids growing up in the late seventies and early eighties, this album was the stuff of nightmares. Not only was it about Martians invading earth, the album artwork was detailed to the point of burning itself into many tiny minds and causing sleepless nights. Musically, the concept and orchestration is near genius and it has taken at least 35 years for the full extent of this album to overcome those adolescent impressionable thoughts and hear it for what it was. The fact it scared us as children is probably its intent. There are some incredible uses of recording and instrumentation that set this album in this top list! Richard Bur-tons voice as “the journalist” is deep, compressed and recorded perfectly. The stereo delay effect of the flares from mars in the opening section. The death ray “OOOOOOHHHLAAAAAAAAHHH” sends chills even now! The recording was one of the first-ever recorded on 48 tracks and the attention to detail the production from orchestration to narration is impeccable.
8. Queen – A night at the opera
1975, EMI, Producer: Roy Thomas Baker
Pushing the boundaries of studio recording techniques at the time, on the most expensive album ever recorded at the time, to hone their own unique sound yet without losing the songs in the production, Queen’s “A night at the opera” is an exceptional example of a band at the height of their most creative in the studio and listening to this album on vinyl really gives the listener everything you expect from Queen at its most sonically intimate. The famous layered vocals sound rich and clear whilst the tone of Brian May’s “red special” (recorded and overdubbed up to 8 times) feel almost like they resonate in your own head! The mixing is sheer brilliance to reign all the tracks together and sculpts that unique queen sound! Sit back and listen to the penultimate track “Bohemian Rhapsody” in all its glory!
9. Elbow – The Seldom seen kid, live at Abbey Road
Vinyl release 2019, Fiction – Polydor, producer: Elbow
Only released on vinyl as a 10th-anniversary edition (the original recording was in 2009) to celebrate the original release of “The Seldom Seen Kid”. The live version features the BBC concert orchestra, the choir of the year (2009) and was recorded live at Abbey Road Studios. The original album is a modern classic, winning the Mercury Music Prize in 2009, however, adding a full orchestra and a choir makes the album simply stunning. On the vinyl version, every violin and cello resonate beautifully, the choir sound full and capture the live feeling perfectly.
10. Björk : Debut
1993, One Little Indian – Producer: Nellee Hooper
Björks debut album creates the perfect eclectic blend of alternative dance of the ’90s, experimental jazz and even orchestral solitude. Mix this with the vocal style and kookiness of Björk herself and it sounds like it should be a nightmare but Debut is far from it. It blew minds in the early ’90s when released and set Björk on the road to becoming a force to be reckoned with in art circles. The album starts with the acoustic sounding “human behaviour” (The timpani drums sound great through the LP jukebox). When the breakdown comes in the fourth track “more to life than this” and the sound “cocoons” itself inside the club with Björk sounding like she steps outside, the production value really comes into life! Tracks like “Venus as a boy” and the hauntingly beautiful “like someone in love” featuring solo harp and traffic noise shows the eclectic nature of this album to its fullest.