Cambridge Audio's Favourite Albums of All Time
National Album Day this year falls on Saturday 16th October. A day to pick up some exclusive releases, support your local record store and enjoy the favourite moments of your favourite albums all over again.
To mark the occasion, some of the Cambridge Audio team waxed lyrical about their favourite records of all time. We’re an eclectic bunch.
Pete Dixon, Technical Marketing Manager
Queen - Sheer Heart Attack
This is one of those albums that I can listen to from beginning to end every time and this has never changed since I was a boy. It's only 38 minutes long, it's not recorded in outstanding quality, but it was made with real passion. Other great albums come around fairly frequently, but I always return to ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ as my favourite album of all time. EVERY time I play this album it brings a smile to my face and puts a spring in my step.
From the minute that ‘Brighton Rock’ starts up until ‘In The Lap Of The Gods Revisited’ ends I'm gripped, giving it my best air guitar and falsetto harmonies. It's easy to remember tracks like ‘Killer Queen’ and ‘Stone Cold Crazy’, but it's ones like ‘Misfire’ with its lovely lyrics and melodic guitars and ‘Bring Back That Leroy Brown’ that send you on a theatrical journey that I enjoy hearing the most.
Top Tracks: ‘Brighton Rock’, ‘Stone Cold Crazy’, ‘Now I’m Here’
Alex Harrison, E-Commerce Marketplace Coordinator
Radiohead - In Rainbows
There is something magical about this record. It sounds innovative and fresh despite being 14 years old. At the time, it was both interesting and somewhat controversial for an established band to release a major album under a pay-what-you-want scheme. Had it been released today, with the evolution of streaming services like Bandcamp, I doubt anyone would bat an eyelid.
Music-wise, it’s a back-to-back joy to listen to. The tracks really bleed into each other but can be listened to separately and still have the same effect. The production is spot on, sounding futuristic for its time, blending electronic drums and instruments with their real counterparts. The songs are layered and well written, intense yet quiet and melodic.
It made waves in the media at the time and it made waves in my brain, too. Whether or not some of that is my nostalgia, one thing’s for sure, it is truly a timeless piece of art.
Top Tracks: ‘Weird Fishes / Arpeggi’, ‘Reckoner’
Charlie Crossley, Electronics Engineer
Anaïs Mitchell – Young Man In America
Anaïs' ability to tell a story through song has always captured my attention and ‘Young Man In America’ was the first record of hers that I listened to. The combination of well-composed orchestrations with Anaïs' vocals - laced with angst and emotion - never fail to make me fall in love with the characters and their stories. ‘Shepherd’ in particular never fails to bring tears to my eyes.
Top Tracks: ‘Shepherd’
Alex Bender, Marketing Manager US
The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat
It’s a daunting task to pick just one favourite album of all time. I can easily come up with a list of about 50 of my favorites spanning decade, geography, and genre, but narrowing down to one is nearly impossible. So, for this exercise, I have decided to focus on what may be the most influential album of my adolescence and the basis for which I learned to not just listen to but appreciate music – The Velvet Underground’s 'White Light/White Heat'.
I first heard The Velvet Underground in my early teens, a time when Linkin Park, Dave Mathews, and Now That’s What I Call Music ruled the collective conscience of my school. Back then, there were no streaming music algorithms to help guide us, we only had MTV2’s 120 Minutes and our cool uncles to push us in the right direction. And it wasn’t until I heard the brilliant, intense, noisy, fuzzed-out masterpiece, 'WL/WH', that I really started appreciating experimental and improvisational music, and a whole new world was thus realised.
'WL/WH' was like nothing I had ever heard before. It was a challenging album, but it was also a familiar album because underneath the blasting aural attack of 'WL/WH' are lush, inviting pop songs. This is what Lou Reed did best. Strip back the title track, 'Here She Comes Now', and 'I Heard Her Call My Name', half of the albums six total tracks, and you have three very accessible songs that even the most casual listener could appreciate. While those tracks are all as close to perfection as any, it was the other three tracks on the album that really influenced me at a young age.
First, 'the Gift'. 'The Gift' is an 8-minute-long song featuring John Cale reading a spoken word story in the left channel while a fuzzy, noodling instrumental track plays in the right. The spoken word vocals were fascinating enough for me but when you could hear the two channels distinctly, well that was something completely new.
Next, we have Lady Godiva’s 'Operation', another track featuring Cale as the lead vocalist. This one starts out unassumingly with Cale’s somewhat gentle vocals blending in nicely with a straightforward, sloppy guitar progression. But then, 2 minutes and 51 seconds into the song, a jarring Reed vocal comes into the mix at a level that sounds twice as loud as the rest of the track. “Sweetly” he claims! This is what makes this album so unique and influential, The Velvet Underground weren’t interested in doing the same thing as everyone else in 1968. Many parts of 'WL/WH' can seem strange, out of place, or even somewhat comical, and that’s what makes it such a captivating album. I remember laughing the first time I heard Reed’s vocals come in because it was such a silly and ridiculous moment blasted at the forefront of such an intense album. I loved playing this song for friends and watching their confused reactions.
Lastly, we must touch on the album closer, 'Sister Ray'. A sprawling, single-take, 17-minute-long song made up of avant-garde style improvisation. To this day, it’s still my favourite song to put on the jukebox at a bar. It’s vulgar, it’s abrasive, but most importantly, it single handedly made me want to explore new music. Before Sister Ray, I wasn’t interested in jazz or soul, but after, I started seeking out complex albums like Miles Davis’ 'Bitches Brew', and I started reading about bands who were influenced by The Velvets, like the Modern Lovers. Because while it was a really special feeling to hear this perfect album for the first time, it was even more special that the album opened up my mind to things I never knew existed.
Top Tracks: ‘Sister Ray’, ‘The Gift’
Tamsyn Wilce, Digital Marketing Executive
Paramore – Riot!
It may not be ‘a classic’ in many people’s eyes, but the sophomore album from Tenessee’s emo powerhouse – released in 2007 – was the moment everything changed for me. I still remember the exact moment I ever heard Paramore. I was lying on the sofa, listening to Kerrang! Radio and ‘Pressure’ (from their debut, ‘All We Know Is Falling’) came on and I was hooked. Hearing a female vocal absolutely kill it on an alternative track was ground-breaking to me, then they dropped ‘Misery Business’ as the first single from ‘Riot!’ and the game changed for good. Albeit that song is now defunct due to the band no longer agreeing with its lyrical content, it still remains one of the most iconic emo/pop-punk anthems in history.
‘Riot!’ begins with an intro that punches you in the face the moment you press play and from there you’re then taken on a journey through the inner workings of Hayley Williams’ adolescent brain. From the melancholic ‘We Are Broken’, to the industry-challenging ‘Born For This’, it’s a rollercoaster ride of teen angst, power chords and choruses that’ll give you leg ache from all the high kicks. This album will forever hold a special place in my heart and may its emo legacy reign for many more years to come.
Top Tracks: ‘Let The Flames Begin’, ‘That’s What You Get’, ‘Crushcrushcrush’
Antony Locke, Product Development Manager
Blue Aeroplanes – Spitting Out Miracles
Art-rock Bristolians, Blue Aeroplanes, released their full-length ‘Spitting Out Miracles’ in 1987 and with it, created a smorgasbord of sounds and genres. Why paint with just singing, guitar and drums when you can add accordion, tapes, turntables and even a hurdy-gurdy? It’s hard to find something not to like about it.
Top Tracks: ‘Cowardice & Caprice’
Tom Castle, Customer Support Manager
Paul Simon – Graceland
Choosing a favourite or best album is hard, but the one that I keep coming back to more than any other is Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’. It’s the first album I remember being fascinated - and then falling in love - with as I listened to it on repeat in my parent's car. Today it represents not just peerless songwriting and fearless inventiveness and risk-taking on Simon’s part, but also music’s ability to transport you back to a time and a place, and the emotions that come with it.
It’s a special kind of alchemy that Simon has conjured on ‘Graceland’, mixing the familiar (folk, singer-songwriter tropes, big, crystal clear 80s production) with the foreign (tribal drums, unusual scales and patterns, the harmonies of Ladysmith Black Mamboza). Most people know the title track and ‘You Can Me Al’, but for me ‘Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes’ and ‘Under African Skies’ are perfect songs, ripe with simple affecting imagery and warm unique melodies that coil perfectly around the buoyant African rhythms. I’ve listened to this album probably more than any other and it always feels like an exciting adventure with an old friend.
Top Tracks: ‘Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes’, ‘Under African Skies’
Matt Savage, Lead Graphic Designer
Burial - Untrue
Burial’s second full-length sounds like you’re wandering through a damp and dark South London in the dead of night. Muffled bass turns into the sound of overground trains, hallucinatory rhythms are punctuated by broken glass and ghostly voices.
Sparse and staggered drum patterns create an atmosphere of eerie space, and you can never tell if the crackle your hearing is the static of sampled vinyl or the downpour of rain outside. It’s my go-to album for comforting soundscapes, especially during the winter months.
Top Tracks: ‘Archangel’, ‘Etched Headplate’, ‘Ghost Hardware’
David B, Marketing Consultant
David Bowie - Low
Picking a favourite album can be tricky, particularly when you’ve been around the block a few times, but I always give the same answer: ‘Low’ by David Bowie.
A school friend lent it to me shortly after release. Like David Bowie’s character in the film ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ (which gives ‘Low’ its cover) it sounded like it had arrived from another planet. Recorded in Berlin with Tony Visconti & Brian Eno, ‘Low’ makes no concessions for commerciality. Despite this, the single ‘Sound & Vision’ reached number three in the UK charts & set about inspiring a musical movement.
‘Low’ opens with an instrumental and when the songs arrive, they have minimal lyrics, treated drums & discordant electronics. Side two is largely instrumental, starting with every post-punk band’s favourite track: ‘Warsawa’. The thing with ‘Low’ is, it sounds great on a tiny radio, it sounds great on a decent hi-fi set-up and it sounds great blasting out of the PA before your favourite band takes the stage.
Top Tracks: Sound and Vision & Warszawa
Silvia Tugnoli, Head of Melomania Marketing
Mumford and Sons – Babel
What a great album. Every song is a piece of art. It's emotive, punchy, plenty of dramatic builds and softer moments. The banjo is a staple in Mumford and Sons’ sound, and it really does add a powerful element to the entire album. I love every single piece of this record. It makes me smile, it makes want to dance and let go. It's my to-go album every time I'm stressed, sad, or simply in the car stuck in traffic. When I saw them live, it was the most incredible concert I've ever been to. The energy level behind every song was just indescribable.
Top Tracks: ‘Hopeless Wanderer’, ‘I Will Wait’
We've put everyone's top tracks from their chosen album's into a playlist, so you can get more of an insight into the music that keeps us going. Just click one of the links below.