I can hardly believe it’s been almost a year since I wrote “The Greatest Song in the World“. I always had it in my head that I would follow it up with the greatest album, but it’s honestly taken me all of this time to decide exactly what album that is. As with said greatest song, I surprised myself with the answer.

 

None of the following took the big gold ring, but in my arsenal are armfuls of unquestionable classics that every home should have – (a house just isn’t a home without them). For your own good, I hereby present the runners-up in no particular order:

 

David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars

ABBA: Arrival

T.Rex: Electric Warrior

Kiss: Alive!

Alice Cooper: Love It To Death

Coheed & Cambria: Good Apollo…

Journey: Frontiers

Adam & The Ants: Kings of the Wild Frontier

 

I include Adam and the Ants in this list as once upon a time, I did believe it to be the greatest thing ever. Just because I was 13 doesn’t negate it from entry – however, it was obvious from the start that it was never going to take the top spot. Interestingly, if you stopped me in the street, handed me some chalk and asked me to draw the Ant Warrior logo (the Ant Music For Sex People/Sex Music For Ant People thing for those in the know), I could. Some things get embedded so deeply into your psyche that they never leave. Adam Ant was a genius. Probably still is, only everybody has stopped listening.

 

ABBA Arrival was the other album that was never going to win but I do recall everybody in my class at school raving about that piece of shit debut Sex Pistols album while I only had this slice of genius. If that made me the biggest anarchist in the class, it was lost on me. I just wanted great songs. Looking at the cover of the album, none of them look particularly happy about being the biggest band in the universe – ever. If you can forget that Dancing Queen exists, you have to admit that Benny and Bjorn wrote some seriously great songs. Look closely and you’ll be able to see the angst seeping out from the bottom of those beards. Then again, being on the road with your friend and your combined wives/husbands, has got to be the biggest recipe for disaster one could ever consider.

 

A strong, strong contender for the title was Ziggy. I love this album. I have loved this album from the very first time I heard it and I still love it now. Whenever I put it on, I have to listen to it from the beginning to the end. In order. Some things in life are not meant to be shuffled. There isn’t one bad song on Spiders (unlike the album that won the title) and yet it is flawed in the way that only a true rock n roll album can be whilst remaining perfect. There is nothing else to say about Ziggy Stardust, It simply is.

 

Journey’s Frontiers meantime should probably be Escape but it’s not. Frontiers is a strange album. The track listing is all wrong, the two sides don’t work well together, the artwork is dreadful and I still don’t know who or what a Rubicon is. Yet for all that (or maybe because of it) it’s a solid album with a group of incredibly talented musicians performing at their absolute best. Four huge songs out of five on side one of an album? Loses valuable points also for the free poster inside of the guys in the band parachuting from a plane. As much as I’ve always known Steve Perry to be the greatest singer in the world, I really don’t need a picture of him with a backpack on above my bed.

 

Electric Warrior – ah, Marc, Marc, Marc… when you were great, you inspired me and when you weren’t you were still better than everybody else. I’ve not listened to this for the longest time and now I come back to it, I find that familiarity has bred a small amount of contempt. It’s not your fault but I’ve heard all of these songs out of their proper environment so many times now that it’s hard to actually judge Electirc Warrior as an album at all. Note to self. Learn how to fall in love again…

 

Coheed & Cambria’s Good Apollo still lays waste to my senses. If you’ve never experienced the greatest story ever told, shame on you. Listening to Apollo is similar to being locked in God’s flotation chamber and having all three Lord of the Rings films streamed into your head. Simultaneously. They may try for the rest of their lives but they will never capture the chemistry and depth of vision they did with this. This one came second (and I rather suspect that’s because it’s not that old).

 

And so we come to Kiss and Alice. I don’t have to say anything about either of these albums, so I won’t. You already have them and you know why they are on my list.

 

So, to backtrack somewhat, what is the greatest album in the world? Looking at the artists on my list, you may be forgiven for thinking I was going to pitch something rockingly similar in your direction but it is of course, Carole King’s Tapestry (1971).

 

This was a mainstay of my old man’s record collection, so I was exposed to it from being very young. Very young – I was four years old. 

 

Let’s get the downside out of the way because I really don’t want to continue with this if I have to mention it again. Smackwater Jack is not a good song. It never was and it never will be – well, maybe if Trent Reznor does a number on it, it could be but that’s a long shot now. We shall also not be discussing any re-release bonus track remastered variants. We will be working with an original well-loved vinyl copy – just as it should be.

 

From the very beginning, it’s evident that the whole point of this album is love. It’s delivered with love, is about love and expects the unconditional same in return. Whether your background is metal or opera, reggae or soul, if you deny that the first three opening tracks are anything but a wanton display of a total understanding of the song-writing process, you are lying to yourself and you will look stupid. Forever. 

 

I Feel The Earth Move, So Far Away and It’s Too Late all form the core of an album so perfect, it was put together in just a few days and yet held the Number One slot for 15 weeks, staying on the chart for six years. That’s 312 weeks of music fans consistently making an effort of getting off their ass, going to the store and making a definitve purchase. This amounts to over 25 million copies of it sold – and while that probably includes whole tribes of pot-heads forgetting where they had left their copy and having to buy another, it’s still an awful lot. Couple this with King looking like the girl nextdoor that every boy fell in love with and every girl wanted to be and the deal is done – and while it might smack of hippy drivel, this is simply because you’re not listening properly. 

 

I feel totally vindicated in my research on this because no matter the albums I have sold, given away, lost or smashed in my 40 years of listening pleasure, this one has never been very far away. It has been with me through glam rock, space rock, jet rock, cock rock, big rock and whatever other kinds of rock phenomena – Will You Love Me Tomorrow can still make me cry. King’s vocal delivery lays me like a carpet every time. It’s the most soul-wrenching piece of art ever committed to vinyl and if you do not recognise this, bad things will happen to you in the afterlife.

 

I want to say so many things about this album but I can’t. Tapestry is not a record to me anymore, it’s a feeling. It’s an emotion that can’t – or won’t – be explained. You can take 3 months or 3 years in the studio, you can pay an audio-ringmaster millions of dollars to perfect what you think you have, you can tell a hundred journalists a hundred lies but what I think it comes down to is this: if you can’t say what you have to say in three and a half minutes on an acoustic guitar or a piano, you need to go back and find the real reason you want to make music – Chinese Democracy would have sold just as many copies if it had been done like this.

 

Sion Smith is a writer from the UK who specialises in popular culture.  To follow the (almost) daily happenings of a man with too much information in his head, subscribe to his blog at www.zodiaclung.blogspot.com