Friday, March 6, 2009

Lists : Great Black Music

I love lists. I make a lot of lists with my friends at, a site who compiles every "best-of " list ever published by critics in books, sites or newspapers.
Recently I found at the library a French book called Great Black Music : un parcours en 110 albums essentiels. (Great Black Music : A Journey in 110 essential albums) by Philippe Robert, a French critic and writer working for various great magazines (Les Inrockuptibles, Vibrations, Jazz Magazine).

This list is interesting but the title can be misleading : it is not an anthology of Afro American music in general, but of “conscious” black music.
That explains the omissions : very few blues. The blues wasn’t a protest music, at least in a direct way, the singers being to afraid of retaliation.

Everything that is suspected of being too “whitey-oriented” is left aside. So no black rockers from the ‘50s (Chuck, Fats et al), few Motown artists from the ‘60s.
No more than one album per artist, which broadens the range but also means hard choices (like Stevie W).
These considerations aside, it is an interesting list, quite personal, not caring much about objectivity, and strongly relying on ‘70s soul and jazz. Very few rap, or old-school and avant garde stuff. For the soul and jazz lover, it is a gold mine.
Here are 2 links to the list :

Great Black music : 110 essential albums (Microsoft Word document)

Great Black music : 110 essential albums (InTernet link to Acclaimed Music's Forum Page)

My best discovery so far in that list is the excellent British group Demon Fuzz with their 1970 album Afreaka!

Demon Fuzz - Disillusioned (buy) (1970)

Now, like in every list, there are things we would have loved to find but that have been omitted.
The author himself acknowledges that, as he added an appendix with even more albums than in the original list !!

The next song is from the first artist/album in my top 200 that Robert failed to include in his list (but I think it's in the appendix).

Professor Longhair - Tipitina (buy) (1974)

If you love New Orleans music, you should hear this album if you haven't already.

AND YOU ? What are your favorite Great Black Music albums ? What omissions make you jump and shout ? I'd love to hear from you cause you've been a bit silent these days..


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Nicolas L said...

Thanks Sarah !

Come back as often as you wish

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