It’s been great to see Classic Album Sundays, the brainchild of DJ and radio presenter Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy, grow from strength to strength since its inception in 2010. In July that year I launched the monthly Living To Music series on my blog, with a classic album selected for the first Sunday of each month and the listeners subsequently sharing their impressions online. On hearing about this, a mutual friend had told me that Colleen was doing something similar in a more intimate manner, sitting down after Sunday dinner to listen to favourite LPs with family and friends – these gatherings evolving the name Classic Album Sundays. Living To Music would inspire Colleen to take a more direct approach, putting on audiophile listening events, the first of these held that October at the Hanbury Arms in North London, initially following the same albums I was featuring on Living To Music, but subsequently branching out on its own direction.
Whilst I eventually brought Living To Music to a conclusion back in April 2013, following the apt number of 33 editions, Classic Album Sundays would take things to a whole other level, hosting sessions in various parts of the world, with their website providing an impressive resource for music lovers and aficionados. Such is their success they can nowadays credibly claim to be ‘the world’s most popular record club’.
Now they’ve compiled a book, with various musicians, writers, DJs and associated contributors selecting a favourite album by, or fronted by, a female artist, and stating why this LP was important to them – this illustrated by a selfie holding the sleeve. The original idea, put together for International Women’s Day in 2018, was to pay tribute, via their online sources, to the spectrum of the artists, some household names, others more obscure, who had been chosen. My own selection was ‘Rufusized’ by Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, which had been one of the Living To Music selections:
Having brought this material together, the idea of a book seemed the natural progression. Published by ACC Art, it’s comprised of almost 200 pages, with 117 separate contributions consisting of 110 albums by 95 artists.
Grace Jones’ ‘Nightclubbing’ was the most selected with 3 nominations, whilst she was also the most featured artist overall – her ‘Island Life’ best of compilation twice included, giving a total of 5. Folk legend, Joni Mitchell, with ‘Ladies Of The Canyon’, ‘Hejira’ and ‘The Hissing Of Summer Lawns’ and, more surprisingly, given their early-‘80s underground status, the South Bronx’s ESG, via ‘Come Away With ESG’, ‘ESG Says Dance To The Beat Of Moody’ and ‘The Moody EP’ (although the latter 2 were 12” releases) are the only artists to list 3 separate albums. Nina Simone (twice with ’Is It Finished’, once with ‘My Way’) and Roberta Flack (twice with ‘First Take’, once with ‘Quiet Fire’) also had 3 entries, whilst Patti Smith’s ‘Horses’ and ‘Penis Envy’ by Crass were the only other albums twice selected. The artists with 2 separate albums listed are Erykah Badu, Kate Bush, Alice Coltrane, Marcia Griffiths, PJ Harvey, Nico and Suzanne Vega.
Despite the inclusion of ‘The Kick Inside’ and ‘The Red Shoes’, perhaps the biggest omission was Kate Bush’s masterwork, ‘Hounds Of Love’, where, apart from being the artist, she retained control of her own production at a time when her record company had thought she’d totally lost the plot. The subsequent recording would silence her doubters in the most emphatic manner, cementing her stature as one of the greats of British music. That said, there were so many artists who didn’t make the cut at all, but this was never meant to be definitive, but emphasise the personal relationship the contributors have with their album of choice.
It’s one of those books you can pick up and open at random, finding an ever-fascinating juxtaposition of contributor and selection, and now I have my copy it’s a case of checking out some of those artists and albums I’m personally not so familiar with.
With Christmas upcoming, Classic Albums By Women, retailing online at just over £10, makes for a perfect inexpensive Xmas gift, and I expect it to be flying out of the suppliers with this in mind.
Classic Album Sundays Website: