Five Of The Greatest: Rai Thistlethwayte

2 August 2012 | 1:00 am | Staff Writer

It’s a question that has dogged mankind since the dawn of the ear; the greatest 10 albums of all-time. Rai Thistlethwayte (multi-instrumentalist and songwriter) attempts to answer half the question and their influence.

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1. Deep Purple – Machine Head
Great Hammond organ playing from the late great Jon Lord, soulful singing, perfectly slicing rock, blues and soul, amazing drumming, songs about sexy cars and sexy women. Classic.

2. Donny Hathaway – Donny Hathaway Live
16-year-old drummer on this album plays like a veteran. Donny is probably the best singer of all time. The crowd joins in and sings almost as well as Donny. It's a religious experience; Donny has influenced throngs of vocalists. Listen to this one and you'll see why.

3. Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds Of Fire
Violin solos with wah wah pedal and shitloads of distortion. Jann Hammer playing bendy synths that sound more like John McLaughlin's guitar than even John McLaughlin, who led this group. More Hendrix than Jazz, Birds Of Fire has more odd times than a dinner party on acid.

4. Frank Sinatra – The Columbia Years
A young Frank, before he became weathered, when he was still a pop star, accompanied by heartstring-yanking orchestral arrangements. Some songs, like my favourite cut: If you were but a dream, just a male and female adult choir. It's all super-dramatic, the vocal tone is to die for and Frank makes every word sound like he wrote it, like only Ol' Blue Eyes could do.

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5. Keith Jarrett - Koln Concert
The most successful solo piano album of all time. The first track is like something from an Italian art-house movie soundtrack, it's totally recorded live, it's totally improvised, and it's totally beautiful. Keith took harmonic liberties here and just went with it, and still makes it lyrical and understandable. I read somewhere that he didn't like the tone of that particular piano so much on this gig, so he just kept to the middle range of the board. Who woulda thunk? This is sacred, incredible 'heart and mind entwined' music from one of the world's all-time greatest improvising artists.