66. Syd Straw, Surprise
Syd Straw originally intended to go into the family business. When she moved to New York City at the age of nineteen she planned to become an actor like her father Jack Straw, whose most significant credit was a supporting role in the 1957 film The Pajama Game. Before long, Straw decided that she might be better off pursuing a singing career, a decision that quickly yielded dividends when she earned a prominent place in the ever-shifting line-up of Anton Fier’s band The Golden Palominos. That in turn helped her make plenty of impressive connections so that the credits of her solo debut Surprise read like a sort of college rock dream team with the likes of Ry Cooder, Peter Holsapple and John Doe pitching in. Maybe most useful in getting the attention of music directors was the contribution of Michael Stipe from R.E.M. on back-up vocals. Having high-powered collaborators is about more that stirring up extra interest. As Straw put it, “I prefer people who can bring me up a notch or two. I like to be inspired.” That inspiration is evident throughout Surprise.
65. Kate Bush, The Sensual World
Four years passed between Kate Bush’s terrifically successful album Hounds of Love and 1989’s The Sensual World, which might seem like a lot of time, but there’s a clear meticulous construction to her music that obvious takes a great deal of car. Besides, the title track makes explicit reference to James Joyce’s Ulysses, and anyone who’s cracked that hefty tome knows that more than a few extra hours are going to need to be set aside in order to get through it. Thinking in a literary way apparently helped Bush get in touch with inner parts of herself, leading to an album that she says is her “most female so far.” In Bush’s estimation, it’s not just a collection of songs, but an expression of herself as a woman, a level of personal honesty that might explain the added emotional urgency to the material. She upped the intimacy further by recording most of the album at her home studio in Kent, giving it even more of a sense that it’s the deepest, truest Kate Bush coming through.