From the moment Blur made the breakthrough with the debut album Leisure in 1991, Damon Albarn has carved out a shapeshifting career, pushing boundaries and melding genres in the process. Given his impact on contemporary music, it should come as little surprise that his three favourite albums represent his eclectic output perfectly.
Dependent on when you were born, Albarn means something different to each listener. Blur not only represents his youth but that of an entire generation, and whenever he reconvenes with the group, the frontman re-lives his young adulthood. On the contrary, his melancholy solo material reflects the middle-aged man he is today.
Contrastingly, Albarn also created Gorillaz, a vehicle that has allowed him to work with artists from all around the musical sphere, with collaboration at the heart of the project’s success. It’s permitted Albarn to experiment outside of his comfort zone, and selfishly, let him work with his musical heroes.
The opportunity to work with Bobby Womack mattered to Albarn more than most. In 2015, the singer revealed that The Poet was one of his three favourite albums of all time while promoting the latest Blur album, The Magic Whip. As well as obtaining the late Womack to appear on three Gorillaz tracks, Albarn also had the pleasure of co-producing his final album, 2012’s The Bravest Man On The Universe.
“I could have chosen three or four of Bobby’s,” Albarn explained. “Records that kill me every time. Along with Tony Allen, he’s one of the biggest inspirations of my musical life.”
Meanwhile, his next selection was William Onyeabor’s World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who is William Onyeabor?. A reclusive Nigerian funk musician who had a story steeped in mystery, Onyeabor self-released eight albums between 1977 and 1985 before turning to Christianity and turning his back on music. Albarn selected a 2013 compilation of his work and said, “The more I learn about this man, the more of an enigma he becomes, but I can’t think of a more joyous thing than ‘Fantastic Man’.”
Last up is David Bowie and his album Low from his Berlin Trilogy. He noted, “The sound of David and Brian absorbing punk then taking it to Berlin to produce a futuristic record, right on the frontline of the Cold War.”
Sadly, it remains one of Albarn’s biggest regrets that an album he discussed making with Bowie failed to materialise. “David Bowie asked me and Ray Davies to make an album with him. It was actually a serious thing we were going to do,” he told The Scotland Herald.
Albarn added, “He summonsed me when he was playing in Switzerland into the labyrinth of his backstage and I went to see him and he said, ‘Well, we’re going to do this but if this tour keeps doing as well as it is then I’m going to carry on touring.'” In the end, Bowie decided to stay on the road, and the album never got past the brainstorming stage, much to Albarn’s ire.
Damon Albarn’s three favourite albums
- Bobby Womack – The Poet
- William Onyeabor – Who Is William Onyeabor?
- David Bowie – Low