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Ian Anderson

The Editor's Box

Ian Anderson's comment column

We’ve reached another of those big-round-number landmarks this issue. It’s the 30th of our Critics Polls for Albums Of The Year, the annual exercise where we ask an unfeasibly large number of people with expertise to pick their favourites from the previous year’s releases. So we’ve unleashed a little exercise in its wake: if you go here you’ll find an opportunity to vote for ‘The Best Of The Best’ – to decide which should be crowned top from the 120 winners and runners-up selected by the experts over those three decades. Vote once and vote wisely!

While every year continues to bring wonderful new evolutions in the music we love, as demonstrated by the panel’s selections in this year’s Poll, it’s a good idea to occasionally reassess the past – that old “you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you come from” thing. If you’re younger than our Polls, just dig into your parents’ CD collection! At the end of 1989, after our first decade of publishing, we asked the panel to select their album of the 1980s and they voted decisively for Dick Gaughan’s Handful Of Earth (which preceded the Critics Polls, so isn’t included in the Best Of The Best choices). It’ll be very interesting to see what floats to the top this time. We’re very aware that public votes tend to favour the biggest sellers, but it’s equally possible that the passage of time may make you look more favourably on one of the runners-up rather than a year winner.

However, please don’t complain that your favourite album of that era isn’t included because it didn’t get into the experts’ top handful the year it came out. Sorry. Write-in votes would bring madness and admin melt-down. I promise not to whinge that Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros’ Global A Go-Go isn’t voteable if you don’t bang on about Songs From An Ambient Celtic Rainforest by the Dolphin Children. Off you go!

We’re now up to No 57 on our fRoots compilations, so if you add in the three un-numbered strays (Looking For A New England 1 & 2 and FAFtracks) we’ve hit a round number on those too. Of course, I’m biased because I have the luxury of compiling them all – and picking between them is a bit like deciding the favourite among your children (well, OK, I must admit I do have a soft spot for fRoots #6) – but I do urge you to grab this one as it not only contains some particularly great music but, to my ears, hangs together really well too.

I occasionally get asked how I go about sequencing them and the simple answer is “like a radio show”, but quite honestly I do believe that great compilation sequences are made in heaven. When I started out, pre-iTunes, the only way to test out an album sequence was to record it manually, in real time, onto a cassette. And if it didn’t sit together properly, you had to do it all over again until you were sure. Nowadays you can just drag the tracks around in an iTunes Playlist, but more often than not I find that my first gut-feeling guess sequence is the one that works, just the same as with our fRoots Radio podcasts. fRoots 57 was one of those that did.

Anyway – we’re now in 2016 when we will hit our 400th issue in October. Now that’s a big round number. Eek!

Ian Anderson

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