13th May – The Number One Album in the UK – 2003 (Blur – Think Tank)

Think_tank_album_cover

Ten years ago today, the number one album in the UK was Think Tank from Blur.

Blur formed in 1988 in London, originally known as Seymour, the 4 piece band is comprised of Damon Albarn (singer/keyboardist), Graham Coxon (guitarist/singer), Dave Rowntree (drums) and Alex James (bass).

One of the most important UK acts of the last 25 years, Blur have released a number of albums that have had a substantive impact upon popular culture:

Leisure (1991)

Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993)

Parklife (1994)

The Great Escape (1995)

Blur (1997)

13 (1999)

A lot happened between the release of 13 in 1999 and Think Tank in 2003

On 30 October 2000, a Greatest Hits compilation Blur: The Best Of was released, with the CD version including 17 of Blur’s 23 singles from 1990 to 2000 plus “This Is A Low” which apparently went on to sell 3.5 million albums worldwide.

March 2001 saw the release of the debut self titled album by the British virtual band Gorillaz; a collaboration between Jamie Hewlett, an English designer and comic book artist (co-creator of the comic Tank Girl), and Damon Albarn.

The Gorillaz album had been recorded between December 1998 and May 2000 at Studio 13 in London, England and Geejam Studios in Portland, Jamaica.

The success of the Gorillaz longplayer – including the singles Clint Eastwood, 19-2000, Rock the House and “Tomorrow Comes Today – caught many by surprise with the record apparently selling over ten million copies worldwide.

One of Blur’s great strengths is their ability to reinvent themselves as they boldly have throughout their career – Think Tank is no exception being described as a melting pot of alternative & experimental rock, trip hop and electronica.

Think Tank was recorded in locations as diverse as London, Morocco and Devon between November 2001–November 2002; the album had production input from Ben Hillier, Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), William Orbit and the band with Graham Coxon departing the band during the sessions.

A loose concept record, Albarn stated to Rolling Stone at the time that “It’s an album about love and politics” and the track, Brothers and Sisters “starts off like John Lee Hooker and ends up like Grandmaster Flash” with another Out of Time featuring a Moroccan orchestra.

Banksy, the graffiti artist who started out spray-painting street walls and curbs was commissioned to create the album cover artwork; it was reported by Reuters in April 2007 that Bonhams auctioneers in London sold the original Think Tank artwork for £75,000 which was well beyond expectations as it had been expected to fetch £20-£30,000.

With Think Tank debuting on the UK Albums Chart at number one, it made it the fifth consecutive studio album from the band to reach the pole position.

It also reached the upper echelons of the charts in many other countries around the world, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the United States.

Since its release, Think Tank received a number of accolades listing it as one of the greatest albums of 2003 as well as the decade as a whole.

Think Tank received critical acclaim from a broad cross section of media around the world; with it being described as the best album of 2003 by Miranda Sawyer from The Observer [the Top 3 was rounded out by releases from Dizzee Rascal – Boy In Da Corner (XL) & The White Stripes – Elephant (XL)]:

Think Tank is the band’s first warm album. They have hopped genres in the past, from baggy to mod to pop to grunge to art-rock, but the sound has always stayed urban, Western, cool. Think Tank is none of these things. It’s all over the place, and that place is foreign. Odd noises, strange instruments, keening vocals; its tunes wind themselves around your heart like drifting smoke. They waft in from faraway lands; trail and trickle their scent across your life. It is the most peculiar stuff that stays with you: ‘Ambulance’s slurred symphony; ‘Caravan’s star-speckled wonder.”

In 2012, Blur received a Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music – the British equivalent of the American Grammy Awards or the Australian equivalent of the ARIA Awards.

Track listing:

Me, White Noise (pregap hidden track) – 6:48

Ambulance – 5:09

Out of Time – 3:52

Crazy Beat – 3:15

Good Song – 3:09

On the Way to the Club (Albarn, James Dring, James, Rowntree) – 3:48

Brothers and Sisters – 3:47

Caravan – 4:36

We’ve Got a File on You – 1:03

Moroccan Peoples Revolutionary Bowls Club – 3:03

Sweet Song – 4:01

Jets” (Albarn, James, Rowntree, Mike Smith) – 6:25

Gene by Gene – 3:49

Battery in Your Leg (Albarn, Graham Coxon, James, Rowntree) – 3:20

[note – In the Blur 21 version of the album, “Me, White Noise” is appended to the end of the album as part of track 13 instead of being in the pregap].

All lyrics by Damon Albarn.

All music by Albarn, Alex James, Dave Rowntree unless otherwise stated.

Personnel:

Blur

Damon Albarn – vocals, backing vocals, guitar, piano, producer

Alex James – bass guitar, backing vocals, production

Dave Rowntree – drums, backing vocals, guitar on “On The Way To The Club”, production

Graham Coxon – guitar on “Battery in Your Leg”

Additional musicians and production

Bezzari Ahmed – rabab

Moullaoud My Ali – oud

Mohamed Azeddine – oud

Norman Cook – producer (Track 3 & 12)

Jason Cox – production assistance, engineer

Phil Daniels – vocals

James Dring – engineer, programming

Ben Hillier – producer, engineer, percussion

Gueddam Jamal – cello, violin

Abdellah Kekhari – violin

Ait Ramdan El Mostafa – kanoun

Desyud Mustafa – orchestral arrangement

El Farani Mustapha – tere

Dalal Mohamed Najib – darbouka

Hijaoui Rachid – violin

M. Rabet Mohamid Rachid – violin

Mike Smith – saxophone

Kassimi Jamal Youssef – oud

William Orbit – producer (Track 10)

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