"Music's Secret Weapons"
Nick Hornby picks Olu Dara's In the World: From Natchez to New York, a 1998 album, which, according to Hornby, "delivers roots music without beardy gravity."
Phil Manzanera, guitarist for Roxy Music, names Tim Finn's 1993 album Before And After. He says Finn is "strong on all the essentials: he's a great songwriter and vocalist."
Razorlight's Johnny Borrell names Leonard Cohen's Songs from a Room. Everyone already loves Leonard Cohen, I should hope, or at least has heard him.
Alan McGee names The Sound's Jeopardy, and says they "should have been the Bunnymen. They destroy U2. They even gave Joy Division a run for their money."
Richard Hawley picks The Electric Prunes - Mass in F Minor
"The important question is whether we'd be coming back to our house for a big session or a simmer. You don't want to be putting Hendrix on if you've got to go to bed in 10 minutes. But if someone's coming round for an evening and I want to play them something really amazing, it would have to be the Prunes. David Axelrod composed this, but it was played by the skeletal remains of the original Electric Prunes. To play something like this you'd have to be pissed but not too pissed. It straddles a lot of worlds. It's quite edgy: the guitar playing is hardcore, but it's quite beautiful, as well. There aren't any lyrics. It's basically Catholic or religious type songs set to psychedelic music. I'm not religious, I hate hippies, but this is a boss record. It takes you to another place. In the past - obviously - I have got totally out of my box listening to this. It's not like anything I've heard before or since.
Chrissie Hynde picks Andy Pratt's self-titled album ("He said: 'I'll take all you spoiled young hippies,' which I loved, because we were hippies. I haven't wanted to listen to much recently and this has really cheered me up.")
Johnny Marr names Roy Harper's 1971 album Stormcock ("intense and beautiful and clever: [Bowie's] Hunky Dory's big, badder brother. The words from the song Hors d'Oeuvres give you a glimpse: 'The critic rubs his tired arse / Scrapes his poor brains, strains and farts / And wields a pen that stops and starts / And thinks in terms of booze and tarts / And sits there playing with his parts / He says I'm much too crude and far too coarse / And he says this singer's just a farce / He's got no healing formulas / He's got no cure-all for our scars / He's got no bra strap for our bras / And our sagging tits no longer hold a full house of hearts / And you know what? I don't think this little song's gonna make the charts.'")
The Guardian article makes for nifty reading, with lots of ideas for "new" albums to check out.
There's also a contest to name the 50th secret weapon, in no more than 150 words. "The only rules are that your chosen album must be a) brilliant and b) obscure." They later have a link to more rules. Heh.