BOOK REVIEW: Classic Albums By Women


The art of listening to an album—front to back—is in some ways, a lost one. At least, this is what Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy believed when she founded Classic Album Sundays, a worldwide podcast and website made specifically for album lovers that features filmed interviews with artists, stories behind classic albums, curated playlists and more.

“I founded Classic Album Sundays in 2010 as a response to a societal disposition that I felt was devaluing music, the act of listening and the significance of my beloved album format,” she writes in the introduction to the new book, Classic Albums By Women, released by Classic Album Sundays and ACC Art Books.

Conversely, Murphy noted the devaluing of the albums of women musicians despite their manifest, and emotionally resonant, contributions. So, a few weeks before International Women’s Day in 2018, Murphy set out to highlight those women-made albums with a social media campaign.

“I came up with the last-minute idea to ask our friends in the world of music to nominate their favorite album by a female musicians by taking a ‘selfie’ of themselves holding up their chosen album, and giving an account as to why that album held such personal importance,” she wrote.

Murphy received over 100 entries, and eventually, those entries turned into the 200-page “Classic Albums By Women,” which features the album picks of music industry players from across generations and genres.

Elsa Hill, DJ from Worldwide FM, holding her favorite women-made album.

While reading the book, you may not immediately recognize the name of every curator—but Classic Albums by Women contains the views of some industry heavyweights. For instance, Michael Kurtz, the co-founder of the ever-popular Record Store Day, contributes his pick.

“I have so many favourite albums by the likes of Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro and Regina Spektor (to name a few), but right now the album that demands my attention and makes me see the world differently is Rabbit Hole by Mindy Gledhill,” he writes in the book.

Additionally, the music critic at the Daily Telegraph, Neil McCormick, vouches for Beyonce’s Lemonade. He notes, “Female musicians have been undervalued, undermined and underpromoted ever since there has been a music business…There has never been so much great music by woman as there is right now. Beyonce is a towering start making shape-shifting, genre-busting R&B hip-hop pop with depth and purpose.”

The book also highlights how the albums of women inspired new generations of women to pursue music-making.

Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order, with his favorite album by a woman.

“I remember the first time I heard [Carole King’s] Tapestry,” writes musician KT Tunstall. “It became my song-writing bible; a masterclass in how to remain strong and vulnerable in equal measure.”

Likewise, as DJ/producer Honey Dijon writes about her pick, Island Life by Grace Jones: “Grace Jones is the reason I felt free enough to become an artist,” she writes.

Overall, this little book—perfect for quick, casual coffee table thumb-through or a more thorough read before an album listening session—is a great way to learn more about your favorite artists, and learn about some new women that have impacted people along the way. The long list of curators involved with the book also provide a tether to the worldwide, album-loving community so you can find your next favorite podcast or music journalist. Most importantly, Classic Albums by Women is a towering testament to the power women artists have had, and continue to have over listeners of all walks of life.

Classic Albums by Women is available on Amazon or through the publisher, ACC Art Books.