Monday, May 20, 2024

Labelled With Love - A History of the World in Your Record Collection - # 1 Two Tone


A simple concept. Between 59 and 60 reord labels. A short chapter on each, A selecion of albums or single you might want to invest in. Easy for me. A chapeter a day. Starating with one of the best. 

500 Greatest Albums of the 1980s ... Ranked! # 367 Dire Straits - Brothers In Arms


This was the height of Yuppie Rock. Sting guesting about getting on MTV. Then playing on Live Aid.  Mark wore a headband. Played a silver embossed guitar. It was an invitation to go into Real Estate. Real Estate needs people. But it's not a sound that appeals to me any more now than it did then. .

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 612 Eminem - The Eminem Show


Round about the millennium you could hardly get away from Eminem. Now we have Taylor but back then he and Britney seemed to be the controlling sensibilities As a follower of Pop culture I bought one of his CDs and liked a couple of the hit singles. But really his was a hateful vision and sensibility that was at odds with mine and I don'r really want to be reminded of it. Great a talent as he is.  

Best Ever Albums - 2,000 - 1,001 -1,926 The Cure - Bloodflowers


I always like listening to Cure albums I don't know. They dreamed their dreams for us for over forty years. Their records are always diverting, They describes London suburbia and its deep eeriness better than any other music I know. This is from 2000. It casts the spell, paints the picrures you hope it will. 

Song(s) of the Day # 3,743 Crumb


It doesn't take much to turn my head and realise immdediately that I'm onro something. A couple of chord changes. An eerie lead vocal . Quaint, recherche and unsettling. A realisation that you're in Stereolab, Pram and Broadcast teriitory and are in for a treat. 

New York PsychoPop band are new to me but I imediately fall in love with them, thirty seconds into their latest album, AMAMA, theur first since 2021. It reminds me of those bands. 

I just had it on my TV as I was prepaing to go out and some of it is slightly disposuble. What's immediately beguiling becomes a bit samey  and repitive a few songs in. Aural wallpaper. There are worse things than aural paper mind. Worth a listen.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Warhol & Friends


John Phillips, Amanda Lear, Andy Warhol, and Jed Johnson at Sly Stone and Kathy Silva's wedding reception at the Waldorf-Astoria's Starlight Roof in NYC on June 5, 1974. Photo by Oscar Abolafia

Songs About People # 1,393 Gustav Mahler


                             Another from the Sofia Bolt Vendredi Minuit reviewed recently.

500 Greatest Albums of the 1980s ... Ranked! # 368 Black Flag - Damaged


I'm not particularly enaamoured of Henry Rollins enlightened jock approach or Black Flag's Sabbath riff machine adjusted for Hardcore Punk bonehead purposes. The songs are smart and state of the nation critiques and they were a key and essential band. It's just not the kind of thing I listen to. 

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 611 Tom Waits - Alice


There are worse things to do first thing in  the morning than becoming acquainted with a Tom Waits record that you haven't heard before. He remains consistent to his beautiful, crooked vision. He's an artist, in the truest meaning of hte word.

Best Ever Albums - 2,000 - 1,001 -1,927 Janet Jackson - Control


At the time if its release I wasn't ready for Janey Jackson's Control. I didn't care for Michael Jackson's records at the time so wasn't going to give his sisters albums a fair listen. Now I think I've grown up a little in terms of musical appreciation I can see the recordd for what it is. State of the line, conveyor belt Pop priduction. Also exemplary Feminist role model assertion, Pretty flawless frankly.

Song(s) of the Day # 3,742 Halloweens

 I never had much time for The Vaccines. U thought they stripped what was magical about the Rock & Roll formula. But not in an inspiring way like the Ramones approach back on 1976. I found the Vaccines reductive and faddish by comparison.

I'm very taken by Halloweens Opera Singing at The Salsa Bar by comparison. It's a Vaccines offshoot from Justin Hawkins and Timothy Lanham and I find it much more diverting and alluring than most Vaccines albums.

It's a bright, inventive theatrical exercise that's really good company for its eleven minute thirty five minute run  Hawkins channels his talents wonderfully here. A sparkling, dreaming amd tpiching record. 

Saturday, May 18, 2024

500 Greatest Albums of the 1980s ... Ranked! # 369 Felt - Gold Mine Trash


Felt didn't get their due. In sales or critical respect. John Peel shunned them early and this was key in the Eighties. They never stood a chance. This is a compilation of some of their finest Eighties janglers. They're now worshipped in American Indie circles. Not that this helps' Lawrence's bank balance much.


Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 610 Afel Boucum , Damon Albarn Youmani Diabate & Friends - Mali Music


Damon Albarn's long pennance for his BritPop's sins. They weren't half numerous. But fair play to him. He's made no end of completely fantastic music since. This for instance.

Best Ever Albums - 2,000 - 1,001 -1,928 Grouper - AIA; Alien Observer


A ghosyly and special exercise in Psychedelia, Dream Pop and Conspiracy Theories. I like to look at the stars and wonder as much as the next person. This is a perfect soundtrack. 

Mick Head & The Red Elastic Band - Loophole


Mick Head seems to be enjoying a surprising but well deserved curtain call of late. As someone who's always appreciated and sometimes been blown away by his work since he first emerged with Pale Fountains in the end days of Eric's it's a gratifying thing to witness.

Head has always been a talent to note and enjoy. Personally I've sometimes found him a little too in thrall to the past. That of his heroes. Arthur Lee's :Love, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds. I love that tradition too, so I'm not about to complain but I've never thought it entirely healthy to immerse yourself so utterly in times which have gone by. Look at Morrissey. You lose track of the here and now and your pursuit becomes an exercise in nostalgia and can sometimes lose its way. Those who peddle in this too staunchly are not always reliable witnesses.

This seems to be a particularly Scouse tendency and prediliction. Head is not alone. There are plenty of Liverpudlian  fellow travellers. Lippy types. McCulloch, The Coral, Bill Ryder Jones, Lee Mavers. Head has always been probably the mist restrained and artistically inclined of these. Intent as much in his legacy as his present and his past. A painter at the easel at the port or the bay. Beret cocked, False moustache. Paintbrush at an angle.

He's painted another minor masterpiece in Loophole latest record with the Red Elastic Band.It's one of his best records I'd say and will get his fanbase swooning in the aisles.It's an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' exercise. Mistly he hits bullsetes.The quality contril is very high. Sometimes the steals are a bit blatant. The Human Race filches Lou Reed's Hangin Round lock stock an barrel. But what did Oscar say about imitation.The man knows what he likes and plenty of others will love this too. Good luck to the man. Well done too. I imagine he's enjoting this. .    

Song(s) of the Day # 3,741 Night Beds


A Rocky Mountain reared dreamer now based in Nashville, Tennessee. Winston Yellen's lastest record Mountain Radio is a joy from the off. It seems to concern itself mostly with the creation of beauty and awe. I'm not about to complain about that. 

It's a lovely recird, right the way though. Yellen comes across a better adjusted hick cousin to Mark Kozalek's urban toiler. This is a much more contented listen than Kozalek's remarkable but deeply troubled records.

There's something of Bon Iver's late career poetic ennui to Mountain Radio too. This is a very American record in essence. A gorgeous one. Lost in the stars.

Friday, May 17, 2024

500 Greatest Albums of the 1980s ... Ranked! # 370 Big Daddy Kane - Long Live The Kane


Frankly preposterous from the word go.

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 609 Salif Keita - Moffou


A Golden Voice from Mali. A wonderful record full of the trial and tribulation and joy of so many African records. Mystery too as Keita sings in French, a language I don't really speak or understand. This doesn't stop the record being utterly intriguing and captivating. In short beautiful.

Best Ever Albums - 2,000 - 1,001 -1,927 Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide To Earth


After istening to the fab new Beth Gibbons, this is another album that makes you think about what it means to be alive. Sturgill Simpson doesn't do standard C & W and is all the more unteresting for that. Incredibly ambitious. Not always for me as it tends towards schmaltz more than I personally like, but this is a very strong album for those who scatter sugar liberally on their corn flakes.

Song(s) of the Day # 3,740 Beth Gibbons


It's great to wake up on a Friday morning looking forward to your 8.15 class with Business People from a Pet Food provider in Kreveld, Germany and with a fantastic new record to accompany your ablutions and breakfast rituals as you make your way towards it.

This morning Beth Gibbons and her debut album Lives Outgrown. Anyone vaguely familiar with Beth and her work down the years with Portishead will have the vaguest idea of what to expect here. But all expectations are immediately outstripped. This instantly forwards itself as one of the best, and certainly one of the most haunting records you are likely to hear all year. Any other year for that matter.

Beth Gibbons is not necessarily the happiest of campers. She never has been frankly. More like a prophetess of impending doom. Don't go to  Lives Outgrown hoping for covers of Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and the like.Cheerful is not necessarily the go to adjective. If that's what you're after I direct you to.... well Wake Me Up Before You Go Go might be a place to start.

Instead you get a series of siren songs that bring to mind the German concept of the unheimlich. The uncanny, a philosophical idea that is difficult to explain completely but essentially gets to the root of what makes us human and unites us with the fantastic and spectral existence of the planet we find ourselves cast adrift on. The very reason why we're alive and wake to each new day with renewed hunger for it.

Perhaps I haven't described the record very well. It has all sorts going for it. Ritual, ceremony, drama, tunes. It's an album apart and I haven't even listened to it all the way through yet. Auf jeden falle total toll. Forwarts und aufwarts.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

500 Greatest Albums of the 1980s ... Ranked! # 371 Pretenders - Pretenders II


From just before Pretenders got totn apart. Hereford boys. Couldn't keep up with Chrissie. This record has plenty going for it. 

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 608 Brendan Benson - Lapalco


                                                         Homemade Power Pop gem from 2002.

Best Ever Albums - 2,000 - 1,001 -1,928 Aretha - Aretha Now


                                  There's little that you could want than Aretha and Aretha Now!

Song(s) of the Day # 3,739 Tuxedomoon

I had a small package delivered yesterday morning An NME from back in the day.First bought and devoured when I was 19 and preparing myself for university. My gap year, Michael Stipe from R.E.M. on the cover. I came down to London to see them both in my first term from Norwich. They'd just been on the same show of The Tube on a Friday night. I saw them both in four days, Still both among the best gigs I've ever seen.

The copy of NME is something else. A portal to a vanished time and place. Full of bands and artists that I've forgotte or missed at the time. You could easily miss things back then if you weren't paying attention. Even if you were, Tuxedomoon for example.. An experimental Post Punk jazzy outfit from San Francisco.

They operated mainly un the late Seventies and Eighties. Self Consciously on the margins. In the space that people like DEVO and Pere Ubu opened up. Operating from the margins. Much more interested in making an artistic starement than getting up on their hind heels and salivating for filthy lucre.

 But I listened to Pink Narcissus this morning. A ghostly eerie instrumental avant gard record  which they made in 2014 when they reconvened. It's the kind of record that immediately resonates and reminds you of a time long gone. The short article and interview with them in the NME is priceless. Such things are worth remembering and archiving. .       

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

500 Greatest Albums of the 1980s ... Ranked! # 372 Talking Heads - Speaking In Tongues


I don't play this very often. I love Talking Heads but it's generally the first four. This is an outstanding record too. Funky as it gets with a white band. 

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 609 Gillian Welch - Time (The Revelator)


The second Gillian Welch album. A true talent. Versed in the rich American C& W and Folk traditions.

Best Ever Albums - 2,000 - 1,001 -1,929 Blind Melon - Blind Melon


A lot of really annoying questionable jam music came in the wake of Punk. Spin Doctors. Blind Melon. The Heavy Rock of the early Seventies had already happened. You had to keep an eye on where MTV and a possible dope habit drove you in terms of your record purchasing. Or you could end up with abominations like this next to your Nirvana and Soungarden records.

Song(s) of the Day # 3,738 Dylan John Thomas


I sometimes listen to and try to review albums that I don't really understand what they're saying or exactly what they're trying to do. Dylan John Thomas' debut album, out recently is a case in point.I'm not quite sure whether I like it.

He's a Glaswegian singer songwriter with a floppy mop like Dylan and a thick Glaswegian accent. The Dylan connection s obvious but his songs are not Dylanesque except that they're guitar driven. They're immediate but have no immediate message or depth. The aim seems to be Radio 2 and 6 Music play.

Immediate gags like 'if time is a healer give me tequila.' don't light my fire I'm afraid. This is all rather flippant. I wish Dylan John Thomas well, but he almost feels like a recotd company construct to me. NEXT !

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Songs About People # 1,392 Alison Munro

                                                     For Alice Munro. Who has passed.


Fire Engines


500 Greatest Albums of the 1980s ... Ranked! # 373 Dead Can Dance - The Serpent's Egg


Dean Can Dance were always one of the most interesting bands on the 4AD roster. This is signature invocation and ritual from 1988. One to sit in darkness and let wash over you.

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 608 Jay Z - The Blueprint


Best Ever Albums - 2,000 - 1,001 -1,930 Portugal, The Man - Evil Friends


Alternative Rock band from Wassila, Arizona, now based in Portland, Oregon. Their name is inspired by Bowie's Bigger Than Life concept. Evil Friends from 2013 is a weird bit beguiling journey. Life observed from the outside by born bohemians. Worthy of kicking back to. Putting headphones on and taking your time over your breakfast. I've just done just that. 

Song(s) of the Day # 3,737 Sofia Bolt


Vendredi Minuit by Sofia Bolt. The kind of records I write for. A personal vision and statement. Alternating between French and English.

Sofia Bolt is French born. She's collaborated with Van Dyke Parks and been praised by Iggy Pop. Vendredi Minuit is eclectic and stylish. It's dreamy, pensive and visceral according to Spotify bio notes.Looks like someone else has swallowed the synonyms dictionary.

This is a contradictory but strangely apt description. It's a record that choose the winding path down the mountainside. 

It tells tales which is what you want from a record. It's at once a chocolate box and a collection of short stories that reward investment


Monday, May 13, 2024

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 608 Orlando Cachaito Lopez - Cachaito


Cuban Jazz musician in a Cuban music family tree. Prepare yourselves. This one swings. 

500 Greatest Albums of the 1980s ... Ranked! # 374 The Colorblind James Experience - The Colorblind James Experience


I put this on my TV as I was preparing for my working day. You can nowadays. It's useful to appreciate the things technological advance offers us sometimes as well as shake your fist about the issues it brings along too.

 The Colorblind James Experience were the kind of leftfield American combo the likes of John Peel and Andy Kershaw played on their shows throughput the Eighties. Like Camper Van Beethoven they were a joy, scouring the best traitions of American Jazz and Folk. You could dance to them too. And laugh. This frankly is a small, forgotten classic.

Best Ever Albums - 2,000 - 1,001 -1,931 ABBA - The VIsitors


A wonderful curtain call for one of the truly great bands. Here's something I wrote a few years back. 

'The Visitors is the ABBA album that Alan Partridge doesn't really play that often.' Taylor Parkes.

It's also not perhaps the ABBA album that you would expect a music critic to choose to convince his reader of their greatness. I've listened to plenty of their stuff during my lifetime, mostly as a result of them being the mainstay of my parent's record collection as I was growing up. They still remain the one musical artist that my mum and dad bond over. This New Year for example, when we got together as a family, children and grandchildren, ( photographic evidence below), it was Mamma Mia 2 that went on the television and we all sang along, apart from the 'too cool for school contingent'. Even they I'm sure, were wanting to tap their feet. OK, maybe not my brother-in-law. He, apparently was a Velvet Underground fan at the age of eleven. But as for me, I've always had a lot of time for them. They can easily bring me to tears. More probably than any other band. I could write a book about why that is. Though you probably wouldn't care to read it.

But The Visitors? You probably won't know many songs off it. The record came out in November 1981 and was the band's final album, though of course they've recently reformed, leading their most ardent, though I'd suggest, also  most deluded,  fans to hope there'll be another. When this came out it was one of the first albums to be pressed on CD, a sure sign that the times were a changing,  ABBA's split would prove to be another. Just as The Beatles barely made it to the Seventies, ABBA simply weren't meant for the Eighties.

While The Beatles break up felt like a divorce, ABBA going their separate ways was almost certainly made inevitable by the two that actually occurred within the band, between Benny and Anna-Frid and Bjorn and Agnetha. Boy can you hear it on the record. It's ABBA on antidepressants.

Taylor Parkes, who writes the article about The Visitors in the book, makes a very good case for it, along these lines. I listened to the album from beginning to end for the first time while reading it and would direct you towards both. This is not really an easy record to listen to, unless you're attracted by other people's pain. ABBA's pop gifts are still nakedly evident but the whole record is shrouded in a genuine melancholy. The Swedes are very good at this stuff. Have you ever seen a Ingmar Bergman film?

I won't be rushing out to try and find a second hand copy of The Visitors in a charity shop. Parkes makes the good point that it can easily be done. Not that it isn't a good record, ABBA at their most mature as you'd expect but probably not at their best. There was a reason it sold less than much of their other stuff. When I want depression I have The Cure and Joy Division. The Visitors is ultimately a suburban, grown up expression of similar emotions. You can hear where Bjorn and Benny are going from here, towards West End musicals. There are a few late, great moments on the record, Head over Heels, One of Us, Like an Angel Passing Through My Room, but really they were just too sad to stay together as a band now that they were no longer together as two couples. That I know is a very trite way to write about genuine personal heartbreak. Anyhow, their time was gone, at least for the time being. They had made up their minds it must come to an end. Do you see what I did there? Anyhow, all four band members survived the split and their resulting trauma. That's good to hear. Now they're back again. That's good to hear too!

Song(s) of the Day # 3,736 Withered Hand & Kathryn Williams


Kathrym Williams has been plying her trade, oing her thing for some years now. A Liverpulian singer songwriter originally. She's now up here where I live in Newcatle. Her husband runs the artisan bakery on the corner of my block. It's doing well. Starting from scratch more than ten years back it now is becoming a veritable cottage industry wirh branches in Jesmond and elsewhere across this great city.

I just listened to Wilson Williams, her rather lovely record with Edinburgh's Dan Wilson under the Withered Hand banner. It's a lovely record of the old school. Folk by tradition but with an appreciation for Simon & Garfunkel, always a useful appreciation and trick to have up your your sleeve.

Wilson and Williams' voice dovetail and coo tigether in beautiful fashion. The record has tenderness and is built on genuine love and appreciation of the importance of music. This is a great start to the working week. You can't beat a great start to the working week. 

Sunday, May 12, 2024

500 Greatest Albums of the 1980s ... Ranked! # 375 John Cale - Honi Soit


John Cale edges into the Eighties in his inimitable way. Wonderfully he has a new album out soon. 

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 607 Cesare Evora - Sao Vicente Di Longe


A singer whose career blossomed late. In her forties. Better late than never. The sound of the bars of Lisbon bars.This has wings.

Best Ever Albums - 2,000 - 1,001 -1,932 Kings Of Leon - Youth & Young Manhood


Kings Of Leon have a new album out. Apparently a return to basic values. Frankly, I' say it's a bit late for that. They strike me as a band who sold out on what was so great about them. What exactly that was is all here in their first.This still sounds wonderful.  Ragged glory. 

Jessica Pratt - Here In The Pitch


I've alwats had slight difficulties in writing about Los Angeles based singer-songwriter.Jessica Pratt on here. In an English context her name sounds strange and slightly unfortunate and there's no real skirting the issue.

Her music though is quite another matter. It's been consistently enchanting and spellbinding  down the years. Labelled Retro Pop in some quarters. An appropriate tag in this case. It trasnports you on gossamer wings to yesteryear.She's a talent with rare gifts.

 Latest album Here In The Pitchw was awarded on album of the month award in Uncut a coupe of issues back. It deserves such status and notice, It's a record that finds her refining her specific talents to wonderful effect. This is a special one,. She's a special one. One to watch the sun set to.

Song of the Day # 3,735 The Empty Page


An old school undertone of fervour and rage. Pixies bass, Sonic Youth feel. 'The Queen of the Freak Scene.' 'Public Image, Joy Division and other dark political outcasts'. Increasingly I find it's a good idea to allow bands and artists to review themselves, Imploding is out now.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Keith Richard


Songs About People # 1,391 Martin Heidegger


A questionable figure to say the least historically.

500 Greatest Albums of the 1980s ... Ranked! # 379 Pet Shop Boys - Introspective


Remixes of hits. An interesting listen. Possibly not eseential.There's no getting away from it. The Pet Shop Boys can be rather irritating. 

Mojo Collection - The Ultimate Music Companion # 606 Saul Williams - Amethyst Rock Star


A rather jagged and monotonous Hip Hop album.

Best Ever Albums - 2,000 - 1,001 -1,933 The Flaming Lips - Transmissions From The Satelite Heart


I'm afraid I've never been able to stick The Flaming Lips for the most part. Such was the case with this album this morning.

Amen Dunes - Death Jokes


A few years back I got slightly obsessed by Amen Dunes dark anthem Miki Dora and Freedom, the album it was attached to. Both had a vaguely sinister but appealing undertow that I kept coming back to.

That was 2018. Freedom registered at 30 in my rundown of records in an exceptional year. Now Amen Dunes, or more precisely Damon McMahon, the rather earnest young American who plots their course is back with a belated follow up Death Jokes.

It steers a similar edgy path to its predecessor. Songs that don't adhere to traditional roadways and rhythms and instrumental patterns. McMahon has taken his time, often a sensible option. Death Jokes is dark but illuminated with insight and hypnotic purpose.  

Song(s) of the Day # 3,734 Memorial


A standout record on a Friday evening. A Folk tinged album with a pair of voices dovetailing together over traditional instruments. Redsetter by Memorial is a record that doesn't settle on easy solutions but asks plenty of valid and interesting questions..

Ollie Spalding and Jack Watts are Memorial 'Kings of Convenience meets Simon & Garfunkel at their harmonious best.' in the words of 6 Music DJ Chris Hawkins. It's not really a description that suits Redsetter fully, but points you in the right direction perhaps.

The way Spalding and Watts voices work together and drive this forward is a crucial factor in the substantial appeal of the record. It's a good one to listen to first thing the morning, last thing at night. And one I'm sure that's will repay return visits