Sunday, February 28, 2021
First of all the list from the Best Ever Albums site.
1. Led Zeppelin - IV
2. The Who - Who's Next
3. David Bowie - Hunky Dory
4. The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers
5. Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
6. Joni Mitchell - Blue
7. Can - Tago Mago
8. Pink Floyd - Meddle
9. The Doors - LA Woman
10. Yes - Fragile
Here's my own list. The proviso being that I own the record myself.
1. Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
2. David Bowie - Hunky Dory
3. Sly & The Family Stone - There's a Riot Goin' On
4. Can - Tago Mago
5. The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers
6. Joni Mitchell - Blue
7. The Doors - LA Woman
8. Led Zeppelin - IV
9. Carole King - Tapestry
10. T.Rex - Electric Warrior
Much more to marvel at. Nick Drake, David Crosby, Alice Coltrane, Gil Scott Heron, Harry Nilsson, Serge Gainsbourg, Elton John, Genesis and more.
'An album so postmodern that the CD actually features, between tracks seven and eight, a stylus being picked up and put back down onto a vinyl record.'
Saturday, February 27, 2021
Seeing as I'm feeling all folky, a repost for a review of this record which I wrote way back in 2013. It's one of the incoherent, rambling peices that I used to write at the beginning of It Starts. Still, I've resisted the urge to edit it and have finally got round to Electric Eden, which I mention here.
When I was coming of age in the mid-eighties folk music was a definite, absolute no-no for aspiring young hipsters which I suppose I was. I remember vaguely coming across members of the folkster scene during my time at university in Norwich, probably on their way to a hoedown in the back room of a pub somewhere off the Unthank Road. It wasn't a scene that appealed. The men almost all had beards and unkempt ones at that. There seemed to be living things in some of them. The women wore large frocks.
Perhaps I'm doing them an injustice. My good mate Andy who had closer connections to this scene would be able to put me right. They clearly weren't The Velvet Underground and Warhol's Factory which was more of the kind of crowd I was blindly searching for. Folk music was so far from being 'cool' less than ten years from Punk that it looked like it would never come back.
But it did. This stuff is as hip as anything else now and it seem to be everywhere. Right slap bang in the heart of everything, right in the mainstream. Mumford & Sons! Could anybody explain Mumford & Sons to me? Is that folk? It seems as diametrically opposite to Fairport Convention and the great British folk music of the sixties and seventies as it's possible to be. Mumford & Son don't seem to have any discernible roots to me.
There is better stuff though. Fleet Foxes, Midlake, Devendra Banhart, Bon Iver even. Not all of it completely my cup of tea but certainly drawing on these sources. The best folk music for me wherever it comes from always seems to be about land and landscape and the people who find themselves on and in it. Generation after generation. Century after century. An earnest mapping and charting of rural cultural memory. A celebration of it all at the same time. Because this stuff is important.
I never would have thought I'd write these things when I was in my early twenties. But you grow older and realise the value of music like jazz and folk because they cut so deep and the best musicians are like seers, channelling something so profound that it's almost beyond expression. Fairport Convention are an important band if any of these things hold any value.
They're still here, more than forty years after their inception, although the current incarnation is quite different from the original line up and at least a couple of them have sadly fallen by the wayside including the incomparable and utterly majestic Sandy Denny. They're a British institution (I cringe to write such 'rockspeak' but in this case it's true).
I only own a few of their records, their first, a best of and Liege and Lief so I'm no expert but I imagine it's incontestable that their best work was done in their first ten years during which time Denny and Richard Thompson were in the band. And most particularly in 1969 where they released three albums (remarkable enough in itself) and did more than anybody else to change folk music forever.
I'm not willing to call this stuff folk rock. I think it's a pretty ugly term. Fairport to me are folk even though they electrified it their music was ingrained, immersed with the tradition. As I've said I find some of the 'hey nonny no' aura of some that surrounds the genre a bit embarrassing. Fairport could have fallen into this trap too. I think in their later versions they actually do. In the first song on here Denny sings 'So come on you rolling minstrels' and you can practically here the morris dancers. But they have a stately grace that makes this stuff just fly.
Early incarnations of Fairport drew on Blues and R&B. Fairport was a house in Muswell Hill where the band did some of their early rehearsals. Their earliest recordings settled on an American West Coast sound. There's lots of Jefferson Airplane, Byrds, Joni Mitchell Leonard Cohen, Phil Ochs and most especially Bob Dylan on their great first album. I love this record because I love the stuff it's influenced by. It's a blast! But it's certainly not all their own vision. Have a listen to this. I'm sure it's clear what I mean.
It has such grace and poise. It reels and jigs and does cartwheels. It's so sure of itself. A band that knows its time has come. They are achieving something similar to what The Band had managed in the States at round about the same point in their recently released first two albums. There's a reclaiming and renewal of roots and cultural heritage. But it's all joyous and totally new at the same time.It also has a strong connection to the back to the land movement that was so strongly embedded in the counterculture in the late sixties.
Great albums need great sleeves but they also absolutely need great first tracks. The first song sets the tone and lets you know what's in store. It makes you decide whether you want to carry on listening. This one really does the trick. We're in for a treat!
Reynardine digs deeper still into the English rural legend almost burrowing into the soil itself. It's a story about a woman meeting a rake who is only ever going to lead her astray. They both seem to know it and so does the narrator and the story unwinds to its conclusion with terrible inevitability.
Denny's voice is glacial. She knows so much about this stuff and her voice is hypnotic and commanding. I can't imagine what it must have been like to see her live in a small venue. The accompaniment is tense and restrained. You get the sense that the band knew exactly what they'd got with her and what she allowed them to say. There were times when they just need to provide the backdrop and she would tell the tale with full-blooded intensity and carry all before her. I can't think of another British female singer to touch her. Dusty Springfield perhaps but precious few others.
For his true love is flown into every flower grown
And he must be keeper of the garden.'
Friday, February 26, 2021
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Between Pages 225 and 250 Electric Eden starts moving at breakneck speed. Encompassing Astral Weeks, Pentangle and the beginning of the fabulous Fairport Convention story up to the tragic death of Martin Lamble. It seems criminal to miss anything out. But I had to post this.
Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 196 Rocket From The Crypt - Scream, Dracula, Scream!
Sensitive female singer-songwriters are ten a penny thes days. You virtually need to go to the nearest tree, give it a good shake and they'll come tumbling down upon you. All quavering emotions and shivery melodies.
Indigo Sparke will probably need to get in line. What she's doing on Echo, her debut, is not so very different from what many around her are doing or have done already. No matter. It's a lovely record.
The two things it reminds me most of strangely are not immediate contemporaries by but two classic mid Nineties albums, Jeff Buckley's Grace and Radiohead's The Beds, particularly their most vulnerable moments. Their moments of naked honesty.
Echo isn't going to make the splashes those two records do. It doesn't deserve to. It reinvents no wheels. It's a record with simply ambitions which fulfils them and more. A small, perfectly formed thing of beauty that you might like to discover for yourself..