Essential Elsewhere

A selection of cornerstone albums to help you build an interesting collection of diverse Elsewhere  music. These essays will introduce albums which can lead you into whole threads of music -- be they power-pop, world music, European jazz, hip-hop, reggae, alt.country or just plain rock'n'roll. Areas you might not have otherwise considered or enjoyed.

Explore . . . and don't be afraid of going Elsewhere.

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

Judy Garland: Judy at Carnegie Hall (1961)

15 Sep 2014    1

Many people who saw Judy Garland in the final weeks of her life described her in similar terms, that she looked like a sick bird, broken and unable to fly. She was battling a lifetime of debts, betrayals, pills, booze, chronic unhappiness, self-doubt . . . In one of her last interviews she said, “I've worked very hard, you know, and I've planted some of – I've been... > Read more

Stormy Weather

The Mothers of Invention: Uncle Meat (1969)

9 Aug 2014    1

While it is entirely possible to live a happy and fulfilled life without hearing any music by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, there really is no need to be so deprived given the extensive re-issue programme that was undertaken after his death in 1993. And, Lord protect us, it arrived all over again in 2012.  All the Zappa/Mothers albums are out there already on... > Read more

The Uncle Meat Variations

Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Indian Classical Music (2014)

14 Jul 2014

Elsewhere makes judiciously considered entries under its Essential Elsewhere albums, and we avoid the obvious (no compilations, greatest hits and so on). Those are easy options and anyone with a laptop could pull together a serviceable, if only ordinary, "essential" collection. You could probably even do that for fairly obscure artists like Popul Vuh and Solomon King. But our... > Read more

Devgiri Balawarl Dhun

The Ornette Coleman Trio: At the Golden Circle, Stockholm. Vol 1 (1965)

12 May 2014

As far as I can see by looking back, Ornette Coleman is the first artist to have two entries at Essential Elsewhere, he has appeared previously with The Shape of Jazz to Come. Although, to be honest, he should also be here for Virgin Beauty (1988) but the damn thing is out of print. However this classic Coleman album recorded in Sweden is not just essential, but is now readily available... > Read more

Dawn

Eric Dolphy: Out to Lunch (1964)

17 Apr 2014

The sudden and unexpected death of saxophonist/flute player and clarinettist Eric Dolphy just months after these exceptional studio sessions for the Blue Note label robbed jazz of one of its most distinctive voices, and left many questions hanging about where the 36-year old might have taken his music. Already he had worked with Charles Mingus, Max Roach, George Russell and John... > Read more

Something Sweet, Something Tender

Peter Case: Peter Case (1986)

5 Sep 2013    3

For six months after its release, at least three times a week, I would play this album. Night after night. I had been given a cassette tape which I had in the kitchen and while making dinner for my kids, only stopping to hear Alistair Cooke's Letter From America on the radio, Peter Case would be on permanant repeat. One night one of my boys came in and stood listening, for what would... > Read more

Walk in the Woods

Tom Waits: Orphans (Shock)

23 Jun 2013    1

The American journalist Robert Wilonsky once observed of Tom Waits' music, either you like the sound of a barking dog, or you buy yourself a cat. Those of us who love and admire Waits' work live with the sound of the barking dog. Waits may have often made a beautiful noise, but it was a noise nonetheless. From a bohemian barfly poet with an affection for the Beat Generation, Frank... > Read more

Tom Waits: Road to Peace (from Brawlers)

Steve Earle: Copperhead Road (1988)

3 Apr 2013

Of all the artists to emerge in the past two and a half decades, you can effortlessly make the case that Steve Earle has moved the most. With confidence, and often great success, he has worked within genres we might define as country, folk-blues, alt.rock, bluegrass, country-rock . . . Earle has been a provocative political voice (pro-Kerry, anti-Bush and the wars in Iraq and... > Read more

Steve Earle: Back to the Wall

Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation (1988)

18 Jan 2013    1

There are some albums (such as Sgt Peppers) which so crystallise their period that you cannot imagine that era without them. Then there are others (The Velvet Underground's debut) which appear to stand so diametrically opposed to the prevailings movement of their time that it is usually only in retrospect their impact and importance can be truly appreciated. Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation of... > Read more

Sonic Youth: Silver Rocket

Small Faces: Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake (1968)

26 Nov 2012    1

With Small Faces' brief catalogue of albums now remastered and reissued, their growth towards Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake -- famously in a round cover like a tobacco tin and with panels that opened out -- can now be traced to this, their finest moment. Singer/writer/guitarist Stevie Marriott was one the great British r'n'b singers and the band of singers/writers Ronnie Lane and keyboard... > Read more

Afterglow (US stereo mix)

Dennis Wilson: Pacific Ocean Blue (1977)

8 Sep 2012    1

It was a tragic irony that Dennis Wilson, the only genuine surf-rat in the Beach Boys, should have drowned. But by 1983 when he died in the waters of Marina Del Rey, he was a spent force who had succumbed to alcohol, depression and cocaine -- and he'd only recorded one solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue in 1977. That was also a tragedy because POB suggested that if anyone could have carried the... > Read more

Dennis Wilson: Friday Night

Blue Cheer: Vincebus Eruptum (1968)

23 Aug 2012    3

For many decades I kept a clipping about Blue Cheer and this particular album inside the record cover, and of course when I went to look for it recently it was gone. But the gist of it was this: Blue Cheer were the loudest band in the whole history of ever, according to the writer, and when they recorded this monster in a North Hollywood studio they blew out all the speakers or the desk (the... > Read more

Blue Cheer: Summertime Blues

Little Richard: Here's Little Richard (1957)

20 Aug 2012    1

Among John Lennon's distinctive and funny drawings is a cartoon panel from '79 of him out walking with his son Sean. They encounter a character on the street who tells him "I've been getting in to jazz, man!". Lennon's witheringly funny reply is, "I've been trying to avoid it all my life". In his musical taste at least, Lennon was remarkably consistent. When he said... > Read more

Ready Teddy

Jeff Beck: Blow by Blow (1975)

19 Aug 2012

Even the guitarist's biggest fans concede Jeff Beck rarely makes a truly satisfying album, but this -- the seventh under his own name -- was the exception. In 1968 after his stint in the Yardbirds came to a natural end, he formed what in retrospect was a supergroup. It included singer Rod Stewart, bassist Ronnie Wood, and journeyman drummer Mick Waller, plus guests Jimmy Page and John... > Read more

Cause We've Ended as Lovers

Albert King: Born Under a Bad Sign (1967)

23 Jul 2012

By the time Albert King started recording the music which would appear as his seminal Born Under a Bad Sign album, he'd been around and seen around for so long he'd reached a point – at age 43 – where he knew who he was and what his sound had to be. King's story until these sessions also mirrored the progress of the blues from its acoustic rural origins in the South to the... > Read more

The Hunter

Pere Ubu, The Modern Dance (1978)

14 Jul 2012    1

It has become fashionable lately to speak of “post-rock” and cite bands such as Tortoise, Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky as being groups which use the tools of rock, but create music that isn’t identifiably within the rock genre. Of course nothing comes from nothing and there may just be precedents for post-rock -- such as Pere Ubu out of Cleveland who, in the mid... > Read more

Chinese Radiation

Downliners Sect: The Sect (1964)

24 Jun 2012

Some people live interesting lives . . . but when it comes time to check out their timing is appalling: the author Aldous Huxley (Brave New World, The Doors of Perception) died the same day John F Kennedy was shot (you can guess who got the greater coverage) and Dean Martin checked out on Christmas Day which isn’t the best time to get a nice obituary. Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy also... > Read more

Downliners Sect: Be a Sect Maniac

Jon Hassell: Dream Theory in Malaya (1981)

30 May 2012

When I imported this album in 1981 it was on the basis of faith: faith that the Melody Maker writer who had hailed it was on the money, that Brian Eno who appeared as a collaborator and on whose EG Music imprint it appeared was right, that it would be as good as their previous collaboration, and that it would arrive intact. My faith was vindicated on all counts and the album has proved a... > Read more

Jon Hassell

Donna Summer, Bad Girls (1979)

18 May 2012

In musical arguments, as with political ones, the area of grey between the black and white can be as big as the other two combined. History books say you were either a Beatles or a Stones fan, but my friends and I liked them both -- and the Four Tops, the Dave Clark Five, Lou Christie, Sam the Sham, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Roy Orbison and Dusty Springfield.  Sensible people... > Read more

Donna Summer: Dim All the Lights

Merle Haggard: If I Could Only Fly (2000)

14 May 2012

At the time of this writing in mid 2012, Merle Haggard is 73 and actually, against every preconception we might have about his tough, booze-afflicted life and hard travelling -- he' still looking pretty good. At least, when he appeared at the White House in 2010 to pick yet another well-deserved honour he scrubbed up pretty well. Stories about Haggard are legion and legendary -- we... > Read more

Crazy Moon