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.

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Smokey Robinson: Being With You (1981)

11 Jun 2018  |  4 min read

Michael Jackson sometimes said that Smokey Robinson – 18 years his senior at Motown – was the one who showed him that it was permissible for a male to sing high. When Jackson started at Motown of course he had little choice as he was a pre-teen (just listen to I'll Be There in '70 when he was 12 – but after puberty he continued to develop the top of his range like Smokey... > Read more

If You Wanna Make Love (Come 'Round Here)

The The: Soul Mining (1983)

8 May 2018  |  4 min read  |  2

Although British punk fury exploded during the Labour government of James Callaghan (who succeed another Labour leader Harold Wilson, giving them about five years as an increasingly beleaguered minority government) the anger really became focused when Margaret Thatcher's hard-right Conservatives took over and unemployment rose, the recession bit hard, there were strikes and closures in... > Read more

Uncertain Smile

Public Enemy: It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)

7 May 2018  |  3 min read  |  1

By the late Eighties when this announced itself like a live album with stadium sound from the audience and a siren wail, hip-hop had sprung past the sampling innocence and good times of its early period in Stateside inner-city block parties and cheap steals from bits of vinyl. Within the first few minutes of this confrontational, sometimes annoying but often brilliant album, the global... > Read more

Public Enemy: Show 'Em What You Got

Elton John: Tumbleweed Connection (1970)

31 Mar 2018  |  4 min read  |  1

There are some images which are imprinted in my rock’n’roll memory -- one was when the young Elton John played at Auckland’s Western Springs Stadium in October 1971. That’s a long time gone so you have to remember the context: Elton wasn’t the glittery star he later became, in fact he seemed a pretty straight rock’n’roller with only two creditable... > Read more

Elton John: Burn Down the Mission

Tony Scott: Music for Zen Meditation (1964)

5 Mar 2018  |  2 min read

Vangelis had a pointed comment about the vacuous New Age music which emerged in the late Seventies and reached epidemic proportions in the Eighties. He said it “gave the opportunity for untalented people to make very boring music”. Many people said much worse about it because this was music which was often mere sound designed not to be listened to but just to offer some... > Read more

A Quivering Leaf, Ask the Winds

JPS Experience: Bleeding Star (1993)

26 Feb 2018  |  3 min read  |  3

Because – as Elsewhere's favourite philosopher Ken Nordine put it -- “We all see the world from our own disadvantage point”, – we understand there are those who don't see the world from our perspective. So we can happily accept that in Grant Smithies' excellent book Soundtrack: 118 Great New Zealand Albums – to which Elsewhere contributed some pieces... > Read more

Spaceman

Charles Lloyd: Lift Every Voice (2002)

13 Nov 2017  |  4 min read  |  1

It's a fair bet the average jazz musician earns considerably less than Lenny Kravitz, and probably works a darn sight harder.  Sales of jazz albums are modest – in the US 10,000 was considered a good seller – and not too many jazz musicians find their music used in Tom Cruise or J. Lo movies, let alone lucrative advertisements. Of course some jazz musicians have been... > Read more

What's Going On

Various Artists; Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol 1 (1966)

30 Oct 2017  |  2 min read

With an American history over a century long, the blues isn't easy an easy journey to begin on: do you go at it chronologically from slave chants and field hollers, or work back from white popularisers like George Thorogood, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Led Zeppelin? Given that most people live in what we might call the post-rock era it might be easiest -- and is certainly rewarding -- to hit... > Read more

Junior Wells with Buddy Guy: Messin' With the Kid

Mantovani: A Lifetime of Music 1905-1980 (1980 compilation)

25 Sep 2017  |  4 min read  |  2

In later years he might have looked like an extra from The Sopranos (when smiling maybe a restaurateur, when sullen certainly a hit man) but orchestra-leader Annunzio Mantovani was one the most popular light entertainers of his era -- which was the period before rock’n’roll hit in the mid Fifties. Most people today would quickly dismiss his sweetly orchestrated albums -- yes,... > Read more

Judy Garland: Judy at Carnegie Hall (1961)

11 Sep 2017  |  4 min read  |  1

Many people who saw Judy Garland in the final weeks of her life in mid '69 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... > Read more

Stormy Weather

Max Romeo: War Ina Babylon (1976)

24 Jul 2017  |  2 min read  |  1

When Max Romeo's Holding Out My Love to You album was released in '81 it came with heavy patronage: Keith Richards was a Romeo fan and had produced some of the tracks . . . so there was a cover sticker proclaiming "Featuring Keith Richards -- Free Colour Poster of Keith and Mick Inside". Romeo had moved from Jamaica to New York a few years previous (he wrote and starred in a... > Read more

Max Romeo: Uptown Babies

Irma Thomas, The Irma Thomas Collection (1996)

19 Jul 2017  |  3 min read

In music, titles are bestowed by The People rather than being handed down from above -- and they are so singular and specific that there can only be pretenders but no replacement figures. So there is only one King of Rock'n'Roll and that's Elvis, only one Queen of Soul and that will always be Aretha, and only James Brown will ever be considered The Godfather. And Irma Thomas will always be... > Read more

Irma Thomas: Wish Somebody Would Care

Dr John: Gris Gris (1968)

12 Jul 2017  |  3 min read

Long careers generally mean the raw and rough edges of the early days are smoothed out, and that audiences forget just how edgy and unusual the artist’s music actually was. So it is with Dr John whose career reaches way back to playing piano in bars as teenager in New Orleans during the 50s alongside legendary figures such as Professor Longhair and Huey Smith. The Dr -- Malcolm... > Read more

Dr John: Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya

Young Marble Giants: Colossal Youth (1980)

5 Jul 2017  |  2 min read

Just as Dylan emerged in the middle of the day-glo psychedelic era on a quieter rural route with John Wesley Harding, and the Cowboy Junkies whispered their way to the foreground amidst the bellicose noise of grunge, so Young Marble Giants emerged in the post-punk era with something quieter and more considered than the jerky anger of bands like Public Image, Gang of Four and The Fall. Their... > Read more

Young Marble Giants: Include Me Out

Souad Massi: Honeysuckle/Mesk Elil (2007)

5 Jul 2017  |  <1 min read

On her two previous albums it was evident that Algerian-born Massi was never going to conform to the prevailing sounds of rai and pop of her homeland. And on this instantly engaging album she takes a step even further away and pulls in Latin sounds alongside her already established, if slightly unusual, blend of Algerian pop-folk with hints of Spanish flamenco music. At its best as in... > Read more

Tell Me Why

The Tokey Tones: Butterfly, Caterpillar (2007)

28 Jun 2017  |  5 min read  |  2

It’s a common occurrence: just when popular music has got up a head of steam, some supportive critical consensus, and is charging off in a particular direction along comes something which, by going the opposite way, captures the imagination. At the height of Day-Glo acid-dropping hippiedom along came the Velvet Underground in all their monochrome gloominess singing about heroin and... > Read more

Tokey Tones: Yoghurt and Vinegar (from Butterfly)

Drive-By Truckers: Brighter than Creation's Dark (2008)

24 Apr 2017  |  2 min read  |  2

Now more than two decades into their impressive career -- and with more than two dozen live and studio albums behind them -- the Drive-By Truckers out of Athens in Georgia  inspire passionate loyalty for their Southern-framed country rock'n'roll and literate, sometimes provocative, lyrics. They often make you want to crack the top off a beer and kick back, but the words touch some deep... > Read more

Daddy Needs A Drink

The Undertones: The Undertones (1979, reissue 2009)

10 Apr 2017  |  4 min read  |  1

It's a measure of how obsessed rock music is with the present tense that in 1979 Paul Morley in the NME would proclaim, "The Undertones have created the greatest pop of this age and thus every age". That use of "thus" there says so much about the pressing immediacy of the punk era in Britain. New and urgent was what mattered. The Undertones out of Derry, Northern... > Read more

The Undertones: Here Comes the Summer

Donna Summer, Bad Girls (1979)

20 Mar 2017  |  5 min read

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

Dim All the Lights

Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers: Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers (1971)

27 Feb 2017  |  4 min read  |  3

Although the blues can be a sophisticated music, there's something more earthy, vibrant and appealing about it when it is played from somewhere further south than the cerebral cortext. Hound Dog Taylor played from a point somewhere between the heart, the gut and the groin -- and made the most thrilling music to come out of the Chicago blues scene in the late Sixties/early Seventies. The... > Read more

Phillips' Theme