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.

The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St (1972, reissued 2010)

16 May 2022  |  4 min read  |  1

Few albums in rock have been so surrounded in dark mythology as this sprawling double album which was the last great gasp of the Rolling Stones. Certainly subsequent albums -- Goats Head Soup, It's Only Rock'n'Roll and Black and Blue particularly -- had their great moments but (aside from Jagger's embrace of New York dance and Richards' forays into reggae) they were mostly retracing... > Read more

Plundered My Soul (1971/2010)

The Kinks, Something Else (1967)

9 May 2022  |  2 min read

Anyone looking for that low door in the wall which allows entry into the distinctive garden of English pop-rock is, almost invariably drawn to the Kinks whose songwriter Ray Davies had a mainline into the Anglo-heartland for almost decade from the mid 60s. Davies' songwriting could sometimes be satirical or cynical, but more often than not he felt for his characters -- and his songs are... > Read more

The Kinks: Situation Vacant

Donna Summer, Bad Girls (1979)

11 Apr 2022  |  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

NEU!: NEU! (1971) NEU!2 (1973) NEU! ‘75 (1975)

28 Mar 2022  |  4 min read  |  1

Musical innovations can happen by accident or out of necessity: a stoned John Lennon allegedly spooling the tape of Rain into his player the wrong way and discovering the sound of backwards guitars (he wanted the whole song released in reverse, but settled for just the coda). Or Brian Eno who was mostly confined to bed after an accident stumbling upon a concept of ambient music when he put... > Read more

NEU!: Seeland (from NEU! '75)

Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble: Mnemosyne (1999)

7 Mar 2022  |  2 min read


When jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek teamed with the classical vocal group the Hilliard Ensemble for the warm yet glacial holy minimalism of Officium in 1994, not even ECM label boss Manfred Eicher - whose idea it was - could have predicted its crossover success. It became the banner album in ECM's already excellent 10-year-old label for contemporary classical recordings, ECM New... > Read more

Remember Me My Dear

Gretchen Peters: Dancing with the Beast (2018)

21 Feb 2022  |  2 min read

These Essential Elsewhere album entries, by virtue of this being “elsewhere”, mostly sidestep the albums you'll find in any Greatest Albums Ever list alongside Dark Side of the Moon and Material Girl. Yes, we have pointed to Joni Mitchell's Blue. But albums by King Sunny Ade, John Martyn, Jacques Brel, Reem Kelani and Buffy Sainte-Marie are unlikely to appear in any list.... > Read more

Lowlands

Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs (2000)

6 Dec 2021  |  4 min read  |  1

Many years ago, because it was silly, I started picking up the odd tribute album. And tribute albums are odd indeed. Without much difficulty -- because tribute albums almost invariably end up in discount bins -- I quickly possessed a tribute to a band that never existed (hats off to the Rutles) and to a band that seemed to have always existed (Grateful Dead). This was dumb fun because... > Read more

Stephin Merritt: The Book of Love

John Martyn: Solid Air (1973)

22 Nov 2021  |  3 min read  |  1

When the great British singer-songwriter John Martyn died in January 2009 there was initially very little media coverage -- and then people realised the significance of this innovative and creative artist whose work had rapidly outgrown its folk origins in the late Sixties. Martyn's life was undeniably messy: he was self-destructive, addicted to alcohol and drugs, depressive, erratic and in... > Read more

I'd Rather Be the Devil (album version)

Mavis Staples; We'll Never Turn Back (2007)

31 Oct 2021  |  1 min read

The great gospel-soul singer Mavis Staples -- now in her Eighties -- was a member of the legendary Staples Singers founded by her father Pops Staples, a close personal friend of Dr Martin Luther King. During the Civil Rights period music was on the frontline so to speak. Much of the Staples' music was political or inspirational and gave comfort to those struggling for rights and... > Read more

Down In Mississippi

Merle Haggard: If I Could Only Fly (2000)

2 Aug 2021  |  2 min read

Not too long after the time of this writing in mid 2012, 73-year old Merle Haggard died and against every preconception we might have had about his tough, booze-afflicted life and hard travelling -- he was lucky to survive that long. When he appeared at the White House in 2010 four years before his passing to pick yet another well-deserved honour he scrubbed up pretty well. Stories... > Read more

Crazy Moon

June Christy: Something Cool (1955)

11 Jul 2021  |  4 min read

Although for casual listeners the title of Miles Davis' 1957 album Birth of The Cool gave its name to the movement, it largely fell to others to define and refine the territory and sound of “cool jazz”. Notable players in this genre which turned down the energy of bebop in favour of a more gentle, laid back and quietly exploratory style were Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan,... > Read more

The Night We Called It A Day (mono 1954)

Neil Halstead: Sleeping on Roads (2002)

28 Jun 2021  |  2 min read  |  1

Mojave 3 was one of the most oddly inappropriate names a band could have picked. Despite suggestions of deserts and Americana, they were British. And they based themselves in Cornwall, a less likely "Mojave" connection you couldn't find, especially in winter when the rain blows horizontal and the bed'n'breakfast hotels are silent and damp. The Mojave 3 - helmed by... > Read more

Neil Halstead: See You on the Rooftops

Yoko Ono: Plastic Ono Band (1970)

7 Jun 2021  |  6 min read

Elsewhere has been of the unwavering opinion, ever since this album was released, that is one of the great avant-garde rock'n'roll albums. That's not an opinion widely shared and indeed from the time of its release most others have roundly damned it as being unlistenable. Well, they said that about a lot of great albums so . . . Released as a companion to John Lennon's... > Read more

Why?

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone: Etiquette (2006)

17 May 2021  |  1 min read

If nothing else, you had to raise a smile at the nom-de-disque which American singer-songwriter Owen Ashworth adopted. It announces its lo-fi quality, and identifies its audience at the same time. Clever and funny. But also ineffably sad. And the songs on this quite remarkable album -- like short stories rendered as poetry and set to simple music -- managed to be all of that. But... > Read more

I Love Creedence

The Black Crowes: Before the Frost . . . Until the Freeze (2009)

26 Apr 2021  |  2 min read

After calling it quits in 2002, frontman Chris Robinson going solo, then their resurrection with Warpaint in 2008r (which brought in guitarist Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi All Stars), the Black Crowes hadn't sounded so on top of their game in a long time. And they followed Warpaint with a double punch Warpaint Live (the album played live and an extra disc of hits and covers).... > Read more

The Black Crowes: The Last Place That Love Lives

Moby Grape, Moby Grape (1967)

8 Apr 2021  |  5 min read

The short and dramatic story of San Francisco psychedelic folk-rockers Moby Grape is one of the collision of blazing musical talent, shonky management, record company overkill and bad luck. And it all happened in less than a year. Within six months of their classic self-titled debut album released in mid '67 -- a fortnight after the Beatles' baroque-pop Sgt Pepper's, but a world... > Read more

Moby Grape: 8.05

Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban: Mambo Sinuendo (2003)

22 Mar 2021  |  2 min read  |  3

Of all the Cuban albums which came roaring down the turnpike after Ry Cooder waved the starter's flag with the Grammy-friendly Buena Vista Social Club in '97, the most unexpected came from a group called Cubismo. Their lively self-titled album was a real cracker: vibrant rhythms, great horn section, joyousness and so on. All the hallmarks of classic Cuban pop music. Cubismo, however, were a... > Read more

Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban: Drume Negrita

Reem Kelani: Sprinting Gazelle (2006)

18 Jan 2021  |  1 min read  |  1

Subtitled "Palestinian Songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora", this sometimes astonishing debut album remains breathtaking in its scope -- from a lullaby to a moving song of mourning, to tracks with jazzy saxophone or melancholy piano, and lengthy explorations of melody and emotions. And singer Kelani announced herself as possessing a keening, hypnotic voice as she wove... > Read more

Yearning

The Replacements: Tim (1985)

5 Dec 2020  |  2 min read  |  1

The swaggering, often drunk Replacements hold such a firm place in many people's affections that singling out just one of their eight studio albums for attention is bound to irritate someone. Maybe many someones. But this ragged outing was their last with the original line-up and first for a major label, Seymour Stein's Sire, which made them labelmates with the Ramones, and Tommy Ramone... > Read more

The Replacements: Swingin Party

Jackie McLean: Right Now! (1965)

26 Aug 2020  |  1 min read

The Reid Miles-designed cover of this album by altoist McLean is a Blue Note classic. The hammered-out typewriter font blown up large and the thump of the exclamation point hinted at - and the intense opener Eco confirmed - the tough music within. Altoist McLean, born in New York in 1932, studied with his neighbour Bud Powell and played with Thelonious Monk. By the time he signed to Blue... > Read more

Jackie McLean: Eco