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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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

Gretchen Peters: Dancing with the Beast (2018)

15 Feb 2021  |  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

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

Paul and Linda McCartney: Ram (1971)

10 Aug 2020  |  5 min read  |  2

Sir James Paul McCartney has released around 50 albums under his own name  -- or that of Wings, with his late wife Linda, or under some other nom de disque -- since the break-up of the Beatles in 1970. That's about an album a year, and even if we take out live releases or compilations, his strike rate is astonishingly high -- although diminishing sales returns... > Read more

Paul and Linda McCartney: Back Seat of My Car

Various Artists: Take Me to the River; A Southern Soul Story 1961 - 1977 (2009 compilation)

31 Jul 2020  |  4 min read  |  1

In early 2009 at the Mojo Honours List celebrations, Yoko Ono and Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top flashed peace signs together, White Lies were acclaimed as the breakthrough act of the moment and the very late Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy was the recipient of the Icon Award. There was also an award for the best compilation of the previous year. Among the contenders were Dark Was the Night, a... > Read more

Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone, by Johnny Taylor

Malouma; Nour/Light (2007)

13 Jul 2020  |  1 min read  |  1

The shrink-wrap that this exceptional album came in provided the clue: "blues woman mauritanienne, transcende les frontieres musicales". And Amen -- or more correctly Allahu Akbar -- to all that. Malouma wasn't "blues" in the same way that say Etran Finatawa or Tinariwen were on a first encounter around the same time. If you were desperately looking for a connection... > Read more

Malouma: Nebine

Bunny Wailer: Blackheart Man (1976)

11 Jun 2020  |  3 min read

When the Wailers – Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Neville “Bunny” Livingston – split in 1974, each went on independent but obviously interrelated paths. Marley became the first Third World superstar and the global figurehead of reggae, Rastafarianism and ghetto politics, and Tosh remained a rebellious spirit. Although he flirted with mainstream success... > Read more

Amagideon/Armagedon

Matthew Sweet: Girlfriend (1991)

18 May 2020  |  3 min read  |  5

Bitter irony is how Matthew Sweet's small but devoted following might describe his profile and measure of success in the past decade. This gifted singer-songwriter, power-pop rocker and fine interpreter of a lyric gathered kudos for the Under the Covers albums he did with former Bangle Susanna Hoffs. Yes, it's good to know he's picking up change and the albums aren't without interest --... > Read more

Matthew Sweet: I've Been Waiting

John Prine: The Missing Years (1991)

29 Mar 2020  |  6 min read  |  2

Around the time in the early 90s when he went from cult figure to frontline, American singer-songwriter John Prine got a nice kiss-off line to his entry in the Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music: “His live solo act is spellbinding,” the final sentence of his brief career synopsis stated baldly. Well, he’d had plenty of years to get it right. For a couple of decades... > Read more

John Prine: Jesus, The Missing Years

Max Romeo: War Ina Babylon (1976)

3 Feb 2020  |  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

Lucinda Williams: West (2007)

6 Jan 2020  |  2 min read

Although saturated in the sadness which had affected her in the years before this album's recording -- the break-up of a relationship, the death of her mother -- it would be unwise to presume that everything on West had turned on those events: Williams is too smart and too poetic a writer to be quite that literal. That said, she concedes the opener Are You Alright? was directed to her... > Read more

Lucinda Williams: Come On

R.E.M.: Murmur (1983)

11 Nov 2019  |  4 min read  |  1

R.E.M. didn't invent the genre known as alt.rock or give their music that name, but they – along with Violent Femmes and others in the early Eighties -- came to epitomise it at a time when the musical landscape was awash with studio polished songs by Hall and Oates (Maneater), Michael Jackson (Billie Jean, Beat It), David Bowie (Let's Dance) and the Police (who were everywhere). In... > Read more

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Coincidence and Likely Stories (1992)

7 Oct 2019  |  1 min read  |  1

There are three distinct but overlapping public faces of the great Native American singer/songwriter Buffy Sainte-MarieSainte-Marie: the woman who wrote and sang Universal Soldier and the theme to the film Soldier Blue in the Sixties; the permanent cast member of Sesame Street between '76 and '81; and a lifelong activist in the Native American movement. But there was always much more to... > Read more

The Big Ones Get Away

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas: The Ultimate Collection (1998 compilation)

17 Jun 2019  |  4 min read

Before the Supremes overtook them – on the charts and in Berry Gordy's affections – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were the seminal girl group on Gordy's emerging Motown label out of Detroit. In '63 they had three singles on the US charts: Come and Get These Memories, Heatwave which went top 5 on the main charts and to the top of the R'n'B charts, and Quicksand which was... > Read more