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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XTC: Skylarking (1986)

5 Nov 2018  |  4 min read

Some time in the late Nineties my phone rang at the New Zealand Herald where I was a senior feature writer with specific interests and responsibilities in music. The young woman at the other end was from a record company with an interview request and seemed nervous, not because I ever made their lives particularly difficult but as the biggest paper in the country we would decline a chat... > Read more

John Prine: The Missing Years (1991)

15 Oct 2018  |  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

David Sylvian: Gone to Earth (1986)

3 Sep 2018  |  3 min read  |  1

You never know quite how people are going to turn out: they find bodies under the floorboards in the house of that polite boy next door, the rebel girl in school becomes a nun, and David Sylvian . . . .? When David Sylvian (born David Batt in Kent, 1958) first appeared on the music scene it was as a member of the glam rock band Japan and it was said he'd adapted his surname from Sylvain... > Read more

David Sylvian: River Man

The Church: Priest = Aura (1992)

27 Aug 2018  |  4 min read  |  1

With the luxury of time, lowered expectation and some haze-inducing drugs, a kind of sublime, relaxed psychedelia can be the happy result.  As in the case of this album by one of Australia‘s finest bands of the Eighties and Nineties. When the Church emerged out of Canberra in the early Eighties they had some of the guitar jangle and post-punk Petty-cum-Byrds which later... > Read more

The Church: Ripple

Dave Brubeck: Indian Summer (2007)

23 Jul 2018  |  3 min read

In 2007 when he was 86, the great pianist-composer Dave Brubeck was honoured as a Living Jazz Legend at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC and received a standing ovation when he and Wynton Marsalis performed These Foolish Things. That was on a Saturday, the following morning he flew to Texas and that night sat on a bed in his hotel but there was no mattress where it could have been and a... > Read more

I'm Alone

Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding (1967)

8 Jul 2018  |  5 min read  |  1

There are of course many albums by Bob Dylan which would immediately go into an Essential Elsewhere list: All of those in that remarkable 18-months recorded between January 1965 and July 1966 (Bringing It Al Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and the double album Blonde on Blonde); Blood on the Tracks ('74), “Love and Theft” and Modern Times in the early 2000s which signalled a new and... > Read more

All Along the Watchtower

Debashish Bhattacharya/Bob Brozman: Mahima (2003)

2 Jul 2018  |  1 min read  |  1

The late American guitarist and raconteur Brozman was one of the unexpected delights at the 2003 Womad, where he appeared with Takashi Hirayasu playing Okinawan folk songs which they took off into the realms of Delta blues, soul funk, punk and boogie. Brozman was one of those irritatingly gifted performers who seemed to acknowledge no boundaries between cultures and styles and immerses... > Read more

Debashish Bhattacharya/Bob Brozman: Maa

Charles Mingus: Thirteen Pictures, The Charles Mingus Anthology (1993)

25 Jun 2018  |  6 min read

Like Duke Ellington -- with whom he is most frequently (and fairly) compared for the vastness, depth and diversity of his recordings -- no single album could stand as emblematic of Charles Mingus, although many are certainly essential. In fact after The Wire magazine offered its primer on Mingus albums in early 2004 (14 albums under his own name, a Columbia Records compilation and a... > Read more

Charles Mingus: Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (1959)

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