Essential Elsewhere

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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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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