Essential Elsewhere

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Merle Haggard: If I Could Only Fly (2000)

14 May 2012  |  2 min read

At the time of this writing in mid 2012, Merle Haggard is 73 and actually, against every preconception we might have about his tough, booze-afflicted life and hard travelling -- he' still looking pretty good. At least, when he appeared at the White House in 2010 to pick yet another well-deserved honour he scrubbed up pretty well. Stories about Haggard are legion and legendary -- we... > Read more

Crazy Moon

T.Rex: Electric Warrior (1971)

7 May 2012  |  2 min read  |  2

By the time of the Tanx album in 1973, things were starting to go sour for T.Rex's frontman Marc Bolan. He hadn't cared when his old champion John Peel had dismissed his glam pop for its shallowness, or that Bowie and others were starting to snap at his heels. He was in fact oblivious to it all, he was far too busy being the star he always wanted to be. So he perhaps never noticed that the... > Read more

T.Rex: Planet Queen

This Heat: This Heat (1979)

29 Apr 2012  |  4 min read

Understandably, many hail the Sixties as the greatest ever decade for popular music: the undeniable brilliance of the Beatles and what they spawned on both sides of the Atlantic, not to mention globally; the whole shift from pop to rock, and from singles to albums, which freed minds and arses that followed; the innovations of Hendrix, Cream and Pink Floyd; Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa; the... > Read more

This Heat: The Fall of Saigon

Burning Spear, Marcus Garvey/Garvey's Ghost (1975)

25 Feb 2012  |  2 min read  |  1

In Ted Bafaloukos' '78 film Rockers -- a lightweight comedy but excellent quasi-doco about the world of Jamaican music with a stunning cast of reggae luminaries -- there are any number of remarkable scenes: the lead character is a drummer (played by Leroy "Horsemouth" Brown) who puts a down-payment on a motorbike with the idea of selling cheap records into shops all over the island.... > Read more

Burning Spear: Slavery Days

Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble: Mnemosyne (1999)

2 Feb 2012  |  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

Nick Lowe: Dig My Mood (1998)

16 Jan 2012  |  3 min read

It is coming up close to two decades since Nick Lowe -- once a laddish and witty figure in British rock in the immediate post-punk days -- decided to take the long view on his career and reposition himself. As he told Elsewhere late last year, “Back when I first got noticed in the Seventies it was for being rather irreverent and popping bubbles, and I was a bit cheeky. A certain... > Read more

You Inspire Me

Max Romeo: War Ina Babylon (1976)

12 Nov 2011  |  2 min read

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

Paul Revere and the Raiders: Greatest Hits (1967)

8 Nov 2011  |  4 min read

Yes, a greatest hits collection does look a bit like cheating for an Essential Elsewhere album. But wait, there’s a good reason. Back in the mid-Sixties after the Beatles breakthrough when groups were popping up everywhere from Seattle to Sheffield, few record companies -- let alone the bands themselves -- expected they might make more than a single. So if a band cracked a hit it... > Read more

Paul Revere and the Raiders: Just Like Me (1965)

Peter Gabriel: Peter Gabriel (1980)

15 Aug 2011  |  6 min read

When Peter Gabriel released his third solo album -- the third to simply be entitled "Peter Gabriel" although widely known as Melt after its Hipgnosis-designed cover image -- it was met with almost unanimous and unequivocal approval. Even the notoriously hard to please punk and raw rock advocate Nick Kent, writing in NME, hailed "the sheer ferocious power of conceit, vision... > Read more

And Through the Wire

Various: Get a Haircut compilation (2007)

7 Aug 2011  |  3 min read

Back in the mid Sixties Auckland’s Fair Sect Plus One -- originally an all-girl band called the Fair Sect who adopted the new name with the arrival of their male drummer -- released a terrific single with a raging bagpipe solo. At least I think it was terrific, I can’t say for certain. I only heard it once -- on a transistor radio in Allan Parson’s car while careering... > Read more

Social End Product

Magazine: Real Life (1978)

1 Aug 2011  |  3 min read

If there was a godfather of the Manchester scene in the Eighties there's a good case to be made that it wasn't Tony Wilson (who founded the Hacienda and Factory Records) but that it was Howard Devoto, singer and songwriter for Magazine, the band he formed in 1977. In that crucial year Devoto promoted the two local concerts by the Sex Pistols (poorly attended but hugely influential) and had... > Read more

Shot by Both Sides (single version)

Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban: Mambo Sinuendo (2003)

11 Jul 2011  |  2 min read  |  2

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

Can, Tago Mago (1971)

2 Jul 2011  |  3 min read  |  2

Only a rare band could count among its admirers and proselytisers the young Johnny Rotten, David Bowie and Brian Eno, eccentric UK rocker Julian Cope, and Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream. Oh, and various contemporary classical composers, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and post-hippie rock fans. But then, Can from Germany were a rare band indeed. Because the albums recorded in... > Read more

Oh Yeah

Ken Emerson: Slack and Steel Kaua'i Style (2007)

21 Jun 2011  |  3 min read  |  2

A few years ago when I was on the island of Kaua'i in the Hawaiian chain I went into a CD store in the pretty town of Hanalei on the north east coast. I was looking for some compilations of classic Hawaiian musicians such as Sol Hoopi whose music I recall from 78rpm discs my dad had. The otherwise excellent shop didn't have any, but my wife picked up a disc and said, "This looks... > Read more

Ken Emerson (steel guitar) and Pancho Graham (bass, slack key guitar): Sleepwalk

Various Artists: Delta Swamp Rock (2011)

16 May 2011  |  4 min read  |  3

Anyone who has traveled extensively in the United States would tell you that the South is different. Certainly Boston, Omaha and Portland are different. But the South is different different. And even though there are -isms and schisms in the broad church that is "the South" and it is impossible to define what that distinction is, you know it, sense it, feel it -- and... > Read more

Out in the Woods (1972)

Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings (2011 reissue)

8 May 2011  |  8 min read  |  7

Those who were there say everything changed when he walked in the room and started to play. He’d been away a long time -- learning guitar was what they said -- but the last time anyone had seen him he was an uppity kid and not that good. You can imagine how it must have been that Saturday night in a small run-down club in Banks, Mississippi. The old guys are hanging out and this slim... > Read more

Hellhound on my Tail

Jean Michel Jarre: Oxygene (1977)

8 May 2011  |  4 min read  |  2

Sometimes in history there comes that rare conjunction of the artist, the time and the art. In the case of Jean Michel Jarre it seemed they were all out of alignment. He could not have chosen a more inhospitable climate into which release his work. Jarre's album Oxygene came out in France in 1976 but wasn't given release in Britain until the following year.It was the height of... > Read more

Oxygene Pt 4

The Feelies: Crazy Rhythms (1980)

20 Apr 2011  |  6 min read

Pub quiz time and your starter for 10 points: Who was the drummer in Talking Heads? “Okay there was David Byrne and . . . Tina Weymouth on bass and . . . Any of you guys know?” “Jerry . . . Harrison? Yeah, Jerry Harrison was the guitarist and the drummer was . . . . . .” Okay, let’s flip all the cards and remind you that the drummer in Talking Heads was... > Read more

Forces at Work

B.B. King, Live at the Regal (1965)

11 Apr 2011  |  3 min read  |  1

With his royal surname, a 60-year career which has earned him Godfather status, a sophisticated demeanour and dapper suits, and his own chain of nightclubs it is hard to see BB King as an earthy and edgy blueman: the guy who used to play 300 nights a year, who has fathered at least a dozen children to as many different women, the one who grew up on a plantation in Mississippi and... > Read more

BB King: Sweet Little Angel

The Scavengers; The Scavengers (2003 vinyl issue of '78 sessions)

4 Apr 2011  |  2 min read

We all have musical moments written into our autobiographies. The emblems afterwards -- the album, concert ticket or scar beneath the eye -- are inadequate to convey the emotion you experienced, whether it was when Tina Turner belted out your favourite-ever song to you personally (and 35,000 others), or when you got nailed at Zwines in Auckland by some pogo-ing punk back in the late... > Read more

The Scavengers: Money in the Bank