Essential Elsewhere

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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

dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip: Angles (2008)

27 Mar 2011  |  2 min read

Hip-hop's global reach was achieved well over two decades ago now, and because "the word" is the most important medium for a message in any culture it's no surprise that just about anywhere on the planet where there are words, so too there are rappers. In a decade -- from the early Eighties -- rap went from an inner-city movement by the disenfranchised (party music a lot of it) to... > Read more

Magician's Assistant

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (1968)

21 Mar 2011  |  3 min read

By the latter part of the Sixties there was a clear difference between how American and British "hippies" perceived "the psychedelic era". If it's true that no music movement comes without its own new set of clothes then the difference was visible on the streets. In the US where ponchos, fringed-jackets, tie-dye t-shirts and buckskin boots were the style of the day the... > Read more

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown: Come and Buy

Various Artists, Tommy Boy Greatest Beats Vol 1. 1981-96

13 Mar 2011  |  3 min read  |  1

Hip-hop is such an integral part of music today that it is hard to believe radio stations once proudly announced "no crap, no rap". With everyone from classical quartets, gospel legend Mavis Staples, alt.country singer Steve Earle and stadium-shakers U2 using scratching and samples, the tools of hip-hop have crossed genres and styles. Middle-class suburban white kids have... > Read more

Naughty By Nature: Everything's Gonna Be All Right

John Prine: The Missing Years (1991)

7 Mar 2011  |  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

Harry Nilsson, Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)

28 Feb 2011  |  6 min read  |  2

The too-short life of the greatly under-appreciated singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson (1941-94) was full of bitter ironies: not the least was that this gifted songwriter's biggest hits were written by others. His memorable Without You was penned by Pete Ham and Tom Evans from the Beatles-blessed power poppers, Badfinger; and although Nilsson's  beautiful original song I Guess the Lord... > Read more

Harry Nilsson: The Moonbeam Song

Elvis Costello: Imperial Bedroom (1982)

19 Feb 2011  |  2 min read

By the time Elvis Costello got to this remarkable, emotionally dense and astonishingly concise album (so many moods, styles and emotions in 50 minutes) he had become well separated from his post-punk peers. By '82 -- and he had appeared just five years previous -- he had skirted off from punk-fuelled rock through country music and had flirted with jazz as well as classic r'n'b . . . He was... > Read more

Elvis Costello: Little Savage

The Allman Brothers Band: At Fillmore East (1971)

6 Feb 2011  |  3 min read

When the mobile recording studio was parked outside the Fillmore on New York's 2nd Avenue in March 1971 to record this double vinyl Allman Brothers Band album it was both a beginning and an ending: it was last concert at Bill Graham's Fillmore East (also on the bill were Albert King and the J Geils Band) but also the start of the Allman's ascent into becoming a legendary band . . . which ended... > Read more

The Allman Brother Band: Statesboro Blues

World Party: Goodbye Jumbo (1990)

31 Jan 2011  |  3 min read

By any measure, 1990 was a pretty good year in rock and pop: Sinead O'Connor announced herself with the single Nothing Compares 2 U and the album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got; George Michael's Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1 delivered timeless music; and things toughened up in Seattle with Sub Pop signing Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, Soundgarden and Nirvana. Janet Jackson unleashed her... > Read more

World Party: Way Down Now

Richard Thompson: Rumor and Sigh (1991)

17 Jan 2011  |  2 min read  |  2

Like Elvis Costello, Christy Moore, the late John Martyn and a few others in a very select company, English singer/songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson made timeless albums. Pick up any of his from the early Eighties or even the late Seventies and they make as much sense today as they did then. Yet after more than 45 years in the game, he's still not a household name . . . and... > Read more

Richard Thompson: I Misunderstood

The Church: Priest = Aura (1992)

14 Jan 2011  |  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