Essential Elsewhere

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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

NEU!: NEU! (1971) NEU!2 (1973) NEU! ‘75 (1975)

10 Jan 2011  |  4 min read  |  1

Musical innovations can happen by accident or out of necessity: a stoned John Lennon allegedly spooling the tape of Rain into his player the wrong way and discovering the sound of backwards guitars (he wanted the whole song released in reverse, but settled for just the coda); or Brian Eno who was mostly confined to bed after an accident stumbling upon a concept of ambient music when he put an... > Read more

NEU!: Seeland (from NEU! '75)

Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs (2000)

5 Dec 2010  |  4 min read

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

Ennio Morricone: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)

18 Nov 2010  |  2 min read

The relationship between some movie directors and composers is so close that it is hard to imagine certain films without their soundtracks: Hitchcock had Bernard Herrmann's gripping scores for Psycho and North by Northwest and others; Werner Herzog with the German avant-rock band Popul Vuh providing the eerie music to Aguirre, Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo; and Sergio Leone's early spaghetti... > Read more

Ennio Morricone: La Carrozza dei Fanstasmi (Carriage of the Spirits)

The Master Musicians of Jajouka: Brian Jones presents The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka (1971)

1 Nov 2010  |  3 min read

Some albums have auspicious beginings and a messy legacy. So it is with this album recorded in Morocco in 1968 by Brian Jones, then of the Rolling Stones. By the time the album was released Jones had been dead a year -- he drowned a year after his trip to Morocco and was no longer a Stone -- and a shadow was cast over its mesmerising music. When it was reissued in '95 by Point Music it... > Read more

The Master Musicians of Jajouka: Take Me With You My Darling, Take Me With You

Matthew Sweet: Girlfriend (1991)

25 Oct 2010  |  3 min read  |  5

Bitter irony is how Matthew Sweet's small but devoted following might describe his recent profile and measure of success: this gifted singer-songwriter, power-pop rocker and fine interpreter of a lyric is currently gathering kudos for the Under the Covers albums he has been doing with former Bangle Susanna Hoffs. Yes, it's good to know he's picking up change and the albums aren't without... > Read more

Matthew Sweet: I've Been Waiting

The Rolling Stones, The Unstoppable Stones (1965)

23 Oct 2010  |  3 min read  |  1

The early albums by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones appeared in different versions in Britain and the States. New Zealand being a colony thankfully got the UK versions for the most part, just as the gods intended. But in some instances we got something different from both -- and in this case, better. The album The Unstoppable Stones only ever appeared in Australia and New Zealand... > Read more

The Rolling Stones: You Can't Catch Me

King Sunny Ade: Synchro System (1983)

18 Oct 2010  |  2 min read

Given the long (and often shameful) history Britain has had with various parts of Africa from colonial times, it comes as a surprise that this album -- from 1983 no less -- was the first pop album to be recorded by an African musician in London. In the early Eighties there was surge of interest by the UK music press in certain African artists, notably Fela Anikulapo Kuti from Nigeria whose... > Read more

King Sunny Ade: Mo Ti Mo

Irma Thomas, The Irma Thomas Collection (1996)

11 Oct 2010  |  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