Essential Elsewhere

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The Kinks, Something Else (1967)

4 Oct 2010  |  2 min read

Anyone looking for that low door in the wall which allows entry into the distinctive garden of English pop-rock is, almost invariably drawn to the Kinks whose songwriter Ray Davies had a mainline into the Anglo-heartland for almost decade from the mid 60s.Davies' songwriting could sometimes be satirical or cynical, but more often than not he felt for his characters -- and his songs are very... > Read more

The Kinks: Situation Vacant

Joe Ely: Live at Antones (2000)

27 Sep 2010  |  3 min read

After Joe Strummer's terrific showing at the Big Day Out in 2000, albums by his old band the Clash got a fair thrashing round my way, especially their sprawling three-album set from 1980, Sandinista! Over six sides of vinyl, they dragged together garage-trash rock and dub reggae, power pop and rockabilly, and most points in between. Strummer said he hoped people would just bang... > Read more

Joe Ely: Gallo del Cielo

The Replacements: Tim (1985)

13 Sep 2010  |  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

Neil Young: On the Beach (1974)

11 Sep 2010  |  3 min read  |  2

By consensus the idealism of the 60s was dealt two fatal blows in late '69: the first in August when the victims of Charles Manson's murderous family started turning up in flash Hollywood homes; then at the Rolling Stones' free concert at Altamont in December when Hells Angels took control of the crowd by means of billiard cues and blades. In a world of peace, flowers and waterbeds the bad... > Read more

Neil Young: Revolution Blues

Paul and Linda McCartney, Ram (1971)

11 Sep 2010  |  5 min read  |  1

Sir James Paul McCartney has released around 40 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

Frank Sinatra: In the Wee Small Hours (1955)

9 Sep 2010  |  5 min read  |  1

Some may remember it, that strange time when we were told that Tony Bennett was hip with the grunge crowd. It seemed unlikely (I doubted it) but it at least gave me the opportunity to interview him and he was, of course, positively charming as you might have expected. Quite why anyone would prefer Tony Bennett over Frank Sinatra was always the question, especially the so-called dissenting... > Read more

Frank Sinatra: Ill Wind

Elton John: Tumbleweed Connection (1970)

2 Sep 2010  |  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

John Martyn: Solid Air (1973)

1 Sep 2010  |  2 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... > Read more

John Martyn: I'd Rather Be the Devil (album version)

Mantovani: A Lifetime of Music 1905-1980 (1980 compilation)

30 Aug 2010  |  3 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

U2: Achtung Baby (1991); Zooropa (1993)

22 Aug 2010  |  6 min read  |  2

Bono from U2 tells a good story. In fact Bono has a lot of good stories but this one is revealing . . . It seems that backstage at some gig in the mid Eighties Bob Dylan was playing an acoustic guitar and handed it to him. Dylan asked him to play one their songs. Bono said he realised in that moment that they didn’t have any real “songs”. They had plenty of stadium-shaking... > Read more

U2: The Fly (from Achtung Baby)

Elvis Presley, The Memphis Record (1969)

17 Aug 2010  |  3 min read

The consensus on Elvis Presley's genius among rock critics settles on two periods: his Sun Studio days in the mid 50s when he fused black blues and white country, and his famous '68 television special when he appeared wrapped in leathers for a menacing and sweaty performance which proved, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he still had the magic. Go beyond critics however and... > Read more

Elvis Presley: Long Black Limousine

Fripp and Eno: No Pussyfooting (1973) and Evening Star (1975)

2 Aug 2010  |  4 min read

Context is everything -- or almost everything -- at Essential Elsewhere, these being albums you can return to repeatedly so probably stand outside of time, yet are always born of a specific place and time. Even if they owe nothing to it. And these two albums - the first "pair" of Essential Elsewhere albums -- seem to owe very little to their period. Which is what makes them very,... > Read more

Fripp and Eno: Evening Star (from the album Evening Star, 1975)

Dr Feelgood, Stupidity (1976)

19 Jul 2010  |  3 min read

In his superb single Cry Tough of '76, the American singer-guitarist Nils Lofgren (a member of Springsteen's E Street Band since '84) namechecked the British pub-rock outfit Dr Feelgood, showing an awareness few other Americans had. Dr Feelgood, from Canvey Island near Southend, at that time had released three albums in the UK and made a serious live impact for their gritty and energetic... > Read more

Dr Feelgood: I'm a Hog for You Baby

Dr John: Gris Gris (1968)

10 Jul 2010  |  3 min read

Long careers generally mean the raw and rough edges of the early days are smoothed out, and that audiences forget just how edgy and unusual the artist’s music actually was. So it is with Dr John whose career reaches way back to playing piano in bars as teenager in New Orleans during the 50s alongside legendary figures such as Professor Longhair and Huey Smith. The Dr -- Malcolm... > Read more

Dr John: Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya

David Sylvian: Gone to Earth (1986)

7 Jul 2010  |  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 Ramones: Hey! Ho! Let's Go: Ramones Anthology (1999)

1 Jun 2010  |  4 min read  |  1

Like many of my generation, I can remember exactly where I was when JFK, RFK and John Lennon were shot. And when Kurt Cobain proved, contrary to what he sang, he did have a gun. But with as much clarity I can also remember when I first heard the Ramones’ Sheena is a Punk Rocker. It came on a tape from a friend in London and I was driving when this blast of wonderful noise... > Read more

Sheena is a Punk Rocker

Various Artists: The History of Rhythm and Blues 1952-1957 (2010 collection)

24 May 2010  |  3 min read  |  1

The first two volumes in this 4-CD series which traces the history of old style r'n'b have already been acclaimed at Elsewhere here and here respectively. These multi-genre, colour-blind, cross-label and highly inclusive collections not only cherry pick the most significant artists and songs in the growth of r'n'b but also intelligently include extensive selections from other genres (the... > Read more

Ruth Brown: Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean (live in '56)

The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St (1972, reissued 2010)

17 May 2010  |  4 min read  |  1

Few albums in rock have been so surrounded in dark mythology as this sprawling double album which was the last great gasp of the Rolling Stones. Certainly subsequent albums -- Goats Head Soup, It's Only Rock'n'Roll and Black and Blue particularly -- had their great moments but (aside from Jagger's embrace of New York dance and Richards' forays into reggae) they were mostly retracing familiar... > Read more

The Rolling Stones: Plundered My Soul (1971/2010)

Charles Lloyd: Lift Every Voice (2002)

8 May 2010  |  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

Charles Lloyd: What's Going On (from Lift Every Voice, 2002)

Moby Grape, Moby Grape (1967)

12 Apr 2010  |  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 that 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 removed... > Read more

Moby Grape: 8.05