Essential Elsewhere

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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

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

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

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

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)

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

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)

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

The Incredible String Band: Wee Tam and The Big Huge (1968)

6 Apr 2010  |  2 min read

Sometimes for my own private amusement I will sing aloud The Incredible String Band's The Son of Noah's Brother in its entirety. All 16 seconds of it. The lyrics run, "Many were the lifetimes of the son of Noah's brother, see his coat the ragged riches of his soul". And that's it: a lovely descending melody and not a wasted note or word. Quite what it means is anyone's... > Read more

The Incredible String Band: Douglas Traherne Harding

Love: Forever Changes (1967)

21 Mar 2010  |  4 min read  |  2

When the British rock magazine Mojo published a special supplement on psychedelic rock back in February 2005, among the albums noted were all the usual suspects: Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix took out the top spot and further down were Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s and albums by the Mothers of Invention, Jefferson Airplane, Country... > Read more

Love: Andmoreagain

John Mayall: Blues From Laurel Canyon (1968)

28 Feb 2010  |  3 min read  |  3

In the wake of '67s Sgt Pepper's the new thing in rock was "the concept album" and at the tail-end of that decade and well into the 70s a long list of bands weighed in: the Pretty Things with Parachute,The Who with Tommy, The Moody Blues, Genesis, Yes . . . Mostly these were musicians with an art school background and so testing themselves over a 40 minute album was... > Read more

John Mayall: Fly Tomorrow

Donovan: Troubadour; The Definitive Collection 1964-76 (1998 compilation)

22 Feb 2010  |  3 min read  |  1

When I interviewed Donovan in 1998 -- mindful I might have to introduce him to a readership which had probably never heard of him -- I noted that even back in his heyday of the Sixties he'd been a hard one to figure out. The "folkie" tag he'd been pinned with after the success of his first songs Colours and Catch the Wind (and his "protest" song, the cover of Buffy... > Read more

Donovan: Sunshine Superman (1966)

Scott Walker, In Five Easy Pieces (2003)

10 Feb 2010  |  4 min read

The only time I saw Scott Walker I burst out laughing. It was the mid-60s and he was one of the (non-sibling) Walker Brothers on a package tour with the Yardbirds (guitarist Jimmy Page) and Roy Orbison. When the Walker Brothers ran on to the Auckland Town Hall stage, skinny-legged guys in tight pants and teased-out bouffants, they looked like hairy lollipops. My mates and I hooted with... > Read more

Scott Walker: In My Room

Little Feat: Dixie Chicken (1973)

24 Jan 2010  |  3 min read  |  1

The critics liked Little Feat -- and Dixie Chicken -- a whole lot better than the public. Today any number of greybeards will tell you how they were deeply into the band but (as with those who were always into the Velvet Underground) the facts speak for themselves. Only 30,000 bothered to go to a shop and buy Dixie Chicken when it was released. It was the band's third commercial failure... > Read more

Little Feat: Roll Um Easy

Ravi Shankar, Improvisations (1962)

3 Jan 2010  |  3 min read

George Harrison quite correctly referred to the sitar master Pandit Ravi Shankar as "the godfather of world music" -- and Shankar was creating and giving his blessing to cross-cultural fusions and experiments long before the phrase "world music" was even thought of. There are of course many dozens of Shankar albums in the world -- from straight-ahead classical ragas to... > Read more

Ravi Shankar: Fire Night (with Bud Shank)