Essential Elsewhere

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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

Various Artists; Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol 1 (1966)

8 Jan 2010  |  2 min read

With an American history over a century long, the blues isn't easy an easy journey to begin on: do you go at it chronologically from slave chants and field hollers, or work back from white popularisers like George Thorogood, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Led Zeppelin? Given that most people live in what we might call the post-rock era it might be easiest -- and is certainly rewarding -- to hit that... > Read more

Junior Wells with Buddy Guy: Messin' With the Kid

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)

Dave Dobbyn: Twist (1994)

30 Dec 2009  |  3 min read  |  2

With the Australian success of the Footrot Flats film in the early Nineties, it made sense for Dave Dobbyn to relocate across the Tasman and ride the wave of popularity of the songs he wrote for it. And in that great tradition of indifference Australians have shown New Zealand musicians -- more so then than today -- Dobbyn’s career languished. But his music didn’t. In... > Read more

Dave Dobbyn: Betrayal

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band: Trout Mask Replica (1969)

23 Nov 2009  |  4 min read

When I first heard Trout Mask Replica some time in early '70 I fled. It was all very well being told that Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) sounded like Howlin' Wolf, but that would be like describing happy, mop-top Beatlemania to someone then playing them I Am The Walrus. Or showing them lots of pictures of eyed-shadowed Ziggy Stardust and getting all excited about glam-rock -- then playing... > Read more

Philip Glass: Koyaanisqatsi (1983)

7 Nov 2009  |  3 min read

There are few things more depressing than observing a revolution become a style (or the Beatles’ Revolution become a Nike ad). Or to witness innovation morph into cliché. When director Godfrey Reggio’s innovative film Koyaanisqatsi appeared in the early Eighties it had an immediate impact on popular music and film culture. Ostensibly a narration-free look at the impact of... > Read more

Philip Glass: Resource

Arthur Alexander: The Ultimate Arthur Alexander (1993 compilation)

6 Sep 2009  |  3 min read

You only need look at a partial list of those who covered the songs of Arthur Alexander (1940-1993) to get a measure of the man's gifts: the young Beatles (John Lennon a big fan who sang Soldier of Love and Anna); the Rolling Stones and the late Willy De Ville (You Better Move On); Ray Columbus (Where Have You Been retitled as Til We Kissed); Ry Cooder (Go Home Girl); just about every... > Read more

Arthur Alexander: Every Day I Have to Cry Some (1993 version)

The Beatles: Rubber Soul (1965)

31 Aug 2009  |  6 min read  |  3

While there are any number of Beatle albums which are essential, there is a case to be made that Rubber Soul -- which marked their transition from an increasingly banal and almost irrelevant pop band into a group which became adult, confident and inventive -- is currently the most ignored in their catalogue. But before making the case for Rubber Soul it is instructive to look at the... > Read more

The Beatles: The Word

Mink De Ville: Return to Magenta (1978)

24 Aug 2009  |  5 min read  |  4

The curious things about the life of Willy De Ville was not that he succumbed to pancreatic cancer in early August 2009, but that he had lived so long. He was 58 when he died -- but from the time he appeared on the post-punk New Wave scene in New York in the early Eighties he seemed to be destined for a short but bright flight. He was junkie, his first wife would pull a knife on rock... > Read more

Mink De Ville: Just Your Friends

Various: Cuba, I Am Time (1999)

22 Jun 2009  |  4 min read

When any art form has success, especially if it is unexpected, you can expect the ripples for a long time afterwards . . . and like ripples when a stone is thrown in a flat pond, they are of diminishing impact. So when Gladiator had phenomenal success you didn’t have to wait long for a slew of increasingly bad sword’n’sandal epics. And when the Buena Vista Social... > Read more

Clave y Guaguanco: La Voz del Congo

Public Enemy: It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)

7 Jun 2009  |  3 min read  |  1

By the late Eighties when this announced itself like a live album with stadium sound from the audience and a siren wail, hip-hop had sprung past the sampling innocence and good times of its early period in Stateside inner-city block parties and cheap steals from bits of vinyl. Within the first few minutes of this confrontational, sometimes annoying but often brilliant album, the global... > Read more

Public Enemy: Show 'Em What You Got

Mike Nock/Frank Gibson: Open Door (1987)

6 May 2009  |  2 min read  |  1

When expat pianist/composer Mike Nock and Auckland-based drummer Frank Gibson got together in '87 to record these duets both men were at interesting points in their respective but separate careers, but neither had played together much. Their sole recording together released prior to these sessions -- they had played on some Radio New Zealand programmes together with bassist Andy Brown --... > Read more

Mick Nock/Frank Gibson: Phaedra's Lullaby

Radiohead: The Bends (1995)

3 May 2009  |  4 min read  |  2

There is an easy and convincing case to be made for Radiohead's more obvious OK Computer of '97 -- or the even more edgy Kid A of 2000 -- as an Essential Elsewhere album. But The Bends was their turning point. This was the album which took them from the pop culture hit Creep (which appeared in the teen comedy Clueless where the main character's favourite music was by "the... > Read more

Radiohead: Sulk

Neil Halstead: Sleeping on Roads (2002)

19 Apr 2009  |  2 min read  |  1

Mojave 3 was one of the most oddly inappropriate names a band could have picked. Despite suggestions of deserts and Americana, they were British. And they based themselves in Cornwall, a less likely "Mojave" connection you couldn't find, especially in winter when the rain blows horizontal and the bed'n'breakfast hotels are silent and damp. The Mojave 3 - helmed by... > Read more

Neil Halstead: See You on the Rooftops

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland (1968)

12 Apr 2009  |  4 min read  |  2

There's a very good case to be made that The Jimi Hendrix Experience album of 1967 was the most accomplished and innovative debut of the rock era. (Indeed I hope I made the case for Are You Experienced at Elsewhere with my free-ranging, autobiographical essay Jimi Hendrix: In My Life). This was an album which changed the boundaries of what was possible on guitar -- and by extension in rock... > Read more

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Rainy Day Dream Away

The MC5: The Big Bang! The Best of the MC5 (2000 compilation)

5 Apr 2009  |  3 min read  |  1

Writing against the tenor of these times, let it be said that sometimes there's no particular advantage in being first. Take Detroit's MC5. Essentially they made snotty, loud, politicised rock'n'roll. Like the Clash? Sort of - except of their era, which was, unfortunately for them, the confusing period at the start of which Magical Mystery Tour coincided with the Velvet Underground,... > Read more

The MC5: Teenage Lust

Charles Mingus: Thirteen Pictures, The Charles Mingus Anthology (1993)

8 Mar 2009  |  6 min read

Like Duke Ellington -- with whom he is most frequently (and fairly) compared for the vastness, depth and diversity of his recordings -- no single album could stand as emblematic of Charles Mingus, although many are certainly essential. In fact after The Wire magazine offered its primer on Mingus albums in early 2004 (14 albums under his own name, a Columbia Records compilation and a... > Read more

Charles Mingus: Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (1959)

Miles Davis: Kind of Blue (1959)

6 Feb 2009  |  4 min read

Take it from the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Anthony Kiedis. For slow romantic action when he wants to make out, it's the album he plays. Steely Dan's Donald Fagen likes the trance-like atmosphere it creates, and that it's "like sexual wallpaper." And jazz-rock guitarist John Scofield says that 35 years ago it was so common you knew the people next door would have a copy.... > Read more

Miles Davis: Blue in Green