Essential Elsewhere

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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)