Essential Elsewhere

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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

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

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

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

Bruce Springsteen; Nebraska (1982)

31 Jan 2009  |  2 min read  |  1

From this distance it is hard to remember just how huge Springsteen was in the late 70s and early 80s: these days disco and punk/new wave get more pages in rock history books, but Bruce Springsteen deserves a chapter on his own. In the States alone Born to Run in '75 sold in excess of seven million, it's follow-up the more bleak Darkness on the Edge of Town three years later about half that... > Read more

Bruce Springsteen: Atlantic City (Live, 1993)

Fela Anikulapo Kuti: The Black President; The Best Best of Fela

24 Dec 2008  |  3 min read  |  1

The great Fela -- who died of Aids-related illnesses in 97 -- was a superstar in Nigeria. He single-handedly created incendiary and righteously angry Afrobeat by welding together James Brown funk and the politics of resistance with a huge horn-driven band . . . and no one since has been able to match him for driving, percussive music and on-stage energy.Fela's life was as interesting as... > Read more

Fela Anikulapo Kuti: Sorrow Tears and Blood

Kraftwerk: Trans-Europe Express (1977)

5 Nov 2008  |  2 min read  |  1

In the rush to acclaim Kraftwerk as electro-pioneers, it is often overlooked how they grew out of the German avant-garde/post-hippie prog-rock scene. As Organisation and on the first two Kraftwerk albums, founders Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider (and others) engaged in long, almost free-form jams with Schneider playing flutes and bells. After their Ralf and Florian album however the two... > Read more

Kraftwerk: Showroom Dummies

Lou Reed: Berlin (1973)

1 Nov 2008  |  7 min read

Right from the beginning -- aside from a short period as a jobbing songwriter for the Pickwick label in ‘64-’65 -- Lou Reed’s lyrics had a literary quality. With the Velvet Underground his songs would take the listener to an immediate location (“standing on the corner . . .”) or conjure up characters (“she’s a femme fatale”) in the manner of... > Read more

Lou Reed: How Do You Think It Feels?

Van Morrison, It's Too Late to Stop Now (1973)

25 Oct 2008  |  4 min read  |  1

Anyone coming Johnny Rogan's thorough and sometimes exhaustive biography of Van Morrison, No Surrender, to find out why Morrison is such a curmudgeon will learn soon enough: it seems he has always been a grumpy, sullen and, when young, an occasionally violently surly character.  As a child he had lamentable social skills and was terribly uncommunicative. As a teenager,... > Read more

Van Morrison: Into the Mystic

Jackie McLean: Right Now! (1965)

16 Oct 2008  |  1 min read

The Reid Miles-designed cover of this album by altoist McLean is a Blue Note classic. The hammered-out typewriter font blown up large and the thump of the exclamation point hinted at - and the intense opener Eco confirmed - the tough music within. Altoist McLean, born in New York in 1932, studied with his neighbour Bud Powell and played with Thelonious Monk. By the time he signed to Blue... > Read more

Jackie McLean: Eco

Bob Marley: Songs of Freedom (1992)

17 Sep 2008  |  4 min read  |  1

Bob Marley was quite a man . . . nobody seems to have a bad word to say about him. Oh sure, a few wacko reactionaries got het up over the dope thing and tossed him into the Godless Heathen Corrupting Our Youth basket. But here was one spliff smoker who would run 10km before breakfast, was always keen to play a game of soccer and knew more scripture than most Anglicans. Interesting... > Read more

Bob Marley: Soul Rebel