A selection of the things I have been groovin’ to. I was touched by the person who said they had looked at my music lists for inspiration for a gift for their partner and bought one of the albums on my recommendation!
Prefab Sprout: Let’s Change The World With Music
Finally released and little known to most of us – the intended follow-up to ‘Jordan the Comeback’ was meant to see the light of day in 1992 and rejected by Sony. This is after a couple of listens an inspirational album, full of Paddy McAloon’s gorgeous melodies, hooks and lyrics. The theme takes off from ‘Jordan’ and is about god, religion and music, and explores territory familiar to Paddy and Randy Newman fans. Joyous in its celebration of the love of music; the opening three tracks form a particular powerful opening: a sort of Stephen Sondheim to a dance beat; Paddy’s hero: ‘The unnerving, unswerving Irving Berlin’.
The Proclaimers: Notes and Rhymes
Craig and Charlie have provided the musical backdrop to much of what has happened in Scotland in the last twenty years: ‘What Do You Do When Democracy Fails You?’ showing our anger and exclusion at Thatcherism, ‘I’m Gonna Be 500 Miles’ providing the backdrop for the Tartan Army and perhaps becoming too officialesque. Since 2003’s ‘Born Innocent’ they have explored powerful songs about personal issues and in particular what it means to be a man, a father, a son, a partner. I find this material, ‘Love Can Move Mountains’ being an example on this album – convincing and sitting well beside the more overt political material.
Gil Scott Heron: Bridges/Secrets
Two late 1970s Gil albums with Brian Jackson finally see the light of day. ‘Bridges’ opens with the hopeful ‘Hello Sunday! Hello Road! and includes the anti-nuke ‘We Almost Lost Detroit’. ‘Secrets’ has the fabulous anti-drug ‘Angel Dust’, the as famous anti-nuke ‘Three Miles Down’ and ‘Angola, Louisiana’. Gil has always been someone I have loved musically: his blend of songs of protest, humility and need for personal responsibility, and it was a touching, loving moment last year when I met him in his home in Harlem.
Momus: Stars Forever
The irrepressible, unique world force that is Momus – a complete one off of a singer-songwriter from Paisley – real name Nick Currie and related to Justin Currie of Del Amitri. Momus writes songs about some of the most wonderful and leftfield subjects possibly: ‘I Was A Maoist Intellectual’, treatises on homosexuality and oral sex. This is a crazed album; Momus franchises 30 tracks for 1,000 dollars each to individuals, organisations and it works while raising all sorts of uncomfortable questions about where the entertainment industry is going.
Robert Wyatt/Orchestre National de Jazz – Around Robert Wyatt
The Orchestre National de Jazz provide a fitting tribute to Wyatt with his involvement vocally on several of the tracks. The instrumentalisation and jazz feeling of this is very much in the style of Wyatt’s records but adds something to music from across the opening ‘Sea Song’ from ‘Rock Bottom’ to ‘O Caroline’ from his Matching Mole era and coming up to date with ‘Cuckooland’ material. Gorgeous guest vocals from Rokia Trarore and Daniel Darc, who sounds like a Tom Waits character.
Caetano Veloso: Caetano Veloso
The self-titled ‘white album’ from 1969. Veloso was one of the leading lights of the Brazilian ‘Tropicalia’ movement and from the late 1960s has cut a series of staggering music albums, invoking experimentation, psychedelia, Brazilian rhythms and his love of American standards and the Beatles. This album is imbued with the politics and sounds of late 1960s Brazil under military dictatorship, the opening track, ‘Irene’, reputedly about a machine gun. Exiled to Britain within the next year along with Gil Gilberto he cut the melancholic ‘A Little Bit Blue’ and then more celebratory ‘Trans’ in English in London. Veloso is still going strong, still experimenting and an amazing force for hope.
A stunning album from a growing Brazilian talent. Beautiful, melodic songs and stunning arrangements, sampling from trip-hop and off-key jazz sounds. Ceu is in her early twenties and the aplomb and variety of this is reminiscent of troubadours such as Rickie Lee Jones, in its mastering of so many different styles. This is an even better album than her previous one and even more courageous.
Status Quo: Pictures: 40 Years of Hits
Okay a bit of a ‘guilty pleasure’. I haven’t listened to most of these tracks in nearly thirty years, and played loud the 70s hits, ‘Down Down’, ‘Roll Over Lay Down’, ‘Caroline’, sound better than ever. Big Star never wrote rock ‘n’ rollers as catchy and wearing well as this!
The Beatles in Mono/The Beatles in Stereo
The greatest pop group of all-time! Indisputably! The most over-exposed pop artists! Probably! And EMI’s perpetual Cash Cow now they are owned by Terra Firma or whatever they are called. Finally they get remastered and released in mono – the way nature intended the Beatles up until ‘The White Album’. And at last the packaging and presentation of the albums is up to the beauty of the content. I am a bit of a ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ fan, regarding the ‘late Beatle period’ as over-exposed.
Archie MacPherson: The Life of Archie:
Archie is one of the great cultural icons and gurus of the last 40 years of Scotland – and a superb commentator – immortalised in ‘Trainspotting’ and a talented writer and chronicler of the game. This sees some of his memorable phrases set to dance backdrops: ‘I Fancy a Bit of a Beevy’ he proclaims!
John Peel’s Festive Fifty 1983
Painstaking capture of Peely Festive Fifty from the breakthrough days of the Smiths, Cocteaus and New Order.