Friday, 14 September 2012

Strange Bedfellows Part 1

One of the interesting things about arranging a record collection in alphabetical order (yep :/  ) is the jarring clashes that can happen between artists. Here are some fun examples:


Barry Blue – Barry Blue (Bell, 1974)

This pretty weak late glam-pop album has a couple of not bad (if you like that sort of thing) moments, such as the bazouki-flavoured hit single ‘Dancing on a Saturday Night’, but it doesn’t exactly go with the next album... 

Bathory – Under the Sign of the Black Mark (Under One Flag, 1987)

This may be more polished  than the first two Bathory albums, but it’s still a formidably feral foray into early black metal. It has marginally more songs about Satan, darkness and evil than Barry Blue.



Belinda Carlisle – Heaven On Earth (Virgin, 1987)

Big, shiny pop-rock; nothing much wrong with it really, except that it’s not very good. Belinda Carlisle has a nice voice, the singles are catchy, but the album lacks the kind of vitality that oozes from even a mediocre ‘good’ record like...


Bootsy Collins – Ultra-Wave (Warner Bros, 1980)

By the standards of former employers Funkadelic, this bouncy album is a bit unmemorable. But it is impressively ‘difficult-to-play’ sounding; I should listen to it again.


CJ & Co – Devils Gun  (Atlantic, 1977)

This excellent LP was produced by Dennis Coffey and Mike Theodore, the duo responsible for Rodriguez’s classic Cold Fact and is a great example of that grey area where funk meets disco. The same can’t be said for...


The Clerkes of Oxenford – Music of John Sheppard (Music For Pleasure, 1978)

Despite their twee name, the “Clerkes” made some lovely records of Tudor choral music; this is one of them and very pretty it is too...


Corduroy – High Havoc (Acid Jazz, 1993)

This classic Acid Jazz LP sounds like the incidental music from any number of 60s TV shows and as such is funny, likeable and strangely of its time. Still sounds good though. Oddly, the same can be said for...


Cranes – Wings Of Joy (Dedicated, 1991)

This sadly overlooked masterpiece is beautifully sad and atmospheric. Alison Shaw’s voice can be a tiny bit too little-girl-ish at times, but the sometimes sparse, sometimes lush backing of piano,guitar, bass, drums and occasional oboe and strings makes this a timeless classic which nevertheless fitted in perfectly with the prevailing ‘shoegaze’ trend of the early 90s.



JJ Cale – Naturally (A&M, 1972)

This album set out the blueprint for JJ Cale’s laidback bluesy rock. Cale has often been praised for the unpretentious ‘authenticity’ of his music. The same is not true of...


John Cale – Paris 1919 (Reprise, 1973)

One of the greatest albums by one of the most idiosyncratic of alt-rock artists, Paris 1919 is a near-perfect collection of intellectual, emotionally complex and beautifully played songs. Interestingly, the band on the record includes Little Feat’s Lowell George, a musician noted for exactly the kind of unpretentious ‘authenticity’ that JJ Cale, but not John Cale, specialises in.


Devo – Q. Are We Not Men? A. We Are Devo! (Virgin, 1978)

Not much could be more New Wave than Devo’s classic debut; and yet despite their of-their-timeness it’s unthinkable that these weird, yelping, angular compact songs could ever sound anything except modern. Not, alas, true of....


Di’Anno – Di’anno (FM, 1984)

The NWOBHM may have been a vital force back when Devo’s debut was released, but by 1984 one of the scene’s leading figures, ex-Iron Maiden vocalist Paul Di’Anno, was sounding a little tired. This is a pleasantly low-key (not to say low budget) hard rock album, but probably it was meant to be more than that.


Miles Davis – Miles In The Sky (CBS, 1968)

Miles in the Sky doesn’t have as cool a reputation as Bitched Brew or On the Corner, but it’s a beautiful, understated album featuring one of Miles’ best bands and some of his most atmospheric playing.  To my knowledge, Tony Williams’ intuitive drumming has rarely been surpassed. More basic, but no less iconic is...

The Damned – Damned Damned Damned (Stiff, 1977)

The first UK punk album is as classic as they come, a burst of pure aggressive energy and packed with primitive anthems. Star of the show though is Dave Vanian, whose distinctive vocals and general demeanour looked forward to the band’s future as architects of goth rock


The Doors – Waiting For The Sun (Elektra, 1967)

The Doors third album is not their most popular today, but it is probably their most varied, showing the band at their most ponderously visionary on ‘Not To Touch the Earth’, at their lightest on ‘Love Street’ and ‘Wintertime Love’ and their most chart-friendly on ‘Hello, I Love You.’ Less commercial is...

David Byrne/Brian Eno – My Life In the Bush Of Ghosts (EG, 1981)

This semi-ambient album was years ahead of its time, mixing heavy basslines and beats with samples and ambient noise. Probably the best ‘song’ includes the sound of an exorcist at work in New York amidst a strange yet familiar collage of music and found sounds...


ELO – Out of the Blue (Jet, 1977)

Home to several of the soft rock overlords’ greatest hits, ELO had jettisoned the more experimental aspects of their original, orchestral approach a few years before and by 1977 they had perfected the perfect, post-Beatles pop with Jeff Lynne’s blossoming as a songwriter. Less fluffy is...

Emperor – Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise (Candlelight, 2001)

Emperor’s most progressive, melodic album is still several million times heavier and more oppressive than ELO, to say the least. Closer to Ihsahn’s solo albums than it is to In The Nightside Eclipse, Prometheus is nevertheless a classic of complex, dark and poetic extreme metal


FFWD - FFWD>> (Inter-Modo, 1994)

A Robert Fripp-related ambient project (the name an acronym for Fripp, Fehlmann, Weston & (cheat) Dr Alex Paterson). It's a very likeable, Orb-esque album on which not much happens, slowly. But in a good way. In extreme contrast to...

Filipinki - To My (Polskie Muza, 1966)
By the standards of the average 60s girl group, Poland's Filipinki was big in terms of personnel, but not in sound. The jaunty, jingly singalongs here are for the most part kind of irritating, but a couple of tracks have a fun period charm :)
Helter Skelter - Welcome to the World of Helter Skelter (Metronome, 1988)
I've written about this peerless  pop-hair metal masterpiece elsewhere, so here all I will say is that it is something of a contrast with the other classic it sits next to on the shelf...
Herbie Hancock - Blow-Up Soundtrack (TCM, 1996 Reissue)

Blow-Up is both a timeless classic movie and a 60s time capsule and Herbie Hancock's jazzy, edgy, pop-art soundtrack is a major contributory factor in the film's success. Plus it features one of the Yardbirds' finest performances.


Ippu Do - Radio Fantasy (Epic, 1981)

This patchy Japanese new wave/new romantic album has some great moments, most notable, oddly, being a strangely frantic and clattering take on the Mission Impossible theme tune. Nothing so peculiar on...

Iron Maiden - Number of the Beast (EMI, 1982)

One of the all-time classics of heavy metal, Number of the Beast stands up amazingly well today, despite a couple of slightly less essential songs. Derek Riggs' cover art has to be one of the most instantly recognisable images from the 80s too.


Daniel Johnston - Yip/Jump Music (Homestead, 1989)

One of the key albums in Daniel Johnston's career, this classic was originally a home-recorded cassette handed out to friends and strangers. It's an intense, powerful and funny collection of songs.  But in a parallel universe, Daniel Johnston (as 'alternative' as they get) may have been something like...

Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (DJM, 1973)

This sprawling, glam influenced double album has enough good songs to make up (maybe) one side of a normal album, but the best stuff here is about as good as EJ gets.


Jesus and Mary Chain - Psychocandy (Blanco Y Negro, 1985)

Beach Boys + Phil Spector + Velvet Underground = genius, one of the best & most iconic debut albums there is; JAMC basically took out everything in popular music that isn't cool and left the rest. The same most definitely CAN'T be said for....

Jethro Tull - Songs From The Wood (Chrysalis, 1977)

Almost nothing is cool about Jethro Tull, but this album has a pastoral, rural charm that is hugely likeable. Er, if you don't instantly hate it anyway.


Eartha Kitt - Not So Old Fashioned (MFP, 1970)

Great album on which Eartha abandoned showtunes & standards to cover modern material, mainly by Donovan. Her version of 'Wear Your Love Like Heaven' is otherworldly, creepy and great. Nothing creepy about....

Kansas - Leftoverture (Kirshner, 1976)

The gray area where pomp-rock meets prog, Kansas have never and will never be cool. They wrote some decent tunes though, and all of them are on this album, oddly released by a label best known for bubblegum pop.


Kix - Cool Kids (Atlantic, 1983)

Kix became a pretty good hair metal band, but at this point there were traces of new wave about their hard rock. The title track is great, the rest of the album a bit patchy. Not even slightly patchy is...

Kraftwerk - Autobahn (Vertigo, 1974)

Although this album sounds sort of dated in some ways it's still kind of shocking to see that it was made in 1974! The clean electronic sound is sometimes thought of as cold and soulless but, like Walter Carlos' Clockwork Orange soundtrack, it sounds the opposite to me.


Love - Forever Changes (Elektra, 1967)

One of the greatest albums of the 60s, Forever Changes doesn't sound like anything else; it doesn't even sound much like Love's other albums of the period, which are more garagey and rock. Forever Changes is LOVELY. Also (necessarily) lovely is...

Love Unlimited - In Heat (20th Century, 1974)

Love Unlimited were Barry White's backing singers and this album sounds basically like a Barry White album sans the walrus himself; lush, soulful and much better than it sounds.


Magazine - Real Life (Virgin, 1978)

Angular, clever, different, Magazine are one of those bands like The Fall or Wire whose records sound completely part of the punk era without sounding dated. Definitely dated but no less idiosyncratic is...

Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds of Fire (CBS, 1973)

In the post-Woodstock period jazz-rock was not all that rare - but whereas most bands (le.g. Blood, Sweat & Tears) were essentially rock bands with jazz trimmings, Mahavishnu were  definitely jazz: LOUD, post-hippy jazz , with everything turned up to 11. And Birds of Fire is their most extravagant eruption.


Morrissey - Viva Hate (HMV, 1988)

The great thing about Viva Hate is that it sounds nothing like The Smiths. At this point Morrissey had not settled into a comfortable 'indie rock' rut, and Vini Reilly's extraordinary guitar playing - almost the polar opposite of Johnny Marr's - gives opening track 'Alsatian Cousin' a unique sound that is completely different from anything he had produced before or since. Not as different, though, as...

Motley Crue - Shout At The Devil (Elektra, 1983)

Motley Crue's best album by a million miles, Shout At The Devil is full of their catchiest tunes and Vince Neil's best vocals. It's kind of sad how run-of-the-mill they became in the years that followed (apart from Girls, Girls, Girls)


New England - New England (Infinity, 1979)

This sadly little-heard album is a superb piece of (kind of) Journey-esque melodic rock. And it was produced by Kiss legend Paul Stanley! Equally accomplished but entirely different is...

New Fast Automatic Daffodils - Pigeonhole (Play It Again Sam, 1990)

Rarely remembered in retrospectives of the 'Madchester' era, Manchester's New FADS were not really part of the baggy scene, but their funky, percussion-heavy music is strongly redolent of its era - but far more interesting and less stereotypical than most of their peers. Plus they used a melodica - always a good thing!