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Grandaddy – an American Indie band.  Just the one CD; Under the Western Freeway (1997),  This was their debut album; I had read the review but found it a few years later in a charity shop.  It is quite an interesting record; a few unusual sounds, some sweet vocals and unusual songs.  But….as so often I am left wondering exactly what it was all about, it simply went in one ear and out the other. I am afraid that my capacity to take in and appreciate new music, in this case American Indie, is limited.  I am stuck in old grooves mostly, preferring singer-songwriters and bands that I know and instantly recognise.  Never mind.

David Gray – became famous with the release of his fourth album White Ladder.(1998).  No-one had really noticed him before this, yet somehow he managed to get it all together with this record.  His song-writing was as good as ever, but it was the introduction of infectious beats which brought him to a larger audience.  The album though released in 97 did not do anything at first but slowly it grew and grew, especially with the release of hit singles and reached number one in 2001.  It is a wonderful record.  Almost every track is a winner.  If I have to choose favourites then of course the two big singles ‘Babylon’ and ‘Sail Away’ – but actually the best is the final track – a cover of Soft Cell’s ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’ which is almost better than the original.  I then worked back and bought the predecessor; Sell, Sell, Sell (1996). A much rockier album but still pretty good.  Best songs ‘Late Night Radio’, ‘Magdalene’ and ‘Forever is Tomorrow is Today’.  Quite a satisfying record but originally it sold hardly at all, it was only after the success of White Ladder that people like me discovered it.  His next album was Lost Songs 95 – 98.   These were written prior to his breakthrough but recorded as White Ladder was taking off and released in 2001.  And a strangely subdued set of songs they mostly are; all that lightness of touch of White Ladder seems to be dulled down a bit.  Despite that it is quite a nice record – best songs; ‘Flame Turns Blue’ and ‘January Rain’.  But we were all waiting for something new and the following year he brought out A New Day At Midnight. Well, White ladder it wasn’t; that slow dance beat was missing from most of the tracks.  Saying that his voice was as plaintive as ever and the songs pretty good too.  Favourites are ‘Dead in The Water’, ‘Be Mine’ and ‘The Other Side’.  Another number one album which he followed three years later with Life In Slow Motion.   Well, it seemed to me that David was sinking into some self-obsessed oblivion.  It was as if all the lightness of White Ladder had dissipated.  Not that some songs weren’t quite good, it was just that the whole feel of the album was a huge downer.   A couple of good songs though; ‘Ain’t No Love’ and ‘Disappearing World’.  I sort-of gave up on him at this point and resolved to not buy him anymore.  My daughter Laura however did buy me his next effort Draw The Line (2009).    I must admit, the record is okay, but somehow I had grown tired of David Gray.  He still sounds pretty miserable and his songs are very samey, although he has a couple of faster numbers on this record.  I haven’t really managed to get into this album but a couple of the songs are okay – ‘Stella the Artist’ rocks and the duet with Aniie Lennox (see l) Full Steam is quite good.  He has continued to release the occasional album but so far I haven’t been tempted.  A few years ago he lamented that the success of White Ladder had pigeonholed him and boxed him in. I wonder what hw would have been doing without it though….

David Gray recording studio where Eurythmics and Dylan ...

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Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie.  A Scottish band I know almost nothing about.  It started with my buying a CD single of theirs, more for the interesting cover because I had never heard of them – but the name, a title of a book by Jean Rhys, intrigued me too.  I liked it and bought a couple of others and then the album Hammer and Tongs. (1991).  This was their second album, they had some bad luck with record companies and struggled to get a decent deal.  Anyway, as a curio I quite like it, they had an enthusiasm and wrote good songs.  Strangely both their albums and CD singles are now rarities and hard to come by.  Girl backup singer Shirley Manson went on to form Garbage (see G) but the rest of the band drifted into other bands with little success.  Best songs  ‘Now we are Married’ and ‘Love Child’.  I also used to have their debut album Good Deeds And Dirty Rags on vinyl, and it is very hard to find now on CD, but it was just as good as Hammer and Tongs.  One of those mysteries why they never made it; makes you realise just how many really good bands failed and have been lost. 

Phillip Goodhand-Tait – Ah, one of my very very favourites.  A singer-songwriter from the Seventies- of course.  The gentlest and most expressive voice and a good writer of strong yet gentle songs.  I first heard of him, when in 1973 he had a couple of minor hit singles.  He had been picked up by Elton’s record label DJM, who tried to make him into a (reluctant) pop star.  I bought the eponymous album and worked backwards.  The first album he made solo (he was in a band earlier – see later) was Rehearsal (1971).  A bit of a curate’s egg – good in places.  He was obviously trying to find his style – a few sort of rocky numbers and one or two nicer slower songs, the best of which are ‘Gone Are The Songs Of Yesterday’, ‘Heaven help Belinda’ and ‘Lean On Me’.  Getting better was the same year’s I Think I’ll Write A Song.  Here he was developing into a classic Singer-Songwriter; excellent melodies and thoughtful words – best are ‘Oh Roseanna’ ,’Cold Winter’ and ‘Who Laid Your Loving Down’.  Best of all was 1972’s Songfall, with it’s bleak grey cover, a gentle collection of unique and wonderful songs. This is probably my favourite of Phillip’s albums – almost every song is a classic, but if I have to choose it would of course be ‘Leon’, ‘When Will I Be loved’ and the Buddy Holly classid ‘Every Day’.  It is hard to improve on Buddy Holly but this version is simply heartbreakingly good.

Then came the ‘Pop-Star’ period, where the record company (the same one as Elton was on back then) decided he might look good in coloured satin shirts and he did indeed have a minor hit with the splendid ‘You Are’.  The album was simply entitled Phillip Goodhand-Tait (now, when the record company brings out a self-titled record after 3 others, you know it is a re-launch of some sort).  Well the record is a bit more upbeat, in fact a far too poppy and glitzy production.  Some good songs however – the ‘Hit’ single (his only one) ‘You Are’ and my very favourite of all his songs ‘Warm Summer Rain’.  But somehow the record disappoints – trying too hard to make him sound ‘modern’.  And it failed too – bad promotion and changes at the top of the record company and Phillip was summarily dropped.  He did find a home with Chrysalis Records and had 2 albums with them before diminishing returns and Phil pursuing other interests in music promotion and new digital formats and he stoped recording for many years.  But before that the last two albums  – Oceans Away  (1976) – well a much gentler sound, a bit more middle of the road too. A good set of songs, but somehow some of the magic was missing. Best tracks – The title track, ‘Old Fashioned Love’ and ‘Gabrielle’.  The following year he released ‘Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks (with a pretty awful cover).  It is not a great record, by any means; it feels as if his heart wasn’t in it anymore – and maybe it wasn’t.  The songs seem to lack depth and the production is blandly boring.  Oh well. 

Then I heard nothing for years and years – Phil had moved onto other music production and digital stuff.  He apparently released a record in 1980 but it is not on CD and I cannot find a download anywhere.  But then, by chance, I saw that he was recording again.  But before that we had Radio Songs, some live recordings made in 1977 for Radio Bremen.  This was released a few years ago – and simply lovely it is too, although a bit subdued – more like demos than a concert performance.  A couple of new tracks but nothing too remarkable.  And then I discovered that after 40 odd years Phillip was recording again – on his own record label.  First up is An Evening With Peggy Sue (2003). Only one or two newer songs, quite a few covers of Buddy Holly and some old favourites, but a nice relaxing record – for fans only, I suspect.  Best songs ‘One Road’, ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘The Peacemaker’.  Then three years later an album of new songs The Last Laugh, where a couple of the songs deal with old age and impending death, but with a lightness that dispels any gloom.  Best songs are ‘Old Fools In Love Again’ and ‘The Paradise Grill’ – but pleasant as these are, they ‘aint a patch on his 70’s stuff.  Then came an album of his first band Thr Stormville hakers.  Called Ricky-Ticky. .  Not my stuff really but part of the historical record, so I bought it.  In fact, it isn’t so bad, some of the songs are quite god – and a very decent version of the Sandie Shaw hit ‘Long Live Love’.  The final Phillip album is a double –The Age of Bewilderment, this was a 2012 album of a live show – Phil singing a selection of his songs and Dave Sherington (who used to be in his old band The Stormville Shakers playing Sax) doing comedy monologues alternating with the songs. A lovely record actually,to be listened to maybe only occasionally – but with a smile on ones face.  So, that was Phillip Goodhand-Tait, one of the music businesses unmentioned others, but a real favourite of mine.  

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Golden Earring – are a Dutch band who have been going for about 50 years now.  I saw them back in the Seventies and bought their hit album.  Since then they have dropped off my radar.  I did buy a double disc of 2 of their later (80’s I think) albums; Paradise in Distress – is okay (if you like straight rock, which of late I have really tired of).  A few good melodies but a quite conventional sound.  Better was a live album Naked 2, quite good versions of their few hits plus a good version of Dylan’s ‘Wheels On Fire.  I also have Radar Love – which is a Greatest Hits, best of which are the title track and ‘She Flies On Strange Wings’.  I went through a phase of quite liking hard rock bands but nowadays I find them more than a bit boring.

Goldfrapp – are a twenty-first Century electronica duo.  Alison Goldfrapp sings and Will Gregory provides the music. I was really impressed with their first album Felt Mountain (2000).   There was nothing quite like it, a very distinctive and weird but compulsive sound.  I saw them a couple of times and the shows were very theatrical with Alison donning an Alsatian head and strange dancers.  However though I have followed them for a few years it has seemed to give slightly diminishing results with each passing record.  The debut didn’t sell very well but on reflection I think it was their best work.  Of course, with the multitude of music out there already it must be hard to come up with anything remotely new.  Best songs on Felt Mountan are the ethereal ‘Lovely head’, ‘Human and ‘Utopia’.  There is a timelessness about the album, the music both modern and almost classical at the same time – and Alison’s voice floating above the melody like an angel.   2003 saw Black Cherry – and a significant change in style.  Gone was the weird vibrato and in came a harder disco sound on half the tracks.  Not that it was unattractive, or unpopular, in fact this was quite a hit record, combining electronic folk on the slower tracks with an infectious updated 80’s feel to the fast ones.  Best tracks ‘Crystalline Green’, ‘Black Cherry’ and ‘Forever’, but really the album was all good.  Even me, ever the sceptic concerning 80’s synths and disco, managed to enjoy it.  As ever it was down to the quality of the song-writing; Will Gregory’s melodies and Alison’s lyrics and off-kilter imagery.  In some ways this was a more successful record than their debut, but Felt mountain retains a special place for me.   They followed this with another disco-ish album Supernature, which was another commercial success.  Not so sure I liked this as much – best songs: ‘Ooh-La-La’ and Ride a White Horse’.  2008 saw a complete reversal and Seventh Tree was a far quieter, more ambient album.  I liked it, but felt it lacked any real variation and was too samey.   At least they had dropped the 80’s disco stomp – best songs ‘Happiness’, ‘A and E’ and ‘Cologne, Ceronne Houdini’.  Head First -came out in 2009 and was a return to more dance-oriented music.   Not that this is a bad reord, the tunes are quite good, but there is nothing new here….and fatally nothing that remains in the brain once the CD ends.  Best song is the lead single .Rocket, but even this is instantly forgotten ten minutes later.  The last album of theirs I have is Tales Of Us from 2013.  A return to the pastoralism of Seventh Tree, but slightly better arrangements and songs.  The songs are all named after characters and apparently there is a concept behind them, though what that is appears as obscure as some of the sound on the record.  Lots of orchestra and soft piano and guitar, which I should love, but somehow the album had never gelled with me, although on a couple of re-listens it does begin to grow on you.  I am always expecting more – and maybe the truth is that there is no more – no new styles to discover, no new feelings to emote, no new genre…. But the sounds they created on Felt Mountain were so unique they could have gone further along that new trail. Instead they sought popularity and began retreading old themes.  Oh well..

Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie.  A Scottish band I know almost nothing about.  It started with my buying a CD single of theirs, more for the interesting cover because I had never heard of them – but the name, a title of a book by Jean Rhys, intrigued me too.  I liked it and bought a couple of others and then the album Hammer and Tongs. (1991).  This was their second album, they had some bad luck with record companies and struggled to get a decent deal.  Anyway, as a curio I quite like it, they had an enthusiasm and wrote good songs.  Strangely both their albums and CD singles are now rarities and hard to come by.  Girl backup singer Shirley Manson went on to form Garbage (see G) but the rest of the band drifted into other groups with little success.  Best songs  ‘Now we are Married’ and ‘Love Child’.  I also used to have their debut album Good Deeds And Dirty Rags on vinyl, and it is very hard to find now on CD, but it was just as good as Hammer and Tongs.  One of those mysteries why they never made it; makes you realise just how many really good bands failed and have been lost.  

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Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man. Beth Gibbons, vocalist extraordinaire with Portishead (see P) and bass player Paul Webb from Talk Talk under the pseudonym of Rustin man, decided to make an album Out of Season in 2002.   Portishead, for all their success in the nineties have been very slow at releasing any new material.  I know nothing about Paul Webb really, but together they have managed to make a hauntingly beautiful album.  Harking back to the quietude of Nick Drake (see D) the album drifts in and out of your consciousness, accompanied by subtle strings and woodwind and Webb’s bass. Gibbons sings strange sad songs in an often bluesy drawl.  I love this record, if only for it’s quirkiness.  Best songs – opener ‘Mysteries’, ‘Tom the Model’ and ‘Funny Time Of year’ where she sounds quite like Billie Holiday on Strange Fruit.  So far no hint of  a follow up, or indeed anything new from Portishead-though Beth has recorded with an orchestra a Gorecki Symphony (ordered but not played yet).

Dave Gilmour – he of Pink Floyd (see P).  Just one album, On An Island (2006), and pretty though it is, it ‘aint Pink Floyd.  Some nice guitar work and gentle songs but I think he needed the contrariness of Roger Waters (see W).  The album is pleasant enough but with his history we expected more.  To be honest I have just played it twice and it is hard now for me to recall anything which stuck in my brain.

Godley& Crème – There once was a band called 10cc (see T) who had quite a bit of chart success in the Seventies.  Four incredibly talented writers who maybe had gone as far as they could as a unit split in 1977.  Well to be fair Kevin Godley and Lol Crème split from the band who continued for a few more years.  Initially the pair wanted to develop a device they had invented, a Gizmotron or “Gizmo”, which basically could hold and sustain a guitar note or chord to develop a multitude of effects.  Of course this soon became obsolete as synthesisers could do the job on a keyboard where the Gizmo had to be subtly played on guitar.  Anyway, partly in order to promote the Gizmo, and partly because they had written a raft of songs and music the pair conceived a concept album Consequences, which grew and grew into a triple album.  They decided to incorporate a play within the music about a divorce settlement being hammered out in a musician’s attic, against a backdrop of the world descending into climate chaos with fires floods and hurricanes being played out on the Gizmo.  Vocalist Sarah Vaughan also sang some of the songs. I loved the album, especially the spoken excerpts where Peter Cook uses four different voices and wrote some amazingly funny dialogue.  The record was lambasted at the time as overlong and over indulgent, especially as punk was in its brief heyday.  A triumph of musicality too, with some beautiful melodies and great music.  Overlong – yes, overindulgent – I should say so.  But brilliant none the less. It was a flop, of course.  But it is one of my most treasured albums – not least because it is only available as a Japanese double CD at an extortionate price.

Two years later a single album was released of Music from Consequences.  No changes at all, just eight of the most lyrical songs from the album.  I actually got this on CD before tracking down and buying the full album a few years later on CD.

L was released the following year and was a complete contrast, mostly faster and shorter songs with more rhythm and dynamics.   Opening song ‘This Sporting Life’ is about suicide and ‘Punchbag’ subjects bullying – however this is far from a downbeat album, in fact it brims with infectious tunes.  The album appears to be influenced by Zappa (see Z) in it’s jazzy notes and time signatures.  A very entertaining record which demanded me listening three times in a row (which only some albums manage).  Other favourite songs are ‘Sandwiches of You’ and the lazy sounding ‘Art School Canteen’.  A complete contrast to the songs on consequences and the album sold quite well.  The following year saw their third album Freeze Frame, which despite an incredible starter ‘An Englishman in New York’ seems to go off the boil somewhat with a lot of instrumentals.  Mind you the last two songs ‘MugShots’ and ‘Get Well Soon’ a seemingly personal note to end the record with.  Not quite the success that L was but they were still experimenting with sounds and recording techniques, some of which worked better than others.

Two years later and they hit the jackpot with their most successful album IsmIsm. Wow, what a record.  From the opening track ‘Snack Attack’ about the desire for food to the sardonic sarcastic yet so realistic ‘The Party’ the album just rolls along. It also has two of their biggest singles hits – ‘Wedding bells’ and ‘Under Your Thumb’ – a cracker of an album.  Two years later and the disappointing ‘Birds of Prey’ came along.  Despite a few good songs the duo seemed to be running out of ideas – or maybe they were just moving into their second career as video directors for other artists.  But this record seemed as thought hey were just treading water.  Best tracks – ‘My Body the Car’ and ‘Save A mountain For Me’.   Then a gap of two or three years and a strange record emerged – The History mix – Part 1.  This was, possibly the first, re-mix album; a jumble of excerpts and stitched together and re-recorded bits from their time as a duo and also from their former band 10CC.  Well, at the time I quite disliked this; I saw it as cheating – despite the fact that it did have one original song ‘Cry’, which was a huge single.  But, as is often the case, now with the benefit of time passing I see it as quite creative really.  Still a strange record – as if they were giving a finger to the record company.  Anyway their last record in the late 80’s was far better – Goodbye Blue Sky.  A much more conventional record – almost middle of the road by their standards.  Nice melodies and easy to listen to, but a million miles away from Consequences.  And, of course, the obligatory Greatest Hits – Images.

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Genesis – Superstars – The 1980’s were, unlike for so many others, the most successful of years.   The tight-knit trio seemed to have a charmed life; they all pursued solo projects; Tony Banks wrote some film scores and a handful of solo records; Mike Rutherford formed a new  group altogether Mike and the Mechanics (see M) and Phil Collins literally flew off into the stratosphere.  At the same time Genesis became huge, absolute Superstars.  And those who had left – Peter Gabriel was untouchable too (see G) and Steve Hackett (see H) had a succession of great records and a very loyal following.  There have always been rumpurs of a Genesis reunion, which have come to nothing – so far.  The band though, supplemented by extra members live, continued to have phenomenal success.

As ever it was the songwriting which was the key.  They simply managed to write great tunes, changing over the years but still retaining that special Genesis sound.

Duke appeared in 1980.  The group had taken a few months off – Banks and Rutherford had released solo albums and Collins wrote one of the great break-up albums (he had split from his wife) which he released shortly after this record.  There is something quite magical about this album.  It flows and moves from song to song, and yet there are both slower love songs and the Genesis of old – longer more complex ones.  My favourites are the two single ‘Misunderstanding’ and ‘Turn It On Again’ but ‘Duchess’ and ‘Man of Our Times’ are excellent.  Phil Collins vocals have never been better and the ensemble playing is superb too.  A great record. Followed by another a year later.  The band were really flying with Abacab.  Shorter radio-friendly and highly contagious songs – best are ‘No Reply At All’ and ‘Me and Sarah Jane’ as well as the hit single title track.  There seemed no stopping them now – they were pop-royalty and everyone loved them.  1983 saw a self-titled album, which seems strange as it was their twelth studio album, but maybe this was more a decision of the record company than the band – who knows.  The album Genesis was their most commercial to date and a number one album across the world.   Almost every song is easily accessible and distinctive.  Phil Collins was enjoying solo success too – though inevitably this very success turned on itself and he became a bit of a villain in the music press.  But his voice and drumming on this record are immaculate.  Best songs – ‘Mama’, ;Home By The Sea’ and ‘That’s All’.  But by now any resemblance to the Genesis of Foxtrot or Lamb Lies Down were long since gone – though they still included some of the early songs in their huge World tours.  Invisible Touch was their next offering.   Three years had passed with each of the three pursuing their solo careers, and yet when they got back together they wrote the whole album in a few weeks.  Another huge number one hit.  Best songs, the title song, and ‘Tonight, Tonight, Tonight’ and ‘In Too Deep’.  To be honest there was little difference now between Phil solo and Genesis records.  I stopped buying both back then.

I have since caught up with one more Genesis album and a free one from the Daily mail of hits.  We Can’t Dance came out in 1991.  A five-year gap; and a quieter, more reflective album than the pop bravado of the last 4 records.  It seems to have far more of Collins influence and is very similar to his later albums – so a tad on the boring side.  But to have had 13 studio albums and worldwide success is a great achievement.  Most of their fans still hark back to the classic lineup with Peter Gabriel, but there is no denying their immense popularity. They have been pretty inactive for over 20 years now, and occasionally there are rumours of a band reunion, though it seems none of them can be that bothered to make the effort.  So bye for now to GENESIS

Genesis (band) - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

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Genesis – The middle years.  Peter Gabriel left in 1975, and although hey tried out several vocalists they decided that Phil Collins, who had sung a couple of tracks and was backing vocalist to Peter anyway, should take on the role of singer. The first album without Gabriel was ‘A Trick Of The Tail (1976).   Gone were the pyrotechnic vocals and a softer voice appeared, but also the strange jumpy styles and a more regular rock sound began to emerge.  Not such a bad album and certainly more successful than their last one.  Best songs were ‘Squonk’, Robbery, Assault and Battery’ and ‘Dance on A Volcano’.  The drumming seems particularly good, and the band seem a bit more together.  Maybe because they were both writing the music and the words, whereas Peter used to tend to add words to finished instrumental pieces.  Steve Hackett however had already recorded his first solo album (with Rutherford and Banks) in a style more like the old Genesis – a sure sign that he wasn’t totally keen on this new direction.  The band followed this with Wind and Wuthering later in ’76.   A different feel to this album I thought.  There were certainly more instrumentals, and Tony Banks had already written quite a lot of material.  Again Steve Hackett felt squeezed out in terms of songwriting, which led to his departure the following year.  Saying that, this is still a strong album with some good stuff on it – but already one could feel the band moving away from the Gabriel era long complex songs with strange lyrics into somewhat safer and gentler territory.  Best song by far was ‘Your Own Special Way’, but this was hardly the Genesis of old.  This was a gentle love song.  I have just played the record twice and nothing else really leaps out and says WOW.  Another huge tour followed and then a second live album Seconds Out, which I bought at the time and worked my way back to some of the erlier albums I has missed.  Well, a pretty faultless live album, excellent versions of fan’s favourites which in some cases are at least as good as the studio ones.  Collins sings the old songs pretty well though with a softer edge than Gabriel.  The ensemble playing is very good.  Best songs ‘Carpet Crawl’, ‘Supper’s ready’ and ‘I Know What I Like’.  But as they were mixing the album Steve Hackett announced that he was leaving to pursue a solo career (see H).  He had already recorded and released a debut album a year earlier but the band had told him not to record a second, even though most of his suggestions for Wind and Wuthering weren’t take up   So, it could not have come as that much of a surprise when he left.  Could the band possibly survive the departure of both lead singer and guitarist. 

And again, rather than recruit a replacement they just carried on, Mike Rutherford filling in on lead as well as bass.  In a way the band became even tighter, though thye had to have extra players for live work.  In the studio at least they developed a close working relationship, that eventually led to all three pursuing solo stuff as well as Genesis work – but, the albums slowed down and the style morphed more and more into a highly commercial and pleasant rock sound with fewer surprises but much easier listening songs.  The first of which was 1978’s ….and then there were three.  Well, a really successful and quite commercial album.  The transformation of Genesis from a truly innovative prog-rock outfit to a super-cool rock band was almost complete.  Gone were the daft lyrics, the weird time changes, the long meandering songs with several different melodies.  In came smooth and shorter songs, more standard sounding production and success – even a hit single; ‘Follow You, Follow Me’.   But somehow they were still Genesis, only a slightly different Genesis.

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GENESIS  are one of those bands that you simply cannot dislike.  They were at the heart of what became known as prog-rock; sometimes pretentious and overblown, and yet incredibly creative and weird and wonderful all at the same time.  I didn’t buy their first 2 albums but the third Nursery Crime (1970) was an early purchase.  The band at this time consisted of what is generally known as classic Genesis – Peter Gabriel (vocals) Tony Banks (Keyboards) Mike Rutherford (bass and rhythm) Steve Hackett (Guitar) and Phil Collins (drums).  They had had 2 albums with previous guitarist Anthony Phillips who was now replaced by Hackett (see H).  Well, what an album – ludicrous and brilliant at the same time, it is full of English eccentricity and great tunes.  The thing about prog-rock was that they often put two or three quite different melodies into the same song and this is no exception.  Anyway this album is famous for the track ‘The Music Box’, apparently a Victorian murder mystery though the words hardly register, it is simply a lovely piece of music.  Also ggod are ‘For Absent Friends’ and ‘Seven Stones’.  Foxtrot followed a year later – another classic.  A bit rockier in places, especially the opener ‘Watcher Of The Skies’, followed by the lyrical ‘Time Table’ – but the real triumph is the side long track ‘Supper’s Ready’, which goes through seven phases, some melodic and quiet, other louder and attacking.  Gabriel’s vocals are very expressive and carry the varied musical backdrop.  A remarkable achievement, and even more remarkable that the record company actually let them record it.  It was, of course – the Famous Charisma label, which seemed at the forefront of the explosion of styles and bands in the early seventies.  It was a wonderful time when anything was possible musically, experimentation, electronica and folk ditties.  Inspired by The Beatles and the freedom they expressed in their later recording’s bands sprung up everywhere and simply wrote and played whatever they liked.  But of course, along came punk in ‘76 and the music press were convinced that there was no future for groups like Genesis, Yes and Barclay James Harvest and even Pink Floyd – all of whom went on to achieve even greater success.  But somehow the magic was dissipating and record companies demanded more and more commercial success.  Oh Well.   A live album simply entitled Genesis Live came out in ’73.  I only bought it much later; longer more complex versions of the songs add nothing really to the album versions, but there is a long version of ‘The Knife’, a track from Trespass.  Later in 1973 they released Selling England By The Pound, which is really my favourite Genesis album of these early years.  The record is quite bucolic and English without being fey; it opens with the glorious ‘Dancing with the Moonlit Knight’ and barely flags until the closer ‘The Cinema Show’ followed by the coda ‘Aisle of plenty’ but the best is the sing-a-long ‘I Know What I Like’, which was largely written by Steve Hackett.  A great album and a major step up from Foxtrot.   Then in ’74 they released a double album; a concept of Peter Gabriel’s called The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.  And despite some excellent songs it really is far too long and dense, they should have condensed it to a single album – but excess was the name of the game in the early Seventies.  Still it is a remarkable record and best songs are the title track, ‘Cuckoo Cocoon’ ‘Counting out Time’ and ‘Carpet Crawl’ – most of sides 3 and 4 were just too long and by then I had lost interest.  They toured this in an extensive 102 date tour of America and Europe.  At the beginning of the tour Peter had told the band that he was going to leave the group and pursue a solo career (see G), and in the summer of ’75 he finally and apparently quite amicably left the band.

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Garbage – a nineties band from America with a Scottish girl singer, who seemed to sound a bit different.  A post punk sound but it was really the vocal drawl and the angry lyrics I liked.  I gor the debut self-titled album which had a couple of singles on it – and really it still sounds pretty good.  The singles ‘Stupid Girl’, ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ and ‘Queer’ are all good, as are most of the songs – but somehow I wasn’t really into groups at this time and only bought this and the follow up Version 2, which came out in 1998.  Well, not so bad on reflwction – it just doesn’t have the same oomph as their debut.  ‘Special’ and ‘When I grow Up’ are okay though. 

Art Garfunkel he was the singer of Paul Simon’s songs, though at the time hardly any of us knew that it was Paul Simon (see S) who wrote them.  After the slightly acrimonious split Art had some small success.  I bought this double album The Singer and The Song for my Mum one year, but copied it for myself. It is okay, not my sort of schmaltzy stuff really – but as a record (and you know what a completist I am) it stays in the collection.  But apart from the one or two hits, and a few half-decent covers it disappoints.  Also, a major mistake was to include Simon and Garfunkels Bridge Over Troubled Waters (and a couple of others) – as it shows up the rest of the songs for what they are – second rate.  At the time of their split we struggled to understand why Paul was dispensing with such a beautiful voice – but then it slowly dawned on us – he was THE Talent.

Bob Geldof – After the fame of organising Live Aid, the lead singer of the Boomtown Rats decided on pursuing a solo career.  Deep In The Heart Of Nowhere came out in 1986.  I remember at the time that I quite liked it; Bob was a folk hero and the album was produced by Dave Stewart (see E – Eurythmics) and featured a host of stars.  But listening now it seems a bit flat and ordinary; such is hindsight.  Best songs ‘In The Pouring Rain’, and ‘Beat of the Night’   Two years later and quite a change of style; gone was the bombastic production and in came a folky, Irish and gentler sound.  Not such a bad record at all.  Best songs ‘The Great Song of Indifference’, ‘Love or Something’ and ‘Walking Back To Happiness’. Bob has made the occasional album since but I am not buying any more. .

My Record Collection 113

Gallagher and Lyle – Ah, one of my very favourites.  They were a Scottish musical duo, comprising singer-songwriters Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle; they signed for Apple in 1968 and joined up with a couple of other musicians and became part of McGuinness Flint (see M).  At Apple they had written songs for Mary Hopkins but were interested in making it on their own.  After 2 albums and a successful couple of singles they became a duo in 1972 (the best of years).  Their debut was a very quiet, almost folk-song affair.  A beautiful gem simply titled Gallagher and Lyle, it has been very hard to find on CD, but I eventually got a Japanese import.  What a delight this record is; gentle and lyrical, almost acoustic and soothing words and voices.  Takes me right back to the early Seventies when I was discovering new music every week, and this was one of those gems.  Best songs; opener ‘Mrs Canatelli’ and ‘closer ‘Desiderata’ – and everything in-between.  The record sold poorly but, as was the case in those days, they were allowed to continue slowly building a fan base.  They followed this a year later with, if anything, an even quieter album, Willie and The Lapdog. The songs are almost not there sometimes, barely scratching the surface and yet hauntingly beautiful; ‘Among the birks’ and ‘Hotel Constantine’ – there is a yearning in these sad songs that I particularly love.  The following year they moved up a gear and produced an album of much catchier and a bit rockier tunes; maybe a change of producer, or they were just writing more upbeat songs but Seeds was a joyful record.   The boys seemed to be getting into their stride, reluctant pop-stars that they were.   Best songs; I Believe In You’, ‘Layna’ and ‘Shine A Light’ – but really there isn’t a poor song on the record.  In fact, I can’t recall a song they might have recorded that I don’t like – a pretty rare achievement.   And they kept getting better; 1974’s The Last Cowboy was their best yet, it may even be my favourite of theirs.  It kicks off with ‘Keep the Candle Burning’ and doesn’t draw breath until the title track at the end.  The addition of brass and orchestra and a full-tilt band on the upbeat numbers brought them more into the soft-rock world.  My favourite song though is the lyrical and gentle ‘Mhairu’.  But real stardom was now just around the corner.  The following year they released their biggest seller Breakaway.  Well, it was full of great songs, a couple of hit singles and a warmer more rounded, slightly middle of the road sound.  Saying that it really is a triumph of an album.  Best songs ‘Heart On My Sleeve’, ‘Stay young’ and my favourite ‘Fifteen Summers’. Suddenly they were on Top of The Pops and famous, and yet somehow I preferred them as quiet folkies….oh well.  The following year they released another classic album Love On The Airwaves.   This has now become almost impossible to find on CD but I still have my vinyl copy, which might be worth a few bob.   Anyway, the album is another great batch of songs – best are ‘Every Little Teardrop’, ‘Never Give Up On Love’ and my favourite ‘The Runaway’.  The boys were now having quite regular top twenty hits, but for whatever reason they started to drift more to the middle of the road and lost some of their edge.  1978’s Showdown was noticeably a bit disco, a touch bland; maybe they were just getting tired.  But still not such a bad record really I suppose.   Best songs; ‘In Your Eyes’ and ‘Heartbreaker’.  One more album before they called it a day – 1979’s Lonesome No More.  Now I don’t own it on CD, because it is an absolute rarity.  Amazon lists it at £1253.00  – can you believe.  The tracks are not available on Youtube or Spotify or Amazon Music.  I did own it once on LP and have a cassette tape of it somewhere.   Anyway, the boys called it a day after that one and settled into early retirement.  Benny Gallagher (see just after this post) made a couple of albums and Graham Lyle wrote a few songs for, among others Tina Turner and one record with one of his earlier bandmates McGuiness.  (see L).  There is of course the obligatory Greatest Hits and a couple of lovely live albums as follows.  Heart On My Sleeve – Greatest Hits.  No surprises, just a lovely collection of their songs,  River Sessions was a few live songs for Cyde Radio, mostly early songs – very nice and mostly acoustic.   And I’ve just got Live at De Montfort Hall, a 1977 concert and excellect too.

Benny Gallagher – only 2 albums as a somewhat tentative and reluctant solo performer; On Stage 2006, is a very quiet performance; the songs, many by the duo sound more like demo’s than real songs.  Best are ‘How Come’ written for Ronnie Lane (see L) of The Faces (see F), and ‘The Salt Of Her Tears’ which infuriatingly sounds very familiar, though I cannot remember from where.  A year later hus one and only solo studio album was At The Edge Of The Wave. – a quiet and subdued record really, gone is that magic spark of creating memorable songs.  A sad sort of a coda…still we have the early albums to enjoy.

My Record Collection 112

Peter Gabriel – was a founder member of early 70’s prog-rock band Genesis (see G). After ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’, Peter left the bnad (quite amicably for a change) and decided to record solo.  He is also famous for titling his forst 4 records simply as Peter Gabriel.  The first is  known now as Peter Gabriel 1 Car as the cover is him sitting in a car.  Well, what an album; from the first notes of ‘Moribund the Burgermeister’ to the epic closer ‘Here Comes The Flood’ it simply sweeps you away.  A multitude of styles; the almost vaudeville of ‘Excuse me’ and the great single ‘Solsbury Hill’.  This must rate as one of the most accomplished debut records of all time.  The following year he released what is now known as Peter Gabriel 2 scratch.  Well, not quite as good as PG1 I think.  Some excellent songs but maybe it was rushed out a bit too soon; in those days artists were expected to churn out a new album every year.  It was album tour, short rest for writing then album and tour.  There doesn’t seem as much invention either in the sounds or the lyrics.  Some good songs though; ‘On The Air’, ‘Exposure’ and closer ‘Home Sweet Home’ are memorable.  As usual though listening again a couple of times after so long and it all comes back and I really enjoy the record.  Peter Gabriel 3 Melt came out in 1980 and what an album; probably the most sinister and psycho record I have ever heard.  Most of the songs are to do with mental illness ‘No Self Control’ or assassination ‘Family Snapshot’, about the John Kennedy killing) and ‘Intruder’ – about a real pervert.  Saying this, it is a superb sounding record.  Peter along with producer Steve Lillywhite wanted a starker drum sound and with Phil Collins developed the ‘gated’ drum sound where there is no reverberation and no cymbals in the drumming just a stark sharp sound.  This became almost a hallmark of the ‘Eighties sound’ but this was the first time it was used.  The songs seem to blend with each other too, as if it were a concept album (which Gabriel denies) but this album really broke Peter through into a wider audience, and the last song ‘Biko’ about Steve Biko who was killed in South Africa is a tour de force.  Not forgetting the hit single ‘Games Without Frontiers’ All in all this must be my favourite Peter Gabriel album.

2 years late his last self-titled album came out – known as Peter Gabriel 4 – Security.  This is almost as good as PG3 but the sound is fuller and the production heavier.  Only 8 songs but most are longer than 6 minutes, and quite varied too.  A continuation of the sound on PG3, sharp gated drums, although many ended up being sampled.  First track is probably the best ‘Rhythm Of The Heat’ based on African drumming; Peter was becoming very involved with World Music and spent years promoting it on his own record label,  Other great songs include the hit single ‘Shock The Monkey’, ‘San Jacinto’ and ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’.  Next up is Peter Gabriel Plays Live,  I used to have this double album on vinyl but now just have the highlights on CD.  I did see him play live, twice actually – first time was just as PG3 was released and it was the best.  Then a few years ago when he played for just an hour at a festival somewhere.  The album is superb, brilliant renditions of songs from his first 4 albums and one song ‘I Go Swimming’ recorded for PG3 but not on that album.  In 1986 Peter released his biggest selling album.  He was persuaded to give it a title and chose a simple word So.  Well, despite this being by far his most popular record it was never my favourite.   It had the huge hit ‘Sledgehammer’ with its award winning video and the duet with Kate Bush ‘Don’t Give Up’.  Despite those two standout tracks I find the album a bit boring; gone are the innovative ideas, the weird lyrics, the sinister songs and instead we have pretty commercial sounding songs.  Oh well.  I was actually so disappointed that for a few years I stopped buying his records – not that there were so many, apart from soundtracks, only two more solo albums in 20 years.  I did buy his greatest hits ‘Shaking The Tree’ (1990) and I enjoyed it; a pretty good selection of songs, quite a few re-recorded or different versions and a couple of soundtrack songs, heavily relying on tracks form So and Security but still a nice record.     And then a rather strange little treasure.  In 2007 Peter agreed to release a sort of Greatest Hits on a free giveaway CD with The Daily Mail.  I cannot imagine that many of the Mail readers enjoyed it, but I certainly did.  A rather strange compilation – some tracks from the records I missed (Us and Up) and a few live numbers and a couple of remixes.  Best new tracks ‘Father and Son’ and ‘In Your Eyes’ but I really liked the live versions of ‘Solsbury Hill’ and ‘Don’t Give Up’ too.  I actually saw him again in Hyde Park (he wasn’t the headline act) around this time and he was good but not fantastic. 

I mentioned before that Peter after an initial burst of recording slowed down almost to a halt later on.  After only 2 albums in the eighties and nineties, it was 2010 before he released a new studio album, and then it was a covers record; Scratch my Back.  This was a concept where he would record a song by artists and they would record one of his.  It didn’t quite work out though.  Still, the album – opens with 2 familiar songs ‘Heroes’ by Bowie (see B) and ‘Boy in the Bubble’ by Paul Simon (see S).  Most of the other songs were lesser known so appeared fresher to my ears.  The record is orchestral and voice, which is nice but somehow it lacks something too.  In fact one wonders just why he bothered.  He obviously was not composing any new songs himself; perhaps he thought he could bring something new and innovative to songs he had always admired.  But I think he failed; the record is ponderous and very low key, his voice often no more than a whisper when it used to soar, and the record leaves me cold.  A pity, as it could have been really something.  The last album (so far) that he has released is New Blood, released in 2011, just a year after the last one.  This is a radical re-working of many of his earlier songs, again using just orchestra and piano and voice,  mostly quieter versions but a better album than its predecessor. Nice to hear the old songs again with different if mostly quieter arrangements, but really I still prefer the earlier dramatic production.  A strange one, Peter Gabriel; so much talent and he left Genesis to do his own stuff which for 4 or 5 albums was brilliant, then he sort of stalled and has seemed uninterested in his remarkable talent ever since.  Oh well.