My Record Collection 121

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 ...

My Record Collection 120

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.