My Record Collection 139

John Lees –  Lead Guitarist, vocalist and one of the main songwriters in my second all-time favourite band – Barclay James Harvest (see B).  In 1972 the band had huge problems both financially and with their record company.  Out of contract and unable to perform even, John recorded a few songs he had written and made a solo album A Major Fancy.  Pretty soon the band got a new record deal and got back together again.  So, the album remains a bit of a peculiarity; a dangler, a what-if….and it is really quite good, if a bit demo-ish.  One song ‘Child Of The Universe’ made it to a BJH album, but in a way I almost prefer this solo version.  A few of the songs are simply untitled and there is an Eagles (see E) cover – but I really like ‘Sweet Faced Jane’, ‘Witburg Nights’ and ‘Long Ships’.  John has never released any solo stuff since and now records very rarely and plays in John Lees Barclay James Harvest.  It seems that early on writing songs was easy – now in old age far more difficult.

Lemonjelly – a present from my daughter Laura, who tries (often with success) to keep me abreast of Modern Dance Music and Electronica, and my favourite ‘TripHop’.  As seems to be quite common nowadays Lemonjelly consists of only 2 members, Fred Deakin and Nick Franglen, who appear to be more computer geeks than musicians.  Saying that they have produced 3 superb albums before going AWOL, or on hiatus as they claim in 2008 and releasing nothing since.  They had 3 Eps (now very expensive and hard to find before releasing their debut album KY in 2000.  This soon became a favourite, and remains so – I think they started to repeat themselves after this really.  The only real vocals are often spoken not sung and are usually very funny and often have nothing to do with the music really, which is laid back and almost jazzy and quite simple but very effective.  Apparently, the album is really their first 3 Eps slightly remixed.  Best tracks are ‘The Staunton Lick’, ‘Homage To Patagonia’ and ‘Page One’.  Great stuff but superior ‘Osborne and Little’ Wallpaper music at the end of the day.  Their second album was Lost Horizons, released 2 years later.  A quieter affair really.  Again, mostly instrumental, nice tunes but nothing really brilliant.  Best – ‘Nice Weather for Ducks’ and the sinister ‘Experiment’.  In 2005 they released 64 – 95, which used samples from songs originally released between those years – but for the life of me I barely recognise them.  Quite a bit more varied this album and a bit louder too.  No bad thing as they were getting boring.  Best tracks are ‘Don’t Stop now’, ‘The Slow Train’ and ‘A Man Like Me’.

Ute Lemper – A German singer singing songs by Kurt Weill – not rock and roll at all.  I first heard Weill or rather saw the Opera ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ which I loved. I particularly like her singing ‘Alabama Song’, ‘I’m A Stranger Here Myself’ and ‘Speak low’.  Not for everyone I suspect – but I like it.

John Lennon –  What can you say about the legend that is John Lennon.  The Beatles had effectively split in ’69, although Abbey Road was a triumph, but all the Fab Four were busy making solo albums.  John and Yoko attended Primal Therapy and the result was John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – his debut solo album (or not quite as he and Yoko had made 3 unlistenable albums with of found and nonsense noise).  But this album was brilliant, despite quite a few of the songs being about their pain.  The songs are very very good, the singing is heartfelt and honest and the production amazing.  I really love this record; hard to find favourites as almost all the songs are beautiful.  There are a couple of lovely love songs – ‘Love’ and ‘Hold On, Yoko’.  There is the classic ‘Working Class Hero’, but I really love ‘Mother’.  This is possibly his best album, as incidentally almost all of The Beatles first albums were.  Then in ’71 came Imagine, which many rate as his Masterpiece.  There is of course the great title song and ‘Jealous Guy’ – both great songs, but I am not so impressed with most of the others ; I do like the exuberant ‘Oh, Yoko’ and ‘Crippled Inside’ but I don’t like the Paul-baiting ‘How Do You Sleep’.  Then came what some consider a moment of madness, but I quite like Some Time In NYC the following year.  This is a John and Yoko Record, with them alternating on vocals.  I only like John’s stuff, which is quite different and, in my mind, enjoyable.  Best are ‘Woman Is The Nigger Of The World’, ‘The Luck of The Irish’ and ‘John Sinclair’.  A very political album – John was going through some turbulence and making revolutionary comments and gestures.  Overall the album fails but has a couple of decent tracks and the live extra CD is awful.  1973 saw a new and much better album Mind Games.  The title track was a hit single and is gorgeous; the production is very nice and John’s voice superb.  Other favourites are ‘One Day At A Time’ and ‘Bring On the Lucie (Freeda People).  Altogether a very good album.  He followed this with his most commercially successful album a year later Walls and Bridges, which despite being chaotically recorded during John’s famous Lost Weekend is still pretty good.  Excellent songs, including big hit single ‘Whatever Gets You Through The Night’.  The feel of the record is more dancey; John trying desperately to stay relevant and with-it I suspect.  My favourite tracks on not really my favourite album are ‘Bless You’ and ‘Old Dirt Road’ (which he also recorded with Harry Nilsson on Harry’s Lennon produced album Pussycats (see N).  Also, I quite like his vicious rocker ‘Steel and Glass’ apparently written about Allen Klein.  Then, as a result of John using some of Chuck Berry’s lyrics on Abbey Road’s Come Together he had to record some of Chuck’s songs.  The result was Rock’n’Roll (1975).  I have mixed feelings about this album, in fact for years I disliked it, feeling it was a backward step.  But later I ended up quite liking it, though I still feel it was a bit of a waste of John’s talent.  Although, as ever, re-listening after a few years – I really love the sound of is voice, which has never sounded better.   Then there was silence.  John and Yoko had got back together and a baby was on the way.  John gave up his music career and became a house-father to baby Sean.  He was also fighting heroin addiction.  But in 1980, shortly before he was shot, he released a lovely final record with Yoko –Double Fantasy.  I am discounting Yoko’s songs as they simply distract from John’s.  I really like the lead single, first track ‘Starting Over’, but also ‘I’m Losing You’ and best of all ‘Watching The Wheels’.  It is very difficult to really look objectively at this record as it is bound up in all the emotion of his tragic death – but it is probably his second or third best since he left The Beatles.   Yoko released Milk and Honey 2 years later; this was a collection of songs worked on at the time of the last album; either held over for a later record or rejected as not good enough – who knows?   When a superstar like Lennon dies, and so tragically too, it is little wonder that with only 6 albums released after the Beatles there would be a huge demand for new material.  But really, there is hardly any and what there is is poor.  I bought Lennon Accoustic but discovered it was simply early takes or demos; really quite disappointing.  Much better is one of the many (and boy, how many there are) greatest hits.  I have Legend, which I think covers all the singles and best tracks.  And so that closes the book on John.  We have no idea if he would have gone on to achieve even better stuff, or ended up playing old Beatles hits live, or simply slid into obscurity.  Our perception of him will always be coloured both by his Beatles years and his untimely death.  As to the argument over who was the greatest – John or Paul – simply on post-fab four output Paul must win, though together they were greater than apart.

John Lennon - John Lennon Wallpaper (31566020) - Fanpop

My Record Collection 138

Ladyship Black Mombaza.  Famous for their collaboration with Paul Simon on Graceland (see S) they sold quite well in the late 80s.  I picked up a greatest hits Spirits of South Africa in a charity shop.   Perfectly pleasant but not exactly my cup of tea.

Ray Lamontagne.   A strange one, this.  I first became aware of Ray because his debut album was being advertised on TV in 2004.  Now, in my experience this is usually a sign of some desperation.  However, the few snatches of song accompanying the ad were intriguing and sounded quite good.  I read a couple of reviews which were positive so I bought the album Trouble – besides I liked the cover, not the most reliable of indicators but somehow it looked good.  And good it was.  A great debut album, great songs and a good individual voice, nice production too, mostly acoustic guitars, piano and drums.  Best songs  -the title track and ‘Narrow Escape’.   2006 saw a new album – Till the Sun Turns Black; a bit bleaker really and more orchestration, not that that leavens the mood.  I am partial to a bit of misery, but I never really liked this record.  2008 saw Gossip in The Grain.   Not so bad and yet I felt he wasn’t moving on, no progression – and I sort of stopped listening to him after this.  Saying that – ‘You Are The Best Thing’ and the title song are quite good really.

Ronnie Lane – Ah…so much affection for this guy, who to me always seemed the heart of The Faces (see F) and the Small Faces (see S).  I loved his gentler songs back then, but when the Faces finally called it a day, as Rod (see S) sailed off to America and world domination, poor old Ronnie was left a bit homeless and helpless.  He did make a couple of albums – one with Pete Townshend (see T) and I have a sort of best of called How Come, released in 2001.  Sadly, he had MS and died at age 51 in 1997.  He was much loved by fans and musicians alike.  The album is a bit patchy.  I do like some of it – the ‘hit’ – ‘How Come’, of course and a few of the tracks, mostly bucolic celebrating a mythologised gypsy lifestyle as in ‘Kushty Rye’ – but apart from ‘Stone’ – it is mostly light stuff.

k. d. lang…(all lower case) was originally a country style singer but who has veered more in classic torch song territory over the years.  My first album of hers is Angel With A Lariat (1987) with her then band The Reclines.  Many of the songs were so-written with Ben Mink, her guitarist.  Best songs – the cover of ‘Rose Garden’ and ‘Watch Your Step Polka’ – but best of all is the closer torch song ‘Three Cigarettes In An Ashtray’.  Not a bad album, but a bit too country for me.  She followed this two years later with Absolute Torch And Twang.  Much the same template as her previous album and mostly written with Mink again.  Best songs are ‘Big-Bones Gal’, ‘Holding Back The Reins’ and closer ballad ‘Nowhere To Stand’.  I feel that k d was almost torn between these torch ballads and the faster country stuff.  Anyway, she sort of lost her band The Reclines and recorded her second solo album Ingenue (1992) next.   At the time this seemed a huge change of direction but the signs were there all along.   This was a real tear-jerker album, full of broken hearts and loss.  This became her biggest album by far, a feat she has failed to follow up on really.  She had a huge hit with ‘Constant Craving’ but I also like ‘Miss Chatelaine’ and ‘Season Of Hollow Soul’ – but overall the album was just too samey for me, I grew tired of it quickly.  One last album before I gave up on her was actually a soundtrack from ’93 – Even Cowgirls Get The Blues – This was a sort-of return to her more country sound, but really it was all second rate stuff. 

Daniel Lanois – had produced 2 great Dylan albums so I knew the name.   A musician in his own write though I have 2 albums.   For The Beauty Of Wynona came out in 1993 and is great.  Very atmospheric with his signature production of foggy sounds but very good and distinctive vocals.  Very much in the modern ‘rock’ medium with excellent guitar work.  I really enjoyed this album, especially ‘Still Learning How To Crawl’, the Cajun influenced ‘The Collection Of Marie Claire’ and ‘The Unbreakable Chain’ – but really there isn’t a poor track on a varied and accomplished record.  My other album of his is 2003’s Shine.  This appears to me a much quieter, more reflective album; brilliantly produced as usual, every instrument – and sometimes it is basically guitar – clear and yet with that trademark muddy sound of Daniel’s.  Less varied I think than Wynona, but hauntingly beautiful too.  Best songs – the instrumental ‘Transmitter’, ‘I Love You’ and ‘Power of One’.  Not sure why I have only 2 of his albums….but, the choices we make are often arbitrary and well….there we are.

Cyndi Lauper – ‘Twelve Deadly Cyns’ is a greatest hits, and hits it is and great it is.  Very Eighties, very Poppy, very synthy, very excitable vocals…a bit boring too, but you can’t help singing along – especially to ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’.

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Kraftwerk -They seem to have been around forever, along with Tangerine Dream (see T), the epitome of German Electronica.  And very good they are too.  I only have the one album Man Machine (1978), not sure why – as I really like it.  Still.  It is a very upbeat album where Tangerine Dream are often slower numbers.  I can see exactly where Bowie and Moroder got their ideas from.  Best tracks – ‘Robot’. ‘The Model’ and the title track.  A nice diversion from my seeming main diet of singer-songwriters.

Speaking of which, up next is Kris Kristofferson – the country singer who was, along with The Eagles (see E), instrumental in re-incarnating Country for the rock generation.  The story goes that Kris was an aspiring songwriter and was working in the studios in Nashville.  He recorded his debut album as a sampler for other artists to pick up on and possibly record his songs.  Well, true or not it is an exceptional debut – called originally Kristofferson – but better known as Me and Bobbie McGee – it came out in 1970; the very best of years for emerging new talent.  Almost immediately Janis Joplin (see J) recorded a blistering version of Bobbie McGee which was an enormous hit.  Several other songs on this collection became hits for others too.  Almost impossible to choose favourites but – ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’, ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’ and ‘Darby’s Castle’ certainly are irreplaceable.  What an album.  And a year later he almost repeated it with The Silver Tongued Devil And I.  The production is better and more instruments and violins etc:.  As to the songs, well – brilliant, of course, and who can compare songs anyway.  Almost every song is a winner – but best are ‘Loving Her Was Easier Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again’, ‘Jody And The Kid’ and ‘When I Loved Her’.   Less songs about drunks and losers and more about love, with the exception of the brilliant ‘The Pilgrim Chapter 33).   Kris was on a roll and could do no wrong.  He started seeing Rita Coolidge (see C) and she began to sing on his live shows and now in the studio too.  1972 saw Borderlord.   This seems a rushed album, only 7 months from its predecessor – and it shows.  Some of the songs date back to the Sixties (which he had obviously rejected) and the whole album has a sad almost redemptive feel.  The vocals are lightened by Rita’s cool harmonies but it looked a bit like burn-out.  Saying that, it still sounds pretty darned good all these years later.  I was a huge fan and loved his voice and country sensibility, which was really the beginnings of Americana.  He appealed to both the new rock crowd and the classic country and western fans.  Best songs – ‘Josie’, Smokey Put The Sweat On Me’ and ‘Getting By, High And Strange’.  And of course – as so often happens on re-listening a couple of times you realise that actually it was a damned good album.   By this time Rita was singing backing and even sharing vocals with Kris.  Later in ’73 Kris released 2 more albums – Jesus Was A Capricorn – which does seem to be a bit mawkish and over Religious.  Quite a few of the songs were duets with Rita.  Not his best album but ‘It Sure Was Love’ and ‘Nobody Wins’ are pretty good.  He then released a whole album as Kris and Rita; Full Moon.  This is much better – though almost unavailable on CD these days except at an extortionate price as a Japanese import.  It features mostly other writer’s songs and is all the better for it.  Rita and Kris had just got married and were deeply in love and it shows.  The album is worth it really for the last 4 songs; the joyous ‘I Heard The Bluebirds Sing’, ‘After The Fact’, ‘Loving Arms’ and ‘A Song I’d Like To Sing’.   Kris hit almost rock bottom with his 1974 album Spooky Lady’s Sideshow, which might have been a reference to Rita – who knows.  The album was pretty poor with really very little to redeem it.  I don’t like the songs – full of drugs and self-pity, which is such a pity.  I sort of stopped buying Kris then, except for the occasional bargain that slipped my way.  But later that same year and only 4 years since his brilliant debut Kris and Rita recorded another great album . Breakaway – almost as good as Full Moon.  A bit more upbeat – I loved it.  Best songs ‘Slowdown’ A great Kris song – though it was mostly cover versions.  I also really liked ‘We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds’ and ‘I’ve Got To Have You’ a song Kris wrote earlier for Carly Simon (see S). but, for whatever reason the album sold poorly, besides Kris and Rita were soon to go their separate ways.  I caught up with Kris on 1979’s Shake Hands With The Devil.   Well, not a great improvement 4 years on.  Still, not so bad really – best songs ‘Whisky Whisky’ (not written by Kris, ‘Come Sundown’ and ‘Once More With Feeling’.   Kris was spending more time on his acting career than making good music. 

But by the Nineties, he had sobered up somewhat and was clean (more or less) of drugs.  A Moment Of Forever (1995) is much better.   Some of the songs are political  – ‘Johnny Lobo’ – about an Indian activist.  But also about his own failures with drink and drugs; ‘Shipwrecked In The Eighties’.  And a few love songs – ‘Good Love Shouldn’t Feel So Bad’ and ‘New Game Now’.   A welcome return to decent song-writing and a semi decent album.  He returned to some of his best songs with The Austin Sessions (1999).   Well, this has been quite the fashion. To re-record your best early songs.  No doubt that the arrangements and super session and guest artists add something – but…..you also lose that excitement, that enthusiasm for the songs as they first appeared.   This is perfectly pleasant – but pleasant is all it is I am afraid.   Closer to the Bone came out in 2009 after a nine year break from recording.   This is a much quieter affair, almost acoustic and the songs are more reflective – of a life well lived and ageing.  A bit rambling but quite enjoyable too.  Best are ‘From here To Wherever’ and ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’.  I also have a sort-of hits called The Country Collection – which is made up of a couple of political albums Kris made in the 80’s; too many songs about El Salvador and Nicaragua.  A bit boring.  And then there is The Very Best Of…which is of course just great, even a rare duet with Joan Baez, well worth listening to. 

Kris Kristofferson

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Mark Knopfler – was essentially Dire Straits (see D); singer, lead guitar and songwriter.  He quietly disbanded them in 1995 after more than a decade of huge success – but even before that he had been recording soundtracks and a handful of collaborations.  The Notting Hillbillies was a group of session players, featuring Mark, and mainly Brendan Croker singing, Guy Fletcher on keyboards and a few others to flesh out the sound.  Brendan was a folk singer who Mark admired and so the single album Missing, Presumed Having A Good Time was released in 1990.  A relaxed bluesy record where Mark takes mostly a back seat (he sings on ‘Your Own Sweet Way’ and of course his guitar picking is recognisable.  (Incidentally he also produced and played on Dylan’s Infidels in the late 80’s too).  This is just one of those records you can happily smile and drift away too.  Best songs – ‘Bewildered’, ‘Will You Miss Me’ and ‘That’s Where I Belong’.   The same year Mark also made an album with Chet Atkins called Neck and Neck.  Mark obviously loved his guitar picking style and this was maybe meant to be a purely instrumental album at first.  It is just a happy feelgood record, some instrumental, one or two sung by Chet and a couple by Mark.  Not the highlight of his career, but highly enjoyable – best songs – ‘There’ll Be Some Changes’, ‘Yakety Axe’ and ‘The Next Time I’m In Town’.  Mark’s first proper solo album was 1996’s Golden Heart.  And what an album; maybe his best, many of these songs would have graced a Dire Straits album.  But there is a folky feel to some of the songs and a scattering of gentle ballads too; a great mix, almost too many good songs.  Favourites include opener ‘Darling Pretty’, ‘Cannibals’ and ‘Are We In Trouble Now’ – but really I could have stuck a pin in and chosen any three.    Four years later and we saw Sailing To Philadelphia.   Another great album, maybe not quite as good as Golden Heart, just a touch tired sounding sometimes.  Best songs – the title track, ‘Who’s Your Baby Now’ and ‘Do America’.   2002 and The Ragpickers Dream came out, led by the theme song of the rejuvenated TV programme – Auf Weidershein, Pet – ‘Why Aye Man’ – a great rollicking song celebrating the North-East.     The album is on the whole quite pastoral and gently folky, mostly acoustic and glides along perfectly.  Maybe not his very best but so pleasant you just have to smile along to it.  Other good songs ‘Quality Shoe’ and the title track.  This album was accompanied by a live 4 track bonus disc.   Shangri-La appeared a couple of years later.  A much quieter affair, more folky and softer in tone.  I liked it but maybe it just felt that Mark was repeating himself and not really going anywhere new.   Although the record got better towards the end…’All That Matters’ is beautiful and ‘Lonnegan’s Gone’ ( a tribute to Lonny) – and best of all, the final track ‘Don’t Crash The Ambulance’.   He has continued with his solo albums but I haven’t kept up.   I did buy All The Roadrunning – a collaboration with Emmy Lou Harris (see h), but was slightly disappointed.  The sum of two brilliant parts not quite living up to expectations.  Oh, the songs are okay – and the singing and playing perfect – it just seems to lack a spark I had expected to find, and never really gets alight.  Best songs are ‘I Dug Up A Diamond’ and ‘Bellestar’.  I think it falls between the folk/rock style of Mark and the Americana of Emmy.  Oh Well.  Still a great artist and I may well return to him sometime

Mark Knopfler Wallpapers Images Photos Pictures Backgrounds

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Kaiser Chiefs – just the one album, Employment – which I think was their big hit album.   Quite an interesting sound, a bit like a 21st Century Squeeze (see S) I suppose; quite laddish and upbeat songs.   But also, quite forgettable too.  They may still be around but they have had their 15 seconds of fame.  Best songs – the single ‘I Predict A Riot’ and ‘Everyday I Love You Less and Less’. 

Howard Kaylan – a real rarity this.   Howard was one of the singers and songwriters with the Turtles (see T) who became along with Mark Volman, Flo and Eddie (see F) and now tour occasionally as The Turtles again.  This single album Dust Bunnies (2006) doesn’t seem to be listed as an official release – and I suspect was made for a few friends and maybe fan-club members.  I found it in a charity shop and recognised the name.  It isn’t great I must admit but I keep it for sentimental reasons.  It is all covers of songs…one or two are good though ‘Eloise’ and ‘Have I The Right’ – but most pass in one ear and out the other.

Keane – another hopeful band of the last few years…the hope was a bit overhyped.   Only the one record – 2004’s Hopes and Fears.  The record is quite pleasant and rolls along but apart from the big single ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ nothing else seems to penetrate to my brain.  I am getting old I expect, but I really wonder; if this is the future of Rock and Roll, we are in trouble.  Anyway, I have bought no more Keane since then – and they seem to have either disappeared or are just resting on their laurels.

Jonathon Kelly – was just another of those hopeful Seventies singer-songwriters.  I saw him at The Roundhouse and bought his two solo albums.  Twice Round The Houses (1970) was the first effort from this Irish troubadour – and lovely it was too.  Very lyrical and folky – best songs ‘Madeleine’, ‘Sligo Fair’ and ‘Beware The Cursed Anna’.  A couple of the songs almost rocked but most were soft and harmonic.  2 years later and Wait Until They Change The Backdrop appeared.  More of the same but a touch rockier as the production was ramped up a bit.  Not quite as good as his debut maybe but still a handful of good songs ‘Godas’ and ‘Anna’ and the quite rocky ‘Down On Me’.  Jonathon sort of disappeared and made one last album in the late Seventies – but I had moved on by then.

Carole King – Well, they don’t get much bigger than Carole.  She was part of the famous Goffin-King song-writing duo – but she split with her husband and went solo.  She hit the big time with Tapestry (1971) – and this album was in the charts for 2 years.  This is where I, and most of her fans, came in so that is where we will start.  This was the very early Seventies, when singer-songwriters were exploding onto the scene.  James Taylor (see T) had already recorded with Joni and he now worked with Carole on ‘You’ve Got A Friend’.  But Carole was the consummate songwriter – and had a huge back library to call on.  She included ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. But most of the other tracks were new originals.  Where does one start -almost impossible to choose best songs as they are all brilliant.  Carole has a seemingly effortless delivery, gliding into the notes with an ease and maturity; she was already in her prime when she made the album.  The early Seventies were a time of great parties, often impromptu, and always accompanied by Tapestry playing on the record player.  My favourites are probably ‘Way Over Yonder’, ‘I Feel The Earth Move’ and ‘Natural Woman’.  I have actually played this album to death over the years – and yet it always sounds fresh and takes me back to those heady years.

I then worked back and bought her earlier release Writer (1970) , which hadn’t made much of an impression when it was released.  In some ways it is as good as Tapestry – same piano led songs and silky voice and great songs.  A couple of old hits ‘Goin back’ and ‘Up On The Roof’ and some great new songs; ‘Spaceship Races’ and ‘Raspberry Jam’ and the sad ‘Eventually’.  A lovely record and a great companion piece to Tapestry.

Much later I bought The Early Years, released in 1999 – but dating back to the late 60’s.  These are much simpler arrangements, probably demos really.  Actually, the production is much closer to typical 60’s hit singles – a la Phil Spector than her later albums.  On investigation however I find that four songs are originals and the other 6 are poor copies from her third album ‘Music’.  Still, an interesting rawer sound seems to emerge from this album so it feels new and fresh,  Best songs are ‘Crying in The Rain’, ‘It started All Over Again’ and ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’ – which always sounds good.

Another later release after she achieved fame is The Legendary Demos released in 2012 but recorded from 62 to 71.  These do sound like genuine demo tapes, maybe recorded to help sell the songs of Goffin-King.   This is much better, great songs of course – most by Goffin-King, including ‘Crying In The Rain’, ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ and ‘Take care Of My Baby’ plus 6 demos from Tapestry.  The follow-up to Tapestry came out in 1971 – Music – which was her third official release.  As all artists must know it is almost impossible to release anything as good as a number one album that sold 7 million copies and was the anthem of so many of us in 1970.  This record is pretty damn good, but lacks a little of the magic of Tapestry.  The songs are just a bit quieter, more studied rather than seeming spontaneous – however it too was a great hit.  Best songs  – ‘Surely’, ‘Music’ and best of all ‘Back To California’.  Carole was in the vanguard of the Singer Songwriter movement, but maybe her reluctance to sing live or her older years or just that we all began to suspect that her best songs were her collaborations with Gerry Goffin – whatever it was it, for me at least, it was slowly diminishing returns.  The following year’s Rhymes And Reasons contained some excellent songs…and yet, it somehow failed to hit the mark she had set so high.  This release only made it to number 2 and sold less well over the years.  But, as so often happens, on re-listening my perceptions change somewhat and I have to admit it is quite a decent album.  I think the problem was that all of her contemporaries (Joni, James Taylor, Neil Young etc) were moving on and up at a pace, especially in these early years of the new decade, whereas Carole seemed stuck in a very pleasant groove.  Anyway, best songs ‘Peace in The Valley’, ‘Feeling Sad Tonight’ and ‘Been to Canaan’.   Next up is Fantasy (1973) – I really gave up on Carole at this point.  She went into a more jazzy style and I think she lost it.  Only a couple of songs seem to have any quality to me, ‘Being at War with each other’ and ‘Believe in Humanity’. 

Well – Carole has continued recording down the years, though she hardly ever performs live.  I only have one other album Wrap Around Joy from 1974, which actually sounds better; much more like her original 2 albums.  No really classic songs I think but a nice relaxing album.  The title song is probably the best song; almost a soul classic.  Also, not so bad are ‘Change in Mind, Change of Heart’ and ‘You Gentle Me’.   I also have a greatest Hits Natural Woman which is all her best songs.

Carole King Biography - Facts, Childhood, Family Life of ...

My Record Collection 134

Martyn Joseph – singer songwriter still going strong since the Eighties.  I first discovered Martyn on a CD single ‘Dolphins Make me Cry’ (actually a song by Fred Neil, he of Everybody’s Talkin of Nilsson fame) and went out and bought his album, and many many more since then.   An absolute top ten favourite artist, I have seen him live a few times, and been photographed with him.  He is absolutely uncorrupted by fame – mostly because he avoids it; simply making his records and singing live and garnering enough of an audience to keep on going without hits or huge record company promotion.  A socialist and a Christian and a proud Welshman – I love him.  He reminds me so much of the singer-songwriters emerging in the late Sixties and early Seventies.  First up is about his sixth album (still haven’t got round to digging out his earlier ones) Being There (1992); by now all the elements were there, beautiful acoustic guitar and that yearning yet amazing voice – oh, and the songs – which is really the key.  He sings about ordinary people and ordinary emotions – a bit like a British Springsteen (see S).  So, best songs  – the title track of course, ‘Working Mother’ (who is a part-time prostitute to pay the bills), ‘Swansea’ (squaddies reminiscing and wishing they were back home), ‘Please Sir’ (a kid asks why his redundant miner cries at night) and of course the beautiful ‘Dolphins’.  Next is 95’s self-titled album Martyn Joseph (which may have been the record companies attempt to stir some new interest).   Well, another great album with some classic songs – best of which are ‘Cardiff bay’, ‘Talk About It In The Morning’ and ‘Carried In Sunlight’.   A hauntingly lovely record.  Next up was Full Colour Black and White (1996). And the great songs just kept on coming, favourites include ‘Arizona Dreams’, ‘The Ballad of Richard Penderyn’ (a very personal take on a Welsh working-class hero) and ‘Hang The World.’  Following on in 1998 is Tangled Souls, another classic album.  I really don’t know how a singer like Martyn can keep on coming up with such brilliant new songs – but he does.  Another album packed with great songs – ‘Somewhere In America’, ‘I Don’t Know Why’ and ‘Sing To My Soul’.   Next is a live CD, which I got from The Passport Queue, which was a fan magazine sent out by Martyn three or four times a year…Live at St. David’s Hall, Cardiff.   This was a 1995 concert; I know I saw him there once , but I think it was a few years later.  A lovely acoustic album, mostly just Martyn and his guitar – nicely they have included his in-between songs chat and tuning his guitar.  On some songs he expands the words as if he is in a trance before bringing the song back to its conclusion.  Best songs ‘An Aching and a Longing’, ‘Between the Rainbows’ and ‘Carried in Sunlight’.  A very nice addition to my collection. 

Then we have what, at the time, was really my favourite album of his – a long title; Whoever It Was That Brought Me Here, Will Have To Take me Home (2003).  But now, with the space of distance, I feel that while another excellent album I quite like the older albums better.  Still, a cracker of an album – opener ‘Love Is’ soon became a live favourite.  Also excellent are the title track and ‘Wake Me Up’ and ‘Walk Down The Mountain’.  This is a quieter album, with his voice softer, almost whispering at times.  Then I have a double live album; Folk Faith and Anarchy (2004).  This is actually a rather unusual record – it is a collaboration between Martyn, Tom Robinson and Steve Knightley; they toured the UK and I saw them live.  They sang some of their own songs but also each other’s, so a really interesting evening.  Anyway, I really like this record, especially the contributions from Tom  – ‘War Baby’ and ‘Tattooed Me’, and Steve’s ‘Yeovil Town’.  Next is Run For Cover (also 2004) where Martyn sings some of his favourite songs by other artists; Dylan, Springsteen, U2 and others.  I especially like ‘The Mayor Of Candor’ by Harry Chapin (see C) and ‘One Of Us’ by Joan Osborne (see O) and of course ‘Anthem’ by Leonard Cohen.  Call these covers records self-indulgent, and maybe they are – but I do quite like them.    Deep Blue (2006) followed; another quite quiet album, although it does contain ‘Proud Valley Boy’ – a song about the time that Paul Robson came to sing for the miners in the valleys of Wales.  I also love ‘I Can’t Breathe’ and ‘Turn Me Tender’ – another great album.  Also in 2006 Martyn released MJGB06 – which is a live concert from Greenbelt Festival.  Nothing really different, but some good live versions of old and more recent favourites.  Vegas (2007) followed – a slightly more upbeat album.  Not really my favourite record; not that it is bad by any means, it is just me I expect.  It is just sometimes you get a bit of overload, and unless something really grabs you, you simply listen and file away without truly realising the songs.  Saying that, relistening again I do like a few songs which at first I probably ignored.  ‘Coming Down’ is one of those bluesy songs which slowly worm their way into your brain.  ‘The Fading Of The Light’ has a tentative melody and lovely words. And the closer ‘Nobody Gets Everything’ has a sadness and truth about it.    Martyn, like most performers I suspect, has found that as time goes by his songs, especially sung every night, change from their recorded versions.  So, in 2008 he released updated versions of some of his songs.  The album called Evolved is mostly acoustic guitar and voice, I know the songs almost by heart and love these evolved versions.  Nothing new here but a lovely resume of his career – every song is a winner.  Under Lemonade Skies came out in 2010; at the time it rapidly became a favourite.  Some artists can simply do no wrong; he seems to grow better as time passes.  A lot of barely sung slow songs; ‘There’s Always Maybe’, social conscience songs – ‘So Many Lies’ and ‘Lonely like America’ and the elegiac closer ‘Brothers In Exile’.  A superb album.    Songs For The Coming Home (2012) is up next.   Another classic album with Martyn almost losing himself in the songs – best are ‘Falling From Grace’, ‘Still A Lot Of Love’ and ‘Archive’. Tires Rushing By In The Rain – (2013) is another covers album – but this time all the songs are Bruce Springsteens.  I love it and at 17 songs it is a tad overlong, but hey – I cannot fault a single song.  Favourites are ‘The River’, ‘One Step Up’ and ‘Growing Up’.  I could listen to this all day – and just have done….hahaha.  Next was an a album called Sanctuary, and I bought the accoustic version (2016).  This is really quite e demo version.  Not really so good, and I cant say I loved the songs – still.  I was for a while a member of The Passport Queue, which was Martyn’s fan club.  Occasionally you would receive free CDs of rare and live stuff.  Lyrics and Landscapes – was a Radio Wales broadcast of an interview with Martyn and a few of his songs – quite pleasant but nothing new.  Best of them was Summer of Flowers, which had a lot of original stuff on it and a few live songs and interviews in Canada.   Last, but not least is a double greatest hits album Thunder and Rainbows, a gorgeous collection of his songs, almost all my favourites are there and mostly it is the slightly earlier stuff.  Hard to keep up as Martyn continues to release new stuff and I am about 2 albums behind as I write.  One of my very special favourite artists.

Martyn Joseph | Discography | Discogs

My Record Collection 133

Joan As A Policewoman – This is an American, Joan Wasser, who is very 21st Century, with a laid-back aching vocal and beats.  Mostly piano-led and sad songs which drift one into the other.  She got a great write-up in Uncut music magazine so I bought her album, her second actually, I Survive.  Despite having so many very favourite artists I am always on the lookout for new voices.  I would hate to be stuck in the past, glorious as it is.  The album is pretty good and different enough to make your ears prick up, and her photo on the cover is gorgeous.  The album reminds me in some ways of Portishead (see P). Best songs  – hard to pick, but ‘Magpies’, ‘Holiday’ and the title track.  I don’t really understand much of the lyrics – but sometimes you don’t really need to I find.  I have one other album of hers- The Deep Field (2011).  Well, she seems to have moved on a bit and yet somehow remained in the same place; some of the songs are a bit more disco-ish and some slow as ever.  Mostly piano led of course, and that world weary yet probing voice.  Again, the words wash over me – I hear them but they don’t stay.  Songs?  Best is ‘Forever and a Year’ and most of the others I can’t recall.  So, after this I haven’t bothered with her again.  There are just too many singers to collect them all.

Billy Joel – American singer songwriter, around mostly in the 70s and 80s.  I did have a couple of his albums on vinyl and cassette, but now only have the Greatest Hits.  And what a collection it is.  Surprising, when you re-listen – just how many great songs he wrote.  Not least ‘Uptown Girl’ and ‘An Innocent Man’.  This is packed full of excellent stuff – but somehow the whole is not equal to the sum of the parts.  There is almost too much on show here; too many clever hooks; astute lyrics – and all wrapped up in a commercial, slightly middle of the road sound.  Okay for the occasional listen.

Jon and Vangelis – a unique collaboration between Jon Anderson of Yes and Vangelis of ‘Chariots Of Fire’ fame.  When this album Short Stories came out in 1980 I was blown away – the sheer beauty of the voice and the brilliant arrangements seemed so new and vibrant.  A long-time favourite, a brilliant combination of classic and electronic keyboards, clever lyrics and a haunting voice.  Best songs ‘Curious Electric’, ‘Far Away In Baagad’ and ‘One More Time’.  Their second album was even more successful commercially, but in my opinion it was less exciting.   The title track is an imagined screenplay with music and words and in my mind doesn’t really work.  Best tracks are ‘I’ll Find My Way Home’ and ‘State Of Independence’.  They did make one final album which I had on vinyl but not now on CD.

Norah Jones – is actually the daughter of sitar genius Ravi Shankar, and an American music publisher.   Well, a voice to soothe the hardest heart.   She sings langoruos slow jazzy ballads which wind their way to the end of the record before you know it.  I have the one album, her debut Come Away With Me (2002).  This was a huge hit, especially in America where it sold over 10 million copies.  And while it is sumptuous and her voice is like honey, it simply leaves no impression behind.  Superb wallpaper music I must admit, but not enough to make me buy any more of her albums.

Tom Jones – and what can you say about Sir Tom, who is now a national treasure.  He seems to have always been around from his first hit single ‘Delilah’ to becoming a resident judge on The Voice.  And no-one can deny either his voice or his personality, and yet….I have never really considered him as a rock artist.  To my knowledge he has never written a song and doesn’t play a musical instrument – he is, rather, a great interpreter of songs.  So, for whatever reason I have sort-of avoided him – but still have 3 albums in my collection.  First up was a relatively recent album Reload (1999), where Tom, after more than a few years in the doldrums and after the razzamatazz of Vegas, decided to record with some of today’s artists.  A real rocking record with Stereophonics, Talking Heads, Van Morrison and many others.  Most of the songs were pretty classic rockers.  Best are ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ with Cerys Mathews, ‘Burning Down The House’ and of course ‘Sex Bomb’, which could have been written especially for old Tom himself.  I also have one of many Greatest Hits, where one can relive those heady sixties hits – ‘What’s new Pussy Cat’, ‘Delilah’ and ‘Green Green grass of Home’

The Deep Field by Joan As Police Woman

My Record Collection 132

Jethro Tull – Well, one of the classic prog-rock bands of the Seventies and beyond.  I suppose I must have heard them around the release of Aqualung, their second album, I think.  The band really revolves around lead singer and flautist extra-ordinaire Ian Anderson.  My first purchase of theirs was 1972’s Thick As A Brick and I have sort-of worked both backwards and forwards since then.  I have seen them 2 or 3 times and they always put on a great show.  But they started off as a blues band in the mid-sixties, releasing their debut album This Was in 1968, which I later bought.    This is a very bluesy record heavily influenced by joint songwriter and guitarist Mick Abrahams.  Now, Mick left soon after the recording of these songs and the direction of the band became far more folky and progressive under Ian.  So, this album is really not so representative of the band, but still quite a pleasant album in itself.  Best song is ‘My Sunday Feeling’.  The rest are okay but too bluesy for my liking.  Much better was their fourth and really their breakthrough album Aqualung (1971).  The band were now established in Ian Anderson’s trademark prog-rock style, with complex songs at times lyrical and almost classical with bursts of heavy guitar and drums.  Jethro Tull were one of the leading bands playing this new inventive music – almost anything went and Tull soon became one of the biggest bands on the University and Concert circuit.  Ian plays flute wildly and uniquely and has a raspy sort of voice which can be quite hypnotic – he used to stand centre stage on one leg like some hippy pixie and captivate audiences.  The title track of this album is superb, one of their best ever songs.  Quite a few tracks are acoustic like the gentle ‘Mother Goose’ as well as much heavier tracks like ‘Locomotive Breath’.  Altogether a triumph and it is still their best selling album.   However, not quite my favourite of theirs.  I had fallen in love with the following year’s Thick As A Brick, and nothing ever quite replaced it for me.   The whole preposterous idea that the album was written by a 12 year old genius; the 12 page newspaper which was the cover of the vinyl album, the beautiful music and words which were grandiose but made little sense.  The whole thing was a brilliant piss-take and yet a hauntingly great record.  No titles for the songs, and – to my ears – it seems all one long piece anyway.  Great stuff – and the beauty of it was that both audience and record company were open-eared ready for whatever came next.   My next Tull album is Minstrel In the Gallery from 1975.  Despite the folky title and some lovely lyrical acoustic stuff, this is still a typical (if there is such a thing) Tull album.  Full of inventive and complex songs and a royal mix of heavy and lighter music.   The title track is the best, but I also like ‘Baker Street Muse’ and ‘Black Satin Dancer’.  The following year’s Songs From The Wood is even better, the songs seem more of a piece – though there is the usual mix of dainty acoustic ditties, flights of fancy flute and bursts of heavier stuff.  Best songs – the title track, ‘The Whistler’ and ‘Velvet Green’.  Next up is Heavy Horses, and again a pretty good album of mixed songs.  In many ways Anderson’s writing is symphonic with repeating motifs and mood changes, yet retaining an overall feel that is all his own.  This is probably why I really like music from this band and although I have failed to keep up with his many releases I have seen them three times in Concert, where somehow the music comes alive even more.  Best songs on this album ‘No Lullaby’, ‘And The Mouse Police Never Sleep’ and ‘One Brown Mouse’.  But in the end one tires of repetition and Jethro Tull were , excellently I must admit, simply repeating themselves – so I sort of lost interest.  Not that precludes me from buying something in the future if the fancy takes me.  One last album, a greatest hits The Very Best Of Jethro Tull.   A few tracks I didn’t have including ‘Too Old To Rock’n’Roll, Too Young To Die’, ‘Life’s a Love Song’ and ‘Bouree’.  A nice, if rather long listen. 

Thick As A Brick - Jethro Tull

My Record Collection 131

Neil Innes – Famously a member of the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band, along with Viv Stanshall (see S).  I don’t have any of the group records, but Neil did continue with a solo career, he even had a BBC2 short series where he made amusing videos for his idiosyncratic songs.  I have a sort-of hits album The Innes Book Of Records; well this is really a series of comedy songs, as you might expect from a Bonzo.  Quite a nice listen, but for afficionados only I suspect.

Chris Isaak – An American singer songwriter who has a unique sound, almost old-fashioned 50s crooner style – but he has been making records since the Eighties.  I only have one album San Francisco Days (1993).  Not really sure why I only have the one album – but there you go; even I have to draw the line somewhere.  A very good record though, great singing and the songs are pretty good with a timeless feel.  Best songs ‘Solitary Man’ and ‘San Francisco Days’. 

Bon Iver – only one album, which I bought on the recommendation of Uncut magazine, which raved about it.   Well.  It is okay, but very undercooked; the production so minimal it is barely more than a demo.  Still, okay in it’s way I suppose. The record, his debut is For Emma, Forever Ago and is a sort of love letter to a departed love.  Best tracks, opener ‘Flume’ and ‘The Wolves’ – but maybe I am just getting old, but I really need something I can get my teeth, or at least a couple of braincells into.  This is so flimsy you don’t even notice when the record has ended.

Joe Jackson – had a couple of hits in the Eighties, a sort of rock’n’roll and soul mix.  Great voice though.  I have a greatest hits ‘The Collection’.  I also had a BBC concert on tape which was brilliant.  This album is okay, the hits are great; ‘It’s Different For Girls’ and ‘Is She Really Going Out With Him’ but most of the other songs are not so familiar (except ‘Another World’ which I remember from the live radio concert) and fall away from my consciousness.  He pops up every now and then and is still recording I think but I have no desire to add to my collection.

Jean Michel Jarre – Ah, the great French maestro and electronic music pioneer.  I saw him twice – or rather heard him at the Destination Docklands Concert as we were the other side of the river at Beckton.  Also at Versailles where he had the most amazing dancing laser light show.  I used to have a few albums of his, but only have Oxygene on CD.  It is, of course an absolute classic and was a massive hit.   All the instrumentals are titled Oxygene with numbers after them.  Six pieces of music in all and very good listening too.  Of late I bought my daughter Laura one of his recent albums Electronica.  I am listening to it on Amazon Music and am very impressed.  I will no doubt buy the album for myself soon.

My Record Collection 131

Jools Holland – Famous for his late night live TV show, of which I have watched many; I only have one album Big Band Small World (2001) where the vocals are taken by a fabulous collection of artists including George Harrison, Sting, and Clapton – to name but a few.  All are backed by Jools and his ‘Orchestra’, most songs are piano-led – and, as they say, a splendid time was guaranteed for all.  This was picked up in one of my charity shop trawls.  A nice album, but hardly essential.  My favourite song may be the Beatles song Revolution sung by Stereophonics.  Still.  

The Housemartins – This was the band Paul Heaton was lead singer in before he formed The Beautiful South (see B).  Only one album, a compilation of a few Housemartin tracks and slightly more ‘South’ ones.  Only really notable song from the former is ‘Caravan Of Love’.

Janis Ian – When Alison deserted me in Crete, way back in the late 70’s she had left a single cassette at mine.  One side had Elvis Costello’s My Aim is True (see C) on it and the other Between The Lines by Janis Ian.  I played it to death then went out and bought the albums.  Working backwards later I bought a compilation of Janis’s Sixties recordings – Society’s Child.  Not a bad collection, though very few of the songs really stay in my brain that long.  Then I bought Stars (1974).   This was the Immmmediate predecessor to Between the Lines.  Already her softer, almost whispered and hypnotic voice was here – her earlier style was far higher in pitch; now her voice is slow and seductive and immensely sad.  Great stuff here, so many sad sad songs; this is true bedsit singer songwriter territory – and I loved it.   Best song; the title track ‘Stars’, ‘The Man You Are In Me’ and ‘Jesse’.   The following year and Janis released what most people consider her masterpiece, and is certainly my and most fans favourite album – Between The Lines.  From the opening chords and words the album captivates and holds you close; it seems she is whispering into your ear, a confessional and at times desperately personal and intensely moving voice which seems to bore its way into your soul.  The best known song is ‘At Seventeen’, the realisation of an ‘ugly’ girl who is left out by both boys and peers as well.  Impossible not to sympathise, the words tear at your heart.  But almost every song is moving and this is really a concept album as the feel of almost all the songs is steeped in sadness, even the cover shows an unsure hesitant unsmiling Janis.  My favourite tracks among so many great songs are ‘Light a Light’, ‘Lover’s Lullaby’ and ‘Bright Lights and Promises’.  But really it could have been any three of the 11 wonderful songs.   This remains one of my enduring favourite ever albums…and not just because of Alison….  The next year’s offering Aftertones is still quite pleasant but doesn’t have the magic of Between The Lines.  Still a pretty good record; the opening title track is silky smooth and gorgeous.  Other good songs are ‘I would like to Dance’ and the haunting closer ‘Hymn’.  I did buy a couple of other albums on vinyl but was generally disappointed and haven’t rushed to get more on CD