Brilliant Debut Albums #55

The Finn Brothers – Finn (1995)

After the brilliant success of both Split Enz and Crowded House (where Tim joined brother Neil for the album Woodface) and Neil had sort of disbanded the group, they got together for an album, simply entitled Finn.   This was a very lo-fi album, after the pretty full-on treatment of both Enz and House records; it almost feels as if they just walked in the studio, sat down and played a bunch of songs.  Eclectic as usual, but full of great melodies and words the songs just drift in and out of your consciousness.  I last saw Crowded House at the Fleadh around this time and Neil introduced a song, can’t remember which but a rocker, playing it gently on acoustic guitar – and saying that maybe they should have left the song like that.  Which is exactly how these songs feel, and I really like them.  Just lately Neil has released an album of practically first takes of new songs too.  Sometimes the demos sound as good, in a different way as the finished articles.  Anyway, it seems that whatever and whenever these two get together some magic occurs.  So far they have only released two albums together but of course, you never can say never.  Best songs on this debut ‘Bullets In My Hairdo’, ‘Suffer Never’ and ‘Angels Heap’.  

Finn

Brilliant Debut Albums #54

Everything But The Girl – Eden (1984)

Part of that lovely revival of real songs and musicality that arrived that occurred in the early Eighties, and hailing from Hull the duo; Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt got together and took their unusual name from a shop’s slogan.  This album is quite jazzy really but still their signature sound comes through, with Tracey’s haunting and beautiful vocals dominating.   It was an almost instant mini-success reaching 14 in the UK charts – but it has gone on to sell over half a million.  The great thing about this band is they appear to just create sumptuous and warm melodies without really trying; they have always seemed to be not really trying too hard.  Both Tracey and Ben write the songs and on later albums shared more of the vocals.  Best songs on this debut are  ‘Eash and Everyone’, ‘Another Bridge’ and ‘I Must Confess’.   

Eden

Brilliant Debut Albums #53

Marianne Faithfull – Broken English (1979)

Not an actual debut, but a re-invention.  Marianne had had a small ‘pop’ career in the late 60’s (famous as Mick jagger’s girlfriend) but then a mix of heavy drugs and poor management and by the mid-Seventies she was washed up and actually homeless, her possessions in a few carrier bags sleeping on friends floors.  But, with what might have been one last throw of the dice, she recorded this brilliant album.  Uncompromising in it’s language and viciousness, she rips through eight songs fusing rock, punk and new wave – with a fabulous band and her wonderful raspy and emotive voice.  It was an instant Masterpiece, famous as a comeback but also for the language and attitude of a sexually mature woman who is sure of herself and not afraid to attack past lovers (though none are mentioned).  She followed this with a superb career including classical opera and gentler albums and a few rockers as well.  I have seen her live a couple of times where she smokes and drinks through the show to calm her nerves.  Best tracks on this are the title track and ‘Why D’you Do It’ and the wonderful ‘Ballad of Lucy Jordan’, which she did not write but which seems to encapsulate my idea of Marianne.  A great singer, interpreter and character.

Broken English

Brilliant Debut Albums #52

Melissa Etheridge – Melissa Etheridge (1988)

This was another love affair resulting from a random CD single purchase, having never heard, or heard of, the woman in question.  But, as sometimes, not that often, it was love at first hearing.  What a voice, and what a collection of songs.  She was 27 when she made this, her first album, and had built up an arsenal of great songs already.  Her voice is a bit raspy, reminiscent of Rod Stewart = and the songs are defiant and sometimes angry – but all are brilliant.  This is the sort of album that you just want to put on replay again and again.  I later learned that she was a militant feminist, which maybe explains some of the anger and emotion – no bad thing sometimes.  Best songs on this debut are opener ‘Similar Features’, ‘Chrome Plated Heart’ and ‘The Late September Dogs’.  As a devotee of girl singer songwriters this was a great discovery – definitely worth a listen…

Melissa Etheridge

Brilliant Debut Albums #51

ENZSO – Enszo (1996)

Some twenty years after the fabulous Split Enz broke up; Neil to create Crowsed House; brother Tim Finn already pursuing a solo career – and the rest of the group – well, they sort of retired – Eddie Rayner, founder member of the band decided to arrange some of Split Enz songs for Orchestra.  Calling on a few friends and a variety of singers including Neil and Tim, he released this album (Enz Symphony Orchestra – or ENZSO).   And how pleasant it is, like meeting old friends again after two decades or more – changed a bit, quieter, gentler – but still recognisable.  As a great fan of the original group and Neil and Tim. This was such a nice reprieve.  It just goes to show that great songs, which they were, sound great – whatever the interpretation.  Obviously this is really for the old fans, but it is surprisingly upbeat and the songs have aged really well.  Eddie repeated the exercise three years later with slightly less success – but good on him for trying something different.

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Brilliant Debut Albums #50

Faces – First Steps (1970)

Like most fans I worked backwards from the fame of Rod Stewart to this debut.  The Small Faces had been regular participants in the late 60’s pop splurge…but suddenly in, I think ’69, Steve Marriot, lead singer and one of the chief songwriters left to form Humble Pie.  The band looked around for a new singer.  Rod was keen, but insisted on his mate Ronnie Wood joining on lead guitar.  Not sure of their new direction, songs were written by Rod and Ronnie, by Ronnie’s Lane and Wood, and by Ronnie Lane, as well as the full band often collaborating.  This album sold quietly, and as there was no obvious single it drifted and while Small Faces fans bought it, the general public was unimpressed, which is a pity as it is quite promising, and has some lovely instrumental breaks and the usual great singing from Rod.  I think that were trying to stop being ‘pop stars’ and become serious rock musicians and achieved neither with this album.  Still their version of Dylan’s ‘Wicked Messenger’ and ‘Stone’ and ‘Around The Plynth’ are pretty good.  The record is a bit too long with two instrumentals too, it lacks cohesion and a unified sound.  Still not bad for beginners…

First Step

Brilliant Debut Albums #49

Electric Light Orchestra – The Electric Light Orchestra (1971)

Formed in 1970 by Roy Wood and Multi-instrumentalist Jeff Lynne this first album released in ’71 was misunderstood and came out in America as ‘No Answer’, which I like better.  Largely the result of Roy’s orchestral embellishments, this album sounds quite different from the albums that followed as Roy left after this one and Jeff took over.  Still, quite an incredible record – full of woodwind, brass and cello’s and songs with strange titles like ‘Nellie Takes Her Bow’ and ‘The Battle of Marston Moor’.  Pure prog rock really – and it didn’t stand a chance, despite the success of single ‘10538 Overture’ it flopped, maybe hastening Roy Wood’s departure.  I still like the album, despite it’s chaotic and almost rough mix – as if instruments were picked up at random.  Still, more in the light of how successful they soon became I have included this debut.  Brilliant?  Not so sure.

No Answer

Brilliant Debut Albums #48

Fairground Attraction – The First Of A Million Kisses (1988)

A very short-lived Attraction, they only really released this debut – and incredibly brilliant it was.  They issued a second album of ‘B’ sides and much later a Japanese concert with many songs which would have featured on a new album.  Anyway, singer Eddi Reader interpreted the wonderful songs of guitarist Mark Nevin and the result was ‘Perfect’.  The single went straight to number one, and the album to number 2.  Second single hit number 7 and their third hardly registered.  Such is life sometimes.  But their brief flame burned brightly and I loved them.  The words are beautiful and Eddi’s voice is wondrous, and she has had a mixed solo career since then.  Mark Nevin, the songwriter seems to have disappeared with little other success, though the few unreleased songs on the live album were brilliant too.  Best songs – ‘A Smile In A Whisper’ (like threading a needle with boxing gloves when I try to speak of our love), ‘Find My Love’ and ‘Allelujah’.  A superb album – and a too short-lived band.

First of a Millin Kisses

Brilliant Debut Albums #47

Elton John – Empty Sky (1969)

I met Elton one day in 1971 I think, in a small independent record shop, where he was discussing his album sales with he owner.  Still a rising star at this time he condescended to chat to me; I already was a fan and had his first three albums.  And recently I bought his Jewel Box, which contained many rare and unreleased early efforts of Elton and Bernie Taupin; and thank goodness they hung on until they started to really gel and write songs such as these on this debut.   Still pretty naïve and slightly fey, but some great tunes in there.  My faves are ‘Skyline Pigeon’, ‘Valhalla’ and ‘Lady, Wht’s  Tomorrow’.  The rest is ,a s they say, History.

Empty Sky

Brilliant Debut Albums #46

The Enid – Aerie Fairie  Music (1977)  This band, which was mainly the brainchild of Robert Godfrey, who was classically trained, came to fruition in the middle of punk.  They had been involved with Barclay James Harvest a few years earlier, and in many ways they missed the Prog-Rock boat.  This is really far more classical than Rock, and as such fell sharply between two stools.  But briefly they shone, especially with this album which drifts along beautifully – though even I rarely play it these days.  Haunting melodies hidden in quite lush arrangements.  Still – worth a listen, especially for tracks like ‘Mayday/Galliard’ and ‘Child Rolande’.  Too esoteric for most I suspect -but the band has a constant fanbase and have released regularly including this Century