My Record Collection 219

Wings – Due to a major filing error, when moving house, I missed out Wings in the W.  How could I ever forget McCartney’s second band (almost as famous – but not really as great as his first).  After the breakup of the Fabs, Paul continued writing and recording, trying hard not to sound like the Beatles.  He decided to form a new band, with his wife Linda and Denny Laine and a couple of others who never seemed to last long on Guitar and Drums.  First up is Wild Life, (1971) a rushed affair, which sound more like a demo than a real album.  Apart from ‘Some People Never Know’ and ‘Dear Friend’ it is a poor album and a poor start to the band.  Slated by the music press Paul carried on regardless and toured the band and recorded a second – the much improved Red Rose Speedway, recorded in ’72 but released in 1973.  Firstly, the production is much better and so are the songs – but the band are now sounding together; maybe Paul should have waited till the band gelled before recording.  Anyway, a fairly good album (I remember sitting up with Joy {my new girlfriend at the time} listening to this and her album of River by Terry Reid until the early hours of the morning).  Best tracks – ‘Lazy Dynamite’ the medley ‘Hold Me Tight to Power Cut’.  The experimental track ‘Loup’ is strangely pointless – but the single ‘My Love’ is a classic in the typical McCartney sentimental style.  Later that same year he released Band On The Run – reckoned by almost everyone as the best thing Wings ever achieved.    Which is incredible given that some original recordings of some of the songs were lost, and Paul and the band decamped to EMI in Lagos, Nigeria to record them again (don’t ask).  Well, they turned out to be fantastic from ‘Jet’ to ‘Band On The Run’; there is an exuberance about the album, as if the band and Paul were finally gelled – though the truth is that the drummer and lead guitarist split just before recording, so Paul assumed those duties.  Fave track is probably ‘1985’ but I also love ‘Let Me Roll It’.  The album was number 1 in America and UK.  Wings toured again and recruiting new members recorded the slightly underwhelming Venus and Mars in 1975.   The songs often seem slight and almost showy with no feeling – ‘You Gave Me The Answer’ revisiting the mood of ‘Honey Pie’ on the White Album.  Better, I suppose are the singles – ‘Letting Go’ and ‘Listen To What The Man Said’ – but best is probably ‘Medicine Jar’.  At The Speed of Sound came out a year later, and was noticeably better.  Recorded during the bands World Tour the group were playing well together.  The songs seem better too, as if Paul was inspired by the success he was achieving for the second time.  Best are ‘Silly Love Songs’ and ‘Let Em In’ but I also like ‘Beware My Love’.  However, things came unstuck after the tour as the two latest recruits left leaving Paul, Linda and Denny Laine again as Wings.  They went on to record my favourite Wings album London Town, released in 1978.  The album didn’t do as well as earlier ones’ however.  But I liked it’s musicality and the songs were great, especially the title track, and ‘With A Little Luck’ – however I like all the songs, especially the crazy rocker ‘Morse Moose’.  I don’t know what happened next, but Paul seemed to lose his Mojo; he recruited 2 new members – the third or fourth to join Wings, and recorded a very sub-standard album – in fact, worse than Wild Life even.  Back To The Egg (1979) was the final album under the Wings name – and despite considerable promotion and touring the album did poorly.  No wonder, it has no theme, no connection to anything at all.  I really don’t like it.  Subsequently, while touring Paul was arrested in Japan, spending 9 days in jail before being released.  While incarcerated he apparently wrote an autobiography (never seen) and decided on a change of course.  The band folded and Paul went solo again.  The rest is History.  Wings made a couple of brilliant albums and a couple of half-decent ones and one superb live album – but really despite huge sales and fan worship, you always felt as if they were in the shadow of the Beatles.  Wings Over America was the live album and was very good – it included a handful of Beatles numbers and ‘Richard Cory’ a Paul Simon song never released by Paul in the studio, also a cracking version of a ‘b’ side ‘Soily’.  In some ways, this was the best Wings album of all.  I also have a Greatest Hits album Wingspan, Hits and History – which actually covers Paul’s first few solo years with or without Wings. Released in  2001.  ‘Hits’ contains nothing new, but great to hear these songs again, though I like the Ram stuff best, and ‘Another Day’ and ‘No More Lonely Nights’. And History is similar though seems to cover his first couple of apres Wings solo stuff too. 

Your Cheating Heart (1990) – was a BBC Scotland mini-series, about a Glasgow Country and Western band; it featured among others Tilda Swinton and Eddi Reader of Fairground Attraction fame, also Ken Stott.  The story was a bit complex, but it was studded with great interpretations of old 50’s songs by Elvis and Hank Williams and the like.  I loved it and bought the CD which has remained a favourite ever since; there is a joyfulness about the whole thing.  Best tracks are hard to choose, but ‘Deep Water’, ‘Quicksilver’ and ‘From A Distance’ stand out.

Wings Perform In Arles

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Neil Young The Long Walk Home  and still walking, though I have sadly failed to keep up with him of late; I mean just how many Neil Young CDs do I need – ask Julia, hahaha.  First up is 1994’s Sleeps With Angels, apparently for Kurt Cobain, who in his suicide note quoted ‘Better to burn out than to fade away’ from a Neil song.   Anyway, the album – credited to Neil and Crazy Horse again – is a bit of a curates egg – good in places – but it leaves you thinking it could have been better.  Should have left out the awful shouty ‘Piece Of Crap’ – and ‘best song is probably ‘Safeway Cart’ which I con’t quite understand.  I also like ‘TransAm’ and ‘Drive By’ but not much else.  1995 – and Neil teamed up with some members of Pearl Jam for Mirror Ball; though I’m not sure what they brought to the proceedings.  The record sound pretty much like most of his 90’s stuff to my ears.  The album was recorded ‘Live in the Studio’ and has a raw unfinished sound, which Neil was apparently aiming for.  Still, it’s not his greatest album by a long chalk – just a bit boring really.  The only song I could remember when the CD ended was ‘Act Of Love’.  Better was the following year’s Broken Arrow – with Crazy Horse again.   Although even here the first three songs sound like one long unrehearsed jam, which maybe they were.  I like ‘Slipaway’, ‘This Town’ and ‘Music Arcade’ – but the album is just average really.  Then for the first time since the late 60’s – a break of four years during which he did one album with CSN but no solo stuff.  However normal service was resumed in 2000 with the release of Silver and Gold.   A return to an acoustic solo set this time with no heavy rock numbers at all.  A very nice album, getting back to his best but the songs seem a bit hesitant.  Best are ‘Good To See You’, ‘Buffalo Springfield Again’ and ‘Silver and Gold’.   In 2002 he teamed up, not only with Crazy Horse but a handful of numbers with Booker T. and the M.G,s, legendary soul band, Are You Passionate.  I’m not sure the results proved that different; Neil’s rather heavy sound permeates – still, some good songs – ‘Mr. Disappointment’. Differently’ and ‘When I Hold You In My Arms’ are excellent – as are most of the songs actually.    The following year saw a strange Neil album – Greendale.  This was a ‘rock opera’, or rather a story put to music of a fictional California town involving a family, a shooting and a siege.  The story never interested me really, and it s quite hard to follow anyway – but I really like the Crazy Horse music, which is mostly a chugging beat with only a few guitar breaks.  The whole album is essentially one long track so hard to pick a fave song – ‘Carmichael’ and ‘Double E’ seem the best to me.   Back to a more conventional song cycle with Neil’s next 2005’s Prairie Wind, which was dedicated to his father who died just after the album’s release.  It was also written just before Neil had surgery for a minor aneurism, and deals to a degree with thoughts of his mortality.  Apparently the songs were written in the order they appear, and just before or during recording; played by Nashville session men the record is pretty good and feels immediate.  It seems amazing to me that Neil can just write songs of this quality at the drop of a seeming hat.  Best are – the title  track, ‘The Painter’ and ‘He Was The King’ (about Elvis) and the mawkish ‘When God Made Me’.  A return to a more angry and political album with Living With War (2006).  In fact, a complete critique of George  W. Bush and the war in Iraq.  I don’t like this album very much, while agreeing with the sentiment – in general, Politics and Music are uneasy bedfellows.  Saying that opener ‘After The Garden’ is okay.  Chrome Dreams 2 followed in 2007 (apparently, there was an aborted original Chrome Dreams album, which may appear at some point in the future).  It is a brilliant album, almost every song a ‘classic Neil song, and a wide variety of sounds from the pure country of ‘Beautiful Bluebird’ to the hard rolling rock shrieking guitar of the 18 minute long ‘Ordinary People’, with a couple of horn-based songs in there too; and a rather mawkish final song with a children’s choir – but, as we have come to accept, there is no pinning down Neil Young.  My favourite track in an exceptional album is ‘No Hidden Path’.  Ever the contrarian Neil followed this classic album with Fork In The Road – which got such bad reviews that I didn’t buy it at all – a first for me.  But I was intrigued by his next 2010’s Le Noise (a sort of pun on Neil’s choice of producer Daniel Lanois {see L}).  Neil was the only performer and his guitar sound, occasional acoustic but mostly electric was manipulated and dubbed by Lanois, live, as Neil was playing with only a very few overdubs.  What to make of this?  In some ways it is just a lot of noise, but then again it is quite brilliant too.   Very bass heavy, though Neil was not playing a bass that is how the guitar sound to me.  Best songs are ‘Love And War’, ‘Hitchhiker’ and ‘Peaceful Valley Boulevard’.  Neil has not used Lanois as producer since this album.  Americana in  2011 saw Neil reunited with Crazy Horse for an album of ‘American Standards and Folk Songs’ – a bit of a strange one really, and poor by Neil’s high standards. No favourites and rarely played.  Much better was 2012’s Psychadelic Pill, again with Crazy Horse – and is really a series of extended jams – but very enjoyable just the same.  At times it feels as if Neil really isn’t trying that hard, letting his genius shine through despite this, and anyway us fans still keep buying – oh well.  Best tracks on a very long album are ‘Driftin Back’, ‘For The Love Of Man’ and ‘Ramada Inn’ – an enjoyable if overlong ride into vintage Neil.  Another diversion in 2014 with A Letter Home.  Jack White had a vintage 1947 Voice- O-Gram early recording straight to vinyl booth, and Neil recorded 12 ‘folk songs’ by various artists including Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot and Willie Nelson.  Well, what do you say?  An interesting experiment but ultimately pointless.  Although the recording is raw and the songs are not by Neil, there is an authenticity and almost charm to the record.  Best are ‘Girl From The North Country’, ‘Early Morning Rain’ and ‘Reason To Believe’ – but that is maybe because I know and love the originals so much.  Storytone followed in 2014, and this is the last new album of Neil’s I have bought.  It has 2 versions of each of the 10 songs; one with a slight orchestral backing and a solo acoustic CD.  The songs deal with sadness at the break-up of his 34 year marriage to Pegi, and his burgeoning romance with Daryl Hannah.  Lovely sad and happy songs of love and Neil’s renewed interest in the environment.  Almost his best since ‘Harvest Moon’; best songs are ‘Plastic Flowers’, ‘Say Hello To Chicago’ and ‘Tumbleweed’.  A lovely album.  I don’t know why I stopped – maybe poor reviews or just that after 34 studio albums and countless live ones I thought it was time.  However Neil had released a few more live albums in this time. Unplugged emerged in 1993, and despite Neil’s aversion to MTV he recorded a brilliant set (not quite unplugged, but near enough) showcasing his career.   Big seller with best track –  a new organ version of ‘Like A Hurricane’.  Year Of The Horse was a soundtrack of live performances featured in a 1997 docu-film of a tour with Crazy Horse. Great performances, as you would expect.  Nothing new this time but still a great live album.   Road Rocks Volume 1 came out in 2000 (so far no volume 2) – subtitled ‘Family & Friends’ – it features his then wife Pegi and Chrissie Hinds.  An okay live album, only remarkable for one new songs ‘Fool For Your Love’ (mediocre) and a blistering version of Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ (the Jimi Hendrix version.  Then, of course there is the one single Greatest Hits, released in 2004 with tracks voted on by his fan club.  Of course, it is great.  Neil is ever the contrarian, and unlike almost all of his Sixties compatriots he has only this one hits collection – and continues to record and release albums almost yearly, as well as many, many live concerts.  He is almost unstoppable, and a force of nature.  I stopped collecting him a few years ago, but may still buy the occasional one now and then.  I am trying to stop buying CDs as I still have about 50 un-played and waiting.  Such is life.

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Neil Young trying on different styles – Neil has always been contrary, or as he would insist – he follows the muse, wherever that might take him.  Like Dylan and Bowie he has never been afraid of new directions or of losing his fans.  Like me though, most of them (us) stick with him.  1978 saw a very quiet album Comes A Time – almost acoustic, and bar one song ‘Motorcycle Mama’ not rock at all – simply gentle almost unaffected songs.  Best are ‘Look Out For My Love’, ‘lotta Love’ and ‘Four Strong Winds’.  I’ve never loved, but quite like, this album.  Next year saw another collaboration with Crazy Horse – the quite brilliant Rust Never Sleeps.   Strangely this is billed as with Crazy Horse – but over half the album is Neil playing guitar and singing solo.  It is only on the last four songs that the band kicks in.  Best songs are ‘Pocahontas’, ‘Sedan Delivery’ and ‘Hey Hey, My My’.   A live album followed Live Rust – which was almost a resume of Neil’s career to date.  Excellent stuff – acoustic for first few songs then electric; best was ‘Cortez The Killer’.   Hawks and Doves was next in 1980.  And a pretty good if quiet album,  Neil seeming to occasionally release an almost solo album after a big band one.  Fave songs are ‘Little wing’, ‘Captain Kennedy’ and ‘Coming Apart At Every Nail’.    The underwhelming Re Act Or came out in ’81.  This seemed a rushed album, no care given to the singing or recording. The songs seem meaningless too, one even about his car and another about a T-bone.  Boring really; the only decent track is the last one ‘Shots’.    Neil then left Reprise and signed for five albums with Geffen.  His first on this new label was another huge change in direction.  His son Ben was suffering from Cerebral Palsy and Neil tried various music styles to help him.  Apparently he liked Neil’s voice sung through a vocoder and with back up synths.  Inspired by Kratfwerk and other early electronica Neil released a whole album of electronic music Trans in 1982.  Although this mystified many fans I loved the record, especially the tracks ‘Computer Age’, ‘Sample and Hold’ and ‘Transformer Man’.  It seems that Neil was as brilliant at this stuff as he was with mire conventional music.  Strangely he has never returned to this style.  In fact, in a complete reversal, his next offering was an early rock and roll style…called Everybody’s Rocking…this was, in my opinion, his worst record to date.  Even the songs disappoint, and you can’t help but feel that Neil was taking the piss.  Apparently he had already recorded a very ‘country’ album, which Geffen rejected, demanding ‘Rock and Roll’ – which was what he got, but not in the ‘real’ Neil Young style.  This was part of Neil’s mission to set up and then destroy people’s perception of him.  After this ‘disaster’ he was allowed to release the country album Old Ways in 1985, recorded in ’83.  In fact, Geffen had started to sue Neil for recording poor quality records.  But guess what?  It was brilliant, maybe because Neil re-recorded some of the songs in an even more country style.   Yes, it is sentimental with lots of fiddle and slide guitar but somehow it really works.  Best tracks are  ‘The Wayward Wind’, ‘Once An Angel’ and best of all ‘Bound For Glory’.  Great stuff, I love the whole record.  He toured the album, and it was released in 2011 (see later).  But at the same time Neil was trying to record a more ‘Neil’ sounding album, and Landing On Water came out in 1986 – but unfortunately the production was very ‘eighties’, lots of gated drum sounds and a dense heavy mix.  The songs were better but not great; best were ‘Violent Side’, ‘Hippie Dream’ and ‘Bad News Beat’.  Neil toured this album with Crazy Horse, and recorded most  – venues, adding overdubs back in the studio.  An album Life came out in 1987, and was all new songs.     Best was opener ‘MidEast Vacation’, ‘Inca Queen’ and ‘When Your Lonely Heart Breaks’.  These were some of the strongest songs and performances from neil in a while; sounds like he Neil was having a ball.    Neil returned to Reprise Records after his tumultuous five years with Geffen.  The first result of this was however, a return to a more erratic style – This Notes For You 1988 was a strange album, and a new identity – Neil and The Blue Notes.  A strange bluesy, almost jazzy sound with lots of horns and in my opinion some underwhelming songs. Oh well, so not my favourite – but the title track is okay.  But in 1989 Neil returned to his best form with Freedom; apparently he had made a ‘contractual’ album with CSN and was pissed off by the experience.  Whatever the reason this was his best selection of songs in a long time.  And a great sound – very heavy and grungy on loud tracks, which became his signature sound after this, and beautifully gentle slow songs.  Hard to pick best songs really, opener ‘Rockin In The Free World’ became a live favourite. I particularly like ‘Someday’, ‘On Broadway’ and ‘Wrecking Ball’ which Emmylou Harris made a great version of (see H).   1990 saw Neil coming successfully out of the somewhat confused and confusing eighties, where incidentally a lot of artists floundered, and finding both his audience and his identity again.  Another great album soon emerged – Ragged Glory (with Crazy Horse).  Neil tried a new technique; the band played the same set of songs, just once, each day for a couple of weeks – then went and listened to them, choosing the best from each session and simply leaving them untouched for the album.  In this way they had a spontaneous and almost live feel to the studio sessions.  It seems to have worked as this is a superb album.  A couple of long tracks ‘Love To Burn’ and ‘Love And Only Love’ and a couple of pretty heavy  songs ‘Farmer John’ and ‘Fuckin Up’ which were pure Rock and Roll, and my favourites ‘Mansion on The Hill’ and ‘Earth Anthem’.  A great grungy garage album that knocked the socks off most new bands coming along.  We end this review of Neil’s albums with the sublime Harvest Moon (1992) which tried and was successful at recreating the sound and feel of ‘After The Goldrush’ and ‘Harvest’ – his early Seventies Classics.   Using many of the musicians who played over 20 years earlier and possibly his gentlest bunch of songs Neil reverted to mostly acoustic guitar, mouth organ and piano and recording on analogue equipment he succeeded and this was his biggest selling record in years.  Almost every song is a winner but the first four songs ‘Unknown Legend’, ‘From Hank To Hendrix’, ‘You and Me’ and ‘Harvest Moon’ itself are my favourites.  Reviewing this I couldn’t help but play these four a few more times.  A wonderful achievement.  One greatest hits album emerged from this second period (14 years in fact) – the Geffen years, although commercially a disaster resulted in that record company releasing Lucky Thirteen in ’93.  A nice compilation, especially the Trans and Old Ways tracks but I like all of it better than the somewhat muddled records they are culled from.  I have several live albums from this time too.  First is A Treasure (released in 2011 – but from the ’84-85 tour) is credited to The International Harvesters (mostly Nashville Session Men)and is a pure country trip which followed his Old Ways album.  I love it, especially ‘Amber jean’, ‘It Might Have Been’ and ‘Let your Fingers Do The Talking’ and of course a great version of ‘Bound for Glory’.  A superb live album.   Next is a bootleg of a live radio broadcast from 1986 called Cow Palace (nice names Americans have for some of their venues).  A brilliant concert, with songs from Neil’s entire career to date.  Hard to pick a favourite as they are all well-known and just roll along.   Almost as good is an official 1989 release of Neil, again with Crazy Horse – Weld.  Pretty much a classic Neil live set, with the exception of a slow rendition of Dylan’s ‘Bowin In The Wind’.  Last live album from this period is 1992’s Dreamin’ Man. Which is just Neil solo and acoustic playing songs from Harvest Moon.  Delightful, but nothing new.

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Neil YoungThe First decade – A Canadian singer-songwriter par excellence; in fact, one of the very best.  His only fault may be the sheer volume of his recordings.  I tried for several years to keep up with them but stopped a few years ago.  He started off in Canada in a band called Buffalo Springfield (see B); I have bought their albums but despite Stephen Stills in the band I wasn’t very impressed.  We start with Neil’s debut – Neil Young (1969). Although recorded in ’68, it was remixed and re-released the following year. A pretty good first album but a bit patchy really; Neil still finding his feet.  Best songs ‘The Loner’, ‘The Old Laughing Lady’ and ‘Last Trip To Tulsa’.  Later that same year he teamed up with his long-term occasional backing band Crazy Horse, and recorded the classic album Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere.   And what an album it was, fantastic songs and a great sound.  Many fans, including myself believe that this and the two albums following were his greatest period – though that really is a hard judgement call.  The album starts with ‘Cinnamon Girl’ and barely pauses in brilliance after that.  My Favourites are ‘Down By The River’ and ‘Cowgirl In The Sand’.  Apparently these three tracks were written in one single day when Neil was suffering from a fever of 103 F.  What that tells you I am not sure.  A year later saw the release of what I consider his very best record – After The Gold Rush.  This was the first album I bought of his after seeing him on BBC Sight and Sound.  I was hooked after the first song and have been ever since.  Hard to be sensible about this record as I know it off by heart having worn out the original record, and the cassette and now the CD.    Impossible to choose favourite tracks as they are all great.  But ‘Cripple Creek Ferry’, ‘Southern man’ and ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ have a special place in my heart.  Neil almost repeated this Masterpiece with 1972’s Harvest.  Using the same crew of session players the album is rated by some as his very best.  Two tracks were recorded with the LSO, and Crosby Stills and Nash sung backing vocals on a couple of songs. Neil at this time was precariously combining his successful solo career with albums and live appearances with CS and N (see C) with whom he has had a tempestuous relationship over the years.   Anyway, another glorious album which includes his only hit single ‘Heart Of Gold’, but my favourites are ‘Out On The Weekend’, ‘Words’ and ‘Old Man’.  One predictable thing about Neil is that just when you think he has a winning formula he changes it.  His next album was Time Fades Away (1973) – an album of his late ’72 tour of America.   But of course, Neil being Neil, he didn’t record any numbers from his two immensely popular recent albums but released a completely new set of songs.  For years Neil hated the tour and the record and it was only released on CD in 2017.  I don’t rate it much either.  The songs are okay, but the band seem unrehearsed and were apparently under the heavy influence of drink and drugs and Neil argued with them the whole tour.  As a document of Neil failing it is at least interesting.   I think only ‘Don’t be Denied’ has subsequently been studio recorded, but ‘Journey Through The Past’ was the title of a film of Neil’s documenting his early history.  A soundtrack album is pretty well unfindable and it still isn’t on CD.    Disillusioned by this experience and by the success of his ‘soft’ albums Goldrush and Harvest, Neil recorded a trilogy of what he called ‘Ditch’ albums, where the mood was more ‘what the fuck’ than seeking perfection and adulation.  First to be released was 1974’s On The Beach, which was recorded after his next album but released before it.  I have always loved this album – it is gentle in parts and angry and desolate at times too.  Best songs are ‘Walk On’, ‘For The Turnstiles’ and ‘Ambulance Blues.   Recorded before this but released late in 1975 was Tonight’s the Night.  A desolate strung out album, recorded practically live.  Band member Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry had both died of heroin overdoses and this had devastated Neil (he had already released ‘The Needle and The Damage Done’ on ‘Harvest) and he expressed it with this bunch of songs.  Not for everyone I must admit, and I have grown to like it  and accept it for what it is – and in fact really like some of the songs -the title song and ‘Roll Another Number’ and especially ‘Tired Eyes’.  An experience.  Neil returned to a more conventional approach to album making with his next Zuma (1976).  An excellent album this time, recorded with his old mates Crazy Horse with whom Neil seems to have a more relaxed and flowing style.  These were apparently very productive sessions, with several songs held over to be re-recorded for later albums.  My favourite tracks are ‘Danger Brid’, ‘Looking For A Love’ and the fabulous ‘Cortez The Killer’.  Later in ’76 Neil recorded an album with his old bandmate from Buffalo Springfield Long May You Run – billed as by the Stills Young band.  Sharing songwriting and singing the album never really works; even Neil’s songs disappoint.  A pity – the only track of any note is the title track itself.    1977 saw another brilliant Neil album, American Stars And Bars (and his best album cover) technically his eight solo studio album.  It is quite a country sounding album, with opener ‘Old Country Waltz’ a very traditional Country music melody and instrumentation.  Seven of the nine tracks feature Crazy Horse and are quite loose, and sound like early takes – no worse for that.  Emmy Lou Harris sings vocals on ‘Star of Bethlehem’, one of his gentlest melodies. Two long tracks – the confessional ‘Will To Love’ and the stupendous ‘Like A Hurricane’ – one of his very best ever songs.  Wow.  A retrospective of Neil’s 10 year recordings arrived late in 1977 – Decade, a mammoth 35 track, 3 album and later 2 disc collection; from Buffalo Springfield, CSYN and solo recordings, with a handful of rarities thrown in.  A nice look back; mostly stuff I really liked anyway.  Best rarities – the CSNY single ‘Ohio’, and also ‘Helpless’.   I also have 3 live Neil Young Archive releases from this first decade.   The first, a solo recording from 1968 Sugar Mountain; pre-fame and mostly Buffalo Springfield and first album songs sung very tentatively; lots of between songs nervous chatting.  No real surprises, two unreleased songs ‘Out Of My Mind’ (not brilliant) and the famous ‘Sugar Mountain’, which he was singing in concert but to my memory never recorded in the studio.  Next is a 1970 concert with Crazy Horse; just one new song ‘Wondering’, and an early version of ‘Winterlong’ which wasn’t released for several years as a studio song.  Finally I hace a 1971 solo effort.  Three years on and Neil is now famous and far more confident in concert.  A couple of unrecorded songs in this set are ‘Bad Fog Of Loneliness’ and ‘Dance Dance Dance’ – neither of which are great. 

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Stevie Wonder – started off as a teen sensation for Tamla Motown, singing breezy pop songs, but by the early Seventies he was writing and recording some innovative new music; a cross between black soul and gospel and rock, interspersed with some delicate love songs.  My first is Talking Book (1972) – a truly incredible album, starting with ‘You Are The Sunshine Of My Life’ and ending on ‘I believe When I Fall in Love’ – but including the truly remarkable ‘Superstition’ and ‘Maybe Your Baby’.  What an album.  Innervisons followed in ’73 – and I somehow lost interest.  It is not a bad album, but it seems to have lost focus somewhat – best are ‘Living For the City’ and He’s Mistra Know-It-All’.  So, for whatever reason I stopped buying his albums.  Of course, I couldn’t resist an early greatest Hits – I Was Born To Love Her – all the early Sixties hits are here, and jolly fine to sing along to, they are.  Faves are ‘Signed Sealed Delivered’, ‘YesterMe, YesterYou, Yesteday’ and Signed Sealed Delivered’.  Great stuff.

Woody Guthrie – The father of American folk.  Purely for purists though. I have a greatest hits collection which includes ‘This Land is Our Land’  Otherwise it is very traditional early American folk – a few of the songs were sung by Dyan on World Gone Wrong. 

Yardbirds – This band came out in the early 60’s and at one time were almost as popular as the Stones.  But despite a rosta of brilliant guitarists they never quite made the big time.  They were just too fixated on the blues, rather than branching out ito a more pop sound.  Anyway, just the one album –  Greatest Hits, which is okay, best song ‘For Your Love’ – but not the greatest album.

Yazoo – A short lived but incredible combination of Alison Moyet on vocals and Chris Clarke (ex Depeche Mode) on keyboards and synths.  They were bright and breezy and just ahead of their time.  Only the one album Upstairs At Erics (1981).  And what an album it was – hardly off my record deck when it first came out.  Best songs – best tracks ‘Only You’, ‘Don’t Go’ and Midnight’ – but there isn’t a bad track on the album. Still great to listen to now.  The band split after 2 years and 2 albums; Vince to Erasure and Alison to a great solo career (see M)

Trisha Yearwood – Another very good American country singer; there are quite a lot.  Only one album  – Where Your Road Leads (1998), and very nice listening it is, without really making you sit up and say ‘Wow’.  

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Stuart ‘Wooly’ Wolstenholme – Founder member of Barclay James Harves, one of my favourite ever bands.  He was one of three songwriters – but quite quickly he seemed to be relegated to just two songs per album.  A battle of egos and the usual musical differences (Stuart was the main driver of including classical music with the rock style of the band, whereas John and Les were veering more towards a disco-pop style) led to Wooly leaving the band after their album XII.  He fairly soon released by far his best record Maestoso.  A couple of the songs had been demoed by the band and rejected.  It is a gorgeous record and most of the songs would have slotted well into BJH albums.  Best songs are the title track, ‘Sail Away’ and ‘American Excess’. Anyway, he managed a short tour with a few friends before disappearing into the studio to produce his second solo effort.  Not such a great album, and I think it only came out on cassette, but I may be wrong.  Lately I bought the box set of all his solo recordings.  Black Box Expanded is the second CD – the original plus a few demos and live versions.   Funnily enough on re-listening I find I like it more now than at the time of the release.  But somehow the songs don’t hang together well.  Best are ‘Deceivers All’, ‘Has To be A Reason’  and ‘The Sunday Bells’.  After two poor selling albums in the early 90s he retired from making music and started farming.  Eventually the Barclays split up too – and his old friend from the band John Lees invited Stuart to sing with him on a tour and subsequent album.  Mostly these were very early singles which Stuart and John had written.  The tour encouraged Stuart to dig out some of his old music, and write a few more – and a new album emerged – One Drop In A Dry World.  I have continued buying his music, more as a tribute to him and the band than out of their greatness.  These albums are really for enthusiasts and devoted fans (like me) only and should be approached with caution.  Stuart was a complex character – probably a manic depressive – certainly prone to depression and a strange sense of humour.  Best songs are the title track, and ‘It’s You’.  Fiddling Meanly – came out next – a one-off live concert at The Mean Fiddler.  Nothing new, but some nice old BJH numbers to enjoy. Next up is Grim (Sense of humour required).  Well, a bit of a curates egg really, some nice tracks and some – you wonder just why?  No quality control and far too much on one CD.  Maybe he just felt he had to get all this music out of his system.  Anyway – best tracks are ‘Hebden Bridge’ and ‘Lark + Carp’.  To be honest I was only buying his music to support him at this point.  Caterwauling was his last album proper – and again it is far too long and seems unfocused; best songs are – the long track ‘Soldier Of Fortune’ – though almost a mini album itself and ‘Matilda Yarrow’.  Poor Wooly, A very clever guy, maybe too clever and a victim of massive depressions – he committed suicide in 2010.  A great loss and a pity as he was a superb songwriter and a very accomplished musician whose contributions, especially early on made Barclay James Harvest so popular.  There is also an album of unreleased stuff he was aworking on called the lost works which is pretty rough actually. 

That Hideous Man: Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme: An Appreciation

My Record Collection 213

Brian Wilson – Yes, The Brian Wilson – founding member and main songwriter and eventually producer of The Beach Boys (see B).  What a guy, and what a life.  In 1964 he had a nervous breakdown and stopped performing live with the band, though he continued writing and producing, including the wonderful ‘Good Vibrations’ in 1966.  However increasing drug use took its toll and by ’68 he was in a mental institution.  Recovering slightly, he continued writing and producing – but less and less.  He became a recluse for a few years but has gradually rehabilitated himself and started making solo albums again in the 90s.  My few albums of his start with Imagination (1998).   Well, it is very Beach Boy sounding, but the songs are really not so great – which is to be expected I suppose.  The production is very middle of the road and a bit saccharine – but Brian’s voice is still pretty good; lots of stacked vocals – but mostly lacking that excitement of the Sixties.  Best songs – ‘Your Imagination’, ‘She says She Needs Me’ and ‘Sunshine’.  I also have That Lucky Old Sun (2008).  Quite a pleasant record – apparently, a concept album, though it sounded like a bunch of songs, mostly about California.  Brian’s voice is noticeably lower bur still good.  Best songs – the title song, ‘Mexican Girl’ and ‘Southern California’.   I also have s freebie given away with one of the Sundays, misleadingly titled Good Vibrations – it is basically live versions by Brian of old Beachboy numbers.  A strange listen; the songs of course are brilliant – and even these slightly weak interpretations cheer you up and you find yourself humming along to them – but then again, realising what a great little group they used to be. 

Dennis Wilson – After ‘Holland’, in which the Beachboys, mostly minus Brian, took a remarkable new direction, Dennis released a solo album called Pacific Ocean Blue.  I missed it at the time, and long after Dennis had died it was released along with some demo’s as a double album earlier this century.  The music press raved about it, and I bought it.  Only to be largely disappointed.  Really nothing to say about this record – it left me cold when I bought it and again on re-listening.  A pity, as with better production it could have been at least a nice sequel to his life.  I think he was trying too hard to move out of the shadows of the band without really having the voice or songs to change enough.  Oh well.

Cassandra Wilson – I don’t really know much about this cool American jazzy blues singer.  Only the one record New Moon Daughter (1995), and quite listenable it is – though this is not my usual genre at all.   Quite pleasant really, though too slow in many places.  Best tracks – ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ and ‘Harvest moon’ – but that’s because I know the original versions.

Mari Wilson – I first heard her on a Radio 1 live concert, singing with the Fabulous Poodles.  I fell in love with her voice.  She sung very shiny pop songs with great choruses.  Two albums; Rhythm Romance (1991).  She sings great cover versions of ‘Cry Me A River’ and ‘My Funny Valentine’, but I really love ‘Someone To Watch Over me’ and ‘Lover Man’.  A really good record.  Only bettered by her greatest hits Platinum Collection.  Big Hits include ‘Just What I Always Wanted’ and ‘Wonderful To Be With You’, but I also really like ‘Dr. Love’ – and really all the other tracks too.  Great singer.

Amy Winehouse – Never a huge fan, though this tragic lady had a very good voice, quite similar to a lot of early soul singers.  Just the one album Back To Black.  Best songs – ‘You Know I’m No Good’ and ‘Me and Mr. Jones.’  But the rest just passed me by.

Steve Winwood – Loved him in Spencer Davis and Traffic and I did have Arc of A Diver on Vinyl and now only on Cassette.  I bought a later solo effort ‘Junction 7’ from a charity shop and wished I hadn’t wasted the pound.  Very boring…I also have Revolutions – a greatest hits, which is fab.   Love most of it (except Blind Faith) even the solo stuff is pretty good.  Best are the early Spence David and Traffic songs and ‘Valerie’.


My Record Collection 212

My Record Collection 212

Wilco – An American band, fairly Alt/Country I would say.  Having read great reviews of them I bought Being There (1966) – a double album which I remember being very impressed by.  Not so much now on listening almost 30 years later – though they do have a distinctive style and Jeff Tweedy’s voice is pretty distinct in its laid-back weariness.   I seem to remember that I was quite impressed by this record a quarter of a century ago, though now it impresses me less – so it goes.  Best songs are ‘Misunderstood’, ‘Someday Soon’ and ‘someone Else’s Song’.  Though as a double it is, as usual, far too long.  I bought Summerteeth in 1999 – and again I remember liking the record.   Though now, as I re-listen, the songs just drift by unremarkable and largely unnoticed.  Still, a couple are listenable – The title track and ‘Via Chicago’.  2001 saw Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – and the instrumentation was varied and experimental, Jeff’s voice – even wearier and desperate – and I like it more now.  A few songs stick in the brain now – ‘Kamera’, ‘I’m The man Who Loves You’ and ‘Reservations’ are pretty good.  I don’t know why, but I stopped buying Wilco albums after this – too many other distractions I suppose. 

Lucinda Williams – Another American Country singer; Lucinda is wonderful, her voice raspy and full of a raw emotion I find quite addictive.  And although she is almost as old as me, she never really got going until the late 80’s and has  had a sporadic recording career.  She came to my notice with probably my favourite album of hers Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (1998).  Already 45 this was her third album and her real breakthrough record.  It is simply wonderful.  Almost every track has a magical melody and seems just right; Lucinda often repeats over and over the choral refrain, which is a very good way of involving the listener.  Best songs are the title track, ‘Concrete and Barbed Wire’ and the sumptuous ‘Lake Charles’.  Next up is 2003’s World Without Tears.  Another excellent album, maybe the songs are not quite as good – but pretty darned good anyway.  My favourites are – ‘Those three Days’, ‘Atonement’ (where she gets really angry), ‘Your Sweet Side’ and the title track.  I have only bought her albums sporadically, not sure why as she is really very good.  My last by her was West, released in 2007.  This album ventures into talking blues and her musical palette drifts quite far from her original American style. Best songs are ‘Are You Alright’, ‘Come On’ – another shoutout at a former lover and ‘Unsuffer Me’.  I haven’t bought any more of this great singer.  I simply don’t have the time or capacity to keep on buying every singer I like.  However, I do seem to have a compulsion to own everything by certain other singers, which probably just reinforces my prejudices.  So it goes.

Robbie Williams – never a great fan, especially of Take That and boybands in general – but you have to admit that Robbie was a phenomenon.   I saw him once along with a lot of others at Wembley and he had the audience in the palm of his hands.  Just the one album – I’ve Been Expecting You.   Pretty good, and contains ‘Strong’, ‘Millenium’ and ‘You’re the One’ – so you can’t really go wrong with songs like that.

My Record Collection 211

The Who – later stuff

Then an almost three-year gap, where Townshend was grappling with a new concept, The Lifehouse (see T).  Eventually this was half abandoned and some of the songs rescued for the next album Who’s Next (1971).  Well, I was there at The Valley, Charlton’s football ground when they both shocked and amazed us by playing the then unheard album in its entirety.  But what an album, and what a departure for the band – no longer pop but real rock music of the very best quality.  The opening track ‘Baba O’Riley’ is an absolute tour de force and unlike anything ever before or since.  Hard to analyse why this song captures the imagination – it should have been called ‘Teenage Wasteland’ and then it might have made more sense – however.  Every song following is a classic and sung with both sensitivity and great emotion.  This was their re-birth, their coming of age – and in my mind their best album.  Other great tracks are ‘The Song Is Over’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ and of course the finale ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’  It is and has always been my favourite of theirs.   Quadrophenia followed in 1973.   Another concept piece, which strangely I have never liked as much.  There followed a film and many live recordings and even tours right into this century.  I do like a handful of tracks – ‘The Real Me’, 5.15’ and ‘Love Reign Over Me’, but never my favourite record – though fans love it.  Next came a much more normal Who album – 1975’s The Who By Numbers.   Maybe their worst album cover, and the absence of any real rock anthems meant this sold relatively poorly.  But I have always liked it – it has a slightly throwaway quality to it; and seems less strained and easier to listen to than it’s predecessor.  Best tracks are ‘Slip Kid’, ‘Squeeze Box’ and ‘Blue Red and Grey’.  Three years till their next – the superb Who Are You.  One of the most infectious songs, featured in numerous films and tv series, it still has the power to amaze.   But this is a really strong album; with songs like ‘Sister Disco’ and ‘Guitar and Pen’ proving they still had it.  Sadly, a weird co-incidence; on the cover Keith Moon is sitting astride a chair with the words NOT TO BE TAKEN AWAY on it.  He was taken away shortly after, another Rock and Roll excess victim.   Kenny Jones, ex Faces drummer replaced Keith in the band, and although he was a competent drummer, he lacked the madness and touch of Keith.  Face Dances came out in 1981; not a bad album, but not a great one either.   Maybe the curse of the 80’s hit them, or they were just tired or bored or just not good enough at this point.  I liked a few songs – ‘You Better You Bet’, ‘Don’t Let Go Of The Coat’ and ‘Another Tricky Day’ – but the rest of the songs leave me cold.  Which was my reaction to pretty well the whole of their next, 1982’s It’s Hard.   A bit of a downer, as the songs never seemed to really stick in the brain.   And it seemed that that was that.  The band continued with touring and long breaks but no new material emerged.  Daltrey went off and did other stuff, John Entwistle died too early and Townshend was in the news because he went on-line to view some child porn, which he says was research, as he was abused himself.  I saw them a couple of times in the nineties and early this Century.  Great stuff, but heavily reliant on 60’s and 70’s songs.  Then, after 24 years came a new album Endless Wire (2006).  Well, what to make of it?  Firstly, it doesn’t feel at all like a Who album, except for a couple of rockier tracks.  The album is really a Pete Townshend album, sung by Roger Daltrey.  A complicated record; songs attacking the Catholic church, and some which I have no idea what the son g is about at all.  Overlong really but there are a few very good songs; ‘We Got a Hit’, ‘Endless Wire’ and ‘Mirror Door’.   I have bought but not listened to yet, their latest simply titled Who.   I also have two compilations Then and Now and Ultimate Collection; both full of great songs.  What a band; one of the leaders of the revolution in music in the Sixties.

Roger Daltrey, chanteur du groupe The Who et le guitariste Pete Townshend en concert au Pavillon de Paris le 17 mai 1979

My Record Collection 210

The Who – early stuff

As a teenager I loved the singles of the Who from the mid-sixties onwards.  They were ‘Poppy’, but with a dangerous and rebellious edge – you always thought they might be on the point of exploding.  The stuttering f f f in My Generation, a secret clue.  My first album proper of theirs was a compilation on Track records, the fabulously titled Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy (1972).  This had everything – almost all the singles ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘Anyway, Anywhere, Anyhow’, Happy Jack’ and Pictures of Lily’ which I always knew was about wanking.  As well as a few other not so well-known songs – I played the original vinyl to death.   I bought a couple of earlier albums later.  A Quick One came out in late ’66 – but I bought it much later.  Rather pop than rock, and with some pretty bizarre songs – already Townshend was writing about the weirdest stuff – but this also included a few songs by Daltrey, Entwistle and even Keith Moon ‘Cobwebs and Strange’ and there are about 10 bonus tracks on this CD, not sure if they were ‘b’ sides or just stuff they recorded around this time.  Best tracks are ‘So Sad About Us’, ’Boris the Spider’ and ‘Disguises’.  An interesting  glimpse back from the later glory years.  As is The Who Sell Out (1967). A great cover and a great concept; while other bands were into psychedelica, The Who made an album of songs with commercials interspersed.  Best are ‘Armenia City in The Sky’, ‘Our Love Was’ and ‘I Can See For Miles and Miles’ – there is also a mini opera ‘Rael’ which I don’t really like, and several bonus tracks again of varying quality.   Then, of course, came the first BIG ONE – Tommy (1969).  I bought this soon after seeing the film version by Ken Russell but knew quite a few songs from the radio earlier.  What an album, and what an achievement – it puts Sargeant Pepper a bit in the shade really.  This is pure rock music, but actually a very varied album.  Daltrey’s vocals are superb, and he commands your attention.  The whole thing is a product of Townshend’s fertile imagination, and unbelievable as the story is, it all makes some sort of sense.  Tommy has had a life of it’s own – a film, orchestral arrangements, and many many live performnces by the band and various guest singers.  But the original still stands supreme.   Hard to pick a favourite from such a complex and unified piece but maybe ‘1921’, ‘Sally Simpson’ and of course – ‘Pinball Wizard’.  I also have from mostly about this time The BBC Sessions – the band were regular guets at the Beeb in the Sixtiies and early Seventies.  Most of the versions are pretty much as they appear on record – but a few rarities – ‘Just You And Me Darling’, ‘Man With The Money’ and a cracking version of ‘Dancing in The Street’.

Group portrait of English rock band The Who, standing in front of flags wearing mod clothing, London, circa 1966. Keith Moon, Pete Townshend, Roger...