Brilliant Debut Albums #43

Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan (1962)

What can you say about Bob Dylan – except that for quite some time I quite disliked this debut, only appreciating it over  time.  Starting off by buying ‘Blonde on Blonde’ then working backwards and forwards I was disappointed by his debut, especially as only a few months later he released his entirely self-written ‘The Freewheelin’ which I absolutely loved.  Apparently Bob was very nervous at this recording and simply played songs he was already performing; with only a handful of his own material he stuck to pretty standard Greenwich Village folk tunes.  But slowly this album, recorded very simply with just Bob, his harmonica and his guitar has grown on me.  It includes the very heartfelt ‘Song for Woody’ and his autobiographical ‘Hard Times In New York City’ alongside songs like ‘House Of The Rising Sun’, soon to be covered by The Animals.  Incredible to think now that he was given the chance to record at all, and that Columbia stuck with him despite poor sales of this album.  Thank Goodness they did. Some forty odd studio albums later and Bob is still going strong – and getting better all the time.  Strange co-incidence that at exactly the time he was recording this, The Beatles released ‘Please Please Me’.  The two most important and influential artists emerged on two different continents at exactly the same time.  

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

Brilliant Debut Albums #42

The Doors – The Doors (1967) Named after ‘The Doors of Perception’ by Aldous Huxley who stole it from William Blake, the band were always more than just a pop group.  All their lyrics were written by Jim Morrison, a self-styled poet who drifted further into drugs until his death in 1971 by which time they had released 6 studio albums.  But the heart of the band were Ray Manzarak, Robby Kreiger and John Densmore – who wove great sounds behind Jim’s often bizarre lyrics.  This debut arrived just as psychedelia was breaking, and with songs such as ‘The Crystal Ship’ and ‘End Of The Night’ they were instrumental in breaking away from the classic beat music of the Sixties.  However the best songs are far more in the earlier Rock’n’Roll tradition – my faves are ‘Light My Fire’ and ‘Break On Through’ and the Kurt Weill classic ‘Alabama Song’.  Though relatively short lived the band sold over 100 million records and their bass lines are constantly being sampled by hip-hop and dance music bands of this Century

The Doors

Brilliant Debut Albums #41

Eagles – Eagles (1972) Just going through these albums I am constantly amazed by just how many incredible bands and Artists there were (not including all the ones I haven’t got albums of) over the fifty or so years I have been collecting music.   Every time I think I have just re-discovered a gem, another one pops up.  The Eagles were originally recruited by Linda Ronstadt as her backing band before venturing out on their own.  In the vanguard of what would later be known as America, they combined country with soul and rock to conjure up their own sound that was always identifiably their own.  This debut featured Glenn Frey, Don Henley (the only two permanent members), Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner.  This self-titled debut was incredible for its maturity and great songs. The band had four singers and four songwriters and are famous not only for their music but for constant arguments and industrial consumption of drugs.   However they continued making brilliant records until finally parting ways in 1980, six superb albums later.  They have reformed sporadically to tour and released a double album in 2007 which seems lacklustre to me.  This debut’s best songs are ‘Take It Easy’, ‘Witchy Woman’ and ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’.  A side-note, the album was produced by Glynn Johns who spent much of his time trying to reconcile competing ideas from band members as to their eventual direction – which Glynn was instrumental in shaping.

Eagles

Brilliant Debut Albums #40

Thomas Dolby – The Golden Age Of Wireless 1982

The early Eighties was a bit mixed, a lot of dross and a few records of brilliance.  I first heard the single ‘She Blinded Me With Science’ – which at first was almost a joke, definitely not to be taken seriously – but the music behind the nonsense lyrics was something else.  I bought the album and was astounded.  Once again, total brilliance on a debut. Thomas is a genius on synthesiser and yet his music is far more rounded than the usual plink plonk one-note hits of the early eighties.  Having released 4 superb albums and a soundtrack, Thomas turned to producing and session work, avoiding the limelight.  He is now ensconced in both University and Computer technology work.  Thomas has always used a touch of humour in his music but also jazz and soul and lovely stacked harmonies.  A true genius who has sadly retired from making music far too early.

Golden Age of Wireless

Brilliant Debut Albums #39

David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971)

Where do you start – He was in The Byrds – a founding member.  He was in Crosby, Stills and Nash – a founding member.  He was in the group when Neil Young joined them and they had even greater success.  He was in Graham Nash, David Crosby – and had a solo career.  He nearly died several times of drugs and drink, he was in prison for a time, he died for real a short time ago, and he had the sweetest voice.  His solo career started in 1971 although he had left/been kicked out of The Byrds in ’68.  A strange, quite spaced-out album, lyrically confusing and quite acoustic really.  It was weird, but also highly listenable.  Very much of its hippy era and a must-have at the time.  Best tracks ‘Almost Cut my Hair’, ‘Laughing’ and ‘Traction in The Rain’. 

If I Could Only Remember My Name

Brilliant Debut Albums #38

Dire Straits – Dire Straits (1978)

It seems remarkable, but some acts appear fully formed on their debut release.  Dire Straits, which featured Mark Knopfler as lead singer, guitarist extraordinaire and songwriter were one such.  However, this may have been more luck than judgement.  Mark had written and made a pretty good demo of ‘Sultans of Swing’ which DJ Charlie Gillett played without their knowledge and was immediately approached by several record companies wanting to sign the group.  Muff Winwood produced this immaculate and almost perfect album in 1978 and it was an immediate success, as was the single ‘Sultans’.  The group went on to sell 140 million albums before disbanding in 1995, or rather Mark deciding to go solo and much more folky at that.  This album also featured ‘Down By The Waterline’ and ‘Wild West End’ – in fact there isn’t a poor track on it, or on any of their albums.  A true phenomenon.

Dire Straits

Brilliant Debut Albums #37

Jacob Collier – In My Room (2016)

Never heard of him?  Don’t worry – neither had I.  But for whatever reason I read about him a few years ago as a musical prodigy, a multi-instrumentalist and innovator who was being given a whole night at the Proms.  Intrigued I watched as he conducted an orchestra, for which he had arranged some of his own compositions as well as those of such luminaries as Stevie Wonder and The Beatles.   He not only conducted but played piano and guitar and sung.  The best bit for me was when he conducted the audience to harmonise with him on ‘Blackbird’.  I bought his then only album ‘In My Room’.  This is again a mix of new and adapted songs, all apparently recorded on computer and keyboards in his bedroom.  To say it is different is a simple cliché, but it really is quite magical.

In My Room

Brilliant Debut Albums #36

Johnny Cash – American Recordings (1994)
Well – you will all shout – this is a cheat, and of course you are right.  Johnny has been nothing if not prolific, recording steadily from 1957 (about 60 albums in all) and has sold millions of disc. He had suffered over the years too, from drugs and drink and break-ups.  By the early Nineties he was discarded by Columbia and was an old man in search of any vestige of his former popularity. But he still had many fans, one of which, legendary record producer and label owner Rick Rubin sought him out and persuaded Johnny to go right back to basics.  He recorded this with just Johnny and his guitar in his front room. Recording a handful of other artists Cash brought a fragile and honest sensibility to them; the album (and 5 others which followed) was a huge hit and rejuvenated his career.  These are remarkable for their intimacy and their timeless quality. Best on this ‘debut’ are ‘Why Me, Lord’, ‘The Beast In Me’ and ‘Bird On The Wire’.  One of his very last recordings ‘Hurt’ was particularly amazing and won a Grammy Award.  Johnny died in 2003 shortly afterwards, at just 71.  But he left behind an incredible legacy, one of the true greats. smarkable for their intimacy and their timeless quality. Best on this ‘debut’ are ‘Why Me, Lord’, ‘The Beast In Me’ and ‘Bird On The Wire’.  One of his very last recordings ‘Hurt’ was particularly amazing and won a Grammy Award.  Johnny died in 2003 shortly afterwards, at just 71.  But he left behind an incredible legacy, one of the true greats.

Brilliant Debut Albums #35

Del Amitri – del Amitri (1985)

Another Scottish band I am afraid – well, they are particularly good.  Formed by Justin Currie who is the lead singer and main songwriter – they first came to my notice with their singles, the biggest of which was ‘Roll To Me’.  But I suspected they were more than just a pop group and I was right.  As is often the case, I worked backwards and only discovered this debut in the mid-nineties.  Their songs are edgy and quirky and sometimes quite venomous – and occasionally joyous.  They also achieved minor fame by recording the official anthem for Scotland’s World Cup final appearance in 1998 (the last time, so far).  The song was great and somewhat ironic at the same time; ‘Don’t Come Home Too soon’ was prophetic, as they failed to get out of their group.  Anyway, back to this debut – best songs are ‘Sticks and Stones, Girl’, ‘Crows In The Wheatfield’ (which I think references Van Gogh’s last painting – and ‘Keepers’, though all the songs are good.  The band released 6 albums before Justin attempted a solo career.  They reformed a few years ago, but I haven’t bought their latest.  A very competent and interesting band.

Del Amitri

Brilliant Debut Albums #34

Shawn Colvin – Steady On (1989)

Another American Singer-Songwriter; seems I just cannot resist them.  Shawn was 35 when she released her debut, which gave her a maturity, both as a writer and a singer.  I read the review in ‘Uncut’ and gave her a try.  And like the best of singers, she had a certain style and edge to her voice that resonated with me.  It really almost doesn’t matter how ‘good’ the singing is if you can believe what they are singing about.  Half the songs were written with her multi-instrumentalist and co-producer John Leventhal.  An extremely sensitive set of songs – you feel like she is in the room with you.  Faves on this one are ‘Diamond In The Rough’, ‘Shotgun Down The Avalanche’ and ‘Steady On’.  She is a little bit country and a little bit folk and mostly just herself.

Steady on