My Record Collection 112

Peter Gabriel – was a founder member of early 70’s prog-rock band Genesis (see G). After ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’, Peter left the bnad (quite amicably for a change) and decided to record solo.  He is also famous for titling his forst 4 records simply as Peter Gabriel.  The first is  known now as Peter Gabriel 1 Car as the cover is him sitting in a car.  Well, what an album; from the first notes of ‘Moribund the Burgermeister’ to the epic closer ‘Here Comes The Flood’ it simply sweeps you away.  A multitude of styles; the almost vaudeville of ‘Excuse me’ and the great single ‘Solsbury Hill’.  This must rate as one of the most accomplished debut records of all time.  The following year he released what is now known as Peter Gabriel 2 scratch.  Well, not quite as good as PG1 I think.  Some excellent songs but maybe it was rushed out a bit too soon; in those days artists were expected to churn out a new album every year.  It was album tour, short rest for writing then album and tour.  There doesn’t seem as much invention either in the sounds or the lyrics.  Some good songs though; ‘On The Air’, ‘Exposure’ and closer ‘Home Sweet Home’ are memorable.  As usual though listening again a couple of times after so long and it all comes back and I really enjoy the record.  Peter Gabriel 3 Melt came out in 1980 and what an album; probably the most sinister and psycho record I have ever heard.  Most of the songs are to do with mental illness ‘No Self Control’ or assassination ‘Family Snapshot’, about the John Kennedy killing) and ‘Intruder’ – about a real pervert.  Saying this, it is a superb sounding record.  Peter along with producer Steve Lillywhite wanted a starker drum sound and with Phil Collins developed the ‘gated’ drum sound where there is no reverberation and no cymbals in the drumming just a stark sharp sound.  This became almost a hallmark of the ‘Eighties sound’ but this was the first time it was used.  The songs seem to blend with each other too, as if it were a concept album (which Gabriel denies) but this album really broke Peter through into a wider audience, and the last song ‘Biko’ about Steve Biko who was killed in South Africa is a tour de force.  Not forgetting the hit single ‘Games Without Frontiers’ All in all this must be my favourite Peter Gabriel album.

2 years late his last self-titled album came out – known as Peter Gabriel 4 – Security.  This is almost as good as PG3 but the sound is fuller and the production heavier.  Only 8 songs but most are longer than 6 minutes, and quite varied too.  A continuation of the sound on PG3, sharp gated drums, although many ended up being sampled.  First track is probably the best ‘Rhythm Of The Heat’ based on African drumming; Peter was becoming very involved with World Music and spent years promoting it on his own record label,  Other great songs include the hit single ‘Shock The Monkey’, ‘San Jacinto’ and ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’.  Next up is Peter Gabriel Plays Live,  I used to have this double album on vinyl but now just have the highlights on CD.  I did see him play live, twice actually – first time was just as PG3 was released and it was the best.  Then a few years ago when he played for just an hour at a festival somewhere.  The album is superb, brilliant renditions of songs from his first 4 albums and one song ‘I Go Swimming’ recorded for PG3 but not on that album.  In 1986 Peter released his biggest selling album.  He was persuaded to give it a title and chose a simple word So.  Well, despite this being by far his most popular record it was never my favourite.   It had the huge hit ‘Sledgehammer’ with its award winning video and the duet with Kate Bush ‘Don’t Give Up’.  Despite those two standout tracks I find the album a bit boring; gone are the innovative ideas, the weird lyrics, the sinister songs and instead we have pretty commercial sounding songs.  Oh well.  I was actually so disappointed that for a few years I stopped buying his records – not that there were so many, apart from soundtracks, only two more solo albums in 20 years.  I did buy his greatest hits ‘Shaking The Tree’ (1990) and I enjoyed it; a pretty good selection of songs, quite a few re-recorded or different versions and a couple of soundtrack songs, heavily relying on tracks form So and Security but still a nice record.     And then a rather strange little treasure.  In 2007 Peter agreed to release a sort of Greatest Hits on a free giveaway CD with The Daily Mail.  I cannot imagine that many of the Mail readers enjoyed it, but I certainly did.  A rather strange compilation – some tracks from the records I missed (Us and Up) and a few live numbers and a couple of remixes.  Best new tracks ‘Father and Son’ and ‘In Your Eyes’ but I really liked the live versions of ‘Solsbury Hill’ and ‘Don’t Give Up’ too.  I actually saw him again in Hyde Park (he wasn’t the headline act) around this time and he was good but not fantastic. 

I mentioned before that Peter after an initial burst of recording slowed down almost to a halt later on.  After only 2 albums in the eighties and nineties, it was 2010 before he released a new studio album, and then it was a covers record; Scratch my Back.  This was a concept where he would record a song by artists and they would record one of his.  It didn’t quite work out though.  Still, the album – opens with 2 familiar songs ‘Heroes’ by Bowie (see B) and ‘Boy in the Bubble’ by Paul Simon (see S).  Most of the other songs were lesser known so appeared fresher to my ears.  The record is orchestral and voice, which is nice but somehow it lacks something too.  In fact one wonders just why he bothered.  He obviously was not composing any new songs himself; perhaps he thought he could bring something new and innovative to songs he had always admired.  But I think he failed; the record is ponderous and very low key, his voice often no more than a whisper when it used to soar, and the record leaves me cold.  A pity, as it could have been really something.  The last album (so far) that he has released is New Blood, released in 2011, just a year after the last one.  This is a radical re-working of many of his earlier songs, again using just orchestra and piano and voice,  mostly quieter versions but a better album than its predecessor. Nice to hear the old songs again with different if mostly quieter arrangements, but really I still prefer the earlier dramatic production.  A strange one, Peter Gabriel; so much talent and he left Genesis to do his own stuff which for 4 or 5 albums was brilliant, then he sort of stalled and has seemed uninterested in his remarkable talent ever since.  Oh well.

My Record Collection 111

Florence and The Machine – just the one album, Lungs.  Not really mon tasse du the I am afraid.  Nothing wrong with it, it just didn’t move me.   Only song I liked was ‘Girl with one eye’.  Oh Well.

Flying Burritto Brothers – A strange one; a band which formed and reformed every few monthe.  But the only CD I have is a double of the first 2 albums which featured Chris Hillman (see B The Byrds) and Gram Parsons (see P) who had also been in The Byrds for a single album, the country-tinged Sweetheart of the Rodeo, where he wrote several of the songs.  Parsons was a son of wealthy parents and was in love with country music.  Blessed with a heavenly voice and a penchant for writing hauntingly beautiful melodies he was also a very troubled soul.  He drifted from band to band and recorded 2 solo albums before dying of a drugs overdose.  So, only 5 albums of his exist and this CD has 2 of them.  The FBB debut was The Gilded Palace of Sin 1969.  This is a more or less straight-forward country album with mostly Parsons penned classic ballads, the best of which are ‘Sin City’ and ‘Dark End Of The Street’ – but it really is a lovely, if at times a touch mawkish record.  The band went through one of it’s regular personnel changes and basically Hillman and Parsons were left alone but recrutited Bernie Leadon, who would soon also decamp and help form The Eagles (see E).  At this time in the West Coast, groups were very fluid – and in fact the FBB continued under various names and personnel after Hillman and parsons left after recording their second classic Buritto Deluxe (1970).  This seemed a bit rockier, probably due to Leadon’s influence. Again a rich seam of songs, including ‘Wild Horses’ which Parsons had written with Keith Richards.  Rumour has it that Keith actually wanted Gram to join the Stones and move them towards a more country style – who knows, I think the connection was more hard drugs than music, but hey.  Other classics are ‘High Fashion Queen’ and ‘Lazy Days’.  After this Gram drifted into heavier drug use and after his 2 solo records died of an overdose.  He is now a cult figure, revered by so mnay later American bands; a great songwriter and effortless singer.

Roddy Frame – was essentially Aztec Camera, one of my favourite 80’s bands.  Just one album I have of his, the slightly disappointing North Star.  I was expecting so much more, or at least a new Aztec Camera album, under a different name.  Anyway – the album itself; well not so bad, first three songs very like Aztec Camera but then a couple of slower numbers which never seem to really catch alight.  A bit subdued in places.  And although Roddy has continued to release a handful of sporadic records I haven’t been tempted to buy them.

The Future Sound Of London.  Only one album from early 90’s and it is quite interesting; electronica and drum beats and a variety of moods – but no real singing.  No words anyway, and so it just all seems to wash over me really.  Melodies come and go but nothing stays in the brain. Nice wallpaper music I suppose

My Record Collection 110

Julia Fordham – Now, you may think I am stuck in the Sixties or more likely the Seventies, but I have loved quite a few from the Eighties too.  And maybe my very favourite is Julia Fordham.  She was a backing singer for a few years but became herself in 1988 with a self-titled album, and incidentally a beautiful cover photo.  The album Julia Fordham is a really well produced and mature record for an unknown.  Her voice is incredible, she has a massive range, sometimes she is singing sultry and low and then the voice just rises up and up and soars away.  The songs are pretty good too, the big single ‘Happy Ever After’ but also ‘The Comfort of Stranger’, ‘Where Does the Time Go’ and ‘Woman of the Eighties’ are all classics.  There is a hint of sadness in there to, which of course I love.  A great start, and followed by an equally accomplished second album Porcelain the following year.   Another batch of fine songs though no big hit single though the album did get to 13 in the charts.  More sad songs here than happy ones I think ‘Lock and Key;, ‘Manhattan Skyline’ and ;Your Lovely Face’ sre the best.  Towards the end she lost it a bit with a couple of slow unmelodic songs but not bad at all really.  Album number 3 Swept came out in 91 and was her best so far.  I Thought It Was You’ was a minor hit and ‘Rainbow Heart’ and ‘Talk, Walk, Drive; are pretty good too.  Her voice, if at all possible, seems even better, caressing the words and aching with d=feeling.  Her next was ‘Falling Forward’ and she just kept getting better – the songs a bit more varied and the production smooth as silk.  Best songs – the title song of course, ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ and ‘Different Time, Different Place’ are among her best songs but the whole album is lovely, it just rolls along.   East West came out in 1997, her fifth album and again a lovely collection of songs; best are ‘Killing me Softly’, ‘East West’ and ‘More Than I Can Bear’.  A greatest hits came out next called The Julia Fordham Collection, mostly old favourites but a handful of re-mixes and two new tracks ‘Kid’ and ‘It Was nothing I Said’   Her best album (so far) Concrete Love (2002) seems to have a magic of it’s own; every song is brilliant and great arrangements too, even a couple of medium paced rolling along songs – which she is not renowned for.  A classic album – best songs? Hard to choose – but I particularly love ‘Wake Up With You’ and ‘Missing Man’; lots of moody organ and subtle orchestration.  2 years later and That’s Life came out.  She didn’t quite manage to pull it off a second time, though it is still a creditably good record    Best songs ‘Sugar’ and ‘Jump’.  There is a maturity and added richness to her voice now, and the songs seem more rounded too.  2005 saw an excellent live album That’s Live which leaned towards the last two albums rather than her earlier ones.    I really like these versions; they seem a bit more emotional – the album also includes a great version of the old Millie Ripperton song ‘Lovin’ You’ which first appeared as s B side on one of singles.  Julia’s range is such that she seems to stretch even the original to lower depths while still hitting those exhilarating high notes.   2008 saw the release of China Blue.  This was a departure for Julia, as she turned to a new slow lounge-jazz production.  I have only just for this CD so have only played it a couple of times – but so far I quite like it; her voice now not lingering so much on the notes as usual but flitting around, especially on ‘I want to stay home with you’.  A nice album I am looking forward to listening more closely.  Likewise with her next release Unusual Suspects (2010) this is a collaboration with an American musician Paul Reiser, who wrote the songs and arrangements and played piano on the record.  A different feel again to this album, a bit more conventional production, and the shape of the songs is different again.  Only listened a couple of time as yet but it sounds promising already, one song – ‘Shadow’ stands out already.  So, Ms. Fordham seemed to be experimenting with different aspects, she has a small army of fans who buy her records and watch her live and has eased into a position where she doesn’t need hits anymore.  Her next effort Under The Rainbow came out in 2013.  This is a re-recording of many of her earlier songs, especially from the first two albums – plus one new song ‘Skipping Under The Rainbow;. This is a piano and voice only record, and I find the songs too slow and repetitive, they add nothing to the vibrant originals.  She was obviously in love with the piano at this point – but I have to ask, what exactly was the point.  Much better was a covers album – The Language Of Love, jazzyand mostly upbeat interpretations of mostly 80’s tracks.  Why, she almost sounds happy.  Great to hear her take on songs like Stevie’s ‘Sir Duke’ and Eurythmics ‘The Language Of Love’.  A nice return to a more rounded sound.  A remix album called Mixed, Shaken and Stirred came out in 2017 – and I love it, Julia with beats, mostly old tracks but a nice feel with her incredible voice high in the dancey mixes.  A collaboration with Judie Tzuke and Beverley craven Woman To Woman followed in 2018, and another solo album Magic in 2019.  I have just downloaded both (The actual CDs are about £30 each now and hard to get) and haven’t really listened to them yet.  But I will continue to follow the beautiful voice of Julia Fordham for a while yet.