My Record Collection 129

Paul Heaton – the genius behind The Beautiful South (see B), Paul broke up the band and released a solo album in 2001 under the name Biscuit Boy; Fat Chance was surely once intended as a group album.  Without the band the songs are a bit thin, but quite good anyway.  Actually, as so often, on re-listening I really quite like it.  No really outstanding songs but pleasant enough anyway; maybe ‘Man’s World’ and ‘Poems’ stand out.  Soon after Paul resurrected Beautiful South for a few more albums.

Helicopter Girl – is the recording name of black singer Jackie Joyce, a 21st century eclectic singer who emerged in the dance music scene with her very original sound.  First album How to Steal the World (2000) was maybe her best, certainly my favourite. Some great moody arrangements and that silky almost sinister voice; best songs – ‘Glove Compartment’, ‘Escape Cloud’ and the weirdly wonderful ‘Putin Circle Stockings’.  A quite unique sounding record.  Four years later and Voodoo Chic arrived.   The record is a touch more mainstream, a bit more soul or r’n’b, a bit less electronica – consequently it doesn’t quite touch the same spot her previous album did.  Still, a nice record – but one I would probably not have bought without its predecessor.  Best songs – ‘Rivermouth’, ‘Her Lucille’ and ‘Umbrellas in the Rain’.  Of course, as so often happens in these reviewing days, I look at the music differently and see hidden gems I was oblivious to – or maybe just forgot years ago when I was seriously listening to these records.  How strange the mind is – you listen to an album, oh so many times, sometimes loving and sometimes dismissing, often not really listening at all; then on re-listening with the distance that time brings you hear it quite differently.  I will never tire of music – it is my main joy and occupation, if I have one at all.   Final album from Helicopter Girl is Metropolitan (2008). She seems to have been without a contract since then – a few tracks self-released.  It is getting so hard for new artists these days, what with wretched streaming and Spotify, where they earn so little and no-one except me and a few die-hards still buying CDs.   But back to this (so far) final album – a bit more rock sounding to my ears. Quite a decent album actually – fave songs ‘The Things You Do’, ‘Doesn’t Get Much better Than This’ and ‘Ghosts in the Machine’.  Not a bad record.  She self-released her fourth album and I seem to only be able to listen to it on Spotify or Amazon Music.  – Wanda Meant (2015).  If I like it I will try to but it. (just downloaded it on Amazon – I only download if CDs are unavailable).

Jimi Hendrix –  Well; one of the immortals really, only of course he was only too mortal in the very soon end.  His guitar playing was legendary and amazed us all in the Sixties.  My albums start with Are you Experienced.   It was an instant success, as were his first three singles.  It seemed at the time that Jimi had dropped into the London scene unheard of and fully formed, with his note-bending blues, fuzzy guitar solos and that gravelly deep voice.  Of course, the year was propitious – 1967 – when all things psychedelic were instantly loved.  And Jimi not only jumped on the bandwagon – he was the bandwagon and inspiration for thousands of guitarist imitators down the years.  It could be argued that the whole heavy metal scene was created by Jimi.  The LP is superb, and one of the best ever debut albums, every track is brilliant and considering that this was only a three piece band, the sound is enormous.  Best songs – hard to pick but I do love ‘Foxy Lady’, ‘May This Be Love’  and ‘Fire’.  The whole record lasts barely 38 minutes – but what a dynamic 38 minutes its is.  One’s first response is to immediately turn it over and play it again (that was in the good old days of 12 inch vinyl records).  Even now over fifty years later it still hits the brain like a bullet.   Later that same year the Jimi Hendrix Experience released their second album Axis Bold As Love; not quite as big a hit as the debut, and not such memorable songs.  Maybe it was rushed out as in those days Record Companies demanded constant new material to sell to eager fans.  Still, a pretty good record; best songs ‘Little Wing’, ‘If 6 was 9’ and ‘Castles made Of Sand’.  His final album while alive was Electric Ladyland (1968). This was a double album, self-produced and probably overlong, but he was bursting with musical ideas and ‘hot to trot’.  Most critics thought this his best album and it was his best seller.  But I found it far too long and rambling, some great guitar – but how much do you really need.  Best songs ‘Voodoo Chile’, ‘Burning Of The Midnight Lamp’ and the Dylan re-invention ‘All Along The Watchtower’.  There have been numerous posthumous albums released since Hendrix overdose death in 1970 – but I have not bought them.  I do have ‘Smash Hits’ – which with ‘Hey Joe’, ‘Purple Haze’ and ‘The Wind Cries Mary’ is really all you need.

Don Henley – The ‘voice’ of the Eagles (see E); that almost desperate voice that sung on most of their records – instantly recognisable and one of the greats.   Except, that as the Eagles disintegrated at the end of the highly successful Seventies Don tried for a solo career, and like so many, it sort of fizzled and popped but barely made him a Superstar.  He made several albums in the Eighties and Nineties – I only have his Greatest Hits (2009), again a charity shop pick as I remember.   And there is nothing wrong with his songs, almost good enough to have been on Eagles albums, the same formula – only slightly more disco-ish.  Best songs, the hits ‘The Boys of Summer’ and Not enough Love In The World’ of course, but also ‘New York Minute’ and the last three songs which show a maturity missing on the earlier songs – especially ‘For My Wedding’.  I don’t think I will be buying any others of his; this is quite okay but enough.

My Record Collection 128

George Harrison – Well, what can you say about the wonderful George?  Overshadowed by the song-writing genius of Lennon and McCartney, he came into his own on the last 3 albums, writing some of the best Beatles tunes ever.  But he was always there, his lead guitar licks embellishing the earlier tracks.  But in 1970 the Beatles split up, or confirmed that they were going their own separate ways, although in fact they often guested on each other’s records.  He had actually released 2 albums of electronic noodling, which I have never bought, but in the very year the boys called it a day he recorded and released what at the time was the first triple album entitled All things Must Pass.   In reality it could have been a double, but there were a couple of alternate versions and a couple of jams best forgotten.  Still, it was and remains one of the best ex-Beatle albums ever.  Strange that all three (and even Ringo) released great albums in the first couple of years after going solo.  Anyway, the album is a cracker.  Of course, the big hit single ‘My Sweet Lord’ but also ‘Wah Wah’ and ‘Beware of Darkness’ and even a Dylan cover ‘If Not For You’.  And some great session players too.  A triumph, which in fact not only established him, but defined him to the point that he never quite produced anything again as brilliant; I think it was, as usual, the quality of the songs themselves – and of course Georges gentle voice and soft note-bending slide guitar.  Almost as soon as the album was released George was shocked by the war between Pakistan and the break-away former East Pakistan, known as Bangla-Desh.  His immediate response was to put on a concert, which was filmed and another triple album released in 1971 The Concert For Bangla-Desh.   The album was mostly George, but with an opening Indian music section with Ravi Shankar, and Dylan himself closing the concert with a very rare appearance.  But also Billy Preston sang ‘That’s The Way God Planned It’, and Ringo singing ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ – Badfinger were on stage and a huge army of players including Eric Clapton and Leon Russell, who duetted on ‘Beware of Darkness’.  A great album really and for a great cause – it may well have been the inspiration for Live Aid itself 13 years later.  Dylan, slowly coming out of a self-imposed seclusion appeared nervous and unsure and safely stuck to songs from his first great period. George resumed his solo career in 1973 with Living In The Material World.  In a way the title of this album summed up George’s whole philosophy.  He was dedicated to the spiritual world and possible life to come, but meanwhile he had to live here in this life with all its imperfections, and George had many.   The album is in many ways a more mature reflection on life than All Things Must Pass; the production is far more acoustic, less bombastic, less ’rock-star’ and more ‘elder statesman’.   It was like its predecessor a huge hit with another number one single ‘Give Me Love (Give me Peace On Earth)’, there was a bitter reflection of the breakup of the Fab Four – ‘Sue me, Sue You Blues’ and a few heavily religious songs – but not joyful as in ‘My Sweet Lord’ but more worshipful and serene.  Along with that there are a couple of gorgeous ballads, my favourite being closer ‘That Is All’ a gorgeous song later covered splendidly by Harry Nillson (see N).  Another lovely song is ‘Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long’, which could have come off a Beatles album.  A gentle record but which pointed to Georges slow withdrawal from the role of ‘Pop Star’ and his further involvement in Eastern Spiritualism.  The following year George released Dark Horse; a less successful album with some disappointing songs.  It all sounds a bit rushed and uninspired.  George had just finished a huge world tour and was probably tired and wanting to escape the same frenzy he had rebelled against as a Beatle.   Anyway, the album is really quite poor, with song lyrics often about his break-up with Patti Boyd, and almost all the spirituality of Material World out the window, replaced by a pointless and unrewarding hedonism coupled with drug taking.  I quite liked George’s Christmas single ‘Ding Dong’ and the track ‘Far East Man’, co-written with Ronnie Wood is quite good too – but overall maybe his worst album – or one of them.  He followed this with another under-par disc Extra Texture (Read All About It) in 1975.  This was slightly better and had no songs about Eastern Religion.  It felt very much like he was desperate to just release something to keep the record company (his last for Apple) happy.  Although like his earlier albums it had a stellar cast of players it just sounds flat, the songs poor and even the singing sounds raw and forced.   A couple of half decent songs ‘The Answer’s At The End’ and ‘Tired Of Midnight Blue’.  1976 saw George on his own record label, Dark Horse, release his 7th album – Thirty-Three and a Third – both his age and the speed it played at.  George had been ill prior to recording and was indulging in alcohol and cocaine.  He seems though to have got it together for this record; his best since Material World.  A more upbeat feel and a together band and a good collection of songs.  Singles in America did well, less so in England which was in the middle of Punk and the music press considered the Beatles as well past it.  Best songs ‘Crackerbox Palace’, ‘This Song’ and Cole Porter cover ‘True Love’, and ‘You’. 1979 saw the release of a self-titled album ; George Harrison.   This far into a career this begins to look a touch desperate, however the album is almost his best so far.   After all the turmoil of the Seventies, when he needed to establish himself in his own light, and the touring and drug abuse, George seemed in a safer place.  His new wife Olivia (Patti Boyd had departed with Eric) and a child Dhani and George was leading a more settled life.  Money worries seemed to have eased too.  He was pursuing other interest; gardening – he was re-landscaping Friar Park; Formula 1 racing and of course his involvement with Monty Python and his rescuing the film ‘Life Of Brian’.  The songs, after almost three years, seem more mature and less hurried.  The singing is perfect and the production seems light and lets the music breathe.  Almost every song is a winner, hard to pick favourites though I especially like ‘Here Comes The Moon’ (almost a pair with the song on Abbey Road), ‘Faster’ about motor racing and opener ‘Love Comes To Everyone’.  At last George seemed happy, no longer anything to prove and in his mid-thirties a more mature man.   George was being pushed by Warner Brothers for new product and the slightly rushed Somewhere In England appeared in 1981.  Initially rejected he reworked some of the songs and discarded a couple.  George had been shocked by the murder of John Lennon the previous year and re-wrote the words to ‘All Those Years Ago’ – he also invited Paul and Linda to sing on it while Ringo played drums.  It is a fine tribute to John and became a hit single.  Other notable tracks – ‘Blood From A Clone’ (about record companies), ‘Teardrops’ and ‘Writing’s On The Wall’.  But a bit of a disappointment after the last album.  Then in 1982 and his last album for Warner Brothers Gone Troppo.   And this has all the hallmarks of the ‘Contractual Obligation’ album.  It was his least successful record – and I don’t think George could care less – at this point he had had it with the music business.   Nothing of real significance and my least favourite of George’s efforts.    George retreated into his film company Handmade Films….and now comes a curiosity.  In a moment of madness or sheer naivety George agreed to make a film, Shanghai Surprise, with Madonna and Sean Penn.  It was apparently a disaster from day one, despite George recording several songs for, and actually appearing (in the background) singing one of them.  The film bombed and NO soundtrack was released, but occasionally tracks have slipped out in strange place.  My son-in-law manged to collect 2 rare pressings of Cloud 9 which had these as extra tracks – and I copied them onto my own recording.  The quality, both of the songs and the production is poor – but, hey this was a Beatle.   Anyway, it counts as one of my records.  But it was 2 years later that George had a renaissance.  He got friendly with Jeff Lynne of ELO (see E) fame who was now a record producer.  Jeff had always revered and loved The Beatles and persuaded George that they could make a great record together.  Which they did – Cloud 9 came out in 1987 and it was possibly the best album George had ever made.   George had some good songs and now an excellent and sympathetic producer, along with his usual stellar cast of musicians.  His voice was mellower and silky but it was the upbeat numbers that were subtle and deftly played.  Almost impossible to highlight best songs but the single ‘Got My Mind Set On You’ is a classic and was a huge hit worldwide.  At times the production seems almost too Beatle-esque (if such a thing is possible), but that is as much a complement as a criticism.  This is music for grown-ups – new tunes on old shoulders.  Specially love ‘Fish On The Sand’, ‘Devils Radio’ and ‘Wreck of The Hesperus’.   Eric invited George for a short tour of Japan with his band.  George rehearsed and played songs from his entire career – some like ‘Old Brown Shoe’ and ‘Taxman’ almost better than the originals, some not so great – but a lovely double album appeared in 1992 Live In Japan.   Well, George had just made 2 albums with the Wilburys and no-one knew if he would record solo again, so it was a welcome release – at least for me, but maybe through poor promotion it didn’t sell that well.  Never mind, this was a Beatle and I loved it.  Best track is possibly ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.  Great to just hear George sounding relaxed and happy playing live again.

This late career success did not prompt George back into a full time return to music – but it maybe became the spur for his two albums with The Travelling Wilburys (see T).  Sadly, though he was working on a new album as he knew he was dying from cancer, his last album was released posthumously – Brainwashed (2002).  Actually, quite a good, if slightly subdued sounding, album.  The songs are pretty good and Jeff Lynne and son Dhani did the production.  Best songs ‘Any Road’, ‘Pisces Fish’ and ‘the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea.’.  A nice, if sadly posthumous, record.  Of course, in the nature of things this wasn’t quite the end.  Various Greatest hits, of which I have Let It Roll, a nice collection, reminding us of the large number of great songs he released – two slight rarities – ‘Cheer Down’ (a Tom Petty co-write from film Lethal Weapon 2) and a (as far as I know) never recorded song by Dylan ‘I Don’t Want To Do It’ (from Porky’s Revenge Soundtrack). Also 3 live Beatles songs from Bangla Desh concert, but strangely no Bangla Desh itself.  I would probably have included half a dozen songs not on this, but there you go.  George also contributed and was a driving force behind a charity album for his wife Olivia’s Romanian Angel Appeal.  The resulting album was Nobody’s Child released in 1990.   The title track was credited to the Wilbury’s but was mostly George and Jeff Lynne; George included a live version of ‘Homeward Bound’ a duet with Paul Simon; he also played guitar on 2 tracks, one by Eric Clapton of an unreleased George song ‘That Kind Of Woman’.  The album is actually quite good in itself and ends with Ringo singing ‘Little Help From My Friends’ live.   After his death his son curated and released Early Takes Volume 1 in 2012 (sadly volume 2 has never arrived) consisting of demo’s George made mostly for All Things Must Pass.  But a couple of real rarities – singing Dylan’s ‘Mama You’ve been On My Mind’ and ‘Let It Be Me’ another Dylan favourite.  Very lovely versions, stripped down and acoustic; a great coda to his music.  A couple of years after his death The Concert For George was released.   A truly stellar cast assembled at the Royal Albert Hall to play Georges music.  Some lovely versions and a whole disc of Indian Music just as George would have wanted.  Featuring Jeff lynne, Eric, Joe Brown, Tom Petty, Billy Preston, Paul and Ringo – a star studded cast sung his songs: a beautiful tribute to one of my heroes.

Bark Horse: Beetles Eat George Harrison’s Memorial Tree ...

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Emmy-Lou Harris – She first came across my horizon in the mid-seventies on a concept album ‘The Legend of Jesse James’, where she sang a couple of songs.  A gorgeous sumptuous Americana voice.  She also recorded much of an album of songs by Gram Parsons (see P) who she was heavily involved with in the seventies.  But the earliest real album of hers I have is from 1980 Roses in The Snow, which I bought in a charity shop.  Well, it is a real country album – which is where Emmylou started – though she has moved more into Americana of late.  Not such a bad album for all that, though spoiled by a couple of real Christian songs; best songs are ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ and Paul Simon’s ‘The Boxer’.  But I really got into her with her 1995 release ‘Wrecking Ball’.   Emmylou was 48, and though not washed up, past her prime.  But her choice of producer, Daniel Lanois (see L) and songs by Dylan, Neil Young, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and a couple by Lanois too; and she suddenly became the queen of Americana.  She had always had the voice, but had veered into traditional country music.  This album brought her to a whole new audience just as the American train was leaving the station.  Hard to pick a best song – they are all superb, but I really love ‘Every grain of Sand’ and ‘Goodbye’ – she manages to bring something to these songs that makes they fresh again.  A brilliant album and suddenly she was relevant again.   Her next album was Red Dirt Girl (2000), a departure as 11 of the 12 songs were written, at least in part, by Emmylou; previously she was an interpreter of other songwriters.  A very accomplished effort, if slightly overlong.  The production carried on from Wrecking Ball’s sound and very pleasant it is – best songs; ‘Michaelangelo’ ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It Now’ and ‘Bang The Drum Slowly’ – but there isn’t a weak song on the record – her voice soars above the melody and is instantly recognisable; one of the things I look for in singers.   The next record I bought was 2008’s All I Intended To Be.  Who knows why we buy everything from one artist and just certain ones from others – but I was never besotted by Emmylou.  And I was looking for another Wrecking Ball, which while very good, this album wasn’t. Emmylou had only written a handful of songs, but she had chosen some classics, best of which were ‘Kern River’, written by Merle Haggard, ‘Old Five and Dimers’ by Billie Joe Shaver.  Another good track is her collaboration with Kate and Anna McGarrigle ‘How She Could Sing The Wildwood Flower’.  A pleasant record, but one that didn’t quite hit the hot spot with me.  My next of hers is Western Wall (1999) a collaboration with Linda Ronstadt.  This for me is almost her best album, the combination of the two voices works remarkably well.  Again, mostly covers and great choices too; ‘Sisters of Mercy’ by Leonard Cohen, ‘Across the Border’ by Springsteen, but best song is ‘Loving The Highway Man’.  Somehow the combination of voices adds that little bit of depth.  I also have a 1990 album Duets, which I bought on the strength of Neil Young and Roy Orbison among others who she sung with, but, in reality, she was often doing backing vocals on these tracks, although it is quite pleasant nevertheless

Emmylou Harris | Music fanart |