Joan As A Policewoman – This is an American, Joan Wasser, who is very 21st Century, with a laid-back aching vocal and beats. Mostly piano-led and sad songs which drift one into the other. She got a great write-up in Uncut music magazine so I bought her album, her second actually, I Survive. Despite having so many very favourite artists I am always on the lookout for new voices. I would hate to be stuck in the past, glorious as it is. The album is pretty good and different enough to make your ears prick up, and her photo on the cover is gorgeous. The album reminds me in some ways of Portishead (see P). Best songs – hard to pick, but ‘Magpies’, ‘Holiday’ and the title track. I don’t really understand much of the lyrics – but sometimes you don’t really need to I find. I have one other album of hers- The Deep Field (2011). Well, she seems to have moved on a bit and yet somehow remained in the same place; some of the songs are a bit more disco-ish and some slow as ever. Mostly piano led of course, and that world weary yet probing voice. Again, the words wash over me – I hear them but they don’t stay. Songs? Best is ‘Forever and a Year’ and most of the others I can’t recall. So, after this I haven’t bothered with her again. There are just too many singers to collect them all.
Billy Joel – American singer songwriter, around mostly in the 70s and 80s. I did have a couple of his albums on vinyl and cassette, but now only have the Greatest Hits. And what a collection it is. Surprising, when you re-listen – just how many great songs he wrote. Not least ‘Uptown Girl’ and ‘An Innocent Man’. This is packed full of excellent stuff – but somehow the whole is not equal to the sum of the parts. There is almost too much on show here; too many clever hooks; astute lyrics – and all wrapped up in a commercial, slightly middle of the road sound. Okay for the occasional listen.
Jon and Vangelis – a unique collaboration between Jon Anderson of Yes and Vangelis of ‘Chariots Of Fire’ fame. When this album Short Stories came out in 1980 I was blown away – the sheer beauty of the voice and the brilliant arrangements seemed so new and vibrant. A long-time favourite, a brilliant combination of classic and electronic keyboards, clever lyrics and a haunting voice. Best songs ‘Curious Electric’, ‘Far Away In Baagad’ and ‘One More Time’. Their second album was even more successful commercially, but in my opinion it was less exciting. The title track is an imagined screenplay with music and words and in my mind doesn’t really work. Best tracks are ‘I’ll Find My Way Home’ and ‘State Of Independence’. They did make one final album which I had on vinyl but not now on CD.
Norah Jones – is actually the daughter of sitar genius Ravi Shankar, and an American music publisher. Well, a voice to soothe the hardest heart. She sings langoruos slow jazzy ballads which wind their way to the end of the record before you know it. I have the one album, her debut Come Away With Me (2002). This was a huge hit, especially in America where it sold over 10 million copies. And while it is sumptuous and her voice is like honey, it simply leaves no impression behind. Superb wallpaper music I must admit, but not enough to make me buy any more of her albums.
Tom Jones – and what can you say about Sir Tom, who is now a national treasure. He seems to have always been around from his first hit single ‘Delilah’ to becoming a resident judge on The Voice. And no-one can deny either his voice or his personality, and yet….I have never really considered him as a rock artist. To my knowledge he has never written a song and doesn’t play a musical instrument – he is, rather, a great interpreter of songs. So, for whatever reason I have sort-of avoided him – but still have 3 albums in my collection. First up was a relatively recent album Reload (1999), where Tom, after more than a few years in the doldrums and after the razzamatazz of Vegas, decided to record with some of today’s artists. A real rocking record with Stereophonics, Talking Heads, Van Morrison and many others. Most of the songs were pretty classic rockers. Best are ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ with Cerys Mathews, ‘Burning Down The House’ and of course ‘Sex Bomb’, which could have been written especially for old Tom himself. I also have one of many Greatest Hits, where one can relive those heady sixties hits – ‘What’s new Pussy Cat’, ‘Delilah’ and ‘Green Green grass of Home’