My Record Collection 157

Alison Moyet – She of the great bluesy contralto voice.  She came to fame as part of the duo Yazoo (see Y) with Vince Clarke.  But after 2 albums Vince moved on and Alison went solo.  Her debut album Alf (1984) was a brilliant concoction of powerful songs including a couple of hit singles.  My favourites are probably ‘Invisible’, ‘Twisting The Knife’ and ‘Love Resurrection’.  A great start to a great career.  Alison became the premier British female vocalist after this record.  She followed up three years later with Raindancing, another superb album; a bit more mature and a few more ballads but a great collection nevertheless.  Best are ‘Weak In The Prescence Of Beauty’, ‘Is This Love’ and ‘Stay’.  If anything, a less commercial success but a classic album anyway.   I did have her album Essex on vinyl and cassette long ago but not on digital at present.  She half retired to bring up her child and returned in this century.  Only one other original album – Voice (2004) – has found its way onto my CD racks, probably via a charity shop.  Well, it is another of those ‘Classic songs’ recorded with an orchestra.  Okay in their way but they rarely improve on the originals (see Nilsson N; who absolutely nailed this genre) – however I barely know most of these songs so they sound okay – although I think her voice is better on more up-tempo numbers.  Still. Not bad are Costello’s ‘Almost Blue’ and bonus track ‘Alfie’ which was of course sung by Cilla way back in the day.   Better was1995 double CD Singles  – which was of course her early singles, including those with Yazzoo.  My favourites are ‘The First Time Ever I saw Your Face’ and ‘That Old Devil Called Love and ‘Ode To Boy’.  An excellent collection.  The other CD was a live compilation which is also excellent – best ‘Is This Love’ and ‘Nobodys Diary’. Alison is still making albums but I think I have quite enough thanks.

Jimmy Nail – was an actor form the Northeast who achieved fame in the sitcom ‘Auf Weidershein Pet’.  He became a sort of flavour of the month and tried his hand at singing too.  Not that he is a bad singer at all, and he has quite a distinctive voice – but he was never cut out to be a rocker and others were smoother and more soulful than him.  I picked up his second, 1992’s Growing Up In Public in a charity shop.  It is okay, quite soulful and well sung and produced but it doesn’t really hit the spot for me.  Tracks ‘Laura’ and ‘Only love Can Bring Us Home’ are good songs but the rest just pass me by.  Of course, he really hit paydirt with the TV series Crocodile Shoes (1994) and the accompanying CD.  Nail played a singer songwriter in the Americana UK scene and sung the songs himself, almost all written by others.  But a great collection of songs they were.   The whole album just rolls along – best are the title track, ‘Only One Heart’ and ‘Cowboy Dreams’ (written by the great PMcAloon of Prefab Sprout (see P).  The album was a huge hit, partly because of the TV series, and 2 years later after the second series Jimmy released Crocodile Shoes 2.   Another very enjoyable album, maybe not such memorable songs as the original but pretty good.  Best songs ‘Blue Roses’, ‘I’m A Troubled Man’ and opener ‘Country Boy’.  And that is it for Jimmy Nail really.  I’ve not been tempted since.

Graham Nash – once of The Hollies, the Manchester rivals to The Fabs, who never quite made it, possibly because they seemed incapable of changing their sound and seemed stuck in the pretty pop era.  In ’68 he visited California, fell in love with Joni and harmonised with David Crosby (see C) – the rest is, as they say, History.  He became a founder member of CSN and CSNY and recorded a few albums with David too.  He was also, while the band was ‘resting’ releasing solo albums.  The very best of which I think was his solo debut album Songs For Beginners (1971).  Somehow creativity seems to come in bursts and Graham was invigorated by his new found groupmates and this album came out shortly after their debut.  It really is a superb record; every song a winner and actually quite concise – 11 songs and under 35 minutes too.  But you simply want to replay it as soon as it ends.  From the opener ‘Military Madness’ to closer ‘We Can Change The World’ Graham doesn’t put a foot wrong.  My favourites are ‘Be Yourself’, ‘Chicago’ and the beautiful ‘Sleep Song’.  A superb album all round and a long-time favourite.   Three years later and he released Wild Tales, a darker less melodic and more complex album which reflected the death of his lover Amy and the first (of many) break-ups of CSNY.  After this he joined David Crosby (see C) and performed and made albums as a duo for a number of years.  The album Wild Tales was never a real favourite, in fact I felt it was a disappointment after his debut – so it goes.  On re-listening though it is not so bad at all.   Best are ‘You’ll never Be The Same’ and ‘oh Camil’ and ‘Another Sleep Song’.  Graham did release a handful of solo albums over the years – but you know how it is – there are just two many…But I did buy his latest retrospective from 2020 – a double Over The Years.   No real surprises; a lot of well-known songs and a whole album of demo’s, which add zilch to the studio versions.  Only one decent new sounding song ‘Cathedral’, but nice to hear a few old favourites again.  I recently read Graham Nash’s autobiography – apparently The Hollies would have been as big as The Beatles if they has only listened to Graham Nash – and Crosy Stills Nash and Young too, if only it weren’t for Crosby, Stills and Neil Young.  Oh well.

Graham Nash on Amazon Music

My Record Collection 156

Moby – Only the one album, Play from 1999.   Well, this was another of those albums which were incredibly popular and then seemed to disappear from everyone’s consciousness a short time later.  This is an electronica album which uses samples from blues songs and then adds beats and hooks etc:  I don’t really get it I am afraid.  It is perfectly pleasant but leaves me emotionally unstirred.  An okay album but I really do wonder where music (was then) and still is going.  Best songs are ‘Porcelain’ and ‘Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad’ and ‘Find My Baby’.  But not really a favourite…

MolokoThings To Make And Do is my only album of theirs.  Released in 2000, it was this Sheffield Duo’s third album and received quite a lot of attention and radio play.   Quite pleasant, especially Roisin Murphy’s vocals but not my favourite of this genre; electronica, dancey trip hop – somehow, I find the sound too repetitive and the melodies mostly don’t stay in the brain for long.  Best bits are ‘Sing It Back’ and ‘Pure Pleasure Seeker’.  I haven’t bought any other of their albums.  By the way the band’s name comes from the milk flavoured drink favoured by the droogs in A Clockwork Orange’. 

The Moody Blues – during the 60’s they were just another beat band really, but from the late 60s they moved into making concept albums and were in some ways the respectable face of prog-rock.  I bought a box set of five of their 70’s albums, first of which is 1969s On The Threshold Of A Dream.   There is a charming naivety about this record; the arrangement is quite sparse and the vocals come through clearly.  The songs are simple and unaffected.  Best are ‘Lovely To See You’, ‘Dear Diary’ and ‘Lazy Days’.  But overall there is a certain silliness in the spoken word poems or homilies or whatever they are supposed to be.  Far too precocious to be taken seriously.  Mind you this was 1969, so that may explain things.  Later the same year they released To Our Children’s Children’s Children.   Not so good really, the playing and singing is fine but the songs aren’t so good.  ‘Eyes Of A Child’ and ‘never Thought I’d Live To Be A Hundred’ are okay and the best of the bunch really.  I think that back then bands and artists were really pressurised to keep recording new music to fee the market, resulting in less and less quality in some cases, or just overload and tiredness setting in.  A Question Of Balance came out a year later, not so enthusiastic about this one, I can’t see the connecting thread between a handful of songs of no great merit.   Opener ‘Question’ is okay – but there seem no answers after that.  1971 saw – Every Good Boy Deserves Favour – a bit better, in that the songs are better – but I now know why I never bought these albums back in the Seventies.  Not so bad are ‘The Story In Your eyes’ and ‘My Song’.  Final of this boxset was 1972s Seventh Sojourn.  Not so bad I suppose, three really good tracks; ‘Lost In A lost World’, ‘Isn’t Life Strange’ and ‘I’m Just A Singer In A Rock And Roll Band’ but not so fond of the rest.  A strange fact, my fave prog rock band Barclay James Harvest had a tongue in cheek track title ‘Poor Man’s Moody Blues’ which was how one critic summed them up.  But in my book they were 10 times more creative and better than the Moodys.  Saying that I also have a Very Best Of, which is much better of course.  From early hit ‘Go Now’ to the famous ‘Nights In White Satin’ this is an excellent collection.  It even includes ‘Forever Autumn’ from ‘War of the Worlds’ which was a Justin Hayward solo effort.  

Morcheeba – Now, this is better.  They came out in the mid-nineties at the height of the ‘Dance Music’ scene.  My daughter Laura tipped me off about them and I bought their first few albums – and very enjoyable they are too.  Possibly because of superb vocalist Skye Edwards, but the brothers Godfrey made the music.  Debut album Who Can You Trust (1996) is quite slow in places and some of the tracks are overlong.  Despite that it is still a very accomplished album – best songs are the title track, ‘Moog Island’ and ‘Trigger Hippie’.   Two years later they really broke through with Big Calm.   With its iconic cover and hit singles the album was a winner.  Still a tad overlong in some of the songs – dance music seems to get into a groove which the creators struggle to extricate themselves from.  Still, a very good album (was I beginning to fall under the dance music spell?) best tracks are ‘The Sea’, ‘Shoulder Holster’ and the closing title track where they ventured into Portishead territory (see P).  Fragments of Freedom followed in 2000; the band were simply getting better and better, now incorporating a bit more hip-hop into their music, another excellent album – best tracks – ‘World Looking In’, ‘Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day’ and the title track. Their next was possibly their best Charango; there were a couple of guest singers and a more varied song choice.  Some were brilliant in fact – ‘Sao Paolo’ has possibly their best melody, ‘What New York Couples Fight About’ (sung by Kurt Wagner) and ‘Women Lose Weight’ (a brilliant if politically incorrect song) – but really the whole album just hangs together wonderfully.  But there were obviously tensions as Skye left the band after this album (she rejoined later).  The Antidote was their next in 2005 with a variety of singers.  Not that this seemed to affect the quality of the songs which were pretty good as usual.  It wasn’t as successful commercially but I quite liked it; ‘Wonders never Cease’ and ‘Living hell’ being the best tracks. Dive Deep followed in 2008.  I don’t know why but it seemed a bit dull by comparison; too many slow songs with no real oomph. But the album still sold well and they have carried on without me.  I suppose I just had enough of their stuff already, and besides there are just too many others….

More and more Morcheeba – The Echo