Prince – Well…I never really liked him or his music, which I suppose
you would call funk. I only have The
Very Best Of Prince, and apart from the big singles ‘Purple Rain’ ‘1999’
etc…it still doesn’t work for me.
The Proclaimers – I saw them live at one of The Fleadhs in Finsbury Park in the early nineties I think, and they were great and I started buying their albums. Their debut was pretty good too – This Is The Story (1987), if a bit rough around the edges. A predominantly acoustic sound, lightened by their evocative Scottish accented vocals. Best song by a mile is ‘Letter From America’, but I also like ‘Misty Blue’ and ‘Make My Heart Fly’ But their follow-up really was one of their best – Sunshine On Leith (1988). With a fuller more rounded sound and better production, and most important a batch of brilliant songs this album really established the band. From the opener ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ to exuberant closer ‘Oh Jean’ – there isn’t a poor song on the record. I particularly love ‘Cap In Hand’, the title track, their take on ‘My Old Friend The Blues’ and ‘Come on Nature’. I had a couple more on vinyl back when but only have one more original on CD; 2007’s Life With You. A pretty good album, if it has lost some of the excitement and fervour of their earlier albums – best songs are ‘In Recognition’ (a jibe at rock stars getting above themselves), ‘Harness Pain’ and ‘If There’s A God’ ( a great philosophical song almost questioning religion itself). The CD came with a live album which is pretty good too. I do have 2 greatest hits CDs – The Best Of – which has all the hits, including my favourite – their version of Roger Miller’s ‘King Of The Road’. And Finest – which is a bit quieter and more reflective; with a few lesser known gems. Both are great for parties or just when you want a quick fix of these Scottish laddies.
Procul Harum – Of course they had a number one hit with ‘Whiter Shad Of Pale’ in 1967 itself. And in a way they never recovered from that; they had a couple of lesser hits – best was ‘Homburg’ – but they seemed to get lost in the late Sixties explosion of great bands. I have Greatest Hits – which is really all you need.
The Pretenders – Just a Greatest Hits. Never a fave band but they had quite a few good singles…
Dory Previn – another dead heroine I am afraid. Born in 1925, Dorothy Langdon was a lyricist for some Hollywood films in the Fifties. In 1959 she married Andre Previn, with whom she wrote a few songs for more films. She divorced him in the late 60s and decided to pursue a solo career; this was the advent of Singer-Songwriters, and although already in her Forties she had the skills to be a great writer of songs. She explored the deeper themes of rejection and depression. In the early 60’s she had released an album of her songs The Heart Is A Hunter. This is quite a jazzy piano-led album (Andre playing) and is naïve but witty at the same time, though not at all representative of her later style. As a notorious completist I bought it; I quite like some of it, notably ‘Can’t We Be Enemies’ and ‘Lonely Girl in London’. But her career proper started in 1970 with On My Way To Where. A brilliant debut, with sprightly tunes which counterpointed her often desperately sad lyrics…I discovered later that she had been hospitalised with her second nervous breakdown after her husband Andre Previn left her for Mis Farrow, about twenty years younger than her, which prompted the song ‘Beware Of Young Girls’ on this album. She had also suffered a very unhappy relationship with her father, reflected in many songs, such ‘I Ain’t His Child’ (My daddy says I ‘aint his child, ‘aint that something wild) and ‘With My Daddy In The Attic’. There are also songs about sad and insecure women, and the pressures put on men; ‘Michael Michael Superman.’ The songs are of course brilliantly written and sung, though the production is at times a bit too middle of the road. The album closes with a sound collage of mostly Dory’s voice coming from alternate speakers – ‘Mister Whisper’. Much better was her second album of that year Mythical kings and Iguanas, which is overall maybe her best record. From the opener and reprise of the title song she doesn’t put a foot wrong. Producer Nik Venet subtly arranges the backing and features a lot of Dory and her guitar. Very hard to pick a best song as they are all brilliant; maybe my favourites are ‘Yada Yada La Scala’ and ‘Lady With The Braid’ and of course the tragic tale of ‘Mary C. Brown and The Hollywood Sign’ (she hanged herself from the second or third letter O). Wow – this was hardly off my turntable in 1971. She stepped back a bit with her third, though fame and fortune seemed the last thing she would want. Reflections In A Mud Puddle came out in late ’71 and had a song-suite on side 2 ‘Taps, Tremors and Timesteps) One Last Dance For My Father), where she maybe tried to exorcise his ghost. It is a lovely sequence of songs but a bit harrowing. Side one contains more, almost political, songs; ‘Doppelganger’ and ‘The Talkative Woman and The General’, and my favourite – ‘The Enzyme Detergent Demise of Ali McGraw’ (mine was a Wednesday death). An exquisite but quieter album. Dory resurrected a song from Mythical Kings to entitle her next record, 1972s Mary C Brownand The Hollywood Sign. This was a more ‘produced’ album, with strong songs a bit more ‘rocky’ too. Despite the almost ‘overproduction’ at times I love the songs; ‘The Holy man on The Malibu Bus’, ‘When A Man Wants A Woman’, ‘Left Hand Lost’ and ‘The Perfect Man’ are all exceptional…she closes with a trio of songs where the melodies are far rockier; ‘King Kong’, ‘Jesus Was An Androgyne’ and Anima Animus’ where she sings more loudly, and higher notes, an almost new Dory – but really I prefer the quieter version. For whatever reason Dory left her record label United Artists and recorded later with Warner Brothers. Her best work was undoubtedly in these first four albums and a greatest hits In Search Of Mythical Kings is the best of quite a few belated Greatest Hits. Also an excellent live album Live At Carnegie Hall came out in 1973 with only one new song, but a very nice record, A self-titled album Dory Previn heralded her next album in 1974. Well, a bit of a disappointment really…the songs are okay but somehow the record never excites. New producer too, and a quieter more introspective style. Best songs are ‘Coldwater Canyon’ and ‘The Obscene Phone Call’. Two years later and her final album Children Of Co-incidence and Harpo Marx…another disappointment really – she just seems to have gone off the boil; the songs seem quite inconsequential, as if she was just going through the motions – and maybe she was. Only a couple of good songs; best of which is her take on The Owl And The Pussycat. She had a history of mental breakdowns – and she turned to writing an autobiography and a handful of unsuccessful musicals. She never returned to recording again, though there was one download only ‘Planet Blue’ which is quite frankly dire. Oh well, she died in 2012 aged 84; she was in her late thirties when she had her 15 minutes of fame. I know that most of you will never have heard of her – but she is well worth a listen