My Record Collection 173

Mark Ronson – well, this is a record producer of the 2010s and probably beyond. Just the one album – Version – which is a few of the hit records he has produced. Means nothing to me really, a bit of a bore.  Sorry.

Kevin Rowland – lead singer of Dexys (see D) has had a rather unsuccessful career, attempts at going solo and resurrecting a new version of his old band – nothing has really worked.  Which is a pity as he has a sumptuous voice full of emotion and writes (when he can be bothered) intelligent songs.  He released an album in 1999 My Beauty – which is one of the strangest artifacts to have ever hit the record shelves.  A cover photo of Kevin half naked in a black dress and a bunch of covers where he often changes the words to reflect his (supposed) recovery from addiction….he even mumbles in a couple of songs that he is getting better.  A rather sad record really, but a couple of the tracks are quite good but hardly essential to anyone’s collection – ‘Concrete and Clay’ and ‘Labelled With Love’ – but even then they are not really as good as the originals.

Roxy Music – although I had a couple of their albums in the Seventies (on vinyl, now existing on cassette) and I liked the singles – I was never a big fan.  I foulnd them a bit too contrived really – still I have one of their Greatest Hits – The Collection…and it is, as expected, pretty good.  Best tracks  – ‘Virginia Plain’, ‘Love Is The Drug’ and ‘More Than This’.  But no desires to buy any of their old albums.

Todd Rundgren  – I remember this eccentric American from the Seventies, when he was into prog rock, which I suppose he still is.  He was for a while a go-to record producer too.  I picked up this CD in a charity shop – Liars – (2004).  I am still not sure of it – firstly it is very long and the sound is pretty dense too.  But there is a certain charm about the album and it ranges in style from soul to heavy rock.  The track titles seem to bear little resemblance to the lyrics which are largely unclear. So, it remains an outlier in the collection.

Kate RusbyLittle Lights is my sole album of hers.  A very pleasant voice, a folksinger but quite lyrical and modern sounding.  Hard to pick out favourite tracks but ‘Withered and Died’ sticks in my mind.

Leon Russell – a truly great rock piano player and singer. He first came to notice in the late 60s on the Mad Dogs and Englishman Tour with Joe Cocker.  He also played a lead role in George’s ‘Concert For BanglaDesh’ in 1971.  He has one of the most distinctive voices in Modern Music, a sort of lazy Southern Drawl but which worms its way into your brain.  He plays a sort of Swamp Rock with a lot of rocky piano.  Just 3 albums; first is Leon Russell And The Shelter People (1971) which was his third album (he was incredibly prolific).  This record actually has 3 Dylan covers (or 5 on the CD version), best of which is ‘A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall’ But best of all is ‘Home Sweet Oklahoma’, ‘Stranger in A Strange Land’ and his cover of George’s ‘Beware Of Darkness.’ A great album which swings from first to last.  1972 saw the release of Carney (at the time his best-selling record).  Not as iconic as his previous albums and a bit slower and I think the songs generally aren’t as good.  Well, for whatever reason it is not in any way on my list of great albums; maybe it was just too much expectation – who knows.  Anyway, I did buy one or two more Leon albums on Vinyl, but have not been tempted to get the CDs – well, there just are so many artists I like.  Best songs are ‘Me and Baby Jane’ and ‘Roller Derby’.   Only one other solo Leon album (see Elton for his collaboration – Th Union) Anything Can Happen  which was I think 1992.  Quite a nice record, but nothing too exciting…best tracks…the title track and a cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Too Much Monkey Business’

My Record Collection 172

Damien Rice – Another more recent singer and I really like him – at least the album I bought O (2002).  Quite an orchestral album and some beautiful sweeping melodies; this was his debut and made a bit of a splash on its release, but I don’t seem to have heard much about him since – and like quite a few more modern singers I haven’t pursued his other records (which may well be a pity).  Anyway – the album – pretty good really, and different enough to spark the brain cells.  Best songs – ‘Volcano’, ‘The Blowers Daughter’ and ‘Eskimo’.  I really should look out for some of his other records (but I probably won’t).

Keith Richards – famous guitarist of the Stones (see R), who has made only a couple I think of solo efforts.   Talk is Cheap (1988) came at a time that the stones were more or less on an extended sabbatical.  It is okay but not that much different from the Stones, except that the vocals are obviously more restrained.  Not a brilliant album really.

Robbie Robertson – was the lead guitarist of a band The Hawks, who Dylan hired in ’65 and became known as The Band.  He has had quite a varied solo career and is particularly concerned with Native American issues.  First up is a Soundtrack album Music For The Native Americans (1994) – backed by The Red Road Ensembe it is a largely instrumental album but with various singers.  Best songs are ’Ghost Dance’, ‘Golden Feather’ and ‘It Is A Good Day To Die’.  A really good record; I love these Indian rhythms and vocals, often based on traditional chants (see also records by Buffy Ste Marie  see S).  Quite a different album.  Nest is 1998s Contact From the Underworld of Red Boy – which continues the themes in the previous record but musically it is updated to mix in more modern sounds. There is one superb track ‘Sacrifice’ featuring Leonard Peltier – who has been incarcerated for over twenty years for an unproven murder in a shootout between red Indians and law enforcement officers.  A very moving testimony.  I also like ‘The Code Of Handsome Lake; and the modern beats of ‘Making A Noise’.  Another great record.  On the strength of these I bought 2011s How To Become Clairvoyent.  And I find the magic is almost gone, it really just passed me by; which is a shame as it may be quite good – I just cannot get into it.

Tom Robinson Band – A bit of nostalgia here…a great but shortlived band; only 2 real albums I think in the mid-seventies.  Great politics and even better songs – I have a Greatest Hits Rising Free album; full of political and raucous songs – of course, the big hit – ‘2- 4-6-8 Motorway’ but also ‘Martin’ and ‘Sing If You’re Glad To Be Gay’ – and a great version of Dylan’s ‘When I Paint My Masterpiece.’  Tom never quite made it as a solo artist, though he continued to write good songs like ‘War baby’.  I caught up with him in the early nineties singing with another great favourite of mine – Martyn Joseph (see J).

Rock Follies – another trip down the Seventies memory lane. This was a TV series about a girl rock group featuring Rula Lenska and Julie Covington (see C). The music was written by Andy Mackay of Roxy Music (see R).  And it was great, I really loved it.  The album is pretty good, though it sounds really dated now.  I still enjoyed it – best songs – ‘Sugar Mountain’, ‘Stairway’ and ‘Biba Nova’.

The Rolling Stones – well, they don’t come much bigger than this.  I loved the singles in the Sixties but the first album I bought was 1971’s Sticky Fingers (with the real zip on it) and what a great album it was – and still is, sounding as fresh as anything released later.  It was 2 years since their last album and released on their own record label – so maybe the songs were the best of that 2 year period.  Opening with those iconic chords of ‘Brown Sugar’ the album doesn’t miss a beat until closer ‘Moonlit Mile’.  But my fave tracks are ‘Wild Horses’ (surely influenced by Gram Parsons (see P) who was Keith’s best pal at the time) and ‘Dead Flowers’ – but also ‘Sister Morphine’ (incidentally co-written by Marianne Faithful, though she had to wait decades for any credit or royalties).  The album was a number 1 hit here and in America and established them as not only a Sixties band but one ready for the new decade.   I now own an expanded version of this with an extra CD of demo and live tracks which is pretty good too.  They followed this classic with the somewhat sprawling but brilliant double album Exile On Main Street. (1972)….and really what a great record it was – and still is.  Hit single ‘Tumbling Dice’ was one of their most danceable songs; ‘Sweet Virginia’ was the Stones own swamp laden slice of Americana; ‘Sweet Black Angel’ is almost hip-hop; and Keith sings his very own composition ‘Happy’.  But I also like ‘Torn and Frayed’ and ‘Loving Cup’.  Like many double albums it does flag a bit and could have been a better single disc.  But really it is hard to fault.   The hits kept coming…the next year they released another cracker Goats Head Soup.  This begins with ‘Dancing With Mr. D.’ a really infectious track and doesn’t let up after that. My favourites are ‘Coming Down Again’, ‘Can You Hear Me Knocking’ and the plaintive ‘Angie’.  It’s Only Rock and Rollfollowed a year later, only really spoiled by the ludicrous cover.   Another pretty cool album though with tracks like ‘Aint Too proud To Beg’, ‘If You Really Want To be My Friend’ and best of all ‘Time Waits For No-one’.  The sort of record you immediately want to turn over and play again (though nowadays that is simply press a button or ask Alexa to repeat it).  Black and Blue came out in 1976 and was definitely a bit more bluesy.  And not so popular really…but I quite liked it; the tracks are longer and only 8 of them, which maybe left some fans feeling a bit short-changed.  When bands start lengthening the tracks and shortening the length of each side it is usually because they were short of new material.  Anyway, best songs are ‘Memory Motel’, ‘Hey Negrita’ and a song which was one of their best ‘Fool To Cry’.  Some Girls came out in 1978 and was in my humble opinion their very best album.  It was controversial as the title song had the line ‘black girls just wanna get fucked all night’, which while maybe a reflection on their experiences was not the best thing to sing about.  But every song seemed to have an edge; maybe it was Charlie’s very sharp drumming or just the style of playing and the quality of the songs, but I love every track and if I had to keep just one album of theirs – this would be the one.  If I have to choose – ‘Miss You’, ‘When the Whip Comes Down’ and ‘Faraway Eyes’.  A great album.  And for whatever reason I more or less stopped buying their records in the Eighties.  I had one or two on vinyl but haven’t bothered to get them on CD.  I did but a much later record – A Bigger Bang – (2005) and while good in places, it is far too long and too many poor songs -still – best are ‘Biggest Mistake’, ‘Laugh, I Nearly Died’ and ‘Infamy’.  Trouble is that long before this they had really been treading water, huge World Tours and mediocre records.  In fact, I believe they released almost as many live albums as they did new material.  They are now the best Rolling Stones Tribute Band in the world.  I did buy one live album Stripped (1995) – a rare non stadium album where they played a really stripped down set (hence the name).  there are 6 songs from this session, including ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ a rare Dylan cover.  They also re-recorded 8 of my favourite tracks in a less bombastic 4 piece style.  A really nice record, but maybe one for collectors only.   The only other Stones album I have is Blue and Lonesome, which I think is their latest studio record.  It is almost entirely an album of old blues standards by the likes of hank Williams and Robert Johnson….and although they do it well, it is simply boring.  I also have one of the many greatest hits Forty Licks.  Good to hear old songs like ‘Not Fade Away’ and ‘Satisfaction’.  So, that was the Rolling Stones – one of the iconic bands of all time, and still (sort of) going strong.

Sticky Fingers