My Record Collection 198

Traffic – Were an English ‘pop’ group formed in 1967 and featuring Steve Winwood (see W) as lead singer.  They had a handful of hit singles, which as was the custom then, mostly didn’t appear on albums.  I loved them, as they seemed to encapsulate the Summer of Love.  First album was Mr. Fantasy (1967) – a bit too poppy really, ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy’ was wonderful, as was ‘Coloured Rain’ and ‘No Face, No Name, No Number.’ – a pretty good debut.   Their second, Traffic (1968), was a bit more varied, jazzy in places, it featured – ‘Feelin Alright’, ‘Pearly Queen’ and ‘Forty Thousand Headmen’ – not quite as good as their debut really.  Their fourth, but my third was John Barleycorn Must Die (1970).  Despite the title and the cover this is not a folk album, although the title song is – more or less.  The record is quite jazz-infused and  not my favourite, apart from ‘Freedom Rider’ I don’t really like it that much.  Quite a bit better was the generally mellow Low Spark Of High-heeled Boys (1971) – a strange title but the song of that name, though overlong is pretty good.  I also like ‘Rock And Roll Stew’  and ‘Rainmaker’.  Not sure exactly where the band was heading, having discarded the pop singles and settling into a bluesy and jazzy groove.  My last studio album is Shootout At The Fantasy Factory (1973) not so bad really – best are the title track and Evening Blue…I also have a live album Welcome To The Canteen (1971) – which is excellent.  It actually has 2 Chris Mason songs; he was an occasional member of the band, which were never on Traffic albums – and a great version of Steve Winwood’s ‘Gimme Some Lovin’, which was a Spencer Davis Group song, his former band.  Despite that the performance seems inspired.  Best are ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy’ and ‘Medicated Goo’.   A strange band, which maybe never quite reached their potential, at least on albums – but part of the brilliant late 60’s, early 70’s development of British music.  I also have Collection – a best of – which includes most of their singles – ‘Hole In My Shoe’, ‘No Face, No Name, No Number’ and ‘Mulberry Bush’ (I danced to this with Jane Sarginson back in ’67 – whirling her round and round – but despite my best efforts she never wanted to be my girlfriend).

The Travelling Wilburys – A fantastic and maybe the best-ever Supergroup.  All were huge stars in their own right – George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Geoff Lynne and of course Dylan.  The story is that the band came together by accident to record a projected ‘B’ side for a George single.  But I suspect there was a little more to it than that.   Anyway, however it happened the first album Travelling Wilburys Volume 1 – was an instant success; the identities of the ‘Wilburys’ soon becoming an open secret.  The lead single, and the song that brought the band together – a George composition was ‘Handle With Care’ – apparently named after a label on a packing case in Dylan’s garage – is possibly their best, although almost all the songs are brilliant.  Favourites are – ‘End Of The Line’, ‘Rattled’ and ‘Last Night’.  A delight of a record – and a big hit.  Sadly, Roy Orbison died in late 1989 – which put the idea of a follow-up on hold.  There were also tentative plans for a tour – but Dylan and Petty were pretty heavily booked so that never happened.  They did consider a replacement for Roy, and Del Shannon was in the frame for a while – but he too passed away.  The four remaining members did get back together again 2 years later.  A second album, cryptically titled Volume 3 came out in 1990.  It did contain some pretty good songs and the magic was still there – almost.  It wasn’t quite such a hit and there are a couple of fillers.  The band miss Roy’s soaring vocals, and Dylan’s vocals tend to dominate.  Still, by anyone else’s standards it would have been a pretty good album.  Best tracks are probably – ‘Where Were You Last Night’ and ‘Cool Dry Place’.  The not really a group stopped there which may be a good thing.  At least we have these two albums to remember them by.


My Record Collection 197

Tin Machine – not sure if this should be separate, as it is Bowie really.  After a couple of poor albums in the Eighties David decided to once more change direction.  He now formed a band – Tin Machine – he was of course lead singer and they played his songs in a fairly power rock way.  They wore black suits and looked cool, but the songs seemed uninspired mostly.  Tin Machine 1 (1989)  was released to much press interest.  I bought it and quite liked some songs – best were ‘Heavens In Here’, ‘Prisoner Of Your Love’ and a cover of Lennon’s ‘Working Class Hero’.  I did buy Tin Machine 2 – but don’t have it on CD.  One live album ‘Oy Vey Baby’ (1992) released just as Bowie was saying goodbye to his erstwhile sidesmen and going solo again.   A bit raucous and not sure I like it – best tracks are ‘Goodbye Mr, Ed’ and ‘Amazing’.  Still at the end of the day it is Bowie.

Martina Topley-Bird – Every so often the music press introduces the next big thing; Martina was one of them.  I bought her album; Quixotic.  Well, it did nothing for me, and after repeated listenings, it still doesn’t.  A pity, as she has a nice voice and the album is varied in pace – it is simply boring, and doesn’t move me at all, except to look at my watch to see how soon it ends.

William Topley – I was most enthralled with an album by The Blessing – Prince Of The Deep Water (1991 – See B).  The Lead singer, with a remarkable voice was William Topley.  He has released a clutch of albums.  I only own one – 2002’s Feasting With Panthers.  Well, the voice is still there – a deep baritone – but sadly the songs aren’t.   In fact, I cannot remember a single song when I have just played it…oh well.

Pete Townshend – The major songwriter and lead guitarist for the Who (see W).  What can you say about this, except that he is a genius – if an occasionally flawed one.   He was incredibly prolific and would demo most of the songs the band eventually recorded – lots didn’t make it onto records.  I did have 2 cassettes of these ‘rejects’ called Scoop and Another Scoop and a couple of his solo albums; so far not bought on CD.  His first solo outing was cleverly entitled Who Came First and though far from the bombastic rock of The Who, I loved it.   The record was dedicated to Pete’s Religious Leader, Meher Baba – an Indian mystic and even includes Pete singing ‘There’s A Heartache Following Me’ – a 60’s hit for Jim Reeves, because it was a favourite of Meher’s.  Pete had been working on a new concept after Tommy – The Lifehouse – which was confusingly to be a film, a collection of songs and even a ‘happening’ – based on redemption through music.  Lifehouse came to no real fruition but many of the songs became the basis for ‘Who’s Next’.  Some of the ideas from Lifehouse and a few songs found their way onto this mixed bag of an album, which somehow hangs together by Pete’s singing and playing almost all the instruments on many tracks.  We kick off with ‘Pure and Easy’ – a wonderful song – then a duet with Ronnie Lane on ‘Evolution’ (a Lane song). I cannot really fault the album, even the two heavily religious closers – ‘Content’ and ‘Parvadigar’.  Possibly my favourites are ‘Time Is Passing’ and ‘Sheraton Gibson’.  I also have a rarity, a 6 CD boxset, a 50th birthday present from a friend – The Lifehouse Chronicles (2000). The last 2 CDs are a radio play based on Pete’s Lifehouse writings – but the first 4 are demo’s and later work, all based on the Lifehouse.   Disc 1 – is maybe the best, as it features several early versions of my favourite Who album ‘Who’s Next’.  There are also a few other major Who songs on this, including ‘Music Must Change’ and ‘Sister Disco’ – which I believe didn’t become Who songs until Face Dances, over a decade later.   Disc 2 – is similar – best here are; ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, ‘Who Are You’ and ‘The Song Is Over’.  Disc 3  – is sub-titled ‘Themes and Experiments’.  But is much the same as the first 2, except for a couple of live tracks including ‘Hinterland Rag’ and a new song ‘Can You Really Help The One You Love’.  Disc 4 is a classical album of music related to the radio play.

My Record Collection 196

Tanita Tikaram – I am always on the lookout for new girl singers, though not so much these days.  In 1988 Tanita emerged, fully formed, as the complete singer songwriter – she could have been straight out of the Seventies.  She released a brilliant debut album (possibly her best) produced by Pete Van Hooke and Rod Argent (who should know a thing or two).  A great lead-off folk-inspired ‘Good Tradition’ and a follow-up hit ‘Twist In My Sobriety’ but really every song is good; faves are ‘Cathedral Song’, ‘World Outside Your Window’ and ‘Sighing innocents’.  She seemed to combine a sultry quite deep voice with sensitive intelligent and quirky lyrics.  Loved it instantly.  The follow-up, 1990’s Sweet Keeper was another excellent record, if slightly less commercial than her debut.  More of a classical feel to this one with the addition of strings and some slower songs where her voice really dominates the song.  Best are ‘Once and Not Speak’, ‘We Almost Got It Together’ and ‘Little Sister leaving Town’.  Her third was Everybody’s Angel; the cover with her short hair seems to portend a more grown-up album. Although the album sold less well, I really loved this one – I felt she had found her style with this one; gone are the poppy tunes, except for one old song ‘Hot Pork Sandwiches’ but Tanita seems to be following her sadness and sorrows, a bit like her heroes – Leonard and Joni.  She co-produced a few of the songs on this one and even had Jennifer Warnes (see W) harmonising on a couple.  Best are ‘Only The Ones We Love’, ‘To Wish This’ and ‘Mud In Any Water’.  1992’s Eleven Kinds Of Loneliness was a bit of a flop, though I quite liked it, or at least some of it.  There are a handful of very good songs – ‘You Make The Whole World Cry’, ‘To Drink The Rainbow’ and ‘Love Don’t Need No Tyranny’ – but much of the rest just passes me by.  All a bit boring I am afraid.   Three years passed until her fifth – Lovers In The City.  A lovely cover but not such a lovely album.  It seems that Tanita was losing her way; not sure whether to chase that elusive pop stardom or to chronicle the ways of love.  Lead single ‘I Might Be Crying’ has that familiar ring to it and should have been a hit – but in the way of these things Tanita’s 15 minutes of fame had long passed – though I liked the song.  I preferred the album to the last one, especially ‘Feeding The Witches’, the title song and ‘Happy Taxi’.   A change of direction was maybe needed.  And her next 1998’s The Cappuccino Songs’ went some way towards that.  A new record label (falling sales) but a new producer too – Marco Sabiu – who brought a more nuanced feel, brighter instrumentation and a more latin feel to some of the songs, which were by no means poor.  Best were – ‘Stop Listening’, ‘I Don’t Want To Lose At Love’ and ‘If Ever’.  A much better record all round.   Seven years before her next – Sentimental – and a closer, more intimate, piano led album.  The vocals seem warmer and right in your ear – the songs are generally slow and the whole record is almost one piece.   Best are ‘Don’t Let The Cold’ a slightly up-tempo duet with Nick Lowe and ‘Every day Is New’.   Another seven years (what do they do with all those years?) before her next album; 2012’s Can’t Go Back, a much more rounded and dare I say, commercial sounding record.  New producer again and a more contemporary almost Americana feel.  The album sold a bit better too, though she remains an acquired taste really.  Best songs are ‘All Things To You’, ‘Dust On My Shoe’ and ‘One Kiss’.  Altogether a really pleasant album.   I got the deluxe version with an extra CD of acoustic versions of some of her earlier songs – which are really quite good.  Her last album (so far) was in 2016 – Closer To The People – This was a bit of a disappointment; a slightly bluesy but almost nondescript collection of songs.  Maybe it’s just me, but I cannot get into this record at all.  And after this, so far nothing.  I have always felt that Tanita was a bit half-hearted about the whole enterprise – so maybe that will be it.  Still.  I also have a Best Of Tanita Tikaram, from the first few albums and very good it is too.

My Record Collection 195

Testifying is a compilation of American Country Soul artists.  Pretty interesting, but not at all an essential album.  I am not really sure how some of these tracks fall into the ‘country’ category, as they are more soul – still, some nice tracks -favourites are – ‘Jaguar man’ and ‘Sapelo’. 

Texas – are a Scottish band, formed in the late 80s.  lead singer Charlene Spiteiri has quite a distinctive rock voice.  I only have 2 albums, which happen to be their biggest sellers.  Southside (1989) was their debut, and achieved immediate success, reaching number 3 in the album charts.  Lead single ‘I Don’t Want A Lover’ was quite a big hit too.  My favourites are ’Every Day Now’ and  ‘Thrill has Gone’.  I also have the huge hit of 1997 White On Blonde.  A superb album, chock full of great songs and a unique feel as each song seems to naturally follow on; Charlene’s voice is particularly sultry and silky.  Best songs are ‘Postcards’, ‘Say What You Want’, Breathless’ and ‘Polo Mint City’ – but there is not a poor track on it.   Despite really enjoying the record I never felt the need to buy any others from this band.  It really is strange what makes me neglect some great artists and bands and yet have a burning desire to own everything by others.  Sometimes it truly is an obsession and I have no explanation or apology to make about it.

Thinkman – another in the almost never-ending collection of unknown artists.  Rupert Hine (see H) was originally a singer songwriter of obscure sounding songs in the Seventies, also a leading member of Quantum Jump (see Q) and a go-to producer in the Eighties and Nineties.  One of his many side projects was a band (really just him on all instruments) called Thinkman. I have just 2 of the 3 albums he released under this moniker before going back to his own name.  The Formula (1986) was the first under this umbrella.  Not such a great album; very eighties sound, too cluttered and I almost cannot hear the words.  Still as part of the Rupert collection, it has it’s place.  Life is A Fulltime Occupation (1988) – this is better, the production clearer and the sogs a bit more varied.  Best are ‘Watchman, Walkman, Thinkman’, ‘Bad Angel’ and ‘Dance Yourself Insane’.

Richard and Linda Thompson – folk guitarist and singer Richard was joined by his wife for this rarity I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight.  But I am afraid, that with a couple of exceptions I am not so fond of folk.  Best songs are the title track and ‘Withered and Died.’  For specialists only.

Tracy Thorn – One of my favourite band’s – ‘Everything But The Girl’ (see E) had stopped making albums a few years ago after a very successful handful of dance inspired records.  I hadn’t realised that Tracy (one half of the duo) had continued making the occasional foray into the music business.  She has a lovely languid voice and I found this double album on line a couple of years ago  – Solo, Songs and Collaborations 1982 – 2015.  Well, quite a revelation – I knew she had written several of the songs for EBTG, mostly in collaboration with Ben Watt, but she is a really sensitive songwriter.  The first album is from a handful of solo albums she has made.  Best are ‘Oh, The Divorces’, ‘Hands up To The Ceiling’ and ‘Singles bar’.  The second disc is her later dance music collaborations, famously with Massive Attack.  Of course, I love ‘Protection’ and ‘Better Things’ but I didn’t know most of the others; ‘Damage’, ‘Grand Canyon’ and ‘Yu Are A Lover’ especially resonate – though this album tends to be like most dance music and just becomes a pleasant background, and you miss the words.

Paul Tiernan – Paul played one night at Rupert’s pub Le Gambetta, and he was selling copies of his album which I bought – Belle.   I was really impressed, both by his accomplished finger-picking guitar work and his songs – though I suspect most of the other clients were a bit bored, preferring the raucous rock’n’roll of the regular singers.  I do like the album, even if it is a but samey – best tracks are the title track and closer ‘How To Say Goodbye’, and really all of it.  The record could have been made any time after 1970 I suppose – but actually 2004.  You wont find it on Spotify, that’s for sure.