Brilliant Debut Albums #28

Sheryl Crow – Tuesday Night Music Club (1993)

Sheryl started off singing advertising jingles and became a background session singer, touring with Michael Jackson on his ‘Bad’ tour.  She recorded a debut album in 92, but was unhappy with the polished production and refused to release it. About a year later she joined a loose group of musicians known to themselves as the Tuesday Music Club.  These musicians became the basis for her debut album with most of the group contributing to both the songwriting and the recording. Although a slow burner the album took off after the single ‘All I Wanna Do’.  It received rave reviews and I bought it.  The songs are all brilliant, catchy and very well produced; they are a mixture of Americana and Soft Rock – but Sheryl’s voice is strong and expressive; she sounds as if these are very personal.  The album went on to sell 7 million copies and established her as a major American star.  She has carried on recording, though I only have her first three albums – as there has been a creeping sameness in both her singing and the songs.  Still, this record holds its own as a classic’ my faves are ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ and ‘No One Said It Would Be Easy.’

Tuesday Night Music Club cover art

Brilliant Debut Albums #27

Roger Daltrey – Daltrey

The Who were and still are almost entirely a vehicle for the songs of Pete Townshend, brilliantly interpreted by Roger.  But in 1973 in a gap from touring and recording Roger teamed up with David Courtney and a then unknown Leo Sayer who wrote 10 of the 12 tracks (many shortly after recorded by Leo himself).  And quite remarkable these songs are – they seem written specifically for Roger – but that is his skill of making them his own.  Unlike anything the Who had done this seems a much more organic and acoustic sound, and there is a continuity about the songs from the point of view of a struggling artist (which Daltrey no longer was).  It wasn’t a great success and many critics dislike it – but I think it was an incredibly brave thing to do.  Best songs ‘One Man Band’, ‘You Are Yourself’ and ‘Giving it all Away’.


Brilliant Debut Albums #26

Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True

1977 – and ‘punk’ was everywhere, though I disliked much of it; it seemed that there was much hype and little talent.  It might have been Top Of The Pops when I first clapped eyes on Elvis – singing ‘The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes’, which wsn’t a big hit.  An awkward, gangly bespectacled Buddy Holly lookalike strutted around the stage, but was strangely hypnotic – and the song was brilliant.  It was punky, but brilliantly played and sung, full of energy and great lyrics.  I went out and bought the album – and every song was superb – in fact, one of the best and most original debut albums of the Seventies.  Elvis has gone on to record many albums and has had a successful career and has matured now into one of the elder statesmen of rock, still with attitude – but that first album was special.  Best songs ‘Welcome To The Working Week’, ‘Blame It In Cain’ and ‘Alison’.  

My Aim Is True

Brilliant Debut Albums #25

The Dear Janes – Sometimes I (1994)

‘Sometimes I’ like to throw in a complete unknown artist.  For a few years I spent far too many lunch-hours scouring second hand record shops, mostly for CD singles.  ‘Girl of My Dreams’ by The Dear Janes was one such find.  Unheard and unheard of, and very unsuccessful, they are two women (neither called Jane) one British and one American.  The record is as idiosyncratic as they are; but mostly it works in a strange alt-folk and rock way.  Not for everyone.  But intrigued I bought the album and loved it.  They both sing on most of the songs, not exactly harmonies but two lead vocals – which works for them.  Best tracks – ‘Girl Of You Dreams’, ‘My Left Hand’ and ‘Dear Jane’. 


Brilliant Debut Albums #24

Rita Coolidge – Rita Coolidge

A renowned session and tour singer, who was on The Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour with Joe Cocker, and who Leon Russell wrote Delta Lady for, released her first solo album in 1971.  Although not really a songwriter, her choice of songs to cover was immaculate.  From Van Morrison’s ‘Crazy Love’ to Neil Young’s ‘I Believe In You’ she doesn’t put a foot wrong.  Her vocals are soft and intimate and she had a distinctive slow burn leaving you wanting more.  My favourites on this are ‘That Man Is My Weakness’ and ‘Seven Bridges Road’.  The following year she released The Lady’s Not For Sale, which was even better – though this debut is still pretty amazing.  She had an incredible beauty and beguiled Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Jim Gordon and Kris Kristofferson who she married and recorded albums with.  An incredible woman and an incredible voice.

Rita Coolidge [Import]

Brilliant Debut Albums #23

Phil Collins – Face Value

Wow…what an album.  Recorded when Genesis took a break from touring and recording in 1980 and released the following year, the album was written during Phil’s failed attempt to save his first marriage and is full of sad, almost desperate songs.  Like Dylan’s own breakup album ‘Blood On The Tracks’ it feels a very honest, confessional record where he lays bare his heart.  Phil, a renowned drummer used a drum machine at times on this record, but also perfected his ‘signature’ gated drum sound, which became very popular in the Eighties.  Although Phil’s production and singing are exceptional it is the quality of the songs which make this such a great album (number 1 here and in America).  Best songs are ‘In The Air Tonight’ and ‘If Leaving Me Is Easy’.  He also attempted to replicate The Beatles ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ from ‘Revolver’ – but I still prefer the original.  Phil went on to a phenomenal solo career, in tandem with his continued success with Genesis. But of late Phil has had poor health due to a spine injury and played his last tour with Genesis sitting down and singing, with his son playing drums.  It looks like he may have stopped recording too.

Face Value iton)

Brilliant Debut Albums #22

Alun Davies – Daydo (1972)

Alun was a guitarist and singer, who became a session player and a member of the touring band for Cat Stevens during his renaissance in the Seventies.   That was how I came upon this great debut, and to date, final, album by him.  Very folk rock, and mostly written before his playing with Cat, the album is simply exquisite.  Of course, Cat plays piano, along with rest of his ensemble – Jean Rouselle, Gerry Conway and Del Newman – and a lovely sound they make.  The songs include a couple of traditional folk tunes (Abram Brown and I’m Late) and a cover of Cat’s own ‘Portobello Road’, but it is Alun’s own compositions that sparkle – ‘Market Place’, ‘Poor Street’ and best of all the incredible ‘Old Bourbon’ (one of my very favourite songs).  Most of you won’t have heard of this album, but I bet Chris Tozer has.   

Poor Street

Brilliant Debut Albums #21

Harry Chapin – Heads And Tales

It was 1972; I had recently become a single father, and this gave me the freedom to explore Music.  Noel Edmonds, before he became a TV star was a Radio 1 DJ.  He had a Sunday lunchtime show, where he would play album tracks, many from the new evolving singer-songwriter movement in California.  Along with Joni, James Taylor and Neil Young he featured Harry and this just released album.  Harry was already 29 when he recorded this, where most of his contemporaries were ten years younger. I loved it, bought the album – and eventually all 11 studio albums of his.  Harry was a unique songwriter who wrote mostly story songs with social comment – almost a protest singer.  This debut contains maybe his best song ‘Taxi’, about a cab driver who picks up a rich actress, and then realises she was an old girlfriend of his; they both had dreams, which (maybe) they had realised.  It really is a classic – but every song is a winner, not a dud or a filler on it at all. Great tunes, great singing and brilliant words.  I especially love ‘Greyhound’ and ‘Same Sad Singer’.  He was also a great philanthropist campaigning against World Hunger, but Harry sadly had a heart attack in 1981 while driving his car and died at the wheel, aged just 39.

Any Old Kind of Day

Brilliant Debut Albums #20

Coldplay – Parachutes

Let me start by saying that I am not a great Coldplay fan.  I mean, they are okay – I don’t dislike them, but they don’t wow me.  I did however buy the first 2 or 3 albums, starting with Parachutes (2000), which I really liked.  I felt that the album was very organic and mostly acoustic; as if it was almost an early run through of ideas rather than a finished product.  It received good reviews, and the single ‘Yellow’ went to number 4 in the charts.  But success brings many problems and the band seemed to both grow in stature and the music in complexity; they also appeared to start believing the hype that they were the best band in Britain for a while.  Anyway, I stopped buying them after a while – though I still really like this debut; a simpler, more honest Coldplay I feel.


Brilliant Debut Albums #19

Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman It was 1988, four years since Live Aid and another huge charity concert was aired on the BBC.  Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Concert had the usual rosta of famous names, when during a band changeover, a slightly built lack girl stepped towards a solitary mike carrying a guitar.   Practically unknown, especially here in Britain, Tracy captivated the world with her two songs ‘Fast Car’ and ‘Talking About A Revolution’.  The eponymous album had already been released to mediocre sales, but now sold 2 million in a few weeks.  And rightly so.  It is a protest album, unfashionable since the Sixties, but the songs are so powerful and sung with a quiet intensity which captivates.  A true original, she went on to great success, but last released n album in 2008.  The mere mention of her name now brings a smile to those of us fortunate enough to have witnessed that moment.  Almost every song is powerful and brilliantly performed, and still there is nobody with quite that integrity and honesty around today

Tracy Chapman