Brilliant Debut Albums #50

Faces – First Steps (1970)

Like most fans I worked backwards from the fame of Rod Stewart to this debut.  The Small Faces had been regular participants in the late 60’s pop splurge…but suddenly in, I think ’69, Steve Marriot, lead singer and one of the chief songwriters left to form Humble Pie.  The band looked around for a new singer.  Rod was keen, but insisted on his mate Ronnie Wood joining on lead guitar.  Not sure of their new direction, songs were written by Rod and Ronnie, by Ronnie’s Lane and Wood, and by Ronnie Lane, as well as the full band often collaborating.  This album sold quietly, and as there was no obvious single it drifted and while Small Faces fans bought it, the general public was unimpressed, which is a pity as it is quite promising, and has some lovely instrumental breaks and the usual great singing from Rod.  I think that were trying to stop being ‘pop stars’ and become serious rock musicians and achieved neither with this album.  Still their version of Dylan’s ‘Wicked Messenger’ and ‘Stone’ and ‘Around The Plynth’ are pretty good.  The record is a bit too long with two instrumentals too, it lacks cohesion and a unified sound.  Still not bad for beginners…

First Step

Brilliant Debut Albums #49

Electric Light Orchestra – The Electric Light Orchestra (1971)

Formed in 1970 by Roy Wood and Multi-instrumentalist Jeff Lynne this first album released in ’71 was misunderstood and came out in America as ‘No Answer’, which I like better.  Largely the result of Roy’s orchestral embellishments, this album sounds quite different from the albums that followed as Roy left after this one and Jeff took over.  Still, quite an incredible record – full of woodwind, brass and cello’s and songs with strange titles like ‘Nellie Takes Her Bow’ and ‘The Battle of Marston Moor’.  Pure prog rock really – and it didn’t stand a chance, despite the success of single ‘10538 Overture’ it flopped, maybe hastening Roy Wood’s departure.  I still like the album, despite it’s chaotic and almost rough mix – as if instruments were picked up at random.  Still, more in the light of how successful they soon became I have included this debut.  Brilliant?  Not so sure.

No Answer

Brilliant Debut Albums #48

Fairground Attraction – The First Of A Million Kisses (1988)

A very short-lived Attraction, they only really released this debut – and incredibly brilliant it was.  They issued a second album of ‘B’ sides and much later a Japanese concert with many songs which would have featured on a new album.  Anyway, singer Eddi Reader interpreted the wonderful songs of guitarist Mark Nevin and the result was ‘Perfect’.  The single went straight to number one, and the album to number 2.  Second single hit number 7 and their third hardly registered.  Such is life sometimes.  But their brief flame burned brightly and I loved them.  The words are beautiful and Eddi’s voice is wondrous, and she has had a mixed solo career since then.  Mark Nevin, the songwriter seems to have disappeared with little other success, though the few unreleased songs on the live album were brilliant too.  Best songs – ‘A Smile In A Whisper’ (like threading a needle with boxing gloves when I try to speak of our love), ‘Find My Love’ and ‘Allelujah’.  A superb album – and a too short-lived band.

First of a Millin Kisses

Brilliant Debut Albums #47

Elton John – Empty Sky (1969)

I met Elton one day in 1971 I think, in a small independent record shop, where he was discussing his album sales with he owner.  Still a rising star at this time he condescended to chat to me; I already was a fan and had his first three albums.  And recently I bought his Jewel Box, which contained many rare and unreleased early efforts of Elton and Bernie Taupin; and thank goodness they hung on until they started to really gel and write songs such as these on this debut.   Still pretty naïve and slightly fey, but some great tunes in there.  My faves are ‘Skyline Pigeon’, ‘Valhalla’ and ‘Lady, Wht’s  Tomorrow’.  The rest is ,a s they say, History.

Empty Sky

Brilliant Debut Albums #46

The Enid – Aerie Fairie  Music (1977)  This band, which was mainly the brainchild of Robert Godfrey, who was classically trained, came to fruition in the middle of punk.  They had been involved with Barclay James Harvest a few years earlier, and in many ways they missed the Prog-Rock boat.  This is really far more classical than Rock, and as such fell sharply between two stools.  But briefly they shone, especially with this album which drifts along beautifully – though even I rarely play it these days.  Haunting melodies hidden in quite lush arrangements.  Still – worth a listen, especially for tracks like ‘Mayday/Galliard’ and ‘Child Rolande’.  Too esoteric for most I suspect -but the band has a constant fanbase and have released regularly including this Century

Brilliant Debut Albums #45

Eels – Beautiful Freak (1996)

Never buy a book by its cover they say, though obviously thousands do.  The same should apply to records – but I bought this really because the cover appealed to me.  I hadn’t even heard of The Eels, but I am so glad I did.  What a great album – and as a purveyor of miserable music this is a classic. Led by singer and songwriter Mr. E., I am never sure if these songs are autobiographical or not – not that it matters as they are great anyway.  Best on this debut are ‘Susan’s House’ and ‘Novocaine For The Soul’ – but they are all good really

Eels: Beautiful Freak [Winyl]

Brilliant Debut Albums #44

Steve Earle – Guitar Town (1986)

A true American rebel, or hero if you like.  Earle has successfully combined ‘Rock’, ‘Country’ and ‘BlueGrass’ musict to create a wonderfulblend of exciting yet truly original Americana.  Self-taught on guitar, Earle started off trying to get his songs recorded by other country artists.  This debut is sparkling, almost every song still sounds fresh 38 years later.  Hard to choose favourites as every song is great, but I particularly love ‘My Old Friend, The Blues’, ‘Little Rock’n’Roller’ (a song to his child) and ‘Someday’ (about the desolation of life in bis home town and dreams of leaving).  Steve was always a rebel and even spent time in prison, was married 7 times (twice to the same woman) and has never cared what his record company or even his fans wanted; recording a complete Bluegrass album, and an album of songs by his hero Townes Van Zeldt.  My kind of man I think.   

Guitar Town

Brilliant Debut Albums #43

Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan (1962)

What can you say about Bob Dylan – except that for quite some time I quite disliked this debut, only appreciating it over  time.  Starting off by buying ‘Blonde on Blonde’ then working backwards and forwards I was disappointed by his debut, especially as only a few months later he released his entirely self-written ‘The Freewheelin’ which I absolutely loved.  Apparently Bob was very nervous at this recording and simply played songs he was already performing; with only a handful of his own material he stuck to pretty standard Greenwich Village folk tunes.  But slowly this album, recorded very simply with just Bob, his harmonica and his guitar has grown on me.  It includes the very heartfelt ‘Song for Woody’ and his autobiographical ‘Hard Times In New York City’ alongside songs like ‘House Of The Rising Sun’, soon to be covered by The Animals.  Incredible to think now that he was given the chance to record at all, and that Columbia stuck with him despite poor sales of this album.  Thank Goodness they did. Some forty odd studio albums later and Bob is still going strong – and getting better all the time.  Strange co-incidence that at exactly the time he was recording this, The Beatles released ‘Please Please Me’.  The two most important and influential artists emerged on two different continents at exactly the same time.  

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

Brilliant Debut Albums #42

The Doors – The Doors (1967) Named after ‘The Doors of Perception’ by Aldous Huxley who stole it from William Blake, the band were always more than just a pop group.  All their lyrics were written by Jim Morrison, a self-styled poet who drifted further into drugs until his death in 1971 by which time they had released 6 studio albums.  But the heart of the band were Ray Manzarak, Robby Kreiger and John Densmore – who wove great sounds behind Jim’s often bizarre lyrics.  This debut arrived just as psychedelia was breaking, and with songs such as ‘The Crystal Ship’ and ‘End Of The Night’ they were instrumental in breaking away from the classic beat music of the Sixties.  However the best songs are far more in the earlier Rock’n’Roll tradition – my faves are ‘Light My Fire’ and ‘Break On Through’ and the Kurt Weill classic ‘Alabama Song’.  Though relatively short lived the band sold over 100 million records and their bass lines are constantly being sampled by hip-hop and dance music bands of this Century

The Doors

Brilliant Debut Albums #41

Eagles – Eagles (1972) Just going through these albums I am constantly amazed by just how many incredible bands and Artists there were (not including all the ones I haven’t got albums of) over the fifty or so years I have been collecting music.   Every time I think I have just re-discovered a gem, another one pops up.  The Eagles were originally recruited by Linda Ronstadt as her backing band before venturing out on their own.  In the vanguard of what would later be known as America, they combined country with soul and rock to conjure up their own sound that was always identifiably their own.  This debut featured Glenn Frey, Don Henley (the only two permanent members), Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner.  This self-titled debut was incredible for its maturity and great songs. The band had four singers and four songwriters and are famous not only for their music but for constant arguments and industrial consumption of drugs.   However they continued making brilliant records until finally parting ways in 1980, six superb albums later.  They have reformed sporadically to tour and released a double album in 2007 which seems lacklustre to me.  This debut’s best songs are ‘Take It Easy’, ‘Witchy Woman’ and ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’.  A side-note, the album was produced by Glynn Johns who spent much of his time trying to reconcile competing ideas from band members as to their eventual direction – which Glynn was instrumental in shaping.