All posts by adrian

Brilliant Debut Albums #33

Leonard Cohen – The Songs Of Leonard Cohen (1967)

!967, and the air was full of joss sticks and the sound of bells and the swirl of caftans and psychedelic music.  But not for Leonard.  He was almost from another world, a published poet, and 33 when he released this, his first album, a dark catalogue of love and loss and religious intensity sung in a deep baritone that at first seems tuneless, but actually it is his melodies as much as his words and his delivery that is so hypnotic.  I first heard this record in ’69.  Three Canadians invited me to their flat in Stockwell and while we were drinking Leonard was singing in the background about it being time to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.  And that image struck me and has stayed with me forever as a metaphor for life itself.  He sung about Suzanne feeding him tea and oranges and about a man who told you he was a stranger and the Sisters of Mercy; of the teachers of the heart, about that’s no way to say goodbye, and best of all how one of us cannot be wrong.   As soon as the record stopped one of them turned it over and played it again.  As soon as I could afford a record player it was the first record I bought.  Leonard has recorded 15 albums, each brilliant in their own way and many live recordings too – but none of them are so fixed in my brain as this incredible debut.

Songs of Leonard Cohen

Brilliant Debut Albums #32

Deacon Blue – Raintown (1987)

Another one of those irritatingly excellent Glasgow bands from the Eighties.  Led by vocalists Ricky Ross and Lorraine McIntosh they sprung to fame with their superb debut Raintown (named after their home city).  Through a gloomy glass the album slowly opens up to revel in sumptuous songs, written mostly by Ricky.  The band had a depth and maturity, akin to Aztec Camera and Prefab Sprout which demonstrated that whatever could be achieved in the Sixties and Seventies – then this decade could match.  They have continued releasing albums sporadically ever since, though I have only four of them – and a Greatest Hits too.   Best songs on this are ‘Kings Of The Western World’, ‘Raintown’ and the elegiac ‘Dignity’.  A great record from a great band.


Brilliant Debut Albums #31

Curved Air – Airconditioning 1970

The Beatles changed everything and by 1970 when they split up, almost anything was possible; an explosion of musical styles and sounds.  Curved Air were a five piece, containing classical and rock musicians; their sound a hybrid of both.  But what made them fantastic was their lead singer Sonia Kristina whose swooping voice perfectly complimented the music.  This album contained the hit ‘It Happened Today’ as well as two interpretations of Vivaldi’s music.  They made 7 albums in the Seventies- and reformed in this Century.    Of course, if they started today nobody would give them the time of day, but that was the beauty of The Seventies – anything was possible.  I loved them.

Air conditioning

Brilliant Debut Albums #30

Brilliant Debut Albums #30

Crowded House – Crowded House

I had long been a fan of Split Enz where Neil Finn had joined his older brother Tim and written their big hit ‘I Got You’.  By the 80’s their star had waned, Tim going off to pursue a career in the US.  But in 1986 news begun seeping out that Neil had formed a new band – Crowded House with drummer Paul Hester and bassist Nick Seymour.  What an incredible album; it seemed so new and different, and crammed full of brilliant songs – played and sung with an exuberance and joyfulness; the group actually reminded me of The Beatles.  They made three more superb albums, being joined by brother Tim for one of them.  And then they broke up; Neil going on to a somewhat subdued solo career.  They reformed in 2007, and occasionally release a new record.  I saw them live several times in their heyday, including The Fleadh in Finsbury Park.  This album contains maybe their best-known song ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’, but every song is wonderful.  A real gem of a debut.

Crowded House by Capitol (2004-02-23)

Brilliant Debut Albums #29

Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left (1969)

This is really one of the strangest and ultimately saddest of tales.  Nick was still at University; and aged just twenty when he secured a recording contract with newly formed Island Records.  A singer-songwriter a couple of years before they really became popular.  He had already suffered from depression and was terrified of performing live.  However, he was an accomplished guitarist and a friend of John Martyn.  With producer Joe Boyd he recorded this debut album, a quiet reflective album with no glossy production, mostly just Nick and guitar, with occasional cello or piano – which promptly died a death – being far too introspective for the late 60s.   he recorded two other albums, neither of which were successful.  In 1974 he died of an overdose of an antidepressant drug.  However, in a strange way and although his albums were initially hard to find his popularity began to grow; artists such as Kate Bush and Paul Weller referred to him a major influence and he has now attained almost cult status.  I ‘discovered’ him around the end of the Seventies when a couple of articles appeared in the music press.  I have all three records and often play them – they seem to glide along with little to differentiate song from song but leave you in a calm and thoughtful mood.  Best tracks on this debut are ‘Fruit Tree’, ‘Time Has Told Me’ and of course ‘River Man’.  I barely hear the words but his voice and gentle playing are amazing.

Five Leaves Left

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]