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Top 10 Albums – Here’s Mine, What Are Yours?

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Top 10 Albums – Here’s Mine, What Are Yours?

Posted on 10 July 2014 by Joe

We’ve covered our Top 100 alternative and independent albums, Top 10 debut albums and also compiled lists of our favourite folk and psychedelic albums. But I thought for a change I’d take away the restrictions of time and genre and present a list of my top ten albums as a way of finding out what your Top 10 Albums are. It’s a trickier task than you may think. I have constant nagging doubts that I should have included Lou Reed’s Transformer or Blondie’s Parallel Lines. You will face similar dilemmas. Feel free to tell us your Top 10 albums of all time in the comment box below.

10. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)


Following their huge debut album Licensed to Ill the Beastie Boys second album went in a more experimental direction under producers The Dust Brothers and became one of the best ever examples of sampling. From Public Enemy to The Beatles through to Curtis Mayfield and film soundtracks there are hundreds of snippets that make up each track. The end product is a tribute to music and modern culture and an outstanding album from start to finish. To find out more about the songs and riffs featured on the album click here.

9. Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – Gorilla (1967)


As a child, back when there were record players and cassettes and MP3s were the stuff of a mad man’s dreams, this was one of a handful of albums I used to beg my parents to play. This debut by art college psychedelic 1920s jazz mash up specialists is fun thanks to the humour of songwriter and vocalists Vivian Stanshall. But above all its got great tunes thanks to the involvement of Neil Inness, who went on to form the Rutles and has an outstanding ear for a good pop song. With tracks such as Cool Britannia, the Intro and the Outro and I’m Bored regularly used in advertising, TV and film this obscurity from a silly age will be surprisingly familiar.

8. The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree (2005)


There are autobiographical albums and then there’s The Sunset Tree by The Mountain Goats and its frontman and songwriter John Darnielle. Here he lays bare an adolescence in the shadow of domestic abuse where he escapes into music, romance, drink and drugs. Its an album about survival and must have taken a huge amount of courage to write. Final track Pale Green Things, recalls the death of his step father and is so emotional and personal he can’t even play it live anymore. It is an impressive piece of work that shows the courage of young people and led me to become a fan of Darnielle and his band ever since. For more about The Mountain Goats read our Top Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives article here.

7. Fairport Convention- Liege and Lief (1969)


A running theme of the albums I’ve selected is an admiration of the effort that has gone into their writing and production. Fairport Convention Liege and Lief’s was written and recorded following a tragic motorway accident in which their drummer Martin Lamble died and guitarist Richard Thompson’s girlfriend Jeannie Franklin also lost her life. What emerged was one of the most influential folk albums of all time as their mourning, painstaking research into traditional English folk and rock roots came together to create an outstanding set of songs. From Tam Lin to Crazy Man Michael this album is to this day one of the most exciting of any genre.

6. Highway 61 Revisited (1965)


I came late to Bob Dylan. It was something about the voice, the Christianity and whole 1980s rock star image that put me off. Then I saw Martin Scorcese’s documentary centred around his mid 1960s albums and the time he went electric. From Bringing It All Back Home to Highway 61 revisited to Blonde on Blonde it remains my favourite period of Dylan’s music. Of the three Highway stands tallest, just. Like a Rolling Stone is its most well known track but the power of Ballad of a Thin Man and Desolation Row are among those that keep me coming back to this album time and again.

5. The B-52s – The B-52s (1977)


When Rock Lobster, one of the singles from this debut from the Athens based band, was re released in the mid 1980s, I had no idea just how talented they were. I loved Rock Lobster but after getting this debut album I was awestruck. Ricky Wilson’s guitar playing is unique and in they were also blessed with three incredible vocalists, with Ricky’s sister Cindy particularly standing out. Her emotion on Dance This Mess Around and Hero Worship alone are worth the cover price alone. For more about The B-52s read our Top Ten Artists That Changed Our Lives feature here.

4. XTC – English Settlement (1982)


On a monthly basis I kick myself for not including this in our Top 100 Indie and Alternative Albums list. Our XTC album of choice was the excellent Drums and Wires. But as the years have gone by it is English Settlement that I now believe was the Swindon band’s masterpiece. Sure it has the singles Sense Working Overtime and Ball and Chain, but it’s the lesser known tracks such as No Thugs in Our House and English Roundabout that really shine here. It was to have opened the door to fame and fortune, but sadly coincided with a chronic bout of stage fright for song writer Andy Partridge who was unable to tour following its release or indeed since. For more about XTC read our Top Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives article here.

3. The Clash – London Calling (1979)


Of all The Clash albums none are so perfectly executed as their third London Calling. Steeped in Caribbean and US influences this manages to expertly show The Clash for what they were a London punk band with a global outlook. This topped our Top 100 Indie and Alternative Albums list and remains one of my favourite albums thanks to superb lyrics on tacks like Lost in the Supermarket and instant pop appeal of tracks such as Train in Vain. Listening again it barely ages and remains a timeless classic. Read our full review of London Calling here.

2.  David Bowie – Hunky Dory (1971)


Last year I detailed my surprise discovery that David Bowie wasn’t just a silly man dancing in his pyjamas wth Mick Jagger. He was in fact the coolest man in music as albums such as Low, Heroes and this pre-Ziggy album clearly show. Of all his albums that I’ve recently discovered this is my favourite due to its sheer quantity of classic, inventive pop songs. Any album that has the tracks Changes and All You Pretty Things is deserving of a place on this list. But to add in Life on Mars, Queen Bitch and Quicksand as well makes this album one of the best pop albums of all time..

1. The Beatles – Revolver (1966)


Hey what about Sgt Peppers, Joe? Well, what about it? This seventh UK studio album from the Fab Four is by miles and miles of old George Martin infused studio tape the best Beatles album and in my view the best album of all time. You want pop? It’s got it in Taxman and Dr Robert. You want stunning orchestral melodies? Well, why not check out Eleanor Rigby. Or maybe awesome rock rifts are your thing, in that case She Said She Said will appeal. It’s even got the children’s classic Yellow Submarine, and on Tomorrow Never Knows a track that quite rightly is used to herald the start of counter culture. And then there’s the production with Martin’s backwards loops redefining music. Sgt Peppers is good, but this was the real game changer for modern music.

by Joe Lepper


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Documentary Special

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Documentary Special

Posted on 06 March 2013 by Dorian

We appear to be in the midst of a bit of a golden age for music documentary, with films about interesting and surprising subjects coming out or being announced with increasing regularity. The reduced cost of making films in the digital age and the new crowd sourced methods of getting funding make creating a film about a relatively obscure artist achievable without the need for cinema showings or guaranteed DVD sales to support the endeavor.

Last year was a good year for the music documentary at both ends of the success and attention spectrum. At the top end was the Oscar winning ‘Searching For Sugarman’ which took an artists that was both obscure and hugely famous (depending on where you live) and coupled it with a fascinating story to great effect. Also notable was the epic homage to George Harrison, ‘Living In The Material World’, that was perhaps too comprehensive but was certainly a labour of love for Martin Scorsese.

TV has been another good source with BBC4 and Sky Arts leading the way in showing interesting and well produced documentary films on a wide range of artists. Sky Arts tends to show archive films but the BBC have made and shown excellent films on the likes of Squeeze, The Kinks and a surprisingly in-depth look at the work of Chas and Dave. They also have a film about David Bowie in the pipeline which features world renowned Bowieologist Nicholas Pegg in a consultant role.

Lawrence of Belgravia

Lawrence of Belgravia

Last year saw two of British music’s greatest curmudgeons celebrated in film, Felt/Denim/Go-Kart Mozart main-man Laurence and former Auteur Luke Haines.

‘Laurence of Belgravia’ was perhaps the better film and showed Laurence as an increasingly delusional figure, clinging on to concepts of stardom that  would never come, although it is all wrapped up in a self-perpetuated myth by the artist himself. (You can watch a trailer for the film here).

‘Art Will Save The World’ shows Luke Haines as a figure who is increasingly affable and comfortable with his place in modern music. At odds with his (again self-perpetuated) image as the most evil man in Brit-pop it sees him moving towards becoming something of a national treasure. It is perhaps best viewed as a companion piece to his excellent memoir, ‘Bad Vibes’. (You can watch a trailer for the film here).

Pitchfork has also entered the music documentary arena  and done some sterling work as part of their Pitchfork Classic series of films. These films are similar in concept to the 331/3 series of books focusing on a single album by the band in question whilst offering up some biographical details about them. These films to date have been of a very high quality and managed to get all the principle players interviewed for the films and included some excellent archive footage. Best of all is the recent film about Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, and managed to make a brilliant record seem even better. (You can watch the whole of the film on the Pitchfork TV site here).

The Sad and Beautiful world of Sparklehorse

The Sad and Beautiful world of Sparklehorse

Below I preview four films scheduled for release, or in development, most of which have been made possible by crowd funding (the pros and cons of which I will not discuss here, although it is much debated).

‘The Sad and Beautiful World of Sparklehorse’ is a film about the music of the late Mark Linkous, one of my favourite recording artists. The UK interview filming has been completed and the producers are currently trying to raise funds for interviews in the US and Europe on this crowd-funding website. I have mixed hopes for this film based on the interviews captured to date, with some like-minded musicians such as Jonathan Donahue and Ed Harcourt included as talking heads. More worrying is the appearance of TVs Matthew Wright in the film, he may be a big fan but this doesn’t add credibility.  Hopefully the remaining interviews will include collaborators like David Lowery, Dangermouse and PJ Harvey and the archive footage could be what lifts this film.

‘Song Dynasties’ has already managed to get full funding through Kickstarter and looks set to bring out the story of Kevin Barne’s Of Montreal on DVD later this year. The film has been put together from hundreds of hours of footage from throughout the band’s career and has been 16 years in the making. If it is anything like as entertaining as Of Montreal are live on stage then it will be captivating viewing. (You can read more about the project and watch a trailer for the film here).

In February we posted a review of a little-known (in this country at least) album by the South African punk band National Wake.  We now have an opportunity to find out more about the African punk scene thanks to the forthcoming release of ‘Punk In Africa’, a film made by Deon Maas and Keith Jones in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Kenya. (No UK showings of the film are currently scheduled but more details about the film and some footage can be found here).

Best of all is ‘Are We Not Men?’, a film about Devo. And  if you watch the trailer (above) you’ll see what an exciting film it looks to be. Devo were colourful, subversive, different and had some ideology to support the ideas in their songs. The perfect subject for a documentary film and one that should appeal to those unfamiliar with the band as well as their fans. The film was made possible by a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $70,000 and is scheduled for a release in August this year.

If you have any favourite music documentary films, or know of any interesting projects in production, please post a comment below.

By Dorian Rogers


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Author Martine McDonagh’s Top Tracks from 1973-1974


Author Martine McDonagh’s Top Tracks from 1973-1974

Posted on 28 February 2013 by Joe

For our latest feature and competition we’ve linked up with author Martine McDonagh, who has just released her second novel After Phoenix.


To mark the release Martine, whose debut novel I Have Waited And You Have Come really impressed us, has handed us a copy of After Phoenix to give away. For more details of how to win the book visit our competitions page here.

Martine, who has also worked for many years in artist management looking after the likes of James and Fujiya & Miyagi, has also supplied us with her favourite tracks from the 1973-74 era the book is set in. For more information about the book and Martine click here.

So sit back, tuck into an Angel Delight and enjoy Martine McDonagh’s top tracks from 1973-1974.

10. Barry White – Never Never Gonna Give You Up


9. Mott the Hoople – Roll Away the Stone


8. David Essex – Lamplight


7. David Bowie – Sorrow


6. Stevie Wonder – He’s Misstra Know-it-all


5. The Hollies – The Air that I Breathe


4. Queen – Seven Seas of Rhye


3. Suzi Quatro – Devil Gate Drive


2. Roxy Music – Street Life


1. David Bowie – Rock n Roll Suicide



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David Bowie is Cool. Who Knew?


David Bowie is Cool. Who Knew?

Posted on 26 February 2013 by Joe

I’m being facetious of course with this title. There is of course a whole generation of people who know very well that David Bowie is cool. Those, who in their early teens in 1972 saw Bowie transform from one hit wonder  to glam star, knew it. Also in the know were those who marvelled at Bowie’s originality a few years later with his  so-called Berlin trilogy of albums of Low, “Heroes” and Lodger. And there were the ultra cool romantics of 1980, who watched in awe as he joined forces with the likes of Steve Strange as the vanguard for a whole new genre.

Bowie's 1977 classic album

Bowie’s 1977 album that launched his Berlin trilogy

But then there’s me. Born in 1972, I was a baby when Ziggy played guitar, a toddler when Bowie was off his mind on cocaine in the US, and starting primary school as he was gazing at the Berlin wall listening to Kraftwerk. For my formative years Bowie had broken the mainstream stadium rock circuit; to the teenage me he was merely a middle-aged, silly-haired bloke, dancing around in his pyjamas with Mick Jagger and dressing like a pixie king in the fantasy backcombing film Labyrinth. To me he was just about as far from cool as it’s possible to be.

Fast forward a fair few years and here I am in my early 40s discovering what I’ve been missing out on. The internet has of course helped. Through Facebook and Twitter friends such as That Petrol Emotion guitarist Raymond Gorman (now with The Everlasting Yeah) I’ve been enthralled by clips of tracks I never knew existed. I’ve also heard those tracks from his past, which I dismissed  for years, in a whole new light.

I’ve also been swotting away as a new Bowie convert by reading The Complete David Bowie, Nicholas Pegg’s weighty, exhaustively detailed but wonderfully written definitive Bowie manual.

So what have I discovered? I’ve discovered that 1971’s Hunky Dory is arguably the greatest pop album ever made. I can’t think of a single album to boast as many great pop songs as this album has, from Changes to All You Pretty Things, the majestic Life on Mars to the ballsy Queen Bitch. He also finds time on the album to cement his influence on the likes of Kurt Cobain and J Mascis with Quicksand, which Mascis’s band Dinosaur Jr were to later cover.

I’ve found that Aladdin Sane is one of the best 1970s rock albums. While I was familiar with Jean Genie, how did the awesome Panic in Detroit or Watch that Man pass me by for so many years?

And as for the Berlin trilogy. These three albums, Low in particular, excude coolness. I’d heard the track “Heroes” before, of course. But I’d never really listened to it until recently. I’d never really heard just how Robert Fripp’s sumptuous guitar effortlessly elevates this song. This particularly surprised me as I was more than happy in my early teens to let Fripp dazzle me with his star turn on Blondie’s 1978 track Fade Away And Radiate.

But on both Low and Heroes in particular there are amazing new songs for me to hear,  as the magpie like Bowie cherry picked his way across genres to create a pair of albums that were wholly unique at a time when other former Glam stars were struggling for credibility amid punk and disco. For example Be My Wife, with the simple lonely video of  a made up Bowie and his guitar, set the template for Blur and Britpop. Always Crashing in the same car, also from Low, has one of the best melodies and riffs I’ve heard, Sound and Vision is just remarkable and on “Heroes” Joe the Lion would surely have been the child version of me’s favourite song if I’d have heard it when it came out.

As Bowie prepares to release his first album of new material in a decade, The Next Day, there will be many more from my generation to realise that this quiffed pixie lord of mainstream 1980s rock is in fact just about the coolest bloke in music. As you can see by my omissions there are plenty more examples of the cool Bowie for me discover. The soul funk of Young Americans and Station to Station, the influential alternative rock of The Man Who Sold The World and Lodger, the third in the Berlin trilogy to name but a few.

by Joe Lepper


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