beatsandfavouritemusic Pt7: Obscure Gems

beatsandfavouritemusic Pt7: Obscure Gems

1) Parents: Budgie (Best Of Budgie)

A brilliant heavy but melodic track that builds slowly with some gorgeous heavy guitar work throughout. The subject is a little uncool for Rock and Roll in that it is the point in life where the young adult finally realises how much their parents have done for them.

When I used to go to Cleo’s, the rock club of choice in Derby in the late 70s for the local chapter of the Hell’s Angels, this was as close as it got to the slow dance track at the end of the night!

2) Lord Of The Ages: Magna Carta (Lord Of The Ages)

This really would polarise opinion, if you’re not keen on Tolkienesque imagery or someone reading fantasy poetry then look away now!

This really does transport you to another world, some lovely storytelling amid a very folky background, occasional almost welsh choir like refrains and a brilliant rock and lightning guitar break in the middle, pure escapism.

3) Every Time It Happens: Tractor (Tractor)

John Peel named this duo by saying you will be called after the first thing we see out of my window!

Collectors will usually quote the psych track Little Girl In Yellow as the classic but for me, it’s this blissful track as it seems to be on an ever descending chord sequence with sublime melancholic vocals.

4) Heroin: Velvet Underground (Velvet Underground & Nico)

A song that knows the danger of Heroin yet seemingly glorifies it at the same time, how I heard this first on the Tommy Vance show on Radio 1 I’ll never know.

Lou Reed lets you into his junkie world, and the music rises and falls intuitively with him, but all the sounds are hard and angular and leave you feeling suffocated by the end, produced by Andy Warhol as well as if it needed even more artistic credibility.

5) I Cheat The Hangman: Doobie Brothers (Stampede)

Country doesn’t usually do much for me, but the Doobie Brothers had something extra, although they could do the short format, smooth singles effortlessly, occasionally they would extend themselves into more ambitious territory.

This feels like you are a cowboy on the dark night of the soul with his only companion of death but the lighted doorway of redemption keeps him moving into the distance.

Beautiful harmonies and a rousing finale with some wild trumpet playing in the background.

6) Munic Yesterday: Faust (The Wumme Years)

A long industrial and yet organic funk workout with occasional chanting in the background, it still sounds futuristic even now.

It’s hypnotic without being robotic, and it always keeps subtly changing tempo and riff, just sit back and go with this one.

7) Instructions For Angels: David Bedford (Instructions For Angels)

As heavenly as the title suggests, a shifting drone arching upwards with some fantastic spiralling guitar work from Mike Oldfield and recorded in our very own Worcester Cathedral.

8) Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls: Sparks (Li’l Beethoven)

Modern, weird, brilliantly recorded with a powerful and stuttering electro backing. However, it’s the almost spoken and very witty lyrics that shine here as Russell Mael tries to analyse what it is about beautiful girls that make them go to ugly men…go figure!

9) Aries: Supertramp (Indelibly Stamped)

This is the pre-fame version of the band, and here we have the closing track on the LP.

Aries is a folk hoedown with some lovely jazz flute in the middle, and it pulls you into its infectious groove, and it has a genuinely happy vibe to the whole thing.

You’d have never have guessed that this wonderfully mellow music was inside the rocky and rather tasteless cover of tattooed breasts!

10) Mother Sky: Can (Soundtracks)

This tracks rocks out from the very first second and continues skywards for 14+ minutes, brilliant art house vocals from Damo Suzuki and Holger Czukay has an entirely unique driving bass sound to the ensuing acid madness.


beatsandfavouritemusic Pt 6: Epics and Concepts

beatsandfavouritemusic Pt 6: Epics and Concepts

Right, this is the big one, the marathon, not your average fifty-yard dash of funk!

1) Supper’s Ready: Genesis (Foxtrot)

My favourite record of all time and it’s the live version on Seconds Out that I love the most because the studio work on Foxtrot is a little lumpy.

I don’t think anyone apart from Peter Gabriel actually knows how to summarise this. We start off in a sitting room watching TV and then weird stuff starts to happen, there are six, saintly shrouded men, walking across the lawn with a seventh in front with a cross held high in hand. Then we meet a prophet, travel to wars in foreign lands, walk upon mountains of human flesh in concentration camps, through to music hall entertainment in Britain in the second world war. Finally, we are face to face with Satan who’s writing the lyrics in blood to a brand new tune, and then we go back home to meet God, the Lord Of Lords who’s come to take his children to the new Jerusalem!

Wow, this religion malarkey is powerful stuff!

2) The Lord’s Prayer: Roy Harper (Lifemask)

This is anti-religion and just about everything else that gets in the way.

Roy Harper takes an almighty rant at the world, but with some of the most vivid lyrics, I have ever seen.

Written in the style of Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ you get lines like ‘Whose artists, are helpless spherical mirrors, spinning on the horns of a tidal wave’ the imagery is brilliant.

And the anger of Roy raging against the machine ‘Whose sick hang, whose weak are kicked’ and while Roy is conjuring up his thunderstorm Jimmy Page provides the lightning with some truly exquisite guitar work.

There are stories/myths? Surrounding this, including that he wrote it on his death bed after giving one of diseased sheep the kiss of life!

3) Close To The Edge: Yes (Close To The Edge)

Stunning musicianship, incredibly intricate, but never losing its sense of melody.

Jon Anderson writes lyrics using words that give out colours rather than meaning and the centrepiece of ‘I get up, I get down’ is beautifully fragile.

4) Dark Side Of The Moon: Pink Floyd (Dark Side Of The Moon)

Almost pointless me trying to explain something that has had so much written about it already.

The concept around all the stuff that drives you mad, death, money, time in an uncaring world.

Roger Waters provides the inspiration, David Gilmour provides the guitars that grab your very soul and Rick Wright, and Nick Mason was still a vital part of the Pink Floyd machine at this point.

5) A Plague Of Lighthouse-Keepers: Van Der Graaf Generator (Pawn Hearts)

Almost unfathomable, if you try and get inside Peter Hammill’s mind you might not get out!

Lyrically, poetically it goes through loneliness, isolation in parts, but others, where he is anonymous in a crowd ‘I don’t want to be one wave in the water, but sea shall drag me deep.’

Musically it is mainly organ and free jazz sax with some striking passages like the lighthouse beam and fog horns and later a musical maelstrom, this is as out there as prog went.

6) Abbey Road Song Suite: The Beatles (Abbey Road)

Can’t get my head around this, is it a collection of leftovers or were they already ahead of the prog game and also if they were splitting up and this was their last album why is it so upbeat!

I had to make the title up as it doesn’t officially have one for the collection but there are sublime moments like ‘you never give your money’ funny bits like Polythene Pam and a rousing ending with Golden Slumbers, they were always on the front foot even at the end.

7) Tarkus: Emerson Lake and Palmer (Tarkus)

Much ridiculed now, but this was a remarkable track from a moment where they were incredibly tight as a band and before the time when it turned into a round of individuals doing elongated solos.

Not the most profound of lyrics, a giant armadillo is a war machine anyone? But the Epitaph refrain from Greg Lake from his King Crimson days is lovely.

It’s the musicianship here that is at times unbelievable with incredible speed, power and complexity, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

8) The Dabsong Conshirtoe: Caravan (Cunning Stunts)

Caravan’s quirky and quintessentially English lyrics and humour come to the fore here, and in today’s PC age they would not get away with any of them, but for all that, they are still rather charming and really quite inoffensive.

Caravan had a lovely unique sound of their own and the driving guitar riffing section was quite brilliant and the celebratory ‘Ring the bells and sing’ is very uplifting.

9) Tubular Bells: Mike Oldfield (Tubular Bells)

I’ll stick with the groundbreaking original, but I love Tubular Bells 2 and 3 as much as this!

I got into this watching the Old Grey Whistle Test accompanying some skiers or something, but everything about this album was new. He plays nearly all these unusual instruments by himself, and even the sleeve notes saying ‘this LP can’t be played on any old tin boxes’ seemed funny but making a statement of intent.

It’s an album to sit back and appreciate (on proper equipment!)

10) Valentyne Suite: Colosseum (Valentyne Suite)

I love the grainy image of the beautiful white haired pagan priestess with the huge church candles for a start, you just knew something strange was going to be on this record.

Valentyne Suite is a long instrumental suite in 3 sections playing British Jazz Rock of the highest order from some of the most gifted musicians around at this point.

beatsandfavouritemusic Pt 5: Female Artists

beatsandfavouritemusic Pt 5: Female Artists

1) The Banks Of The Nile: Sandy Denny (Fotheringay)

Folk never sounded so beautiful to me, as this, a traditional ballad of a girl who would contemplate anything to be with her sweetheart as he is conscripted to fight for the British Army in Egypt.

Sandy Denny has that beautiful quality of singing crystal clear but also with a strangely haunted undertone.

2) Big Time Sensuality: Bjork

Strange, quirky and writes some brilliant one liners like ‘I don’t know my future beyond this weekend’ all with a superb driving beat, she is completely unique.

3) Let X=X/It Tango: Laurie Anderson (Big Science)

Everything she does is high art but combined with a razor sharp and insightful wit.

This song stalks along, and she uses fragments of sentences to brilliant effect here and finally to the dreamy ending lines of ‘Your eyes…today’s work…just…looking into them.’

“Isn’t it just like a woman.”

4) Reach For The Truth: Linda Lewis (Lark)

I mean the original version, not the re-recorded stuff that’s on i-tunes (why do they do that!)

This excellent song starts off as a simple blues tune but ends with a fantastic piece of gospel, with her exceptionally high and soaring vocals.

5) River: Joni Mitchell (Blue)

Sung with such emotion and a flip on the typical Christmas song as she uses a deliberately off centre refrain around Jingle Bells and then proceeds to pour her heart out about a lost love she has pushed away.

6) Coming Around Again: Carly Simon (Coming Around Again)

I know I shouldn’t like this as it’s unashamedly a girls song but I love it, as she sings about her mundane life and how she desperately needs to find true love to bring her out of it, I even pasted the part 2 bit with the Itsy Bitsy Spider bit on this as well…how soppy is that!

7) All Cried Out: Alison Moyet (Alf)

I was watching an utterly, ordinary Top Of The Pops when this rather large lady comes on and sings live and it was a truly WOW moment, where did that voice come from and what power and emotion, I wasn’t alone as millions went out and bought this album.

8) Love And Affection: Joan Armatrading

A great husky voice at work but it’s the brilliance of the lyrics that I admire here from ‘I am not in love, but I’m open to persuasion’ to ‘If I can feel the rain in my face and the sun in my eyes…why can’t I ..feel” sublime.

9) Nocturn: Kate Bush (Ariel)

I believe the message in this album is that it’s her last and she wants the world to know that she is enjoying her family life too much to go back to music and she left behind a remarkable album here.

Nocturn is a joyous track about having a romantic evening on the beach on holiday with her husband now her young son is in bed, it has a brilliant Ibiza groove, the lyrics are a joy, and there is even a bit of mad Kate there at the end.

10) Calling Occupants Of Inter-Planetary Craft: Carpenters (Passage)

Karen Carpenter’s stunning, mellow voice, in the unlikely setting of a prog rock cover of a Klaatu song.

If you are set to receive then this is a great journey of a song, a bit like the whole of Close Encounters in 10 minutes, I have to admit that when this came out, I had to love it in secret..I am now suitably ashamed.

beatsandfavouritemusic Pt4: Psychedelia

beatsandfavouritemusic Pt4: Psychedelia

1) A Saucerful Of Secrets: Pink Floyd (Saucerful Of Secrets)

A wonderful collage of sound with the Floyd at their most experimental, this comes in three sections containing some of the weirdest sounds of the period but ending with a gorgeous choral piece.

Amazingly they did a fantastic version of this live as well on the Ummagumma album.

2) I See You: The Pretty Things (SF Sorrow)

Drifting along on a tripped out haze, this is probably recorded incorrectly, by today’s standards, as the vocals come out from the bottom left of the aural landscape while the instruments are drifting high in the top right!

If they ever re-recorded this the drums and the bass would be solidly anchored in the middle, and its magic would be lost at a stroke.

3) Dark Star: The Grateful Dead (Live Dead)

Epic, spaced out, a free-form suite that is the perfect soundtrack for a gathering of like minded hippies in that quiet time before dawn.

4) White Rabbit: Jefferson Airplane (Surrealistic Pillow)

Psychedelia and concise don’t usually go together, but this is perfection. A brilliant piece of lyricism crossing the counter culture with Alice In Wonderland, however, it’s not pro-drugs. Instead, it says to parents if you read the kids these stories is it any wonder they then want to live it!

5) A Day In The Life: The Beatles (Sgt Pepper)

A stoned twist on everyday life taking mundane stories in the news and catching the bus to work but elevating into something transcendental, pure genius and deserves its classic status.

6) The Chase: Family (Music In A Doll’s House)

As barmy as psych got, we’ve got the sounds of a fox hunt and the music just keeps increasing its heart racing pace and topped with Roger Chapman’s demented vocals.

7) 1983 ( A Merman I Should Turn To Be): Jimi Hendrix (Electric Ladyland)

As blissed out, a piece of psych as you could get, from an artist who could rock harder than anyone! Such was Jimi’s genius, and you feel like he believed that the studio could be an instrument as well.

8) Faintly Blowing: Kaleidoscope (Faintly Blowing)

A lovely piece, full of innocence and charm and quintessentially English, to my ears, should have been a massive song at the time and has got a folkish vibe underneath the fuzz guitars.

9) Journey Through A Burning Brain: Tangerine Dream (Electronic Meditation)

No, I haven’t got this in the wrong category! This is 100% top quality psychedelia and at the weird end of it to boot, and it’s Tangerine Dream (from Sgt Pepper) with guitars and drums, and it really freaks out.

At this point in time, I think the Saucer-More-Ummagumma era Floyd were a huge influence on the fledgeling Krautrock scene along with free jazz and Zappa.

10) Hung Up On A Dream: The Zombies (Odessey And Oracle)

Everything you would expect from the summer of love, the sunshine positively exudes from this song with beautiful vocals from Colin Blunstone carrying this song dreamily along.

beatsandfavouritemusic Pt 3: Early Childhood Influences

beatsandfavouritemusic Pt 3: Early Childhood Influences

This is going to be a real mish-mash of the silly and the deeply profound!

1) Bridge Over Troubled Water: Simon and Garfunkel

I was about 9 years old, and I was in bed all day suffering from bronchitis, but I had a portable radio in my room to pass the time, I had been dimly aware of this song before but not really listened to it.

However, after a couple of verses, there is a 30-second spell that literally changed the course of my whole life because two of my future obsessions started precisely here.

It’s all about the section ‘sail on silver girl, sail on by, your time has come to shine, all your dreams are on their way’ and then that chord change ‘See how they shine.’ If you need a friend.’ Well at this point I felt as if my heart was about to burst open!

From that moment I was mad on music, which was one obsession but the other started because I had to wait for ages before it came on again and every time it did I wrote some of the lyrics down.

After that, every time I liked a song I had to get all the lyrics and later on that would turn into writing my own poetry or a love of writing generally.

2) Zabadak!: Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch

From the sublime to the utterly ridiculous but I still love it, I was about 6 when I heard this and the importance was the hook, every waking and sleeping moment this song was in my head, I both loved it and hated it at the same time.

It makes me smile now to think of this group in an expensive studio with one of them saying, ‘I got a song” and someone else saying ‘ so what’s the lyrics?’….’Ah..Ok…Zabadak Zabadak calacacorde a zabadak zabadak’ …Ok let’s do it!

3) Gudbuy T Jane: Slade

The final, or should I say, the Vinyl obsession.

Now I was about 12, Mum and Dad had split and my dad moved a woman called Kathy in with 4 kids and they used to sleep in and wet my bed, so I wasn’t to pleased but that Kathy, boy was she astute, because she won me over by buying me a record, the first I ever had and I felt that I actually owned this music and I liked it!

Kathy wasn’t around for very long and in my poor student days I would have to sell my records to survive which has lead to a lot of years of hard digging to find them again, I think I must have been grieving for them, how weird is that.

I’m not going to list 10 because from then on it was about whether I loved them or not but these three were really important to me.

beatsandfavouritemusic Pt 2: Live!

beatsandfavouritemusic Pt 2: Live!

1) Cortez The Killer: Neil Young (Live Rust)

Grungy and yet trippy, a song about the Aztecs and yet time shifting to a lost love as well, only Neil Young could make all this seem so poetic and heartfelt, I always get totally lost within this track.

2) Echoes: David Gilmour (Live In Gdansk)

A fantastic version of the Floyd classic, it retains everything you would want from the original from the dirty, funky guitar work in the middle section, the jangling out of the icy depths and into bright sunlight jangling guitar breaks and the misty closing section, utterly breathtaking.

3) Do You Feel Like We Do: Peter Frampton (Frampton Comes Alive)

I feel like I’m in California on a sunny afternoon in the middle of a crowd of hippies having the time of their lives with this one. The rapport and the audience reaction can’t help but put a smile on your face, this was, I believe, the biggest selling live album of the time and for someone who wasn’t that big then makes it even more remarkable.

4) My Generation: The Who (Live At Leeds)

As raw and powerful as any rock concert could be, this 14-minute version takes you on a journey through Tommy and Rael as well as the classic My Generation.

5) Starship Trooper: Yes (Keys To Ascension 1)

The classic Yes line-up throwing everything into this classic song in front of their fan club members, this just gets faster and faster with Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe, in particular, supplying the musical pyrotechnics.

6) For Richard: Caravan (Caravan and the New Symphonia)

The sound quality and the note-perfect performance are remarkable, and the song has so many textures through this leading up to a rousing finale.

7) Forty-Five Hundred Times: Status Quo (Quo Live)

A fantastic headbanging track, starting with a deceptive acoustic singalong and then into an impeccable 15-minute boogie, Quo were the masters of subtly changing the tempo to keep the whole audience rocking.

8) Achilles Last Stand: Led Zeppelin (How The West Was Won)

This epic track, with a riff that comes from a much darker world than this, performed at Knebworth, was the highlight of the night I went to see them, and for years all I had was bootlegs to keep me going, to have it in this quality was a dream come true.

9) The Snow Goose: Camel (A Live Record)

A gorgeous track performed with the London Symphony Orchestra over 2 full sides of vinyl, a brilliant prog masterpiece.

10) Scheherazade: Renaissance (Live At Carnegie Hall)

What an era this was, they have a 26-minute song to launch on an audience, and it hasn’t been released yet. There is a  lovely introduction to the story to come, but Annie Haslam is the star here for me with a fantastic high note finale to the song.

beatsandfavouritemusic Pt1: Soul

beatsandfavouritemusic  Pt 1: Soul

Music is wonderfully subjective and acts as a mirror to your soul and often can explain your personality, so I’ve gone through my own collection and sorted out some of my very favourite tracks and grouped them together in deliberately loose genres.

Some tracks just don’t fit snugly into one and also I have applied some gentle rules to my selections, the hardest is not choosing nearly everything recorded by some artists, and I might just do these as an entity in itself at the end.

Before I discovered rock music big time, I was really into soul music. I may go back further, but this was my first phase of being a music fanatic!

1) Ball Of Confusion: The Temptations

Brilliant bass line, lots of weird stuff going on within it that I would later find out was psychedelia, but the lyrics were about big issues which were a revelation and the vocals were as always impeccable.

2) Coldest Days Of My Life: The Chi-Lites

Soul was always about warmth and 3-4 minutes long but not this beauty, this was 7 minutes long had a lonely single violin playing against a very fragile background, and the lyrics were as bleak as I have ever heard.

3) Love Hangover: Diana Ross

Diana Ross was supposed to be a clean cut Queen, but this is a dirty funk song with a lyric emoted as in the haze of sexual afterglow, for a brief moment in time I thought she was really cool.

4) What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted: Jimmy Ruffin

Starts with a lot of drama and takes its time until the song really kicks and it’s full of yearning with a very memorable chorus, has been covered very badly since but this original is a classic.

5) Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me: The Tams

Very simple beginnings and builds slowly but has a certain magic wrapped around it.

6) People Get Ready: Curtis Mayfield

Curtis preaching the gospel, and even if you’re not religious, you cannot help but be moved by his imagery.  I always felt that a brilliant musician was behind this song.

7) The Love I Lost: Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes

The song conveys its heartbreak through some smooth, lead vocals but even more so with some brilliant Philly soul harmonies, the single wasn’t enough, I had to have the long version on the LP.

8 ) Gonna Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse: Jimmy Helms

Fantastic high pitched vocals with a very gentle backing it sweeps you along from start to finish.

9) Summer Breeze: The Isley Brothers

Really invokes the spirit of summer and contented love and the guitar solo from Ernie Isley at the end is liquid gold.

10) You Make Me Feel Brand New: Stylistics

Velvet lined vocals, perfect harmonies and damn near the perfect love song.