There’ll always be a place in my heart for you

Brigid says I’m turn­ing into a grouchy old man if the recent posts are any­thing to go by, so let’s get POSITIVE! Lets talk about music. In par­tic­u­lar I need to make some sort of attempt at adding to the album list I start­ed a few months back, here, and here. So, with­out much more are more albums that would make any list­ing com­plied by me but some­how slip though the “author­i­ta­tive” lists from real critics.

Amer­i­can Spring (Unit­ed Artists 1972): the great lost Bri­an Wil­son album (although to be fair he only co-pro­duced this, but his fin­ger­prints are obvi­ous­ly all over this and are the ones that mat­ter). Amer­i­can Spring were called Spring in the US but there was a UK band called that (who had a decent album on an obscure RCA label called Neon) but were orig­i­nal­ly called The Hon­eys. Con­fused? Don’t be, it was essen­tial­ly Brian’s then wife, Marilyn’s band (with her sis­ter). Whilst the songs are some­times famil­iar the approach is dif­fer­ent from any­thing else Wil­son did or would do, and – this may sound ugly, but it makes more sense aural­ly than con­cep­tu­al­ly–   imag­ine a blend­ing of The Beach Boys with The Car­pen­ters (not my favourite act but I do under­stand them). How­ev­er, it works rather well, with the puri­ty of the vocals accen­tu­at­ing the depth, and com­plex­i­ty of the Wil­son sound. Rather won­der­ful­ly actu­al­ly. Hard as hell to find, but best tracked down on the ear­ly nineties CD reis­sue with the extra UA sin­gles tagged on.

Art Pep­per — Smack Up (Con­tem­po­rary 1960): short­ly before, as the title sug­gests, the hero­in dragged Art down (but not out, his lat­er work is mag­nif­i­cent too) for a spell, he released this work of genius. I knew noth­ing of Art when a guy in a lit­tle shop in Soho rec­om­mend­ed this to me in the ear­ly eight­ies, so I bought it on a whim – it sound­ed inter­est­ing. I found myself absorbed, not only by the record, but by the man’s rather trag­ic quag­mire of a life (his auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Straight Life, is an essen­tial, if some­what depress­ing read). But to the record itself, a col­lec­tion of tracks writ­ten by oth­er play­ers on his label, I love the fact that despite his per­son­al prob­lems, this record sim­ply oozes raw soul, beau­ti­ful­ly exe­cut­ed, and with such melod­ic pas­sion. Whether the hero­in con­tributed to or detract­ed from the per­for­mance in these black grooves is an arguable point, but he only did these ses­sions under duress from his wife. I hate the drug, and all it implies, more than I can express but it’s impos­si­ble to sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly dis­pute the fact that so much of the music I love was cre­at­ed under its influ­ence. Smack Up is no exception.

The Temp­ta­tions – Sing Smokey (Gordy 1965): the album that gave the world the smash hit My Girl and in a sin­gle swoop invent­ed the whole sweet soul sound that so dom­i­nat­ed the first half of the next decade. But that, how­ev­er, may be the weak­est track on the finest album from, arguably, Motown’s finest band. The sto­ry was that Berry Gordy was so des­per­ate to get this band on the charts he gave them to his finest song­writer, the mighty Bill Robin­son, who, in ear­ly 1964 began craft­ing the series of songs that com­prise this won­der­ful record. Many of the tracks here­in are well known as Mir­a­cles’ orig­i­nals but this is much much more than the stan­dard Motown artist cov­er­ing oth­er Motown hits that was the com­pa­ny rule to fill out albums. Eddie Kendricks’ vocals dom­i­nates this record and the match between his voice and Smokey’s (for the want of a bet­ter phrase) smokey anthems, espe­cial­ly the take of What’s So Good About Good­bye, which sounds like it was record­ed after a hard night of the pain espoused in the lyrics, is absolute­ly per­fect. I’m a huge fan of the Nor­man Whit­field Temp­ta­tions era too, but if I had to pick one album of theirs, this per­fect­ly realised and ooz­ing­ly beau­ti­ful set is it.

Lam­ont Dozi­er – Out Here On my Own (ABC 1974): fresh from the intrigues of both Motown and his own (with the Hol­land broth­ers) HDH labels (Hot Wax and Invic­tus) Lam­ont resumed on his own solo career (he’d released a few sin­gles pri­or to his years with Gordy) in the ear­ly sev­en­ties, with mixed results both com­mer­cial­ly and artis­ti­cal­ly (more in the lat­er years than the first part of it). But when he hit home he did so resound­ing­ly and nowhere more so than on this won­drous album, which brought togeth­er all the strands of his ear­li­er work and placed them firm­ly in the black Amer­i­ca of the ear­ly sev­en­ties. The album is vague­ly politi­cised (the gor­geous soft Nixon era funk of Fish Ain’t Bit­ing), lush (the post-Philly and roman­ti­cal­ly dis­arm­ing Try­ing to Hold on to My Woman) and raw (The Meters-ish title track with its clas­sic livin’ ain’t easy / when you’re black and greasy lyri­cal slam) but nev­er fails to deliv­er. I worked out today I’ve worn out three vinyl copies of this over the years….

Gre­go­ry Isaacs – Soon For­ward (African Muse­um 1979): record­ed at Chan­nel One, this was my per­son­al sound­track for the last half of 1979. I’m a mas­sive fan of our Gre­go­ry, despite the fair­ly sub­stan­tial amount of dross that pep­pers his huge cat­a­logue. But it’s that voice, you see, that lazy way he seduces the lis­ten­er before you know done just that. I buy all sorts of Isaacs stuff, usu­al­ly unheard, and as often as not I’m dis­ap­point­ed – there are actu­al­ly only about eight albums that are absolute­ly essen­tial, and this is one of them. Even if it didn’t con­tain the career defin­ing, Sly and Rob­bie pro­duced title track (Gre­go­ry pro­duced the rest), this album would stand up. Slave Mar­ket is beau­ti­ful­ly trag­ic from the win­some open­ing line of “you’ll nev­er get away” onwards; My Rela­tion­ship is prob­a­bly Gregory’s most roman­tic moment (and that’s say­ing a great deal from Mr. Lover Man) and a point­er towards his crossover hit, Night Nurse, a cou­ple of years lat­er; and Uni­ver­sal Tribu­la­tion might not have the anthemic qual­i­ties that took Marley’s songs around the world but it’s every bit the con­scious equal of any­thing Bob did, and melod­i­cal­ly vast­ly supe­ri­or. At the same time, both staunch­ly mil­i­tant and beau­ti­ful­ly wist­ful, Soon For­ward is one of the finest albums of its era.

Orange Juice – Texas Fever…(Poly­dor 1984): a mini album, remem­ber those? Pro­duced by the peer­less Den­nis Bovell (check that discog­ra­phy and weep), Texas Fever was the “mature” record made by the fan­tas­ti­cal­ly quirky lit­tle pop band from Glas­gow who were an about-to-make-it band for pret­ty much their whole career. By the time this came out, not that many were still wait­ing but I saw Edwyn Collins in the street once and told him this was my favourite OJ record. He said it was his too, whether that was some­thing to say to a fan I don’t know or care, but it worked for me. The intro to A Place in My Heart is so beau­ti­ful­ly evoca­tive, and it’s a song I’ve, to steal a line from the lyric, always been mild­ly obses­sive about. The Day I Went Down to Texas has glo­ri­ous lit­tle time changes, but does beg the question…why are Scots musi­cians so obsessed with the state? A won­der­ful lit­tle record, now sad­ly, large­ly forgotten.

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