I hate it when I have a song in my head that I despise but round and round it goes, and it won’t simply go away. Today it’s MC Hammer’s incredibly irritating Turn This Mutha Out. I hated that song for years. I really despised it and fired any DJ who played it at any of my clubs. I can’t for the life of me work out where it came from. Why the hell is it in my head?
Maybe, just maybe, it’s a sign from somewhere, god knows where, to finally finish the album roundup I’ve been plugging away at for some months. There are three earlier parts, posted here, here, and here; and it was started as a sequel to my 7” and 12” lists. This album thing (I have no idea what to call it) is not, as I iterated before, a silly best-albums-of-all-time list. Rather it’s a bunch of vinyl long players, from the years before (and including 2000) that would not make most lists of that sort, but may well make mine. Records I’d rather not be without, if you will. Many of these, for one reason or another, are either out of print, or hard to get hold of but, that said, these records are all as cool as it gets and I make no excuses for any of them.
So let’s, with no further ado, let’s put on our harem pants, start chicken-dancing and turn this mutha out…
- Toy Love – Toy Love (De-Luxe 1980): yes I know it’s on CD now with lots more bits and rare stuff. But the OG is the real thing. The new version has a fresh mix of sorts and a nice package but, like AK79, it’s simply not as much the real thing as this. I know I’ve said I’ve never liked the cover (and I apologised to Jane for saying that) but it’s actually grown on me quite a lot in recent years. And the new issue might have a rather nice informative package but it doesn’t have a pull out poster and it doesn’t have that dense, rather threatening sound about it. I like the CD as well but there is something about the original. And it’s held its age well. Sorry to be revisionist….
- EPMD–Unfinished Business (Fresh 1989): the first album from Eric and Parish, deservedly, gets lots of kudos. It remains one of the great hip-hop albums of any era. But the second one is often overlooked. It sits in the shadow of its predecessor and that’s not fair as its every bit it’s equal from the opening track, So What You Saying (best in its various 12” remixes but fine here too) onwards. My favourite track, aside from the singles has to be the lovely Faze-O sampling Listen to My Demo.
- Badfinger – No Dice (Apple 1970): perhaps one of the greatest pop bands ever, and surely the most tragic, this was their second album under this name, and I could easily have chosen any of the next four instead of this. Forget the single, No Matter What, a huge hit and a film sync regular – well actually don’t forget it, but look past it to the likes of Without You, as later covered by Nilsson, and the majestic and slightly ominous song about a woman of the night, Midnight Caller.
- The DOC–No One Can Do It Better (Ruthless 1989): the great unhailed (well be honest it was mightily hailed in some quarters but not for a long time) Dre album, produced around the time of the first NWA album. The DOC allegedly contributed more to that group than various actual named members, but this is a far more sophisticated album both lyrically and in production terms than anything by the Compton crew. Dre wouldn’t come close to this again until The Chronic.
- Carl Craig–Landcruising (Blanco Y Negro 1995): post Kling Klang metallic-eyed soul from Detroit’s second wave. It always intrigues me to hear people enthuse about the likes of Kraftwerk but scratch their heads at, and walk away from records like this. The lineage is both obvious and crucial to the understanding of the path that electronic music has followed in recent decades. And no-one does it better than the man from Planet E. Re-tweaked and reissued last year as triple pack, I’ve got a soft spot for the sound and mixes on the original double vinyl, simply because that’s where I first fell in love with this. And then there is the amazing Kenny Larkin mix of the single from this, Science Fiction.
- Johnny Thunders–So Alone (Real 1978): That Johnny recorded anything listenable at this stage in his career remains a miracle (there are some truly awful records from the same general period). But record he did, here with the help of Steve Lillywhite, and he made this record. You Can’t Put Your Arm Around Memory is justifiably famous but I love the answer to the Pistols’ anti Dolls New York, the Jones & Cook featuring, London Boys, ”you poor little puppets”. The sense of attitude this record exudes is still tangible all these years later
- The Who –Quadrophenia (Track 1973): it’s hard to raise a hand and say which of this band’s albums of its first decade is the standout. Leeds, of course, is the defining live album, but I think this edges out Next as their studio peak. The package alone, on the vinyl, is a piece of art, and what is inside, if you play the four sides in order, comes closer to defining Townshend’s elusive tribal youth than any time since the first album. He was still close enough to his roots to have a grasp on what he was writing about and infuse it with the mod ethos and soundscape that it demanded. He would never be this precise again.
- Metro Area (Environ 2002): I snuck this record in, two years after my cut off point. It’s my list and I can do things like that. The album that nailed a whole sub-genre. It didn’t start it (and, indeed, much of this defining album had appeared on 12″ vinyl earlier), but it so obviously was the landmark release. I hate the term nu-disco, but it’s as close as I’m going to get so it will do. Taut flowing basslines, simple, deceptively clinical, until they grab you, melodic keys and a subtle seductiveness make this album one the records that I’ve not been able to file away this decade.
- Various–Fast Product (IRS 1979): an American collection of the first few singles on Bob Last’s very briefly fantastic tiny Fast label. The best tracks ever from The Human League, Gang of 4 (the clatteringly angry Armalite Rifle, still their finest moment), The Mekons and others. Rough and brutal, and that’s exactly how post-punk records should be. This album inspired me to start a label.
- Dr Aliminatado – The Best Dressed Chicken in Town (Greensleeves 1980): god how I played this when I first got hold of it. Over and over again. This record just sounded so completely fucked up, so utterly out there, and despite the passage of some 27 years, it still does. Just look at the sleeve. The record sounds as it looks. What I want to know, is did the car actually him, as the legend goes.
- The Mighty Diamonds – Right Time (Front Line 1976): Virgin NZ (or were they still RTC at the time) imported the whole Front Line catalogue in 1979 and for many of us it was our first exposure to any Jamaican music beyond the Island name stuff (Bob, Toots etc, but not the interesting things), and what an eye opener it was. Actually that’s not absolutely true, I had two tracks from this courtesy of the earlier Front Line sampler but that was it, nothing else, and all that did, in a land where it was impossible to import records, was frustrate. Like so many of the Jamaican vocal groups of the era, this had an otherworldly, almost ethereal quality to it, like a filtered version of something from another time and place. Which is exactly what it was.
- Robert Owens – Rhythms in Me (4th & Broadway 1990): this album, from the tail end of the Chi-town golden era of house, is largely forgotten, but it bought together two strands of Chicago House, the vocal genius of Owens, his first recordings outside the Fingers Inc camp and their seminal recordings for Trax, DJ International and Alleviated, and the production skills of Frankie Knuckles (with David Morales herein), godfather of the genre. And it was a major step forward for both parties. This album added a sheen of sophistication to the prototypical Owens vocal style and emphasised the dark moodiness hinted at by earlier anthems. To complete this album you really need the Visions 12” mixes too.
- The Ballistic Brothers – London Hooligan Soul (Junior Boys Own 1995): when I lived in London in the mid eighties I was drawn into the passionate addiction of the London soul mafia, scouring the shops of Soho and Edgware Road for old jazz, funk and soul records arriving weekly from US warehouses, then off to the Dub Vendor in Ladbroke Groove for crackly seven inches from Kingston. This record felt like the soundtrack to that era, and indeed it was the young members of that soul mafia who later in the decade took the American musical revolution of the mid to late eighties around the world, and a decade later made this wonderful, warm, and humble album.
- Eddie Kendricks – He’s a Friend (Tamla 1979): long out of print but recently available on a limited edition triple CD reissue, this was a wonderful meshing of the former Temptations’ ethereal voice with the lush washes of Philadelphia, produced as it was by Norman Harris and backed by the classic MFSB band. One of those albums that is so damned good, it’s hard to work out why no one knows about it.
- Fripp & Eno – No Pussy footing (Island / EG 1974): that this album is so very hard to find in 2007 is an absolute crime. And that this album influenced a swathe of young musicians, first discovering the brave new world of synthesizers is beyond question. Much more than most of the German acts that inspired this record, tracks like Swastika Girls (actually there are only two on the album), along with Kraftwerk, provided a rough blueprint applied in garages and school music rooms across the UK and Europe over the next few years. And it still sounds like the future….
- Sparks – Kimono My House (Island 1975): the mid seventies doesn’t really deserve its rock’n’roll reputation as a musically barren era. Sure the United States was – outside NYC and the odd exception that proved the rule – pretty much the musical wasteland it remains today, and the bloated carcass of prog rock was pervasive in the universities. But there were dozens of quirky little acts like this across the rest of the world – well not exactly like this. Sparks had to escape the US to get any real traction and they made pop records that sounded like no-one else. Frantic falsetto stories of angst like This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us. One of them looked like Hitler’s camp twin, and five years later they made electro anthems, which would be huge in the gay clubs, with Giorgio Moroder.
- Todd Rungdren – Something / Anything (Bearsville 1971): sprawling, almost incoherently at times then coming up for air, at just the right moment, with melodic gems like It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference, this album works as a whole, best when played from beginning to end as one piece. Something / Anything is so good you can almost forgive all that cyber hippie nonsense later on, but not the fact that he produced Meatloaf.
- John Cale – Paris 1919 (Reprise 1973): I like the Island Cale albums, especially Fear, and some of his more recent work a lot, but I have a soft spot for my worn old copy of this eccentric album from the perverse Welshman. Musically sumptuous, lyrically dark, this album is the sort of record that a major label would never release in 2007. It’s an artistic statement from a master composer and musician that exists because it should. Reissued in 2006 and then deleted almost immediately for some obscure contractual reason …
- John Coltrane – Live at the Village Vanguard (Impulse 1961): the first heavy metal album. For the meek this is not an easy listen, but it signified the moment when Coltrane veered from being just an incredible player to something much more. With the lights out and the sound up, at 2am, you can listen to this and almost feel that you are watching and feeling the heat from Eric Dolphy’s majestic clarinet and roll with ‘trane on those, intense, extended solos. A total head fuck…..
- Scritti Politti – Songs to Remember (Rough Trade 1981): Green Gartside is odd. He’s made only half a dozen albums over a twenty eight year career. One, Cupid & Psyche, was a killer transatlantic pop album, and the rest were pleasantly disposable and rather soulless. Apart from this, the record that really didn’t belong in 1981 or on Rough Trade and is his one claim to rock’n’roll perfection. Sounding like the record the indie kid made after an evening at a disco, you’d swear this was the first E record, predating and predicting as it does the likes of The Happy Mondays and Primal Scream at the end of the decade.
- The Buzzcocks – Another Music In a Different Kitchen (UA 1978): Manchester’s greatest pop band, and purveyors of one of the finest streams of impeccable pop singles produced by anyone anywhere ever. Fifteen stone cold killers one after another, and in the midst of it came this album which offered just a little bit more. It took the punk experiment one step further and was an obvious pointer to the Pete Shelley’s solo work three albums later. Love Battery and, even more so, Moving Away From The Pulsebeat sound like tracks twenty years ahead of their time, and even the bang-bang power pop tracks like Fast Cars are never less than compelling.
- Moodymann – Silent Introduction (Planet E 1997): enigmatic, even in his most open moments, Kenny Dixon Jr remains both one of America’s great musical secrets, almost unknown outside electronic circles, and a massive influence across the pond in Europe and the UK (try and imagine Henrik Schwarz’s wonderful DJ Kicks mix without Kenny’s influence). And completely addictive – once you buy in you come back again and again (and indeed, find yourself paying silly money for those rare 12”s). His rhythms, grooves, call them what you will, are often ridiculously understated in their subtly but their ability to snare you – as he says: I Can’t Kick This Feeling When It Hits
- Eugene Record – The Eugene Record (Warner Bros 1976): rightly famous for all those glorious Chi-lites records, this was the first of three, forgotten, solo albums for Warners, and is neigh on impossible to find, as it flopped on release and has never been reissued. The two key tracks Laying Beside You, a minor hit, and Overdose of Joy, revived as a rare groove styled classic in recent years are only the beginning of this sweet soul masterpiece.
- Split Enz – Mental Notes (White Cloud 1975): the only Enz album, if push comes down to shove, that really matters. The rest were simply nice but this one, with Judd still in tow, had edge which all the others simply lacked. The delivery is amateurish at times and the production raw (you can tell they wanted the world but were limited by budget and technology). Although it was recorded in Melbourne, this record breathes Auckland ’75 and is one of the two must-own AK albums of the decade (the other being the debut Hello Sailor album).
- Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (Reprise 1967): I’m not going to try to talk about the genius of the fifties Sinatra canon, but by the mid to late sixties he was regarded as an artistic spent force, and only a few of his Reprise recordings do much to contradict that perception. Apart from this, a sublime melding of the Jersey brat at his most precise and refined and Jobim’s Latin genius. At the time Jobim was riding on a wave in the USA but neither act here succumbs to the temptation to overstate, as Sinatra was by this stage, so prone to do. Perfection….
- Womack & Womack – Love Wars (Elektra 1984): this album was everywhere when it came out, it was THE album to own and talk about. But, oddly, if drifted from the public consciousness rather quickly and for most of the past twenty years has been pretty much unavailable. So obviously Womack-ish in it’s grit, this album had many of the rough edges found on brother Bobby’s albums, smoothed out somewhat. A classic of it’s time with its lovely intertwined domestic vocal interplay. My favourite moment is found on Baby, I’m Scared of You when Linda wails I Need a Man and husband Cecil hollers back I’m Available…. Of course he is.