so glad to be / your intimate friend

I’m cur­rent­ly in the thrall of four long­play­ers…..

James Hold­enThe Idiots Are Win­ning (Bor­der Com­mu­ni­ty) – from late last year, but I’m a slow adopter in this case. I’m always a lit­tle scared about say­ing any­thing about an album like this. Par­tial­ly because there are those who say it so much bet­ter; par­tial­ly because, unlike say the Eddie Kendricks album below, what it is and what it sounds like eludes words; but most­ly because of the accu­sa­tions that one only likes a record like this, as some­one said the oth­er day to me, because it’s the right thing to like. This is also an album that con­founds the the­o­ry that the album as a cohe­sive unit, either on or offline, is dead. With The Idiots are Win­ning, it is not dead. For bet­ter or worse, the tracks on this record sim­ply don’t work in iso­la­tion of each oth­er.

Can you dance to it? Hell no, not unless you have three left feet (which may be me), but you can shiv­er with plea­sure to the thing, and that’s the way to approach it I guess.

Sad­ly I’m flail­ing around try­ing to find words for this album, as I thought I would: write … delete … write … delete.

Umm­mm … a majes­tic elec­tron­ic album, from a pro­duc­er I’ve nev­er rat­ed before (his ear­ly work is a bit big room cheesy and not me at all) and of its time, that doesn’t real­ly sound like any­thing else. That will have to do.

LCD Soundsys­tem: Sound of Sil­ver (DFA) — yes we all know it by now, but if any album illus­trates a record that doesn’t need to exist either in a phys­i­cal for­mat or as a cohe­sive “album”, it’s this one. I play this a lot, two or three times a day right now and I have for a wee while – at home, in the car, at the gym – and it ‘s one of those oh fuck yes albums (or col­lec­tion of songs) from begin­ning to end. It may well end up as the best pop/rock/pop album of the year. Who cares if it wears its influ­ences so brazen­ly, its pop and it’s mighty fine, oh fuck yes. I’ll get sick of this as an album fast, but there are songs that will stick for a very long time.

The Good the Band and The Queen (Par­lophone / Hon­est Jons) – a record for old peo­ple but I’m an old per­son, so yes, I like this a lot. Nobody under 35 should both­er as it won’t make sense.

Eddie KendricksThe Thin Man (Tam­la) – I’m a late­com­er to the joys of the ex-Temp­ta­tion. Whilst I was furi­ous­ly buy­ing up funk albums in the pre-house eight­ies, I missed him. I bought oth­er for­mer Temps (Den­nis Edwards, David Ruf­fin) and the band itself, but, for no oth­er rea­son than his NZ sleeves looked shit­ty, not EK.

I have a sin­gle Motown Great­est Hits I bought from Real Groovy about 1990 (when they were fur­ther up Queen Street, 492 I think), and have long known the big dis­co tracks of course, but the depth of mate­r­i­al on his actu­al albums escaped me until I found a copy of the Nor­man Har­ris pro­duced He’s a Friend (“he” being the lord almighty in this case) some years back, and fell in love with it in a very big way. But I had to live with it, and all the oth­er solo albums I acquired sub­se­quent­ly, in the form of very, very bat­tered vinyl copies. Which is fine, but a remas­tered copy of each, whilst there may only be a lim­it­ed mar­ket for them, was what I real­ly want­ed. And, then, bang, there they were: two very lim­it­ed remas­tered sets of the com­plete solo works of, per­haps, The Temp­ta­tions finest voice (it’s a close call with Ruf­fin), and, with­out ques­tion, the great­est male voice to grace the Motown empire dur­ing the sev­en­ties. Which is say­ing some­thing when you look at the com­pe­ti­tion, but it’s true.

So with the appro­pri­ate cajol­ing, I man­aged to acquire both (and some­how end­ed up with two of the sec­ond). I’ve not even delved into the first set yet but the sec­ond, list­ed here, is sim­ply incred­i­ble. When I grew up in New Zealand in the sev­en­ties, black Amer­i­can albums got a rough deal. Unless they were infused with the unlike­ly radio hit, then they were shoved out as sec­ond rate releas­es with shit­ty cov­ers, and quick­ly delet­ed as if they were embar­rass­ing. Nev­er­the­less, in the mid-sev­en­ties, I acquired a fair few. But what that release pat­tern meant was that they were both hard to find in lat­er years if you missed them the first time around, and when found, of ter­ri­ble qual­i­ty. So for me, albums like these are a redis­cov­ery because they nev­er sound­ed like this on those ini­tial vinyl releas­es I’ve lived with in recent years.

I real­ly don’t know if that make any sense, but the thing is the four and a bit albums on The Thin Man might sound famil­iar to me but this is like dis­cov­er­ing these all over again. And what a joy it is, from the Har­ris pro­duced Philly-styled sen­su­al­i­ty of those two mid­dle albums in this set, to the two slight­ly raw­er albums that book­end them (and the unre­leased bits at the end). But the thing that sim­ply dom­i­nates these three CDs is that voice – that, almost celes­tial, frag­ile voice that says so much by say­ing so lit­tle. On tracks like Hap­py where he almost pulls back from the word as he sings it in the cho­rus, so that you find your­self after­wards if actu­al­ly sang it or sim­ply meant to. Or the way he can turn a lyric about wag­ging (Skip­pin’ Work Today) into four and half min­utes of latent sex­u­al­i­ty so effort­less­ly. Or that incred­i­ble vocal quiver in From Me To You 

I think I’ll live with this for a few weeks then delve into the first vol­ume.

That there is, after so many years of dig­ging, so much still for me to find nev­er fails to amaze me.


On a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent note, I’m real­ly enjoy­ing the new TVNZ on Demand site. I even found a ter­ri­ble old almost-inter­view with myself that I’d long for­got­ten exist­ed.

Oh and head over to Peter Mac and read the won­der­ful Trevor Reekie Wom­ad adven­ture. It explains why music will sur­vive the music indus­try

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