In the first of a regular series, where Tarka Blowpig Music are going to ask guest contributors to nominate ten albums with a song from each to be put on a Spotify playlist, TBM’s Jez Denton will start with ten albums that he feels you need to listen to! These may not be his favourites, or indeed may not even be the same list next week. But they are ten great albums that deserve to be heard by all fans of music!
So, here is the Spotify link for you to enjoy as you read about Jez’s ten choices.https://open.spotify.com/user/21jl67tra4fr3mlbotmk5qh7y/playlist/00cuDF1Ejw2hRWEqLAeWMv?si=ZwU08a0eTyaXerprmEdJIw
There are moments in popular music history that are often highlighted as the moment, the point in time that was seismic in it’s impact on art, culture and wider history as a whole. Elvis Presley walking through the doors of Sun Records, The Beatles singing Love Me Do or the moment electricity was added to acoustic instruments are all, rightly, heralded as those important moments. However, for me, looking back, the most seismic moment was when, on the 30th August 1965, with the release of Highway 61 Revisted, Bob Dylan plugged in. Dylan had, up till then recorded and performed his music of American folk identity acoustically only to seemingly throw all that away by becoming a ‘Judas’ to the purists. Dylan used blues rock musicians such as Michael Bloomfield and Al Kooper, to create an album that linked the country music he’d grown up with to the blues that was beginning to be amplified, represented by Highway 61, the road that connected his hometown, Duluth, Minnesota, to New Orleans in the Deep South. This is the moment that popular music grew out of being the preserve of the teeny bopper. It kis the point at which the modern album was born; no more just a collection of singles, the album became a concept, a piece of art and something that helped the pop and rock world mature and grow.
Heavily influenced by Dylan, and other American bands such as The Byrds, school friends Richard Thompson, Simon Nicol and Ashley Hutchings formed, as teenagers, the band Fairport Convention. Originally happy to cover those artistes they so admired the band soon found their song writing talents before also discovering a love, as well as a treasure trove, of traditional English folk songs that they put their own, electrified, stamp on. Recruiting, by 1969, drummer Dave Mattacks, fiddler Dave Swarbrick and vocalist Sandy Denny, Fairport released what was to become a seminal album, Liege & Lief. As important in the British music history as other genre creating releases as Black Sabbath’s Paranoid or Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols, Liege & Lief broke new ground that led to the creation of folk rock; would Led Zeppelin IV have happened without Liege and Lief?
Everybody must have Bowie in their list, surely it is a given? But which album do you choose? I’ll be honest I could have chosen any of them. Tin Machine for being the link between heavy metal, that I was listening to in the late 80’s, and glam rock, folk music and other genres I found. Or what about Blackstar, the perfect epitaph and eulogy of the greatest music career of them all? Maybe Ziggy Stardust for all of its androgyny and influence on the genres that followed? In the end, though, I plumped for this album on the basis it is one that might be missed in a list of great Bowie albums.
I have a love of progressive rock music. I am moved by high quality production, by music that has had so much care taken over it. Whether that be The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s or The Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds that started creating albums as studio works as opposed to music to perform live, through bands that merged the worlds of jazz and classical music with rock such as ELP or King Crimson, to bands like Marillion that first introduced me to this genre, this is the music I often turn to. The highwater mark of this high level production excellence is the album released in 1973 by Pink Floyd, Dark Side Of The Moon. Seemingly made for the high sound quality of CD’s a full decade before that format was produced, Dark Side is a sumptuous and immersive album of sheer and utter beauty. It has hidden qualities that are exposed on different listens every time. An album I can still find gems in 30 odd years after hearing it for the first time.
In every music lovers life there is an important moment when music clicks. More importantly there’s often a person who is the catalyst for that moment. Someone who understands that you have a desire, a need, an overriding drive to immerse yourself in music. Someone who will at some point do something that releases that life force in you. For me my Aunt Ros was that special person with the moment being, among a number of significant ones, when her vinyl copy of Dire Strait’s Making Movies was passed to me. The vinyl copy which is, outside of my family and pets, my most treasured possession and the one which, without fail, gets played on the 5th of November in tribute to my beautiful and wonderful aunt as I remember her on what would have been her birthday. Skateaway, with its carefree heroine, never fails to both break me and make me smile. And that’s why music is so important; what else in the world can do this to a person?
It was always going to be only a small step from the heavy metal and rock music that I was listening to in the 1980’s to Blues music. After all, I’d begun to get interested in Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin and The Doors which led me to finding out about Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Otis Rush to name but a few. However, I’d also heard about this guy playing contemporary and modern blues, who I then saw with Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy, that player being Robert Cray. Cray is one of those performers who probably should be more highly regarded and successful than he is which is why, of all the blues albums I own, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is the one I feel you should all listen to. Give it a go, it’s a brilliant piece of polished and well produced blues playing featuring the great picking of the band leader Robert Cray.
You may have got the impression, so far, that my music tastes are somewhat, how would you say, old! The albums I’ve suggested so far have been from the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s with nothing from the 21st Century at all. Well, that would be unfair on me given that I have a love of lots of new music that has been produced over the last 20 years or so. Probably the one artist that has appeared in that time that has the greatest effect on me is John Grant. Now based in Iceland, where Grant moved to after discovering he was HIV positive, the American former front man of The Czars creates albums of deeply dark and black humorous lyrics backed by superior miserabilist electronica music of which Pale Green Ghosts is a genius example. Other than Bowie’s Blackstar probably the greatest album of the 21st Century.
Like David Bowie, Neil Young is a performer for whom I could easily make a list of ten albums of all his. An innovator and genre influencer, Young’s impact on the world of music is legendry. Whether that being as part of the greatest supergroup of all time, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, as an acoustic artist with albums such as Harvest or as the godfather of grunge, Young is, quite simply, important. Greendale, released in 2003, is one of Young’s lesser known works, but shows his inimitable ability, to raise awareness of the political and social issues, in this case the environment, without being preachy, but still powerful. Much of the enjoyment of this album, for me, comes from Young’s guitar playing, backed by long term collaborators Crazy Horse, that gives this album a dirty sound that is typified by the ten minute grunginess of Carmichael.
I like to be challenged when I listen to music; if it is worth it, it shouldn’t be easy. Tom Waits is that artist. Mixing elements of vaudeville, jazz, rock and blues in a voice that has been moulded by years of abuse from rough whisky and cigarettes, Waits documents the underbelly of American low-life quite beautifully in a most challenging and unique way. Swordfishtrombones, released in 1983, is part one of the greatest (followed by 1985’s Rain Dogs and Frank’s Wild Years in 87) three album trilogy ever released. I’ve never seen Tom live, it is one thing I’d sell body parts to do.
Album number 2 on my list was Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief which featured the fabulous song writing and guitar playing of Richard Thompson. And given that Rumor and Sigh, Thompson’s sixth solo album from 1991, is the greatest album ever recorded I could not, of course, not include this awesome work in my list of ten albums. From the opening track, Read About Love, and the following 13 tracks Rumor And Sigh is just sublime, gorgeous and wonderful. And of course it features 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, simply the very, very best song ever written, a moment never to be improved on by any songwriter.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my list of ten great albums I feel you should all listen to. And now, over to you. Send me your list of ten with a small piece about why you’ve chosen each and, if you can a photograph of yourself with your very favourite album to firstname.lastname@example.org