A UK band who seem to continually be on tour round the world, Acoustic Alchemy formed in the mid 80’s as a two man acoustic guitar sound, until tragedy struck Nick Webb with pancreatic cancer. They could easily have folded, but mainstay Greg Carmichael instead reformed the band with additional percussion and electric guitars from Miles Gilderdale to form what is now a settled line-up.
How many of you can name a Swiss pop band? Me neither! But that’s what Double were – though this is no yodelling or misty mountain hop. In fact “Captain of the Heart” is one of those one hit wonders, though I think it’s set apart by being a truly epic song with its casual sophistication and melodic grace.
I spent 1985 working in Sydney; my drive to work was accompanied by one of the local FM stations, playing international pop and Aussie bands. Ah the mid 80’s! Those hair styles! And these Oz guys who formed Icehouse were the epitome of mulletness. Think Kevin Keegan crossed with David Hasselhoff.
A seven piece outfit from Leeds, UK, formed in 2009, Submotion are close to a halfway house between Bonobo and London Grammar, and I can’t say fairer than that! Atmospheric, delicate yet heavy, lush textures, great root bass, deep groove brass and the voice of Ruby Wood are allied to complex rhythms. It’s a heady mix, great for kicking back.
What it is to have an older brother who’s into music. Best known as bassist and singer with Cream, Jack’s solo album “Harmony Row” from 1971, came to my ears from bro’s room. A haunting song, beautifully constructed, with a South American vibe that stems from its initial influences, “The Consul at Sunset” quickly insinuated itself, so that when bro went out, I raided his room and slammed it on.
Taken from his solo album, “Secret Story”, the final track is another example of how Pat can build a piece to a magic crescendo; think of how Barber does it with his “adagio for Strings” and you’ll be on the right lines. Truth is, I could fill my playlist with Metheny; but a word of warning if you don’t know his catalogue. He is eclectic in the extreme. Some of it is hard to listen to!
From the 1968 album “Who Knows Where The Time Goes”, “Pretty Polly” features boyfriend at the time, Stephen Stills, on guitar. US singer songwriter Judy was affectionately known on the circuit as “Judy Blue Eyes” which might just resonate with Crosby, Stills and Nash fans as approximating to the opening track of their second album. (“Suite Judy Blue Eyes”).
Ah the power of the album cover! If any cover made me want to listen to its contents then this one from “Jollification” must surely be right up there, with its representations of multi coloured strawberries coming from the bluest of blue skies...
A French electronic duo, Telepopmusik’s “Love’s Almighty” features the voice of Angela McCluskey and was released on their second album “Angel Milk” in 2005. I’m indebted to one of my Theatre Studies students, Emma, who hailed from France and lent me a copy...
I’m tempted to just write “’nuff said’” but feel I should at least give you some background to this.
Three stories. One, my mate Graham, hitching his way across the USA, in the late 80’s, got a lift with a guy who only had one CD in the car – “Songs From The Big Chair” by Tears for Fears. You’d have thought he’d never want to hear it again but far from it.
Taken from their album of 2003, “Black Cherry”, I first heard “Hairy Trees” as a sample on Tom Middleton’s excellent mash-up “The Trip.”
I can clearly remember hearing this song for the first time. I’d just started that glorious teaching period known as the “long holiday” in July 2001, and was sitting in the garden, sun out, attempting to write the book and lyrics to a musical I was aiming to produce the following Christmas...
Let’s face it; if you’re into John Martyn, then probably “Solid Air” first grabbed you. It did me; another smoky room, another smile on the face; another piece of music that has me exclaiming, ‘who’s this?’ Of course, once you’ve started, well, you’ve got to hear more to confirm your suspicions, and I first heard “Dancing” on the late night radio in UK just a few days later. Socks knocked off I headed down to the local record shop and hunted him out.
Taken from his debut album “Animal Magic” from 2000, and prior to being signed to Ninja Tunes a year later, Bonobo aka Simon Green has carved out a career with his ambient mix of textured tunes, often referred to as “downtempo” but which I prefer to call calming and reflective. “Shadow Tricks” has one spoken line which sums it up – “you will find each time you listen to this recording that you relax even more.”
An oddity this one, but it always brings a smile to my face. Taken from 1997’s album, “Let Us Play”, the heavy breathing, the samples, the cool vibe and tongue in cheek textures form a sonic soundscape.
Let’s be honest, no one quite kicks-back like the Dan, and if you’re an aficionado, then this eight-minute title track from their album of the same name in 1977 is the dog’s bollocks. It’s a magnum opus with its Chinese influences, congas, vibes, chord progressions, and Fagen’s croonings interlaced with Wayne Shorter on Sax through the whole shemozzle.
There’s something about the atmosphere created by the best live albums. Hard to believe, but Peter’s offering, “Frampton Comes Alive” from 1975, was the biggest selling live album of all time for years after. I wish I could remember how or when I first heard it, but it became my go-to album for a long time. I particularly remember a rain-spoiled holiday in Greece with my trusty cassette player belting this out giving me some succour.
Seminal smoke-ring music because this rehash of Pat Metheny’s seminal tune sung by Polish singer Anna Maria Jopek, also features Pat on guitar synth. I need to come clean on this; by putting Jopek’s version on my list, it leaves more room for the Great Man himself.
Taken from his album “Stephen Stills” from 1971, with that really cool pic of him in the snow, the top fact of this track is that the drummer’s Ringo Starr. Whisper it softly; this proves what a great drummer he is! The album also features Clapton and Hendrix at the peak of their powers; now what does that say about the pulling power of Stills?
A short-lived UK folk group led by Sandy Denny, featuring Trevor Lucas, Jerry Donahue, Gerry Conway and Pat Donaldson, they recorded their album “Fotheringay” in 1970 before splitting. At the time I was into “Liege and Lief” by Fairport Convention, and was blown away by “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” as a song covered by Judy Collins, so an album like this, featuring Sandy, was always going to be on my horizon.