On The Dunes - Donald Fagen

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On The Dunes - Donald Fagen

The voice of Steely Dan and half its creative genius with the late great Walter Becker, Donald Fagen’s released four solo albums, the best known perhaps being his first, “The Nightfly.” 

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Seraya - Fragile State

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Seraya - Fragile State

Formed by Neil Cowley - the keyboard man with Zero 7 – and Ben Mynott, Fragile State released two instrumental, cool jazz albums in 2003/4. “Seraya” comes from “The Facts and the Dreams”

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Sign - Boozou Bajou

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Sign - Boozou Bajou

Obsessive record collecting German duo, Florian Seyberth and Peter Heider have been making music together since the late 90’s. Taken from their 2008 album, “Grains”, “Sign” blends modern studio electronics with a bittersweet soul ballad. It incorporates their trademark electronic experimentations with a strong melody, and I think it’s got that West Coast feel with its addictive fusion of acoustic magic and shiny production.

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The Downtown Lights - The Blue Nile

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The Downtown Lights - The Blue Nile

One UK music critic once said that The Blue Nile ‘do virtually nothing very slowly.’  Chris Martin recently admitted he’d never heard of them. So who are they? Well, they’re from Glasgow, and amongst the cognoscenti, famously take anywhere between five and eight years to release a new album...

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She Says That She Needs Me - Brian Wilson

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She Says That She Needs Me - Brian Wilson

If, like me, The Beach Boys were your equivalent to The Beatles, then Brian Wilson stands as a God-like figure alongside Lennon and McCartney. “God Only Knows” and “Good Vibrations” must surely rank alongside any pop songs of the last millennia.

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The Water’s Deep - Bent

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The Water’s Deep - Bent

From the 2004 release “Ariels”, the last track on the album features the voice of Katty Heath. Bent themselves were a two man operation who drafted in session musicians like BJ Cole to give depth to their songs but essentially raided their own record collections to take mischievous samples including several by Nana Mouskouri the Greek legend!

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Angel Of The South - Acoustic Alchemy

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Angel Of The South - Acoustic Alchemy

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. 

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The Captain of Her Heart - Double

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The Captain of Her Heart - Double

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.

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No Promises -  Icehouse

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No Promises - Icehouse

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.

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Red Dress - Submotion Orchestra

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Red Dress - Submotion Orchestra

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.

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The Consul At Sunset - Jack Bruce

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The Consul At Sunset - Jack Bruce

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.

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Pretty Polly - Judy Collins

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Pretty Polly - Judy Collins

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”).

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Telling Tales - Lightning Seeds

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Telling Tales - Lightning Seeds

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...

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Love’s Almighty - Telepopmusik

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Love’s Almighty - Telepopmusik

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...

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Listen - Tears For Fears

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Listen - Tears For Fears

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.

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A Tune For Jack - Lemon Jelly

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A Tune For Jack - Lemon Jelly

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...

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Dancing - John Martyn

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Dancing - John Martyn

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.

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Shadow Tricks - Bonobo

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Shadow Tricks - Bonobo

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.”

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