My John Peel Festive 50 nominations for 2001, which I actually sent in for once,
were the Detroit Cobras/Shout Bamalama, a wonderful record almost bettering the
1960 Otis Redding original (itself a pastiche of Little Richard), which came in
at 15; White Stripes/Fell In Love With A Girl, which came 6th; and Melys/Chinese
Whispers - the winner at Number One! The White Stripes single was re-released in
February following the Top Of The Pops success of Hotel Yorba, and entered the
UK charts at no. 21, but vanished the following week, only to annoy the nation
for months to come in a TV advert for Radio 6 Music involving a self-indulgent
DJ ruining a wedding by playing it in place of the happy couple's request.
My main new discovery earlier this year was a young band from the Liverpool area, Hoylake to be precise, called the Coral. I had been unsure of their odd debut single, which I had found last year on an NME cover disc, but bought their EP Skeleton Key unheard for 50p from a bargain bin at the start of May. I discovered Zoot Horn Rollo-type delta blues guitar over a miscellany of ska, cowboy ballads, dislocated rhythms and sea shanties - Captain Beefheart to Captain Pugwash - all constantly shifting and warping, plundering and transmuting, and suffused with natural harmonies and a sense of melody, and making an excellent showcase for the band. Goodbye, their next single, complete with Piper At The Gates Of Dawn freeform instrumental section, was released in July, and entered the national charts, also at no. 21. All from a band mostly in their teens. I shall be following their musical development with some interest, hoping they don't turn into another Gomez. The LP, The Coral, disappointingly showed them already reigning in the anarchic tendencies. I suspect they have come too far too soon. The first single, Shadows Fall turns up in a re-recorded, less eccentric form, which is a bad sign, and the closing track, Calendars And Clocks, seems to be an attempt at writing a "serious" song, replete with bad 6th-form lyrics and pretensions - cut it out, guys, stay wild!
I came across Gemma Hayes on an Uncut cover disc last year, and on a track from another sampler I picked up free in a record shop, and thought she sounded promising. She had recently given up her sociology and art studies at Dublin's University College in order to concentrate on her guitar and song writing talents, developed from a large musical family back in Ballyporeen, Tipperary. It paid off as she struck a 3-album deal with Source Records, and low-key EPs quickly began to appear. I soon became acquainted with her very impressive first album, produced by her boyfriend. Her guitar playing reminds me a little of Maria McKee at her most experimental and I note with pleasure that she cites PJ Harvey as a musical heroine. Surely a contender for Later With Jools Holland in the next year or so, and less likely to burn out than the Coral.
I should also mention the very different Norah Jones, who looks rather like Rachel Weisz (this is a very good thing). She has the voice of a soothing angel and a deceptively simple singing style. Normally when Jools Holland "discovers" someone for his show Later..., he is doing so rather "later..." than the rest of us, but all I knew of Norah Jones was that she comes from Texas (so no Mercury nomination) and her absent father is Ravi Shankar. Unlike her sitar-playing half-sister Anoushka Shankar who played at WOMAD and at the George Harrison Tribute Concert this year, she sings and plays jazz piano, and has a repertoire ranging from Hank Williams to Nick Drake, Ray Charles to Roxy Music. I had not heard her prior to the two songs she performed on the show but acquired her album and a single in August.
Finally, I also discovered an Icelandic group called Mum this year. Iceland has a surprising number of musical exports aside from Bjork, most of them of interest, and Mum make distinctive and creative soundscapes that seem to come from the same tradition as Vespertine or Homogenic.
Of course a year is a long time in music and the unknown quantities I wrote of above have already become household names. I was pleased and surprised at the end of July to find that both Gemma Hayes and the Coral, whose album had only been released two days earlier, had been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, though the award went to Ms Dynamite. The Coral have had two Top Twenty hits, both shown on Top Of The Pops, and played the Royal Albert Hall, while Norah Jones' debut album sold a million in America alone and has been in the UK Top Ten since May.
However, apart from the more experimental and avant garde artists, away from the commercial fray, there have been very few new names that have excited my interest this year, and when I reviewed the best of the year's CD acquisitions for the list below, although some were new compilations or newly collected old material, only one featured actual new recorded music.
After several failed attempts to set a date to go to the Music And Video Exchange in Notting Hill it was arranged spontaneously the night before I drove up. I had a lot of vouchers to exchange for CDs, but also took a handful of old vinyl I had replaced on CD with me, including a couple of valuable Tyrannosaurus Rex and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers 45s. These fetched £120 in total, so despite leaving the store with 14 CDs and 9 CD singles (a couple of which replaced vinyl discs for future trade-ins), I still have more vouchers than when I started, despite later using a few at their new branch in Birmingham.
Another favourite music store is Fopp Records. They have a peculiar and laudable pricing policy which means that you can pick up newly released and classic CDs for as little as £5, and even take them back if you don't like them. Furthermore, the staff are knowledgeable and helpful. I knew the shop from its founding branch in Edinburgh, but as they have expanded branches have appeared in Bristol and, this year, even nearer to me, ruinously, in Bath.
For those of you keeping count, my CD library at the end of 2002 had 2,596 discs (including a lot of CD singles), comprising 21,037 indexed song titles, whilst my MiniDisc collection is catching up at 18,853. My ailing 12-year old CD player has just been replaced by a twin-deck CD recorder, offering a further format option, which I have just begun to investigate. Recording onto CD is a lot trickier and less versatile than MD but the results can be played on almost any CD player, so the CDR could replace the home-made tape cassette instead of the MD, as for some reason the MD recorder hasn't found its way into so many homes as I would have expected.
11/1/2002 Tyrannosaurus Rex - The Best Of Tyrannosaurus Rex (Flyback 2) Japanese
CD re-issue of a collection I owned on vinyl, by both Tyrannosaurus Rex and T
Rex, including a couple of experimental pieces unavailable elsewhere
12/1/2002 Ian Dury and the Blockheads - Juke Box Dury A useful collection of mostly A and B sides including such delights as There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards
12/1/2002 Compilation - JBO: A Perspective 1988-1998 A 2CD set of Junior Boys Own 12" singles including the Weatherall remix of My Bloody Valentine's Soon, for around £3
16/1/2002 Miles Davis Quintet - Steamin' With The Miles Davis Quintet Bolstering the inadequate jazz section of my collection
16/1/2002 New Order - Substance Pretty much all the New Order you need, the A and B sides of all their best singles in their 12" mixes
25/2/2002 Compilation - The Roots Of Rock'n'Roll Back to the 1940s for some of the key tracks that inspired Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and the whole emergence of both rock'n'roll and rhythm and blues, from the likes of Wynonie Harris, Arthur Crudup, Big Joe Williams, T-Bone Walker, Louis Jordan, Charles Brown, the Ravens, Amos Milburn, the Delmore Brothers... obviously fantastic!
22/3/2002 Compilation - Roots Of Rhythm'n'Blues A similar roster of fantastic artists as the Roots Of Rock'n'Roll, and another cheapo label, adding Helen Humes, Joe Liggins, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Lionel Hampton, Nellie Lutcher, Dinah Washington and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson among others to the mix
3/4/2002 Melys - Suikerspin A Dutch collection of singles and EPs by the Welsh group, including Chinese Whispers, a John Peel Festive 50 topper, and bought for a reasonable sum via the internet
3/4/2002 Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band - Dust Sucker (Bat Chain Puller) Recorded for Frank Zappa's label in 1975, this classic album was not released because the record label was bankrupted and masters destroyed. Now, Beefheart's own reference copy has been rediscovered, licensed and released by fans on a specialist label
23/5/2002 Compilation - Studio One Rockers From the 1970s heyday of reggae, these are legendary timeless recordings from Studio One in Kingston, Jamaica; a birthday present
4/7/2002 Bob Dylan - Live & Rare 2 (Promo) I noticed this promo-only release behind the counter in HMV, Swindon, and on enquiring about it was given a free copy
13/7/2002 Kinks - Kinda Kontroversy Their third album, which I remember from 1965, now re-issued on CD with bonus tracks, and full of archetypal Ray Davies songs, adding to the first two already in my collection
13/7/2002 Beach Boys - Little Deuce Coupe/All Summer Long With each release Brian Wilson grew more ambitious and more accomplished as songwriter, performer and producer. These two complete albums from 1963 and 1964 plus bonus tracks on 1 CD cost a fiver, and show his unravelling genius. Later in the year I added for the same price Today/Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)(from 1964 and 1965 and including Help Me Rhonda and California Girls).
13/7/2002 Fairport Convention - Heyday Sessions recorded for Top Gear and other Radio One programmes between 1968 and 1969 as the group featuring Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson made its transition into the electric folk muse which redefined a genre, still happily performing Leonard Cohen, the Everly Brothers and Joni Mitchell. Newly reissued with extra tracks, Fopp's in Bath sold this for a handsome £5
13/7/2002 Millie Jackson - Caught Up This and its equally epic and gripping sequel, Still Caught Up (which I bought the following month), were both concept albums, dealing with the eternal triangle from a 1970s soul viewpoint, and were both much played by me at the time
18/8/2002 Norah Jones - Come Away With Me No surprise to me that this beautiful record projected Norah Jones from nowhere into super stardom. From the school of Less Is More, effortless-sounding vocals and unique piano stylings. Sublime
18/8/2002 Darlene Love - The Best Of Darlene Love - The Original Phil Spector Hits Darlene Love was Spector's secret weapon, recording not only under her own name and as a session singer, but also in Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans and occasionally leading the Crystals - all represented on this superb collection
18/8/2002 Detroit Cobras - Mink Rat Or Rabbit Half-an-hour of passionately recreated doo-wop, Charlie Rich, Motown, Brill Building pop, soul and r&b covers all featuring the fabulous vocal stylings of Rachel Nagle. Original material not allowed
16/9/2002 Compilation - The Complete Natural Blues Named from Moby's song from his overrated album Play, this 3CD collection presented the blues originals that Moby sampled on his album, and traces the roots of the blues in America and its origins in the slave trade from Africa, and compares it with the emerging African blues culture and subsequent transcontinental collaborations
16/9/2002 Temptations - Psychedelic Shack/All Directions Two complete Motown albums from their key psychedelic period with Norman Whitfield, collected on one CD and priced at a fiver
16/9/2002 Compilation - A Cellarful Of Motown A 2CD collection going for a mere fiver, every track on this top notch set was previously unreleased, and every track should have been. How can such performances from artists like the Marvelettes, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Stevie Wonder, Brenda Holloway, the Temptations and Marvin Gaye lie in the vaults unreleased for over 30 years? And when can we have Volume 2?
11/10/2002 Specials - The Specials/More Specials The 1980s ska revival was spearheaded from Coventry by the Specials and the Selecter and Two-Tone Records, and these two highly entertaining LPs appeared on CD for the first time this year, and were snapped up for £10 in all at Fopp's
14/10/2002 Johnny Cash - The Very Best Of The Sun Years Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison shared both a country influence and a record label with Johnny Cash in the mid-50s, and he wrote hits such as I Walk The Line, Cry Cry Cry, Get Rhythm and Folsom Prison Blues, all represented here among its 30 tracks
7/11/2002 Compilation - Uncut: The Devil's Music A free cover-mounted CD compiled by Keith Richards, no less, of blues, soul and R&B classics - something he knows more than a little about, and has chosen wisely
10/11/2002 Terry Riley - In C Terry Riley seems to be being re-discovered at the moment if the monthly magazine The Wire and Radio 3's Late Junction are anything to go by. This and A Rainbow In Curved Air used to get played a lot by me in the 1960s on US import, and until I found this (again in Fopp for £5) I didn't even know it had been made available on CD
10/11/2002 Bob Marley & the Wailers - Burnin' Rather like the Beatles, Bob Marley's best album is whichever one you happen to be listening to. Burnin' was the second album Bob Marley made for Chris Blackwell's Island label which, like the first, came out in 1973. It's a well named album as it is incendiary from start to finish with both he and Peter Tosh at their most revolutionary. They were at home playing much of the material as they had previously recorded several of the songs in versions produced in recent years by Lee Perry, so the performances were relaxed, assured and deadly
10/11/2002 Fairport Convention - Rising For The Moon Sandy Denny returned to the fold briefly for this 1974 album and provides the vocal focus that had been lacking from their recent output. The title track and White Dress are highlights of their last essential album
25/11/2002 Richard and Mimi Farina - The Best Of Richard And Mimi Farina Another bargain price CD replacement of a vinyl double album, although a few of their dulcimer-led instrumentals have been left off for reasons of space. Richard Farina was a friend of Bob Dylan who made two folk-rock albums with his wife Mimi, Joan Baez's sister, and then died in a motorcycle crash on the way to the launch of his first novel, in 1966.
25/11/2002 Jam - The Jam At The BBC John Peel sessions and In Concert recordings in an inexpensive 3CD set, including a 1978 concert at the Paris Theatre in London which I witnessed
6/12/2002 Bo Diddley - Living Legend Over an hour of classic Chess recordings from Bo for £3, which luckily duplicated not too much from my existing collection
18/12/2002 Everly Brothers - The Very Best Of The Everly Brothers (Vol. 2) For my money, the Everly's Warner period up to the mid-sixties was their best, and is what is covered on this budget collection, including The Price Of Love, Cathy's Clown, Gone, Gone, Gone and How Can I Meet Her?
18/12/2002 10,000 Maniacs - Hope Chest: The Fredonia Recordings 1982-1983 The early 10,000 Maniacs were far more, well, manic, than they later became, as this first CD appearance of two early 12" EPs testifies. A couple of the songs featured here were re-recorded for later albums, including My Mother The War, but these are the versions I prefer
23/12/2002 The Clash - Clash On Broadway I was shocked to learn of Joe Strummer's death, announced that same day, and bought this comprehensive 3CD overview of Clash material in Swindon
27/12/2002 Compilation - Studio One DJ's The last acquisition of the year came through the post free with a subscription to Mojo magazine, and complements Studio One Rockers from the same Soul Jazz label. This one concentrates on the phenomenal Jamaican DJs and toasters of the 1970s such as Dennis Alcapone, Dillinger, Prince Jazzbo and Prince Far-I