Working from home has been more time consuming than I had imagined and what I thought would be a ripe opportunity for writing has quietly dribbled past. But I’m up to date right now and so shall continue my Coronavinyl Revival whereby I drift aimlessly through my vinyl collection while you yawn and go back to watching The Steph Show or something else slightly higher up the intellectual ladder. This time I have raided the collection on top of the music/photo/general crap shelving unit in the dining room. I’ve left a couple of big boxes up there:
The Band – The Capitol Years. Because the story of the band can be told this simply: great band, always brilliant live, albums started very strong then went to just being good, then one last blast of brilliance and then a weak final gasp, notable chiefly for a wonderful cover of ‘Georgia On My Mind’ with Richard Manuel breaking the soul with that voice. He killed himself some years later: hanged from a shower curtain in a motel room.
Eric Clapton – The Complete Studio Collection 1970-1981. He may have been handy with an axe (as in guitar, he would have been a third rate lumberjack) but Clapton had a highly lucrative yet artistically fuddled 70’s. ‘Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs’ is a collaborative tour de force and his one true masterpiece, but the rest are best described as tunefully adequate and worst as drab. He spent the whole decade stoned and drunk and I don’t think that made him very happy. Ask him yourself; I think he’d agree. I’m struggling to recall why I bought it now, I think just because I was falling in love with buying vinyl.
So what I have in front of me is a bunch of 10 titles that go off in different and occasionally interesting directions. You don’t have to like them; I’m writing this to keep sane and occupied – your well being is comfortably towards the bottom of my list of priorities right now, and I don’t mean that in a horrible way. Perhaps this lot will cheer you up.
- Doing It In Lagos – Boogie, Pop & Disco in 1980’s Nigeria. Bet you weren’t expecting that! Nigeria is one of Africa’s greatest hot spots for that continent’s take on funky, glittering dance music. I won’t even pretend to have scratched the surface but this is a glorious 3 LP collection with a bonus 7 inch thrown in. Regardless of the pace, all of it should put a smile on your face and the names are to die for: the ambiguity of ‘Holiday Action’ by Livy Ekemezie, the offer to ‘Funk With Me’ from Danny Offia & The Friks, explore whatever Gboyega Adelaja’s ‘Colourful Environment’ is, or follow along with Godfrey Odili as he insists ‘Let’s Do More Music’. More fun than a foam party, and you’re less likely to get chlamydia.
- Peter Gabriel – Passion. Another 3 slabs of heavyweight vinyl for this reissue of the soundtrack to The Last Temptation Of Christ. This is as atmospheric as it is pretentious, which is to say very, and my only problem is that I didn’t find the film as good as I wanted too. Peter Gabriel is one of the foremost exponents of rich-white-man-embracing-global-music but without him maybe we’d have never got to hear the dervish-like throat warbling of permanently peckish, crossed legged Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Who am I calling pretentious?
- Interstellar – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Interstellar is the best film that Christopher Nolan has made. I just don’t get the fuss over Batman; I find them dull and self indulgent. One of the crucial components of Interstellar’s anatomy is Hans Zimmer’s score, which comes at you in waves. Sometimes it is barely a whisper and sometimes you are trapped in a glorious cathedral in the middle of an organ playing competition. I would like to die to the sound of ‘Cornfield Chase’. Add this to the essential soundtracks list.
- Captain Beefheart – Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972. Now here’s an acquired taste and one that I’m not at all convinced I have ever truly acquired myself. Captain Beefheart was a difficult man at the best of times and his output very unreliable but he did have a voice that could rip through a brick wall and his lyrics and titles were often strangely brilliant. This tidy little 4 LP box includes super odd ‘Lick My Decals Off Baby’ and his most commercial effort in ‘Clear Spot’. There is a time and place to listen to this music, I just don’t know when or where?
- Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs present – English Weather. I bought this almost entirely for the front cover photo, which is superb. The music within is an autumnal collection of more obscure semi-prog from the early 70’s, when Britain was feeling the hangover from the 60’s – I suppose it shares a bleak resonance with the ending of Withnail and I – but to give its dues it has some lovely music; best of all being ‘Big White Cloud’ by John Cale. Pressed on translucent vinyl, for some reason.
- Bob Dylan – Trouble No More. This Bootleg Series release gathers together some of the best music Dylan played live during his born again Christian phase. It was a strange time in his life and it almost ended his career as once devout fans grew tired of his preaching on stage and insistence on only playing his new, God fearing music, as if his astounding back catalogue had been made by someone else altogether. But this phase threw up some gems that anyone could enjoy, like the entire ‘Slow Train Coming’ album and the beautiful ‘Every Grain Of Sand’. This set is helped by sumptuous presentation and the fact his touring band were a tight unit who could play. Occasionally, very occasionally, the devil does not always have the best tunes.
- Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti. The greatest artistic statement by one of the greatest bands to shit all over the earth. Home of ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Custard Pie’ and ‘In My Time of Dying’ and ‘Trampled Underfoot’, amongst others. You may think you don’t like Led Zeppelin or that you never will but this might be the album to change your mind. Made to be bought on vinyl, it is a die cut activity centre waiting to be played and played with.
- The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda. Or just Alice to her friends. The widow of the master of jazz spiritualism, John Coltrane, Alice forged a career with this kind of deeply enchanting and soulful soup of collective karma and eternal quest for inner peace. Another generous vinyl package and worth seeking out; not just for the package, the music alone is worth the investment.
- The Fernweh. This is kind of a folk rock update with a splash of non irritating psychedelia. All perfectly reasonable to the ear but another purchase guided by the cover art, which is both startling and somehow faintly disturbing. I was considering getting rid of it but since it’s quite hard to find a copy now I may as well cling onto it. No, you may not borrow it.
- George Harrison – All Things Must Pass. What a wonderful thing to own. George Harrison only released one truly great solo album and this is it. It also soars effortlessly above every album his former band mates released. The danger of course is that by releasing such a beast so early on it was always going to be a struggle to get close to it again. Produced (or typically over-produced) by Phil Spector and boasting an intergalactic line up of talent: Ringo, Bobby Keys & Jim Price, Eric Clapton (on form), Billy Preston, Klaus Voorman amongst others, and of course gorgeous George himself, this shimmers with diamonds. ‘My Sweet Lord’ may be the most celebrated number but I find it a touch repetitive and over long; instead wallow happily in tunes like ‘Wah-Wah’, ‘Isn’t It A Pity’, ‘Beware of Darkness’, ‘Behind That Locked Door’ and ‘What Is Life’. Harrison is one of the few big name musicians to have really tried to unlock the secrets of existence through music and while he may not have really succeeded it’s very enjoyable to listen to him try. The third disc of studio jamming is not far from worthless but every home should own this. On any format, the vinyl version costs quite a few quid.
That’s it for now. Off you go and slump into another self isolation depression. The Coronavinyl Revival continues and is at your service.
G B Hewitt. 02.04.2020