To begin at the beginning is one way of doing it but why not add a splash of original and pick up Part 3 at the beginning instead and with, as they say in the alphabet police, ‘A’. ‘A’ has always had the monopoly on all things first class, whereas ‘1’ can sometimes just be 1 out of 10 at least ‘A’ is usually used to refer to the good stuff. Not so in my vinyl collection as I only have a few examples. And by a few I mean two, and so technically slightly less than a few. There’s Ryan Adams with his complete cover of Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ and the debut, eponymous album by David Ackles. The former is very fine but could easily be got rid of because it doesn’t really add anything to just playing the CD. The David Ackles album is slightly different because he is held in high esteem by many a well known musician, but I’m afraid that this does not always mean great things. In truth it’s a bit too clever pants for its own good; something that can happen when you become a reference point for others in your profession. Perhaps now is the time for reassessment.
Off we go then, beginning not quite at the beginning but with ‘B’, and the best band that has ever started with that letter (if you don’t count ‘the’).
- The Beach Boys – various. My love for The Beach Boys will be a month that is forever May; their music an endless, gentle wave of harmony and wonder, made even more miraculous by the fact they were such a screwed up bunch of buggers. My vinyl assets add up to a mere four. First is ‘Pet Sounds’, which I am happy to say is a massively over rated album, perhaps just as much as ‘Sgt Peppers’ but is saved by some astonishing vocal arrangements and a few songs that fly so high that the top of the sky is just a memory. It also houses ‘Sloop John B’, which is a big pile of shit. Elsewhere we have ‘Carl And The Passions’ which is half an amazing album stretched out unnecessarily, ‘M.I.U Album’ which is pretty poor in places but is redeemed at least by the emotional devastation of ‘My Diane’, and finally ‘L.A (Light Album’ which is so late 70’s California soft rock it hurts. But remember that The Beach Boys invented California as a musical state of mind and so they can get away with it: just try ‘Lady Lynda’ (little more than an enormous marshmallow left out in the sun for too long), ‘Good Timin” and ‘Baby Blue’ for proof.
- The Beatles – ‘Past Masters’. Not all you need but if you had one shot at them this would serve as well as any other. That said for every ‘We Can Work It Out’ or ‘Paperback Writer’ there is an ‘Old Brown Shoe’ or a German version of ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’.
- Chris Bowden – Time Capsule. Bought on the say so of a very complementary review in a little book about obscure modern classics, and the fact it was reprinted by Soul Jazz Records, which is often a good sign (their compilations of New Orleans Jazz and German Electronica are extremely good). This is indeed a bit tasty though I wouldn’t put it on to impress an Adele fan. Nice gate-fold package too with a surprising inner photo.
- David Bowie – various. I shan’t stay long on him because there is literally too much written about him these days, perhaps even more than when he was alive. Picked up over the last three years there is: ‘Hunky Dory’ on gold vinyl (it is a world class effort); ‘Young Americans’ (which is in theory blue eyed soul but sounds more like a magnificent coke erection); ‘Station To Station’ (the comedown, which is beyond all and any criticism and one of the finest collections of music by anyone and of any time); ‘Stage’ reasonable live album, bought at a bargain price); ‘The Next Day’ (good but not as good as everyone first gushed) and ‘ChangesOneBowie’ (a decent compilation). Despite having almost all of what he did on CD I don’t listen to Bowie much anymore – his legacy has been dulled by overkill and barrel scraping. Shame.
- ‘C’. I had to skip through the rest of ‘B’ because it was getting hogged by big hitters, which is a shame because I could have spent quite a while writing about the singular joys of Ian Brown’s solo career. Seriously, give it a look. Instead we skip giddily through ‘C’ which includes The Clash’s beyond exuberant ‘London Calling’, ‘Tago Mago’ by Can – containing all 18.32 stoned, rhythmic minutes of ‘Halleluwah’ and David Crosby’s even more stoned ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name’, which provides the birth of the rot that would eventually bring the Laurel Canyon singer songwriter culture to its knees.
- ‘D’1. To finish off this particular box of cardboard, plastic and intermittent inspiration we must address first the alphabetical imbalance that pervades music. ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ seem to take up an awful lot of talent and so elsewhere through any collection you will find peaks and troughs. ‘I’ doesn’t have a great deal going for it and ‘Q’ has virtually nothing at all to mention (and that includes Queen. Finley Quaye anyone?). ‘X’ suffers from the same rule and it is these imbalances that you would always find flicking through every rack in every record shop and HMV across the land. I know this only mirrors the old phone book but it seems more pronounced in my collection. My ‘D’ bits feature quite a lot of Miles Davis, but I already wrote about him and indeed them recently, in the cryptically titled ‘On Miles Davis’. ‘D’ also has a few Bob Dylan gems but he deserves a post of his own and so all I can do is insist you at least try all of ‘Blood On The Tracks’, which is safely in the ten best long players of all time. Go on, I’ve just insisted.
- ‘D’2. Besides that all I can offer for ‘D’ on vinyl are pop-dance-disco euphoria in ‘Random Access Memories’ from Daft Punk and the thing of beautifully paced joy that is ‘Born To Be With You’ by Dion. Daft Punk have never really put a foot wrong and they know how to juggle the fast with the slow very well indeed. They are also happy to big up their influences in very bright letters and ‘Random Access Memories’ is the accumulation of everything they had learnt since they started on the path to ‘Homework. Dion, on the other hand, had already blown his first chance by the end of the 60’s but was rescued by an opportunity to record with Phil Spector, who added his usual grandiosity along with a stately shuffle that somehow sounded just right given it was probably his last truly great moment as a record producer. The title track is sheer bliss (I’d imagine even more so with the right chemicals to assist) and served well as the soundtrack to the start of our first dance at the wedding reception. On the day it then segued into Van McCoy’s ‘The Hustle’ which in retrospect provided a lovely pathway from the sublime to the ridiculous, but did so with a nod to good music in any form that was never less than respectful. Only later I also realised they both came out in 1975, smack bang in the middle of the best decade music has ever had. Interesting!
Part 4 to come, where we investigate more and perhaps if I can get my stop watch out offer a few moments of minutiae for your deeper appreciation.
G B Hewitt. 07.04.2020