Is it Part 4 already? Well I never. If ever you needed some guidance it’s now. According to those who do the adding up the most streamed song from 1999 is ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ by Toploader. This is a song distinguished purely by its own complete mastery of awful. It is the musical equivalent of coughing up blood and if it were a Spartan new born it would have been dashed upon the rocks without a second of hesitation. And yet it’s been streamed 27.3 million times. I wonder how many of those were by people who streamed it, realised it was shit, discarded it and then in their own stupidity somehow forgot how shit it was and streamed it all over again? The list for 2006 is, if anything, even more depressing with two songs by The Kooks in the top three and ‘Chasing Cars’ by Snow Patrol in second place. I’ve found more inspiring things in a slaughterhouse wheelie bin than can be found in the collected works of The Kooks but even then ‘Chasing Cars’ holds a special place in the annals of bad music. There can be few drearier, limp dicked songs in existence and yet this is the tune (a questionable description) that millenial arseholes lie down on the grass to at parties so they can stare at the stars and dribble love at each other. You see, you really do need me.
We’ll pick up where we left off and just barrel through the other two boxes because I’ll be here forever if I’m not careful.
- Father John Misty – ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ and ‘Pure Comedy’. Two very fine dollops of double vinyl, gatefold bliss. The former has ‘Bored In The USA’ and then the later matches it with ‘In Twenty Years Or So’; both quite bleak but delivered at an angle that makes them more than just digestible. Both albums are worth lowering yourself into. ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ was the first new LP I bought after getting my player: picked up in the Dundee branch of HMV along with ‘Second Coming’ by The Stone Roses. Not a bad way to start.
- Aretha Franklin – ‘Amazing Grace’. If only all religion was this simple. If only all gospel albums were recorded by the voice of the century and backed up by James Cleveland and The Southern California Community Choir. Solemn and heartfelt one minute and then overflowing with power and surge the next, its luxuries are many but top prize goes to ‘How I Got Over’, which is as close to an actual miracle as we’ll ever get. It’s worth having everything that Aretha recorded for Atlantic so you may want to invest in the tremendous value for money Atlantic Album Collection which is £47.59 on Amazon right now, and includes ‘Amazing Grace’. Just saying.
- Serge Gainsbourg – ‘Histoire De Melody Nelson. What a Gitane cloud of a dirty old fanny rat Serge was, and yet he was capable of making music like this. Based on the idea of him seducing a teenage girl that he has knocked of her bike in his Rolls Royce (not quite Boyzone then) this sounds lush throughout and to be honest it might be better not knowing the lyrics. Always slightly unhinged, Gainsbourg was a French legend and if you want a door in then try ‘Bonnie And Clyde’ where he duets with Brigitte Bardot and (what sounds like) a deranged monkey.
- Marvin Gaye – ‘What’s Going On’. A bit obvious, obviously, because this is one of the finest soul albums ever, but it deserves every petal of praise that floats its way. Marvin was easily the most tortured soul (in both senses) on the Motown label but in fairness his drive for independence did as much to change the record industry as any other character of the day. This album has many lovely moments but none more delicious as when ‘God Is Love’ bleeds seamlessly into ‘Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)’ and then you look down and realise you’ve started to float on music.
- Elton John – Various. There is no shame whatsoever in admitting you like Elton John. If anything he was too good for his own good and nothing after about 1976 ever quite matches his glory years. At one point in the 70’s one in every fifty albums sold worldwide was an Elton John album, which is quite staggering. Live album ’17-11-70′ has more energy than most and every one of his first 12 (12!!) albums has plenty to recommend but my golden moment is at the end of ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’ where he tries to outdo The Beach Boys and almost succeeds. He is a silly old tart sometimes but I have an enormous amount of respect for every drop of his musical integrity and taste. Not so much the glitter, but you can’t have everything.
- The La’s. The La’s have a lot to answer for. From them we had to endure Cast and John Powers solo career and then we had to deal with Noel Gallagher “finishing off what they started” by not doing anything remotely like that. The La’s is a super tight little album full of Scouse steel and lullaby and should not be remembered simply as the home of ‘There She Goes’. Instead ‘Son Of A Gun’, ‘I Can’t Sleep’ and ‘Way Out’ are all just as good and ‘Feelin” is tremendous – a lightning quick rattle of a song which cannot fail to register an emotional, and sometimes physical, response.
- John Martyn – ‘One World’ and ‘Grace And Danger’. All round hard work but maker of very beautiful and daring music, John Martyn should have made much more for a living, but then that’s just not how the music business works. If it was then Martyn would have been a millionaire and Ed Sheeran would be stacking shelves in a 99p Store. ‘One World’ is a grab bag of brilliance, at the heart of which is the gorgeous ‘Small Hours’, all slathered with ghostly ambience. ‘Grace And Danger’ is his divorce album and reeks of self loathing, regret and desperation. ‘Sweet Little Mystery’ is almost too lovely and his dagger jab cover of ‘Johnny Too Bad’ makes all kinds of sense give the circumstances.
- Who Is William Onyeabor? Another adventure in the world of Nigerian music, this time three slabs of very perky electronica from the very mysterious Mr Onyeabor. Rhythmic and repetitive in all the best ways, I should point you towards the splendid ‘Fantastic Man’ for a flavour and then you can just hear what you think.
- Portishead. I am pleased to say I have all three Portishead albums on vinyl. Portishead are worth it. ‘Dummy’ may be the startling debut and ‘Third’ the very welcome comeback but it is the eponymous second album where it all slides into focus. Dark and spooky but with an inner light that casts out a bit of much needed warmth. I could not recommend this highly enough. ‘Only You’ and ‘Cowboys’ are haunting.
- Roxy Music – Stranded. Their debut may be the ice breaker, ‘For Your Pleasure’ may tickle the critics’ fancy and Avalon is a first rate dinner party consumable but their third – ‘Stranded’ is the jewel in Roxy Music’s significant crown. Brian Eno had left to invent a whole new genre and be very clever with other people but that didn’t have any noticeable impact on Bryan Ferry and rest of the gang. Lurking within are a few real classics like ‘Amazona’ and the stately, sin cleansing ‘Psalm’ but the jewel within a jewel is ‘Mother Of Pearl’, which kicks off in frantic fashion and then suddenly mellows into a thing of genuine beauty. It is songs like this that guaranteed Ferry would never have problems getting laid.
That’s that then. I might have a flutter with a few other bits next. We’ll see. It’s not as if I’ve got a lot else to do.
G B Hewitt. 09.04.2020