Curtis Mayfield – Super Fly

Curtis Mayfield – Super Fly
Released July, 1972

1. Little Child Running Wild – 0.00
2. Pusherman – 5:24
3. Freddie’s dead – 10.31
4. Junkie Chase – 16.00
5. Give Me Your Love – 17.41
6. Eddie You Should Know Better – 22.02
7. No Thing On Me – 24.21
8. Think – 29.20
9. SuperFly – 33.08

“Super Fly” was Curtis Mayfield’s third album as a solo artist. Before this, he spent 12 years as a member of The Impressions, where as the main singer he wrote timeless songs such as ‘People Get Ready’, ‘Keep on Pushing’ and ‘Move On Up’. In order to understand “Super Fly”however, we first need to address the fact that is the soundtrack to a Blaxploitation film. What’s a Blaxploitation film? I’m glad you asked. According to Urban Dictionary (of all places) we can define Blaxploitation is the morphing of the words “black” and “exploitation”. It is a film genre from the 1970s that targeted the urban african-american audience. The actors used were mainly black and was the first style to use funk and soul music. Although initially popular it quickly disingrated as a film genre critizised for the use of stereotypes. As important as the films in the Blaxploitation genre were the soulful soundtracks. In cases like “Super Fly”, the soundtrack actually outsold the movie. It was ranked #72 by Rolling Stone Magazine on their ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’ list.

The album stands apart from the movie in its own right as a sort of concept album. Whilst there are similar themes throughout both, Mayfield actually explores the role of drugs and the eventual despair in much more detail than the film. The album tells it exactly as Mayfield was seeing it, and at times it’s bleak and downright depressing. The film on the other hand is much lighter and almost glorifies the protagonist. Here Mayfield doesn’t so much as judge as just tell the story that his contemporaries were facing at the time. He makes no excuses or no apologies. Mayfield has been quoted as saying “I don’t take credit for everything I write, I only look upon my writings as interpretations of how the majority of people around me feel.” What he did with this album was to take a snapshot of the world around him and document it in a way that wasn’t overly judgey or preachy, it just is what it is. The album really is a fascinating insight into the socio-political problems faced by African-Americans of a lower socio-economic realm.

On my first couple of listens I didn’t pay so much attention to the lyrics, and was quite caught up in the funk and sheer coolness within. Just listening to the album makes you feel a certain amount of swagger. It wasn’t until a few listens in that I started listening to the lyrics, where the true story was revealed. Mayfield tells the story of these young, flashy men pushing dope for the man. On first appearances it’s all very flashy and one almost feels a bit envious of the exciting and extravagant lives these men are living. It’s not until we look until closer that we see the cracks, and see how thin that façade actually is. These songs come from a place that is very real and this adds a layer of depth to the lyrics. It’s hard not to be impressed by the ‘Pusher Man’ with his “Secret stash, heavy bread / Baddest bitches, in the bed”. However, juxtaposed with this is the real underlying issues “Been told I can’t be nothin’ else / Just a hustler in spite of myself”.

Musically “Super Fly”really is quite brilliant. It’s pretty much as soulful and as funky as music can get. Being a soundtrack afforded Mayfield the liberty of taking it to the next level, embellishing the story with strings, horns and the classic soul sounds of the wah-wah guitar and rumbling bass. It’s very easy to see how Mayfield and “Super Fly” have influenced artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Lauren Hill and The Roots . Whether you want to simply enjoy the album for the music, or to explore a little further with the lyrics, “Super Fly” is a very easy and enjoyable album to listen to. Stand out tracks for me where ‘Little Child Runnin’ Wild’, ‘Pusherman’ and ‘Superfly’, but really the whole album is wonderful.

“Super Fly”is as quintessentially seventies as you can get. Scratchy, wah wah equipped guitars, funky bass runs, big horn sections and brilliant soul vocals. It is 40 minutes of fun. Now, I haven’t seen the film of the same name, but listening to the sound track has definitely piqued my interest. “Super Fly”was never expected to sell well, but due it’s surprise success, Curtis Mayfield went on to compose the soundtrack for more films, but none that I’ve ever heard of. I’m not going to talk about the themes of the album at all, because I’m sure Ang has gone right into it in her main review, but pay attention, because it’s very interesting. There wasn’t much of this album I didn’t like. In fact, what I liked most about it wasn’t even the music, it was the imagery the music evoked. Big American cars flying around the streets, African American guys with big Afros and bell bottom jeans, awesome sideburns and aviator glasses. Isn’t that a great picture? That image is encapsulated perfectly in the instrumental piece ‘Junkie Chase’. Rhythmic bass pumping, scratchy guitars and horns building to huge crescendos make this the perfect companion piece to a chase scene. I think the title, and final, track of the album is the best. It brings together all the elements of soul and funk, and uses them as a climax of sorts for both the album and its accompanying film. It was the second single released from the album and made it to number eight on the Billboard charts. The album that made Curtis Mayfield the widely known influential funk artist is a solid outing. A non stop ride that takes the listener to all kinds of places from start to finish, “Super Fly”is a must listen for, well, everyone.

This was definitely one of the superior concept albums, and indeed film soundtracks, that I have had the pleasure of listening to. I’ve listened to a bit of contemporary nineties and noughties R & B in recent years and from the moment I started listening to “Super Fly”, I could straight away see the influence that Curtis Mayfield’s work had on future R & B musicians. As a whole, the album was pleasurable to listen to, with funky percussion beats, wah wah guitars, and lyrics loaded with meaning and feeling. For me, the highlight of the album was title track ‘Superfly’, with its infectious and highly distinct (and instantly-recognisable) rototom intro, which just has me dancing in my seat every time I hear it. For those of you not in the know, the rototom is a tuneable drum, and was used throughout the album “Super Fly”, to great effect. It’s a corker of a song with an undeniable groove, and has been sampled in pop hit ‘Tilt ya head back’ by Nelly featuring Christina Aguilera, and The Beastie Boys’ ‘Egg Man’ (Legacy, tick!)  I also rated ‘Give Me Your Love’, with its lengthy instrumental intro. Overall, I would say this was a really solid album that obviously took 70’s R & B and Funk to the fore and created a dialogue around social and racial issues of its era. I will definitely be keeping this one in my ipod playlist for future enjoyment.

We’ve listened to live albums, double albums, debut albums, but “Super Fly” is the first soundtrack album we’ve had to review for afyccim. What a cracker it is, too. All the hallmarks of classic blaxplotation film scores are here: the wah-wah guitar, the thumping piano, the bass grooves, the flute, the sweeping strings and the punchy horns. You might have already heard the title track and ‘Pusherman’ without knowing it, as they have both been sampled in songs by the Beastie Boys, Eminem, the Notorious B.I.G. and Ice-T. Whereas the previous year’s “Shaft” soundtrack by Isaac Hayes was mostly instrumental, there are only two tracks on this album without vocals. Be they instrumental or not, all the songs on this record are killer. Though we can deduce plot points from these songs, particularly ‘Freddie’s Dead’ and the romantic ‘Give Me Your Love (Love Song)’, I don’t think you need to have seen the film to enjoy its music. Having said that, I couldn’t resist getting a copy of the film and checking it out, and yes, it’s exactly what you expect it will be. Mayfield even has a short cameo performing (miming) ‘Pusherman’ with the Curtis Mayfield Experience in a nightclub scene! His soulful vocals act as the inner monologue of Priest (the film’s protagonist), as he tries to make one last score before getting out of the business for good. Although the film was seen to be ambiguous in its depiction of drug dealers, Mayfield’s commentary is much harsher, decrying the ‘Pusherman’ who preys on the weak and downtrodden. The seemingly uplifting ‘No Thing On Me (Cocaine Song)’ outlines this sentiment as well: “It’s a terrible thing inside/When your natural high has died/The weaker turn to dope/And put all aside their hope”. I thoroughly enjoyed this album, and I’ve just started to explore Mayfield’s back catalog.

Every week we’d like to hear your thoughts on the album. Just click on one of the links below, or leave a comment here to have your say.

The Clash – London Calling

The Clash – London Calling
Released December, 1979

This is a mighty behemoth of a double album that sprawls across many genres. Despite moving from punk to ska to pop to rockabilly to hard rock to reggae and back again, the record has an unusual cohesiveness. The different styles seem to link the songs together, rather than isolating them as separate pieces. “London Calling” recently came in eighth place in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time, and only just scrapes into our seventies list with its 14th December 1979 UK release date.

The Clash performed their first gigs in London, when they supported The Sex Pistols on their 1976 Anarchy Tour. This notoriety landed them a record contract with British CBS in February 1977. Singer/guitarist/songwriters Joe Strummer and Mick Jones along with bassist Paul  Simonon and drummer Torry Chimes recorded their debut album over three weekends. Chimes left the group shortly before “The Clash” was released, and was replaced by Topper Headon. On the strength of their first single ‘White Riot’, the record became a modest hit in the UK, while the US division of their record label refused to issue it.

Throughout 1977, all of the band members had brushes with the law for minor crimes of vandalism, stealing or shooting pigeons(?) which only added to their outlaw image. Intent on breaking into the American market, their second album, “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” was produced by Sandy Pearlman from New York based band Blue Öyster Cult. Released in November 1978 the record debuted at No.2 on the UK albums chart, but peaked at just No.128 in the US.

Unperturbed, The Clash toured the US twice in 1979, with a diverse range of support acts including R&B greats Sam & Dave, legendary bluesman Bo Diddley and country rocker Joe Ely. The group’s
fascination with other musical styles filtered into their own songs when the time came to record “London Calling”. They enlisted Guy Stevens to produce the record which worried CBS, as his dependence on alcohol made him difficult to work with. Thankfully he got along well with the band and drew fantastic performances out of them with some songs only requiring one or two takes.

The themes of the tracks on “London Calling” are as diverse as their styles. Setting the scene with the classic title track we are lead through a bleak world of racial tension, unemployment, nuclear
disaster and drug abuse. The notion of rebelling against the establishment which dominated their early albums reoccurs in rocker ‘Clampdown’ and Simonon’s first recorded composition ‘The Guns of
Brixton’, which features one of the best bass grooves you’ll ever hear. They also offer up tales of isolation (the disco-themed ‘Lost In The Supermarket’), civil war (‘Spanish Bombs’), Hollywood legend
Montgomery Clift (‘The Right Profile’) and adults refusing to grow up (the excellent reggae-infused ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’). Covers of Vince Taylor’s ‘Brand New Cadillac’ and The Ruler’s ‘Wrong ‘Em Boyo’ are great fun, with the latter’s false start of ‘Stagger Lee’ giving way to an excellent burst of ska. Closing track ‘Train In Vain’ finally gave The Clash their first US hit after hitting No.23 on the Billboard
Hot 100 in early 1980. Added at the last minute, initial pressings of the album’s artwork omitted the song from the running order.

I am always flawed by the scope of this album. All of these songs are full of energy, and if you can get past Strummer’s abrasive vocal style, endlessly enjoyable. I love how the production of ‘The Card
Cheat’ was made to sound big by recording every instrument part twice, creating an almost Phil Spector-esque sound. The poppy ‘Hateful’ has a chorus that sticks in your head for days and the horns on ‘Revolution Rock’ matched with Strummer’s hilarious ad libs make for yet another album highlight. I believe this is one of best albums ever recorded, made all the more astonishing by the band’s previous work. To this day, I skip the first half of The Clash’s “The Singles” collection; I don’t dig their early stuff at all. “London Calling” is one of those rare records where every track is a winner and stands up well on its own, without the whole record’s context. It has arguably the most iconic album cover ever as well. Love it!

For “London Calling”, The Clash’s third album, members of the band were all around their mid-20s. There is something about being that age that has a certain energy about it. You are no longer an adolescent but you are only just figuring out who you are and how you fit in the world. These sorts of questions are directly explored within “London Calling”. Not only are the band playing around with these ideas and concepts in their lyrics, but also do so in their music, with a variety of genres being tackled head on. It’s obvious that the time of writing this album was a tough one, not only for the band but for society as a whole. Strummer delves deep into this psyche within his lyrics, focusing on subjects such as drug use, unemployment, politics and racial conflict. Despite the varying genres explored within, “London Calling” is at its heart a rock n roll album, and it wears that heart on its sleeve. There is a palpable energy between the band, particularly Strummer and Jones. At times it feels like the whole thing is going to fall apart at any moment, which I imagine is quite close to the feelings the guys where having in general. I understand why this album has affected so many people in many different ways. It’s not often we get an album like this that comes along at just the right time that sums up exactly how we are all feeling and what we are all thinking. Bruce Springsteen did it in the 80s with “Born in the USA”, Nirvana did it in the 90s with “Nevermind” and Radiohead did it in the 00s with “Kid A”. Whether or not you like the music within, every decade needs an album like this. An album that tells our stories.

I get excited when we listen to a Top 10 album from Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Though I must admit, with my limited knowledge of The Clash, extending to ‘London Calling’ (song), ‘Rock’ The Casbah’ and ‘I Fought The Law’, I couldn’t believe that an average punk band could come in at number eight on this list full of names like The Beatles and Bob Dylan. How wrong I was. “London Calling” opened my eyes to The Clash, and how they are much, much more than a crash and thrash punk band. It shows huge versatility that spans punk, rock, reggae, ska, blues and funk. Which is great, but also sucks when I’ve gotta write a mini review! I’ve had a soft spot for ska music for a long while, so discovering at a track like ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’ in what I assumed was all punk was excellent. I loved the horn section. ‘Lost In The Supermarket’ is much more of a typical late 70s/early 80s pop rock track and it’s quite refreshing, hiding out in the middle of the album. There’s some interesting percussive sounds going on in there. There are two things that stay constant over the whole album. One good, one less good. The good: Paul Simonon’s bass is brilliant. It always stands out no matter what noise is going on around it. It’s crisp and clean and he covers a lot of the neck. The less good: Mick Jones’s voice. It’s perfect if all you’re going to sing is punk. The unrefined edge doesn’t sit well when you’re playing something a little less frantic and messy. “London Calling” was a real eye opener for me. I’m definitely going to give it some more airtime. The Clash were more than one dimensional punk.

There’s no denying that “London Calling” has left its mark in the annals of Punk Rock history, but boy, was I surprised to find that this album also contained jazz and soul, amongst the other genres of rockabilly and ska too! I must admit that this was a bit of a relief, as I’m not really into punk rock at the best of times.  Despite the variety of styles that were showcased, The Clash worked within the thematic confines of Punk, and therefore political and social themes abound throughout the album, including references to civil war, unemployment, drug abuse and crime. Snore.  Due to the album having such a cross-section of sounds and themes, I found it really hard to listen to, as I felt there was no continuity, it just felt like it was disjointed. Not only that, but the album is way too lengthy for this listener, clocking in at just over 65 minutes. I’m not going to comment on the musicianship other than to say it’s satisfactory but didn’t really grab me.  I can understand that at the time it was highly regarded and won much acclaim over its lifetime. The themes covered in the album were current at the time it was released and therefore it was relatable for most listeners. I guess it’s pretty obvious that this album wasn’t up my alley, and I feel all sorts of frustration and confusion because of my dislike; I feel like there was something maybe I missed, but seriously, it just didn’t float my boat.

Every week we’d like to hear your thoughts on the album. Just click on one of the links below, or leave a comment here to have your say.

Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman

Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman
Released November, 1970

An English singer-songwriter, Cat Stevens, rode the folk wave of the early 70s and released a string of platinum albums and hits, many of which have since been covered by much loved artists. Without even realising it you’ve listened to a lot of Cat Stevens songs. He came to the attention of the public at the age of 19 with his song ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’. A couple of years later he contracted tuberculosis which landed him in hospital. It was here that he started to question the spiritual aspects of  life and turned to mediation, yoga and metaphysics. It was also around this time that he became disenchanted with his record company, so in an attempt to get out of his contract he became a ‘difficult star’ making outlandish requests in a hope they would drop him. It worked. With a new canon of songs written from his new viewpoint on life he signed to Island Records in 1970, who gave him complete creative control. He released his third album “Mona Bone Jakon” which had moderate success and was the first of his albums to have any real success in America.

Which brings us to this week’s album, “Tea for the Tillerman”, released just four months after “Mona Bone Jackson”. Here Stevens would start to further explore different spiritual themes in his lyrics to a folk-rock soundtrack. The combination worked and not only is it Steven’s most successful release, but has gone on to sell in excess of 3 million copies. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at #206 in their “500 Greatest Albums of all Time” list.  It’s fair to say that “Tea for the Tillerman” has gone on to inspire many a young lad with a guitar in his bedroom.

When most people think of Cat Stevens however, they are usually drawn to his life after music. In 1977 Stevens converted to the Muslim faith, changed his name to Yusaf Islam and promptly retreated from the limelight as it did not sit in accordance with his newly found religious beliefs. It wasn’t until 1985 that he would start to play the odd benefit gig. In 1995 he returned to music in earnest and started releasing new material under the name Yusaf Islam. He has since gone on to say that his departure from the limelight and music was a little rushed and said upon his return “I can reconnect with the people I felt I abandoned, which I regret more than anything”. He has credited his son Muhammad Islam for his return to secular music after he brought a guitar back into his house and he rediscovered his love for songwriting. The whole conversion to Islam thing has brought about a lot of controversy in Stevens/Islam’s life, but we are not here to talk about these things, you have Wikipedia for that.

This week I learnt three things: 1. Cat Stevens is English. 2. He wrote A LOT of songs that I know purely through their covers. 3. The man can hold a tune. Upon my first couple of listen to “Tea for the Tillerman” I was surprised at just how many of the songs I recognised. The other thing that surprised me, not having consciously listened to his work before, was just how unique and strong his voice is. It definitely holds the album together. Whilst described as a folk-rock album I must say I was quite disappointed in it musically. Most of the songs prominently featured a rhythm guitar with a simple strum pattern and the odd arpeggio here or there. Nothing outstanding and at times quite pedestrian. The production was a little lacking also. The sound of the plectrum clicking against the strings in ‘Wild World’ is almost unbearable. Despite this it’s a hard album not to like. It’s simple and non-offensive, reflecting on many things that we’ve all pondered from time to time. Favourite songs for me were ‘Where Do the Children Play?’, ‘Sad Lisa’, and the wonderful but albeit short closing track ‘Tea for the Tillerman’. I enjoyed my time with Cat Stevens this week but I don’t see myself revisiting it any time soon.

I once lived with a guy who started every day by playing ‘Peace Train’ and ‘Father And Son’ at about 6am very loudly in the lounge room. Unsurprisingly, this led to quite a dislike for Cat Stevens that I’ve never really got over. After listening to “Tea For The Tillerman” a couple of times, I discovered that dislike is not something I’ve got over with time. This album was really hard for me to listen to. The majority of tracks almost sent me to sleep. You all know my feelings about folk music by now. Wikipedia classifies “Tea For The Tillerman” as “folk-rock”. I could only identify two tracks that could count as anything close to rock: ‘Miles From Nowhere’ and ‘But I Might Die Tonight’. If it wasn’t for these two tracks, I don’t know if I’d have the strength to listen all the way through. “Tea For The Tillerman” has two songs that are recognisable, ‘Father and Son’ and ‘Wild World’, though I’m sure I know ‘Wild World’ from a cover version… Maybe Maxi Priest? ‘Father and Son’ is an interesting one. A conversation between a father and son about the son leaving home to find his own way, with Steven’s telling the story from both sides. The interesting part for me is that Stevens was 22 when this album was released. “Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy”? I don’t think you’re fit to be giving advice. I’m not even sure why the title track exists. A song that’s one minute long and really gives nothing. Maybe Stevens didn’t know he could name an album without having a track by the same name? And he’s onto children playing again… Thanks, Cat Stevens, but no thanks. It’s not personal, but it’s time to make a change.

Whenever I think of Cat Stevens, I remember hearing my dad playing ‘Peace Train’ on record when I was a kid, and how happy the song made me feel, it’s so uplifting. Although ‘Peace Train’ was on another Cat Stevens album, I think that the ‘uplifting’ descriptor is poignant in general when describing the work of Cat Stevens, in particular his 1970 release, “Tea for the Tillerman”. Serving up a tasteful blend of piano ballads and acoustic guitar folk songs, the album focuses around themes of social issues, spirituality and love. The songs are accentuated with gospel-sounding backing vocals, and the occasional string section or violin. Most of the tracks have a happy theme, with  ‘Sad Lisa’, my favourite of the album, standing out as one of the slower and more heart-felt ballads. It also features a hauntingly-beautiful violin solo and string section that gives me goose bumps every time and piano playing that reminds me of Tori Amos.  Of course we can’t forget the two most-popular tracks of the album, and the ones that made it a best seller, ‘Father and Son’, and ‘Wild World’. It goes without saying that these ones are fantastic, but they weren’t really highlights of the album for me, I’ve heard them too many times over the years. I really loved ‘Longer Boats’, it has the sound of an African folk song and reminds me of Paul Simon. You can’t help but think it’s about death and the afterlife, but over the years there has been contention around the meaning of the song, with most arguing that Stevens said in an interview that the song related to an alien encounter that he had.Cool! Overall I enjoyed listening to “Tea for the Tillerman” and I hope to one day own it on vinyl. It’s definitely an album worthy of its place in the annals of classic music and cemented Stevens as one of the definitive song writers of his era.

I first heard ‘Father and Son’ when I was in my mid-teens, not quite the age of the second titular character. I liked it instantly, and loved Stevens’ vocal shift into the higher octave to signal the change of narrator. At the time of the song’s release, the youth of that era were beginning to realise that they had a voice, and a right to use it. While the generational difference between the two characters is expressed, it is done without animosity; each is merely stating their point of view. This theme of a divide between the old and the young recurs throughout “Tea For The Tillerman”. Opening song ‘Where Do The Children Play?’ mourns the cost of progress at the expense of childhood, while the closing title track ends with optimistic hope that the children will get to play. Stevens’ recent break-up with Patti D’Arbanville is further lamented in ‘Wild World’ and ‘Hard Headed Woman’, the former being a big favourite of mine. Another strong undercurrent is his quest for spiritual enlightenment with the songs ‘But I Might Die Tonight’ and ‘On The Road To Find Out’. Bizarrely, Cat Stevens became a Muslim seven years after this album came out and changed his name to Yusef Islam. He wouldn’t return to the music industry until the 21st century. With “Tea For The Tillerman” Cat Stevens’ transformation from late sixties pop dandy to bearded folk troubadour was complete. His singing style and knack for writing good melodies make him very easy to listen to. He can go from intense passion to quiet reflection within a single song without it feeling forced. The acoustic guitar is the centre of the album’s wonderful production, but the occasional splashes of piano and strings blend brilliantly. This is essential listening for fans of earthy folk ballads.

Every week we’d like to hear your thoughts on the album. Just click on one of the links below, or leave a comment here to have your say.

Carole King – Tapestry

Carole King – Tapestry
Released February, 1971

Carole King was born in Manhatten, New York, in 1942. She was born into a middle-class Jewish family and from the early age of 4 took up the piano. While still in school, she sang in a girl group called the Co-Sines, and also befriended Gerry Goffin. Goffin and King married in 1959. Their partnership was not only nuptial, for 9 years before they married they also worked as song-writing partners under label Aldon Music and together, penned some of the most successful pop hits the music world has seen.

I don’t proclaim to be an expert on Carole King, my knowledge of her was previously very limited, but I have always related to her music in the same way that I relate to Joni Mitchell’s; I feel the meaning and the emotion behind the lyrics and I relate to those emotions. Along with many other musicians and music fans alike, I have an enormous respect of her prolific talents as a songwriter. I do know enough about King to tell you that she (sometimes with Goffin) has penned over 100 hits that have made the Billboard 100, and that she and fellow musician James Taylor – also one of my all-time musical heroes – have enjoyed a long and fruitful working relationship. In fact King co-wrote much of the material on one of my favourite albums of all time, James Taylor’s ‘Sweet Baby James’.

Released in 1971,  “Tapestry” was Carole King’s second solo album, and was an overnight success, selling 25 million copies internationally, earning 4 Grammy’s, and holding the record for sales until Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was released in 1982. To me, “Tapestry” is a strangely apt title for the album, because it is the perfect description for what the album represents – a beautiful collection of stories and concepts woven into one lovely artwork. It’s one of the most solid albums we have covered throughout ‘afyccim’. As far as I am concerned, the song writing is succinct and the album goes from strength to strength. There is plenty of dynamic; from soft vulnerable Carole, to strong and independent Carole. People who are allergic to cheesy songs will struggle, but those who know me will already be aware that I enjoy a bit of corny from time to time. As Kate Winslet says in “The Holiday”, “I’m looking for corny in my life”.  Take ‘You’ve Got a Friend’, for example (YouTube James Taylor’s version, too), or ‘Where You Lead’, which later became the title track for one of my favourite corn fests, ‘Gilmore Girls’. These are great examples of lovely, honest, heart-on-your-sleeve song writing that verges on corn but is oh-so-heart-warming and just a pleasant change to listen to from time to time.

Listen to ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ and you will see that King’s voice is far from perfect, it’s a far cry from the sultry tones of some of the ladies who would cover it in future years.  But in my opinion, Carole King is much more a songwriter and story teller than she is a performer. She’s more of a muso’s muso. Of course, her musical abilities are far from average, but I feel like some of her best work has been the creations she has contributed to for other artists, such as Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, James Taylor and The Monkees (YouTube the ‘Porpoise Song’, this one is amazing and could easily be in the charts today!).

Now aged 71, Carole King has enjoyed a long and prosperous career, working on many collaborations with all kinds of artists, releasing solo albums, making cameo appearances in film and TV, and touring with the likes of Mary J Blige,  James Taylor, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas and more. As I alluded to earlier, I feel that Carole King’s work is timeless and this, in a way explains how she has been able to not only collaborate with, but also tour with, such a wide range of artists. Although her music has a folk edge, her writing style is classic and her songs will remain ageless, forever.

Carole King was eighteen years old when she co-wrote The Shirelles’ hit song ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ with her then husband Gerry Goffin. Over a decade later King recorded her own version, beautifully stripped back and slowed down to enhance the track’s sense of melancholy. This is just one of the reasons that makes “Tapestry” such a classic album. King wrote, or co-wrote, all these songs and there’s not a bad cut here. I’m sure many people of my generation grew up listening to their parents’ copy, but I got into it late; I was in my early twenties. I dug ‘It’s Too Late’ and ‘Beautiful’ immediately, but songs like ‘So Far Away’ and ‘Tapestry’ have taken a few years to reveal their brilliance to me. King’s voice is unlike that of her contemporaries at the time, and while she may not be technically perfect, her passion more than makes up for it. Her performance of ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ benefits from the simple piano and vocal arrangement, allowing the song to stand on its own without relying on schmaltzy production to draw out the emotion. King’s songwriting talent is the heart and soul of the album with such classics as ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ and ‘I Feel Earth Move’ making their first appearance. James Taylor would go on to enjoy a hit with ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ shortly after the release of “Tapestry”, and his vocal contributions on the album are wonderful. This is one of my favourite records to chill out to. I tap my foot to ‘Smackwater Jack’, I sigh with heartache during ‘So Far Away’ and I believe that your attitude influences the people around you in ‘Beautiful’. This album is a timeless work from one of the masters of her craft.

Carole King and the album “Tapestry” has been loved by many a person over the last four decades. King is worthy of her place on this list not just for this album alone though. She started out her career as a very successful songwriter in the 60s, which was no mean feat for a woman of that time. By the early 70s King had started to pen her own lyrics and sing her own melodies, thanks to some encouragement by friend James Taylor. Enter stage left “Tapestry”. Here King leaves behind the 60s and its manufactured pop hits and delivers a solid album of introspective songs. The strength in the album lies in its cohesiveness. King knows her limits and abilities and if okay with it. At the time of release she was a 29 year old, divorced woman with two children. She had something to say of substance and she does so eloquently. At a time when men dominated the singer-songwriter scene the world was ready for someone like King, and contemporaries such as Joni Mitchell. Fellow singer-songwriter Cynthia Weil has said of King – “Carole spoke from her heart, and she happened to be in tune with the mass psyche.  People were looking for a message, and she came to them with a message that was exactly what they were looking for, were aching for.” It took me awhile to sink my teeth into this album and to understand it. On the first few listens it felt to me to be a little hollow. It was after a night of insomnia where I put it on headphones that it clicked. There is a fragility in King’s voice that is very relatable. It’s easy to connect to these songs because they are emotions we all experience. A beautiful and soulful album worthy of its place here.

The kids love Carole King, don’t they? “Tapestry” is always mentioned with the best albums of all time. And after a good few listens, I can kind of see why. It’s much softer than the kind of music I normally listen to, but now I dig it. Tapestry opens with the well known track ‘I Feel The Earth Move’. I didn’t realise how dynamic the song is, with a cool guitar solo and driving piano. The upbeat style of the first track is juxtaposed immediately with the second track, ‘So Far Away’, which seeks to showcase King’s voice and piano skills. (I’ve been over my love for those who can play piano and sing well at the same time before, no need to do it again!) But the part I like most about this track is the intermittent bass runs, and the cool flute outro. ‘Smackwater Jack’ is a song that had my attention from the title, and it worked out. It’s a musically fun song, despite the incongruent lyrics about murdering a bunch of people. I love the line “It was a very good year for the Undertaker”. The live version is also very good. ‘Where You Lead’ seemed very familiar to me, but I couldn’t figure out why… After a quick google, it turns out the track was rerecorded by King with her daughter Louise Goffin to use as a TV theme. A theme I rather embarrassingly recognised. The Gilmore Girls. I didn’t know that King co-wrote ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’. I think King and Aretha do the song differently, but both very impressively. Now I know why “Tapestry” is so celebrated. Carole King was truly an artist of exceptional skill and talent. Backing vocals by Joni Mitchell is a handy little cameo too!

Every week we’d like to hear your thoughts on the album. Just click on one of the links below, or leave a comment here to have your say.

Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run

Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
Released August, 1975

This week’s main review is brought to you by Ash Thompson, who was kind enough to help us review Van Morrison back in the 60s. She is also the brains behind tshirt company Dure & Kaufmann, which we like just as much as we like Ash!

Roy Orbison singing Bob Dylan, produced by Spector. Reading this immediately struck a chord with me. Does it what. Springsteen hasn’t always had a place with me though. I’ve always been a little impartial to his work, this album has changed that. Springsteen produced an amazing album in Born to Run. I think any album that is produced purely from piano right from the inception gives a deeper sound and complexity to songs that the guitar tends to bypass. I think it forces the artist to work in a different space, it forces them to not worry about the stage and the big show. It forces them to write a damn song.

Springsteen found frustration with this album. He has said he could hear sounds in his head but couldn’t get them out, he couldn’t express himself, and he was struggling. He was admittedly caught up in the production process, obsessing over the sounds, obsessing over a wall of sound technique made famous in the early 60’s by record producer Phil Spector. Springsteen also felt the pressure of the marketing machine behind him. This album had a huge budget behind it ready to promote it $250,000 to be exact and bold marketing ploys like “I saw rock ‘n’ roll’s future—and its name is Bruce Springsteen” were thrown around on posters and badges. It only pushed him Springsteen though, he struggled with the Bob Dylan comparison and wanted to break out of the mould. So while Dylan was producing albums like Empire Burlesque which had critics questioning the quality of Dylan, Springsteen went on to refine his style and produce amazing albums like “Born in the USA” with tracks like ‘I’m On Fire’. Perhaps the one thing he rebelled against the most steered him towards what people suspected in the first place. The future of Rock and Roll was Springsteen.

The best thing for an artist to do is constantly push themselves outside of the space they occupy, potentially this album did this without Springsteen even noticing it happening, it snuck up on him and took the controls away. He clearly regained it through, with tracks like ‘Thunder Road’, where you can hear almost every Springsteen song in the opening verse. This album lyrically is far more mature and Springsteen explained his leap “I left behind my adolescent definitions of love and freedom– it was the dividing line”, and it shows. I think this album would speak to anyone. Very few albums can be put on and inspire a feeling of familiarity, not in a mundane, exhausted sense but in a familiar blissful reminiscence. I would call this a great gateway album for anyone wanting to get to know Springsteen.

I have a few friends (who shall remain nameless) who consistently sing the praises of “The Boss”.  Having pretty much no education in the work of Bruce Springsteen, I was keen to listen to “Born to Run” and find out what all the fuss was about.  Listening to the album for the first time ever in my life, I instantly drew connections between the sound of Springsteen to Meatloaf. From track one it plays like a bull at a gate with a level of intensity to rival none. The songs are complex in instrumentation and the lyrics are seemingly and heartfelt, albeit at times they were belted out a bit too much for my liking (but admittedly, that’s rock!). For the most part, the songs go hard, and it feels too heavy and forced for me.  There is so much going on between the instrumentation and the manic vocals that it is quite hard to know what Springsteen was trying to get across.  Something tells me that this album would take many more listens before it began to make sense.  Even though I didn’t really get this one, I can see why it achieved such acclaim and sold so well; this is classic American rock. Springsteen imparts a feeling of passion and hope, and as a result, the album has an uplifting and upbeat feel to it, and you can see why so many people would be drawn to something so inspiring and encouraging.  Mystery solved.

I can remember the excitement I had the day my dad brought home a copy of Bruce Springsteens’s “Born In The USA” album. I would have been eight or nine years old and I loved so many songs on that record. I’m a big fan of Springsteen’s post-September 11th effort “The Rising” which came out in 2002, and I call it one of my favourite albums from that decade. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get as enthused with “Born to Run”. I’m informed that Springsteen’s intention was to deliver an album of huge sound, with the subject matter exploding along with it. Maybe if I had heard this record as an angsty teenager driving around the backstreets of New Jersey in the 1970’s I would have more of a connection with the material. As much as I dig the melody of ‘Born to Run’, the production is too over-the-top for my liking. Singing about “suicide machines” and “highways jammed with broken heroes” does nothing for me either; I’ve never been a ‘car guy’. ‘Thunder Road’ is a song I would always skip on the Springsteen greatest hits CD I have, and I think it’s a weird choice to open the album. Second track ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ I didn’t mind, but again, I don’t relate to what he’s singing about. One song I really liked was ‘Meeting Across The River’, with its doomed narrative and that wonderful trumpet part. Roy Bittan’s piano work is very enjoyable throughout the record, particularly on the intro of ‘Backstreets’, which should have been two minutes shorter. You can’t deny Springsteen’s passion though, and the musicianship of his band is as good as it gets. While I didn’t hate “Born to Run”, I certainly didn’t love it, and name it my least favourite album so far.

In 1974, one year before the release of “Born To Run”, John Landau exclaimed “I saw rock and roll’s future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen. No pressure for your third album then Bruce. With a lacklustre response to his first two albums Springsteen wanted to do it right on the third, even if just to shake the ‘future Bob Dylan’ claims. Do it right he certainly did. Springsteen had a very clear idea of how he wanted “Born to Run” to sound, and he went to great lengths and time to get there. “Born To Run” is big and ballsy, whilst still managing to wear its heart on its sleeve. It’s the boy bad with slicked back hair, sleeveless shirt and motorbike that writes you beautiful poems of love, longing and hope. I’m not normally one to go for overly flashy production, but there is something undeniably charismatic on “Born To Run”. There is a lot of humanity and optimism in Springsteen’s music. People relate to him because we see him as one of us. He has said that “Life is a struggle. That’s basically what the songs are about. It’s the fight everyone goes through every day. Some people have more success with it than others. I’m a romantic. To me, the idea of a romantic is someone who sees the reality, lives the reality every day, but knows about the possibilities too. You can’t lose sight of the dreams. That’s what great rock is about to me, it makes the dream seem possible.” This is Springsteen’s greatest legacy. Sure the music is great, but the man is so much greater than just the music. “Born To Run” hit the delicate balance of heart and brilliant musicianship. The fact that he’s a total hottie on the cover also helps.

Springsteen. The Boss. I tell ya, he certainly earned that title from the get go. “Born To Run” was Springsteen’s third album, and though I’ve not heard the first two, I’d wager he spent that time honing his skills, because “Born To Run” is brilliant. I haven’t really heard many songs from this album, apart from the title track, and I don’t think there’s a person on the planet that hasn’t heard that. On starting the album, we’re greeted with beautiful piano, and classic Springsteen harmonica. ‘Thunder Road’ is a song with similar themes to the iconic title track, two young kids hitting the road to make a go of it. The opening of the song ‘Night’, like so many Springsteen songs has a big wailing saxophone. And when I say “like so many” I definitely don’t mean it as a bad thing. When you’ve got a bloke like Clarence Clemons blowing it you’d have him playing as much as possible. That goes for the whole E Street Band, I think. All of them are supremely musicians, and you can tell by the artists they’ve worked with. Meat Loaf, Dire Straits and David Bowie to name a few. Their drums and bass are so tight, and never stop through entire songs. And there are some killer bass runs. The album finishes with the nearly ten minute long epic, ‘Jungleland’, that speaks of love amongst New Jersey violence. Words can’t express how much I love this track. It’s suitably huge, building from its beautiful violin intro and containing a sublime Clemons saxophone solo. I could never get tired of this track, which is pretty much how I feel about this entire album. It’s an absolute bloody ripper with no weak points. So far, the 70s have been very good to us.

Every week we’d like to hear your thoughts on the album. Just click on one of the links below, or leave a comment here to have your say.

Brian Eno – Another Green World

Brian Eno – Another Green World
Released September, 1975

Brian Eno was the founding member of Roxy music along with Bryan Ferry. After two successful albums Eno started to get more praise which rubbed Ferry the wrong way. Eno quickly left to first work on a couple of collaborations and to then form his own work. His first two releases with “Here Come the Warm Jets” and “Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)” were both released in 1974. It was not long after this that Eno was involved in a serious car accident, which required a stint in hospital as he healed. Bedridden for two months it was here that Eno started to listen to the sounds differently as he lay in bed. It would go on to form the basis of the ambient sound he would first explore here on “Another Green World” and albums that followed.

“Another Green World” is a great introduction to Eno. It has some of the rockier, quirky elements of his first two albums but starts to introduce some of the ambient techniques he would fully realise in later albums. It was critically lauded but failed to have any commercial success. Overtime it has become a cult album, influencing not just how music is composed but also its production. Music critic Jason Ankeny has said that Eno “forever altered the ways in which music is approached, composed, performed, and perceived, and everything from punk to techno to new age bears his unmistakable influence.”

“Another Green World” is definitely a pop album, but nothing like anything anyone had heard at that point, or has yet since. It’s a very hard album to both categorise and describe. There is a great element of exploration on this album. You can hear Eno and his bevy of talent musician friends chasing the sounds down as they wrangle them into some resemblance of a song. The tracks with Eno’s monotone voice and nonsensical lyrics, that on repeated listens start to make absolute sense, and the lush soundscapes form little scenes that one can escape into.

About five or six years ago someone put the song “The Big Ship” on a mix tape for me. I first heard it on headphones whilst on a train and was promptly brought to tears by the sheer beauty within it. It has gone on to cause many more awkward crying moments on public transport whenever it takes me off guard and comes up on shuffle on my ipod. It is by far the most beautiful piece of music I’ve ever heard. After I first heard the track I promptly bought “Another Green World”, but until now I had been too scared to listen to it. What it didn’t meet up to the expectations formed with ‘The Big Ship’? What if that song was the only moment of brilliance within a dull album? It was with great trepidation that I put on “Another Green World” for the first time this week. First play through I knew it was a good album. I described it as an utterly bizarre and wonderful collection of sounds, but at this point I still wasn’t sure how it worked as a whole as it felt quite fractured. Within three listens this sense of dissonance soon faded away as the album revealed itself and its nuances.

I feel like a new world of music was opened up to me this week. This album, and the other works of Eno’s that I subsequently explored this week, has not only helped me to better understand albums I already love but it has opened up my mind to listen to and appreciate music in a whole new light. Not only is ‘The Big Ship’ still a song that can fill me with so much joy and hope, I now feel the same way about “Another Green World”. This is by far my favourite album thus far for afyccim. I’m glad I waited to listen to it, as the albums we have listened to thus far in this project have helped inform my understanding of what Eno actually accomplished on “Another Green World”. Music is most important when it helps us to connect to one another and the world around us. I feel that connection listening to  “Another Green World” knowing that there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who have that same experience when they listen to it. This week was one that saw me personally face a lot of emotional challenges, as life is often wont to do. “Another Green World” was the perfect balm. I am forever indebted.

Oh God this was a tough review to write. Which is unusual for me, because usually if I enjoy an album, it’s a piece of cake. But not this one. Of course not this one. Why would any sense of normalcy apply to Brian Eno? The problem here, for me anyway, lies in the fact that I love the hell out of “Another Green World”, I’m just not sure why. I guess a lot of it has to do with the idea that just because something sounds like a guitar or a piano or strings, with Eno it doesn’t always mean it is. He has such a penchant for feeding sounds through, around and into things that you can’t ever be sure what’s what. What you do know though, is that whoever is playing whatever instrument they’re playing is very, very good at it. Which starts me on the bass. Oh my, the bass! ‘Sky Saw’ does things to me that no song probably should, but that bass (played by Brand X bassist Percy Jones) blows my mind. The whole song is an amazing cacophony of noise, and it almost overwhelms me with excitement. ‘Over Fire Island’ is just as good, if not better, because it’s 100% instrumental. I think the vocals in the few tracks that have them takes away from the musicality of the piece. ‘Over Fire Island’ also features a neat little cameo from Phil Collins. He’s not the only big guest to feature on “Another Green World”. King Crimson’s Robert Fripp plays a lightning guitar solo in ‘St Elmo’s Fire’. “Another Green World” has 14 songs, which I’d gladly delve into, alas, you would all get bored and I’ve got word limits. So I’ll finish by saying thank you, Brian Eno. This album is a masterpiece.

It’s hard to write a review about an album that works in the genre of ambient pop. Ambient music generally just makes you switch off, space out, or reflect on things, so it’s hard to listen to Brian Eno and actually concentrate on the musical elements of his work. I guess that was the aim of the game when he was writing this music; to inspire, to draw emotion. Some of the songs on this album are completely timeless; take ‘The Big Ship’, for example. I heard this song for the first time 3 years ago and loved it instantly. I actually didn’t even realise that it was released on this album, let alone in the 70’s! “Another Green World” as a whole has a very ethereal feel to it, with the instrumental tracks providing a peaceful interlude to the more lyrical tracks. Listening to this album I was reminded for some reason of Genesis and some of the work of Peter Gabriel, which is ironic, because Phil Collins actually did some guest work on this album. I prefer the instrumental work on this album to the songs with vocal. I am a sucker for a good instrumental, such as the aptly named ‘Becalmed’. Such a beautiful song with a vibrant and peaceful fluidity to it. Some of the work on this album reminds me of one of my favourite ambient pop/rock band, Iceland’s Sigur Ros. Eno experiments with sounds, timbres, structure and dissonance in the same way that Sigur Ros have done, and his instrumental songs, with their sparse texture and minimalist approach, parallel those of the Icelandic musicians.  As the forefather of ambient pop, I think I owe Brian Eno a big thank you. His influence has helped to create and inspire the sounds some of the bands that I know I just couldn’t live without.

Brian Eno is one of those figures in the music industry whose legacy and influence continues to grow, and his production techniques have changed the soundscapes of rock legends such as Devo, Talking Heads, U2 and David Bowie. Aside from his songs ‘Deep Blue Day’ and ‘Needles In The Camel’s Eye’, which were used in the films Trainspotting and Velvet Goldmine respectively (Ewan, anybody?), I knew nothing of his solo work. I was not sure what I was in for when the time came to listen to “Another Green World”. While reading up on the album, I became intrigued by the frequent use of the genre term ‘ambient’. The first thing that struck me was THAT synthesiser sound which dominates opening track ‘Sky Saw’. Having heard Bowie’s Berlin trilogy years earlier, I suddenly understood how vital Eno’s production was to those albums. How amazing is Percy Jones’ fretless bass work on that track? It’s cool hearing Robert Fripp and Phil Collins play on a couple of songs as well. I was surprised to hear vocals on a few tracks, but Eno’s fairly monotone delivery suits the material as the music seems to emote without needing words. Instrumental tracks like ‘Becalmed’ and ‘The Big Ship’ are stirring without relying on lyrics to move the listener. I don’t want to say too much about this record, because I think the less you know the more you’ll enjoy it. I highly recommend using headphones at least once, because you get to appreciate the layers of instrumentation and how certain parts are panned. While ‘ambient’ may seem an apt description for some songs, this album still contains moments of pop, rock and even funk. I found this very easy to listen to, and I might even delve into Eno’s catalog a bit more in the future.

Every week we’d like to hear your thoughts on the album. Just click on one of the links below, or leave a comment here to have your say.

Bob Marley – Exodus

Bob Marley and the Wailers – Exodus
Released June, 1977

Guys, Bob Marley is rad. This album is on the iPod at work, and I hear it every day. After nearly three years in the same job, you think hearing one album everyday would make you hate it. No sir, not this one. (though there are many, many others.) The first incarnation of The Wailers came about in Jamaica in 1963, when Peter Tosh met Marley and Bunny Wailer and taught them how to play guitar, drums and keys. (By the way, the list of members of the Wailers is as long as your arm. Do your best to keep up.) Later that year, Junior Braithwaite, Beverly Kelso and Cherry Smith joined the band, but they were gone by 66. As a vocal group, the band used Lee “Scratch” Perry’s studio band The Upsetters to record, until Aston and Carlton Barrett (bass and drums respectively) formed the Wailers band. (Incidentally, google Aston “Family Man” Barrett. Is he the coolest guy you’ve ever seen?)

In 1974, The Wailers broke up due to Tosh and Bunny Wailer’s unwillingness to tour, so they continued as Bob Marley and the Wailers, featuring the Barrett brothers, Junior Marvin and Al Anderson playing lead guitar, Tyrone Downie and Earl “Wya” Lindo playing keyboards, and Alvin “Seeco” Patterson playing percussion. “The I Threes” were the backing vocalists, and consisted of Marley’s wife Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths. The Wailers toured the world for many a year, until Marley’s health deteriorated due to cancer. Doctors found a cancerous melanoma in one of Marley’s toes, but he ejected not to have it removed due to his Rastafarian beliefs. The cancer spread to his brain and lungs, taking his life in 1981.

“Exodus” was inspired by political events occurring in Jamaica in 1976. Marley wrote the title track as a response to a politician using the campaign slogan “We know where we’re going”. “Exodus” was a number one hit in Jamaica, where I imagine all his songs were huge. On December 3, 1976, someone tried to assassinate Marley in his home, for playing a concert that was supposed to eased tension between two rival political parties. The shooter thought the concert was to support one side, and also shot Marley’s wife Rita and his manager Don Taylor. Rita and Taylor both sustained serious injuries, but recovered. Marley only received minor chest and arm wounds, and played the scheduled concert two days later. It was this attempt on his life that saw Marley leave Jamaica and move to England, where he spent two years in a self imposed exile. It was there he recorded the album “Exodus”, and it enjoyed much success, spending 56 consecutive weeks in the charts.

“Exodus” is an album chock full of hits. ‘Jamming’, ‘One Love’ (which was Marley’s interpretation of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘People Get Ready’) and ‘Three Little Birds’ are tracks most people should’ve heard (and if not, well, that’s why we’re here!), and even the lesser known tracks like ‘Turn Your Lights Down Low’ and the questionably titled ‘So Much Things To Say’ are great listens. Even after a week, I’m still struggling to pick a favourite track, though I’m probably leaning towards ‘Three Little Birds’. The repetition of the mantra “Don’t worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be alright” is quite relaxing and reassuring. As much as I had trouble picking a favourite, I straight up couldn’t pick a song I did not like. Every track is easy to listen to, and more than that, every song is enjoyable to listen to.

I’m fairly unfamiliar with reggae in general, and this is in some part due to my frustration with my inability to play it. Playing on the offbeat is endlessly confusing for me, but luckily, “Exodus” is a perfect example of reggae bass. Sadly, “Exodus” only got as high [heh] as #20 on the Billboard Pop Album charts, but I’m sure it has more than made up for that since then, as Rolling Stone numbered it 169 in their 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time. Even to this day, The Wailers are touring, albeit without their original front man. The ultimate in chillout music, “Exodus” is timeless.

Anyone who has ever worked on a tropical island or even in a resort in the tropics, will most likely have a love-hate relationship with Bob Marley. I fall into both of the above categories. At the time, I was so sick of hearing ‘Buffalo Soldier’ and ‘Is This Love’ played almost daily in the open air bar, that I wanted to shove the CD fair up the barman’s backside . But these days, with island life a distant (and idyllic) memory, I hear the reggae rhythm and I instantly recall lazy afternoons of hanging lazily under a palm tree in a hammock, or nights spent drinking cheap fruit cocktails with my work mates as the resident muso pumped out another Marley classic for the tourists. To this day, I can’t drive into North Queensland’s Mission Beach (my previous locale) without whacking my Bob Marley and the Wailers ‘Best of’ album in the CD player.  It’s a little ironic that although Bob Marley and the Wailers’ music was quite political, it can be synonymous with such peaceful moments for so many people. For me, I don’t respect Bob Marley’s music so much for its technical nuances or it’s melodic perfection, but for its unique and honest sound, and the way in which it brought reggae into the popular music fore.  Not only that, but Marley’s music also brought with it many political messages and inspired many people from troubled backgrounds. The musical legacy that Marley left behind is obvious; without his influence we wouldn’t have had bands like Sublime, or Australian artists like John Butler, Blue King Brown, or Nicky Bomba. I also believe that Bob Marley’s political activism and musical style has inevitably – albeit indirectly – influenced the development of the hip hop scene.


As a teenager, Bob Marley & The Wailers helped create my sounds of summer. Many an evening with family and/or friends at that time of year would commence with the “Legend” compilation. For a long time that fab collection was all that I knew of Marley & Co.’s music, so I was looking forward to delving into “Exodus”. Being familiar with half of an album is bizarre – as the unheard tracks fill in the gaps of the running order, the songs you knew get given a new context. This record also has two differently themed sides, which would have worked brilliantly in the vinyl era. The opening track, ‘Natural Mystic’ plays out like a mission statement from Marley inciting those around him to pay attention to the changes that are coming: “There’s a natural mystic blowing through the air/If you listen carefully now you will hear”. A little Dylanesque, no? The title track, also the group’s first international hit, likens the story of Moses and the Israelites to the modern day struggle of the Rastas; hoping they will be lead by Jah to freedom. The album’s second side is much mellower, and contains some of the band’s best known songs. The wonderful ballads ‘Waiting In Vain’ and ‘Turn Your Lights Down Low’ come as a welcome reprieve after the fire of the first side. There is an optimism in ‘Three Little Birds’, that could be seen as the 1970’s reggae equivalent of Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’. I can’t go past ‘Jamming’ as my favourite from the album. Never mind the fact that I also talk/sing like Chief Wiggum whenever it comes on. I love the percussion and the track’s groove seems to infect my inner rhythm factory with ease. While I can’t tolerate reggae for an extended period, I really enjoyed this little taste.

Ask anyone to name three Bob Marley songs and I bet they’ll easily give you more than three. I also bet that at least one of those songs will be from this week’s album “Exodus”. There’s a good chance that they will also have a copy of Marley’s greatest hits compilation “Legend”. If they don’t own it they will surely recount some friend from their past who played it on repeat. This is the legacy Bob Marley leaves behind. The ever charismatic front man with the honey smooth vocals, it’s hard not to fall in love with the man. There is something very honest and reassuring about Marley’s voice and there is definitely something soothing about a reggae beat. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t subconsciously start bobbing their head and get a bit of a groove on whilst it’s playing. Despite the many line-up changes over the years with The Wailers, it’s Bob Marley that we remember most. There were several songs here I wasn’t familiar with so it was nice to hear them sandwiched between old favourites. Previously I had never really paid much attention to Marley’s lyrics so it was interesting to discover how politically motivated some of them were. As a sentimental sucker I can’t help but be drawn to the less political songs. In fact the last five songs on this album are pretty close to perfection. Whilst I enjoyed this week’s offering I’ll probably go back to listening to “Legend” when the mood for a little reggae strikes me.

Every week we’d like to hear your thoughts on the album. Just click on one of the links below, or leave a comment here to have your say.

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks
Released January, 1975

When we last caught up with Bob Dylan, out on Highway 61, it was nine albums and a decade earlier. Whereas there were a few Dylan records considered for the afyccim 60’s list, “Blood On The Tracks” was the only contender for the 70’s and is seen by many as his best work from that era. It topped the US album charts and peaked at No.4 in the UK. Rolling Stone’s recent listing of their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time ranked “Blood On The Tracks” in the 16th spot; his third highest under “Highway 61 Revisited” (4th) and “Blonde On Blonde” (9th).

On July 29, 1966, barely two months after the release of “Blonde On Blonde”, Dylan injured himself in a motorcycle accident. Although the scale of his injuries are still unknown, Dylan became reclusive and stayed with his wife Sara to help raise their family in Woodstock. Before the year’s end, he hooked up with the musicians who had backed him on his last tour of the UK, and would eventually become The Band. They recorded demos in a rented house nicknamed Big Pink (yes, THAT Big Pink) which were freely shared by Dylan’s publisher in the hope of attracting cover versions. These songs were famously bootlegged until portions of the sessions were finally released as “The Basement Tapes” in 1975. Dylan’s songwriting was now showing a more direct approach and a heavier influence of country, blues and traditional folk was shining through. This was evident on his last two albums of the sixties, 1967’s “John Wesley Harding” and 1969’s “Nashville Skyline”.

The seventies were a turbulent period for Dylan and his first record for the decade, 1970’s double-album “Self Portrait”, was panned by critics and the public alike. Conversely, he released his follow-up album, “New Morning”, that same year which was hailed as a comeback. In 1972, Dylan landed a role in Sam Peckinpah’s movie “Pat Garret and Billy the Kid”, and also wrote the soundtrack, which featured ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’. 1973’s “Dylan” was a collection of “Self Portrait” outtakes which tanked, but his next record, 1974’s “Planet Waves”, would become his first number one album. He recruited The Band for the accompanying tour, which was documented on the excellent live album “Before The Flood”.

This brings us to “Blood On The Tracks”, which was initially recorded at a New York studio in less than a week during September, 1974. Dylan was notorious for working quickly in the studio, but his drive during these sessions were unprecedented. Not wholly satisfied with the results, Dylan returned to his native Minnesota in December and re-cut five of the album’s songs with session musicians. This accounts for the two distinct arrangement styles used on the record.

Anything predominantly acoustic can be rightly assumed as originating from the New York sessions, which are by far my favourites. The heartbreaking tale of love gone wrong in ‘Simple Twist of Fate’ ranks as one of Dylan’s finest work, no doubt mirroring his failing marriage at the time. I think the album’s best tracks are the last two, ‘Shelter from the Storm’ and ‘Buckets of Rain’, which feel like that cool glass of water you crave on a hot day. I found it hard to go back to the beginning of the album, as I just wanted to keep listening to those songs.

‘Tangled Up In Blue’ is easily the highlight of the Minnesota recordings, and is possibly the album’s most famous track. Although it is hailed as one of his best, I can’t get into ‘Idiot Wind’. Something about the song annoys me and I can’t get past it. I’m bored after about three minutes of ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’ too and I struggle to make it to the nine minute finish line.

While this album won’t win you over if you’re not already a Dylan fan, there’s a lot to enjoy here. One of the biggest legacies this record gave the music industry is that you CAN write about your relationship struggles and share your stories of heartbreak, anger and forgiveness. Music doesn’t always have to be about adolescent love or sunshine and lollipops.

We see a different Dylan on “Blood on the Tracks”. He’s a man who had fame and critical lauding, despite not really wanting it. A motorcycle accident in 1966 was the perfect excuse to retreat from the limelight for a while. Between his opus that was “Bringing It All Back Home / Highway 61 Revisited / Blonde on Blonde” and “Blood on the Tracks” there were albums that had a few good singles, but none of them stood up as a whole to the standard we’d come to expect from our favourite troubadour. On “Blood on the Tracks” Dylan seems to strip it all back. His marriage was failing and like any poet he channelled that onto the page and held nothing back.  What results is an album that is confessional, messy, honest, painful, angry and at times achingly beautiful. These songs range the gamut of Dylan’s emotions, from the tenderness that is ‘Shelter from the Storm’ to the accusational ‘Idiot Wind’, as he left no stone unturned. Dylan has said of the album “A lot of people tell me they enjoy that album. It’s hard for me to relate to that. I mean, it, you know, people enjoying that type of pain, you know?” We need people like Bob Dylan to write albums like “Blood on the Tracks”. They need to be written for those of us who don’t have the lyrical poetry to channel those emotions ourselves. We need them to help us find the voice for whatever our experiences in life may be, because if there is anything that unites us as humans it’s the fact that we all love, we all hurt and we all bleed. Dylan embraced all of that in a beautiful, shambolic mess on “Blood on the Tracks”. Every song that has a place on this album is exactly as it should be.

We all know I’m the biggest Bob Dylan fan the world has ever seen, and to be honest I didn’t really enjoy this album. I did however, find a practical use for it. It’s quite relaxing background music. I was playing it driving to my football game yesterday and it really chilled me out, took my brain off the game when I needed it. So well done, Dylan. You came through when I needed you. There were only two songs on “Blood On The Tracks” that I liked, and liked is being generous. ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ was the best choice to open the album. It’s the quintessential Bob Dylan song, following Dylan’s timing and rhyming (Ha!) structure. Musically though, I find it fairly unremarkable, but I guess Bob Dylan’s strength is his story telling, and maybe he wouldn’t want the music taking away from that? It’s a risky mover though, relying on the lyrics for nigh on six minutes. It lost me at about five minutes with no musical dynamics. Indeed the only change comes in the last minute, with the obligatory Dylan harmonica solo. The other song I thought was ok was ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’, and this is mostly due to the bass lines. In this song I tended to lose the guitar behind the lyrics, and the bass stood right out. Again, the song is fairly repetitive, but it is one of the few I could actually listen to all the way through. I can’t help but feel like Bob Dylan was a poet who realised he was never gonna make any money from poems, so he added a guitar and harmonica and bang, rich and famous. I do dig his stories, if only the music was a little more interesting, I would probably be sold.

Having developed a liking for Bob Dylan during the afyccim 60’s, I was delighted to find that this was favourite album of the 70’s so far.  Compared to 1965’s “Highway 61 Revisited”, this album, “Blood on the Tracks” has a much deeper feel to it. Dylan’s distinct staccato vocal is there, but it has a new warmth and an edge of softness to it, as he tells stories of love and loss.  I think that the album overall has more feeling invested in it, with Dylan pouring his own life experiences and emotions not only into the poetic lyrics, but into the music itself. “Blood on the Tracks” is quite intriguing to me, in that the themes are quite dark and melancholic, with Dylan singing about death, heartbreak, political issues and other depressing subjects, but still I am drawn to listen to it, because it strikes a chord within me, and still manages to maintain that air of warmth. Sometimes Dylan is out of tune, and sometimes his harmonica-ing is all over the place, but it doesn’t matter, it’s the imperfections that make Bob Dylan’s work more brilliant and believable, especially listening to it with the retrospect of modern day music (over) production. My favourite track of the album is ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’, Dylan sings so earnestly with a certain vulnerability that gives me goosebumps. It’s the first Bob Dylan song I’ve heard where I felt he was truly wearing his heart on his sleeve, in a really personal way. Some people have touted this album as Dylan’s greatest; I can’t confirm nor deny this claim, since I have only listened to 2 of his 35 studio albums. But I can say that this is the side of Bob Dylan I like; vulnerable, open, honest and even more believable.

Every week we’d like to hear your thoughts on the album. Just click on one of the links below, or leave a comment here to have your say.

Blondie – Parallel Lines

Blondie – Parallel Lines
Released September, 1978

Blondie formed in 1974 after guitarist Chris Stein met Deborah Harry when she joined his band The Stilettos. A couple of failed bands later they formed Blondie. The band soon become crowd favourites at the infamous CBGBs in New York and were pioneers in the New Wave movement. After a couple of lacklustre releases Blondie came up with a bona fide hit with their third release “Parallel lines” in 1978. They stayed true however to their punk roots, merely tightening up on the songwriting and production, to bring together a group of smart and catchy pop songs.  Of the twelve tracks, six went on to be singles. Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Parallel Lines” at #140 on their “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list and to date has sold over 20 million copies internationally.

What we have on “Parallel Lines” is a melding new wave and punk with a delectable pop sheen. As a fashion icon and one of the first artists to embrace the music video format, Blondie’s look was as important as the music, with Deborah Harry the perfect front woman. The band wasn’t all about looks though. Deborah Harry is quoted as saying “We came along during this big guitar period when everyone sat around and just listened. Part of our goal was (to get them) dancing again. But I don’t think anyone in the band really expected to (become as big) as we did.” Blondie were the cool kids of the late 70s, with Harry the ever impressive Prom Queen. At a time when the limits of genres were being tested, Blondie were one of the first bands to cross from punk to pop successfully and they did so effortlessly and gracefully.

The real strength of “Parallel Lines” however lies not just in its style and marketability, but in its durability. 35 years later all of the songs still stand up and wouldn’t sound out of place on the radio today. Every track is killer and could’ve been a single in its own right, well maybe other than ‘I Know But I Don’t Know’ which is firmly rooted in their punk beginnings. Sandwiched halfway through on Side B, hit single ‘Heart of Glass’ was a departure for the band. Its disco infused beat was nothing like the world had seen and firmly cemented the band as a radio favourite. Harry’s falsetto voice here is different, with less of the attitude and sass we see on earlier tracks. It’s one of the few disco tracks of the era that doesn’t feel kitsch today. The band also wear their love of rock on their sleeves with ‘Pretty Baby’, ‘Sunday Girl’ and a rockabilly punk cover of Buddy Holly’s “I’m Gonna Love You Too”. The first two tracks may very well be the most perfect album openers we’ve heard yet, starting with ‘Hanging on the Telephone’, the band then hits hard with ‘One Way or Another’ with its crunchy guitar and catchy refrain of “I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha”. And for those of you playing along at home, the weird prog rock guitar on the track “Fade Away and Radiate” is by none other than Robert Fripp of King Crimson fame. I’m hard pressed to just pick a couple of favourite songs here as they all have their endearing moments.

It’s clear that both Blondie and the album “Parallel Lines” went on to influence many different genres and styles of music. Debbie Harry was punk’s first sex symbol and went onto influence many generations of female singers to this day. Lady Gaga can only wish to have even a fraction of the style and influence Harry had. It is important to also acknowledge how great the band behind the lady was. Harry did not carry the band on looks alone. It’s hard not to see how much the they’ve influenced modern music. Whenever I listened to “Parallel Lines”, which was around 10 times over the course of the week, I was immediately put in a better mood. The grooves are infectious and it’s hard not to sing along and join in the fun. “Parallel Lines” is most deserving of its many accolades.

I’ve heard songs like ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ and ‘Heart Of Glass’ before. Of course I have. Who hasn’t? So I was determined to use this album to discover unheard (by me, anyway) gems. And boy, does “Parallel Lines” deliver! An impressive six of the twelve tracks from “Parallel Lines” were released as singles, and the album made it to number one in the UK. Ranked at a fairly conservative 140 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, Parallel Lines is a well rounded album, showing strengths in many musical areas. One of the best songs I’ve never heard, ‘Fade Away and Radiate’, has a real gothic feel. A very dramatic intro that opens with just Debby Harry’s vocals accompanied by a bass drum. It builds to quite a crescendo, with a very subtle lead guitar in the background. Indeed, so subtle the bass seems more of a lead than the guitar. You don’t need me to tell you about ‘Heart Of Glass’. You know it, you love it, it reached number one everywhere in the universe. Moving on. I always thought ‘One Way Or Another’ was by someone like Nancy Sinatra. I don’t know why. But I was pleased to see it was written by Harry and bassist Nigel Harrison. It’s quite good fun, and also now I’m kinda scared of Debby Harry. It’s followed by a much more mellow (but still a little creepy [watching you shower? For an hour?]] ‘Picture This’. I think this track best shows off Harry’s voice, going from sweet to a howling rock voice. Every member of the band is ace, but they’re all so tight you almost don’t notice. The whole album is a rock solid performance, and I’m ashamed with myself that I’ve never paid it much attention before.

I found “Parallel Lines” to be quite an easy listen but at times I must admit I found it pretty boring. The album is a pleasant blend of pop and punk, and is certainly easy on the ear.  Having said that, in my opinion there are tracks that are true keepers, and ones that I could do without.  Album opener, ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ is a fantastic start to the album, grabbing your attention with Harry’s piercing vocal. Track two is another classic and is timelessly recognisable. ‘One Way or Another’ is one of those songs about stalking that just makes it sound kinda appealing. The next 7 tracks are forgettable and I inevitably end up skipping these ones. ‘Picture This’ to me is just tragic, the lyrics are corny high school poetry at its finest. I guess ‘Fade Away and Radiate’ is passable. It’s got a sexiness and coyness to it due to Harry’s restrained vocal and the synth backing. But mostly it goes nowhere. I won’t even talk about the rest. Another 5 presses on the skip button later and all is forgiven when you’re greeted with the high pitched voice of Harry as she sings about a ‘Heart of Glass’. Once again the lyrics are a bit empty and repetitive, but the song is so unique and Harry’s vocal so intoxicating, that all is forgiven. Ironically, the song was originally written in jest, but became one of Blondie’s most successful tracks. This album didn’t really get me excited, the only songs I enjoyed were the ones I already knew, but it’s clear to see that “Parallel Lines” was one of the precursors for the pop rock sounds that would come in not only the following decade (see Madonna) but in Euro-pop and dance circles even today.

“Parallel Lines” is an album that remains highly influential. The amount of musicians that wouldn’t exist without Blondie is staggering. The pop music scene of the 1980’s just wouldn’t have been the same if not for Blondie. No Debbie Harry? Okay, then no Madonna, Chrissie Amphlett or Chrissie Hynde. No Blondie? Okay, then no Duran Duran, Culture Club or, um, Dead or Alive. Their seemingly effortless merging of post-disco dance/pop with post-punk new wave laid the groundwork for the New Romantic era, and for some reason, extremely effeminate front-men. No doubt the record’s producer, Australian songwriter Mike Chapman (Suzi Quatro, Sweet, Smokie), infused the group with his own glam-rock pop sensibilities. This multi-million selling album contains some of the catchiest pop tunes you’re ever likely to hear, including one of my favourite songs of all time, ‘Heart of Glass’. Built around Clem Burke’s hypnotic dance drum beat and a pulsing bass line, Harry’s dreamy vocals lift this up above your average dancefloor hit. Although it nudges the six minute mark, I just want it to keep going; such is the song’s hold on me. Harry’s powerful presence would be nothing without the exceptional musicianship of the band. Her boyfriend at the time, and founding member, guitarist Chris Stein has written (or co-written) some wonderful pop music, and his best contribution here is the marvellous ‘Sunday Girl’. My other favourites include ‘Picture This’, ‘Will Anything Happen?’, keyboardist Jimmy Destri’s ’11:59′ and new bass player Nigel Harrison’s ‘One Way or Another’. The only track that seems out of place to me is guitarist Frank Infante’s ‘I Know But I Don’t Know’, which is nothing more than a repetitive riff and some nonsensical lyrics delivered in a deadpan duet style. That’s a minor quibble though, this is a hugely enjoyable album from a talented band that deserves its spot in music history.

Every week we’d like to hear your thoughts on the album. Just click on one of the links below, or leave a comment here to have your say.

Black Sabbath – Paranoid

Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Released September, 1970

I was introduced to Black Sabbath at a very early age. When I was quite young, my uncle used to have a German Shepherd called Sabby. He told me Sabby was short for Sabbath, named after a famous rock band called Black Sabbath. I didn’t know anything about them, but I knew ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Paranoid’ when I heard them. My parents raised me right.

Black Sabbath were formed when guitarist Tommy Iommi and drummer Bill Ward’s band broke up, and they needed to keep earning a quid. They found singer Ozzy Osbourne and bassist Geezer Butler after Osbourne advertised in a local music shop. They formed the awfully name Polka Tulk Blues Band, which they later shortened to the less awful Polka Tulk. The name changed yet again to Earth. Apparently Osbourne wasn’t keen on this name and I don’t blame him – who was coming up with these? Earth recorded a bit and scored a manager out of it. Lommi left the band in late ’68, to join Jethro Tull. Quite an upgrade, you’d think, but he felt like it didn’t fit right and came back to Earth (Ha.) in early ’69. Turns out there was another English band getting round in ’69 called Earth, and the ensuing confusion forced another name change. The name Black Sabbath came after a horror movie of the same name was screening across the street from the band’s rehearsal rooms. It was at this point the band started to write about the occult themes they became known for.

Black Sabbath were signed to Vertigo Records, Philips Records’ prog rock label, and released their first self titled album on February 13th, 1970. It reached number eight on the UK album chart, and though it sold a lot, music critics didn’t agree with the music buying public, giving it less than positive reviews. To stay with the momentum “Black Sabbath” built, the band hit the recording studio only four months after their first album was released. Originally slated to be called “War Pigs”, the second album was changed to be called “Paranoid”. The single ‘Paranoid’ made it to number four on the UK Charts, remaining to this day Sabbath’s only top ten hit. The album came a month after the release of ‘Paranoid’, and rode the single’s success to number one on the album chart. The impressive thing about the band’s best selling single is that it took less than half an hour two write. Bill Ward said “We didn’t have enough songs for the album, and Tony just played the “Paranoid” guitar lick and that was it. It took twenty, twenty-five minutes from top to bottom”. Impressive, no?

There’s no denying Sabbath were an excellent metal band. Lommi and Butler are legends of their instruments, and Ward definitely doesn’t get the credit he deserves. But what I still can’t get my head around is Ozzy Osbourne. He’s not a great singer. I know that an amazing singing voice is not a requisite for heavy metal, but his high voice just doesn’t suit the style of the music. But who am I to argue with one of the highest selling heavy metal bands of all time? It’s for this reason that I really dug ‘Rat Salad’. With no vocals to get in the way, it allows the real musicians to show off a little. It’s a solid blues metal performance from everyone involved, and is constructed around an excellent drum solo from Ward. I’m really hoping the 70s brings us lots of drum solos. ‘Iron Man’ is arguable Sabbath’s most recognisable track. Weirdly, this song was initially going to be called ‘Iron Bloke’, which is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. The song’s about a guy who travels forward in time and is turned to steel by a magnetic field. A) How? That’s incorrect. And b) Why is the song not called Steel Man then? Lyrical content aside, it is a good song, suitable dark and heavy. ‘Planet Caravan’ – why? It’s not good. Completely out of character with the rest of the album. Do not dig.

Paranoid is a great album, and I’m not at all surprised its so influential. It demands many more listens.

Truth be told, I’ve listened to this album so many times throughout my life, most of them not by choice. My dad, and at least 2 of my brothers, are big fans of Black Sabbath and have subjected me to many involuntary listens over the years. I wouldn’t say that I like Black Sabbath, in fact this kind of music is pretty much the exact opposite of what I normally enjoy; it’s sound is dark, it’s oppressive and for me, it’s depressing to listen to. Paranoid is widely revered as Black Sabbath’s best album, and its sound is distinctly heavy metal, making it a record that defined a style.  It contains some of the most recognisable riffs of music history, such as that of ‘Iron Man’, one of their most successful songs, and probably the only song on the album I could tolerate. If only I had a dollar for every time I heard that riff wafting out of band practice rooms. For me to say that “Paranoid” is dark is an understatement. The themes are gloomy, with uplifting track titles like ‘Hand of Doom’, ‘Rat Salad’ and ‘Electric Funeral’, and Osborne’s vocal is on edge, and full of despair.   I’ve listened to enough metal (once again involuntarily) in my time to recognise the influence that Black Sabbath have had in not just developing, but really shaping the genre. You can hear their sound in many contemporary heavy metal works and see why songs like ‘Paranoid’ have come to be synonymous with the heavy metal sound. This album has been cited as one of the greatest of all time. It didn’t really do it for me, but I can see why it’s a classic and I can draw the connection between what Black Sabbath were doing and today’s heavy metal sound.

This album’s title track is Black Sabbath’s best known song and their only major hit single. It’s quite bizarre considering that it was written quickly by the group to serve as filler. For those in the know, this record also contains the seminal classics ‘War Pigs’, ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Electric Funeral’, and is ground zero for many a heavy metal album. My love of Black Sabbath happened by ‘Ozzmosis’, pun absolutely intended. I was lucky enough to have a dad who not only loved Sabbath, but had EVERY record of theirs on vinyl. It wasn’t like I could jump on our little Microbee computer (remember them?) and hit up Spotify or anything back then. My dad also made up a cassette compilation of his favourite Sabbath tracks, which I frequently listened to. He’d chosen ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Iron Man’ as his picks from this album, and they only just scrape the surface of the record’s metal brilliance. Those ominous lyrics; the loud, distorted (and sometimes wah-enhanced) bass of Geezer Butler; the booming drums of Bill Ward; they all add up to a glorious aural assault. Ozzy’s thin and high-pitched voice wailing about war (‘War Pigs’), mental illness (‘Paranoid’) or drug addiction (‘Hand of Doom’) is perfect for perforating the thunderous riffs of guitarist Tony Iommi. A big highlight for me is ‘Planet Caravan’, which is eerily atmospheric, but somehow relaxing; particularly as it comes after the one-two punch of ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Paranoid’. From the instrumental ‘Rat Salad’ to the ambiguous ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ I love each and every track. My favourite moment is the tape speeding up in the last seconds of ‘War Pigs’, which is one of the best anti-war protest songs this side of Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’. Ozzy! Ozzy! Ozzy! Oi! Oi! Oi! \m/ \m/ \m/

I wasn’t looking forward to this week. The only track I’d heard from Black Sabbath was ‘Paranoid’ and its instantly recognisable riff. I didn’t care too much for it and therefore didn’t care too much for what the album might have in store for me. In fact, I waited a good five days before I even gave it a listen. I figured I’d trudge through my three listens and write a slap dash review on how it was a bit shit. Once again, I put on an afyccim classic album expecting so little only to discover how very very wrong I was. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that not only did I enjoy “Paranoid” but I fell for it in a big way. From the driving opener ‘War Pigs’, to the etheric ‘Planet Caravan’ (my favourite track on the album), through to the trippy wahs wahs of ‘Electric Funeral’ and the changing tempo of ‘Hands of Doom’. There isn’t a track I can fault on this album. Sure, there is a whole heap of Drug Fuelled Nonsense in the lyrics, particularly in ‘Faeries Wear Boots’, and Ozzy’s vocals aren’t the strongest. The band as a whole is so good though that it doesn’t matter. This isn’t the kind of music I normally wouldn’t listen to, but there’s something special happening on “Paranoid”. After only seeing Ozzy as somewhat of a caricature of himself on “The Osbornes”, I now get why he is so well loved and revered. “Paranoid” is a solid album from start to finish, and would stand up well if it was released today, and that is the true indication of a classic album for me. We are going to have to see some great albums this year to knock this out of my top ten.

Every week we’d like to hear your thoughts on the album. Just click on one of the links below, or leave a comment here to have your say.