It’s been absolute age since I wrote a blogpost about my 1st love – music. I’ve been busy with work (but heck, I always am) and in my mind I was waiting for something “big” to jump out at me and reflecting pure musical brilliance on Jools Holland’s Later. But then it occurred me I’ve been picking up gems of musical brilliance all year – but not written them about them. As the year draws to a close I’m looking back over the year and what I’ve been listening to. And I thought I would rave about them here, in the hope that others might be similarly inspired.


Dire Straits – Debut

…have become the oppitomy of “Dad Rock” I guess. My brother got me into the “Love Over Gold” album in the early 80’s when  I was 11/12 and that was my favourite record at the time. And then I sort of left them behind and went for journey through angst ridden teenagedom (wearing black, spikey hair, listening to The Door, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Bashes, early-Cure, The Mary Chain). Then this year I decided to relook at the back catalog, and bought all the landmark albums. Of course, the one that really was revelation was the first album – it contains such tracks as Sultans of Swing. It’s really masterpiece with each song neatly delivered.

(One of) my favourite tracks is “Southbound Again”. Despite the bluesy track – it really about heading south from Newcastle – and crossing the River Tyne.

Penguin Eggs – Nic Jones

This album is kind of land mark in english folks. Sadly Nic Jones was involved in a car-crash on the way home from gig. He survived, but it put an end to his musical career. After being away for decades, he recently took to the stage with son. The sandout track for me is “The Humpback Whale” a folky tale of the men who worked the whale ships. Apparently before the 1st world, the “Laverick” clan were based on the coast of Whitby, involved in the whaling industry there – so it has a bit of reasounce for me…


Lloyd Cole – Standards

Another 80’s influence. Lloyd Cole is still going as solo artist based in New York I think. My brother very kindly got me an anniversay copy of “Rattlesnakes” signed by him for my 40th. My brother and I got to see him play solo (just the man and acoustic guitar) up North recently. I picked up a copy of latest called Standards

This is live version of “Kids Today” which is side-ways glance at the modern generation – whilst kind of acknowledging we were not better when we were young. It’s easy to criticise the young, for being what they are – young.

Sting – The Last Ship

To be honest I’ve never been a massive Sting fan. I loved the Police when I was kid – and have liked the odd song here and there (such as an English man in New York). And then came along his most recent composition “The Last Ship”. I first saw a live performance on TV, and was utterly gripped. Bought the album on iTunes. Now my wife and I are considering seeing the show on Broadway in the New Year. It was well received in Chicago, but is struggling in New York. To be honest I was surprised to see it be launched in the US – what with the very British story and regional accents.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Sting’s achievement. For me this is his masterpiece. It concerns the closing of the shipyards in the North-East, and impact on the people there. So its got a very personal element for me – as it’s not far from where I was born… Don’t be put of by the subject matter. It isn’t some diatribe, but sensitive portrayal of both pride, shame and anger – and also funny as well. One my favourite songs is about a rookie apprentice who despatched in search of a “Long Weight” and can of “Tartan Paint”. And yes, my first day at work (aged 16) I was granted that peculiar initiation….

I don’t know how this happened – but the live concert appears to be on YouTube in its entirety… I’m not sure how long that will be for…

Kate Bush

Yes, I know she wails like a banshee; and indulges in somewhat dubious, progressive 70’s dance moves. I can’t say I ever really warmed to Kate Bush. But then I saw a BBC documentary about her and her career – I was blown away. It’s perhaps a bit tenuous – but her ambitious stages shows that incorporated both music and dance, sort of set the stage for future. And in many respects she (amongst others) blazed a trail for female performers, to make music on their own terms – rather than one of being eye-candy for rich A&R men in the recording industry. There’s much that I doesn’t move me about her music, but much that is draw-dropping splendiforous. So I watched the documentary again, and scribbled down my favourites – and made my own ‘Greatest Hits’ using iTunes.

I found the original BBC documentary on YouTube…. It’s difficult to pin a particular song. She’s such a ‘Marmite” performer. My wife can’t stand her – but I think that’s because she got bored when she was teenager with boys endlessly having Kate Bush posters on their walls. You see Kate Bush is very much the poster-child for men of the 50+ age bracket! I’ve picked “Hounds of Love” from the 80s.

Nick Drake and Molly Drake

Not a find for me. More a rediscovery. Mainly triggered by the publication of new book by Nick Drake’s sister. It’s her attempt to set the record straight on her brother, and his untimely demise. So I recently added a some missing albums and out-takes from his work. But what was really outstanding is some of the songs by Nick Drakes mother, Molly Drake. His Mum and Dad were both musical in their way. Molly Drake’s songs are haunting especially the song “Poor Mum” which was in part composed as response to her son’s “Poor Boy”. These are often quite poor recordings done from home on knackered tape cassette. The delivery is partly that of Joyce Grenfell meets Stevie Smith. You know that sort of icy English delivery, a little posh – steeped in unspoken pain and anguish. It’s cheery stuff you know. 🙂

Morrissey – Years of Refusal

After years of giving up on Morrissey solo albums I’m back on the road to punishment. Morrissey post-Smiths rather reminds me of Lou Reed post-Velvet Underground. Sometime the albums feel like so much filler – and then there will be track that will take your breath away, and you can just about sense a devilish look in the eye of the last of the International Playboy. It’s Years of Refusal that has suckered me back in. I remember listening to Morrissey  cries of the horrors of the unloveable world whilst I sunned myself on Lake Garda, Italy. The irony was quite delightful. “Paris” is little mini-delight of English camp, and self-exile mock-tragedy. This is a single recording sounds a bit tinny on my laptop and sounds less orchestrated (and quicker tempo) than the album version. The song “Something is squeezing my skull” should be really played maximum volume for maximum effect.

Lester Simpson – Standing in Line

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One of the good things about my new home (the town of Wirksworth, Derbyshire) is my local community choir “Raise Your Voices”. It’s led by Lester Simpson (a folk musician of some repute!), and my wife and I recently had the pleasure of watching the man in action at our local town hall. You can see that “Standing in Line” is culmination of life times (?) interest in The Great War. One of the stand out songs for me (amongst many) is Lester’s rendition of Kipling’s “Follow me ‘ome“. Lester’s also member of the folks trio Coope, Boyes and Simpson (and no, it’s not intended to sound like a firm of accountants!). We enjoyed the performance of “Standing in Line” so much – that we got in touch with Lester and secured copies of the CD as Christmas Presents for all the family. I also picked up a copy of Coope, Boyes and Simpsons In Flanders Fields

Penguin Cafe Orchestra

I was put on these people by local, and so realised I’ve heard this musicians countless times. They are instrumental so you’ll often hear them as soundtracks to movies and adverts. Music For a Found Harmonium, Perpetuum Mobile, Telephone and Rubber Band, and Air a Danser – are probably their most well-known compositions. There’s a definite “drone” quality to their work, albeit thru medium of both old and modern instruments – which takes you right back to early music.

Glen Campbell – Ghost on a canvas

Well, Glenn Campbell is hardly new to the scene. For me this falls very much in the camp of “Legend Rediscovered/Reloaded” – along the same lines of the renaissance that Johnny Cash enjoyed before his death. The album I’ve been listening to is “Ghost on a canvas” and its companion (out-take/alt mix) “See you there”. Ghost on the canvas is a classic album experience – in the sense that there’s an immediate hit of wonderfulness, followed by the tracks that grow on you upon repeated listening. For me the stand-out tracks are the quieter more intimate performances such as A Better Place, Nothing but the whole wide world and There’s no me, without you. Such as shame this guy had to hang up his gun due to ill-health. My hope is like Cash, he’ll continue recording through is decline…