My favorite musicians: 41-50

January 13th, 2018

In honor of my recent “golden” birthday, I thought I would do some blogposts listing my 50 favorite musicians. My rankings are based semi-scientifically on the number of songs from each artist that I regard as a real favorite, but I have used some judgment in coming up with my top 50. I’ve also used the widest definition of the music of a particular band so if I include the Beatles, it would include all their solo music as well i.e. I won’t list each Beatle.

Clearly, this list is very personal, and exclusion, or lower ranking of an artist does not imply that I am conclusively saying they are not as good as my topped ranked musicians. It’s just about the music that works for me.

So here are my artists ranked 41-50 (I haven’t done any ranking within the bands of 10)

Lloyd Cole: Scottish singer who became a favorite with his Commotions while I was still at high school.
Waterboys: Another Scottish band that I got to know during high school.
Clash: “The only band that matters” – not a punk fan in general, but they have a lot of songs that resonate
Rodriguez: I wasn’t a fan in his first wave of South African popularity but the movie converted me. An artist who helped change a country
Rolling Stones: Probably lower than many people will have them, but this is a strong list!
Van Morrison: Another artist who has been on my playlists for many years.
Zombies: Underrated and intelligent band who I am very glad to have seen perform live.
Crowded House: Neil Finn is a top songwriter. Also glad to have seen them live.
Roy Orbison: From the original school of rock and roll, the Caruso of rock was an early pioneer.
Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On? is still as relevant in 2017, Symphony was our wedding dance.

A Sad Start

January 5th, 2018


While we still go into the new year with optimism ,  there have been some sad stories at the start of the year. A terrible rail crash has happened in my country, while in Beach Boys-related news, we have seen the sad demise of Betty Jane Willis. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, she was the lead singer of Rachel and the Revolvers, who put out a Brian Wilson penned and produced single.  Her murder in a homeless camp is a particularly sad ending to a life that no doubt began with so much optimism that she could become a musical success.

23 Songs For The New Year

January 3rd, 2018

2) SOMEONE ELSE (1958) (Art Garfunkel)
4) LOVE GROWS (Edison Lighthouse): First UK#1 of the 70s.
7) NEED YOU NOW (Lady Antebellum)
8) 1900 YESTERDAY (Liz Damon & The Orient Express)
9) GIVE ME LOVE (Lucky Soul)
10) WHAT’S GOING ON (Marvin Gaye)
12) TRUE FAITH (New Order)
14) I WILL ALWAYS (Roy Orbison)
15) DOOD’S BROW (Saint Etienne)
16) TELSTAR (Tornados)
17) CALIFORNIA SON (Tripsitter)
18) ELENORE (Turtles)
19) WALK DON’T RUN (Ventures)
20) YOUR SCHOOL (Paul McCartney)
21) MAKE IT EASY ON YOURSELF (Walker Brothers)
22) SHE OPENS HEAVEN’S DOOR (Wondermints)

Remembering The Magic Gardens Of 1967/2017

December 31st, 2017

The 5th Dimension - The Magic Garden.jpg In remembering 2017, there is a natural inclination to also remember the original Summer of Love in 1967, 50 years ago. Being the year that I also turned 50, there an even greater inclination to reflect back to that pivotal year that I have no real memory of, but have many musical mementos to call upon.

1967 was the year of Sgt. Pepper and it’s less known but equally interesting Magical Mystery Tour.  The Beach Boys failed to release SMiLE but Brian and the boys were actually quite productive, both in releasing albums, performing live and recording songs. There were a lot of other great albums, not least of all Forever Changes. Another great record, released late in December 1967 and previously reviewed on this blog, was The Magic Garden, Jimmy Webb’s masterpiece, performed by the Fifth Dimension and reflecting the ups and downs of the era, and life in general.

50 years later the music overall isn’t as great, but there are pockets of brilliance, in hearing more unheard gems from the Beach Boys from the many Sunshine Tomorrow releases, but also in some great new music, not least from the likes of Lucky Soul and Saint Etienne. Brian Wilson also reminded us that he has been a lot more than just a Beach Boy, but also a very viable solo artist for more than half his musical career.

2017 was a year of a lot of pain for the world, as the bad decisions of 2016 became more real. However, with Mugabe out and Zuma down, for the first time in many years, my part of the world begins 2018 with some real hope. It was also the year that I got married. So we begin 2018 with cautious optimism – I wish all the readers a wonderful year, both musically and otherwise.

23 Songs For Today

December 28th, 2017

1) Let It Be    -The Beatles
2) Caribbean Wind    -Bob Dylan
3) Solid Rock    -Bob Dylan
4) Theme From Harry’s Game    -Clannad
5) In A Lifetime    -Clannad
6) And Yes We Must Remain The Wildhearted Outsiders    -Dexy’s Midnight Runners
7) The Celtic Soul Brothers    -Dexy’s Midnight Runners
8) All In All This One Last Wild Waltz    -Dexy’s Midnight Runners
9 ) And Winter Came    -Enya
10) Oriel Window    -Enya
11) Morning Glory   – Enya
12) May It Be    -Enya
13) You’ll Never Walk Alone    -Gerry & The Pacemakers
14) Whatever Happened to Christmas?    -Jimmy Webb
15) Ribbons and Bows    -Kacey Musgraves
16 Listen to the Bells Ring   -Lisa Mychols
17) Codail a Linbh (Sleep O Child)    -Moya Brennan
18) Chicago –   Sufjan Stevens
19) Mystery of Love   -Sufjan Stevens
20) New Year’s Day    -U2
21) Deweller On The Threshold    -Van Morrison
22) Foreign Window   -Van Morrison
23) Queen Of The Slipstream    -Van Morrison

Pet Sounds 52

December 21st, 2017

Additional dates have now been added to the May 2018 Pet Sounds tour, meaning that the tour will now be substantially extended into the 52nd anniversary of the great album! You can see the new dates here

The Beach Boys Christmas Surprise

December 18th, 2017

Exactly 3 months after the belated Smiley Smile, the Beach Boys released another album just a week before Christmas. It wasn’t a seasonal album but a collection of all-new songs that saw the band move from psychedelia and complexity to simplicity and basic R&B. It was also released just a few days before I was born, so as Wild Honey celebrates its 50th birthday, it will be last Beach Boys album featured in my 50 anniversary posts that is older than me.

After the trauma of the scrapping of SMiLE and the critical and public befuddlement at the “odd” Smiley Smile, the Beach Boys clearly needed to take another direction. However, coming so soon after Smiley Smile, this new album direction was released to a public that, in the USA, at least, was already indifferent to the Beach Boys.

The new direction took the “back to basics” element of Smiley Smile and added the boogie-woogie feel that Brian and his family had grown up. The result is a spirited, up-tempo album that still hinted at the melodic genius of Brian. It was also an album for Brian to “cool out” to, in Carl’s words, after the traumas of 1967, although as with all the albums in the immediate wake of the SMiLE sessions, there is still a connection to the material from those sessions in Mama Says, a fragment of Vegatables abandoned for Smiley Smile. Brian is, from a composers point of view, still very involved, although How She Boogalooed It is the first original non-instrumental track put out by the band not written by Brian.

Individual track highlights include Aren’t You Glad which hints at Bacharach, the beautiful, soulful Let The Wind Blow and Darlin’ which is a retread of the earlier tune Thinking About You Baby but features a fantastic Carl vocal and great production.

The rest of the songs all fit in well to the overall mood of the album, but the fact the harmonies, production and tunes are not all top-drawer prevents this album from being right at the top of the Beach Boys pile. Having said that, this is still a vastly underrated album that gives many other much more vaunted works of 1967 a good run for their money in the quality stakes, and this year’s release of Sunshine Tomorrow and the rich body of the band’s work at this time has helped with the critical re-appraisal of the record.

Indeed, the fact that 1968 releases from the Stones, Dylan and the Beatles reflected a “back to basics” ethos may indicate that Wild Honey was ahead of its time. While there were probably many other factors in these 1968 releases going in that direction, it is hard to believe that Wild Honey had absolutely no influence on this direction, even given the Beach Boys’ diminished “hipness” as that stage. Once again, the band put out a work ahead of its time, and for all times.

More Sunshine Tomorrow Than You Ever Thought Possible

December 12th, 2017

As a Christmas present to fans who were generally quite impressed with the 2 CD Sunshine Tomorrow collection, there is suddenly a whole lot more available for legal download -29 unreleased studio tracks on Sunshine Tomorrow 2: The Studio Tracks and an astonishing 109 live tracks on Live Sunshine. You can see the full tracklists here in Rolling Stone. This certainly also bodes well for some interesting releases in the next few years as the Friends/Sunflower/Surf’s Up albums reach their 50 year copyright expiry anniversary…

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CLVII: Rio Grande

December 6th, 2017

Rio Grande in Big Bend NP.jpg

We continue looking at some tracks highlighted on the recent Brian Wilson compilation -and move onto the longest and last track on the first solo album. Brian wasn’t the first Wilson brother to write an ode to a river – we have Dennis Wilson’s River Song from Pacific Ocean Blue – but it is the longest track on any Brian Wilson album and hearkens back to the modular style of SMiLE with its multiple sections. While some parts may feel a bit like SMiLE-by-numbers, there are sections of genuine beauty and power that reminded us that Brian Wilson had a lot to give musically.

Al And Brian

December 1st, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, ocean and outdoor Although the Pet Sounds tour featuring Al Jardine is continuing in 2018, Al Jardine will also be doing a few shows without Brian Wilson, featuring his son Matt. These promise to be intimate, acoustic shows -there are four dates now but more may be added.

Meanwhile, the successful Pet Sounds tour has hit the radar of some of the top-grossing tours at the moment -some way behind U2 and the Rolling Stones but still very solid for someone who toured very little from 1964 to 1999.