2015 – The Year’s 50 Best

A round-up of the books, reissues, box sets and new releases that kept us spinning (and cycling) all year long….

BOOKS

1Attila the Stockbroker – Arguments Yard: My Autobiography (Cherry Red Books)

Subtitled “35 Years of Ranting Verse and Thrash Mandola,” the Stockbroker’s autobiography is also one of the most coherent arguments against the past thirty-odd years of western politicking that you’ll read, set against a backdrop of punk-fueled verse and folk-inflected punk that is, in turn, among the most pinpoint accurate commentaries on that subjects around.

Littered, of course, with an oft-times humorous account of his own career, much of which has been spent far outside the mainstream music industry (which has not harmed, or slowed him in the slightest), Arguments Yard is as strong as any “conventional” history of recent years, with added poignancy delivered by Attila’s reflections on East Germany – a land he toured on several occasions before the fall of the wall, and whose decline since then he sees as one of the western world’s most poisonous betrayals.

Classic Stockbrokers poems are revisited, classic conflicts with right wing agitators and snot-nosed hacks are recounted, but the key to the book is Attila’s indefatigable energy, and his refusal to bow down to any logic but his own.  We already praise him for leading one of the most individual careers of the past three decades; now he has written one of the most individual autobiographies.

 

Richard Balls – Be Stiff: The Stiff Records Story (Soundcheck Books)

Click HERE for review

 

Elvis Costello – Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink (Blue Rider Press)

Click HERE for review

 

Kevin Godley – Spacecake (Hand Held Company Ltd)

Click HERE for review

 

Stephen Morris – Do It Yourself: A History of Music in Medway (Cultured Llama Press) 

Click HERE for review

 

1Anthony Reynolds – Japan: A Foreign Place (Burning Shed)

Of all the bands swept up in the so-called New Romantic movement of the early 1980s, Japan were always among the most inappropriate.  Five years earlier and they’d have been riding the darker side of the glam movement, allied with Bowie, the Doctors of Madness, Be Bop Deluxe and Roxy Music; and even in their own time, they had more in common with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Eno and Robert Fripp than they ever did with the chart-topping concoctions of the funny haircut brigade.

But a few hits and a glamorous image were hard to argue with, even when you delved deep into their albums and became lost inside the convolutedly art-infused experimentalism that was their natural state of being.  Nevertheless, Reynolds handles the contradictions well as the story tracks Japan from the alternative obscurities of their earliest guise (those first Ariola albums remain deathless classics) through the years of high conceit and ambition, onto the band’s somewhat sorrowful demise.

Punctuated throughout by band members and associates, and written with an enthusiasm that never flags, A Foreign Place is not simply a vivid document of a vibrant band.  It is also a window into one of the most formative quarters of all that modern prog aspires to.

 

1Paul Slade – Unprepared To Die: America’s Greatest Murder Ballads And The True Crime Stories That Inspired Them (Soundcheck Books)

The world of murder ballads has long been a fascinating place to dip into, although it is musically that most people encounter them – with all the distortions, distractions and disturbances that entails.  It is, after all, the mark of a good folk song that no two versions should ever be the same, and by the time you’ve traveled through the full range of versions of, say, “Knoxville Girl,” the original story has long since disappeared.

Praise Slade, then, for digging back through the newspapers and accounts that first set the murders down in print; and then listening to the multitudinous recordings that have carried the tale to the present day.  He follows the threads, chases the revisions, and in many cases speaks with the revisers themselves, in an eight song strong collection that ranges from the rage of “Stag O Lee” to the tragedy of  “Pretty Poly”; from “Frankie & Johnny” and “Tom Dooley” to Hattie Carroll and Ellen Smith, before winding up with “Murder of he Lawson Family,” perhaps the least well-known of the ballads involved, but one of the most fascinating regardless.

A major contribution to the annals of folk, Unprepared to Die‘s cocktail of criminology, sociology, and musicology is guaranteed to keep you up all night… even if you are just hunting down the versions of the songs.

 

REISSUES AND ARCHIVE

Brynsley Schwarz – Live Favourites (Mega Dodo)

Click HERE for review

 

1Folk Devils – The Best Protection & BBC Sessions (Beggars Banquet)

Absurdly available only as a digital download, the fifteen tracks here round up the title track EP that wrapped up the Folk Devils career in 1987, plus a dozen tracks recorded for John Peel through the eighties… reminders one and all just what a great band this was.

Formed by the late Ian Lowery following his departure from Ski Patrol, the Folk Devils were substantially more devilish than folky, a punky Gun Clubby rumble that looked likewise towards Killing Joke, but more than either of those bands, utilized the listener’s unease as an instrument in its own right.

The band’s full discography is a work of wonder, and you should seek it out immediately.  But this collection maybe catches the band at their peak, halfway between the studio and the live environment that was always their finest element.

 

1Richard Pinhas – Chronolyse (Cuneiform)

Chronolyse has long lurked towards the top of a plethora of wishlists, and not only those of avant-garde collectors.  Movie and sci-fi fans are hunting it too – Pinhas intended it as his musical tribute to Frank Herbert’s epic Dune, the soundtrack to a movie that would not be made for another half decade.

Issued in France in 1978, Cuneiform gave Chronolyse its US CD debut in 1991, and now follow through with a stunning white vinyl, 180g reproduction of the original Cobra release, and it sounds great.   Recorded with a newly acquired Moog P3 and Polymoog, a couple of Revox tape machines and the rhythm section from his band, Heldon; with every track title lifted from Dune; Chronolyse emerged as one of that tiny handful of early electronic albums that actually sound warm, human, embracing, a gorgeous counterpoint to the increasing inhumanity of other electro pioneers.

Comparisons to souls as far apart as Philip Glass and King Crimson remain common currency when Chronolyse is discussed today – the former across side one, which comprises a live-to-tape Moog performance; the latter across the second side’s band-powered soundscapes.  Just as valid, though, would be mid-70s Tangerine Dream and early (Oxygene era) Jean Michel Jarre, with indeed a hint of Frippertronics thrown in.

Either way, and utterly regardless of your personal opinion about Dune, it’s certainly a dramatic piece of work,and one of the key electronic albums of the 1970s and probably beyond.  Imaginative, effusive, turbulent, evocative, it’s such a shame that more people didn’t follow Pinhas’s example.

 

1John Renbourn – The Attic Tapes (Riverboat)

“Mostly it’s me plunking – occasionally in the company of friends from way back.” So John Renbourn wrote, shortly before his death in May, of the music contained in this collection, twenty tracks recorded during the early 1960s, at a time when the incipient UK folk boom was still just so many people hanging out in one another’s apartments.

Recorded with Davy Graham (whose “Anji” opens the set), Beverly Kutner (Martyn-to-be) and Mac Macleod, among others, the tapes were largely made in those aforementioned apartments, on whatever ragged equipment came to hand.

As such, the hifi quotient isn’t high.  But like so many other folky basement tapes, it’s the musical energy, not the sonic perfection, that captivates, a pristine snapshot of a moment in time that saw folk and blues alike still vying for supremacy in the repertoires of so many young troubadours (a very Dylanish “Cocaine” among them), and the first glimpse of singer-songwritery instincts, too – Jackson C Frank’s “Blues Run the Game” was a staple of most every Anglo folkie’s kitbag at the time; “Judy” and “Plainsong” both give evidence of Renbourn’s own early (and most lasting) efforts.

Of course it’s Renbourn’s guitar playing for which he is best honored today, and there’s plenty of examples of his mastery here – “Anji” and “Judy,” of course; “the Wildest Pig in Captivity” and “Train Tune,” the latter one of several tracks recorded live at various venues around London, ranging from the legendary Les Cousins, to an arts center in Stamford, where his playing accompanies Graham on a beautiful version of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.”

Historically, this set is priceless, for all the reasons mentioned already.  But musically, too, it’s peerless, a collection of tapes that lingered in Mac Macleod’s attic almost since they were recorded, seeing the light of day for the first time in fifty years and shedding fresh illumination on an era which has lain in darkness for far too long.  Alongside the similarly, recently exhumed tapes of Judy Dyble’s 1964 Judy and the Folkmen (excerpted for her Gathering the Threads anthology box set earlier this year), we are finally getting to hear what made the sixties folk underground tick, before Pentangle, Fairport and so forth rose up to make it roar.

 

1Soft Machine – Switzerland 1974 (Cuneiform CD/DVD)

You really don’t want to play favorites here… oooh, do I rate “Hazard Profile” over “the Man Who Waved at Trains?”  It doesn’t matter.  Watch, listen and marvel – the band is barely recognizable from the classic “early days,” but it’s still a storm of devastating soloing and lucid improv.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1Taste – What’s Going On (Eagle Records)

Like its digital counterparts, this killer double album expands neatly on the performance’s original waxen appearance, 1971’s spartanly titled Live at the Isle of Wight, and if there is any criticism at all to be had, it’s that the familiar old running order has now been broken up to give a better sense of how the show actually played out.  Which is no criticism at all.

“Gambling Blues,” “I’ll Remember,” “Same Old Story” and “Blister on the Moon” are the new arrivals, and both show and sound quality are breathtaking – lovingly remixed and remastered in 1969-1972 the decades since that first album, four sides blaze with all the energy that was Taste at their zenith; hard to believe, and tragic too, that they would break up so quickly after this show.  But what a way to say goodbye.

 

 

 

1Johnny Thunders – So Alone (Drastic Plastic)

What do you call a slab of old vinyl whose high points include “Untouchable,” “Subway Train,” “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” “Give Him a Great Big Kiss” and everything else as well?

Remarkable? Amazing? A compulsory purchase?  That’ll do.

We know the story now but, at the time, this was the LP that rejected every legend ever told about Thunder’s past and positioned him as a superstar in waiting.

Sadly, the legends were true.

 

 

 

1The Zombies – RIP (Varese Sarabande)

Planned for release in 1969, following the posthumous success of “Time of the Season,” R.I.P. is one of the all-time Great Lost Albums of the sixties.  No matter that half of it comprised out-takes from 1964-65, while the rest was the more recent work of Rod Argent and Chris White alone.  Still it stands as a proud successor to Odessey and Oracle, with the six “new” songs at least equal to that album’s majesty, and lacking only Colin Blunstone’s vocals to send it soaring higher.  The out-takes, by their very nature, should be weaker, but they’re not, and the closing “Walking in the Sun,” which does feature a newly taped Blunstone vocal, is an all-time Zombies high.

 

 

 

 

various artists – Mid Century Minx / Such a Much / Soho Blondes & Peeping Toms / Troxy Music &c (all Croydon Municipal)

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BOXES AND BIG THINGS

Tony Banks – A Chord Too Far (Esoteric)

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1David Bowie – Five Years 1969-1973 (Rhino)

No, you don’t have it all already.  Original Ziggy producer Ken Scott’s 2003 remix of that album makes its LP debut – and it has to be said, if the past really has to be messed with, this is the kind of messing it should get.  The new mix subtracts nothing, interferes with little, doesn’t dance on your memories at all.  But you can still hear the difference and, for the most part, you’ll approve of it.

The box set itself, of course, is a thing of stunning beauty, a slipcased selection of the six studio albums (all but two newly remastered this year) that Bowie released during that time span; two double live sets from 1972 and 1973, and a newly compiled double rarities collection, Re:Call 1, rounding up the host of stray singles that were included in Bowie’s original deal with RCA Records.

Meaning, for sundry political/legal reasons, there’s no room herein for a lot of the bonus tracks that Bowie handed Rykodisc for their reissues back in the early 1990s.  But that’s not to say there’s no delights in store, as a run of original single mixes and non-LP b-sides amount to a more-or-less peerless Greatest Hits collection, while peering into those odd dark corners wherein lurk the Italian language “Space Oddity,” a previously unreleased mono single edit of “All the Madmen,” two of the three Arnold Corns cuts, a German 45 edit of “Drive in Saturday,” the US edit of “Time”… this is great stuff!

The album sized booklet, too, is a beauty, infinitely superior to its miniaturized CD counterpart; and of course, those old album covers include some of the most iconographic images of the age.   Other considerations notwithstanding, Bowie fans have complained, as one would expect, that this box set is just one more go-round for a series of albums that they’ve already bought a few hundred times already.  So make it a few-hundred-and-one.  You will not regret it.

 

1Judy Dyble – Gathering the Threads – (Fifty Years of Stuff) (Starcrazy – 3CDs)

A glorious mishmash, a maddening goody bag, an alternate history of one of British rock’s most intriguing performers, the three discs here trace Ms Dyble through a few (but not all) of her best known activities… Fairport Convention, the proto-King Crimson, you know the drill… but is just as comfortable with Judy & the Folkmen, an experimental duo with Richard Thompson, collaborations with the Conspirators, conspiracies with Dodson & Fogg… the Hare and the Moon, Electronic Voice Phenomenon, Colin Harper… it’s a mixed bag melded only by Dyble’s glorious voice and, when she steps out solo, her equally remarkable songwriting.

Certainly one of the most visionary “survivors” of her sixties so-called prime, Dyble today is arguably as pioneering as any of her past outfits went onto be, and her popularity with a world of young blades, too, speaks louder than any of that.  Gathering the Threads has sold out in its original boxed version, but rises again across three separate LP releases.  Needless to say, you ned them all.

 

1Genesis – Vinyl Remasters (Rhino)

The series of Genesis remasters that appeared on CD back in 2008, lightly remixing the original tapes to what even dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists admitted was glorious effect, have now reappeared on vinyl (Rhino) and, guess what?  They’re more or less flawless.

The sequence devours almost the complete run of studio albums that stretched from Nursery Cryme (1971) to Abacab a decade later, and in between times hits FoxtrotSelling England by the Pound, Trick of the TailWind and… okay, we’re losing interest here.  We’ll stick to the good ones.  (Oh, and Lamb Lies Down, for now, is absent).

With the half speed mastering offering a true audiophile experience, this is effectively a whole new clutch of albums for collectors.  Never obtrusive, the remixing nevertheless gives familiar sounds and sequences a whole new dimension – sometimes subtle, sometimes astonishing.  Nursery Cryme in particular benefits, but there’s twists and turns all over the place.

The last half of the epic “Supper’s Ready” on Foxtrot feels even more dramatic than it used to be; Trick of the Tail seems fuller; even Selling England by the Pound, hamstrung in its original guise by the band’s insistence on cramming three sides worth of music onto two sides of wax, is livelier, even if “The Battle of Epping Forest” feels more disposable every listen.  Even And Then There Were Three, which we weren’t going to mention, sounds less like the bulk of it was being phoned in.

Which is why it’s nice that these have been released individually, and not in a great big box. Nobody needs every one of these albums (although Abacab is good for scaring kittens with); you should pick and choose according to taste.  But don’t throw out the old vinyl when you do so…. the old mixes are still superb.

 

Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers/Live at the Marquee (Rolling Stones Records/Eagle Records)

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Sisters of Mercy – First and Last and Always (Rhino – 4 LPs)

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1Sly & the Family Stone – Original Album Classics (Epic)

Slipcased and slick, and so deserving of a fresh listen, the first five Sly and the Family Stone albums slough off the vinyl represser – that is, A Whole New Thing (1967), Dance to the Music (1968), Life (1968), Stand (1969) and There’s A Riot Goin’ On (1971), and it would take a king sized grouch with an extra grumpy grudge to truly find anything to say against them.  But we can try.

The first two albums were released in both mono and stereo. Presumably because the record company is in the business of making the most people happy, as opposed to appealing to the desires of a handful of collectors, we receive the stereo alone.  The fourth and fifth albums were released with gatefold sleeves.  Presumably because the record company is in the business of not really caring what the fans think, we get single sleeves alone.  No other inserts, no unexpected bonuses, just five LPs in their most basic naked state.

Ah, but what five albums they are.  One can play favorites with Sly Stone’s output; acknowledge that, for every exhilarating “I Want to Take You Higher,” there was an irritating “Everyday People”; for every incisive “There’s a Riot Goin’ On,” there was a lazy “Jane is a Groupee.”  But that’s a game that grown-ups play, when they’re too old and infirm to respond to these records in the spirit that they were intended.  Which is…

Pump up the volume, wave your hands in the air, and remember when – and, more importantly, why – these albums ranked amongst the finest dance music of the era.  The Family Stone is often treated as Sly alone.  But no band with Larry Graham on bass could fail to set your feet seething; and when you add brother Freddy and sister Rosie, Greg Errico, Jerry Martini and Cynthia Robinson… the family stone really felt like a family, and they lock together across these albums as though there was no alternative but the funk.  Which, when you really think about it, there wasn’t.

The first four albums are the seamless sequence – mood and momentum notwithstanding, there is little to choose between the occasional naivety of A Whole New Thing and the grittier landscapes of Stand, with the two year difference between the two only lending further cohesion to the pie.

Riot is different- recorded after a year-long lay off during which rumors flew, legends were cast and the band more or less disintegrated, it is darker, dirtier, more influenced by the world that was blowing up around it, than by the directions that the music itself wanted to move.  Stand had had its moments of commentary, but Riot truly lives up to its title, and the fact that it spun off another hit single, in the shape of the early percolating “Family Affair,” only reminds us just how huge Sly and co were.

So that’s what you get, but how do they sound?  Well, if you were happy with the last batch of digital remasters, the vinyl will suit you just fine.  The same airless flatness that attends so many modern represses might niggle at listeners who grew up on the wide open spaces that were such an integral part of the band’s own sound; the same feeling that the wildest extremes of the sonic feast have been trimmed for the sake of technology could leave you filing these away, and heading out to find the earliest pressings.

Or it may not.  It’s your dance party and you’ll sly how you want to.   And the riot is still going on.

 

Velvet Underground – the Complete Matrix Tapes (Universal – 4CD)

Click HERE for review

 

1The Who – Live at Hyde Park (Eagle Rock – 3LP/DVD)

A loverly chunky package celebrates an ‘alf century of the ‘Oo, and all sounding as fresh and vital as they ever have.  Of course the current line-up, with just the two surviving members, is no going to please everyone, but the (relative) newcomers acquit themselves well, and Daltrey and Townshend sound as savage as you’d want them to.  Plus, there’s a track listing that would delight all but the most arcane Who lover… even if side three, packing “Bargain,” “Join Together” and the grisly “You Better You Bet” might not be one you return to too often.

Selections from Tommy and Quadrophenia are electrifying, though; a blast through the early (pre-1967) singles brings memories back for everyone; and the final side’s recounting of “Baba O’Reilly” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is as powerful as (almost) any closing salvo you could name.  There’s a great “Eminence Front” on board, too, and when was the last time you heard somebody say that?

 

1Yes – Progeny – Seven Shows from Seventy-Two (Rhino – 14CDs)

When Yes released Yessongs in 1973, they truly walked where no man (or, at least, no rock band) had gone before – a triple album devoted to one concert, a Woodstock or Concert for Bangla Desh-shaped package that bellowed just one thing at the world.  This band was significant; this music was significant.

Forty-some years later, it’s not such a big deal.  CDs and downloads have allowed far grander packages to emerge; box sets stuffed with twenty-plus discs are already the norm for King Crimson, and you can pick up entire tours worth of concerts as they happen, if you only feel the itch.

But still, you have to admit Progeny is impressive.  Fourteen discs serve up seven concerts from the tour that produced the original Yessongs,, catching the classic line-up of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman and Alan White (already settled onto Bill Bruford’s old drumstool) as they rambled around the US in fall 1972, with Fragile and the newly released Close to the Edge in their kitbag.  It’s an impressive lump of sound.

Fears that Yes were scarcely renowned for live improvisation are, of course, swiftly borne out; when this band nailed a song, it remained nailed.  The set list scarcely varies across the seven shows, and a first listen really only differentiates between shows via sundry unexpected interruptions – extraneous FM radio crackling through Wakeman’s Mellotron, Anderson’s mike giving up at one show and his voice at another, little things to remind us that behind the supreme musicianship, mere humans remain at the mercy of the elements.

Closer listens, though, pick up little twists and twiddles, shifting solos, ad libbed lyrics, and while the sound quality is generally excellent throughout, some nights are certainly more powerful than others – so you could, if you really don’t feel up to the challenge of seven nights of the same songs, chase down a 2CD highlights package that really does cherrypick the best sounding (if not necessarily the most powerful) performance of each song.  But you’ll wind up wanting the box as well, regardless.

 

various artists – Still in a Dream: A Story of Shoegaze (Cherry Red – 5CD)

Click HERE for review

 

various artists – Side Effects (Fruits de Mer)

Click HERE for review

 

various artists – Casino Classics Complete Collection (Soul Time/Cherry Red)

Click HERE for review

 

NEW RELEASES

Beautify Junkyards – The Beast Shouted Love (Mega Dodo)

Click HERE for review

 

 

1Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance (Matador)

The titles are typical… “Enter Sylvia Plath,” “Play for Today,” “the Cat with the Cream.”  And so’s the music. As beguiling as ever, Belle & Sebastian are back with breathtaking vigor and a keen eye for restyled eighties dance-pop.  It’s all as wordy as it ever was, but it’s toe-tappingly fine as well

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim Bowness – Stupid Things that Mean the World (Inside Out)

Click HERE for review

 

 

1Carter Tutti – Plays Chris & Cosey (CTI)

With highlights that include “Obsession,” “Driving Blind” and “Watching You,” CT serve up a double album’s worth of recent revamps of classic 80s electro-sleaze – and, unusually, almost every cut improves on the original. Your youth relived for the price of a CD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Cracknell – Red Kite (Cherry Red)

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Crystal Jacqueline – Rainflower (Mega Dodo)

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Jack Ellister – Tune Up Your Ministers and Start Transmission from Pool Holes to Class O Hypergiants) (Fruits de Mer)

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Emily & Angeline – EP 1: The Blue One (emilyandangeline.co.uk)

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1Martin Gordon – Gilbert, Gordon & Sullivan (Radiant Future)
Ex-lots of bands that we can’t be bothered to list, Martin Gordon is by far better known, and feted, for the chain of solo albums he has unleashed over the last few years, a sprawling non-trilogy of Mammal-based albums not least of all, and across everything serving evidence tat there are few songwriters sharper or wryer than he.

So now he strips back to the barest roots, to illustrate perhaps the most significant influence on his own literary style – a veritable tribute album to Gilbert & Sullivan, packed with remarkably faithful, but gorgeously individual takes on some of that team’s best known numbers: a rock opera in literal terms, then, and you probably know every song in the set, regardless of whether you’ve heard of them.  “Lord High Executiuoner,” “Modern Major General,” “Taken from the Country Jail” “Cock’n’Bull,” “A Policeman’s Lot”… fourteen original operas were scoured for Gordon’s favorite numbers, then stripped down to the elements that transform them from pomp to circumstantial pop music.  Let alone information animal, vegetable and mineral.

And it is, quite frankly,

 

Peter Hammill – all that might have been… (Fie)

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The Hare and the Moon – Witch Wood (Reverb Worship)

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Brian James – The Guitar That Dripped Blood (Easy Action)

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Philip Jeays – The Widest Walk – the Songs of Philip Jeays Volume 1 (Ditton Pye)

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The Owl Service – His Pride.  No Spear.  No Friend (Horn Records)

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1The Pretty Things – The Sweet Pretty Things (Are In Bed Now.  Of course…) (Repertoire)

A classic… of course.  Best bits… all of it.  Of course. It’s the Pretty Things.  Of course it’s brilliant, of course it’s brutal, of course it’s everything you ever dreamed rock’n’roll should be.  Phil May for President.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phil Rambow – Whatever Happened To Phil Rambow? (RDJ)

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Alasdair Roberts – Alasdair Roberts (Drag City)

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Sendelica – Live from the Seventh Psychedelic Network Festival (Sunhair Music)

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United Bible Studies – So As To Preserve the Mystery (Deep Water Acres)

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Us and Them – Summer Green and Autumn Brown (Mega Dodo)

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Wreckless Eric – AmERICa (Fire Records)

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1various artists – Fashion: Songs Written by David Bowie (Fruits de Mer)

All Fruits de Mer compilations are brilliant; all should be on this list.  So, in fact, should their 45 releases, but hey – go to their website, and Mega Dodo’s too, and you have the best singles of the year laid out before you.

It was between this and Strange Fruit and Veg for the best comp, though, and this won out because FdM’s traditional Christmas present for subscribers does itself have an edge of tradition to it, for how many albums of Bowie covers are there?  (A lot).

None like this, though, with the likes of Consterdine, the Past Tense, Sidewalk Society and Jack Ellister lining up to tease the Duke through both his thinnest and fattest years.  From those early Pye singles that debuted his stage name, through songs known only through demos and bootlegs, and onto sundry highlights of his “better known” years, you may not ever have known you’d need to hear Sheepshanks covering “Life on Mars?”, Rob Gould revisiting “Sense of Doubt,” the Seventh Ring of Saturn taking an “African Night Flight” or an acoustic Sendelica meeting “Ziggy Stardust,” but… YOU DO.

Traditionally again, too many Bowie covers are painfully, obviously, just that.  Bowing and scraping and whining “we’re not worthy,” while doffing a clown cap to Halloween Jack.  Not here.  Nobody stands on parade, nobody tugs their forelock deferentially and mumbles that nobody could do it as well as DB.  The Nomen make “The Gospel Acording to Tony Day” their own; Mordecai Smyth turns “Kooks’ even kookier, the Blue Giant Zeta Puppies know which side their “Fashion” should be buttered on, and as for Mooch’s “Andy Warhol”… it sounds a scream.

Bowie himself has a new album imminent, but it won’t be as good as this.  In fact, short of going out and redoing all these same songs himself, and covering these arrangements as well, it’s hard to see how it could be.

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