This is my type of Music.
I will update more completely at a later date. For now, if you happen to be reading this, I will supply a small list (photos to be added at another time).
One of the original rock n rollers who wrote his own stuff, johnny Cash has recorded two of, in my humble opinion, the greates live albums ever – At San Quentin and At Folsom Prisom. However, he superseded all of that late in life with his monumental American Recordings series, produced by Rick Rubin. Heartfelt, funny at times, devastating and ultimately essential to any lover of not just music, but poetry and art in any form. Watch the video to “Hurt”, your eyes may never be dry again.
Recommended – American Recordings (1994) The first in the series, including Nick Lowe’s “The Beast in Me”, songs written by Cash and cover songs that he simply made his own.
Bad Seeds, Birthday Party, Grinderman, with Warren Ellis or solo, Nick Cave never fails to come up with the goods. In the last ten years he has created his best work (though 1996’s Murder Ballads remains my favourite Cave album), including soundtrack work, screenplay for John Hillcoat’s excellent film The Proposition (2005) and the novel The Death of Bunny Munro (2009, Cannongate) – not for the faint-hearted.
Recommended – Murder Ballads (1996) inludes “Where the Wild Roses Grow” and “Stagger Lee”. Powerful stuff.
Do I really need to introduce you to Dylan? (for that matter, did I have to tell you about Johnny Cash?) There isn’t much I can say about Dylan that hasn’t been said over and over again. You know who he is, but if you haven’t listened to him try Blood on the Tracks, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. Oh, and his rather bizarre book of poetry, Tarantula (1971, HarperCollins).
Recommended – Blood on the Tracks (1974) Dylan turns being pissed off into an art form. includes “Simple Twist of Fate” and the rather jaunty “You Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You go”. Lyrically magnificent, this is often cited as his masterpiece. I find myself agreeing.
Okay, time to get someone British in here. The first album I purchased with my own money was Hunk Dory. Nobody believes me, they think I’m just trying to sound cool. But it’s true! I bought it on cassette from Barnsley’s greatest (and sadly missed) record shop, Casa-Disco. Does a cassette count as a first album? anyway, this is a seminal work by Bowie, who quickly became my favourite artist. So I went out and bought his “Best of” (on vinyl, this time) and also a collection of his quirky 1960s songs, which I loved, and still do. It’s been eight years since he released an album (2003’s Reality) and I’m hoping he hasn’t retired. You’ve heard his stuff, of course you have.
Recommended – Low (1977) Unusual choice perhaps? maybe, but this was written at a low point in Bowie’s personal life, and it includes the single “Sound and Vision” which always cheers me up. Also includes “Always Crashing in the Same Car”. The instrumental b-side is very unpopular amongst many Bowie fans (like on the Heroes album, same year), but Bowie is an artist, and unapologetically so. Marvellous and cathartic.
Larry Norman (1947-2008) was an American singer-songwriter who, in the 1970s, created some brilliant work. After an accident on an airplane in 1977 in which part of a compartment fell on his head, Norman was unable to concentrate on his work for long periods of time. And so, the troubled and often-censored/messed-about-with blues album Something New Under the Son was his last great album. Many people will be put off listening to Norman’s work because he released the majority of it on Christian labels. But he deserves much more than that, as this was a man who influenced many, including the great Bob Dylan. His albums are hard to get, and this is why I am breaking my only-just-created rule of recommending only one work per artist. Well, rules are there to be broken.
Recommended – Only Visiting This Planet (1972) This should by rights be a classic of early seventies music, but it isn’t, because not many people know about it. And people knowing is what makes a classic, right? It’s a pity Larry wasn’t into marketing – he just recorded the stuff and left it to others to sell. A wide-ranging album, affirming his faith and admitting his personal failings and loneliness (“I’ve Got to Learn to Live Without You” is haunting).
So Long Ago the Garden (1973) One of my favourite albums in the world, this was Larry Norman at the height of his creativity. Songs like “Baroquen Spirits”, “The Same Old Story” and “Lonely by Myself” are heartbreaking. This album was recorded by George Martin.
Something New Under the Son (recorded 1977, released 1981) is a blues album, with more than a nod to Dylan. Some scorching tracks on this, but the best is one that, to my knowledge, has only appeared on a cassette version of the album : “Twelve Good Men” (the version that appears on the re-release cd is a different, less energetic version). There have been several versions of this album, with re-edits, different tracks, etc. The best to date is the 1988 cassette, the cd re-release Maximum Son is incomplete but very good.