“1984 was Frankie‘s year (Goes To Hollywood, that is). Nobody had heard of them before. Nobody would ever really care about them after. The root of it, I figure, was a line from Two Tribes (which won’t be on this list because I’m assuming you’ve heard it). ‘Are we living in a land where sex and horror are the new gods?’ The land they were from was England, but given the degree of international success they had, it’s safe to say they were speaking of the whole mad Cold War world. Which would put the Pleasuredome everywhere, with the bombs about to fall, might as well get your kicks before the whole sh**house burned down (to borrow one from Jim Morrison). Or in the case of Frankie’s debut double album, spread all over the entirety of side one.” (Philip Random)
Nobody saw this coming in the mid-1980s. Public Image Ltd (aka whatever original Sex Pistol John Lydon feels like doing) hooks up with Bill Laswell, Ginger Baker, Riuchi Sakamoto, Stevie Vai (and more) and cranks out the closest thing to a proper Led Zeppelin planet cruncher that anybody’d heard since Physical Graffiti. The album was called Album (unless you bought it in cassette or CD format) and Ease was the furthest it went toward setting the atmosphere on fire.
Camel being a so-called second tier Prog Rock outfit (in other words, not King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd or ELP), Nimrodel (found on their second album Mirage) being epic in all the right ways. It starts with a parade, it works all manner of moods and changes, it’s actually inspired by Lord of the Rings, but at less than ten minutes (even including the parade) it doesn’t overstay its welcome. But rather it takes you to a green-tinged planet way off at the edge of time. Smooth and beautiful and even strong when it needs to be. It must’ve been 1974.
“Have I raved enough yet about how indispensably, imperfectly essential the Clash’s Sandinista is? Probably not. Three slabs of vinyl, thirty-six songs, jams, dubs, meltdowns, whatever you want to call them. Not World Music so much as what the world actually sounded like in 1980-81, including war, here-there-everywhere, young men being called up, sent off to do and die. Which is what The Call-Up‘s about (from about halfway through Side Four). Don’t go, young man. Don’t fall for the patriotic bullsh** of old men whose blood won’t be doing the spilling. Remember that rose you want to live for.” (Philip Random)
The album is called Super Session with Al Kooper, Stephen Stills and Mike Bloomfield credited on the cover, but read the fine print and you’ll discover that all three never actually play together. But so what? It’s hot stuff anyway with the Stephen Stills, Al Kooper jam on Donovan’s creepy Halloween hit Season of the Witch going all kinds of cool places for a nice long time. Trippy in a word.
In which Einsturzende Neubauten, barely four years on from tearing up condemned Berlin real estate and calling it Art (if not music), get traditional, dig up an old folk ditty (written by a Canadian) concerning the last man and woman alive after a nuclear war, and make it their own. Which is to say, they sharpen the edges, darken the shadows, pound some metal, and otherwise call out the banshees.
From an album where everything else is lyrically (and musically) full-on Dada to the point of absolute confusion, Captain Beefheart leaves not even a trace of ambiguity as to what this one‘s about, those Final Solution Blues being the heaviest ever known.
In which the the Sunshine Superman (aka Donovan) sees which way the wind is blowing at the dawn of the 1970s, ditches the flowers and patchoulie, straps on an electric guitar and gets to rocking, celtically, with a murky tale from times of old about real trolls, the kind that live in caves or under bridges, sometimes giants, sometimes dwarfs, always very ugly and keen to grab unsuspecting travelers (it’s actually about the Industrial Revolution). And it’s not just a one-off. The whole Open Road album is a keeper, its raw, rather elemental sound reminding us that before he was anything else, Donovan Leitch was a folk singer, a minstrel, traveling alone through hollow lands, taking notes, telling the truth.
“Speaking of ear worms, call this Eric Clapton number one of mine, always just lurking there, ready to slip into my consciousness if I’m feeling sorry for myself. Not that I’ve ever been a huge Eric Clapton fan (Jimi Hendrix was always better, and Jimmy Page, Steve Howe, Neil Young, Duane Allman, Peter Green, Pete Townsend even). Nor have I been perpetually lonely, and where the hell is home anyway? “It’s back there somewhere,” as my friend Steve used to say, thumb pointed over his shoulder and far away, “Always in the rear view.” (Philip Random)