215. one summer dream

“The Electric Light Orchestra were an early fave of mine – big melodies, bigger production, like the Beatles by way of some overblown Hollywood fantasy from the 1930s … except unlike many of those fantasies, ELO was always in vivid colour. Over the years, of course, a lot of this pomp and electricity started to feel a little uncool, silly even, particularly as 1980s imposed, the Winter of Hate and its doomsday realities. Not much room for sunny fantasy anymore. But then a strange thing happened in the early 1990s, right around the time that the last Republican got turfed from the White House (for a while anyway) and the grunge thing got over-hyped (being serious getting taken way too seriously). ELO started sounding fun again, relevant even in some retro-cool ironic sort of way. Not that a song like 1975’s One Summer Dream had ever entirely lost its lustre. It was just too beautiful, like a summer afternoon in the middle of nowhere, looking out over an unknown lake with great birds soaring past and mountains in the distance. You’re sixteen years old and you know this is one of those moments that’s going to last forever.” (Philip Random)

ELO-1975-blue

Advertisements

371. two-headed boy

Neutral Milk Hotel‘s 1999 album, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea gets a special nod here for giving us the most recent selections on the list. Though it should be noted that the entire decade of the 1990s is rather woefully neglected mainly because Philip Random had mostly stopped buying new vinyl by then. “CDs were the thing at first, and then mp3s. But something about In The Aeroplane Over The Sea – I just had to have it in full twelve-inch form. And not just for the cover, though it’s a hell of a cover. Nah, it just didn’t feel right unless I was getting some vinyl hiss and ticks, like a throwback to those times when the blemishes mattered. The blemishes always matter, which main Neutral Milkman Jeff Mangum makes clear every time he opens his mouth and thus his soul, young man with a whole new way of turning breath to voice. And the whole album’s strong. Not an unnecessary moment. Including the few seconds it takes to flip it over between sides.”

NeutralMilkHotel-art

381. the hands of the juggler

Fred Frith being one of those geniuses who pretty much always let his playing do the talking, Gravity being an album that dates back to 1980, but it was deep into the 1990s before I gave it a proper listen. Music that stood the test, no doubt about that. Or more to the point, music that had confidently showed the way to the cool future we were then having. Rock and jazz and folk and all manner of exotic elements all humming along very nicely together, not world music per say, but what the world actually sounded like, with Hands of the Juggler a delirious standout, particularly once it shifts gears around the three-minute point.” (Philip Random)

FredFrith-1980

459. we can work it out

“In which a still quite young Stevie Wonder takes an entirely optimistic Beatles nugget straight to church and sort of saves us all. I suppose I may have heard it at the time (1970) percolating away in some pop radio background (while riots were no doubt tearing sh** up not so very far away). But it would be the 1990s before it slotted into the regular pop summertime playlist – all goodness and light, with children playing, birds tweeting, only occasional explosions.” (Philip Random)

StevieWonder-1970-live

487. earth [gaia]

“You’ve probably noticed there’s not much stuff from the 1990s on this list even though the cut-off date is officially summertime 2000. That’s because I generally didn’t buy new vinyl past about 1989. Is this fair to the 1990s? No. And I’m sorry about that. This list is not fair. This list is not definitive. Yet it would be incomplete without some Orb, from 1991’s The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld, because I had to have that one on vinyl, all four sides of it, something I could look at BIG and spread out, while it played BIG and spread out, not unlike the entirety of the universe, known and otherwise.” (Philip Random)

Orb-UltraWorld

697. hard nose the highway

“A road weary gem from a time when Van Morrison really could do no wrong (ie: the early 1970s). I definitely heard it on the radio when it was fresh (while FM was still cool) because I caught the Canada reference. But for some reason, I got it in my head that the name of the song was Seen Some Hard Times, which made finding it rather difficult, search as I might. So I finally stopped searching and found it anyway at a yard sale, early 90s sometime, hiding in plain sight as it were as the title track of an album that had been looking at me for decades.” (Philip Random)

VanMorrison-hardNOSE

698. death of a clown

Dave Davies being an original Kink, Death of a Clown being a darned fine single that featured big in the British version of the Summer Of Love. But I wouldn’t really notice it until at least the mid 1990s, working through my personal grunge aftermath where I’d listen to pretty much anything that wasn’t heavy, angry and in need of a clean shirt. Clown first showed up on a mixtape care of former roommate Dale, who stuck it right next to some John Coltrane, as I recall. The mid-90s were like that.” (Philip Random)

DaveDavies-1967