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Archive for the ‘What Gerry’s groovin’ to’ Category

Gerry’s Top Sixty Albums of the Decade Part Six

December 18th 2009

Nos. 10-1

Into the final furlong. This has been both exhausting and exhilarating; now I know how much work those boys and girls at ‘NME’ and ‘Uncut’ work on their end of year lists. For me personally it has been an even more varied, stimulating and utterly captivating decade in music than ever before.

There are though some interesting (and some ominous signs) in the state of music (and I am not just taking about Cowell and the X Factor). There is the state of pop and plastic pop in particular. Apart from Girls Aloud, whose Greatest Hits appears in this list who else is championing catchy disposable pop and making great singles; Will Young, Gareth Gates, Leona Lewis, I mean, seriously! Trashy pop matters as the great days of Wham! and Culture Club show in the 1980s, who were great early on when they were in their ‘pop’ phases.

Then there is the state of music which engages with and shapes the political mood. Given what has happened in the last decade: Bush, Blair and the march of the neo-liberals, where are the subtle albums and songs about the state of democracy in Britain, America, and the never-ending wars? Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ hardly counts as a learned tome; instead where are the equivalents of the Specials ‘Ghost Town’ and even Pink Floyd’s ‘The Final Cut’, an album subtitled ‘A requiem for the post-war dream’? Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry’s Top Sixty Albums of the Decade Part Five

December 17th 2009

Nos. 20-11

Just like the chart of olden days into the Top Twenty. Cue CCS ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and Jimmy Saville with cigar! It is interesting to note what didn’t make my list. So as I said no Sinatra and I kind of feel guilty. The one Frank release which could have made it was ‘Sinatra in Hollywood’, a brilliant and comprehensive collection of all Frank’s film music – which is saying something – and which had for the first time the theme music for the stupendous ‘On the Town’ (one of the great tributes to the city).

I love Brazilian music and soul, the former one of my big discoveries this decade, and lots of wonderful things are missing from both. Gilberto Gil’s album with Jorge Ben which is simply titled with their names has them one night in 1975 learn a pile of songs and with minimal rehearsal record them through the night. And soul wise it was a great decade: with Betty LaVette making a stand out album with the rock band Drive-By Truckers (more of them later) called ‘The Scene of the Crime’.

Also missing are loads of people who I love individual songs of. Special mentions to Jock Scott’s hilarious drinking song ‘Barcelona’, ‘Zaz Turned Blue’, combining Mel Torme and Was (Not Was), and Le Tigre’s ‘New Kicks’ (which samples peace protests from around the world against the Iraq war). Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry’s Top Sixty Albums of the Decade Part Four

December 16th 2009

Nos. 30-21

30. Post-War, M. Ward, 2006

This sound very old and very modern, fragile and unique and covered in a sepia-toned mood with Ward’s vocals as if they are coming from the past and the future. It all creates a very distinct atmosphere, with the ghost of Dennis Wilson in there alongside a cover of Daniel Johnston. This album follows his ‘Transfiguration of Vincent’ which is also superb, containing an acoustic, spellbinding cover of Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’.

29. The Drift, Scott Walker, 2006

This is music matching the dark moods of the early 21st century, dark, brooding and intense, and full of insight and a sense of history and the act of remembering. Walker’s muse covers serious subjects: genocide in Bosnia, Mussolini’s mistress, but the biggest leap imaginatively is the track ‘Jesse’ comparing Elvis Presley’s twin brother who died stillborn with the attacks on 9/11, seeing them both as ‘twin towers’. Utterly brilliant and the work of a genius. I am glad someone has the courage and vision to make music like this.

28. Frank, Amy Winehouse, 2003

That Amy was a major talent and had ‘unfinished issues’ was apparent the moment this came out. For a start, there is the music here which sounds more late Billie Holiday than a 19 year old. Its cool, laid back jazz with great songs, delivery and songs, ranging subject wise from dating to boyfriends, sex, love and the music business. I saw her live just after this came out and it was a near total car crash. But this is timeless and personally I prefer it to the soul nostalgia of ‘Back to Black’. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry’s Top Sixty Albums of the Decade Part Three

December 16th 2009

Nos. 40-31

40. America Brasil, Seu Jorge, 2008

Rio born Jorge broke through with the music for the film ‘City of God’ and then at some point did an album of Bowie covers in Portuguese which got a lot of attention, but passed me by. This is an album of his own compositions, which while varied in style, has an overall sense of up-beatness, the spirit of bossa nova, being breezy and filled with life and vitality.

39. In a Bad Mood, Geraint Watkins, 2008

Watkins is one of these Dave Edmunds like figures who has long been in the music business, but more played the role of session man, rather than come out front himself. The mix on this album is part-blues, part-shaped by the spirit of Welsh working class miners’ colliery bands and evokes an aura of old-fashionedness in places without becoming too explicit or claustrophobic. In this there is some similarity to Michael Marra but crossed with Peter Skellern and Edmunds.

38. A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina), Terence Blanchard, 2007

This is a modern jazz masterpiece and Blanchard’s soundtrack for Spike Lee’s ‘When the Leeves Broke’, his film about the tragedy and disgrace of Hurricane Katrina. An air of elemental power, destruction, frustration, loss and hope pervade this whole enterprise, which opens with ‘Ghost of Congo Square’ and the chant ‘This is the tale of God’s Will’ and concludes with ‘Dear Mom’, a tribute to his mum, who lost her house, but survived. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry’s Top Sixty Albums of the Decade Part Two

December 15th 2009

Here is Part Two; numbers 50-41 ….

50. Singing for Life: Songs of Hope, Healing and HIV/AIDS in Uganda, 2007

What an unbelievably life-affirming album this is. Addressing one of the most serious issues of our time: the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, ‘Singing for Life’ details the response of Ugandan musicians. With titles such as ‘Death is Bad’, ‘AIDS Finished Us’ and ‘The Graveyard is Our Home’ some might think this a bleak listen, but it is a celebration of the human (and musical) spirit.

49. My Everything, Anita Baker, 2004

I have also been a Baker aficionado since ‘Rapture’ and ‘Sweet Love’ in 1986 and this is her first album in over a decade. The good news is she is back unchanged and with a bang. Proof that smooth, sophisticated soul does not have to be bland. And the songs reflect proper adult themes, ‘Men in My Life’ about her husband and boys, ‘In My Life’, a gorgeous tribute to grown up desire and attraction.

48. Eddi Reader sings the Songs of Robert Burns, 2003

I have never really been in my heart much of a Reader fan (I mean Fairground Attraction for goodness sake!) and not much of a Burns’ true believer either. This is a beautiful Scots folk album, setting Reader’s voice in subtle settings and giving life to the spirit of Burns. The whole thing has the feel of a joyful, warm Hogmanay. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Flag and the Union Jack: An Alternative History of Britain and the Labour Party
Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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