Album Reviews

Stevie Wonder “Music of My Mind” (1972)

This fully deserves to be held in just as high esteem as the rest of Stevie’s 70’s discography. Totally stunning music and it must have been a total shock to soul lovers ears on release. The music at the time was futuristic in the extreme. Utilizing the synthesizer to full effect to create a unique sound to go along with the supremely catchy and uplifting songs. There is really no weaknesses to this record. If there is any downside it is that Stevie doesn’t seem to realise quite what he has unleashed and so there is a little too much experimentation in places. Is there a better Stevie song than “Superwoman”? If there is I have yet to hear it. Get this and everything up to Songs In The Key of Life and you have some serious soul music to fall back on. –Jon… Read more›

New Order “Low-Life” (1985)

One of New Order’s great subtext is the notion that these band members don’t like each other. Low-Life is a typical New Order record, a 50/50 mix of guitar rock and mechanical dance tracks built around synths and table-top boxes, but it stands out to me for excellent songwriting that hints at genuine emotion restrained by an unwillingness to emote in front of those people. Lyrically uncommitted and passive, this is the sound of a band at a creative high with A+ material, trying to keep the sneer hidden behind a stiff upper lip. High points for me are “This Time Of Night” and “Sub-Culture” (the latter of which was a dance club hit) both of which juxtapose the deadpan with cinematic, sinister hooks. –Cameron… Read more›

Ronnie Lane “Anymore For Anymore” (1974)

Out of all the albums that I’ve heard this is the one that has touched me the most. It’s such a joy to hear Ronnie Lane sing about unimportant things that, after a second listen, become the most important issues you can think of. Seemingly loose played, but at the same time heartfelt and pure. Music far removed from the standards of those days but at the same time so very timeless. Yes, this album means the world to me. If I had to describe “Anymore for Anymore” in one word it would have to be “love.” From the beautiful sax solo on “Don’t You Cry For Me” to those spine tingling strings on “The Poacher”, every track is a gem. The passion and sincerity with which it is crafted is of a standard previously unknown to me. This album will make you enjoy and appreciate life so much more. It’s simply brilliant and, in my opinion, essential listening for every roots/country/folk listener. –Ton… Read more›

Gandalf “Gandalf” (1969)

This is late period, super dreamy sike from Jersey! Gandalf sounds a bit like if Nick Drake were in the Zombies, but where Nick Drake can be uplifting and the Zombies’ always turn your frown upside down, Gandalf instills a terse, creepy tense sense of melancholy. Though it doesn’t feel self conscious in it’s “moody,” they balance mood without overstating creepy and sad. Of course, I don’t know if they were trying to be dark, but it works…almost too well. That said, the band has said given the chance they mixed the album heavier, as they were heavier live, but due to label interference they weren’t invited to the mixing sessions…fine by me, this LP ought not be fixed. It ain’t broke. –Nipper… Read more›

Paul McCartney “Ram” (1971)

I was just a sprout of a boy when dad brought home the shiny Pioneer hi-fi, and this was the only album I was allowed to play (as it was already scratched). It turns out this is the perfect album for a small child; sweet, sentimental, slightly silly at times, and incredibly easy to sing along to. Surprisingly devoid of radio hits, it works better as a 40 minute pastiche of tunes, rather than a collection of three-minute confections. If pop music is simply some form of arithmetic that pleases the brain, then I learned basic math from this record. The same qualities that appealed to me as a child make Ram sound just as great today. –Cameron… Read more›

De La Soul "3 Feet High and Rising" (1989)

De La’s debut really was a breath of fresh air upon release with the Daisy Age crew flipping the hip hop script big time with their fun odd ball approach to the genre. In the wrong hands it could have been a disaster – all style over substance – but these three young MC’s had something about them even then and an ace up their sleeve in the shape of producer Prince Paul. This record also introduced us to the overuse of the Skit on hip hop LP’s and after a while it is perhaps my main complaint against an otherwise fantastic debut. Sure the skits are funny and on occasion work well with the flow of the record they can grate after a while. However there are some absolute classic tunes presented too, with at least three to four essential cuts. —JonRead more›

Dinosaur Jr. “You’re Living All Over Me” (1987)

My favorite record from my favorite band. I don’t even really know what to say. This record speaks to me in a way no other piece of recorded music ever has. It’s heavy and gentle, totally hardcore and psychedelic, wasted, yet totally on point, defeated yet triumphant. It’s all these little contradictions that make it so profoundly cool to me. They “nailed it” like no other band. In the artwork, the guitar sound, the rhythm section and even the track order. –Richard… Read more›

Roy Ayers “He’s Coming” (1972)

It takes about 20 seconds for you to realise that this is one heavy record. The opening keys and vocals on the reverential opener “He’s a Superstar” just kill it and the music doesn’t let up too much on the rest of the LP. So many great moments from Roy and Harry Whitaker here. I mean “We Live In Brooklyn Baby” is as good as it gets and “Sweet Tears” is one of those Roy Ayers jams designed to get you moving. In the 70’s this pairing had a formula down and worked it to the maximum without ever sounding tired or, amazingly for that matter, repetetive. One of the great songwriting partnerships in music. There are so many great Ubiquity LP’s from this period and you cannot go wrong with any of the classics as they all contain a killer track or two. I would say that this and the less heralded Virgo Red are the pick though. –Jon… Read more›

The Rascals “Peaceful World” (1971)

The Rascals “Peaceful World” is a surprising first listen owing more to Sly Stone, War and Tower of Power than the blue-eyed Young Rascals who gave us the sixties hit “Groovin.’” The album is a soulful blend of rock, jazz and world music featuring jazz legends Joe Farrell, Hubert Laws, Alice Coltrane and Ron Carter. The funky “Love Me,” the cosmic “Sky Trane” and the mellow, twenty-minute title track, are just three of my favorites here. Fortunately this is LP is still pretty easy to find and usually under $15 making it a peaceful world we can all visit. –David… Read more›

Donald Byrd “Places and Spaces” (1975)

Donald Byrd made the transition from Bop trumpeter to jazz funk artist seemlessly and in the mid seventies he teamed up with the hottest producers in the genre, the Mizell brothers. This is the peak of their work together and is a jazz funk classic. Some traditional jazz critics never forgave Byrd for the switch accusing him of selling out. Nonsense and a narrow minded approach. Sure this is not jazz music but it doesn’t pretend to be either. It is simply fantastic jazz funk with the signature Mizell sound. As with all Mizell productions it is essentially their show and the sound is as familiar as ever. Characteristic vocal harmonies and well placed horn and string arrangements all feature heavily. What makes this Mizell LP stand out though is Byrd’s work on the trumpet. He had fully embraced this new genre by now and was the perfect player for this session. There are too many classics here to discuss but special mention must go to the opening two cuts “Dominoes” and “Change (makes You Want To Hustle).” –Jon… Read more›

John Coltrane “A Love Supreme” (1965)

For the curious: This is the greatest jazz album ever recorded. For those in the know: This is not the greatest jazz album ever recorded. For Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Andrew Hill, Charlie Mingus, and Miles: You know I love you guys, but… the curious might be on to something… –WillRead more›

Terry Callier “What Color Is Love” (1973)

Quite simply one of the greatest records ever made. I cannot believe that it does not get greater attention. It really is the perfect marriage of soul and folk. Callier’s songs are at times joyous and at others surreal and almost sad. They are all delivered in one of the most gentle yet expressive voices there is. Another major part of this album is the production and arrangement of Charles Stepney who was the producer at Chess/Cadet records at the time. He has a wonderful sound that has influenced the likes of 4 Hero heavily in todays age. He is also heard producing the Rotary Connection classics from the same label. –Jon… Read more›