My favourite albums – 21–30

As I have gained a day at home this weekend, here’s the next unlikely bunch of 10 personal favourites.

#30 Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends: This came along at the same time I was heavily into Hendrix, the Who, Cream and newly-electrified Dylan. The album gets heavy coverage on my blog here, with a full critique. ‘Save the Life of my Child’ still strikes me as a fantastic creation over 40 years on and pretty much typifies why I love this album so much. Everything’s bang on the money – performance, production and composition. The whole album is testament to the old adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and although it has its weak moments, these seem less important as time goes by.

#29 Groundhogs – Split. I came to this album quite late – about 5 years ago – but it’s now a firm favourite. Tony McPhee created a strange blend of proto-Stoner rock with a touch of 1960s British blues band, lots of great guitar and some distinctly psychedelic touches. Remarkably, this mix doesn’t sound dated and the band deliver it with such aplomb that you’d never guess that Split itself – parts 1 to 5 and half the album – was about McPhee’s nervous breakdown after the band’s earlier successes. It’s ugly stuff…but somehow beautiful at the same time. If you’re into Stoner rock bands like SUNN 0))) then you’ll know what I mean.

#28 Greatdayforup – God Loves a Sinner: Not proto Stoner rock, but the real thing this time. I love this genre – lots of guitars, often a bit psychedelic and – above all – heavy and rocking. It’s what attracted me to rock in the first place. But back to this album…Sometimes I think that the opening track ‘Golden Arms’ is perhaps the only track I’ll ever need. Spacey vocals, guitars that induce migraine and a relentlessness that is hypnotic. Think Sabbath crossed with Nirvana or the Foos and you’ll almost be there – but not quite…

#27 Was Not Was – Born to Laugh at Tornadoes: Normally studio guys’ albums are a pile of shite, but Don and Dave Was assembled some great albums and this is perhaps their most eccentric and least soul based. Guests include Ozzy, Mel Torme, Marshall Crenshaw, Wayne Kramer and Mitch Ryder and the material is as varied as the guest list indicates. You’ve got soul, techno, rock and roll and ballads all with bizarre lyrics. Rolling Stone magazine made it their album of the year in 1983 – the year ‘Thriller’ came out. Forget that album, the Wases created something far better!

#26 Joe Jackson – Big World: Recorded live – but in front of an audience instructed to not applaud after each song and make no other noise at all – I’m including this because it’s all original material and wasn’t meant to be a live album per se. With a nicely stripped-down band – Joe on keys with guitar, bass and drums – it’s a far cry from his first two small combo albums. Vinnie Zumo on guitar is a real asset with beautiful chordal fills which make the sound really big. Honestly not a duff track on the album – in spite of none of the songs really considered to be amongst his ‘classics’. Current favourite track – Home Town. All about Portsmouth, but affectionately so.

#25 Rage Against the Machine – Rage against the Machine: I hated this when I first heard it, but after being asked to teach someone all the bass parts on it I grew to love it. Tom Morello rewrites guitar playing after the excesses of shred and the rhythm section kicks bottom. Again, a large part of the attraction of this album to me is that it reminds me just why I love rock music so much. It’s loud, exciting and obnoxious with plenty of guitar and most of the time that’s all I need to keep my ears happy. No favourite tracks – they’re all good.

#24 Ian Dury and the Blockheads – New Boots and Panties: I miss Ian greatly – his humour, his enthusiasm and his geezer persona. Great lyrics where aggression meets sentiment and fantastic music – courtesy of Steve Nugent and Chas Jankel. And what a band…the Blockheads were just perfect with Ian in every way – from rock and roll, through funk to vaudeville. Only one duff track lets the album down – ‘Blackmail Man’. The rest is sheer perfection.

#23 Family – Music in a Doll’s House: Classic British psychedelia from a band who soon dropped the genre in favour of a strange blend of the pastoral, out and out rock swagger and jazz fusion. This was one of the defining albums of psychedelia for me with backwards violins, strange stereo panning and trippy lyrics. It isn’t classic Family as most people remember the band, but it is a fine offering all the same. My favourite tracks are ‘The Chase’ – with the late Tubby Hayes on sax I believe – and ‘See Through Windows’ which is just downright bizarre. Roger Chapman brays as usual, but a little less so on this album.

#22 David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: Bowie’s first album with his own band and what a cracker. Mick Ronson – a personal hero of mine and more than a mere guitarist – impresses throughout with his guitar, piano and string arrangements and Bowie really immerses himself in the parallel universe he creates. ‘Moonage Daydream’ is amazing with superb guitar and nasty lyrics and the twin attack of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and ‘Suffragette City’ is one of rock’s greatest triumphs. I almost chose ‘Aladin Sane’ but it’s not as cohesive as ‘Ziggy’. A 5 star album.

#21 Masters of Reality – Masters of Reality: More Stoner rock and occasionally played 5 or 6 times on the trot given the time and right occasion. Chris Goss is the kingpin here and this really is his album. Highlights? Well,  ‘John Brown’ is a sort of acoustic nursery rhyme with some great slide guitar and ‘Kill the King’ has what could possibly be the best guitar riff of all time. Reference points probably include Cream, Led Zep and the blues, although the mix is so spiked with Goss’ stoned slant on things that the influences aren’t always so obvious. Hard to find – I know because I eventually ended up buying a secondhand CD from Canada – but worth it.

My favourite albums – 31–40

It’s a race against time to finish this before we up sticks here in the UK and lose internet connectivity for a time, so here’s numbers 31 to 40, hot on the heels of 41 to 50.

#40 Jason & the Scorchers – Lost and Found: Another tough choice, since everything this band does is God-like. However, this album has the amazing ‘White Lies’ which you can see performed live here. Warner E Hodges on guitar and Jason Ringenberg on vocals bring a strange blend of punk and country to the party and what a party this is. If you occasionally like getting shit-faced drunk and then waking up wondering what you did the night before then this may just be the band for you.

#39 Blue Oyster Cult – Spectres: OK, it only has one really well-known song on it – ‘Godzilla’ – but this was the first BOC album I bought so it has a special place in my heart. Rather mellow at times, the sheer range of material impresses, from ballads to straight pop to out and out rockers – and constantly underpinned by the classic line up with the ever-melodic Buck Dharma on guitar. Nice production, too, with lots of overdubs and stereo panning, making it a great ‘headphone’ album. For those who thought that ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ is all there is to BOC, think again. This is intelligent heavy metal with more than a whiff of irony. Or is that what they want you to think so that they can get away with being dumb? Whatever, a great band and still making good albums in their fifth decade.

#38 The Tubes – Completion Backwards Principle: All early and mid period Tubes is fine stuff, but this slick yet rocking sixth album from the band is my favourite. It’s consistently good, with Fee Waybill’s combination of schmaltz and stadium rock vocals in fine form and the band sounding heavier than on previous recordings. Female vocalist Re Styles has gone – no great loss – but the rest of the original band is all present and correct. The opening track features Steve Lukather on guest guitar and still figures in their live set. Elsewhere on the album you’ll find the usual Tubes freakshow with ‘Mr Hate’, ‘Sushi Girl’ and ‘Attack of the 50 foot Woman’ the latter of which deals with an aspect of a relationship with such a lady that you wanted to know about but probably wouldn’t dare ask…

#37 Todd Rundgren – Hermit of Mink Hollow: Typical quirky Todd but a tad more consistent than usual. Quite a lot of his great guitar playing with a lovely guitar ‘choir’ on ‘Lucky Guy’. ‘Onomatopoeia’ is silly and fun with daft sound effects and ‘Out of Control’ features some excessive rock guitar. ‘Can We Still be Friends’ is the classic track here and demonstrates his ability to write a beautifully constructed melody with a chord structure to match. File under ‘eccentric genius’.

#36 The Who – Who’s Next: The best track on the album – ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ – is definitely a desert island disc. Big Townshend guitars, classic Moon and Entwhistle rhythm section and Daltrey’s passionate delivery of lyrics which take a while to really understand (they’re not obvious at all, no matter what many people think) make this one of my favourite songs and performances of all time. The rest of the album’s great too, with ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ and ‘Baba O’Reilly’ getting heavy rotation here. A band at their peak – and no concept album bullshit…I hated ‘Tommy’!

#35 Jeff Beck – Blow by Blow: This was very much a transitional album for one of my favourite guitarists. After showing how rock should be played, Jeff moved on to Fusion with mixed but sometimes breathtakingly wonderful results. ‘Diamond Dust’ and ‘Scatterbrain’ reveal a lyricism and frenzy respectively that he tapped into more effectively than previously and are both exceptions to my theory that about 95% of every Beck track is crap, whilst the rest is pure unobtanium. Here the ratios are more like 50:50 which is good for such an unreliable player. If you can look past the glaring flaws, this album is a real keeper.

#34 The Smiths – The Smiths: Damn…they almost didn’t make it as ‘Hatful of Hollow’ is my absolute favourite but it’s a compilation so isn’t allowed inclusion here under my own rules. However, there’s enough of Morrisey’s jaded vocals and troubled and troubling lyrics and Johnny Marr’s glorious guitar here to make up for it. The rhythm section was just perfect, too – even though overlooked now as the Smiths recede further into rock history. We’ve got real songs here that surprise within a standard rock format and it’s always the songs that are important – take out one element for special attention and it lessens their impact. ‘This Charming Man’ is a stone classic – high life guitar combined with Rusholme reality.

#33 Dan Baird – Songs for the Hearing Impaired: Dan used to be chief vocalist with the Georgia Satellites and on this album he has a really good stab at a Stonesy, Facesy, country type album and largely succeeds. It’s hard not to smile when I hear a lot of this – particularly with a goofy song like ‘I Love You Period’ which deals with schoolboy lust channeled to improve punctuation. Nice gutsy playing on this album too. If you like that Stones/Faces ‘chug’ then Dan is most definitely your man.

#32 Donald Fagen – The Nightfly: Maybe just a little too smooth, this is still a wonderful record that perhaps tries just a tad too hard to be jazzbo cool. The playing is stellar – all those top session men – the songs are jazzy and melodic and Fagen’s voice has that cracked vulnerability in spades here.  It’s possibly one of the most played albums I have and yet I far prefer Steely Dan. Becker adds a sharpness and quirkiness that levens Fagen’s jazz excesses. Duff tracks? None, but overall there’s just a bit of energy lacking. Sometimes you can be just too damned laid back.

#31 Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks – Orange Crate Art: I’ve never bathed in warm maple syrup, but this is probably as close as your ears will get to it. Take Brian Wilson’s amazing vocals, add Parks’ idiosyncratic music and lyrics, toss in a bunch of great session players and adjust to taste with a soupcon of Disney. This is what you end up with. ‘Sail Away’ is a great summer song and if you fancy a ‘tropical zone’ in the middle of a cold February, play this track. ‘Hobo Heart’ has some amazing harmony vocals but you don’t find yourself asking where Carl and Al are. An album to relax to and maybe enjoy with a cocktail or two.

Paging Mr Clapton…

Anybody who knows anything about me as a guitarist or has heard me play soon realises that when it comes to my primary influence I wear it pretty much on my sleeve:

Mayall-era Clapton.

As exemplified on the groundbreaking ‘Beano’ album and a handful of odd tracks it was old ‘Slowhand’ who really inspired me to play.

His sound on that album – a Les Paul Standard through a cranked up Marshall combo – is my favourite guitar tone of all time and his playing was equally impressive. Playing with real flair and joie de vivre, Eric plays his way with panache through up tempo and slow blues and shows exactly why ‘Clapton is God’ appeared as graffiti all over London in 1966.

Even when he split with Mayall to form Cream along with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker he managed to keep this exuberance and some bootlegs of early Cream reveal someone who still had the ability to stun an audience with his playing. Sure, his sound changed a little – playing through two Marshall stacks will do that – but the vibrato, extremely well-controlled bends and breathtaking invention were still all there.

However, things quickly changed. Playing ever and ever longer versions of numbers from what was a fairly limited repertoire, Clapton started to repeat himself and the Cream of the final tour in 1968 sounded redundant and tired.

Then the real transformation started. Soon abandoning Gibsons and Marshalls for all Fender gear, Clapton tried to reinvent himself and, whilst always staying with the blues, he branched out reaching a trough of mediocrity in 1989 with the ‘Journeyman’ album which saw him totally blanded out on MOR pap.

It was then that he sought to return to more blues-based material, but by then it was too late.

He’d lost it – totally.

Instead of progressing as a blues player he’d just stagnated and marked himself down as maybe rock’s number one underachiever with 4 years of glorious playing and then over 40 more years – with perhaps just the exception of the ‘Layla’ album – of simply treading water.

Why I’ve chosen to write this now is because I’ve just ‘acquired’ a superb bootleg of the Madison Square Garden gig on the 18th of this month (3 days ago! How do they do it?) from his joint tour with Jeff Beck.

Sure, Jeff’s past his best really, but compared to Clapton he sounds inspired, interested and – above all – as if he still enjoys playing and isn’t just going through the motions like old Eric is. When they get together to play a final third set together after a solo set each I’m really quite amazed at how Eric manages to play in the face of such energy from Beck.

Maybe it’s to his credit that he doesn’t just throw down his guitar and walk off, but at least that would be an honest response, because I can only see two alternatives – he wants the dosh or he still thinks he’s got something to ‘say’ on guitar.

Well, the dosh isn’t a problem, so it must be the latter reason and that’s just simple self-delusion…

Give it up Eric, soon, please.

Preparing to move

Well, barring something disastrous – touch wood – it’s goodbye to England and hello to France in two weeks’ time.

The movers and cat transporters are booked, our temporary rental home in France awaits us and is aired and tidy after we spent a few days there last week, a French bank account has been set up and all the necessary paperwork involved in moving to a foreign country has been sorted out as much as it can be.

The plan is to rent for a few months and look around for somewhere to buy.

We love the Mayenne region. It’s got an agricultural economy, isn’t touristy, property bargains are to be had and it’s beautiful countryside. It’s two hours from a ferry port – Caen – and this means we can come back here for visits and friends and relations can visit us. We’re renting there and will hope to buy there too.

Elsewhere on this wonderful world wide web thingy, someone recently accused me of ‘running away‘ which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Basically I’m retiring to France as it offers us more for our money in terms of property and a slightly less frenetic pace of life – especially if we end up living in rural surroundings, as planned.

I’ve worked all my working life, paid all my taxes and never claimed a penny from the State in terms of welfare benefits. We can buy a detached and fully habitable house with an acre of land for a fraction of what it would cost here and, now that we’ve both managed to retire early, I’d like to settle with Mrs Shark somewhere peaceful and enjoy the fruits of our labour.

We just couldn’t do that in this country so, as we both love France and have spent many, many holidays there, it’s a no-brainer. We both speak French reasonably well and like the French people we’ve met over the years and French society, on the whole, still respects the individual’s right to get on with life without too much State interference – certainly not to the level it’s escalated to here.

Mrs Shark, the two cats, a house in the country and a bit of land to work on. It all sounds good to me…

My favourite albums – 41–50

Here’s the next 10…

#50 Warren Zevon – Sentimental Hygiene: Another hard choice as I like all of Warren’s albums without exception. This album features him with REM (minus Stipe) mostly, although Neil Young and Dylan guest. It’s a good cross section of his various styles with rockers, narrative songs and ballads all linked by his dissipated but still rather vulnerable sounding vocals. ‘Reconsider Me’ is a tender ballad whilst ‘Boom Boom Mancini’ is a typical Zevon ‘story’ song. You can’t really go wrong with anything he’s done. It’s just a shame that cancer got him so young.

#49 Oingo Boingo – Boingo: They meant absolutely nothing here in the UK but Danny Elfman’s band produced some stellar albums. This is my favourite with the 8 minute track ‘Insanity’ sounding like nothing ever made before or since. As one reviewer put it, “This is what happens when someone captures “Children of the Damned” and gives them Danny Elfman as choir director.” Highly recommended if you want something totally original. You won’t have heard anything quite like this band.

#48 Faith No More – The Real Thing: Funk metal with a touch of the surreal at times. Their first with the remarkable Mike Patton it also broke them in the UK with ‘Epic’ getting the airplay. Not a duff track on this but unfortunately it was their peak. After this it was downhill all the way with Patton going on to Mr Bungle who were none too shabby in their own right. One of those ‘albums you should own’ and rightly so. It’s what the RHCP wished they sounded like and could if they were a bit more adventurous.

#47 Secret Chiefs 3 – The Book of Horizons: Led by Trey Spruance – ex-Mr Bungle and see the entry right above this one – SC3 are totally uncategorisable, covering surf rock, Persian, Arab, Indian, death metal and electronic music. Eclectic’s the term we need here and it’s one of those albums you need to hear because it’s truly indescribable. You’ll probably hate it!

#46 It Bites – Once Around the World: Prog which appeared at a bad time for prog in general but, by virtue of some snappy tunes, managed to break out fairly successfully. The highlight here, however, is the 14 minute plus title track with leader Francis Dunnery’s vocals and guitars to the fore. This is a long track which never seems long and maintains the listener’s interest throughout. The album also reveals what a great pop band they were, too, with ‘Kiss Like Judas’ being a particularly good example.

#45 Earth Wind and Fire – I Am: I have a soft spot for disco and this album combines that much-maligned genre with great compositions and fine musicianship. ‘Boogie Wonderland’ is my favourite disco track ever with its fantastic arrangement and beautiful chord changes. This is extremely well-crafted music which deserves to be remembered. For another side of the band, check out ‘Rock It!’ which features, I believe, Steve Lukather on very hot lead guitar.

#44 King Crimson – Red: The Crims’ last studio album of the 70s finds Fripp leading a trio of himself, drummer Bill Bruford and bassist/vocalist John Wetton. The title track is a bruising guitar grind with odd time sigs and ‘Providence’ might tell you in 8 minutes why I consider the King Crimson of 1973 and 74 to be the finest improvising rock band ever. ‘Starless’ – not to be confused with the earlier ‘Starless and Bible Black’ – is also prime Crimson.

#43 Mott the Hoople – Mott: Bless ‘im…Ian Hunter can’t sing, but he’s a fabulous vocalist and a great writer and he’s on top form here. Almost the original Mott – Verden Allen had left when this was recorded – the band that rocks out here never sounded so focused and Mick Ralphs really stands out on guitar. The tracks are very self-referential which is typical of Hunter in particular. Not a duff track on the album.

#42 Frank Zappa – Joe’s Garage: The album that turned me back onto Zappa and a fine example of Frank’s more song-orientated albums. The whole thing tells a bizarre story of a totalitarian society and one man’s rather pathetic struggle against it. There are times when there’s an undoubted poignant grandeur to the theme which shows that Frank wasn’t totally cynical. A delight from start to finish and a double disc set which never flags. Not suitable to play to your granny, by the way.

#41 Mountain – Nantucket Sleighride: The title track really should be heard in its 32 minute entirety on the live ‘Twin Peaks’ but my own rules preclude listing that album here. However, even in its original 6 minute version it impresses with driving organ, beautifully gutsy guitar from Leslie West and Felix Pappalardi on vox and bass. The song also tells a story and a quick google will fill you in on it. Not a perfect album, but the title track is just too good to be ignored here!

My favourite albums – 51–60

I’ve realised that time is of the essence here as my time with a reliable internet connection gradually peters out before our move, so here’s another 10 albums for your perusal…

#60 Hedningarna – Kaksi: The breakthrough album for this Swedish/Finnish folk band, ‘Kaksi’ combines electronics, ethnic instruments and strange high pitched female vocals in an extremely effective way. You wouldn’t think this combination could rock, but it does and ‘Ful Valsen’ has a pagan joy about it that doesn’t need electric guitars to make it ‘heavy’. It’s not just heavy, it’s super-massive.

#59 Robin Trower – Bridge of Sighs: Almost the perfect guitar album from the ex-Procol Harum player and only let down by a couple of weak tracks. The title track is long on ambience with some gorgeous Univibe guitar and ‘Day of the Eagle’ is a Hendrixy rocker. ‘Too Rolling Stoned’ and ‘Little Bit of Sympathy’ are great too. Sure, Trower wears his influences on his sleeve, but although Jimi’s spirit never seems far away, Trower has his own style and it cuts through on this breakthrough album.

#58 PIL – Compact Disc: John Lydon’s attempt at a more commercial sound, for which he gathered a strange group of people – Cream’s drummer Ginger Baker, shred guitarist Steve Vai and multi-talented Ryuichi Sakamoto amongst others – to produce quite a glossy album but still full of his trademark roughness. ‘Bags’ is my favourite track here with its techno groove and disturbing lyrics.

#57 Funkadelic – Maggotbrain: Phew…this was a hard one to choose. Funkadelic have made a fair few albums and all good in their own way. The title track is a long guitar instrumental by Eddie Hazel who was Jimi’s true heir. The rest of the album’s great, but you should hear it for ‘Maggotbrain’ alone. It’s possibly the most mournful guitar instrumental you’ll ever hear and if you’re a guitarist, this is as much soul as you’ll ever want from one player.

#56 Guns ‘n’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction: GnR were the curate’s egg of hard rock. Everyone in the band was OK at what they did but together on this album they sounded like rock gods. You can stick ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ where the sun don’t shine, but I’ll keep the rest, thanks. Not too sure which of the rest is my favourite track but ‘Rocket Queen’ will do for today…

#55 Free – Tons of Sobs: The first Free album and still their best. Everything that made this band great was already there. No-one in British rock before or since ‘loped’ the beat quite like Free did. Kossof’s guitar has sublime sparseness and idiosyncratic vibrato, Roger’s vocals are raw to say the least, Fraser’s bass is constantly inventive but rock solid and Kirke’s drumming is in the pocket all the time. Not a duff track!

#54 Green on Red – This Time Around: Tales from the Paisley Underground with an alt-country band that were alt-country before the term was invented. It’s depressing stuff in the main, with Dan Stuart’s stoned vocals over Chuck Prophet’s Keef’ish guitar in tracks that cover suicide, religion, paranoia and despair but somehow end up strangely invigorating. Not one bad track to be found in its knowing downer perfection. Highly recommended if you think the Eagles lost it after ‘Desperado’ and the Stones blanded out after ‘Exile on Main Street’.

#53 Iggy Pop – Lust for Life: Iggy and Bowie with a perfect album. Like all the best Iggy material, guitar-based but never gratuitously ‘rawk’. Everything comes together for this one – massive drum sound, wry lyrics, typical OTT iggy vocals, Carlos Alomar on guitar and Hunt and Tony Sales on drums and bass. Bowie never dominates – yes, you’ll hear him on backing vox and keyboards but this is very much Iggy’s album. I really can’t single out a track – it’s all very good shit indeed.

#52 Hoven Droven – Grov: Insane Swedish folkrock which sounds like Motorhead meeting a fiddler and a sax player who are equally as badly behaved. ‘Slentbjenn’ is an adrenalin-fuelled gallop showing the band at their rockingest with manic playing from the whole band. ‘Grovhalling’ is impressive too and leaves you wondering whether the bass player’s speakers actually survived the recording. Best heard live – ‘Jumping at the Cedar’ is the album to get really – Hoven Droven rock…that is all.

#51 Richard Thompson – Across a Crowded Room: Maybe not his best-known solo album but to me it’s very consistent and the songwriting, whilst still bitter, manages to show a little optimism. Yes, he’s a miserable curmudgeon, but he plays guitar like a god in a style that is uniquely his own and – believe me – very hard to copy. The opening track – ‘When the Spell is Broken’ – is a good taste of the overall sound – quite dense with layered guitars courtesy of Thompson and Simon Nicol on a Rick 12 and more care taken on the vocals than on his previous releases. Collister and Gregson on backing vox are a really good addition and sweeten the austere lyrics very nicely. I saw him tour with this band and they gelled really well – shame they aren’t still together.

My favourite albums – 61–70

Well, here goes with another batch of my 100 favourite albums…

#70 Al diMeola – Scenario: Forget his recent albums – you might as well listen to Kenny fucking G – but when Al had some fire in his belly he was pretty bloody good! This album is a particular favourite of mine with a good variety of material ranging from Beckish jazz rock to flamenco-style acoustic pieces and not a duff track to be found. I used to listen to a lot of jazz fusion when I was younger and this album from 1983 has stuck with me.

#69 Bob Marley and the Wailers – Natty Dread: Again, I’m going for early material and this appeared just as the buzz about Bob was really building. It contains the original version of ‘No Woman No Cry’, which beats the better-known live version into a cocked Rastafarian hat. Hardly a bad track to be heard and ‘Lively Up Yourself’ and ‘Rebel Music’ sparkle as brightly now as they did 36 years ago.

#68 ELO – Out of the Blue: ELO used to be a very good pop band, which a lot of people seem to have forgotten. Jeff Lynne was clearly a Beatles fan and my favourite track on this rather bloated double album is the very Beatlish ‘Mr Blue Sky’ which has one of the best bass lines ever. It’s the last track of ‘Concerto for a Rainy Day’ which took up a whole side on the original vinyl release. It still holds up today – have a listen!

#67 Amadou and Mariam – Dimanche a Bamako: World music from Mali that has a relentless groove with simple but effective guitar work. Joyous stuff which always has an uplifting effect on me. ‘La Realite’ is a great track with lovely guitar, whilst other tracks have a sort of John Lee Hookerish boogie feel to them. Their other albums are worth checking out, but this one is the most consistent and a little more rock than the others.

#66 Davey Graham – Folk, Blues & Beyond: The late DG was possibly the most influential folk guitarist that there’s ever been. He cut across jazz, classical, traditional and world music at a time when you just didn’t do that kind of thing. Bless him, he couldn’t sing but his stellar guitar work makes up for it. He popularised DADGAD tuning and established a school of British acoustic guitar playing that had a wide ranging influence on, amongst many others, one James Page of Led Zep. Get the expanded version for the extra tracks which include the original version of ‘Anji’ – now a folk guitar standard.

#65 David Lindley and El Rayo-X – Win This Record: Another relatively unknown artist although if you’ve ever heard Jackson Brown’s version of ‘Stay’ you’ll have heard Lindley – singing in a very high voice. It’s as a guitarist that he excels though and his talent sprawls right across this album. Combine this with a great band and an inspired choice of material and you have a great ‘fun’ album. New Orleans meets reggae meets rock…’Make it on Time’ is a good track to start with – a high octane rush boogie with great distorted lap steel guitar.

#64 ZZ Top – Eliminator: Yes, they made some great records before this mainstream breakthrough album but nothing quite so relentlessly shiny and downright nasty. Gibbons has a monster tone and is on top form and the tracks are all good, with the usual quirky subject matter such as ‘TV Dinners’. It contains all the singles you liked at the time, but check out the lesser-known tracks such as ‘Under Pressure’.

#63 The Faces – Long Player: I’ve only just recently got back into the Faces and it’s a pleasure to become reacquainted with their sloppy tightness. Rod and the band was a marriage made in heaven and they were second only to the Stones with that certain style of rock ‘strut’. Ronnie Wood impresses on lead, but everyone else isn’t too shabby, with the late Ronnie Lane a forgotten bass hero. ‘Had Me a Real Good Time’ just about sums the band up.

#62 Sir Millard Mulch – How To Sell The Whole F#@!ing Universe To Everybody, Once And For All!: Totally uncategorisable…it’s chamber rock, heavy metal, Zappa-style satire…It’s available here FREE! How can you not admire a guy who records a song called ‘The Boy With The Perfectly Square Butthole Strikes Back’? His YouTube videos are pretty funny, too. Seriously, check this guy out – a neglected genius!

#61 Focus – Moving Waves: I just keep coming back to this album and it still seems as fresh as when I first heard it. Jan Akkerman’s guitar and Thijs van Leer’s keyboards, flute and yodelling predominate and at times it veers towards the artsy-fartsy but it has some balls-out rock, ethereal textures and great ensemble playing that mostly lifts it out of the self-indulgent. They seemed to like the title ‘Focus’ for their compositions and ‘II’ here doesn’t disappoint. Focus are still around, but without Akkerman who’s still a phenomenal player.