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.

Remembering Eddie Hazel

Some people never get the recognition they deserve, and when they die before their time in reduced circumstances then it’s doubly sad.

The late Eddie Hazel was one such individual.

Guitarist for Funkadelic, Parliament and innumerable George Clinton-inspired side projects, Eddie truly was Jimi Hendrix’s heir.

No-one’s come close since Jimi went to whatever freaked-out dimension he ended up in.

Forget people like Ernie Isley, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Robin Trower – who are all fine players – Eddie had a signature sound with wah cocked open onto the sweet spot and distortion pedal on the ‘melt your muthafuckin’ face off’ setting. Not only that, he had a freewheeling style on the uptempo funk stuff and a searing intensity on his more introspective pieces like the sublime ‘Maggot Brain’, which anyone with the slightest interest in the guitar, good music and/or true soul must hear.

Perhaps apocryphally, Clinton told Hazel during the recording session to “play like your momma just died”.

Here’s a YouTube video of him playing the piece with some great guitar work from fellow player Michael Hampton:

In the end, Eddie died of pneumonia after a long battle with booze and drugs – his capacity for all sorts of bad medicine was legendarily high – and left us mourning another good one gone.