Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Music I Love - 'C'

Third in my series of musical artists whose work I have enjoyed. I know I'll miss loads of worthy people out. Not only that but I'll probably miss out lots of other peoples' favourites too, leading them to think "How could he not include..." but hey - each to their own!

And to prove it, I'm starting with a group that most UK readers have probably never heard of. I bought this in America in 1993 in the hope that it would remind me of the type of music we were hearing on the car radio whilst there. I'm not sure it achieved that, but this is a top notch brilliant album. The Cactus Brothers are a large group - the photo on the back features seven slightly eccentric-looking chappies, a mix of dress styles from hill-billy, and cowboy to biker and tall, lean and somewhat spooky! The music includes country, jigs and hornpipes, and a scorching rock version of the Tennessee Ernie Ford number, Sixteen Tons. You should give it a listen! I loved it so much I bought the follow up album and loved that just as much.

Caravan. What can I say about In The Land Of Grey And Pink? A progressive rock band, Caravan released this album in 1971. It's as psychedelic an album as you could wish for with the emphasis on keyboards and acoustic guitars and the second side given over completely to a 22 minute suite of songs with titles such as Nigel Blows a Tune and Dance of the Seven Paper Hankies. Great fun and I still listen to it!

This might raise eyebrows, but Mariah Carey first grabbed my ear-holes with her single Vision of You. What a range! She came out with notes that make Kate Bush sound like a tenor! I bought the album Music Box as well, but it's mainly the earlier singles I listen to these days and of course her Christmas hit every year!

Like A-Ha who featured in an earlier article, Belinda Carlisle came to my attention courtesy of Jenny Powell's '80s music TV show No Limits. They regularly featured the first track off this self-titled album, which was Mad About You.

Two more famous albums followed, the first of which included the massive single Heaven Is A Place On Earth and the gentler Circles In The Sand.

The build up of the two preceding albums seemed to peak with this one which included some really brilliant tracks. Out of ten tracks on the album six of them were released as singles. Only one of those failed to hit the Top 40 and two reached the Top 10. It dominated my CD player for months. Ha! CDs... remember those? In fact, just writing about it made me long to hear it again and it's playing now!

Out of all the superb music brought out by the brother-sister team of The Carpenters, this is my favourite. It includes my all-time favourite guitar solo on Goodbye To Love and is one of those albums for listening with your eyes closed in your own world. I have a couple of their other albums and I'd find it hard to choose a favourite track from Goodbye To Love, Superstar or Close To You but as an album this collection of songs is hard to beat.

Ah... Cher... She did as much to give the over-40s woman a new sexy image that they had never enjoyed before as did Dallas and Dynasty on TV. The raw power of her voice is intoxicating and tracks such as If I Could Turn Back Time, Just Like Jesse James and the title track, Heart of Stone are the knock-out tracks on this album for me.

The follow-up album was this one, Love Hurts. Fave track from this one for me is Love and Understanding and personally she could have left The Shoop Shoop Song off it altogether...

Petula Clark. I don't have any of her albums, but I have a whole heap of singles on both 78 and 45 rpm. She was a child star in films and on radio going way back and there are some sublime singles in her discography: Downtown, Don't Sleep In The Subway, This Is My Song, Colour My World, The Other Man's Grass Is Always Greener, My Love, I Couldn't Live Without Your Love...

Another band many in the UK may not have come across. Commander Cody is another country band and I heard the track The Boogie Man Boogie from this album at a friend's house in the early 1970s and went out and bought it myself the next day. Double folded album cover looks like a concept album. But it isn't.

As a youngster growing through the second half of the 1950s and the 1960s a lot of the music I listened to my parents playing was from the Easy Listening genre. None of these really made much of an impression on me at the time, but these days if I hear a snippet of a tune from one of their many albums I'm instantly reminded of them. At the time I wondered how on earth any girl could be attracted to a man with hair like that... Now I just wonder how women could be attracted to any man with hair... (heh heh)

Russ Conway was to my mind the best of the many pianists who were extremely popular in the 1950s and early 60s. Again although I have no albums, I have many singles again on 78 and 45 rpm vinyl (or shellac!) including Snow Coach, China Tea, Pepe and the huge hit Side Saddle.

Now really, Alice Cooper was the name of the group and should have come under the letter 'A', but lead singer, Vincent Damon Furnier, took on the name himself in the early 1970s just in time for their break-through hit single and album School's Out to ensure he would forever be associated with the name personally.

Their following album was Billion Dollar Babies which featured the hit singles Hello Hurray, Elected and No More Mr. Nice Guy as well as a track Unfinished Sweet about tooth decay which had a very realistic and squirm-inducing dentist's drill sound followed by a hilarious sound effect suggesting someone vomiting...

Although my interest in contemporary music was dealt a severe blow in the 1980s with the advent of monophonic notes from electronics as backing and then particularly in the 1990s when rap could be accurately described by the addition of the letter 'C' at the beginning, I did still enjoy the occasional band or songs that woke me up from the radio alarm in the morning. I still think this album by The Corrs (named for the sound most men make when they see three quarters of the band?) is a cracker with tracks like What Can I Do, So Young and Runaway.

But as I still try to find music I can enjoy from modern artists, I also love music from past decades. I have many 78 rpm records of Bing Crosby and have previously given him a blog post all to himself. His accomplishments are extraordinary. I love some of his early recordings of cowboy songs. Look out for songs like When The Moon Comes Over Madison Square or the excellent collaboration with The Andrews Sisters on Along The Navajo Trail.

Crosby Stills and Nash burst into my conciousness from the radio with Marrakesh Express and then from the film of Woodstock where I first heard the harmonies of Suite - Judy Blue Eyes, both of which feature on this début album.

The début album of Curved Air meanwhile came out as the first album picture disc, which reportedly impaired the playing quality. I had the standard black vinyl version which was excellent. The personnel included Francis Monkman later of super-group Sky. He was a guitarist but also an early proponent of synthesizers - he played this instrument on the John Keating concept album Space Experience. There was also a violinist, Darryl Way, an unlikely instrument to feature in a rock band at the time. This however was an electric violin and like the guitar and bass was made of see-through acrylic. These made for a unique visual treat on stage and I looked for a plasti-craft kit for ages to make my own... The other visual treat was lead singer Sonja Kristina who featured almost every week in a photograph in the New Musical Express of the time, being easily the most attractive female singer that they were willing to include. Pop was not something that New Musical Express cared to dwell on so Lulu, for example, rarely made an appearance. Sonja had a very distinctive voice which I loved and my mum hated - so mostly their music was listened to on headphones!

Curved Air's second album was called Second Album and a single Back Street Luv crept into the charts, hitting No.4, which must have caused some anguish at New Musical Express... The band split up after this album and a new band was formed with more of a rock edge. The original Curved Air was one of the bands I used to go to see live every chance I got.

As always in this series, some artists who I've loved individual songs from have had to be left out. Apologies to fans of Perry Como, The Caravelles, The Chordettes, The Chiffons, Joe Cocker, Canned Heat and many, many more...

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