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Music Review Section

Music Index

The starting point for an index of all my musical sections.

 

Historic Album Reviews

I am gradually building up my reviews of historic albums from America to U2

 

The Music Years

Albums reviewed by years from 1963 until the present day.

 

The Gig List

A list of concerts and gigs I have attended over the years with reviews when I can remember what they were like.

 

Music Writing

My music writing - both published and unpublished.

 

Here and Now

Details of Eastern Evening News Here and Now columns I was involved in.

 

2009 Album Reviews

Major 2009 albums reviewed and rated.

 

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My Amazon Reviews
Free music - Best of 2009

 

Free music - Best of 2010

My favourite tracks from 2010 compiled as a playlist.

 

 

 

 

 

My favourite tracks (continued)

Tracks 1-52

Top Tracks Continued - 53-123

53 Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin

 

As we get into the second half of my top 100 there appear a number of tracks that hold no startling memories for me. They are just extremely good pieces of music, many trendsetting in a particular genre. This is one of them.

54 Power and the Glory - Phil Ochs

 

A wonderful hymn to America. Ironically many of Ochs' best songs were anti-government protest pieces. But, as with so many American protest singers, the songs are fashioned out of a love of the country and that shines through in this beautiful song.

55 Slides - Richard Harris

 

A rather strange choice, but this one is so wistful, so sad. Mainly spoken vocals over a background of strings it tells the story of a teacher deemed not fit to teach the children. Yet, as so often, this man breathes originality and life, but obviously doesn't fit into the pre-conceived ideas of the organisation he is trying to represent. How we can all relate to that.

56 Clang of the Yankee Reaper - Van Dyke Parks

Listen to this track on we7.com

Van Dyke Parks is a great experimentalist in music, whether as a composer or as a producer. This song has one of those haunting choruses and jangling backgrounds that make it so effective.

57 Abraham, Martin and John - Marvin Gaye

 

Once again no great reason for including this except for the fact that it is a classic song with a classic melody and atmosphere.

58 At 17 - Janis Ian

 

Janis Ian was a great innovator as far as protest/teen angst went. Here she bemoans the problems of a teenager better than anybody has ever done before or since.

59 First Episode at Hienton - Elton John

 

This is very early Elton John when his voice held a freshness and his songs blended so brilliantly with Bernie Taupin's lyrics. In my view this is the best song the pair wrote. It is very dramatic, very sparse.

60 Eloise - Barry Ryan

 

Pure kitsch, pure drama. One of those epic songs that never date and the best of many good things to come from the pen of Paul Ryan.

61Jacky - Scott Walker

 

Nobody interprets Jacques Brel songs like Walker and this is perhaps the most dramatic rendition of one of the great theatrical songs.

62 I Need You - America

 

In contrast to the preceding few songs, this is a simple but haunting love song which is both effective and beautiful.

63 I'll Be Seeing You - Judy Collins

 

This comes from a wonderful album "Judith" which is full of plaintive songs - many written by Collins herself. This old standard is given the ultra slow treatment and the singer's slightly out of tune voice only adds to the impressiveness of the offering.

64 Goodnight Saigon - Billy Joel

 

I have never seen Billy Joel as the middle-of-the road artist that he is often accused of being. This one is another full of strong lyrical content and harps back to the disastrous conflict.

65 Streets of London - Ralph McTell

 

I have always liked McTell's quintissential English music. He is and was a vastly underrated singer-songwriter. This is one of those songs that I have heard so many times that I have to either love or hate it. I'll go for the former. It's a very powerful vignette of a song. You couldn't go to any folk event in the late 60s, early 70s without hearing it. I once interviewed McTell who decided on that particular night that he didn't want to really discuss his music which was a shame. The song is just so good that it never becomes a pastiche of itself.

66 Alright Now - Free

 

One of the great anthemic pieces of rock music. Everyone knows this one. It kept me going at school and still has that undeniable freshness which shouts classic.

67 The Impossible Dream - Matt Monroe

 

Just a wonderfully emotive and inspiring song sung by a man with a velvet voice - inspirational.

68 Piano Man - Billy Joel

 

69 Objects in the Rear View Mirror - Meatloaf

 

This is typical Meatloaf/Jim Steinmen stuff and is really quite astonishing in its breadth of lyric and wonderful tune that reminds me of so many songs that have gone before - a modern classic.

70 Perfect Day - Lou Reed

 

My choice of this number has nothing to do with the amount of publicity that it received a few years ago when various artists recorded it for charity. My love of it comes from hearing it on that wonderful Transformer album - by far and away Reed's best work. It was also the B side of Walk on the Wild Side.

71 Dragonfly - Fleetwood Mac

 

Mac were beginning to change  from the Peter Green guitar led band into something more poppy, but this was one of their parting shots. It's mean and moody and once again conjures up times when the world and those in it were more naive.

72 Bohemian Rhapsody

 

Poll after poll have placed this one in the top three tracks of all time. I wouldn't go that far but it's still an astonishing tour de force and again one which stands the test of time supremely well.

73 Last Song - Edward Bear

 

I know nothing about this group except for the fact that they are Canadian. I can't even remember where I first heard this song, but it's a catchy winner.

74 Society's Child - Janis Ian

 

Janis Ian pricked the conscience of Americans with this tale of a mixed race relationship and the good old Americans in their infinite wisdom found it so dangerous that they banned it. It's just as relevant today as when it was written decades ago.

75 Question 67/68 - Chicago

 

I was not really into rock music at school, but this was one of the defining tracks for me. Somebody played it during a morning assembly. To this day I don't know why. It did illustrate, however, how fresh and wondersful American rock could be.

76 7 O'Clock News/Silent Night - Simon and Garfunkel

 

I like to be challenged when listening to music and this one certainly does that. S and G sing Silent Night whilst in the background a newsreader reports on murders, disasters and other nasties. Gradually the newscaster's voice assumes the lead role as the song takes a back seat. Very thought-provoking.

77 The Poet/After the Day - Barclay James Harvest

 

Technically two songs, they nevertheless blend into one with the wistful feel of the Poet opening out into the doom ridden, apocalyptic After the Day which ends with a huge explosion. In 1971 the band finished their set with this and walked off stage amidst much noise and dry ice.

78 Brothers in Arms - Dire Straits

 

I have never been a Dire Straits fan, but this is an outstanding track in anybody's book. There is also a very pleasant Joan Baez version but Mark Knopfler's original just has the edge with its melancholy feel.

79 Vincent - Don McLean

 

McLean may have written one of the great songs of all time in American Pie, but he certainly wasn't a one song wonder as this marvellous song about Van Gough points out. "Starry Starry Night" - what a beginning. One of the greatest set of song lyrics ever written

80 Come On Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners

 

Nothing much to say other than that this is a rollicking good song that gets the toes tapping and the arms flapping. No deep significance, I just love it.

81 Your Song - Elton John

 

This is about as romantic as songwriting gets and a real reminder that early on in his career Elton John was a real talent.

82 Kites - Simon Dupree

 

There aren't too many 1960s pieces in my favourite tracks list and this is probably one of the lesser known pieces. It is very cosmic, very mystical and very likeable.

83 Medicine Man (Live Version) - Barclay James Harvest

 

Yet another BJH track in my top 100. This live version meanders through about 11 minutes and is a great improvement on the original studio version. It perfectly illustrates the superb guitar playing of John Lees and continues to excite me.

84 Skeleton and the Roundabout - Idle Race

 

They don't come much vaguer than this piece of 60s kitsch. The Idle Race came from Birmingham and included Jeff Lynne who went on to find fame with ELO. This is really a period piece but one with great charm.

85 Ferry Across the Mersey - Gerry and the Pacemakers

 

Apparently they still play this one on trips on the Mersey in Liverpool. It comes from a gentler time and somehow sums up the great Merseybeat boom better than any other record.

86 Be - Neil Diamond

 

Although not one of my favourite artists, Diamond could be very powerful at times. This is a big ballad.

87 Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks

 

By far the most outstanding track from the pen of Ray Davies. Evocative and one of the truly great songs about London.

88 Singing Lessons - Judy Collins

 

89 American Tune - Paul Simon

 

Simon somehow manages to cover hundreds of years of American history in a relatively short piece which shows him at his melodic best.

90 Question - Moody Blues

 

One of my favourite tracks from my schooldays. I have always had a soft spot for the Moodies and Justin Hayward's voice was never better than on this track with its changes in pace.

91 New York City - Tommy Leonetti

Again I know nothing about the singer or the song apart from the fact he was an actor. It's a gentle reflective ballad with a lovely chorus. Unfortunately I haven't been able to track this one down on You Tube or we7.

92 Bolinas - John Stewart

A lovely song about a strange arts community in California - allegedly no sign posts point to Bolinas as they don't welcome visitors. Did prompt one of John Stewart's best songs though.

 

93 Chestnut Mare - The Byrds

 

The Byrds recorded so many fine songs and this is my favourite

94 Who Knows Where the Time Goes - Sandy Denny

 

Denny had a voice which could melt the hardest heart and this is a wonderful folksy ballad and a song to fall in love to. Overall it reaches number 90, but for song lyrics it would be my number one choice.

95 Child In Time - Deep Purple

 

Deep Purple in Rock is one of the best Heavy Metal albums of all time. It set the style and pace for a generation. Amongst all the speedy rockers came this quiet gem which builds into a tour de force.

96 The Dean and I - 10CC

 

I love the the early 10 CC and this track never stops amazing me with its change of pace.

97 Just Take A Pebble - Emerson, Lake and Palmer

 

Wonderful prog rock before ELP went over the top. There are just signs of over-indulgence here but they just shy away from it and the result is a wonderful over 10 minute epic.

98 In the Court of the Crimson King - King Crimson

 

Similar to the comments above. I love the swirling keyboards of the chorus

99 The Moon's A Harsh Mistress - Judy Collins

 

Another wonderful Jimmy Webb song which has been recorded by many artists. To my mind Collins' interpretation is head and shoulders above the rest.

100 Absolute Beginners - David Bowie

 

Must be the live at the BBC version which is sublime with some wonderful jazz piano playing as well.

101 Suzanne - Leonard Cohen

 

Simply a lovely song from a great poet

102 The Blizzard - Judy Collins

 

It's difficulty to put the beauty of Colorado into words. Judy Collins weaves a story around the snow-bound state and it's pure magic. Collins is such an under-rated songwriter.

103 Layla - Derek and the Dominoes

 

This is the full album version with the magnificently haunting piano middle section. Eric Clapton has been capable of the most sublime music over the past 30 years.

 

104 American Trilogy - Elvis Presley

 

I loved the original Micky Newberry version, but Presley took it to new heights of kitsch

105 Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen

 

A hymn to a generation. Rollicking good fare. I defy anybody to listen to this without singing along.

106 Where are You Now My Son - Joan Baez

Listen to Where are You Now My Son on we7.com

There is a form of song that transcends music. Tom Clay's song about the assassination of the Kennedy's and Martin Luther-King features high in my charts as does this docu-music by Joan Baez recorded during the Vietnam war with the cries of the Vietnamese contrasting starkly with Baez's poetry and beautifully haunting choruses.

107 Seasons in the Sun - Terry Jacks

 

I heard Terry Jacks' version of this song long before I discovered the brilliant songwriting of Jacques Brel.

108 The Way We Were - Gladys Night and the Pips

 

"Memories, Light the Corners of my Mind." This oozes class.

109 Streets of Philadelphia - Bruce Springsteen

 

Springsteen's great ability was to underplay a melody and fit it to his monotone voice. This is chilling and beautiful at the same time.

110 Kid - The Pretenders

 

My top 100 concludes with this fine song - my favourite Pretenders track

111 Backstage - Gene Pitney

 

Okay I'll admit it. I like Gene Pitney. This song about the heartbreaks of being an actor is my favourite of his.

112 Thank You for the Music - Abba

 

Arguably Abba are the greatest "pop" band of all time with their instantly catchy songs. They are an influence on so many of today's groups. I could sing this one all night and never tire of hearing it.

113 24 Hours from Tulsa - Gene Pitney

 

The second Pitney offering. Everyone knows this one, but i don't care.

114 I Heard it On TV - John Fogerty

A little known gem from Creedence Clearwater Revival leader Fogerty. Certainly better than anything the group ever did. I haven't been able to track this one down yet.

115 Where Do You Go To My Lovely - Peter Sarstedt

 

Sarstedt is another vastly underrated songwriter who wrote many powerful songs. This is the best known and perhaps the most original. Many of his songs have a Parisian/French feel to them.

116 Diamonds and Rust - Joan Baez

 

Another Joan Baez song - this time an attack on one time lover Bob Dylan. There can be few greater lines in popular music than "Ten years ago I bought you some cuff links, you brought me something we both know what memories can bring, they bring diamonds and rust". I just love the classic guitar playing on this track as well

 

117 You're A Lady - Peter Skellern

 

Skellern never produced anything like this wonderful love song, but surely one decent track is enough for most people. Love the brass band opening.

118 Music - John Miles

 

Again a one-hit marvel. John Miles produced a track of epic proportions with classical overtones and then sank without trace.

119 Show Me the Way - Peter Frampton

 

Frampton's fame in the 70s was never really matched by his music, but this one is a rocky, rollicking song.

120 Ameureuse - Kiki Dee

 

Don't Go Breaking my Heart is one of my all time most hated pieces of music. This proves that Kiki really could produce the goods. It's an emotionally charged balled of immense beauty and originality.

121 Miss Serejavo - Passengers

 

Take Bono from U2 and opera singer Pavarotti and what do you get - a huge song which starts slowly and builds into something reminiscent of Puccini.

122 Wild is the Wind - David Bowie

 

If you want share beauty in a song, you can't go wrong with this and Bowie's wonderful velvet voice. By and large I prefer original studio recordings but with Bowie often the live versions eclipse these and that is certainly true here.

123 No I Could Never Forget - Charles Aznavour

 

Another strong storyline to this song. I was glad to see a national British newspaper claiming Aznavour as one of the great all time songwriters and artists. He is so often placed in the middle of the road section. There is nothing middle of the road about this song of broken relationships which comes from an album which deals with depression and homosexuality amongst other things.

Other Favourites:

As more and more music comes to mind I will add many more of my favourites starting with a huge song from Supertramp. These songs are in no particular order. I just love them all.

Fool's Overture - Supertramp

 

Over the top - yes. Magnificent - yes. One of Supertramp's tour de forces.

Halleluja - Leonard Cohen

 

This song may have been overplayed and over-recorded over the past few years but in it's original form, it's still a powerful piece.