Tuesday 31 October 2023

Thriller/ Michael Jackson (1982): Albums of my Life: an A-Z

   being excited by Michael Jackson's music from such a young age. I remember cassette tapes being excavated at car boot sales and I imagine that Thriller was among some of the early Jackson tapes I got my hands on. I was probably nine or ten when I first heard this album and the impact of it has never really left me. I listen to 'Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' now (the opening track) and that iconic 80s snare sound is seared into my soul; I could recognise it within a split second. Back in the early 90s, I was too young to have any awareness of the 80s hallmarks that this album so delightfully showcases (the Synclavier synths and Linn machine drums), however, my love for the sound and feel has never left me. In fact, in my 30s it has resurfaced in a deep, insatiable thirst for nostalgic 80s tunes.

Thriller is one of those albums I have put off and dreaded writing about! Its status as the best-selling album of all time (at an estimated 70 million+ copies) means everyone knows it and there is so much about it that could be covered. Despite its epicness, I'd like to treat it with the tenderness I have the other, less well-known albums I have written about. If only I could hear this album for the first time again, but alas, it is as familiar to many of us as hearing our own voice. In that sense, I can only approach it by giving the songs my full attention as I listen and write. Hopefully I can do it some justice.

Sunday 23 July 2023

A Short Album About Love/ The Divine Comedy (1997): Albums of my Life: an A-Z

   ...being aware of The Divine Comedy back in the 90s, in particular Everybody Knows (Except You) and National Express which felt like little more than novelty records at the time. Because there is something of the novelty and the theatre about Neil Hannon. He's quirky and feels like a throwback to 60s balladists, yet obviously plays to this and doesn't take himself too seriously. He's so much more than the frontman of a band that skirted the Britpop era-- he's a composer, a storyteller and an absolute legend of the industry. Of course, being a youngster at the time with a penchant for the likes of chart pop and then R 'n B, I was not ready to recognise this until years later.

It was only when I was in my early 30s that I started to delve into The Divine Comedy's extensive back catalogue. My first dabble was a compilation album where I was introduced to such 90s wonders as The Frog Princess and Something for the Weekend. On finding the album 'Absent Friends' from 2004, it became increasingly clear that a love affair was developing; the song Our Mutual Friend is a good example of Hannon's genius in the respect that he conveys such narrative and emotion with his lyrics. The use of strings on that track add such a stomach-twisting journey through the sweetness and excitement of falling for someone...only to face the inevitable stab to the guts in the climax of the song. I can remember listening to the album with my dad on a journey back to Kent and I remember how that song affected him. We listened to the album loud and without speaking; in the gap between Our Mutual Friend and The Happy Goth he uttered something like: "that's an incredible song". He had tears in his eyes. I think I have inherited his hypersensitivity to music because I so often react in the same way. The power of music.

Friday 7 July 2023

Revival/ Bellowhead (2014): Albums of my Life: an A-Z

  having recently discovered Bellowhead and trying to get into jogging. Like some miracle, I was able to run so much further fuelled by New York Girls and various other Bellohead jigs; it was then that I knew they were something special.

Bellowhead were a folk supergroup with eleven members playing all sorts of instruments from fiddles, melodeon, bagpipes, tuba, saxophone and trumpet. They split in 2016 and reformed for a tour in 2022 despite the sudden death of beloved band member, Paul Sartin, in September 2022.