Tag Archives: Prince

The Book Of Souls UK Tour 2017

On Sunday I finally managed to see a band that’s been on my to-see list for a long, long time – the mighty Iron Maiden. In fact I had tickets to see them way at the Birmingham N.E.C. way back in late 1990 during their “No Prayer On The Road” tour, with thrash legends Anthrax as support, but for reasons that I can’t remember didn’t get to go.

Since singer Bruce Dickinson and third lead guitarist Adrian Smith rejoined the band in 1999 the group have alternated between “best of” tours and tours in support of new material. This year’s UK tour is one of the latter and is all about promoting 2015’s excellent double album “The Book Of Souls” and was held at the former N.I.A. in Birmingham, these days re-christened the Barclaycard Arena.

Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

Having secured a standing ticket I made sure I was up in Birmingham in plenty of time to find parking and get to the venue well before the doors opened, and so I found myself enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and reading a book as joined a pretty short queue at 5:00pm. The doors opened a while later and after a short wait the assembled throng were allowed into the arena itself at around 6:00pm and I was lucky enough to find myself just four people from the barrier at the front of the stage, ensuring an excellent view of proceedings.

Shinedown At Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

Around 7:30pm the selection of rock classics being played through the P.A. faded away to be replaced by a far-louder rendition of “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince, which served as intro tape for American rockers Shinedown who kicked off their set with an energetic and well-received “Devour”. The band seem to be quite big in their homeland, and have been making inroads in the UK of late, having toured as main support to both Alter Bridge and Black Stone Cherry in recent years, appearing before the headliners and after Halestorm on both occasions.

Brent Smith & Zack Myers At Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

Vocalist Brent Smith was decked out in shirt and tie under his black leather jacket, hair slicked back, while guitarist Zack Myers and bassist Eric Bass both sported waistcoat and jacket over their own shirt / tie combos as the pair leaped about the stage a little like city bankers in a Busted tribute act! Dreadlocked drummer Barry Kerch completed the lineup.

Barry Kerch

I wasn’t overly familiar with the band’s back catalogue prior to the show, but having heard them played on the radio on the drive up I wasn’t sure how well they would come across on stage, especially before a band like Maiden. Overall I was pretty impressed. Smith certainly has the showman moves worked out and there were plenty of shapes being thrown by Myers and Bass – the former pulling off some pretty good guitar soloing too.

Shinedown At Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

Not so convinced about the whole “turn and greet your neighbour” shtick and it also seemed rather over the top to spend several minutes building the audience up in order for everybody to jump up and down in one of the songs. I suspect that the band had taped vocal help too, particularly as most tracks had a taped intro, but that aside I have certainly witnessed far worse support bands and at least they had decent songs to perform. For me the best numbers were the aforementioned “Devoured”, “Enemies”, “Second Chance” and “Cut The Cord”

Setlist:

1. Devour / 2. Fly From The Inside / 3. Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom) / 4. How Did You Love / 5. Unity / 6. Enemies / 7. Second Chance / 8. Cut The Cord / 9. Sound Of Madness

1, 3, 7 & 9 originally from “The Sound Of Madness” (2008) / 2 originally from “Leave A Whisper” (2003) / 4 & 8 originally from “Threat To Survival” (2015) / 5 & 6 originally from “Amaryllis” (2012)

Iron Maiden – Legacy Of The Beast Game

Then followed about half an hour of watching Shinedown’s gear being broken down and removed from the stage and then as road crew put monitors in place, checked mics and guitars etc. and made sure that the headliners stage design stayed literally under wraps before their regular intro tape – UFO’s classic “Doctor Doctor” blasted out of the speakers – which thousands of enthusiastic Maiden fans singing along with every word.

Bruce Dickinson Opens The Show

A montage from (I think) the band’s “Legacy Of The Beast” video game played across the two large video screens either side of the stage before a spotlight picked out 58 year-old frontman Bruce Dickinson bent forward over a smoking pot at the back of the stage as he sang the opening lines to the latest album’s first number “If Eternity Should Fail” before the rest of the band joined in as the song burst fully into life and the whole stage exploded in numerous colours with flames shooting into the air. Spectacular stuff.

Iron Maiden At Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

From there it was straight into a breathless “Speed Of Light” and the show just continued to impress. As well as Dickinson running around with the energy levels of a man a third of his age, the trio of guitarists – Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers (all 60 years old), bassist / band leader Steve Harris (61) and drumming powerhouse Nicko McBrain (64) belied their years throughout the relentless performance.

Dave Murray & Janick Gers At Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

The setlist was structured to follow the pattern of two “Book Of Souls” numbers followed by two back catalogue tracks for the main part of the set, with another three classic songs held back for the inevitable and well-deserved encore.

Adrian Smith & Bruce Dickinson At Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

Highlights very many. A ferocious rendition of pre-Dickinson era “Wrathchild”, the singalong 13-plus minute “The Red And The Black”, Dickinson monkeying around during “Death Or Glory” with bananas, Gers and Dickinson duelling with mascot Eddie as he lumbered around the stage during “Book Of Souls”, classic “Children Of The Damned”, the good-natured banter with a vicar in the audience, Gers throwing his stratocaster around with abandon, etc. etc.

Steve Harris At Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

No doubt there will be one or two disappointed that they didn’t play particular favourite songs, but this was always going to be a set built around a sizeable portion of the latest album and with such a great album to take songs from I can honestly say that I had no such disappointment.

Iron Maiden At The Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

The whole band looked to be really enjoying themselves, which is great to see for a band with such a long history, Harris singing along to every word and working the crowd, Murray smiling benignly throughout as he, Smith and Gers effortlessly pealed out super riffs, licks and solos, McBrain drumming up a storm behind his kit and, of course, multi- talented singer / pilot / fencer / author / Dickinson constantly on the move between costume changes.

Adrian Smith

Generally speaking I’d say that the audience was excellent, good-humoured and practically everyone I saw appeared to be having the time of their lives. There were, as is all too often the case, a few who threatened to spoil things for others, such as those trying to push their way through to the front of the crowd because their companion was too short to see (they should perhaps have got there earlier or chose a seated ticket!) or those doing likewise just because and threatening to fight anyone who complained about their behaviour (they should have got there earlier too…).

The Author (That’s Me!) In The Crowd At Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

On a personal note events took a rather embarrassing turn during “The Number Of The Beast” as the heat from the densely packed crown and the pyrotechnics on stage began to affect me and having initially thought “blimey it’s getting a bit too warm now” I reached the realisation within about thirty seconds that if I didn’t get out of that space right then I was going to collapse! Fortunately I didn’t encounter any difficulties in reaching the edge of the crowd where the venue staff immediately gave me some water and helped me out into the corridor – as by that point I could barely speak or stand! Full marks to the staff there, who were absolutely brilliant – many thanks.

Janick Gers & Bruce Dickinson At Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

Sadly that meant that I only heard the final couple of tunes through the wall from the corridor, but despite that slight drawback I can honestly say that Maiden put on a superb show and I wouldn’t hesitate in going to see them again – hopefully on the next “best of” tour that they do. Not the cheapest show I’ll see this year by a long way, but well worth the money. A brilliant show from a top class band. Up the Irons…

Setlist:

1. If Eternity Should Fail / 2. Speed Of Light / 3. Wrathchild / 4. Children Of The Damned / 5. Death Or Glory / 6. The Red And The Black / 7. The Trooper / 8. Powerslave / 9. The Great Unknown / 10. Book Of Souls / 11. Fear Of The Dark / 12. Iron Maiden / 13. The Number Of The Beast / 14. Blood Brothers / 15. Wasted Years

1, 2, 5, 6, 9 & 10 originally from “The Book Of Souls” (2015) / 3 originally from “Killers” (1981) / 4 & 13 originally from “The Number Of The Beast” (1982) / 7 originally from “Piece Of Mind” (1983) / 8 originally from “Powerslave” (1984) / 11 originally from “Fear Of The Dark” (1992) / 12 originally from “Iron Maiden” (1980) / 14 originally from “Brave New World” (2000) / 15 originally from “Somewhere In Time” (1986)

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Rick Parfitt 1948 – 2016

rick_parfitt_of_status_quo_forced_to_abandon_european_tour_music_scene_irelandA week ago today I was enjoying a Christmas Eve meal with the in-laws when the awful news came through – Status Quo man Rick Parfitt had died. More than any high-profile musician to pass away in the previous twelve months – whether it be Lemmy, David Bowie, Prince, etc. etc. this one affected me.

Francis Rossi & Rick Parfitt On Stage In 2015
Francis Rossi & Rick Parfitt On Stage In 2015

I knew I was going to have to make some comment on his passing – but what to say to begin to do the justice to man and his contribution to music? There were some lovely words on various news sites etc. following Rick’s death but he was quickly replaced there when George Michael passed away the very next day.

Rick Parfitt
Rick Parfitt

No disrespect to George Michael, who was a great singer, but for me the amount of coverage that he was given vs. Rick seemed to suggest that he was by far the more significant and iconic figure. And maybe to many he was, whilst perhaps it was also reflective of how often Quo have been derided in the press as three chord wonders etc.

Anyway, I suspect that my family may have grown a little tired of the sound of Quo blasting from my speakers over the past week as I’ve paid tribute to Rick and the boys through the stereo and reacquainted myself with much of their music that had slipped from the kind of regular rotation that it used to enjoy.

Status Quo Live In 1981
Status Quo Live In 1981

Quo were my first love as a band, way back in 1981, and have been right up there ever since. Having received the brand new “Never Too Late” album as an Easter present that year, I obtained their entire album back catalogue as quickly as I was able to and have followed the band through all the highs and lows ever since.

Status Quo Live In 1984
Status Quo Live In 1984

In the summer of 1984 I went to see the band live for the first time on their “End Of The Road” tour. At the time I thought it would be my one and only opportunity to witness them play, as the tour was billed as a farewell to the road. And contrary to the jibes aimed at the band, until this year’s “Last Night Of The Electrics” final electric tour before a switch to acoustic touring, that has been their one and only “farewell” tour!. Luckily for me, and many thousands of others, a re-grouping in 1986 meant the return of the band on record and on stage.

Rick Parfitt On Stage In 2007
Rick Parfitt On Stage In 2007

Since then I’ve enjoyed a further fourteen Quo shows, including my wife’s first ever rock concert on the “In Search Of The Fourth Chord” tour. Nothing compared to a great many regular gig goers I’m sure, and I have to confess that my enthusiasm waned at times for their concerts as the set list remained pretty static for long periods of time. Nonetheless, every single show that I went to was well worth the time and money as the band never failed to give anything but a top-class performance.

Roy Lynes, Alan Lancaster, John Coghlan, Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi In Late 1960s
Roy Lynes, Alan Lancaster, John Coghlan, Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi In Late 1960s

Having been an ever-present since joining in the late 60s, it was with great sadness that I learnt of Rick’s decision not to return to the band following his latest heart attack this summer. I could completely understand that though, given the need to protect his health and also his desire that if he was going to make further music it needed to “rock” – which sadly the band’s recent studio output and future touring plans do not accommodate.

Francis Rossi On Stage
Francis Rossi On Stage

Francis Rossi has been on the receiving end of an awful lot of stick from so-called Quo fans who seem to take great delight in slagging off everything that the band have done since the “frantic four” ceased to be in 1982. Whilst I realise that Francis has been for a long time the leader of the band I think that this abuse is very unfair. There is an argument that if he’s had his way then Quo would have been doing acoustic and country-style music for decades and that he resented playing the old hits all the time. There may be some truth to this. Certainly he is more inclined to go down the acoustic and lighter Quo route than Rick was, and many a musician who’s been performing for a long time is surely going to tire of some of the material that really has to be played to satisfy both the hardcore and casual concert goer?

Francis Rossi & Rick Parfitt
Francis Rossi & Rick Parfitt

What is beyond doubt to me, though, is that Francis and Rick have been the public face of Quo for many years now. With Rick gone many have called the band the Francis Rossi Band or Francis Rossi’s Quo.

The Frantic Four
The Frantic Four – John Coghlan, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster & Francis Rossi

Let’s look at the facts. Whilst Rossi, Parfitt, Lancaster and Coghlan were all band members between 1967 and 1981, the “frantic four” itself only lasted from 1970 (following the departure of keyboardist Roy Lynes) to late 1976 (when Andrew Bown became an official member). So, depending on your point of view either fifteen or just seven years. Plus a handful of reunion gigs in 2013 and 2014 of course. In that time they produced eleven (or six!) studio albums.

Rick Parfitt, Francis Rossi & John "Rhino" Edwards On Stage In 1988
Rick Parfitt, Francis Rossi & John “Rhino” Edwards On Stage In 1988

John “Rhino” Edwards has been playing bass for Quo since 1986. By my reckoning – and leaving drummers aside as there have now been four since Coghlan left – that means the core of Rossi, Parfitt, Bown and Edwards were together for thirty years, at least double that of the fabled “frantic four”, and produced sixteen studio albums. Surely, then, those band members have every right to keep calling themselves Status Quo – even after Rick’s departure and death?

Status Quo Backstage In 1991
Status Quo Backstage In 1991

Yes, the bulk of the live set is still taken from the pre-1982 albums but, again, isn’t that the curse of so many “heritage” acts who are compelled to play the old stuff live in preference over their newer material? Bottom line, for me, is that “Quo-light” is as essential overall as the “classic” band and that, frankly, we should be grateful to Francis, Rick and co. for all the great music and performances that they’ve given us since 1986.

Andrew Bown & Richie Malone On Stage In 2016
Andrew Bown & Richie Malone On Stage In 2016

Following his enforced retirement from the band, Richie Malone has come in as stand-in for Rick on the band’s recent tour dates and done a great job by most accounts. However, at this point, who knows what – if any – future the band has?

Rick Parfitt - Bad Hair Day!
Rick Parfitt – Bad Hair Day!

I digress. Back to the late Mr. Parfitt. When I was young it was Rick who I aspired to be. Sure sometimes I had to pretend to be Francis (with my shirt collar turned under to imitate his grandad shirt!) so that I could sing the lead vocals while miming away to the records, but it was Rick, the golden-maned rock god (let’s ignore some of the naff haircuts he had occasionally!), for the heads down riffing and some of the best songs too.

Rick Parfitt In 1978
Rick Parfitt In 1978

Over the years Rick composed many of the great Quo classics. Not often as sole writer (this applies equally to Francis) but his early co-writes with Francis, then with Alan Lancaster and later with Andrew Bown, John “Rhino” Edwards and recently Wayne Morris have produced some of the best songs on each of the band’s albums – the sole exception being 1994’s “Thirsty Work” which is also the least Quo-sounding album, which is surely no random coincidence.

Rick Parfitt On Stage
Rick Parfitt On Stage

I could list all his writing credits, but if you’re really interested head over to From The Makers Of… which has a comprehensive list. Selected highlights, however, include the following: “Forty Five Hundred Times”, “Rain”, “Don’t Drive My Car” and “Mystery Song” would all easily be in my all-time Quo top ten songs and the likes of “Softer Ride”, “Belavista Man”, “Mystery Song”, “Little Lady” and “The Power Of Rock” wouldn’t be far behind. Many of Rick’s songs feature his distinctive lead vocals too.

Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi In 1970s
Rick Parfitt & Francis Rossi In 1970s

On record, then, Rick had an invaluable input into the band’s superb legacy. Onstage, is there any better sound than all those instantly recognisable riffs being hammered out on his battered white Telecaster, or the perfection of Rick and Francis as they lock into the groove? Yes, age and health issues took their toll on his singing voice but he was still superb when I last saw the band at Lechlade last year.

There was talk of an autobiography and solo album for 2017. Neither will presumably see the light as they surely can’t have had much work done to them. There was a solo record named “Recorded Delivery” cut around 1985 so hopefully that my now finally get an official release.

Lyndsay Whitburn & Rick Parfitt
Rick Parfitt With Third Wife Lyndsay Whitburn

Rick may have had faults as a human being – too much indulgence in drink and drugs through the years and something of a weakness for the ladies perhaps – but whenever I saw him perform or appear on TV etc. there was a down to earth natural humour that shone though and he was the perfect foil to Francis.

Whatever happens now with Status Quo – and I hope the band do carry on (though I’d still rather they plugged back in and rock a bit!) – things can never quite be the same without Rick.  We’re moving house in a week, and I really should be packing stuff, so I’d better get on… Despite my best efforts, I don’t think I’ve come close to doing Rick justice. Suffice it to say he was a huge inspiration to me and many others, and is simply a massive loss. Rest in peace…

Rick Parfitt 1948 - 2016
Rick Parfitt 1948 – 2016

Europe Tour 2016

20160514_095051Friday 13th May 2016. Friday the 13th may be unlucky for some, but it certainly wasn’t for me as I got to see the American blues rock band Gov’t Mule live in concert for the first time. I’ve mentioned before, when discussing the latest solo release from the band’s main man Warren Haynes that it was a track called “Bad Little Doggie” that got me into Gov’t Mule, some sixteen years ago, and I’ve enjoyed every record that they have released since then so when a small UK tour (just three shows) was announced which included a gig at the O2 Academy in Bristol I just had to go!

Bristol O2 Academy
Bristol O2 Academy

Meeting up with my mate in the queue outside, just before the doors opened, I have to confess that I was pleasantly surprised by the number of folk that had turned out for the band, as I had assumed that their profile was relatively under the radar here in England.

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

Having found a decent position on a slightly raised section of the main standing area we chatted whilst waiting for the band to come on. Just after 7:30pm the house lights went down, the cheer of the crowd went up and the band appeared on stage, backed with an illuminated sign declaring “Gov’t Mule – Kicking Ass For 20 Years”.

Warren Haynes
Warren Haynes

Kicking off with a cover of blue legend Robert Johnson’s “32/20 Blues” the quality was immediately apparent. Aided no end by an excellent sound mix guitarist / vocalist Haynes lead his band through a two and a half hour set that genuinely seemed to fly by.

Backing Haynes were co-founder Matt Abts on drums, keyboardist Danny Louis who joined the group in 2001 and the most recent recruit bassist Jorgen Carlsson who came on board in 2008.

Matt Abts
Matt Abts

Haynes remarked early on that this was their first visit to Bristol and so they would play a wide range of their material. Noting also that there was a strict 10:00pm curfew at the venue he promised that rather than performing two sets with an interval, as is their normal routine, they would play right through. Sure enough at least one track was aired from each of the band’s studio releases, plus a clutch of covers, and they only took a very brief break over two hours later before returning to the stage for a well deserved encore.

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

All four musicians were excellent. Carlsson ever-busy with intricate bass runs, Abts hitting the skins like a reincarnated John Bonham and Louis filling out the sound with some superb keyboard work, as well as playing lead guitar and soloing in “Funny Little Tragedy”.

Danny Louis
Danny Louis

In truth, however, my attention was mostly taken by Haynes. His soulful singing is perfectly suited to the band’s material and his guitar playing is sublime. Whether using a pick or finger-picking (and often switching between the two throughout a song), employing the use of a slide, hammering out some fabulous riffs or soaring through ever-impressive solos, the man is fascinating and inspiring to watch.

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

This is a band that is renowned for making each show unique, and a quick check online proves this fact as there was very little repetition from show to show, in fact I think only one song was performed at more than one gig, meaning they played something in the region of fifty different numbers over the course of the three nights.

Jorgen Carlsson
Jorgen Carlsson

Highlights from this particular show would have to be “Game Face” with a middle section that included jazz classic “Birdland”, “Mule”, a stonking “30 Days In The Hole”, the gentler “Soulshine”, “How Many More Years” and the aforementioned “Bad Little Doggie” – was I over the moon to witness that one!

Gov't Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy
Gov’t Mule At The Bristol O2 Academy

The encore was the delicate “Beautifully Broken” which included a tribute to the late Prince with part of his “When Doves Cry” slotted in, followed by a brilliant rendition of “Railroad Boy”. The latter was my mate’s favourite song of the night. He’s not overly familiar with Gov’t Mule’s back catalogue but, as a fellow guitar lover, enjoyed the top quality musicianship on display from start to finish. Then it was out into the still-warm Bristol evening and a post-gig drink in a local pub before I made the journey back across the Severn Bridge.

On the merchandise front, a tour shirt was out of the question – £30!?! You must be joking! – but the band make audio recordings of all their shows available to buy through their website for around US$10 and I will definitely be making a souvenir purchase of this particular gig. A top class show from a top class band…

Setlist:

1. 32/20 Blues / 2. Wandering Child / 3. Child Of The Earth / 4. Temporary Saint / 5. Game Face / Birdland / Game Face / 6. Forsaken Savior / 7. Million Miles From Yesterday / 8. Whisper In Your Soul / 9. Monkey Hill / She’s So Heavy / 10. Soulshine / Tupelo Honey / Soulshine / 11. Funny Little Tragedy / 12. Bad Little Doggie / 13. How Many More Years / 14. About To Rage / 15. 30 Days In The Hole / I Don’t Need No Doctor / 30 Days In The Hole / 16. Mule / 17. Beautifully Broken /  When Doves Cry / Beautifully Broken / 18. Railroad Boy

1 cover of Robert Johnson single (1937) / 2 and 12 originally from “Life Before Insanity” (2000) / 3 and 7 originally from “High & Mighty” (2006) / 4, 9 and 16 originally from “Gov’t Mule” (1995) / 5 originally from “Dose” (1998) / cover of Weather Report single (1977) / 6, 8 and 11 originally from “Shout!” (2013) / 9 cover of Beatles song from “Abbey Road” (1969) / 10 and 17 originally from “The Deep End – Volume 1” (2001) / 10 cover of Van Morrison song from “Tupelo Honey” (1971) / 13 cover of Howlin’ Wolf single (1951) / 14 originally from “Deja Voodoo” (2004) / 15 cover of Humble Pie single (1972) / cover of Ray Charles single (1966) / 17 cover of Prince single (1984) / 18 originally from “By A Thread” (2009)Mule-Europe-2016-Poster-980x1272

Nude Tour

I think it’s safe to say that I’m stunned at the legends of the music world (not to mention actors etc.) that we have lost in the past few months, including Lemmy, David Bowie and just yesterday, most shockingly for me, Prince at the age of just 57.

Prince-Nude-Tour
Prince On The Nude Tour

I’ve been a fan of Prince’s music since the “Purple Rain” days – I even enjoyed the film of the same name, something that I can’t say about his other films I’m afraid. Today I’m going to reminisce as best I can about the time I was fortunate enough to see Prince in concert. It was during his 1990 “Nude Tour” on one of a string of UK dates, this one being at the National Exhibition Centre (as it was then called) outside Birmingham.

Prince & Mavis Staples
Prince & Mavis Staples

Support, as I recall, came from veteran singer Mavis Staples who appeared on Prince’s 1990 album “Graffiti Bridge” and who had her 1989 and 1993 solo albums primarily penned and produced by Prince. More than that I can’t really say. I wasn’t a fan of Staples and although I presume I was at the venue for her performance (I try to catch as many support acts as I can) I honestly remember nothing of it.

Prince - Graffiti Bridge
Prince – Graffiti Bridge

So to the man himself. The tour was promoting the “Graffiti Bridge” album, which was released a few weeks after the UK dates, and was heavy on material from “Purple Rain” and the “Batman” soundtrack as well as a smattering of hit singles, a couple of covers and a track from the upcoming record itself. Staging was apparently stripped back from that seen on the “Sign O’ The Times” and “Lovesexy” tours, and also a shorter show.

Prince & Miko Weaver
Prince & Miko Weaver

Prince’s band for this tour featured guitarist Miko Weaver, bassist Levi Seacer Jr. and keyboardist Doctor Fink – all of whom had been members of the band of the previous few Prince tours, together with new members Rosie Gaines (keyboards / vocals), Michael Bland (drums) plus dancers / vocalists The Game Boyz (who were Anthony Mosley (AKA Tony M.), Kirk Johnson. and Damon Dickson).

Prince - Sign O The Times
Prince – Sign O’ The Times

The unfamiliar cover songs aside the set was brilliant. Plenty of instantly recognisable hits performed by top class musicians. “Alphabet St.”, “Batdance”, “Purple Rain” etc. etc. Prince was, as you might expect, electric and hugely watchable. Singing, dancing, excellent guitar playing – a consummate performer. I would personally have liked a few more tracks from the “Sign O’ The Times” and “Lovesexy” albums – two of his very best in my opinion – instead of the covers, as well as a longer show as per the previous tour, but nonetheless this was a very good gig.

Prince - Lovesexy
Prince – Lovesexy

During his career Prince presided over so many fantastic albums being released (both under his name and his numerous side projects and protégés such as Vanity 6, The Family, Carmen Electra etc.) and there are known to be many more that have never officially seen the light of day.

Prince On The Nude Tour
Prince On The Nude Tour

I’m fortunate enough to have his official albums, a number of his protégés / side projects and also copies of unreleased album configurations that have somehow slipped out over the years and I have to say that although his commercial fortunes may have dipped since the heights of his sales success in the late Eighties / early Nineties, practically all of the huge body of work for which we is responsible is of a consistently high standard. I don’t think we will see his like again. Prince R.I.P…

1990 Tour Programme
1990 Tour Programme

Setlist:

1. The Future / 2. 1999 / 3. Housequake / 4. Kiss / 5. Purple Rain / 6. Take Me With U / 7. Don’t Make Me Pay For His Mistakes / 8. Alphabet St. / 9. The Question Of U / 10. When Doves Cry / 11. A Song For You / 12. Little Red Corvette / 13. Batdance / 14. Partyman / 15. Baby I’m A Star / 16. Nothing Compares 2 U

1, 13 and 14 originally from “Batman” (1989) / 2 and 12 originally from “1999” (1983) / 3 originally from “Sign O’ The Times” (1987) / 4 originally from “Parade” (1986) / 5, 6, 10 and 15 originally from “Purple Rain” (1984) / 7 cover ZZ Hill single (1971) / 8 originally from “Lovesexy” (1988) / 9 originally from “Graffiti Bridge” (1990) / 11 cover of Leon Russell song from “Leon Russell” (1970) / 16 originally from “The Family” (Prince side project) (1985)

1984 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

Having recently looked back to my favourite ten albums of 1985, thirty years ago, I thought this time I’d go back one year further and take a look through my top ten albums released during 1984…

  1. Bryan Adams “Reckless”
Bryan Adams - Reckless
Bryan Adams – Reckless

Hitting the shelves at the tail end of the year, this was Adams’s fourth studio album and really marks his breakthrough into the big time.

The record contains no less than six hit singles, including “Run To You”, “Heaven” and the classic “Summer Of ’69”, although the majority of these weren’t released until 1985.

Great to sing along to, this is a bona-fide classic rock / pop album from start to finish that definitely stands the test of time.

2. Bruce Springsteen “Born In The U.S.A.”

Bruce Springsteen - Born In The U.S.A.
Bruce Springsteen – Born In The U.S.A.

Released during the summer of ’84, “Born In The U.S.A.” was the album that introduced me to Springsteen’s music.

In total there were seven singles released from the record, including feel-good sounding tracks such as “Glory Days”, “Dancing In The Dark” and “Cover Me”.

The title track itself, whilst sounding anthemic, was in fact a look at the negative effects of the Vietnam War and treatment of those who’d fought that war once they returned home to America. Other introspective sounding songs included “I’m On Fire” and “My Hometown”. Still my favourite Springsteen album, this was on cassette (remember them?) that was often to be found in my Walkman that year.

3. Frankie Goes To Hollywood “Welcome To The Pleasuredome”

Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Welcome To The Pleasuredome
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Welcome To The Pleasuredome

Now here’s a group that burned very brightly before burning out before long! Although FGTH would release a second studio album with “Liverpool” two years later, it’s their debut that remains a pop classic.

However, how much the band themselves had to do with the record is open to some debate. Certainly producer Trevor Horn is said to have replaced much, if not all, of the band’s instrumental performances with those by session musicians and his production and mixing work is likely the magic ingredient here.

The album contains versions of four hit singles – “Relax” (famously banned by the BBC after comments from DJ Mike Read), “Two Tribes”, “The Power Of Love” and “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome”. I say versions of because there were numerous mixes of these tracks released across various 7″, 12″ and cassette singles at the time, including a sixteen minute version of “Relax” that I seem to recall driving my parents mad with! And do you remember all the “Frankie Says…” t-shirts that seemed to be everywhere?

The album as a whole isn’t consistently brilliant, but with covers of “War” and Springsteen’s “Born To Run” alongside the aforementioned tracks (the title track lasting thirteen minutes) it’s still a really good listen even now.

4. Iron Maiden “Powerslave”

Iron Maiden - Powerslave
Iron Maiden – Powerslave

Maiden’s fifth studio album, and my second favourite of those featuring the vocals of Bruce Dickinson during his first spell with the band, “Powerslave” came with an excellent Egyptian-themed cover by regular contributor Derek Riggs.

The record itself contained just eight tracks including one instrumental number, the appropriately named “Losfer Words”. The first two songs, “Aces High” and “2 Minutes To Midnight” were top twenty hit singles, but my personal favourites were to be found on side two – “Back In The Village” (inspired by cult TV series “The Prisoner”), “Powerslave” and the Samuel Taylor Coleridge inspired near-fourteen minute tour-de-force “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”. Classic British heavy metal.

5. Madonna “Like A Virgin”

Madonna - Like A Virgin
Madonna – Like A Virgin

Madonna’s second album, released in November ’84, was the one that really made her a household name. A definite step up from her self-titled debut from the previous year, the album received an excellent production job courtesy of Chic man Nile Rodgers.

Madonna’s sexy yet controversial appearance at the MTV’s first VMA show debuted the title track some two months before either single or album were released.

Originally containing nine tracks (“Into The Groove” from the film “Desperately Seeking Susan” was added to the record the following year after its success as a single), there were initially four hit singles – “Like A Virgin”, “Material Girl”, “Angel” and “Dress You Up”.

Although not quite as successful sales-wise as 1987’s “True Blue” this quite brilliant pop record remains, alongside “Like A Prayer”, my joint favourite Madonna album

6. Marillion “Fugazi”

Marillion - Fugazi
Marillion – Fugazi

Progressive rock legends Marillion released their second album “Fugazi” in March of this year.

Although for many the highlight of the band’s Fish-led era would be 1985’s concept album “Misplaced Childhood”, there is still much to recommend this album, not least what qualifies as my favourite cover design (by artist Mark Wilkinson), even though it is in truth the weaker of the group’s initial series of albums.

Kicking off with the blistering single “Assassing”, the record contains seven mostly lengthy songs – the shortest by far being the other single “Punch & Judy” – with my personal favourites being the aforementioned “Assassing” together with “Incubus”, “She Chameleon” and “Fugazi”.

7. Nik Kershaw “The Riddle”

Nik Kershaw - The Riddle
Nik Kershaw – The Riddle

Well here’s an album that I bought by mistake! I remember going into a Bristol record shop (I think it was HMV) late in the year to buy the cassette single (otherwise known as a cassingle ) of Kershaw’s hit “The Riddle” and being sold the cassette of the album instead.

Still, it proved to be a lucky accident as this is a great pop record. Further hits followed the title track, with both “Wide Boy” and “Don Quixote” making it into the top ten singles chart. All three are excellent examples of Kershaw’s ability to write brilliantly catchy melodies (Chesney Hawkes’s one and only hit “The One And Only” from 1991 being yet another).

Whilst the final track “Save The Whale” perhaps sees the quality drop, album tracks such as “City Of Angels”, “You Might” and “Wild Horses” further demonstrate just what a great writer and musician Nik Kershaw is.

8. Prince & The Revolution “Purple Rain”

Prince & The Revolution - Purple Rain
Prince & The Revolution – Purple Rain

Prince’s sixth album, credited to Prince & The Revolution, was the soundtrack to his film debut – starring as The Kid in the movie “Purple Rain” – and would go on to become his most successful album, selling over 22 million copies to date.

As with most albums that Prince has released (and ignoring the numerous ones that he hasn’t) there were several planned versions containing differing running orders and even versions of songs before the final nine track record was issued.

Of those nine tracks, five would be hit singles – the stark “When Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, Take Me With U”, the epic “Purple Rain” itself and “I Would Die 4 U” – all but one of which would be top ten singles chart hits in the UK.

9. Scorpions “Love At First Sting”

Scorpions - Love At First Sting
Scorpions – Love At First Sting

The second Scorpions album that I bought, after 1982’s “Blackout”, “Love At First Sting” saw the band embrace the MTV era with the release of the “First Sting” video EP which featured videos for three songs from the record – “Rock You Like A Hurricane”, “Still Loving You” and “I’m Leaving You” plus “No One Like You” from “Blackout”.

A further three tracks made it onto 7″ – “Big City Nights”, “Bad Boys Running Wild” and “Coming Home” – whilst my favourite album tracks are “Crossfire” and “The Same Thrill”.

Along with music videos featuring scantily clad women, the album had a cover that continued in the tradition of previously suggestive Scorpions covers such as “In Trance”, the controversial “Virgin Killer”, “Animal Magnetism”and “Lovedrive” – but leaving the visuals aside this remains a great 80s hard rock record.

10. Van Halen “1984”

Van Halen - 1984
Van Halen – 1984

Speaking of scantily clad females, check out the video (not to mention the single sleeve itself) for Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”, the fourth single to be lifted from the band’s album “1984”.

The band’s most successful record to date, “1984” (which was depicted as “MCMLXXXIV” on the cover) would be the last full-length studio album to feature the line-up of guitarist Eddie Van Halen and drumming brother Alex Van Halen with original vocalist David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony.

As well as the singles – “Panama”, “I’ll Wait” and mega-hit “Jump” were the other three – the synthesizer-heavy platter also contained some less commercial material with the likes of “Girl Gone Bad”, “House Of Pain” and “Drop Dead Legs”,

A perfect combination of Eddie’s riffs and trademark guitar pyrotechnics, underpinned by Alex’s thunderous drums (especially on the aforementioned “Hot For Teacher”) and Anthony’s solid bass playing and topped off with Roth’s flamboyant delivery, this is the last truly great Van Halen album.

Elsewhere in 1984 I attended my very first in a long line of Status Quo concerts on their “End Of The Road” tour. Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister in the UK and Ronald Reagan was nearing the end of his first term of office as President of the USA. In football Liverpool won the old First Division, League Cup and European Cup, with the FA Cup going to Everton. And cinema-wise, top films released included “Ghostbusters”, “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Gremlins”.

1987 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

Welcome to the second in my occasional series of posts on the subject of my favourite top ten albums from a particular year. This is not a reflection of the most successful releases of the year, simply my personal favourites.

1987 was a much, much harder year to choose a top ten from than my previous list, 1995. Don’t get me wrong, 1995 was a great year for me personally, not least as my first born made his appearance that summer, but I find myself going back to the mid-late ’80s more often when revisiting the music of years gone by. Is that because the music in 1987 was so much better, or is it a case of that year having more resonance for me in terms of nostalgia (after all, I was 19, working, earning money, able to drive, young, free and single…) I wonder?

Without further ado, then, here are my favourite ten albums of 1987 (in alphabetical order)…

1. Aerosmith “Permanent Vacation”

Aerosmith - Permanent Vacation
Aerosmith – Permanent Vacation

This album marked a turning point in Aerosmith’s career. Whether it was a positive thing or not depends on your point of view. With perhaps one eye on MTV and the singles charts, it was the first record on which the band had input from outside songwriters. On the plus side this meant that songs such as “Rag Doll”, “Angel” and “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” were the biggest hit singles of the band’s history up to that point, but conversely also lead indirectly to the band’s latter-day low point (in my view) of “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”.

Certainly the album marked a solid return of Aerosmith with Joe Perry back in the saddle after their false start with the underwhelming “Done With Mirrors” two years earlier, and had some great material in addition to the aforementioned singles, such as “Magic Touch” and “Hangman Jury”. Better was to come with the album “Pump” but that wouldn’t be until ’89.

2. Def Leppard “Hysteria”

Def Leppard - Hysteria
Def Leppard – Hysteria

Three years in the making, this was the album that many thought would never see the light of day. Drummer Rick Allen had lost his left arm in a car accident on New Year’s Eve in 1984 during early sessions for the album, the follow-up to 1983’s successful “Pyromania”. He subsequently developed a way of playing using electronic triggers and returned to recording and performing live with the band. Jim Steinman, famous for his work with Meat Loaf, was originally brought in the produce the album, but after this failed to produce the desired results, and the band were unable to produce the sound they were looking for themselves, they were able to persuade Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who had produced the previous album, to return to the producer’s chair.

When the album was finally released in August 1987, preceded in the UK by the hit single “Animal”, it was a triumph. Lange’s state of the art production together with superb material helped to spawn seven hit singles from the album’s twelve tracks, and the album itself went on to sell over 20 million copies. There simply isn’t a single duff track on this album – indeed for a while it was easily the most played record on my stereo – but my personal favourites would be “Rocket”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, “Hysteria” and the epic “Gods Of War”.

3. Fleetwood Mac “Tango In The Night”

Fleetwood Mac - Tango In The Night
Fleetwood Mac – Tango In The Night

Released five years after the band’s previous album “Mirage”, “Tango In The Night” became their second-biggest selling album (the classic “Rumours” being the biggest).

Featuring six hit singles, the album reached the number 1 spot in the UK on three separate occasions during 1987/88. The pressure of being largely responsible for the album coming to fruition lead to Lindsay Buckingham leaving the band shortly before the following world tour, which featured new members Rick Vito and Billy Burnette in his place.

My favourite tracks on the album include the hits “Big Love”, “Everywhere”, “Little Lies” and “Family Man”, as well as the distinctive Buckingham number “Caroline” and Christine McVie’s gentle “Mystified”.

4. Guns N’ Roses “Appetite For Destruction”

Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction

The debut album from Los Angeles band Guns N’ Roses is a classic hard rock record, and the only album to feature the original line-up of singer Axl Rose, guitarists Slash and Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan and Steven Adler on drums. There was some controversy over the original cover art (shown here) by American artist Robert Williams showing a robot rapist which was replaced after some stores refused to stock the album.

The music speaks for itself. Although the band would reach their creative height with the ambitious “Use Your Illusion” albums, this was the sound of a band in full flight and all pulling together – something that sadly wouldn’t last. From the classic opener “Welcome To The Jungle” through “Paradise City”, the classic ballad “Sweet Child O’ Mine” through to the orgasmic “Rocket Queen” (listen closely to that one!) and every track in between, this is simply a brilliant album. Essential.

5. Jethro Tull “Crest Of A Knave”

Jethro Tull - Crest Of A Knave
Jethro Tull – Crest Of A Knave

Jethro Tull’s sixteenth studio album was their first for three years, and their most successful since 1971’s “Aqualung”. Bizarrely, the album was awarded a Grammy Award for “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental” in 1989. This was the one and only time that this particular Grammy award was given, such was the controversy over Tull winning the award that many expected Metallica to win for their “…And Justice For All” album.

This was not an album that I warmed to immediately, unlike all the others on this list, as Tull were not a band I was familiar with at the time. In fact, when I first heard the single “She Said She Was A Dancer” I thought it was a new song by Dire Straits! However, with the benefit of time and an appreciation of the rich musical legacy of the band, this is an album that has really grown on me. This is definitely an album to immerse oneself in, and I particularly enjoy the longer tracks, “Farm On The Freeway”, “Mountain Men” and especially the superb ten minute long “Budapest”.

6. Level 42 “Running In The Family”

Level 42 - Running In The Family
Level 42 – Running In The Family

From their beginnings as a jazz-funk band, Level 42 had steadily refined their sound to encompass a much more accessible pop flavour, and the band reached the pinnacle of their success with the release of the “Running In The Family” album. Five hit singles (four of them reached the top ten) underlined this point. Guitarist Boon Gould and his drummer brother Phil Gould both left the band during 1987 leaving just singer/bassist Mark King and keyboardist Mike Lindup. This coincided with the start of the band’s decline and none of their subsequent records would reach the heights they managed with “Running In The Family”.

A solid pop record from start to finish, the best tracks were the first five (all of which were singles) – “Lessons In Love”, “Children Say”, “Running In The Family”, the brilliant ballad “It’s Over” and “To Be With You Again”, plus the funky “Fashion Fever”.

7. Prince “Sign O’ The Times”

Prince - Sign O' The Times
Prince – Sign O’ The Times

Following the release of “Parade” in 1986, Prince began recording new material for an album to be titled “Dream Factory”. Unhappy, Prince decided to hire his backing band, The Revolution, and begin new recordings on his own. Initially he intended to release an album titled “Camille”. A change of mind saw songs from both planned albums incorporated into a new project – a triple album to be called “Crystal Ball” – however, his record company were less than keen and persuaded Prince to trim the album. The resulting double album was given the title “Sign O’ The Times”.

Although it’s up against stiff competition from within his extensive catalogue of released and unreleased albums, “Sign O’ The Times” quickly became, and has remained, my favourite Prince album. Kicking off with the stark and brilliant title track, the quality keeps on coming. The songs feature a variety of moods and tempos, but my own favourite tracks are “Sign O’ The Times”, “Housequake”, “Hot Thing”, “U Got The Look”, “If I Was Your Girlfriend”, “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” and the excellent “The Cross”

8. Rush “Hold Your Fire”

Rush - Hold Your Fire
Rush – Hold Your Fire

The twelfth studio album from progressive rock band Rush, “Hold Your Fire” continued the synthesizer-heavy direction of the preceding album, “Power Windows”. A major attraction for me was the fantastic percussive performance of drummer Neil Peart, but all three band members excel on this record, and for the most part the songs are top notch too (with my only real reservation being over the track “Tai Shan”). Opener “Force Ten” is an up-tempo rock track. Singles “Time Stand Still” (featuring Aimee Mann) and “Prime Mover” showed the band’s musical chops within memorable song structures, my favourite track “Mission” is the proggiest track on the album with time changes aplenty and album closer “High Water” is also excellent.

9. U2 “The Joshua Tree”

U2 - The Joshua Tree
U2 – The Joshua Tree

Following the more experimental “The Unforgettable Fire” album in 1984, U2, and singer Bono in particular, found themselves inspired by all things American and a new-found interest in roots music, and so, despite the reservations of guitarist The Edge,  chose to pursue these themes and a more American bluesy sound for “The Joshua Tree”. The resulting album is, without doubt, the group’s most successful, with 25 million copies sold. More importantly though, the band’s music would in future struggle to have the same resonance and emotional impact found in the eleven tracks here.

Although the first three tracks are most well known (“Where The Streets Have No Name”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With Or Without You”) having all been top ten singles, it’s the rest of the album that really shines for me. The sparse arrangements of “Running To Stand Still” and “Mothers Of The Disappeared”, the up-tempo “In God’s Country”, with the evocative “Bullet The Blue Sky” being the pick of the bunch.

10. Whitesnake “1987”

Whitesnake - 1987
Whitesnake – 1987

Following 1984’s “Slide It In” album, singer David Coverdale, new guitarist John Sykes and bassist Neil Murray recruited drummer Aynsley Dunbar and began sessions for the next Whitesnake album. When Coverdale suffered a sinus infection the resulting surgery meant that proceedings became severely delayed, and a rift began to form between Coverdale and Sykes. Thus, when the album was eventually finished, Coverdale fired the rest of the band and replaced them with guitarists Adrain Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell, bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummer Tommy Aldridge. It was this line-up that toured the world in support of the album and appeared in the band’s famous trilogy of MTV-friendly music videos (featuring actress and future Mrs. Coverdale, Tawny Kitaen) for singles “Still Of The Night”, “Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love”.

Also known as “Serpens Albus” and “Whitesnake”, this was the band’s seventh studio album, and the one that made the band hugely successful around the world. Moving further away from their blues rock sound and showcasing a new harder rock direction, the album featured radical re-workings of two tracks from their 1982 “Saints & Sinners” album in the form of “Here I Go Again” and”Crying In The Rain”. These, along with the very Led Zeppelin-like “Still Of The Night”, ballad “Looking For Love” and up-tempo rockers “Bad Boys” and “Children Of The Night” captured Coverdale as vocal rock god, perfectly matched by the incendiary fretwork of Sykes. A fabulous hard rock album.

There you go – my top ten albums of 1987. This was a year in which Margaret Thatcher was re-elected for her third term as British Prime Minister, Everton won the old First Division, “The Simpsons” appeared on TV for the first time, and top film releases included “Good Morning, Vietnam”, “The Secret Of My Success”, “The Living Daylights” and “Fatal Attraction”…

1995 – My Top Ten Albums Of The Year

“It was twenty years ago today…” so go the lyrics to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Well, it may not be to the day, but it’s now twenty years since 1995 – although it doesn’t feel like it!

I’ve been thinking for a while about posting an irregular series on the subject of my favourite ten albums from a particular year, and figure that 1995 is as good a place to start as any other.

So here, in no particular order (it’s hard enough to narrow my choices down to the small number required for this as it is!) I present for you, my favourite ten albums of 1995…

1. Bon Jovi “These Days”

Bon Jovi - These Days
Bon Jovi – These Days

This was Bon Jovi’s sixth studio album. The first since 1992’s “Keep The Faith” and the departure of long serving bass player Alec John Such, this release is generally regarded to be the band’s darkest record to date.

Five hit singles were released in the UK, all but one reaching the top 10 (“Hey God” made number 13). A consistently good record, there isn’t a duff track here, highlights include “This Ain’t A Love Song”, “(It’s Hard) Letting You Go”, “Something For The Pain” and the title track with my favourite being “My Guitar Lies Bleeding In My Arms”

2. Gary Moore “Blues For Greeny”

Gary Moore - Blues For Greeny
Gary Moore – Blues For Greeny

Gary Moore’s third album since the former Thin Lizzy guitarist’s career had seen him turning from hard rock to blues, this one saw him paying tribute to Peter Green, founder of Fleetwood Mac.

The album is made up solely of cover versions of tracks written by Green. As always, Moore’s guitar playing is excellent – superb technique and sublime feel, with “Driftin'”, “I Loved Another Woman” and “The Supernatural” being personal highlights – the latter showcasing the stunning sustain that Moore was able to wring from his instrument.

3. James House “Days Gone By”

James House - Days Gone By
James House – Days Gone By

I first began to appreciate country music in the early 90s, thanks in no small part to cable TV channel CMT. One of the artists that I was introduces to through CMT was James House, an American country artist. “Days Gone By” was his third album, features backing vocals from country stars Raul Malo of The Mavericks and Trisha Yearwood, and is full of absoultely brilliant songs, half of which were released as singles in the US. My favourite tracks are the fantastic “Little By Little”, “A Real Good Way To Wind Up Lonesome” and the biggest hit “This Is Me Missing You”

4. AC/DC “Ballbreaker”

AC/DC - Ballbreaker
AC/DC – Ballbreaker

The first new AC/DC album in five years, “Ballbreaker” is just what you would expect from the band. The record was produced by the founder of Def Jam Records, Rick Rubin, a man known for revitalising many of the acts he had produced.

This album contains the usual mix of catchy riffs, solid rhythm section, Angus Young’s lead guitar work and Brian Johnson’s gruff deliver of some gloriously non politically correct lyrics, particularly on tracks such as “Cover You In Oil”! Other highlights include the number one single “Hard As A Rock” and “Hail Caesar”

5. Oasis “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?”

Oasis - (What's The Story) Morning Glory?
Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

Recorded at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?” was the second album by Oasis, and easily their best – by my reckoning at least. In 1995 Oasis became one of the biggest bands in the UK, and they enjoyed no less than six single releases from this album – although two only reached the lower end of the charts, there were two number 1 hits (“Some Might Say” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger”) and two made number 2 (“Roll With It” and “Wonderwall”), and the album itself went on to sell in the region of 22 million copies. A record that can truly be described as a modern classic.

6. Paul Weller “Stanley Road”

Paul Weller - Stanley Road
Paul Weller – Stanley Road

The third solo album from Paul Weller, former frontman of The Jam and The Style Council, “Stanley Road” features guest appearances from Noel Gallagher (Oasis) and Steve Winwood (Spencer Davis Group / Traffic).

Aside from great numbers such as “The Changingman”, “Broken Stones”, “Porcelain Gods” and “Out Of The Sinking”, Weller’s finest hour also includes the beautiful “You Do Something To Me”

7. Shania Twain “The Woman In Me”

Shania Twain - The Woman In Me
Shania Twain – The Woman In Me

The second country album to feature here, Shania Twain’s “The Woman In Me” was here second album release. However, whereas her first album two years earlier had contained generic country, and only one co-write credit for Twain, this time she co-wrote all but two tracks, and was solely credited for one of the others. The other huge difference was the involvement of legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange (AC/DC / Def Leppard / Bryan Adams). Lange was heavily involved in the writing as well as producing the album, and as a result of their mutual efforts the record went on to sell around 20 million copies and spawned eight hit singles, including three number 1 singles in the US. It would be three more years before pop remixes saw Twain become a big hit in the UK, but for those of us aware of her in ’95, this album shone with diamonds including “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”, “You Win My Love”, “Any Man Of Mine”, “The Woman In Me (Needs The Man In You)” and “(If You’re Not In It For Love) I’m Outta Here!”

8. UFO “Walk On Water”

UFO - Walk On Water
UFO – Walk On Water

Although not a commercial success, this album from legendary British hard rock band UFO was notable for the return of lead guitarist Michael Schenker to the band, alongside singer Phil Mogg, bassist Pete Way, drummer Andy Parker and keyboard/guitar player Paul Raymond for the first time since the late 70s.

Although he subsequently left again just a handful of shows into the band’s world tour (before returning, leaving, returning… on and off until finally leaving again in 2003), the guitarist’s presence lifted the band and they produced their strongest album for a while. My favourite tracks are “Venus”, “Pushed To The Limit” and “Running On Empty”, and the inclusion of re-recordings of two of the group’s classic songs (“Doctor Doctor” and “Lights Out”) doesn’t hurt – though the “bonus tracks”, one each from Mogg/Way, Michael Schenker Group and the Paul Raymond Project are rather out of place.

9. Brother Cane “Seeds”

Brother Cane - Seeds
Brother Cane – Seeds

Probably the least known album (and band) here, “Seeds” was the second album from US southern rock band Brother Cane. Led by singer / guitarist Damon Johnson, the band had a degree of success in the US, with lead single from this album reaching the number 1 spot, although the album itself didn’t fare too well. A shame, as it’s full of great tracks like “Kerosene”, “And Fools Shine On” and “Hung On A Rope”. Johnson has since played with Alice Cooper before becoming a member of Thin Lizzy / Black Star Riders.

10. Prince “The Gold Experience”

Prince - The Gold Experience
Prince – The Gold Experience

Released during the time when Prince had fallen out with his record label, Warner Bros., and adopted an unpronounceable symbol as his name, “The Gold Experience” was arguably the last really great album released by him. Although not as strong as 91’s “Diamonds & Pearls” or 92’s “Symbol”, and certainly not as good as 87’s “Sign O’ The Times”, there is some excellent material on offer here – “Endorphinmachine”, “Pussy Control”, hit single “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” and “Shhh” all being classic Prince tracks.

So there we have it – my top ten albums of 1995. A year in which John Major was British Prime Minister, Blackburn Rovers won the Premier League, and top film releases included “Die Hard 3”, “Toy Story” and “GoldenEye”…