The latest movie that my wife and I have watched was the latest offering from writer / director Edgar Wright (“Hot Fuzz”, “The World’s End”) – the action / crime film “Baby Driver”.
As the movie opens we meet young getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort – “November Criminals”, “Divergent”) as he drops a crew outside an Atlanta bank.
While the three robbers – Buddy (Jon Hamm – “Keeping Up With The Joneses”, “Mad Men”), Darling (Eiza González – “Almost Thirty”, “True Love”) and Griff (Jon Bernthal – “Sicario”, “Pilgrimage”) – hit the bank Baby sits in the car grooving to “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – the first of numerous tunes that are an essential part of this film.
Following the raid there is a superb car chase scene as Baby successfully evades the police, before we move on to meet the mastermind behind the robbery, Doc (Kevin Spacey – “The Usual Suspects”, “Casino Jack”). This follows on from another brilliantly choreographed scene set to Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle” – where the background of each shot is just as important as the foreground, so careful watching is definitely rewarding.
Other characters that show up as the story unfolds include diner waitress Debora (Lily James – “Darkest Hour”, “The Exception”), criminal Bats (Jamie Foxx – “Sleepless”, “Miami Vice”) and Baby’s deaf foster-father Joseph (C. J. Jones – “Lincoln Heights”, “Frasier”).
Baby is indebted to Doc for one more job, then dreams of hitting the open road to freedom with his love interest. Will he manage to extricate himself from Doc’s clutches and stay one step ahead of the authorities while driving the crew?…
Ultimately the story kind of plays second fiddle to the action scenes and set pieces on show here. The stunt driving is impressive, with some neat twists thrown in. There is plenty of humour to be found (watch out for the Halloween mask gag), and the visuals are great throughout.
As mentioned earlier, though, it’s the music that is vital to the success of this film (and makes the cool soundtrack album a necessary addition to my collection). During the movie Baby almost always has music on the go, to combat the tinnitus that he suffers from. There are classic numbers from the likes of Dave Brubeck, Queen and the Beach Boys amongst many others (including Sky Ferreira who also portrays Baby’s mother in flashback scenes), and they all play major parts in the action.
Of specific note, apart from the previously noted “Harlem Shuffle”, is another fantastically choreographed scene involving ex-banker Buddy and his younger wife Darling) later in the film to accompany “Hocus Pocus” by Dutch legends Focus.
I saw a review that said “Baby Driver” was a bit like a mix-tape with a film added, and there is certainly some validity to that. The fairly routine storyline and a central character that doesn’t have a great deal to say, however, do not detract from nearly two hours of great fun and entertainment. Highly recommended viewing!…
No blog for a few days as I have been busy decorating and room moving, as the kids are getting bigger and wanting more space, leading to the wife and I converting our dining room into our new master bedroom. That part’s now achieved (more to do though…) so normal service now being resumed.
Continuing my trawl backwards through the Seventies, having examined my favourite albums of 1979, today I present to you my top ten albums of 1978…
Bruce Springsteen “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”
Following the huge success of 1975’s breakthrough album “Born To Run” was never going to be easy, and enduring a legal battle with his former manager kept Springsteen out of the studio until late 1977.
With a huge number of songs written and recorded, the eventual album was pared down to ten tracks, including singles “Prove It All Night”, “Badlands” and “The Promised Land”. Twenty two further recordings would surface in 2010 on the album “The Promise” – a collection of outtakes from the “Darkness…” sessions.
Back in ’78 the original album also contained future classics in the shape of “Racing In The Street”, “Streets Of Fire”, “Adam Raised A Cain” and, of course, the title track.
A less epic, more immediate sounding album than its predecessor, “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” is the least accessible of the two, but arguably the better artistically. Regardless, it remains a cracking and indispensable Springsteen record.
2. Jeff Wayne “The War Of The Worlds”
I think it was in the early Eighties that I first heard “Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds” (to give it its full title). I loved it straight away and still listen to it quite often today.
A musical retelling of the famous 1897 science fiction novel from English author H.G. Wells, this double album featured a number of high-profile performers including actor Richard Burton, and singers Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott, David Essex and Julie Covington.
Unusually for a double concept album, which itself spent nearly 300 weeks in the UK charts, it also produced a hit single – “Forever Autumn”.
With great packaging, well told story, great performances and superb compositions – very catchy songs and motifs – this is a classic album beyond doubt.
3. Jethro Tull “Heavy Horses”
This is an album that I have got into quite recently. In fact, it’s fair to say that the album has only really resonated with me since moving to the countryside and connecting with the natural world more.
The band’s eleventh studio album, this one is the middle piece of a trilogy of folk rock albums looking at themes surrounding nature and the effects of the changing world – the others being “Songs From The Wood” (1977) and “Stormwatch” (1979).
Group leader Ian Anderson had himself moved onto a farm and this is likely to have influenced his thinking and songwriting at the time. Whilst “Songs…” celebrated the enduring quality of nature “Heavy Horses” concerned itself with increasing industrialisation at the expense of the natural world.
Although the record was released in April of ’78 many have remarked that it has an autumnal feeling, and certainly I would have to agree that it does seem to fit that time of year particularly well, but is an excellent listen at any time of year.
“Moths” was released as a single from this album, and is one of the more folky tracks here, along with the likes of “Rover” and “Weathercock”, but the band’s progressive leanings still show through on songs like “No Lullaby” and “Heavy Horses”.
A truly great Jethro Tull album.
4. Kate Bush “The Kick Inside” / “Lionheart”
The first of two albums released in 1978 by a nineteen year old Kate Bush, debut record “The Kick Inside” was followed within nine months by “Lionheart”, with both making the UK top ten.
“The Kick Inside” contained the number one hit single “Wuthering Heights” and the beautiful “The Man With The Child In His Eyes”, the latter written when Bush was just thirteen years old. Other great songs here include “James And The Cold Gun”, “Feel It” and “Them Heavy People”.
On “Lionheart”, meanwhile, can be found a further two singles – “Hammer Horror” and “Wow“. Other notable tracks are “Oh England My Lionheart”, “Symphony In Blue” and “In The Warm Room”.
Bush herself was unhappy with how the second album turned out, as she felt that it was rushed under pressure from the record company. However, these two records mark an incredible year for the young artist who was destined to go on and create much more marvellous and inspirational music.
5. Queen “Jazz”
This was the seventh album from Queen, and their last studio album of the Seventies.
Released in November, the album’s release had been preceded by the double A side single “Bicycle Race” / “Fat Bottomed Girls” in October.
The album also contains “Don’t Stop Me Now”, another hit single for the group, as well as highlights such as “Let Me Entertain You” and “Dreamers Ball”. “Fun It”, a funky track, showed the direction the band would embrace wholeheartedly for 1982’s controversial “Hot Space” record.
If only May and Taylor could follow Deacon’s lead and stop tarnishing the Queen name in the present day. The collaboration with Paul Rodgers was a worthy, if ill-advised, effort, but the tours etc. with Adam Lambert and any number of guest singers that they have insisted in inflicting on the public since Mercury’s death are lamentable. Both could produce decent solo work – indeed Taylor’s most recent solo album is rather good – and I am unconvinced by the regular mantra that “Freddie would have approved”.
Still, “Jazz” is one of the band’s best records, from a time when they embraced a whole variety of genres on their albums, and is as good to listen to today as ever.
6. Rainbow “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll”
The third album from Ritchie Blackmore’s band, and the last to feature the wonderful vocals of Ronnie James Dio.
The majority of the record was recorded by the trio of Blackmore, Dio and drummer Cozy Powell in 1977 before bassist Bob Daisley and keyboardist David Stone joined the line-up.
The album made number 6 in the UK, whilst two singles also charted – “L.A. Connection” at number 40 and “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll” at number 33.
Hits aside, however, the best of the album included “Kill The King”, “The Shed (Subtle)”, “Rainbow Eyes” and the brilliant “Gates Of Babylon”. The band’s sound would take a turn towards more commercial territory by the time of their next album, leaving this as the last of their epic and expansive hard rock records. Essential listening.
7. Rush “Hemispheres”
Recorded just down the road from here, at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, “Hemispheres” was Canadian band Rush’s sixth studio album.
As with the group’s previous three albums, this one contains a lengthy track alongside some more concise tracks.
In the case of “Hemispheres”, the lengthy track is the sci-fi opener “Cygnus X-1 Book II : Hemispheres” which comes in at just over eighteen minutes. Book I had closed the group’s 1977 album “A Farewell To Kings” and was itself ten minutes in length.
“Circumstances”, at under four minutes, was the album’s shortest song, with single “The Trees” being next at nearly five. That just left closing instrumental track “La Villa Strangiato”, subtitled “An Exercise In Self-Indulgence” which is over nine and a half minutes long.
So, four tracks totalling thirty-six minutes. A fairly average length for a Rush record in the Seventies, but the music is of such quality that this is anything but an average album. Excellent.
8. Status Quo “If You Can’t Stand The Heat…”
The eleventh studio album from the group saw Status Quo incorporating a brass section and female backing singers into their sound for the first time, resulting in a record that is very much of its time.
Featuring two hit singles – “Again And Again” and “Accident Prone” – this is quite a poppy sounding record from the band (perhaps indicating that Francis Rossi had the upper hand during recording sessions?), though thankfully much fuller sounding than the previous year’s “Rockin’ All Over The World”. Nonetheless it still makes for a good listen.
“I’m Givin’ Up My Worryin'”, “Oh! What A Night”, “Stones”, “Let Me Fly” are all great catchy songs and “Long Legged Linda” and “Like A Good Girl” up the tempo nicely.
Incidentally, the ballad “Someone Show Me Home” reappeared as “Someone Show Me” on Rossi’s 1996 solo album “King Of The Doghouse”, though I personally prefer the original version found here. The band would return in 1979 with the much harder rocking “Whatever You Want” album.
9. Van Halen “Van Halen”
Released in February ’78, this was the debut album from California band Van Halen.
One of the great debuts in hard rock history, “Van Halen” contains tracks that have become live staples for the group ever since, including two hit singles – “Runnin’ With The Devil” and “You Really Got Me”, as well as the likes of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” and “Jamie’s Cryin'”.
And let’s not forget the revolutionary instrumental guitar extravaganza that is “Eruption”! It sounds as fresh and exciting today as the day I first heard it. Eddie Van Halen is on fire throughout this record and the rest of the band are non too shabby either. Classic!
10. Whitesnake “Trouble”
I remember buying a cheap reissue of this on a cassette in the early Eighties, probably around the time of “Saints & Sinners”, and not being too sure about it to begin with.
Over the years since then, however, I have grown to love this album, and probably enjoy it more than “Ready An’ Willing” and “Come An’ Get It” to be honest.
Released during the same year as David Coverdale’s second solo album “Northwinds”, “Trouble” was the first record credited to Whitesnake and features the same personnel as 1979 album “Lovehunter” – another favourite.
Both the excellent “Lie Down (A Modern Love Song)” (not so much suggestive as blatant lyrically!) and “The Time Is Right For Love” were released as singles, although neither charted, and the album itself only made number 50 in the UK. A slow-burn version of the Beatles’ “Day Tripper”, instrumental “Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick” and tracks like “Love To Keep You Warm”, “Nighthawk (Vampire Blues)” and the title track, together with stellar performances from all involved all contributed to a fabulous first record from this now legendary rock band.
The usual round-up of events in this year include James Callaghan as British Prime Minister and Jimmy Carter as President of the USA, Nottingham Forest winning the old First Division and Ipswich Town beating Arsenal for the FA Cup, and top film releases of the year included “Grease”, “Superman” and the powerful “The Deer Hunter”.
As promised a week or so ago, when I looked at my favourite albums of 1980, I’m now going to look at those from 1986. There was a lot of great music released in ’86 which meant that it wasn’t easy to narrow down my list to just ten records and a number of excellent ones slipped through the net, so honourable mention must be made of Black Sabbath “Seventh Star”, Bruce Hornsby & The Range “The Way It Is”, Europe “The Final Countdown”, Huey Lewis & The News “Fore!”, Judas Priest “Turbo”, Paul Simon “Graceland”, Peter Gabriel “So”, Slayer “Reign In Blood”, Toto “Fahrenheit” and Van Halen “5150” – another ten albums that could have made my list, were it not for the fact that the following ten are the ten that did make it to my personal top ten for the year…
Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet”
US rock giants Bon Jovi were only moderately successful until their third album came along. “Slippery When Wet” broke the band into the big time. The bulk of the songs were written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, with additional input from songwriter Desmond Child on four tracks, including the singles “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Livin’ On A Prayer”.
In addition to these, two further singles were issued in the UK. “Wanted Dead Or Alive”, which features one of my all-time favourite guitar solos, and the ballad “Never Say Goodbye”.
On top of those, there are some great hard rock tracks on this record including “Let It Rock”, “Raise Your Hands” and the rather excellent (if non-PC) “Social Disease”. Rightly regarded as a highpoint in Bon Jovi’s career, this is a superb album from start to finish.
2. Genesis “Invisible Touch”
The follow-up to the group’s self-titled album from 1983, “Invisible Touch” hit the streets in the summer of ’86 and went on to become one of their most successful albums ever, achieving the number one spot in the UK and number three (their highest album chart position) in the US.
To promote the album five of the record’s eight tracks were released as singles – the title track, “Throwing It All Away”, “Land Of Confusion” (the video for which featured puppets from the then popular “Spitting Image” TV show), “In Too Deep” and an edited version of “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”.
Of the remaining three tracks, “Domino” was a ten minute, two-part, epic, “The Brazilian” a great instrumental and “Anything She Does” the only track not performed by the band on their subsequent world tour. Despite not being released as a single there was a video made for the latter track which featured Page 3 model Maria Whittaker as well as Phil Collins’ fabulous mullet!
Musically this was the commercial side of Genesis at their best, and even though it sounds very much of its time with synth bass and electronic drums very much evident. Nonetheless, this is a classic record and one that I still play often.
3. Iron Maiden “Somewhere In Time”
This was something of a divisive album amongst fans of Iron Maiden when it was released in September of 1986. This was because of a marked change in sound which incorporates synth guitar and bass.
In addition to these, there are some standout tracks on this record including “Heaven Can Wait”, “Caught Somewhere In Time” and the superbly complex epic number “Alexander The Great”. Throughout the album the material is very good and the performances from all band members are typically on the money.
“Somewhere In Time” may not be a universally loved Iron Maiden album, but in my view it is a very underrated one, and actually one of the best from the first period with Bruce Dickinson as lead vocalist.
4. Kim Wilde “Another Step”
The first pop album on this list. I’d been vaguely aware of some of Kim Wilde’s early hits, like “Kids In America”, but it was her 1983 hit “Love Blonde” and its cool swagger that made me sit up and take notice.
One of my crushes of the era, Wilde really hit her stride in terms of commercial success and great catchy pop tunes with her late 80s albums – “Another Step” and the following “Close” from 1988.
Three singles came from this record. A cover of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”, “Another Step (Closer To You)” and “Say You Really Want Me”. The sound of this album was more rocky than her previous material, though still contains plenty of keyboards and 80s sounding drums etc.
I would personally have changed the running order, as the uptempo songs all come first with the latter part being given over to the more balladic numbers, and I think it would have perhaps flowed better if the songs had been mixed up a bit.
Despite that, and the limitations of Wilde’s voice – which actually add a charming vulnerability to much of the material – this is still, to my mind, a great 80s pop album.
5. Metallica “Master Of Puppets”
Without doubt, this is the heaviest record to make this list. Metallica’s third studio album, “Master Of Puppets” was their first release on a major label.
A real step up from “Ride The Lightning”, this album was to see the band begin to make it big. Although not a commercial success in the same league as 1991’s self-titled album (also known as “The Black Album”), this particular record has been very influential in the decades since it’s release.
Just one single was released to promote the album, “Master Of Puppets” itself, which failed to chart either in the UK or the US.
Regardless of chart positions etc., this album has rightly become regarded as one of the highlights of Metallica’s recording career because it is a splendidly cohesive record. The performances are tight and passionate, the songs classics of the genre and the production noticeably better than on their previous recordings.
The last record to feature bassist Cliff Burton, who was killed in a tour bus crash just six months after it’s release, there are a number of stone cold classic Metallica tracks present, including “Battery”, “Master Of Puppets”, “Disposable Heroes”, “Orion” and “Leper Messiah”.
6. Nik Kershaw “Radio Musicola”
Nik Kershaw’s first two albums were released within eleven months in 1984. There followed a gap of almost two years until third album “Radio Musicola” came out, which will have no doubt had an effect on its chart success given how fast things can change in the world of music, especially pop music.
Four singles were released. “When A Heart Beats” (which was bizarrely not included on the vinyl version of the album) reached number 27, whilst “Nobody Knows” and the title track narrowly missed top forty positions. Fourth single “James Cagney” failed to chart however.
There were some superb Kershaw compositions contained within the album. Not just the singles, but tracks like “Don’t Let Me Out Of My Cage” and “What The Papers Say” were further examples of his knack of writing a great, catchy and memorable melody.
7. Pallas “The Wedge”
Scottish progressive rock band Pallas had achieved some cult success with their first two releases “Arrive Alive” (1981) and “The Sentinel” (1984) and then lost their original singer.
Replacement vocalist Alan Reed’s arrival coincided with a streamlining of the group’s sound. Whilst still firmly rooted in progressive rock, there was more focus on melodies and shorter, more accessible songs. I hadn’t heard Pallas prior to “The Wedge”, however, and my introduction to the band was when they had supported rock legends UFO in November 1985.
Not as well known as the work by fellow progressive rock band Marillion in the mid 80s, this album is a cracker. A couple of ballads are present, of which the brilliantly evocative “Just A Memory” is by far the best, but it’s the rockier and proggier numbers that work best for me, like “The Executioner” and, “Throwing Stones At The Wind”.
Best of all is the eight minute epic “Rat Racing”, lots of time changes etc. The use of the Emulator sampling keyboard kind of dates the album, I suppose, but I still enjoy listening to this record as much now as I did when it first came out. An unheralded progressive rock classic.
8. Queen “A Kind Of Magic”
Another band that had progressive tendencies. At least, they did in their mid 70s work. By the mid 80s, however, the band really were firmly into commercial rock / pop territory.
The last Queen album to be promoted with a world tour, which I was fortunate enough to attend at Knebworth Park in August ’86, “A Kind Of Magic” was an unofficial soundtrack to the film “Highlander” (also released in 1986) with six of the record’s nine songs being featured in the film, albeit in different versions.
One of the band’s most successful albums, “A Kind Of Magic” saw an astonishing seven of it’s nine tracks released as singles. Four charted in the UK – “One Vision” (number 7), “A Kind Of Magic” (number 3), “Friends Will Be Friends” (number 14) and “Who Wants To Live Forever” (number 14) – whilst the remaining three, “Princes Of The Universe”, “Pain Is So Close To Pleasure” and “One Year Of Love” failed to do so.
Not the best Queen album, in truth, with the four hit singles representing the very best of the material on offer. The record as a whole suffers from a lack of consistency, perhaps as a result of much of it being written for the film. That said, it’s head and shoulders above the “Flash Gordon” album and does contain two of the very best Queen singles in “A Kind Of Magic” and “One Vision”.
9. Status Quo “In The Army Now”
This was the album that marked the start of the second real phase of Status Quo’s recording career. With founding bassist Alan Lancaster having fought and lost to guitarists Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt over ownership of the band’s name, Rossi and Parfitt reconvened with longterm keyboardist Andrew Bown and a new rhythm section – bassist John “Rhino” Edwards and drummer Jeff Rich to record “In The Army Now”.
The album was the band’s most successful for a while, and produced four UK top twenty hit singles – “Rollin’ Home”, “Red Sky”, “In The Army Now” and “Dreamin'”.
Alongside those numbers there are some really good album tracks like “Save Me”, “End Of The Line”, the country flavoured “Invitation” and my favourite “Overdose”.
Granted it all sounds a little dated now, with prominent 80s keyboards, but this is another album that still gets regular airings.
10. Tesla “Mechanical Resonance”
I discovered US hard rock band Tesla when they supported Def Leppard on the first UK leg of their mammoth world “Hysteria” tour in 1987, but their debut album “Mechanical Resonance” was released in December ’86, so it belongs on that year’s list.
Two tracks saw the light of day as singles, the brilliant “Modern Day Cowboy” and “Little Suzi”.
This is one of those rare albums, and a debut one at that, which contains absolutely no filler. Jeff Keith sings brilliantly throughout, Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch tear out some stonking great guitar riffs and facemelting solos, with bassist Brian Wheat and drummer Troy Luccketta underpinning the whole thing with solidity and power.
Personal highlights include “Cumin’ Atcha Live”, “Gettin’ Better”, “We’re No Good Together”, “Love Me” and “Cover Queen”, but in truth this is one of the best hard rock albums I’ve ever heard and is essential listening from beginning to end. Classic stuff.
1986 was also the year that I passed by driving test, so a lot of this music would have made it onto cassettes and been played on my car stereo, which could go some way to explaining the nostalgic appeal of lots of the music from this year and 1987.
Elsewhere in 1986 Margaret Thatcher was in her second term as the Prime Minister in the UK whilst Ronald Reagan was also in his second term, as President of the USA. In football Liverpool won the old First Division and the FA Cup, securing the Double. Cinema-wise, top films released included “Top Gun”, “Platoon” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.
The next eighties year to be looked at will be 1988…
For this instalment of my top ten albums of the year I’m going back forty years to 1975. I was only 7 years old at the time, so the majority of this list has been discovered retrospectively once I started with my musical obsession at the start of the 80s…
1. Bruce Springsteen “Born To Run”
I first discovered Springsteen’s music through his mega-hit 1984 album “Born In The U.S.A.” and subsequent live box set “Live 1975-85”, and it on the latter that I first heard a good portion of his breakthrough third album “Born To Run”.
Whilst my favourite Springsteen albums are from his late 80s / early 90s period, this is still an undisputed classic album, and the indispensable tracks here include “Thunder Road”, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”, “Backstreets”, “Born To Run” and the epic “Jungleland”.
2. Eagles “One Of These Nights”
In the case of the Eagles it was through their greatest hits album that I was introduced to their music, with three of them coming from this, their fourth studio album.
“One Of These Nights” and “Take It To The Limit” are classic hits and “After The Thrill Is Gone” and the instrumental “Journey Of The Sorcerer” other high points, but the absolute highlight of this album is without doubt the near perfect hit song “Lyin’ Eyes” – great lyrics, perfect harmonies and always brilliant to sing along to.
3. Fleetwood Mac “Fleetwood Mac”
This album saw the band enter its third era following the initial Peter Green blues years and subsequent less revered period.
The first record to feature the now-classic line-up of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie and new recruits Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, this one was hugely successful and featured three hit singles in “Over My Head”, “Say You Love Me” and Nicks’ mystical “Rhiannon” as well as the beautiful and delicate “Landslide”.
4. Geoff Love & His Orchestra “Big Bond Movie Themes”
Now this is one that I did discover back in the 70s, though likely not for a few years after it first came out. Being a big fan of James Bond films for as long as I can remember I loved everything about this album – the music, the great arrangements and, of course, the brilliant 70s cover art.
I think it was the version of “Live And Let Die” that first struck a chord, but there really isn’t a duff track here. There are likely far more critically acclaimed and commercial successful album released in 1975, but this one will always have a place in my top ten of the year.
5. Led Zeppelin “Physical Graffiti”
Led Zeppelin’s sixth studio album, “Physical Graffiti” was originally intended to contain just 8 songs. However, once it became clear that they would not fit onto one vinyl record the band decided to add some tracks recorded during sessions for their previous three albums and make this a double record set containing 15 songs.
A mammoth album in every sense this is constantly jostling for position as number one Zeppelin album in my mind – fighting with “III” and “IV” for that honour. Musically all bases are covered from the epic “Kashmir” to the delicate “Bron-Yr-Aur” but every track here is essential!
6. Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here”
Following up the much celebrated classic “Dark Side Of The Moon” can’t have been an easy task, but despite what they described as tortuous and difficult time Pink Floyd rose to the challenge with “Wish You Were Here”.
Bookended by a brilliant 25 minute epic split into two sections, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Parts I-V” and “…Parts VI-IX”, were three other tracks – “Welcome To The Machine”, “Have A Cigar” and the superb title track. Classics all, making this one of the very best Floyd records.
7. Queen “A Night At The Opera”
Released at the tail end of the year, Queen’s fourth album was reputedly the most expensive album ever recorded at that point.
A critical and commercial success, the record contained two hit singles in “You’re My Best Friend” and the band’s most famous song “Bohemian Rhapsody”, together with the beautiful “Love Of My Life”, Roger Taylor’s “I’m In Love With My Car” and the vitriolic “Death On Two Legs (Dedicated To…)”.
8. Rainbow “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow”
In late 1974 Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore started work on a planned solo album. Once the album “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow” was finished he soon quit Purple and launched his new band which featured vocalist Ronnie James Dio.
Although not the best Rainbow album (surely that has to be the following year’s “Rising”?) this is still a great rock record and contains two stone cold classics amongst its 9 tracks – “Man On The Silver Mountain” and the longest and best track “Catch The Rainbow”.
9. Status Quo “On The Level”
The band’s eighth studio album, and featuring the classic frantic four line-up of Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan, this is just one of a series of brilliant albums that contain no filler whatsoever.
Four of the ten tracks have featured fairly regularly in the group’s live set over the decades since – “Down Down”, “Bye Bye Johnny”, “Most Of The Time” and “Little Lady” – and of the rest the pick of the bunch for me would be “I Saw The Light”, “Nightride” and Parfitt’s ballad “Where I Am”.
10. Thin Lizzy “Fighting”
Although it would subsequently be overshadowed by the following album “Jailbreak”, Thin Lizzy’s fifth album “Fighting” nonetheless qualifies as one of the band’s best studio outings.
The second record to feature what many would call the classic line-up of Phil Lynott, Scott Gorham, Brian Robertson and Brian Downey, this was a definite step forward and highlights included “Wild One”, “King’s Vengeance” alongside bona-fide classics “Suicide” and Lizzy’s cover of Bob Seger’s song “Rosalie”.
So OK, I can’t claim to remember much of this music at the time, but have certainly grown to appreciate it over the subsequent years. But what of the events of 1975? Well, 7 year old me wouldn’t have been aware, I suspect, but the Prime Minister was Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, Derby County won the old First Division, and top film releases included “Jaws”, “The Return Of The Pink Panther” and “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”.
Teignmouth rock band Muse have just released their seventh studio album “Drones”, a concept album based around the theme of the dehumanization of modern warfare.
Matt Bellamy (vocals / guitars / keyboards), Christopher Wolstenholme (bass / keyboards / backing vocals) and Dominic Howard (drums / percussion / synthesizers), having produced the last two albums themselves, decided this time to produce alongside legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange (Def Leppard, Shania Twain).
The album traces the story of a soldier trained to essentially become an unthinking killing machine who gradually becomes disillusioned with the unseeing brutality of warfare, rebels and eventually rises to power himself.
Often thought of as the band most likely to take the place of Queen, with Bellamy’s soaring vocals, hugely layered backing vocals and the progressive and evolving sound that the band have developed throughout their career, it’s fair to say that this album is another step to achieving that – if indeed they haven’t already surpassed Queen in some ways. Certainly theirs is big, bombastic and multi-layered music, and often just as catchy as some of Queen’s greats. To me the difference is that Muse take a bit more listening to – in a good way – and aren’t so “pop” as Queen often were.
Bellamy himself stated that “To me “Drones” are metaphorical psychopaths which enable psychopathic behaviour with no recourse. The world is run by Drones utilizing Drones to turn us all into Drones. This album explores the journey of a human, from their abandonment and loss of hope, to their indoctrination by the system to be a human drone, to their eventual defection from their oppressors”. Sounds complex eh? Add to that suggestions of a second layer of meaning that may, or may not, have something to do with the breakup of Bellamy’s relationship with his fiancée, Hollywood star Kate Hudson, and there’s a lot to digest here.
The record opens with first single “Dead Inside”, a great track that is reminiscent of “The 2nd Law”, and soon up is anthemic second single “Mercy” which follows the more guitar based “Psycho”.
Despite the subject matter and potential sub-plot tackled here, many reviews have criticised Bellamy’s lyrics as being too simple and sub-standard. Why do so many folk seem to think that something only has real value if it’s highbrow and intellectual? There is nothing wrong with using simple words to tell your story, and at the end of the day if the listener enjoys what they hear, who cares what anyone (including me) thinks?
Musically “Drones” is very easy to get in to, despite the progressive and sometimes demanding nature of the music. This is in some way due to the recognisability of Muse’s sound, despite their evolution, together with some familiar sounding passages. For example, “Psycho” has reminders of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” in its guitar riff, “Reapers” has an uncanny echo of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” and the massively epic “The Globalist” loosely uses (I think) Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathétique”. That said, this isn’t spot-the-influence like you might find with Oasis records.
Simply put, this is a superb Muse album. “The Resistance” was brilliant, “The 2nd Law” took a left turn and needed a bit of time to appreciate, but “Drones” is fantastic straight out of the box…