Thursday, December 02, 2004

MC MC'S ALBUMS OF THE YEAR: PART II

Top 50 reissues and compilations: nos 40-31

40. EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN Tabula Rasa
2CD redux reissue of the NME's 44th best album of 1993 which remains the closest that Blixa and the boys have ever come to the mainstream. "Zebulon" even sees them careering in the suburbs of a U2-style anthem, but it's doubtful whether Hewson's atomic dismantlers could ever come up with something as poisonously poignant as the crepuscular "Blume" or a performance as demonstrably (auto)destructive as the climactic epic "Headcleaner," which still stands as the best use of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" outside the final episode of The Prisoner.

39. THE HONEYMOON KILLERS Les Tueurs De La Lune De Miel
It is indicative of a profound cultural difference that when Britain went for the avant-art rock tabula rasa in the mid-late '70s, they came up with Deaf School, whereas Belgium gave us the Honeymoon Killers. This long overdue reissue of their 1982 masterpiece ("Route Nationale 7" is the missing link between DAF and Motorbass) comes with the addition of their extraordinary English language EP from 1983, in which the instrumental "Ariane" mutates into the cosmic electro-rock opera "A Deep Space Romance" - in itself the missing link between David Essex's "Imperial Wizard" and Gwen Stefani's "Bubble Pop Electric."

38. VARIOUS Eurovision Song Contest: Istanbul 2004
A better demonstration of current trends in Europop than anything on Idol Factor Academy, and one of Eurovision's vintage years, I think. Ukraine's Ruslana was the deserved winner with "Wild Dance," and its failure to penetrate the British charts is a sad indictment of our Libertine-dominant pop tastes. Even Turkey's Athena, with "For Real," manage to do Real Rock better than the equivalent 27 items which you'll find listed in the NME's Top 50 Albums of 2004. Similarly, Germany's Max, with "Can't Wait Until Tonight," demonstrated a delicacy of soul not witnessed since side two of the Style Council's Café Bleu; Sweden's Lena Philipsson's "It Hurts" is an excellent example of vintage 1974-style Eurovision pop existentialism; and Sakis Rouvas' Grecian entry "Shake It" insisted in colourful crassness that it could still be 1974 if anyone wanted it. The only country really to let the side down is, you guessed it, Britain, with James Fox's "Hold On To Our Love" - another sub-sub-Diane Warren formulaic AoR tremulous caterwaul which demonstrates why OutKast are so big and Darius, unless he goes truly mad, never will be.

37. VARIOUS Richard X - Back To Mine
Superb mix CD of various '80s and '00s neurasthenic electro-stompers, ranging from the blue period Neptunes double whammy of Kelis "Young Fresh And New" and Nivea's "Runaway" via half-forgotten jewels like Animotion's "Obsession" and Heaven 17's finest six minutes, the 12" mix of "Let Me Go" to Mum and Dad's utterly fantastic "Dawn Rider," FPU (aka Tiga)'s bareknuckled deconstruction of "Crockett's Theme" and the Silures' phenomenal "21 Ghosts," the latter of which clearly lays out the template for "Some Girls." If only Richard X had got Linda Lamb to "sing" the latter. A shame that the mix had to be marred by the overrated session singer who appears on track 3, but since it's immediately succeeded by Jona Lewie's immortal "You'll Always Find Me In The Kitchen At Parties," I suppose I can find it in my pre-Christmas heart to forgive him.

36. CRISTINA Doll In The Box
The Ze Records rehabilitation/reissue programme continues. This is one of two Cristina albums shortly to be re-released, and if either were the new Madonna album the world would be a much purpler place. Sleep It Off does include classic performances such as her reading of Brecht and Weill's "Ballad Of Immoral Earnings," "Don't Mutilate My Mink," "He Dines Out On Death," and the best Christmas single ever, "Things Fall Apart" ("I got a cab back to my flat/I wept a bit, and fed the cat"), but Doll In The Box is the first one to go for, including as it does deathless postmodern songs like "Jungle Love," "Blame It On Disco" and "Disco Clone," not to mention, for the first time anywhere in quarter of a century, the reappearance of her startling demolition of "Is That All There Is?" previously withdrawn from circulation following objections from Leiber and Stoller to the lyrical alterations ("He beat me black and blue and I loved it," "Let's bring out the 'ludes!") and which you should arguably purchase RIGHT THIS SECOND.

35. KYLIE MINOGUE Ultimate Kylie
Far from ideal - the 2CD package is split up equally between SAW Kylie and post-SAW Kylie, the former omitting her finest SAW moment, "Turn It Into Love" (you'll believe that Kylie can turn into Morrissey!), and the latter noticeably missing out "Some Kind Of Bliss" and "Where Is The Feeling." However, that only leaves about half-a-dozen works of unalloyed pop genius on each CD, so it'll do for now. I agree that the addition of Paul Morley sleevenotes would have elevated the position of this compilation by some 30 places.

34. GENESIS The Platinum Collection
3 CDs, including practically everything they ever did that was interesting; and my goodness, weren't they a rather fantastic pop band at their peak? CD1 covers the Patrick Bateman period and is thus mostly rank, apart from odd things like "Land Of Confusion" (admit it) and "Tonight Tonight Tonight" (ADMIT IT), but CD2 is nigh faultless with gems like "Turn It On Again" (rivalling "Being Boiled" and "Bridge To Your Heart" as the best false count-in intro in all of pop), "Abacab," "Misunderstanding" and "Many Too Many," the latter of which always fills me with sadness as I associate it with the last day of term at school in June 1978. We broke up at lunchtime following the prize-giving ceremony and I took a train into Glasgow to do some browsing. As I saw the low houses of Kylepark disappear over the other side of the Clyde stream I had the feeling that I would not actually see any of my friends for two months, as they were pretty well all (myself included) starting summer jobs. It felt like the end of childhood, and maybe the end of unconsciously lived "life." CD3 has the best of the Gabriel era, including all 20 minutes of "Supper's Ready" as well as "The Carpet Crawlers." Come on, you want this, don't you?

33. VARIOUS Giant 45
Exquisite downbeat 2CD compilation by Norman Jay including some precious gems like Low Budget Soul's flattening nine minutes of genius that is "Mystery Rose/Waves" (Sweet Sensation meet mid-period AR Kane) and D'Nell's "Time To Say." The moment's silence which separates Tom Clay's still startling 1971 anti-war cut-up "What The World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin And John" and Aretha's "I Say A Little Prayer" brings shocking new meanings and found poignancy to both.

32. CANDI STATON Candi Staton
Yes, she did do things other than That One Bloody Disco Song. In fact she was a bit like Verity out of The X Factor; denied a singing career by what could fairly be described as a cunt of a husband, she nevertheless fled to the production arms of Rick Hall at Muscle Shoals, who in the early '70s set her to work on astounding interpretations of the likes of "That's How Strong My Love Is" and the most wounded reading of "Stand By Your Man" you will ever hear, as well as superb originals like "Do Your Duty" and "I'd Rather Be An Old Man's Sweetheard (Than A Young Man's Fool)." A hurt and bleeding voice, yet a voice capable of embracing you in its fundamental passion; this is the sort of album which Joss Stone should be making ten years down the current line. Oh, and it's the second entry on the Honest Jon's label, bless them.

31. BRIAN AUGER Get Auger-Nized!: The Anthology
Must admit I'd previously dismissed the veteran Brit organist as an Ike Turner to young Julie Driscoll's Tina, but this 2CD compilation demands that he be reconsidered. It surely is a demented mind which would produce something as startling in 1966 as "Tiger" (literally, "Wild Thing" played backwards, and later forming the basis of Bentley Rhythm Ace's "Midlander") or whose Hammond would swirl and pummel atonally alongside and behind and below Julie's fantastic vocals on "The Road To Cairo," "Indian Rope Man," etc. And then in the '70s he proceeded to rival Bob James as the chief progenitor of These You Have Sampled - "Happiness Is Just Around The Bend" is Georgie Fame parachuting down from Apollo 9 and accidentally inventing Jamiroquai, but perhaps greater attention should be given to the fact that his Zoot tribute "George Bruno Money" is the only song to my knowledge to mention Gunterstone Road in W14 ("for a nice cup of tea, old boy"). Buy it for that reference alone, Saint Etienne fans.

(To be continued on Monday 6 December, with reissues/compilations nos 30-21)