This week’s update takes a look at some of the least-heard albums on the 1001, according to Listchallenges.com. These seven are ones that had been heard by just 1% of the Listchallenge community.
Dion, ‘Born to be With You’.
Dion was a doo-wop singer in the 50s with his group Dion and the Belmonts, and had had a number of solo hits in the 60s, but by the 1970s he was aiming for a more mature sound and recorded this one with Phil Spector in 1975. Spector acted as both producer and label boss for this and, typically, was a pain in both roles: his drinking and erratic temper made the sessions an ordeal and he held the release off for six months to build up anticipation that didn’t exist. Nobody paid any attention to this on its release, but later admirers include Jason Pierce, Pete Townshend and Jarvis Cocker (who sampled one of the tracks on this album for his own underheard solo album). This is largely a soul/rock album reminiscient of Spector’s work with Lennon. It’s okay, but its position on the list deserves questioning when there’s such little 50s/60s soul and Spector stuff on the list.
The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, ‘Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury’.
DHH were an American hip-hop band who toured with U2, Nirvana and others in the early 1990s and whose approach to names appeared to be the same as their approach to songs: i.e. as long as possible. There’s a clear Public Enemy influence on this record, in the vocal delivery, socially-conscious rhyming and the Bomb Squad-style backing. It is too long – I’d have cut the jazz vocal/guitar track and the Dead Kennedys cover, which on paper seem like they’d be the most intriguing cuts. Overall, though, this is a good album, full of ideas both musically and lyrically.
Abdullah Ibrahim, ‘Water From An Ancient Well’.
The crappy artwork and the album title might make you think there’s a naff New Age album here, but Ibrahim was in fact a South African jazz pianist. The last African jazz album I listened to was Fela Kuti’s confrontational ‘Zombie’; although South Africa in 1986 was a fraught place to be, Ibrahim’s work is more downbeat Duke Ellington numbers (and is instrumental anyway). The album has some highlights (the title track, ‘The Wedding’) but there’ll no doubt be better jazz albums on the list.
The Icarus Line, ‘Penance Soiree’.
The Los Angeles noiseniks were in a tough position during the recording of this album: the label weren’t interested, and guitarist Aaron North packed it in to join Nine Inch Nails once the record came out. The feel of decay and disintegration permeates the album, particularly in the dissonant shapes thrown by guitarists North and Alvin DeGuzman. It’s at its weakest when it reverts to routine hard-rock posturing: singer Joe Cardamome is especially guilty of falling back on 80s cliches that undo the collapsing Stooges sounds of the band.
Elis Regina, ‘Vento de Maio’.
Regina was a Brazilian singer who, at the time of this recording, was becoming a thorn in the side of the government: she was increasingly outspoken against them in public but they couldn’t jail her because she was so popular. While Latin pop can often sound like much of a muchness to ignorant northern hemisphere philistines like me, the feisty charisma and personality with which Regina infuses these songs really distinguishes them. The guitars often keep up as well, being bright and enjoyable. Although the sequencing is chaotic, this is a strong collection of songs. Depressingly, this was a late-era Regina even though she was only 32: she died in 1982, aged 36, of what Wikipedia describes as an “alcohol, cocaine and temazepan interaction”. This is her only entry on the list: her Antonio Carlos Jobim collaboration ‘Elis and Tom’ is hailed as the best bossa nova album ever, but does not appear here.
The Sabres of Paradise, ‘Haunted Dancehall’.
While this might sound like a splinter wing of the Islamic State (hopefully a collaboration with post-rock band Isis isn’t on the cards), the Sabres were in fact an Andrew Weatherall dub project. The album is very much an experiment in soundscapes: a cinematic sound that never receives a killer melody to go over the top of it. The atmospherics would make a fantastic soundtrack but with no tunes, this album belongs in the background. Also worth noting that this album’s dub stylings made it onto the 1001 but King Tubby and Lee Perry are nowhere to be seen.
Nitin Sawhney, ‘Beyond Skin’.
Sawhney is a British-born Indian whose collaboration with friend Sanjeev Bhaskar led to a radio show that eventually became 90s cultural phenomenon ‘Goodness Gracious Me’. No jokes on this album though, which applies Indian cultural influences to downtempo dance music. The range of sounds and influences present on the album – Satie-ish piano, Spanish guitar – means the album’s perhaps more intriguing than it sounds, although it strays into dull meandering more than once. Pretty good.
Next time, I’ll be looking at some of the heralded classics (according to music magazines at least) that I’ve never previously heard. I’m away on holiday next week but, all being well, a new update will still appear due to WORDPRESS MAGIC.
Progress: 265/1001 (26%)