Five classic albums whose musical legacy outlived all the people playing on them

With so many rock n roll icons leaving us in recent years I find myself playing a hell of a lot of albums that feature musicians who are no longer with us these days. Many historic albums from the 60s and 70s  now only have one or two of the personnel who played on them still alive. On Small Faces albums like Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake only drummer Kenney Jones remains with us, of the classic Electric Warrior-era T. Rex line-up we have only drummer Bill Legend still around and the same can be said for Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – with only drummer Woody Woodmansey still around to celebrate the band’s legacy.

But here are five classic albums where none of the musicians playing on them are still with us.

1. Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley: Elvis’s 1956 debut album featured his regular backing band of Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana and Bill Black. Bassist, Black, died in 1965, the king himself passed away in 1977, of course, and Moore died in 2016. The final member of Presley’s original backing trio, DJ Fontana, sadly died this year. The album (with its iconic cover later inspiring the artwork for the Clash’s London Calling two decades later) contains classics like Blue Suede Shoes and Money Honey recorded for Elvis’s new label, RCA, as well as some previously released songs from his original label, Sun Records.

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2. Chuck Berry – After School Session: Although Chuck Berry stuck around until 2017 most of the musicians on his 1957 debut album (which features many classics like Brown Eyed Handsome Man, Too Much Monkey Business and School Days) passed away some decades earlier. Many would argue Johnnie Johnson’s piano was as much an integral part of that early rock n roll sound as Berry’s guitar. However, by the 1980s Johnson was working as a bus driver until support from the likes of Keith Richards put him back in the public eye. Johnson was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few years before his death in 2005.

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3. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced: Hendrix’s 1967 debut was praised by Melody Maker for its artistic integrity and by the NME’s Keith Altham for being brave, original and exciting. However, just three years later Hendrix would be dead, followed by bass player Noel Redding in 2003 and drummer Mitch Mitchell in 2008. They leave behind an album that has been held up as one of the greatest and most influential debuts of all time.

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4. Ramones – Ramones: Critically acclaimed upon its release in 1976 and containing evergreen classics like Blitzkrieg Bop, the album “posed a direct threat to any vaguely sensitive woofer and/or tweeter lodged in your hi-fi” claimed the NME’s Nick Kent. The Ramones would be around for another two decades but at the turn of the millennium Joey (d. 2001), Dee Dee (d. 2002) and Johnny Ramone (d. 2004) would all go in rapid succession of one another, followed by original drummer Tommy Ramone in 2014.

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5. Motörhead – No Sleep ’til Hammersmith: A tearful rock world said goodbye to the seemingly indestructible Lemmy in 2015, only one month after the death of Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor. Just over two years later the last member of Motorhead’s most famous and most memorable lineup, Fast Eddie Clarke, was gone, too. The trio recorded six albums together including this iconic live album. When Lemmy formed the band back in 1975 with a promise that “it will be so loud that if we move in next door to you, your lawn will die” he probably wasn’t expecting to be regularly appearing on Top Of The Pops and releasing a live album that went to number one but that is exactly what happened.

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Folk-rock: album review – Merry Hell ‘Anthems To The Wind’

Merry Hell and their rousing brand of folk rock have been around since 2010 now, rising from the ashes of 90s folk punk band The Tansads. Rather than another album of electrified folk the Wigan-based band take a more pastoral approach this time, with the all-acoustic Anthems To The Wind offering reworkings of established favourites alongside some newer songs.

“… although the band has grown in many ways, we have wanted to continue performing in the more intimate venues where the full electric 8-piece would neither fit nor be suitable. The atmospheric hush of the folk clubs inspired a stripping back of many of our arrangements to get to the very heart of our music’s message,” the sleeve-notes tell us.

Much of the album is recorded live: at Bunbury Village Hall in Cheshire and the Lion Salt Works in Northwich, alongside the Music Projects in Wigan.

It opens with a reworking of Drunken Serenade from the band’s first album. Indeed, a memorable line from these lyrics gives this new album its title. It’s clear that songs like this and The War Between Ourselves lose none of their power through the acoustic treatment and, if anything, become yet more anthemic.

The album also proves an excellent showcase for some of the more poignantly reflective songwriting of the band’s Virginia Kettle, and her lovely vocals, on tracks like No Place Like Tomorrow.

Anthems To The Wind shows Merry Hell continuing to innovate and inspire. A fine album that lives up to its name.

Released: 26th November 2018

http://www.merryhell.co.uk/

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Related reviews:

Merry Hell – Bury Me Naked EP

Merry Hell – Come On England EP

 

Singer songwriter: album review – Marianne Faithfull ‘Negative Capability’

This review was originally published  by Get Ready To Rock here

With a recording career spanning over fifty years ‘Negative Capability’ is Marianne Faithfull’s twenty-first album. Battling arthritis, contemplating bereavement and dealing with loneliness, it’s a highly autobiographical and emotive offering from Faithfull. “It’s the most honest album I’ve ever made,” she says. “I’ve always tried not to reveal myself. There’s nothing like real hardship to give you some depth. I’ve had terrible accidents and I’m really damaged. It’s changed my life forever. I’m in a lot of pain and worked really hard to get strong so I can do my work. The great miracle is I was able to make this beautiful record. I really had no idea how it would turn out.”

Alongside a house band composed of Rob McVey, Warren Ellis and Rob Ellis and Ed Harcourt (who also collaborates with Faithfull on the writing on several of the tracks), Nick Cave also puts in a guest appearance on one track, the magnificent ‘The Gypsy Faerie Queen’ which Cave has co-written with Faithful.

Faithfull’s voice today is a world away from the soft, gentle, wistful lead vocal the world fell in love with when ‘As Tears Go By’ was released back in 1964. Her vocals, aged, deepened and absolutely full of life, love, loss, tragedy and reflectiveness, these songs are delivered with 100% sincerity and conviction. For those wanting to make comparisons, Faithfull even returns to her iconic 1964 Jagger & Richards interpretation, one of two covers on the album, alongside Bob Dylan’s ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.’ Of the new material, the aforementioned collaboration with Cave, alongside the majestic ‘In My Own Particular Way’, the haunting ‘Witches’ Song’ and ‘They Come At Night’ (co-written with Mark Lanegan) are all absolute stand-outs.

With beautiful songs and stunning musicianship in ‘Negative Capability’ Marianne Faithfull has delivered a late-career classic.

Released: 2nd November 2018 on BMG

http://www.mariannefaithfull.org.uk/

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Folk: album review – Daimh ‘The Rough Bounds’

This review was originally published by Bright Young folk here 

Launched twenty years to the day after Daimh’s first ever gig, The Rough Bounds sees the Gaelic super-group in celebratory mode. Unlike The Hebridean Sessions, the live album released to mark their fifteenth anniversary, this new album sees the band looking forward and exploring new material, both self-composed and traditional, rather than revisiting songs from earlier in their career.

“Half of the tunes on the record are written by the band and the other half are traditional, the only exception being that of a set of melodies composed by piping legend, PM Donald MacLeod from the Isle of Lewis. We wanted to pay tribute to one our favourite composers, but the set also serves as a stepping stone between the old tunes and our own contemporary pieces,” explains the band’s Angus MacKenzie.

No knowledge of the Gaelic language is required to appreciate the beauty of the exquisite sounds rolling off the lips of singer, Ellen MacDonald, but the lyrics, we are informed, cover those familiar themes of drinking, feuding and loves lost at sea. There can be few more powerful arguments in favour the band’s outspoken passion for preserving and defending Gaelic language and culture than hearing these lyrics delivered so beautifully on songs like Trusaidh mi na Coilleagan and Tha Fadachd orm Fhìn.

Of the tune sets 12th of June and the Donald Macleod Reels showcase some wonderful pipe-playing, while the uplifting Happy Fish contains some gorgeous interplay between accordion, whistle and fiddle.

Strong melodies, exhilarating pipes, enchanting fiddles, hauntingly atmospheric accordion and breathtakingly beautiful vocals The Rough Bounds is pretty much everything you could ask for from an album of Gaelic folk.

Released: May 2018

https://www.daimh.net/

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First, Last & Always with Darren Johnson

I answered some questions here for Jason Ritchie​’s Rocking Chair blog about albums that mean something to me.

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Darren writes on rock and folk and as well as being a regular contributor to Get Ready To Rock and various other publications he runs his own music blog. He has also handled PR for a number of artists in recent years, including Bernie Torme, Thunderstick and prog-folk outfit Dandelion Charm. Visit Darren’s music blog here: https://darrensmusicblog.com/

The first album I ever bought…

Excluding the albums that I taped off my dad as a kid (Status Quo, Monty Python and so on) and excluding the copy of Highway To Hell that my older step-sister passed on to me when she decided she was punk and would no longer be listening to AC/DC, the first new album I bought (well it was actually a present for my 15th birthday but it was exactly what I asked for) was We’ll Bring The House Down by Slade. I have…

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Live review: Toledo Steel at The Carlisle, Hastings 3/11/18

A third live blast of this band for me in recent months, Toledo Steel are rapidly becoming one of my absolute favourite modern-era heavy metal bands.

Although they released their debut album ‘No Quarter’ earlier this year, the band are not quite new kids on the block, having been around since 2011 and with two prior EPs and a relentless round of gigging under their belts. Unlike a number of similar bands, however, their line-up has been relatively stable during that time and on-stage they are a formidable unit together.

Rich Rutter’s powerfully melodic vocals, combined with the twin guitar assault of Tom Potter and Josh Haysom and some truly, truly memorable songs make Toledo Steel a really great classic heavy metal outfit.

Storming through a set-list including ‘Heavy Metal Headache’ and ‘No Quarter’ from their recent album and ‘City Lights’ and ‘Speed Killer’ from their last EP the impact on the crowd is instant. These are not just great songs. They are fully-formed heavy metal anthems.

And with a nod to the classic era of heavy metal that has done so much to help shape and influence this band we also get a brilliant cover of Judas Priest’s ‘Heading Out to the Highway’.

Following in the footsteps of Black Sabbath and Motorhead in having an eponymously-named killer track they leave us with a momentous blast of ‘Toledo Steel’ for an encore and for everyone to roar along to. Superb!

While the Carlisle is not packed tonight the band absolutely storm the place and it’s clear Toledo Steel have some committed fans in the audience, myself included. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before they are playing on far bigger stages to far bigger crowds. They 100% deserve it.

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http://www.toledosteel.co.uk/

Related reviews:

Toledo Steel – album launch gig in London

Toledo Steel at Mearfest 2017

 

Live review: Ashley Hutchings ‘The Beginnings of Fairport Convention’ at Cecil Sharp House 1/11/18

As well as being a hugely influential musician Ashley Hutchings is a natural raconteur and an elegant wordsmith and here he’s built on his previous touring show (captured on the album ‘From Psychedelia To Sonnets’ in 2016) to put something together specifically about the early days of the band he founded: Fairport Convention.

Part book reading, part anecdotal reflection, part theatrical performance, part quiz show (!) and part full-on folk-rock concert, The Beginnings Of Fairport Convention is a two-hour show celebrating Hutchings’ period with the band 1967-69 and the four iconic albums they released.

For these performances Hutchings has put a full five-piece band together. Initially influenced by the folk rock that was springing up on America’s west coast and the burgeoning singer-songwriter genre Hutchings and his band-mates perform material that the original Fairport performed in their early days: songs like Eric Anderson’s ‘Close The Door Lightly When You Go’ and Leonard Cohen’s ‘Bird On A Wire’. It’s far removed from the English folk rock that Fairport Convention would move on to in just a year or two’s time and Cecil Sharp might be turning in his grave if he were to hear what was being performed in the hallowed venue he gave his name to but Hutchings and co. do a superb job of capturing the sound, and some of the energy, of those early Fairport gigs. (Well I was only a toddler at time so what do I know but to my ears it was like having some of the BBC sessions from Fairport’s Heyday album being brought to life some fifty years later.)

There’s anecdotes, too, of course: the band’s first gig, Jimi Hendrix asking if he could jam with them one night and, for their second album, Sandy Denny joining.

After a short break the band return and Hutchings talks us through the band’s evolution from ‘Britain’s Jefferson Airplane’ to the pioneers of English folk rock, following the band’s tragic crash on the M1. Hutchings recalls the weeks spent poring over manuscripts in the library next door and the revolutionary sounds they began to create together rehearsing in the Hampshire countryside ahead of the recording and release of the iconic ‘Liege and Lief’ album. The unforgettable instrumental from that album (‘The Lark In The Morning’ Medley) is recreated together with a beautiful version of Richard Thompson’s and Dave Swarbrick’s ‘Crazy Man Michael’. Becky Mills, who performs on the aforementioned ‘From Psychedelia To Sonnets’ album, does a beautiful job throughout the evening performing songs once sung by Sandy Denny, Judy Dyble and Iain Matthews.

Ashley Hutchings “the single most important figure in English folk rock” as Bob Dylan puts it, has more than earned his right to celebrate the legacy of the band he helped create in this way and, with the help of some talented musicians, gives us a very entertaining two-hour show.

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http://ashleyhutchings.co.uk/

Related reviews:

Album review – Ashley Hutchings ‘Twangin’ ‘n’ a-Traddin’ Revisited’

Album review – Ashley Hutchings ‘From Psychedelia to Sonnets’

Album review – Fairport Convention ‘What We Did On Our Saturday’

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention August 2017

Albion Christmas Band at Kings Place 16/12/14

Folk/singer songwriter: album review – Steve Tilston ‘Distant Days’

This review was originally published in the Autumn 2018 issue of fRoots magazine

Just as Richard Thompson went down the acoustic retrospective route a few years ago with the very well-received Acoustic Classics, Steve Tilston follows with this excellent nineteen-track album which reworks songs from across his almost five-decade career. À la Thompson, it’s just Tilston, his guitar, his voice and his songs. There’s a beautifully laid-back vibe to the whole affair which really gets you focusing on the songs and appreciating just what a finely talented song-writer Tilston is.

Highlights include the autobiographical On The Road When I Was Young, which originally appeared on his 2008 album Ziggurat; I Really Wanted You, from his first album in 1971 An Acoustic Confusion; and his most covered song The Slip Jigs And Reels, originally released in 1992. There is also some deft guitar work on the previously unreleased instrumental Shinjuku, dedicated to Bert Jansch.

It’s efficiently packaged rather than lavishly so, with all nineteen tracks squeezed on to a single disc. However, detailed liner notes from Tilston himself give a track by track run-down on the inspiration behind each song as well as details on where they first appeared.

Much admired as an artist, much covered as a song-writer Distant Days is a timely celebration of the gentle force of nature that is Steve Tilston. With some lovely guitar, poignant lyrics and gorgeous melodies Distant Days is turning out to be one of my favourite releases of the summer. Highly recommended.

Released by Riverboat Records July 2018

http://www.stevetilston.com/

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Live review: John Fogerty at the O2 25/10/18

A few years ago when, tragically, we began to lose more and more of our rock ‘n’ roll icons I made list of artists I had never seen live before but wanted to catch before they finally stopped touring. I had pretty much ticked off everyone on my list (Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Ritchie Blackmore, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sabbath with Ozzy, The Who, Steve Winwood, Roger McGuinn) apart from two – Chuck Berry and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty. Sadly, a Chuck Berry gig was not to be but at London’s O2 I finally got the chance to see John Fogerty.

Before Fogerty we have a full set from the Steve Miller Band, Miller himself celebrating fifty years in the business as he delights us with classics like ‘Abracadabra’, ‘Space Cowboy’ and ‘The Joker’. I’ve sometimes found the atmosphere in the O2 a bit sterile at times, particularly for support acts, and even though I can’t help feeling I would have liked to have seen this hour-long set in a more intimate venue nevertheless he and his band are warmly received and there is genuine affection for Miller and co.

After the interval the atmosphere is simply buzzing as John Fogerty takes the stage. His voice, his guitar, his songs and his stage demeanour leave every member of the packed O2 in no doubt that we are in the presence of one of the true icons of American rock music. The classic songs come thick and fast: ‘Travelin’ Band’, ‘Up Around The Bend, ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’, ‘Born On The Bayou’ and many, many more. And paying tribute to the musical traditions of the American south the band deliver fine covers of ‘My Toot Toot’, ‘Jamabalya’ and ‘New Orleans’ before launching into another round of era-defining Creedence classics, including ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain’, ‘Fortunate Son’ ‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Proud Mary’. Fogerty’s post-Creedence output is represented by ‘The Old Man Down The Road’ (the track for which Fogerty was famously accused of plagiarising one of his own earlier songs in one of his many legal battles) and ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’ (indelibly imprinted in the minds of every British rock fan due to Status Quo’s legendary cover – but it’s great, for once, to see the song performed by the man who wrote it).

My one tiny regret is that we don’t get ‘Some Day Never Comes’ a moment of sheer unadulterated brilliance on CCR’s very patchy final album, recorded just as the band were imploding. Nevertheless, every single second of John Fogerty’s set tonight is a bucket-list performance at a bucket-list gig. I am very happy I was there to witness it.

Set-list:

Travelin’ Band
Green River
Hey Tonight
Up Around the Bend
Who’ll Stop the Rain
Lookin’ Out My Back Door
Rock and Roll Girls
Good Golly Miss Molly
Psycho
Long as I Can See the Light
Mystic Highway
Born on the Bayou
My Toot Toot
Jambalaya (On the Bayou)
New Orleans
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
Rockin’ All Over the World
Down on the Corner
The Old Man Down the Road
Keep On Chooglin’
Fortunate Son
Bad Moon Rising
Proud Mary

https://johnfogerty.com/

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Singer/songwriter: album review – JR Harbidge ‘First Ray of Light’

This review was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

Involved in the Midlands music scene since his teens, in bands such as the grunge-influenced Third Bullet as well as production work for a variety of outfits, a change of direction, together with a change of location, has led to a new, more introspective approach for JR Harbidge. Out goes the harder-edged rock artist to be replaced by a soulful, Americana-tinged singer songwriter. The album itself has flavours of Bob Dylan, Crosby, Still & Nash and Neil Young.

There’s a distinctive feel to Harbidge’s vocals, some nice acoustic guitar work and some fine supporting musicians who capture that laid-back Americana vibe just perfectly. The thing about the whole singer songwriter routine, though, is that you really have to have the songs to pull it off. And I’m pleased to say Harbidge has more than delivered in that department. There’s a maturity about the song-writing that belies the fact this is a new direction for the artist.

Covering themes from the personal to the political, from relationships (‘The Side Of You That Cares’) to war and peace (‘I Won’t Support Your Wars’) the songs are engaging and the lyrics elicit empathy. Harbidge has an ear for a good tune as well: “I always try and bring out melody in everything because I live to sing along to songs. If I can’t sing along to a song I’m not interested in it.”

With a voice you can easily warm to, songs you can easily relate to and melodies you can hum along to this is a worthy solo debut for JR Harbidge. Well worth exploring further.

Released by Absolute via Universal/Sony on 5th October 2018

https://jrharbidge.com/

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