Let’s imagine for a moment, that the period covered in the Q250 was not 1986 – 2011, but 5 years earlier; 1981 – 2006. Of course it would certainly have made a huge difference to the list as it brings in an interesting time in British rock & pop music history that is sadly not represented. Among genres that largely miss out there is ska, 2-Tone and new romantic and bands like The Specials, Madness and Spandau Ballet don’t get a mention. Actually Spandau Ballet is a terrible example but you get the drift. Even The Smiths only just sneak in. This all occurred to me as I prepared for No 240 on the list. I am pretty bloody sure that in 2006, the thought of TAKE THAT making any list of best albums would have been laughable to all but the most die-hard boy band fan. The heyday of Everything Changes and Pray was a distant memory, Robbie Williams had arguably already peaked in his solo endeavours and you had more chance of seeing an ex-member of the band on reality TV than in the charts.
It is an incredible testament to the quality of comeback album BEAUTIFUL WORLD (2006) that it makes the list, as a few months earlier I’d have bet pretty strongly against the possibility of it existing at all. Since the release of this album though, Take That have gone from strength to strength, and the Robbie reunion album ‘Progress’ released last year had the biggest opening week sales of any album for 13 years according to the UK’s Official Charts Company. Along the way there have been some fantastic singles (Greatest Day and Rule the World from the Stardust soundtrack for example) but the two lead singles from Beautiful World; Patience and Shine; are among the best in the band’s career, if not any bands career. So come on, so come on, get it on, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. Put the Morrisons ad out of your head and watch Mark on a big staircase instead.
Whenever I see the letters R&B together I never really know what I’m going to get. As far as I was concerned it stood for Rhythm and Blues, but that seems to be far to wide and R&B just seems to cover a huge range of musical styles. So a google trip was required and good old Wikipedia tells me that contemporary R&B combines elements of hip hop, soul, R&B and funk. OK, that helps. No wait, it includes R&B. So R&B includes R&B in its subset. I’m going cross-eyed. Let’s try again. Contemporary R&B has a polished record production style, drum machine-backed rhythms, [and] an occasional saxophone-laced beat to give a jazz feel. Aha! I feel I’m getting somewhere here – at least it helps me understand why CLUB CLASSICS VOLUME ONE – SOUL II SOUL (1989) would fit the bill.
In 1989 I was still living in Edinburgh, and by about this time I think I was turning the corner from ‘oops nae cash’ to ‘there’s always money for drink’. I was working in the Head Office of Scottish Widows (smartly re-imagined as Scottish Spinsters in Irvine Welsh’s Marabou Stork Nightmares – a novel that I think actually did give me nightmares) and having what I think could be referred to as the time of my life, although it’s unlikely that I realised it at the time. I was in my first band – variously named Roundhouse, Tinderbox and Some Kind of Silence. I seem to remember that our set list was made up of some original songs of widely varying quality and the odd (definitely odd) Sisters of Mercy cover. Mercy! Coincidentally I was mucking about on t’internet earlier today and tracked down the website for Floppy Records with a biography of Tinkerbell’s Dope Ring, a band that my old band mate and flat mate Arthur Finlay was in after we’d ‘decided’ that our musical project was not likely to change anyone’s life.
Anyway, the kind of smooth polished ‘R&B’ on ‘Club Classics’ was not the type of music I was buying at the time, although I was of course very aware of the big singles ‘Keep on Movin’ and ‘Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)’. It’s still not really my thing, but the album is great to lose yourself in, even if those drum samples sound a bit overused and dated now . A lovely summer sounding record, it was nice to be listening to this as the sun started shining for the first time this year.
1992 was the year that I moved to London, well Enfield just outside London if I’m being accurate. It doesn’t seem right but that’s also the year of release for SEVEN – JAMES (1992). I’d have placed it later.
James are not a band I’d claim to be a big fan of, I think they first hit my radar because they were being championed by Morrissey and of course ‘Sit Down’ was one of those songs that was everywhere; kept off the Number 1 spot by Chesney Hawkes fact fans! I bought Seven; can’t really remember why and prior to this listen my memory of the album was restricted to the two main singles ‘Sound’ and ‘Born of Frustration’. I probably became familiar with those based on listening to the Greatest Hits compilation which got a lot more visits to my stereo. At the time I think I was disappointed with the album and not smitten enough to go for repeated listens. I was surprised then that liked this as much as I did, because I think I expected to get a bit bored. Not so though. I’m still not sure that I will keep going back to this album, but it has made me want to dig out the singles collection again as well as making me consider what lost gems I might find if I revisited all of my record collection. That will have to wait for another time though, as I’ve still got a hell of a long way to go with the task at hand.