Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Cheeser's Choice: My Top 10 Favourite Albums

Music was my first love and it will be my last,
Music of the future
and music of the past.
To live without my music
would be impossible to do,
In this world of troubles,
my music pulls me through.

So sung John Miles in his simultaneously pompous and thrilling hit “Music Was My First Love”. And never a truer word has been spoken. For I too share the very same philosophy as he. And I’m willing to bet many of you out there feel the same. I’ve always been a big fan of…I was going to say oral, but perhaps “audio” would be slightly more appropriate. My musical tastes have always been fairly eclectic, although I guess I’ve never been much of a rock or heavy metal fan.

So under the banner of another “Cheeser’s Choice” post, I wanted to share with you some of my favourite artistes. Or to be precise, my top 10 musical albums. Whittling them down to a mere 10 has been bloody hard actually. There’s lots of others that I love too (hence the shorter, "Bubbling Under" list at the end) and of course, one’s tastes can shift and change over different periods…anyway I hope you enjoy. As per usual I tried to make this relatively short, but for me that’s usually nigh on impossible, so it’s pointless me trying to explain my way out of that one. And as I’ve always said, when you’re waxing lyrical on your favourite topic, it’s kind of difficult to be succinct….Anyway fasten your seatbelts, pop pickers, as without further ado, here comes Album Numero One…

1. Hounds of Love - Kate Bush

As I once said on a post on “Army Dreamers”, I used to seriously rip the p*ss out of Muff, I mean, Kate Bush. With her vocal affectations (Wowwww!!), crazy dance movements and so forth it wasn’t particularly cool to like her. Until the arrival of "Hounds of Love", that is. Kate’s 1985 come-back single "Running Up That Hill" really grabbed my attention with its pounding, percussive rhythms and intriguing lyric about making a deal with God. After hearing it, I thought I'd check out the album and I wasn't disappointed. By this stage Kate's voice had really matured, managing to sound sensitive, child-like, gusty and sexy in equal measures. Moreover, there are some excellent tracks that meld good melodies with unusual production. Kate’s earlier albums were much more simplistic – piano and guitar affairs - but by the mid 1980s she was being a lot more experimental and adventurous, using synthesisers, drum machines, string and brass sections, vocal effects and a string of other techniques to enrich her repertoire.

Ms Bush circa 1980s looking somewhat imperious and haughty but gorgeous nonetheless...

After the introductory “Running”, comes title track “Hounds” with a great bang-bang beat, stirring strings and a belting vocal: “When I was child, running in the night, afraid of what might be…” And some hilarious “oww oww” backing vocals which sound like dogs but fortunately don’t ruin the effect. A mini-epic. “The Big Sky” follows, a rock and roll stomper with another great vocal from Kate. It’s a bit of a one-note song but engaging and lively nevertheless. "Mother Stands For Comfort" is a gentle ballad undercut by breaking glass sound effects. And the final track on Side One (as it was back in the days of vinyl) is one of KB’s best, “Cloudbusting”, all about a professor who invents a rain machine and his relationship with his daughter. Lovely strings, pounding percussion and a passionate vocal from Kate: “Every time it rains, you’re here in my head, like your sun’s coming out. Ohhhh, I just know that something good is going to happen…” The track builds to an amazing crescendo as the drums and beats grow louder, reaching a euphoric conclusion with a cute steam train effect to round it all off. I also loved the accompanying video with Donald Sutherland as the Professor and Kate in spiky wig and dungarees as his son! And did you know that “Cloudbusting” was sampled by the dance act Utah Saints? It was wiiiiicked!

The "modelling bits of a hedge" look. Naturally Kate pulls it off with aplomb.

Even more intriguing is the “Side 2" of “Hounds”, entitled "The Ninth Wave" a conceptual piece all about a girl drowning in the water, with lots of sound effects and more weirdness. Yes, sounds VERY 1970s prog rock I know, but fortunately La Bush does it much better than groups like Marillion and Yes (I’ll be having fans up in arms now I expect…) Take “Waking the Witch” for example – it starts with lots of voices in a variety of accents: “Wake up love!” “Wake up child, pay attention!” invoking a kind of having dreaming/waking state as the child comes out of sleep. Then, a sinister voice like something out of a child’s nightmare: “You won’t burn! You won’t bleed!”…” But it all works.

KB today. Nice polka dot number and she holds up pretty well...

Even if you’re not a major Kate fan I’d strongly urge you to listen to “Hounds”. Ms Bush is a highly original, creative, theatrical, literate individual, in a niche of her own and all of these things are part of her charm. And getting into Kate got me interested in a whole lot of other female singer-songwriter types like Joni Mitchell and Judi Tzuke, all of decidedly hippy persuasions.

2. Dare - The Human League

This was one of the first ever albums I possessed. I got it for my 12th birthday I think. It’s a classic of the 1980s, awash with synthesisers and computerised sounds. And although it sounds rather dated and stark now with its Bontempi/ZX Spectrum style production, “Dare” still endures, managing to possess a freshness of its own. And it’s also very danceable.

The League around the 1980s. Dig Phil's fringe!

Over time The Human League have been much derided for their plink-plonk synthesiser sound and ropey backing vocalists, Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall. But that’s part of the appeal. The fact of the matter is, the League’s music is far better than a lot of people have given them credit for. They’ve produced some of the best pop music in history. Their last offering “Secrets” was a brilliant but cruelly ignored piece of electronica. Phil Oakey was, and remains, a brooding lead vocalist and sooo deep (even if he doesn’t always quite hit the right notes), take sample lyric from “Love Action” for example: “I believe, I believe what the old man says, Even though I know there’s no law above, I believe in you, I believe in me, And do you know I believe in love?”

“Dare” also sported a striking white album cover (see above) with “eye shots” of the group. Positively iconic. And what about those era-defining New Romantic haircuts? Phil Oakey’s lop-sided, asymmetric fringe was a force to be reckoned with. AND he was a guy who wore make-up, quite revolutionary in those days. I even remember a girl from my school had exactly the same hairstyle as Mr Oakey and she was the talk of the playground. In terms of fashion The League were on the cutting edge.

As for the album itself, "Love Action" and "Don't You Want Me" are undisputed pop classics, the latter with its universally known lyric: “You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, when I met you.” Great concept too – about a guy who dates a girl and “remakes” her into a star, then finds she’s no longer interested in him (the trappings of fame, eh?) “Don’t” also utilises the (then) unusual song structure of the guy singing verse one and the girl verse two, as a kind of rejoinder to his comments. Other standout tracks? "Do or Die" is brilliant (featuring some percussive effects that sound like someone farting which still make me giggle); “I Am The Law” has a doomy, foreboding feel with its slow tempo and striking synth effects and makes great use of Phil Oakey’s authoritative vocals – “You know I am no stranger, I know rules are a bore, But just to keep you from danger, I am the law!” and "Seconds" is creepy (all about the assassination of JFK) - "It took seconds of your time to take his life, It took SECONDS!!"

For me, the League laid the foundations of 80s synth pop, a genre I still love to this day.

The League today. Are they copying ABBA with their profile shots?

Many argue that this album was never bettered and indeed the follow-up, “Hysteria”, whilst generally okay, didn’t really come up to scratch. That’s what happens when you create a pop classic - you set yourself up for a fall…

3. Destroy Rock and Roll - Mylo

Absolutely bloody marvellous. I was listening to “Destroy” on my iPod recently just to remind myself how good it is.

Mylo in action. Quite a burly fella isn't he?

Mylo (real name Myles MacInnes, born on the Isle of Skye) is a bit of a musical genius. “Destroy” was released in 2004 when he was only 26 years old and he recorded the entire thing on a computer in his bedroom! The first time I heard “Destroy” I was captivated. Cutting edge dance and electronica with a generous helping of sampling is probably the best way to describe it. And in spite of the fact that he’s employed a heavy dose of sampling, drawing on lots of recognisable tracks from the past, young Mylo has created something truly unique, fresh and original.

It kicks off with the wonderfully warm, mellifluous “Valley of the Dolls”, which samples a groovy vocal bit from the soundtrack of the movie of the same name. It’s lovely to listen to, with the vocal fading in and out “phased” style and the whole thing building in intensity.

Then we’re in different, slower territory with “Sunworshipper”, which has a languid, looped synthesiser hook and a quirky sampled bit: “Well, to solve all my problems and get out of drugs, I’d had enough of that, I’d had the college, I’d had the earning the money and the material trip, I just decided I was going to find a new way of life, and so I took off on my bicycle”. Yeaaaah man.

Subsequent tracks veer between up tempo dance and slower numbers, all using electronic effects, computer / synthesiser hooks and sampling. There’s many gems across the album. “In Your Arms” has a tempo that would be perfect for any aerobics class, sampling a lyric from “Waiting For A Star To Fall” and the synthesiser backing from Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis’ Eyes”!! But it works brilliantly, creating an exuberance and energy that’s hard to resist. I also really like “Guilty of Love” (which employs the backing track from Prince’s “Kiss” and a kind of mad, building strings type effect – I just CAN’T think how else to describe it); “Drop The Pressure” an electronic danceathon with a vocoder effect (also released as a clever mash-up with Miami Sound Machine’s “Dr Beat”); “Zenophile” a gentle but danceable little number and the closer “Emotion 98.6”. Old hippie Judi Tzuke’s former hit “Stay With Me Till Dawn” even gets sampled somewhere along the line.

I’m really looking forward to Mylo’s next release, although of course, he’s got the “Difficult Second Album” syndrome to contend with…

4. The Best of Chic/Sister Sledge

I think it was listening to this lot that really helped to get me into 70s / 80s disco, soul and funk, genres which I still love to this day. I remember picking up a vinyl copy of this album in a second hand record shop in York and liking it immediately. And listening to this album made me realise what truly brilliant songwriters and musicians Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers (the core of Chic) were. The excellent guitar hooks and funky bass bits. The strings and melodic hooks. The lay-dees on vocals - whilst not the most memorable of singers, they still managed to contribute to the whole air of sophistication and glamour that Chic projected. This was disco for the rich – as exemplified by the cover of their “C’est Chic” album:

I suppose there was an inherent snobbery and elitism in Chic with their sometimes emphasis on high living and exclusivity.

But in terms of their musical style, there's something about them which still sounds fresh and exciting and cool today. As I mentioned before, the cool bass lines and guitar riffs surely have a lot to do with it, producing a sound which is quite sparse yet elegant and somehow timeless. They also employ strings a lot - a disco hallmark – which work to give Chic’s songs that “classy” veneer. "My Forbidden Lover". "My Feet Keep Dancing." "I Want Your Love" are all excellent tracks.

The material that Chic produced for Sister Sledge was pretty damn marvellous too - "Lost In Music" has a timeless, tragic-disco quality to it. "He's The Greatest Dancer" is fab and has some of my favourite ever lyrics - okay they’re a bit laughable, but hey, here goes:

One night in a disco
On the outskirts of ‘Frisco
I was cruising, with my favourite gang
(was this a woman singing or a gay man?)

The place was so boring
Filled with out of towners touring
I knew that it wasn’t my thing
(than?? Honey!)

I really wasn’t caring
But I felt my eyes staring
At a guy who stuck out in the crowd
He had the kind of body
That would shame Adonis
And a face that would make any man proud…
(lucky him!)

I wonder why? He’s the greatest dancer…


The second verse is even better:

The champion of dance His moves will put you in a trance
And he never leaves the disco alone
(Sounds rather like me)
Arrogance but not conceit (On the other hand…)
As a man he’s complete (No, NO, it IS me!!)
My crème de la crème (Pardon??)
Please take me home (Something I was ALWAYS asked)

He wears the finest clothes
The best designers heaven knows
Ooooh, from his head down to his toes

Haulston, Gucci Pia rucci
He looks like a still
That man is dressed to kill…

WHAT a stud. Wouldn’t mind meeting him. By the way in case you hadn’t guessed, the bits in brackets are NOT the original lyrics…

And of course there was the Chic-produced “We Are Family” – a universal anthem if ever there was one, which still sounds fresh today and a guaranteed floor-filler.

Chic also wrote "Why" for Carly Simon which made her trendy and danceable! I would have loved to have seen the results if they’d done a whole album for her – shame that never saw the light of day.

5. Bad Girls - Donna Summer

Or any of Donna’s other 1970s albums produced by Giorgio Moroder for that matter. "Bad Girls" is one of Ms Summer's finest accomplishments though - a double album of epic disco proportions with a non-stop beat. Well that's not strictly true as there are a few pauses between tracks and side three is all ballads, but the pace rarely lets up.

Ms Summer resplendent in feathers...and erm, not that I'm one for rudeness, but it looks suspiciously to me as though she's sans underwear...

This is Donna la Diva at the height of her powers and the zenith of her career, singing with power and passion and backed up by sassy, soulful production that really makes you wanna jump out of your chair and shake your disco booty. Almost every track is of a high calibre by Miss Summer standards and she's doing what she then did best: knocking out great dance tunes with strong and emotive vocals on the theme of love and relationships. There's excellent musicianship on this LP too; Georgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte and Harold Faltermeyer all wrote and produced the album and it's obvious they work well with Donna. We get lots of great guitar, keyboards and uplifting brass as an accompaniment to Donna's powerful voice, helping make virtually every track on the album a winner.

Donna once dueted with another diva of the high octane vocals, Barbra Streisand!! Not that their number appears on Bad Girls, I just thought I'd mention it...But Matty will be especially pleased by this piccie, I'm sure...

The singles, “Hot Stuff” and “Bad Girls” are already well known and get things off to a rousing start and there’s plenty more where that came from. Some of my personal faves are “Dim all the lights” and “Journey to the centre of your heart”. The former starts off slowly then builds to a dance beat with Donna holding a single note effortlessly. “Journey” has some saucy sax (the instrument that is) and zappy synthesiser effects. I love all the lyrics about her wanting to journey “cross the borders of your mind”. Cosmic, man. "Lucky" is one of the truly amusing tracks on the album - even if this wasn't intentional – all about a girl called Lucky giving into the charms of a mysterious stranger: "Lucky comes easy, Lucky's not shy, And if you're Lucky, You'll go for a ride" (!!) Draw your own conclusions!! There's a bouncy beat to this song that makes it very infectious and fun to listen to. Last but definitely not least is "Sunset People", a strong closer to the album all about Sunset Boulevard in LA and the weird and wonderful goings-on that can be witnessed there...an interesting shift from the previous love songs with a strong beat and haunting synths...a great track.

The album cover of “Bad Girls” is hilarious - Donna looking very sultry and in a rather flimsy outfit, standing next to a lampost with a copper loitering next to her (and is that a truncheon is his hand or is he just pleased to see her?) You see, the title track, "Bad Girls" was all about ladies of the night!! Apparently Donna tried to renounce the album later on, saying it had all been a mistake. Does she not realise it was the greatest move of her career? Anyway, thanks to Ms Summer I got into a whole lot of other disco diva types – e.g. Diana Ross - and thank the lord for that. “Bad Girls” ranks as Donna Summer's opus, the disco/soul equivalent of what "Ulysses" was to James Joyce, for example. No, I am NOT going too far. Hear it for yourself and realise how right I am, ladies and gents!

6. Foxbase Alpha - Saint Etienne

Saint Etienne are a highly creative and eccentric pop group, with Indie leanings, who (I feel) have never achieved the true recognition they deserve. If you haven't heard of The Etienne, they’re an English three-piece band, fronted by classy blonde vocalist Sarah Cracknell, and collectively they have a bit of a 1960s / retro fixation. They’re also named after a French football team. “Foxbase Alpha” was their debut album and released in 1991 (great title by the way, kind of Space: 1999) and it combines '60s type sounds with a more modern pop sensibility / production. Sarah’s cut-glass, oooh so English intonation works really well and her voice has a kind of nostalgic, summery feel to it (God it’s so hard to describe singing / music in WORDS!)

Lead singer Sarah caressing a tower block? Flanked by fellow band members Bob and Pete...

Opening track "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" is a great dance reworking of the original Neil Young song (Sarah’s not on this one but singer Moira Lambert still does a pretty great job with a languid vocal). "Spring" is a lovely 60s-tinged toon, with strings and you can just imagine Julie Christie skipping through a London park whilst it plays. One track, “Girl VII” name checks lots of random places for no particular reason: “Primrose Hill, Staten Island, Chalk Farm, Massive Central (?), Gospel Oak, Sau Paulo, Boston Manor, Costa Rica…” Places the Etienne have all visited? And "Nothing Can Stop Us" is one of my favourite ever Etienne songs, with clipped guitar, lovely strings, horns and a gorgeous multi-tracked vocal from Sarah C: “I never felt so good, I never felt so strong, Nothing can stop us now!” Parp, parp, go the horns. The penultimate track, “Like The Swallow” is eerily effective – a kind of shimmering effect, a hovering flute, weird “monster” noises (again my powers of description are abandoning me) out of which a percussive beat and almost sinister-sounding synthesiser wash emerges with Sarah’s vocal: “She’s like the swallow that flies away, She’s like the river that never runs dry, She’s like the sunshine on the lee-shore (? that’s what it sounds like) I love my love, And love is no law…”

And there are also lots of humorous samples in between tracks (some tracks in fact are constructed entirely of samples). "Would you like some sweets, Willy?" “Come on Auntie, we’ll miss the bus!” "And now it's time for today's...Countdown Conundrum!" All of which contribute further toward the album’s retro / nostalgic feel.

I still love the Etienne. Subsequent albums were all pretty good too such as “Good Humor”. “How We Used To Live” is an epic single in three movements which I’d urge you to check out. Their most recent album “Tales from Turnpike House” was a bit of a flop which was a shame as it was pretty damn good. Viva La Etienne!

7. Dancing For Mental Health - Will Powers

I have already raved about this one elsewhere and its monumental effect on my life. I will spare you my ravings again, but if you want to know more, try here.

8. Discovery - Daft Punk

Daft Punk’s last offering, “Human After All” was pretty cack, a rush job that was apparently recorded in about six weeks and it shows. I’m not altogether keen on “Discovery’s” predecessor, “Homework” either. Granted, “Around the World” and “Da Funk” are two rockin’ good singles - even if slightly monotonous as they’re built around one recurrent hook but which nevertheless are highly funky and danceable – however the rest of “Homework” consists of headf*ck-inducing hard house dance tracks with little decent tune or melody. “Discovery” is an entirely different affair and - zut alors!! - j’adore this album – it’s tres bien. (Gosh, don’t I parlez Francais well, cheries?)

The Punk obviously about to go shopping round Sainsbury's. Oddly enough, this is how they appear in public most of the time i.e. don't show their real faces an awful lot...

In case you didn’t know, Daft Punk are two French DJs who mix together a mish mash of musical styles: Disco, House, Break beat, Electronica and Rock, plus a healthy dose of sampling and scratching. And “Discovery” exemplifies this melting pot of genres / styles to amazing effect.

“Discovery” commences with the single “One More Time” – even though this is probably the album’s most well-known track I actually find it rather samey and not one of their best, but it’s a fairly enjoyable slice of Disco-House nevertheless. “Aerodynamic” comes next, a great song for doing p*ss-take air guitar, which I recall happened once at a friend’s party. “Digital Love” which follows has as an electronic vocal with a wistful, whimsical feel and is gorgeous!

“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” utilises more electronic vocoder effects: “Work it! Make it! Do it – makes us…Harder! Better! Faster! Stronger!” and is a cool dance track as well as being great for a work-out or down the gym. One of my personal favourites, “Crescendolls” is next and its plain loopy / brilliant. Duh duh duh duh duh duh da da da da da!! Okay that didn’t come out very well. It’s very hard to replicate the sound of a song in words you know. It’s disco goes mental and a great track for chucking yourself round the room to.

The album also boasts some lovely ballads / more slower-paced tracks, for instance, “Something About Us” with its soft, vocoder-infused vocal, set against a gentle funky backing and producing a ponderous, melancholic atmosphere. And I love the lyrics:

It might not be the right time,
I might not be the right one.
But there's something about us I want to say,
Cause there's something between us anyway.

I might not be the right one,
It might not be the right time.
But there's something about us I've got to do,
Some kind of secret I will share with you .

I need you more than anything in my life,
I want you more than anything in my life
I'll miss you more than anyone in my life,
I love you more than anyone in my life...

The last line fades away into quietness, almost as if the singer is scared to declare his real love.

Some other favourite tracks include “Voyager”, a funky instrumental with good guitar, “Face To Face” which employs a weird sample that sounds like “Ohh who-oh, Mr Lovelock” (please tell me anyone what it should REALLY be) and “Superheroes” which hilariously samples Barry Manilow repeatedly singing: “Jump into the air” over a pounding house beat and pulsating synths. The latter has a brilliantly cod-epic feel about it, like one of those synthesiser “classics” produced by Vangelis or Emmerson, Lake and Palmer in the 1970s.

C’est fantastique! I sincerely hope the next album by La Punk is up to this standard (come on garcons!! Where have you been??) At the moment it can’t be bettered.

9. Any ABBA album from “Arrival” onwards

I’m cheating slightly here. It’s very difficult to select a “BEST” ABBA album as so much of their output has been pure pop brilliance. When people refer to Steps as “an ABBA for the 1990s” I can’t help but scoff. Granted, the Stock, Aitken and Dennis Waterman produced foursome knocked out some fairly catchy pop numbers, but they’re in a different league entirely to the Swedish supergroup. I’ve already written about why I like ABBA so much, so if you want to know more, go here.

But let me pick one ABBA album by way of example. 1976’s “Arrival” which I remember my parents owning a copy of, on vinyl. The album cover grabs one’s attention from the outset with the Swedish quartet looking very modish in their white jumpsuits, sat in a futuristic looking helicopter…

The album kicks off with the rousing “When I Kissed The Teacher” and some intriguing lyrics:

Everybody screamed, When I kissed the teacher And they must have thought they dreamed
When I kissed the teacher

All my friends at school
They had never seen the teacher blush,
He looked like a fool…

Indeed. At the time of the album’s release I was about 7 years old and I remember taking it into school when my class had a party and we were all allowed to bring in all our music. Oh, the mirth of showing my primary school teacher Mr Illman the name of this track – even he saw the funny side – who really would dream of kissing their teacher?? So daring and risqué! And one that tapped into every school kid’s fantasies (And before you ask, NO it wasn’t a fantasy of mine to kiss Mr Illman although perhaps the fact I shared this track with a male teacher had some significance as regards my later, erm, development…) Anyway “Teacher” has a jangly guitar and ABBA’s trademark triumphant multi-tracked vocals, making it an uplifting album opener.

More jumpsuit action from the fab foursome from Sweeeeeden

Next up is “Dancing Queen”, a song I’m sure you’ve never remotely heard of. I can’t actually think of anything to say about it except that it’s still a great song but has been ever so slightly overplayed. The album includes two other classic ABBA singles as well though – “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “Money Money Money”. The former is a masterpiece of the “relationship break-up” song:

No more carefree laughter,
Silence ever after.
Walking through an empty house, tears in my eyes,
Here is where the story ends, this is goodbye…

The “Knowing me, knowing you, ah-haaa” chorus has of course become notorious and ripe for having the p*ss ripped out of it. But I don’t care! It’s a damn good ballad which somehow manages to be epic and rousing in spite of the negativity of its subject matter - pulsating synths in the background, guitar motifs and the usual excellent vocals from the ladies. I love Agnetha’s whispered responses to Frida’s singing:

Memories (memories!)
Good days (good days!)
Bad days (bad days!)

They’ll be (they’ll be!)
With me (with me!)
Always (always!)

Not to mention the classic video that accompanied this song with Agnetha in a blue halo and the trademark ABBA “profile” poses.

The album's other semaphore single, “Money Money Money”, is ABBA at their most inventive and crazy. It’s a track that’s hard to define – not disco, not quite dance (yet curiously danceable), perhaps more “Fiddler on the Roof” if anything, with it’s lyric about a poor lady wanting to get lucky:

I work all night,
I work all day,
To pay the bills I have to pay
Ain’t it sad?

And still there never seems to be
A single penny left for me,
That’s too bad

In my dreams, I have a plan
If I got me a wealthy man
I wouldn’t have to work at all,
I’d fool around and have a ball...

Wouldn’t we all? I love the cod-Russian, dramatic atmosphere to this number with its harpsichord-like keyboards, melodramatic chords and sweeping bits, not to mention the marvellously cynical, bitter vocals/lyrics from Frida (proof that ABBA weren't always jolly, happy happy postrels...)

Other tracks of note include the lush "That's Me", the ephereal "My Love, My Life" and one of my personal faves, "Tiger", a hilariously OTT, guitar-infused ode to the dangers of the city (something I can relate to living in London):

The city is a jungle,
You better take care,
Never walk alone after midnight,
If you don't believe it,
You better beware of...me.

I am behind you,
I always find you I am the tiger.
People who fear me,
Never go near me I am the tiger.

So menacing! So brooding! So scary!

Okay, enough about ABBA!

10.Rooty - Basement Jaxx

The Jaxx are a DJ twosome from Brixton and they're pretty cool. I guess they're best described as a dance act overall, and yet there's lots more to them than just that. They've embraced a whole welter of styles - from rap to house, bangra to jungle, disco to techno...and create something new in the process. I loved "Red Alert" when it came out - an immediate attention grabber with its zappy ray gun effects and zany lyrics - "Red alert, red alert, it's a catastrophe! But don't worry, don't panic! Ain't nothing going on but history..." Follow up album "Rendezvous" didn't quite do it for me though and although it had its moments like "Bingo Bango" and "Jump N' Shout" I didn't feel it quite fulfilled the potential of "Red Alert". "Rooty" however, was a different proposition, and the album in which Basement Jaxx really did come into their own with some knock-out tunes.

Single "Romeo” makes for an excellent opener to the album:

You keep on giving me the hold up,
You know I wish you'd make your mind up.
Cos when we get it on, it's so-so
You used to be my Romeo...

It's an exuberant track with a driving beat but tinged with sadness at the decay of a relationship:

And I miss the warmth in the morning
And the laughter when I can't stop yawning
But the tears on the pillow have dried my dear
Gonna let it all go cos I have no fear...

There's the jaunty, jamboree "Just One Kiss", and with its steel drums and grooviness a bit like something you might hear at the Notting Hill Carnival". It manages to be dancey and mellow at the same time. "Broken Dreams" utilises melancholic horn and an intro/sampled bit that sounds like something out of "Trumpton"/"Chigley", along with warbly synths and a vocal from a lady who sounds like she's singing underwater.

Then there's "Get Me Off":

Give your body to me,
Give your body to me,
Let your body be free,
Free your body, your body with me.
I want to undress U
I wanna caress U
Don't wanna be coy
It's time to get me off...

Blimey!! And the lady singer isn't talking about turning off the cooker. A saucy, charged number and another pumpin' dancing track, it's got a mean and moody synth backing and a highly intense feel...HOT!

Basement Jaxx in person! Nice white suits, boys...

And let's not forget "Where's Your Head At" - a storming, headf*ck of a track which is brilliant in its madness:

Don't let the walls cave in on u
We can live on, live on without you...

It's sinister but danceable with a nasty background synth and screaming vocals. I particularly like the screeching banshee woman at the end: "Where's your head aaaaaaaaaaaaaat??" The song was also released as a single and had one of the most imaginative/disturbing videos to accompany it - a group of monkeys with human faces in a laboratory break loose and start causing havoc, attacking scientists....uggggh!!

Well. That's about it. Thank you for following me on my musical journey, pop pickers (and yes, as you might have guessed by now, I started this post a long time ago...another labour of love on my part). And as I said at the start, it's bloody hard trying to come up with just 10 best albums of all time. In a few years' time I'll probably have totally revised the list. Hence here's a few that deserve to make the grain but didn't quite make it...

Bubbling under...

Until the End of Time - The Sunburst Band

They're groovesome! They're fab! They're funky! Okay all a bit obvious but this is a truly wonderful album. It's great when you come across a brand new band/artiste you've never heard of before and they take you by surprise...Joey Negro is a man who can do no wrong, a Brit DJ with a 70s/80s disco/soul/funk fixation and this album meshes all of those styles together brilliantly.

The Kick Inside – Kate Bush

KB's debut album and a charming one at that. Although its production is very simplistic by today's standards, "Kick" is still proof of her extreme talent at the mere age of 18 and dealt with some quite adult themes. And "Wuthering Heights" and "The Man With The Child In His Eyes" are weird and wonderful in equal measures.

The Lexicon of Love – ABC

Slick, classy and stylish, ABC eptomised the 1980s but also produced damn good pop. They also utilised a full orchestra on this, their debut album, adding further sophistication to proceedings and lead singer Martin Fry was the master of the wry and witty lyric. "Poison Arrow" and "The Look of Love" were just the icing on the cake.

Thriller – Michael Jackson

I remember the first time I heard the rap by Vincent Price from the title track of "Thriller" and thinking how brill it was. This is MJ before he turned into a total freakoid robot, back in the day when he knew how to produce truly soulful and decent music (producer Quincy Jones helped out in this dept too). "Billie Jean", "Human Nature", "PYT"...they're all here.

Off The Wall – Michael Jackson

Another excellent MJ long player from the days when Jacko woz good. "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough". "Rock With You". The gorgeous "I Can't Help It". The fab, jazzy "It's The Falling In Love".

Songs In The Key of Life – Stevie Wonder

Brilliant double album from another king (as opposed to MJ = the queen?) of soul, Mr Wonder. When the 80s kicked in, Stevie got all horrid and tacky with stuff like "I Just Called To Say I Love You", but this is him at the height of his powers, turning out passionate and rousing stuff like "I Wish", "Sir Duke", "Pastime Paradise". A classy affair.

Shakedown - The Freemasons

I love uplifting house music and this double album is no exception. The Freemasons bring a classy, feel-good approach to dance music. Great for a party or for working out down the gym. There’s moments of brilliance like “Zap Me Lovely” which can only be described as the Charleston meets House, "Love On My Mind" which you'll probably already know, and even Judie Tzuke on "Love Don't Live Here Anymore!" Blimey!

Wellllll that really is it, folks. Thanks for enduring yet another Cheese-a-thon. But before I go, you just KNOW what I'm going to ask, don't you?? Yes, I wanna know about YOUR favourite albums! It can be your Top 10, it can be a few more or a few less, whatever takes your fancy. And I DON'T expect you to wax lyrical to the extent that I have...just a few lines on each of your fave raves and why you like them will suffice. Ta!

Sooooo...I'm tagging the following peeps: Steve, Amanda, Thomas, Caress, Alan, Matty, Newplanet, Deemer, Nora, Reluctant Blogger and Timewarden! All you gotta do is do a post on your blog about the aforementioned subject...look forward to reading them, folks!!

Oh, and just one more thing I wanted to share with you all...you have just been reading my...

300th post!!!

Hip Hip Hooray!!


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  • At 2:26 pm , Blogger newplanet said...

    Woo-hoo! A blog project. And hey, your album list is way too cool. You just know that mine is going to be full of completely throwaway cheesy pop. Wait a minute... hurrah! This is going to be bloody brilliant.

    Congratulations on your 300th post, by the way. Here's to the next 300!

  • At 2:33 pm , Blogger Steve said...

    Hearty congrats on reaching 300. An impressive milestone and no mistake. And such a cool post too - made only better by all those gorgeous pics of Kate Bush. I've been a fan for years and still bore people with the fact that I own nearly every record she's ever released. Hounds of Love is a fabulous album but for me This Woman's Work is her ultimate masterpiece - it's got so much depth to it, it's amazing. The Fog is my all time favourite KB track. Good to see Chic on there too - my mum was a big Chic fan so Le Freak was a big part of my early childhood. I'm sure I own a best of Donna Summer somewhere - bought purely for I Feel Love and State of Independence - both fantastic songs.

    Right, I need to get my thinking cap on now and start delving into my extensive record collection. I've a feeling a lot of eighties stuff is going to be resurfacing at Bloggertropolis in a day or two...!

  • At 4:55 pm , Blogger Caress said...

    Hey Hey Hey

    I like some of your style - not as Cheesy as I expected but fabulous!!

    Abba's Arrival and especially Tiger get me goin and grooving!!

  • At 9:49 pm , Blogger hot-lunch said...

    wow great post! i need to sit down at home to read it otherwise people at work will wonder why i'm looking at photos of miss donna summer!

    I was actually going to do a post on my top ten favourite songs of all time (a list that i have been crafting for a while now), but i'll be sure to do this tag first! Thanks for thinking of me!

  • At 11:17 am , Blogger Reluctant Blogger said...

    Hey what fab choices. If I had to be marooned on a desert island with only 10 albums these would be fine.

    Thanks for the tag. Yikes, what a tough one though. I'll let you know when I've done it.

  • At 11:17 am , Blogger Reluctant Blogger said...

    Oh yes, and congrats on your 300th post. That's an amazing achievement.

  • At 11:28 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    Congrats on reaching your 300th, Simon, and with such a large one too! A lot of work was obviously involved making you more than just a part timer, I would say!!

    Love Kate Bush, as you know, but think her earlier songs are rhythmically, harmonically and melodically more interesting than her later ones, if not necessarily in the way her tracks are "treated" in the studio.

    Favourite Abba song is "SOS". I can't hear "Knowing Me, Knowing You" without thinking of "The Vicar of Dibley"!

    I like The Human League, too, and have some of their stuff from before the time Phil picked up the two girls at his local disco! I wonder if that was a musical decision - "The Things that Dreams are Made of", eh?!!

    Also like St. Etienne. Remember seeing them on "The Pops" several times but they weren't as big as they should've been. Sarah would certainly have been foxy on Moonbase Alpha!

    Tagging challenge accepted!!

  • At 1:30 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Newplanet - Thank you! Yes, of course, I expect yours to include lashings of Kylie, Kim Wilde, Kylie, Madonna, and then more Kylie. We shall see eh?! I'm sure you'll have a ball writing it, as like me I know you're passionate about these things! And thanks for the congrats!

    Steve - Thank you, good sir. As you might have guessed, I "saved up" this post so it would be my 300th - not too calculated, eh.

    Great that you're a KB fan and I'm with you on Hounds and This Woman's Work. I'm not so keen on The Fog though, I don't think it has much of a decent tune (sorry!) Each to their own though. It does have that characteristic KB loopiness however, for sure!

    How funny that your Mum was into Chic! Was she a disco chic?? And I totally agree with you about those Donna S tracks - State of Indepedence is sublime.

    Eighties stuff!! Hoorah!! Looks like your list is going to cheesier than mine!

    Hot Lunch - Hi hi hi! Now what could possibly be wrong with looking at pics of Donna Summer at work?!

    Interesting that you were thinking of doing a similar list....like Newplanet I know you're into your music big time, so I can't wait to see your choices!! (Kylie and Madge perhaps?!)

    Caress - Hello darling! You know, you're right, after I'd put together the list I realised that it wasn't that cheesy after all. I didn't include any Kylie or Madonna or much 80s stuff...oh well! Yes, Tiger is a great track!

    Gina - So glad to hear that you approve of my choices! I very much look forward to seeing yours. And yes it is an achievement to have made it to 300 (I feel like a Time Lord - quite a young one though).

    Tim - You're right, I do "chip away" at my blogging, doing a little bit here and there...perhaps I might have accumulated more posts by now if some of them were shorter!!

    I can see your point about KB, I guess some of her later tracks were dictated a bit by production rather than melody. But she'll always have it for me...

    Mmm, I haven't heard much Human League stuff pre-arrival of girlies! Would be interesting to hear it!

    You're right about the Etienne, they have never really made it big despite getting into the charts. Unjust! I really like the thought of Sarah Cracknell as one of the Moonbase Alpha personnel...I can just see her as the new Maya or some exotic alien...

    Thanks for taking up my tagging challenge!

  • At 3:45 pm , Blogger thomas said...

    300 posts - wow - give me a couple of days for this, hope I can get it done before Sat. It'll be old stuff mostly cos I'm old :-) and if it's all time favourites you have to go back to the records that still make an impression after all these years. I want to do a "right now" list too to contrast, we'll see how much time and energy i can put into this, but thanks for the tag :-)

    I've only bought "Dare" last year actually, but I likey!

    cheers, thomas xxx

  • At 10:26 am , Blogger Reluctant Blogger said...

    Hi there,

    Well, i've done mine. I had great fun looking out old albums and listening to all sorts of stuff I hadn't heard in ages. So thanks.

    It was so hard though and actually the list ended up a bit weird - and not at all cool.

    No laughing now!!!

    Gina x

  • At 1:45 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Thomas - Wow indeed! Thanks for taking up my challenge. Nothing wrong with old stuff and I'm not much younger than you, as it so happens!

    I like the idea of your "right now" list, it's true there is always stuff that one is currently into, as opposed to the more enduring stuff one has liked for years. Good plan!

    Gina - Just been over to your blog and seen your list! Well done...and I'm not giggling atall! Very interesting and eclectic...go and see it, fellow bloggers! I'm glad it got you into listening to old stuff too, blast from the past eh?

    OC xx
    Glad you got Dare too, belatedly!

  • At 2:33 pm , Blogger Flaming Nora said...

    Thanks for the tag, OC. I've been racking my brains trying to pick my top 10, I've got 5 which I will blog right now!

  • At 10:38 pm , Blogger Deemer said...

    Hey there! Congratulations on your 300th post!! Something to be proud of. After seeing the magnitude of your posts like this one, I'm just dumbfounded on how much time you put into it. It's really quite something. I have to read it in bits. I am very intrigued by your choices, especially putting Mylo in at #3. I don't think I ever listened to that one. Lot's of info and discovery here. Thanks!! I will try my best with this one!

  • At 1:44 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Nora - Just been over and taken a peek at your blog - well done, chuck!

    Deemer - Loving the Rubic's cube avatar! Agreed, my posts can be...volumous. Well, as I said, I started writing it several months back and kept adding to it as time went on, tis the only way...

    Actually my albums aren't listed in any order of preference. You MUST listen to Mylo, I insist! I know you have a bit of a thing for retro stuff, plus modern stuff with a retro edge e.g. Sam Sparro, so I think you'd like Mylo a lot.

    Anyway look forward to seeing your very own choices!

  • At 2:05 am , Blogger matthew said...

    Oh my God! I LOVE every single LP you listed!

    I'm so excited! I will have to work on my list and hope to have it up soon! Things (as per usual of late) remain a bit upside down for me, but it shall be my next post!

    You inspired me to put on HOUNDS OF LOVE! ...playing right now! Yummmmmmm...

    And, yes, I am quite pleased to see that lovely Scavullo shot on the post! lol!

    Speaking of Chic -- weren't you thrilled when Motown FINALLY released the unused Chic mix of Diana Ross' 1980 LP --- I find it to be so far superior to the one she had her old Supremes producer's ultimately remixed and released version -- tho, I guess his work on "I'm Coming Out" is more commercial than what Chic had originally created. I still feel that their work with Debbie Harry is a lost/forgotten treasure of an LP!

    And, congrats on post 300!!!

    Now, I MUST start working on my fave LP listing!!

    love and kisses from GayTown (for real!)

  • At 7:32 am , Blogger Steve said...

    For some reason Blogger hasn't published your comment on my LP choices however - I look forward to your promised return. Just wanted you to know I didn't have an embargo on your comments! ;-)

  • At 9:23 am , Blogger The Sagittarian said...

    Have been and done the tag and you're the last to look!!

  • At 11:31 pm , Blogger thomas said...

    I've done it now too, I plotted the list very quickly last week (didn't want to dwell on it for too long) but it took me more than a week to actually sit down and write it all down, or at least write something. You probably haven't heard most of them... :-)

  • At 9:39 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Steve - I am a'coming...as they say...Damn that blogger!

    Amanda - Last not but not least I hope! I'm a'coming again....so to speak...

    Thomas - Well done, liebling! I appreciate your efforts...well pop over shortly....

  • At 12:37 am , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Oh and Matty! Sorry I didn't respond to your comments...I'm so glad you liked my choices, babe. Ta! Scavullo refers to the Donna and Babs shot, no?

    Yes it was great that they released the original Chic version of Ms Ross' DIANA album - similar yet different! Sorry to say it, but in some respects I think I preferred the remix version - kind of bit more reigned in and subtle and Diana's voice sounded better on some tracks. Interesting to compare though. Aah yes, that Debbie H album, "Koo Koo"! Might have to track it down...!

    Love and kisses back to you in Gay Town (no longer in Da Oakland Hood!)

    S xx

  • At 10:43 am , Blogger lucyfishwife said...

    What can I say - "When I Kissed The Teacher" is my all-time favourite Abba track, and so often ignored! Taste, dude.

  • At 3:41 am , Blogger The Sagittarian said...

    Hey, I've been and got clever since you last visited!! :-)


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