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

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Stolen Earth

So much for the hiatus. I just CAN'T stay away. Well a little break from the old routine is always welcome (and I'm rather busy this particular weekend) besides which, I just felt compelled to write about last night's DW episode! Yep we've finally reached the season finale. Came round quickly hasn't it? It had a lot riding on it (which I've kind of mentioned before) but here are my thoughts...


It had a very "epic" feel to it as the previous season finales have done.

Rose, you have been refused access to Doctor Who facebook on the grounds of your weird and lispy accent...

The bringing together of all the past companions/characters on the whole worked very well, contrary to fears that it wouldn't, and everyone got a decent amount of screentime.

Nooooo!! Please, please, PLEASE don't show anyone that embarrassing title sequence from "K9 and Company" with me in legwarmers...I'm BEGGING you...

And I liked their various reactions to the invasion of the Daleks e.g. Sarah Jane's terror-struck expression and tears. Well, her and those pesky pepperpots go back a long way, so it was understandable...

And then there were three...until Torchwood Season Three that is...

Having the Torchwood gang in there was a definite coup and I hope they get to properly hook up with the other DW characters later on. The dynamics could be very interesting. Gwen and Donna having a fishwife scrap, anyone?

Well at least I've been in a good few DW episodes...well, it's been fun, boys...Back to the RSC for me, then...Any openings for a corpse with a posh accent?

Great to see Penelope Wilton back as Harriet Jones in a touching cameo and appropriate that she was trying to "make" amends by getting all the major characters to team up and contact the Dr. The "Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister" bit though slightly overplayed was funny stuff. But is this the true end for Harriet? And was she really a "goodie" or is something more sinister going on?

He's BACK and he's menacing! And doesn't have much body left under his tunic! Yuk!!

The resurrection of Davros!! Great performance from Julian Bleach which (so far) is more reminiscent of Michael Wisher than Terry Malloy (I won't even mention David Gooderson). A nice build up of menace with Davros "shrouded in shadows" and he looked good (or should that be bad?) when unveiled. Hope he'll live up to his promise in Part Two.

No, I HAVEN'T fallen out of a bargain bucket of KFC! Exterminate!!

Dalek Caan - now looking rather worse for wear, the poor love, and coming out with all manner of weird comments. But very creepy in his weirdness all the same, a kind of warped Dalek Messiah (well the same could be said for Davros really, couldn't it?)

Black Dalek? Pah. Dalek Caan?? Double pah! Davros?? WHATEVER. I'm better than all of you, nah nah nah!

The Red Dalek was cool. I heard rumours that he was really a human in disguise, but we'll see. Hope he gets a good face-off with his opponents in Part Two.

Okay! Okay! I WILL run down the road in a pair of lurid pink legwarmers!! Just don't kill me...I have a contract for Sarah Jane Adventures series two, after all...

Liz Sladen as Sarah - as good as ever!! Plays the part with such conviction and believability. How will she escape getting exterminated in her car? (I have a strong suspicion that K9 will pop up in the back and zap 'em? Or, maybe Sarah will strip off and shake her bejuvlies at the metal monsters, thus causing them to go into paroxysms of ecstasy? "My vision is impaired, I cannot see...". Erm, yes. That was a TAD rude). Anyway I hope she gets a reunion with Davros - would be highly fitting after, erm, some 33 years?? Perhaps they can catch up with a cup of nescafe and some custard creams!

Sorry, Noble family members, just playing a quick game of Space Invaders...it's good practise you know...

Billie Piper as Rose. Loved her "back off or I'll shoot you with my enormous Terminator-style weapon" bit to the robbers in the shop scene. Very Sigourney Weaver/Linda Hamilton. For a former shop girl she's come a LONG way. And her reactions when she couldn't contact the Doc on the PC were touching. As for the reunion bit with the Doc - very nicely done, but nipped in the bud of course! (Though how the hell could Donna tell it was Rose from so far-off?)

Not again...

And finally...the shock regeneration of the Doctor!! Is he really going to regenerate?? Is this the end for David Tennant??? It can't be! There have already done reports on the filming of the forthcoming Xmas episode and from what I can remember, David T was involved...
anyone know any more about this than me??

You mean...??! I've had physical relations with an actual rhino??

Nice to see the Judoon back, if only for a brief cameo.


What's Lady Bracknell doing in outer space?

Forgive me for sounding thick, but what was the POINT of the shadow proclamation scenes?

Rather a lot of Daleks...hope they've paid their congestion charge...

The return of the Daleks yet again, wasn't handled with any kind of fanfare or surprise, highlighting how over-used they have now become (in spite of my comments before about them looking good, with some new "aspects"). They are rapidly turning into formulaic monsters and this isn't a good thing. Time to lay them to rest once and for all after this story, methinks.

The explanation as to why a massive new army of Daleks and a Dalek fleet had sprung into existence, after the previous whittling down of their race to ONE i.e. Dalek Caan, was done in a slightly glib fashion - surely more exposition/a decent flashback, rather than a few hasty comments, would have added more credence to the whole thing?

The revelation (even though we all knew) that Davros was back would have been better saved until the very end of the episode I reckon - along with the regeneration bit it would have made a great "double whammy" cliffhanger!

Has he been eating too many pies? Or swallowed some hamsters?

Ianto's rather tubby face. Had the comedy doorman-cum-stalker-of-Jack been eating too many pies? Perhaps it was the grief of losing Tosh and Owen that caused him to stuff his face...

Any openings for a former drag queen in Doctor Who? Or even Torchwood?

The slightly silly celebrity cameos at the beginning e.g. Paul O'Grady. Now obligatory in every season finale but perhaps we could have done without it?

No, I am NOT married to Harriet Makepeace in real life! Now ZIP it, Dr Jones!!

Michael "Dempsey" Brandon's rather hammy performance as UNIT General whats-his-face. Personally I would have preferred to have seen Colonel Mace back again, he had a certain charm in spite of his blandness...Seems there isn't much continuity with the UNIT characters these days...oh for the return of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart...

The planets sweet

The moving all the planets across the cosmos thing (hence the episode title). What the hell was going on with that? How did the Daleks find the technology? Okay, I'm being churlish as I'm sure we'll get an explanation for all this in the next episode.

And that, groovesters, is about it! On the whole I thought "The Stolen Earth" was fabulous, blockbusting, emotional and exciting fare. I hope you all enjoyed it too. Would love to know your thoughts on episode too, so get posting a comment NOW, or you will be....well, you know what.


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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The gang's all here...

Okay, I lied. I couldn't resist coming out of hibernation (temporarily at least...) to post this rather splendid pic of the ensemble cast from the forthcoming DW season finale, which kicks off this Saturday:

Great stuff eh?! (Click on the pic if you want to see a larger version). One can't help wondering what they're all looking so scared by. Is it RTD with his clothes off? Answers on a comment please.

From left to right, we have:

Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen); Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke); Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri); Rose Tyler (Billie Piper); The Doctor (David Tennant); Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Donna Noble (Catherine Tate)! Woh! All of whom will be present in the last two episodes...and that's not including a few other returning personages, such as former Prime Minister Harriet Jones (who's rumoured to have something nasty happen to her - is this divine retribution for her blowing up the sycorax spaceship?), K9 (trusty metal mutt with a long back story and a long laser gun), Luke Smith (Sarah's adopted alien "son"), Gwen Cooper (gappy-toothed Torchwood member), Ianto ("comedy" doorman and Torchwood member)...and that doesn't include an old villain with a strong connection to the Daleks...

Which surely leaves us to ask - how the hell are they going to fit so many characters into two episodes? Mind you, it's been confirmed that the second episode is one hour and five minutes long, so gives us a little more time...There's already been a few trailers like this one and this one which all look very epic and dramatic.

I must admit I AM excited. I just hope they can carry it off and it's not a repeat of last year's Master-finale-fiasco. Crossed fingers!!

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Queen is BACK (Donna Summer that is)

Hello! Hello! Hello! Yes it's your part-time pal Cheeser here again. Once again, there's been a bit of a hiatus from moi...just for a change. But (here it comes) I have been rather busy of late...At present I'm doing some extra "work" in addition to my day job and it's taking up much of my time...life's chocca! Plus last week there was a VERY interesting development which I shall share with you soon, once I have official confirmation of things...let's just say that I'm feeling very happy and smug at the moment.

What else? Firstly a mega, massive THANK YOU to those of you (i.e. all of you as far as I am aware) that responded to my Top 10 albums tag. Well done, boys and girls! I was impressed with the breadth, depth and length of your, erm, posts (no cheeky comments, purlease, that's strictly a Cheeser prerogative). Seriously, I loved reading about all your fave musical raves! And many of you listed exactly the kind of things I would have expected. Unfortunately I still haven't responded to all of your postings yet! (That's what happens when you tag a lot of people and ask them to write about 10 albums I suppose - it makes for a lot of reading - am I making a rod for my own back?!) But once again, enlightening stuff and thanks!

Doctor Who continues to thrill, excite and delight. Steven Moffat's two parter was probably the best of the season yet and proof that his appointment to the post of Exec Producer was indeed a wise move. There's something about this writing style that's wonderfully unorthodox and different which bodes well for the future. The whole library-saving-people-in-a-giant-PC concept was well-executed and clever.

Shall I tell you a secret, sweetie...? I don't just have corkscrew hair on my head...

Waaaaay too much information, Professor. Still at least you didn't tell me I was once Mr Moll Flanders...I'm just not the bodice-ripping type...

Alex Kingston was intelligent, sultry and fab as Professor River Song. The whole "previous relationship with the Doc in the Doc's future" thing (shades of "The Time Traveller's Wife") was intriguingly done and by the end we were still none the wiser as to exactly what her involvement with the Doc was (although husband and wife is a good guess). I do hope she comes back for a reappearance and further exposition. Otherwise it's just all toooo frustrating.

Mmm, maybe you're overdoing the whole "goth chick" thing just a bit, love...

The "Donna in the Matrix" plotline of part two was also a welcome and an unexpected surprise, eerily done and proving Catherine T's acting abilities even more as well as taking the character of Donna down new avenues (married and with kids). The bit when she screams when her kids "disappear" was very well done and the scenes with "woman in black" Ms Evangelista (was she related to Linda?) convincingly creepy.

Last week's "Midnight" was one of RTD's better offerings and I really enjoyed this one too. It was obviously low budget and a bit of a "filler" episode, not to mention "Donna-lite" as opposed to "Doctor-lite" (is the latter a new concept then? Shades of "The Deadly Assassin" with the Doc going it alone!) but as psychological dramas go, it was very well done and proof that a lot can be achieved with even limited resources (i.e. a story taking place largely on just one set). The whole possession thing was marvelously creepy - who would have thought that so much nastiness could come out of two people just staring at one another and repeating each other's words??

I'm weird! I'm scary! I'm stary (not sure if the latter is a proper word...)

Lesley Sharp was a nasty lady with her staring eyes and weird manner, and well supported by the rest of the class, who were all in suitable "Disaster movie panic" mode.

Biancaaaaaaa!!! Oh, sorry. Wrong programme.

Lindsey Coulson, who I always thought was brilliant as Carol Jackson in Eastenders was a bit shrewish and whiny though.

Nothing wrong with being a ginga, darlin'. I was married to one once, you know....

And tonight we see the return of...The Pipester!! The story sounds likes it's got an interesting angle (what would have happened to Donna if she hadn't met the Doc) and apparently Ms Tate's best performance yet...we shall see. After which we get the season finale...it's come round quick. There's already been a mass of spoilers and I'm not going to reveal what they are here. You only have to go onto a DW website to find out...or The Sun's (who recently blew the gaff re: pics of returning monsters...) Suffice to say it all looks exciting but I hope to god it's a better offering than Season Three's "camp Master" conclusion...please, please, PLEASE!!

And on the music front...of late I have mostly been listening to:
Cut Copy - Aussie band with an 80s retro fixation, and their latest album, In Ghost Colours, is rather excellent...
Donna Summer's new album, Crayons, which is a magnificent return to form after a mere 17 year hiatus. The Queen is BACK!! Which, coincidentally, is the name of one of the tracks...more on her later...

Cyndi Lauper's new one in which the caterwauling Cyndi has gone all dancey a la Madonna! Saints preserve us! But it works and it's rather good. Thanks to Alan for giving me the lowdown on her...

Well, that'll do for now. I shall return in a few weeks...Ciao for now my lovelies and take care...

OC xxx

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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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