Allan McKay – High Fives 2013 Albums

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Oh, is it my turn for the albums?  Ok, these five stood out way above the rest and they’re a pretty mixed bunch but I think that’s what Music Riot is all about.  Have a listen to these if you can because there’s a lot of really good music here.

“Home” – Aynsley Lister

HomeWhen you’ve listened to a lot of blues and blues/rock (and believe me I have over the years), you understand how easy it is for even very good players and writers to slip into the blues clichés, lyrically and musically.  Some writers understand that not every song has to be a twelve-bar blues with lyrics about bad booze and wanton women, and Aynsley Lister is one of those writers.  His songs on “Home” are recognisably blues/rock but with a recognition that the genre has to move on lyrically and musically.  On “Home”, there are songs about the state of the music business today, an elegy to an old friend, a couple of brilliant covers and a tribute to Gene Hunt.  What more do you want?  This is one of those albums that grabs you from the first listen and doesn’t let go.

“Wrote a Song for Everyone” – John Fogerty

Wrote a Song for EveryoneOk, I’m going to admit to a slight bias here; I’ve been a fan of John Fogerty for much longer than I care to admit to.  The first time I strapped on a guitar and played (badly) in front of an audience, the song the band played was the Creedence Clearwater Revival single, “Up Around the Bend”.  I’m pleased to say that John Fogerty’s career as a performer has been much longer and more successful than mine.

There are a couple of ways of looking at this album; you can see it as a cynical rehash of old material for a few quick bucks or you can see it as an opportunity to work with kindred spirits to put a twenty-first century polish on some classic twentieth century songs. You can probably guess which way I’m leaning on this one.  If you only listen to one song on this album, listen to “Hot Rod Heart”; John Fogerty is joined by guitarist Brad Paisley and the final minute and a half of the song is the joyous and totally self-indulgent sound of two superb players having a great time trading guitar licks.  If this doesn’t make you smile, you don’t like music.  And that’s before we get on to the reworkings of the classic Creedence songs “Lodi”, “Long as I can see the Light”, “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and the less well-known “Wrote a Song for Everyone”.  Oh, nearly forgot, “Proud Mary”.  Superb from start to finish.

“The Dirt Tracks” – The Dirt Tracks

The Dirt TracksIf you’re really into music, it doesn’t matter how much you’ve heard, you still love it when you hear something original and fresh (and I’ll be completely honest and say something that no-one else has written about yet).  My epiphany this year was an invitation to see Spanish indie band The Dirt Tracks in central London.  The audience was four people, and that included me and the band’s manager.  It didn’t bother the band because they pulled out a storming set.  I was given a copy of the band’s debut album and I promised to review it.  When I listened to it, I was hooked.

It’s heavily influenced by British indie, but there are elements of late ‘60s psychedelia in there as well as samples and a huge guitar attack.  As if that wasn’t enough, the album includes the experimental single “Kaleidoscope” which combines two similar stand-alone songs across the stereo spectrum to create a third song.  It’s quite a disorientating effect designed to demonstrate the difference between left- and right-brain processing and it’s even more impressive when you know that it’s written (like the rest of the album) in writer Santiago Coma’s second language.  Very impressive debut album.

“Radio (in my) Head” – Various

RIMHThis one deserves a special mention for overcoming logistical difficulties; there are artists from 14 different countries on this collection of reworkings of Radiohead songs.  There’s absolutely no filler on this album and there are a few absolute corkers.  Some of the versions stay reasonably close to the Radiohead template, while The Stoneface Travellers and Yoya put their own stamp on “My Iron Lung” and “Wolf at the Door” respectively.  The project was initiated by John O’Sullivan, MD of Bandhouse Records and pulled in contributions from his contemporaries at the London College of Contemporary Music (including  Amy Hannam and Beth Mills, who you may have seen on X Factor)and and a few others picked up on the journey.  Anyway, it’s a bostin’ album and you should all give it a listen.

“Pale Green Ghosts” – John Grant

Pale Green GhostsOur contributors at MusicRiot all have their own musical preferences and areas of expertise, but we’re all passionate about music and our paths tend to intersect fairly often; this is one of those cases.  John Preston raved about this album several months before 6 Music latched on to John Grant and he was absolutely right; this is a great album.  John Grant took a lot of flak over moving from acoustic instruments to electronic on this album (a nod to Dylan’s “Judas” moment there), but it’s still a classic singer-songwriter album.  There are moments of humour, sneering, viciousness and painful emotional honesty on subjects as difficult as an HIV diagnosis.  When it’s funny, it’s very funny, when it’s vicious, it’s very vicious and when it’s about honesty, it will make you cry.  Even the remixes are worth a listen.

If you want to learn a bit more about these albums, you can search for the reviews on the site.  Or you could give them a listen.