2021 RPMer's Top 5s
Now then, we all like a list, don't we? Here's 2021's diverse selection of "Top 5s" as chosen by RPMers from another far from normal year. Over to...
It seems that the latest thinking is that COVID is becoming endemic, rather like the common cold, and new medications are being developed all the time (pills, patches, nasal sprays) so I guess it's something we're going to have to get used to and live with.
Meanwhile, in my view musicians have done a lot of inspired work during the pandemic, and there has been plenty out there to appeal to aging baby-boom rockers like me. The single word that covers this is of course "Americana," which when all is said and done is what rock and roll was all along.
I could easily have chosen any one of three blues albums in my list of 5, or the Yola album or those by Los Lobos or The Flatlanders or Charley Crockett, but in the end I plumped for the following:
Top 5 Albums of 2021.
Long Time Coming by Sierra Ferrell.
Afrique Victime by Mdou Moctar.
The Moon and Stars - Prescriptions for Dreamers by Valerie June.
Depreciated by John R. Miller.
In the Blossom of Their Shade by Pokey LaFarge.
Here's my Top Fives for 2021 and, surprise, surprise, I've actually stuck to the rule of five!!!!
Top 5 'favourite' singles choices played this year.
Such a tough choice. I could nominate at least ten alternative choices for each of the numbers 5 to 2 .... but 'Strawberry Fields forever' remains the finest single ever recorded in my 'umble opinion:
5. Tommy Tucker 'Hi heeled sneakers*
4. Paul Revere and the Raiders 'Him or me, what's it gonna be'*
3. Pink Floyd 'See Emily play'
2. Small Faces 'I've got mine'
1 Beatles 'Strawberry Fields forever'
*purchased this year.
Top 5 'favourite' albums played.
Difficult once again.. the Who, Small Faces, Creation and other 'modsters' were played a great deal but these five have been pretty constant.
5. Otis Redding 'Pain in my heart'
4. Jefferson Airplane 'Live at Monterey'
3. Velvet Underground 'Unpeeled'
2. Beatles 'Revolver'
1. Van Der Graaf Generator 'The least we can do is wave to each other'
From this years purchases....
Top 5 EP's.
5. Francoise Hardy 'C'est Françoise'
4. Johnny Hallyday 'Serre La Main D'un Fou
3. Bern Elliott and the Fenmen 'Bern Elliott and the Fenmen'
2. The Artwoods 'Jazz in jeans'
1. Booker T.& M.G's 'R & B With Booker T'
Top 5 singles.
Again, really difficult, but here's 5 from around 50 purchased this year.
5. Marsha Hunt- 'Desdemona'
4. Link Cromwell 'Crazy like a fox'
3. Pacific Gas and Electric 'Are you ready'
2. Parliaments '(I wanna) Testify'
1. Jimi Hendrix Experience 'Purple Haze'
Box Set of the year.
Fleur De Lys 'I can see a light' (7x7" singles with book)
Top 5 LP's.
5. Peter Hammill 'In Translation'
4. Goldie and the Gingerbreads 'Thinking about the good times 1964-66'
3. The Mindbenders 'The Mindbenders'
2. PJ Harvey 'Is this desire. Demos.' *
1. Collectors 'The Collectors........ and Revolve' (inc bonus 7")
(* This year's purchases included four PeeJay demo albums in total. All goodies but I have only included one in order to get in some of the other purchases.)
Top 5 'Waddafug' records in my collection.
Or; 'How on earth did they end up on the shelves?'
5. Lord of the Rings (The original soundtrack)' Leonard Rosenman. Ltd edition double LP picture disc. Fantasy label released 1978.
4. 'The Highway Code' The Highway Singers. 7" single. Parlophone label released 1966
3. 'Out of this world' BBC Radiophonic Workshop LP. BBC Records released 1976
2. 'Yogi Bear Theme' Golden Chorus/Orchestra. 7" single picture sleeve. Golden label released 1962
1. 'Red and Green' Popeye and Olive Oyl (Jack Mercer and Mae Questel). 7" single picture sleeve Golden label released 1962
Decades as amount and percentage of my collection: (the decade the music was recorded, not release date!).
5. 2000 onwards 33 3%
4. Pre 1959 51 4%
3. 1980/90's 136 10%
2. 1970's 289 22%
1. 1960's 795 61%
5. 2000 onwards 15 1%
4. Pre 1959 78 6%
3. 1980/90's 110 8%
2. 1970's 125 9%
1. 1960's 1032 76%
One surprise is how equal the total collection is with just 56 discs between singles and albums. So, overall, the totals shape up as follows...
5. 2000 onwards 48 2%
4. Pre 1959 129 5%
3. 1980/90's 246 9%
2. 1970's 414 15%
1. 1960's 1827 69%
"Hope this has proved to be of marginal interest?
Happy New Year for 2022, keep collecting, keep sending Seven Day Soundtrack the good 'un's and, most important............ Keep safe!!!"
Top 5 Tunes That Have Meant a Lot To Me In 2021.
These are a few tunes that I have ‘fiddled’ about with’ on mandolin, guitar and concertina, during the course of this year. I am always happy to crash out a few chords for people, and I have been lucky enough to be able to meet up to play a few times in the last year.
Flatworld by Andy Cutting
It would have been 5 fiddle tunes but for the tune, played and written by Andy Cutting, which I played along with, while sitting in a sunny garden with ‘Samphire’ Susan, as she played her melodeon.
The Kerfunken Jig performed by Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill
I visited and played with Sarah O’Neill (who has a huge range and is an incredibly talented fiddler) a few times in the Autumn. These are a couple of tunes that I learned from her repertoire. Because I find it very hard to remember tunes, in order to fix them in my memory, I have to make up silly words to remind me of the rhythm… the trouble is that I then have to remember which song goes with which tune… (you can try singing along if you like!)
I even start to think of them by an alternative title… This one is ‘The Bicycle’ because it goes….
Some nasty sod, took the old leather saddle,
Some other Bugger has stolen the bell.
How can I ride on my old upright bicycle?
I hope that the rotters will all go to hell!
Salamanca Reel/The Banshee/The Sailor's Bonnet performed by The Bothy Band.
It is easiest when the title is included in the song!
When… The… Salamanca
Dropped it’s anchor,
Next to the great big oil tanker,
Then that tanker, nearly sank her,
When she sailed off to Sri Lanka....
Big Bear by John Arcand
I accompany my mate Fred (Another talented fiddler) on this one.
Booth Shot Lincoln performed by Uncle Earl
And a ‘lockdown’ tune, which I am still attempting to learn to play, three waves later!
I find it hard to say what my favourite albums are that I have bought this year. They change day to day as to what music fix I need !!! So here’s my faves today (31st Dec)!!!!
Strange to Explain by Woods
Fantasy Island by Clinic
Kid Amnesia by Radiohead
There is Love in You by Four Tet
Los Angeles by Flying Lotus
Elaenia by Floating Points
2021 was another strange year in more ways than one! I didn't get too excited about many new releases in the past twelve months although there were a couple of exceptions; Dark Matters by The Stranglers and Coral Island by The Coral. I've also been impressed by a few of the tracks I've heard so far from the new Stone Angel album. However, I did acquire over 30 CDs and over a dozen LPs. These were either bought new or secondhand or were received as gifts. The pick of these are in my first two 'Top Five' lists.
As in previous years, I've also mentioned books, live events and films. And here they are...the best of what I've read, watched, listened to and experienced in 2021.
Top 5 CDs
Benjamin Zephania - Revolutionary Mind
Quintessence - Infinite Love - Live At Queen Elizabeth Hall 1971
Gentle Giant - Edge Of Twilight (2CD compilation)
Ziggy Marley - Dragonfly
Various Artists - Sumer Is Icumen In (3CD Box Set)
Top 5 LPs
Midwinter - The Waters Of Sweet Sorrow
The Stranglers - Dark Matters
Cardiacs - The Seaside
Misty In Roots - Musi-O-Tunya
Bunny Wailer - Marketplace
Top 3 books about music, read in 2021
Prophets And Sages; An Illustrated Guide to Underground and Progressive Rock 1967-1975 by Mark Powell
Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk by Jeanette Leech
Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music by Rob Young
Top 6 music-related autobiographies, read in 2021
I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol by Glen Matlock (with Pete Silverton)
Head On by Julian Cope
Repossessed by Julian Cope
The Life And Rhymes of Benjamin Zephania by Benjamin Zephania
Rodigan: My Life In Reggae by David Rodigan (with Ian Burrell)
Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol by Steve Jones
Weirdest novel written by a musician, read in 2021
One Three One by Julian Cope
Top 5 Live Acts of 2021
Benjamin Zephania and the Revolutionary Minds - Norwich Arts Centre
Man The Lifeboats - Deepdale Festival
3 Daft Monkeys - Folk In A Field
Katherine Priddy - Deepdale Festival
James Taylor Quartet - Norwich Arts Centre
Top 3 music-related films, watched in 2021
Bread (1971) - Featuring music by Juicy Lucy, The Web and Crazy Mabel
Yardie (2020) - Featuring music by Black Uhuru, Culture, Yellowman etc.
Permissive (1970) - Featuring music by Forever More, Comus and Titus Groan
My top 5 for this year are all 78 rpm's and include 2 of the 3 Muddy Waters UK releases on the Vogue label that I rued losing out on last year. There are still quite a few nuts like me that like the format and it's hard to explain why. The discs are heavy, fragile, prone to wear and damage and sometime difficult to acquire often leaving you with a 'did I really pay that?' feeling. Another reason for trepidation is that you always have to remind sellers just how much care is needed to send these old dinosaurs from A to B. I stressed this to one seller very recently who looked like he didn't usually deal in them and when the package arrived I expected a pile of shards to tumble out of it but luckily it survived - even in the mayhem of the Christmas post. I have a nice set of 78's pressed on heavyweight vinyl collectively created as "Cruisin' The 50's" and I'll probably feature these over a couple of weeks when we get into week one of 2022 as there is a very interesting story attached to how they came about.
1. Howling Wolf - I'm Leaving You. This was a US 1959 pressing on the Chess label.
2. Elvis Presley - Don'cha Think It's Time. A South Africa pressing on RCA which included the usual lovely SA RCA sleeve. A couple of the Elvis releases have sleeves which include an image of him on the paper sleeve as well and are sought after by collectors.
3. Elvis Presley - Fever. Another South Africa pressing from 1960 which is very scarce now and has taken me a long time to acquire. Pressings on 78 rpm by RCA stopped in the UK in 1960 after "A Mess of The Blues" which was only pressed in very small numbers if a sufficient number of orders had been taken . I may go on to collect SA pressings that, although released on UK 78's, they are on the HMV rather than the RCA label and sometimes have alternative 'B' sides. I'd still very much like to acquire a couple more scarce disks that contain further songs from his post-US army service LP called "Elvis Is Back" and, if a copy is still out there, 'Rock a Hula Baby' which is definitely the final Elvis on RCA 78.
4. Muddy Waters - Honey Bee. 1955. I snapped this up for £30 including P&P and the win included another 4 78's which I let him keep to re-sell as the final bid was a bit low (and I didn't want them particularly).
5. Muddy Waters - Long Distance Call. 1954 Again on Vogue and in very nice playing order. I'm hoping that another copy of the other UK 78rpm will come to me this year (Walkin' Blues/Rollin' Stone Blues 1953). One did come up recently but reading between the lines it wasn't likely to be a good condition copy and with a £50 start I wasn't prepared to risk it - I always say "It's not the last parrot in the petshop" when I forego one and hope that I'm right! This is the one that inspired Jones, Jagger, Richards and Watts to use the name that brought them so much fame.
I've not bought many LP's this year apart from a few Charity shop finds and a couple of good quality vinyl re-presses of albums which | previously only had on cd viz. "Raising Sand" by Plant and Krauss and also "Muddy Water Blues" by Paul Rodgers on yellow vinyl.
As I've reported while we've gone through the year I've been able to buy quite a few singles (45's) and I've been surprised that many of them have been in very nice playable condition. I used to over-worry about the labels being written on and the centre missing but now just look for a nice playing copy. I usually check first on my Technics 1200 but prefer to listen to singles on one of my portable Bush record players which I also need to play the shellacs because they sound much warmer and clearer on the old turntables and any minor blemishes and clicks simply do not get reproduced which increases the enjoyment. At one time I was looking out for a decent 78rpm turntable like Rega manufactured but have now settled on playing them on the old valve boxes.
I've got out of the habit of reading much but this year. I did start a book that was a charity shop find for £1 - a hardback about Macca and the Fab4 called "Many Years From Now" where he did collaborate with the author and his points of view are sprinkled liberally about the book. Still a long way to go but if the right moment comes along next year I may get through it. Also hoping that the new book "The Lyrics" either comes out in paperback or the second-hand hardbacks start to appear on ebay.
Here's some favourite listening, reading and...er... drinking from 2021.
Top 5 New Releases of 2021.
Lost in the Cedar Wood by Johnny Flynn and Robert Macfarlane - Author Macfarlane teams up with folk musician Flynn to produce probably one of the most literary, thoughtful yet catchy roots music albums you're likely to hear.
Urban Driftwood by Yasmin Williams - Fingerstyle guitar's new sorceress takes the instrument to a whole new level, conjuring an album of scintillating music to lift the spirit.
Delta Kream by Black Keys - Back doing what they do best; playing that hill country blues.
Step 13 by Alabama 3 - The purveyors of techno trippy country flavoured blues soul release their thirteenth album, no less. Musically infectious, politically incisive and a fine tribute to their fallen friend The Very Reverend D Wayne Love (1960 - 2019).
Last Mile Home by Jon Boden - Last part in his not-too-distant-future folk dystopia concept album series, Mr. Boden is his usual superb self.
Top 5 Reissue, Live and Non-2021 Albums of 2021.
Unearth Repeat by Sam Sweeney - Sam Sweeney reboots English traditional music to produce a truly beautiful piece of work. Originally released in March 2020 (not the best timing for a tour to support the album), bought the album as a download this summer when it appeared on his Band Camp page....and caught him on tour finally promoting the album in November.
The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert by Bob Dylan - Bob captured on his famous 1966 tour, 10 days after the legendary "Judas" heckle, this London date is an incendiary performance and captures the frisson between audience and performer. A little confusion over this one; I'd bought it under the impression it was a new release as it had appeared on Juno Records' list of new stuff. Alan commented that he'd bought it years ago when I chose a song from it for the 7DS. Upon further investigation, it was indeed released in 2016 (possibly as a 50 year anniversary thing?), so why it appeared on that Juno list that week, I have no idea. Glad it did though and hence it's inclusion in the 2021 list.
Live In Maui by The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Actually released in the final weeks of December 2020 but acquired beginning of 2021, I'm sneaking this into my list. A fantastic triple album of the finally cleaned-up musical audio track (no wind noise, apparently....ooo er missus!....that's meteorological, not bodily) from the (terrible) Rainbow Bridge movie, and used during the final open air concert footage where you can indeed gauge how strong the wind was blowing by the coloured hippie flags flying at full stretch and also by the SIZE of the orange foam comedy-effect microphone wind shields that have been cobbled together. This release is the full concert and includes 3 never-heard-before live tracks and is pure Hendrix heaven for those of us devoted to the God of Guitar.
Greasy Trucker's Party by Hawkwind - Record Store Day release and first time the whole of this classic HW concert has been available on vinyl highlighting the band at the height of their early 70s powers. Essential......for some.
Live In the Mojave Desert by Earthless - I'm not quite sure how Isiah Mitchell's guitar playing stays so hidden under the radar...this live extravaganza of 3 musical explorations across 4 sides of vinyl is a masterclass in improvisation. The band are often pigeonholed into the stoner / shoegaze genre, but these guy's minds are not focused on their feet, they're far out in deep space.
Top 5 Podcasts of 2021.
Folk On Foot - Matthew Bannister talks to folk musicians whilst walking within their home locale. Oh, and now there's a monthly folk chart show as well. (https://www.folkonfoot.com/)
The Poet Laureate Has Gone To His Shed - Simon Armitage chats to people well known and not so well known, in his writing shed. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p085jg48/episodes/downloads)
Talking Dogs - TV's Dogs Behaving (very) Badly, Graeme Hall, chats about dog behaviour and offers tips and advice for solving doggy problems. (https://uk-podcasts.co.uk/podcast/talking-dogs-with-graeme-hall)
Smoke Signals - Katherine and Jessica from Smoke Fairies give their very humorous, slightly off kilter, always entertaining view of their world. (https://www.musicglue.com/smokefairies/podcast)
Scotland Outdoors - Mark Stephen and Euan McIlwraith chat about the countryside, nature, traditions and customs, with a Scottish slant, obvs. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/series/p02nrtq1)
Top 5 Reads of 2021.
This year I've read mostly fiction, ecology / nature and history.....and only two music related book(!!..yes, I know!). In fact, after reading David Mitchell, everything else seemed pretty mundane and laboured by comparison....as you can see reflected below.
Wilding by Isabella Tree - Every government should read this book if they are sincere in wanting climate action. They're not, they won't and consequently the planet is quite possibly screwed unless there is more people power......
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell -
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell -
Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell -
The extent of Mitchell's expansive imagination is mind blowing. What genre, you ask? His own.
Note: Each book, of which there are eight so far, is linked, but you can read them in any order. Having said that, I'll re-read them in published order, simply because there's so much to absorb the first time around. Highly recommended.
Sharpe's Assassin by Bernard Cornwall - The master historical fiction writer at long last gives us another Napoleonic Wars roller coaster ride featuring the iconic Richard Sharpe. Hugely enjoyable.
Top 5 Yorkshire Ales of 2021.
Ruby Mild (Rudgate Brewery) - The Bluebell, York
Centurion's Ghost (York Brewery) - The Three Legged Mare, York
Landlord (Timothy Taylor's) - The George and Dragon, Kirkbymoorside
Battleaxe (Rudgate Brewery) - The White Swan, Kirkbymoorside
Nightmare Porter (Hambleton Brewery) - bottles from Kirkbymoorside Co-op