1. Syd Barrett | Octopus
The first Pink Floyd album is great but there's a certain cracked beauty to Syd's solo stuff. Octopus is arguably the stand out track taken from the album, The Madcap Laughs. Syd's vocal delivery and his guitar playing has got a unique, twisted feel to it and the oddly disjointed rhythm section gives the track an irresistible edge. Syd's method of recording the vocals and rhythm guitar before rather than after the the drums and bass is one of the key ingredients that go towards creating Syd's sound on record. Syd was becoming more and more cracked at this point so in a way there's a certain sympathetic value to his music, you can't help but feel some compassion for the man yet at the same time he's still got it in him to pull out a corker like Octopus. Also, lyrically, he's in a field of his own.
2. Connan Mockasin | Megumi The Milky Way
Connan Mockasin is like a cross between Kate Bush and Ziggy Stardust (sort of) only hailing from New Zealand as opposed to Mars. Psychedelic? Maybe, it feels a bit lazy to tag a man as mysterious and unusual as Mr. Mockasin with such a pigeon hole, but it's quite a fair description. If the Cure's first appearance happened today, music hacks would be saying the same thing, seeing how the word seems to be generously used these days to describe slightly odd music. From the moment we first heard Connan's dark yet light, happy, odd underground Brazilian-esque, pop record we were hooked... What the hell is he singing about?... We're not sure but it doesn''t really matter at the end of the day because the groove and melody is so infectious that you sing along anyway, mimicking those Brazilian rubbing sounds he mouths with happy abandon. Megumi sounds like some lost, crazed Velvet Undergroud session recorded in some back street, Manchester rehearsal studio, backed with Gilberto Gil and his band. If it wasn't for Connan's innocent nature and humorous, artistic approach, perhaps this album wouldn't have come across the way it does to us but then, maybe it would have? Well, who knows but It's worth checking out a mini documentary piece on Connan's MySpace page which we initially watched whilst getting over his video to It's Choade My Dear: Connan lying in a low river tide, lemon slices resting on his eyes, surrounded by lemons, muddy painted face and brilliant bleached hair. It'll explain a lot and you'll get a good feel for the bands ideals watching these short films and like us, will be eager to hear what's coming next.
3. Rotary Connection | Magical World
Perhaps one of the Mod-i-est pieces of music ever made from a purest point of view. The Who, The Kinks or The Small Faces would struggle to get close to achieving the elegant soulful strut of Magical World. Sidney Barnes and friends take us on an intense, beautiful trip of extraordinary calm and beauty. Minnie Riperton's heart felt performance and lyrical imagery paints a water colour of sweet flowers, beautiful dreams, far away islands and yellow submarines, whilst Charles Stepney's gorgeous orchestral arrangements, pizzicato strings, oboe and flugel horns take us through a beautiful, dreamlike journey which makes you want to never return from. A stride through the city streets, iPod firmly in ears almost creates the perfect back drop for this song. This is a track full of grandeur and reflection, unchallenged by most bands of its era yet almost undiscovered in relation to the time of its release, if it wasn't for the people In The Know, who helped kick start a fan base that it seems was thin on the ground around the time of it's conception.
4. The Beatles | I'm Only Sleeping
When the Beatles musical heads started to expand, something changed in their music. Musically and lyrically, their attitude and outlook started to reflect a changing world. Gone were the I Love You's, and the Love Me Do's from the early days, now you had songs about Taxmen and fictional characters called Eleanor. The Beatles wanted to be taken more seriously by this point, they wanted to establish themselves as artists as well as serious musicians. They stopped touring and started to pour their time into creating masterpieces in the studio. You can really hear this new change in I'm Only Sleeping and it really does sounds like an archetypical Beatles recording. The pitch shifts to the backing tracks make this song feel and sound lazy and stoned. Lennon's vocals are almost Lysergic. The delivery is effortless and already you can hear glimmers of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds in his voice. This is pure Beatles and Sgt. Pepper is just around the corner.
5. Ennio Morricone | Matto, Caldo, Soldi, Morto...Girotondo
Of the seemingly hundreds of albums it seems that Ennio Morricone has made, the LP Vergogna Schifosi is arguably one of his finest with vinyl copies now exchanging hands for large amounts of money (that's if you can find one first). There is a running theme on this 1968 Italian soundtrack LP with four of the six tracks interpreting a single piece of music which peaks with Matto, Caldo, Soldi, Morto...Girotondo. Each interpretation varies in mood and tempo with the final Reprise taking in almost every element of its predecessors. The looping, childlike, chanted vocals create an innocent yet persistent hook as if to enforce the message, whilst the feel of the descending bass line takes on the form of a melodic anchor that prevents the chiming melodies and strings from spinning off into an otherworldly place. If ever a mood was needed to form an alliance of hope and unity then perhaps this track could be that movements anthem. Magical stuff.
6. Brian Wilson | Till I Die (Original Version)
Officially this should be listed as a Beach Boys track but as this version was rejected by The Boys in favour of a chirpier edit (if that's possible) for the album Surf's Up, then this makes Till I Die, ultimately a Brian Wilson solo song. And a heartbreaker it is too. Recorded at a time when Brian was possibly his least happiest by all accounts, Till I Die is a classic in the way that the recording is constructed. Beginning with a stark bass line, the music builds, beautiful vibe melodies, shuffling rhythms, then the vocals hit you out of know where. And beautiful they are too, soaring and achingly emotional. The music seems to almost disappear from here on in, that's how it seems although your still conscious of the melody running underneath the vocal. The 'album' version of this song seems to have lost something during its production and editing process. Luckily the release of Endless Harmony gave the public a chance to hear it in its former glory which up until that point only appeared on the occasional bootleg release.
7. Willie Wright | Oh Boy
Willie Wright is a Folk/Gospel singer and only made one album as far as we're aware, entitled I Sing Folk Songs. Not to be confused with Will Wright of the 40's. One of the stand out tracks has to be Oh Boy, a beautiful and haunting song, very graceful in its initial delivery, rising up midway to an almost exasperating point then calming down again for the outro. All the tracks on the album are recordings mainly of Willie's guitar and voice, yet his passion and lyrics make up for any lack of instrumentation. There's a real busking feel to the way he performs, quite aggressive guitar playing in places, he certainly knows how to feel it. The album was released on Saga Records in 1962, the manufacturers of Dandy Children's Records. There are quite a few child like, story telling songs on this album and a few Folk standards or Trad arrangements but Oh Boy hits the spot every time.
8. Position Normal | Pepay Pepememimo
We love all of Position Normal's work with this track taken from the album Stop Your Nonsense which for us was an early introduction to their weird and wonderful world. There's a real warmth to their recordings created by a mixture of rambling instrumental pieces, spoken word and sampled music loops. This band was quite an influence on early Superimposers demos, the way obscure samples can help to create an initial vibe for a track in the early song writing process. Alot of the tracks on this album tend to feature some quite intense sound collages. There's alot of humour wrapped up in what Position Normal do, quite subtle in a way. Even the guitar hooks have the ability to make you laugh in places. Playful music to submerge yourself in. A fascinating listening experience that never becomes tiring.
9. Shuggie Otis | Strawberry Letter 23
If there was ever a perfect 3 minutes and 55 secs worth of music committed to tape then Strawberry Letter 23 would certainly be in the running. From the moment Shuggie strikes that opening chord along with those uplifting, chiming bells, the happiest melody but deepest groove emerges. This was first heard back in the days of going clubbing at Dingwalls in Camden Town on a Sunday afternoon back in the late 80's - early 90's. It is ultimately a Country Soul song crossed with a pure dance Soul Funk vibe very similar to the work of Eugene McDaniels. Taken from the untouchable LP Inspiration Information, Shuggie wrote and performed pretty much everything, even scored the strings himself which is no mean feat for any songwriter. You wonder whether Shuggie controlled the phaser of the arpeggio guitar riff too, very probable considering the man's gift for arrangement and sonic vision and if so, it's just another element of surprise which brings to a close a pure slice of Perfect Pop. Once again, magical and purely inspirational.
10. Harry Nilsson | Everybody's Talkin' (Fred Neil Cover)
Harry is a legend and a gent, in our eyes anyway. The man had a beautiful voice and a talent for writing addictive pop tunes through to crooning classics that stand up till this day. There are many great Harry songs we could have listed but this is a cover, ironically of the Fred Neil song, Everybody's Talkin', which is the sound of someone really doing justice to an already great song. This track was of course used in the film Midnight Cowboy, particularly for the opening credits of the film. The music just digs its heels in from the off with that soulful, country groove and then Harry's vocals just drop in softly over the top taking lead with a song that he performs so heart felt and true to his craft. This is a natural sing along and you croon to it too. You can hear it now... Everybody's talking at me, I don't hear a word they're saying..., so smooth. If there are any true duds in Harry's catalogue then so be it but Harry was like a modern day Frank Sinatra at heart and really felt the songs he was singing, his delivery is never lacking in devotion and for that, we take our hats off to you Harry, thank you for the music.