Author:Peter Kearns/Bill Thomas/Andrew Wild/David Detmer
Another four titles in this unwaveringly excellent series, firstly looking at the albums of certainly one of the most iconic figures in seventies music and maybe even beyond that, Joni Mitchell. My Joni period is really the run of albums from 1971’s Blue through to her undoubted masterpiece, 1976’s Hejira, but with honourable mentions for the next two records, the complex Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter and the jazz flavoured Mingus. I’ve never been that keen on her eighties and nineties work to be honest, but listening again in the course of reading this book, I may have been hasty in my assessment of that era as there are certainly some fine songs scattered among those albums, albeit inconsistently. Nevertheless, for me there’s nothing to match her peerless golden era of the early to mid seventies, which contains some of the most beautiful lyrics and music you could hope to hear. If you’re not familiar with her music you really need to put that right without delay – for fans, read this, relisten to the albums and luxuriate in her timeless music.
Another equally enigmatic female artist is next. Again, what a back catalogue she has, although it’s almost ten years since her last (final?) album, the underrated 50 Words For Snow, which I thought was one of her best but seemed somehow to rather slip under the radar. The author gives some interesting insights into the writing and recording process, although need I say there are no contributions from Kate other than quotes from old interviews. Nevertheless, it’s a pleasure to read alongside listening to the music, most of which has withstood the test of time very well. Will we ever get to see the footage from her last shows in 2014 – I think the moment has passed now. Minus one point though for claiming Aerial was released in 1995 – schoolboy error!
One of the biggest selling acts of the eighties is also one of my favourite bands, Dire Straits. I’m a big fan of all their albums other than maybe the final one, On Every Street, which never really cut it for me. Some super albums to listen back to though, Making Movies being my own pick of the bunch. The author has managed to interview quite a number of ex members, including John Ilsley and David Knopfler, (but not of course the main man), and they provide some illuminating quotes. These are albums I still play quite regularly to this day – I’d love to see some deluxe reissues but there seems to be no prospect of that ever happening unfortunately. A very well researched and put together look at their music though, including a brief look at post band activities.
I have to confess, my previous main exposure to Renaissance had been the Northern Lights single, but listening to their seventies albums, dominated by Annie Haslam’s lovely voice, I was pleasantly surprised. Just goes to show how you can completely overlook a band. After declining fortunes, they folded in the early eighties, reconvening almost twenty years later with a couple of albums of orchestral/symphonic rock that hold true to their heyday of folk rock tinged with prog – or vice versa! I’ll certainly be relistening to their catalogue in the coming months, although I’d categorise them as pleasurable rather than compelling listening.
Length of Read:Short
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Other books in the series.
One thing you’ve learned
These books are perfect for reminding you of albums you’ve neglected or even forgotten about over the years, and encouraging you to revisit them and maybe realise what you’ve been missing out on. I certainly couldn’t recall the last time I heard some of these albums, so this book was just the push I needed to reacquaint myself with them.