U.K. Music Travelouge Part Two

Beatles For Sale

Good Evening New York City (Hear Music), from Paul McCartney, is a two-CD, one-DVD set that captures the historic first-ever, concerts at Citi Field in Queens, New York. McCartney’s exuberant performances reflect both the lasting power of all of his music and how this lad from Liverpool is inextricably tied to the musical history of our beloved New York.

Beatles Books

A book sure to enter the music book canon as one of the most important on John Lennon is John Lennon The Life (Ecco) by Philip Norman. Norman’s Shout! remains one of the best books on the Beatles and Norman brings the same scholarship and writing eloquence to this doorstop of a book on Lennon. The Beatles London (Interlink) by Piet Schreuders, Mark Lewisohn and Adam Smith, is a reissue of the ultimate Beatles travelogue. This is a great book for Beatles fans to have on hand when visiting London. Beatles For Sale (Jawbone), by John Blaney, is yet another fine Beatles-related book by Blaney. The book shows both how the group’s art influenced so many musicians as well as the way they conducted the business of releasing records shaped the music business at large right up until today. The books Way Beyond Compare and That Magic Feeling by John C. Winn (Three Rivers Press) are easily two of the best new books on the Beatles. Winn’s detailed and exhaustively researched books scrupulously analyze every recording, concert, film clip and more to give all the pertinent information about their creation and where they fit in the larger story of the group. These books are a must-have for serious Beatles fans. On the DVD front, MVD has another Beatles DVD out: Beatles Rare and Unseen. The DVD is a mix of rare footage interspersed with interviews with the likes of Phil Collins. Although there is not a great deal of new footage or insights here, it is nonetheless a worthy DVD addition for Beatles completists.

Paperback Writer

The U.K. music scene is well represented, as usual by a slew of recent books. Here are a few to help keep the winter nights ahead a little more interesting. Two books on the late, celebrated disc jockey John Peel have recently been published. While not as well known in America as he was in England, Peel was probably the single most influential DJ in the U.K. during the rock era. The two books are perfect complements to each other. Margrave of the Marshes (Chicago Review Press) is essentially an autobiography by Peel and his wife Sheila Ravenscroft that is a thoughtful, heartfelt, historical view inside one’s man’s obsession with music. The Peel Sessions (BBC Books), by Ken Garner, offers a more balanced biography and is filled with detailed information on Peel’s famous live-performance radio programs. Both of these books are remarkable in their relationship to the history of U.K. rock and, like the recent film Pirate Radio, give Americans a rare view into how certain radio DJ’s shaped U.K. music. Another book that gives a unique insight into the history of U.K. music from a very different point of view is The Rise & Fall of EMI Records (Omnibus Press), by Brian Southall. Like many other major record labels on both sides of the Atlantic, history, digital music and other major changes have brought these once mighty companies to their knees and Southall was shrewd to detail EMI as it reflects the good, the bad and the ugly of the music business. Two major British artists, who have in fact worked together, now both are the subject of mammoth biographies that do justice to their long, influential and mercurial careers. First up is Bowie (Crown), from Marc Spitz. Spitz has given Bowie the full treatment he so deserves and reveals the full spectrum of changes he has gone through. Brian Eno also gets the full biographical treatment in what has to be the most complete Eno biography to date: On Some Faraway Beach The Life and Times of Brian Eno (Chicago Review Press), by David Sheppard. Eno is even more difficult to pin down, as he has been both a successful musician and recently a record producer. One of the great innovators and pioneers of musical styles as ambient music and “found sounds,” Eno has actually produced some of the most commercially successful albums of the rock era for the likes of U2, Coldplay and others. Two other Omnibus Press titles worth searching out are U2 A Diary, by Matt McGee, and Reluctant Heroes The Story of Elbow, by Mick Middles.


As an addendum to our December U.K. music travelogue, a few more gold-plated discs came my way just before the holidays that are all can’t-miss CD’s. Jon Hopkins’s domestic debut, Insides (Domino) has been out for some time now, but it is a worthy contender for one of the most underrated albums of the past year. Hopkins has worked with Brian Eno, Massive Attack and Imogen Heap. His electronic ambient sound is quite varied. Check out “Light Through The Veins,” which had the unique distinction of being used as the introduction for Coldplay’s Viva La Vida album as part of the track “Life In Technicolor” and the album’s uncredited closing instrumental track “The Escapist,” which was also the music that played after Coldplay left the stage on it’s Viva La Vida concert tour. Hopkins is an artist worth watching and we eagerly anticipate his next album. Richard Hawley, who has toured with Britpop legends Pulp, has been making gorgeous, guitar-based singer-songwriter albums throughout the past decade. On his sixth album, Truelove’s Gutter (Mute), his sound has only become more refined. Sounding like Nick Lowe on a romantic date in guitar heaven, Hawley has made yet another timeless album. Washes of guitar chords, backed by lush soundscapes, make this either the perfect break-up record or music for modern lovers. Guitar geeks will love the liner notes that detail all the various instruments played on this truly underrated album. Speaking of Pulp, Jarvis Cocker the de-facto leader of the now defunct band, returns with only his second full-length album, Further Complications (Rough Trade). This mixed bag ranges far and wide and reflects the diversity of Cocker’s musical interests, from tender pop to dissonant rock. One of England’s true musical iconoclasts, Cocker may now hopefully record solo albums more regularly. Joss Stone’s latest album Colour Me Free (Virgin), her fourth solo effort, sort of slipped by quietly late last year and that’s a shame. The young English soul force of nature has edged up the funk and come up with a gritty, mature work that shows her to be getting only better. While there are no instant hits that jump off the disc, Stone is a r&b vocalist to be reckoned with. The great English soul revival continues. Camera Obscura returns with its first album in three years, its fourth release, My Maudlin Career (4AD). This is the band’s first album on 4 AD and the Scottish band seems right at home on a label that always puts out very atmospheric music. Having said that, there is nothing too trippy or yes maudlin about this record. Anchored by Tracyanne Campbell’s quirky vocals and an electro-Spectorish musical backing, Camera Obscura actually writes and plays quite poppy and very likeable music. This is one of those bands that once you really start listening to its music you completely fall in love with it and call them all your own. Findlay Brown also owes much to Phil Spector, not to mention Roy Orbison in terms of the sound he gets on Love Will Find You (Verve Forecast), his second album and major label debut. Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian has an exciting new side project entitled God Help The Girl (Matador). Enlisting various female lead singers; Rick Wentworth, composer of the film Whihtnail & I and other film music; along with a 45-piece orchestra, Murdoch has come up with an album far more interesting than recent Belle & Sebastian releases. John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) can add yet another superstar band to their resume with the release of the self-titled debut album from Them Crooked Vultures (Interscope), which also includes Josh Homme of Queens of the Stoneage on guitar and vocals. The album marks the second time in so many years that a former Led Zep member has stepped out in style with an exciting new project. Add to that Jimmy Page starring in It Might Get Loud with The Edge and Jack White, and it’s no wonder that Led Zep reunion tour has yet to materialize.

Winter Sounds

Tori Amos released Abnormally Attracted To Sin (Republic) earlier this year and has just released Midwinter Graces (Republic). Midwinter Graces is less a Christmas recording and more a true album of winter or solstice music. Amos brings back her more baroque classical sound, featuring her wonderful piano playing. The release also includes a DVD, with an interview with Amos. A reissue of the Melissa Etheridge holiday release A New Thought For Christmas from 2008 (Island) includes a bonus DVD of the entire album live in concert.