Thursday, 13 December 2012

Bloody Good Chap's top 10 tunes of 2012

In brief - or as brief as I can be - here are my top ten tunes over this year, a real mix of the good, the bad and the downright groovy! 

Woman’s gotta have it - James Taylor (In the pocket, 1976)

This smooth interpretation of a Bobby Womack original is one of the most seductive and sultry tunes I have ever listened to. Rising strings, Taylor’s inimitable vocals, the 70’s funk it’s all there, making for an eminently hummable tune. The best bits are his ad-libing towards the end of the song, after all, ‘your woman needs it the same as mine, woman’s got to have it from time to time’.

King of Pain - The Police (Synchronicity, 1983)

Sting has been responsible for writing some magic but in turn he has been responsible for some lyrical atrocities - ‘Walking in your footsteps’ being one examples. Not so on ‘King of Pain’ a fantastic, idiosyncratic track which captures the band at what they do best, jumpy, frantic and reggae-influence pop. Who cares who the King of Pain is? I don’t! the best part of this song is the rousing chorus, Summer’s clucking guitars and Copeland’s unmistakable drumming. this is a song by a group at a time when they truly were one of the biggest bands in the world and it shows, hats off to the fellows! It took me until 2012 to discover this great tune but from now on in it will always find a place on one of my playlists.   

We’ll be Together - Sting (...Nothing like the sun, 1987)

Yes, I am following a track by the Police with one by their most successful spin-off. Like ‘Fraiser’ was to ‘Cheers’ Sting was to the Police and had a period in the mid to late 80s of being as truly original and inventive as his former group. He had cemented his credibility as a solo artist with The dreams of blue turtles (1984) but on the follow up ...Nothing like the sun he really rose to the occasion making a somewhat sanctimonious cut - if beautifully sung and played by the artist. My particular favourite is a funky track that would have give Michael Jackson that missing piece of the jigsaw for Bad (1987) - what a duet that would have been, Sting and MJ! The track in question was written originally as a Japanese beer commercial and it is quite apparent (similar in structure to, but shorter than, Genesis’s ‘Tonight, tonight, tonight’). It is a jaunty tune, with a deep groove, guaranteed to get you on the dancefloor. The video for the track, in which Sting sports a snazzy Tintin & Snowy wool-knit is not to be missed. 

The way I feel - Adrian Gurvitz (Sweet Vendetta, 1979)

Who is Adrian Gurvitz I hear you ask? Well I can safely say he is a bit more that the appalling one-hit-wonder lambasted in such an amusing way by Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on ‘The Trip’! He did have one great album (Sweet Vendetta, 1979) under his sleeve which, whilst dated, is a homage to the underrated ‘soft rock’ genre of the late 70s and early 80s! This tune is one of the most self-indulgent tracks I have ever heard, full of some of the best musicians of all time. The late Jeff Pocaro (Toto) was on drums, and it is a masterclass of his amazing playing as well as many others. The song itself has awesome tempo, real strings and the dirtiest groove on the chorus, you could almost imagine yourself on the lit dancefloor busting out your best Tony Manero impressions to this cut! 

Love you inside out - Bee Gees (Spirits have flown, 1979) 

From one dancefloor killer to a real piece of dancefloor filler! I am sure that back in 1979 you couldn’t move for the static of the nylon on the deck as the discoball twirled above and the Bass flowed freely from the keg. This tune speaks of a bygone era when the Bee Gees ruled the charts - so it must have been a while ago - but it is a goodie. One thing you can say about this band is that in their golden age, in which this tune falls, that the playing, production and sheer style was awesome. Barry Gibb’s falsetto is so distinctive, and the synth strings soaring into the background make this a tune to strut down a street in Queens, paint pot in one hand and slice of pizza in the other!

Rocket 7” - Def Leppard (Single, 1989) 

Edited down from a track of the same name on the monumental ‘Hair-Metal’ album Hysteria (1987), Rocket has to be one of the great rock tracks of the 80s up there with ‘Paradise City’, ‘Here I go Again’, ‘Heat of the Moment’ and ‘Home Sweet Home’ - it is hard to believe from the Americanised sound that the band was from the steel mills of Sheffield, but you can tell that they were enjoying themselves when they recorded this breezy track dedicated to all their heroes from the ‘Glam Rock’ era of music with references to ‘Bennie and the Jets’, ‘Major Tom’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’. It also benefits from some masterful production, courtesy of the legendary Mutt Lange, larding an already pompous track with edits, dubs and sampling to making a quite brilliant anthem which lends itself well to some drunken air guitar playing! 

Solid Air - John Martyn (Solid Air, 1973) 

Taking it a little lower, a little more mellow, we come to a British folk classic by the underrated and unequalled John Martyn. Recording just before the artist discovered his signature ‘echoplex’ (a reverb/echo which gives the guitar a clean, sustained sound). This is a seductive mix of acoustic guitar, fretless bass, vibes, saxophone and a hi-hat to create a brooding masterpiece. But it is Martyn’s unique vocal talents that really evoke atmosphere in the tune, it really sounds like solid air might feel!

Down for the third time - Bobby Caldwell (What you won’t do for love, 1978) 

‘left your mark in a distant past...’, say what you like about Bobby Caldwell - and I’ve said a lot - he writes great, cynical lyrics. This closes his best-selling album, his debut, featuring the famous ‘What you won’t do for love’ sampled by all and sundry rap artist looking for horn drenched backing for their brash lyrics. This track though is a subdued affair, which benefits from a hypnotically repetitive rhythm and some gentle musing on a gibson guitar. Caldwell, a session musician by training, is always best on these workouts and it becomes even more impressive when you find out that he played pretty much all the instruments on the cut!

Teardrops 7” - Womack & Womack (Single, 1988) 

The original will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary next year and it still hasn’t lost its ability to fill the dancefloor with its catchy drum machine riff and varied percussion (very Stewart Copeland-esque) and easily recognizable vocal hook: ‘reminds me baby of you’. When you list to the lyrics it is actually a pretty depressing track of lost love and regret, but its funky back beat makes it one of those tunes that you cannot help but tap you foot to. The track has been given a new lease of life by a very pleasant version by Joss Stone, but for me the original is by far the best.

This one’s from the heart - Tom Waits & Crystal Gayle (One from the heart OST, 1981) 

It’s four in the morning, the last few fingers of bourbon are being poured into a tumbler and the last Villiger is being unwrapped from its paper parcel, it’s time to take it down a notch with the sultry croonings of an unusually clear voiced Tom Waits and the sublime Crystal Gayle taken from the soundtrack of the same name (and one of the great Hollywood flops). 

That’s your lot music wise for this year apart from a short paragraph on a particular album to feature in my next post on Christmas stocking fillers a la Bloody Good Chap! Until the weekend then...

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