1. December Will Be Magic Again - Kate Bush
I love Kate Bush, she may in fact be my all time favourite recording artist. I also randomly live two roads away from where she grew up so I feel especially close to her.
This particular track was always one of those songs I'd hear when I was kid, more often than not at Christmas and I'd wonder what the hell it was. It didn't really sound like a Christmas track, in fact it didn't really sound like any kind of track I’d ever heard before, when I eventually worked out it was wonderful Kate I was onto the rest of her stuff like a mad ma
n. She is insane but amazing all at the same time. I have to admit some of her music is plain awful but at its best she scales heights no other artist has ever come close to.
The chord changes are typically strange and unusual making the song sound weird and ethereal, the instruments and sounds she uses conjure up a magical backdrop on which she warbles dramatically floaty yet dynamic and indeed epic vocals. I think its one of the most amazing things you can ever allow your ears to hear. The track is bonkers, she's crackers and I love them both for it.
Favourite lyric - "Come to sparkle the dark up" we reference this line in 'The Shining'. Not sure if Dan intended to, but I love that its in there.
2. Ashes to Ashes - David Bowie
David Bowie is another of my all time greatest artists and he also holds my personal ‘best gig ever’ trophy. I saw him live at Glastonbury in 2000 when he played all his singles from Space Oddity to I'm Afraid of Americans straight through one after the other. It was absolutely spell binding. I remember him appearing on stage wearing this white/gold
long jacket, it felt like the king of all the world had just arrived and everyone was just speechless and in awe of what was about to happen. It was tremendous in every sense of the word. Ashes to ashes is my joint favourite Bowie track along with Lets Dance because for some reason they just connect with me in a way that no other songs do. Again, this one is a bit of a weird sounding offering with its jerky bass, weird piano effect and guitar stabs making it the most exciting start to a track you can ever hope to hear. And then the whole Major Tom thing kicks in and you feel like you’re in Bowie heaven. It’s another completely crazy track. Chord changes just feel so right and every time I hear it makes hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Probably my fave song to get ready to go out to, it seems to sound even better when you've had a beer or two. I love it.
Favourite lyric - "I'm happy, hope your happy too".
3. Vampire Forest Fire (live KCRW radio version) - The Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire are my favourite band of recent years. I discov
ered them when a friend of mine (Crazy Ian for Cupertino in California) sent me a package with Funeral and an Eagles of Death Metal album in, the latter didn't get a look in after I'd heard the Arcade Fire's debut. I don't think I had ever been more astonished by a record on a first listen before, it was and is sublime in every way. I'd never heard violins used to such dramatic effect in a pop record. Magic.
Vampire Forest Fire is a track that was released on their first EP, I was sent this version by another friend in the States and I fell in love with it instantly. Its melancholic, optimistic, crushing and uplifting all at the same time. How can he be a Vampire in a forest fire? I don't get it but I love it. I love the Arcade fire and I cannot wait to hear some new material.
Favourite lyric "If I let where I'm from burn, I can never return".
4. Intro medley to San Quentin concert (Big River/I Still Miss Someone/Wreck Of The Old 97)- Johnny Cash
This is a bit more simple; my girlfriend bought me the San Quentin album on Valentines Day of the first year we met. And it brings back all those memories of our honeymoon period and what we used to do, where we used to live all that good stuff but it’s also more than that. Listening to this record on virtual repeat for a year made me fall in love with rockabilly guitar and Travis picking which is prevalent on every single track of the album, I think its Carl Perkins or one of the Tennessee Three (I should really know that!) I remember first sitting down to try and replicate the technique on my guitar and failing miserably. It took me a whole lot of practice to master but its one of my favourite ways of playing the guitar these days. On 'Wreck of the old 97', it actually sounds like the picking and of course the magnificent solo, is the train itself screaming down the tracks towards its impending doom! Woo woo!!! Fantastic.
Favorite lyric "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash, alright". The man's a flippin genius.
5. Sealed With A Kiss - Brian Hyland
This song sounds so tragically sad, from the picky notes of the intro to the more optimistic end its heartbreak in a song. It’s not about breaking up of course, but more about longing. I feel like I've been through it and felt exactly what this song is trying to put into sounds and my God it does it perfectly! The chord changes from major to minor, the modulation half way through, mountains of reverb on the main vocals and close harmonies just send this track straight to the win department in my brain. This is a master-class in song writing and I tip my hat to it.
Favourite lyric "let us make a pledge to meet in September". Heart wrenching.
6. FBI - The Shadows
FBI is one of those tunes you hear as a guitarist and always want to play live, but you never get the chance. It puts a smile on my face every time I hear it, the melody is phenomenal and just the atmosphere of the track makes my imagination explode with images of men in suits with cars and guns. It just works. The way it resolves after every time the main tune comes to an end is scintillating. It's one of the coolest sounding pieces of instrumental guitar music you will ever hear. The Shadows are fantastic.