I was asked to share my albums of the year and usually do take some time to reflect on such things. The fascinating thing I find is that this was the year I stopped trying to stay contemporary. When I was doing my radio show from 1996 to 2006 I was always looking for the new songs for next week’s show. When the show stopped I got a chance to just listen for listening’s sake. Still working with students I was always being nudged towards new stuff but leaving student work late 2009 might just have seen a seismic shift in Stockman’s listening habits. As I look back at this year I see phases where I re-discovered The Moody Blues, Leon Russell, Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes and Linda Ronstadt as well as grasping for the first time Joe Cocker and Delaney and Bonnie.
There were a few reasons for these discoveries. Firstly, I don’t get paid as much as I did in Chaplaincy and I now buy most of my CDs in Oxfam or other charity shops. Picking up Joe Cocker’s classic live album Mad Dogs and Englishmen in such a charity shop raid sent me back to my live vinyl triple album gem Leon Live which in turn got me listening to Delaney and Bonnie with Harrison and Clapton joining Leon Russell in behind. It was about a week later that I discovered that Leon was about to release an album with Elton John produced by T-Bone Burnett; serendipity or something! Cocker’s voice and re-working of Dylan, Cohen, The Beatles and Van Morrison among others is intoxicating stuff and that charity shop had loads at ridiculous prices.
The other thing that charity shops do is have you flicking back through vinyl. In one shop, you can tell I work off Botanic Avenue, I came upon the three Linda Ronstadt records I missed in the seventies. Having gotten the Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and 2 I never purchased Hasten Down The Wind, Prisoner In Disguise and Simple Dreams. Coming back the next day I discovered that Hasten Down the Wind was £15! Vinyl has gone up in price in recent years BUT £15; it’s alot of money for a Ballymena man! It did send me off to Ebay to see if I could get it cheaper. So for 1p plus p&p I acquired it and that sent me off in vinyl mode. A few other Linda Ronstadt followed; that stunning voice, great choice of covers, brilliant players!
That somehow though led me back to my Moody Blues vinyl. Already owning a few Moody albums from way back in the seventies I sought out a few that I had had and sold back to the second hand shops – forgive me. Quickly picking up Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and In Search of The Lost Chord I pursued John Lodge’s solo album Natural Avenue and then Ray Thomas’s two seventies solo records too. By year end I was Moody Blues obsessed, picking up all the so called core seven albums released between 1967 and 1972.
Those Moody Blues records really are outstanding and it is hard to understand why they don’t hold a higher place when the history of that prolific era is trawled out in monthly journals like Mojo and Uncut. From the first experiment of orchestra meets rock on Days Of Future Past through the development of the mellotron, mixing psychedelia with a little prog. rock but never overdosing, if that’s not some kind of contradiction! Add to that lyrics about signs of the times and stretching spiritual searching and make the songs radio accessible and you find a treasure trove of records!
By Christmas Day Santa had added more early seventies sounds by delivering some Apple Remasters. At last, after all these years, the non Beatles’ records on The Beatles’ Apple Label got a really good release. I have had the idea for a novel based around a songwriter who was signed to Apple and have for years wanted to hear the records and indulge in some research. Here it all is! What I didn’t expect was that Billy Preston and Doris Troy’s albums would confirm my love of the year – where Gospel and soul met George Harrison’s rock guitar. That took me back to where this article comes in as that sound encompassed Leon Russell and Delaney and Bonnie.
Harrison was always my favourite Beatle; the underdog with a religious bent! What I have discovered this year is how prolific he was as The Beatles disintegrated. He was everywhere playing with everybody and in the Apple Label he was the most hands on of The Beatles being very involved with not only Troy and Preston but also Jackie Lomax and Badfinger. Without question his liberation from his oldest friends had helped him find a muse that would eventually conjure one of my favourite albums of all time – All Things Must Pass. What I found as I listened to Preston and Troy was how their Gospel, with some help from Delaney and Bonnie and Leon Russell was laying the foundations of Harrison taking the Christian hymnody and adding his eastern mysticism. Preston had no bones about being all about sharing his Christian faith; Harrison’s musical gurus were not of the same theology as his Maharishi!
Anyway, that is a big part of my musical story of 2010. Yes, I discovered new things but I revelled in a time between the White Album and Glam Rock and it was that Glam Rock that held the charts when I started buying records.