INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
The Guardian AUGUST 24, 2009 - by Ben Wardle
ALBUMS YOU LOVE FROM GENRES YOU HATE
If Miles Davis's Kind Of Blue is a jazz album for people who hate jazz, what about reggae albums for people who hate reggae? Or metal records for those who detest metal?
Fifty years ago this week, Columbia released Kind Of Blue. It's widely regarded as the one jazz album owned by people who don't like jazz. But if Kind Of Blue is a jazz trojan horse, sneaking its way into Kings Of Leon and Madonna fans' homes, then surely there must be albums that do the same job in other genres - Kind Of Blues for those who have no truck with heavy metal, for reggae-haters, for prog-bashers...
Like Davis's classic, these records wouldn't necessarily be recognised as "the greatest" of the genre by aficionados. In fact, obvious choices like, for example, Exodus for reggae-haters or Nevermind for grunge-loathers would be wrong, because it's highly likely that listeners have based their dislike of the genre on obvious exponents like these. These new Kinds of Blue wouldn't necessarily be a solitary badge of cool either; they are not there to look good on the shelf. Like Davis's album, they should be the sort of thing you put on without even thinking about it.
Of course, nobody is really qualified to make sweeping statements on behalf of other people's musical tastes, but I feel reasonably confident in having a bash at recommending ten new Kinds Of Blue.
PUNK: Buzzcocks - Another Music In A Different Kitchen (EMI)
Punk-rock haters are probably sick to the back teeth of the tedious middle-class sloganeering and stubby, badly played songs. Despite it being packed with great tunes, The Clash's debut is likely to annoy this crowd, so the punk Kind Of Blue for them is Pete Shelley and co's melodic, introspective debut, which adds a sexual frisson with an avant-garde, almost prog streak.
HIP-HOP: Young MC - Stone Cold Rhymin' (Island)
Astonishing that, amid all the pomp and celebration of Island's fiftieth, no one thought to champion this 1989 classic. Know How's speeded-up loop of the Shaft riff is still a popular DJ cut, but the whole album is packed with everything great about hip-hop (poetry, irresistible beats, imaginative samples) without any of the boorishness, guest appearances and repetition that irks all the haters. And it's short, too.
'60s POP: The Zombies - Odessey & Oracle (Big Beat)
The 1960s have been ruined for many music fans. This is largely because of its continuing ubiquity. There are many music lovers who would rather eat their own ears than hear another track by The Beatles, Stones, Who or Kinks. This is for them: Colin Blunstone, one of the loveliest voices ever recorded, singing effortlessly beautiful songs, not cursed by being stuck on permaplay on Magic.
METAL: AC/DC - Back In Black (Atlantic)
It's a no-brainer that the biggest-selling rock album of all time (and apparently second only to Thriller in sales) should be the one that will tempt metal-haters. It has all the stuff that annoys them (idiot lyrics, vocal histrionics, unimaginative riffing), and yet the tunes make it an effortless listen, never dulled by overplay.
REGGAE: The Wailers - Catch A Fire (Island)
Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer's first record for Island was given a light dusting of rock guitar in order to convince a reggae-suspicious rock crowd that it was worth a listen. And it still works.
CLASSICAL: Angel Hewitt - J.S. Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier (Hyperion)
It's too big a genre, really, but often one that gets dismissed by pop fans at a single stroke. This is the one to have, then: beautiful, elegant playing by one of world's greatest Bach interpreters, who is blessed by his astonishing, pop bass lines. Just like Kind Of Blue, it's an album that will have any guest asking, "What is this? It's great."
FOLK: Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left (Island)
Already well on the way to becoming a Kind Of Blue for music fans who would cross the road to avoid Bert Jansch and avert their eyes at the first sign of Liege And Lief, Nick Drake's debut is an effortless listen. It evokes a similar bittersweet mood to Kind Of Blue, too.
PROG ROCK: Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (Charisma)
It's a misguided, pretentious concept double album (and features Phil Collins) but - bear with me, prog loathers - it's packed with great and irritation-free songs such as Carpet Crawlers, which will have you singing along despite not having a clue what it's about.
A huge proportion of music lovers draw the line at ambient - and with good reason: much of it is what you hear while receiving indifferent reflexology. This one has all the ambient hallmarks - floating, unresolved chords; absence of rhythmic direction - and yet, just like Kind Of Blue, it works on first listen and gets better with each play.
SOUL: Stevie Wonder - Innervisions (Motown)
Possibly the most contentious of all genres, it feels awkward singling out one record for those foolish enough to have dismissed the entire genre. But even metal fans or classical snobs will embrace Wonder's album, which smuggles righteous black-power politics into some of his most enduring tunes. And if they like this, then perhaps Songs In The Key Of Life is next.