Music for 'Off Days'

Posted by: Andrew L. Weekes on 20 August 2000

I guess we must all have the occasional 'Off Day' where one isn't sure whether your lack of receptiveness to music is personal or the fault of the Hi-Fi.

Whilst these days are rare I wonder what records other Naim users reach for in an attempt to find where the problem lies. I usually do a bit of Hi-Fi housekeeping then reach for one of a selection of records, that I will place on the turntable to see if they will 'hit the spot', and break down the mental barriers.

To that end here's mine now show me yours, it doesn't include any of the current new albums on my play list, but a selection of albums that have stood the test of time - if nothing else it should provide some useful shopping lists for boot / record fairs and other bargain hunters' haunts.

Jimi Hendrix - 'Hendrix in the West'

If this one doesn't work there's definitely something wrong with the system or me! I love Hendrix, but find so much of the recorded work is lacking what was present in his live performances (although I'm to young to have witnessed any first-hand!).

This album is a mixture but the recording of Little Wing contains about as much emotion as I think it is possible to squeeze from an electric guitar, it never fails to raise hairs on the neck and maybe a tear in the eye mourning the loss of the only musician who was ever truly at one with a guitar.

Also worth buying for an equally good rendition of 'Red House'.

Christy Moore - 'Smoke and Strong Whiskey'

I'm not really a fan of ballads, so this choice may seem a little odd, but the depth of feeling displayed on this album, excellent musicianship and strong lyrics make it a favourite choice. Whilst the lyrics are politically charged, with a strong message, they are presented such that one doesn't feel they is being rammed down your throat. I had to choose between this album, and the 'Live at the point' follow up. The latter captures all the fun and audience interplay of a live performance, but the slightly better balanced recording swayed me towards this one.

Skunk Anansie - 'Stoosh'

Not that old and more of a blast the barriers away album this one. Superb in every respect, skilfully crafted songs, full of pure energy. Just play it loud, very loud.

Clive Gregson / Christine Collister - 'Home and Away'

The magical sound of Ms. Collister's voice, coupled to the skillful guitar playing of Clive Gregson is a combination made in heaven. I chose this album, which is a combination of various live pub / club performances and some simple arrangements recorded straight to (I guess) a four track because it's simplicity. It allows the underlying talent of the pair to really shine. Not exactly an uplifting album, most of the songs tend to deal with the darker, less pleasant realities of day to day life, it still hits the emotional heartstrings better than some of the more polished, better sounding studio albums (all of which you should buy).

Frank Zappa - 'Broadway the Hard Way'

Another big favourite is just about anything by Zappa, with the possible exception of the blip that was 'Ship arriving too late to save a drowning witch'. This album doesn't feature many of his revered guitar solo's, just some jazzy picking on, if memory serves me correctly, the track 'Any kind of pain'. This album features such a huge range of musical styles, often within the space of one song, executed so perfectly one could be forgiven for not noticing the complete change from one bar to the next. Lyrically it shows it's age, but change the names of the various political figures poked fun at and it's all still true today. Above all the fun the musicians are obviously having, coupled to the unbelievably tight musicianship displayed, usually manages to get through any barriers the listener may have put up.

Kevin Eubanks - 'Shadow Prophets'

A gathering of highly talented musicians, some excellent jazz tracks and stunningly good production makes this one a regular in the playlist. The guitar playing of Eubanks is beyond reproach but without being showy. If you fancy something a little less jazzy, and a bit more ballsy, try 'The Heat of Heat', an equally good album.

Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks - 'It came from Nashville'

Classic American bar-room rock, it features a mixture of live and studio tracks, with such pace and sense of fun that it can't fail to uplift. The Steve Earl track 'The Devils Right Hand' would be the track to reach for in the event of a quick fix being required. A stunningly produced live recording that captures all of the energy and interplay between musicians and an audience obviously having fun.

The the - 'Soul Mining'

Matt Johnson (he is, for all intents and purposes, The the) could hardly be described as a prolific writer, but the quality of the end result usually makes the wait worthwhile. There aren't that many albums to choose from but this one has stood the test of time better than any. Pick of the tracks, for uplifting potential, would have to go to 'Uncertain Smile' featuring some excellent piano playing from Jools Holland.

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble - 'The Sky is Crying'

Another record to add to the 'Why do all the best musicians die young' list. Produced posthumously by his brother, this album captures the essence of Stevie better than any other I've heard. Not just a rapidly collated colection of songs designed to 'cash in', but an album that works as a cohesive whole. Stunningly well produced and recorded, it is difficult to pick out a favourite track, as there are a number of styles on display here, demonstrating how versatile a guitarist he was. The jazzy 'Chitlins con carne' would probably be the most worn track though, closely followed by a cover of 'Little Wing'. This is praise indeed that it can stand up in the light of the Hendrix version above.

The Rebirth Brass Band - 'Rebirth kickin' it Live, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, 1990'

Fun with a capital 'F' this one. Discovered as a result of an appearance on the Elvis Costello album 'Spike', this is classic New Orleans brass. The album cover says it better than I ever could '...a gumbo of jazz, dixieland and soul, but this stew is spiced with a file (how do you do accents?) of funk. The Rebirth Brass band has one foot firmly in tradition, but the other is steppin' to its own tune, and you could do well to dance along'.

The Tuba player deserves a special mention here, he must have lungs the size of barrage balloons, to be able to keep the bottom end moving along as he does - well worth a listen.

Andrew L. Weekes

Posted on: 21 August 2000 by Andrew Randle
The best albums for a "musical off-day" can be found in the local record store.... if you catch my drift ;-)

You mention "Soul Mining" from The the. IHMO, "The Dusk" is a better album - and a fantastic way for getting you back into listening.


Andrew Randle
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Posted on: 21 August 2000 by Andrew L. Weekes
The best albums for a "musical off-day" can be found in the local record store.... if you catch my drift ;-)
You mention "Soul Mining" from The the. IHMO, "The Dusk" is a better album - and a fantastic way for getting you back into listening.

That's a fair comment, Dusk is an excellent album, it just hasn't stood the test of time as well as Soul Mining, purely because it's a later album.

One of the problems of any kind of list is there are always more records that can be added (it's hardly an accurate reflection of my collection).

As a bit of a bargain bin hunter, I was hoping to get some 'oldies' worth seeking out


Andrew L. Weekes

Posted on: 21 August 2000 by Michael Dale
I don't think this album is as bad as you are making out! The whole Drowning Witch/Envelopes piece is total genious, the 82 Zappa band played it over and over, and this is the one time they played it spot on with no mistakes. It's not his best album, but when I heard it (I was 14 and had heard Valley Girl on the radio) I fell in love with Zappa's music and spent the next 16 years buying the rest of his albums. Hopefully schoolkids will be studying Zappa in years to come in the same way we did Handel and Mozart. Who knows?