Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

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Fitter Stoke
Fitter Stoke
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Edited Dec 30, 2017, 10:33
Re: 2 0 1 7
Dec 29, 2017, 11:35
Not a vintage year for music for me, at least as far as any new music is concerned. A new Shetland folk group excepted, it's been the old guard that has provided my musical satisfaction.

Album of the year for me: Elbow's 'Little Fictions'. Even though it is Elbow-by-numbers with less lyrical edge than their previous albums, the songs are excellent. 'Trust the Sun' is a simply sublime love song. This Guy's in love, and it sounds good.

Paul Weller is an even longer established artist who seems able to churn out distinctive records at will, so effortless does his art sound. 'A Kind Revolution' is typical solo Weller but with a indefinable x factor which makes it stand out from most of his back catalogue. Once again, I guess it's just the songs, making this a close runner up to Elbow in my personal list for 2017.

Mike Oldfield's 'Return To Ommadawn' was also a long awaited return to form to these ears, and his finest record since his 1975 third album with which, title notwithstanding, it has little in common other than long form, self-performed pieces. I just found it immensely satisfying from first hearing, and thus it remains.

On my annual Shetland holiday I picked up a lovely CD called 'A Place In Time' from a young folk group called Vair, having been wooed by a brief promotional video clip seen on the overnight ferry. It's a belter of a debut, managing to sound fully new and distinctive whilst retaining enough traditional elements to keep it authentically Shetland in feel. The tracks are mostly instrumental with some particularly inspired acoustic guitar playing, and energy is high. I was privileged to hear Vair support Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham later in the year, and they didn't disappoint.

Steve Winwood has been quiet for too long, but re-emerged this year with a fine double album of "greatest hits" recorded live which has given me much pleasure. He may be pushing seventy but his sublime vocal and instrumental talent remains undiminished.

These are my top five newly recorded albums for the year. But fine as they are, they're overshadowed by Bob Dylan's 'Trouble No More' box set, which sent me back to a period of Dylan's career I'd never fully appreciated until now. Whatever one may feel about the "born again" protestations of Dylan's '78 - 81' period, there's a vim and confidence to Dylan's voice in these years that I find utterly irresistible: in fact, he never sounded better before or since, and his band is rocking. Live, the songs from 'Slow Train Coming', 'Saved' and 'Shot Of Love' really come to life. Additionally (and this is not atypical of Dylan from any period), there are several outtakes introduced here which would have enhanced their parent albums had they been released contemporaneously. There's an interesting DVD too. 'Trouble No More' is expensive, but there is a lot of fun and revelation (no pun intended) in this box, believe me.

Have to also mention Radiohead's 'OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017' which brings some prime unreleased material from the original sessions into circulation. 'I Promise', 'Man Of War', 'Lift' and 'Lull' are all sublime songs from what remains the band's most tuneful phase, and are now so ensconced within the album as a whole that I can't remember how 'OK Computer' sounded without them.

EDIT: 1000realapes' list reminds me of the (literally) infinite joys of Brian Eno's 'Reflection' which, bought as a phone app, I mistakenly overlooked when compiling my top 5 for the year. 'Reflection' represents the pinnacle of Eno's instrumental art to me and has been a constant and ever stimulating travel companion ever since I purchased it. An honourable mention should also be made of the great man's 'Sisters' which was a generous and welcome bonus.

Patchier albums from Neil Young ('The Visitor'), Morrissey ("Low In High School'), and Jesus and Mary Chain ('Damage and Joy') have also provided sporadic pleasure in 2017, but are far from classics. Van Morrison has also regaled us with two albums of mostly standard material which IMHO are fair to middling, though I guess it's unreasonable to expect anything else this far into his career.

Here's hoping for better things in 2018.

Happy New Year, Drudians.

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