Friday, 16 March 2012

Five Faceless Gems- By James Nuttall ©

1. Christine McVie: In the Meantime

The McVie's always were the modest two in Fleetwood Mac. At the height of their success, John McVie's dress sense was the only thing that made him stand out, wearing garish Hawaiian t-shirts for performances, preferring to stand at the back of the stage, quietly pumping his bass-lines out. And rather than worry about solo alums, he was content to record his bass parts early in the Mac's mixes so he could go sailing. 

Equally, Christine was never very comfortable in the limelight, preferring to be at the side of the stage behind her array of keyboards, letting 70's sex-goddess Stevie Nicks take the bulk of attention.  

McVie has released three solo albums in her career, the first in 1970 before she married John, simply entitled 'Christine Perfect.' The second came in a large break between Mac albums in 1984. It had two hit singles, and peaked at number 26 on the billboard chart.

McVie left Fleetwood Mac and returned to England in 1998. Until 2004, she had nothing to do with music at all. That year, however, she released a real masterpiece of easy-listening, 'In the Meantime'. She did little to promote the album, other than a limited number of UK and US interviews. Without one live performance it nestled comfortably at number 133 in the UK charts for a few weeks.  

It opens up with the exciting 'Friend', which finds McVie still in fine form, both as a piano player and singer. The song 'You Are', which was the instigator of the album being made, sounds as though it could have come from any Fleetwood Mac album.

She collaborated with her nephew, Dan Perfect, who gives us one of the albums best songs, Northern Star- perfect listening for a walk on a lazy summer afternoon. Another highlight is the funky 'Anything is Possbible', and the moody 'So Sincere', both of which give the album its attitude. 

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2. Jimmy Destri: Heart on a Wall

Today this album is more faceless than the invisible man... not that it was much different on release.

Jimmy Destri is known for being Blondie's original keyboard player, and composed many of their biggest hits, including 'Picture This', 'Maria' and 'Atomic'. 

Destri released 'Heart on a Wall' in 1981 at the height of Blondie's success. It peaked at number 201 on the US billboard charts, but despite featuring the other members of Blondie guesting on the album it did little anywhere else. 

The opening track, 'Bad Dreams', is the essence of Destri's writing style. It may not necessarily make sense all the way though, but certainly shows off Destri's skill as a writer and a singer. 

'In My Own Little World' is reminiscent of Destri's contribution 'Living in the Real World' on Blondie's 1980 LP 'Eat to the Beat', as is the album's highlight 'Numbers Don't Count (On Me).

As of yet, the album is still to be released on CD.

3. Espers: II

If you're looking for psychedelic-folk/drone music, look no further than Espers. Based in Philadelphia they have released four critically acclaimed studio albums, and have a large cult following. 

Their albums however see little promotion upon release. 'II' is their finest example of the members of the band working together to create a compelling piece of art that leaves spellbound. 

The highlight is arguably the albums opening track, 'Dead Queen'. Meg Baird is in fine voice as she serenades us with her harmonies with Helena Espvall. 

Available to buy at:

4. Kim Richey: Kim Richey 

Kim Richey's first album scraped it into the USA country albums back in 1995, and scored a moderately successful single with 'Just My Luck'. 

Although she was nominated for two Grammys for songwriting, she is a widely ignored talent. 

Her first album boasts her talent as a songwriter and a singer. Aside from the catchy and upbeat single, songs like 'Sweet Mysteries' and 'Those Words We Said' helps to make this album one of the best country albums of the 90's. When you think of how many women there are around now who take the stage with an acoustic guitar around them to sing country... surely some of them must have been influenced by Richey's talent. 

As Steve Horowitz of wrote: "Kim Richey would rule the charts in the land where Marshall Crenshaw was king, Aimee Mann queen, and The Beatles never put out another record after Revolver." True. 

Available to buy at:

5. Suzi Quatro: Rock Hard 

Suzi Q has covered a smorgasbord of genres when it comes to making albums. Her first album was warmly received by the critics and sold very well worldwide despite her biggest single, Can the Can, being left off it apart from in Australia. 

Her second album, 'Quatro', was poorly received by the critics and didn't sell as well as the previous album. Although it topped Australia's charts for a full six weeks, the absence of her second number one single, 'Devil Gate Drive', on the album meant that it failed to chart in the UK altogether. It screamed 'rushed follow-up' to the success of the first. Littered with 1950's cover songs and self-penned slow-movers, 'Quatro' proved to be a commercial failure. 

In later years she would fuse country and techno together in the 1982 album 'Main Attraction', funk in 1975's 'Your Mamma Won't Like Me', and she even had a nod towards prog in 1976's 'Aggro-Phobia'.

In the late 70's both Quatro's image and music softened. The cover of the 1978 album 'If You Knew Suzi' signifies this change: gone with the leather jumpsuit and tough look, in with the soft long hair, corduroy trousers and black boots. 1979's 'Suzi... And Other Four Letter Words' took on the same style.

In 1980, however, Quatro released what most critics called her rockiest album up until the time. 'Rock Hard's' cover signifies this. It shows Suzi Q with her long, long hair, leather jumpsuit and tough-girl stare. This is complimented with her sporting her custom made BC Rich 'Bich' bass guitar. Robert Palmer would later credit Quatro with his decision to use these guitars in his award-winning music video of 'Addicted to Love'.

The album itself is a platter of hard-rock tracks, including a re-vamped cover of the Dave Clark Five's 'Glad All Over'. The Quatro/Tuckey songwriting team are on fine form, contributing five of the 11 tracks: the albums ballad, 'Lonely is the Hardest', the reggae-styled 'Woman Cry', and the guitar-driven 'Ego in the Night', 'State of Mind' and 'Lay Me Down'.

Her original hit songwriter, Mike Chapman, offers the two singles: the title track, which hit number 68 in the UK and number nine in Australia, where the album went platinum, and 'Lipstick'. 

A songwriting team of Brown and Straley composed the remaining three tracks.

This record was somewhat overshadowed in most countries by the 'Suzi Quatro Greatest Hits' album of the same year, which hit the number four spot in the UK. Until 2012, it was only available on CD on the German double-pack 'then and now', or with different album art. Now Cherry Red Records are finally releasing 'Rock Hard' in its own right, and for the first time ever with the original artwork. 

This album is a jewel in Quatro's crown as the queen of rock and roll, and many fans deem it to be her best work. 

Available to but at:

By James Nuttall

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