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Another major cultural influence that has undoubtedly influenced my novels. I'm becoming a short story writer too, and I imagine every story could be thought of as a song, in a way, I suppose. Enjoy the music: click on the pics.

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Valentyne Suite: Colosseum

An underrated little gem, not widely appreciated. I love it for the amazing drumming and the driving, soaring tunes. The second half, the suite itself, the heavily jazz influenced pop-rock making this offering possibly the quintessential prog-rock album of all time.

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Aqualung: Jethro Tull

Not necessarily Tull's best, or even their most representative album, but thematically it's the one that resounds most strongly with me. According to Ian Anderson, Locomotive Breath was chucked together in the studio but, oddly, became a staple of their live sets. I was lucky enough to hear them perform the Aqualung set at the Sunderland Empire around 1971, I think, which is maybe why I'm so fond of the album.

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Songs of Leonard Cohen: Leonard Cohen

A masterpiece in misery. Let's face it, we all get a little down in the dumps from time to time, and Lenny boy sure knows how you feel. Classy lyrics and unforgettable melodies. The final lines of the final song on the original release, One of Us Cannot Be Wrong sums up the whole wretched business of living and loving:

            I suppose that he froze when the wind took your clothes

            And I guess he just never got warm

            But you stand there so nice, in your blizzard of ice

            Oh please let me come into the storm

Then the wailing begins. And this has been called one of Leonard's "wryly humorous" songs, which well it might be to some poor masochistic soul.

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Ancient Heart: Tanita Tikaram

Released in the late 80s, this album reinvigorated my interest in contemporary music after years of disillusionment. Strange lyrics, haunting tunes, magnificent arrangements.

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Blue: Joni Mitchell

The stand out album from Joni's early golden period. There were many fine songs elsewhere, of course, but judged as a collection this is the most satisfying: all the songs seem to belong here. There's a general yearning for something better, the sense of a search, for love or truth or adventure, reaching out for a philosophy, or something. Joni never quite gets there, but in a sense she wouldn't be Joni if she did.


In The Court of the Crimson King: King Crimson

Not for the faint hearted, best played loud in a darkened room. A benchmark album in the prog-rock catalogue. Virtuoso guitar, drums, sax and everything else. Brilliant, thunderous keyboards and woodwind throughout. Though Fripp held together the Crimson concept for many years, every subsequent album is haunted by the massive loss of Ian McDonald, whose contribution on this debut album is huge.      

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Atom Heart Mother: Pink Floyd

Not as flashy or as polished as The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, or indeed, The Wall, but quirky and experimental with some haunting melodies on the title track, and one of Roger Waters' loveliest ballads, If, which opened the second side of the LP format.

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Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

ELP: The prog-rock act everyone loves to hate. Their much reviled excesses were evident even here on their debut album, but also the virtuosity, brilliance and invention. Okay, they pinched the odd tune from the classical canon without due recognition, but I can forgive any band that includes four pearls like The Barbarian, Take A Pebble, Knife Edge and Lucky Man in one album. Any one of them alone would be enough to save many other far inferior offerings from many far inferior acts.

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Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan

Both artist and album (I dare say) are so iconic it's not easy to say anything fresh. I spent years vaguely aware of His Bobness, not particularly enamoured of his work, and then I heard Desolation Row and I suddenly understood it all. I went out and bought virtually his entire back catalogue (circa, 1975) and wore out the vinyl. This is his first "electric" album, they say. I say it's an electrifying album, as are all the "acoustic" ones that preceded it. Not a single dud track on 61 and enough verbal gymnastics to keep you wondering for years.

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Abbey Road: The Beatles

I was a late-comer to The Beatles. I thought of them as the beat group of their early period, and I was largely unaware of their later works until well into the 70s. Revolver, Sgt Pepper, White Album and Abbey Road are all magnificent well renowned works and Abbey Road is an uncanny listen. In the opening track - Come Together - there's Lennon at his pleading best with semi-surreal lyrics, underpinned by an extraordinary McCartney base line deservedly lauded ever since. This is followed by Harrison's Something, described by Frank Sinatra as the greatest love song ever written. Amazingly, the first side survives the otherwise bland McCartney's "granny music", Maxwell's Silver Hammer and Ringo's throwaway children's song, Octopus's Garden, perhaps through clever juxtaposition with heavier rock-blues offerings, Oh Darling and I Want You. In any case, it works.

            Side Two begins with Harrison's (probably) most famous song, and one of his very best, Here Comes the Sun, light, breezy, and impossible not to smile through. Because follows, showcasing the band's sumptuous close harmonies for which they were so often praised and You Never Give Me Your Money, an odd little lament with some honky-tonk piano redolent of much in the White Album. The famous medley follows and it's a roller coaster of a ride to the end with switching moods and styles personifying the essence of the album, and possibly the entire group output.

            Surely that's the secret of Abbey Road; the range of musical genres embraced, the sweeping changes in tempo, the endless melodic, rhythmic and harmonic invention, which just about sums up The Beatles' whole career. Abbey Road was the last album they recorded, a gift to us, and a fitting tribute to themselves.       

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