4 tracks really worth a listen

Here are 4 tracks really worth a listen which I’ve dug out from the back of the cupboard over the holidays – they’re arriving here one by one, one a day…

(1, Christmas Eve) TIDES by Nitin Sawhney from Beyond Skin LISTEN


I don’t know too much about this album, I never liked it that much when I got it in around 1999 after it was nominated for the Mercury Prize. After I saw Talvin Singh play a couple of weeks ago at Kings Place, Kings Cross at a Not So Silent Movies session with Evelyn Glennie, and really enjoying his drumming (as well as hers – it was a brilliant improvised percussion-focused session), I had a vague memory of having one of his records – but it turned out to be this one. Wrong talented British Indian. But nevermind, it turned out to be a great find – loads of fabulous tracks such as Nadia and Broken Skin. But Tides was the stand out. It picks up on a big theme of the record, nuclear weapons, in particular in India and Pakistan but weaving a thread all the way back to Oppenheimer and Los Alamos. It melds the Drum & Bass spine of Beyond Skin with jazz piano and the gentle breath of the waves. The piano theme is very reminiscent of Stan Tracey on Starless and Bible Black. And like that precedent, it’s simply beautiful.

Disturbed ocean after French underwater nuclear test, Mururoa Sept 1995

Disturbed ocean after French underwater nuclear test, Mururoa Sept 1995

(2, Christmas Day) DON’T YOU GO by John Martyn from Glorious Fool LISTEN

john martyn glorious fool

A lot of John Martyn’s work from later in his career is written off in the wake of his classic 70s albums like Solid Air, but he never made a record that didn’t have something of genius on it. Glorious Fool came out in the bad taste decade that was the 80s, in 1981, produced by not-to-everyone’s-taste Phil Collins. From memory both of them were in the aftermath of messy divorces. This track has an immense sadness in it, a keening quality you get in Irish sean nos singing. It has a background drone reminiscent of the bagpipes (he went to school in Glasgow, real surname McGeachy) or uillean pipes (he died in Ireland), complemented by a simple piano. It’s an anti-war song though which war he had in mind I’ve no idea, the Falklands conflict didn’t break out til the following year, but there’s never really any shortage to chose from. Listen to it at the right moment and there never was anything more melancholy.


by Alfred Eisenstaedt

(3, St Stephen’s Day) PARADISE CIRCUS by Massive Attack from Heligoland LISTEN

Massive Attack Heligoland

One of those cases where an album has a track that just stands out a mile. The combination of Hope Sandoval’s Mazzy Star-style laid-back vocals and a phat old bass line are a totally winning one, perfect for back to mine in the wee small hours.

Hope Sandoval

Hope Sandoval

(4 plain old Thursday) TIGHINN AIR A’mhuir Am Fear A Phosas Mi by Capercaillie from Nadurra LISTEN

nadurra capercaillie

From memory I came across Capercaillie on a compilation of Celtic music, most of which was Irish, but they were holding up the Scots end. I don’t know much about the band and have no idea what the song’s about, although I think I heard the word Gra in there a few times which is Love in Irish so I presume the same in Scots Gaelic. It’s a sweet sound any way and very reminiscent of Irish singers like Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan (who I met in Carlingford a couple of years ago and had a drink with at the sailing club bar) and the Brennan sisters of Clannad (one of whom is a friend and whose painting The Ghost of Our Trees sits in my hall below). Bottom line, I just like listening to the soft spoken Celtic words.

Karen Matheson

Karen Matheson

10 comments so far

  1. theluckhabit on

    As you will recall it was one of my 100 greatest albums from a few years back! Saw him live in 2010 at the Royal Albert Hall.

    Saw the Talvin Singh ‘OK’ celebratory concert at The Barbican in 1999 with Bill Laswell playing the loudest bass I have ever heard. Talvin never followed it up. Nitin on the other hand has produced a succession of world-class albums.

  2. ArkAngel on

    Which would you recommend as my 2nd one?

  3. theluckhabit on

    Probably ‘Prophesy’ or ‘London Undersound’. Of all his albums my personal view is that ‘Human’ and the most recent, ‘Last Days of Meaning’ are just a bit weaker than the others.

  4. theluckhabit on

    I noted your comment about ‘the bad-taste decade’. I received the ‘1001 albums to hear before you die’ book for Christmas and the authors have 1986 down as the worst year for popular music. 1985 and 1987 run it close.

  5. ArkAngel on

    And 1971 is the best. With 1977 or 1979 running it close.

  6. theluckhabit on

    I think your ’77 and ’79 must be based on the punk/new wave thing? As you know, not a love of mine! But ’71 yes. And I will also throw in ’69 – Trout Mask Replica, Tommy, first two Zep albums, Hot Rats, Stand, Crosby Stills and Nash, Abbey Road, Five Leaves Left,Basket of Light, Johnny Cash/San Quentin, In a Silent Way, Let it Bleed, Dusty in Memphis, Hot Buttered Soul, VU, Cloud 9 (Temptations), Happy Sad (Tim Buckley), Court of the Crimson King,Songs Fron a Room (Cohen), That’s a great year and there’s a lot I haven’t put down. A lot of those albums are the best work by the performers e.g. Stones, Dusty, Zappa, Miles etc. I think there were a couple of great years from the 1990’s as well.

  7. ArkAngel on

    Based on Punk and Reggae. I need to do a bit more analysis to figure out which was the key year, I think it’s later than we tend to think. My argument would be that 71 not 69 was the true climax of the 60s. What’s Going On would be a core plank of the argument.

  8. theluckhabit on



    They are both great lists and I can’t place one ahead of the other. I was rather pleased to see that I have many of the albums on these lists. One of the bad things about the 1001 albums book is the ludicrous bias towards white rock and derivatives. No Steel Pulse ‘Handsworth Revolution’, Burning Spear ‘Marcus Garvey’ or Congoes ‘Heart of the Congies’ for example. But albums by Motley Crue and Hanoi Rocks are.

  9. ArkAngel on
  10. […] 4 Tracks really worth a listen […]

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