R J Ellory is a British author, who has released seven novels in the UK, the last one of which was ‘The Anniversary Man’ in September 2009. He is also an enthusiastic guitar player and songwriter. There is a rumour that his late 1980’s band ‘The Manta Rays’ will be reformed and head out on the road again in 2010, though in what guise and under what name is as yet unknown…
This was what his Ipod spat out and what he had to say about the tracks:-
10. ‘See My Jumper Hangin’ Out On The Line’ – Moreland & Arbuckle
Kansas Blues. A great big powerful sound. Aaron Moreland on electric, parlor, resonator and cigar box guitars, Dustin Arbuckle on vocals and harmonica and Brad Horner on drums. No bass player! Moreland builds his own guitars, one of them sporting three bass strings, three guitar strings and somehow it just works as a sound. The harmonica is redolent of Sonny Boy Williamson in the way it fills out the whole sound and makes it rich and vibrant. I latched onto these guys while chasing up on bands like ‘Left Lane Cruiser’. Really a great album – ‘1861’ – named after the year that Kansas became a state.
9. ‘The Man In The Station’ – John Martyn
Martyn, as we all know, is a legend. Now dead, he lived a life that three or four ordinary people could not have matched. His death was a great loss to English folk music. A truly wonderful voice, and arrangements that just swell like waves, coming at you time and again. Put a track like this on in the house – from the album ‘Solid Air’ – turn it up loud, and you’re transported elsewhere. Utterly magical.
8. ‘The Way Young Lovers Do’ – Van Morrison
From ‘Astral Weeks’ – voted, I believe – as the best album of all time to make love to! This was a benchmark in British music in so many ways. Combining blues, R&B, jazz, folk, country, all of it in Morrison’s own inimitable style. The raw power of his voice, the subtlety of the arrangements, practised and practised by his band and then recorded in three days or something crazy like that! From his entire body of work this album stands out – certainly for me – as one of the ultimate highs of a truly stellar catalogue. This track I love because of the way all the instruments converge and resolve at one point into a unified melody. Captivating.
*editor note – unfortunately could not get the Van Morrison version of the song – Jeff Buckley will have to do!
7. ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ – The Thirteenth Floor Elevators
West Coast Psychedelia. The best of the best. Roky Erickson, Stacy Sutherland, need we say more? That electronic clay jug sound effect running through everything. Awesome lyrics. And then Erickson went on to form ‘Roky Erickson and the Aliens’ and record the seminal ‘The Evil One’ album which so many people didn’t get, didn’t appreciate, and yet stands as a masterpiece in any category. I love this band. I mean love!
6. ‘Mendocino’ – The Sir Douglas Quintet
Doug Sahm, also recently passed away, was a master of West Texas Blues. Combining Tex-Mex rhythms, R&B, blues, everything you ever needed in a great dance music, he created a unique sound with semi-acoustics and Hammond B3 organs that just gets you jumping and jiving like never before! A wonderfully warm and rich voice, a full sound, and just great tunes. Superb for driving.
5. Steve Earle – ‘Copperhead Road’
The bad boy of country music. I saw this track covered by Becki McLeod and her band in Nashville back in October, and from the first note you know what it is. They did a great version, but Earle is Earle, and nothing and no-one can take the place of Earle. I understand that this album put a few noses out of joint in the country music world as it is so raw and powerful and honest, but it is what it is. This is just an incredible track, and – as is the case with many of Earle’s songs – it tells a story.
4. ‘Rock This Town’ – The Stray Cats
A classically-trained guitarist, Brian Setzer took the world by storm with his rockabilly three-piece. I think it was Dave Edmunds who got the English listening to The Stray Cats, and thus we owe Edmunds a debt of enormous gratitude. Setzer is a phenomenal guitar player. The kind of guitar player that makes me think ‘Oh sod it, I might as well just give up!’, and yet you listen to him and he just inspires you to try even harder. A raw sound, reminiscent of the greats – Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Johnny Burnette, Scotty Moore. He now plays solo with the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
3. ‘Ruby’s Arms’ – Tom Waits
I have every album released by Tom Waits. Live, studio, doesn’t matter. Everything. There is no question in my mind about the importance of Tom Waits in my listening repertoire. He’s up there in the top five. Tom waits has dragged me through some rough times, let me tell you. He can write the most powerful love songs, the most heartrending ballads, the most awkward progressive incomprehensible ‘jazz’, and yet I love it all. It’s not just the music and the words, it’s the man, the identity, everything he represents and is. A staggering mountain of creativity, and so many songs – like this one, ‘Ruby’s Arms’ – that give you the impression that he is about as deep as a human being can be, about as empathetic as could be possible, and understands everyone who has ever had their heart broken by someone. Incredibly moving.
2. ‘Zig Zag Wanderer’ – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
Again, like Waits, like Van Morrison, like The Elevators, Captain Beefheart has been there throughout my life (seriously, I started listening to this kind of music when I was seven or eight years old), and I won’t have a bad word said about him. Sure he can throw people into utter confusion with albums like ‘Trout Mask Replica’, but even that is entirely understandable when you’ve listened to it twelve or thirteen times. People get upset by unpredictable music. Music they can’t dance to. Listen to something enough and it becomes predictable because of familiarity, and then it sounds utterly different. Anyway, this track – out of all the Beefheart tracks on my iPod – is similarly great. Real name Don Van Vliet, I think he is now living in the desert somewhere and painting. An incredibly talented and big-hearted man, and a phenomenal catalogue of wonderful music.
1. Roy Buchanan – ‘Dual Soliloquy’
Twelve minutes of Buchanan, unaccompanied on a Telecaster. Breathtaking. Utterly breathtaking. Buchanan and Danny Gatton were the two finest Telecaster players of all time. Gatton was from D.C. whereas Buchanan was from Arkansas. Both apparently committed suicide, seemingly no question in Gatton’s case, but very definitely questionable in Buchanan’s as he was found hanging from a noose fashioned from his own shirt in a Police cell. The family have contested the coroner’s findings relentlessly. Anyway, both of their deaths were a great loss. Both had an infinite capacity to play in all styles – blues, jazz, country, Tex-Mex, soul, and on and on. Buchanan was the ultimate sideman, never interested in the limelight, and a humbler man you could not have found. A great sound, a great player, and despite the fact that this track is nothing more than him just playing in a studio by himself, he encompasses so many styles within one piece it’s hard to comprehend why he isn’t a household name. Perhaps, simply, because he was such a quiet and unassuming man.