Authored by: Dale Nickey
Kate Bush (The Kick Inside)
Until Kate came along, you had to make do with archetypical female musical artists. Janis Joplin was the unapologetically loud, horny, stoned, soul mama. Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro gave us our liberated, erudite, (Dylan with a vagina) fix. However, if a woman was too smokin’ hot, they were automatically relegated to the vacuous show-biz preserve where the Olivia Newton Johns and Juice Newtons reigned supreme. Kate took a mortar and pestle and mashed up all the stereotypes. She had a music geek’s appreciation for prog and an ethnomusicologist’s ear for British Folk. On Kick she took her Minnie Mouse soprano, formidable piano chops and applied them to subjects as diverse as menstrual cycles, suicide, incest, Lolita complexes and ghosts. She sang, wrote, played, danced and had an entire nation salivating at her nineteen year-old feet. She then chucked it all for quiet domesticity and the occasional block buster album. The Kick Inside is her first and best. Kate denies it because it was the album she had least control of. But, it will always remain her masterpiece. Every song is eye-watering, and wrapped in a package that launched a million masturbatory fantasies.
Luka Bloom (Riverside)
Luka managed to paddle in on the first tidal surge of the New Celtic boom. Two years after Van Morrison And The Chieftains breakthrough album and four years before Riverdance came this unfussy, echo-drenched little gem. The core of the album is Luka’s masculine brogue and his clean hyperactive electro-acoustic strumming. What decoration there is on the album only serves to strengthen and support its main character. The songs are sturdy and straightforward and are not begging to be liked. The emotions range from mature whimsy, “You Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time” and “Delirious”, to aching, moody reportage, “Gone To Pablo”. “Rescue Mission ” is one of those songs that any good songwriter wishes they had written. Stardom seemed possible but never materialized. Luka faded further into obscurity with each successive album. He never again reached the bar he set for himself on Riverside .
Suzanne Vega 1985:
Timing is everything. By 1985, record companies had taken a lengthy sabbatical from all things singer songwritery. U2 and The Clash had held sway over music business long enough. Punk’s wimpy spawn (New Wave) was rapidly wearing out its welcome. Ear fatigued music consumers were clearly looking for a pallet cleanser. Enter Suzanne Vega with her Manhattan coffee-house monotone and a clutch full of thoughtful and tuneful loft-pop ruminations. Rooted in folk music; Vega had the Dylanesque’ knack for dishing out lyrics that didn’t really spell out what they were about but sounded full of meaning anyway. Songs like “Small, Blue Thing”, ”Some Journey” and “Marlene On The Wall” reek of quiet desperation – American Style. The 80′s were a weird decade. Anybody with brains knew the party was over. The 60′s were a crock. The 70′s were a let down. The 80′s decade was the first act of the last gasp. Vega’s songs perfectly captured the feeling of isolation one feels when surrounded by a buzzing city of lost souls. Vega would go on to greater fame and compile a solid and impressive discography, but this one has the tunes and gestalt in abundance. Too bad the cover art is so blah……
Pink Floyd (Piper At The Gates Of Dawn) :
Gee, I wonder where The Beatles dreamed up all the weird and wonderful psychedelic ideas that gave us “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Clum Band”? I guess it was just a coincidence that Pink Floyd was the technocolor toast of London and were recording their first album just down the hall at the same time The Beatles were entering there most musically adventurous phase. Pink Floyd entered Abbey Road studios with LSD addled leader Syd Barrett and recorded an album of wacked-out yet tightly focused ditties and acid jams that changed music forever. Anything was possible after this paradigm shifting debut. Pink Floyd not only established its brand; but it codified a whole new genre and gave us a Rock and Roll icon for the ages (Barrett) in one shot. Pretty good for a rookie combo.
My mom bought me my first Beatle album. But, when it came time to stump up my own hard un-earned allowance on my first record, it was a momentous and difficult decision. Value for the money was the primary concern. The Doors debut was a safe bet. I had listened to it already at a friend’s house and there wasn’t a weak track on it. Even the novelty throw-away, “Whiskey Bar” seemed essential to the narrative flow of the album. “Crystal Ship” is still the greatest drug ballad ever written. This album found Jim Morrison in a spunky, beautiful, well-groomed phase of his life. He would soon morph into the bloated, bearded, embarrassing anti-Elvis that we have all grown to loath. The Doors would do more good work; but nothing as unassailable as their stunning debut.