2021 RPMer's Top 5s
Now then, we all like a list, don't we? Here's 2021's diverse selection of "Top 5s" as chosen by RPMers from another far from normal year. Over to...
Here's my Top Fives for 2021 and, surprise, surprise, I've actually stuck to the rule of five!!!!
Top 5 Tunes That Have Meant a Lot To Me In 2021.
These are a few tunes that I have ‘fiddled’ about with’ on mandolin, guitar and concertina, during the course of this year. I am always happy to crash out a few chords for people, and I have been lucky enough to be able to meet up to play a few times in the last year.
Flatworld by Andy Cutting
I find it hard to say what my favourite albums are that I have bought this year. They change day to day as to what music fix I need !!! So here’s my faves today (31st Dec)!!!!
Strange to Explain by Woods
Fantasy Island by Clinic
Kid Amnesia by Radiohead
There is Love in You by Four Tet
Los Angeles by Flying Lotus
Elaenia by Floating Points
My top 5 for this year are all 78 rpm's and include 2 of the 3 Muddy Waters UK releases on the Vogue label that I rued losing out on last year. There are still quite a few nuts like me that like the format and it's hard to explain why. The discs are heavy, fragile, prone to wear and damage and sometime difficult to acquire often leaving you with a 'did I really pay that?' feeling. Another reason for trepidation is that you always have to remind sellers just how much care is needed to send these old dinosaurs from A to B. I stressed this to one seller very recently who looked like he didn't usually deal in them and when the package arrived I expected a pile of shards to tumble out of it but luckily it survived - even in the mayhem of the Christmas post. I have a nice set of 78's pressed on heavyweight vinyl collectively created as "Cruisin' The 50's" and I'll probably feature these over a couple of weeks when we get into week one of 2022 as there is a very interesting story attached to how they came about.
1. Howling Wolf - I'm Leaving You. This was a US 1959 pressing on the Chess label.
2. Elvis Presley - Don'cha Think It's Time. A South Africa pressing on RCA which included the usual lovely SA RCA sleeve. A couple of the Elvis releases have sleeves which include an image of him on the paper sleeve as well and are sought after by collectors.
3. Elvis Presley - Fever. Another South Africa pressing from 1960 which is very scarce now and has taken me a long time to acquire. Pressings on 78 rpm by RCA stopped in the UK in 1960 after "A Mess of The Blues" which was only pressed in very small numbers if a sufficient number of orders had been taken . I may go on to collect SA pressings that, although released on UK 78's, they are on the HMV rather than the RCA label and sometimes have alternative 'B' sides. I'd still very much like to acquire a couple more scarce disks that contain further songs from his post-US army service LP called "Elvis Is Back" and, if a copy is still out there, 'Rock a Hula Baby' which is definitely the final Elvis on RCA 78.
5. Muddy Waters - Long Distance Call. 1954 Again on Vogue and in very nice playing order. I'm hoping that another copy of the other UK 78rpm will come to me this year (Walkin' Blues/Rollin' Stone Blues 1953). One did come up recently but reading between the lines it wasn't likely to be a good condition copy and with a £50 start I wasn't prepared to risk it - I always say "It's not the last parrot in the petshop" when I forego one and hope that I'm right! This is the one that inspired Jones, Jagger, Richards and Watts to use the name that brought them so much fame.
Here's some favourite listening, reading and...er... drinking from 2021.
Top 5 New Releases of 2021.
Lost in the Cedar Wood by Johnny Flynn and Robert Macfarlane - Author Macfarlane teams up with folk musician Flynn to produce probably one of the most literary, thoughtful yet catchy roots music albums you're likely to hear.
Urban Driftwood by Yasmin Williams - Fingerstyle guitar's new sorceress takes the instrument to a whole new level, conjuring an album of scintillating music to lift the spirit.
Delta Kream by Black Keys - Back doing what they do best; playing that hill country blues.
Step 13 by Alabama 3 - The purveyors of techno trippy country flavoured blues soul release their thirteenth album, no less. Musically infectious, politically incisive and a fine tribute to their fallen friend The Very Reverend D Wayne Love (1960 - 2019).
Last Mile Home by Jon Boden - Last part in his not-too-distant-future folk dystopia concept album series, Mr. Boden is his usual superb self.
Top 5 Reissue, Live and Non-2021 Albums of 2021.
Unearth Repeat by Sam Sweeney - Sam Sweeney reboots English traditional music to produce a truly beautiful piece of work. Originally released in March 2020 (not the best timing for a tour to support the album), bought the album as a download this summer when it appeared on his Band Camp page....and caught him on tour finally promoting the album in November.
The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert by Bob Dylan - Bob captured on his famous 1966 tour, 10 days after the legendary "Judas" heckle, this London date is an incendiary performance and captures the frisson between audience and performer. A little confusion over this one; I'd bought it under the impression it was a new release as it had appeared on Juno Records' list of new stuff. Alan commented that he'd bought it years ago when I chose a song from it for the 7DS. Upon further investigation, it was indeed released in 2016 (possibly as a 50 year anniversary thing?), so why it appeared on that Juno list that week, I have no idea. Glad it did though and hence it's inclusion in the 2021 list.
Live In Maui by The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Actually released in the final weeks of December 2020 but acquired beginning of 2021, I'm sneaking this into my list. A fantastic triple album of the finally cleaned-up musical audio track (no wind noise, apparently....ooo er missus!....that's meteorological, not bodily) from the (terrible) Rainbow Bridge movie, and used during the final open air concert footage where you can indeed gauge how strong the wind was blowing by the coloured hippie flags flying at full stretch and also by the SIZE of the orange foam comedy-effect microphone wind shields that have been cobbled together. This release is the full concert and includes 3 never-heard-before live tracks and is pure Hendrix heaven for those of us devoted to the God of Guitar.
Greasy Trucker's Party by Hawkwind - Record Store Day release and first time the whole of this classic HW concert has been available on vinyl highlighting the band at the height of their early 70s powers. Essential......for some.
Live In the Mojave Desert by Earthless - I'm not quite sure how Isiah Mitchell's guitar playing stays so hidden under the radar...this live extravaganza of 3 musical explorations across 4 sides of vinyl is a masterclass in improvisation. The band are often pigeonholed into the stoner / shoegaze genre, but these guy's minds are not focused on their feet, they're far out in deep space.
Top 5 Podcasts of 2021.
Folk On Foot - Matthew Bannister talks to folk musicians whilst walking within their home locale. Oh, and now there's a monthly folk chart show as well. (https://www.folkonfoot.com/)
The Poet Laureate Has Gone To His Shed - Simon Armitage chats to people well known and not so well known, in his writing shed. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p085jg48/episodes/downloads)
Talking Dogs - TV's Dogs Behaving (very) Badly, Graeme Hall, chats about dog behaviour and offers tips and advice for solving doggy problems. (https://uk-podcasts.co.uk/podcast/talking-dogs-with-graeme-hall)
Smoke Signals - Katherine and Jessica from Smoke Fairies give their very humorous, slightly off kilter, always entertaining view of their world. (https://www.musicglue.com/smokefairies/podcast)
Scotland Outdoors - Mark Stephen and Euan McIlwraith chat about the countryside, nature, traditions and customs, with a Scottish slant, obvs. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/series/p02nrtq1)
Top 5 Reads of 2021.
This year I've read mostly fiction, ecology / nature and history.....and only two music related book(!!..yes, I know!). In fact, after reading David Mitchell, everything else seemed pretty mundane and laboured by comparison....as you can see reflected below.
Wilding by Isabella Tree - Every government should read this book if they are sincere in wanting climate action. They're not, they won't and consequently the planet is quite possibly screwed unless there is more people power......
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell -
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell -
Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell -
The extent of Mitchell's expansive imagination is mind blowing. What genre, you ask? His own.
Note: Each book, of which there are eight so far, is linked, but you can read them in any order. Having said that, I'll re-read them in published order, simply because there's so much to absorb the first time around. Highly recommended.
Sharpe's Assassin by Bernard Cornwall - The master historical fiction writer at long last gives us another Napoleonic Wars roller coaster ride featuring the iconic Richard Sharpe. Hugely enjoyable.
Top 5 Yorkshire Ales of 2021.
Ruby Mild (Rudgate Brewery) - The Bluebell, York
Centurion's Ghost (York Brewery) - The Three Legged Mare, York
Landlord (Timothy Taylor's) - The George and Dragon, Kirkbymoorside
Battleaxe (Rudgate Brewery) - The White Swan, Kirkbymoorside
Nightmare Porter (Hambleton Brewery) - bottles from Kirkbymoorside Co-op