The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Part Two

Part 2: Numbers 25-1

25 THE CARPENTERS The Essential Collection
Well, the first 2 CDs of this 4-CD box set are "essential"; the third and fourth are interesting but you could live without either. And Richard Carpenter in his sleevenotes sounds like a literal cross between Brian Wilson and Mike Love. No need to add to what I have previously said about these avant-MOR avatars, either here or in Uncut; it's up there with Scott 1-4, Sinatra with Gordon Jenkins, Jobim.

24 CABARET VOLTAIRE The Original Sound Of Sheffield 1978-82
Not the first time the Cabs have been compiled as such, but this emphasises how, among their many other merits, what a phenomenal pop group they were. Covering and capturing their greatest period, this should be heard in tandem with the Voice Of America and Red Mecca albums, both of which will be reissued early next year.

23 BILL HICKS Flying Saucer Tour Vol 1
The first in a promised lengthy series of complete and previously unreleased concert performances, this is a palpably tense affair from Pittsburgh in 1991. Faced with a less than rapturous audience, Hicks sternly sets to work to win them over by utilising every trick in his book, scarcely bothering to conceal his contempt for them. Not quite Dylan at the "Albert Hall" '66 - and much of the material, including the Gulf War, good times on drugs and smoking/Yul Brynner/Jim Fixx routines, is better performed on Relentless, it's still pretty compelling stuff. It's a bit like having a heated debate on ILX.

22 ROYAL TRUX Hand Of Glory
Two previously unreleased long pieces from their early - and better - Twin Infinitives period. Improv meets fractured sub-Beat verbal wanderings meets distended blues. Compares favourably with The Faust Tapes.

21 METRO AREA Metro Area
In this list because it is, strictly speaking, a compilation of 12-inchers. The Paradise Garage is reborn and unites with the Chic Organisation and the Kronos Quartet. Elegant, spacious and graceful dance music.

20 ROY WOOD Exotic Mixture: Singles As and Bs
CD1 is the UK Smile, perhaps the UK Wizard/True Star; a giddily eclectic but deadly serious journey through everything Wood knew about pop music - and some things he invented - in the early-mid '70s. CD2 has some surprisingly neat proto-post-modern AOR stuff, but mostly charts a sad decline. "We Are The Boys (Who Make All The Noise)" by Wood, Phil Lynott, Chas Hodges and John Coughlan under the moniker of "Rockers"? Weep, child, weep.

19 SMOKEY ROBINSON & THE MIRACLES Ooh Baby Baby: The Anthology
2CD compilation, including for the first time some stereo single mixes, this is indispensable (though both Smokey solo and the Miracles post-Smokey deserve similar treatment). Pay particular attention to CD2, where you will see that in their late period Smokey was making them as experimental as the Temptations.

18 CHAIRMEN OF THE BOARD Finders Keepers: The Invictus Anthology
What Holland-Dozier-Holland went on to do post-Motown, the Chairmen eventually took over. If you only know them for their Four Tops-style early pop hits, you'll be in for a shock here - particularly with 1974's astonishing Skin I'm In album (here included in its entirety) which involves several future P-Funk stalwarts and culminates in the near-atonal tripartite rampage through Sly Stone's "Life & Death."

The critical line on DT as solo artist in between Pere Ubu's intermittent bouts of existence tends to be "fey," "whimsical," "useless." This comprehensive 5-CD box set will correct these assumptions. It covers all of his '80s solo work (six albums in total) with the addition of live cuts from 1996 by Thomas and 2 Pale Boys, which manage to open up a new trail for music to follow. Just because he felt like it.

16 PATTI SMITH Land 1975-2002
What? No title track? "Redondo Fucking Beach"? Ah, but you do get "Piss Factory" on CD for the first time ever. Like Laura Nyro, the earlier stuff pisses all over the later stuff, but the commitment and steadiness of vision are constant throughout.

15 THE COUP Steal This Double Album
As you should, because the second "live" CD is dispensable. The album proper, though, is a hip hop masterpiece, and here is where I insert the long-awaited cliche It Sounds Like It Was Recorded Last Week.

Again, this is here instead of in the main Top 50 because it is essentially a compilation album. It doesn't subvert except by stealth; the spaciousness, the unresolved emotions buried beneath the confident gloss.

13 VARIOUS My House In Montmartre
Pretty well definitive collection of crucial French house tracks from Daft Punk, Air, Stardust, Phoenix etc. Brilliantly sequenced, and at times almost sacred.

12 THIS HEAT Deceit
It particularly strikes me that on the track "Cenotaph" from this, their second album from 1981, you could almost be listening to the Police, or a route down which the Police could have travelled if Sting had believed what he said to Morley in 1980. A Charles Hayward vs Stewart Copeland drum battle - now there would be something.

True, for a lot of this album you could be listening to a tape of your school's end-of-term House Show, but worth its placing, even if for no other reason, for the astonishing reading of Henley's "Desperado," which indicates both the banality of the card-playing metaphors in the first middle-eight and the shattering poignancy of what the nine-year-old girl singer actually thinks the song is saying. And the splendidly dissolute splashing through Bowie's "Space Oddity" is worthy of Meek.

10 VARIOUS Hustle! Reggae Disco
Beautifully benign collection of JA takes on late '70s/early '80s dance hits; unhurried and utterly seductive. Highlight: Derrick Laro and Trinity getting all warm inside over "Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough."

9 THE SPECIALS More Specials
Almost disqualified from this list for its lamentable "extra" (i.e. video for "Ghost Town" but not the three tracks of the "Ghost Town" 12-inch, nor Rhoda Dakar's "The Boiler" which starts where "I Can't Stand It" finishes), but it is out on CD - the Specials' second and greater album, an audacious mix of ska, muzak, post-punk and proto-trip hop. The Wild Bunch must have been listening to this in Bristol. So might Cypress Hill.

8 VARIOUS Fuck It! The Official So Solid Crew Compilation
Brilliant 2-CD mix of where UK Garage was a year ago; still sounding fresh and vital. A "gabba garage" update is urgently required.

7 THE WILD BUNCH The Story Of A Sound System
DJ Milo's lovely mix, recapturing a typical WB club night in Bristol in the '80s. Lots of wonderful electro (Man Parrish, Newcleus), lots of blissful pop (Thelma Houston, Odyssey). Pace Reynolds on Blissblog yesterday, it's strange how I can listen to this stuff endlessly yet never play 69 or Isn't Anything or Daydream Nation. What does that say about the worth of music criticism?

The second Soul Jazz compilation to appear in my Top 10, a long-needed collection of Factory's second finest at their finest. "Flight," "Blown Away," the Sextet version of "Knife Slits Water" - oh, if anyone came out with this sort of stuff now; hang on, people are, aren't they? But not as good. Fair enough.

Well, if you can afford it, get it; as I have said previously, this might be the most powerful and conclusive music you'll ever hear. 24 complete live performances from 1976-80. CD1 remains the most shocking; CD3 is audience baiting on a par with, and exceeding, Bill Hicks; CD22 in particular joins the dots.

4 SCOOTER Push The Beat For This Jam: The Singles '94-'02
Why didn't stadium house ever take off here? What some of us hoped Britpop might have meant (even though Scooter are German) - a poppier, more mischievous take on the KLF (if that's possible), and, in their visionary reshaping and redefining of Supertramp's "The Logical Song," they produced the best single of 2002.

3 VARIOUS The Best Bootlegs In The World Ever...
OK, it's an inexpertly mixed bootleg CD of things burned from Boom Selection, but short of making your own, it's the best summary you're going to get of the already played out bootleg craze. "A Stroke Of Genius," "Being Scrubbed," "We Don't Give A Damn About Our Friends," Nelly meets Grange Hill - they are (nearly) all here. And yes, the Girls on Top "original" of the latter is less pop than the Sugababes' cleansing operation, but a much better record.

2 SOULWAX/VARIOUS 2Many DJs: As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt 2
Perhaps the most joyous CD to be released in 2002, this does not require any philosophical or aesthetic input; the 60 minutes are designed to make you dance in gleeful abandon. Brilliantly conceived, sequenced and executed - a party of a record.

1 JOE MEEK/VARIOUS The Alchemist Of Pop: Home Made Hits & Rarities 1959-66
The one reissue/compilation this year that was desperately needed; at last, all the hits and classics (as well as quite a few you didn't know he'd done) collected together in an intelligently annotated and designed package. Also the most traumatic record to listen to in 2002; hear how the early joy of "What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For?" progresses, through cruel circumstance, to the double suicide note of "Please Stay" and "You're Holding Me Down."

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