Top Ten Records You’ve Never Heard (if you’re a 15 year old boy who reads NME)

NME this week has published a list of the Top 100 Albums You’ve Never Heard (as chosen by the likes of Dave Grohl, Win Butler, Paul Weller, Bobby Gillespie, etc etc etc). It is, as lists like this go, pretty intriguing – you can see a PDF of it here.

I’ve only heard about 20 of those listed, and was very pleased to see fine selections from artists including Studio, Suicide, Cocteau Twins, Jonathan Richman, Love, The Zombies, Cluster, The Associates, Magazine, LFO, Curtis Mayfield, Junior Boys and Sun Ra. I was, however, pretty dispirited to see Guy Garvey picking a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club album (for an NME audience!), a little baffled by the inclusion of Clor’s debut (and only) album (which I still have a promo CD of, and filed under “not interested” after about 3 listens back in 2005), and a little sad that there wasn’t more krautrock, Tropicalia, and jazz, the three genres outside mainstream UK/US pop/rock/dance/alternative that I’ve found by far the most rewarding in my lifetime.

So, with the NME readership in mind, I’ve quickly concocted a little rundown of other stuff I would really have liked to see on that list; stuff I wish I’d had flagged up to me by the NME when I was 15 to save me waiting another 5, 10, or 15 years to find out about. I’ve left out a few things I initially wanted to include – Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way, High Time by The MC5, The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest, Laughing Stock by Talk Talk, Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul, Ege Bamyasi by CAN, and //Codename:Dustsucker by Bark Psychosis – as I think (hope) that these records are close enough to canonical / NME esteem that ver kidz will pick up on them eventually (honestly, if you’re a These New Puritans fan and haven’t picked up late-period Talk Talk or Bark Psychosis yet, you’re mental). I’m also assuming, hopefully not wrongly, that ver kidz know about the likes of Public Enemy.

So here goes, in no particular order…

Rita Lee – Hoje É o Primeiro Dia do Resto da Sua Vida
I wrote a lot about this awesome pinnacle of Os Mutantes’ career for Stylus – if you have any interest in classic 60s pop, psychedelia, Brazilian music, or just awesome music in general, you need to hear this.

Harmonia – Deluxe
As pleased as I was to see Cluster’s excellent Zuckerzeit selected, this is my favourite non-CAN krautrock album, combining dreaminess with excitement via synths, guitars, and the motorik beat absolutely perfectly.

Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay
Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane seem to get the dipping-your-toe-into-jazz suggestions, even if they’re not always appropriate, but this piece of funky, amazingly cool fusion deserves plaudits and recommendations. I can see it totally luring some kids into jazz. Hell, even Frodo likes it.

The Necks – Drive By
I reviewed this for Stylus back in the day, and it ended up in our end-of-year-poll such was my enthusiasm and the rest of the staff’s buy-in. 60-minute ambient jazz grooves might, at the descriptive level, seem a bit much for an NME reader to take in, but music this cool, this sinister, this awesome, and this sexy, really is suitable for everyone.

Fela Kuti – Expensive Shit
Fela is a massive figure whose name seemed to get bandied about a lot when I was in my formative musical years, but where the hell does one start? Easy; here. Somewhere between funk and jazz, and an excellent way into African music.

Milton Nascimento / Lo Borges – Club De Esquina Vol. 1
Brazil isn’t just about samba and Tropicalia; it can be about awesome, awesome, classic pop too. The melodies, tunes, and arrangements here are something else – even if the words are Brazilian Portuguese.

Acoustic Ladyland – Skinny Grin
If you liked the weird postrock / mathrock of Battles, I think you could get into this wild fusion of punk, experimentalism, and modern London jazz. The Scott Walker mix of Salt Water is just insane. Again, I reviewed this back in the day.

Michael Head & The Strands – The Magical World of the Strands
Like classic melodious Scouse guitar pop? Into the modern British alternative folk thing? Heard of Shack? Beg, borrow, or steal a copy of this amazing album.

The Congos – Heart of the Congos
If you think reggae is all about Bob Marley and singles compilations, you need to explore a little further. Lee Scratch Perry produced this awesome, murky masterpiece, but his controls are only part of the story. This will stretch your mind.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Party – Devotional Songs
Nusrat was massive in every sense of the word, but a huge amount of his music existed and was traded exclusively on dodgy pirated cassette tapes in dusty Pakistani markets, making it insanely hard to know where to start. Peter Gabriel’s Real World label issued a handful of recordings on CD in the early 90s, and this is one of them. A Qawwali and Ghazal vocalist of the Muslim Sufi tradition (no, I don’t really know want any of that means), his voice is just… astonishing.


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