This fortnight we have the great man Ashley Naylor, frontman and guitarist for one of Australia’s best ever rock trios, Even. Some sensational album choices with some great insight into his selections on this one. If I had my own list of top ten Aussie albums Even’s Less Is More (1996) would be right up there. Check out one of my all-time favourite songs “Don’t Wait” from the album and listen for the guitar break at 2:11, it’ll send shivers down your spine. You can also look forward to the second LP from one of his many musical projects, The Ronson Hangup in 2016! Enjoy!
EXPLOSIVE HITS ‘75
This compilation album was a vivid soundtrack to my early childhood. It had John Paul Young, Ross Ryan, AC/DC and Sherbet among others. My absolute favourite track is “You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt. It still gives me chills and the play out at the end is one of the greatest moments in rock history. I often search for endings in songs I write which reflect that feeling of melancholy and elation. Even’s track “We Are The Purple Nazz” has an ending purely based on this idea.
KISS Double Platinum (1978)
Another 70s compilation album. Kiss was my first real rock and roll obsession. Everything about them seemed magical. The songs are bulletproof, albeit quite archaic in their content. As a guitar player, listening to and subsequently learning Kiss songs is like learning the musical version of primary colours. Big, bold and strong. I am still fascinated by Kiss.
LED ZEPPELIN Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
One night I heard “Black Dog” on the radio and my world changed. I used to tape songs on the radio and was lucky enough to tape this song on 3XY. I later progressed to buying the album on cassette and vinyl and shortly after bought every Zeppelin album, aided by my Mum’s employee discount at the whitegoods company she worked for. One of the stores had a record bar in the front of the shop. Bingo!! I went on an adolescent quest to find bootlegs and clippings and anything related to this band. Although not obviously apparent in the music I create, Led Zeppelin has had a profound influence on me. Led Zeppelin IV is the album that I latched on to as a younger person, along with Houses Of The Holy. I attempted to learn these songs, often barking up the wrong tree. It was later on when albums such as Physical Graffiti and Presence became easier to digest. I think I need another list purely for Led Zeppelin albums…
THE BEATLES Rubber Soul (1965)
It’s impossible for me to isolate a Beatles album in a varying list of artists but for today I’m putting Rubber Soul on my list. I had a big awakening with The Beatles in the mid-80s. Rubber Soul was one of the first I had bought on vinyl. Prior to this a school mate had taped all their albums for me and my Beatles obsession was in full whack. Their sound is so familiar to me that their influence has become subconscious.
THE SMITHS The Queen Is Dead (1986)
In the sonic wasteland of the 80s The Smiths stood out like the proverbial. Although an obviously different sound and vibe from Zep, the similarity to me is The Smiths, like Zep, boast a lineup of four virtuosos. The Beatles members had a lot of crossover with roles but bands like Zep and The Smiths provided me with a formula made up of four basic elements combining, all leading in their own way but not spoiling the broth. Aside from such theoretical rambling, it’s the songs which remain the defining factor in what draws me to an artist or band. The Smiths had such a powerful double-headed songwriting duo in Marr and Morissey it’s almost impossible to fail. The sophistication in Marr’s tunes and the audacity of Morrissey’s words were so fresh and unique. I often marvel at how a band like The Smiths ever existed. My favourite track is the opener, “The Queen Is Dead”. Spikey, punky, epic. Unprecedented music made by a band at the absolute zenith of their alarmingly short career.
DAVID BOWIE HUNKY DORY (1971)
It’s difficult to settle on one particular Bowie album for me but HUNKY DORY stands out for many reasons. There is a unique charm to this record, an almost self-effacing humility. In retrospect this album almost seems like the last of the 70s Bowie albums that had no overriding schtick, like Ziggy or Aladdin Sane. It’s just an album full of incredible songs by an artist on the cusp of greatness. His hero-worship songs directed to Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan also give an insight into his world. “Kooks” is about as autobiographical as Bowie was in this period and for me the best song about becoming a parent that I know of. Morrissey would later steal the “throw your homework on to the fire” concept for “Sheila Take A Bow”. HUNKY DORY is an album I recommend to people if they are looking for an entry
point into early 70s Bowie. In my half sleep I was thinking that albums like Ziggy and Diamond Dogs are like a massive night out but HUNKY DORY is like a great weekend in beautiful wilderness, a place one never tires of returning to.
THE STONE ROSES The Stone Roses (1989)
I waited all of the 80s for this band. I loved The Beatles, Zeppelin and The Smiths but this band was a beautiful psychedelic-punk-groove crystallization of all the things I love about pop and rock music. The songs have bite and swagger and instant classic status. It’s hard for me to think of another album so full of songs I wished I’d written. I once told a friend I want to be Ian Brown AND John Squire, knowing full well this would never be remotely possible. I still have a pile of dusty old NMEs with these boys on the cover. When a lot of my peers around this time were listening to Mudhoney and early Nirvana I was fully entrenched in the world of THE STONE ROSES. Apart from “Hey Jude”, “I Am The Resurrection” is my favourite wig out of all time. As if the song isn’t awesome enough, it segues into one of the greatest endings ever committed to 2-inch tape. One lasting memory for me is the day I bought this album. I caught the tram home and every step I took towards home, my heart and head got lighter. Once the headphones were on my world was transformed. Amen.
DAVID CROSBY If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971)
I am a fan of most of the CSN & Y material but Crosby’s solo album from 1971 is something special. It features cameos from many of the key players in that whole Laurel Canyon world of the late 60s and early 70s but these guest appearances from Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash and Grace Slick never overshadow the Crosby vibe. A well-documented love of drugs and firearms does not diminish the beauty, subtlety and focus within this album. He is a one-man choir at times and in other instances a ringleader of freaky guitar jams with all his mates including Jerry Garcia and Neil Young among many others. Crosby’s lyrics are often laden with quasi-hippy idealism but that’s fine by me as they are wry, anti-establishment and to the point. His well-worded pot shots at bureaucrats and government crooks who are (still) ruining the world are set to the backdrop of music that comes from a dreamy brew of rock, folk, jazz and classical. The album’s choral closing piece has been well-documented as a sonic requiem for his deceased girlfriend Christine Hinton. One can only imagine the sensation of hearing this first hand in the studio as Crosby layered vocal after vocal to mesmerising effect. “Laughing” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever listened to. I often reach for this album to remind myself that rock music can be truly liberating especially when not aimed at a commercial target. Amazing record.
MIDNIGHT OIL 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 (1982)
As a teenager in the early 80s, I was transfixed by the twin guitar attack of Martin Rotsey and Jim Moginie, as I was later in the 80s by Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes from the Church. The 10,9,8 album was a massive moment in Australian music and I was caught up in the wave like many suburban kids at this time. There was something so powerful about this band at this point in time that I feel blessed to have seen them in 1984, merely two years after 10,9,8 was released. The Oils did not deal in hackneyed songs of love, relationships or clichéd formulaic rock. Their take on any issue was thrust upon the listening public in a unique ideological and musical assault. The depth of their musicality is perfectly captured on this album produced by Nick Launay. No album before or since sounds like this record. I later discovered, aside from Launay’s incredible talent as a producer/engineer, Rob Hirst’s drums were recorded separately from the cymbals on many of the tracks. The isolation of the drums and cymbals on this record add to the clarity and power of the album. The guitars and keyboards majestically weave around each other, sometimes flying in formation, other times jaggedly running parallel and occasionally dissonant but always brilliant. The vocals are layered and each lyric is delivered with maximum commitment, a single word never wasted. Peter Gifford’s bass lines are so melodic and powerful and often improbable. This is not a “live” sounding record but somehow Midnight Oil and Nick Launay captured magic energy that is often elusive in the recording studio. Half the battle is won when the songs are as good as “Only The Strong”, “Read About It”, “Short Memory” and “Scream In Blue”. Many bands would be content to have one of these songs on an album let alone an album full of them. I recently had the pleasure and audacity to tell Peter Garrett that I consider 10,9,8 to be the Australian Sgt. Pepper. Graciously, he did not refute my wild suggestion and went on to tell me how he stayed on in London to mix the record with Nick Launay while the rest of the band flew home to Sydney. I could sense the pride in the work, even after all these years and rightly so. Surprise yourself one day by putting this record on through a quality set of headphones and indulge.
THE ALBUMS I COULD NOT FIT IN…
Such is the angst of deciding on a compact list of TEN albums, I have been kindly afforded the luxury of reserving my tenth place for many of the albums I would have put in the list, had the list been longer. For me some acts such as The Beatles, Bowie and Zeppelin require their own list.
THE SMALL FACES – Ogden’s Nutgone Flake
R.E.M – Life’s Rich Pageant, Reckoning, Fables Of the Reconstruction
TEMPLES – Sun Structures
HOODOO GURUS – Mars Needs Guitars, Stoneage Romeos
FUNKADELIC – Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On
THE SHINS – Oh Inverted World
JIMI HENDRIX – Are You Experienced
THE CHURCH – Heyday, The Blurred Crusade.
JONI MITCHELL – Blue
NEIL YOUNG – Decade, After The Goldrush.
THE DOORS – Weird Scenes Inside The Goldmine
THE POSIES – Frosting On The Beater
THE WHO – Who’s Next
BADFINGER – Straight Up
THE ANYONES – Lone Rider
ROBERTA FLACK AND DONNY HATHAWAY – (self titled)
YOU AM I – Hi Fi Way
THE KINKS – Muswell Hillbillies, The Village Green Preservation Society
PRINCE – Around The World In A Day
THE ROLLING STONES – Sticky Fingers, Exile On Main Street, Goats Head Soup.
THE JAM – Sound Effects, Snap!
THE LA’S – (self titled)