Friday, 18 April 2014

The Vinyl Frontier - The Cure, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Bruce Springsteen, Kirsty MacColl, Bob Dylan

The USR music fair at the Rivermead in Reading (UK) on Friday 18th April (Good Friday) was too good to miss this year... one of six biggest UK one-day events and a huge selection of records on offer.

First up, an album I've been waiting for... the limited edition gatefold of Automatic by The Jesus And Mary Chain. By no means the band's finest work, this is the transition between the feedback-strewn gloomy shoegaze of Darklands (and the mighty Psycho Candy début before) and the brilliant Honey's Dead. Fans loved this album, while the critics hated it (Q Magazine struggled to award 2 stars) and I remember listening my cassette copy over and over until it fell apart. And it still sounds great on vinyl today, especially Blues From A Gun and UV Ray.

I've always been a big fan of The Cure but never a big collector...until recently. I keep seeing copies of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me but never The Head On The Door - an album I've been seeking for ages. Boasting one of the band's most creative collection of songs, and the brilliant singles Close To Me and In Between Days, for me this has always been the prelude to their finest work, Disintegration. On side B, A Night Like This and closer Sinking are both the sound of a band coming of age.

I'm always on the lookout for records by Bruce Springsteen and Nebraska was high on my list. A truly challenging record of sparse, dark songwriting - a stopgap between The River and Born In The USA and an album that may have never existed. Springsteen originally recorded it with the E Street Band and then decided to release the 'demo' version. The result is haunting and desolate with piercing vocals and harmonica - Springsteen's folk album, made better by the occasional crackle and blip on the record. The production and songwriting are both superb.

A rose between two thorns, Kirsty MacColl's Kite is still one of my favourite albums of the eighties and a perfect example of an artist doing their own thing in time when so many musicians weren't. This is an eclectic mix of sounds and styles including the cover Days and turns from Johnny Marr and David Gilmour, and Steve Lillywhite on production. This is filled with witty observations, sharp and poignant lyrics, all brilliantly delivered by an artist who left us well before her time.

And last, but not least...the find of the day. For as long as I can remember I have been trying to find a decent copy of Blood On The Tracks. So when I spotted a 'VG' copy for a modest price, I had to investigate. Easily the best thing Bob Dylan has ever made; an album with so much poetry, poise and power doesn't come along too often. From opener Tangled Up In Blue to the vitriolic Idiot Wind, to Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts and the mighty Shelter From The Storm, this is now one of the best in my collection. And for a record that is nearly as old as I am, it sounds wonderful.

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