Friday, 10 May 2013

Bonus Top Tens - Ciaran

Bonus Top Tens - Ciaran

Ciaran is one of my oldest friends, and although he lives far from the arthritic damp of Ireland in the sunshine dappled streets of San Francisco practicing science in the laboratory and he also finds time monthly to spin records in a local bar as his alter ego, the scientist of soul.

It was in Ciaran's prompting that I first discovered The Blades and in his room that I first remember hearing full albums by Talking Heads and Tav Falco among others. He also saved my bacon at a Housemartin's gig when a group of skinheads drew knives and surrounded me.

As I write this I'm really enjoying listening to Sam Cooke's Night Beat. I knew the man, obviously, but not the album. Two of the albums is in my 'shadow' Top Ten appear here. There is clearly some shared continuity of taste.

Hi Seamus,
Okay after some thought here is the top 10 that I came up with. There were some surprises for me. There was no room for the Undertones first album, no records from the Jam and other faves of my youth, no Nick Cave, no Pere Ubu, no Wire, no Go Betweens, no Dead Kennedys, no Jamaican ska, no jazz  or gospel (and I listen to a lot of that stuff) etc.  Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” doesn’t appear here either, which would probably get me heckled off  by some as not knowing anything about soul music. It just shows  you what’s wrong and right with top 10 lists. They are a snap shot of one persons preference at any one time. Next week it could be different.

Top 10 albums (in no particular order except for Curtis Mayfield's Curtis)

1.     Curtis  – Curtis Mayfield (Curtom 1970). 
A fantastic debut from the genius of Curtis Mayfield and wholly under rated. Even after 43 years it still sounds fresh both musically and  in its social commentary.  It is the record that sits on my turntable with the most frequency. I have two copies, as I fear I will wear one out.

2.     Live at the Apollo - James Brown and the Famous Flames (King 1962).  
Ah a taste of 1962 JB live. This is a raw and sweaty experience but the sound quality is great. Supposedly it was recorded at JB’s own expense but the return was more than worth it.

3.     Night Beat - Sam Cooke. (RCA 1963)  
This is a glimpse of what Sam Cooke could achieve without the over production and strings that often take from his other recordings.  

4.     You Got my Mind Messed Up - James Carr. (Goldwax 1966)
 A really beautiful record. The emotion in his voice has a fragility which was only too true of the singer's mind and is ironically captured in the album title.

5.     A Nickel and a Nail - O.V. Wright. (Backbeat 1971) 
Another great Memphis album. OV was a contempory of James Carr and also originally recorded on Goldwax. His voice is steeped in gospel and he uses it to great affect on this album on such songs as ‘When you took your love from me’.

6.     The Specials -The Specials (2 Tone) 
Late 70’s British ska. This album features some great re-workings of some old ska classics plus some very fine originals. The sound of a ‘Dawning of a New Era’ and my youth.

7.     Rum, Sodomy and the Lash  -The Pogues. (Stiff, 1985)
This always brings back drunken memories of Christmas Pogues gigs. ‘The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn” and the “Old Man Drag” are some of McGowans best.

8.     Live at San Quentin  - Johnny Cash. (Columbia 1969)
Another live album before a captive (literally) audience. The raport between JC and the audience is very special. The accompanying Granda Television documentary really captures this event.

9.     Marquee Moon -Television.  (Elecktra 1977) 
A white band with lots of guitar solos!  Who would have thought I would love this! This is on the juke box in my local and when it is played everyone is nodding their heads whether they realize it or not.

10. The Clash - The Clash. (CBS 1977) 
A garage band from garage land creating some great tunes. I could have also chosen London Calling or Sandinista as they are all great but very different albums.

Looking forward to seeing your list. It was fun thinking about music.



  1. Blimey Ciaran, your are surely a Soul Man. I have 'LIve at the Apollo' but none of the other first 5; I'm particularly drawn to the Sam Cooke. LOve Marquee Moon and saw the Clash a few times around the time of the debut so, fond (if feisty) memories...
    I'm reaching for the Johnny Cash album as I write. Thanks for reminding me.
    Thanks too for playing along.

    1. Cheers Trevor. Yeah, that Sam Cooke album is a classic. I picked it up at a St Vincent's De Paul shop for 50 cents. It was the best 50 cents I ever spent. The album features a 16 year old Billy Preston playing some mean Hammond B3 with Sam's beautiful voice. The arrangements are something else. Dead jealous on seeing the Clash especially at that time.

  2. Great selection .. James Carr and OV Wright are new to me, must check em out

    1. Ah you are in for a real treat. OV and James Carr in my mind are among the greats of Southern Soul.

  3. Ciaran,
    You got my mind messed with a load of associations...
    My shadow Soul top 10 would have Sam's Live at Harlem Square 1963... I love when he beseeches the operator to speak to his baby before the Medley of You Send Me and Bring it on Home..Al Green would be there too.. a toss up between Call me and Livin' for you. I have the Essential James Carr but after 2 trawls can't find it.. love Lovable Girl from it. I notice Monkey Man is on the Specials album. By coincidence, today found out Toots is playing the Button Factory on July 30. Always a good night although the sound man is invariably in for a torrid time from Toots.Typing this while watch Jazz Piano Gold on BBC4.. Monk segueing into Count Basie...I'm in a happy place.