Vinyl Icons

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Mike Barnes  |  Aug 11, 2020
Released in November 1983, the band's third album for RCA Records went to No 1 in the UK, No 10 in the States' Billboard chart and was later certified platinum. Not bad for an LP recorded and mixed in part of a North London church in just three weeks...

In the post-punk era of the late '70s many new wave groups chose a name beginning with 'the' to differentiate themselves from what had gone years before. And often their choices were deliberately low key, which gave us names like The Trainspotters, The Members and The Tourists.

Mike Barnes  |  Nov 28, 2019
Could a group of ex-public school boys cut a path to the charts with an album packed with tricky time signatures and pseudo-classical pomp? Finished in just five days, this 1972 release was to see the band finally rock, on a scale that was to make their career

Genesis might be among the 30 biggest-selling rock artists of all time but they were never really intended to be a rock group. If all had gone to early plans they would have remained an essentially anonymous songwriting team.

Mike Barnes  |  Jan 14, 2022
In 1986, the singer-songwriter bowed out of pop duo Wham! with a sell-out farewell concert at Wembley Stadium. A year later he was back with his first solo album, having swapped the flash suits and swimming trunks for stubble, leather and shades...

In Spring 1986, Wham! announced they were splitting, with a farewell album and single, and a final concert at Wembley Stadium in June. In doing so they pulled the plug on a group that had enjoyed a string of international hit singles and albums over the previous four years, and who had become one of the biggest pop outfits in the world.

Mike Barnes  |  Apr 11, 2023
With a new producer and an all-star lineup of musicians behind her, the one-time disco queen's breakthrough album melded reggae, dance, funk and pop, and reimagined her as 'only possibly from this planet' thanks to its eye-catching cover photography

Befitting an album released by a fashion model, Grace Jones' Nightclubbing features one of the most memorable album covers of all time. Photographer Jean-Paul Goude, Jones' partner and a former art director of Esquire magazine, portrayed her as androgynous, with a look of insouciance that bordered on the intimidating with her flat top haircut, a man's Armani jacket with geometrically padded shoulders and a vertically poised cigarette. Jones would apply purple make-up before going onstage and for this sleeve her skin tone was given an exaggerated dark purplish gloss, which added to the strangeness.

Mike Barnes  |  Jan 03, 2023
For their groundbreaking sophomore album, the West London-based 'space rock' masters doubled down on the electronic audio effects, moved beyond the live jam feel of their free concerts, and invited fans to join them as they set out on a voyage to the stars...

Musicians' fascination with space, and their attempts to evoke its unfathomable vastness in sound, dates back at least as far as Ancient Greece. It was Pythagoras who developed the concept of Music Of The Spheres, a theoretical cosmic harmony produced by the movement of the planets and stars that could translate into music.

Johnny Black  |  May 15, 2020
Peppered with provocative lyrics and a cast of often nightmarish characters, this debut offered a snapshot of late-'70s Britain in all its gritty glory. Yet the catchy tunes delivered with a helping of music hall mischief means it still stands as one of rock's most original LPs

Towards the end of 1977 punk rock had taken hold in the UK in a big way and, for older and established musicians, this was a party to which they had not been invited. For David Bowie the best solution was to relish his individuality, which prompted the advertisement strapline for his LP Heroes: 'There's Old Wave. There's New Wave. And Then There Is David Bowie'. The same could have been said about the 35-year-old Ian Dury, whose music had always stood outside prevailing musical trends and whose first solo album New Boots And Panties!!, was one of that year's most original statements.

Mike Barnes  |  May 13, 2022
Although planned as the American proto punk's first solo record under new management, Raw Power wound up being a third album for a reconfigured lineup of The Stooges – with David Bowie roped in to try to channel the band's unique energy into a listenable mix

Ever since the early days of rock 'n' roll, fans have vicariously got their kicks from its stars – the larger than life characters who did things us normal folk would never dream of, or would be too scared to try. But while many artists merely flirted with the idea of danger, James Osterburg, aka Iggy Pop, lead singer with The Stooges, located the self-destruct button and kept pressing it over and over again.

Johnny Sharp  |  Nov 08, 2022
The young singer-songwriter saved his career with this sophomore album, recorded in Los Angeles in a matter of mere days and bumped up to 11 tracks at the last minute to secure a label payday. Fifty-two years later it's lost none of its explosive power

No pain, no gain. It's fair to say that you don't have to be sad, or mad, to make a multi-million-selling singer-songwriter album – but sometimes it helps. And before his career-igniting second long-player was recorded at the end of 1969, Boston-born James Taylor had endured moments where both adjectives applied.

Johnny Black  |  Feb 18, 2020
Released in 1971, the singer's second solo LP was to be her last, the temptation to use unbridled self-medication in order to dull a life beset by insecurities leading finally to her untimely passing. But it's a work that assured her a place in rock history... Words: Johnny Black

Although her biggest commercial success, Janis Joplin's final album, Pearl, is all too often overshadowed by the tragic fact that she died before completing it. Her drug and drink problems and her complicated sex life during the sessions have been all too well documented. But HFN's Vinyl Icon features are first and foremost about the making of music, so the horror show of Janis's final days will feature here only to show the impact it had on the recording of Pearl.

Johnny Black  |  Apr 15, 2020
It was panned by the British musical press on its release in 1978, yet this shiny synth classic would not only peak at No 11 in the UK charts but see Jean-Michel Jarre break all records with a live performance of the album drawing a crowd of one million

Although there were many pioneers of electronic music, there's no doubting that Jean-Michel Jarre's 1976 album, Oxygene, was the first encounter with fully synthesised and sequenced music for millions of listeners across the globe.

Mike Barnes  |  Jul 03, 2020
Fuzz, feedback and live shows ending in fisticuffs... this debut LP from two brothers from East Kilbride saw the pair meld their love of '60s girl groups with the sounds of the industrial movement to create uncompromising music with a melodic pop heart

The 1980s is often referred to as a classic era for pop music, but the musical landscape was changing, with suggestions that rock was becoming outdated – the derogatory term 'rockist' had recently entered the vernacular – and the happening thing now was the shiny new pop purveyed by bands such as ABC, The Associates and Depeche Mode.

Johnny Black  |  Jul 17, 2019
The singer/songwriter's third album not only included two of her most celebrated songs but was the springboard for a career that would eventually see her achieve a number of firsts for UK female artists. Yet teasing out her talent was not straightforward...

Joan Armatrading was the first black British singer-songwriter to achieve major success. She would deserve to be hoisted shoulder-high for that alone but, above and beyond her commercial success, she should be recognised for having produced over the years a catalogue featuring a clutch of the finest songs ever written by any songwriter, male or female, black or white.

Johnny Black  |  Dec 01, 2018
When the singer agreed to make a live album he was obligated to tour, only to find the project dominated by American songwriter/producer Leon Russell as it was decided to film the events. Could a rock 'n' roll circus of excess be turned into commercial success?

Joe Cocker's legendary 1970 Mad Dogs & Englishmen double live album is not, let me make it absolutely clear, your regular run-of-the-mill, superbly recorded and immaculately produced Vinyl Icon. This is an artefact which has achieved Vinyl Icon status despite the ramshackle method by which it was recorded, and despite the chaos and drug-addled confusion of the 1970 tour for which it is named.

Johnny Sharp  |  Nov 03, 2023
A spot of R&R in Jamaica, followed by a lakeside recording set-up back in Blighty, was all it took for a disillusioned John Martyn to recapture his music mojo. The resulting album, released in 1977, mixed folk, electronica and the sound of geese...

For much of the '70s it was customary for bands or recording artists to retire to a rural bolthole for a spell, hoping the country air would help them get their head together. Disillusioned and burnt out from recording and touring, in 1976 John Martyn tried this himself. But in his case the destination was another country, halfway across the world.

Mike Barnes  |  Oct 04, 2022
Featuring original songs 'I Walk The Line' and 'Folsom Prison Blues', the 1957 debut album from the American singer laid the first foundations for a near 50-year career as The Man In Black. Not bad for a 25-year-old former vacuum cleaner salesman...

One of the legends of American music, Johnny Cash's place in the record industry was hard-won. Born in 1932 in Kingsland in rural Arkansas, he grew up picking cotton on his father's farm and graduated to working on a car assembly line, before eventually joining the US air force in 1950 and serving in Germany as a radio operator at Landsberg airbase.

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