Vinyl Icons

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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 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to as a classic era for pop music, but the musical landscape was changing, with suggestions that rock was becoming outdated – the derogatory term 'rockist' had recently entered the vernacular – and the happening thing now was the shiny new pop purveyed by bands such as ABC, The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  |  Jun 24, 2022
After the end of her relationship with Graham Nash, the Canadian singer-songwriter travelled to Crete in search of inspiration, relaxation... and a guitar. Her experiences there would lead her to write and record her starkly personal – and much loved – fourth album

It's not uncommon for people in their 20s to go travelling around the world, but very few are burgeoning celebrities widely regarded among the finest singer-songwriters of their generation. Yet in 1970, Joni Mitchell did just that after recording her third album, Ladies Of The Canyon.

Johnny Black  |  Jan 29, 2020
With their first album a commercial disaster and the band now looking as if they might soon be without a record deal, they entered the studio with a set of tracks that trod the line between blues and radio-friendly rock 'n' roll. Could they come up trumps?

On its release in early 1972, Little Feat's second album, Sailin' Shoes, didn't even sniff the Billboard Top 40, selling a meagre 13,000 copies. In the decades that followed, however, the album's status has grown immeasurably, making it one of the most acclaimed releases of its era.

Johnny Black  |  Mar 29, 2019
Named after the iconic movie star, the group's second LP was packed with pop gems, the songs honed by electronics wizard Thomas Dolby with the mainstream in mind. Commercial success failed to follow, yet today the album is considered a classic...

When Prefab Sprout released their second album, Steve McQueen, on June the 14th 1985, music critics worldwide immediately set about falling over themselves in their efforts to outdo each other with effusive praise.

Johnny Sharp  |  Dec 10, 2021
With like-minded producer Nigel Godrich onboard, the Brit band's experimental side came to the fore on their platinum-selling third album, released in 1997. And if you listen closely, you might just hear the sounds of ghosts wailing in the Somerset night...

Difficult second album? Been there, done that, sold the T-shirts. Now, about that blissfully easy third album...

Mike Barnes  |  Nov 19, 2021
Produced by Rick Rubin, this fifth studio album for Warner Bros marked a change of style for the American group, with less heavy metal and a more melodic bias. And it propelled the Peppers to superstardom, with over 90,000 copies sold in the UK alone

The Red Hot Chili Peppers were formed by a quartet of friends in 1983 at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles: singer Anthony Kiedis, bass player Flea (aka Michael Balzary), drummer Jack Irons and guitarist Hillel Slovak. However, Irons and Slovak were also in a band called What Is This? and when they got a deal the pair quit.

Johnny Black  |  Dec 18, 2019
The outlook for the couple appeared grim, yet despite having no record contract, their marriage being on the rocks and Linda finding it difficult to sing, their sixth and what would be their final album together is now hailed as a British folk rock classic...

After a decade of recording and touring as a couple, Richard and Linda Thompson found themselves dropped by Chrysalis Records when their 1979 LP Sunnyvista flopped. They had made five albums in total, and brought two children into the world, with another one on the way. Clearly, it was time for a radical re-think.

Johnny Black  |  Jan 19, 2021
Session guitarist, composer of film scores and here, on his fourth album, the roots-rock multi-instrumentalist reached into his musical bag to breathe new life into a diverse selection of obscure songs. It was a commercial failure, but it's no less compelling...

Rated among the finest of Cooder's 17 solo albums, Paradise And Lunch, his fourth release, is easily deserving of Vinyl Icon status.

Mike Barnes  |  Jun 11, 2020
It's now 50 years since the duo released their fifth and final studio album, which went on to top the charts in ten countries and find a place in over 25 million record collections. So why did a work that was such a commercial success only end in acrimony for the pair?

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel first met at Parsons Junior High School in Queens, New York, in 1953. Initially they bonded over a love of doowop, but their musical horizons were expanded by The Everly Brothers. Simon bought their 1957 single 'Bye Bye Love' and played it incessantly and the two singers developed a similar harmony style. They landed a deal with Big Records for which they recorded as Tom & Jerry in 1957, when they were both 16, and scored a hit with 'Hey, Schoolgirl'.

Mike Barnes  |  Feb 05, 2021
The group's fifth album was a turning point, paving the way for a career that would see them blossom from niche synth innovators to full-blown stadium rockers and in the process become the most commercially successful Scottish band of the 1980s

Simple Minds formed in Glasgow in 1977. Their name, which derives from a lyric from David Bowie's 'Jean Genie' now feels something of an odd choice, given the complexity of their sound. But people get used to a name and Simple Minds soon got a foothold in the post-punk milieu with their 1979 debut album Life In A Day.

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