Vinyl Icons

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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.

Mike Barnes  |  Jul 25, 2023
Once described as 'spineless' and 'emotionless', this almost entirely instrumental 1974 album from the German electronica pioneers is now heralded as a classic, and one whose influence can be heard on music stretching from David Bowie to Daft Punk

Kraftwerk's fourth album, Autobahn, was released at the end of 1974. By March the following year it had reached a surprising No 5 in the US Billboard 200, and had climbed to No 4 in the UK album charts by May. An edit of the title track even found its way into the UK single charts. But its success was more than just commercial, leading the group – whose use of electronics and technology split opinion – to be more widely accepted in the years that followed. That said, no-one could have guessed how influential and culturally important Autobahn would eventually become.

Johnny Sharp  |  Sep 13, 2022
With its stripped-back arrangements, confessional lyrics and unflashy sleeve art, the singer's debut album was an antidote to the sounds and style of the Summer of Love. It also laid the foundation for the poet-turned-musician's celebrated 50-year career

Necessity, a wise person once wrote, is the mother of invention. And for Leonard Cohen, she also performed that role for his reinvention from garlanded poet and novelist to singer-songwriter. He once said the idea of becoming a professional songwriter came out of a desire to make a decent living, after realising he was never going to rise far out of the struggling artist garret on the back of written verse and prose.

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 Sharp  |  May 05, 2023
This 1985 album from the Manchester-based outfit proved they were more than just a singles machine, and cemented both their fusion of rock and electronica and their unconventional approach – right down to putting the drummer on the front cover...

It's hardly surprising that a band formed from the ashes of tragedy should take a while to truly find their own musical identity. But after singer Ian Curtis's suicide brought Joy Division to a premature end in May 1980, New Order had shown intermittent moments of brilliance on a string of singles, but not across a whole album.

Johnny Sharp  |  Jan 16, 2024
Arriving just a year after their 1986 debut Please, the British electro-pop duo's second album solidified their chart-topping status, thanks to a bigger production influenced by ZZ Top, a guest appearance from Dusty Springfield, and some classic tunes...

It's a malaise almost as old as pop music itself. Second album syndrome – the crisis faced by an artist writing the follow-up to a hit debut LP, when they realise that after having had their whole lives to come up with the contents of their first offering to the world, they now only have a few months to rustle up a fresh batch of equally strong material for the follow-up.

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  |  Sep 08, 2023
Released in 1987, with a new producer in tow, this album saw the one-time post-punks leaning into radio-friendly rock, albeit without airbrushing their left-field instincts. The result was the beginning of a decade of commercial and critical success for the group

There comes a time in every band's career when the only way is pop. Having slowly built a loyal cult fanbase and a burgeoning critical reputation on the back of three albums (and an early EP) that intertwined artful post-punk and lopsided, Paisley Underground-adjacent guitar rock, by 1987 R.E.M. were ready to paint with broader strokes, albeit while retaining a pronounced polemical edge and one foot firmly in an angular, left-field musical lineage.

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.

Johnny Sharp  |  Feb 17, 2022
The debut album from the Manchester-based soul band put Mick Hucknall's voice centre stage, while his lyrics reflected the new-found social conscience of mid-1980s UK. Yet it took an American producer and recording sessions in the Netherlands to make it all work

I'd like to leave behind seven or eight really good albums that can stand the test of time', Mick Hucknall told The Irish Times in 1996. 'That's what I was going for from my very first album.' At the last count he's managed 12, several of which can stake a claim to being 'really good'. However, while some have outstripped his debut in terms of sales, Simply Red's 1985 album Picture Book set a standard that he has arguably yet to surpass.

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