Vinyl Icons

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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.

Mike Barnes  |  Oct 19, 2021
It was a debut LP with a difference as three seasoned musicians set about serving up an edgy yet smooth blend of melodic pop and soft reggae to an audience still hungry for the energy of punk. Would the fans of the emerging new-wave of bands bite?

In the UK in the late '70s, the convulsion that was punk may have been short-lived but the ripples it sent out were far reaching. According to The Jam, this was now The Modern World, so if you considered yourself a new-wave band, or were venturing into the pop field and didn't want to look like some kind of throwback, you needed to look sharp or look 'street'. And it helped if you had a snappy name that included a definitive article. Hence monikers like The Motors, The Yachts, The Rich Kids, and The Police.

Mike Barnes  |  Sep 10, 2021
After recruiting vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, the second lineup of this one-time pyschedelic band would produce one of the most pivotal albums in the history of hard rock, enabling them finally to break through in Europe after prior US success

Initially named Roundabout, Deep Purple formed in 1968. Jon Lord had played keyboards in The Artwoods, who were an R&B group in the mould of The Animals, while guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had made his name as a hotshot session player with producer Joe Meek [HFN Aug '16], and thus had recorded and played live with 'Screaming' Lord Sutch.

Mike Barnes  |  Aug 17, 2021
It took over a year to create and when 'The Boss' first heard it, he threw the reference disc into a hotel pool. But the album went on to sell six million copies in the US and reach No 3 in the Billboard 200 chart, catapulting the singer from cult act to global star

In May 1974 rock critic Jon Landau's review of a Bruce Springsteen concert was published in Boston's The Real Paper. It included what became one of the most famous lines by a journalist in rock music history, 'I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen'.

Mike Barnes  |  Jul 15, 2021
The '80s is generally looked back upon as a time of glossy escapist pop, yet by writing songs about topics such as vegetarianism, street violence and despair, Mancunian quartet The Smiths became one of the biggest and best-loved indie bands of the decade

The Smiths' debut single 'Hand In Glove' was released in May 1983. Although ostensibly indie guitar-pop, it was a fresh take on the genre. Ushered in by blasts of wheezy harmonica and punctuated by cymbal crashes, the singer intoned, in sinuous melody lines, a tale of a pair of defiant lovers in the verses, while the instrumental choruses were based around an intricate guitar refrain.

Mike Barnes  |  Jun 25, 2021
When four unsuccessful musicians joined forces in Birmingham in 1968, little did they know that by the end of the following year they would have transformed themselves from blues-rock hopefuls to a group who helped change the face of rock music forever

Few bands have realigned their whole modus operandi around a single song. But for Black Sabbath, the title track from their self-titled 1970 debut album represented a stylistic shift that changed the group irrevocably and would be the single most important step in formulating what would become known as heavy metal.

Mike Barnes  |  May 11, 2021
In 1969 the band were riding on the success of a hit single and would play a concert at Madison Square Garden, but the year also saw the singer's arrest, cancelled shows and The Soft Parade, one of the group's most adventurous yet most critically divisive albums

Like many groups that enjoyed a high profile at the end of the '60s, The Doors felt the need to progress. But in which direction? Their self-titled debut album released in January 1967 had peaked at No 2 in the Billboard charts and the single, 'Light My Fire', had reached No 1. They undoubtedly had something of the night about them, but their gothic darkness was tempered by vocalist Jim Morrison's teen appeal and a certain cheesiness – a bass guitarist who had played uncredited studio sessions with the group once told this writer that in his estimation they sounded like 'A cocktail bar jazz band on Quaaludes'.

Mike Barnes  |  Apr 22, 2021
They went from post-punk hopefuls to stadium headliners in just five years, but keen to avoid repeating themselves the band turned to producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois to reshape their music, a strategy that resulted in one of the best selling records of all time 

It was relatively brief, but the cultural convulsion of UK punk in the late '70s prompted an upwelling of rock groups, leaner and hungrier than their predecessors. One of these began life in 1976 at Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Clontarf, a coastal suburb of Dublin. First calling themselves Feedback and then The Hype, before settling on U2, the group comprised four teenage friends: vocalist Bono Vox (real name Paul Hewson), guitarist The Edge (aka Dave Evans), Adam Clayton on bass and Larry Mullen Jr on drums.

Johnny Black  |  Mar 19, 2021
Released as a double album on the Columbia label back in 1969, one LP electric with a supporting trio the other acoustic and solo, it only belatedly received recognition for being such a groundbreaking work. Is it time to re-evaluate our views on the blues?

Exactly why Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, better known as Taj Mahal, has never been hoisted shoulder high as the quintessential bluesman to emerge from the 1960s remains a mystery that may be never be explained. But we'll have a go.

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 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  |  Dec 10, 2020
Released in October 1974, this was the first Island Records LP with the re-formed Wailers and its all-female backing group, The I-Threes. It sold over 100,000 copies and prompted interest in the States, many critics now citing it as the greatest reggae album of all time

By the mid-1970s the UK had already enjoyed a lengthy relationship with Caribbean music, from the gentle exotica of calypso to its more syncopated cousin, reggae and the upbeat ska.

Johnny Black  |  Nov 13, 2020
Waits once joked he wrote only two kinds of songs, describing them as grim reapers and grand weepers. And while this 1978 album was not a best-seller, it saw him refine his beat poet balladry by drawing on the blues, resulting in some of his greatest tracks

Millions first encountered the name Tom Waits when he was listed as the composer of 'Ol' 55', one of the stand-out tracks on The Eagles' 1974 album On The Border. Anyone sufficiently smitten by that ultra-smooth slab of Californian country rock to wonder who this songwriter was, probably went on to discover that Waits resembled The Eagles about as much as Bob Dylan resembled Peter, Paul And Mary.

Mike Barnes  |  Oct 13, 2020
With its now famous front cover showing the son of drummer Butch Trucks, the band's fifth album was the sound of a group striving for renewal after the tragic deaths of two of its members. Yet the album's success would only sour the relationships between them

In many ways it was remarkable that The Allman Brothers Band's Brothers And Sisters was made at all, arriving as it did after the deaths of two of the group's members within a year, and drug abuse by the musicians and their entourage having spiralled out of control. The fact that it was also their greatest commercial success still feels rather hard to believe.

Mike Barnes  |  Sep 11, 2020
Released in 1973, the singer's 16th album marked his transition from child star to a musically mature performer able to grapple with the social issues of the day and make sense of them for an audience wedded to pop. And he was just 22 years old...

Stevie Wonder's 1973 album Innervisions is widely regarded as one of his best and has featured prominently in magazine polls of the greatest albums of all time. But apart from all the plaudits, it's astonishing that it was his 16th studio album and was released shortly after he had turned 23. At that point the man born Stevland Judkins had already been in the music business for a decade – his single 'Fingertips' had topped both the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles and the R&B singles charts when he was just 13 years old.

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