Vinyl Icons

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Mike Barnes  |  Sep 13, 2019
Released at the very end of 1975, the band's fourth album saw them hoping to build upon their success as one of the decade's most successful pop acts. Yet the very clash of creativity that produced such hits as 'I'm Not In Love' would split the group in two

Since its release in 1976, 10cc's How Dare You! has been described variously as soft rock, art rock, glam rock and even progressive rock. But one neologism that hopefully will never catch on – yet it evokes the essence of both the group and this album in particular – is 'sophisti-pop'.

Johnny Black  |  Aug 20, 2019
The runaway success of her 1987 single 'Luka' propelled this singer into the limelight leaving the album from which it was taken somewhat in the shade. Yet this delicate mix of sharply observed stories told with unassuming vocals is as iconic as they come

The unexpected success of Suzanne Vega's 1985 debut album put her under considerable pressure from her manager, Ron Fierstein, to record a follow-up. Despite that pressure, the album she delivered in 1987, Solitude Standing, pole-vaulted her to international multi-platinum status, establishing Vega as the pre-eminent female singer-songwriter of the era.

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.

Mike Barnes  |  Jun 06, 2019
Released in the UK at the tail end of a decade that was becoming defined by tribalism and industrial strife, this eponymous debut drew on the energies of both punk and ska music, bringing the band's mission to promote racial equality to the mainstream

Ska originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was first taken up in the UK in the early '60s by the mods. It began to gain mainstream popularity towards the end of that decade, yielding hit singles such as The Pioneers' 'Long Shot (Kick The Bucket)', Desmond Dekker's 'The Israelites', Jimmy Cliff's 'You Can Get It If You Really Want' and 'The Liquidator' by the Harry J Allstars.

Johnny Black  |  May 24, 2019
While other white artists were dipping their toes into soul and funk, The Doobies rode forth from San Jose with a magpie-mix of blues, country, rock and jazz that secured them a string of boogie-woogie hits. Now it was time to capitalise on that sound...

The Doobie Brothers didn't need to know the way to San Jose, because that's where they lived in 1970. And, with a smidgeon of guidance from their heroes, San Francisco Bay Area combo Moby Grape, it was where they formed the band whose driving twin-guitar attack, twin-drummer assault, tight vocal harmonies and memorably singable tunes would bring them multi-Platinum success in the '70s.

Mike Barnes  |  Apr 10, 2019
Produced over a six-month period in 1968 by the group's manager Kit Lambert, this was the first big rock opera to appear on LP. Today it is regarded as Pete Townshend's 'magnum opus', yet on release there were those who derided it for being in poor taste

For The Who, 1966 was a pivotal year. Listen to their debut album My Generation, released in 1965, and it's clear they were essentially still a mod band – posters for a Marquee residency the previous year had them billed as 'Maximum R&B'. But once you've reached the maximum, where do you go from there?

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 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 Black  |  Nov 01, 2018
After his split from Walter Becker in 1981, the New Jersey-born vocalist and composer struck out on his own with The Nightfly, one of the first albums to be recorded digitally. The result was a treat for audiophile ears and platinum sales both here and in the US

Having established himself in the 1970s as half of the acclaimed thinking person's rock duo Steely Dan, Donald Fagen became a solo performer in 1981 when his partnership with Walter Becker fell apart.

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