Phil Reynolds is co=founder . Co-head honcho to indie record label Small Bear Records .. http://www.smallbearrecords.com/
Also one time member of Colon who recorded a session for the great John Peel a track from that session can be heard here , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCCnpHWu9cQ
He also made a lp with Tea a lp that was meant to be released in 2000 but saw the light of day in 2017 on A Turntable Friend Records . that an be bought from here . https://aturntablefriendrecords.limitedrun.com/products/586250-tea-everybody-s-happy-sometimes
he is also a record producer of some repute producing lps for the likes of The Bordellos. Vukovar, Postcode,Weirdo and many many others .
Phil now also leads his own band the excellent Phil Reynolds and The Dearly Departed ,who’s debut lp is a bit of a lost classic power pop lp that can be bought from here . https://philandthedead.bandcamp.com/releases
So here’s my Adoration. Ten albums, not necessarily all-time favourites (although a few are), but albums I adore for different reasons and listen to a lot.
Laura Mvula – Sing To The Moon
Mvulas’s first album is a fucking straight-up tour-de-force. I’ve got absolutely no idea how you’d describe it. It’s a contemporary pop record for sure, but it’s so much more. Conventional song structures are often non-existent, for a start. Maybe it’s urban-chamber-gospel? Would that do? I dunno. Her classical training shines through everywhere as melodic lines and repetition surge to the fore and then fade, subsumed by complex multi-part vocal arrangements. It’s the sound of summer and she should be massive. It’s a travesty that she’s not, but it seems there’s no place for intelligence and genuine style in the world of modern pop. When “Green Garden” starts, it could be Steve Reich, until that voice comes in. Have I mentioned her voice? Here, it’s distorted and sounds like someone surging through the ether from the 1940s. Then there are weird synth/vocoded/looped/bitcrushed harmonies. She swoops, whirls and breathes through the whole track. Background noises intrude. Jesus. One song with more imagination than most bands are able to display in a career. I think I’m gonna need a lie down. And now I’m listening to “That’s Alright”. From Cotton-club era hot jazz in the verse to ‘Tusk’ by Fleetwood Mac in the chorus. In thirty years, they’ll be teaching degree courses about this album.
Ultravox – Systems Of Romance
There’s a case to be made for any of the first five Ultravox (and Ultravox!) records, but this has always been the one for me. It’s probably the single best record ever made. Nothing really comes close. School on the Isle of Man was shit. A hope-defeating pile of pebbledashed turd designed to remove any ambition or sense of self-worth, peopled by teachers whose only interest was getting through the day and where subjects like English and maths were seen as a bit esoteric and weird. The majority of the kids were smug arseholes, too. It’s quite difficult to describe just how much I fucking hated that place, but I imagine you get the idea. In case you’re having trouble getting the picture, I’ll lay it out. I fucking hated it. With every fibre of my teenage soul. I’d enjoyed a pretty idyllic childhood, growing up in Liverpool; amazing teachers like Mr Davies, who used to show us photos of his holidays to Poland – this in the 1970s – a bit of a lefty, I reckon. Red in both of the important ways (both of which have stayed with me). Mr Ravenscroft, the deputy head, who saw something in me and who would take me out of lessons to work on ‘projects’. While all the other kids were in class. I’d be building stuff or sculpting or painting or writing. All my lifelong friends around me, weekends in Wales. Fast forward to a new life in a new town with no friends and a shit school and “Systems Of Romance” became a lifeline. I’d get home, slap it on the record player in the living room, put the headphones on and disappear. Even now, nearly forty years later, when I hear the opening damped chords to “I Can’t Stay Long”, the hairs on the back of my neck go rigid.
Every time I listen to it, I notice something new; some new texture, a new harmony; or that the part I thought was a synth was a guitar, or a fuzz bass or…I dunno. Always familiar, but endlessly different. The interplay between Robin Simon’s guitar and Billy Currie’s synths is astonishing. Simon was the only true rival to John McGeoch, but his star never seemed to rise in the same way, which is something of a shame. Back in the day, I used to think Warren Cann wasn’t a good drummer because he played simply. Now I know he’s an amazing drummer precisely because that’s how he plays. He’s a machine on this album.
Conny Plank was a perfect match for the band at this point (although I’d love to have heard what Steve Lillywhite, who helmed their first two albums, would have done with these songs – and, yes, I know Eno was credited with the first LP, but it was almost all Lillywhite who did the work), and his production work is sublime. It’s perfect. And it’s perfect that it’s the last album by this lineup. They’d gone as far as they could together. Between them, the next four albums this bunch of people put out were absolute game-changers. ‘Metamatic’, ‘Vienna’, ‘The Garden’, ‘Rage In Eden’…
n all my years of recording and working in and with bands, it’s not an album I’ve ever tried to replicate or cop ideas from. It’s outside music, outside everything. I don’t actually listen to it a lot these days. I don’t have to. It’s in my DNA. For a long time, I didn’t live on the Isle Of Man, I lived in this album.
The Jesus & Marychain – Psychocandy
Living in synth-world, I turned to John Peel to keep up with the latest cack by Drinking Electricity or Eddie and Sunshine or some other overly arch ponk like that. In bed at ten every weeknight, to listen to Peely. I’d rigged up two nasty car stereo speakers to be powered by the headphone output on my Ferguson mono. One night, as he was prone to doing, he played a single by a band I’d never heard of. All I could remember was that it had a two-word title and was by Jesus…something. A week or so later, I was in Virgin Records in Liverpool, and remembered this single. Told the clerk and he said “ah…it must be one of these”. I went back home with a copy each of “Upside Down” and “Never Understand”. Everything was now different. Everything I thought I knew about music, about songwriting, about noise. A few months later, “Psychocandy” came out and that was it, game over. Along with “The Young Ones”, I’d found my Punk Rock. Honestly, this album changed everything about music for me. Musically, it’s still part of everything I do. The 2011 release, with its plethora of extra tracks simply served to make one of the best albums ever even better. A couple of years ago, I finally got a clone of William Reid’s fuzz pedal (made by the guy who keeps William’s working). It’s unusable. I love it.
Asian Dub Foundation – Rafi’s Revenge
I first heard a live version of “Assassin” on a free CD given away with NME (I think) and was floored. The energy. The guitars. The energy…erudite, angry, funny, coruscating, educational, manic, optimistic, influences pulled in from absolutely fucking everywhere. Of course, all this counts for naught if the songs aren’t any good. And boy, are they good. “Naxalite”, “Black & White” and, of course, “Free Satpal Ram”. Yeah. Possibly the angriest thing I’ve ever heard, and justifiably so. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be an immigrant in this fucked-up idiotopia of a country, and this album feels like it’s becoming more and more relevant over time, not less. But while it does that, it still offers hope. Maybe not relevant, then. Maybe essential.
Suicide – Suicide
Of course, I’m talking about the magnificent 2-disc Blast First reissue. I mean, what’s the only way this already amazing album could be made any better?
“Suicide” is, arguably the greatest Rock’n’Roll record ever. You may argue that, but you can’t argue with me that it has the single best album credit ever in “Martin Rev – Instrument”. Well, you could try, but you’d be wrong. This is a record that sounds utterly other every time I listen to it. Even now after years of familiarity. God alone knows what it must have sounded like in 77. Feral, distorted, beautiful, cacophonous, ridiculous, sublime. How do you describe “Suicide”?
How about “”perfect”?
Frightened Rabbit – Midnight Organ Fight
Sensitive positioning in the list here, Phil. Good work (slow handclap). I only met Scott Hutchison once. He’d just played two consecutive sold-out hometown gigs. Thousands of people had paid lots of money to see him. And he introduced himself to everybody in the same way: “Hi. I’m Scott…”. I was too young to be affected by Ian Curtis’ suicide. I’m not sure I’d have particularly liked him as a person, but Scott…to lose Scott has been devastating. From first hearing “Heads Rolls Off” in 2008, FR always felt like more than a band. I can’t explain it. I hate that Scott’s gonna be remembered as the dead guy who wrote songs about killing himself all the time. That’s not what his songs were about. They were about getting through, rather than giving in.
More than any other band, Frabbits showed me that I could write songs and make my own music after being a sideman for so long. Scott showed me I could sing about what was happening in my head. He showed me it was OK to be older than most and portlier than most and still take part in this ridiculous thing that is music. He showed me it’s important, so important, to be decent and good, even when all you can see is the end. This album contains the single best three-song sequence of any record ever made in “Head Rolls Off”, “Backwards Walk” and “Keep Yourself Warm”. Subsequent records weren’t quite as visceral and bleeding-raw as this. And we were, honestly, glad. We used to joke that we’d love Scott to write another “MOF”, but that we wouldn’t want him to have to go through the things which inspired it again. I wish he hadn’t. I wish he’d been able to see another way. Sometimes you can’t. In years to come, he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest Scottish songwriters and poets to have ever lived, mark my words. And that’s a bar that’s set pretty damned high
Big Black – Songs About Fucking
Another life-changer. I’d been playing in a (very, very good) indie band called Suicide Highlife (head on over to http://www.smallbearrecords.com) to find out what we sounded like, but the usual highly-strung tensions and personality clashes were pulling us apart. I wanted something new. Something without drummers. Grunge was a couple of years away yet and, though I was coming to love the sound of the UK’s nascent thrash scene (Napalm Death, Carcass, ENT and the rest of the Earache crew), I’d never have been a metalhead – couldn’t play well enough, for a start. Then my pal Mike came back from uni with a cassette. This album. It was instant. I was in love. Then I found out they’d already split up. Fuck. But Steve, Dave, Santiago and Roland had already done their work on me. This was noise, yeah, but noise with a pop structure and a purpose. And a manic glee. And no drummer. It’s not as good as “Atomizer”. How could anything be? But this is the one that changed me. Like “Psychocandy”, there’s a little bit of this in everything I play. Listening to “Colombian Necktie” right now and I’m thinking “that’s how I play bass…”. As a direct result of this, myself and a few pals formed a band called Colon who eventually went on to record a session for John Peel.
The Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus – The Gift Of Tears
I was introduced to this by the unnamed drummer above. We knew nothing about the band. They were on Probe Plus, so probably Scouse, but other than that, nada. Zilch. Was the name ironic? Were they really from some weird hermetic sealed order? What was with that nine-minute opening track? I’d been searching for a copy of this album over the years and then came across Infrastition’s beautiful triple-disc reissue of this, alongside “Mirror” and “A Rumour Of Angels”. As incredible – more incredible, more wonderful – than I’d dared remember, it’s been a mainstay in this house since buying it. Stressful day? Stick “Come Holy Spirit” on and chill the fuck out on a sea of bliss. The day I received my copy of their most recent album, “Beauty Will Save The World”, I posted a message on Occultation Records’ Facebook page to say how chuffed I was. Before I’d even had a chance to play the record, I received a private message from the band’s keyboard player saying he hoped I’d enjoy it.
I did, obviously. Apparently, they’re working now on their fourth full album. It will be astonishing. Of that there can be no doubt
Rachel’s – Music For Egon Schiele
I think I bought this album because I’d heard good things about Rachel’s in a post-rock-y kind of way, and because the cover was fucking gorgeous. I have no idea what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. Beautiful, contemplative stately music performed by piano, cello and viola (violin?). I still don’t know a lot about about Schiele, but I listen to this album often. It’s soothing, but permanently lingers on the edge of dissonance. Something’s just not-quite-right about it. There’s a tension amidst the beauty. I imagine being in Sefton Park Palm House on my own, lying on the ground staring up at the plants whilst this is playing. If I close my eyes, I’m there
Joy Division – Still
“Excercise One” starts. What the fuck is that noise? I’m fifteen. Is it a synth? I’ve never heard feedback. Don’t know what it is.
Backtrack. The night before. My brother’s bedroom. We’re discussing, over two manky cans of warm lager which both of us are pretending to enjoy, what records we want to own more than any other. My brother and I both go for the ludicrously unavailable “Still – in the hessian cover”. It’s nice to dream.
We go into town the next day. HMV in Liverpool has a copy. No. TWO copies. £4.99 each. Not for fucking long.
We run for the bus, breathless. Get back to the house. Put the record on.
My young life changes.
“Excercise One” starts…
I’d started sort of messing about with a guitar, but it was daunting. Chords were hard. Songs difficult to learn or write. But then. Even to my naive ears, it’s obvious Peter Hook’s basslines are incredibly simple. But they’re brilliant. Life-changingly brilliant. THIS is what I want to do. This is where it changes.
“Excercise One” starts. This. This three-note riff. I CAN FUCKING DO THIS!
Look, I know it’s not the best JD album, that’s “Closer”, obviously, which is the only record able to challenge “Systems Of Romance” in the perfection stakes, but it’s the only record which has ever changed me in such a fundamental way. More than “Psychocandy”, More than “Songs About Fucking”. It’s my ground zero. Everything I do musically comes from this record. Everything I’ve done for nearly forty years comes from this record. The way I’ve lived my life, the decisions I’ve made for good and bad. Everything comes from this.
If this list had been eleven albums long, the next one would have been “The Love That Whirls” by Bill Nelson.
Maybe another time.