The Wire's "100 Records That Set The World On Fire (While No One Was Listening) + extra 30 Records"

By cardnotready
updated over 8 years ago

All release notes from the authors of The Wire Magazine.
Contributors: Steve Barker, Ed Baxter, Mike Barnes, Clive Bell, Chris Blackford, Linton Chiswick, Byron Coley, Cristoph Cox, Brian Duguid, Robin Edgerton, John Everall, Matt Effytche, Sasha Frere-Jones, Charlie Gillett, Louise Gray, Andy Hamilton, Richard Henderson, Ken Hollings, Steve Holtje, Mark Hudson, David Ilic, Velimir Pavle Ilic, David Keenan, Biba Kopf, Art Lange, Howard Mandel, Peter McIntyre, Andy Medhurst, Russell Mills, Will Montgomery, Tim Owen, Edwin Pouncey, Tom Ridge, Mike Shallcross, Peter Shapiro, Chris Sharp, Mark Sinker, John F Szwed, David Toop, John L Walters, Ben Watson, Barry Witherden, Douglas Wolk, Rob Young

Missing Records (i used the Artist page):

Youssou N'Dour - Djamil
(Senegalese Cassette 1983)
(maybe this release (not in Discogs yet):
Youssou N'Dour et Le Super Etoile de Dakar
Vol. 6: Djamil (cassette; Ibrahima Sene, no suffix)
[A] Mbarbuethe / Ferridigua / Alboury
[B] Djamil / Yalla )

Jean C Roche - A Nocturne Of Nightingales
(Sittele 1993)

Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet - Golden Gate Gospel Train
(Bluebird 1937)

Hot Gossip - The Hollywood Jungle
(DinDisc unreleased 1981)

Derrick May - Debut LP
(Transmat unreleased)

  1. 14 For Sale from $12.77

    Pierre Akendengue - Nandipo
    (Saravah 1973)

    Composer, guitarist, dramatist, poet and singer, Pierre Akendengue's influence in his home, Gabon, is huge; in the francophone world, he's made a dent; everywhere else he's barely a footnote. Graduated from universities in France (in literature, psychology and more), Akendengue went blind sometime in his twenties -- which may have turned his remaining senses toward the sound of language, the way musical parts fit together, and the contrasts in songs from different countries. Nandipo, his first album, becomes a play -- each song a dramatic act made of miniature scenes. Complementary voices (tight harmonic choruses, Akendengue's own thrilling tenor and emphatic reading voice) arc above a collection of individual instruments, each running their own rhythmic line. The album is accented by soft acoustic guitar, shakers in stereo effect, slicing flexitone, berimbau and cuica, deep cello. With the assistance of Brazil's Nana Vasconcelos, Akendengue seamlessly incorporated the French popular melodic vocal style, brisk Amazonian percussion, and solid, soulful African themes, words and energy: a 'Fourth World' styling several years early. RE

  2. Kevin Ayers & The Whole World - Shooting At The Moon
    (Harvest 1970)

    The real Canterbury sound, for all its supposed sophistication, is often stodgy and constipated. These are descriptives that could never be applied to Kevin Ayers's second post-Soft Machine LP. The group Ayers assembled for this project was outstanding. Composer David Bedford played keys, avant garde street agitator Lol Coxhill played sax, a virginal Mike Oldfield played strings, there was a drummer named Mick, and Ayers's fucked-up romanticism overlaid the whole thing. Everyone sounds stoned and the results are a beautifully syncretic mess that reminds me of nothing other than recent Sonic Youth. Unlike all other like-minded projects of the Progressive era, Shooting At The Moon actually achieves a balance between the extremist proclivities of each of its session's participants. It drew up the blueprint for a merger of free jazz/pop/rock/avant grade whomp that should have been used as a roadmap for the revolution. Alas, it was not. BC

  3. Albert Ayler - In Greenwich Village
    (Impulse! 1967)

    Recorded in two sessions, one late 1966, the other early 67, Ayler had by this time assembled the ultimate collection of ecstatically inspired freedom-chasers: brother Donald on trumpet, Beaver Harris on drums, Grimes/Folwell both on bass and the phenomenal post-Ornette sawtooth violinist Michael Sampson. Word is that Sampson, previously a mainstay of classical orchestras, had such a moment of revelation during a chance encounter with Ayler's music that he packed in his previously cushy career to join him in the back of a van on its way round Europe. The 1966 European tour has since taken on mythic proportions and In Greenwich Village catches them on their triumphal return. Side two's "Truth is Marching In" still stands as the perfect synthesis of Ayler's concerns: joyous whooping, marching band refrains, mass ensemble levitation, pig-throttling solo blurt -- the OM that reverberated quietly round the base of Coltrane's skull until he saw Ayler fully articulate it. Ayler would go on to perform "Truth is Marching In" at Coltrane's graveside the next year. Albert wasn't long for this planet either; his body was fished out of the East River in New York in November 1970. As he himself explained: "I can't be confined to an earthly plane even though I was, like, born here and everything." Amen. DK

  4. Bad Brains - Bad Brains
    (Roir 1982)

    You think you're all worked up? Let this album be your yardstick. You saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan? We saw Bad Brains at A7 and up became down. This ineptly recorded, completely relentless music justifies every cliche thrown at it -- runaway train, water shot from a hose, Coltrane as a rock, whatever. The group's unexpected changes and catchy riffs may be the product of their fusion background, but in 1982 who knew where the hell four black (belt) punks came from, much less what they listened to? Singer HR channeled the putdowns of Johnny Rotten through pro-Rasta positivity and local concerns and, just to make his point, danced for the hearing-impaired like James Brown, Original Punker. The dub numbers (hardly a fashionable move back then) give you chance to catch your breath before the next hayride to righteousness. There may be faster, harder or louder punk music somewhere but it doesn't levitate like this utopian shitfit. SFJ

  5. Derek Bailey - Aida
    (Incus 1982, Reissued Dexter's Cigar 1996)

    Variously provoking delight, amazement, embarrassment or rage, this, the finest of Bailey's solo recordings, serves as a test of one's entrenchment in tradition. The guitarist plays his instrument like a found object, treating it as though it lacked any previous history and had simply descended from the sky. With all the intensity of a child playing or an expert tinkering, these three pieces reveal a relentless exploration of the instrument's possibilities. To the listener straining for points of reference, slices of Japanese koto, punk rock, Country blues, flamenco, and folk guitar might seem to surface momentarily only to dissolve again, as Bailey draws his lines of escape from all habit, cliche, and resolution. CC

  6. Louis & Bebe Barron - Forbidden Planet OST
    (Small Planet 1956)

    By the time MGM got around to asking Louis and Bebe Barron to compose an electronic soundtrack for their prestige sci-fi presentation, Forbidden Planet, the husband and wife team had already worked with John Cage, Anais Nin, Aldous Huxley and Maya Deren. Mimicking Norbert Weiner's experiments involving negative and positive feedback in stressed animals, the Barrons had learned to make electrical circuits literally 'shriek', reprocessing the results through careful tape manipulation into extremely rich and varied electroacoustic soundscapes. Having supplied not only the film's music but its alien sound effects as will, the Barrons had to abide by the studio's decision to list their contribution as 'electronic tonalities' in the credits out of fear that the Musicians' Union might sue. This unfortunate trivializing of their pioneering work might explain why the Forbidden Planet album became such a relatively rare and neglected item. Harsh, metallic, and cavernous, the future never sounded this good again. KH

  7. Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band - Bat Chain Puller
    (Unreleased; recorded 1976)

    Few rock artists as washed up -- and seemingly past it -- as Captain Beefheart was in 1974 have come back with new music as dazzling as that on Bat Chain Puller. Having flirted disastrously with commercialism, the nadir of which was Bluejeans and Moonbeams, he took a lengthy sabbatical, returning two years later, aged 35, with an album legendary for the wrong reason -- it has never been officially released. Occassionally it harks back to the complexities of Trout Mask Replica but is more measured, with a vivid, plangent, colourful sound. The remit is as wide as anything Beefheart had attempted before: pop songs, poetic narratives and recitals, chamber-style instrumentals and songs in fantastic new shapes. Some material was later reworked as Shiny Beast, but the original album is the more vital example of this late(ish) flowering of Beefheart's creativity. MB

  8. Joey Beltram - Places
    (Tresor 1995)

    Former graffiti artist Beltram's place in Techno history is assured through the sheer bombast and snotty energy of his teenage releases for Belgian label R&S, but on this less-lauded LP he traded in his tough keyboard stabs for intricate lattices of percussion, which build and shimmer like a cyborg samba school. The cover shows Beltram with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background, the striking and unusual elongated bone structure of his face complementing the arching pylons. Sonically the architecture emulates the wired rhythms of urban life, with funky syncopated drum lines broken up by the odd heavily reverbed splash of sound, or a percussive synth riff. Places is a classic example of Techno's ability to keep itself indecipherable and let the listener give it meaning. Beltram is resolutely determinist about his work and refuses to see it in any narrative or evocative form outside of the dancefloor. Tracks like "Floaters" and "Set Ups", which initially hint at dark underworld references, are in fact graffiti slang - Beltram had begun to pine for his spray cans when making the LP. MSh

  9. Steven Jesse Bernstein - Prison
    (Sub Pop 1992)

    "Didn't do well in school, but handled pharmacy and the tools of street crime instinctively." So runs a self-penned epitaph on the sleeve of Steven Jesse Bernstein's only recording, the posthumously released Prison. It's an over-concise summary of his concerns which typically sacrifices literal truth in favour of high-octane impact; Bernstein's poetry was turbulent, bruised, confrontational and complex, building on the legacies of influences like Ginsberg and Bukowski. He agreed to have a selection of that poetry recorded and augmented by Sub Pop midfield general and Pigeonhed mainstay Steve Fisk during the last two years of his life, and Prison was the result. Fisk matched Bernstein's exhilarating, rasping and achingly self-aware delivery with smeared HipHop, smudged atonal samples, and snatches of Latino loungecore; creating an uncannily coherent union of words and music which deserves to ensure that Bernstein's 1991 suicide will not consign his work to oblivion. CS

  10. Blue Cheer - Vincebus Eruptum
    (Philips 1968)

    Named after a particularly potent brand of street acid, Blue Cheer were the 60s progenitors of Heavy Metal. A group who played so hard and loud that, so rumour persists, they inadvertently caused the early demise of a dog which strayed on stage while they were improvising. Vincebus Eruptum, their seminal debut, snarled rabidly in the face of hippy innocence and soon became a Hell's Angels party stomper. 30 years later, the record would inspire a horde of suitably impressed Japanese noise trios to pay mutated homage to the group. Vincebus Eruptum may have failed to impress the Woodstock generation with its full on sonic rock attack and textured silver sleeve, but without its raw power both High Rise and Musica Transonic would have remained mere twinkles in Nanjo Asahito's eye. EP

  11. The Blue Men - I Hear A New World
    (RGM White Label 1960, Reissued RPM 1991)

    A profound influence on artists as diverse as Steven Stapleton and Saint Etienne, Joe Meek's magnum opus was destined to languish in obscurity for several decades. Aside from a couple of highly collectable EPs of the material, and a few white label copies, it didn't get an official release in Meek's lifetime. Having developed an obsession with transmundane sounds when working as a radar operator during his National Service, Meek had his passion further inflamed by the Russian and American satellite programmes Consequently, he resolved to create a record which would explore life on the Moon. Aware that this was going to be "a strange record", Meek brought his entire gamut of unorthodox recording techniques to the fore. Speeded-up tapes, rattling washers, combs dragged across ashtrays, etc, were thrown into the mix, along with the clavioline and all manner of home-built effects. The results are at times an adumbration of techniques used in later electronic music; at other times the record is undeniably quirky with its risible speeded-up voices. But undoubtedly, it was a significant work, suffused with exquisitely simple melodies and genuinely strange intros that still sound way ahead of their time. JE

  12. William S Burroughs - Call Me Burroughs
    (ESP-Disk 1965)

    One man, one voice, one microphone. It sure don't come much better than this: Uncle Bill alone in the studio, reading extracts from The Naked Lunch and Nova Express with the libidinous detachment of a research scientist in a toxicology lab. The sound of a man who loves his work. Routines include "The, Complete All-American De-Anxietized Man", "The Buyer" and the crazed ramblings of the Death Dwarf going on the nod in Nova Police custody ("My power's coming! My power's coming!"). Not since the Raven first croaked "Nevermore" have things sounded this grim. What makes these recordings unique, however, is the way Burroughs tackles some of the more abstract of his cut-up sequences, his sepulchral drawl imbuing their fractured syntax with a distant, mournful poetry that has never been equaled. Call Me Burroughs demonstrates just how powerful a listening experience text can be. One of the hundred records you should hear before you die. Just before you die, in fact. KH

  13. John Cale - Paris 1919
    (Reprise 1972)

    After a musical training programme that included playing alongside La Monte Young, Tony Conrad, Terry Riley and The Velvet Underground, John Cale's solo career finally found its feet with this, his still glorious third album. On Paris 1919 Cale's confident piano playing and vibrant Welsh vocal provide the perfect vehicle to carry this selection of spectral songs which, once heard, refuse to be exorcised from the memory. Cale wisely chose members of LA boogie unit Little Feat to complete his chamber ensemble. It seemed an eccentric choice at the time, but it works beautifully, especially on "Macbeth", where the hooves of post-Velvets improvisation thunder through Cale's haunted castle of a song. Several fine albums for Island Records would follow before punk rot briefly set in, but Paris 1919 remains John Cale's most satisfying avant rock statement to date. EP

  14. El Camaron De La Isla, Con La Collaboracion Especial De Paco De Lucia - Al Verte Las Floras Lloran
    (Philips 1969)

    No one whose funeral was televised with thousands of people fainting over his coffin can really be described as neglected, but Camaron, the tormented duende of contemporary flamenco, is too little known outside Spain - and flamenco itself too little understood. Camaron helped restore the form's rawness and authenticity after decades of operismo and Franco-inspired dumbing down, while his tousled, rebellious image appealed to the young. On the first of several collaborations with Paco De Lucia, the master technician and seminal innovator of modern flamenco, he tackles classic forms, from the belting buleria to the wasted intensity of the siguiriya. Camaron's famously rasping voice, not yet ravaged by drugs or alcohol, still sounds pure, liquid, almost feminine, while De Lucia's guitar has a mercurial lightness And however tender and lyrical, there's an ever present tension and attack. A truly exalted recording that opens up another world. MH

  15. Chrome - Half Machine Lip Moves
    (Siren/Beggars Banquet 1979)

    The core duo of Chrome, Damon Edge and Helios Creed - aided by various musicians who fleetingly joined the project - created music that deserved something more than the cult audience it inevitably engendered Half Machine Lip Moves was a curious and powerful hybrid, which fused a stooges-style aggression with a sci-fi and LSD-inspired otherworldliness, reflected in titles that evidenced their interest in aliens and contemporary technology. This album was arguably their finest moment (Alien Soundtracks was their other meisterwerk): Creed's searing, heavily FX-laden guitar (Electro-Harmonix Bassballs?) and Edge's eerie Moog and vocals, underpinned by metallic drums, came together to create what could have become a radical new departure point for a nascent form of post-rock. Their influence may be discernible in the sound of Big Black and a few others; but the extent of their neglect can be measured in the month that Damon Edge's corpse remained undiscovered after his death in 1995. JE

  16. Cluster - Cluster 71
    (Philips 1997, Reissued Sky 1996)

    Cluster 71, the album Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius recorded in 1971 for Philips before moving to the Brain label, has been unduly neglected. Even the recent Krautrock revival overlooked it. Dismissed as too heavy and Teutonic, it prefigures Illbient by about 20 years, parts of it sounding uncannily like DJ Spooky. Engineered by Conny Plank, the three untitled tracks form dark tunneling echoes around icy repeated synth bleats, soaring electronic drones in winding and diving pitches, and sporadic alert signals fusing the new possibilities for electronic noise production with the repetitions and resonances of dub. Space music with a severe hangover, its blaring synth sounds coil and flange into the depths through a blurry rotary motion of sound, while patches of regular thudding pulse conjure up a malformed Techno. MF

  17. Ornette Coleman - Dancing In Your Head
    (A&M 1977)

    A fan recently proposed Muhammad Ali's youthful boxing style as the stylistic equivalent of Coleman's 60s free jazz. Both were, he said, "intricately related to (and a profound expression of) a militant flowering of black American identity." Always look to the second act. In 1974, the 'Rumble In The Jungle', bankrolled by Zaire's murderous, CIA catspaw Mobutu, saw poor George Foreman, Ali's opponent and thus by implication 'un-black' and 'un-militant', vilified and humiliated before all the world. In 1977, Dancing In your Head with Bern Nix, Charlie Ellerbee, Rudy McDaniel and Sharron Jackson, was a music recasting the urban Babel as a visionary free-pulse funk, less 'on the one' (as James Brown would insist) than 'on the many'. Coleman also went to Africa - in "Midnight Sunrise" he and Robert Palmer played with Morocco's Joujouka musicians - but this dense, shifting 3D of jittery atoms, this hermetic yet pushy dreamscape juju couldn't be less Ali-like, whichever way you look at it. MSi

  18. Alice Coltrane - Universal Consciousness
    (Impulse! 1972)

    In 1972, jazz mysticism was vigorous and holding, not yet bleached out into the whiter-wash purity of Keith Jarrettism. Having explored the small group exoticisms pioneered by her late husband, Alice Coletrane went for broke with Universal Consciousness. This album clearly connects to other dyspeptic jazz traditions - the organ trio, the soloists with strings - yet volleys them into outer space, ancient Egypt, the Ganges, the great beyond. The production is astounding, the quality of improvisation is riveting, the string arrangements are apocalyptic rather than saccharine, the balance of turbulence and calm a genuine dialectic that later mystic/exotic post-jazz copped out of pursuing. Her lack of constraint was dimly regarded by adherents of 70s jazz and its masculine orthodoxies, yet Alice deserved better credit for virtuosity, originality, and the sheer will power needed to realized her vision. DT

  19. Comus - First Utterance
    (BGO 1970)

    Named after the god of revelry in classical mythology, Comus emerged around 1969 during the polystylistic ferment of British Progressive rock, and fell apart in 1974 after a disappointing second album. Two songs on their extraordinary debut First Utterance draw on mythology and Milton's poem Comus, about threatened female chastity; others describe brutal murder, Christian martyrdom and mental illness. Roger Wooten's contorted vocals (echoes of Family's Roger Chapman) forcefully convey the terror and hysteria in the lyrics, supported by atmospheric arrangements which veer from poignant partoral to turbulent workouts for acoustic guitars, violins, hand drums, and electric bass. Folk rock at its most delirious, devilish, and dynamic. CBL

  20. 4 For Sale from $75.00

    Tony Conrad - Four Violins
    (Table of the Elements 1997)

    Utterly neglected by all available histories of Minimalist music, Conrad's contribution to that aesthetic has only recently gained widespread acknowledgment. Much of the responsibility for this historical void lies with La Monte Young, who has actively suppressed tapes of the Dream Music he recorded with Conrad and others in the early 60s. Conrad's music has also been overshadowed by the more agreeable, rhythmic Minimalism of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and Terry Reilly. In contrast, Conrad's dense, abrasive drones, and his commitment to unscored, long-duration playing remained at odds with the New Music establishment. The 23 years separating its recording in 1964 and its release last year have done little to diminish the force of Four Violins, the only recording of Conrad's early solo music. On and between the layers of his overdubbed violins, Conrad invents a new musical language of buzzes, rasps, and flutters, amassing a whole that is, by turns, unbearably intense and gloriously ecstatic. CC

  21. Lol Coxhill - Digswell Duets
    (Random Radar 1979)

    The tireless British saxophonist and maverick explorer in a brace of live duos with fellow one-time members of Digswell Art Trust, a pioneering multi-arts hothouse before its transformation to a residential care home for the elderly. Coxhill's meeting with pianist Veryan Weston could easily pass for a tragicomic soundtrack of the 1950s, and is itself worth the steep secondhand asking price; but it's the meeting with electronic music exponent Simon Emmerson that guarantees it a place in this list. Making on-the-fly sound processing a credible partner in a free improvising context has become integral to much of Pauline Oliveros's and, recently, Evan Parker's work; but here are the first flowerings of that experiment. Knife-edge reactions from both players test the technology to its limits - other than during the opening seconds where Coxhill's reeds set the pace, this is seamless music making that is as gripping as it is innovative. DI

  22. Betty Davis - They Say I'm Different
    (Vinyl Experience 1974)

    Miles Davis met Betty in 1969, when she was Betty Mabry, still in her very early twenties and hanging with Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix. Betty Davis's photograph appeared on the cover of his Filles De Kilimanjaro album, but their marriage lasted not much longer than a year, finishing when Davis discovered she was sleeping with Hendrix. By the trumpeter's own admission, however, she turned him on to the funk rock that revolutionized his sound forever. Her own music was a pressure cooker of sex and adrenalin, equaled in guts by only a handful of her husband's records. They Say I'm Different contains the much sampled "Shoo-B- Doop And Cop Him", the tough fetish-funk "He Was A Big Freak" ("Pain was his middle name... he used to laugh when I made him cry"), and a title track that remains one of the decade's overlooked funk masterpieces. In Davis's own words "If Betty were singing today she'd be something like Madonna; something like Prince... She was the beginning of all that when she was singing as Betty Davis. She was ahead of her time." LC

  23. Miles Davis - On The Corner
    (Columbia 1972)

    Miles Davis once said that On The Corner was the product of a period of listening to Sly Stone, Bach, James Brown and Stockhausen, and was part of his bid to reach black youth. Jazz musicians hated it, critics bemoaned Miles's fall from grace, and since Columbia failed to market it as a pop record, it died in the racks. Even now, when Davis's jazz rock recordings are being reissued to great acclaim, On The Corner remains lost in time. Still, this record might well be the most radical break with the past of all of Davis's many breaks. Dense with rhythm and conceptually enriched with noises, his trumpet's role mixed down to that of a journeyman, the melody reduced to recycled Minimalist patterns, Davis broke every rule enforced by the jazz police. Yet heard today - especially in the Bill Laswell remixes on Panthalassa - we hear that Davis was laying the foundations for drum 'n' bass, TripHop, Jungle, and all the other musics of repetition to come. JFS

  24. Dead C - Trapdoor Fucking Exit
    (Xpressway 1990, Reissued Siltbreeze 1993)

    Trapdoor Fucking Exit is the sound of three newly freed New Zealanders wrestling with the implications of punk-primitive aesthetics in the wake of US/Euro free jazz ground leveling. Two broken guitars and a rapid-firing drummer, playing lead, singlehandedly redefined the concept of garage punk without any considerations of melody, rhythm or fidelity. Originally released as an ultra-limited cassette recorded on a damaged Walkman, the fact that there isn't a Dead C tribute group in every small suburban town the world over is still utterly perplexing. Guitarist Bruce Russell has since become the Southern Hemisphere's premier disseminator of outward-bound sound, courtesy of his Xpressway and Corpus Hermeticum imprints. DK

  25. Bill Dixon Orchestra - Intents And Purposes
    (RCA 1967)

    One of the architects of the 1964 October Revolution and the short-lived Jazz Composers' Guild, Dixon was an outspoken critic of the conservative factions in jazz - musicians and industry figures alike. He has good cause. Though his early 60s groups were among the most original of the time, his few recordings for Savoy were shamefully neglected, and this lovely, prophetic 1967 session for RCA has been out of print for three decades. Dixon's eccentric trumpet style, with its grainy microtonal bite and often melancholy edginess, remains intact on 8Os and 90s releases. But what's been ignored is his individual approach to scoring for larger ensembles - the 11 piece 'orchestra' is heard on the dark, moody "Metamorphosis 1962-66'. Dixon's combination of composed lyricism and propulsive energy, wrapped within his shifting tonal colours and textures, still sounds contemporary and cutting edge. AL