6 – Alice Coltrane – Journey In Satchidananda
Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda has a feel unlike any other album I know. Deep bass Jazz grooves are infused with world music flavoured harp and percussion. A touch of India is combined with the smell of the jazz cigarettes in clubs across Europe and the states.
Whether it’s all the cultural references in my head, or something else entirely, this album is otherworldly. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think this is completely different to anything they’ve ever heard before. I saw this album for years before I made the choice to buy it. The album with the crazy looking name was a hard sell, but once I got it I never regretted it.
5 – Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever ago
This is an album for those who like to listen to warm sounding music that takes you on a comfortable sad journey. This is an album that you will enjoy listening to, and can savour but never overpowers you. Warm vocal harmonies and relaxing sounds are the order of the day.
Bon Iver is apparently pronounced Bon ee -vare, thought you might like to know that. Bon Iver is a french expression meaning Good Winter. This album has a great story behind it that if anything enhances the listen.
4 – Ravi Shankar – Three Ragas
When Ravi Shankar put out this album in 1956, the world was a small place, and Rock n’Roll was still an infant. Ten years later and Ravi Shankar had taught George Harrison how to play sitar and you could hear it on Beatles and Rolling Stones albums across the world. Beatles tracks like Norwegian Wood and Within You Without You, certainly gave the western ear their first taste of the distinctive tones and made it cool. Earlier than that even Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones had immortalised the ringing introductory sounds of Paint it Black.
A great album to put you into a trance, where your fingers fly across the keys and the next thing you know you have completed some words and are feeling better for it. This is one of the earliest and most famous Sitar albums and certainly one that will suck you in, if for nothing else, as an extremely effective tool to help you write.
3 – Janacek – Sinfionetta
Another great album if you want to shift your consciousness to a place where you can focus. From the opening bars of symphonic brass this album hooked me. It fluctuates and goes from peaceful, sweet, to confrontational and loud. I found that the somewhat erratic styles of this music for some reason don’t throw me at all. It is definitely not the kind of music I ever imagined liking.
It seems more like music that would be used on ads for the winter olympics than anything you would work to. After I wrote this I discovered it had indeed been used as a theme song in a seventies/eighties TV show, and was partly covered in a rock style by Emerson Lake and Palmer. The motifs and themes push me to write faster and then gives me some respite to slow down.
This album has garnered a lot of attention in light of it being mentioned throughout IQ84, a magical realist novel by popular Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. I have listened to a lot of the music name checked in Murakami’s novels, but this is the only one I use consistently to write to. It has the drama that if nothing else makes reading IQ84 a much more emotional experience. What Murakami is tapping into is the emotional journey that Janacek takes you on
2 – Kraftwerk- Man Machine
Man Machine is classic Kraftwerk German electronica. From the opening track ‘We are the robots’ the tempo is set, it has lots of beeps and whistles, and seventies pseudo computer sounds as it goes along. Kraftwerk were unique at the time and even with the passage of time the quality of their work is not diminished. This is one of those great albums where even the artwork is laid out to enhance the listening experience. The album cover as above is another reflection of the tracks on the album that pull you along with a thematic experience of the man machine.
This album grabs the iconography of extremes, super imposes the world of machines and industrialism, and isolation, to make a great cohesive album. It was massive at the time and will be one of those timeless album that is always around.
1 – Moondog – Viking of sixth avenue
Albeit a ‘best of’, if a modern day DJ mixed native american beats, classical arrangements and jazz this well they would be the next big thing. When Moondog mixed these styles sixty years ago, he was considered a talented Kook. After hearing this, if it doesn’t have you scouring the internet for his other releases you are wasting valuable time. A beautiful eclectic album all about the music, for it is the message.
I am quite verbose on many topics, but the music of Moondog speaks for itself. He has inspired countless people and thinkers. The Viking of Sixth Avenue is a compilation of his life and career. The first thing you don’t necessarily need to know but adds a little spice to the listen is, that it was all done by a giant blind man dressed as a viking who lived on the streets of New York. This might not be all you need to know, but hopefully it is enough to interest you. Moondog is in his own genre.