Gathan Beaga

essential

I’ve bought more music in the four months I’ve had the iPod than I have in the previous two years. But most of it’s been mining the extensive back-catalogs of the last 40 years rather than a load of new stuff. And most of the new stuff I would like to buy is copy-controlled anyway, and I don’t do that.

I read somewhere that you don’t start buying compilations until you are at least 30: it’s a pretty strong marker of middle age. I’ve got it pretty bad.

And today, the Red Shed had a fantastic special: only nine of our paltry NZ dollars (that’s about six yankee dollars) for “The Essential…” series of double CDs. These are a series of some of the best (and worst) music ever released, whose only commonality is that over time they’ve all ended up on mega-label Sony.

I’ve ended up with quite a few of these, and two new ones today.

  • The Essential Johnny Cash. Utterly fantastic, and hardly a dud song on it. The best $9 purchase you could ever make (although I bought for it for $10 last year in a Sounds sale). Best moment is during Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny is explaining with some contrition how he came to be in prison: I shot a man in Reno / Just to see him die
         …and the audience of hardened crims erupts into a cheer. Scary.

  • The Essential Clash. The first CD is better than the second, although well worth a purchase. I possibly should just have bought London Calling and be done with it, but there are some quite good songs on the other Clash albums. But oh, the irony. Punk’s staunchest 25 years later compiled within an inch of their lives!

  • The Essential Bob Dylan. OK, so I actually don’t mind this too much, despite my long-standing and irrational dislike of Dylan. It hasn’t made it on to the iPod though, which is a truer measure of regard. I still believe than can be only one… Bob. And that is… Robert Nesta Marley!

  • The Essential Miles Davis. Sorry, bought this but just don’t like it at all. Will persist for a while to see if I can figure out what I’m missing.

  • The Essential Leonard Cohen. I thought I would like this one more. Still trying to work out if the ‘60s stuff stands up, and have dismissed the late ’80s stuff as mostly self-parodic crap. But I’ll give it a few more spins.

  • The Essential Sly And The Family Stone. One of today’s purchases. I listened to the first CD of it at work while writing a paper that had to be done before the end of the day. And what good vibing music it was for that – half familiar groovy tunes from a time of darkness but also great optimism. Fitted my mood well as I looked out into the lowering skies outside. And then there’s the weird effect of recognising the originals of so many stolen drumbeats. At one point I could swear I was in the middle of a Stone Roses song. Recommended, and that’s before I’ve even heard the second disc.

  • The Essential Byrds. The other purchase from today. Looking forward to listening to this one. I already have this CD in the form of Primal Scream’s little known first album, Sonic Flower Groove. (This was before their Zep phase, which was before their dance phase, which was before their Stones phase… you get the picture.) Hopefully it’s less insipid than the ‘Scream.
And before I hear any of you youngsters sniggering, let it be said that in 15 years time you’ll be buying the The Essential Avril Lavigne (OK, that’s a bad example). So quiet back there.

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