Lovely Recordings Hosted by Graham Thorburn

As often happens when friends come to dinner, we ended the evening, glass in hand, listening to a couple of their favourite tracks, followed by a couple of mine. "So," she said, settling into the listening seat for her turn, "I guess this is the sweet spot in your happy place?"

"Exactly!" said my wife. "Exactly!"

She’s right. I have loved music—playing and listening—for as long as I remember. I’m not one of those stereophiles that buys new equipment more often than new music, but it has to be said that I have only once in my adult life owned a car that was worth more than my stereo. When it comes to transporting me to out of reach places, the stereo wins hands down.

Jordi Savall and Hesperion XX: Llibre Vermell de Montserrat (His Master's Voice, 1979)
Over the years Jordi Savall and his various bands and collaborators have given me endless pleasure as their music roamed the Mediterranean countries and centuries. I’ve seen him live twice, both times with his late wife, the incomparable Montserrat Figueras, and have at least ten of his albums. But first love is the deepest, and it was Llibre Vermell de Montserrat that introduced me to him, and it’s the album that I still turn to most often.

Available from Tidal

Anour Brahem: Le Pas du Chat Noir (ECM, 2002)
I first became aware of the extraordinary musical talent of composer and oud player Anour Brahem in a 1994 Tunisian film called The Silences of the Palace, which not only show-cased his music, but featured him playing much of it on screen. That music appears on his early ECM album Conte de L'incroyable Amour, which remains one of my favourite albums. However, for this selection I’ve chosen another of my favourites, Le Pas du Chat Noir. Perfect music for drifting from evening into night.

Available from Qobuz

Joseph Tawadros: Truth Seekers, Lovers and Warriors (Deutsche Grammophon, 2015)
Australia is one of the great migrant countries: nearly 30% of its population were born overseas (that’s more than double the rate of the USA). As someone old enough to remember when we were still a bland forelock-tugging British outpost, I’m endlessly grateful for the way migrants have opened up our culture. The Coptic Egyptian parents of Joseph and James Tawadros migrated in in the mid-80s, and their sons have grown up to be masterful musicians: Joseph as a composer and virtuoso oud player; and James, his younger brother, on req’ and bendir (alongside a career as a biomedical engineering researcher). Joseph has made 13 albums, including a few with the cream of contemporary American jazz musicians, but for this I’m playing the nationalist card and going for an album he made with an Australian band, including the magnifient Matt McMahon on piano.

Available from Tidal

Charles Lloyd Quartet: Forest Flower: Charles Lloyd At Monterey (Atlantic, 1967)
When I was at University my emotions were simple and bold (but still confusing), and always associated with music: Blue – Joni Mitchell; Astral Weeks – Van Morrison; Night Train – Oscar Peterson; Filles de Kilimanjaro – Miles Davis; I Talk with the Spirits – Roland Kirk. All of them played thousands of times, and all of them still speaking to me. I’ll leave you to find your own emotional affiliations for those albums, but for joy I always turned to the Charles Lloyd Quartet’s exuberantly buoyant set at the 1966 Monterey Jazz Festival. A wonderful band – Keith Jarrett on piano; Cecil McBee on bass; Jack de Johnette on drums, and of course Charles’ soaring liquid saxophone. And what music—melodic, sophisticated, propulsive. Joy.

Available from Tidal

Henry Texier Quartet: An Indian’s Week (Label Bleu, 1993)
Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um (Columbia Records, 1959)
Two more favourite albums of jazz exuberance; one well known to the edge of over-familiarity and one less so. In my business we’re always looking for surprising inevitability—story twists that blindside you in the moment, but seem completely inevitable in retrospect. Familiar as I am with both these albums, both continue to have surprising inevitability in spades. Plus very individual but present soul.

An Indian’s Week is available from Tidal
Mingus Ah Um is available from Tidal

I hate music that tells stories (Resphigi – shudder), but I love songs and singers that tells stories. Here are a few of my favourites.

Lucinda Williams: World Without Tears (Lost Highway Records, 2003)
Much as I Iove Lucinda Williams, there’s something a bit repetitive about her typical verse/chorus no-middle-eight song construction. But the musical and emotional rawness of World Without Tears makes a complete virtue out of that simplicity. I always listen all the way right through to the bleeding end.

Available from Tidal

Amy LaVere: Runaway’s Diary (Archer Records, 2014)
Another story album with a female protagonist, but if Stranger Me is LaVere’s equivalent of World Without Tears, Runaway’s Diary is less personal, more observational, more of a road trip. And any album that includes baritone sax ("Last Rock n Roll Boy..") is OK by me.

Available from Tidal

Tom Waits: Blue Valentine (Elektra, 1978)
This is my favourite of Waits’ early albums: partly because of Bones Howes' bluesy production; and partly because it’s free of the self-mythologising 'more authentic than thou' narcissism of his other early albums.

Available from Qobuz

Jacques Brel: Quinze Ans D’Amour (Barclay, 1968)
A great Belgian story-teller. Singing in French helps, but I never doubt the authenticity of Brel’s vision or voice. His songs have been covered by many wonderful singers, but though his original versions might be matched, they are never supplanted.

Available from Tidal

Millie Jackson: Caught Up (Springs, 1974)
I first loved this album because living in white-bread suburban Australia it made me feel so adult. Infidelity! Heartbreak! Now I love it for the directness of Millie’s voice, and that punchy Muscle Shoals sound. And the ability to say to my son’s friends 'You thought rap was your generation? Try this – 1974 – 15 years before you were born!'

Available from Qobuz

Prince: Purple Rain (Warner Bros. Records, 1984)
OK – hardly a hidden treasure, but a fantastically pleasurable album, with only one dud (Computer Blue, no correspondence will be entered into). I once rode a pushbike around Japan propelled by the driving rhythms of this album. I was lucky enough to see Prince live twice. The first time was the era of the yellow suit, the backing singers, the blistering guitar solos, and hit after hit. James Brown eat your heart out! I bounced around for a week. The second was much more personal, and ultimately much sadder—at the Sydney Opera House. Just Prince, a piano, his extraordinary talent and catalogue, and an adoring audience. Of course I wasn’t to know that he’d be dead in a couple of months, but that concert is an enduring epitaph: not so much for his virtuosic ability to create seamless improvised 45 minute sonatas out of his vast repertoire; more for his naked vulnerability and demand for love, and the open-hearted response from the audience. Emotional give and take at a profound level.

Available from Tidal

I spent my primary school years in Tanganyika before returning to Australia for high school and university. Studied and worked as an electronic engineer, before making a living as a cab-driver, lighting and sound designer and semi-professional musician as I transitioned into acting. Moved on again into directing, writing and producing (mostly TV drama), before ending up as an academic. Now semi-retired, going to concerts and doing a bit of consulting on films, scripts and novels to keep my brain moving.

Share your Lovely Recordings with us!

Anton's picture

I try to follow up on people's lists and appreciate the new ideas!

I scored an overlap of 4. (My overlap score is how many albums I own from someone's Lovely recordings" list.)

I will now enjoy searching out your others!

gtandzi's picture

I too mine these lists for new music, with much success. Somehow knowing that someone else loved a piece of music gives me an 'in' too. I hope you found a few for your list among the 'non-overlaps.'

Amelie583's picture

Pretty good list. I know most of these albums and I must say that like your taste of music! I like it a lot. I'll have to check the "Caught Up" and "World Without Tears".