Monday 25 December 2017

The AAA Review Of The Year 2017

Hello dear faithful readers and welcome to another summary of what was another turbulent year. We didn’t know what was going to happen next did we? Brexit, Mueller, ‘Who Built The Moon?’, it’s strange to thing that a year ago we didn’t really know what any of these weird phrases meant or what a role they would come to play in our lives, well Oasis fans anyway. It’s been a hazy crazy year without much structure or order and it’s been reflected in this year’s releases, which are a complete range of some of the best things any of the AAA crew have ever made in their entire lives – and some of the worst. In musical terms I guess it’s a return to the mid-1970s when everyone is desperate for something new to come along,l but no two can people can agree on what they want that something to be. Will 2018 be the year of punk? Was it dead by 1980?!? These are questions that may never be answered. Anyway back in ‘our’ timezone there has been a definite shift away from documentaries in this year’s issue and back to songs, mainly because there flipping weren’t any, so to reflect this we’ve altered our ratings slightly to cover the fact that we’re up 25% on music releases this year, 100% down on TV and radio programmes and 75% up on autobiographies. This will, I think, be seen as the year of the Oasis comeback, when the two Gallagher brothers split their fanbase like never before and of Neil Young, who released two ‘new’ albums this year and had a third released in the very dying days of 2016 (although, as usual, one of these ‘new’ albums should have come out forty odd years ago!) We’ve also seen a lot of surprises, such as the first Ray Davies release in over a decade and the first Roger Waters studio album in a quarter century, while at the other end of the spectrum this is David Crosby’s third album in five years and Cat Stevens’ second in two – a near-record release schedule even compared to their younger selves.

As for Alan’s Album Archives, it’s been a year of highs and lows. We’re edging ever nearer to the end of our ten-year-run of reviews with the 522nd and last review ready to be written later on tonight, though in ‘your’ timestream it should have come out last week (sob! I never thought we’d get here!) Admittedly there are new releases by Belle and Sebastian, The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney announced for next year already and I would be most surprised if Neil Young hasn’t released another three by this time next year. Although this is the end, for now, we very much hope to keep this site updated and will continue to bring you new music as it continues to be released across the new year. Otherwise, though, the AAA is moving into a new stage of its existence with a series of regular ‘essays’ featuring a more long-term look at each of our thirty acts and coming soon a regular series looking at five key concerts and three key cover songs by each of our bands. That should take us halfway through the year – and then, if the stars are in alignment, Trump hasn’t blown us up yet and I haven’t turned fully monkeynuts, we might even have the first of our AAA books out. The bad news: I’m rather behind schedule thanks to another of those rollercoaster rides of a year that feels like a Grateful Dead live show from the late 1970s (ranging from sublime to ridiculous in seconds). The good news: I’m still just about ahead enough to keep to the schedule and actually have some nice things lined up for a change, so next year looks like being a good one. I’ll let you know in our review of the year 2018 if that turned out to be the case or not!

As ever with these end of year celebrations I’d like to pay tribute to several people who make this possible: my brilliant former flat mate and forever friend Stuart Gilbey, who was particularly excited at a Steps reunion this year, though he did scare me by suddenly posting Spice Girls links. Foxy Jeepster who provides daily hugs. My faithful friend Paul Jackson, whose encouragement has really kept this website on course during the past few difficult years. The magnificent Dave Emlen whose ‘Kinda Kinks’ website remains the single best place for Kinky news on the internet. My new friend Kenny Brown who is always so kind with re-posting links and even wrote a fantastic ‘guest post’ for our website earlier in the year (you can find the link at the bottom of the page!) My very wonderful friends BarnacleBum and SlackTV who have always been there with support and some truly mind-blowingly wonderful front covers. And my dearest Vicki, whose kept me laughing for six months now with tales of rejected girl power star Spoonie Spice, bootleg collector Hans and pie-throwing, none of which will mean anything to anyone else reading this message but which means the world to me! Thankyou all for being wonderful. And thankyou too dear reader, whoever you are wherever you are, for reading Alan’s Album Archives across 2017 whether this is your first post or whether you’ve been with us for decades now. You are very much appreciated – it would have been lonely without you!

1)   Liam Gallagher “As You Were”

When we were poised for the first release b y both Beady Eye and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, I promised myself I wouldn’t ‘take sides’. After all, both Gallagher brothers are incredibly talented and both had as good a chance at either of making a name for themselves in their post-Oasis career. But as time goes on I become more and more unapologetic for supporting Liam. I loved Beady Eye –their debut is a mini-masterpiece – and worried that without Gem or Andy around Liam might struggle to fill a full album on his own, especially as no one in the Oasis fanbase seemed to be all that fussed about his music. That all changed spectacularly with the success of ‘As You Were Here’ which became the first AAA number one record since The Monkees reunion last year and led to some glowing reviews, including ours. Liam was the best writer of the final Oasis years by far and he’s continued to grow, even with his record label insisting he writes with some ‘heavy’ friends to get a ‘hit’. I was worried that we would be in for a generic Oasis by numbers LP, much like their last ‘Dig Out Your Soul’, but no: Liam is such a character his presence permeates everything and he sounds as if he’s enjoying growing old disgracefully. The sound has really moved on, including such gems as the psychedelic ‘Chinatown’ (see our lost of ‘songs of the year’ below), while he pours his heart out like never before on the guilt-ridden ‘For What It’s Worth’ and sounds oddly content with his lot in life on ‘I’ve All You Need’, the first Oasis-related song to be inspired by Yoko rather than John. The B-sides may well be the best thing in the set too, with a playful wink missing from the more serious pieces on the ‘main’ album. He also sings like a bird – thankfully not a High Flying one – and while his band sounded pretty darn awful live they sound great on record. This album ‘dances’ in a way even Beady Eye never quite managed and recalls early Oasis,lbut with a wiser, more sombre tone more in keeping with their later years. Liam hasn’t lost his humour either – super deluxe editions of the album come in black and white with special crayons so you can colour in those famous Gallagher eyebrows on the sleeve! (Be warned though, ‘The Who By Numbers’ did a similar trick and un-scribbled-on copies are now worth a mint!)  It's not goodbye, so dry your eyes. Download: ‘Chinatown’ to hear Liam at his ‘new’ best and ‘I’ll Get By’ to hear him at his ‘old’ best!

2) Neil Young "The Visitor"

(Reviewed in full at

I’ve been more critical of Neil’s new releases since the AAA started as even his biggest fans wouldn’t call the past decade a stellar moment in his career. ‘Please Neil’ we keep arguing, ‘stop releasing a record every year and rush-recording it whether you have the material or not!’ The last two records have seen a big improvement though, with the rage of ‘The Monsanto Years’ and the playfulness of ‘Peace Trail’ combining for a playful political album. This one doesn’t name names but it reeks of Trump: the smugness, the stupidity, the hypocrisy, why it practically comes in the colour of orange with silly hair (we threatened our website mascot if he didn’t behave we were going to buy him a ‘Trumpy Bear’ to keep an eye on him. He’s been very good since then. It won’t last…) Neil is well aware that he’s not strictly an American, starting the album by distancing himself from the carnage of 2017 (‘I’m Canadian by the way’ he begins the album with a jeer) and he is appalled that the country emigrants used to flock to for a better life now wants to kick them out. Neil is at his wicked best at times on this album, rebutting Trump’s claim to ‘make America great again’ by saying that ‘it’s already great!’, mocking Trump with his own words on a blues jam that intones ‘lock ‘em up!’ and taking off to goodness knows where for the Cowboy movie ‘Carnival’, in which Neil speaks of love as a highwire trapeze act and giggles like a hyena on psychedelics across the song. Best of all are two mournful ballads, ‘Change Of Heart’ which may well be Neil’s hippiest song, claiming that people can care about other people if they see enough sadness in the world and that it’s never too late to u-turn and the closing ‘Forever’ which takes a rambling look at a nation ready to pack in case things get worse, but not quite sure where to move to. The rest of the record is much more uneven, but being such a lengthy CD is less off-putting than on other latter-day Young albums that ramble even more than we at the AAA do. This is an album of cycles and ups and downs, where things are fragile and can easily go wrong but can always be put right again, recalling the Nixon-baiting ‘On The Beach’ from 1974 with its mixture of weary depression and teeth-bared attacks. It’s been a rotten year for politics, then – but a great one for political musicians like Neil. With more time for people to get writing will 2018 see a run of more anti-Trump albums like these? On this evidence let’s hope so! Download: ‘Change Of Heart’ ‘Forever’

3) Cat Stevens “The Laughing Apple”

In the ten years since making his comeback and our site reviewing his records Cat’s career has gone up and down like a yo-yo. First awful, then superb, then mind-numbingly awful, now Cat has gone back to being close to his comeback peak again. ‘The Laughing Apple’ is a fascinating album, full of re-recordings of unfinished or forgotten songs with a few new ones thrown in. It’s fascinating how closely the nineteen year old Cat of ‘New Masters’ sounds like his now seventy-year-old counterpart, how pre-occupied both are with ‘older’ issues and yet how childlike the imagery still is. Cat’s voice is deeper and he now sounds old and feeble enough to cope with what his teenage self was writing in between the parties, but he’s really bought back into the mood of his younger days when he didn’t yet know it but he was already close to dying from the t.b. that first killed odd and then completely re-shaped his career. Some of Cat’s best early material went unheard until a box set in the 1990s – and now it’s been completed in the most beautiful manner, especially a tale of ‘wanting to see my grandchildren grow old’ turned from a neurotic edgy rant into a peaceful song of celebration now Cat actually has (or seen his grandchildren born, anyway). You can also hear sequels to several of his best songs, including ‘See What Love Did To Me’ which is like all his younger love songs told in reverse from a position of age and wisdom and ‘You Can Do What You Want To Do’, which is only a few syntaxes away from ‘If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out’ (and nearly as good!) Best of all, though, might be the new material – ‘Mighty Peace’ is a particularly gorgeous song that Cat could have written in any era since 1970 but just happens to have written for us in ours, as the world goes to hell around us, and it’s beautiful. Even with nine original albums and four ‘comeback’ CDs now the former Yusuf Islam (who has started crediting himself as ‘Cat Stevens’ again for the first time since 1979), this may well be Cat’s prettiest album of all. Shame it’s also one of his shortest though, at just twenty-nine minutes. Download: ‘Mighty Peace’ ‘Grandsons’

4) Roger Waters “Is This The Life We Really Want?”

Not quite worth the twenty-five-year wait, this follow up to perhaps Roger’s greatest work ‘Amused To Death’ is still a largely wonderful album. It is, of course, gloomy as hell what with the world ignoring all the warnings Roger has been giving us for decades now but is none the worse for that. ‘I told you but you wouldn’t listen would you?’ is Roger’s message as ‘Is This The Life We Really Want’ takes aim at mass-media manipulation, killings of protestors and refugees fleeing death in the short-term only to meet it head-on in the long-term and of course pig-headed politicians (‘Picture a president with no fucking brains!!!’ is the killer chorus of ‘Picture That’). Opener ‘Déjà vu’ is particularly gorgeous (see below) – we’ve all been here before and we never learn do we. ‘If I had been God’ sighs Roger, listing all the ways he would make life better if only he could, still grieving for all the people he could not save. Typical Roger he tells us that he would have done a ‘better job’ and it’s hard not argue – especially with so many lovely returns to old snatches of music from ‘Dark Side’ and ‘The Wall’. But while Roger’s targets often hit home superbly this album isn’t as memorable as predecessors as it lacks their magisterial beauty and melody, while there are many songs here that are more ‘lists’ than ‘lyrics’, a frequent problem with Roger’s work. Still, this album is as fans have been hoping and answers the question ‘gee I wonder what Roger’s response to the madness of the world in the 21st century might be?’ with the answer ‘stone cold bloody furious!’  Download: ‘Déjà vu’ ‘When We Were Young’

5) Grateful Dead “Dave’s Picks Volume Twenty-Three”

The Grateful Dead re-release calendar has been a bit humdrum for most of the year. Seemingly stuck in the late 1970s when the band were, by and large, a pale shadow of their former selves it seems that the anniversary bonanza of a couple of years ago was a thing of the past (just as well, too, given that I still haven’t got to the end of the epic eighty disc set ‘Thirty Trips Around The Sun’ quite yet! This show is, though, one I’ve been waiting for – regularly voted the last great concert the Dead ever played, this show from Oregon on January 22nd 1978 isn’t just one of the last great shows they played but one of the very very best. Though the band starts off tentative that occasional Dead synchronicity really kicks in a few songs in and the band are sparking off each other like its 1968 not ten years later! The highlights are many: a raucous and angry ‘Jack Straw’ that might well be the best the Dead ever played – it sounds as if the band have been listening to punk all night every night before the gig and is all the better for it. A reggae ‘Jimmy Row’ that isn’t so much a lazy stroll as a fight with the fishes. There’s a fascinating jazzified ‘The Other One’ that somehow leaves its period trappings to become as psychedelic and out-there as the Dead were in their youth, with the cymbals from their two drummers flying in a quite breathtaking dance of syncopated percussion. And then coming out of the end, catching the band by surprise, is one of the greatest fieriest ‘St Stephen’s of them all, slower than usual yet louder and more defiant, this coming-of-age tale for a generation played with more certainty and faith than I think I have ever heard. All four songs have long been amongst my Dead picks and its great just having them on the same setlist – but having perfect-for-the-period recordings of them all is a treat, while past the opening dodgy cowboy songs even the bad tracks sound great tonight. Hats off, too, to whichever Deadhead was in the audience that week as his glorious copy of the show (fed into the mixing board, but still) sounds better and clearer than any of the Dead’s official live LPs! Stunning – and trust the Dead to release another two hundred and fifty odd shows before finally getting round to one of the few masterpieces still left in their vaults. I have a feeling this is going to be one of my Dead regulars… Download: ‘Jack Straw’ ‘The Other One’ ‘St Stephen’

6) Ray Davies “Americana”

Eleven years after his last record and five years after the book with which it shares its name, Ray Davies was back with a resume of what he’s been up to since the last record. Nearly dying, all over again, by the sound of it on a CD that like Neil’s finds Ray as a perennial ‘outsider’ in the USA. This time, though, he sounds even less proud of his homeland and is desperate to fit in with local culture and not be a Brit on an album that recounts how magical a place America always seemed to be in his youth and his dreams of getting there versus the reality. The result is an uneven record which isn’t helped by his insistence on singing in Americana styles such as country or gospel which really don’t suit his mock-accent and interrupted by readings from his book that quickly get irritating after repeated playings. However the best of this patchy record is very moving indeed: the ‘goodbye’ to friend and neighbour Alex Chilton (of ‘Big Star’) on ‘Poetry’, the typically perfect observational song ‘I’ve Heard That Beat Before’ about the sound of crockery going on upstairs in time to the song that is writing itself in his head as Ray knowingly nods at what’s going on and ‘Wings Of Fantasy’ in which Ray wishes he could fly away from life’s problems for the millionth time, but it still all sounds so new and fresh. Best of all is the gorgeous other-worldly ‘Long Drive Home To Tarzana’ which ties up so many career threads: Ray spent so much of his past singing about ‘home’ and where he came from and here he sings on his most Americanised song about his awe of finding himself in his ‘new home town’ – and what a long crazy career path took him here. Not everything works and the record would have had a lot more impact had it come out with the book as planned, but there’s enough here to love still once you’ve skipped past the set’s ‘kinks’. Download: ‘Long Drive Home To Tarzana’ ‘I’ve Heard That Beat Poetry’

1)   Noel Gallagher “Who Built The Moon?”

Apparently more critics have waxed lyrical about Noel’s album than Liam’s. ‘It’s cutting edge!’ people say. ‘It’s so modern!’ they gasp, as if that’s a good thing, not an evil to avoid. ‘You wouldn’t understand it – it’s moved on from Oasis’ they giggle, as if that too were something to be proud of. Most modern music is crap, being formless with a heavy beat and not much melody or space to write proper lyrics rather than going ‘woooooah’ and filling in the holes, or leaving pieces as similar-sounding instrumentals the way the senior eyebrowed Gallagher does here. Sadly even talented songwriters aren’t immune and most of this album is horrible. Noel doesn’t sing, he shouts. His guitar doesn’t solo, it drones, on and on and on. There’s barely any dynamics on an album that’s either too quiet to hear or so blooming noisy it blows your ears off. And those were the songs I actually liked! As for the title, Noel moaned last time around with ‘Chasing Yesterdays’ that the title was pretentious and he regretted choosing it the minuet he sent it to the record company, but it was too late to change it. Well, he’s sure going to hate himself for this one in the morning: like the record it tries so hard to say everything that it sort of ends up saying nothing. Like his brother the best stuff all ended up as extras on the ‘deluxe’ edition when Noel does with a moving vocal, a guitar and a radio broadcast in Ireland what he failed to do with twenty-nine musicians (including twelve backing singers) and a whole shop full of keyboards on the ‘new age’ setting on the full LP. Just to rub home that he still has it occasionally, though, there is one killer song on the album – which we’ll be returning to later…

2)   David Crosby “Sky Trails” 

We’ve had three albums from Croz in five years now – a record for a man who took eighteen years to follow-up his first solo work – and there’s a work of genius across them all. Heard separately, though, all three are lacking and this one seems particularly low on ideas. The electric ‘band’ album to go with last year’s acoustic ‘Lighthouse’, there are some lovely ideas in here but not enough of them and Croz spends much of the album sounding like Steely Dan (the record did, more by coincidence than planning, come out the week after Walter Becker died). The resulting ‘polish’ isn’t really to my tastes and means Croz is too often studying what he is singing rather than coming from his heart, something which is a particular shame because when this record has something to say it says it well. ‘Here It’s Almost Sunset’ is a lovely and very Crosby song about waking up in a hotel room, desperate for spiritual light, while ‘Sky Trails’ itself is beautiful, a haunting ethereal acoustic track in a minor key that sounds like Art Garfunkel at his most inspired. I’m convinced that it’s a song of guilt over the war of words there was between Crosby and Nash last year, asking himself ‘why was I so careless with your heart?’ For a record that mentions ‘hearts’ so much, though, it’s a shame this record doesn’t sound like it has more of a one. There is, clearly, a lot of great stuff still running through David’s creative veins and much of the past three records have been a joy – he just needs a better set of people to bounce off than Snarky Puppy and a better inspiration than Steely Dan.

3)   Paul McCartney “Skype Emojis”

OK, so the AAA run of albums wasn’t actually that bad this year (though Neil Young’s unreleased ‘Hitch-hiker’ from 1975 nearly made this list because it repeated 7/10ths of what fans already owned and were hi-jacked for later albums – until I remembered how good the remaining 3/10ths was). And we don’t have a section for ‘AAA emojis of the year’. Yet (my guess is they would include drunken dog mascots, an emoji of me frantically scribbling and lots of pies being thrown at the Spice Girls). So here it goes: why has a former Beatle who could, literally, do anything in the musical world with no one prepared to stop him spent this year writing five second emojis to go with ugly looking skype icons? In case you missed them they came out in February for Valentine’s Day but don’t go rushing to send them now because if you do all you’re going to get in return is a big slap! If you want to find them look for the ‘heart bar graph’ that’s next to the ‘smiley face’ and scroll down to ‘Love Mojis’. Here you get such unlikely sound effects and scribbles as two balloons rubbing against each other to the sound of ‘de doo be doo’, two bears hugging to the sound of ‘oo-wee-oo-ooh!’, two snakes intertwining each other to a funky beat, a stripping tortoise, a banana peeling itself and a big fat cupid wolf-whistling as he fires off lots of arrows. The best one is clearly the octopus who holds out flowers, wine and chocolates…and a pair of handcuffs before he blushes and hides them away. So that’s what goes on in an octopuses’ garden is it?!? Fun as they are and much as he wants to please his soon-to-be-teenage daughter Beatrice, just why is McCartney wasting his time and talent on something quite so trivial?

1)   The Hollies “Head Out Of Dreams: August 1973-May 1988”

EMI are still financially struggling, selling Abbey Road off to any band with a guitar and releasing a whole host of sets by their big three acts to make as much money as possible to get them out of trouble (that’s what random 1980s arm deals will get you karma-wise). But whereas the Beatles and Pink Floyd sets are increasingly expensive and mickey-taking collector behemoths that cost hundreds and thousands, The Hollies are quietly getting the treatment their back catalogue has long deserved and EMI are appealing to collectors like me (and maybe you) who have this stuff already but have been desperate to see it done properly and with love and care for a change. This set follows the ‘Clarke Hicks Nash Years’ and ‘Changin’ Times 1969-1973’ sets to deliver a third superb compilation that rounds up (almost) everything else, taking the story near enough to the present day for most fans not to notice. With a lot of this material unavailable for twenty years (since the excellent ‘Four Hollies Originals’ and ‘More Hollies Originals’ sets came out), it’s great to have this classy material back out in the shops again and with the equivalent of six albums and multiple singles for the price of a single disc set, its an impressive bargain if you don’t already have it or much of it. Song by song this might not be quite up to the standard of the first two sets (which you ought to buy first) but it’s a very wonderful runner-up, with some stunning career highs even towards the end of the band’s regular career as The Hollies try more throws of the dice and try different styles including prog, disco, orchestral ballads and retro punk (all sounding so much better than you might ever expect). One thing that would have made this the album of the year, though, never mind re-issue, would have been an additional seventh disc mopping up absolutely everything The Hollies recorded in their years with singer Allan Clarke, with rarer songs like the ‘Purple Rain’ B-sides ‘Naomi’ and ‘Two Shadows’ still shockingly unavailable on CD in the modern age and this welcome chance to mop up all the outtakes from that era in one place remains unused. A shame, too, that copyright issues mean the only Hollies album never released on EMI (Graham Nash reunion album ‘What Goes Around…’) is missing. Even so this is a superb set, sensibly put together with all the tracks in the order they were recorded which gives you a new way of hearing the singles mixed in with the album tracks and the odd outtake thrown in so we can hear the development of ‘The Hollies Style’ across fifteen varied years. We’ve long said on this site that even if The Hollies weren’t quite the best band of the 1960s then they may well have been the most consistent. You could make a similar claim for their 1970s recordings too which are at worst courageously bonkers and at best downright brilliant, as creative at the end of their original run as any other survivor from the Merseybeat era, solo Beatles included. This is a stunning band well treated at long last and this set deserves to be in every fan’s stocking this year. Tracks to download: ‘Second-Hand Hangups’ ‘Love Is The Thing’ ‘Say It Ain’t So Jo’ ‘Soldier’s Song’

2)   Godley and Crème “Body Of Work: 1978-1988”

Equally rare nowadays and last seen a similar twenty years ago are the five albums by the 10cc spin-off duo that have been put together in one place for the first time ever. Marvellously put together, with an arty cover that is a ‘body’ made up of album sleeves (a concept that is so very 10cc), this set mops together everything the duo officially released in their ten years together adding in standalone singles, B sides and a remix album too. Admittedly this set is far more of a rollercoaster ride than the Hollies one, going from the highs of the daring pioneering ‘Freeze Frame’ to the lows of most of ‘Ismism’ and ‘Birds Of Prey’, which haven’t dated terribly well, while there’s never ever been an album like ‘Goodbye Blue Sky’ where the world gets blown up to the sound of mass harmonicas. This set is expensive too, perhaps needlessly so given that it sticks most of the main albums together on two discs and crams the rest with uninteresting extras like alternate mixes and American radio edits (it also seems wrong somehow to hear the mocking song about music being hard work ‘We’re All Living In A Factory’ in protest at how much music and entertainment costs on a set that, erm, costs quite a bit). Also does ‘A History Mix’ really deserve a re-release too when its already different mixes (make that unlistenable mixes) and it’s the most common Godley-Crème record around? There’s also no appearance of the duo’s debut ‘Consequences’, made for a different record label, which to be fair is one of those cases where we should be thankful for small mercies, although it’s a shame that famously over-exaggerated concept album is impossible to find complete. It’s sad too that 10cc and their off-spring still haven’t had a proper dig through their vaults in all these years because they’re a band who kept everything – of all the AAA acts these clever, quirky, small sudden spurts of energy are perhaps the recording session tapes I want to hear most of all and there isn’t even one song or mix here the enterprising fan won’t have heard already  However unlike some bands whose albums all feel succinct and distinct there’s a feeling that all these works deserve to be heard together somehow, instead of the two-fer-one CDs of the dim and distant past or the half-hearted re-issue series that always petered out a couple of records in till now and it’s great to have this stuff back out at all. It’s also fab to have so many of the A and B sides out on CD for the first time in many cases – many of them are unlistenable but there are some gems there including the hilarious ‘Rhino Rhino’ (two tons of hay!) and the uncharacteristically sexually graphic sexual ‘Babies’, which is good fun if you don’t take it too seriously. The result is a well-crafted nicely made set that looks really good on the shelf at last that’s maybe 90% of the way to being perfect, which this year is more than good enough for second spot in our list. Download: ‘I Pity Inanimate Objects’ ‘My Body The Car’ ‘Don’t Set Fire To The One I Love’

3)   The Beach Boys “1967: Sunshine Tomorrow”

The ‘fifty year copyright ruling’ fuss seems to have died down now since the official-but-buried releases of rare material by The Beatles, Janis Joplin and others from 1962 and 1963 to combat the bootleggers (who would have been perfectly in their rights to release unreleased tapes ‘officially’ for the first time). No one seems to have told The Beach Boys, though, who continue their policy with another not-in-the-shops release they’re trying to pretend doesn’t exist. Though not as fascinating as the complete ‘Beach Boys Party’ or the thrilling 1964 tape series ‘Keep An Eye On Summer’ , this is another top notch release that deserves a much wider audience. Two discs cover the making of ‘Smiley Smile’ and ‘Wild Honey’ (the front cover even reprises the stain glass period feel of the latter) and while they aren’t many fans’ very favourite albums they are under-rated sets both with lots of good stuff on them as Brian falls apart and returns to bed for the first time (but not, yet, the worst time). The other sets in this archive ‘series’ buried by Capitol have revealed just how amazing Brian Wilson was in his natural habitat, losing his nerves and paranoia to command hardened session music veterans just so and on this set its younger brother Carl who takes up that mantle, getting the band to get it together through just one more take or taking them to task for a mistake no one else can hear. ‘Wild Honey’, already nicely raw and funky, sounds particularly wonderful here stripped back to be even more basic as The Beach Boys play their own instruments again for the first time in three years and re-learn how to do it, whilst ‘Smiley Smile’ is more tentative, fragile and bitty, about to break down any second as everyone is too ‘high’ to get organised. Highlights include Carl wrapping his lungs around Wild Honey’s title track, ‘Whistle In’ slowly painfully coming together over a particularly stoned day in the (home) studio and an unreleased instrumental titled ‘Redwood’ that’s pretty good in a typically period slow smoky way. There’s also a few songs from the famous abandoned live album ‘Lei’d In Hawaii’ recorded at soundcheck, but sadly the band still aren’t brave (or stupid) enough to release Mike Love’s hilarious diatribe of a voiceover on ‘Heroes and Villains’ just yet (‘it stayed on the world’s top 250 for about fifteen minutes!’) Not the best in this series but another strong release that far from hurting the band’s reputation by releasing unheard material they didn’t want out reveals what a great band The Beach Boys were, even when they were messing around. Download: ‘Redwood’ ‘Whistle In’ ‘Wild Honey’

4)   Pentangle “The Albums”

Pentangle are a sensible no-frills kind of a band and this is a sensible no-frills kind of an box set. No extras, no new packaging, no unreleased rarities, no monster booklets with pages of annotations  and only the same bonus tracks you could get on each of these albums individually and have done for fifteen years now. What you do get, though, if you’re a new fan at least, is a bumper way of getting hold of everything (barring reunion albums at least) with every single one of these now quite rare albums together in a very handsome box with that famous distinctive ‘silhouette’ Pentangle on the top. Yes, everything - even ‘Solomon’s Seal’ for the first time, the only album Pentangle made for Warner Brothers rather than their original label Transatlantic and which famously went ‘missing’ for decades as the master-tapes couldn’t be found (till they were discovered propped under John Renbourn’s harmonium in his house!) If you’ve loved and admired Pentangle for years then there’s nothing here worth your while – but if you only know the hits (make that ‘hit’ in this case, with ‘Light Flight’ the only song most non-fans know), you have only the ‘Basket Of Light’ album or you’re a Fairport Convention fan who wants to hear what a ‘proper’ folk-rock act sound like, then you’ve just hit the jackpot and you will be playing this set long past Christmas, new year and into several decades in the future (Pentangle were always a band who by-passed past, present and future after all…) Download: ‘Once I Had A Sweetheart’ ‘The Trees They Do Grow High’ ‘A Woman Like You’

5)   The Monkees “More Of The Monkees: Deluxe Edition”

Poor ‘More Of The Monkees’. The unwanted second LP that the band didn’t even know was being released until they sent their roadie to the shops to buy it, the record has become seen as the weakest runt in the litter, with less pop brilliance and freshness than the debut and less originality than all the more hands-on albums that followed. It is, though uneven, an often glorious album with some first class songs (‘I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone’ ‘She’ and ‘Sometime In The Morning’ for three, not to mention ‘I’m A Believer’) and there have already been some fabulous outtakes and alternate versions from the session released down the years on different albums. It’s wonderful to have them all rounded up at last along with a handful of previously unheard songs (though as usual on Rhino these days, perhaps not quite enough to justify the mammoth price, with this box set padded out with alternate (title) mixes that aren’t that alternate). The first versions of ‘Word’ and ‘Valleri’ (recorded for albums four and five respectively) are top drawer stuff, there are backing tracks for ‘I’m A Believer’ and three other songs (which are always fabulous with The Monkees using the best session musos in the business) and a ten song concert from Arizona shortly before release, which predates the ‘Live ‘67’ one by a few weeks. To be honest this isn’t quite as amazing as Rhino are making out in their publicity for it this Christmas (they play the same songs for starters and have nearly got their patter down to a tee too) but it’s always good to hear new Monkees and as always the packaging is superb. If expensive. Not quite up to Rhino reissues of ‘Headquarters’ ‘The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees’ ‘Head’ ‘Instant Replay’ or ‘The Monkees Present’, but there’s life in this deluxe series yet. Now what’s left? Missing Links Four perhaps or a deluxe version of ‘Changes’ maybe?!?  Download: ‘Hold On Girl’ (‘Latin’ version) ‘Sometime In The Morning’ ‘I’m A Believer’ (Backing Track)

1)   The Moody Blues “Days Of Future Passed: 25th Anniversary Edition”

I often feel as if The Moody Blues are becoming the whipping boys of the past ten years’ worth of annual reviews. I stress the band themselves are fantastic, or at least they were until as late as 1999: pioneers who knew when to stop, experimentalists who never forgot how to write melodies and overdub wizards who still kept knew how to play together as a band, I have a big soft spot in my heart for The Moody Blues. But their treatment of fans in the past twenty years has been pretty awful: multiple mind-numbingly awful live releases, endless expensive trinkets and a re-issue series that seems more interested in raiding wallets than archives (the £20 CDs of ten years ago literally made fans fork out for some BBC sessions that came out in a separate set a year later and a few extra seconds of fade-out lost to segues between songs on the original recordings). This set, though, is surely the worst: happy fiftieth birthday Moody Blues fans it says, now piss off! For the price of a small house (well, a nice kennel anyway) you can hear yet another new mix of the album as well as two you paid for last time around ten years ago. That’s it. No bonus DVD making of, no extra songs suddenly re-discovered in the vault, not even a free postcard. The album itself still sounds rough, even if the mix is better than last time, simply because that’s as good as Decca were up to recording the pioneering blend of ‘rock and roll plus orchestra’ at the time. It’s never going to sound perfect, so why do they keep trying – and we do we keep being conned into buying these things? If this series continues to the end of the seven album run as I fear it will, I’ll eat my mellotron in frustration!

                2)   Paul McCartney “Flowers In The Dirt”

Usually I like the McCartney ‘deluxe’ re-issues. They’re way too expensive and don’t always dig out all of the delights we know exist from bootlegs, but they’re made with care and feature some of the best packaging in the business (‘Ram’, especially, is a rare record that now looks as gorgeous as it sounds with its hand-made ribbons, handmade replicas and bits of string). But this is a series that often feels as if it’s in danger of laughing at its audience and so it proves. There are some amazing things in the vaults from this album’s sessions that could and should have been here – including a whole abandoned album (1987’s ‘Return To Pepperland’ from where the song ‘Rough Ride’ came), endless variations of the album songs that only appeared on singles and haven’t been heard since 1989 and a whole CD’s worth of demos featuring Paul at work with Elvis Costello. But guess what? The latter is here only if you pay an extra amount of money on top of this set to buy a ‘download’ when there’s a perfectly good CD sized hole that could have gone in the actual book and the former isn’t here at all. What you do get is good (this is a top run of McCartney B-sides including first and maybe even best Elvis co-write ‘Back On My Feet’ – the perfect optimist meets pessimist song – the gorgeous ‘Flying To My Home’, the funky ‘The First Stone’ and the only dance song I’ve ever liked ‘Ou’est Le Soleil?’, classics all). But this set could so easily have been the re-issue of the year had Paul put all those classic demos out as he should have done (which appear on two McCartney and two Costello albums, plus multiple unheard songs) and thrown in the best of his unheard 1987 songs like ‘Lindiana’ and an early go at ‘This One’ in there too. This box set currently costs £300 and it’s not as if Paul needs the money. Why should fans have to pay a top-up to hear everything? There is a DVD too, but this only includes the concert film ‘Put It There’ (one I picked up in Poundland a few years ago for reference) and three music videos that aren’t very good and are all out on ‘The McCartney DVD Collection’ anyway. Surely a ten minute making of isn’t so much to ask, especially given the amount of people who were contacted for the admittedly typically excellent booklet? You do get a photo booklet Linda took showing the behind the scenes of the ‘This One’ video shoot too, but that’s hardly compensation somehow.

3)   George Harrison “The Complete Collection 1968-2002”

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this set, but somehow it could have been so much more – and for less money too. We’ve already had everything of George’s that could have been re-released out on CD and now, a couple of years later, here’s a vinyl equivalent on vinyl for the hipsters out there. This is the first time we’ve had absolutely everything out again in one go, Apple and Warner Brothers releases both (that negotiation must have been a nightmare!) and it includes such rarities you don’t see very often as ‘Wonderwall Music’ (fabulous!), ‘Electronic Sounds’ and ‘Live In Japan’ (both awful!) But that’s it: no booklet, no album featuring rarities or single-only songs or even the bonus tracks found on the CDs gathered together (so this really isn’t complete as the title suggests – its missing top ten hit ‘Bangla Desh’ for starters). For this amount of money you’d expect a lifesize replica of George thrown in. or perhaps a record player of your own – technically you can buy that too with a very snazzy new player featuring an image of George, but that won’t cost you the mere hundreds for this set but a few thousands instead. These Beatles (and their estates) really do live in the material world sometimes don’t they?

1)   Liam Gallagher “Chinatown” (‘As You Were’)

I love this silly Liam Gallagher song, so perfect for where he’s been before and yet going somewhere distinctly new, and I’ve been singing it in my head for most of the past three months. Liam is, to my ears at least, singing about the confusion of the modern world that pits race against race and which is out to put up barriers between us when we should be getting together, man. Oasis were the last rock band who truly united people – give or take the odd Spice Girls fan anyway – and made being nice to your neighbour because he was ‘one of us’ a good thing to do. Here Liam takes a walk round Chinatown, on the fringes of the city he walks round and pondering his own career on the fringes of the music world now. What once seemed an awful place to be stuck, overshadowed and ignored, is now an opportunity for renewal – it doesn’t matter how big his audience is, he still has one and it spurs Liam on to be content with his lot in life, making his peace with God over the fate that was mapped out for him and urging his audience that their day will come, that ‘we’ve both been waiting’ and a fan-warming line that ‘I still believe in the sun!’ A tricky acoustic guitar part that’s retro hits a full on synthesised production of modern genius for a track that manages to be all things at once. Fabulous – more like this please Liam!

2)   Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello “The Lovers That Never Were” (‘Flowers In The Dirt’)

Paul said that Elvis was his first collaborator to remind him of Lennon. It wasn’t just the glasses but the realism Elvis gave his work, the pain and hurt that made each note sound a struggle that combined with his own perfect gift for melody. That was never heard better in their brief collaboration than the waltz ‘The Lovers That Never Were’ which has a tune so natural it sounds as if it’s been around for centuries and yet still sounds as if it’s a struggle to sing. The lyrics too are remarkable, a couple locked in a battle when they should have been locked in love. The world is hurting, with perfect couples that never quite get it together that makes the narrator despair – at least until he sees ‘the sun shine in somebody’s eyes’ and realises that the magic of love still exists. Macca rather mangled the delivery of this fascinating song when he revived it for his 1993 album ‘Off The Ground’, having by now moved on a long way from his work with Elvis, but the original demo heard on the ‘Flowers’ re-issue is a real thing of beauty, Paul singing uncomfortably low and Elvis singing uncomfortably high, both men straining for something that can never quite be. How great to have this bootlegger’s favourite out at last, but the song should have been done like this at the time.

3)   Cat Stevens “Mighty Peace” (‘The Laughing Apple’)

On an album of re-makes of old songs that got forgotten or were left unfinished the new songs are almost always the worst things on there. But as far as I know ‘Mighty Peace’ is a brand new song that just happens to sound as if it could have been written forty-five years before, uniting the shuffling head-down beat of ‘Tea For The Tillerman’, the children playing sound effects of ‘Where Do The Children Play?’, the synth feel of ‘Buddha And The Chocolate Box’ and the despairing over modern-day living that’s infused much of Cat’s 21st century comeback albums. This song too worries over what might happen to future generations, but it also feels content that people themselves are as potentially good as they always were, especially the kids Cat sees playing with his grandchildren. Instead of heavy war he sees a ‘mighty peace’ and wishes that he too was a child, ‘playing games and running wild, with nothing more to do than to make the sun light and watch the moon take over from the day into the night’. Together with a vocal that’s just the right side of old and fragile, Cat celebrates his seventieth birthday in the best way possible.

4)   Noel Gallagher “Black and White Sunshine” (‘Who Built The Moon?’)

You may have, err, gathered that I didn’t like Noel’s new album much. But I love love love this track which unites the ‘new’ Oasis sound with the ‘odd’ one head on. Noel wakes up with ‘the weight of the world dragging me down’. He’s got nothing to do, nowhere to go and wants to stay in bed hiding away from the rest of the world wallowing in his misery. But as he sits there his thoughts turn to what he used to be doing – has he just been watching the Oasis documentary ‘Supersonic?’ – and he remembers how good it felt it was to be at the top of the world for a few glorious moments. He long to be there again and doesn’t see why he can’t be. ‘You got the guts, I got the brains!’ he spits, perhaps to his brother, perhaps to his fans, urging us to put the past twenty years behind us and make life worth living again. It’s infectious, especially on such a depressed album and for the only time in twelve tracks Noel sounds as if he ‘understands’ modern music, using all the noise and unfocussed adrenalin into a song that’s a glorious burst of enthusiasm that will have you singing along in no time.

5)   Roger Waters “Déjà vu” (‘Is This The Life We Really Want?’)

Roger spent most of ‘Amused To Death’ wondering why God had forsaken us. Twenty-five years after seeing how bad the future might get he imagines himself as God – what changes would he make? Well we wouldn’t age for starters, or feel pain and he certainly wouldn’t have forsaken his ‘son’ to be killed by Romans. And he certainly wouldn’t let refugees die, unwanted and unloved, alone, in a war they didn’t want in the first place. He then wonders how he would feel as a drone, with ‘electronic eyes’, doomed to blow up a fixed point ‘with an element of surprise’ and wonders how he might feel, ‘afraid to find someone home’ before he crashes into a huge ball of fire. Roger, surely, would have done a much better job and he excels himself here with a final gloomy lyric that sums up our modern living perfectly: ‘The temple’s in ruins, the banker’s getting fat, the buffalo’s gone and the mountain top’s flat, the fish in the stream are all Aphrodite, you lean to the left but you vote to the righty’. And then he mourns for his dad, a conscientious objector who died in WW2, one last time on a most moving verse, ‘counting the cost of love that got lost’.

1)   Grateful Dead “What A Long Strange Trip”

Only two AAA reviews in the whole of this year and both were pretty awful to be honest. The Grateful Dead’s long rambling documentary for Amazon video needs a good editor – and yes I do hear the pot and kettle debating various shades of black right now. But seriously: it makes ‘The Beatles Anthology’ look compact as band members struggle to remember details before being prompted, we see the same pictures up on screen for what seems like hours and there’s such precious new footage to be seen at all. If I wasn’t a fan I’d have given up in the first ten minutes and four hours of this stuff is at least two too many. But there are moments that are glorious: the band members’ memories of meeting each other is told with a real grin, there are poignant memories from those who don’t talk that often such as Bob’s collaborator John Barlow and year-long member Tom Constanten and just enough fascinating in-concert material to get by. Do I really understand this fascinating band any better? No, not really. Does it come clean about the Grateful Dead’s skeletons in the closet? Definitely not (here Jerry is a pure hero, which is better than him being a villain, but some balance would be nice). But does it while away a few hours before the next Dead archive release comes out? Yes, it does that job nicely.

2)   David Gilmour “Live At Pompeii”

How odd – I got to know the soundtrack to this show first and its pretty good in a ‘we’ve heard this all before and record I’m plugging is mostly diabolical but I’m going to play it all anyway’ kind of a way. After all, David is back in Pompeii in the ruins of the Roman town destroyed by a volcano and this time he’s brought an audience with him for the first concert in front of people in nearly two thousand years. He also pays some truly sublime tributes to Rick, the keyboard player who died shortly after Gilmour’s last tour and whose moving tribute ‘A Boat Lies Waiting’ is spine-tinglingly perfect. But oh no: those backing singers who warble their way through ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’; despite this being a most moving song about mortality it somehow feels like death couldn’t come quick enough. Most of our old friends also sound decidedly unwell, as Gilmour is the most bored I think I’ve ever seen him. Things improve for a better-than-average ‘Comfortably Numb’ that goes on for hours, but this set is surprisingly down on ‘wow’ moments considering that Gilmour is back at the scene of what is, for this fan at least, their greatest triumph back in 1972.

1)   “Lindisfarne: Meet Me On The Corner” (John Van Der Kiste, Fonthill Media)

The world needs another book on Lindisfarne – we’ve only ever had one before and though Dave Ian Hill’s ‘Fog On The Tyne’ is a classic there’s always room for more. John has already written some excellent books on The Beatles before this one but excels himself here on a book that’s fascinating, looking at the ups and downs of life in Lindisfarne in a new way that sheds much new light on Alan Hull and friends, especially the reunion years which tend to get short shrift from just about everybody. John is a great writer who knows his stuff and this is a band with a lot of stories worth telling. What’s more the AAA even gets a reference in a page note – our second in this year! Fame at last eh?!

2)   “The Kinks: An Oddly English Phenomena” (Carey Fleiner, Rowman and Littlefield)

Here’s our first from back in January, as the AAA’s Kinks TV listings gets a name-check in a university professor’s look at how Ray Davies may well be the most English writer ever. Cups of tea, jokey self-deprecating humour, uneasiness over the class system, red hunting jackets, even cross-dressing – it’s all here in a book I often got lost in and which seemed oddly critical of actual Kinks fans (surely the book’s biggest audience?) but which is nevertheless a gripping read. The book is especially strong when dealing with where The Kinks came from and how their upbringing on or mostly under the poverty line in Muswell Hill shaped their outlook.

3)   Kevin Godley “Space Cake”

What links all the disparate 10cc albums? Ambition. Lots of it. Kevin Godley has been quiet in the past twenty-nine years since he had a falling out with Lol Crème, with only a couple of not-that-great recordings with other bandmate Graham Gouldmann and a series of music videos for other people since then (including Beatles reunion single ‘Real Love’). This set, though, is nicely ambitious and just as playful as ever – an interactive memoir no less, that enables you to not only read about Kevin’s very fascinating life but to actually see and hear it too: a photograph he refers to can be seen alongside the text and a music video he comments on suddenly turns up too. It’s billed on the cover as ‘the book of the song of the film of the app…’ and is a multi-media dream. The book is as funny as you’d expect but perhaps less detailed than you’d imagine from all those carefully constructed recordings. Does this get to the heart of the real Kevin Godley? Not quite, but 10cc fans will still learn much here from the first autobiography by any of the band (Eric Stewart had one too this year, apparently, but I never did track it down). Find ‘Spacecake’ on iTunes – not something I say very often, given how much iTunes sucks, but there’s no other way of reading it I’m afraid.

4)   Mike Nesmith “Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff”

There’s a theme developing from this year’s books: I’m confused by most of them. Admittedly that’s not that unusual what with my brain spoonie-fog, but this is, well, particularly odd…a stream of conscious ramble about anything past, present or future from a man who is aware that time is running out and he can’t monkey it away anymore. Mike has one of my favourite social media accounts by any of the AAA family, with his facebook posts always long, detailed, intelligent and thoughtful. His responses to major world events (bombings, elections, deaths in the family and music world) are always passionate and heartfelt though better yet are his general ruminations on nothing days, getting deep into subjects that no other artist would touch. These posts deserved to be ain a book, though I’m not quite sure this one is it somehow – seen together, out of context without explanation they feel a bit too much somehow, leaping from one subject to another while some of my favourite thoughts are missing. Old woolhat is, though, always worth reading in any format and this autobiographical riff is almost as good as the one on the end of ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’, echoing off itself until it reaches a pitch of ear-catching perfection.

5)   Art Garfunkel “Luminous Notes From An Underground Man”

Surely Arty’s going to bring some sense to proceedings, right? Wrong! ‘Luminous Notes’ is one of the weirdest books I’ve read in any year, jumping from subject to subject quicker in the time it takes to play the drum thwack from ‘The Boer’. Arty is another of the AAA’s deep thinkers and he’s one of the most well-read men out there, adding a poetic touch to his words that sometimes works spectacularly well and at others just leaves me confused. What exactly do some of the passages mean? Not a clue – and the context doesn’t help given that Arty jumps around chronology like Tigger in a time-machine, going from loves of his life to career breakthroughs and collapses to things happening in his daily life. Many fans have scoured this book for references to his relationship with Paul Simon and the one time the book lets it heart outshine its head is on the pained anguish of their break-up after betrayal and hatred. No, not the one in 1970 or even their last meeting a few years ago that seems to have broken them up for good but the time when they were fifteen and were trying to find a sequel to their hit single ‘Hey Schoolgirl’ back when they were Tom and Jerry. Paul cut a deal on the side without telling Arty and he’s never quite got over it since, with Paul a shadowy figure who brings so much love – but tests Arty’s patience to the limit along the way. A fascinating and infuriating read, in equal parts.

Still after more to read while you digest your Christmas dinner? We don’t blame you – have some figgy pudding too while you’re at it! The review of the year also gives is one last chance to plug our favourite articles. As usual it’s our annual April Fool’s day column we want you to read most and it was political this year, full of post-shots at Trump who back in April was still a ‘new’ president some deluded people still thought was doing a good job. We thought that after Trump any old ninny could do the job better including our own Max and Bingo – and we still think that now. In this article we get Bingo’s drunken address to the nation, work out which positions in the cabinet we would give to the AAA musicians, discuss what TV programmes might be on in the future and follow our time-traveller Nelson as he goes back in time to cheer up Janis Joplin on the eve of her Monterey performance. We look forward to Bingo collaborating with the Mueller investigation over how Putin got him drunk on Vodka and made him hand over America’s nuclear code for a couple of bones, by the way.

2)   Essay: Why The Beatles Changed The World For The Better

I dunno, this article just ‘felt’ right this year. As you may have noticed in our rather messed up timeline of posts lately (curse you again Neil Young!) we brought you a couple of our new-look patent-pending essays before going back to finish off the AAA albums out for Christmas. This is my favourite fro, the fifteen I’ve written so far. Like all the others its meant to look in the AAA in a wider scope, to compensate for the fact that some of the AAA books are a little ‘bitty’, full of detail and analysing each song individually. How, I wondered, could I possibly sum up everything The Beatles did in their seven years together by changing the world? The answer was looking at the ways they did this, all for the better, and how they were an ‘excuse’ for the world to go ‘good’ as the first band people from the working class North could point to and say ‘they look like me, maybe I can do what they do too!’

I’m also rather thrilled to have had our first guest post this year from our very talented and loyal reader Kenny. I confess I don’t know The Skids that well – they’re from the late 1970s/early 1980s period I confess to having a bit of a blindspot over (I can bore you for hours about music up to around 1977 – that’s a kind promise not the threat it sounds, by the way – and I grew up with music from 1988 onwards, even if I’ve blocked most of it out for reasons of sanity). But I’ve been enjoying this band and album since reading this excellent review – which I guess is exactly what I’ve wished people to do after reading mine. So well done Kenny – and if any other reader wants to drop us a guest post for anybody then contact me either at the bottom of this article or on my twitter feed at @alansarchives You too could be in this column this time next year – and that is a threat and not a promise!

That’s it for another year then. Our last full year, I hope, though there’s still six months of extra articles to go, plus whatever AAA albums come out in 2018 and no doubt endless publicity for our hoped-for books. Thankyou for being a part of it, have a very happy holidays and we look forward to seeing you next year! 8>)

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

What difference does a name make? Arguably not much if you’re already a collector of a certain group, for whom the names on the album sleeves just...

This week’s top ten honours the humble motor car. The death trap on wheels, the metaphor for freedom, the put-down of capitalism, a source of...

This week we’re going to have a look at the 10 AAA singles that spent the most weeks at number on the American chart ‘Billboard’ – and it makes for...

Following on from last issue’s study of the American Billboard charts, here’s a look at which AAA albums spent the most weeks on the chart. The...

There are many dying arts in our modern world: incorruptible politicians, faith that things are going to get better and the ability to make decent...

This week we’ve decided to dedicate our top ten to those unsung heroes of music, the session musicians, whose playing often brings AAA artists (and...

Naturally we hold our AAA bands in high esteem in these articles: after all, without their good taste, intelligence and humanity we’d have nothing to...

What do you do when you’ve left a multi-million selling band and yet you still feel the pull of the road and the tours and the playing to audiences...

‘The ATOS Song’ (You’re Not Fit To Live)’ (Mini-Review) Dear readers, we don’t often feature reviews of singles over albums or musicians who aren’t...

In honour of this week’s review of an album released to cash in on a movie soundtrack (only one of these songs actually appears in ‘Easy Rider’...and...

Hic! Everyone raise a glass to the rock stars of the past and to this week’s feature...songs about alcolholic beverages! Yes that’s right, everything...

154) The human singing voice carries with it a vast array of emotions, thoughts that cannot be expressed in any other way except opening the lungs and...

Everyone has a spiritual home, even if they don’t actually live there. Mine is in a windy, rainy city where the weather is always awful but the...

Having a family does funny things to some musicians, as we’ve already seen in this week’s review (surely the only AAA album actually written around...

Some artists just have no idea what their best work really is. One thing that amazes me as a collector is how consistently excellent many of the...

159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock