The Albums that Made Me #3 – Mary O’ Hara, Music Speaks Louder Than Words (1978)

Album cover features a colour photograph of the artist. She is sitting in a green field with buttercups. She looks directly into the camera and has a bunch of the buttercups on her lap.

Mary O’ Hara’s Music Speaks Louder than Words (1978) is the first album that I can remember identifying as something that I liked for myself. I must have been around three or four years old at the time. I couldn’t quite manage to say her name, so I called her “auntie”, much to the amusement of my parents.

I now suspect that I was more interested in the photographs of O’Hara on the album cover than I was in the music. I had begun to realise that I was supposed to grow up to be a “lady”, as the people around me said in the sexist language of the time, and here was a “lady” that looked quite appealing to me.  We had fields full of buttercups like the one she’s sitting in on the front cover and I was fascinated by the dress she’s wearing on the back.

Image shows a studio photograph of Mary O' Hara. The picture is shot from just above the waist and shows O' Hara with her elbows on the top of her harp, leaning her head on her hands and wearing a brightly coloured stripey dress.

I didn’t know anything about her, so I looked her up and found that she’s a very influential Irish singer and harpist.  She’s had a pretty interesting life, which includes a period spent as a Benedictine nun.

This album has a lot of covers, so I think it must have been aimed at a more mainstream audience, but it’s her traditional Irish folk recordings seem to have had the staying power.

My favourite tracks when I was a child were the covers, ‘Music Speaks Louder than Words’, and ‘Annie’s Song’. As an adult, my top track is ‘Dust in the Wind’. I can’t find O’ Hara’s anywhere, but here’s a great version by Melanie.

I felt I should include one of her performances in this post, so here’s Óró Mo Bháidín which seems to be a favourite and has the most listens on Spotify.

Thanks auntie.

The Albums that Made Me #2: Star Wars (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) 1977

Album cover shows the title in white lettering on a black background

By John Williams

Like many Gen Xers I’m completely imprinted on the original Star Wars trilogy and the music that accompanies it.

I decided to make this soundtrack the second entry on my list because I have no memory of when I first started listening to it. The overwhelming emotional effect that it has on me feels like something that predates language and psychological defense mechanisms! It’s almost too exciting. My parents were fans of the film and we had the album on vinyl as far back as I can remember, so it was probably playing in our house from around 1978.

The music is incredibly beautiful and stirring and is, in many ways, what makes the film brilliant. Orchestral soundtracks would never be the same

I’m sure it fueled my imagination and love of science fiction, but I don’t think I could sit down and listen to the Star Wars soundtrack now. I might have a nervous breakdown or something!

Top track: Main Theme

Recent Listening

Album cover shows the band dancing in a field against a low sun wearing richly patterned robes

First Aid Kit, The Lion’s Roar (2012)

First Aid Kit have been my band of 2018 and I think this is my favourite of their albums. It might be the most folk-influenced.

Top track, Wolf

Album cover shows an abstract painting in black, blues and purples

Kristin Hersh, Hips & Makers (1994)

Kristin Hersh’s first solo album has this incredible, raw energy. Stripped down to voice, acoustic guitar and cello, the songs have a purity and sharpness that goes right through you. Painful but cathartic.

Top tracks, Your Ghost and The Letter

Album cover is a head and shoulder photograph of Brandi Carlile in yello sepia tones. She is wearing a wide-brimmed hat and looking directly into the camera

Brandi Carlile, The Firewatcher’s Daughter (2015)

I went off Brandi Carlile for a while, but I seem to be back into her again after listening to this album. Big tunes, great vocals, full of heart.

Top track, The Eye

Album cover is an abstract photographic image with faded typeset lyrics

Thea Gilmore, Songs from the Gutter (2002)

Songs from the Gutter is more of a collection of odds and ends than a coherent album, but it contains some of my favourite tracks.

Top tracks, I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine and December in New York 

 

Album cover is a yellow-toned photograph of the artist standing outside on a street. She is facing the camera and wearing a black top with thin straps

Corinne Bailey Rae, Corinne Bailey Rae (2006)

Lovely, warm, summary album, one that I put on to cheer myself up.

Top track, Put Your Records On

Album cover is a photograph of Martha Wainwright's face under a pinkish read filter

Martha Wainwright, Martha Wainwright (2005)

This is one of those albums which feels like an artist finally getting to release all the work they’ve had stored up for ages. It’s a beautiful burst of energy and that song about her Dad ….

Top Track, Bloody Motherfucking Asshole

Album cover is a cartoon image if a yellow octopus wearing a crown against a purple background with stars

Veruca Salt, Eight Arms to Hold You (1997)

I listened to this for the first time in ages and I’d forgotten how good it is, just a mighty album full of drums and huge riffs. I love it all.

Top tracks: Volcano Girls  and Shutterbug 

Album cover is a vintage black and white photograph of people fighting or having fun (I'm not sure!)

Sleater Kinney, All Hands on the Bad One (2000)

My second favourite from their earlier albums (my fave is Dig Me Out). Loud, in-your-face and a lot of fun.

Top track, You’re No Rock n’ Roll Fun

The Albums that Made Me #1 – ABBA, ‘The Album’ (1977)

Image shows the cover of The Album by ABBA. The cover features stylised images of the bands faces and a range of other cartoon-like images on a white background

Of course it’s impossible to remember exactly which album I heard first, but I’ve decided to start with this one by ABBA because I know it would have been playing in our house around the same time as I started to become aware of my environment.

The Album was released in the UK in 1978 when I was a year old and, although my Mum pretty much gave up on popular music when I was born, she still liked ABBA. Even now, hearing these songs gives me that strange thrill you get when you listen to music associated with your earliest childhood. I can remember the cassette when I was a few years older, battered, the letters almost entirely rubbed off and the sleeve long gone by then. I loved it and would campaign to have it played on car journeys.

The best tracks on there are the hits ‘Take a Chance on Me’ and ‘The Name of the Game’, but my favourites were always ‘Move on’ and ‘Eagle’, which is a very odd song about someone turning into an eagle (?!).

I still love ABBA.

Top track, Move On

Soundtrack to a Week in the Country

20181023_113947325926205.jpg

We spent last week in rural Mid Wales.  There was a crispness on the air and the scent of wood smoke as the local pubs started lighting up their fires. You could feel winter moving in.

Time to break out the folk and Americana.