1. Jimmy Nolen – ‘Strollin’ With Nolen’ (1956)
James Brown later had the savvy to employ Jimmy Nolen between 1965-1970 and it’s impossible to imagine that purple patch of JB’s output without Nolen’s chickenscratch guitar style. Back in ’56 he was already cutting loose.
2. Herbie Hancock – ‘Watermelon Man’ (1962)
Herbs radically redid it on the squillion seller Head Hunters but it’s the finger snapping original cut on debut album, Takin’ Off, that gives ‘Watermelon Man’ its classic status.
3. J.R. Bailey – ‘Love Won’t Wear Off (As The Years Wear On)’(1968)
The title sounds like the reverse of something George Jones might have written but this is classy soul from the Cadillacs singer cut under his own name for Calla Records.
4. Herman George – ‘What Have You Got’ (1975)
Superb mid-70s soul.
5. Laxton’s Superb – ‘Coming Round’ (1996)
Lost in the deluge of speculative Britpop signings, Laxton’s Superb were quickly dropped once their singles didn’t hit but the bright ‘Coming Round’ deserved better.
6. Luke Haines – ‘The Incredible String Band’ (2016)
With a gentle strum, a children’s xylophone and a kazoo solo, Haines tells the tale of the Scottish psychedelic folksters who “were an unholy act, they sang like a couple of weasels, trapped in a sack.” This perversity, and songs about caterpillars, hedgehogs, death and a dude with no head obviously appeals to an outsider such as Haines. Now featured on the four-disc set, Luke Haines Is Alive and Well and Living in Buenos Aires.
7. The Senior Service – ‘Slingshot’ (2018)
Anyone who’s followed Graham Day over the years will be aware of his penchant for groovy soundtracks to mind-movies so ‘Slingshot’ sounds how one would expect - the Shadows and Link Wray dressed as silver clad cowboys duelling in a dusty barroom situated in outer space while a Hammond organ catches fire in the corner.
8. Daniel Romano – ‘Anyone’s Arms’ (2018)
While most spent January easing themselves into a new year Romano released two new albums under his own name and made available another recorded under his punky Ancient Shapes title. Nerveless (electric) and Human Touch (acoustic) have already been deleted – snooze and ya lose with Romano – so many will have missed out on beauties like this catchy country-tinged pop rocker, which in a fair world would blare from every radio in the land.
9. The Liminanas – ‘The Gift’ (2018)
The Liminanas’ blend of rattle and reverb rocked Rough Trade East this week during an in-store gig promoting Shadow People. For the second album in succession they include a track featuring the unmistakable contribution from Peter Hook and it’s a glorious one; all low-slung, sexy pop.
10. Tara Milton – ‘Assassins’ (2018)
Former Five Thirty (okay, and Nubiles) man returns, at long last, with Serpentine Waltz, guiding the listener to the shadowy corners of the night. If I remember my William Burroughs correctly, ‘Assassins’ is a nod to Hassan-i-Sabbah who, in the 11th century, controlled an army of killers with drug addiction. The shuffling rhythm and spiralling trumpets one of many highlights on an impressive debut solo record.