From Kate Bush to Curtis Mayfield: Aldous RH prescribes 9 essential albums
Far Out Magazine has teamed up with the suicide prevention charity CALM to help connect you with your favourite artists and hear how music has helped them during their darker times.
The organisation, with the full working title of ‘Campaign Against Living Miserably’, offer a free, confidential and anonymous helpline for those most in need of mental health support. At a time when millions of people have been forced to stay home during strict lockdown measures, CALM have seen a huge spike in their workload.
We at Far Out Magazine believe in music’s ability to heal. It could be the moment that the needle drops on your favourite album and provides respite from a chaotic world or, conversely, it might be the fanatic conversation you have with friends about which guitarist was the greatest. Music, it’s safe to say, has always allowed us to connect with one another and ourselves.
In support of CALM, we’re asking a selection of our favourite people to share nine records that they would prescribe for anyone they met and the stories behind their importance. Doctor’s Orders will be a new weekly and ongoing feature will see some of our favourite musicians, actors, authors comedians and more, offer up the most important records, which they deem essential for living well.
Taking on the challenge today is none other than Aldous RH. Formerly the frontman in Egyptian Hip Hop, Aldous is now carving his own path through the doldrums of rock and roll by always challenging both himself as an artist and you as a listener.
It has led to some fantastic avant-garde pop and forms the foundations for his album Respect 4 Devotion which dropped last week on the wonderful Moshi Moshi Records. The album is infused with different cultures, concepts and viewpoints. It feels fresh and engaged without being conceited.
There’s a little bit of everything for everyone on the new album, whether it’s the lo-fi and lackadaisical like ‘Reply’ or the R’n’B flavoured ‘Since 1992’, or indeed the jazz-spirited ‘Better 2’ or shiny pop gem ‘Jaded Lovers’— there’s officially something for everyone.
It’s an eclectic taste which is thankfully compiled in Aldous’ list of favourite albums with everything from The Sylvers to Kate Bush and pretty much everything in between. Hand on heart, it may well be one of favourite playlist we’ve ever put together.
Aldous RH’s 9 essential albums:
Headless Heroes of The Apocalypse – Eugene McDaniels
“This album is a desert island disc for any fan of funk, soul, jazz fusion & early hip hop. It’s an incredible representation of the frustration and anger felt by those in the civil rights era of America, even harking back to the genocide of the native Americans on ‘The Parasite (For Buffy)’.
Gene’s anger is on display here to the most voluble & uncompromising extent, the only other artist holding a candle to this record in my opinion is the poet sage of civil rights Gil Scott Heron.
Not only is the lyrical content extremely powerful but the music could easily give groups like CAN a run for their money with some of the most mind-bending and inventive jazz fusion you’ll ever hear on wax. With such a solid musical bed you’d imagine the singing to take a back seat, however, Gene’s vocal and delivery take centre stage, whether it’s his guttural screams or proto-rap it remains consistent in its power.”
Hall & Oates – Hall & Oates
“This is the duo at their most potent for me, digging deep into their Philly soul foundations & throwing everything else into the mix. Blue-eyed soul rarely gets better than this, stand outs for me.”
Aldous also provided some favourite tracks from the album: “Restless melancholy of ‘Nothing At All’ (exceptional & sensual rhythm track on that one), Insane falsetto of ‘Out Of Me, Out Of You’ & the timeless elegance of ‘Sara Smile’.”
The Sylvers II – The Sylvers
“Quintessential ‘Gangster Soul’? Not for me to make the assumption but here’s a record showing The Sylver’s at their smoothest yet most psychedelic. Initially & ultimately written off as a 2nd rate Jackson 5, vastly overlooked is the eerie career of the family Sylver. Half of them are dead or in prison, growing up poor, black & American its a fate to be expected but before the fall from grace, they made some very unique records.”
“One of greatest elements of this record is the production, I assume by older brother/musical leader Leon Sylvers the 3rd; for example the drum track on ‘Love Me, Love Me Not’ is fatter than something Outkast would’ve put out at their peak. It’s hard to describe this eclectic record but if you were using ‘Cry Of A Dreamer’ as an example I can’t describe it as anything except Progressive Soul, Soul Prog? Who knows but it sounds amazing.”
“I always wonder when I listen if they knew how freaky & cool the music they were creating really was?”
Jordan The Comeback – Prefab Sprout
“The genius of Paddy McAloon at it’s most biblical; a musical odyssey and tremendous farewell to the 1980’s. Sickly sweet synthesisers drench this record, a little too sweet for some!
A huge part of my love for Prefab (and this album) is how close it toes the line of being cheesy schmaltz without ever crossing it. The subtext and story running through this record seem so vivid but the fact I can barely follow it, doesn’t detract from the beauty. It’s hard not to listen intently to ‘Jesse James Symphony’ & ‘Bolero’ without feeling somewhat moved.”
A Cappella – Todd Rundgren
“Almost impossible to pick just one Todd record, here I’ve settled for one of his most unusual releases. On this album he undertook the experiment of creating a rich musical patchwork using only his voice and his (primitive by today’s standards) sampling computer.”
“I think I enjoy this album in particular because Todd’s voice really shines and gives us a taste of his impressive range; its also a great example of his careers evolving ingenuity. Todd’s Runt LP & A Capella Todd being almost unrecognisable when held side by side.”
“Highlights for me include his heartfelt tribute to the late Marvin Gaye ‘Lost Horizon’ or the aching break up requiem ‘Pretending To Care’.”
Aaliyah – Aaliyah
“Whenever we talk about musicians going before their time a lot of the same names come up (Hendrix, Cobain, Buckley etc etc) & it feels like Aaliyah doesn’t get mentioned anywhere enough. I’m choosing this record not only because of its genius but also it’s status as a symbol of squandered musical potential, Aaliyah having died in a plane crash at the age of 21 (!!!).”
“Popular music’s loss is also RNB, Soul & Hip Hop’s loss too; this album really has it all — otherworldly ad-libs & vocal lines, Timbaland at his most creative, sultry lyrics that never feel contrived & beats that STILL get any club on the planet moving.”
“Highlights for me are; ‘More Than A Woman’ (Timbaland’s sampling ear & ability shine here), ‘Those Were The Days’ (only acceptable use of ‘breakast in bed’ as a lyric, this woman truly wise beyond her years) iconic piano stabs of ‘Read Between The Lines’ you don’t really need me to extol the genius of this album.”
“If you’ve ever met me & we’ve talked about RNB I’ve probably espoused to you my theory that Beyonce’s solo empire exists purely and only in the void left by Aaliyah’s passing.”
Party Down – Little Beaver
“Sometime’s you just wanna zone out & listen to a record that almost has the same groove the whole way through; for me this is a perfect example. Little Beaver I gather was a virtuoso jazz guitarist and party animal that resided down in Florida, a legend in the jazz/fusion scene at the time he somehow even roped in the transcendent Jaco Pasotrius to lay down the bass on ‘I Can Dig It Baby’.
This album resides in the same universe as Sly & The Family Stone’s ‘There’s a Riot Goin’ On’, it’s less innovative but a much smoother listen to my ears which is only to its strength. I still can’t figure out how to play the understated bass groove on ‘Get Into The Party Life’, possibly one of my favourite bass lines of all time.”
The Dreaming – Kate Bush
“Another artist that proves almost impossible to pick just one record from, here you can witness some of her most experimental moments. Whether it’s cockney bank robber madness ‘There Goes A Tenner’, magicians lament ‘Houdini’ or the aboriginal ode of title track ’The Dreaming’ it’s so uncompromising, she doesn’t care if you get it or not! It’s her way or the highway.”
“There aren’t any particularly pop pay off moments on this record but that only bolsters its position in the annals of musical geniuses. Certainly, some beautiful moments to take in here though e.g the breathtaking string arrangement on ‘Houdini’ or the eerie choral beauty of ‘All The Love’. ”
Live at the Bitter End – Curtis Mayfield
“Again so hard to choose just one Curtis album, he’s made things a little easier for us here however by recording the greatest live album of all time (yes it’s true). The setlist here gives us a great insight into the first half of his sporadic & unique career, from his foundations as a sideman in humble Illinois soul groups transitioning into a full-blown political force of nature. Musically you’d be hard-pressed to find an ensemble so tight & in each other’s pockets, it’s actually astounding.”
Curtis’ voice glistens at every movement, lyrically almost overshadowing the incredible musicians & music behind him (a feat in & of itself). Some incredible moments of off the cuff wisdom from the big man on this too, especially his monologue about what it really means to be ‘underground’; that speech still resonates with me today as it did when I first heard it.”
“This record includes the definitive version of ‘The Makings of You’ — I truly believe nobody can hear this track without being moved. Another highlight is closing track ‘Stone Junkie’ which has Curtis laying it down against the war on drugs in a way only he can, the audience almost hysterical at the home truth’s let loose on the broken American system, harmonising the song’s coda much after the band stop playing!”
“The audience participation really makes this record the apex that it is, each little ‘right on’ or whoop at the great moments gives you such an immersion into the concert.”
Below you can find the full playlist of Aldous RH’s 9 favourite albums of all time.