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Music

Doctor's Orders: Reverend and The Makers' Jon McClure prescribes his nine favourite albums

@josephtaysom

Reverend and The Makers first arrived in the public’s consciousness in the mid-2000s after the nation’s attention turned towards Sheffield. Five albums later, they are still going strong, and here frontman Jon McClure discusses the nine albums which have helped him during testing moments in his life.

While the group have enjoyed incredible moments throughout their careers, such as the success of their debut album, The State Of Things, and their renaissance in recent years ⁠— it’s been a challenging journey full of roadblocks both professionally and personally.

McClure has been valiantly honest throughout his career about his struggles with his mental health. Like many of us, music has made for comforting company during life’s darkest moments for the singer.

These albums have been with McClure during those times, as well as when life has been at its most beautiful, such as his teenage years when the singer didn’t care in the world.

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 sees some of our favourite musicians, actors, authors, comedians and more offer up the most important records, which they deem essential for living well.

McClure’s selection of albums is an eclectic mix, but anyone who has followed his career with Reverend and The Makers won’t be surprised in the slightest by his varied taste.

In support of suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). If you or someone you know is struggling, head over to thecalmzone.net for practical support and advice. There are loads of ways to support CALM and their life-saving services. If you fancy making a small donation, £8 can answer a potentially life-saving call.  

Reverend and The Makers will be performing at the sold-out Tramlines Festival in Sheffield this summer alongside headliners Sam Fender, Madness and Kasabian. To join the waiting list for tickets, visit here.

Jon McClure’s nine favourite albums

Culture – Two Sevens Clash

Sheffield has a strong Jamaican community, and McClure has always felt affection toward their musical heritage. Culture’s debut album, Two Sevens Clash, was recorded in Kingston in 1976, and decades later, it became one of the most important albums in the Reverend’s collection.

“I think Two Sevens Clash is the greatest reggae album ever made,” McClure explains over Zoom. “It’s the record Don Letts played to the punks in London which created the fusion of reggae and punk. On a musical level, it’s real three-part harmonies, roots reggae, and Rastafari.

“There’s one song, ‘Alone In The Wilderness’, which has a harmony that stirs me in a different way. If I play the album in the house, my wife is humming the tunes for hours after, and it’s just great music,” he passionately adds.

Culture – Two Sevens Clash

Roots Manuva – Awfully Deep

Roots Manuva is a crucial figure in the history of British rap, and somebody who McClure believes deserves more flowers. The pair collaborated in 2012 on the Reverend and The Makers track, ‘The Hidden Persuaders’, which was a dream come true for McClure.

“I’d say he’s one of the best lyricists to ever come from this country,” he commented about Roots. “This is a guy who has openly struggled with his mental health, which is a very relatable concept to me because I’ve struggled in that capacity. The way he expresses himself is amazing, and he’s an absolute genius.”

He continued: “It’s that great fusion of Jamaican culture from second-generation Jamaican kids who grew up in Britain. They’ve got that grounding in electronic music, but also an understanding of hip-hop, and it becomes this other thing. An album like this wouldn’t exist in America, it’s very British.”

Roots Manuva – Awfully Deep

Bob Marley and the Wailers – Exodus

Following on the Jamaican theme of the first two selections from McClure, his next choice comes from the face of the Caribbean island — Bob Marley and the Wailers with their album Exodus. It’s an album which is significant to the singer for personal reasons and reminds him of his childhood.

“This is the sort of album you put on, and everyone in your family is going to dance to it,” he says. “Where my mum and dad live, where I grew up in Sheffield is a big Jamaican area, and I think this album helped break down the racial divide between people when it crossed over.

“The first half of it is real roots, Rastaman music like the Culture album, and the second half is all pop songs that were massive hits in Britain. It’s almost like a Beatles record in that respect, it’s got that real deal, serious artist side to it, and also Bob showed he could be a pop star.”

Bob Marley and the Wailers – Exodus

The Verve – A Northern Soul

Before they entered the Britpop realm, The Verve were sonically situated in a left-field, and their second album, A Northern Soul, sounds like a different band to the one who produced Urban Hymns. McClure has been fortunate enough to support the group on their reunion tour in 2008, and this album remains one of his all-time favourites.

“I remember I was 17, had just got into smoking weed, and my girlfriend had dumped me to go out with my mate, I had a lava lamp and had this album on repeat,” he reflects. “It’s a proper heartbreak album, and a lot is also down to the genius of Nick McCabe on the guitar, who does this mad psychedelic noodling all the way through.

“They were still very much their own thing at this point, and it’s just a beautiful record. The lyric (from ‘Life’s an Ocean’), ‘I was buying some feelings from a vending machine’, is a fucking great lyric. Just timeless, wonderful music.”

The Verve – A Northern Soul

Carole King – Tapestry

Carole King comfortably sits in the pantheon of all-time great singer-songwriters. Her 1971 album, Tapestry, is King at the peak of her powers, and it features hits such as ‘So Far Away’, ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ and ‘It’s Too Late’.

“There was a live concert of her’s on telly the other week which I watched, and it blew me away,” he remarks. “She’s an amazing talent, and I don’t know if it’s because she’s a female, but she doesn’t seem to get the plaudits she deserves.”

“It’s a really good hangover record, if you’re steaming on a Saturday night, then get up on a Sunday morning, and feel like you need a new head, stick that record on vinyl, so it’s not so in your face. It’s just so beautiful and timeless,” McClure passionately adds.

Carole King – Tapestry

Jay-Z – The Black Album

When Jay-Z released The Black Album in 2003, he confirmed his status as the most important rapper on the planet, and by this point, he had transcended hip-hop. This is the pinnacle of Hov’s career and his finest work, according to McClure.

“That’s him at his absolute best, you get people saying it’s The Blueprint, and you’re a pop tart for thinking it’s The Black Album because it’s dead obvious, but it’s obvious for a reason,” McClure says. “Rick Rubin was involved by this point, so it’s got one foot in rock, but still authentically hip-hop,” he adds.

“The way he talks about his life is so candid and makes you like him even though he’s clearly done a lot of terrible things. He makes it, so he’s relatable, and his actions are completely understandable. I had The Black Album on last year on the tube in London when I was going from East to West, and with every track, I was like, ‘Woah, fucking hell’. There’s no shit on it.”

Jay-Z – The Black Album

Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home

Social commentary is a clear theme which runs through McClure’s selections, and there’s nobody who has mastered that craft more than Bob Dylan. “He was literally on fire at this point, rebellious, and sticking it to the man,” he admirably says.

“The thing that strikes me about Dylan is he was releasing two of these a year,” McClure adds. He then whistles through the tracklist and says, “for us mere mortals, that would be the great pinnacle of your career to write one of them songs, and he’s pissing them away.”

“His lyrics, too. In ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, he sings, ‘You don’t need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows’. Most people think of fucking Micheal Fish and the weather, but, The Weathermen were a political group in America during the ’60s. It is so deep and rich with meanings that fly over most people’s heads. Weirdly, I see him like Jay-Z, even though they are from different times and places.”

Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home

Richard Hawley – Lowedges

For McClure’s penultimate pick, he’s gone closer to home with fellow Sheffield icon Richard Hawley. Not only does he admire Hawley’s talent, but he’s also a friend who has been around the block before, and McClure tells me he sees him like an elder brother.

“Love him, love him. I’ve never had an older brother, but if I did, I’d want it to be him,” he says. “Like me, he has a very famous friend he came through with, I’ve got Alex Turner, and he has Jarvis Cocker. Rather than imitate that, he’s done it all on his own terms. I don’t get why he’s not the most celebrated songwriter, and we should cherish him while we’ve got him.”

He continues: “Lowedges is quite early on in his solo career, and he wasn’t in his thirties till he realised he had that voice. He came round our house years ago, we got drunk, and he started singing in the garage, my neighbour came round to complain the next day, and I just thought, you should be grateful being woken up by that voice.”

Richard Hawley – Lowedges

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

McClure’s final choice comes from soul sensation Marvin Gaye, graced with a voice that the Rev doesn’t think has ever been bettered by anybody. 

“On What’s Going On, Marvin has dropped that saccharine boy meets girl soul thing, and he’s starting to talk about the race riots, the death of Martin Luther King, and American cities burning.

He adds: “There’s some magic to this record, and it’s not just an expression of anger, it’s more resigned, but it’s soulful. He’s putting his heart into it, and it’s not like a fist. We’ve talked a lot about songwriters, but let’s talk about singers; he’s got to be the greatest of all time.”

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On