In 2008, Rob Southall (chairman of the Islwyn Acoustic Guitar Club) asked me for an article for the club newsletter (a regular feature). Below is the resulting ‘article’ which gives people a good idea of what inspires me musically:
“My Five Most Inspirational Records
In this issue Dale Warner from the Rhymney Valley gives us a run down of his five most inspiring recordings
The first time Rob asked me to come up with a list of my favourite ‘guitar’ recordings I have to admit I was stumped and now, months later, I have to admit that I’m still as lost as I was back then. This list has been written, re-written, re-re-written many times, each time taking an almost completely different form. The problem is that I don’t listen to a lot of ‘guitar’ CDs, in fact, I don’t listen to a lot of any type of CDs. Any guitar music I remember comes from back in the long distant past.
I thought a lot about the LPs and CDs that have influenced me over the last 30 years. Budgie’s “Never Turn Your Back On a Friend” was the first LP I ever bought but that was because I really like Roger Dean’s cover. That having been said, I can’t imagine my guitar playing without Tony Bourge’s early influence – “Breadfan” was early 70s Riffola at its best. Little wonder then, that it was covered by Metallica (amongst others). Likewise Jon Anderson’s “Olias of Sunhillow”, not a lot of guitar present (but a lot of David Roe’s beautiful artwork on the album cover package) though the diversity of the sounds remains with me and influences my love of World Music – I recognise the obvious links between the album (which still I own on LP, CD, mini disk and cassette tape) and the spiritual music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Patience Dabany, Sheila Chandra (all of which made the list at various stages despite the minimal amount or non appearance of guitar on the recordings).
So what makes today’s list then (I say ‘today’ because if I sat down to write this tomorrow, the list would certainly be different)? So, in no particular order:
Dire Straits, Dire Straits: I remember the NME (or maybe Sounds) de- scribing Mark Knopfler as “The only guitar hero that we can tolerate at the moment”. The album is filled with some great songs and some nicely restrained and understated playing. I love listening to the restrained and simple rhythm guitar playing of David Knopfler as much as I do the lead guitar work. “Down to the Waterline” is a song I’ve always wanted to do in a band but never managed to sneak into a set list.
Paul Simon, Shining Like A National Guitar – Greatest Hits: the only way I can think of to get soooooo many great songs into one CD (though the Central Park concert nearly got in there – this has the more recent songs included). Graceland, You Can Call Me Al, Mother And Child Reunion, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, Boy In The Bubble and so on and so on. Even though the focus has to be on the song writing there’s so much clever chord voicing and avoidance of the obvious that it’s a joy to hear. And despite the previous comment, you could still play most of the songs with 3 or 4 chords.
Crowded House, Recurring Dream: Another collection of fantastic songs driven by a simple acoustic guitar and a bass that never, ever plays an obvious line, in fact, never, ever plays an obvious note. Only a seasoned fisherman’s hat has more hooks. One day I’ll play “Fall At Your Feet” live. But this album also has Weather With You, Distant Sun and Four Seasons in One Day. Mind you, quite what the collection would have sounded like had the Beatles never existed remains to be seen / heard. I suppose you could make the same comment about most modern pop.
Martin Simpson, The Bramble Briar: This was a toughie for me, which MS album should I pick when I love most of them to bits (notice the ‘most’ there)? This was the first of the Martin Simpson CDs I bought. Fair Annie was the first MS arrangement I ever sat down and worked out and indeed the first MS song I ever had the audacity to stand up and try to perform. This CD was also my introduction to Csus2 (my favourite altered tuning by far). There are so many other great interpretations of traditional songs on there; The Bramble Briar, Dives and Lazarus (here sung to the tune of “The Star of County Down”), Polly On the Shore, Sammy’s Bar and my particular favourite; Rounding the Horn. Kind Letters is a fantastic album of songs but, for me, The Bramble Briar is the best of a large collection of recordings.
James Taylor, Greatest Hits: I saved the best until last. This is sheer bliss. The man has the most calming and relaxing voice in all of creation; it should be available on prescription. Something in the Way She Moves is my all time favourite mood altering song. Before he discovered pop tunes and session players, JT’s guitar work was a delight, sitting nicely behind his vocal, supporting without ever getting in the way. Thankfully, he’s now gone full circle and a recently broadcast concert featured the legend with just a piano, an Apple Mac and a strange- looking machine to support him.
So there they are, today’s favourite albums of guitar-ish music list, which will not only be different tomorrow but is already different as I finish typing this. I hope that somebody can identify with some of the choices and that nobody feels the need to challenge me on them.