THE MULL HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Centred on the talents of Colin MacIntyre, the Mull Historical Society burst on to the Scottish music scene in 2001 with the impressive Loss. It continued a lineage of classic pop compositions, notably with Watching Xanadu, which somehow invoked both Postcard Records and the spirit of Brian Wilson. The power of Public Service Announcer contrasted the reflectiveness of Instead, and the album was rightly feted as one of the finest released that year. Tours supporting Travis and the Strokes, as well as appearances at Glastonbury and T In The Park, seem to secure a healthy future.
Despite the success of Sulk, Associates' founder members Billy Mackenzie and Alan Rankine parted company after its release. The former retained the group's name for an increasingly idiosyncratic musical path. His remarkable voice remained as captivating as always and, having abandoned the Associates' name, he issued this solo album in 1992. The emotion he brought to What Made Me Turn Out The Lights and Windows Call inspired hope among his many fans that Mackenzie would re-ignite his career. Sadly, MacKenzie took his life in January 1997 following the death of his mother.
HUE & CRY
Brothers Pat and Greg Kane formed Hue And Cry in Coatbridge in 1983. Their unyielding affection for classic songwriting, be it soul music or Tin Pan Alley, marked them different from immediate contemporaries and a spell as house songwriters at Chappell's Music preceded their first recordings. By their second album, Remote, the pair's talents had flourished fully. It contained two hit singles, Looking For Linda and Violently, and exuded a confident worldliness. Hue And Cry's progress faltered when their label drastically cut its roster, but the Kane brothers continue to work together when other commitments allow.
79 MUSIC HAS THE RIGHT TO CHILDREN
BOARDS OF CANADA
Based in the Pentland Hills on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Michael Sandison and Marcus Eion formed the Boards Of Canada in 1995. Drawing from chilled hip-hop styles, the duo forged a post-psychedelic ambience on their first album, Music Has The Right To Children, which blended echoes of German pioneers Cluster with American dance culture. They embellished the mix with occasional samples and attributed their lysergic vision on plangent synthesiser passages to living in a wilderness. A second album, Geogaddi, explored similarly experimental ideas.
80 THE ONLY FUN IN TOWN
Having begun life as TV Art, Edinburgh's Josef K were signed to Postcard Records through the enthusiasm of Orange Juice drummer Stephen Daly. Their distinctively abrasive sound, spurred on by angular guitar work and Paul Haig's icy voice, was captured on several singles before an entire album was completed, then rejected, by both band and label. A second session in Brussels resulted in The Only Fun In Town where a trebly, urgent production adds even more purpose to their sound, particularly on Fun 'n' Frenzy, Forever Drone and the brilliant It's Kinda Funny. Sadly, Josef K split up in 1982, only months after the album's release.
81 ROCK ACTION
Mogwai's largely instrumental post-rock noise had already been aired on Mogwai Young Team and Come On Die Young. On this 2001 release, the quintet successfully harnessed their live sound. Working with Mercury Rev/Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann, they created something more textured and expansive than simple attitude. Strings, brass and choral singing were added to the stew which also featured a vocal cameo from Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals.
Hailed as a triumph, Rock Action broadens further the palate of this highly experimental unit.
82 MEET DANNY WILSON
Dundonians Gary and Kit Clark left their native city for London in the early 80s, but returned three years later to found Danny Wilson with Ged Grimes. By this point they had honed a remarkable songwriting talent - individually and collectively - as evinced on Meet Danny Wilson. The delicate Mary's Prayer was a Top 3 hit in 1988, but the entire album is embued with a late-night sophistication encompassing cocktail jazz, Latin pop, ballads and soul. Few records anywhere boast such a breathtaking maturity.
83 VANISHING POINT
Having followed Screamadelica with the disappointing Give Out But Don't Give Up, Primal Scream re-emerged with this compulsive collection. The throwaway Rolling Stones licks of its predecessor were replaced with an energised, bass heavy sound and a rekindled sense of gritty intensity. The Memphis Horns tablas and an Augustus Pablo sample add more colour to the sound as group frontman Bobby Gillespie finds a renewed purpose. His iconography is apparant in such titles as Stuka, Motorhead and Kowalsky, as well as in the album itself which helped them regain a musical highground.
84 SHOP ASSISTANTS
Led by Ramones fan David Keegan, the Shop Assistants evolved in 1983 out of an incestuous Edinburgh scene where several bands boasted interchangeable members. Dubbed 'shambling' due to perceived lack of musical ability, the band's early releases on the pivotal 53rd and 3rd label balanced tenderness with high-octane pop. Lured to a major company, the Shop Assistants completed this lone album, but where their joyful noise remained characteristically charming, it is the melancholic folk/rock of Before I Wake and After Dark that prove timeless. The departure of vocalist Alex Taylor in 1987 proved their undoing.
Forged in the wake of Orange Juice and Altered Images, the Bluebells centred around Robert Hodgens - Bobby Bluebell - and Ken and David McCluskey. Their brief history was littered with misplaced plans and it thus seems doubly ironic that Young At Heart, although a hit first time around, should reach No.1 some seven years after the band split. Its carefree breeziness was the template for Sisters - more folk than rock - which balanced equally summer-tinged originals with a moving version of Dominic Behan's The Patriot Game. Its inclusion would signal the direction the McCluskeys would take in their own right, while Hodgens continued a songwriting career.
86 EASY PIECES
LLOYD COLE AND THE COMMOTIONS
Although born in Derby, Lloyd Cole counts as Scottish by studying in Glasgow, making his first music here and by having a backing band made up solely of Scots. Having released the acclaimed Rattlesnakes in 1984, the group unveiled Easy Pieces the following year. Cole's literate lyricism was still to the fore, as well as his gift of creating beguiling, twisting melodies. Arriving so soon after its predecessor, Easy Pieces suffered by comparison, but time has allowed its merits to shine. In Lost Weekend and Brand New Friend, the set boasts two of Cole's best-known compositions.
87 SCARED TO DANCE
Having secured a deal with Virgin on the strength of an independent EP, Dunfermline punks The Skids made their album debut with Scared To Dance. The recording was fraught with problems, not the least of which was guitarist Stuart Adamson's defection home midway through the session. He was persuaded to return, but the rift between him and vocalist Richard Jobson would never be fully healed. The set showed the band were more frantic pop than punk, notably on Into The Valley, their first hit single and a composition from which Stuart's trademark sound would evolve. That the album was completed was an achievement in itself and the Skids would not repeat its peaks again.
A court case against their boy band namesakes brought this Blue publicity they had not previously enjoyed. Yet their 1973 debut is a minor masterpiece, centred on the crafted songwriting of Glasgow beat group veterans Hughie Nicholson and Ian McMillan. Both offered compositions which were simple but effective, with the former, an ex-Marmalade member, shining on two haunting ballads, Sunset Regret and I Wish I Could Fly. McMillan's less introspective pieces recalled the charm of Paul McCartney's first album and together their skills suggested the band had a promising future. Sadly, the rest of their output is poor by comparison, but Blue remains an isolated, largely undiscovered, gem.
TRASH CAN SINATRAS
Initially based in Ayrshire, the Trash Can Sinatras offered a style of melodic pop akin to Aztec Camera. An EP and single prefaced Cake in 1990, and this beautiful, timeless album was the equal of its mentors. The set was a hit on US college radio and the quintet spent the next three years trying to capitalise on its popularity. That decision undermined progress at home, although the Sinatras completed a further two albums before accepting a role as accompaniment in the stage production of Irvine Welsh's Marabou Stork Nightmares.
90 GEORGOUS GEORGE
Having brought Orange Juice to a close, Edwyn Collins embarked on a solo career with two critically acclaimed albums, Hope and Despair and Hellbent On Compromise. Gorgeous George continued in a similar vein where acerbic lyrics were matched by Collin's distinctive, moody voice. Yet its content was overshadowed by one track, A Girl Like You. The ringing guitar sound, redolent of Ernie Isley, gives the song an early 70s flavour, but Collins' energy and vision ensures it is more than mere pastiche. Its appeal has remained undiminished.
91 ONCE UPON A STAR
BAY CITY ROLLERS
This was a very difficult call. Arguments over artistic merit may rage, yet it cannot be denied the Bay City Rollers were a pop phenomenon. They were hugely popular not only in Britain, but in the US, Canada, Australia and Japan, and enjoyed success few Scottish acts of the time could dream of. The Rollers were bubblegum at its most crafted; unassuming individuals, average talent but wedded to a career plotted with mathematical precision. Yes, it did become tawdry, but that doesn't deflect from the simple pleasure in Bye Bye Baby.
92 STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE
Originally a mixed-gender quartet, Strawberry Switchblade were reduced to a duo of Jill Bryson and Rose McDowall in 1981. Trees And Flowers was issued as a single prior to this poignant, melancholic album. If the computerised drumming is occasionally distracting, the set nonetheless echoes the classic girl-group era of Phil Spector. Their Top Five hit, Since Yesterday, and the sumptious Let Her Go are but two of the highlights of this consistently enthralling collection.
Released in 2001, Persevere was the first Proclaimers' album following a seven-year hiatus during which Craig and Charlie Reid were unwilling to commit themselves to below-par material. They re-emerged with a collection displaying all their collective strengths. The twins' broad accents remain at the fore, their harmonies are as true as ever, and a fantastic gift for melody is undiminished. Rolling Stones' producer Chris Kimsey brings a warmth to a set which includes Act of Remembrance, a moving tribute to the Reids' dead father. Persevere is a stunning comeback.
Almost imperceptibly, Teenage Fanclub have assumed the mantle of veterans. Released in 2000, almost 20 years on from the pivotal Bandwagonesque, Howdy! reaffirms all the group's strengths with a series of superbly crafted, melodic songs. The core founding trio - Norman Blake, Gerry Love and Ray McGinley - have matured both as musicians and songwriters, and if the brio of their early releases has been replaced by a more measured sense of contemplation, Howdy! nonetheless remains quintessential Fanclub. One growing older gracefully.
With their roots in the Fife dance halls of the early 60s, Nazareth emerged early the following decade with two promising, but unsatisfying, albums. Having opted to record in Dunfermline for the next set, they brought a mobile studio to their rehearsal room, the Gang Hut, and invited Deep Purple's Roger Glover to produce. The result was Razamanaz, a crisp, hard-edged collection which gave full rein to Dan McCafferty's expressive voice. It included two hit singles, Broken Down Angel and Bad Bad Boy, as well as the propulsive title track, and set the template for a career which continues today.
96 SOMETHING TO SHOUT ABOUT
When John Lennon declared Shout his record of the week on television's Ready Steady Go, success seemed assured for Lulu and the Luvvers. A Top Ten place ensued, but the group found it hard to maintain that success. Lulu was increasingly promoted as a solo act, subsequent singles faltered, yet she was afforded that rare luxury, a Scottish beat boom album. Something To Shout About has all the pitfalls of rushed recordings and arrangements, yet there are some fine attempts at material by Marvin Gaye and the Impressions. Best of all is Lulu's reading of Try To Understand which plays to her strengths as a pop, rather than soul, singer. It was the former skill that producer Mickie Most would later exploit.
97 WHEN THE WORLD KNOWS YOUR NAME
CBS - Deacon Blue's record company - used various marketing ploys to launch the band's album debut Raintown but with the success of Real Gone Kid, released as a taster for the follow-up, the band's commercial future was assured. When The World Knows Your Name entered the charts at No 1, spawning three more hits - Wages Day, Love And Regret and Queen Of The New Year - in the process. For many, however, the pivotal song was Fergus Sings The Blues in which Ricky Ross queried his "blue-eyed" soul credentials. Given Scotland's enduring love of the genre and the song's riffing arrangement, he need not have worried overlong.
98 PUNK'S NOT DEAD
The Exploited - Wattie Buchan (a former soldier), Big John Duncan, Gary McCormack and Dru Stix - were not even around for the punk revolution and their 1981 debut was more akin to the Oi movement than, say, the Clash. They were, however, mercifully shorn of the right-wing politics Oi attracted. The Exploited thrashed out bulletins of discontent with maximum speed, noise and simplicity. For over a decade Buchan refused to buckle, leading various line-ups without ever losing his anger. US hardcore groups owe them a big debt.
99 TEENAGE LICKS
STONE THE CROWS
This, the third album by Stone The Crows, was recorded following the departure of founding members Jimmy Dewar and John McGinnis. The R&B style of its predecessors was more muted, revealing a tough but pliable sound, ideally suited to Maggie Bell's expressive vocals and Leslie Harvey's subtle guitar playing. The Dundee Horns joined Lulu - as "Wee Marie" - for several tracks on a set, which suggested the group was about to resolve the quandary of capturing their live sound in the studio. Tragically, Leslie was electrocuted onstage at Swansea in May 1972, a blow from which Stone The Crows could never recover.
100 SPARKLE IN THE RAIN
Released in 1984, Sparkle In The Rain was the album by which Simple Minds became a "stadium" band. Producer Steve Lillywhite conjured a more direct sound in which former subtleties were shrouded in power and dynamism. New drummer Mel Gaynor thrived in this environment, best exemplified in Waterfront, a homage to Glasgow as seen through the changing face of the River Clyde. Up On The Catwalk and Speed Your Love To Me were among the other highlights, as well as a then-rare cover version of Lou Reed's Street Hassle. Within a year Simple Minds would top the US chart with Don't You (Forget About Me).