Chris Helme’s new album, The Rookery, goes on general release today.ÃÂ You’ll probably recognise his voice from The Seahorses, the other ’90s band of Stone Roses‘ John Squires.
An accomplished songwriter Chris’ new solo album is aÃÂ mellow, melancholy dose of Americana we took a listen and have our view here.ÃÂ
We also asked Chris to take us through his top 10 albums. Have a read and explore his record collection and influences.
I suppose when you’re first asked to natter about your Top Ten Albums of all Time, most people would think ‘great, that’s really easy, I’ve been honing that list for years’. But to be honest, I don’t really have a top ten of albums. I don’t have a top ten of anything. My mood and mind changes by the second, so it’s an almost impossible task.
I love songs. I could, maybe, do a top ten of songs, but then I’d feel sorry for the ones who didn’t make it….but that’s not what ive been asked to do. ”Â¨”Â¨So I guess below is a collection of albums with the most songs on them that I really love.
They’ve all been a massive influence on me, one way or another, lyrically, musically but more often than not they’ve acted as the sound track to the good and bad times from my first memory to this moment now.
I’ve found myself steering away from modern stuff, and maybe getting to the core influences. Don’t get me wrong, I love Beck, The Bees, Damien Jurado et al but I probably love them so much because I hear a lot of the artists below in their music, so for this little story I’ll keep to the originals.
I’m in an exceptionally mellow mood today, so this will all be a load of bollocks by tomorrow anyway.
The Beatles – Revolver
Reminds me of touring France with my pre-Seahorses band of brothers, Chutzpah. We parked the van up next to a cliff face and turned on the headlights so our giant silhouettes danced upon the cliff face.
Tax Man, And Your Bird Can Sing and Tomorrow Never Knows, I’m Only Sleeping, Eleanor Rigby. All still sound fresh and brave. Every song a killer.
Neil Young – Neil Young
I first heard this one Christmas when I was thinking about getting out of a particularly unhealthy relationship in my early twenties.
I love Neil Young’s music with a passion, there’s never any bullshit or pompous bravado. It is what it is, take it or leave it.
I think the Jack Nitzsche arrangements are outstanding, particularly the time signature changes and then into the gospel choir at the end. Genius.
The acoustic version on Neil Young unplugged is so different, but still holds its charm as all great songs do.
The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
Reminds me of living in a scummy shared house in York with Chutzpah and being particularly unhealthy and particularly happy.
Sister morphine was the first song I ever recorded, with my mate Nick Walker on slide guitar and me on whatever we could find.
The Stones have so many great albums, but I love this one because reminds me of the early excitement of joining a band. The outro on Can You Hear Me Knocking is amazing and really shows off Mick Taylor ‘s guitar skills against Charlie’s drumming.
A bit of a diversion for the Stones but still, as always, truly awesome.
Crosby Stills and Nash -Deja Vu
Summer days in an open top Citreon 2cv driving around in the sunshine of the early ’90’s.
Unbelievable guitar work on this album and the harmonies are so tight I makes me sick. Just really groovy stuff, but really minimal in the instrumentation.
Everyone we hung around with thought we were sad pothead hippies, as they were all pilled up, listening to shit house music.ÃÂ Carol Kings Tapestry, another fine album, was on the B side of the tape so I can see where they were coming from.
Picked this up for a fiver. Me and the wife were going through some seriously unfortunate times and we listened to this a lot whilst playing chess and drowning our sorrows with red wine and weed.
Amazing that Jackson Brown was only 19 when he recorded this, his first album. Just perfect song writing.
My wife walked down the aisle to Jamaica Say You Will. Bliss.
Big Bill Broonzy
I first bought this album on tape from a bargain bucket in Scarborough for 50p.
Weirdly, before I got into playing music, me and my mate used to go to a folk club in York called the Acorn, if only to take the piss out of the beardy weirdies singing sea shanties with their fingers in each others ears.
Then this guy called Gypsy Bill Williams came in and started belting out Alberta at the top of his voice, and he played a National guitar to boot. Never seen anything ”Â¨Iike it, I was hooked.
A few weeks later I got dragged up to sing for the first time, so I suppose if it wasn’t for all the above I’d still be a miserable colour blind graphic designer. Backwater Blues is blues at its best, and the guy could really hold a crowd on his own.
”Â¨”Â¨Nick Drake – Bryter Layter
My friend Dave Keegan, who is a fantastic singer song writer got me into Nick Drake many years ago.
We used to go round to his tiny flat and get stoned, and by the time It came to leave there’d be albums all over his very limited floor space so, rather than tread on his vinyl, or slip and break my neck, it was just easier to roll another one and put another album on.
One of These Things First helps me keep on track. Northern sky always does it for me very time. No matter how bad I feel, it just chills me out instantly. Thanks Dave”Â¨”Â¨.
The Best of Leonard Cohen
My sister got me into all kinds of music, but laughing Lenny is one that stands out. He has a knack of painting pictures with words and music and I really get lost in it all.
It’s quite rough around the edges, but the John Simon string arrangements hold it all loosely in place.
Whenever I hear Cohen, he makes me want to be a better man.
Tim Buckley – Happy Sad
I was living with my friends Kim and Simon, in Brighton in 1995.
Chutzpah had just split up and I felt like I was starting again. When I first heard Buzzing Fly for the first time, I realised that that was the kind of music I wanted to make.
Marimbas, vibraphones, double bass and it all sounded like they were just jamming loose, and that’s the way I like it. Happy times indeed.
”Â¨”Â¨Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
Probably one of the best records of all time, in my worthlessly humble opinion….but I absolutely love this album…so much of it is irreplicable, they really captured something and the whole album sound so free and vibrant.
Van Morrison is holding the whole thing together with his guitar arpeggios while the band are on a constant flux around him. Mercurial.
No matter how many times I hear this album there’s always something new….clever bastard(s).
You can download The Rookery or order it from Chris’ website. He is on tour throughout autumn and you can find his tour dates / but tickets here.