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Here we are, right near the top of the heap of 2001, and we have an awesome track off the seventh album by The Charlatans, a band considered also-rans of the Madchester era, more than a decade earlier. Yeah, and now they are now considered “survivors”.
Indeed, the group originally formed in 1989 and still continue to tour and release new albums, their latest being album number thirteen, “Different days”, in 2017, though only one member, Martin Blunt, still remains from their very early days. They weren’t from the Manchester area proper and yet they were originally lumped in with the likes of The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays, more because of their blending of 60s rock sound with that of acid house culture. Their longevity can partly be attributed to their infusing different sounds to each of their albums, not necessarily to always blend in with their environment as some writers have suggested but to keep things fresh.
Released in our year of focus, “Wonderland” was the second album without original keyboard and organ wizard, Rob Collins, who had tragically died a few years earlier in a car crash and who had leant the band their trademark Hammond backbone. His replacement, Tony Rogers, fills in wonderfully but his mark isn’t the most indelible here. Instead, it’s frontman Tim Burgess that shows us a whole new set of colours by spending most of the album in falsetto, brushing the already soul and R&B-tunes with a swathe of Mayfield.
The highlight of the whole album, though, has got to be “A man needs to be told”. In fact, the tune ranks up there with my favourite of their tunes, even though my preference of their sounds is still that of their first couple of albums. It’s so damned laidback and groovy. Yeah, I just used that word. Groovy. Blunt’s funky bass line just booms along, answered in flourishes and tinkling bursts of piano. Jon Brooke’s drumming is spot on, understated but shimmering, right up to the end where the beat picks up substantially. And yeah, that’s none other than Canada’s own, Daniel Lanois adding his pedal steel to the mix, making the whole thing more dreamy. Burgess.
Ready to play it again? Let’s do it.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.