Sunday 30 July 2023

An alternative to those predictable lists of 'classic' albums

As a brief glimpse at my blog posts will confirm, I love the classic rock albums as much as the next child of the 1960s and 70s. But who among us needs another list of what the consensus views as the greatest - the classics {especially if it doesn't confirm my own subjective choices! - Ed}.

Wouldn't it be better to highlight some albums that are equally deserving of classic status, but remain underappreciated? 

I find it interesting how attitudes to classic records of the first vinyl era changed from decade to decade in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. 

The compiling of Classic Album lists (at least in the UK) began with the 1974 list of the 100 greatest albums voted on by the writers of the NME. Naturally, the list was heavy with albums from the mid to late 1960s. These were records that inspired so much of what came after, especially the more adventurous sounds. 

So number one was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - no one doubted then that this was the high point of pop music. Sgt. Pepper changed not only the way people thought about music, but how they thought about albums. Sure, Dylan and Zappa had produced double albums in '66, but The Beatles invented the 'concept' album. Right then, bands began to think much more seriously about what they were putting out. Concept albums, or at least albums with some kind of thematic heart, were the thing to produce.

Dylan's Blonde on Blonde was number two in the 1974 list, the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds at three and The Beatles' Revolver at four.

By 1985, the post-punk hipsters had hijacked the NME listings, placing John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band - a raw, vicious confessional of an album that sold poorly - at number 9, two places above arguably The Beatles best album, Revolver. Sgt. Pepper was nowhere to be seen. That was a massive shift, in what might be considered a backlash against the sixties generation of writers, who established the NME as a must-read for teenagers in the 1970s.

By 1993, the pendulum had swung back in favour of the 'classics', with Revolver up to Number 2 behind Pet Sounds. Sgt. Pepper was back in at 33. 

The albums banned from the '99 poll
Which is all well and good, but it reduces popular music to a menu that's the same for everyone. More interesting, perhaps, was the survey that appeared in The Guardian newspaper in 1999, that forced respondents to ignore the classics. 

No Revolver or Sgt Pepper, no What's Going On or Astral Weeks, no Rumours, Thriller, Dark Side Of The Moon or Hotel California. 100 albums including classic Bowie, Joni's Blue, Never Mind The Bollocks, peak Radiohead and Prince. All banned. 

click to read the write-ups

The result was a fresh, often startling and properly contentious list of really great records that would never have been on the radar of casual music fans.

At Number One? Nick Drake's terrific second album Bryter Layter, released in early 1971. Not a chance that was even considered for the NME's original 1975 list. The three albums Nick Drake released in his lifetime had failed commercially. Only later did he become the cult artist par excellence. Nonetheless, Bryter Layter is a truly great album with a largely upbeat yet undeniably reflective mood. 

The Guardian's 1999 alternative top 100 list still leans on a few staples, with the Beatles represented twice in the top 10, despite having seven of their albums banned. Almost half the albums in the list were released in the 1970s.

A quarter of a century later still, the list will certainly be very different again in 2023. Nick Drake might still feature, but he's most unlikely to be at number one.

The Guardian
survey asked 'is Bryter Layter as good as Revolver or Pet Sounds really?' The writer concluded, "It certainly deserves to be heard by as many people, as do the other 99 albums here."

This alternative top 100, which you can view by clicking on the pages here, does the job it was intended to do, said The Guardian, "opening up the thoroughly unfashionable for reinterpretation."

Personally, I think it's great to see the likes of Nick Drake, Todd Rundgren, Big Star, Jeff Buckley, Scott Walker and Laura Nyro celebrated in this way. Proving, as the reports concludes, "there's an equally fantastic pop canon lurking in the shadows, behind the ones we all know and eulogise."

Below are listed the NME All Time Top 100 Album Lists from 1974 through to 1993.

NME Writers All Time Top 100 - 1974

1. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles

2. Blonde On Blonde - Bob Dylan

3. Pet Sounds - Beach Boys

4. Revolver - The Beatles

5. Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan

6. Electric Ladyland - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

7. Are You Experienced? - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

8. Abbey Road - The Beatles

9. Sticky Fingers - The Rolling Stones

10. Music From Big Pink - The Band

11. Let It Bleed - The Rolling Stones

12. Layla - Derek & The Dominoes

13. The Velvet Underground & Nico

14. Golden Decade Vol 1 - Chuck Berry

15. Rubber Soul - The Beatles

16. Tommy - The Who

17. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel

18. Hunky Dory - David Bowie

19. Beggar’s Banquet - The Rolling Stones

20. Disraeli Gears - Cream

21. Piper At The Gates Of Dawn - The Pink Floyd

22. My Generation - The Who

23. Crosby, Stills & Nash

24. The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones

25. Imagine - John Lennon

26. Tapestry - Carole King

27. Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie

28. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

29. Back In The USA - MC5

30. Deja Vu - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

31. The Band - The Band

32. Gasoline Alley - Rod Stewart

33. A Hard Day’s Night - The Beatles

34. Every Picture Tells A Story - Rod Stewart

35. Led Zeppelin 4 - Led Zeppelin

36. The Doors - The Doors

37. In The Court Of The Crimson King - King Crimson

38. Exile On Main Street - The Rolling Stones

39. The Beatles (White album) - The Beatles

40. The Soft Machine - Soft Machine

41. Hot Rats - Frank Zappa

42. Traffic - Traffic

43. Trout Mask Replica - Captain Beefheart

44. Music From A Dolls House - Family

45. Talking Book - Stevie Wonder

46. Anthology - Smoky Robinson & The Miracles

47. Strange Days - The Doors

48. Led Zeppelin 2 - Led Zeppelin

49. Otis Blue - Otis Redding

50. Stand Up - Jethro Tull

51. The Impressions - Big 16

52. Love - Forever Changes

53. Neil Young - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

54. James Taylor - Sweet Baby James

55. The Byrds - Fifth Dimension

56. Wings - Band On The Run

57. David Bowie - The Man Who Sold The World

58.The Mothers Of Invention - We're Only In It For The Money

59. Rolling Stones - Get Your Ya-Yas Out

60. Jeff Beck Group - Beck-Ola

61. Iggy & The Stooges - Raw Power

62. Beach Boys - Smiley Smile

63. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks

64. Velvet Underground - Loaded

65. Aretha Franklin - Greatest Hits

66. The Beatles - With The Beatles

67. Joni Mitchell - Blue

68. The Mothers Of Invention - Freak Out

69. Neil Young - After The Gold Rush

70. Stephen Stills

71. Johnny Winter And

72. Joe Cocker - With A Little Help From My Friends

73. Yes - The Yes Album

74. Van Morrison - Moondance

75. Todd Rundgren - A Wizard, A True Star

76. John Lennon - Plastic Ono Band

77. Jefferson Airplane - Crown Of Creation

78. The Doors - L.A. Woman

79. Sly & The Family Stone - There's A Riot Going On

80. The Who - Who's Next

81. Country Joe & The Fish - Electric Music For The Mind & Body

82. Robert Johnson - King Of The Delta Blues Singers

83. Best Of The Beach Boys Volume 1

84. Joni Mitchell - Song For A Seagull

85. John Mayall's Bluesbreakers - with Eric Clapton

86. Traffic - Mr Fantasy

87. Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home

88. Elvis Presley - Greatest Hits Volume 2

89. Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat

90. Moby Grape - Moby Grape

91. Big Brother & The Holding Co. - Cheap Thrills

92. Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon

93. Doctor John - Gris-Gris

94. Stevie Wonder - Music Of The Mind

95. Roxy Music - Stranded

96. Beach Boys - Surf's Up

97. Randy Newman - 12 Songs

98. Spirit - 12 Dreams Of Dr Sardonicus

99. Steve Miller Band – Sailor

100. Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells 


NME Writers All Time 100 Albums - First Published On 30th November 1985

1. What’s Going On - Marvin Gaye (1971)

2. Astral Weeks - Van Morrison (1968)

3. Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan (1965)

4. The Clash - The Clash (1977)

5. Marquee Moon - Television (1977)

6. Swardfishtrombones - Tom Waits (1983)

7. The Band - The Band (1969)

8. Blonde On Blonde - Bob Dylan (1966)

9. Plastic Ono Band - John Lennon (1970)

10. Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division (1979)

11. Revolver - The Beatles (1966)

12. The Sun Collection - Elvis Presley (1975)

13. Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols (1977)

14. Forever Changes - Love (1967)

15. Low - David Bowie (1977)

16. The Velvet Underground And Nico - The Velvet Underground (1967)

17. Solid Gold - James Brown (1977)

18. Horses - Patti Smith (1975)

19. Live And Lowdown At The Apollo - James Brown (1962)

20. Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys (1966)

21. Kind Of Blue - Miles Davis (1959)

22. Bringing It All Back Home - Bob Dylan (1965)

23. Otis Blue - Otis Redding (1966)

24. The Doors - The Doors (1967)

25. Exile On Main Street - The Rolling Stones (1972)

26. Anthology - The Temptations (1974)

27. Greatest Hits - Aretha Franklin (1977)

28. Are You Experienced - The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)

29. The Modern Dance - Pere Ubu (1978)

30. King Of The Delta Blues Singers - Robert Johnson (1972)

31. Imperial Bedroom - Elvis Costello & The Attractions

32. Anthology - Smoky Robinson And The Miracles (1974)

33. The Beatles - The Beatles (1968)

34. Searching For The Young Soul Rebels - Dexys Midnight Runners (1980)

35. White Light/White Heat - The Velvet Underground (1968)

36. Young Americans - David Bowie (1975)

37. The Poet - Bobby Womack (1982)

38. Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk (1977)

39. Darkness On The Edge Of Town - Bruce Springsteen (1979)

40. This Years Model - Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1978)

41. Another Green World - Eno (1975)

42. Trout Mask Replica - Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band (1969)

43. The Man Machine - Kraftwerk (1978)

44. The Mothership Connection - Parliament (1975)

45. The Cream Of Al Green - Al Green (1980)

46. Let’s Get It On - Marvin Gaye (1973)

47. There’s A Riot Going On - Sly And The Family Stone (1971)

48. Rocket To Russia - The Ramones (1977)

49. Greatest Hits - Sly And The Family Stone (1970)

50. Big 16 - The Impressions (1965)

51. Blood On The Tracks - Bob Dylan (1974)

52. Alan Vega/Martin Rev - Suicide (1980)

53. Another Music In A Different Kitchen - Buzzcocks (1978)

54. Closer - Joy Division (1980)

55. Mad Not Mad - Madness (1985)

56. For Your Pleasure - Roxy Music (1973)

57. The Scream - Siouxsie & The Banshees (1980)

58. The Harder They Come - Soundtrack featuring Jimmy Cliff

59. Entertainment! - Gang Of Four (1980)

60. The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground (1969)

61. 3+3 - The Isley Brothers (1973)

62. The Hissing Of Summer Lawns - Joni Mitchell (1975)

63. “Heroes” - David Bowie (1977)

64. Meat Is Murder - The Smiths (1985)

65. Station To Station - David Bowie (1976)

66. Clear Spot - Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band (1972)

67. Get Happy! - Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1980)

68. Fear Of Music - Talking Heads (1979)

69. Lust For Life - Iggy Pop (1977)

70. Berlin - Lou Reed (1973)

71. 20 Greatest Hits - Buddy Holly & The Crickets (1967)

72. Music From Big Pink - The Band (1968)

73. Hard Day’s Night - The Beatles (1964)

74. Roxy Music - Roxy Music (1972)

75. Leave Home - The Ramones (1977)

76. A Love Supreme - John Coltrane (1957)

77. Golden Decade Vol 1 - Chuck Berry (1972)

78. The Very Best Of.. - Jackie Wilson

79. In A Silent Way - Miles Davis (1969)

80. Stranded - Roxy Music (1973)

81. Talking Heads ‘77 - Talking Heads (1977)

82. The Correct Use Of Soap - Magazine (1980)

83. Born In The USA - Bruce Springsteen (1983)

84. Court And Spark - Joni Mitchell (1974)

85. Strange Days - The Doors (1967)

86. More Songs About Buildings And Food - Talking Heads (1978)

87. L.A. Woman - The Doors (1971)

88. Chess Masters - Howling Wolf (1981)

89. Armed Forces - Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1979)

90. Steve McQueen - Prefab Sprout (1985)

91. Paris 1919 - John Cale (1973)

92. Forward Onto Zion - The Abyssinians (1977)

93. My Aim Is True - Elvis Costello (1977)

94. Rattlesnakes - Lloyd Cole & The Commotions (1984)

95. Best Of - The Beach Boys (1968)

96. King Tubbys Meets The Rockers Uptown - Augustus Pablo (1976)

97. Rubber Soul - The Beatles (1965)

98. Suicide - Suicide (1977)

99. The Undertones - The Undertones (1979)


New Musical Express Writers Top 100 Albums - Published 2nd October 1993

1. Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys (Capitol, 1966)

2. Revolver - The Beatles (Parlophone, 1966)

3. Never Mind The Bollocks - The Sex Pistols (Virgin, 1977)

4. What's Going On - Marvin Gaye ( Tamla Motown, 1971)

5. The Stone Roses (Silvertone, 1989)

6. The Velvet Underground & Nico ( Verve, 1967)

7. London Calling - The Clash (Cbs, 1979)

8. The Beatles White album (Apple, 1968)

9. It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back - Public Enemy (Def Jam, 1988)

10. The Queen Is Dead - The Smiths (Rough Trade, 1986)

11. Exile On Main Street - The Rolling Stones (Rolling Stones,1972)

12. Nevermind - Nirvana (Geffen, 1991)

13. The Clash (Cbs, 1977)

14. Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan (Columbia, 1965)

15. Astral Weeks - Van Morrison (Warners, 1968)

16. Sign 'O' The Times - Prince (Paisley Park, 1987)

17. Blonde On Blonde - Bob Dylan (Columbia, 1966)

18. Forever Changes - Love (Elektra, 1968)

19. Three Feet High And Rising - De La Soul (Big Life 1989)

20. Closer - Joy Division (Factory, 1980)

21. Screamadelica - Primal Scream (Creation, 1991)

22. Let It Bleed - The Rolling Stones (Decca, 1969)

23. Automatic For The People - REM ( Wea, 1992)

24. The Elvis Presley Sun Collection (Rca, 1975)

25. The Doors (Elektra, 1967)

26. Marquee Moon - Television (Elektra 1977)

27. Psychocandy - Jesus & Mary Chain (Blanco Y Negro, 1985)

28. Blue - Joni Mitchell (Reprise 1972)

29. Are You Experienced? - The Jimi Hendrix Experience ( Track 1967)

30. Live At The Apollo - James Brown (London 1963)

31. Horses - Patti Smith (Arista 1975)

32. Innervisions - Stevie Wonder (Tamla Motown 1973)

33. Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Band - The Beatles ( Parlophone, 1967)

34. Songs For Swinging Lovers - Frank Sinatra (Capitol 1955)

35. Otis Blue - Otis Redding (Atcon 1966)

36. A Love Supreme - John Coltrane (Lmpulse 1967)

37. Fear Of A Black Planet - Public Enemy (Def Jam 1990)

38. Hunky Dory - David Bowle (Rca 1971)

39. Blood And Chocolate-  Elvis Cosleilo & The Attractions (Imp 1986)

40. Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars - David Bowie (Rca 1972)

41. Hatful Of Hollow - The Smiths (Rough Trade 1984)

42. Technioue - New Order (Factory 1989)

43. Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division (Factory 1979)

44. Surfer Rosa - Pixies (4AD 1985)

45. Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld - The Orb ( Wau Mr Modo1991)

46. Surf's Up - The Beach Boys (Stateside 1971)

47. Lust For Life - Iggy Pop (RCA 1977)

48. Bringing It All Back Home - Bob Dylan (Cbs 1965)

49. Warehouse: Songs And Stories - Husker Du ( Warners 1987)

50. Low-Life - New Order (Factory 1985)

51. Heaven Up Here - Echo And The Bunnymen (Korova 1987)

52. Parallel Lines - Blondie (Chrysalis 1978)

53. Grievous Angel - Gram Parsons (Reprise 1974)

54. Dusty In Memphis - Dusty Springfield (Philips, 1969)

55. Transformer - Lou Reed (RCA 1973)

56. Led Zeppelin IV (Atlantic. 1971)

57. All Mod Cons - The Jam (Polydor 1978)

58. The Velvet Underground (Mgm 1969)

59. We’re Only In It For The Money - Mothers Of Invention ( Mgm 1967)

60. Harvest - Neil Young (1972)

61. Scott - Scott Walker (Philips 1967)

62. The Stooges (Eiekira 1969)

63. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere - Neil Young (Repfise 1969)

64. Rubber Soul - The Beatles (Parlophone 1967)

65. Greatest Hits - Aretha Franklin (Atlantic 1971)

66. After The Goldrush - Neii Young (Reprise, 1970)

67. Low - David Bowie ( Rca, 1977)

68. Remain In Light - Talking Heads (Sire, 1980)

69. Marcus Garvey - Burning Spear (Island, 1975)

70. Raindogs - Tom Waits (Island, 1985)

71. Dry - PJ Harvey ( Too Pure, 1992)

72. The Smiths (Rough Trade, 1984)

73. Lazer-Guided Melodies - Spiritualized (Dedicated, 1992)

74. Five Leaves Left - Nick Drake (Island, 1969)

75. Clear Spot - Captain Beefheart (Reprise, 1972)

76. 16 Lovers Lane - The Go-Betweens (Beggars Banquet, 1988)

77. Pink Flag - Wire (Harvest, 1977)

78. Natty Dread - Bob Marley (Island, 1975)

79. Sound Affects - The Jam (Polydor 1980)

80. Slster - Sonic Youth (Blast First 1987)

81. The White Room - The KLF (Klf Communications, 1991)

82. Junkyard - The Birthday Party (4ad, 1982)

83. The Kick Inside - Kate Bush (Emi 1978)

84. Searching For The Young Soul Rebels - Dexy's Midnight Runners (Parlophone, 1980)

85. Blood On The Tracks - Bob Dylan (Cbs, 1975)

86. Rum, Sodomy & The Lash - The Pogues (Stiff, 1985)

87. Give 'Em Enough Rope - The Clash (Cbs, 1978)

88. King Of America - Costello Show (F-Beat, 1986)

89. Talking With The Taxman About Poetry - Billy Bragg (Go! Discs, 1986)

90. Third/Sister Lovers - Big Star (Ardent, 1978)

91. Like A Prayer - Madonna (Sire 1959)

92. Reading, Writing And Arithmetic - The Sundays (Rough Trade, 1990)

93. Off The Wall - Michael Jackson (Epic 1979)

94. Tonight's The Night - Neil Young (Reprise, 1975)

95. This Nation's Saving Grace - The Fall ( Beggars Banquet 1985)

96. Metal Box - PIL ( Virgin 1979)

97. Blue Lines - Massive Attack ( Wild Bunch, 1991)

98. Younger Than Yesterday - The Byrds (Cbs 1967)

99. Who's Next? - The Who ( Track 1971)

100. Happy Mondays - Bummed.


Thursday 9 February 2023

Joni Mitchell's Dog Eat Dog and a chance meeting with Thomas Dolby

In August 1985, I had a chance meeting in Greece with electronic music pioneer Thomas Dolby. This was just after he'd co-produced Joni Mitchell's album Dog Eat Dog. The album hadn't yet been released and I got a preview of it while we both waited for a flight out of Athens airport.  

I've recently reacquainted with the album - much played by me back in the 1980s, but largely ignored since. I think there are two reasons for our estrangement.

Like many records produced in that decade, its use of electronic drums and all manner of digital keyboards gives it a shiny but rather impersonal feel.  

Also, because of Joni's preoccupations of the time, the album carries with it an unwelcome air of despondency. Which is a shame, because behind all that is some great music and writing. 

Dog Eat Dog marked a change of direction for Joni Mitchell in that, for the first time, she worked with a producer. Previously her engineer Henry Lewy served as producer in all but name; there to make it as easy as possible for Joni to get her musical ideas across. It was a partnership that yielded her entire catalogue of classics in the 1970s. 

Thomas Dolby at the controls
By the mid-1980s, with electronic instruments dominating the sonic landscape, Joni and husband/bassist Larry Klein were keen to explore new sounds. Klein in particular was keen to understand the possibilities of the Fairlight CMI digital synthesiser, which by the mid-1980s had become fairly commonplace on albums from ABC to Yes.

British musician Thomas Dolby, considered one of the key exponents of electronic music at the time, was brought in to work as a co-producer. Apart from his own solo work, his most recent success was as producer of Prefab Sprout's debut album, Steve McQueen, of which Dolby was particularly proud, he told me when we met.

Our encounter began at the Greek shipping port of Piraeus. We were both waiting around for the bus to Athens airport. We got talking and since I knew that he had recently played as part of David Bowie's band at Live Aid, we chatted about that.

Dolby and Bowie during Live Aid

Bowie had promised Bob Geldof he would play at Live Aid, but he hadn't toured for a while and didn't have a band. Dolby was asked to gather a bunch of musicians who could rehearse at short notice. He drafted in guitarist Kevin Armstrong and drummer Neil Conti, Matthew Seligman on bass, Pedro Ortiz on percussion, Clare Hurst on saxophone, with Tessa Niles and Helena Springs on backing vocals.

As Dolby said, the fact that Bowie was willing to take a chance with a young band with very little rehearsal was a ballsy move on his part. And he rose to the occasion brilliantly, leading the line and catching the mood of that amazing day perfectly.

We arrived at Athens airport and were sitting on the floor leaning against a wall. Lengthy delays for flights out of Greece were par for the course in those days and the airport was packed. Dolby told me he had just produced an album with Joni Mitchell - and would I like to hear it? So I slipped the tape into my Walkman and gave him a tape of mine - Miles's Kind Of Blue and Sketches of Spain

Joni's record was instantly recognisable as Dolby's sound and far removed from her previous albums. The first track Good Friends was straightforward enough, probably designed as a single, with backing vocals from Michael McDonald. It was on the second track, Fiction, where things got real. 

Joni had never shied away from straight talking in her music, especially about relationships, but by this time she had become downright angry at the world. Suddenly she was railing against rampant consumerism - Fiction of the "buy me", "Watch me", "Listen to me". 

There followed some sharp-tongued critiques of neo-liberal idealogues, TV evangelists and the shallowness and dumbing-down of society at large, while children starved to death in parts of Africa. 

As such, lyrically the album remains one of her most compelling, addressing cultural and political topics that are just as resonant today. No better example of this is the track ‘The Three Great Stimulants’. It's another shiny and synth-draped Dolby production, but with a message that’s as up to date as you could get.

No tanks have ever rumbled through these streets
And the drone of planes at night has never frightened me
I keep the hours and the company that I please
And we call for the three great stimulants
Of the exhausted ones
Artifice, brutality and innocence

The track Tax Free is particularly bleak in outlook. An American preacher shouting "There's evil in this land! Cast down these dope fiends and their noisy bands! Damn their souls!"

Dolby told me they had a genuine recording of a fire and brimstone preacher from the southern states, but they couldn’t get his permission to use it on the record. So they hired the actor Rod Steiger to act it out for the album.

In those times when the African famine had inspired Live Aid, it was entirely appropriate that Joni would record a song like Ethiopia, where the repetitive piano motif and the Fairlight sound effects combine to startling effect. That must have been an intense session to be involved in.

Yours truly on a Greek island, 1985
Indeed, that was the feeling Dolby took from the whole experience of producing Joni. He revealed to me that the sessions for Dog Eat Dog were tense and that Joni spent long periods in isolation working on her music - his meticulous working methods at odds with her less structured way of composing. 

It wasn’t that Joni was resisting the new technology. She based Dog Eat Dog’s awful filler track Smokin' (Empty, Try Another) around the sound of the cigarette machine in the parking lot of A&M studios. One reviewer at the time said, "Why would anyone want to listen to a cigarette machine churn away for 15 seconds?”

As she had in the 1970s with her increasingly jazzy records, Joni took a lot of flak for daring to change. The same reviewer concluded that "Dog Eat Dog may not be the biggest bow-wow that Mitchell has taken for a walk in her 14-album discography, but it's certainly in the prize-winning category."

Rolling Stone magazine called it "an unpleasant listen - the music simulates the soullessness of our 'culture in decline' without revealing anything new about it. While Joni’s venom is an encouraging sign, its clumsy expression is unnerving."

Did the technology smother the music? Arguably yes, the rhythms on Dog Eat Dog are programmed and metronomic (surely a waste of Vinnie Colaiuta's talents); there’s no acoustic-ness, very little of Joni's trademark guitar. The uptempo track Fiction, though it's highly listenable, suffers from the stiffness of the rhythm programming and the tendency to saturate the mix with superfluous details, like the roboticised voices of Dolby and Klein. 

Dolby said his guidance was often disregarded and Joni herself is on record as saying the sessions were one long fight to get her way, with not just Dolby but Klein as well. The final insult was that Dolby, hired for his expertise and credited as a co-producer on the original album, was demoted to "sound file assistance" on the version of Dog Eat Dog released as part of 2003's The Complete Geffen Recordings.

That was more than a little ungracious of Joni and tells of perhaps a quite serious falling out. Whatever happened, it was clearly not a great match-up on a personal level, and Dolby made no secret of it when we met. 

More recently, in an interview with the Washington Independent, he said it was still a huge honour to be asked to work with her. "It ended up not being that great an experience. I was probably a bit of a brat at the time and things didn't work out too well. The album was quite electronic and I think that her fans didn't receive it well and they wanted someone to pin the blame on, and that was me. I'm still glad to have done it. To be touched by that much grace and genius was very fortunate." 

For her part, Joni moved on and her next albums were less experimental, with her anger more contained. "I was out of sync with the ’80s," she said. "Thank God! To be in sync with those times, in my opinion, was to be degenerating both morally and artistically. Materialism became a virtue; greed was hip." 

Joni Mitchell - 'Shiny Toys', from Dog Eat Dog (1985)