Buried Treasure: X marks the spot
In a world with millions of tracks and albums available on streaming services, you need reliable guides like Buried Treasure
Who’d have thought that music journalists – music journalists! – would turn out to be the secret weapons in the music streaming wars? This week’s news that Apple/Beats are hiring music hacks – and paying them “handsomely” – to provide copy about playlists and stuff is an interesting development. Not because hacks are getting paid, but rather because Apple/Beats have decided that those who will be using their service actually need some sort of trusty guide to help them through the maze of tracks and albums and playlists which will be available when they press the big red button to kick things off in a few months. It’s also the reason why they’ve hired Zane Lowe from BBC Radio One (reportedly, some of his team have also hit the road to Apple HQ as part of the poaching).
Unless you’re that one per cent of music obsessives who can go it alone, you need a sherpa to help you through the thicket of tracks. But even the one per cent can lean on guides. I’ve been relistening to The Redneck Manifesto’s “I Am Brazil” today thanks to mountain biker Niall Davis. He wrote about the album in Buried Treasure, the new book from Dan Hegarty about lost albums, overlooked records and forgotten gems. The piece nudged me about the album and it was good to be reminded of what a strong, distinctive sound they had. Meanwhile, Richie Egan’s note on the album alongside Davis’ piece also solved a mystery as to the album title – band member Niall Byrne’s son Matthew would always say “I am Brazil” when he played football.
There are many more rediscoveries to be made in the book. Aside from rewinding around 50 albums himself, from Onra’s “Chinoseries” and Aslan’s “Feel No Shame” to Rae & Christian’s “Sleepwalking” and Iarla Ó Lionáird’s “The Seven Steps To Mercy”, Hegarty has tapped a wide range of musicians, music fans and assorted other headbangers (that would be me) to talk about some record which they believe should wear the classic album crown. You get Cillian Murphy talking about how Van Morrison’s “Beautiful Vision” sends him back to childhood spins with his family, you get Aidan Gillen on how Sun Kil Moon’s “April” takes him back to Baltimore, you get Chuck D laying down the law about Stetasonic’s “Blood Sweat & No Tears” and you’ve Easkey Britton waxing lyrical about Johnny Gallagher & Friends’ “Live & Uplugged”.
It’s all adds up to a fine collection of pointers and guides (all meticulously detailed, chronicled and credited) to hold in your paw the next time you go to your favourite streaming service and are looking for something different to play rather than your usual range of playlists and favourites. We all need a steer from time to time to take us off the beaten track and out of our musical comfort zones. When it comes to getting this sort of push, it’s often the more eclectic and out-there steers which really pay off. Hence, Buried Treasure.
The album I chose for the book was Sweetback’s self-titled album from 1996, a record which never fails to hit the spot. It’s an album which was ahead of the curve when it came to that whole new-school r’n'b buzz. You listen to the record now and you can hear the shape of so many records to come. Dive in and dig it