Tim Rose: My Top Tens & Downloads   Photo: Tim and me

OK, so this is where I start getting really opinionated. There never has been a Tim Rose compilation album released but, then, do real fans actually agree with much of what is on compilation albums? Here's one that doesn't, so with that in mind, I've compiled my favourite ten tracks. Only, I've cheated and listed two Top Tens.

The first is from those four early albums that most folk are aware of, along with The Musician and the "missing" album, Unfinished Song. The second one looks at the work he did in the later years, from 1978 onwards. It also means that I can cheat and pick a different version of a song from a later album. Both Top Tens are listed below. As a bonus, I've included audio clips of each track. Click on the symbol to hear them. Some of these tracks are unavailable on CD, so I've put them up on this site for fans to download, with a small donation made to charity.

What I now want is for other fans to e-mail me their ten favourites. I'll try to put them on this site and compile a complete list of the tracks people most like. Alternatively, you can put your thoughts on the Blog Page. Perhaps a record company will actually take notice someday. Please note that the list is not in order of preference, but simply chronological order.

First Top Ten: The Early Albums

1. Morning Dew Co-written with Bonnie Dobson, or, at least, adapted from her original, this is the song that stays in many people's minds as being Tim's one big hit, probably because of the A.O.R. airplay it still gets. Surprisingly, it wasn't a hit - he never managed to chart in the UK with any of his singles. The driving guitar and barked-out vocals make this an essential in any Tim Rose collection and it's become a staple on "gold" radio stations. Vocally, Tim's version on The Musician has more of that rasping disparaging voice, spoilt by a production that has no sense of direction, so I'll happily stick to the one on the first album as the definitive version. There, you can hear a superb build-up, as guitar and piano blend beautifully and the drum fills take the lead towards the end.

2. Hey Joe Who needs the Hendrix version when Timmy does this so well? OK, so what's missing is the soaring guitar, but instead, there's Bernard Purdie's machine gun-paced drumming and the vocals are just outstanding. Indeed, the song becomes something akin to a duet between Tim and the drums as it builds to its crescendo. Tim recorded several versions of this song, and while none matches the original, the stripped-down version on Haunted is impressive despite some dodgy guitar.

3. Long Haired Boy Never appeared on an album and had a rather unsettling melody that guaranteed it wouldn't get much airplay as a single, but it had a sound that was well in advance of much of the stuff coming out in 1968. Produced, unlike any of the rest of Tim's work, by Al Kooper and it did get Tim an appearance on Top of the Pops. The production is rather tasty, with a nice build to the middle section, which is dream-like. Thereafter, the song takes flight before drifting into a slow coda. Perhaps not the best choice for a hit record, but a classic Tim Rose song. If you would like a full MP3 version of this song in exchange for a charity donation, go to the Downloads page.

4. When I Was a Young man Cod autobiography to suit the character that Tim created around himself. The idea is of the mythical lothario that can be tamed by the love of a good woman. The version on the album is great, but the one I that was recorded for a Radio 1 Top Gear session in 1969 is even better, backed by Retaliation, with Ainsley Dunbar on drums. That has a less stilted feel to it, without the over-precision of the studio recording. Remarkable short at just over two minutes.

5. Apple Truck Swamper Weird, with a swirling, syncopated rhythm in waltz-time and a strange lyric about characters from another world. That's why it's so good that I have to pick it over Hello Sunshine, a happy song that should have been a hit single and Roanoke, a solid country song with a heavy rock beat that the Byrds and others would have died for.

6. Georgia By Morning I know I've omitted tracks like Sympathy and If I Were a Carpenter from the third album, but I did restrict this list to ten songs. The theme of a murder is common in Tim's work, and here we reach the hanging stage. The song is comparable to Green Green Grass of Home in its theme, but with much more of an edge, both in its lyrics and the way it is performed. The song brings to mind the wonderful Oscar-winning short La rivière du hibou (also known as An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge).

7. (You've Got to) Hide Your Love Away The fourth album isn't one that appeals to me as much as Tim's other early work and while Goin' Down in Hollywood and I've Got to Get a Message to You are not bad, the album as a whole really lacks something that the others had. This track, however, proves that while he can rock with the best of them, his voice can sound fragile and caring, with a full range of emotions. Great powerful organ, and a good combination of guitar and drums, but the overall quality comes from Tim's vocals.

8. The Musician This track needs to be picked up by a boy-band or a singer in one of those dreadful talent competitions. It has that kind of feel. That said, there's some lovely folk guitar in this strong production and musically, it's got a memorable theme, while pushing the lovelorn story that haunts much of Tim's better work.

9. The Day I Spent With You  This one shows that Tim's ability to hold a rock lyric and its rhythms together in perfect phrasing is of the highest standards. OK, so the content is a bit odd - talking about a one-day stand, an encounter that ends with the woman returning to her husband after a fling with the singer - but it's got a nice light touch, a funky beat and a memorable hook. If you would like a full MP3 version of this song in exchange for a charity donation, go to the Downloads page.

10. Empty People The Unfinished Song album is short and generally rock-oriented, with solid guitar playing by Andy Summers. However, the standout track has to be this gentle ballad, with an uneasy sound, using heavy echo on Tim's voice. There's a mocking feel to the fade that emphasises Tim's thoughts on many of the people that have surrounded him in the record business, and in life, throughout the years. Haunting. If you would like a full MP3 version of this song in exchange for a charity donation, go to the Downloads page.

Second Top Ten: The Later (Post 1978) Albums

1. The Gambler (a.k.a. Four Dancin' Queens) What a lovely introduction, mixing piano, guitar and slide guitar, then Tim comes in with his hard-edged vocals. There are marvellous contrasts to Tim's voice on his many albums but this track emphasises the "hard man" character that also inhabits Hey Joe, Long Time Man and When I Was a Young Man. I still consider the original version on The Gambler better than the live one on Haunted, though others may prefer the stripped down, rawer one.

2. So Much to Lose So, where are you going to find a flute solo in a Tim Rose song? Why, in this tender ballad that uses the soft side to Tim's voice to express a discovered first true love. There are alternative versions on Snowed In and the London Sessions albums, but the best one is the fully-produced effort on The Gambler. The other two also have a slightly sour last note which spoils their otherwise fine accompaniment. By the way, that flute solo is by Raphael Ravenscroft, the saxophone player on Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street.

3. Dance On Ma Belle I get the feeling that Tim was being re-marketed as a country musician for The Gambler album and I just don't like country music. However, prejudice aside, this is a lovely piece of music in waltz-time, which is a rare commodity in pop music. Nicely sung and not over-produced as some of the other tracks are on the album. The song sounds as if it could have come down a few semitones to take a little less strain from Tim's vocals, but by having at this pitch, it brings a different dimension to the way he sings. This song, although not on Haunted, formed part of his live set before his death.

4. Because You're Rich The Haunted version has a wonderful, snarled vocal and a lovely contrasting female backing vocal. Although not live, there's what sounds like an audience handclap through the opening verse. If you find the "financial news" voiceovers at a couple of points annoying, the alternative version on American Son has a softer and more ironic vocal. The topic of the song may have been a little bit of wishful thinking, because around this time, Tim was pretty well broke.

5. Come Away, Melinda The song that drew many people to Tim Rose after they heard it on the CBS Rock Machine sampler. This song used all the power and tenderness that exemplify Tim's voice to send an anti-nuclear message to a generation. I wonder if Tim was influenced by French composers and artistes such as Jacques Brel when interpreting songs like this and Maman? Despite loving the orchestrated version on his first album, I now reckon the best recording is the live one on the Haunted album - sparse and beautifully sung. On the other hand, the Haunted version doesn't have that wonderful cello running through it. A difficult choice. Of course, there's also a further version he performed as a member of The Big Three.

6. American Son The title track of the last CD to be issued before his death grabs you immediately as a stand-out track on a great album. The Norwegian musicians have pulled out the stops to create a beautiful sound to match the superbly crafted lyrics. Especially noteworthy is the keyboard playing of producer, Kato Aadland, while the lyric does suggest that we need to listen to others rather than live with our own dogma. Considering that this was recorded shortly after 9/11, but with the perspective of an American ex-pat, the lyrics hold a significant relevance.

7. Tiger in Cages Tim's performance in this song can only be described as "angry", something we saw in aspects of his live performances. There's a wonderful clarity about the recording, with some lovely keyboard work.  The theme is one of disillusionment at the failures of those generations that showed so much hope, but wasted it all in a decadent lifestyle

8. Long Time Man Again there's the original version on that first LP and the later one, renamed I Ain't Had no Lovin' and performed live at the Royal Albert Hall for the Haunted CD, but this is the one that grabbed my attention. It was recorded for Snowed In and is a greatly slowed-down attempt, with a rich vocal and a haunting wistfulness.

9. I Need Saving There are suggestions that the sessions spent recording the Snowed In CD were somewhat unhappy and ill-tempered. Despite this, there are a few decent tracks, including a couple of real stand-outs. This one starts out as a traditional-style blues number, with guitar and harmonica and a countrified vocal. It builds, with Tim's aggressive vocal into something of a spiritual before quieting down again for a final verse.

10. I Started a Joke Although something of a hodgepodge collection of largely unreleased songs recorded in the last 25 years of his life, there are some interesting things on the London Sessions CD. Borocay (Yo  Tengo Amore Te) is a gentle folksy piece, recorded with Michael Wynne, probably around the time of the Haunted CD, but the Bee Gees song is the more effective. Tim's voice is light, unlike the harsh sound that he often uses, and his rich baritone is used to its full range.


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