2023 – The Acoustic Egg Box Top 30 Albums Of The Year

Photo by Mohammad Metri on Unsplash

As fashionably late as always, here’s the world-renowned and long-awaited (who are you kidding mister) The Acoustic Egg Box review for the year of our lord twenty twenty-three.

This has been the most time-consuming and challenging one to compile yet. Not least because the quality of music released has been higher than ever, and reducing the 100 or so albums I’ve listened to was excruciatingly tough. Every year I try and kid myself that I put this together for “fun”, but as is always the case once I start, compiling my favourite 30 becomes an all-encompassing labour of love and every year I vow it’ll be the last time I do it. I’m pretty sure it won’t be though – especially as 2024 will mark the 10th anniversary of my endeavours.

I’ve tried to keep the 20 mini album reviews below as concise as possible this year (tried), and you’ll see that I’ve included more links to tracks and videos. The reason being that, as a (very) amateur critic, the most important part of this blog is the music and the views I have about it are, by their very nature, subjective and therefore largely irrelevant. You’ll have your own opinions about whether I’m right or wrong of course, but at the very least I hope my ramblings will encourage you to dip in and discover something new – after all, many of these brilliant and creative singers, songwriters, and performers aren’t the multi-millionaires you probably think they are. They depend on and (in my experience at least) genuinely appreciate your support either via physical purchases of their music and gig tickets or just by posting some well-meaning words and encouragement on social media. Go on, do it, you’ll be surprised at the reactions – just try not to irritate Mariah Carey fans. (if you know, you know!)

Bloody hell I don’t half bang on…

So, before I get on to the essential review malarkey below, here’s some info. As you wade through the page you’ll notice some highlighted and underlined text. Clicking on it will take you to pages or links with additional titbits about the subject in question (including previous reviews/ blog posts etc), or it’ll take you to videos/ live recordings/ interviews and other relevant stuff. Of course, if you can’t be arsed to read everything (or indeed, anything) on here, there’s a Spotify playlist available for your delectation right at the very bottom of the page.

One final thing. I’m always happy to receive any feedback or comments, good or bad, about my blog posts, however, if you do decide to contact me PLEASE try and keep it polite. Remember, I do this for the love of it and would appreciate not being piled on by knobheads or trolls!

If you’ve got this far, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy the music that follows.

2023 – THE MAIN BITS

GIG OF THE YEAR: Bruce Springsteen – Hyde Park, London

BOOK OF THE YEAR: 1: Eddie Piller – Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances – A Life In Mod From The Revival To Acid Jazz (I will add that I read 2 other books in 2023, both also deserving of my “Book Of The Year” title, it was Whatever Happened To The C86 Kids?: An Indie Odyssey by the talented author and lovely man, Nige Tassell, and Jude Rogers – The Sound Of Being Human: How Music Shapes Our Lives. Unfortunately, though, they were both released in 2022 and I’ve got SO many books to get through! Sad face.

MOVIES OF THE YEAR: 1: Oppenheimer  2: Anatomy Of A Fall  3: The Killer

TV SHOWS OF THE YEAR: 1: Happy Valley (Season 3)  2: Blue Lights  3: The Gallows Pole 

HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR: Spending a blinding weekend with the best of people in Glasgow in January to see

LOWLIGHT OF THE YEAR: Bobby Gillespie proving himself to be an utter prick and a bit of a fraud. I can’t be bothered to elaborate, he just is.

TRACK OF THE YEAR: The Beatles – Now And Then

NOTEWORTHY MENTION: In 2023, the wonderful UK soul band, Stone Foundation, celebrated their 25th Anniversary. A pretty special feat at any time, but considering the financial and logistical pressures every recording and touring act has been under over the past few years, this milestone is even more remarkable. Mrs. EggBox and I have now been to watch them more than any other artist, largely down to the fact that every gig they play is so uplifting and full of positive vibes (for us, the Bristol Thekla one in November was as good as we’ve seen them). The relationship they have with their fans (especially the group’s 2 founding Neils – Sheasby and Jones) feels akin to being part of a big family, and we’ve made some good friends through being part of that family. The band have just announced their 2024 tour dates which cover pretty much the whole of the UK, so if you’ve still yet to see them live, get on the case immediately – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR: 

30: DEXYS – The Feminine Divine (100%)
29: GORILLAZ – Cracker Island (Parlophone)
28: PETE MOLINARI – Wondrous Afternoon (Blind Faith)
27: CLEO SOL – Heaven (Forever Living Originals)
26: EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL – Fuse (Buzzin’ Fly/ Virgin)
25: LACK OF AFRO – Square One (Bastion Music Group)
24: MATT DEIGHTON – Today Become Forever (Karousel Buried Treasure)
23: LES IMPRIMES – Reverie (Big Crown)
22: POPINCOURT – We Were Bound To Meet (Milano)
21: DURAND JONES – Wait Til I Get Over (Dead Oceans)

20: BILLY VALENTINE – Billy Valentine And The Universal Truth (Acid Jazz/ Flying Dutchman) 

Billy Valentine is best known as one-half of The Valentine Brothers who in 1982 released the funky, anti-Reagan anthem, “Money’s Too Tight To Mention” (made famous in the U.K. by a ginger Mancunian goblin). Nearly 40 years later, the murder of George Floyd in 2020 prompted Valentine to start working on this new collection of political and socially conscious cover-versions; an album that he described in an interview as “the Great Black American Songbook”. Although most of the album’s 8 songs feature jazz-oriented arrangements, they are still drenched in soul courtesy of the now 73-year-old Valentine’s emotive vocals. Favourite tracks: “The Creator Has A Masterplan” (Pharoah Sanders) (Spotify playlist), “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” (Gil Scott-Heron), and “We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue” (Curtis Mayfield).

19: NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS – Council Skies (Sour Mash)

To be honest, I’m mightily surprised that a Gallagher (either Noel OR Liam), would ever muster up enough quality to have a record featured in an AEB end-of-year Top 30 again. Admittedly, the occasional gem surfaced during the 11 years covering NGHFB’s previous 3 studio albums, but nothing prepared me for the fact that I’d enjoy their 4th quite as much as I have. I’d even go so far as to say that the 10 tracks on offer here are some the best either of the militant siblings have released since Oasis were in their pugnacious 1990s pomp. When Noel puts his mind to it, he’s got an innate ability to rustle up tunes of rare quality, and there are more than a handful of those on “Council Skies”, my personal favorites being the Beatley one: “Open The Door, See What You Find”, the balladic one: “Easy Now” and the beautiful, orchestral one: “Dead To The World”. Nice one our kid.

18: BOBBY HARDEN & THE SOULFUL SAINTS – Bridge Of Love (Dala)

Originally from Ohio, Bobby Harden is one of the lead singers in the illustrious Blues Brothers Band. Not a bad thing to have on your C.V. considering other members include Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper. On this, his third album (and the first featuring The Soulful Saints), Harden showcases his fine voice across 10 original tracks, all of them of the highest order. Whether you’re in the mood for a little loving, fancy a bit of a boogie, or just want to hear some great soul music, there’s something for you on “Bridge Of Love”. Favourite tracks: the breezy feel-good vibe of “Feels So Good” (Spotify playlist); the beautiful ballad, Bridge Of Love”, or The Temptations channelling gem, One Tribe”.

17: BLACK PUMAS – Chronicles Of A Diamond (ATO)

Texas duo Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada, aka Black Pumas, have followed up their eponymous 2019 debut (AEB No.26) whilst still operating in “soul-revivalist” mode, however, “Chronicles Of A Diamond”, with its subtle, experimental overtones, has given them a welcome shift into “soul-revivalists plus” territory. Traditionalists need not fear though as Burton’s voice has lost none of the rich soulfulness fans of their debut fell in love with. This can be heard in full effect on “More Than A Love Song” (Spotify playlist) and the jazzy swing of “Mrs. Postman”. However, it’s on the extraordinary, psychedelia-tinted electronica of “Hello” and album-closing blues-rocker, “Rock And Roll” where the boundaries have been gently pushed. It’ll be very interesting to see which direction this talented pair take next.

16: THE LILAC TIME – Dance Till All The Stars Come Down (Poetica)  

Whodathought that Duran Duran founding member Stephen Duffy (via several diverse iterations: Tin Tin/ Dr Calculus/ The Devils, to name but a few) would end up making one of his most beautiful albums 45 years into his distinguished, but largely under-the-radar, career. “Dance Till The Stars Come Down” is the 12th album to bear The Lilac Time name, a band now ostensibly a family affair comprising Stephen, his wife Claire, brother Nick, plus pedal steel player Ben Peeler. Listening to this gentle, introspective album, it’s clearer than ever why Duffy chose to name the band, “The Lilac Time” (taken from a line in Nick Drake’s classic, “River Man”) as the spirit of that tormented genius infuses each of the 9 songs with a timeless, ethereal quality. Favorite tracks: “So Far Away No.2” (Spotify playlist), “On The Last Day Of The Last Days Of Summer”, “The Long Way” and “Your Vermillion Cliffs”.

15: GRIAN CHATTEN – Chaos For The Fly (Partisan Records)

Not just content with being the lead singer of Dublin’s lauded, chart-topping, post-punk quartet, Fontaines D.C. (AEB No.24 2019), 29-year-old Grian Chatten’s solo debut, “Chaos For The Fly”, has cemented his position as one of the most gifted songwriters of his generation. If you think I’m joking when I tell you this husky baritone-voiced lad could be Ireland’s answer to the late, great Lee Hazlewood then think again, as the brilliant, surreal “love” song, “Bob’s Casino” (feat. his fiancee Georgie Jessen) could quite easily be a lost Lee & Nancy classic. (And if you have any idea what the hell is going on in the bonkers video, please let me know!). Other favourite tracks on the album are: “Last Time Every Time Forever” (Spotify playlist) and “Fairlies”. P.S., Fontaines D.C. fans need not worry that the band have split either, as by all accounts there’s a new album currently in the offing.

14: THE CLIENTELE – I Am Not There Anymore (Merge) 

I think The Clientele are brilliant. I also think they are one of the most underappreciated and badly neglected British bands of the past 25 years. So much so that since they formed in 1991, and despite the positive critical acclaim that’s regularly been heaped on them, their 8th album, “I Am Not There Anymore” is their first (albeit just 1 week at no.37) to ever grace the UK charts. I made their last record, “Music For The Age Of Miracles”, my 2017 AEB Album Of The Year, and also wrote a full review of it that you can read here. For the uninitiated, that review will give you a far greater insight into the band’s music than I have time to express here. However, if Belle & Sebastian, Broadcast, The Blue Nile, Tindersticks, High Llamas, Nick Drake, The Autumn, French Horns, string sections, lysergic lyricism, lutes, lyres, dulcimers, dreams, and metaphors intrigue you, The Clientele are undoubtedly worthy of your investigation. So, Egg Box, stop rambling on and tell us what “I Am Not There Anymore” is like will you! Well, leading man, Alasdair MacLean was quoted as saying that the main difference between this and their other records was their purchase of a computer, and this double album’s loops, beats, and electronic flourishes certainly attest to that. It still very much sounds like the Clientele but it’s got a more angular feel; challenging even. That’s not to say it’s a less cohesive or accessible collection, it just requires a little more work from the listener before it makes itself at home – and let’s be honest, some of the greatest albums ever made are far from “immediate”. Favourite tracks: “Fables Of The Silverlink” (Spotify playlist), “Blue Over Blue”, “Lady Grey”, and “Dying In May”.

13: ST. PAUL & THE BROKEN BONES – Angels In Science Fiction (ATO)

After the eclectic oddness of their 2022 album, “The Alien Coast”, Alabama 8-piece, St.Paul & The Broken Bones have returned to their more sensitive roots on “Angels In Science Fiction”. In frontman Paul Janeway, the band can boast one of the most charismatic, but unlikely looking, soul singers around. Unlikely, that is, until he opens his mouth and the most wonderful noise pours forth. Part Reverend Al, part Otis, Janeway, backed by musicians at the top of their collective games, mesmerises the listener throughout the album’s 12 tracks with both his controlled power and impressive vocal range. Whilst every song is worthy of your attention, check out “City Federal Building” (Spotify playlist), “Sea Star” and the stunning love letter to his baby daughter, “Marigold”.

12: OMD – Bauhaus Staircase (White Noise/ 100%)

43 years and 14 albums into their career, OMD (or Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark as we old people still like to call them…) have made, arguably, one of their best-ever records – it’s certainly (reaching no.2 in the U.K.) their highest-ever charting one. I’m a sucker for vintage synths, drum machines, and pretty melodies that incongruously underpin foreboding songs about bad robots, science fiction, and nuclear annihilation –  and I’m happy to report that “Bauhaus Staircase” delivers all my requirements in spades. Of course, what with me being the only “New Romantic Mod In The Village”, I have a weakness for all this synth-poppy, frilly-shirted, and eyeliner sort of thing, and as an unexpected bonus, I think I’ve fallen in love with the AI video star of the album’s finest track, the exquisite, “Veruschka”. Other highlights include “Look At You Now” (Spotify playlist) and “Anthropocene”.

11: IRAINA MANCINI – Undo The Blue (Needle Mythology)

Although I first became aware of the beautiful Iraina Mancini back in 2022 after hearing her debut album’s dreamy title track on BBC6Music, it wasn’t until writer, broadcaster and all-round-music-fanatic good guy, Pete Paphides, signed her to his Needle Mythology label that the more discerning amongst you caught up. “Undo The Blue” (the album not the single), is a whole lot of pop fun, and Iraina wears her 60s and 70s influences, literally, on her very chic sleeves – check out the spy-thriller-spoof video for “Cannonball” and you’ll see what I mean. Maybe if Nancy Sinatra, France Gall, and Deee-Lite had collaborated and made a record, it might sound something like “Undo The Blue”. Other favourite tracks: “Deep End” (Spotify playlist) “Sugar High” (Saint Etienne Remix). Groovy baby!

10: EDDIE CHACON – Sundown (Stones Throw)

You all remember pop/soul duo Charles & Eddie who had a squillion-selling worldwide smash with their 1992 single, “Would I Lie To You?” – well Chacon is THAT Eddie, and “Sundown” is his second superb solo album, continuing a quite remarkable renaissance that began with “Pleasure, Joy & Happiness” back in 2020. Jamie Atkins album review in Record Collector sums the album up perfectly when he writes: “Sundown takes the slinky, lo-fi wooziness of “Pleasure, Joy And Happiness” and uses it as a blueprint to expand upon. Where there were brittle drum machines, there’s now shuffling percussion and inventive drumming. Layers of synths have been joined by live flute, saxophone and trombone”. Favourite tracks: “Sundown” (Spotify playlist) “Comes And Goes”, “Step By Step” and “Holy Hell”. 

9: THE LEMON TWIGS – Everything Harmony (Captured Tracks)

“Everything Now” is The Lemon Twigs’ 4th studio album. However, I completely ignored their first 3 after hearing just 1 track from their debut that I thought was a bit annoying and trying way too hard to be clever. That’s it, that’s my reason for completely ignoring them. We’ve all done it. Haven’t we? And although those first 3 records may well STILL be annoying, this one is far from it. The band (who are fundamentally just New York-based brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario) have turned out a glorious album, the title of which pretty much tells you all you need to know about it. This time out, they aren’t trying too hard to be clever, they’ve nailed 13 tracks full of irresistible 60s and 70s-style melodies. If you love the sounds of The Beach Boys, The Carpenters, The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, Big Star, Bread, The Bee Gees et al, you’ll probably love this album too.  Check out “Corner Of My Eye” (Spotify playlist), “Any Time Of Day”, or “Ghost Run Free” for an idea of what to expect.

8: THE IRONSIDES – Changing Light (Colemine)

The Ironsides’ debut long player, “Changing Light“, is the first entirely instrumental album to ever grace the AEB Top 30 album chart. Hailing from California (and also containing members of AEB favorites, Monophonics), the band has created 8 soulful, cinematic masterpieces that conjure up images of a drive around the Italian Riviera in an open-topped Alfa Romeo Spider with the wind in your hair and the sun on your face. If you can imagine an amalgamation of the great Italian film composer Piero Umiliani’s lush orchestration, David Axelrod’s smooth psychedelic experimentation and Quincy Jones’ velvety arrangement of Matt Monro’s “On Days Like These”, you’ll get an idea of where “Changing Light” is at. Favourite tracks: “Changing Light” (Spotify playlist),  “Ligurian Dream” and “The Web”.

7: SAM BURTON – Dear Departed (Partisan Records) 

It seems that every year, an artist who I didn’t even know existed, brings out an album that blows me away. In 2023, that artist was L.A. native, Sam Burton, who I’ve since found out has also released 3 other studio albums since 2016. Who knew! Not me, obviously (sorry Sam). Anyway, I do know of the great Jonathan Wilson, another L.A. resident and purveyor of stirring, folky, psychedelia, and it’s his deft production that provides the sonic palette for Burton to paint “Dear Departed’s” 10 lush, shimmering tracks on to. I’ve seen other reviews comparing Burton’s unmistakably Laurel Canyon influence to Glen Campbell and Harry Nilsson; I’d also add Fred Neil, and even (vocally at least) Bobby Goldsboro to that distinguished list. Intrigued? Give these beauties a listen and make up your own minds: “I Don’t Blame You” , “Maria” , and “Coming Down On Me”.

6: GABRIELS – Angels & Queens (Atlas/ Parlophone)

In last year’s AEB Top 30, Angels & Queens Part 1 release charted at no.13 and I wrote the review (below) for it. Since then, they’ve released this version, their “full” debut, which consists of Part 1’s 7 tracks plus 6 fantastic new ones. And, on the back of an outstanding Glastonbury set (here’s their superb performance of “Glory” from the Holt Stage), I reckon they’ve gained many more fans. For latecomers who still haven’t heard them, the Spotify playlist contains the album’s title track and on top of that, here also is the video for another of my favourite songs from the album, “Great Wind”.

“Anglo-American 3 piece, Gabriels, received an “Eggbox” in 2022 as their brilliant single, Love & Hate In A Different Timewas my track of the year. That song isn’t included on Angels & Queens Part 1, but the 7 that are (part 2 is being released in 2023) showcase the work of a band who are going to be big news in the next 12 months. In L.A. raised lead singer Jacob Lusk, Gabriels have a frontman in possession of an incredible voice. Pitched somewhere between Anhoni & The Johnsons, Nina Simone and Prince, once you’ve heard the man who finished 5th in American Idol back in 2011 singing, I guarantee you ain’t going to forget him. This is a modern soul record which also encompasses elements of gospel, funk, and jazz, but unlike so many of their contemporaries, it’s the quality of the songwriting which gives it a distinctive edge.”

5: ACANTHA LANG – Beautiful Dreams (Magnolia Blue)

Like Jalen Ngonda, one of the other great soul vocalists in this year’s top 5, Acantha Lang, was born in the U.S. (New Orleans) but has since relocated to the U.K. (London) via musically formative years in New York. “Beautiful Dreams” is Lang’s incredible debut album, an album brimming with some of the best Southern Soul you’ll hear this side of Muscle Shoals. Of course, when a beautiful soul singer breaks through, especially when they have a voice as good as this young lady has, the inevitable comparisons will always be made. Most of the time, those comparisons are just lazy, hyperbolic guff put out by marketing departments to earn a few extra £££s, but I’m not a marketing department and stand by the words I wrote on Twitter back in July: “I’m telling you now that there won’t be a better female soul LP released this year than “Beautiful Dreams” by the amazing Acantha Lang. As effortless as Gladys but as powerful as Aretha, this lady’s voice will melt your heart. It’s already a real contender for my album of 2023″.  Favourite tracks: “It’s Gonna Be Alright” (Spotify playlist), “Carry The Weight”, “Whatever Happened To Our Love” and “Ride This Train”.

4: BLUR – The Ballad Of Darren (Parlophone)

After 2 triumphant and emotional sell-out Wembley shows during the summer, Blur’s stock is probably as high as it’s ever been. I think for most fans, those shows would’ve been more than enough to scratch a Blur-shaped itch, but the fact that they’ve also recorded their best album, 32 years and 8 albums after their debut, “Leisure” was released, is an enormous bonus. The band’s previous effort, “Magic Whip” from 2015 (described by me at the time as “Blur’s most Blur-like album ever”), placed at a creditable no.13 in that year’s AEB chart. However, as decent as “Magic Whip” was, the melancholic majesty of “The Ballad Of Darren” which boasts tracks as accomplished, heartfelt, and heartbreaking as “The Ballad”, “The Narcissist”, “Russian Strings” and “Barbaric” (Spotify playlist) makes it sound positively ordinary. It’s not all plaintive sailing though as, on the Bowie-esque “St. Charles Square”, Damon Albarn’s mercurial foil, Graham Coxon, cuts loose and lets us hear why he’s such an outstanding guitarist.

3: THE CORAL – Sea Of Mirrors/ Holy Joe’s Coral Island Medicine Show (Run On Records)

With the inclusion of 2 Coral albums in the no.4 slot, you could make a good argument that this is, in fact, The Acoustic Egg Box Top 31 Albums Of 2023. However, as both of these outstanding records (their 11th and 12th respectively) were released on 8th September and they are, to a large degree, companion pieces, I’m going to allow them both in. In 2021, the band were presented with The AEB Album Of The Year for their extraordinary (concept?) masterpiece “Coral Island” which told colourful tales about the titular, imaginary seaside resort and its inhabitants. Anyway, about the new albums… Firstly, “Holy Joe’s…” (as with Coral Island, it’s narrated by The Great Muriarty (Granddad Skelly)) feels like the link between “Coral Island” and “Sea Of Mirrors”. Its 17 tracks (but just 30 minutes) of “murder ballads and death ditties” tell stories about “drifters, grifters, hobos, and killers”. This was only available as a limited physical release and doesn’t appear on any streaming platforms. So, here are 2 tracks from YouTube that (unless you own it of course), you may not hear anywhere else: “The Sinner” and “The Drifter” (narrated by actor and Coral superfan, John Simm). To fully explain the concept of “Sea Of Mirrors” I would need to type out, word for word, the story written on the album’s inner sleeve – only then would it all make complete sense. But as I don’t have enough space, let’s just say that these 13 gorgeous songs form the soundtrack to an imaginary Spaghetti Western that itself is tangled up in the dreams of its narrator. If that doesn’t clear it all up, don’t worry as every track is a standalone gem. If you want twangy guitars, gentle psychedelia, ethereal harmonies, and lyrical trips open to interpretations as fanciful as you want to make them, then you definitely need this album in your life. Favourite tracks: “Wild Bird”, “That’s Where She Belongs” and “Dream River”.

2: EDGAR JONES – Reflections Of A Soul Dimension (Steropar)

Edgar Jones is, amongst many other things: a solo artist with many aliases; the frontman of legendary Liverpool rock psychonauts, The Stairs; a “Scouse cult hero” (as Paul Mullen has deservedly christened him in his excellent review of “Reflections…” in the Broken Spine online magazine) and the man responsible for one of the year’s finest albums. In his inimitable, idiosyncratic vocal style, the country’s greatest living Jones has embraced the soulful side of the 60s across 12 original tracks that whizz by in a captivating but far too brief 36 minutes. There’s a chunk of Northern (“What’s The Matter Baby”) (Spotify playlist); a smattering of Motown (“I Still Believe In You”); some Bacharach & David style balladry (“Coming Back To Me”) and, in “Nothing Can Change”, he’s recorded a track that would now be hailed as a classic if The Walker Brothers had released it. This truly is a wonderful album by one of our most original and talented songwriters that in many other years would’ve been a deserved shoo-in for the No.1 spot.

1: JALEN NGONDA – Come Around And Love Me (Daptone)

Wait for it, wait for it! I can now announce that The 2023 Acoustic Egg Box Album Of The Year deservedly goes to (cue trumpets, fireworks, and a scantily clad dance troupe)…  Jalen Ngonda with his magnificent modern soul classic, “Come Around And Love Me”. Although the 28-year-old is originally from Maryland, USA he’s called the UK “home” for the past 10 years. I first became aware of his talent when I heard Craig Charles play a couple of tracks on his BBC 6 Music Funk & Soul show. It’s not very often a record makes me stop what I’m doing and turn the radio up ( the last time that happened, Gilles Peterson introduced me to another AEB No.1, SAULT!) but when “If You Want Don’t Want My Love” cascaded from the speakers, I knew immediately that the owner of this extraordinary falsetto was very gifted indeed. Listening to him now, it makes sense that some of Ngonda’s heroes and inspirations are Motown legends; Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson’s vocal and stylistic influences inhabit much of the album’s 11 tracks, but even though these influences are strong, things never stray into pastiche territory (as “That’s All I Wanted From You” proves). Hell, the boy even gives us the best Curtis & The Impressions harmony track they never recorded with “What A Difference She Made” . Of course, it’s all very well making an amazing record in the studio, but how will it fare when its creator takes it “out into the wild”? That’s a question I asked myself until I had the pleasure of seeing Mr Ngonda perform the entire album at the little Exchange venue in Bristol in November. It was flawless, and I have no doubt that his incredible, soaring voice gave more than just me goosebumps. When Daptone Records lost the irreplaceable soul icons, Sharon Jones, in 2016 and then Charles Bradley the following year, both to cancer, it was a massive blow to one of the greatest independent labels around. But now, in Jalen Ngonda, they have in their midst a young star who has the potential to become every bit as great as those 2 much-missed legends.

Thank you for the music Jalen (see you again in Bristol in April), and once again, congratulations on your No.1 Acoustic Egg Box Album!

If you click on the following link, it will give you a list of his 2024 TOUR DATES

SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

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10 thoughts on “2023 – The Acoustic Egg Box Top 30 Albums Of The Year”

  1. Love this Ian, always a great list and some real gems in there. Always find something I haven’t heard before, Acantha Lang a great find, thank you !

    1. Hey Dave! You’re more than welcome sir! When I know people discover new music because of my efforts it makes it all worth while.

      1. Seriously mate, well done. This was obviously very time consuming and undoubtedly a Labour of love. For these reasons alone and because I love ya and your musical recommendations, I’m gonna take a long listen.
        Much love
        Nige 😘

        1. Bless ya heart Nige! Time consuming doesn’t even start to cover it. Apart from the writing and formatting, there’s the listening, the research, the links, the pictures and the playlist to sort out. But I genuinely love doing it, especially as I know some of the artists are getting heard by the blog readers for the first time. And that alone makes it all worth while

  2. Loved it, my friend.
    A cherished tradition, with the remarkable advantage of helping me discovering music that had passed me by. That means I’ll be all over the Spotify playlist in no time, as an appetizer for a proper research of what takes my fancy.
    Of course, I’m familiar with a handful of the performers who grace your list, and agree on their merits (Edgar Jones and Jalen Ngonda obvious cases in point), but it’s the stuff I’m not familiar with what makes your list really worthwhile, as I have to say I’ve made some remarkable discoveries these last years courtesy of the ‘Acoustic Egg Box Top 30’. So kudos for the obvious effort, Ian, you’re making a lot of (well, would you believe “a handful”?) people happy.

    1. Rafa, thank you for this lovely message. It sums up perfectly why I do it. I’m no writer that’s for sure, but I do have a passion for music and if people get to hear new artists by reading my posts then it’s all worthwhile. Hopefully see you again soon my friend

      1. This is really interesting Ian. There’s a deal of hard graft from you here. A monumental effort.
        I’ll listen to all of it in the next wee while. Your no.1 already sounds terrific and I’ll make a point of listening to that one first.
        Always good to see a picture of Gourock open air pool on an album cover too, (Blur) a place I know well.
        Last two thoughts, I hope they intend to bring ‘The Gallows Pole’ back for another series or two and lastly, we’ll have to disagree about The Beatles. They were the reason I’m into music at all and I don’t think ‘ Now and Then’ would have got to the starting gate, i.e. past the band’s own quality control, back in their day.

        1. Bert, you’re a gentleman. Thank you for your kind words, it means the world to me. Every year I say to myself “never again”, but every year I just can’t resist putting another review together despite the pressure I put myself under. I absolutely hear what you say about “Now & Then” and, at the very least, it has definitely been up for debate. Personally, I love the track, and hope that it means another generation may have their interest piqued enough to keep their legacy alive. Best wishes as always, Ian

  3. Great to read. Some well-known albums, some unknown discs… Just as it should be… I love lists like this… Mine is online too, by the way… Greetings from my German colleague! 😉✌️

    Michael
    33rpmPVC.de

    1. Hi Michael, thank you so much for taking the time to write, it genuinely means a lot that people get something out of my ramblings! I’ll be sure to check your own list out asap. Best wishes, Ian

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