The Charlatans – Tellin’ Stories (1997)
This was an album, at the time, that I was really looking forward to. I loved their previous self-titled album and also the two singles which had been released before the album, “One To Another” and “North Country Boy” and, although money was very tight at the time, meaning that it had to be a very special album to warrant spending any cash on it, I decided that this was one of those occasions. Despite the tragedy of losing keyboard player Rob Collins in a car accident halfway through the recording of the album and the band going on record to say that the release sounded ‘unfinished’ as a result, this was a piece of work that lived up to expectations. Having said that, when I first played the album and I heard “With No Shoes”, I wasn’t immediately won over and I still think it’s a curious song to start with, as, although it is a very good song which has grown on me over the years, it is one of the lesser efforts on offer here. The Charlatans then repeat the same formula as on their previous release by loading the album with all of the hits right at the front. “North Country Boy” is an excellent track, extremely catchy, with some great organ licks and fine lyrics, even referencing Itchy & Scratchy from The Simpsons. The understated title track, “Tellin’ Stories” continues the top quality songwriting and then the magnificent, crashing, tumbling “One To Another”, one of The Charlatans’ finest moments, upstages everything else and provides a high point on “Tellin’ Stories” that is difficult to equal.
Other picks from this album include “How Can You Leave Us”, a classic Charlatans track which could have easily slotted into their eponymous album from 1995, the storming instrumental “Area 51” which highlights the sadly missed Rob Collins’ sublime organ work and the superb third single from the album, “How High”, a high-energy, powerful rock track which features a brilliant Burgess vocal and some truly excellent bass-work from Martin Blunt. “Get On It”, although starting out like a superior Rolling Stones song, provides a late highlight, breaking down into an absolutely fantastic instrumental end which is pure Charlatans. It’s difficult to say which is my favourite album of theirs, this one or their self-titled release from 1995, as they’re both of similar excellent quality and the band are on top form on both. On reflection, this album seems to be of more consistent quality all of the way through, even though the majority of the “big songs” are weighted towards the front, so perhaps “Tellin’ Stories” has the edge… just. I was lucky enough to see The Charlatans perform this album from start to finish at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2012 and, even though I had enjoyed quite a substantial amount of rum and coke (the drink, not the illegal substance!), it provided a vivid and welcome reminder of just how great this album is and the band are. It’s an absolute indie-rock classic.