It was 1993 and I had just graduated and moved to France, where I started listening to FIP and other French radio stations, introducing me to a whole spectrum of new, unfamiliar sounds. The business of musical categorization seemed far less constrictive here than in the UK. It also coincided with my first encounter with Real World – a French friend played me an album with a striking skull on the front cover by Jam Nation. I had no idea who Jam Nation were, but before long, I was hooked on the version of ‘She Moved Through the Fair’, sung by Caroline Lavelle. After that I would keep a beady eye open for any releases with the telltale, multi-coloured strip on the spine that has become the distinctive trademark of the Real World catalogue. Even today, when I’m rifling through a stranger’s album collection, it’s always a reassuring sign to spot this marking on a CD shelf – a sure indication of a modicum of musical discernment, however naff the rest of their collection might be!
I’ve had so many favourite albums over the years – from the early Afro Celt releases picked up in the WOMAD shop; Passion, played so often it’s become the Songlines’ office soundtrack, and most recently The Gloaming, an album of so many musical textures that I’m sure it will become as durable as Passion has been. Congratulations and here’s looking to the next 25 years!