What’s in the bag? (66)

There was a record fair in Leamington Spa today, which I didn’t know was happening, but having stumbled upon it I had to go in. I bought 10 or 11 albums, the last of which, just before I had to leave was this:

I remember well the first single, ‘Just Like Starting Over’, and thinking it was OK, and then, of course, three weeks after the release of the album, Lennon was shot in New York. I was walking into town from school at lunch time and I met somebody coming the other way who told me Lennon was dead. For some reason, my response was to say, “I’ll light a candle tonight”, which is really not the sort of thing I would normally say or do, but I think I may well have lit one when I got home from school.

Upon it’s release the album really wasn’t well received by the critics, but over the coming months the majority did a U-Turn, which is a crappy move really. The album is a musical dialogue between husband and wife, and it’s pretty good overall. I know that Yoko Ono’s own work is not to everybody’s taste but I’ve always quite liked a lot of it. The truth of it is that I like the three tracks that were taken as singles, ‘Just like starting over, ‘Woman’ and ‘Watching the wheels’, but the album itself is doesn’t really stand up as the grammy award winner it was in 1981, I think a lot of that was down to sentiment more than anything. After a 5 year hiatus from recording it was definitely a really good first step on a return to recording and releasing music, but, perhaps, there was more and better to come.

It’s a Near Mint copy and it cost me £3.00, so I really should be happy, and I am.

6.75/10 (yes, ratings now have decimals!)

What’s in the bag? (50)

I like Nicolas Jaar, and I had never heard of Dave Harrington, though I was reasonably confident he wasn’t the Darts player from New Zealand. So I took a punt on double LP ‘Psychic’ by Darkside. I wasn’t disappointed. Everything I liked by Jaar is in there, and the collaboration with Harrington has produced a fuller sound, that allows it’s influences to show through without allowing them to dominate. The band name itself gives an idea of some of the textures that evolve on this record, and something by ‘Can’ was playing between takes in the studio, my guess is that ‘Tago Mago’ was on at some point. Not that this is an attempt at re-creating things that have gone before, it has a freshness, an inventiveness that invites you in and then messes with your head a bit.

The album was released on October 4, 2013 and recorded over the course of two years between Jaar’s home in New York City, Harrington’s family barn in Upstate New York and somewhere in Paris. As far as I know there will be no follow up as the collaboration was never intended to be a long running project, and, to be frank, they have a hell of a lot to live up to as ‘Psychic’ is an extraordinary piece of work, absolutely spoiled by the fact that it plays at 45RPM. Now I appreciate that this isn’t a problem for most people, especially those that aren’t listening on vinyl. But to play a 45 I have to take my turntable apart, move a belt and put it back together again, which is a pain. OK, it doesn’t ruin it, it just causes me a minor inconvenience which I’m sure wasn’t deliberate.

The opening track, ‘Golden Arrow’ was pre-released as a free download, and comes in at a hefty 11 minutes and 20 seconds. Spin gave the track a positive review, describing it as “11 minutes of instrumental excellence.” They were right, it is. Atmospheric, abstract and perhaps surprisingly, it has quite a groove going on as it evolves from noise, to down tempo disco to a Krautrock-ish finale.

I’ve listened to this album a dozen times now, and my appreciation of it grows at each listen. I doubt the album will be heard by as many people as it deserves to be heard by as the songs aren’t constructed in a way that hooks people like a pop chorus can, it is more of a slow burner, but it is worth the investment of time to get to know it, and get to love it. It is 45 minutes and 8 seconds of a little bit odd, but good odd, dark odd, and, occasionally, David Gilmour on guitar, surely using Dave Harrington as a pseudonym.

I think I shall start using a rating system, which will probably end up being a bit NUMBERWANG! And it will be out of 100, as 5 is too little, so is ten, and 59 makes it too difficult and unnecessary. So, for ‘Psychic’ by Darkside I am going for:

9.1/10

And here is a video of track 8: Metatron

what’s in the bag? (49)

IMAG0827 I bought this today for £3.50 in Head Records in Leamington Spa, and it plays like new. I’ve always liked Grace Jones, who is another one who has had a bit of a bad response from many in the music press, perhaps since the time she hit Russell Harty on TV, although I thought all the guests on his chat show should probably have hit him. My favourite bit is when the audience applauds as she wades in (the guy who talks over it is a dick):

I took a crappy photo of it so here is the actual cover, in which my interest was re-ignited after I read an article on how it was created (by her then partner, Jean Paul Goude):

visual_trickery

As you can see, she didn’t actually perform the pose, it is a composite. Despite this, it is still a great cover image.

Here is the entire album in video, with an extra one at the end, of her 2012 performance for the Jubilee where, at the age of 64, she hula-hoops whilst performing ‘Slave to the rythm’, extraordinary woman.

The album itself is a greatest hits of sorts so there aren’t any bad tracks on it and it is a fabulous introduction to her work.

Now I shall probably grab some more Grace on vinyl, as I had ‘Nightclubbing’ at some point in the distant past and feel the need to get it again.

7/10

What’s in the bag? (40-48)

I am an incompletist, this is clear to me, this is very similar to a completist, but without the need to get absolutely everything. What I have is the need to get a lot, but not all. This is evidenced but my previous desire to get a couple of Gary Numan/Tubeway Army albums on vinyl, namely ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and ‘Replicas’. What happened next is a manifestation of my incompletism, which may very well be an ilness. I went a bit obsessive. It’s calmed down a bit now, but it isn’t over. So this is what I ended up getting, remember, I started out wanting two:

Now, I’ve spoken before about how Numan somehow never manages to be cool and there has been ridicule over the years, however, he has put out some great albums over the last few years that, sadly, have been mostly ignored. Take ‘Pure’ as an example, it really is some of the best music he’s ever done (mine is a double in red vinyl, lovely thing) which goes back as far as 2000. Have a listen, it’s really very good:

Ok, maybe this will work better:

Gary Numan – Guitar, Keyboards, Programming, vocals
Richard Beasley – drums
Steve Harris – Guitar
Rob Holliday – Guitar, Keyboards
Monti – Drums, Keyboards, Programming

The album received mixed reviews, from rather scathing to warm, which is a shame, but there seem to have been sections of the media that have never taken to Numan. Jumping back a little further, there is ‘Exile’, which is worth having just for the track ‘Dead Heaven’, one of my favourites, but the whole album is good.

Gary Numan – vocals, producer, keyboards, guitar, engineer, mixing
Mike Smith – keyboards
Rob Harris – guitar

Here is Numan the one time I’ve seen him live back in 2011, two of the musicians didn’t turn up but they carried on regardless, was a good gig.

Chances are I’ll pick up a few more, bound to happen really.

What’s in the bag? (28)

IMAG0682
There’s always been something I liked about Simon & Garfunkel, though I’ve never bothered to take the time to analyse quite what it is. A job lot of their albums were up for sale and I bought them, 10 albums, for £21. So, doing the complicated math, they were £2.10 each, which I though was well worth it. I’ll probably get around to posting about them all at some point but the first one I put on the turntable was ‘Wednesday Morning at 3am”. There was no logic to this other than the fact I liked the massive typeface on the cover, and possibly how impossibly young they both look.

I didn’t realise that this was their 1964 debut release, which does seem a ridiculously long time ago, and didn’t know until I just looked it up. Apparently it didn’t do very well at the time and was re-released after radio success for the track ‘The Sound of Silence’. Going back to why I liked them, it’s actually a combination of things, not least of which is the song writing, which is of a consistently high standard, but it was other things as well. I think I associated them with “The Graduate” and the whole style of that film, and I also liked that Garfunkel was seemingly rather weird.

Here’s the tracklist as released on the original vinyl:

Side one
1. “You Can Tell the World” (Bob Gibson/Bob Camp) – 2:47
2. “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” (Ed McCurdy) – 2:11
3. “Bleecker Street” (Simon) – 2:44
4. “Sparrow” (Simon) – 2:49
5. “Benedictus” (traditional, arranged and adapted by Simon and Garfunkel) – 2:38
6. “The Sound of Silence” (Simon) – 3:08
Side two
7. “He Was My Brother” (Paul Kane*) – 2:48
8. “Peggy-O” (traditional) – 2:26
9. “Go Tell It on the Mountain” (traditional) – 2:06
10. “The Sun Is Burning” (Ian Campbell) – 2:49
11. “The Times They Are a-Changin'” (Bob Dylan) – 2:52
12. “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.” (Simon) – 2:13

Interesting I think that they only wrote half the songs on that debut, but I suppose, at the time, it was quite the norm to have others write for you or to do covers or traditional numbers, Dylan certainly did well with the latter.

Here’s the ‘Concert from Central Park’ recorded in 1981. And below that “Wednesday at 3AM” on Spotify.

What’s in the bag? (27)

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Explosions in the Sky is an American post-rock band from Texas, although they prefer to remove the word post. They were originally named Breaker Morant (Presumably after the Film staring Edward Woodward, but possibly after the actual person), they changed their name in 1999. “The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place” was their third album, released in 2003, and is entirely instrumental. Originally I had only a single track on a compilation that I made, the opening track of the album in fact, ‘First Breath After Coma”. I played this compilation on repeat for several week while I was working on something and, almost without actually listening to it, the track (and the others on it) grew on me at, what was I suppose, a subconscious level and I bought the whole album on CD, then played it to death. For some reason the album isn’t on Spotify, so I’ve included the opening track from youtube below and beneath that a whole gig.

Wiki describes post rock thus; “Post-rock is a subgenre of rock music characterized by the influence and use of instruments commonly associated with rock, but using rhythms and “guitars as facilitators of timbre and textures” not traditionally found in rock. Post-rock bands are often without vocals

I find a great deal of beauty in the music and they somehow manage to tell a story without the use of words. They’ve since gone on to release more good albums and have scored several soundtracks, but this album remains my faviourite as it seems to almost be ingrained in the section of my brain that take pleasure from music.

Tracklist:

1. “First Breath After Coma” 9:33
2. “The Only Moment We Were Alone” 10:14
3. “Six Days at the Bottom of the Ocean” 8:43
4. “Memorial” 8:50
5. “Your Hand in Mine” 8:16

The vinyl version of the album features etchings of birds on side D accompanied by the phrase “The Earth is not a cold dead place because you are breathing, because you are listening.”

9.1/10

First Breath After Coma:

A full Gig:

What’s in the bag? (26)

Let me state this from the outset, this is one of the greatest pop albums ever produced, possibly, until proven otherwise, THE best pop album ever produced.  That’s right, I used an upper case THE.

The late 70’s were an amazing time in music for me. What has now become known as ‘Classic Rock’ was still on my turntable, but other things were happening that were attracting me away from that. This was a time when ‘Top Of The Pops’ meant something as it was one of the few places that any music was played on TV and it was hugely influential on a lot of young folk like myself, even if we weren’t prepared to admit to our peers that we even watched it. There was a time when the miming didn’t matter, there weren’t many that cared about it at all and it wasn’t until claims were made that everybody would henceforth be playing live that it became an issue, because it was quite clear that they didn’t.  I am off on a bit of a tangent now but I’m going to go with it anyway.

The two most memorable miming incidents for me where from All About Eve and Marillion, because I saw them both happen live, not the best choice of words, but as they were broadcast. The former sat waiting for the track to start for quite a long time, not realising that for the folks at home, it had already started but wasn’t coming out of their monitors. Here’s a video of it:

All About Eve were invited back the following week to perform it again, but this time live. I think a lot of people felt rather sorry for them as it was clearly a BBC issue, and it was the BBC who were insisting on the miming not the performers. This is the following week and it’s pretty good:

The Marillion incident was rather different. There was a time when the BBC would not use the record or official release and the artist had to re-record them specifically for the show.  For the song ‘Garden Party’ they actually couldn’t use the original lyric on television before the 9PM watershed and would have to have changed it regardless, however, this gave lead singer, Fish, the opportunity for a bit of a jolly wheeze. The original lyric was; I’m punting, I’m beagling, I’m wining, reclining, I’m rucking, I’m f***ing, So welcome, it’s a party. That last one, with the asterix, was replaced with “I’m miming”, which, when coupled with the fact that, in full view of everybody watching, he didn’t move his mouth at all for this bit, was actually rather clever. Terrible quality video, go to about 2:20 to not have to endure the rest of it.

Now back to the actual topic, Blondie, – Parallel Lines. It is rare that an album spawns 6 singles but this one did, and a few were massive:

“Picture This”
“I’m Gonna Love You Too”
“Hanging on the Telephone”
“Heart of Glass”
“Sunday Girl”
“One Way or Another”

All of these are available in the video playlist below:

In an odd way some of the tracks on the album suffered from being side by side with the singles, but there are tracks that were just as worthy of receiving a 7 inch release, such as one of my favourites, “Fade away and radiate”. However, ” “Pretty Baby” could easily have been a single as well, actually, almost any of them could have been, it really was a complete album, “I Know but I Don’t Know”, “11:59”, “Will Anything Happen?”, “I’m Gonna Love You Too” (Buddy Holly cover) and  “Just Go Away” are the remaining tracks and I could see any of them hitting the top 40 at the time. Perhaps there was no reason to release more singles as the album ended up selling around 20 million copies, which is a hell of a lot.

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Listening to this album was one of those occasions that used to happen back when the world existed only in black and white, where I didn’t own this album, what we used to do was go to our friends houses and just listen to music. I’m not sure that happens much nowadays, but back in 1979 it happened all the time.  They were all over the radio anyway, “Heart of Glass” in particular, so you would always hear some of it, but sitting down and listening to the whole thing in the right order was a bit of a treat. I remember one occasion when we were out of cigarettes (not that we could afford to smoke much) and we emptied the tobacco from the butts left in the ashtray and smoked them in a pipe, at the time it seemed OK, but later I felt about as sick as I ever had, all to “Parallel Lines’ playing in the background. Kids are stupid.

I know it’s a lot of watching, but here are Blondie from 1979, live in concert ( 7/7/1979 – Convention Hall (Asbury Park, NJ)

And OGWT from 1979 (recorded in Glasgow)

I haven’t listened to this album as a whole for years, but now I have once again, including turning it over to hear the other side, it comes as no surprise to me that I loved it as much as I did as I still do, great songs, great performances, and, quite luckily, a gorgeous lead singer, which, for a young teen boy is never a bad thing.

9.3/10

 

What’s in the bag? (25)

Björk – Vulnicura. This is the ninth studio album by Björk. It was produced by Björk, Arca and The Haxan Cloak, and released on 20 January 2015 by One Little Indian Records. Björk allegedly said the album expresses her feelings following her breakup with artist Matthew Barney (For whom she created the soundtrack to the film ‘Drawing Restraint 9).

You may recall that Vulnicura was originally scheduled for release in March, in conjunction with the Björk: Archives book and an exhibition about Björk’s career at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Unfortunately, following an internet leak, it was released digitally two months early.

I first heard tracks from Vulnicura on the ‘Sound Opinions’ podcast and I was somewhat disappointed in myself, as I didn’t make up my own opinion, which I would usually do, and just accepted theirs. This is not to say they were wrong, but having now listened to the entire album, my opinion differs. The long and short of it is that this is a much better album than I was expecting. I had also heard another track on the ‘All Songs Considered’ podcast and that actually raised my expectations shortly before hearing the whole album. The song in question was ‘Atom Dance’, on which Björk is accompanied by Antony Heggarty, which I thought spectacular. Having now listened to the album as a whole, I do think it is probably her best work since ‘Vespertine’. Admittedly, there are no pop hits included and the tone is generally dark and brooding, as one would expect when dealing with difficult subject matter, although album closer, ‘Quicksand’ is rather upbeat tempo wise. The quality of the songs themselves shines through regardless of the mood and the track sequencing does cause the listening experience to have a sense of there having been a journey.

My version comes in a gatefold sleeve which is cased in an acetate slipcase, it really is a beautiful thing. The acetate links with the moving album cover, which was backed by the track ‘Family’, although this is 8:09 in length rather than the 2:35 included in the first video below. I suppose it was a teaser as much as anything and the first single release proper, ‘Lionsong’, also below, is a beautiful track that discusses her feelings some 5 months before they finally split up and captures the sense of a moment when a relationship breaks down. Specifically when you just want it to end so that you can move on. The lyrics are rather oddly constructed, but many of Bjorks are;

Maybe he will come out this
Maybe he won’t
Somehow I’m not too bothered either way

Maybe he will come out of this loving me
Maybe he will come out of this
I smell declarations of solitude
Maybe he will come out of this

Vietnam vet comes after the war
Lands in my house
This wild lion doesn’t fit in this chair

Maybe he will come out of this loving me
Maybe he won’t
I’m not taming no animal
Maybe he will come out of this

Once it was simple, one feeling at a time
It reached this peak then transformed
This abstract complex feeling
I just don’t know how to handle when
Should I throw oil on one of these wounds
But which one?
The joy peak
Humor peak
Frustration peak
Anything peak for clarity

Maybe he will come out of this loving me
Maybe he won’t
I’m not taming no animal
Maybe he will come out of this

Maybe he will come out of this
Maybe he won’t
Somehow I’m not too bothered either way

I refuse, it’s a sign of maturity
To be stuck in complexity
I demand all clarity

Maybe he will come out of this
Or he will feel so solitaire
Somehow I’m not too bothered
I’d just like to know

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Tracklist:
Stonemilker
Lionsong
History of Touches
Black Lake
Family
Notget
Atom Dance
Mouth Mantra
Quicksand

Listening now, with a decent set of headphones, I can say that, sonically, this is beautifully constructed collection of songs. It is string laden, but also contains the sort of beats one would expect from Bjork. It has been described in one review as operatic, and I’d agree with that even though I find much opera to be impenetrable. This is not, it is open, and it is often uncomfortable and has a deep feeling of sadness, but it is not without hope. This is the journey through the nine tracks, from realisation to release and I do think that there is a positive feeling at the end of the album.

It isn’t available on Spotify as yet but below are some official videos that are available, and, as usual, the visuals are lovely.

8.3/10

What’s in the bag? (19)

IMAG0584I was in Head in Leamington, just flicking through the racks, and quite by accident I came across ‘Von’ by Sigur Rós. Though I wasn’t looking for it I wanted it, so I bought it. This was their first album, and opens with the track ‘Sigur Rós’, it’s dramatic, it’s moody, it’s like the soundtrack to your worst nightmare. The whole album is quite different to what was to come, it has a raw edge in places and a darkness, but these are interspersed with those moments of beauty for which Sigur Rós are known. It’s there throughout, but treading water beneath the surface before drifting up and out into the air before slipping slowly under again. It’s quite experimental and much of it neatly aligns with the Post-Rock genre, but not entirely, they always seem out of place to me in that category, but people like categories so I guess that’s where they must sit.

So ‘Von’, it means hope, and I consciously avoid any pun or play on words at this point, as it’s their first release it’s fairly obvious.This is undoubtedly the more difficult of their releases to listen to, but all the ingredients are there, the recipe is just a little different and I find that less is often more, even amongst noise that is unlistenable (which this isn’t)  brief moments of clarity can be quite beautiful.

Included below the spotify album is a version of the track, ‘Von’.

9.2/10

What’s in the bag? (17)

Here we are in 1979 again and, before I say anything else, I must confess my love of Blondie, no matter what your own opinion is, if it doesn’t agree with mine then it is invalid. I had first heard Blondie in 1977 with the single ‘Denis’, which, at the time, I had no idea was a cover version (Randy & The Rainbows was the original, from 1963). I liked it a lot, I was 10 years old, why wouldn’t I? I think that, at one point, I did have a 7” of it, unfortunately, when I moved to a new town at the age of 16 I gave all my vinyl records away, every single one (and I really can’t recall at the moment why the hell I did that).

I have never owned either of the first two albums, Blondie & Plastic Letters, but I did own Parallel Lines, which I still think is one of the most complete albums ever made, really, I do. Look at the track listing:

Side one

1. “Hanging on the Telephone” (The Nerves cover)
2. “One Way or Another”
3. “Picture This”
4. “Fade Away and Radiate”
5. “Pretty Baby”
6. “I Know but I Don’t Know”

Side two

7. “11:59”
8. “Will Anything Happen?”
9. “Sunday Girl”
10. “Heart of Glass”
11. “I’m Gonna Love You Too” (Buddy Holly cover)
12. “Just Go Away”

Looking at that I now have to get another copy, but first, ‘Eat to the Beat’. After the success of Parallel Lines, what do you do? Open with a hit of course! And with ‘Dreaming’ they did, admittedly a #2 hit, but a hit nonetheless (also, the lyrics, “Fade away, radiate” reference the Parallel Lines track), and the rest of the album retains much of the feel of Parallel lines, although it isn’t as a whole, as accomplished an album, it is still packed with quality. There’s ‘Atomic’, a massive hit, ‘The Hardest Part’, Union City Blue’ and ‘Die young stay pretty’, all pretty killer.

IMAG0590

How could anybody not love this!:

This album was the most expensive at the record fair, costing me the princely sum of £5, but it was £5 well spent as it is so damn good, and now I have to get myself a vinyl copy of Parallel Lines.

9/10

 

What’s in the Bag? (16)

Ok, so there are certain records that one might be a bit embarrassed about, well, once upon a time one might, but nowadays I have absolutely no problem to confessing to liking things that many might never admit to liking themselves even when they are alone, with no possibility of anybody ever finding out. One such band/artist is Adam and the Ants. Not that I was ever a massive Adam and the Ants fan or anything, I just didn’t dislike them. The album I bought for £2 was ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’, which was the reincarnation of the band after original members listened to Malcom McLaren and left to form Bow wow wow. There were three hit singles from this LP, “Dog Eat Dog” (reaching No.4 on the UK singles charts in October 1980), ‘Antmusic’ (No.2 in January 1981) and “Kings of the Wild Frontier” (No.2 in March 1981). The album was the UK number 1 selling album in 1981 (and the 48th best seller in 1980) and won Best British Album at the 1982 Brit Awards. They were pretty interesting in an early 80’s sort of way but the album itself is a different construct to many of the pop albums we have today, and it was pop, despite the roots of the band being in punk.

I get the sense nowadays that more emphasis is placed on album as product to push the one or two good tracks that are on it (there are exceptions to this of course), whereas taking this album as an example, there are what seem obvious singles (although that could be because they were) and obvious album tacks, but these album tracks are not just filler, they are well written tunes which could potentially have been singles in some cases, if the mood in the charts were more open to them at the time. ‘Killer In The Home’ sounds like a minor hit, maybe stumbling into the late 30’s and back out again, although it borrows heavily on ‘Rumble’ by Link Wary (for borrows read steals), to the point that if it had been written by Pharell Williams and the other guy who claims to not have written ‘Blurred Lines’ at all as soon as the case hit court, there would certainly be litigation afoot against Mr Ant and Mr Pirroni.

Apparently this album introduced the new Burundi Beat drum sound to popular music, which may well be true, I have no idea but what I do know is that it still sounds quite full and, mostly, not that dated even though it was 35 years ago. Take away the all the flouncing, costumes and posturing, and you are left with a really good set of songs.

Jumping all the way back to the beginning of this post, if I did feel the need to justify myself, then I could point out that Kings of the Wild Frontier is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, but I don’t need to do that, even though I just did.

I put a little video playlist at the bottom of this post as well.

IMAG0593

8.2/10