The Trouser Press Years

TP58I have to admit that I was never one to follow the rock press very much. First of all, in America, this usually meant Rolling Stone or Creem Magazine; neither of which ever did anything for me. By the time I would have cared a whit, Rolling Stone was the establishment rock rag of coked up proto-yuppies. It was completely the music publishing arm of The Man®… that is to say if you could deign to find any music coverage in the damned thing! Most of it was specious “lifestyle” editorial/advertising with lots of ads for drug paraphernalia tucked away in the margins. Creem always looked like a heavy metal magazine that was forced to “go punk” by the early 80s. I never bothered.

TP61If you had tastes like mine, there wasn’t anything out there with national distribution that came close to serving my interests, until that fateful day in 1981, when a glance at the comic book section of a local Shop + Go revealed the cover at right to my questing eyes. Whaaa…? Elvis Costello and Byrne/Eno on a magazine cover? I had to drop the $1.50 I was probably planning on spending on comic books [you could buy three back then for that price] on this mag instead. It was love at first read. Here was a smart, canny read that covered almost everything I was into musically. Not coincidentally, issue #61 was the first one for the New York magazine to get significant national distribution after seven years of pulling itself up from its fanzine bootstraps into something substantial.

TP69Editorially, I liked the magazine a lot. I could tell it was written by people who were much more like me than the smug hippies of Rolling Stone! There was some real wit on display, and there was an underlying sense of humor that allowed them to have a few laughs while giving the readers the straight dope. I missed the next issue, but I managed to buy every other subsequent one for the better part of a year. Then something dramatic happened. They started carrying a flexidisc in each issue for subscribers only. Naturally, I had to bite for that one! This made the mag the US equivalent of Flexipop, the scabrous UK music rag with a lock on the whole flexidisc phenomenon…until then! When subscribers got a pair of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark tunes in the year when I could not get enough OMD, it was clearly the impetus that I needed to commit to a monthly subscription.

TP70The mag had great features as well. Their autodiscographies were a brilliant conceit: gather up a band and have then discuss each album full of anecdotal detail. They had a page full of reviews of recent singles [heavy on the imports] called Green Circles where Jim Green would weigh in on the caliber of non-LP B-sides for import single cognoscenti like myself. At the very least, you got to know what tracks each single held; invaluable for making a purchasing decision! If the records were 6-8 weeks old by the time they went to press, remember; it was a slower time. It might take that long for anything I wanted to filter down to Central Florida anyway.

TP81The editorial slant of the magazine was such that many acts I was a huge fan of probably got their only national press in their pages. Who else would carry a torch for Ultravox or Lene Lovich? That’s not to say that they spoon-fed me as a reader. If anything, TP [as it was affectionately known], tended to underrate many acts I was pretty big on. Groups like The Psychedelic Furs were a particular sticking point with me, with the band usually summarily dismissed to the pages of “Hit + Run” where also-ran albums deemed unworthy of more than a Tweet-length review of 1-2 sentences were ghettoized. On the other hand, they really did think that Ultravox were the best thing since sliced bread [at least until they turned on them when “Quartet” came out – which was about right].

TP80Another huge feature of the magazine was its advertising. I would find out about a lot of interesting records just from their display advertising! I also recall in that innocent, pre-Goldmine era, that there were record dealers who would run ads full of numerous singles listed in detail and using tiny 6 point type that gave me valuable discographical information in that pre-web era! I recall that I saw records that I wanted that never seemed to show up in local record stores, but mail-order purchasing was still a few years out for me. I just didn’t have the money or even a credit card for that sort of thing at the time.

TP90I vividly recall a review of Duran Duran’s “Rio” from publisher Ira Robbins being a full on rave for the magazine full of superlatives and praise. [He did the same for Spandau Ballet’s “True!”] The band had always gotten press in the mag years before it had been determined that putting their mugs on the covers sold a lot of copies to indiscriminate Duranies. When in 1983, the band fell of their perch in a big way, that didn’t stop them from running a now very sellable cover story on the “fab five.” What with MTV igniting the Second British Invasion of 1983, the once demure New Wave mag found itself running cover stories on the likes of Adam Ant, Culture Club, or the now fallen Double Duran as it suffered the cognitive dissonance of selling issues with cover articles about once-obscure groups that they had written short articles on earlier who had since risen to the heights of Top 10 material the world round.

TP96In the end, the decision was made to stop running the magazine, which had been suffering from money problems as well as creeping guilt over its cover artists. The last issue was the tenth anniversary issue from April 1984. The insult to injury? I had just begun a new subscription year and would now receive almost a year’s worth of the worthless magazine The Record. Does anyone remember that rag? By 1984, with music coverage at an all time low in Rolling Stone, the decision was made to launch a separate magazine to just cover music!! I once even bought a back issue of TP at a record show in the 90s [the Gary Numan cover issue this post began with] and if I were to run across any other issues I didn’t have I would probably make the effort to buy them as they would have the allure of retro gold in this fallen era.

TP-guideV1The magazine may have died in 1984, but in 1983, the successor made its debut. The Trouser Press Guide To New Wave Records was something of a sourcebook for the genre with hundreds of pages where TP reviews were distilled down to a few sentences and the breadth of the material was amazing for that pre-web era. I never got the first edition, but I have volumes 2-4, which dropped the then badly dated nomenclature “New Wave” from the title. These remain useful years pater, but they are OOP now. There was a Guide to 90s records as well [v. 5] but I had no interest in the music of that decade. Most of the editorial content has been available at for about a decade now. Head honcho Ira Robbins still keeps the flag flying and I have to admit, I take part in the discussion on the active forum there as well. It’s fun, but nothing will ever take the place of the original magazine that managed to feed my mania for the nominal price of $1.50-2.00 an issue back in those days. For me, buying music instead of rock press was the thing. Expensive $3.00 import copies of the NME or Melody Maker represented money better spent on actual music. TP filled an important void at an attractive price for me.

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New Gold Dream Goes Superdeluxe

simple minds - ngdSDBA

New Gold Dream BSOG

Simple Minds: New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84] Super Deluxe Boxed Set 5xCD+DVD UK [2016]

Disc 1 – Album remastered

  1. King Is White And In The Crowd
  2. Hunter And The Hunted
  3. Glittering Prize
  4. New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84)
  5. Somebody Up There Likes You
  6. Big Sleep
  7. Promised You A Miracle
  8. Colours Fly And Catherine Wheel
  9. Someone Somewhere In Summertime

Disc 2 – Extended Versions

  1. Promised You A Miracle  – [Extended] 12″ Single
  2. Seeing Out The Angel  –  [Instrumental Remix] 12″ Single
  3. Promised You A Miracle  –  [US Remix] 12″ Single
  4. Promised You A Miracle  –  [US Dub] 12″ Single
  5. Promised You A Miracle  –  [US Special Extended Remix] 12″ Promo Single
  6. Glittering Prize  –  [Club Mix] 12″ Single
  7. Glittering Prize  –  [Extended Theme] 12″ Single
  8. Someone Somewhere In Summertime  –  [Extended] 12″ Single
  9. New Gold Dream   –  [German 12″ Mix] 12″ Single
  10. King Is White And In The Crowd  –  [Instr] (unedited & restored mix originally released with Touch Tape mag)
  11. New Gold Dream  –  [German 12″ Remix with drums] Outtake
  12. In Every Heaven  –  Outtake

Disc 3 – Edits + B-Sides

  1. Promised You A Miracle  –  [Edit] 7″ Single
  2. Theme From Great Cities  –  7″ Single
  3. Glittering Prize  –  [Edit] 7″ Single
  4. Glittering Prize  –  (Theme) 7″ Single
  5. Someone Somewhere (In Summertime)  –  7″ Promo Single
  6. Soundtrack For Every Heaven  –  12″ Single
  7. New Gold Dream  –  [7″ Mix]

Disc 4 – BBC Sessions

  1. Promised You A Miracle  –  [Jensen 11th February 1982]
  2. In Trance As Mission  –  [Jensen 11th February 1982]
  3. King Is White And In The Crowd  –  [Jensen 11th February 1982]
  4. Promised You A Miracle  –  [Peel 15th February 1982]
  5. Love Song  –  [Peel 15th February 1982]
  6. Sons And Fascination  –  [Peel 15th February 1982]
  7. King Is White And In The Crowd  –  [Peel 15th February 1982]
  8. Someone Somewhere In Summertime  –  [Jensen 13th August 1982]
  9. Glittering Prize  –  [Jensen 13th August 1982]
  10. Hunter And The Hunted  –  [Jensen 13th August 1982]

Disc 5 – Alternative Mixes + Demos

  1. Someone Somewhere In Summertime  –  [Full Duration]
  2. Colours Fly And Catherine Wheel  –  [Full Duration Instrumental]
  3. Promised You A Miracle  –  [Remix For Album: Long]
  4. Big Sleep  –  [Instrumental]
  5. In Every Heaven  –  [Full Duration]
  6. Somebody Up There Likes You  –  [Full Duration Instrumental]
  7. New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84)  –  [Full Duration]
  8. Hunter And The Hunted  –  [Alternative Take]
  9. King Is White And In The Crowd  –  [Monitor Mix]
  10. In Every Heaven  –  [Early Version]

Disc 6 – 5.1 DVD/Videos

  1. Someone Somewhere In Summertime  –  New Gold Dream – 5.1 Mix
  2. Colours Fly And Catherine Wheel  – New Gold Dream – 5.1 Mix
  3. Promised You A Miracle  – New Gold Dream – 5.1 Mix
  4. Big Sleep  – New Gold Dream – 5.1 Mix
  5. Somebody Up There Likes You  – New Gold Dream – 5.1 Mix
  6. New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84)  – New Gold Dream – 5.1 Mix
  7. Glittering Prize  – New Gold Dream – 5.1 Mix
  8. Hunter And The Hunted  – New Gold Dream – 5.1 Mix
  9. King Is White And In The Crowd  –  New Gold Dream – 5.1 Mix
  10. In Every Heaven  – New Gold Dream – 5.1 Mix
  11. Promised You A Miracle  –  Promo Video
  12. Glittering Prize Promo  –  Promo Video
  13. Promised You A Miracle  –  [Top Of The Pops]
  14. Glittering Prize  – [Top Of The Pops]

With the NDA I was under now lifted, the whole world knows that on July 29th, the six disc version of Simple Minds highly regarded “New God Dream [81, 82, 83, 84]” album will grace the “shelves” of many a retailer with a view of having one of my own, eventually. It was sort of avant garde of Simple Minds to drop their Super Deluxe Box of “Sparkle In The Rain” first in 2014. Anyone else would have expected this puppy first, and for good reason. It’s a flawless album that has only dated in that “they don’t make ’em like this anymore!” How many albums from 1982 sound this timeless and continue to reward after decades of careful listening? Correctly, this was the album that took them from Cult Act to chart toppers for all of the right reasons. It was the foundation their larger career has been built upon.

The first disc comes to us in a new remaster from the hand of Andrew Walter of EMI’s Abbey Road Studios. This means that this is the first remaster of the album since Simon Hayworth’s in 2002 that has been the source of every version released until now. Walter has extensive classical credits with a smattering of pop in his long career, so I am expecting wonderful sounds from this remaster! The man probably wouldn’t even know what a brickwall plugin was! I am looking forward to hearing still further nuances from this album which is packed with lush detail like no other.

The second disc is extended remixes. I noticed immediately, that this time Ian Caple’s instrumental remix of “Seeing Out The Angel” is there. My 1st pressing of the Themes series had the album version in error. I always thought that there were two unique US mixes of “Promised You A Miracle;” the 12″ and dub version but this reveals a second US 12″ promo mix… wha…??!!

Simple Minds - PYAMUS12Asimple minds - PYAMUSP12A

Note the timings: 5:56 for the disc at right [in my Record Cell] and 6:17 for the WLP 12″ at right [not in my Record Cell – I had always thought it was identical to the commercial edition]. This is certainly intriguing! Also, the “King Is White And In The Crowd” as included on the infamous “Touch” tape was an instrumental remixed version, but as it was interrupted by an interview with Jim Kerr talking over it, getting a copy was never a priority. This time it’s been restored to its never-before glory. Nice!

simple-minds---newgolddreamUSLPDisc three is just edit mixes, and strictly for the trainspotting crowd, though I am interested in finally having the short version of the title track on CD as it was the version on the gold vinyl US LP from all of those years ago. Disc four finally issued the four Peel Sessions which have been, to date, m.i.a. in the commercial sphere. I was impressed to see that the full Peel Session was used, including the two “Sons + Fascination” cuts that technically, fall out of the purview of this box.

Disc five is the major Monk-bait! I’ve read about the demos and full length takes that had been edited down for release on the wondrous Dream Giver site. The thought of hearing the full length 10+ minute version of the title track finally gets my knees weak! I’m guessing that this disc reflects some of the material that surfaced in 5.1 on the “New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84]” DVD-A that I managed to buy before it went three figures.

Those 5.1 mixes by Ronald Prent are once again released as disc six, for the many who missed out. One thing I notice was that “Colours Fly + Catherine Wheel” and “Promised You A Miracle” were included on the 2005 DVD-A in 2.0 since the multi-track masters could not be found. This time, no such wording is included. I am wondering if the multi-track master has been found in the ensuing decade? The DVD is said to have the entire album [plus “In Every Heaven”] in 5.1 so we’ll see.

Do I want this? Yes! There is about two discs worth of material that is new to me here and at the very least, this should be a spectacular sounding remaster of this album! While, on one hand, I am crestfallen that there is no live concert material as with the “Sparkle In The Rain” SDB, what has been offered here looks more than worth my purchase. Quite frankly, just hearing the title cut last even longer than the “German” 12″ remix of 6:52 would make me click “pre-order.” Of course, there are other variants: single CD, 2xCD [with extended disc], LP, Blu-Ray, etc. but you know how we roll in PPM land. We’ll be getting the Full Monty.

I had been wondering if they would include the Prent 5.1 mix or instead commission Steven Wilson [who did the last two SDBs in 5.1] just to make these all of a kind and now I know. The healthy upside to this decision to use the existing Prent work [which should be more widely heard, in any case – it’s a wonderful 5.1 mix!] is that the cost of pre-ordering this SDB, which contains one more disc than the “Sparkle In The Rain” SDB did, actually costs less! £36.99 delivers this bad boy to you own personal Record Cell straight from the Simple Minds webstore.

– 30 –

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Record Review: The Dream Academy

Warner Brothers Records | US | CD | 1985 | 9 25265-2

Warner Brothers Records | US | CD | 1985 | 9 25265-2

The Dream Academy: The Dream Academy US CD [1985]

  1. Life In A Northern Town
  2. The Edge Of Forever
  3. [Johnny] New Light
  4. In Places On The Run
  5. This World
  6. Bound To Be
  7. Moving On
  8. The Love Parade
  9. The Party
  10. One Dream

After delving into the debut album by Stephen Duffy for three days in a row, what else could I follow it with but a look at the debut album by The Dream Academy? Both acts were inextricably linked in my mind:

  • They shared a manager – Tarquin Gotch [who one day deserves a New Wave MVP entry of his own].
  • Both acts had bass playing on their records by Guy Pratt, early in his career where everything he played on in in my Record Cell. [Yes, Guy Pratt is pencilled in for a New Wave MVP too!]
  • Both Nick Laird-Clowes [has there ever been as posh a name as that?] and Stephen Duffy were big fans of singer-songwriter Nick Drake a good decade before his rediscovery/commercial viability and wrote songs reflecting this influence.
  • Both acts debut albums had production on a track or two by a member of The Art Of Noise. J.J. Jezcalik for Duffy and Gary Langan for The Dream Academy.
  • Finally, The NME, in an attempt to damn Stephen Duffy with backhanded praise, once said of him that “we do not need another Paddy McAloon.” The cheeky Duffy once used this in a press advertisement, to my delight. While I would argue that we do; we always do, the fact of the matter was that in that regard, Nick Laird-Clowes was more obviously your man!

I first heard The Dream Academy on British music show The Tube, where they had made an in-house video for the song “Life In A Northern Town.” It was a delightful song that captured my attention immediately. The delicate orchestration mixed real strings and ferocious tympani for a warm, vibrant effect. That the band had a member, Kate St. John [Ex-Ravishing Beauties] whose lead instruments were oboe [be still, my beating heart] and cor angalais showed that they were willing to stick out from the bulk of the Mid-80s pack.

Listening to this album now, I’m struck mostly by how close singer Laird-Clowes is hewing to the style developed commercially by Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout. Though I as usual, maintain, that McAloon lifted his mature style from producer Thomas Dolby as evidenced by several tracks on his album “The Flat Earth,” produced a year before linking up with Prefab Sprout for their seminal “Steve McQueen/Two Wheels Good” album. But, yeah, tracks like “[Johnny] New Light” fairly reek of received McAloonisms. [is that a word?]

The use of the Johnny archetype was straight from the Sprout’s playbook but where Laird-Clowes differs the most from McAloon is in his love of bombast that surfaces throughout this material every now and then. McAloon was far more intimate with his songwriting, but Laird-Clowes seemed to favor the grand gesture, making these songs a notch or two below those of his peers. Still, it was heartening to hear “Life In A Northern Town” scale to the lofty heights of number seven on the US top 40 of late 1985. A full eight spots higher than the song charted in the UK top 40. I’ll take what I can get!

the act - toolateatthe20USLPAI remember seeing ads for The Act’s “Too Late At The 20” album in Trouser Press in 1981, but I never had the pleasure. Nick got his [false] start in that band, which also happened to contain David Gilmour’s younger brother Mark. This paid off when after The Act broke up, David used his clout to back Laird-Clowes in his Dream Academy bid a few years later. In fact, Gilmour co-produces all but one of the tracks here. Ultimately, the real pull for my ears 31 years later was all of the goodness that Kate St. John put into this music, though her sax playing was a little too softjazzrock for my tastes. Fortunately, it was completely overshadowed by the oboe and cor anglais on display here. I like this album enough to listen to it occasionally, but I later bought the third Dream Academy album only to quickly flip it. The tale endeth here.

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Record Review: Stephen Duffy – The Ups + Downs DLX RM [part 3]

tin-tin-kiss-meUK12A[continued from previous post]

The rest of this 2008 CD was comprised of  great selection of bonus tracks. The first of which was an unreleased 1982 Bob Lamb mix of his debut single [for WEA] “Kiss Me.” Fans who know this bit of Duffy archaeology, will mostly recognize what occurred here. The first half of the mix hewed closely to the 7″ version but the second half added instrumental vamping before returning to the main theme with the last 30 seconds jumping deep into the pool of rubbery dub before ending cold enough to merit at least a “what th…?” from the assembled multitudes. At any rate, it was good of compilation producer Dermot James to have dug up several of the unreleased tunes in evidence here.

stephen duffy - kissmeUK2x7AThe next track was the Booker T. Jones produced “Holes In My Shoes” from the “Kiss Me Two Times” double pack 7″. This lilting B-side was very singable and melodic but the creamy slick mid-80s sax puts a  few holes in its sails. It says a lot for the caliber of the song that it manages to rise above that particular albatross. The coda where producer Jones diets with Duffy was also a nice touch.

“Loves Duet” was a splendid B-side from the 1982 WEA edition of “Kiss Me.” As with the A-side, the band here was actually Birmingham synth-funkers [at the time] Fashion, and the early Duffy technopop sound was at its peak here with the warm analog synths abetted by actual drums to form a very different vibe to what would happen later for Duffy.

stephen duffy - babyimpossibleUK12ANext came the crown jewel of unreleased Duffy material; the 7″ mix of “Baby Impossible!” I have written about the ultra-scarce 12″ mix of this track earlier. It’s notable to hear how the dub reggae trappings of the Olympic Mix were nowhere to be heard on this track. Instead, the Booker T. Jones production was effervescent pop cut jewel-bright from a land of perfect pop. Listening to this now, it kind of stymies me how this single was spiked and withdrawn for “She Makes Me Quiver” instead.  True, “Quiver” sported impeccable lyrics, but the overall tone here was just so much more “Duffy-like” than the dance-oriented “Quiver” as mixed by Morales + Munzibai. Getting this track on CD was the main reason why I needed to purchase this CD after years of sitting on my  hands like a jerk before the price became untenable.

stephen duffy - kissme1985UK12AThe languid and evocative “In This Twilight [long]” comes close to being the best track on this CD. I still give the edge to the irresistible “Be There,” but the songwriting here on “Twilight” remains an early Duffy peak. All of its eight plus minutes were fully justified by the inclusion of this extended and very undanceable B-side from the 1985 “Kiss Me” 12″ single. The song’s “second movement” at the the five minute mark provided a riveting nursery rhyme coda to an enchanting song.

The next song in the mix was another unreleased track, “Little Lost Boy.” I can understand why the track was tabled the first time as it sounds like a Duffy pastiche. Imagine several of his compositions put into a blender and the result poured into your ears. It sounds like a Duffy song at any given moment. All of the signposts were there, but it completely failed to gel. There’s no simplicity or the thread of continuity that he brought to his mature work. I can’t shake the notion that this was among his earliest attempts. It superficially resembled “Baby Impossible” but was lacking in that song’s integrity.

Finally, “Broken Home” from both the withdrawn “Baby Impossible” and “Icing On The Cake” singles provided a delicate splashdown for the album into full tilt Lilac Time waters. The instrumentation, made up entirely of lazy, Floyd Cramer piano triplets and acoustic guitar against Duffy’s multi-tracked harmonies was yet more indication of where his true intentions lay. The B-side material of Duffy’s was of such a high caliber that one wonders just how many songs he had in his notebooks by the time he finally made his bid album splash in 1985.

This album, while it succeeded in making me a lifelong Stephen Duffy fan, is something of a mixed bag. It sounded like three album periods worth of material compiled into the best running that they could manage. Fortunately, most of it was capable songwriting from Duffy’s notebooks, and only “Believe In Me” failed these ears; owing to its arrangement and production. The liner notes here from Duffy were brief and very self-deprecating, so he obviously looked back on this period with a certain amount of squirming. He even apologized for the synthesizers and his singing. While the former were typical of the Mid-Eighties Malaise®, only his singing on the 1982 version of “Kiss Me,” where he sounded like a mewling kit provoked any eye-rolling, and that was offset considerably by the warm playing of Fashion in backing him up. He went on to say that he didn’t really get a handle on singing until he was about 39, and I get it, but most of what’s here got a pass from me.

At the end of the day, this DLX RM was a pretty desirable return of the album to print. Producer Dermot James sourced some fine bonus materials with some real “crown jewel” material surfacing like “Baby Impossible.” The extant material mined for the rest of the bonus tracks hit uniform high points. Finally, the mastering by Alan Wilson completely eschewed brickwalling for a full-bodied, engaging sound. The only complaint that I can register against this CD was that it is now apparently OOP and is getting hard to find. Ironically, the original pressing from 1985 seems fairly common and affordable on the aftermarket. Duffy mavens will want both for the two remixed tracks used on the 2008 edition of the album. Meanwhile, there are many Duffy tracks missing form the Record Cell that need attending to for that Duffy BSOG in the back of my mind. Wish me luck.

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Record Review: Stephen Duffy – The Ups + Downs DLX RM [part 2]

stephen duffy - icingonthecakeUK7AGF[continued from previous post]

Side two of the original album contained the “pull-out-all-the-stops” hit single as was common in the day when people actually listened to albums and needed a jolt for their possibly flagging attention. The piece was certainly poppy, with much of the synth/pop/funk juice common to the mid-80s. Guy Pratt was tearing up his thumb on the bass line, that’s for certain! Although the song retains much of the winsome charm redolent of Duffy’s songs of this early period, the overworked arrangement; what with bright digital synths and backing vocalists fighting it out for supremacy, leaves me somewhat breathless at its end.

When “The Darkest Blues” next appeared, the fact that it was actually a blues number was more charming. Albeit a blues from some alternate universe where AON/Fairlight® backing vocals were often cheek-by-jowel with gently wheezing harmonica and guitar. Barring the drum machine and vocal samples [it must be said that the drum programming had a particularly light touch from Duffy’s hand] it more clearly than ever telegraphed the Lilac Time future that lay in store for Duffy in a few years of peripatetic genre-swapping in order to find that elusive custom fit so necessary for proper pop artists like himself.

While  the album had two hit singles and one also-ran [“She Makes Me Quiver”] to herald it, by far my favorite song here was the impeccable and thrilling pop of “Be There” which surely would have been a triumphant hit single in anything other than This Fallen World. It began coldly with the lowing cellos sawing away rhythmically for a hook that just wouldn’t quit immediately challenged by bright synth horns before Duffy’s insouciant declaration of ardor from whence came the album’s title rose to the occasion and delivered pop nirvana as produced perfectly by Booker T. Jones.

Nicky Holland’s [ex-Ravishing Beauties] superb string arrangements were the co-star here vying for the spotlight against Duffy’s assured, warm vocals. Her pizzicato touches on the second verse superlatively captured the heart-on-his-sleeve sensibility that Duffy was putting across here with serious verve and sensitivity. The end result was so fantastic, that I really wish that Duffy had teamed up with Holland instead of the overrated [and overplaying] Nigel Kennedy for his “Music In Colours” album of 1993.

For an astonishing contrast, the next track [also produced by Jones] was my least favorite track on the album. The only one, that 31 years later, really grates on my ears. Suffice to say “Believe In Me” could have slotted right next to Phil Collins’ and Philip Bailey’s “Easy Lover” in the hellspace of mid-80s pop. In fact, the vibe is so similar, that I can almost sing the lyrics of the Collins/Bailey pop juggernaut to the backing track of  this song. Best missed.

Fortunately, the album wrapped up with a song that has really grown on me in the ensuing years since its release. “The World At Large Alone” was a downbeat piano/strings ballad with more excellent support from Ms. Holland and the glory of a whistling solo in the song’s middle eight. I wish that the real horns here of Chris Dean and Steve Sidwell had been used throughout the album. The queasy blend of real and synthetic horns was probably owing to the patchwork production of the album [four production teams] and the grim realities of 10 Records budget. The song as presented here had been designated a remix, but it really doesn’t sound too far from the mark from the original CD from 1985 that I also have. I’m guessing that balance and EQ were the only ex post facto touches here as the arrangement sounds very similar.


Next: …Mission Impossible


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Record Review: Stephen Duffy – The Ups + Downs DLX RM

stephen duffy - theups+downsUKDLXRMA

Cherry Pop | UK | CD | 2008 | CRPOP11

Stephen Duffy: The Ups + Downs UK  DLX RM CD [2008]

  1. Kiss Me
  2. She Makes Me Quiver
  3. A Masterpiece
  4. But Is It Art?
  5. Wednesday Jones [Dixie]
  6. Icing On The Cake
  7. The Darkest Blues
  8. Be There
  9. Believe In Me
  10. The World At Large Alone [Remix]
  11. Kiss Me [1982] [Unidentified Bob Lamb Mix]
  12. Holes In My Shoes
  13. Love’s Duet
  14. Baby Impossible
  15. In This Twilight [Long]
  16. Little Lost Boy
  17. Broken Home

I was looking for something on at the start of the year and I saw the same row of come-ons that I usually did. I noticed that one of them was this album; long pencilled in as a “must buy.” I clicked to see its status, since the price given was a modest seventeen and change. My eyebrows raised considerably when I saw that Amazon was the only vendor selling it for that much, and they had it as a “backorder.” Any Amazon dealers with a copy in hand to sell had it priced from $150 to $644! All very abstract, of course, but it did light a fire under me to no longer wait for this puppy! A quick trip to revealed that this title was actually selling for about $20, but Cherry Red had it stricken from their roster after seven years, so I bought quickly.

stephen duffy - kissme1985UK12AThis was the debut album from Duffy and it managed to make me a lifelong fan, with a collection to match. The album itself was of three minds, and having followed the Duffy saga through the many years and labels later, he managed to tip his hand on the path his future would take admirably well here. Of course, “Kiss Me” was the first track I heard, in its 1985 version. Even then, it remained a pitch perfect piece of synthpop, with interjections of AON Fairlight CMI® courtesy of J.J. Jeczalik. The chord progression of this tune remains like a cascading waterfall of pleasure, even after 31 years.

stephen duffy - shemakesmequiverUK12ADuffy’s debut single for Virgin/Ten Records came next. “She Makes Me Quiver”  was  a bit more rooted in the deprecated synthpop of the day, unlike “Kiss Me,” which had been written [and recorded] several years earlier for WEA/Sire. Lots of funky slap bass abounded here, courtesy of Guy Pratt, fresh off of the third Icehouse album. It was more than competent dance pop of its time, but any of the four songs from this album that fit this general sonic mold, have help up less well than the other material. Still, this song was head and shoulders above the likes of “A Masterpiece” or “Believe In Me” due to the exceptionally witty lyrics from Mr. Duffy’s pen on display here.

“The soft suede of her boots,
It makes you a neurotic,
Your Maxfield Parrish suits,
Is style like a narcotic?
But if I can’t de debonair,
I’ll just be gaunt and gothic,
Can we make a pair?
Yes that would be exotic” – “She Makes Me Quiver”

“But Is It Art?” proffered a more delicate [and effete] pizzacato synthpop that played as far more sophisticated than the first three songs and finally, the true aim of Mr. Duffy was first telegraphed here, in spite of the synthesizers and drum machines on display. This material and arrangement was far more winning than even the fine pop earlier on display as it telegraphed more of Duffy’s soul than the other more perfunctory songs preceding this one.

stephen duffy - extendedplayUK2x10AThe next track was the radical remix of “Wednesday Jones [Dixie]” that replaced the original, more spartan take of “Wednesday Jones” which appeared on the 1985 CD. That tune was simply an acoustic piano ballad played and produced by Booker T. Jones. The “Dixie” version appeared initially on the 1986 “Extended Play” EP and it now sits on the album proper. Duffy himself produced this version, along with Bimbo Acocks Dixieland Jazz Band [with Dave Mattacks on drums] fleshing out the brief  two minute song into a veritable four minute opus. It opened with a creamy sax that was just this side of soporific but the tune quickly gelled into something more substantial. Had there ever been a 1985 song so out of step with the prevailing ethos of that deadening time in music as this one? With this song, in any form, it gave a strong indication of the future that lay ahead of the reluctant synth popper.

Next: …Fondant Memories

Posted in Core Collection, Record Review | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

REDUX: Record Review – King Crimson – Discipline

blast-from-the-past-headerMarch 14, 2013

Warner Brothers | US | LP | 1981 | BSK 3629

Warner Brothers | US | LP | 1981 | BSK 3629

King Crimson: Discipline US LP [1981]

  1. Elephant Talk
  2. Frame By Frame
  3. Matte Kudasai
  4. Indiscipline
  5. Thela Hun Ginjeet
  6. The Sheltering Sky
  7. Discipline

1981 was a heck of a year for music. One of the shocks that it held for me was the shocking re-emergence of a band I’d only ever gotten into a few years earlier during my “Prog Phase.” In 1978 I was on a Prog tangent but didn’t manage to get too deep before I was distracted by the emerging Post-Punk phenomena. Nevertheless, while listening to FM Rock that year, I’d heard King Crimson [guess which track] and made a bee-line for that first album. While the mellotron antics of the title cut pointed to a group like The Moody Blues, the toughness [to put it mildly] of jazz damaged tracks like “21st Century Schizoid Man” didn’t reflect any previous parts of my musical diet. A few years later I bought a copy of “Starless + Bible Black” and found it to be my favorite KC album of the several I’d heard.

By 1979, I was all over Robert Fripp’s first solo album, the still amazing “Exposure.” Fripp was experiencing a vast lateral shift that saw his approach to Art Rock having a greater congruence with Post-Punk rather than the dying dregs of Prog. He even guested on Blondie records! Even so, the idea that he would ever re-form King Crimson was fairly inconceivable since the man gives off a rather severe aura. How could he ever backslide into a King Crimson reunion?

Ever so gently, it seemed. The new Crimson had begun their life as “Discipline” but over time, the band convinced Fripp that this was not just a new group, but new growth from the King Crimson root. Master drummer Bill Bruford had played on the last three KC albums. Bassist Tony Levin was known to Fripp by his playing on the first three Peter Gabriel albums. The wildcard was second guitarist and vocalist Adrian Belew, who came to prominence when Frank Zappa plucked him out of a hotel lobby and then it seemed everyone wanted a piece of him. Sessions and tours with Bowie and Talking Heads cemented his credentials and he was the busiest guitarist of this period as previously recounted here.

A friend gave me the “Discipline” album as a Christmas present and it’s been an astounding album from the first play to this very morning. To this day I can hear “Frame By Frame” and forget to breathe. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The album kicks off with “Elephant Talk” and from the moment the needle hit the PVC it was apparent that this was a King Crimson that wasn’t looking backward one iota. The opener reflected recent Talking Heads more than anything, due to the presence of Belew; fresh from that band’s acme “Remain In Light.” But vocally, he resembled David Byrne. Enough so that the rest of the Heads had asked Belew to front the band instead of Byrne. Belew correctly discerned that such an offer was very dangerous, so he wisely demurred.

“Elephant Talk” offered a newly funky Crimson that one could almost dance to if one wanted. Levin’s Chapman Stick work first graced my ears on the previous year’s jaw dropping Peter Gabriel album, so I was more than ready to hear him cut loose without any restraint. Bruford’s rhythmic fills were as ever, cut like fine diamonds. This was the sound of a band who had taken a look at their competition [primarily Talking Heads and Japan] taken stock and proceeded to blow them out of the water as only they could.

If “Elephant Talk” showed a loose and funky side of the group, then “Frame By Frame” burnished the group responsible for “Red” and “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic” to a brilliant sheen. Fripp’s propulsive guitar figure seems more like a tightly sequenced synthesizer with his inexorable leads speeding along with a series of sixteenth notes that Bruford punctuated with tattoos of drum fills that pummelled and roiled the surrounding music like torrents of staccato quicksilver. At abrupt points in the song, the tempo shifted suddenly to touch base on straight 4/4 time before soaring off into wilder tangents again. I can’t emphasize just how powerfully this track affects me. It’s still my favorite King Crimson track to this day.

After the tour-de-force of “Frame By Frame,” “Matte Kudasai” comes as a gentle zephyr of a tune. I can’t recall the band sounding this relaxed before as Fripp’s guitar lines keen like gliding seagulls. A track like this shows that it’s not all exotic time signatures and hundreds of notes per minute for this band. The islands of lyrical beauty are necessary to give respite to the turbulence elsewhere. As a friend puts it, the punishment/reward ethos of Kind Crimson!

Well after that reward it was time for some punishment. “Indiscipline” sounds of a piece with “Red’s” most intense moments. The track began as a subtle buildup of percussion before turning on a dime into a wildly hurtling beast careening through the city at full speed; ignoring the screams of the pedestrians. The lyrics that Belew recites were taken from a letter his then wife had sent him during the recording period regarding a painting that she had just made. When he stops reciting the lyrics, the track ramps up to breakneck pacing in less than a heartbeat. Managing to be both playful and intimidatingly intense at the same time.

Speaking of intimidation, Side two of the album began with the pummeling grove of “Thela Hun Ginjeet,” wherein a shaken Belew recounted a street run-in with the threatening denizens of the city outside of the confines of Notting Hill Gate studios in London. Fripp got him to recount the tale to the engineers while making a recording on the sly of the still shaken singer. Appropriately enough, the title is an anagram for “Heat In The Jungle.” Shards of Belew’s guitar vie with Bruford’s serrated knife drums while Fripp steamrolls the song forward with his propulsive, trancelike lead lines.

After the peak of intensity on “Ginjeet,” the album dialed down the intensity with the long, languid instrumental of “The Sheltering Sky.” I swear that this track was the impetus for Sting to write the flaccid “Tea In The Sahara” on the last Police album, two years later. The guitar synths that Summers used on the latter can’t help but point back to this far superior tune.

Though this lineup of King Crimson persisted through to 1984, they didn’t come close to matching the level of accomplishment on this album, though “Satori In Tangier” on “Beat” manages the trick capably enough. The group then scattered for a decade before reincorporating in a massive “double trio” lineup in 1994 which added Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelatto to the roster that recorded “Discipline” thirteen years earlier. That tour was the first time that I managed to see King Crimson and I was pleased to hear that they performed most of this album still in their set. Hearing “Frame By Frame” live is nothing I’ll soon forget. And my wife won’t forget going to a concert where [for once] there was a huge line outside of the men’s restroom but no waiting at all at the ladies rooms!

– 30 –

Posted in Blast From The Past, Your Prog Roots Are Showing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Much Mooted Matt Bianco Maiden Album Goes Deluxe

Cherry Red | UK | 2xCD | 2016 | WCRPOPD171

Cherry Red | UK | 2xCD | 2016 | WCRPOPD171

Matt Bianco: Whose Side Are You On? UK 2xCD [2016]

Disc 1

  1. Whose Side Are You On (Extended Version)
  2. More Than I Can Bear (Remix)
  3. No No Never
  4. Half A Minute
  5. Matt’s Mood (12” Remix)
  6. Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed
  7. It’s Getting Late
  8. Sneaking Out The Back Door
  9. Riding With The Wind
  10. Matt’s Mood II
  11. More Than I Can Bear (Original UK Album Version)
  12. Matt’s Mood (Original UK Album Version)
  13. Big Rosie (7” Version)
  14. Whose Side Are You On? (7” Version)
  15. The Other Side
  16. More Than I Can Bear (US Edited Remix)
  17. Whose Side Are You On (US 7” Version)

Disc 2

  1. Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed (Extended Version)
  2. Matt’s Mood (Single Edit)
  3. Big Rosie (Extended Version)
  4. Matt’s Mood II (Single Edit)
  5. Sneaking Out The Back Door (Extended Version)
  6. Matt’s Mood (7” Remix)
  7. Big Rosie (Remix)
  8. Half A Minute (Extended Version)
  9. Matt’s Mood (Extended Version)
  10. Whose Side Are You On? (Demo)
  11. Half A Minute (Demo)
  12. Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed (Demo)
  13. Sneaking Out The Back Door (Demo)
  14. Big Rosie (Demo)
  15. The Happy Christmas Song (Demo)
  16. Half A Minute (2015 Version)

That’s the ticket! I have loved this album ever since 1984, when it was released, but even then it was a bit a a chore to find a copy for sale. I managed to get the UK LP some months afterward as an import. Considering how difficult this was at the time, I was shocked to see that it was picked up by Atlantic Records for a US release some months later. The CD was another thing. I have a Swiss pressing [possibly for release in Germany] that came down the pike in ’85-’86. One fascinating thing to note about all copies, was that even the LP kicked off with the extended version of the title tune. I’ve never heard any 7″ mix of the song.

matt bianco - halfaminuteUK12AAll of this has changed now that supremo reissue producer [among his other talents] Vinny Vero has set his laser-like focus to releasing the ultimate version of the album that at the very least, introduced Basia to the world. It’s out next month on Cherry Red’s Cherry Pop imprint. We are thusly gifted not only with the ultimate version of the album possible, but even conceivable. Is every single UK A/B side variant present and accounted for. But of course! US only remixes? Yes we can!

matt bianco - sneakingoutthebackdoorUK12AAs usual, the hyperbolic Mr. Vero has pulled the strings necessary to take this as far as possible, and so we now have six previously unreleased demo versions filling out disc two. And if that was not enough [and gosh, don’t you think it ought to be?]… he’s also roped the classic lineup into recording a brand new version of the single “Half A Minute” just because he can! He’s been producing DLX RMs of the Basia canon also for Cherry Red with “Time And Tide” and “London, Warsaw, New York” having been reissued under his watchful gaze earlier.

matt bianco - morethanIcanbearUK7AI recommend these for anyone who wants it done right, as the track selection, remastering and liner notes will be a form of perfection. For Mr. Vero is first and foremost a compulsive fan of music with an encyclopedic eye for detail in addition to the taste and talent to make these projects happen. I’ve been a fan for over 20 years of his work. If you’ve not had the pleasure, then now is the time to jump in and get on the right side of a good thing. The first 100 pre-orders of this title will be autographed, as incentive for the more fervent fans of MB’s effervescent jazzpop. The price? A modest £10.95/$15.86 [+ P+P]. Since I only have a pair of the five 12″ singles and a single 7″ from this album in my Record Cell, this is definitely in my sights.

– 30 –

Posted in Core Collection | 4 Comments

Associates Remasters Imminent On Pledge Music

associates 1981 I’ve known about this for some time as a Pledge Music user, but circumstances conspire to make me take a pass on preordering the new batch of DLX RMs from The Associates; my favorite band of Scot Post-Punk practitioners. I’m in a period of much travel happening right now and the budget has to go elsewhere. I’m certain that these are also available outside of the Pledge Music ecosphere. For those with the cash in hand, the deal for pre-order on Pledge Music is pretty good. All three of their first albums in 2xCD bundles can be had for £32/$46 including shipping [nods head in approval]. I am sort of obsessive over this band and would not look askance at owning everything though that’s probably not in the cards in this lifetime. Of course, they’ve salted the deal with a few more unreleased tracks that supersede the long OOP 2000 DLX RMs [single disc only] on V2 sixteen years ago. What’s on the new ones due out on May 23rd?

UK | 2xCD | 2016

Union Square | UK | 2xCD | 2016

The Associates: The Affectionate Punch UK 2xCD [2016]

disc 1

  1. The Affectionate Punch
  2. Amused As Always
  3. Logan Time
  4. Paper House
  5. Transport To Central
  6. A Matter Of Gender
  7. Even Dogs In The Wild
  8. Would I…Bounce Back
  9. Deeply Concerned
  10. A

disc 2

  1. Boys Keep Swinging
  2. Mona Property Girl
  3. Schmoltz
  4. Green For Grief
  5. Geese
  6. Saline Drips
  7. Galaxy Of Memories
  8. Double Hipness
  9. Big Waltz (aka Paper House)
  10. Janice (aka Deeply Concerned)
  11. You Were Young
  12. Bounce Back – Remix
  13. A – Remix
  14. Amused As Always – Remix
  15. The Affectionate Punch – Remix
  16. The End

There is but a single cut here not previously released somewhere else. “Schmoltz” is the bait here. All of the rest of these tracks have been previously released before. There seem to be a handful of remixes from the 1982 remix LP of “The Affectionate Punch.” They at least picked the most interesting variations. Others were single tracks or archival material originally released on the “Double Hipness” 2xCD from the V2 reissues. We’ll assume that the first disc is the original mix of the album.

UK | 2xCD | 2016

Union Square | UK | 2xCD | 2016

The Associates: Fourth Drawer Down UK 2xCD [2016]

disc 1

  1. White Car In Germany
  2. A Girl Named Property
  3. Kitchen Person
  4. Q Quarters
  5. Tell Me Easter’s On Friday
  6. The Associate
  7. Message Oblique Speech
  8. An Even Whiter Car

disc 2

  1. Straw Towels
  2. Kissed
  3. Fearless (It Takes A Full Moon)
  4. Point Si
  5. Blue Soap
  6. The Tree That Never Sang
  7. Straw Towels (Demo)
  8. Q Quarters (Demo)

The band’s berserk and thrilling singles compilation from their 1981 Beggars Banquet period is my favorite of their albums. The same tracks from the 2000 remaster were abetted here with three previously unheard cuts. Two demos and “The Tree That Never Sang.” Ordinarily, demos can be somewhat boring except to überfans, but Billy MacKenzie was such an inventive vocalist, he rarely sang a song the same way twice, so I’d be up for a service of Associates demos. I’d bet it would be worth my time.

UK \ 2xCD | 2016

Union Square | UK | 2xCD | 2016

The Associates: Sulk UK 2xCD [2016]

disc 1

  1. Arrogance Gave Him Up
  2. No
  3. Bap De La Bap
  4. Gloomy Sunday
  5. Nude Spoons
  6. Skipping
  7. It’s Better This Way
  8. Party Fears Two
  9. Club Country
  10. Nothinginsomethingparticular

disc 2

  1. 18 Carat Love Affair
  2. Love Hangover
  3. Club Country 12”
  4. Party Fears Two (Instrumental)
  5. It’s Better This Way (Alt Version)
  6. And Then I Read A Book
  7. Ulcragyceptimol
  8. Skipping (Alt Version)
  9. Australia
  10. Me, Myself And The Tragic Story
  11. I Never Will (demo)
  12. Club Country (Demo)
  13. Grecian 2000

Finally, the album “Sulk” which took them over the edge into stardom with its ideal neutron bomb of New Pop aesthetics and Post-Punk perfection, got a serious rewiring. Just two previously unheard tracks appear here. An instrumental version of their breakthrough hit “Party Fears Two” and an alternate take of “Skipping.” To be fair, two cuts previously on vinyl only appear here on CD for the first time. The “Club Country” 12″ has almost made it to CD but not quite. The last CD of this title in 2000 had a unique edit of the 12″ mix on the album proper in place of the original album track. The excellent alternate version of It’s Better This Way” hailed from the “Party Feats Two” single. This title only is also making the leap to vinyl in one of those excessive and spotty 180g pressings. US fans on Pledge Music cannot buy this for rights management reasons, but it’s a solid £20.

Union Square | UK | 2xCD | 2016 | METRSL 123

Union Square | UK | 2xCD | 2016 | METRSL 123

The Associates: The Best Of The Associates UK 2xCD [2016]

disc 1

  1. Boys Keep Swinging
  2. The Affectionate Punch
  3. Tell Me Easter’s On Friday
  4. Q Quarters
  5. Kitchen Person
  6. A
  7. Message Oblique Speech
  8. White Car In Germany
  9. Kites
  10. Party Fears Two
  11. Club Country
  12. 18 Carat Love Affair
  13. Love Hangover

disc 2

  1. Eloise
  2. Jukebox Bucharest
  3. Window Shopping (Instrumental)
  4. Double Hipness
  5. The Affectionate Punch (Demo)
  6. The Room We Sat In Before
  7. Galaxy Of Memories
  8. Gloomy Sunday (Live – ICA 1980)
  9. Waiting For The Loveboat (Instrumental)
  10. Stephen, You’re Really Something
  11. Fear Is My Bride
  12. International Loner
  13. Edge Of The World

Finally for beginners there is also a 2xCD, already released as of last month but also available on Pledge Music for £8/$12. It’s an eclectic blend of historical singles and rarities already out in the wilds… with the exception of “Eloise” and “Jukebox Bucharest,” which have only appeared here.

Will I bite? Hmm. That’s about $57 for seven tracks I don’t already have in a new package. I’m betting I can perhaps invest in surgical DLs of these tracks. Besides, I’ve already seen some expert opinion on the mastering flaws on the already released “Best Of” CD. For anyone not already owning these albums in one or more forms, then this is your chance. Get ready to have the instrumental prowess of Alan Rankine and the vocal hyperkinetics of Mr. Billy MacKenzie blow your little mind. These albums are peerless in the time period in which they were made; full of inventive strategies and a fearless strength of character to go wherever their muse takes them.

– 30 –

Posted in Core Collection, Want List | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Record Review: The Teardrop Explodes – Kilimanjaro

Mercury | UK | CD | 2000 | 548 322-2

Mercury | UK | CD | 2000 | 548 322-2

The Teardrop Explodes: Kilimanjaro UK CD [2000]

  1. Ha Ha I’m Drowning
  2. Sleeping Gas
  3. Treason
  4. Second Head
  5. Poppies In The Field
  6. Went Crazy
  7. Brave Boys Keep Their Promises
  8. Bouncing Babies
  9. Books
  10. The Thief Of Baghdad
  11. When I Dream
  12. Reward
  13. Kilimanjaro
  14. Strange House In The Snow
  15. Use Me
  16. Traison
  17. Sleeping Gas [live]

My, oh my. This one had been a long time coming! I first heard The Teardrop Explodes some time in 1981 on WUSF-FM. Don’t bother looking. They’re now an NPR affiliate… zzzzzz! Back then they were a cool college radio station. They had a Friday night New Wave show that I could barely pick up on my stereo, 90 miles away in Orlando… if I held the antenna just right! Ah, the pitfalls and glories of the analog existence! Back then, it was possible to hear and see things that you weren’t supposed to due to random atmospheric conditions.

the teardrop explodes - coloursflyawayUK7AAs was policy back then, I was air-checking the broadcast onto a cheap C-90 tape I had bought at K-Mart. No need for quality as the sound was riddled with static and “FM drift,” but it did give me songs to research for future purchase later. I heard an exciting, horn-driven tune that reminded me of the late 60s brassy soul vibe which had gone dormant for about a decade by then. The tune was infectious, but the DJ only announced the name of the group. I didn’t have a handle on the lyrics owing to the difficulties in receiving the transmission, so I had no clue as to the track’s title. One of the very next things I bought in a record store was the first Teardrop Explodes UK 7″ers I saw, “Colours Fly Away.” Since the sleeve art showed a prominent horn section, I thought this might be the one, but it wasn’t. I didn’t buy any more Teardrop Explodes releases owing to my disappointment at not getting this amazing song.

I later discovered that it was called “Ha Ha I’m Drowning” and was from the album “Kilimanjaro.” I would occasionally see a LP or CD of it over the years, but never bit for reasons unknown.

<insert 35 year gap>

All of that changed last Saturday when I hot my local emporium for a copy of the new Eno album and saw this lounging in the used bins. When I popped this into the CD player, I was rewarded [did you like that?] with the still completely awesome “Ha Ha I’m Drowning” issuing from my speakers. Though it felt strange not hearing it riven with static, I managed to somehow cope . Listening to this 36 years after its release, I have to imagine that it was this record, as much as anything, that led Paul Weller to add horns to The Jam’s 1981 album “The Gift.” While that was a nice effort, the trumpeters here [Ray Martinez, Hurricane Smith] truly lift much of this music to the plane of the sublime. “Ha Ha I’m Drowning” is notable not only for the boss horns driving its propulsive epiphanies, but also the rhythmic powerhouse of a middle eight where the instrumental drum break speeds forward for a full 40 seconds before the tightly coiled rhythm guitars bring it to a searing climax.

The rest of the album was perfectly fine horn driven New Wave from a time where, Dexys Midnight Runners aside, there were few such bands operating in this space. Even so, there were other standout tracks. “Sleeping Gas” was an amazing reveal of the influence of Krautrock on Julian Cope, an eternity before his writing made the links explicit in the 90s. “Sleeping Gas” was an absolutely mesmerizing vocal, lyrical Krautrock track that locked into a groove and stayed there the whole song. Krautrock was typically an instrumental genre but like Simple Minds at the same time, The Teardrop Explodes were using its foundations to craft new hybrids that were astonishing in their invention.

The closer “When I Dream” also hit the trance zone with it’s repetitive format and 7:13 running time. I seem to have heard the first bonus tracks, the 1981 non-LP single “Reward” somewhere over the intervening years. It’s an infectious single as produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley; old hands at horn-driven pop. At the time, the band were part of a seemingly non-existant wave of “neo-psychedelic” bands which were anything but. I don’t really hear any of that here. More than anything, this was a soul-led group who were adding disparate genres like Krautrock to the mix. The B-side “Strange House In The Snow” was one track that seemed to actually touch psychedelia, but only the barrel dregs of it! I can’t say I think that the inclusion of this song over some of the ones left off of this as bonus tracks was justified.

More interesting was the acoustic “Use Me” and the French language translation/remix of “Treason.” The “Sleeping Gas [live]” recording dated from the next album’s “Tiny Children” 12″ single and it managed to take the already brilliant track, far and away from its relative comfort zone with a frenzied Cope riffing on John Cale’s “Mercenaries [Ready For War]” while seemingly improving the track to a never boring 9:27. The song gets completely “meta” as Cope becomes a pilot/singer attempting to “land” the song without damage. What a thrilling performance!

the teardrop Explodes - kilimanjaroUKDLXRMCDAThis 2000 RM added six bonus tracks for the first time to the CD of this title. In 2010, there was a 2xCD DLX RM which was truly canonical, but I’m fine with the shorter program of bonus tracks here. If I saw it, I might be motivated to pick it up but the going price on Discogs now begins at $40 so this is not likely unless I get lucky. The big question, is that should I also buy the 2000 RM of the second album, “Wilder” also in the used bins at Harvest Records? Enquiring minds want to know.

– 30 –

Posted in Record Review | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments