Shriekback Speak The “L” Word With Kickstarter Campaign

Shriekback Live in 2017

Shriekback Live in The 21st Century

Any regulars here will know that I hold Shriekback in pretty high esteem. The band have been fairly active over the years, trickling out an album every 2-5 years [better than most, actually] and of late they have been working the archive action, re-issuing themselves much of their m.i.a. back catalogue. One salient fact has remained. The band had not played live since the very early 90s. “The Sacred City” tour had been their last live gasp.

When the band reabsorbed Carl Marsh a few years back, the missing ingredient from the heady “Oil + Gold” period was now ensconced once again in the band. The thought has arose that maybe with an active internet fanbase, Shriekback could one day tread the stages of the world once again? But to do that will take some capital… and capital, might aid us now.

On February 13, I received an email from the Shriekback mailing list touting a new Kickstarter campaign aimed at getting the multi-headed hydra that was the “Oil + Gold” era Shriekback band back on the road for the first time in nearly 25 years. Barry Andrews confirmed that the eight piece band he’s assembled for the mooted 2017 European tour will be comprised of:

  • Barry Andrews
  • Carl Marsh
  • Martyn Barker
  • Steve Halliwell
  • Mike Cozzi
  • Sarah Partridge
  • Wendy Partridge
  • Scott Firth

While bassmaster Dave Allen has a very active career with Apple Music Artist Relations, he will be sitting the tour out while the bass role will be undertaken by P.I.L.’s Scott Firth.


The notion is to have a campaign right now to bankroll the rehearsals and a European tour this year of the above band. The finances necessary have been identified as £35,000 [$43,597]. The thought is that the idea of a world tour will be broken into two phases. The cheaper European leg will be done first, and by the time it’s over, the Shriekback momentum will make it easier to mount the North American/other leg[s]. Carl Marsh reiterates that without the first leg being funded, the second leg will not happen. So fans have the opportunity to tithe some Shrieklove and finally see the band active for the first time in over a generation. Click the graphic below to see their Kickstarter Campaign page.

crowdsource-shriekback

How are things looking? Very healthy indeed. In the first week of the campaign, the coffers are roughly 64% to the goal. How have the band sweetened the pot and what are the premiums? There are a healthy range of options, and the high end is a little crazy, but amazing. Here are but a few highlights:

  • ≥£10 – quasi-live DL [presumably recorded live at rehearsals]
  • ≥£25 – quasi-live CD/DL
  • ≥£35 – T-shirt/CD/DL
  • ≥£100 – a book commemorating this process by Andrews + Marsh
  • ≥£1K – guest list and aftershow [everything up to this, and you [+1] at soundcheck/gig/aftershow of yout choice]
  • ≥3.5K – hanging out platinum executive version… everything else plus you [+1] are flown from anywhere in the world to a gig plus 2 nights accommodations and more perks than you can swing a dead cat at. [NOTE: all three of these donation seats have been snapped up already]

shriekback-jungleofthesensesukvhsaThat last one was probably as much as just attending a Shriekback show in Europe would be for me [$4,371], so I’m not surprised that the three slots are history. That also implies that with the three highest pledge levels out of the running, the last 35% remaining to raise will be through smaller price points, and it’s not exactly a sure thing, though it does look promising. I’d like to be able to pledge a £25 level to get that CD, because as they remind us Yanks, unless phase one happens, phase two [N. America] cannot happen. It remains to be seen if the budget can stretch that far, but the spirit is certainly there. So music fans of a Shriekback persuasion have a task cut out for them: nearly £20,000 in 22 days remain to be raised for anyone to once again see the expansive presence of Shriekback live on stage. If this doesn’t wash, all we have are the PAL VHS tapes of “Jungle Of the Senses” to hint of the majesty. I’ve had my copy for 30 years now and may have to translate this to a DVD for viewing purposes. Until then, there’s the recent Shriekback viddy below to tide us over.

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Visage’s “The Wild Life” Collection – Deluxe, Delightful…And Definitive [disc 7]

Steve Strange Collective | UK | Ltd. CD | 2016 | SSC008

Steve Strange Collective | UK | Ltd. CD | 2016 | SSC008

Disc 7 – Visage: The Wild Life Instrumentals UK CD [2016]

  1. Never Enough (Richard Stone & John Bryan In Prague Instrumental Version)
  2. Seven Deadly Sins Part Two (Instrumental)
  3. Hidden Sign (Tiger Face Flame Remix Instrumental)
  4. Dreamer I Know (Sare Havlicek Remix Instrumental)
  5. On We Go (Extended Instrumental)
  6. Digital Age (Instrumental)
  7. Tightrope (Instrumental)
  8. Your Skin Is My Sin (Antidote Version Instrumental)
  9. Fade To Grey (Tilt’s Nu-Romancer Remix)
  10. The Silence (Original Instrumental)

“Fierce Verve” was the final disc in the 6/7 CD editions which are now sold out. How I love that title – did they ask me for it and then hypnotize me to forget it ever happened? It encapsulates my idea of the image of this band. This 58 minute disc was something of a catch-all for various and sundry items that wee deemed too important to slip through the cracks entirely.

visage---demons-to-diamonds-bonus-AThe Richard Stone + John Bryan In Prague Instrumental Version of “Never Enough” that begins the disc, had reached ears twice before on the bonus CD-Rs bundled with “Orchestral” and “Demons To Diamonds.” I have the latter EP and can vouch for that. The mix is radically different; incorporating both a very “Die Roboter ’91” mix of the track as well as the Prague Philharmonic on strings. It make me wish that Kraftwerk could see beyond their hubris to incorporate an orchestra for some of the lush melody that has been absent from their increasingly sterile music of the last 30-40 years.

visage - lostinstaticUK12AThe second track here was the dancefloor monster of “Seven Deadly Sins Part Two Instrumental Version.” How in the hell was this simply amazing track relegated to the 12″/DL of the “Lost In Fashion” single? It’s one of the killa Visage tracks of all time as previously expounded on here. Thank your lucky stars that at least the instrumental version is on an actual CD. Given that Steve’s vocal presence and lyrics on this song are deliberately minimal, and what is here is all about the riffage, we’re in good hands. Glorious interlocking, propulsive, riffage by The Very Gods of Riff. I challenge anyone to hear this track without moving. It’s impossible!!

The Tiger Face Flame Remix Instrumental of “Hidden Sign” was an instro of one of the new mixes on “The Wild Life.” More instrumentals of remixed followed with Sare Havlicek’s brilliant Vince Clarke styled “Dreamer I Know [Dreaming Of Me]” mix. Then the new “On We Go” extended mix appeared in instrumental form.

Even a Visage B-side got the nod here with “Digital Age,” appearing in instro form. This was perhaps the one new Visage song that sounded the least like my idea of a Visage song. It’s a very conventional late 70s R+B vibe with minimal synth activity, but the bass is compelling and quite funky, so having it without vocals gives it a new life.  Another rarity was “Tightrope [Instrumental].” The song only figured on the DL version of “The Wild Life,” [and disc 2 of this set] so having the song on real CD as an instrumental here does me favors. Especially since just like with “Seven Deadly Sins Part Two,” the song here in question has only the scantest of vocal content. As usual, Robin Simon’s guitar is its own reward. That man went far in making so much of this set worthwhile to my grateful ears.

The Antidote Version of “Your Skin Is My Sin” appeared only on the 2xLP of “The Wild Life/Extended Versions” but it also figured here in instrumental form. I can’t say it sounds radically different from the album version, but undoubtedly I’ll have to invest in that vinyl sooner than later. Far more intriguing was the Tilt’s Nu-Romancer Remix of “Fade To Grey.” First of all, it breaks format by not being an instrumental on this CD! It’s a post-modern remix of the venerable warhorse, “Fade To Grey” with a twist. This minimal electro confection has taken the unique artistic choice of emphasizing the French, female backing vocals of the song and relegating Steve Strange’s presence to his backing vocals on the chorus. I enjoyed the dropout of the beat at the song’s midway point, and the Eurosynth vibe here makes me want to listen to Laid Back’s “White Horse.”

Fittingly, the last track here was the instrumental of “The Silence.” It’s still hard to believe that “Demons To Diamonds” did not feature this song, but at least it’s the last track on the single disc of “The Wild Life” while also being reprised instrumentally here. It marks the end of an era where Visage could become fully reinvigorated to the point of releasing three albums in three years and they were all warm, emotional recordings that were most welcome for a band of their age. The arrangements, production, and playing were a successful bid to get to the roots of the “Visage” sound while taking it to new places and showing evidence of growth. I’ve really become very fond of the final phase of the band and this closet-cleaning set of seven CDs has sufficed to sate my Visage jones nine ways to Sunday… for now. To hear the stories, there isn’t anything else left to release, except for that Steve Strange solo album reputed to be out there in some shape or form.

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Visage’s “The Wild Life” Collection – Deluxe, Delightful…And Definitive [discs 4-6]

visage-heartsknivesinstrumentalukcd

Steve Strange Collective | UK | CD | 2016 | SSC005

Disc 4 – Visage: Hearts + Knives Instrumentals UK CD [2016]

  1. Never Enough (Instrumental Version)
  2. Shameless Fashion (Instrumental Version)
  3. She’s Electric (Coming Around) (Instrumental Version)
  4. Hidden Sign (Instrumental Version)
  5. On We Go (Instrumental Version)
  6. Dreamer I Know (Instrumental Version)
  7. Lost In Static (Instrumental Version)
  8. I Am Watching (Instrumental Version)
  9. Diaries Of A Madman (Instrumental Version)
  10. Breathe Life (Instrumental Version)

Not just perfect for singing along with in your car, but the instrumental version of “Hearts + Knives” captures the first flowering of the actual band that Visage would become by 2013, in stark contrast to the studio project of the early years. The best thing I can say about this disc is that it almost perfectly plays out with all of the melody and inventive arrangements we loved about the vocal album. Getting focus on strictly the music rewards the ear with lots of details that get glossed over in the final production. All of this sounds great, and I’m wishing that I could hear more of my favorite albums in instrumental versions. Curiously, the one song here that falls flat on the playback is ironically, one of the stronger singles. “Lost In Static” was perhaps more reliant on what Steve Strange brought to the table, than the music here would testify for.

Steve Strange Collective | UK | CD | 2016 | SSC006

Steve Strange Collective | UK | CD | 2016 | SSC006

Disc 5 – Visage: Orchestral Instrumentals] UK CD [2016]

  1. The Damned Don’t Cry (Orchestral Instrumental Version)
  2. Fade To Grey (Orchestral Instrumental Version)
  3. Dreamer I Know (Orchestral Instrumental Version)
  4. Mind Of A Toy (Orchestral Instrumental Version)
  5. Visage (Orchestral Instrumental Version)
  6. The Anvil (Orchestral Instrumental Version)
  7. Never Enough (Orchestral Instrumental Version)
  8. Pleasure Boys (Orchestral Instrumental Version)
  9. Hidden Sign (Orchestral Instrumental Version)
  10. Night Train (Orchestral Instrumental Version)
  11. Love Glove (Orchestral Instrumental Version)
  12. The Silence (Orchestral Instrumental Version)

Nor surprisingly, the instrumental version of the “Orchestral” album is the definite must-have of this trilogy of CDs. It’s a testimony to the arrangements of Armin Effenberger, John Bryan, Michael Goodey, and Pete Whitfield that this album really succeeds in viewing the music on this CD in a whole new light. Some tracks have the orchestra bursting out of the starting block with the band on parity. Others, adopt a thrust where the orchestra begins the number like an overture of sorts, before the band come blazing in at a later point. This lends some of the longer tracks [“The Anvil,” “Fade To Grey,” Never Enough”] a 12″-like aspect. And it all sounds so right that there’s no wonder why [ahem] Midge Ure has announced that his next album will be an orchestral version of his songbook.

Steve Strange Collective | UK | CD | 2016 | SSC007

Steve Strange Collective | UK | CD | 2016 | SSC007

Disc 6 – Visage: Demons To Diamonds Instrumentals] UK CD [2016]

  1. Before You Win (Instrumental Version)
  2. Become (Instrumental Version)
  3. Loving The Alien (Instrumental Version)
  4. Days Become Dark (Instrumental Version)
  5. Seven Deadly Sins Part Three (Instrumental Version)
  6. Aurora (Instrumental Version)
  7. Your Skin Is My Sin (Instrumental Version)
  8. Clubscene (Instrumental Version)
  9. Star City (Instrumental Version)
  10. Never (Instrumental Version)

I tend to focus on “Hearts + Knives” a lot because it was the album where Visage came back from cold storage with the utmost in vigor, but for what it’s worth, “Demons To Diamonds” was almost as strong an album. That the band were tied to songs they had a vocal from Steve by before his demise and it still hangs together well, says a lot for the caliber of work being done by all and sundry. I have a special fondness for this album because it was made after Visage actually played live shows as a band, and thus it has a more live feel that was never a part of the band until that time. Hearing the music without vocals draws attention to the integrity that it has.

Next: …The Limited Edition

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Visage’s “The Wild Life” Collection – Deluxe, Delightful…And Definitive [disc 3 – part 2]

visage-wildlifeextendedversionsukcd3[…continued from previous post]
The new extended version of “The Anvil” maintains the palpable undercurrents of aggression from the short mix, but the grinding, methodical pace of the bass synth and Robin Simon’s rhythm guitar combine with the drumming and finally, the Moroderesque sequencers to make this mix a pulsating dance floor monster. I love how Simon’s vaporous lead guitars hang menacingly over it all like a fog.

The new extended version of “The Pleasure Boys” was another case of taking a fair 12″ version from 1982 and re-wiring it from the ground up so that the new cut was absolutely definitive. The original single was something of a paradigm shift as it was the first Visage song recorded without Midge Ure’s participation. It was a harder electro sound that relied on syncopated beatbox and new bassist Steve Barnacle’s funk popping. Even the synths were rhythmic.

The original 12″ version was something of a wash with the single edit simply continuing with a long instrumental coda to take it to full 12″ length. The mix here was much more interesting with a expanded rhythmic buildup that showcased the various elements until it developed a head of steam sufficient for the vocals to begin. An effective “old school” 12″ mix methodology that has held Visage in good stead as they have excelled at “extended versions.” Strange bites the lyric more convincingly here in the new version. I also enjoyed how the motorcycle revving samples were strongly de-emphasized here. I had felt that they were overused in the original version.

Another definitive mix was what they did with “Tar” on this CD. “Tar” was never a favorite Visage single, but the compelling dub deconstruction given a spin here managed to make the song much more interesting to these ears. This was especially interesting, since there was never an extended version of any kind for this song. The lurching, dubbed out buildup gradually coalesces into the full-bore song until two minutes in, we’ve been taken to a very different place from the abstract intro. The song continued apace for about 90 seconds, then it all began to break down again into heavy dub for another nearly three minutes.

Then there’s “Frequency 7 [the dance version].” It was yet another overworked stab of squelchtronica. I never had much time for the original dance mix from 1981, and this one is simply more of the same, yet different. At 3:30 I am looking at where my watch would be, if I had one. Unfortunately, there’s another 90 seconds of slamming beats and lurching synths. And after hearing this many times of late, I began to think that wasn’t this something I had heard before? Yes. On the “Frequency 7” CD-R back in 2013 that was the first fruit of the new Visage to reach these ears.

The waveform of the version on the "Frequency 7" CD-R of 2013

The waveform of the version on the “Frequency 7” CD-R of 2013

The only difference was that the version on the CD-R was brickwalled within an inch of its life. If there’s anything more tedious, it’s this song stripped of what scant subtlety it may have had and cranked up to eleven. It did not sound quite so loud on “The Wild Life,” and here’s the simple reason why:

The wave has been decreased in volume - with the same dynamic range

The wave has been decreased in volume – with the same dynamic range

The volume has been decreased by several db, but the same lack of dynamic range applies to the actual sound. It’s just quieter.

Then the CD has a couple of ringers to fill it out. Extended versions familiar to anyone who had bought the CD singles from “Hearts + Minds.” “Shameless Fashion” was the first new Visage single since “Beat Boy” and I would have added it on the standard “Wild Life” CD but at least it’s on the extended version disc. Hearing this mix in 2013 was the first evidence that we’d get of Visage knowing how to really give their fans an old school extended remix. The extended version of “Hidden Sign” was an effective way of taking the song out of its almost country sounding vibe into something a little more electropop.

Nestled in between these known quantities was one of the pulls for this CD, above and beyond all of the new versions contained here. It was a 7:20 extended remix of “On We Go” from the “Hearts + Knives” album. It’s great hearing an effective deep cut on an album with six singles issued from it get the extended remix treatment. This moody song would never trouble a dance floor, but it’s a great song all the same. Back when Visage was rousing itself from cold storage, Martin Rushent, who gave Visage a leg up in 1979, suggested writing a slow one like “I Am The Law” from “Dare” and the band gamely took the bait. The methodical nature of the song plays out even more strongly with the extra three minutes added. It is now possible for the cognoscenti to make a playlist featuring eight of its ten songs in expansive 12″ mixes. [memo to self]


The new extended versions on this volume were completely unexpected by me up front, yet the high degree of success that the Visage team had in making these new 12″ versions was yet another expression of the assured success that the band had for the duration of their return to the recording studios in the final phase of the band. Some fans have groused about the re-recordings, but with the exception of “Frequency 7 [the dance version],” everything here runs the gamut from great to amazing, with three tracks in particular [“Mind of A Toy,” “The Damned Don’t Cry,” and “Pleasure Boys”] being absolutely definitive versions that have displaced the original 12″ mixes in my estimation. The “Tar” extended dub managed to even surpass the original 7″mix, since there was never a remix until now. Since this band has dispersed int he wake of Steve Strange’s death in 2015, the work here was an unexpected gift to this fan. I’d love to hear more of this band, but we’ll look at the best way to do that tomorrow.

Next: …Listen To The Band

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Visage’s “The Wild Life” Collection – Deluxe, Delightful…And Definitive [disc 3]

Steve Strange Collective | UK | CD | 2016 | SSC004

Steve Strange Collective | UK | CD | 2016 | SSC004

Disc 3 – Visage: The Wild Life [The Best of Extended Versions + Remixes 1978-2015] UK CD [2016]

  1. Fade To Grey (Extended Version)
  2. Mind Of A Toy (Extended Version)
  3. Visage (Extended Version)
  4. The Damned Don’t Cry (Extended Version)
  5. The Anvil (Extended Version)
  6. Pleasure Boys (Extended Version)
  7. Tar (Extended Dub)
  8. Frequency 7 (Dance Version)
  9. Shameless Fashion (Extended Version)
  10. On We Go (Extended Version)
  11. Hidden Sign (Extended Version)

When I first wrote about this CD I had no idea at the time that tracks 1-8 were remixed and extended, new recordings made in 2013-2014. Since I had the original 12″ mixes of tracks 1-3, 6, 8 on CD, I didn’t think that this disc was going to have much to offer me! Mea culpa! Let me say that if you had to buy just one of the discs that the Steve Strange Collective released in “The Wild Life” CDX edition, then this CD is the one that’s the minimal must-buy for the cash-strapped.

It opened with a new 8:38 extended remix of “Fade To Grey,” and since that song was the most exacting duplicate of the re-records the band cut, what this seems like is a vintage remix using the multitrack masters from 1980 that had been lost in the mists of time until now. In other words, the true worth of this CD is revealed to be much like the recent Blank + Jones ZTT project; modern remixes using old school remix aesthetics to make new, vintage sounding remixes of much beloved material. Fortunately, for us, the end results range from good to spectacular. The new mix for “Fade To Grey” was more straightforward and less dubby than the familiar US extended dance version from the labs of John Luongo. It doesn’t displace the earlier mix, but stands as a good complement to it. The slow buildup in the intro stands as a delicate contrast to the bolder aspects of the song, which were introduced a bit later.

For “Mind of A Toy,” please erase all memories of the particularly tepid 1981 12″ mix in deference to the superior 6:28 remix here. The buildup was seamlessly integrated into the song as opposed to the less adroit mix elements that never seemed to cohere this strongly on the original 12″ mix.

Since “Visage” was my favorite song from the 1980 album, it surprises even me that I didn’t own the 12″ remix of same until some time in the late 80s when a catalog revealed its existence to my bewildered eyes. Once I mail ordered it, I was left with the best 12″ remix of this period of Visage’s career. The percussion sequencers on the re-recorded version don’t quite cut it for me, so the mix here will not be displacing the original 12″ version, but given that I love the song so much, it’s still exciting for me to have an alternate mix where I can revel in the differences that make this mix so different to the earlier one. One can never have too many mixes of a favorite song! The middle eight here has great parity between Steve Barnacle’s bass and the synths. Speaking of which, I love the foghorn synths just before the drum breakdown in the outro.

Then it was time for the ridiculous overkill winning mix in this whole project. If the rest of this CD had been dog meat, I’d still have considered it a win just for the new 12″ extended remix of “The Damned Don’t Cry.” This has long been my favorite song from “The Anvil,” but the original 5:45 12″ version of this song was always inferior to the LP mix to these ears. I especially disliked the clumsy minor key middle eight stitched into the mix like a third arm. No such problems here as this “Damned” is filled with an unerring drive and direction. The train rhythms here sound tighter and crisper than the original mix; bringing the song closer to some sort of ideal between Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder. The 7:43 mix has ample time to flaunt its superiority and I love the drop in the final third where the motorik pulse overlaid with heartbreaking melody brings it edging closer to Japan’s “European Son” territory. This song has always been amazing but it’s been mixed so delightfully here that the song’s flame burns brighter than ever before.

 

There’s so much here to discuss, we’ll have to return later for round two.

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Visage’s “The Wild Life” Collection – Deluxe, Delightful…And Definitive [disc 2]

Steve Strange Collective | UK | CD-R | 2016 | SSC002

Steve Strange Collective | UK | CD-R | 2016 | SSC002

Disc 2 – Visage: The Wild Life [The Best of 1978-2015] UK CD-R [downloads] [2016]

  1. Fade To Grey (Main Version)
  2. Mind Of A Toy (Main Version)
  3. Visage (Main Version)
  4. Tar (Original 7” Version)
  5. The Anvil (Main Version)
  6. The Anvil (Main Version)
  7. Night Train (Main Version)
  8. The Damned Don’t Cry (Main Version)
  9. Pleasure Boys (Main Version)
  10. Never Enough (Original Version)
  11. Dreamer, I Know (Original Version)
  12. She’s Electric (Coming Around) (Original Version)
  13. Hidden Sign (Tiger Face Flame Remix)
  14. Love Glove (Orchestral Version)
  15. Aurora (Original Version)
  16. The Silence (Original Version)
  17. Tightrope (Original Version)

The second disc of the 7xdisc version was the download version of “The Wild Life.” The Steve Strange Collective had secured licensing rights to the Universal owned masters of the band as recorded in ’80-’82 only for the single disc version on CD as reviewed last post as disc one of this set. For the record, the band re-recorded many of the early songs on this DL version of the album in 2013-2014. Bands tend to do this a lot more these days as they find that this or that conglomerate owns their masters and 30+ years later, they would like to see some of the income that the songs generate. A few years back, I noticed that ABC had re-recorded three of their biggest songs and released them in a DL EP, for example. Then the band can license their recording of their iconic number to use in an ad campaign, effectively cutting the conglomerate out of the loop, it’s no doubt hoped.

So re-recordings are out there for many reasons; most of which having everything to do with money.  The question remains, what are these re-recordings like? Well, tracks 1-3, 5, 7-9 here are re-recordings. The version of “Tar” is not called “main version” because it is the same original 7″ version that figured on disc one of the set. In what is the only error committed throughout the 7xCD set, track five was burned onto the CD-R twice in a row. That’s fairly innocuous in a world where errata on major label boxed sets can get tediously long.

Right off the top, let me state that the re-recordings of “Fade To Grey,” “Mind Of A Toy,” and “The Damned Don’t Cry” were particularly faithful. “Fade To Grey” in particular shows that the band took great pains to faithfully re-create their biggest single to the point that few who are’t Visage trainspotters like myself will ever notice any differences. To that end, the three songs mentioned are barely of interest to these ears. It’s where the songs diverge from the source material that provide the interest here, for me.

The take of “The Anvil” is slightly less slavish and that makes the difference to these ears. The sustain profile of the synth-bass line was slightly longer sounding to these ears, giving the track a more bracing feel. This was matched by the vocal performance by Steve Strange that was less effete than the original take. The instrumental chorus seemed to have a more tightly syncopated, Moroder bass line in concert with the taut rhythm guitar. It all ends up sounding just that much tougher than the original production of this track, meaning that for me, this version has now just edged out the original 1982 master as my preference.

“Visage” is my favorite track from the debut album. The version here maintained the album version intro with the four-count beat leading the piano. The famously galloping sequencers that were the biggest pull for me in the original are’t quite there in this version. This does sound like a hot live take. It doesn’t have the unerring precision of the original, but it is a spirited performance, none the less. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was charmed by the exaggerated portamento Logan Sky used on the synth lead hook. While this version does not surpass the original, it remains worth listening to for its differences. This of this version as a Peel Session that never was and it’s a winner.

“If “Visage” was a less rigorous divergence from slavish reproduction, the “Night Train” showed the band at their least painstaking. In fact, the take of “Night Train” here was downright loose. It sounded like nothing more than a rehearsal that might have been casually recorded. The version here follows the LP mix, but not very closely. Steve sounds really deep of voice here for a start. It all sounds really live with little in the way of overdubs, and curiously diminished sax. The other horns that were here seemed synthetic.

The motorcycle samples used for “Pleasure Boys” called attention to their difference from the ones used on Visage’s first brush with samplers back in 1982. The rest of the track hewed closer tot he mark, with the biggest exception being Steve’s vocal. His ad libs [“This is a funhouse/Some say a mad house”] differed here with some phrases missing completely. The overall vibe was still Visage at their most aggressive. This was another case of where the differences of the re-recording provided all of the thrills for an old Visage hack like myself.

The rest of the material following that song [tracks 10-16] were all familiar late period Visage versions either released on albums or remixed on disc one. The big perk of the download version of the album, was that it sported a unique bonus track, only available as art of the DL version of the album. “Tightrope” was [almost] an instrumental that could have been on either of the late period Visage albums, if they had cared to traffic in them to the extent that the first album did [3/10 tracks instrumental]. Here, the methodically paced number lumbered like a behemoth until the guitars of Robin Simon conspired to take the number aloft, with Logan Sky doubling with his synths. Simon really hit the mark on his solo, which was so tasty, it sounded like Paul Reynolds channeling Robin Simon. Then, at the middle eight that followed, Steve Strange made an appearance for a spoken recitation that comes and goes before you realize what had just happened.

The big pull here was probably “Tightrope,” which felt like a strong B-side that could have been issued on any of the singles that the third phase of the band had issued. The re-recorded versions could be interesting, or appalling, depending on the listener’s attitude. This listener found the looser, more casual re-records fairly interesting to a Visage trainspotter like myself. That represented about a third of the program. One of the re-records is now my go-to version of “The Anvil.” That meant that 2/3 of this album was of academic interest only. My recommendation? at the very least download “Tightrope” if purchasing as downloads, and sample the re-recordings that you find interesting.

Next: …The acme of “The Wild Life.” 

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Visage’s “The Wild Life” Collection – Deluxe, Delightful…And Definitive [disc 1]

The party I didn't want to end has been continued

The party I didn’t want to end has been continued

Visage was always one of my favorite “bands.” Their debut album was one of my first purchases after finally tracking down a copy of Ultravox’s “Vienna.” The sounds of that Ultravox record were the map that I had been waiting to follow even after two Gary Numan albums had already been in the Record Cell. I recognized in “Visage” the immediate predecessor that fostered its birth. This was post-disco dance rock; heavy on the electronics and attitude. I rode the Visage bus until the patchy third album and the Mid-80s Malaise® derailed the project. Seemingly for good. Truth be told, it was probably the heroin as much as anything that scuttled the group. With Steve Strange adrift by that point, I could only look longingly at the “V” section in record stores and imagine the records I’d missed.

Until 2002, and the abortive first Visage2 stirrings surfaced on the internet. But nothing came of it from my end, and barring the occasional compilations, Visage was seemingly a done deal. Strange was by that point more [in]famous for his fragile state [he got caught shoplifting a Teletubby toy in 1999] than any musical contributions he was going to make. It took until Visage3 formed and in 2013, that new material surfaced and against all odds, I was completely floored by the results. I had been cautiously investigating the new material. The first single, “Shameless Fashion,” was good. It was helped considerably by the presence of my favorite Post-Punk Guitarist, Robin Simon, in the lineup. The next 30 second sample they released from the song “Never Enough” was just a powerhouse, and I ordered the DLX CD package immediately after hearing it.

Visage then went on a three year tear that saw three albums, a remix album, and a wildly successful string of seven singles [six issued from “Hearts + Knives” alone] released to my ever-fascinated ears. The band were laying down a lot of material with a very strong band lineup and a production crew that were  all aligned to pilot the good vessel Visage out of the shallows where they had been trapped for so long, and into satisfying artistic waters. It was all the more tragic that Strange died suddenly in early 2015, just two years into this final phase of the band, but the band’s legacy was in good hands. The followup to “Hearts + Knives” was finished and it was another solid album. Now, the last piece of the puzzle has fallen into place and a new Visage compilation has been produced that draws together for the first time the phase 1 and phase 3 eras of the band.


Steve Strange Collective | UK | CD | 2016 | SSC001

Steve Strange Collective | UK | CD | 2016 | SSC001

Disc 1 – Visage: The Wild Life The Best Of, 1978 to 2015 UK CD [2016]

  1. Fade To Grey (Original Version)
  2. Mind Of A Toy (Original Version)
  3. Visage (Original Version)
  4. Tar (Original 7” Version)
  5. Anvil (Original Version)
  6. Night Train (7″ Version)
  7. The Damned Don’t Cry (Original Version)
  8. Pleasure Boys (Original Version)
  9. Never Enough (Original Version)
  10. Dreamer, I Know (Original Version)
  11. She’s Electric (Coming Around) (Original Version)
  12. Hidden Sign (Tiger Face Flame Remix)
  13. Love Glove (Orchestral Version)
  14. Aurora (Original Version)
  15. The Silence (Original Version)

The first half of this compilation consists of masters now owned by Universal Music, so they licensed tracks 1-8. There are a few curve balls and I’m here to tell you about them. The first three tracks are all UK 7″ mixes previously on CD. The version of “Tar” is the same one on the 7″ only. Comparative listening reveals, that while it is the right version, the recording here was clearly mastered from vinyl with broadband Noise Reduction. The subtle, yet telltale, artifacts in the final fadeout were revealed to me in headphones. I personally prefer a lighter touch than that sort of thing, but they didn’t ask me.  It’s not a deal breaker, but the mastering was. For reasons known only to Yuri Dent, the mastering engineer, this track alone was heavily brickwalled. Have a look.

tar-brickwall

Ouch. Lots of clipping and the total fade to silence in the editor three quarters through the track is another technique that I tried… once. I abandoned it because such hijinx cross the line of good taste and leave us stranded in Jon Astley territory! He thinks nothing of such heavy handed clinical treatment of music. So… the good news: “Tar” in its original 7″ 1979 version has been reissued here. In these days of labels making bucketfuls of mastering errors for legacy reissues, we should be thankful, I suppose. The bad news is that it sits alone in the hell of brickwalling, singular in this album, which has been mastered with great taste and care in all other instances. As this screen cap of the waveform for “Night Train” from the same disc clearly shows.

night-train-aiff

Look at that waveform. That is what anyone with ears wants from music. Strong, loud, and detailed music with no loss of detail at the expense of loudness. Sermon over. What else do we need to know?

visage-nighttrainuk7pda“The Anvil” is not the 7″ remix, but the LP version. “Night Train” is the much promised, but never delivered 7″ remix by John Luongo, the presence of which warms the cockles of my heart. All I have in house is the lo-fi picture disc 7″ of this single. The 12″ version lacked the 7″ remix. When I wanted to really hear this track, I had to play my Visage laserdisc. This has been since corrected. The remaining UK 80s singles are the 7″ edits, making “The Anvil” something of a missed opportunity, thought I do have it on the German 1st CD of “Fade To Grey: The Singles Collection.”

Then the program conveniently leapfrogs the “Beat Boy” era singles, which I have to admit I found a jarring continuity jump. The CD has about 65 minutes of material. To include “Love Glove” and “Beat Boy” singles at this point probably would have still fit everything onto a single CD. I suspect that the eternal bête noire of licensing issues came home to roost with this decision to forego the third album singles. While the third album was reviled in its time, even by me, I think that time has been much kinder to it than with most of its contemporaries. For what it’s worth, I never found either single from it to be particularly weak.

From this point onward, the fruits of the final Visage flowering figure in the program. I’ve written hundreds of words praising “Never Enough.” Suffice to say, it’s still my favorite Visage song ever. The winsome pop of “Dreamer I Know” is the furthest thing from the haughty Visage arrogance of old, and aren’t we all the better for it? In a similar fashion, the sophisticated elegance of “She’s Electric [Coming Around]” walks closer to the late period Roxy Music sound than anything else they had bone before then.

To this point, this CD had two cuts I did not have on CD before, but there were two more versions making their debut here. The first, “Hidden Sign [tiger face flame remix],” adds a little of the rhythmic panache of Pet Shop Boys “Rent” to the synthpop on offer here. Two cuts were pulled afterward from the “Orchestral” album and the last Visage album, “Demons To Diamonds.” “Love Glove [orchestral version]” took a gorgeous melody to begin with and swathed it in elegant strings that sounded like they were meant to be there since day one. “Aurora” was another rivetingly beautiful track from the final Visage album.

Finally, the original version of “The Silence” finally bows at the end. The orchestral version made its debut on the “Orchestral” album of 2014, but the band only version makes a perfect capper to this compilation. It makes all the sense in the world as the last Visage song one would ever hear on this CD… except that’s not the case. There is a hidden track included about eight minutes afterward and it’s a brief, orchestral dub of “Love Glove” taking the song into a jazzlike space.

Finally, we are left with a somewhat compromised Visage “best of” that comes tantalizingly closer to that goal than any of the earlier attempts. At least it picks up the fecund final phase of the band to good effect, though I would have opted for “Love” Glove” and “Beat Boy” 7″ versions to have been tracks nine and ten. They deserved at least that much. Then if a track from “Orchestral” had to be included, perhaps it should have been “Fade To Grey” since that was the single issued in advance of that album. Since it’s their calling card, having two versions should not have been too much of a problem on a single disc, given how good the orchestral versions were.

So this was ultimately a necessary volume to chart the successes that typified the final phase of Visage’s career. When this was announced, there was a mooted CDX version, and I imagined that there would be a 2/3xCD version with more remixes offered. I could not have imagined in my wildest pipe dreams that six further discs would be on offer, and for the reasonable price of £49.00. I thought those discs would be interesting. I didn’t know the half of it!

Next: …Vive La Differánce!

 

Posted in Core Collection, New Romantic, Record Review, Scots Rock | Tagged , , | 4 Comments