Monday, July 28, 2014

Alphaville: Sounds like a Melody (Special Long Version) b/w The Nelson Highrise (Secor One: The Elevator) (1984)

My other 12" single from Alphaville is Sounds like a Melody, the second single from Forever Young. I prefer Big in Japan and Fallen Angel, the latter of which was not released as a single.

By the way, I do own some 45 RPM 7" singles, but I might leave them or at least not touch them until the end of the LPs, which could take a three of four years, unless I make multiple posts each day, including weekends.

The flip side of this 12" single is unremarkable.

Alphaville: Big in Japan (extended remix/extended instrumental) (1984)

I know, the cover photo is crooked. 

Surprisingly, the first single from the album Forever Young was not Forever Young. It was Big in Japan, a song that apparently described the phenomenon of a band being more popular in Japan than in the home nation. (I am sure that Cheap Trick could identify with that). Well, that's what some people say. According to the Allmusic Guide, the song is about something else entirely:

"Alphaville singer Marian Gold claimed that their debut single, Big in Japan, was a metaphor for the perils of heroin addiction." Well, who knows?

Neon on my naked skin
Passing silhouettes
Of strange illuminated mannequins
Shall I stay here at the zoo
Or shall I go and change my point of view
For other ugly scenes
You did what you did to me
Now it's history I see
Things will happen while they can
I will wait here for my man tonight
It's easy when you're big in Japan




You tell me.

Alphaville: Forever Young (1984)

I sort of compare the German synthpop group, Alphaville, with the Norwegian synthpop group, a-ha. I think that's because I subconsciously view them as one-hit wonders, when that really is not the case at all.

There is no question that Alphaville is best known for the song, Forever Young, the title track of its first album. Everyone knows this song, right? The other big songs from this album were Big in Japan, Sounds like Melody, and Fallen Angel.

For me, this is another album I might listen to for nostalgia reasons. As far as 80s music goes, this was peripheral to me in many ways, much like a-ha. We haven't really come to any of my favourite releases from that decade yet.

The Alan Parsons Project: Stereotomy (1985)

Stereotomy is the second to last release from The Alan Parsons Project. The Allmusic Guide says this about the album:

"On this album, the theme circles around the way in which the modern world molds the personality, the character, and the livelihood of the human being. People are but a slave to their lifestyle and their environment, and they are destined to be thrown into this situation at birth, with tolerance as an inevitability. One must really pay attention to the profound lyrics and loose structuring of the music to attain the concept that Parsons metaphorically dances around."

Perhaps I need to listen to the album a few more times to understand the theme. I think I like the music on this album much more than Vulture Culture, but overall, the album seems to be less engaging. If I were to pick the best track, I would say it is Where's the Walrus:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

All About Eve: All About Eve (1988)

Evidently, All About Eve's roots are in the goth scene, and the band is often referred to as a goth band. I can hear echos of Siouxsie and the Banshees, but the band--at least on the first album--seems more folk/pop to my ears. It just doesn't seem to fit with the likes of Bauhaus, The Cure, or Joy Division.

Julianne Regan's voice is quite lovely, offering an ethereal, dreamy  vocal accompaniment that I quite like. In fact, her voice is what lingers in my mind most above the often acoustic instruments.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Alarm: Eye of the Hurricane (1987)

Eye of the Hurricane opens with a memorable song, Rain in the Summertime. The Alarm has never sounded so much like U2. The sound seems more polished to me, but apart from the opening track, I found the album to be a little disappointing.

The cover photo suggests that the hair was tamed somewhat, but some of the hairstyles looks suspiciously like mullets. And indeed, when reviewing the video, the hair has turned mullet-like.

The Alardm: Strength (1985)

The hair is still big, one year after Declaration. The sound is still big, the drums heavy, the vocals urgent. I think I can say that I really don't love any of the songs on this record. Despite having some Alarm records, I don't think I was ever really in step with what they were doing. Some reviewers argue that the band is the pinnacle of rock, but I fail to see it.

Perhaps some day, I will have to remove the Alarm from my vinyl collection.

The Alarm: Delcaration (1984)

I might describe The Alarm as part hair band, part Clash wannabees, part proto-punk pseudo-acoustic pretentious anthemic rockers, or something like that. They had a big sound and big hair to go with it. They were never anywhere close to being as good as the Clash or U2, to whom they were sometimes compared. Someone even once compared this band with The Jam, but I think that does a great injustice to The Jam.

Declaration, the first album from The Alarm, contains possibly the most recognizable Alarm song: Sixty Eight Guns. I truly like that song, even today. I am not sure if the album is some sort of call to arms for the working class, or simply an attempt at high voltage rock. In any case, to my ears, it's just a tad over-produced.

There's definitely lots of energy on this first record, and it's not that bad. I am not sure if it has aged well, unlike me, but that's another story.


Bryan Adams: Diana (1985)

Perhaps repressed memories are a real phenomenon after all. I forgot I owned this record. I have no idea how I acquired it, and it really irks me to realize that I sold my copy of Pink Floyd's The Wall, and yet hung on to this. The only possible explanation is that The Wall had some resale value. This, perhaps not so much.

In searching for background information about this release, I discovered that the song was retired with the death of Lady Diana Spencer. That's fair enough, I suppose.

The most bizarre track on this EP is The Bryan Adamix. This track is what happens when you let children loose in the studio to mess around with the mixing boards. It's a medley of some of his tracks, glued together with a few beats to hide the transitions. I really don't understand why he allowed this to be released, and I wonder if he is now embarrassed by this Dr. Frankensteinish track. I would be.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Alan Parsons Project: Vulture Culture (1985)

The release of Vulture Culture in 1985 heralded the decline of The Alan Parsons Project. The best description of this album might be boring, though there are two songs that manage to rise above that description.  

Let's Talk About Me is okay, but it sounds so 80s--and 80s in a bad way--that I'm afraid I can't really like it too much. The other song that resonates somewhat with me is the rather peaceful Days are Numbers. It's unoffensive, perhaps charming, possibly a bit too anemic, but calming, soothing, and quaint.

I gather that the theme of Vulture Culture is summed up by the title. We live in a selfish society. I wonder when that description has not been true. I like the cover image of an Ouroboros, a serpent eating its tail. But, if the theme of the album is our parasitical society, I am not sure that the image works because I think this symbol is meant to suggest cycles. Maybe I don't know enough about the symbol or the deeper meaning of the songs on the record. In any case, here are the two best songs, in my humble opinion.

Bryan Adams: Waking up the Neighbours (1991)

I thinks it's safe to say that by the early 1990s, consumers were buying fewer and fewer records, and turning to compact discs. I am confident that I did not buy any vinyl records in the 1990s (at least not new ones), which means that this record was likely a gift...from someone.

Evidently, this release sold 16 million copies, and I am willing to bet that most of that 16 million were on compact disc. The advent of the CD platform led to longer albums. Rather than 35 to 40 minutes, typically found on records, CDs were lengthening out to 60 minutes and more. This means that most newer CDs need two pieces of vinyl to contain all of the tracks. In other words, most new CDs are really double albums. I guess that's the one benefit of CDs. You just get more music.

Unfortunately, this is a not always a good thing, as in the case with this record. There are simply too many songs. In fact, if you divided the record in half, that would be just about right. Of course, you would need to make a decision about what's in and what's out, but a good starting place would be (Everything I Do) I Do It for You. Let's just kick that one to the curb. It's simply abysmal.

It seems that Mutt Lange tried to make Bryan Adams sound like Def Leppard. In the end, there are really only one or two songs that pass muster. By the way, if someone ever did wake me up with this record, I just might have to use it like two Frisbees.

I am not going to embed a video here. Sorry, but no. 

Arcadia: Election Day (1985)

Three quarters of Duran Duran (Simon, Nick, and Roger) participated in this DD side project, Arcadia. This 12" single contains two vocal versions of Election Day, and one instrumental version. To my ears, there is very little to differentiate the sound of Arcadia from Duran Duran, though it could be that Arcadia was better than the group from which it splintered.

I think I picked up this piece of vinyl at Peter Dunn's Vinyl Museum. My memory on this is hazy, but I seem to recall that he defaced many records by stamping verses of scripture on the inner sleeves. In other words, he destroyed the sleeves of many fine records with superstition, and probably reduced the resale value. Fortunately, this record has not been defaced, but I still don't think it has any resale value.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Alan Parsons Project: The Best of the Alan Parsons Project (1983)

I guess I should mention that all of the jacket images were shot with my phone. Wikipedia categorizes The Alan Parson Project as art rock, progressive rock, pop rock, and soft rock. I find it inconceivable that one band could satisfy so many labels. The Allmusic guide is far more economical, referring to the band as album rock, contemporary pop/rock, prog-rock, and soft rock. Perhaps this means that the bad is difficult to pin down?

Since the band preferred to release thematic albums, it might seem odd to release a collection of individual songs divorced from the larger concept. Nevertheless, the collection seems to work. It picks out poppy songs, like I Wouldn't Want to be Like You, Games People Play, Eye in the Sky, etc. The album also contains a new song, You Don't Believe. In other words, it's a good entry point or a good album for a casual listener.

I Wouldn't Want to be Like You:

The Alan Parsons Project: The Turn of a Friendly Card (1980)

I know what you are thinking. You are wondering why The Alan Parsons Project is filed in my collection under the letter A? (By the way, I don't believe that I will be able to write these posts in perfect alphabetical order, but that is another story). The Alan Parson Project belongs under A because it is a band name. If the album were simply by Alan Parsons, I would put it under P. (I have noticed that record stores variously file TAPP under both A and P, sometimes in the same store). In the same way, I would file The Steve Miller Band under S, though I think most record stores have him under M. This problem, of course, leads me to iTunes. Why is Bruce Cockburn filed under B? Why is Leoanrd Cohen under L. Why is John Cale under J. When I first got iTunes, and I started ripping my CDs, I retagged all of my items to fix this. But, then it became too difficult to keep up. Is it too much to as that artists are added lastname, firstname? Please!

The Turn of a Friendly Card is the fifth release from The Alan Parsons Project. Anyone familiar with Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon will recognize the name Alan Parsons. With Eric Woolfson, and a number of session musicians, he created TAPP and a series of records. Wikipedia has lots of details about his work as producer and engineer, and lots of information about the band.

The Turn of a Friendly Card seems to be about a man who loses his shirt in a casino. The most well-known song from this album is probably Games People Play. It's a catchy tune. I think that this band got less interesting along the way and I find the final three albums to be rather boring.

The Alan Parsons Project: Eve (1979)

According to Wikipedia, "Eve's focus is on the strengths and characteristics of women, and the problems they face in the world of men." The link to the source of this information takes the reader to a dead page on the Alan parson's Project official website. So, I may never know if this was really true, but I suppose it makes sense. I am too lazy to search for the page within the site.

I think that the Alan Parson's Project is one of those bands that everyone knows a song or two, but most have probably never heard an entire record, which is sad because the albums generally have a theme that holds the songs together. I think I appreciate the production more than anything else about the band. Sure, there are some memorable moments, but the overall sound is always interesting, until the latter two albums, anyway.

No, I can't remember how much I paid for this record or where I got it. If you are looking for a copy, don't pay more that $3-4 for a vinyl copy. There are lots of these floating around, and they really have no great resale value.

Bryan Adams: Reckless (1984)

By the way, you may be wondering why I put 10cc prior to the 'A' section, rather than in the 'T' section. That's because I am a librarian, and I elected to adhere to the National Information Standards Organization's Guidelines for Alphabetical Arrangement of Letters and Sorting of Numerals and Other Symbols (NISO Technical Report 3 NISO TR03-1999). Numerals precede letters. So there.

Reckless was a gift, given to me at Christmas, 1984. At the time, I liked the album. Now, I will admit to a certain nostalgia, but not much more. One measure of my love for an album is whether I own it in CD. I don't own any or the aforementioned records (including this one) on CD.

So, for strictly nostalgic reasons, I can quite happily sing along with this album, with one exception. And, that exception is It's Only Love, that truly dreadful duet with Tina Turner. It's simply unlistenable. It's appalling. It ranks as one of the worst songs ever recorded. The ability to easily skip a track, or indeed to program a CD player, does have its advantages. Fussing with the stylus is too much work.

The video for Summer of '69 is one of those where someone thought that it was cool to ask the singer to spend some time walking swiftly directly towards a camera that was retreating. Was that borrowed from Orson Welles? Anyway, throw some apples around, fire up an impromptu mini-concert in a field near an abandoned shack, and you have yourselves a video.

Bryan Adams: Cuts Like a Knife (1983)

After having said that I am not really a big Bryan Adams fan, I have to confess to owning more Bryan Adams vinyl. If I had to choose, I would say that Cuts Like a Knife is his best record. At least it's the best one I have heard. And, that is if you discount Straight From the Heart, which is in my humble opinion, a truly awful song. On the other hand, there are some really strong tracks, like the title track and This Time.

The cover, while containing a technically good photograph, is kind of ridiculous. I have never been able to figure out what that pose is supposed to represent. Is he ready to run away? It is merely so that we can examine his wardrobe from a certain angle? It's simply a goofy photo. I suppose it conveys to the potential buyer that the singer might also play guitar. I am still confused after all of these years.


Bryan Adams: Bryan Adams (1980)

I am not really a Bryan Adams fan, though at one time, I thought that I was. Apparently, two singles were released from this album. They were Hidin' From Love and Give me Your Love. I haven't listened to this album in so long (maybe 30 years) than I am unable to even remember the melody of either track. To be completely honest, I don't even want to spin this record, mostly because my vague memory of it is that the album was not very good. Or, maybe I should spin it to see if my memory is correct. No, let's not.

I think I picked this up after listening to Cuts Like a Knife, which is a much stronger album. The two albums sound completely different, if my memory is clear. It's clear that Adams hadn't yet hit upon his signature sound here, which I suppose is not uncommon for a first release.

Now, here is an odd fact about Mr. Adams. There is no information about him on the Allmusic Guide. Evidently, he requested that the site remove all content, and they complied. I fail to see why he would do this. Maybe he objected to the reviews? After all, Wikipedia has lots of info, but Wikipedia posts are generally neutral, and authors do not really review, though some articles contain a reception segment, which might summarize critical opinion.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ABC: How to be a Zillionarie (1985)

It's clear that the guitar experiment was dead and the dance beats were back big time. Of the first three ABC records, I would rank this one as my least favourite, but I am sure those people who hated the second album were happy that the band came up with a sort of return-to-form effort. That's all I have to say.

ABC: Beauty Stab (1983)

ABC's second album was met with hostile reviews when it was released in 1983, with some reviewers suggesting that the band had sabotaged itself. I think it's fair to say that the public expects more of the same when it finds something it likes. Rather than Lexicon of Love II, they got Beauty Stab, a record that moved away from the synth sound to one that highlighted guitars. The single, That Was Then but This is Now, didn't really suggest that a change was afoot. Listen to the whole album, and you get a far difference sense of what the band hoped to achieve. Very little of what made Lexicon of Love a fan favourite is present on the follow-up.

I wonder how those same reviewers would view the album 30 years on? I think that there is lots to like in this record. It's dark, edgy, but a far cry from the New Romantic sound of the first record. Bite the Hand is a good example. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

ABC: That Was Then But This is Now/Vertigo (1983)

I have 12" singles. That Was Then But This is Now was released in advance of the second ABC album, Beauty Stab (1983). The sound is very similar to the first album, so there is really no departures or surprises. The flip side, Vertigo, is a delightful instrumental, which sounds somewhat unlike ABC.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

ABC: The Lexicon of Love (1982)

There's a noticeable R&B feel to ABC's brand of new wave music. The Lexicon of Love is probably most well known for the songs Poison Arrow and The Look of Love (part one). I suppose one could classify this band as a new wave, synthesizer-infused, new romantic, pop, dance band. It's well-crafted, bubbly, happy music, despite the recurring theme of heartache on the record.

I picked this up used, somewhere; hence, the rather worn cover on my copy (pictured at left).

a-ha: Soundrel Days (1986)

Somewhat surprisingly, I have a second a-ha record. Scoundrel Days, released in 1986, does not come close to matching the success of the debut record. I have rarely listened to it, and don't have too much to say about it. Oddly, the Allmusic Guide seems to love the record:
"The opening two songs alone make for one of the best one-two opening punches around: the tense edge of the title track, featuring one of Morten Harket's soaring vocals during the chorus and a crisp, pristine punch in the music, and "The Swing of Things," a moody, elegant number with a beautiful synth/guitar arrangement (plus some fine drumming courtesy of studio pro Michael Sturgis) and utterly lovelorn lyrical sentiments that balance on the edge of being overheated without quite going over." [source]
There is no denying that the production is quite good, and the songs are not terrible. There is just little memorable for me here.  a-ha continued to release records right into the 2000s. I have never heard any of them. Pictured, above left, is my album cover, shot with my phone.

a-ha: Hunting High and Low (1985)

The labels synthpop, new wave, electronic, Euro-pop, and perhaps Top 40, apply to this Norwegian band, popular in the 1980s. Of course, the band is best known for the hit single, Take on Me. Somehow, I acquired a copy on vinyl of the band's first release, Hunting High and Low, containing said song.

By 1985, I think it is safe to say that music videos were still in their infancy, and a good video in many ways meant a great deal more than the song itself. The really catchy video for Take on Me probably helped to make the song more popular that it otherwise should have been. Still, the song probably qualifies as essential New Wave.

For the record, I was never a huge fan of this band, but the aforementioned track became an important song from that decade and my nostalgia for that period favorably disposes me to it. In case you have never seen the video:
The balance of the album, I think, is quite solid, for what it is. Let's not forget the other notable track from the album, The Sun Always Shines on TV.

My vinyl copy of this record is in great shape, and I wish I could remember where I got it, but I haven't a clue.The album jacket photo was taken by me, on my phone.

Friday, July 18, 2014

10cc: The Original Soundtrack (1975)

If the only song you know from this album is I'm not in Love, then you are missing out, though that is a fantastic song and I am sure that your life is better for having that song in it. This album is much more than that song, however.

I can't recall when I obtained a copy of this album on vinyl, but that hardly matters. Side one commences with Une Nuit a Paris, a bizarre mini-operatic piece about Paris, which includes a prostitute and a dead policeman. If your mind recalls Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen while listening to this song, then you are not alone. It seems that Queen may have been influenced by this track, but who knows for sure?

Sex and blackmail and other topics are covered with a mix of parody and comedy. Life is a Minestrone seems to presage Snack Attack, but more on that later. It seems to me that the band took a turn for the worse with the departure of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme.

The poor cover shot (top left) was taken by me, on my phone.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Zydeco Fish is Dead; Long live Zydeco Fish

So, I made my last post here 952 days ago. I thought I should wait until I hit 1000 before posting this, but now seems like a good time. I am not resurrecting this blog. I am finished with blogging in the conventional sense.  However, it occurs to me that I would like to make a few posts every now and again about things that interest me, and currently, that is vinyl.

Some months ago, I bought my last compact disc. I can't believe that the record companies were able to pull the wool over our eyes for so long. I was an early adopter of CDs, feeling that the clean, noise-free sound was a huge advance over the pops and clicks of vinyl. I know I missed the large cover art. I knew I missed watching the needle track across the vinyl. I knew that shopping for CDs was never as enjoyable as digging through record bins. I knew that I hated the idea of downloading music. I have never bought a single song from iTunes. Who are these people who buy one song? I have always been a record buyer. If you are not going to buy an entire album, because there in only one good song on it, you shouldn't be listening to that artist (and I use that term sarcastically).

A few months back, I unboxed my vinyl collection and set up my turntable. I forgot how good vinyl sounds. I am not going to enter the debate about which is better, but I will say that listening to a record through a real sound system (not an iPod and not computer speakers) sounds awesome. I know that CDs can sound amazing too, especially if run through real speakers and a real amplifier. Are vinyl records warmer? I am not sure. Some early CDs sound terrible to my ears, but I recognize that mastering has greatly improved.

With regret, I did the inevitable mental inventory of records I sold when I adopted CDs. My musical tastes have always been wide-ranging. I like Rock, so-called alternative, some classical, some pop, jazz, blues. Sadly, I recalled that I sold my AC/DC records, parted with some Genesis, offloaded XTC, sold some Pink Floyd, Humble Pie, Traffic, and Grand Funk Railroad, among many others. Some of these I would not claim as artists I still like, but, nevertheless, I am now sad that I got rid of them. I am not upset that I sold Goofy Greats (my first piece of full-length vinyl), but even the loss of my Trooper records (a band that I would be embarrassed to have in my CD collection) is palpable.

On the other hand, I have some pieces of vinyl that I am relieved that I held onto. And that is what I might bore you with next. I realize that it is quite likely that no one will read these posts, but that is probably for the best. It might turn out to a sort of High Fidelity series of posts, anyway.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

El Camino

I picked up a copy of El Camino, the new CD from the Black Keys. I do emphasize that I purchased the CD, rather than than the digital tracks. The CD packaging is really fine and you would miss that with the digital version.

My initial impression is that the Keys have lost the blues. It's gone, and it made me think about The Police who abandoned reggae with Ghost in the Machine. That was a tragedy and The Police were never the same again. It heralded a decline into commercial mediocrity, leading to Sting's equally mediocre solo career, though I will allow that Dream of the Blue Turtles is a fabulous record.

I like the energy of El Camino, and on third or fourth listen, it is growing on me. Dan's guitar sounds awesome, I appreciate the more complex arrangements, and the overall sound of the CD is excellent. But, I do miss the blues.

"Just got to Be" From Magic Potion:



"Lonely Boy" from El Camino:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Scientology

Two guys were just prostrating themselves outside my door in deep prayer to their g-d. On the topic of religion, I defer to Christopher Hitchens: “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” Amen, so to speak.

Coincidentally, I am reading Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion by Janet Reitman. I already knew that scientology was a huge steaming crock of shit, and possibly a cult, though I will leave that assessment to the experts. What is clear from reading this book is that scientology is less a religion and more a self-help organization.  It is a self-help organization that will help itself to your bank account if you are not careful.  Making scientology a religion had everything to do with tax-free status and zero to do with anything spiritual.

There is nothing new about religions making money. Just look at the obscene wealth of the catholic church. I am not against the accumulation of capital, so long as the accumulators pay taxes, and scientology managed to weasel out of it. Revoking that status would be a good first step to eradicating this nefarious organization. And, if you want to accuse me of having some bias against scientology, I should add that I am in favour of eradicating all religions everywhere.