Tuesday, February 09, 2016

John Foxx: Metamatic (1980)

Before Ultravox! (later, just Ultravox) became a vehicle for Midge Ure, the group was fronted by John Foxx. With Ure, there was a noticeable change of direction. I prefer the pre-Ure Ultravox, but that is a story for much later.

Foxx's music is synthesizer-based, electronic post-rock with a bit of punk thrown in. It's no secret that Gary Numan was heavily influenced by Foxx's music, though Gary seemed to throw a bit more melody, or maybe just more warmth, into his music. This, also, is a story for much later.

This record sports a fabulous cover image with tracks that are equally engaging, though some might think the music cold and unforgiving or perhaps just simply too robotic. For me, these are points to be placed in the plus column. This is a perfect description:

"On Metamatic, Foxx cultivates a curious air of disinterest that never seems truly bored, but is much more extreme than even his unarguably distant vocal style for Ultravox! It holds up as one of the peaks of the early-'80s fascination with emotionless, Kraftwerk-inspired synth pop."

I own the original UK pressing of this record, because it was never released in Canada on any format. How stupid are Canadian record companies? The record has a really good cover image too.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Foreigner: Head Games (1979)

This is another Foreigner record from my youth with two tracks that are very well known in classic rock circles: Head Games and Dirty White Boy. It's probably equal to the previous efforts. I used to own a copy of Foreigner 4 on vinyl, but I was forced to sell it because it sucked. It's a lesser record in so many ways.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Foreigner: Double Vision (1978)

This record is another item from my youth. If I were out shopping for records today, I would not buy it, or any other Foreigner record, even if they were $1. I can still appreciate some of their songs, but the band simply does not hold my attention, other than in the arena of nostalgia. Two tracks are very well known: Double Vision and Hot Blooded. These tracks stand up today as classic rock standards, I suppose.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Foghat: Foghat (1972)

This is a US pressing of Foghat's debut record. I wouldn't call myself a fan, and I am not sure where I got this record, but I do like some blues-rock, and some of these songs--a mix of covers and originals--are quite good. I suppose this record has more cache among the classic rock set, but since I have only really ever been half in that camp, this is not a required item for my collection. In fact, I might be one to put on the sale block one day. I could probably get a couple of bucks for it.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

FM: Tonight (1987)

Any lingering question as to the direction that FM was taking in the mid to late 80s was put to rest with this record. The band even covered a Beach Boys tune. The lead-off track--Magic (in Your Eyes)--is a finely-crafted pop song. I can't really complain, but the rest of the record does not fair so well. Dream Girl and She Does What She Wants are insipid. I miss the early prog-jazz-space influences. I probably bought this because I had everything else the band had recorded, so why not?

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

FM: Con-Test (1985)

Con-Test features the return of Nash the Slash to FM. Nash's solo career stalled after 1984, so I guess his return makes some sense. Instead of returning to the sound of the early years with Nash, the band forges ahead into really commercial territory.

The video for Just Like You is interesting in that you can hear Phasors on Stun on the car radio before Just like You commences. However, that's as much looking backwards as we get, because this is really a commercial record, and it is no where near as good as the previous FM releases or Nash the Slash's solo records. I would say that there are some OK pop songs om this record, but that's really not what I want from an FM record.

I remember paying about $1 for this record.

Monday, February 01, 2016

FM: City of Fear (1980)

I suppose City of Fear could be regarded as a transitional album, though that is probably something that is easier to say in hindsight. After all, there was a five year gap following the release of this record. Yet, there is an undeniable move towards a more pop sound. It's not too bad, yet I can't help comparing it with the earlier stuff, which is probably not wise. Still, I guess you could say that this record marks the end of the great FM period.

John Cale: M:FANS (2016)

I picked up a copy of this record when it came out (Jan 22, 2016, I think). Music for a New Society is one of my all-time favourite records, so I was a little worried about what Cale might have done to it on this update. My verdict after a few spins is, I prefer the original album from 1982, but I would say that the new interpretations are engaging and interesting. I would also say that some of the tracks work better that others. If I could somehow forget the original versions, I might regard this record as one of Cale's better later efforts (maybe his best rock LP since 1992's Fragments of a Rainy Season), but it is very difficult to forget music that is so ingrained in my head.

As an aside, I have to say that I find it impossible to believe that Cale is 73! Where has the time gone?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

FM: Surveillance (1979)

The third outing from FM is a bit of a lesser effort compared with the first two, though still enjoyable. This album contains a fairly faithful cover version of the Yardbirds' Shapes of Things. If you want the real FM experience, find the first two releases. If you like those, you will like this. I don't own any FM recordings on CD, for whatever reason.

Friday, January 29, 2016

FM: Direct to Disc [aka Head Room] (1978)

This record was released under two different titles, Direct to Disc as well as Head Room. The band has a different lineup from the first record, with Ben Mink replacing Nash the Slash. Each side contains one long suite. Side A contains Headroom, a piece with five parts: Tyra, Reflections One, Reflections Two, Real Rime, and Scarberia. If you have lived in Toronto, the last segment's title will mean something to you. Side B contains Border Crossing, broken into four segments: The First Movement, The Second Movement, The Third Movement, and The Fourth Movement.

To me, this record sounds a bit more like space rock than prog, but I guess the two genres are ultimately the same.

There have been many direct to disc recordings. The process avoids the use of tape, as the title suggests. Instead, the music is mixed live and recorded directly to a master disc.  Because only a limited number of pressings could be made from one master disc, these were always produced in limited quantities. I assume that the 2013 CD edition was mastered from a vinyl copy. I suppose if there are any further vinyl copies, those would likely be mastered from this CD generation, but who knows if that will happen.

Wikipedia notes both the advantages and disadvantages of the direct-to-disc method: "Technically, direct-to-disc recording is believed to result in a more accurate, less noisy recording through the elimination of up to four generations of master tapes, overdubs, and mix downs from multi-tracked masters. The method bypasses problems inherent in recording tape: tape hiss, wow and flutter.

From the musicians' point of view, the advantages of direct-to-disc recording are a greater immediacy and interaction among the players."

And: "Although the spontaneity of performance is preserved, no overdubbing or editing is possible. It becomes more challenging for the musicians, engineers and producers, whose performances will be captured "warts and all." In the event of aborted sides, expensive lacquers are wasted and cannot be used again. According to Robert Auld of the Audio Engineering Society: "It was a notoriously difficult way to record; the musicians and all concerned had to record a complete LP side without any serious musical or technical mistakes.

Some artists maintain that musical instruments may drift out of tune: It is not possible to keep instruments in tune for the length of the LP side." [source]

Someone actually paid $100 for one of these on Discogs. I find that hard to believe.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

FM: Black Noise (1977)

FM is a Canadian prog rock band, partly notable for including Nash the Slash (until 1977, though he returned a couple of times). The first real concert I ever saw was Prism, another Canadian band. There were two acts supporting the band: The Pumps and FM. I remember the concert very well and I remember smelling marijuana, something I don't think I had ever smelled before then. My cousin even smuggled some home-grown Mary Jane into the venue in his sock, which he, and his friend, enjoyed. I passed on the offer, which was probably a good idea, because both reported that the ganja had no effect whatsoever.

The first record, Black Noise, contains probably the best-known FM track, Phasors on Stun. That's a Start Trek reference for the non-geeks. Phasors on Stun is a fabulous song. Bizarrely, this record was not released immediately. The label hung onto it and released it after the second album, known as Direct to Disc or Head Room. But, I think most people consider this to be the first record from the band. This record is clearly the best thing the band ever did.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Flock Of Seagulls: The Story of a Young Heart (1984)

One could probably argue that the principle of diminishing marginal returns applies to many artists as they reach album number three, but in this case, I would argue that the third record is a bit better than the second, but it's not as good as the first. The following track is very good and sounds like classic Flock.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Flock of Seagulls: Listen (1983)

If you know a track from this record, it's likely Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You), which is placed in the prime position of prominence, that being track 1 on side 1. Why do some many record companies place the single in this position? It's kind of dumb.

In any case, it's a good track. Overall, I think that the first record from the Flock was much better, with this one being a slight disappointment, but it's still fairly good.