Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Bears: Rise and Shine (1988)

The second record from The Bears is not as good as the first. I often wonder how Belew managed to write so much music. After the trilogy of fantastic King Crimson records in the early 80s, how did he have any creative energy left? I'm tempted to say that this record is disappointing, but compared with the mass of garbage released at the same time, this is much better than the norm.

Arcadia: So Red The Rose (1985)

Oh, yeah, I forgot this one. There's really not much to say about this band, beyond what I said about my 12" single for Election Day.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Bears: The Bears (1987)

I've never understood why it took until 1985 for a band called The Bears to emerge. It seems like such an obvious name. The Bears features one of my favourite guitarists, Adrian Belew, as you already know. (He's the dude on the left of the cover, with the guitar).

This album is pure guitar pop. I also have a copy of this release on CD and cassette. What else can I say?

"I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."

I think everyone knows the opening music for the fantastic film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. You know the one: that famous overture--Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 by Strauss-with those horns and those drums. You can here it here. I am sure everyone also knows that parts of The Blue Danube by the other Strauss. They are both epic pieces. But, my favourite piece from this soundtrack is Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, 2 Mixed Choirs and Orchestra by Gy├Ârgy Ligeti and performed by The Bavarian Radio Orchestra. My three-year-old was frightened by the music, and asked me to turn it off.

2001 is one of my favourite films. I watched it three times in one weekend when I was in high school. I really like records from this era. They are really heavy and the jackets are very study.

The (English/British) Beat: Special Beat Service (1982)

Save it for Later has always been one of my favourite Beat tunes. It's curious, then, that I really had no idea that there was an oral sex joke buried in the song until recently. As with most of my records, where I got it and how much I paid for it are details that have been lost in the mists of time.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The (English/British) Beat: What is Beat?: The Best of The Beat (1983)

This is a German pressing of a best of collection from The Beat (known in North American as the English Beat and in Oz as the British Beat). It's a fine assembly of the most popular tunes, bundled together with a free remix album. The Beat is an interesting fusion of ska, pop, reggae, and maybe some punk.

This is one of those records that really takes me back to my undergrad days. The song Mirror in the Bathroom, really transports me.

I just read that the band will release a new album next year, after running a Pledge music fundraiser. I am curious to see if they manage to come up with something good.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Adrian Belew: Twang bar King (1983)

Given Belew's love of The Beatles, it shouldn't be too surprising that he would have decided to cover a Beatles tune. Indeed, Twang Bar King opens with a cover version of The Beatles' I'm Down. This album, like his first, is very diverse, with moments of pure pop, some really frenetic pieces, and some very sedate atmospheric tunes.

Big Country: The Crossing (1983)

I am half Scottish, so there has to be (more) Scottish music in the collection. I have to say that by the end of 1983, I was sick to death of this album's lead-off track, In a Big Country. It was a repeat of my hatred of Our House by Madness the year before. Both songs were overplayed and I got so very very tired of them. It didn't help that a friend of mine kept playing this song over and over and over again. I think this type of torture could be a new area of exploration. If we ever need a new method of inquiry to replace waterboarding, the repetition of certain hit songs could prove promising.

Adrian Belew: Big Electric Cat b/w The Lone Rhinoceros (1982)

This is a two track 10" 45 RPM single. Adrian played the guitar, drums, vocals, piano, keyboards and produced the tracks.

As I mentioned in ta recent post, this is probably my favourite Belew track. In fact, one year, during CFNY's All-Request Nooner (when CFNY was still a good radio station, and there were still some independent radio stations), I requested this song for my birthday, and I even introduced it on the air.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Adrian Belew: Lone Rhino (1982)

During my undergraduate degree, I could always count on residence-mate Pete to alert me to new music. I have greatly missed his recommendations over the years. Geography has gotten in the way, and we have both drifted apart. If it weren't for Pete, lots of bands might have slipped past.

In 1985 or 1986, Pete lent me two Adrian Belew cassettes. I had what I would call an instant appreciation for what I heard coming out of my speakers. Undeniably, there was a Beatlesesque pop sensibility, but it was infused with a radical guitar sound, the likes of which I had never heard. Later, I found copies on vinyl.

Over the years, I have seen Belew's name pop up everywhere as producer, writer, or collaborator. In fact, I already mentioned him in the Laurie Anderson posts. He has also worked with The Bears, Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Jerry Harrison, David Byrne, Tom Tom Club, Joe Cocker, Cyndi Lauper, Mike Oldfield, Paul Simon, Porcupine Tree, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Jars of Clay, Tori Amos (I think I can forgive him for that), Robert Palmer, Mariah Carey, Herbie Hancock, Asia, and Tony Levin. He has worked with as many as 100 acts.

Incidentally, I should add that of all the bands and singers I have mentioned so far, Adrian is the only one I have seen in concert, the first time with King Crimson, for whom he was the guitarist (along with Robert Fripp) and with ProjeKct Two, also with Robert Fripp. I have never seen him solo, unless you include the between-sets mini-concert he did during the ProjeKct Two show in Toronto several years back.

There are so many amazing songs on this record, it's hard to know what to highlight. I am tempted to embed a video for Big Electric Cat, possibly my favourite Belew track, but I will save that for later. Instead, here is an infectious pop tune. The songs are quite diverse, so don't take this tune as representative of the entire album.

ABC: Alphabet City (1987)

When I read the Wikipedia entry about the song When Smokey Sings I learned something:

"Smokey Robinson himself was on the pop charts with his single One Heartbeat at the same time as this tribute song, marking one of the only times to date that a singer simultaneously was the performing artist of one Top 40 hit, while the subject of another chart hit. For the week ending 3 October 1987, both songs were in the Top 10 simultaneously. In 1964, The Carefrees hit #39 with We Love You Beatles during a time when The Beatles had several hits simultaneously in the Top 40."

I guess that's an interesting bit of trivia.

The Beatles: 20 Greatest Hits (1982)

I find myself in disagreement with the track selection for this greatest hits package. No collection that claims to aggregate the greatest Beatles songs is complete if it lacks A Day in the Life, and, sadly, that track is lacking from this collection. Also, Hey Jude is truncated. I have other issues, but I will let those pass. Suffice it to say that this is a predictable assembly of popular Beatles tunes.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bauhaus: The Singles 1981-1983 (1983)

This UK pressing of singles contains six tracks on a 12" 45 RPM disc. I suppose the later two-volume singles collection (released only on CD, I think) would be a more comprehensive and useful collection, but I am happy that this piece of vinyl is in my collection.

The Beatles: Rock 'n' Roll Music (1976)

I remember purchasing this record at a lawn sale when I was much younger. It's a double album of previously-released music. Both records have a number of scratches and the spine of the jacket looks as if a rat gnawed on it. Otherwise, it is a fine collection of Beatles tunes.

Sadly, I am forced to recall that our family had some other Beatles records: The Red and Blue double best of albums, the Hollywood Bowl live album, and some others. These have all disappeared. Thankfully, I managed to get my hands on the old 7" 45s, though they are not in the best of shape and none have picture sleeves.

Until I read the Wikipedia entry, I had no idea that the cover of this album did not please The Beatles. I learned something today.

The Beach Boys: Endless Summer (1974)

Who wouldn't want a summer that never ends? I mean, I enjoy the change of seasons, but I would prefer it if winter ended after New Year's Day. That would make me much happier.

I am not a huge fan of The Beach Boys, but the music does really suggest summer, beaches, and girls. What's better than that? This double album is a collection of hits. You know all of these songs.

The really perplexing song for me has always been Be True to your School. What? And Why?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bauhaus: Burning from the Inside (1983)

I have a US pressing of the fourth release from the godfathers of goth, which Wikipedia describes as an "overbearingly gloomy style of post-punk rock driven by jagged guitar chords and cold, distant synthesizers." I am nor convinced that this is an adequate or accurate description of goth or Bauhaus. It sounds to my like this description was written by someone who hates the band and the genre. Besides, there are plenty of Bauhaus songs that don't come anywhere close to satisfying that definition. For example, there's She's in Parties? That's a brilliant track. I'm a big Bauhaus fan, so I might be biased here.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Beach Boys: Love You (1977)

Love You, by The Beach Boys could very well be the strangest record in my collection. The sound is perplexing. The lyrics are perplexing. The cover is perplexing. In fact, my three-year-old daughter recoiled in horror at the sight of this album jacket and refused to let me play it, until she was in bed for the night.

The first three songs are straight up love songs, and then we are treated to a bizarre track called Johnny Carson.

"He sits behind his microphone
John-ny Car-son
He speaks in such a manly tone
John-ny Car-son

Ed McMahon comes on and says "Here's Johnny"
Every night at eleven thirty he's so funny
It's (nice) to (have) you (on) the (show) tonight
I've seen (your) act (in) Vegas out of sight

When guests are boring he fills up the slack
John-ny Car-son
The network makes him break his back
John-ny Car-son

Ed McMahon comes on and says "Here's Johnny"
Every night at eleven thirty he's so funny
Don't (you) think (he's) such (a) natural guy
The (way) he's (kept) it (up) could make you cry

Who's a man that we admire?
Johnny Carson is a real live wire.
Who's a man that we admire?
Johnny Carson is a real live wire.
Who's a man that we admire?
Johnny Carson is a real live wire.
Who's the man that we admire?
Johnny Carson is a real live wire."

Wow. I mean, I loved Johnny Carson as much as anyone else, but this song is just weird. The rest of the songs are weird too. Is it wrong to think about The Velvet Underground's Sister Ray when listening to Ding Dang?

I would rank the jacket as one of the ugliest things I have ever seen. And yet, there can be no question that this is probably the finest record The Beach Boys ever made.

Bauhaus: The Sky's Gone Out (1981)

I also have a Canadian pressing of the third Bauhaus album, The Sky's Gone Out. This release included a bonus 12" EP containing three tracks: Ziggy Stardust, Lagartija Nick, and Kick in the Eye. Sadly, the artwork, in comparison to the UK pressing, is dismal. You might say that artwork is lacking. My photo makes the cover look grey, but it is actually white.

Ziggy Stardust is a Bowie song, of course, but Bauhaus does a fantastic version which I think might even be better than the original.

Bauhaus: The Sky's Gone Out (1981)

I have a UK pressing of the third record from Bauhaus.

I don't think I can discuss Bauhaus without mentioning Kim Hughes, the former host of CFNY's Live in Toronto radio show. I liked the show and generally appreciated her interviews, but she really irritated one day me when she dissed Bauhaus. According to her, Bauhaus were only known for Bela Lugosi's Dead and Telegram Sam, the latter of which is a cover of a T Rex song. Musical tastes are personal, of course, but her comments screamed ignorance. 

This album commences with a high-energy cover of Brian Eno's Third Uncle. It's fantastic. But, I wonder why Kim Hughes didn't mention that this song is also a cover version? It's because she simply doesn't (or didn't) know very much about the band. Bauhaus is one of my favourite bands, and I have all of the releases on CD.

Be Bop Deluxe: Drastic Plastic (1978)

My copy of Drastic Plastic is on white vinyl. Every copy I have ever seen is on white vinyl, so I don't think this is rare. The last Be Bop Deluxe record sort of moved into new wave territory, but I think that description does some injustice to the music on the record, because some of it sounds like proto-punk.  In fact, Love in Flames sounds like something The Stranglers might have recorded.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Band of Skulls: Baby Darling Doll Face Honey (2009)

"Shot in the dark, I'll wait for your Dull gold heart"

I guess you could describe Band of Skulls as Indie Blues. Parts of the album remind me of The Black Keys, yet other parts are more definitely pop. Oddly, there are two copies of this LP (on vinyl) for sale on discogs.com right now: one is listed at $91.70 and the other is listed at $108.64, plus shipping! I paid far far less than that, let me tell you.

Surely you can find enough time to listen to the entire 7 minutes:

Be Bop Deluxe: Modern Music (1976)

I am still not convinced that anyone has managed to properly categorize the music of Bill Nelson's Be Bop Deluxe. It's variously described as prog, rock, album rock, art rock, heavy metal, pop, glam rock, protopunk, and new wave. Oddly, they look a bit like bankers on the cover of Modern Music, their fourth release, which was quite a change from the earlier glam look.

Anyway, it's a great record. The sound is really awesome.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rob Base & D.J. E-Z Rock: Get on the Dance Floor (1988)

For some reason, I photographed side B of this 12" single. This track is a bit of a disappointment, especially after hearing It Takes Two.

So, the track listing is:

Side A:
1. Get on the Dance Floor (The "Sky" King Remix)
2. Get on the Dance Floor (The Surgical "Sky" King Dub)

Side B:
1. Keep it Going Now (Hardcore Remix)
2. Get on the Dance Floor (E-Z Rockin' Bonus Beats
3. Get on the Dance Floor (Original Album Version)

I have never listened to anything other than the first mix on side A, and I was not impressed. Neither was I impressed by Joy and Pain.

Be Bop Deluxe: Live! in the Air Age (1977)

Do you remember the days when double albums were pressed with sides one and four on the same disc and sides two and three on the other? This was to facilitate sequential playing on those old turntables where one could stack records. My dad had one of those cabinet stereos with an eight track player. Sometimes, the records would skip, and so we would tape a penny to the top of the cartridge and probably ruined a good many records in the process.

Anyway, records were pressed like that for a reason. When side one finished, there was no need to flip it to hear side two, because side two (on record two) would drop on top of record one, if you had stacked them. Then, you could flip both records and hear sides three and four in proper sequence. Of course, modern records are not pressed that way.

I am convinced that many scratches on records are from the plastic arm that held the stack of records level. I remember trying to remove records form the platter without moving that damn arm out of the way, and I may have scratched a few records. 

Sides one and four (comprising one record) of this release are the live concert album, while sides two and three (comprising the other record) is a 12" EP worth of live tracks. Side two of the record (or side one of the EP) contains an epic jazz-infused, pseudo prog rock track that clocks in a over 9 minutes. It's pretty cool.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rob Base & D.J. E-Z Rock: It Takes Two b/w It Takes Two (Instrumental) (1988)

It may surprise you to discover that I have a small collection of hip hop records. I will go out on a limb and say that It Takes Two is perhaps the best hip hop song ever made. I know, we have to give credit to James Brown who wrote and produced Think (About it) as sung by Lyn Collins. Rob Base sampled a part of this song. Cue up 1:22 of this track to see what I mean: http://youtu.be/eHn48b7iWF0.

I have a funny story about the first time I ever heard It Takes Two, but it's far too long to relate here. Oddly, it was in the most non-urban place imaginable and involved two African-Canadian men who had never ventured out of Toronto before that day.

I think my 12" copy is a DJ version, so it lacks a distinctive cover and is housed in a simple black jacket with a label cut-out. I used to know all of the words, and even today, I can rap along with most of it, but not in public.

I have heard many people say things such as, I like all kinds of music, but not hip hop or rap. That's silly, although I admit that have a really difficult time with country music, though I make an exception for Johnny Cash. We should all keep an open mind. Turn it up and check out the fresh moves and the fashions of the day. I might have to break out my track suit.

Long John Baldry: Long John Baldry (1980)

I struggled to figure out where to alphabetize this guy. Does he belong under L for Long and B for Baldry. I settled on B for Baldry. Maybe I should just get rid if it and solve the problem, since the album really bores me. There's really nothing to hold on to, in what I would call a weak collection of covers. The only memorable track is Morning Dew, but even that is not really so great. I have seen a few copies of this is $1 bins, so I guess I am not the only one who finds the music less than enlightening.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bachman-Turner Overdrive: Four Wheel Drive (1975)

If this album were released today, it's likely that the title would be All Wheel Drive. The lead off track, Four Wheel Drive, is an infectious track with a really cool guitar riff. There's no way to argue against the rock and roll feeling of the first track.

For those of you who only know the hit BTO singles, you really need to check out this record. I think it's fair to say that BTO music has stood the test of time. It's pure rock and roll. Hey You was the big single, and as good as it is, there are other equally strong tracks.
OK, so there is some self-indulgent guitar work to open this track. Skip ahead to 2:20 if you don't want to hear that.