Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Billy Bragg: Life's a Riot / Between the Wars (1985)

I bought this record in downtown Kitchener at some sort of mall record shop, likely a Music World, or some such place. I think it was indeed for sale at a "special nifty price" as advertised. Side one contains all of Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy and side two contains the four tracks from the 7" Between the Wars EP. In other words, side two is far more political than side one.

I guess I should point out that I have seen Billy in concert several times. I have even had three conversations with him in person. Somewhere, I have a ticket stub with his signature. I also have a bunch of CDs with his signature.

I have the DVD from which the following segment is taken.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Billy Bragg: Brewing Up with Billy Bragg (1984)

I guess Billy is better known as a political songwriter, but he wrote some fantastic love songs. This album has a mixture of both. There aren't many real videos from the Bragg camp back in the day, for some reason, though there were more later. But, there are plenty of Bragg live clips on the web, which is great.

I have in excess of 30 Billy Bragg CDs, including reissues with bonus discs and/or DVDs, best of packages, a collection of b-sides, some official (and unofficial) bootlegs, live recordings, promotional releases, CD singles, and the collaborations with Wilco.

Sometimes, Billy sounds like a one-man punk band.

April Wine: Greatest Hits (1979)

For some reason, I missed this record while running through the A section. It was pushed back on the shelf, out of sight.

I think it would have been impossible to grow up in Canada without knowing a few April Wine Songs. They still get airplay on classic rock stations. I don't listen to this record very often, but it's all about nostalgia, and it brings back certain memories of growing up in rural Ontario.

With four guitars, or three guitars and a bass:

The Box: Closer Together (1987)

The Box's third album contained two hits, as far as I can tell. I don't normally concern myself with hits, but these are probably the songs that most people know. I often prefer album tracks to the singles. I am not sure if that is from over-exposure to the single or simply that other tracks on certain albums are better. For example, I wouldn't even place Stairway to Heaven in my top ten Led Zeppelin tracks. I like the song, but it's way way down the list. Anyway, I am sure that you have heard Ordinary People and Crying Out Loud for Love.

Ordinary People is a Cold War song, I guess. For years, I thought the song was a relic of a distant past, but with recent events in the Ukraine, I am not so sure. Of course, Sting's Russians, with a similar message, appeared two years earlier than this song.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Box: All the Time, All the Time, All the Time... (1985)

"Non coupable, pour cause d’aliĆ©nation mentale."

The second Box record contains a bunch of good songs, most notably, L'Affaire Dumoutier (Say to Me), which might be the best song they ever recorded. The other big song was My Dreams of You, containing the refrain "all the time all the time all the time." Whenever I look up an old band, I am either stunned to find that they are still touring and sometimes amazed to discover that many have released albums much later on than I had expected. I had no idea that the Box had a post-1980s output. Of course, I haven't heard any of it.

The Box: The Box (1984)

I thought that The Box--whom I saw in concert at least once--were a very solid Canadian New Wave band. I think the single from this record was the first track, Must I Always Remember. Why is it that so many record labels insist that the lead-off track must be the single?

After I saw the Box years ago, my friend, Pete, asked one of the band members (I'm not sure which one) if any Box albums would be released on CD. The band member said that he couldn't even afford to buy a CD player. That says a lot about life as a musician in Canada in the 80s. By the way, if there was an award for a video that bears no relation to the song, this one would be in the running. The video is incomprehensible.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

David Bowie: Let's Dance (1983)

I admit that I was disappointed with this album. I found it to be overly-commercial. On the plus side, there is the China Girl video, which I think is fabulous. On another note, the album is entitled Let's Dance, and yet Bowie looks like he is ready for a fight. I saw Bowie in concert on the Earthling tour. I think I have every Bowie album on CD.

Bow Wow Wow: Twelve Original Recordings (1982)

"It used to break my heart when I went in your shop
And you said my records were out of stock
So I don't buy records in your shop
Now I tape them all, cause I'm Top of the Pops.

Now I got a new way to move
It's shiny and black and don't need a groove.
Well, I don't need no album rack
I carry my collection over my back." C30 C60 C90 Go

EMI did not like those lyrics at all and they dropped the band, after failing to promote them, because they argued that the song encouraged home taping. In fact, the B side of the tape was blank, so you do connect the dots. If EMI only knew what was coming. Home taping seems so benign now.

This release contains all of the tracks originally released on the first Bow Wow Wow cassette, Your Cassette Pet as well as all of the EMI singles and b-sides. The video for C30 C60 C90 Go is cool because it shows the inner workings of a record pressing plant.

Too bad the video for Louis Quatorze is such low quality:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bow Wow Wow: I Want Candy (1982)

I Want Candy is a compilation album containing tracks from the first two Bow Wow Wow records, though the first (Your Cassette Pet) was only released on cassette.

If you only know one Bow Wow Wow tune, it is likely, I Want Candy. The track really highlighted what they were doing with percussion. By the way, the backing band was the Ants part of Adam and the Ants and the manager was Malcolm McLaren, best known for managing the Sex Pistols.

Bow Wow Wow: See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah! City All Over, Go Ape Crazy (1981)

As much as I hate to give away my age, I have to note that I am close to the same age as Annabella Lwin. Her punky, semi-scandalous act caught my attention way back when. Scotland Yard even investigated the way she was marketed as a minor, leading to an alternate album jacket in North America. I much prefer the original cover to the one I own, pictured above. You can see a brief segment about the cover here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1gAryoEhLA

Boston: Third Stage (1986)

Boston disappeared for eight years, and then came back with another space-influenced album jacket and title. I am sure that I picked this up on-the-cheap somewhere, more out of curiosity than real musical interest. What's perhaps most surprising is that this album sounds more or less the same as the first two. It's almost like no time had passed, which I am sure pleased some of the fans.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Boston: Don't Look Back (1978)

When I decided to set up my turntable once again, after a lengthy hiatus, this was the first record I played. I guess I wanted to hear something with a lot of energy to see how everything sounded. Vinyl sounded better than I had remembered, even Boston. Though, on Youtube, this song sounds is a bit tinny to my ears. That might be generally true of most recordings on Youtube.

I suppose the most critical thing one could say about this sophomore Boston effort was that it is, in many ways, identical to the first album. But, people don't like to be surprised. They like things to stay the same. They don't like change. (How's that for wild generalizations?). Even the album covers look similar, but that was probably more to do with presenting a consistent image or concept, I suppose.

So, in the end, Boston did look back, despite telling us not to. 

Boston: Boston (1976)

Here is another record from my youth. I should point out that I don't really like the trademark Boston guitar sound, at least not for an entire album. A song here and there is OK, but a whole album of that computerized guitar sound is weird. But, I guess you have to give Boston credit for providing a viable alternative to disco. For some reason, my brother decided that disco did not suck, and he went out joyfully and bought records by Gloria Gaynor and all of the other disco queens. I retreated to my room to listen to Boston, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Bruce Springsteen, and many others.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Boomtown Rats: In the Long Grass (1985)

Is that a sock in Bob Geldof's pants?

I would describe this album as something of a disappointment. By this time--from what I have read--Geldof had turned his attention to Live Aid, and the music suffered as a result.

The Boomtown Rats: The Fine Art of Surfacing (1979)

I always wonder how many people know about Bob Geldof from Live Aid, and maybe some of his later music, but have no idea that he was a founding member of this quirky Irish new wave/punk band. The Fine Art of Surfacing is among the large number of records I bought in 1979. For some reason, that was a big year for records for me.

The most famous Rats songs, I Don't Like Mondays, is on this album. It's a fine song about a dark subject, though the video avoids the issue entirely, which is perplexing.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book of Love: Pretty Boys And Pretty Girls/Tubular Bells (1988)

"You'll dance to anything by Book of Love" - Instant Club Hit by The Dead Milkmen

I am pretty sure that the Dead Milkmen were referring to the track I Touch Roses by Book of Love. That was a very popular tune, back in my club days during my undergrad years.

This 12" single has a bunch of mixes of Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls. Some of the mixes heavily sample Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. In my opinion, this is an OK BoL song, but nowhere near as good as the earlier stuff.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Blushing Brides: Unveiled (1982)

The Blushing Brides are a Rolling Stones clone act. I am not sure where I got this record, but it's one that I should excise from the collection. It's derivative, boring, and unoriginal. In recent years, they have fallen back on being a full-fledged Rolling Stones tribute band. Yawn.

The Blues Brothers: Original Soundtrack Recording (1980)

I loved this film. The album is OK, but there are times, as with the first Blues Brothers record, that I can't help but feel that the original tracks are better. I don't think it's possible to best Steve Winwood's vocal on Gimme Some Lovin'. I think that is simply impossible. The Blues Brothers' vocal lacks depth, soul, and that je ne sais quoi. And then there's the issue of the keyboards. The Brothers dumped them for a horn section, which is good, but sort of anemic in comparison.

Blues Brothers: Briefcase Full of Blues (1978)

This records picks up where Saturday Night Live left off and helped fuel a phenomenon that led to the feature film. Some of the songs are good and much better than one might expect from a couple of comedians, but that probably has more to do with the band, which sounds pretty awesome. Below, is a live version of one of the tracks. I am pretty sure this was a garage sale find.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Blue Rodeo: Diamond Mine (1989)

This record represented the end of Blue Rodeo for me. I didn't like the album, and I gave up on them. Sure, I heard a few songs later--and I think I liked some of them--but for me, their best work was behind them. I know it sounds harsh, but I had moved on. The nineties, after all, were right around the corner.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Blue Rodeo: Outskirts (1987)

For some reason, I was lucky enough to see Blue Rodeo in concert many times in the 80s, and I even saw them prior to the release of Outskirts, their first album. On one occasion, the band 13 Engines opened for them. During the 13 Engines set, some small guy came out and started dancing like a wild lunatic. He was flailing all over the place, really, like he was insane or had no concern for whatever anyone thought of him. When Blue Rodeo took the stage, I realized that it had been Bobby Wiseman (Blue Rodeo's keyboardist) on the dance floor, dancing like a dancing fool.

Blue Rodeo, as I am sure you know, is a blend of country, rock, folk, and maybe blues. I thought (and still think) that Outskirts is a fantastic record. I own a copy of CD as well. Every song is a winner, apart from the sappy Try, which I can't stand, for many reasons.

Blue Peter: Falling (1983)

Arguably, the most famous Blue Peter track of all time appears on this album. Don't Walk Past was so popular, it even got MTV airplay even though the band did not have a record deal in the USA. The song even has a real video. By the way, I knew a guy who danced exactly like Paul Humphrey does, starting at 3:05 in the video below.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blue Peter: Up to You (1982)

The big track from this EP was Chinese Graffiti, which had been previously released on a different label the year before. Maybe you have heard it? Sometimes, I remember how much I paid for records and sometimes I don't. In this case, I was in a used record shop and I purchased an EP by Echo an the Bunnymen. I was considering adding this one, and the owner gave it to me for free. It plays fine, though the cover is a bit worn.

Blue Peter: Radio Silence (1980)

Radio Silence was the first full-length release from Toronto's Blue Peter. The year 1980 was pre-MTV, and although I recall seeing music videos on CityTV's The New Music, videos seemed to be few and far between. So, there are only live clips and plain audio files for this album on Youtube.

The title track was a big single, as I recall. Clearly, the band was beginning its shift in sound. It's smoother, more new wave, and less punk. The keyboards feature prominently.