Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Billy Bragg: She's Got A New Spell (1988)

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This limited edition 12" single contains She's Got A New Spell and an extended mix of Must I Paint you a Picture (originally from Workers Playtime), plus Wising the Days Away (from Talking with the Taxman About Poetry), Sin City (which I believe made it's first appearance here), and Day's Like These (Original Version).  This record is not essential, unless you are a Bragg fan, like me.

Billy Bragg: Mr Love and Justice (2008)

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This record was a bit of redemption after the disaster of England, Half English, which is the only Bragg record I hate, but I am getting sidetracked. I also have the double CD version, wherein disc two contains all of the tracks performed solo. I like both versions. Oddly, I can only find the solo version on youtube. I'd rank this as one of the best Bragg records.




Billy Bragg: William Bloke (1996)

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William Bloke is one of my favourite Billy Bragg records. His next record, apart from the fantastic Wilco stuff, was abysmal. I can't even listen to England, Half English anymore.

Oddly, the LP version of William Bloke has an additional track -- Qualifications -- not found on the CD. A copy of this record is currently for sale on Discogs for almost $48. I paid no where near that much. A Pict Song is one of my fav Bragg tunes:

Billy Bragg: Workers Playtime (1988)

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The title should really be Worker's Playtime or Workers' Playtime.

There was a time when I was absolutely sick of this record and I would have paid money so that I would never have to hear it again. I heard this album thousands of times back in '88 and '89, and it was killing me slowly. I even saw the tour for this record.

I guess this is Billy's love album, though there are three overtly political songs on it. Billy has always written love songs and mixed them in with political tunes. But, the music and production of this record seems to suggest that love is the major theme.

The three political songs are uneven. There is the really awful Tender Comrade, a song that I just cannot listen to. Rotting on Remand is marginally better, though it is not up to his prior political outings. The best of the political track is Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards, a song that is truly funny and serious at the same time.

I listened to this album for the first time in ages, and I can say that it's pretty good, though it wouldn't make it into my top five Bragg records. My copy is a UK pressing.

Billy Bragg: The Internationale (1990)


The Internationale is probably Bragg's most revolutionary release, and I mean that in terms of subject matter, not music. Apart from The Marching Song of the Covert Battalions, the songs are all cover version (some with Bragg re-writes and edits), with the highlight for me being Blake's Jerusalem. Unusually, for a Bragg release, there are tracks that I dislike. These are: I Dreamed I Saw Phil Ochs Last Night and Nicaragua, Nicaragüita. Since I also dislike Bragg's Chile Your Waters Run Red Through Soweto (from the Help Save the Youth of America EP), and Tender Comrade (from Workers Playtime - where is the apostrophe, Billy?), all this makes sense. A cappella Bragg has never worked for me. The Internationale is an interesting record. It sees Bragg at his most fervent. Parts of it work, but at times, it's a bit ridiculous. There's no denying the jaunty quality of The Red Flag, but it all seems a little naive or hopelessly idealistic and probably outdated.

Billy Bragg: Levi Stubbs' Tears (1986)

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This UK 12" single differs from the Canadian version in that it contains only four tracks, and is, therefore, lacking these two track:

Scholarship Is The Enemy Of Romance
I Don't Need This Pressure Ron

Oddly, the running times of the four shared tracks are slightly different, but it is only a few seconds here and there. Who knows why? That's all I will say about this.

Billy Bragg: Levi Stubbs' Tears (1986)


One dark night he came home from the sea
And put a hole in her body where no hole should be
It hurt her more to see him walking out the door
And though they stitched her back together they left her heart in pieces on the floor

Thankfully, Billy knows how to use an apostrophe. After browsing the internet for any length of time (especially comments on various posts) it becomes clear that grammar is dead. I'm not talking about typos. I have my fair share of typos. I am referring to people who cannot construct a sentence and fail to use any punctuation. It makes me sad for the future.

Think Again, Bragg's cover version of the Dick Gaughan track, appears on side 2 of this 12" single. It's a song in the same tradition as The Box's Ordinary People and Sting's Russians. I prefer Bragg's live version on the Help Save the Youth of America EP, but this one is OK. The centerpiece, though, is Levi Stubbs' Tears, which is a really moving song.

A1 Levi Stubbs' Tears
A2 Walk Away Renee (Version)
A3 I Don't Need This Pressure Ron

B1 Think Again
B2 Scholarship Is The Enemy Of Romance
B3 Between The Wars (Recorded Live At The Festival Des Politischen Liedes In Berlin (GDR), February, 1986)

Billy Bragg: Talking With the Taxman About Poetry (1986)

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The "Difficult Third Album" from Billy Bragg is one of my Bragg favourites. Bragg brought in other musicians, most notably, Johnny Marr of the Smiths, something that irritated Morrissey, or so I have read. As such, there is much more here that just Billy and his guitar and the echo from the room. The album features Greetings to the New Brunette, a killer Bragg track.

"I'm celebrating my love for you
With a pint of beer and a new tattoo
And if you haven't noticed yet
I'm more impressionable when my cement is wet"

By the way, I read some misheard Bragg lyrics years ago, one of which features the verse above, but misheard as "I'm more impressionable when my semen is wet." That's probably true. Some other great tracks from this record are The Warmest Room, Levi Stubbs' Tears, and (despite what Allmusic thinks), Help Save the Youth of America.

As you can see, I have a UK pressing, complete with the charming "pay no more that £4.49." I think I paid more.

Billy Bragg: Help Save the Youth of America: Live and Dibious (1986)

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For some reason, Help Save the Youth of America is one of my favourite Billy Bragg releases, which is odd, because it is an EP and it contains a song that I hate. Allmusic describes Chile Your Waters Run Red Through Soweto as "an a cappella tour de force..." I really dislike the song.

On the other hand, Help Save the Youth of America is a fantastic song, though perhaps a bit dated. It's interesting to hear him sing that song to a Russian audience when the cold war was still ongoing.

And the cities of Europe have burned before
And they may yet burn again
And if they do I hope you understand
That Washington will burn with them
Omaha will burn with them
Los Alamos will burn with them

Bragg covers Think Again, the Dick Gaughan song. I've always appreciated that track, though there are moments when the lyrics are frankly way too simplistic.

Do you think that the Russians want war?
These are the parents of children who died in the last one
Do you think that it's possible, knowing their past
That they'd ever consider repeating the last
When 20 million were slaughtered by Nazi invasion?
They died fighting on our side, you know,
In a fight to defend humankind
Against Nazi terror and hatred

In the name of humanity, bitterly torn
In the name of our children as yet to be born
Before we do that which can never be undone I beg of you
Think, think again, and again and again and again and again

Do you think that the Russians want war?
They're the sons and the daughters of parents who died in the last one
Do you think that they'd want to go through that again
The destruction, the bloodshed, the suffering and pain?
In the second world war out of every three dead one was Russian
If we try with all of our power
Can we not find a way
To peacefully settle our difference?

Do you think that the Russians want war?
Will the voice of insanity lead you to total destruction?
Will you stumble to death as though you were blind?
Will you cause the destruction of all humankind?
Will you die because you don't like their political system?
There will be no survivors you know
No one left to scream in the night
And condemn our stupidity

The line "They died fighting on our side, you know" is really misleading. I think we can say that we shared a common enemy, but Stalin's war aims were certainly not shared in the west and vice versa.

Of all of the tracks, Days Like These (D.C. Remix) is perhaps the most dated. On this EP, the lyrics are largely rewritten adding references to El Salvador and Reagan: "It's no bloody consolation if Reagan cannot run again." But, the song resonated with me at the time and it remains one of my favourite Bragg tracks.


Billy Bragg: Greetings to the New Brunette (1986)

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Greetings to the New Brunette is one on my favourite Bragg tracks and it features Johnny Marr of the Smiths, one of my favoutite guitarists, on guitar. Somewhat fittingly, Bragg covers Jeanne, a Smiths track on this EP. There's also a couple of covers and an instrumental version of There is Power in a Union. Here is a live version of Jeanne:

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.

Billy Bragg: Life's A Riot With Spy Vs Spy (1983)

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The was Billy's first LP, or "7 Track Album," if you like. It was released in November 1983. The hit (if you can call it that) from this record is the original version of A New England. The other six tracks are great too. I guess it's not necessary to own this record since all of the songs were later released on the Life's A Riot / Between The Wars compilation, which I have. But, I'm happy to have it.

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.

Boys Brigade: Boys Brigade (1983)

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Boys Brigade (from Toronto) only managed to record one record. Somewhat amazingly, it was produced by Geddy Lee. Malcolm Burn, the lead vocalist, went on to do much work with Daniel Lanois. This is an easy record to find and it's inexpensive. You should be able to find a copy for $1. If so, buy it.


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’aliénation 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: No Plan (2017)

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No Plan is a single-sided EP with four tracks all on one side. Side two contains an etching. Despite the sticker promising that a download card is included, my copy came without such a card. That sucks. The tracks are:

Lazarus
No Plan
Killing a Little Time
When I Met You

I like it. It's sad, however, to listen to it.

David Bowie: ★ (Blackstar) (2016)

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Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now

Look up here, man, I’m in danger
I’ve got nothing left to lose
I’m so high it makes my brain whirl
Dropped my cell phone down below

Ain’t that just like me

By the time I got to New York
I was living like a king
Then I used up all my money
I was looking for your ass

This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me

Oh I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh I’ll be free
Ain’t that just like me

- Lazarus, David Bowie

On January 9th, I held in my hands a copy of ★ (Blackstar) on vinyl. I put it back on the rack, thinking that I would pick it up later because I had something else in my hands that I wanted to buy, though I can no longer remember what that was. The next morning, I looked at the newsfeed on Facebook. The first thing I saw was "RIP David Bowie." I really thought that one of my friends had written a short, macabre review of the new David Bowie record. However, scrolling down the page confirmed that Bowie was dead and I was stunned, absolutely stunned. After all, his new record had just been released.

Over the subsequent hours and days that followed, light was shed on the fact that Bowie had been suffering from cancer and that this record was a parting gift, a last, great piece of art. How many people get to go out like that? He turned his death into art. It's really an incredible and courageous and giving act. But, it is also profoundly sad. I've never felt so upset about a celebrity death since the murder of John Lennon.

Of course, once Bowie died, finding a copy of this record on vinyl or CD was impossible. I had to wait for a repressing, which I finally obtained. I have been listening to it and I really like it, but listening to this record is a profoundly saddening experience. Although I have had a copy for weeks now, it has take me some time to write something about it.

I felt the same loss when Lou Reed died. I heard about his liver transplant, but I still hoped for a new record. I felt that some of his later records were among his strongest: Ecstasy, Set the Twilight Reeling, but not The Raven (well, maybe parts of it). Also, Lulu confounded me, but I will admit that parts of it work. Suddenly, he was gone, like the friends Reed memorialized in Magic and Loss.

But, back to Bowie. The Next Day was a welcome surprise, after Bowie's ten-year absence. When I heard about the new record, I thought that we all could look forward to several more fabulous Bowie records. This is not to be the case, sadly. It's extra sad because I loved the later Bowie output. Many Bowie "fans" were never really fond of his later period, but I loved in all. I really liked Earthling, Hours, Heathen, Reality, and, especially, Outside. I wanted Bowie to keep making records.

I consider myself lucky for having seen Bowie in concert during the Earthling tour in Toronto in a small venue. We saw the David Bowie Is exhibit in Toronto when it came through. That was also really interesting.

By the way, I watched part of Lady Gaga's Grammy's "tribute" to Bowie on Youtube. What a train wreck that was. It was simply horrible and I switched it off after about 2 minutes. To begin with, I really hate melodies. But, more importantly, I think she was the wrong person to do a tribute. I just do not see how anyone could imagine that these two singers have anything in common, despite the theatrical elements. Lady Gaga's music, to my ears is, frankly awful.

Bowie was one of my favourite musicians. He will be missed.

I wrote everything above some time ago, but I delayed in posting is. I think I wasn't entirely comfortable writing about his death. And then, Prince died last week, and we are going through this all over again.  Now I worry about all of my favourite aging rock stars, like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, the remaining Beatles, Stones, and Zeppelin, etc. An entire generation of music will pass away in the next ten to fifteen years. But, Prince was way too young.

David Bowie: Heathen (2002)

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I can't believe that this record came out in 2002! What happened to the time? I first had a copy on CD, which I bought the day it came out. I opted for the two-disc US version with the bonus EP.  Apart from the original 2002 pressing, it was released on vinyl a few times. I have the 2016 US pressing on clear vinyl. The jacket has some shelf wear (not noticeable in the image), from being shuffled around the record bins, but I paid only $8.75 for a sealed copy, so I am not complaining.

Heathen is one of my favourite later Bowie releases. It just has a fabulous sound with a really great feel. Oddly, I first heard the CD in a car as I and some colleagues were being driven across Toronto by a co-worker. We needed to get way up to York University from downtown Toronto, a true battle in rush-hour traffic. But, the trek was made far more enjoyable by this album that I had just purchased.

Heathen contains three interesting cover versions, one of which is better than the others. Cactus is one of my favourite Pixies tunes, but I just cannot get behind Bowie's interpretation. It loses a lot in the translation. The pangs of emotion are gone; the longing is gone; the plaintive feeling of desire is lost. On the other hand, Bowie's rendition of I've Been Waiting for You, the Neil Young tune, is right on. But, finally, it's amazing to me that anyone could transform the original version of I Took a Trip (on a Gemini Spacecship) and make it into something enjoyable. Let's just say that the original track, by the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, leaves much to be desired.

The record is filled with fantastic tunes.


David Bowie: The Next Day (2013)

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I can't believe we had to wait ten years for a new Bowie Record after Reality. I suppose it was worth the wait, because The Next Day is brilliant, despite what Allmusic might think. The Allmusic reviewer concludes "...but The Next Day isn't a career capper; it lacks the ambition to be anything so grand. The Next Day neither enhances nor diminishes anything that came before, it's merely a sweet coda to a towering career." I have to disagree. I think, perhaps with tine, that this record will be regarded as classic, essential Bowie.

David Bowie: David Bowie (1967)

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Not surprisingly, I do not own the original pressing of Bowie's debut record from 1967. That record would set you back a handsome sum. For example, there is a copy for sale right now on Discogs for more than $4000. I'd love to find a copy of the original at a lawn sale some day. That would be cool. I would sell it for sure.

This copy is the 2010 European double LP version, which contains a copy of the album in mono and a copy of the album in stereo. I think this was done because the first pressing was released on June 1, 1967 in the UK in both mono and stereo mixes. Here, you get both. June 1, 1967 was also notable, Wikipedia tells me, as the date that Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in the UK. It's clear that the Beatles record is better.

This is an interesting record, not up to Bowie's later standards, and it is generally less interesting tan prime Bowie, but there are enough good points here to warrant some interest. It definitely shows promise, but he had yet to find his niche. Still, I like this record. I simply love Bowie's voice, no matter what he is singing.

David Bowie: Tonight (1984)


While Tonight is arguably a weaker effort from David Bowie, I still appreciate it, mostly because I had a friend is residence with truly awful taste in music. When given the chance to pop a cassette into his tiny book box, I would always choose this, so that I could avoid Madonna and Bananarama and the other garbage littering his shelf of cassettes. I think that this is a record that has improved with age, especially if you skip the title track.

The other question I have, vis-a-vis the title track, is why were people so eager to record with Tina Turner back in the day?

David Bowie: ChangesTwoBowie (1981)

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Oddly, the CD release of this record is worth more than the vinyl. I don't think that happens too often. Apparently, the CD was summarily deleted. The cover seems to be an advertisement for the Philip Morris Company. In any case, this collection has some good songs, as well as my favourite Bowie song. My only issue with the song is that it is way too short.

There have, of course, been covers of this track. I was unimpressed with Beck's cover. The cover by Franz Ferdinand is OK, though I will admit that I like the video. But, the best cover has to be from The Sea and Cake.

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.

David Bowie: Aladdin Sane (1973)

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1973's Aladdin Sane was Bowie's sixth record, following The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Even people who know nothing about Bowie will probably recognize The Jean Genie. Some people have criticized the jazzier piano pieces, but these people know nothing. This is a very good record. Sadly, mu Canadian pressing lacks the lyrics sheet that was originally included. Obviously, I bought this used, not knowing who Bowie was in 1973.

David Bowie: Young Americans (1975)

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Bowie described his recent album Young Americans as "the definitive plastic soul record. It's the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak, written and sung by a white limey." [source]
I had no idea that the term plastic soul was a term coined by unnamed black musicians to describe Mick Jagger. It makes some sense. Bowie, then, described some of his output as plastic soul.

Lots of people argue that this record has some weak songs on it. I disagree. We get Young Americans which is probably my favourite Bowie tune. Plus, you get Win, Fascination, Somebody Up There Likes Me, Across the Universe (the Lennon and McCartney tune) and Fame (co-written with John Lennon). I remember the look on my dad's face when that song came on the radio on one of our lengthy car trips to get to our annual late August campsite. Also, the album cover rocks.

Have you have been an un-American?
Just you and your idol singing falsetto 'bout
Leather, leather everywhere, and
Not a myth left from the ghetto
Well, well, well, would you carry a razor
In case, just in case of depression?
Sit on your hands on a bus of survivors
Blushing at all the afro-Sheilas
Ain't that close to love?
Well, ain't that poster love?
Well, it ain't that Barbie doll
Her heart's been broken just like you have

Bowie: Chameleon (1979)

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Chameleon was only released in the antipodes, that being Australia and New Zealand. The tracks are:

Starman
Aladdin Sane
Sorrow
Diamond Dogs
1984
Breaking Glass
Heroes
V-2 Schneider
Beauty And The Beast
Boys Keep Swinging
D.J.
Look Back In Anger

It's a pretty solid collection of some of his well known songs up to 1979.  I don't think that this is a rare record, judging by the moderate prices on Discogs ($11 to $32), but I have only ever seen one copy, and I bought it, for a very reasonable price.

David Bowie: Hunky Dory (1971)

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This is one of my favourite Bowie records, and it contains one of my favourite Bowie tunes, Life on Mars? The record also contains Changes, a big Bowie song that everyone knows. Of course, as a big Velvet Underground and Lou Reed fan, I am partial to the track, Queen Bitch. Reed and Bowie performed this track at Bowie's 50th birthday. I watched that video a few times after Reed's death.

I have a Canadian pressing from 1980, which is not surprising, since I was way too young to have been buying records in 1971.

David Bowie: Station to Station (1976)

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I once watched an interview with Bowie (sometime after Earthling was released) in which he said he had no memory of recording Station to Station. Such is the power of cocaine. Imagine not remembering recording an entire album? I have many gaps in my memory, but, even though I can only remember snippets of being in Kindergarten, for example, I still remember something. Alice Cooper has reported a similar experience with his so-called "blackout" albums.

I also find it amazing that he didn't remember recording a record that is one of his best. I love this record. There are only six tracks, but they are all top notch Bowie.

The return of the Thin White Duke
Throwing darts in lovers' eyes
Here are we, one magical moment, such is the stuff

From where dreams are woven
Bending sound, dredging the ocean, lost in my circle
Here am I, flashing no color

Tall in this room overlooking the ocean
Here are we, one magical movement from Kether to Malkuth
There are you, you drive like a demon from station to station


David Bowie: Scary Monsters (1980)


I rely on Allmusic.com for lots of music information. At times, I wildly disagree with reviews. Even though I agree with the 5 star rating Allmusic gives Scary Monsters, I take great exception to this statement in the review: "...Scary Monsters is Bowie's last great album." That is just garbage. Outside, Earthling, Heathen, and The Next Day are all great records. This record has some great songs, like Ashes to Ashes and Fashion.

Bowie [David Bowie]: Dimaond Dogs (1973)

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"This ain't rock 'n' roll, this is GENOCIDE"

Sometimes, Allmusic gets it totally wrong. The critic concluded that this LP "is the first record since Space Oddity where Bowie's reach exceeds his grasp." [source]  Huh. This is the LP that contains Sweet Thing, Rebel Rebel, Candidate, Diamond Dogs, 1984, etc. Speaking of 1984, there is, indeed a Nineteen Eighty-Four theme here. Maybe my love of that book is one reason why I think the Allmusic review is way off base. It also reminds me of Outside, truly one of Bowie's best records. This is a great LP, not Bowie's greatest, but really fine.

Oddly, he was billed on the record as simply Bowie, in an Eno-esque way. I wonder why.

David Bowie: Heroes (1977)

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Heroes is a fantastic record. Of course, I like pretty much everything he ever recorded. Robert Fripp's guitar really adds an interesting dimension to the title track. The instrumentals, as on the previous two of the Berlin trilogy recordings, are also great.

David Bowie: Changesonebowie (1976)

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What can I say? This is a required Bowie compilation.It contains a whole slate of classic Bowie tracks: Changes, Rebel Rebel, Space Oddity, Ziggy Stardust, Suffragette City, The Jean Genie, Diamond Dogs, Fame, Young Americans, and the new track, John, I'm Only Dancing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bow Wow Wow: Do You Wanna Hold Me? (1983)

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Yes :)

Anyway, here are the three tracks:

Do You Wanna Hold Me?
What's The Time (Hey Buddy)
Biological Phenomenon

Bow Wow Wow: When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going (1983)

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More Bow Wow Wow! Did mention that I had a big crush on Annabella?

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: 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:

Bow Wow Wow: Chihuahua b/w Golly! Golly! Go Buddy! (1981)


All I can say is cool.

Bow Wow Wow: Prince of Darkness (1981)

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I'm a sucker for any Bow Wow Wow records or EPs or 12: singles. I even have a 7" single or two from the band. This one contains:

Prince of Darkness
Orangutang
Sinner, Sinner, Sinner

Great!

Bow Wow Wow: Go Wild in the Country b/w El Boss Dicho! (1982)


Bow Wow Wow loved this photo shoot so much, they used a very similar image for the 12" single, Go Wild in the Country. The flipside, El Boss Dicho is a fun, catchy, almost surf-like instrumental tune with a funky bassline.

Bow Wow Wow: Last of the Mohicans (1982)


Alas, here is the original album cover that so interested Scotland Yard, this time used as the cover of The Last of the Mohicans EP. The EP contains four tracks:

1. I Want Candy
2. Cowboy
3. Louis Quatorze
4. The Mile High Club

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.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bonnie "Prince" Billy: Wolfroy Goes to Town (2011)

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My copy of this LP came with an interesting sticker that reads: "Fuck birds in the bushes." I've always like this guy's music. Anyone who could write I See a Darkness, must be awesome. This is mellow goodness.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy: Lie Down In The Light (2008)

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Here is Wikipedia's description of Joseph Will Oldham, also known as Bonnie "Prince" Billy:

Oldham is known for his "do-it-yourself punk aesthetic and blunt honesty," and his music has been likened to Americana, folk, roots, country, punk, and indie rock. He has been called an "Appalachian post-punk solipsist", with a voice that has been described as "a fragile sort-of warble frittering around haunted melodies in the American folk or country tradition."

I find his music to be lyrically interesting and engaging. Just listen:

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.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blue Peter: Test Pattern for Living (1979)


I'd like to know how many copies of this EP were released. I recently realized that copies of this EP go for a few bucks. For example, one sold on Discogs for close to $40 (plus shipping). That's far more than I paid for my copy.

Blue Peter was either classified as a new wave band or a punk band. I think they moved from light punk to a new wave/new romantic sound (maybe even synth) as the years passed. The band was popular in the early CFNY days, when radio was an authentic entity, unlike today's corporate radio landscape.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Blondie: The Best of Blondie (1981)


Who wouldn't want to own a collection of Blondie's best tracks (up to 1981)? This is my second copy. The first copy came to a bad end, when it was subjected to an unwanted source of heat and warped. Records can be fragile but they can last forever, unlike CDs, which might stop working or develop laser rot or other bad things. My oldest CD (The Cure: Staring at the Sea) still works fine, though I think the mastering is suspect.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Blondie: Autoamerican (1980)


My brother had a copy of this record, but he lost it somehow or maybe he gave it away or sold it to buy cigarettes, along with all of his other records. In some respects, it wasn't a tragedy that he lost this one, because the hole was drilled in the wrong place, and the record sounded way off, like it was warped, though it wasn't. I picked up a copy sometime later. It was a tragedy that he divested himself of some of his other records.

What a change of sound was this record from previous Blondie releases. It took me a while to adjust to the new sound, which I grew to like.

One thing that really irritated me during this period when cassette tapes were on the ascendancy was the predilection of record companies to place bonus tracks on the cassette that were missing from the vinyl release. In this case, the cassette contained Susie and Jeffrey, the b-side to The Tide is High. Another notable case was the inclusion of Murder by Numbers on the cassette copy of The Police's Synchronicity. That also pissed me off. I remember being duped into buying some cassettes, which I later regretted. How many 'eaten' tapes did it take before I saw the light? I wish I had seen the light before buying all of my Joy Division on tape rather than vinyl.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Blondie: Parallel Lines (1978)


The cover photo of Parallel Lines makes everyone in the band look really short. I wonder if that was the intention. To me, this is the best Blondie record, even though Heart of Glass leans a bit towards a disco beat.

Blondie: Eat to the Beat (1979)


Deborah Harry was the object of much adolescent sexual yearnings from all of the boys back in the day. I think part of that appeal was the film American Gigolo, which came out the year after this album, because a Blondie track was used in the soundtrack. Or, the appeal might also have been the result of a rumour that she had been a Playboy Playmate. I never saw the evidence and I have no idea if it is true, but I think she was a waitress in a Playboy club. I think Blondie's music has stood the test of time. It still sounds good to my ears, at any rate. For a while, I had two copies of this record, but I think I got rid of the spare copy.

Blancmange: Mange Tout (1984)


My dad was a major ABBA fan. I suffered through untold hours of ABBA, first from the 8-track player in the living room, and then on vinyl, and then on cassette in my dad's car. I think I still know all of the lyrics to all of the ABBA songs. Just think of the wasted brain storage space. I also wonder if this exposure caused any permanent brain damage.

The very last song ABBA ever recorded turned out to be their best track. I distinctly remember hearing this track and thinking that the Swedish foursome had actually and finally written a good song. I wonder why it took so long.

Two years later, Blancmange covered The Day Before you Came on Mange Tout. They do a good job, but the version is no better or worse than the original, though the pacing seems quicker. It's a fairly faithful rendition. Mange Tout has some great tracks: Don't Tell Me, Blind Vision, etc.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Blancmange: Happy Families (1982)


This album brings up the issue of import versus domestic releases. For some reason, when albums are released in different markets, records companies often screw around with album covers, track order, and even track selection. (Book publishers do the same thing with book jackets). On this release, the version of Waves is different from the original UK release. The Canadian pressing also includes an early version of Blind Vision, which would appear in an alternate format on the subsequent Blancmange album. I have to ask why? The cover art for the Canadian release of Bauhaus's The Sky's Gone Out sucks, especially when compared to the awesome original UK cover. There are lots of other examples, which we will get to, eventually. In any case, this all leads me to quote perhaps the funniest thing I have ever read on Allmusic.com:

"Drummer Laurence Stevens was a member of the band for a short while, but they eventually replaced him with a drum machine."

Image the ignominy of being replaced by a computer? Was it cost-cutting? Who knows?

The Black Keys: Turn Blue (2014)


The colours are wonky on my jacket photo.

I have every previous Black Keys release on CD. I would say that the Black Keys are one of my favourite bands. I love the grounding in the blues. I love the intensity. If you have never heard them, you are missing out. It's hard to pick a favourite album, because, in my mind, they are all 5 stars out of 5.

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears: Scandalous (2011)


Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears reminds me of so many things, and it's awesome. If you like electric blues, James Brown, Howlin' Wolf, you will love this.

The Black Heart Procession: 1 (1998)


Allmusic describes The Black Heart Procession as a "Dark and brooding San Diego-based indie rock group with deeply theatrical undercurrents." From the opening notes of the first track, it's clear that this album will be a largely mellow, atmospheric, acoustic, melancholic, somewhat intense affair. In some respects, I am reminded of the more passive arrangements of Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra, but that may have more to do with the Paul's almost pleading vocals.

My sense is that this piece of vinyl is hard to find, but I could be wrong.

Big Talk: Big Talk (2011)


Ronnie Vannucci Jr. (drummer for The Killers) formed Big Talk in 2010. This is the only album, so far. I guess there wasn't enough money in the budget to make real videos. I would not list this as a favourite album, but it has its moments.

Black: Wonderful Life (1987)


Here I go out to sea again 
The sunshine fills my hair 
And dreams hang in the air 

Perhaps a little unfairly, I consider Black to be a one-hit wonder, though perhaps that's not really true. It's probably just because I only have one album, and Wonderful Life is probably the best known song. It's a good song. The rest of the album, as far as I can recall, is unmemorable. Well, except for Everything's Coming up Roses. That's a good one too. So, maybe two-hit wonder would be better. In fact, I was stunned to learn that there are a huge number of Black records! Who knew? I haven't been keeping up.

The Black Keys: The Big Come Up (2002)

Untitled
Although released in 2002, I have the limited edition re-release (of 1000 copies) from 2008 on clear vinyl. This and Turn Blue are the only two Black Keys records that I do no own on CD (though my copy of Turn Blue on vinyl was bundled with a CD). I just checked Discogs to find that these are going for about $50.

I might be willing to argue that this album is the best thing that the Black Keys ever did. It's an impressive debut. They were at their maximum blues on this one.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Black Angels: Another Nice Pair (2011)

Untitled
This is a limited edition compilation of the first two Black Angels EPs (from 2005 and 2008), released for Record Store Day in 2013 on red vinyl. This was previously released in 2011 on black vinyl. What can I say? I love this band.

The Black Angels: Clear Lake Forest (2014)

Untitled
Clear Lake Forest was initially a 2014 RSD (Record Store Day) release on clear 10" vinyl in an edition of 3500 copies. I guess the clear vinyl references the title of the record.

The sticker on the cover reads:

The Black Angels
limited edition vinyl
Clear Lake Forest
Featuring 7 new songs
on clear vinyl

The EP includes an MP3 download card." A later unlimited 12" pressing followed. Oddly, the 12" in 45 RPM while the 10" version is 33 1/3 RPM. Also, it comes with an MP3 download card.

This EP has seven tracks. I love this band and I think they can do no wrong.

The Black Angels: Indigo Meadow (2013)

Untitled
This is another excellent record from Austin's The Black Angels. That's it :)

The Black Angels: Passover (2006)

Untitled
My copy of this record is the second pressing. The first pressing had an embossed cover.

I can't say enough good things about this band. I love everything they have released, starting with Passover, the band's debut record. The hype sticker says:

"Mean psychedelic garage noise...heavy in the best possible way." - MOJO

"The Black Angels live for the drone and the crescendo, the undertow of incantation." - New York Times

Every since I first heard the Velvet Underground, I have been drawn to the drone. Interestingly, the band took its name from The Black Angel's Death Song, a track from the Velvet Underground. That makes sense. If I were rating this record, I would give it a 10/10. It's truly brilliant.

You might recognize Young Dead Men from True Detective.


Big Country: Peace in our Time (1988)


I suppose the best news with this album is that the band lessened the reliance on its trademark bagpipe guitar. I think they should have moved in that direction sooner. But, paradoxically, this move  might have also made the band less interesting. Combined with the new production, the album comes across as bombastic, especially the lead off track, King of Emotion.

The Black Angels: Phosphene Dream (2010)

Untitled
Here is more acid psych-rock. As far as I know, there was only one pressing of this LP, but a limited edition with a signed lithograph was also available, though likely sold out by now. I have a copy of this album on CD as well.

This is awesome, like all music from this band, and I love the impressive psychedelic cover design. As Thomas O'Malley would say, love it! That's all I am going to say.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Big Country: Wonderland (1984)


Wonderland is either a 4-track EP or a mini album, depending on who you ask. It commences with the lively Wonderland, which I suppose is emblematic of the band's sound, for better or worse. Depending on who you ask, this band is similar to The Alarm, or maybe The Icicle Works, or even Howard Jones and Simple Minds, though I can't help but feeling that the comparison to the latter band is influenced by geography more than sound. I think it does a huge disservice to Simple Minds to have to live with that comparison. Big Country is both lyrically and musically unsophisticated as compared with Simple Minds.

Monday, September 08, 2014

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.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Big Audio Dynamite: Megatop Phoenix (1989)


This album is something of a return to form, after Tighten Up Vol 88. In other words, I like this record more than its predecessor. There are so many good songs, I can't decide which one to post. James Brown has a car chase and an interesting sample from West Side Story, so it wins.

All of this BAD reminds me of Doug, another chap from my residence, who was a huge fan of The Clash and an early fan of BAD. I haven't seen him in ages.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Big Audio Dynamite: Tighten Up, Vol. 88 (1988)


The third BAD album cover features a painting by Paul Simonon, another former Clash band-mate. Of course, this leads me to reflect on all of those artists who are multi-talented. For example, Leonard Cohen also paints, Lou Reed was a photographer, Keanu Reeves has a band, etc. The list goes on. Incidentally, I have a compact disc copy of Paul Simonon's later project, The Good, The Bad, and the Queen, which is either the band name, the album title, or possibly both. It's unclear.

In any case, while possibly less successful than the previous two releases, this one is pretty good. By the way. all of the white pants and shorts in various BAD videos remind me that I used to own a pair of white jeans. There is no photographic evidence to support that statement.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Big Chill: More Songs from the Original Soundtrack of the Big Chill (1984)


Many people would file this record under a category of Various Artists, or maybe Soundtracks. I prefer to file soundtracks under the name of the film. So, the soundtrack for Pretty in Pink would be under P. The exception to that rule is if one artist is responsible for the entire soundtrack. In that case, I would put the record with the other records by that artist. So, Chariots of Fire would be under V for Vangelis. Got it?

Oddly, I have never seen the film, and I have no idea why.


Here's a live version of The Weight by the Band from Woodstock in '69. The studio version was used in the film The Big Chill.

Big Audio Dynamite: No. 10 Upping St. (1986)


It's really bizarre that Joe Strummer produced this album (and co-wrote some of the songs) after he had turfed Mick Jones from The Clash. But, then again, John Cale worked with the Velvet Underground a few times after being kicked out of the band by Lou Reed, so I guess it's not as unusual as it sounds.

I think that No. 10 Upping Street is not as good as first album, but I do like it. Big Audio Dynamite were the best non-Clash Clash band around, and it was clear that The Clash were dead, permanently.

Big Audio Dynamite: This is Big Audio Dynamite (1985)


"The horses are on the track."

Who would have imagined that from the ashes of The Clash, Mick Jones would come up with something like Big Audio Dynamite? I guess it's wrong to say "the ashes of The Clash" because he was fired and the band soldiered on with final and truly terrible album. Terrible, that is, apart from the track This is England, which is quite good. At the time, I thought that BAD defied belief, but this was the mid-1980s so that may explain the musical direction. Or, maybe Jones was giving the finger to The Clash. In any case, this is a really great album and much better than the Clash's swansong.

George Benson: Weekend in L.A. (1977)


This is a double album's worth of live Benson. I prefer it when he plays the guitar and doesn't sing. But, some people like the singing. I would rather have an all-instrumental album, but you have to give the people what they want, I guess. If you want your own vinyl copy, it's easy enough to find, for as little as couple of dollars.

George Benson: Breezin' (1976)


Allmusic says this about George Benson:

"George Benson is simply one of the greatest guitarists in jazz history, but he is also an amazingly versatile musician, and that frustrates to no end critics who would paint him into a narrow bop box. He can play in just about any style -- from swing to bop to R&B to pop -- with supreme taste, a beautiful rounded tone, terrific speed, a marvelous sense of logic in building solos, and, always, an unquenchable urge to swing."

There's not much I can add to that. Breezin' is a mellow affair, maybe verging on adult contemporary.  But, listen to this album and you cannot deny that there is some amazing guitar work. Here's a live version of the title track, which is much better than the studio version, if you ask me.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014