Friday, November 28, 2014

The Clash: London Calling (1979)

It's difficult choosing a favourite singer or favourite band or song or album. But, if I were forced to choose, London Calling would make the list of my favourite albums of all time. Thirty Five years later, this record still sounds amazing. This record has always been in my top 5, mostly sitting comfortably at #1. It also happens to be the first Clash record I ever bought.

London Calling has a truly fantastic cover, featuring what has to be one of the best rock and roll photos ever taken. The graphic for the album name recalls Elvis Presley's debut record. I think this has to be one of the greatest covers ever made. The power of the cover is diminished on the compact disc version, which I also have. It needs to be seen as intended.

Initially, I was drawn to this album on the strength of Train in Vain and the title track, but I quickly realized that the record is packed with excellent songs, an amazing feat for a double album. I mentioned this album previously, when this used to be a real blog. I wrote:

This here music mash up the nation
This here music cause a sensation

The Legacy Edition - 25 Years after London Calling (instead of a Juno rant)

I bought London Calling in 1979, which was a good year for music, at least for me. I know, dear readers, that some of you were too young to remember much of 1979, but that was the year I found XTC, The Clash, Pink Floyd, and a host of others, some of whom have not aged well (but I won't mention those). London Calling, I believe, was the best album to come out that year (followed closely by Leonard Cohen's Recent Songs). After all of these years, I would rank London Calling as one of the top five rock records of all time. It is, beyond any doubt, a rock and roll masterpiece.

The cover picture screams punk - Paul Simonon about to smash his Fender bass. But even on first listen, most Clash fans could recognize the astonishing musical maturation that this album represented. The album opens with the apocalyptic pop title track, London Calling, and moves quickly into reggae, rockabilly, folk rock, more straight up pop and even a hint of the blues. The Clash had moved on to the new territory of postpunk, and they did it fantastically well.

Here's a good quote from Amanda Petrusich:

"The Clash are a rock band, and 1979's London Calling is their creative apex, a booming, infallible tribute to throbbing guitars and spacious ideology. " link

And another, from Adrien Begrand:

"The influence of London Calling on rock music is immeasurable. Not only did it break down barriers for punk rock, achieving mainstream success, in both the UK and North America, but it also proved that it was okay for a punk band to be great musicians, adventurous even." link

So, maybe I should stop rambling and get to some music.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Clash: Give 'em Enough Rope (1978)

The second Clash record might well be described as more of the same, which is a good thing, if you ask me. The band is somehow a bit more polished on this release.

But, look at that price! $6.99 marked down to $4.99! If you have ever shopped for new vinyl, you will know that the prices are generally insane. While you can pick up a new copy of this record for about $20, a new pressing of the Tragically Hip's Up to Here will run you $43.99 at HMV. The good news is that many new pressings are 180 grams or more. That really helps, but it takes a lot of cash to support a vinyl habit these days.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Clash: The Clash (1977)

"Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer.
I think he might've been our only decent teacher."

- Constructive Summer, The Hold Steady

My copy of The Clash's debut record is a pressing from Holland. I'm not sure why I ended up with an import, but it reminds me that I should have said that all of these records are Canadian pressings unless stated otherwise. But, I may have forgotten to mention the origin of a few records. Today, as far as I know, any new record pressing sold in Canada is an import. My understanding is that there are only three pressing plants in the United States at present and none in Canada. That is a major change from 25 years ago. I also understand that there are no efforts to add capacity in this area any time soon. After all, even though they has been a huge resurgence in vinyl sales (something like 6 million new vinyl sales last year and who knows the number of vintage sales?), vinyl only counts for about 2% of total music sales.

The Clash is, without question, one of my favourite bands of all time. This album received quite a lot of critical acclaim upon its release, with good reason. It has been called the greatest rock album of all time, though I might dispute that claim. Of course, there is more than one version of this record. The UK and US versions differ in track selection, which is a bit confusing.

So, here are some live clips:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Eric Clapton: Behind the Sun (1985)

In hindsight, bringing in Phil Collins to produce and contribute to an Eric Clapton record seems really dumb. The two approaches to music seem fundamentally antithetical. But, who am I to say?

The history of this record first being rejected by the label is well-known. I think Allmusic aptly called the resulting record schizophrenic. In any case, there is one good track, Forever Man. The rest of the album is OK and reasonably inoffensive, but I have to challenge the wisdom of using synthesizers and drum machines. It was the 80s, I suppose, but Eric was supposed to be a guitar god, right?

I remember that I paid $2 for this record.

Circulatory System: Signal Morning (2009)

I picked this up because of the price and the fact that I like the band. I guess you'd call Circulatory System something like Athens Indie Pop. That's all I'll say. Here's what appears to be a fan video of a short track on the record.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chysalis [Various]: For Promo Only (1987)

This is a strange promo record. I can tell from the scribbling on the label that it passed through the hands of the Vinyl Museum, but I don't think I bought it there. I suspect that it was something that fell into my hands at some point.

It has a couple of tracks--one a cover of the Star Spangled Banner--from Vinnie Vincent, who replaced Ace Frehley in KISS. Those two tracks are forgettable. In fact Ashes to Ashes is horrendous. On the other hand, there is a Housemartins song, which is a god thing. But, Dweezil Zappa covering his dad's My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama is stupid. I just have to ask why? The Divinyls should probably only be remembered for I Touch Myself. Instead, this record includes the boring Back to the Wall. This is a really schizophrenic record, with Sinead O'Connor and Paul Carrack providing some other songs, but then there is an Icehouse song. Oy vey. I should probably expunge this from the collection.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Church: The Church (1982)

It's strange that I never knew that The Church was an Australian band until I looked up this record. For some reason, I thought they were British. I think there are better records from the Church, but this is OK.

China Crisis: Black Man Ray b/w Animalistic (1985)

Black Man Ray might be my favourite China Crisis song, though I have no idea what the song means. I've always assumed that the Man Ray part comes from Man Ray the photographer, especially since the image on this 12" single looks like it was solarized. But, who knows?

China Crisis: Flaunt the Imperfection (1985)

Somewhat surprisingly, Walter Becker (of Steely Dan) produced this record. Becker even gets credit as being a band member. I think he did a good job, though if you preferred the earlier heavier China Crisis sound, you might not like this album as much. Two really fantastic songs stand out on this record: King in a Catholic Style (Wake Up) and the sublime Black Man Ray. I have a second copy of this record, but it is warped and unplayable. I guess I should chuck it in the trash.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

China Crisis: Working with Fire and Steel (1983)

This 12" single contains two mixes of the terrific Working with Fire and Steel. I think Allmusic's assessment of the song is right on: "With its percolating beat, Daly's hiccupping vocals, and a smashing chorus, it was the perfect modern pop song." [source] Side B has two instrumental and somewhat ambient tracks, Dockland and Forever I and I. I still haven't figured out what the name of the band means.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

China Crisis: Working with Fire and Steel: Possible Pop Songs, Vol. 2 (1983)

Although Working with Fire and Steel is the big song from this record, there are other cool tracks, like Hanna Hanna. I think China Crisis is unfairly categorized as an 80s synth band. I think they are more than that. There are lots of cool rhythms and interesting approaches in the music. I can't remember where or when I bought this record.

China Crisis: Wishful Thinking (1983)

This is a UK 12" single, containing: 

Wishful Thinking
Some People I Know To Lead Fantastic Lives
This Occupation (Extended Mix)
Some People I Know To Lead Fantastic Lives (Extended Mix)

Chicago: Chicago XI (1977)

This album opens on an impressive note with Mississippi Delta City Blues, but then gets bogged down in self-indulgent commercial garbage on track 2: Baby, What a Big Surprise. But, there area few other good tracks, like Takin' it Uptown. On balance, I would say that this might be the band's last partly good album.

Chicago: Chicago IX, Chicago's Greatest Hits (1975)

Chicago used to be a good band, but they meandered into mediocrity in later years. This record collects some of their better known tunes, before releasing unimpressive stuff like Baby, What a Big Surprise only two years later. The following is a killer live version of 25 or 6 to 4 with some impressive guitar work.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Benny Andersson, Tim Rice, Björn Ulvaeus: Chess (1986)

This is perhaps an oddity in my collection, because I tend to hate musicals. I have one other musical on CD, and if you are a Leonard Cohen fan, you will know which one it is. Of course, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus are best known for having been the two Bs in ABBA. I don't think I have to tell you who Tim Rice is. The above jacket photo comes with a bonus pseudo self-portrait.

I think I was drawn to this record on the strength of the single, One Night in Bangkok, sung (spoken?) by Murray Head. I still like that song, but the balance of the album is not really for me.

Neneh Cherry: Buffalo Stance (Cosmic Re-Edits) (2004)

This is an unofficial single-sided 12" single on white vinyl containing a cosmic re-edit of Buffalo Stance. I have heard that some were released on red vinyl. I saw one on white vinyl for sale on the web for $23.40. I think that is a little high. I'm not that impressed with the re-edit.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Neneh Cherry: Raw Like Sushi (1988)

In 1988, I was friends with a British chap who was really into rap music and Billy Bragg. I know, it's a strange combination. Raw Like Sushi was one of the records I picked up. Neneh is more like rap-dance or club music, I guess. On another note, it looks like seat belts weren't yet invented in 1988:

Neneh Cherry: Buffalo Stance (1988)

Yippee, five versions of Buffalo Stance all on one 12" disc! No matter your musical tastes, you have to agree that Neneh has a fantastic voice. In fact, the first time I heard her voice was on the duet Slow Train to Dawn with Matt Johnson (The The) in 1986 and I was, like, wow, who's that? (but more on that later).

Buffalo Stance (12'' Mix) 5:43
Buffalo Stance (Sukka Mix) 5:20
Buffalo Stance (1/2 Way 2 House Remix) 7:21
Buffalo Stance (Techno Stance Remix) 6:40
Buffalo Stance (Scratchapella)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cheap Trick: Lap of Luxury (1988)

I'd call Lap of Luxury a mediocre affair. It isn't horrible. It isn't great and it's largely forgettable. Cheap Trick's cover of Don't be Cruel is competent, but it is not ground-breaking. I should probably add this record to the pile that I should remove from my collection.

Cheap Trick: Found All the Parts (1980)

Years before Cheap Trick decided that they wanted to be the Beatles, they released this live EP which included a cover of Day Tripper. The cover is not bad. The EP highlights for me the reality that Cheap Trick is better live than in the studio, though it is widely know that the cover of Day Tripper on this release was not really recorded live. This was originally a 10" release, but I ended up with the 12" version from 1983. Can't Hold On is from the Budokan concert. The screaming fans give it away.

Cheap Trick: In Color (1977)

"Had a moment in the middle of In Color
And in Black And White.
Sing along to the Southern Girls,
Rip me out of my little world"

- Rock Problems, The Hold Steady

In Color, Cheap Trick's second album, is at least as good as their self-titled debut. It's a great album. Of course, some of these tracks appear on the Budokan album, and those live versions are much better known, but the originals are great too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cheap Trick: Cheap Trick at Budokan (1979)

Once upon a time, I owned a copy of this record on cassette. In fact, that cassette was my first Cheap Trick album. Later, I picked up a used copy on vinyl. I Want You to Want Me is probably the most famous Cheap Trick song, and one that most people know only from this live recording. I can't say anything bad about this record. It's great from beginning to end. I've never heard Budokan II or At Budokan: The Complete Concert, but someday I should do so.

Who would have thought that a concert in Japan in front of 12,000 screaming fans would make these guys big stars, at least for a while.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cheap Trick: The Doctor (1986)

Pretty much everything is wrong with this record, especially it's nightmarish cover. But, I can't really sum it up better than Allmusic:

"If any one record sums up all the ludicrous indulgence of ‘80s record-making it’s The Doctor, Cheap Trick’s ninth album. Cluttered with cacophonic electronic drums and clanking with cheap overdriven synths, the record is cavernous and hollow, every instrument echoing endlessly in a fathomless digital stage. As sonic archaeology, this holds some interest, as it contains every bad record production idea of the mid-‘80s -- it’s as garish as its record cover." [source]

Having said that, I imagine that some of these songs could have been salvaged with better production and a strategic reduction in synthesizers and computerized drumming. The title track, for example is really not that bad. But, maybe they forgot who their audience was.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Cheap Trick: All Shook Up (1980)

Cheap Trick brought in famed Beatles producer, George Martin, for All Shook Up. It's definitely a change of direction, and probably at least a little misguided. Stop this Game, for example, is rather horrible. Overall, I think the negative reviews were a bit unjust, because there are some good songs here, and the album seems like something of a masterpiece when compared with The Doctor. But, it's clearly no where as good as the Cheap Trick of yesterday. I wonder how the album would have fared with a different producer?

Friday, November 07, 2014

Cheap Trick: Heaven Tonight (1978)

"Didn't want to go out but I felt really light.
When someone put on Heaven Tonight."

- Rock Problems, The Hold Steady

When I woke up, mom and dad were rolling on the couch
Rolling numbers, rock and rolling, got my KISS records out

Whenever I hear the song Surrender, I can't help but be reminded of Alice Cooper's song Dance Yourself to Death, and vice versa.

My parents would never listen to my KISS records. In fact, I think they hated most of my music, though probably with a few exceptions that I can't remember right now. Fortunately, that didn't stop my parents from buying records for my birthday and Christmas. I would always have a list of records I wanted to get on hand, just in case, though my dad improvised a couple of times, to my despair, but more on that later.

Heaven Tonight is one of Cheap Trick's best records, though not the first one I owned. Surrender is probably the band's best song. I recall being surprised by Cheap Trick's appearance in the film Daddy Daycare. My daughter was engrossed in the film and I was kind of half watching, when all of a sudden, there was Cheap Trick.

Cheap Trick: Cheap Trick (1977)

Cheap Trick's debut record is very good. There are Beatlesque moments and lots of energy. Check out a live version of ELO Kiddies:

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Tracy Chapman: Crossroadds (1989)

Crossroads is a bit of a let down after the debut album. It pales in comparison, but that doesn't mean it's bad. The first record was simply a hard act to follow.

Chalk Circle: The Mending Wall (1987)

The second release form Chalk Circle is as good as the first. I can't figure out why this band wasn't bigger. They wrote some solid tunes and they had a great sound. Two years later, the band released As the Crow Flies. I might be wrong, but I think that I have never heard any songs from that record.

Chalk Circle: The Great Lake (1986)

Chalk Circle's debut six-track EP was later released on CD with the original back cover photo as the front cover of the CD. I prefer the vinyl cover better. The Canadian Chalk Circle shouldn't be confused with the American Chalk Circle, of whom I know very little.

The Great Lake is a really solid pop album, I mean EP.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A Certain Ratio: Live In America (1985)

Herein, we have 10 tracks recorded live in 1985 during a tour of America, and by that, they mean the United States. The British are so imprecise. The 1985 release was on cassette, with the vinyl following in 1986. Oddly, no version of this album was released outside of the UK on any format. Even the CD releases were only dropped in the UK. What's up with that?

I think that this is a really solid live record with really fine live versions. I've embedded the studio version of Shack Up. It's really hard to find clips from this tour, but the entire album in on Youtube.

A Certain Ratio: Greetings Four (1986)

"Looking for a certain ratio
Someone must have left it underneath the carpet
Looking up and down the radio
Oh-oh, nothing there this time
Looking for a certain ratio"

- Brian Eno, The True Wheel

It took me some time to figure out if this band should be alphabetized under A of C. It goes without saying that I would never alphabetize something that began with the under T, unless the band was The The. A, being an indefinite article, I opted to put this under C.

By the mid 80s, A Certain Ratio had shifted from a sort of post-punk to a more dance-oriented band with some funk influences. I liked the former better, but this is cool. There is some really cool bass work on this EP.

The EP contains four tracks.

Fever 103°
The Runner

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds: Murder Ballads (1996)

Original 1996 pressings of the record are a bit pricey, but there are other options, even unofficial options. I have an official US repress from 2015, which is on heavyweight vinyl and came with a download card. My copy has dog-eared corners, regrettably, but the price was impossible to pass up. This is a great record, but I think I have yet to hear a Nick Cave song that I did not like.  This record has a mixture of original and cover versions, including a couple of traditional tunes, all of which sound really great.

Johnny Cash: Biggest Hits (1983)

The last six Johnny Cash records are absolute genius. I have them all on CD. The rest of his catalogue ranges from great to mediocre. This record aggregates some of his more well-known tunes, but inexplicably leaves off Ring of Fire and I Walk the Line. On the plus side, the collection excludes Cats in the Cradle, one of my nominations for the worst song ever written. I recall not buying a couple of Cash collections on CD simply because that train-wreck of a song was on it.

Andrew Cash: Boomtown (1989)

It looks like Andrew Cash never left this boomtown after all, opting to stay and be a really great MP. Of course, I am assuming that the Boomtown in the song is Toronto and not some other mythical boomtown.

I guess I liked the first album better, but this is still a good record. I have never heard any tracks from the third record, Hi, which was a CD-only release.

Andrew Cash: Time and Place (1988)

Just look at the outfit the Honorouable Andrew Cash is wearing! It certainly suggests a time but maybe not a place. As a member of parliament, his wardrobe seems to have undergone a change.

Time and Place is a solid album. He wore the same outfit to the filming of the video for the lead-off track. I guess he was trying top project a consistent image:

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Andrew Cash: Sticks and Stones (1986)

Wow, this photo is seriously crooked. Maybe I had a glass of wine before I took the photo.

Today, Andrew Cash is my Member of Parliament. Back in the 1980s, Mr. Cash was a musician, first spending time in the band L'Étranger with another future MP (but more on that later). I have spoken to Mr. Cash a few times. I think he makes a really fine politician and he is obviously passionate about social justice.

Tim Vesely, from the Rheostatics, is the bassist on this EP. A couple of these songs show up on Mr. Cash's first full length album.

The Cars: Door to Door (1987)

Alllmusic hates this record:

"Missing from the album is the usual Cars chemistry, made up of Ocasek's crisp vocals and Elliot Easton's animated, hook-infused guitar work. Instead, tracks like "Go Away" and "Double Trouble" yield to murky instrumentation and subpar rock formulas." [source]

It's hard to disagree with this view. Certainly, You are the Girl, is not so good. Other tracks seem to take their cure from metal, is some ways. The album is probably the weakest record from the Cars. The interesting thing about this record is that my copy is sealed. I heard it many times back in the day, and then I acquired a copy and never opened it. I suppose that really says a lot about the record.

The Cars: Heartbeat City (1984)

The truth is that I hate the song Drive. It's insipid, boring, and irritating. Generally speaking, I prefer earlier Cars, but there are some good tracks here. It's a fun album.

The Cars: Shake it Up (1981)

Album #4 from The Cars is pretty good. The two big songs are Shake it Up and Since You're Gone. The good news is that Cars records are not that expensive. You should be able to find used copies of this record for $5-$6, which is probably less than it cost new in 1981. Some records sell for multiple times their original selling price, but not the Cars.

The Cars: Panorama (1980)

The third Cars record has been described as more experimental and less straight-up pop. That may well be true, but it's still a great album. The opening track - Panorama - sounds oddly like it could have fit on the Cure's Boys Don't Cry album. It works for me. Touch and Go, I think, was the only single.

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Cars: Candy-O (1979)

she's laughing inside
'cause they can't refuse
she's so beautiful now
she doesn't wear her shoes

I bought this record at the same main street record store in my hometown. While it is perhaps not quite as good as the first Cars record, it is still pretty awesome, and the cover, by Vargas, is great too. Even as a boy, I knew who Vargas was, because my dad had a backdoor subscription to Playboy. In other words, he bought a subscription for someone else each Christmas, and then that person would pass the magazines along to him. It was a win-win.