Thursday, October 30, 2014
you've got your nuclear boots
and your drip dry glove
and when you bite your lip
it's some reaction to love
In my small hometown, there used to be a record store and it lasted for a while. A newer one replaced the older, but eventually, it too died, but I am not sure when. There used to be lots and lots of records stores all over the place, but now they are few and very far between. I bought lots of records in that tiny record shop in my hometown, including this one. For some reason, I have a crystal clear memory of buying it. The shop was only so big, and the stock was rather provincial, so I had to make treks to urban places farther afield to find more interesting items.
The Cars appealed to a wide range of tastes, and I think the songs still sound fresh today.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
"Back home we were listening to Catholic Boy
And I got hung up on the people that died"
- Rock Problems, The Hold Steady
Jim Carroll was a poet, and it showed in his song writing. Sadly, he passed away in 2009.
I'm not sure how to define his music. I guess it's part punk, part new wave. His memoir, The Basketball Diaries, was made into a film that I actually saw. This album, as the title suggest, touches on Catholicism in many places, especially in the title track, Catholic Boy:
"I make angels dance and drop to their knees
When I enter a church the feet of statues bleed
I understand the fate of all my enemies
Just like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane"
But, for me, the song that captivated me was People Who Died. It's a tour-de-force. Carroll always made me think of Lou Reed, and if you are a fan of both, you should check out this clip or Lou and Jim. Sadly, they are two more People who Died.
Here's a vid of People who Died that was released with the movie, I think.
On the first casual listen, this might seem to be something of a light goofy album, which seems strange for a chap who was a founding member of UK punk band, The Damned. The two most recognizable tracks are probably Wot and the cover of Rogers and Hammerstein's Happy Talk, lending some credence to the idea that this is purely a quirky album. Both of the aforementioned tunes got plenty of play in my circles back in the day. I would say that there are some serious compositions here, but I still like Wot the best of the album.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Ex-members of the Johnny Winter Band, Deep Purple, and Iron Butterfly came together to construct this sort of progressive jazz-rock album with touches of heavy metal. Sadly, this record once got wet and the jacket is wavy and wonky, which is a major irritant to me. I would never buy record with water damage, though I think this was a cheap find for me, probably in the $1-$2 range, and I bought it, as the price was irresistbale.
I am not sure I can adequately describe the music, so just have a listed to this live clip.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Camper Van Beethoven might be the world's best alternative rock band, back when alternative rock actually meant something. This is a US first pressing, released in 1989. I've never had a piece of key lime pie. The two tracks that your might know from this record are When I Win the Lottery (I wish) and Pictures of Matchstick Men, which is a cover version of the old Status Quo song. That cool opening guitar riff is made really interesting on the violin. While, the violin might an unusual instrument for a rock band, there are lots of precedents. Let's not forget John Cale's viola.
Some people don't seem to understand cover songs. Check out this comment on the Youtube video:
"FUCK THIS GROUP STATUS QUO IS THE NUMBER 1 ROCKER I LOVE THE QUO ONE BETTER THIS ONE IS SHIT AND PLUS THIS GROUP ARE FUCKING STEELING THE SONG }:("
You just can't beat outrage combined with grammatical failures.
Friday, October 24, 2014
I like the previous two John Cale pop records - Hobosapiens and blackAcetate - much better. On the other hand, Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood is a far better effort than Walking on Locusts, which might be Cale's worst record. Allmusic called this record "[s]illy, savage, and willfully schizophrenic..." A review quoted in Wikpedia referred to the record as "both provocative and strange." That sums it up nicely. I will add that I hate the auto-tuning with all my being.
Fragments of a Rainy Season is one of my favourite John Cale releases. I received this one, the double LP from 2016, as a Christmas present. I would have loved the limited edition triple LP, but that was sold out immediately, and the shipping was extortionate. I have owned a copy of the CD since 1992 and I have kept my eyes open for the DVD, but I have never found one.
The newly remastered version has a different track order, which might make more sense. As much as I love the original versions of these songs, these stripped down, solo versions are extraordinary, managing to capture something more engaging. I suppose this could have been entitled: John Cale Unplugged.
Oh, and by the way, you can forget about all of the other cover versions of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Cale's arrangement, upon which many later versions were based, is the only one you need. It's here, accompanied by solo piano, and it's fantastic. I'd call this the definitive cover of this tune, and people should just stop recording it, as Leonard himself once suggested.
I think that the Allmusic review of this record is just mean-spirited. To me, this is a fantastic record. The reviewer states that this record is "...Cale's unsuccessful attempts to translate [Dylan] Thomas' imagery through song." I do not agree that the "the words lose their power in the retelling." I could go on, but you can read the review yourself which includes an insult about his hair style. To me, these are great interpretations and I also like the stripped-down versions on Fragments from a Rainy Season.
Dying on the Vine is a brilliant Cale track, especially in later renditions. On the other hand, Satellite Walk is dreadful. Although far better than the mediocre Caribbean Sunset, Artificial Intelligence is a bit of a disappointment. Still, the album is almost worth it, just for Dying on the Vine. And, I do like the cover art. Here's an interesting live version with a string quartet.
I picked up a copy of this record when it came out (Jan 22, 2016, I think). Music for a New Society is one of my all-time favourite records, so I was a little worried about what Cale might have done to it on this update. My verdict after a few spins is, I prefer the original album from 1982, but I would say that the new interpretations are engaging and interesting. I would also say that some of the tracks work better that others. If I could somehow forget the original versions, I might regard this record as one of Cale's better later efforts (maybe his best rock LP since 1992's Fragments of a Rainy Season), but it is very difficult to forget music that is so ingrained in my head.
As an aside, I have to say that I find it impossible to believe that Cale is 73! Where has the time gone?
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Caribbean Sunset is the other Cale record never released on CD. Many fans would probably argue that this is Cale's least impressive outing, and I am tempted to agree. Even Walking on Locusts is better.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
It used to irritate me that this record was never released on CD, but now I don't care. It's one of two Cale records that were not released on CD. The other is coming up. I think we have to thank Peter Frampton for all of the live albums that use "Comes Alive" in the title. I fairly certain that Frampton's was the first usage, and there are lots of other later examples.
Allmusic's rather savage review of this live recording is probably correct. It's pales in comparison to Sabotage. But, some fans are eager to complete their collections of favourite artists, so having this on vinyl makes my Cale collection complete, even if most of the rest of my Cale releases are on CD.
Monday, October 20, 2014
Roll up the history books, burn the chairs
Set fire to anything, set fire to the air
It's difficult choosing favourite songs and albums, but I think my favourite John Cale record is Music for a New Society. It's a musical masterpiece. It's spare and minimal and engaging. Paris 1919 would be a close second, but I have to give this one the edge, just based on the lyrical power and the understated music. Paris 1919 is more of a pop affair, but it's great too.
In John Cale's autobiography, he wrote that he had hoped that Frank Sinatra would cover his song, (I Keep a) Close Watch. I have to agree that this would have been cool and it's too bad it never happened. I wonder of Frank even knew who John Cale was.
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Honi soit qui mal y pense
Growing up in rural Ontario meant that concert choices were slim to practically nonexistent. In fact, I can only remember one concert from any rock band in my town. I really didn't see any real concerts until I went to university. Once I moved to Toronto, the choices got even better. Finally, I saw John Cale in concert, but only once, during the Black Acetate tour.
I had heard the song Streets of Laredo many times at home. My dad was a big fan of Marty Robbins and he had lots of his records. I recall thinking that Big Iron was my favourite song at one point, but that changed later on. One has to overthrow the music of one's parents sooner or later. Cale's version of Streets of Laredo is creditable. I prefer most of the other songs on this record, but it's hard to chose a favourite.
Friday, October 17, 2014
And now, we come to one of my favourite musicians of all time, John Cale. He was, as many people know, a member of The Velvet Underground, along with Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, and Mo Tucker. Cale was classically trained on the piano and he also plays the viola, guitar, bass, sax, and a number of other instruments. I have more that 60 John Cale and associated CDs including his Velvet Underground period, his solo work, The Dream Syndicate, numerous soundtracks, collaborations with people like Terry Riley, Brian Eno, and Lou Reed, and several live recordings. On top of that, I have a number of recordings produced by Mr. Cale.
The Allmusic Guide really has an evocative summary of this record. The guide notes that Cale "was travelling the world in the company of a band of snot-nosed youngsters raised on hard rock, shrieking himself into a frenzy, wearing a hard hat on-stage, and writing songs like Chickenshit, a real-life tale of the time he beheaded a chicken (already dead) on-stage and threw the carcass into the crowd and his whole band quit in protest, set to the most merciless music he'd been a part of since White Light/White Heat."
That really sums up the record. The CD version, which I also have, contains four extra tracks, three of which come from the Animal Justice EP.
Animal Justice is a strange name for a record (an EP, really) from a guy who once decapitated a chicken on stage, though the chicken was already dead. This disc contains three tracks: Chicken Shit (a song about the aforementioned event), Memphis (the Chuck Berry tune), and Hedda Gabbler. The only 12" version this record was a UK pressing.
Allmusic says this: "...Animal Justice can only be ranked among the true must-haves in Cale's ever-lengthening canon." While song of these tracks appear in other places (for example, two tracks appear on the Seducing Down the Door compilation, which I have), I think this EP is well worth having.
This album might have the best jacket in my collection. I guess that makes sense, because it was designed by Andy Warhol, though the story goes that Cale, or the record label, changed the cover to colour, abandoning Warhol's original black and white design. In any case, the cover is great.
My copy is a promo with die cuts for the images. I am not sure if the commercial pressing retained these cuts. I think I have seen later issues with a plain flat cover.
The music might seem a bit strange, following on from the unusual experiments of the Velvet Underground. Cale worked with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for a couple of tracks. I think this album is fabulous.
I think that there are better Cabaret Voltaire records, but I like everything they've done and am always on the look out for records from these guys.
Cabaret Voltaire are pioneers of industrial music, with a sound that reminds me of early Ministry, or the other way round. Sensoria was the big song from this record, though, for some reason, I like Spires in the Wires better.
On Crackdown, Cabaret Voltaire move beyond its earlier noise experiments to a harder sound. There are some funk elements throughout. I'll just let the music speak for itself.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Sounds from True Stories is the soundtrack to the Talking Heads film True Stories, and it's full of quirky and cool pieces of music from The Talking Heads continuum and guests. It's fantastic. Once again, I have to admit to not having seen a film for which I own the soundtrack. I guess I haven't seen as many movies as I should have.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Guest musicians on this record include Adrian Belew, Jerry Harrison, and Brian Eno. I really like this record, so much so that I have the CD copy, which contains some extra tracks. It's good. Take my word for it.
So, Kate Bush decided that she wanted to rework some of her songs. Although the reviews seemed to have been generally positive, I think I was too attached to the original versions and these never really struck a chord with me. It's not that I hate the songs, I just get the feeling like one sometimes gets when listening to a cover version that doesn't top the original.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
This is a UK 12" 45 RPM picture disc that contains three tracks: Rubberband Girl (Extended Mix),
Rubberband Girl, and Big Stripey Lie. My copy is a promo, so the plastic sleeve has a "Not for Sale" sticker on it. I don't think it's particularly valuable. I saw one for $30 recently, but that was probably over-priced.
Rubberband Girl is the best track from The Red Shoes, which I would say is the weakest Kate Bush record.
Saturday, October 11, 2014
This US 12" contains three tracks: Experiment IV (Long Version), which first appeared on The Whole Story, Wuthering Heights (New Vocal), and December Will Be Magic Again, which is a christmas song, but an entirely secular one, which is OK with me.
The Whole Story is an example of a greatest hits (or best of) collection that works well. It includes many of her best known tunes and adds a new single, Experiment IV. By the way, some delete marks are more intrusive than others. The huge drill hole is a bit much.
Friday, October 10, 2014
I prefer The Hounds of Love to this record, though I think The Sensual World is brilliant. Some people might argue that this record was her best release up to this point. Parts of The Sensual World (esp. This Woman's Work) seem overly sentimental. But, perhaps that has to do with how the song has been interpreted in such places as She's Having a Baby. The title track is awesome.
This is Canadian 12" single contains three tracks: The Big Sky (Meteorological Mix), Not This Time, and The Morning Fog, the first of which appears on the anniversary CD edition of The Hounds of Love. The Big Sky is one of my favourite tracks from The Hounds of Love. Since there was no video for the extended mix, some intrepid Youtube user created a video using parts of The Dreaming and the original video for The Big Sky. The sync seems to be screwed up.
Thursday, October 09, 2014
Apparently, only 800 of these pink marble vinyl records were released in Canada. My copy of the Canadian pressing still has a factory seal, so obviously, I have never played it. I picked this up in 1985 or 1986 in a record store in downtown Kitchener, though I forget the name of the store. I assume that the store is long gone. I was a regular there, because it was the only record store I knew of in the area that carried bootlegs.
You would probably have to pay $40 to $50 to get a copy of this record, which is far more than I paid.
Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Once upon a time, I owned the cassette version of this release. I guess I should look through the box and see if I still have it. It compiles a few tracks, one of them live:
Sat In Your Lap
James And The Cold Gun (Live Version)
Ne T'Enfuis Pas
Suspended In Gaffa
Un Baiser D'Enfant (The Infant Kiss)
"She mouthed the words along to "Running Up That Hill"
That song got scratched into her soul
And he never heard that song before, but he still got the metaphor
Yea, he knew some people that switched places before"
Hornets! Hornets! - The Hold Steady
Without question, The Hounds of Love was my favourite album of 1985. While the Smiths did release an album that year, it was not their best work, if you ask me. Only a few other albums would rival my choice for best record of 1985: New Order's Lowlife, The Waterboys' This is the Sea, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions' Easy Pieces, and Psychocandy, by the Jesus and Mary Chain. Oh, I guess I have to add Skinny Puppy to this list. Bites is an awesome record, though a little too bizarre for some people.
I own the deluxe anniversary edition of The Hounds of Love on CD, which is interesting for the bonus material. So many Kate Bush videos feature dancing. I'll admit that I am not a fan of dance.
Tuesday, October 07, 2014
I once saw Kate Bush in person in Toronto. She was doing an interview and I was holding a position outside the venue and got to see (but not hear) part of the interview through the glass. She waved from the vehicle as it drove her away after the interview. So close, but yet so far.
The Dreaming is simply fantastic from start to finish. Of course, I also have a copy on CD. I am hard pressed to choose a favourite track. Sat in Your Lap, the first track, really gets ones attention, though the video is perplexing, at least to me. But, then again, most of her videos are unusual. I am happy that I decided not to part with the vinyl when I acquired this on CD.
Monday, October 06, 2014
Back in the day, I studied Russian. I was stunned to learn that Kate Bush mangled the pronunciation of babooshka in her song Babooshka. Not only that, the definition of babooshka is grandmother. If I received a scented letter from a woman calling herself Babooshka, I would call the police. But, it is, in the end, a good song, as are the others on this record.
There's very little live Kate Bush available, and I think On Stage was the first small collection of four tracks:
Them Heavy People
Don't Push Your Foot On The Heartbrake
James And The Cold Gun L'Amour
Looks Something Like You
Apparently, this was recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1979.
Sadly, I was unable to travel to England to see Kate's return to stage. That would have been awesome. Lionheart is probably my least favourite Kate Bush Record. Well, maybe that is too hasty. The Red Shoes might give it a run for its money. Wow and Oh England my Lionheart are especially memorable, but the other songs didn't leave a big impression on me. But, I enjoy her voice so much that even her weaker albums are still great. I'd take this over the masses of top 40 garbage that is constantly being pumped out by the recording industry. I don't remember where or when I picked up this record.
The Canadian version of The Kick Inside has a different cover, one of at least seven in circulation. I hate it when record companies do that. My favourite piece of trivia about this record is how her song, Wuthering Heights, helped kick Emily Brontë's novel onto the bestseller list. That's cool. Of course, it also reminds me of how I once wrote an essay on Wuthering Heights in high school without having read the novel.
I really think that this album is amazing, especially given Kate's age at the time of release (19) and the age at which she wrote some of the songs (15-16). Moving, James and the Cold Gun, The Man with the Child in His Eyes, and the aforementioned Wuthering Heights are all fantastic.
Sunday, October 05, 2014
For some reason, I have never opened this promotional 12" single. (It contains the same song on both sides). It's still sealed. I remember Malcolm from his early days with The Boy's Brigade. I think he is best known now for his work in New Orleans with Daniel Lanois and for his own production work. He has worked as a musician, producer, or co-producer for a whole host of artists, like Blue Rodeo, Bob Dylan, Midnight Oil, Emmylou Harris, Iggy Pop, Blue Peter, Patti Smith, etc.
Walk, Don't Run is a catchy tune, and I really love that he used a comma in the song title, rather than running the words together as so many others would have done.
I think everyone knows that the first video shown on MTV on August 1, 1981 was Video Killed the Radio Star. In Canada, no one could get MTV, so we didn't see this momentous event in the great white north. As it turns out, video did not kill the radio star; corporate radio killed the radio star, and then the internet killed the video star, turning MTV and Muchmusic into generic piles of garbage. Someone should write a song about that.
Saturday, October 04, 2014
Bill Bruford is one of my favourite drummers. I first heard his drumming with Yes, but never paid any attention to who was behind the drum kit. I think I first consciously heard his drumming on Seconds Out, the double Genesis live album. To me, his best work was with 80s King Crimson, but more on that later.
Gradually Going Tornado is a cool jazz fusion album. The vocal pieces drag the album down and I think it would have been much stronger as a pure instrumental record.
Friday, October 03, 2014
This self-titled Buffalo Springfield collection is really awesome, and is perhaps the best compilation. I really wish my copy of this record was in better condition, 'cause mine has a few scratches that really detract from the listening experience. I think I bought this at a lawn sale years ago. I remember also buying some Traffic records and some discs from Grand Funk Railroad and Humble Pie. For some reason, I sold them all, but this.
I am a big Neil Young fan, and it's great to hear his Buffalo Springfield tunes. My uncle had sideburns like Neil's (in the video below) well past the time that they could be considered cool. Or, just maybe, he kept them long enough to be the vanguard of new cool.
Thursday, October 02, 2014
I find it difficult to know what to say about this record. It's by no means the best JB album and it doesn't come close to being my favourite. For part of the record, Jackson turns his attention to politics. The following song is probably the best track on the album.
I find this to be a rather boring record, but I do like the track Boulevard, which got lots of airplay back in the day. The most disappointing thing has to be that the lead-off track, Disco Apocalypse, does not in any way live up to its name.
Look at those pants. Is it just me, or is the waist a little too high? I suppose if you like Jackson Browne, you will like this record. Otherwise, you probably won't. I prefer some of his other records much better.
Sadly, my copy of this record is not in the best of shape, which is too bad, because the album is really good. The guitar work, by David Lindley, is superb. Of course, the album is folky and mellow, but I like the songwriting and the accompanying music. This tends to be the kind of music I would listen to late at night or early on a Sunday morning. When I am cooking or ironing, I need something with a little more energy.
This is my first and only Bronski Beat record. It's interesting to note that Bronski Beat seems to have been labelled as a dance band, when in fact, many of the songs on this record would be difficult to dance to. (I'm not really into dance music or disco--and I think that techno is just irritating noise). The weirdest thing about this band is Jimmy Somerville's voice. I am still not sure I like it, but I suppose it works with these songs. This is a solid collection of songs, but something that is really on the fringes of my collection, and something that I was never really in to.
I am sure many people are familiar with Smalltown Boy, a song about homophobia.
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Broken Bells is comprised of Danger Mouse and James Mercer of The Shins. The first time I heard Holding on For Life, I thought I'd fallen down a worm hole and ended up in the late 70s, listening to disco-era Bee Gees. Despite my hatred of disco, I found that I liked the song. It has an infectious hook. I guess you might call this record part new wave and part disco. I like it.
Even when the darkest clouds are in the sky
You mustn't sigh and you mustn't cry
Spread a little happiness as you go by
My roommate, during the first year of our undergrad, would randomly break into song while getting dressed, putting away his laundry, clipping his toenails, etc. More often than not, the chosen song seemed to be Spread a Little Happiness, a song written by Vivian Ellis, but performed by Sting for Brimstone and Treacle. He would often do a sort of half dance, and move his arms in a certain manner. Oddly, I have never seen the film. Maybe I should watch it.
There are a couple of cool Police tracks on this soundtrack and the wonderful Up the Junction by Squeeze. I could do without the Go Go's however. My dad was a big fan of the Go Go's. But, after having heard We Got the Beat for the millionth time, I had had enough.
Max Brennan is either house or future jazz or maybe just plain electronic. I have his previous release (Alien to Whom?) on CD. It was a birthday gift from Wes. This release is a double-vinyl UK pressing. I was unable to find any video/audio clips for this album on the web, but, Allmusic's description of the record is concise and accurate.
For many years, I laboured under the misapprehension that the song Happy Now I Know (featuring the sweet voice of Molly Johnson) was a song of praise. Years later I read somewhere that the song was intended to be satirical. If you listen to the song, you will understand why I missed it. Or, maybe my source is wrong and the song really is one of devotion to someone's imaginary friend? Still, it's a catchy tune, whatever the message.