Friday, February 27, 2015

Alice Cooper: Flush the Fashion (1980)

I have to say that the title of this record - Flush the Fashion - seems wildly inappropriate since Alice decided to join the musical fashion trend of the day by co-opting a new wave sound (there's even a Devo reference in one of the tracks). So, it should be more like, Hop on the Bandwagon. He brought in Roy Thomas Baker, who produced those slick Cars records. At times, the album sounds like a weak Gary Numan record, but there are a few rockers that hearken back to the old days. As a pseudo Alice Cooper fan, and someone who was really into new wave, I decided to buy this record, which I got in downtown Kitchener when it came out.

There are certain records that remind me of certain people, and this one reminds me of Philip, who lost his life just after high school in a car accident. We both bought this record at about the same time. When I hear these songs, I think of him.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Alice Cooper: Welcome to my Nightmare (1975)

So, I guess this is the album where Alice started his campy horror thing. The record even features Vincent Price. This album is OK and has a number of recognizable songs, but I still prefer the original Alice Cooper Band.

Alice Cooper: Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits (1974)

"She said i used to be a speed shooter.
went out deep for guys that looked like Alice Cooper. "

Sketchy Metal, The Hold Steady

I had a copy of this record on cassette when I was a young man and I played it so much that the cassette disintegrated. Years later, I found a cheap copy on vinyl and I had to buy it.

I love all of the tracks on this album, with one exception: School's Out is a ridiculous song. It's infantile and moronic and, even when I was yearning for summer break, I never identified with the song or it's juvenile delivery. On the other hand, there are some really great songs. I'm Eighteen, Under My Wheels, Muscle of Love, etc. I know, some people think that Alice is heavy metal. At this stage, there was no metal. These are well-crafted rock songs. This is the record you want if you want to hear classic Alice Cooper. I give the collection a 9.5 out of 10. It loses half a point for the ridiculous School's Out.

Ry Cooder: Get Rhythm (1987)

First, I just have to say that the album jacket of Get Rhythm is terrible. Did they intentionally try to make Cooder look like a African-American? Or, maybe he is just well-tanned. The album isn't bad, though.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ry Cooder: Crossroads (1986)

This is the motion picture soundtrack to the film of the same name. It's pretty good. I haven't seen the film.

Ry Cooder: Jazz (1978)

I am not a major Ry Cooder fan by any means, but I do appreciate his guitar work. I prefer his later releases, particularly Mambo Sinuendo. But, this is a solid piece of work.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Communards: You are My World b/w Breadline Britain & Sentimental Journey (1985)

You'll dance to anything by The Communards

After Jimmy Somerville left Bronski Beat, he formed The Communards. I find the band to be rather unremarkable, and so I am always reminded of the classic Dead Milkmen song, Instant Club Hit. I have no idea where I got this record.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Colourfield: Deception (1987)

The most bizarre thing about the album is that Terry Hall hired Raquel Welch's band to fill in when the group was reduced to a duo. I had no idea that Ms. Welch had need of a band. Weird. The lead off track - Badlands - is very good, as is the cover of Running Way, the Sly Stone tune. After this, the band was no more.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Colourfield: The Colour Field (1986)

The Colour Field is a six-track 1986 EP from The Colourfield. I get the impression that this band was not as well known as other 80s bands, and that's a shame.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Colourfield: Virgins and Philistines (1985)

The Colourfield's Virgins and Philistines is a work of genius. Much of the album consists of understated pieces, but it opens with a great cover of Can't Get Enough of You Baby and the fabulous and upbeat Pushing up the Daisies. Sadly, there are few Colourfield videos. Sometimes, Allmusic gets it right, as it does with this album: "The passing of years has only strengthened the LP's timeless album that will never be dated because it cannot be attached to a specific era...Although the album looks to the past for inspiration, it's never retro; the music is frozen in suspended animation, always fresh whenever it's heard" [source]

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Phil Collins: Take Me Home b/w We Said Hello Goodbye (1985)

If I had to choose, I would pick Take me Home as the best track on No Jacket Required. At first, it seems like an unassuming track, and, while the music is a bit dated, I like the way the track builds. The track on the flip side is rather boring unremarkable. The other thing to note is that the jacket does not have a close-up of Phil's face, which is a good thing.

Phil Collins: Sussudio b/w The Man with the Horn (1985)

This is the 12" single for Sussudio. The flip side has a rather forgettable track. But, if you like to hear lots of horns and synths, Sussudio might be the track for you. I'm not sure that I had ever seen this video before today. Or, maybe I just forgot. I am not sure where I got this record, but it must have been a dollar or less.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Phil Collins: No Jacket Required (1985)

No Jacket Required sounds really dated. At the time, it seemed to be in sync with the styles and sound of pop music. If you can overlook the drum machines and artificial sounds, you might be able to enjoy this record 30 years on. Phil has an uncanny ability to craft really compelling love ballads, and I suppose One More Night is a classic example, though I wouldn't say that I like this song. By the way, the only Collins record I own on CD is Face Value.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Phil Collins: Hello, I Must Be Going! (1982)

After the solid and rather dark Face Value record, Collins returned with the less solid and more upbeat Hello, I Must be Going! It has some OK songs, but generally, I feel that it is not as good as the first. Occasionally, Allmusic says something that is truly perplexing. In the brief review of this record, the reviewer states: " retrospect, Hello, I Must Be Going! laid the groundwork for his breakthrough album, No Jacket Required." I assume the reviewer means 'breakthrough' in terms of sales and commercial appeal, and not in terms of quality.

Incidentally, I mistyped the title as Hell, I must be Going! In hindsight, that seems like a much better title. In any case, I do like his faithful cover of You Can't Hurry Love.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Phil Collins: Face Value (1981)

[photo coming soon]
Face Value is clearly Phil's best record. What followed was a slow decline into mediocrity, much like that of Genesis during the same time period. Face Value contains some genuinely good tracks, like In the Air Tonight, I Missed Again, and an interesting cover of Tomorrow Never Knows. This is the only Phil Collins record anyone should own.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lloyd Cole: No Blue Skies (1990)

Alphabetically speaking, this record should precede the Lloyd Cole and the Commotions records, but it makes more sense to put it after, since, chronologically speaking, this is what came next.

This 12" UK single contains No Blue Skies, Shelly I Do, and Wild Orphan.

Lloyd Cole & the Commotions: Mainstream (1987)

OK, so maybe this record isn't as good as the first two records, but I still think it's very good. Sadly, this was the last Lloyd Cole & the Commotions record. It was the end of an era.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Lloyd Cole & the Commotions: Easy Pieces (1985)

Easy Pieces is almost as good as the debut record. I forgot to mention that these chaps started the band in Glasgow, the land of my father (Cole is a Brit, but the rest are Scottish lads). Yay Scotland! Anyway, Easy Pieces remains one of my favourite albums of all time, partly because when I listen to it, I am taken to a very specific time and place with lots of great memories. I have to say, though, that I have never been too fond of the cover.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Lloyd Cole & the Commotions: Rattlesnakes (1984)

Lloyd Cole & the Commotions were one of my favourite 80s bands, and Rattlesnakes was one of my favourite 80s records. Sadly, their career was short-lived. They produced only three albums from 1984-1987, and I wish there had been more. Rattlesnakes is the best of their records. If you don't believe me, believe this, about Rattlesnakes, from Allmusic:

"One of the finest debuts of the '80s, and possibly the defining album of the whole U.K. indie jangle scene that also included Prefab Sprout, Aztec Camera, and dozens of other bands, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions' Rattlesnakes is a college rock masterpiece of smart, ironic lyrics and sympathetic folk-rock-based melodies." [source]

I couldn't have said it better. Plus, Cole name-drops Leonard Cohen in the song Speedboat.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Animal Collective: Centipede Hz (2012)

Here's another LP I recently picked up for an astonishing low price. I have the previous release from Animal Collective (Merriweather Post Pavilion) on CD.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Leonard Cohen: You Want it Darker (2016)

I’m traveling light
It’s au revoir
My once so bright
My fallen star

I’m running late
They’ll close the bar
I used to play
One mean guitar

In 2016, we lost David Bowie and Leonard Cohen. What a horrible year. Leonard Cohen is (was) unquestionably my favourite singer, songwriter, and poet. I hoped the day would never come when we would have to say goodbye to the greatest Canadian, the best songwriter of the 20th and early 21st centuries. He was funny, intellectual, self-effacing, never dull. I have never seen or heard or read an interview where he wasn't entirely captivating. Even in interviews covering ground that was always familiar to me, I was enthralled. I hung on every word. Every live performance was a gift to the audience. I always admired him. I'm still upset. I had hoped that we would have a few more years with him. I was lucky to have seen him in concert three times. I have his autograph on a CD. I will never part with it.

I learned of Leonard's death while I was on the train from Ottawa to Toronto, during a delay where the train just sat unmoving on the tracks. During the delay, I read the news on my phone and wondered who else was reading the same sad news. And then it spilled onto Facebook and soon everyone knew.

Cohen was notoriously slow when it came to releasing records, so it is somewhat amazing that in his later years we were treated to Old Ideas (2012), Popular Problems (2014), Can't Forget (2015), and You Want it Darker (2016), not to mention Songs from the Road (2010), Live from London (2009), and the Live in Fredericton EP (2012). They are all great, too. It was a good time to be a Cohen fan. At 82, he had one more release ready. At 82, he was gone too soon. I'm not sure how I feel about the prospect, but I'd guess there are other live recordings that might be released posthumously, as well as countless poems (I heard he has masses of unpublished poems).

Listening to You Want it Darker is a sad experience, not unlike listening to Blackstar, Bowie's last record. The Allmusic review, clearly written before Cohen's death, is interesting:
Given the subject matter addressed in the title and other tracks on You Want It Darker and Leonard Cohen's advanced age (82), it's tempting to hear this as a last album. In advance of its release, he told The New Yorker he was ready to die, but later walked back that comment. [source]
Obviously, Cohen knew he was near the end. The songs attest to that, just as Bowie's songs on Blackstar do. And then:
In song after song, Cohen delivers lyric juxtapositions that settle scores with God, past lovers, and himself, but almost always arrives at equanimity. He sounds like a spent Jeremiah alone in a cave conversing with God rather than the biblical figure transported to heaven in a fiery chariot. After coming to terms with the ghosts in his past and his acceptance of mortality, Cohen emits a resilient flicker of hope for total reconciliation in the shadows. A tender reprise of "Treaty" is adorned only by strings and his vocals as he expresses hope for detente: "I wish there was a treaty/between your love and mine." Amid the list of gripes, sins, and losses detailed on You Want It Darker, Cohen remains open to whatever earthly light offers even as his gaze shifts toward the eternal. He makes no compromises. These songs reveal that when all contradictions are nakedly exposed, all one can do is embrace them. Whether this is or isn't goodbye, You Want It Darker is one hell of a record. [source]
It is, indeed, a fantastic record and it really was, sadly, goodbye. I have to say thank you for delivering one final record. It cannot have been easy. Apparently, he had to sit in a medical chair, because of multiple spine fractures, but I have read that he enjoyed recording the album. It must have been uplifting to deliver a truly wonderful record as his last. So many artists fade into obscurity or double back on themselves, delivering tired pale versions of former glories. But, Leonard gave us something better, up there with his best, right at the end.

I'm not a religious man, but Cohen seemed to be, at least in his words. I've never understood the appeal, but it seemed to offer him something, and, even to my atheistic ears, his words were thoughtful, powerful, and emotional. If It Be Your Will, one of my favourite Cohen tunes, is almost a prayer, and yet I find it staggeringly powerful. If there is any good news in the timing of his death, it's that he died before Trump's pseudo-victory. Now, we can all say: Give me back George W. Bush. I have seen the future, baby: it is murder. Amen and amen to this, too, from The Future:

It's coming to America first
The cradle of the best and of the worst
It's here they got the range
And the machinery for change
And it's here they got the spiritual thirst
It's here the family's broken
And it's here the lonely say
That the heart has got to open
In a fundamental way
Democracy is coming to the USA

And finally, let us remember, from one of my favourite Cohen tracks:

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will
If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will

If it be your will

Atoms for Peace: Amok (2013)

I recently picked this up (for cheap) but I am well past the A section, so I guess I will add it here. Any Radiohead or Thom Yorke project is worth owning. On CD, I have all of the Radiohead releases, plus I have The Eraser, the Thom Yorke solo outing. I love them all. OK Computer has to be in the running for one of the greatest albums of all time. It's brilliant.

If you have heard some of the later more experimental Radiohead albums or The Eraser, then the sound of this record will not be too surprising. My only complaint is that I wish it had been released on 180 gram vinyl.

Leonard Cohen: First We Take Manhatten (2015)

This record was extracted from a live concert that was recorded at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan on February 19, 2009 and released illegally by Swinging Dog Records. The source was an FM NPR radio broadcast, so the sound quality is fairly good. The actual concert was much longer, but some of it was obviously cut to fit onto one LP. I would have made a slightly different selection. Much of this concert has been posted on Youtube.

There's a typo in the album title (Manhatten), though the bootleggers managed to spell the actual song title correctly. Oddly, they made no other mistakes, apart from a lost comma. That's pretty good for bootleggers. I expected worse. And that reminds me that I once read an online comment by someone who claimed that bootleggers make intentional errors in song titles so that pressing plants will not realize that the item is a bootleg. I don't buy that. Generally, bootlegs have terrible layout and design, which is a dead giveaway that the record is not legit. Also, does anyone really believe that a slight misspelling of Manhattan in the record title is going to fool anyone?

Clearly, the bootleg record company ripped off the artwork for Lian Lunson’s documentary about Leonard Cohen which was entitled I’m Your Man. That irritates me more than the act of bootlegging. This is said to be a limited edition, whatever that means.

The tracks are:

Dancing Me To The End Of Love
Chelsea Hotel No. 2
Tower Of Song
The Partisan
A Thousand Kisses Deep
So Long Marianne
First We Take Manhattan

Leonard Cohen: Popular Problems (2014)

This album came as a bit of a surprise, even though Sylvie Simmons hinted at a new record in her biography of Cohen in 2013. The good news is that Cohen delivered another fine album, to coincide with his 80th birthday. Cohen hasn't really made any new videos recently, but there are some boring song presentations on Youtube for promotion. At 80, Leonard is still going strong. I hope this isn't the last we hear from him. I know, we have that Dublin concert, but I already have Songs from the Road, and the London concert.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Leonard Cohen: Live in Fredericton (2012)

Live in Fredericton is a limited edition EP--3700 copies--from Record Store Day 2012. It contains 5 tracks recorded during the 2008-2009 tour:

Dance Me To The End Of Love 
In My Secret Life 
Heart With No Companion 
Bird On The Wire 
Who By Fire 


Monday, February 02, 2015

Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas (2012)

Just to get a new record from Leonard in 2012 was something to be thankful for. To make things better, this is a great record. This record came packaged with the complete record on CD. While I like the download codes that come with some records, I think including a CD is a better idea.