Sunday, January 31, 2016

FM: Surveillance (1979)

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The third outing from FM is a bit of a lesser effort compared with the first two, though still enjoyable. This album contains a fairly faithful cover version of the Yardbirds' Shapes of Things. If you want the real FM experience, find the first two releases. If you like those, you will like this. I don't own any FM recordings on CD, for whatever reason.


Friday, January 29, 2016

FM: Direct to Disc [aka Head Room] (1978)

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This record was released under two different titles, Direct to Disc as well as Head Room. The band has a different lineup from the first record, with Ben Mink replacing Nash the Slash. Each side contains one long suite. Side A contains Headroom, a piece with five parts: Tyra, Reflections One, Reflections Two, Real Rime, and Scarberia. If you have lived in Toronto, the last segment's title will mean something to you. Side B contains Border Crossing, broken into four segments: The First Movement, The Second Movement, The Third Movement, and The Fourth Movement.

To me, this record sounds a bit more like space rock than prog, but I guess the two genres are ultimately the same.

There have been many direct to disc recordings. The process avoids the use of tape, as the title suggests. Instead, the music is mixed live and recorded directly to a master disc.  Because only a limited number of pressings could be made from one master disc, these were always produced in limited quantities. I assume that the 2013 CD edition was mastered from a vinyl copy. I suppose if there are any further vinyl copies, those would likely be mastered from this CD generation, but who knows if that will happen.

Wikipedia notes both the advantages and disadvantages of the direct-to-disc method: "Technically, direct-to-disc recording is believed to result in a more accurate, less noisy recording through the elimination of up to four generations of master tapes, overdubs, and mix downs from multi-tracked masters. The method bypasses problems inherent in recording tape: tape hiss, wow and flutter.

From the musicians' point of view, the advantages of direct-to-disc recording are a greater immediacy and interaction among the players."

And: "Although the spontaneity of performance is preserved, no overdubbing or editing is possible. It becomes more challenging for the musicians, engineers and producers, whose performances will be captured "warts and all." In the event of aborted sides, expensive lacquers are wasted and cannot be used again. According to Robert Auld of the Audio Engineering Society: "It was a notoriously difficult way to record; the musicians and all concerned had to record a complete LP side without any serious musical or technical mistakes.

Some artists maintain that musical instruments may drift out of tune: It is not possible to keep instruments in tune for the length of the LP side." [source]

Someone actually paid $100 for one of these on Discogs. I find that hard to believe.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

FM: Black Noise (1977)

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FM is a Canadian prog rock band, partly notable for including Nash the Slash (until 1977, though he returned a couple of times). The first real concert I ever saw was Prism, another Canadian band. There were two acts supporting the band: The Pumps and FM. I remember the concert very well and I remember smelling marijuana, something I don't think I had ever smelled before then. My cousin even smuggled some home-grown Mary Jane into the venue in his sock, which he, and his friend, enjoyed. I passed on the offer, which was probably a good idea, because both reported that the ganja had no effect whatsoever.

The first record, Black Noise, contains probably the best-known FM track, Phasors on Stun. That's a Start Trek reference for the non-geeks. Phasors on Stun is a fabulous song. Bizarrely, this record was not released immediately. The label hung onto it and released it after the second album, known as Direct to Disc or Head Room. But, I think most people consider this to be the first record from the band. This record is clearly the best thing the band ever did.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Flock Of Seagulls: The Story of a Young Heart (1984)

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One could probably argue that the principle of diminishing marginal returns applies to many artists as they reach album number three, but in this case, I would argue that the third record is a bit better than the second, but it's not as good as the first. The following track is very good and sounds like classic Flock.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Flock of Seagulls: Listen (1983)

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If you know a track from this record, it's likely Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You), which is placed in the prime position of prominence, that being track 1 on side 1. Why do some many record companies place the single in this position? It's kind of dumb.

In any case, it's a good track. Overall, I think that the first record from the Flock was much better, with this one being a slight disappointment, but it's still fairly good.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Flock of Seagulls: A Flock of Seagulls (1982)

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"New wave and synth pop act from Liverpool, remembered more for their teased haircuts than their parade of infectious hits."
- Allmusic

Really? If the history of rock has taught us anything, it's that old people shouldn't ridicule the youth for fashion choices. Whoever wrote this is a true Herbert. "Oh, Herbert, you are stiff!"

The band's biggest and most enduring hit--I Ran--was given the most prominent place on the record, that being the first track on side A. It's a pretty good song:

"I walked along the avenue.
I never thought I'd meet a girl like you;
Meet a girl like you.
With auburn hair and tawny eyes;
The kind of eyes that hypnotize me through;
Hypnotize me through."

Once again, the record label played games with this release. The US and Canadian pressings are different from the original UK pressing. Tokyo is missing from the Canadian pressing.
 
I will agree that this band is a little light, but they wrote some catchy and enjoyable tunes, like Telecommunication, D.N.A., and Modern Love is Automatic. They were a solid 80s band.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Flesh For Lulu: Time And Space (1989)

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"A 6 track EP for the price of 7" single - very limited." Again, I have no idea how many copies make up this pressing.

Flesh for Lulu was a goth band, I guess. They are best known for the single I Go Crazy, which is a pretty solid track. Time and Space is taken from the Plastic Fantastic LP. This release contains four tracks:

Time And Space (LP Version)
Decline And Fall
Bloodshot Moon
Time And Space (Rock Remix)

This songs aren't too bad. Someone once compared the band's sound as a mix of the New York Dolls and the Rolling Stones. I suppose that is a plausible description. The sad news is that Nick Marsh, the lead singer, died of cancer in June of 2015 at the age of 53.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (1977)

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"You came into the party with a long black shawl
and the guys from the front lawn were making jokes about the white swan"

- Stevie Nix, The Hold Steady

In the early days, Fleetwood Mac was a blues band. Some people do not know that, because they seem only to be aware of the Rumours period. These people might be shocked to hear early Fleetwood Mac music.

The band experienced numerous lineup changes, with Stevie joining much later. I must point out that I really dislike Stevie Nicks. On this record, I don't mind her so much, but that song about a bird with one wing stinks, and so does her duet with Tom Petty, which is a shame because I like Tom Petty. When I ripped a copy of Anthology - Through the Years to my computer for my iPod, I deleted that track.

This is an example of an album I heard way too many times. As I might have mentioned, my dad was a big fan of 8 track tapes. My sister gave my dad a copy of Rumours one year, probably for christmas or his birthday, and he took to it like a fish takes to water. On some days during the weekend, he would get up in the morning and put this tape on and just let it play all day, or for hours and hours. Sometimes, he would swap it out for ABBA, which was worse. I wonder what happened to that 8 track?

In some respects, it's odd that I have this record, since I equate it with parental music, and that is usually something we overthrow, generally in our teen years. But, I picked this up for a dollar somewhere. I listened to it recently, and I think one can objectively make the case that it is a minor masterpiece, an almost perfect pop record, despite Stevie Nicks.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Flash And The Pan: Early Morning Wake Up Call (1984)

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It's confession time. I have never listened to this record. I picked it up ages ago, after I adopted CDs and sold my turntable and some records. I filed it away and forgot about it. I should open it and listen to it, but it is sealed. It's not valuable, but it is sealed. I should really listen to it. In the meantime, I headed over to Youtube and discovered that all of the record has been uploaded, so I listened to some tunes there, which is clearly not the same thing as listening to the record. I had to deal with compression and digital sound issues, but at last I got a sense of what it sounded like.

From what I listened to, I would say that this record is not as good as the earlier stuff. Why is that so often the case? It's not terrible, but I would say that this record is optional. Of course, I should really listen to it on a real stereo system before making such sweeping statements.

I like the album cover.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Flash and the Pan: Headlines (1982)

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I'd say that there is a slight change in sound on this record. But, it's still clearly a Flash and the Pan record. It's not bad. I'd say the the first two records are better. I'm sure there are those who simply grew tired of the sound, especially the "singing" voice that sounds like it's coming from a clock radio tuned to an AM station. It worked in the past for me, but the novelty was beginning to wear off by this point.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Flash And The Pan: Lights in the Night (1980)

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Lights in the Night, the second LP from Australia's Flash and the Pan, didn't break any new ground, but if you like the first record, you will like this one. This was the first record I owned by these guys. I think I listened to it quite a lot. I think it still holds up today, even after having listened to it so many times.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Flash And The Pan: Flash And The Pan (1979)

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The first Flash And The Pan record I heard was their second LP, entitled Lights in the Night. The first record has the same odd sound and unusual spoken-word delivery. It's mystifying to me that this record has no monetary value. You can find copies in $1 bins everywhere. Surely, it's better than that. Why is it that Thriller sold in the millions, and the price tag on used copies of that record approaches $20. Don't get me started on resale pricing for Fleetwood Mac's Rumours and Springsteen's Born in the USA.

In other words, if you see a copy of this record for $1, you should pick it up.


Friday, January 15, 2016

The Flaming Lips: Brainville (1996/2015)

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This EP was originally released on CD in 1996, and then re-released on 10" yellow vinyl for the first time for Record Store Day 2015. It contains three tracks:

Brainville
Evil Will Prevail (Live)
Waterbug (Live)

Originally, it was sold for about $17.99 to $19.99. I got it for much less.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Flaming Lips: This Here Giraffe (1996/2015)

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This EP was originally released on CD in 1996, and then re-released on 10" orange vinyl for the first time for Record Store Day 2015. It contains three tracks:

This Here Giraffe (Album Version)
Jets Part 2 (My Two Days As An Ambulance Driver Live Peel Session Version)
Life On Mars (Live Peel Session Version) Usealotavolume

Somewhat appropriately, this EP contains a cover version of Life on Mars. I am still processing the untimely and shocking death of David Bowie. I have noticed a backlash arising on Facebook, which really irritates me.

Originally, this sold for about $17.99 to $19.99. I got it for much less.

The Flaming Lips: Bad Days (1995/2015)

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This EP was originally released on CD in 1996, and then re-released on 10" green vinyl for the first time for Record Store Day 2015. It contains four tracks:

Bad Days (Edited Version) Remix – Dave Fridmann, The Flaming Lips
She Don't Use Jelly (Primitive Demos)
Girl With Hair Like An Explosion (Non LP Track)
Giraffe (Demo Version)

Originally, it was sold for about $17.99 to $19.99. I got it for much less.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Flaming Lips: 7 Skies H3 (2014)

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This was a Record Store Day release from 2014 that comes with this description:

"Limited edition clear vinyl exclusive
Condensed and remastered
A 50-minute distillation across 10 tracks of the epic 24-hour song recorded in 2011. On vinyl for the first time ever!

This vinyl only available at independent record stores"

I'd like to hear the 24 hour version. That version was for sale, as noted by Wikipedia:

"The song was released in a limited edition of 13 copies, on flash drives encased in real human skulls, for Halloween 2011. Each skull cost $5,000. A website was also set up, streaming the song on an endless loop." [source] That website seems to be down, permanently. The same Wikipedia entry also states that 7500 copies of the LP were released.

As for the music, I think it's really intriguing. From Popmatters:

"Ultimately, 7 Skies H3 is another strangely alluring addition to the Flaming Lips truly bizarre discography. Arguably less accessible and enjoyable than The Terror was, 7 Skies H3 still impresses tremendously. Always pushing the envelope doing things ‘their own way’, the Flaming Lips actually seem more innovative and fresher compared to any number of contemporary artists. 7 Skies H3 doesn’t make the band anywhere near the commercial realm or anything like that, but they’d be selling out if that were to happen, right" [source]

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Flaming Lips: The Terror (2013)

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I paid less than $8 for a brand new sealed copy of this record. Sorry to brag. To me, describing the music of The Flaming Lips is almost impossible. Sometimes, it's best just to listen to the music. Or, if you like, you can read Allmusic's review, which is pretty good. In short, this album is brilliant.



Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Flaming Lips: Peace Sword (2013)

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This release came on the heels of the previous The Terror. It's very long for something labelled as an EP.

Apparently, this music was inspired by the movie Ender's Game. I think I read elsewhere that one track was used in the film, but the rest was rejected. I guess The Flaming Lips are too esoteric for some.

This was released for Record Store Day, Black Friday 2013 in a gatefold sleeve. The sticker on the shrink wrap says:

"LIMITED EDITION VINYL EXCLUSIVE FEATURING PEACE SWORD FROM THE MOVIE ENDER'S GAME. THIS VINYL ONLY AVAILABLE AT INDEPENDENT RECORD STORES"

I love all music from this band, and this is entertaining.

Friday, January 08, 2016

The Flaming Lips: Zaireeka (1997)

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Although initially released on CD in 1997, the four LP box set came out on Record Store Day in 2013. It's described by Allmusic as: 'A combination of the words "Zaire" and "Eureka," Zaireeka is a term coined by Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne symbolizing the fusion of anarchy and genius." [source]

The intention is that all four discs (CDs or records) be played simultaneously, though one doesn't need to play all four. The records can be played in combinations of two or three or four. I think I could manage play four CDs simultaneously, but I do not have four turntables or receivers. I can't even play two records at once, unless I make a tape of one. In other words, this is a truly bizarre thing to have on vinyl. Nevertheless, the individual records are interesting in themselves. Perhaps this calls for a party, wherein I would have to invite four friends to bring turntables and receivers and speakers.

I found this item heavily discounted when a local record store closed a location. I paid just over $10 for a sealed copy. As a fan of the Lips, I could not turn it down. Each record is a different colour: blue, red, orange, and lime green. The enclosed booklet comes with this warning:

"Warning: this is a unique recording. These eight compositions are to be played using as many as four players, and have synchronized start times. This recording also contains frequencies not normally heard on commercial recordings and on rare occasion has caused the listener to become disoriented. These extremely high and low frequencies can cause a person to become disoriented, confused or nauseated. DO NOT listen repeatedly at high volume. Make sure infants are out of listening range. Zaireeka should not be listened to while driving."

An intrepid fan uploaded a video of all tracks synchronized on Youtube:

Thursday, January 07, 2016

The Flaming Lips: Hit To Death In The Future Head (1992)

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My copy is a remastered reissue from 2011. I wish I had an original German pressing, but the last time I checked, it was selling for more than $100. This record was the band's major label debut, having moved from Restless Records to Warner. The band shifted sound a few times, and I guess this is a bridge between the earlier stuff and what came next. I love it.