Thursday, April 27, 2017

Killing Joke: Fire Dances (1983)

"Fire Dances bridges Killing Joke's primal past with their more melodic, accessible future and without compromising any of their thunder." [source]

I'd say that the above is a very apt statement. I regret that I have never seen this band live. It's also strange that I am totally unfamiliar with the band's more recent output.

My copy of this LP is a German repressing from 1986. $15 to $20 is probably a reasonable price for this record.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Killing Joke: "Ha" - Killing Joke Live (1982)


This record was recorded live at Larry's Hideaway, Toronto (yay!) on August 9th and 10th, 1982. Sadly, I didn't get a chance to go to Larry's Hideaway. It was closed before I moved to Toronto, and the building was later demolished. About Larry's, Wikipedia says this:

"The venue was notable for being one of the first venues in Toronto to open itself to punk and new wave music acts, as well as hard rock. The venue was well known for its good acoustics." [source]

A number of seminal acts played there. Here are a few: Bauhaus, The Cult, Einstürzende Neubauten, The Diodes, Goddo, Nina Hagen, Max Webster, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, R.E.M., Rush, They Might be Giants, The Fall, Hüsker Dü, Richard Thompson, The Cramps, and The Demics.

But, back to the record. Most of pressings were released as 10" records, but I think there were 12" imports. Ha has six tracks.

Sun Goes Down
The Pandys Are Coming
Take Take Take

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Killing Joke: What's THIS For...! (1981)


I guess the real title is What's THIS For...? Shouldn't there be a question mark and not an exclamation point! See what I did there! Again! The second Killing Joke record is also awesome. It might not be as good as the first, but it's pretty fantastic.
What's THIS For...! was generally well received by critics. Trouser Press described the album as "nearly as terrific" as their debut album, "bringing funk to ambient music, implying feeling sublimated in a chaotic world".

Paste magazine's Josh Jackson listed the album at No. 48 on his list of "The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums", noting that "the real genius here is the human emotion that comes through such spare efficiency" [source]
I think more than a few people recognize that Ministry was influenced by this record.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Killing Joke: Killing Joke (1980)

It's argued that Killing Joke paved the way for acts such as Metallica and Nine Inch Nails. They have been described as post-punk, new wave, gothic rock, industrial rock, industrial metal, alternative pop/rock, alternative/indie rock, punk, and dance-rock. I 'm really uncertain as to which label fits better, and it needs to be pointed out that the sound of the band shifted over the years. But, new wave, I think not. Let's just read the entire Allmusic review:
Since 1980, there have been a hundred bands who sound like this; but before Steve Albini and Al Jourgensen made it hip, the cold metallic throb of Killing Joke was exciting and fresh. The harshly sung vocals riding over the pulsating synth lines of the opener "Requiem" have a vigor and passion that few imitators have managed to match. The precise riffs and tight rhythms found in songs like "Wardance" would influence a generation of hardcore musicians; yet "The Wait," with its thrashing guitars and angry vocals, would find itself covered on a Metallica album only six years later. That such a bleak and furious album could have such a widespread influence is a testament to its importance. Certain parts of the album have not dated well; the vocals and drums are mixed in such a way that they lose some of their effectiveness, and the fact that so many other bands have used this same formula does take some of the visceral feeling away. But this is an underground classic and deserves better than its relative unknown status. Fans of most kinds of heavy music will probably find something they like about this band, and this is a good a place as any to start the collection. [source]
I love this record and I love the cover art. I have a Canadian pressing. Enough talk, more listen:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Nik Kershaw: Human Racing (1984)

A couple of years back, I had some friends over for dunner and drinks. One of my friends laughed and exclaimed loudly when he saw this record. I get it. This is probably weak 80s music, more like weak top forty 80s music. But, I will admit that I don't mind Wouldn't it be Good. But, shouldn't that have a question mark at the end? Is not "wouldn't it be good" a question?

In contrast to that song, the rest of the album really does nothing for me. Elton John once said that Kershaw is "the best songwriter of a generation." [source] That's not a great endorsement, especially from a man whose entire catalogue post-1977, or so, is more or less uniformly awful. Maybe I like Wouldn't it be Good simply because the remainder of the songs are uninspiring.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Lostboy! A.K.A Jim Kerr: Lostboy! A.K.A Jim Kerr (2010)

I guess I could have filed this under L for Lostboy, but I put it under K for Kerr.

Jim Kerr, the lead singer of one of the top Scottish Bands -- Simple Minds -- released his first solo record in 2010. What took him so long? The vocals are credited to Lostboy, not Jim, and yet Jim's name is on the jacket. I wonder what he is trying to say? The Peter Pan reference is a bit bizarre.

I'd say that this is an OK record, but I am not blown away. I wonder why he bothered, at this point, with a solo record. The LP version was pressed only in Germany. I think I paid under $10 for it, which is probably what it's worth. I'm not crazy about the jacket design.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

John Kay: Forgotten Songs & Unsung Heroes (1972)

I find it interesting that Canadians do their best to claim Steppenwolf as a Canadian band. John Kay did live in Canada, beginning in 1958, when he was 12 or 13 years old. At some point, he shuffled off to the USA where the pastures are greener. Others refer to the band as Canadian-American, which seems fair enough to me.

Anyway, John Kay (born Joachim Fritz Krauledat in East Prussia) was the lead singer of Steppenwolf, which was formed in 1968. I'm not up on my Steppenwolf history, so thank you Wikipedia for the details. Anyway, on to this record.

Forgotten Songs & Unsung Heroes, Kay's debut solo record, is pretty good. In fact, I recall being surprised by how much I liked it upon first listen. Half of the record is comprised of original tracks, while the other half are covers. It seems to work quite well, but I gather it fell between the cracks, as has happened to so many good songs and records.

I think that perhaps some were expecting a raucous record with tracks like Born to be Wild and Magic Carpet Ride, but this is a mellow countryish, bluesy affair, and maybe some were disappointed?

I'm pretty sure I paid a dollar or so for this one. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Kansas: Point of Know Return (1977)

I recently purged a bunch of Greg Kihn records from my collection. I didn't mind some of the tracks, but I never really listened to them any more, even though they don't write 'em like that anymore.

This record contains the other really huge Kansas tune, Dust in the Wind. By the way, some people think that this record is entitled Point of No Return. It's close, but it isn't right.

I think this record is not so great. Maybe I just don't get it. I find it almost to be a job to force myself to listen to the record, and that's saying something. I will admit that Dust in the Wind is probably a very good rock song, but its bot really my cup of tea.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Kansas: Leftoverture (1976)

The best thing about this record is the title. It's pretty clever and it's an authentic title too, from what I've heard, since they used bits and pieces of older material after failing to come up with new material.

Prog rock mixed with classic rock and pop is probably a good description of this band, who I think are still staples of classic rock radio. I just learned that this band has released records through the decades, including a new collection of songs in 2016. Who knew? I thought they were dead and buried. But, then again, who knows what the lineup is? I'm too disinterested to care.

This record was either a lawn sale pickup, when I was a teenager, or something passed along to me sometime by a person long forgotten. I do not recall the last time I listened to it. I'll likely never listen to it again.

I am relatively ignorant of Kansas, but my uninformed argument is that Carry On Wayward Son has to be the band's biggest song. This portion of the Allmusic review made me chuckle: impenetrable conundrum of significance that's capped off by nothing less than a five-part suite, appropriately titled "Magnum Opus," and featuring such promising movement titles as "Father Padilla Meets the Perfect Gnat" and "Release the Beavers." Of course, there's no telling whether this closing opus relates to the opener, "Carry On Wayward Son," the greatest single Kansas ever cut -- a song that manages to be pompous, powerful, ridiculous, and catchy all at once. That they never manage to rival it anywhere on this record is as much a testament to their crippling ambition as their lack of skills. [source]
I can't add anything to that. I have a Canadian pressing

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Just West Of Something Big: A CFRU-FM Compilation Album (1987)

This LP contains 15 tracks from obscure bands from the Guelph scene in the mid-late 1980s. A copy of this record is currently for sale on Discogs for $53.29, which is asking far too much, if you ask me. I paid a buck for my copy. I don't think any of these bands made it big, but I could be completely wrong about that. There's not much information about this record on the interwebs. It appears to be the only release from No's To No's Records. I wonder about the apostrophes in that name.

By the way, I'm pretty sure that the title refers to the fact that Guelph is west (just a bit west) -- geographically speaking -- from Toronto, which is a big city.

So, here are the tracks:

Right Nostril (Side 1)

A Single Voice - Ripping Susan
This Ill File - Step In Time
Belinda Wu - Facelift
Rigor Mortis - Life Cycle
Built With Lego - Not Your Fault
Maggot Fodder - Down And Under
Strings And Shades - Last Fall

Left Nostril (Side 2)

The Bird Sisters - Big Plans
Love's Ugly Children - Teeth Marks (Cannibal Bliss)
The Exploding Postmen - S.N.A.F.U.
Garden Bower - Stockholm
The Nationals - Workin' For A Living (Just Don't Work)
2 Below Subway - Are Ye Able
The Weathermen - Record Of The Time
Smash To Death Inc. - Condoms

The name some people might recognize from this release is that of Chris Bottomley, who produced the track from Love's Ugly Children. Chris's brother -- and former band-mate from Tulpä -- John Bottomley, went on to have a promising solo career. Sadly, John passed away a few years back.

(Being in the Ju section, I remember that I once had some Juluka records, which I purged from my collection).

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Joy Division: Live In Holland (Live at the Paradiso Club in Amsterdam, January 11, 1980) (2015)

This unofficial (bootleg) record was released by DOL, a trademark of Vinylogy, a Russian "reissue label" (bootleg label) evidently specializing in jazz and blues. My understanding is that the source for this record was an FM radio broadcast or a cassette of the FM radio broadcast. I believe that there have been several versions of this record, some on CD and some on double vinyl and with different names. Such is the nature of bootlegs. This particular version comes on 180 gram virgin vinyl. The sound is really great, for a bootleg.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Joy Division: Live In Blackpool 1979 (2008?)

The record was recorded illegally at the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool on July 27th, 1979. One hundred copies were pressed on orange vinyl and three hundred copies were pressed on black vinyl. I have the latter. The sound sucks. It's a truly awful recording.

Just how bad is it? Imagine you were in a club listening to a band ripping through their set list, and you realize that you have to have a pee. You can hear the music as you are walking towards the bathroom. You pull open the door and, as it closes, the music becomes a muffled noise behind the door. Now, imagine that someone in the bathroom has fired up their auto-stop portable Panasonic cassette deck while occupying a toilet stall and recorded the entire concert while sitting on the throne. That's what this record sounds like: the shits. On the other hand, if you are willing to put up with the atrocious sound, there is information to be gleaned from this record. But, I just can't listen to it again. Still, I will hold on to it, for whatever reason.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Joy Division: Out Of The Room (2006)

Herein are eight tracks recorded live at various locations. The jacket is even more precise: we have coverversions (which should obviously be "cover versions"), jam sessions, and soundchecks.

Side A;

1) Gimme Some Lovin', recorded at Eric's, Liverpool on August 11, 1979
2) Sister Ray, recorded at Plan K., Brussels on January 17, 1980
3) Wild Love, a jam with Section 25, recorded at the Winter Gardens, Malvern on April 5th, 1980
4) Nobody Counts, a jam with Section 25, recorded at the Ajanta Theatre, Derbyon April 19, 1980

Side B

1) Atmosphere, which is referred to as a "Lost Track" from September 22, 1979 at Nashville Rooms, London
2) The Only Mistake, a soundcheck from Pavilion, Hemel Hempsteadon November 5, 1979
3) Ceremony, a soundcheck from High Hall, Birmingham on May 2, 1980
4) Decades, a soundcheck from High Hall, Birmingham on May 2, 1980

If you didn't already know that this is a bootleg, the sound quality would give it away. Just listen to this:

Friday, April 07, 2017

Warsaw [Joy Division]: Warsaw (1994)

As you may or may not know, Joy Division was originally known as Warsaw, a name the band borrowed from David Bowie and Brian Eno's composition Warszawa, from Bowie's Low album. Both are good names,but I think Joy Division is more ironic, given the nature of the music the band recorded.

Some of the tunes on this record date back to 1978. It was to be the planned debut record from the band, but the enterprise was abandoned. This version compiles those previous tracks and adds a few so-called bonus tracks (dating to 1977). Despite being an unofficial release, there is quite a lot of contact information on the record. One would think that this would lead Interpol straight to their door in the Netherlands, but I guess they have no concerns about that. The other odd thing for an unofficial release is that the sound is truly spectacular.

The record is an interesting look at early Joy Division. To my ears, the band sounds a little more punk than they did on the first Joy Division record. In any case, if you are a Joy Division fan, this record is a must-have.

An earlier version of this record, without the bonus tracks, was published on CD in Germany in 1989. This copy is from 2007 in an edition of only 1000 copies. I'd really like to know if there are really only 1000 copies. After all, more than 2000 people claim to own this exact version of the record on Discogs.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Joy Division: Substance (1988)

From Wikipedia:
Substance compiles the four singles released by the band that did not appear on albums — "Transmission", "Komakino", "Love Will Tear Us Apart", and "Atmosphere" — as well as most of their B-sides. It also collects tracks released on extended play singles, the band's first release An Ideal for Living, and two samplers issued by Factory Records, A Factory Sample and Earcom 2: Contradiction. The single "Atmosphere" had been originally issued in France as "Licht und Blindheit" with "Dead Souls" on the B-side. Following the death of Ian Curtis, it was reissued as a posthumous B-side of the "She's Lost Control" single in an alternate version from the track that had previously appeared on Unknown Pleasures. The vinyl version omits the single "Komakino" and does not include the complete titles from the extended plays. [source]
This record was important because, unless you had the singles, it was the only way to own Transmission, Love Will Tear Us Apart, and Atmosphere. I have the original Canadian pressing. This, like the other JD records, have all been repressed.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Joy Division: Still (1981)

Cynics would argue that Factory Records was quick to capitalize on Joy Division's untimely demise by issuing an odd collection of things found lying around the studio floor. That may be partially true, but it doesn't diminish the fact that there are some outstanding tunes here, most notably Dead Souls and Glass.

Someone take these dreams away
That point me to another day
A duel of personalities
That stretch all true realities


Where figures from the past stand tall
And mocking voices ring the halls
Imperialistic house of prayer
Conquistadors who took their share

Apart from the previously-unused studio tracks the record contains a recording of Joy Division's last concert in High Hall, Birmingham University on May 2nd, 1980 plus a version of the Velvet Underground's Sister Ray, from The Moonlight Club in London (April 2nd, 1980).

There are several versions of this release. I have the 3rd UK 2xLP pressing from 1981. The original UK pressing was bound in cloth. A friend of mine has the original UK pressing, but I don't think he would give it to me, no matter how nicely I asked. In addition to the LP, I have a Canadian CD from 1987, a copy of which is for sale on Discogs for over $90. WTF?

I've always loved the understated album cover design.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Joy Division: Closer (1980)

I've always read the title of this record as an adjective, for something nearby or the opposite of distant. Baseball players, baseball fans, and some salespeople know this word as a noun that means either a relief pitcher or someone who can bring things to a close. Given that this was the last real Joy Division album, the latter might be the better interpretation. And, it's a damn fine closer. It's difficult to believe that Joy Division could have written an album to equal Unknown Pleasures, but they did it, somehow. In fact, this LP might even be better than the debut record.

So this is permanence, love's shattered pride.
What once was innocence, turned on its side.
A cloud hangs over me, marks every move,
Deep in the memory, of what once was love.

Oh how I realised how I wanted time,
Put into perspective, tried so hard to find,
Just for one moment, thought I'd found my way.
Destiny unfolded, I watched it slip away.

Excessive flashpoints, beyond all reach,
Solitary demands for all I'd like to keep.
Let's take a ride out, see what we can find,
A valueless collection of hopes and past desires.

I never realised the lengths I'd have to go,
All the darkest corners of a sense I didn't know.
Just for one moment, I heard somebody call,
Looked beyond the day in hand, there's nothing there at all.

Now that I've realised how it's all gone wrong,
Gotta find some therapy, this treatment takes too long.
Deep in the heart of where sympathy held sway,
Gotta find my destiny, before it gets too late.

These are chilling lyrics, in light of Ian's suicide. The album commences with one of my favourite JD tracks, Atrocity Exhibition. One always wonders what Joy Division would have done next, and there are clues on Still, especially the track Ceremony. It's too bad we never got to experience it.

As with Unknown Pleasures, this is a truly beautiful album design. I have an original Canadian pressing.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Joy Division: Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)

When the routine bites hard
And ambitions are low
And the resentment rides high
But emotions won't grow
And we're changing our ways,
Taking different roads
Then love, love will tear us apart again

Why is the bedroom so cold
Turned away on your side?
Is my timing that flawed,
Our respect run so dry?
Yet there's still this appeal
That we've kept through our lives
But love, love will tear us apart again

Do you cry out in your sleep
All my failings expose?
Get a taste in my mouth
As desperation takes hold
Is it something so good
Just can't function no more?
When love, love will tear us apart again

Love Will Tear Us Apart was dropped in June 1980. I would love to have an original 12" UK. Instead, I have a Canadian 12" from 1983, when it was re-released. These Days is included in addition to two versions of the title track, the original and the Pennine version. The Pennine version is fine, but it can't compete with the single version.

For many people, Love Will Tear Us Apart is the Joy Division track. I think people who only know this tune should dig deeper. In fact, it rather irritates me that there are so many people who only know this song from the band. I've always felt the same away about Lou Reed. For many people, the only Lou Reed track they know is Walk on the Wild Side, and that's a shame.

Just when I  convince myself that my favourite JD track is She's Lost Control or Disorder or Atmosphere or some other tune, I hear this and remember just how epic this song is. The other thing I should say is that I love the cover photograph.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Joy Division: Atmosphere (1980)

On March 18, 1980, Atmosphere was released in the UK on a 12" single. I am happy to have a mint copy of that pressing. I have seen some insane prices for this record around town. The flipside is She's Lost Control, which is one of my favourite JD tracks. Again, from Wikipedia:
Ned Raggett of AllMusic wrote, "'Atmosphere' is another one of those prime Joy Division songs, like 'Transmission' or 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', where Martin Hannett's production becomes so essential to the end result that it couldn't have been heard otherwise", noting that, in regards to Ian Curtis's mental state and subsequent death, "there's a feeling of a requiem here, an awesome musical farewell."

 Joy Division bassist Peter Hook has said he regards the song as the band's greatest.[source]
I was delighted to hear this tune used in Stranger Things. Atmosphere is perhaps the only track by Joy Division that I would describe as beautiful, perhaps hauntingly beautiful.I have to say that I like the video that was made for it years later, and I also really like the jacket image.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Joy Division: Transmission (1979)

Transmission was released as a 7" single in the UK on October 7, 1979, after Unknown Pleasures and before Closer. In December, 1980 (after Closer was released) the first edition of the 12" single was released, which is the pressing I have. The flip-side is Novelty. This is a brilliant, bleak, and perhaps depressing song. There is something tortuous in the music.Wikipedia provides this summary:
Greil Marcus has a chapter on this song in his book The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs. According to Marcus, "'Transmission' is not an argument. It's a dramatization of the realization that the act of listening to the radio is a suicidal gesture. It will kill your mind. It will rob your soul." Marcus also quotes the band's bassist Peter Hook about the importance of this song: "We were doing a soundcheck at the Mayflower, in May, and we played 'Transmission': people had been moving around, and they all stopped to listen. I realized that was our first great song." [source]
The idea that this song is "a dramatization of the realization that the act of listening to the radio is a suicidal gesture," seems to me to make a lot of sense in hindsight, but I can't imagine anyone coming to this conclusion at the time.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures (1979)

Years ago, I was standing in a record store, getting ready to purchase what would become one of my favourite records of all time. The good news is that I bought a copy of Unknown Pleasures.  The bad news is that I bought a cassette copy instead of the vinyl! That was an epic mistake. I remember listening to a Doctor Deadwax video on Youtube where he reported a similar experience. If I remember correctly, he had a copy of a Flock of Seagulls LP in one hand and a vinyl copy of Unknown Pleasures in the other, and he walked out with the former. That was another epic mistake.

So, my first copy of this record was on cassette. I later picked up an early-80s pressing of this on vinyl. As much as I'd like to have an original pressing, it's not critical. I think the recent 180 gram reissues (from the original master tapes) are good quality too, and those can be had for under $25.

When I purchased the cassette tape, I had only heard She's Lost Control, but I was immediately enamored with Disorder, which may still be my favourite Joy Division track. This record may well be the greatest debut record of all time.

Allmisic says this: "...the ten songs inside, quite simply, are stone-cold landmarks, the whole album a monument to passion, energy, and cathartic despair."

And then there is this statement, none of which can be argued against by any serious music fan: "Pick any song: the nervous death dance of "She's Lost Control"; the harrowing call for release "New Dawn Fades," all four members in perfect sync; the romance in hell of "Shadowplay"; "Insight" and its nervous drive toward some sort of apocalypse. All visceral, all emotional, all theatrical, all perfect -- one of the best albums ever." [source] I couldn't agree more and I couldn't have said it better.

Unknown Pleasures deserves praise for the jacket as well. It's a brilliant example of minimal, understated design. This record is simply fantastic, a real classic, a true desert island disc.

Some time ago, I watched this live show by Peter Hook and the Light. Man, did they ever nail the sound. But, I have to say that I am not in love with Peter's vocals. Still, you should watch it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Joy Division: An Ideal for Living (1978)

I can't think of too many bands that live up to the billing of 'legendary', but Joy Division is one of them, even though they released only two proper records. Joy Division had a short but influential tenure, ending with the suicide of Ian Curtis at age 23. After his death came the birth of the subsequent incarnation of the band, the improbable New Order. Some Joy Division compilation records also followed. On some days, I might be inclined to argue that Joy Division was the best rock band ever, but I think there is one other band that might take that title, like The Smiths. It depends when you ask me.

Allmusic calls Joy Division "the definitive post-punk group." That's probably accurate, even though I have an issue with the term post-punk. Isn't that just a fancy term for new wave? And, JD in no way qualifies as new wave, so I will have to allow the use of the post-punk label. To me, the band owed more to the punk movement than to the new wave movement.

I used to have a counterfeit copy of this Anonymous Records release of Joy Division's debut EP, An Ideal for Living, but I let it go, during my period of misguided CD love. On RSD in 2014, Warner released an official limited edition pressing of this EP, and I opted to buy a copy. The four tracks are:

No Love Lost
Leaders of Man

A couple of months back, I saw a copy of the Anon bootleg for $25. I prefer to stick with the RSD version, as it was made from a new master, and who knows the source of the bootleg?

This is a great intro to JD and it's indispensable for any serious Joy Division fan. It's a long way from the smooth groove of Love will Tear us Apart.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Howard Jones: Cross that Line (1989)

The weight of expectation seems always to doom releases when there are large gaps between them. Three years after One to One, Jones dropped Cross that Line. I think it would have been better had it come out two years earlier. Still, there are some good tracks, but perhaps people were expecting something more.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Howard Jones: You Know I Love you Don’t You? (1986)

You Know I Love you Don’t You? is taken from One to One, Jones's third record. It might be the best track on the record. Side A of this 12" single contains the Dance In The Field Mix. Side B has an instrumental version as well as a tune called Dig This Well Deep.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Howard Jones: One to One (1986)

I think the verdict on this record is that it is far more mature and laid back than his earlier recordings, but that fact didn't really mean that this is a good record. It's OK, but I think the earlier stuff is better.

Some CD releases of this album contain the re-imagined version of No One is to Blame.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Howard Jones: Dream into Action (1985)

Dream into Action contains a bunch of popular tunes, like Things Can Only Get Better, Life in One  Day, Like to Get to Know You Well, Look Mama, and the original version of No One is to Blame, which was subsequently re-recorded and rearranged by Phil Collins. I prefer the re-recorded version of that track. This is probably the record to get if you want to hear Jone at peak pop. I have a Canadian pressing. I think that the cover is ugly.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Howard Jones: Human’s Lib (1984)

Human's Lib was the first LP from Howard Jones and it's pretty good. It contains the aforementioned What is Love?, plus New Song, and a bunch of other good tracks, such as Pearl in a Shell. I recall that the late Don Berns, of CFNY (he was later known as Dr. Trance) claimed that Hide and Seek was his favourite song. Berns meant his favourite song, not simply his favourite song from Howard Jones. I could never reconcile that. I remember Berns saying that on the air, I had a very difficult time even remember the melody. I feel the same way now.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Howard Jones: What Is Love? (1983)

Howard Jones was a new waver from the early 80s and someone that I casually liked. A song or two here of there sounded OK to me, but I was never fanatical. And, here's a Canadian connection. Jones lived in Canada for a while, when his family relocated here, but then he returned to the motherland some time later.

This UK 12" single (it was only released on 7" in Canada) contains What is Love? on the a-side, with It Just Doesn't Matter and a live version of Hunt the Self on the b-side. My UK pressing is not in a picture sleeve, as suggested by Discogs, but in a plain sleeve. I'm not sure if this was a replacement, or of there were other versions in a plain sleeve.

What is Love? is a pretty good track, for a new wavish pop song.I think Jones might still be touring, but I have no idea if any new music came out after the 80s, when I lost interest in most 80s acts.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Grace Jones: Living My Life (1982)

Originally, I was a bit wary of Grace Jones, primarily because my brother liked her. He liked disco. I didn't. He bought singles from all of the disco queens. I retreated into Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Over time, I came to enjoy Grace Jones' music. This might be the only time that my brother was right about anything.

Anyway, Grace is awesome.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Jon and Vangelis: The Frinds of Mr. Cairo (1981)

Check out the Allmusic review, below.

The second album-length collaboration between Jon Anderson and Vangelis is almost perfect in its blending of elements; it's only when the pair tries to do some serious rocking on "Back to School" that things take a bit of a nosedive. Other than that, though, there are some classic cuts to be found on this record, including the breathtaking "I'll Find My Way Home," "State of Independence" (which became a popular tune to cover), and the brilliantly optimistic "Mayflower," which catapults the listener into a star-traveling future. Grand stuff. [source]

And yet, the reviewer awards this three out of five stars. I consider this to be a better record that the first, but that might have something to do with my fascination of the title track, back when the record was released.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Jon and Vangelis: Short Stories (1980)

Jon Anderson of the band Yes and Greek composer Vangelis might seem like an unlikely pair, and yet they recorded four records together. I think the music they recorded was interesting, but I don't find that I go back to it very much. There is a part of me that thinks this record would have been better without the vocals, or maybe just without the vocalist. I do like some of the music provided by Vangelis, on the other hand.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Matt Johnson: Burning Blue Soul (1981)


"And my aching little soul--has started burning blue!"
Infected, The The

In 1993, this record was released on CD, as per Johnson's wish, under the moniker The The, Matt Johnson's oddly-named new "band." I put that in quotes because Matt was the only member, at the outset anyway. I have a copy on CD as well. By the way, try searching for The The on Amazon. It's impossible. You can, of course, search the titles of records, but not the band.

The The ranks, in my ever so humble opinion, as one of the best groups to hail from the 80s. I'm a big fan, owning pretty much everything they released in one format or another. I even saw them in concert, when the band was really a band.

As much as I like this record, I feel that Johnson really hit his stride with Soul Mining, the debut record from The The. Allmusic sort of agrees with me:
Matt Johnson's work thrives on the tension between accessible pop and dissonant experimentation; between joyful wonder and despairing bleakness. Burning Blue Soul was a more disjointed solo album Johnson released under his own name in 1981 before these tensions were fully integrated. The reissue is a valuable sketchbook for The The fans interested in dissecting the early inner workings of Johnson's art, but the meandering tape-collages that serve as framework will leave most others cold. [source]
Still, I love this record. Johnson wrote all of the songs and played every instrument, but obviously not at the same time.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Elton John: Breaking Hearts (1984)

Sad Songs (Say So Much) is a terrible song. It's so bad that Elton offered it to Sasson for a stupid advertising campaign. Enough said. There is nothing remarkable about this record, except how bad it is. I have no idea how it came to be in my possession. And that reminds me that I was once given copies of Reg Strikes Back and Sleeping with the Past. I never played them, and they sat in a crate until I decided to unload them, a while back. I should do the same with this one. If you think my opinion of later Elton is harsh, just do this test. Listen to his greatest hits releases, volumes one through three, and then objectively decide which is the lesser record. If you do not agree that it is the third collection, we cannot be friends.

OK, I suppose Sad Songs (Say So Much) is probably an OK pop song, and it's certainly much better than Who Wears these Shoes? All in all, though, it's difficult to believe that Bernie Taupin rote most of the lyrics.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Elton John: Jump Up! (1982)

The only redeeming thing about this record is Empty Garden, a wonderful and heart-wrenching tribute to John Lennon. I would call this one of Elton's greatest songs.

What happened here
As the New York sunset disappeared
I found an empty garden among the flagstones there
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And now it all looks strange
It's funny how one insect can damage so much grain

And what's it for
This little empty garden by the brownstone door
And in the cracks along the sidewalk nothing grows no more
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And we are so amazed we're crippled and we're dazed
A gardener like that one no one can replace

And I've been knocking but no one answers
And I've been knocking most all the day
Oh and I've been calling oh hey hey Johnny
Can't you come out to play

And through their tears
Some say he farmed his best in younger years
But he'd have said that roots grow stronger if only he could hear
Who lived there
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
Now we pray for rain, and with every drop that falls
We hear, we hear your name

Johnny can't you come out to play in your empty garden

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Elton John: The Fox (1981)

The 1980's were unkind to many former stars, and Elton was no exception. I'll add this record to the long list of things I should part with. I have no idea where I got it. On the other hand, I'll have to give it props for the track Elton's Song, for its frank look at gay love when such topics were deemed to be controversial. As Wikipedia notes, "The theme of gay love caused a controversy, inspiring such tabloid headlines as "Elton's gay video shocker". [source] It looks like we have learned nothing in the intervening years

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Elton John: Victim Of Love (1979)

1979 was a fantastic year for music, but it was a terrible year for Elton John. The demise of a formerly-interesting signer continued with this train wreck of a record. He covered Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode with disastrous results. Let's just say that disco and Elton should never have met. I know, some people like this. My brother probably does, but that would be a troubling endorsement. This LP should go into the purge pile.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Elton John: A Single Man (1978)

A Single Man is the first Elton John record that did not feature the lyrics of Bernie Taupin. For me, there isn't much to like here, and I wonder why I hold onto it. I don't begrudge any artists forging new territory, and I think that the move to more accessible areas is his decision, but the results didn't work too well for me.

Again, I have to mention that this was a gift, of a sort. My dad brought home a big box of records one day, and he let me choose whatever I wanted, but the pickings were slim. This is the only record I still have from the ones I had chosen. Out the door went records from the likes of the Rossington Collins Band and even Rick James.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Elton John: Elton John's Greatest Hits Volume II (1977)

The second Elton John collection of Elton John hits is probably the second Elton John record I ever owned, though I had heard lots of his music from the other records many times over the years. This is a bizarre record because it includes some tracks that probably should have been on the first greatest hits record. There are also some questionable choices. A few different versions of this release were made, but I have the original Canadian pressing with the lyric booklet.

This record contains Elton's cover of The Who's Pinball Wizard, a song that I was sure Elton wrote, until I learned otherwise. I will also admit that I thought Elton had written Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. These were the days of innocent youth, and I only had a basic knowledge of the Beatles, being far too young to really know too much about them. The Beatles had ceased to be a band long before I had any interest in music.

I really wished that the record had excluded Don't Go Breaking My Heart because I detest that song. As previously mentioned, I am not a big fan of Island Girl. I suppose I should confess that I bought 7" singles of both songs, way back when. Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word is yet another track that leaves me cold. One other borderline song appears here, and that tune is Philadelphia Freedom. That's a miss for me, but I don't hate it. It had been released as a single, and was first collected here, though later bastardized CD copies of Captain Fantastic add it as a bonus track. I have no idea why, apart from the fact that they are from the same year.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Elton John: Blue Moves (1976)

I would have to call this record the end of the line for Elton John. Allmusic concurs: "The immense creativity that had spurred Elton John to realize no less than 11 studio albums in under seven years was beginning to show signs of inevitable fatigue" [source] This is not to say that Blue Moves is a terrible record. I would say that time has been kind to it, and I certainly would not dismiss it. The record is mellower than its predecessor, for the most part. There are some good moments. In the end, though, it has to be said that nothing Elton released subsequently matched anything to this point.

I particularly like this review excerpt from Wikipedia:
A contemporary review for Rolling Stone said the album "contains nowhere near enough good songs to justify the extended length" and that the interludes and instrumentals were done "to the exclusion of sense."[source]
That made me laugh.

If there is one track that most people know, it's likely Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, a track I don't really like. Tonight, and a few others, are OK

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Elton John: Here And There (1976)

Here and There is a live record that contains excerpts from two concerts. Side A features five tracks entitled Live In London At The Royal Festival Hall. Side B contains four tracks under the heading Live In New York At Madison Square Garden. I suppose the London show was Here and the NYC show was There, but who can know for sure?

On this record, you will find an array material dating back to Empty Sky. It's a representative collection and it's not bad, expect for the decision to include Crocodile Rock.

Much later, a greatly expanded CD was released. Evidently, this record was released as part of a contractual obligation to his record company. I have the US pressing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Elton John: Rock of the Westies (1975)

Wikipedia claims that the title of this record is a play on the phrase "West of the Rockies." OK, whatever.

There are three Elton John songs that I hate (not including the never-ending stream of later stupid stuff). These three tunes are: Crocodile Rock, Don't Go Breaking My Heart, and Island Girl, the latter of which appears on this record. Island Girl just leaves me cold. Wikipedia claims that Elton preferred a different single - Dan Dare (Pilot of the Future) - as the first single. As much as I dislike Island Girl, his record company was right on this one.

On the other hand, there is the weirdly engaging Grow Some Funk Of Your Own, a song I never truly understood, but found to be particularly entertaining. There is also the truly odd I Feel Like A Bullet (In The Gun Of Robert Ford). That track has nothing to do with Rob Ford, Toronto's former -- and now deceased -- crack-mayor. It's hard to believe that only four months separated this release from Captain Fantastic, but Elton, back in the day, had no shortage of material.

The problem with this record, for me, is that the classic Elton John band had disbanded. Two members, Dee Murray and the late Nigel Olsson, left. Even with the inclusion of Island Girl,  this record is not bad, I think.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Elton John: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975)

I've always been amazed at how certain pieces of music or records can bring back vivid, sometimes even poignant, memories from the distant past. This record, especially, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, is one of records. (On some days, I might argue that Someone Saved My Life Tonight is Elton's finest composition, even though there are some other songs I like better). I feel nostalgia when I hear it. I feel a sense of lost time when I hear it. I feel a sadness that I can never experience those evenings where we were so wrapped up in music, we thought of little else. These were the days when we hung out in my friend's living room, while our parents smoked and/or drank, and played cards in the next room. We played record after record until my parents decided that it was time to go home or until I fell asleep on the couch or the floor.

A few years ago, a friend of mine asked me when was the last time I listened to an album. And, he meant active listening, like we used to do. Sure, we have busy lives now. We have kids that take up our time and we have Netflix. There is cooking and cleaning and all of the other obligations of parenthood and adulthood, but there is also a feeling that we are a step removed from the act of really listening to music.

So, he meant, why do we no longer listen to music? This means giving all of your attention to the  music and the record cover, to the images, the lyric sheet (if there was one). It meant absorbing the music. The record cover was a huge part of the experience and this record's jacket was one that I couldn't stop looking at. To me, listening to a cassette recording a friend's record was nowhere near the same experience and it was often disappointing. Something was missing. The music needed the record cover. CD cases and tiny booklets have never had the same impact. And now we have disembodied MP3 files, which are like orphans in a digital world.

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy is not the best Elton John record, but the memories are so strong that I give it a special place. When I hear the opening piano riff from Someone Saved My Life Tonight, I feel almost like I am back in that dark living room, listening to Elton on terrible speakers in one of those stereo cabinets and hoping that the card game could keep going in the next room, so we could get to side two. Of course, I didn't really know what the song was about, but that didn't really matter.

Sadly, this may be the last really good Elton John record, though there are some highlights on later records.

"My friends out there rolling round the basement floor"

Friday, February 24, 2017

Elton John: Greatest Hits (1974)

Elton John's Greatest Hits (later known colloquially as Greatest Hits Volume I) is the first Elton John record I ever owned, and one of the first dozen or so records in my collection. It collects some of his biggest hits to 1974, and leaves out, of course, the better tracks. Alas, that is generally the case with so-called greatest hits collections. What about Tiny Dancer, Madman Across the Water, and Levon, for starters?

The record contains:

Your Song
Honky Cat
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting
Rocket Man
Candle in the Wind
Don't Let The Sun Go Down on Me
Border Song
Crocodile Rock

I have a vivid memory of buying this record in a K-Mart or a Zellers or some equally dismal store. It was during an excursion to a larger urban centre with my mother. She liked to shop in these anaemic department stores, and I recall that we would often get lunch in the store cafe, which usually meant a hot beef sandwich or a hamburger with fries. I think I enjoyed the food, but it was probably not so good.

Despite missing some more interesting tracks, this LP provides a good overview of Elton to this point in time. I played this record a while back and there is not a single pop or click on it. Sadly, it has my name written on the jacket in pen. Thank you, Photoshop.

I wonder if I could get away with dressing like Elton did on the jacket of this LP.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Elton John: Caribou (1974)

Caribou opens with one of Elton John's best rockers, The Bitch is Back. I seem to recall that the word bitch caused issues with radio, and some cowardly stations did not play the song. The other big hit from this record was Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me. It took only nine days to record this record. That seems amazing to me.

I feel that this is somewhat of a lesser effort than some of his earlier and more artistic material. On the other hand, it's odd to consider that the record that was released after this (well, really two records after, since the first greatest hits package came next) was Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, one of my favourite Elton records, so who knows what was going on?

Still, I would count this as a good Elton John record. Somewhat curiously, Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me appears on Elton John's Greatest Hits (1974), while The Bitch is Back appears on Elton John's Greatest Hits Volume II (1975). I have no idea why that happened.

There are times when I wish I was famous, just so I could wear whatever the hell I wanted to.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

Come on, Jamaica
In Jamaica all day
Dancing with your darling
Do Jamaica jerk-off that way

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was Elton's second release from 1973, and it's a double record! The man had a lot to say. I didn't own this record in 1973 (I didn't own any records in 1973). I got it much later as a gift. Sometimes, parents can be slow to catch up. By the time my dad gave me this for my birthday, I had moved on to other bands and singers. But, I will give him credit for choosing music. That is always appreciated.

I probably like the record more now than I did when it was given to me. It has some Elton John staples, like Bennie and the Jets, Candle in the Wind, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting, etc. If I were forced to choose my favourite Elton John song, it would either be Levon or the opening two pieces of this LP, which really should be treated as one track. Funeral For A Friend, which moves seamlessly into Love Lies Bleeding, is fabulous. As much as I like that song, there is something distressing about the crowd in the live clip below.

My dad found certain titles to be funny. He couldn't quite believe that there is really a song called Social Disease or Jamaica Jerk-Off or Dirty Little Girl. He must have wondered what the youth of the day were listening to. 

I don't think I would be wrong if I said that this LP is one oh his most popular. As music fans everywhere know, popular never equals best, though I think this ranks among his better records.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Elton John: Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player (1972)

It seems that Elton was working at a frantic pace, sometimes releasing two records per year (in 1971, he released three, if you count the soundtrack). Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player contains more huge hits: Daniel and Crocodile Rock. I will say this now just to get it out of the way. I hate Crocodile Rock with all of my heart. In fact, I find it difficult to listen to that song.

And, now that I have written that down, the song has flooded into my brain and it will be a struggle to expunge it. Daniel is a fine song, which brings back tons of memories.

The album is not bad, though one gets the feeling that Elton is moving more firmly into commercial territory, something that is born out by record that follows.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Elton John: Honky Château (1972)

Elton became a hit maker with this record, scoring big hits with Honky Cat and Rocket Man, both of which still have life today. For me, the best track is Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters. In fact, if I was forced to create a top ten list of best Elton songs, that track would easily make it. This might be mainstream pop, but it's not bad for what it is. I have a nearly mint Canadian Uni pressing, which is saying something, because that fold-over flap is generally damaged.

Perhaps one of the reasons I like this record is that it features Elton's great road band: Nigel Olsson, Dee Murray, and the new guy, Davey Johnstone.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Elton John: 11-17-70 (1971)

From the liner notes:

"The performances on this album were recorded during a live radio concert, broadcast in New York by WABC-FM on November 17th, 1970. The broadcast originated at A&R Recording Studios, New York. The Tapes were mixed at Trident Studios, London."

This live record, 11-17-70, was released in March 1971. Finally, Allmusic gets one review perfect:

"The great thing about this early live record is its obscurity -- not just that this isn't one of his better-known records, but that the set list is a fanboy's dream, heavy on album tracks, covers, and the kinds of song that make Elton John's early work so individual. It's not just that there are no hits here, but it's that these [...] songs emphasize the spare, hard-rocking bluesy singer/songwriter that may not have written his own words, but always sang them with conviction and melodies that made them seem like his own. This may be a minor effort in his catalog, but that's part of its pleasure -- it's certainly a record from the time before Elton the superstar, as he tears through Tumbleweed Connection tracks prior to the record's release, does a phenomenal reworking of "Honky Tonk Women," hauls out B-sides like "Bad Side of the Moon," and gives a fierce, infectious performance. It's not essential for anyone but obsessives, but if you want any indication of what Elton sounded like prior to his big break, this is an excellent, even intoxicating, summary." [source]

I can't say it better than that. If you want to hear live Elton near his peak, this would be the record to get, and you should be able to find a vinyl copy for a few dollars.. Again, I have a Canadian pressing on the Uni label.

Here's an interesting piece of trivia from Wikipedia:

"According to longtime NYC radio personality Dave Herman (who can be heard at the beginning and end of the album), Elton John cut his hand at some point during the performance, and by the end of the show, the piano keys were covered with blood."

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Elton John: Madman Across the Water (1971)


Jesus freaks out in the street
Handing tickets out for God
Turning back she just laughs
The boulevard is not that bad

In 1971, Elton released the Friends soundtrack, 17-11-70 (a live record), and Madman Across the Water. In the early 70s, it looked as if no one could stop the Elton/Bernie juggernaut.

I have to ask, who knows who the madman across the water was? Some speculate it was Richard Nixon. If the song were written in the early 2000s, I'd suggest that it was George Bush. If it were written today, it would have to be Donald Trump, the racist, sexist, conceited, idiotic, psychopathic loser. For us Canadians, Trump is the Madman South of the Border. How did we ever allow this moron to get his hands on the nuclear football?

Madman Across the Water is one of Elton's best records and it contains one of my favourite Elton John songs, Levon, though I admit that I have no idea what the song means. The record also contains the now-overplayed Tiny Dancer (thanks, Almost Famous) and the epic title track. Other people claim Razor Face to be the best track, but I cannot agree with that.

I am lucky enough to have the Uni pressing, which sounds amazing, despite a little too much surface noise from the previous owner who had no idea that one should clean records.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Elton John: Tumbleweed Connection (1970)


I can't tell you how many people I have run into that think the title of this record is Tumbleweed Collection rather than Tumbleweed Connection.

The third Elton John record is a bluesy countryish affair that commences with the really great Ballad of a Well-Know Gun. Other great tracks are Country Comfort, Son of Your Father, and Where to Now St. Peter? For me, though, the triumph on this record is Burn Down the Mission, for which we have a good live version with Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson, who were part of the classic Elton John Band.

This was the second record Elton released in 1970. Elton was on a mission early on in his career.