Friday, June 30, 2017

Daniel Lanois: Acadie (1989)

My body is bent and broken
By long and dangerous sleep
I can't work the fields of Abraham
And turn my head away
I'm not a stranger
In the hands of the maker

Though I identify as an atheist, I can't help but admire the passion and emotion, and even devotion, of the above stanza.  The Maker is one of the best songs ever recorded, in my ever so humble opinion.

Lanois may be better known as a producer. You might know him from his production work with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, U2, Peter Gabriel, Jon Hassell, and from his collaborations with Brian Eno. He has also released a number of solo records, beginning with Acadie, which I consider to be a musical masterpiece. Why Allmusic awarded this record only four stars is a mystery. Te review is glowing, appropriate for a five star record.
This stunning debut album by an artist that had hitherto been known only as a producer is priceless, and stands up well to repeated listening. It is a blend of New Orleans rhythm, rock, new age mysticism, and folk. It is not mushy but it is as caressing to the ear as to the mind. It has the very distinctive ethereal sound of the albums he produced for among others the Neville Brothers and Robbie Robertson. All the songs were written or co-written by Lanois, with the exception of the traditional "Amazing Grace" (done in an untraditional manner and sung by Aaron Neville). The songs affect a rural and uncomplicated yet very complete and full sound that brings the listener into their mood, swing into the full lilting joy of "Under a Stormy Sky," to the haunting and ominous "Where the Hawkwind Kills." His sound is a distinctive signature, that holds well with each different song and with each artist for whom he has fashioned albums. [source]
Acadie is another record on my long list of top ten records.In addition to the LP, I own the CD Goldtop Edition, which contains six bonus tracks.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Ray Lamontagne and the Pariah Dogs: Live Fall 2010 (2011)

Honestly, that's the best title they could come up with? This brief five-track EP was released for record store day 2011. I'm not really a fan, though I do appreciate his voice. People often tell me that I should like him, but I have never invested the time. Someday, someday.

Some of this record is far too countryish for me, but other tracks I quite like, such as this killer tune:

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

La Bamba (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (1987)

Here is a rare occurrence. I've seen the corresponding film to this soundtrack. Amazing. And, I liked the film very much, though watching it is a truly sad experience. Eight of the twelve tracks are performed by Los Lobos. Other artists appearing are Brian Setzer, Bo Diddley, Howard Huntsberry, and Marshall Crenshaw. I'd argue that this is a pretty good collection of tunes and the cover versions are all very well done.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lenny Kravitz: Circus (1995)

Circus, from 1995, is a 10" record that was also released on CD. It contains the album and acoustic versions of Circus plus two live tracks: Tunnel Vision and Are You Gonna Go My Way (with no question mark). There are far far better Kravitz videos, if you know what I mean (nudge nudge, wink wink).

Monday, June 26, 2017

Kraftwerk: Aerodynamik + La Forme Remixes (2007)

The original mix of Aerodynamik, from the Tour de France record, is fantastic. I really like it. I'm not so crazy about the Hot Chip remix here. I think I can see the intention, but I am not sure. The flipside of this UK 12" is La Forme (King Of The Mountains Mix). I would make the same statement about this tune. I don't hate the remixes. I just think the originals are better.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Kraftwerk: The Mix (1991)

This is another Kraftwerk album that divides fans and critics. Just check out these statements from Discogs:

"Rusty German robots are cashing in on screwing up their classics with acid house crap."

"Kraftwerks classic releases are timeless classics. This attempt to modernize these songs sounds absolutely dated these days."

"the simplest way for me to put it is this way. They spent seven years from autobahn through computer world being able to see hear and shape musical evolution. and all the other accolades that go with that stature. as for electric cafe well debate its merits if you want but no is the final answer if its in the league of its predecessors. but i will take it any day over "the mix".

Despite awarding it only three stars, Allmusic had positive things to say bout the record...I mean CD:
By the early '90s, it was quite apparent just how far-reaching Kraftwerk's influence had been. From techno to hip-hop to industrial music to house, numerous others were undeniably indebted to the group. Dance clubs had long been a key part of Kraftwerk's following, and the dance market was the obvious target of The Mix -- a collection of highly enjoyable, often clever remixes. While novices would do better to start out with Trans-Europe Express or The Man-Machine, hardcore Kraftwerk followers shouldn't pass up these remixes of such classics as "Trans-Europe Express," "The Robots," "Autobahn," and "Radioactivity." One could nitpick about the absence of "Neon Lights" and "Europe Endless," but the bottom line is that this CD was a welcome addition to the Kraftwerk catalog. [source]
This record has been re-pressed a few times, and I have a later pressing that came with a 20 page full-colour booklet. I do not hate this record, but some of the remakes work better than others.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Kraftwerk: Tour de France Soundtracks [Tour de France] (2003)

The 10th Kraftwerk album was released under the title Tour de France Soundtracks in 2003. The 2009 pressing, which I have, was simply entitled Tour de France. Obviously, the original pressing will cost you more. I have read that some fans hate this record (a friend of mine concurs). Others praise it. C'est la vie. For the record, I like the LP, though I think perhaps some earlier stuff was better.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Kraftwerk: The Robots (1991)

The Robots (Die Roboter) single was originally released in 1978. This 12" version was released in 1991 and contains the remixed version from The Mix. Side A has: Robotnik (Kling Klang Extended Mix); Side B has The Robots (Single Edit) and Robotronik (Kling Klang Mix). I don't hate the remixes as much as some Kraftwerk fans seem to.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Kraftwerk: The Telephone Call (1987)

Once again, this is a Canadian 12" single with a remixed version of The Telephone Call on side A. Side B has a track called House Phone and the German version of the tile track (Der Telefon Anruf).

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Kraftwerk: Musique Non Stop (1986)

This Canadian 12" single contains the 12" version of  Musique Non Stop on side 1 and the 7" version of the same track on side two. That's it. I don;t remember where I bought it or how much I paid.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Kraftwerk: Electric Cafe (1986)

One starts to worry when vast periods of time pass between records, unless it's Peter Gabriel, of course. After a five-year wait, we got Electric Cafe, and it was something of a disappointment, to my ears at the time anyway. I listened to the record recently, and I have to say that I think I like it better than I thought I did. I know, lots of people will argue that this is an awesome record. I like it, but it is just not up to the level of the previous records

Friday, June 16, 2017

Kraftwerk: Computer World [Computerwelt] (1981)

Computer World is Kraftwerk's eighth record.
The album deals with the themes of the rise of computers within society. In keeping with the album's concept, Kraftwerk showcased their music on an ambitious world tour and issued several different versions of the single "Pocket Calculator" in different languages: namely, German ("Taschenrechner"), French ("Mini Calculateur") and Japanese ("Dentaku", or 電卓). A fifth version, in Italian ("Mini Calcolatore"), was lip-synched to on Italian television in 1981. The compositions are credited to Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, and Karl Bartos. As was the case with the two previous albums, Computer World was released in both German- and English-language editions. The title of the final track, "It's More Fun to Compute", is in English in all releases, as it is based on the slogan "It's more fun to compete!", which could be seen on old pinball machines. There are some minor differences in the mixes used on English- and German-language releases. [source]
Because I am not a fan of Cold Play, I had no idea that they had sampled Kraftwerk's Computer Love, found on this record, until very recently, when I was finding music from this record on youtube. I don't understand the fuss about Coldplay. To be, they are as offensive as Nickleback.

This album, on the other hand, is a triumph. Maybe it's the best Kraftwerk record? I'm not sure. Sadly, I will have to agree with Allmusic that this is the "last great Kraftwerk album."

Friday, June 09, 2017

Kraftwerk: The Man Machine [Die Mensch·Maschine] (1978)

The two big tracks on this record are The Robots and The Model. This is a more pop-oriented record, and it seems to belong to the early new wave movement.  I'll just paste in two excerpts that will summarize things better than I could:
The NME wrote a glowing review and said: "Kraftwerk manage to convey the entire 'melange of elements' by musical means alone: the sparsity of the lyrics leaves the emphasis squarely on those robot rhythms; chilling tones and exquisite melodies." Critic Andy Gill also praised the "complexity of construction", saying "there's a lot more than electronic percussion in there" [source]
The Man-Machine is closer to the sound and style that would define early new wave electro-pop -- less minimalistic in its arrangements and more complex and danceable in its underlying rhythms. Like its predecessor, Trans-Europe Express, there is the feel of a divided concept album, with some songs devoted to science fiction-esque links between humans and technology, often with electronically processed vocals ("The Robots," "Spacelab," and the title track); others take the glamour of urbanization as their subject ("Neon Lights" and "Metropolis"). Plus, there's "The Model," a character sketch that falls under the latter category but takes a more cynical view of the title character's glamorous lifestyle. More pop-oriented than any of their previous work, the sound of The Man-Machine -- in particular among Kraftwerk's oeuvre -- had a tremendous impact on the cold, robotic synth pop of artists like Gary Numan, as well as Britain's later new romantic movement. [source]
This band was always ahead of its time. Again, I have a Canadian pressing, for $5.99! Sehen Sie sich dieses Video an, um die Band zu sehen. (Yes, I used Google translate).

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Kraftwerk: Trans Europe Express [Trans Europa Express] (1977)

I only wish that they have given us a full side (22 minutes or so) of the title track. That would have transported me to a hypnotic state. This album is simply stunning and ground-breaking. I have a repressing from the 80s.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Kraftwerk: Radio-Activity [Radio-Aktivität] (1975)

This is the Voice of Energy
I am a giant electrical generator
I supply you with light and power
And I enable you to receive speech,
Music and image through the ether
I am your servant and lord at the same time
Therefore guard me well
Me, the genius of Energy

I have the original US pressing of this LP from 1975. The original German pressing from the same year carries the title Radio-Aktivität and that will cost you a bit more. Allmusic's review is brief but to-the-point:

"A concept album exploring themes of broadcast communications, Radio-Activity marked Kraftwerk's return to more obtuse territory, extensively utilizing static, oscillators, and even Cage-like moments of silence to approximate the sense of radio transmission; a pivotal record in the group's continuing development, the title track -- the first they ever recorded in English -- is their most fully realized electro-pop effort to date, while "The Voice of Energy" precipitates the robot voice so crucial to their subsequent work." [source]

I like it. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Kraftwerk: Exceller 8 (1975)

This compilation covers the first four releases, up to an including Autobahn. It bridges the gap between the earlier noise stuff and Autobahn, which heralded the new smother sound. This LP contains a rare 7" mix of Autobahn, which may be reason enough to own it. I don't think this compilation was ever released on CD. I am still surprised that this record was released in Canada, which is the version I have.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Kraftwerk: Autobahn (1974)

Autobahn really announces the arrival of Kraftwerk. The record's title track is twenty-two minutes and forty-two seconds of hypnotizing genius. I think I could listen to it all day long.

I should point out that I have a Canadian repress from 1985, rather than the original. Even then, prices on discogs for my release start at $30. For that price, you might as well opt for the new 180 gram releases readily available in most record stores.

Kraftwerk is one of my favourite bands, and this album really says why. If you don't like it, there is something wrong with you :)

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Kraftwerk: Ralf & Florian (1973)

This is Kraftwerk's third LP, released in Germany under the title Ralf und Florian. All CD versions of this record are bootlegs. As well, there are plenty of unofficial releases of this LP. I have the legitimate 1975 US Santa Maria reissue. The 1975 reissue corrects the typo on the original 1973 pressing. My version sells for much less than the original German pressing, of which there are lots of fakes.

I absolutely love this LP. I also very much like the rear photo, about which Wikipedia says: "The colour photograph on the back of the cover gives a vivid impression of the bohemian state of Kraftwerk's own facilities at the time – including egg-box trays pasted, nailed, or stuck on the walls as acoustic treatment." [source]

Friday, June 02, 2017

Kraftwerk: Kraftwerk 2 (1972)

Now don't get too excited. I do not own an original pressing of Kraftwerk 2, the second LP from Kraftwerk. My copy is an unofficial release from Italy pressed on black vinyl. I believe there were earlier green vinyl versions, but my copy hails from 2001.When they printed this copy, the bootleggers forgot the 2 part of Kraftwerk 2. Of course, this was from a time when Kraftwerk was Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider and no one else.

Kraftwerk: Kraftwerk (1971)

Now don't get too excited. I do not own an original pressing of Kraftwerk, the first LP from Kraftwerk. My copy is an unofficial release from Italy pressed on red vinyl. I have no idea what year it was made. I have compared the sound with an official best of Kraftwerk LP, and it sounds great to my ears.

There were only a few versions of this album released, most on LP, one on cassette, and none on CD. All other releases on any format are unofficial, or bootlegs. For some reason, the band really doesn't like this record and it seems that they have disowned it. I have heard that it might finally be re-released on CD.

As much as I'd like to own an original pressing, the price for such would be high. I once saw this record in a store in Toronto for $150 about a year ago. I am not sure which version it was.

Evidently, the cover was inspired by Warhol's pop art movement, but all I can think of is VLC.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Mark Knopfler: Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989)

I can't say anything constructive about this record. There is orchestration here, unlike the other Knopfler soundtracks I have. I think I like this less, too. I just might have to see the film.