Saturday, 19 October 2019

Peter Gabriel Hit


Peter Gabriel Hit

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Peter Gabriel's work doesn't lend itself easily to compilations -- not because he didn't cut singles, since he made many terrific stand-alone singles, but because his body of work is so idiosyncratic, even contradictory, that it's possible to have perfectly valid differing perspectives on his catalog. This results in differing opinions among fans, so it's perfectly logical that Gabriel and his associates would have a unique view of his own work, as captured on Hit. Billed on its slipcase as "The Definitive Two CD Collection," Hit spans 30 tracks culled from his entire solo career, from 1977's Peter Gabriel to 2002's Up, plus the previously unreleased "Burn You Up, Burn You Down." It certainly is a generous compilation, and it does contain the basics: "Solsbury Hill," "Shock the Monkey," "Sledgehammer," "Don't Give Up," "Games Without Frontiers," "Biko," "Red Rain," "Big Time," and "In Your Eyes." But the devil is in the details, and in this particular case, the details push Hit away from the broad-based appeal of So and closer to the dense, subtle territory of Us and Up. This is achieved, of course, through the track selection, which is heavy on recent material (note: none of the edit details are present on the back cover, hence their presence here): from Up, there's "Growing Up [Tom Lord-Alge Mix]," "More Than This [Radio Edit]," "The Drop," "I Grieve," and "Signal to Noise," which amounts to half the entire album; the previously unreleased 2003 live track "Downside Up"; "Cloudless" from the soundtrack to the 2002 Rabbit-Proof Fence and "Lovetown" from the 1994 Philadelphia soundtrack; "The Tower That Ate People [Steve Osborne Mix]" and "Father, Son" from OVO; the 1990 Shaking the Tree remake of "Here Comes the Flood"; from Us, the album track "Love to Be Loved," plus the singles "Digging in the Dirt," "Blood of Eden [Radio Edit]," and "Steam [Radio Edit]." That's a grand total of 16 tracks dating after the career high watermark of So -- 16 tracks covering two full albums, plus a lot of odds and ends. There's unquestionably good material here -- not just the Us singles, but much of Up was quite excellent, even if it requires several listens to appreciate -- but the heavy emphasis on this post-So work skews too much to the new (nine of the 14 tracks on disc two are of relatively recent vintage), at least if the yardstick is either an evenhanded appreciation of Gabriel's entire solo work or a portrait of his best-known, best-loved work. After all, there are many singles missing -- "I Have the Touch," "I Go Swimming," "Come Talk to Me," "Kiss That Frog," and "Secret World" among them -- plus other worthy uncollected rarities (his deliriously paranoid "Out Out" from the 1984 Gremlins soundtrack needs to finally get a CD issue) and many, many terrific album tracks that would have had given this compilation greater breadth and depth, including "Moribund the Burgermeister," "Mercy Street," "Intruder," "Family Snapshot," and the tremendous pair of "On the Air" and "D.I.Y.," the two best cuts on the underrated Peter Gabriel 2 (which is once again consciously ignored by Gabriel, with this exhaustive collection featuring nothing from the record). If some of these 12 songs had managed to get on Hit, it truly would have been definitive, capturing the entire scope of his solo career. As it stands, it's a very good collection, one that delivers most of what is expected, even as it presents a relatively up-to-date self-portrait of the artist.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Robert Palmer Best Of Both Worlds The Robert Palmer Anthology (1974-2001)



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There are usually thought to be two phases to Robert Palmer's career: an earlier one running from 1974 to 1983, when he explored New Orleans second-line funk and reggae, backed by members of Little Feat and the Meters and turned out a series of critically acclaimed, modestly successful recordings, and a later one, from 1985 on, when he rode his good looks, some high-fashion videos, and some simplistic hard rock/pop to a series of big hits on his own and with the Power Station. This two-CD set responds to that view by devoting its first disc to the earlier phase and its second disc to the later one. Palmer switched record companies along the way, too, but Hip-O is known for its willingness to license material from other labels, and 15 of the 20 tracks on the second disc come from outside the Universal archives. Along the way, all of the singer's U.S. Top 40 hits are included, though the collection was assembled with Palmer's input, which leads to alterations from the original recordings that fans might not be entirely pleased with. For a couple of earlier compilations, Addictions, Vols. 1 and 2, he used remixes of many of his well-known recordings, and those remixes have been retained here. He has also chosen to present three favorites -- "Johnny and Mary," "Riptide," and "Looking for Clues" -- as 2001 live performances rather than in their original studio recordings. Still, the selection is well-considered. The first disc is a good summation of Palmer's first eight Island albums, and the second disc demonstrates that not all of the second half of his career sounded like "Addicted to Love," that, actually, it was far more varied than the first half. There have been several Palmer compilations, but this one is the most comprehensive yet assembled.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

David Bowie Nothing Has Changed The Very Best Of Bowie



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Nothing Has Changed is a bit of a cheeky title for a career retrospective from an artist who is known as a chameleon, and this triple-disc compilation has other tricks up its sleeve. Chief among these is sequencing the SuperDeluxe 59-track set in reverse chronological order, so it opens with the brand-new, jazz-inflected "Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)" and concludes with David Bowie's debut single, "Liza Jane." On paper, this seems a bit like a stunt, but in actuality it's a sly way to revisit and recontextualize a career that has been compiled many, many times before. Previously, there have been single discs, double discs, and triple-disc boxes, but the largest of these was Sound + Vision, a box released in 1989, and the most recent was 2002's The Best of Bowie, which featured slightly different track listings in different territories but generally stopped in the late '90s. The two-CD version of Nothing Has Changed resembles this 2002 set -- there are absences, notably "John, I'm Only Dancing," "Diamond Dogs," and "TVC15," but they're not noticed among the parade of standards -- but it's easily overshadowed by the triple-disc SuperDeluxe set. This version of Nothing Has Changed touches upon nearly every phrase of Bowie's career, bypassing Tin Machine but finding space for early pre-"Space Oddity" singles that often don't make Bowie's comps, and naturally it samples from his fine Y2K records, plus his 2013 comeback The Next Day. This expansiveness alone would be noteworthy, but when it's combined with the reverse sequencing the compilation forces listeners to reconsider an artist whose legacy seemed so set in stone it appropriately was enshrined in museums. Obvious high-water marks are undersold -- there's not as much Ziggy as usual, nor as much Berlin -- so other eras can also enter the canon, whether it's the assured maturity of the new millennium or the appealing juvenilia of the '60s. The end result is something unexpected: a compilation that makes us hear an artist we know well in a whole new way.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Simple Minds Celebrate


Simple Minds Celebrate

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A 50-track anthology, Celebrate: Greatest Hits covers Simple Minds from the band's 1978 debut through 2009's Graffiti Soul. There's also a pair of decent exclusive tracks, "Blood Diamonds" and "Broken Glass Park," recorded specifically for the set. Fanatics could pick apart the track selections, but this provides a high-quality overview of the band's output. Their rapid development from 1978 through 1982 -- a period represented with the likes of "Chelsea Girl," "I Travel," "Love Song," "Promised You a Miracle," and "Speed Your Love to Me" -- was unlike that of any of their peers. The assortment of material taken from the band's later albums is evenhanded, including "Alive and Kicking," "All the Things She Said," "Belfast Child," "Let There Be Love," and "She's a River," all of which reached the Top Ten in the U.K.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions 1984-1989


Lloyd Cole & The Commotions 1984-1989

Ger It At Discogs
The lush, facile simplicity of Lloyd Cole's music is brimmed with cushioned harmonies and soft-spoken choruses, and more often than not deals with the complexity of love. Accompanied by the bright jangle of guitar that's hitched to palatable pop tempos, his work with backup band the Commotions produced a number of melody-ridden songs that are best accessed on 1984-1989, a collection of their finest material. Not unlike Orange Juice or the Blue Nile, Cole's music used polished instrumentation behind elements of subdued '80s Europop, best exemplified in songs like "Perfect Skin" and "You Will Never Be No Good." As an enduring and enjoyable compilation, 1984-1989 really does gather the cream of their music, and each song relinquishes a clean, robust sound. Some of the more beautiful tracks include the friendly candor of "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" or the irregularity between the lines of "Jennifer She Said." "Brand New Friend" glimmers with Cole's vocal resilience, as does the pristine bounce of "Lost Weekend." All three of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions' albums contribute songs to this best-of, with the stronger pieces coming from 1984's Rattlesnakes. Cole's music strays from sounding contrived or overlapped and sports comparisons to the Beautiful South in that they share the same lyrical wit and appeal. Relatively unknown in North America, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions contributed to some of the finest music to ever hover with pop ease, and this compilation lines up his best work all in one place

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Radiohead The Bends Collector's Edition



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The Bends was Radiohead's peak as an adventurous guitar band and their creativity wasn't limited to the album proper -- it spilled over to that album's B-sides, resulting in their most consistent string of singles, which, in turn, makes the double-disc reissue of The Bends the best of all the 2009 deluxe Radiohead reissues. This collects all the B-sides from the singles for "My Iron Long," "High & Dry"/"Planet Telex," "Fake Plastic Trees," and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)," adding four BBC sessions to comprise a bonus disc totalling 21 tracks. Compared to the Pablo Honey and OK Computer reissues, this doesn't rely heavily on live tracks or remixes, so there is a pretty hefty amount of valuable non-LP songs here, including "Talk Show Host," "Bishop's Robes," "Banana Co.," and "Molasses," which all point the way toward the vibrant twitchy progressive rock of OK Computer. Even with these tunes hinting toward the future, the 21 tracks on the bonus disc are connected strongly to the muscular, imaginative present of Radiohead in 1995, building and expanding upon the sound of The Bends and, when presented in conjunction with the album, enhancing it, illustrating that this was when the band found its voice.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Julian Cope World Shut Your Mouth



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Retreating from the collapse of the Teardrop Explodes to his hometown of Tamworth, Cope produced his first solo effort with help from producer Steve Lovell on guitar and fellow Teardrop Gary Dwyer on drums. The result is a surprisingly vibrant, rich album that shows Cope easily moving on from his group days while retaining his unique powerful and natural gifts for singing and songwriting. If there's something about the sound of World that suggests its early-'80s recording dates -- Dwyer's drums sound like Steve Lillywhite's been after them at points! -- Cope's own particular, heavily psych-into-pop-inspired goals aren't lost in it. Some of his songs are so inspired that one just has to wonder how in the world they didn't end up as hits somewhere. "An Elegant Chaos" is a great example, an at-once cryptic and fascinating lyric peppered with just enough knowing irony ("Here comes the part where I break down and cry") and a synth-string-touched crunch given a breezy pace. Top it off with Cope's singing and the result is simply genius. Two songs from the final Teardrops sessions, "Metranil Vavin," an homage to a Russian poet, and "Pussyface" get enthusiastic run-throughs here. "Metranil Vavin" in particular is a kick, shifting from garagey crunch and energy to a show tune chorus at the drop of a hat, while sitar from Lovell and concluding oboe from Kate St. John, who plays on many other cuts, add even more pastoral trippiness. Further strong cuts include "Kolly Kibber's Birthday," with a fast rhythm machine and keyboard drones leading the way; the quirky string/brass surge of "Sunshine Playroom"; and the upbeat "Greatness and Perfection." Throughout World, Cope demonstrates why he's one of the best, most unaffected singers in rock around, his vocals carrying sweep and passion without sounding like he's trying to impress himself or others.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

The Lilac Time And Love For All Remastered



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Abandoning entirely the folk-pop sound of the Lilac Time's first two albums, & Love for All is a worthwhile stylistic detour that results in the first genuinely excellent album of Stephen Duffy's career, including his earlier solo incarnation as Tin Tin. Just over half the album (seven of 12 songs) was produced by XTC's Andy Partridge, with John Leckie covering the others, and the overall sound is akin to Partridge and Leckie's collaboration on the Dukes of Stratosphear records, minus the more obvious '60s pop rip-offs. (Well, discounting "All for Love and Love for All," which cops subtle riffs from the Magical Mystery Tour era and name checks the Quarrymen in the first verse.) Duffy has never before acknowledged much of an interest in either psychedelia or '60s pop, yet his songs fit Partridge and Leckie's atmospheric production touches nicely. Adding a greater reliance on electric guitars and keyboards (mostly piano played by Cara Tivey) to the Lilac Time's formerly acoustic sound, & Love for All manages not only to not overwhelm Duffy's thoughtful lyrics, graceful melodies, or thin but effective vocals, but to enhance them. [The 2006 edition includes four bonus tracks, as well as a four-song BBC session.]
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