Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Fall ‎458489 B Sides

The Fall 458498 B Sides

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The title cleverly encapsulates the contents - the Fall's B-sides (45s) from 1984 to 1989. The Fall were a first-rate singles band, and the flip sides were often their equals. There is the odd dud here -- there are a thousand Fall songs to hear and "Clear Off" and "Mark'll Sink Us" wouldn't be high on ones list of priorities. But there are also many genuinely great tracks: "Petty Thief Lout," "Australians in Europe," "No Bulbs." It should be noted that in the Fall's turbulent history, their six-year spell at Beggars Banquet was their most productive and artistically rewarding. There are actually 31 tracks on view here, including a handful of remixes -- rich pickings (the album was never originally issued outside of Europe).

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Fall ‎458489 A Sides

The Fall 458489 A Sides

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Bypassing their edgy, early singles and concentrating on their artier, more eclectic work of the mid- and late '80s, 458489 A-Sides encapsulates nearly all of the Fall's many attributes. All of the singles on A-Sides are culled from the era when Brix Smith was in the band, arguably the band's most cohesive and rewarding years. Drawing from their strongest albums -- The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall, This Nation's Saving Grace, Bend Sinister, The Frenz Experiment -- A-Sides offers an excellent introduction to the Fall. It is both a useful retrospective and a kind of road map, pointing out the differences between albums. For neophytes and the uninitiated, there is no better sampler, and for longtime fans, the collection reiterates what a fine singles band the Fall were in their heyday

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

808 State ‎Ex:El Deluxe Edition

808 StateEx:El Deluxe Edition

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Capturing 808 State at their absolute best, none of their subsequent albums quite matched Ex:El's perfect blend of art, mass appeal, and zeitgeist (one of the most common vocal samples in techno, Willy Wonka's "We are the music makers," made its first major appearance here). A major change here from past releases is the increasing variety and power of the State's percussion: beats are heavier and more staggered, embracing earlier flirtations with hip-hop and industrial music with even greater success, as heard on heavy duty groovers like "Leo, Leo." A sign of how influential Ex:El ended up being can be seen in how one of the commonest clichés of U.K. techno albums -- the guest appearance of a noted indie/alternative rocker on a track or two -- got its start from the cameo vocals here. Fellow Mancunian dance pioneer Bernard Sumner of New Order sings one of his patented gentle ruminations over "Spanish Heart," a nice piano-led number with a solid backbeat. Meanwhile, even more notably, the Sugarcubes' Björk lends her swooping singing to the lower-key but still active "Qmart" and the dramatic, flamenco-tinged "Ooops," establishing a partnership with the State's Graham Massey that would result in his working on many of her solo projects. Add to all this two of the best techno singles from the early '90s -- "In Yer Face," a subtly politicized anti-American slammer, and the almighty "Cubik" (in America replaced by an astonishing remix of the same song, the original having appeared on UK Version) -- and Ex:El stands out all the more strongly. A true masterpiece.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Various ‎Back To The Old Skool Indie Dance Classics

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Ministry of Sound's Back to the Old Skool Indie Dance Classics collects club hits from the '80s and '90s. The three-disc set leans heavily toward acid house and U.K. artists, especially those from the Madchester scene, such as Happy Mondays, New Order, and the Stone Roses. While a few of the 60 tracks don't quite fit the "Dance Classics" bill (the La's' alt-pop ballad "There She Goes" would likely clear a floor), songs like the Shamen's "Move Any Mountain," M/A/R/R/S' "Pump Up the Volume," and the Stereo MC's' "Connected" are surefire jams to get a retro dance party started right.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Various ‎Britpop At The BBC

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Britpop at the BBC is a slightly misleading title for this three-disc collection. While the 44 tracks on the first two discs are compiled by Radio One's Evening Session DJs Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley, they are not actually BBC recordings, but the artists' original studio recordings. Hardcore Brit-pop fans will likely already own most of these classic tracks from Suede, Cast, Ocean Colour Scene, and many more, though it's a fine compilation in its own right. However, the third disc is actually devoted to the BBC's Evening Session performances and features some very nice unreleased cuts by Pulp, the Auteurs, Blur, Supergrass, and other great bands of the era And Here's The Documentary Live Forever The Rise And Fall Of Brirpop

Saturday, 12 November 2016

The Housemartins ‎London 0 Hull 4 Deluxe Edition

The Housemartins London 0 Hull 4

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Has there ever been a band where the members have gone on to such disparate occupations? Paul Heaton we know about - he invented mum rock with the Beautiful South, sold nine billion copies of 'Carry On Up The Charts' and remains one of pop's most doggedly loyal footy freaks. Bassist Quentin 'Norman' Cook decided it would be a laugh to wear loud Hawaiian shirts and marry Zoe Ball while at the same time reinventing rave to no small degree of success. Jangly guitar maestro Stan Cullimore went on to bonk and bash Ulrika Jonson, play some football and still managed to find some time to indulge in a spot of dogging. Only joking. That was Stan Collymore. Stan Cullimore opened a vegetarian delicatessen before launching another more successful career as a children's author and script writer for the BBC. Meanwhile, original drummer Hugh Whittaker decided to take up amateur surgery and rearranged somebody's features with an axe before being held at Her Majesty's pleasure. 'London 0 Hull 4' was originally released in October 1986 on the influential Go-Discs label during a stark period for British music, where such esteemed greats as Nick Berry, Five Star and Cutting Crew roamed the dressing rooms of Top Of The Pops on a weekly basis. The Smiths were gone, the C86 bands were still finding their feet, Madchester was still a twinkle in Tony Wilson's eye and Ian Brown and John Squire were still a) talking to each other and b) goths. This deluxe edition of the Housemartins' debut is a fabulous reminder of what a fine and necessary group they were. "Happy Hour" remains a beguiling combination of group harmony, Stan's catchy, shimmering guitar and a scathing lyric that decries the 80's preoccupation with success and wealth. Unbelievably, it got to number three in the charts. "Get Up Off Our Knees" continues in a similar vein with a youthful exuberance and energy, while the more melancholy "Flag Day" (another single) is a plea for real heroes rather than simply do-gooders with its intriguing refrain: "It's a waste of time if you know what they mean /Try shaking a box in front of the Queen / 'Cause her purse is fat and bursting at the seams" No punches being pulled here. There isn't really a duff track on the album. One tiny complaint that may be levelled is that the while the material is universally fabulous, the light-as-a-feather production by John Williams (no, not that one) is a little same-y, although the gospel stylings of 'Lean On Me' are a nice contrast to the jangle pop that precede it. The second disc is where the unreleased treasures are hidden, with eight previously unheard tracks and the obligitary collection of b-sides. Heaton's vocals are a revelation here as he growls, moans and falsettos like a man possessed. In particular, 'I'll Be Your Shelter' is a lost classic, a gospel hymn with a joyous feel to it akin to the 'Stones 'Shine a Light'. Even the choir at the end doesn't grate - seriously impressive stuff. Superb acapella versions of Curtis Mayfield's 'People Get Ready' and gospel standard 'Joy Joy Joy' show just what a versatile and intriguing band The Housemartins were. Less impressive is 'Rap Around the Clock' which is some kind of throwaway bonkers hip hop mash up - the birth of the Fat Boy perhaps? The Peel Sessions and Janice Long BBC Sessions are solid, workmanlike versions of album material and sound almost identical to the studio versions, the sign of a really tight band establishing their sound and setting out their stall in grand fashion.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Prefab Sprout ‎Jordan The Comeback

Prefab Sprout Jordan The Comeback

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Jordan: The Comeback is Prefab Sprout's largely successful attempt to embrace the breadth of popular music; wisely reuniting with producer Thomas Dolby, Paddy McAloon freely indulges his myriad ambitions and obsessions to weave a dense, finely textured tapestry closer in spirit and construction to a lavish Broadway musical than to the conventional rock concept LP. Over the course of no less than 19 tracks, McAloon chases his twin preoccupations of religion and celebrity, creating a loose thematic canvas perfect for his expanding musical palette; quickly dispensing with common pop idioms, the album moves from tracks like the samba-styled "Carnival 2000" to the self-explanatory "Jesse James Symphony" and its companion piece "Jesse James Bolero" with remarkable dexterity. Dolby's atmospheric production lends an even greater visual dimension to the songs, which -- with their tightly constructed narratives and occasional spoken-word passages -- seem almost destined to someday reach the stage; indeed, Jordan: The Comeback is like an original cast recording minus the actors, or a rock opera without the silliness and bombast -- a truly inspired work.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Dexys Midnight Runners ‎Searching For The Young Soul Rebels Deluxe Edition

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“A soul group with a brass section, and all looking good. We wanted to be a group that looked like something… A formed group, a project, not just random”. The words of Kevin Rowland, ex-punk, who in 1977 left band The Killjoys in a state of despair, pulled from the abyss by soul music and a vision, a search for the young soul rebels. Formed in 1978, his hand-picked group Dexys Midnight Runners were a tight, formidable looking outfit of fighters, dressed firstly in workmen’s clothes before adorning sports attire, the band engaging in physical activities before gigs and rehearsals. Sweating from their exertions, they stood out as a band who were impenetrable to the audience, a gang you could never belong to, with a clear leader who could only be admired for his intimidation of others. This spirit of isolation from popular culture is seen in the opening track on Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, here remastered with a second CD of rarities, sessions and b-sides. ‘Burn It Down’, a re-recorded version of debut single ‘Dance Stance’, opens with the disenchanted search of youth, sweeping the radio airwaves for a new sensation. The history of 70’s music is played as he scours the dial, the Sex Pistols, The Specials; but these do not hold his interest. As he flicks of the radio Rowland proclaims “For God’s sake, burn it down!” and we burst in, the strident brass of a different era matched with swirling Hammond and his unique vocal delivery, incomprehensible and full of intense emotional passion. There is little of their music that fits into the early 80’s, though the album is packed with pop moments, the confrontational sound sweetened with strong hooks and melodies. The interwoven horns and bass of ‘Tell Me When My Light Turns Green’ are a joy, and ‘I Couldn’t Help It If I Tried’ shows a slow and mournful edge, building in bitter intensity through the chorus. Single ‘There There My Dear’ again has an exuberant pace, Rowland’s vocal jammed with rolled rolling r’s amid the yelps and howls. It reaches its peak with ‘Geno’, their first number one single, a tribute to Geno Washington performed in his style. Completely at odds with the new wave moment of the time, it sounded timeless even then. For those like me born in the 70’s, listening to it now provides a feeling of nostalgia so intense I can almost taste the era in which I first heard it, May 1980 somehow implanted back into my mind. As a song, it feels to me as if it has always existed. The second CD of this release features a wide array of Radio sessions, both from The John Peel Show and Kid Jensen. It also includes the patchy singles released in the aftermath of their debut album, a period which saw the majority of the band abandon Rowland in frustration. A year after topping the charts with Geno, Rowland and his young soul rebels looked like a spent force. However, in 1982 they did something almost never seen before, reinventing themselves and becoming even bigger popstars than they were first time around. Rowland never truly found The Young Soul Rebels, finding instead The Celtic Soul Brothers with its jamboree of fiddles and mandolins. If you though have never experienced the tight precision of this exceptional debut, then this re-issue is highly recommended.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Dexys Midnight Runners ‎Too-Rye-Ay Deluxe Edition

Dexys Midnight Runners Too-Rye-Ay Duluxe Edition

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For one brief moment, Dexy's exploded into America's consciousness -- and what a song to do it with! "Come on Eileen" combines ramalama rock & roll, soul delivery, and Celtic/country flavor into a perfect musical fusion and an irresistible U.K. and U.S. number one hit. Both the song and its video were such hits that years later, ska/punk band Save Ferris made a minor splash with its own version of the tune, while Garth Brooks appeared in a Saturday Night Live skit dressed as the capering, bedraggled Rowland. The rest of the album is nearly as successful, with quite a few numbers that should have matched "Come on Eileen"'s fame. Given that song's obvious debt to Van Morrison's similar fusions, it's no surprise that Dexy's tipped their hat with a great cover of Morrison's "Jackie Wilson Said," another big British single. Throughout the album, Rowland's distinct, unique voice takes the fore, but the revamped Dexy's lineup proves it was the original version's equal, if not better. Given that only trombonist Big Jimmy Patterson remained, and even then only for two tracks, recruiting a new band able to create the "Celtic soul" Rowland dreamed about turned out to be exactly the right move. Excellently produced by Rowland and the legendary Clive Langer/Alan Winstanley production team, Too-Rye-Ay sounds like an old soul revue recorded on-stage, no doubt an intentional goal. Other highlights include the opening jaunt "The Celtic Soul Brothers," which just about says it all both in title and delivery; the slow swirl of "All in All," and the vicious ballad "Liars A to E." [Universal's expansive 2007 Deluxe Edition boasted over 25 Bonus cuts, including B-sides, BBC concert recordings, and rare tracks.]
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