STOP PRESSES: Heaven 17 In USA For Two Shows Next Month!

Martyn Ware and Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 pray their American tour will sell out, but how could it not? Demand is pent up, gents!

I know we just started rambling about the latest China Crisis album, but today I’ll have to post this breaking news instead! Possibly the one band I now want to see live more than any other are Heaven 17. I always loved their music, but they never toured in their heyday. Not until they reformed in the late 90s did they entertain the notion. And they never played in America. Oh, they were pencilled in on a retro package that would have seen them bundled together with fellow Sheffielders ABC back in 2009 on the Regeneration Tour, so I was hot to attend, but they bailed out of it, thankfully, before I bought tickets. In retrospect, I should have gone to see ABC, even if Belinda Carlisle and Cutting Crew were on the bill…maybe. Losing H17 definitely made it a deal killer for me.

But in 2009, I was not quite the Heaven 17 fan that I am today. Their killer live album, “Live At Metropolis Studios,” from 2013, was a revelation to these ears; featuring an immense live lineup that fully and powerfully took their songbook live for the first time ever. I’d seen and heard previous tours that were albums or DVDs and they were adequate, but no more. After seeing the Metropolis show, this band shot to the top of my live wish list.

Now they will be playing in New York City at the Highline Ballroom on September 27th!

Then on Saturday, September 30th, they will be playing the Music Tastes Good Festival in Long Beach, California.

This was just released out into the world this morning, and I really have no idea about the how or why of these shows, sandwiched as they are into their normal touring schedule in a highly awkward fashion, as seen below:

Heaven 17 | Summer-Winter World Tour | 2017

Fri, Aug 18 | The Picturedrome | Holmfirth, GB
Sun, Aug 20 | Temple Island Meadows | Henley On Thames, GB
Sat, Sep 23 | The Exchange | Sturminster Newton, GB
Wed, Sep 27 | Highline Ballroorm | New York City, NY
Sat, Sep 30 | The Music Tastes Good Festival | Long Beach, CA
Fri, Nov 10 | Foundry | Sheffield , GB
Sat, Nov 11 | Hangar 34 | Liverpool, GB
Fri, Nov 17 | The Welly | Kingston Upon Hull, GB
Sat, Nov 18 | Academy | Manchester, GB
Fri, Nov 24 | Copper Rooms | Warwick, GB
Sat, Nov 25 | Waterfront | Norwich, GB
Sat, Dec 2 | ULU | London, GB
Fri, Dec 15 | Dobbie Hall | Falkirk , GB
Sat, Dec 16 | Grand Hall | Kilmarnock, GB
Sun, Dec 17 | Assembly | Aberdeen, GB

I’d really love to attend, but there’s just no way, outside of going into debt, that it could happen right now. There are lots of trips for us happening this year. Lots of shows. Heck, I’ll be seeing The Church the night before where I live. My angst is tempered somewhat by the suspicion that this will not be the “full monty” killa seven piece lineup of my dreams, but a trimmed down variation with Berenice Scott on computer/keys with the core duo of Ware and Gregory. If I knew for a fact that this would e the same band as on Metropolis, I would be selling off some “family jewels” from the Record Cell to finance going. But don’t let my budget stop you, if you’ve an inclination!

Tickets go on sale this Friday the 18th at noon for the Highline show here. $30-$55 but my advice is, don’t scrimp. Treat yourself. The tickets for the Music Tastes Good Festival in Long Beach are already on sale here. At the very least, I’m hopeful that some North American fans who frequent the pages here can make it for me and report back with their findings.

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Posted in Core Collection, Live Music, Organ Auction Live Event | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Record Review: China Crisis – Autumn In The Neighbourhood [part 1]

PledgeMusic | UK | CD | 2015

China Crisis: Autumn In The Neighbourhood UK CD [2015]

  1. Smile [What Kind Of Love Is This]
  2. Down Here On Earth
  3. Autumn In The Neighbourhood
  4. Because My Heart
  5. Bernard
  6. Joy + The Spark
  7. Being In Love
  8. Fool
  9. My Sweet Delight
  10. Tell tale Signs
  11. Wonderful New World

When we last checked, China Crisis had begun a Pledge Music campaign for their first album since 1994 back in 2013. Between Moogfest ticket$ for the Spring of 2014, and a longer than two week vacation encompassing California [and all three Amoeba stores] later that year, and another planned two week vacation in 2015, I was in squirrel-like saving mode. I cut my music purchases down severely in that period to store up funds. I imagined, that once the new album was out, China Crisis would sell the rights to it to small boutique labels far and sundry. After all, their excellent 1995 live album “Acoustically Yours” can be bought in a brain-melting array of different titles and packages the world over. That’s what I thought, any way.

2014 came and went with no China Crisis album delivered yet, so I could have pledged… had I not been saving for another, atypically long vacation in the Fall of 2015! I had pledged for the CD as a birthday gift to a friend in December of 2013 and I had to give her a mea culpa since the pledge delivery target was missed by the band that entire year. I was busy saving through 2015 for that vacation when all of a sudden in the Summer of 2015, China Crisis shipped the CD out to the pledgers! And then that was it. The campaign was closed, and I was unable to get a CD from Pledge Music after that time. Not to worry, I thought. They have a master now, so they’ll probably license it to those aforementioned, small, boutique labels. Except that never happened. If one didn’t pledge during the 18 month period between the start of the campaign and the delivery, one was simply out of luck.

It was not even possible to buy the album at the band’s own merch tables! A friend of mine who attended the Retro Futura tour got to see China Crisis sing five songs and hand out at the merch table with fans, but there was not a single copy of “Autumn In the Neighbourhood” to be found for sale. Eventually, scant copies filtered onto the gray market at the $40-$50 price point. Ouch! I put it on my Discogs want list and hoped that when one surfaced that I could scare up the funds in time. But that never happened. I stewed in my juices for two years until a chance came my way on the New Wave Outpost message board.

Of course, that’s the kind of place where I would frequent, but in a thread about the new China Crisis DLX RMs, I managed to grouse about the extreme scarcity of this album. One fellow who had multiple copies came to my aid, and a week later it’s in my hands. And wouldn’t you know it? we’re out of time to move further than the “convoluted backstory” portion of the review today. Join us tomorrow for a closer look at this album.

Next: …Smile

Posted in Core Collection, Record Review | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Record Review: Wang Chung – Points On The Curve [part 2]

<…continued from previous post>

With “Dance Hall Days” breaking into the US Billboard Top 20 at #16, I expected better things from the follow up single, “Don’t Let Go.” I liked it more than the first hit. This was a taut stormer of a tune, with a galloping rhythm track courtesy of Darren Costin, who added surgically precise drum fills to the drum machine that moved this one along at a rapid clip. Speaking of clip, the tight, sixteenth notes of sax interjection from Mel Collins gave this one real punch, right where it did the most good. It’s hard not to think that this one would have easily waltzed right in to the Top 10 in America, but it stalled at the outset of the charts at 38. Shocking! There’s no accounting for taste, I suppose.

We next got a fascinating deep cut that seemed for all the world like a holdover from the Huang Chung days. I say that because “Even If You Dream” was co-written between Hues and David Burnand, a.k.a. “Hogg Robinson.” Burnand had departed from the band following their time with Arista, but not before co-writing this one. Nick Feldman’s bass was again channeling the current FGTH sound, so I suspect he was using the exact same gear and setup. Naturally, the results were a bit funky in that 1984 way of doing it. The one thing that really leapt out at my ears here, was a surprise stab at Oriental sounds that manifested in the brief middle eight that sounded like a one bar excerpt from a Chinese opera before the pulsating rhythms came back into the foreground. Intriguingly enough, the middle eight was simply the bass line, slowed to half speed and played for a quarter measure. It worked like a charm.

The final single here was the clattering electrofunk of “Don’t Be My Enemy.” The album version seemed a little unsure of itself, so the decision to remix the album track for a single release made a lot of sense.  What stood out royally on this track was the expansive solo they let sax player Mel Collins have on the middle eight. I’d swear he got 20 bars here to really sink his teeth into by far the longest solo of any instrument on the album. The album ran a respectable 43:11, so it’s not like the 1:15 of sax soloing gave the album the illusion of more meat on its bones.

As it was heading toward the finish line, obviously, a slow tempo ballad was called for next. “Devoted Friends” was just that; a slightly embittered look at a love affair gone up in smoke. The rhythm here was a techno heartbeat pulse ripped straight from Ultravox’s “Just For A Moment” albeit re-set into a more jazzlike setting driven by melodramatic piano chords. The closing “Talk It Out” seemed to be cut from a similar rhythmic cloth, even if the tempo was slightly faster there. Any other album would have faded out the song at the 3:30 point but instead, the band built up a head of steam with over a minute of repetition. Just when things began to get intense, the album ended with an all time best cold ending; abrupt and jarring.

Back when the Huang Chung album was released, it got compared in the scant press I saw on it as being in the Ultravox vein. Frankly, I don’t hear that on that particular album. It was just somewhat high-tech rock music and the press may have been grasping at straws. This one came a little closer to that standard. It’s not as steeped in tech as Ultravox were at this time, and Wang Chung, preferred a lighter, jazzier touch, but on a song like “Don’t Let Go” it comes pretty close to that mark. Sophisticated, high-tech New Wave rock with a Krautrock foundation. Like Billy Currie in Ultravox, Jack Hues had a University background in music, so he was cut from a similar cloth.

The interesting thing about Wang Chung was that they did not have a dedicated keyboard player. For “Points On The Curve,” all three members have keyboard credit. Moreover, Feldman and Hues both play guitar. This maybe makes the band on this album more fluid with producers Chris Hughes and Ross Cullum undoubtedly picked for their sensitive work on Tears For Fears’ debut, “The Hurting.” The production team clicked here as well, resulting in an album that was on the tech side of things for 1984 without being musically stiff. The sophistication that Hues brought to the game meant that the results here were several steps away from garden variety synthpop of the time. Also, dance aesthetics were given equal footing with rock here, with neither genre dominant. The Wang Chung restraint that defined this band all but assured that. The one fiery guitar solo here on “Wait” that might have been this albums Eddie Van Halen moment was mixed and muted so far downwind that you might have missed it had you not been searching for it.

This album represents for me, the one moment in the sun where Wang Chung were standing in their spotlight. The first album was tentative. The next one was too far into the crass pop zone for my tastes. After that I heard nothing until their surprising 2012 return with the “Tazer Up” album, which I’d call my second favorite overall of their output. I have never heard the “Warmer Side Of Cool” album., but this album is the one with a comfortable berth in my Record Cell. It’s my favorite example of what Wang Chung had to offer these ears: dryly reserved techno rock sophistication with a chaser of dance funk DNA.

– 30 –

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Record Review: Wang Chung – Points On The Curve [part 1]

Geffen Records ‎| US | CD | 1984 | 4004-2

Wang Chung: Points On The Curve US CD [1984]

  1. Dance Hall Days
  2. Wait
  3. True Love
  4. The Waves
  5. Look At Me Now
  6. Don’t Let Go
  7. Even If You Dream
  8. Don’t Be My Enemy
  9. Devoted Friends
  10. Talk It Out

My first exposure to Wang Chung came a year earlier, when they were called Huang Chung. I was aware of US Arista dipping their toes into the synthpop waters with signings of Heaven 17, Pete Shelley, and…Huang Chung. I was all over the first two artists. They were a major part of the 1981 vibe that I was still riding even in 1982, when the Huang Chung album happened. For whatever reason, probably down to the fact that I never heard a note from it anywhere, I ignored the Huang Chung experience.

We moved along, when in 1983, the now signed to Geffen and renamed Wang Chung, managed to get their heads above water enough to have a clip for “Dance Hall Days” get some real traction on MTV. In fact, it got played enough to make a sizable hit out of it. While I didn’t hate it, it got played enough on MTV to wear out its welcome with me. I remember shopping at Murmur in late 1983 with my friend Tom and his curiosity was piqued by the excellent Barney Bubbles cover to the “Points On The Curve” album. I told him they sounded okay, but were nothing too special. In that time period, we were still far more interested in Ultravox/Simple Minds/OMD records.

It remained untilI met my friend Mr. Ware in 1985, and we enthusiastically had large swaths of our record collections crossing over in a venn diagram of sound. When he revealed an interest in Wang Chung that I had not picked up on, the thought occurred that maybe I should check them out occurred to me. I bought a used CD of “Points On The Curve” soon afterward and it’s been in the Record Cell ever since. I also sprang for their follow up album, “Mosaic,” but that one was too saccharine to my ears. Mr. Ware and his rock-steady-cru® [namely myself and his friend/bandmate Ray] trekked to Tampa one night in 1986 to see The Chung at the London Victory Club on their “Mosaic” tour. A decent show, and the “Mosaic” material live had more allure than on the album. Even so, it got sold off along the way, leaving the more ideal second album as my go-to Wang Chung album.

“Dance Hall Days” was built around a tribal/shuffle beat from Darrin Costin and ringing guitar chords from singer Jack Hues, who had the subtlest “punk name” I’d ever come across this side of Eugene Reynolds. Born Jeremy Ryder, he’d adopted the French phonetic moniker of “Jack Hues” [j’accuse… geddit?] like any musician refined in the fires of the punk rock movement in time for the emergence of Huang Chung. Hues’ clipped, veddy British delivery was probably an acquired taste for many, but I had little problem with it. His vocals, mirrored the restrained passion that this band was putting down. It was not for nothing that canny graphic designer Barney Bubbles listened to this music and devised an identity for it based on precise graphics built upon a graph paper grid motif.

It was never an A-side in America, but the next song, “Wait,” was one of my favorites here. It had a brilliant vibe with a long, almost proggy intro that coalesced into a shimmering cut diamond arrangement. Nick Feldman was playing bass that sounded like the same samples that were taking Frankie Goes To Holywood to the top of the charts at the same time. They had a very tasteful use of the infamous 8-bit Orchestra Hit® on this one that managed to survive the time span of its initial usage to wear well on my ears to this day, and few can make that claim. The harp and xylophone hooks were pretty exotic for what was actually a driving, almost motorik synthpop number. This one still sounds pretty powerful half a lifetime later. I love the vocal syncopation on lyrics like “evidently…there’s a difficulty.”

“True Love” had sort of a glamrock throwback beat, which I wonder how much that producer Chris [“Merrick”] Hughes of Adam’s Ants fame had to do with it. I loved how the next song, “The Waves” managed to quote the chorus of the preceding “True Love” as its middle eight! The laid back, jazzy vibe of this number also revealed Hues’ roots as a jazzer; something he’s pursuing at this stage of his life again. This was a pretty sophisticated arrangement and featured very slick but tasteful tenor sax work by Mel [King Crimson] Collins.

Side one closed with a bang with the sparkling “Look At Me Now,” a seemingly autobiographical song from Hues pen [no co-writing credits here]. The effervescent groove of the intro suggested an elegant whitefunk of the Roxy/Avalon persuasion. Think “The Main Thing.” Of course, Hues managed to stay to this side of the fiery line with his powerful but controlled delivery. I think he simply had too much education to allow himself to give in to sloppiness in his delivery. The machine rhythms matched his delivery as they simmered throughout the length of the track. I have to say that in retrospect, the touch of vocoders used here were almost shocking in their juxtaposition. They added fiery ice to a to what was a heartfelt, yet reserved number. Almost the Wang Chung ethos in a microcosm.

Next: …Side Two Awaits

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Seven CDs Of China Crisis For All

The DLX RMs I gave up on are finally scheduled

Gloryoski! It’s taken the patience of a saint, but next month Caroline International are gifting us with DLX RMs of the sacred first three China Crisis albums. I had given up hope on this notion many years ago. So much so that I made my own BSOG of China Crisis a decade ago…since I felt the likelihood of it happening for real was slim to none! When their fifth and last album for the Virgin label made its debut as their first DLX RM four years ago, I thought to myself, “that’s it… game over!” I stuck to listening to my bespoke BSOG and that, as they say, was that.

All of that changes next month. There are 2xCD copies of the delightfully demure “Difficult Shapes And Passive Rhythms [Some People Think Its Fun To Entertain]” and the best selling “Flaunt The Imperfection.” Three shiny discs are scheduled for my personal favorite of their albums, “Working With Fire + Steel [Possible Pop Songs Vol. 2].” Does it get any better than that? What, prithee, are the contents of these august discs?

Caroline International | UK | 2xCD | 2017

China Crisis: Difficult Shapes + Passive Rhythms [Some People Think Its Fun To Entertain] UK 2xCD [2017]

CD 1 [Album]

  1. Seven Sports for All
  2. No More Blue Horizons (Fool, Fool, Fool)
  3. Feel to Be Driven Away
  4. Some People I Know to Lead Fantastic Lives
  5. Christian
  6. African And White
  7. Are We a Worker
  8. Red Sails
  9. You Never See It
  10. Temptations Big Blue Eyes
  11. Jean Walks in Freshfields

CD 2 [Bonus Tracks]

  1. Paula and Patricia [Demo]
  2. Lowlands – [Demo]
  3. African And White [Demo]
  4. African And White [12]
  5. No More Blue Horizons (Fool, Fool, Fool) [12]
  6. No Ordinary Lover [B-Side]
  7. Watching Over Burning Fields [B-Side]
  8. Scream Down at Me [A-Side]
  9. Greenacre Bay [B-Side]
  10. Performing Seals [B-Side]
  11. Cucumber Garden [B-Side]
  12. Seven Sports for All [Peel Session]
  13. This Occupation [Peel Session]
  14. Be Suspicious [Peel Session]
  15. Some People I Know to Lead Fantastic Lives [Peel Session]

Going over the contents with a fine toothed comb reveals that only one track is missing that should be here. “Be Suspicious,” the B-side to the “African + White” single. “Cucumber Garden” exists in a regular and extended version, so I’m not sure which one we’ll get. I’m assuming that the “African + White” and “No More Blue Horizons” versions included here [and originally called B-sides] are in fact the 12″ extended remixes of these tracks. Everything in monksblood red is a previously unreleased track, be they demos or BBC sessions! I asked after discussing their last DLX RM where the rest of their BBS sessions were and they finally reach our ears here.

Caroline International | UK | 3xCD | 2017

China Crisis: Working With Fire + Steel [Possible Pop Songs Vol. 2] UK 3xCD [2017]

CD 1 [Album]

  1. Working with Fire and Steel
  2. When the Piper Calls
  3. Hanna Hanna
  4. Animals in Jungles
  5. Here Comes a Raincloud
  6. Wishful Thinking
  7. Tragedy and Mystery
  8. Papua
  9. The Gates of Door To Door
  10. The Soul Awakening

CD 2 [Bonus tracks]

  1. Jon and Van [Demo]
  2. Tragedy and Mystery [Demo]
  3. When the Piper Calls [Demo]
  4. Fire and Steel [Mix]
  5. Dockland [B-Side]
  6. Forever I and I [B-Side]
  7. Tragedy and Mystery [Extended Mix]
  8. A Golden Handshake for Every Daughter [B-Side]
  9. Wishful Thinking [7]
  10. Some People I Know to Lead Fantastic Lives [B-Side]
  11. This Occupation [Extended Mix]
  12. Some People I Know to Lead Fantastic Lives [Extended Mix]
  13. Hanna Hanna [Extended Mix]
  14. Here Come a Raincloud [Live]
  15. African And White [Live]

CD 3 [BBC Sessions]

  1. Hanna Hanna – Kid Jensen Session
  2. You Never See It – Kid Jensen Session
  3. Animals and Jungles – Kid Jensen Session
  4. Reflections – Kid Jensen Session
  5. A Golden Handshake for Every Daughter – John Peel Session
  6. Wishful Thinking – John Peel Session
  7. Here Comes a Raincloud – John Peel Session
  8. Greenacre Day – John Peel Session
  9. Papua – Kid Jensen Session
  10. No Ordinary Lover – Kid Jensen Session
  11. When the Piper Calls – Kid Jensen Session
  12. The Soul Awakening – Kid Jensen Session

The biggest achilles heel of this whole program, as far as I’m concerned, was the omission of the 7″ version of the “Wishful Thinking” B-side, “This Occupation.” The extended version of the track is far more common; and one of my favorite B-side ever by anyone, but the 7″ mix is so completely different to the Cab Volt gone dub of the 12″ mix, that it seems like a different song entirely. Everything else from this period of singles is accounted for. Another omission, though less annoying, was the live BBC recording I have on a BBC Rock Hour transcription disc. It featured the band recorded live in concert playing “Hanna  Hanna,” “Wishful Thinking,” “Christian,” “African + White,” “Working With Fire + Steel.” Two of the tracks surfaced as the B-sides on the “Hanna Hanna” 12″ single, included at the end of CD2, but the other three tracks are m.i.a.

Caroline International | UK | 2xCD | 2017

China Crisis: Flaunt The Imperfection UK 2xCD [2017]

CD 1 [Album]

  1. The Highest High
  2. Strength of Character
  3. You Did Cut Me
  4. Black Man Ray
  5. Wall of God
  6. Gift of Freedom
  7. King in a Catholic Style
  8. Bigger the Punch I’m Feeling
  9. The World Spins, I’m Part of It
  10. Blue Sea

CD 2 [Bonus Tracks]

  1. Wall of God [Demo]
  2. Black Man Ray [Demo]
  3. Bigger the Punch I’m Feeling [Demo]
  4. Animalistic [B-side]
  5. Christian [live]
  6. You Did Cut Me [live]
  7. Seven Sports for All [live]
  8. King in A Catholic Style (Wake Up) [Extended Mix]
  9. Animalistic [B-Side]
  10. It’s Never Too Late [B-Side]
  11. 96-8 [B-Side]
  12. Orange Mutt – Mutt Dance [B-side]
  13. Gift of Freedom [Janice Long Session]
  14. Strength of Character [Janice Long Session]
  15. Wall of God [Janice Long Session]
  16. King in A Catholic Style (Wake Up) [Janice Long Session]

The only grievous omission here, and I can’t really carp, was the inclusion of the 7″ version of the “Black Man Ray” B-side “Animalistic.” That’s because the “Day At The Zoo Mix” from the 12″ of “Black Man Ray” is far more common. The 7″ version [which is just the front end of the 12″ mix] has not ever made it to CD, so this is fine. However, the “Day At the Zoo” mix is one of the finest and most ahead of its time 12″ mixes of the mid-80s in that it prefigured the entire ambient/chillout/dub genre as spearheaded by Future Sound Of London’s “Papua New Guinea” five years later! In fact, given that the second China Crisis album has a track called “Papua,” I think it’s safe to assume that if you cut members of Future Sound of London, they might just bleed China Crisis. Just saying. These are available currently for pre-order in foreign editions of the “you-know-who” store, and to date I have not found any US outlets selling these, but hopefully, they will not be long in coming to my Record Cell.

– 30 –

Posted in Core Collection, Want List | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Escort @ LEAF Downtown, Asheville 8-4-17

Escort L-R: Mark Tewarson [g/perc], Ben Herson [d], Adeline Michéle [vox/b] + Eugene Cho [synth/perc]

Based on my experience in 2014, there was no band I wanted more to see than Escort. A few weeks ago I noticed that the LEAF Downtown Festival, held for the last three Summers, was bringing the band back for a free show. It was finally happening and I didn’t have to drop a dime on the event. The show at Moogfest 2014 had been so incendiary, I found it hard to believe that it had taken the band three years to find their way back to Asheville, considering how strong a circuit they built with the audience there that night. It was a packed [360 cap.] Asheville Music Hall gig where for the only time ever in my festival going experience, where no one left the club while the show was happening. The smoking hot event had me pining for more, and apparently, they had a gig in Asheville last year that I had completely missed.

The local freekly had an interview with Escort in their last week’s issue and in it I was shocked to see that the band opened for CeeLo Green at the Orange Peel last year! Now, I carefully scan the Orange Peel calendar. I remember seeing the CeeLo Green show and maybe at the time the support had not been announced. I am hoping that was the case at any rate! I never gloss over the support acts. In fact, I usually pay undue attention to them, since I have bought tickets for opening acts more than once! So Escort had already followed up on their triumphant appearance in 2014. It’s just that I was not aware. Ouch. Well, hopefully this show would make up for it.

I left work at five last Friday, having already changed to my civvies for the LEAF Downtown; a two day free festival held in the city’s Pack Square Park. Thousands of people jammed the place shoulder to shoulder for the first years’ show with Bootsy Collins. I wanted to get there as far ahead of the 6:45-7:55 show slot as possible, but I work 25 miles from Downtown. A lane closure had compromised the interstate, so I had to take the “back way” to Asheville. I basically drove to my home and then went to downtown Asheville. I snagged a parking space about a half mile away from the festivities, and hoofed it there.

I arrived about 6:10 and was carrying a rain jacket, since showers and thunderstorms were predicted by NOAA. Good thing too, since as I watched Escort and the crew set up for their show, the weather was getting more and more foreboding. The tech crew called the three minute warning and then the slight drizzle turned into a downpour. With rain at this level, the outdoor bandshell would be compromised. I didn’t want to ever see anyone electrocuted; especially a member of a band I love this much! So the tarps went up at 6:45 and we waited.

Just minutes before the showtime the pounding rain brought out the road crew and tarps

Escort were also different. The band were slimmed down to a svelte four piece hyperminimal configuration. I get it. This was a mid-summer festival gig one-off and Escort were a seven piece when I saw them for the Moogfest show. That was down from their 17-piece crowning glory, that I’m guessing only gets trotted out for local gigs when the stars are in alignment. I’m sure LEAF had to stretch their dollars and somewhere along the line, four members were what the budget allowed. So this time out, co-founder Dan Balis was MIA. Second guitarist Mark Tewarson was here tonight, and crucially, he doubled on bongo percussion. Every member except the Ben Herson on drums was pulling double duty to get the songs across. Vocalist Adeline Michéle was already established as one of the few vocalists/bassist outside of the prog arena [that sounds kind of redundant] and this left Mr. Cho on synths and yet more timbale and cowbell percussion.

They were leaning heavily on Ableton Live [or a reasonable equivalent] for this show. The sequenced synths and backing vocals would be from computer this time. They were probably doubling the synths from a DAW the last time, too. The two things I found myself missing, were the presence of a conga playing percussionist. That had really made their sound pop the last time, and more importantly, the duo of backing vocalists. The demure figures and shapes they threw the last time really made the vibe approach the cherished Ze/Kid Creole ideal. They also served to contrast with and amlify the tough elegance of Ms. Michéle. Tonight would be more focused on dancing. Primarily since there was room for it! I had gotten the new album last week and was primed to hear the latest from Escort.

They took to the stage with “A Bright New Life” from their debut but they gave the bulk of their set to the newer material. While their debut album was a careful revitalization of classic disco sound, the new one also featured a half-step back to the house music that founders Balis and Cho were making before hooking up at Vassar to form Escort. “Body Talk” showed the full flower of this approach with a dazzling, diamond-cut precision that disco alone, back in its heyday, could only hope to achieve.

“If You Say So” offered yet another hybrid with insouciant early 80s pop/R+B cross-pollinated with what I can only call yacht rock. It’s the furthest point from their orthodox disco origins that the band have strayed, and it succeeds better than it had any right to, but I would not look forward to a day to a whole of an Escort album crafted of such stuff. Speaking of orthodox disco, it can’t be bettered by any song other that their calling card, “Starlight” from their debut. It embodies the apex of 1978-1979 disco tropes more than anything else that I could name. The synth-squiggle hook from Mr. Cho can’t be bettered.

Sister Disco has a Brother Funk, and a song I was positively waiting for this time was the pre-release single “Barbarians;” a highlight of the last show I had seen, back when it was the new song. The chanted hooks were powerful with this one and I was waiting to add to the chorus when they played it. Mr. Herson’s mighty beats on this one were the stuff of legend.

One of the delights of the new album I was looking forward to the most was their brilliant synthpop cover of St. Vincent’s Actor Out of Work.” I had never heard the original song but this one quickly wormed its way into my brain with its synth hooks, and more importantly, it’s somewhat abstract lyrics that really pull me in, Post-Punk style! That way of putting out lyrics that evade and intrigue was really a hallmark of the Post-Punk style, and most of my favorite lyrics are made of such arch juxtapositions. Maybe I need to check out St. Vincent? At any rate, this was probably the new song I was most looking forward to hearing and they did not disappoint.

After the span of eight or so songs, Ms. Michéle announced their last number and sure enough; it was 7:50. In spite of the rain delay, they were ending on schedule, so their set list was shorn of at least half a dozen numbers that we did not hear this damp evening. Damp from the rain, to be sure, but also damp from the perspiration of dancing for close to an hour in a city square.  By this time I was not the only one dancing and the square had returned to having some sort of audience; perhaps close to the numbers that were there before the rain. For their last number, I was pleasantly shocked that they trotted out their killer Dillinger cover of “Cocaine Blues,” since this was definitely a “family friendly” event with face painting, and children. Too bad for the kids. I was all too happy to sing along with the hook that Dillinger had cribbed from The People’s Choice 1975 jam “Do It Any Way You Wanna.” Special thanks to Fred for helping my ailing memory here.

With that, the band ended on a dime at 7:55. The Friday night headliner at LEAF Downtown would get their full set… but at what cost? At the end of the night this had been a highly compromised Escort experience. They lost a good 40% of their playing time and set. They were a minimal configuration of four people, who leaned on automation to flesh out their sound. The rain drove away all but the hardiest individuals before it even started. I really wish I had known about the CeeLo Green show in 2016. I gather that the band were at least the seven-strong configuration I saw earlier, and to be honest, this band belong inside of a room, where their dazzling energy can barely be contained. While, I assuredly enjoyed the room to bust a move the entire show [unlike last time], the sheer excitement was pounded out of me by the solid half hour of pouring rain. This was not the food for the soul that their Moogfest show was. This was more of a snack. A tasty one, for certain, but I still await the Orange Peel headlining gig that this band were made to deliver. Escort have made three trips to my city. The groundwork has hopefully been laid for most triumphant return of Escort in their fullest possible form in a club, where god intended disco to live.

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Cindy Wilson Offers “Change” We Can Get Behind

Riverside Cindy beaming – is that not the best photo you’ve ever seen of her?

I really liked the music that Cindy Wilson was making with her new band when in town last June, but there was no album ready just yet at the merch table. Well, that’s changing now with Cindy doing the crowdsource move that all the hip kids are making on the post-label-era  dancefloor. Her album “Change” is currently being distributed by a PledgeMusic campaign and is available in the normal CD or vinyl formats.

Kill Rock Stars | US | CS | 2017

Cindy Wilson: Change US CD [2017]

Beyone the title and cover shot, not much is known about this other than Kill Rock Stars is releasing it and I heard the songs performed live in June and they were delightfully apart from the known B-52’s sound. Titles don’t seem to be on the web as of yet, and Cindy’s Soundcloud channel are not yet featuring any tasters. but if you have a yen to hear this material, the usual DL/LP/CD can be had from Cindy’s PledgeMusic campaign. Of course, with musicians scrambling for funding in the post-music sales area, it’s often what you can pay for apart from music that really takes the cake. And Ms. Wilson is definitely no slouch in that regard! Scope some of the amazing experiences that enough funds can net you in the post-major-label era we inhabit.

  • DL – $10
  • LP [pink wax, signed] – $35
  • CD [signed] – $25

The basic meat an potatoes of any Pledge campaign, really. There are also T-shirts, handwritten lyric sheets, and bundles of multiple items. It’s when you color outside of the outlines that things get interesting.

  • Microphone from recording session – $500 [and it’s gone, daddy, gone!]
  • Cindy-led Tour Of Athens, GA – $1000 [4 left]
  • Cindy-cooked Dinner With The Band – $2000 [4 left]
  • Private House Show [1 hour] – $5000 [5 left]

The notion of Cindy Wilson spending an afternoon showing you Athens, GA from a legend’s inside perspective should be something that any music fan would cherish! Of course, I only live a few hours from Athens, so I’ve been there several times. It’s the kind of funky, soulful Southern place that’s well worth the visit, and not just for the fine, fine record stores. Even more intriguing was the notion of Cindy cooking you and her band a home-cooked meal. That’s so left field, yet charming, if I had more money than sense I’d certainly be up for that.  And of course, the private house show option is about as cool as it get… for a cool $5K. Travel costs and accommodations not included, but hey, if you live along the tour itinerary, they’ll work with you on that! And what are those Fall tour dates, now that the major push is underway?

Cindy Wilson | Change North American Fall Tour | 2017

Sept 03 | The Woodware Theatre | Cincinnati, OH
Sept 04 | The Woodware Theatre | Cincinnati, OH
Sep 05 | Hard Rock Cafe | Pittsburgh, PA
Sep 06 | Lee’s Palace | Toronto, Canada
Sep 08 | Funk ‘n Waffles | Syracuse, NY
Sep 10 | The Bell House | New York, NY
Sep 11 | Knitting Factory | New York, NY
Nov 12 | Gasa Gasa | New Orleans, LA
Nov 13 | 3TEN Austin City Limits Live | Austin, TX
Nov 15 | Metro Music Hall | Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 16 | Marquis Theater | Denver, CO
Nov 17 | The Riot Room | Kansas City, MO
Nov 19 | Zanzabar | Louisville, KY

If any of this resonates with you, why not push the big banner above and have a look at her campaign?

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