30 Days: 30 Albums | Befour Three O’Clock – Happen Happened


I remember loving The Three O’Clock and seeing the Salvation Army album all over the place at every hip record store in the mid-80s and thinking “I really must get that some day.” <flash forward 33 years> I’ve been thinking a lot about The Three O’Clock and Michael Quercio this year, after digitizing the live Three O’Clock album that came out on Burger Records some years ago for Record Store Day. I bought the complete discography of Quercio’s naughties band Jupiter Affect as a birthday present for a Three O’Clock loving friend of mine this year, so when I ran across the once ubiquitous CD of “Happen Happened” in the Amoeba Hollywood bins last July, I duly pounced on it.

Frontier Records | US | CD | 1992 | 01866 34639 2

#15Befour Three O’Clock: Happen Happened US CD [1992]

  1. Happen Happened
  2. For Hours
  3. Fight Songs
  4. Mind Gardens
  5. She Turns To Flowers (Alternate Version)
  6. Grimly Forming
  7. The Seventeen Forever
  8. Going Home
  9. Cellophane Nirvana
  10. She Turns To Flowers
  11. Upside Down
  12. The Seventeen Forever
  13. Mind Gardens
  14. Grimly Forming
  15. While We Were In Your Room Talking To Your Wall
  16. Minuet
  17. Happen Happened
  18. I Am Your Guru
  19. Going Home

This omnibus CD managed to round up an awful lot of Salvation Army material. Their 10-tracks LP, their debut single, as well as a clutch of demos to show the rapid development of this primal Paisley Underground band. The CD kicked off in brilliant fashion with the B-side to their debut single, “Mind Gardens.” There was nothing tentative about “Happen Happened!” It rocked hard with a fleetness of foot that was unbelievable for a song that name-checked Doris Day in its infectious chorus. While this was their debut waxing, it had all of the quality that one would have been accustomed to from mature Three O’Clock. It was a close cousin to “Her Head’s Revolving,” which placed it pretty high on the shelf in my eyes!

“For Hours” and “Fight Song” reveal the hardcore punk DNA still in the kool-aid as the band had not yet fully moved away from the So-Cal zeitgeist of 1981, when these songs were recorded. The shouted backing vocals in the chorus of the latter were even more telling than the breakneck tempos. Except for Quercio’s distinctive vocals, it didn’t reek of Three O’Clock much at all. The rest of the demo material that followed showed the band mapping their way to the eventual sound they would be known for.

The actual album showed the band’s Left Banke meets Love ethos in a more fully formed fashion. The backwards guitar in “She Turns To Flowers” was a pretty trippy signifier. I found that I preferred the tougher, more garage-rock single take of “Mind Gardens” to the more flowery and diffuse LP remake. “Grimly Forming” sported a berserk middle eight where the fast tempo cut out for several bars of cattle grazing sound effects before snapping back to its senses and finishing on a frenzied note. at 3:31, it’s practically the  prog opus of this album. [think “Atom Heart Mother”]

“While We Were In Your Room Talking To Your Wall” slowed the pace to hit a little closer to the Three O’Clock target, but it’s obvious that Quercio and guitarist Gregg ‘Louis” Guiterrez in the band had their sights on the paisley prize in advance of hooking up with Danny Benair and Mike Mariano after the lawsuit by the actual Salvation Army forced the band to change its name. This artifact showed the garage punk origins of the band before they could come to the place where covering a groovy  Bee Gee’s tune in the still touchy environment of 1983 could be boldly undertaken. The developmental arc of the band had them becoming progressively more polished with time, so if 1988’s “Vermillion” on Prince’s vanity label rubbed you the wrong way [I respectfully disagree] than take solace that there’s always this garage punk [with a hint of hardcore] snapshot of the band captured on the shiny silver disc. I’ve got room for both extremes in the Record Cell.

CONCLUSION: enjoy

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30 Days: 30 Albums | China Crisis – Difficult Shapes + Passive Rhythms – Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain DLX RM


I first encountered China Crisis on MTV’s “London Calling” program where a snippet of the video for “Working With Fire + Steel” was shown. I immediately bought the album of that name, which got a release on Warner Brothers in The States and didn’t waste any time in working my way back to their import only debut album in the elegant Peter Saville sleeve with the astonishing Trevor Key foto. The band became immediate favorites and my friend Mr. Ware put one of his sources in the UK to the task of sourcing all of the China Crisis 12″ singles for me. The “Hannah Hannah” 12″, which was the current UK single at my point of entry was helpful in showing a 12″ discography on the reverse of its cover. I wrote about the DLX RMs of the first three China Crisis albums last year and already have two of them just a year later. Be still my beating heart!

Caroline Records ‎| UK | 2xCD | 2017 | CAROLR065CD

#16China Crisis: Difficult Shapes + Passive Rhythms – Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain DLX RM UK 2xCD [2017]

Disc 1

  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. Temptation’s Big Blue Eyes
  11. Jean Walks In Freshfields

Disc 2

  1. Paula And Patricia (Demo)
  2. Lowlands (Demo)
  3. African And White (Demo)
  4. African And White (Original Extended Version)
  5. No More Blue Horizons (Fool, Fool, Fool) (Extended Mix)
  6. No Ordinary Lover
  7. Watching Over Burning Fields
  8. Scream Down At Me
  9. Greenacre Bay
  10. Performing Seals
  11. Cucumber Garden
  12. Seven Sports For All [BBC]
  13. This Occupation [BBC]
  14. Be Suspicious [BBC]
  15. Some People I Know To Lead Fantastic Lives [BBC]

Even for this most genteel of bands, they still ascribed to the “enter all guns blazing” school of rock here with the opening “Seven Sports For All.” Almost singular on this album, it sported what was the heaviest rhythms possible for this band at this stage of the game. Sure, the band were just Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon and at the time of making this album they had no drummer as such, so the album was all down to drum programming. This was not a dance band at all at this stage of the game but you would be forgiven for not knowing that upon hearing “Seven Sports For All,” which the band claimed was influenced by ACR’s “Shack Up.”

Next up was the glorious “No More Blue Horizons [Fool, Fool, Fool].” It was the band’s second single and it wasn’t a hit but that doesn’t mean that the British public weren’t philistines at the time! The interplay between the synth trumpet line and the marimba is to die for and Gary’s vocals float through the breezy melody like a bird on the wing. The synth leads telegraph the latent Steely Dan influence which would manifest in a large way on album number three.

By the late 70s dub reggae was a huge influence on many a post-punk band, but the only time I can ever see it manifesting with China Crisis was on the outlier to nowhere “Feel To Be Driven Away.” An entirely synthetic reggae number with the maximum contrast of the effervescent pop of “Some People I Know To Lead Fantastic Lives.” In the booklet here, Gary Daly rightly points it out as a missed single opportunity though he took pains to reveal that the backing vocals on the outro were producer Peter Walsh singing “someone I know” against his wishes but it was too late to remix.

Has there ever been a least likely hit single [well, since “Ghosts” by JAPAN at least] than “Christian?” The somber ballad was delicate and airy with the slowest of tempos, but the gentle harmonics of it with the fluid fretless bass of Landscape’s Andy Pask flowing through its center was remarkably beautiful. A hushed, minimal, and oblique look at World War I, according to Gary Daly, so take that, OMD. You aren’t the only Liverpudlian band to take the great war as inspiration. Fortunately, the third single from the album was the hit and the band’s fortunes were established then and there.

The debut single had been “African + White” on the Liverpool indie Inevitable. Their success brought Virgin sniffing around and the label remixed the track for a 12″ re-release. The Virgin reissue was not a hit either but one can hear what everyone heard in this band’s songs. The sensitivity and melancholy is there but with a real overriding tenderness. With a refrain like “life is a fever” “African + White” reflects the optimism that still informs their songs almost 40 years later. This was never a cynical band by any stretch of the imagination.

“Are We A Worker” was a hybrid fusion of Soviet folksong touched with Spanish guitar for an unusual effect. I found that the album was brimming over with potential singles in the Top 40 paradox that’s my own skull. [If I like it, that’s “pop” right?] Along with “Fantastic Lives” I’d liked to have seen the gorgeously wet ballad “Red Sails” to have had a chance in the charts. The musicbox melody was enhanced to an amazing degree by the synth glissandos on every bar at the song’s climax. It took a very special band to venture there without the least hint of irony but that’s China Crisis in a nutshell. These guys are in awe of  the beauty that they create.

The album had a fantastic ambient ending with the brief instrumental “Jean Walks In Freshfields,” because Gary wanted to cap the album with an Enoesque ambient moment. It was the first indication that the band had a viable sideline in pure ambience, but far from the last. As we’ll be seeing next as disc two beckons.

The lure of the DLX RM was not only 12″ mixes  on CD for the first time [most of the B-sides have happened back in the 90s, if one was paying attention] but unreleased demos and BBC sessions. Three demos lead off disc two and “Paula + Patricia” was a twee instro probably named after girlfriends. It seems to belong to the third album era with instro B-sides like 96.8″ or “Orange Mutt-Mutt Dance.”

“Lowlands” was much closer to the ambient territory that always served the band well. The demo of “African +White” still had the rhythm box set to “cha-cha” but was a much thinner production; almost voice and rhythm only. The extended 12″ A-sides were all of the circa 1982 form; mildly extended tracks with extra instrumental vamping and breaks to make them longer. In the case of “No More Blue Horizons [Fool Fool, Fool]” this can only be a good thing.

“No Ordinary Lover” was the slightly Oriental-sounding B-side to “No More Blue Horizons [Fool, Fool, Fool].” It was a perky vocal number. The real payload was “Watching Over Burning Fields,” a long, ambient piece that finally took the time to stretch out at six and a half minutes. Since “No Ordinary Lover” has the lyric “watching over burning fields” these songs are sometimes mislabelled on various China Crisis releases, but thankfully not here.

The non-LP single that followed the album is rightfully here. “Scream Down At Me” was a radical shift to upbeat dance music that must have been a very unlikely followup to “Christian.” It didn’t chart, but the atypically extroverted sound was the one time that the band released a single in this period that was so raucous. The Geoff [Afraid Of Mice] Kelly fretless bass solo against the furious timbale solo [with female backing vocals!] was the closest this band ever came to the Duran Duran sound. The B-side “Cucumber Garden” was a little more like what we all expected from China Crisis; an introverted left-field long buildup for a long seven minute track.

The “Christian” B-sides were the sea shanty “Greenacre Bay” and another ambient number; “Performing Seals.” Strangely enough, the “African + White” B-side [“Be Suspicious”] was conspicuous in its absence here. With disc two at a trim 58 minutes, it could have fit with no problems. Maybe the master was lost? Fortunately, it was issued on CD single in 1990 on the Steve Proctor remix of “African + White.

The real payload on this DLX RM were the BBC Peel Sessions from April 1st, 1982! Good thing Peel was a fan, as these tracks, recorded in advance of the album were an astonishing glimpse of the band re-imagined fully in the technopop mold! China Crisis had a rep as a synth duo from their early days that doesn’t really tell the story correctly, in my opinion. They were way too sensitive for that sort of thing, but you wouldn’t know it from the all synths + rhythm programming trio versions with Dave Reilly filling in on drums/percussion. These are sharp little numbers that reveal that China Crisis could have given Talk Talk a run for their money.

“Seven Sports For All” differs greatly from the album version. “This Occupation” is little like the 7″ version of that song which would figure on the “Wishful Thinking” single in B-side form. It’s actually more like the remixed 12″ version of that song, which is a great thing indeed! Though ultimately these two tracks sound tentative and inconclusive. As if they hadn’t worked out all of the kinks as the tunes seem to peter out around the three minute mark. At least the BBC session of “Be Suspicious” is here and given that the song had been around the block by then, it sounds far less tentative. It even has an ending. Finally, “Some People I Know To Lead Fantastic Lives” is almost all hyper-kinetic beatbox as it seems like the BPM quotient is a good 30% faster. These Peel Sessions are very fascinating and the real gems on this DLX RM.

The mastering by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham is very good, and after the DLX RM of “Diary Of A Hollow Horse” in 2013, China Crisis fans have been withering on the vine for several years wondering when the band’s imperial period was going to get the love. That time is now [2017, actually] and I recommend buying in haste before these items are three figures.

CONCLUSION: enjoy…even more than from 36 years ago

 

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30 Days: 30 Albums | The Dickies – Idjit Savant

I used to have three Dickies CDs that I got rid of because they weren’t “Incredible Shrinking Dickies” or “Dawn Of The Dickies. Once I go the DLC RMs of those titles in the early noughts, I figured “why clutter up the racks with irrelevant Dickies music?” But after seeing The Dickies this summer, I had a change of heart. That show was so good, I really should have it all. Especially since there’s so few albums over a 40 year period. So I have been picking up all Dickies releases I’ve come across of late. In L.A. I managed to buy one that I didn’t already have.

Triple X Records ‎| US | CD | 1994 | 51168-2

#17The Dickies: Idjit Savant US CD [1994]

  1. Welcome To The Diamond Mine
  2. Golden Boys
  3. Toxic Avenger
  4. Zeppelina
  5. I’m Stuck In A Condo (With Marlon Brando)
  6. Just Say Yes
  7. Elevator (In The Brain Hotel)
  8. Pretty Ballerina
  9. Make It So
  10. I’m On Crack
  11. Oh Boy!
  12. Roadkill
  13. House Of Raoul
  14. Song Of The Dawn

“Welcome To The Diamond Mine” is a strange little Dickies number. Not as obviously stoopid as their stock-in-trade. But Leonard Graves Phillips vocals were as bratty as ever and at 2:00 is certainly felt like The Dickies. “Golden Boys” was – gasp – a Germs cover, but not having ever really listened to The Germs, I did not recognize this. I’ve only ever seen the “What We Do Is Secret” movie, which I enjoyed. Things finally began to get goofy on “Toxic Avenger,” a tribute to the Troma Films superhero, but the music here was very Prog, with Wakemanesque keyboards, courtesy of Phillips. All very tongue-in-cheek, due to the absurd context of the song. Besides, it’s not as if “Rondo {The Midget’s Revenge]” didn’t prefigure this years ago!

It finally took the band 26 years to consider the important step of writing a sequel to “[I’m Stuck In A Pagoda With] Tricia Toyota.” This time they set their sights a bit higher than a local newscaster with “I’m Stuck In A Condo [With Marlon Brando.”] The joke was that crazy Brando was ranting at the pizza delivery boy and eating everything in sight, but I do feel that the band missed a trick by not having a verse that went…

He’s going down to Pep Boys,
He’s gonna buy some Bondo®

Since they pull the conceit of rhyming Brando with condo they could have tied the song in with their classic “Manny, Moe + Jack.” Sighs. The tune itself was built on a guitar riff very reminiscent of The Easybeats “I’ll Make You Happy” albeit with a slower [?!] tempo.

“Just Say Yes” was absolutely a classic Dickies song when it came at album’s midpoint. This one, if it were not for the mid-80s conceit of the lyric, could have very comfortably sat on “Incredible Shrinking Dickies.” Yes, it’s that great!  Then a couple of obscure covers pop up. “Elevator [In The Brain Hotel]” was from – gasp – 1968 and the Grapefruit album “Around Grapefruit.” The band had formed around Alexander Young the brother to the Easybeat’s George Young, making the lift of the “I’ll Make You Happy” riff obviously something the band were dwelling on at the time of this album. Another late 60s song was riffed on with a cover of The Left Banke’s “Pretty Ballerina,” and kudos to The Dickies for springing for the mandatory cello and harpsichord to make it all work.

“Make It So” was a Star Trek riff with suitably infantile lyrics. Phillips’ publishing company isn’t called Dorkmeister Music for nothing! Then, another absolutely classic sounding Dickies song appeared in “I’m On Crack.” Again, except for the lyric, you’d swear this was a 1978 track. Another single [that I did used to have] was “Roadkill” with the band experimenting with hardcore tempos, which seems kind of silly, since I thought that the band basically invented hardcore punk in 1978, but if The Ramones made “Warthog” then I guess it was okay. The appearance of mouth harp on a song this fast was very endearing, I have to say.

“House Of Raoul” was apparently not a song about fashion design, but I wish that it had been. Instead, it’s a goofy number whose meaning escapes me. With a shocker ending, the album finale was another cover. This time of the Tin Pan Alley obscurity “Song Of The Dawn,” thought the credits cheekily ascribe it to Phillips. The band play it in a fashion that I would guess was how the song had typically been performed throughout its history. It’s the furthest thing from punk rock.

I really enjoyed this album as it veered all over the musical map, yet it had three undeniably classic Dickies tunes that could have only been from them. The holy dumb lyrics showed the band untainted by maturity; preferring to let the covers move in that direction. It was 35 minutes of Dickies fun with 14 songs in that time. Now I need to hear the other Dickies album that I have passed on since I think it’s likely that all of them will have enough of their special sauce to work for me.

CONCLUSION: enjoy

 

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30 Days: 30 Albums | Stinky Toys – Plastic Faces

I first became aware of Elli Madeiros in the late 80s, when I saw her video for the song “Vanille,” on MTV International in 1990 or so. I bought the CD, “Elli” that had the song in Canada two years later where it was much easier to scratch the Francophile itch in Quebec! For years I had no awareness of her history with partner Jacno either as Elli + Jacno or with their primordial soup band of Stinky Toys all the way back in 1977.

Polydor ‎| FR | CD | 1990 | 833 003-2

#18Stinky Toys: Plastic Faces FR CD [1990]

  1. Plastic Faces
  2. You Close Your Eyes
  3. City Life
  4. Jack The Ripper
  5. Driver Blues
  6. Boozy Creed
  7. More Than Me
  8. Lonely Lovers
  9. Sun Sick
  10. Pepe Gestapo

While I’ve been a Fancophile for so long, I can remember the huge biases against French music from the 70s and 80s; before artists like Serge Gainsbourg gained the currency of hipness amongst the cognoscenti. French rock was unilaterally despised. Fripp called even the mere act of singing in French “Gallic bleating!” In 1977, the first band with a single out on Rough Trade was Metal Urbain with “Paris Marquis.” Now Metal Urbain was an amazing band who prefigured industrial/EDM sounds to come in the next decade. So maybe I was overly sold on the idea if French punk rock. Because, in spite of her Latin/French hybrid with 1989’s “Elli” album, which I’ve had for years, or the techno pop of the Elli + Jacno years, Stinky Toys were pegged as one of the first French punk rock bands. Let me beg to differ.

While this music is certainly an attempt at something snotty, the music was as leaden as what punk was desperately trying to replace. And at stage one of her career, Elli Madeiros was incapable of singing punk rock or even emoting very much at all. And if you’ve got punk rock that just sits there, like this music did, you haven’t; got punk rock at all. Let me state that this was the most painful 30+ minutes I’ve ever been party to hearing. Listening to this album was like a slow motion torture session of incredibly poor music as the fulcrum of pain.

It took immeasurable self-control for me to bear listening to this even once, many weeks ago, to eventually type this review. And while I usually listen to a title at least 4-5 times to dare to pen a review, I found it impossible in the case of this album. There’s only so much I am willing to bear for PPM, and this album crossed that line! So while I will have time for any Elli + Jacno or solo material from Ms. Madeiros, under no circumstances will I be attempting to obtain the second Stinky Toys album from 1979. The rest of you are on your own.

CONCLUSION: recycle immediately

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30 Days: 30 Albums | Graham Parker + The Rumour – Squeezing Out Sparks + Live Sparks

This was an instance of me buying a later, DLX RM of an album for the upgrade of the bonus material. I somehow managed to get the first Arista US copy of “Squeezing Out Sparks” on CD, probably at a CD Warehouse, if memory serves, in the late 90s. Any of the first half of Parker’s career is surprisingly scarce on CD format, while the used LP bins are rife with the material. This CD had the promo LP “Live Sparks” appended to it so when it was in front on my eyes for a modest price, I went with the flow. After all, I was getting so many Parker CDs I needed in L.A., why not “upgrade” his best selling opus?

Arista ‎| US | CD | 1996 | 07822-18939-2

#19Graham Parker + The Rumour: Squeezing Out Sparks + Live Sparks US CD [1996]

  1. Discovering Japan
  2. Local Girls
  3. Nobody Hurts You
  4. You Can’t Be Too Strong
  5. Passion Is No Ordinary Word
  6. Saturday Nite Is Dead
  7. Love Gets You Twisted
  8. Protection
  9. Waiting For The UFO’s
  10. Don’t Get Excited
  11. Discovering Japan [live]
  12. Local Girls [live]
  13. Nobody Hurts You [live]
  14. You Can’t Be Too Strong [live]
  15. Passion Is No Ordinary Word [live]
  16. Saturday Nite Is Dead [live]
  17. Love Gets You Twisted [live]
  18. Protection [live]
  19. Waiting For The UFO’s [live]
  20. Don’t Get Excited [live]
  21. I Want You Back (Alive)[live]
  22. Mercury Poisoning [live]

We have a new record for most tracks per disc in this thread since Parker here bested his former producer Nick Lowe, who previously held the record for most songs on one album with the 21 tracks on “Jesus Of Cool.” Parker gets the count up a notch. “Discovering Japan” was a energetic start to this classic album with the pub rock of The Rumour getting tweaked up to New Wave levels of vigor. It all started back in 1979 for me with one song: the US single “Local Girls” was a track that the local FM Rock I was listening to then played more than once, so it was my entrée to Parker… and possibly the reason why I paid little attention to him for so long. Against the spectrum of 1979 the tune was nice, but nothing to write home about.

The compassion and power of “You Can’t Be Too Strong” would have passed me by completely at the age of 16. I would not have been mature or empathetic enough to relate to the lyric; which was everything here. The liner notes by Parker were most revealing when he admitted to initially burying the tune in a fast, busy arrangement until producer Jack Nitzsche called him out on his ability to put the song forth in as direct, uncompromising way.

I love the relentless pace of the chorus in “Passion Is No Ordinary Word.” The way the syllables of the chorus hammer home the gist of the lyric is very memorable. “Protection” shows only a toe dipped [barely] into ska while his earlier albums featured reggae tracks. The arrangement of “Waiting for the UFO’s” was like nothing else in the Parker canon I’ve heard before or after. The odd arrangement was fairly busy over a near-disco rhythm section and the harmonized backing vocals of the repeated title used every member of The Rumour save for the non-singing Andrew Bodnar on bass. Every band usually has one vocal holdout, it seems! Being British, they use the Brit pronunciation of “U-Foes” that anyone who saw the early 70s sci-fi series of the same name will remember. “Don’t Get Excited” ended the album on an upbeat note following the quirky preceding track.

And then you got to hear the same album all over again, albeit in live form. And with a non-LP single added as a bonus. As a live album, “Live Sparks” captured The Rumour in full flight. The backing vocals were pretty high in the mix, so that lends a difference to the sound. Which is good, since Parker, at this early stage of his career, tends towards the monochromatic. “Protection” and “Excited” were particularly fiery here, and I can certainly see why the senior who sat next to me in my 11th grade physics class was so big on Graham Parker + The Rumour; whom he’d seen in concert. He called him the only New Waver he really liked.

But if I may take a controversial stand, let me admit that “Squeezing Out Sparks,” while being a fine example of the early Graham Parker oeuvre, does not press the “classic album!” button for me. It’s a solidly good album; I don’t think Parker has a dud in him. But is it my go-to GP album? Naaaw. That would be “Deepcut To Nowhere” for me! I did appreciate the upgrade to this version. The live version was good to hear, and this kind of tough pub rock can benefit from a live setting. My biggest appreciation was for the great GP liner notes as well as Ira Robbins’ [Trouser Press] additional essay on the album and it’s position in the GP canon. My original Arista CD was ultra skimpy on that front.

CONCLUSION: enjoy…just not as much as everyone else seems to think that I should

 

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30 Days: 30 Albums | David Byrne + Brian Eno – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

To say that Byrne/Eno have a history that precedes them is an understatement. Eno’s three album run with Talking Heads was possibly more inspiring than even his three album sequence with David Bowie, even though in both cases each of the artists made what I consider to be their best albums with Eno in the booth. I have loved “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” ever since its date of issue. It was the bomb upon its release and in the intervening years, its stature has only grown. When I heard that Byrne and Eno had made another album together after a layoff of 27 years I was trepidatious. I have not enjoyed anything Byrne has done in that time. Worse, when Eno linked up again with David Bowie in 1995 for the “1: Outside” album for the first time in almost 20 years, the results were bracingly awful. Could David Byrne, an artist I’d written off by 1985, and Brian Eno make anything that I’d respond to? Well, I waited a decade to find out for a dollar.

Todomundo ‎| US | CD | 2008 | TODO 002

#20 David Byrne + Brian Eno: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today US CD [2008]

  1. Home
  2. My Big Nurse
  3. I Feel My Stuff
  4. Everything That Happens
  5. Life Is Long
  6. The River
  7. Strange Overtones
  8. Wanted For Life
  9. One Fine Day
  10. Poor Boy
  11. The Lighthouse

I was arrested by the melodic similarities of the opener “Home” to a cut from the 2005 Eno solo album; “How Many Worlds.” These tracks were all accumulated instrumentals that David Byrne offered to write lyrics and sing for, so it’s very possible that the melody dated from the same period of genesis for the “Another Day On Earth” album. The similarity was surprising, but the musical sophistication and vocals by Byrne here took the music to a higher plane. While I had always liked “Another Day On Earth,” this was music that had a similar DNA but was in every more accomplished!

It helped that the largely one-man crew of the earlier album was replaced here by musicians like Leo Abrahams and Steve Jones [not the Sex Pistol] who by now have had long and storied careers with Eno. More importantly than anything,, the use of live drums on each song gave the music a depth and grounding that was largely missing from “Another Day On Earth.” The conceit was that these were electro-folk-gospel tunes in keeping with Eno’s taste for gospel; which was ironically down to his romping around with Talking Heads in the late 70s. Of course, they were gospel largely in style only in that the vocals were the melodic focus of the music. Any sacred aspects were only fleetingly alluded to in the lyrics.

The music here was familiar but with sonic left field twists adding frissons of dissonance to what was largely familiar melodic territory; further tweaked by Bryne’s lyrics, which seemed to have lost nothing in their laterally creative wordplay in the decades I have been paying no attention to his output. “I Feel My Stuff” was the first opus here. Byrne attacked the vocals on this long 6:30 number by creative “movements” that mirrored the twists and turns of the music bed and it was a delight hearing him assume clearly different personae [with corresponding treatments] in the singing of it. Listening to this, one had the feeling that anything was capable of happening.

The lilting title track sported gorgeous, long sustain “water guitars” by Eno and “coin guitars” by Abrahams; whatever that meant. All I know was that it was lovely. Yeah, I could hear the gospel there, but other parts of this album point to the rhythm and blues that I grew up with, as with “Life Is Long.” The real brass here by a four man section arranged by Dan Levine sound particularly life affirming. As with the whole album, the lyrics and singing by Byrne might subvert the intellectual content of what music that sounds like this normally has, but the feel is seamless until you probe beneath the surface. It’s a fascinating blend of mid-70s rhythm + blues with art rock.

“Strange Overtones” has a vibe not a million miles away from the proto-disco R+B of The Hues Corporation’s “Rock Your Boat.”  And yet it still has fascinatingly meta-descriptive lyrics like…

“This groove is out of fashion
These beats are 20 years old
I saw you lend a hand to
This one’s standing out in the cold” – “Strange Overtones”

This album is as different to “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” as possible, but while it does not push boundaries like that record, it remains a more subdued, yet vital example of collaboration between  Byrne and Eno. Eno has this music in him but dislikes lyrics and singing. We’re lucky that Byrne posed the idea of taking his accumulated tracks and taking them someplace where the music beckoned. Now I feel bad about blowing off the Byrne concert in Asheville back in 2008 when he was touring this album. Holy jeez! I just looked at the set list. Now I feel awful.

How I wish I had jumped on this album immediately upon release. I would have considered going to the show – provided tickets were not three figures and up as Byrne’s last appearance in our city, this spring, was. Hell, I was thinking about going to that before I saw ticket prices! My big problem [hmm, a Byrne song title…] was that I had written off Byrne’s Latin music career as being a non-event with me. As far as I knew, everything he did after Talking Heads was Tropical in nature. And it just didn’t work for me. At all. But this album works like a charm! It’s another winning Eno collaborative effort to stand with “Bush Of Ghosts,” “Wrong Way Up” and “Someday World.”

CONCLUSION: enjoy… a lot

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30 Days: 30 Albums | Bill Pritchard – Jolie

Yow! It’s been so looooong since I bought my first Bill Pritchard album [30 years, easily] that I’d completely forgotten how I came to do it! After doing some research on “Three Months, Three Weeks, And Two Days,” I think that it was down to a video for “Tommy + Co” that Pritchard’s Discogs.com profile claims was aired on MTV’s 120 Minutes at that time. I remember coming across the “Invisible State/Kenneth Baker” US CD EP on I.R.S.. and loving it. The album followed soon afterward; probably purchased at Murmur Records when the sun still shone on Central Florida. <fast forward 30 years> Ladies and gentlemen; I now own the follow up album to “Three Months, Three Weeks, And Two Days,” and it only took this long to see another Bill Pritchard disc in the bins!

Play It Again Sam Records ‎| BEN | CD | 1991 | BIAS 176 CD

#21Bill Pritchard: Jolie BEN CD [1991]

  1. Number Five
  2. Pretty Emily
  3. I’m In Love Forever
  4. Anglesey
  5. In The Summer
  6. Gustave Cafe
  7. Tears Of Maxine
  8. Violet Lee
  9. Souvenir Of Summer
  10. The Lie That Tells The Truth

The reason why I immediately loved Bill Pritchard’s music was that betcha by golly, wow, he really sounds like Stephen Duffy. His fey voice sounded like Duffy’s. His phrasing was not unlike Duffy on the Lilac Time records. His lyrics were just as poignant and incisive as Duffy’s. Plus – he was a Francophile at exactly the same time as that held a lot of currency for me. All of these things made Pritchard very big in my world, but while Duffy at least has a cult built up around him, Pritchard actually connected in Benelux countries with the mainstream and managed to get some commercial traction there. So much so that he moved there. Wouldn’t you?

The winsome, ringing pop of “Number Five” got the album off to a peppy start. The Pritchard M.O. was apparent and unchanged from the previous album, ringing, undistorted guitar lines against bass and drums with an application of airy synths to grout the cracks with the lightest of touches. The song was a wry celebration about what I would assume to be his fifth lover in is 26 years. One who has a trail of men in her wake. Perhaps the Jolie of the album’s title?

“Pretty Emily” was the only song here with any lyrics in French; a marked difference from the previous album. Yet the titular Emily was said here to have “walked all over those men, and with a wave of your hand, you showed them all that you can do it again.” Sounds like a problem for Mr. Pritchard. The single “I’m In Love Forever” was sung as a duet with Beverly Jo Scott; an American who was making a name for herself in the French/Benelux music scene. A beautiful song made moreso by Ms. Scott’s singing.

“Anglesey” had a clarinet solo in the middle eight to die for. These songs were as great as anything The Lilac Time were doing concurrently. The single “In The Summer,” was one of a pair of songs here produced by Ian Broudie, and one can almost taste the reverb on Pritchard’s vocals. But the song was an introverted breakup song, with an evasive, haunting melody and I’ll forgive Broudie for the vocal production gaffe. The piano solo here was beyond gorgeous as the melancholy carved out a berth for your heart.

It’s hard to imagine the slice-of-life “Gustave Cafe” being anything but a great Lilac Time B-side, but the lyrics paint just that sort of incisive detail about a time and place common to the pen of Mr. Duffy.

“The corduroy sweethearts
Who suffer in silence
Resigned and embittered
By sexual problems
At the table the calmness
Is just years of repression
Back to routine
After one year’s obsession” – “Gustave Cafe”

These songs cut right to the heart of the matter and delivered their wisdom and compassion with economy and dignity. “Tears Of Maxine” was a piano ballad that began somewhat downbeat note but eventually filled up with a jazzy insouciance to take things to another level by song’s end. Pritchard was a songsmith to deliver the sort of goods that I respond to in a singer. These are the type of songs that I simply can’t imagine not being championed by lovers of literate pop music. As for Pritchard, look at the guy; he’s pictured at the beach on the cover dressed head-to-toe in black! I just have to love such conceits as he’s a man after my own heart.

CONCLUSION: enjoy…and get some more Pritchard in less than 30 years

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