The Return Of Corn-Fed New Wave: A Look At Chicago’s Combo Audio Legacy

Combo Audio L-R: John Kellogg, Rick Neuhaus, Angus Thomas

I remember reading about Combo Audio in the America Underground pages of Trouser Press. I think I might have caught their video once on MTV in the 1983 salad days of that channel. But once was enough! When I saw a copy of the four track EP in the bins at Crunchy Armadillo, I bought it and it’s been in the Record Cell ever since.

The video in question was for the band’s breakout indie hit, “Romanticide.” A stellar Pure Pop song with crisp production by Ian Taylor of Psychedelic Furs/early Ministry records. The EP was recorded at The Cars Syncro Sound studio and retains that perfect Cars gloss that went a long way in reassuring labels back then. The glimmering keyboards and soaring vocals of John Kellogg found their perfect counterpoint in the rhythm section of bassist Angus Thomas and drummer Rick Neuhaus.

EMI America |US | EP | 1983 | DLP-19005

Combo Audio: Combo Audio – US – EP [1983]

  1. Romanticide 3:10
  2. Military English 3:28
  3. Hi-Fidelity Situations 4:09
  4. Shadow Occupations 4:29

I’ve got the song “Romanticide” committed to memory. It’s that great! But I’ve yet to actually play the entire record, so I’ve not really heard the other three tunes! What’s really pathetic, was that I specifically sat down a couple years ago to digitize the EP and only had enough time to get through side A before it was time to go to bed and the topic was apparently abandoned. Owing to the usual dearth of time to carefully play records I’ve owned for possibly longer than you’ve been alive.

I’ve given some thought to compiling a CD series of New Wave EPs that would cover a lot of ground, but as I investigate, Combo Audio likely have sufficient material to make a full disc of their music. The early 1982 version of “Romanticide” is about 30 seconds longer and is undoubtedly an earlier recording. The disc is affordable and I should grab one soon.

Secret Records | US | 1982 | CA-10051

Combo Audio: Romanticide – US – 7″ [1982]

  1. Romanticide 3:42
  2. It’s A Crime 2:36

The band were signed to EMI America for their EP but got quickly cut free, and three years later they were giving it another shot on an indie CHI label, Windy City Records. Who managed two releases according to Discogs. This being half of the label’s output. The label showed credits shared between Kellogg and two other musicians, so the lineup was obviously fluid.

Windy City Records | US | 12″ | 1986 | WCR-1202

Combo Audio: Stand! – US – 12″ ]1986]

  1. Stand! [Action Mix] 5:40
  2. Stand! [Radio Mix] 3:40
  3. Stand! [Dub Mix] 5:23

So that’s about 35 minutes of music. Thin, for a CD but fate intervenes and there is a Combo Audio page in Bandcamp where…gloryoski! John Kellog has re-recorded/remixed the EP songs to own a master and a cursory listen showed that he hit pretty close to my memories. He’s certainly lost nothing vocally. The Bandcamp DL has ten tracks, including some binaural headphone mixes of the EP and even a new Kellogg sing, “Day By Day.”

I might just be able to fit this all onto an 80 minute CD-R, making the Compleat Combo Audio, because somebody’s got to do it! But first I have to buy a few records which, for a change, won’t break the bank. Come back in seven years to see where we stand on this one.


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Want List: Fripp Offers Two More ‘Drive To 1981’ Titles On Stand-Alone CD

A few weeks ago we were stunned by the enormity of the “Exposures” BSOG featuring all of Robert Fripp’s solo work from 1977-1981. I was intrigued to see that new 2021 remasterings of the “God Save The Queen/Under Heavy Manners” and “Let The Power Fall” albums were in it but I did not have the time or resources to buy a $205 box of 32 CDs just to get the two albums. How lovely that saner heads have prevailed and anyone who wants those canonical albums on the silver disc can now get them easily at an individual price.

robert fripp - god save the queen under heavy manners cover art
DGM | US | CD | 2022 | DGM5025

Robert Fripp: God Save The Queen/Under Heavy Manners DLX RM – US – CD [2022]

  1. Red Two Scorer
  2. God Save The Queen
  3. 1983
  4. Under Heavy Manners
  5. The Zero Of The Signified
  6. God Save the King
  7. Music on Hold

The new remaster by the tireless David Singleton, who is kept verrrry busy overseeing the Discipline Global Mobile empire of releases. It features the original contents of the 1979 LP along with two relevant bonus tracks. “God Save The King” was the [then new] title track of the 1985 CD mashup of this album and the “League Of Gentlemen” LP. “Music On Hold” was a new track that was discovered while researching the “Exposures” set [and its 25+ discs of unreleased material] and deemed worthy on inclusion here.

robert fripp let the power fall cover art
DGM | US | CD | 2022 | DGM5026

Robert Fripp: Let The Power Fall DLX RM – US – CD [2022]

  1. 1984
  2. 1985
  3. 1986
  4. 1987
  5. 1988
  6. 1989
  7. 1984 [single edit]
  8. 1984 [mix one]
  9. 1984 [mix two]

There has been a 1989 CD of “Let The Power Fall” but I was completely unaware of it until recent years and its OOP cost was above my pain threshold. I only ever got even the LP about ten years ago. In the time of release, Fripp seemed to be releasing more albums than I could keep up with at the time. This came just weeks after “League Of Gentlemen” which I was far from done listening to at the time. Not knowing what Bill Nelson had in store for us a few years later! So like the album above, this too was earmarked for a REVO edition that now, I’ll not have to bother making.

Notably, the “League Of Gentlemen” album seems to be the one release that is not getting reissued in any form; even in the megabox. Making my decision to make my own disc of it in 2017 a wise decision. The discs are out on July 1st and are available in the following formats:

  • God Save The Queen/Under Heavy Manners CD – £10.50/$15.00
  • God Save The Queen/Under Heavy Manners LP – £23.99
  • Let The Power Fall CD – £10.50/$15.00
  • Let The Power Fall LP – £23.99

Notably, the LP option is missing from the US Inner Knot DGM store, leaving [apparently] the UK Burning Shed store as one’s only recourse to buying the titles on LP. But if you’re like me, you should already have the original pressings, yes? And if you’re reading this far, you are aware that we’re all about the silver disc her at PPM! Street date for the releases is July 1st, 2022, so budget accordingly and hit that button.

US CD Preorder

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UK CD/LP Preorder

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Record Review: EBN-OZN – “AEIOU [Sometimes Y]” US 12″

By early 1983, MTV was a vector of infection for lots of “New Music” as it was being called in the media. There was a lot of synthetic, Dance Music being bandied about with bands getting a leg up on MTV for their video to get into light-medium rotation. It was still the “wild west” period for MTV but that would end by the next year. The gatekeepers were not yet calcified into place.

I think I was watching MTV in the afternoon when I caught the video for Ebn-Ozn’s “AEIOU [Sometimes Y].” The random wave synth and the programmed bass line immediately caught my attention in the intro so this was something new on MTV …which at that point was almost nothing but new things. This EBN-OZN seemed to be a rare US-based synth duo. Which was typically a UK phenomenon. There was the suit-wearing member [Ned Liben] and the lead vocalist, who seemed every inch the mashup between David Lee Roth and Nick Beggs, of Kajagoogoo!

As the song progressed, it turned out the be something different. A dance track that was not really sung, but spoken by the vocal member [Robert Rosen] outlining an initially thwarted but ultimately successful linkup with “an incredible looking Swedish girl” on the teeming streets of NYC. It was by turns, funny, witty, and charming as it presented this slightly scoundrelly guy on the make who couldn’t help but win you over by the end of his spiel.

It was the era when my friends and I would go out on a Friday night and shop for records. On rare occasions, we went to the mall, and Orlando had the “Factory Outlet Mall” which had a record store in it [I think it was Record Bar…] and while I rarely shopped there, when I did they had a 12″ single deal that was pretty good. You could always get three US 12″ singles [$4.98 list] for $12.99. Hey…two bucks is two bucks!

I can vividly remember each of the three US 12″ers I bought on this spring evening 39 years ago. Simple Minds “Promised You A Miracle,” Spandau Ballet’s “Lifeline,” and Ebn-Ozn’s “AEIOU [Sometimes Y].” As it would turn out, nearly 40 years later, I have many dozens of Simple Minds and Spandau Ballet releases in my Record Cell, but only three from Ebn-Ozn. That’s because that’s all there ever were to buy.

ebn-ozn AEIOU[sometimes Y] cover art
Elektra | US | 12″ | 1983 | 0-67915

Ebn-Ozn: AEIOU [Sometimes Y] – US – 12″ [1983]

  1. AEIOU [Sometimes Y] [long ver.] 7:38
  2. AEIOU [Sometimes Y] [dub ver.] 7:30

The 12″ version of this cut was almost twice as long as the 3:58 7″ video version. The mix was by John Luongo so it came by its club floor proclivities honestly. It proffered a beefy, substantial sound with heavy emphasis on the Fairlight sampling keyboard. In looking up the provenance of Ned Liben, I’m shocked/not shocked to see that in 1981 he was guitarist and engineer for the AOR band Riff Raff who made less than a splash at the time with their past-its-sell-by-date bluster that wasn’t even as cool as Loverboy! Listening to the music on “AEIOU [Sometimes Y],” Liben obviously knew how to craft muscular music, that was not the typical airy Synthpop that often seemed to be insubstantially wispy. [see: Kajagoogoo]

This record had oomph. I liked the “vocal characterizations” that Ozn added to the mix. He seemed to be acting the song instead of singing it. And the busy arrangement had plenty of time for interesting nooks and crannies to get lost in. Boredom was not an option. I especially liked his apparent impersonation of Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes explaining the role of vowels in language. At least I’d swear he had Nick in mind when he stepped up to the mic that day.

The record followed the format of the 7″ version up until the “Latin Metal” drum machine solo before the middle eight commenced and the rest of the song got much stranger. With various non sequitur interjections, climaxing in the multi-varispeed instances of “I dare you to play this record” before the mix wrapped up to take us back to the more structured portion for the fade, with Ozn laying out the ground rules for his new partner.

The B-side dub mix began with the main synth riff isolated against the drumbeats that sounded exactly like the intro to Erasure’s “A Little Respect!” I’d swear that Vince Clarke had heard this sound and it stuck in his head five years later. Then the hi-hat came in as the track built up to the fully dense sound of the song, bar, by bar. After a minute we were in familiar territory. Backing vocals and voice interjections were sparingly dubbed into the track but eventually it was about three minutes of familiar turf. Then the last two minutes and a half minutes were a dubbed breakdown of more isolated riffs until the final fade.

ebn-ozn - feeling cavalier cover art
Elektra | US | LP | 1984 | 60319-1

I later went on to buy the other 12″ single [promo only] of “Bag Lady” and the “Feeling Cavalier” album but as much fun as “AEIOU [Sometimes Y]” was, I’ve yet to spin the LP in the 30 or so years I’ve had one. There was a Wounded Bird CD in the early noughts that I didn’t bite on it since it lacked in any bonus mixes from 12″ singles. Sure, sure. The LP mix of “AEIOU [Sometimes Y]” was only a minute shorter than the 12″ version, but it was the principle of the thing. Now the CD is OOP. Maybe I’ll do a REVO edition with everything on it? [looks] Whoops. The “AEIOU [Sometimes Y]” US 7″ had a 4:45 instrumental mix on it that looks unique. [mental note to self]

The single came out many months before the LP but I’ll bet that taming the wild Fairlight meant that crafting this album took a lot of midnight oil on EBN’s part. The LP was released the next year in 1984 and probably missed its peak window for the most impact. The band split up by 1985 and EBN went onto be the Fairlight programmer on Scritti Politti’s “Cupid + Psyche ’85” so there’s some immortality there. He was a session player on numerous other [less interesting] records. He died suddenly in 1998 of a heart attack.

Robert Rosen had come from a Broadway acting background [as if we couldn’t tell] and had tumbled into this gig following a tour with “Pirates of Penzance.” Afterward, he went on to do scriptwork and producing for film and TV. He eventually changed his last name to OZN; producing House Music under the DaDa NaDa name. He also became a bisexual activist; eventually serving as a chairperson on the Los Angeles Bi Task Force.

All fascinating, but at the end of the day, give me the near-novelty value of this single as the thing to remember them by. It was a sampling synth goof that came at exactly the right time to make an impact and move along in that exciting time when MTV was goosing the lives of many a one-hit wonder. And as the saying goes, it’s better than being a no-hit wonder.


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Catching Up With Jan Linton: “Melatonin” EP And “Byzantine Remixes” Showcase Point Where Dance And Art Rock Meld Together

jan linton monktone
the never obvious guitar of Jan Linton

While Jan Linton contributed guitar atmospherics on the new Steven Jones + Logan Sky single, Mr. Sky returned the favor and mastered the new Jan Linton single. Symmetrical. I got the notice recently that Mr. Linton had issued a new EP called “Melatonin” and so last weekend, I went to his Bandcamp store and bought this single as well as the last EP of remixes that came out late last year, as I’m rocking a low music budget in these tricky times.

But I always think that money spent on Jan Linton music is stoking that art rock hunger that is often neglected in ways that few artists are serving these days. And certainly not with his impressive facility with so many instruments and voice. He’s fully capable of going full Prince/Rundgren if need be, though this time Todd Lewis contributed bass and synth strings.

jan linton melatonin cover art
Bandcamp | DL/CD | 2022

Jan Linton: Melatonin – DL/CD [2022]

  1. Melatonin [radio mix]
  2. Melatonin [extended version] • CD only
  3. Crosses of Light • CD only
  4. Goodnight Mr. Ginger • CD only

Begining with a vocoder intoning “melatonin,” the implacable rhythm track cut right to the heart of the affair with a brash motorik variation based around squelchy samples that made me recall the similarly powerful beats to the London mix of Dolby and Sakamoto’s “Field Work.” So right off we knew what was at stake here. The sustained synth string built an eerie calmness amid the prominent beats and then Linton delivered the coup de grace, with an elegant descending eBow figure undulating through the song. Giving the song a bold, confident, yet sensual demeanor that showed that it was earning its call outs to Dolby and Sakamoto.

As impressive as that synth pair were, they lacked the guitar finesse that Linton carries across the finish line here. Todd Lewis’ bass guitar was also more than keeping up with the program here with some powerful, melodic playing. And Linton’s vocal was floating above the calm center of this mantra of a song. I loved the impossibly sustained eBow drone note that the radio mix ended on, but the extended version won further plaudits for its impressive coda which gave the bass guitar time in the spotlight for a potent solo before a recursion back to the intro motif. Why not check out the radio mix, below.

The other two songs were quite different with “Crosses of Light” working within a freeform space where the luscious reverb of the guitar licks glinted like sunlight dappling on the surface of a shady lake before coalescing into a slow-paced march tempo. The pulsating bass synths moved us forward, but the billowing clouds of guitar harmonics diffused the energy of the song into dozens of eddies and currents.

The pizzicato strings and the drumbox rim hits brought a crystalline pop sensibility to “Goodnight Mr. Ginger” that made me recall China Crisis. And the intro featured some of the highest pitched frequencies I’d ever heard in a song. Not since “Pretty Little Things” by Shriekback in 1986, actually! After the intro, the mood turned melancholy, with a cavernous acoustic space swallowing up the music and giving it a coloration of bittersweet nostalgia.

Then the juxtaposition of a rather funky rhythm track, redolent of Cabaret Voltaire’s “Shakedown [The Whole Thing]” shocked me from left field! This song was taking in a lot of sonic territory, while the assured crooning of Mr. Linton ultimately cast a languid spell on the song. The expansive, instrumental middle eight went for full eclecticism as the flute solo harked back to the Mel Collins era of King Crimson! If these songs were a glimpse inside the current head of Jan Linton then I can only ask, “more, please!”

Right now the DL is just of “Melatonin [radio mix]” and it’s yours for $1.00, but this weekend there will be a hard copy CD-R option with all four tracks we’ve discussed here for $5.50. But there’s also a bundle 2xCD option with the EP we’ll discuss next.

jan linton byzantine remixes cover art
Bandcamp | DL/CD | 2021

Jan Linton: Byzantine Remixes – DL/CD [2021]

  1. Byzantine 2021
  2. Byzantine – Desert Skies [dance mix]
  3. Loving You Is Hard [forever mix]
  4. Byzantine [ambient reprise 2021]
  5. Byzantine [urban shuffle mix] • CD only
  6. Byzantine [gothic garage mix] • CD only

This was a revisit of a vintage Linton song, “Oinaru Sekai [true nirvana]” from a 1991 song from a Japanese release by Linton. It began with a laid back acoustic ballad version recorded last year on the 30th anniversary of the song that featured curiously stentorian backing vocals at the climax, though buried in the mix.

The remixes from Frameshift moved the song outside of its box considerably. The dance mix brought a Eurohouse sensibility to the no longer laid back track. The string synth loops circled their vibe while the urgent rhythms raised its energy levels higher. Linton’s voice was filtered and chorused for some emotional distance. I’m thankful that the full vocal was employed here, keeping this a song while functioning as dance music as well. As we know, the two disciplines don’t always overlap. The 5:55 dance mix was a completely different track that explored a darker vibe.

The isolated guitar in the intro to “Loving You is Hard [forever mix]” was the only instance I can recall where Linton’s guitar was actually brash and engaged Rock guitar tone. Though the song eventually had plumes of guitar synth that was more of what I’ve come to expect from the hands of Mr. Linton. Meanwhile the new, urgent rhythms managed to unite ambient Rock and Electronica into a coherent whole.

The Urban Shuffle mix of “Byzantine” was the most radical visage yet for the A-side. Synth string stabs punctuated the nearly Reggae drum pattern for a quick trip into Dub territory. The vocals were still there; keeping it a half-step away from true Dub, but tell that to the rest of the instruments. They might think otherwise. The Gothic Garage mix was built on top of an enervated house beat with the fastest tempo here. The minor key Arabic scale melody was emphasized here for a throwback to the Worldbeat-meets-Dance-Music ethos of the early 90s; not coincidentally, the origin point for the song to begin with. The program closed with a gossamer ambient reprise of the new 2021 version of the song that lasted only slightly longer than this sentence takes to read.

So right now we get something old and something new from Jan Linton. The “Melatonin” EP charted a course that showed that there was an eclectic surge of styles competing for Linton’s time and attention, and we were the beneficiaries of his willingness to investigate them all. I certainly hope that this is a precursor to another fine album since it’s been four years since “I Actually Come Back” first made a potent case for his talents. The work as it sits now fills a sweet spot in the spectrum that points to Bill Nelson and both Thomas Leer and Dolby as touchstones for the artistic targets he’s aiming for.

And the “Byzantine Remixes” reveal an artist revisiting their past both through their own eyes and those of others willing to further mutate the work…without mutating it beyond recognition. If you hear the siren call and want to indulge, then there are several interconnected ways to do this.

Bundles Of Joy

  • “Melatonin” DL – 1 track @ $1.00
  • “Melatonin” CD-R EP – 4 tracks @ $5.50 [on sale this weekend on Bandcamp]
  • “Byzantine Remixes” DL – 4 tracks @ $4.00
  • “Byzantine Remixes” CD-R – 6 tracks @ $8.50
  • “Melatonin/Byzantine Remixes/Buddha Machine Music” 2xCD-R+CD-3 bundle @ $10.00

The big bundle has both new EPs in their longest form with the CD-3 of “Buddha Machine Music” added as a bonus. It’s definitely the best value. The songs on the hard copy of “Melatonin” are too good to pass up, so if you are going to dive in, dive deep. You know what to do.

Melatonin DL/CD-R

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Byzantine Remixes DL/CD-R

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Poll: The Bowie Compilation Album To Have When You’re Having Only One [part 2]

[…continued form last post]

As it turns out we were a bit hasty with last posting. I focused on some titles at the expense of others due to the time factor in writing these posts. PPM is written during my lunch hour as it’s usually the most free time I have during the day. But as the plentiful comments to the last post have made clear, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

When it comes down to anthologizing Bowie’s decade of 1970-1980, there were several other titles that I shamefully neglected last post. I knowingly left out “ChangesTwoBowie” for no good reason that I could ascertain. And then I forgot all about this one!

RCA | US | LP | 1982 | ABL1-4239

David Bowie: Original Soundtrack From the Film ChristianE F. – US – LP [1982]

  1. V-2 Schneider
  2. TVC-15 [7″ 3:29 edit]
  3. Heroes / Helden [unique Eng/Ger. mashup mix]
  4. Boys Keep Swinging
  5. Sense Of Doubt
  6. Station To Station [live]
  7. Look Back In Anger
  8. Stay [3:21 US 7″ edit]
  9. Warszawa

david bowie - heroes-helden cover artThe OST to “Christiane F.” was released to the 1981 German film “Christiane F. Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo” based on the harrowing memoir of being a teenage heroin addict living in Berlin in the late 70s. Here we see the belated 1982 US release of the album, which now sported a collage with a prominent image of Bowie’s performance as himself in the film. The mix here was strictly on the “Stationtostation” through “Lodger” era, and thus was an unimpeachable focus on the second half of Bowie’s golden decade. Glad to see the jaunty “V-2 Schneider” here but there were a pair of seven inch edits here as well as the live version of “Station To Station” from “Stage” and the German-only mashup of the English/German versions of “Heroes/Helden” at seen at right. In all honesty, this was the Bowie music that teenage Germans should have been listening to in the late 70s, but it was a shame about all of the drugs and prostitution.

RCA | US | LP | 1981 | AFL1-4202

Davie Bowie: ChangesTwoBowie – US – LP [1981]

  1. Aladdin Sane [1913-1938-197?] / On Broadway
  2. Oh! You Pretty Things
  3. Starman
  4. 1984
  5. Ashes To Ashes
  6. Sound And Vision
  7. Fashion
  8. Wild Is The Wind
  9. John I’m Only Dancing (Again) 1975
  10. D.J.

1981 brought a much needed update to the “Changes#” series of Bowie greatest hits compilations, and I always discounted this one, because instead of picking up in 1977 and moving to 1980, it tried to have things both ways. But having only four tracks from “Low” to “Scary Monsters [And Super Creeps]” was a huge error to my eyes. Six of the cuts here retread the same 1972-1976 territory of “ChangesOneBowie.” [insert foghorn SFX] This album should have been able to dive deep into the fertile growth period Bowie had in that time period. When he made my absolute favorite of his music.

Adding insult to injury was the cover design, with a mediocre full color Greg Gorman portrait that had a terrible type treatment as well. It looked enough like the layout to “ChangesOneBowie” to remind you how much better that cover looked in comparison. And it was cheating to include “Wild Is the Wind” just because some RCA exec thought it could stand as a single five years later on the strength of its inclusion here. I remember seeing the video they made for that on MTV in 1982 and being incredulous that they went back in 1981 to make one. The band in the clip had Bowie’s PA Coco Schwab as the guitarist [!] though Mel Gaynor [soon to join Simple Minds] and Tony Visconti were miming as the rhythm section.

RCA | US | LP | 1983 | PL 14792

David Bowie: Golden Years – US – LP [1983]

  1. Fashion
  2. Red Sails
  3. Look Back In Anger
  4. I Can’t Explain
  5. Ashes To Ashes
  6. Golden Years
  7. Joe The Lion
  8. Scary Monsters [And Super Creeps]
  9. Wild Is The Wind

Finally, there was yet another “Let’s Dance” cash-in compilation from RCA with deceptive coloration called “Golden Years” that The Press Music Reviews alerted me to as I was not even aware of this one. With that cover shot from the “Serious Moonlight” tour, they could have called it “Golden Skin.” Even “Golden Hair!” He looked oppressively yellow and despite what Bowie himself thought about that, it was clearly not his best color

The music it contained seemed to be pretty random with it being yet another ’76-’80 era compilation, but the devil here was in the details. And the details were actually the most interesting thing about this LP. RCA thought it was a good idea to pull tracks from the set lists that Bowie was selling to the “Let’s Dance” tour audience that dated back to his late 70s RCA era! So if Johnny went to see the “Serious Moonlight” tour and wondered about all of those other songs Bowie sang, here they were in a single E-Z package for purchase. Incredible.

Now we’ll repost the poll with all of these albums. Anyone who has already voted may do so again. I could have repopulated your earlier vote in the new poll, but what if you had preferred “ChangesTwoBowie?” It’s not my cup of tea, but your mileage may vary.


Posted in Bowie, Core Collection, Mid-80s Malaise, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Poll: The Bowie Compilation Album To Have When You’re Having Only One [part 1]

I was looking at the latest feed on Discogs and noticed a Bowie compilation that was new to me this morning. “Chameleon” was an Australian/New Zealand compilation new to me, and with a very dated line in airbrush art using the now hoary cut-up matrix of Bowie archetypes forming a collage of his various looks. But a glance at the contents was more inspiring! Like all of the compilations we’ll review today, it attempts to be a single disc LP that encompassed the crucial 1970-1980 period upon which Bowie’s reputation actually rests.

And that got me thinking of the practicality of making a single LP that could most successfully make the case of Bowie’s artistic relevance to the 70s and beyond. So I started looking at the other compilations for the artist. I discounted the several in the 70s that compiled his proto-“Space Odyssey” material as being of marginal interest at best. What we wanted to consider here were the albums that captured Bowie at his artistic peak. The sort of album that would act as a gateway drug to a lifetime of Bowie fandom. Seeing if there was a clear leader in the field. We’ll start with the grand daddy of them all.

david bowie - changesonebowie cover art
RCA Victor | US | LP | 1976 | APL1-1732

David Bowie: ChangesOneBowie – US – LP [1976]

  1. Space Oddity
  2. John, I’m Only Dancing
  3. Changes
  4. Ziggy Stardust
  5. Suffragette City
  6. The Jean Genie
  7. Diamond Dogs
  8. Rebel Rebel
  9. Young Americans
  10. Fame
  11. Golden Years

In 1979, a friend was taking a trip to visit his older brother who had a famously large collection of albums. I gave my friend a few blank tapes and asked him to tape me a few to expand my horizons. The tape I can vividly remember 43 years later was significant. One side was “Ziggy Stardust” and the other was “Changesonebowie.” I had only heard a handful of Bowie songs on the radio by 1979, so “Changesonebowie” was perhaps the most expansive “greatest hits” album possible, with many of the tunes new to my teenage ears. All of them were great songs! And the introspective Hollywood glam shot of Bowie on the cover by Tom Kelley oozed class, intelligence, and panache. Picking up the design cues from the then just out “Stationtostation” didn’t hurt a single bit.

The one failure for the album I can possibly suggest, was that owing to its release in the spring of 1976, it missed out on the apogee of Bowie’s artistic growth arc. Which I would maintain peaked in the ’76-’80 period. So, as wonderful an enticement to Bowie fandom that this is, it’s missing what I would consider the best work of his career. And in a hard-to-believe factoid, I’ve never owned a copy.

david bowie - Bowie Now cover art
RCA | USP | LP | 1978 | DJL1-2697

David Bowie: Bowie Now – USP – LP [1978]

  1. V-2 Schneider
  2. Always Crashing In The Same Car
  3. Sons Of The Silent Age
  4. Breaking Glass
  5. Neuköln
  6. Speed Of Life
  7. Joe The Lion
  8. What In The World
  9. Blackout
  10. Weeping Wall
  11. The Secret Life Of Arabia

This was a US promo designed to get reticent, stick-in-the-mud US DJs and Program Directors to possibly play the two “weird” new albums that Bowie issued in 1977 to deaf ears on the US radio waves. I can say that until I bought my “Nice Price” budget RCA copies of “Low” and “Heroes” in 1981 I had never heard a note from these opuses. Which was a crying shame! This compilation alternated cuts from each of the albums in question and while none would balk at the selections, there was always so much more that could have been included!

I can’t believe that “Heroes” or “Beauty + The Beast” were not here. Nor “Sound + Vision” or “Be My Wife,” either! But, aaaaah…! This was the only one with “The Secret life Of Arabia!” That counted for a lot. In 2018, this album was reissued commercially on white vinyl for Record Store Day, so if it calls to you, it won’t cost an arm and a leg if you can do without an original pressing.

Starcall Records | OZ | LP | 1979 | STAR 101n

David Bowie: Chameleon – OZ – LP [1979]

  1. Starman
  2. Aladdin Sane
  3. Sorrow
  4. Diamond Dogs
  5. 1984
  6. Breaking Glass
  7. Heroes
  8. V-2 Schneider
  9. Beauty And The Beast
  10. Boys Keep Swinging
  11. D.J.
  12. Look Back In Anger

Now this is a fascinating playlist! Side one is a quick sweep through 72-74 before getting deep into the Proto-Post-Punk peak of Bowie with seven tracks from the “Berlin Trilogy” of ’77-’79! With my taste in Bowie, this one was weighted very surprisingly to the modern sounds that I appreciated the most. And you were gifted with “Heroes” and “Beauty + The Beast” this time! That’s more like it! Early material got short shrift, but at the end of the day, this playlist fascinates me as it seems the work of a kindred spirit. Tracking down one of these in the northern hemisphere might prove difficult, but if I saw one <$10 it would be mine in a heartbeat. Used prices in the US range from $16-$200+ on Discogs, for what it’s worth.

david bowie - all clear 1980 cover art
RCA | USP | LP | 1979 | DJL1-3545

David Bowie: 1980 All Clear – USP – LP [1979]

  1. The Man Who Sold The World
  2. Space Oddity
  3. Ziggy Stardust
  4. Panic In Detroit
  5. Always Crashing In The Same Car
  6. 1984
  7. Golden Years
  8. Fascination
  9. Heroes
  10. Boys Keep Swinging

This one is actually in my Record Cell due to the thoughtful ministrations of my loved one, who keeps a sharp eye peeled for this sort of thing in her travels. Of course, The Glam Rock Nun is a Bowie fan too! It’s got crucial songs like “Space Oddity” and “Ziggy Stardust” but had lots of room for fascinating deep cuts like the electric “Panic In Detroit” or “1984.” And this was the only one with anything from “The Man Who Sold The World.” While still keeping the door open for some of the late 70s canon. A very well curated selection. I might not like this more than “Chameleon,” but I might agree that it was on objectively “better” a representation of the breadth of Bowie’s music.

david bowie - best of bowir K-Tel cover art
K-Tel | UK | LP | 1980 | NE 1111

David Bowie: The Best Of Bowie – UK – LP [1980]

  1. Space Oddity
  2. Life On Mars
  3. Starman
  4. Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
  5. John, I’m Only Dancing
  6. The Jean Genie
  7. Breaking Glass
  8. Sorrow
  9. Diamond Dogs
  10. Young Americans
  11. Fame
  12. Golden Years
  13. TVC 15
  14. Sound And Vision
  15. Heroes
  16. Boys Keep Swinging

Here’s another one that I ran across and bought just for the sake of it! This was the only K-Tel artist compilation that might appeal to me [apart from “The Magic of ABBA®]. Aside from “Heroes,” it’s lacking most of my absolute peak favorites, but this was still a very strong selection. Possibly the strongest yet in this review.

The critical factor here, though, and to its technical detriment, was that many of these songs were edited down from their LP versions in unique edits to cram sixteen [16 HITS – 16!] Bowie tunes onto a single LP. of course, that was precisely why I bought this! Those obscure Bowie edits that appeared nowhere else were a magnet to me. The cover design, carried over from the then-current Edward Bell “Fashion” single, didn’t hurt either.

david bowie - fame a+ fashion cover art
RCA | US | CD | 1984 | PCD1-4919

David Bowie: Fame + Fashion – US – CD [1984]

  1. Space Oddity
  2. Changes
  3. Starman
  4. 1984
  5. Young Americans
  6. Fame
  7. Golden Years
  8. TVC 15
  9. “Heroes”
  10. D.J.
  11. Fashion
  12. Ashes To Ashes

This was the last Bowie compilation that drew upon the era in question here. And like some of the ones we’ve already discussed, it drew upon the then-current Bowie style for its visage. Unfortunately, this was the “Let’s Dance” era and the “Geraldine Ferraro” look of Bowie’s that I have exactly zero time for! I find it interesting that “Rebel Rebel” from “Diamond Dogs” was hard to find on any of these, yet “1984,” what I would consider a deep cut, was on half of these albums. I find that strange.

To its credit, this was the only one that had the singles from “Scary Monsters” in the running, which was a real benefit. I ran across my CD copy in the wilderness years where Bowie on the silver disc was impossibly scarce, so I was happy to have this CD. It was well-balanced, if lacking in many of my absolute favorites. But a shame about the cover. Not to mention the scabrous state of whatever masters RCA dredged up to digitize for this one! Some of these songs sound as if they were sourced from flexi-discs!

There would be many Bowie compilations to come down the pike in the next 37 years, but most of them were multi disc CD sets that allowed for much greater depth of inclusion. But there was something to be said for the succinct challenge of making a single LP that could capture all of the many facets to this artist. And the attempt to make each one of these albums was a noble attempt to count the number of angels who could dance on the head of a Bowie-shaped pin.


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Record Review: It’s Immaterial – Space UK 12″

it's immaterial - space cover art
Siren | UK | 12″ | 1986 | SIREN 34-12

It’s Immaterial: Space – UK – 12″ [1986]

  1. Space…He Called From The Kitchen
  2. Hereby Hangs A Tale
  3. Space

I’d heard “Driving Away From Home” by It’s Immaterial quite a bit as it got the band in the public eye in the musically depressing mid-80s. I’d been aware of the band since hearing an early version of “Washing The Air” back in 1982 on a SFX cassette, but their time spent on local Liverpudlian labels completely missed the sleepy Central Florida where I lived. So it was four years later when the band seemingly re-erupted fully formed from the head of Virgin’s Siren imprint.

The second single that popped up on 120 Minutes was the stunning video for “Space.” As directed by Peter Care, it used the same crane that had jolted my eyes on Cab Volt’s “Sensoria” clip a couple of years earlier, but managed to juxtapose singer John Campbell wildly in the frame via various methods of rigging relative to the moving camera for an exceptionally “spacious” effect.

The 12″ single was bereft of such visual stimuli but made up for it in the musical department. The expansive Bert Bevans remix offered more spotlight to the TR-808 beatbox and the expressive bass to emphasize the funk in this deceptively dry song. The bass player was uncredited, but to my ears, the end effect is almost the same sound that Peter Gabriel and Tony Levin achieved on Gabriel’s life-changing third album. I don’t know if the budget was there for Levin, but the sound was pretty close to these ears!

Almost two minutes of groove played out up front before singer John Campbell calmly entered the mix with his sprechgesang dissertation on the nature of space itself that made the song so memorable. The EQ on the lead vocals were more up front on this remix than on the album track. His dryly dispassionate, matter-of-fact “voice over” technique had  a touch of David Byrne’s early delivery to it and ironically, Byrne was one of the names that the label tried to secure to produce this album, eventually ending up with a session produced by Jerry Harrison [which was largely abandoned] before settling on David Bascombe, who ultimately produced here. I was surprised when upon first listen, the climax of the song featured a female vocalist joining Mr. Campbell on the vocals. Again, the artist was uncredited on the overdub, but I felt she added an interesting counterpoint to the song without leaning too heavily on Campbell’s spotlight.

The deceptively cheerful B-side was amazing. “Hereby Hangs A Tale” was a song that referenced racism and lynching in the lyrics, replete with sampled strings and a winsome beatbox arrangement. The song’s powerful chorus was one that we can never tire of hearing and one that seems even more relevant today, then 36 years ago, when it was released.

“So tired of Old Jim Crow

Cut him loose and let him go”

“Hereby Hangs A Tale”

Unfortunately, the sophistication of It’s Immaterial fell on mostly deaf ears in their heyday. “Their earlier hit, “Driving Away From Home [Jim’s Tune],” went Top 20 in the UK but a reissue of the previous single after that, “Ed’s Funky Diner” only managed to reach #65, with the follow up of the haunting “Space” failing to chart. Well, there’s no shortage of pearls before swine in This Fallen World. I remained a fan of It’s Immaterial and was eager to follow them to their incredible sophomore album of 1990, “Song.” I would evangelize that album to any and all ears back then! Not that it was anything simple to buy in the first place. Without the catalogs I was using heavily at the time, even I would have had a hard time buying mine.


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