“Vienna” Gets Ultrabox After 40 Years As Synth Rock Touchstone [part 7]

Ultravox 1980 – playing with Kohl in my eyes…

[…continued from this post]

Well, that took forever. I had to find out what was wrong with my 5.1 tuner that I was only hearing music on three of the five speakers, and it came down to the fact that I needed to hook it directly to the TV to access the control panel UI and find the setting on the remote to tell it to play Dolby Digital from all five speakers [and the subwoofer!]. I only have the laserdisc player and the DVD player directly inputting to the [olde fashioned CRT] television. I thought the “auto” button and a setting of “Dolby Digital” on the tuner itself would take care of business. More bad interface design, yet I still can’t get a job in UX anymore because I don’t have a degree in that discipline. Sigh. Then having solved the problem [over a rough five hours of plodding through the thick manual] I still needed to find the hour or so to actually play the disc. This was done last week on a day off of work! And now we are ready to sew this patient up for good!

It started with “Astradyne,” as usual. The CR78 “metal beat” was ticking in the rear speakers with the bass drum in center channel. The bass synth drop in the middle movement of the long instrumental panned around the room while the metal beat swirled around the listener, who was rooted to the “sweet spot.” The style Wilson was aiming for was a subtle 5.1 that occasionally panned for effect but mostly expanded the soundstage for a wider apparent space.

On “New Europeans,” the emphasis shifted with Midge Ure coming into the mix with his vocals. as in a film closeup, he was isolated in center channel with a very dry production as opposed to the Plank mix we’ve known for 40 years. This song really was the one to let us know that weer were in 5.1 territory since the grinding , distorted synth hook in the chorus always sounded three dimensional even in 2.0. Here, it was actually coiling around the listener as it had wanted to for all of those years. The drums were also in center channel while the viola iin the instrumental solo was much more prominent here. I can’t say i ever noticed it on the stereo mix much at all. A greater ambience on the filtered voice of Ure in the middle eight also took advantage of the new space well. This is the song that will make you sit still for such a sound in your living room.

By the third song I was discerning the stylistic approach of Wilson’s mix when the cymbal crashes were panned front left. He would stick to this fairly consistently throughout the disc. Ure’s vocals had differing effects on them as compared to the Plank mix. The ambience was tight on the verses but the song really opened up on the choruses. The care taken with Ure’s vocals finally had me discerning exactly what he was singing after decades of mis-hearing things. The great false ending had the song pull itself apart into two channels with the distorted scream [never really discernible on the Plank mix] panning right. The fading coda had the ambience of the song getting wider and larger as it ended.

A big difference in “Passing Strangers” was the prominence of the bass in the mix. Ure was extremely dry and isolated, as was the style here. The synthesizer freakout in the middle eight let me hear the viola in the rear channels as the soundstage got very wide for what is still perhaps my favorite synth riffing of all time. The sequencer was in the front and Cross’ bass was really popping out to become noticed. When Ure was singing I noticed that the soundstage tightened up to contrast with the “zones of expansion.”

The swooshing synth intro to “Sleepwalk” now panned in three dimensions! The metallic percussion was left front dominant with the cymbal crashes spread wide between left front and rear right. The pizzicato synth hook was extremely three dimensional. What I’ll call the “radar” synth was more prominent. And the soundstage got wider on the fadeout.

Warren Cann sounded very much like a newly energized presence on “Mr. X.” Very up front int he mix and quite three dimensional. The higher frequency synths were wide in the rear channels. The “cicada” rhythm was panned right and the tremolo synth work was as three dimensional as Cann was. The viola ambience skewed very wide and this one, along with “New Europeans” was so far the cuts to show off where this album was peaking in 5.1. I loved how Cann retreated to a ghostly presence in the fadeout.

I was eager to see how “Western Promise” sounded. It was my first favorite upon hearing the album for the first time and it’s managed stay in my pole position 40 years afterward. The distinctive sequencer energy was panned back and forth and then to back. Hi-hats were high in the right channel and I can’t remember ever hearing them before. Where Ure was nominally dry in the earlier mixes, here he was slathered with reverb for a change. When he shouted “hai!” it was wide and expansive, but less percussive than I’ve grown accustomed to. I did like how the sequencer in the fade swirled around the listener.

With “Vienna” we can expect that excessive liberties would not have been taken. The thundercrack drums were panned wide and expansive with lots of space given to the reverb. Ure was super close, dry, and intimate in the setting. The chorus swelled in the rear channels and the piano solo had a wide ambience that panned from rear to front channels.

I was crestfallen to note that there was now a longer gap between the final sound of “Vienna’s” fade and the syndrum beats that announced “All Stood Still.” The timing of pauses in track flow really sit with you after 40 years. There was a noticeable gap of a second or two that raised red flags with me. Warren [and Chris’?] BVs were more diffuse against Ure’s leads; weakening the call and response aspect of the song.

That was it for the album. Three of the four B-sides were in 5.1. For reason’s known only to Steve Wilson, “Herr. X” was on the DVD in 2.0 only. I loved the wide ambience on the intro of “Waiting.” The tremolo synth was panned from left to right. The chorus now swirled around the listener most impressively. The ambience on the chorus was amazing and the outro fade I had already loved in 2.0 was even better in 5.1.

For “Passionate Reply,” the claptrap echoed wide and was highly isolated in the mix for a sharper presence. Ure’s guitar lines were warm and enveloped the listener and his spoken middle eight was more prominent. Cann’s vocal turn [heavy panting, at least] on “Alles Klar” was very up front, sounding like jet engines now. His sighs in the mix, which were almost subliminal on the Plank mix, now decayed around the listener. The distinctive “all’s clear” bass synth hook that sounded too minimized in the 2.0 mix had been returned to prominence in 5.1 with excellent ambience giving it the spotlight. This was one instance where the 5.1 corrected what was a “problem” for me in the 2.0 remix. Warren’s sighs on the outro were absolutely haunting in 5.1.



When I was first alerted to an ultrabox for “Vienna” I was mostly excited for the live CD but was only somewhat excited for the rest of the package. The live album was still all of that and more. Realistically, I may listen to the album in 5.1 maybe one more time in my life. It’s just not convenient for me [as if one could not tell by how long it took me to write this review]. But the whole package was very deluxe and interesting without venturing into packaging or [important here] budgetary overkill. While there was initially some sense that they were milking powder from the cash cow at the end of the day I’m happy to have this thorough presentation of the great “Vienna”‘ album in my personal Record Cell. The mastering was the best it’s has in decades and as far as I can see, barring the lack of “Herr X” in 5.1 [though the DVD menu explicitly states this – suggesting that was a deliberate decision and not a gaffe] I can find no fault with any of the details of aspects of this set.

Since it sold out the vinyl on pre-sale, and the CD box probably won’t be around for too much longer, I wonder if we might see the “Rage In Eden” box in the next year? I know that would make a lot of people happy, since consensus is very high on the group’s “difficult” second album together. I bought this because I really had to, as I am the exact target for such an endeavor. But my Aztec Energy Dome is duly off to the duo of Dermot James and Simon Musselle for taking the time to do this well and to do this right. In an era when we have so many errors and flubs on what is an expansive luxury item it’s a pleasure to see the job done so well.

-30-

Posted in Core Collection, DVD, Record Review, Scots Rock | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fingerprintz Are Finally On The Shiny Silver Disc…Better Late Than Never [part 2]

fingerprintz distinguishing marks cover art
Peter Saville design on the cover of “Distinguishing Marks” with John Stalin pulp collages perforated as postcards on the cover

[…continued from last post]

The next two songs were also from the “Distinguishing Marks” campaign. The winning “Remorse Code” had all of the chops to be a great single, what with the brilliant title hook being one I had not come across yet. “All About You” was a stunningly prescient B-side to “Houdini Love” where the mood shifted away from the ringing Power pop” of the album to something more minor key and dissonant. If the album was New Wave [and it was] this B-side was post-Punk. The arrangement used dub energy throughout and the flute-like synths added reverbed atmosphere as the rhythm track went into dub space. Best of all, the lyrics were as current as one could imagine as they depicted the sort of intense, surveillance state that we live in today.

fingerprintz bohemian dance cover art

Virgin apparently jumped the gun on the band and issued “Bohemian Dance” as a single in front of the next album. It’s a fine deep cut, but didn’t sound like a single to these ears. Moreover, the band were developing their sound so quickly, that by the time they had an inkling of where they wanted to go, “Bohemian Dance” was hopelessly old hat for the band’s sound. Jimme O’Neill had been spending time in the Blitz Club and rightly sensed the New Wave Funk was on its way. But there would be some missteps along the way resulting in the fact that I own three different pressings of their third album, “Beat Noir,” to have all of the songs.Virgin apparently jumped the gun on the band and issued “Bohemian Dance” as a single in front of the next album. It’s a fine deep cut, but didn’t sound like a single to these ears. Moreover, the band were developing their sound so quickly, that by the time they had an inkling of where they wanted to go, “Bohemian Dance” was hopelessly old hat for the band’s sound. Jimme O’Neill had been spending time in the Blitz Club and rightly sensed the New Wave Funk was on its way. But there would be some missteps along the way resulting in the fact that I own three different pressings of their third album, “Beat Noir,” to have all of the songs.

fingerprintz shadowed cover art

The new sound for Fingerprints for 1981 was a continuation of the pulp noir hinted at by the previous album cover but with the songs taken from the bright sounds of pop to the dancefloor at night. The single “Shadowed” was a letter perfect slice of the form that the band were achieving. It was underpinned with wa reliance on morse code rhythm guitar and dancefloor dynamics. “Shadowed” was a perfect film noir scenario and the middle eight where a deep Scots brogue gave us the internal dialogue of a P.I. meeting a femme fatale was immense fun. Details like whipcrack synth percussion and funky clavinet loops were a world away from the sound on albums one and two.The new sound for Fingerprints for 1981 was a continuation of the pulp noir hinted at by the previous album cover but with the songs taken from the bright sounds of pop to the dancefloor at night. The single “Shadowed” was a letter perfect slice of the form that the band were achieving. It was underpinned with wa reliance on morse code rhythm guitar and dancefloor dynamics. “Shadowed” was a perfect film noir scenario and the middle eight where a deep Scots brogue gave us the internal dialogue of a P.I. meeting a femme fatale was immense fun. Details like whipcrack synth percussion and funky clavinet loops were a world away from the sound on albums one and two.

Elsewhere, “Madame X” continued the thematic scenarios of pulp fiction. It and “Echohead” were dropped from the US copy of “Beat Noir,”which was my first exposure to the album in 1981 [on Stiff Records]. But “Changing” was a delicate ballad on every version of the album where it gave some change of pace to the program. “Changing” was just O’Neill with a rhythm guitar doubled with delay, a little synth, and a hi-hat barely ticking away. Minimal, but splendid pop craft of great sensitivity.

“Touch Sense” might have been a half-step back toward the Power Pop sound of “Distinguishing Marks,” but the morse code guitar pegged it as being part of this batch of songs. “Going Going Gone” was an energetic closer to the “Beat Noir” album, but this disc was capped with the last Fingerprintz single; the amazing “The Beat Escape” and one of the later tracks the band recorded and swapped out into the second pressing of the LP.

fingerprints the beat escape cover art

“The Beat Escape” was another one of those distinctive 1981 high-pressure funk numbers like “Chant No. 1 [I Don’t Need This Pressure On].” There must have been something in the UK water that year. Probably just the prescient sense of what the Thatcher years would hold in store. For whatever reason, the tense, urgent funk vibe really prevailed.

This track was all about the sybaritic escape of the dancefloor. We should be so lucky to hear its like in a club…even now! It was not heavy on the melody, but instead it was driven by a massive, stupid beat enlivened by massed handclaps and distant vocals chanting under the driving, insistent synth bass line. It was a demand to dance even before the falsetto vocals of O’Neill started in with their repetitive strains being the only melodic development in the entire track [apart from a scant seasoning of brass injections].

In a just world, this A-side should have seen significant club play, but the funky Scots were never trendy enough for that. Which was a shame, since the vibe here with synths relegated only to the bass and the drumming and guitars proved that synths were not necessarily the only way to roll in 1981 for a funky good time. The vintage cover art perfectly captured the coiled frenzy of the music within. Here’s the 7″ mix for your edification.

Finally, one of the later songs climaxed this compilation as the dynamic “Get Civilized” showed off a Fingerprintz capable of almost anything. The arc of development from the D.I.Y. New Wave sounds of 1979 gave way to the power Pop of 1980 and dance rock of 1981. The band were very capable and O’Neill had seemingly no problem writing strong material to fit any number of scenarios. He had scored a hit early on for Lene Lovich with “Say When” but had not managed to grab the brass ring himself, and after three attempts, including the indulgence of letting the band record a new session and reissue their third album, Virgin had stuck by them for the requisite three albums. Sadly the band called it a day, with Adam Ant picking up drummer Bogdan Wiczling for “Friend Or Foe” onwards.

Jimme O’Neill then linked up with Jacqui Brookes to co-write and perform a great album of torch song material which stands as the feminine flip side to “Beat Noir.” A very stylish, an even more accomplished album. Eventually O’Neill and guitarist Cha Burnz formed The Silencers and finally managed to get some hits for themselves. But I’ve never heard that band. In the mid-80s, discretion was the better part of valor and I didn’t take the bait. I thought they would be too similar to Simple Minds of the period.

Instead, I preferred to keep my listening confined to Fingerprintz. The listener got a lot of growth and talent spread across these 22 songs, and hats off to Rubellan Remasters for having the taste and passion to make this, the first legitimate Fingerprintz CD after 41 years, finally happen in the waning days of the august format of our choice. The song selection was excellent with no complaints from this fan’s end. Each album period got the love it needed in the proper proportion, and the disc was salted with a few non-LP A/B sides in addition to 7″ and 12″ single mixes that hit many targets I would have aimed for too. In particular, the inclusion of the “Houdini Love” A-side remix and non-LP B-side! That was the one Fingerprintz record I had not yet bought for my collection and I’m happy to have this CD, sourced from the actual master taped and lovingly [as usual, for Rubellan Remasters] remastered without any brickwall nonsense, instead. Like every Rubellan Remasters disc, this one sounds phenomenally great and features a full dynamic range for pleasurable listening.

For the first time on a Rubellan Remasters CD, the liner notes featured a great interview with O’Neill filling in the details and gaps throughout the band’s brief, but eventful life. I would be so into DLX RMs of each of the Fingerprintz albums, but will probably have to do the work myself…unless this disc sells out quickly and spurs the label to continue with the program. It’s a long shot, but you know what to do! Hit that button to sample tracks and buy this gift from the New Wave gods.

post-punk monk buy button

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Posted in Designed By Peter Saville, Record Review, Scots Rock | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fingerprintz Are Finally On The Shiny Silver Disc…Better Late Than Never [part 1]

fingerprintz - bulletproof heart cover art
Rubellan Remasters ‎| US | CD | 2020 | RUBY14CD

Fingerprintz: Bullet Proof Heart – The Best of Fingerprintz – US – CD [2020]

  1. Dancing With Myself 3:15
  2. Who’s Your Friend 2:19
  3. Nervz 2:50
  4. Tough Luck 2:48
  5. Close Circuit Connection 2:58
  6. Hey Mr. Smith 2:44
  7. Fingerprince 3:08
  8. Bullet Proof Heart 4:52
  9. Amnesia 2:45
  10. Houdini Love (Single Mix) 3:06
  11. Yes Eyes 3:03
  12. Remorse Code 3:24
  13. All About You 3:32
  14. Bohemian Dance 3:49
  15. Shadowed 3:07
  16. Madame X 4:24
  17. Echohead 3:21
  18. Changing 3:46
  19. Touch Sense 4:21
  20. Going Going Gone 3:52
  21. The Beat Escape (12″ Mix) 5:52
  22. Get Civilised 4:34

I thought that it would never finally happen, but this summer marked the crossing of a real line in the sand for 35 years for me. The great Scot band Fingerprintz finally made it to the shiny silver disc in an album jam-packed with pop goodness. Even the odd spare track on a CD compilation had barely happened for this group. To this summer, only the following four Fingerprintz songs made it to a CD compilation. “Shadowed” made it to a Greek EMI CD set in…2002. “Dancing With Myself” and “Houdini Love” were on Virgin’s 40th birthday card to itself, the “New Gold Dreams” set in 2013. “The Beat Escape” made the leap just two years ago on the UMC “Rip It Up – The Story of Scottish pop” CD. And last year, “Dancing With Myself” made it to the “Big Gold Dreams” box from Cherry Red. Sad, that it took some of these songs the excuse of a Scottish themed compilation to ultimately get the nod!

fingerprintz - dancing with myself cover art

The first seven songs were from the first album period; the early singles and “The Very Dab” LP. The debut single was an earlier song called “Dancing With Myself” than the one you would probably know. The band was originally with Jimme O’Neill’s friend Step Lang on lead vocals, so he’s our host for this and the next two songs. “Dancing With Myself” won’t make me forget Billy Idol’s finest moment, but it’s a rousingly good song with punchy vocals from Lang. Having only heard later Fingerprintz with O’Neill singing, it’s a bit of a difference. Lang actually sounded more commercial to me, in that his Scot accent was not as pronounced, but you know me; a Scot accent goes a looooong way in making me deliriously happy!

fingerprintz - who's your friend cover art

The next two songs hailed from the blue vinyl “Who’s Your Friend” 7″ EP which had four songs crammed on! Step Lang’s vocalizing on the A-side was actually quite impressive as he used machine-gun articulation to syncopate with the rapid fire music. Not as anthemic as the debut single, but indicative of the band’s growing talents. The B-side, “Nervz” was about as close as the band came to the punk side of things, being as they were a quintessential New Wave band in their outlook.

fingerprintz tough luck cover art

Virgin Records weren’t hearing a future with Lang and in spite of his lack of confidence as a frontman, opined that perhaps O’Neill might make the better singer. For his part, O’Neill wasn’t convinced by the production of David Batchelor on the singles so far. Jimme reluctantly took the mic going forward, and the rest of their singles and debut album would be self-produced. But the timing on him sacking his friend and releasing a single called “Tough Luck” was perhaps unplanned – no matter how unfortunate it may have looked! On his debut on vocals, he’s a little ragged this time out, but I can’t say that it didn’t actually enhance “Tough Luck.” O’Neill’s raspy burr was entirely appropriate here. And the band had no trouble in cooking up whatever kind of energy was needed for the songs. They had no trouble going anywhere on the punk to pop scale.

fingerprintz - the very dab cover art

The last A-side was on “The Very Dab,” as were the next the next three songs. “Close Circuit Connection” was held in Virgin Canada’s esteem enough to be a single in the Great White North. The one weak track here was “Hey Mr. Smith,” a song that sure sounded like it might have been one of O’Neill’s earliest attempts. Sometimes, a track like this manages to make it on the the debut album, and it did not stand up to the standard of pop that was to be heard elsewhere on the CD. Much better was the song “Fingerprince,” which was inspired by the Residents album of the same name, even if the surveillance/peeping tom lyric was closer to what Peter Gabriel would do the next year on “Intruder.” But with the great deep backing vocals and a guitar skank snaking through it, it defused some of the creepiness.

fingerprintz bulletproof heart cover art

The switch to material from album two was profound. Gone was the grungy D.I.Y. New Wave sound to be replaced with Nick Garvey of The Motors giving the material a real power pop sheen. Almost too much on “Bulletproof Heart,” which was as anthemic as the band ever got. Not for nothing did Jim Kerr decide to cover this song on his [excellent] solo album of 2010. But the original is still the one to have.

The pure pop of “Amnesia,” the single “Houdini Love,” and the chiming perfection of “Yes Eyes” all painted a vivid picture of how this band first made an impression on me in 1980 on the “Cash Cows” sampler. The band sounded boundlessly energetic here and any tentative vocals from O’Neill were left far behind. Any fans of Power Pop who might have missed out on the ‘Distinguishing Marks” album would be well-served here by the songwriting and perfomance chops on display. To say nothing of Garvey’s powerful production.

Next: …Beat Me Up, Scotty

Posted in Designed By Peter Saville, Record Review, Scots Rock | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Want List: Bill Nelson – Transcorder – The Acquitted By Mirrors Recordings UK 2xCD

bill nelson - transcorder cover art
Sonoluxe | UK | 2xCD | 2020 | CD053

Bill Nelson: Transcorder – UK – 2xD [2020]

DISC 1

  1. ​Sleepcycle (from Cocteau Club EP#1, 1982)​
  2. Konny Buys A Kodak (from Cocteau Club EP#1, 1982)​
  3. When The Birds Return (from Cocteau Club EP#1, 1982)​
  4. The Beat That Can’t Go Wrong Today (from Cocteau Club EP#1, 1982)​
  5. King Of The Cowboys (from Cocteau Club EP#2, 1982)​
  6. Shadowland (from Cocteau Club EP#2, 1982)​
  7. Carnival (from Cocteau Club EP#2, 1982)​
  8. Spring (from Cocteau Club EP#2, 1982)​
  9. Dancing On A Knife’s Edge (from Cocteau Club EP#3, 1983)​
  10. Indiscretion (from Cocteau Club EP#3, 1983)​
  11. Contemplation (from Cocteau Club EP#3, 1983)​
  12. The World And His Wife (from Cocteau Club EP#4, 1983)​
  13. Dream Car Romantics (In Death’s Garage Antics) (from Cocteau Club EP#4, 1983)​
  14. Dancing Music (from Cocteau Club EP#4, 1983)​
  15. Hard Facts From The Fiction Department (from Cocteau Club EP#5, 1984)​
  16. Daily Bells (from Cocteau Club EP#5, 1984)​
  17. Rhythm Unit (from Cocteau Club EP#5, 1984)​
  18. Junc-Sculpture (from Cocteau Club EP#5, 1984)​

DISC 2

  1. The Strangest Things, The Strangest Times (from Cocteau Club EP#6, 1984)​
  2. Phantom Gardens (from Cocteau Club EP#6, 1984)​
  3. French Promenade (from Cocteau Club EP#6, 1984)​
  4. Golden Mile (from Cocteau Club EP#6, 1984)​
  5. West-Deep (from Cocteau Club EP#6, 1984)​
  6. Threnodia (from Cocteau Club EP#6, 1984)​
  7. A Dream Fulfilled (from Cocteau Club EP#7, 1986)​
  8. Familiar Spirit (from Cocteau Club EP#7, 1986)​
  9. Palais Des Marine (from Cocteau Club EP#7, 1986)​
  10. Letter To Jacques Maritain (from Cocteau Club EP#7, 1986)​
  11. Villefranche Interior (from Cocteau Club EP#7, 1986)​
  12. Tony Goes To Tokyo (And Rides The Bullet Train) (credited to Revox Cadets, Cocteau 7” B-side, 1981)
  13. Highway 2000 (credited to Revox Cadets, from Cocteau Signature Tunes LP, 1986)
  14. Dancing In The Wind (from Touch And Glow, 7″ B-side, 1982)
  15. Get Out Of That Hole (from Life in Your Hands, 12” single, 1989)
  16. My Dream Demon (from Life in Your Hands, 12” single, 1989)
  17. Try
  18. The Jitters
  19. Roto-Scope
  20. Marine Drive
  21. Dark Horse

I know we may have admitted that we have had Bill Nelson fatigue over the last 28 years with his ceaseless art ethic and his ability to produce more music than I can safely absorb/afford. But I got an email that was a real eyeful today from his mailing list. In exactly a month and a day, Nelson will be releasing a 2xCD of music on his Sonoluxe label. That’s nothing new. He does that every few weeks, right?

COQ 5
COQ 5

This time while he’s also issuing a new album that was recorded while he was coming to grips with his new DAW workflow after his analogue board gave up the ghost and forced the hand of the inevitable. Sure, sure. There’s no better way to learn a bunch of software than by simply using it for a project [as long as you’re not on a tight deadline]. All well and good, but it was the CD below the fold that caught my eye.

COQ 11
COQ 11

I prided myself on basically having all of the music that Nelson recorded between 1978 and 1992 back when that only represented 20-25 albums or so! Even the limited edition ones were obtainable. I have all [or most] of the singles. I got the CD reissues. I was set. Within reason. But the one chink in my collector’s armor was the fact that I never joined the Bill Nelson Fan Club, owing to the difficulties in international direct commerce back in the old times.

COQ 12
COQ 12

Fan club members received an EP every several months of exclusive songs for the hard core fans. Some of these songs filtered upward into larger releases on a case-by-case basis. When “Konny Buys A Kodak” appeared on “The Two Fold Aspect Of Everything” in 1984, we could not discern its provenance, but with the advent of the internet, we now know that it was one of the fan club EP tracks. And the EPs were a nice mixture of instrumentals and vocal songs that were quite tasty and perhaps the first glimpse of just how productive Nelson could be while maintaining his musical caliber.

COQ 13
COQ 13

I’m surprised that it’s taken this long [!], but now Nelson has compiled all of the Cocteau Records Fan Club EPs into one digitally concentrated package. All 29 tracks that filled the seven EPs. Mastering sources were a mixture of master tapes and vinyl rips, but at least Nelson let us know this up front. My heart goes out to the person[s] in charge of Nelson’s archive as he was probably the only other major artist who could give Prince a run for his money in terms of prolificacy.

COQ 14
COQ 14

Better yet, Nelson has jam-packed the 2xCD set with copious handfuls of other, hard-to-get material that made sense to include this time, and the package was salted with five tracks, presumably also from the ’82-’88-ish period, that had never seen issue yet. But the bottom line here is that if anyone were to buy the seven EPS that made up three quarters of this package, you had better have deep pockets.

COQ 17
COQ 17

The cheapest copies on Discogs would set one back over $200. They have been on my want list [out of principle], but realistically, I don’t have $30-50 to throw around casually on 7″ EPs. I rarely pay more than $10 for any singles. This CD is going for a scant £15.00 [plus postage] so I am considering buying a copy with about $20 being my out of pocket costs.

coq 20
COQ20

With Nelson’s hardcore audience, expect this to sell out quickly. I don’t know how many copies he’s pressing up, but 500 is pretty common for many of his titles, and these tend to sell out of their press run in record time. Heck, a CD he issued in March of this year is already sprinting for three figures in Discogs! If I was made of money and way smarter, I’d be buying five copies of every CD Nelson issues [and gor’ love ’em for sticking with CDs!] and selling them off to finance my [hah!] retirement. But I just can’t play that game, even though it tops the stock market scam in ROI. If this sounds like a good idea to you too, then hit that button and grab a copy for yourself now, before the grabbing hands grab all they can.

post-punk monk buy button

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Posted in Core Collection, Want List, Your Prog Roots Are Showing | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments

CD-3 Files: David Sylvian + Ryuichi Sakamoto – Forbidden Colours

Sylvian - Sakamoto - forbidden colours cover art

Virgin ‎| UK | CD-3 | 1988 | CDT 18

David Sylvian + Ryuichi Sakamoto: Forbidden Colours – UK – CD-3 – [1988]

  1. Forbidden Colours [1983 version] 4:42
  2. Bamboo Houses [12″ ver.] 5:26
  3. Bamboo Music [12″ ver.] 5:41

Today I was at a loss to pick a blog topic, so in those times, it may be time to revisit the CD-3 Files. I go to my box and pull a CD from it at random. We’re lucky today as it’s something that i have not heard in ages! In 1988 when the 3″ CD came [briefly] onto the scene, Virgin Records, was alone among the labels for really embracing the format vigorously. Not only did they release singles on the format, but even better, they also re-issued some of their classic 12″ single catalog on the plucky l’il discs! So my pre-CD-3 dream of finding my favorite 12″ singles now on the format actually came true.

“Forbidden Colours” is all over my Record Cell. I seem to have a performance of the song on about a third of my Sakamoto collection! All of the piano and instrumental albums seem to feature a performance of the stately melody. Then there’s the versions on Sylvian’s albums and singles. But this is the only place where I actually have the “hit single”version of the track! I must listen to the later version included as a bonus track on the sumptuous “Secrets Of The Beehive” as my primary version. So much so that this original version on this CD-3 now sounds exotic to me. The shimmering synths of the intro sound more crystalline than the pure strings or piano I’m used to on the other performances. And the percussion sounded much more sharp and echoic; being synthetic. The ending of the song was far more familiar as the strings began to swell into the arrangement. The pained grandeur of it all was an ideal fit for David Sylvian’s wheelhouse.

david sylvian + ryuichi sakamoto bamboo houses cover artThe two B-side on the original 12″ of “Forbidden Colours” were not included here, perhaps since they were Sakamoto only tracks from the “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” OST. Instead, Virgin wisely compiled the 12″ A/B sides to the first Sylvian/Sakamoto 12″ single, from 1982. “Bamboo Houses” was recorded and released the year after “Tin Drum” was JAPAN’s swan song, and wow did it sound it! Sylvian’s brother, Steve Jansen was still programming the percussion, and this slotted tightly into the zone that was still smoking hot from the previous year’s “Tin Drum.” The beats were complex as on that album, with off-meter accents that were startling, but quickly were normalized into a kind of jazzfunk. The rest was all synthesizers by the duo [and Jansen] and the only acoustic touch was the marimba from Sakamoto. The first third of the song was instrumental, followed by a middle movement where Sakamoto recited lyric in Japanese while animalistic growls burbled in the synths. Finally, Sylvian joined in at the song’s midpoint to add his distinctive poise.

Even better was the B-side to “Bamboo Houses,” called “Bamboo Music.” When I first saw that track ages ago, I wrongly assumed that it was merely an instrumental version of “Bamboo Houses.” No, it was a different song entirely. It was of a piece with “Bamboo Houses” but more fluid and languid while still sporting the same sort of rhythm that the A-side had. Sylvian’s vocal was out of his high croon era when things were…smoother than in 1981. Yet the rhythms still had the complex time signatures which gave “Tin Drum” its undying power. The resulting song almost played out like the single that never happened between “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” and “Tin Drum.” Which is to say, JAPAN perfection, if you’re me. Your mileage may vary.

In 1988, this CD was a must-have for having the “Bamboo Houses” 12″ tracks on CD, but by now, they have also manifested on various Sylvian compilations, but only appear in concert on “A Victim Of Stars 1982 – 2012″ from eight years ago. Even if I get a copy of that [and I should] I’ll still keep this CD-3 since it’s a CD-3! I have about 40-60 of the little discs, and can’t imagine divesting myself of any of them. Especially since they take up so little room! It actually makes me a little sad when I consider that a CD-3 had the potential for 20 minutes of CD quality in a tiny package. It was the perfect medium to replace the 7″ and the 12” …and look where that got us. Sigh.

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Posted in CD-3 Files, Core Collection, Record Review | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

REVO Remastering: Slow Children Debut Finally Getting The Monastic Attention

slow chidren promo photo

Slow Children are Pal Shazar + Andrew Chinich

I am currently in the throes of committing the output of the great duo Slow Children to a shiny gold disc. I first chanced to hear them on the RCA “Blitz” lo-prince/New Wave sampler of 1981. They had a great track called “Spring In Fialta” there and I wasted no time in buying their US debut album when it was issued a short time later.

slow children robert mapplethorpe cover artt

Ensign | US | LP | 1982 | NXL1-8001

Slow Children: Slow Children – US – LP [1982]

  1. President Am I 3:15
  2. Talk About Horses 3:02
  3. Too Weak To Eat 3:00
  4. Brazilian Magazines 3:03
  5. Stuck In Transit 3:02
  6. Spring In Fialta 3:20
  7. Staring At The Ceiling 3:16
  8. Home Life 2:54
  9. I Got A Good Mind 3:03
  10. She’s Like America 3:25

rca blitz cover srtThe album was ten songs, but the version of “Spring In Fialta” on the LP was 3:20 instead of the very curt 2:20 on the “Blitz” album that had initially captured my imagination. The inner sleeve of the “Blitz” album, also showed a LP cover that was very different to the Robert Mapplethorpe cover as seen above. I am assuming that the 2:20 “Filata” was the same as the UK 7″ A-side that Ensign had issued in 1981 as a single in advance to the UK edition of the album. As I investigated, there were three singles from that record in England.

slow children - staring at the ceiling single cover

Jet Records ‎| UK | 7″ | 1979 | JET 142

Slow Children: Staring At The Ceiling – UK – 7″ [1979]

  1. Staring At The Ceiling 3:15
  2. That Statue Moved 2:05

slow children talk about horses cover art

Ensign ‎| UK | 7″ | 1981 | ENY 206

Slow Children: Talk About Horses – UK – 7″ [1981]

  1. Talk About Horses
  2. Ticket To France

slow children - spring in fialta cover art

Ensign | UK | 7″ | 1981 | ENY 220

Slow Children: Spring In Fialta – UK – 7″ [1981]

  1. Spring In Fialta
  2. Too Weak To Eat

spring in fialta USP 12"

Ensign | USP 12″ | 1981 | JD-12365

Slow Children: Spring In Fialta – USP – 12″ [1981]

  1. Spring In Fialta [extended mix] 4:29
  2. Too Weak To Eat

The version of “Spring In Fialta” on Various – Blitz is a brief 2:20 mix. The version on the US album Slow Children (2) – Slow Children is 3:20 version but this is the longest one at 4:29. The B-side was the LP mix of “Too Weak To Eat.” This was also issued as a 12″ with the picture sleeve as seen earlier on 7″ in England, in what I’m assuming is the same 4:29 extended mix. I have none of the “Fialta” singles from England. I have the 4:29 cut on a 12″ USP “President Am I” single bought a few years ago.

slow children UK album cover art

Ensign ‎| GER | LP | 1981 | 0067.502

Slow Children: Slow Children – GER – LP [1981]

  1. Brazilian Magazines 2:57
  2. I Got A Good Mind 3:04
  3. Talk About Horses 3:06
  4. Malicious 2:43
  5. She’s Like America 3:25
  6. President Am I 2:50
  7. Too Weak To Eat 3:03
  8. I Don’t Want A Home Life 3:00
  9. Staring At The Ceiling 3:15
  10. Ticket To France 2:50
  11. Stuck In Transit 3:05

I finally got a German 1981 LP pressing of the album in the 21st century at one of the scant record shows in my hometown in the last generation. I was thrilled to get this because of the differences in the content, much less in a German pressing that probably sounded better. Overseas, “Spring In Fialta” was a non-LP single and the album contained a track, “Malicious” that was cut for America. And the B-side to “Talk About Horses” was included on the album. The crowning glory was the completely different cover with singer Pal Shazar recreating a scene from Jean Cocteau’s “The Blood of the Poet.”

jean cocteau the blood of the poet

Enrique Riveros in Cocteau’s “The Blood Of The Poet” ca. 1930

I will be digitizing the German album with selected bonus tracks for the CD-R I intend to make. Once we have that in hand, I’ll start on their second album, “Mad About Town” which came out also in 1982, but only in North America, as far as I can see. Then it will be time for a Slow Children Rock G.P.A. since I also have their latest CD, “Cottoncloud 9.” Even though over 30 years and stylistic gulfs separated the second album from the third, it was artistically quite consistent with what had come before, with Jules Shear reprising his role as producer and Stephen Hague taking bass, synthesizer and percussion duties that time in 2016! Watch this space.

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Posted in Remastering | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

“Record” Review: Propaganda – Duel Y2K Mix DL

propaganda (c) 2001 gilbert blecken

Propaganda reborn with Michael Mertens and Claudia Brücken © 2001 Gilbert Blecken

Twenty years ago the early web was buzzing with the news that the real Propaganda were back together and recording a new album. We could put the false Propaganda who had made the dull, lifeless “1234” album in 1990 on the burning pyre of history best forgotten. Against all odds, relations were patched up between Michael Mertens, Susanne Freytag, and Claudia Brücken and a new album was underway. The website was at propahanga.de and it featured a tiny web video of a cinematic looking video clip for the song “No Return” as made by one “Keyser Soze,” a 90s reference if ever there were one.

Naturally, I signed up to the mailing list and one day got the email saying that a new version of the great single “Duel” was available for download with the password that was emailed to each person who had signed up. So we downloaded the oh so moderne “Duel [Y2K Mix]” in all of its 128 kbps, MP3 glory. Twenty years later, it remained the only official release of any music from that ill-starred reunion, and today we revisit it for a listen.

Right from the start it was a whole new “Duel.” Dubby loops of Claudia saying “eye to eye” with a fat Eurohouse beat underneath with four-to-the-floor. Hints of acid house on the synths that replaced the synthetic horns of the original. Raveloops recirculated endlessly as Ms. Brücken crooned on top of it all. After 15 years in the business, her vocal was decidedly smoother than the 1st version.

As this was undoubtedly the product of loops in a DAW, the energy here was all neat and tidy and completely quantized. There were subtle filips that stepped outside of the rave-lite environment of the track. The occasional deeptwang guitar sample; sounding like a lift from Badalamenti’s “Twin Peaks” work made a brief appearance a few times. Elsewhere, some of the song’s reliable traits were still evident, like the borderline ludicrous  piano glissando still here. After which the beat dropped out to leave the shimmering synths for a couple of bars.

But it always got back to business. returning to a four-on-the-floor, workmanlike chug;  with a scant string patch in the fadeout to pull the listener thorough the repetitive stasis the beat engendered. For all the world, this seemed like less the product of Michael Mertens of Propaganda than it seemed to be a late 90s remix of the track, as we understood the term by that point in time. By some modern DJ. It definitely took second place to the creamy perfection of the original but certainly didn’t overstay its welcome at a polite 4:23.

Tellingly, Ralf Dorper was not involved as he was back to working with Die Krupps as he had been following the dissolution of Propaganda, so none of the high drama he brought to the table was to be found here. This was a somewhat perfunctory revisit of an old classic wearing the fashions of the day; perhaps even a few years out of date, with some pride. We’re glad we have this, but it remains a curio from the unreleased third Propaganda era that never even got off the starting blocks, save for this track.

Click here to sample

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Posted in Core Collection, Record Review | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments