30 Days: 30 Albums | Blondie – Ghosts Of Download

Lately, I have been picking up [and paying for…] and Blondie albums that I did not have. This is down to two things; built-up curiosity and having heard the reformation era song “Maria” on the gym sound system and really liking it. After all of these years, I want to know the whole Blondie picture, since I rode the classic period from 1978 until it took a turn for the worse and abruptly ended in 1982.

Five Seven Music | US | CD | 2014 | NBL 500-2

#7Blondie: Ghosts Of Download US CD [2014]

  1. Sugar On The Side • Featuring – Systema Solar
  2. Rave • Featuring – Miss Guy
  3. A Rose By Any Name • Featuring – Beth Ditto
  4. Winter
  5. I Want To Drag You Around
  6. I Screwed Up • Featuring – Los Rakas
  7. Relax
  8. Take Me In The Night
  9. Make A Way
  10. Mile High
  11. Euphoria
  12. Take It Back
  13. Backroom

I had not been looking forward to this album. Mainly because it came bundled with a “Greatest Hits Redux” album that seemed to hog more of the mindshare spotlight than the new Blondie album it was bundled with. I really was not interested in hearing Blondie [or really, half of Blondie – the band was down to Harry/Stein/Burke] remake tracks I was 100% certain they would only diminish in the attempt. The Harvest Records anniversary “basement” sale came to my rescue. I had imagined that these albums were physically in the same digipak or some such. Bot at all, They were two discreet packages united only with an “O-card.” Sweet! So I wisely bought “Ghosts Of Download” without getting saddled with stuff I had no interest in ever hearing.

Even so, “Ghosts Of Download” tested my mettle right off with the opener, “Sugar On The Side,” a not bad song with an overarching side order of Latin hip-hop [courtesy of System Solar] that threatened to derail the album from the get-go. It had the feel of cross-pollination having been bolted on for commercial reasons and the fact that the song was single material obviously spoke to System Solar’s . The next song, “Rave,”  was another collaboration. This time with someone called Miss Guy. The pulsating eurodance at least was a pop disco fly to the Blondie outfield.

It’s hard to believe it, but the third track was yet another collaboration! This time with Beth Ditto; a singer whom I’ve at least heard of. [I liked her acting in “He Won’t Get Far On Foot”] The US single was a modern cyberpop construction praising both genders as lovers but I really had problems not only with the machine production but especially the vibrato-heavy soprano of Ms. Ditto. She reminded me of Stevie Nicks crossed with Kate Bush – yuck! I was not impressed thus far. Someone in charge of this was seriously hedging their bets that no one was interested in a Blondie [who’s Blondie?] album and had to adulterate the mix with such timeless stars as Miss Guy. Shades of the last Duran Duran album!

At least “Winter” was a worthy deep cut that offered a semblance of Blondie goodness in a modern [but not too modern] pop setting. It sounded like instruments had been played on this one. And gloryoski – no guest stars! The UK got “I Want To Drag You Around” as a single and the dreamy, slightly tropical pop was an example of the band moving in a direction that I liked better. I was finally starting to get some love from this one. I had also gotten “The Curse Of Blondie” this year and had hated it. This album seemed to have some potential that that one lacked.

But not before another forced hybrid with “I Screwed Up.” The track also features the Latin reggae/hip-hop group Las Rakas, for maximum over the top mashup potential. I was getting damned sick and tired of all of the poorly conceived collaborations on this album. I just want to hear a damned Blondie album. As we know, that can be eclectic enough without roping in any outside help! Then the unexpected happened. The next song was a piano balled… interesting.

After a few bars it was revealed as a cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax!” I had no idea that this existed. [and suddenly I was gripped with the idea of killing the Prime Minister of Malaysia, for some reason…] I expected the song to erupt into dance territory after four bars, but it steadfastly remained a ballad, impressing me with its conviction. Unfortunately, after over two minutes of this, the arrangement began tilting towards dance music until by three minutes in I swore I was listening to a slightly remixed playback of the original for a few bars. Thankfully, it transitioned to slightly different territory, but ultimately, I was very chagrined by what sounded like three disparate versions of the song [with one of them the original] mixed together in a shaky mashup best left on the editing room floor. Had it been a piano ballad for its entirety, I would have come away impressed.

Then the album got back up on its feet with “Take Me In The Night,” a shimmering, disco popsicle of no small delight. I can always do without any of my favorites venturing into EDM territory, and “Mile High” was another black mark on the album. The laziness of such efforts speaks badly for any heritage act foolish enough to try that. “Euphoria” sounded like a mixture of marching band and reggae. Is this some new hybrid style [complete with name] that I’m unaware of?

I Liked “Take It Back” The way Ms. Harry trilled her “R” on the line “racing up to a stop light” was not only a powerful lyrical metaphor, but also great fun as well. And fun was a feature thin on the ground here. The concluding “Backroom” began as the most tepid, watered down dubstep I’ve ever heard before backing away from that notion wisely. The lyrics, were sort of a variation of TVLKING HEVDS “Heaven” with the afterlife as club metaphor being revisited by another NYC band decades later.

This was certainly a mixed bag top heavy with some bad ideas. I managed to like at least a third to half of this, but let me be the first to say that this is not a Blondie album. The possibility of that died when Jimmy Destri was frozen out of the band after wanting out of the touring life. Without his songwriting, it’s really down to Harry/Stein and one of the fresh young bodies in the band now. It doesn’t have the Blondie feel. It’s really a Deborah Harry solo album trading on the Blondie name. More damningly, I can barely hear evidence of überdrummer Clem [King Of The Stickroll/Drumfill] Burke at all on this album of programmed beats with only the scantest of acoustic drums on it. Some of this is not a bad Deborah Harry album, and I’ve heard that before, so…yay. This is worth keeping around for the occasional play, but I want more from Blondie.

CONCLUSION: enjoy…as much a fair-to-middling Deborah Harry album

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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12 Responses to 30 Days: 30 Albums | Blondie – Ghosts Of Download

  1. Steve says:

    PPM,
    Yes, this album was a mixed bag–but “Take Me in the Night” (about Andy Warhol?) is really phenomenal and I really dug “Backroom.”

    Steve

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Steve – It was better than “Debravation” or “Curse Of Blondie.” The latter I recently got and was appalled by it. I got it at the same time as “The Hunter” and “The Hunter” came out smelling like a rose in comparison, even though it was worse than I remembered from 1982!

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  2. diskojoe says:

    The only reason that I purchased this is because there was also a DVD of a 1977 CBGB’s performance as part of the package. It seems to me that the fact that the “new material” album was bundled w/a redone Greatest Hits package & a DVD was probably because the powers that be had no faith that the new album would get any sales & that reminders of the past were needed to shift those units. It reminded me of the Beach Boys twinning Pet Sounds w/Carl & the Passions back in the early 70s.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      diskojoe – I guess that was about the size of it. There was also the Blondie prior to this, “Panic Of Girls,” that came bundled with a Blondie magazine and all sorts of tchatkes. It seemed to be a pattern the band had fallen into. I still need that one, “No Exit” and “Pollinator.” I’ll forego the live ones. I have the great “Picture This Live” and that’s all I need.No…wait! I also need “Blondie At The BBC!”

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      • diskojoe says:

        I have a copy of “Blondie At The BBC”. It’s a CD/DVD package where the former is a live concert @ Glasgow on New Year’s Eve 1979 & the latter their Top of the Pops appearances & some (not all) of the Glasgow concert that appeared in the Old Grey Whistle Test. It’s somewhat disappointing that there’s only part of the concert, but I have the funny feeling that Auntie Beeb destroyed what wasn’t used.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          diskojoe – Hmm. I hadn’t noticed that so much was missing from the DVD as compared to the CD. You are probably correct. Several years ago, I was working for a while with Scott Lesser, who spent several years as Blondie’s stage manager and he told me that they tried to get him to flash the kilt at midnight for that show but he demurred. He was happy when I told him about the CD/DVD package and he wasted no time in getting himself a copy.

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  3. Echorich says:

    Miss Guy has been a DJ and part of the music/club intelligentsia for the last 20+ years. She (pronouns are so important in the new millennium) is also a MASSIVE Deborah Harry fan. She formed her band, the Toilet Boys with a hope of someday playing with Harry – and she has. Toilet Boys should be remembered, in my perverse mind, for their song Paul Stanley (Was A Lady). She has a Discogs page too!

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  4. SimonH says:

    This seems a good time to recommend Chris Stein’s books of photos, I have the one from 2014 and it’s simply on of the best music related photo collections I’ve ever seen. There’s a new one out next month.

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  5. Taffy says:

    Late reply here (I was away for 11 days!!). As your resident Blondie fanatic, I had to chime in. While Ghosts is one of my least favorite Blondie albums, I still find much to enjoy. I have no issue with the frequent collaborations, and rather like the ones with Miss Guy and Beth Ditto. My main beef is that the album sounds way toothy and synthetic, and as you rightly point out it barely acknowledges Clem Burke (a crime when your drum stool is occupied by a bonafide drum god!).
    There were three download-only bonus tracks, two of which (Can’t Stop Wanting and Put Some Color On You) I’d happily put on the CD in place of the Frankie cover and I Screwed Up, greatly improving the album.
    Honestly, the biggest selling point of the Ghosts package is the DVD of a 70s CBGB performance.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – Yay! Taffy’s back!! I was worried there with some prime Taffy-bait that went un-commented on for far too long. I wondered if you were all right. So that’s your least favorite Blondie album? I have to say I found it miles above “The Curse Of Blondie,” even though I don’t even consider “Ghosts Of Download” as a legitimate Blondie album at all. Instead, it’s a decent Deborah Harry solo album. Weaker than some, but better than others. Her solo crew like Leigh Foxx have been mainstreamed into the group as it’s whittled down to Deborah and Chris, with Clem retained, obviously, only for live work. So you thought that like the last Duran Duran album, some of the peripheral tracks left off had more gusto, eh? Even Simple Minds had fallen prey to that on “Big Music.” Drop in “Liaison” for “Big Music” and it’s an upgrade!

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      • Taffy says:

        Typo/autocorrect demons got me – my comment should’ve read “the album sounds way too thin and synthetic,” and instead it came out as “toothy and synthetic!”
        Not sure what my absolute least favorite Blondie album is…but if forced I’d go for a three way tie of Ghosts, Panic of Girls, and Curse of Blondie. These albums all have songs i like very much, but they also have some real dross. With Curse, if you shave off track one (rap throw-away Shakedown) and the last two songs (the endlessly tuneless Desire Brings Me Back and Songs of Love) you’re left with a rather fine album.
        I also respectfully disagree that Ghosts (or anything after Jimmy Destri “exited”) doesn’t count as a Blondie album. Bands do shift in personnel, and Blondie is no exception. Gary Valentine? Frank and Nigel? At this point, Leigh Foxx has been playing bass with Debbie solo/Blondie for 30 years!
        Thanks for your concern regarding my absence. Berlin and London (and that Soft Cell one-off concert) called!

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