Neil Peart: 1952-2020

neil peart (c) 1985 jaegar kotos

Neil Peart ©1985 Jaegar Kotos

I got blindsided Friday night with the news that Rush’s drummer/lyricist Neil Peart had died after over three years of undergoing brain cancer treatment. This was a sad thing to hear. Particularly since I had been listening more to my very sensible but incomplete Rush collection in the last year following a trip to the Rock N’Roll Hall Of Fame where the highlight was video of Rush’s against-all-odds induction. My favorite Rush album had been “Hold Your Fire” since it was released, but hearing my 1980-1991 run of their albums  at once [I’d  never binged this deeply with Rush before] nudged me into changing my top pick after all of these years. “Power Windows” now takes my top spot with “Hold Your Fire” just beneath it in the Rush-Goes-New Wave® era beloved by me. Rush were many things to me; Led Zeppelin wannabes, bloodless Prog, something more than a False New Wave band, then eventually, Respected Elders of Rock®. Even getting rock crit love after decades of cold shoulder. I grew up when it was not cool to like Rush [for those of the generally Monastic persuasion] but I honestly appreciated them when and while I could. A lot. And it hurts to know Neil Peart; the band’s heart in more ways than one, is no longer with us.

rush hemispheres album coverI first heard Rush relatively late in the game. It was 1977 and I was in my Prog Phase. I had heard about the band in print and eventually heard their latest album on the FM Rock® of the time. “Hemispheres” had a song that got FM airplay called “The Trees” and singer Geddy Lee’s voice was so high then, I thought that Rush had a female vocalist! Eager to sample, I bought “Hemipsheres,” their current [and sixth studio album] and a budget 3xLP reissue called “Archives” that contained the band’s first three albums. None of it gelled with me at the time. The first three albums were in Led Zep territory and I didn’t really go there. “Hemispheres” was a side of hi-concept Prog based on the notion of intellect-vs-emotion brain dominance as illustrated by the cod-Hipgnosis cover by Hugh Syme. The side one suite was actually the conclusion of an idea from their previous album [which I’ve never heard] called “Cygnus X-1 [book II],” presumably about a black hole! Your guess is as good as mine as to how these two seemingly disparate concepts were united across the albums! The three songs on the B-side of the album had no overarching theme. Here was a band finishing ideas across albums and daring listeners to jump in. Well, this one didn’t. I sold my Rush albums to my schoolmates since I had not yet learned of used record stores.

By the next year, Rush was of no relevance to me at all. Indeed, all of Prog was collapsing under the weight of its pretenses as New Wave was connecting with me much more strongly than my brief dalliance with Prog ever had. And it also had synthesizers in it but the music made with them was more my style. The songs were generally much sharper and cooler. It was 1981 when I bought the Ultravox 2×7” of “Slow Motion” and played it for an acquaintance who compared the A-side to Rush and I was most vociferous in that it Could Not Be Further From That®! Rush was old guard Rock. Heavily steeped in sci-fi concepts that failed to resonate with me at the time even though all I read from ’75-’80 was science fiction! I remember reading an Rush interview in a local music paper where they were name checking Ultravox and expressed an interest in having Midge Ure produce them! Wha…??!!

rush signals album coverBy 1982, I had another friend, Tom, who was a Rush fan. I exposed Tom to some of my Core Collection bands like OMD and Ultravox, but I sort of looked askance at his championship of Rush. I think it was 1982 where he got to go to a date in the band’s “Signals” tour for his birthday and was quite excited. I was non-plussed. I put the difference down to the fact that I had no taste for playing simulation/role-playing games, even though I was a sci-fi geek. By that year we had MTV so I was now exposed to the scant Rush videos the channel showed. Hmmm. They seemed to be getting very heavily into synthesizers. The next year, I read an article in the Village Voice where the writer made the case that Rush was now more closely aligned with a band like Ultravox than their Zeppelin roots. Hmmmmmmmm.

How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Rush

rush - power windows album coverI finally crossed the line in 1985 after enjoying the songs “Big Money” and “Mystic Rhythms” via MTV clips. I picked up a used CD of “Power Windows” and found it very much to my liking. The band had obviously responded to the New Wave of the late 70s bubbling around them when I was looking elsewhere and had evolved into an appealing hybrid of The Police and Ultravox! It was as if by 1981 the band were devouring The Police and Ultravox while understanding how to add synthesizers more adroitly than on “The Ghost In The Machine.” Truth be told, by 1984, Rush was playing the Ultravox game far more compellingly than Ultravox themselves!

rush - hold your fire album coverIn 1987 I didn’t wait for used. I bought their new album “Hold Your Fire” immediately and reveled in their pivot to pop. Where they used to have 4-7 songs of heavy concept Prog on their albums, this new one had ten sharp, pop songs with rock chops. These shorter songs had all of the complexity that their side-long opuses used to have, but with all of the fat removed for a lean sharp thrill that hit closer to the mark of 1980s King Crimson than Yes or Led Zeppelin. Their last two albums had keyboard support from the talented Andy Richards, then neck deep in Trevor Horn’s ZTT Theam. You may remember Mr. Richards from a post on White Door a short while back. His synth prowess was foundational to all of the great work that ZTT had done from 1983-1988 and Rush, being no dummies, enlisted him to enhance both “Power Windows” and “Hold Your Fire.” The kicker had arrived earlier in the fall of 1986 when the second FGTH album “Liverpool” had arrived and sounded for all the world like a contemporary Rush album!

By 1989, I crossed the line in the sand and saw Rush in concert in a group with Mr. Ware and his drummer, Ray. We attended the Rush show at the Orlando Arena and as I struggle to recall, the opening act was Damn Yankees with Ted Nugent and Tommy Shaw of Stynx! Did we arrive fashionably late? I can’t remember how we would have blocked that out otherwise. But the Rush show was extremely tasty! They opened with my favorite song, the gripping “Force Ten” from “Hold Your Fire” so missing that tour didn’t really deal me a loss this time. The show was heavily skewed towards the material that was highly preferential to me with some old warhorses only getting trotted out at the end. The amount of change and development that the band evidenced over the 16 years of their existence was heartening.

rush roll the bones album coverThat was as great a time to see Rush as I could have picked. By the end of the 80s, their New Wave era began to wrap up for the band as they got fave Rupert Hine to produce their albums. Rupert was no stranger to hi-tec rock music having created definitive examples of the form on his solo and Thinkman® albums. But after his two albums I lost track of Rush in the 90s. I’m told that they dialed down the synths during the grunge era. Not a shock, but I’d not heard anything they’d released following 1989’s “Presto.” I began picking up Rush CDs used when I happened across them at the right price in that decade. I snapped up the seminal in retrospect “Permanent Waves” where their first flowerings of New Wave DNA made for a surprisingly great album. A huge leap forward for the band in my view. The popular “Moving Pictures.” In recent years, Mr. Ware had given me “Signals,” “Grace Under Pressure,” and “Roll The Bones” as birthday presents. I now had the Rush run in the studio from 1980 to 1991 and it was an impressive, coherent body of work.

The changes in the band were profound up to that point. First the hard rock sound got dumped for a hard prog hybrid. The hair got cut [except for holdout Lee]. Then the lyrics went from Ayn Rand sci-fi to something far more humanistic. Rush had gotten pigeonholed as Rock Objectivists and even when I Was A Teenaged Randroid†®, I had never bothered hearing Rush’s “2112” album which had raised their profile considerably with an adaptation of one of her short stories. I was astonished when listening to 1984’s “Grace Under Pressure” when “Red Sector A” was not a dystopian sci-fi scenario [in spite of the deceptive name] but was instead inspired by the story of Geddy Lee’s parents being liberated during the Holocaust. It rips my heart out to hear it now.

rush feedback album coverI actually bought some more recent Rush CDs last fall at a record show. Just to see how the wind had blown while I hadn’t been paying attention. Their album of acid rock covers stood up very favorably to the one by Ramones! It’s almost an EP of eight songs under 30 minutes. In contrast, I also got the final Rush album, “Clockwork Angels.” I recall hearing that it was said to be a return to a Prog concept for their final opus but I’ve yet to spin it. Well, if now is not the time, when is? I doubt I will ever own a complete Rush collection. I’ve never heard any of their numerous live albums, and doubt that I ever will seeing as how the band liked to replicate their studio sound to the best of their ability. But there was a time when Rush were in the center of a Venn diagram drawn between The Police, Ultravox, and Frankie Goes To Hollywood with their sound stretched into a place that had old line fans scratching their heads even as I finally managed to finally capitulate to their charms. That the band had the ability to vary their attack wildly throughout their 42 year career was down to the clarity of their vision and the nous that Peart brought to them as a drummer’s drummer who was much more than just that. Condolences to his bandmates and family.

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Posted in How I Stopped Worrying, obituary, Your Prog Roots Are Showing | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

Obsessive or Pragmatic: Which Kind Of Collector Are You?

Two days ago, commenter Thombeau said something in the comments on the Vaughan Oliver obituary that got me thinking. He described me as a “collector.” At virtually the same time, my wife was telling me about her co-worker who had a record collector partner and how they had got into a discussion about living with “a collector.” She told her about hard core collectors like my old friend Ron Kane. 30,000 titles filled his house at the time of his death! We visited, but had to leave. Yeah, it can get pretty blood chilling as collecting becomes hoarding. Even Ron wondered why he had more records than he could spend the rest of his life listening to. Little did he know just how little time he had to do that by the time that notion had occurred to him! In spite of owning a few thousand CDs and records, I don’t strictly consider myself a real collector in spite of what you may hear about me.

Late 70s Beginnings

In the late 70s when I got my first record player I bought albums. One a week with my lunch money, basically. In high school, I bought mainly albums. Singles were cheaper than albums, but you could get 7-10 songs for the price of 2-3 singles, and that made albums the better deal. Once I found out about used record stores, things really started to get interesting! The best thing about them was not even the lower prices, but the ability to buy older things that were harder to find currently. This was especially true with singles.

After high school, better record stores with heavy import sections began to beckon to me and the notion of buying singles by artists I loved featuring songs not on albums and [gasp] remixes, became to be viable to me. I can be said to have started “collecting” some time in 1981, I guess. But I was on a low budget. It was my job to make the scant funds stretch as far as they could go, and that meant collecting pragmatically. In other words, buying any releases I needed to get all of the artist in question’s non-LP tracks and variations… but only the minimum of titles necessary to do so! And the bands I did this for were still low in number. This was my method throughout the whole of the 80s. Even then, I tended to go with 12″ singles instead of 7″ singles. One, they sounded better. Two, in many cases, the 12″ had the B-side from the 7″ in addition to an extended version. Then ZTT had to go and start making multiple 12″ singles!

80s – Goldmine, Catalogs + Record Shows

goldmine magazine - ramones coverThen by the late 80s I had begun buying records by mail order. This is where serious collecting began to spread like wildfire. Especially the usually neglected 7″ part of the record collection. With Goldmine and catalogs, I had  access to even more records that I wanted beyond the scope of any of even the best record stores that Central Florida had to offer me at the time. This was when I started buying the clear vinyl 7″ UK singles from Ultravox on Chrysalis Records, in addition to the 12″ singles I was buying. I knew about these thanks to Mr. Ware, who set me straight on them even as he corrupted me with his Goldmine and Jack Wolak’s Rare Necessities catalogs! Then I started buying entire artist’s runs of things that I had wanted but never seen locally. I began the core of a serious Mari Wilson and Rezillos/Revillos collection with recources like that at my fingertips.

Then the occasional record show really opened the vistas of collecting up. I could go to a civic center full of records and buy all sorts of things. The big shows were like a catalog with immediate gratification thrown in as a bonus. The first shows were usually in bigger cities like Tampa or Atlanta, so they were rare occasions, but by the early 90s, even sleepy Orlando started getting some record shows with regularity.

If one bought singles they tended to be available for a much shorter period than for albums. This guided my hand for years in the late 80s as I would eventually opt to buy import singles instead of the album itself that they might have come from. It seemed like the album could usually be bought later, and the longer one waited, the greater chance of getting a cheaper copy. Whereas the singles would invariably rise in price from the point of issue as they became more scarce.

90s – Time, Space + Money Conspire to Make Of Me An Obsessive Collector

rock-N-roll heaven record store in orlando

The Rock-N-Roll Heaven window by spindlespider

If I could be said to have become a collector it was by the early 90s. I remember the feeling I got by having every Ultravox album and 12″ single/EP. And 90% of the band’s UK 7″ singles. I felt like I needed a bigger challenge! By 1993 I had a large apartment and the huge master bedroom was the video/book/music collection room. My career was going great. I was a UX designer before they even had a name for it! I was earning more money than I have for the last 20 years and had nothing better to do than scoop up armfuls of music releases. It was at this time that I began hitting stores like Rock + Roll Heaven and spending a few hours in there on a Saturday just buying desirable records – that I technically did not need for their musical contents!

heaven 17 we live so fast US 7" single cover

Arista | US | 7″| 1983 | AS 1-9027

That’s right, Just seeing a record like the US 7″ picture sleeve of “We Live So Fast” [only a single in America] would make me splash out the cash to buy it. I would spend an unplanned $100-150 on a weekend’s visit…just for kicks! A far cry from the way I roll now. Another factor pushing my “buy” button was the notion that soon I would be able to make my own CDs of material on vinyl only. It was almost a decade into the CD era by then and I had a fair handle on what might not ever come out on the shiny silver disc. Primarily, the many rarities by any number of bands. Non-LP A/B sides, live tracks, promo mixes, 12″ remixes of all stripes and from all nations. Since I was looking to tie up a lot of loose ends, I really started paying more attention to 7″ singles for the often unique 7″ mixes/versions that could be out there if one knew where to look. Keep in mind that I probably did not get online until some time in 1994 and back then, record collecting resources on the web were usually the providence of the occasional obsessed collector who would take their data online with the 10 MB webspace that their ISP gave them for their own personal website.

duran duran my own way japanese 7" cover by patrick nagel

Toshiba-EMI | JPN | 7″ | 1981 | EMS-17235

It was some time in 1992-3 when I found the challenge that I would undertake after “completing” my Ultravox collection. I was at a record show and saw some Duran Duran classic 12″ singles that I had never bothered to buy when they were current. A little voice told me to buy these for the $5 asking price and I did. I soon met new friends out of the Orlando “Old Wave” club scene that played decade old music for dancing to and discovered the Duran Duran collector’s underground. Swept up in the excitement, this was compounded by the release of their 1993 “Wedding Album” with its pair of US Top 10 singles, and Duran Duran just exploded right after I started to may some more attention to them.

I had once bought the occasional CD single. Now I bought everything. It was exhilarating seeing how many variations I could buy of any of their releases. I was finally seeing the band live after over a dozen years of variable fandom and now I had things like the US promo “Liberty” box that I once handed to Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo to sign in the middle of the night as they were leaving their hotel after a gig in Orlando. I probably dropped $1500 on DoubleDuran in the two year period where the sky was the limit and had over 300 releases to show for it. Then marriage, buying a house, and especially their godawful “Thank You” album brought all that to a screeching halt. Thank goodness. DD were among the most heavily marketed bands of the New Wave era with countless releases the world over. I could have dedicated my life to collecting them and still only would have had a fraction of the total at my deathbed! Fact: Duran Duran are hardly my favorite act!

2000 + Beyond: A Return To Pragmatism

john foxx complete cathedral oceans LP box coverIn 2001 we decided to move away from Orlando and have lived in a succession of ever smaller homes; necessitating much downsizing. We bought our current [tiny] home in 2004 and there is a small bedroom with everything I still have jammed in there frightfully. I still like to collect the output of certain bands, but the numbers are down from the peak 90s list which can be found here. That was pretty much every artist I “collected” in the 90s, for what it’s worth. My, how that list has been seriously pruned! I still buy every John Foxx release. He is the one artist that I have almost everything from but there are still rarities that are damned hard to source copies of.  I usually skip the pricier items [I am way too practical…] only to have my wife buy them for me!

simple minds boxed sets of god

These did have everything from 1977-1998

In 2002, I got more serious about making an upgraded BSOG of Simple Minds rarities, so I bought any single I didn’t already have [even the stuff I’d avoided for ages from the mid-late 80s] but I didn’t buy everything. Only the bare minimum to actually have as complete a music collection as I could. Even that was doomed to failure since in 2002, the band were releasing difficult to source Italian DJ 12″ vinyl of remixes from their great “Cry” album like they were going out of style. I still have none of this material almost 20 years later so that third volume of Simple Minds rarities will probably never happen. A line was crossed in 1023 when I stared selling off my redundant collector’s records that I bought for no good reason to fund concert travel and vacations. I think the profits were balanced out by losses fairly equally, which is nothing to complain about.

The notion is still there to collect but more small scale things. I think a complete Mari Wilson collection is possible. I have a lot of what it would make up. I have quite a lot of Rezillos/Revillos releases in as many formats as I can find. A few years back they were selling modern 7″ and CD singles at such modest prices I bought everything and it cost me less than $30. In my headier flights of fancy, I think about collecting every release by her label as well, as The Compact Organisation had boundless taste [thanks to prime mover/impresario Tot Taylor] and made generally wonderful goods for the dream home that had everything. There’s probably less than 150 releases in total, but I’d have to buy a lot of records from the UK mail order, and the shipping would be a deal breaker.

Another notion I could get behind would be every UK 7″/12″/CD5/Cassette single by the great ZTT label; but only from 1983-1988. After that they barely existed for me. But there are some things that would probably cost me a small fortune there. No, with my advancing age, and diminishing wallet, I think I need to just try to enjoy what I’ve already got. Maybe keep buying a dozen or so artists who have proven their worth over decades, and selectively buy the right “singles” to complement their album releases. Which is actually a challenge in this horrible intangible music era. When music is only streamed [and we’re getting there, trust me]. We’re already in a place where scant physical releases are costing a fortune and I’m priced out of that game. Record collecting is no longer a modestly priced hobby. It’s becoming a playtoy of the financial elite. So now,more than ever, is the time to collect pragmatically. It’s no longer an inexpensive hobby. How do you like to collect? Discuss below.

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Posted in Record Collecting | Tagged | 38 Comments

Want List: Vintage 1994 Shriekback Live, Hot On The Heels Of “Some Kind Of Light”

shriekback - live at the orange '94 CD cover

Shriekback | UK | CD | 2020 | SHRIEKCD020

Shriekback: Live At the Orange ’94 – UK – CD [2020]

  1. The Preparation
  2. Over the Wire
  3. Unsong
  4. Captain Cook
  5. Hostage
  6. Dingle Dai
  7. Faded Flowers
  8. Berlin
  9. Invisible Rays
  10. Seething
  11. Pretty Little Things
  12. The Consummation

Saints preserve us… so yesterday it was Gary Daly and today it’s Shriekback. Somehow, I think my favorite musicians have formed a sinister cabal to siphon my scant discretionary funds on a revolving basis. There have been things that I could not even save up for since they were here and gone before the total could be met, but at least this one is chump change. And yes, it’s another archival project. The stinging irony is that their new album has only been shipped to the Indiegogo pledgers and has yet to manifest in their two web stores online.

Back in 1994, I was barely on the internet. It happened for me when we switched to Windows NT 3.5 at work from Windows For Workgroups 3.1.1. All of a sudden, we had Netscape, a 256 KBS connection, and a whole new world was out there. But that was pure Wild West. Those days are gone. But even then, Shriekback were in a black hole for me following their return from the ashes of “Go Bang” with the reassuringly solid “Sacred City” album and video [on VHS as I recall…] in 1991. I’m hazy on the details, but know that I did not see another Shriekback album until shopping in Tower Records Washington D.C. in 2002 when I spotted a double pack CD of “Aberrations ’81-’84/Naked Apes + Pond Life.”

That was a double thrill since we would be hearing early archival stuff from their formative years as well as the hard to find latest album. When I played the new one I was shocked to hear the notion of acoustic Shriekback coming out of my speakers and sounding like, well… Shriekback! Unlike some of my favorite artists [if you are a regular here, you know the ones] Shriekback could venture down this path because they had a much stronger artistic POV and identity than some other bands I could name who lost all of their mojo when eschewing electricity. There – that’s a good Shriekback song title, eh? You put “Naked Apes + Pond Life” on and by gar, you’d still know it was Shriekback.

So when this new CD was mooted a few weeks ago as coming in the new year, I put it out of my mind because I always usually slack on this sort of thing. I’m usually buying things that were cheap when they came out 2-3 years ago but are now driving up in value [before they become unaffordable], while ignoring the multitude of moderately and even cheaply priced goods in the here and now. Sad, but it’s how I’m wired. Then last week the mailing list revealed that the pre-order that had been going on for at least a month would be just that. Once the orders were in after a cut-off happening pretty soon, the band would manufacture enough goods to meet the pre-demand but probably not any future demand [save for the possibility of a stately re-issue ten years down the line or more].

“Hmm…maybe I should think about it more actively,” I pondered.

Then yesterday the imminent cut-off for pre orders was waved in front of my eyes and I had to either act now or suck it up. The audio quality on this was mooted as “bootleg quality.” I am fine with boots, within reason. As long as the excitement level was captured from a gig I’m pretty easy to please. And this was a 1994 gig done at a time when I was unaware of what the band were doing or if they even continued to exist at all. I imagine that the gig here prefigured the “Naked Apes + Pond Life” vibe that would not manifest for five more years. That didn’t mean that the songs didn’t yet exist. The tracks in bold would appear five years later on NA+PL. The ones in red are still not tied down to any canonical album by the band. Three are Shriekback “oldies.”So yes, these tracks may be the only time one can hear tracks like “The Consummation.” Someone just mentioned “Captain Cook” on the comments and I sincerely had no idea, yet here it is.

I’ve sampled “Seething” and yep. This is a serviceable live recording that sounded like you could have possibly made it yourself that night if you had a Walkman Pro®. The band sounded a few feet away from the mic but then again, so did the fans in evidence. The stereo spread on the twin cardioids on a Walkman Pro® are only an inch or so apart so this sounded effectively mono. I don’t think that whole “remote mics clipped onto the bill of a hat” thing for greater stereo spread at concerts existed in 1994. So caveat emptor. But if you feel that you might want to go there, don’t dawdle. I’m guessing that there’s probably no more than a 48 hour window to order the artifact. I’ve already signed off, so you know where I stand. It’ll set you back £10.00/$13.09 and there may be less fun ways to tithe to this wonderful band, but they’re all worth it.
communist purchase button

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Posted in Core Collection, Want List | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Want List: Another Gary Daly Album In Pipeline For 2020

gary daly luna landings CD cover

Music Glue | UK | CD | 2020

Gary Daly: Luna Landings UK CD [2020]

  1. Odysseas
  2. Celestial Body
  3. Jody You’re On Dope, So Just Shut The F**K Up
  4. Technics Arpeggio
  5. Luna Bop
  6. Dummkopf
  7. And When Did You Give Up . . . And Why?
  8. Yellow Magic
  9. JP8
  10. JP8 2
  11. 80’s Electro 2
  12. Space Bastard
  13. Guitar Instrumental 1
  14. Pipes Of The Man Ray Times
  15. Evángelos
  16. Guitar Instrumental 3
  17. Magnifique Lune
  18. The Highest Heist
  19. ’78
  20. A Once Great And Harmonious Place
  21. Very Nice Barbara
  22. Shopping For Excuses
  23. Swimming With Kevin
  24. Festivus

It seemed like only yesterday [cue harp run…] when I was picking Gary Daly’s “Gone From Here” as my favorite album of 2019 and today I just found out that the restless Mr. Daly has another album coming our way on the Music Glue platform. Due out on February 20, 2020 will see “Luna Landings” reach our grateful ears. In answer to the obvious question, no. Mr. Daly has not found a stash of amphetamines. No black beauties were consumed in the making of this album. This time he’s raided the demo archives to hand pick a selection of demos written and recorded for China Crisis from 1981 to 1987. So this album is sort of like a Prince Vault collection but for China Crisis, and best of all, Daly’s still with us!

The two dozen songs were recorded on TASCAM Portastudios from the late 70s and early 80s and thus will probably be lower fi than China Crisis’ fantastic 80s era B-sides. But I fully expect this collection to be filled to the brim with the same sort of inventive and melodic material that could be as truly world class as China Crisis’ B-side material was! Anything that gets vintage China Crisis to our hungry ears is a total win in this already messed up year. Here’s the list of mouthwatering vintage gear that went into these songs here.

TASCAM 244 portastudio

The TASCAM 244 had dbX NR and reverb built in

Portastudios were extremely nice pieces of equipment that exploded the creation of demos and lo-fi recordings once they came onto the scene. Four tracks per cassette tape could do a lot of damage, if you wanted to bounce tracks. It was the Garage Band of its day [minus the loops]. I once borrowed Mr. Ware’s Portastudio to compose a theme for the TV news at my college back in the mid 80s. It was fun but I’m not really a musician and my interests don’t lie in that direction. One could do some tidy damage with one of these units and I’m happy that the decision was made to revisit these demos. It will help to tide us over until the next move by either China Crisis or Mr. Daly in a solo aspect once again. The album is CD only right now and available for pre-order at the nice price of £11.99/$17.36.

communist purchase button

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Posted in Core Collection, Want List | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Record Review: JAPAN – Gentlemen Take Polaroids UK 2×7″

JAPAN gentlemen take polaroids double 7" cover

Virgin ‎| UK | 2×7″ | 1980 | VS 379

JAPAN: Gentlemen Take Polaroids UK 2×7″ [1980]

  1. Gentlemen Take Polaroids [edit]
  2. The Experience Of Swimming
  3. The Width of A Room
  4. Burning Bridges [alt. ver. – David Sylvian prod.]

“Gentlemen Take Polaroids” will always be a standard bearer of my love of JAPAN. The surprisingly upbeat pop song was the closest that this chronically disconsolate band ever came to sounding euphoric. I still can’t believe that David Sylvian managed to craft a lyric like “breath life into me … spin me ’round,” and sound like he meant it here. It became something much more in its fully 7:00 album version, but the edited by half 7″ single was a pre-release ahead of the “Polaroids” album that followed a month later in November of 1980. It’s always best to experience the sublime glow of “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” in its purest LP form, with an extended coda to melt the staunchest of hearts even as it showcased the contrasting muscular fretless bass of Mick Karn against the delicate keys of Richard Barbieri, which descended on the song like a spring rain. I’m still happy to have it here, truncated into a mere pop song of considerable beauty.

We had to get our fill of the amazing Karn on the A-side, because he didn’t touch the bass on the other three songs here. The first two were completely Karn-free. First up was “The Experience Of Swimming,” an instrument of subtle delicacy. Richard Barbieri was composing alone here, for a change. Sylvian dominated the writing and publishing within the band, but B-sides are where a bone can get tossed to the other members and Barbieri had no problems crafting a beguiling and pensive instrumental based on an echoplexed synth riff that created a hypnotic dynamic with the oboe-like synth patches.

Elsewhere, soon-to-be-ex JAPAN guitarist Rob Dean rose to his occasion as well with “The Width Of A Room.” His Satie-like, synth-laden effort formed a seamless unit with much the same mood as Barbieri had explored on the previous track. It makes me wonder just how much Sylvian sought to control the writing because these tracks were slotted right in to the same place that Sylvian’s writing was heading. I can’t help but feel that Dean was ousted from the band on a bad decision as this shows him capable of the Satie feel that the band would continue to explore until it led them to the breakthrough of “Ghosts” on the next album.

JAPAN in 1980 photo

The inner gatefold of the “Gentlemen Take Polaroids” sleeve

Back in 1982 I had bought the Canadian 12″ of “The Art of Parties” which appended the two instro non-LP B-sides here as a four track EP and the one time I saw this single in the massive import 7″ bins of Record City Fern Park, I saw the three other songs and passed on it. At the time, I had no idea that the version of “Burning Bridges” here was decidedly different. That revelation would wait for the internet and a quarter century to pass.

The real prize here was the alternate version of “Burning Bridges.” The version on the 7″ D-side here was apparently a demo version produced by David Sylvian, instead of John Punter! Like the A-side, it’s shorter than the version on the “Polaroids” album. The long ambient intro that righteously battled vinyl surface noise [and lost] in its heyday was completely lopped off. The song rode in on its round wave synth patch that originally came 1:30 into the LP version. There was still no Mick Karn bass, just [presumably] Sylvian on the bass synths, but Karn still took a long,, soulful sax solo here. The vocal performance sounded very similar, but the EQ and mix was decidedly different than the album version.

I suspect that since “Burning Bridges” displaced “Some Kind Of Fool” at the 11th hour for inclusion on the final running order of “Gentlemen take Polaroids,” [early printings of the LP sleeve list this song instead with a sticker correcting for “Burning Bridges”] it may have been down to Sylvian producing a demo he liked and ceding control to Punter for the longer edit/ possible remix on the album. The balances are very different on the 7″ version but I can’t say the performances differed. Whatever the case, Sylvian was right to push for the inclusion of this song. When “Some Kind of Fool” surfaced [with a new vocal] 20 years later on David Sylvian’s “Everything + Nothing”compilation, it was great to hear, but no “Burning Bridges.”

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2019 – The Year In Buying Music [part 2]

post punk monk buying statistics for 2019

[…continued from last post]

This was not an efficient year if music acquisition. Once again, I missed the anniversary sale at Harvest Records, where everything is a dollar or less. So that skewed the costs upward a little. But I did have a generous reader send me a cache of rather amazing records out of the goodness of their heart; which never hurts. And a few promos came over the transom. That did not hurt either. I struggle with the accepting promos all of the time. The cheapskate with no money in me wants free promos. Technically, I am “press” after all of these years. But the person who identifies with the struggles of the artist would prefer to pay full retail for everything that I knew came from a struggling artist. And most artists struggle. Almost all of the artists I prefer struggle. That’s just the nature of things. But should I not review something I did not have the money for right now? But they are willing to front me a promo? It’s something I struggle internally with.

If it’s a DL in question, and I sample it and like it, I usually buy it right then and there for the review. I can then put it on my device and listen in the car; a critical factor for writing a review worth anything. Bandcamp usually will let me pay more than asking for a DL release and I always pay up by around 50% since the costs asked often seem low to me. But not always! I bought a DL this year where that was not an option. That’s down to the preference of the artist.

The cheapest thing I bought was a Rolling Stones 2xCD for $0.25. The most expensive was the “New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84]” SDLX box for $49.00 and that was very well timed because that ship is sailing well on its way to three figures a year later. Used media accounted for around 75% of the intake. Down from 85% the previous year. But this was a year of buying more things directly so… good music karma. I got 12 titles from 2019. The same as last year.

2019 Top 12

  1. Gary Daly: Gone From Here
  2. Prince: Originals
  3. Shriekback: Some Kinds Of Light
  4. Barry Andrews: Contaminated Pop
  5. Rain To Rust: Flowers Of Doubt
  6. Simple Minds: Live In the City of Angels DLX ED
  7. Head Noise: Uber Fantastique
  8. Sparks: Please Don’t Fuck Up My World
  9. Anum Preto: Inferno Interno
  10. Gary Daly: Gone From Here Remixes
  11. Graham Parker: Squeezing Out Sparks Solo Acoustic 40th Anniversary
  12. House Of Waters: Rising

gary daly gone from here coverGary Daly of China Crisis gave me the album of the year with his solo album. It was a humane, accomplished selection of tunes given a sensitive and emotive setting. Next, I was probably most excited by the selection of Prince material written for others. Sure, sure. The Kenny Rogers tune was still a Kenny Rogers tune, but the rest of it beguiled, and on material like “Make Up,” I was hearing best of breed Prince for these ears!

The twin suns of Barry Andrews with and without Shriekback had a very productive year in 2019! His solo album was at least a half step away from the Shriek-zone and the latest Shriekback album was hot on the heels of their last one for being very satisfying modern Shriekback. Which means that they are a finely tuned music machine at this point. Carl Marsh really brought his game to the table strongly and went neck-and-neck with Andrews for carrying the beast forward with great material that couldn’t be said to be dominated by either writer; the ideal situation for me as a fan of both. The last three songs were simply amazing. Such clarity of vision at building a powerful mood.

rain to rist flowers of doubt coverHead Noise uber fantastique coverAnum Preto inferno interno cover

There were three indie releases with the right stuff that reached my ears this year. I like to hear a new generation having a try at the sound that I find so beguiling after 40+ years. I need to pay heed to those musicians knocking on my virtual door because there are probably more people in their rehearsal rooms ready to make the kind of music I want to listen to now than at any other period in the last 30 years.

simple minds - live in the city of angels 4xCD coverPerennial faves Simple Minds released a full recording of one of their concerts last year along with almost every song rehearsed for the tour on four discs. I would not mind that being done by this band for every major tour. Old favorites like “Glittering Prize” were seriously deflated with pallid takes while personal favorite “I Travel” got a new lease on life for my ears. And I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the original arrangement. The rest fell in between, but even the worst here was miles better than anything on “Live In The City of Light.” And having Cherisse Osei drumming was a big change from the sound of Mel Gaynor for so many years. If anything, her lighter, percussive attack recalled Mike Ogletree’s brief time at the stool, and was of interest to me.

sparks - please don't fuck up my world coverAnd Sparks have released the single of the year with a song that is increasingly sitting next to Jarvis Cocker’s “Running The World” on a very short shelf of vitally relevant tunes that reflect life in the 21st century with brutal clarity.

Best Reissues

There were some amazing reissues this year! I got three reissue titles. I guess I don’t buy too many because more reissues these days are vinyl only. There’s not much point in that by my perspective. In most cases, I already have the LPs, thank you very much! I saw two albums on vastly separate ends of the commercial spectrum both get reissued in perfect packages; yet either disc was something I really thought would never happen! For that reason the top two are tied for this year.

The Passions Sanctuary US CD coverskafish reissue CD coverstephen duffy I love my friends deluxe reissue cover

  1. The Passions: Sanctuary DLX RM/Skafish: Skafish DLX RM
  2. Stephen Duffy: I Love My Friends DLX RM

Both The Passions and Skafish got ideal reissues; they sounded and looked great and allowed me to enjoy CDs of material that were only on wax in my Record Cell; an ideal situation. For The Passions, I only ever found the [superb] bonus material to buy on wax! In fact, earlier this year, I had bought a second copy of the great “African Mine” 2×7″ in the hopes that the vinyl would sound better than the copy I’ve had for decades. The “Sanctuary” album had thus far evaded my grasp so I was thrilled to finally hear such a great album.

I had bought the Skafish albums this century, confident in the idea that I would make my own CDs of them as I could not imagine anyone else doing the job. What I did not take into consideration was the tenacity of the artist himself, Jim Skafish. First he spent time battling with I.R.S. for the rights to his masters. Then he swam upstream to possibly remaster from vinyl before securing a tape master and the talents of a pro to put it on CD, with the help of a very successful crowdsource campaign. Now he wants to release more for the benefit of our ears and minds. Bring it on, I say!

I was happy with my 90s CD of Stephen Duffy’s great “I Love My Friends” album but obviously I was in the bliss of ignorance. Last year the album was re-issued in the form the artist had originally wanted with a bonus CD of contemporaneous material making a great thing even better! And the label putting it out took its name from a Duffy song! Could it get any more perfect?

So last year, I concluded by saying “I’d like to buy only things I really want to the tune of maybe $700-800 tops” and I managed to hit way below that mark at less than $650 spent, so I’m sated on that level. There was only one month with no purchases but rare was the month where spending topped $100. That feels great. I wish I could spend more time digitizing records that I already have but last year saw no vinyl played for the last nine months of the year. But this is poised to change this year. Hopefully. And I dearly wish I could find a little time to make a few CDs. The last few years have seen Click Repair software making the de-noising process almost instantaneous to my astonishment. But between the lack of pricey archival media, and the almost two years of buying upgraded hardware and software with which to make CDs [not to mention many other personal priorities taking precedence], the vast reduction in the time needed to remaster vinyl to make CDs [it’s the design process that is now the longest part of the equation] has yet to pay me any dividends.

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2019 – The Year In Buying Music [part 1]

make america rage again red ball cap

This year I actually did it. I managed to throttle back my spending on music to reasonably moderate levels. The “sales events” [out-of-town trips taking in record stores] were slim-to-none. Only some a pair of trips to Ohio saw us visiting the usual haunts there as well as a little new blood. In both cases, money spent on music was modest. Good! I’m still annoyed that there are still a handful records I need to finish off collections so that I can make a definitive CD of some rare material not yet in the digital domain. This is my primary interest and I have not really made any CDs for almost two years.

That was down to:

  • buying a new computer in 2018 – the first in a decade
  • said new computer having no disc burner since new computers lack this once common feature
  • existing software incompatibilities rendering almost all of the software I use to make/design/print CDs null and void
  • Having no more blank gold/archival/printable CD-R media on hand after buying a spindle of 100 at least four years ago
  • My disc printer having its heads fatally clogged because I was not using it [see above]
  • being poor
  • lacking free time to spend on a pleasant hobby when more pressing issues were looming

So it’s taken almost two years but in 2020, I have:

  • new DVD-RW drive
  • new disc burning software
  • new graphic design suite [goodbye Adobe!]
  • new disc printer [I have been remembering to use it weekly so hopefully no head clog]

But I still need co$tly MAM-A gold printable CD-R media. And phase one of the big personal project I have been working on almost all 2019 has been completed, but phase two will be ongoing, albeit using a fraction of the time that the first phase did. Other than that, I still have two 7″ singles that I need to buy online to “finish” a few CD projects I have been buying releases for over the last two decades. Primarily Slow Children and Fingerprintz. This year they will reach completion! If I can only buy the two 45s and some blank media. It’s not looking good so far. There are numerous trips scheduled this year, including the BIG one. Traveling to the UK to see the Human Seventeen concert in London. I’m still failing to save sufficiently for that one so we’ll see if we manage to buy any music there.

Meanwhile, how did things shake out last year, scanty as they were?

Buying Stats

Total titles purchased: 103 [↓56%]
Total expenditures: $636.22 [↓48%]
Average cost: $6.18/title [↑10%]

CD: 58
Vinyl: 33
– LP: 6
– 12″: 12
– 7″: 15
Cassette: 1
DVD: 2
– bundled: 2
Downloads: 10

Total costs and expenditures were down over 50% from last year, with average cost per unit 10% higher. This was down to the many purchases at merch tables and buying directly from the artist/label via crowdsourcing or web stores. These are full cost venues but least I can know that the artist will see maximum financial benefit in these cases. Though I’m cheap, I’m not heartless. Two big surprises were the larger influx of 7″ singles, though the 12″ purchases took a huge dive as my favorite analog single format became even more thin on the ground. The other big change was the doubling of DL totals from last year. This was down to either promo items [much obliged as Monk nods slightly and touches brim of Aztec Energy Cone®] or indie music available no other way.

Next: …Details, Lists

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