Record Review: The Cars – Candy-O US DLX RM [part 2]

The Cars in 1979

Ben Orr – “Well, it worked for Sting…” as Ric averted his gaze

[…continued from last post]
After the last 90 seconds of “Double Life” chugged away in a static fashion, there was a violent crossfade to a song with a much more frantic tempo. “Shoo Be Doo” was an homage to Suicide; built upon a jittery rhythm box after it had obviously hit the amphetamines. Singer [and number one Suicide fan] Ocasek delivered his terse, haiku-like lyrics slathered in the slapback echo beloved of rockabilly singers… and Alan Vega. The brief, shocking number seemed more like a dub of a Cars song by Suicide than a song itself. With “Shoo Be Doo,” the band clearly slammed their collective feet down hard on the pedal and accelerated to a strange place where they would never venture again. But for those 92 seconds, it was pure thrill ride! The insane dub reverb loop [possibly courtesy of an AMS DMX 15-80 digital delay] of Ocasek freaking out at the song’s climax repeated four times before the hard splice into the album’s title track sounded so inhuman; so thrilling, that it became the standard against which I would forever measure The Cars. And ultimately, find them wanting.

“Candy-O” was a sizzler of a song that managed to follow on to “Shoo Be Doo” and not sound deflated. Which is quite a feat! In fact, this taut little number should have been a single instead of the devastating deep cut that it was. Ben Orr’s vocals were dryly distant and I loved how it was built on a sequencer loop. The impact of Moroder two year earlier having obviously even touched upon forward thinking US rock bands like The Cars. The squelchy synth loops suggested DEVO, and not for the first time with this band. Best of all was the frantic solo that Elliot Easton laid down in the two bars allotted to him. He sounded like he was gleefully channeling Eddie Van Halen in a vastly different context. The cold ending brought “side one” to an abrupt end but not a second was wasted on this CD as we moved immediately to the next song.

“Night Spots” continued the incredible seam that had begun in the middle of “side one” to dive deep in to the dark heart of this album. The synth riff rondo was a grabber and the vibe here suggested the dark flipside to “Let’s Go” which had begun the album. But that was just kids playing. The minor key synth leads from Greg Hawkes, as well as other dissonant elements poking through the music suggested something more adult and dangerous. The thrill of night clubbing but with the degradation and fall from grace just around the bend foreshadowed in the tense music. If The Cars were America’s answer to Roxy Music as some have posited, then this was their “For Your Pleasure” track. All matte black and chrome to contrast with the brightly lit cover. The clouds had to break, and they did for “You Can’t Hold On Too Long,” the least interesting song here since “Since I Held You.”

Fortunately, the winsome “Lust For Kicks” sported not only a great title, but a great Farfisa-like mono synth line courtesy of Hawkes. It’s telling that the generation of rock keyboardists who were born in the 50s and were teens when the Farfisa organ ruled garage rock for about a year and a half, came of age as musicians among the Emersons and Wakemans who ruled the 70s. Once those dinosaurs were deposed, the New Wave that followed was most definitely built upon the cheap cheerful Farfisa sound of the mid 60s. Players like Steve Nieve, Johnny Fingers, and even Hawkes all arrived there in ’78-’79 and this keyboard sound was the clarion call of New Wave. Perhaps the least Prog manner to coax sound out of a keyboard. I know that was one of the factors that attracted me to New Wave since “96 Tears” was my number one childhood rock song.

Next: …Gimme Danger

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Record Review: The Cars – Candy-O US DLX RM [part 1]


Elektra ‎| US | CD | 2017 | R2 560031

The Cars: Candy-O DLX RM US CD [2017]

  1. Let’s Go
  2. Since I Held You
  3. It’s All I Can Do
  4. Double Life
  5. Shoo Be Doo
  6. Candy-O
  7. Night Spots
  8. You Can’t Hold On Too Long
  9. Lust For Kicks
  10. Got A Lot On My Head
  11. Dangerous Type
  12. Let’s Go [monitor mix]
  13. Candy-O [Northern Studios version]
  14. Night Spots [Northern Studios version]
  15. Lust For kicks [monitor mix]
  16. They Won’t See You [Northern Studios version]
  17. That’s It [B-side “Let’s Go”]

When I received this CD as a birthday gift recently, I was most interested in revisiting the second Cars album. The first album I had been exposed to continually on the FM-Rock of 1978 so I knew it forwards and backwards. I’ve had the 2xCD DLX RM for many years now. I once owned this album on LP as well as the less successful followup, “Panorama.” The latter album didn’t get played a lot, but the songs themselves had enormous staying power. Looking at the titles almost 40 years later, it was effortless to recall each song. “Candy-O” was more of a mystery. I only owned a copy for four to five years before it met its fate in The Great Vinyl Purge of 1985. Since The Cars were a very popular group who got airplay, my attention was more focused on the core collection bands I favored in the late 70s/early 80s [you know the drill: Ultravox, JAPAN, OMD, John Foxx…] to the exclusion of bands like The Cars who I was less invested in.

The Cars - Let's Go French 7" PSThe album began with its biggest hit right in the pole position. “Let’s Go” was the band’s first Top 20 hits, and looking back, it’s almost scandalous that for all of the airplay the first album got, they never cracked the Top 20 with any of its singles. This time they made it all the way to #14 in the US Billboard survey. It was a streamlined pop hit with the requisite New Wave backbeat that was all the rage in the late 70s. Greg Hawkes synth hook was direct and memorable so they were going for a hit here. At least they got a reasonable one with it. The production by Roy Thomas Baker was clean and less overstuffed with his penchant for stacked harmonies this time around. If the lyrical concerns of a guy obsessed with a teenaged girl who holds him at arm’s length was a little cliché, the band’s solid performance counted for something.

While all of the songs here, with the exception of “Night Spots” were fresh material written after the first album came out and was a hit, I would have sweared that “Since I Held You” had been something that had been kicking around since 1975 or so in the Ocasek or Orr notebooks. It sounded very pre-punk in its demeanor. As it sounded less modern than the first album, that left it the odd one out, here. The second single was another Orr-sung tune. “It’s All I Can Do” with hooky stop-start rhythm a lazy melody line that I can’t decide if it is a guitar or a synth. The plaintive pop of this one stalled just outside of the Top 40 at #41. That was America’s loss.

“Double Life” was where things started to get more interesting. Until I was reading about this album, I had no idea that this was even a single in America at all, but it was in several other territories, including Japan, from there the sleeve image next to this paragraph came from. It’s been noted that The Cars were sort of America’s answer to Roxy Music. Yeah, so they had glammed out femmes on their sleeves, it’s true, but on this track is where the depth of that notion takes root. As much as Roxy pioneered post-modernism within rock, The Cars proved to be adept students of the masters since “Double Life” was very much the sound of the band mixing and matching from various eras of rock to create a brilliant pastiche of a loping, Everly Brothers sort of tune, right down to the lazy guitar lines of Elliot Easton at a little over a minute into the song. Yet the first two lines of the lyric had been cribbed from beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Lost Parents” and the song had its jaunty pace down to the CR-78 rhythm box that just chugged away as it does. And Ben Orr was playing bass synth further pulling the eras being referenced like taffy. Like Roxy Music, this song proffered the 50s, 70s, and prefigured the 80s coming like a freight train.

Next: …Suicide Is Painless

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Second Record Show In As Many Months Delivers Exactly To Expectations

A record show in a brewery?

A record show in a brewery? It must be Asheville.

A month ago I went to a record show and even as I was walking out of that one, I was aware that there would be another one on November 2nd! Years may pass between record shows in my sleepy hamlet, but the hipster vinyl wave must be still cresting because they managed to fit another one into a brewery this time. Beer and “vinyls” together?! That makes for hipster-bait in this town! The occasion was to mark the 10th anniversary of Asheville’s 103.3-FM, the community radio station that I have ignored for ten years. I was involved for a short time with helping to start up WPVM-FM, the newer station’s predecessor, before I managed to get employed and thus unable to make all of those 9:00 a.m. meetings. But as a rule, I have completely ignored radio in North Carolina.

When I entered the space with my friend, I was amazed at how much the place resembled a Bond-Villain® techno-lair. As I recall, one Dean Martin Matt Helm® opus did feature a villain who brewed beer as his cover, so I’m not far off base. As we got there at 10:50, and the show was a fund-raiser for the station, we got buttonholed into paying the $10 “early admission”scam. This was something I used to do in the 80s when I was still a member of the “hip” record collecting demographic. When the show was catering to my tastes strongly, then it sort of made sense to pay more to get an edge against your “competition” on the floor for those thousands of records and CDs. This is no longer the case! Whatever is selling best at shows now is of no concern to me any more. It hasn’t been for decades. I couldn’t just say “no” and step outside for seven more minutes to pay the recommended $3.00 door donation for the station. I’m cheap, but not that cheap! We were given our swag bags [sort of like a V.I.P. ticket generally provides], and we were inside.

Of course I started here – like a fool!

I expected that most of these vendors would be re-hashes of the ones who had been at the last show, and I was mostly right. The gent I spoke to at such length that time, had to step down for a family issue at the last minute and so he would not be here today. As usual, I first looked at the local dealer who always has his “80s + New Wave” bin out in front like the Monk-bait that it is. And every time I get caught looking even though there has never been a single record in it that I would ever care to buy. I mean, you can see the dreaded Men At Work “Business As Usual” LP sticking up as if to mock me! If that lame album is your standard of New Wave then any vendor proffering such a box is doomed to failure in seeking my pocket money. Memo to self: stop falling for this trick at the next show!

These were the lone CDs for sale here; Evidence of the ongoing digital pogrom of my format of choice.

There was only a single table with one bin of familiar krautrock and prog titles in it. I recall this from the last show but I can’t afford to pay $25 for JPN pressings of La Düsseldorf CDs, no matter how badly I need them. I will pay domestic new prices [“$12-$15] at most.

Always a rare flower

In the corner was a dealer that my friend Jacob was looking through his stock. Jacob was contemplating a US “Country Life” LP with the censored cover that was actually on my own want list. But I’d go up to $8.oo on the album. This was $15.00. But the dealer did have some nice wares. 12″ singles were in the $5-6 range. Pretty fair! Many nice things were there but…I already had them. That’s not to say that I didn’t feel like buying some of them again! It took me way too long to source a copy of the Godlike Trevor Horn Remix® of Spandau Ballet’s “Instinction” to not twitch during  the few times I’ve run across a copy in later years. The dealer was a friendly guy with a 2019 Bryan Ferry t-shirt so we talked Roxy for a while before getting sucked into the Duran Duran zone after talk went to the induction of Roxy into the RRHOF by DD. He claimed the ear of St. Nicholas himself, but when I noted [with approval] the presence of both Mark Ronson and Giorgio Moroder in the Producer’s chair for the upcoming Duran opus, he was blindsided enough to text St. Nick on the spot asking why he had not heard it from the horses mouth. Probably because it was John Taylor that spilled those beans prematurely in a podcast that has now spread like wildfire throughout the DD community.

Tucked in among the KISS® and Hendrix albums at Jax Wax was… The Shaggs!

I had not seen much that I needed here, but I came to the show with a month’s worth of “discretionary budget” or $40 in common parlance. I had run across a dealer at the last show from Dalton, Georgia who had a sheer holy grail album that was so holy grail, that I did not yet know of its existence! This Jack gent of Jax Wax was not only a fun dealer to talk to, but his goods were Krautrock, Prog and New Wave with a heavy emphasis on JPN pressings. Last month he had a $40 JPN copy of The Tourists “Reality Effect” album. But I had already spent my money, which was not even close to my $20 budget in any case.

I had bought the album when it came out in America in 1980. It is one of my favorite 1980 albums, which is saying a lot. But when I got the first import only Tourists debut album soon afterward, I saw that US Epic had added two tracks into the running and that implied that I had missed out on some material that Epic had shaved off of the album. By 1983, I came across the only import pressing of “Reality Effect” that I had found until last month. It was a Portuguese pressing that looked and sounded like a 4th generation pirated record. Full stop. It had simply awful sonic and visual qualities! But that was the only way I could hear the song “Something In The Air Tonight” for decades. At least “Summer’s Night” was also the B-side to “I Only Want To Be With You,” and I had two copies of that single.

my take for the day

So I was hoping that I would see Jax Wax again and was not disappointed. I spent long minutes talking with the gent and when I was ready to buy, took the Tourists album as well as the German Shriekback “Knowledge, Power, Truth + Sex” EP he also had [one of the few Shriek records that I still need for The Collection] and the $48 in goods he sold me for a straight $40. Buying more than one, and with cash, had triggered dealer largesse, but that’s his policy. Quite delightful. I don’t often drop two serious figures on a record too often these days, but this was more than worth it to me. I can now remaster my “Reality Effect” CD to my satisfaction. For years I had tried to get a German pressing of the album from Discogs since German Teldec pressings tended to be the next best thing to JPN wax to these ears. Trumping even the original UK pressings, which can be very hit-and-miss. But while the records were about €5.00 with shipping from Germany putting them at about $20 for a VG copy, I never saw much in the way of VG+ or [even better] M- copies for sale. Like I said last time, I had not yet run across the Japanese pressing on Discogs [it was added only three years ago] just yet and had no ideaI had subsequently checked and there were two JPN copies for sale in the $25 [inc. postage] range but these were VG copies without obi. $40 for a higher quality copy was worth it to me. I more had confidence in Jax Wax’s caliber of goods.

The overall vibe to this show was a weaker rehash of last month’s show. Some of the better dealers from that one were absent this time. The amazing range of 7″ material was completely absent. The one new dealer who was interesting didn’t have anything that I needed. But the dealer I was hoping would double dip into the Asheville market just a month later did not disappoint. I would have mail ordered the disc from his business card  had he not been there. Finally, my cruddy sounding Portuguese copy of “Reality Effect” that has gnawed at me for 36 years will finally be superseded by the best possible vinyl copy of that music.

– 30 –

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Record Review: Renegade Soundwave – Biting My Nails US CD5

Enigma/Mute Records | US | CD5 | 1989 | 7 75525-2

Renegade Soundwave: Biting My Nails US CD5 [1989]

  1. Biting My Nails
  2. Biting My Nails [instrumental club mix]
  3. Cocaine Sex
  4. Kray Twins

I first heard Renegade Soundwave back in 1987 [I believe] on an episode of the British TV program Snub TV that was shown on Night Flight one weekend. I could always count on interesting things on Snub TV. They showed the video for their single “Kray Twins” and I was immediately smitten with the apocalyptic, industrial hip hop on the track that was dedicated to the notorious British gangsters of the Swinging London era. Huge slabs of the hardest beat I had ever heard definitely made my Cabaret Voltaire bone twitch. This track just sounded so immense and threatening that it could flatten the listener, but this was among the early records made strictly with sampling. As it turned out, that was the métier of Renegade Soundwave.

I looked for that song on CD for a few years before finally finding the UK three-track version of the single above. It lacked the dub mix of “Biting My Nails.” So I originally bought that one first, in 1988 as an import. The CD5 was an EP of the first three single A-sides from Renegade Soundwave but as long as I would get “Kray Twins” I was all in! “Biting My Nails” was a groovy confection of sample-a-delic funk that had the good taste to bite the first three notes of the famous “Knock On Wood” boss horn riff from the Eddie Floyd 60s soul hit for its own mojo.

What I didn’t now at the time was that the song was a cover version. In fact, the fact that I’ve only just stumbled across this knowledge was what put this disc in my consciousness, and therefore, on this page today. The song had originally been released as a B-side to a single in 1974 by Geneviève Waite; the then-wife of co-writer “Papa” John Philips. The original was a horrible novelty tune; a ten-years-past-its-sell-by-date ye-ye pastiche from hell. An unholy alliance of Serge Gainsbourg and Betty Boop! So kudos to RSW for taking this track to a much better place. I can’t imagine where they got the idea from, though.

The other single on this EP was the sordid and ugly “Cocaine Sex,” which was such an inflammatory title in 1987, that the 12″ cover didn’t even list the title! The back cover coyly noted that the record contained “C.S. [sex mixes].” The samples of females groaning in simulated ecstasy from porn movies only added to the gutter filth vibe that they were obviously targeting.  I give this one a pass. It’s so not barking up my tree. While it’s not the most offensive track in my collection [that would be “Bring On The Nubiles”] it’s close enough to never want to hear this either.

I once had this long sleeved tee but wore it to shreds

I later re-purchased the 4-track US variation shown above which had an instrumental dub mix of “Biting My Nails” which was decent enough. That was at the time that the US indie label Enigma Records had linked up with Mute to distribute a lot of their catalog in America. I gave the original 3-track CD to my friend Jayne, who I traveled with to actually see Renegade Soundwave live. Twice in one week! I think that was the first time I ever did something like that, but in 1991, Mute Records [who had signed RSW] held what was called the “Mute Over Amerika” tour which featured a mix of Renegade Soundwave live, DJ Derrick May, and various Mute music videos in a club tour. So I got to get right up to the stage and hear the likes of  “Biting My Nails” pummeling my skull.. I can’t remember if they played “Kray Twins” but I sure hope that they did. I have no recollection of May at all. In fact, I had to look up what the other tour features were as RSW only played for about a half an hour as I recall.

We drove to Tampa to see the opening night of the tour at The Ritz on April 18th, and that one we bought tickets for earlier. Then the tour was announced as coming to Orlando on the fly, so the next night we probably went to Visage [my ticket stubs are at home now] to see them again; buying tickets at the door. So yeah, we actually saw Renegade Soundwave twice. Even in Florida! I only ever bought the “Probably A Robbery” UK CD single, but it never excited. “Soundclash” was oon my list but never purchased. This EP probably has all of the RSW I actually need. And even then, it’s too much by half in the case of “Cocaine Sex.”

– 30 –

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Want List: Twin Helpings Of Revillos Goodness Arrive In A Fortnight!

Fay and Eugene will be returning to their rightful place in record stores next month!

Just a few months after our look at the surprising return of the Revillos when we least expected them in the mid-90s, comes new word of two new Revillos projects coming our way on the shiny silver disc…as well as the zombie vinyl trend. The first of these projects is a refresh of the Revillos 1995 album “Live + On Fire In Japan!” The original album had been recorded [wisely] on the Revillos Japanese tour which had the effect of removing them from the freezer for the first time in a decade. That album was 15 tracks taking in both Revillos albums, some stray singles, as well as one or two Rezillos classics for good measure. It’s getting not only a reissue but also a re-thinking.

cover of The Revillos live from the orient

Damaged Goods | UK | CD | DAMGOOD ???

The Revillos: Live From The Orient UK CD [2019]

  1. Secret of the Shadow
  2. Snatzmobile
  3. Motorbike Beat
  4. Bongo Brain
  5. (Bitten by a) Love Bug
  6. Where’s the Boy for Me
  7. She’s Fallen in Love with a Monster Man
  8. The Rock-a-Boom
  9. Mystery Action
  10. Bobby Come Back to Me
  11. Manhunt
  12. Scuba Scuba
  13. Mind Bending Cutie Doll
  14. Mad From Birth to Death
  15. Rev Up
  16. Do the Mutilation
  17. My Baby Does Good Sculptures
  18. Voodoo
  19. Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight
  20. The Fiend
  21. Yeah Yeah

Compare and contrast with the earlier 1995 version.

Vinyl Japan ‎| UK | CD | 1995 | ASKCD46

The Revillos: Live + On Fire In Japan UK CD [1995]

  1. Secret Of The Shadow
  2. Bongo Brain
  3. Rockaboom
  4. She’s Fallen In Love With A Monster Man
  5. Where’s The Boy For Me?
  6. Rev Up
  7. Bitten By A Lovebug
  8. Mad From Birth To Death
  9. Bobby Come Back To Me
  10. The Fiend
  11. Scuba Scuba
  12. My Baby Does Good Sculptures
  13. Do The Mutilation
  14. Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight
  15. Yeah Yeah

So the new album has a full six songs more to replicate what must have been the full gig. The running order has been re-jigged to replicate the original running order. But the biggest difference was in the studio. Drummer Rocky Rhythm has said that the original concert had been recorded to an 8-track mobile studio at the time. Not optimal with six people on stage already with four vocalists, drums, bass, organ, and ambient crowd making for a tight recording session. The mix that made it out was viewed as a lost opportunity.

<flash forward 9 years>

Kid Krupa of The Revillos

Kid Krupa [r.i.p.] at your service

In the interim, twangtastic Revillos guitarist Kid Krupa had become a producer and had plunged into the world of digital audio workstations. Using the rediscovered original mixes and various sources, began the painstaking task of re-creating the show in full with all of the drop outs, etc. fixed up using modern digital whiz-bang. And he might have done a smashing job of it had he not died in 2005; leaving the job unfinished. Until it fell upon Rocky Rhythm to complete the task after finding Krupa’s backups and tackling the work himself. The new master is the original full Japanese concert that re-activated The Revillos for several years in the late 90s. The LP [red vinyl] cuts three songs for reasons of running time. Prices are a sensible £9.95 [$12.90] for CD and just 50% more the the format that delivers less music. Pre-orders available HERE.

Damaged Goods ‎| UK | CD | 1997 | DAMGOOD 97 CD

As if that weren’t enough, Revillos fans may remember the eclectic and delightful “From The Freezer” compilation that emerged in 1997 to my sheer delight at the time. That CD was an odds + ends compilation of 20 tracks in live, demo, or simply strange form taken from the band’s archives. Now, 22 years later, the sequel is coming out! Before his death, Rocky Rhythm and Kid Krupa teamed up to have another go at the archives and found more material where familiar songs were recorded in radically different forms and became intrigued by the possibilities. Between Krupa, Rocky Rhythm and bassist Vince Santini the songs have been polished to the extent that they could with assorted dropouts being attacked with digital hammers and mallets. And now they are headed our was on the two popular disc formats on November 15th. The cover looks a little familiar

Damaged Goods | UK | CD | 2019 | DAMGOOD ???

The Revillos: Compendium Of Weird UK CD [2019]

  1. Boom Boom Boom Boom
  2. Can I Have Some?
  3. Caveman Raveman
  4. Cool Jerk
  5. Scuba Scuba
  6. Heaven Fell
  7. Hellbent (entering Psychosis by the Back Door)
  8. Hippy Hippy Sheik
  9. You Were Meant For Me
  10. I Wanna Be Your Man
  11. Big Boss
  12. Take Off
  13. Rollerskatin’
  14. Hungry For Love
  15. Do You Love Me?
  16. Mysterious Mutilators
  17. Rocking Goose

Wowser. All of the new song titles are in red, so that’s ten new songs unknown to us, and seven classics in radical form. I’m guessing that “Do You Love Me” is The Contours hit song. “I Wanna Be Your Man” was the Beatles cover that was the B-side of the debut Rezillos 7″ from 1977, so that’s very technically, an eleventh new Revillos song. Prices? Very fair! Just like the live album with this time the [yellow] vinyl lacking just two of the songs. Preorder HERE.

My biggest question will be: do I get the LPs as well as the CDs? They’re not expensive, but my money is super tight. They may rise in cost on the aftermarket so buying fresh goods directly from the label looks like the safest bet. I have a reasonably expansive Revillos/Rezillos collection. I have bought vinyl I didn’t need just to make my collection of these fine musicians as vast as I could. And the kicker is that there simply isn’t that much of it out there to buy! A complete Revillos/Rezillos collection is a less than herculean task that I can get fully behind, in theory, anyway. But the CDs will be $30-ish after shipping. The LPs will add nearly $40 [plus much more shipping] to the notion. Hmm. I think I just answered my own question.

– 30 –

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REVO Remastering: Torch Song – Ecstasy [REVO 060] [part 3]

Orbit caffeinates for session in his Guerilla Studios

[…continued from last post]

Side one of “Ecstasy” capped with the dreampop of “Living Out Of Time” with the spotlight taken by vocalist Laurie Mayer’s expressive vocal and the biggest appearance of Grant Gilbert on this album on the smooth sax that closed the song out. Then the album opened side two with the fascinating descent into techno-dub that was “Mothdoom Ecstasy.” I remember seeing a magazine ad for their “Ode To Billie Joe” single and seeing that this had been the [non-LP at the time] B-side and wondered what a song with such an evocative name [albeit one which was probably referencing MDMA] might sound like. It sounded for all the world like a dub mix made of some other song, only with the original version wiped from the tape and all that remained was the dub mix. People sometimes talk about moving in this direction, but this was an excellent example of that rare event happening to its fullest!

The mix was just the sort of techno-psychedelia-dub that Colourbox [who recorded at Torch Song’s studios and sometimes employed Orbit on guitar] had also explored contemporaneously to Torch Song. Laurie Mayer only intoned the title dubbed out in a breathy fashion except for eh intact middle eight; leaving Orbit with his hands full in making the rest of the deconstructed music. Horse samples added to the unsettling vibe and I can only wonder what kind of sampler that Orbit could have afforded back then. Maybe the DS-3, which was an innovative 8-bit sampling card made for the Apple II computer designed by members of the band Mainframe?Considering all of the acid drenched guitar on the album, this song was explicitly designed as a trip.

Following that, “Nails In the Cross” was a return to the sort moody but darkly beautiful pop that was the middle ground of this album. This time out, Orbit harmonized with Ms. Mayer on the song’s chorus to good effect. The conga-driven exotica of the instro “The Zebra Room” thought nothing of juxtaposing deep synth squelches against the brief, proto-“Strange Cargo” material.

Much of the surrounding synth frivolity and dance tempos took a powder for the band’s cover of The VU’s “Venus In Furs.” The minimal arrangement here gave the most room to Orbit’s guitars moaning in slow-motion pain, though the synths did contribute some shading to the funereal paced cover version. Ms. Mayer didn’t convince with the verses, but she wore the chorus well enough.

Then, the anticlimactic capper of “Dia Del Muerto” seemed to be an outlier for the sort of less, interesting. more mainstream path that Orbit would pursue on his one and only solo album the next year. But the happy circumstance was that by then, he had gotten better at aiming for that sort of mainstream target more successfully.

“Ecstasy” was something of a mixed bag following the berserk majesty of “Wish Thing.” That album had offered an intoxicating high tech cocktail of ceaselessly inventive dance music with an almost psychedelic bent. This time out, there were a few songs that aimed for that target [“White Night,” “Mothdoom Ecstasy”] as well as having an even better techno cover version in the mind-blowing “Can’t Find My Way Home.” Elsewhere, Orbit’s penchant for soundtrack pieces that were limited to just one track on the debut album, ballooned to a third of the program here.

One of the pleasures of this eclectic album was its greater reliance on subdued acid rock guitar of the David Gilmour stripe in the capable hands of William Orbit. That was highly enjoyable. On the other hand, one can tell that the arrival of the uninteresting [to me, anyway] “Strange Cargo” series was very imminent after listening to “Ecstasy.” Of the three instros here, only “Spear” passed muster under the Torch Song umbrella. But even so, the heights of this album were so dazzling, that its brushes with mundanity still couldn’t hobble its spirit.

I just wish that Torch Song could have existed in this form for a few albums longer as they would have helped immeasurably with the mid-80s malaise that had affected almost all of my favorite musicians and bands at that time. Not that it mattered much, since this album was so far under the radar, that I didn’t even find out about it for another seven or eight years. And even then, finding a copy to buy took even longer! As it stood, when the third Torch Song album appeared in the late 90s, the critical juxtapositions of energy inherent in the band were all out of balance and the then comonplace ambient chillout vibe was as stale as last week’s bread.

– 30 –

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REVO Remastering: Torch Song – Ecstasy [REVO 060] [part 2]

torch song cover - can't find my way home UK 12" A

Y II | UK | 12″ | 1986 | YII 12 002

[…continued from last post]

“White Night” was a very strong single to open with, but the ante was upped dramatically with the second song. Torch Song had set a very high standard for cover versions on their debut album with a brilliant re-imagining of “Ode To Bille Joe” as a piece of high-technopop that somehow retained its original swampy, backwater vibe in spite of that. It was nothing I’d ever imagined hearing at the time. What they did with the Steve Winwood-penned Blind Faith pop song was nothing short of miraculous.

It opened with an unresolved stray guitar chord and then the hum at the base of the universe began to swell and fill every corner of the sonic space. Like the hot breath of the gods bearing down on the nape of your neck; causing the tiny hairs all over your body to become enervated with a mixture of dread and anticipation. This song demanded a subwoofer to give it its due. Then the tribal rhythms ensued until William Orbit could be heard uttering a yelp; heralding his acid guitar licks into the mix.

Then Laurie Mayer swathed in reverb began singing the lyrics with her signature eerie if girlish calm. The psychedelic guitar harmonics of Orbit along with the crystalline synths bathed the arrangement in a cool saturated glow of otherworldly power. The bass solo had the audacity to invoke an descending jazz chord sequence that sounded ripped from a Joni Mitchell album. This was simply the most breathtaking cover I’d ever heard. Every time I listen to this [and when I do, I do it a lot – there’s no playing this song just once, when I make the effort] I am thrilled beyond compare.

Then the instrumental “Spear” kept the tribal vibe moving along albeit at a level far closer to the earth. This was a cinematic excursion into high levels of soundtrack music, but against the brilliance of the preceding song, it had to suffer a bit in comparison. “Microdot Daylight” was a delicate dreampop song with allusions to LSD but the lyrics pointed to the acid-like effects being due to another person and not necessarily drugs. Another, more brief instrumental followed. “The Pentacle,” was yet another fallback to soundtrack music styles. This time, it fell out of the Torch Song zone and sounded like something from William Orbit’s “Strange Cargo” series of instrumental albums. The fact that it was highly fragmentary and ended abruptly, as if it were an unfinished sketch, led to a sense of slight disappointment. Particularly since the heights that much of the music thus far had scaled were so very high indeed.

Next: …Orbit In Dub

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