Record Review: New Wave Hits Of the 80s – Just Can’t Get Enough Vol. 7

Rhino Records | US | CD | 1994 | R2 71700

Various Artists: New Wave Hits of the 80s – Just Can’t Get Enough Vol. 7 US CD [1994]

  1. Haircut 100: Favourite Shirts [Boy Meets Girl]
  2. Josie Gotton: He Could Be The One
  3. The Blasters: I’m Shakin’
  4. Split Enz: Six Months In A Leaky Boat
  5. Paul Carrack: I Need You
  6. Animal Nightlife: Love Is the Great Pretender
  7. Fleshtones: Ride Your Pony
  8. X – Blue Spark
  9. Musical Youth: Pass The Dutchie
  10. Bad Manners: Samson + Delilah
  11. Wide Boy Awake: Chicken Outlaw
  12. Trio: Da Da Da I Don’t Love You You Don’t Love Me Aha Aha Aha
  13. Joe “King” Carrasco + The Crowns: Party Weekend
  14. Fashiøn: Love Shadow
  15. Bill Nelson: Flaming Desire
  16. Laurie Anderson: O Superman [For Massenet]

I can recall the early 90s when the first New Wave Comps began to manifest. The first batches came from Oglio with their Richard Blade curated series and from Rhino with the “Just Can’t Get Enough” series. The latter was an especially far-reaching program with 15 volumes and four themed supplements between ’94-’98. At the time, I didn’t fall too hard for these, but I can remember chasinvictoris, then in the throes of his “Chas’ Crusty Old Wave” radio show, hitting this action but hard. Just one of these volumes could sate a dozen requests. Me? I already had the original albums of most of the songs on these volumes. Either that, or I planned on buying them. But volume 7 was Monk bail, largely for the appearance of the rarely anthologized Fashiøn single “Love Shadow.”

Yes, there was a time where I would buy a CD just to hear one song on the shiny silver disc. But even though I eventually got the “Height Of Fashiøn” CD years later, this CD was worth hanging onto. I’ve been recently revisiting it and it was an exceptionally well curated  disc of material. It’s very scanty on the over-anthologized New Wave songs we’ve heard too many times already. The closest thing to that here might be the Haircut 100 song, and really, “Love Plus One” would better fit that profile! “Favourite Shirts” hewed much closer to the post-New Romantic vogue for latin funk ala Kid Creole than the Culture Club-esque pop that they had a bigger profile in America with.

We’ve all heard “Johnny Are You Queer” a few too many times, so it was nice to hear a different girl group New Wave cut from Josie Cotton. Her fun throwback sound was better served by something a little less crass. I recall when The Blasters emerged in late 70s L.A. scene with their greasy take on R+B/rockabilly. I had always planned on getting their slash debut album but until then, there’s “I’m Shakin’.”

The scope of this comp is almost best illustrated by how it featured Split Enz “Six Months In A Leaky Boat” instead of “I Got You.” Actually, the latter had turned up on volume 2, but this was an interesting choice for the second Split Enz track in this series. No one has ever complained about hearing “Six Months In A Leaky Boat” too many times!

Paul Carrack had an interesting career that first saw him fronting Ace whose late 70s hit was “How Long.” I next noticed him as a keyboard player on Roxy Music’s “Manifesto” and “Flesh + Blood.” He made a successful solo turn in 1982 with “I Need You> as included here. It’s a good blue-eyed soul record. I once bought the full “Suburban Voodoo” CD but found that it was not as succinct as the pleasures in this single.

I have the 1982 12″ of Animal Nightlife’s “Love Is The Great Pretender” but the  version here was a re-record from their album in 1985. A far slicker, and bloodless version of the campy song. Too bad that the ’82 version was not here instead, but the fact that Rhino picked this song that never got a US release for this anthology shows class.

I have never been a fan of L.A’s X, owing to the tuneless wailing of Exene Cervenka, so “Blue Spark” was a revelation! The riff rocker sported John Doe lead vox and Exene actually harmonized with Doe for a change. I didn’t think she was capable. Billy Zoom’s high pressure guitar riff hook needed no apologies.

The one song here I have to hit the skip button on is probably the biggest hit here: Musical Youth’s “Pass The Dutchie.” Not my cuppa. Not by a long shot. Bad Manners was always a ska band that I never paid too much at the time, but their cover of “Samson + Delilah” was a more acceptable form of cod-reggae than the preceding song.

Wide Boy Awake was the band fronted by Kevin Mooney ex-Adam + The Ants. “Chicken Outlaw” was like a more listenable version of what Haysi Fantayzee were trying to do [and what ultimately Malcolm McLaren did first and best]. The full 12″ version was used here, and I’m thinking that maybe the succinct 3:05 7″ mix might have worked a little better for me. This was the second longest song here and it showed.

Trio’s great “Da Da Da I Don’t Love You You Don’t Love Me Aha Aha Aha” is one of those songs that I never tire of. Its deadpan minimalism always manages to put me in a good mood. It;s probably the second most anthologized song here, but every home needs at least one copy. The fantastic cheesy Farfisa-driven New Wave classic that was “PArty Weekend” by Joe “King” Carrasco + The Crowns is a must. I sing this one all of the time and one of these days, I need to remaster the first three albums, which sit [this one in multiple copies!] in my Record Cell! MCA just put out a three-in-one best of for this period and I want the whole enchilada. I truly loved the one Joe King show that I caught at The Junkyard in Maitland back in ’93/’94. The man is a non-stop energizer bunny of Tex-Mex party rock!

“Love Shadow” was the reason why I bought this CD so, ’nuff said! I have used a fair number of electrons outlining my devotion to this band at this time with the sterling production of Zeus B. Held. As we have also recently gushed over Bill Nelson’s frenzied e-bow workout, “Flaming Desire.” Then the program came to a stunning conclusion with Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman [For Massenet].” Including this song which stood apart of everything else in the 1981 firmament spoke highly about the high caliber of the curation of this series.

By the mid 90s, New Wave Comps were a dime a dozen, yet this volume was so fresh at capturing an expansive slice of the dozens of styles that sat under the New Wave umbrella. The selection of songs here is second to none at avoiding New Wave cliché and it sidestepped all of the songs that I can go the rest of my life without hearing again, and yet it’s strongest virtue is how it captured music from that era that was not synth pop! Too often, the whole New Wave = Synth pop trope that clings to the neck of New Wave like a resilient albatross threatens to recast the actually more diverse history of the movement in our rear-view mirror. I’m pleased that compilers David McLees and Andrew Sandoval took the high road when putting this volume together.

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Posted in Record Review | Tagged , , | 32 Comments

Record Review: Mick Karn – Dreams Of Reason Produce Monsters

Virgin ‎| UK | CD | 1987 | CDV 2389

Mick Karn: Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters UK CD [1987]

  1. First Impression
  2. Language Of Ritual
  3. Buoy
  4. Land
  5. The Three Fates
  6. When Love Walks In
  7. Dreams Of Reason
  8. Answer

When JAPAN fissured into various splinters, I did not immediately pursue Mick Karn’s solo career, seeing as how I had heard his debut solo single, “Sensitive” back in the layoff following “Tin Drum” and their live swansong “Oil On Canvas.” I was appalled at the club-footed attempt at pop from this art rocker. I haven’t played the 7″ since and sat out “Titles,” his debut solo album that followed. I moved on with various Sylvian projects but when I chanced to see “Dreams Of Reason Produce Monsters” in the bins [was it as Digital Sounds, the then innovative CD-only store… I think so] I decided to take a chance on it. That was one of the best moves I have ever made because I have been enraptured with this album for 32 years and that shows no signs of stopping.

The album began with a ponderous fretless bassline of brutal simplicity; just two notes slithering across the soundfield while the lumbering, measured drum pattern laid down a tribal rhythm not a million miles away from where Julia Fordham would take her breakout “Happy Ever After” the next year. But here is was the furthest thing from pop. More classical than jazz, even when the heraldic horns burst into the bass heavy music bed with the musical theme.

The thrilling arrangements here were by Karn and Steve Jansen; his ex-bandmate who played drums and keys but the bulk of the music was down to multi-instrumentalist Karn. He played bass, keyboards, various reeds, accordion, drums, percussion, and dida. No lead guitars manifest on this album. The vibe on this one was incredible. It suggested primeval monolithic power buried deep beneath the earth for eons, now awakening. If all of that sounds a little Prog, I’ll just avert my eyes, whistle and point out that the song title was first used by ELP!

“Language Of Ritual” began with ethnic field recordings of bazaars on the other side of the world jostling with more methodical beats and a phalanx of clarinets and bass clarinets. As the song progressed through its length, it became gradually Westernized with the introduction of piano until as the coda played out, all vestiges of the Turkish city where the song began were faded out completely, giving the piano the last word.

Of course, we fell in love with Karn’s fretless bass in JAPAN, but thus far, his serpentine fretless bass runs were thin on the ground. Not here. Moreover, the hatchets had been buried by now over the girlfriend problems that had broken up the band. Karn had enlisted David Sylvian to sing and write lyrics for a pair of songs here and the obvious single was the jazz pop of “Buoy.” It was full of hooks yet left field enough to satisfy on that level. You know… the Prog level. This wonderful single had 3/4 of JAPAN playing and singing on it and it suggested that the band who had made “Tin Drum” still had some fight left in them.

Ambient washes of synth heralded “Land,” the one song here where Karn did not compose the music. This was a berth given to Steve Jansen and it fit right into the album like a puzzle piece. The gentle marimba wove a haunting melody through the number while it retained the methodical rhythmic bearing of much of the music here. This was music that was quietly insistent and it would brook no interruptions of its forward movement, no matter how slowly it progressed.

The second half of the album began with “The Three Fates” which was one of the lighter moments here. The lead melody gave Karn a chance to give his expressive accordion playing the spotlight. Sounding here like nothing less than Toots Thielmans playing one of his harmonica solos that fairly radiate sunlight. The song is so soulful, you’d be forgiven for not noticing that this was the second song title cribbed from ELP in the album!

The second song with David Sylvian singing was “When Love Walks In,” A somber ballad, it felt more like something from Sylvian’s “Brilliant Trees” album than the first song. The jazzy underpinning kept the song half hidden in shadow. This led aptly into the title track that followed. “Dreams Of Reason” was a melody that stated its theme and kept it moving in a multipart rondo for the entirety of the brief song.

Finally, the mood, which has been darkening ever since “When Love Walks In,” calcified with the closing chorale “Answer.” The album was ending on a serious, questing note as the church organ and massed choirs of children, women, and men erupted into a fully blown hymn.

Karn with one of his sculptures of the era

Karn felt that the album had been a flawed reaction to the accolades he had collected for his bass playing up to that point, and his insecurities with that praise fostered the intention here to stake his claim as a composer as opposed to a bassist. He considered it his weakest album, but I can’t disagree more, no matter how much I cherish his fretless playing. The studious tone of this album, with hints of lighter playfulness, mark it was a sound that grabs me by the lapels and doesn’t let go for the very swift 40 minutes of its running time.

When I hear this album, it feels to me like the next logical step of a mind that had already created the amazing “Sons Of Pioneers” six years earlier. I’ll go further and claim that of all of the post-JAPAN albums, this one is the one that I return to the very most as it never fails to delight the ear and mind.

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Posted in Core Collection, Your Prog Roots Are Showing | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

Simple Minds Revisit Modern Era; Reissue Rejuvenation BSOG

Simple Minds start to clean house of the last 20 years of music

Glorioski! It’s been difficult around lately here what with inclement weather impacting my job, and lunch hours sacrificed on the altar of 40 hours a week. Then there was that annoying identity theft issue, haircut appointments, etc. and not only was I getting to work early and taking 15 minute lunches, but I was trying to shore up the hours I did work to reach the magic 40 and something had to give. Actually two things went by the wayside. Pre-work gym time and this blog. Until we have another snow/ice event, we should be good for some regular posting.


When late last year it transpired that long time faves Simple Minds were releasing a 5xLP boxed set of their 2001-2014 albums I thought ‘that’s nice,” but even though “Cry,” “Neon Lights” and “Black + White 050505” have never troubled the LP format, I’m not going to spend three figures to gaze upon 180g colored vinyl editions of albums I already had on CD. Life and money’s too short for that game, even for a band I love as much as Simple Minds. I noted the proper refocusing of the spotlight on these albums which saw the band trim its sails to the point where their latest album had them hitting #4 in the UK album charts. Canny fans knew that this didn’t happen out of thin air, and these albums admirably reveal the work the band did. It was called “Rejuvenation” and reconfigured the “Big Music” artwork into something actually more interesting than the cover of that album. Given that I only care about Simple Minds music that is not on CD if I’m going to buy records of theirs, I noted this and moved on.

All of that changed recently with the announcement of “Rejuvenation: 2001-2014” in a BSOG with CDs and a DVD.

Demon Records | UK | 7xCD + DVD | 2019

Simple Minds: Rejuvenation: 2001-2014 – UK – 7xCD + DVD [2019]

CD 1 – NEON LIGHTS

  1. Gloria
  2. The Man Who Sold The World
  3. Homosapien
  4. Dancing Barefoot
  5. Neon Lights
  6. Hello I Love You
  7. Bring On the Dancing Horses
  8. The Needle And The Damage Done
  9. For Your Pleasure
  10. All Tomorrow’s Parties
  11. Being Boiled
  12. Love Will Tear Us Apart
  13. The Man Who Sold The World [White Spaces Main Mix]
  14. Homosapien [Vince Clarke Mix]

CD 2 – CRY

  1. Cry
  2. Spaceface
  3. New Sunshine Morning
  4. One Step Closer
  5. Face In The Sun
  6. Disconnected
  7. Lazy Lately
  8. Sugar
  9. Sleeping Girl
  10. Cry Again
  11. Slave Nation
  12. The Floating World
  13. Lead The Blind
  14. For What It’s Worth
  15. The Garden
  16. New Sunrise
  17. Where Is The Max?

CD 3 – BLACK & WHITE 050505

  1. Stay Visible
  2. Home
  3. Stranger
  4. Different World (Taormina.me)
  5. Underneath The Ice
  6. The Jeweller Part 2
  7. A Life Shot In Black And White
  8. Kiss The Ground
  9. Dolphins
  10. Too Much Television
  11. Bird On A Wire
  12. Mighty Joe Moon

CD 4 – GRAFFITI SOUL

  1. Moscow Underground
  2. Rockets
  3. Stars Will Lead The Way
  4. Light Travels
  5. Kiss And Fly
  6. Graffiti Soul
  7. Blood Type O
  8. This Is It
  9. Shadows And Light

CD 5 – SEARCHING FOR THE LOST BOYS

  1. Rockin’ In The Free World
  2. A Song From Under The Floorboards
  3. Christine
  4. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
  5. Let The Day Begin
  6. Peace, Love And Understanding
  7. Teardrop
  8. Whiskey In The Jar
  9. Sloop John B
  10. Children Of The Revolution

CD 6 – BIG MUSIC

  1. Blindfolded
  2. Midnight Walking
  3. Honest Town
  4. Big Music
  5. Human
  6. Blood Diamonds
  7. Let The Day Begin
  8. Concrete And Cherry Blossom
  9. Imagination
  10. Kill Or Cure
  11. Broken Glass Park
  12. Spirited Away
  13. Blindfolded [Reprise]

CD 7 – BIG MUSIC BONUS CD

  1. Swimming Towards The Sun
  2. Bittersweet
  3. Liaison
  4. Riders On The Storm
  5. Dancing Barefoot
  6. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself) [single version] (with The Stranglers)
  7. Blindfolded [Johnson Somerset Remix]
  8. Midnight Walking [Johnson Somerset Remix]
  9. Honest Town [Johnson Somerset Remix]
  10. Big Music [Johnson Somerset Remix]

DVD – PROMO VIDEOS

  1. Dancing Barefoot
  2. Cry
  3. Home
  4. Rockets
  5. Stars Will Lead The Way
  6. This Is It [clip]
  7. Blindfolded
  8. Honest Town
  9. Let The Day Begin
  10. Midnight Walking
  11. Neon Lights EPK
  12. Black And White 050505 EPK
  13. Black And White 050505 Interview
  14. Graffiti Soul EPK
  15. Big Music: Behind The Scenes
  16. Big Music: Band interviews
  17. Big Music Clip Medley: Human / Let The Day Begin / Midnight Walking

The presentation of the 12″ x 12″ book/jacket is sweet as this will no doubt fit on and record racks, and the liner notes by Mr. Kerr are undoubtedly fine and illuminating. I see 23 bonus tracks salted amongst these discs. Tracks in monksblood red are things that I have already bought elsewhere. The cuts in bright red represent the new material here for my ears. If anyone has not heard these albums, then this is an eight course feast. As a Simple Minds [pragmatic] collector, I have as many of their CD singles, which were scarce in this era, as I was able to buy. I have the singles from “Cry.” What I could not get was the CD “Live + Rare” from whence the White Spaces mix of “The Man Who Sold The World” hails from. To get this little puppy, one had to live in Italy and buy a Vodaphone mobile contract! So I never worried about sourcing a copy.

The three B-sides from the “Cry” CD singles were never much to write home about. These were leftover tracks from the “Our Secrets Are The Same” sessions, and unremarkable tracks. “New Sunrise” was the B-side; a version of “New Sunshine Morning” from the “Spaceface” Euro CD5. And “Where Is The Max” is a fluke. This is a song which has no previous provenance within the Simple Minds discography. It is effectively a “new” song [raises eyebrow]. What takes the wind out of my sails was the fact that curing the “Cry” period, Simple Minds licensed many tracks to dance labels around the world and there is probably 1-2 CDs of remixes tied to this period that are scattered to the four winds. I have virtually none of this material since it is very expensive to source. It might even stink, but I’ve not heard it in any case. It could have been possible for the “Cry” album to be a 3xCD affair all by itself, but 95% of that material is m.i.a. here.

Some [but not all] of the tracks on the two  “Home” CD singles pop up on “Black + White 050505.” “Bird On A Wire” is not the Leonard Cohen classic [thank goodness] but the reality isn’t much better. It’s another Kevin Hunter tracks from the “Our Secrets Are The Same” sessions. The one bright spot here was the Euro only DL single “Too Much Television” popping up. That also got a physical release on the Euro “Stranger” CD single, but those are mighty thin on the ground.

The “Graffiti Soul” album was issued in a 2xCD format even in 2009, and the second album was the largely missable “Searching For The Lost Boys” cover album. The CD of the main album came with “Shadows” and light which was only a “bonus track” compared to the DL version of the album, I guess. It’s a great song, but I’m not rating it as bonus material as the band does for that reason. The second all new track here was a cover of T-Rex’s “Children Of the Revolution” added to “Searching For The Lost Boys.”

“Big Music” also came in a 2xCD DLX ED back in 2014, and the six songs on that bonus disc are here, but they have added two items of note to disc two. Late that year, the band linked up with The Stranglers for a picture disc single with both bands duetting on “Grip.” I resisted paying premium for a picture disc, so this is of some interest. Also of interest is the debut of the Johnson Somerset remix EP material on CD format. Previously, these were iTunes only tracks sold only outside of America for some, fascist reason. I love Johnson Somerset’s widescreen, slow-mo remixes and the notion of him working his magic on Simple Minds again [he mixed the “War Babies” single in the late 90s to strong effect] delighted though it was impossible for me to purchase these tracks.

The DVD is a lesser object, considering that there are only a handful of video clips made after 2001 when that market bottomed out in a hurry with no outlets to actually play the things. What happened since then is insidious: the notion of making video clips of 60 seconds length showcasing a song for TV appearances by the singer/bands in person instead of the real thing. So much of what’s on the DVD falls down this slippery slope of compromise. Hence the need for EPK material [also from the “Big Music” DVD’ used to fill this disc out. And let’s face facts: even for the nine videos here; Simple Minds were never legendary for their music videos. The “Cry” clip surfaced on the “Seen The Lights” DVD and it’s ghastly.


So what do we get here as bait? Ten tracks that I currently lack. The BSOG is going for a very agreeable £55 [$71] and if I were made of money, I’d be on it, no problem. But money’s too tight to mention right now. The diabolical 2017 changes to the US tax code from the ****heel in the White House have gutted allowable deductions for charity going forward so in spite of liberal pre-tax payroll deductions to avoid a tax bill we can’t afford, I have no assertions that this year may not see us negotiating a payment plan with the IRS. All the better so that magical billionaire job creators might have their coffers untouched!  Itemization is now a game strictly for those in the upper reaches of society. So no, I don’t see this release in my future. I will probably opt to buy just those ten cuts as DLs from iTunes at one point. At least I will be able to buy them in the US iTunes store this time! Your mileage may vary. For anyone interested in pre-ordering this now, the Simple Minds store has a good price. The shipping may hurt. It comes out on March 29th, and we’ll see what, if any, discounts happen among the various retailers. It’s a crazy great deal if you’ve only bought “Walk Between Worlds” and had the fire rekindled.

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Posted in Bowie, BSOG, Core Collection, Scots Rock, Want List | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Popinjays Celebrate Women in Word + Song Next Month

Thank goodness we can still get bang up to date with Popinjays!

One thing we’ve greatly enjoyed in the last year was the emergence of the great PunkGirlDiaries website wherein Ruth Miller of Po! and Polly Hancock of Popinjays have undertaken writing about their experiences of punk rock as young women in England as it blew through the landscape and changed everything. But as insightful as their writing on music is, let’s not forget that Popinjays were a band that helped make the 90s bearable for these ears. In 2015, Wendy and Polly began performing together for the first time in 21 years and on Saturday, March 9th, they will be a part of a celebration I’d certainly be attending… if I lived in Canterbury instead of Appalachia.

As part of International Women’s Day, the Song Bird/Word Bird fest, a celebration of women in music and words is being held at the Gulbenkian at the University of Kent. Women who write about music as well as female bands will be the order of the day, with Word Bird covering print and Song Bird delving into the world of punk/pop.

The Song Bird festival begins at 5:30 with these bands:

Popinjays – Indie Pop [top]
You should all know Popinjays! But what about the other bands?

Bugeye – Punk Pop [above left]

Dream Nails  – Post-Punk [above center]

The Tuts – Punk Pop [above right]

It all sounds great so the concert is a must, yes? But there is also the literary world of  women who write about music to consider as well.

Just yesterday were were discussing Lucy O’Brien. I first encountered her in 1991 when she wrote the first biography on Annie Lennox. I still have the tome [UK edition, of course] in my record cell. She has also written two volumes of “She Bop: The Definitive History of Women In Popular Music” as well as multiple editions of a book on Dusty Springfield. More to the point, she was a member of the UK version of the punk band Catholic Girls. No, not the same named band with an LP on US 

One of the first books I read when beginning this blog was Zoë Howe‘s “Typical Girls: The Story Of The Slits” and she’s not been resting on her laurels. Of interest around these parts is also her Jesus + Mary Chain biography “Barbed Wire Kisses: The Jesus + Mary Chain Story.” She’s recently penned her first novel, “Shine On, Marquee Moon.”  The novel details heroine Sylvie, a dresser on the road with reformed New Romantics Concierge. Too bad there wasn’t an actual New-Ro band with that moniker! I should be reading this in my spare time. Also speaking at the event are Guardian music writer Laura Barton and Peggy Seeger [wife of folk singer Ewan MacColl] who has recently written her auto biography, “The First Time Ever.”

Tickets are £10 for Word Bird and £12 for Song Bird, and buyers of both get a discount at £20. Obtain tickets here. Hopefully some local readers of this blog can attend and report back with their findings. It looks like a great Saturday in Kent.

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Posted in Live Music, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 6 Comments

New Wave Hall Of Shame: Annie Lennox [part 3]

[…continued from last post]

The band’s 1989 album showed them clearly aiming for the emergent VH-1 aesthetic. Not the worst thing in the world they could be doing! This was better than faux Stax soul music, but only just following the vibrant “Savage.” One single stood out as being particularly good. “Don’t Ask Me Why” was slick, smooth, and elegant – but it wove a reasonably captivating spell.  Other songs ran a course pointing perhaps to the “Revenge” sound with a lusher production. “[My My] Baby’s Gonna Cry” had a familiar chug to it. There was a great promo CD with a good Duncan Bridgeman remix, but that didn’t reach many ears! It was a passable Eurythmics album but nothing to inspire the old fervor.

Given the artistic cul-de-sac that Eurythmics had evolved into, the tabling of that band and the emergence of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart as solo artists was not surprising. What was surprising was that Dave Stewart beat Lennox to the market by two years! I picked up his first single and that was that. Nothing I can remember looking at the cover now [the disc is long gone from the Record Cell].

It fell to Ms. Lennox to make a more substantial offering. I remember jumping on the “Why” single immediately in all configurations, but at first blush, it was very underwhelming to me. I sat on it for a few weeks then found myself touring through Eastern Canada and everywhere I went “Why” was in the air. And the constant exposure gave me a better perspective on her performance than I was willing to give it at first. The soft ballad revealed a cold as ice heart with a knife stuck deep into it as Lennox’s performance made it rise above the almost lullabye caliber music bed. Her whispered coda was utterly devastating. The rest of the album was diverse and engaging with a mixture of ballads and dance material, and her co-writing songs with The Blue Nile certainly showed where she was aiming – and hitting the target. I was spellbound by “Diva.” If Eurythmics had been laid to rest for this, I was more than fine with the results. I bought all of the singles and the inevitable laserdisc, and was ready to continue my Annie Lennox fandom.

But that didn’t happen. Three years later she issued “Medusa;” yet another of the 90s predilection for cover albums. At the time, I was still buying cassette tapes, and ironically, Maxell tape had what was called “max points” that one could save up and get free CDs. I opted for “Medusa” and it was a good thing that I had not jumped on the bandwagon with my cash, because I was beyond appalled at what had been done to a handful of favorite songs and otherwise. “No More I Love You’s” had been turned into an oversung nursery rhyme. The vibe here was akin to a children’s music box of cloyingly sweet, one dimensional performances. Songs I had loved like “The Downtown Lights” and “Train In Vain” had been decimated with the liberal application of synthesized fondant icing. She managed to choke the very life from songs I had previously loved… to say nothing of those I didn’t care for. No matter how awful 90s cover albums got [and they were very bad indeed…], they never managed to snatch the trophy for “very worst” from Lennox’s grasp for this turkey.

I was surprised that Eurythmics reconvened in 1999 for the album “Peace” with a tour benefitting Greenpeace and Amnesty International, but at least the charity angle justified the expenditure. The album was another MOR excursion without the benefit of at least the few good songs they managed to write the last time out. Not as fraudulent as “Be Yourself Tonight,” it was still a missable Eurythmics album.

It was another four years later when Ms. Lennox continued with her solo career. I was gun shy by 2003. I did not buy a copy of “Bare,” but I didn’t need to. My good friend Mr. Ware had been given a copy and it did nothing for him, so he passed it onto me. Not a sterling endorsement by any stretch of the imagination. I gave it one play and it was more musical helium. Soft airbrush synths of little weight given to ballads that made no impact what so ever. Actually the cover was the most interesting thing about the album! No, scratch that. Her liner notes on the back cover were much more interesting than the music on the disc.

It seemed like much more thought went into the cover to these ears. After maybe two plays, I got rid of the CD. That says everything. The last two Annie Lennox solo albums I had gotten for free and they still weren’t worth owning! Thinking back to 1979 this would have seemed unthinkable to my teenaged ears when fervor for Ms. Lennox knew no bounds.


So that’s my story. I have not heard a note Lennox has recorded since 2003. I see no reason to tempt fate. I note that Lennox had worked with keyboardist Pete Vetesse [who had done few favors for Simple Minds either, now that I think about it…] on the period of her solo career that I’d heard and his predilection for soft, airy synths and tension-free sound design and arrangements worked against me in everything but the “Diva” album. That one, for some, miraculous, reason, had the artistic goods for me. Not that Lennox has been burning the studio up in the intervening years. She has released only three album in the period between 2003 and 2019, and two of them are cover albums! One of them looks like this…!

Irony free? – you be the judge

I once went to annielennox.com in the last ten years out of morbid curiosity and the design of the website looked like a Thomas Kinkade nightmare. With three cover albums among a series of six solo albums in a stately 27 year solo career arc, it seems like Ms. Lennox has little to offer us. Having read Lucy O’Brien’s bio of Annie in 1991, I get the impression that Ms. Lennox is a troubled soul. Her marriages point to something unresolved within her. I think when she attempted to write from a facile, non-personal point of view, the results are missable in the extreme. As “Be Yourself Tonight” showed. By the same token, is it asking too much of an artist to hold them to unleashing songs the emotional caliber of “Why?” I’m guessing that’s why she leans so heavily on covers in her solo career.

With Dave Stewart by her side, at least she had a consistent writing partner capable of traveling all over the musical map [whether it was a good idea or not]. Still, the notion of working professionally with your ex-boyfriend…for 20 years after you split up as a couple, could not have been easy on her. This is not helped by the fact that she’s one of those people who could “sing the phonebook.” The big danger of that is that she might as well be doing just that at the end of the day. With her voice, people would still listen and she’d be spared trading in any more of her pain. And I think we’d all be the poorer for it.

– 30 –

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New Wave Hall Of Shame: Annie Lennox [part 2]

[continued from last post]

I’ll be the first to admit that there had been a sea change in Ms. Lennox’ vocals by the time of the “Sweet Dreams” album. It was on that album that she delved into the sometimes tricky “white soul” territory. This was not helped at all by her facility with singing. I tend to distrust singers who are technically accomplished, because there is the possibility of them leaning on their singing ability and coasting artistically when at the end of the day I am most interested in the caliber of their ideas.

Fortunately, the music that surrounded her excursions into melisma on the “Sweet Dreams” and “Touch” albums was as far removed from mainstream R+B/Rock as possible at the time. In deed, the juxtaposition between her singing and the songs, accompaniment, and production style offered much to dig deeply into. The first four Eurythmics albums were high on the scale of offering hybrid vigor.

Not so with “Be Yourself Tonight.” Like numerous bands where I was hearing their music for the first time on a CD [what was up with that?] the first music of theirs I’d hear on a CD was their worst. Overly mannered vocals combined with absolutely boring rawk + soul music. The nadir was the forced feminist anthem “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves.” Clive Davis of Arista has long been convinced that the path forward with heritage acts like Aretha Franklin, was to pair them up with “young turks” and get ready to count the money. It says a lot that an old, out of touch guy like Davis thought that Eurythmics by 1985 were “edgy” and the combination of them at their most conciliatory with the first lady of soul was like oil on water. Never mind the fact that Ms. Franklin had issues with the perfunctorily feminist lyric and lobbied for them to “tone it down” a  little!

The next move was the it-had-to-be-better [but only just] “Revenge” album. I actually had tickets to see the band at this point, but the tour was cancelled for some health reasons and I am thankful to this day that I missed it. By 1986, I was bearing enough scars from “finally” seeing groups like Simple Minds, Echo + The Bunnymen, and Psychedelic Furs when their artistic fortunes were also at low ebb, so this was a kindness from the universe.

Imagine my surprise when the next Eurythmics album was actually their finest! I cannot stress how miraculous it seemed for the band to go from the doldrums of mediocrity to bold, powerful artistic statements couched once again in electronics and married to powerful lyrical sentiments. Naturally, this was the album that ended their winning streak in America, but they had just made the greatest artistic volte-face I’d ever heard, and the fires were re-kindled.

This time I bought their singles on CD format, which I also appreciated. The album had a powerful video album where each song had a film and that got a Laserdisc release in Japan, much to my delight. The bulk of it has never made the leap to DVD as of yet. I wondered where things would go next for the revitalized band. As it turned out, Clive Davis came a’calling and the band made the move from RCA/BMG to Arista.

Next: …The 90s Arrive

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New Wave Hall Of Shame: Annie Lennox [part 1]

In yesterday’s post, I alluded to something that needed to get out. How awful Eurythmics became in just a single album, without warning. My journey spanned the gap from being an Annie Lennox early adopter and avid collector to not caring a whit about whatever it she’s done for the last quarter century. It’s been a long road, but her artistic decisions have most definitely not resonated with me.

The Tourists: “Reality Effect” outtake ©1979 Gered Mankowitz

I first heard her sing in The Tourists, the mod New Wave band from England. I chanced to see their video for their cover of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want To Be With You” in 1979, when their second album “Reality Effect” got released in America. I instantly loved this band! The vocals were shared between band writer Peet Coombs and Annie Lennox. Future musical partner Dave Stewart played guitar, but this was the time that he and Lennox were actually a couple. I played that album probably more than any other in 1979. The pop sensibilities of the band were strong, but so were the hints of psychedelia laying just underneath it all. Not shocking considering the drugs that Coombs and Stewart were known to take at the time.

I quickly discovered that “Reality Effect” was their sophomore effort. Their debut was only available as an import and it was in fact the first import LP that I can remember purchasing at the enormous cost of $10.00! Back when my $7.50/week lunch money was all I had to work with. The debut album was produced by Conny Plank, who I was already cognizant of thanks to his production of Kraftwerk, whose “Autobahn” was one of the first albums I’d bought the previous year when getting my first stereo.

1980 brought their third album, “Luminous Basement” and it was another winner, but as soon as the album was released, I discovered that the band had split up. I kept my nose to the ground and found out that Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart had formed a band called Eurythmics in 1981. I avidly searched for any records, but they were mighty thin on the ground! It looked like no importers were bothering where I lived. It was not until a full year later, that I finally found my first Eurythmics record.

It was  my birthday in 1982, and I used my birthday cash to buy music, of course! I finally nabbed the “Never Gonna Cry Again” 7″ at Record City Colonial and could finally hear this new band. They sounded a far cry from the pop rock of The Tourists, but I could definitely get behind the dark, Krautrock sound they were exploring with Conny Plank. His earlier work with them was more on their turf. they met him half way [or more] here, Some time later, I found a used copy of the “This Is the House” 12″ single at Retro Records and I felt like I’d won the lottery. But no further Eurythmics records were forthcoming. That all changed in the spring of 1983 when the album below dropped.

“Sweet Dreams [Are Made Of This]” obviously got The Big Push® from label RCA, since the band almost overnight got massive airplay on MTV and that was just the beginning of the group mining gold and platinum for a solid run that extended through their “Revenge” album in America. It felt strange seeing Annie Lennox become a household name, but the work they were doing in Eurythmics, was exceptionally good. It was odd that these two refugees from a New Wave band turned their attention to synthesizers, and while I tended to listen to a lot of synth-based bands, to this day I preferred the music of The Tourists. That’s not to say I disliked Eurythmics.

Indeed, I was delighted to see people who I thought were talented and making great records, were even managing to sell them by the truckload not only around the world but also in America. A happy circumstance of their success was that it was possible after the “Sweet Dreams” album to obtain the first Eurythmics album that I had been waiting for since 1981! Their canny image manipulation that must have been the thing that put them over the top, because while talent is important, you, I, and the lamppost know that it does not necessarily sell records! The band’s excellent videos must have only helped.

Their next two albums were increasingly intense, and darkly introverted material. “Touch” was an even bigger seller in America – reaching Platinum [1,000,000 sales] in spite of an emotionally brutal series of songs that only lightened up for the uncharacteristically upbeat Latinesque “Right By Your Side.” It seemed to be nothing troubling at the time, but I can see it now as an outlier to where the band were soon headed. That was followed by the even more dour “1984: For The Love Of Big Brother” album which was marketed as the soundtrack to the film adaptation of George Orwell’s book in the title year. There was controversy over their inclusion into the film’s soundtrack when director Michael Radford bristled at their inclusion into one edition of his film. He also had a version of the film in release with an orchestral score and no Eurythmics. I recall that was the workings of Virgin who wanted some pop hits out of what was a very good adaptation of the book. When Eurythmics moved on after this, the bottom dropped out.

Aretha Franklin with Eurythmics: A photo to match the grace of the record

1985, the year of many a New Wave band’s Waterloo, was no different when Eurythmics cam calling with the turgid “Be Yourself Tonight.” As boring and mainstream imaginable from these previously fascinating musicians. Only one single managed to rise above the mire to my ears. “It’s Alright [Baby’s Coming Back]” managed to hold the dull rock music at bay. The album was salted with big name guest stars handing in perfunctory turns that were uniformly awful …from Stevie Wonder, to Aretha Franklin, and even Elvis Costello; who was certainly at the cusp of his sell-by-date at that time. He had just made the first of his awful records a year earlier.

Next: …We Can Only Go Up From Here

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