Redux: I Was A Token New Waver…


July 25, 2014

The Token New Waver; not just a band phenomenon as Johnny Slash demonstrates

The Token New Waver; not just a rock band phenomenon as Johnny Slash demonstrates

I’ve written in the past about the curious phenomenon of False New Wave®, which got pretty rampant during the salad days of the trend. We were treated to the spectacle of rawk stars a generation older adopting the colorful plumage of the Now Set; often to their detriment! But let’s look at this from another, less celebrated, angle. Let’s suppose that you were a musician who was really into this new thing, maaaaaaan. And yet you were hooked up with en establishment rocker like [purely as an illustrative suggestion] Bob Seger. At what point would the cognitive dissonance cause your head to burst into flames? Similarly, how far could you venture into your comfort zone before you were the subject of a band intervention; confronted about how you just no longer seemed to fit into your fearless leader’s conception of The Silver Bullet Band? ‘Tis truly a vexing problem, but fortunately for musical misfits everywhere, there seemed to be some wiggle room for what I can only refer to as the Token New Waver® scenario.

This phenomenon was pretty widespread in the early eighties where a mainstream band often seemed to have that one member, who visually, was on another wavelength to the image being put across by the rest of the band. Often, it was the keyboard player. Given that New Wave had the aura of hipness by 1979, I’m sure that established bands with some sense of security were happy to have the Token New Waver® present in photo shoots, if anything, to add a slight aura of the au courant for bands that would otherwise be lacking in that department. For bands still clawing their way up the cliff face of Rock, I would imagine that any member who stepped out of line, visually, would find his pitons filed away to the breaking point.

And their glasses…

Yes: Trevor is too cool for this bunch…

I vividly remember when Yes made their first album without Jon Anderson as if it were yesterday. As a lapsed fan of Yes and a big fan of The Buggles, I found the notion of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes replacing Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson kind of thrilling, in a warped way! To this day, I still don’t know who came up with that cockamamie idea, but I thank them for it. The only Yes album in my Record Cell post 1979 has been the “Drama” album. I even bought it as soon as it came out on CD ca. 1987! Just six tracks – most of them long; about like any Yes album, really, but the lack of Jon Anderson means that the band can finally rock for once! “Machine Messiah” is the heaviest that Yes ever got as Chris Squire and Steve Howe got to investigate their y-chromosomes without Anderson casting reproachful looks. Still, publicity photos of the new Yes show Horn looking really uncomfortable, even though he had a similar vocal range to the erstwhile singer and the material here is among my favorite Yes music.

Prince: One of these things is not like the other…

Prince: One of these things is not like the other…

I also remember when I first heard Prince around the time of his Dirty Mind” album. His blend of funk and New Wave was of its time, as potent as the rock and soul that Sly Stone proffered in the late 60s. When “Controversy” was released, I became a firm believer, though it was around this time that I began to see the earliest Prince music videos on the pre-MTV airwaves. I could not help but notice that [as usual] keyboardist Matt Fink stuck out visually like a sore thumb from the dapper showbiz glam of the backing band. Dr. Fink, as he’s known, had a penchant for the brief New Wave vogue of scrub suits* paired with the shades; its always the shades, that usually mark the Token New Waver® within any rock group of the era. He rocked this look all the way to the end of the Prince train.

RED ALERT! We have a Token New Wave Overload!!!

Pat Benatar: RED ALERT! We have a Token New Wave Overload!!!

Stop the presses!! Some rock bands took the notion of the Token New Waver about as far as it could conceivably go! What about Rock Chick® Pat Benatar’s group photo on the back of her hardly New Wave sophomore album, “Crimes Of Passion?” Yow! One would be excused for thinking that this might be a New Wave album instead of Nerf Rock®. Bassist Roger Capps [top right] has the requisite short hair and The Shades. He could walk right into a video by The Epoxies and we would not bat an eyelash. It must have been the 1979 zeitgeist in action, since even Neil Giraldo [top left] was sporting a skinny tie. But the New Wave ball got hit out of the park with the sharp figure cut by drummer Myron Grumbacher who looks to have bested Joe Jackson at his own game! I don’t think I need to tell you where Grumbacher is sitting!

The Token New Waver® phenomenon was over and done with by 1983, about the same time as New Wave, as it turns out. The trope was past its sell-by date by that time, but for about five heady years, we could play “Spot The Token New Waver®” with some of the least likely bands imaginable. What other Token New Wavers can you add in the comments below?

– 30 –

* Ace commenter and close, personal friend chasinvictoria was rocking this particular wardrobe action at the point when I met him in high school way back in 1979!

 

Posted in Blast From The Past, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

Redux: Remastering – The Complete Faith Global


July 22, 2014

Survival Records | UK | 12” | 1982 | SUR 124

Survival Records | UK | 12” | 1982 | SUR 124

Faith Global: Earth Report UK 12″ [1982]

  1. Earth Report
  2. Coded World
  3. Love Seems Lost
Survival Records | UK | LP | 1983 | SUR LP 003

Survival Records | UK | LP | 1983 | SUR LP 003

Faith Global: The Same Mistakes UK LP [1983]

  1. The Same Mistakes
  2. Forgotten Man
  3. Hearts & Flowers
  4. Knowing The Way
  5. Love Seems Lost
  6. Coded World
  7. Yayo
  8. Slaves To This
  9. Facing Facts

Back in 1982 I was probably perusing the racks at Crunchy Armadillo Records and my eyes probably bugged when I saw the Faith Global “Earth Report” 12″ single, since the dude on the cover left was obviously the previously undercover Stevie Shears; late of guitar from the band Ultravox! At the time, I only knew that he had been ousted from Ultravox! after their blistering “Ha! Ha! Ha!” album when he had been replaced by Robin Simon who was better equipped to take the band into their electronic future. Forgive me for not knowing that he subsequently was involved with Ken Lockie’s Cowboys International project, but that record I would not hear for many years later.

I bought “Earth Report” and was delivered a solid slice of Post-Punk that was very different from the Ultravox! material that I’d previously heard Shears play on, but overall, the vibe was congruent with a song like “The Man Who Dies Every Day,” so I was pretty pleased with my purchase. Shears had risen to the occasion by playing everything on the single except acoustic guitar [rather well, thank you] and that instrument had been left to the hands of Jason Guy, the vocalist. Guy was to my ears an eerie ringer for early John Foxx, so that lent this project a bit of eerie déja vu.

I kept my ears to the ground and when the album “The Same Mistakes” hit the streets of Central Florida as an import the next year, I quickly bought it. Good thing too, because each Faith Global record was the only copy of these releases that I’d ever seen. To this day. The album did not have the 12″ A-side, but the B-sides were there and accounted for. The only notable presence on the album save for Shears and Guy was the sax player for the glory days of The Psychedelic Furs, Duncan Kilburn, who added honks to “The Forgotten Man” and “Knowing The Way.” Drummer Graham King remains best known for playing drums on this album.

Since I have every known recording by the group on the racks, I should make this one the focus of a REVO remastering sooner rather than later. If I can only scrape the nickels together to buy a new hard drive… and a spindle of MAM-A gold CD-R media. But I’m not holding my breath. One safe thing about planning to remaster this title is that I need not worry about being scooped by a legitimate reissue label. This music is so far under the radar that I seriously doubt that it could happen! But often is the time that I embark on a 10+ year journey of completing a collection, only to see the material get a real re-issue on Edsel, or Cherry Red for a fraction of the cost that I’d invested in all of that rare vinyl. That is definitely a case of pyrrhic defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

– 30 –

 

p.s. It’s over four years later. I think this has been recorded to the 4TB RAID [see, I did buy the hard drive I mentioned, so there’s  some progress] but the files have not been denoised or touched in any way.

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Heck Freezes Over, Melts, Then Re-Freezes Again: Gary Kemp Joins The Pink Floyd

L-R: Lee Harris, Guy Pratt, Nick Mason, Gary Kemp, Dom Beken

I caught wind of this a few weeks ago when we were in the middle of the 30Days; 30 Albums thread, so this is the first time I’ve mentioned it in a post, but I saw on the morning of September 20th while reading The Guardian, that after almost 15 years sidelined following the tabling of Pink Floyd, that their drummer, Nick Mason, had formed a band to dig into all of the cooler, psychedelic era music from the band’s two Syd Barrett albums up through the “Meddle” album that preceded “Dark Side Of The Moon.” Pretty fabbo, I thought.

He was aided by the late period Floyd bassist and New Wave MVP’er Guy Pratt. Awesome. But who would be singing? Syd has long since passed this mortal coil. Enter Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet!

So yeah, with Tony Hadley jumping ship from Spandau Ballet and that band having enlisted a young turk to be their new lead singer, Kemp obviously didn’t have enough drama in his life, so he’s picked up this sweet side gig that’s so left-field I can’t love it enough!

Take that, Dukes of Stratosphear!!!

The band has taken the name Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets, and to date they have played small venues in the UK only, but they have teased US shows coming down the line. And this is no tribute band, The works are treated as the platforms for heavy psych improv that they originally were. In other words, living psychedelia instead of a slavish re-creation. Sign me up! I especially love “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” and would see this band in a heartbeat, if only to hear that music played live instead of the heavy misanthropy of the Waters era band. Getting Guy Pratt and Gary Kemp in the deal as a bonus is a no-brainer! I may never see The Three O’Clock [or Spandau Ballet, for that matter] but maybe Nick Mason’s A Saucerful Of Secrets will make their way down south and I won’t care!

– 30 –

Posted in Live Music, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Binging On Music

This little boy was off to a bad start…

Hello. My name is Post-Punk Monk and I have a music binging problem.

This year has been very off kilter for me. It’s down to the patterns of buying  music this year. If you have a look at the 2018 Purchases page of this site, one can’t fail to notice that the 185 titles thus far were really down to just four “purchasing events” for the entire year.

A trip to Greenville, SC in January yielded 19 titles at two stores. Seeing OMD in Atlanta made for a trip to Wuxtry where 33 titles caused us to spend around $200. I next saved up for a trip to Los Angeles in July and that journey entailed visits to several record stores, including the behemoth Amoeba Hollywood. A total of 57 titles purchased at over $400, I’d estimate. Then, not a fortnight later, local store Harvest Records had their usually tremendous 14th Anniversary Sale. I bought 51 titles at under $40! So that added up to 160 releases. The other 25 purchases were sprinkled in the fallow times between this binge purchasing that is giving me pause.

That we went to Atlanta again in April as well to see Graham Parker without so much as driving by a record store was cause for some relief, but this is not new behavior. Back in my twenties, when CDs were much more costly, I used to sometimes shop like there was no tomorrow. Then the big record shows in Tampa often saw me buying 40-50 titles at once. And none of those discs cost under $10.00! The avalanche of over 100 titles in two weeks saw me spend last month reviewing an album a day in an effort to chew through the sheer amount of listening that I had in front of me in a more timely fashion. That helped. A little. Since much of what I bought was not actually related to Post-Punk, there are still a dozen or two titles that I have yet to listen to. Maybe more.

If one looks at the months of February, March, May, June, and September, one sees almost nothing coming into the Record Cell. And yet, I certainly failed to wither up and die. The truth of the matter is I find that I have plenty of music to listen to without buying more. Yet the interest in hearing more persists. Every year I vow to spend less on music while enjoying it more, but the patterns of consumption such as I’ve had this year, do nothing to rectify that. Case in point: It’s just October and I’ve already bought a third more than last years’s total, though the thrifty shopper in me begs to point out that it’s only cost me about $30 more than last year’s total expenditure. Still, I’ve got the fourth quarter of 2018 still to go and I’ve already failed in my goal of last year.

Sisters…are chewing it for themselves!

I understand the thought behind saving up for a big trip to Los Angeles and buying many things that would never show up where I lived, but that doesn’t mean that I would want to do it on even a semiannual basis. The Harvest sale features records and CDs for a dollar. They are basically giving them away to create goodwill. I am totally behind that and if it happened monthly I’d probably go at least six times a year. It’s more the other times that bother me.

I’d be a lot happier if I could find more things that I actually want, instead of things that are interesting and simply available. Nothing in Greenville was technically on my want list.  Wuxtry had almost all of the recent John Foxx vinyl that I didn’t have, so that was nice, but those purchases in particular were strictly to feed the collector’s sickness in me. Everything in Los Angeles was pretty much a wanted item, and about a third of the Harvest sale was off of the want list. Quite frankly, it’s more enjoyable to me to focus on buying 2-4 things that I need to complete a collection instead of throwing down 4-5x times the money on a scattershot purchase that’s not “goal oriented.”

I only need three Fingerprintz singles to complete my collection of that fine Scot band, but at the rate I’m going, I’ll never get them. Heck, some of these records are even available in the US, bypassing the international postage issues that normally stay my hand in these affairs. I would really love to be able to digitize and denoise these records to make my perfect handmade REVO CDs of them for my enjoyment.

That’s another thing. I am severely lacking in the quality leisure time to play and record vinyl records for a start. I’m here to tell you that playing records is a pain. If it takes me 2x the running time of the record to digitize it, I’m doing very good. The fetishistic and  ritualistic aspects of playing vinyl that enrapture so many? Hate ’em! If I wanted to be an IV drug user I would be doing that instead.

I don’t need the placebo act of taking the vinyl out of its sleeve, carefully by the edges, and  placing it carefully on the platter. Opening up the Discwasher D4 box and removing the liquid, placing 2-3 drops across the brush surface and carefully spreading it across the surface with the bottom of the D4 bottle before spinning the record up with a finger and running the brush across the surface. Then doing it again. Then opening up my recording app and needle dropping across the track or side several times and places to set maximum recording levels. Then cueing up the record and starting to record. Sometimes several times due to the random length of the dead wax before the cut I’m planning on recording often goes right into the music before I can get the dustcover down [the action is audible] to prevent the disc from getting much filthier with play. Then not moving so my chair does not impact the acoustics of playback for the duration of the song/side. Then starting over when a peak that I missed up front causes the recording to go into the red. No, that’s at least 3-4x the play time of the song/side, I think! After a half an hour, I might have one or two songs on the server.

Then there’s the IT aspects of making my own CDs. The new iMac no longer has a DVD burner in it. I still have the 2008 iMac but I have not made any CDs since buying it in April. I am out of MAM-A gold, printable CD-Rs. These are $2.00 apiece in minimum spindles of 50. Then my disc printer needs ink, or something. The last time I tried to print a DVD this summer the image looked like a solarization! I may need new ink at let’s just call it $80. Ideally, I would also like an outboard DVD burner for the new iMac so I don’t have to move all of the files from the 4 TB external RAID to a thumb drive to burn on the old computer. Another $80.

There’s no money for this because all year we have been saving up for trips. Trips where we spend on CDs and more records, or just trips in any case. I don’t see myself making any headway on the “make your own CD” front until next Spring at the earliest, since we’re now going to Big Ears Festival next March to see Harold Budd’s residency there. So that’s the state of my angst in 2018. How lovely it would be to spend $40-60 a month on a steady trickle of things that I wanted and to have the time to enjoy all of the vinyl that I already have and turn it into delightful CDs that actually bring me joy, but I don’t see it happening any time soon. My wife has proposed that we stop taking out of town trips to see any performer whom we’ve already seen before, and I agree with this in principle, but I found myself talking her into Big Ears since she cherishes Harold Budd and at 82 this is probably one of his last big hurrahs. So I blame myself.

We are going to Atlanta this weekend to see Simple Minds for what will probably be the last time, unless they suddenly play Asheville! Mr. Ware and Echorich will also be attending, so there has been talk of communal record shopping; an enjoyable pastime in groups. Mr. Ware’s collecting days are in his rear view mirror but the pleasure of looking requires no legal tender. I enjoyed hitting the record stores in Georgetown with Echorich during the last Simple Minds event so with Mr. Ware with us it will be fun to visit Wax N’ Facts, Criminal Records, and Wuxtry while our spouses are having high tea. In that I have visited these store with as little as $20 or even nothing in my pockets to spend in the past, I will be keeping any expenditures down to the bare minimum. Check this space next week for the epic thread of Simple Minds VIP and the camaraderie of shopping with Echorich and Mr. Ware. If I spend more than $60, won’t you please take me to task?

– 30 –

Posted in Record Collecting, Uncategorized | Tagged | 6 Comments

30 Days: 30 Albums | A Certain Ratio – FORCE

A Certain Ratio were a band that I have been aware of since about 1982 but until this summer, no releases had ever been in my Record Cell. I knew they were a Factory band, which had, and then lost cachet with me over the 34 years. I knew they were “funk,” which is always a pull for me. I have responded to funk since childhood, and while it was not a part of my early adolescence [a.k.a. the Prog years…], it has certainly been a significant part of my adulthood! When I was listening to Pandora in ’06-’07 I chanced to hear “Knife Slits Water” on my station and noted it, though I have never seen the album with this cut on it. At the Harvest Records anniversary sale, I saw their 1986 “FORCE” CD for one almighty dollar, and these are my impressions after 1.5 listens.

Factory ‎| UK | CD | 1986 | Facd 166

#1A Certain Ratio: FORCE UK CD [1986]

  1. Only Together
  2. Bootsy
  3. Fever 103°
  4. Naked And White
  5. Mickey Way
  6. And Then She Smiles
  7. Take Me Down
  8. Anthem
  9. Nostromo A Gogo
  10. Inside
  11. Si Firmi O Grido

The first track was not at all what I was anticipating from this band. The band proffered a variety of jazzfunk but not one that was like anything I’d really heard before. It was more like JAZZfunk with a thinner sound that I was anticipating by far. Sure, the bass was there but the airiness of the mix, involving the many woodwinds with the emphasis on melody throughout was a shocker for me. I had always imagined them in my mind sounding more aggressive, like Gang Of Four.

After reeling from the weight of my displaced expectations, the next song, “Bootsy,” was a title I was at least familiar with. ¡Madre de dios! Was that Corinne Drewery on backing vocals? And Andy Connell was in the lineup for this album? They performed on this album  while recording their own debut? Why did this fact never cross my eyes before I bought this CD? I am astounded at being a S.O.S. fan from reading about the “Breakout” single in the UK press! That stunner out of the way, I was again expecting something more redolent of Mr. Collins than the soaring pop that was on offer here. This band were definitely confounding my expectations; yet not wasting my time.

I finally heard something that I could tie down to Factory Records on “Fever 103°” with the vocal delivery of Jeremy Kerr being very much in the Bernard Sumner camp, though the music was perhaps closer to TVLKING HEVDS “Fear Of Music” territory. I liked the complex time signatures baked into “Naked + White” with the saxes dancing around the open spaces in the drumbeats from Donald Johnson.

The in-your-face bass of Kerr on the single “Mickey Way” was closer to what I expected from funk but the horns were eking out their own space in the more jazz than funk arrangement. Then, from left field came “And Then She Smiles” with it being a winsome, sunny slice of pop ballad for this band. It offered a lovely, sun dappled sound far from the confines of a sweaty club, which was where I gather most of their music would be welcome at.

Another facet of the band was the cocktail piano jazz of “Anthem,” which was the closing song on the LP of this title. Then the bonus tracks were actually more typical of what I had expected from A Certain Ratio. “Inside” was one of the “Bootsy” B-sides, and the slap bass was every inch the sound of 1986. Even more thrilling was the CD only bonus track “Nostromo A GoGo.” A track reflective of the UK’s [very] brief appropriation of Go-Go rhythms from the Washington D.C. Go-Go scene that was super trendy for about three months in the fashion mad UK before losing out to House Music from Chicago as the über-dominant musical trend that swept through the UK like a virus; lasting for over five years of mutation.

They saved the best for last. “Si Firmi O Grido” was like a super-hot Level 42 track with the band at their most ferocious. The syncopation of the synths and the furious rhythms were enhanced considerably by the weird samples mixed into the track that stuck out and swooped overhead in what sounded like holographic pans not technically possible! That this one was seven minutes long didn’t hurt even a little bit.

So this was really all over the place. Not quite what I was expecting, I had pre-visions of Post-Punk Funk and this was far jazzier than I had imagined. The vocals were good and the playing was looser and jazzier on most of the tracks here. There was more melody than I had anticipated, with some tracks like the paradoxically titled “Bootsy” being the furthest thing from my pre-conceived notions.One excellent thing about this album was the way that the instrumentation and production strayed away from mid-80s production tropes. Only the occasional bit of slap bass signified that age of music. Elsewhere, the reliance on soprano and tenor saxophones by Anthony Quigley, gave the music a much less typical hornprint than anything else from 1986. The sax tone was in the Kenny G area, but the actual music played was the furthest thing from the candyfloss “jazz” of the permed one. I think it’s too early to draw conclusions on ACR based on just this one album, so I need to find more of their elusive discs.

CONCLUSION: enjoy…in quantity


Phew! That was a tough one! This “30 days: 30 Albums: 30 Days” thread took a lot out of me. The weekend postings were very difficult. I really didn’t find any time to write more than an unfinished introduction last Saturday, which I posted anyway, for the 12 people who probably saw it. I cheated and posted a clearly unfinished post since it was the only way to save what was left of any face. So don’t expect another one of these any time soon! It was five years since the last such thread, and if I have any say in it, it’ll be another ten before I commit to a post a day, even if it is the best way to dive into an oversized stack of CDs. It would be way easier to simply no longer binge buy any more music!

– 30 –

Posted in 30 Days - 30 Albums, Record Review | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

30 Days: 30 Albums | China Crisis – Flaunt The Imperfection DLX RM

The title of the third China Crisis album was always something that I saw as deeply ironic. At the time, the notion of a member of Steely Dan producing this band seemed to be a wacky, left-field idea, but the album stood as a watershed of musicianly accomplishment by the then fully configured band. What Walter Becker brought to the table was nothing more than a burnished professionalism which saw that no note played was not considered fully with its place in the whole as well as its place in the moment. When I listen to this album, imperfections were the last thing I heard.

Caroline Records | UK | 2xCD | 2017 | CAROLR067CD

#2 • China Crisis: Flaunt The Imperfection DLX RM UK 2xCD [2017]

Disc 1

  1. The Highest High
  2. Strength Of Character
  3. You Did Cut Me
  4. Black Man Ray
  5. Wall Of God
  6. Gift Of Freedom
  7. King In A Catholic Style
  8. Bigger The Punch I’m Feeling
  9. The World Spins, I’m Part Of It
  10. Blue Sea

Disc 2

  1. Wall Of God [demo]
  2. Black Man Ray [demo]
  3. Bigger The Punch I’m Feeling [demo[
  4. Animalistic
  5. Christian [live]
  6. You Did Cut Me [live]
  7. Seven Sports For All [live]
  8. King In A Catholic Style [Wake Up] [extended version]
  9. Animalistic [A Day At The Zoo Mix]
  10. It’s Never Too Late
  11. 96.8
  12. Orange Mutt-Mutt Dance
  13. Gift Of Freedom [BBC]
  14. Strength Of Character [BBC]
  15. Wall Of God [BBC]
  16. King In A Catholic Style [Wake Up] [BBC]

One could hear the difference immediately when playing the third China Crisis album. “The Highest High” started out sounding like that rarest of objects; a wistful Steely Dan song! The arrangement and recording had all of the familiar Dan polish, but the vibe was wistful and yearning. The lyrics were completely lacking in irony or sardonic humor. Steely Dan might have a mellow vibe, but their lyrical thrust always showed that their heads were in a dark place. I don’t think that China Crisis would know a dark place if it bit them in the rear!

One interesting aspect about this album was that the dalliance with reggae that had manifested on their first album, sat out the near-technopop of album number two. It roared back with a vengeance here and “Strength Of Character” was even further down the reggae road with fantastic playing by drummer Kevin Wilkinson. Wilkinson had played with Fripp’s League of Gentlemen, so his timekeeping had to be of an impeccable character. The liner notes revealed Becker’s shock at recording the drum track the very first take and finding it flawless! He reluctantly accepted the first take and it was the first time in years of recording that it had ever happened. He opined that if they ever found out about this in L.A. they’d think he’d gone soft.

I have to say that I never cared at all for the single “You Did Cut Me.” The Steve Gregory sax and Tim Renswick guitar was just too smooth jazz for my tastes.  I like some of the genre but it had to be backing a vocalist who could make me pay attention. As much as I love China Crisis, it’s not for their vocal prowess. I much preferred the pre-release single, the delicate clockwork construction of “Black Man Ray.” I knew something was up when I bought the 12″ single prior to the album release and there was no extended A-side. That was an outlier as to where their heads had gone.

Another reggae influenced track was the effervescent “Wall Of God.” The band revealed that it was inspired by Bob Markey’s “Exodus” and how could that be a bad thing? I’m not a fan of reggae and even less of Rastafarianism but I give props to awesome music that can make me love it in spite of having two strikes against it from the onset.The verse structure was soaring sophistipop and the verse dropped into the reggae beat most handily. A fantastic song.

I loved the jazz influence on “Gift Of Freedom? it maybe could have been a single here. The band said they they were influenced by the “Super Freak” Rick James riff and betcha-by-golly-wow they’re right! I can’t believe I never heard this similarity before in 33 years of having this album. An obvious single was “King In A Catholic Style” and Virgin funded a “sledgehammer-lite” video for the song in their confidence. It was the one single here that was extended on 12″ single, and therefore the most dance oriented track in the program.

The most Steely Dan sounding track on the album by far was “Bigger The Punch I’m Feeling.” It simply had to be Walter Becker playing the ultra-Dan synth lead lines …complete with distinctive pitch bending.  The melody and ecstatic joy of the lyric was infectious. The next song was just as giddily and distinctively upbeat and “The World Spins, I’m A Part Of It” made for a potent one-two punch of the China Crisis outlook that was so much a part of my enjoyment of their music. Finally “Blue Sea” was a gorgeous song than ended the album on the sort of cinematic, ambient mood that the band had always favored.

The bonus disc had seven tracks that had never been released before. The three demos that kicked it off were a fascinating look into the instrumental demos that the band had cut on a Portastudio. They are significant for sounding every inch like the finished material that we have known for years. These songs were not re-invented at all for final recording. All of their melodic power was there in four simple tracks. It’s interesting to hear these now because it makes me want to hear all of their demos. It seemed like all Becker did here was to tighten up and inject some session pros into the mix in ways that did not obliterate the intrinsic charm of the songs. I’ll bet it cost a lot of money, but the sales on this were probably justification. Only on “You Did Cut Me” did I feel that Becker might have lost the balance.

The B-sides were all here. Even the 7″ version of “Animalistic,” though the lilting reggae lover’s rock was obviously edited from the “Day At The Zoo Mix” because the fadeout missed a second of the koto coming in at the transition! The live tracks from the “You Did Cut Me” single showed a band that had been road-toughened to the point where they had added Brian McNeill on synths to fill out the new sophisticated live sound. It’s interesting to hear this large band playing “Seven Sports For All” from the first album with undoubtedly more polish than would have been heard three years earlier.

I can’t say enough about the groundbreaking “Animalistic [A Day At The Zoo Mix” that originally appeared on the B-side of the “Black Man Ray” 12″ since I am absolutely convinced that the band invented ambient dub mixes of the kind that The Orb would be making several years later. I swear that Jimmy Cauty must have been spinning this in his chillout rooms before he formed The Orb! The way that the song faded out into ambient field recordings of an oriental zoo [?] for several minutes before the song gradually returned in dub was like nothing that was part of the 1985 sonic landscape. That it took over eleven minutes to achieve its unique goals was even more strongly redolent of groups like The Orb.

The second 12″ of “Black Man Ray” kindly gave us the second album outtake of “It’s Never Too Late” for those of us who couldn’t get enough of the oboe phase of the band! I wish they’d have plowed that furrow a little longer and deeper but c’est la vie. While the “Highest High” B-side “96.8” was an instro that slotted nicely into the smooth world of “Flaunt The Imperfection,” the extra track on the 12″ single, “Orange Mutt-Mutt Dance,” was the inexplicably cheerful mariachi/technopop hybrid that no one expected. It was definitely the loosest moment from this album campaign.

The four BBC sessions for Janice Long that ended disc two once again point out that the character of these songs was there from the onset, with Becker simply providing an immaculately buffed glossy surface to the songs. The one surprise here was the new lyrical couplet in the coda of “King In A Catholic Style.” It was jarring when Gary ended the song with that and what sounded like a fit of laughter in the song’s last seconds.

Apart from the failure to edit the “Animalistic” track down by a second, which would have been perfect, there’s nothing about this package that I would find lacking. The mastering was sensitive to the dynamic range of the music and the liner notes were very informative with the full band weighing in on each track and Gary and Eddie giving an overview of the making of it. I can recommend this to any China Crisis fan and I can only say that you should buy now and avoid the sure to be gouging prices of these DLX RMs in a few years. The 2013 “Diary Of A Hollow Horse” is consistently going for about $60 right now on Discogs. Caveat Emptor.

CONCLUSION: enjoy …its perfection

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30 Days: 30 Albums | ABC – The Lexicon of Love II

Phew! In spite of wanting this since the release was teased in… 2016, it’s taken me over two years to finally obtain the new ABC CD. This was strictly down to the inability of the band’s website to sell me anything but a DL or the three figure box of the album on LP plus some DVDs. Just a straight CD was nowhere to be found,, and the largest web retailer had had wildly fluctuating stocks of this, with many time there being no CD stock for sale when I looked. Since I never see ABC material [beyond the occasional cheepnnasty compilations] in actual brick + mortars, I was thrilled to see it in Amoeba last July.

Virgin EMI Records | UK | CD | 2016 | CDV 3150

#3ABC: The Lexicon Of Love II UK CD [2016]

  1. The Flames Of Desire
  2. Viva Love
  3. Ten Below Zero
  4. Confessions Of A Fool
  5. Singer Not The Song
  6. The Ship Of The Seasick Sailor
  7. Kiss Me Goodbye
  8. I Believe In Love
  9. The Love Inside The Love
  10. Brighter Than The Sun
  11. Viva Love Reprise

The lush romantic strings that opened the album on “The Flames Of Desire” showcased a far more seasoned Anne Dudley than the one who made her name with her string arrangements on three songs from the original “Lexicon Of Love.” This work was redolent of her decades of experience as an A-list composer and collaborator. The sound was also more foreground than the seasonings of strings that the earlier album sported. This one is not quite the “New Wave Motown*” of “Lexicon Of Love.” No, this was more like Broadway Disco. More of a late 70s vibe with no production value spared.

When “Viva Love” appeared in a much earlier Brothers In Rhythm recording in 2004’s “The Ultimate ABC Collection,” a 3xCD compilation by Universal NL, it was just a loose track from the “Abracadabra” sessions which made it to the public. A good song, but not the show stopper that it became here! The buildup intro quickly gave way to Philly Soul nirvana, with Fry’s full-bodies lead vocal ascending into the falsetto zone as he does so well. The classical acoustic guitar filigree on the outro is the last thing one would reasonably expect and was a thing of wonder.

The delicate instrumentation of the ballad “Ten Below Zero” was a bittersweet moment to come down from the torrid highs of “Viva Love.” Then “Confessions Of A Fool” chugged along, swept up by a wall of strings that rode the big drum beats courtesy of Richard Brook. The self-deprecation of the lyric was classic Fry and I especially loved the “fool, fool fool fool” refrain. One more repetition than with the equally delight “No More Blue Horizons [Fool Fool Fool]” by China Crisis. Never has self-flagellation sounded so beautiful.

Pregnant strings heralded the brilliant metasong of “Singer Not The Song.” The tempo picked up at a snappy pace in the verse and when the first chorus kicked in, it was like hearing a flower blossom. Fry with Ms. Dudley and the producer Gary [Go West] Stevenson managed to toe a fine line through packing melodic and rhythmic detail into this song without it ever becoming unbalanced or overweening. The amount of detail to listen to here was almost ridiculous.

The string syncopation that cut through “The Ship Of The Seasick Sailor” was so melodically rewarding, which was completely the hallmark of this supafine album. “I Believe In Love” began as an intimate piano ballad only to hit its full stride in glorious mid-period Roxy Music regalia before reverting to quietude for the song’s chillout coda.

The next two songs were co-writes with Ms. Dudley. “The Love Inside The Love” began as an intimate, drawing room sort of crystalline ballad that unfurled across the horizon to full John Barry widescreen proportions. The tremolo guitar was a dead giveaway there. Again, the sound of this album could be grandiose, yet it kept to the demure side of overstatement. Surely a one-of-a-kind balancing act?

Fry by my reckoning, has delivered three classic albums in the last 21 years. No matter who his writing partners were, the end results were consistently top drawer. This album heven had him writing numbers with members of Living In A Box and a Lady Gaga writer, not to mention Anne Dudley herself, and all of the results gelled here thanks to the sensitive production and arrangements. We know for a fact that some of these songs [“Viva Love” at the very least] go back over a quarter century and have been sitting in Fry’s notebook waiting for the right time to re-emerge. A sequel to “The Lexicon Of Love” would have seemed a hopeless task and a fool’s errand at the onset but Fry’s resolve not to waste anybody’s time has borne considerable fruit here. The money spent to make this album happen is there in the end product for any and all to hear.  Well done, ladies and gentlemen. Now if we can only get the next ABC album in less than 8-10 years I’ll be a happy man.

CONCLUSION: enjoy… a lot!

 

Posted in 30 Days - 30 Albums, Core Collection, Record Review | Tagged , , , | 26 Comments