Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Links (30/03/12)

Veronica Falls - my heart beats

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Best Of Top Of The Pops "69" (Hallmark CD)

From the late 60s to the early 80s budget minded music fans could get cheap compilation albums of current hits as performed by session musicians. Today this may sound a bit strange but we must remember that available media to get music was much less before the "internet age" and it was the only way to listen to hit songs if you couldn't afford the original records and didn't want Tony Blackburn dribbling all over it on the radio (you couldn't very easily record off the radio either back then of course). As well as regular editions with recent hits, released every few months, every year a "best of" was released. This is a CD re-issue of the 1969 best of. One thing to notice is that every album had an attractive young lady on the cover, for this compilation we also get a collage of girls too!
So what are these cover versions like? Some of them are pretty good like "Bad moon rising" and "In the year 2525" though sometimes the cover is laughably poor, "Honky tonk woman" sounds more like the Struggling Drones than the Rolling Stones. Sometimes the cover doesn't really sound much at all like the original but is still a good track, "In the ghetto" doesn't sound much like Elvis but isn't a bad song in its own right. In most cases it probably helps if you arn't that familiar with the original so you can't compare it too closely.

Best track on here is "Sugar sugar", whoever these musicians were (and its written that Elton John and Tina Charles once worked on these albums before they were famous) they did a good job! Taken as a whole it makes for a pretty decent 60s party sound track.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

MV : "Just for fun" by Alpaca Sports

Great video for a great single.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Top Of The Pops (17/03/1977)

Tony Blackburn is here to grin his way through the hottest pop sounds again.

Suzi Quatro - tear me apart
We are here to rock again with the blessed Suzi Q. For some reason we get funky psychedelic SFX which kind of jars with this straight forward rock and roll song. I wonder if she wasn't quite so cute my opinion of this song would be less favourable than it is. I suspect it would. Its OK but not much more.

Berni Flint - i don't want to put a hold on you
Talent show winner Berni makes his debut with this country-folk-pop song. It reminds me a bit of Glen Campbell which is no bad thing.

ABBA - knowing me, knowing you
AHA!!!! The video in the snow, emotional looks, story behind those eyes.

Cliff Richard - my kinda life
Cliff is here with some bluesy rock-boogie, or his attempt at it anyway. Not the worst Cliff song but no "Devil woman". Man those trousers are tight.

Elvis Presley's "moody blue" is this week's tune as interpreted by Legs & Co, they come out dressed in pink! No not really, skimpy blue dresses of course and vaguely shake to the tune.

Barclay James Harvest - rock and roll star
Wow its prog rock! Barclay James Harvest are all long hair, rock guitar chord journeys and psychedelic harmonies. Brilliant stuff in a way, especially for this show. The song is cut off early, the other 38 minutes remaining on the cutting room floor.

Maxine Nightengale - love hit me
How to emote the hell out a song. Not a bad performance though the song is a bit so-so.

Showaddywaddy - under the moon of love
Dire, especially the multi-coloured 50s suits. The stuff nightmares are made of, unfortunately they were true.

Billy Ocean - red light
Purple suited Billy is always good value. The song isn't bad though i got distracted by Billy's cuffs which seem to have been borrowed from a Concorde.

Manhattan Transfer - Chanson d'amour
Its still at number 1 and we get the same video as last week, i like the smattering of polite applause as the song starts. You wouldn't get that if they were playing in the TOTP studio!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Veronica Falls (Bella Union CD)

The first album by London based Veronica Falls which collects together some of their earlier singles including the frenetic and terrific "Beachy head" plus newer songs. Anyway what do they sound like? Personally i think they have a refreshingly different sound. There are lots of elements to their music : 80s indie, twee, surf twang, 60s pop and thrash. The songs are often rather dark but all tightly wrapped up in hipster cool, with deadpan yet cute vocals and seemingly limitless energy. The result is an amazing indiepop ride with a dark edge.
"Beachy head" epitomises the sound of this band, twangy guitar driven indie pop thrash with lovely harmonies straight out of the Beach Boys lab only via an 80s indie punk detour. "Bad feeling" has some more sweet harmonies too and a great chorus, underpinned like all of their songs by a mean beat. The quirky "Found love in a graveyard" is another highlight, it starts off all low-key to lure you then blows you away. The music is often beautiful with a dark edge and its one hell of a debut.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Aerovons - resurrection (RPM CD)

The Aerovons was a US group who recorded at Abbey Road in the late 60s, they hung out with the Beatles and had a good time recording this album but it was never released until the 2000s because of the band falling apart.

Its a shame the album was never released back in the 60s as its very good and very Beatlesque which is no bad thing to be to be honest. Interestingly one song is very similar to "Across the universe" as they were in the studio when the Beatles recorded it. Though if their album had been released as planned it would have come out before "Let it be"...
So could the Aerovons have been the next big thing if their album had been released as intended? It is of course very hard to tell. There are some good songs on here but the sonic similarities to the Beatles maybe too close, the world was already digging the Fab Four of course.

However this wasn't a copycat band, songs like "World of you" have a beautiful epic psychedelic edge, strings in all the right places and the likes of "Something of yours" has a great pop feel and a bit of Beatles-esque magic, so well done it seems a crime the band never had the chance to big. The 60s loss is the 2000s gain i guess.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bite Hard : The Music De Wolfe Studio Sampler 1972-80

If you love British TV shows from the 1970s like me then you will love this soundtrack CD which collects some funky tunes from the output of the Music De Wolfe studio from that decade. So you'll find tracks on here that sound like they should be in The Sweeney and some that were! Its very easy to bring to mind scenes from shows like The Sweeney, Special Branch, The Professionals et cetera as you listen to this. Such as on the driving melody of "The Hawk" you can imagine a hitman in black leather assembling his sniper rifle before he despatches a cabinet minister...
One i particularly like is "Night moves" which is slinky and sleezy, reflecting the vice of the London streets "Hogan's Thing" is another Sweeney villain theme, a funky bluesy track with plenty of tension. "Condition Red" sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a bank job, all urgent beats and mysterious tones. "Mantaray" ends the compilation and is a beautiful atmospheric track with a slow easy beat and sounds like the end of the world. Or the end of this brilliant journey through the 1970s anyway, as seen via the medium of British TV crime drama i.e. a dark, grimy world of vice, sleeze and ultra violence. It had a down side too apparently.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Wake - crush the flowers (Sarah 7")

Ex-Factory post-punk band The Wake went indiepop in the late 1980s and this was their first single for Sarah Records. It starts off with the jaunty and delicate yet meaty title track. There are a lot of interesting sounds going on here, the melody is beautiful and the grindy guitar in the background makes it perfect.
B-side "Carbrain" is maybe more straightforward indiepop but i always loved the emotions stirred by this tune. New album is apparently "due early 2012", er thats now?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Links (16/03/12)

I don't believe in "guilty pleasures", if you like something you like something... but if i did believe in guilty pleasures then this would be one...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Top Of The Pops (10/03/1977)

Kid Jensen is here to give us a shot of rhythm and wock (or something like that). New number one and one of my favourite 70s songs but first...

Graham Parker & The Rumour - hold back the night
What is the rumour? They don't say but this is funky white boy pop soul with some tasty brass (unseen) presumably by the TOTP orchestra. Exciting debut indeed Kid, brilliant start to the show.

The Real Thing - you'll never know what you are missing
The Real Thing must have lived just around the corner and always been on standby as they appear on TOTP a lot. No hat this time just a relaxed sound that suddenly scares you when the chorus goes all high-pitched.

Brotherhood of Man - oh boy
Kid says they have a change of style, i'm not sure exactly what this change is. It starts off vaguely ABBA and proceeds into a standard MOR pop song which is what Brotherhood of Man always seemed to churn out (so its not like they went punk). Its a little less cute than usual perhaps and there is no weird dance routine, instead they stand awkwardly on stage between verses without anything happening.

Smokie - lay back in the arms of someone
Another band who didn't veer too far from their formula. Singalonga pop-rock which Kid likes, he says its their best single. I prefer the other one, that sounds like this only is a little bit different.

Barbara Dickson - another suitcase in another hall
Intense performance, Barbara looks good though the sound mix seems rather odd and at times shes drowned out by the background vocals which is rather odd.

The Rubettes - baby i know
This C&W tune has appeared a lot. Kid predicted it would go to #1, instead its at #11 so he was almost right.

ELO - rockaria
The 24-esque video again. Lots of repeats tonight.

Legs & Co interpret the divine Mary Macgregor's "torn between two lovers", i'd rather see Mary to be honest.

Brendon - gimmie some
What is this? Curlylocks spouting lyrical banality? Yes!

Manhattan Transfer - Chanson d'amour
Back in the day i knew this song and loved it, one of the first songs i loved and i still like its retro French cabaret-ness. I guess when you are 6 years old this kind of thing blows your mind, and 40 years too as it turns out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Beat Chic : Dream Babes 7 (RPM CD)

A compilation bought to us by RPM Records of obscure and now largely forgotten British girl singers from the early 60s and there are some real gems here from the Beat boom (and some which - lets say - are not quite so but nothing is that terrible). Things are started off by Polly Perkins (nowadays an actress in Eastenders, playing Rose Cotton) with "You too can be a Beatle" which has some amazingly zany lyrics and a general air of innocence and fun. Its a really great track. It also manages to rhyme "Jingo" with "Ringo" which sounds a lot better than it reads trust me.

Jenny Moss (who was one of the earliest Coronation Street actresses) gives us the amazing "Hobbies" which is a simple pop song with the infectious energy and fun of young love. Its my favourite song on here though there is some competition.
Carol Friday's "Gone tomorrow" is a real period piece going on about coffee bars on a Saturday night and has a great chorus and her "Everybody I know" is a real floor-filler. Van Lenton's "You don't care" is maybe the grooviest song on here and sounds like it should be the closing credit song to an ITC TV programme and is probably listened to best wearing kinky boots (i refrained).

These are just a few highlights, there are some other great tracks on here too including a few songs that have never been released before by Christine Holmes and has the usual RPM hallmarks of interesting liner notes on the performers on this 22-track album and plenty of archive photos. Its a win!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Sunbathers - January, February, March, Ely, Cambridge (Dufflecoat CDEP)

The first solo EP from The Sunbathers and lets hope its the first of many. The Sunbathers might follow the classical formula of many a C86/twee indiepop band (sweet female vocals, twee simple guitar pop tunes) but there is a reason a formula is classic i.e. it works and it works so well with this band. So what do we have here? Nothing less than gorgeous acoustic driven melodies and an obsession with holidays and the sea side.
"It doesn't matter" starts us off with seagulls and the crash of the sea on the shore and is a sweet and whimsical song about lost (and returned) love. "Round and round" is perfect for looking out of a window with an air of melancholy. "This town" has a lovely chorus, maybe the most poppy of the EP (not that the others are exactly listener unfriendly). Great songs, great music and now i have a strange urge to build a sandcastle.

Out now on Dufflecoat Records

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Links (09/03/12)

Found on a compilation unearthed from deep in my CD vaults earlier today, great song from the mid-70s.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Class Actress - rapproacher (Carpark CD)

This is the first full length album from Class Actress, a true icon of neo-synth pop. The album builds on her earlier amazing EP with multi-layered retro synth sounds and slinky sexy vocals.

Class Actress has an ear for a great pop hook and how to build a song, listen to "Hangin' on" for evidence of that. A great song that harks back to early 80s acts like the Human League but also has bags of modern attitude and style.
The album is packed full of amazing tracks, "Weekend" for example with its astounding sonic attack of an opener moving into an irresistible chorus. "Keep you" is another winner, with beats erupting out the speakers and a relentless synth sonic assault. Its basically brilliant, at once insanely retro, insanely modern and insanely essential.

It is hard really to describe just how good this album is, its also hard to see how this album could be bettered this year...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A mini Sarah Records tour of Bristol

Tim Hall visited Bristol last month and made this delightful little movie showing some of the locations in Bristol associated with Sarah Records.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Top Of The Pops (24/02/1977)

Noel Edmonds is here with the latest pop sounds, Leo Sayer is still number 1 but first...

Heatwave - boogie nights
Everything is all frenetic funk-psychedelia with matching outfits that look like they come from Flash Gordon and some of the latest late 70s BBC SFX and silhouettes. The dancing is quite odd, seeming like a duck impression sped up. Its fast, its crazy, its fun, and a bit meaningless.

The Racing Cars - they shoot horses don't they
Everything slows down (dramatically) for this track and becomes rather more organic. Relaxed AOR i think you'd call it nowadays, its a slow pop-rock ballad that isn't too offensive on the ears but doesn't exactly set the world alight. Placing right after the mentalist Heatwave performance probably didn't do them any favours.

Noel has three new entries in a row for us, ooh saucy.

The Real Thing - you'll never know what you're missing
Singer has a natty beige top hat. A nice enough song but sounds a bit too much like album filler.

Mary MacGregor - torn between two lovers
Oh hello young lady. Mary sings in a studio somewhere. Its a simple country-ish song with some sweet vocals and i love it. I also love all the close-ups on her face natch.

ELO - rockaria
I used to live in the same road as someone from ELO, and Duran Duran and Wizzard for that matter. Amazing road indeed. Anyway this is a crazy pop video with split screens, opera singers, an orchestra and a castle set. Its like watching 24 with longer hair and cellos.

Barbara Dickson - another suitcase in another hall
A young Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber are here to speak to Noel in an incredibly short interview then straight into one of their songs, performed by Barbara who wears a flower in her hair which looks a bit odd as she emotes the song with a look of disgust on her face. We have a harp to demonstrate that this is, like, serious music not like the earlier nonsense.

Legs & Co perform Earth, Wind & Fire's "Saturday night". They perform a simple disco routine in incredible short tunic dresses. One definitely for the Dads. We see a guy in the audience appreciate them for sure, you can almost hear him going "COR!"

Leo Sayer - when i need you
Second week at number 1, Leo gets rewarded with some SFX from the Bohemian Rhapsody shelf.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Funny Little Dream / Tender Objects (Dufflecoat CDEP)

Another gorgeous split-EP, two songs this time by Funny Little Dream and two by Tender Objects. "Its summetime" starts things off by Funny Little Dream and is a luscious and joyful little indie pop song with sweet male-female vocals. "Finally found someone" is altogether more delicate and a bit melancholic, like the last daisy left behind after mowing the lawn.
Tender Objects have just as much pop joy but with a shot of added punk-pop drive. "April showers" is a beautiful pop thrash reminding me a bit of the likes of Tsunami. "Heaven can wait" has a great 80s indie pop sound to it and is a beautifully structured song, my favourite of this EP though all 4 songs are well worth your time and day.

Out now on Dufflecoat Records