Friday, August 31, 2012

Top Of The Pops - Volume 20 (Hallmark)

Released around the time i was born, thus these were the hot pop sounds exciting the nation while i was ready to make my debut, what a scary thought. Some of the songs are pretty good, the cover of "Maggie May" has been on another of these Top Of The Popper CDs i have reviewed and is a good attempt at the song though the singer sounds more like Joe Cocker than Rod.

"Spanish Harlem" and "The night they drove old Dixie down" also delight, though in the latter case its as much for the subject matter more than anything else, pop songs about the American Civil War are pretty rare these days. Much of the album is bland however. Maybe that just reflects a less than vintage crop of pop tunes at the time to cover, then i arrived and it all changed. Or did it?

"I'm leaving" is the Elvis cover, unfortunately with this series you always imagine they got a cheesey Elvis impersonator to do the song. Best song on the album is the Four Tops cover "Simple game" which is very true to the original and performed very well indeed.

Top 5 Records (August 2012)

1) songs - Jackie DeShannon
2) if i crawl, you crawl - Nature Set
3) Penguin Prison
4) rapproacher - Class Actress
5) ashes and roses - Mary Chapin Carpenter

Sunday, August 26, 2012

MV : "See Emily play" by Pink Floyd

Taken from the original TOTP performance in 1967 (the show now wiped i believe) but this performance survived though badly distorted and has been restored.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Top Of The Pops (21/07/1977)

DLT is here to present... a song first no chart rundown as usual... and the song is...

John Miles - slow down
Frenetic late-70s funky sub-disco boogie complete with weird vocal effects. Its so magic DLT is caught air guitaring like a BOSS.

DLT explains TOTP is changing, and we have the top 30 rundown with the Tavares as a soundtrack.

The Bay City Rollers - you make me believe in magic
The Rollers are near the end and even seem to have dispensed with the tartan. They've done a MOR pop track too so at least they haven't tried and gone disco.

Brotherhood of Man - Angelo
Pleasant enough song by the Brotherhood...

The Jam - all around the world
...but compared to this it seems to come from another reality completely. This is the youth explosion yeah, the TOTP audience don't get above a mildly energetic jiggle though.

Alessi - oh Lori
Gentle beat and high pitched vocals, though really it is actually better than that. Close your eyes you could almost be in a cocktail bar, or a Berni Inn.

Fleetwood Mac - dreams
Film footage on a stage somewhere and very fine it is too.

The Rah Band - the crunch
Now for something different, how about a keyboardist in a wetsuit and a plastic bag. Why we don't know, and lets face it the answer would no doubt disappoint. Lets just revel in the fact a band from the Blakes 7 universe and somehow managed to make it into our spacetime realm.

Danny Williams - dancing easy
The song seems based on the Martini jingle "anytime, anyplace, anywhere", when the song starts you wonder if you've switched to 70s ITV by mistake. Its a nice song but isn't quite as good as...

Queen - good old fashioned loverboy
The same performance footage as shown a couple of times already i think.

Donna Summer - i feel love
Its the sound of the future, the song that redefines dance music and indeed pop music for the next 20 years but for now is number 1... though Donna isn't here so instead we have Legs & Co jiggling to the synth beats. Then they also run around in unison so the effect is more Benny Hill than space disco.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Best of Top Of The Pops '72 (Hallmark)

Good as some of these Top Of The Poppers covers albums are, a few were not up to par. The "Best of 1972" either reflects the weakness of the charts in that year or simply the "best of" from that year was badly chosen. Some songs are pretty good such as the versions of "Telegram Sam" and "You wear it well" and a few songs fall just the right side of listenable kitsch such as the cover of "Puppy love".

However a lot of the covers are just... bad. But then again a cover of a bagpipe version of "Amazing Grace" is always going to sound pretty off next to glam rock and teen pop. "I'd like to teach the world to sing" is also pretty awful, just like the original then. Make mine a Pepsi out of sheer spite.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Alpaca Sports - i was running

Sweden's Alpaca Sports' latest 7" single comes with two lovely twee pop songs that provide the perfect soundtrack for a lazy sunny day or indeed any day. The title track races along with light tones and a simple perfection.
"Lets go somewhere" drops the pace a bit but has a really poppy melody and so much jangly joy in it you can't help but smile. To complete the perfect package the single has another lovely illustration by Ray Kimura. Available from Susy, Luxxury and Dufflecoat Records at the end of August.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Best of Top Of The Pops '71

The best Top Of The Poppers cover versions from the year of my birth, as you might expect (if you are familiar with this series at all) its a bit of a mixed bag.

"Maggie May" is pretty good and is probably the album's highlight though the cover singer sounds more like Joe Cocker than Rod Stewart. The mandolin work is also a bit limited compared to the original but a good song all the same. The sessions musicians also make a decent job of "My sweet lord".

"Knock three times" and "Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep" are also well done, though i am pretty unfamiliar with the original version of the latter song. None of the songs on here are actually that bad though some of them are not that true to the original (which of course was the TOTPers raison d'etre). On the evidence of this 1971 was a pretty decent year for pop and rock...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Twin Berlin - there goes my virtue EP

Boston based Twin Berlin produce gritty, raw yet very listenable rock on this EP released on Bandcamp. "Can't take, take take" gets the EP up to a great start with frenetic guitars and pounding drums. The song blasts along with loads of energy.
"Don't hang around" is another frenetic ride with terrific guitar noise including some brilliant solos. "Give up on me" has plenty of attitude and more widdly guitar noise, love it! Twin Berlin are turning some heads over in the US and also have some high profile supporters, this EP being produced by Blink 182's Travis Barker and the EP artwork by Mikey Welsh of Weezer. You can feel they are going places on evidence like this EP.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Top Of The Pops (14/07/1977)

Kid Jensen mangles the English language again to present...

The Real Thing - love's such a wonderful thing
I'm not sure which artists have been on these TOTP repeats the most since BBC4 started reshowing programmes from 1976 but The Real Thing surely must be a contender and here they are again. A pleasing pop number with a little bit of funk. Pleasing but not much more.

Rita Coolidge - we're all alone
Music video time, or rather wandering around a forest looking thoughtful and reflective while singing a romantic song. The romantic solitude effect ruined by the camera crew following her around of course.

The Saints - this perfect day
An Australian band from "just outside the charts", and they are rather punky or at the least you'd describe them as driving power pop if you are allergic to the p-word. Pretty decent they are too though they don't seem to think much of having to mime. The singer kind of ruins the miming effect by accidentally dismantling his microphone stand and almost dropping the microphone. Or maybe that just adds to the PUNK ROCK!!! effect?

The Commodores' sublime "easy" up next but no Lionel Richie alas instead Legs & Co swaying vaguely in time, though not so much with each other.

Dave Edmunds - i knew the bride
Kind of retro (even for then) rockabilly fun, though done with style and a bit of feel not a Showaddywaddy horror.

Jigsaw - if i had to go away
Jigsaw's latest hit requires the singer to wear very tight trousers, its all falsetto and very feminine and rather disturbing. The Bee Gees had a lot to answer for in the late 70s.

Supertramp - give a little bit
Music video, or filmed performance time anyway.

Cilla Black - if i wanted to call it off
In between her 60s heyday and 80s TV hogdom. Cilla seems curiously out of time, probably a song that would be great on a 70s Eurovision but this is Top Of The Pops 1977 baby and its time for...

The Sex Pistols - pretty vacant
The highest new entry and the BBC couldn't ignore this song like they did the other one, though no one could guess that by 2012 "God save the Queen" gets into the Olympic opening ceremony and the Queen herself jumps out of a helicopter. Such futuristic thrills are beyond even the most acid damaged/enhanced imagination, back in 1977 instead we get this studio rampage and brilliant it is too. Better than Cilla Black anyway.

From Sid Vicious to Kenny Rogers who is here to talk to Kid, Kenny has been working in Saudi Arabia, on an oil rig or a camel farm something. Kenny introduces the number one...

Hot Chocolate - so you win again
For the third week, Hot Chocolate are still on top of the chart, and they deserve it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Penguin Prison (Stranger)

The neo-synth pop movement has a lot to answer for... namely some amazing music. Penguin Prison is another artist (see also the divine Class Actress) who sounds like he was frozen in carbonite in around 1987 and recently defrosted to continue his insanely catchy pop ways.

And there are pop hooks a plenty on this album, as well as some interesting lyrics and song subjects such as "Multi-millionaire" and "Don't fuck with my money" which are songs for our times backed by the sounds of an earlier age... or even earlier economic collapse.
"A funny thing" really scores with a fast electro beat and is a super dance track but the sheer retro-ness almost reaches the point of no return on "Something i'm not" which starts off sounding like it was recorded on a VIC-20 but luckily does get a bit more sophisticated later on, C64 then. There is also an infectious 80s funkiness on "The worse it gets" which approaches George Michael territory.

So many great songs, one of the best examples of modern synth pop, retro but fresh. Really this is one of the best 80s albums you haven't heard... up until now.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Best Of Top Of The Pops 1976 (Hallmark)

1976, i knew it well. Actually no i didn't as i was only 5 however the BBC's repeats of Top Of The Pops began with shows from 1976 so i have become familiar with the pop hits of the year. This Top Of The Pops album is an album of covers and as earlier reviews of this series have shown the covers can be a bit of a mixed bag.

Nothing changes with this edition, the songs here are a mix of the great, the inspired (if maybe sometimes unintentionally) and the... well nothing is that terrible, just that some songs are a bit "meh". "Bohemian Rhapsody" has to fall into the inspired category. The session musicians did a really good job at trying to reproduce this varied song, a few strange sound effects are thrown in though for some reason, the first time you listen to the song you wonder if the world is under alien attack or if the stereo is broken. The only part of the song that fails a bit is the final rock attack phase but it would be hard to get close to the original.

"Mississippi" is a decent cover, its a bit murkier than the original but has plenty of country twang. "Under the Moon of love" is also remarkably good, a description i never thought i would write for a Showaddywaddy song but it just works. The Top Of The Pops session musicians did tend to struggle with ABBA though and there are a couple of attempts on here which probably should best have remained hidden in a vault.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Top 5 Records (July 2012)

1) anxiety - Ladyhawke
2) belong - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
3) something - Chairlift
4) afar - The Ice Choir
5) ashes and roses - Mary Chapin Carpenter