Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

House of Love – House of Love [#593]

The_House_of_Love_(1988).jpgLike most teenagers, I was fortunate enough to be Bez to my old school friend, Mike’s band Jean Pierre O Malley & the Gieger-Muller Tubes. I attended most practice sessions (mostly on the promise of a few pints of beer afterwards) and I accepted that they would do cover versions of songs I didn’t really know.

We did a set of two songs, the Stones’ Paint it Black and the more obscure Christine by the House of Love. We had a slight standing ovation (three people, mostly groupies) and a huge round of applause from all those present. The band then split un-acrimoniously but the strains of Christine resonated around my head for several years after.

Then, one evening, during the Great Internet Download Free-for-All of the mid-noughties I saw that the album House of Love was available for me to download. I immediately put Christine on and relived that night of proto-fame at the Bishop Eton Parish Centre Youth Talent Show 1992.

I have to say though, we were better.

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Hotel Paper – Michelle Branch [#592]

Hotel_Paper.jpgTrying to cash in on the popularity of grumpy skater chick Avril Lavigne, music execs yoink another young lady with attitude into the limelight. That lady was Michelle Branch.

I remember how the American music execs positioned itself to launch Branch to the European side of the pond.  This previously unheard of artist started to appear on late-night European chat shows and a couple of her songs popped up here and there as incidental music on TV shows. Even the Guardian newspaper’s Saturday supplement suggested that no middle-class proto-hipster’s coffee table would be complete without a carefully placed copy of the album to wow their less cultured dinner party guests.

I bought it. I liked it. I listened to it in conjunction with the more feisty Lavigne. I watched as almost like a light switch being turned off, Branch seemed to dissolve into the general white noise of music, overshadowed by Lavigne and later, more successful artists.

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Hotel – Moby [#591]

Moby_Hotel.jpgI really want to like Moby. I’ve tried. It just seems that all his music sounds the same. Almost. It also seems that most of the music that Moby writes somehow ends up in a film at some point.

Inspired by Moby’s fascination with hotels and their nature Hotel is Moby’s seventh album following on from 18 and Play. He has said in an interview that this is his least favourite of his albums. Conversely, I find it the most accessible of the artist’s catalogue but saying that I haven’t listened to the album that many times either.

The album comes with two bonus discs, Hotel: Ambient and Hotel: B-Sides. I’ve long since disposed of Ambient and B-Sides went to the recycle bin last year.

 

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Hormonally Yours – Shakespear’s Sister [#590]

ShakespearsSisterHormonallyYoursalbumcoverIn a time when many still missed the polka dot skirted weirdness of Strawberry Switchblade and were adjusting to the gothness of Robert Smith’s Cure while still enjoying on the sly, a little bit of Bananarama, along came a duo of musicians as if to answer that call.

Shakespear’s Sister, that band with the woman from Bananarama (Siobhan Fahey) and that scary looking American woman looking like a cross between Cruella De Ville and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark  (Marcella Detroit), last appeared on this Music Project at #172 with their “best of” compilation, which, as the band had only released about two albums anyway, pretty features the songs of this their second album.

Highlights from this album include their two “hits” I Don’t Care and Stay With Me. As a spotty youth when this album was doing the rounds, I was drawn to the catchiness of their music which helped me blend in with my contemporaries, but I was still at a stage where I didn’t feel safe stepping out of my musical comfort zone of Yes, The Tubes and Chris Isaak  so I never bought the album at the time of release. Indeed, it wasn’t until much later that I plucked up the courage to obtain this album and their “Best of” an action, I suppose, that was done purely out of nostalgia.

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Home – The Gathering [#589]

Gathering_homeDuring the Great Download Free For All of the mid-noughties when I was ripped from the comedy inflatable bosom of Nightwish and thrown grovelling at the awesome rock prowess of The Gathering, I was self-tasked with the necessity to obtain the band’s entire catalogue.

Fortunately, this was one of those times when such an action was worthwhile. Aside from the band’s first couple of albums, Always and Almost a Dance, which are both truly dreadful and were swiftly deleted from my collection, their other albums just kept on sending tingles.

The Gathering are another example of where the UKs coverage of quality Euro music is lacking. The downright snobbery of the UK music industry in regard to artists from beyond the North Sea frequently turns my stomach. There really are some excellent artists out there but because a minority have the monopoly on what is seen and heard in the UK, it is often the case that without the internet, nothing “non-British” would be available. Indeed, even with impending changes to the accessibility of internet this will only get worse and result in  further impedence of the spread of culture from east to west while the spread of culture from west to east will continue unhindered.

Home is The Gathering’s eighth album and the last to feature Anneke van Giersbergen who, in my opinion, made the band. It seems that 2006 was the time of departure for a few female led Eurometal bands (eg Nightwish and Tarja’s departure), but rather than disappear into obscurity, van Giersbergen went on to work with Ayreon and do her own stuff and quite successfully too. Like Mandylion, it has an almost progressive concept album feel to it but the concept album vibe might just be my overactive imagination.

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Hits – Pulp [#588]

Pulp_HitsJarvis Cocker and Sheffield’s finest with an hour and twenty minutes of lyrics illustrating gritty northern GenX premillennial social situations.  How times have changed. Yet Pulp is still powerfully relevant and reflective of youthful experiences.

This is the band’s final (at time of press) Greatest Hits compilation and features all the familiar Pulp tunes. I obtained the album having spent years avoiding Cocker’s band like the plague due to the band’s seemingly undue popularity amongst my peers. However, having reflected on how the band’s music seemed to pop up in film soundtracks that I liked I gave them a go by trying their Greatest Hits album. My opinion remains the same, but whenever I feel a little less northern, I give the album a listen and immediately feel all gritty post-industrial.

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Hit Factory: Pete Waterman’s Greatest Hits – Various Artists [#587]

Screen Shot 2017-06-10 at 11.33.40.pngBack in the eighties and nineties, when he wasn’t that wrinkly dude off the talentless shows on a Saturday night, Pete Waterman was a successful record producer. Polluting the airwaves with hideous plastic pop.

Of course, growing up in the eighties meant that hideous plastic pop was de rigour and many of the songs played at family occasions and parties came from the Hit Factory stable. It is difficult to not listen to examples of this music without being transported back in time thirty years to a wedding or school disco, where teenage hormones raged and lessons in social interaction began.

Hit Factory features artists such as Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Mel & Kim, Steps and 2Unlimited. It is truely dreadful. And yet, I believe that everyone’s record collection should contain at least one example of youthfully contemporaneous music. That way our memories persist and from our memories, we learn and develop.  Indeed, many of the artists featured have either returned to obscurity or seen sense and improved without the Stock Aitkin Waterman interference in their art.

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High Broad Field – Sieben [#586]

R-3966307-1350801376-8852Last time we saw neofolk violinist Sieben on the music project was when he was supporting pagan folk band Faun on their live compilation Faun at the Pagan Folk Festival. This time Matt Howden whacks on his Sieben hat and applies his violin skills to his sixth release.

Howden’s style is very distinct. Lots of staccato and wood slapping violin wizardry with tense sustained notes overlain with perfectly pronounced dark lyrics multitracked and layered down with loops. As I’ve said before on the Music Project, Howden’s musical prowess is virtually unknown on the British scene which is a real shame, he really has a great talent which is well known throughout Europe but with little recognition in the UK.

High Broad Field is the preceding album to his Desire Rights and is a very close kin stylistically to the same. Elements from Sex and Wildflowers and Ogham Inside the Night are evident and one can hear aspects of Desire Rights in their infancy throughout the album. Delicious silky music for those who think Nigel Kennedy is a bit shit.

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Hidden Vagenda – Kimya Dawson [#585]

HiddenVagendaFormer Livejournalist, Goddess of lo-fi, mother of tweecore and sometime member of the Mouldy Peaches, Kimya Dawson, released her fourth album Hidden Vagenda in 2004. A time when lo-fi folksy tweecore was grabbing the youth underground via the internet at the time, the youth rejecting corporate created plastic bands in favour of unknown kids in their bedrooms chucking out tunes via the internet.

What a different sound and time that was.

I remember going to see Dawson perform tracks from this album in Liverpool during her European tour. The cosy venue had a sizable crowd for its size but it wasn’t rammed. Instead one could easily reach the bar without battling through a wall of people. Indeed, at the back of the venue, near where the bar was, one could see Dawson furiously knitting while the support acts did their bits. Eventually, when Dawson finally came to the stage to perform her part, there followed 90 minutes of the most enchanting mix of protest song, tragedy and tweecore punk folk.  Most of which featured on today’s album.

Some years later Dawson featured on the soundtrack for the hit GenX film, Juno. This was the only time I felt like a true hipster. I had seen Dawson, I had read Dawson, I had heard Dawson, long before all these new “fans” before the mainstream. And by that time the enthusiasm for the genre had started to fade.

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Hidden Treasures – Dead Can Dance [#584]

UnknownThe problem with bootleg albums is that they become addictive. Especially when the band has been around for ages and you’ve come to them late. Following my introduction to Dead Can Dance in the autumn of 1993, I had already collected the majority of their albums on CD by the time the Great Music Download Free For All hit the UK in the mid-noughties. So I would often spend hours late at night scouring the alt.sounds.gothic.mp3 newsgroups looking for new and rare Dead Can Dance material that I was, perhaps, unfamiliar with.

Hidden Treasures is one such catch. Released in 1994, possibly recorded in Italy though some sources differ, the “Unofficial” album has live performances of tracks stretching back through from the band’s Towards the Within stage of life but also features a collection of tracks from much earlier. Thing is, as with all live bootleg recordings, some of the songs are much different than their studio recordings which, I suppose adds to their appeal amongst fans.

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Herzelied – Rammstein [#583]

Rammstein_Herzeleid_coverDavid Lynch’s Lost Highway is an often disregarded cinematic masterpiece. Dark, brooding and just plain fucking weird. It also happens to be right at the top of my top ten favourite films list.  For me it’s not the twisted script and imagery that makes the film so enjoyable, nor is it the years of enjoyable debate I’ve had with others trying to interpret its meaning. For me, the cherry on the top of the enjoyability of the film is its soundtrack. Upon which a, then relatively,

For me, the cherry on the top of the enjoyability of the film is its soundtrack. Upon which a then relatively unknown German band featured with two songs, Heirate Mich and Rammstein. Both of those songs appear on this album. Sadly HMV and Virgin Megastore in Liverpool

Sadly, when I was looking for albums by the band in the mid90s, neither the HMV nor Virgin Megastore in Liverpool had anything by them. I did ask a young metal loving shop assistant I knew in Virgin if he had heard of them but he declared that he wasn’t “into any of that Euro shite mate”.

Of course, having poked about on the then fledgeling internet via dial-up, I was able to locate a European exporter of the band’s albums. So, brandishing my new credit card I bought copies of both Herzelied and Sehnsucht online. They were my first ever internet purchases and they took two weeks to reach me.

Herzelied is Rammstein’s first album. It is a little boisterous for those with an ear unaccustomed to mid-nineties Euro metal and, like the guy in Virgin, you might not be “into any of that Euro shite”. But if you’re looking to leaving those big-haired American rock ninnies behind and having your head shaved and your body oiled up as you enter a world of more diverse and interesting world of Euro quasi post-industrial metal, then you won’t go wrong with a bit of Rammstein.

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Hergest Ridge – Mike Oldfield [#582]

Hergestridgecover.jpgOldfield’s second album takes inspiration from a delightfully picturesque area of Herefordshire where Oldfield was living while attempting to escape the media attention gained from the success of his first album.

Until about 2000, I had only been brave enough to listen to the extract of Hergest Ridge that featured on the Complete Mike Oldfield box set having been advised by an elder sibling that “It isn’t much cop”. Still, as with all things in life, your siblings sagely advice can be similar to the type of sage that sits at the back of one’s parent’s kitchen cupboard in that Sharwoods bottle that dates from the 1970s, out of date and a matter of preferential taste.

To be fair, they were kind of right because even after a delayed listening, Hergest Ridge just doesn’t reach the dizzy heights of Tubular Bells or later works such as Islands or AmarokIt’s a very reflective or poignant work, perhaps one that is for good listening to when reading broadsheet newspapers while ensconced in one’s garret. Sure, it is Oldfield’s “difficult second album” but it shows off the young Oldfield’s developing talent and has some beautiful recurring melodies that also crop up in later works.

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Hecate – Ordo Equitum Solis [#581]

R-436890-1421008785-2640Further darkwave caterwauling from the Franco-Roman musical union of Ordo Equitum Solis.

It is with this album one is clearly able to distinguish the influences from bands like Dead Can Dance, Miranda Sex Garden and Coil woven throughout the album’s fabric. Like a dusty tome, the album is often difficult to digest in the wrong setting. This isn’t something you might want to accompany you while you do the vacuuming or brass polishing, nor is it the ideal setting for a children’s eighth birthday party unless, of course, you are fostering future gothlings. Instead, this is the kind of album you’d probably want to burn some incense sticks with while donning one’s floaty hooded gown following a healthy manicure for those extra long nails of yours and drinking large amounts of dark red wine while lasciviously doing the dance from Kate Bush’s music video for Wuthering Heights.

The album is split into at least four sections, an introduction, Songs of the Man, Songs of the Fool and a coda which kind of suggests to an old Prog fan like me, that this work should be listened to in its entirety with attention paid to the liner notes or the song titles. Sadly, I don’t have any liner notes. All I have is song titles and from them, I conjure up mental imagery of sordid sexiness of the hooded variety in vaulted cellars filled with wine and incense smoke. Which probably says a lot about my own psychology than anything else…

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Heavenly Voices Parts 1 – 3 – Various Artists [#578-580]

A bumper three albums on a Friday with a most peculiar acquisition, Heavenly Voices.

Much like how Looking for Europe does for the Neofolk genre, Heavenly Voices does for the dreampop/ethereal wave genre by way of the artists on the Hyperium record label. Here we have, in effect, three distinctly glorious compilation albums featuring a whole range of talent from artists like Eden’s Sean Bowley and his side project Sunwheel to fully functioning bands like Bel Canto,  Black Tape for a Blue Girl and Miranda Sex Garden.

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[#578] Part One is possibly the most accessible of the three. A little catawauling here and there but a nice build up towards (and what was my introduction to) Ordo Equituum Solis‘  Playing with the Fire.

Dreamily swimming onwards through Die Form’s Cantique and culminating in Winter Moon Descending by Annabel’s Garden

hev[#579] Part Two takes a different approach. The songs here have a much more floaty dreamy kind of feel with a slight dash of hauntology. This album was my introduction to the whole Heavenly Voices trilolgy and as a result not only are there many artists who have appeared previously in the Music Project, for example Collection d’Arnell Andréa and Black Tape, but also many who are yet to come. Possibly my most favourite tracks from this album are Sunwheel’s Walk Upon the Grass (which, incidently, I was intending to shoot a music video for but couldn’t find a willing person to film in time! Maybe a later opportunity will arise) The Sea is My Soul by 24 Hours and the haunting 56 in 81 by Eleven Shadows.

 

11K190SNXWLFinally Part 3 [#580] copies of which are currently changing hands for around £300. Featuring a much more accessible approach to the genre with more familiar artists like Miranda Sex Garden and Bel Canto. Again, this album introduced me to many artists and it is easy to see why people prize it so highly. Emerging from Part 2’s forest of floaty vaginas into a dystopian landscape of industry like a stumbling ninny, the listener finds Part 3 rips up the leafy glades of Part 2 and drills deep concrete foundations of industrial darkwave right into your mind.

Legend has it that there is actually a part four and a part five compilation. Rumours, whispers abound.  Sadly the Hyperium label closed shortly after the death of its founder in 2002, but many of the acts continue on in the worlds of Darkwave and etheralwave.

 

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Heaven’s Open – Mike Oldfield [#577]

Mike_oldfield_heavens_open_album_coverLong term followers of this blog may remember my joy at Amarok, when that came out I was overjoyed, but when Heaven’s Open came out the following year, I was ecstatic. Here was Oldfield singing pop songs, angry ones at that, and doing a whole side of his multi-instrument magic. Awesome.

Of course, this was in the days before the internet. When music news and gossip was gleaned from NME and Melody Maker, both publications that I avoided because I didn’t want to be seen to be a desparate hipster, and, of course, because I wanted to happily stay in my musical comfort zone with Yes, Mike Oldfield and the Tubes. So I was unable to learn until much later that this was Oldfield’s last album on the Virgin label and a great big “Fuck You” to Richard Branson, although if you listen carefully to the lyrics of the songs, it’s fairly obvious.

With five singles tracks, including the non-hit title track, Heaven’s Open and a massive 20 minute opus much akin to Amarok, the album is totally out of character compared to later and earlier works. Even Oldfield’s temporary rebranding of himself (to Michael rather than Mike) gives the whole album and uneasy feel. However you can hear the development of stylistic motifs from both Islands and Amarok and the birth of riffs and styles that would cross over to Tubular Bells II.

 

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Heaven or Las Vegas – Cocteau Twins [#576]

Cocteau_Twins—Heaven_or_Las_VegasOh dear me. Scottish shoe-gazing shenanigans with the band’s 1990 release Heaven or Las Vegas.

There I am, at that futile point in ones life where you are dabbling with new scenes, trying to find a genre you identify strongly with. At the same time, I am exploring cinematography, in particular the works of David Lynch, and watching cult TV series typically featuring 90s yuppies shagging and dinner partying; the media’s way of saying “hey your life is mediocre, this is the life you want”.  When what do I hear? Only Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser wailing away on some incidental music.

Later I discover that this Fraser woman is the same woman singing about Pearly Dewy Drops on the Uncut 4AD Sampler CD that I have (it was my very own 4AD3DCD) and on the This Mortal Coil CD I was gushing over.

I happened to mention this to a hipster friend. He was such a hipster, he didn’t have a beard or wear half mast trousers, because beards and half mast trousers would be on trend ten years later and he was too cool to lead a trend so far in the past. Hipster friend pointed out that I “should” like Cocteau Twins and that I should use “arcane internetery” to “obtain” their back catalogue, not just for myself, but to also pass to him so that he could survey the same and ensure that it was truely safe for my delicate ears to digest.

Heaven or Las Vegas is Cocteau Twins’ sixth album. A much more developed sound than their earlier albums and not as abusive to the ears. You could quite happily drive across somewhere like say, Scotland or Ireland, with this on your car stereo without it feeling out of place. Indeed, Fraser’s mumblings are a little more intelligible and soothing than before. Of course, as with most of the albums in my collection, I came to it too late to enjoy the excitement of watching a band grow and blossom. Instead I came to Cocteau Twins at the end of their career, too timid to venture beyond their greatest hits and in a different situation from one where I could sit, chill and absorb at leisure as I could in my twenties.

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Heaven and Hell – Vangelis [#575]

Vangelis_Heaven_and_HellBeardy greek mashes his keyboards once more to produce an enigmatic work with a guest appearance from Jon “Yes” Anderson.

Years ago Carl Sagan did a TV show called Cosmos (the soundtrack to which has already been covered here). It told us all what we knew about the solar system and featured stunning imagery which inspired many young people to get interested in astronomy. Thirty-odd years later, the astronomy factory’s failed to surface and the teacher saying “Astronomy is full of maths” was the right thing to say to impressionable lazy young people embarking on their first tentative steps into the real world. While I was saved a failed career in astronomy thanks to that warning, I carried a little piece of Sagan’s masterwork in my memory, that of the theme tune.  A tune that brought to mind black and white portable television sets and eager cassette recorders waiting to catch the music from the final minutes of the TV show.

Years later, while searching for the music, I learned that the tune was actually from Vangelis’ work Heaven and Hell. While tempting to skip through to the actual bit from Cosmos the album is actually worth listening to in its entirety. Especially as near the end of the first side, our favourite high pitched male singer, Anderson, pops up with an outer space lyrical coda to the side. Indeed, I believe this is the album upon which Vangelis and Anderson worked before forming their own double act, the imaginatively named Jon & Vangelis.

Of course, if you have been following this project for the several years it has been running you might also recall that Vangelis was a member of Aphrodities Child which also dabbled in Biblical musical imagary, with their album 666.

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Heart Still Beating – Roxy Music [#574]

Roxy_Music-Heart_Still_BeatingBryan Ferry and chums sleaze their way through an hour and 8 minutes of live music recorded in Frejus, France, 1982.

This is Roxy Music’s third live album complete with saxophone fellatio from Andy Mackay and guitar wanking from Phil Manzanera though surprisingly it was not released until 1990.

I think by this time Ferry’s pals had had enough of the whole lounge lizard vibe and were starting to look at future career prospects. Indeed, the album Avalon, the promotional tour from which Heart Still Beating is a recording, was to be the band’s last. Although technically, they did what most successful bands do and they did release several live and best of compilations after. Indeed, Ferry had only just got started and he wanted to stay afloat and even at the grand old age of 71 (at time of press) Ferry still oozes across the stage with his performances like some leery lecherous old granddad who’s got his eye on your twenty-year-old daughter. And not just for the job as his secretary.

Heart Still Beating as an album covers a nice range of Roxy Music’s work while also focusing on their more relatively modern love songs compared to their saxophone riddled earlier works. A good start for those unaware of Roxy Music’s historical bag of tricks and those wanting to see what that old rascal Ferry has to offer.

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Heart Shaped World – Chris Isaak [#573]

Heart_shaped_worldTrouble all around, says Chris in this his third album.

This was the second Chris Isaak album I added to my collection and was the first that hadn’t been copied from a friend’s CD onto cassette (Thanks, Mike!) and the first I bought having seen Mr Isaak play at my first gig at the Royal Court in Liverpool.

As a single teenager the angst-ridden lyrics meant something to me. Well they seemed to. As with all Chris Isaak, they are songs about either a woman done me bad, oh noes my drinking buddy has died or  hey mrs robinson milf I’m a young and virile chap let’s do the jiggy.  Though admittedly, they are mostly about cheating on lovers and are a little whiney.

Isaak’s breakthrough album in Europe, with two albums already under his belt; Chris Isaak and Silvertone, the success of Heart Shaped World and his singles, Blue Hotel and Wicked Game meant that releasing his best of compilation, also called Wicked Game, as the next album was a clever marketing trick. Indeed, as Isaak himself, and his music, started to appear more regularly in films and on TV it wasn’t long before  his fan base started to grow in the UK and people stopped asking me “Who?” when I said that I liked Chris Isaak.

Sadly people I spoke to still daubed him with the Country & Western brush instead of the American Rock genre I liked to classify his music as. Indeed, as there was a bit of a wait until his next album San Fransisco Days to show how diverse his music skills were.

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Headlines and Deadlines: The Hits of A-Ha – A-Ha [#572]

Back in the dark days of the mid to late eighties, when it was acceptable to go out wearing lurid colours, leotards and sweat bands, a unique music video was doing the rounds on Saturday morning children’s TV shows and it wasn’t anything to do with Brian Pern.

A woman reads a comic in a steamy cafe when suddenly she sees one of the characters winking at her, next thing she knows she is pulled into the comic and having swoony near smoochies with said comic book guy, curiously looking like A-ha’s lead singer Morten Harket. Iconic. Almost as iconic as the use of plasticine in a music video.  As it happened, my middle brother was fond of the band too so, as you can imagine, I was subjected to frequent plays of their music until he too disappeared. Sadly not into a comic world of spanner wielding motorcyclists but to the more sinister South Coast of the UK. Comic book world would definitely have been cooler though.

Headlines and Deadlines was one of the last “multibuy” CDs I bought (5 for £20) at Virgin Megastore. Ah Multibuys, how I miss you. MP3 streaming and downloads just aren’t the same when you pay per track or pay upwards of £8 for a flaky album. Thank goodness for the likes of Music Magpie and Amazon, doing to major record retailers what major record retailers did for independent record shops. For me, listening to the album is like taking a float down memory lane, sitting on a natty couch in a cruddy bedsit. Cheap, nostalic plastic pop.

 

 

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Hazards of Love – The Decemberists [#571]

I once accidentally found a folder filled with illicit music on a hot desk PC at work. I’ve found over the years, the music I have self-discovered on the various platforms available, that have been left or lost by other people has become incalculable. Disguarded cassette tapes at the side of the road, mysterious CDs left in cars, abandoned MP3s on computers. So many different forms over the years and, like porn in park bushes, a form of discovery denied to future youth because of the controlled way that music is proliferated and consumed.

I suppose that is why I started this music project. A way to explain, not only to myself, that my music tastes have developed over the years but to also preserve for future generations a catalogue of music to discover for themselves without commercial interference and duplicity.

The Decemberists were one of those bands that I self-discovered via an abandoned folder of illicit downloads; Hazards of Love was a legitimate purchase made on the back of that discovery. But as we all know, downloading music illegally killed music, and this is why today, The Decemberists have to tour and continue to produce sound to feed their starving faces.

I’d not listened to Hazards of Love for some years after its purchase. Mostly because it languished in my collection out of reluctance to listen to it. Eventually, sometime in 2016, I plucked up the courage. My disappointment in having not listened to it before then forced me to reevaluate the whole purpose of the Music Project; this, curiously, took me a whole year to do.

Hazards of Love is a prog masterpiece. A true concept album and much more enticing than Crane Wife, Hazards of Love tells the story of magical beings that live in an enchanted forest and how falling in love in such environments is never a good idea. Some really catchy tunes with intricate lyrics make up this acoustic soundscape which will lure you in like a forest enchantress. Ideal as a first tentative step into the back catalogue of The Decemberists especially for those looking to later paddle into the shallows of post-pre-neo-revival prog rock.

Yes, I make up my own genres.

 

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Has Been – William Shatner [#570]

For those unfamiliar with William Shatner, you might know him as the original Captain Kirk from the original Star Trek or maybe as T J Hooker or the priest from Horror at 37000 Feet. Maybe you might know William Shatner from his sci-fi novels, TekWar . Regardless, what you might not know is that like many other stars of stage and screen, Bill has turned his hand to music.

Shatner’s first album, Transformed Man, was received and ridiculed by many as Shatner’s “singing” style amounted to nothing more than speaking the lyrics to the songs. Surprisingly, if you just accept it as a style, it does actually work well.

I really enjoyed the quirkiness of Transformed Man so when I heard he was working on a collaboration with Ben Folds I was really excited. The fruit of the collaboration is Has Been. Possibly the most famous song on the album is the cover of Pulp’s Common People but there are many other absolute gems here too.

The title track, Has Been is an amusing slant at the “I can do better” people, while the song That’s Me Trying (a song about a father who’s never been there) never fails to raise a smile. The whole album is a priceless gem.

 

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Harry Roy Collection – Harry Roy and his Orchestra [#569]

harryroyhisband-theregoesthatsongagainBack in the age when the phrase “big band swingers” didn’t raise eyebrows or cause puerile sniggers at the back of the class, the titans of popular music were the orchestra leaders. Ray Noble and Glenn Miller are two of the biggest big band swingers, but possibly the most talented was clarinettist and orchestra leader Harry Roy.

Wildly popular with troops and those who frequented the Mayfair Hotel and the Cafe Anglais  Roy was not without controversy though. A number of his songs had quite cheeky and smutty connotations and, even with today’s more liberal ear, one cannot believe that songs like My Girls Pussy or She Had to Go and Lose it at the Astor could get past our more stuffy ancestors.

Still, as I find the whole hauntological era of dance bands fascinating, it’s only right that I curated a selection of Roy’s songs in my album collection.

 

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Harbour of Tears – Camel [#568]

Andy Latimer and Pete Bardens conceptualise the departure of generations from Ireland to seek prosterity in the New World.

If you can imagine Justin Hayward had joined Clannad. Yeah? Well that’s the sound you get.

Harbour of Tears is an interesting album from Camel’s catalogue. You can hear the aural fetuses of themes developed further in later albums such as Stationary Traveller and Rajaz. Also, unlike with earlier Camel albums, gone are the Tolkienesque overtones and there is actually some really good guitar work from Latimer.

It’s a real shame about Camel. They could have been much bigger than they were but with the looming brooding shadow of punk and new romance and their bastard child corporate saccharine pop, progressive rock bands like Camel were never going to break out of daddies record collection before the core band members died off. A condition made worse by the record company’s DMCA writs fired out at fans trying to entice newer uninitiated fans into the temple of prog on social media platforms.

It’s almost as if they don’t want any publicity…

So no fan video for you, freeloaders. Instead have a cover version…..

 

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Happiest Days of My Life – David Galas [#567]

First post in a year and with it, our last visit to a David Galas album (unless he releases another album before I reach Z). Happiest Days is Galas’ difficult second album with anger, gloom and despondency key elements at play.

Smouldering gloomy guitar work coupled with a flavour of the conceptualisation of returning from war; shocked and horrified by the sights witnessed. Dark places. Dark wave.  Again, Galas pulls it off. It is a vast difference from Cataclysm and you can hear the developing themes that would later appear in Ghosts of California. 

I’d like to thank David Galas for this and all his solo albums to date. Thank you for making such life changing and affirming music at the right time. Your work has been a stretcher bearer for me on many occasions and  I guess you’ll never know how much it means to me and others. Please don’t give up on your amazing talent.

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