Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Islands – Mike Oldfield [#643]

One lesson to learn when curating a large collection of music is to make regular backups. Last week I had to make an emergency restore of my Mac’s OS which meant having to resort to a backup from the iCloud. Unfortunately, this meant that only the files I’ve managed to upload via my very slow 21st Century rural broadband or those matched via iTunes are currently available for me to listen to. Indeed, today’s album, Islands, is not available on iTunes and my iCloud library does not have the files uploaded, which is a shame. Fortunately, I did manage to listen and pencil together a brief draft of observations for today’s entry but it means there may be a slight decline in posting regularity for the next couple of weeks. Please stay with me though!

Good old “x for £xx” deals. If it wasn’t for “x CDs for £xx” deals my music library would probably have been very sparse and I’d have a lot of money.  I first obtained Oldfield’s Islands on CD during a 3 for £20 deal at the Virgin Megastore in Liverpool (now Claus Ohlson) in the early nineties, I think I was still at school.

When Islands was released, computer graphics were, by today’s standards, a little bit shit. But that didn’t stop artists like Mike Oldfield from using visual media to add to their output. So when I came across the music video that accompanied this album, Wind Chimes, I was blown away. “WOW!” I would say, “Look at the detail on that vector graphic!” something I would struggle to recreate on my Commodore 64 even if I had the right programme to do something like that.

So a career in computer graphics passed me by because the technology I had to hand was insufficient to help tease me towards such an occupation. The self-realisation that already older people are often better at things than you is a big train not to miss.

The Wind Chimes is the long piece in this album and is riven with melodies, rhythms and motifs with a heavy eastern and international influences pretty much like most Avante Garde and artistic music of the time (see also the African influences in Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe). The other tracks are songs performed by the likes of Bonny “Total Eclipse” Tyler and Kevin “Nick Drake” Ayres. Also, curiously, Yes alumni Geoff Downes and Enigma’s Micheal Cretu also assisted with the production which just sends chills down my spine as trying to visualise the way my music tastes are connected is what inspired this whole project in the first place.

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Into the Gap – Thompson Twins [#639]

album cover for Into the gap by the thompson twins
No Eighties compilation can possibly be complete without Thompson Twins. Indeed, no music collection grown across the decade of the eighties can be considered complete without them either. Thompson Twins are a sound so the eighties they may as well have quiffy hairstyles, have a band member of undetermined gender and look moodily into the camera when not dancing freestyle in their music videos.

During one of my many visits to Virgin Megastore when I was a student in 90’s Sheffield, I was desperate to make up a 3 for £20 offer from the selection available, so it was Into the Gap that became the third. Sadly, in a desperate effort to make friends, I loaned the CD out to someone only for me to drop out of uni a few months later and lose contact with the borrower forever.

Fortunately for me, I kept a cassette recording of the CD to listen to on my Walkman and managed to rip the cassette recording nearly an entire decade later. The version I have now is kind of a third gen rip of the album but still really good crystal quality. A testament to the various recording devices I’ve had over the years.

Yet considering I wasn’t all that keen on the band to begin with, I really fell for this album. Perhaps it’s the waves of nostalgia that come with it or perhaps the power of the three hit songs from the band that appear on the album. I’m not entirely sure.

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In Rainbows – Radiohead [#624]

Never really been a big fan of Radiohead, Creep and Paranoid Android were my limit. They were always one of those bands people told me that  I “should like”. Like it was some edict from above. “You should like Radiohead”.

I didn’t.

Despite having their “Best Of” I still really don’t get the whole Radiohead thing. Maybe it’s one of those “You had to be there” kind of things. I was there though, I just didn’t pay attention.

In Rainbows was the first pay as you feel album I bought. I paid £1 for it purely because I wanted Nude which was also £1 and I’m such a stiggler for a bargain. Though to be fair, I only wanted Nude because of this video.

 

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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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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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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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Guitar Legends – Various Artists [#563]

Guitar Legends The guitar. Some would say it is a crucial instrument in modern music. “Without guitar” they might say, “All you have is some bloke singing with drums and a keyboard.” Which is true, but as we have already heard with the likes of Morphine and Matt Howden, the guitar is merely a tool in the production of great music. However, one cannot ignore the guitar completely, especially when presented with a compilation such as today’s album.

This two disc 41 song Capital Gold compilation features some interesting choices. It starts off quite promising with songs by Queen, Derek & the Dominos (guess which song), Rainbow and even Motorhead. But by the mid-way point it drifts into a sort of smokey late eighties blues nightclub (the proper sort where you go to listen to live music and smoke not to get pissed and/or laid) where Skynrd, Frampton, Santana and Lee Hooker have been placed on the bill with later guest appearances by John Lodge & Justin Hayward, Nick Drake and the Shadows.

If, for some reason, you’ve been living in a guitar free world and you’re interested in finding out what can be done with the instrument, I suppose this is a good way to find out.

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Greatest Hits – Gipsy Kings [#554]

Gipsy_Kings_-_Greatest_Hits_Cover_ArtSpanish guitar wanking with France’s own Gypsy Kings. Yeah I didn’t know they were French either.

Having heard their version of Hotel California on the Big Lebowski soundtrack and already being familiar with chart topping hit Bamboleo I thought I’d punt their Greatest Hits CD because, even if I didn’t like all of their songs, I’d have some nice background music for when I held paella evenings.

Of course, the paella evenings may have stopped but the music still gets the old toes tapping and you can’t help wanting some chorizo.

 

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Greatest Hits – Falco [#553]

UnknownThese Greatest Hits albums feel almost never ending.

We’ve met tragic Austrian pop star Falco before on the Music Project back in December so I won’t labour the point about why he is present in my music collection, but for those readers new to the project in short, Falco’s Greatest Hits was added to my collection while I was searching for his third album Falco 3.

His hit Rock Me Amadeus features (because, lets face it, that was his “hit”) as does his other, less famous, “hit” Jeanny. Those two tracks aside, there are a couple of other tracks from Falco 3 and some of his other, not so remarkable albums. Of course, I must not forget that although he was only fleetingly popular in the UK, his unique brand of Euro-pop was much more popular on the continent. Which says a lot about why the UK keep failing to win Eurovision.

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Greatest Hits – Eurythmics [#552]

Eurythmics-GreatestHitsA compilation featuring the “best” of the Eurythmics.

I would categorise it in my collection as an “inherited” album. While the songs are like the musical equivalent of a time travelling De Lorean, in that while researching for this post every song I heard took me back in time to various stages of my childhood and youth, I’m not a fan.

I’ve been told I should be, having grown up at a time when the band was at its peak. Thing was, Annie Lennox always made me feel uncomfortable; I don’t know why, she just did. Dave Stewart did however feature again in my life soundtrack with his album Jute City (see here again in about 2 years) but ultimately, he too made me feel uneasy. So I guess with those feelings it was inevitable that I wouldn’t stray much further than the Greatest Hits, which, when added to a shuffled playlist for long car journeys, often has passengers singing along.

Which makes a change from the griping about all those weird bands I like.

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