Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Incas Valley – Yes/Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe[#630]

Unknown-4As long term readers of this project might remember, during the divergence of Yes in the early nineties, when Chris Squire said “No” to Jon Anderson’s use of the band name

Yes

forcing the creation of  the eponymous Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (and later the creation of Anderson Rabin Wakeman (ffs!)), Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Rick “Keyboard Wizard” Wakeman and Steve “Carpet” Howe  got together with Tony Levin, released an album and went on a world tour entitled An Evening of Yes Music. Incas Valley is the bootleg of one of those shows.

I remember being excited at the prospect of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe touring the UK with their show and hoped that I would be granted permission from my parents to go to their gig, the closest to me at the time was in Birmingham. Sadly, my olds decreed that 16 was too young to go to Birmingham to see a rock band on my own and my older brothers couldn’t care less about their younger brother’s musical development so didn’t offer to take me. Instead one recorded onto a cassette a BBC radio broadcast of the gig instead so I had to make do with that.

Many years later I discovered the Incas Valley bootleg on a binary newsgroup and it was pretty much the same set but with extras. So now, to relive that experience, I often play Incas Valley on my stereo in the kitchen while I charge myself £40 to sit in the loft and pretend I’m in the Birmingham Arena. Win!

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In a Living Hell – Hey Marsha! [#618]

UnknownIf you lived in South Liverpool during the late 1980s you would have seen posters around the place for local popsters Hey Marsha!. On the back of the emerging Madchester scene, rising youth unemployment, low prospects and the internet not having been invented yet, not to be out done, Liverpool had its own popular music revival scene. Bands like Pyramid Dream, The Stairs, The Farm and Hey Marsha! jostled to be the next Beatles, be discovered and propelled to a life of occasional studio dates, late into the night boozing and drug parties.

Sadly, the horse I backed, Hey Marsha!, split, reformed as The Numbers, split and then went off to become accountants, teachers and office workers at the council, which goes to show I’m never a good judge of good music; John Peel, I’ll never be. Unfortunately, in the days before AOL and Freeserve, the band’s marketing was mostly limited to flyposting, sending advance copies to journalists and use of Probe Studios in Button Street while no doubt leaving their lyrics in the green room and typing out their setlists so that meant they didn’t get the coverage I think they deserved.

In a Living Hell, is a vinyl rip I did a few years back of the band’s EP so you won’t find it in the shops. Sadly, because of this, it’s also not freely available on the internet. Also, when ripping the vinyl I discovered that a cat had been sick all over the record some years previous and I hadn’t noticed as a result the grooves are now clogged and the first track has a massive gap in it.

Instead, here is the only Youtube video I can find of the band’s music from their first release Optimism Flamed. Until writing this entry, I’d never heard the track before, but you can get a great feel for the band’s sound through this track.

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Golden Age – Dead Can Dance [#536]

goldenagegifMore neoclassical caterwauling from Brendan Perry with added woeful wailing from Lisa Gerrard in this compilation of bootlegged performances from across Dead Can Dance’s “Golden Age”.

I think the compiler chose anything prior to the world music influenced Into the Labyrinth as the band’s “golden age” to select songs from. Of course, they may have compiled it before that album was released. Who knows?

Tracks listed include In Power We Entrust the Love Advocated, Oman, Toward the Within and my favourite, Rakim amongst others. All lovingly performed by the gang in Paris 1988 and Hamburg in 1990.

 

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Floating Into the Night – Julee Cruise [#482]

220px-Jc_floatLike a capsule containing music the youth of Twin Peaks might have listened to, Cruise’s Floating Into the Night brings a hauntological sound to the listener’s ears.

I suppose if Twin Peaks wasn’t your thing, you might not appreciate the subtle nuances of Julee Cruise’s first studio release. But as anyone who was alive in the nineties was sucked into the world of David Lynch’s  epic about the murder of a middle class high school prom queen in a peaceful backwater American border town, it’s unlikely you have no conception of the eerie world portrayed in the TV series and its accompanying soundscape.

Cruise’s vocals haunt the listener like the whisper on a breeze through a forest of Douglas Fir pine trees and, nearly twenty seven years later, still send chills, shivers and flashes of terror down the listener’s spine. In my opinion, this is Cruise’s best work. Her follow up album, Voice of Love ,still dipping into the Lynch universe didn’t reach the same levels and the magic fades on subsequent later albums such as Art of Being a Girl .

 

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Earth Moving – Mike Oldfield [#409]

At this stage in his career, you can detect the “I don’t want to be here” atmosphere in his music. It’s like he’s not even trying.

This is Oldfield’s twelfth studio album but, unlike earlier Oldfield albums, doesn’t have a “feature length” instrumental track. Instead it is just a collection of songs featuring a variety of vocalists but mostly his then girlfriend Anita Hegerland.

Considering it fell between Amarock and Islands , two of my most favourite Oldfield albums, I was surprised that I didn’t own it before the advent of the Great Internet Free-for-all of the noughties. Of course, it highlighted the likes of HMV and Virgin Megastore were only stocking commercially viable albums in their stores thus controlling what people listen to and limiting access to less popular music thus preventing new fans from making their own minds up.

Still, it’s not his best album. Glad I didn’t buy it….Sounds like the soundtrack to a really bad, late eighties early nineties straight to video American crime film complete with neon lights and raunchy sexiness.

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Doolittle – The Pixies [#385]

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 15.03.17Once again, as previously discussed, the Pixies are only here in my collection because I’ve been told that I “should” like them.

When I said to my self appointed and styled music guru hipster friend that I had obtained the Pixies’ best of compilation, the snort of contempt was akin to a field of hippos.

“You shouldn’t get the best of” he said, “It is a poor reflection of their musical superiority and genius. Instead why not get Doolittle which is the definitive album for those who should like the Pixies.”

So apparently this is the definitive  album for those that “should” like the Pixies. Now, as any logic professor will tell you, as I don’t like this album I am not someone who “should” like that band.

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Destination Docklands – Jean Michel Jarre [#365]

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 19.15.12For someone who isn’t a fan of French electro musician Jean Michel Jarre, I seem to have a fair few of his albums.

This is the album of the performance that my brother told me that I should watch when it was on the telly because ancient law stated that I must like Jarre. It was the same brother that insisted that it was a once in a lifetime futuristic event because Jarre would be playing laser harps and in the future we would all be playing laser harps. Playing laser harps and going to the moon on holiday with our jet packs.

Nearly 27 years later we’re still waiting for laser harps, jet packs and holidays on the moon. Instead I settle for driving to Wales on my holiday in my Golf with my musical instrument of choice the human body (mine). Jarre on the other hand is pretty much the same.

And that’s the problem.

 

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Decade – Duran Duran [#352]

Duran_Duran-Decade–Greatest_HitsThe problem with being a successful band is that no sooner have you released a “Best of” compilation, you run the risk of releasing other hit records that fans feel cheated out of until your next “Best of” compilation.

Decade is Duran Duran’s “Best of” compilation from the CD rush of the early nineties and features all their fabulous songs: Girls on Film, Rio, View to a Kill etc. I managed to get this album from a bargain “5 for £30” offer at the Virgin Megastore in Liverpool, which, when you think of the price of music today, was a bit of a bargain. You don’t tend to see iTunes selling selections of albums in “x for £x” offers. Nor do you see Amazon doing the same with their physical and digital sections.

Still, who pays for music these days?

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Classic rock: 1985 – 1989 – Various Artists [#277]

Classic rock: 1985 – 1989 – Various Artists

Oh dear. It seems yesterday’s album featured some memorable songs. Today’s contains a similar selection of non-hits by bands you’ve heard of occasionally. Again, during the period 1985-1989 there were some really good songs and yet, once again, the compiler has managed to forage completely dull, non-entity tracks from their record collection. It kind of makes me think that the compiler worked in an all night garage.

With Talk Radio on.

CD1

01. Georgia Satellites – Open All Night
02. Gregg Allman – I’m No Angel
03. David Lee Roth – Tobacco Road
04. Jethro Tull – Farm On The Freeway
05. Robert Cray – Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark
06. Status Quo – Burning Bridges
07. Bad Company – No Smoke Without Fire
08. Little Feat – Hate To Lose Your Lovin’
09. George Thorogood – You Talk Too Much
10. Doobie Brothers – Need A Little Taste Of Love
11. Hooters – Johnny B.
12. Steve Winwood – Split Decision
13. Fabulous Thunderbirds – Wrap It Up
14. ZZ Top – Sleeping Bag
15. Great White – Rock Me

CD2

01. Poison – Nothing But A Good Time
02. Billy Idol – Don’t Need A Gun
03. Pat Benatar – Sex As A Weapon
04. Foreigner – Say You Will
05. White Lion – When The Children Cry
06. Marillion – Incommunicado
07. Electric Light Orchestra – Calling America
08. The Stranglers – Always The Sun
09. Big Country – The Teacher
10. Europe – Superstitious
11. Pretenders – My Baby12. Lou Gramm – Just Between You And Me
13. Huey Lewis & The News – Hip To Be Square
14. Deacon Blue – Fergus Sings The Blues
15. Cinderella – Don’t Know What You’ve Got (’til It’s Gone)

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Can’t Look Away – Trevor Rabin (#243)

CantlookawayCan’t Look Away – Trevor Rabin 

This is former Yes guitarist, Trevor Rabin, and his third studio album.

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Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe – Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe [#71]

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 19.10.20Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (ABWH)

ABWH by ABWH is an album that slots in between Big Generator and Union in the pantheon of Yes albums. Oh, yes, you probably won’t be aware of what happened.

As frequently happens with Yes, there are often little tiffs between members, some members want to do something one style, while the others throw their toys out the pram and say they want to do it a different way.

Case in point. Listen to any Yes album pre-90125. The style is different. You can hear how the style has evolved sure, but it’s definitely a different paradigm shift is styles. The younger, cooler, less hippy members of the band went “We want to do an album like this” while the pye eyed hippy lot went “No but we want to do one as well”

Unfortunately you can’t have two bands with the same name formed of members, old and new. No. It just won’t do (Are you reading this Renaissance, Deep Purple etc?)

So what you do in a situation like that? When your older band mates come along and say “Hey, lets make an album?” Well you make an album. Of course the existing member of Yes at the time (White, Squire, Kaye and Rabin) went “Oi! No! Not as Yes you don’t” and so began a long battle for the rights to use the band name Yes.

In the meanwhile, ABWH produced an album and this is that album. Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Rick “Grumpy” Wakeman and Bill “I’ve met Stegzy Gnomepants” Bruford. It’s full of Anderson mystique, Howe and Wakeman twiddly and Bruford boshbishbashing. It’s a show off album. It says “Listen to us! We’re old but we can still do stuff”. Yeah.

It’s ok.

It’s not great.

It’s ok.

Its definitely of the time, late eighties, early nineties. You can tell from the tribal and African influences. To me it’s too twee for the time. It’s certainly an album of talent, but it’s like 10 years too late. The style is very Peter Gabriel and you can tell Squire isn’t about because the bass just isn’t as fiddly.

Spin forward a few years, the band reconciled their differences and recorded Union. Another pile of tosh. More of that later.

 

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ACD – Half Man Half Biscuit [#52]

ACD - Half Man Half BiscuitACD – Half Man Half Biscuit

This is the second album alphabetically that I have from Half Man Half Biscuit. Released in 1993 , ACD is a typical HMHB album. Sardonic wit, cutting observational humour and wry stabs at those members of society that tend to annoy.

I remember hearing about HMHB when I was in my early teens and thinking that they were an inspired band. By the time I managed to get most of their albums, they had already been going for several years. I’m sure that had the internet been available when I was 14 I would have been able to find their albums a bit better than I did back then.

Nigel Blackwell, the lead singer, has a very typical Scouse sense of humour. The kind of “I’m alright because I’m not like you” kind of attitude that hard-nosed meat heads in dodgy Scouse boozers might have. The kind of looking down your nose at a society that thinks it’s better than you because they have trips to a caravan in the Peak District yet you can only afford a day trip to Rhyl. The kind of funny, quick-witted individual who would probably have yards of yarns to spin, none of which are probably true but may, just may, have a soupcon of truth in them .

Take this song for example…..

 

 

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101 – Depeche Mode [#15]

101 – Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode’s music incites a strange mix of emotions and feelings. Kind of kinky dirty but also grimey in the same way. I suppose it’s because I know some members had a really bad smack habit so often images of Grange Hill’s Zammo slumped in a dirty public bog, hypodermic needle in his arm and dirty burnt silver foil in his hand come to mind.

Saying that, some songs especially those off Songs of Faith & Devotion onjour images of Martin Gore and Dave Gahan in bondage gear flagellating each other in some weird S&M orgy involving penguins and matchsticks. Dunno why….it just does.

My first post-childhood exposure to Depeche Mode, as in one where I was starting to become aware of popular music, occurred in 1992 when I was a student at Sheffield Hallam University. It was while supporting my studies working at Halfords I met a strange chap (who smelt of used sleeping bags) whose belief was no Sunday was complete without 7 hours of constant Depeche Mode. I suppose the repetition helped. I even went and bought their albu Songs of Faith and Devotion, the tracks from which became the soundtrack of those days. Mostly because it was the only CD other than Mike Oldfield that I had with me during my stay at Uni. But I’ll go into that more in about a year or so…when I get to S.

101 is a live album. As with all good live albums they provide a snap shot of a band’s catalogue at the time of going to press. Indeed, I find live albums a good way of determining whether or not I’ll like a band. With some exceptions. But we’ll get to that in a few months time.

Recorded in 1989 at the Pasadena Rose Bowl,101 is a good collection of Mode favorites. Most importantly it has an accompanying live concert video which I saw back in the mid nineties. I recall seeing it when at Ginger Chris’ house. Everyone was smashed out of their heads on their intoxicant of choice and discussions regarding Egyptian spirituality, UFOs and conspiracies were rife. I suppose that situation reinforced the imagery I described earlier in this entry.

Mode, like Abba, are one of those bands who feature on everyone born in the 1960’s to 1970’s personal life soundtrack. I’m sure there are some younger readers who will also say “Ah but they feature on my life soundtrack too”, and that may be the case. Such is the power and distinctive style of Depeche Mode. Indeed, this live set contains some of their earlier more poppie tunes (I maintain the best thing that Depeche Mode ever did was persuade Vince Clarke to leave) such as Just Can’t Get it up enough and People are People

It would be pertinent to expect to see a fair bit of DM during this project.

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