Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

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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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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Gothic Spleens – Dead Can Dance [#544]

UnknownAs we finally come out of the (reduced) gothic compilation portion of the project, we see the peaks of “Greatest Hits” ahead of us but until then there are a few more albums we need to visit.

Gothic Spleens is another bootleg album for Neoclassical/Goth group Dead Can Dance. Recorded from a live radio broadcast from Hamburg’s  Musikhalle in 1990. It has a similar track listing to Golden Age but certainly doesn’t disappoint. Even if we’ve heard it all before.

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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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Empire – Queensryche [#427]

Queensryche_-_Empire_coverFirst of all, let me thank my good friend Jim Ellis for his contribution to my musical development. It was he who introduced me to the wonders of eighties/nineties big hair stadium rockers Queensryche and their albums Empire and Operation: Mindcrime.

Delicious hairy rock with a strong cheese flavour akin to a musical version of parmesan.

Empire is Queensryche’s fourth studio album and arrives on the back of their successful Operation:Mindcrime album. Sadly, the magic the band brought to the world wasn’t as strong in Empire as it was in Mindcrime but conceptually, Empire does stand well on its own and obviously points to the band’s golden era. Sadly, despite regular reshuffles, leavings and rejoinings, subsequent albums fail to reach the dizzy heights Empire’s aural swan song brings. But, of course, this didn’t stop me foolishly seeking out the band’s entire back catalogue.

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Elizium – Fields of the Nephilim [#424]

Fon_front_elizium_smallI’ve talked about Fields of the Nephilim (FON) before on the music project so I won’t over egg the pudding. Feel free to dig around in the music project archives.

Elizium is FON’s third studio album and features a number of tracks from the Cassette given to me by Chris Herbert back in 1996. As everyone knows, home taping killed music back in 1998. As a result little real music has been made since around that time.

This is why I hardly listen to this album. It is my way of preserving some good music in a  sort of digital bottle. As in, each time music from it is listened to, air gets to the contents and slowly turns the contents to vinegar.


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East of the Sun, West of the Moon [#411]

A-ha_East_of_the_Sun_West_of_the_MoonI was 10 when Aha’s Take on Me was doing the rounds. I didn’t have much interest in music at that age and it wasn’t until the late nineties that I picked up their “best of” compilation album Headlines and Deadlines – The Hits of A-ha.

I’d kind of lost track of A-ha over the years and there were a couple of songs on Headlines that I’d not heard before and so when I came across this album, I thought I’d give it ago. East of the Sun, West of the Moon is A-ha’s fourth album and marks the band’s transition from poppy eighties sound to moody nineties sound.

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Darkman: OST – Danny Elfman [#339]

440px-DarkmansoundtrackBack in the 1990s movie studios saw, from the success of Tim Burton’s Batman, that superhero movies worked and were popular. The race was on to find the next big thing. Would it be Tank Girl? Would it be Phantom? Would it be Swamp Thing? Or would it be Darkman?

Sam Raimi, unable to secure the rights to make his own version of Batman or The Shadow, went off and did what anyone else would do and created his own superhero. The Darkman tells the tale of a talented scientist who, while working on a synthetic polymer skin, is attacked by thugs, burnt, disfigured and left for dead forcing the scientist to go forth and seek revenge and administer justice.  The film was released in 1990 and stars Liam Neeson as the scientist Peyton Westlake alongside Frances McDormand and Larry Drake. I loved the film. It was one of the last films I went to see at the Liverpool Lime Street Canon Cinema.

Composer of the moment, Danny Elfman, who seems to have spent most of the 1990s writing soundtracks for films about superheroes or people with scissors for hands,  works wonders with his talents. It’s not quite Batman but has essences of Batman tonally. It probably influenced Elfman’s other works such as Spiderman and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but this is not a bad thing. Instead it shows us how composers have themes that reemerge throughout their work kind of like a signature and if you can detect it you can have a cookie.

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Album #66 – Amarok – Mike Oldfield

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 13.56.10Amarok – Mike Oldfield

Oldfield presents a miasma of sound harking back to the wild days of Ommadawn in this release from 1990.

I remember asking Steph Ormsby to nip to HMV for me to get this on cassette because I was stuck in school and I simply had to have it.  Bless her, she did and I’m eternally grateful to her for doing so.

Without Amarok, the next 2 years would have been difficult expression wise. I could hear how Oldfield had vented frustrations against Branson and Virgin while at the same time marvelling at his musical prowess and wishing I was just as talented.

Of course, I’m not.

Presented as a single sixty minute track, something that was lost by listening to it on cassette, Amarok is a true experiment in your own understanding of musical form. I especially like how the ending just keeps building up and up. Theoretically, you could listen to it on loop for a whole day.  I do, however,  recommend that you listen to it when feeling a bit…eclectic.

These guys did a good job of performing it too:

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