Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

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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Gut Feeling – Belly [#564]

R-4389581-1407133358-7875-1.jpegAnother bootleg, another band; You won’t find Gut Feeling in the shops, but you will find it during the music download free for all mid-noughties. Like I did.

It was then that I was  intent on finding as much as I could of Tanya Donelly’s works having heard a few songs on various sampler CDs and having recalled the popularity of Belly amongst my university friends in the nineties. So when I found out that they hadn’t actually made that many albums, I resorted to bootlegs and fan stuff.

Gut Feeling comprises of a compilation of recordings made at the band’s gig in Grant Park in Chicago and New Orleans LA in 1993. It’s nice because there are so few bootlegs out there for the band which is a shame because they are often overlooked these days.

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Greatest Hits Vols 1 & 2 – Queen [#556 & #557]

Queen_Greatest_Hits-1440px-Queen_-_Greatest_Hits_2It often seems like people tell me that I should like bands more than I do.
I’ve never liked Queen that much. Sure I appreciate the groundbreaking style of Bohemian Rhapsody, I also like their soundtrack to Flash Gordon but as I’ve said previously, I never held much love for Freddie Mercury and his pals.

Whether it was the type of person at my school that liked Queen, the sound or the way Freddie Mercury and Brian May, like Annie Lennox, made me feel uneasy. I remember being very young and ill in bed with a fever and Queen was on the radio as I was  having hallucinations featuring Benny from Crossroads, the Yorkshire Ripper, big brown leather cushions and a needle and thread. I guess that swung it.

So I’ve never bought any of their albums, obtaining these two via the generous internet download free for all of the mid noughties. Even so, like with Abba, Guns N Roses and similar artists of the time, their music features on my life soundtrack, so it’s hard to rule them out entirely hence their Greatest Hits being in my collection. Maybe if it wasn’t for Benny from Crossroads, Paul Midgeley’s dad and his Ford Sierra and Nick Gosney’s overly freckly round face, I might have given them a bit more air time.

 

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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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Greatest Hits – Aphrodite’s Child [#551]

Aphrodites Child Greatest Hits

Three bearded Greeks and an Egyptian perform their “greatest hits” from their three albums of which, I have one, 666.

Having only heard 666 before, when I first heard this album back in 2004, I was surprised by the other songs on the album. Aside from the tracks from 666 I’d already heard Rain and Tears and It’s Five O’Clock but had no idea they were Aphrodite’s Child songs. I had always thought they were Demis Roussos songs.

Anyway, it’s surprising how many “hits” a hardly heard of band have had and it frequently amuses me when I play people their songs and they exclaim, like me, they didn’t know it was by Aphrodite’s Child.

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Gold: Greatest Hits – Abba [#535]

ABBA_Gold_coverMy music collection and thus Stegzy’s Music Project has more gold than Fort Knox it seems. This time it’s Swedish gold from seventies/eighties pop gods, Abba.

If you’ve been following the project for some time, or maybe had a late night discussion with me over a few pints, you’ll already know of my feelings about Abba and how I hold them in higher regard than to the Beatles for their contribution to world music and our musical development. A sentiment backed increasingly by other self important gobshites on  recent documentaries shown on the BBC.

Abba’s Gold is a true treasure trove of songs, most of which we’ve already heard on similar “best of” albums such as 25 Jaar Na “Waterloo” and will hear again on Thank You for The Music. Thing is, when you’re a band that solely relies on the resale of your own music through the proliferation of Greatest Hits, Best ofs and similar albums, you run the risk that future generations will not buy your other albums because they’ve “already got 90% of that album now already”.

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Gold Collection: The Best of Jefferson Airplane [#534]

Gold Collection - Jefferson AirplaneAnother case of “Why have I got this?”. Gold Collection is essentially one of the bands many greatest hits compilations available on the market

Although I was already familiar with White Rabbit I was a little unsure as to which other songs Jefferson Airplane I knew. Turns out the only other one I knew was Somebody to Love.

Jefferson Airplane are icons of the sixties to many, their history as multi-branched as any prog rock tree.  Much like the earlier music project entry, Black Mass by Lucifer and future project entry, Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls by The Coven, Jefferson Airplane slots itself into a specific genre of weirdness garnished with shouty woman lead singer. Pretty much like X.  But I guess, like Grateful Dead, you have to have been a part of the scene or “been there man” to fully appreciate the appeal for the whole angry shouty sixties psychedelic music sound.

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Gold: The Best of Spandau Ballet – Spandau Ballet [#533]

Unknown-1Quite often, as is frequently the case with this project, I listen to albums and become pleasantly surprised by how many of the tracks or songs I am already familiar with.

The other week  I took a long distance trip up the M6 with this album loaded onto the car’s music centre. Before it played, my wife and I discussed how many songs we both could remember that were by Spandau Ballet. Gold was mentioned, but only in relation to the 1984 Olympics. I could remember To Cut a Long Story Short from Club for Heroes and we could both recall True but only because of a relatively recent cover version. However, as the journey continued and the album played, we began to realise we knew more Spandau than we first thought.

Only When You Leave came on followed by Lifeline and  Communication and we were both singing along. It seemed like every song that followed was accompanied by a chorus of “Oh! I didn’t know they did this one as well”. And partly, that is another reason as to why I like “Best of” compilations. Not only are they a good snapshot and introduction to a band but when it’s a more established group like Spandau, they often contain songs that pepper the soundtracks of our own lives whilst removing those songs from the original albums for we have no affiliation to.

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Glorious: The Singles 97-07 – Natalie Imbruglia [#528]

Natalie_Imbruglia_-_Glorious_The_Singles_1997-2007Bitter sentiments from ex-Neighbours star and friend of Jason and Kylie, Natalie Imbruglia. An inherited album from the first marriage’s joint collection so it holds no special sentiment for me.

Imbruglia does the uplifting music to bitter lyrics thing quite well and I do like one or two of the songs from this album. Again, not an album I would usually either openly admit to owning or buy but some good tunes.

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Glittering Prize: 81/92 – Simple Minds [#526]

Glitteringprize8192It’s 1992. School has finished. University has begun. Trudging the city streets of a rain soaked Sheffield is a tall fair haired male with a Sony Walkman. On the Walkman is a copy of this album.

That man was me.I’d embarked on a new phase of life. University. And with university as a young 19 year old male came new people, new experiences and, best of all, new music. Because, of course, a new phase in a new city meant new shops. Shops that didn’t feature in Liverpool. Or if they did, not on the scale they did in Sheffield or the Meadowhall.

And there, on Fargate, opening to much fanfare and huzzah, a Virgin Megastore, the size of which I’d not seen before; within, a selection of cassettes as broad and as vast as the selection of pastries in Greggs the Bakers.

I bought Glittering Prize:81/92 on cassette from the Virgin Megastore on Fargate, Sheffield using an opening day discount voucher given to me at the student union during Freshers week. So began many years of listening. I still have the cassette, granted with nothing to play it on, but it is still in my belonging.

As “best of” compilations go, this was an excellent introduction to the band for me. Of course I was already familiar with the band having heard their work on the radio while I was growing up, but there were a number of songs I was unfamiliar with. Later investigations into other Simple Minds works proved to me that this album was probably the best choice to listen to the band as a beginner. Other albums were difficult to digest and I never really explored beyond Glittering Prize.

However, considering the number of times I’ve listened to the album over the years, it has fallen relatively out of aural favour since obtaining it on MP3 in 2009. Yet everytime I hear a song from it, I’m there, in nineties Sheffield, walking around the ruins of an ancient cutlery empire on my way into town or into University.

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Galore – Kirsty MacColl [#508]

KirstygaloreThere was a fleeting moment when I thought relatives of Kirsty MacColl lived in my street when I was growing up. Instead it turned out Andrea McCann wasn’t related, but just happened that she looked a little bit like her. If you squinted.

This is another relationship legacy album, inherited when my previous wife and I split the MP3 library. I’ve never really been a fan of MacColl but I’ve always know who she was and enjoyed Christmas when she would grace my screens with the Pogues. Indeed, my knowledge of her sound is not limited to that song and, this album being MacColl’s best of album, this album features many of her top hits that were present in the charts during my childhood.

As a time machine, this album works, transporting me back to a time of paper rounds, Saturday’s working in Halfords and Christmases visiting Flannagan’s Apple for the  Guinness.

And so we reach G. A world of compilations and best ofs (eg Greatest Hits) and Gothic music by far the largest group of albums alphabetically. Sorry if you’re expecting me to get to L by Christmas….

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Forever Faithless: Greatest Hits – Faithless [#490]

Forever_Faithless_–_The_Greatest_Hits At this point, anyone who knows me personally will no doubt be thinking “Hang on, Dance/Trip hop? Isn’t Stegzy a hairy die hard Prog fan?”. Indeed, but sometimes, with every record collection, you find a “loved genre” busting album or band.  Faithless are one of those bands.

Please don’t think I’ve gone and burnt my Yes t-shirt or thrown out my Roger Dean posters, far from it. I liked a couple of songs by Faithless. Happy cheery dance numbers with a dark and foreboding political message for the youth of the day, which, no doubt, was lost on many. I liked those songs sufficiently to try a few of Faithless’ other albums, this one and Back to Mine.

I left it there. My two favourite songs appeared on the album, Insomnia and Mass Destruction but the other songs were a little bit too beyond my cultural tastes. While similar to Massive Attack in some respects, the later dance tracks take me out of my cultural safety zone. A prime example of when getting a greatest hits album will give you a good idea of whether or not you’ll like a band’s other works too.

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Essential Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan [#433]

Bob_Dylan_-_The_Essential_Bob_DylanEssentially I want to like Bob “Moped starting up” Dylan. Essentially I have tried and really tried. I tried so hard to like Bob “Hair Drier” Dylan, to see why so many people put him on a pedestal, why so many people think he’s the best thing to have ever happened to music since Mozart. I tried. I tried so hard I have strain marks on my ears.

Essential is the “best of” Dylan, not that I’ve been able to distinguish any mind blowing tracks apart from the surprise that Dylan was responsible for a number of songs I had attributed to other artists.

Legend has it the young Dylan mooched about Liverpool before he hit the main stream.While there he met a young bloke who had just started to learn how to play music who was called John Lemon or something or some such bollocks. This is, of course, utter shite,  just like Dylan’s placement on the pedestal of musical greatness.

I’m sure I’ve upset a great deal of people with that last sentence but don’t misunderstand my supposition. Dylan certainly has his place in the hall of music history but the way many people, including my contemporaries, insist on placing the guy on this heightened throne of greatness has become irritating of late. The likes of Presley, Ray Noble and even Glen Miller who came before Dylan and equally had a prolific change on musical culture should also enjoy the same platform. Indeed, let’s be fair about the whole throne thing, let’s turn it into a musical SOFA of greatness. Dylan, Morrison, Presley, Noble, Gallas and whoever else deserves recognition can sit happily on the Sofa of musical greatness and entertain us all with their jostling for the pouffe.

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Essential Jean Michel Jarre – Jean Michel Jarre [#432]

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 11.55.04<sigh> I really could re-use the “Essential/Essentially” gag here too as Essential is, essentially the first Jean Michel Jarre Best of Compilation. But I won’t because re-releasing old material as new stuff is so 1990s it’s unbelievable.

And lazy.

Aero, Essential is a kind of “Best of” revisited. Nice if you want to relive the cardigan wearing, garish carpeted childhood of the 1970s. Nicer still if you just want to pop some acid with your hipster friend while staring at their Mathmos glooping and shlooping about on the table.

It’s kind of thought provoking that this music evolved into Air.

 

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Essence of the Deep Forest – Deep Forest [#431]

Essence of the deep forestThis week, it seems, we will mostly be listening to French and Belgian artists.

Today, Deep Forest. Essence, is essentially Deep Forest’s Best of album, though arguably they really only have a couple of songs that they remix continuously. Never the less, Deep Forest remain a firm favourite of the music project. I’m kind of interested to hear what Steelrattus has to say about the band as I know he is a fan.

Anyway, take Enigma to the rain forest, add some indigenous tribal chants and add a sprinkle of wholesome “I’ve seen the world and its colourful diversity” world  traveller and you have, in essence, Deep Forest. Indeed, you probably have the best of. Which, in essence is, Essence. But I’ve already said that. Kind of like how Deep Forest, Enigma and Era take the same theme and remix it over and over again. Remixing works in music I suppose, but not in prose. Which in essence, is Essence of the Deep Forest.

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Don’t Bore us Get to the Chorus – Roxette [#383]

Roxette_-_Don't_Bore_Us_2000More Europop, this time with late eighties popsters from Sweden, Roxette.

You might recall Roxette from such hits as Joyride, Listen to Your Heart and Must Have Been Love. I did. I remembered how much I liked their songs and realised, mid noughties, that I had none of their albums. So with copious amounts of internet to consume, I set about downloading their Best of compilation and this is it.

All their hits from 1988 through to 1995 are here including those already mentioned, The Look and Dressed for Success. Re-listening to the album for the purpose of the music project just kept shoving me into a mental Delorian back to my youth in the late eighties and early nineties.

Great stuff so have three!

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Definitive Simon & Garfunkel – Simon & Garfunkel [#356]

440px-The_Definitive_Simon_and_GarfunkelRegardless of what my wife thinks of Paul Simon and the hirsute Art Garfunkel, I’ve never really gotten on well with the pair. I was forced up with Mrs Robinson as part of my life soundtrack in the 1970s, and, since establishing firm musical boundaries between myself and my parents, I have distanced myself from the artists known as Simon & Garfunkel. Sneering contemptuously whenever their musical prowess or influence is mentioned.

So why, you may ask, is this album in your collection? Well it’s there purely because, as highlighted on numerous occasions during this project, my collection is an amalgamation of my own musical tastes, music forced upon me by peers and music harvested from various relationships over the years.

What makes this the Definitive then? Well to me Definitive means exactly what it says, this album should therefore define the artists, Simon and Garfunkel. Like if you were to look up the band in a musical dictionary this is what you would hear.

So don your cheesecloth, your kaftan and your gingham. Get yourself into a car from the 1960s. Grow your hair like a hippy, wear flowers, tattoo yourself with Dharma initiative symbols and run off to join some San Fransisco based Manson-esque cult with this album on your in car 8-track.

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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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Death to the Pixies – The Pixies [#351]

Pixies-DeathToThePixiesCoverSometime in the 1990s I must have been living under a rock or something. It seems that, to everyone else, the greatest band that ever performed were around and releasing records. Of course, living under a rock meant that I was unaware of this. Probably in the same way as I was unaware of many other musical things. See, that’s what it was like in the pre-internet nineties; if you wanted to find out about the latest music you either had to know someone who worked at Our Price or read NME.

I didn’t know anyone that worked at Our Price. I knew someone that had a music shop, but they sold instruments and rented videos on the side. I also didn’t read NME. Paul Sanderson read NME. Mike Reagan read NME. Most other people I knew thought NME was something to do with miners or something.

Then the late nineties came and I was more musically astute. There I am listening to Uncut magazines 4AD compilation upon which is a track called Debaser. Only to me they’re singing about a steam basin. Lyrics have never been my strong point. My then pre-first-wife says to me that this song is by the Pixies and that I should like them.

At some other point in that time, there I am in work, whistling absent mindedly along to Debaser while doing a stock take in the stationery cupboard. Along comes my chum Nick.  “I didn’t know you liked the Pixies” he says to me from under his beret and soul patched face. “I don’t” I replied. “Well you should like them“.

It seemed that if I wanted to be accepted in the world, I had to relinquish my grasp of seventies prog and, at that stage, eighties goth and embrace the modern musical age welcomingly by liking The Pixies. So I went to the Virgin Megastore (HMV was and is shit for music like this) and picked myself a copy of the Pixies’ greatest hits.

And this is said album. I know I should like them. But I don’t. I like two songs on their greatest hits, Debaser and Monkey Gone to Heaven. I should like more of their work. I don’t. I am a failure when it comes to being a hipster it seems.

 

 

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Dead Can Dance (1981 – 1998) – Dead Can Dance [#348]

Dead_Can_Dance_(1981-1998)A four volume compilation of various works by the band Dead Can Dance.

Being a bit of a DCD nerd, I couldn’t turn my nose up at this. Sure I have most of the tracks already on other albums but there are some tracks on here that aren’t available on conventional releases.

Radio recordings and rare songs appear here along with the foetal essence of some well known DCD songs. It also came with a DVD of the live Toward the Within concert which will appear here on the music project in a few years time.

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Cosmos – Vangelis [#312]

Cosmos - VangelisLook hard and long at Vangelis’ catalogue and you’ll struggle to find this album. Probably because it is an unofficial compilation.

If you were about in the 1980s you’ll probably recall a ground breaking documentary series called Cosmos presented by Carl Sagan. You’ll also probably remember the futuristic music that accompanied the series, most of which was extracted from albums by Vangelis. Indeed, if you are British, you might remember Johnny Ball’s informative television programmes covering numbers, science and the like. You know, from the time when television programmes weren’t vacuous? Well there are a few tracks on this album that will bring memories of those times rushing back.

This album is a collection of Vangelis’ most overused tunes from various science programmes throughout the eighties nicely tied under the title, Cosmos. 

Great stuff.

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Contraband: The Best of – Men at Work [#308]

The+Best+Of+Men+At+Work+ContrabandIf you ever thought Men at Work were one hit wonders with Down Under, you’ll be very much mistaken. Men at Work were Australia’s answer to the likes of Huey Lewis & the News and such.

Contraband is a “best of” compilation for the antipodean musicians and provides the listener with a broad spectra of their work. If you’ve only ever heard Down Under then I suggest you get this on the old iTunes player and remind yourself that they have actually done a lot more than songs about travelling the world in a worn out combi.

I really like this best of. It’s a good example of how best ofs should work. You’ve heard of one of the artist’s songs but you’re not sure if you’ll like the rest of their work. So buy a best of, discover you like a few of their songs but not enough to warrant buying their entire catalogue.

I should listen to my own advice.

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Concerts in China – Jean Michel Jarre [#301]

The_Concerts_in_China_Jarre_AlbumJarre spreads European culture and music technology to the exotic Far East by playing gigs in Beijing and Shanghai then brings back a little bit of Chinese culture and musical influence to the West.

This album is a live, yes a live, compilation best of thing. Just like all the other live best of compilations in this project only this time, to make it different, you know it’s recorded in China. Wow! Actually in CHINA!

Sure there are a few “Concerts in China” specific tracks on the album but the bulk is just live versions of tracks from previous albums recorded in China. It also sees Jarre whip out his laser harp. I even remember my brother telling me to watch Jarre play the laser harp on TV because it was a groundbreaking, never to be seen again, instrument.  Earth shattering never happened, Jarre went on to do more albums and laser harps will never beat seeing the Gamelan play live in Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

 

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