Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

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 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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Impossible Princess – Kylie Minogue [#616]

Kylie_Minogue_Impossible_PrincessMrs Gnomepants V1.0 is the keeper of this album of which I have a digital rip. Weirdly, and possibly because of you know “internet downloading”, I appear to have a fusion of two versions of this album: the original 1998 CD rip and the 2003 Special Edition.

Of the two versions, it’s the original I prefer, I’m not sure why producers think remixing things is something people want to hear. I mean imagine someone going into the Louvre and remixing the Mona Lisa the making the remix the only version people could see. There would be uproar!

Impossible Princess is a marked divergence from Minogue’s usual pop princess style and, I think at least, is her best work. She has said of the album that she would never do another like it and it is her least favourite. Also, sadly, exposure wise, it didn’t fair as well as other albums, especially in the UK, as its release coincided with the death of Princess Diana, so was renamed Kylie Minogue and release was delayed until the buzz had died down.

This and Air’s Moon Safari are two albums that define a period where there were a lot of changes in my life every time I hear songs from it, fond memories are invoked of people I’ve not seen in ages and events and activities partook.   It still, even nearly 20 years since its release and about ten years since I last listened to it, sounds amazing.

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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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Flesh & Blood – Roxy Music [#481]

Flesh_and_Blood_album_cover-1In an effort to destroy good music, my eldest brother made me a copy of this on a home taped cassette. If he hadn’t perhaps the music industry would still be around today.

At the time of the cassettes issue, I was in my late teens and my main interest, as for most boys, was girls. Sarah Bamber was the then girl of my dreams but my interest was spurned regularly. So, like all good teen boys, I found solace by moping about listening to music, an activity spearheaded by the music of Chris Isaak and this album.

Songs from the album such as Oh Yeah and Running Wild featured heavily in my life soundtrack of the time. I still remember trying to garner attention by listening to the album sat on the veranda at Keswick Youth Hostel during a walking holiday with the church choir.

As I grew older and I realised that a moody male attitude alone didn’t get you laid. Nor did an interest in an American guitarist (Isaak) or a wrinkly lothario and his band. My appreciation of Flesh and Blood waned and the album became just another in my vast collection. Indeed, Sarah’s interest only piqued when I became unavailable and she later ended up having a brief fling with who she thought was my best friend as a way of getting back at me
for spurning her affections. Oh how I laughed as he drew her into his own world of despair, womanising and mysogyny.

This is Roxy Music’s seventh studio album and was my introduction to Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music and originally featured on the B side of a 90 minute cassette with the A side consisting of a collection of songs by The Tubes.  Happily I now own the full album on digital media.

Which is a good thing as since home taping killed music.

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Falco 3 – Falco [#457]

Falco_Falco_3_CD_coverIn 1986 I embarked on a journey to France with my school. An exciting time made more memorable by the purchase of a Sony Walkman clone from the duty free shop on the ferry. One boy did it, then another, and another until the entire school trip had parted with 40 francs for a nice bit of future tech. This was 1986. Jet packs and holidays on Mars were only 14 years away.

Of course, portable personal cassette players were relatively new to us all and, in our haste to become future boys, we’d all over looked one important thing – None of us had anything to play on the cassette players. All that was available was the mixed bag of cassettes in the school minibus mostly consisting of GCSE French lessons, Now That’s What I Call Music compilations, Status Quo and stuff left behind by long forgotten sixth formers.

The bag was passed round and each boy would select two cassettes from the bag at random to borrow and listen to. My selection consisted of a mix tape of eighties hits and Falco 3. The mix tape broke and snarled itself up in the workings of the Walkman clone so Falco it was. And so began a nearly twenty year treasure hunt for the album that kept me company during my trip to France with my school.

In the years following that holiday I tried to get the album on CD but no matter how often I went to the F section of HMV in Liverpool’s Church Street or Virgin Megastore in Clayton Square, I couldn’t find the album. So it wasn’t until the great internet download frenzy of the noughties, that I managed to obtain this piece of aural gold.

Of course, most people will know Falco for his eighties hit Rock Me Amadeus and there their experience of his music ends, but the Austrian had such great talent and there are many many other good songs that he penned.

Sadly Falco’s career was short and ended following a tragic accident with some drugs and his 4×4 in the Dominican Republic in 1999.

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Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd [#336]

Dark_Side_of_the_MoonWhen I was 17, the former acquaintance now known as Shitbag said to me:

“Pink Floyd don’t make any CDs anymore. You’ll not find this in HMV so don’t go looking”

So naturally I went looking, opening up a whole new world to me. I’d been aware of Pink Floyd for several years up to that point, but mostly only for their work The Wall. But as we learnt in Animals, there was a lot more to the band. Indeed, much later works like A Momentary Lapse of Reason and Division Bell just proved that there was still a lot to be produced and earlier albums like Atom Heart Mother and A Saucerful of Secrets proved there was a lot more to discover.

Darkside of the Moon was the second Pink Floyd album I bought. At the time a lot was going on in my life. It was also a time when the new millennium was approaching and with it esoteric disaster, spiritual end times and a new age of yogurt weaving, tofu knitting and miso misery was dawning.

There was also a total eclipse of the sun that was to be visible from the British Isles and Cornwall was to be the best spot to view it from. So, to avoid the crowds I planned an excursion to the nearest westerly point my girlfriend and I could reach without breaking the bank. Having bundled the tent and the king size duvet into the Citroen AX, all that was left was to make a mix tape for the car as entertainment.

Driving through rural Wales with the album on the car stereo blaring out in time to every twist, turn, 60mph stretch, open road and chicane it was uncanny. Culminating in coming down the hill into the picturesque village of Aberdaron on the western Llyn Peninsula just as Pink Floyd broke into Eclipse was possibly on of the most inspiring and thought provoking moments of my life. It was as if the album was written for the journey, the experience and the event.

Synchronicity at its best. Although next time I’ll try the whole experience again while watching Wizard of Oz and see how that works out.

I also have Dark Side of the Sky. A live recording of a performance of this album, but I see little point in writing a separate entry for it.

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Ceromonies: Ad Mortem Ad Vitam – Fields of the Nephilim [#257]

Ceromonies: Ad Mortem Ad Vitam - Fields of the NephilimCeromonies: Ad Mortem Ad Vitam – Fields of the Nephilim

Live music from our gothic dust beaten hat wearing chaps from Stevenage.

Perhaps it’s age, but to me it’s hard to take this album seriously. The guy you can hear growling away, Carl McCoy, was in his mid forties  when this album was recorded. Which is cool. If that’s what you can pass off. But all I can think of is some “dad” like figure dressing up like some forsaken cowboy growling. Not singing. Growling.

That’s not to say I don’t like it. It’s a good album. Nice mix of songs old and new showing progression and a nice introduction to the band for young newbies. But remember kids, the lead singer is old enough to be your dad. Or, in some cases, your granddad.

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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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Music Project–Album #44–A Thousand Roads–Lisa Gerrard & Jeff Rona

imageA Thousand Roads by Lisa Gerrard & Jeff Rona

A Thousand Roads is a film by Chris Eyre released in 2005. This is the soundtrack for it.

I’m very fond of soundtracks and there are many in my collection. Mostly they are of films that I have seen but this is one of 2 film soundtracks of films I’ve not seen.

I’m also very fond of Lisa Gerrard’s music including Dead Can Dance (but more about them in a later post).

So there’s two things: Lisa Gerrard and Soundtracks. What more could I want? Well there is a third thing. World music. I first got into World Music as a teenager when I was taken on a school trip to see the Gamelan at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool. Initially I was resistant but an hour into the performance I began to recognise repetitions, subtleties and changes in rhythm which none of my classmates seemed to appreciate. On the back of that experience I embraced World Music and, over the years, have collected some interesting music (again, more of that in a later post).

A Thousand Roads is a lovely mix of etherical wailing, tribal chants and haunting synths. A rare treat for travellers and explorers of the musical soundscape.

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Music Project–Album #42– A Secret History –The Divine Comedy

imageA Secret History by The Divine Comedy

Two today because I’m feeling generous.

There is a certain sound that conjures up memories of the 1990’s. Granted, I spent most of the 1990s in a haze of solitude and unemployment. Indeed, I did not really venture much further musically than the compilation album Shine 9. Instead I spent most of the 90s listening to Mike Oldfield, Yes, Triumvirat and whatever I happened upon on my cassette tapes. Those were the days. Days of sitting round, doing nothing. Wasting time.

 

I suspect that The Divine Comedy’s greatest hits, this album, appears in my music library due to Gay Jamie who no doubt put it on one of his many MP3 CDs he wrote for me back in the early noughties.

 

The Divine Comedy are that sound. The sound of the nineties. I’d not listened to this album before I began this project and, apart from a couple of tunes I’d heard on the radio or in other compilations, I’m not all that familiar nor enamoured with the band or their work. I was also surprised by the fact that they wrote the theme tune to Father Ted. So that was a surprise when it started playing midway through the listen.

 

Anyway, I think I’ll just keep the tracks I like off this album and bin the rest.

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