Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sarah 097 Straight From the States

Just back from a whirlwind trip to San Francisco. I had very limited time to hit the shops, but I did manage a few minutes at both Bay Area locations of Amoeba Records. Neither stop was a home run, but I'll tell you all about my treasures soon. As you can imagine, I'm way behind today, but I wanted to make a quick appearance and pass along a couple of riveting reads.

The build is over: Scott at Spools Paradise has just unveiled his personal No. 1 album, and it's a doozy. If you're a fan of Simple Minds, and I must assume you are, Post-Punk Monk is digging deep for a dissection of the band's albums. He's on 'Real To Real Cacophony' right now. So, you can catch up quite easily. Do stop by.

Ok, now that I have your attention, let's listen to a band straight outta Cali but via Bristol. Huh? Oh, and named after Scotland's third most populous city to boot. As young Palm Desert pals, John Girgus and Beth Arzy penned some beautiful twee tunes and sent it across the pond to Sarah Records. Even if Aberdeen's nationality was all wrong, their sound was perfect for a label brimming with so-called sad-sack bands. This is the second (and far superior) of the two singles they released for the UK indie label. This 7" and CD single would be one of the last recordings Sarah would ever release. As you can see from the following review, Aberdeen took the world by storm. Screw you, David Quantick. The original Sarah stuff is tough to find, but LTM Recordings reissued much of Aberdeen's output in 2006. Buy 'What Do I Wish For Now?' right now.

When It Doesn't Matter
Super Sunny Summer

I have been listening to quite a bit of Aberdeen lately because Arzy's latest band, the Luxembourg Signal, has put out one of my favorite albums of 2014. I know I have already pushed this one on you, but allow me to try one more time.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Popguns Aim High and Hit the Bull's-Eye

Even though the Popguns haven't had a full-length album since 1996, thanks to the triumphant lead-in single "Lovejunky," released this past September, I had little anxiety the Popguns could pull off a modest little record a few of us die-hard fans would enjoy for a few minutes before we went back to our copies of 'Another Year, Another Address... the Best of the Midnight Years.' What I didn't expect was a tour de force that deserves its rightful place beside 'Eugenie' and 'Snog' as the Popguns' best work.

'Pop Fiction' is an absolute no-filler affair. Every note is a keeper, and a few of the songs would be bona fide hits if this was 1989 and we still cared about such things. Among the highlights: "Alfa Romeo" has this laid-back "Let's Get Lost" quality that Chet Baker, the song's protagonist, would have found cool. It reminds me a bit of 10,000 Maniacs during the 'In My Tribe' era. "Still Waiting for the Winter" turns things down a bit and flips the band's old single and fan fave on its head. The back and forth between Wendy Pickles and Kate Mander gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it, and I only hope these two takes of "Waiting For the Winter" are played back to back on stage. My great love of the album is the dramatic ballad "Out of Sight." The beautiful and mournful chorus slowly penetrates the soul. You can't help but hope these two in the song make it in the end.

The jangle of "See You Later" closes the album and send us off optimistic this isn't the last we will hear from the reformed Popguns. I have been known to have moments of hyperbole, but I'm certain 'Pop Fiction' will be vying for my album of the year.

'Pop Fiction' has its official release Dec. 2, but you can preorder the CD from Matinée Recordings right now for shipping on Nov. 19... and you'll get it as a download immediately. For your listening pleasure, here's a trio courtesy of the label:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Mess From 'Just Say Yes'

Lots of new music to listen to today. So, I need to make this quick. Digging up that rare mix from Wild Swans last week got me thinking about how much I enjoyed Sire's 'Just Say Yes' sampler series in the late '80s. They were chock full of singles, remixes, live versions and B-sides from the label's stable of alternative stars, but Sire would throw in a curve ball to keep things interesting too. Without question, you could always count on an appearance from Depeche Mode, Erasure and Morrissey. They were the cornerstones of the operation at the time, but you might find something from Figures on a Beach, the Ocean Blue and k.d. lang as well.

The first compilation, out in the winter of '87, was the best. Unfortunately, they got weaker with each release, and I gave up on the endeavor with the fourth volume in 1990, but the series did continue through at least the seventh sampler in 1994. Bottom line is these must have been a success because I would always end up buying the records Sire was marketing. Here's a little mix of late '80s magic from that series:

Echo & the Bunnymen - Lips Like Sugar (12" Mix) (from 'Just Say Yes...')
The Smiths - Work Is a Four-Letter Word (B-side from 'Just Say Yes...)
The Mighty Lemon Drops - Inside Out (Live) (from 'Just Say Yo')
Throwing Muses - Dizzy (Remix) (from 'Just Say Mao')
Ian McCulloch - Candleland (Second Coming Version) (from 'Just Say Da')
Erasure - Chains of Love (Truly in Love With the Marx Bros. Mix) (from 'Just Say Yo')

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pleased Pleased Pleased By JB Documentary

Having seen the HBO documentary "Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown" this past weekend, I was struck by the complexity of the "Hardest Working Man in Show Business." On the one hand, as a performer, you can't help but watch with your jaw hanging open. The clips are just amazing. All of his most memorable moments are here. I have seen the "T.A.M.I. Show" and his medley on "The Ed Sullivan Show" many times, but it never grows old. There were a few moments on stage that were new to me, such as his Boston appearance right after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., that filled me with admiration. The best of the lot, however, came after he broke in "Catfish" and "Bootsy" Collins. There is a rendition of "Sex Machine" near the end of the program that literally got me off the couch.

On the other hand, in interview after interview, Brown is painted as a tyrant and thief by former members of the band. He treated everyone around him roughly, including the ladies. Is this the price for perfection? Politically, my head was spinning as he seemed to do and say everything right on issues of race and civil rights throughout the '60s, only to abandon the Democrats and back Nixon in 1972. Sounds ridiculous, but then he says, "I don't want nobody to give me nothing." Then he adds, "Open the door and I'll get it myself." I told you he was complex.

Mick Jagger co-produced the documentary, and he adds a little levity early on with a tale of how things went down behind the scenes of the "T.A.M.I. Show." The Roots' ?uestlove adds perspective to Brown's vast influence today. This was a well-done documentary that I highly recommend. My only gripe was it felt like the filmmaker whizzed by Brown's moustache era a little too fast. However, it was kind of the powers that be to spare us the '80s and beyond.

Here's a quick promo of the film. I also dug up Brown's appearance on the "T.A.M.I. Show." I thought you might also enjoy a listen to an early song. "Good Good Lovin'" was recorded Jun 27, 1959 with the Famous Flames. On the heels of the smash "Try Me," this one should have been his next big hit. Sadly, it didn't chart, but it's always been one of my favorites. I'm taking this one from 'CD of JB II." Those two volumes were my introduction to Brown... back in 1987. It appears they are out of print.

James Brown - Good Good Lovin'

Saturday, November 8, 2014

When the Wife's Away, Scritti Politti Will Play

I'm not a fan of 'Anomie & Bonhomie,' but I can even find something redeeming from Scritti Politti's worst moment. The Mrs., as you no doubt know by now, hates every note the band ever put to wax. She's on the road again, however, so I can shed the headphones and freely move about the abode while I get my Green on... although I must say the beautiful "Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder" may be my favorite song to listen to on the old Sennheisers. I dedicate this one to the talented but still retired blogger Friend of Rachel Worth who commented back in June he has "a soft spot for A&B. It has 2 of the best tracks [Green Gartside] has done, the gorgeous brushed and the hooktastic tinseltown."

Scritti Politti - Brushed With Oil, Dusted With Powder

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ugly Duckling From the Wild Swans?

Understandably, fans of the Wild Swans have always flocked to the early stuff, and 'The Coldest Winter for a Hundred Years' has quickly become a staple too. It's the middle material, 'Bringing Home the Ashes' and 'Space Flower,' that divides us. Even Paul Simpson doesn't seem to like these albums all that much. Well, I do. Today's selection is the opener from the latter.

'Space Flower' was produced by Simpson's old pal Ian Broudie. Ian McNabb and Chris Sharrock from the Icicle Works joined Broudie and Simpson to create a trippy collection not unlike the neo-psychedelic side of the "Madchester" sound all the kids were dancing to around the time this album was released in 1990. "Melting Blue Delicious" is worlds away from "Revolutionary Spirit," to be sure, but I find its lightness quite catchy and fun.

I was a big collector of the 'Just Say Yes' CD samplers Sire Records was putting out in the late '80s and early '90s. Volume IV, called 'Just Say Da,' had a special version of "Melting Blue Delicious" that was remixed by the legendary Bill Drummond, along with Dave Balse. I believe this was meant to be part of a 12" or CD single, but, to the best of my knowledge, this mix only ended up appearing on the label compilation. If I'm wrong about that, let me know.

The Wild Swans - Melting Blue Delicious
The Wild Swans - Melting Blue Delicious (St. Petersburg Mix)

Monday, November 3, 2014

One Last Pile O' Peel

Let's conclude a wonderful week of Peel Sessions with appearances by some of my all-time favorite bands. Most of these songs have been properly released on B-sides (like the Smiths), deluxe editions (like the Housemartins), box sets (like Orange Juice), best ofs (like the June Brides) or complete "at the BBC" releases (like Pixies and OMD). Also, a few years ago EMI helped put out a terrific 41-track double CD called 'Movement - The Peel Sessions 1977-1979' that is a must for Peel fans that weren't around to record his show off the radio at the time. There are a few samples from that collection below. If you don't have time to listen to this mix, at least take a moment to hear John's opening spiel during one of XTC's numerous appearances. As an American, I barely know what he's saying, but it's a big smile. I got that one from a an XTC collection of BBC appearances called 'Drums and Wireless.' If you have a favorite Peel Session, I would love to hear about it.

Peel's XTC Intro

XTC - Meccanic Dancing (Oh We Go!) (Nov. 13, 1978)
The Housemartins - Get Up Off Our Knees (April 6, 1986)
The Specials - Gangsters (May 23, 1979)
Orange Juice - Falling and Laughing (Oct. 21, 1980)
Pixies - Wave of Mutilation (April 16, 1989)
OMD - Of All the Things We Made (Jan. 29, 1983)
The June Brides - We Belong (Oct. 22, 1985)
The Smiths - Rushholme Ruffians (Aug. 1, 1984)
Madness - The Prince (Aug. 14, 1979)
The Jam - In the City (April 26, 1977)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Ooh, My Soul... It's a Little Richard Halloween

Maybe not the scariest post you'll see today, but both of these songs have a "stay away from my door" theme, and it's a good time to remind you to "jump back!" from those bad luck heeby-jeebies tonight 'cause if your bad luck baby puts the jinx on you, forget it, you can't get well. These two are from 1956 and 1957, respectively, and are filled with all the whoops and wails you need this Halloween, and some punch in the gut sax solos to boot. Heard that drum intro on "Keep A-Knockin'" before? Ask those limey Led Zeppeliners. They have a habit of nicking song openings. Anyway, as John Bonham used to say, be careful out there tonight. Huh? No way he ever said that. Happy Halloween everyone!

Keep A-Knockin'

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Peel Nabs Attractions Elvis Costello and Rockpile

I don't listen to Elvis Costello or Rockpile nearly as much as I did, say, in my early teens, but I go back more than 30 years with both of them, and I consider each crucial to my early musical education. From here I discovered Stiff and the many bands Costello and Nick Lowe produced and covered... then Madness, then 2 Tone, and the Costello/Lowe tree just kept growing more and more limbs. They were a strong trunk.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions recorded four Peel Sessions between 1977 and 1980, and I found them all on a very poorly assembled and produced bootleg called 'Radio Radio' while living in Japan 20 years ago. The sound quality is uneven, which is really too bad because I really like some of the takes found on this 19-song disc. That's how bootleg purchases went in the pre-Internet age. You bought on faith... not research. What I do like is hearing Costello with the Attractions so early. Of all my Costello live recordings, and I have a bunch, I don't believe I have another one that goes back to the summer of '77. My favorite of the sessions, however, is the one from 1980, but that's probably because 'Get Happy!!' is my No. 1 from the entire Costello catalog. Here's a taste from each session:

Mystery Dance (July 25, 1977)
Blame It On Cain (July 25, 1977)
Pump It Up (March 13, 1978)
Really Mystified (Oct. 23, 1978)
Beaten to the Punch (Feb. 25, 1980)
High Fidelity (Feb. 25, 1980)

Rockpile's session is from Feb. 8, 1977, and there was much to plug at the time. Dave Edmunds' album 'Get It' was slated for an April release, and Lowe's solo singles had been hitting the racks for the past year and would continue until 'Jesus of Cool' came out in 1978. "JuJu Man" was a Jim Ford cover from 'Get It." The Lowe penned "Heart of the City" is the real winner of this lot, and it, of course, appeared on 'Jesus of Cool' as a live song and on the American version of the album, 'Pure Pop for Now People,' as a studio track. Edmunds would also include the tune on his 1978 album 'Tracks on Wax 4.' "I Knew the Bride" was another Lowe tune on Edmunds' 'Get It.' I don't think Lowe released it himself until 'The Rose of England' album in 1985, but it was a live staple for many years. "Down Down Down" is another cover Rockpile used to play quite a bit. Edmunds had it on his first solo album, called 'Rockpile' just to really confuse things, way back in 1972. That settles it. I need more Rockpile posts. So good. Oh, and I got these from a Rockpile boot called 'A Mess of Blues.'

JuJu Man
Heart of the City
I Knew the Bride
Down Down Down

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Popguns on Peel

I will resist the urge to say the period around this Peel Session was the best time to be a fan of Popguns. If you picked up the "Lovejunky" 7" and are eagerly awaiting the upcoming full-length album 'Pop Fiction,' then you know right now is awfully exciting too. This is the first of two sessions the band did for Peel's program... both were in 1990. These four songs were broadcast in January, just a few weeks removed from their single "Landslide" appearing at No. 46 on Peel's Festive 50 for 1989. I suppose the band could have rested on their laurels by performing the hit or the follow-up single "Waiting For the Winter," but they were already looking ahead with a session of all new material. "Someone You Love" would be the lead single for Popguns' first album, 'Eugenie,' released later that year, and the other three songs wouldn't be committed to wax until the second album, 'Snog,' in 1991. Enjoy another fine moment from Peel's show.

Someone You Love
Bye Bye Baby
Put Me Through It
Where Do You Go?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tune In Talulah Gosh

I spent a big chunk of the weekend pulling Peel Sessions from the collection, and it turned out to be such a pleasant way to celebrate John's life. So, let's keep it going this week with some of my favorites from the past few days. Here's Talulah Gosh, first broadcast on Peel's show Jan. 11, 1988. This was the band's second (and last) recording for BBC Radio 1. In fact, the band, at least in this form, wouldn't make it to the end of the year. Of course, three members of the band, Amelia, Mathew and Peter, along with earlier member Rob, regrouped in '89 as Heavenly. You can find this session in a few places, but I have taken it from 'Backwash,' the compilation K Records released in 1996. One thing you can say about Talulah Gosh: They never wore out a welcome. These five songs clock in at around eight meager minutes... but there are plenty of the band's patented pace changes to get your heart racing.

My World's Ending
Be Your Baby
Break Your Face
In Love For the Very First Time
Spearmint Head

Friday, October 24, 2014

Keeping It Peel With Paul Court of the Primitives

Where has the time gone? This weekend marks 10 years since John Peel's turntable stopped spinning. As we are all managing the juxtaposition of sadness and celebration, I have asked Paul Court of the Coventry band the Primitives for his remembrances of listening to and performing on the legendary BBC Radio DJ's program. Special thanks to Mike Turner at Crashing Through Publicity for helping me get in touch with another one of my heroes.

Linear Tracking Lives: As a kid, what are some of your fondest memories of listening to John Peel's show?
Paul Court: I started listening to the show in 1978. Radio One used to turn into Radio Two in the evening and then revert back to Radio One at ten for the John Peel show, so it really felt like a visit to some secret, cut-off place. I loved all the post-punk stuff coming through in '78/'79. Lots of melody and experimentation creeping in. I'd listen in bed and would normally fall asleep before the end and wake up in the early hours wondering why the fuck he was playing Leo Sayer, before realising it had gone back to Radio Two and some truckers request show was on, and that I'd missed the next installment of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End or the final song in a Spizzenergi session.

LTL: What do you think made Peel so good at what he did?
Paul: I think because he was just left alone to get on with it, which fortunately meant giving the underdogs and outsiders a chance.

LTL: What standout Peel Sessions do you recall from other bands?
Paul: Loads of different contrasting stuff, such as The Birthday Party and Helen and The Horns. He played a lot of stuff that I really disliked to begin with, but couldn't stop thinking about the next day, so I would tune in wondering if he'd play it again that night, subsequently becoming a big fan -- The Birthday Party, The Fall, etc. I loved the first few Mary Chain sessions.

LTL: For many reasons, 1986 must have been such an exciting time for the Primitives. It was also the first of three consecutive years the band appeared on Peel's Festive 50, and in the fall you recorded your first of three Peel Sessions. What was it like going into the studio and then hearing yourselves on the program? Is there a particular song or session that really stands out in your mind?
Paul: The studio was at Maida Vale in London. It was an ornate single story cake of a building with studios below the ground. It felt very much like being in the 1930s down there -- I don't think much had been altered since then. The first couple of sessions we did were produced by Dale Griffin, the drummer from Mott The Hoople. You could tell he wasn't best pleased having to record all these musically inept bands. I remember him saying the guitar jangle on the chorus of "Stop Killing Me" didn't fit, but I refused to change it because that was what I played. Eventually he conceded that it sort of worked. When we went back for a second session he was a bit friendlier and told us we'd improved. Hearing the session on the radio was a massive thrill. It would take a few weeks for it to appear on the show and they wouldn't let you take a tape away, so you couldn't really remember how it sounded. This was our first John Peel session. [sends YouTube link]

LTL: More than a quarter century after the band's days on Lazy Records, the Primitives have returned to its indie roots with 'Spin-O-Rama' on Elefant Records. What do you think John Peel would have thought about that?
Paul: Hard to say really. I'd like to think he'd show some small acknowledgment, but his thing was always about the new young upstarts.

If you have heard 'Spin-O-Rama,' I think you'll agree Paul is being far too modest with that last answer. So, I'll say it: Peel would approve. If you haven't heard the new one yet, check out a few of the new songs here. Then buy it on LP or CD. For more of the Primitives, listen to the band's second Peel Session (and my favorite of the three) from the spring of '87. Songs include "She Don't Need You," "Ocean Blue," "Everything's Shining Bright" and "Dream Walk Baby." It's nine minutes of pop perfection.

This very grateful fan would like to thank Mr. Court for taking the time. Thrill of my life.

The Primitives - Peel Session (1987)