Friday, May 31, 2013

Housemartins No Longer One-LP Wonder for Me

For 25-plus years now, when in the mood for a little Housemartins, I have always gone for something from 'London 0 Hull 4.' It's one of my all-time favorites, and I highly recommend forking out a few extra bucks for the deluxe edition, even if you already have the regular album. The extras are worth it.

I can't put my finger on it, as the band proclaimed on 'The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death,' but the followup has always left me cold. After my iPod picked "Five Get Over Excited" the other day, I pulled the album off the shelf for the first time in more than a decade. Lo these many years, it is as if the 1987 album is brand new to me. The ballads are beautiful, the vocal arrangements are inspirational, and there is still plenty of jump to the tunes with jangle. I don't know whether to be happy about the find or sad because of all the lost time when the record was right there collecting dust.

No, the second and last album is not as good as the spectacular debut, but it took me until 2013 to realize there was more to the Housemartins than 'London 0 Hull 4.' What's your great album rediscovery?

The Housemartins - I Can't Put My Finger on It (mp3)
The Housemartins - Five Get Over Excited (mp3)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cover Me Impressed:
'I Don't Want to Talk About It'

In 1988, Everything But the Girl released 'Idlewild,' the band's fourth long player. To coincide with the album, the duo released the cover "I Don't Want to Talk About It." Oddly, the single didn't appear on the album, at least initially, but this was how I was introduced to 'Idlewild,' as the 12" contained two songs from the album. The single performed its duties admirably. Based on the strength of "Oxford Street" and "Shadow on a Harvest Moon," I bought 'Idlewild' immediately.

The Danny Whitten-penned tune was made somewhat famous in the mid-'70s (and again with a rerecorded version in 1989) by Rod Stewart. As a youngster, Tracey Thorn and her family were fans of Stewart's, and I'm sure it was a warm and nostalgic moment for her when EBTG recorded it. Thanks to that last sentence, now you will get a result when searching for Rod Stewart's name on my blog. I digress. The song was a smash and EBTG's first UK top 10 single, peaking at No. 3.

I discovered just today that many editions of 'Idlewild' released after this single included "I Don't Want to Talk About It," even going so far as to make it the album opener. As a 25-year listener of 'Idlewild' and an owner of this cherished single, I cry "foul!" The lovely piano of "Love Is Here Where I Live" will always be the way 'Idlewild' should open. Period.

Here are two versions of "I Don't Want to Talk About It" from my crackly 12". I know what you're thinking: "What's the use of this song without Thorn's engaging vocals? Just give it a listen. Ben Watt co-wrote a beautiful string arrangement for the instrumental mix, and it's a very different experience than the single. Simply beautiful.

Everything But the Girl - I Don't Want to Talk About It (mp3)
Everything But the Girl - I Don't Want to Talk About It (Instrumental Mix) (mp3)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

12 Inches of Love: 'Heartbeat'

You would think, given the time period, there would be a bevy of official extended and remixed versions of songs from those must-have first four albums by the Psychedelic Furs. Alas, there were only a handful. A couple of them showed up on the odds-and-sods CD 'Here Came the Psychedelic Furs: B-Sides & Lost Grooves' in 1994, but the most coveted 12" versions, strangely, were omitted. So, any time I stop into a record shop, I always take a moment at the letter Ps for a quick (and usually disappointing) look-see. Today, I had a bit of luck. I found the long version Mendelsohn mix of "Heartbeat" from 1984. I have always loved the original song. It's the perfect conclusion to one of the best A-sides ever. If, by chance, you don't know what I'm going on about, buy
'Mirror Moves' right now.

Clocking in at a modest six-and-a-half minutes, this is a completely different take than the mammoth eight-plus minute "New York Remix" found on the B-side of the "Heaven" 12". Both will get you pining for a dance floor, and you should seek out each of them. In the end, however, I give a slight edge to Julian Mendelsohn's version. It's less aggressive and uses far f-f-f-fewer dated effects from the period, if you get my drift.

Oh, and in case you missed it. The Furs are going to be playing all around America this summer. I'm so there. Woo-hoo!

The Psychedelic Furs - Heartbeat (Mendelsohn Mix) Long Version (mp3)

Sorry, but it's getting late and the USB turntable seems to be getting tired, too. I'll get to the New York Remix another time.

Friday, May 24, 2013

When the Wife's Away, Scritti Politti Will Play

Thanks to this blog, Mrs. LTL!'s hatred of all things Green Gartside has become the stuff of legend. My apologies to her for that, but since she's out of town again today, I'm not going to waste this chance to get my Scritti Politti fix. Let's get in the wayback machine and set it to 1988.

Three long years had passed since the smash 'Cupid & Psyche '85.' Maybe fickle pop fans grew tired of waiting forever for a followup. Perhaps we had moved on to the next new sound. My theory, however, is 'Provision' just plain wasn't as good as the band's previous work. At any rate, Scritti Politti had one very successful UK single from the album, "Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry for Loverboy)." Here in America, there wouldn't be another "Perfect Way," but today's pick, the third and final single from the album, peaked at a modest No. 53.

After the 7" and 12" singles of "Boom! There She Was," I wouldn't own another new piece of music by Scritti Politti until "The Boom Boom Bap" single captured my heart in 2006. Oh, and after just completing the vinyl transfer of these four versions consecutively (that's more than 25 straight minutes of "Boom! There She Was," folks), I'm beginning to think the Mrs. might be on to something. I really liked the song at the time, but it hasn't aged well. Tonight, the keyboards are reminding me of the "Beverly Hills Cop" soundtrack. In case you were wondering who the "Roger" refers to on the cover above, that's the late funk/hip-hop artist Roger Troutman. He's the one providing the talk-box vocals. If you don't have the time or patience for all of these, I would recommend the extended single.

Scritti Politti - Boom! There She Was (Sonic Property Mix) (mp3)
Scritti Politti - Boom! There She Was (Dub) (mp3)
Scritti Politti - Boom! There She Was (7" Single Version) (mp3)
Scritti Politti - Boom! There She Was (Extended Single Version) (mp3)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

12 Inches of Love: 'So Excited'

Is this a blatant attempt at page views? Whenever I post anything from the English Beat family tree, the number of visitors to this blog triples. I'm the first to admit I have pruned almost every branch from 'Radical Departure,' Ranking Roger's debut solo album from 1988... almost. Here are four versions from the "So Excited" 12". I love this song. If you think it sounds like something from General Public, there's a good reason for it. The song was co-written by his old bandmate, Dave Wakeling. Better put on your dancing shoes, especially for the "Come Into My House" Mix. Whenever I hear this take, way in the back somewhere, I'm reminded of New Order's "Fine Time." Perhaps it was the sound of the era. Anyway, that's it. I have nothing left from Ranking Roger's solo career. Perhaps you can live with that.

Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives! is out of town tomorrow. Do you know what that means? Check back soon. I already have the USB turntable out for Ranking Roger. Are you "Green" with envy?

Ranking Roger - So Excited ("Come Into My House" Mix) (mp3)
Ranking Roger - So Excited (Full Vocal Version) (mp3)
Ranking Roger - So Excited (House-Appella) (mp3)
Ranking Roger - So Excited (Alternative Mix) (mp3)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Couple of Heavenly Singles

Between 'Le Jardin de Heavenly' (1992) and 'The Decline and Fall of Heavenly' (1994), Amelia Fletcher wrote two catchy non-album singles, largely forgotten, that are, in my mind, as good as anything in the Heavenly canon. The songs were originally released as Sarah 081 and 082, respectively. As usual, K Records came to the rescue on this side of the pond, eventually even combining the two records as a 5-song EP in 1995. I think you're really going to enjoy the vocal interplay between Fletcher and Cathy Rogers on the bouncy "Atta Girl." What's your favorite Fletcher vehicle, Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research or Tender Trap? Is it even possible to choose just one?

Heavenly - P.U.N.K. Girl (mp3)
Heavenly - Atta Girl (mp3)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Musical Confessions (Part 1)

This occasional series will be about coming clean. Let's admit that we hate a certain album that we are supposed to love. Better yet, go all the way and concede that you've never even taken the time to listen to said record. How about letting the world know you are enamored with a song you have no business enjoying. C'mon, get it off your chest. You'll feel better. I'll start.

I used to like "Gilmore Girls," a dramedy from the WB network clearly aimed at females in their teens. As a male in my 30s during its heyday in the early part of the last decade, this isn't a proud moment. Here's how it went down. Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives! would watch it while I was doing dishes or catching up on work. I was half listening one night during an episode early in the first season when this line was uttered by a friend of Rory:

LANE: He likes Nick Drake and Liz Phair and the Sugarplastic and he's deathly allergic to walnuts.

"What did she just say," I yelled to my wife. "Did I just hear her say the Sugarplastic?" This was years before we had a DVR, but I was pretty damn sure one of my favorite power-pop bands, and an obscure one at that, was just mentioned on national television. As the season progressed, although I still wasn't sitting down in front of it, I found myself paying more attention to the program, looking and listening for more musical references. There were songs by the likes of Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello, the Cure, Beck, Black Box Recorder, Bjork, the Jayhawks, Jesus and Mary Chain, Grandaddy, Komeda, the Shins, Madness, Pavement, Pixies, the Clash and the Mighty Lemon Drops, to name but a few.

Then there was the time when Lane waved a copy of XTC's 'Apple Venus Volume II,' and the gals proceeded to dance to "The Man Who Murdered Love." In another episode, the same character dumped a pile of CDs on a table after a day at the record store. One of the purchases was from Young Marble Giants. YMG on my American TV! Had that really just happened? Another week, since she wanted to hide her music obsession from her conservative mother, Lane wanted Rory to pick up the latest from Belle and Sebastian on the day it was released. By season two, I had the dishes done in time to tune in. Yes, the dialogue was overwritten. Nobody talks like that, but I found the pop-culture references fascinating. I couldn't wait to hear what the producers would come up with next.

There. Secret No. 1 is out. If you like, unburden yourself below. Here are a couple from the Sugarplastic. I have written about them a few times before, but readers seem to avoid these posts like the plague. Tough. I love these guys. So, I'm going to keep pushing. Oh, and the show released a soundtrack in 2002 that's still in print. Now let me get back to playing with my dolls.

The Sugarplastic - Radio Jejune (mp3) (1995)
The Sugarplastic - Sheep (mp3) (1996)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cover Me Impressed: 'Eight Miles High'

During his brief stay with A&M, Robyn Hitchcock produced a couple of highly sought after B-side covers. One was a stripped-down take of Roxy Music's "More Than This," which appeared on his "Madonna of the Wasps" single in 1989. The other, a fairly faithful version of the Byrds' "Eight Miles High," could be found on the "So You Think You're in Love" single in 1991. Some fans find this era a low point in Hitchcock's illustrious career, but I'm a huge admirer of both sides of these singles. These are worth digging up at your local mom and pop shop.

...And while I'm on the subject, Hitchcock continues to be on top of his game. I give high marks to these more recent releases:
'Goodnight Oslo' (2009)
'Tromsø, Kaptein' (2011)
'Love From London' (2013)

For those of you who expected this post to be on Husker Du's fine cover of this song, I apologize. Perhaps I'll get to that one soon.

Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians - Eight Miles High (mp3)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Curtain Call: The Kinks From 1967

I have a love/hate relationship with the Kinks' 'Live at Kelvin Hall.' The sound quality is pretty poor, but damn if, through the muck, you don't feel like you're one of those screamin' Glaswegian birds, circa April 1, 1967. What a time to see the lads, too. 'Face to Face' had been out for about six months, and 'Something Else' was only a few months away. Like many albums I select for the Curtain Call series, this is one of those "oh, if I could time travel" moments I'm sure you have had when listening to your favorite live recordings as well. Here's one of the band's biggest hits, making it all the way to the top spot in the UK and No. 14 across the pond in '66. Hope this crackly piece of vinyl helps kick off your week.

The Kinks - Sunny Afternoon (Live) (mp3)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

12 Inches of Love: 'Let Them All Talk'

Most fans of Elvis Costello don't think much of 'Punch the Clock,' but I have a soft spot for the 1983 album because it was the first record from his already impressive discography that I bought as a new release. I was 13 at the time, and I had discovered his work through a cassette of 'Armed Forces' I had bought a few months earlier... after seeing the video for "Oliver's Army" on TBS' "Night Tracks." That program meant the world to me at the time because MTV wouldn't make it to my hometown until later in the year. I digress. Let's get to today's song.

I don't believe the extended remix of "Let Them All Talk" has appeared on any of the many Costello reissues of 'Punch the Clock.' I have no knowledge of this, but I'm guessing the reason is the artist hates it. Some extended versions work. Some don't. I think this one is a perfect example of '80s bloat. I pulled it out today more as a curiosity (since there is is a good chance you haven't heard it) than to prove the record is some fantastic take that must be acquired. The production team of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley had the magic touch during this time period, even somehow making the very British bands Madness and Dexys Midnight Runners household names here in America, but they didn't have their finest with this one. I like the album version a lot, and I think it's probably the TKO Horns best performance. You can buy it here.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Let Them All Talk (Extended 12" Remix) (mp3)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

12 Inches of Love: 'Tears Are Not Enough'

In 1981, ABC released chapter one in its legendary trilogy of singles. Three months before "Poison Arrow" and nine months prior to the 'The Lexicon of Love' album there was the dramatic "Tears Are Not Enough." According to the liner notes on the back of the 12", Martin Fry and Co. wanted to "produce a heady night club narcotic..." a "sweet and sour mash of larynx and guitar, bass and drum, conga and horns." It would take another year before Americans would drink in ABC's alphabet soup when "The Look of Love (Part One)" found the Top 40. In the UK, however, New Romantics and mainstream music fans alike took this first song all the way to No. 19 on the singles chart. If you consider yourself an admirer of early ABC, I would suggest owning the 7", 12" and album versions of "Tears Are Not Enough." All three takes tell a different story. For today, enjoy seven-and-a-half minutes of bliss.

ABC - Tears Are Not Enough (12") (mp3)