Thursday, May 19, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 3)

It's pop, jazz, soul and just about any other genre you want to stir in the pot. As producer Mike Thorne once said, this band "appl[ied ]the punk attitude to venerable musical forms." Today's songs are taken from Carmel's 1984 long player 'The Drum is Everything.' The trio is a seemingly odd mix of double bass, drums and voice but, oh, how it works. There isn't a duff note on the album. The star here is Carmel McCourt. Her beautiful instrument will blow your hair back, make you bounce off the walls and cry in your beer... and that's just the A-side! Carmel's is one of only a few voices I have heard that holds a candle to Tracey Thorn in my mind. Album opener "More, More, More" sounds more like it was recorded in a Tupelo church on a sunny Sunday morning than at the Who's Ramport Studios in South London. They pulled out all of the stops for this one, including the addition of backing vocals, organ and an 18-piece horn section from their hometown of Manchester called Sounds 18. I can't believe Ramport still had a roof after that one. "More, More, More" proved to be a hit, peaking at No. 23 on the UK Singles Chart.

In 1983, months before 'The Drum Is Everything,' Carmel had an even more successful single, and it was included on the album. I really could have given anything on this long player a good airing today, but I'm including "Bad Day" because I know there are many fans of the Attractions that stop by the blog, and that camp will be interested to note that it's Steve Nieve on the Hammond organ. For me, his playing on "Bad Day" always conjures up his performance on the Costello single "Head to Toe" that came out the year before "Bad Day." These two songs were often placed back to back on my mix tapes back in the day. "Bad Day" made it all the way to No. 15 on the UK Singles Chart... the band's best showing. I had planned to go with Carmel's inspiring take on "Tracks of My Tears," but I decided on "Stormy Weather" because it's an opportunity to hear the trio on its own, and Carmel, Jimmy and Gerry really shine as they slow things down right after "More, More, More" on the album.

For those wondering how Carmel played on this side of the pond, I didn't know anyone who knew them. Not even my pals. In the Internet age, it has been nice to connect with others and learn that I wasn't as alone as I had thought. I just had the wrong friends. Ha! One blogger that's an even bigger supporter than me is Post-Punk Monk, and I invite you to check out his fine essays on Carmel and the like. I can't let this moment pass without ranting a bit about the cover art. The gorgeous cover you see at the top of this page is what you got in the UK and Europe. Here in America, we were left with this turd that accompanies this paragraph. The knucklehead at Warner Bros. that made that change should have been flogged. Fortunately, I found a German copy in the import section. As I mentioned, these songs are the album versions, which is great because "More More, More" clocks in at twice the length of the 7".

"More, More, More"
"Stormy Weather"
"Bad Day"


charity chic said...

A fantastic record Brian - excellent choice

George said...

Just catching up Brian. Seven years is a remarkable achievement for the blog. And it's nice that sometimes you post a decent tune eg Flaming Sword yesterday, and today's selections are, as CC says, vey good too.

Echorich said...

Can't disagree at all here. Carmel is a great favorite and The Drum Is Everything is a flawless album. I'm totally on board with your assertion that Carmel is the only female vocalist that ever came close to the heights Tracey Thorn scaled.
Bad Day is one of those songs that just sends chills up your spine
The end of 2015 found Carmel releasing a crowd sourced single - Second Wife Blues/Sad Situation which I was fortunate to secure. Ms. McCourt is in full voice, even if the production lets the side down a bit.
I seem to remember a rather young Emma Thompson and Albert Molina in the video for It's All In The Game that came out in the mid/late 80's...

The Swede said...

Though she/they fell off my radar towards the end of the Eighties, I have very strong memories of being knocked sideways the first time I heard 'Storm', which went on to become a staple of every mixtape I made for the next couple of years. Great to hear these three corkers again.

Brian said...

I give it my best effort, George, I really do. As you say, every once in a while I post a good song.

Echorich, I read about that newish single, but I never did hear it. Will seek it out. Thanks for the reminder.

Swede, I lost track of Carmel too. Why does that happen? Storm knocked out all who heard it.

A CC approved selection. Makes my day.

JC said...

Yet another very well written piece Brian. I was fortunate enough to catch Carmel live back in the day. Even better on stage than on record with spine-tingling moments.