Friday, January 29, 2021

'Hardy' Helping of Early '60s French Pop

After pulling out that Primal Scream single with the distinctive sleeve the other day, you might have guessed this was coming. I have a particular affinity for Françoise Hardy's debut album from 1962. She got lumped in with the French yé-yé singers of the time, but while most of those young girls in the scene were performing songs written by much older males, Hardy co-wrote 10 of the 12 songs on that self-titled album. Even more amazing, she was just 18 at the time.

What I like about the LP is how Roger Samyn's accompaniment takes a back seat to Hardy's voice. I'm sure he knew a star when he heard it. I don't understand French, but it's clear by her delivery ("Oh oh chéri" is the lone exception) these are the songs of a tormented soul. The big hit off of this one was "Tous les garçons et les filles." It spent 15 non-consecutive weeks at the top of the French chart. We'll give that one a go, as well as "Le temps de l'amour." You might know that one from a memorable dancing scene in Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom." If you have seen the film, you will agree the opening line of the song, translated as "It is the time of love, the time of friends and adventure," made this an inspired choice for the scene. Adventure indeed.

Tous les garçons et les filles
Le temps de l'amour

Now, there are a few who think Hardy is a real looker, and if this blogger was one of those folks, I would probably take this opportunity to post a bunch of provocative photos of her. Fortunately, this spot is all about the music, and I have some decorum. You'll have to get your kicks someplace else. Oh, before I forget, I did want to tell you about a film I highly recommend. It's from 1966, and it's called 'Grand Prix.' Director John Frankenheimer was even nominated for an Academy Award. Here are some stills taken around the set to whet your appetite...

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Latest Foray Into Flexis

My Woosh collection got a big boost with the recent acquisition of three coveted flexis from a seller in L.A. If you have 'Ten Little Records: The Woosh Collection' Jigsaw put out in 2014, then you're aware there was one song Chris couldn't get. Otherwise, everything from Woosh was compiled on one lovely disc. The missing song was from Woosh 006, Groove Farm's "Heaven Is Blue," released in April 1989 with fanzine Woosh No. 3. That was a good get back in the day becuse that same fanzine also included a second flexi with "Hard on Love" by the Pooh Sticks.

Back to Woosh 006. The flexi came in a brilliant red and, as usual, was a split. The other song was "Vampire Girl" by Esmerelda's Kite. The Groove Farm has been featured on these pages quite a few times, and the band was already well on their way by the time this one came out, having released several well-received singles and a full length. Esmerelda's Kite is another story, and they have never been mentioned here. That's because one-third of their entire released output (outside of selling cassettes of their demos at a record store in their hometown of Leeds) is "Vampire Girl." Their other two songs were on another flexi that came out in 1988. Yes, I'm going to track it down.

Simon Westwood from the band went on to form Gentle Despite with Paul Gorton, and they released two sevens on Sarah in the early '90s. Sadly, Westwood passed away six years ago. That's about all I have on Esmerelda's Kite, but I do like this song. I have since heard a song from the other flexi, and it's even better. It would be great if those demos got a proper release along with these songs from the flexis.

Groove Farm - Heaven Is Blue
Esmerelda's Kite - Vampire Girl

Monday, January 25, 2021

Monday's Long Song

There is a tradition in these parts my fellow bloggers participate in that they aptly call Monday's Long Song. I rarely join in because, well, I'm all about the pop, meaning I have very few songs on the shelf that last longer than three minutes. Got a good one today, though, and it's a cover to boot. This one popped into my head when our pal Rol assembled his top 10 songs affiliated with the recently deceased Phil Spector. "My Sweet Lord" was on there, and it would have been on my list too. I think the flip side to the single from 1970 just may have made the cut as well.

Seems like at least once a year I try to convince you to purchase 'The Palace at 4AM,' the post-Wilco album Jay Bennett released with Edward Burch in 2002. During that same period, Bennett and Burch recorded a cover of "Isn't It a Pity" for 'Songs From The Material World (A Tribute To George Harrison).' Like so many tribute albums, the songs are hit and miss, and I'm on the fence about recommending it. Highlights come from fanatics like the Smithereens and Todd Rundgren. For me, though, this is the tops. Like the original, it's a slow builder. Stick with it the full seven-plus minutes. You'll be glad you did.

Isn't It a Pity

Friday, January 22, 2021

Back to the Beginning

For the first time in years, I pulled out this single earlier this week. It's not that I don't like it, but there are so many other options to hear "All Fall Down" that I listen to more, such as the 1988 Creation comp 'Doing It For the Kids' or the 'Creation Soup' box of the label's first 50 singles. Other than the B-side of the "Crystal Crescent" single, which in my humble opinion is the quintessential 'C86' song, I haven't posted all that much from Primal Scream. I always feel like it could start a rumble. You see, I don't own so much as a single after 1989. For a few of you regulars out there, that's like enjoying the appetizer but skipping the entree completely. I can respect that, but you must know by now the early stuff would be right in my wheelhouse. Perhaps I take more stock in Jim Beattie's contributions than where Bobby Gillespie would move the band after he left. At any rate, this is a fan that thinks they peaked with "Gentle Tuesday." You can pick up your jaws now.

Here are both sides of CRE 17 from 1985. Bobby Gillespie was still beating the hell out of that snare for the Jesus and Mary Chain, but Jim and William gave Gillespie an ultimatum after this single. Goodbye Bobby. That's Françoise Hardy on the cover from her 1967 album 'Francoise In Germany.' Don't ask me what he's going on about on "All Fall Down." I once searched for the lyrics and got a good laugh when I saw lines like "To find a ???? for me" and "Spend my ???? ???? how I hope this feeling lasts." It's a mystery... but a fun one.

All Fall Down
It Happens

Jan. 26 Update: Adam found this clip, and you need to see it. Other than his overuse of the word "basically," Alan is on fire. This will be your best seven minutes of the day. You'll laugh until there is a crack about not making music for 40 year olds. Then you'll cry. Most of all, you'll hear some great Primal Scream.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

More From the Holiday Haul

Last year, I went gaga for 'Adelphi,' the long player from Sydney indie-pop vets Even As We Speak. It felt like I put it on the turntable in July and never took it off. This affection had me thinking it was time to fill a few of the band's holes on my shelves, and I asked Santa for some help. Sure enough, on Christmas morning, I found a couple of their singles from the Sarah era under the tree. From 1991, let's listen to Sarah 59. This is both sides of the "Beautiful Day" single. Each song is gorgeous pop with one of their patented breaks in the middle where everything goes off the rails before recovering. That uneasy feeling is perfectly illustrated with the beach scene of a lone half-buried grocery cart found on the sleeve. Listening to Mary's voice from 30 years ago, I can't help but marvel how she sounds at least this good (if not better!) on 'Adelphi.'

Beautiful Day
Nothing Much at All

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Another Mighty Mighty Fine Holiday Haul

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote about the Sha La La split flexi featuring Mighty Mighty and the Clouds that Santa had left under the tree. That prompted some friendly banter from our old pal Dirk in Germany who said, "If a gun were pointed at me in order to name my 10 all-time tunes, 'Gemini Smiles' would surely be on this list!" I made the ridiculous assumption he meant the studio version found on the 'Sharks' LP, the only take I knew. Silly me. He went on: "Yes, as neat as the 'Sharks' version is, I very much prefer the version from their second Peel session." If you know him, you understand the one from Peel is the only one he could have meant. I closed with, "[Mighty Mighty] had three total [Peel] sessions in '86 and '87... All of those songs together would make a hell of a release."

Later that day, after a little digging to find Dirk's coveted "Gemini Smiles" from Peel, I discovered, in fact, all of Mighty Mighty's BBC's sessions (the three from Peel plus one from Janice Long) had been compiled by Vinyl Japan (who else?) in 2001. I hunted around for a copy, but there didn't seem to be one available anywhere at the time. I mentioned it to Santa, and she (whoops, I mean he, sorry kids!) remembered when Christmas came around again. I can't help but wonder, could there be anyone else in the world who received something by Mighty Mighty for Christmas two years in a row? If you're out there, let me know. I want to be friends.

These two from the Beeb are dedicated to Dirk. It's been far too long. I hope you and your family are well. More from the holiday haul next time.

Throwaway (recorded March 25, 1986)
Gemini Smiles (recorded Sept. 24, 1986)

Friday, January 8, 2021

Derailed '80s Indie-Pop Band Back on Track

If you are a fan of Candy Opera, and I imagine you are or you probably wouldn't be here, this will sound like a familiar story: Great but undiscovered UK band from the '80s is heard by Uwe Weigmann of Firestation Records. The label grabs what they can and releases a compilation all these decades later and to critical acclaim. This lights a fire under the lads, and they give the band another go. The new songs, miraculously, sound as if the band never disappeared at all. In short, Daniel Takes A Train is a rerun you're sure to enjoy.

Before we get to the new album, let's refresh your memory with a couple of songs from that 2018 comp 'Style, Charm and Commotion.' You can't help but go back to 1987 and think coulda, shoulda, woulda been huge, eh? You're in luck because Firestation has this title (and many others) on sale this month.

That brings us to the end of 2020 and the release of brand-new music from Daniel Takes A Train. Album 'Last Ticket to Tango' melds a few musical styles, but to these ears, the band is strongest when they bring the jangle and sophisti-pop. Some of the bands they have been compared to include ABC, Orange Juice, the Style Council, Trash Can Sinatras, Prefab Sprout, Lloyd Cole, Vampire Weekend, the Divine Comedy, Real Estate, the Smiths and the aforementioned Candy Opera. I agree with a few of those, but the point is they are tough to pin down. None of that matters. Daniel Takes A Train is on their own trip, and 'Last Ticket to Tango' should be part of your itinerary. Check out the jangly "Honeymoon."

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Filing Day

New Year's Day is when I take all of the records bought in the last year from my box marked "recently purchased" and put them in their permanent places on the shelf. Then I spend the next 365 days filling the box and repeating. This is how I keep track of what will go on my year-end lists. Unfortunately, I found out in 2020 this is no longer a fullproof way to keep my lists organized.

For the first time ever, I had music worthy of inclusion bought only as a digital download. This pains me beyond belief. I imagine most of you got over this many years ago, but I'm stubborn, old and set in my ways. You are supposed to be able to hold an album. Nothing to put in the box meant the risk of forgetting something on my year-end list. Out of sight, out of mind, you might say. There were two titles I was meant to remember. The live album 'The Haywains Have Left The Building!' made it. 'Needs Help' by the Very Most did not. Listen, I know my list of best albums means little in this world, but there are a few like-minded people who read it. They may have bought 'Needs Help' on my insignificant stamp of approval. I hope this mention will put a few more shekels in the pockets of Jeremy Jensen and Co.

'Needs Help' came out on CD via Spanish indie label Kocliko Records. There were 130 copies, and I missed out on the small run. Too bad because it's an album that would have been in my top 20. This download issue is bound to increase in ensuing years. Guess I had better start keeping a spreadsheet or something. Now for something completely different. I just bought 'Needs Help' on cassette from Seattle-based Lost Sound Tapes. Lots of firsts surrounding this album. Sounds crazy, but if you're a fan and haven't bought the album yet, this is not a bad way to go. Costs $6 and comes with a download. Even if you haven't played tapes in decades, c'mon, $6 for the digital album alone is a steal. Don't sit on the fence, though. There were only 100 copies of the cassette made. Check it out here.

There isn't a dress code when it comes to filing my records, but I thought it might be fun to wear one of these T-shirts while putting records away and listening to one of these 2020 reissues hot off the vinyl presses. It was a tough choice, and I considered a wardrobe change halfway through the exercise. Here's a huge hint on my decision. If you love the Blubells, here is a real treat. Listen to the lads discussing 'Sisters' for damn near two hours!