Archive for the ‘ALBUMS’ Category

superwolf matt sweeney and will oldham

You may remember way back in the mid-’00s all new indie bands were required to have the word “wolf” in their names, hence Superwolf, the 2005 collab between Will Oldham and Matt Sweeny. Fifteen years later, Will & Matt brought Superwolf out of retirement to help East Village vegetarian join Superiority Burger and Will’s label, Drag City, with this new jam.

From Superwolf’s home in the sea comes a new, long-awaited exclamation. “You’ll Get Eaten, Too” is a sunbaked song-comet streaking through our suddenly emptied, wide-open skies. Ostensibly a song about meat and the star-crossed destinies of us all, here in the chain of organic life, the song explores affirmations, impermanence and downfall for anything that can evolve and grow (like bacteria….or a virus), in a taut and purposeful three minutes of rock anthem. Atop burgeoning arpeggiation and soaring string bends, Bonnie Billy and Matt Sweeney get ever higher, voicing conflict, contradiction, acceptance and celebration in a manner that invites all to sing with them.

“You’ll Get Eaten, Too” dates from Superwolf’s long middle-period between their initial album release (2005) and the planned release of a new album, which is almost fully rendered, awesome and now awaiting the new world order to be sorted. Will music be marked any more non-essential than it already has? Matt and Bonnie certainly hope so. In the meanwhile, “You’ll Get Eaten, Too” is a (de)commissioned number from a decade back, recorded at the old Rove studio HQ in Shelbyville by Paul Oldham, and with Peter Townsend on hand to round out the sound. With such a message to send, and such energy, “You’ll Get Eaten, Too” has sat it out for too long, waiting to play a role – but the time is now, as a new organic growth spreads unchecked across the nations, truncating life as we know it everywhere. Faced with rallying support on any number of fronts, Bonny and Sweeney are throwing the profit from this single behind NYC’s Superiority Burger, as good a vegetarian/and sometimes vegan option as there is – as well as the beleaguered staff of Drag City, currently facing an uncertain future slinging their own patties. Sing for your support, please! 

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Featuring artwork with a timely new take on the original Superwolf artwork from original artist Spencer Sweeney, “You’ll Get Eaten, Too” is available for consumption on Bandcamp exclusively for 3 days, for $3 or more – and please note the ‘or more’ here, as anything extra you give will benefit disenfranchised workers struggling to get back to making alternative products for the world to consider (and consume).

released March 27th, 2020

Hamilton Leithauser

“When I used to work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, my friend introduced me to ‘day trading,’ which is just compulsive gambling on the stock market,” says Hamilton Leithauser of “Don’t Check the Score” which is his new single from upcoming album The Loves of Your Life. “It can be done from your home (or work) computer. Instead of working, we would gamble all day. It was incredibly fun when you were up, and not as fun when you were down. This was around 2001, so we only had a dial up connection on one shared computer. It took like 45 seconds to login to the website to check your bet (hopefully you’d made like $55 or something). When things looked sour, you’d say ‘don’t login!’ Out of sight, out of mind—sort of. In reality you’d just be biting your nails thinking of nothing else…definitely not working. Anyhow, the title is a metaphor for looking the other way, or avoiding an inconvenient truth. I guess I could have called it ‘Don’t Login’ but I think there’s a lot more nobility in a sports metaphor than a day trading metaphor. Eventually, I stopped trading, because the house always wins.”

Official Audio for “Don’t Check The Score” from Hamilton Leithauser’s album “The Loves of Your Life” out April 10th.

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Even though lots of people sell as many or more records as he does, Sly Stone is probably the most influential musician over the years. He changed the face of soul, and co-authored, with Jimi Hendrix, black psychedelic music, It is not only Sly’s string of hit singles, and the remarkable achievement of ‘Riot’, which confirms his musical genius.

Born in Texas, raised in the Bay Area, Sylvester Stewart was the second child of a religious family whose church encouraged music as a way to proclaim the Lord’s glory. No big surprise, then, that like so many other soul stars Sly started singing in church.

When he was eight, he cut his first record, with three of his siblings—all of whom would later start bands and then be members of the Family Stone. All of them were talented. But Sly was a prodigy, mastering keyboards, guitar, drums, and bass by the time he turned eleven.

It is sometimes difficult to see the extent of Sly’s genius. In June 1967, San Francisco’s counterculture dreams were peaking when a local music scenemaker named Sylvester ‘Sly’ Stewart led a motley-looking interracial, mixed-gender crew, half of whom were from his own family, into a recording session for Epic Records.

Over a few scattered hours, the group that became known as Sly and the Family Stone cut their debut in 1967, ‘A Whole New Thing” live in the four-track studio.  Led by singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Sly Stone, and included Stone’s brother and singer/guitarist Freddie Stone, sister and singer/keyboardist Rose Stone, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, drummer Greg Errico, saxophonist Jerry Martini, and bassist Larry Graham. It was the first major American rock group to have a racially integrated, male and female lineup

In high school, though, he kept mostly to the guitar as he joined local groups. A doo-wop outfit called the Viscaynes featured him and a Filipino pal in a then-unusual interracial lineup. They even cut a few singles for the local market, like “Yellow Moon”.  Studying at Vallejo Junior College, Sly honed his skills, picked up the trumpet, and mastered composition and theory. The opening and closing of “Underdog”  on ‘A Whole New Thing’ archly reflects that: recasting the “Frère Jacques” melody as a horn riff in a minor key, Sly tips his hat to Gustav Mahler, whose First Symphony did the same thing repurposing the kids’ tune as…wait for it…a funeral march.

Around him, the San Francisco scene was already percolating to multicultural visions inherited from the largely white Beats and mostly black jazzers who’d made the City by the Bay their west coast capital. The eager young wannabe soon found a way in. A local radio station called KSOL was rapidly growing its predominantly black audience by playing rhythm and blues. When Sly started as a DJ there in the early 1960s, he commuted each day from his parents’ home all the way across town to Merchandise Mart on Market Street, where KSOL’s offices and studios and 250-watt transmitter were.

Young Sly had the patter and the fire to succeed as one of the DJs who redubbed their station K-SOUL. He stirred popular white bands into the mix he thought would fit because of their obvious R&B influences, like the Animals, the Stones, and the early Beatles. It’s almost like he was on a mission to enact the musical equivalent of racial integration, mutual acceptance and interplay. And it apparently worked: He upped white audience numbers without losing black listeners, Later, Sly would aim to emulate their feat with his own music and succeed brilliantly… for a while.

Meanwhile, the local rock scene was probing exciting new shapes and sounds, the first waves of psychedelia. It was largely white kids, but that didn’t bother Sly, who was voraciously absorbing everything he heard and encountered.

In retrospect, it looks like Sylvester Stewart was training himself in nearly every aspect of the music business. Besides DJing, he produced records, wrote songs, and backed up touring stars. A tiny San Francisco label called Autumn Records, run by another local DJ and concert promoter named Tom “Big Daddy” Donahue (he’d coin the term “underground radio”), hired the young man with big ears as its principal producer.

Donahue, an ambitious giant of a man, first heard the teen at a Vallejo sock hop, then hired him to ramrod the house band at his big concerts, like the 1962 Chubby Checker “Twist Party” that landed at the humongous Cow Palace, usually the venue for (what else) livestock shows. That night it held 17,000 fans, making it the first big-time rock concert in Bay Area history.

Sly was quickly slotted in as Donahue’s go-to guy on stage and in the studio. He was getting a musical education that filled his toolbox with versatile skills he’d soon use for himself. Since the music biz’s earliest days, songs pushing new dances had been a reliable way for black artists to get to mainstream white audiences. No doubt young Mr. Stewart filed that knowledge to tap into for “Dance to the Music”

But he also produced an eclectic batch of Bay Area faves. like The Great Society which features Grace Slick unspooling an obbligato line of raga-ish vocalese; he also apparently ran the sessions for “Someone to Love” Both cuts make clear why Slick would jump ship and join Jefferson Airplane; as she once put it, “They had a real rhythm section.” Sly watched drummer/singer Jan Errico with real interest: there were very few females playing instruments in rock bands, never mind drums, and singing too. As it happened, she had a brother-drummer named Gregg, who would join the Family Stone.

In keyboard player Billy Preston, Sly found a soul brother. Another Texas-born child prodigy, Preston started backing gospel and soul stars from Mahalia Jackson to Sam Cooke when he was ten. The keyboard wizard was barely 20 when he and Sly co-wrote three tunes. that appear on 1966’s Billy’s album ‘Wildest Organ in Town!. Sly arranged. The album also boasted songs by the Beatles, Stones, James Brown, and Wilson Pickett—an integrated music love fest very like Sly’s playlists had been at KSOL.

Preston’s year-long gig on the TV show Shindig!, which introduced him to a huge audience, had just ended when the record was released on a major label. It didn’t exactly burn up the charts, but the pair continued to collaborate, For years they’d grace each other’s records with guest shots, refusing to be hemmed in by musical styles and expectations,

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Once Sly merged his band (Sly and the Stoners) with his brother Freddie’s (Freddie and the Stone Souls), the Family Stone was born.

They found a home base to hone their music in Redwood City, a club called (nudge-nudge-wink-wink) Winchester Cathedral. A few months of that, and they’d forged a unique sound and a phenomenal stage show. Not surprisingly, Sly used down time at Autumn’s studios to record the band. And so the 24 cuts compiled on ‘Sly and the Family Stone offer tantalizing insights into how the band evolved.

A rousing early iteration of “Dance to the Music” pumped by Graham’s already-distinctive bass and a blistering guitar solo. But the hard-driving soul of “I Ain’t Got Nobody” their first official single, got them the ear of an Epic employee, who tipped Dave Kapralik, head of A&R. They were so engulfing and powerful onstage that he signed them immediately, then became their manager. And into Epic’s studio they went. The album flopped. But their manager and label head pressed Sly to write hit singles—the ingredient they were sure was lacking on their first album. So he did: ‘Dance to the Music” and ever since, ‘A Whole New Thing’ has been dissed or ignored.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A Whole New Thing’ (1967)

It’s ear-opening to check out how far they’d developed their winning combo of musical sophistication, wry humor, and gutsy immediacy on ‘A Whole New Thing’. It may have been a four-track recording done live, but the stereo image bursts at the seams with richly layered sonics, showcasing Sly’s adept production skills as well.

It kicks things off with a protest song that doesn’t just nod toward Mahler but pumps its anti-racism message up with Larry Graham’s burbling bass and Greg Errico’s funky drumming, sharp-creased horns, and vocals worthy of Motown—which duly took lessons from it. The album heralds the sound of the Family Stone’s future funk with Graham’s near-solo spot and the ba-boom-boom scatting following the tongue-in-cheek TV Indian theme from the horns. “Run, Run, Run” opening with surprising melodica and xylophone, finds Sly refracting the hippie vs square world through his black eyes and inventive twists: the middle vocal section riffs off the Turtles, and listen for the Mothers of Invention touches.

The track has an astounding horn opening, with a sour horn flourish cuing you that something’s gonna go wrong in this deep Stax-style soul ballad about honesty between lovers. But even here there’s playfulness: write me a letter to tell me if you’re cheating, the singer pleads. Really?! The odd-meter tumbling horn riff that opens and punctuates  boldfaces the experimental mindset underlying so much of this underappreciated disc’s twists and turns. The quavery group YAAHHH will become a Family Stone hallmark, and that deep tremolo keyboard solo still sounds unique. The foregrounds the unexpected twists of psychedelicized soul, as does the angular spaciness and wit of “I Hate to Love Her” Its is rife with swampy guitars and Staples-inflected vocals.

The killer track , though, is “Only One Way Out of This Mess” with its off-kilter, almost snarky horns, rumbling bass, and driving beat. It was the band’s tour-de-force onstage; between its inventive sound and anthemic lyrics, it’s clearly of a piece with their future hits. But it was cut a few weeks after the other tracks, and for some reason—probably the usual rush during that frenetic time to put the album out—Epic didn’t release it until 1995.

It’s worth wondering how music history might’ve changed if they’d tried it as a single. After all, “Like a Rolling Stone’ had busted AM radio open two-plus years earlier. Then came smart, successful, but uneven albums like ‘Life and ‘Stand! ‘ that finessed their modern funk, influencing giants like James Brown, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, George Clinton, and Prince. Of course, by then hard drugs, changing racial politics, and his own boundless drive to do and have it all had turned Sly into a withdrawn, toxic version of his former self. In fact, ‘A Whole New Thing’ has successfully refracted the wildly disparate elements of Sylvester Stewart’s musical experience into a psychedelic blend of soul, rock, jazz, and funk that’s seriously adventurous fun full of vibrant playfulness and open-eared inventions. And at least it could be Sylvester Stewart’s best and most underrated album. Here’s the incredible story of how that undersung album came to be.

Looking back now, after all these years, it seems to me that ‘A Whole New Thing’, an entire album stuffed with brazenly cutting-edge music, was arguably Sly and the Family Stone’s most seminal, soulful, and sustained achievement.

“Dance to the Music’ (1968)

“Dance to the Music’ made Sly and the Family Stone stars. And it created the rush toward psychedelic soul by Motown acts from the Temptations to the Jackson 5. But it’s worth remembering that, compared to ‘A Whole New Thing’, the band saw the hit and most of the second album as a necessary compromise, using formulas that Sly worked out to showcase individual band members and make them more audience-friendly.

What makes Sly different is the consistency of his growth, and his ability to consolidate that growth into a sort of power which few rock stars have ever approached. Hendrix, however great his genius, was erratic in a way that Sly’s self-consciousness would never allow, a primitive savage to Sly’s urban sophisticate. Nor was Jimi ever quite so arrogant as Sly. At least, he didn’t flaunt the fact of his arrogance so broadly,

Sly was able to get away not only with the arrogance of the no-show performer but also with the knife-twisting viciousness of parts of ‘Riot’ . Hendrix couldn’t have gotten away with it, because he was playing music which, in form, was white rock. Sly and the Family Stone are a soul band. When Hendrix put together an all black band, and put together an album the live Band of Gypsys set he was attacked not much for putting out a bad record — he made worse — as for the audacity of the conception.

An introduction to Sly and the Family Stone in 10 records - The ...

“Life”  (1968)

Unlike its predecessor, Dance to the Music, Life was not a commercial success, although it has received mostly positive reviews from music critics over the years. Many of its songs, including “M’Lady”, “Fun”, “Love City”, as well as the title track, became popular staples in The Family Stone’s live show. A middle ground between the fiery A Whole New Thing and the more commercial Dance to the Music, “Life” features very little use of studio effects, and is instead more driven by frontman Sly Stone’s compositions. Topics for the album’s songs include the dating scene “Dynamite!”, “Chicken”, “M’Lady”, groupies “Jane is a Groupee”, and “plastic” or “fake” people on the Beatlesque “Plastic Jim”. Of particular note is that the Family Stone’s main themes of unity and integration are explored here in several songs “Fun”, “Harmony”, “Life”, and “Love City”. The next Family Stone LP, Stand!, would focus almost exclusively on these topics.

Much of Life has been heavily sampled for hip hop and electronica recordings, particularly Gregg Errico’s drum solo on “Love City”. The opening riff on “Into My Own Thing” was sampled for Fatboy Slim’s 2001 hit “Weapon of Choice”.

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“Stand” (1969)

The 50th anniversary reissue of ‘Stand!’ by Sly & The Family Stone. The group’s fourth album is undeniably one of their best, with unforgettable jams.

In late 1968, Sly and the Family Stone released the single “Everyday People”, which became their first No. 1 hit.“Everyday People” was a protest against prejudice of all kinds Sly and the Family Stone and popularized the catchphrase “different strokes for different folks”. With its B-side “Sing a Simple Song”, it served as the lead single for the band’s fourth album, “Stand!”, which was released on May 3rd, 1969. “The Stand!” album eventually sold more than three million copies; its title track peaked at No. 22 in the U.S.

“Stand!” is considered one of the artistic high points of the band’s career. It contained the above three tracks as well as the songs “I Want to Take You Higher” (which was the B-side of the “Stand!” single), “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey”, “Sex Machine”, and “You Can Make It If You Try”.

The success of Stand! secured Sly and the Family Stone a performance slot at the landmark Woodstock Music and Art Festival. They performed their set during the early-morning hours of August 17th, 1969; their performance was said to be one of the highlights show of the festival.

Tattoo You – Snakes in the Grass

There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971)

In 1971, Sly and the Family Stone returned with a new single, “Family Affair”, which became a number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100. “Family Affair” was the lead single from the band’s long-awaited There’s a Riot Goin’ On.

Instead of the optimistic, rock-laced soul that had characterized the Family Stone’s 1960s output, There’s a Riot Goin’ On was pure urban blues, filled with dark instrumentation, filtered drum machine tracks, and plaintive vocals representing the hopelessness Sly and many other people were feeling in the early 1970s.  The album is characterized by a significant amount of tape hiss – the result of Sly’s extensive re-recording and overdubbing during production. Allegedly, most of the album’s instrumentation is performed by Sly alone, who enlisted the Family Stone for some of the additional instrumental parts and friends such as Billy Preston, Ike Turner, and Bobby Womack for others. “(You Caught Me) Smilin'” and “Runnin’ Away” were also released as singles, and performed well on the charts.

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After the release of Riot, additional lineup changes took place. In early 1972, reacting to Jerry Martini’s probing about his share of the band’s earnings, Sly hired saxophonist Pat Rizzo as a potential replacement though both ended up remaining in the band. Later that year, the tension between Sly Stone and Larry Graham reached its peak. A post-concert brawl broke out between the Graham and Sly entourages; Bubba Banks and Eddie Chin, having heard that Larry had hired a hit man to kill Sly, Sly assaulted Graham’s associates. Graham and his wife climbed out of a hotel window to escape, and Pat Rizzo gave them a ride to safety. Unable to continue working with Sly, Graham immediately quit The Family Stone and went on to start Graham Central Station, a successful band in the same vein as Sly and the Family Stone. Graham was replaced in the interim by Bobby Womack, and then by nineteen-year-old Rusty Allen.

I think it is fairly self-evident that ‘There’s A Riot Goin’ On’ was a semi-deliberate attempt to alienate Sly’s white audience. That isn’t all it was, nor did Sly really want to alienate his audience, but the idea of such a record could not help but be interpreted as a threat to the white audience. Sly must have known this but ‘Riot’ went gold, anyway, pushed along by a great single, “Family Affair” .

Pop Matters called “There’s a Riot Goin’ On” a challenging listen, at times rambling, incoherent, dissonant, and just plain uncomfortable” with “some episodic moments of pop greatness to be found” and viewed it as a radical departure from the band’s previous work:

“Fresh” (1973)

Sly doesn’t really want to lose that audience. He had to justify, to himself and perhaps to others, the ease with which he had been accepted in the white marketplace, and ‘Riot’ did that. In one sense, then, Fresh is an attempt to regain portions of the audience which have been lost, and in another, it is an explanation of the weirdness which produced ‘Riot’.

Had Sly not done ‘Riot’, he might seem to us now to be little more than a younger, hipper version of the Staple Singers. There is a certain point at which songs like Everyday People, as great as they are, begin to seem frivolous and frustratingly naive. With the Higher! craze which the Woodstock movie inspired, There have been few albums as rich as this one released in 1973, if there have been any, but that doesn’t mean that ‘Fresh’ will automatically make it. At any rate, when Sly Stone, as opposed to almost any other rock star, assures me that he will try, I want to believe him. If he’s earned our trust, and I think that he has, the weight of his stardom may begin to lessen, at least a little. Let’s hope so, for his sake, and ultimately, our own.

‘Fresh’ is Sly coming to terms with himself as a rock star. It asks the same question Sly has always asked—”who cares?”—but the tone with which the question is asked turns the problem around. Initially, this group’s answer to “who cares” was, “We care.” On ‘Riot’, the reply was “I don’t know if anyone does.”

‘Fresh’ stands between. Sly is confident enough to say “I do,” quite straightforwardly in If It Were Left Up to Me. But in other places, he doesn’t seem so certain. The inclusion of Que Sera Sera, which is at one level a joke, is also a trap for the unwary listener. “Que sera sera/Whatever will be will be/The future’s not ours, to see/Que sera sera,” is one way of stating the Woodstock philosophy. Because the song has such a fey history, it is hard to see how anyone could get to that, but Sly has done it.

Sly almost nods in agreement when he sings “Whatever will be, will be” but the growl in his voice, and the rumble in the music raises a larger question. If the future’s not ours, then whose is it? .

Sly doesn’t, probably because he can’t. It is not surprising that the only song on ‘Fresh’ which reflects an attitude of acceptance is called Skin I’m In. Still, even though he has accepted the terms of his blackness, Sly has not accepted his role as a star. Not completely, anyway.

“Now I know what to do,” he sings, “No more selling me to you. Buyin’—that’s a no no no.”

Sly’s dilemma is as old as rock, the problem of the artist in the marketplace. How much of yourself can you sell, even on record, and retain your sanity, your sensibility, and, finally, your ability to produce? Every rock artist has had to deal with this problem, and there are a maze of methodologies within which one can work. Elvis chose to ignore the problem altogether, though when the pinch came, in the late ’60s, he threw his hand in once more, if only for an hour on television and a couple of live shows. Dylan retired, then, when people started to forget about him, decided he was really just a session-man like everyone else. Paul Simon stretches himself thin, trying to become bland enough to satisfy all eight million purchasers of Bridge Over Troubled Water once more.

Sly’s answer could only come from Sly. My terms, he says, or forget it.  only to be dragged back down by ‘Riot’. It’s Sly’s personal Catch-22.

The transition isn’t accomplished awkwardly, however. The catch is in the voice, often as not, or perhaps the rhythm section remembers, and sometimes it is just a realization on the part of the listener that what he is hearing sung is not altogether what it sounds like.

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“Live At The Fillmore East” 

“Live At The Fillmore East”, October 4th and 5th, 1968′ is the first official live album from Sly & The Family Stone, and a reminder of how they still make us dance to the music. “These sets are the epitome of what Sly & The Family Stone was about,” says drummer Greg Errico. “When we lift off, we’re like a 747 and you ain’t pulling us down. That’s what I remember. “Live At The Fillmore East 1968’ features four never-before-released live concerts. This four-disc set captures several shows by Sly and the Family Stone at New York’s Fillmore East. It is the document we’ve been missing of the onstage Family Stone of legend: the tightly knit extended family that sang and played together, the group that magically united black and white audiences.

“St. James Infirmary,” heard on ‘Live At The Fillmore East, October 4th and 5th, 1968,’ is an English folk-based blues song, covered by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and The White Stripes. This relaxed rendition of (Louis Armstrong’s version of) “St. James Infirmary”, a show-ending flourish called “The Riffs”, a version of “M’Lady” that detours into a long, spectacular vocal breakdown. It’s fun to hear how different the band’s performances could be from show to show

When Sly and the Family Stone recorded these gigs at the Fillmore East in New York City, they were one of America’s best live bands, but they were also a one-hit wonder. They’d had a Top 10 single in 1967 with “Dance to the Music”, but their follow-up, “Life”, and the album of the same title, had both stiffed. The plan, apparently, was to release an album of the Fillmore gigs to show off what the Family Stone could do on stage—and, perhaps, get some traction with the free-form FM radio stations that were popping up all over.

A few months after the shows, “Everyday People” became the massive hit the band needed—a song that echoed their own racial and sexual integration—and the live album was set aside. Stand!, released in May, 1969, didn’t include any of the new songs played at the Fillmore East gigs.) Somehow, the Fillmore tapes were never edited down to an album until a vinyl-only double-LP, sequenced by the Roots’ “Captain” Kirk Douglas, appeared .

This wider-scale release, though, isn’t that selection: it’s a four-disc set of all four Fillmore sets in their entirety. That means we get multiple renditions of the long, jammy pieces that would have been the spine of a late-’60s Fillmore East album: “Are You Ready” and “Music Lover” (both, in their way, prototypes of “I Want to Take You Higher”), a cover of “Won’t Be Long” (from Aretha Franklin’s second album) sung by keyboardist Rose Stone, an extended version of the Dance to the Music album’s “Color Me True”, and a frenetic medley of A Whole New Thing’s “Turn Me Loose” with Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose”.

Sly and the Family Stone Albums Ranked Worst to Best

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Sorry are a bunch of snotty brats from north London who nick ideas from better bands (everyone from Tears For Fears to Oasis – they’re not picky), act like they’re too cool for the interviews they’ve agreed to do – as one poor NME writer recently found to his peril – and whose stage presence is best described as: mild. So it’s quietly devastating to report that the five of them have turned in one of the most incredible debut albums of the year so far.

After competing to see who could release the better songs on SoundCloud, they realised they were, in fact, better together. Sorry create an unusual, sexy take on modern indie rock – the febrile sound of city-dwelling, broke 22-year-olds, whose nights are dominated by hook-up culture and casual drug-taking – as evidenced on their debut album for Domino Records, “925”. Co-produced by James Dring (Gorillaz, Jamie T), it sees them finally wriggle free of being called a guitar band. Lorenz and O’Bryen describe their sound as pop music, but in early press Sorry saw themselves lumped in with bands in the south London music scene – sludgy art-school outfits such as Shame, Goat Girl and HMLTD. “We’re both from north London and live with our mums but play at [Brixton pub] the Windmill a lot,” says Lorenz. “I don’t feel a strong identity to where I’m from.”

According to O’Bryen, journalists and those within the music industry “just want to give people a reason to listen to something by calling it guitar music”. So what are Sorry? They’re a very 2020 band, in that they build their songs round the mood of whatever they’re singing about. A typical Sorry track is just as likely to be inflected with 90s grunge as with jazz or trip-hop.

It’s a weird moment to release this but we hope during this crazy & scary time you can find solace and peace in the musics. Big Thank you to James Dring, Louise, Bertie, Callum, Flo, Laurence, Jack, Will & Everyone at Domino.. and more thanks to our much adored fans, friends and family who have come to shows, listened to the tunes and fuel us with compassion, love and rich experiences. We hope you enjoy

A playful mix of indie, electro, jazz, pop and experimental music, ‘925’ has fun with the old maxim that there are no new ideas. Take lead single and signature song ‘Right Round The Clock’, which gleefully rips off aforementioned 1980s band Tears For Fears’ ‘Mad World’: “I’m feeling kinda crazy/I’m feeling kinda mad/The dreams in which we’re famous are the best I’ve ever had”,sighs Asha Lorenz with an almost audible eye roll. It’s so brazen that it’s actually exciting, the band helping themselves to boomer culture as though they’re slipping £20 notes from their parents’ purses.

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Sorry“Right Round The Clock”, taken from the debut album ‘925’, out now on Domino Recordings.

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Nandi Rose has shared this synthy mood piece from her upcoming Half Waif album The Caretaker which is out March 27 via ANTI-Records . “‘Halogen 2′ is a song about isolation and the search for strength,” says Nandi. “The halogens are some of the most reactive elements on the periodic table, and in this song, winter and a life alone in the country are like halogen: an unrelenting force that produces change. I wrote this song at home in Upstate New York last March at a time when my sense of isolation was at its height. And yet I’ve always been someone who loves my alone time, so there was a sense of shame that I couldn’t handle it this time. I needed to tell myself and anyone witnessing my restlessness: ‘Don’t misunderstand, I do what I must.’ Nearly a year after writing the song, we shot most of the music video in the same location: my house and yard. The two opposing feelings presented by the verses and choruses are represented visually in the Blue World of cold, stagnant country life and the Orange World of the unfettered, fiery strength that lies beneath.

“Halogen 2” by Half Waif from the album ‘The Caretaker,’ available March 27th

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Blind Faith is the self-titled and only album by the English supergroup Blind Faith, originally released in 1969 on Polydor Records in the United Kingdom and Europe and on Atlantic Records in the United States. The band contained two-thirds of the popular power trio Cream, in Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton, working in collaboration with multi instrumentalist Steve Winwood of the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic, along with Ric Grech of Family. They began to work out songs early in 1969, and in February and March the group was in London at Morgan Studios, preparing for the beginnings of basic tracks for their album, although the first few almost-finished songs didn’t show up until they were at Olympic Studios in April and May under the direction of producer Jimmy Miller.

The recording of their album was interrupted by a tour of Scandinavia, then a US tour from July through August, supported by Free, Taste and Delaney & Bonnie and Friends. Nevertheless the band was able to produce two hits, Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” and Clapton’s “Presence of the Lord”.

The album cover featured a topless pubescent girl holding what appears to be the hood ornament of a Chevrolet Bel Air, which some perceived as phallic. The American record company issued it with an alternative cover showing a photograph of the band on the front as well as the original cover. The cover art was created by photographer Bob Seidemann, a friend and former flatmate of Clapton’s who is primarily known for his photos of Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead. In the mid-1990s, in an advertising circular intended to help sell lithographic reprints of the famous album cover, he explained his thinking behind the image. I could not get my hands on the image until out of the mist a concept began to emerge. To symbolize the achievement of human creativity and its expression through technology a spaceship was the material object. To carry this new spore into the universe, innocence would be the ideal bearer, a young girl, a girl as young as Shakespeare’s Juliet. The spaceship would be the fruit of the tree of knowledge and the girl, the fruit of the tree of life. The spaceship could be made by Mick Milligan, a jeweller at the Royal College of Art. The girl was another matter. If she were too old it would be cheesecake, too young and it would be nothing. The beginning of the transition from girl to woman, that is what I was after. That temporal point, that singular flare of radiant innocence. Where is that girl? . Seidemann wrote that he approached a girl reported to be 14 years old on the London Underground about modelling for the cover, and eventually met with her parents, but that she proved too old for the effect he wanted. Instead, the model he used was her younger sister Mariora Goschen, who was reported to be 11 years old Mariora initially requested a horse as a fee but was instead paid £40.

The image, titled “Blind Faith” by Seidemann, became the inspiration for the name of the band itself, which had been unnamed when the artwork was commissioned. According to Seidemann: “It was Eric who elected to not print the name of the band on the cover. The name was instead printed on the wrapper, when the wrapper came off, so did the type.” This had been done previously for several other albums.
In America, Atco Records made a cover based on elements from a flyer for the band’s Hyde Park concert of 7th June 1969 in London.

Steve Winwood plays an acoustic version of Blind Faith’s  “Can’t Find My Way Home”

Critically, Blind Faith was met with a mixed response. Reviewing in August 1969 for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau found none of the songs exceptional and said, “I’m almost sure that when I’m through writing this I’ll put the album away and only play it for guests. Unless I want to hear Clapton — he is at his best here because he is kept in check by the excesses of Winwood, who is rapidly turning into the greatest wasted talent in the music. There. I said it and I’m glad.” In Ed Leimbacher said of the quality, “not as much as I’d hoped, yet better than I’d expected.” His colleagues at the magazine — Lester Bangs and John Morthland — were more impressed, especially Bangs in his appraisal of Clapton: “[With] Blind Faith, Clapton appears to have found his groove at last. Every solo is a model of economy, well- thought-out and well-executed with a good deal more subtlety and reeling than we have come to expect from Clapton.

Retrospective appraisals have been positive. According to Stereo Review in 1988, “for 20 years this has been a cornerstone in any basic rock library. AllMusic’s Bruce Eder regarded the album as “one of the jewels of the Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, and Ginger Baker catalogs” In 2016 ,Blind Faith was ranked 14th on Rolling Stone list of “The 40 Greatest One Album Wonders”, which described “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “Presence of the Lord” as “incredible songs”.

The Band:

  • Steve Winwood – keyboards, vocals, guitars; bass guitar on “Presence of the Lord”, autoharp on “Sea of Joy”,
  • Eric Clapton – guitars; vocals on “Do What You Like”
  • Ric Grech – bass guitar, violin on “Sea of Joy”; vocals on “Do What You Like”
  • Ginger Baker – drums, percussion; vocals on “Do What You Like”

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When the Velvet Underground’s second album descended on the world in January, 1968, nobody was ready for it. As the story goes, it was a relentless, screeching, thudding, scoffing assault on the pop sensibilities of its time. For its 45th anniversary it was reissued in expanded, remastered form, and listening to White Light/White Heat now. The Velvet Underground and Nico, the year before, had had Andy Warhol’s imprimatur to promise that its passages of bleeding-raw chaos were art; it had also had the complicated but unmistakable beauty of the songs Nico sang as a lifeline for the tiny mainstream audience that caught on to it at the time. White Light/White Heat didn’t have that either.

By the time they released it, the Velvets were downplaying the art-world connection (despite the very arty slash in the album’s title, and the fact that its black-on-black sleeve was designed by the Factory’s Billy Name). Nico was now out of the band, although bassist John Cale would continue to work with her for years. And the album was a relentless, screeching, thudding, scoffing assault on the pop sensibilities of its time: six songs with lyrics designed to horrify the bourgeoisie (not that they’d have listened to the Velvet Underground in the first place), ending with a one-take, two-chord, 17-minute speed freakout. It clung to the bottom of the album chart for two weeks, disappeared, and went on to become the glorious, tainted fountain from which all scuzz flows.

That’s the White Light/White Heat of legend, anyway, keeping time was never their strong point—it’s been reissued in expanded, remastered form, as if what this pinnacle of sloppy noise needed was remastering. As always, the title track, which seems like it should start cold with Cale and Sterling Morrison’s backing vocals, sounds like it’s had a little trimmed off the top to remove an extraneous sound—although, of course, extraneous sounds are kind of the whole point of this album. When I first bought it in 1973, when I first became a Lou Reed fan, but over the years I have become to love it almost as much as “VU and NIco”. It is certainly harder to get into on first listenings, at least for someone who likes 3-minute songs and nice melodies – “Here She Comes Now” is about the only song on the original album you could call “pretty”. But it is an absolute classic. Side 2 of the original album has become my favourite side, with “I Heard Her Call my Name” an amazing bit of guitar playing, must have been one of the wildest songs ever recorded at that time, and “Sister Ray” at 17 minutes long, wasn’t exactly designed for maximum radio airplay.

Lou Reed’s song writing is often a lot more conventional than it’s reputed to be. Strip away the noise and flash and references to illicit drugs and sex, and “White Light/White Heat”, “Here She Comes Now”, and “I Heard Her Call My Name” are all the sort of simple rock’n’roll that Reed had been cranking out at Pickwick Records a couple of years earlier. (So is “Guess I’m Falling In Love”, recorded in scorching instrumental form at the White Light sessions.

If you get the 45th anniversary 2-CD version you are getting the best value for money, with various extra tracks, not all of them essential, but “Stephanie Says” is an absolutely beautiful song, and there is a wonderful, chugging, early version of “Beginning to see the Light”, and of course you get the excellent “Live at the Gymnasium” as well.

On the Anniversary set, the live disc appended to this edition is a reminder that the Velvet Underground were radical in a totally acceptable way for their time—that, professionally speaking, they were a party band with an audience of hippies, who appeared on bills with the likes of Sly & the Family Stone, Canned Heat, Iron Butterfly, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Chicago Transit Authority the year White Light/White Heat came out. The performance, apparently from John Cale’s collection, was recorded at the Gymnasium in New York in April, 1967 (two of its songs previously appeared on the 1995 Peel Slowly and See box set). It presents the Velvets as a full-on boogie band, whose set is bookended by the instrumental grooves “Booker T.” and “The Gift”—turns out they’re slightly different songs, contrary to what VU fans have assumed for the past few decades. The rest of the gig includes what might or might not have been the first public performance of “Sister Ray” (it was still a very new song, at any rate), and one legit addition to the canon: “I’m Not a Young Man Anymore”, a chugging electric blues that wouldn’t have been out of place in Creedence Clearwater Revival’s early repertoire.

What possessed Cale to start playing an out-of-time, two-note bass part louder than anything else at the end of “White Light/White Heat”, and how could he have guessed that that was a great idea? Was the famous split-second pause before Reed’s splatter bomb solo on “I Heard Her Call My Name” intentional? What the fuck was up with Reed filling in words—”SWEETLY!”—in the middle of Cale’s vocal on “Lady Godiva’s Operation”, and why is it still hilarious? Speaking of that song, might lyrics about a delicate hypersexual creature interacting with “another curly-headed boy,” directly followed by a medical horror-show, have anything to do with a curly-headed songwriter who was given electroconvulsive therapy to “cure” his bisexuality as a teenager? Why is “Sister Ray” way, way more potent than any other extended jam on a simple riff by any other American band of the 60s?

It’s surprising to hear anything besides the universe catching its breath after “Sister Ray” ends, but the first disc of this reissue is filled out with other previously released evidence of John Cale’s final months in the Velvet Underground: the instrumental “Guess I’m Falling In Love”, both versions of the electric-viola showcase “Hey Mr. Rain”, and the band’s thoroughly charming stab at making a commercially viable single, “Temptation Inside Your Heart”/”Stephanie Says”. There’s also a previously unheard alternate take of “I Heard Her Call My Name” (not quite as good as the official one, and mostly interesting to hear which of Reed’s apparent ad-libs weren’t), and one fascinating curio: an early version of “Beginning to See the Light”, recorded at the “Temptation Inside Your Heart” session. By the time the song appeared on The Velvet Underground in 1969, it had become lither and wittier, and Reed had sharpened a few of its lyrics; this broad-shouldered, clomping version is distinctly not there yet, but everything the Velvets released on their official albums is so canonical that it’s strange and heartening to realize that their songs didn’t just spring into existence already perfect.

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Prefab Sprout have reissued four albums on vinyl, via Sony Legacy. The ’80s sophisti-pop group was formed in 1977 by brothers Paddy and Martin McAloon, releasing their debut album “Swoon” in 1984. The Durham natives became a mainstay in UK music, going on to release a total of 13 LPs. Prefab Sprout date back to 1970s art-rock; leader Paddy McAloon was sent a rejection letter by Brian Eno’s record label in 1976. They didn’t release their debut album “Swoon” until 1984, by which time the lineup had solidified. Paddy McAloon was joined by his brother Martin on bass, Neil Conti on drums, and Wendy Smith on backing vocals.

Paddy McAloon is a great pop writer, and Prefab Sprout have released a lot of great material.There are different theories on where Prefab Sprout got their name. My favourite is a misheard lyric from Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood’s 1967 hit ‘Jackson’ (“We got married in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout”).

The four records will be reissued – “Swoon” (1984), “From Langley Park to Memphis” LP (1988), “Jordan: The Comeback” LP (1990), and compilation “Life of Surprises:The Best of Prefab Sprout”  (1992).

All of the remastering was overseen by Paddy McAloon, the groups’ songwriter. Prefab Sprout enjoyed some commercial success in the 1980s and early 1990s, but have been relegated to the status of cult band ever since. It’s a shame, as McAloon is a very talented songwriter; he’s able to integrate complex chord structures into catchy pop songs, and his lyrics are often filled with clever wordplay and his preoccupations with mortality, religion, and stardom.

Prefab Sprout Swoon

Paddy McAloon expected debut Swoon to be bigger than Michael Jackson’s Thriller, but it’s a demanding listen; songs like ‘I Never Play Basketball Now’ are packed with crazy chord sequences, delivered with a touch of post-punk rawness. Swoon is the album equivalent of an over eager puppy – its songs are stuffed with complex chord changes and time signatures, and precocious lyrics. At the same time, the production is far less elaborate than later albums, and it’s more of an indie guitar album than their later work. Swoon is a highly original record, melding various styles into one unique vision, resulting in a sophisticated sound the band could claim as its own. It has been sited as a strange fusion of Aztec Camera and Steely Dan, which makes sense, but ultimately Swoon proves too complicated for simple comparisons.

Some fans swear by Swoon as one of Prefab Sprout’s best albums, but it took me a long time to warm to it, as there’s so much happening. ‘Cue Fanfare’ is a good example of the album’s dense and skewed nature, with its references to “Playing for blood as grandmasters should,” and McAloon’s yelped falsetto and synthesizer stabs. ‘Don’t Sing’ was the single, and it’s probably the most accessible song, while under the busy arrangement, ‘Cruel’ has a torch song vibe.

Swoon is a polarising album since it’s so unique.

Prefab Sprout Steve McQueen Two Wheels Good

Steve McQueen/Two Wheels Good, 1985

Prefab Sprout streamlined their sound for their next album released in 1985 “Steve McQueen” the band prospered over the next five years. Their biggest hit was the 1988 novelty ‘The King of Rock’n’Roll’ – McAloon later told the New Musical Express that “it’s a bit like being known for Yellow Submarine rather than Hey Jude”.Prefab Sprout’s best-known album opens with a rockabilly-tinged song named for country star “Faron Young”. The song opens with the word “antiques” – apparently McAloon had written the music but was struggling for the lyrics, and asked then-drummer Michael Salmon for a random word to spark his lyric-writing process. “Antiques” leads into one of my favourite Sprout lyrics; “As obsolete as warships in the Baltic”.

Even more powerful is “Goodbye Lucille No. 1 (Johnny Johnny),” sung from the perspective of a man trying to make a close friend get over a girl who has rejected him. The words are frank and painfully realistic as McAloon doesn’t sugarcoat the dialogue. He rips into his buddy’s futile romantic fantasies and lets the hard light of reality shine upon him: “Ooh Johnny Johnny Johnny you won’t make it any better/Ooh Johnny Johnny Johnny you might well make it worse.”

Steve McQueen was re-titled Two Wheels Good for the US market after legal difficulties with McQueen’s estate; it established their career in the UK after ‘When Love Breaks Down’ became a successful single on its third release. The major change for Prefab Sprout’s sophomore effort was Thomas Dolby collaborating as their producer; Dolby had spoken favourably of ‘Don’t Sing’ from Swoon, and the band contacted him to produce their second album. Dolby chose his favourite songs out of 40-50 songs that were bought to the table by McAloon , and provided a lush production job that complements the literate lyrics – Wendy Smith’s vocals are processed in ways that sometimes make her sound like a synthesiser. The precociousness and frenzy of Swoon is toned back, and while there are still complex chord changes and lyrics on Steve McQueen, it’s a lot more accessible.

Steve McQueen has two clear halves; the first side is built around accessible and upbeat pop songs, while the second side is more esoteric. The hits on the first side include the rockabilly of ‘Faron Young’, and the perfect pop of ‘Appetite’, while the title ‘Goodbye Lucille #1’ apparently refers to the fact that McAloon had written a full album of songs with named Goodbye Lucille. There’s more clever pop like ‘Movin’ The River’ and ‘Hallelujah’ on the second side, but there’s also slowed down material like ‘Blueberry Pies’ and ‘When The Angels’.

The key figure behind Prefab Sprout between 1985 and 1990 was producer Thomas Dolby. The tech genius added a sophisticated synth sheen to McAloon’s compositions, and treated Wendy Smith’s voice to sound like another instrument. ‘Appetite’ is among my favourite from the album’s first side, the primal urge of lust presented with sophistication. Paddy McAloon claimed that he was ‘probably the best songwriter in the universe’. He wasn’t far off the mark. This album is a collection of beautiful, atmospheric, catchy, moving, thoughtful songs, treated with one of the best production efforts Thomas Dolby has ever done – and that’s quite something. Wendy Smith’s simple, soaring backing vocals and Dolby’s very personal keyboard sounds suit Neil Conti’s crisp drums, Martin Mcaloon’s deep bass and Paddy’s complex compositions perfectly. Dolby and the band struck something very special and undefinable on this album that they haven’t quite been able to recreate on their following collaborations.

Steve McQueen was re-released in 2007 with a bonus disc of eight newly recorded acoustic versions by McAloon. They’re gorgeous, and underline how strong the material on the album is.

Prefab Sprout From Langley Park to Memphis

From Langley Park to Memphis, 1988

Paddy McAloon’s always had a sentimental streak, but it’s rendered palatable by his musical and lyrical sophistication. The music video for ‘I Remember That’ situates the band in an early 20th century jazz club. The lyrics are sharp enough not to wallow in romantic nostalgia; “there’s nothing pathetic listing clothes she’d wear/If it proves that I had you, if it proves I was there.” I only had room for one pick from 1988’s From Langley Park to Memphis, but I would have liked to include McAloon’s affectionate ribbing of Bruce Springsteen on ‘Cars and Girls’.

Even though Steve McQueen had some production sheen, it was essentially still an indie guitar album. From Langley Park to Memphis takes Prefab Sprout in a more adult contemporary direction – McAloon has stated that he was writing show tunes during this period. There’s an Americana theme, with songs like ‘Hey Manhattan’, lyrics like ‘Hot Dog! Jumping Frog! Albuquerque’, and the Springsteen pastiche of ‘Cars and Girls’. Following on the success of Steve McQueen, it’s also a more high profile release, with cameos from Pete Townsend and Stevie Wonder.

There’s some strong material here, but From Langley Park to Memphis is less than the sum of its parts – the sequencing where the first side is clearly stronger than the second, the adult contemporary sheen from a variety of producers, and the novelty hit ‘King of Rock and Roll’ all detract from the album. There are at least a couple of top tier Prefab songs here – ‘I Remember That’ is a beautiful piece of gospel infused pop. While it’s hard to know if ‘Cars And Girls’ is an affectionate tribute or a gentle take-down of Springsteen, but either way it’s a strong song in its own right. There are pretty melodies like ‘Nightingales’ and ‘Nancy Let Down Your Hair For Me’, but the awkward rock of ‘Golden Calf’ hurts the momentum of the second side.

Released in the middle of their 1980s’ peak, Langley Park is a key Prefab Sprout album, but it’s not quite the towering achievement that it could have been.

Protest Songs Prefab Sprout

Protest Songs, 1989

Protest Songs was originally scheduled as a followup to Steve McQueen – it was announced for December 1985, but wasn’t in stores until 1989. It’s low-key, with an indie guitar-pop sound, but it’s a substantive entry into the band’s catalogue. I particularly enjoy the opening track, ‘The World Awake’, which presents a typically complex McAloon song in a low-key arrangement.

Protest Songs does open with some upbeat, accessible songs; the opener ‘The World Awake’ is one of my favourite Prefab Sprout songs with its bizarre backing vocals and insistent hook, while the affectionate advice of ‘Life of Surprises’ is hooky and energetic. There’s more pointed current event commentary than usual – ‘Diana’ discusses the Princess of Wales, while ‘Dublin’ concerns Irish politics – while McAloon returns to his common themes of mortality with the low key conclusion of ”Til The Cows Come Home’ and ‘Pearly Gates’.

With its low key nature, Protest Songs has aged gracefully

 

Jordan: The Comeback 1990

The sprawling Jordan: The Comeback is their masterpiece. The group lost momentum after Jordan, as record company miscommunication sabotaged the followup album, Prefab Sprout’s output slowed after this 1990’s ambitious double album Jordan: The Comeback, but there have been gems among the later releases. The double album Jordan: The Comeback allows McAloon space to explore some of his lyrical obsessions; over its running time, he examines Elvis Presley, death, and God. The wonderful crashing drums after the organ solo at the beginning of ‘Scarlet Nights’ still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up – as do Jenny Agutter’s ‘I want you’s’ on Wild Horses. Sublime, and even better now in its remastered form ‘Scarlet Nights’ is arguably the most uplifting song about dying ever recorded; “This is where you’ll wake/To find the river, Jordan, flows.” Group mastermind Paddy McAloon covers the gamut here, ranging from incisive takes on American legends (Elvis and Jesse James) to love songs both wistful We Let the Stars Go and self-assured Looking for Atlantis Jordan climaxes with One of the Broken, a singular plea for compassion in which McAloon assumes the character of none other than God.

The Ice Maiden’ was inspired from youthful memories of watching ABBA on TV, but it quickly escalates an examination into mortality. “Death is a small price for heaven” is the most memorable line. Driven by an electronic pulse, it packs a lot into a little over three minutes; Wendy Smith’s prominent vocals, a dramatic key change, and Paddy McAloon’s chunky guitar riffing. It culminates in screams before abruptly segueing to the whimsical ‘Paris Smith’.

Prefab Sprout Andromeda Heights

Andromeda Heights

Andromeda Heights is a concept album about stars, but there are plenty of love-struck lyrics as well. Drummer Neil Conti had left the band by this point, and there’s not much of a band feel to most of the tracks. Often the orchestral instruments that augment the band are more pronounced, although the orchestrations aren’t as interestingly as on McAloon’s 2003 solo album, and they’re more about adding warmth and lushness. The sentimentality that was often present on Prefab Sprout’s earlier albums is much more pronounced on Andromeda Heights.

Andromeda Heights is one of Prefab Sprout’s weaker records, but my favourite Prefab Sprout is outtake from it is ‘The End of the Affair’. It’s more sentimental and string-laden than most of Prefab Sprout’s work, but it’s a beautiful tune. Prefab Sprout have some other great b-sides too; other notable efforts include 1985’s ‘Donna Summer’ or the rocking ‘Nero the Zero’.

Prefab Sprout also have plenty of interesting non-album material which has never been collected onto CD – early singles like ‘Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)’ are well worth tracking down, ‘The End of the Affair’, originally written for Cher. Rumour has it that McAloon has albums full of unreleased material, including a concept record about Michael Jackson and an album full of songs titled ‘Goodbye Lucille’.

Prefab Sprout hadn’t released an album of new material since The Gunman and Other Stories in 2001, so 2013’s Crimson/Red is essentially a collection of the best songs McAloon had written in the previous twelve years. It’s recorded solo by Paddy McAloon in his home studio, but it’s much more professional sounding than the demos of Let’s Change The World With Music, and it’s easily Prefab Sprout’s strongest release since 1990’s Jordan: The Comeback.

Prefab Sprout CrimsonRed

Crimson/Red, 2013

The band’s latest release was Crimson/Red back in 2013, as well as a vinyl reissue of McAloon’s 2003 solo album “I Trawl the Megahertz” earlier this year. By 2013, Prefab Sprout was effectively a name for Paddy McAloon’s solo endeavours; he played all the instruments and provided all the vocals for ‘Billy’. There’s a great bass-line and his vocals have barely aged. McAloon typically uses complex chord structures, but ‘Billy’ cycles through the same five chords for its entirety. Its breezy and fun, with McAloon charmingly cycling the subject’s name between “Bill”, “William”, and “Billy”.

Paddy McAloon has grown a long white beard, but he still sounds youthful – he even makes the word “assholes” sound exquisite. 2013’s ‘The Best Jewel Thief in the World’ is impressively energetic and melodic. It’s McAloon’s best song of the 21st century, even though it’s hamstrung by a poor music video; the fan-made version (presented below) is much better.

‘The Best Jewel Thief in the World’ is an immediate winner, a hook-laden and energetic piece of pop, while the disarmingly simple ‘Billy’ is warm and immediate. There are shout-outs to fellow songwriters, with ‘The Songs of Danny Galway’ covering Jimmy Webb and ‘Mysterious’ about Bob Dylan, while ‘The Dreamer’ is straight-out beautiful. There are also some memorable lyrics like “Adolescence – what’s it like? / It’s a psychedelic motorbike / You smash it up ten times a day / Then you walk away.”

If we’re being picky, there are a few too many slow songs, but Crimson/Red is an definite comeback from Prefab Sprout and worth the attention.

The reissues are available now with a new album titled Femmes Mythologiques incoming later this year.

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Last year, LIFE broke their Humberside confines to become a truly national, if not international, sensation after their second album ‘Picture Of Good Health’ saw them established as a real force to be reckoned with through a marriage of punk anger and post-Britpop appeal. Adapting the left-wing politics of the first LP ‘Popular Music’ and framing them through their own personal everyday experiences with the distinct gritty texture of living in Hull, their second record chimed with British audiences and listeners across the continent as they gigged heavily, hit the European festival circuit and played support on IDLES world tour.

Continuing to develop their sound, Life have once again returned to the studio and returned with new single ‘Switching On’ which embraces greater experimentation and seems to take its quest from such tightly lacerating yet claustrophobic bands as Suicide and Big Black.

“After completing ‘A Picture of Good Health’ I felt like I belonged in the world, lyrically painting over the bone – eating demons, I wanted to express why this was. I wanted to scratch it out like people do on woodland trees or moorland rocks. It was love; I found love. ‘Switching On’ is my lyrical attempt of charting that journey; the initial giddy, nervous and pinch – me moments, the wanting to be accepted, the lust and the incredible feeling of finding that person and falling in love. The band wanted to be open to all aspects of musicality so that the lyrics were given an aural heart. We wanted to be brave, bold and exciting as we evolve our sound and rhythms by bringing in elements of synths, pads, machines and pure bass and guitar experimentation. ‘Switching On’ is a nod to where we want to be and where we are going; the future.” – Mez Green

Accompanying the single is the post punk upstarts answer to Wes Anderson in the form of a promotional video adapting the colour palettes and symmetrical shots for which the acclaimed cult director is famed. The mini movie was made with the help of local filmmaker and long term visual collaborator Josh Moore who have succeeded in capturing the tension of the track, as told through the suffering of plants losing at love and life in a sequence of desperate video dates.

Currently causing chaos in NYC, they return to plagued Europe to tour next month with dates around the UK in April.

Various Artists "Just Like Heaven: A Tribute to The Cure"

“Just Like Heaven” features 16 cover versions of Cure favorites by a bevy of indie artists, including; The Wedding Present, Dean & Britta, The Rosebuds, Tanya Donelly & Dylan in the Movies, The Submarines, Elk City, Class Actress, Joy Zipper, Black Francis, and so many more. Mastered by West West Side Music (Galaxie 500, The Wrens, Fleetwood Mac). Original illustrations and artwork by Melinda Rainsberger.

These tribute albums have become so ubiquitous and are so generally asinine that this one comes as a genuine, and at times quite moving, surprise. It’s not just that the artists who contributed are clearly doing so without any of the usual ironic detachment, but also that many of them have clearly thought very carefully and often very insightfully about their arrangements and interpretations. Elizabeth Harper & the Matinee deliver a sweetly sad and admirably straightforward version of “Pictures of You,” one that clears away the layers of gauzy, torpid psychedelia that characterized the (excellent) original version to create a song that has a very different spirit without sacrificing anything of its essence. Cassettes Won’t Listen give “Let’s Go to Bed” a slightly stiffer, more electro interpretation — again, one that reveals a depth of regret and bitterness that was better hidden in the original. It should probably come as no surprise that Tanya Donelly would pick the slightly creepy “Love Cats” to cover, in a duet version with the gruffly insinuating Dylan in the Movies turn “Close to Me” into a strangely detached disquisition on the obsession and self-disgust that animated the original, while Kitty Karlyle turn “In Between Days” into a brilliantly edgy slab of rough-and-ready pop-punk. Not every interpretation is equally brilliant, but every one of them shines an interesting new light on this powerful material.

An outstanding compilation… this is a must for all Cure fans – NYC Daily News
A genuine, and at times quite moving, surprise. – All Music Guide
Indie darlings past and present come together to repaint the mood swinging lyrics and remix the eternal sunshine of The Cure hits. – Rolling Stone