Posts Tagged ‘A Buyers Guide’

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Since the release of their debut EP in 2014, Yumi Zouma’s evolution has been brisk and organic. The band sold­ out their first EP twice­-over before its official release and before having ever played live. Growing up together in Christchurch, New Zealand, they scattered after high school, moving to Auckland, Paris and New York, collaborating over email to create Yumi Zouma’s initial material.

The intense reception to these early tracks resulted in the group’s first band practices taking place on arena stages, as they were asked on tour by both Chet Faker and Lorde. Yumi Zouma has since released three breath taking EPs and two albums with Cascine Records, earning the hearts of a devoted fanbase and selling out venues on national and overseas tours. Each release serves as another essential chapter in the continuing Yumi Zouma storybook.

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Yoncalla (LP)

The 2017 debut album by Yumi Zouma follows two well-received EPs and multiple world tours. On “Yoncalla”, the band’s effortless waves of harmony have been refined and their creative process laid bare to expose an act more unguarded and interconnected than ever before. 

The group’s origins trace back to their history of playing concerts together in Christchurch However, the band did not begin writing music together until multiple members moved abroad and began collaborating over email following the events of the Christchurch eartquake This early material gained attention within the musical bloggers and encouraged American label Cascine Records to sign the band before they had played live or held a band practice.

The band quickly released their first full-length album, “Yoncalla”, the following year. As opposed to the long-distance writing of the band’s earlier releases, Yoncalla consisted of material that had been finished during tours for EP II. The majority of the album’s final material was recorded in Paris France following an American tour which stopped by the city of Yoncalla in Oregon, The band produced the album at electronic musician Phillipe Zdar’s Motorbass studio in Paris, enabling them to achieve a sound more akin to classic synth poppier than their previous records

Willowbank (LP)

For the making of Willowbank, Yumi Zouma settled on a plan to reunite for the New Zealand summer. To complete what would become their first significant work written and recorded entirely in their home country, they rented a studio in Christchurch’s semi-demolished CBD, on one of the few remaining blocks that still characterizes the city from before it was destroyed by a series of earthquakes.

When you know it’s there, the feeling of rootedness is undeniable on Willowbank. Being connected to their origins on the bottom of the earth allowed the band’s members to craft another essential chapter in the Yumi Zouma storybook.

After a year of heavy touring in support of “Yoncalla”, the band travelled home to record in New Zealand for the first time. A limited edition cover of the Oasis album “Whats The Story Morning Glory?” was distributed on vinyl in early 2017, before the release of the band’s second album, Willowbank, in October. The sessions for Willowbank marked the first time that the group had worked together in a professional studio, with the band initially questioning whether they should “all move into separate rooms” to recreate the remote song writing process from previous records. However, the sessions allowed for stronger collaboration and more organic instrumentation compared to earlier material, leading to jazz musician Olivia Campion joining the band as a live drummer. Lead single “Depths (Pt. I)” became a success on streaming platforms, and was accompanied by a video created by illustrator Frances Haszard. Following the completion of touring for “Willowbank”, Perry left the band in order to concentrate on his Serbia-based musical project DOG Power.

Yumi Zouma’s output for Cascine Records has been nothing short of prolific. In 2014, Yumi Zouma released their debut EP, and quickly followed it up in 2015 with EP II. After releasing two more albums in successive years – 2016’s “Yoncalla” and 2017’s “Willowbank” — the band bookended their series of short-form 10″ releases with 2018’s EP III. Long out-of-print, Cascine has now re-pressed each of the EPs on their original 10″ format with new vinyl colour editions.

The beloved and long out-of-print debut EP from Yumi Zouma — an understated classic since its release in 2014 — repressed for the first time on its original 10″ format and new seaglass vinyl edition. A second repress of Yumi Zouma’s debut ​EP​. Originally released in 2014, ​EP ​represents the world’s introduction to the New Zealand dream-pop band Yumi Zouma. Though the project has since grown considerably in profile, releasing their 2020 album ​Truth or Consequences​, their winsome allure remains. ​EP​ features early favourites from the band’s catalogue including “The Brae” and “Salka Gets Her Hopes Up.”

Tracklisting:
A1. A Long Walk Home For Parted Lovers
A2. Sålka Gets Her Hopes Up
B1. The Brae
B2. Riquelme

Yumi Zouma’s enduring and endearing second EP, newly re-pressed on its original 10″ vinyl format and new mist-coloured edition, following its original release in 2015. Originally released in 2016, EP II found the New Zealand band coming into their own as songwriters, developing their “soft-focus synth-pop” (Pitchfork) with hints of electronic piano-house pulse (“Alena”) and anthemic, movie-ready choruses (“Catastrophe”). Though the project has since grown considerably in profile (in 2020 year the band released their third full-length album Truth or Consequences), their winsome allure remains.

Tracklisting: 

A1 Dodi
A2 Alena
A3 Catastrophie
B1 Second Wave
B2 Song For Zoe & Gwen

The bookend to their EP trilogy, Yumi Zouma’s “EP III” is rich with effortless atmospheres, winsome hooks and stadium-sized finishes — now repressed on its original 10″ format and new cloud-coloured vinyl edition. Since the release of their debut EP in 2014, Yumi Zouma’s evolution has been brisk and organic. In the process, they’ve won the hearts of a devoted fan base and sold out venues in the US and throughout the world. Yumi Zouma now returns with EP III, completing the trilogy they started with EPs I and EPs II.

Though the project has grown in profile, their song writing process remains the same, working across continents and timezones, with Charlie Ryder now based in London, Josh Burgess in New York, and Christie Simpson in their hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand. This new collection finds the international act stronger than ever, sculpting effortless atmospheres, winsome hooks and stadium-ready finishes.

Tracklisting: 

A1. Powder Blue / Cascine Park
A2. Crush (It’s Late, Just Stay)
B1. Looking Over Shoulders
B2. In Camera

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To commemorate the re-pressing, Yumi Zouma are sharing “In Camera (Unplugged),” an alternate rework of their 2018 single recoded this winter. “‘In Camera’ was originally destined for the scrap heap” says Charlie about the original single. In 2018, as the band was pulling together the tracklist for EP III, Christie saved the demo from the cutting room floor and prompted the band to bring it back to life. The track would go on to be their most successful single across platforms and a clear fan favourite.

Re-recorded in 2020, the new stripped-back version of “In Camera” foregrounds its winsome melody with softer, organic instrumentation — piano, acoustic guitar — and culminates with a choir of voices joining on the chorus. “We wanted to record something reminiscent of The Killers’ piano-driven live sessions at Abbey Road, and bring to life the power-ballad that was secretly hiding underneath the surface,” Charlie said. 

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The new track and re-press news come on the heels two new releases from Yumi Zouma in 2020 — “Truth or Consequences”, and an album of alternate versions — released by our friends at Polyvinyl

Truth or Consequences”, Yumi Zouma’s third album and first for Polyvinyl was produced by the band and mixed by engineer Jake Aron (Solange, Grizzly Bear, Snail Mail)

Christie Simpson’s voice gives weight to whispers of impressionistic poetry, shielding hard truths with soft tones, while Burgess’ vocals reveal a rarified dimension of raw and lucid romanticism, with lead single “Right Track / Wrong Man”, in particular, exhibiting a Balearic tempo and bass-heavy energy that belies its underlying tension.

The first Yumi Zouma album to feature live drums, “Truth or Consequences” radiates a brazen spirit of perseverance.“I love the duality in a lot of disco songs, where they’re incredibly upbeat, but there’s real frustration in the lyrics – sort of like, ‘Nothing’s going the way I want, but I’ve got to deal with it any way I can,’” Simpson says.

Yumi Zouma ring in the new year with a re-press of their long out-of-print EP trilogy on their original 10″ formats. They’re commemorating the occasion by sharing a new semi-acoustic version of “In Camera.” Watch the official video, created by Josh using archival footage from 2014-2020,

A European tour is now happening March next year we’ve had to reschedule these dates from September/October this year to March 2022 – sadly due to restrictions it just wouldn’t be possible to do this tour as planned, as we’d initially hoped it might be by that time. we are so sorry to have to reschedule – but we hope you’ll come party with us across Europe when it’s safe and possible and the world is feeling a little more okay again!.

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Stevie Nicks first came to prominence when she teamed with Lindsey Buckingham, with whom she recorded the 1973 Buckingham Nicks album, which in turn led directly to the duo joining the ranks of Fleetwood Mac. Nicks kicked off her solo career with the release of 1981’s “Bella Donna” an album remembered as much for its collaborations – including “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” credited to Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and “Leather and Lace,” a duet with Don Henley – but the swirling songstress quickly proved that she could produce memorable music all by herself. A double Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Stevie Nicks’ career is littered with moments of artistic virtuosity and commercial reward. A supreme songwriter and a naturally gifted vocalist, Nicks found fame as an integral part of Fleetwood Mac’s resurgence. Having joined the band in 1975, as many of its members began fleeing the swinging scene for pastures new, Nicks was not initially considered for a role in the band and was only truly given an audition thanks to Lindsey Buckingham’s insistence.

 She is known for her distinctive voice, mystical stage persona and poetic, symbolic lyrics.  “When we’d do an album, they’d hear fifteen of my songs and invariably pick the two that were my least favourite,” she complained. “Some of my favourite songs wouldn’t get used.” The chance for the singer’s break out came in 1981, following some of the band’s most tumultuous years, when Nicks decided to release her first solo record: “Bella Donna“.

Of course, for an artist who had spent her entire career working alongside at least one other musician, the thought of going it completely alone was a distressing one. Nicks may well be incredibly talented but she has never been emboldened by her own confidence. A noted sufferer of stage fright, Nicks would rely on two men for help putting out her solo album, Jimmy Iovine and Tom Petty.

‘Street Angel’ (1994)

Nothing was going right for Stevie Nicks, personally (she was trying to kick an addiction of painkillers) or professionally (this album stalled at No. 45, and produced no hit singles). Street Angel was actually troubled from the start, as Nicks battled with original producer Glyn Johns. She ultimately decided to do a stint in rehab, which got her life back on track, then attempted – but ultimately failed – to get Street Angel back on track with second producer Thom Panunzio

After years of addiction, weight gain and exhaustion, Nicks fully detoxed in 1993 and ended her ties to Klonopin. The next year she released Street Angel, another solo album. As her health improved and she regained energy, Stevie returned to the studio to record new songs for multiple soundtracks.

“Blue Denim” Although it served as the lead-off track for Nicks’ first solo album since her departure from Fleetwood Mac, “Blue Denim” – a co-write with Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers – failed to secure the first-single nod. After “Maybe Love Will Change Your Mind” peaked at a relatively unimpressive No. 42, “Blue Denim” got its shot at glory, but despite its insistent guitar riff and radio-friendly hook, it failed to chart in any capacity, making it somewhat of a rarity among Nicks’ songs released as singles.

‘Trouble in Shangri-La’ (Stevie Nicks, 2001)

Nicks had spent years trying to come to terms with the “Street Angel” debacle when two things broke the creative logjam: some important words of encouragement from old friend and musical collaborator Tom Petty, and a surprise Fleetwood Mac reunion. Nicks wrote some of the transitional “Trouble in Shangri-La” while out on tour with her old bandmates, then completed the album with choice new originals and some music from the underrated Buckingham/Nicks era.

Nicks had begun writing actively for ‘Trouble in Shangri-La’ in 1994 and 1995 as she came out of her Klonopin dependency, According to her, friend and former musical partner Tom Petty was responsible for convincing her to write music again when he rebuffed her request that he write a song with her. She resumed recording songs for the Trouble in Shangri-La album with Sheryl Crow, who produced and performed on several tracks.

It didn’t add up to her best work, but Nicks finally got back on track.

“Planets of the Universe” Originally composed during the period when Fleetwood Mac were working on “Rumours” (a demo of the song can be found on the expanded version of the album), Nicks wrote “Planets of the Universe” about her disintegrating relationship with Buckingham. Revisiting the song in 2001, Nicks excised one of the more bitter verses and, with the help of producer John Shanks and remixer Tracy Young, took the track to the top of Billboard’s Hot Dance Music / Club Play chart.

‘The Other Side of the Mirror’ (Stevie Nicks, 1989)

Following the tour for The Wild Heart, Nicks commenced work on her third solo album. Originally titled Mirror Mirror, Nicks recorded songs for the album during 1984. However, Nicks was unhappy with the album, and opted to record a new batch of songs in 1985. “Rock A Little” as it was retitled, was released November 18th, 1985, to commercial success, supported by three successful singles. Nicks toured for Rock a Little until October 1986,

Nicks exited the ’80s on another commercial high note. It’s interesting because “The Other Side of the Mirror” often rejects her typically twirly, mystical persona. Instead, Nicks – who was on the cusp of a debilitating battle with the prescribed tranquilizer Klonopin – has never sounded more haunted. (“Ghosts,” for instance, focuses on mistakes from the “past that you live in” and a “future you are frightened of.”) Not all of it works, beginning with the synthy production and definitely including a reggae version of Johnny Cash’s “I Still Miss Someone.” Still, The Other Side of the Mirror became Nicks fourth consecutive platinum-selling album of the decade on the strength of the Top 20 hit “Rooms on Fire.”

The first single from 1989’s “The Other Side Of The Mirror” Nicks revealed in the Timespace liner notes that ‘Rooms on Fire’ was inspired by her short-lived romantic dalliance with producer/musician Rupert Hine, who helmed the album. Although the song topped Billboard’s Album Rock Tracks chart and made it to No. 16 on both the Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary Singles chart, Nicks dropped the song from her live sets in the ’90s and – based on the set lists available online, anyway – does not appear to have revisited it in a live setting since.

‘Rock a Little’ (Stevie Nicks, 1985)

She actually does rock a little. But the principal focus on this third solo album was solidifying Nicks’ spot as a pop star in her own right. It worked. The lead single “Talk to Me” went to No. 4, and “I Can’t Wait” reached No. 16. The album also produced “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You?,” which became a regular concert encore, and key deep cuts like the zippy “I Can’t Wait” and beautifully wistful “Some Become Strangers.” Nicks voice, however, seemed to deepen all at once and that made some of her tics at the microphone more obvious. The studio gloss was starting to pile up too, as a gang of producers began trying every ’80s-era trick in the book.

“Talk to Me” The first single from “Rock A Little”, “Talk to Me” was a composition by Chas Sanford, co-writer of the John Waite classic “Missing You” and later Chicago’s “What Kind of Man Would I Be?” Although Nicks struggled to nail the vocals to producer Jimmy Iovine’s satisfaction, she eventually pulled them off successfully, thanks to the encouragement of Jim Keltner, who offered to stick around and provide moral support while she recorded the song. (Yes, this story comes from the Timespace liner notes, too. They provide a wealth of background about your favourite Nicks songs.)

According to the 1991 best-of collection Timespace, “I Can’t Wait” was recorded in a single take, with Nicks writing in her liner notes. “Some vocals are magic and simply not able to beat,” Her recollections of the song’s video, however, are decidedly less positive: in I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, by Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks, a chagrined Nicks admits, “I look at that video, I look at my eyes, and I say to myself, ‘Could you have laid off the pot, the coke, and the tequila for three days, so you could have looked a little better’?”

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‘In Your Dreams’ (Stevie Nicks, 2011)

Dave Stewart helped Stevie Nicks find herself again. They wrote, with ink on a page – and they recorded at her house, in the manner of her best moments with Fleetwood Mac. In Your Dreams ended up turning on the rediscovery of an unfinished 1980 song called “Secret Love” that appeared on the internet before it ever got properly recorded. Nicks became determined not to just rekindle the feeling of her best days, but to bring that feeling — and that sound — into a new space for a new generation. The result is her most adventurous album. The success of her “Secret Love” reclamation project also led Nicks to dig still deeper into the vault.

’24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault’ (Stevie Nicks, 2014)

Filched copies of poorly recorded sessions work initially inspired 24 Karat Gold, which found Nicks — as the title suggests returning to officially unreleased songs for inspiration. She was born anew. “Twisted,” which had taken a suitably circuitous route, was one of several tracks that finally found their true voice. Then there were moments like “Lady.” A starkly emotional piano-driven ballad known to her deepest fans as the demo “Knockin’ on Doors,” it made clear that Nicks had hidden for too long behind effects — be they electronic, sartorial or otherwise. Stripped of artifice, Nicks connected on an elemental level that she simply couldn’t while swaddled in synths or shawls.

‘The Wild Heart’ (Stevie Nicks, 1983)

Nicks released her second solo album, “The Wild Heart” on June 10th, 1983. The album went double platinum, reached number five on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and featured three hit singles. It also introduced songwriter and performer Sandy Stewart as co-writer and vocalist.

Nicks’ double-platinum second solo album featured an appropriately named song: “Nothing Ever Changes.” She played to her strengths on “The Wild Heart” – and, in keeping with her status as one of the ’80s’ biggest stars, sold millions. If there’s a complaint to be made, it’s that so many of the songs were determinedly radio-ready, without the quirky mannerisms that often surrounded her work with Fleetwood Mac. In keeping, “Stand Back” this project’s biggest hit and biggest risk felt like a bolt out of the blue. The song was so inventive that it made everything else – even the underrated “If Anyone Falls,” a moody synth-driven cut that explores the emotions surrounding an unrequited love sound a little pedestrian.

“Nightbird” The last of the three singles from “The Wild Heart” may not have managed to crack the Top 20, stalling at the No. 33 position, but Nicks has nonetheless described the song one of three tracks on the album which she co-wrote with her friend Sandy Stewart as her favourite track on the album. In addition, “Nightbird” is also directly responsible for inspiring the name of the self-described “Premiere Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks Tribute,” but try not to hold that against the song.

“Standback” is arguably her most recognizable solo single, a status aided immeasurably by its regular inclusion in Fleetwood Mac’s sets as well as remaining a staple of her own shows, Nicks premiered “Stand Back” during her performance at the US Festival in 1983, prefacing it with a giddy (yet sadly unfulfilled) vow to hand-deliver copies of the yet-to-be-released The Wild Heart to everyone in the audience, “sort of like Girl Scout Cookies.” Even without Nicks making good on her promise, however, both the single and the album made it to No. 5 on their respective Billboard charts.

“If Anyone Falls” Another Nicks / Sandy Stewart co-write, the second single from The Wild Heart was a song of unrequited love, with Nicks observing how, no matter how good or bad a relationship goes, the feelings continue to exist “somewhere in the twilight dreamtime / somewhere in the back of your mind.” Although it didn’t match the success of its predecessor (“Stand Back”), “If Anyone Falls” still pulled a highly respectable No. 14 placement on Billboard’s Hot 100.

‘Bella Donna’ (Stevie Nicks, 1981)

With nearly two dozen collaborators, you had to wonder if Stevie Nicks would get lost on the four-times-platinum “Bella Donna“. Instead, she acts as a sort of witchy-woman conductor for her songs, leading a strikingly talented crew through their paces on a tour-de-force solo debut. She wrote or co-wrote all but one of the tracks, save for the No. 3 Tom Petty collaboration “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” during a period of remarkable productivity. Then Petty’s producer Jimmy Iovine gave Nicks a spacious, rootsy space to flourish. “Leather and Lace,” a duet with Don Henley, went to No. 6, before her career-defining “Edge of Seventeen” finished at No. 11. The result wasn’t just the best solo debut of any member of her band; it was one of the best first albums of the ’80s.

Bella Donna introduced Nicks’ permanent back-up singers, Sharon Celani and Lori Perry (now Nicks), who have contributed vocals to all of Nicks’ solo albums since.

Given that it was Nicks’ designated entry in our list of the classic rock songs, “Edge of Seventeen,” the third single from Bella Donna (but the first to be credited solely to her alone), was always destined to land atop the list of the greatest Stevie Nicks songs, but it’s a placement that’s hard to argue: any song that can survive being covered by Lindsay Lohan and having Waddy Wachtel’s famous guitar riff sampled by Destiny’s Child (“Bootylicious”) yet still come out with its reputation unscathed has more than earned its placement in the top spot.

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The fourth and final single to be released from Nicks’ 1981 solo debut, the country-tinged is “After the Glitter Fades” listed in the album credits with a copyright date of 1975, but Nicks has indicated on several occasions that it was actually written a few years earlier, placing its composition date in the 1972-73 range. As such, she and Lindsey Buckingham hadn’t yet joined the ranks of Fleetwood Mac, making the lyrics about how “what I seem to touch these days / Has turned to gold” decidedly prophetic.

“This song was written about my boyfriend’s mother who was involved with a man in Chile during the coup that happened there in 1973,” she explained. “The man she loved was banished to France. Banished – or imprisoned, that was the choice. The love story never really ended, but she never saw him again. I was so touched by this story of lost love that I wrote ‘Bella Donna.’”

Nicks revealed that the moment she finished the song was the moment she knew she had the basis for her first solo record, which she believed in “from the bottom of my heart.” The story of her boyfriend’s mother changed the way she looked at love, a concept she would explore later throughout her first album. “It defined how I would feel about love forever,” she said of “Bella Donna.” “It broke my heart and gave me the strength to fight for it.”

The album is so important to Nicks’ career. Yes, vocally the album perhaps catches some of Nicks’ finest performances. From a song writing point of view, it’s equally hard not to see Nicks in the prime of her life for penmanship. But it was the expression behind the songs that really made this album worthwhile. It was the feeling of pent up tension exposed to vibrant and gratifying freedom and allowed the artist beneath to truly be seen perhaps for the first time. Nicks would release seven studio albums on her own while still being able to work as a pivotal member of Fleetwood Mac.

Standback 1981-2017 

Music from all eight of Nicks’ studio albums are included in the set, from Top 10 hits like “Stand Back” and “Talk To Me” to “The Dealer” from her latest, 2014’s “24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault”. Those solo tracks are joined by Nicks’ memorable collaborations with other artists, including “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “Leather And Lace” with Don Henley, “You’re Not The One” with Sheryl Crow, and “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems” with Lana Del Rey.  “Stand Back” also explores her career on stage with outstanding live recordings, including performances from her 1981 Bella Donna tour (“Dreams” and “Rhiannon”), and her 2009 live album The Soundstage Sessions (“Sara” and a cover of Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me.”) Rounding out the collection are several of her contributions to film soundtracks, like “Blue Lamp” from Heavy Metal and “If You Ever Did Believe” from Practical Magic.

“Stand Back: 1981-2017” was the fourth compilation from Stevie Nicks. What sets this set apart from the previous releases is it expands the years covered obviously, but also includes several songs that have never appeared on a Stevie album previously.

The first disc contains 17 of Stevie’s singles from each of her seven studio albums. Yes, there are a few missing, her new tracks from her 1991 compilation “TimeSpace” and more glaringly 1989’s “Whole Lotta Trouble”. But aside from that all of the big hits are here.

Disc two features 18 tracks, each one a collaboration of some type, be it a duet or a prominent backing vocalist. This is the gem disc of the set in my opinion. More than half of the tracks on disc two have never appeared on a Stevie compilation before, and seven of those tracks have never appeared on a Stevie album period. In the case of “Golden” with Lady Antebellum the track has only appeared as a digital single and “You’re Not The One” with Sheryl Crow was a b-side to Sheryl’s 2002 track “Soak Up The Sun”. Other tracks such as “Borrowed” with LeAnn Rimes, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” with Chris Isaac and “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” with Lana Del Rey appeared on the respective artists albums. Stevie has contributed to many other artists albums since 1976 and a complete compilation could be made just of those tracks.

The third disc is something of a time machine featuring various Live tracks from throughout the years. The highlight of these tracks is the Tom Petty collaboration “Needles & Pins” from his 1985 “Pack Up The Plantation Live” album, although the song dates back to 1981. The disc closes out with a handful of Stevie’s soundtrack contributions. The final track being “Your Hand I Will Never Let It Go” from the 2017 film “Book Of Henry”. This is one of the songs that most casual fans and even some die hards may be unaware of. Each of Stevie’s compilation albums offer something different for fans. “TimeSpace” from 1991 was her first comp and featured remixed versions of her previous hits and three newly recorded tracks. 1998’s “Enchanted” gave us the hits, collaborations and unreleased tracks. It also is the only set to include a “Buckingham Nicks” track. 2007’s “Crystal Visions” brought lost of hits up to date as well as previously unreleased live tracks. And now “Stand Back 1981-2017” covers much of the same ground, but also includes tracks unique to this set.
The set has been released to commemorate Stevie’s solo induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. This set proves that she is much more than just a member of Fleetwood Mac.

But with touring on hold, she’s bored and depressed, this pandemic has hit her so hard. Two projects were due out she says, offered a vestige of normalcy: “24 Karat Gold: The Concert,” a cinematic version of her 2017 solo show, and a politically minded new single, “Show Them the Way,” which will be accompanied by a Cameron Crowe-directed music video.

The show emphasizes Nicks’ solo career MTV standards like “Stop Draggin My Heart Around”, “Stand Back” and “Edge Of Seventeen”. Performing music from her “dark, gothic trunk of lost songs,” she tells the audience, makes her feel like she’s a 20-year-old embarking on a new career. “This is not the same Stevie Nicks show you’ve seen a million times,” she explains, “because I am different.”

“This is the show where you get to meet this girl, finally,” says guitarist Waddy Wachtel, who served as the tour’s musical director and has known Nicks since 1970. “She can relax and work her own rhythm. It’s a joy to see her get into her own songs instead of fighting to get her due in a band where there are three really strong songwriters.”

On the road, Wachtel says, Nicks travels via private plane because she has declared herself too old for tour buses. She loves lavish hotel rooms with pianos, a perk Wachtel thinks she’s earned: “She doesn’t have a husband. She doesn’t have a boyfriend. She wants a good room to be able to play her music as loud as she wants.”

She’s also decided that she wants to make another solo album and plans to spend the rest of quarantine turning the poetry from her journals into lyrics.

 The Albums

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It’s 50 years since Ian Anderson released the first Jethro Tull album. Over that time, the band’s sound has evolved and diversified, but they remain an enduring touchstone of the prog rock world. 

Jethro Tull is one of the best classic rock band’s. Combining folk, medieval music, hard rock, metal, blues, jazz and classical, Tull’s albums have defied categorization almost from day one.

They originally came on the scene as a blues rock band, but transitioned to progressive rock throughout their career, while releasing a series of awesome hard rock albums. Perhaps some could even be considered among the best albums of all time. Here, you’ll find a complete list of the best Jethro Tull albums, including pictures of the album covers when available. This Jethro Tull discography includes the compilation and Live album’s. To make it easy for you to collect, we haven’t included Jethro Tull singles, or EPs, so everything you see here should only be albums. If you have a favourite Jethro Tull album, If you want to know, “What is the Best Jethro Tull album of all time?” or “What are the top Jethro Tull albums?”

This Was (1968)

In June 1968, just before this album was recorded, Jethro Tull began a residency at London’s famed Marquee Club (where the ‘Stones and The Who also launched their careers). Band advisers failed to get Ian to give up on the flute and let Mick do all the singing. The album was recorded without any record company contract presuming, correctly, that a deal could be made afterwards.

Jethro Tull also began their first US tour in January 1969, immediately after securing the services of guitarist Martin Barre.

The album had little commercial impact in the US charts (#62) but the U.S. tour did earn the band a strong cult following. key song from their very first album, 1968’s ‘This Was?’ The band’s lone outing with original guitarist Mick Abrahams barely hinted at the daring musical adventures lurking in Anderson’s near future, but rather placed Tull squarely in the Brit-Blues tradition that dominated the era. Not that this in any way diminishes ‘A Song for Jeffrey’s’ lingering popularity as an infectious, slide-guitar-driven building block for what lay ahead.

“It’s all in the title, isn’t it? This was Jethro Tull. That’s no accident because when we were recording it, the one thing I felt sure about is that if we were lucky enough to make another album, I knew it wouldn’t be like this one: based on blues elements and black American folk culture. That’s not part of my life and I couldn’t keep doing that – I’d look like a complete twit. The cover had no logo or anything and people were telling me we couldn’t do that, but we did it, of course.”

No Jethro Tull album is subject to more wildly divergent opinions than their first – which sounds like the work of another band. Ian Anderson had yet to fully develop his idiosyncratic vision for Tull’s future, so, this one time, he shared both the band’s leadership and its bluesy direction with guitarist Mick Abrahams (see “Someday the Sun Won’t Shine for You,” “It’s Breaking Me Up,” etc.). Even so, that fluttering flute was already unmistakable, pushing standouts like “Beggar’s Farm” and “A Song for Jeffrey” closer to the artsy experimentation still ahead.

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The debut album hit #10 in the British charts, partly thanks to great airplay from BBC Radio DJ John Peel. Just before the release in the U.S., guitarist Abrahams left to form “Blodwyn Pig,” primarily due to Anderson’s preference for a less blues-orientated future.

Stand Up (1969)

Stand Up represents the first album project on which Anderson was in full control of the music and lyrics. It also marks the first appearance of guitarist Martin Barre, who appeared on every JT album from this point on.

The recording sessions for this album started in April ’69. One month later, the band scored their first U.K. hit with “Living In The Past,” which charted at #3 (included in the remastered release).. Starting with “Stand Up,” the band’s use of dynamics, Celtic Folk, and classically-oriented tonal structures, along with Ian Anderson’s flute playing and song writing, became Jethro Tull’s signature. Simply put, “Stand Up” was the genesis of Tull’s sound and, not surprisingly, is one of Anderson’s favourite Tull records.

Reflecting back, “Stand Up” seems an obvious career turn but at its release, the reality was Tull risked a great deal. The turn from the blue-orientated approach displeased important Tull radio and promoter connections.

“A New Day Yesterday” is almost a holdover from “This Was” with its blues-stylings while “Nothing is Easy,” common in concert sets, is a blues-jazz fusion. “Bouree,” a “cocktail jazz” (Ian’s words) rework of a J.S. Bach classical piece, would become a Tull classic and an almost must for any concert set. Many Tull fans presume Far Eastern influences on the band’s music begin with Anderson’s solo album “Divinities.” Yet, traces can be found in “Fat Man” (sometimes considered a jab at departed guitarist Mick Abrahams) and “Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square,” one of three Tull songs devoted to Ian’s boyhood friend Jeffrey Hammond who would later join the band.

While hardly a “concept” album, lyrically the album devotes a lot to Anderson’s relationship with his parents (a subject continued on “Benefit”) and coping with new found pop stardom. Jethro Tull’s sophomore album, ‘Stand Up,’ may as well have been their first, since it marked their transition from British blues group to progressive pioneers, by way of folk music and hard rock. New electric guitarist Martin Barre (who permanently replaced Mick Abrahams’ and his very short-term stand-in, Tony Iommi) applied some fangs on increasingly individualistic Ian Anderson compositions like “A New Day Yesterday” and “Back to the Family,” but in every other way he knew better than to get in his visionary boss’ way.


“The coming of age, in a way. The birth of more original music for us. It was then that what was referred to as progressive rock music was coming into being. If it’s in that vein, it’s rock music rather than folky, but it’s progressive in that it reflects more eclectic influences, bringing things together and mixing and matching and being more creative. For me, it’s a very important album, a pivotal album.”

Tull’s initial musical approach was torn between Mick Abrahams’ blues vision and Ian Anderson’s more unique approach. When Abrahams left, his replacement Martin Barre became the key player in Tull’s move towards a more progressive style.

THE ELEVATED EDITION

A 2016 2cd/1dvd ‘Elevated Edition’ of Jethro Tull’s brilliant 1969 sophomore release featuring stereo and 5.1 mixes by Steven Wilson.

Highlights include:
* Original album and bonus tracks (including a previously unreleased Bouree) mixed in 5.1 surround and stereo by Steven Wilson.
* 96/24 flat transfer of the original stereo master tapes, and the original mono and stereo mixes of Living In The Past and Driving Song.
* Video of the band performing two songs live in January 1969.
* Presented in the ‘book set’ format of the recent JT reissues.
* A 112-page booklet with an extensive history of the album, track-by-track annotations by Ian Anderson, and rare and unseen photographs.
* The original album’s iconic pop-up artwork designed by James Grashow.

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The first disc features Steven Wilson’s stereo mixes of the original album, four songs recorded at the BBC, single mixes for Living In The Past and Driving Song and more.

The second disc captures Jethro Tull performing live in Sweden, where the band opened for Jimi Hendrix in January 1969. Recorded only a few weeks after Martin Barre joined the band, the concert includes songs from the band’s debut in addition to two songs destined for Stand Up. Rounding out the disc are mono single mixes of Living In The Past and Driving Song, plus two radio spots promoting the album.

The DVD includes concert footage of the band performing To Be Sad Is A Mad Way To Be and Back To The Family.

‘A crucial album.’ – Popmatters

Benefit (1970)

“A darker album. You have to put that into the context of a band returning from the first of three forays into the USA and that altered my mindset. It’s not all gloom and doom, but it’s a slightly more oddball album. On For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me, we referenced Michael Collins, the astronaut who was stuck in the command module and we now know was given the instructions to leave the others behind. The loneliest man in space, and also he gets no glory because he’s not the guy who walked on the moon.”

“Benefit” became Tull’s first million-seller, barely missing the Top Ten charts in the U.S. The album features a “harder, slightly darker feel” (Ian’s words) than Tull’s earlier works and clear hints of cynicism cresting with the following album: “Aqualung.”

Jethro Tull’s most underrated album, ‘Benefit’ yielded no absolute Tull classics to speak of, but it undoubtedly helped hone the band’s signature sound ahead of the musical behemoth that inevitably overshadowed it, ‘Aqualung.’ But ‘Benefit’ also stands out as one of Jethro Tull’s most refreshingly straightforward and uncomplicated efforts; highlights like “Inside,” “Teacher” (from the U.S. edition) and “Alive and Well and Living In” (from the U.K. pressing) were, unusual for them, mostly recorded live in the studio.

Mostly recorded in December 1969 and January 1970, “Benefit” was the band’s first album to feature keyboards – played by the band’s old school chum John Evan. Evan completed the third Tull line-up when he joined Anderson, Barre, Bunker, and Cornick. John Evan joined on a temporary basis for an eight month tour and stayed for over 10 years! John’s classical training and stage presence would be central to Tull’s 1970’s personna.

More hard-rocking and transcended from blues influences than its predecessor Stand Up, Benefit also incorporated more advanced studio techniques, such as backward-recorded flute (on “With You There To Help Me”) and piano, and sped-up guitar (on “Play In Time”).

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COLLECTOR’S EDITION

A 2cd/1dvd ‘Collector’s Edition’ of Benefit (1970), one of Jethro Tull’s finest and most lyrically personal albums.

Includes:
CD1: Stereo CD of the album plus bonus tracks mixed by Steven Wilson (with Ian Anderson’s approval).
CD2: Mono and stereo CD of rare versions of tracks, plus singles from the era.
DVD: Audio only, including Surround sound mix of Benefit, 96/24 tracks of Stereo in UK and US running orders (which were different), plus rare tracks as 96/24.

The package includes a booklet containing an 8000 word essay written by Martin Webb, interviews with band members, and rare photographs.

Aqualung (1971)

“Aqualung,” to many, is Tull’s masterpiece. The title track and “Locomotive Breath,” with their catchy riffs, would be joined by “My God,” “Cross-Eyed Mary,” and “Hymn 43” as classic rock staples. There’s no arguing with its commercial success, having sold more than seven million copies and continuing to outsell anything in the back catalogue.

Yet, “Aqualung” is arguably Tull’s most misunderstood album. Critics dubbed it a concept album, particularly for Anderson’s critical, skeptical views of organized religion, mostly on side B (“My God”). Anderson has disputed, almost resented, the assessment seeing the record as “just a bunch of songs.” The labelling lead the band to really give the critics a concept album with the following studio release “Thick as a Brick.”

“Aqualung” has a dominant theme but is certainly more, much more, than a concept album on a solitary subject. Anderson explores the struggles of the less fortunate in our society (e.g., “Aqualung,” “Cross-Eyed Mary,” “Up to Me”), teenage angst and formal education difficulties ( e.g., “Wind Up,” “Mother Goose”), and returns to his parental themes with “Cheap Day Return, a tune encompassing Anderson’s feelings while traveling to visit his sick father.

“Aqualung” also cemented the exaggerated image, especially to those only casually acquainted with the band, that Tull was a “heavy rock” group. Years later, a Grammy for best heavy metal album (viz., “Crest of a Knave”) would officially sanction the misconceived stereotype. Yet, “Aqualung” is where Anderson really begins to develop his personal style for acoustical guitar songs with “Cheap Day Return,” “Mother Goose,” and “Slipstream.”

“Aqualung” did establish one of the most notable features of Tull’s music: songs varying with intensity, mixing medium to heavy electrical sounds with lighter acoustical passages (e.g., “Aqualung,” and “My God”). Indeed, every album up to “Under Wraps” (1984) would have at least one such styled number.

One of the few progressive rock albums that even laymen listeners can’t help but love – to the tune of seven million copies sold – Jethro Tull’s magnum opus, ‘Aqualung,’ gave fans two concept LPs for the price of one. The first, spread across the first side, traces several vivid sketches of down-in-the-dumps characters (the neighbourhood lecher, “Aqualung,” the schoolgirl prostitute “Cross-Eyed Mary,” etc.).

And, for its part, the second ponders the meaning of life, the universe and everything (“My God,” “Hymn 43,” “Locomotive Breath”) in Ian Anderson’s typically mesmerizing and elliptical prose. A little challenging, but in the best possible way. Every song is perfection.

“That’s the singer/songwriter side of things, where a lot of the music did come out of me strumming an acoustic guitar with a view to keeping it that way, as opposed to writing that way and turning it electric. That big title track riff came out of an acoustic jam – you’ve just got to have that imagination to hear that. You have to know that you can make it sing. It went on to sell and sell across the world. It’s the album that broke us in countries beyond the UK and US.”

40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

The 40th Anniversary edition of Aqualung available at a budget price in the 2CD/2DVD ‘book set’ format of the recent JT reissues.

CD 1 contains the album mixed and mastered by Steven Wilson (the original 40th anniversary edition was mixed but not mastered by Steven). CD 2 features additional 1970 and 1971 recordings (also mixed and mastered by SW).

The DVDs include SW 5.1 surround mixes, hi-res stereo mixes, the 1974 quad mix, and flat transfers of both Aqualung and the Life Is A Long Song EP (two of the EP’s tracks haven’t been available in this form previously).

Includes a comprehensive 80 page booklet.

Thick As A Brick (1972)

Born from a desire to really produce a concept album after the rock critics so dubbed the previous year’s “Aqualung,” the record features a rock first: one continuous song on both sides. The music, and the lyrics, are challenging to the listener and reflect complex influences of folk, jazz, and rock. With “Thick,” Anderson and company broaden rock beyond the limitations of the short song format.

Understanding “Thick” requires recognition of the popularity of Monthy Python in the early 1970’s. Anderson meant for the album to be a send up of rock pretentiousness, critics, and the band itself. The album cover claimed, outrageously enough, that the lyrics had been written by an eight year-old boy, Gerald Bostock, and set to music by the band. Even today, Anderson still gets the occasional person asking about Bostock or commenting about the prodigy’s advancing age.

While the “Aqualung’s” lyrics are fairly straightforward, “Thick’s” metaphorical tendencies ” are intentionally intricate, obscure, and bewildering as part of the running joke. If there is any true central theme, perhaps it is the sociological experiences of gifted youngsters in the modern world with a touch of paternal relations again.

The lyrical incohesiveness, far greater than “Aqualung,” leads Craig Thomas, who penned Tull’s 25th Anniversary Set booklet, to seriously question whether it is properly deemed a concept album. Rather, he views it more of an adaptation of the “kind of free-jazz…improvisations of the 1960.” Indeed, several segments were recorded in just one improvisional take.

“After Aqualung, I felt we had to take a big step forward. Many writers wrote about Aqualung as a concept album, and I kept saying, ‘Maybe two or three songs in the same area, but not a concept.’ In the wake of all of that, I thought, ‘Right, let’s show them what a concept album is,’ and it seemed like an amusing idea to go down that route in this Pythonesque way and to try to use surreal humour. It clicked in America, which was a surprise, and it was our first real foray in that sort of theatrical presentation.”

No discussion of “Thick”” is complete without noting the legendary 12-page newspaper, “The St. Cleve Chronicle” original cover packaging. Written by Ian, Jeffrey Hammond, and John Evan, the paper actually took longer to produce than the music. There are a lot of inside puns, cleverly hidden continuing jokes (such as the experimental non-rabbit), a surprisingly frank review of the album itself, and even a little naughty connect-the-dots children’s activity.

The 1972 tour featured the entire album (with a brief break featuring comedy skits between sides). The tour established the band’s reputation for often outlandish theatrical-type performances. By today’s standards, the concerts were hardly major productions. But for the time, Tull was rather unique.

“Thick as a Brick” is perhaps Jethro Tull’s definitive progressive rock album.

A Passion Play (1973)

Like its predecessor, “Thick as a Brick”, “A Passion Play” is a concept album with a single song (which was split into two parts on the original vinyl LP release). The theme of the concept is the spiritual journey of one man in the afterlife.

Tull fans are a rather cordial group but breech the topic of “A Passion Play” at your own peril. Many vehemently defend it as Tull’s finest work — others downright loath it. Tull fans are not the only confused lot. While many critics did (and still do) pan the album, it is not too difficult to find reputable, glowing evaluations. The album even hit #1 in the U.S. charts, Tull’s last top runger in the standard rock/pop listings.

“The ‘step too far’ album. We decamped to the Château d’Hérouville in France where Elton had recorded, and had a rotten time: technical issues, gastric bugs… we just wanted to go home. So we did, and had a frantic few weeks of writing a new album. Two pieces made it on to the War Child album and one or two morphed into something more sophisticated, but they never came to light on that album. Steve Harris [Iron Maiden] loves A Passion Play. I’m glad someone liked it!”

“Play’s” development began as a real concept album, after the previous genre satire, “Thick as a Brick.” Work began in Switzerland, then studios in France (mostly to escape high British tax rates). Enough tracks to fill three sides of a double album were developed when technical problems in the studio, and band members’ longing for home, caused all but four tracks to be scrapped (some of this material, like “Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day,” would appear on “War Child“). The dreadful experience lead Ian to dub the Chateau d’Herouville studio as the “Chateau D’Isaster.”

With only seventeen days left before the American tour, Ian wrote new material and vastly restructured some of the “Chateau d’Isaster” ideas and the band recorded the 45-minute album.

“A Passion Play” is much darker than “Thick as a Brick,” both in music and theme. Musically, “Play” is heavily toned with dominating minor key variations. Thematically, the concept album chronicles, as the title implies, a story of life and death, beginning with a recently deceased man viewing his own funeral, descending into purgatory and Hell, then reincarnated. The lyrics are, arguably, even more confusing than “Thick as a Brick” and Tull fans vary in their interpretation of the details.

Released hot on the heels of the incomparable ‘Thick as a Brick,’ 1973’s ‘A Passion Play’ became Jethro Tull’s second straight chart-topper – before anyone could realize it was no ‘Thick as a Brick.’ The album’s convoluted concept proved only slightly less impenetrable than its thorny musical arrangements, which were so labyrinthine that the band tied itself up in knots.

The strangest segment of “Play” is undoubtedly “The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles,” a spoken word piece with musical underpinnings. It is often noted the piece has lyrical connections to “Winnie the Pooh” or “Alice in Wonderland” yet the best, and appropriate musical, comparison would be to Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” Like this classic piece, the band backs a story teller with music representing the tale’s characters and events.

The long, nine-month supporting tour (even beginning before the album’s release) featured the entire album, supporting film (later to appear on the 25th Anniversary video), and perhaps Tull’s high water mark for elaborate stage productions.

A low point occurred, however, when Tull’s business manager announced the band would cease live performances, in response to negative critical reviews of the album and concerts. It was not true, and seriously hurt the band’s image. To this day, Ian gets questions about why the group disbanded in the 1970’s (see the all too frequently asked questions page for Ian’s response to this all too common inquiry).

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AN EXTENDED PERFORMANCE

Alongside Thick As A Brick, 1973’s A Passion Play is Jethro Tull’s most overtly Progressive and conceptual release, featuring a complex poetic narrative framed by the most adventurous music of the band’s career.

A #1 US hit on its release, the album offers dazzling virtuoso instrumental passages, evocative synthesiser sequences, and fuses Folk, Jazz and Rock influences in a strikingly unique, wholly Jethro Tull way.

A Passion Play (An Extended Performance) features new Steven Wilson mixes (stereo and 5.1) of the album, alongside Steven Wilson mixes of the infamous ‘Chateau Disaster’ recordings that preceded it. Packaged with an 80 page book detailing the album, the band’s 1973 tour and the Chateau recordings, (An Extended Performance) is a glorious way to celebrate a one of a kind release.

In the 80 page book:

* An extensive article by Martin Webb on the preparation and recording of the album and the ‘Chateau disaster’ sessions that preceded it.
* Steven Wilson’s thoughts on mixing the recordings.
* Memories of the cover shoot and Hare filming by dancer Jane Eve (Colthorpe)
* The Rev’d Godfrey Pilchard’s recollections.
* 1973 tour history.
* Recollections of touring and PA systems by sound man Chris Amson.

War Child (1974)

Following the ambitious long-form diversions of Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play, 1974’s Warchild saw a return to short, sharp songwriting.

After two single-song concept albums, “War Child” was a return to the traditional format. The album prominently features David Palmer’s string orchestration across an eclectic musical set. The music is lighter and more whimsical than the dark “A Passion Play,” though the lyrics still unleash lashing critiques of established society (e.g., “Queen and Country,” “Bungle in the Jungle” ), religion (e.g., “Two Fingers”), and critics (e.g., “Only Solitaire”).

“It’s kind of okay. The big one on that was Bungle In The Jungle, which is a complete rebuild of a song from the Château tapes. Very much rewritten, but it used the reference of people behaving like they’re animals in the jungle. It was written to be a radio hit, and in America it nailed it – we got AM radio play, which opened us up to a much wider audience and brought a lot more people into the concerts. It had its moment. Ritchie Blackmore has a soft spot for that album, for some reason.”

Much of the music was written during the latter half of the “Passion Play” tour. Yet, “War Child” is arguably pre-Passion Play. “Skating Away,” “Bungle in the Jungle,” and “Only Solitaire” came from the aborted “Chateau D’isaster” tapes preceding “A Passion Play” and “Two Fingers” was a rewrite of a song left off “Aqualung.”

Despite the seemingly disconnected themes, “War Child” was planned as a movie soundtrack. The screenplay, loosely based on “A Passion Play,” featured the afterlife experiences of a little girl killed during an auto accident. Anderson had gone so far as to enlist John Cleese, Sir Frederick Ashton, and Leonard Rossiter for the project before abandoning it, due mostly to unacceptable Hollywood production demands.

The front cover catalogs Anderson’s debut of his infamous “minstrel” outfit which, quite arguably, looks much more like a jester than a strolling musician. Some Tull commentators argue the vestige represents Anderson’s identification with the typical sarcastic, social commenting fools of Shakespeare’s plays and allude to telling references in songs such as “Only Solitaire” (vi., “Think I’ll sit down and invent some fool…some grand court jester…). All intellect aside, most fans and critics are more apt to remember the persona’s silver codpiece than it’s literary inspirations.

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THE THEATRE EDITION

The new Theatre Edition unearths a trio of unreleased recordings: “Tomorrow Was Today,” “Good Godmother,” and a different arrangement of “WarChild” recorded after the version on the final album.

– Original album and bonus tracks (three previously unreleased), remixed in 5.1 surround and stereo by Steven Wilson
– 10 orchestral pieces (nine previously unreleased) written for the film’s soundtrack, 4 of which are remixed in 5.1 surround and stereo by Steven Wilson
– Flat transfers of the original LP mix at 96/24, and the quadrophonic version (with 2 bonus tracks) in 4.0.
“The Third Hoorah” promo footage, and footage from a January 1974 photo session/press conference where the WarChild project was announced.
– An 80-page booklet featuring an extensive article on the preparation and recording of the album, a film script synopsis, track-by-track annotations by Ian Anderson, plus rare and unseen photographs.

Fans intrigued by the appearance of “WarChild Waltz” on the 2002 reissue of WarChild will finally get the chance to hear the rest of the mostly orchestral music the band recorded for the soundtrack album. About 30 minutes was recorded during sessions in 1973 and 1974. Soon after, the music was consigned to the archives for 40 years – until now.

“Aqualung” and “Thick As A Brick” tend to be cited as defining the 1970s’ Jethro Tull – but arguably “Minstrel in the Gallery” is the quintessential 1970’s Tull album. In February 1975 Jethro Tull had sold out five nights at the 20,000-seater Los Angeles Forum, prompting the Melody Maker to run the headline “Jethro – Now The World’s Biggest Band?” Indeed the venues became so huge that by 1976 Tull had become one of the first bands to use giant screens for stadium shows.

“That’s an odd one. It’s the last one that Jeffrey Hammond [bass] played on, so it has this negative undertow to it as we knew he was going. So with Jeffrey leaving, it made me think, ‘Maybe I need to do this without relying on others so much.’ I started working more on my own in the studio, writing and recording, playing to a click track, so a lot of it was a bit more ‘them and me’ – a bit more insular, musically speaking, which wasn’t great in the spirit of working together.”

The band had decamped to a studio in Monte Carlo (Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond having ridden there from England on a motorbike which he managed to spectacularly crash on the way) which is pictured on the back of the album sleeve with the five minstrels standing in its gallery. The size of the studio also made it ideal for impromptu games of badminton, while the local beach provided its own temptations. Ian has since opined that such distractions and other personal problems within the band meant that it was not functioning as well as a unit as it had on previous albums, and he found himself taking more of a prominent and introspective role than he would have wished.

The upside of that was that the album contained a liberal sprinkling of the type of personal acoustic ditties which had graced the “Aqualung” album, with the string-adorned “Requiem” being possibly the most romantic song Ian has ever written, and the closing “Grace” – more whimsical in its romanticism – clocking in at a whole thirty seven seconds. And after the forty-plus minute “Thick As A Brick” and “A Passion Play” epics, Ian once again dabbled with an extended suite of music with “Baker Street Muse”, a seventeen minute four-part observation of the seedier side of his then home town of London.

The acoustic guitar and strings are to the fore in most of the other songs, but the likes of “Cold Wind To Valhalla” and “Black Satin Dancer” then explode into full-blown rockers, with Martin Barre’s electric guitar taking the spotlight as the band thunders along behind him in an adventurous exploration of unpredictable key-changes and time-signatures. That juxtaposition of acoustic and electric has been a feature of Jethro Tull’s music throughout their career, but is perhaps never better exemplified than on “Minstrel In The Gallery” which, after earlier albums’ tags of ‘blues’ and ‘prog’, is unequivocally a ‘rock’ album, albeit with a maturity and sophistication both lyrically and harmonically which highlighted Tull’s originality.

Though “Minstrel” is heavily acoustic, songs from the disc rarely appear in concert set lists in recent years. Partly, this could very well be due to “Minstrel’s” rather dark, often very personal subject matter and tone for many of the acoustical tunes. Ian was just coming off a divorce and “One White Duck/0¹º = Nothing At All” addresses the end of his marriage. “One White Duck” is related to a common British concept (and even wall ornament) that a married couple have their “ducks in a row.” A sole duck, hence, represents separation.

For all intents and purposes, ‘Minstrel in the Gallery’ was Jethro Tull’s last stand where unapologetic intricate, high-concept prog-rock was concerned. The title track brought metal to the Middle Ages, as the monarch watched on with amusement. “Cold Wind of Valhalla” blew it back across the sea, raping and pillaging like Viking warships, and “Black Satin Dancer” was as dainty as it was bombastic. But it was on the engaging, 17-minute “Baker St. Muse” suite that Ian Anderson paid a fond adieu to epic songcraft. And did he make it count.

In February 1975 Jethro Tull sold out five nights at the 20,000-seater Los Angeles Forum, prompting the Melody Maker to run the headline “Jethro – Now The World’s Biggest Band?” Indeed the venues became so huge that by 1976 Tull had become one of the first bands to use giant screens for stadium shows – nicknamed “Tull-A-Vision”.

Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond’s final live show with Tull was in November 1975, after which he ceremoniously burnt his stage clothes and retired from the music biz to resume painting.

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LA GRANDE EDITION

The 40th Anniversary edition of Jethro Tull’s Minstrel In The Gallery.

The album has been expanded to include the b-side Summerday Sands, several studio outtakes, and alternate session material recorded for a BBC broadcast.

The second disc features a live recording of Jethro Tull performing at the Olympia in Paris on July 5th, 1975, a few months prior to the release of Minstrel In The Gallery. During the show, the band played songs from several of its albums, including War Child and Aqualung, as well as an early performance of Minstrel In The Gallery. It was mixed to 5.1 & stereo by by King Crimson guitarist Jakko Jakszyk.

Highlights from the set include:

* Original album plus seven bonus tracks (six previously unreleased), two mixed to 5.1 surround, and all to stereo by Steven Wilson
* Flat transfers of the original LP mix at 96/24 plus additional track Summerday Sands
* Flat transfer of the original quad mix of the LP plus additional track Summerday Sands
* An eight and a half minute film of the band performing Minstrel In The Gallery in Paris from 1975
* Presented in a case-bound DVD book that includes an 80-page booklet featuring an extensive history of the album, track-by-track annotations by Ian Anderson, recollections by roadie Kenny Wylie, Maison Rouge maintenance engineer Pete Smith, and string section member Liz Edwards plus lyrics, tour itinerary and rare and unseen photographs.

Too Old To Rock’n’Roll: Too Young To Die! (1976)

Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson has always said this album was not meant to be autobiographical of him as an ageing songwriter, since he was young at the time. He says the point of the album was to illustrate how his style of music may go out of popularity with every other fashion and fad, but he is determined that if he sticks to it, everything comes back around and the style will rise again.

“The title track came to me on a plane journey when I was in heavy turbulence and very frightened. It was a piece about the kind of 50s Brit rock’n’rollers. Those bikers in that era, it was their world and they were already pushing 40 or 50 by then. You could mock that but there’s something rather noble and determined and dignified about it, and I just wanted to explore that dichotomy. It’s wistful and nostalgic and also a bit of a put‑down, and it’s finding that balance in a song sometimes.”

It is widely considered a concept album. The remastered 2002 CD version contains two bonus tracks that were cut from the original LP, “Small Cigar” and “Strip Cartoon”. This is the first Tull album to feature John Glascock on bass and backing vocals.

The original idea for the album was to be a rock musical, similar to the Kinks’ mid-1970s outputs e.g., Preservation Act 1 (1973), Preservation Act 2 (1974) and Schoolboys in Disgrace (1975). It would follow an ageing and retired rock star named Ray Lomas as he wins money on a decadent quiz show, but finds that society has changed so much that, with no one left like him any more, he has no way of enjoying his money the way he did in the 1950s. He then decides to commit suicide via motorcycle crash but fails and lands himself in a hospital in a coma for an undetermined amount of time.

If you didn’t get the hint from its title, ‘Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die!’ is Jethro Tull’s reaction-to-punk LP. It depicts Ian Anderson in fighting form on the illustrated cover art, but sticking to his often subtle dynamics and semi-conceptual lyrics — meant to accompany a never-produced stage musical — in spite of it all. The results were meandering, though the title track is hard to resist, while its story about a bitterly nostalgic ‘50s biker felt a little too close to the Who’s ‘Quadrophenia.’

When he awakes he discovers society has changed again, and his style of dress and music are now popular again. In addition, the advanced medicine he is treated with after disfiguring his face and damaging his body in the crash makes him twenty years younger. He has become an overnight sensation with the young kids who now try to dress and act like him.

However, much of this story is only explained in a cartoon strip included with the album. The actual score of the album does not follow the strip exactly, leaving out details or, in some cases, changing the plot.

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THE TV SPECIAL EDITION

Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll, Too Young To Die! – The TV Special Edition Deluxe features a previously unreleased re-recorded version of the album for a 1976 UK TV special.

It additionally contains original LP tracks and rare associated recordings, plus 2015 5.1 and stereo mixes by Steven Wilson.

Also included:

* flat transfers of the original album as well as a host of rare associated recordings including previously unreleased material.
* the previously commercially unavailable original TV footage with DTS, Dolby Digital Surround Sound and Dolby Digital Stereo sound.
* the TV audio in 96/24 stereo PCM, alongside a host of other associated recordings in surround and 96/24.
* an extensive 80 page booklet including an essay by Martin Webb on the preparation and recording of the album in Brussels and Monte Carlo, the aborted stage musical, the London Weekend TV special and the 1976 tours. The booklet also contains a track by track annotation by Ian Anderson, lyrics, a feature on Ian Anderson and his motorbikes, Dave Gibbons on drawing the LP’s cartoon inner spread and ‘From Carmen to Tullman’ – The Musical Life of John Glascock, unseen photos and lots more.

Songs From The Wood (1977)

The album signalled a new direction for the band, who turned to celebrating British pagan folklore and the countryside life in a wide-ranging folk rock style which combined traditional instruments and melodies with hard rock drums and electric guitars.

The album is considered to be the first of a trio of folk rock albums: “Songs from the Wood”, “Heavy Horses” (1978) and “Stormwatch” (1979). On the album cover appears an extended title line: “Jethro Tull—with kitchen prose, gutter rhymes and divers—”Songs from the Wood” The title track of the album contain two of these phrases in its lyrics.

After a rare sojourn in the big city for 1976’s ‘Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die!,’ Jethro Tull returned to bucolic themes and virgin forests with 1977’s ‘Songs From the Wood.’ Long time fans were delighted to grab their camping gear and walking stick as they eagerly lapped up evocative, folk-infused pastoral flute-fests like “Jack-in-the-Green,” “Cup of Wonder” and “Hunting Girl,” to say nothing of the beautifully orchestrated title track. Quite simply, this is one of Ian Anderson and Tull’s finest hours.

The 2003 remastered edition includes a pair of bonus tracks, featuring a live rendition of “Velvet Green.”

“More than any album we’ve done, this is one where the band had more to do with the elements of the songs. Martin Barre [guitar] and David Palmer [keyboard] particularly had worked some material up that would fit right into a song, and where the recording process had all the band involved. There was an exception or two – Jack-In-The-Green was me one Sunday after lunch in there alone – but the rest of it was all of us. I feel perhaps since the days of This Was or Stand Up, it had much more of a band vibe. It was good.”

Fan favourite Songs From The Wood was seen as the first in the band’s Folk Rock trilogy (Heavy Horses and Stormwatch followed).

The album was recorded right after the tour of the previous album, Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! (1976), and demonstrated the desire of Anderson to change the musical style of the band, since he was meeting and even producing music from the folk rock scene – in 1974 Anderson produced ‘Now We Are Six’ for Steeleye Span.

Heavy Horses (1978)

Heavy Horses is the eleventh studio album by Jethro Tull, released on 10th April 1978.

“You have to remember, this was at the time punk’s final embers were burning out and you had bands like The Police and The Stranglers, who were, collectively speaking, a bunch of old hippies. The brave new world of punk rock had perhaps become commercialised at that point. But bands like those two used punk as a means to get their foot in the door, just as I did with the blues in 1968.

“So from our perspective then, it wasn’t that we were vindicated that this new, intrusive music form had somehow ousted us from the public eye and approval, it was just a parallel event. I don’t really recall being moved as a music maker by any of those changes in music that were going on. I knew what it was about and I rather liked some of it, but it was entirely separate to what I was writing. I didn’t want to try to catch up or be influenced by it. We were still making Jethro Tull albums at that point.”

It is considered the second album in a trilogy of folk-rock albums by Jethro Tull, although folk music’s influence is evident on a great number of Jethro Tull releases. The album abandons much of the folk lyrical content typical of the previous studio album, Songs from the Wood (1977), in exchange for a more realist perspective on the changing world. Likewise, the band sound is harder and tighter.

The successful retreat into sylvan glades on ‘Songs From the Wood’ encouraged Jethro Tull not to break down camp for the following year’s nearly-as-satisfying ‘Heavy Horses.’ Swapping forest fairies and assorted sprites for real world rural imagery (see “Acres Wild”), and graceful acoustics for muscular electric guitars (portions of “No Lullaby” and other songs even recall the metallic roar of ‘Aqualung’), this was like a darker second chapter in Tull’s “folk rock trilogy,” later completed by 1979’s less impressive ‘Stormwatch.’ Ian Anderson, the part-time farmer, was in his element.

This album was the last studio album to feature John Glascock playing bass on all tracks.

The album reached No. 19 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and peaked at No. 20 on the UK Albums Chart. The third album in the folk-rock trilogy is Stormwatch (1979).

Stormwatch (Steven Wilson Remix)

Stormwatch (1979)

Stormwatch is the twelfth studio album by Jethro Tull. It is considered the last in the trilogy of folk-rock albums by Jethro Tull (although folk music influenced virtually every Tull album). Among other subject-matter, the album touches heavily on the problems relating to the environment, oil and money.

“There was a lot of stress within the band, mainly to do with John Glascock’s illness [the bassist had heart problems]. We sent him home and told him he had to get out of this spiral he was in because it wasn’t just his illness, it was lifestyle. He’d be on stage and his face would be white like wax, with a film of sweat. I made him leave to get himself well and sadly he got worse and then we got the terrible news that he’d passed away. Did we do everything we could to help? That’s a question we’ll ask ourselves forever.”

In 2004, a remastered version of Stormwatch was released with four bonus tracks.

This is the last Tull album to feature the classic line-up of 1970s. Bassist John Glascock, suffering at this point from the effects of a cardiac infection that eventually led to his death, is only featured on three tracks (“Flying Dutchman”, “Orion”, and “Elegy”). Ian Anderson played bass elsewhere on the album while Dave Pegg played on the subsequent tour.

The instrumental piece “Elegy” was written by David Palmer.

Dun Ringill is the historic site of an Iron Age fort on the Isle of Skye, which served as the original seat of the Clan MacKinnon. Anderson once owned and lived in nearby Kilmarie House, until he sold the estate in 1994. A sporran is a type of pouch traditionally worn with a kilt.

Other tracks allude to the constellation of Orion and the legend of the Flying Dutchman.

It is sometimes rumoured that “Elegy” was a homage to John Glascock — who was very ill at the time due to a congenital heart defect, and would die shortly after the album’s release. Actually, it is an elegy to David Palmer’s father, and is one of the few tracks on which Glascock plays.

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Tull’s final studio record of the ‘70s was also their last to spotlight folk-rock for many years to come, as well as the end of the line for long-serving regulars like keyboardist John Evan, drummer Barriemore Barlow and bassist John Glascock (who died of heart disease just weeks after the album’s release). Ian Anderson’s muse seemed to have taken herself back to Never-Neverland, if serviceable but increasingly stale songs like “Orion,” “Warm Sporran” and the forced, complex “Dark Ages” were any indication.

A (Steven Wilson Remix)

A (1980)

A was recorded as an intended Ian Anderson solo album before Tull’s record label, Chrysalis Records, asked that it become credited to the group to help the label get through overall slow record sales. This is the reason for the album’s title, as the tapes were marked ‘A’ for ‘Anderson’. It is noted for its more synthesiser-based sound, a fact which created controversy among many of the band’s fans. On the other hand, it features a folk-influenced piece, “The Pine Marten’s Jig”.

A features a dramatically different line-up of Tull from the band’s previous album, Stormwatch (1979). Former keyboardist John Evan and organist David Palmer were de facto fired from the group, while drummer Barriemore Barlow left the band due to depression over the death of John Glascock as well as plans to start his own band.

“It was as simple as A for Anderson because it was supposed to be a solo album. I wanted to take some time out and I asked Eddie Jobson to be involved, so we started in the studio. I heard this guitar line in this bit I’d written and I called Martin Barre and he ended up staying. Then the record company said, ‘It sounds like a new Tull album,’ and I regret giving in to that. It sits there on the edge of our repertoire: it’s quite the mainstream thing.”

The only members of Tull to appear on both Stormwatch (1979) and A (1980) are Ian Anderson and Martin Barre. This is also bassist Dave Pegg’s first appearance on a Tull studio recording, but he had become a member of the band during the Stormwatch tour in 1979, replacing the deceased Glascock.

Conflicting reasons have been given for the line-up change. Anderson has stated that he wanted to take the band in a different direction from the folk rock and progressive rock of the 1970s. Barriemore Barlow was unhappy with the direction the band was taking and later stated that he would have left anyway.

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However, biographer David Rees reports in his book Minstrels in the Gallery: A History of Jethro Tull (2001) that Anderson had never intended to replace Jethro Tull’s previous line-up with the musicians who recorded A, but was forced by Chrysalis Records, which had decided to release his ‘solo’ album under the name Jethro Tull. This claim was further evidenced by Anderson’s note in the 2003 re-release of the album.

The Broadsword And The Beast (1982)

The Broadsword and the Beast is the 14th studio album by Jethro Tull, released on 10 April 1982 and according to Ian Anderson in the liner notes of the remastered CD, contains some of Jethro Tull’s best music. The album mixes electronic sound, provided by Peter-John Vettese (a characteristic that would be explored further on the next album Under Wraps) with acoustic instruments. The album is a cross between the synthesiser sound of the 1980s and the folk-influenced style that Tull had in the previous decade.

“That followed a bit of hiatus and we were getting towards the end of the record, and I thought, as I have before, ‘I’ve spent so much time with this material, I’d really like someone else to come in and mix.’ We found Paul Samwell-Smith, who we knew from The Yardbirds, and he came in towards the end and took a lot of pressure off me. We worked well together – we had this good accord and bounced off each other very well. I’d been feeling very pressured on the previous albums, nursemaiding everything to the end.”

The cover art is by renowned artist Iain McCaig, long time fan of Jethro Tull. The art was made after a talk with Ian Anderson, and tried to capture the concept of the music. McCaig has stated that he intentionally drew hidden “easter eggs” in the album art.

The runic symbols around the edge of the cover are from the Cirth rune system and are the opening lyrics to Broadsword:

I see a dark sail on the horizon, set under a black cloud that hides the sun. Bring me my broadsword and clear understanding. Bring me my cross of gold as a talisman.

The album was going to be called Beastie, responding to the first track on side one. But during production the band deliberated over the preference between Beastie and Broadsword, the first track on side two. In the end they decided (as on Aqualung) to give each side its own title and thus its own identity, and this time to combine both in the album title. As the artwork also puts much more emphasis on Broadsword, many owners and fans also refer to it as the Broadsword album.

Under Wraps (1984)

Under Wraps is the 15th studio album by the band Jethro Tull, released in 1984. The songs’ subject matter is heavily influenced by Ian Anderson’s love of espionage fiction.

‘Under Wraps’ was the first Jethro Tull album since This Was where the majority of songs were co-written with band members, primarily Peter-John Vettese.

This is also the only Jethro Tull album that features no live drummer at all. After the recordings, Doane Perry joined the band on tour and became their permanent drummer.

The album was recorded in the spring of 1984 in Ian Anderson’s home studio. The original 1984 release had 11 tracks, with “Astronomy”, “Tundra”, “Automotive Engineering”, and “General Crossing” appearing on cassette only. Of these extra tracks, “General Crossing” became the first Jethro Tull track never to be released on vinyl, as “Astronomy”, “Tundra”, and “Automotive Engineering” all appeared on the 12-inch single release of “Lap of Luxury”.

For the 1984 tour to promote Under Wraps, Jethro Tull offered artistic stage production as usual. In a manner quite similar to the Thick as a Brick tour, the roadies appeared onstage sweeping the floor, counting the audience and studying the place. All band members and instruments were covered in “wraps”, with Anderson then releasing them and the music starting.

“That was following my solo album called Walk Into Light [1983] where I’d been exploring what was then the new technology of the emerging world that was moving from analogue to digital – drum machines, very primitive sequencers and so forth. I thought we could use that on a Tull album. It’s got some great songs and it’s arguably the one album where I really pushed myself as a vocalist. It’s a great album apart from the drum machine – it annoys me to this day, and the public didn’t like it either. I’m glad I did it though.”

‘Under Wraps’ was controversial due to its electronic/synth sound, particularly the use of electronic drums. Dave Pegg has been quoted as saying that the tracks cut from Broadsword and the Beast would have made a better album, while Martin Barre called it one of his personal favourite Tull albums. The album reached Nº 76 in the Billboard 200 and Nº 18 in the UK charts. The single “Lap Of Luxury” reached Nº 30.

Crest Of A Knave (1987)

Crest of a Knave is the sixteenth studio album by British rock band Jethro Tull, released in 1987. The album was recorded after a hiatus of three years occasioned by a throat infection of vocalist Ian Anderson. After the unsuccessful Under Wraps, the band returned to a more heavily blended electric with acoustic style of sound, one of the top characteristics of Jethro Tull.

“I was going out and doing Under Wraps [1984] live, and I ripped up my throat – I couldn’t sing and I thought maybe time was up and I’d blown my voice completely. I spent a year not doing anything but seeing throat specialists, so it wasn’t until the summer of ’86 that we went out and did some shows, including one in Budapest where I wrote the song of the same name. In America it was the early days of MTV and Steel Monkey got quite a lot of prominence. That album did well in the US and won the Grammy.”

Even though Doane Perry had been a member of Jethro Tull since 1984, several tracks still featured drum machine instead of a live drummer. Keyboardist Peter-John Vettese was also absent and it was Ian Anderson who contributed the synth programming. The album sleeve only lists Ian Anderson, Martin Barre and Dave Pegg as official band members. Barre remembers of this production as being “the album where a lot of things were of my invention. There are still chunks of the music where lan very much knew what he wanted, but I think my input was far greater on that album than on any other”.

The cover was designed by heraldic artist Andrew Stewart Jamieson. The single “Steel Monkey” has the cover designed by art director John Pasche.

This album was released simultaneously on LP and on CD, but the vinyl edition did not feature the songs “Dogs in the Midwinter” and “The Waking Edge”. Both tracks appeared on vinyl as B-sides to the singles.

The album was Jethro Tull’s most successful since the 1970s, and the band enjoyed a resurgence on radio broadcasts, appearances in MTV specials, and the airing of music videos. It was also a critical favourite, winning the 1989 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental. The album was supported by “The Not Quite the World, More the Here and There Tour”.

Rock Island (2006 Remaster)

Rock Island (1989)

Rock Island” is the 17th studio album by Jethro Tull, released in 1989. The album continued the hard rock direction the band took on the previous effort, Crest of a Knave (1987).

“The antidote to the more cheerful “Crest Of A Knave“, it’s mostly dark subject matter of alienation and desolation, except for the absurd Kissing Willie – an all-too-regrettable, unsubtle piece of saucy innuendo. Benny Hill would have been proud of that one. But the song Strange Avenues is still a favourite of mine. And Another Christmas Song too, which talks of origins and cultural identity. ‘Everyone is from somewhere, even if you’ve never been there.’”

Rock Island continued the hard rock direction the band took on the previous effort, Crest of a Knave (1987). The line-up now included Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, Dave Pegg and drummer Doane Perry in his first full recording with the band, although he was already a member of Jethro Tull since 1984. Without a permanent keyboard player, the role was shared by Fairport Convention’s Martin Allcock and former Tull member Peter Vettese.

The staging on the 1989 tour supporting Rock Island featured projected silhouettes of lithe dancers during the song “Kissing Willie”, ending with an image that bordered on pornographic. The song “Big Riff and Mando” reflects life on the road for the relentlessly touring musicians, giving a wry account of the theft of Barre’s prized mandolin by a stage-struck fan. ‘Rock Island’ was the immediate follow-up to ‘Crest of Knave,’ and it found Ian Anderson in a current-affairs mood, dealing in matters like the disaster at Chernobyl (“Heavy Water”), the never-ending whaling debate (“The Whaler’s Dues”) and Martin Barre’s stolen (and eventually recovered) mandolin (“Big Riff and Mando”). All in all, it’s a relatively engaging set, but detached, ultra-clean production and an unfamiliar timbre to Anderson’s voice make this another is-it-really-Jethro-Tull?” LP.

Catfish Rising

Catfish Rising (1991)

Jethro Tull’s first album of the 1990s continued in the more Hard Rock vein of its predecessor, “Rock Island”.
Quirky and blues-inflected miniatures showcasing the band at its most playful.

After succumbing to ill-suited trends during the second half of the ’80s, 1991’s ‘Catfish Rising’ was a step back in the right direction for Jethro Tull. There was still work to be done for main man Ian Anderson (who at least sounded like himself again) and faithful guitarist Martin “Lancelot” Barre, as they set about steering Tull back to friendly ports, musically speaking. But they at least delivered some well-crafted rockers led by “This Is Not Love.”

“A rather good collection of songs, but at a time when Tull weren’t exactly in fashion! Some people felt it went back to our bluesy base – maybe too much for one reviewer who referred to it as ‘cod blues’. This Is Not Love, Still Loving You Tonight and Rocks On The Road stand out for me. A lot of this was recorded alone in my studio with overdubs from Martin [Barre] and [bassist] Dave Pegg. The worst thing about the record was the album cover. Too much black! Too much Spinal! No space to sign autographs with a black Sharpie.”

Catfish Rising is the 18th studio album by Jethro Tull, released in 1991. It is the first Tull album to feature keyboardist Andrew Giddings.

Roots To Branches (1995)

Roots to Branches is the 19th studio album by Jethro Tull released in September 1995. It carries characteristics of Tull’s classic 1970s art-rock and folk-rock roots alongside jazz and Arabic and Far Eastern influences.

All songs on ‘Roots to Branches’ were written by Ian Anderson and recorded at his home studio. This is the last Tull album to feature Dave Pegg on the bass, and the first to feature keyboardist Andrew Giddings as an official band member, although he had contributed to “Catfish Rising” (1991) on a sessional basis. It was also the final Tull album to be released through long-time label Chrysalis Records.

In January 2007, a remastered edition of the album was released.

About Roots to Branches, Ian Anderson said: “I see “Roots To Branches” as the 90’s version of “Stand Up”, because it has a lot of the things that I feel represented the key elements of Jethro Tull: there’s lots of flute, lots of riffy guitars and quite a broad palette of influences, from the blues and classical to the Eastern motifs that were apparent on Stand Up “. On the other hand, Anderson also added that “the only thing about it that lets me down is that I made it sound a little too Seventies. I deliberately made the album sound like it was in the context of a live performance, rather than have it sound too ‘studio.’ But looking back on it, I think it should have been a bit more varied”.

You would never mistake the clean, post-digital production of ‘Roots to Branches’ for Jethro Tull’s vintage ‘70s recordings, but the album did notably recapture the band’s folk spirit of yesteryear … with a twist. Here, instead of his trademarked Anglo-European heritage, so entrenched in Tull’s early discography, Ian Anderson’s flute unleashed a torrent of Far Eastern melodies and Arabian-flavored flourishes. These sounded simultaneously exotic and familiar, making many tunes sound like Bizarro World versions of folk-rock-centric LPs past.

“The last album with Dave Pegg who played, I think, only on three tracks due to the resurgent popularity of Fairport Convention – always his first love – and the increasingly difficult task of being the bass player of two bands at the same time. All the songs on this record still work for me. We enlisted American jazz rocker Steve Bailey to play bass. He turned up on a freezing January morning to start work on the record in my new studio. These days he’s Chair of Bass at Berklee College.”

I see Roots To Branches as the 90s version of Stand Up, because it has a lot of the things that I feel represented the key elements of Jethro Tull: there’s lots of flute, lots of riffy guitars and quite a broad palette of influences, from the blues and classical to the Eastern motifs that were apparent on Stand Up”. – Ian Anderson

Nightcap - The Unreleased Masters 1973-1991

Nightcap (1993)

A fascinating double cd insight into the Jethro Tull that almost got away.

Nightcap’s first disc contains the infamous ‘Chateau d’Isaster Tapes’ recorded in August 1972. Much of the material would eventually end up in a radically re-arranged form as part of 1973’s ambitious A Passion Play.

The second disc concentrates on album outtakes dating from 1974 to 1991.

Nothing Is Easy (Live at the Isle of Wight 1970)

Nothing Is Easy “Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970

Released in 2004 and recorded over three decades earlier in 1970, “Nothing is Easy” documents Jethro Tull’s performance at the Isle of Wight Festival, where they were second on the bill between The Moody Blues and Jimi Hendrix.

“At their best, as on “With You There to Help Me” (which finds room for rippling lead guitar passages, folk melodies, and elegant piano playing by John Evan), the results are as good as anything in their core Chrysalis Records output.” – AllMusic

Bursting Out

Bursting Out (1978)

“Bursting Out”, Jethro Tull’s first live album, was recorded at various locations
during the European Heavy Horses tour in May and June 1978.

Though released as a double-disc CD in the United Kingdom and in the rest of Europe, the original CD release in the United States was only one disc, with three tracks (“Quatrain”, “Sweet Dream” and “Conundrum”) omitted to fit the 80 minutes CD length, while the double-disc 1990 CD version in the United Kingdom (and Europe) incorporated the first track for both discs (the Introductions) in the song that follows.

In 2004, the complete album was released worldwide as a two-disc set with the Introductions as separate tracks.

Live at Madison Square Garden 1978

Live At Madison Square Garden (1978)

Monday, October 14th, 1978 marked a very special event in music history. Performing live from Madison Square Garden, Jethro Tull became the first rock group to appear live from America on British TV. The performance was part of the US tour supporting their first full length concert album, “Bursting Out: Jethro Tull – Live“.

A Little Light Music

A Little Light Music (1992)

All songs on “A Little Light Music” were recorded during a semi-acoustic European tour in May 1992.

Greek singer George Dalaras participates and sings a duet with Ian Anderson in the song “John Barleycorn”.

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Living with the Past (2002)

“Living with the Past” is a live document of Jethro Tull’s performance at the Hammersmith Apollo on 20th November 2001, with a bonus disc comprising earlier recordings.

“Living with the Past” features songs from different eras of Tull’s history as well as two pieces from Ian Anderson’s solo albums: “The Habanero Reel” from The Secret Language of Birds and the instrumental “In the Grip of Stronger Stuff” from Divinities: Twelve Dances with God.

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Aqualung Live (2005)

Aqualung Live” documents a live performance of Aqualung
before an audience of 40 invited guests at XM Studios in Washington, D.C..

The album was given away to ticket holders on almost all US concerts in October and November 2005. Royalties from the European release go to various charities for the homeless.

Live at Montreux 2003

Live in Montreux (2007)

“Live in Montreux” documents the band’s performance at the 2003 Montreux Jazz Festival. In 2003, Jethro Tull made their first (and so far only) visit to the Montreux Festival. Split into a semi-acoustic first half and a full on electric second half, the concert was a triumph combining newer songs such as “Dot Com”, “Pavane” and “Budapest” with classic favourites.

JETHRO TULL, COMPLIATION ALBUMS,

Original Masters (1986)

Original Masters is a greatest hits album by Jethro Tull released under Chrysalis Records in 1985. It was the band’s third such effort, the first two being M.U. – The Best of Jethro Tull (1969-75, released 1976) and Repeat – The Best of Jethro Tull – Vol II (1969-75, released 1977).

Although the compilation was released in 1985, it does not include material released after 1977. The first two compilations had already covered material released exclusively up to 1977 and Original Masters rehashes much of their material.

The CD’s back insert, as well as the back cover of the LP’s sleeve, mislabels the song “Witch’s Promise” as “Witches Promise”.

Living in the Past

Living in the Past (1972)

Living in the Past is a double album quasi-compilation collection by Jethro Tull, which contains album tracks, out-takes, the “Life Is a Long Song” EP, and all of the non-LP singles except for “Sunshine Day”/”Aeroplane” (1968), “One for John Gee” (b-side of “A Song for Jeffrey”, 1968), “17” (b-side of “Sweet Dream”, 1969) and the original version of “Teacher” that appeared in the UK as the b-side of “Witch’s Promise” in 1969 (the re-recorded 1970 one that was released on the American version of “Benefit” was included instead).

The album peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 charts and went gold not long after its release. The title track from the album became Tull’s first top-40 hit in the United States, reaching No. 11, a full three years after it performed well in Britain. In UK, the album reached No. 13. In Norwegian charts, the album hit No. 5.

‘Living In The Past’ was named after the single released in May 1969 and was released in an elaborate gate-fold packaging that contained a large colour photo booklet with over 50 photos of the band.

Though it wasn’t a studio album in the traditional definition, this four-sided collection of Jethro Tull’s many early singles and EP tracks – most of them released only in Europe – was a virtual godsend to their fans located elsewhere around the globe. Plus, all technicalities aside, Ian Anderson’s precocious and prolific craftsmanship on songs like “Witches Promise,” “Sweet Dream” and “Life’s a Long Song” helped elevate this odds-and-ends collection to must-own status for any Tull fan.

Two songs, “By Kind Permission Of” and “Dharma for One”, were recorded live at Carnegie Hall. “Love Story”, “Christmas Song”, “Living in the Past”, “Driving Song”, “Sweet Dream” and “Witch’s Promise”, some of which had only appeared on mono versions before, were given new stereo remixes for inclusion on the album. Additionally, “A Song for Jeffrey” and “Teacher” were also remixed. Many of the tracks only appeared as British releases before being compiled on Living in the Past for the first time in the American market.

In the United States, Living in the Past was the first Jethro Tull album to appear on the Chrysalis Records label; while each of the band’s previous albums were marked as “a Chrysalis Production”, the albums were released by Warner Bros. Records’ Reprise Records subsidiary. Early U.S. editions of Living in the Past bore both a Chrysalis catalogue number (2CH 1035) and a Reprise catalogue number (2TS 2106), suggesting that the album was scheduled to appear on Reprise Records but that Chrysalis gained control of the band’s USA releases in late 1972.

All of the tracks that were not on the original This Was, Stand Up and Benefit albums have appeared as bonus tracks on their 2001 Digital Remasters.

AllMusic reviewed the collection positively, stating that: “Not only was Ian Anderson writing solid songs every time out, but the group’s rhythm section was about the best in progressive rock’s pop division. Along with any of the group’s first five albums, this collection is seminal and essential to any Tull collection, and the only compilation by the group that is a must-own disc.”

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Like their peers in the Los Angeles paisley underground movement of the 1980s, The Long Ryders were a band who swore allegiance to the sounds of the ’60s, but unlike The Dream Syndicate or The Rain Parade, or Green On Red, psychedelic rock played a relatively small role in their musical formula. Instead, The Long Ryders were powerfully influenced by the roots-centric approach of early folk-rock and country-rock acts, in particular The Byrds The Flying Burrito Brothers and Buffalo Springfield. With the exception of  The Bangles were the paisley underground band who came closest to achieving mainstream success, hitting the charts in the U.K. and earning a sizable cult following in the United States while making their mark on college radio. The Long Ryders would later prove to be a major influence on the alt-country movement that rose up only a few years after the band split.

They were the Group Most Likely To, a barnstorming band of Americans who flew over from Los Angeles and simply staggered those who were used to the cultured ineptitude of British indie bands by being able to play 75 minutes of hard-hitting rock’n’roll, without falling apart or letting the energy diminish.

The Long Ryders burned only briefly, but for a while their flame was fierce. They were part of the Paisley Underground movement of LA bands who shared a common interest in the various forms of psychedelia. Frontman Sid Griffin told me of their sound: “I had this idea, which I said in rehearsals: ‘Let’s take the Byrds’ guitar sound and wed it with punk energy.’ Then Steve McCarthy [joined on guitar and] brought in a huge dollop of country, which I didn’t see coming.” Or, as he put it in 1985: “weirdness and energy played on country and western instruments”.

The Long Ryders formed in 1981 out of the ashes of Griffin’s previous band, the Unclaimed. The early Ryders, like the Unclaimed, were dedicated to life in the garage and although Griffin and his peers hadn’t been particularly good at being punks, they seized on its iconoclasm and commitment to energy. The iconoclasm, though, was directed at different targets. While the Ryders loved the Velvets and the Stooges and the other touchstones of punk, they also revered the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield (the cover of their first full-length, Native Sons, was a recreation of the cover of Buffalo Springfield’s abandoned album “Stampede”. And they wrote off other musicians who’d inspired punks: “David Bowie – I despise that son of a bitch,” Griffin said in 1983. “Bowie and his ilk were bad for rock and roll – and I’d love to see that in print, because it’s true. I think many of the new bands share that revulsion.”

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The garage-band Ryders was present only on their debut mini-album, “10-5-60”, a handful of tracks that, while deeply indebted to the 60s, were played with a fierce, wild energy, especially on the title track. Live, they would mix their own material up with covers including Dylan’s “Masters Of War” Merle Haggard numbers; songs by the Lovin’ Spoonful and Neil Young; Public Image by PiL; Anarchy in the UK; the 13th Floor Elevators’ You’re Gonna Miss Me.

If that doesn’t sound like such an enticing proposition now, then consider that in the early 80s, it represented something rather different. In the UK, postpunk had faded into the black of goth, the early scratchings of what would become indiepop, the screeching noise of the industrial groups, the studied cool of Factory. The Smiths aside, there wasn’t a whole lot that satisfied the needs of those who wanted something that stood as an alternative to the mainstream, but was still recognisably rock‘n’roll.

That need was met not just by the Long Ryders, but by a score of other US groups: REM, the Replacements, the Meat Puppets, the Dream Syndicate, the Rain Parade, Jason and the Scorchers, Thin White Rope and True West. Some of them tilted the balance more heavily in favour of punk, but all turned back to American music of the previous 20 years as their bedrocks. And all received a gracious welcome from the British music press. The Zippo label, based in west London, became the first stop for many of these bands, putting out their early albums before they decamped to the majors.

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The album that secured the Long Ryders their major label deal was 1984’s “Native Sons”, where they wholly embraced their heroes without ever seeming overwhelmed by them (it was even produced by Henry Lewy, who worked on the first two Flying Burrito Brothers albums) and featured guest vocals from former Byrd Gene Clark. “Native Sons” received strong reviews from critics, and fared especially well in the United Kingdom, where the group’s take on American musical traditions, mixed with a progressive lyrical viewpoint, clicked with critics. 

There were country covers “Sweet Mental Revenge”, Byrds pastiches that were perfect for 1965 “Ivory Tower”, rave-ups “I Had A Dream” cheerful country rockers “Ruin Dusty Run”. But the leap never came. The band signed to Island. Griffin as he admitted to me – was convinced he was about to become the spokesman for a generation. But while their first album, “State of Our Union”, brought the band’s best-loved song, “Looking For Lewis and Clark“, but the tide had turned.

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Their first album for Island,State of Our Union”, was a success at college and alternative radio in the U.S., while the single “Looking for Lewis and Clark” became a chart hit in England.

But by 1985, when State of Our Union came out, the Jesus and Mary Chain’s influence had permeated UK indie. While the groups who were springing up shared many of the same loves as the Long Ryders – Primal Scream were taking the exact pairing of the Byrds and the Pistols, but their shambling amateurism seemed much more in tune with punk – their attitude seemed very much different. And the press started to turn, too.

A fabulous story-song, “Light of Downtown” is quite possibly the great Long Ryders single that never made it. Lyrically, it’s a dark take of murder, prison time, and regret. Yet with all of the that, the band couches this tale in an ultra-buoyant musical atmosphere of post-punk moxie and folk-rock chops. Build on a devastating modal riff and some excellent chord changes, it’s also extremely accessible. In addition, it’s also one of the best recorded songs of the band’s cannon.

An NME feature contrasting the US and UK indie scenes featured Bobby Gillespie sneering that while the Long Ryders spoke of wanting to combine punk and Buffalo Springfield, all he could hear was the latter. The writer pondered that perhaps it wasn’t the case that the Long Ryders were too good to be true; perhaps they were too true to be good. Whatever that meant.

It was not so much downhill from there, as stasis. The Long Ryders didn’t get much smaller, but they certainly didn’t get any bigger. Sid Griffin later admitted they made a mistake signing to Island, who didn’t know what to do with them. They lost their indie credibility, and there was a germ of truth in Gillespie’s criticism: the longer they went on, the more the Long Ryders seemed like another roots-rock band and less like the harbingers of revolution.

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1987’s “Two Fisted Tales” wed the upbeat jangle of acts like R.E.M with their love of classic twangy sounds. The LP’s first single, a cover of NRBQ’s “I Want You Bad,” earned plenty of radio play, and U2 invited the band to open a string of American dates on their tour in support of their album “The Joshua Tree”. However, The Long Ryders relentless touring schedule was wearing away at the group, and by the end of 1987, both Tom Stephens and Stephen McCarthy had left the band to pursue other interests.

While Island offered Griffin and Sowders the opportunity to cut another album for the label, in the interest of band unity they declined and dissolved. After the group’s breakup, Sid Griffin remained active in music, forming the band The Coal Porters and running his own record label, Prima Records, as well as distinguishing himself as a music writer, penning well-reviewed books on Gram Parsons and Bob Dylan.

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In 2004, The Long Ryders staged a reunion tour that included an appearance at the Glastonbury Festival (one of these shows was documented on the live album “State Of Our Reunion” , while the band played a handful of American dates in 2009. In late 2015, Cherry Red Records released a Long Ryders box set, entitled “Final Wild Songs”, which included 10-5-60, Native Sons State Of The Union, and Two Fisted Tales, along with rare and unreleased tracks and a 1985 concert recorded in the Netherlands each album had grown into a three-CD set with the addition of demos, outtakes, and live recordings.

The Long Ryders folded in late 1987, but they occasionally staged reunion tours, and in 2019 they released a new album, “Psychedelic Country Soul” which revealed that their skills as songwriters and performers had faded little since the ’80s.

Still, the ramifications of what they did rumbled on. Within a few years, a new generation of musicians would try to do the same as the Ryders had: combine American folk music with the lessons they had learned from the independent music scene. Bands like Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, Richmond Fontaine, Freakwater, the Jayhawks, the Old 97’s and more would seize on what the Long Ryders had done, and in the process create a new genre: alt-country. It’s not the worst legacy to leave.

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Lou Reed’s influence has touched each new generation of music fans. These are his best albums, When American rock critic Lester Bangs called Lou Reed “a completely depraved pervert and pathetic death dwarf… a liar, a wasted talent, an artist continually in flux, and a huckster selling pounds of his own flesh”, he was describing his hero.

Lou Reed famously changed his mind, frequently, regarding which of his songs he liked and which he loathed. But listen – he loved every last one of them. Every single second of every last one, OK?” There were many turkeys along the way, as well as many triumphs. Few artists in the history of rock’n’roll are as enigmatic as Lou Reed, and few have created a body of work as influential, erratic and controversial as with Lou Reed’s, first seminal art-rock group The Velvet Underground and then as a solo artist.

Born Lewis Allen Reed in Brooklyn, New York on March 2nd, 1942, he was always an outsider. As a teenager he was subjected to electro-shock therapy intended to ‘cure’ homosexuality. In his early 20s he dropped out of university to work as a staff songwriter at Pickwick Records where he wrote novelty pop songs, completely at odds with his love of experimental jazz. It was at Pickwick that Reed met Welsh classically trained musician John Cale. The pair formed a band called The Warlocks, which by 1965 had mutated into The Velvet Underground, comprising Reed on guitar and vocals, Cale on bass, viola and organ, Sterling Morrison on second guitar and Maureen ‘Moe’ Tucker on drums.

The Velvets were a band ahead of time. Their debut album, released in 1967, was the antithesis of the Summer Of Love’s hippie idealism. Their lo-fi sonics and Reed’s dark lyrics proved too uncompromising for mass consumption, but the Velvets’ influence would carry over generations, from David Bowie to punk rock and beyond. It was Bowie who helped Reed achieve his breakthrough success as a solo artist, co-producing 1972’s “Transformer”, the album that featured two of Reed’s best-loved and biggest songs: “Walk On The Wild Side” and “Perfect Day”. But pop stardom didn’t suit Lou Reed, and in 1975 he attempted career suicide with “Metal Machine Music”, an album comprised entirely of guitar feedback.

This maverick streak runs throughout Reed’s career, as evidenced by his final two albums: the ambient electronica of 2007’s Hudson River Wind Meditations, and the unlikely collaboration with Metallica on 2011’s “Lulu”. But it’s with a guitar in hand that Lou Reed created his definitive work as a classic rock’n’roll anti-hero: the outsider, in black leather and shades, the original poster boy for heroin chic, the straight-talking poet laureate of New York City.

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Lou Reed –  Lou Reed (RCA 1972)

After leaving the Velvet Underground, Reed debuted as a solo artist with a self-titled album in June ’72, though most of the songs were originally played at Velvet Underground concerts, or were outtakes from “VU” recording sessions. Reed would establish himself as a major artist in his own right soon enough, but the songs just aren’t strong enough here. My favourite always is the taut, very VU-ish “I Can’t Stand It.”

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Lou Reed – Transformer (RCA, 1972)

“Transformer” remains a remarkable arranged marriage of gritty, witty words and pop succour. It anointed him the godfather of anti-stars, opening up a career that may otherwise have swiftly gone the way of all flesh.

“I don’t have a personality of my own,” Reed said in 1972. “I just pick up on other people’s.”

He’d come to London for a change of pace, to “get out of the New York thing”, but his first, eponymous, post-Velvets solo album, recorded on the dirty boulevards of Willesden Green in West London, had stuttered rather than strutted. Nobody, least of all him, was sure where a former Velvet Underground frontman should go next.

Lou Reed may not have made much of an impact, but Reed’s second album, “Transformer” co-produced by David Bowie and released just five months later that year was a revelation. Its most famous song is the hit single “Walk on the Wild Side,” and “Perfect Day” has become something of a standard over the years. “Vicious” and “Satellite of Love” are quite well known as well. But I’ll go with “I’m So Free,” a catchy rocker that sounds like it could have been made by The Ramones (though that band didn’t even exist yet).

Reed’s self-titled solo debut included various Velvets leftovers and, most bizarrely musicians, Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman of Yes. Unsurprisingly it sold no better than the Velvets’ albums. His second album, released just six months later, made him a superstar. The first time many of us clapped our eyes on Lou Reed was via Mick Rock’s camera lens. “Transformer’s” haunting, kabukistyle cover image was captured during Lou’s debut London show, at King’s Cross in July ‘72. Reed, hastily dressed to impress in a rhinestone jacket by Angie Bowie, gazes into middle distance, the Velvets in his rear view mirror, on the cusp of solo greatness. It’s the ultimate Lou Reed shot.

There’s the fabulous Rock ‘N’ Roll Heart-era shoot: Reed in shades, a leather jacket so small it could’ve been made for a child, under a see-through plastic jacket from Ian’s of St. Mark’s Place, an NYC boutique that did fetish before McLaren and Westwood, just as Lou did punk before Pistols and Ramones. There’s bleached ‘74 Lou: mean ‘n’ moody, dead-eyed ‘n’ skeletal, magnificent. With lines inspired by Warhol (‘hit me with a flower’) and Mick Ronson restraining himself until the fade, it’s a great “hate song”.

Yes of course this should be number one… but we’re non-mainstream, hardcore obsessive fans here, right? And if you’re not being perverse and contrary, you’re not doing Lou Reed right. Whether Lou liked it or not – and he argued both sides depending on that day’s mood swings – it’s the song which made his post-Velvets name and by which the world at large remembers him. He didn’t even think it was a single. Inspired by Nelson Algren and the colourful characters and pansexual “superstars” he’d met at The Factory, its atmosphere, created by Herbie Flowers’ two-note bass slide, The Thunder Thighs’ “doo da doo”s and baritone sax from Ronnie Ross (Bowie’s sax teacher) is immortal. Its purring sarcasm that transformed his career.

“Satellite Of Love” had been demoed by The Velvets in the “Loaded” era, but not with this level of grace and grandeur. The Bowie-Ronson arrangement is redolent of Drive-In Saturday, with the piano flourishing in all the right places and the backing vocals, finger clicks and handclaps extracting the pop from the pomp.

It’s frequently tricky to deduce whether Lou’s being open-hearted or slyly sneering. Is “Perfect Day” a transcendent, vulnerable love song or a subversive paean to smack? Of course, it’s been taken out of his hands since – not least, insanely, by the likes of Boyzone and Pavarotti on the BBC’s chart-topping 1997 Children In Need interpretation. Yet even upon “Transformer’s” release, most listeners heard genuine romance: sangria in the park, feeding animals in the zoo and catching a movie worked as sincerity incarnate. We thought we were someone else. Someone good.

Produced by David Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson, Transformer caught the mood of the glam-rock era with Mick Rock’s cover of an androgynous Reed, and some classic pop songs – notably Satellite Of Love and Perfect Day – that echoed Bowie’s early-70s material. The album even gave Reed a Top 10 hit “Walk On The Wild Side”, despite blasé references to drugs and oral sex.

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Lou Reed – New York (Sire, 1989)

New York (1989) is widely regarded as one of Reed’s strongest solo albums, and “Dirty Blvd.” is its principal gem of a song: An unflinching but compassionate tale of a New York boy trapped in a life of squalor and abuse, and yearning to escape. Dion’s aching backing vocals are a perfect touch.

Not for Lou Reed the celebratory swing of Sinatra’s Theme From New York New York, or the romance of Woody Allen’s Manhattan; Reed’s portrait of his home town was drawn from the mean streets he knew so well in his junkie years. New York is essentially a concept album, with instructions by Reed for it to be “listened to in one sitting as though it were a book or a movie”.

Withering satire dominates, with Dirty Blvd. one of many brutally funny vignettes. Dirty Blvd. is also fundamentally a great rock’n’roll song, and New York is an album filled with them. It’s Reed’s late career classic. Recorded in late 1988, Lou Reed’s New York album sounded like he’d spent months glued to six TV sets blaring out a cacophony of bad news. Making sense of noise was always his trick and, given that he liked nothing better than turning observation into fast art, Reed managed to juggle references that ricochet from TV trash talkers like Morton Downey, homicidal killer Bernard Goetz, some bloke called Donald Trump, the Virgin Mary and questionable UN leader Kurt ‘just following orders’ Waldheim.

Despite a bewildering set of references, Lou gave it a universal rock’n’roll thrust, reverting to Velvet Underground aesthetics – two guitars, bass and drums, with occasional glimpses of Moe Tucker on percussion.
From the violent click-clack opening of “Romeo Had Juliette” to the sombre investigation into divine versus human doubt of crucifixion epic “Dime Store Mystery”, “New York” demanded close investigation. Once achieved, you could only marvel at how redolent of time and place the sound was. You can smell the stink of the Hudson River and that unique aroma of greasy avenues that characterise the city in heat. Warhol died, Nico died, but Reed somehow pulled himself out of the creative doldrums to deliver his most acclaimed album in many years, “New York” is so good he only named it once. Its “fierce poetic journalism” (Rolling Stone) now called out, instead of wallowing in, urban squalor.

The remastered Deluxe Edition brings clarity to the hit song Dirty Blvd (Dion DiMucci’s vocals providing an appropriate Latino twist) and the stately evisceration of political corruption held like a flaming torch above Strawman.

All the songs get the live treatment from an already available concert recorded in Montreal. Work tapes and a live Sweet Jane and Walk On The Wild Side add heft, but the main work is the thing here.

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Lou Reed – Berlin (RCA, 1973)

Rolling Stone magazine billed Lou Reed’s third solo album as “the Sgt. Pepper of the 70s”. Many since have called it The Most Depressing Album Of All Time. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

Berlin is undeniably Reed’s most over-the–top statement. With a lavish production and an all-star cast including Steve Winwood, it’s a concept album-cum-rock opera: the story of a doomed, drug-fuelled romance, told by Reed in the style of a heavily medicated torch singer. He was rewarded with a Top 10 hit in the UK. In the US the album stiffed and Lou went back underground.

Berlin (1973) is, I think, one of Reed’s greatest efforts — an extremely dark song cycle whose characters suffer through addiction, abuse and more. It really has to be heard in its entirety to be fully appreciated but here is “Lady Day,” the album’s second song, which offers a first glimpse at one of the doomed characters, foreshadowing what is to come but not fully descending into tragedy yet. “I said, ‘No, no, no, oh Lady Day,’ ” the narrator sings over and over, as if trying to fend off what is coming.

Berlin – the most gothic thing ever made in Willesden – works best as a whole, especially the slide into unrelenting sorrow of its second half. Yet the great concept albums – “a film for the ears”, producer Bob Ezrin called this – demand a big pay-off finish, and boy does Berlin bring that home. “Sad Song” is bombastic, but Reed’s forlorn, muted voice contrasts perfectly with the sturm und drang. Every time you think his character’s getting soft (‘she looked like Mary Queen of Scots’), he snaps back brutally (‘just goes to show how wrong you can be’). They don’t do mean-spirited melodrama like this any more.

Before Side 2 of “Berlin” gets really dark, Side 1 is merely very dark indeed. This straddles the line between autobiography and fiction (‘speeding and lonely’), with Reed’s phrasing urgent yet studied. Bob Ezrin lets Alice Cooper’s guitarists fully let rip only once the story’s told. A tangible plea for a reprieve from the horrors of existence and making love by proxy. The album’s most upbeat track, then.

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Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby (RCA, 1976)

After the commercial disaster of 1975’s Metal Machine Music, Lou had his back to the wall. “I had no money and no guitars,” he confessed. Reed had to promise his record label that he wouldn’t make ‘Son of Metal Machine Music’, and he was as good as his word. Just five months after releasing Metal Machine Music, Reed went in almost the direct opposite direction on “Coney Island Baby”. Though not without its dark moments, it’s dominated by melodic, straightforward pop and rock music, and Reed has rarely sounded as tender and sincere as he does on the doo wop-flavored title track.

“Coney Island Baby” is classic Lou Reed, described in Rolling Stone as “timeless, terrific rock‘n’roll”. Reed has never written a more beautiful song than this album’s title track. A bitter-sweet lament, reminiscent of Dylan’s best 70s work, it ends with the redemptive mantra: ‘The glory of love might see you through.’ In desperation, Reed had dug deep. It’s emblematic of Reed’s career that as many fans think Coney Island Baby is a flaccid filler as rate it as one of his strongest. Following Metal Machine Music with a tender, vulnerable pastiche of soul and doo-wop had everyone confused. Yet its mellow mood is broken by the incongruous, visceral fusion of words, music, muttering voices and jolting sounds which constitute Kicks. It’s as if Reed’s dark side is banging on the closet door, demanding to be let out. Sex, blood and adrenalin: it’s intense.

His piece de resistance: a loping soul groove, deft doo-wop and Bob Kulick’s glistening guitar interjections knit a backdrop over which wannabe tough guy Reed drops the façade and exposes his youthful dreams and emotions (‘I wanted to play football for the coach’). It’s also a love letter to his transgender muse, Rachel. From the opening monologue’s intimacy through the nod to The Five Keys’ Glory Of Love (one of his favourite oldies), to the redemptive public-declaration-of-commitment punch-line, Coney Island Baby is as sensitive as it is audacious, and, sonically, a glory. Reed’s world was often ‘a funny place, something like a circus or a sewer’, but here his better angels come shining through.

You could argue the case for A Gift as being one of Coney Island Baby’s highlights – “it’s so funny”, said Lou – but this old Velvets draft from 1968 is updated with terrific feel, for which one-off producer Godfrey Diamond never got due credit. An exquisite surge of rhythm and lead guitars mesh with Bowie-influenced call-and-response “la la la”s, and Reed gauges his vocal to build from confident to pleading. Either his most sincere or artificial love song.

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Growing Up In Public (1980)

On the witty, intricately arranged “Growing Up In Public”, Reed takes one last long hard look at his various personalities before hitting forty. ‘I’m so damned sane’, he said. This pomp-rock opener, all piano pirouettes and dovetailed dynamics, a capella blurts and handclaps, borders on sounding like Queen. Lou gives it conviction, asking how he’s supposed to talk to pretty girls when his father was “weak” and “simpering”.

“Think It Over,” from Growing Up in Public (1980), is, I think, an overlooked gem in Reed’s catalogue, a sensitively sung grown-up love song that finds the singer proposing marriage but being warned by his partner that they shouldn’t rush into anything: “When you ask for someone’s heart/You must know that you’re smart/Smart enough to care for it, so I’m gonna/Think it over.”

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Magic And Loss  (Magic And Loss, 1992)

Reed stared into the abyss of death on 1992’s “Magic and Loss”, which also, somehow, included one of his catchiest songs ever: “What’s Good,” in which he explores existential confusion in a playful way (“What good is seeing eye chocolate/What good’s a computerized nose/And what good was cancer in April/Why no good, no good at all”) and concludes, “Life’s good, but not fair at all.”

Lou’s “Magic And Loss” album, which he compared to Beethoven’s Fifth, was a set of buttoned-up ponderings on cancer and death which came dressed as Lofty Art: audiences who came to see him play it were barred from drinking or talking. Some believed his hype: weirdly it’s his highest-charting UK album (no.6). But it was no Berlin, bar this slow-burn finale about passing through fire.

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Lou Reed – Rock ’N’ Roll Animal (RCA, 1974)

The best of Reed’s 11 live albums was partly a reaction to the harsh criticism and weak US sales of the ambitious “Berlin”. As its spiky title implied, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Animal” had Reed going back to basics, reprising Velvets songs while reaffirming his popular image as rock’s junkie-in-chief. After releasing his commercial breakthrough Transformer in 1972 and the ambitious Berlin song cycle in 1973, Reed made one of the all-time great live albums, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal”, recorded at the Academy of Music in New York in December ’73 and released in 1974. With the exception of “Lady Day,” from Berlin, the songs all dated back to his Velvet Underground years, and benefited from the muscular, polished guitar work of Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner. Hunter also wrote the stunning new extended intro for album opener “Sweet Jane”:

Reed is backed by a slick five-piece band featuring guitarists Dick Wagner (a future Alice Cooper sidekick) and Steve Hunter. Their flashy licks transformed “Sweet Jane” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll” into swaggering arena rock anthems, while the album’s centrepiece, a woozy, 13-minute version of “Heroin”, couldn’t have done more to glamourise Reed’s drug of choice.

Reed’s 1974 live album “Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal” was such a revelation that in 1975, he released more songs from the same 1973 concert as Lou Reed “Live”. “Vicious,” like the best of Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal, got a major boost from the hard-hitting guitar work of bandmates Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner.

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Metal Machine Music (1975)

The double album Metal Machine Music (1975) — almost universally reviled upon its release and rarely played again by anyone, afterwards — is an audacious experiment: Each side of the vinyl release contains 16 minutes of screeching electronic noise. I can hear some music in it, if I try really hard. But I would never listen to more than 30 seconds or so, voluntarily. To endure the whole thing in one sitting would be torture. Yet Reed clearly intended it as a sort of symphony (or anti-symphony) in four parts, so I am sharing, here, the whole thing. Enjoy.

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Rock And Roll Heart (1976)

1976’s “Rock and Roll Heart” was all over the place, ranging from plainspoken ballads to moody, Berlin-like art-pop and hard-edged rock, with even some occasional jazz influence working its way in. “Follow the Leader” was written back in the Velvet Underground days and still feels unformed — more like a sketch than a finished song. But Reed’s new band (featuring keyboardist Michael Fonfara, saxophonist Marty Fogel, bassist Bruce Yaw and drummer Michael Suchorsky) helps give it an urgent edge and make it a standout.

“Rock And Roll Heart”, with Reed producing and playing all the guitars, was a confused response to CBGB punk, which he took a while to grasp. “I’m too literate to be into punk rock”. It leaps between fiery riffs and self-parodying neo-jazz. Just when you’re boxing it off, he pulls out this moody, wilfully repetitive showstopper, a love-hate song, possibly to drugs, which feels clammy, grubby – you can smell it in your hair the next day. It’s trashy, it’s melodramatic, it’s Reed in excelsis.

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New Sensations (RCA, 1984)

In the early 80s, Reed quit booze and drugs, and regained his credibility with two cult classic albums: The Blue Mask and Legendary Hearts. What followed those was the most accessible work of his entire career. Shockingly, New Sensations was the sound of Reed lightening up.

I Love You, Suzanne, the most upbeat pop song Reed has ever written, set the tone, while the nonchalantly funky title track even had him pledging to ‘eradicate my negative views’. The album wasn’t a hit (No.56 in the US, No.92 in the UK). Perhaps the public just wouldn’t buy a happy Lou Reed. Five years later the bleak New York proved a more effective comeback.

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Mistrial, 1986

“Mistrial” (1986) was notable for Reed’s experiment in rap — lead single “The Original Wrapper” as well as “Video Violence,” a bracing protest song about the pervasiveness of violent images in film and television. Horrors have become mundane: “Up in the morning, drinking his coffee/Turns on the TV to some slasher movie,” Reed sings.

“When I was thirty my attitude was bad”. Yes, and your records were good. “Mistrial” is, apart from the hilarious The Original Wrapper, the sound of a forty-something man yelling at the telly from the sofa (Video Violence), and even Reed later bemoaned the production. This closing curveball, where Lou mistakes a film set for a UFO, carried a sly hint of the ghost of Transformer.

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The Bells (1979)

Yep, we’re *that* hardcore obsessive. Recorded in Germany, the left-handed jazz-rock of “The Bells” climaxes with this noir nine-minute electronic drone, punctuated with Don Cherry’s wailing tributes to Ornette Coleman and semi-audible whispers and prayers. At the last, Reed’s chipped voice breaks in, spontaneously reciting the story of a Broadway actor falling in ecstasy from a rooftop to his death. “The whole thing is a mood piece, supposed to cause an emotion”, he explained. It does. Not an easy listen, it’s inexplicably profoundly affecting.

“The Bells” is most notable for its daring, haunting title track, which lasts more than nine minutes, most of which is devoted to an ominous, free-form instrumental (featuring co-writer Marty Fogel on saxophone and Don Cherry on trumpet) wrapped around a short song about an actor committing suicide.

“If you can’t play rock and you can’t play jazz”, declared Lou, “put the two together and you’ve really got something”. “The Bells” is a bizarre, bipolar mix of experiments in binaural sound and so-dumb-it’s-smart pop, as if he’d noticed Bowie’s Berlin wall-demolishing and fancied some of that. Hated by punk purists at the time, “proof” to them that Reed had “lost it”, Disco Mystic is white funk if you ran it through a photocopier fifty times then drained its blood then got an inauthenticity expert to triple-check it was fully inauthentic. Pastiche? Homage? It’s stupidly, brilliantly funky.

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Street Hassle (1978)

The title track of 1978’s Street Hassle and its 11-minute, three-part centerpiece is musically gorgeous and lyrically ambitious, starting with tales of deadpan decadence but building to a heart breaking peak, with a cameo by Bruce Springsteen in the middle. Interesting fact: Reed claimed he wrote the “Tramps like us, we were born to pay” line without consciously thinking about “Born to Run.”

Part seedy punk, part cello-led rock opera, “Street Hassle” was, hoped Reed, a cross between “Burroughs, Selby, Chandler, Dostoevsky and rock’n’roll. Dirty mainstream snot”. The 11-minute, three-movement title track sees those looped cellos circling like vultures as Lou tells a graphic (even by his standards) tale of O.D.s, “little girls” and “bad shit”. And ultimately, “bad luck”. Probably the eeriest thing Bruce Springsteen has ever anonymously guested on.

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Take No Prisoners (1978)

The double album Take No Prisoners (1978) was Reed’s third live album of the ’70s, and his fifth if you count Velvet Underground live albums. It was recorded at The Bottom Line in New York — an intimate, hometown venue for him — and finds him frequently talking at length, rambling on about all kinds of stuff, though he sticks to the music on the explosive album closer, “Leave Me Alone.”

 

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Set The Twilight Reeling (1996)

After a run of painfully worthy, hark-at-me I’m-so-profound albums, it was a relief and release to hear Lou crank up the guitars again, even if it meant his interviews became yawnsome drones about amplifiers and studio technology. It’s full of clumsy poetry, but this attempt to echo Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle” does climax with a flare of the old heat.

“Set the Twilight Reeling” (1996) contained some of the strangest songs of Reed’s career (“Egg Cream,” “Sex With Your Parents”), and that’s really saying something. But it also boasts, among its highlights, one of his greatest heart-to-heart ballads, the low-key but musically beguiling “Hang On to Your Emotions.”

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The Blue Mask (1982)

“The Blue Mask” marked a new chapter, with a new, often loud guitar band. But its best moments involve restrained musical subtlety. Stand-out The Gun has that, but also has Reed’s sinister, deadpan narration covering violence, intimidation, home invasion, possibly rape. It’s genuinely scary, reminding us that Reed had the genius to make a track haunt your psyche.

The Blue Mask(1982) was widely hailed as a triumph on its release, featuring sympathetic and dynamic backing by a tight three-piece band (guitarist Robert Quine, bassist Fernando Saunders, drummer Doane Perry) and a strong batch of songs. There’s no camp and no bizarre experiments here, and no hip indifference. Here is the album’s opening song, “My House,” which functions as both a tribute to Reed’s lyrical mentor (the poet and short story writer Delmore Schwartz) and an introduction to the new, mature, contented Reed. “I really got a lucky life/My writing, my motorcycle and my wife/And to top it all off a spirit of pure poetry/Is living in this stone and wood house with me,” he sings.

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Sally Can’t Dance (1974)

Reed claimed to hate “Sally Can’t Dance” (his only US top ten album), but it’s rich with wry asides. Ennui, all but hidden away, is one of his frequent accidental not-trying-too-hard flashes of genius. It floats on a sullen mood, his voice so low it rumbles as he, cynical but arch, advises, ‘Pick up the pieces of your life/maybe someday you’ll have a wife’. Then he adds, ‘And alimony’. That punchline’s so unexpected that you laugh as you reel. “It’s the track most people skip, I guess”, said Lou. “It must be; it’s the one I like”.

After three striking albums in a row, Reed ran out of steam on 1974’s “Sally Can’t Dance”, which goes for shock value at times and crass commercialism at others while rarely making much of an impact. The only track I can really recommend is the raw, harrowing “Kill Your Sons,” inspired by Reed’s own family history and his experiences with mental illness.

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Legendary Hearts (1984)

When writing about Reed, one tends to focus on his lyrics and his audacious sonic experiments, but the main attraction of “Martial Law” (the standout track from 1983’s Legendary Hearts) is the hypnotic groove Reed creates with the album’s stellar band: guitarist Robert Quine, drummer Fred Maher and bassist Fernando Saunders.

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Live in Italy (1984)

The double album Live in Italy (1984) offers a snapshot of Reed’s great early-’80s band (guitarist Robert Quine, bassist Fernando Saunders and drummer Fred Maher) and shows them, here, stretching out on an intense medley of the Velvet Underground songs “Some Kinda Love” and “Sister Ray.”

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Songs For Drella

Starting with 1989’s New York, Reed’s stretch on Sire Records saw a robust return to form after years of weak albums, in a period that also saw him pick up his guitar again and finally find personal happiness with partner Laurie Anderson.

Reed reunited with John Cale for the poignantly Warhol-homaging “Songs For Drella”, No one expected Reed and his equally headstrong Velvet Underground partner John Cale ever to make an album together after Cale left the group in 1968. But that’s what happened in 1990, when they reunited to record a tribute to their mentor Andy Warhol, who had died in 1987. Their chemistry was back in full force on much of it, including “Work,” which is about Warhol’s fierce work ethic. Reed sings: “Sometimes when I can’t decide what I should do/I think what would Andy have said/He’d probably say you think too much/That’s ’cause there’s work that you don’t want to do.”

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Perfect Night: Live in London (1998)

Perfect Night: Live in London (recorded in ’97, released in ’98) was Reed’s fifth concert album (his eighth if you count the Velvet Underground) and unique among them for its calmness and clarity. This isn’t Lou Reed the showman or Lou Reed the provocateur, just Lou Reed the rock craftsman and a great, sympathetic band (guitarist Mike Rathke, bassist Fernando Saunders, drummer Tony “Thunder” Smith) working their way through his catalogue. Here’s “Busload of Faith,” from Reed’s New York album.

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Ecstasy (2000)

In 2000, Reed released his “Ecstasy” album. With a one-of-a-kind video like this, how could I not share “Modern Dance”? (I actually like the song quite a bit, too.)

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The Raven (2003)

Lou Reed’s 2003 double album “The Raven” was an ambitious, uneven affair, featuring songs written for “POEtry” — Reed’s 2000 collaboration with director Robert Wilson, an experimental opera based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe — with support from a multitude of guest musicians and actors, including David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, Steve Buscemi and Willem Dafoe. Here’s “Guilty,” featuring one of Reed’s biggest influences, Ornette Coleman, on alto sax.

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Animal Serenade

Animal Serenade” was a live album, recorded in Los Angeles in 2003, featuring a kind of chamber-pop band configuration with Reed and Mike Rathke on guitars, Fernando Saunders on bass and vocals, Jane Scarpantoni on cello, and some guest vocals by Antony Hegarty (of Antony & the Johnsons). Rathke also does an amazing job of re-creating the sound of a piano on a guitar synthesizer: Listen to him do so here on “Vanishing Act,” originally from the then-recent album “The Raven”.

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Lulu ( 2011)

Lou Reed’s last studio album was “Lulu”, recorded with Metallica and released in 2011; he died in 2013. Lulu got mixed reviews, including some very negative ones. I’m not a huge fan of it myself but do offer, here, a track that I think does work pretty well: “Iced Honey.”

The discography of American rock band The Shins consists of five studio albums, one live album, one remix album, three extended plays, two splits, sixteen singles and nineteen music videos. Evolution has been a tremendous theme throughout The Shins career. Whether they’re transforming their bill, sound or approach, the band have never managed to find a comfortable niche to settle down in.

However, instead of letting this constant fidgeting work to the detriment of their music, they’ve turned it into one of their greatest assets, championing a sound that is simultaneously varied and distinct. Despite their many internal conflicts and line-up changes, The Shins are yet to make an underwhelming or poor record and even after five studio albums, it still feels like they have many more facets of their colourful and multi-dimensional sound to flaunt and unveil.

The band was formed by Mercer as a side project to Flake Music, who were active from 1992 to 1999. Flake Music released two 7″ singles and a full-length album “When You Land Here It’s Time To Return” on Omnibus Records and were touring with Modest Mouse following the Shins’ subsequent signing to Sub Pop Records, with the band’s classic line-up consisting of Jesse Sandoval on drums, Marty Crandall on keyboards, and Dave Hernandez on bass (who was temporarily replaced by Neal Langford until rejoining in 2003).

The band’s first two records, “Oh Inverted World” (2001) and “Chutes Too Narrow” (2003) performed well commercially and received critical acclaim. The single “New Slang” brought the band mainstream attention when it was featured in the 2004 film Garden State. Consequently, the band’s third album “Wincing The Night Away” (2007), was a major success for the group.

Following this, the Shins signed to Columbia Records and Mercer parted ways with the entire original line up, deeming it “an aesthetic decision.” Following a near five-year hiatus, “Port Of Morrow” the band’s fourth studio album, was released in 2012. Their fifth album, “Heartworms” was released in March 2017.

Oh, Inverted World

When a band is constructing a debut album, the unrealistic goal that is perfection should never be something to strive for. Instead, the primary goal of a premiere project should be to tease some of what you have to offer and leave listeners wanting more. The Shins’ first full-length is a definitive indie rock album of the 2000s not just because of its thoughtful, tuneful songs, but also because of the vivid portrait it painted of indie culture. “Oh, Inverted World” is the sound of realizing there’s more to life than being a smart-aleck – but also not being ready to open up completely. Caring might be creepy, but it’s hard to avoid; Oh, Inverted World chronicles this post-ironic vulnerability, wrapping it in jangly guitar pop that echoes the Kinks, Zombies, and Beach Boys.

Sun-bleached pop at its most blinding, choose a ’60s touchstone (the Kinks, the Left Banke) with a gorgeously Byrds-ian bridge, “Girl Inform Me” is one of the more deceptively simple numbers on the band’s debut. What’s so charming about it is just how out of time it sounds — it could’ve been recorded in any era, and its bubblegum lyrics (“Girl inform me/ All my senses warn me/ Your clever eyes could easily disguise some backwards purpose”) render it beguilingly irresistible.

All of Oh, Inverted World’s songs hang together in an immensely satisfying way. Oh, Inverted World is so full of ideas and emotions, and so fully realized, that it’s hard to believe it’s just 33 minutes long. Whether or not the album lives up to the breathless “It’ll change your life!” claims made about it in Garden State, the less ironic direction of 2000s indie begins here.

The Shins’ 2001 debut, “Oh, Inverted World” did just that. The album is one that went on to shape the sounds of many indie rock acts that existed throughout the naughties. Even today you can still hear its timeless, bittersweet jangle ring out in the music of some the most exiting acts of this decade. While flawed and at times, indecisive, it manages to maintain an astounding amount of cohesion and maturity.

Before “New Slang” was etched in pop culture iconography after its appearance in 2004’s Garden State, it was merely the standout track on one of the finest pure pop records to be released in years. Lyrically enigmatic like early R.E.M., it finds Mercer in a poignant mindset, waxing downcast as he pines, “Turn me back into the pet I was when we met/ I was happier then/ I had no mindset.” When the track was initially released as a single, there was a video for the song directed by Lance Bangs, with the band posed in shots referencing classic albums including Slint’s Spiderland, the Replacements’ Let It Be, the Minutemen’s Double Nickels On The Dimes, and Husker Du’s Zen Arcade, suggesting that, in the divine fire they were playing with at the time, they’d somehow always stood in posterity amongst these epochal giants, like Jack Torrence in the final shot at the Overlook Hotel of The Shining.

Taking cues from The Beach Boys and the Beatles, “Oh, Inverted World” makes typical, sunny rock sombre with darker lyrical themes. From beginning to end, the record never lacks in integrity or truth. Everything feels real and exposed and because of that, it’s by far The Shins’ most honest work.

Oh, Inverted World“, the earth-shattering, indie-rock-redefining 2001 debut album by The Shins, is presented here in its finest form, dressed up all nice for its 20th birthday. The classic tunes get new life by way of a full remastering job under band leader James Mercer’s watchful eye, the art is given a little extra zest via a die-cut jacket and a classy inner sleeve, and the package is rounded off with a big ol’ booklet with vintage photos, handwritten lyrics, and more.

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The music, of course, is obviously essential. Aside from a friendly reminder that this is the album with the smash hit “New Slang,” as heard in the hit movie we just need to note that the remastering job truly makes this the album James Mercer always wanted it to be. Never quite satisfied with the sonics of the original, Mercer has took the 20th anniversary of the album as his opportunity to finally set the (literal!) record straight. And the results sound stellar: great for new fans, and well worth the attention of those already on board!

Capturing a sense of suburban ennui as well as any Big Star number, the sprightly melody of “Know Yur Onion!” belies its cloistered sense of dread, knowing that redemption lies far, far away. As Mercer contemptuously spews the opening line “Shut out, pimpled and angry/ I quietly tied all my guts into knots,” over a curdled guitar line, he eventually finds solace in the minutiae of having “lucked out found my favourite records lying in wait at the Birmingham mall,” only to concede that his “body caves to his whims and suddenly struggles to take flight … three thousand miles northeast.”

For old times’ sake, here’s what we had to say about this record back when it came out: Hailing from Albuquerque, NM, The Shins sprung from the ashes of Flake/Flake Music in 1997 (though those previous incarnations date back nearly a decade) – same members, different instruments, different approach. Counterpoint guitars have given way to a single guitar pitted against calculated keyboard passages; swarming indie rock machinations led to pop-based melodic endeavors (who knew?).

Chutes Too Narrow

The superb follow-up to their universally-adored 2001 debut, Oh, Inverted World. more acoustic than their debut – but it still pops and shakes like the kinks and soars like the Beach Boys. It will make you smile and will make your heart swell. this was one of 2004’s albums of the year.

People don’t fall in love with The Shins because they are this revolutionary, genre-defining band. People fall in love with The Shins because they make the kind of music that you connect with. They make the kind of music that soundtracks a significant time in a person’s life. They make the kind of music that certainly isn’t flawless or smooth but more reflects our state, as deeply imperfect beings.

A pretty slice of melodic grandeur from Chutes Too Narrow, “Saint Simon” has a metronomic cadence that suggests a certain level of catatonia from sheer emotional exhaustion. Mercer sounds bereft as he intones, “I’ll try hard not to pretend/ allow myself no mock defense as I step into the night,” as the song’s lockstep groove gives way to a woozily vertiginous orchestral sway.

Shortly after the release of their 2003 sophomore album, “Chutes Too Narrow“, the band gained a foothold in pop culture via the Zach Braff-directed film Garden State, when Natalie Portman’s character proclaimed that the Shins “would change your life,” before the Inverted World track “New Slang” was played over a particularly maudlin scene in the film. The band had already attained a fairly strong following preceding that shout-out, as the success of Chutes was nearly commensurate with their superb debut. But after that, their profile ballooned, which put an enormous strain on Mercer, who’d had the mantle of life-changer thrust upon him.

“Fighting In A sack” A rollicking number that provides a necessary frenetic yin to the docile yang of the song that precedes it, “Saint Simon,” Mercer’s breathless vocals convey a lucid dream with a certain degree of levity, drifting effortlessly into Neutral Milk Hotel territory. Yet this is sheer vintage Shins, all glistening melodies and opaque lyrics.

Chutes Too Narrow” is the album that makes you realise exactly why people fall in love with this band. The album is wonderfully versatile, ringing with as much gloom as exuberance. “Kissing The Lipless” rips open the record, setting a precedent for the rest of the album. Pure infectious frivolity on the surfaces, as is one of the band’s trademarks, reveals itself to be “the gray remains of a friendship scarred” once you’ve perused the lyrics. It’s often said that eskimos can identify 50 types of snow, and Mercer can identify at least 100 ways love comes to an end, and this number finds him at his most astute as he ruminates, “You tested your metal of doe’s skin and petals while kissing the lipless who bleed all the sweetness away,” at the track’s plaintive denouement.

Filled with gaudy guitars and intimate, strong vocal performances, the remainder of the record goes onto serve as an outlet for Mercer to express some of his built-up frustration about his heartbreaks and setbacks.

Chutes Too Narrow” is their most confident effort, each song feeling even more ambitious than the last. It highlights a definite peak in The Shins’ career and serves as a reminder as to why they are such a loved band.

Wincing The Night Away

A protracted delay occurred between “Chutes Too Narrow” and 2007’s “Wincing The Night Away”, due in part to that strain. By backing away momentarily, though, he may have done a service to his craft. Instead of over-thinking the Shins’ third album — as many bands are wont to do when following break-out successes — the songs on Wincing were left with room to breathe. While they may have lacked the visceral punch that imbued the band’s earlier works, the tracks on Wincing were nonetheless melodically stunning, epicurean crafts.

Wincing The Night Away” is one of The Shins’ greatest masterpieces. The layered, rich and vibrant record was composed in the dark of night and echoes with the tired, hazy attitudes reflective of those times. ‘Under-appreciated’ hardly begins to describe the state of the album. The band pulled off a sound that is polished but still filled with character, creating an amalgamation of the most enticing aspects of their sound.

The Shins had their work cut out for them with the release of the “Wincing the Night Away“. Their previous album, 2004’s Chutes Too Narrow, topped many critics’ Best of the Year lists, and was given a lucky dose of both marketing push and indie credibility by featuring heavily in the film Garden State. It’s good to know that all that success hasn’t gone to their heads. Sure, they’ve managed to bring in heavyweight producer Joe Chiccarelli, who’s worked with both U2 and Beck, but they’re still signed to Sub-Pop Records at this time, crucially, they’re still writing great songs. In fact, Wincing the Night Away is, in some ways, a better album than its predecessor. It’s certainly bigger and more symphonic than Chutes Too Narrow. Album opener “Sleeping Lessons” starts off relatively low-key, with a simple looped keyboard before building to an explosive finish.

First single “Phantom Limb” is their catchiest song yet, packed with reverb-rich vocals and sunny, Beach Boys-inspired harmonies. Throughout, the Shins seem more comfortable and willing to take advantage of their no-doubt bigger recording budget, from the layered, 1960’s-style American pop of “Turn On Me” to the sound loops and samples of “Spilt Needles”. Wincing the Night Away is the sound of the Shins spreading their wings, and it positively soars.

A plaintive number with a tasteful dollop of reverb, “Turn On Me” is a high point on an album replete with low-key, ruminative numbers, more subdued yet no less brilliant than the band’s prior two efforts. Its lyrics are dour, expounding upon a relationship far past its expiration date, culminating with a goose bump-inducing middle eight, before Mercer concedes, “The worst part is over, so get back on that horse and ride,” keenly aware that the cycle’s unlikely to cease anytime soon.

The skeletal and exposed instrumentals are ridiculously refreshing compared to some of the more cluttered and involved ones on previous outputs. Cuts like “Black Wave” and “A Comet Appears” have an emptiness and vacancy laced throughout them, exhibiting an intense and heavy side of Mercer’s songwriting.

Even on the record’s bright and rich cuts, everything feels succinct, purposeful and necessary. The album contains some examples of Mercer’s greatest songwriting and plays seamlessly from beginning to end, it’s hollow indie rarely exhausting.

Port Of Morrow

Mercer jettisoned his entire band prior to the recording of 2012’s Port Of Morrow, claiming he had “production ideas that basically required some other people.” And while it wasn’t akin to R.E.M. losing Bill Berry — as Mercer had always been essentially the band’s sole songwriter, one couldn’t help but feel that a certain innate chemistry had been sacrificed. Nonetheless, “Port Of Morrow” is a damn impressive album (it made our list of 2012’s), their first released outside Sub Pop, on Mercer’s Aural Apothecary Label. It proves that whomever he surrounds himself with, Mercer is one of his generation’s preeminent songwriters. But even with heavy-hitters enlisted, including Modest Mouse’s Joe Plummer, Ron Lewis from the Fruit Bats, and Janet Weiss, Morrow feels like something of a transitional album for the band, although you still can’t help but to be dazzled by the grandiose arena-ready cadences of “Simple Song”.

The Shins seem to travel in a new direction with every record, it’s no secret they’re unable maintain satisfaction with one, recognisable sound and completely hone it. On 2012’s “Port Of Morrow“, however, the band weren’t just travelling in a different direction, they were untying their boat from it’s dock and sailing into seas that left some fans in a place of discomfort. ‘Port of Morrow’ is The Shins‘ first new material in four years and in a world where the young ‘uns are dabbling in skew-whiff electronica and art funk ‘jams’ with varying results, this glorious record is a timely reminder of how to craft good old, solid indie rock built on smart storytelling and melodies that head straight for the heart. highly unfashionable, yes, and not a huge departure for the band admittedly, but why deviate from a formula that produces music as swoonsome as opener ‘The Rifle’s Spiral’, buzzing riff-tinged ode to existential angst ‘It’s Only Life’, the skittering and sweet ‘Bait and Switch’ and ‘No Way Down’ and thundering drums-led epic ‘Simple Song’? these are love-on-first-listen songs that have made us fall for the Shins all over again.

As epic as the Shins have sounded to date, “Simple Song” has a title that belies its bombastic nature — locomotive drums and a sinewy guitar figure give way to a minor key shift in a deceptively clever accoutrement. For perhaps the first time, the instrumentation trumps the lyricism in a Shins track, thanks to its sheer production acumen, which is something of a mixed bag. If the rest of Port Of Morrrow had been this memorable, it would’ve been in the conversation of the Shins’ best album.

Allowing the record to be more accessible and hold more pop appeal, the band had a more anthemic and cheerful outlook on “Port Of Morrow“. Leaving some of the darkness explored on earlier records behind, the outfit had a new found love for singing guitars, bouncy beats and catchier choruses.

While what came out of Port Of Morrow wasn’t necessarily game-changing, the record was an outlet for them to dispense some of their most explosive and loud material to date (Bait & Switch, No Way Down). However, embedded within the album’s tidy and concentrated production came a lack of personality and heart, integral parts of their previous outputs. They had misplaced something so important and, in turn, made a record that didn’t feel as authentic.

Heartworms and The Worm’s Heart

Heartworms” is The Shins’ most experimental record to date. Playing around with abrasive electronic sounds that are relatively out of character for the band, they don’t hold anything back. Completely stripping away distortion-tinged guitars, once a vital part of a Shins record, they explore uncharted territory and their sound in more depth on Heartworms.

The Shins released their fifth studio album, “Heartworms”. In contrast to 2012’s Port of Morrow, Heartworms ushers in a return to the handmade. Heartworms is, as always, entirely written by James Mercer, with exception of “So Now What” (produced by band member Richard Swift). Heartworms is the first Shins album to be self-produced by Mercer since Oh, Inverted World in 2001. Heartworms features Mercer’s most diverse lyrical palette to date. The result is a cohesive, yet genre defying album marked by Mercer’s distinct voice and melodic composition. Unified by his singular vision, Mercer creates a sound that is both familiar – a nostalgic nod to the album’s predecessors – and distinctly new. The album’s first single, “Name For You”, is a resounding call for female empowerment inspired by Mercer’s three daughters.

Alike to “Port Of Morrow“, they aim for a more appealing sound with memorable hooks aplenty. However, instead of reaching their hand into the world of indie rock to create peppier feel, they dive into the electro-pop sphere, taking inspiration from bands like The Dirty Projectors. The 80s influence certainly isn’t absent on the record either.

Heartworms is a bright and warm return for The Shins after a five-year break.

Wormsheart

When James Mercer was recording his latest Shins LP Heart Worms as a creative exercise he decided to re-record the songs in the opposite way of the originals. Songs that were more rock and uptempo became more acoustic and slow, and songs that were acoustic and slow in tempo became more upbeat. They were flipped. The result of those sessions he calls, The Worms Heart. What began as an exercise in song writing transformed into a commentary on what it means to be a songwriter. After writing the first track for Heartworms (released 10th March 2017), James Mercer decided to recreate each song from scratch. Driven by its malleability, its ability to be foundationally identical, yet aesthetically and sonically utterly new, Mercer continued experimenting until he had two complete albums: one original and one “flipped”. Mercer’s ability to create two totally divergent albums from the same underlying compositions not only highlights his immense capability as a song writer, but also functions as a reminder of what it means to be an artist, how an artist acts as both the master and facilitator of his artistic product.

The Albums;

  • Oh, Inverted World (2001)
  • Chutes Too Narrow (2003)
  • Wincing the Night Away (2007)
  • Port of Morrow (2012)
  • Heartworms (2017)
  • The Worms Heart (2018)
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The Shins had a Live Album on the way via Jack White’s Third Man Records label,

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Ought are a post punk band based in Montreal Canada on Constellation/Merge Records which is both the most obvious and most misleading thing you can say about them. For one, they’re not actually Montreal natives, or even Canadians their collective passports list birthplaces as far-flung as New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, and Australia. Their tetchy, talkative brand of art-punk makes them anomalies .

Ought formed back in 2011 when its members began living together in a communal band practice space and recorded their earliest material. Ought came together at McGill University in 2012,

Their debut EP, “New Calm“, was released in 2012. After signing with Constellation Records, they released a full-length, “More than Any Other Day”, in 2014. The album achieved critical acclaim, including a Best New Music accolade. 

It was noted in numerous year-end lists for 2014 including Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Loud and Quiet and may others.

In October 2014, the band released “Once More with Feeling”, an EP featuring B-sides from “More Than Any Other Day” and re-recordings of earlier songs. “Sun Coming Down“, the band’s second full-length album, was released in September 2015.

The band worked with French producer Nicholas Vernhes on their third studio album “Room Inside The World”, which was released February 16th, 2018, Lead singer Tim Darcy also released his debut solo album, “Saturday Night“, in 2017.

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More Than Any Other Day

Ought’s debut album, More Than Any Other Day, so endearing and electrifying. It’s an anxious, distressed record to be sure—brimming with feelings of disaffection and dislocation—but it presents itself as such simply to show you how that nervous energy can be put to more positive, constructive use.

More Than Any Other Day over its eight tracks, Ought strive to recapture and inspire that same sense of anarchic abandon they witnessed on the streets of Montreal in 2012. To that end, they couldn’t have chosen a more emblematic album cover not because, as some have pointed out, its image of hands clasped in a show of solidarity bears an uncanny resemblance to another debut album, but because, as the liner notes reveal, that photo was found discarded atop a dumpster. Accordingly, More Than Other Day is Ought’s effort to ensure that the basic tenets of passion and commitment don’t get tossed aside amid a culture of instant gratification and distraction, and remind their hashtag activist generation of how it really feels to feel.

And as singer/guitarist Tim Darcy convincingly illustrates throughout the record, the process of reconnecting with your inner iconoclast can be more potent than any drug. In the standout, Marquee Moon-lit ballad “Habit”, the addiction in question is to the act of expression itself, and the liberating/empowering sensation of getting something off your chest (even if the strung-out, string-screeched coda nods to a song about a different sort of habit. The almost-title-track “Today More Than Any Other Day” puts that transformative theory into even more explicit action: over a slowcore trickle, a dejected Darcy mutters the dispiriting line “we’re sinking deeper”—but then repeats those words over and over as the song accelerates until his ennui is reborn as exhilaration. And as the song hits its joyously frantic stride, even the prospect of going grocery shopping is elevated to a near-religious experience: “Today more than other day/ I am prepared/ To make the decision/ Between 2 per cent and whole milk,” Darcy shares, fully aware that the concept of choice in a late-capitalist economy is an inherently flawed one. But for him, even such small victories can provide one with the motivation to achieve much greater ones.

With his sardonic, conversational style and ticking-time-bomb outbursts, Darcy belongs to a lineage of brainiac-maniacs that span the likes of David Byrne and the Violent Femmes’ Gordan Gano to modern-day rant-rockers like Parquet Courts and Protomartyr. Likewise, the band’s sound encompasses myriad eras and permutations of proto- and post-punk: Velvet Underground drones (via the omnipersent hum of keyboardist Matt May), Feelies speed-jangle, daydreamy Sonic Youthian sprawl. And with the gritty grooves of “Pleasant Heart” and “Around Again”, bassist Ben Stidworthy and drummer Tim Keen display an amazingly deft, Fugazi-like facility with injecting a little funk into their punk without turning it into punk-funk.

But more so than any identifiable influence, More Than Any Other Day is ultimately defined by its unsettled, restless spirit; this is an album that treats panic attacks and adrenalized ecstasy as two sides of the same pounding heart, with its simultaneous transmissions of joy and fear, discipline and chaos, comedy and tragedy. As Darcy spells it out in the album’s thrillingly combustible closer, “Gemini”: “I retain the right to be disgusted by life/ I retain the right to be in love with everything in sight.” Though born of a highly politicized protest movement, Ought aren’t telling you what to do with your life. They just want to make sure you live it.

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Sun Coming Down

When Ought singer-guitarist Tim Darcy drops a fulsome “yes” in the middle of “Beautiful Blue Sky”—the spectacular centerpiece track of his band’s second album, “Sun Coming Down“—he’s sure to savour it. Amid a song whose chorus reads like a laundry list of 21st-century blights (“Warplane/ Condo/ New development”) and excruciating water-cooler chit chat (“How’s the family?/ How’s your health been?/ Fancy seeing you here!”)—Darcy declares, “I’m no longer afraid to die/ Because that is all that I have left/ Yessssss,” stretching out that last letter like pizza dough on a woodblock.

It’s an alarming admission, one that reads like the last will and testament of somebody who’s been so numbed by the dispiriting, clockwork demands of modern life that choosing death feels like the only empowering, self-actualizing move at their disposal. But Darcy invests his “yes” with an ecstatic sense of clarity. Though Darcy is a poet whose voluminous verbiage often overwhelms his melodies, it’s no insult to say that simple “yes” is the greatest lyric he’s written—because it so perfectly crystallizes his band’s essence and purpose.

Ought make indie rock that sounds like how urbanity makes you feel: nervous, antsy, sometimes hostile, yet intoxicatingly vibrant. And Darcy, likewise, gesticulates like a dutiful office drone who’s played by the rules his whole life but just can’t take it anymore. Ought’s 2014 debut “More Than Any Other Day” was an album of slowly unfurled epiphanies, stoking simmering tension into fiery, exultant release. Those sort of affirming moments are a little harder to come by on the more chaotic and caustic Sun Coming Down, but the album’s relentless drive and uncompromising attitude constitute their own special kind of thrill. If More Than Any Other Day was about the hard-fought, triumphant ascent, Sun Coming Down is the giddy, daredevil “wheeeeeey!” down the other side of the peak.

A lot has changed for Ought since the release of their first album—not the least of which is their lead singer’s surname. (Darcy was billed as Tim Beeler) More significantly, what was once a casual project among university roommates was promoted to workhorse touring act, and Sun Coming Down sounds like the sort of record that was hastily hashed out in between transatlantic jaunts. But that’s not to suggest the album sounds unfinished or is lacking focus—rather, the new album takes full advantage of Ought’s fully revved, road-tested engine and increased horsepower, in a strike-while-the-iron’s-hot move. Gone are the ambient styled ballads the strato stepped grooves that, on More Than Any Other Day, counterbalanced the band’s wiry freneticism. Here, Ought doubles-down on their oft-cited early-’80s Fall and late-’80s Sonic Youth reference points, handily destroying any inkling you might have had about this band following the likes of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or Vampire Weekend into big-tent-indie territory.

Sun Coming Down’s more aggressive attack pushes Darcy out of his usual agitated-everyman mode to deliver more cryptic narratives in a theatrical snarl that, at times, verges on Mark E. Smith karaoke. But while Ought’s influences may be obvious, you’re never really sure where they’re taking them: the fearsome rapid-fire rants, clanging guitar tangle and jackhammered drums of “The Combo” turn oddly celebratory in the wake of the song’s surprisingly cheery chorus (“Jubilation, darling!”); the bee-swarm buzz and frantic accelerations of “Celebration” are undercut by Darcy’s wonderfully fey, Fred Schneider-worthy exhortations (“Okay… let’s do it!”). Other songs are subjected to more abrupt change-ups: “On the Line” alternates between ponderous tone poem and garage-punk rave-up, before settling into a sublime third act that recalls the steady, galloping build-up of Patti Smiths “Gloria” while “Passionate Turn”—the only time here Ought attempt to channel the nocturnal grace of More Than Any Other Day’s knockout ballad “Habit” turns from swooning, stumbling serenade into a menacing, militaristic march for its final verse/chorus run.

Ought performing “Beautiful Blue Sky” live in the KEXP studio. Recorded October 15th, 2015.

Even the songs that remain locked into formation undergo subtle yet substantial mutations. The opening sprint of “Men for Miles” sees Darcy rewriting his verse melody with each pass and, as the band lean their full weight into the song’s motorik momentum, his unyieldingly abrasive guitar noise gives way to hypnotic, third eye-prying bliss. And the aforementioned “Beautiful Blue Sky” may initially sound like Ought’s answer to “Marquee Moon” but spiritually speaking, it’s their “Once In A Lifetime”song that paints a vivid picture of cubicle-bound 9-to-5 conformity before providing you with the sledgehammer to smash it. The transmission may be a little more distorted this time out, but, with Sun Coming Down, Ought’s underlying message is the same as it ever was: you have the power within you to change your lot in life. When you feel like there’s no way out, just say “yes.”

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Room Inside the World

Ought’s third album straightens out their sound, offering a more refined new wave palette underneath their singular and compelling lyrical style.

The best songs from Montreal post-punk band Ought contain the rapture of humble truths you might chance upon while spacing out on the subway, staring at the stars, or communing with a cup of coffee. “I am no longer afraid to die because that is all that I have left,” singer Tim Darcy sang on their 2015 album “Sun Coming Down”, which was a fun way of saying “I am alive.” Ought’s feverish, live-wire sound said that, too. The music was convincing because it felt scrappily human and Darcy could utter knotted word clusters about civilization or milk with a flair that somehow felt comforting. The band seemed to suggest, with a rare spark and radiant positivity, Mundanity can be a marvel. You will find the light at the end of the tunnel. Everything will be OK.

Ought’s third album, “Room Inside the World“, straightens out their sound. It offers a more refined and sophisticated new wave palette, redolent of the 1980s to an extreme, and it finds Darcy really singing—about isolation, tentative feelings, self-possession and lack thereof. Most of the record is cast in a newly muted and noirish hue with flourishes of vibraphone, sax, and clarinet. In its more compelling moments, Room Inside the World sounds like a young Scott Walker fronting the Gang Of Four a mix of grandeur and angular tension.

The album finds Ought making considerable changes, then, if not taking many risks. On “These 3 Things,” the singer preens in the glammy way you’d expect from a guy who legally changed his name to Darcy, while the droning closer, “Alice,” is named for cosmic jazz swamini Alice Coltrane. The best Room Inside the World songs still retain some post-punk fragmentation. One of the album’s most compelling moments occurs when “Disaffectation” methodically breaks apart after building itself into a deep trance, as Darcy sings of “some liberation” that “you can order […] online.” “Take Everything” fares better when it moves away from swirling psychedelia and towards lovely, threadbare balladeering, with images of dreaming and “the soul’s indecision.” “When the feel of a flower/Keeps you home for an hour/Throw it away,” Darcy sings, a curious and charming bit of verse.

Ought first ignited their sound with what they once called the “revolutionary spirit of radicalism and adventure” that they witnessed at the Quebec Student protests in 2012, and their songs pushed back with subtle comments on patriarchy, gentrification, and consent. Bits of Room Inside the World also have discernible political undertones or social critiques. The gentle “Brief Shield” flips gender scripts and comments on toxic masculinity. But where the title “Disgraced in America” seems like a bold gesture, any form of dissent therein is fairly oblique. At times, the album lends itself to superfluous jamming, and it can feel overwrought and opaque. Given Ought’s radical inklings, you wish they dared to make these lovely songs say or do something a little more righteous, to twist them into more adventurous shapes.

However, Ought achieve this spectacularly on the blue-eyed soul of “Desire” It towers over Room Inside the World like the album’s lighthouse. It begins wide-open, all wonder and shimmering drone, before Darcy unspools an exquisitely vulnerable Boss-style narrative about someone that left. A former lover is “the moon in a basket of weeds.” Two imagined characters drive through the night smiling. They escape a “petty little town.” It is a moment of romance and joy at a dead-end. “Desire was never gonna stay,” Darcy repeats like a mantra, scaling new reaches of passion and resolve with each turn, as if he were reckoning old feelings right as he recorded. A 70-piece choir eventually joins him and when they come in, the song’s architecture feels stitched to the sky.

“Desire” taps into a universal energy of persistence through life’s endless inquisition. It is at once the simplest and most ornate song Ought have done, but it feels in keeping with their essence. The power of Ought, and of many great artists, is an uncommon X-ray vision: to see things as they really are.

The band consists of Tim Darcy (vocals, guitar), Ben Stidworthy (bass), Matt May (keyboards) and Tim Keen (drums).

Albums

  • More than Any Other Day (2014)
  • Sun Coming Down  (2015)
  • Room Inside The World (2018)

EPs

  • New Calm (self-released, 2012)
  • Once More With Feeling EP (2014)
  • Four Desires (2018)
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The Wipers was a indie rock band formed in Portland, Oregon in 1977 by guitarist Greg Sage alongside drummer Sam Henry and bassist Dave Koupal. The group’s tight song structure and use of heavy distortion were hailed as extremely influential by numerous critics and musicians.

The Wipers formed in late 1978. Greg Sage said that the idea for the name came from when he worked at a movie theater that had a long hallway of glass that looked over the city of Portland, Oregon.
One of his jobs was to clean the glass that would get cloudy from people waiting to enter the theatres.
When wiping the glass with a large squeegee, the view of the city would become crystal clear. A “crystal clear view” was the idea he wanted to put into music.
The Wipers and Greg Sage went on to record 12 albums and several EP’s. Greg’s original idea was to never tour or do interviews, to be mysterious and let listeners have their own ideas. This original idea was not as possible as he hoped, due to the demands of working in the music industry. Even though staying independent throughout his career there were certain rules in the music world he could not bend. Greg would go on to build some of the equipment used to record the albums creating their distinct sound.

Sage’s intense interest in music began with cutting records at home as an adolescent. “I was very lucky to have my own professional record cutting lathe when I was in 7th grade due to my father being involved in the broadcast industry. I would cut records for friends at school of songs off the radio and learned the art of record making long before learning to play music. I would spend countless hours studying the grooves I would cut under the microscope that was attached to the lathe and loved the way music looked, moved and modulated within the thin walls. I might have spent too much time studying music through a microscope because it gave me a completely different outlook on what music is and a totally opposite understanding of it as well. I got to the point that I needed to create and paint my own sounds and colours into the walls of these grooves.”

Inspired by Jimi Hendrix Sage soon picked up the guitar, and in 1969, at age 17, Sage founded The Wipers in Portland in 1977 along with drummer Henry and bassist Koupal, originally just as a recording project. The plan was to record 15 albums in 10 years without touring or promotion. Sage thought that the mystique built from the lack of playing traditional live would make people listen to their recordings much deeper with only their imagination to go by. He thought it would be easy to avoid press, shows, pictures and interviews. He looked at music as art rather than entertainment; he thought music was personal to the listener rather than a commodity.

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“Better Off Dead”

The Wipers’ first single, “Better Off Dead”, was released in 1978 on Sage’s own label Trap Records. Sage wanted to make his own recordings and manufacture and run his own label without outside financing. In 1979, Sage approached several Portland punk bands (including Neo Boys, Sado-Nation and Stiphnoyds) and asked them to record singles for his new Trap label.

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“Is This Real”

The Wipers first album, “Is This Real” was issued in January 1980 on Park Avenue Records, a label that the band hoped would gain them wider distribution. It was originally recorded on a 4-track in the band’s rehearsal studio, but the label insisted that the band use a professional studio. Once released, the album gained a large cult following, although the band was best known for their live shows around the Portland area.

Despite the relatively polished outcome, “Is This Real” remained the group’s rawest and most direct outing. It was full of Sage’s raging but agile guitars and what would become his trademark song writing style, dealing with extreme isolation, confusion, and frustration with an agitated sense of melody. 14 years after its release, Sub Pop picked up the record and reissued it without any involvement from Sage.

Is This Real?” Raw, abrasive and hard-hitting, it’s come to be considered such a touchstone in Northwest punk/grunge history that Sub Pop reissued it (adding the three non-LP B-sides from Alien Boy) fourteen years later, after Nirvana covered not one, but two, of its songs.

Later in 1980, Park Avenue released the “Alien Boy” EP, consisting of the title track and three demo outtakes.

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“Youth Of America”

With a new rhythm section of bassist Brad Davidson and drummer Brad Naish (ex-Stiphnoyds), Wipers recorded a second album for Park Avenue, the last for that label. “Youth Of America” released in 1981, contrasted with the short/fast punk songs of the time. According to Sage, this change of pace was a reaction against the punk trend of releasing short songs. The album was, according to Sage, not that well received in the United States at the time of its release, though it did fare better in Europe. Along with other Wipers records, Youth of America came to be acknowledged as an important album in the development of American underground and independent rock movements of the early 80s.

Youth of America shows much refinement and is highlighted by Sage’s weird guitar work on some long instrumental bridges. The title track is a simple, repetitive, colossal ten-minute monster, the Wipers’ ultimate effort. Over the Edge is as appealing, with some of Sage’s most memorable songs. The thick title track (later covered by Hole), plus the simmering “Doom Town” and the roaring “So Young” define the Wipers’ dense, methodical, chunky aggression, with heavy, cloudy guitar.

 Sage took it upon himself to record and engineer everything by himself. The move paid off, resulting in a furiously spirited but brief LP full of extended passages that allowed Sage to flex his astounding skills on guitar without sounding like a showoff.

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“Over The Edge”

The next album, “Over The Edge” issued in 1983 by Trap via Brain Eater Records, was the first Wipers record to gain significant attention.  It was led by the song, “Romeo”, which had already been released the previous year as a 7″ single by Trap. The band then embarked on their first extensive tour, documented on the Wipers Tour 84 cassette-only live album, which was reissued by Enigma Records in 1985 as Wipers.

For 1982’s excellent “Over The Edge” the structures of the songs tightened, the pop sensibility hit full stride. As a result, “Romeo” and “Over the Edge” each sustained a fair amount of radio play in the U.S., thanks to a few stations that were developing play lists that would later be identified as alternative.

In 1985, Naish was replaced by Steve Plouf, and Enigma issued Sage’s first solo album, “Straight Ahead”

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“Land Of the Lost” and “Follow Blind”, “The Circle”,

Signing to Enigma’s Restless Records division, Wipers released 1986’s “Land Of the Lost” featuring the song “Let Me Know”, used in the film Rivers Edge. “Land of the Lost” reveals no rust after a three-year layoff. “Way of Love” and “Nothing Left to Lose” are charging rockers fed by Sage’s fire-breathing string work, while “Just Say” shows a prettier side of his playing. It was followed by “Follow Blind” (1987) and “The Circle” (1988).

Follow Blind” came out in 1987 and “The Circle” followed in 1988. Aside from some slight production nuances and the occasional dabbling with stylistic curveballs, the three studio albums between 1986 and 1988 more or less swam in the wake of the first three but are far from embarrassments.

Follow Blind backsteps a bit, with more hypnotic guitar. On the first moody Wipers LP, Brad Davidson’s prominent bass sets up subconscious undercurrents. The stunning title track and “Any Time You Find” mix Sage’s solo atmospherics with his thicker, repetitive style and are highly affecting.

The Circle‘s scorching opener, “I Want a Way,” and its tumultuous title track are red herrings for Wipers’ business as usual. The album actually includes one of the band’s rare, unabashed pop songs in “Time Marches On” and closes with the slow, sombre shudder of three completely different-sounding songs: “Goodbye Again,” “Be There” and “Blue & Red.” Beautiful.

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Several alternative rockers became vocal about their admiration for Sage. The most notable was Kurt Cobain, whose band Nirvana covered Wipers songs and asked Sage to open for them on tours. Never wanting to be opportunistic and never wanting to draw attention to himself, Sage politely turned down the offers. Sage would also reason that the timing was never right, as he and Plouf had trouble securing a bassist who would be willing to learn over 100 songs and tour unglamorously to little fanfare. Sage himself was never a fan of touring; trudging through the States to promote records had been nothing but one nightmare after another, he never got a thrill from the attention that comes with being a frontman, and only a couple towns — specifically Boston and Chicago — were regularly supportive. Wipers did enjoy most of their touring success in Europe, where they were treated with much more respect and filled theatres holding a couple thousand fans.

In 1989, drummer Travis McNabb joined Wipers for a tour, during which Sage announced that the band was ending due to music business frustrations and the loss of their studio space. Sage then relocated to Arizona  and Davidson left to move to London. After building a new recording studio in Arizona, Sage released a second solo album, 1991’s “Sacrifice For Love”.

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The Best of Wipers and Greg Sage and Complete Rarities ’78–’90

Two compilations were released in this era: The Best of Wipers and Greg Sage in 1990 by Restless, and Complete Rarities ’78–’90 in 1993 by Germany’s True Believer Records. The latter included the first Wipers 7″, the B-side of the “Romeo” 7″, sampler contributions, and live material from 1986 and 1989.

In compiling the 1990 retrospective, Sage favoured his recent albums, but the collection includes such rarities as the band’s blistering 1978 debut single “Better Off Dead,” a long-forgotten compilation track and plenty of other goodies. A fine introduction

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“Silver Sail” and “The Herd”

Sage restarted Wipers in 1993, rejoined by Plouf, releasing three additional albums as a duo: “Silver Sail” (1993) Reclaiming the Wipers name (and getting back drummer Steve Plouf) didn’t make Silver Sail Sage’s attempt to capitalize on his new-found prestige. Rather, with characteristic independence, Sage went even prettier, spacier and moodier than his previous work in order to get away from the public desire for him to rock out with his new crop of admirers.

A more deliberate pace allows Sage’s virtuoso playing extra opportunity to bob and weave, float and tickle, tease and torment; he introduces hints of quiet surf music, spaghetti westerns and other lonely, timeless sounds. Likewise, his spooky voice sounds unusually beautiful, especially on the crescendos of “Prisoner.” He finally lets loose with two vintage blasts, “Never Win” and “Silver Sail.”

“The Herd” (1996), Again recorded as a duo with Plouf, Sage’s tenth studio album, The Herd, swings his direction back around 180 degrees. He’s bringing the fire this time, as evidenced by the clangourous roar of the angry, anthemic “Psychic Vampire” and “The Herd.” The sterling pop melody of the bristlingly loud “Resist” conveys a strong anti-repression message; it’s as if the MC5 had never gone away. For a guy/band approaching the 20-year mark, these rocket-fuelled smashers sound every bit as dynamic and pushy as his earliest choleric days, only using more intricate chord patterns and playing. Both albums were on the Tim/Kerr label, and then “Power In One” (1999) on Sage’s own Zeno Records. The band then became inactive after 1999.

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In 2001, Zeno released “The Wipers Box Set” which included the first three Wipers albums, which by that time had been long out-of-print, along with the songs from the “Alien Boy” EP and additional previously unreleased material. Jackpot Records and Sage later reissued “Is This Real?”, “Youth of America” and “Over the Edge” on vinyl.

Misunderstood, mistreated, underrated, and/or just plain unknown, Greg Sage should be mentioned in the first breaths about trailblazing guitarists and U.S. independent music of the ’80s and ’90s. Since forming his band, Wipers, in Portland, OR, in the late ’70s, Sage has been put through the ringer more than enough to justify his hermetic operating methods and attitude. While most of his devout fans consider it a travesty that his name isn’t as known as a contemporary like Bob Mould or even an unabashed fan-boy turned legend like Kurt Cobain or Sage would likely retort that it’s not for the notoriety that he began making music. Unlike most other musicians who gain inspiration and motivation from watching their favourite stars revel in popularity and idol worship.

The Albums:

  • Is This Real? (1980, Park Avenue Records)
  • Youth Of America (1981, Park Avenue Records)
  • Over The Edge (1983, Trap Records/Brain Eater Records)
  • Land Of the Lost (1986, Restless Records)
  • Follow Blind (1987, Restless Records)
  • The Circle (1988, Restless Records)
  • Silver Sail (1993, Tim/Kerr)
  • The Herd (1996, Tim/Kerr)
  • Power In One (1999, Zeno Records)

Live albums:

  • Wipers Tour 84 (1984, Trap Records)
  • Wipers (1985, Enigma Records)

EPs:

  • Alien Boy (1980, Park Avenue Records)
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