Posts Tagged ‘Classic Albums’

On this day in history First released February 4th, 1983) Echo and the Bunnymen released their 3rd album “Porcupine” featuringthe tracks The Back Of Love and favorite, The Cutter, it became the band’s highest charting release.

This album was produced by Ian Broudie, who later went on to form The Lightning Seeds.

Ian McCulloch’s comments, I think Porcupine was a classic autobiographical album, the most honest thing that I’d ever written or sung. I found the material from it really heavy to play – like, really oppressive. That’s the only reason why I didn’t like the album. The songs were great but it didn’t make me happy. A lot of songs are about coming to terms with the opposites in me.

When presented with the finished album, WEA Records rejected it as “too uncommercial”. The band agreed to re-record the album, despite Sergeant’s complaints. Using the original version of the album as a blueprint, the follow-up recording sessions went more smoothly. Drummond brought Shankar back to add strings to the other tracks on the album. It was these sessions that produced the band’s next single, “The Cutter”, which was released in January 1983 and went on to become the band’s first Top 10 hit.

A better listen than its predecessor, Heaven Up Here. Songs are intriguing and elaborate, often featuring swooping, howling melodic lines. Arrangements here owe a lot to 1960s psychedelia and feature lots of reverb, washed textures, intricate production touches, and altered guitar sounds. Ian McCulloch’s vocals are yearning, soaring, and hyper-expressive here, almost to the point of being histrionic, most notably on “Clay,” “Ripeness,” and the title track. Listen to the epic neo-psychedelia of ‘My White Devil’ or ‘Heads Will Roll’ as examples ,

Driving bass and drums lend the songs urgency and keep the music from collapsing into self-indulgence. Parallels between the group’s U.S. contemporaries

The recording session for “The Back of Love” went well, but the relationship between the band members was strained, with them either not speaking to each other or, when they did, arguing.Their manager Bill Drummond was aware of the tensions within the band and so arranged a tour in Scotland for April 1982. This was done in an effort to make the band work harder, write some songs, and to communicate with each other. Drummond’s plan failed to work as following the tour there was still tension between the band members.Two other album tracks – “Clay” and “My White Devil” – were first played during the tour of Scotland.

Echo & the Bunnymen
  • Ian McCulloch – vocals, guitar, piano
  • Will Sergeant – lead guitar
  • Les Pattinson – bass
  • Pete de Freitas – drums

Porcupine deserves a place in the canon of classic rock albums that are regarded as ‘great art’.

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Fanny was founded by guitarist June Millington and her sister, bassist Jean, who had been playing music together since they moved from the Philippines to California in the early 1960s. After playing through several variations of the band, they attracted the interest of producer Richard Perry who signed them to Reprise Records in 1969 as Fanny. The band recorded four albums together before June Millington quit the group, leading to the original line-up splitting. Following a final album, Fanny disbanded in 1975. The Millington sisters have continued to play music together since the split, and with a former drummer, Brie Howard Darling, formed the spin-off group Fanny Walked the Earth in 2018.
Photo ( clockwise from left ): Jean Millington; June Millington; Alice de Buhr and Nickey Barclay.

Stella Mozgawa, Warpaint:Fanny were pioneers, one the first rock bands to feature all women, and the second ever to be signed to a major label when they signed to Reprise in 69. The album was produced by Todd Rundgren. They featured two sisters by the name of June and Jean Millington. They came from California and played dirty rock’n’soul. David Bowie called them the great lost band of the 70’s. This album is filthy, with a really dirty sound.”

With the release of Fanny’s 1973 album Mother’s Pride, Real Gone Music concludes its reissue campaign of the groundbreaking female rock group’s classic Reprise catalog. And while there might be some argument as to whether or not we have saved the best for last . All four Reprise albums the band put out have their champions among Fanny followers there is no question that we have saved the biggest for last, as this expanded edition clocks in with no less than eight bonus tracks! Indeed, Mother’s Pride is perhaps the most controversial entry in the Fanny catalog, as Todd Rundgren agreed to produce the album on the condition that he and he alone oversee the album mix. The result was a record that cemented Fanny’s popularity in the U.K. but failed to make a dent in the charts here in the States. Like our previous Fanny reissues, this release features track-by-track annotation from the band as well as rare photos. Another seminal ’70s rock record from everybody’s favorite “forgotten” all-female rock group, supplemented with rare demos and lost tracks!

The album “Family Entertainment” followed on the heels of Family’s Music in a Doll’s House with the band’s first incarnation: Roger Chapman (harmonica/tenor sax/vocals), Rick Grech (violin/cello/bass guitar/vocals), Rob Townsend (percussion/drums), John “Charlie” Whitney (guitar/pedal steel guitar/keyboards), and Jim King (harmonica/keyboards/soprano sax/tenor sax/vocals).

Family Entertainment was the second album by the British progressive rock band Family, released in March 1969. The cover of the album was a takeoff from the sleeve of the Doors’ second album, Strange Days, Family admitted.

While not totally dismissing their psychedelic leanings, much of the material bears a stronger acoustic influence, in much the same manner as Fairport Convention and Traffic were also exploring. The jazzy sitar lead of “Face in the Cloud” and the even more prominent Eastern-flavored “Summer ’67” somewhat date the affair, and are contrasted by the beautifully noir and trippy “How-Hi-the-Li” and the upbeat “Hung Up Down,” sporting Grech’s unmistakable violin as it wafts over the rural and slightly surreal lyrics.

These sides are set against the edgy “Weaver’s Answer,” which immediately establishes a broader spectrum of styles, most notably given Chapman’s commanding if not slightly intimidating vocals. Guitarist Whitney blistering fretwork yields bite to the Grech-penned “Second Generation Woman,” while “Emotions,” another full-tilt rocker, is infused with an apparent R&B homage.

The first song from the album ”Family Entertainment” that came out in 1969.

This extended version is live from the Beat Club (Hamburg) in 1970. Roger Chapman – Vocals / Percussion John ”Charlie” Whitney – Guitars / Organ Jim King – Piano /Saxophone / Vocals Ric Grech – Bass / Violin / Vocals Rob Townsend – Drums / Percussion Nicky Hopkins – Piano

Family Entertainment was the last album from the group’s original lineup.

Family’s momentum was almost derailed by the departure of bassist Ric Grech for Blind Faith two months after Family Entertainment’s UK release, which caused their first U.S. tour to founder, and Jim King only worsened the situation with his departure later in 1969.

Interested parties should note that Family Entertainment and Music in a Doll’s House were issued in a double-disc package featuring a commendable 24-bit digital remastering rendering all other versions useless — especially the early-’90s pressing on the German Line label. Not only are both LPs included, but the 45s “Scene Through the Eye of a Lens” and “Gypsy Woman” are finally brought into the digital domain. The accompanying 40-page liner booklet is likewise a feast for the eyes.

reDiscover Captain Beefheart’s ‘Doc At The Radar Station’

As the 80s rolled around, many iconic artists from the 60s would struggle to find their place in the decade. Captain Beefheart, however, though boasting a 60s discography that re-wrote what was possible for a mere three-minute song, came back revitalised. The punk and new wave scenes of the late 70s and early 80s had embraced his creative freedoms, while Beefheart himself, after seemingly turning his back on boundary-pushing music, unleashed a late-period Magic Band that asserted his credentials as one of rock’s true visionaries. They super-charged themselves for 1980’s “Doc At The Radar Station”, his penultimate album. Portentously, it boasted an artwork painted by Beefheart himself – the final album to feature his own work on the sleeve, as if signposting Beefheart’s eventual decision to retire from music and pursue painting in the middle of the decade.

The line-up that made “Doc at the Radar Station”, the penultimate studio album from Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, recorded in June 1980. In this photo, left to right: Robert Arthur Williams, Don Van Vliet, John French, Eric Drew Feldman, Jeff Moris Tepper and Bruce Lambourne Fowler. Photo by Michael Kent Rothman.

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In this photo, left to right: Robert Arthur Williams, Don Van Vliet, John French, Eric Drew Feldman, Jeff Moris Tepper and Bruce Lambourne Fowler. Photo by Michael Kent Rothman.

Doc At The Radar Station marked the first Magic Band credit for New York art-rock icon Gary Lucas – continued evidence of Beefheart’s influence on NYC’s downtown art scene (it’s an influence that never left: the album’s opening track, ‘Hot Head’, is a clear ancestor to Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ early outings). Further youthful bite came courtesy of Eric Drew Feldman, a multi-instrumentalist who had joined the fold for 1976’s Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), and who would go on to perform with Pixies and PJ Harvey – two artists who wore their Beefheart influences openly.

A nod to Beefheart’s hallowed Trout Mask Replica-era band came with John French’s return since his defection in 1972. French picked up marimba, slide guitar, bass and drums across ‘Ashtray Heart’ and ‘Sheriff Of Hong Kong’, and it’s perhaps unsurprising that both boast the deceptively unhinged mania that marks much of Beefheart’s 60s output, but with an extra heft thanks to the new blood involved.

This melding of old and new is arguably what makes Doc At The Radar Station such a success: some of the material dates back to the Trout Mask era, while other outings (‘A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond’,’ Flavor Bud Living’, ‘Brickbats’) received initial try-outs during the shelved Bat Chain Puller sessions of 1976. With such a forceful Magic Band attacking top-tier material with gusto, there was no way Doc At The Radar Station could fail.

Indeed, in their review Rolling Stone lauded “music of such heat, strength and passion that many listeners will get trampled”, though also noted that the songs “rarely shatter into headlong chaos without first showing the comely, formal compositions they might have been”. It was an astute observation. Beefheart might have divided his fanbase with his outwardly commercial 70s outings Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans & Moonbeams, but it’s true that Doc At The Radar Station also makes clear the genuine songcraft that goes into even his most outlandish material.

It had taken almost two decades, but perhaps the world had finally caught up with him. Rolling Stone reasonably pointed out that, really, the man Don Van Vliet was “bugged by the same things that plague us all: bad relationships, bad technology, bad government”, while The New York Times was sufficiently moved to hail album closer ‘Making Love To A Vampire With A Monkey On My Knee’ as “probably the most extravagantly original and perfectly realised creation of Beefheart’s career”.

Almost three decades on, as a penultimate salvo, Doc At The Radar Station still warrants such positive diagnoses.

The_Smashing_Piumpkins-Gish

On May 28th, 1991 The Smashing Pumpkins released their debut album ‘Gish’. Billy Corgan performed nearly all of the guitar and bass parts on the record.  They had been an active band for the 3 years before the release of this album, playing small shows here and there in their hometown of Chicago, Illinois.

Upon its release, it was quite positively acclaimed. This was, of course, in May of ’91.

Arriving several months before Nirvana’s Nevermindthe Smashing Pumpkins‘ debut album, “Gish”, which was also produced by Butch Vig, was the first shot of the alternative revolution that transformed the rock & roll landscape of the ’90s. While Nirvana was a punk band, the Smashing Pumpkins and guitarist/vocalist Billy Corgan were arena rockers, co-opting their metallic riffs and epic art rock song structures with self-absorbed lyrical confessions. Though Corgan’s lyrics fall apart upon close analysis, there’s no denying his gift for arrangements. Like Brian May and Jimmy Page, he knows how to layer guitars for maximum effect, whether it’s on the pounding, sub-Sabbath rush of “I Am One” or the shimmering, psychedelic dream pop surfaces of “Rhinoceros.”

Such musical moments like these, as well as the rushing “Siva” and the folky “Daydream,” which features D’Arcy on lead vocals, demonstrate the Smashing Pumpkins‘ potential, but the rest of Gish sometimes falls prey to undistinguished songwriting and showy instrumentation.

The album’s sessions, lasting 30 working days, were brisk by Pumpkins‘ standards, largely because of the group’s inexperience.The recording sessions put an intense strain on the band, with bassist D’arcy Wretzky later commenting that she did not know how the band survived it, and Corgan explaining he suffered a nervous breakdown

Regarding the album’s thematic content, Corgan would later say,

The album is about pain and spiritual ascension. People ask if it’s a political album. It’s not a political album, it’s a personal album. In a weird kind of way, Gish is almost like an instrumental album—it just happens to have singing on it, but the music overpowers the band in a lot of places. I was trying to say a lot of things I couldn’t really say in kind of intangible, unspeakable ways, so I was capable of doing that with the music, but I don’t think I was capable of doing it with words.

“Gish” went platinum 8 years after its release. As far as debuts go, this one is a masterpiece. You’ll love this album;

The band:  Jimmy Chamberlin – drums, Billy Corgan – vocals, lead guitar, bass, keyboards, piano, production, James Iha – rhythm guitar, vocals, D’arcy Wretzky – bass, vocals, lead vocals on “Daydream”, layouts

In 1967, when the still-teenaged keyboardist Steve Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group (for whom he’d sung lead on hits like “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “I’m a Man”) to start a new band with guitarist Dave Mason, few observers thought their idea of blending pop, rock, and jazz would work. Immediately, though, Traffic scored giant hits with Winwood’s east-meets-west “Paper Sun” and Mason’s acid-jazzy “Hole in My Shoe”. Between those songs, the smoking-guitar driven title track, the swinging instrumental “Giving to You” and the haunting ballad, “No Face, No Name, No Number”, Traffic’s debut established both players as elite members of the new guard of late 60s British rock.

“I knew it wasn’t just a good piece or a good track for a record,” Traffic drummer and lyricist Jim Capaldi once said of their song “Dear Mr. Fantasy” the pseudo-title-cut from the band’s kaleidoscopic debut LP. “I knew it was going to be a real milestone-type piece.” His hunch was spot-on.

The British quartet never cracked the pop charts with the spiraling psych-rock song. (In fact, they never even issued it as a single.) But the six-minute long “Fantasy” was designed more as a deep, mind-expanding bong hit than a quick joint puff: Steve Winwood’s bluesy howl and the group’s live-in-the-room exploration tapped into the same jam-sprung freedom flourishing at that time from America’s West Coast.

Fittingly, since much of Traffic’s early repertoire reveled in whimsy, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” originated from a doodle. “I’d drawn this character playing a guitar, with puppet hands instead of his own hands,” Capaldi recalled in a video interview celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mr. Fantasyin 2017. “I wrote a letter next to it: ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy, play us a tune.'”

At the time, the band Capaldi, Winwood, multi-instrumentalists Dave Mason and Chris Wood were holed up at Sheepcote Farm, a rural cottage in Berkshire, England, owned by baronet Sir William Pigott-Brown, a friend of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. Experimenting with weed and LSD, and living among the filth of their own dirty dishes and laundry, the young men cooked up much of Mr. Fantasy at this ragged sanctuary.

“There was no running water, there was a well and no electricity,” said WinwoodBlackwell took the gamekeeper’s cottage down the lane so he could make sure we rehearsed and wrote material. It was a place where we could make as much row as we liked – and we certainly did.”

During one ordinary vice-filled afternoon, “Fantasy” emerged.

“I was asleep upstairs in the cottage, and I heard this nice little bass line going and some guitar,” Capaldi said “I woke up, went down — we’d jam all time of the day, and we’d all take breaks, do whatever.”

“[I] found that they’d written a song around the words and drawing I’d done, I was completely knocked out by it. Chris wrote that great bass line. We added some more words later and worked out a bigger arrangement too.”

“Dear Mr. Fantasy” “was done on impulse with practically nothing worked out, because it was almost jammed,” Winwood told Rolling Stone in 1969. “The initial spirit of the whole thing was captured on record — which is very rare. That was one of the things, because it’s not specifically an outstanding melody or an outstanding chord sequence or anything. It’s basically quite simple. They’re very simple lyrics and they’re repeated three times. … It wasn’t half so strong after we’d done it. It was time that gave it a lot of meaning.”

Armed with a batch of songs that sprawled from psych to blues to soul to Beatlesque Indian nods, Traffic eventually moved to London’s Olympic Studios with producer Jimmy Miller, with whom Winwood had collaborated as part of his previous band, the Spencer Davis Group.

Miller was crucial in capturing the song’s free-flowing vibe on tape, which they only achieved after scrapping the traditional recording booths and tracking as a live four-piece: Winwood on electric guitar and vocals, Mason on bass, Wood on organ and Capaldi on drums. A surprise fifth member was Miller, who augmented the groove by rushing from the control room to lay down some extra percussion.

“We were in the middle of a take and there’s a part where the tempo changes it jumps and I look around, and Jimmy Miller’s not in the control room,” by the side of engineer Eddie Kramer. “The next thing I see out of the corner of my eye is Jimmy hauling ass across the room, running full tilt. He jumps up on the riser, picks up a pair of maracas and gets them to double the tempo! That, to me, was the most remarkable piece of production assistance I’d ever seen. They were shocked to see him out there, exhorting them to double the tempo. Their eyes kind of lit up. It was amazing.”

“Fantasy” thrives on that anything-can-happen energy: Capaldi’s thumping kick drum accents and tumbling fills, the double-time grooves, Winwood’s Jimi Hendrix-like solo, that tempo-shifting finale. From 1967 onward, it became a staple of Traffic’s live show performed more than any other song in their catalog.

And kindred spirits followed suit onstage. Grateful Dead introduced a faithful cover in 1984, a showcase for keyboardist-singer Brent Mydland, and continued to perform it up through 1990. (Jerry Garcia even joined Traffic for a version during their 1994 reunion tour, documented on the live set The Last Great Traffic Jam.) Several other rock legends have paid tribute, including Hendrix, Crosby, Stills & Nash, mid-’90s Fleetwood Mac (featuring a briefly tenured Mason), Peter Frampton and Eric Clapton (alongside Winwood).

“Dear Mr. Fantasy” “was done on impulse with practically nothing worked out, because it was almost jammed,” Winwood told Rolling Stone in 1969. “The initial spirit of the whole thing was captured on record — which is very rare. That was one of the things, because it’s not specifically an outstanding melody or an outstanding chord sequence or anything. It’s basically quite simple. They’re very simple lyrics and they’re repeated three times. … It wasn’t half so strong after we’d done it. It was time that gave it a lot of meaning.”

  • Steve Winwood – guitar, lead vocal
  • Dave Mason – bass guitar, harmonica, backing vocal
  • Chris Wood – organ, backing vocal
  • Jim Capaldi – drums, backing vocal
  • Jimmy Miller – maracas

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, which turns 10 years of age this week, The New York indie pop quartet built up a pretty rabid fan base in the indie pop community prior to the release of their self-titled debut record in early 2009. For this, they could thank a string of excellent singles and EPs that began in 2007 (songs from which appear on the album) but more than that they can put it down to the fact that their sound melds together the trademarked sounds of many beloved indie and noise pop bands into one shiny ball of sound and melancholy. Mixed in skillfully are the sonic assaults of early My Bloody Valentine, the hazy sweetness of Ride, the introspective and usually morose lyrical approach perfected by the Field Mice, the sensitive and tender vocals purveyed by most Sarah records bands, and the rhythmic drive of early-’90s Amer-Indie bands the likes of which more often than not found themselves on Slumberland (Lilys, the Ropers, Velocity Girl — whose Archie Moore ably mixes the album).

The awkward characters that populate the New York group’s brisk and clumsy first full-length are also lovesick misfits for whom the simple task of staying alive seems overwhelming. “It sounds like teen drama,” the band’s frontman Kip Berman explained once.

In the tradition of bands like Beat Happening and Belle And Sebastian, the members of the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart celebrate teenageness — nowhere towns, long wasted summers, lust at first sight — with a bit of hindsight. Before Pains, Berman toiled away in a call center and did some some marketing for a company called Drillteam. He also spent time stumbling around Portland, Oregon’s DIY scene, eventually moving to NYC and geeking out over Dear Nora songs with Pains’ founding keyboardist Peggy Wang, who worked full-time for a new startup called BuzzFeed. At the same time, bassist Alex Naidus edited for eMusic’s Canadian website and drummer Kurt Feldman taught music to kids. Their teenage years were in the rear view, but an adolescent-like desire to belong to something lingered — as did their appreciation for the messy mythology of being young and in love.

The record dropped in February 2009 via Slumberland, an act of kismet considering the band’s vibe was clearly informed by the iconic label’s roster of scrappy noise-makers. At first glance, Pains seemed doomed to be typecast as yet another fashionable group with fashionable influences and a retro looking album cover. And while it was true that nothing about the songs felt particularly contemporary, they definitely didn’t sound stale either. The album’s first track, “Contender,” which makes lyrical allusions to the Exploding Hearts and On The Waterfront, was the first song the group wrote together. It’s a mid tempo letter from Berman to his aimless younger self: “You saw the boys in white sing ‘I’m a pretender’ / But you never were / You never were a contender,” he sings, his mopey timbre layered atop Wang’s background melodies.

Things mostly get brighter and noisier from there: The sweet and thrashy “Come Saturday” posits a skipped party as the light at the end of the tunnel, while the Psychocandy-esque closer “Gentle Sons” is about mortality and Mondays: “You stumble down the diamond path / And every breath could be your last,” goes the latter’s hook. The relatively huge-sounding “Stay Alive” teases the kind of room-filling, Creation Records-indebted dream pop that the group turned to when making the album’s 2011 follow-up, Belong. (The Higher Than The Stars EP, which includes a drop-dead gorgeous Saint Etienne remix that is absolutely worth revisiting, came in between.) But the self-titled’s most eternal artifact is probably “Young Adult Friction,” an unselfconsciously twee chant-along about hooking up in a library. The innuendo-laced wordplay is top-notch (“I never thought I would come of age / Let alone on a moldy page”) and Berman and Wang’s call-and-response chorus is pure, jangly joy.

Best of all is the amazingly hooky “Everything with You,” which stands as the equal of anything the shoegaze poppers or pop losers cranked out back in the day. If you had gone out and bought the 7,” after one play you would have tacked the sleeve up on your wall and played the record until the grooves wore out. It’s that good. It lifts the album from pretty good to almost great.

But for all its nostalgic energy, the songs on Pains also reflect another classically teenage concern: uncertainty about the future. “You say you’ve been waiting … waiting since you were born / For a moment when everything’s alright,” Berman sings on the bouncy, distorted “Hey Paul.” It’s hard to look back at albums that came out at the end of the aughts without thinking about the financial crisis — especially ones made by 20-somethings who were attempting to find their place in a bottomed-out economy while simultaneously searching for footing in the shifting musical landscape. Maybe there is a tendency to drift off into an idealized version of the past when things seem really shitty. Listening to the album in 2019, when things are deeply fucked in a different way, it feels borderline magical to spend 35 minutes in a teenage world full of power pop bangers and dusty old books, a place where hearts break and dreams fade but there’s always another weekend on the horizon.

It remains a coming-of-age classic to many, an unflinching and hopelessly quotable tribute to the rollercoaster romance of youth. So far it seems like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is destined to be remembered fondly.

thanks a little to Stereogum,

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Spooky Tooth was formed in 1967. Among the players forming its heavy sound were organist Gary Wright, who in the mid-1970s had a massive hit, “Dream Weaver.” Spooky Tooth’s second album in 1969, “Spooky Two”, was their best album, full of deep cuts (i.e., “Lost In My Dream,” “Evil Woman,” “Better By You, Better By Me,” and “That Was Only Yesterday” among them) that still received FM radio in the early 1970s.

Spooky Two is the second studio album by the English rock band Spooky Tooth. It was originally released in March 1969, on the label Island Records in 1969 , “Spooky Two” is this British blues-rock band’s pièce de résistance. All eight of the tracks compound free-styled rock and loose-fitting guitar playing, resulting in some fantastic raw music … their smooth, relaxed tempos and riffs mirrored bands like Savoy Brown and, at times, even the Yardbirds … Although Spooky Tooth lasted about seven years, their other albums never really contained the same passion or talented collaborating by each individual musician as Spooky Two.

It was Spooky Tooth’s misfortune to be sandwiched between Led Zeppelin and Free’s turbo-charged, all-pervasive ascents. A couple of years later and the band’s thoughtful but solid style would have found room to grow. Keyboard player Gary Wright shares vocals with Mike Harrison, a strong, complementary pair of voices, and also writes most of the songs including the memorably catchy Better By You Better Than Me, later rescued from oblivion by Judas Priest. The tracks on their second album are an eclectic bunch, blending the blues with folk, country, gospel and even prog. And they sound better now than they did then.

Spooky Tooth’s lead vocalist, was Mike Harrison, was serviceable, although not in Rodgers’ league. His shortcomings were evident when he tried to hit high notes with a weak falsetto. Yet for most of the material, Harrison’s voice was just what their music needed. Subsequent to the release of the album, Greg Ridley left the group, to join Humble Pie

Everything goes back to Mott the Hoople. After Ralph’s departure, Hunter poached Luther Grosvenor (who left Spooky Tooth in 1970) from another fondly remembered British one-hit wonder Stealers Wheel (the hit was “Stuck in the Middle With You”), whose leader Gerry Rafferty quit and Grosvenor replaced him for a tour. Used to the fill-in role, Grosvenor adopted the “Ariel Bender” moniker for contractual reasons when Mott toured in 1973 and 1974 and recorded their seventh album The Hoople.

Mott the Hoople reformed in 2009 and 2013 for British tours with the original lineup. But in the summer of 2018, Hunter, now 79, brought back Ariel and Hoople keyboardist Morgan Fisher for a series of European dates.

  • Mike Harrison – keyboards, vocals
  • Luther Grosvenor – guitar
  • Gary Wright – keyboards, vocals
  • Greg Ridley – bass
  • Mike Kellie – drums

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On this day in 1990, Oxford, England shoegazers Ride unleashed their debut album, “Nowhere”, at the height of shoegaze, and it still stands up as one of the genre’s defining works.  The word “shoegaze”  became one of my favorite musical styles. Nowhere” is the debut album by Ride, released 15th October 1990. Rolling Stone called the album “a masterpiece”,one of [shoegazing’s] enduring moments”. Ride had released three EPs, Ride, Play, and Fall, prior to the release of “Nowhere”  .

Before the ear-splitting beauty of My Bloody Valentine, the sugary noise-pop of The Jesus and Mary Chain or the washed-out soundscapes of Slowdive,

“Vapour Trail,” though this string-filled ballad wasn’t quite full-on shoegaze like the remainder of the record, its swirling, transcendent energy and chiming 12-string guitars left me wanting more. I previously knew of the band’s co-lead singer and guitarist Andy Bell as the bassist in Oasis, but after I heard him sing on “Vapour Trail” with soft-hearted conviction, At the time theybecame my new favorite band—Ride.

The opening track, “Seagull,” I was met by a guitar assault, an unrelenting drone-like groove, breakneck drums and the harmonized co-lead vocals of Mark Gardener and Bell. Sure,  This LP made me completely rethink the capabilities of musical transcendence.

I’d been exposed to uplifting romanticism and isolating sadness colliding in the same song before with artists like The Smiths and The Cure, but never with such extreme poles as Ride. On the eight tracks of “Nowhere”, Ride fired a distorted wash of piercing guitars, Loz Colbert’s vigorous percussion, bassist Steve Queralt’s clamoring melodies and Gardener and Bell’s angelic vocal harmonies. Songs shift from the soft wisp of “Dreams Burn Down” and “Vapour Trail” to the chugging chaos of “Decay” and “Kaleidoscope,” but more often than not, they incorporate both delicate allure and fierce annihilation within the same song.

Ride are a musical contradiction, and the best shoegaze music excels at contradiction. One of the things that kept pulling me back to Ride’s “Nowhere” and the rest of their discography and separated them from other shoegaze bands I love—was their refusal to obscure their harmonious vocals. If you were to transcribe the lyrics of bands like Cocteau Twins or My Bloody Valentine, you’d probably get a different set of words with each attempt due to their washed out sound mix. But with Ride, they preserved their distorted onslaught of instrumentals while allowing their shimmery pop vocals a la The Byrds or Teenage Fanclub to remain fully audible. Its opening cut, “Seagull,” is a stunning exploration of strung-out guitar notes and elongated vocal textures; a mission statement, for what would be one of shoegaze’s most pristine moments. “Definitions confine thoughts, they are a myth” Mark Gardener muses, The Songs like “Seagull” and “Polar Bear” display the perfect fusion of Gardener and Bell’s vocals with their discernible Oxford tongue and even those turned off by their wall of sound would admit to being charmed by their vocal match made in heaven.

The discourse around shoegaze seems mostly to be structured around a Holy Trinity dynamic, with Slowdive, Ride and My Bloody Valentine making up the trio of essential bands within the genre. Ride, though, were never quite as exclusive to reverb and hushed vocals as the other two, tailing off into Britpop, the total opposite of shoegaze, territory far too often to be considered their greatest. “Nowhere”, though, was arguably the highlight of their discography—a cohesively immersive, stunningly crafted shoegaze coup.

For a brief moment in 1990, Ride defied definition—crafting one of the most mind-bending and utterly stunning records of the era. Leaving “Nowhere” out of any record collection is totally inexcusable.

I’ve since come to know and love the overwhelming disarray of My Bloody Valentine, the hypnotic spirituality of early Verve, the sprightly, quiet firestorm of Lush and the intricate shoegaze-pop of DIIV, but it all began with Ride’s Nowhere. I’m not sure I would be able to come to grips with the harsh underbelly of bands like those along with the ambient work of Grouper or the atmospheric dream-pop of Galaxie 500 if it weren’t for the noisy, divine abyss of shoegaze via Ride’s Nowhere. I view Ride and Nowhere as the essential connecting tissue between the jangle pop of The Stone Roses, the dream-pop of The Ocean Blue, the discordant haze of My Bloody Valentine and the machine-like krautrock of Toy.

Funeral

After the release of this album, Arcade Fire’s popularity escalated at the same unwavering pace as lead-off track “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels).” What began with a twinkle and a passionate voice turned into a dance party before you knew it. The band’s rapid rise was a testament to word of mouth and a thrilling live show, but also the unmistakably winning material found on ‘Funeral.’ Like its title suggests, the album is both a mournful elegy and a celebration of life. Time signatures shift, guitars chug then blare, sweet noises drift in and out of earshot, and the folks in Arcade Fire never stop singing and shouting. It’s a beautiful slice of humanity.

I recall when I first bought it in 2005, I loved a couple of songs straight away, but wasn’t too sure about the rest of the album. Around two or three plays later and I was left in no doubt as to the greatness of the Canadian band’s first long player . When it was first released, I repeat-played Funeral like I was addicted to it; it made me feel euphoric, it brought me to tears… it made me feel so wonderfully alive. From the tinkling pianos that introduce the album like bubbling spring water on Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels), the music, from tiny buds, bloom into an utterly relentless, gorgeous monster of a song with a beautiful streak of romanticism running through its core; the imagery of building a tunnel through the snow from “my window to yours” is truly endearing. Neighborhood #2 starts off with a thumping drum beat and disjointed shouted lyric in the verse, but soon explodes into a string-backed, thrilling chorus which provides a sublime juxtaposition. “My eyes are shooting sparks” croons Win Butler in the soft, yet shimmering Une Annee Sans Lumière and, even this gentle, more conventional sounding song ends with a thrashed guitar and high-tempo outro.

Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) begins with a cacophony of percussive instruments and growling guitar, providing an adrenaline rush of drama and melody whereas #4 (7 Kettles) is a more subtle animal, a slow burning acoustic track augmented by persuasive strings which are simply beautiful. One song that made an immediate impact on me the very first time I heard this record is Crown Of Love, an unbelievably heart-breaking and gorgeous melody combined with the magnificent lyrics, which are a desperately sorrowful plea to win back a broken love; “In my heart there’s flowers growin’/on the grave of our old love/since you gave me a straight answer” The tempo shift and pounding strings at the end of the song is the superb finishing touch on that masterful piece.

It seems impossible to think that anything could come close to”Crown Of Love” at that moment and then the opening bars of “Wake Up” begin to rhythmically chug, a sparse drum beat joins in and then it explodes into one of the most glorious, euphoric, stunning tracks I’ve ever heard . “Wake Up” is a masterpiece, perhaps the defining moment on”Funeral” all the album is truly great, but this particular composition takes it to another level and the lyrics are excellent (any song that begins with “Somethin’ filled my heart with nothin’” wins my adoration instantly). After such a magnificent track, it’s fine that “Haiti” sounds a little ordinary, as it only suffers by comparison. In fact, it has a pretty, persistent riff which happens to masks the dark meaning of the lyrics. “Rebellion (Lies)” is a powerful, relentless song which draws you into the mesmerising groove until it throws the curveball of a minor key change and takes the listener in another direction completely. The final song, In The Backseat, which Regine performs with a perfect mix of fragility and feeling, is a melodic beauty and the metaphoric meaning in the lyrics weigh heavy when revealed in the last few lines of the song; it’s the final knockout blow on an album that packs many emotional punches.

For me, Arcade Fire’s debut album is not only one of the greatest albums of the 21st century so far, but one of the greatest albums of all time. It’s one of an exclusive group of records that I will still listen to at least a few times every year and, each time, the power and beauty of the work never cease to amaze and astonish me. The musical composition, the inspired choice of instruments, the lyrics, Win Butler’s vocals, the frequent changes in tempo and emotions; it’s as close to perfection as it could possibly be. Funeral is a breathtaking piece of work (often literally) that sounded nothing pretty much nothing like anything that ever came before it and, in my opinion, that they have never quite managed to top or even equal since. Funeral is an all time great and, quite seriously, up there with the greatest releases of any artist.

Arcade Fire

  • Win Butler – vocals, 12 string electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, synthesizer, bass
  • Régine Chassagne – vocals, drums, synthesizer, piano, accordion, xylophone, recorders, percussion, double bass
  • Richard Reed Parry – electric guitar, synthesizer, organ, piano, accordion, xylophone, percussion, double bass, engineering, recording
  • Tim Kingsbury – bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar
  • Howard Bilerman – drums, guitar, engineer, recording
  • William Butler – bass, xylophone, synthesizer, percussion

What it did: Introduced the band as a family-and-friends gang-cum-cult. So titled because several of the band’s family members died while it was being made, ‘Funeral’ is a towering and life-affirming work about dancing through the darkness.  ‘Wake Up’ was played at the start of Manchester City home games in 2006.

thanks Andysweeney