Thursday, February 28, 2013

Resurrecting Forgotten Ranking Roger Single

After General Public, Ranking Roger released 'Radical Departure,' a solo effort best known for "So Excited," a catchy single that was the darling of MTV's '120 Minutes' for a spell in 1988. I'm sure you remember that one. My guess is you are a little fuzzy on the rest of the album -- as you probably should be -- including the little-known fact there were actually two other singles issued.

One was "Falling Down," perhaps the least inspired side one track ones of all time. The suit that allowed the album to open with something other than "So Excited" should have been forced to clean the I.R.S. Records cafeteria for the rest of the '80s. (And I imagine certain members of the Cramps and Lords of the New Church were pretty messy while snacking on their 15-minute breaks.) The other single, however, sounded like something right out of the General Public playbook. "In Love With You" was far from the radical departure the album title suggested, but it was most welcome.

Ranking Roger - In Love With You (mp3)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Salute to the Loft's Swan Song

The Loft were a Janice Long favorite and one of the very early bands to join Alan McGee's Creation label. Unfortunately, for us, the lads didn't spend a lot of time in the studio during their brief time together, and they apparently didn't like each other much either. It's a story as old as rock 'n' roll, but the Loft get extra credit for their very public implosion on stage -- while supporting the Colour Field -- in front of 3,000 at Hammersmith Palais on June 24, 1985.

Before the show, lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter Peter Astor informed bassist Bill Prince by phone that he wanted lead guitarist Andy Strickland and Prince out of the band. When Strickland got word of the call, he demanded Astor make the concert. That night, just before they played their new single, "Up the Hill and Down the Slope," Strickland stuck it to Astor good, announcing, "some of you may already know, but this is our last gig." According to journalist Danny Kelly, halfway through the song, "Astor slowed the tempo to a crawl and astonished [the crowd] with a brief but painfully intimate vilification of his fellow guitarists. A sneering "hard luck", a Telecaster hurled testily to the ground and a running exit ended this sad, graceless guilt-ridden interlude. A quick, savagely angry, thrash from the remaining trio and they too were gone. For good. A sickening end for a fine little band..."

All we were left with was a spectacular 7" debut ("Why Does the Rain") and the aforementioned four-song 12" single ("Up the Hill and Down the Slope"). Since then, there have been two comps that have included these two artifacts, along with a few extra songs, and I suggest if you're a fan of C86, jangle pop or bands heavily influenced by Television, you pick up 'Magpie Eyes 1982-1985.' All it takes is one listen to realize if they could have kept it together long enough for a full-length album these blokes would have been big.

I was going to post the more obvious choice of "Up the Hill and Down the Slope" (along with its ultra weird and wonderful guitar solo), but a quick look around the Web shows quite a few bloggers have beat me to it, including one I really respect, Swiss Adam over at Bagging Area. So, I'm going to include a favorite of mine that, perhaps, isn't quite as well known. It was originally part of the "Up the Hill and Down the Slope" single.

The Loft - Your Door Shines Like Gold (mp3)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cover Me Impressed: 'Paint It Black'

This isn't the first time I have featured a cover of this Rolling Stones' classic. You old-timers may remember back in 2010
I posted a version from the Feelies with a complaint that the song had been left off the new reissue of the band's fantastic debut album. I'm still sore about that, but I'll move on. The Mighty Lemon Drops recorded "Paint It Black" in studio and included it as a B-side to the "Fall Down (Like the Rain)" 12" single and limited-edition CD single back in 1988. (I'm ripping it from the vinyl.)

Truth be told, this would probably rank No. 3 behind both the Feelies and Echo & the Bunnymen in terms of favorite "Paint It Black" covers, but I have a soft spot for this one because I saw the Mighty Lemon Drops perform it live when they toured the United States with the Ocean Blue in early 1990. The live performance of the song was a real showstopper, but I'm not quite sure they captured the same magic in the studio... although it's still awfully good. I hope you enjoy it, and I will get to that Echo & the Bunnymen version one of these days, I promise.

The Mighty Lemon Drops - Paint It Black (mp3)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

12 Inches of Love: 'Poison Arrow'

"Poison Arrow" is the second in a trilogy of 12" singles ("Tears Are Not Enough" was first) that would become part of ABC's brilliant full-length debut, 'The Lexicon of Love.' Frontman Martin Fry wrote a letter to the listener on the back of these record covers. This middle message, like the song, is one of heartbreak, just before the love, whimsy and redemption found at the conclusion of the threesome ("The Look of Love"). Here is part of what Fry said:

"You are now looking at the second ABC recording. The A side is a song called "Poison Arrow" torn from the events of my personal life away from the glare of publicity. Many of you out there may think standing in the spotlight brings many rewards. But let me tell you, the fruits of fame can be sour and I too have my private moments.
However it is my duty and privilege to share some of these experiences with you.
Love's Ammunition, A Poison Arrow or the pain received at the hands of Cupid. But then again -- a love affair without a broken heart? Like making an omelette without breaking an egg."

He finishes his thoughts about "Poison Arrow" this way: "Be young. Be foolish. Be alphabetical." His concluding words on "The Look of Love" cover are much the same but a bit more optimistic and less wry: "Be young, Be foolish Be lucky in love..."

There are a couple of versions floating around out there, but the following take of "Poison Arrow," clocking in at nearly seven minutes, is called the "New Re-Mix." It's called "new" because this was the second 12" single of "Poison Arrow." I believe it was aimed at an American mass audience that had some catching up to do. Although it wasn't released until 1983, several months after 'The Lexicon of Love' came out, the song was still mixed and produced by album producer Trevor Horn. I must admit that even though I'm a sucker for 12" singles I'll take the album version of "Poison Arrow" almost every time. Still, it's fun to mix things up with this jazzy rendition, and that's why I pulled the vinyl off the shelf today.

ABC - Poison Arrow (Re-Mix) (mp3)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Curtain Call: The Woodentops From '86

Let's wrap up this round of Curtain Call with a frenetic performance by the Woodentops. This show was originally recorded for legendary radio station KROQ from the Palace Theatre in Los Angeles, circa November 1986. What a great time to catch the band! The live album, 'Hypno Beat,' was the meaty middle sandwiched between the absolute keeper, 'Giant,' and the well done 'Wooden Foot Cops on the Highway.' If you know these two studio albums but haven't heard the Woodentops live, you may be surprised by the band's speed and energy on stage.

The Woodentops - Well Well Well (Live) (mp3)
The Woodentops - Good Thing (Live) (mp3)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Release Date for New Big Country Album

I was going to wait until U.S. tour dates were official, but I can't sit on this news. Cherry Red has just announced (Yep, Cherry Red is the new label.) a release date for the new Big Country album, the first since the death of Stuart Adamson more than a decade ago. 'The Journey' hits the shelves in the UK on April 15. As a reminder, with the retirement of bassist Tony Butler, the new lineup looks like this:

Bruce Watson (guitar)
Jamie Watson (guitar)
Mike Peters (vocals)
Derek Forbes (bass) (original bassist from Simple Minds)
Mark Brzezicki (drums)

Bruce has written on the forum page of the official Big Country site that U.S. tour dates could be announced later this month. Those of you in Europe already have ample opportunities to see the fellas. Check the link above for details.

I really liked "Another Country," the single the band released back in 2011. The new songs I have seen performed via low-quality YouTube videos haven't excited me quite as much, but I realize that's no way to judge. So, I'll continue to be optimistic. In the meantime, here's the video for "Another Country." I miss you, Tony!

March 3 Update: By the looks of the Amazon link, the new album will be released in the United States on April 30. Here is the tracklist:

1. In a Broken Promise Land
2. The Journey
3. After the Flood
4. Hurt
5. Home of the Brave
6. Angels and Promises
7. Strong (All Through This Land)
8. Last Ship Sails
9. Another Country
10. Return
11. Winter Fire
12. Hail and Farewell

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Curtain Call: Dexys Midnight Runners From '82

Whenever I think of Dexys Midnight Runner's second album, 'Too-Rye-Ay,' the first thing that comes to mind is just the enormity of it all. I once heard the band's discography described this way: The first album is for the true fans, and the third album is for the critics, but the second album, the second album is for everybody, and I mean everybody, else. Ten songs appear on the original issue of 'Too-Rye-Ay,' and half of them are singles. Honestly, there isn't a bad moment on the record, but my favorite song, the closer to side one, would probably be deemed a deep cut by most. Let's listen to a live performance of that song.

This take of "Old," from the B-side of the 12" single "Let's Get This Straight (From the Start)," was recorded at London's Shaftesbury Theatre in October 1982. Kevin Rowland somehow makes this lament seem even more dramatic on stage than he did in the studio. I particularly like that the jangle of the banjo is miked a little high. Helen O'Hara and her crew of violinists deserve special mention as well. I have never had the pleasure of seeing Dexys live, and this is the performance that makes me regret that the most.

Dexys Midnight Runners - Old (Live) (mp3)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Curtain Call: Devo From '80

You're going to have a heck of a time keeping your energy dome on the ol' noggin while listening to this corker (as my pal the Vinyl Villain would say). The following is taken from a live six-song EP recorded at San Francisco's Fox Warfield Theatre on Aug. 16, 1980. Nineteen years later, Rhino would release the show -- almost in full -- with the same cover as the EP. It appears to be physically out of print but still available as a download.

Here's a surprising bit of trivia for you. One year after this show, for three weeks, the 'DEV-O Live' EP would be a No. 1 hit on the Australian singles chart.

I made the editorial decision to combine "Freedom of Choice Theme Song" and "Whip It" into one file because they run together on my vinyl. The break would be too abrupt.

Devo - Freedom of Choice Theme Song/Whip It (Live) (mp3)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Curtain Call: Aztec Camera From '87

I'm going to spend the rest of the week posting live performances from some of my favorite artists. The songs will be culled, for the most part, from B-sides in my vinyl collection. Here's Aztec Camera from Los Angeles on Dec. 8, 1987. You can find these songs in a couple of places, but I pulled them from the flip side of the 'How Men Are' 12" single. Although I don't think the 'Love' era is Roddy's finest moment, I wish I could have been up front at the Wiltern Theatre on this night.

Aztec Camera - Killermont Street (Live) (mp3)
Aztec Camera - Pillar to Post (Live) (mp3)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

OMD to Debut New Single

Just a quick word: Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys will be on BBC Radio 6 Monday to spin "Metroland," the first single from 'English Electric.' This is our first chance to hear a full song from OMD's new album. Don't miss it. Here are the specifics from the Radcliffe and Maconie program.

Feb. 11 Update: Did you hear the show? If not, no problem. Here's the song for streaming. You can already preorder the March 25 release from the band's site, and it's a 12" single!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Costello Collides With Madness in '83

My apologies in advance for the scratchy sounds from this ancient artifact, but here's a fun one from the flip side of Madness' "Tomorrow's (Just Another Day)" 12" single. As you probably know, producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley were working with both Madness ('The Rise and Fall' in 1982) and Elvis Costello ('Punch the Clock' in early 1983) around the time of this release. On the heels of the international smash "Our House," this single also fared quite well, at least in the UK, peaking at No. 8.

The version featured here, however, with Costello taking lead-vocal duties, is a complete rerecording of the single and LP version. It's slower and feels like it's being played in a dark lounge just before closing. I have always liked the vibe (and the vibraphone, for that matter). I know this isn't a time period we often listen to favorably, but if you're a fan of Costello or Madness and haven't heard this take, I think you will find it to be quite a curiosity. Have a good weekend.

Madness With Elvis Costello - Tomorrow's (Just Another Day) (mp3)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Few New C86 Picks

I swear I'm not a shill for Cherry Red Records, but it may seem like it by the time I'm done posting today. It's clear these guys will never stop mining for C86 nuggets, and I love them for it. Besides the massive box set we have been hearing so much about and is expected out in June, here are a few other impending anthologies that should be on your radar:

Mighty Mighty
'Pop Can! The Definitive Collection 1986 to 1988'
Release Date: Feb. 18

The NME C86 vets issued six singles and an album ('Sharks') during this brief period, and you get it all on this remastered 36-song, two-disc set. Here is a quick listen at the band's first single.

Mighty Mighty - Everybody Knows The Monkey (mp3)

The Briliant Corners
'Heart On Your Sleeve - A Decade In Pop 1983-1993'
Release Date: Feb. 18

Davey Woodward's smart outfit issued 10 singles and five albums during this span, and much of that work has been out of print for ages. Obviously, you can't have the band's entire catalog on two discs, but this 48-song set is quite comprehensive. All of the singles from the SS20 and McQueen labels are here, and there are just enough demos and live tracks to get old-timers like me, with much of their catalog already in hand, interested. Here's one from the 1988 album 'Somebody Up There Likes Me' (my favorite) that you'll find on this compilation.

The Brilliant Corners - Teenage (mp3)

The Primitives
'Everything's Shining Bright, the Lazy Recordings 1985-87'
Release Date: March 25

True, this period in the Primitives' history was anthologized by Sanctuary five years ago, but if you missed it, here's a second chance. Anyway, this 42-song, two-disc set isn't exactly the same as that comp. Here's what you get this time around: Disc one contains all of the Lazy singles, plus a few demos from '85, including an early recording of the smash "Crash." For those who still have the band's old 7" singles, the real find for you is on disc two. I have never heard the promo-only live album from Aug. 15, 1987 at the ICA. That's why I'm preordering this one today. Give the band's second single a listen:

The Primitives - Really Stupid (mp3)

Monday, February 4, 2013

12 Inches of Love: 'Never Turn Away'

As a music fan, one of the great perks of living in the Pacific Northwest is many of the artists playing at Coachella will journey to our neck of the woods first and make their way down the coast to the ultimate destination of the California desert. One of my all-time favorites, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, will make such a trek, and I got my tickets this past weekend. I'm really hoping some entity will have permission to stream the new album during the week leading up to the release of 'English Electric.' I will be attending the show three days before the release.

To celebrate, here's the extended version of "Never Turn Away." The original song can be found on 'Junk Culture.' The album was a complete turn from the band's previous effort, 'Dazzle Ships.' The experimentation took a back seat to pop songs like "Tesla Girls," "Locomotion" and "Talking Loud and Clear." I happen to like every one of these songs, but I can see how old-school fans could have been jolted. Well, "Never Turn Away," is one of the tunes that, to these ears, harkens back to OMD's early sound. The extended version eclipses the LP version by two-and-a-half minutes and takes a few different turns. I just finished pulling out the USB turntable for this one. So, please enjoy.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Never Turn Away (Extended) (mp3)

I don't normally list tour dates, but seeing OMD is what this post is all about. Hope you can make it to one of these shows:

OMD Tour Dates:
April 5: Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver
April 6: The Showbox @ The Market, Seattle
April 7: Wonder Ballroom, Portland
April 10: The Depot, Salt Lake City
April 12: Regency Ballroom, San Francisco
April 14: Coachella, Empire Polo Grounds, Indio, Calif.
April 18: Teatro Metroplitan, Mexico City
April 21: Coachella, Empire Polo Grounds, Indio, Calif.
April 28: Winter Gardens, Margate, UK
April 29: Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK
May 1: Royal Centre, Nottingham, UK
May 2: Regent Theatre, Ipswich, UK
May 3: Roundhouse, London, UK
May 5: Colston Hall, Bristol, UK
May 6: New Theatre, Oxford, UK
May 8: City Hall, Sheffield, UK
May 9: Academy, Leeds, UK
May 10: Academy, Manchester, UK
May 12: Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, UK
May 13: Sage, Gateshead, UK
May 14: Empire, Liverpool, UK
May 17: Tivoli, Utrecht, The Netherlands
May 18: Le Trianon, Paris, France
May 20: Ancienne Belgique, Brussels, Belgium
May 21: Docks, Hamburg, Germany
May 22: Ringlokschuppen, Bielfeld, Germany
May 24: Tempodrom, Berlin, Germany
May 25: Haus Auensee, Leipszig, Germany
May 27: Ewerk, Koln, Germany
May 30: Vicar Street, Dublin, Ireland
July 8: Varsity Theatre, Minneapolis
July 9: Metro, Chicago
July 11: Danforth Music Hall, Toronto
July 12: Union Transfer, Philadelphia
July 13: 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.
July 15: Paradise Rock Club, Boston
July 17: Terminal 5, New York