North Atlantic Oscillation – Grind Show

7 11 2018

Grind Show 1Grind Show is the 4th album from Edinburgh band North Atlantic Oscillation and the first new release from Sam Healy since the 2nd Sand album A Sleeper, Just Awake from 2016.

Grind Show builds on the mood of the Sand album, whilst retaining the dark, post-progressive urgency of previous North Atlantic Oscillation releases.

Low Earth Orbit is a well-chosen opener, with its shifting soundscape – from tightly sequenced synths to more guitar heavy breaks. It sets the scene for an album that evolves throughout its journey.

Weedkiller is an early highlight. A mournful piano line sits atop a beautifully textured electronic backing before the trademark NAO drums and post-punk guitar riffs kick in. Being NAO, the songs dramatically shift and the music instantly drops off to take you in a different direction as the song plays out.

Needles has a fairytale, almost twisted Disney quality to the arrangement. I love the use of effects, almost played as an instrument on this track, twisting and blending the electronica. Needles is topped off by a fine, raspy vocal from Healy and I am sure it will become a fan favourite when the album is released in mid-November.

Around the album mid-point, Sirens is NAO at their most direct. Buzz-saw guitars to the fore, with harmony vocals sitting uncomfortably in the mix, before giving way to an electronic middle section. In complete contrast is another of the album’s key tracks, the mammoth Hymn. With its psychedelic fairground from hell waltz backing, I could imagine Hymn being used in a film soundtrack, and its one of those rare songs that reveals different elements after repeated listens.

“Someone calls and I answer”

Downriver is currently my favourite track on Grind Show. The stripped back arrangement, with heavily reverb drenched piano, really allow the song to breathe and find its own shape and convey the melancholy. The song also contains some of Healy’s most emotional vocals. I love the way the melody mutates over the held chord strings.  I don’t think I will ever tire of hearing this beautiful track. Fill your boots with this one, sigur ros fans.

NAO

The album heads to its conclusion with its final songs. Sequoia is a brass driven piece and unlike anything else in the NAO catalogue. Fernweh (apparently meaning longing for far-off places) is appropriately the albums longest track, clocking in at just under 8 minutes. The song is a definite slow-burner, with looped trumpet and discordant, abrasive landscapes underpinning the emotive vocals. Fernweh shifts gears half way through, and at this point I am reminded a little of some of the early 1980’s sonically adventurous releases of Peter Gabriel (Games Without Frontiers / The Rhythm of the Heat in particular). The percussion work in the second movement of Fernweh is top drawer.

I have been living with Grind Show for around three weeks now, and I find that it really does work as a whole-album experience. Whilst songs such as Fernweh, Downriver and Needles work well as stand-alone songs, the album has been sequenced so well that it deserves your full attention.

Buy Grind Show on Amazon (download)

Buy the Grind Show CD / download directly from the band

Other North Atlantic Oscillation releases

Grappling Hooks

Fog Electric

The Third Day

Lightning Strikes the Library (2016, compilation)





David Bowie – Loving The Alien

14 10 2018

Loving The Alien [1983 – 1988] is the 4th David Bowie box-set to be released, and the one covering his most commercially successful period.

Loving The Alien cover

The box-set comprises three remastered original studio albums (Let’s Dance, Tonight and Never Let Me Down), a newly re-imagined Never Let Me Down (2018) with Bowie’s original vocals and new musical performances from long time collaborators, two live albums (Serious Moonlight [Live ’83] and Glass Spider [Montreal ’87] plus two new compilations – Dance (original extended mixes) and Re:Call 4, a double album of single mixes, b-sides and soundtrack songs. As with the previous box-sets, Loving The Alien includes an excellent companion book with rare and unseen photos and essays from Nile Rodgers, Hugh Padgham and more.

Let's Dance (2108 remaster)

Let’s Dance was David Bowie’s 15th studio album and was originally released in April of 1983. Produced by Bowie and Nile Rodgers, the UK / US Platinum selling no 1 album crossed over into the mainstream more than ever before with three massive hit singles, Modern Love, China Girl and the title track.

The sound on the 2018 remaster from Ray Staff and Nile Rodgers is not a massive difference, as the album always sounded amazing anyway. The drums sound slightly fuller and there is more punch to the bass. China Girl and Let’s Dance suffer from less treble than the previous masters, so this version is definitely more sympathetic.

1984’s Tonight album is mastered slightly quieter than the previous version. The Ray Staff / Hugh Padgham 2018 remaster has a much softer snare sound. Tonight was not popular with critics, but sold well, though not on the Let’s Dance scale. Whilst by no means a classic album, it contains one of my favourite Bowie songs, the achingly beautiful Loving The Alien. A song so good they named the box-set after it!

Blue Jean sounds so much better on this remaster, as does one of my favourite Tonight tracks, the mighty Neighborhood Threat and the 80s pop-reggae of Don’t Look Down.

The final original studio album included on the Loving The Alien box-set is Never Let Me Down from 1987. Though Never Let Me Down was a commercial success, it was not well received by a lot of fans. Bowie also apparently disliked the arrangements and production, and it is probably no co-incidence that this was the last (solo) studio album release until Black Tie White Noise in 1993.

I must admit that Never Let Me Down is by far my least played Bowie album. The only two tracks I still play to this day are Day-In Day-Out and Time Will Crawl, so listening to the album in it’s entirety 31 years after release was interesting. The 2018 remaster is the best this album has sounded. Remastered slightly louder, and with more bottom end, Time Will Crawl and Beat Of Your Drum sound better than previous releases. The snare on Never Let Me Down sounds so much fuller and I will play this song more often, but the rest of the album still leaves me pretty cold I’m afraid.

I am happy to report that Never Let Me Down 2018 is a much more enjoyable listen. Mario J. McNulty, who was responsible for the popular Time Will Crawl (MM remix) from the popular Bowie compiled iSelect album, gathered together musicians including Reeves Gabrels, David Torn, Sterling Campbell, Tim Lefebvre, Nico Muhly and Laurie Anderson to re-assemble the album at New York’s Electric Lady Studios in early 2018. Never Let Me Down 2018 is exclusive to this box-set, and is a must-have for Bowie fans.

Never Let Me Down (2018)

The difference is startling. Day-In Day-Out has a much better drum sound, and discordant Berlin-era buzzsaw guitars mixed with Adrian Belew like held notes, with Bowies vocals much higher up in the mix. The at times sparse mix really does justice to the underlying song.

Time Will Crawl builds on the previous MM mix, with a much less compressed master. Beat Of Your Drum feels more like a mid-70s Bowie song in this incarnation. The plucked strings work really well, and its a fine Bowie vocal performance.

Shorn of the 80s production, the title track is the highlight of Never Let Me Down 2018. Zeroes also works much better as a Hunky Dory meets Reality type track.

The newly re-imagined Glass Spider is longer than the original 1987 version, and this seemingly Nine Inch Nails influenced, dirtier electronic re-recording would have not sounded out-of-place on one of Bowies 90s albums. Shining Star (Makin’ My Love) is also more enjoyable. The short appearance from Laurie Anderson fits well into this 2018 recording, with its discomforting background electronics as a counterpart to the smooth Fame like backing.

LTA vinyl

New York’s In Love is a vast improvement, and feels a little like the sound of the second Tin Machine album mixed with The Next Day production. ’87 And Cry is grungier than the original, and has shades of the sound of Lodger at times.

The album closes with a string-heavy Bang Bang. The more restrained, much less frantic arrangement gives the lead vocals (and 70s sounding) backing vocals the room to breathe. I’m so glad this 2018 album exists, and I’m sure it will receive many more plays from me than the original album.

Serious Moonlight (Live '83)The two live albums are not of the quality of the recent Welcome To The Blackout (my favourite Bowie live album), but they are worth having, if just to replace the poor quality bootlegs that have been in circulation for years. The crowd for the Serious Moonlight (Live ’83) album sounds absolutely massive. This is the first full audio release for this concert, that was previously released as a VHS video album, and a shortened digital EP.

Highlights include the segue from Fashion into Let’s Dance, and I love the horns on the 1983 live arrangement of Breaking Glass.

Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87) draws heavily from Never Let Me Down, so is a less interesting live album for me. The theatrical nature along with the interludes has really dated this live show, and it doesn’t work as well without the visuals. Highlights from this album include Loving The Alien and Sons Of The Silent Age, but overall, this is not an album I will return to often.

The extended version’s disc titled Dance is literally dripping in the sounds and feel of the 80s, so loving that decade will surely influence whether this compilation hits the right notes for you. Make sure you slip into your 80s pastel clothing, and throw on your head-band before listening to Dance for the ultimate experience. Finally having the cream of the 83 onward extended remixes together on one album is a good thing. Shake It (Re-mix aka Long Version), Loving the Alien (Extended Dub Mix) and Time Will Crawl (Dance Crew Mix) are particular highlights.

Re_Call 4Re:Call 4 ties together the majority of the odds and ends from this era, including the 7″ edits of the Let’s Dance singles, and the Absolute Beginners and much-loved Labyrinth Bowie soundtrack pieces.

Less vital are the Never Let Me Down album vinyl edits and some of the poorer b-sides such as Julie, Girls – Extended Edit and the two tracks recorded with Tina Turner (Tonight and the Let’s Dance medley).

The personal highlights of Re:Call 4 are two of my favourite Bowie songs – This Is Not America and Absolute Beginners. Although sound-wise not an improvement on previously released versions, they stand head and shoulders above most tracks on this compilation, which is the most diverse but ultimately the poorest of the four box-sets Re:Call’s released so far.

Loving The Alien is much more of a mixed-bag than the previous David Bowie box-sets, but it has a potentially much larger audience due to the massive commercial success of Let’s Dance. The rehabilitation of Never Let Me Down with the 2018 re-recording makes this collection a must-buy for Bowie fans. I hope my David Bowie Loving The Alien review will help you decide if you want to add this release to your collection.

Loving The Alien cover

Buy Loving The Alien on CD from Amazon

Loving The Alien cover

Buy Loving The Alien on vinyl from Amazon





Kate Bush – Remastered

4 10 2018

Kate Bush will release remastered versions of her entire studio album catalogue on CD and vinyl in November 2018.

I was only thinking the other day that I would love to hear a remastered version of The Dreaming, and here we are. The power of positive thinking. Back to reality – tweets from the Kate Bush twitter account are as rare as hen’s teeth. So when one arrives in your timeline (a tweet, not a hen’s tooth), its normally significant, like announcing the 2014 Before The Dawn tour and now this extensive re-issue campaign. I feel they may have missed a trick with not using #NovemberWillBeMagicAgain, but KB-HQ twitter team, you can have that one for free if you want.

For the casual fan, the CD box-sets are a great way to add some classic albums to your collection. As an avid fan since 1978, I’m looking forward to hearing the new remasters of some of my favourite albums and hearing with new clarity so many songs that are etched into my soul.

The vinyl box-sets are, by their very nature, quite pricey, but being split into four different sets will help you build your collection over time, if vinyl is your format of choice.

From the initial artwork shown on Kate’s website, the CD and vinyl packaging looks beautiful, so I would suggest going for the physical releases, rather than digital, if you possibly can. Hopefully the details below will make it clear what is available, so you can start saving for your purchases!

The albums have been remastered by Kate and James Guthrie (apart from the live Before The Dawn album which retains its recent, original mastering).

So here is the detail, with the Amazon pre-order links.

THE CD BOX-SETS

Kate Bush Remastered Part I

KB remastered 1

  • The Kick Inside
  • Lionheart
  • Never For Ever
  • The Dreaming
  • Hounds of Love
  • The Sensual World
  • The Red Shoes

Amazon pre-order

KB-CD-Packshot-1-Square-3000_01


Kate Bush Remastered Part II

KB remastered 2

  • Aerial
  • Director’s Cut
  • 50 Words for Snow
  • Before the Dawn (Original Mastering)
  • 12″ Mixes
  • The Other Side 1
  • The Other Side 2
  • In Others’ Words

Amazon pre-order

KB-CD-Packshot-2-Square-3000 2


THE VINYL BOX-SETS

Kate Bush Remastered in Vinyl I

  • The Kick Inside
  • Lionheart
  • Never For Ever
  • The Dreaming

Amazon pre-order

KB-Vinyl-Packshot-1-(Flat)_0 1


Kate Bush Remastered in Vinyl II

  • Hounds of Love
  • The Sensual World
  • The Red Shoes

Amazon pre-order

KB-Vinyl-Packshot-2-(Flat) 2


Kate Bush Remastered in Vinyl III

  • Aerial
  • Director’s Cut
  • 50 Words for Snow

Amazon pre-order

KB-Vinyl-Packshot-3-(Flat) 3


Kate Bush Remastered In Vinyl IV

  • 12″ Mixes
  • The Other Side 1
  • The Other Side 2
  • In Others’ Words

Amazon pre-order

KB-Vinyl-Packshot-4-(Flat) 4


The track-listing for the Kate Bush Remastered In Vinyl IV box-set and the last 4 CDs of the second CD box-set consists of:

12” Mixes

Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)
The Big Sky (Meteorological Mix)
Cloudbusting (The Orgonon Mix)
Hounds Of Love (Alternative Mix)
Experiment IV (Extended Mix)

The Other Side 1

Walk Straight Down The Middle
You Want Alchemy
Be Kind To My Mistakes
Lyra
Under The Ivy
Experiment IV
Ne T’Enfuis Pas
Un Baiser D’Enfant
Burning Bridge
Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) 2012 Remix

The Other Side 2

Home For Christmas
One Last Look Around The House Before We Go
I’m Still Waiting
Warm And Soothing
Show A Little Devotion
Passing Through Air
Humming
Ran Tan Waltz
December Will Be Magic Again
Wuthering Heights (Remix / New Vocal from The Whole Story)

In Others’ Words

Rocket Man
Sexual Healing
Mná na hÉireann
My Lagan Love
The Man I Love
Brazil (Sam Lowry’s First Dream)
The Handsome Cabin Boy
Lord Of The Reedy River
Candle In The Wind





Hugh Cornwell – Monster

28 09 2018

monster300Monster is an album telling the tales of heroes (including Hugh’s mother and from the music world, Lou Reed & Jimmy Webb) as well as villains (Robert Mugabe and Mussolini) of the 20th Century.

Monster differs from previous releases in that this album is the nearest thing to a pure Hugh Cornwell solo studio album. Hugh produces the album as well as providing all the guitars, bass and vocals, with the only other musicians being Katie Elliot adding recorder to Duce Coochie Man and album engineer Phil Andrews assisting Hugh with the drum programming.

Monster opens with Pure Evel. Summoning the sound of early Dr Feelgood, and drenched in gasoline and leather, this is the story of motorcycle stuntman and 70s superstar from the USA, Evel Knievel.

“I’m the last gladiator in the new Rome”

Tight, dirty and with raw lead vocals, this is a great start to the album and really captures the feel of its subject, an often (literally) broken star.

La Grande Dame is the first of two Velvet Undergound influenced tracks. An affectionate song about Winifred Cornwell, who lived to the age of 98 and swam every day, no matter the weather. Uncharacteristically bluesey guitar lines adorn this homage to Hugh’s mother.

Hedy Lamarr is celebrated for both her beauty and her brains in The Most Beautiful Girl in Hollywood. It’s a little known fact that Lamarr helped develop a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes at the beginning of World War II, and that the principles of this work are incorporated into modern Bluetooth technology. A delicious rumbling bass-line underpins the sparkling verse and clever wordplay.

A typically infectious double Cornwell chorus will ensure The Most Beautiful Girl in Hollywood sticks in your head long after the song finishes.

The heroes continue with Hugh’s tip of the hat to one of his longest serving musical idols, the American jazz and blues pianist, singer, and songwriter Mose Allison. Allison influenced musicians beyond the jazz genre – The Clash covered Look Here on Sandinista! in 1980 and The Pixies celebrated his work on the Bossanova album. Hugh’s tribute Mosin’ has a hot and sticky New Orleans rhythm and blues vibe running through its veins.

Mr. Leather is the story of an aborted meeting (due to illness) between Lou Reed and Hugh in NYC shortly before Reed’s death. The song doubles up as a love letter to New York as much as to the music of Reed and The Velvet Underground.

The King of Chutzpa Phil Silvers and his comic character Bilko is the next hero. Bilko features playful lyrics and wonderful, unexpected changes of pace, in one of the album’s highlights.

Our first villain appears in the form of Robert (Mugabe). Written and recorded before Mugabe was ousted from power in a coup in late 2017, the song references the land seizures and the decline and fall of a despot.

The album’s title track pays tribute to the work of Ray Harryhausen, the master of stop-motion model animation, who was known for his work on The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, One Million Years B.C. and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. George Lucas said “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars”.

Monster has a warm 1960’s feel, and reminds me of another Ray, Ray Davies of The Kinks. The title track, and indeed half of the songs on the album, come in at just over the three minute mark – the perfect pop song length, always leaving you wanting more.

My favourite two songs on the album are the final two tracks. Attack of the Major Sevens opens with a gorgeous sounding acoustic (I’m not sure if this is a Martin acoustic guitar) riff and musically references Arthur Lee (Love), Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds and the song-writing titan Jimmy Webb.

Attack of the Major Sevens is a heavily nostalgic perfect pop song. Oh, and why limit yourself to one chorus, when you can have two? The backing vocals and textures lift this song to another level, as the Californian psychedelia and stream of consciousness lyrics tumble out at pace.

The album ends with Duce Coochie Man. When I first heard this song, the darkest track on the album, I wrote in my notes “Nosferatu meets The Pretty Things via Cream”. And I stand by that. It reminds me of some of the great classic rock songs from the early 70s (one of my favourite eras).

Duce Coochie Man features my favourite vocal performance on the album and is a track where the subject is not immediately obvious, but when you realise the identity of the villain, someone who was left “Hanging Around” in the end – sorry for the poor taste pun, it is even sweeter. The arrangement, especially the drum pattern and the wild outro, complete with twisted recorder linesq, is a joy to listen to.

HC

Monster is a lyrically strong and musically adventurous yet cohesive album – and it sounds amazing on vinyl, with the volume cranked up.

The second disc is a collection of re-recorded acoustic versions of Stranglers songs, titled Restoration. The strengths of the songs, in these sparse, stripped back to the core takes, shines through. Some of the arrangements you will be familiar with from Hugh’s solo acoustic shows over recent years. Subtle overdubs, mainly percussion and backing vocals, have been added.

Black and White‘s Outside Tokyo remains chilling in this incarnation, even stripped of the keyboards, drums and bass. Aural Sculpture‘s Let Me Down Easy is another highlight, and is one of the fuller arrangements, with slow-building layer upon layer of vocals and piano as the song heads to its conclusion.

A moving reinterpretation of Souls features Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson on flute. One of the biggest surprises is Don’t Bring Harry, which originally appeared on 1979’s The Raven, and was sung by JJ Burnel.

“Harry likes to play all night, I’ll do what Harry says”

This fresh arrangement will probably result in you falling in love with this song all over again.

Goodbye Toulouse has an added layer of heartbreak, shorn of the new wave aggression found in the original 1977 version.

Ships That Pass In The Night, originally from Feline (1983) is the second song to feature Ian Anderson, and remains faithful to the original arrangement, as does it’s (blue) sister song Never Say Goodbye.

No More Heroes features raw and distorted guitar, but will always work best for me with a full electric version. Big in America lends itself to this Americana (americanUUUR) arrangement, as does the album closer, Always The Sun.

It’s refreshing to hear these fresh interpretations of some classic Stranglers songs, and Restoration is a good value addition to the double Monster package.

Monster is released on October 5th through Sony Music.

monster300

Buy Monster on CD from Amazon

Buy Monster on vinyl from Amazon 

Buy Monster MP3 album from Amazon

Tracklisting:

Monster

Pure Evel
La Grande Dame
The Most Beautiful Girl in Hollywood
Mosin’
Mr. Leather
Bilko
Robert
Monster
Attack of the Major Sevens
Duce Coochie Man

Restoration

Outside Tokyo
Let Me Down Easy
Souls
Don’t Bring Harry
Goodbye Toulouse
Ships That Pass In The Night
Never Say Goodbye
No More Heroes
Big in America
Always The Sun





Blancmange – Wanderlust

19 09 2018

Blancmange release their tenth studio album, Wanderlust, on October 19, 2018. Wanderlust features ten songs composed by Neil Arthur, and arranged, co-produced and mixed with Benge (Wrangler/Creep Show). This is the pair’s third album together following their Fader First Light album in June 2017 and last year’s Blancmange album Unfurnished Rooms.

wanderlust

As with last years Unfurnished Rooms, Wanderlust is a more stark electronic offering than the early Blancmange albums. The major difference with this album is the inclusion of three songs (Distant Storm,In Your Room and Not a Priority) that could easily fit onto a “best of” album, and if released in the mid-80s, would have probably been top 20 singles.

Opening with lead single Distant Storm, the duo lay out their intentions straight away. Pulsing bass synths and expanding percussion layers drive a wistful, vocoder treated vocal from Neil Arthur. A Giorgio Moroder meets Madonna’s Lucky Star keyboard arrangement lifts this song to another level and adds real colour and warmth to the song.

In Your Room dials down the warmth a couple of notches, and is a much darker track. Musically this has a feel of the edgier early Soft Cell tracks, and features a simple yet naggingly addictive chorus. You will not be able to stop yourself singing along.

“In your room, In Your Room, IN YOUR ROOM”

I Smashed Your Phone opens with what sounds like the drum machine intro pattern to Wham’s Everything She Wants and has some interesting percussion programming highlighting key points in the song. The lyric references our often fractious relationship with modern technology, and this theme continues throughout the album.

Gravel Drive Syndrome is another album highlight. The tightly, unnaturally sequenced bleeps underpin a growing feeling of unease mirrored by this tale of social climbing at any cost. Talking to Machines is a John Foxx influenced synthesised slow-burner, warning us that our interactions are often with machines that are “Always on, on always”. Switch off and step away people!

Not a Priority is my favourite track on the album. Easily the most commercial song since the early Blancmange albums, Not a Priority features a sugar-coated joint chorus with one of my favourite current electronic artists, Hannah Peel. The synths bubble away, and along with the ever-present Moroder, I get hints of Kraftwerk and Propaganda on this album highlight.

“Please be yourself, you can’t be anybody else.”

TV Debate is the first track to add guitars to the mix. A Berlin era Bowie / glam-rock backing drives a tale of channel-surfing and wall-to-wall talking heads displayed on the screen. David Rhodes (Peter Gabriel / Kate Bush) adds an engaging guitar wall of sound to another of the albums key tracks, Leaves.  The arrangement rises and falls, mimicking the seasons, as nature meets mankind.

White Circle, Black Hole is a rare chink of light in the lyrical darkness, and has one of Arthur’s best vocal performances on the album, along with a twin guitar propelled chorus.

“Start again, such a good place.”

The album ends on the title track. Disembodied sampled voices, and a heart-beat kick drum introduces a song about living in this moment, in the here and now. Analogue synth lines take the lead instead of a traditional vocal chorus, as Wanderlust draws to a close on an optimistic note.

Blancmange 2018

I loved last years Unfurnished Rooms but Wanderlust sees Blancmange at their very best, bringing their pop sensibility back to the surface, whilst exploring the dark side of electronica. One of the strengths of this album is that the music channels the adventurous spirit of the 1980s, yet the lyrics explore a dystopian, close enough to touch, near future. This mix of darkness and light makes Wanderlust a unique album in the Blancmange catalogue, and one of the most interesting albums I have heard this year.

Distant Storm
In Your Room
I Smashed Your Phone
Gravel Drive Syndrome
Talking to Machines
Not a Priority
TV Debate
Leaves
White Circle, Black Hole
Wanderlust

wanderlust
Buy Blancmange Wanderlust on CD from Amazon

wanderlust

Buy Blancmange Wanderlust on vinyl from Amazon

near_future_-_ideal_home

Buy Near Future – Ideal Home on Amazon





Trevor Horn Band – Live at Sarm Music Bank 19/7/2018

29 07 2018

The Trevor Horn Band played live at the opening of Sarm Music Bank‘s impressive new facility in Old Oak Common on July 19th 2018.

Sarm Music Band invite

The band included Trevor Horn (bass and vocals), Lol Creme (guitar and vocals), Luis Jardim (percussion), Phil Palmer (guitar), Steve Ferrone (drums), Izzy Chase and Hayley Sanderson (vocals), Jamie Squire (vocals and guitar) with guest appearances from vocalists Matt Cardle and Steve Hogarth (Marillion).

Lol Creme, Luis Jardim, Trevor Horn and Steve Ferrone

The invite / competition winners only performance was the perfect opportunity to christen the new rehearsal space, and was also a great way of showcasing some of the songs that will appear on the  forthcoming Trevor Horn album. Reports online suggest that the album may be called The Eighties Reimagined, and will consist of some of Trevor Horn’s favourite 80s songs, recorded with the band, a 65-piece orchestra and guest singers.

The set opened with the air-raid sirens signalling Two Tribes, the first of three Frankie Goes To Hollywood songs. Sporting one of the finest basslines of the 80s, this was a powerful opener, and the acoustics in the room, even at a very loud volume, sounded amazing.

Sadly we were only treated to one song from The Buggles back catalogue on this occasion. After an amusing Boris Johnson anecdote, TCH and the band performed a note-perfect Video Killed the Radio Star.

th4

“And now we meet in an abandoned studio
We hear the playback and it seems so long ago”

I was expecting to hear some Godley & Creme, and clearly Five O’Clock in the Morning or Art School Canteen were not likely as part of this performance, so as expected the band performed the TCH produced perfect pop of Cry.

Lol Creme can still hit the high notes, evidenced as the band delivered a rowdy version of 10cc’s first no1 single, Rubber Bullets, which was originally released in 1973.

Marillion vocalist Steve Hogarth joined the band for two songs – David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes (you could not have an 80s tribute without the Thin White Duke) and the most surprising song in the set, Joe Jackson’s Different For Girls (from the I’m the Man album). This timeless song was released in 1979, so although it is not an 80s song, it was an interesting choice.

thsh

A re-imagining of Slave to the Rhythm marked the halfway point in the set. On stage percussionist and frequent Trevor Horn collaborator Luis Jardim performed the bass on the studio version of the track, fact fans.

Trevor switched back to lead vocals on the Yes hit from 1983’s 90125 album, Owner of a Lonely Heart, complete with Synclavier / Fairlight sounding stabs. The second Frankie Goes To Hollywood song of the night was sung by guest vocalist Matt Cardle. A string laden version of The Power of Love went down a treat with the audience.

th2

A version of the 2002 no1 single All the Things She Said by Russian pop duo t.A.T.u.was performed with Izzy Chase and Hayley Sanderson sharing lead vocals.

The set wrapped up with a trio of massive 80s singles – a reworked version of Tears For Fears Everybody Wants to Rule the World (which will surely feature on the forthcoming The Eighties Reimagined album), Dire Straits Money For Nothing and the final FGTH song of the evening, Relax.

I’m looking forward to hearing The Eighties Reimagined album (hopefully later this year) and it looks like there will be further live dates from The Trevor Horn band to promote the album. Follow TCH on Twitter or Facebook to stay in the loop.

Full setlist:

Two Tribes
Video Killed the Radio Star
Cry
Rubber Bullets
Ashes to Ashes
Slave to the Rhythm
Owner of a Lonely Heart
The Power of Love
All the Things She Said
Different For Girls
Everybody Wants to Rule the World
Money For Nothing
Relax

Legacy

Buy Legacy – 3 Chord Trick (the band features new, original material from former members of Dire Straits, and features Trevor Horn on bass)

Buy Godley & Creme – Body Of Work (1978 – 1988) Box set

Buy the Trevor Horn – Slaves To The Rhythm live DVD

Buy the 10cc Classic Album Selection Box set

Buy Grace Jones – Slave To The Rhythm Collector’s Edition, 2015 remaster

 





Big Big Train – Merchants of Light

24 07 2018

PrintMerchants of Light is the new live album from three times Progressive Music Award winning band Big Big Train. The album features the best performance of each song played at the band’s three sold out shows at Cadogan Hall, London, in the autumn of 2017.

The title track from their 2016 album Folklore ushers in the 16 track live album. The brass / strings and Shaft like rhythm guitar lines snuggle up together better than they should on this powerful opening track. Brave Captain from Folklore‘s companion album Grimspound works equally well in its live setting. As I mentioned in my original review, from the half way section of the song, there are shades of Dire Straits Private Investigations in the piano lines and the breakdown.

Last Train was originally on the 6th Big Big Train album The Underfall Yard from 2009. The song tells the story of a station masters last day at work. One of the more progressive songs on this live album, the harmonies are a pure joy to hear.

London Plane is built on a solid foundation of an intricate vocal arrangement, and serves up an adventurous mixture of jazz and prog flowing through the instrumental sections.

Meadowland is a gentle pastoral sounding track, with subtle brush drums, violin and restrained piano. A Mead Hall in Winter is one of this live album’s highlights. Synths and strings jostle with jaunty organ, throwing musical nods to 70s giants Genesis and Yes, with a sprinkle of early Steely Dan thrown in for good measure.

Swan Hunter from English Electric Part Two and its tale of a long-lost shipping industry has become one of the band’s standards. The use of brass always evokes a feeling of the early 1970s to me, and this fine version of Swan Hunter is no exceptionDavid Longdon’s vocals are in fine form here and throughout the album.

Big Big Train live by Simon Hogg

My favourite Big Big Train song is The Transit of Venus Across the Sun. It’s the brass again! The arrangement is so light and gentle, with no bombast used in getting the emotion across. There is real beauty in both the arrangement and performances from all the musicians.

East Coast Racer gets a fantastic reception from the crowd, and is the longest track on the album. The song charts the history of Mallard, the worlds fasted locomotive.  East Coast Racer is the band at their most progressive and highlights some of their finest melodies and harmonies.

A great version of  the mid 70s pop / rock influenced Telling The Bees is followed by one of the oldest songs on this album in Victorian Brickwork. This track is one that will appeal to fans of the first progressive era of the early 70s. The twists, turns and swells will lift the darkest of moods, and is modern progressive music at its finest.

Drums and Brass is an instrumental interlude that leads into the albums final track, Wassail.

It is easy to get lost in the music of Big Big Train – from the fascinating stories told through the lyrics, to the varied musical styles. If you have not heard the band before, Merchants of Light would be a great starting point, and it is highly likely that you will set off on a voyage of discovery to take in all of the bands recent albums.

Tracklist:

Folklore Overture
Folklore
Brave Captain
Last Train
London Plane
Meadowland
A Mead Hall in Winter
Experimental Gentlemen part two
Swan Hunter
Judas Unrepentant
The Transit of Venus Across the Sun
East Coast Racer
Telling the Bees
Victorian Brickwork
Drums and Brass
Wassail


Buy the Merchants of Light double CD from Amazon

 

Also available now is the Swan Hunter EP, that includes 3 versions of Swan Hunter (a radio edit, a 2018 remix of the album version and a live version), plus a new recording of English Electric: Full Power‘s Seen Better Days (an emotional duet with no-man’s Tim Bowness) and a 2017 live at Real World Studio version of Summer’s Lease (originally on 2007’s The Difference Machine album).








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