Aztec Camera – Backwards and Forwards: The WEA Recordings (1984-1995) boxset review

27 07 2021

Cherry Red Records are releasing Backwards and Forwards: The WEA Recordings (1984-1995) a 9 CD Aztec Camera boxset on 27 August 2021.

The set includes the following studio albums: Knife (1984), Love (1987), Stray (1990), Dreamland (1993) and Frestonia (1995) plus In Concert 1984, Remixes, B-Sides And Live 1986-1988, Remixes, Rarities And Live 1990 and Live At Ronnie Scott’s.

The box set opens with Aztec Camera’s second album, 1984’s Knife, that was produced by Dire Straits Mark Knopfler. The Back Door To Heaven and the title track are my favourites from the album. This version also includes two versions of the Van Halen cover, Jump, that has picked up popularity as the years have passed since its initial release.

The second disc is In Concert, 1984, that includes songs from the band’s debut album, including Walk Out To Winter (two versions), We Could Send Letters and Oblivious.

The Love album from 1987 saw Roddy Frame expanding the band’s sound, working with legendary musicians such as bassist Marcus Miller and Steely Dan drummer Steve Gadd, and including production credits for David Frank (electro band The System) and Michael Jonzun of The Jonzun Crew. Love has a smooth sound that really fits the time of release. Deep & Wide & Tall has some sweet synth and vocal lines, and an 80s staple, timbale breaks! How Men Are is a classic Roddy Frame ballad, but the album will likely be remembered for the singles Somewhere In My Heart and Working in a Goldmine.

Disc Four contains Remixes, B-Sides And Live 1986-1988, that opens with three versions of Somewhere In My Heart, including a 7 minute 12″ remix. Other highlights include a silky version of Working in a Goldmine, recorded live at Pinewood Studios, and a glorious stripped down version of How Men Are from the ITV show that kept me from sleep way into the small hours over the weekend in the late 80s, Night Network.

1990’s Stray is probably the most eclectic Aztec Camera album. Stray still sounds delicious as do the Big Audio Dynamite / The Clash influenced Get Outta London and Good Morning Britain (that features Mick Jones). A bonus on this reissue is a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors, that is a warm homage to the original.

“Make a promise, break a promise in the same day”

Disc Six is for the completists only, and a disc I will not play again in all likelihood, made up of seven versions of Good Morning Britain and a couple of other tracks from the era.

Live At Ronnie Scott’s works well as it is the majority of the concert at the legendary London Jazz Club from 1991 and is just Roddy Frame and Gary Sanctuary (piano and saxophone), so there is a real continuity in the performances. Spanish Horses and How Men Are work particularly well in this stripped back format.

The final two discs are the final two Aztec Camera studio albums. Dreamland is my favourite Aztec Camera album, and was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Roddy Frame, with mixing duties delivered by Julian Mendelsohn. The Sakamoto influence in the sound is a welcome addition, and the album is worth investigating just for the track Black Lucia, one of Frame’s finest songs.

Spanish Horses is a masterclass and evokes the sound of early America (A Horse With No Name / Ventura Highway) but with a Catalonian twist. The production is widescreen, with lots of space and free from the shackles of the late 80s production. Pianos And Clocks also benefits from the Ryuichi effect, with an interesting keyboard run underpinning the song.

Vertigo is a fine pop song, with a playful arrangement that lifts the song to another level.

“Man, I’m going back
To where I’m captured and caressed
And life’s undressed and left where living belongs”

The Belle Of The Ball is a more traditional arrangement and performance to close the original album running order.

Aztec Camera’s final studio album Frestonia was released in 1995, with a powerful and warm production from Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. ZTT / ABC percussionist Luís Jardim makes several key contributions to the album, which has more of a full band sound than previous Aztec Camera albums, particularly on the opening track Rainy Season.

On The Avenue has a touch of the magic that constitutes a classic Paul McCartney song in it’s DNA and Imperfectly has a wonderful drum intro and moving organ lines throughout.

Backwards and Forwards: The WEA Recordings (1984-1995) is a great way to collect the majority of the albums from Aztec Camera, but you are still going to have to buy High Land, Hard Rain to complete the collection, trust me!

Buy Backwards and Forwards: The WEA Recordings (1984-1995) from Amazon

Disc One: Knife

  1. Still On Fire
  2. Just Like The USAhttps://amzn.to/3i9Ci3P
  3. Head Is Happy (Heart’s Insane)
  4. The Back Door To Heaven
  5. All I Need Is Everything
  6. Backwards And Forwards
  7. The Birth Of The True Knife
    Bonus Tracks
  8. All I Need Is Everything (7ʺ Edit)
  9. Jump
  10. All I Need Is Everything (Latin Mix)
  11. Jump (Loaded Version)

Disc Two: In Concert, 1984

  1. Walk Out To Winter (Live In Glasgow)
  2. The Bugle Sounds Again (Live In Glasgow)
  3. We Could Send Letters (Live In Glasgow)
  4. Backwards And Forwards (Live In Glasgow)
  5. Oblivious (Live In Glasgow)
  6. All I Need Is Everything (Live In Glasgow)
  7. The Boy Wonders (Live In Glasgow)
  8. Mattress Of Wire (Live In London)
  9. The Bugle Sounds Again (Live In London)
  10. The Birth Of The True (Live In London)
  11. Backwards And Forwards (Live In London)
  12. Walk Out To Winter (Live In London)

Disc Three: Love

  1. Deep & Wide & Tall
  2. How Men Are
  3. Everybody Is A Number One
  4. More Than A Law
  5. Somewhere In My Heart
  6. Working In A Goldmine
  7. One And One
  8. Paradise
  9. Killermont Street
    Bonus Tracks
  10. Bad Education
  11. The Red Flag

Disc Four: Remixes, B-Sides And Live 1986-1988

  1. Somewhere In My Heart (12ʺ Remix)
  2. Somewhere In My Heart (Eric Calvi Remix)
  3. Somewhere In My Heart (The Alternate Mix)
  4. Deep & Wide & Tall (Breakdown Mix)
  5. Deep & Wide & Tall (LP Edit)
  6. Everybody Is A Number One (Boston ’86 Version)
  7. Working In A Goldmine (Sax Version)
  8. Working In A Goldmine (Live at Pinewood)
  9. Somewhere In My Heart (Live at Pinewood)
  10. Killermont Street (Live In LA)
  11. Pillar To Post (Live In LA) 12 How Men Are (Night Network Live)
  12. Down The Dip (Live In Glasgow)
  13. Jump (Live In Glasgow)
  14. I Threw It All Away (Live In Bristol)
  15. Interview

Disc Five: Stray

  1. Stray
  2. The Crying Scene
  3. Get Outta London
  4. Over My Head
  5. Good Morning Britain
  6. How It Is
  7. The Gentle Kind
  8. Notting Hill Blues
  9. Song For A Friend
    Bonus Tracks
  10. Salvation
  11. True Colours

Disc Six: Remixes, Rarities And Live 1990

  1. Do I Love You?
  2. Good Morning Britain (7ʺ Mix)
  3. Good Morning Britain (Laylow Posse Hypno- Mix/Kitsch ‘N’ Sync Mix)
  4. Good Morning Britain (Laylow Posse Hypnomental/ Instrumental Mix)
  5. Good Morning Britain (Laylow Posse Hypno- Edit/Vocal Remix)
  6. Good Morning Britain (Mendelsohn Single Mix)
  7. Good Morning Britain (Morning Acid Mix)
  8. Consolation Prize (Live At Glasgow Barrowlands, August 4th, 1990)
  9. Good Morning Britain (Live At Glasgow Barrowlands, August 4th, 1990)

Disc Seven: Live At Ronnie Scott’s

  1. Birth Of The True
  2. Song For A Friend
  3. Killermont Street
  4. Spanish Horses
  5. Stray
  6. The Bugle Sounds Again
  7. Dolphins
  8. How Men Are
  9. Sister Ann
  10. Good Morning Britain
  11. Mattress Of Wire
  12. Let Your Love Decide
  13. Orchid Girl

Disc Eight: Dreamland

  1. Birds
  2. Safe In Sorrow
  3. Black Lucia
  4. Let Your Love Decide
  5. Spanish Horses
  6. Dream Sweet Dreams
  7. Pianos And Clocks
  8. Sister Ann
  9. Vertigo
  10. Valium Summer
  11. The Belle Of The Ball
    Bonus Tracks
  12. (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice
  13. Just Like The USA (Live in Barcelona)
  14. Let Your Love Decide (Edit)

Disc Nine: Frestonia

  1. Rainy Season
  2. Sun
  3. Crazy
  4. On The Avenue
  5. Imperfectly
  6. Debutante
  7. Beautiful Girl
  8. Phenomenal World
  9. Method Of Love
  10. Sunset
    Bonus Tracks
  11. The Crying Scene (Live At The Phoenix Festival, 1995)
  12. Black Lucia (Live At The Phoenix Festival, 1995)
  13. We Could Send Letters (Live At The Phoenix Festival, 1995)
  14. Rainy Season (Live At The Phoenix Festival, 1995)

Buy Backwards and Forwards: The WEA Recordings (1984-1995) from Amazon





CousteauX – Stray Gods review

19 07 2021

Cousteau were a London based band active from 1999 to 2005, releasing three studio albums and known for the songs The Last Good Day of The Year and Mesmer.

Core Cousteau members Liam McKahey and Davey Ray Moor returned as CousteauX (it’s a silent X apparently!) in 2016 and after releasing their first album under the CousteauX name in 2017, are back in 2021 with a new album, Stray Gods.

As I mentioned in my review of 2017’s CousteauX album, this incarnation strays far from the lighter, more easy listening style of their early 90s music. This is often uneasy listening, and the experience is all the more stronger for it.

Cheap Perfume sets the template for much of the album. Stuttering guitar lines and a steady, mid-paced rhythm give way to a delicious chorus, with “that” voice in full flow. There is a real edge to latter day music from Liam and Davey, with dirty, sleazy guitar riffs often in evidence.

Love The Sinner has an inventively percussive pace, with duelling guitar and keyboard riffs below the deepest, simmering baritone, topped by a multi-layered chorus that Bowie would have been proud of. The demons win the battle in this song.

On first hearing Karen Don’t Be Sad, I was not aware it was a cover of a song written by Miley Cyrus, Wayne Coyne & Steven Drozd. I thought it was the band’s take on the recent “Karen” phenomenon. Or maybe a tribute to the great Karen Carpenter (there are strong Carpenter vibes on this song). But nope, got that wrong on both counts, though there is a slight possibility that my ears could be deceiving me, as I think there have been some slight lyric changes to reflect current events, so maybe my first instinct was true. I guess I will find out when I have the pressed CD in my possession.

The essence of the earlier band incarnation runs through Karen Don’t Be Sad , the most gentle, delicate piece on the album. Its a doozy. As is the 60s flavoured Yesterday Eyes, which simply oozes Monte Carlo spy thriller. The smooth, measured arrangement graced with a dreamy chorus that seeps into your soul. One of my song of the year contenders.

We head towards the half-way mark with the scene setting Bloom Overture that flows into When The Bloom Has Left The Rose, with Liam’s most emotional vocal performance on the album. At this point on Stray Gods, the weather is changing and a storm is clearly approaching. When The Bloom Has Left The Rose is stripped back, with heavy use of atmospherics and mood to convey the deep emotion.

The band take a rare excursion to a 70s sound with So Long Marianne, which has some subtle country leanings, and don’t shoot me, it reminds me a little of prime 70s Neil Diamond, even though it is in fact a Leonard Cohen song. I’m a sucker for this sort of rich arrangement, with Rhodes piano, slide guitar and soulful backing vocals, so this would always be an obvious favourite for me.

Praying For Rain is pure Americana, with bar-room piano solos, and a blues shuffle driving one of the album’s darkest pieces. None of the tracks feel rushed or cluttered on Stray Gods, there is always plenty of space for the songs to breathe and for the lyrics to do their work. This Thing Won’t Fly is a case in point, with a rich chorus escaping from the leisurely verse.

Electrical Storms In Berlin is unlike anything Liam and Davey have released before. The pace is funereal, and the crackling, atmospheric arrangement feels like the film score to a dark noir movie. Its a career highlight for the duo.

“Grabs of news and ballyhoo
drone on and on
dabs of truth ‘bout me and you
so long wrong and gone”

Hush Money is the heaviest track on Stray Gods, both musically and lyrically. Guitars and drums are the main ingredients on this track, with a blues swagger rarely heard from the duo.

The clouds clear for Stray Gods finale, with the gentle, tender torch-song In The Meantime. Stinging ride cymbals and deep synth strings sit atop the piano and double bass of the shifting moods that populate this album closer.

I loved the band’s return in 2017, but Stray Gods feels like a much more rounded, rich and complete piece of work, and is my favourite of the two duo albums. The mood and pace of the album twists and turns, with so much more variety shown by Liam and Davey this time around.

I say this everytime I review one of their album’s, and they always seem to ignore me, but I hope this is a run of new music. Don’t go splitting up on us again CousteauX!!!

Cheap Perfume
Love The Sinner
Karen Don’t Be Sad
Yesterday Eyes
Bloom Overture
When The Bloom Has Left The Rose
So Long Marianne
Praying For Rain
This Thing Won’t Fly
Electrical Storms In Berlin
Hush Money
In The Meantime

Released August 20, 2021

Voice: Liam McKahey
Songs & Production: Davey Ray Moor

Pre-order CousteauX Stray Gods (CD or download) from bandcamp

Pre-order CousteauX Stray Gods (CD or download) from Amazon


Buy the first CousteauX album

Buy the first CousteauX album, on CD, from Amazon

Buy the first CousteauX album, on vinyl, from Amazon





The Vapors – Waiting For The Weekend: The United Artist & Liberty Recordings review

14 07 2021

The Vapors are releasing a 76 track deluxe 4CD clamshell box set containing the band’s first two studio albums New Clear Days and Magnets along with B-sides & single versions. The set also includes two discs of previously unreleased demos, rough mixes, alternative and live versions, including the band’s performance at The Rainbow, supporting The Jam on their Setting Sons tour in December 1979.

The material has been mastered from the original master tapes retrieved from the EMI Archives, and still sounds crisp and powerful.

The first disc contains The Vapors debut album New Clear Days from 1980. Containing the band’s signature track Turning Japanese, the album is much more than the massive hit single. Cold War captures perfectly the post-punk influenced new wave sound of 1979 / 1980.

My favourite track on the album is the nuclear paranoia riddled Bunkers.

“I went down the road to see the end of the movie
‘Cause I really like the part where the heroine dies
She takes away so many million secrets
But she tells just a few before she closes her eyes”

The agitated bass-line and wonderful drums and percussion backbeat drives this frenetic album highlight. Waiting For The Weekend and the album closer Letter From Hiro also serve as powerful statements.

The remainder of disc one collects the remaining tracks released during this period, including the single Prisoners, b-side Here Comes The Judge (Live), a single edit of News At Ten, a shortened edit of Turning Japanese and the first of three previously unreleased tracks, Move (Demo), which has a guitar sound reminiscent of the style of John McGeoch, who was a member of Magazine around this time.

The expanded version of second album Magnets from 1981 opens with single Jimmie Jones, followed by the Bowie influenced, more experimental sound of Spiders, which showed that the band’s musical vocabulary was expanding. Spiders should have been a hit single, it was made for the airwaves of 1980.

Isolated Case is a Banshee’s influenced, post-punk slice of pop, and has aged well. Live At The Marquee has an interesting, intelligent arrangement and a killer, speed infused 60s pop chorus.

“But we’re alive at the marquee”

Its a real shame that the lack of record company promotion harmed the prospects of Magnets, as it has a much more varied sound than the debut, and deserved to be heard by more people. Maybe that time is now?

I have a lot of love for Daylight Titans, with it’s Banshees meets The Comsat Angels flavour.

“But what hurts me is I never get the time
To say or do even half of what I’m feeling”

Can’t Talk Anymore adds some Dave Edmunds / Nick Lowe pop sensibility to a dark lyric. The haunting title track Magnets closes the original album running order, with a slow-burning arrangement and a powerful mantra to close the song.

The motorcade is never-ending…”

B-side Galleries For Guns and the single / remixes, plus an archive interview with Dave Fenton, complete disc two.

Disc Three is New Clear Days (Alternative Versions). Containing demos, alternative versions and rough mixes of the songs from the album. One of the highlights is Turning Japanese (Alternative Version), which has added synths and percussion and sounds like it could be from slightly later than 1980. Its interesting to hear, but the original is still the best! Another highlight is the spirited Letter From Hiro (Rough Mix).

Just as interesting is the final disc, which comprises Magnets (Alternative Versions) & Live At The Rainbow 03/12/1979.

This disc contains two previously unreleased songs. A studio cut of Secret Noise, which probably would have been more suited to the debut album, and a live version of Caroline recorded at The Rainbow in 1979. The Rainbow show highlights the band before they were successful. Its strange hearing a live performance of Turning Japanese with no roar during the iconic intro.

The Vapors – Waiting For The Weekend: The United Artist & Liberty Recordings is a great way to collect the recordings from the first incarnation of the band, and its also a good opportunity for a timely reappraisal of the band’s second album, Magnets.

The Vapors reformed in 2016 and in 2020 released their excellent third album studio album Together, that included a career highlight in Girl from the Factory. So hopefully lots more to come from this great band.

Buy The Vapors – Waiting For The Weekend: The United Artist & Liberty Recordings 4 CD Boxset

Disc One: New Clear Days (Expanded Version)

Spring Collection
Turning Japanese
Cold War
America
Trains
Bunkers
News At Ten
Somehow
Sixty Second Interval
Waiting For The Weekend
Letter From Hiro

Bonus Tracks

Prisoners
Sunstroke
Here Comes The Judge (Live)
News At Ten (Single Version)
Wasted
Talk Talk
Waiting For The Weekend (Single Version)
Billy
Turning Japanese (Edit)
Move (Demo)

Disc Two: Magnets (Expanded Version)

Jimmie Jones
Spiders
Isolated Case
Civic Hall
Live At The Marquee
Daylight Titans
Johnny’s In Love (Again)
Can’t Talk Anymore
Lenina
Silver Machines
Magnets

Bonus Tracks

Galleries For Guns
Jimmie Jones (Single Version)
Daylight Titans (Single Version)
Spiders (Single Version)
Interview With Dave Fenton

Disc Three: New Clear Days (Alternative Versions)

Spring Collection (Demo)
Turning Japanese (Alternative Version)
Cold War (Rough Mix)
America (Demo)
Trains (Rough Mix)
Bunkers (Demo)
News At Ten (Alternative Version)
Somehow (Instrumental)
Sixty Second Interval (Demo)
Waiting For The Weekend (Demo)
Letter From Hiro (Rough Mix)
Turning Japanese (Edit) (Demo)
Prisoners (Demo)
Wasted (Rough Mix)
Spring Collection (Rough Mix)
Turning Japanese (Alternative Extended Mix)
Cold War (Rough Mix Edit)
America (Instrumental)
Waiting For The Weekend (Rough Mix)
Cold War (Alternative Rough Mix)
Turning Japanese (Instrumental)

Disc Four: Magnets Alternative Versions & Live At The Rainbow 03/12/1979

Jimmie Jones (Rough Mix)
Civic Hall (Rough Mix)
Live At The Marquee (Rough Mix)
Johnny’s In Love (Again) (Rough Mix)
Galleries For Guns (Rough Mix)
Secret Noise
Galleries For Guns (Alternative Rough Mix)

Live At The Rainbow 03/12/1979

Caroline
Somehow
Bunkers
Sunstroke
Cold War
Waiting For The Weekend
Sixty Second Interval
Spring Collection
Turning Japanese
America
Prisoners

Buy The Vapors – Waiting For The Weekend: The United Artist & Liberty Recordings 4 CD Boxset





Big Big Train – Common Ground track-by-track album review

4 07 2021

Common Ground, the self-produced new album from Big Big Train is released on 30th July 2021, on CD via their own label English Electric Recordings, and on double LP in a gatefold sleeve via Plane Groovy.

Recorded during the worldwide pandemic in 2020, Common Ground sees the band continue their tradition of dramatic narratives but also tackles issues much closer to home, such as the Covid lockdowns, the separation of loved ones, the passage of time, deaths of people close to the band and the hope that springs from a new love.

The Strangest Times is a direct reaction to the worldwide pandemic. Referencing some of the strange changes to our lives (waiting for daily Government press conferences, social distancing), this is a new departure for Big Big Train. Instead of the mainly historical stories, this is as close to home and personal as it gets, with lyrics that reference this time in our history, when so many of us were confined to our homes and missing our loved ones and our way of life that we had probably taken for granted.

Six months ago this song would not have worked, as I think a lot of us were looking for an escape from Covid in our everyday lives and our art and entertainment, as it was all too raw, too over-powering and all-encompassing. But how can artists ignore one of the most significant events in our lifetimes, that touched so many of us in such a negative and personal way? As we slowly see chinks of a semblance of normality on the horizon, its now possible to listen to artists addressing what happened, and The Strangest Times touches on what we all went through, the loss and sacrifice many people endured and how our worlds changed, in some ways permanently, whilst looking to nature to heal us and offer respite from the terrible news that was hitting us from all angles.

The track is musically urgent and reminds me of the All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes period Pete Townshend (who is referenced as one of the influences, along with Elbow, Tears for Fears, Elton John and XTC on the Big Big Train website).

All The Love We Can Give, with its lower register than usual vocals on the verse, contains my favourite David Longdon performance on the album. The song reminds me a little of Mansun’s playful late 90s album Six, with a variety of twists and turns in an exiting and at times visceral arrangement.

I’m going to get shouted down here, but I keep finding myself singing Kids In America during the first section of Black With Ink. Its probably just me, so ignore me (We’re the kids in America, whoa-oh!). The switching of lead vocals to various band members and the darker mid-section makes this one of the most enjoyable tracks from the early part of the album.

Dandelion Clock is the final track that makes up the first part of the album. Drawing on that wonderful pastoral feeling that Big Big Train can dial in at ease, the song feels like it is bringing the power and beauty of nature into a four minute pop song. And before you know it, Dandelion Clock is over and we are heading into part two of Common Ground.

The short, beautiful instrumental Headwaters is driven by reverb heavy, deep piano and sets the scene for the albums second instrumental, Apollo. This is the most traditionally progressive track on the album, and the nearest in sound to previous Big Big Train recordings on an album that sees the band add new colours and layers to their music.

Common Ground was the first track released from the album and has a mid 70s feel that always draws me in. The vocal harmonies are delicious on this track, with lyrics espousing tolerance, kindness and the life-changing power of love.

“We claim our common ground”

In a slight change of tack, this album has fewer narrative led songs, with more personal experiences driving the themes, which is understandable from an album conceived and created during Covid. Deviating from this journey is the tour de force that is Atlantic Cable, a tale of a 19th Century early communication system. Lyrically the song is about joining together, and breaking down barriers, so a very optimistic take on history.

The arrangement transitions smoothly throughout the 15 minute piece, with male and female vocals interweaving. This is the track I am most looking forward to blasting out on my vinyl copy at the end of July.

“The wisdom of strangers, of those left behind
We look up at the same stars…”

Endnotes is a lovely way to end the album, with what feels like a lyrical and musical tip of the hat to early to mid period Elbow. As a side note, Elbow’s Asleep in the Back is an amazing, very progressive album that does not get the attention it deserves.

The lyrical imagery and use of brass lifts your mood on Endnotes, and overall, whilst it touches on some dark and upsetting themes, Common Ground is an uplifting, emotionally rewarding and positive album, and one of the finest releases from the band.

The performances from all band members are strong on Common Ground, and the new members have certainly left their mark, with an interesting tilt of the band’s axis giving Big Big Train a new determination along with a welcome exploration of new moods and musical flavours. Surely that’s the definition of progressive?

Part One
The Strangest Times
All The Love We Can Give
Black With Ink
Dandelion Clock

Part Two
Headwaters
Apollo
Common Ground
Atlantic Cable
Endnotes

Burning Shed Big Big Train store (incl CD / vinyl and merchandise bundles for Common Ground)

Buy Big Big Train’s Common Ground on CD from Amazon
Buy Big Big Train’s Common Ground on vinyl from Amazon





Level 42 – The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 2 (1985-1989) boxset review

1 07 2021

Level 42 are releasing a 10 CD set titled The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 2 (1985-1989), that contains all the Level 42 albums from that era plus further discs containing B-Sides, 7” mixes, remixes and rare tracks.

Regarded as the bands most commercial period, this collection features all the hits from the era including Running in the Family, Lessons in Love and Leaving Me Now.

Discs 6 -10 contain all the B-Sides, 7” mixes, remixes and rare versions from 1985-1989. Level 42 – The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 2 was compiled in conjunction with Level 42 and band experts Paul Wallace, Paul Waller and Simon Carson.

The comprehensive sleeve notes were written by Record Collectors Daryl Easlea who has spoken to band members current and past.

The collection kicks off with the 1985 live album A Physical Presence on the first two discs. I spent my teenage years in Woolwich, but had moved away and so missed this tour, that included a show at The Coronet in Woolwich, one of the gigs featured on this album, along with tracks recorded at The Hexagon (Reading) and Goldiggers in Chippenham.

A Physical Presence captures the band at their jazz-funk peak, before the more mainstream success that followed with the next few albums. Highlights include a crowd-participating Turn It On and the flawless second disc, with six killer tracks in a row, including a powerful version of Hot Water.

World Machine saw the band start to move away from their signature style, towards a more electronic pop sound. Known for the massive hit singles – Something About You (a truly great pop song) and Leaving Me Now, other highlights include the sublime arrangement of the title track, the percussive Coup D’etat and the Rhodes driven Lying Still, with some wonderful Steely Dan sounding harmonies.

Disc four contains the Running In The Family album from 1987. The album opens with a staple of 80s nostalgia radio stations, Lessons In Love, which is simply one of the band’s finest singles. There is a real consistency in the song-writing and performances on this album, resulting in 5 of the 8 album tracks being released as singles.

“All the dreams that we were building
We never fulfilled them”

Children Say has a lovely refrain and other highlights include It’s Over, the band’s final UK Top 10 hit and album closer Freedom Someday. Brothers Phil and Boon Gould left the band after the release of Running In The Family.

Guitarist Alan Murphy (Kate Bush / Go West) and drummer Gary Husband joined for Staring at the Sun, the last studio album in this collection, which appears on disc five.

Heaven in My Hands was the biggest hit from the album, peaking at No12 in the UK single charts. I love Alan Murphy’s guitar style, particularly from his work with Kate Bush as well as his strong contributions to this album, sadly his only appearance with the band, as he died in 1989. Sting guitarist Dominic Miller also features on the album.

Staring at the Sun feels very different from earlier Level 42 albums, with a shift towards a more pop/rock sound. Key tracks include the top 30 single Take A Look (what a chorus, by the way), the addictive Silence and the rare later period instrumental Gresham Blues.

The final five discs round up b sides, 7″ and 12″ mixes plus live tracks from the period. My personal highlights from these tracks include one of my favourite 80s 12″ mixes, Something About You (Sisa Mix), World Machine (Shep Pettibone Remix), the very much of it’s time, drum-less Heaven In My Hands (Guitarpella Mix), the surprisingly effective “funky drummer” take of Take A Look (Remix) and the 2nd version of Starchild (Remix) on disc 9, that clocks in at nearly 8 minutes.

The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 2 (1985-1989) is a great way to collect the Level 42 albums from the most commercially successful period of the bands career, and is an 80s music fans dream.

Buy Level 42 – The Complete Polydor Years Volume Two on Amazon

Disc One: A Physical Presence (Part 1)

  1. Almost There
  2. Turn It On
  3. Mr. Pink
  4. Eyes Waterfalling
  5. Kansas City Milkman
  6. Follow Me
  7. Foundation And Empire

Disc Two: A Physical Presence (Part 2)

  1. The Chant Has Begun
  2. The Chinese Way
  3. The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)
  4. Hot Water
  5. Love Games
  6. 88

Disc Three: World Machine

  1. World Machine
  2. Physical Presence
  3. Something About You
  4. Leaving Me Now
  5. I Sleep On My Heart
  6. It’s Not The Same For Us
  7. Dream Crazy
  8. Good Man In A Storm
  9. Coup D’etat
  10. Lying Still

Disc Four: Running In The Family

  1. Lessons In Love
  2. Children Say
  3. Running In The Family
  4. It’s Over
  5. To Be With You Again
  6. Two Solitudes (Everyone’s Love In The Air)
  7. Fashion Fever
  8. The Sleepwalkers
  9. Freedom Someday

Disc Five: Staring At The Sun

  1. Heaven In My Hands
  2. I Don’t Know Why
  3. Take A Look
  4. Over There
  5. Silence
  6. Tracie
  7. Staring At The Sun
  8. Two Hearts Collide
  9. Man
  10. Gresham Blues

Disc Six: 7” Singles

  1. Follow Me – Live – 7ʺ Remix
  2. Something About You – 7ʺ Version
  3. Leaving Me Now – 7ʺ Remix
  4. Running In The Family – 7ʺ Version
  5. To Be With You Again -7ʺ Version
  6. It’s Over – 7ʺ Remix
  7. Children Say – 7ʺ Remix
  8. Heaven In My Hands – 7ʺ Version
  9. Tracie – 7ʺ Version
  10. Take Care Of Yourself – 7ʺ Version

Disc Seven: B Sides

  1. Coup D’état – Version
  2. Something About You – U.S. Remix – Edit
  3. Micro Kid – Live – Full Length Version
  4. It’s Over – Instrumental
  5. Physical Presence – Live
  6. Starchild – Remix
  7. Three Words
  8. Silence – Live At The NEC Birmingham
  9. Man – Live At The NEC Birmingham

Disc Eight: 12” Singles & Remixes

  1. Something About You – Sisa Mix
  2. I Sleep On My Heart – Remix
  3. Lessons In Love – Extended Version
  4. Something About You – Shep Pettibone Remix
  5. Something About You – Instrumental
  6. World Machine – Shep Pettibone Remix
  7. World Machine – Dub
  8. Lessons In Love – Shep Pettibone Remix
  9. Lessons In Love – Dub Mix
  10. To Be With You Again – A.D.S.C. Mix
  11. To Be With You Again – Dub

Disc Nine: 12” Singles & Remixes

  1. It’s Over – Extended Remix
  2. Running In The Family – Dave ‘O’ Remix
  3. Children Say – Extended Remix
  4. Starchild – Remix
  5. Heaven In My Hands – Extended Version
  6. Heaven In My Hands – US Remix
  7. Take A Look – Extended Mix
  8. Tracie – Extended Mix
  9. Tracie – US Remix
  10. Take Care Of Yourself – Extended Version
  11. Take Care Of Yourself – Remix
  12. Starchild – Remix

Disc Ten: Bonus Tracks

  1. World Machine – Live Hammersmith Odeon 1985
  2. Leaving Me Now – Live Hammersmith Odeon 1985
  3. Something About You – Live Hammersmith Odeon 1985
  4. The Platinum Edition Megamix
  5. Lessons In Love – Shep’s Final Mix
  6. Running In The Family – HTL Dub
  7. Children Say – Slap Bass Mix
  8. Heaven In My Hands – Guitarpella Mix
  9. Take A Look – Remix
  10. Two Hearts Collide – 7ʺ Remix
  11. Two Hearts Collide – Extended Remix
  12. Take Care Of Yourself – Radio Edit
  13. Heaven In My Hands – Original Album Mix

Buy Level 42 – The Complete Polydor Years Volume Two on Amazon

Buy the previous box-set – Level 42 – The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 1 (1980-1984) from Amazon





News: Donner covers Steely Dan’s Night By Night

9 06 2021

Donner, a new project from Norwegian guitarist, composer and producer Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow / The Opium Cartel) have released the first track from their forthcoming album, Hesitant Light. The single is the only vocal track on the album, and is their version of Steely Dan’s Night By Night (from 1974’s Pretzel Logic album).

Joining Holm-Lupo on Night By Night, in it’s neon-drenched, should have been in an 80s John Hughes movie soundtrack glory, is a stellar line up of Marte Eberson on vocals and Hedvig Mollestad on guitar, plus Keith Carlock (Toto, Steely Dan touring and studio work on Two Against Nature / Everything Must Go) on drums.

“Well I don’t really care
If it’s wrong or if it’s right
But until my ship comes in
I’ll live night by night”

Stream Night By Night on Spotify (below) and buy the track from Donner’s Bandcamp page.





Airbag – Identity (Remastered) CD & Vinyl review

3 06 2021

Karisma Records are releasing a remastered version of Oslo band Airbag’s 2009 debut album Identity in June 2021 on CD and in early August on double vinyl.

The original, according to my Last.FM stats, was my most played album in 2009, so I’m obviously a big fan of this album. Identity has been lovingly remastered by Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow, The Opium Cartel).

Identity is a wonderful mixture of Pink Floyd influenced, melodic prog with quite wide-ranging pop influences such as later period Talk Talk and at times, hints of modern electronica.

Jacob Holm-Lupo’s remaster is a revelation. Comparing the two versions side by side, the new version is less sharp on the ear, the guitars are not always at the top of the mix and there is space for the electronics to breathe. Ride cymbals shimmer, the bass is deep and cuts through perfectly, and production touches such as effects on vocals and keyboards sit so much better in the mix. The original, which sounded pretty good back in the day, has been polished and cleaned, and is now a sparkling diamond of an album.

The instrumental Prelude sets the scene, with emotional solos from guitarist Bjørn Riis. The album is a definite pop your headphones on, sit back and close your eyes, listening experience. If you give the album your full attention, you will be rewarded.

No Escape is one of the key tracks on Identity. The pace is steady and constant, but the arrangement dips in and out of it’s intensity, with a heady mix of David Gilmour influenced guitar lines and simple but effective vocal arrangements. The ending, with processed drums and an emotional piano refrain, is a joy to listen to.

“Why does it feel like I’ve been here before,
please pull me out of this dream.”

Safe Like You has a Massive Attack sounding drum pattern, and infectious keyboard lines that underpin the emotive guitar parts. This is one of the songs that really benefits from Holm-Lupo’s warm, widescreen and colourful remaster.

“My stomach aches when you look at me as if I was fake”

Steal My Soul makes good use of soundscapes and Robert Fripp influenced guitar textures before the more traditional arrangement kicks in. This is the track that is likely to appeal to fans of 70s prog and classic rock.

The remaster of Steal My Soul is another noticeable improvement, and Colours, with its clearer vocal and acoustic guitar mix, sounds like it was recorded yesterday, rather than 12 years ago. How time flies…

The final two tracks – How I Wanna Be & Sounds That I Hear – thrive on the atmospherics, and work as if they are one long piece, rather than two distinct tracks.

Sounds That I Hear is one of my favourite Airbag songs, with delicate organ washes, snatches of distant radio conversations and a powerful classic progressive rock arrangement that sits comfortably (numb) alongside the dark lyrics.

“The memories we had
are left behind”

So if you already own this album, should you buy it again? For me, its a genuine sonic improvement, and the best version of one of my favourite albums of the past 20 years, and so yes I will be buying it again, on vinyl rather than CD. My original copy will go to a charity shop to hopefully turn someone else on to the band. Got to spread the prog love, right?

Buy the Identity (2021 Remaster) CD (available from 11 June 2021) from Amazon


Buy the Identity (2021 Remaster) (Deluxe White Vinyl) 2LP – pre-order (available from early August 2021) from Amazon

Tracklist:

Prelude
No Escape
Safe Like You
Steal My Soul
Feeling Less
Colours
How I Wanna Be
Sounds That I Hear

Identity-era Line-up:

Asle Tostrup – vocals
Bjørn Riis – guitars & vocals
Jørgen Hagen – keyboards
Anders Hovdan – bass
Joachim Slikker – drums





Plenty – Enough album review

14 05 2021

Enough is a double CD collecting two 2021 Plenty (Tim Bowness, Brian Hulse and David K Jones) ‘lockdown’ projects, plus the first ever release of the band’s original 1980s demos.

The album is split into three parts over the two CD’s:

Old / Borrowed were recorded between Spring 2020 and Spring 2021, whilst Older has recordings from between Summer 1986 and Summer 1990.

Enough is wisely split into two CD’s – with the 2020/21 recordings on disc one and the older, late 80s demos on disc 2. This works well, as it feels like two separate albums to me, with a modern re-imagining on the first disc, and the fascinating (but obviously more low-resolution) demos that give insight into the genesis of the band on the second.

Plenty’s previous album It Could Be Home had an 80s sheen, whereas Enough feels like a 2021 release, with a real edge that makes the album sit comfortably in the here and now.

Disc one opens with the seven songs of Old. The most recognisable track will be the album opener Forest Almost Burning, that exists in Plenty demo form as well as on No Man Is an Island’s The Girl From Missouri EP. Like most fans, I don’t have a physical copy, and have never been able to track one down, but this modern take makes up for that.

The Plenty version is faithful to the original arrangement, but with an embellished soundscape and more powerful drums plus a fuller guitar arrangement (moving away from the staple chorused guitar of the late 80s). Whilst I love the fragility of the original versions, this is my favourite recording of the song (although sadly missing the Bowness “burnt to the ground” line, which makes a sneaky, almost subliminal appearance in the video). Blink and you’ll miss it!

The Walker was the track that took longest to seep into my twisted heart. It’s a sparse arrangement, with an addictive bassline, and angular guitar. The vocals remind me of Tim’s early no-man style, and the upbeat chorus belie the darkness of the subject matter. The lyrics were recycled on the no-man song Walker, that can be found on the All The Blue Changes compilation.

The Blessed One is one of my favourites in the collection. I’m a sucker for the Experiment IV (Kate Bush) / Alan Murphy guitar sound and the powerful drums from Charles Grimsdale make the song go down a treat.

Towards The Shore will be known to many from its inclusion on the Slow Electric album from 2011. This version breathes a little more, but retains its delicate charm.

you chase another dream –
the old one’s failed again

The Other Side (The Other Version) is the Plenty 2020 (it rhymes!) version of the track that featured on the Late Night Laments companion Cheerleaders For The Damned. This new version is fully fleshed, and no longer beatless, with some lovely electronica on display towards the end of the song.

Bleed A Little More features lyrics that crept into the early no-man track Bleed. The Plenty song is a very different proposition, more uplifting and nearer to the Plenty of It Could Be Home.

War Games By The Sea (Military Upgrade) is another Plenty updating of a Cheerleaders For The Damned piece. This new version is the definitive take for me, and is one of my favourite Bowness songs from this period of his career. The piano is fuller and the drums from Tom Atherton give this song an incendiary power missing from the previously released version.

“even names grow old and tired,
like the children that we sired –
strip the paper from our ancient walls”

The final five songs on disc one are the covers, titled Borrowed. They veer from quite traditional to totally unexpected in their performance and arrangements. All are respectful versions. New Brighton (It’s Immaterial) shines a light on one of the finest Liverpool acts of the 80s, who were much more than their most well-known song, Driving Away from Home (Jim’s Tune). The Plenty version has hints of The Blue Nile, and is a warm, affectionate performance.

The cover of Suzanne Vega’s Soap And Water (from Songs in Red and Gray) would have worked well as a straight cover, but Plenty dial up the tempo and add a ton of electronics to give the song a very different skin. Lyrically, seemingly a song of separation and how it affects the children left behind when a partner leaves, there are echoes of prime Pet Shops Boys in the performance and the arrangement. The touch of urgency adds something new to the song, which is always good to hear in a cover version.

“Daddy’s a dark riddle
Mama’s a headful of bees
You are my little kite
Carried away in the wayward breeze”

I have to admit I struggled at first with the cover of The Teardrop Explodes Tiny Children. One of my favourite songs of the 80s, the original is seared into my soul. The Plenty version swaps the majority of the synths with piano, and like Soap And Water, has a tempo not present in the original. I learnt to separate the two versions, and then I could fully appreciate the Plenty version.

“Oh no, I’m not sure about
Those things that I cared about
Oh no, I’m not sure
Not anymore”

I love the way the song organically builds, and the vocal performance from Tim is restrained and calm, which suits the song perfectly.

Forgive Me (Kevin Coyne) I did not know before hearing this version, so I had no preconceptions. If I had not known this was a cover, I would have presumed this was a Plenty original, as it suits their style.

The final Borrowed track is the biggest surprise. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams) is totally shorn of it’s country / Americana roots and when compared to the original, simply does not compare, its like a totally different song. And you know what, it works!

Along with the subtle electronics, there is an almost blues underbelly to this version, which I was not expecting. The lyrics were always tender, and the performance on this version mirrors that tenderness perfectly.

The second disc I treat as separate to the main album, as the performances and the audio quality are steeped in another decade. There is a wonderful moment in the first demo, The Other Side, when what sounds like a ringing telephone can be heard in the background. I love found sounds, especially accidental ones.

Other highlights from the demos include the David Sylvian inspired (with Steve Jansen sounding percussion) Sacrifice, which later became Flowers At The Scene‘s Ghostlike. Sacrifice still works well even after all the years have passed, and will appeal to fans of Sylvian / Japan (even though Tim has never vocally sounded like Sylvian).

The demo of Brave Dreams on Enough I prefer to the My Hotel Year version. The synth lines are hauntingly beautiful, and it has more emotion and depth than the later studio version. I would love to hear a modern re-recording of the song – maybe a live cut, using this arrangement. Its my favourite out of all the demos.

“We get into the car, and sit without talking”

Towards the Shore cannot quite compete for me with the definitive 2020 remake / remodel, but there is still a glorious charm to this version, that has some of the spirit of one of the more neglected Bowness projects, World of Bright Futures (1999) from Tim Bowness & Samuel Smiles. Its a good way to end the demo disc, as a glimpse into the music that would soon arrive in the form of the beginnings of no-man.

Enough is released via Burning Shed on 9 July 2021.

Tim Bowness: Vocals, Backing Vocals, FX (on Old 5)
Brian Hulse – Guitars, Pianos, Synths, Drum Programming
David K Jones: Bass, Fretless Bass, Double Bass, Bass Pedals

with

Tom Atherton – Drums (on Old 7)
Michael Bearpark: Guitars (on Old 4 and Older 2, 4, 5, 6, 7), Fretless Bass (on Older 7)
Peter Chilvers: Piano, Synths (on Old 4)
Charles Grimsdale – Drums (on Old 3)

Old

  1. Forest Almost Burning (Bearpark/Bowness/Hulse/Jones)
  2. The Blessed Ones (Bowness/Jones)
  3. The Walker (Bowness/Hulse)
  4. Towards The Shore (Bowness/Hulse)
  5. The Other Side (The Other Version) (Bowness/Hulse)
  6. Bleed A Little More (Bowness/Hulse/Jones)
  7. War Games By The Sea (Military Upgrade) (Bowness/Hulse)

Borrowed

  1. New Brighton (Campbell/Whitehead)
  2. Soap And Water (Vega)
  3. Tiny Children (Cope)
  4. Forgive Me (Coyne/Coyne)
  5. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry (Williams)

Older

  1. The Other Side (1986) (Bowness/Hulse)
  2. Forest Almost Burning (1987) (Bearpark/Bowness/Hulse/Jones)
  3. Sacrifice (1987) (Bowness/Hulse)
  4. Brave Dreams (1990) (Bearpark/Bowness/Hulse)
  5. Broken Nights (1990) (Bowness/Hulse)
  6. The Walker (1990) (Bowness/Hulse)
  7. Towards The Shore (1990) (Bowness/Hulse)

Produced by Plenty
Mixed and Mastered by Brian Hulse

Artwork by Carl Glover

Old and Borrowed recorded between Spring 2020 and Spring 2021
Older recorded between Summer 1986 and Summer 1990

Visit the Tim Bowness store on Burning Shed

Visit the no-man store at Burning Shed





Toyah – The Blue Meaning Expanded Deluxe Edition review

22 04 2021

Cherry Red Records are releasing a newly remastered and expanded version of Toyah’s 1980 album The Blue Meaning, the second in a reissue programme of Toyah’s entire Safari Records catalogue. The Blue Meaning will be released on 28 May 2021.

The reissue comes in two formats:

A 2CD+1DVD digipak with a fully illustrated 24-page booklet containing a brand new introductory note from Toyah, plus rare and unseen imagery including album cover outtakes taken at Wykehurst Place. This expanded edition features 27 remastered bonus tracks including single mixes, live tracks, rarities and unheard demos.

There is also a limited edition neon pink coloured vinyl version that looks amazing.

I would imagine anyone reading this review will be familiar with The Blue Meaning, so no in-depth review of the main album is needed. The album has been remastered by Nick Watson at Fluid Mastering, and is the best the album has sounded.

The Blue Meaning is often both musically and lyrically darker than its predecessor Sheep Farming In Barnet, and it works well as a complete album, with a real continuity of sound and lyrical themes. Opening with fan favourite Ieya (I bet you are chanting Zion Zooberon Necronomicon in your head now), other key tracks include Ghosts, the addictive Mummies, the percussive Tiger! Tiger!, the obtuse Insects and my personal favourite, the post-punk delights of She, which still sounds great today.

As with the Sheep Farming In Barnet deluxe reissue, The Blue Meaning is overflowing with extras, and pulls together all the key live and out-take recordings from this era. Silence Won’t Do and Jack & Jill hint at the next stage in the band’s career, with the Four from Toyah EP and 1981’s Anthem album. The Merchant & The Nubile was reworked, with fresh lyrics added on top of a more fleshed out production for Four From Toyah‘s War Boys the following year.

Session versions of Sheep Farming In Barnet‘s Danced and Last Goodbye, along with Love Me from The Blue Meaning are included on the first disc. My favourite from these sessions is the version of Danced, with a Mike Oldfield sounding guitar solo.

The shortened single mix of Ieya and its b side, Helium Song (Spaced Walking), the full version of the album track, rounds off CD one in this deluxe edition.

The second disc opens with a trio of tracks recorded at the ICA London, Love Me, Waiting and Ieya. A couple of alternative vocal takes, including a longer version of Blue Meanings and a version of She with less reverb lead into a weirder, acapella version of Spaced Walking. This is crying out for someone to add their own music and give us a 2021 version. Go on, you know you want to!

Three album songs in instrumental form are next, followed by different takes of Silence Won’t Do, Jack & Jill and The Merchant & The Nubile (these are different recording takes and alternate vocals). Its interesting to hear the development of these songs, presented here in their more raw incarnations.

It’s A Mystery (Original Version) is performed by Blood Donor Feat. Toyah Willcox, and would go on to reach #4 in the UK Singles Charts when re-recorded and released in 1981 as the lead song on the Four from Toyah EP. Most of the original parts of the song are intact in this older take. The only time I saw Toyah live was around this time, in February 1981 at The Rainbow, London. I remember enjoying Huang Chung who were also on the bill. Founder member Jack Hues has said that their early album’s will be re-released on CD soon, so something to look forward to. Huang Chung later renamed themselves as Wang Chung, and went on to have huge hits in the UK and the USA in the mid to late 80s.

Back to Toyah, sorry about the slight digression. The rest of disc two is made up of good quality demo recordings, recorded at Pete Townshend’s Eel Pie Studios in late 1980. I prefer the arrangement of the demo version of Angels & Demons, and another highlight is the Banshees meets The Cure instrumental version of Sphinx. Anthem will also be familiar to fans, as this track formed the basis of the top 10 single I Want to Be Free from 1981, although the punky guitars are the stars on this version.

The final disc (not provided for review) contains three brand new features – an interview with Toyah Willcox about the album/period, a track-by-track album commentary plus an exclusive acoustic three-song session of songs from the era, filmed in October 2020. The DVD also includes rare archive BBC TV performances of Mummies and Danced from Friday Night, Saturday Morning (November 1980).

Buy The Blue Meaning

Buy Toyah – The Blue Meaning Expanded Deluxe Edition (CD / DVD) from Amazon

Buy Toyah – The Blue Meaning limited edition neon pink coloured vinyl from Amazon

CD / DVD

Disc One

  1. Ieya
  2. Spaced Walking
  3. Ghosts
  4. Mummies
  5. Blue Meanings
  6. Tiger! Tiger!
  7. Vision
  8. Insects
  9. Love Me
  10. She
    Bonus Tracks
  11. Silence Won’t Do
  12. Jack & Jill
  13. Cotton Vest
  14. The Merchant & The Nubile
  15. Danced (Session Version)
  16. Last Goodbye (Session Version)
  17. Love Me (Session Version)
  18. Ieya (Single Version)
  19. Helium Song (Spaced Walking)

Disc Two

  1. Love Me (Live At ICA London)
  2. Waiting (Live At ICA London)
  3. Ieya (Live At ICA London)
  4. Blue Meanings (Alternate Vocal)
  5. She (Alternate Vocal)
  6. Spaced Walking (Helium Acapella)
  7. Ghosts (Instrumental)
  8. Mummies (Instrumental)
  9. Vision (Instrumental)
  10. Silence Won’t Do (Alternate Vocal)
  11. Jack & Jill (Alternate Vocal)
  12. The Merchant & The Nubile (Alternate Vocal)
  13. It’s A Mystery (Original Version) By Blood Donor Feat. Toyah Willcox
  14. Angels & Demons (Demo)
  15. You’re My Hero (Demo)
  16. Sphinx (Instrumental Demo)
  17. Walkie Talkie (Instrumental Demo)
  18. Anthem (Instrumental Demo)

Disc Three (NTSC – Region Free DVD)

  1. The Story Behind The Album: Toyah Interview 2020
  2. Track By Track Album Commentary: Toyah Interview 2020
  3. Ghosts: Acoustic Session 2020
  4. Blue Meanings: Acoustic Session 2020
  5. Ieya: Acoustic Session 2020
  6. Danced: Friday Night, Saturday Morning 28/11/1980
  7. Mummies: Friday Night, Saturday Morning 28/11/1980

Vinyl

Side one

  1. Ieya
  2. Spaced Walking
  3. Ghosts
  4. Mummies
  5. Blue Meanings

Side Two

  1. Tiger! Tiger!
  2. Vision
  3. Insects
  4. Love Me
  5. She




Frost* Day And Age album review

7 04 2021

Frost* release their fourth studio album Day And Age on May 14 2021. The follow-up to their 2016 album Falling Satellites, Day And Age is available as a limited 2 CD version and a 2 LP / CD edition, as well as a digital release.

Now built around the trio of Jem Godfrey, Nathan King and John Mitchell with guest drummers Kaz Rodriguez, Darby Todd and Pat Mastelotto, the new Frost* album has a feeling of dread and paranoia running through its veins. Day And Age feels very much of it’s time, without referencing current events directly.

Opening with the title track, which thunders along at pace, almost like a proggier Synchronicity era The Police powered by John Bonham. The middle section, with its chilling soundscapes and metal leanings, is a delight to listen to, especially on headphones.

“We’re living in a day and age, when the writings on the wall”

Terrestrial lifts the mood somewhat, with a brighter production, and glitchy keyboard motifs. The percussion styles vary from song to song on this album, so having three very different players was a good decision that has paid dividends. The arrangement is very intelligent on Terrestrial, with one of the albums most compelling songs underpinned by layers that reveal themselves on subsequent listens.

Waiting For The Lie was one of my early favourites. The piano, electronics and vocal led song is very dark and bleak, with the rhythm initially coming from synths and a deep bass drum until the song opens up around the half-way mark. The vocal performance is stellar.

“These are the games that we play”

I won’t give away too many spoilers for The Boy Who Stood Still, as it is a song that works best with few preconceptions, and you will be able to hear for yourself in May, but the track is musically very playful, suiting the subject matter of the very unique lyrics perfectly.

“In the long shadows of the day, he would stand, year after year, watching….”

The first half is very electronic, before morphing into a powerful, more traditional arrangement with very insistent guitar and keyboard lines, and an ending that reminded me of the percussive power utilised by Level 42 in Hot Water (spot the connection, pop-pickers). After about three complete listens to the album, The Boy Who Stood Still has become my favourite song on the album.

Island Life channels The Police (I hear their influence a lot in Frost*, is it just me?), Kevin Gilbert, the late Alan Murphy and Mansun and will surely be the next single from Day And Age. The song is so catchy, its criminal. With more twists and turns than should be allowed in a a four minute song, Island Life acts as a palate cleanser for the darkness that informs the rest of the album.

Skywards is a perfect example of the thoughtful arrangements and production. Percussion breaks drop when least expected, and time signatures shift without jarring the flow. The drum sound is a star on Day And Age, and this is surely an album built to be played LOUD.

Photo by Carl Glover

The second longest track is next, and Kill The Orchestra opens with a 10cc like arrangement (from the Godley & Creme years). Another brutal lyric and a slow building performance that makes the hairs stand on end.

“I’ll be singing when they string you up”

This is a track that took a couple of listens to fully reveal it’s charms, and I would not be surprised if Kill The Orchestra becomes a favourite for a lot of fans. The heavier parts on Day And Age are more restrained and used more sparingly than elsewhere in the Frost* catalogue, and this makes them all the more powerful when they are put to use. The Gilmouresque guitar line at the end is short but sweet, and I love the way it fades into an emotional keyboard riff that hits hard. The lyrical violence cuts deep on this one.

Day And Age closer Repeat To Fade seems to continue and build on the story of Kill The Orchestra, with an Army Of Me (Björk) on steriods drum pattern added to the mix. Production touches such as layered, buried voices and sonar beeps give way to static as the song comes to an abrupt end, with the chorus still ringing in your ears.

“There’s only one way out, repeat to fade”

More so than previous Frost* albums, Day And Age feels very consistent lyrically and musically, with a well thought-out flow to keep your interest piqued throughout the 54 minutes running time. The album also contains two of the strongest new songs I have heard so far in 2021, in The Boy Who Stood Still and Kill The Orchestra. Its still early days, but this might turn out to be my favourite Frost* album to date. I can’t wait for you to hear it.

Available as: Ltd. 2CD Edition / Gatefold 2LP+CD / Digital Album

Buy Day And Age (Ltd. 2CD Edition) from Amazon
Buy Day And Age vinyl (Day And Age (Gatefold black 2LP+CD)) from Amazon

Buy Day And Age from Burning Shed

Frost* Day And Age

Day And Age (11:49)
Terrestrial (05:13)
Waiting For The Lie (04:31)
The Boy Who Stood Still (07:33)
Island Life (04:14)
Skywards (04:13)
Kill The Orchestra (09:27)
Repeat To Fade (06:14)

Jem Godfrey – Keyboards, Railboard, vocals
Nathan King – Bass, keyboards, vocals
John Mitchell – Guitars, bass, vocals
With guest musicians:
Kaz Rodriguez – Drums
Darby Todd – Drums
Pat Mastelotto – Drums

Visit the Frost* website








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