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





Big Big Train – The Underfall Yard (Remixed and Remastered) Review

29 03 2021

Big Big Train are releasing their 2009 album The Underfall Yard for the first time on vinyl, as a triple 180g LP in a trifold cover. The set is made up of the original album over 2 LPs with a further album containing 48 minutes of material, including a 2020 studio re-recording of the title track preceded by a previously unreleased brass prelude, and a new song Brew And Burgh.

The Underfall Yard cover

The Underfall Yard (Remixed and Remastered) is also available as a double CD.

The Underfall Yard was the first Big Big Train album to feature David Longdon on vocals and also the first to feature Nick D’Virgilio as the band’s drummer. Former XTC guitarist Dave Gregory appears on most tracks, along with Francis Dunnery (It Bites) and Jem Godfrey (Frost*) on the title track. The 2020 version of The Underfall Yard is a remix as well as remaster, so is the definitive version of one of the most popular releases from the band.

Big Big Train

One of the main upgrades in sound is the separation and space offered in this mix. This is particularly noticeable on the album opener, Evening Star. The choral, wall of sound vocals are so much richer, and when the brass makes it’s first entrance half-way through, it really hits the mark. I’m reviewing this from a digital stream, which sounds amazing but I cannot wait to hear this on vinyl at the end of April.

David Longdon’s stunning vocal arrangements on Master James of St George are really noticeable on this remix / remaster, and the powerful instrumental sections, often underpinned by deep bass notes, fly out of the headphones / speakers.

“But lines get broken
Lines get broken down”

Victorian Brickwork is one of my favourite Big Big Train songs, and is all the more heart-breaking when you read the story behind the lyrics in the updated interview with Greg Spawton conducted by Dave Bowler on the band’s UnderFall Yard micro-site.

“Call up the boys, call them now
Time to bring them home
They will call if they want to”

Last Train is the story of the last day at work for a 1930’s station master, and almost feels like a template for some of the music the band has released since this album.

Winchester Diver has a notable upgrade, with the opening synth line replaced by trumpet in the 2020 mix. The mellotron and flute also sound so warm in this 2020 restoration. I have always loved the album, but believe me, you will be blown away when you hear how it sounds now. It’s like upgrading from a Crosley record deck to a Linn!

The quiet section, with Winchester bells, at around the 4 minute mark also has such depth and clarity.

The 23 minute title track, the final track on the album proper, is a joy to listen to. Greg Spawton’s paean to Victorian engineers is a career highlight. Each individual passage, riff and motif flows beautifully from the one before, never out-staying it’s welcome.

“Using just available light
He could still see far”

Just hearing the main album remixed and remastered would justify the purchase of this new version of the album, but the additional tracks are not mere add-on’s, they work well on their own. Sensibly, they are separate from the main album, so you can enjoy the original concept and flow that you already love.

Songs From The Shoreline features a new 2020 recording of Victorian Brickwork married to Fat Billy Shouts Mine (from Far Skies Deep Time), as well as a new version of the title track. Both versions are studio versions that are informed by the live performances from recent years, along with an additional piece, the brass Prelude To The Underfall Yard. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, brass bands were often used as part of the early 70s musical palette and they have dropped off the radar since, which is a real loss. The sound and feeling evoked can take me back to another time and place, and as someone who spent 5 years living in Yorkshire in my formative years, hearing Prelude To The Underfall Yard is an incredibly moving experience.

The album ends with a new song, written specifically for this reissue. Brew And Burgh is a moving tale (referencing lots of earlier Big Big Train songs – Big Big Train bingo if you will!) of friendship and companionship. A warning, the video may make your eyes rain.

So as a final thought, if you already own The Underfall Yard and are thinking, should I buy the album again? My answer would be a hearty yes. It is such an improvement that you will find yourselves falling in love with the album all over again.

The Underfall Yard
Remixed and Remastered
Evening Star
Master James of St George
Victorian Brickwork
Last Train
Winchester Diver
The Underfall Yard
Additional Tracks
Songs From The Shoreline:
(i) Victorian Brickwork (2020 Version)
(ii) Fat Billy Shouts Mine
Prelude To The Underfall Yard
The Underfall Yard (2020 Version)
Brew And Burgh

Buy from the Big Big Train store
Buy From Burning Shed





Level 42 – The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 1 (1980-1984) Review

31 01 2021

Level 42 are releasing a 10 CD set titled The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 1 (1980-1984), that contains all the Level 42 studio albums from that era plus 5 further discs containing B-Sides, 7” Mixes, remixes and rare tracks.

The collection was compiled in conjunction with Level 42 and band experts Paul Wallace, Paul Waller and Simon Carson. The sleeve notes are provided by Record Collector’s Daryl Easlea who has spoken to band members current and past. The booklet contains a full track annotation and pictures of rare memorabilia.

The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 1 opens with the band’s debut studio album from 1981, including singles Turn It On, Love Games and Starchild plus key album tracks such as Almost There with its tight rhythm guitar from the late Boon Gould. These early Level 42 albums also feature strong keyboard, synth and programming contributions from Wally Badarou (Robert Palmer / Power Station).

The second disc is The Early Tapes aka Strategy, which contains material recorded in 1980 and features a less polished, more raw production. Love Meeting Love evokes the memories of 80s bars and clubs and the jazz-funk of this era. Autumn (Paradise Is Free) recalls the work of mid-70s Stanley Clarke. One of the album’s many instrumentals 88 remained in the band’s live set for years to come, and is a highlight of their early catalogue.

The Pursuit Of Accidents was the bands third album, released in 1982. Like the first album, this was produced by Mike Vernon (Fleetwood Mac / Roachford / Eric Clapton) and saw Level 42 continuing to evolve its sound, attracting a more pop loving audience.

Singles Weave Your Spell, Are You Hearing (What I Hear)? and the band’s first top 30 hit (and one of their finest singles) The Chinese Way are included, along with the key album track Eyes Waterfalling, with is under-pinned by some of Phil Gould’s finest percussion work.

The next two discs feature my two favourite Level 42 albums. First up is Standing In The Light from 1983. The album perfectly captures the colourful pop / soul sound of this part of the 80s. Standing In The Light was produced by Earth, Wind & Fire’s Larry Dunn & Verdine White and includes the singles Micro Kid, Out of Sight, Out of Mind and the bands first top 10 hit The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up) as well as the atmospheric I Want Eyes. Standing In The Light is one of the early eighties finest pop releases.

The final studio album in this set is True Colours from 1984. Produced by Ken Scott (David Bowie / Supertramp), this was a harder edged, more percussive sounding release. True Colours features two of my favourite Level 42 singles, The Chant Has Begun and Hot Water. Kouyate is a perfect example of the more powerful drum-led arrangements that decorate True Colours.

The remaining discs pull together bonus tracks, live cuts and remixes. I prefer having the albums in their original format and tracklisting, with bonus tracks presented separately, to mirror the experience of listening to the music as it was fist released.

Disc Six collects the bands 7” Singles, and includes a first CD release of the 7″ version of Level 42’s debut single Love Meeting Love. Disc Seven collects the B Sides.

The 8 and 9th discs consist of extended mixes and rarities. Highlights include a remix I had not heard before, by another of my favourite 80s dance acts, the I-Level remix of Micro Kid and on of my favourite extended mixes, the lively Hot Water (Mastermix).

Hot Water

The 10th and final disc contains bonus tracks. Along with lots of live tracks recorded at Regal Theatre, Hitchin (a venue long since demolished), the disc also includes the powerful Love Games (U.S. Remix).

The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 1 (1980-1984) is a perfect opportunity to collect all the early albums and key single tracks from Level 42 at a good price, and provides a musical snapshot of the jazz-funk, soul and pop scene of the early 1980s.

Buy Level 42 The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 1 (1980-1984) from Amazon

Disc One: Level 42

Turn It On
“43”
Why Are You Leaving?
Almost There
Heathrow
Love Games
Dune Tune
Starchild

Disc Two: The Early Tapes

Sandstorm
Love Meeting Love
Theme To Margaret
Autumn (Paradise Is Free)
Wings Of Love
Woman
Mr. Pink
88

Disc Three: The Pursuit Of Accidents

Weave Your Spell
The Pursuit Of Accidents
Last Chance
Are You Hearing (What I Hear)?
You Can’t Blame Louis
Eyes Waterfalling (The Prodigy)
Shapeshifter
The Chinese Way

Disc Four: Standing In The Light

Micro Kid
The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)
Out Of Sight Out Of Mind
Dance On Heavy Weather
A Pharaoh’s Dream (Of Endless Time)
Standing In The Light
I Want Eyes
People
The Machine Stops

Disc Five: True Colours

The Chant Has Begun
Kansas City Milkman
Seven Days
Hot Water
A Floating Life
True Believers
My Hero
Kouyate
Hours By The Window

Disc Six: 7” Singles

Love Meeting Love – (7ʺ Version) (First Time On CD)
(Flying On The) Wings Of Love (U.S. Mix – 7ʺ Edit)
Love Games (7ʺ Version)
Turn It On (7ʺ Version)
Starchild (7ʺ Remix)
Are You Hearing (What I Hear)? (7ʺ Version)
Weave Your Spell (7ʺ Remix)
The Chinese Way (7ʺ Version)
Out Of Sight Out Of Mind (7ʺ Version)
The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up) (7ʺ Version)
Micro Kid (7ʺ Version)
Hot Water (7ʺ Version)
The Chant Has Begun (7ʺ Edit)

Disc Seven: B Sides

Instrumental Love
Forty-Two
Beezer One
Foundation And Empire (Parts 1 & 2)
The Return Of The Handsome Rugged Man
Dune Tune (Live)
Love Games (Live)
88 (Live)
You Can’t Blame Louis (Remix – 7ʺ Version) (First Time On CD)
Can’t Walk You Home (7ʺ Version)
Can’t Walk You Home
Turn It On (Live)
Almost There (Edited Version)

Disc Eight: 12” Singles & Rarities

(Flying On The) Wings Of Love (U.S. Mix)
(Flying On The) Wings Of Love (Remix ’81)
Love Games (Full Length Version)
Turn It On (Full Length Version)
Starchild (Remix – Long Version)
Are You Hearing (What I Hear)? – (Extended Version)
Weave Your Spell (Extended Version)
The Chinese Way (Extended Version)
Out Of Sight Out Of Mind – (Extended Version)
You Can’t Blame Louis (Extended Remix)
The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up) (Extended Version)

Disc Nine: 12” Singles

Micro Kid (Extended Version) (First Time On CD)
Micro Kid (I-Level Remix)
The Chinese Way (New York Remix)
The Chinese Way (Dub)
Hot Water (Mastermix)
Standing In The Light (Extended Version)
Micro Kid (Specially Remixed Version)
Micro Kid (Dub Version)
The Chant Has Begun (Power Mix)
The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up) (Upfront Mix)

Disc Ten: Bonus Tracks

Love Games (U.S. Remix)
Sandstorm (Live May 1982)
Mr. Pink (Live May 1982)
It’s A Happening
The Chinese Way (Dub – Edit) (First Time On CD)
Last Chance (Extended Version)
Heathrow (Live At Regal Theatre, Hitchin)
Turn It On (Live At Regal Theatre, Hitchin)
Eyes Waterfalling (The Prodigy) (Live At Regal Theatre, Hitchin)
The Pursuit Of Accidents (Live At Regal Theatre, Hitchin)
Are You Hearing (What I Hear)? (Live At Regal Theatre, Hitchin)
Standing In The Light (7ʺ Version)
Goodbye Ray Schmidt-Volk

Buy Level 42 The Complete Polydor Years: Volume 1 (1980-1984) from Amazon





Al Stewart: Year Of The Cat 45th Anniversary Limited Edition Box Set / 2 CD Remastered & Expanded Edition

24 01 2021

Al Stewart is releasing a 45th Anniversary limited edition box-set of his 1976 Year Of The Cat album, on 26 February 2021 as a 3CD/1DVD edition and a 2CD expanded version.

Year Of The Cat is newly re-mastered for the very first time from the original first generation master tapes by original producer Alan Parsons.

As well as the remastered album, the set includes a new 5.1 Surround sound mix from the original multitrack tapes and a previously unreleased concert recorded at the Paramount Theater, Seattle in October 1976, which is spread over 2 CD’s.

This is the definitive version of the album. Year Of The Cat has always sounded majestic, and was often the album used for hi-fi demonstrations, it sounded that good. Alan Parson’s remaster sounds so much more sympathetic than the previous 2001 remaster, which was a little too loud and forced. This is a lovely warm and colourful mix. Strings sound fresh and luscious, with amazing clarity.

One of the highlights of the album is the guitar work from longtime Al Stewart sidekick Tim Renwick, who also contributed stellar performances on the recent Sutherland Brothers & Quiver box-set.

On The Border is as good as the more well-known title track, and shines even brighter with this remaster. The Rhodes throughout Midas Shadow and the drums and percussion from Stuart Elliott (who also worked with Kate Bush on five of her early albums) sound wonderful.

In hindsight, If it Doesn’t Come Naturally, Leave It has a hint of the E-Street Band in it’s arrangement, especially the piano, but obviously not the vocals! I could go on and on about this album, but if you are reading this you probably know and love Year Of The Cat, so rest assured this is a must have version. Perfectly capturing a gently progressive meets pop sound, that sum up this aspect of the mid 70s airwaves, this is an album that fans of seventies music will have to add to their collection.

The other two CD’s in this deluxe reissue feature live recordings, which considering they are from 1976, are of very high audio quality, and offer lots of song explanations between tracks from Stewart.

The final disc (not supplied for review) contains the new 5.1 Surround Sound Mix & Original 96 Khz / 24-Bit Re-Mastered Stereo Mix By Alan Parsons. The set also comes with a 68-page book with a new essay featuring an interview with Al Stewart and a facsimile promotional poster plus a set of four postcards.

A cut-down version is also available – consisting of the remastered album plus a second disc with nine live tracks and without the 5.1 version.

Buy Year Of The Cat: 3CD/1DVD 45th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Boxset on Amazon

Buy Year Of The Cat: 2CD Remastered & Expanded Edition (the remastered album plus nine live tracks recorded at the Paramount Theater, Seattle in October 1976) on Amazon

Al Stewart: Year Of The Cat 45th Anniversary Limited Edition Box Set

Disc One:

Lord Grenville
On The Border
Midas Shadow
Sand In Your Shoes
If It Doesn’t Come Naturally, Leave It
Flying Sorcery
Broadway Hotel
One Stage Before
Year Of The Cat
Bonus Track
Belsize Blues
(Recorded At Abbey Road Studios September 1975)

Disc Two:
Live At The Paramount Theater, Seattle – October 1976
Previously Unreleased

Apple Cider Re-Constitution (Live 1976)
The Dark And The Rolling Sea (Live 1976)
One Stage Before (Live 1976)
Soho (Needless To Say) (Live 1976)
Not The One (Live 1976)
On The Border (Live 1976)
Broadway Hotel (Live 1976)
Roads To Moscow (Live 1976)

Disc Three:

Live At The Paramount Theater, Seattle – October 1976
Previously Unreleased

Nostradamus (Live 1976)
Sirens Of Titan (Live 1976)
The Post World War Two Blues (Live 1976)
Year Of The Cat (Live 1976)
Sand In Your Shoes (Live 1976)
Carol (Live 1976)
If It Doesn’t Come Naturally, Leave It (Live 1976)

Disc Four:

Year Of The Cat: New 5.1 Surround Sound Mix & Original 96 Khz / 24-Bit Re-Mastered Stereo Mix By Alan Parsons

Lord Grenville (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
On The Border (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
Midas Shadow (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
Sand In Your Shoes (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
If It Doesn’t Come Naturally, Leave It (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
Flying Sorcery (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
Broadway Hotel (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
One Stage Before (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)
Year Of The Cat (5.1 Surround Sound Mix)





News: Japan – Quiet Life reissue

13 01 2021

In March 2021 BMG / Warner will reissue Japan‘s Quiet Life album from 1980, in several formats, the highlight of which is the deluxe 1LP/3CD edition. The deluxe edition features a 2020 Abbey Road half-speed remaster of the original album, alt mixes, b-sides, singles, rarities and live material.

The 3CD/1LP version comes in and out of stock on Amazon, so keep an eye on the site. It is available from other retailers, including Burning Shed (link below).

Buy the Quiet Life – 3CD+LP deluxe box set on Amazon

Buy the Quiet Life (remastered) 1 CD version on Amazon

Buy Quiet Life on the Burning Shed Japan store

CD1 – QUIET LIFE

  1. Quiet Life (2020 Remaster)
  2. Fall In Love With Me (2020 Remaster)
  3. Despair (2020 Remaster)
  4. In Vogue (2020 Remaster)
  5. Halloween (2020 Remaster)
  6. All Tomorrows Parties (2020 Remaster)
  7. Alien (2020 Remaster)
  8. The Other Side of Life (2020 Remaster)

CD2 – A QUIETER LIFE: ALTERNATIVE MIXES & RARITIES

  1. European Son (Steve Nye 7” Remix 1982)
  2. Life In Tokyo (Steve Nye 7” Special Remix 1982)
  3. Quiet Life (Original German 7” Mix 1980)
  4. I Second That Emotion (Steve Nye 7” Remix 1982)
  5. All Tomorrow’s Parties (Steve Nye 7” Remix Version 1983)
  6. European Son (John Punter 12” Mix 1980)
  7. Life In Tokyo (Steve Nye 12” Special Remix Version 1982)
  8. I Second That Emotion (Steve Nye 12” Remix Version 1982)
  9. All Tomorrow’s Parties (Steve Nye 12” Remix Version 1983)
  10. European Son (Steve Nye 12” Remix Version 1982)
  11. Quiet Life (Japanese 7” Mix 1980) [18/01/21]
  12. A Foreign Place
  13. All Tomorrow’s Parties (John Punter 7” Mix 1979)
  14. Life In Tokyo (Theme Giorgio Moroder Version 1979) [05/03/21]
  15. Deviation (Live In Japan)
  16. Obscure Alternatives (Live In Japan)
  17. In Vogue (Live In Japan)
  18. Sometimes I Feel So Low (Live In Japan)

CD3 – LIVE AT THE BUDOKAN 27/03/1980

  1. Intro
  2. Alien
  3. …Rhodesia
  4. Quiet Life
  5. Fall In Love With Me
  6. Deviation
  7. All Tomorrow’s Parties
  8. Obscure Alternatives
  9. In Vogue
  10. Life In Tokyo
  11. Halloween
  12. Sometimes I Feel So Low
  13. Communist China
  14. Adolescent Sex
  15. I Second That Emotion
  16. Automatic Gun

Vinyl QUIET LIFE

  1. Quiet Life (2020 Remaster)
  2. Fall In Love With Me (2020 Remaster)
  3. Despair (2020 Remaster)
  4. In Vogue (2020 Remaster)
  5. Halloween (2020 Remaster)
  6. All Tomorrows Parties (2020 Remaster)
  7. Alien (2020 Remaster)
  8. The Other Side of Life (2020 Remaster)




Cobalt Chapel – Orange Synthetic album review

30 11 2020

Yorkshire psychedelic duo Cobalt Chapel (Cecilia Fage from Matt Berry & The Maypoles & Jarrod Gosling from I Monster) are releasing their new album Orange Synthetic on 29th Jan 2021.

Orange Synthetic is the second full studio album from the duo, following on from their debut and its companion album, Variants.

Orange Synthetic is music grounded in the Yorkshire earth: its people, the surrounding nature, landscape, and its mythology, from the distant past to modern life. The story of the Krumlin Festival captures something about this island in its disaster – how you can start out with a dream and end up wrapped in a survival blanket, suffering from exposure, on a cold, wet Pennine hillside. It’s an image which reflects the lost, end-of-days feeling of where we’re at now.” (Cecilia Fage & Jarrod Gosling)

The album opens with In Company, a dark tale inspired by the 80s Neil Jordan gothic fantasy film The Company of Wolves and the story of the writer Angela Carter and her wartime experiences.

Organs fizzle and swirl over a rolling drum pattern and layers of lead and background vocals, setting the scene for the whole album. This is the duo at their most commercial, with a chorus that stays with you long after the song has ended.

The Sequel explores the creative process of writing and connecting with an audience. I could imagine this song being used as an alternative theme tune for Tales of the Unexpected. Vinyl crackles and guitar lines buried deep within the mix see the song out, as Message To rushes in. The pace is increased a little for this song of escape.

“I’ll be your hostage”

I love the psychedelic twists and turns in the arrangement, especially the heavily processed lo-fi loops that weave their way in and out of the stereo field.

A Father’s Lament tells of a family who have lost all their children, as if cursed. The bass and drums drive the song, as it evolves and mutates throughout its fairly short life. This is one of the album’s most engaging performances from vocalist Cecilia Fage.

Our Angel Polygon has a crisp, sharp arrangement and was inspired by RAF Fylingdales on the North Yorkshire Moors, and its tales of listening in to Cold War communications. The chorus of Our Angel Polygon is “We are watching”, which is a translation of the RAF Stations motto “Vigilamus”.

The versions of In Company and Our Angel Polygon on the album are the full takes, not the edits released as digital singles earlier in 2020.

Cry A Spiral is underpinned by a soft bossa nova beat, before giving way to deep bass and frenetic drums. One of the more avant-garde pieces on the album, Cry A Spiral harks back to the sound and style of the first album.

It’s The End, The End is a lively musical bazaar stuffed to the brim with discordant, acid keyboard washes and choral vocals. As soon as you get comfortable with the arrangement, it shape-shifts into something even more obtuse, and is a fitting accompaniment to the apocalyptic lyrical content.

Jarrod’s vintage keyboards take centre stage on Pretty Mire, Be My Friend with its extended instrumental section that propel the song to its delightful finish, as guitar and keyboards get caught in a duel to the death.

The twisted folklore that ran through the veins of the debut album from Cobalt Chapel returns on E.B. Another fine vocal performance from Cecilia Fage, that propels you down a time tunnel to a long-lost era. This is pure escapism, and highlights the power of good music to take you away from your stresses and worries, and transport you to another world, even if its just for 40 minutes or so. And how we need that, in this of all years.

The album ends with its title track, the longest piece on the album, and an early favourite for me. Telling the story of an infamous music festival from 1970, that was left in ruins due to the extreme Pennine weather.

“How does it feel, disappointment”

The powerful insistent drums and infectious (sorry to be so 2020) guitar lines jostle for your attention with keyboard riffs that build and give a feeling of stormy weather wreaking havoc upon those caught in the open, with no shelter within reach.

Orange Synthetic is an altogether more consistent release than Cobalt Chapel’s debut, and holds together so well as a complete album. The psychedelia that runs through the duo’s music remains, but with an increased emphasis on melodies that seep into your heart.

If you ever find yourself lost on the North York Moors, Orange Synthetic will be your company until your rescue surely arrives. Just save some battery life to call for help.

Pre-order Cobalt Chapel – Orange Synthetic from Amazon

Pre-order Cobalt Chapel – Orange Synthetic (orange vinyl) from the official store

In Company
The Sequel
Message To
A Father’s Lament
Our Angel Polygon
Cry A Spiral
It’s The End, The End
Pretty Mire, Be My Friend
E.B.
Orange Synthetic

Words and Music by Cecilia Fage & Jarrod Gosling.
Cecilia Fage: Vocals, choral arrangements, recorders, clarinets.
Jarrod Gosling: Organs, Mellotron, electric pianos, tone generator, effects, drums, percussion, guitars, bass, tape loops, glockenspiel, flute.
Nick Gosling: Guitars





Iamthemorning – Counting The Ghosts EP review

29 11 2020

Following the success of their most recent studio album The Bell in 2019, Iamthemorning are self-releasing a new EP Counting The Ghosts on 4th December 2020.

Consisting of four tracks and recorded in isolation in the UK, Russia and Canada, Counting The Ghosts features two new original songs from the duo of Marjana Semkina and Gleb Kolyadin, alongside two traditional Christmas choir pieces that have been reimagined by the band.

The EP is perfect for this time of year. Evoking the magic of winter from times long past, I wonder as I wander is a beautiful, dark choral piece, based on an arrangement by John Rutter. A minimal string backing, with reverb-drenched bells and moving vocals from Marjana would make the perfect backing for a BBC Ghost Stories For Christmas episode, if you are looking for inspiration TV producers!

I wonder as I wander offers an intensely emotional listening experience. The direct and simple arrangement makes this a timeless piece of music, that for me sits amongst the finest in the duo’s catalogue.

Cradle Song is a newly written, original Iamthemorning song. Stripped back, with just vocals, keyboards and subtle dual guitar accompaniment, the song builds slowly, and then fades to a misty soundscape. The attention to detail in the gentle performances gives Cradle Song a magical power to hit you hard as the bass notes summon the beautiful, slowly decaying end section.

Counting the Ghosts is the final original Iamthemorning song on the EP. A commentary on 2020, surely the worst year most of us have lived through, the song wisely focuses’ on the human cost and emotions of a bleak 12 months.

I love the arrangement, which reminds me a little (particularly the fine fretless & double bass and Gleb’s piano work) of Never For Ever period Kate Bush. Counting the Ghosts has one of my favourite vocal performances, full of well harnessed restraint, from Marjana. The song is a perfect example of drawing on the past to build something new for the future.

“This year is ending but nothing feels right,
we have come a full circle while burning alive”

The EP ends with Veni Veni Emmanuel, a 12th century hymn that dials up the reverb to take us back to a feeling of a mist-fuelled winter and a nostalgic Victorian Christmas, full of fading memories and lonely ghosts. This is a song that would be so powerful heard in a live setting when this dreadful health emergency is over. Nothing beats the raw emotion of hearing choral music live, so I hope we get the chance to hear these songs performed in a year or so.

Counting The Ghosts is an essential purchase for fans of the duo, and will make a fine addition to any seasonal / winter playlists that you put together. I will take great pleasure in playing these four songs every winter, for many years to come.

Buy the physical EP or the download version from the Iamthemorning Bandcamp site, and support Marjana and Gleb. Now more than ever before, musicians need us to support their art and creativity where we can. Here’s to a better 2021 for everyone.

  1. I wonder as I wander
  2. Cradle Song
  3. Counting the Ghosts
  4. Veni Veni Emmanuel

Gleb Kolyadin – piano, synths, guitar on 2
Marjana Semkina – vocals, backing vocals, guitar on 2
Vlad Avy – guitar (2, 3)
Zoltan Renaldi – fretless bass, double bass (3)
Mr Konin – marimba (3)

Buy the EP from the Iamthemorning Bandcamp site





Tunng – Tunng Presents…Dead Club album review

15 11 2020

An album about death, dying and grief in 2020? I’m not sure I can listen to that was my initial reaction, but as soon as I read that the album was inspired by Max Porter’s novel Grief Is the Thing With Feathers (I saw Enda Walsh’s mind-blowing adaptation at The Barbican, starring Cillian Murphy in 2019) I dived in headfirst and what an uplifting experience this turned out to be.

Tunng’s Good Arrows was one of my favourite albums of 2007, but this new release takes the band’s sound to another level. For a start, the instrumentation is less electronic, glitchy and is so much more organic and natural. There is space for the music, and lyrics, to breathe in these arrangements. Opening with Eating the Dead, based on the Wari indigenous people of Brazil who used to, well, you have read the title. The song is heart-beat paced, and talks of devouring the memories of the person who has recently passed. Like the majority of the album, the song is incredibly moving, because of, not despite of, its unsettling subject matter.

“Lay you on my kitchen table
Cut you open tenderly
Eat your heart and eyes and mouth
Every word you spoke to me”

The pure, infectious pop of Death Is the New Sex hides the dark message in the lyrics.

“Death is the new Sex
Coming soon to fuck us all”

SDC (aka Swedish death cleaning) is the lyric that hit me hardest, for very personal reasons. SDC is a song about the process of organizing and de-cluttering your belongings before you die, so those left behind don’t have to do this heart-breaking task. Deciding what remnants of someone’s recently ended life gets thrown in the bin or kept within the family as a keep-sake is a harder task than you might first imagine. Something that might have been intensely personal and precious to the person who has passed could be seen as something to be tossed away, as simply junk. That faded picture, or creased and barely legible hand-written letter could contain so much of the person, their hopes and dreams and if not cherished, could be lost forever to landfill.

Three Birds features a delicious bass-line, underpinning a gentle percussion free arrangement. A Million Colours is a simple, Love Cats like song that builds as layers of guitar and strings are dropped onto the topic of not being able to comprehend the impending loss of a loved one.

“You, I can’t quite imagine you gone
You a million bright colours all strewn about”

Carry You and The Last Day touch on the memories that remain after we have gone and what physically happens to us after the process of dying, along with the need for us all to live in the now, living our lives as fully as we can. This film only plays once.

The arrangement on Tsunami is one of my favourites on the album. A decaying note under a simple piano line and lead vocal slowly builds like the incoming deadly wave, getting closer and closer. The band leave us with just the vocal line that soon becomes isolated, stranded and alone in a silent sea. Such a thoughtful and powerful piece of music.

Scared To Death is one of the jewels on this album, featuring luscious strings and feeling like a classic album track from the mid-70s.

“You’re so scared to be what you’re not yet
Hoping love is its own reward”

Derren Brown features on the intro to Fatally Human, another album highlight due to the strong production and string arrangement. I love how disembodied voices float over the slowly departing musical track, as silence finally reigns over all.

The genesis of Dead Club, Grief Is the Thing With Feathers, rounds off the final quarter of the album with two tracks written and recorded in collaboration with its author Max Porter. No punches are pulled on Man, and the album’s final track, its companion piece, Woman. It might be uncomfortable at times, but there is a searing honesty that the subject matter demands, throughout these two tracks and the album as a whole.

If you want more than just escapism in your music, and appreciate honesty, beauty and a little dark humour, then please give this album by Tunng a listen. Prepare to be moved.

Buy Tunng Presents…Dead Club from Amazon

Eating the Dead 07:14
Death is the New Sex 04:14
SDC 05:38
Three Birds 03:59
A Million Colours 05:41
Carry You 04:53
The Last Day 05:32
Tsunami 03:11
Man 03:32
Scared To Death 04:53
Fatally Human 06:20
Woman 04:22





Toyah Sheep Farming In Barnet deluxe edition review

12 11 2020

Cherry Red Records are releasing a remastered and expanded deluxe version of Toyah’s debut album Sheep Farming In Barnet as the first release of a reissue programme of Toyah’s entire Safari Records catalogue. The 2CD/1DVD set is released on 4 December 2020, with a limited edition white vinyl version of the main album also released on the same day.

The main album has been given a quality remaster by Nick Watson. Key tracks such as Neon Womb, Victims Of The Riddle, Danced and Race Through Space sound crisper and clearer than the previous CD release, and if you are a fan of this album, you will love this 2020 remaster.

The album is expanded with the single tracks Bird In Flight & Tribal Look, plus rare / unreleased recordings, the highlights of which are the almost hard-rock Gaoler, an early version of The Blue Meaning‘s Love Me and four tracks from the BBC drama Shoestring – live in the studio recordings of Our Movie, Waiting, Neon Womb and an electrifying version of Danced.

The second disc is dedicated to rare and archive material, including many early demos. Whilst the demos are not of the same high quality as the main album, they give a unique insight into the band’s development. Close Encounters (Demo) would later become Danced and some of Watch Me Sane‘s lyrics ended up on Waiting.

My favourite track from the demos is Problem Child, featuring an expansive arrangement, veering from the pop / new-wave sound of the time to a lovely almost progressive outro.

The alternative mixes include a version of Neon Womb with no saxophone (I’m so used to the sax version, this take jars a little for me), and a less produced, more live sounding alt mix of Our Movie.

My favourite alt version on this disc is Waiting (Alternate Vocal Mix), I’ve always loved the bubbling synth lines underpinning the deep bass line on this track, and Waiting also has one of my favourite Toyah vocals. This alt mix goes on a little longer than the album version, with no fade out.

The final disc is a DVD featuring two 2020 interviews with Toyah Willcox (The Story Behind The Album and Track-By-Track Album Commentary), a 1979 What’s On interview plus TV appearances from 1979 and 1980 (including The Old Grey Whistle Test) and a 2020 acoustic Session featuring performances of Neon Womb, Computer & Bird In Flight featuring Toyah Willcox (vocals) & Nigel Clark (guitar). Note: the DVD’s visual content & the remastered vinyl was not provided for this review.

The sleeve notes for the 2 CD/ 1 DVD version feature a scene-setting intro from Toyah Willcox and August 2020 notes from Craig Astley with input from former band-member & co-writer/guitarist Joel Bogen, along with lots of band pictures from the era making this the definitive version of Sheep Farming In Barnet.

Buy Toyah Sheep Farming In Barnet: 2CD/1DVD Deluxe Digipak from Amazon

Buy Toyah Sheep Farming In Barnet: Limited Edition White Vinyl 11 track LP

Disc One:

  1. Neon Womb
  2. Indecision
  3. Waiting
  4. Computer
  5. Victims Of The Riddle
  6. Elusive Stranger
  7. Our Movie
  8. Danced
  9. Last Goodbye
  10. Victims Of The Riddle (Vivisection)
  11. Race Through Space

Bonus Tracks

  1. Gaoler
  2. Bird In Flight
  3. Tribal Look
  4. Love Me (Dangerfield Session)*
  5. Tribal Look (Alternate Mix)*
  6. Our Movie (Shoestring Version)*
  7. Waiting (Shoestring Version)*
  8. Neon Womb (Shoestring Version)*
  9. Danced (Shoestring Version)*
  • Previously Unreleased

Disc Two:

  1. Computers (Demo)*
  2. Little Boy (Demo)*
  3. Close Encounters (Demo)*
  4. Watch Me Sane (Demo)*
  5. Jailer (Demo)*
  6. Race Through Space (Demo) *
  7. Elusive Stranger (Demo)*
  8. Problem Child (Demo)
  9. Israel (Demo)
  10. Christmas Carol (Demo)
  11. Race Through Space (Alternate Mix)*
  12. Neon Womb (No Saxophone)*
  13. Our Movie (Alternate Mix)*
  14. Waiting (Alternate Vocal Mix)*
  15. Indecision (Alternate Vocal Mix)*
  16. Computer (Alternate Vocal Mix)*
  17. Vivisection (Improvisation)*
  18. Love Me (Demo)
  19. Tribal Look (Demo)
  20. Guilty (Demo)
  21. Three-Sided Face (Demo)

Disc Three (Ntsc – Region Free Dvd):

  1. The Story Behind The Album : 2020 Interview
  2. Track-By-Track Album Commentary: 2020 Interview
  3. Neon Womb: Acoustic Session 2020
  4. Computer: Acoustic Session 2020
  5. Bird In Flight: Acoustic Session 2020
  6. Race Through Space: What’s On 12/04/1979
  7. Toyah Interview: What’s On 19/04/1979
  8. Danced: The Old Grey Whistle Test 04/03/1980
  9. Indecision: The Old Grey Whistle Test 04/03/1980

Buy Toyah Sheep Farming In Barnet: 2CD/1DVD Deluxe Digipak

Buy Toyah Sheep Farming In Barnet: Limited Edition White Vinyl








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