Musik Music Musique 3.0 – 1982 Synth Pop On The Air compilation album review

23 01 2023

Musik Music Musique 3.0 – 1982 Synth Pop On The Air is the third 3CD compilation from Cherry Red, released on 17 February 2023. Featuring more obscure tracks from well-known artists from 1982, including Thomas Dolby, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Japan, Ultravox, Soft Cell and Kim Wilde, alongside lesser known acts that give the collection a real taste of the time.

CD one of the collection opens with Thomas Dolby’s third single, a homage to Radio Caroline, the percussive Radio Silence. Manchester’s The Passage deliver the electronic pop of XOYO, with its addictive chorus. Mirror Man has always been one of my favourite early Talk Talk singles, with the band going on to make such a valuable contribution to 80s and early 90s music as their style expanded from these early pop beginnings.

OMD’s She’s Leaving comes in the form of a slightly remixed European single version, and is one of the key tracks on the bands Architecture And Morality album from the previous year. Breakdown (1982 Single Version) from Colourbox features a heady mix of synth, guitar and percussion topped with soulful vocals, hinting at the experimentation that would culminate in the one off M|A|R|R|S collaboration that led to the No1 single for Pump Up The Volume in 1987.

I’ve Seen The Word (a double A side with God’s Kitchen) was one of the slower-paced, more reflective early singles from Blancmange. One of the most influential early 80’s synth bands, Fashion, contribute the Zeus B Held produced slice of pop-Electronica that is Streetplayer (Mechanik), taken from their wonderful Fabrique album.

Japan’s European Son is a David Sylvian song that drips with Giorgio Moroder sounding hard-synth lines, but Moroder actually passed up the opportunity to produce this song, with production duties handled by Simon Napier-Bell, with the song mixed by John Punter. Always one of the bands most commercial songs, it fits well on Musik Music Musique 3.0. Justice is performed by Paul Haig, the former guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for post-punk band Josef K. Justice is a previously hard to find, very commercial single recorded in New York in 1982. Paul worked with former Associates singer Billy Mackenzie in the late 80s and contributed to several much-loved posthumous releases from his former colleague.

The original Mike Howlett produced single version of Tears For Fears Pale Shelter from this compilation highlights the longevity of much of the duo’s work. Last years The Tipping Point added to the bands stellar discography. Arthur Brown (yes, the Fire Arthur Brown) offers a synth based track, with wonderful electronic percussion that is a complete departure from his past work.

Coded World by Faith Global is one of the more interesting lesser-known tracks on this compilation. Vocalist Jason Guy is joined by original Tiger Lily / Ultravox! guitarist Stevie Shears for this confident, well-structured song. The later, more successful version of Ultravox are represented by the instrumental Monument, the B side to the single Hymn.

Disc two kicks off with Dramatis (Gary Numan’s backing band) with their sixth single The Shame. The Fiat Lux b-side This Illness was produced by Bill Nelson, and has touches of Nelson’s sound from around this time. Bill’s brother Ian was a member of this short-lived band. The track is one that Bill Nelson fans will surely love. Tasteful bass and guitar lines are a highlight of Shame, with a real Chimera feel to the keyboards.

The 7″ version of New Order’s early classic single Temptation is a highlight of Musik Music Musique 3.0. Dead Or Alive’s What I Want, here in demo form, is a world away from their massive hit You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) that followed in 1984. What I Want has more new wave leanings, and a harder vocal from the late Pete Burns.

Ieya 1982 is a re-recorded version of the Toyah single that originally featured on 1980’s The Blue Meaning. A smoother, tighter arrangement compared to the original take, it highlights the contributions of the new band line-up.

“Isn’t it nice, sugar and spice
Luring disco dollies to a life of vice”

Sex Dwarf is the lyrically and musically uncompromising side to Soft Cell, taken from late 1981’s debut album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, hence why it was able to sneak onto this compilation. Sex Dwarf is the duo of Marc Almond and Dave Ball at their shocking, seediest best, and they still have the power to deliver, have a listen to 2022’s magnificent Happiness Not Included album (available on CD and vinyl).

The slinky bassline of You Remind Me Of Gold is a highlight of the Mirror Man b-side from The Human League. Edinburgh’s Drinking Electricity contribute the Altered Images via The Loco-Motion twisted pop of Good Times, which sounds better than my description of the song.

The third and final disc is launched by one of Heaven 17’s finest singles, of which there were many, with Let Me Go!

An early Thomas Leer song, Mr Nobody, stands up well as a brilliantly arranged and not at all dated track. Thomas formed Act in the late 80s with Claudia Brücken (Propaganda). Their only album Laughter, Tears and Rage included the wonderful Snobbery and Decay, and is worth tracking down.

The compilation has gone for a less obvious Kim Wilde track, the melancholic late 1982 single Child Come Away. Prior to their success on the Top Gun soundtrack, Berlin were delivering songs in the vein of the Giorgio Moroder inspired synth-pop of Sex (I’m A….).

Mikado’s Par Hasard is a sweet, gentle pop song released on Les Disques du Crépuscule. Scotland’s Those French Girls second and final single Sorry Sorry is a Simple Minds meets Ultravox piece of quirky angular pop. The most well-known song by cult artist Nick Nicely is featured, the lysergic widescreen pop of Hilly Fields (1892). If you have never heard this song, you are in for a treat.

Ukraine, featuring former Fischer-Z keyboard player Stephen Skolnik, is a heady mix of early 80s synths, with new wave guitar and Fashion-like percussive bass. The bands Remote Control is a delightful taste of the genre crossovers that fueled a lot of the great music created in 1982.

1-2-3 is an 80s updating of the 1965 Len Barry song, performed by Julie And The Jems, the sole single release from former Tight Fit vocalist Julie Harris.

Thick Pigeon (Miranda Stanton and American film composer Carter Burwell) contribute the delightfully eccentric Subway, a mixture of new wave bass and sugar-sweet electronics, topped by Stanton’s unique spoken vocals. One listen will result in this song becoming lodged in your brain for days.

Sergeant Frog, with the instrumental Profile Dance, is an alias of Phil Harding, who went on to work with Stock Aitken Waterman a couple of years later. Harding’s resume as engineer and producer included The Clash, Toyah, Matt Bianco, ABC and Donna Summer.

The final disc ends with The Buggles infuenced electro-pop of Omega Theatre with their epic Robots, Machines And Silicon Dreams. Omega Theatre was the electronic pop project of 60s songwriter John Shakespeare. Shakespeare and Grammy-winning co-writer Geoff Stephens threw the kitchen sink at Robots, Machines And Silicon Dreams, with multiple shifts and turns throughout this pleasing single.

Buy Musik Music Musique 3.0 on CD from Amazon

DISC ONE
Thomas Dolby – Radio Silence
The Passage – XOYO
Talk Talk – Mirror Man
100% Manmade Fibre – Green For Go
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – She’s Leaving
Poeme Electronique – V.O.I.C.E.
Colourbox – Breakdown (1982 Single Version)
Blancmange – I’ve Seen The Word
Fashiøn – Streetplayer (Mechanik)
Japan – European Son
Greeting No 4 – Condition
Richard Bone – Digital Days
Paul Haig – Justice
Tears For Fears – Pale Shelter
Arthur Brown – Conversations
Die Krupps – Goldfinger
Planning By Numbers – Lightning Strikes
Faith Global – Coded World
Aerial FX – Instant Feeling
Ultravox – Monument

DISC TWO
Dramatis – The Shame
Fiat Lux – This Illness
New Order – Temptation
Kevin Coyne – Tell The Truth
Dead Or Alive – What I Want (Demo)
Toyah – Ieya 1982
Fad Gadget – Life On The Line
Thirteen At Midnight – Climb Down
Soft Cell – Sex Dwarf
Yello – Heavy Whispers
Zoo Boutique – Happy Families
The Human League – You Remind Me Of Gold
Moebius – Pushing Too Hard
Passion Polka – Juliet
Endgames – First-Last-For Everything (Club Version)
Leisure Process – Love Cascade
Drinking Electricity – Good Times
Section 25 – Hold Me

DISC THREE
Heaven 17 – Let Me Go!
Voice Farm – Beatnik
Telex – Sigmund Freud’s Party
Thomas Leer – Mr Nobody
Kim Wilde – Child Come Away
Communication – Future Shock
Berlin – Sex (I’m A….)
Local Boy Makes Good – Hypnotic Rhythm
Mikado – Par Hasard
Falco – Maschine Brennt
Those French Girls – Sorry Sorry
Nick Nicely – Hilly Fields (1892)
Time In Motion – Quiet Type
Ukraine – Remote Control
Julie And The Jems – 1-2-3
Thick Pigeon – Subway
Sergeant Frog – Profile Dance
Omega Theatre – Robots, Machines And Silicon Dreams

Buy Musik Music Musique 3.0 on CD from Amazon





Barclay James Harvest – Once Again remastered album box-set review

12 12 2022

Cherry Red are releasing a 3CD/Blu-Ray Remastered & Expanded version of Barclay James Harvest’s second album, Once Again on 27 January 2023.

Barclay James Harvest "Once Again" album cover


Originally released in February 1971, Once Again was recorded at Abbey Road studios and was produced by Norman Smith.

This new expanded edition features three CDs and an all-region blu-ray disc and comprises 44 tracks on the box-set. The set features the original UK stereo mix remastered from the original master tapes and also includes new 5.1 Surround Sound and stereo mixes by Stephen W. Tayler, a new remaster of the 1972 SQ Quad mix of the album and a multi-channel version of the 1972 Quad mix.

In addition, there is also a rare live performance recorded for BBC Radio One’s John Peel show in February 1971, and seven further rare bonus tracks, including an early version of Mockingbird and the full version of the unreleased piece White Sails (A Seascape).

This release includes a lavishly illustrated booklet with a new essay from Barclay James Harvest experts Keith and Monika Domone and a replica of a 1971 promotional poster.

The original album contains a remaster that is faithful to the original mix along with two bonus cuts and three live John Peel Sunday Concert performances. If you already know and love the album, there’s not much to add that you don’t already know, other than this is the album presented in its original form, sounding at it’s best.

Barclay James Harvest "Once Again" advert


Once Again was described by Prog magazine in 2020 as one of the fifty ‘most influential albums in the development of Progressive Rock’. The album includes an early BJH progressive classic in Mockingbird and one of the first recorded appearances from Alan Parsons, before he engineered Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon and recorded the hugely successful Alan Parsons Project album series.

The remasters from the original master tapes were carried out by Ben Wiseman at Broadlake Studios in Hertfordshire.

The new Stereo Mixes and 5.1 Surround Sound mixes are by Stephen W Tayler at Chimera Arts, Real World Studios, Box, Wiltshire.

Much like the recent Bill Nelson’s Red Noise box-set, the new stereo mixes by Stephen W. Tayler offer the biggest surprises and rewards. The scene is set with the expanded to 10 minutes opening track. The mixes are very different, whilst keeping the feel and the mood of the original songs. With a wider mix, the album asserts itself further as a progressive classic.

The main difference is the removal of the hard-panning of the original tracks, and more prominent and powerful vocal mixes, meaning that I am drawn to these new stereo mixes. I love that Tayler has totally turned the mixes on their head, whilst avoiding the temptation to move the songs into a more modern setting, so the overall feeling remains faithful to the era.

Barclay James Harvest promotional photograph


Song For Dying, always one of the stronger tracks, uses new instrumentation that gives the song a different pace. Galadriel is more faithful to the original arrangement, but parts of the song, such as the horns, are noticeably more prominent.

Mockingbird is a revelation. With reverb adding to the percussive power, whilst keeping the performance intact, there is an added power to this career highlight from the band. The strings and vocal harmonies lift this new mix to unheard highs, removing the fog of time from the original mix.

Ball and Chain also benefits from the production tools available in 2022, with a widescreen production. The bonus tracks also benefit from the wider technological palette, with this early 70s rocker given more colour and depth.

White Sails (A Seascape) clocks in at just under the 12 minute mark, with aching strings giving the song a timeless feel. This abandoned from the original album piano and strings instrumental acts as a beautiful prelude to the second version of Mockingbird, Stephen W. Tayler’s reimagining of the powerful May 1970 version of the song.

The third disc offers a stereo mix of the quad version, with the 4th disc (not supplied for review) featuring a blu-ray containing the 96 kHz / 24-bit new 5.1 Surround Sound mix / new Stereo mixes /original stereo mix & 1972 Quadrophonic Mix.

The stereo quad mix adds further volume to the vocals and instrumentation, which is at it’s most effective on Mockingbird, with an added potency to the percussion.

The Cherry Red box-set is the definitive version of Once Again, and even if you own the original album, the new Stephen W. Tayler stereo mixes deliver a powerful, welcome additional version of these classic well-loved songs.

Pre-order Barclay James Harvest Once Again box-set from Amazon

Pre-order Barclay James Harvest Once Again box-set from Burning Shed

Tracklisting

DISC ONE

Once Again – The original stereo mix remastered

She Said
Happy Old World
Song for Dying
Galadriel
Mocking Bird
Vanessa Simmons
Ball and Chain
Lady Loves

Bonus tracks

Too Much on Your Plate
Happy Old World (Take One)
She Said (BBC John Peel Concert 1971)
Mockingbird (BBC John Peel Concert 1971)
Dark Now My Sky (BBC John Peel Concert 1971)

DISC TWO

Once Again – The new stereo mixes

She Said (new stereo mix)
Happy Old World (new stereo mix)
Song for Dying (new stereo mix)
Galadriel (new stereo mix)
Mocking Bird (new stereo mix)
Vanessa Simmons (new stereo mix)
Ball and Chain (new stereo mix)
Lady Loves (new stereo mix)

Bonus tracks

Mocking Bird (first version – May 1970)
Too Much on Your Plate (new stereo mix)
White Sails (A Seascape) (complete version)

DISC THREE

Once Again – The 1972 SQ Quadrophonic mix

She Said (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Happy Old World (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Song for Dying (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Galadriel (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Mocking Bird (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Vanessa Simmons (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Ball and Chain (1972 SQ Quad mix)
Lady Loves (1972 SQ Quad mix)

Bonus tracks

Galadriel (non-orchestral version)
Mocking Bird (non-orchestral version)

DISC FOUR (Blu-ray)

Once Again
96 kHz / 24-bit new 5.1 Surround Sound mix / new Stereo mixes /original stereo mix & 1972 Quadrophonic Mix

She Said
Happy Old World
Song for Dying
Galadriel
Mocking Bird
Vanessa Simmons
Ball and Chain
Lady Loves

Bonus tracks

Too Much on Your Plate
White Sails (A Seascape) (complete version)

Pre-order Barclay James Harvest Once Again box-set from Amazon

Pre-order Barclay James Harvest Once Again box-set from Burning Shed





Modern Eon – Fiction Tales (expanded and remastered edition) track-by-track album review

7 11 2022

The much-loved 1981 album from Liverpool’s influential band Modern Eon gets its first release on CD from Cherry Red.

Modern Eon - Fiction Tales - album cover

This expanded and remastered edition of Fiction Tales features a collection of complementary single versions, B-sides and previously unreleased recordings made in 1982, immediately prior to the band’s untimely demise.

Compiled with input from band members Alix and Danny, and accompanied by excellent detailed sleeve notes by Andrew Keeling, this is a long overdue re-evaluation of a lost post-punk classic.

Forming in Liverpool in 1978, built around the collaborative dynamics of Alix Plain and Danny Hampson, Modern Eon burned brightly but briefly, issuing a run of singles and the remarkable album Fiction Tales before disbanding prior to the recording of a second album.

Modern Eon expanded their following with a support slot on The Stranglers Meninblack tour of 1981, which is where a lot of fans picked up on the band for the first time.

I’ve still got my original vinyl copy of the album, but I am so happy to finally be able to own a CD version. A version of Fiction Tales appeared on streaming platforms a little while ago, that I presume was an un-authorised release, possibly sourced from 192kbps mp3s that were circulating on fan sites years ago.

The original album was produced by the band, with co-production / engineering by Laurence Diana (another Stranglers connection, as Laurence engineered several tracks on The Stranglers The Gospel According To The Meninblack masterpiece).

The transfers and remastering for this 2022 CD edition of Fiction Tales is by Andy Patterson. The original album has never sounded better. The remaster is not a brick-walling effort, and is very sympathetic. There is room to breathe, and key elements, such as the drums on The Grass Still Grows, shine as never before. So if you already own the vinyl, this 2022 reissue is still a must-have if, like me, you have loved this album for over 40 years.

Modern Eon - band promo picture

The album is a time-capsule of the early 80s post-punk and new wave sound. Second Still is a slow-burning but powerful opener. Metronomic drums, percussive synths and spagetti-western guitars and trebley bass are topped by the plaintive vocals of vocalist Alix.

The Grass Still Grows is wonderfully paced, with some Roxy Music-like saxophone and a powerful breakdown section. The album is well sequenced, with individual tracks flowing into each other, so the album feels like one sustained piece of music.

Playwrite features wonderful guitar work from Tim Lever, and great interplay between Cliff Hewitt on drums and bassist Danny Hampson.

Watching The Dancers is an absolutely beautiful piece of music, and a highlight of the album. The arrangement is quite sparse, which gives the song an absolutely brutal power. Watching The Dancers made me sit up and listen when I saw the band live for the first time. Oh to have a time-machine!

“I’m in a crowd
And they all surround me”

Each member of the band stamps their unique personality throughout Fiction Tales. I saw the band live twice supporting The Stranglers, and unless my memory is playing tricks on me I recall the drums were on tape, due to an injury sustained by drummer Cliff Hewitt prior to the tour commencing.

Real Hymn uses guitar harmonics to great effect, along with an intelligent use of space, military drumming and atmospherics to build a unique soundscape, with the song ending abruptly just as it hits its peak, which seems to suit the lyrics.

“Take off the clothes, I’d like to see how much of you I know”

Waiting for the Cavalry has the feel of a controlled wall of noise, with sustained, abstract synth drones adding to a feeling of paranoia and distrust.

“Maybe I saw you on a closed circuit TV in the Underground
Moving from the corners”

High Noon was another live highlight from the two gigs I saw in the early 80s. Synth bursts from the late Bob Wakelin, Tim Lever’s guitar lines that John McGeoch would surely have appreciated along with crowded, one line vocals from Alix set the scene for my favourite Modern Eon track that arrives next, the mighty Child’s Play.

The most commercial piece that the band ever recorded, it was an obvious single, and Child’s Play has really stood the test of time.

From the sombre, haunting keyboard intro, the Phil Spector influenced production to the fairy-tale lyrics, the song stands apart from the feel of the rest of the album, and offers a different perspective and mood that makes it stand apart from the other songs.

“Always, a handsome prince
Well, I’ll be one day
Some call it child’s play”

After the pure-pop of Child’s Play, the mood darkens again for Choreography, a song that would not have sounded out of place on The Comsat Angel’s Sleep No More album that was released a couple of months after Fiction Tales. There was definitely something in the waters of Sheffield and Liverpool in 1981.

Modern Eon - Euthenics / Child's Play & Mechanic single sleeves

Euthenics was Modern Eon’s second single, this time on the Inevitable label, before they moved to Dindisc. The single version from 1980 appears on disc two of this reissue. Euthenics has such a powerful chorus and end section, that the song lingers long after reaching its conclusion.

The final two tracks close the album so well, the sombre, guitarless In A Strange Way leads to the frenetic Mechanic (a shorter version became the band’s final single).

“The face has been exposed to teardrops
The kind you can’t erase”

Fiction Tales works so well as an album to be played and enjoyed in one sitting, and as a classic early 80s post-punk classic, I hope this reissue reaches a wide audience.

Disc two is a treasure-trove for fans of the band. Unfortunately, I presume due to licencing issues, or lack of access to original masters, there are missing tracks – such as radio sessions, but disc two offers up some single versions and previously unreleased material.

I’m not sure of the source for this reissue, whether its been sourced from original masters or not, but even if the early releases are vinyl rips, care and attention has been given to the restoration.

Second Still and Choreography (1979 Versions) are from Modern Eon’s Pieces, their first EP. Second Still is so much better developed on the album version, and although Choreography lacks the widescreen production of the album version, the pieces are already in place for what the band would develop into less than two years down the line.

The same can be said for the 1980 versions of Euthenics and Waiting For The Cavalry. These versions have less in the way of the wonderful keyboard layers of the album versions, but Euthenics has more saxophone, giving the song a different impetus.

The rarely heard b-sides Cardinal Signs and Visionary are welcome additions to the reissue. The single mix of Mechanic adds a new guitar and keyboard line, and feels like a re-recording, rather than a straight remix. Somewhat smoother and slightly less urgent, this is an interesting take on the song, and one I am glad is included on this release.

The b-side Splash! sounds like it was from the same session as Mechanic. Spoken vocal lines weave in and out, with a New Order meets dub bassline from Danny Hampson, and some rare acoustic piano featuring on a Modern Eon song.

The remaining tracks give an indication of where the band could have gone with their second album. Appearing in demo form, as they were not fully realised for commercial release, the songs are fascinating to hear. After The Party (“After the party, there will be quiet”) features some of the ingredients from Fiction Tales, especially with the rythmn section, but a more forceful vocal style and an less claustrophobic arrangement, with more space and some chinks of brighter light in the performances. The dub version explores the arrangement further as does the 2021 mix from Alix (now known as Alex Che Johnson).

The second “new” track is Garland Leaves, which no doubt would have been an key album track, and could have seen the band embraced by the future Goth movement. After The Party and Garland Leaves were restored by Dave Lloyd, who has done a great job in giving us a brief but tantalising glimpse into a future for the band that sadly never materialised.

If you have not heard Modern Eon before, but you are a fan of the early 80s post-punk of Teardrop Explodes, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Comsat Angels, early Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Wah! Heat, then you will surely love Fiction Tales.

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Tracklisting

DISC ONE:

Fiction Tales album released June 1981, Din Disc (DID 11)

  1. Second Still
  2. The Grass Still Grows
  3. Playwrite
  4. Watching The Dancers
  5. Real Hymn
  6. Waiting For The Cavalry
  7. High Noon
  8. Child’s Play
  9. Choreography
  10. Euthenics
  11. In A Strange Way
  12. Mechanic

DISC TWO:

  1. Second Still (1979 Version)
  2. Choreography (1979 Version)
  3. Euthenics (1980 Version)
  4. Waiting For The Cavalry (1980 Version)
  5. Cardinal Signs
  6. Visionary
  7. Mechanic (Single Version)
  8. Splash!
  9. After The Party
  10. After The Party (Dub)
  11. After The Party (Dub) (2021 Mix)
  12. Garland Leaves

1 and 2 taken from the Pieces EP, Eon Records, November 1979 (EON 001).
3 and 4 released as a single, Inevitable, November 1980 (INEV 003).
5 released as the B-side to the Euthenics single, Din Disc, March 1981 (DIN 30).
6 released as the B-side to the Child’s Play single, Din Disc, June 1981 (DIN 31).
7 and 8 released as a single, Din Disc, August 1981 (DIN 35).
9 to 12 recorded at The Pink Studio, Ullet Road, Liverpool, May 1982.

Buy Fiction Tales from Amazon
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Also available – Andrew Keeling’s book – Musical Guide to Modern Eon





Toyah – Live At The Rainbow album review

12 10 2022

Cherry Red are releasing Toyah’s February 1981 concert recorded at London’s Rainbow Theatre as a CD/ DVD and a coloured double vinyl LP on 25 November 2022.

Toyah - Live At The Rainbow cover


Toyah – Live At The Rainbow is released for the first time on CD with seven additional songs, all previously unreleased and restored exclusively for this release.

Previously only available on VHS, the 53-min concert film has been remastered from the original Rolling Stones multitrack reels for the DVD release with improvements to both picture and sound. The newly remixed and remastered audio has been integrated to the concert for an enhanced viewing experience. All audio remastering was approved by Joel Bogen.

Three of the seven unheard songs appear exclusively on the CD as mono-only (originally mixed by Nick Tauber) bonus tracks, where no existing multi-tracks were available to present new stereo remixes. These three tracks do not appear on the 16-song double vinyl LP edition. Toyah provides a brand-new introduction in the 24-page booklet which contains iconic live photography by Barry Plummer and new notes by Craig Astley, Toyah’s official archivist.

I went to this gig, and so was happy to travel back in time, some 41 years later. 41 years, how did that happen? The DVD was not supplied for review, so I will have to wait until I receive my pre-order to fully relive the experience, so I am only reviewing the CD here. There has been some re-jigging of the original concert order for this release, which had to be done because of the issue of three of the tracks only being available in mono, but this release gives a good representation of the original show, and the remaster is of a high standard.

One of the support bands for this gig was Huang Chung, who became Wung Chung and had success later in the 80s. I saw on Jack Hues twitter account a couple of years ago that the bands albums, including Huang Chung’s debut from 1982, are due to be re-released in the near future, so one to watch out for.

Along with founding members Toyah Willcox and Joel Bogen, new band members Nigel Glockler, Phil Spalding and Adrian Lee make up this line-up of the Toyah band. The set opens with the heavily percussive War Boys from the Four from Toyah EP that had recently given the band their first major UK hit single.

Next up is the first selection from 1979’s Sheep Farming in Barnet album, with the punky-prog of Neon Womb, Waiting and the pop-thrills of Race Through Space.

An extended version of Four From Toyah‘s Angels & Demons slows the pace, before The Blue Meaning‘s Love Me dials in the post-punk feel again, along with album companions Mummies and Insects.

Toyah - Live At The Rainbow CD / DVD and booklet

“This next one you might have seen on Top of the Pops” introduced It’s A Mystery, which still sounds so fresh after all these years. The bass and drum interplay from Spalding and Glockler is a highlight of this 1981 live incarnation of this landmark Toyah song.

Computers makes a rare return to the set after a long absence, and early single Tribal Look highlights the added keyboard presence of new member Adrian Lee, with some wonderful Rhodes piano. Bird In Flight (the double A Side that accompanied Tribal Look) works so well with this new line-up, and this could turn out to be my favourite version of this early Toyah song.

Two of my favourite Sheep Farming In Barnet tracks follow, with Victims Of The Riddle and Danced. A powerful, just under 8 minutes version of the haunting Ieya ends the main set.

The final three tracks are mono, so lose a little of their sparkle. Revelations from the Four From Toyah EP is bookended by two Sheep Farming In Barnet tracks, Our Movie and Indecision, the latter of which loses some of its power for me, but that could well be the mono mix, with less space for the performances to breathe.

Live At The Rainbow is a great keepsake of one of Toyah’s most loved live performances, and will be welcomed by fans of the band, who have waited a long time for an updated release to replace the previously released VHS version.

Buy Toyah Live At The Rainbow CD/DVD from Amazon

Buy Toyah Live At The Rainbow double vinyl LP from Amazon

Tracklisting

CD/DVD

Disc One – CD

War Boys
Neon Womb
Waiting
Race Through Space
Angels & Demons
Love Me
Mummies
Insects
It’s A Mystery
Computer
Tribal Look
Ghosts
Bird In Flight
Victims Of The Riddle
Danced
Ieya

Our Movie*
Revelations*
Indecision*

* mono

Disc Two – DVD

War Boys
Neon Womb
Waiting
Tribal Look
Ghosts
Victims Of The Riddle
Race Through Space
Angels & Demons
Insects
It’s A Mystery
Danced
Ieya

Double vinyl

Disc: 1

War Boys
Neon Womb
Waiting
Race Through Space
Angels & Demons
Love Me
Mummies
Insects

Disc: 2

It’s a Mystery
Computer
Tribal Look
Ghosts
Bird in Flight
Victims of the Riddle
Danced
Ieya





Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Somapolis track-by-track album review

9 10 2022

Sweet Billy Pilgrim, now a duo comprising multi-instrumentalists Jana Carpenter and Tim Elsenburg, will release a new album, Somapolis on November 4 2022 via Republic of Music. Their story involves a Mercury Music Prize nomination, the IT Crowd, the Royal Albert Hall, Glastonbury Festival, Late Junction and The Culture Show.

Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Somapolis album cover

Guests on the album include Kate St. John (Dream Academy) with string / horn arrangements and Darren Beckett (Brandon Flowers / Madeleine Peyroux / Bryan Ferry) on drums.

Somapolis opener We Are The Bright Carvers is a real statement of intent. Featuring the deepest bass I have heard for many a year, anchoring a hyper addictive song with powerful drums and a hard-hitting, emotional arrangement. The use of space is highly evident on Somapolis, with real and synthesised strings flitting in and out, alongside scratchy, mournful new wave guitars and delightful tag-team vocals from Jana and Tim.

Jana and Tim’s vocals blend so well together, adding a unique colour and personality to the songs. The production is perfect, adding a warmth and clarity to individual instruments and featuring short sound-designs linking each track, to give the feel of one whole, linked piece. Cities are linked by their transportation systems, which is maybe why all the tracks on this album are linked, often with transport or people interaction found-sounds.

Bliss Maps is initially a rich slice of electronica, evolving as acoustic instruments, including spaghetti western guitar lines, are thrown into the mix. The beautiful vocal arrangement, as Jana and Tim are joined by a collection of other voices, works so well with the trumpet, saxophone and funk bass taking the song home.

“Did I put something in your Chardonnay?
Close your eyes…”

Attacus Atlas continues with the squelchy, Bootsy Collins bass and mellotrons that adorn many of the tracks, in a song referencing the worlds largest moth, whose brief and beautiful emergence lasts for just days before it dies. The chorus seeps into your soul, as Jana takes the lead on one of the albums key songs.

Instrumental lines appear and disappear when you least expect them, keeping you on your toes, and revealing new wonders on repeated listens.

“It’s the light that leads me home”

Attacus Atlas is a story of brief, breathless and fragrant love that undergoes a complete metamorphosis as Pass Muster, with its jittering rhythm (definitely not a dancer!) appears, layered with a honey-sweet vocal topping that transports the track into gospel directions that seemed impossible to imagine from the songs beginning.

The piano waltz of Down I Go (heralded by a tube-station sound-sketch, very clever) is simple but effective, with some of the albums strongest lyrics. When the synth sequence and percussion kicks in, the song hits you hard in your heart. The simplicity and directness of Down I Go‘s arrangement makes this song all the more powerful, following the previous songs rich and often complex arrangements.

“There is a river runs under the city at night, and down I go out of the light”

The arrangement builds for the songs final descent, and then washes away leaving just Tim’s solo vocal and piano. Down I Go quickly established itself as one of my favourite Sweet Billy Pilgrim songs.

Dead Man Dancing is an anthemic beast, featuring a mixture of 70s and 80s referencing synth sounds, with a hint of late 70s Bowie in the chorus. Stress Position returns to the dual vocals and a more widescreen arrangement, and could well be a tale of crime, but going on past Sweet Billy Pilgrim lyrics, the true meaning is probably hidden somewhere below the surface and is always open to the listeners interpretation.

Jana Carpenter and Tim Elsenburg, of Sweet Billy Pilgrim.
Jana Carpenter and Tim Elsenburg

The processed music-box intro of The Night Watch quickly switches to a pure Steely Dan groove. The thoughts I had on first hearing The Night Watch included how on earth did the band afford to hire Donald Fagen to produce the song? It sounds so well-produced that I fully expect to see his name on the album credits. The attention to detail lovingly painted onto every detail of this song, from the shuffling drum pattern to the multiple layered vocal, make this an album highlight that I think will resonate with so many people.

A sweetly nostalgic 1960’s back-beat and organ swells underpin Pilgrim, which like Down I Go, has a feel of simplicity that makes the magical choral sections and more expansive moments all the more powerful. With no synths in sight, Pilgrim feels like a song from a bygone, long-lost era. Along with Big Big Train, Sweet Billy Pilgrim are not afraid to head back to the past and utilise more traditional tools such as brass bands, to convey emotion and help splash colour onto their wide musical canvas. The subtle production touches lift the arrangement, making Pilgrim a song that sticks with you long after the last reverb-drenched vocals fade.

Get Back To Where You Started drops you back into the here and now. After the two lighter songs that preceded it, the mood is buoyed with such a joyous chorus. The band throw everything at the production on this song, nothing is held back. Trumpet solos, big beats and deep Rhodes piano all make a welcome appearance, along with that funky as hell bass sound that is a star of the album. In an alternative universe, when the spirit of the 80s is still strong, this song would be the big hit single.

The album closes with its longest song, Skywriting. Another initially uplifting track, using a similar musical palette to songs earlier in the album, the discordant piano adds a slight feeling of apprehension that feeds into the dual mood that the song delivers. An almost classic rock driven instrumental section is simply delicious, and the synths, strings and deep electronics that see out the last minute or so hint at an ascension as the final part of the journey, with the album having lots of references to travel within the city, whether purely physical movement or through the individual journey’s that make up our lives.

There is so much love, care and a vast array of different styles shared throughout Somapolis, which appears to be the story of a city and tales of how the people who live within interact, travel and are affected by their surroundings. Somapolis is adventurous, rich, uplifting and meditative in equal measures, making it the most fully realised and satisfying release so far from the band.

Enjoy the journey.

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Buy Somapolis from the Sweet Billy Pilgrim artist store

We Are The Bright Carvers
Bliss Maps
Attacus Atlas
Pass Muster
Down I Go
Dead Man Dancing
Stress Position
The Night Watch
Pilgrim
Get Back To Where You Started
Skywriting





Rupert Hine – Surface Tension – The Recordings 1981-1983 review

26 09 2022

Rupert Hine – Surface Tension – The Recordings 1981-1983 is a 3CD Box Set containing the albums Immunity (1981), Waving Not Drowning (1982) and The Wildest Wish To Fly (1983). The three early 80s albums have been newly remastered by original engineer / co-producer Stephen W Tayler. The boxset also includes an illustrated booklet featuring an essay and interviews.

Rupert Hine - Surface Tension – The Recordings 1981-1983 cover

The three albums were a partnership – with music written by Rupert Hine and lyrics written by Jeannette Obstoj. Hine had success as a member of Quantum Jump and also had an amazing career as a songwriter and producer, going on to produce more than 160 albums, including collaborations with Tina Turner, The Fixx, Howard Jones, The Members, Chris de Burgh, Jona Lewie, Rush, Bob Geldof, Stevie Nicks, Thomson Twins, The Waterboys, Kate Bush, Suzanne Vega, Underworld, Kevin Godley and Duncan Sheik.

Rupert Hine - Immunity cover

The first album in the collection is 1981’s Immunity. Guests on the album include an appearance by Marianne Faithfull on Misplaced Love, and Immunity includes performances from renowned guitarist Phil Palmer, drums and percussion from Trevor Morais, along with Phil Collins contributing percussion on two key tracks.

I Hang On to My Vertigo sets the scene for this trilogy. Immunity is driven by early 80s suspended piano and deep synths, expertly processed (I love the decay effects and the use of the Eventide harmoniser on the album) topped with a mixture of acoustic and electronic percussion. The songs mostly have a sombre, dark feeling with a heavy reliance on mood and atmospherics, giving the albums a timeless feel.

Samsara is a haunting piece, with heavily processed synth percussion, and layered choral vocals from Hine. Hine is often rightly praised for his production work, but was not given enough credit for his solo recording career. He had a unique, instantly recognisable vocal style that perfectly suited the material he released in the 80s, and it is easy to see how these three albums influenced other musicians of the time.

Credit must also go to lyricist Jeannette Obstoj, whose often dystopian, and always interesting lyrics clearly fed and inspired Hine’s imagination.

The album reaches a peak of darkness with I Think A Man Will Hang Soon. An initially sparse arrangement, with sharp peaks and troughs, and the album’s first appearance of live percussion and heavy guitar, adding to the feeling of fearful apprehension.

“I think a man will hang soon
He’s hiding in a back room
His morals are confused now
Like walls they’re bound to crack soon”

The title track and Another Stranger feature Phil Collins on percussion. Marimbas pepper Immunity throughout the verses, for one of the lighter, more uplifting songs on the album. Another Stranger has a heady mix of electronic with acoustic instrumentation. Phil Palmer adds some delicious heavily chorused guitar, and Collins contributions are understated, serving the song well.

I always wondered if the “Boredom–boredom–boredom” from the chorus of Psycho Surrender was a lyrical nod to the Buzzcocks track from three years earlier? Psycho Surrender includes some of the techniques that came to the fore in electronic music a few years further down the line, when sampling technology arrived, although in this case, the “samples” are bottles being smashed and recorded in real time.

Make a Wish is once again driven by synth percussion and multi-tracked vocals, amongst the fractured mechanical arrangement, that has the feel of an old AM radio tuning in and out of the static. The moment the noise is tuned out and Hines vocals and synths cut through, offers up one of the most powerful moments on the album.

Immunity ends with two bonus tracks, the dark Scratching At Success and the brutal minimalism of Introduction To The Menace.

“He’s scratching at success
Like some poor dog locked in a room”

Waving Not Drowning from 1982 was my introduction to Rupert’s work, and remains one of my favourite albums from the early 80s. I first heard the album on one side of a cassette lent to my by a flat-mate, and along with the album on the other side of the tape (Talking Heads More Songs About Buildings and Food from 1978), Waving Not Drowning was a constant companion for my Walkman accompanied early morning commutes to the NHS hospital where I worked at the time. I lost track of the album (when I eventually gave the tape back!) and did not hear it again until buying a CD reissue (from Voiceprint in 2001) and then tracking down an original vinyl copy from Discogs.

Rupert Hine - Waving Not Drowning cover

The Phil’s (Palmer and Collins) plus Trevor Morais are joined by Chris Thomson for Waving Not Drowning.

Waving Not Drowning is the album I am most familiar with from this collection, so to me the improvements from Stephen W Tayler’s remaster is at its most pronounced here. The songs on Waving Not Drowning are amongst Hine’s strongest, with a shift to more conventional arrangements whilst keeping most of the quirky, innovative production in place.

Eleven Faces sounds so powerful with this remaster, utilising a Hine signature – the vocal line closely following the keyboard melody.

“Do I remember how he held the woman down
His shadow made a pool so deep she had to drown”

It is also noticeable in this remaster how the volume increases slightly at key points in the arrangement of songs.

The Curious Kind has a wonderful, addictive chorus with background vocals from Christopher Thomson.

“The slow recurring point unwinds
We always were the curious kind”

The Set Up has one of those chorus’s that sticks like glue. The production is so clever on this track, a metronomic rhythm, with vocal and synths offering an unconventional bassline lurking behind an emotional synth backing.

Jeannette Obstoj provides Hine with wonderful lyrics about conformity and social shaping.

“They did it with kindness
They did it with a smile
They did it all, with a licence
They did it, according to the rules
They did it, with good advice
They did it, from inside
They did it, for some reason
They did it
Well they tried”

Dark Windows uses stormy weather as a backdrop to introduce the percussion, with swirling organs and drenched in reverb piano serving the perfect mood for the lyrics.

The Sniper details a list of ways in which one can get killed, and features stellar guitar work from Phil Palmer, alongside one of the albums most powerful percussive performances. The end section, with discordant guitars and saxophone from Ollie W. Tayler (aka Stephen W Tayler!), reminds me a little of Bill Nelson’s Red Noise.

“The sniper knows his time has come
and the life he takes means nothing more
than bullets to the gun”

Innocents in Paradise features Phil Collins on marimba, timbales and tom-toms. House Arrest was dedicated to Donald Woods, a South African anti-Apartheid activist and friend of Stephen Biko.

The Outsider is one of my favourites on the album. A mix of found sounds, utilising Synclavier and PPG Wave synths.

The pre-chorus of

“So to the spider the web is home
Now the fly lands
The fly must stay”

works so well as a pre-cursor to the bold, crashing section that comes next. The Outsider is very unsettling, and a must listen on headphones to fully appreciate the production touches.

The album proper ends with the mixture of synth-pop and cymbal heavy rock of One Man’s Poison, followed by ‘b’ side Kwok’s Quease, the only track that I always skip!

The Wildest Wish To Fly did not feature two Phil’s this time, but two Palmers. Joining Phil Palmer was Robert Palmer, who added vocals to several tracks. James West-Oram (The Fixx) also features on guitar.

Rupert Hine - The Wildest Wish To Fly cover

Rupert Hine was working with Robert Palmer around the time of The Wildest Wish To Fly, and the sounds and feel of Palmer’s wonderful Pride album seep through, along with a somewhat more conventional and less challenging set of songs, which is a shame after the landmark of the previous years Waving Not Drowning.

There is still plenty to enjoy though. Palmer guests on album opener Living in Sin, with its infectious chorus. No Yellow Heart retains some of the sonic charm of the previous albums, and the lyrics remain interesting throughout.

The simplicity of Firefly in the Night is a highlight of The Wildest Wish To Fly, reminding me of the use of acoustic instruments alongside electronics used to such great effect by Thomas Dolby and his The Flat Earth album that came out a year later.

“Then I thought I saw your face
But it was no more than a firefly in the night”

Picture Phone features another appearance from Robert Palmer, and remarkably predicts the rise of our reliance on smartphones and technology. The more commercial single mix appears towards the end of this CD. The Most Dangerous of Men feeds off the chant vocals also used on Palmer’s Pride to good effect. The organ and piano backing, allied with a steady beat, works so well.

The title track is just under a minute shorter than the original release, due to a plethora of remixed and re-edited releases in different territories. It is one of the more experimental pieces in terms of the arrangement, and features some plaintive chorused guitar from Phil Palmer and another vocal appearance from Robert Palmer. A slightly progressive feel seeps into the central section of the song, and it adds a welcome new flavour to the mix.

Four bonus tracks complete this version of the album, the highlight of which is the stripped back An Eagle’s Teaching, which offers some lovely bass work and subtle guitar lines.

The remastering by Stephen W Tayler adds so much to these versions of the classic Rupert Hine early eighties albums, that will appeal to fans of the original releases as well as anyone interested in early 80s synth based music. There is so much to enjoy in this new collection.

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CD1
Immunity
I Hang On To My Vertigo
Misplaced Love
Samsara
Surface Tension
I Think A Man Will Hang Soon
Immunity
Another Stranger
Psycho Surrender
Make A Wish

Bonus tracks:
Scratching At Success
Introduction To The Menace

CD2
Waving Not Drowning
Eleven Faces
The Curious Kind
The Set Up
Dark Windows
The Sniper
Innocents In Paradise
House Arrest
The Outsider
One Man’s Poison

Bonus track:
Kwok’s Quease

CD3
The Wildest Wish To Fly
Living in Sin
No Yellow Heart
The Saturation of the Video Rat
Firefly in the Night
A Golden Age
Picture Phone
The Victim of Wanderlust
The Most Dangerous of Men
The Wildest Wish to Fly

Bonus tracks:
Blue Flame (Melt the Ice)
An Eagle’s Teaching
Picture Phone (remix)
No Yellow Heart (later version)

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Bjørn Riis – A Fleeting Glimpse album review

19 09 2022

A Fleeting Glimpse is a mini-album from by Airbag co-founder, songwriter and lead guitarist, Bjorn Riis. With A Fleeting Glimpse, Bjørn Riis has let his love of Pink Floyd run free. The album contains four new songs, with a running time of just under 30 minutes, where you can really hear the Pink Floyd influences soaked into the short album’s DNA.

Bjørn Riis - A Fleeting Glimpse album cover.

Dark Shadows (part 1) features guest vocals from Durga McBroom, who sang with Pink Floyd from the late 80s onwards. A gentle paced piece, with some uplifting David Gilmour inspired slide and lead guitar performances, the first take of Dark Shadows perfectly combines the key Floyd sounds of the 70s and 80s.

A Voyage to the Sun touches on the darker, more progressive side of the album’s inspiration. The tempo quickens for this instrumental track, my favourite song on the album. The guitars cut deeper and the percussion pushes the arrangement, with a wonderful mid-section where the instruments rapidly drop away to leave guitar feedback and bass, undercut by a mournful synth line. I love these spacey, progressive vibes that are just made for a headphone listening experience.

Just as you are soaring above the clouds, the High Hopes referencing church bells of Summer Meadows bring you crashing back down to earth. The acoustic and electric guitar intro is so beautifully pristine on this second and final instrumental. I kept expecting some spoken voice on this track, see if you agree with me when you hear the album, if it possibly evokes the same memories for you.

Bjørn Riis looking at the camera

Summer Meadows is over far too soon, and Dark Shadows (part 2) continues to build, with some emotional guitar, both lead and layered background textures, from Riis. Whilst there are four tracks, each offering slightly different emotional responses and moods, the album feels like a complete piece of music, built to be listened to in one sitting, in the order the artist has chosen.

The powerful mix for A Fleeting Glimpse by Vegard Kleftås Sleipnes and the warm mastering by White Willow / The Opium Cartel’s master-mind Jacob Holm-Lupo, lifts this album to the front of my favourite Bjørn Riis solo releases to date. I would love to hear a full length album in this style in the future. With little chance of new music from David Gilmour in this style, it would be great to have new music continuing the 70s and 80s Pink Floyd tradition.

Buy Bjørn Riis – A Fleeting Glimpse on vinyl from Amazon
Buy Bjørn Riis – A Fleeting Glimpse on CD from Amazon
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Tracklist

Dark Shadows (part 1)
A Voyage to the Sun
Summer Meadows
Dark Shadows (part 2)

Label: Karisma Records
Release Date: 30 September 2022





Lonely Robot – A Model Life track-by-track album review

27 07 2022

John Mitchell’s Lonely Robot release their new album, A Model Life, on limited CD digipak, gatefold 2LP+CD and as a digital album on August 26 2022.

Lonely Robot is the solo project of John Mitchell (It Bites, Arena, Frost*, Kino and The Urbane). A Model Life is album number five, and the first since 2020’s Feelings Are Good, and features Craig Blundell on drums.

“I’m walking in the shadow
of a world I used to know”

Opening with the first digital taster for the album, Recalibrating is a tale of personal re-birth and re-assessment after a relationship has sadly ended, but could possibly be seen as a reaction to the recent axis tilting few years we have all lived through.

Digital God Machine spits bile in the direction of online trolls and mis-informed, opinionated keyboard warriors. Musically, it seems to draw inspiration from Peter Gabriel 4 (Security). The heavily-treated percussion adds a palpable feeling of paranoia and dread, with some fine guitar lines on display towards the middle of the track.

“Throw your ‘oh so learned’ wisdom
At the fool you wish to bait”

Species In Transition builds slowly, as the edgy percussion and found-sounds slowly reveal themselves. Disembodied voices and nature sounds are painted onto the canvas throughout A Model Life, and are a vital part of the musical journey on this stunning album.

“Oh let go, you’re just part of the condition
So goodbye, to the species in transition”

Starlit Stardust is one of the most moving songs on the album, with a powerful and uplifting chorus.

The Island Of Misfit Toys is my favourite track on this release. The Art of Noise and the mid-80s electronica of ZTT artists such as Propaganda drive the production, with a hint of The Knack’s power-pop classic My Sharona thrown in for good measure. A Model Life is overflowing with quality guitar solos, and The Island Of Misfit Toys delivers one of the shortest but most effective solos on A Model Life.

The title track arrives at the mid-point of the album, and is one of the few down-tempo pieces. Suspended keyboard notes and an addictive bass-line underpin the verses on this song of reflection and regret.

The stripped back, short Mandalay acts as a preface to one of the albums key-tracks, the evocative Rain Kings. A track that will surely become a fan favourite, it sends shivers when the drums appear a minute and a half in. This is the song I return to most, although I prefer to listen to the album as a continuous piece, as it is sequenced with so much love and attention.

“There’s some memories, I just can’t erase”

Duty of Care highlights John Mitchell’s production and arrangement skills. The sound is crisp, clear and powerful, with simplicity and nuance in the playing, until a more theatrical performance is needed to deliver the stories in the songs.

Photo by Tom Barnes
Photo by Tom Barnes

The album closes with a real statement of intent. Saving some of his finest guitar work until the end, Mitchell’s performance on In Memoriam is calm, measured and yet emotional.

A Model Life is the most complete and cohesive release from Lonely Robot so far, and one that reveals itself fully after multiple plays.

“And in memoriam, we are not the same
And I will reclaim, yes I will reclaim, what’s mine”

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Lonely Robot – A Model Life

Recalibrating
Digital God Machine
Species In Transition
Starlit Stardust
The Island Of Misfit Toys
A Model Life
Mandalay
Rain Kings
Duty Of Care
In Memoriam





Bill Nelson’s Red Noise – Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise review

29 06 2022

Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise is a new six disc boxed set of the complete recordings made by Bill Nelson’s Red Noise – comprising four CDs and two NTSC/region free DVDs. The boxed set is released by Cherry Red on 26 August 2022.

Bill Nelson’s Red Noise - Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise review

The collection features a newly remastered edition of the album Sound On Sound along with new 5.1 surround sound and new stereo mixes by Stephen W Tayler (Rush, Peter Gabriel, Howard Jones, Kate Bush, Rupert Hine).

Sound on Sound was originally released in February 1979 on Harvest / EMI and spawned the singles Furniture Music and Revolt Into Style. One of my favourite albums from the late 70s, this collection from Cherry Red is the definitive Red Noise release. Disc one comprises an excellent remaster from the original master tapes. It packs more of a punch and has a sonic sparkle missing from previous CD re-issues.

The spikey new wave / drums and guitar of Stay Young sound newly powerful with this remaster. The album delivers a mix of glam / art rock and new wave styles that populated so much good music from 1979, which also happens to be my favourite musical year. Sorry for repeating myself, I know I’ve said that before in this blog.

Feeling at home with the likes of The Stranglers, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Skids and Magazine, Sound On Sound is the only album Bill Nelson released with this art-rock spiked with new wave hybrid style. Subsequent releases headed off into a more synth driven style with Quit Dreaming And Get on the Beam (1981), The Love That Whirls (Diary of a Thinking Heart) (1982) and one of my other Bill Nelson favourites, the mini-LP Chimera (1983). Such a rich vein of form.

“Your relatives are white and all your children have record players
They listen to Tom Robinson, the Beatles and the Byrds and Leo Sayer”
A Better Home In The Phantom Zone

Sound On Sound would have still been popular with fans of Be-Bop Deluxe, as the music was a natural evolution, not a cash-in on the popularity of the late 70s new wave acts that were a feature of the charts during this era. Nelson’s guitar work shines through, his solo on The Atom Age remains one of his finest from this period. The arrangements are rich, with new layers and moods rising to the surface throughout the songs, which are short and sharp. Nelson’s pop sensibility remains intact, even though the edges are rougher than what came before.

The original album ends with Art / Empire / Industry, with its delightful Autobahn meets Buzzcocks end section and the song that was my introduction to Red Noise, the classic single Revolt into Style. I’ve still got my treasured 7″ vinyl copy, and it still sounds so like the future.

“And though I know the time is almost 1984
It feels like 1965″

The bonus tracks are not just included to pad out the release. The slower pace of Wonder Toys That Last Forever and Acquitted by Mirrors feels like a bridge between Red Noise and what would come next for Bill Nelson. The urgency displayed in the February 1979 BBC Friday Rock Show session tracks is a delight, and the performances sound fresh and representative of the Red Noise live sound, more of that on the next disc in the boxset.

“Oh, Oh
Here comes the red noise
Absolute a go-go
Wonder toys that last forever”

Disc Two is Red Noise Live At The De Montfort Hall, in Leicester, recorded on 8 March 1979. This previously unreleased live set is a delight, and was originally engineered by John Leckie. The recordings for this disc were mixed from the original 24-track master tapes at Chimera Arts, Box, Wiltshire in March 2022 by Stephen W Tayler. I often find that live albums included in deluxe editions are the discs I rarely return to, but not in this case. The concert is one of the most exciting parts of the boxset. The arrangements and vocals differ enough to bear up to repeated listening. For Young Moderns is a highlight, as is the inclusion of Red Noise’s take on two tracks from Be-Bop Deluxe’s Drastic Plastic album, Possession and Superenigmatix.

Disc Three is where things get really interesting. These new stereo mixes, with all tracks remixed from the original 24-track master tapes in March 2022 by Stephen W Tayler, are an important part of the boxset. Comparing the two mixes, I’ve lived with the original album since 1979, so it is always going to be my preferred version, but these new mixes are wonderful. They are in the main slightly less abrasive and more widescreen, with drums processed more than on the original release and synths / keyboards often pushed to the fore. The difference with tracks such as For Young Moderns is very noticeable. Its almost Be-Bop Deluxe play Red Noise!

Stay Young is a standout of the new stereo mixes, with the bass more prominent, along with the enhanced synth and organ lines. The Atom Age sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday, and the early Roxy Music influence on the album shines bright on this track, more than any other.

I was not so keen on the new mix of Revolt Into Style, which does not hit the mark for me (I don’t like the effects on the drums), but its the only minor mis-step for me of these fresh new mixes. Wonder Toys That Last Forever feels superior to the original mix, with a fuller sound and a great bass upgrade. My Light is a previously unreleased song, recorded for the Sound On Sound album. I can see why it was not included. Its a good song, but would not have fitted with the frenetic pace of the original album. New mixes of Instantly Yours, Ideal Homes and Disposable, tracks recorded at RAK Studios, London during May 1979, are welcome additions and would possibly have formed part of the shelved follow-up to Sound On Sound.

The new mixes are never going to replace the original album, here in all its remastered glory, but the idea and the execution is good.

Discs four and five (not supplied for review) features a 96 Khz/24-Bit 5.1 Surround Sound Mix of Sound On Sound and 96 Khz/24-Bit 5.1 Surround Sound Mixes of the bonus material, plus video content – a promo video for Revolt into Style, plus Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric), Furniture Music and Stay Young from BBC TV’s Old Grey Whistle Test, originally broadcast in 1979.

Bill Nelson

Disc 6 consists of Bill Nelson’s original 1978 demos for Sound On Sound. They are a fascinating insight into the original thoughts behind the songs, but are not recordings that are likely to be returned to often, unlike the other discs in the collection.

The booklet includes an introduction written by Steven Wilson, and a lengthy piece about the background to the formation of Red Noise and the Sound On Sound album and live shows.

Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise is a well put together box-set, and will appeal to all fans of the Red Noise era. If you are new to the album, but are a fan of late 70s new wave and art-rock, I would recommend the 2 CD version of the album, that includes the remastered album plus the new stereo mixes.


Buy from Amazon
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise (6 disc box-set)
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Sound On Sound (2 CD set)

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Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise (6 disc box-set)
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Sound On Sound (2 CD set)

Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise (6 disc box-set)

Disc One: Sound On Sound Remastered

Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric)
For Young Moderns
Stop / Go / Stop
Furniture Music
Radar in My Heart
Stay Young
Out of Touch
A Better Home in the Phantom Zone
Substitute Flesh
The Atom Age
Art / Empire / Industry
Revolt into Style

Bonus tracks

Wonder Toys That Last Forever
Acquitted by Mirrors (B-side of ‘Furniture Music’ EP)
Stay Young (BBC session 17.02.1979)
Furniture Music (BBC session 17.02.1979)
Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric) (BBC session 17.02.1979)
Out of Touch (BBC session 17.02.1979)

Disc Two: Live At The De Montfort Hall, Leicester 1979
Previously Unreleased

Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric)(live)
For Young Moderns (live)
Furniture Music (live)
Out of Touch (live)
Stop-Go-Stop (live)
Atom Age (live)
Possession (live)
Superenigmatix (live)
Substitute Flesh (live)
Phantom Zone (live)
Radar in My Heart (live)
Art / Empire / Industry (live)
Revolt into Style (live)
Stay Young (live)
For Young Moderns (Encore) (live)

Disc Three: Sound On Sound New Stereo Mix

Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric)
For Young Moderns
Stop / Go / Stop
Furniture Music
Radar in My Heart
Stay Young
Out of Touch
A Better Home in the Phantom Zone
Substitute Flesh
The Atom Age
Art / Empire / Industry
Revolt into Style

Bonus tracks

Wonder Toys That Last Forever
Acquitted by Mirrors
My Light
(previously unreleased) Recorded for the “Sound on Sound” sessions
Instantly Yours
Ideal Homes
Disposable

Disc Four: Sound On Sound

96 Khz/24-Bit 5.1 Surround Sound Mix

New Stereo Mix Original Stereo Mix

Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric) (5.1 mix)
For Young Moderns (5.1 mix)
Stop / Go / Stop (5.1 mix)
Furniture Music (5.1 mix)
Radar in My Heart (5.1 mix)
Stay Young (5.1 mix)
Out of Touch (5.1 mix)
A Better Home in the Phantom Zone (5.1 mix)
Substitute Flesh (5.1 mix)
The Atom Age (5.1 mix)
Art / Empire / Industry (5.1 mix)
Revolt into Style (5.1 mix)

Disc Five Additional Red Noise Sessions
96 Khz/24-Bit 5.1 Surround Sound Mixes

New Stereo Mixes Original Stereo Mixes

Wonder Toys That Last Forever (5.1 mix)
Acquitted by Mirrors (5.1 mix)
My Light (5.1 mix) Recorded for the “Sound on Sound” sessions
Instantly Yours (5.1 mix)
Ideal Homes (5.1 mix)
Disposable (5.1 mix)

RAK Studios, London May 1979

Video Content

Previously Unreleased

Revolt into Style (Promotional video 1979)
Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric) (BBC TV Old Grey Whistle Test – 1979)
Furniture Music (BBC TV Old Grey Whistle Test 1979)
Stay Young (BBC TV Old Grey Whistle Test 1979)

Disc Six Bill Nelson Red Noise Demos

1978 – Previously Unreleased

Acquitted by Mirrors (demo)
For Young Moderns (demo)
Stop Go Stop (demo)
Furniture Music (demo)
Radar in My Heart (demo)
Stay Young (demo)
Out of Touch (demo)
A Better Home in the Phantom Zone (demo)
Substitute Flesh (demo)
The Atom Age (demo)
Revolt into Style (demo)
Waiting for the Night (demo)
My Light (demo)

Sound On Sound (2 CD set)

Disc One: Sound On Sound Remastered

Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric)
For Young Moderns
Stop / Go / Stop
Furniture Music
Radar in My Heart
Stay Young
Out of Touch
A Better Home in the Phantom Zone
Substitute Flesh
The Atom Age
Art / Empire / Industry
Revolt into Style

Bonus tracks

Wonder Toys That Last Forever
Acquitted by Mirrors (B-side of ‘Furniture Music’ EP)
Stay Young (BBC session 17.02.1979)
Furniture Music (BBC session 17.02.1979)
Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric) (BBC session 17.02.1979)
Out of Touch (BBC session 17.02.1979)

Disc Two: Sound On Sound New Stereo Mix

Don’t Touch Me (I’m Electric)
For Young Moderns
Stop / Go / Stop
Furniture Music
Radar in My Heart
Stay Young
Out of Touch
A Better Home in the Phantom Zone
Substitute Flesh
The Atom Age
Art / Empire / Industry
Revolt into Style

Bonus tracks

Wonder Toys That Last Forever
Acquitted by Mirrors

My Light (previously unreleased) Recorded for the “Sound on Sound” sessions
Instantly Yours
Ideal Homes
Disposable

Buy from Amazon
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise (6 disc box-set)
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Sound On Sound (2 CD set)

Buy from Burning Shed
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Art / Empire / Industry: The Complete Red Noise (6 disc box-set)
Bill Nelson’s Red Noise: Sound On Sound (2 CD set)





Swing Out Sister: Blue Mood, Breakout And Beyond box-set review

22 06 2022

Swing Out Sister: Blue Mood, Breakout And Beyond – The Early Years Part 1 is an 8CD Box Set released by Cherry Red on July 29 2022.

Swing Out Sister - Blue Mood, Breakout & Beyond album cover

The collection contains Swing Out Sister’s ‘Early Years’, collecting the albums from 1985 – 1992 and on discs 5 to 8: B-Sides, 7” mixes, remixes and rare versions.

The albums included are It’s Better To Travel (1987), Kaleidoscope World (1989), Get In Touch With Yourself (1992) and Live At The Jazz Cafe (1993).

The booklet contains a full track annotation and rare memorabilia with illustrations by Corinne Drewery and sleeve notes by SDE writer Paul Sinclair, who has spoken to band members current and past.

Disc one is the bands debut, It’s Better To Travel. Opening with their signature song, Breakout, followed by my favourite Swing Out Sister track, Twilight World. The song contains so many of my favourite elements of the 80s – subtle percussion, iconic synths, real strings and a lovely mid-pace, caught between a 7″ and a 12″ arrangement. Adding Corinne’s instantly recognisable jazz-tinged vocals to the mix equals pop-heaven.

Swing Out Sister - It's Better To Travel

The album is a mix of up-tempo tracks and pop ballads. Surrender and Fooled By A Smile are superb singles, instantly transporting me back to a time of 4 TV channels, Top Of The Pops, Night Network and extended 12″ vinyl remixes. Album producer Paul O’Duffy cut his teeth in the club remix field, before moving on to the first albums by Hipsway and Curiosity Killed the Cat, and so was perfectly qualified to add pop, jazz and dance layers to this album.

Communion has always remained a personal favourite, with its lightness of touch and warm, late-night chorus, plus the percussion influenced by 80s Go-go rhythms from the USA. The slightly discordant switch in tempo just past the half-way mark, and the guitar on the outro section always hits the spot.

It’s Better To Travel is one of my favourite 80s vinyl albums, and well worth tracking down if you don’t own a copy.

Disc two contains Kaleidoscope World, with producer Paul O’Duffy remaining on board for this and the bands third album. Kaleidoscope World has more of a 60s feel, and a slightly wider musical palette. There also appears to have been a more extensive recording budget, with guest appearances from the likes of guitarists Vini Reilly (the Durutti Column, Pauline Murray) and Phil Palmer (Dire Straits, George Michael, David Sylvian) plus arrangements by Richard Niles and the legendary Jimmy Webb.

Swing Out Sister - Kaleidoscope World

You On My Mind continues in a similar vein to the debut album, but there is a definite switch away from synths to acoustic instruments, which suits the 60s mood that pervades many of the songs, such as Heart for Hire.

The synths do make a slight return on Waiting Game, whilst Precious Words has a touch of the lounge-music of The Girl From Ipanema.

The widescreen, adventurous pop arrangement of Masquerade is a revelation, and is my favourite track on the album.

There is a clear progression evident on Kaleidoscope World and the addition of new styles and fresh musicians definitely adds variety and new flavours to the mix.

On the band’s third album, Get In Touch With Yourself from 1992, Luís Jardim (known for his work with ZTT bands, and a fine percussionist) appears more prominently to replace the recently departed founding member Martin Jackson. The guest musicians list is shorter on album number three, giving a slightly less adventurous feel. Get In Touch With Yourself is still a good pop album, and contains one of their finest singles, Am I The Same Girl?, a rare Swing Out Sister cover version.

Swing Out Sister - Get In Touch With Yourself

Everyday Crime contains some delicious Shaft style guitar and an updating of the SOS template. Understand is a pop/Soul track that has stood the test of time, with some rich backing vocals.

Don’t Say The Word has an addictive drum pattern and Love Child feels like it was influenced by the rolling percussion and deep strings of Massive Attack’s Blue Lines album from the previous year.

Live At The Jazz Cafe was recorded in December 1992, and features a 10 piece band. You On My Mind works particularly well in a live setting, as does the jazzier, extended live take of Surrender. No surprises for my picking Twilight World as my favourite from the live album. The jazz-tinged arrangement shines a fresh light on this interesting reworking of such a wonderful song.

The remaining discs in the box-set collect remixes, single edits and b-sides. You want 7 mixes of Twilight World, you got it!

On the final disc (b-sides and edits) lie some gems. Coney Island Man is a lyric free, Burt Bacharach inspired piece. The Swing Out Sister cover of the classic Windmills of Your Mind is a piano and vocals version, recorded live for a radio station. Taxi Town harks back to the first album, with a heavier use of electronics. A slow-burning experimental piece, its unlike anything else released by the band.

This boxset brings together everything you need from this era of Swing Out Sisters career, and along with the informative sleeve-notes, makes this a must buy for fans of 80s and early 90s pop music.

Buy Swing Out Sister: Blue Mood, Breakout And Beyond – The Early Years Part 1 from Amazon

DISC ONE
ITS BETTER TO TRAVEL
Breakout
Twilight World (Superb, Superb, Mix)
After Hours
Blue Mood
Surrender
Fooled By A Smile
Communion
It’s Not Enough
Theme (From – ‘It’s Better To Travel’)

DISC TWO
KALEIDOSCOPE WORLD
You On My Mind
Where In The World?
Forever Blue
Heart For Hire
Tainted
Waiting Game
Precious Words
Masquerade
Between Strangers
The Kaleidoscope Affair
Precious Words – Instrumental
Forever Blue – String Mix
Masquerade – Instrumental

DISC THREE
GET IN TOUCH WITH YOURSELF
Get In Touch With Yourself
Am I The Same Girl?
Incomplete Without You
Everyday Crime
Circulate
Who Let the Love Out?
Understand
Notgonnachange
Don’t Say The Word
Love Child
Everyday Crime – Instrumental

DISC FOUR

LIVE AT THE JAZZ CAFE
Get In Touch With Yourself
You On My Mind
Surrender
Everyday Crime
Twilight World
Circulate
Am I The Same Girl?
Breakout
Notgonnachange
Who Let the Love Out / Expansions / Coney Island Man / Wives & Lovers?

DISC FIVE
MIXES
Blue Mood – Dubbed-Up Version
Blue Mood – Growler Mix
Breakout- A New Rockin’ Version
Breakout – NAD Mix
Breakout – Horny Version
Breakout – Carnival Mix
Fooled By A Smile – Ralph Mix
Fooled By A Smile – TV Mix
Breakout – American Instrumental Mix
Communion – Instrumental
Fooled By A Smile – Phi Phi Mix
Twilight World – Remix

DISC SIX

MORE MIXES
Twilight World – The World Travel Mix
Twilight World – Vocal Dub
Twilight World – Classical Dub
Twilight World – Instrumental
Twilight World – Beat Your Sister Dub
Surrender – Stuff Gun Mix
Surrender – Pop Stand Remix
Surrender – Roadrunner Mix
Precious Words – Orchestral Mix
Waiting Game – Extended Version
Waiting Game – Remix Edit
Waiting Game – Ultimix
Waiting Game – Dub

DISC SEVEN:

EVEN MORE MIXES
Where In The World? – Bongo Fury Mix
Where In The World? – Radical Mix
You On My Mind – Extended Version
Precious Words – Earth Bound Mix
Am I The Same Girl – Bubba’s Version
Notgonnachange – Classic Club
Notgonnachange – Classic Song Mix
Notgonnachange – Mix Of Drama
Notgonnachange – Dashi I Mix
Notgonnachange – O’Duffy’s 7-inch Mix
Notgonnachange – New Jack Swing Out Mix
Am I The Same Girl – Instrumental

DISC EIGHT:

B-SIDES / EDITS
Wake Me When It’s Over – B-Side
Dirty Money – B-Side
Who’s To Blame – B-Side
Another Lost Weekend – B-Side
Fever – B-Side
Coney Island Man – B-Side
Taxi Town – B-Side
Windmills Of Your Mind – ‘Where In The World’ Bonus Track
Spirit Moves – B-Side
I Can Hear You But Can’t See
Alone – Notgonnachange Bonus Track
Surrender – 7-inch Version
Twilight World – Single Edit
Notgonnachange – Edit
Circulate – Live Version (Japanese Single)

Buy Swing Out Sister: Blue Mood, Breakout And Beyond – The Early Years Part 1 from Amazon








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