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 Thompson (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) 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.

Buy Rupert Hine – Surface Tension – The Recordings 1981-1983 from Amazon

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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)

Buy Rupert Hine – Surface Tension – The Recordings 1981-1983 from Amazon

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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
Buy Bjørn Riis – A Fleeting Glimpse on vinyl from Burning Shed
Buy Bjørn Riis – A Fleeting Glimpse on CD from Burning Shed

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)

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)

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





Re-Flex – Vibrate Generate

10 05 2022

Vibrate Generate is the sequel to Cherry Pop’s previous double-CD re-issue of Re-Flex’s The Politics Of Dancing album, and is released via Cherry Red on 24 June 2022.

Vibrate Generate brings together rare and unreleased tracks from across the bands career, including two new versions of The Politics Of Dancing, songs from their subsequent albums Humanication and Jamming The Broadcast, and tracks that were written for the soundtrack for Superman IV.

Opening with the last track Re-Flex ever recorded, Vibrate Generate heads off in a more traditional rock arrangement than their more well-known 80s recordings, with a tiny lyrical steal from an early David Bowie classic popping up and catching you off-guard towards the end of the song.

An interesting, in the spirit of the 80s remix of The Politics Of Dancing opener Praying To The Beat works well. How Much Longer, featuring Sting on guest vocals towards the end of the song, is a clipped guitar driven remix, and should have been a hit when originally released in the late 80s.

Couldn’t Stand A Day was always one of my favourite tracks from The Politics of Dancing, mainly because of its delicious chorus.

Revolution Now and on disc two, Life’s Too Dangerous were recorded for the soundtrack of Superman IV. The late Andy Gill from Gang of Four added guitar, and former Fashion vocalist Dave “Dee” Harris contributed backing vocals to these two strong tracks.

The first of two versions of the most well-known Re-Flex song, The Politics of Dancing, closes the first disc on the Vibrate Generate compilation. The remix is sympathetic to the original, with the wonderful guitar textures still front and centre in the chorus.

Opening disc two is Human, a new song with subtle nods to late 80s Bowie in its vocal styling. The powerful layered production makes this my favourite “new” song on the compilation.

The Politics Of Dancing‘s Hurt is presented in remixed form, without straying too far from it’s original incarnation. Love At First Sight (Alternative Version) is less 80s, more late 70s New Wave and offers a different take on the Re-Flex sound.

The second version of The Politics Of Dancing is a club remix, stripped back to keyboards and drum machine, with less guitar in the chorus.

The final track on disc two is one of the last songs recorded by the original Re-Flex line-up, Angry Man. Late 80s sampler technology mix with addictive guitar lines on the album closer.

Vibrate Generate works well as a “best of” or as an introduction to the music of Re-Flex, and is a perfect time capsule of the guitar and synth pop of the mid to late Eighties. The compilation includes exclusive sleeve-notes and background information written by band member Paul Fishman in 2022.

Buy Re-Flex – Vibrate Generate on Amazon

Disc One

Vibrate Generate *
Praying To The Beat (Remix)
How Much Longer (Remix) *
Wrong Decision (Remix) *
Jamming The Broadcast (Remix) *
Hitline
Couldn’t Stand A Day
Cut It (Music Re-Action Mix)
When Did You Stop Loving Me (Remix) *
Revolution Now (Remix) *
Sending Out A Message *
The Politics Of Dancing (Remix)

Disc Two

Human *
Give It Up *
Jamming The Broadcast (Alternative Version – Remix) *
Forever And Ever *
Something About You
How Much Longer (12ʺ Dance Remix) *
Life’s Too Dangerous *
Hurt (Music Re-Action Mix)
Love At First Sight (Alternative Version) *
The Politics Of Dancing (Club Mix – Remix)
Over The Top (Remix) *
Angry Man (Remix) *

*Previously unreleased

Buy Re-Flex – Vibrate Generate on Amazon





Tim Bowness – Butterfly Mind track-by-track album review

17 04 2022

Tim Bowness releases his 7th solo album Butterfly Mind as a Ltd. 2CD Edition, Ltd Edition LP+CD and digital album via InsideOut on August 5 2022.

Butterfly Mind features the stellar rhythm section of Richard Jupp (in his first major session since leaving Elbow) and Nick Beggs alongside a spectacular generation and genre spanning guest list including Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Dave Formula (Magazine), Peter Hammill (Van Der Graaf Generator), Martha Goddard (The Hushtones), Gregory Spawton (Big Big Train), Mark Tranmer (The Montgolfier Brothers, GNAC), Saro Cosentino (Franco Battiato), Italian Jazz musician Nicola Alesini, US singer Devon Dunaway (Ganga), Stephen W Tayler (Kate Bush) and, marking his first studio work with Tim for nearly three decades, former no-man violinist Ben Coleman.

Produced by Tim Bowness and Brian Hulse, Butterfly Mind was mixed and mastered by Steven Wilson.

Say Your Goodbyes bookends the album, with part one featuring added vocals from Peter Hammill, ushering in the album with a sense of foreboding as the sparse electronics give way to a powerful, distorted industrial arrangement that harks back to the no-man of Bleed / Say Baby Say Goodbye. This is not the first time I spot the DNA of no-man running through strands of the album, which should come as no surprise as Butterfly Mind was mixed and mastered by Steven Wilson and features Ben Coleman on three of it’s tracks.

Always The Stranger arrives at pace, propelled by the powerful beats of former Elbow drummer Richard Jupp, who adds a real feeling of urgency throughout the album.

“Yes, even their laughter gets you
and even their smiles destroy you.”

The backing vocals from Martha Goddard and the Bowness / Brian Hulse (now a regular contributor to much of Tim’s work) synths glisten underneath the delightful evolving arrangement. Nick Beggs adds a deep, mature bass line to one of my favourite tracks on the album.

The frenetic pace of Always The Stranger makes you savour the downtempo delights of It’s Easier To Love even more.

“Maybe it’s your age,
but everything feels colder.”

A fine Bowness ballad, It’s Easier To Love features a warm, restrained string arrangement from Saro Cosentino and added accompanying vocals from US dance / electronic vocalist Devon Dunaway, adding a unique, welcome texture to the song. Heavily treated / delayed sax from Nicola Alesini adds a delicious topping to the mix of instrumentation, that naturally evolves and builds throughout the song.

The second appearance from Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson (who also appears on the opening track), has Anderson really leaving his mark on one of the album’s heaviest tracks, We Feel. Peter Hammill adds guitar along with Brian Hulse, and Nick Beggs delivers a powerful and very inventive bass-line, one of his finest performances on the album. Devon Dunaway drops a Bowie like backing vocal around the mid-way point.

Tim has pulled out the stops with the multiple and varied guest appearances on Butterfly Mind, with musicians offering measured contributions that paint textures not heard before on his solo albums, whilst wisely having a core, stable band of Bowness, Hulse, Beggs and Jupp supplying the album with its cohesive identity.

Photo by Mark Wood

Lost Player is one of the simpler arrangements, with a reverb-drenched drum pattern and sci-fi soundtrack synth waves, which then surprisingly shifts gear at the two minute mark, giving a chameleon-like transformation of sequenced synths and wordless, reflective hums from Bowness. This abrupt change in tone and theme should not work so well, but it really does deliver one of the albums most emotional moments.

Only A Fool features wonderful Associates like piano lines from Dave Formula (Magazine), on this percussive heavy, pacey piece. The bassline from Mr Beggs is simply delicious, and is another track I return to often, when not listening to the album in order, as the artist intended of course!

“The numbers are frightening,
so much blood on our hands.
we don’t need reminding,
the punch never lands”

After The Stranger features Gregory Spawton (Big Big Train) on bass pedals, on this short continuation of the earlier Always The Stranger, with 90s trip-hop referencing percussion from Richard Jupp.

Glitter Fades is a tale of passing time and fading influence. Take us back… The electronic beats blend so well with the deep, late 80s feel of the electronics, and the lead vocal lines from Bowness are perfectly supported by Martha Goddard to add a touch of lightness. Stephen W Tayler contributes clarinet, and I’m reminded at times of the late Eighties synth soundscapes of Richard Barbieri during this very accessible and addictive track.

“We were a golden generation,
the darlings of a cultured age”

Ben Coleman adds violin to the final three tracks, starting with About The Light That Hits The Forest Floor. A late addition to the album, its another personal favourite. Unlike anything else on the album, the arrangement is light, measured and more organic. Deep bass and brush drums add to the warm mood offered by the song. The last couple of minutes are pure magic, as electronics melt into Coleman’s trademark emotive violin lines.

“It was the fight that made you hope for more”

And then we have Dark Nevada Dream. The longest track on Butterfly Mind is also its best. Hints of no-man from the Flowermouth and Returning Jesus eras sit deep in the arrangement. Dave Formula adds pulsating Hammond organ lines, with another fine Devon Dunaway contribution to the chorus.

“Speaking less,
drinking more”

Dark Nevada Dream skips by in an instant, and on my first listen one of my favourite parts was the Bowness spoken section towards the end of the song. It’s not quite a Bowness rap, so don’t worry, but it fits perfectly with the arrangement of one of my favourite solo tracks from Tim.

The core quartet excel on this song, and the contributions from the guest musicians take Dark Nevada Dream to another level.

I am sure this will be most listeners favourite track, and when the inevitable Best of Bowness album is compiled in a few years, Dark Nevada Dream will surely feature.

Say Your Goodbyes, Pt. 2 closes the album in a similar vein to the start of the journey, with the startling difference being the violent end section from Ben Coleman, duelling and driving out the organ swells, and bursting out of your speakers / headphones with clarity and force.

If you have opted for the vinyl version of Butterfly Mind, I would also recommend seeking out the limited double CD version. Disc two of this set features alternative takes of tracks from the album. The highlights include a powerful and raw take on Lost Player. This is the original solo demo from Tim and the track that started the whole project off, as Lost Player was the first song Tim wrote after eight months of doing covers and Plenty re-recordings. I also love the stunning alternative version of About The Light That Hits The Forest Floor along with the track that was for a while due to take its place in the original running order, Clearing Houses.

Photo by Mark Wood

Clearing Houses contains one of Tim’s most moving lyrics, driven by a direct simplicity that makes it sit amongst the finest of recent Bowness stories. Its so true that the four walls that surround and protect us throughout key points in our lives hold so many memories, and are so much more than just bricks and mortar. When we move to a new home, we often reflect on the loves, losses and growth we have witnessed. Clearing houses can mean taking time to reflect on the ghosts that live on in the photos taken in the home we are leaving for the final time. Alongside another fine Ian Anderson contribution, Clearing Houses deserves to be heard and enjoyed as so much more than ‘just’ an album out-take.

Butterfly Mind is the most rewarding solo album from Tim to date. Although it has a rich consistency due to the four key musicians who feature throughout, the guests add spice to every song they touch. I sometimes worry that utilising such high profile guests can take away the focus, but none of the musicians or vocalists on Butterfly Mind overshadow the songs or the arrangements. They all add unique flavours and a different personality to the mix, always adding and never detracting from a career best album.

Butterfly Mind Tracklist

Say Your Goodbyes, Pt. 1
Always The Stranger
It’s Easier To Love
We Feel
Lost Player
Only A Fool
After The Stranger
Glitter Fades
About The Light That Hits The Forest Floor
Dark Nevada Dream
Say Your Goodbyes, Pt. 2





David K Jones – Days In Corners album review

3 04 2022

Days In Corners is the first solo album from David K Jones (bass player with Moonshot, Plenty and The Swan Chorus). Developed in collaboration with Brian Hulse (Plenty / Tim Bowness) and Peter Goddard from demos recorded over 20 years ago, its creation became a lockdown labour of love.

The album includes guest performances by Tim Bowness, Darren Dean, Henry Rogers (Mostly Autumn), Jenny Whittaker and John Wilkinson (Mama / Moonshot).

Album opener rescue me builds from an 80s infused pop base, with some lovely progressive synth solos and a frenetic percussion backing.

The pace slows down with crazy rain, one of the album’s strongest songs. Vocalist Peter Goddard brings some of the wistfulness of Peter Coyle (The Lotus Eaters) to this perfectly paced lament. The electronics and synths work well with the more acoustic backing of piano and drums.

don’t go features some sterling percussion from Mostly Autumn drummer Henry Rogers and the arrangement and vocal styling reminds me of Liverpool’s It’s Immaterial, with a touch of early Elbow thrown in for good measure. Some fine bass work from David K Jones on this track, one of the most openly progressive pieces on the album. I would love to hear more songs in this vein.

The mood lightens with the more optimistic footprints in the sand, featuring a strong, melodic and memorable chorus.

David K Jones has worked with Tim Bowness as a member of Plenty, and contributed bass to three tracks on Tim’s 2019 album Flowers At The Scene as well as appearing on the Moonshot / Bowness spinoff album in 2020, so it is no surprise to hear Tim featuring on the dark balladry of world keeps turning. Tim’s vocals work well alongside Peter Goddard.

as good as it gets is a surprising slice of modern Americana, with an addictive chorus. that summer dials in the electronica, with a stripped back arrangement of bubbling sequencers, piano, bass and drum machine. Peter Goddard gives a strong vocal performance on one of the album’s standout tracks, with lyrics that drift through the changing of the season.

last cigarette features Mama / Moonshot vocalist John Wilkinson alongside Peter Goddard, with lyrics dedicated to Jeff Buckley. The vocal arrangement is outstanding on last cigarette.

The final two tracks head off into more familiar Plenty territory, with spin featuring Moonshot guitarist Darren Dean. The final track no more lullabies is a synth driven, lightly percussive farewell.

Days In Corners is an impressive solo debut from David K Jones. Although the album features a series of guest performers, there is a strong feeling of continuity throughout, with the album held together by the trio of Jones, Hulse and vocalist Peter Goddard.

Listen to Days In Corners on Spotify

Buy Days In Corners on CD from Burning Shed

Tracklist

rescue me
crazy rain
don’t go
footprints in the sand
world keeps turning
as good as it gets
that summer
last cigarette
spin
no more lullabies





Billy Mackenzie – Satellite Life: Recordings (1995-1996) review

21 02 2022

Satellite Life: Recordings (1995-1996) is a 3 CD set from Billy Mackenzie, released by Cherry Red on 22 April 2022, re-assembling past recordings with plenty of previously unreleased songs.

Hailing from Dundee, Scotland, Billy Mackenzie formed The Associates with Alan Rankine and the band enjoyed huge critical acclaim, chart success and cult status but the pair parted company in 1983 and Billy continued to record, for a while as The Associates and also in collaboration with other musicians, as well as releasing music as a solo artist.

Around 1994, Billy met Steve Aungle. The pair sparked off each other, prompting a purple patch for making new music. Some recordings appeared on two posthumous albums, Beyond The Sun (1997) and Eurocentric (2001). A couple more surfaced on Auchtermatic (2004).

However, Steve had long felt that the recordings hadn’t been presented or sequenced appropriately and in conjunction with Cherry Red, he has curated this new triple-CD collection, which re-assembles past recordings with previously unreleased songs, including collaborations with Dennis Wheatley and Laurence Jay Cedar, who also contribute to the CD booklet notes.

Disc one in the three CD set is titled Winter Academy, and mainly features songs from Beyond The Sun and Eurocentric. This first disc is Billy at his most melancholic, with mainly down-tempo songs. It’s perfectly sequenced, with stripped back arrangements for the early songs such as the majestic Sing That Song Again, highlighting the pure magic of Billy’s vocals. Winter Academy is the Beyond The Sun mix, not the Transmission Impossible version. An ice-cold arrangement chills, with a diamond sharp vocal performance that sits so well with the strings.

Billy’s version of Wild Is The Wind is a great companion piece to David Bowie’s take on the song. They are both classic recordings, and although I’ve lived with Bowie’s version for much longer, the held note towards the end blows my mind every single time I hear Billy perform this standard.

“Like a leaf clings
To the tree
Oh my darling,
Cling to me”

Another cover is Sparks Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth, with just piano, violin and vocals. When The World Was Young features Steve Aungle on piano, and Billy on vocals. The sixties influenced layered backing vocals make the track sound so much richer, and it’s a highlight of this first disc.

Two previously unreleased songs sit in the middle of disc one. Tallahatchie Pass is a Mackenzie/Aungle composition, and is a 70s sounding arrangement. I wonder if this song is a reference to Billie Joe McAllister and the Tallahatchie Bridge referenced in Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe? Tallahatchie Pass is a fine song, and offers us a style not really heard from Billy before, as a tantalising hint of what might have been.

Also previously unreleased is the dark cover of Randy Newman’s Baltimore, recorded with Dennis Wheatley. This is my favourite of the “new” tracks on this disc. The beatless, discordant and reverb drenched strings and vocals deliver an absolute classic, that could have easily been included on one of Billy’s studio albums. The arrangement reminds me of the mood of Bomb The Bass’s Winter In July (minus the beats, of course). Heavenly!

“Oh, Baltimore
Ain’t it hard just to live, just to live”

I was not surprised to see Nocturne VII and Beyond The Sun appear on this compilation, and Return To Love dials in the electronica of the second disc, Consenting Holograms.

The tempo increases for disc two. Opening with Beyond The Sun‘s manic, Middle Eastern flavoured 3 Gypsies In A Restaurant and Eurocentric‘s Falling Out With The Future, the synths are bubbling and the beats are pumping. No torch songs here.

Put This Right was recorded and written with Laurence Jay Cedar, and features a Giorgio Moroder inspired synth-fest backing, and a fine vocal from Mr MacKenzie. The unreleased tracks are a revelation! A second Laurence Jay Cedar track follows, with Diamanda. A more experimental dance track than Put This Right, with acid synths and cold soundscapes providing the perfect backing to an insistently catchy song that burrows into your brain. Disc two is made to play loud!

Hornophobic always reminds me of the Rankine / Associates Sulk era, and has aged particularly well, remaining one of Billy’s best later period pieces.

“Just walk, walk through your TVs
No room for deep thought, or heat-seeking missiles”

Fear Is My Bride features a touching vocal and an addictive chorus. Sadly, I wonder about the source material for this song (and to some extent, the vocal on Eurocentric), as the audio quality falls a little below the standard of the other tracks, but for the chorus alone, Fear Is My Bride deserves its inclusion.

14th Century Nightlife works well with another of the unreleased tracks, another lyric-less piece, the jittery Consenting Holograms Have More Fun.

Following on from the cover of Eurythmics Here Comes The Rain Again comes Eurocentric, propelled by a four to the floor kick-drum and an interesting vocal arrangement. We can only wonder how all of these previously unreleased songs would have developed over time, had Billy still been with us.

Mysterious Lover is sadly very much of its time, so not one of my favourites from the Consenting Holograms disc. Return To Love 2 is a previously unheard version of the Eurocentric track, and is a much brighter, and at times, lighter take on the song.

Give Me Time (remix) is a 9 minute exploration of the Beyond The Sun track, that also appears in it’s original form on disc 3 of this collection. The arrangement stretches and is almost a dub mix at times, with echoed percussion and deep-cut basslines. The last three minutes of this remix are a dream, with the music built around a Mackenzie harmony. Drop those depth charges baby! The original is still the definitive take, but this remix is worth returning to, and sounds so beautiful in the magical early hours.

Disc Three: Liberty Lounge includes six previously unreleased recordings, and rounds the collection off with some of Mackenzie’s more pop orientated material. Tomorrow People is a timeless piece of twisted pop-music. Possibly inspired by the early 70s UK television show, this would have made a great single, and would still sound good on the radio today. Release it to the airwaves, Cherry Red!

The Mountains That You Climb, with its whistle intro and deep strings, has a nostalgic 1960s feel. Hearing Billy’s vocals accompanied by Rhodes piano sends shivers. This song would have been the centrepiece of any future Billy Mackenzie album, in an alternative reality. The way he hold’s the vocal line before the chorus, is a Mackenzie trademark, built to tug on the heart-strings. I love the production (by White Label), and it soon became one of my favourites on the collection.

The quality does not drop with the next unreleased song, McArthur’s Son, another White Label production, benefiting from a fuller band line-up. Sounding like an out-take from a classic mid 70s album, I would have loved to have heard further recordings with this more organic style, so unlike any other songs we have heard graced with those angelic pipes. A genuine lost Mackenzie classic.

Reminding me of Bowie’s Lodger, Eurocentric‘s Liberty Lounge did not initially connect with me until I heard it on this compilation, which shows how this reimagining / sympathetic sequencing has done wonders for the material. There are no major audio improvements that I am aware of with the previously released tracks, but so many of the songs work so much better in this new environment.

We go back to Beyond The Sun for the next four tracks, and they are all killer, no filler, especially the Roxy Music art-rock of Sour Jewel and the aching Theme From Shaft meets Massive Attack influenced At The Edge Of The World. This song really highlights the raw emotion of Billy’s vocals. The album’s title track is from the Transmission Impossible album, and is another one that only really hit hard on this compilation.

A new version of a Beyond The Sun track is the next previously unheard songs. 14 Mirrors 2 strips back the instrumentation, with Billy accompanied by Steve Aungle on piano, giving this take a new, timeless appeal. Auchtermatic‘s Velvet whet’s your palette for the final two previously unreleased tracks.

Your Own Fire is a collaboration with Stiv Lestar, and sadly suffers compared to the other songs, sounding like it might have been sourced from a cassette master. Nonetheless Your Own Fire has an interesting arrangement, almost sounding like Billy backed by a rough and ready garage band.

The album ends with Von Hamburg, a haunting Mackenzie/Aungle composed piano and strings finale that is a fitting conclusion to a collection put together with so much love and respect.

I must admit to feeling a little worried about this compilation prior to hearing it, and whilst the audio quality dips on three of the songs, I agree with the inclusion of all of the unreleased material, which offers hints of what was possibly still to come from Billy, and definitely enhances his reputation as one of our most gifted singer / songwriters. Everyone marvels at his voice but don’t always give credit for his writing. Also bear in mind the timescale of these recordings – with so much quality to be heard, and such a wide musical vocabulary, all in the space of just two years, making this collection all the more remarkable, and a pure joy to listen to.

Pre-order Billy MacKenzie – Satellite Life: Recordings (1995-1996) at Amazon

Pre-order Billy MacKenzie – Satellite Life: Recordings (1995-1996) at Burning Shed

Disc One: Winter Academy

  1. Sing That Song Again
  2. Winter Academy
  3. Wild Is The Wind
  4. Blue It Is
  5. The Soul That Sighs
  6. Mother Earth
  7. And This She Knows
  8. When The World Was Young
  9. Tallahatchie Pass *
  10. Baltimore *
  11. Nocturne VII
  12. Beyond The Sun
  13. Return To Love

Disc Two: Consenting Holograms

  1. 3 Gypsies In A Restaurant
  2. Falling Out With The Future
  3. Put This Right *
  4. Diamanda *
  5. Hornophobic
  6. 14th Century Nightlife
  7. Consenting Holograms Have More Fun *
  8. Fear Is My Bride *
  9. Here Comes The Rain Again
  10. Eurocentric *
  11. Mysterious Lover *
  12. Return To Love 2 *
  13. Give Me Time (remix) *

Disc Three: Liberty Lounge

  1. Tomorrow People *
  2. The Mountains That You Climb *
  3. McArthur’s Son *
  4. Liberty Lounge
  5. Sour Jewel
  6. 14 Mirrors
  7. Give Me Time
  8. At The Edge Of The World
  9. Satellite Life
  10. 14 Mirrors 2 *
  11. Velvet
  12. Your Own Fire *
  13. Von Hamburg *

    * previously unissued




Tim Bowness & Giancarlo Erra – Memories of Machines review

31 01 2022

An expanded and remixed 10th Anniversary version of Tim Bowness and Giancarlo Erra’s 2011 album Warm Winter (now issued as Memories Of Machines, the original project name) will be released on 25th February 2022 through Kscope.

Featuring contributions from Robert Fripp, Peter Hammill, Julianne Regan, Jim Matheos, Colin Edwin, Huxflux Nettermalm, Peter Chilvers, Aleksei Saks and members of Nosound and Tim Bowness’s live bands, the album contains 12 sweeping and majestic songs.

Available on cd/dvd-a/v – with hi-res stereo and 5.1 Surround mixes – and double vinyl, the reissue contains two 2020 recordings – an album outtake and a new version of the 2006 Nosound piece Someone Starts To Fade Away – created especially for this release.

This new expanded edition of the album features a 2021 remix from the original tapes by Giancarlo Erra, and results in a very different album, with a warmer, more natural sounding release. Much as I loved the original version, I prefer this take on the songs. The songs sound more widescreen, if that makes sense? Comparing the original to this new version, the vocals are more central and more prominent in the mix, and there is more warmth added to the instrumentation. New Memories Of Machines ushers in a new era / Erra (sorry for the pun) of this classic album.

“Stories
Come out of other stories
Lead to other stories
New memories of machines”

Before We Fall features backing vocals from All About Eve’s Julianne Regan, and it’s always a joy to hear Julianne, and is a timely reminder that we need more music from one of our finest vocalists. The 2021 mix offers a smoother and more joined up version of this wonderful song. The chorus soars on this version, that contains a powerful guitar driven wall of sound.

It’s not love when we meet up
It’s not love when we speak
It’s not love when I say I can’t feel”

Beautiful Songs You Should Know has a slightly altered arrangement, with synth strings underpinning the song from earlier in the track, and the acoustic guitar is lower and less percussive in the 2021 version. As with all the songs on this re-imagining, the production feels more sympathetic, and this is not a criticism of the original, its a different, more organic listening experience.

“I want to play you
All the beautiful songs you should know.”

Warm Winter is slightly longer in this incarnation, and after all these years, it still cuts deep, with one of Tim’s finest vocals. On first listen, it was slightly jarring having the drums stripped from the majority of the arrangement, but their absence gives the song a different, more unique pace. When they do appear (in a more treated form) at the song’s conclusion, it highlights Giancarlo’s powerful guitar lines, that are also more distorted and layered than before.

Lucky You Lucky Me is a revelation, with the chorus sounding like sparkling audio diamonds have been dropped into the mix by Mr Erra. Some of the synth backing has been removed from the second verse, and simplifying the arrangement makes the chorus hit even harder. The guitar solo is different on this take – with a psychedelic, bluesy double riff suiting the more earthy arrangement and mix.

Change Me Once Again has the drums sat further back in the mix, which lets the gorgeous guitars take centre stage. A fine vocal by Mr Bowness, underpinned by the layered vocals of Julianne Regan, make this one of the album’s most rewarding songs. The Gilmour-esque guitars help make this a key track.

The piano and electronics are dialled down in the new mix of Something In Our Lives, which makes the layered chorus richer. The atmospherics and brooding mood marks a shift in tone for the album from this point on.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again – the music of Lost And Found In The Digital World has a real feel of Brilliant Trees era David Sylvian, with the aching synths and the haunting trumpet of Aleksei Saks adding a new flavour to the soundscapes. This new version is one of the most improved by Giancarlo’s new mix, especially with the solos at around the half-way mark. In the original, the trumpet and the lead solo are competing for space, whereas in the new mix, they complement each other perfectly.

“It’s time for letting go.”

Schoolyard Ghosts loses some of the intro section here, and the song that takes some of it’s cues from no-man’s Mixtaped is here as a definitive version of this well-travelled song. The end section has a flavour of the restrained power of David Bowie’s Blackstar.

“You and Jules down vodka shots
To hide the feelings that you’ve got.
You love her eyes, you love her mouth,
You love her put on Rock-chick pout.”

The final track of the album proper is here in an extended form. At The Centre Of It All is a behemoth of a composition, and at the time of release was my favourite track on the album back in 2011, and my opinion has simply solidified hearing this new version. The funereal pace is interrupted by jagged solos bursting out like spikes of pain to disturb you and make you feel the hurt in the lyrics.

In my original review, I said: Porcupine Tree’s Colin Edwin contributes double bass to the song, as Giancarlo’s restrained guitar bookends the deep synth lines, as the “Beautiful Songs You Should Know” sadly become “Just pointless lists at the centre of it all.”

One of the most emotional and hard-hitting pieces of music from the entire rich catalogue of songs from Bowness and Erra, At The Centre Of It All has never sounded better.

“All the things that were meant to be,
All the love you were meant to feel,
Became too hard to reveal.”

The album concludes with two bonus tracks. Recorded in 2020, Dreamless Days feels like a long-lost no-man track. A discordant, slowly evolving riff underpinned by bass and an accordion gives way to a Mono band / avant-rock sounding end section, as Tim’s vocal loops see the song out.

The final extra track is a 2020 recording of the Nosound / Bowness piece Someone Starts To Fade Away. The original version was the first Bowness / Erra recorded collaboration, from the 2008 album Lightdark. This new recording features a similar riff based backing as Dreamless Days, as the sharp kaleidoscopic pieces replace the piano of the original recording. I hear hints of Flat Earth era Thomas Dolby in some of the arrangements twists and turns. Someone Starts To Fade Away fits so well on this album, and I do hope that these 2020 sessions lead to a new album from Tim and Giancarlo.

I can see this Kscope re-imagining of Memories of Machines leading to the album being heard and treasured by a larger audience than the original. And if you already own this album, the new version is a massive upgrade on the already amazing original, so I would urge you to buy this definitive version too.

Memories Of Machines is available as a 2 disc (CD/DVD), 2LP and digital album.

Buy Memories of Machines from Burning Shed

Buy Memories Of Machines CD from Amazon
Buy Memories Of Machines vinyl from Amazon

Tracklisting

New Memories Of Machines [01:25]
Before We Fall [05:10]
Beautiful Songs You Should Know [05:37]
Warm Winter [06:00]
Lucky You Lucky Me [04:26]
Change Me Once Again [05:46]
Something In Our Lives [04:08]
Lost And Found In The Digital World [05:25]
Schoolyard Ghosts [04:53]
At The Centre Of It All [09:49]
Dreamless Days (outtake) [04:31]
Someone Starts To Fade Away (2020 TBGE) (04:51)








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