David Bowie – Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78)

30 06 2018

Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) is a live album by David Bowie, recorded on the Isolar 2 Tour at London’s Earls Court on 30 June and 1 July 1978 by Tony Visconti, and later mixed by Bowie and David Richards in January 1979.

BLACKOUT

This is my favourite Bowie live album. Although having a similar track-listing to the 2017 Stage re-issue, I prefer the sound and performances on Welcome to the Blackout. The performances feel more organic and more loose, with more Bowie chat than normal (probably due to the end of tour high).

The Welcome to the Blackout version of “Heroes” is utterly heartbreaking, and breathes new life into probably the most well-known song Bowie song. There is such clarity and clear separation in the mix. This version works so well, compared to some other live takes, because Bowie’s vocal is more restrained early on and slowly builds to the songs emotional climax.

The bluesey Jean Genie loses the glam-rock swagger, so is not my favourite version of the song. The Heroes and Low tracks are the standouts on Welcome to the Blackout. Bowies intro to Blackout gives this album it’s title, and the live premiere of Sound And Vision sounds so damn funky and fresh. I never tire of hearing Breaking Glass, and this version is delicious.

The highlight of the album is the 11 minute plus version of Station To Station. An extended synth intro cut through by Adrian Belew’s amazing guitar squeals blows the Stage version out of the water. The subtle synth and rhythm guitar lines are so prominent on this recording.

“It’s not the side-effects of the cocaine, I’m thinking that it must be love”

Five Years is extended due the the end of tour thank-you’s, and a tongue-in-cheek Bowie band introduction.

The bass playing from George Murray towards the end of Suffragette City is amazing, and Art Decade features some great synth work, and achingly distorted lines from Adrian Belew, who was at the top of his game during this part of Bowie’s career.

A technicolour, uplifting take on TVC 15 leads into a mind-blowing Stay. The inventive Dennis Davis percussion and blistering Carlos Alomar guitar on the extended intro make this one of the finest live documents of this song.

A version of Rebel Rebel that feels like it has been injected with the spirit of Stephen Sondheim rather than it’s glam-rock roots ends this essential Bowie live album.

Have a listen to Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) on your streaming site of choice by all means, but nothing beats owning the physical product, which includes a replica of parts of the Isolar 2 tour programme.

CD 1:
1.Warszawa
2.”Heroes”
3.What In The World
4.Be My Wife
5.The Jean Genie
6.Blackout
7.Sense Of Doubt
8.Speed Of Life
9.Sound And Vision
10.Breaking Glass
11.Fame
12.Beauty And The Beast

CD 2:
1.Five Years
2.Soul Love
3.Star
4.Hang On To Yourself
5.Ziggy Stardust
6.Suffragette City
7.Art Decade
8.Alabama Song
9.Station To Station
10.TVC 15
11.Stay
12.Rebel Rebel

Buy Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) on CD from Amazon

BLACKOUT

Buy Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) triple vinyl from Amazon

BLACKOUT

Buy Life on Tour with David Bowie: We Can Be Heroes by Sean Mayes (the keyboard player on the Isolar II tour)





Cobalt Chapel – Mountain EP

26 05 2018

Mountain EPCobalt Chapel release a new digital EP, Mountain, on June 1st 2018. Cobalt Chapel are Cecilia Fage (Matt Berry & The Maypoles) and Jarrod Gosling (I Monster, Regal Worm and award winning Tim Bowness artwork).

Mountain is the first release since the duos debut album, which was released in early 2017. The EP’s title track displays a much fuller sound than the music on their debut. A buzzsaw synth line underpins this slice of twisted pop, and as usual, there are plenty of twists, turns and off-kilter hooks lurking just below the surface.

Unusual echo effects and distortion add a mood of quiet unease, as the pace changes towards the end of Mountain, propelling the song into a more Gothic / choral territory.

Like a soundtrack to a dusty old haunted fairground, Bohemia is chock-a-block full of Jarrod’s favourite vintage keyboards, with not a VST in earshot. The lyric-less piece is apparently inspired by a love for odd European soundtracks.

Mountain EP band

The third new track on the EP (track 4 is an edit of lead song Mountain), is the longest track clocking in at over 10 minutes, and is my favourite song on the EP. Canticle is a dark rallying-cry of hope against the spectre of terrorism, and an exploration of escape, through nature, from the anxiety and intensity of city life.

The first section features gentle, beautiful treated vocals from Cecilia Fage, and like much of Cobalt Chapel’s music, evokes the sound of the late 60s / early to mid 70s.

The pace then dramatically shifts up a couple of gears, as layers of organ and spacey keyboards suddenly give way to the chaos and despair (clearly referencing the subject matter) as the music fights to break through the audibly distorted, visceral fog of fear. It is certainly uneasy listening, but often music has to challenge and disturb you to make its point, and Canticle is often dark and emotionally disturbing.  This heavy, powerful track ends on what feels like a celestial journey.

Canticle is an intensely moving piece of music, and hints at the steady progression in Cobalt Chapel’s development. The music on the Mountain EP builds on the psychedelic, choral and keyboard driven sound of their debut and adds a new-found emotional intensity.

If you have not heard any of the duo’s music, the Mountain EP would be a good starting point, so dive in.

Mountain is available to stream or buy from 1st June 2018 on all digital platforms.

  1. Mountain
  2. Bohemia
  3. Canticle
  4. Mountain (Edit)

Mountain EP

Pre-order the digital Mountain EP on Amazon.

 





Claudia Brücken / Jerome Froese – Beginn

16 05 2018

beginnBeginn is a new collaborative project between Claudia Brücken from German 80s electronic group Propaganda, and Jerome Froese the son of electronic music pioneer Edgar Froese and former member of his father’s band, Tangerine Dream.

Album opener [the] Last Dance is a slow-paced piece that sets the mood perfectly. A Roland CR-78 drum machine programme provides the rhythm, underpinned by deep piano notes, as layer after layer of synths build as the song develops. A lovely, under-stated guitar line ushers out the track.

Claudia Brücken’s vocals sound so good on Beginn, particularly on Wounded, one of the albums darker pieces.

“And I wait, till I’m free, from your memory”

Flight [of] Fancy lifts the mood. The most uplifting song on the album has a White Willow, almost progressive pop feel to it. Cards feels a little like a more modern take on the ZTT / Propaganda sound. Edgy synth lines dart out from beneath heavily processed, frantic beats. The music on Cards is a feast for synth lovers.

Light [of the] Rising Sun is a moving piece. Beatless, and sparesely adorned with piano and electronic shards, the short song flows into Whispers [of] Immortality. Softly spoken verses from Brücken, and an adventurous arrangement from Froese make this one of my favourite moments on Beginn.

beginn2

Beginn is clearly a well-sequenced album. The songs seem to get stronger as the album progresses. Sound [of the] Waves was one of my early favourites, and has a feel of Brücken’s work with Paul Humphreys (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) as Onetwo, mixed with the Björk / David Arnold Play Dead single (particularly the percussion).

“a fleeting sound, a silence inside”

Stars Walking Backwards ramps up the feeling of unease. Breakbeats and pulsating sequenced riffs drive the song forward. All thats missing is a Holly Johnson chant of “Who-ha” to make this a piece of pure ZTT synthpop.

Sweet Sense [of] Liberation features Claudia’s co-vocalist in Propaganda, Susanne Freytag. Claudia and Susanne have recently reunited as xPropaganda, and this track certainly has some of the old Propaganda spirit. Another adventurous arrangement lifts the track to another level.

The album ends, as it started, with a slow-burner in Unbound Spaces. Found sounds and deep wave synths ebb and flow through the dreamy album closer.

Beginn is an intriguing first offering, and is probably not what you would expect from Claudia Brücken and Jerome Froese. It’s most definitely not Propaganda with Tangerine Dream keyboards. Whilst the DNA of both bands can be found at times in Beginn, the album has a sound and identity of its own.

Beginn is released on CD / LP by Cherry Red on 15 June 2018.

[the] Last Dance
Wounded
Flight [of] Fancy
Cards
Light [of the] Rising Sun
Whispers [of] Immortality
Sound [of the] Waves
Stars Walking Backwards
Forevermore
Sweet Sense [of] Liberation
Unbound Spaces

Buy Beginn on CD

Buy Beginn on Vinyl

Buy A Secret Wish by Propaganda on CD

Buy A Secret Wish by Propaganda on Vinyl

Buy Noise And Girls Come Out To Play: A Compact Introduction To Propaganda on CD

Buy Wishful Thinking Collector’s Edition by Propaganda on CD

 





John Foxx – Metamatic (Deluxe Edition)

30 04 2018

meta500John Foxx releases a 3 CD deluxe edition of his Metamatic album on 25 May 2018. The original 10-track album, recorded in 1979 and originally released in 1980 was remastered from analogue tapes back in 2014, along with various B-sides. A few tapes full of instrumental music from the sessions were also set aside for remastering but these revealed further discoveries, including alternative mixes and the song Miss Machinery – a mutant, electro-punk twist on Foxx B-side, 20th Century.

Jonathan Barnbrook (regular Foxx collaborator and Bowie’s Blackstar designer) worked on the new 2018 reissue design as the project grew to 49 tracks across 3 CDs. This includes the 15 instrumentals contained on CD3 which collectively sound like a lost electronic soundtrack with echoes of Quatermass, BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and the dark DIY electronics of Thomas Leer and Robert Rental.

Metamatic is one of the most influential electronic albums from the early 80s. Following his departure from Ultravox, Foxx stripped the sound back to just voice and electronics. The stark, at times industrial electronica still sounds like the future, 38 years after the albums original release. That is some testimony to the quality of the material.

johnfoxx

Most people will be aware of the singles Underpass and No-one Driving, but dig a little deeper and there is much more to savour.  He’s a Liquid is a key track, with lyrics that have always made me feel ill at ease.

“She’s elusive
He’s adhesive”

A New Kind of Man ups the tempo and hearing this track, I am instantly transported back to the late 70s / early 80s. A sense of detachment and isolation drip from Foxx’s lyrics on most of the songs on Metamatic. The off-kilter Tidal Wave conjures up the spirit of J. G. Ballard and would have sounded great as part of the soundtrack to High Rise.

Blurred Girl is almost a template of the sound of 1980. The classic Roland CR-78 rhythm and the plaintive synths add a rare warmth to what is often an icy cold musical landscape.

“Standing so close, Never quite touching…”

Touch and Go is probably the most commercial track on the album. I love the way that the synths rise like waves in the songs outro, smoothing the metronomic beat. The end section is by far my favourite musical performance on the album.

“There’s motorway sparks
And meetings in the park
And fires from years ago
You can watch your friends
Through this tiny lens
Then you’ll know that there’s no way home

John Foxx would leave the sound of Metamatic for his next studio albums but returned to the cold electronica for some of his more recent work, particularly with Louis Gordon and The Maths.

Discs 2 and 3 of the deluxe Metamatic are a treasure trove for Foxx fanatics. Disc 2 brings together B sides, radio edit / single mixes, the wonderful single Burning Car and alternative versions of album tracks. Like A Miracle (Alternative Version) is an early version of the song that was released as a single in much fuller form in 1983. Underpass (Extended Version) and Blurred Girl (Longer Fade Version) are another two highlights of the second disc.

Another key track from Disc 2 is My Face, originally a flexi-disc release, and almost acting as a hint to the sound of the second John Foxx album (and my personal favourite) The Garden.

Disc 3 includes 15 instrumentals – some more fully formed than others. The sparse instrumentals are interesting to hear as part of the history of the album, but I don’t think I will return to them often. My favourites on disc 3 include a mournful alternative version of Glimmer, and the haunted ballroom piano of Fragmentary City (that predates the work of The Caretaker aka James Leyland Kirby by several decades).

Disc 3 is rounded off with Miss Machinery, a cold twist on B side 20th Century, a fascinating Giorgio Moroder-like take of No-One Driving, and an early version of Burning Car (with a Fade To Grey like bassline).

Disc 3 ends with a lo-fi Like A Miracle and a warmer , more fully realised and piano under-pinned take on No-One Driving, that feels like it was recorded nearer to The Garden.

This definitive version of Metamatic is released by Metamatic Records on 25 May 2018.

Disc: 1
1. Plaza
2. He’s a Liquid
3. Underpass
4. Metal Beat
5. No-one Driving
6. A New Kind of Man
7. Blurred Girl
8. 030
9. Tidal Wave
10. Touch and Go

Disc: 2
1. Film One
2. This City
3. To Be With You
4. Cinemascope
5. Burning Car
6. Glimmer
7. Mr. No
8. Young Love
9. 20th Century
10. My Face
11. Underpass (Radio Edit)
12. Non-one Driving (Single Version)
13. Like a Miracle (Alternative Version)
14. A New Kind of Man (Alternative Version)
15. He’s a Liquid (Alternative Version)
16. Plaza (Extended Version)
17. Underpass (Extended Version)
18. Blurred Girl (Longer Fade Version)

Disc: 3
1. A Frozen Moment
2. He’s a Liquid (Instrumental Dub)
3. Mr. No (Alternative Version)
4. The Uranium Committee
5. A Man Alone
6. Over Tokyo
7. Terminal Zone
8. Urban Code
9. A Version of You
10. Glimmer (Alternative Version)
11. Fragmentary City
12. Metamorphosis
13. Approaching the Monument
14. Critical Mass
15. Alamogordo Logic
16. Touch and Go (Early Version)
17. Miss Machinery
18. No-one Driving (Early Version)
19. Burning Car (Early Version)
20. Like a Miracle (Early Version)
21. No-one Driving (Alternative Version)

Pre-order Metamatic Deluxe 3-CD from Amazon
meta500





Plenty – It Could Be Home

14 04 2018

It Could Be HomePlenty was Tim Bowness’s immediate pre-no-man band. In 2016 and 2017, Bowness and fellow founder members Brian Hulse and David K Jones re-recorded Plenty’s catalogue of 1980s songs, revising some of them and even adding a newly written song (The Good Man). The end result is the debut album, It Could Be Home released on 27 April 2018 on Karisma Records.

Plenty are joined on the album by no-man live band members Michael Bearpark and Steve Bingham, Tim’s Bowness / Chilvers collaborator Peter Chilvers and Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow / Opium Cartel).

Whilst the album is understandably shot through with a real 80s sensibility, with touches of The Blue Nile, David Sylvian, Peter Gabriel, Thomas Dolby, and David Bowie lingering in the sounds and arrangements, It Could Be Home deserves to be listened to as more than just a work of pure nostalgia.

The album opens with a synth heavy, lightly delivered Jagger / Richards As Tears Go By, that is more Stranger Things than Lost in the Ghost Light. Hide delivers an Associates vibe to the music, and signals an album that is much more upbeat than recent Bowness releases. I think that the recent Bowness solo album’s have delivered some of his finest work, with material that is often comparable to a lot of his work in no-man, but it is good to hear a different side with Plenty. Vive la différence.

By far my favourite track on the album, the melancholic Never Needing is the one track on It Could Be Home that would fit onto one of Tim’s recent albums. Fans of no-man’s early work will recognise the song – previously recorded by no-man as Life is Elsewhere, and nowadays mostly existing on dusty old bootlegs or sitting as an (original “dodgy”) Napster-era, hiss-filled mp3 file on people’s hard-drives.

The Plenty version is a revelation. Sparse, brooding and slow-building, with an aching synth line and some of Tim’s most personal and direct lyrics and vocals. This is one of those occasions where I can confidently say that it is worth buying the album just for this song.

“You live in your world and I die in mine.
But I’m hopeful life is elsewhere”

Broken Nights really lifts towards the middle section of the song, before a key 80s stalwart (synth marimba bells) usher in the rest of the song.

Foolish Waking is another of my favourites from the album. Beatless and with some wonderful guitar lines from Michael Bearpark, and feeling a little like the work of the only Tim Bowness/Samuel Smiles studio album, World of Bright Futures from way back in 1999.

plenty

Strange Gods is underpinned by a delicious Mick Karn like bass-line, has hints of Bowie in the verses and a chorus seemingly inspired by The Blue Nile. So how can you not like the song? The mix, carried out with obvious love and attention by Norwegian guitarist, composer and producer Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow / The Opium Cartel) is colourful and warm throughout the album, but especially on Strange Gods.

Every Stranger’s Voice features Peter Chilvers on piano and the forensically detailed lyrics are filled with memories of an intense but long dead relationship. A powerful Michael Bearpark solo lifts the song towards its conclusion.

Another uptempo track is Climb, which has a real post-punk meets The Associates taking a quick detour via The Comsat Angels (circa the Fiction album). What a marvellous melting pot.

The Good Man is a new song that emerged during the recording sessions, and lyrically is tied to the album’s key track, Never Needing. The music has a late 80s feel, and lyrics that signal regret at letting go and giving up the fight too soon. The Good Man and the album’s closing title track offers something very different from recent Bowness releases.

The fact that the recording sessions produced new material of this quality, along with out-takes (such as a wonderful version of Forest Almost Burning, that I hope is revisited) suggest that there is a future for Plenty beyond this album.

If you pre-order It Could Be Home by Plenty from Burning Shed, on CD, vinyl or exclusive limited edition blue vinyl, you will receive an exclusive postcard and a free download EP of four of the band’s 1980s demos. Please note – this exclusive offer is only available until 27-04-2018 and only From Burning Shed.

Order Plenty – It Could Be Home on CD from Amazon

Order Plenty – It Could Be Home on vinyl from Amazon

As Tears go by
Hide
Never Needing
Broken Nights
Foolish Waking
Strange Gods
Every Stranger’s Voice
Climb
The Good Man
It could be Home

Band website: www.weareplenty.com





Near Future – Ideal Home

8 04 2018

near_future_-_ideal_homeIdeal Home is the debut album from Near Future, a collaboration between Blancmange’s Neil Arthur and electronic artist Bernholz (who also performs live as part of Gazelle Twin).

The opening track, with its alarm-like electronics and 80s drum-machine toms, is a real statement of intent. I love the twin vocals on this track, they really remind me of the more experimental side of Godley & Creme (such as the Freeze Frame album from 1979).

Field This is a sparse, edgy piece of electronica, with off-kilter live and processed vocals.

“I remember when this was a car-park, I remember when this was a field”

Overwhelmed is one of the album’s highlights. At times reminding me of the title track to John Foxx’s The Garden, the glacial beauty of the strings work well with the heavily processed vocals and the kitchen sink drama of the lyrics.

Thought Terminating In Your Night builds from scratchy, discordant noise to a more fully formed piece, but the unnerving digital undertones remain to the songs end.

Come And Play is a warmer electronic track that builds from the sounds of children playing. I love the reverb-heavy, almost early Clannad like vocal lines that decorate the second part of this trance-like (mostly instrumental) song.  Along with the title track, this is my other favourite from the album.

near_future

Dawn is the album’s longest track, and another song that utilises found sounds before mutating into something far removed from the beautiful birdsong that ushers in the dawn. Heavily processed, at times robotic spoken words sit atop a mixture of harsh pulses and softer synth lines. The mixture of the two extremes is unsettling and suits the track perfectly.

Gap In The Curtain is another juxtaposition – the edgy, paranoid vocals jostling for dominance over the optimistic, rich synth backing makes this a unique track on the album.

The song that is nearest to the work of Neil Arthur’s main band Blancmange is Kites Over Waitrose. The arrangement reminds me a little of the dark mood of This Mortal Coil, the 80s 4AD collective. Abrasive saw synths and audio seepage underpin the spoken vocals on Kites Over Waitrose.

Album closer Bulk Erase could easily have been recorded in 1983 / 84, with its metronomic kick drum and slowly building keyboard lines.

“Too much has happened, that I need to forget
To be moving forward, without all this regret”

There are further strong hints of John Foxx in Bulk Erase as well as a more recent electronic artist, Deptford Goth.

This is an interesting debut release from Near Future, and adds to a very productive period for Neil Arthur – with recent releases from Blancmange as well as another alternative electronic project Fader.

If you have not heard the work of Bernholz, the other half of Near Future,  some of his releases are available on Spotify, including the album How Things Are Made which has some great songs including the wonderful title track.

Near Future – Ideal Home

1. Ideal Home
2. Field This
3. Overwhelmed
4. Fish And Chips
5. Thought Terminating In Your Night
6. Come And Play
7. Dawn
8. Gap In The Curtain
9. Kites Over Waitrose
10. Bulk Erase

Order Near Future – Ideal Home on Amazon





Yes – Fly From Here – Return Trip

1 04 2018

Fly From Here – Return Trip is a new version of the 2011 Yes album, with the addition of the previously unreleased track Don’t Take No For An Answer and a full-length version of Hour Of Need, which was only previously available in Japan. The biggest change is that producer (and co-writer of many of the tracks) Trevor Horn has re-recorded the lead vocals, effectively making this the final Drama line-up Yes album. Drama is my favourite Yes album, and I am a huge fan of The Buggles, so this was a must-buy release from me.

fly from here return trip

From the opening instrumental that ushers in the Fly From Here suite, the influence of Trevor Horn and keyboard player Geoff Downes (aka The Buggles) looms large, and has many parallels to the second Buggles album, Adventures In Modern Recording.  The 2010 reissue of Adventures in Modern Recording contains a couple of early versions of songs from the Fly From Here suite, and two versions of the stunning track I Am A Camera (recorded by Yes on Drama as Into The Lens).

Fly From Here Pt 1 – We Can Fly is the first track to feature Trevor Horn’s re-recorded lead vocals. I never had a problem with the vocals of Benoît David on the 2011 version of the album, but hearing Horn on lead vocals is such a joy. As a side note, I loved The Producers Made in Basing Street album in 2012 but I was disappointed that Horn did not contribute more vocally to the album, so you can imagine how happy I am with Fly From Here – Return Trip.

The new version has some differences in arrangement and lengths of tracks – which includes a shortening of Fly From Here Pt 1 – We Can Fly, and some added production touches to the end section of the track.

My favourite song on the album is Fly From Here Pt 2 – Sad Night At The Airfield. A haunting, melancholic piece that sounds so much better on the revised version of the album.

“I want to be the one who always gives you shelter
Finds a way to keep you warm”

Some of the albums finest keyboard / synth lines from Geoff Downes add bright colours, and a simple, but powerful Chris Squire bass-line drives the song. This is one of the most moving pieces in the vast Yes catalogue.

Yes 2018

Fly from Here Pt III – Madman at the Screens is also shortened on The Return Trip. The Steve Howe composition Fly From Here Pt 4 – Bumpy Ride has always been my least favourite track on the album, but the Yes guitarist redeems himself with the much stronger The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be, one of Fly From Here‘s key tracks. There is a real fluidity and harmony to all the band members performances on this song.

Life On A Film Set (recorded as Riding A Tide on The Buggles second album) is another of my Fly From Here favourites. Horn’s vocals are so clear and strong, and he really is underrated as a vocalist. I love the acoustic and lead guitar interplay during the tracks mid-section, and Life On A Film Set is a song that I would imagine appeals to fans of the bands earlier work.

I’m glad I have finally got to hear the full-length version of Howe’s Hour of Need, which is so much more fully realised here.

I enjoyed the album on it’s 2011 release, but Fly From Here – Return Trip is the definitive version and has turned what was originally a very good album into a truly great album.

“Armies of angels are leading me on
Take me away from the heart of the storm”

At the time of writing this review, Fly From Here – Return Trip is only available from Pledgemusic – via this link. If it becomes available via other retailers, I will add the links to this page.

Fly From Here – Overture
Fly From Here Pt 1 – We Can Fly
Fly From Here Pt 2 – Sad Night At The Airfield
Fly From Here Pt 3 – Madman At The Screens
Fly From Here Pt 4 – Bumpy Ride
Fly From Here Pt 5 – We Can Fly (Reprise)
The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be
Life On A Film Set
Hour Of Need (full length version)
Solitaire
Don’t Take No For An Answer
Into The Storm

Read my review of The Producers – Made in Basing Street








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