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




Kate Bush – Remastered

4 10 2018

Kate Bush will release remastered versions of her entire studio album catalogue on CD and vinyl in November 2018.

I was only thinking the other day that I would love to hear a remastered version of The Dreaming, and here we are. The power of positive thinking. Back to reality – tweets from the Kate Bush twitter account are as rare as hen’s teeth. So when one arrives in your timeline (a tweet, not a hen’s tooth), its normally significant, like announcing the 2014 Before The Dawn tour and now this extensive re-issue campaign. I feel they may have missed a trick with not using #NovemberWillBeMagicAgain, but KB-HQ twitter team, you can have that one for free if you want.

For the casual fan, the CD box-sets are a great way to add some classic albums to your collection. As an avid fan since 1978, I’m looking forward to hearing the new remasters of some of my favourite albums and hearing with new clarity so many songs that are etched into my soul.

The vinyl box-sets are, by their very nature, quite pricey, but being split into four different sets will help you build your collection over time, if vinyl is your format of choice.

From the initial artwork shown on Kate’s website, the CD and vinyl packaging looks beautiful, so I would suggest going for the physical releases, rather than digital, if you possibly can. Hopefully the details below will make it clear what is available, so you can start saving for your purchases!

The albums have been remastered by Kate and James Guthrie (apart from the live Before The Dawn album which retains its recent, original mastering).

Read my review of the first CD boxset here.

My review of the second box-set is now live.

So here is the detail, with the Amazon pre-order links.

THE CD BOX-SETS

Kate Bush Remastered Part I

KB remastered 1

  • The Kick Inside
  • Lionheart
  • Never For Ever
  • The Dreaming
  • Hounds of Love
  • The Sensual World
  • The Red Shoes

Amazon pre-order

KB-CD-Packshot-1-Square-3000_01


Kate Bush Remastered Part II

KB remastered 2

  • Aerial
  • Director’s Cut
  • 50 Words for Snow
  • Before the Dawn (Original Mastering)
  • 12″ Mixes
  • The Other Side 1
  • The Other Side 2
  • In Others’ Words

Amazon pre-order

KB-CD-Packshot-2-Square-3000 2


THE VINYL BOX-SETS

Kate Bush Remastered in Vinyl I

  • The Kick Inside
  • Lionheart
  • Never For Ever
  • The Dreaming

Amazon pre-order

KB-Vinyl-Packshot-1-(Flat)_0 1


Kate Bush Remastered in Vinyl II

  • Hounds of Love
  • The Sensual World
  • The Red Shoes

Amazon pre-order

KB-Vinyl-Packshot-2-(Flat) 2


Kate Bush Remastered in Vinyl III

  • Aerial
  • Director’s Cut
  • 50 Words for Snow

Amazon pre-order

KB-Vinyl-Packshot-3-(Flat) 3


Kate Bush Remastered In Vinyl IV

  • 12″ Mixes
  • The Other Side 1
  • The Other Side 2
  • In Others’ Words

Amazon pre-order

KB-Vinyl-Packshot-4-(Flat) 4


The track-listing for the Kate Bush Remastered In Vinyl IV box-set and the last 4 CDs of the second CD box-set consists of:

12” Mixes

Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)
The Big Sky (Meteorological Mix)
Cloudbusting (The Orgonon Mix)
Hounds Of Love (Alternative Mix)
Experiment IV (Extended Mix)

The Other Side 1

Walk Straight Down The Middle
You Want Alchemy
Be Kind To My Mistakes
Lyra
Under The Ivy
Experiment IV
Ne T’Enfuis Pas
Un Baiser D’Enfant
Burning Bridge
Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) 2012 Remix

The Other Side 2

Home For Christmas
One Last Look Around The House Before We Go
I’m Still Waiting
Warm And Soothing
Show A Little Devotion
Passing Through Air
Humming
Ran Tan Waltz
December Will Be Magic Again
Wuthering Heights (Remix / New Vocal from The Whole Story)

In Others’ Words

Rocket Man
Sexual Healing
Mná na hÉireann
My Lagan Love
The Man I Love
Brazil (Sam Lowry’s First Dream)
The Handsome Cabin Boy
Lord Of The Reedy River
Candle In The Wind





CousteauX – by CousteauX

22 07 2017

CousteauxCousteau were a London-based band who released three albums between 1999 and 2005. Their most well-known song was The Last Good Day of the Year from their debut album. After success in the UK, Italy and the US, the band went their separate ways in 2006. Singer Liam McKahey reunited with song-writer Davey Ray Moor in 2015 as CousteauX, and they released their first album in over 10 years in September 2017.

CousteauX opens with Memory is a Weapon, and instantly the years roll away. This is the music of the debut album with added pathos and a much richer, fuller production. I loved Liam’s two solo album’s, but team him up with Davey Ray Moor and something magical happens. The yearning backing vocals and simple piano motif over the insistent bass-line delivers a powerful and direct opening.

This Might Be Love rides on a bluesey acoustic guitar riff and a meandering synth line. One of the darker songs on the album, it has a real Americana feel to it, and breaks new ground for the band.

Track 3 is my favourite song on the album. Burma features an emotional acoustic bass and piano line, and for the first time I can really see the Bowie comparison with Liam’s vocals. Think Wild is The Wind and Bowie’s rich baritone from the Station To Station era. Burma is a song with wonderfully evocative lyrics, and one of Liam’s finest vocals.

“Go my love steady, just be upstairs ready, my angel”

I’m sure this will soon become a fan favourite. The arrangement evolves in an unforced and natural way as the song progresses.

After the beauty of Burma comes the darkness of The Innermost Light. A sleazy, razor-sharp performance that features Carl Barat (The Libertines / Dirty Pretty
Things), The Innermost Light is a future spaghetti western theme tune in the waiting. It makes you want to kick open the bar door and spit in the sawdust. Or maybe that’s just me.

Maybe You is a less tense affair. Arriving at the mid-point of the album, Maybe You is the sort of stripped back ballad that the band deliver so well. The upright bass is phenomenal, and reminds me of the playing of Danny Thompson and his work with John Martyn.

Portobello Serenade has the feel of a 1950s / 60s Soho, with its hazy jazz percussion and trumpet. Thin Red Lines switches the tempo up a gear and shifts forward a few decades, with an almost glam-rock / T-Rex feel to the jagged guitars and soulful backing vocals.

“Only the mystery remains”

Shelter is an oddity on the album but oh what a lovely oddity! It’s almost the bands take on modern r ‘n’ b production. A minimal programmed drum pattern on top of Art of Noise (Moments In Love) like backing vocals and a lovely Rhodes piano melody explores new territory for the band. I look forward to more experimentation like this on future CousteauX albums.

cousteaux band

The penultimate track, Seasons Of You is the nearest we get to the classic Cousteau sound of old. Its a joyful, breezy track that lifts the mood before the album’s closing song, the mean and goddamn moody as hell F***ing In Joy and Sorrow.

“I’m in love but I’m grieving”

The hi-hat and toms percussion that underpin a stark organ / guitar backdrop propels the brutally honest and direct lyric of lust, hurt and regret.

This is music made for the night. Switch off the lights, pour yourself some whisky on the rocks and let the music take over.

As a long-time fan of the band, who I have only seen live once (a memorable, packed and sweaty early 90s gig in Blackheath) – I was intrigued as to what a modern day Cousteau would bring us. I’m overjoyed to report that the core of what made this band so special is still intact. *That* voice and the quality song-writing and performances, combined with a brave stretching of the bands template, mean that the 2017 version known as CousteauX has delivered an emotionally satisfying and stylistically varied album that stands up to repeated listening. At times, its far from easy listening, but stick with it and you will find so much to savour in these deep, rich and often dark songs.

Welcome back Cousteaux. You have been missed, stay around a little longer this time….

Buy the Cousteaux CD from Amazon

Buy the Cousteaux vinyl LP from Amazon








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