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

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

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

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





Climax Blues Band – The Albums 1973 – 1976 boxset review

3 07 2019

Esoteric Recordings are releasing a 4CD clamshell boxed set by the Climax Blues Band, titled The Albums 1973 – 1976. This release is the second collection of Climax Blues Band albums and features their work issued between 1973 and 1976, consisting of the albums FM Live, Sense of Direction, Stamp Album and Gold Plated.

The first disc contains FM Live, a recording of a concert that was broadcast on WNEW-FM in New York in 1973. FM Live gave the band their first major US success. The album highlights the more blues orientated sound of their late 60s / early 70s output.

The original UK release was a single album – this version is the USA double vinyl running order. Highlights on this live album include the wonderful harmonies on I Am Constant and the high-octane, Bo Diddley influenced Shake Your Love.

Disc two in the set is where it gets more interesting for me, with the 1974 studio album Sense of Direction. At this point the band are heading off in a more rock and jazz fusion direction and providing the sounds that would blast out of classic rock / FM radio stations for the next few years.

Amerita / Sense Of Direction opens the album, with a 6 minute track that owes more to the sound of artists such as America or Chicago than to the Climax Blues Band’s Chicago blues origins.

Reaching Out is one of my favourite tracks on this collection, with the song served up on a lovely early 70s groove, with some great guitar lines from Peter Haycock. At this point in their career, the band were really stretching out and hearing this music now instantly transports you back in time to those heady seventies times.

Bonus tracks on this disc consist of the single version of Sense of Direction and a rawer, less polished version of Shopping Bag People.

The third disc is the Stamp Album from 1975, where the band headed further towards a more mainstream sound. From the Rhodes piano and sax driven Using The Power, to the pop-reggae of Mr. Goodtime, the band were now inhabiting the same musical universe as contemporaries such as the Average White Band and the mid-70s work of Robert Palmer.

The smooth harmonies of I Am Constant and the Doobie Brothers style funk of Running Out Of Time are another two early album highlights. The addition of new member Richard Jones opened up the bands pallet at this point, with an added emphasis on keyboards that is really noticeable on the fusion of Rusty Nail / The Devil Knows. The album closes with the expansive arrangement of Cobra, a short instrumental.

The final disc is the bands most successful album, Gold Plated from 1976. Notable for giving the Climax Blues Band their biggest hit, Couldn’t Get It Right, which peaked at No10 in the UK and No3 in the US, the shift to a more pop-friendly sound continued.

The dual guitar and clavinet of Together and Free finds the band setting out their stall early on. Couldn’t Get It Right remains the bands signature tune to this day, and has appeared in film (and game) soundtracks.

Bonus tracks for this album include an extended version of Chasing Change and a rare (and very short) Climax Blues Band ballad, Shadow Man, which reminds me a little of mid-period 10cc.

The Albums 1973 – 1976 is a good introduction to the music of the Climax Blues Band, which will be of interest to lovers of early to mid-70s rock music. This collection houses each disc in replica album sleeve wallets and also includes a new poster.

Buy The Albums 1973-1976 at Amazon

Also available:

The Albums: 1969-1972

Tracklisting for The Albums 1973-1976

Disc One

FM Live (1973)

  1. All The Time In The World
  2. I Am Constant
  3. Flight
  4. Seventh Son
  5. Standing By A River
  6. So Many Roads
  7. Mesopopmania
  8. Country Hat
  9. You Make Me Sick
  10. Shake Your Love
  11. Goin’ To New York (Full Version)
  12. Let’s Work Together

Disc Two

Sense of Direction (1974)

  1. Amerita / Sense Of Direction
  2. Losin’ The Humbles
  3. Shopping Bag People
  4. Nogales
  5. Reaching Out
  6. Right Now
  7. Before You Reach The Grave
  8. Milwaukee Truckin’ Blues (Chipper’s Song)
    Bonus Tracks
  9. Sense Of Direction (Single Version)
  10. Shopping Bag People (Alternate Version)

Disc Three

Stamp Album (1975)

  1. Using The Power
  2. Mr. Goodtime
  3. I Am Constant
  4. Running Out Of Time
  5. Sky High
  6. Rusty Nail / The Devil Knows
  7. Loosen Up
  8. Spirit Returning
  9. Cobra

Disc Four

Gold Plated (1976)

  1. Together And Free
  2. Mighty Fire
  3. Chasing Change
  4. Berlin Blues
  5. Couldn’t Get It Right
  6. Rollin’ Home
  7. Sav’ry Gravy
  8. Extra
    Bonus Tracks
  9. Fat Mabellene
  10. Together And Free (Single Edit)
  11. Chasin’ Change (extended take)
  12. Shadow Man




The Comsat Angels – Chasing Shadows / Fire On The Moon

17 11 2015

chasingshadows2015Edsel records have issued remastered and expanded versions of the first three albums from the influential Sheffield band The Comsat Angels.

The fourth set in the reissue campaign is the long out-of-print Chasing Shadows coupled with the virtually never in print Fire On The Moon.

Chasing Shadows was released on Island Records in 1986, and I own up to the fact that its an album I’m very fond of. I’ve always thought it contains some of Stephen Fellows best vocal performances (I would imagine the setting of Compass Point Studios had something to do with that). The music, although a world away (pun intended) from their first three albums, still carries plenty of (restrained) power.

Album opener The Thought That Counts sets the scene for the album, with stabbing keyboard sequences and arena-rock friendly guitar and drums.

The album includes some of my favourite performances from keyboard player Andy Peake – especially on The Cutting Edge. And that bass / drum interplay!

Under The Influence sounds great on this remastered album – especially the mighty Mik Glaisher powerhouse drums. Carried Away is one of the great lost Comsats classics. Slow-burning and simply arranged, the emotion in the bands performance shines through.

You’ll Never Know features guest vocals from a champion of the band, Robert Palmer, who was also executive producer, and instrumental in getting the band signed to Island Records.

Lost Continent is one of the standout tracks on Chasing Shadows, and is followed by the most powerful track on the album Flying Dreams, which has many of the hallmarks of the bands early albums. I’ve always loved the breakdown “start to climb” instrumental section at the end.

The album ends with the moving Pray For Rain. The Comsats at their most vulnerable – just keyboards, vocals and bass.

“I met my match, but then the fire spread”

Andy Peake really shines on this performance. He is primarily known for his layered, atmospheric playing, but he can really tickle those ivories.

csarecording

The 2015 remaster includes The Cutting Edge single b side, Something’s Got To Give, a fine song and I’m glad its included on this release.

The second disc in this reissue set contains the complete Fire On The Moon, which was released in limited quantities in the USA and Holland in 1990, under the name Dream Command. I have to be honest and say its my least played and least liked Comsats release. There are only two tracks that I can recommend – Venus Hunter (with its Missing In Action inspired guitar ending) and the wonderful Mercury, that could have graced any Comsats album. The rest just don’t have that CSA magic and sound weary and tired.

Remastering / extra tracks

Of the four reissues, this is the album I was looking forward to hearing the most. The original Chasing Shadows CD always sounded too quiet. The 2015 remaster by Phil Kinrade at Alchemy Remastering adds a sparkle to the original album, and makes it a pleasure to rediscover in its new sonic glory.

The sleeve-notes are interesting, and the booklet includes the lyrics to the two albums, although unlike the previous three reissues in the series, the booklet is short on images from the era. But its all about the music – and although I’m not a fan of the second disc, Chasing Shadows does not disappoint and makes this reissue a must-have for Comsat Angels fans.

Chasing Shadows + Dream Command Fire On The Moon (Deluxe 2CD edition)

DISC ONE
The Comsat Angels Chasing Shadows
1. The Thought That Counts
2. The Cutting Edge
3. Under The Influence
4. Carried Away
5. You’ll Never Know
6. Lost Continent
7. Flying Dreams
8. Pray For Rain
Bonus track
9. Something’s Got To Give

DISC TWO
Dream Command Fire On The Moon
1. Celestine
2. Whirlwind
3. Sleepwalking
4. Reach For Me
5. Ice Sculpture
6. Venus Hunter
7. Phantom Power
8. Transport Of Delight
9. She’s Invisible
10. Mercury

Chasing Shadows 180 gram Heavyweight black vinyl
1. The Thought That Counts
2. The Cutting Edge
3. Under The Influence
4. Carried Away
5. You’ll Never Know
6. Lost Continent
7. Flying Dreams
8. Pray For Rain

Fire On The Moon 180 gram Heavyweight black vinyl
1. Celestine
2. Whirlwind
3. Sleepwalking
4. Reach For Me
5. Ice Sculpture
6. Venus Hunter
7. Phantom Power
8. Transport Of Delight
9. She’s Invisible
10. Mercury

Buy the album

Buy Chasing Shadows / Fire On The Moon Double CD on Amazon

Buy Chasing Shadows vinyl on Amazon

Buy Fire On The Moon vinyl on Amazon

Also available…


Buy Waiting For A Miracle Double CD from Amazon

Buy Waiting For A Miracle vinyl on Amazon

Buy Sleep No More Double CD from Amazon

Buy Sleep No More vinyl on Amazon

Buy Fiction Double CD from Amazon

Buy Fiction vinyl on Amazon

 

Visit The Comsat Angels – Sleep No More website








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