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Monday, February 22, 2016

Shoes - Present Tense~ Tongue Twister*

Name: Shoes
Album(s): Present Tense~, Tongue Twister
Year(s): 1979~, 1981*
Style: Power Pop
Similar Bands:Cheap Trick, The Knack, Records, Big Star, Marshall Crenshaw, Squeeze, Kaverat, Jesus Jones
One Word Review: Gentle Hooks
Based Out Of: Zion, Illinois
Label: Elektra, Asylum
 Present Tense - Cover, Sleeve, Record
 Present Tense - Back, Lyrics, Record
 Tongue Twister - Cover, Sleeve, Record
Tongue Twister - Back, Lyrics, Record

Present Tense (1979)
  1. Tomorrow Night 2:55
  2. Too Late 2:42
  3. Hangin' Around With You 3:20
  4. Your Very Eyes 3:04
  5. In My Arms Again 4:00 
  6. Somebody Has What I Had 3:14 /
  7. Now & Then 3:10
  8. Every Girl 2:40
  9. I Don't Miss You 4:02
  10. Cruel You 4:07
  11. Three Times See Me 1:14, Say It 1:02, Listen 1:35 (3:51)
  12. I Don't Wanna Hear It 2:46
Tongue Twister (1981)
  1. Your Imagination 2:28
  2. Burned Out Love 2:42
  3. The Things You Do 3:07
  4. Only In My Sleep 2:38
  5. Karen 2:26
  6. She Satisfies 2:58 /
  7. Girls of Today 3:06
  8. Hopin' She's The One 2:26
  9. When It Hits 2:46
  10. Yes or No 3:01
  11. Found a Girl 2:53
  12. Hate to Run 2:26
Album Rating (1-10): ~7.0
*8.0

Members & Other Bands:
Jeff Murphy - Vox, Guitar, Percussion~* (Allrise, Bradburys, Dan Kibler, Insanity Wave, Tommy Keene, Fishy Motion, Dean Goldstein, Fun With Atoms, Guster, Harry Chalmiers, Day One)
John Murphy - Vox, Bass, Guitars ~* (Wayne Boyer, John Earl Walker Band, The Divine Comedy, Herb Eimerman, The Associates)
Gary Klebe - Vox, Guitar, Percussion~* (Bradburys, Fun With Atoms, Day One, Herb Eimerman)
Skip Meyer - Drums, Vox ~*
Dan Bourgoise / Bug Artists - Manager~*
John Brand - Mixdown Engineer~
Ron Coro - Art Direction~*
Marlis Duncklau - Tape Op~
Mary Francis - Art Direction~
Elliot Gilbert - Photography~
Yoshiro Kuzumaki - Mastering Engineer~*
Johnny Lee - Art Direction~
George Marino - Mastering~
Mike Stone - Engineer, Production~
Yumie Takei - Artwork~
Richard Dashut - Producer*
David Dominquez Ahlert - Engineer*
Terry Dunavan - Mastering*
Daniel Lazerus - Second Engineer*
Hernan Rojas - Engineer*
Randee St. Nicholas - Photography*
Larry Vigon - Cover Art*

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of Shoes. But I imagine it is a standard 80's pastel power-pop band. Catchy songs, nothing heavy or alarming to parents. Just some good old Americana power pop about love and life. I'll be pretty surprised if it is any different.

Album Review: Friends and a brother formed the band in high school and have been making music since, even releasing a new record back in 2011. After their record label that released these two albums plus one more, they made their own recording studio, and even produced records from Material Issue until 2004. They even had a song in Mannequin 2 (1990), and were one of the first big MTV bands with four videos off of Present Tense.
~“Tomorrow Night” was a single with a video played on MTV. It kicks off with a drum beat and jangely guitar. The vocals are light, as if recorded in a different room. Bass is a little dark, but blends nicely. The chorus is catchy, and the whole song is a nice piece of power pop.
“Too Late” was also a single played on MTV. It again brings for the jangley guitars and power pop chords. This is even more upbeat and non-threatening. It builds nicely to a smooth and harmonized chorus. The only fault with it is that it does not have much of a punch at all. It falters to create a strong memory, and meanders in basic Americana pop.
“Hangin' Around With You” starts with a bit more swagger and personality in the chugging tempo and electric guitar. The vocals are very light again, a little like a bland Glenn Tilbrook. The bridge has some catchy guitar chords.
“Your Very Eyes” quietly fades up, and the vocals are not much more than a whisper. But as the song begins to form, the basic melody is very AM Radio / singer songwritery, but it is a very catchy light rock song. The verse & bridge consist of better hooks than the chorus, however. It reminds me very slightly of the melodies in Kaverat. An electric guitar carries the instrumental section, but the Big Star influence is not lost on this song.
“In My Arms Again” was not a single, but they aired it with a video on MTV. It starts with bass and a kick drum. And it transforms into a driving power pop song, but not too forceful. The chorus of the song is a breakdown and divergence from the driving tempo. More squeeze comparisons can be drawn from the vocal style for the final section of the song.
“Somebody Has What I Had” has a weird tempo that is hard to jump on board with. It changes as the song progresses, and for all the emotion it tries to build, it still feels like the feelings just melt away. The bass line shifts to a darker tone like in the opening song. There are many sections that make up this song, but they are not necessarily tied together smoothly.

“Now & Then” starts side two with a rocking tempo. The vocals strip all of the anxious nature that the music projects, and the harmonized vocals make it an even wimpier impact. But it still carries on with some descent power pop chord changes.
“Every Girl” plays in with a jangley guitar and heat-like drum beat. This is the type of musical support that blends better with the effortless vocals.
“I Don't Miss You” was a single. It kicks in with a steady echoing drum beat, and a pulsing bass. Fuzzy guitar chords are layered over, and then a second set of chords that remind me of a Dressy Bessy song (Roundabout) fill the gap before the vocals begin with a start stop chord structure.
“Cruel You” was not a single, but had an MTV video. It chugs right from the get go with up/down chord strumming. The vocals are a little more rushed/urgent, and the melody rolls forward and it begins to really sound like a Squeeze song, especially with some of the minor harmonizing. This one actually works well on all accounts, and has enough changes and differences to keep it interesting.
“Three Times: See Me, Say It, Listen” comes in three parts. The first section begins as an acoustic ballad. It kicks into part two with acoustic chord strums and a folksy tempo. The final section of the song feels like a nostalgic throwback. It is relaxed and sentimental, but it lost the momentum from the middle section.
“I Don't Wanna Hear It” has a jittery drum beat and bass beat once it kicks in. The guitar is rushed and sloppy in a refreshing, driving way. The vocals are still reserved, but follow along, with a little gristle, particularly in the power pop driven chorus.

*“Your Imagination” was a single. It kicks off with a strong guitar, power pop hook, and the vocals are already more inspired than on the first album. The chorus has a bit of a call and response with a “yeah!” in support of the lyrics. The vocals remind me a little of the vocals from the 90’s band Jesus Jones.
“Burned Out Love” has a nice tempo to it…not rushed or driving, but steady. The guitar hook layered underneath just acts to punctuate the chorus. There is more emotion in the vocals of one line in the verse than any of the previous album, reminding me again of Jesus Jones. The guitar is turned up and played through a massive effects pedal for a very bold sound in the instrumental.
“The Things You Do” was the b-side to their Your Imagination single. Sounds like a new wave track with synth effects, although the liner notes proudly proclaim “No Keyboards.” The rhythm guitar sounds like a general college radio track. The vocals channel a Tilbrook melody, with a couple of harmonized words / phrases. The song is not all that lively, it maintains a steady middle ground.
“Only In My Sleep” is a jangley power pop song, channeling the minor urgency in Big Star songs, with harmonic accents and a gentle ride of hooks. It is a catchy song when you are listening to it, but it fails to leave a lasting impression.
“Karen” was also a single. It continues the Squeeze-like jangle-pop format, but it has a much more memorable rolling melody than the couple of song before it. It is a little more stripped down and sedated, with the acoustic guitar and drums balanced in the background, letting the vocal melody drive the song.
“She Satisfies” was a b-side to their Karen single. It wakes the listener up with a blast of guitar riffs. The vocals are a little raspier, when it hits the bridge; the fuzzy electric guitar is abandoned for a jangley guitar, and a nice smooth building vocal. This leads into the chorus where the guitar comes back in at full force, and the vocals pick up energy, sounding like Jesus Jones. All three sections of this song are very catchy, and are rearranged at the end to avoid the bridge.

“Girls of Today” again sounds like it has a synth keyboard in the background, but I guess it is a guitar played through an effects pedal. The chorus is very catchy, and a good release of built up momentum. It is weirdly sexually controlling with a lyric like “I’ll find a way to keep you inside me.” The vocals sound a lot like Tilbrook in this song, especially when he gets more emotional.
“Hopin' She's The One” begins with a darker bass line, and power pop guitar melodies. The chorus is a call and response between the lead, and a chorus of backing vocals singing “the one…hoping that she’s the one.” I am not going to be much use for the rest of this review, and I can’t stop hearing the vocal comparisons of Jesus Jones and Glenn Tilbrook.
“When It Hits” has a looped electric power-pop guitar hook. Most of the song is a reiteration of the chorus, singing the title, and following it with “It’s gonna hit so hard” After two verses, the tone is shifted up for a verse, but it returns to the same repetitive chorus.
“Yes or No” a jangley guitar loop and a steady bass line start the song off as if it is already in the middle of the song. The lead guitar has a rising riff that reminds me of the start of Cracker’s “Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now).” It also sounds like a sedated version of “She Satisfies.”
“Found a Girl” begins with what sounds like a church organ effect on the guitar. It has a sad, sentimental tone at the outset, and maintains that throughout, making it their slow ballad
“Hate to Run” starts off with some harmonized “ah-ah-ah’s” and is a pleasant, poppy way to end the record. It carries the sentiment of not enjoying the end of something by showing just how much energy they still had with this rolling momentum song. The chorus is not very stand out different or catchy, and ultimately ends the album with a feedback fade out.

Stand Out Tracks: ~Cruel You
* She Satisfies

Links:
Discogs
Allmusic
Official Site
CD Baby
'12 NPR Article

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Nick Forte - Pasted Lakes

Name: Nick Forte
Album: Pasted Lakes
Year: 2004
Style: Ambient Electro Experimental
Similar Bands: Ghostwriters, Aphex Twin, Manuel Gottsching
One Word Review: Chaotic Static Techno
Based Out Of: New York Ciry
Label: Schematic
 Pasted Lakes - Cover, Sleeve & Record
Pasted Lakes - Back, Sleeve, Record
Pasted Lakes (2004)
  1. Green Language 4:31
  2. Drumming in Circles 2:34
  3. Cram Corridor 1:19
  4. Sugar Lemonade 1:14
  5. Did you Feel That 1:33
  6. Thistle Rue 2:47
  7. Swallowing Gel 1:10
  8. Crack and Crevice 1:42 /
  9. Fragged 0:31
  10. Kill Your Carpet 2:26
  11. Blender Dance 3:05
  12. Forgotten Music 2:45
  13. Avenge Me 1:07
  14. Wolf Cry 3:58
  15. Join Us 2:13
Album Rating (1-10): 6.5

Members & Other Bands:
Nick Forte - Guitar, Effects, Artwork  (Rorschach, Beautiful Skin, Computer Cougar, Christmas Decorations, Felipe & Forte, Sky Dripping Venom, Hells Hills, Hamsoken, Beautiful Skin, Raspberry Bulbs, Radio to Saturn)
Stacy Wakefield - Design

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of Nick Forte. But based on the collage-like artwork, I'm guessing it is going to be an album of fun, indie songs. I like the bright colors, and am excited to hear what is on the album.

Album Review: So Nick Forte is an experimental guitar and ambient noise songwriter. He was part of the band Rorschach in the 90’s and left focusing on guitar distortion and effects. He had a lot of on-the-job training when he worked for Electro-Harmonix, testing faders, pedals and other equipment. He’s been involved with a lot of different projects and duos, with this 2004 release being his first solo record, full of ambient, electronic, and chaotic noises in mostly short spurts. It is not what I expected based on the artwork. But if I knew more about the label (who also has Crash Course in Science re-releases), I’d have known better. The song break-ups are not always easy to tell, so I’m going to go by my best assumptions, and noted song lengths.

“Green Language” features some Aphex Twin like backwards skipping stumbling horror effects and heavy marine buoy bell ringing. Haunting synth lines float along in the background, mixed with echoing guitar licks. The skipping effects give out to the end for a segment, but come back in, stuttering and spitting.
“Drumming in Circles” starts with a synthetic steel plinking ball bouncing around pinball bumpers. Drum raps sound like old fashioned scorecard flipping around, and haunting deep see notes reverberate, echoing loud to soft. The pattern of the ball sounds comes and go, while the submarine pings continue
“Cram Corridor” is a stretching and shifting of time and space effect, combined with static charges pulsating trying to break through to stay consistent.
“Sugar Lemonade” sounds like the thump-thumping of a brotastic club beat heard muffled through the walls. It is kind of back-skipping with pauses where it comes up for air to maintain a solid note.
“Did You Feel That” is an onslaught of heavy gurgling sound, with a nice, skipping wood block beat as the tempo.
“Thistle Rue” starts with a straight forward house four-beat. It becomes manipulated, and fractured, all while trying to maintain itself. It becomes muffled and still struggles to maintain consistency. Synthetic twsiting and growing steel beam sounds are brought into the rhythm, and cause necessary chaos, and it ends abruptly.
“Swallowing Gel” is a chaotic mashing of watery, gurgling sound clay, while a bouncing racket/pong ball rebounds around in the background.
“Crack and Crevice” slowly grows like an infrared light shining on things beyond the visible light spectrum. There is jitteriness to the growing tone, and scene jump cut sound effects are layered over as dstraction.

“Fragged” is a short haunting crystal, tone, quickly taken over by murky, slowed down revving.
“Kill Your Carpet” continues with the that slowed revving sound as if filtered through plasma. Crashing, crushing tinny effects are placed over the rev-hum, and skitter and dance around in the foreground in heavy, unforgiving overcoats. Echo chamber static hums begin to take over at the end, and if in battle with the bouncing, cruch-thumps
“Blender Dance” begins as a pulsing electronic washing machine grows louder. Static charges are emitted in the background, and highway cars pass by to create only a bit section of the Doppler effect. As if coming through from an adjacent radio station, a delicate simple drum beat tries to gain footing in the mix.
“Forgotten Music” sounds like electric pulses strumming a rubber band to a definite beat. Haunting organ notes rise and fall slowly in the background.
“Avenge Me” is a short skittering of static and a looping Rube Goldbergian sound effect. An echoing zoob tube sound is added just toward the end.
“Wolf Cry” has a lurching video game sound effect of pong bouncing back and forth, picking up speed between the oscillations. The volley finds a constant pace, and the knobs are twittered ever so slightly to create different tones with each connection. In the background is the standard haunting base that rises and falls. The volley stops and starts as if it is playing through a channel that can’t bring in the picture quality well, and is filtered through static. The station is changed back for the last 20 seconds or so for a very clear sound.
“Join Us” could be seen as a haunting spaceship landing slowly in a cold winter field. Haunting wind gusts funnel through the large UFO, as the landing system pulses. The sound moans and wales, like whale mating calls in the deep.

This is not an album I would seek out and put on, but I enjoyed the frantic, yet relaxing vibe it emits, and I enjoyed the remarking about and visualizing the instruments and sounds.

Stand Out Track: Avenge Me / Wolf Cry

Links:
Allmusic
Official Site
Discogs
Schematic interview

Monday, February 8, 2016

FM - City of Fear

Name: FM
Album: City of Fear
Year: 1980
Style: Space Rock, Prog
Similar Bands: City Boy, Rush, Yes, Styx, Journey
One Word Review: Watered Down Power Prog.
Based Out Of: Toronto, Canada
Label: Passport
 City of Fear - Cover & Back, Record
City of Fear - Gatefold, Record
City of Fear (1980)
  1. Krakow 4:37
  2. Power 3:28
  3. Truth or Consequences 4:13
  4. Lost and Found 4:25
  5. City of Fear 5:07 /
  6. Surface to Air 5:18
  7. Up to You 4:21
  8. Silence 3:22
  9. Riding the Thunder 4:06
  10. Nobody at All 4:09
Album Rating (1-10): 6.5

Members & Other Bands:
Larry Fast - Producer (David Pritchard, Synergy, Peter Gabriel, Fire Inc, Tony Levin Band)
Ben Mink - Violin, Mandolin, Vox (Murray McLaughlin, KD Lang, Heart, Raffi, American Flyer discogs page)
Cameron Hawkins - Lead Vox, Synth, Bass, Piano (David Pritchard, Ken Ramm, Nash the Slash, Kick Axe, Marty Simon, Ed Bernard)
Martin Deller - Drums, Electric and Acoustic Percussion (David Pritchard, Ben Mink, The Travellers, Ken Ramm, M+M, Nash the Slash)
Murray Brenman - Artwork, Design
Charles Conrad - Engineer
Jim Frank - Engineer, Pre-Production
Mark Wright - Engineer, Recording, Pre-Production
Cliff Hodsdon - Asst Engineer
Scott Rea - Asst Engineer
Bob Ludwig - Mastering
Ian Murray - Pre-Production Asst, Crew
Eric Staller - Photo Cover
Paul Till - Inner Photo
Bob Rock - Stand Ups Photo
Pamela Silverstein - Spoken Word
Rob Onedera - Synthy Maintenance
Ed Stone - Pre-Production
Ian Dunbar - Pre-Production, Crew
Kitty Cross - Crew
Fred Bunting - Crew
Bob Rodgers - Crew
Andy Murray - Crew
Phil Morrow - Crew
Peter McMullen - Crew

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of FM. But they look like any long haired hard rock band from the late 70’s early 80’s, like City Boy, or Heaven. I don’t expect it to be anything out of the ordinary, perhaps metal lite with prog rock tendencies.

Album Review:  FM was a space or Sci-Fi Prog Rock band based in Canada. Starting in 1976, they had a revolving door of band members and set ups, starting off as a two-piece lacking any guitars. The front man (Hawkins) sang, played keys and some bass, while Nash was in the back, a mysterious shrouded figure playing electrified string instruments, a drum machine and occasional backing vocals. Four albums followed the departure of Nash as well as the addition of a live drummer. This album is the final of those four, acclaimed as catchier than being prog-heavy, and featuring shorter song lengths: both are seen as pros or cons depending on who you talk to.
“Krakow” begins with a simple driving bass line, reminding me a little of the intro/verse of Steppenwolf’s Born to Be Wild. The vocals begin solo, with a chorus echoing in tow. They are similar to that of a hundred other new wave bands, kind of nasally, and computer-cold. After a brief fake-out soundless section, the instruments come back. The song is of simple construction, verse and instrumental in trading off sections.
“Power” explodes with Prog synth notes, and transitions into power pop guitar chords, which sets the tone for a marching tempo. It builds nicely leading up to the chorus, which is a bit of a chaotic reshuffling and sped up drumming. The sections come together nicely for the grand finale.
“Truth or Consequences” starts with a pounding bass line, and soaring strings. The song then shifts gears into a mid tempo pub rock song, with parallel synth & bass lines in the chorus. It has a nice energy build and release in the chorus, even if it is not incredibly catchy.
“Lost and Found” begins with a trash can drum beat. Very synth effects and mid-later period Oingo Boingo-style (thinking Two Twisted Trees) vocals are sung over the snickering synth. The song is strained, pining and kind of dark wave / cold war / industrial once the synth strings and heavy drums kick in.
“City of Fear” on the other hand is much more upbeat and happy tones, with a prog like opening that blends with heavy guitars. Very Rush-like. The verse is very modern, and catchy, and the bridge / verse 2.0,  before the drab chorus, is heightened an octave higher even more catchy. The instrumental breakdown is all lead guitar (even though there is no guitar).

“Surface to Air” is a simple, repetitive keyboard loop, with similar tone to Journey’s Separate Ways intro. The synth line establishes itself and soars along. Calm, non-threatening vocals start, and begin the mid-tempo verse, punctuated by prog flourishes. The chorus is energetic, and catchy. The instrumental breakdown is a duel between the prog power strings and synth melody soaring across the soundscape like a video game.
“Up to You” single chords strung together in with a sinister string effect. This song reminds me of Thomas Dolby a little. It builds nicely in the bridge between verse into the chorus, but does not quite deliver a single catchy release. The second time through ends up at the instrumental, which is powered by the soaring strings solo. That gives out, and the remaining Phil Collins drum loops brings us back. The song is just missing one big thing to make it a great song.
“Silence” begins as another cold, echoing, rhythm based song. It moves forward staggering and segmented. The song is pretty forgettable, with no memorable hook. It feels like it just fills a space, where the melody is tough to pin down, and the vocals are not loud either. I guess Silence is a good title for this mellow, meandering song.
“Riding the Thunder” for a couple of chords, it sounds like it is going to be the Black Crows Hard to Handle. But the power chords never converge into a super catchy, rattling hook. They just hover there, and repeat themselves, bearing the brunt of the tempo. There is a lot of angry energy in the vocals, but they seem diffused by the minimal instrumentation. The instrumental section kicks into overdrive, and the song blasts forward. Just when it seems to return to the slowed up section, it powers on with more synth and distortion effects over the strings, and even the vocals later on in the “instrumental.”
“Nobody at All” begins with spoken work, and a delicate piano. The vocals take the song back to a more elegant era, revitalized through the hair band power ballad. This school dance ender doesn’t fit in too much with the rest of the album, unless you go with the stereotypical record of the day that needed to include a slow song. There are some proggy-crystal elements to the synth at times, but it is mostly a piano ballad with a semi-hard edge at times. 

Stand Out Track: Surface to Air

Links:
Wiki
Amazon
Allmusic
Discogs
Prog Rock Archives
Underrated Albums
Official Site

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Gary's Gang - Keep On Dancing

Name: Gary's Gang
Album: Keep On Dancin'
Year: 1979
Style: Disco
Similar Bands: Musique, Bee Gees, Of Montreal
One Word Review: Straight-Up-Disco
Based Out Of: Queens, NYC, NY
Label: SAM, Columbia
 Keep On Dancin'- Cover & Record
Keep On Dancin' - Back & Record
Keep On Dancin' (1979)

  1. Showtime 5:15
  2. Party Tonight! 6:00
  3. Do It At The Disco 5:48 /
  4. Let's Lovedance Tonight 6:42
  5. Keep On Dancin' 7:12
  6. You'll Always Be My Everything 4:39
Album Rating (1-10): 7.0

Members & Other Bands:
Gary Turnier - Drums, Backing Vox, Associate Producer (Front Page, Bettye LaVette, Raindolls, )
Eric Matthew (Joe Tucci) - Guitar, Lead Vox, Arranged, Producer, Mixing (Status IV, Tavares, Sharon Redd, Secret Weapon, State of Grace, Day-O, Nervous Gang, Shy Boyz discogs page)
Bill Catalano - Percussion, Backing Vox (Disco Four, Sharon Redd, Stan Keton & his Orch)
Al Lauricella - Keys
Rino Minetti - Keys, Backing Vox
Bob Foreman - Sax, Flute
Jay Leon - Trombone (Sharon Redd)
Gene Grief - Cover Concept & Design
Janet Pear - Cover Concept & Design

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of this band. But from the cover images and background neon lights, I’m guessing it is a new wave album. The feet remind me of Joe Jackson’s cover (which came out a year later), and the neon reminds me of something OMD might do. The one drawback is that there is a song called Do it At The Disco, and a lot of disco themed songs are of self-referenced dancing. Also the songs are almost all over 5 minutes, which seems to be a pro in the Disco category. But still, the art work screams new wave to me.

Album Review: This is definitely a disco album. 100% Disco. The duo of Joe and Gary created the band, and initially it was just the two of them, until they sold their single, Keep On Dancing to a label, and formed the group after, playing in a garage in back of Joe’s house. …Dancin’ was a big dance floor hit in both the US & UK.

“Showtime” gets the party started with some horns, and a crowd cheering, offering a live atmosphere to hear a funky beat. This is far more analog than digital or synthesized instruments, and feels like a big band jam session, complete with individual solos, if it weren’t for the shuffling drum beat and throbbing bass. There is a squeaky, swirling synth keyboard section that anchors the song heavily in disco. The band members, also in live party atmosphere, announce each member as if it were the end of the show. Which I find to be a little weird for the opening track.
“Party Tonight!” is a great song, which basically consists of two very catchy sections molded together to form one song that is both fun to dance to and catchy on its own. It starts off with lots of swizzle and wood block action, with the jammy guitar and bouncy bass beat Of Montreal likes to incorporate in their songs. The song begins with the catch shouty “Hey Hey Hey Party Tonight,” and transfers to the sooth and catchy as hell disco groove, which is full of all positive, fun vibes. Only critique is that it is a little long, and not completely dancey, should they be going for a strictly dance groove. The song is a little ahead of its time, incorporating jumping, fist shaking party rock into a dance number. There are some embarrassing stereotypical disco elements to the song, but they only generate smiles, and add to the enjoyment.
“Do It at the Disco” was a single. It begins with bongo tribal/drum dance rhythms and shouts. A funky bass line joins the fray, and pulsating keyboards. High pitch Bee-Gees-like vocals begins, and they line dance their way across the flashing dance floor. This is definition disco dance. The song is mostly instrumental, allowing for a dance circle to form, and individuals to showcase their stuff by advancing to the middle. Repetitive drums and a whistle in the background are the ending instruments before the song launches into the vocal section.


“Let's Lovedance Tonight” was a single, reaching top 50 in the UK. Swirling beats and strings start this shuffling mo-town influenced disco song off. The vocals are harmonic, non-threatening, and all over smooth. Underneath the glitter, synth xylophone and drug haze is a solid doo-wop number. The song drags out, getting caught in a 5 note rising and resetting melody loop. Just as you think the song is going to wobble to a halt, the falsetto vocal chorus takes over with the xylophone hook, and squeaky spacecraft synth.
“Keep On Dancin'” was a chart topping song, reaching #8 on the UK Singles chart, and #41 on Billboard Top 100. A toe tapping drum beat and bongos starts the song off, adding one element at a time. It feels like it is picking up from the previous song, perhaps as a reprise. It is a smooth R&B disco song, complete with a stereotypical repetitive xylophone hook and lifeguard whistle. The head bobbing groove sets in over the lengthy instrumental, with minimal lyrics of “dancing.” A few other breakdowns and synth effects are used to break up the repetition that can bog down a 7+ minute song.
“You'll Always Be My Everything” is a delicate love ballad. Horns and a slow tempo create this lofty, fog machine inducing romantic song. Like a vocal group from the 60’s the lead vocals are supported by a harmonic backing group, occasionally joining up to completely harmonize. I could see the lead standing out in front of the backing vocalists, and all in matching suits. The drum beat behind gives it a little more energy than a straightforward ballad, so there is a little disco jazz involved to this song.


Stand Out Track: Party Tonight!

Links

Craig Fuller & Eric Kaz - s/t

Name: Craig Fuller / Eric Kaz
Album: Fuller Kaz
Year: 1978
Style: Folk, Country, Americana, AOR
Similar Bands: Cat Stevens, Eagles, Warren Zevon, Jackson Browne, Steve Forbert, Pure Prairie League, Paul Williams
"One-Word" Review: Forlorn, Sentimental Recollections
Based Out Of: NY, NY
Label: CBS, Columbia
 Fuller Kaz - Cover, Sleeve, Record
Fuller Kaz - Back, Sleeve, Record
Fuller Kaz (1978)
  1. Feel That Way Again 5:38
  2. Cry Like a Rainstorm 3:31
  3. You Take My Heart 3:02
  4. Let the Fire Burn All Night 3:21
  5. Til You Come Back 4:05 /
  6. Annabella 3:59
  7. The Ways of a Woman 3:40
  8. Fool for You 3:22
  9. Restless Sea 4:20
  10. Annabella (reprise) 1:23
Album Rating (1-10): 5.0

Members & Other Bands:
Craig Fuller - Guitar, Vox (JD Blackfoot, Pure Prairie League, American Flyer, Little Feat, Pete Yorn, Poco, Jimmy Webb, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt)
Eric Kaz - Vox, Piano (Children of Paradise, American Flyer, Blues Magoos, Chris Smither, The Bears, Kim Carnes, Bonnie Raitt, Woodstock Mt Review, Fabulous Rhinestones, Happy Traum, Memphis Slim)
John Davis Souther - Vox (Longbranch/Pennywhistle, The Gentlemen Boys, The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, Linda Ronstadt, Joe Walsh, Bonnie Raitt, Carole King, Outlaws,  Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Dan Fogelberg, Karla Bonoff, Randy Newman)
Russell Kunkel - Drums, Percussion (The Section, Things to Come, discogs page)
Leah Kunkel - Vox (Coyote Sisters, discogs page)
Leland Sklar - Bass (Barefoot Servants, Group Therapy, Suzy Bogguss, The Section discogs page)
Michael McDonald - Vox (Steely Dan, All Star Choir, Artists United for Nature, The Del Rays, Doobie Brothers, discogs page)
Leo Sayer - Vox (Patches, Peace Collective, discogs page)
Rosemary Butler - Vox (Birtha, Metro Voices, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, Doobie Brothers, Tim Moore, Ben Sidran, Allen Toussaint, Rosanne Cash, Marc Tanner Band)
Dan Dugmore - Guitar (Ronin discog page)
Craig Doerge - Piano/Wurlitzer (Keppin' 'em Off the Streets, Rosebud, Section, discogs page)
David Campbell - Arrangement/Strings (Dave Campbell String Section, Carole King, Jackson Browne, discogs page)
Maxayn Lewis - Vox (Ikettes, Mandre, The Gap Band, Snap!,  discog page)
Steve Lukather - Guitar (Baby'O, Far Corporation, Larry Carlton-Steve lukather Band, Los Lobotomys, The Greg Mathieson Project, Toto, discogs page)
Don Grolnick - Organ/Piano, Guitar (Bob Mintzer Big Band, Dreams, Steps Ahead, discogs page)
Doug Haywood - Vox (Jackson Browne, Michael Dinner, Jennifer Warnes, Dillards, Allman & Woman, Willie Nelson)
Dennis Karmazyn - First Cello (Carole King, Linda Ronstadt, Paul Williams, discogs page)
Rollice Dale - First Viola (Shuggie Otis, Dory Previn, John Coltrane, Neil Diamond, Sarah Vaugn, discogs page)
Charles Veal - First Violin (South Central Chamber Orch, discogs page)
James-Newton Howard - Piano (Mama Lion, discogs page)
Richard Feves - String Bass
Andres Farber - Project Coordinator
Val Garay - Producer, Mixing
Tim Dennen - Asst Production
Steve Marcussen - Asst. Production
Ken Jacobs - Asst. Producer
George Ybarra - Asst Mixing
Doug Sax - Mastering
Survival Mgmt - Exclusive Representation
Tony Zetland - CBS Product Manager
Jim Shea - Photography
Kosh - Design & Art Direction

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of this band, which is just two guys, so it seems. They look a little like Paul Simon and Harold Ramis, but that does not say anything about what the album will be like. It could be country, could be folk, heck, could be disco by looking at their collars on the back photo. But from the conservative blue collar dress, I’m going to guess they fall in the singer songwriter Americana vibe of the late 70’s.

Album Review: Craig Fuller was one of the founders of the Pure Prairie League out of Ohio. After working with Kaz in another band, American Flyer, they recorded this album, which is slightly more rock than their previous band. Joining them is a slew of popular session musicians who have worked with the likes of Carole King, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, and many of them together make up another band/album that I have pending to this TSM list, The Section. Linda Ronstadt liked one song (Cry Like a Rainstorm) so much that she asked them to teach it to her, and it became part of the title for her 1989 album. After this one-off record, Fuller went back to Pure Prairie League as well as worked with Little Feat. Kaz continued to produce and compose works for other artists. Overall, this is not really my style of choice; it is completely harmless.

“Feel That Way Again” has an intro that is very similar to the acoustic guitar of Live’s “Lightning Crashes” intro. The song has a laid back, folky-country vibe. The vocals sound like Steve Forbert. The intensity grows a little bit with the electric guitar chords and the jangely piano toward the end, before the fade out.
“Cry Like a Rainstorm” was rerecorded and taught to Linda Ronstadt as the title track of her 1989 album. It begins with vocals and piano, reminding me a little of Neil Young’s vocals. It has a reflective confidence and somber tone. Two minutes in, an electric guitar cries out, reiterating the sullen sentiment.
“You Take My Heart” continues the reflective piano ballad genre. The chorus is a harmonized group of female vocals behind the lead. The second verse begins after a minute and a half; surprisingly unchanged from the first…I was expecting a tonal change. It sounds a little like one of the sentimental songs from Paul Williams in Emmet Otter’s Jugband Xmas special. This is the first Kaz lead song.
“Let the Fire Burn All Night” gains a little honky-tonk, pub room swagger, but it is far from a rocker. It maintains a steady tempo all the way through to the fade out. JD Souther adds to the background vocals.
“Til You Come Back” begins with nearly solo forlorn vocals. The song adds elements to the background, and putters on at a respectable pace. It rolls along, reminding me of the pace from Doris Troy’s “Just One Look,” without the catchy hooks.

“Annabella” starts with a quiet acoustic guitar, and then the bass begins. The rolling melody maintains a reserve, like it is restricted from producing energy from the emotional lyrics about a woman who seems to be slipping out of the singer’s grasp, growing desperate at the ending fade out.
“The Ways of a Woman” is quiet and reflective at the beginning. Voices join the lead vocals, bolstering his emotions. But the song feels like AOR filler, with an undefined chorus that blends right into the verse at a steady pace. The slide guitar gives it an authentic country feel. This is a Kaz lead song.
“Fool for You” picks up the pub rocking spirit a little, with the start stopping electric guitar, like the chorus of Steve Miller Band’s “Rock’n Me.” The chord changes are catchy in the chorus, and this song has more energy than the rest of the album put together. Michael McDonald helps in the backing vocals here
“Restless Sea” combines a gentle organ, and slow-ish, bouncy bass line. The song finds a middle ground pace, and the track continues a country style of storytelling, particularly in the instrumental break down. Leo Sayer contributes to the backing vocals here.  
“Annabella (reprise)” is a strings only variation of the Annabella melody

Stand Out Track: Fool For You

Links:

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ultravox - Quartet~, Lament*

Name: Ultravox
Album(s): Quartet~, Lament*
Year(s): 1982, 1984
Style: Dark Wave, Synth, Electronic
Similar Bands: OMD, Depeche Mode, Human League, Art in America, Simple Minds, Gary Numan, Pet Shop Boys, Sparks
One-Word Review: Pulsating Count Synth-ula~ Anthemic Sterile Tundra*
Based Out Of: London, UK
Label: Chrysalis
 Quartet~ - Cover & Record
 Quartet~ - Back & Record
 Lament - Cover, Sleeve, Record
Lament - Back, Sleeve, Record
Quartet ~(1982)

  1. Reap the Wild Wind 3:49
  2. Serenade 5:05
  3. Mine for Life 4:44
  4. Hymn 5:46 /
  5. Visions in Blue 4:38
  6. When the Scream Subsides 4:17
  7. We Came to Dance 4:14
  8. Cut & Run 4:18
  9. The Song (we go) 3:56

Lament *(1984)

  1. White China 3:50
  2. One Small Day 4:30
  3. Dancing With Tears in My Eyes 4:39
  4. Lament 4:40
  5. Man of Two Worlds 4:27
  6. Heart of the Country 5:05
  7. When the Time Comes 4:56
  8. A Friend I Call Desire 5:09

Album Review (1-10): ~7.5
*8.0

Members & Other Bands:
Midge Ure - Vox, Guitar~* (Silk, The Rich Kids, Thin Lizzy, Visage, Band Aid, X-Perience, Schiller)
George Martin - Producer~ (Beatles)
Warren Cann - Drums, Backing Vox~* (Tiger Lily, Zaine Griff, Peter Godwin, Helden, Mecano, Duffo, Python, Paper Toys)
Chris Cross (Allen) - Bass, Synth, Backing Vox~* (Tiger Lily, Hello, Larry Carlton )
Billy Currie - Keys Violin~* (Tiger Lily, Gary Numan, Tubeway Army, Steve Howe, Dead or Alive, Sam Blue, Vinny Burns, Phil Lynott, Humania, Visage, Duffo)
Geoff Emerick - Engineer~
Jon Jacobs - Asst Engineer~
Peter Saville Associates- Cover~*
Ken Kennedy - Drawing~
Bill Philpot - Colouring~
Rik Walton - Engineer*
John Hudson - Engineer*
Mae McKenna - Gaelic Vox*
String Quartet (Amanda Woods, Jacky Woods, Margaret Roseberry, Robert Woollard)*
Shirley Roden - Backing Vox*
Debbie Doss - Backing Vox*
Crown Copyright - Callanish Standing Stones Photo*

Unknown-ness: Although the name sounds familiar, and I have seen their name around recently, as they have reformed, I don’t know anything about them. I associate them with cod, dark wave, like Cabaret Voltaire, Fad Gadget, or maybe even Depeche Mode. But there are sub categories in there that could define them more, including being actually listenable, which Depeche Mode’s mid-later stuff is not.

Album Review: Ultravox has gone through a couple of rebirths, moving from a first incarnation called Tiger Lily, through finally settling on Ultravox (without an !), and the departure of the creative front man, giving way to their most successful era with Midge Ure, which lasted through to 1988. They reformed twice in 1992 for four years, and again in 2009 to the present. These two albums were in the middle of the Ure years, and show their biggest charting success in the US (Quartet, #61). Quartet had 4 top 20 charting songs, and Lament had three top 40. Both were top ten albums in the UK. All in all, they were a pretty big band in the UK, with minimal exposure in the US.

“Reap the Wild Wind” begins with an upbeat crystal-synth melody and bouncy bass. The vocal tempo of the chorus reminds me of “Invisible Touch.” The vocals are dark and gothic and not always sung. But it is a happy, wind-swept song.
“Serenade” starts with a bouncy bass and steady drum beat, sounding like something from Art in America (another album I reviewed). The digital pulsating synth tempo keeps the song moving, through the gothic sections and soaring vocals. This could be used for a broadway or ballet growth montage.
“Mine for Life” starts off with a few power chords, with off key, dark tones to form the melody. The chorus is anthemic, like an echoing, emo declaration.
“Hymn” keeps its namesake, and quietly fades up in gospel style. It quickly turns into another driving “growth montage” song, incorporating OMD’s Enola Gay synth hook underneath. It has that same pace, too. The majestic yet sterile chorus rises and falls, building itself with little melody peaks.

“Visions in Blue” starts out very dark and shuttered in with a sad piano carrying the deep mournful and crooning vocals along. The second tier of verse gets bolder, shedding the closeted fear and soaring up accompanied by sinister organ noted. Once it gets going, it features a synth hook that is reminiscent of a slowed down Pet Shop Boys’ It’s a Sin (which came out 5 years later). It combines pulsating electronic vibrations with angry chamber piano.
“When the Scream Subsides” starts off pretty suddenly, and has energetic Sparks-like vocals pared with quieter chanting. The song is a confident march, but it tends to meander in the instrumental section.  
“We Came to Dance” has a nervous keyboard intro that sounds like Mega Man’s Elec Man stage (which also came out 5 years later) alongside echoing bangs. The song maintains a nervous tension, thanks to the pulsating tempo. This song reminds me of Placebo. It features a dark breakdown with more bangs and creepy spoken lyrics that are barely audible.
“Cut & Run” again uses the ringing keyboard synth sound made popular by Pet Shop Boys. It is a dark, charging, chanting section that leads to a stripped away, show-tuney upbeat emotional vocal section. The darkness and upbeat sections converge to finish out the song in an instrumental fade out.
“The Song (we go)” sprints off at the start with driving drums and cold, sweeping synth. Even when the vocals come on, and the synths fade away, the song continuously moves forward, right to the driving fade out.

“White China” has a vibrating electronic bass line that reminds me of OMD or perhaps The Human League. The vocals sound like they are sung into a bucket, with the echo and deepness. Backing vocals create a bit of a call and response. The chorus is anthemic and tundra cold. There are some techno and drum beat breakdowns before starting the electro-synth backbone to the song. This could have been in a John Hughes movie.
“One Small Day” was a single, starting off with some arena rock guitars. The chorus blasts off with a bold, Big Country or The Alarm like echo that can fill a whole stadium. The song breaks itself down, and then builds back up into the explosive chorus. The chorus itself is a very catchy, repeating hook that could go on forever.
“Dancing With Tears in My Eyes” was also a single, and UK #3. A pulsating rubber band synth rhythm kicks it off, and the vocals pattern the chorus of One Small Day very closely. The band discovered the anthemic country side, arena rock feel, and they pushed it through to the first three tracks. Personally I like them all, but they are too similar to pick a favorite. Just when the song feels like it has built itself up as powerfully as it can, it somehow breaks new ground and reaches new heights.
“Lament” was also a single. It starts out slow and you can tell it is a product of the mid 80’s in production. It has a little of a “Take My Breath Away” melody in the chorus.  The synthesized xylophone particularly stands out as an 80’s band trying to attain an organic feel via electronics.

“Man of Two Worlds” fades in with soaring notes. This gives out to a driving beat and deep, delicate vocals. For the chorus, a crystalline flute-synth is layered alongside the Gaelic female guest-vocals.
“Heart of the Country” was a single. A synthetic industrial drum beat starts the song off with dark stressed synth notes as a bass line. Synth industrial elements are peppered in here and there. The song staggers along with a mid-paced tempo, and lots of sounds and sampled sections trying to give the song more depth.
“When the Time Comes” begins with an organ quietly fading up. Echoing drum machine beats are layered behind, and diffused vocals are added, sounding like the distant vocals in Video Killed the Radio Star. The song gently glides along, overtop a wafting, rising and falling synth bass wave. It fits the rest of the album’s profile with its crystalline synth tone.
“A Friend I Call Desire” fakes the listener out with a sinister dark tone, only to be lifted off with a Duran Duran-like lead looping guitar. The song abandons the guitar for the darkness, this time, it is a driving force. Soaring vocals buffered by a female chorus in the background. The darkwave dance song progresses along the cold soundscape, to a squeaky synth ending fade.

Stand Out Tracks: ~Seranade
*White China

Links:
Official
Wiki
Discogs
Facebok
Allmusic
Youtube Lament Full Album

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Pop - Go!

Name: The Pop
Album: Go!
Year: 1979
Style: Power Pop, New Wave
Similar Bands: Cars, Romantics Fixx, A Flock of Seagulls, Motels, Big Star
"One-Word" Review: Snotty Americana
Based Out Of: LA, Cali
Label: Artista
 Go! - Cover, Sleeve, Record
Go! Back, Sleeve, Record
Go! (1979)
  1. Under the Microscope 4:40
  2. Shakeaway 2:22
  3. Beat Temptation 3:58
  4. She Really Means That Much to Me 3:35
  5. I Want to Touch You 3:36 /
  6. Waiting for the Night 3:34
  7. Go!  3:32
  8. Falling for Carmen 3:00
  9. Maria 4:58
  10. Legal Tender Love 3:30

Album Rating (1-10): 7.5

Members & Other Bands:
Roger Prescott - Vox, Guitar (The Silver Tears, Walking Wounded, Texacala Jones, Train Wreck Ghosts)
David Swanson - Guitar, bass, Vox (Cliff Richard, Lamant Dozier, Future Flight, Bobbi Lyle, The Towels, Brenda Russell, Peri)
Tim McGovern - Bass (Motels, Sacred Warrior, David Cassidy, Bonedaddys, Burning Sensation, Neil Merryweather, Randy California)
Tim Henderson - Bass (Silver Tears, Warlord, Willie Harris, Sanctus Real)
Joel Martinez - Drums (Andy & the Rattlesnakes)
David Robinson - Drums (Modern Lovers, Cars, DMZ, Bob Schneider)
Earle Mankey - Producer, Engineer (allmusic credits, Sparks)
RIA Images - Art Directions & Design
Ted Wilcox - Back Cover
Tori Swenson - Second Engineer
Andrew Su - Front Cover

Unknown-ness: I have never heard of this band, but the name The Pop, is so generic, yet full of energy, that I can only assume it is going to be fun, bouncy, catchy new wave/power pop, further based on the artwork/cover photo, sleeve band photo & font. Also, 1979 was a good year for this genre. Although, the back diagonal lines and Dalmatians makes me think of Rick Springfield (which is retro-active, since Springfield was a few years later).

Album Review: The pop have a great pedigree of influences and references from The Kinks to the Who to the Stranglers, Big Star, Bowie and Brian Eno. They played the late 70’s Hollywood scene with bands like the Motels (formed Radio Free Hollywood) and the Plimsouls, and thanks to fanzines, they grew in popularity. This, their second album is a bit of a departure from the first, apparently sounding vastly different, and contains inferior songs. In 1981, they release their third and final outing, a mini-LP, Hearts and Knives.

“Under the Microscope” begins the album with a swooping, new wave bass beat, with dark tones and is a little Cars and Devo-like, with a chanting chorus.
“Shakeaway” charges right out of the gate with a pounding bass and drum tempo, and power pop chords. I can hear some Big Star influence in the vocals. The song never lets up, and builds nicely.
“Beat Temptation” has a more bouncy melody, and some Nick Gilder-esq big power pop hooks. The vocals are nasally and a little jittery. This is a pretty solid song.
“She Really Means That Much to Me” has a much more jangely start, even if it has some power chords layered underneath. The vocals start out like Mooney Suzuki, but they become much lighter, yet still carry with it some Big Star style.
“I Want to Touch You” has a very Cars-like start with the tone and the vocals. The shuttering, nasally vocals have a dark, back alley coldness to them, with a touch of bluesy, wind-swept guitars.

“Waiting for the Night” Picks up side two with the same 70’s rock intro. But the vocals are higher, a little raspy, and more classic rock oriented with, yet it is still solid power pop.
“Go!” starts off harmonisly, with a bold drum beat, harmonized, in the round singing of Go (reminding me of the Futureheads’ acapella album). The deeper, snotty vocals make it more of a new wave song.
“Falling for Carmen” is a rushed, Americana love song. It feels very middle America with the rolling drum fills, the bass line, and power hooks.
“Maria” is a more new wave love song, reminding me of the A’s second album. It is bold and confident, yet still has a jittery vocal, feeling a little like a smoothed out Elvis Costello track. The chorus has a strength and passion to the delivery.  
“Legal Tender Love” Begins with heavy power chords, and a ringing rhythm guitar that becomes the lead guitar by the instrumental end. The song is sturdy, and moves on at a mid-driving pace. The nasally vocals give it a strong new wave tone. 

Stand-Out Track: Beat Temptation

Links:
Allmusic
Discogs
Rate Your Music
Trouser Press