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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Doll By Doll - s/t

Name: Doll by Doll
Album: s/t
Year: 1981
Style: Rock
Similar Bands: INXS, bits of Buzzcocks, the Clash and The Jam, English Beat, Cecilio & Kapono, Joe Jackson, Graham Parker, John Wesley Harding,
"One-Word" Review: new wave pop rock sampler platter.
Based Out Of: London, UK
Label: MCA, Magnet
Doll By Doll - Cover & Record
Doll By Doll - Back & Record

Doll By Doll (1981)
  1. Figure it Out 3:26
  2. Caritas 4:13
  3. Soon New Life 3:22
  4. Main Traveled Roads 3:52
  5. Those In Peril 3:08 /
  6. The Perfect Romance 3:11
  7. Fantastic Sensation 2:48
  8. I Never Saw the Movie 4:13
  9. Up 4:08
  10. A Bright Green Field 5:16
Album Rating (1-10): 7.5

Members & Other Bands:
Jackie Leven – vocals and guitar, Producer (Concrete Bulletproof Invisible)
Jo Shaw – Vocals, Mandolin, Piano and guitar (Concrete Bulletproof Invisible)
Tony Waite- vocals and bass
David Macintosh – vocals, Marimba and percussion (Concrete Bulletproof Invisible)
Geoff Westley - Oberheim
Shelly Morris - Congas
Rod Beddall - Accordian
Pete Gibson - Harmonica
Wild Tom Newman - Vox, Producer, Engineer
Nina Spencer - Vox
Fiona Prendergast - Vox
Suaie O'List - Vox
Andrew Jackson - Engineer
Jeremy Marlow - Tape Operator
Pete Smiff - Tape Operator
Alan Douglas - Additional Recording
Mikki Rain - Front Design
Claire Verve - Writer

Unknown-ness: I never heard of these guys. When I first saw the old looking, beat up record sleeve, I began assuming that these guys were an early 70’s band, with the faded way it looked, the imagery and artwork. Even down to the design of the logo, this looks like a 70’s band. But I saw that it was released in 1981, so away went the ideas of it being a glam / light metal album of some early worth. But I am still curious what might be on this album.

Album Review: “Figure it Out” begins with dark, synth extendedly held notes. Sunrise/Brand New Day guitars (as I like to call them) are added, uplifting the dark tones of the synth. The vocals are hard to pin down, as they are moderately deep, but they begin and end in wavering fades. The vocals have definite soul R&B roots as they sing across the pleasant guitars and synth buried deep in the back. The entire song feels like an intro to something grander, like it is an intro for the album, rather than a stand alone song.
“Caritas” is their “hit” as I’ve read. And it is swirling synth guitar sounds and progression like a Midnight Oil or INXS songs, and slightly reminiscent of The Clash. There is a genuine power in his voice. The anthemic punk is mixed with disco dance floor redundancy in a combination that is surprisingly fitting, catchy, and complex. The chorus chanting in the background just adds to the powerful marching authority that the musical soundscape lays out. The song never rests. It continually treads on with purpose and drive. The echo chamber placed over the electric guitar makes it cry and wail with an earthy presence. “Soon New Life” lightens the atmosphere with a ska-reggae themed pleasant song. This song does not seem to fit, but that does not mean that it is a bad song. It is like a less nervous Buzzcocks’s “Girl From the Chain Store,” stripped down of its urgency and covered by a Virgins Islands groovy band. It is comparable in style to something from the English Beat’s Beat Service record. That and a bit of Motown.
“Main Traveled Roads” begins with a light gospel chanting, and it gently moves forward, unveiling a delightful vocal range, even if the music is basic and limp. Later, a soaring lead guitar is added, paralleling the vocal pattern. Again, this song does not feel like it fits in progress of the album, but I’ve definitely thrown out the idea of a cohesive album at this point. This sounds so light; I’d think that it was a Fleetwood Mac song or something.
“Those In Peril” feels like a very adult Caribbean lounge act. It has an old timey groove, like a Jimmy Buffett song or Cecilio & Kapono; or a Ween “Banana’s and Blow” without the humor. His voice has a great range, and the melody would be hard to capture by just anyone, but the music does not pull its own weight.

“The Perfect Romance” brings a bit more of prog with its intro. And then the song abandons the darkness for a straightforward rock song. The vocals again show the range of vocals, as the singer wanders down in the lower register, the emotion and power of the music in the chorus begs for energy and higher vocals, and he delivers. The lower level vocals almost sound like Johnny Cash or a similar country & western singer.
“Fantastic Sensation” has a jittery, bouncy feel to it, but the underlying mood is stripped from oldies rock. The vocals run over the short sections of the songs, as the melody jumps from short segment to the next. The segments are all very catchy, and it makes you want to dance your way across the ballroom. “I Never Saw the Movie” is a slower countryish song, lazily bumping along into the chorus. The chorus features a comparable bombastic vocal and musical section, full of a brief burst of energy, but it is catchy and fun, like a Joe Jackson tune. For no good reason, a loudly strummed electric guitar interrupts the quiet rolling rhythm near the end. A fade out creates a pretty good fake ending, and the song, for some reason comes back in for one more repetition of the chorus, and fades out again for the true finish of the song.
“Up” begins with happily strummed guitar and light hand claps/finger snaps. It is light, upbeat and generally a feel good song. The vocal melody uniquely rolls over the melody like something from Graham Parker or John Wesley Harding. The chorus is something that you wait for, and is really fun and powerful. The breakdown for the last minute of the song feels somewhat theatrical, like it could be a dance number from a Broadway musical. It fades out, and ends with what sounds like crystal bell tones finishing up the melody.
“A Bright Green Field” again shows the range and diversity of the vocal talent. It takes on a life and musical melody of its own, overlying the unoriginally and uninteresting standard bass and kick drum/tambourine beat in the background.

As the album never takes a hold of a specific style or consistent rhythm, the cohesiveness of an album was dissolved by the third song. But that does not mean that this is not a collection of strong songs. To be more like a greatest hits with each track carrying with it a different influential genre is an interesting way to compose an album, especially coming off the AOR recorded albums of the 70’s.

Stand Out Track: "Soon New Life"

Links:
Allmusic
Wikipedia
Uk Telegraph Article
Trouser Press
PunkNet77
Google Books Page Scans: Rough Guide to Rock (304-305)
History of Rock Music
Jackie Leven Wiki
Overlooked & Underplayed Blog

2 comments:

  1. You have to bring a different frame of reference to this album than Jimmy Buffet, I'm afraid.

    ReplyDelete
  2. All I can say about that review is....no sorry there is nothing I can say that would be polite. Apart from the fact that you have totally missed the point IMHO...still each to their own.
    Regards/

    ReplyDelete