Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Best Bits of 2007

Here's my dilemma. I'm a great fan of lists, but I'm not great at making my own. Partly, it's a question of time, and partly a question of taste. I just don't get to listen to that many records, watch that many movies and TV shows or read that many books. Much of the time, I'm still stuck in the 80's or early 90's - but what I do like, I'm pretty passionate about. In the past I've ranked albums I've bought in a particular year - many of which are not current - but with the amount of material I've discovered from my blogger friends and keeping my SanDisk player topped up, just listing some of my purchases from Wal-Mart seems somewhat churlish. And I'm certainly not qualified to attempt a comprehensive ranking of 2007 releases - if that's what you are looking for, then start here.

Instead, I've decided to describe my favorite discoveries of 2007, mainly music, but other things too. There's no ranking system, just a vaguely chronological presentation. As always, comments are welcome. Bring on 2008!

1. [Album] Grant Lee Phillips - Strangelet
Following on from an impressive covers album, Nineteeneighties, GLP issued a self-penned disc that continued the "busker-in-a-studio" vibe, and most importantly, some quality songs.
TRY THIS: The standout track, "Soft Asylum (No Way Out)"

2. [DVD] Music And Lyrics
I'm a sucker for movies about music and musicians, even when they take the form of a relatively predictable chick-flick. Hugh grant perfectly captures the heart of an aging teen-idol, and the spoof 80's tracks (by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne) are genuinely great songs in their own right.
TRY THIS: The fantastic fake MTV video for "Pop Goes My Heart"

3. [Album] Amy MacDonald - This Is The Life
Massive in Britain, unknown in the States. Like Lily Allen and KT Tunstall, I'm expecting this one to be on a lot of Best Of lists next year, when the rest of the world catches on.
TRY THIS: The video for the title track, "This Is The Life"

4. [Movie] Ratatouille
My favorite Pixar movie, which is saying something. My daughter didn't like it, but I bought her the DVD anyway. A charming tale, and a lot of fun.
TRY THIS: Meet Colette. The hottest animation since Jessica Rabbit.

5. [Album] KT Tunstall - Drastic Fantastic
Talking of KT, I've no idea why her sophomore album didn't feature on any Best Of lists that I've seen. It's at least as good as the first album, Eye to the Telescope.
TRY THIS: The lead single, "Hold On"
BONUS: KT's managed to record quite a few cover versions in her short career. I've already posted "2000 Miles" but also check out her interpretation of Bloc Party's "The Prayer"

Phew, this is hard work. Time to go to a simpler list format.

6. [Album] The Shins - Wincing The Night Away
7. [Commercial] Miranda Kerr in the Victoria's Secret "Angels On Air" promo
8. [Album] Charlotte Martin - Reproductions
9. [Song] Rilo Kiley - "Dreamworld"
10. [TV] Battlestar Galactica
11. [Album] Steven Lindsay - Kite
12. [Song] MIKA - "Grace Kelly"
13. [Album] Kate Nash - Made of Bricks
14. [Album] The Rosebuds - Night of the Furies
15. [Album] Hard-Fi - Once Upon A Time In The West
16. [Album] Collective Soul - Afterwards
17. [Album] Fountains of Wayne - Traffic and Weather
18. [Song] Clark Datchler - "Tomorrow"
19. [Song] Keane - "The Night Sky"
20. [Song] Eva Cassidy and Katie Melua - "Wonderful World"

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

An Idiot's Guide To Fish

I've never written one of these before, but I've seen other people do them - so here goes. Fish is an artist I have suddenly rediscovered - through serendipitous circumstances I won't bore you with - and that's always an exciting experience for me.

Like many people I suspect, I was familiar in passing with Marillion before lead singer Fish left the group, but the reputation for concept albums, Fish's weird stage make-up and - let's be honest - an unhealthy obsession with harlequins, put me off. So when I discovered that I liked several singles from the new Steve Hogarth incarnation of Marillion, I kind of shrugged off Fish as being the weird one, a belief which seemed to be reinforced by firstly seeing a maniacal character on the single cover for "Big Wedge" and then seeing what appeared to be Jessie Rae's younger brother on the cover of Internal Exile. While Marillion seemed to edge closer to commercial acceptance, Fish became something of a cult figure, a strange cottage industry removed from ordinary music channels.

I rediscovered the singles "State of Mind" and "Big Wedge" back in 2001, and briefly tried to catch up with what was going on in the Fish-world. But the back catalogue was too large, too diverse, and - in the USA at least - too difficult to get hold of. So my interest waned.

But here we are in 2007, and this time around, I'm finding a lot to like in the lanky scot's myriad solo efforts. Hence a reappraisal is definitely in order.

By Fish's own admission, his debut solo album Vigil In A Wilderness of Mirrors (which quite easily could have become the next Marillion album) just took too long to come out. By 1990, Marillion has received positive plaudits for the Season's End album (and rightfully so, it's still firmly in place on my CD shelf) and Vigil in some ways seemed like an afterthought or, even worse, an anticlimax. The problem was that while Seasons had a clutch of radio friendly tracks, all of the songs on Vigil needed a little space to grow, to subvert the listener by stealth. Frankly, the album was about 15 years too early. Listening to it again in 2007, the themes seem remarkably prescient. "Big Wedge", the closest thing to a hit single, berated corporate America, pay-as-you-pray religion, and dubious foreign policy. Tellingly, the single sleeve also featured an aircraft approaching the twin towers. "State of Mind", the first single, also had its charms, "a clarion call for a gentle uprising", as I believe Q Magazine put it at the time. (Incidentally, it amazes me that I can forget where I parked at Wal-Mart but can still remember lines from CD reviews written 17 years ago about albums that I didn't even care for until much later) But other tracks on the album also had something to offer. For a more well-rounded assessment of what really was a pretty decent debut (in some quarters considered a prog-rock classic), you could do worse than listen to "A Gentleman's Excuse Me", "Family Business" or "Vigil In A Wilderness of Mirrors" itself.

One of the first clues I had that I was going to need to reappraise Fish's work was the sudden realization that not only had I never actually heard the title track to Internal Exile before, but that when I did hear it, it sounded great and completely different to what I expected. For reasons that I will explain in another post, my tastes lately have been running towards the so-called "celtic fringe", a range of artist from the borders of Britain who make passionate, lyrically rich music. Hence the jaunty reel and singalong style resonated with me in a way I didn't expect. The album itself was somewhat disjointed, as Fish wrestled with the direction he wanted his music to take. When you listen to the back catalogue as a body of work, you can't help but be impressed by the honesty, soul-baring, and sense of perennial bewilderment that Fish conveys in his compositions. When he addresses the romantic, he does so with a combination of abashed hopefulness and bruised naivety that is easy to identify with. Other highlights from the second album are "Credo" (analyzing the first Gulf War) and "Just Good Friends".

The third album Songs From The Mirror stalled Fish's solo career faster than a cinderblock meeting a Maserati. In retrospect, it was unclear just who would be interested in covers of Argent, Pink Floyd, Sandy Denny and others. Fish hit the nail on the head by pointing out that some would have been better served as B-Sides. Looking back, the album remains pleasant but nonessential. Try "Fearless" and "Apeman", but don't get your hopes up.

Having been dropped by EMI and then Polydor, Fish re-booted creatively by working with outside help and beginning his own record label, Dick Bros. The first studio-based fruit was Suits, a fairly conventional set let down by poor mastering. Fish was learning as he went along, but highlights include "Lady Let It Lie" and "Fortunes of War". Be sure to track down the remastered version if you want to add this one to the collection.

The next studio effort was Sunsets On Empire, which was effectively the death knell of the Dick Bros label. In the days before the internet, MySpace, and file-sharing it was incredibly difficult to sustain a truly independent record label and as Fish's music, and muse, suffered it was clearly time for a fresh direction. Nonetheless Sunsets is widely regarded as potentially Fish's best album overall, and the first one to try to recapture some of the progressive rock legacy that had earned such plaudits back in the early Marillion days. Much this was due to a collaboration with Steve Wilson (from Porcupine Tree) who brought in contemporary ideas as well as being a long time fan. Highlights include "Sunsets On Empire", "Goldfish & Clowns" and "Tara".

The creative (if not monetary) rejuvenation then led to 1999's Raingods With Zippos, a curiously balanced album which included both some highly commercial work and a conceptual suite "Plague Of Ghosts", which proved that Fish could deliver progressive ideas in an attractive and creative way. Interestingly enough, this critical renaissance coincided (in my own personal opinion) with the period when Hogarth-Marillion went off the rails slightly. I had enjoyed 1997's ambitious This Strange Engine but 1998's Radiation seemed forced (and unnecessarily derivative) and then 1999's seemed to promise much but fell flat. Back to Raingods, there are several highlights, including the ballad "Incomplete" and the rockers "Mission Statement" and "Faith Healer". Very worthy of reevaluation.

I will be honest and say that I have not spent a lot of time with the successive albums, Fellini Days (2001) and Field Of Crows (2003). Both projects are obviously thoughtful and point towards a more commercial sound as well as the exploration of very personal ideas. Some jumping off points include "So Fellini" and "Moving Targets". I would welcome comments from others who have spent more time with these albums.

All of this really leads me to the latest Fish project, 13th Star. Until a few days ago, I had no idea that a new album had been released. Currently, it is only available from the official website, in a limited edition package with a DVD. Retail versions will be available next spring. As well as being an attractive visual package, all the early reviews, and my own personal impression, is that this is a very strong album, possibly the highlight of Fish's career to date. I may produce a more thorough CD review in the near future, but in the meantime I have to say that this album grabs you by the throat from the first track. There is a consistency and evenness to the album that many of the previous solo works did not have. Much of the credit can go to Calum Malcolm, previous producer for the Blue Nile, among others, who has coaxed a massive sounding album out of the enigmatic laird. There are a lot of highlights, but I particularly enjoyed "Circle Line", "Arc of the Curve", "Zoe 25" and "Openwater". Could be one of the best albums of 2007.

I would be doing Fish a disservice by drawing attention to his output without mentioning where to go and get them. The Official Website is the place to find all these CD's, and in many cases the prices are very reasonable, particularly when most of the albums have been recently remastered with bonus tracks.

Fish is rightly perceived as a tremendous live artist, and as such there have been several live albums and other compilations, which I will not include in my review here. Suffice it to say, the official live albums are the place to start, but others do have their good points.

I'll finish by mentioning the source of much of my information - an extensive 90 minute interview with Fish produced by Voiceprint [Update: the interview was excellent but the mp3 no longer seems to be available. I'll upload a new link if and when I can find another one]

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Spot The Difference

(with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

All the Whos down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot
But the grinch (with a great taste in music) did NOT

"They'll do all their shopping at the Who-Mart store,
And they'll buy for anyone they met before,
Nannies and teachers, accountants and preachers,
Neighbors and cousins and other strange creatures.
They'll draw out a map of the space by the tree
Using GPS to position a present or three
They'll buy garlands and ribbons and musical elves
Candy and candles will fly off the shelves
They'll buy Bratz dolls and Star Wars toys I suppose
Like that cool R2-D2 (I want one of those!)
And indoor helicopters - now that's a great toy
(A bit better than the one I got as a boy)
They'll buy Hannah Montana CD's, I'll bet
No sign of that Red Box reissue as yet (bah humbug, Warners!)
And what's all this HD and Blu-Ray widescreen TV?
When there's no Metal Mickey out on DVD?"

But the real reason the grinch seemed so sad
Was that it was at this time of year when he saw what he had
And realized that lots of who-girls and boys
Weren't waiting this year for a sack of who-toys
They'd like some clean clothes and a bed of their own
To bathe in clean water and live in a home
The old Whos who'd worked in Whoville for years
Are living alone, confused and in fear
For all the PILLS, PILLS, PILLS)
And veterans who served their country in war
Are left out to rot like rags on the floor
Who's in charge here? Whoever they are
Will wave as they drive quickly by in the car
Just in time to arrive at the great who-bilation
Proud that they live in such a great nation
They'll wave all their flags and they'll fire who-rockets
And keep who-paws safe inside their who-pockets

And the grinch thought to himself:
"Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store,
Maybe, just maybe, Christmas means a little bit more,
If we all think of someone we haven't before,
Maybe, just maybe, Christmas can come for us all."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Push Stars - Paint The Town (2004)

In case you hadn't already noticed, Christmas preparations are playing havoc with my blogging routine! So sorry to all those who keep waiting for things to return to normal. I hope you guys like variety!

Here's a CD that I got from Goodwill last week, and it's stayed in the car CD player for several days. I got it partly because it was new (I have a fetish for unwrapping sealed CD's and DVD's!) and because every review on Amazon gave it five stars out of five. That's maximum points from eleven people with no-one saying "yeah, but" or "didn't like this track". As it happens, they were all correct.

I really don't know anything about the band except that they make bright, shiny, commercial pop/rock with that mixture of sincerity and self-belief that the Americans do better than anyone else. Contemporaries would be Lifehouse, The Goo Goo Dolls, maybe even the Shins in a commercially focused mood.

The album is still in print, so I'm just going to put up some tasters, with the emphasis on "tasty". It was very hard to pick a few tracks, as they are really all quite good. Hopefully, this band will be a new discovery for many of you.

The Push Stars - In The Galaxy (buy the mp3 track at Amazon)

The Push Stars - Paint The Town (buy the mp3 track at Amazon)

The Push Stars - Hanging By A Thread (buy the mp3 track at Amazon)

Probably my favorite track is the closer, "Drifting Away". I've added it to my Java player and you can buy the track here. Sorry for the commercial plugs but I've always said that I have no intention of withholding earnings from artists when commercial outlets are available.

Friday, December 7, 2007


It's a cold, wet Friday afternoon here in Tennessee. A good time, then, to explore the colourful (and dry) reaches of cyberspace. Tomorrow, Christmas shopping madness awaits.

First of all, a big "mwah!" of blog lovin' to my bud The Ghost of Electricity as we do seem to talk the same language (i.e. "bother" rhymes with "hover) and his blog is chock-full of tasty bits 'n' pieces. Seemingly fearless, he even posted a track from Phillip Bailey's Chinese Wall album which, by a strange coincidence also contains the first single I ever bought ("Easy Lover") which remains a favourite to this day. Other posts include 808 State, The Killers (covering Dire Straits!) Aztec Camera (a tribute to Evel Knievel!) and, er, a pegboard. And what, pray, is "Aged P's"?

Also have to a mention Cesar from Mexico. Probably the only blog named after dog food (yes, that was an Eddie Izzard joke BTW). Recent posts include Fiat Lux, The Cranes, and a bunch of early 90's records.

If you've been enjoying the Christmas posts then hie thee over to the Duke of Straw, who has reposted two sizeable compilations of tunes. Oh, and take a sandwich with you, as a veritable cornucopia awaits - someone seems to have some free time this Christmas!

A recent addition to the blogroll is So Frenchy, a site that is very....French! Nice art, good tunes, nice girl. The art seems to be from DeviantArt by the way, always worth a surf.

Talking of DeviantArt, it's about time I mentioned emeraldiris, a photographer from Kentucky. I grabbed the header image for my site from her art page. Now, I really should buy a print. And so should you!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Random 80's Wednesday

Chris Rea - Let Me Be The One (B-Side of "Loving You", 1982)
1000 Mexicans - Diving For Pearls (from Dance Like Ammunition, 1985)
Machinations - Predator (from Big Music, 1985)
Bourgie Bourgie - Breaking Point (7" Single, 1984)
This Final Frame - Stories (7" Single, 1985)

Clark Datchler - Fishing For Souls (1992)

Clark Datchler left Johnny Hates Jazz in 1988 at the height of his fame. After internal differences within the band had led to a painful separation, he sought to rediscover a deeper sense of purpose in his music. He moved to Amsterdam and began work on a solo album called Raindance. The album featured some renowned LA musicians, including bass player Nathan East, drummer JR Robinson and percussionist Paulinho Da Costa. Also featured was guitarist Dave Gregory of XTC. The album also saw Clark’s first environmental song, “Raindance” – one of many to follow. The Raindance album was released in 1990 on Virgin Records, with an epic track called “Crown Of Thorns” being the first single. However the song, which suggested that Jesus was a courageous mortal man and not the son of God, and which criticized organized religions in the process, was shunned by radio and failed to chart. Consequently, the album was only released in Japan, where it did achieve commercial success. In 1991, Datchler went back into the studio to re-record and re-mix some tracks from Raindance with Rupert Hine, producer of Tina Turner, The Fixx and Howard Jones. Four new songs were added to the line-up, and the new album was titled Fishing For Souls. The first single, “The Last Emotion”, received little attention, and as the relationship between Virgin Records and Datchler deteriorated further, he left the record label. Shortly after, Virgin Records became part of EMI, and the consolidation of the world’s media began. Fishing For Souls was eventually made available as a bootleg, and is so sought after now that it occasionally appears on E-Bay for a sale price of between $500 and $1000 (from Wikipedia).

Clark Datchler - Fishing For Souls (1992)
  1. State Of Play (Remix)
  2. Broken Spirit
  3. Child To Be
  4. Crown Of Thorns (Remix)
  5. The Last Emotion (Remix)
  6. Fishing For Souls
  7. Widow
  8. Raindance (Remix)
  9. It's Better This Way (Remix)
I've deleted the link as Clark is planning a re-release in the near future. More news at his website,

November Group - Persistent Memories EP (1983)

In the driving "I Live Alone," Ann Prim's machine-gun vocal echoes a monotone Greta Garbo by way of Marlene Dietrich. The band had a powerful presence live in concert, and lots of angst that gets subdued when translated to vinyl in a studio. Good production work by Ann Prim and A. Kirby, who goes by the name of Kearney Kirby, became the trademark of these warriors. Everything is so serious with November Group -- "Night Architecture" sounds and feels contrived, but that doesn't take away from its beauty. Whether Prim and Kirby were doing this as a calculated business move (which MCA recording artist the Rings appeared to be doing before them) or if these songs emerged because it was their art at the time, isn't the point. For what it is, it is very good. Where an instrumental version of "Put Your Back to It" might have been fun, actually putting an instrumental like "Night Architecture" on a disc is a bit redundant. All this techno rock seems to work well sans vocals on the dancefloor anyway -- and the voice takes so long to kick in on "Heart of a Champion" that side two is very much like one long dance mix. "Heart of a Champion" is excellent, though it shows the group's limitations; of all their material it sounds the most dated. This is Devo in a very serious light. "Heart of a Champion" is "Whip It" with a longer chorus. It is the first track, "Put Your Back to It," which is the hit. This is the original long version of a song they would re-record for their A&M Records disc, Work That Dream. Don Foote on vocals and bass, and Alvan Long, the drummer who appeared on the first November Group EP, left for their own group shortly after this. Although not very original, these are good sounds worth finding and dancing to again. (from

November Group - Persistent Memories EP
  1. Put Your Back To It
  2. I Live Alone
  3. Night Architecture
  4. Heart of a Champion

On The Fourth Day of Christmas

Not too jolly today.

Barenaked Ladies - Green Christmas

Todd Thibaud - Christmas Without You

Erasure - She Won't Be Home For Christmas

Saturday, December 1, 2007

On The First Day Of Christmas

Like other bloggers I know, I'm going to start posting some Christmas songs as we get into the holiday season. I've collected quite a few over the years, and many of these are not widely known or easily available. Let me know which ones you like, or if you have any requests.

Frazier Chorus - Christmas Every Year

Red Flag - Black Christmas

Eurythmics - Winter Wonderland

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Random 80's Wednesday

Press play on tape to hear all this week's selections!
Jon and Vangelis - I Hear You Now (from Short Stories, 1980)
Friends Again - Sunkissed (from
Trapped and Unwrapped, 1984)
Thomas Leer - Heartbeat (from
The Scale of Ten, 1984)
The Beautiful South - You Keep It All In (from
Welcome To The Beautiful South, 1989)
Jimmy The Hoover - Tantalise (7" Single, 1983)

The Jon and Vangelis track was the first video I remember seeing on the TV. I still suffer from coulrophobia - an irrational fear of harlequins (and clowns).

No More Nostalgia!

I've had the suspicion for a while that regular readers of the blog were just not that interested in my "nostalgia" section which I posted about once a week. This was based on the complete lack of comments, good or bad.

These pieces were primarily for my own amusement but took a while to put together. What I have done is removed all the postings from this blog and created a separate blog at This blog may or may not be updated in the future, depending on my mood and any feedback I get.

Both blogs will continue to remain ad-free.

Lovers of Random 80's Wednesday, stand by. The new post will be up later today.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Vitamin Z - Rites Of Passage (1985)

In which we imagine a world where the compact disc was introduced in 1980, and now-obscure artists and albums could be preserved for posterity...

Provocative, compelling, innovative - Vitamin Z, on Rites Of Passage, their debut album for Geffen Records, have fashioned a fresh and fully realized sound far ahead of its time. It's an accomplishment all the more impressive given the fact that Vitamin Z is a brand new musical entity, a creative collaboration that catches and holds with assurance and aggression far beyond their years. Simply put, Vitamin Z may well be among the most important new English arrivals in recent memory. Remember, you heard it here first.

Vitamin Z founders Geoff Barradale and Nick Lockwood, both just 25 years old, were born and raised in the industrial wastelands of Northern England's Sheffield, a city whose pop heritage includes such notables as Dave Berry and Joe Cocker, as well as, more recently, Human League and Cabaret Voltaire. The group originally took shape around a loose-knit collection of local musicians who came together in a common rehearsal space. Barradale and Lockwood, recognizing early their mutual affinity for melodic evocative modern music, began developing material together, eventually forming a group that performed for increasingly enthusiastic crowds in and around their home town. Prior to their signing to Geffen Records, the band cut some sides for PolyGram, meanwhile building a solid and growing reputation as a galvanic live unit.

Barradale and Lockwood next traveled south to London to record their Geffen debut, choosing the famed Abbey Road Studios to cut the tracks that would eventually comprise Rites Of Passage. Assisting the duo was a stellar cast of supporting musicians, including Peter Gabriel, drummer Jerry Marotta, Chris Merrick Hughes, (percussionist for Adam Ant), guitarist Neil Hubbard, violinist Simon House and arranger Ann Dudley.

An especially integral part of the Rites Of Passage sessions was guitarist David Rhodes, perhaps best known for his work with Peter Gabriel and Blancmange. David went on to become a full-fledged member of Vitamin Z, based on the creative chemistry among the young artists.

Produced and recorded by Ross Cullum, Rites Of Passage spotlights eight Barradale/Lockwood originals including their debut single "Burning Flame." The accompanying video to "Burning Flame," tells an evocative story-in-song that will be continued with Vitamin Z's next single/video release "Every Time That I See You."

There come those moments, only too rarely, when a new band captures completely the spirit and energy of their time. Vitamin Z is such a band; their time is now and for a very long while to come. (from the Geffen press release, 1985)

A little over the top, maybe, but Rites Of Passage still deserves a CD reissue one of these days.

Vitamin Z - Rites Of Passage (1985)
  1. Burning Flame
  2. Circus Ring
  3. Hi Hi Friend
  4. Every Time That I See You
  5. Casablanca
  6. Angela
  7. Anybody Out There?
  8. Something We Can Do
  9. Burning Flame (Extended Dance Mix)
  10. Dancers of Eve
  11. Circus Ring (Remix)

Unofficial Web Site

Fairly harsh reviews on

Wikipedia Entry

The band is also mentioned at Burning Flame and was recently featured at New Romantic Rules, with some different bonus tracks. It's getting hard to be original!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mighty Mighty - Sharks (1988)

Watch out for hard-to-find, deleted, out of print or critically ignored compact discs released in the last thirty years...

The British band Mighty Mighty developed a larger following in Japan than they did in their native country. However, the group's Japanese fan base evolved posthumously; the band was actually only active for a few years. Mighty Mighty was formed in Birmingham, England, in 1986 and made their debut at the NME/ICA Rock Week concerts and were even included on a C-86 cassette compilation. Mighty Mighty released their first single, "Everybody Knows the Monkey," in 1986. Often compared to Orange Juice, Mighty Mighty only recorded one LP, 1988's Sharks, before splitting up. The band's jangly singles and B-sides were collected on The Girlie Years, the title referring to the name of the group's own label. Vinyl Japan also released Mighty Mighty's BBC sessions in 2001. The band's popularity in Japan resulted from a keen interest in U.K. guitar pop among indie collectors. (from

Mighty Mighty - Sharks (1988)

  1. Gemini Smiles
  2. Maisonette
  3. Biddy Baxter
  4. Little Wonder
  5. Settle Down
  6. Blue And Green
  7. One Way
  8. When You Trusted Me
  9. Michael Says Not
  10. Sulk
  11. I'll Get You Back
  12. Yours Truly
Download Side A
Download Side B

With thanks to the excellent Cactus Mouth Informer for this one.

Peter Geoghegan - Keyboards, Guitar
D. J. Hennessy - Drums
Hugh Harkin - Vocals, Harmonica
Russell Burton - Bass, Backing Vocals
Mick Geoghegan - Guitar

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cold Case

I've been intending to blog about Cold Case (CBS, Sundays 9pm ET) for a while now, but tonight was the final straw. For those who don't know, Cold Case is a police procedural with a couple of twists. Fronted by a charismatic detective (Kathryn Morris, whom I'm forever mixing up with Kyra Sedgwick) and a solid support team of dedicated officers, the group specializes in investigating and solving homicide cases that are many years old. The genius of the show is to fully immerse the viewer in the world and time that the crime occurred, be it in the swinging sixties, the rock 'n' roll fifties, the roaring twenties or more recently. Also refreshing is that the crimes are usually true to life and close to home - reflecting issues of bigotry, xenophobia, prejudice and the mores of the time period involved.

It's probably the best edited show on (US) television, effortlessly switching between the present and the past and - very effectively - showing young protagonists morphing into older suspects and vice-versa. Watching the transformations, you can't help but be struck by the impact of crimes and experiences on young lives as they carry their burdens down a long and lonely road.

My favorite aspect of the show, however, is the use of music. One episode featured Bruce Springsteen songs exclusively. Other episodes use modern artists such as KT Tunstall in creative settings. Classic rock 'n' roll tracks soundtrack a '50's episode. Today, for a murder dating from 1982, artists included Joy Division, Psychedelic Furs and - awesomely - the sublime Cure track "Secrets" from the underrated 17 Seconds album. Whoever puts these together is one heck of a DJ. At the end of every episode, there is a closing montage where the ghosts of the past find peace in the present, all soundtracked like an alternative MTV video with much more emotional impact. Tonight's episode, based on the murder of a serial rapist at a university campus, ended to the swooping synths of Duran Duran's "Save A Prayer". Previous show enders include Paul Westerberg's "A Good Day", Michael Jackson's "Man In The Mirror", and KT Tunstall's "The Other Side of the World". Here's an example of a typical ending montage:

A full list of the show's sountracks is here

Do yourself a favor and watch this show first chance you get.

Love And Money - Littledeath (1994)

Love And Money - Littledeath (1994)

Littledeath turned out to be an appropriate title for this 1994 release. In 1995, the Scottish band broke up, so Littledeath was the last album that Love & Money recorded before its regrettable demise. And regrettable is definitely the word that describes Love & Money's breakup; this album (which combines pop/rock with soul and folk elements) demonstrates that the band still had a lot to offer. But while Littledeath was not a creative disappointment, it was a commercial disappointment — especially in the United States — and that fact can probably be attributed to the lack of a really strong single. As an album, Littledeath is fine. The writing is consistently strong, and lead singer James Grant is expressive throughout the CD. Littledeath is a great album to sit down and listen to, but that doesn't make it radio-friendly. In 1994, Love & Money desperately needed a powerful, attention-grabbing single that would drive radio programmers wild, and there is nothing on Littledeath that fits that description. While moody, introspective offerings like "Ugly As Sin," "What Time Is the Last Train," and "Pray for Love" work well as album tracks, none of them had serious radio appeal (at least not by U.S. standards). Creatively, Littledeath is successful; commercially, it didn't do Love & Money justice in 1994. That isn't to say that gems like "Ugly As Sin" or "What Time Is the Last Train" should not have been recorded; however, Love & Money could have provided some radio-friendly gems, along with some gems that aren't so radio-friendly. Nonetheless, Littledeath was a rewarding swan song for the Scottish outfit.
  1. Littledeath (reprise)
  2. The Last Ship on the River
  3. I'll Catch You When You Fall
  4. Keep Looking For The Light
  5. Pray For Love
  6. Don't Be Afraid of The Dark
  7. Ugly As Sin
  8. Love Is Like A Wave
  9. Bitched Breach
  10. Kiss of Love
  11. Sweet Black Luger
  12. What Time Is The Last Train
  13. Littledeath

Friday, November 23, 2007

CD Review: Hard-Fi - Once Upon A Time In The West

I discovered Hard-Fi early last year thanks to the storming single "Cash Machine" which was belatedly released hear in the US. Already recognized as an Album of the Year in 2005, I got hold of the debut CD Stars of CCTV as soon as it was released here. Fast forward to 2007, and fortunately the new album Once Upon A Time In The West is available simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic.

Good thing too, as Richard Archer and the boys have delivered another cruncher of an album, from the precocious swagger of "Suburban Knights" (the first single) to the retro flavored "Television" and "We Need Love". Custom designed for in-car listening (you can almost hear the throttle of engines and slamming car doors as you listen), the album is a direct descendant from the in-your-face and mad-at-England-isms of The Jam, Oasis and The Clash. Not bad at all.

Official Website

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thank You For The Music

Today is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. of A., and it's a tradition for our family to describe some of the things we are each thankful for before dinner. Naturally, some measure of discretion is appropriate. A few options:
  1. My family, obviously. Especially the Rock Star. And this one. And this one. And this one. Jeez, what would we do without MySpace?Er, communicate?
  2. My job. It's cool.
  3. Diet Dr Pepper
  4. The New Wave Outpost
  5. Not watching the England match yesterday. Or anytime in the last 18 months.
  6. Ernest Borgnine (I'm watching Escape From New York right now).
  7. Jelly Babies
  8. Blogging
More than these, I'd like to go off on a mini-rant about my love of music and my gratitude to the music makers. So here goes.

I bought my first CD back in 1988. It was Brotherhood, by New Order, and cost GBP 8.69. Thats about $17.00, almost 20 years ago. So to people who say that music is overpriced, I say "phooey"! Name one other thing that is cheaper now in real dollars than 20 years ago. A loaf of bread? A house? A pair of sneakers? Buying a CD today is cheaper in many cases than going to the movies, treating the kids to a Big Mac or getting a haircut. Apart from books, what else can give pleasure for so many years and cost less than three cups of coffee at Starbucks?

My point is this, anyone who defends file-sharing or copying CD's based on the expense involved of buying the music is seriously deluded. I've mentioned before that I have a Rhapsody account and I buy new releases on a regular basis. Music that I choose to share on this blog is always with the intention of presenting the artists to a wider audience and in most cases involves albums or singles that are out of print and commercially unavailable. Occasionally, this "lost" music becomes available in one form or another.

Most of the artists I write about did not enjoy worldwide commercial success or acclaim. Many were victims or bad management, indifferent marketing or a lack of record company support. Too many simply never got the chance to be heard by the punters. Here are some ways in which you can acquire some great music and support these deserving artists at the same time.

Buy Sophie and Peter Johnston's new CD available from their website.

Buy Clark Datchler's new CD, available from his website or at Amazon.

Download the Faith Brothers catalog at Billy Franks' website, and go to his Shepherd's Bush gig if you have the opportunity.

Check out the 1000 Mexicans website, and download a Best Of collection here.

Buy Nik Kershaw's terrific album "You've Got To Laugh" from his website. His entire discography is also available from iTunes.

Check out the awesome compilations in the Retro-Active series, available at Hi-Bias.

You get the message. Musicians need your support. And thanks.

Rant over.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tied To The 90's - Part 1

In the first of an occasional series, here are ten great (but relatively unknown) singles from the early 90's.

The Fat Lady Sings - Drunkard Logic
from the album John Son (1993)

Milltown Brothers - Which Way Should I Jump?
from the album Slinky (1991)

Dubh Chapter - Touch And Go
from the album Silence, Cunning & Exile (1990)

The Beloved - You've Got Me Thinking
from the album Conscience (1993)

Robert Plant - 29 Palms
from the album Fate Of Nations (1993)

Deacon Blue - Your Town
from the album Whatever You Say, Say Nothing (1993)

Into Paradise - Angel
from the album Churchtown (1991)

Eg And Alice - Indian
from the album 24 Years Of Hunger (1991)

J.J. - Slide Away
from the album Intro (1991)

Marillion - Cover My Eyes (Pain And Heaven)
from the album Holidays In Eden (1991)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Furniture - Food, Sex & Paranoia (1989)

Watch out for hard-to-find, deleted, out of print or critically ignored compact discs released in the last 20 years...

Furniture - Food, Sex & Paranoia (1989)

  1. One Step Behind You
  2. Slow Motion Kisses
  3. Swing Tender
  4. A Taste of You
  5. A Plot to Kill What Was
  6. On a Slow Fuse
  7. Subway to the Beach
  8. Song for a Doberman
  9. Love Me
  10. Friend of a Friend
  11. Hard to Say
  12. BONUS TRACK: International People

Wikipedia Entry

Band Summary and Discography

Friday, November 16, 2007

Faith Brothers - A Human Sound (1987)

In which we imagine a world where the compact disc was introduced in 1980, and now-obscure artists and albums could be preserved for posterity...

And here's the second album (issued on CD but insanely hard to find)

Faith Brothers - A Human Sound (1987)
  1. With no constitution but my own
  2. That's just the way that it is with me
  3. Saint of contradiction
  4. You can't go home again
  5. Isolato
  6. Dancing with Peter Pan's shadow
  7. Consider me
  8. A welcome pain
  9. May your children speak well of you, Mother Tongue
  10. A boy and the river
Download Now available from Amazon

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


A few people have had problems opening recent archive files. Archive files that I upload may or may not have password protection. If a password is requested, use mineforlife - it's a way of making sure I get credit for links posted on other sites.

I mentioned a long time ago that I would occasionally feature 'easter eggs' on my site. These are hidden links, usually to image files. I'm always coming across "interesting" things when I'm googling a topic - most of these things have no direct relationship to the topic I'm posting about. There's an example in this post. Call me smarty-pants. Or sexist. Guilty as charged!

On with the links, already! I've mentioned Funky Green Tabs before. You can find extended mixes from Yello, Anne Clark, Blancmange, The Assembly and others.

Not sure if anyone's into Italo-Disco, but when the CD covers are as good as these, who wouldn't be?

Brent continues to post a treasure trove of material at Brave New Waves, which has now gone private. I'll help him out by mentioning that he has posted mixes from Blue Aeroplanes, November Group, Julian Cope and The Fountainhead recently. If you want to be added to his fan club, let me know and I'll pass it on.

A recent find is the Vinyl Villain where you can find postings on many different artists. The music links are removed quite quickly so it's worth keeping up with.

Also props to Miss Parker at Rave And Roll, who appears to like Gary Numan just a bit. She also has other treasures like Hitlist, Fiction Factory and, er, Eric Clapton.

If you liked the Camera Obscura track I posted earlier (no relation to the twee pop indie darlings) then by all means check out the website, They finally have an LP out but only available on vinyl!

I seem to mention Saltyka at every opportunity. Comprehensive isn't the word. Complete nutter might be.

I've now got a backlog of albums to post and several new CD's to review. Let me know if you have any preferences. (No, not those preferences, thank you very much).

Albums to feature or post from: Furniture, Phil Thornalley, The Fat Lady Sings, Minor Detail, Milltown Brothers, Martin Page, Eg and Alice, Fake, Bill Sharpe, The Jeremy Days, Toni Childs, Love Club, Hard-Fi, the list keeps growing...

Random 80's Wednesday

Press play on tape to hear all this week's selections!

Electric Guitars - Language Problems (7" Single, 1982)
[mp3] Camera Obscura - Destitution (7" Single, 1983)
Talk Talk - Why Is It So Hard (from Firstborn Soundtrack, 1984)
Julian Lennon - Too Late For Goodbyes (from Valotte, 1984)
[mp3] Chain of Command - Some Aspects (unreleased demo, 1981)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

At The Going Down Of The Sun

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Robert Binyon, 1869-1943

To all our brave servicemen and women, past and current, throughout the world...

Thank you.

Proudly remembering:

Albert Mansell, Royal Engineers
Alan Mansell, Royal Air Force
Gilbert Muncy, US Marines
Brian Badman, US Army

RAF - RAF (1984)

In which we imagine a world where the compact disc was introduced in 1980, and now-obscure artists and albums could be preserved for posterity...

RAF - RAF (1984)
  1. Change Your Mind
  2. Why in The World
  3. She's a Criminal
  4. Imagination Lover
  5. Frontiers
  6. Black And Blue
  7. I Don't Want to Lose You
  8. Self Control
  9. Madeleine O.
  10. Self Control (Extended Mix) - Bonus download
RAF was known as RAFF in Germany, to avoid confusion with a well-known terrorist group. Apparently, no one was concerned that he might be mistaken elsewhere for a branch of the British armed services (or possibly even for a young Rowan Atkinson).

"Self Control" was later covered by Laura Branigan, with great success.

Raffaele Riefoli

Website (in Italian)

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Thought - The Thought (1985)

In which we imagine a world where the compact disc was introduced in 1980, and now-obscure artists and albums could be preserved for posterity...

The Thought - The Thought (1985)
  1. Every Single Day
  2. Stranded With A Stranger
  3. The Rise And The Fall
  4. Lonewolf
  5. Secrets Of The Heart
  6. Out Of Oblivion
  7. Eight Miles High
  8. Maggie McColl
  9. Tonight Again
  10. Rapture

Password: mineforlife


Kok De Jong
Jan De Jong
Wieb Zigtema
Rob Marienus

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sophie and Peter Johnston

If you've never heard of the pop duo Sophie and Peter Johnston then you are in for a treat. Kind of like Everything But The Girl but with more emphasis on synths, the band produced a peel session or two in the early 80's, released two or three singles, and then a full length self-titled album in 1987. They then tried out some new material under a different moniker, and then promptly disappeared.

In the last couple of years a website appeared, maintained by Peter Johnston, who had gone on to produce some solo work. This month has seen some exciting developments, as there is a brand new Sophie and Peter Johnston album out, as well as a retrospective compilation of the period 1983-1987.

Several downloads are available from the website, including new and rare tracks. All of their music is highly recommended. Here's a discography, including some rarities I've collected.

Single - "Losing You" b/w "60 Second Blow" (1985)

Single - "Happy Together" b/w "Sold On You" (1986)

Single - "Television Satellite" b/w "Take That Jerkin Off!" (1987)

Single - "Torn Open" b/w "Getting On" (1987)
Extra track on 12" - "Chasing A Dream"

Album - Sophie and Peter Johnston (1987)

Television Satellite
Open Up
A Bigger Temptation
Take That Jerkin Off!
Some Sunny Day
Happy Together
Torn Open
Run Away
I Want You To Know
No Time
Sold On You
Brain Def
Dreams (bonus track on Japanese CD release)

[UPDATE 2014 - the website appears to be defunct now, which is a shame. Sophie & Peter, I hope you guys are doing well!]