Friday, November 28, 2008

Product Review: Coosh Headphones

Something a little different today. I occasionally get emails mentioning new releases by bands, and apart from Empire of the Sun, I've not mentioned any because I don't blog about stuff unless I genuinely have an interest in it. So when I was offered the chance to road test some new headphones by Coosh (pronounced Kush) I had to think about it. In fact, I ignored the first email. When the second opportunity came along, I was a little more accommodating.

When it comes to headphones, I will confess that I am a little demanding. I tend to wear them when I travel, and would prefer to use them at home when I am competing for sound space with my daughter's Scooby Doo fixation. Up until this point, I have been disappointed. Firstly, let me say that although I know it is possible to spend over $100 on a pair of headphones, there is no way I will spend that much - it's just not my style. So when I got my MP3 player a couple of years ago, I tried to use the ear buds that came with it - but ear buds just never seem to stay in my ears. You know the drill - you twist in your seat, or move your head and one or the other flops out like a sloth at a mattress factory. So then I tried some over-ear 'phones, the ones with a band that goes round the neck instead of hurting the top of your head. They would stay on, but still felt uncomfortable and, much more significantly, would never push the sound into the ear, so it just wasn't an immersive experience.

The last set I bought, which I have still been using occasionally, was a set of Panasonic hybrids, which have an ear bud connected to clips that fit over the ears. The sound quality is good, but the clips are too rigid and don't mould around the ear to give a really comfortable fit.

What all this means for the Coosh product, was that it had the opportunity to become my earphones of choice, and that's what happened. They do everything I need them to - they stay on, fit comfortably, sound good and are reasonably priced at $19.99 (on Amazon and elsewhere).

I've put together a short video comparing the headphones, which will be up soon. Here's a video showing how well the buds stay on - even if you are in a hip-hop crew!

Overall this is a new product I am more than happy to recommend.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Baby, You're So Excitable

Those of you who truly love music, and I'm guessing that's most of you, will know what I mean when I mention the giddy rush that comes from discovering some great music in a place you really don't expect to. It's really my biggest motivation for maintaining a blog.

What's also great is that it's such an individual experience, no two people react to music in exactly the same way, and I can point to several examples of where I have given something a second chance because another blogger was raving about it. And, let's face it, falling in love is an addictive experience.

I'm excited right now because I'm pretty sure I've just discovered my record of the year. I'm not going to say too much yet, except to provide the following snippets:
  • I'm thinking that very few people, if any, who read my blog regularly will have heard of this release
  • It cost me a whopping $0.75
  • It was released in 2008
  • Female vocals
More will be revealed next month. In the meantime, here's some excitable music.

And here's the extended mix:

Amazulu - Excitable (Extended Mix)

And some more (exciting) tunes:

The Housemartins - Five Get Over Excited
Warren Zevon - Excitable Boy

If you're looking for The Pointer Sisters, well, I'm not that excited - yet!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Owen Paul - As It Is (1986)


Owen Paul - As It Is (1986)

  1. Pleased To Meet You
  2. Somebody's Angel
  3. My Favourite Waste Of Time
  4. Sonny
  5. Just Another Day
  6. One World
  7. Only For The Young
  8. Prime Time
  9. Pharaoh
  10. Bring Me Back That Spark
  11. My Favourite Waste Of Time (Jumbo Mix)

Roland Rat Superstar - The Cassette of the Album (1986)

Here's a fun one for Sunday morning...

  1. Intro
  2. Number One Rat Fan
  3. Leeks Are Wonderful, Leeks Are Nice
  4. Rat Rapping
  5. My Roland
  6. Live Dangerously
  7. Love Me Tender
  8. Pink Bucket Reggae
  9. Great 'Ere Innit?
  10. Summer Holiday
  11. The Original, The One And Only

And another one I found:
Roland Rat Superstar - Rat Rapping (Extended Mix)

Wikipedia Entry

Friday, November 21, 2008

Beware of Random Music, Part 1

I wanted to say a little more about the Freiheit single I posted a couple of days ago. I realize that it is a little out of keeping with many of my selections as (a) it was a bona fide chart hit and (b) has been maligned over the years as a sappy and uncool record. I was under the same impression, I guess.

Enter the random wonder that is an iTunes shuffle playlist. But first, some history.

Back in 1985, I took my mum's old record player (essentially a suitcase with a stylus) and loaded about ten 7" singles to create a "playlist". Except it would jam after about three.

Back in 1988, I bought a state of the art Pioneer six disc CD player and gleefully hit the "shuffle" function, which enabled me to play Black, Johnny Hates Jazz, and China Crisis in any order. Wow.

Back in 1998, I bought a 50 CD Jukebox player that was on sale. Load up 50 CDs (most of my collection) and hit random. Play a game called "what is that? did I buy that? oh, yeah, that got a five star review, so even though I thought it was crap when I first heard it, now I appreciate the subtleties of the production, er, right?"

Now, in 2008, I access random play on my iTunes player and it digs around my hard drive for weird stuff I forgot I downloaded. Like Freiheit.

I didn't mean to download that one. It was part of a compilation that had Will To Power on it, and for some reason I wanted to hear "Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley" at 11.30 at night several months ago. I am weird.

And last Sunday, iTunes messed me up firstly by playing "Second Chance" by 38 Special, which amazingly I had never, ever, heard before (and could not figure out who it was) and then playing "Keeping The Dream Alive" afterwards. And I found I could not get the bloody song out of my head.

My memories of Freiheit are inescapably linked with Christmas, because the song was rumored to be a potential Crimbo Number 1 single in 1988, and it was included on several Christmas compilations thereafter despite having no connection to Christmas at all except a passing resemblance to Paul McCartney's "Pipes of Peace" at the start.

The band actually had a decent pedigree, being produced by Armand Volker, who worked very closely with Michael Cretu on some very well produced records of the mid 80's, such as albums by Sandra, Hubert KaH, Moti Special, and several others.

To my surprise, the song was quite unavailable on Amazon, either on compilations or on Freiheit's hit collections. And even though I was familiar with it, it seemed folks on this side of the pond had not heard it before. Hence the post.

I'm thinking that Scotland could have used it in the World Cup for inspiration instead of that Del Amitri song, "Don't Bother Parking The Jet", or whatever it was called.

While I was looking for the Freiheit version, I did find a cover by a group called Mulberry Lane. These four sisters are from Nebraska, which I had always thought sounded like a depressing place. My bad. Even though Mulberry Lane is essentially easy listening, they are also easy viewing:

Here's their cover version. You will also discover they have a new Christmas CD out so go check it out! After all, we could all use some cheer at this time of year, don't you think?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Random 80's Wednesday

Leisure Process - Anxiety (7" Single, 1983)
Ice Cold In Alice - When The Rain Comes Down (7" Single, 1988)
Kids In The Kitchen - Current Stand (from Shine, 1985)
Two People - Heaven (7" Single, 1987)
Freiheit - Keeping The Dream Alive (from Fantasy, 1988)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bone Symphony - Bone Symphony EP (1983)


Bone Symphony - Bone Symphony EP (1983)
  1. It's A Jungle Out There
  2. Everything I Say Is A Lie
  3. I'll Be There For You
  4. Piece Of My Heart
  5. Dome Of Spheres
Bonus Track:
One Foot In Front of the Other
Scott Wilk

As Part Of A Continuing Effort, Blah, Blah, Blah

All my bandwidth at Fileden got zapped again, which left my recent Random 80's post deader than a dodo wearing an "I'm Dead" T-Shirt. Which, at least gives me the opportunity to mention the Dodo girls.

So, as part of a continuing effort to have a blog that does not suck completely, I have signed up with a new file service, which for a small monthly subscription will give me about ten times the bandwidth, which should be more than enough. I am updating the links as we speak. This also means I will be able to keep files up for longer as long as there is some demand.

Oh, you lucky, lucky people.

Link-O-Rama Part Deux

According to Blogger, I have one follower. Thank you, mom!

The Late Greats is still going strong, which means two things - expect to find plenty of seasonal goodness over the next few weeks and there are still a lot of guilty pleasures out there!

I don't think I've mentioned it before, but Mine For Life has a mirror site at Multiply - it's not as pretty but if ever my content gets lost on Blogger, you can look for me over there.

So Frenchy is still around, and dedicated to new wave with a gothic (and gallic) twist and still has an eclectic and arty look.

Rave And Roll has posted a list of 136 classic new wave tunes and invites you to submit your top ten 80's tracks. Welcome back, MP!

Rene at Retro Wonderland has always spun amazing tunes. Like, for example, the awesome extended mix of "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes". Although it's not strictly music related, I would like to quote from a recent post of his, after some turbulent times:

I have to say to the haters and bigots of the world "Thank You" ....It was the haters that gave me the strength to hit the gym, work out 5 times a week and drop 115 grueling pounds. It has been the biggest accomplishment of my life. I have never been skinny much less physically fit...well, Now I can say I am. I went from a size 46 waist to a 32 and I can actually now climb a flight of stairs without wanting to pass out.
The hardest change we can make in our lives is within ourselves. Congratulations Rene for turning a negative into such a positive. I bet you look hot now!!

Just noticed the link from McDoc's Evo-XR Remixes - so go check him out too.

Here's a new one. I discovered The Upsetter 1969 while trawling for Amazulu remixes (as you do). Not only does he rightfully pay tribute to The Greatest Year Evah (TM) but if you are partial to a little ska/dub/reggae with an 80's flava and a typically idiosyncratic British worldview, he's your man! Here's a typical quote:

You know as I hurtle towards the second half of my life I'm becoming more reflective and I don't mean that I am slightly shinier than I was either. I've begun to think that I'm great which is true but also a complete turnaround from some years ago or even pretty recent history ..... I'm beginning to wonder what the hell I'm going to be doing with the rest of my life? I really can't see myself putting up with this Muppet at work without killing him ..... I mean if any of the rest of us were 'lending ourselves' money from the tills we would be gotten shot of right away with possibly a ride home in a white car with a blue light on it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Link-O-Rama Part Une

It's been ages (about six weeks actually) since I last did a links post. This time I thought I would make an effort to revisit places I have mentioned in the past, as well as a couple of new ones, before degenerating into a stream of consciousness ramble about, well, whatever.

I've mentioned Scratchy Buckles before, albeit very briefly. An interesting blend of cartoons, modern sounds, and weird trivia, Scratchy manages to poke fun at us vinyl-obsessed raincoat wearing goofballs, at the same time as pointing out how endearing nostalgia can be. One of his recent posts features Rusty Goffe, who used to be the head Oompah Lumpah for Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka - who apparently released an album around the time with titles like "Ten Feet Tall" and "Scotch On The Rocks". Too early for a cover of Randy Newman's "Short People", sadly.

Sheerinertia's Engine, sadly, is no more, due no doubt to the intensely negative backlash certain popular bloggers have been subjected to in the last couple of months.

Island Monkey has now gone private, so I am unable to comment on what's going on there.

Rho-Xs is another one that is close to closure:
Hello, well all my reupdating seems to have attracted the real leeches that live off artists, i suppose you have to expect that this blog will be closed any day now..well i enjoyed sharing and as i said before was winding down Rho-Xs. Obviously the fact that i stay far away from new titles or the MP3 format technically doesnt matter. You can say goodbye at /Rho-Xs if you feel like of luck, Rho
On a brighter note, Little Hits is still going strong and just featured "Pure" by The Lightning Seeds - a perennial favorite of mine. And how about the video, while we're at it:

Another blog that's gone private is Cesar, previously a trove of early 90's stuff. Brent's Brave New Waves is long gone - anyone know if he's still doing anything?

Jacyk's 80>90 Music Memories has been inactive since August, after all his links went dead. Anyone noticing a trend here? I previously described Rockistory as "the most schizophrenic blog ever" and while it is still a massive mash up, at least it is still going strong. Recent posts include Mike Ness, Shocking Blue and Link Wray.

Saltyka is still producing posts the size of Asia, but his last post was over a month ago. Perhaps he got a job? Or he's researching something really, really sizeable. Like The Complete History of Every Rock Act in the World Ever, Except for Sue Pollard.

Sweeping The Nation is still, um, sweeping up, but deduct a point for titling your blogroll Every half-decent music-related blog in the world and then not mentioning the fabu (and still alive, at least) Mine For Life. Let justice be done! [UPDATE - I now have a link. Cheers!]

Worldvix, who I mentioned once, seems to have gone the way of Naughty Blogger (TM) and is busy posting all the recent releases you can think of. Without any prblems, apparently. So, like a Twilight Zone episode, it appears that posting a Secession 12" single from 1987 might be worse than oh, let's see, giving away the new Taylor Swift album. Make sense of that!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Better Days

I tend to stay out of politics. While many of my Blogger friends have commented publicly on the Presidential Election and it's outcome, I'm still absorbing the impact and waiting to see what direction the country will go in. I am proud to say I voted in the election, for the first time as a US Citizen. What prompted this post was a songwriting exercise I found on an old thumb drive which dated back to the last Election between Bush and Kerry. I had attempted to write something in the style and tone of a piano ballad, similar perhaps to "A Month of Sundays" by Don Henley or "Sail Away" by Randy Newman. After four years, I am still quite proud of it. And perhaps, now, finally, those better days are on the horizon.

Better Days
This whole town’s awash with money
It’s the same across the land
It’s not mine so I keep running
Trying hard to understand
We will win the war on terror
That’s what the politicians say
But they’re the ones that I’m afraid of
Promising better days

The parties fight and spin their rhetoric
Talk about medals and Vietnam
As if this country needs a hero
Most of us don’t give a damn
We’re tired of the lies and pointing fingers
Trapped inside a court of blame
We want to know how to feed our children
See those better days again

It’s a time for revolution
You can email from your phone
On a jet straight out of Bangor
There’s no need to be alone
Run home to watch the television
Laugh at folks like you and me
Let’s degrade ourselves for money
Better days are on TV

Let’s beam our dreams the whole world over
Salute our empire so benign
Fly to Mars to look for weapons
Better days are yours and mine

So why is it that I keep thinking
About my childhood years ago
Bags of marbles in the playground
Hide and seek and tic-tac-toe
Perhaps I’m like an LP record
Tired and worn out point of view
I’m just thinking of my children
Praying for better days
Hoping for better days
Longing for better days
For You

Return To Eden

Seeing as my blog is named after an Ultravox song, their 1982 album Quartet is my favorite album of all time, and that I never got to see them live as I was in my early teens when they split up, you might guess I am more than a little stoked at the news that the classic band line up is reforming for a 14 date tour in the United Kingdom next April.

Probably the only band I can think of that I would fly across the Atlantic for. Are any of my British friends planning on going?

More details on the tour at the excellent official Ultravox website.

Monday, November 10, 2008

More Face To Face

I had quite a lot of positive feedback to the Face To Face track I posted last week. I'm reluctant to post any more, because Wounded Bird reissued the Face To Face catalog a couple of years ago. Here are the details:

The debut album, Face To Face, is currently available from Amazon:

The second album, Confrontation, released in 1986, is also available:

Here's the video for "10-9-8":

And here's the video for "Under The Gun":

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Update on ZShare

I've had several people comment lately that older files uploaded with ZShare are no longer accessible. I will repost the ones that I receive a request for. Any other links will stay dead.

Nomo - The Great Unknown LP (1985)

Nomo - The Great Unknown (1985)
  1. We Go To Sleep Believing
  2. The Great Unknown
  3. Dance The Dance
  4. Let It Come Down
  5. What A Little True Love Can Do
  6. Wailing Wall
  7. Killer Love
  8. Red Lipstick
  9. Slave For Love
  10. Facts Of Life
Red Lipstick (Dance Mix) via YouTube

David Batteau (Vocals)
Tony Humecke (Keyboards)
Eric Pressly (Bass)

[Link updated September 2012 - I have now posted my own vinyl rip with full artwork]