Brinsley Schwarz – Surrender to the Rhythm

ARTIST: Brinsley Schwarz            R-3385050-1345775303-3534.jpeg

TITLE: Surrender to the Rhythm

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Country Girl, I Like It Like That, Silver Pistol, Happy Doing What We’re Doing, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Trying to Live My Live Without You

LINEUP: Nick Lowe, Brinsley Schwarz, Ian Gomm, Bob Andrews, Billy Rankin

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pub-rockers collection shows why they’re a historical footnote.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Students of the UK New Wave scene know that Brinsley Schwarz, the band, connects to Rockpile, Elvis Costello, and Graham Parker and the Rumour. Nick Lowe, the bassist and main songwriter / singer, got popular on his own as a performer and producer.

The band was one of the leaders of ‘pub rock’ movement, which was a live alternative to prog and glam played in small venues. While they spawned a lot of compatriots and evolved into the the UK New Wave movement, the music by Brinsley Schwarz is…bland.

They’re competent, they play well, and they’re mellow. Too mellow at times. There’s not a lot of energy, and the cover versions seem lazy. They’re more useful as a reference point than something to put on.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Yes, the band is named after their guitarist. They also had a disaster of a gig at the Fillmore in 1970 that’s legendary.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE C: Disappointing to hear a historical band be this…blah.

REO Speedwagon – R.E.O.

ARTIST: REO Speedwagon      220px-R.E.O.

TITLE: R.E.O.

YEAR RELEASED: 1976

CHART ACTION: #159

SINGLES: Keep Pushin’

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Flying Turkey Trot, (I Believe) Our Time Is Gonna Come

LINEUP: Kevin Cronin, Gary Richrath, Neil Doughty, Gregg Philbin, Alan Gratzer

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After an exile, Kevin Cronin returns to REO, thankfully.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: For their sixth studio album, REO Speedwagon welcomes back Kevin Cronin, who wrote their best-known (to that date) song, yet was forced out (or quit) before it was released and the vocals re-recorded.,

The band had released half-hearted records, but the addition of Cronin gave Gary Richrath some songwriting competition and allowed the material to improve. It still was just mediocre Midwestern rock, but it was an improvement.

“Keep Pushin’”, the lead cut, was the best track since “Ridin’ the Storm Out”, and “(I Believe) Our Time Is Gonna Come” is a pre-cursor to their huge 1980 hits. So, this is an improvement, and not an album you’ll throw out as soon as you hear it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band approached Greg Volz to be the new singer, but he became a Born-Again Christian (and later formed Stryper), thus the return of Cronin.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE B-: It’s not horrible, just a bit blah.

Lush – Gala

ARTIST: Lush                                    220px-Lushgalalpcoverjpg

TITLE: Gala

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None – though Scar hit #3 UK Indie and Mad Love #55 UK Singles chart

SINGLES: Sweetness and Light  (#4 Modern Rock, #47 UK), De-Luxe (#14 Modern Rock)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Hey Hey Helen 220px-Sweetness_and_Light_-_Lush

LINEUP: Miki Berenyi, Emma Anderson, Steve Rippon, Chris Acland. Phil Overhead helps on percussion.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the best of the first wave of shoegaze bands combines its early EPs into a compilation album.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Lush came out with several EPs before they recorded their first full-length, which was a pretty genius move since it allowed them quality control and development of their sound and material.

At first a UK Indie chart phenomenon, later they achieved mainstream success of sorts with “Sweetness and Light”and the Mad Love EP (which contained “De-Luxe”. The interlocking, hazy guitars of Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson give Lush a distinctive sound, coupled with the ethereal vocals of Berenyi. Unlike other shoegaze bands, the guitars are gentler, but still a wash of chords and distortion.  220px-Mad_Love_-_Lush

This collection whetted the indie rock appetite for Lush, as the shoegaze movement was gaining ground in the underground of the US even as grunge was taking over the alt-rock airwaves. It definitely is good to hear what the shoegaze fuss was about.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The collection is in reverse chronological order. 220px-Scar_-_Lush

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A-: Some cuts are a bit draggy but when they’re focused they make excellent, gentle, clatter.

Blur – Leisure

ARTIST: Blur                                      220px-LeisureUK

TITLE: Leisure

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: #7 UK

SINGLES: She’s So High (#48 UK), There’s No Other Way (#82 US, #5 Alternative, #8 UK), Bang (#24 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Sing

LINEUP: Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James, Dave Rowntree

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A dour shoegaze album which didn’t win a lot of hearts and minds outside the singles.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Bands don’t always start off well. Blur is a great example of that.

Despite charting well and having a couple of hit singles, most of the record was turgid and boring. Yeah, Blur was boring – and they really sounded like any other shoegaze band except for a few moments of inspiration, and sometimes a boring track would have a minute where it seemed OK but then went right back to minor-chord turgidness. When they did wake up, they sounded like the Stone Roses’ little brothers.

This is about the last thing you need from Blur if you’re in an exploratory mode. Yeah, a few songs are OK but as the record goes on, you want to escape the minor key mud.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Sing” was on the Trainspotting soundtrack.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Some different running orders in the US and Japan.

 GRADE C: They got a hit, but they knew they needed a re-think.

Jen Trynin – Cockamamie

ARTIST: Jen Trynin           220px-Cockamamie

TITLE: Cockamamie

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None (sigh…)

SINGLES: Better Than Nothing (#15 Alternative, #40 Mainstream), Happier

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not really, unless you knew me then.

LINEUP: Jennifer Trynin, Paul Bryan, Jerry Deupree, David Gregory, Mike Levesque, Michael Rivard. Aimee Mann sang backup.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Boston based solo artists records a rockin’ alternative power pop-ish solo album with great songs and no reaction from the public for the most part.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Coming out of Boston, Warner Brothers released this album after local Squint Records put it out to raves in 1994. It deserved the accolades – it didn’t deserve the commercial freeze-out.

MTV played the video for “Better Than Nothing” at times, and that garnered some airplay. Yet the album has several great tracks like “One Year Down”, “Too Bad You’re Such a Loser”, “Knock Me Down and “Happier”. Her guitar tone is fantastically meaty and raw, which adds to the overall sound and mood. The production and her work with the rotating drummers is strong as well.

There are few dull spots or subpar tracks. It’s just a shame it didn’t resonate with the public or radio.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She later married her producer Mike Denneen.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A+: Unfairly ignored by the powers that be, it deserved a lot of play.

The Raspberries – Capitol Collectors Series

ARTIST: Raspberries           220px-RaspCapColl

TITLE: Capitol Collectors Series

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Charting: Don’t Want to Say Goodbye (#86), Go All the Way (#5), I Wanna Be With You (#16), Let’s Pretend (#35), Tonight (#69), I’m a Rocker (#94), Overnight Sensation (Hit Record) (#18)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doubtful, but some should be in the consciousness if the world was right.

LINEUP: Eric Carmen, Wally Bryson, Dave Smalley, Jim Bonfanti. Scott McCarl and Michael McBride were on their last album, and played on a few tracks here.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Power-poppers made inconsistent albums, but this one collects the best tracks from each one.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After reviewing one individual album and listening to others, the Raspberries were not consistent track over track and seemed to be more of a singles band. An issue is that Eric Carmen tended to go to maudlin ballads to fill time (just like in his solo career), and the other Raspberries had about a 50-50 chance of writing a dream or a dud.

Still, with this collection, you get the good stuff, and not the dross. (Well, mostly, as there are a couple of draggy ballads still hanging around.) Their hits are fantastic power pop, and the contenders (“Let’s Pretend”, “Tonight”, “Hard to Get Over a Heartbreak”, “Nobody Knows”) are coulda shoulda been hits had they gotten the promotion (or weren’t regulated to a B-side or an album cut).

Power poppers should grab this right away – but they probably already have it. As for the rest of you, you need to experience the depth of Carmen and his group. They were fantastic when they were on.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band formed from the remains of Cleveland bands The Choir and Cyrus Erie with Carmen forming the Quick after Cyrus Erie disbanded.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE A: I can take a mawkish ballad or two if it means the rest of this collection exists.

Soul Coughing – Irresistible Bliss

ARTIST: Soul Coughing                    220px-Irresistiblebliss

TITLE: Irresistible Bliss

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #136

SINGLES: Soundtrack to Mary (#37 Alternative), Super Bon Bon (#27 Alternative), Soft Serve

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Disseminated….

LINEUP: M. Doughty, Sebastian Steinberg, Mark de Gil Antoni, Yuval Gabay

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album is a bit tighter in arrangements and production, which caused some band discord and left some fans disappointed.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The much anticipated second album by Soul Coughing changed up their winning formula a bit. No longer did they throw the kitchen sink out there in samples and arrangements. This time, M. Doughty wanted a tighter record – even as they still combined all sorts of genres into one stew.

“Super Bon Bon” was the song on this record that has left a legacy, and it does harken back to their debut, though it is a bit slicker and polished. As the record moves along, the sense of wonderment and excitement from discovering new sounds didn’t seem to be there. It’s almost as if they were telegraphing their production and sampling tricks.

I wouldn’t call this a ‘slump’ or a bad record by any means. It’s just not as magical as the first one.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Doughty didn’t want to wait on Tchad Blake to produce, and enlisted David Kahne to produce most of the record. That didn’t go over well with anyone except Doughty, and bassist Steinberg quit for a few days.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. An EP with live cuts…in Japan (of course).

 GRADE B: By making the record tighter and less random, it takes away some of the more interesting aspects of the band.

Swans – Filth

ARTIST: Swans                                     

TITLE: Filth

YEAR RELEASED: 1983

CHART ACTION: Are you serious?

SINGLES: None, but the EP Swans is appended.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Um….

LINEUP: Michael Gira, Jonathan Kane, Roli Mosimann, Norman Westberg, Harry Crosby

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pummeling your senses into oblivion.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I’ve had issues in adding some really out there and art damaged records to my catalog (See Throbbing Gristle, Einstruzende Neubauten, Foetus, etc. on Ugggh!) but Swans makes the cut, even though it is also grimly difficult and damaged.

Michael Gira and his band of noise terrorists do have song structures, and even songs that you can move a bit too. What they also have is a holy clatter and noise made by two drummers, two bassists, and a guitarist interested in making sheets of noise. Gira sings, er, shouts his tales of degradation and real-life horror. The effect is heightened by the use of repetition in both music and lyrics.

This is not for everyone – probably not for most people. But if you get it (and it may take a while) it’s worth a ride. 

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Michael Gira said he wanted the music to obliterate, just because it felt good. Mission accomplished.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Several different packages, and some have their debut EP along with this album

 GRADE B+: I get this, not that I’m going to put it on to cook dinner (unless I have to tenderize something with a mallet).

The Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery and Imagination

ARTIST: The Alan Parsons Project      220px-TAPP-TalesOfImagination

TITLE: Tales of Mystery and Imagination

YEAR RELEASED: 1976

CHART ACTION: #38 US, #56 UK

SINGLES: The Raven (#80 US), (The System of) Dr. Tarr & Professor Fether (#37 US), To One in Paradise (#108 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, no

LINEUP: Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson with work from a whole punch of people from Pilot and Ambrosia, vocals from Arthur Brown, Jack Harris, Leonard Whiting, and Terry Sylvester, and narration from Orson Welles (!).

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut record from the proggy standbys somehow got a top 40 single (and not even the poppiest cut) with an album revolving around stories from Edgar Allan Poe. TalesofMystery-_LP_alternate

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson combined talents in 1974 as engineer and manager, and then decided to record tracks that fit their personal musical tastes and direction. The result was a very proggy, highly engineered and produced, album that utilized stories from Edgar Allan Poe as inspiration.

Gathering musicians and actors, they put together the tracks meticulously. It was crafted and polished, and at times seemingly rote and mechanical (especially if you know the APP’s later work).

Somehow, somehow, there was a Top 40 hit in all of this heavy prog, but it was the 70’s. It’s a decent enough record that skimps on the Poe in place of pretty heavy progressive elements. But at least most of the tracks move along at a pace.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Orson Welles isn’t in the original mix, but in the 1987 remix by Parsons utilized narration that Welles recorded and sent to Parsons after the original album. Also, the drum sounds were updated.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Demos and guide vocals, and both the ’76 and ’87 mixes are in a package.

 GRADE B-: It’s bloated and bombastic, but it’s not terrible, and it is interesting in some places.

 

Devo – Freedom of Choice

ARTIST: Devo                                       DevoFreedomofChoice

TITLE: Freedom of Choice

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION: #22 US, #47 UK

SINGLES: Whip It (#14 US, #8 Dance, #51 UK), Freedom of Choice (#103 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Girl U Want, Gates of Steel

LINEUP: Mark Motherspaugh, Gerald V. Casale, Bob Motherspaugh, Bob Casale, Alan Myers

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The ‘breakthrough’ thanks to a fluky single, but it was a decent album.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Regrouping after a disappointing second album, Devo moved toward a synth pop sound while keeping guitars for flourishes and fills. The heavy lifting was on keyboards and synths.

Starting off strong with “Girl U Want”, the album announced Devo as a vanguard of synth music in the 80’s. “Whip It”, a fluky hit (catchy as heck, and the meaning zoomed past everyone almost). The closest song to the old sound is the title track, a martial call to individualism and a condemnation of complacency. Normal Devo stuff, as it were.

The album has some filler, but there’s no stunning lows or head scrathers as on their last album. The high points, though (including “Gates of Steel” and “Mr. B’s Ballroom” along with the other cuts listed above) raise up the grade.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Gates of Steel” was co-written with two friends from the Akron music scene.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Live versions and demos..

 GRADE A-: There’s some real Devo gold here, as it were!