Alternative TV – Action Time & Vision – the Very Best of Mark Perry & ATV 1977-1999

ARTIST: Alternative TV

TITLE: Action Time & Vision – the Very Best of Mark Perry & ATV 1977-1999

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation 

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Love Lies Limp, How Much Longer, Action Time & Vision, The Force Is Blind, Life

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Definitely not here.

LINEUP: Mark Perry and a rotating cast of characters after he basically fired everyone a year after starting the band.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Fanzine editor Mark Perry decides to show punk rockers how to do it, and starts a long career as an experimental music maker and gadfly commentator on the scene.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sniffin’ Glue was a fanzine that was a must read in the UK in 1976 and 1977. It lasted just 12 issues but soon grew to a circulation of 15,000. Mark Perry, the instigator, decided he’d had enough writing and formed Alternative Television (ATV for short).

After releasing some punk records (and being one of the first to mix punk and reggae), and after basically firing everyone, Perry dove into a long career distinguished by side projects, changing lineups, and not caring about expectations. This makes this compilation interesting, challenging, and compelling.

He toned down a little bit as he got older and released a great song about the long lost space program “Apollo”. That’s relative, of course, as he’s still a bit combative and changes directions constantly. “Action, Time, & Vision” is an all-time classic track and you should give the others a listen, even if like me you exile a bunch.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This has a solo record and songs by The Reflection and The Long Decline.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but you can get all of the original independent records that were released from 1977-1980. Mind you, that’s a MUCH bumpier ride than this compilation.

GRADE: B+ – There’s a lot of…interesting stuff that doesn’t quite work in my ears, but “Action, Time, Vision” is an ALL TIME track.

Golden Earring – Moontan

ARTIST: Golden Earring

TITLE: Moontan

YEAR RELEASED: 1973

CHART ACTION:  #12 US

SINGLES: Radar Love (#13 Us, #7 UK), Candy’s Going Bad (#91 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, no.

LINEUP: George Kooymans, Rinus Gerritsen, Barry Hay, Cesar Zuiderwijk. Eelco Gelling and Bertrus Rogers also appeared.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: On their NINTH album, longtime Dutch band breaks through.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Going from Beatle-esque popsters to psychedelic popsters to prog rockers usually wasn’t a career path that many bands took. But this quartet (who solidified in 1970, added a few members here and there, and stuck together as a foursome until 2019, sidelined only by illness) stuck together, and their movement towards prog and rock, with long songs built on riffs and movements, finally got them ears outside of the Netherlands. 

“Radar Love” was the cut that got them noticed, of course, and it was an irresistible radio song. However, the record was more than just that. The opener, “Candy’s Going Bad” was a great exercise in wah-wah guitar, dramatics, and an ending coda that put the story of Candy to bed. Most of the other tracks were long excursions, showing the versatility of the band, and yet they weren’t just jams for jams sake.

It’s not perfect. A couple tracks aren’t as well thought out as the others, which hurts the record a tad. However, it’s more than just “Radar Love”, and should be enjoyed as a unit.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Candy’s Going Bad” is on a compilation called The Long Versions, however, they chose a live version that is SHORTER than the album version. Long? Hmpf.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: They had other albums released in the US, but they were released and soon forgotten over here. So when this was released in the US, MCA scrapped two tracks (one understandable, the other…not so much) and added a track from their 1970 self-titled album – which WAS released in the US.

 GRADE: A- If you like “Radar Love”, you’d really like most of this.

Al Stewart – Al Stewart: Greatest Hits

ARTIST: Al Stewart

TITLE: Al Stewart: Greatest Hits 

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Charting: Year of the Cat (#8 US, #31 UK), On the Border (#42 US), Time Passages (#7 US), Song on the Radio (#29 US), Midnight Rocks (#24 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No, unless you’re a super fan and loved his wordy-as-hell historical songs.

LINEUP: Al Stewart. He was produced by Alan Parsons in his chart years, and always had good guests like Jimmy Page, Richard Thompson, or Simon Nicol on his early records.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A Scottish spinner of tales and legends got some hits in the mid-70s after 10 years of recording.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This compilation is chronological, and it takes eight tracks to get to “Year of the Cat”. Al Stewart was a cult artist before that was really a thing, and he made his name by having the first mainstream-ish song with “fucking” in the lyrics (not here since that was in an 18 minute song), and wrote and recorded historical epics (“Road to Moscow” is 8 minutes of watching the Germans invade the USSR in World War II).

In 1975, he had a top 30 US album thanks to his FM radio play, and in 1976 “Year of the Cat” came on everyone’s radio, and he had a couple of years of fame. But he didn’t really change his motif. And when the hooks didn’t grab the listeners, he lost steam and got dropped by 1982.

This collection grabs a song from every album from his debut to his last Arista album in 1980. While hardly anything is in the wheelhouse of his hits, and sometimes he should just SHUT UP, the songs are tuneful and engaging enough for them not to be exiled. Most of his historical excesses are left on the albums, and that’s probably best.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He played at the first Glastonbury in 1970.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Nah

 GRADE B: Oh, he’s wordy. So wordy. But has a knack for minor-key hooks too

Aldo Nova – The Best of Aldo Nova

ARTIST: Aldo Nova 

TITLE: The Best of Aldo Nova

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Fantasy (#23, #3 Mainstream), Foolin’ Yourself (#65), Monkey on Your Back (#12 Mainstream), Always Be Mine (#107), Tonight (Life Me Up), Rumours of You

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Aldo Nova. He always used session musicians for his records.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Canadian’s first three albums are compiled here for your listening pleasure.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: If Aldo Nova had just shut up shop after releasing “Fantasy”, he would still be revered as the one who helped the pop-metal genre take off.

This collection focuses on his first three albums from the 80’s, where he rocked hard and power balladed with the best of them (before power ballads were cool). He had a good ear for melody and harmonies, and also guitar arrangements. There was a reliance on 80’s production sounds, for what that’s worth in your ears.

But even with his 80’s records trimmed down to 15 songs, it shows his limitations. He sometimes veers into cliché-land and only “Monkey on Your Back” rocks with the fervor and directness of “Fantasy”. He also veered into being keyboard heavy at the end. Still, it’s a good primer for 80’s hard rock/pop metal in case you were looking for something out of the hair band lane.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He took six years off from recording waiting for his contract to expire. He wrote jingles, and went into production and songwriting. He produced a lot of 90’s Celine Dion, and wrote Clay Aikens’ #1 hit. He made bank.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Nope.

 GRADE B: It’s almost “Fantasy and 14 Others”, but some of the others are decent enough.

Aaron Neville – For the Good Times: The Allan Toussaint Sessions

ARTIST: Aaron Neville      

TITLE: For the Good Times: The Allan Toussaint Sessions

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Charting: Tell It Like It Is (#2, #1 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hercules. He covers Baby I’m a Want You, Mojo Hannah, One Fine Day, and For the Good Times

LINEUP: Aaron Neville. Allan Toussaint always had a good band with many of the Neville Brothers or the Meters backing him on occasion.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After leaving Minit Records, a soulful tenor crooner makes a bunch of great sides with famous producer Allan Toussaint, and it’s a shame they weren’t really heard for the most part

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Aaron Neville had been recording for a few years on Minit Records, but nothing really came of those tracks except one minor R&B hit in 1960. In the mid-60s, he recorded a few tracks, including “Tell It Like It Is” for a local New Orleans label and that became a smash.

Later, famous producer Allan Toussaint snapped up Aaron for some work for his production company and released and leased out singles, and recorded a would be theme for a Blaxploitation movie (“Hercules”). He covered some tunes that in other hands are treacly, but with Neville at the mic and Toussaint at the helm they were soulful and funky (he transforms “Baby I’m a Want You”).

This collection shows what we could have had if Neville’s singles would have hit. Alas. But it exists now, and that’s good enough for me.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “”Hercules” had some pressing problems in the UK and never got a release, which is a shame

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. But there is another collection that also has tracks from this era. Also, the rest of his Par-Lo record recordings aside from “Tell It Like It Is” has vaporized.

 GRADE A-: Aaron Neville’s voice makes everything better.

Nancy Sinatra – Start Walkin’ 1965-1976

ARTIST: Nancy Sinatra      

TITLE: Start Walkin 1965-1976

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Top 40: These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ (#1 US, #1 UK), How Does That Grab You Darlin’ (#7 US, #19 UK), Friday’s Child (#36 US), Sugar Town (#5 US, #8 UK), Jackson (with Lee Hazlewood) (#14 US, #11 UK), Lightning’s Girl (#24 US), Lady Bird (With Lee Hazlewood) (#20 US, #47 UK), Some Velvet Morning (with Lee Hazlewood) (#26 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Bang Bang, You Only Live Twice, This collection doesn’t have any duets with her dad.

LINEUP: Nancy Sinatra. Lee Hazlewood. Session pros led by Billy Strange

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Frank’s daughter made a name for herself with tough songs, tender songs, and songs with Lee Hazlewood that are odd yet wonderful.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After struggling for almost five years recording standards, Nancy Sinatra started to make records with Lee Hazlewood and Billy Strange, and magic happened. She started to have hits, both by herself and with Hazlewood and his dusky baritone / bass.

For about three years, she had an excellent run on the pop charts in both the US and the UK, and not just because she was Frank’s daughter. She had her own style, brassy with bravado, but also sweet when she needed to be.

After “Some Velvet Morning” (one of the best singles of all time just on the audacity of its arrangement and lyrics), the hits dried up. She put out some country / folk records that didn’t sell, and she didn’t get to make an album that included those later singles. A move to RCA records away from her dad’s label did nothing in the US, and soon she was a fond memory in the minds of pop fans. However, the singles she made from 1965-1968 were essential listening for any fan of that era and this collection does a good job of capturing the highlights.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “You can’t sing like Nancy Nice Lady anymore. You have to sing for truckers”. That was the advice Hazlewood gave Nancy when they started collaborating.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE A-: As time goes on the quality diminishes, but her run from 1965-1968 was full of excellence.

John Denver – The Essential John Denver

ARTIST: John Denver         

TITLE: The Essential John Denver

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  #66 Country

SINGLES: Top 10: Take Me Home, Country Roads (#2 US, #50 Country), Rocky Mountain High (#9 US), Sunshine on My Shoulders (#1 US, #42 Country), Annie’s Song (#1 US, #1 Country, #1 UK), Back Home Again (#5 US, #1 Country), I’m Sorry (#1 US, #1 Country), Sweet Surrender (#13 US, #7 Country), Thank God I’m a Country Boy (#1 US, #1 Country), Some Days Are Diamonds (#36 US, #9 Country), Dreamland Express (#9 Country)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Leavin’ on a Jet Plane, Farewell Andromeda, Calypso

LINEUP: John Denver. He usually had some of the best studio pros helping.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The mid-70’s country / folk superstar had a huge peak and a long, slow decline as he focused more on the adult contemporary market other pursuits. This collection definitely highlights it.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: In 1975, John Denver was unstoppable, or it seemed. Two straight #1 studio albums and a #2 live album, and a Christmas album that did very well. By 1977, Denver was successful on TV and movies, but he never had another real hit album or single again for the pop market.

He kept cranking out albums for sure, but his approach seemed to change towards a more adult contemporary market, and more cloying, treacly love songs or preachy environmentalist songs instead of a combination of folk and country that evoked his feelings for the land that tinged his earlier work. An alternate theory may be that Denver burned out his audience, and some felt he was becoming a parody of himself with “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”.

As a songwriter, when he was on, he was brilliant (“Leaving on a Jet Plane” is testament to his abilities and his performance is stellar). But somehow he lost some of the mojo and became more of an artist preaching to his choir than converting new fans. This collection definitely documents the rise and decline of Denver, and is probably best picked through based on your tastes.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He started as part of the Chad Mitchell Trio as a replacement for Chad Mitchell himself.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE B-: You have to pick and choose. There’s some great stuff, and some goop of the nth degree.

The Marvelettes – Deliver: The Singles 1961-1971

ARTIST: The Marvelettes

TITLE: Deliver: The Singles 1961-1971

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  None

SINGLES: Top 10: Please Mr. Postman (#1 US, #1 R&B), Playboy (#7 US, #4 R&B), Beechwood 4-5789 (#17 US, #7 R&B), Someday, Someway (#8 R&B), Strange I Know (#49 US, #10 R&B), As Long As I Know He’s Mine (#47 US, #3 R&B), Too Many Fish in the Sea (#25 US, #5 R&B), Don’t Mess with Bill (#7 US, #3 R&B), The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game (#13 US, #2 R&B), When You’re Young and In Love (#23 US, #9 R&B, #13 UK), My Baby Must Be a Magician (#17 US, #8 R&B)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Twistin’ Postman, I’ll Keep Holding On, Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead

LINEUP: Gladys Horton, Kathryn Schaffner, Wanda Rogers. Georgeanna Gordon left in 1965. Juanita Dobbins left in 1963. Ann Bogan took over as lead when Horton left in 1967.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the first successful Motown groups found themselves marginalized by the mid-60’s, but roared back as they adapted to the new Motown sound.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: “Please Mr. Postman” was the first #1 hit for Motown, and the Marvelettes were queens of the record label. And while their vocals never stopped being quality, as other Motown vocal group became more prominent they slunk back into the lower rungs of the pecking order at the label.

Then they had a renaissance of sorts, first by recording songs of quality and distinction (“I’ll Keep Holding On”, “Danger, Heartbreak Dead Ahead”) that weren’t recognized in their time. Finally, they got back in the higher rungs of the R&B charts until the late 60’s, when Motown went through a sea change thanks to the departure of many writers and producers.

They did deserve better, as they certainly got the short end of songs and promotion from the label as other groups were ascendant. The performances were consistently good for most of their career, it was some of the songs that were lackluster.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The lead singer position went to Rogers in the mid-60’s, and then Horton left after she had a special needs baby in 1967.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE A-: They deserved better, and this collection highlights what they had when they had the material.

50 Cent – Best Of 50 Cent

ARTIST: 50 Cent

TITLE: Best of 50 Cent

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION:  #135 US, #95 UK

SINGLES: Top 10: In da Club (#1 US, #3 UK), 21 Questions (#1 US, #6 UK), P.I.M.P. (#3 US, #5 UK), Disco Inferno (#3 US, #87 UK), Candy Shop (#1 US, #4 UK), Just a L’il Bit (#3 US, #10 UK), Outta Control (#6 US, #7 UK), Ayo Technology (#5 US, #2 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The singles until 2009 were all represented for the most part.

LINEUP: 50 Cent. Lotta producers (Dr. Dre and Eminem as Executive Producers). Guests include Nate Dogg, Olivia, Mobb Deep, Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Akon, Ne-Yo, The Mad Rapper.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the architects of sound of the first decade of the millennium.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Nate Jackson (50 Cent) was one of the purveyors of hip-hop in the 2000’s. He combined a natural flow, hard lyrics, hooks, and sing-along choruses that sounded great on the radio, in the club, and in the car. The beats didn’t hit you over the head, but were compliments to the entire whole of the song.

Dr. Dre and Eminem signed him after he was dropped by Columbia after some controversial songs, scrapping a planned album release. He went back to mix tapes and then his first true studio album fulfilled all of the hype that Dre and Eminem

When he uses guests (like Olivia) they work perfectly in his songs – adding complements in hooks and sung verses while not overwhelming the tracks. This was a great era for hip-hop and he was one of the leading lights, and this collection shows why.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The song that really put him on the outs with Columbia was “Ghetto Quran”. It was on a mixtape he released before his deal with Dre and Eminem. He was blacklisted for a couple of years, for some reason.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE A: His albums have some bloat, so this is the best way to listen to him. The deeper cuts are just as hot as his big hits.

Talking Heads – The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads

ARTIST: Talking Heads

TITLE: The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads

YEAR RELEASED: 1982

CHART ACTION:  #31 US, #22 UK

SINGLES: Life During Wartime

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Psycho Killer, Memories Can’t Wait, Once in a Lifetime, and basically all of the best tracks from their first four records.

LINEUP: David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth. On the second disc (side 3 and 4, or the back half of the stream) Adrian Belew, Busta “Cherry” Jones, Steve Scales, Bernie Worrell, and Dolette McDonald joined the tour. Nona Hendryx sings on a couple tracks as well from their Central Park concert.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Taken from radio appearances and concerts, this is the definitive live album for the early glory years of Talking Heads and shows their evolution from quirky arty new wave band to quirky arty neo funk new wave band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: As great as their albums were, Talking Heads were just as great live, as this double live set (ultra expanded for CD and streaming) shows. And they were smart in dividing it in two cleanly as well.

The first half of the set featuresthe basic quartet ripping through songs mostly culled from their first two albums (with a single, an unreleased track, and two from Fear of Music). The initial quartet played together so well, with husband and wife Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth holding down the rhythm and back end, allowing David Byrne and Jerry Harrison freedom on guitar and keyboards.

The second half is the ‘big band’ they assembled for the Remain in Light tour. Featuring keyboard whiz Bernie Worrell (who just left George Clinton’s orbit), guitar wunderkind Adrian Belew (adding another layer of arty complexity), and powerhouse vocalist Dolette McDonald, the big band took on the more complicated songs from their third and four album, and enhanced their earlier songs as well with their presence.

This is a great snapshot of the early Talking Heads, when they were raw and hungry and still a chart underdog. Better commercial success would follow, but this may be their career peak.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: At least two complete concerts from the ‘big band” (Rome and Passaic, NJ) are on You Tube and well worth spending the time with them. Especially “Crosseyed and Painless” with the intro.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: As said above, this is ultra-expanded from the 2-record set. But somehow they chopped off the intro for “Crosseyed and Painless”

 GRADE A+: It may be one of the best live albums of all time, especially in capturing a band at its peak in at least two eras.