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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

(the) Tubes - Remote Control

Artist: (the) Tubes
Album: Remote Control
Year: 1979
Style: Power Pop, Prog
Similar Artists: 10cc, Supertramp, ELO, Cheap Trick, The Who, Styx, Steely Dan
"One Word" Review: prog-rock-opera
Based Out Of: San Fran, CA
Label: A&M
 Remote Control - Cover & Record
Remote Control - Back & Record
Remote Control (1979)
  1. Turn Me On 4:10
  2. TV Is King 3:08
  3. Prime Time 3:15
  4. I Want It All Now 4:27
  5. No Way Out 3:22
  6. Getoverture (instrum.) 3:23
  7. No Mercy 3:27
  8. Only The Strong Survive 3:54
  9. Be Mine Tonight 3:30
  10. Love's A Mystery (I Don't Understand) 3:27
  11. Telecide 5:41

Album Rating (1-10): 7.5

Members & Other Bands:
Todd Rundgren - Producer, Guitar, Keys, Engineered (Nazz, Utopia)
Fee Waybill - Vox (Toto, Richard Marx)
Bill Spooner - Guitar, Vox
Michael Cotten - Synth, Design (Kinks)
Mingo Lewis - Percussion (Al di Meola)
Prairie Prince - Drums (Journey, Jefferson Starship [next gen])
Roger Steen - Guitar, Vox (Nina Hagen)
Re Styles - Vox
Vince Welnick - Keys (Grateful Dead)
Rick Anderson - Bass
Jeffrey Kent Ayeroff - Concept Coordination
Chuck Beeson - Coordination, cover design
Greg Calbi - Mastering
Mark Hanauer - Photography
Jim McCrary - Cover Photo & Photography
Roland Young - Art Direction

Unknown-ness: So sure, I’ve heard of the Tubes, and I had when I bought the record…but did I really know what they sounded like? No. Even assuming they are general New Wave music is not a sure sign of what their music and albums sound like. So based on the incredible cover and album-wide concept of TV, I wanted to get this to decide for myself what they sound like. I don’t do this with many bands or covers, but with this album, it was the cover that sold me on the idea of reviewing the Tubes.

Album Review: This tubes record is a concept album about a television-addicted idiot savant, and is based on a book called Being There. This fifth album of there is the first to be produced by Todd Rundgren.

“Turn Me On” fades up with a pulsing synthesizer and funky Devo-ish keyboard sounds. It drives with the drums added, and is full of Cheap Trick power pop. And a Kiss-harmonized chorus. The song had a great driving pace and dynamic chord changes. The instrumental ending feels rock-operatic, like The Who’s Tommy.
“TV Is King” continues the same theme, and is more relaxed in tempo, but makes up for it in energetic vocals, and it continues the harmony in the chorus and power pop chord changes. This song expresses the love for a machine, much like Tommy and his pinball machine. There is a mounting tension as the song builds, and it ends with that hovering tension
“Prime Time” starts with a smooth, calm female fronted Blondie-style disco song. Straight up Disco. Bee-Gees harmonized chorus, and a hovering string section flow throughout the verse of song. The show tune aspect still exists here, and it feels like it could be from the film The Apple. The brief improve dance-off instrumental section features dialogue spoken over the section.
“I Want It All Now” has soaring electronic notes that twist out of existence. The marching beat leads to a dream like bridge into the harmonized power-chorus. The cold, robotic theme that Styx Mr. Roboto dips a little into this territory for inspiration.
“No Way Out” has a disco tempo, but again this feels like it was a natural predecessor for Styx rock opera. There is lots of chaotic energy that simulates the trapped feeling of being stuck somewhere, thus the title “no way out” is quite apt.  

“Get-Overture” starts side 2 with an instrumental with soaring synth and stumbling, crashing percussion. It builds up, climbing higher and higher, and is taken over with a race track of melody, with sonic the hedgehog like precision and motivation. The song ends at a pinnacle, and fades right into the next track
“No Mercy” is a grimy, back alley stomp taking out of from the clouds of the opening track into a blue collar street life. Albeit, a show-tuney version of gritty life with choreographed gang dance moves, sounding a lot like Steely Dan’s Do It Again.
“Only The Strong Survive” is much more of a pub rocking song, with more promise and hope. There are some experimental in Falsetto sections, reminding me of Of Montreal a little. The verse section reminds me a little of Frank N Furter’s songs in Rocky Horror.
“Be Mine Tonight” feels like a Weird Al song. The song builds nicely in the chorus, and crashes into a rewarding power pop chorus. The song continues to tread water throughout the verse to reach the bridge. There is a light hearted breakdown that, if it were a Beatles song, would be whirling and psychedelic. It then continues back into a 2x loop of building choruses, and finishes the song boldly with the repetition of the chorus.
“Love's A Mystery (I Don't Understand)” would be the power ballad that the album desperately needs. With crying dual layered guitars, and sentimental vocals over a basic piano melody. This is like a heavy Air Supply song (and it even has the word “love” in the title, so it doubly passes).
“Telecide” ends the album with fuzzy energetic guitars, and an in your face tempo, with unleased and varying voice experiments. If there were not so many instruments and the vocals were not so polished, this could pass as a punk song. This is the final burst of energy saved up on this side two. It delves into some prog time signatures and tempo changes, in the instrumental section, taming the overall aggressive tempo it had at the outset. Just as you thought it would go back into the rushing chorus, they take one last opportunity for gothic vocals, and guitar effects. But the song heads into a repetition of the TV Suicide chorus chant, before the storyline holds, true, commits tele-suicide, and the song lofts the listener up to the broadcast heaven with an angelic conclusion. 

Stand Out Track: Turn Me On

Links:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

We Five - You Were On My Mind

Artist: We Five
Album: You Were On My Mind
Year: 1965
Style: Folk-Pop
Similar Bands: The Seekers, Byrds, New Christy Minstels, The Mamas & The Papas, Kingston Trio, Neko Case, Corin Tucker.
One Word Review: Choir Folk-tunes
Based Out Of: Los Angeles 
Label: A&M, Trident
 You Were On My Mind - Cover & Record
You Were On My Mind - Back & Record
You Were On My Mind (1965)
  1. Love Me Not Tomorrow 3:06
  2. Somewhere Beyond the Sea 2:22
  3. My Favorite Things 3:12
  4. If I Were Alone 2:33
  5. Tonight 2:04
  6. Cast Your Fate to the Winds 1:58
  7. You Were On My Mind 2:34
  8. Can't Help Falling in Love 2:34
  9. Small World 1:31
  10. I Got Plenty O'Nuttin' 1:50
  11. Softly As I Leave You 2:40
  12. I Can Never Go Home Again 2:25
Album Rating (1-10): 7.0

Members & Other Bands:
Mike Stewart - Vox, Guitar, Banjo (West)
Pete Fullerton - Bass, Vox
Beverly Bivens - Vox 
Bob Jones - Guitar, Vox (West)
Jerry Burgan - Vox, Guitars (The Burgans)
Frank Weber - Producer (Kingston Trio)
Jerry Granelli - Percussion
John Chambers - Percussion
Dennis Hodgson- Cover & Liner Notes
Peter Whorf Graphics - Album Design
Peter Abbott - Engineering

Unknown-Ness: I remember picking this album up in a thrift store in San Fran many years ago, as I embarked on this quest, and I did not know what I had. It was an older band for sure, but I did not know if it would sway the way of folk or head to a more pop avenue. Well, I wanted to pick it up, as I knew there were some good bands that came out of the mid-late 6o’s in that area, and I did not know what I would hear. It’s the best time to take a chance.

Album Review: “Love Me Not Tomorrow” is an original song by Mike’s brother, John, who was a member of the Kingston Trio. The female vocals remind me a little of Corin from Sleater Kinney. Just the little bit of country twang in a pop song. The song itself is slow, thoughtful, and folksy. Minor instrumentation behind the vocals grows as the song progresses. I would also not be surprised to find this number on a Neko Case solo album. Apparently these bold female were uncommon for the era. It feels like an opening track, but it never evolved beyond the intro.
“Somewhere Beyond the Sea” is a cover of the song made famous by Bobby Darin sung as a male-female vocal group’s call and response, taking the verses, and combining in other areas. There is a rushed nervousness implied with the rapidly strummed guitar work, and the song is rushed along. I imagine this is what it’s like today for a punk band covering a pop hit.
“My Favorite Things” is from the Sound of Music. This version is a wispy, renaissance folky rendition. In this case, it is slowed down, and the band adds a bit of a psychedelic tint to the melody. The lyrics are drawn out to the point where it is a Christmas choir singing and holding specific notes, abandoning the rollicking melody.
“If I Were Alone” is an original song. It is jangley and again reminds me of Neko Case’s country-pop style. The guitar doesn’t exactly fit the melody, but it is full of some good ideas layered together.
“Tonight” is from West Side Story. This version floats along, drifting like the hopeful dream the song represents. The choir of voices is dramatic and ethereal, and I could imagine the folky twist taking the song out onto a western bound wagon train settling in for a campfire for the evening.
“Cast Your Fate to the Winds” is a Vince Guaraldi song. It features the female vocals tittering in high pitches before it glides down to the normal register. The vocals stand out, greatly set apart from the music which is just a hint in the background. The little hook in the verse is cheerful and fun to follow

“You Were On My Mind” is an Ian and Sylvia Song. It begins with a light drum. The vocals are deeper than usual, and the song takes on a more psychedelic melody. The guitar is used lightly too. Just to accent the chord changes. The song is a fun and peppy pop song, that feels, with a little modification, could be sung in nearly any possible musical genre. It has a nice little breakdown, and the band builds it back up right into the Who-Oh-aOhas. And the song ends before it has a chance to get boring.
“Can't Help Falling in Love” is a cover of the Elvis Presley song. This liquid version has a jittery instrumentation, almost giving the song the impression that it is being played under water. The slow, familiar melody lurches along with the choir of relatively deep vocals. Until the change of melody, where the vocals reach higher notes and the female stand alone vocals shine.
“Small World” is from Gypsy. It still hold a hug reliance on the show tune melody, and cannot break free from that mold. The chorus of men and female vocals gives it a depth, but it still feels like a play’s story song.
“I Got Plenty O'Nuttin'” is from Porgy & Bess. But it is supped up with a catchy 60’s melody (or what Belle & Sebastian has been going for recently), and the guitar feels like it means to sell the band as if it were right in line with the boy pop/rock bands of the day.
“Softly As I Leave You” was an Italian song written by Giorgio Calabrese & Tony De Vita. And this song takes the melody and energy down to a sullen monastery, feeling like a wedding song or a hymnal.
“I Can Never Go Home Again” is an original song by Mike’s brother, John, who is a member of the Kingston Trio. Starts out as a light folky sing along. The camp fire melody invites the audience to sing along with them if they know it, and the song is actually quite similar to the Monkees “Pleasant Valley Monday.” The song features the male vocals more than I can pick out from the other tracks, and the female vocals call back in response. 


Links:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Roger Voudouris - Radio Dream

Name: Roger Voudouris
Album: Radio Dream
Year: 1979
Style: Rock
Similar Bands: Stephen Stills, Billy Joel, Elton John, Hall & Oates, Michael Bolton, Air Supply
One-Word Review: 80's Theme factory
Based Out Of: Sacramento, Ca
Label: Warner Bros. Records
Radio Dream - Cover & Record
Radio Dream - Back & Record
Radio Dream (1979)
  1. Get Used to It 3:00
  2. Just What It Takes 3:26
  3. Does Our Love (Depend on the Night) 3:11
  4. We Can't Stay Like This Forever 3:11 /
  5. Radio Dream 3:37
  6. Anything from Anyone 3:45
  7. We Only Dance "Cause We Have To 4:02
  8. The Next Time Around 3:18
  9. Reprise 2:25

Album Rating (1-10): 5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Roger Voudouris - Vocals, Guitar (Loud As Hell Rockers)
Michael Omartian - Producer, Keys, String Arrangement (Rhythm Heritage)
Leland Sklar - Bass  (James Taylor)
David Kemper - Drums (Jerry Garcia Band, Bob Dylan Band, Focus)
Jay Graydon - Rhythm Guitar (Al Jarreau, Airplay, JaR)
Randy Brecker - Flugelhorn, Trumpet (Blood, Sweat & Tears, Dreams, Brecker Bros.)
Michael Brecker - Sax (Brecker Bros. Dreams)
Stormie Omartian - Vox
Myrna Matthews - Vox
Marti McCall - Vox
John Guess - Engineer & Remix
Gary Goodman - Second Engineer
Bernie Grundman - Mastering
Assa Drori - Concert Master
Bruce Cohn - Management
David Gest - Publicity
David Alexander - Photography
Kosh - Design & Art Direction

Unknown-Ness: I’ve never heard of this artist. But I assume from the album, that it is just going to be singer/songwriter pop songs with a generic appeal. Occasionally, a singer/songwriter will come along that rises above the tedium, but you never know until you try. 1979 is a good year to give a try, and at least the album looks like it has a little dark edge to it.

Album Review: Apparently Roger passed away back in 2003, and had a less than stellar career, despite working with some great musicians on this and other albums. His greatest chart achievement comes with this album’s opener, which reached #21 back in ’79.

“Get Used to It” starts like a theme song to any 80’s buddy sit com (Perfect Strangers/Great American Hero), so it was cutting edge for the time, featuring an Elton John / Billy Joel style synthesized piano. Even his vocals remind me a little of Billy Joel. The range of his vocals is illustrated very well in the track. Lots of time changes keep the song interesting, but continue to build and move the song forward.
“Just What It Takes” starts with a more aggressive guitar and drum combo, supported by a power pop guitar. The vocals start with a Hall & Oates night time lounge style. Vocals kind of remind me of Michael Bolton. The power pop guitar keeps coming back, and is pretty catchy, reminding me of the recently reviewed Nick Gilder album.
“Does Our Love (Depend on the Night)” is an 80’s ballad, synth keys supporting the middle school slow dance staple. The chorus rocks the atmosphere with a bouncy beat, momentarily making it awkward to continue slow dancing. It does quickly slips back into hands on hips & shoulders mode. After the second chorus, the song continues with the more energetic melody for an extended interlude. The song shows not much sign of heading back to the ladies choice until the last few notes of the fade out.
“We Can't Stay Like This Forever” is another upbeat, power pop chord changing song, full of energy and  good, bouncy melodies. The song picks up speed until it ends with a skipping, repetitions, emotional disco beat that exhausts itself with a breakdown of all but the bass/drum rhythm section

“Radio Dream” starts out just like that: dreamy and calm. It’s an adult AM radio song that nears on R&B. There is even smooth jazz sax added to further enhance the stereotype. And it fades out as the chorus is repeated.
“Anything from Anyone” feels like an Air Supply song at the start with the piano. But the vocals are more earnest and human. The song slowly glides along, like a strong memory. The breakdown featuring disco violins supporting metal electric guitars, making for a schizophrenic instrumental section.
“We Only Dance ‘Cause We Have To” is a less poppy version of the album opener, with sax, and similar tv theme song appeal mixed with a Hall & Oates album filler quality.
“The Next Time Around” is a slow male vocal song, that I’d imagine to have overlapping, fading in and out head shots of the singer crooning at different angles. And a light blue background. There was a lot of promise on the first side; this one definitely drags down the album as a whole. More Michael Bolton vocal examples present themselves here. It is calm and relaxing, but is a product of the late 70’s / early 80’s AM AOR radio. It sounds like a religious song.
“Reprise” features near-Christmas like synth keyboard playing, similar to Get Used to It & “Dance” it transitions to a prog-renaissance wedding, like the light breakdown section of Carry On My Wayward Son.

Stand-Out Track: Get Used To It

Links:
Wiki

Monday, November 10, 2014

Three Colors - s/t

Name: Three Colors
Album: s/t
Year: 1985
Style: College Alternaive, Jam
Simialar Bands: Mission of Burma, mid-period XTC, Billy Ocean, Talking Heads, World Party, Live
"One-Word" Review: 80's Stylized Meek Jam Band
Based Out Of: Boston, MA
 Three Colors - Cover / Record
 Three Colors - Back / Insert
 Three Colors - Record / Insert
Three Colors - s/t (1985)
  1. One Big Tree 3:51
  2. Bowling Ball 3:11
  3. Curious One 4:10
  4. Next 4:12
  5. Rise Out of Nothing 2:30
  6. Red Room 2:55
Album Rating (1-10): 5.0

Members & Other Bands:
Chris Harford - Guitar, Vox, Drawing (Band of Changes, Ween, Jimmy Wilson Group, Hyperjinx Tricycle, Holly & The Italians, Mark Mulcachy, The Saras, HUB)
Hub Moore - Bass, Vox, Artwork (HUB, The Saras, Chris Harford) 
Dana Colley - Sax, Harmonica (Morphine, Treat Her Right, Chris Harford, Twinemen)
Barry Stringfellow - Drums
Max Moore - Keys, Vox, Artwork (Juryman, Spacer)
Paul Q Kolderie - Producer (Sex Execs)
William Garrett - Mixing
Linda Sullivan - Management
Ali Moore - Artwork
Chris Bergan - Artwork
Dave Johnson - Artwork
Peter "Sticks" McCarty - Artwork
Greg Calbi - Mastering
Thom Moore - Mixing, Recording (You Got It)
Bill Smythe - Photography 
Craig MacCormack - Photography 
Ian Churchill  - Photography 
James Harford Sr.  - Photography
Ms. Donna - Photography
Sean Slade - Producer (Uncle Tupelo)

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of this band. But from the cover and the back pictures, I’d imagine this to be some post punk band. I like the action and energy of the cover image, and the simplistic 3 color boxes as a name/logo is also pretty simple and attractive. With no year on the cover/back made me a little wary, but at 6 songs, it was not a big commitment.

Album Review: Upon seeing the band members, I had high expectations for this album. I’ve already been a fan of Chris Harford through Ween, and I have a couple of Hub’s solo albums. Then to find out one of the members went on to form the prestigious Morphine, I bit. This was recorded at Fort Apache, by one member from a previous TSM entry, the Sex Execs, who were a great band in their own right. But the album falls victim to its time, and comes off as representative of an archaic time in music history, rather than a set of songs that holds up over to today.

“One Big Tree” is the self-released single that starts the album off with a bit of a late-period Talking Heads vibe. It has a suppressed vibe, but is distinctly 80’s in production, horns, and pseudo-Caribbean style. The song lacks a specific structure, and does bring to mind other elements of Murmur/Big Express XTC.
“Bowling Ball” begins with loungey period sax. While this might have been en vogue at the time, it is, today quite dated, and stylistically inferior. The underlying vocal melody is good and catchy, but the production choices draw attention away.
“Curious One” is a slower, slinking song, which balances the atmosphere the music creates with appropriate curious lyrics. By the chorus, the song enters jam band territory with a Kenny G era appropriate solo.

“Next” Starts off with a rather basic drum beat and occasional bass accompaniments. Bored “La La La’s” are added, and a jammy, repetitive guitar riff starts. The song has a good energy to it, but it enters more Dave Matthews band territory than I’d ever care to follow. The harmonized vocals in the chorus seal the deal of satisfactory song production. And I think that is it…the songs have promise and good qualities, but the manner of which they are presented does not add luster.
“Rise Out of Nothing” starts off with a sleepy, lazy melody, and never evolves past this. There is a bit of forced energy but it is unwarranted, and it feels like a bad Live song.
“Red Room” starts with a bit of fun “Save It For Later” English Beat chord changes, and is followed up with Harmonica, and the building verse leads to the most catchy power pop chorus. The meekness / politeness of the vocals sucks the energy and motivation behind the energy the music is trying to generate. It feels too polished and smooth, in a bad way. But the song is by far, with its progressive chord and tempo shifts, the album's star for my tastes.

Stand Out Track: Red Room

Links:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

They Must Be Russians - Chains

Name: They Must Be Russians
Album: Chains
Year: 1983
Style: Post-Punk
Similar Bands: Cabaret Voltaire, Fad Gadget, Gang of Four, Dead or Alive, Depeche Mode
"One Word" Review:Post Caribbean Pop
Based out of: Sheffield, England
Label: First Floor Records
Chains - Cover & Record
 Chains - Back & Record
 Chains - Inner Notes front/back
Chains - Inner Notes 
Chains (1983)
  1. Chains 7:57
  2. Gramophone 3:34
  3. Fighting 2:20
Album Rating (1-10): 6.5

Members & Other Bands
Russell "Russian" Davies- Vox, Guitar
Paul Russian - Vox Guitar
Carl - Bass
Brendan - Effects
Pete Care - Artwork & Layout
Colin Richardson - Co-Producer
Herbert Egoldt - Producer
Nick Blackburn
Russ Russian
Stuart Kirk-Spriggs
Trevor Dooley (Rain Dance)

Unknown-ness: I had not heard of this band, but I picked it up many years ago in a dollar bin on South Street, simply because of the close name proximity to They Might Be Giants. From the modern artwork, I figured it would not be anything like them, but I *had* to know what this sounded like. I have not listened to it in many years since, so I can’t remember, but I think it is bleak no-wave, or some kind of mechanical punk. The artwork reminds me somewhat of New Order, so maybe they will be more dancey than that, but here’s to hoping!

Album Review: So I've read that They Must Be Russians are one of two bands from the UK (these guys from Sheffield), that took their name from a Sex Pistols interview/reference. As they are friends with the guys from Cabaret Voltaire, their music shares the post-punk genera. This is a single of all non-album tracks from the time of their first full length’s release: a true EP.

“Chains” starts with a jangely eching guitar, and then with a whistle blow, comes in with a funky bass line, and is overlapped with Caribbean keyboards. The vocals come in and are somewhat deep and nasally, but overall, very funky, and a little like Dead or Alive. The bass takes a solo with a plucked playing style, and gos right back into the steady stomping rhythm. A guitar solo follows up, and is accented by the steel drum keys. There are a lot of elements coming in to make this song up, from post punk to disco to early rap (or the Clash) to island themes. This remix of the song was intended for a dance floor of misfit kids. It fades out at 6:24, only to come right back in and pick up a more island rhythms / Talking Heads meets Kid Creole vibe as it finishes out the last base-heavy, and echoing brass flourishment  minute forty-five.

“Gramophone” starts with atmospheric, synthesized whirling. The song immediately picks up the pace with a nervous rhythm and blasting horns. Vocals sound a bit like Depeche Mode, but you didn’t hear me say that. The song is sterile and dark at the roots of the song.
“Fighting” picks up with the same angular bass heavy rhythm and adds the jittery, shocking keyboard in the back, as well as horns and sax. The vocals are chanting in melody in small bursts, and it is the music that plays out. With a little different production, this could be a B-52’s song. 

This is a short example of their music, the true extended play to the full length (that i'm not familiar with at all) but I think this gave too little insight to the band to be a good example of their style. What was there was a little repetitive and sparse, perhaps in support of a remix. 

Stand Out Track: Fighting

Links:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sorrows - Teenage Heartbreak

Name: Sorrows
Album: Teenage Heartbreak
Year: 1980
Style: New Wave, Pub Rock, Power Pop
Similar Bands: Code Blue, Knack, Romantics, Cheap Trick, Marshall Crenshaw, A's, Steve Forbert, The Animals
"One Word" Review: oldie-trained energetic-power-wave
Based Out Of: NYC
Label: Pavillion, CBS Records
Teenage Heartbreak: Cover, Sleeve, Record
Teenage Heartbreak: Back, Sleeve, Record
Teenage Heartbreak(1980)
  1. Teenage Heartbreak 2:35
  2. I Don't Like It Like That 3:25
  3. Bad Times Good Times 2:24
  4. I Want You Tonight 2:49
  5. Lonely Girl 3:04
  6. She Comes and Goes 3:44/
  7. Can't Go Back 3:56
  8. All You Gotta Say 2:48
  9. I Want You So Bad 1:57
  10. Can't You Tell a Lie 3:24
  11. Second Chance 2:41
  12. Television 3:42
Album Rating (1-10): 8.5

Members & Other Bands:
Jett Harris - Drums, Bass (Tangent, The Shadows, Cliff Richard, )
Joey Cola - Guitar
Ricky Street - Vox, Bass (Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Rick James, Smokey Robinson, Popees, Tang S'Dang)
Arthur Alexander - Vox, Guitars (Popees)
Ann Ruckert - Backing Vox
Ellen Foley - Backing Vox (Pandora's Box, Meatloaf, Clash, Joe Jackson, Nona Hendryx, Ian Hunter)
Ellie Greenwich - Backing Vox (The Raindrops, Spector, Greenwich & Barry)
Karla DeVito - Backing Vox (Meatloaf, Blue Oyster Cult, Rick Derringer, Dan Hicks & Hot Licks)
Mikie Harris - Backing Vox (The Playboys, Prince, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters)
Susan Hall - Backing Vox (Moon Martin, Neil Young)
Janet Perr - Design
Mark Milchman - Engineer 
Bill Stein - Additional Engineer Mixing
Roni Jane Feldman - Asst. Engineer
John Luongo - Mixing, Producer
Jimmy Maelen - Percussion (Velons, Ambergris, Latin Dimension, Shobizz, Doobie Brothers, The Jacksons)
Elisabeth Wolynski - Photography
Elliot Apter - Producer

Unknown-ness: Never heard of this band, but I love the simple color scheme/font and the leftover set look of the cover. Thin ties and business/leather jacket say more about the style than any words you could use to label what I’m sure will be on this record: new wave power-pop. Even more assurance rests in the production year of 1980.

Album Review: So unhappy with the final production of the single and album title track, they re-recorded and re-released the album with a new title, “Bad Times, Good Times” back in 2010, and presumably after the rights to this album “Teenage Heartbreak” expired with CBS/Sony.

“Teenage Heartbreak” starts with a couple power chords and jangley pop in support. There is a slight surf tempo, and a powerful pub rock energy to the vocals once he lets himself go. The song is very formulaic, and catchy. There are oldies elements, and basically it is just an 80’s update to the oldies sound.
“I Don't Like It Like That” is a little darker, starting with a waltz intro. It also has a touch of psychedelic production with the backing chorus and bass line. The vocals have a lot of nasally emotion to them, especially in the bridge. This song is more Rolling Stones to the first track’s Beatles.
“Bad Times Good Times” is a great pub rock driving song, reminding me a lot of the A’s. When it gets to the chorus, it is a very fun call and response situation. This song has a lot of energy as well, and the bass line rolls up and down carrying the energy through. The vocals mutate into gruff talk-shouting, and a singing tone is abandoned.
“I Want You Tonight” begins with a rolling, staggered drum beat that carries itself throughout the song, and as it begins, it is notably quieter, but not without energy. This song feels like it is going to morph into a Flash & the Pan song “Restless.” This song has the vibe of a mid-western story song. The breakdown into the chorus is classic percussion driven oldies style, and the build leads to a satisfying payoff in the chorus.
“Lonely Girl” is a bopping, driving song, again only described as power pop. The chorus is actually a slight variation of the previous song’s melody: it’s a wonder these two songs are positioned back to back. The style of the chorus and lead vocals overlapping is a trick popular in the glam genre, and is employed well here too (and throughout the album as well).
“She Comes and Goes” is the sad ballad, remembering a love lost, or one never had. About 1:30, guitars kick in, and it loses its ballad label for more rocking, show-tuney pastures (sounds like something that could have been produced by the Rocky Horror team). It then relaxes back into the ballad genre to finish the song out. This reminds me of a slower Elvis Costello song, mixed with a Ben Folds melody.

“Can't Go Back” starts side 2 with jangely guitar and power bass/guitar support. And the song has a bit of a similarity to David Bowie’s “Star.” But it never gets to the glam level, and subsides in mid tempo power pop limbo. It ends in a very singer/songwriter-y fashion
“All You Gotta Say” has a little more soul with its swagger and guitar hook, and harkens back to the more psyche-style of the early garage bands. I’m reminded of The Animals a little with this track. The vocals are layered and add sonic depth.
“I Want You So Bad” is a side to side Rolling Stones meets the Ramones style of energetic power punk song. It builds and drives for a solid 1.50 minutes
“Can't You Tell a Lie” has a driving, dark intro, and a nasally jangly verse. The bridge feels very familiar, but I can’t place the more popular song that it is from. It has a little country western twang to the bass, but the song kind of feels flat in the production, as it sways back and forth between power and laziness.  
“Second Chance” starts off with a driving Eye of the Tiger guitar, and a chimey back up guitar. The drums come rattling in too, and the vocals come in with a lot of jittery energy. The song is pretty reminiscent of “Bad Times Good Times” with an even more of a nervous energy Great Balls of Fire oldies pop sound in the verse that builds up into a controlled scream.  
“Television” is a bass/drums driven song that is choppy and bouncy (Oompah), especially when it gets to the chorus. There are some Chuck Berry guitar solos, too. The song gets pretty repetitive, yet remains catchy toward the end, as it repeats the main chours with a few different effects (Sgt Pepper-like) buried underneath as each re-utterance fades out quieter and quieter. By the end of the song, the sound is recreated to seem like it is coming from a hand held radio. 

Stand Out Track: Bad Times Good Times

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Skinner Box - s/t

Name: Skinner Box
Album: s/t
Year: 1988
Style: Folk, Ethereal, Gothic, New Age
Similar Bands: Dead Can Dance, Enigma, Cocteau Twins, Tangerine Dream, Aphex Twin, Aimee Mann, Residents
"One Word" Review: Warbley New-Age Space-Goth
Based Out Of: Los Angeles, Ca
Label: Bobok LTD, Red Rhino /Cartel
 Skinner Box - Cover, Record, Lyrics
Skinner Box - Back, Liner Notes, Insert
Skinner Box (1988)
  1. Drowning Street 2:44
  2. Field of Holes 3:29
  3. Slide of Glass 2:23
  4. Grenadine 2:42
  5. A Low Bird (instrum) 2:22
  6. The Turnaround 5:13
  7. Proud Flesh 3:02
  8. File Under R (instrum.) 3:13
  9. Born to Be Ice (instrum) 3:41
  10. At the Portal (instrum.) 2:21
Album Rating (1-10): 3.0

Members & Other Bands:
Julianna Towns - Vox, Composition, Production, Guitar, Keys, Bass, Flute, Harmonica (Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Peace Corpse, Hue & Cry, Molsem Birth)
Mark Erskine - Drums, Timbales, Bongos, Clarinet, Vox, Composition, Front Cover Illustration (Savage Republic)
William Sassenberger - Guitar (Peace Corpse, Molsem Birth, Toxic Shock Records)
Gustav Holst - Translation of intro on The Turnaround, from "To Veruna" of the Rig Veda
Biff Sanders - Recording
Diane Pettengill - Layout
Lance Boyle - Typesetting

Unknown-Ness: I bought this one in the early days of TSM collecting, and I think it was just in some pile of stuff that I bought because I had not heard of it. Sometimes, something as simple as NOT being Johnny Mathis or Perry Como can be the justification for buying an unknown record. This one has a very native American feel to it with the red ink, almost tribal tattoo artwork on a grey stone background. I imagine this to be something earthy. What aspect of earthy I’m not sure: new age or nu-metal or something in between. I’m not sure I’ll like it, nor am I sure I’d pick this up again based on its artwork or date if it were in a larger dollar bin / thrift store of opportunity.

Album Review: I could not find too much about this band, although signs point to a couple of albums from this band, which is mainly singer Julianna Towns, who has been part of a couple other more popular bands. Solo work brought under a band nomenclature.

“Drowning Street” starts with a very earthy and liquid guitar, reminding me of a style of Aphex Twin’s ambient songs. The singing is not far off from Aimee Mann’s voice, just a little darker and deeper. The song is punctuated with deep and heavy drums, off tuned guitar notes and echoing crashes. It does have a tribal sense to it and feels like it is trying to recreate an eerie thunderstorm.
“Field of Holes” from the first chime, the same dark tones are present, but it takes on a middle eastern feel with bongos and meandering guitars. But that is just the slightest bit of Indian influence. The vocals are a version of 60’s psych, somewhat monotone chant singing with an echoey production. Near the end of the song, like a zombie, male vocals are added to bolster the droning melody, and the song quietly slips away.
“Slide of Glass” has a buzzing sitar like note in the beginning, but the song picks up a rocking melody with a creepy, residents like effect placed on the instruments. This is all male vocals, and is observational art monotone singing that an actual melody. The song relies on an alarm like synth note that is added in the back end to create a substantial wall of noise.
“Grenadine” takes us back to the warbley new age dream sequence of the first two tracks. This is the kind of echoing chimey music you would hear as ambience pouring from the speakers in a new age crystal, wicca and magic shop in New Hope circa 1993.
“A Low Bird” is the first of three instrumentals, and it contains all of the new age elements as described earlier. The tones of the song remind me of how Bohdai, the alien ball of light from Solar Babies, would talk to Lucas Haas, Jason Patrick, Jamie Gertz, and the rest of the hero group. Seeing as this album was released 2 years after the film, we can only assume both were of the same demographic. Even though I still love Solarbabies, but am not that big of a fan of this

“The Turnaround” continues on the new age theme, but carries almost a celtic funeral feeling to this: bleakness and mourning are present emotions to the melody. A man’s voice recites a poem or story of some sort (not unlike the Sugarcubes or Belle & Sebastian) over the eerily music. This has all the feel of a new age interpretive dance, where the vocals are the inner dialogue of a mime portraying his feelings. This has nothing that I look for in music.
“Proud Flesh” does nothing to mix things up. Dark tones of echoing bells, like a metal xylophone or tubular bells play out with a dead woman’s chant ghostly gliding over the top. The vocals are layered, creating a chorus effect, angelic buy deadly at the same time. This takes the creepy element of the Residents and really boils it down to a basic form.
“File Under R” is a long instrumental track keeping its metaphorical head down and running straight through the repertoire. There is a more optimistic side to this track. There is an 80’s new wave song that I can’t put my finger on that sounds a lot like this…maybe someday I’ll come across it again. It is composed of echoing guitar with haunting chords rise from behind with muted ice breaking percussion in support.
“Born to Be Ice” fades in with a buzzing flute along side a second woodwind sound.  After the intro, it feels like tones and random notes meant to support a story telling element like a film score, or radio show. Then as quickly as it began, with some large, muted sounds reminding me of a rhino or elephant, the short instrumental part of the track ends. And it returns to the cold new age music and more spoken word storytelling overlaid. This is an exercise in jazzy new age music with interpretive beatnick art spilling out all over the place. Windy effects create chilling, twilight zone effects, and the avant-garde performance piece runs through with a final echo.
“At the Portal” again has more optimistic new age celestial music echo and play out angelically. The whole song has a rising on a warm stream of air feel to it, but it lacks a concrete matter, and is just ideas and fluff. For a second, the ideal trembles, but as the song and album concludes, sun is the victor, and the good guy seems to have come out on top. This is just shit.

Stand Out Track: Slide of Glass