Monthly Archives: August 2013

This is an ode to the shuffle. How better to get a good insight in your digitized album collection than by a classic shuffle? Finally discover the albums you never got into, finally throw the ones away you will never get into and worship those classics that never grow old again. The Shuffle of this week:

1. Electric Light Orchestra – Believe Me Now (Out of the Blue, 1977) 

Short track from side 2 of the famous rollercoaster of joy, written and produced by Jeff Lynne within three and a half weeks. This seventh studio album could be considered the endpoint of the transition of The Move’s sound  to the symphonic interpretation of earlier Beach Boys and Beatles work .

2. Robert Palmer – Where Can It Go (Double Fun, 1978) 

We travel one year in time, to run into another turning point in somebody’s musical career.  Palmer’s last attempt to inject exotic elements into the traditional rock sound before turning to pure and traditional rock again. After moving to the Bahamas two years earlier, the choice for Caribean influences might not surprise here.

3. Beatles – For You Blue (Let It Be, 1970) 

Brought this album along during my last vacation and finally had to conclude that it can not compete with the group’s earlier work. Of course it contains juwels from all three writers (‘Get Back’, ‘Across the Universe’, ‘I Me Mine’), but fails to hold on to that level like former albums did. This song however reached epic proportions after seeing the accompanying clip in Anthology. Announcement of All Things must Pass.

4. Bob Dylan (& George Harisson) – All I Have To Do is Dream (Possum Belly Overalls, 1970) 

Quite a sick transmission from the shuffle to this absolut gem (a cover of the Everly Brothers’ big hit in 1958) from a lost album. Got it from Pittsburgh, and turned out to be a bootleg from Dylan’s 1970 recordings for the album New Morning. With the support of among others George Harrison, Bob is warming up by playing some of his own songs together with old rock classics like this one.

5. Wilco – One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend) (The Whole Love, 2011) 

The beauty keeps coming. This one here is the long closing track, built around a fantastic, slow and simple returning guitar riff, of what probably was 2011’s best rock album. Maybe even one of the best bands out there today. Also suited for several summer evenings.

6. 65daysofstatic – Hole (The Fall of Math, 2004) 

Apparently we were having a break halfway the concert, as a total change of décor takes place. English instrumental post-rock, with this song being the second single from their debut album. Single version itself leasted 30 minutes.

7. Santana – Mother’s Daughter (Abraxas, 1970) 

All Riiiiiiiiiiiiight! Favorite track from Santana’s fantastic second album. Differing from the well-known songs of the album because of the fact it was one of keyboard player Greg Rolie’s songs. Perfectly illustrates the way he wanted the band to evolve.

8. Gong – The Pot Head Pixies (Flying Teapot, 1973) 

Living in the seventies again this week, but everything turns a little more psychedelic with this strange song. Might give this album another shot.

9. Dream Theater – The Great Debate (Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, 2002) 

Let’s put all clichés of progressive metal in one song, including an intro about George Bush and stem cells. Is there a concept on this album? Of course there’s one, here we go. First disc is about lifetime struggle (5 tracks), second disc is one huge  track about mental illnesses. That makes six tracks together, all six no longer present in my music collection.

10. Lambchop – Ohio (OH(Ohio), 2008) 

The intro was great this week and so is the outro, as Kurt Wagner waves us goodbye with this opening track from the self-epynomous album. One of my most recent captures.

 

Year: 1999

Genre: Pop Rock, Baroque Pop

Preceded by: Nonsuch (1992)

Followed by: Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (2000)

Related to: not available yet

 

 

 

We’re only making plans for Nigel, we only want what’s best for him. We’re only making plans for Nigel, Nigel just needs this helping hand. You know the song, I knew the song. But only after some months of enjoying XTC’s Apple Venus Vol. 1 I discovered that that song came from a band with the same name. Of course I guessed that it must have been another obscure end seventies new wave band, as I was convinced that I had been listening to the official announcement of Brian Wilson’s Smile during my hot summer.

Swindon, South-West England, has a typical maritime climate, alternating mild winters with cool summers. So Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge, who were both raised there, must have been developing a thorough appreciation  for those rare hot summer days that come around a year. The explosive peak of this process might maybe be heard on XTC’s 1986 album Skylarking. An album they could not even have imagined (I guess) 14 years earlier (at the age of 17 and 19 respectively), when they formed The Helium Kidz.

After Terry Chambers (1973) and Barry Andrews (1976) joined the band on drums and keyboard, they released their debut album White Music in 1978 as XTC. Later on that year Andrews left the band and was replaced by keyboardist/guitarist Dave Gregory, whose sixties oriented guitar playing resulted in a classic rock sound that can be heard on the third album, Drums and Wires, which contains the hit single mentioned above. While Nigel must have been happy in his life,  Partridge wasn’t during the support tour of their fifth album in 1982. As he suffered from stage fright, he personally signed the end of the band’s touring history. But as four dudes from Liverpool had proven earlier, this doesn’t necessarily goes at the expense of the band’s sound.

This new studio band consisted of three members, after Chambers left one year later due to his migration to Australia and missing incomes from touring (not being a song writer). Somewhere in 1986 then, the band ran into the legendary Todd Rundgren, probably because he had produced The Band’s Stage Fright earlier. So not very surprisingly Rundgren (who was hired to launch a commercial comeback) and Partridge would clash frequently during the recording of Skylarking, an absolute pop gem. Although worth a review of its own, we travel on to 1999. XTC had released their last album in 1992, after which the band went on strike till 1998 as a result of a dispute with their record label. Again: this doesn’t necessarily goes at the expense of the band’s sound. With their own home-studios and on their own label, they started the Apple Venus project: bringing together the songs they had written during their break…

It must have been immediately clear for them that ‘River of Orchids’ had to kick off this ambitious project. Push your car from the road, walk into a forest and put on the album. What follows is a small pop opera about this beautiful world that would come to light if all roads were overgrown with flowers. A little dull and passé you might think, but even the greatest victims of today’s society might prefer walking into London on their hands instead of playing a consciousness killing game on the IPad after hearing the mind blowing, multi layered bird call from Partridge. This outstanding vocal performance is supported by some plucked cello’s at first, but when the orchids start growing and the concrete slowly disappears, all kinds of orchestral instruments are thrown in.

On ‘I’d Like That’ we run into somebody we would like to share this new world with. Less orchestration this time, but simply Partridge’s voice and an acoustic guitar, with a nice effort to introduce Paul McCartney in this idyllic scene. Talking about the Fab Four, on ‘Easter Theatre’ it even sounds like the entire Sgt. Peppers’ orchestra is with us now. Performing together with Partridge, whose vocals are again peaking here, it looks like they even deviate from the song during the chorus and start playing fragments of ‘She’s Leaving Home’. It’s alternated again with a very calm song, ‘Knights in Shining Karma’. It’s a slow ballad and in my opinion one of the least tracks on the album.

After four songs from Partridge it’s time for one of Moulding’s two songs (‘Frivolous Tonight’). Musically not as strong as the previous songs, especially because of the fact that Moulding’s voice doesn’t reach the same level as that of Partridge. However, a very recognizable song for guys who like to hang out in a pub now and then: talking about nonsense, drinking beer and telling jokes while they reveal their childlike nature. It is followed by the absolute highlight of the album: ‘Greenman’. For me it’s representative for and the midpoint of the whole album: the lyrics that describe a purist adoration for nature, the sophisticated vocals (Partridge), the richly orchestrated parts with a different instrument in every part of your ear,… But above all it’s the way the song develops during the song itself as well as the way it keeps developing while listening it over and over. Every time you hear it you’ll discover another interesting sound, another effect, another place to imagine.

‘Your Dictionary’ gives the album some variation again, as it’s another vocals + acoustic guitar song. However, it’s by far the most poppy one on the album, although it contains the most cynical lyrics  of them all. This song about relational troubles is without many doubts based on Partridge’s own personal life and contains a beautiful piano part in the middle. ‘Fruit Nut’ is the other song that Moulding contributed to the album, which indicates more or less that he had a less creative seven years than his bandmate. But again, this one is kind of comical. It lyrically reminded me somehow of Brian Wilson’s ‘Vega-Tables’ but also musically, Smile (and its predecessors) is not far away.

We’re nearing the end of the album with the ninth track, ‘I Can’t Own Her’. Another intro with string arrangements here, with piano and harp joining subsequently. Good song (entirely dominated by the bombastic orchestrated parts), but no highlight. The last song that really stands out musically, is the penultimate track ‘Harvest Festival’. It’s built around (again) Partridge’s magnificent vocals (especially during the chorus) and Dave Gregory’s keys. Gregory by the way left the band during the recording of the album as he favored more guitar playing instead of all the orchestral instruments on the album. This of course made XTC in fact a two men project at that point. For us it’s  also about time to leave, as ‘The Last Balloon’ is leaving. Although lyrically not bad at all, Partridge is looking one more time at this sad and materialistic world and decides to leave, it’s musically a little too elaborate in my opinion but you might disagree on that one.

So if there’s a Vol.1, there must have been a sequel, right?  Although this is not always the case, there indeed was. Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) was released one year later (the original plan was to release them as one double album), and contained more (electric) guitar songs. Dependent on your taste you might prefer that one but in my view it doesn’t have the magic of Vol. 1, about which I once read in a review: ‘Apple Venus is unlikely to win XTC many new fans’. Well, this certainly wasn’t true for me and somehow I’m happy that this was my first acquaintance with the band. If only for the fact that I could not have been affected by the syndrome of thinking that an artists’ early work is pro definition better. Enjoy and dream away.

Top Tracks:

1. Greenman
2. River of Orchids
3. Easter Theatre

Jukebox

RubberSoul1966 darksideofthemoon1973 areyouexperienced1967 afterthegoldrush1970