Sunday, September 30, 2018

Mama Just Don't Understand

Evelyn 'Champagne' King : Shame

A janitor-ess who loved to sing while cleaning the offices at RCA Records, Evelyn 'Champagne' King scored one of the longest charting singles in UK history. "Shame" spent 23 weeks in the Top 75 without ever  climbing higher than UK#39. Both NME and Record Mirrors put the song on their Best Singles of the Year charts. 
"Shame" was also a Top 10 hit in the US. 
Sam Peake is the name of the musician who  plays those sax breaks. He also recorded with Parliament and Patti LaBelle.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

In Hellish Glare and Inference

Blue Oyster Cult : Astronomy

In September of 1978 Blue Oyster Cult released Some Enchanted Evening, their second live album in three years and the best selling of the band's entire career. It was originally a single disc set, with a running time just over 36 minutes. (The latest CD version doubles the fun and includes a DVD of the concert footage below). The two big recent singles, "Godzilla" and "Don't Fear the Reaper", are here along with a pair of covers. The cover of The MC5's "Kick Out The Jams" is nothing special but the Cult's version of The Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" is at least somewhat interesting. For me the highlight is the performance of "Astronomy", from the band's classic Secret Treaties album.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Your TV's Just Hissing

XTC : Are You Receiving Me

On September 29, 1978 XTC released the single "Are You Receiving Me", a frenzied little preview of the upcoming sophomore album Go 2 (though it wouldn't appear on Go 2 until many pressings later. The single did not chart in the UK but did make it all the way up to #86 in Australia. The bubbly blonde in the video is Vicki Rebecca, who would become a heroin addict, overcome her addiction and now works as a hypnotherapist in Aberdeen.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

My Roof, Your House

Los Lobos : Maria Chuchena 

Five years before I heard their ...And a Time to Dance EP and nearly ten years before they scored a US#1 hit with their cover of "La Bamba", Los Lobos released their album Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles.  At the time the band earned money by playing weddings and at Mexican restaurants. Here, they play traditional Mexican and Bolivian folk songs with their own East L.A. twists. They would continue infusing ranchera and son jarocho sounds in their rock n roll albums, but here we can listen to the birth of a legendary band.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Down Beat's Most Famous One Star Review

Weather Report : Punk Jazz

In September of 1978 Weather Report released Mr. Gone, their follow up to Heavy Weather, voted 1977's album of the year by Down Beat Readers. Heavy Weather received a 5 star review from the magazine. This album got only one star in a review so controversial leader Joe Zaniwul joined many readers in protest.

An excerpt from critic David Less:

“Where earlier Weather Report records possessed a sense of adventures, Mr. Gone is coated with the sterility of a too completely preconceived project. While Weather Report was innovative and pivotal in its first experiments, the members now seem out of touch with their basic responsibility as musicians: to communicate. By not taking chances they have nothing to lose, but conversely they have nothing to gain. Weather Report’s status has shifted over the years from a combo of premier jazz-rock innovators to a super-hip rock band with jazz overtones. This LP should prove disappointing to those Weather Report fans who still remember the genuine excitement of its earlier efforts.” 

This wasn't the only bad review the album received. NME's Max Bell wrote “Weather Report are suffering an identity crisis which has completely mitigated the potential of Mr. Gone

Joe Zaniwul has never gotten over the bad review:

“I was angry about it, not because somebody gave it one star. That is totally a reviewer’s right and privilege. What I didn’t like is that it was such a good production. A lot of effort went into that, and we’re no dumb motherfuckers, you know? We tried to do something a little different. Maybe it didn’t come off yet as well as it did later. That is also a point. But, to give somebody one star is just outrageous. Therefore, I was mad at the time, and I am getting mad now.”

All I know is Mr Gone is the first jazz album I ever purchased. I wonder now if the salesman at the record store was under orders to try to sell this album to any shoppers who walking around looking confused. It wound up joining George Benson's Breezin' as my background music for studying.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Hikin' Up Their Chinos

Tom Waits : Romeo Is Bleeding

“I’m really getting a little tired of being referred to as Wino Man. It was okay for a while, but I’d like to be a little more three-dimensional.” -Tom Waits

In  September of 1978, Tom Waits released Blue Valentine, his fifth studio album and best since The Heart of Saturday Night. This is the last of the jazzy hep cat albums before Waits launches into the 1980's with a new, brasher rock n roll racket.

From Don Shewey , writing for Rolling Stone:

Tom Waits tells the same stories all the time — the small-time gangster who gets blown away by the big boys, the tough whore who sleeps with a torn-up teddy bear under her pillow, the barely employed sucker who spends his spare time and puny paycheck at the local saloon — but he makes each one sound different. That’s why he’s a great storyteller...

...Would that Waits’ music were that resourceful. His melodies tend toward standard bluesy riffs and endless piano vamps, while his singing is sometimes reduced to a mere gurgle of phlegm in the back of his throat. Yet the deterioration of his voice and the lugubriousness of his tunes aren’t anything new. True, they make the album hard to listen to, but sometimes you can tune out the voice and you can always stick with the lyric sheet.

From Robert Christgau a nod to the opening track, "Somewhere ( from West Side Story)".

Waits keeps getting weirder and good for him. As sheer sendup, his "Somewhere" beats Sid Vicious's "My Way" his way. But I'm not always sure he understands his gift--these lyrics should be funnier. And "Romeo Is Bleeding," easily my favorite among his Chandleroid sagas of tragedy outside the law, is more effective on the jacket than when he underlines its emotional resonance in song. That's not weird at all.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Everybody Gets The Lowdown

Buzzcocks : Sixteen Again

On September 22, a scant six months following their debut, The Buzzcocks released Love Bites, their sophomore album. It's a bit more spotty than the debut but it's a keeper thanks to the presence of "Ever Fallen In Love With Someone" and "Just Lust", as well deep cuts like "Nostalgia" and "Sixteen Again". Not a bad way year for the Buzzcocks which featured two albums and six singles, one of which, the UK#20 "Promises" b/w "Lipstick", won't be released until late November.

The purchase link above leads to a double CD version of the album which offers demo versions and live tracks.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Just For the Funk of It

Funkadelic : One Nation Under a Groove

On September 22, 1978 Funkadelic released the million seller, One Nation Under a Groove, featuring a title cut that would top the R and B charts.  Mastermind George Clinton told The Guardian the song title came from a pair of fans.

We’d played a gig in Washington DC and afterwards two young girls, LaTanya and Darlene, came up to the car and told us it was was the best concert they’d ever seen. They said: “It was like one nation under a groove.” As soon as I heard that, I knew it had to become a song.

Initially, all I had was a hook – “One nation under a groove, gettin’ down just for the funk of it.” In the studio, once we got a rhythm together, I pretty much ad-libbed the rest. I wanted the silky feel of the Dionne Warwick records with Burt Bacharach – a smooth groove, but funky.

The album ranks #177 in Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all time.

The Dean of rock critics, Robert Christgau, gave the album a rare A grade, writing:

I can't figure out why some Funkateers profess themselves unmoved by this one. The twelve-incher does come up a little short on guitar, but a generous Hendrix fix is thoughtfully provided on a seventeen minute, seven-inch third side, and the title cut is as tough and intricate as goodfooting ever gets. Plus: "Who Says a Funk Band Can't Play Rock?" and "Into You," two manifestos that bite close to the bone, and "The Doo Doo Chasers," a scatological call-and-response cum responsive-reading whose shameless obviousness doesn't detract from fun or funk. Fried ice cream is a reality! Or: Think! It ain't illegal yet!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

With Your Money and Your Cocaine

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers : Listen To Her Heart

ON September 24, the new Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers single, “Listen to Her Heart”, entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #88. With it's Byrds like open note chiming, the song sounded like a single to everyone but record execs had a problem with Petty's reference to cocaine. The label wanted it changed to “champagne.” “That’s not expensive enough,” Petty told them.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Eating Chicken Vindaloo

Ramones: I Just Want to Have Something to Do

On September 21, 1978 The Ramones released Road to Ruin, their fourth studio album and the first to feature their new drummer Marky Ramone ( formerly of Richard Hell and the Voidoids). The album shows a band that is willing to try a few new things: guitar solos, acoustic guitars, and ballads.

Sell out? Not even close.

I recently did a little workshopping on writing country songs recently and learned that it's important to hit the chorus within 45 seconds. On Road to Ruin, The Ramones often hit the chorus within 25 seconds. This was their genius. A great guitar hook. A few lyrics and a repetitive chorus. 

Road to Ruin finished #7 in the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics poll. Among the critics championing the album was Charles M Young for Rolling Stone.

I’ve been working at this magazine for two years now and every album I’ve endorsed has gone over like a fart in the elevator. What we have here is not (in the words of Cool Hand Luke) a failure to communicate; it is (in the words of Richard Nixon) a public-relations problem. You bastards just don’t believe me.

 After extensive analysis, I have concluded that this is because I am smart and you are dumb. Your brains are so full of carbon monoxide, aluminum chloro hydrate and carcinogenic food dyes that you are incapable of appreciating good music. I have a whole file drawer full of hate mail to prove it.

So, since dumb people are naturally distrustful of smart people, what am I to do to convince you of the error of your ways? Reverse psychology is the most obvious answer. By endorsing Barry Manilow, Andy Gibb and Chuck Mangione, I could single-handedly wipe them off the charts. But (again in the words of Richard Nixon) it would be wrong. You dumb people get manipulated enough by your corporate and political leaders. I will (in the words of Jimmy Carter) never lie to you — until it becomes necessary.

 It isn’t necessary yet, because I’m giving the truth one more chance. I’m going to tell you the truth about the Ramones and if you don’t buy their new record, I’m going to start lying to you. Got that? If this LP doesn’t go gold, my turning into a liar will be on your consciences.

 Okay. Road to Ruin is a real good album. It isn’t as funny or as powerful as their debut, Ramones, but this does not mean the band is losing its grip. It means they figured out that the nigh-pure power chords and satire of their first three records — though enormously satisfying to smart people like myself — was too threatening to dumb people like you. So the Ramones compromised. They decided to meet you halfway and cut some slow songs, some guitar solos, some stuff that sounds like it uses twelve-string and pedal steel. Hard-core punk fans are liable to scream “sellout,” but they should count themselves lucky that the group didn’t pull this on the second LP when the first one didn’t do that well. Over half the songs on Road to Ruin are straight-ahead rockers anyway, so I will tolerate no complaints.

As for specifics, Joey Ramone is doing things with his voice he never quite managed before. Over the last two years, he has stolen just about every affect of the early British rock singers. In the past, Joey’s affects somehow sounded too affected, so that if you genuinely loved them, you were slightly threatened by his sarcasm. He achieves a sincerity on Road to Ruin that has heretofore eluded him. “Needles and Pins,” the old Searchers hit, could have been just a dumb joke. Joey, however, really puts his guts into these antiquated but beautiful lyrics and pulls it off. 

 The album’s killer cut is “I Wanna Be Sedated,” to be ranked up there with “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Loudmouth” and “Cretin Hop” as the Ramones’ finest. They retain their wonderful feel for the catchy guitar progression, even if Johnny Ramone has a limited repertoire of what he can do with it. I’ve never seen him play anything but power chords onstage, so it’s doubtful whether he’s doing the intricate picking on the slower numbers like “Questioningly.” Nevertheless, the music certainly is listenable, unless you’re a purist. “Don’t Come Close,” a semislow song, probably has the best chance as a single. It’s got a nice hook in the melody and nothing offensive in the lyrics. 

 Marky Ramone debuts here on drums, replacing Tommy Ramone. He continues in Tommy’s style while adding a few new and needed licks. Dee Dee Ramone’s bass remains inimitably Dee Dee Ramone’s contribution to machine-gun warfare. The production by T. Erdelyi (alias Tommy Ramone) and Ed Stasium is clean and simple, except for the ill-conceived “Bad Brain,” where they stick in a lot of funny noises during the drum break. Music that tries to be funny, as any comedian will tell you, isn’t funny.

The first article I did for this magazine, in the summer of ’76, was about the Ramones. In the time since, a thousand garage bands have flowered, and this has been a major accomplishment. However, the few good ones have been unable to get any attention from the dumb people who make up the mass market in the United States. This has led even fans to proclaim the death of punk rock. I doubt that’s happening. The battle is just shifting from small clubs on either coast to hockey rinks in the Midwest. Except for Van Halen and maybe a couple of others, there’s very little new coming up in high-energy rock. The vacuum is there to fill. The Ramones have become more cartoonish and less satiric, which is a step in the direction of Kiss and may give them a shot at the fourteen-year-old boys they need to replace the hip New York intellectuals in their audience. I’d like to see it happen, but I make no predictions.

From Robert Christgau  of the Village Voice:

Like any great group, this one is always topping itself. Album four alternates definitive high-speed rockers--"I Wanted Everything," "I'm Against It," and "She's the One" are as good as any they've ever done--with more candidly lyrical slow ones that rank with the oldie, "Needles and Pins," as compositions. The lyrics of "I Just Want to Have Something to Do" and "I Wanna Be Sedated" test the barrier between their Queens-geek personas and their real lives as professional musicians without a hint of rocky-road bullshit. Only the "Bad Brain" (a title) theme seems repetitious--personally, I'm glad it's fading. But the guitar breaks bring tears to my personal eyes, and I await Gary Stewart's version of "Questioningly."

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Infiltrate Imagination

Joy Division : Leaders of Men

On September 20, 1978, the Manchester band Joy Division made their television debut performing "Shadowplay" on Granada TV's "Granada Reports". The song would appear on the group's 1979 debut album, Unknown Pleasures. It takes a short while before Ian Curtis loses him in the music. His joyous dancing always offered a stark contrast to his lyrics.

At this point, in 1978, Joy Division had only released An Ideal For Living, an EP many fans disregard because the band has yet to find their sound and nobody quite understands the Aryan symbolism. Though recorded in 1977, when the band was still calling itself Warsaw, it's worthy of your 12 and a half minutes.

 It kicks off with "Warsaw", a Mancunian punk rocker that sounds like something the Buzzcocks might have recorded. Curtis is singing at a higher range throughout the EP. The second song is  "No Love Lost", with its then unheard of two minute instrumental opening. Flip it over, and the B side begins with "Leaders of Men", my favorite song on the EP. The record ends with more punk rock. "Failures (of the Modern Man)".

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Behind Those Dark Eyes

Flamin Groovies : Between the Lines

In September of 1978 The Flamin Groovies released their Dave Edmunds produced fifth album, Flamin Groovies Now. Recorded in Wales, the album features covers of songs by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds and Paul Revere and the Raiders, among others. Though there is much to enjoy from all three of the Groovies Sire albums (Shake Some Action and Jumpin in the Night being the other two) , the band was producing its best music at a time when record buyers were looking for the next big NEW thing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The KISSaster

Ace Frehley : New York Groove

On September 18, 1978 the four members of KISS each out out a solo album. In his book, Makeup to Breakup: MT Life In and Out of KISS, drummer Peter Criss writes "In retrospect, doing the solo albums probably put the final nail in the band."

  Actually, the solo albums combined with the October TV movie KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park probably did the band in. The LA Times called it "a four star abomination. A five-minute idea for a cartoon, disguised as a two hour movie.

  Criss's solo album charted lowest of all the KISS solo albums, peaking at US#43.

With the help of the Top 20 hit, "New York Groove", Ace Frehley had the best selling of the solo albums, reaching US #26 and shipping more than 1,000,00 copies.

Gene Simmons had the most interesting solo album, hopping musical genres from disco to hard rock to covering "When You Wish Upon a Star". He was also an asshole in the studio, according to Criss:

He wouldn't even call the great musicians their proper names. He'd call them "Hey, lead guitar," or "Hey, drums." It tool a revolt where they almost walked out of the sessions to straighten Gene out.

Gene's 2004 solo album would be called Asshole.

Paul Stanley also recorded a solo album, described by critics as the most KISS-like of the records. Check out the power pop of "Wouldn't You Like to Know Me".

Monday, September 17, 2018

When I Need Rejuvination

Van Morrison : Wavelength

In September of 1978, Van Morrison released Wavelength, best known for its title cut, which like Moondance's "Caravan", is a song about finding God on the radio. Released as a single in 1978, it climbed to number forty two in the US charts, and stayed in the Hot 100 for eleven weeks. The album peaked at US#28 and UK#27.

There is a concept here. Each song marks a period in Morrison's life. From his days attending church in Belfast ("Kingdom Hall") , to listening to the Voice of America as a teen ("Wavelength") to songs about love affairs ("Santa Fe/ Beautiful Onsession").

Writing for Rolling Stone, Lester Bangs was not immediately impressed :

Who has not been waiting for the next great Van Morrison LP? Whether you thought his last masterpiece was Veedon Fleece or Tupelo Honey or even (what I think) Moondance, you certainly were never prepared to write him off. Nobody’s going to write him off because of Wavelength either, but it’s obviously not the album he is still destined to make.

 Something comes clear here. Ever since Moondance, Van Morrison has staked his claim to the rare title “poet,” mostly on the basis of what amounts to a bunch of autumn leaves. Look at those records lying there—Tupelo Honey, Hard Nose the Highway—the best as good as the worst, and all of ’em slowly turning brown. You wanta kick ’em just like a pile of crumbly leaves? Well, go ahead and do it. And kick Van Morrison too. Because he’s a saint. Yeah, that’s exactly why he needs the boot.

Morrison’s got a beautiful obsession with something he can’t quite state, and we’ve got a beautiful obsession with Morrison. Which is fine for him, but what are we to do? We are to sing the chorus, that’s what:

 Dum derra dum dum diddy diddy dah dah 
Dum derra dum dum diddy diddy dah dah 
Dum derra dum dum diddy diddy dah dah 
Dum derra dum dum diddy diddy dah dah 
Dum derra dum dum diddy diddy dah dah 

 At least that’s what it says on the lyric sheet.

 And make no mistake, we’re supposed to notice the lyric sheet—the only other Morrison LP that had one was Hard Nose the Highway, itself a rather pointed statement regarding leaves and such. “Such”: that’s what Van Morrison’s interested in—roamin’ in the gloamin’ and divers other top-hat autumnal falderal. Linden Arden stole the highlights, but where did he take them? Way back home, that’s where. Leaving us with another album of furry-nosed nuzzlings in the fleece. But about this time, one begins to wonder: nowadays does this artist ever come bearing anything other than said fleece? Naught.

 Wavelength is a very nice record. I’m sure all the people at Warner Bros. are pleased with it. Ditto the DJs. It probably would also be really groovy for somebody’s idea of a wine-and-joints, Renaissance-fair garden party. It makes a lovely sound, breaks no rules and keeps its grimy snout (or, rather, that of its maker) out of the dark places that mainstreams step correctly over. Rigid. The singer has a nifty little band here, what with Bobby Tench, Peter Bardens from the original Them and even great googamoogah Garth Hudson sittin’ in on various instruments. Well, take me back to Orpheus Descending!

...It do confound how such a monumental talent can mire himself in such twaddle, fine as some of it may be.

 There is a kind of resolute silliness about a lot of the stuff Van Morrison’s been doing for the last few years: he wants to make records for cookouts, we keep probing for his bardic soul, and the whole mess is ridiculous because he was actually only specific for one very tight stretch there, enclosing “T. B. Sheets” and Astral Weeks. As for the rest—i.e., the main body of his work—he truly delights in the glancing perception and all the filigree in the world. (But what kind of perverted universe reigns—and what kind of bray-orbed, Fellini-trite monstrolas might issue forth—when filigree becomes the body?) What, finally, are his beloved, infinitely extensive out-choruses but filigree? The last half of “Madame George” may be the all-time tightrope act, but, on Wavelength, he really gets down to it and dubs the endless out-choruses of “Santa Fe” a whole new song. 

 So I guess he has finally achieved what he maybe set out to do in the first place: make the edge the center. The result, unfortunately, is a perfect bubble of smoked cheese. It’ll do for the party, but it leaves certain sorta primal questions so far from resolved that—well, no, we never quite give up, do we? It is damn well roundabout known that Van Morrison records about four times as much music as he releases. Some of these great, edgy, eternity-shale, sax-bitten pieces leak out occasionally, and that’s just fine. We’re gonna deserve something beautiful to listen to in our old age.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Putting The Aerial Up

Peter Gabriel : On the Air

On September 15, 1978 the legendary German rock television show Rockpalast recorded Peter Gabriel's concert at Grugahalle, Essen.  Most of the tunes are taken from his two solo albums though Gabriel also performs a new tune, "I Don't Remember", and one from his Genesis days, "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway". Among his bandmates on the show, the bald bassist Tony Levin, a mainstay on Gabriel album and tours and a future member of King Crimson.

7:05 Moribund the Burgermeister (from Car) 12:29 Perspective (from Scratch) 16:39 Here Comes the Flood (from Car) 20:30 White Shadow (from Scratch) 25:23 Waiting for the Big One (from Car) 33:10 Humdrum (from Car) 37:10 I Don't Remember (from 1980's forthcoming Melt) 42:35 Solsbury Hill (from Car) 47:46 Modern Love (from Scratch) 53:30 The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

Friday, September 14, 2018

A Dragon With Matches

Grateful Dead : Fire on the Mountain 

On September 14, 15 and 16 of 1978 The Grateful Dead performed an open air concert in Giza, Egypt near the Great Sphinx. On the final night of the concerts, the band played during a total lunar eclipse. Most of the people in the audience were America deadheads. But on the outskirts of the concerts, shadowy figures could be seen swaying to the music. They were bedouins, the nomadic horsemen of the desert, drawn by the loud music.

How did this ever happen? It began with a visit by tourist Richard Loren, who happened to manage The Grateful Dead. He brought Dead bassist Phil Lesh back with him.

"It sort of became my project because I was one of the first people in the band who was on the trip of playing at places of power, "Lesh said. " You know, power that's been preserved from the ancient world. The pyramids are like the obvious number one choice because no matter what anyone thinks they might be, there is definitely some kind of mojo about the pyramids."

The concert wasn't cheap but it would become legend.

"Egypt instantly became the biggest, baddest, and most legendary field trip that we took during our entire thirty years as a band," said drummer Bill Kreutzmann. "It was priceless and perfect and, at half a million dollars, a bargain in the end. Albeit, a very expensive bargain."

There had been plans to release the concert recordings as a live album but the band decided to focus their attentions on finishing up Shakedown Street, released in November of 1978. A box set called Rocking The Cradle : Egypt 1978 was eventually released in 2008.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Blondie Parallel Lines

Blondie : Hanging on the Telephone

In September of 1978 Blondie released their breakthrough album Parallel Lines. Producer Mike Chapman ( who helmed hits like "Ballroom Blitz", "Hot Child in the City" and "Can the Can") brought the best out of the band and singer Deborah Harry. This is one of the great pop albums of the decade and remains one of my favorites.

It kicks off with a cover of "Hanging on the Telephone", recorded a year earlier by the LA power pop band The Nerves. Over the course of the next 40 minutes Blondie shows they can also do pure pop, disco and with "Fade Away and Radiate", even art rock worthy of its Robert Fripp solo.

From Rolling Stone's Ken Tucker:

In Blondie's third album, Parallel Lines, the band drops the brooding artiness of its previous records and comes on like and ambitious pop-rock group. Or rather, a rock'n'roll band with an ambitious pop vocalist named Deborah Harry. In the past, Harry has always managed to make a virtue of her stiff, severe crooning, and her vocals complemented Blondie's clipped, urban-raw playing. But the melodies were frequently lugubrious and much too involved with a Warholian despair that took the form of nonstop deadpan cheekiness. This cool demeanor provided some incredible pounding -- Clem Burke's drumming always carried the band beyond mere art rock -- but never gave Blondie's songs the jolt or hooks that Harry's blank-slate singing seemed capable of delivering so well.

Throughout Parallel Lines, however, the hooks cascade and Harry belts them out with a new expressiveness. On pop roller coasters like "Pretty Baby" and "Sunday Girl," her swoops and the simple guitar/drum backing reveal enthusiastic kids behind the pose of cynical artists. Producer Mike Chapman mixes the guitar of Chris Stein right up beside Deborah Harry's voice, and each of these twelve short, pungent tunes builds to its own little epiphany of pop, from girl-group sass ("Pretty Baby") to Rolling Stones seediness ("Just Go Away"). On "Sunday Girl," you sense the smile that Harry never exposes in her publicity shots, and the song is a triumph of saucer-eyed hard rock. The singer's cuteness has the bite of bitterness, while the perky melody is made ominous by the intensity of Stein's lead guitar.

As if to drive home Blondie's new range, "Sunday Girl" is followed by "Heart of Glass," a mating of Kraftwerk and Donna Summer that adds humanity to the machinelike pace and steeliness to the imploring female narrator. 

And it's this steeliness -- this transcendence of all the romantic stereotypes Deborah Harry embraces -- that makes Parallel Lines so continuously enjoyable and moving. Harry's no longer the sexy zombie, and she won't take any more abuse without showing contempt for her abusers. Her gritty "I'm gonna getcha" (in "One Way or Another") and the entire sardonic dismissal of "Just Go Away" are witty flourishes that, in the course of this exhilarating LP, come to seem genuinely brave.

From Robert Christgau's review in which he gave the album an A grade:

As unlikely as it seemed three years ago, they've actually achieved their synthesis of the Dixie Cups and the Electric Prunes -- their third is as close to God as pop-rock albums ever get, or got. Closer, actually -- even on side two every song generates its own unique, scintillating glitz. What seems at first like a big bright box of hard candy turns out to have guts, feeling, a chewy center, and Deborah Harry's vocal gloss reveals nooks of compassion and sheer physical give that make the protagonists of these too-too modern fragments seem as tragic (or untragic) as those of any other epoch. Plus the band really New Yawks it up -- try the chorus of "Just Go Away."

From Billboard ( note that they miss #1 "Heart of Glass" in their list of best songs) :

Blondie's third album is less concentrated on infantile pop remakes of the '60s and focuses on creating its own sound within a contemporary pop framework. While still relying on the harmonious sound of the better girl rock groups of the '60s, producer Mike Chapman, master of commercially viable pop productions, steers lead vocalist Deborah Harry in a direction that is indicative of maturation in terms of rock delivery, credibility and sheer vocal power. The six-piece band plays solid rock with some masterful guitar riffs popping up in many a song. The melodies stick, the multilayered harmonies work, and the end result is witty, infectious rock. Best cuts: "Hanging On The Telephone," "Parallel Lines," "Picture This," "11:59."

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Waiting, We Were Waiting

Ultravox : Quiet Men

In September of 1978, Ultravox released their third album, Systems of Romance. Recorded with Kraftwerk producer Conny Plant co-producing in his studio in Germany, the album pushes the synthesizers to the front on many tunes. The album didn't sell. Island dropped the band and singer/songwriter John Foxx bailed. But not before releasing this album, a major inspiration to all the synth bands that would follow. ( I'm looking at you, Gary Numan)

If the last year has taught me anything, it's how much I don't know about the early versions of some bands I played on my college radio shows in the 1980's. Bands Japan and Ultravox weren't just another in a series of New Wave or New Romantic bands. They were, along with their huge nods to David Bowie,  the forefathers of these sounds. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Heart Breaking Love Making

Dave Edmunds : Deborah

On September 8, 1978 Dave Edmunds released Tracks on Wax, an album that reunites Edmunds and Nick Lowe who had, together, recorded Get It  in 1977. With guitarist Billy Bremner (who contributed "Trouble Boys" and the slightly skeezy "Not a Woman, Not a Child") and drummer Terry Williams, they formed Rockpile, one of the best studio and live bands of the era. 

 In fact, Tracks on Wax is their first full album together. (They played together on some of Lowe's Jesus of Cool). You have really nice moments like Lowe and Edmunds harmonizing Everly brothers-style on their co-write "Deborah". Lowe also contributes "Never Been in Love" and the band revisits his "Heart of the City".

The reason it's a Dave Edmunds solo album is because Edmunds and Lowe were signed to different labels. Edmunds was with Swan Song and Lowe with Columbia. Rockpile would also play on Lowe's Labour of Love, and Edmunds' Repeat When Necessary as well as albums by Carlene Carter and Mickey Jupp. Finally, in 1980, Rockpile would release its only studio album, Seconds of Pleasure

Robert Christgau gave the album an A minus rating:

 Edmunds has evolved from a one-man session (he played everything but bass on his solo debut) to the spirit of Rockpile, the hardest-driving traditional rock band in the world: Edmunds and Billy Bremner on guitar, coleader Nick Lowe on bass, and the indefatigable Terry Williams on drums. Live, everyone but Williams trades vocals, but this is Edmunds showcase, and he does it proud. On Get It, which featured the same musicians on some tracks, his studiousness weakened great material, but this time he sings up to the main force of a band and proves all those clich├ęs about getting that feeling together on the road. Here to stay

Monday, September 10, 2018

Dredging the Ocean

David Bowie :  Station to Station

On September 8, 1978 David Bowie released Stage, his second live album. Apparently a contractual obligation, the album comes just 4 years after the uninspired David Live. This one is better. Stage documents the Isolar II tour and consists of new songs from his Berlin albums Low and Heroes as well as some crowd pleasers from his earlier career. Curiously,  the album was rearranged so songs appeared in chronological order instead of the way they were presented in concert. 

So you will hear "Art Decade" and "Breaking Glass", "TVC-15" and "Station to Station", with some innovative lead guitar by Adrian Belew. What you won't hear is much in the way of audience noise. They were mixed down, giving the album a sterile feel. The last thing you might want from a live album.  

From Robert Christgau, who gave the album a B+ score:

If James Brown is the only rock and roller who deserves more than one concert album, then the Bowie to ban is David Live. Stage kicks off with some well-chosen Bowie oldies before moving into refreshingly one-dimensional versions of his best songs since 1975, including the key Eno collaborations, which were often oversubtle to begin with. For fans only, of course. I'm one. 

From Tom Carson, writing for Rolling Stone:

 Though Stage was obviously put together for purely commercial reasons — to regain for the Thin White Duke the audience he’s lost since becoming the Thin White Computer — it’s a curiously uncompromising album. With the exception of the furiously energetic “Hang On to Yourself,” the Ziggy Stardust songs designed to suck in the dollars are given dispassionate, let’s-get-this-over-with treatment. “Fame,” another popular number, is attractive and glossy, but doesn’t add anything to the original. 

 Paradoxically, it’s on the electronic cuts from Low and “Heroes,” and on the title track from Station to Station, that David Bowie really delivers — and more warmly than he ever has on record. Live, the new material comes clearly into focus: it’s as if the built-in drama of concert presentation has given these songs the added dimensions they needed. The long instrumental, “Warszawa,” boasts an icy magnificence, and “Speed of Life” bounces along as merrily as some imagined, futuristic Pepsi-Cola jingle. The whole of side four (“‘Heroes,'” “What in the World,” “Blackout,” “Beauty and the Beast”) is almost perfect, as Bowie plays — and plays with — the role of a Sinatra-like romantic crooner. There’s also a raucous, very funny version of “TVC 15,” with singer and band trading yodels like mad mountaineers on a binge.

 Shelving his recent “I’m just an average bloke with a synthesizer in me pocket” pose, Bowie here presents himself as a superbly professional entertainer — and one whose graceful clarity is a welcome antidote to the messy hash of 1974’s David Live. Whether he’ll be able to merge this stance with the avant-garde experimentalism of his current music is still uncertain. But I can’t think of another performer with sufficient bravery to challenge a rock audience to sit still long enough to watch him try.