Sunday, August 24, 2014

American Spring - American Spring (1972)

Episode 519 of the radio show featured three tracks from American Spring's 1972 self-titled album.

 American Spring - American Spring (United Artists, 1972, UK)

The band were known as Spring in the US but were American Spring in Europe (presumably due to the existence of English prog rock band Spring). American Spring were sisters Diane Rovell and Marilyn Wilson. Both women had earlier been members of girl group The Honeys along with their cousin Ginger Blake. Brian Wilson (Marilyn's then-husband) produced most of the band's songs as indeed he had with The Honeys.

American Spring is a must have for anyone with even a passing interest in The Beach Boys or Brian Wilson. The album features a number of Brian compositions and a fantastic version of Dennis Wilson's Forever.

My own copy of American Spring is the 1972 UK United Artists textured sleeve LP, but the album had different cover art in Germany and The Netherlands. The US release of the Sping album used gothic toned plaster casts of Diane and Marilyn's heads. All versions of this album command stupid money on the second hand market these days. See For Miles Records did release a compilation of Spring recordings in 1989 entitled Spring...Plus and a few tracks also appeared on Ace Records 2003 compilation Pet Projects - The Brian Wilson Productions.

 American Spring - American Spring (United Artists, 1972, Germany)

 American Spring - American Spring (United Artists, 1972, Netherlands)

Spring - Spring (United Artists, 1972, US) - Front Cover

Spring - Spring (United Artists, 1972, US) - Back Cover

 American Spring - Sping...Plus (See For Miles, 1989)

Pet Projects (Ace Records, 2003)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Songs to Learn and Sing - Episode 519

Songs To Learn And Sing
103.2 Dublin City FM
Thursdays @ Midnight

Last night's show features a few new tracks: music from Caribou, Actress and Goat as well the usual retrospectives on some older albums.  I also managed to get in the full 20 minute plus version of Tortoise's DJed and a couple of tracks from Martin Stephenson.

This episode features a couple of tracks from ABBC's 2001 album Tête À Tête. ABBC was a one-off collaboration between Calexico and the Amor Belhom Duo. The band's name is taken from the first letters of the four members' surnames: Amor, Belhom, Burns and Convertino. The French duo's Gallic flavour works brilliantly with the Calexico's Tuscon sound.

The show also features three tracks from American Spring's 1972 self-titled debut, but more on that great record can be read here.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Songs to Learn and Sing - Episode 518

Songs To Learn And Sing
103.2 Dublin City FM
Thursdays @ Midnight

Last night's show features a few new tracks: music from Wildbirds & Peacedrums; The Icypoles and Boy & Bear, as well as retrospectives on some older albums that I've blogged about recently: Denim On Ice by Denim, The Prawn Lawn by The Shanks and Science of the Sea by Jürgen Müller

This episode also features a couple of tracks from Marianne Faithfull's 2008 album Easy Come Easy Go. The album was subtitled, 18 Songs For Music Lovers and was produced by Hal Willner and features contributuions from among others: Keith Richards, Antony Hegarty, Jarvis Cocker, Chan Marshall, Sean Lennon, Nick Cave and Rufus Wainwright. I played Marianne's versions of tracks by Neko Case, Espers, Morrissey and The Decemberists. Her interpretation of these songs is inspiring and it's a great record well worth ckecking out.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Shanks - Artwork and Flyers

Following on from the recent Fatima Mansions post about old ticket stubs, I've found some flyers for three different gigs by The Shanks. 

The Shanks were originally from Newmarket but based in Cork from the early 90s. After Tim Murphy - the original lead singer - left the band, singing duties were shared by guitarist Stan O'Sullivan and bassist Mick Hayes, the line up was completed by Niall Lynch on drums. Most of the band lived for years at "Idaville" a house around the corner from the Art College on Sharman Crawford Street and many a great night was spent there with the lads.

The band's first official release was a 7'' flexi released on their own Shanksalot label in 1994. This was followed in 1995 by the band's debut album - The Prawn Lawn.

The Shanks - 7'' Flexi feat. No T-Bag & Trickle Away (Shanksalot, 1994)

The Prawn Lawn was recorded in Connollys of Leap in West Cork with Paddy McNicholl of Connollys producing along with the band.  The album was released on Rescue Records and has the catalogue number RCD002. Rescue Records was an imprint of Connollys of Leap that Paddy ran and as far as I can remember the label's first release was a mini album by Galway-based band Big Bag of Sticks.

The Shanks - The Prawn Lawn (Rescue Records, 1995)

The Shanks were always an incredible live act and easily one of the best bands in Ireland in the early to mid 90s. I had the pleasure of travelling with the band on an Irish tour supporting The Sultans of Ping in December 1994. On our journey from Cork to Belfast for a gig at the Limelight, we  collected The Prawn Lawn CDs from the pressing plant in West Dublin - I can clearly remeber all of us being incredibly excited to see the finished product. On that tour every gig they played was fantastic, they were just totally at the top of their game.

 Niall, Mick and Stan of The Shanks

Two cassette EPs followed The Prawn Lawn and then after adding keyboards to the mix they released their second album Brang in 1999. Brang received great reviews including this memorable line from the NME: "Like their predecessors on the Cork pop scene, Microdisney and even The Frank And Walters, The Shanks somehow sound far removed from the prevailing winds of their pop contemporaries. At its most peculiar... The Shanks are like Gastr Del Sol with a Chieftains fixation, but even in their more lucid moments...they're still fairly deranged." 

The Shanks played their last gig upstairs in Fred Zepplins in Cork in late '99 or early 2000. They went out on a high playing to a packed room of fans and friends - it was a great night. The flyers below are from a few Cork gigs in the mid 90s. Both venues: DeBurcas and The Lobby are long gone also.

The great Fanning Sessions blog has a session by the band here. Below you'll find, In the Morning Thing, the standout track from The Prawn Lawn and Trickle, below it again, is taken from Brang.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Denim - Denim On Ice

Denim's second and final album Denim On Ice was released by Echo Records in 1996. The band's first album, 1992's Back In Denim gets amazing praise, Denim On Ice doesn't seem to get the same plaudits. This is a pity because for me, Denim On ice is the better album. 

For those who don't know or have long forgotten, Denim was the band formed by Lawrence after he had completed Felt's "ten albums, ten singles in ten years" mission. Denim mixed glam rock, synth and guitar with Lawrence's cutting satirical lyrics. Back In Denim was both rivival and critique of the 1970s music scene. Denim On Ice ploughed the same furrow as its predecessor but the sound also referenced early synth-pop acts such as Devo, Gary Numan and Ultravox - needless to say Jarvis Cocker was a huge fan and Denim supported Pulp on their 1996 UK tour. 

Denim - Denim On Ice (Echo Records, 1996)

Opening track The Great Pub Rock Revival took splendid aim at the Britpop era:

"And there's a headband over the ocean
A beermat over the sea
Everybody believes what they're told to
Everybody believes what they read in the NME"

The album's filled with classic Lawrence songs: Glue and Smack, The Supermodels, Job Centre and Council Houses are all fantastic vignettes offering an alternative history of late 20th Century Britain - at some other time these could all have been huge hits - but not in the summer of 1996 while the UK hosted the Euro '96 football tournament and the media was obsessing over 'Cool Britannia'.

Novelty Rock, a compilation, came next in 1997. Summer Smash was to be the next single. Luck was never on Lawrence's side and when Princess Diana died in August 1997, EMIDISC pulled Summer Smash from its release schedule. EMIDISC was a short-lived label set up in 1996 by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs of Saint Etienne with EMI UK as a sub-label for new talent. EMI felt the song title was in bad taste given the circumstances of Diana's death and withdrew the single. Some copies of Summer Smash did get distributed to Ireland, including my ltd. Yellow 7'' pictured below. It's a fantastic song that duly died a quick death. The third album Denim Take Over was shelved indefinitely and Lawrence moved on to his Go Kart Mozart project.   

A trailer for the Paul Kelly directed 2012 documentary about Lawrence, titled Lawrence of Belgravia is below and also do yourself a favour and listen to the Denim tracks further down.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Jürgen Müller - Science of the Sea

 Jürgen Müller - Science of the Sea (Digitalis Recordings, 2011)

The backstory is almost unbelievable. According to Digitalis Recordings, "Jürgen Müller was a self-taught amateur musician who, while studying oceanic science at the University of Kiel, purchased some electronic instruments and set up a mobile studio on his house boat, docked along the town of Heikendorf, on the North Sea. Utilizing only a handful of barely-remembered childhood piano lessons, Jürgen set about creating his marine-influenced vignettes with some electronic instruments he had gathered through friends, as well as borrowing some new equipment from a local school’s music department. As a general music lover, earlier in the '70s he had taken note of several avant garde electronic composers who he felt simultaneously captured a purity of sound and sense of wonder that was lacking in other music. He dreamt of fusing this ideal with the synthetic recreations of nature. In a sense, one could say he stumbled onto an early “new age” aesthetic through pure ignorance and coincidence. As a result, it took several years for him to actually realize his sole full-length recording, Science of the Sea, the sessions for which began in late 1981, before finishing a year later. Less than 100 copies were pressed, and few of them were even sent out to potential clients. Most copies were eventually given to friends and family."  

30 years later Digitalis Recordings reissued Science of the Sea. Its experimental sounds, rooted in electronic krautrock or kosmische records from the 1970s, were lauded universally. I was totally intrigued by the reviews and dutifully picked up a copy - one of the Second Edition, limited to 500 copies on beautiful semi-opaque turquoise vinyl. I wasn't disappointed, Science of the Sea has been on regular rotation round my way since. It's a beautiful record and brings to mind the work of Roedelius or Philip Glass or Raymond Scott.

Indeed it turned out that the story was too good to be true and Jürgen Müller was actually Norm Chambers who records under the Panabrite moniker. Chambers told Robert Ham in a November 2013 article for Consequenes of Sound that, "The backstory kind of wrote itself. The idea of dragging synthesizers onto a houseboat is pretty hilarious, but also makes for a great concept." Chambers went on to explain to COS that he was initially going to release the recordings under the Panabrite name but, "noticed there was a particularly different sound than my usual work. There was something a little more refined, yet decidedly lo-fi about it." So he made up the story about Jürgen Müller a German composer who had pressed 100 copies of an album in a Private Press. 

It was a brilliant little hoax and brings to mind XTC's The Dukes of Stratosphear project from the mid 80s. Irregardless of the backstory though, Science of the Sea is a really stunningly beautiful record well worth checking out. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Songs to Learn and Sing - Episode 517

Songs To Learn And Sing
103.2 Dublin City FM
Thursdays @ Midnight

Last night's show featured new or recent music from Inventions, Labyrinth Ear, Jenny Lewis, Greg Haines, Luke Haines and Wildbirds & Peacedrums. Old music from Luna, No Means No, Electronic, Blur and The High Llamas. The show also featured three tracks from 1969's Turtle Soup, the fifth and final album from The Turtles (as featured on this recent post) and three tracks from Snooze.

 Snooze - The Man in the Shadow (SSR Records, 1997)

The Snooze tracks are all taken from 1997's The Man in the Shadow. Snooze was a name used by French producer Dominique Dalcan and he released three albums under the moniker. The Man in the Shadow is the first of the trio and is a lost downbeat classic that deserves to be heard by one and all. I bought it on double vinyl on a recommendation from Comet Records in Cork in 1997 - I wasn't disappointed. Man in the Shadow became an instant classic and set the standard for cinematic downtempo electronic music. The LP features slow and fast breakbeats, majestic strings, touches of film noir jazz, and a couple of instant classic songs, respectively featuring crystalline vocals by Nancy Danino (Down For Mine and Bip), and vibrant wails by Horace Andy (Tribute to Horace).

Fans of Bonobo, The Cinematic Orchestra and Massive Attack will adore The Man in the Shadow. Dominique Dalcan now spends his time composing soundtracks and indeed back in 1997, the same year that Snooze's The Man in the Shadow was released he composed the original soundtrack to Alain Berliner's Grammy winning movie, Ma Vie En Rose.  

Snooze - The Man in the Shadow (Medicine Label Records, 1998) Alternative US Album Art 

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Turtles - Turtle Soup

Turtle Soup was the band's fifth and final LP and the follow up to the concept album The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands. Released in 1969 by White Whale records the album was produced by Ray Davies of The Kinks. The Turtles were inspired by the Kinks' then-recent Village Green Preservation Society LP, and Turtle Soup remains Davies only production for another band. 

 The Turtles - Turtle Soup (White Whale Records, 1969)

Turtle Soup faired only slightly better than its predecessor and reached No. 117 in the US Album Chart. Turtle Soup contained a few singles: House on the Hill, You Don't Have to Walk in the Rain and Love in the City, all are really under-rated in my opinion. My own copy of Turte Soup is an original 1969 mint White Whale copy. It's an absolutlely beautiful textured gatefold sleeve with beautiful photography and art design and an inner sleeve containing all the lyrics.

Most people are only familiar with the group's hit single Happy Together and maybe the album of the same name but The Turtles have a really interesting back catelogue and Turtle Soup is well worth checking out.  

White Whale were pressuring the band for another hit single like Happy Together and Elenore, and wanted singers Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman to fire the rest of the group, and work instead with hired musicians, to save costs. On Turtle Soup Kaylan and Volman went the opposite direction and  democratised the band, insisting everyone share in the writing and vocal duties - the results are great.

Next the band began recording Turtle Soup's follow up, to be called Shell Shock, but dissension with the record label and within the group weighed them down and in early 1970 The Turtles disbanded. Their last single - their lushest ever - was a Judee Sill track called Lady-O but reaching No. 78 on the Billboard Hot 100 it was deemed a failure. White Whale released four more singles without the band's permission.  

Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan went on to join Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. For contractual reasons they were prevented from using their own names in a musical context so were billed as Phlorescent Leech and Eddie (after two Turtles/Mothers road managers), which later became Flo & Eddie. They went on to have huge success in their own right and also as much sought after session musicians - that's Flo & Eddie you can hear on backing vocals on T-Rex's Get it On. They also sang on The Psychedelic Furs' 1982 Forever Now LP and Gavin Friday's 1989 Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves.

When White Whale's master recordings were sold at auction in 1974, Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan won the Turtles' masters tapes, making them the owners of their own recorded work. Later in 1984, after legally regaining their right to use the Turtles name, they began touring as The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie and continue to do so to this day.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Record Finds - The Pretenders

Two recent record finds: Pretenders and Learning to Crawl by the Pretenders, the band's first and third albums respectively. I was thrilled to pick up mint copies of these LPs with the inner sleeves. I was familiar with the singles and indeed my brother used to have a cassette of The Singles compilation from around 1987, but I'd never owned or heard any LPs by the band. Both of these records are absolutley brilliant and now I really need to find a copy of Pretenders II. 

 The Pretenders - "Pretenders" (Real Records, 1979)

Pretenders contains the Ray Davies penned, Nick Lowe produced debut single Stop Your Sobbing. The rest of the album was produced by Chris Thomas and further singles included Kid and Brass in Pocket. The big revelation for me was Private Life. I was familiar with the Grace Jones version but never really realised that it was a Chrissie Hynde original. Pretenders is a brilliant album with fantastic sleeve art - the front cover photograph is surely one of rock and roll's greatest.

 The Pretenders - Learning to Crawl (Real Records, 1984)

Learning to Crawl was the band's third album and the first following the deaths of band members James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon - both died of drug overdoses. Chris Thomas was at the helm again and this LP produced a few more huge singles including: Back on the Chain Gang and 2000 Miles (the Pretenders really were a brilliant singles band). Robbie McIntosh (guitar) and Malcolm Foster (bass) were the new recruits photographed on the front sleeve - and it's another brilliant front cover. It says so much for Hynde's writing that the band could lose their guitarist and bassist and yet come back with such a brilliant album. The track Time the Avenger really took my breath away. Two brilliant LPs well worth checking out if like me you're only really familiar with the singles. 

The Pretenders - Private Life (Live, 1981)

 The Pretenders - Time the Avenger (Live, 2003)

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Record Finds - DAF (Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft)

Recent finds from a record fair include two DAF albums. DAF (Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft) is an influential German electropunk/Neue Deutsche Welle (German New Wave) band from Düsseldorf, formed in 1978.

 DAF - Gold Und Liebe (Virgin Records, 1981)

The band's first album was 1979's Ein Produkt der Deutsch-Amerikanischen Freundschaft and then the band moved to London and were signed by Daniel Miller to Mute Records. Their second album was 1980's Die Kleinen und die Bösen. 

The band was slimmed down to a two piece of Gabriel "Gabi" Delgado-López (vocals) and Robert Görl (drums, percussion, electronic instruments) and signed to Virgin Records. The band released three Conny Plank produced LPs for the label and my finds were Gold Und Liebe and Für Immer the second and third of the DAF Virgin trilogy. 

 DAF - Für Immer (Virgin Records, 1982)

DAF broke up after Für Immer and both Gabi and Görl have had long solo careers, they've also reformed a couple of time over the years for tours and new recordings. Anyone with even a passing interest in electronic music needs to listen to these records. The sounds are brutal, crisp and still sound amazingly fresh all these years later. It makes complete sense that John Peel once refered to the band as "the godfathers of Techno". Liebe Auf Den Ersten Blick was a single from Gold Und Liebe.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Songs to Learn and Sing - Episode 516

Songs To Learn And Sing
103.2 Dublin City FM
Thursdays @ Midnight

Last night's show featured music Roll the Dice, Moon Duo, Real Estate, Ghost Maps Walls/Oram, Loop and lots more. We also played three tracks from Prolapse and DAF.