Thursday, 31 December 2009

Singular Sounds H - Henrik

I'm a shamed to say that on my pc I also have one song by Howard Jones! However I've gone for Henrik. I can only guess I got this track from one of Word Magazine's monthly cds. I cant find out much about him except that he is a Danish singer who now lives and works in London. The track has a nice lazy hazy feel to it.

Try Me - Henrik

His myspace site is here and you can buy his debut lp "Faction" here

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Life of Live - The Passmore Sisters

After the Bowie let down it was time to go to the other extreme. If bands played Leeds and they were vaguely successful they played either the poly or the university. If they had a reasonable following then they played the Warehouse. If they had an exclusive or cult (ie very small) following then they played the Duchess of York. Every city I've lived has had a Duchess of York, a pub that puts concerts on , a pub you would never consider going to unless it was to see a concert and for Leeds it was the "Duchess of York". I don't know in this time of complicated licensing and performing laws if it is still going, I hope so , some of the best gigs I've been to have been whilst nursing a beer and considering if I risk going to the bogs in this pub.

The first one was for short lived band The Passmore Sisters (featuring no sisters and no one called Passmore) . The band released 4 singles and one lp between 1985 and 1987 and unlike a lot of indie bands at the time didn't seem scared to embrace the wonderful world of pop.

I remember that at the time I only had a single that I'd got in a lucky dip (local record shop would sell a sealed bag with 10 mystery singles in for a couple of pounds - a bit like buying panini football stickers you got lots of Eric Gates and the occasional Kevin Keegan)

It didn't matter that I only knew 2 songs as the rest were even better. Next day I rushed out and bought the lp and then not hear anything else about them.

Every Child in Heaven - The Passmore Sisters

June is in the Water - The Passmore Sisters

Red Star Blue Heart - The Passmore Sisters

The Lp is a nightmare to find, mine had almost worn through with playing but I found this blog where you can download the whole lp

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Bigger than the Beatles - Something Happens

I had 3 great years living in Scotland and found loads of bands with guitars that jangled. My job eventually moved me and I ended up in Leicester in a house that had windows where walls should be and walls where windows should be, sharing with among others the weirdest girl I've ever met who lived off weetabix and ready salted crisps, and one of the nicest guys I've ever met. Des was from Dublin and over the next 12 months he introduced me to loads of Irish bands with guitars that jangled.

One of these was the band Something Happens who I vaguely remembered seeing supporting the Icicle Works whilst at poly. They didn't exactly shout style and their covers were awful ( the one above is their best effort so you can imagine what the others were like). However they knew how to write melodies and the singer had a great voice that carried you along on a wave of a song.

They released 4 lps, 3 of which are fantastic, the third "Bedlam a Go Go" (lp titles weren't much better than the covers) seemed to ignore what had made them so good ie melody (Just to check I've tracked it down on Spotify and it is just as bad as I remember.) Luckily the 4th and to date final lp "Planet Fabulous" turned out to be their strongest yet.

The 4 lps are

"Been there Seen That Done That" - 1988 Take This With You

"Stuck Together With Gods Glue" - 1990 Parachute (maybe their best known track and certainly one of the catchiest)

"Bedlam a Go Go" - 1992

"Planet Fabulous" - 1994 - Here Come the Soldiers

Hear that song , turn it up

Best dam song I ever did hear

Wraps around me like you are near

They also released a greatest hits package which bucking a trend had the great title of "The Beatings Will Continue until Morale Improves" . This was then re-released and retitled "Best of" which is a shame. You can buy this here

Their myspace is here and has loads of video clips on

Unfortunately their best lp "Planet Fabulous" seems to be rarer than a rare thing so eBay is probably the best route.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Miracle Mile Monday Part 18

From the first track to the last. "Dust Will Shape Your Sins" is one of those stripped down songs the band play so well. Just voice and acousitc guitar with a bit of bass and pedal steel to add some depth
And here's a truth I've learned, you make the colours sing
Would i take you back , Does freedom favour wings?

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Lazy sunday - The Adventures

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a track from the Adventures 3rd lp "Trading Secrets with the Moon" This was co - written with god like genius Lloyd Cole. I've read on Lloyd Cole's blog that at the time his record company was trying to get him to write with loads of different people in a desperate move to discover a "hit" . It is one of those big dramatic songs with a big dramatic chorus which is never a bad thing

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Cult of the B Side - Everything But The Girl

Hope you all had a great Xmas. I don't think I own a Christmas song so it back to b sides

Another band that used to produce great b sides was Everything but The Girl. These 2 are from one of the last singles (Didnt Know I was Looking For Love) before Ben Watt discovered DJing and Tracey Thorn discovered Massive Attack. Since then b sides have tended to be endless remixes.

I am cheating a bit with this one as it was strictly speaking an ep but hey.....

The first is a cover of a Randy Newman song. With a young daughter I do wonder if the lyrics to the second track are a flash forward for all fathers

Why does he still go on lilke she's a baby
Saying that's no kind of language for a lady?
He knows she hates that word, that's why he said it.
He can be childish too and she won't forget it.

'Don't tell me I don't understand,'
He said, 'I know I don't understand.
I understood when you were ten,
But nothing's added up since then.'

He said, 'I'll give you a piece of my mind
And you're not too old to take it.'
Oh, just a piece of my mind, oh-ohh

That's him and her mum on honeymoon.
She was born in January and that was in June.
But now her life and his, they just don't mix,
And he don't like her boyfriends or her politics.

'Don't tell me what you think of me,'
He said, 'I know what you think of me.
I understood when you were ten,
But nothing's added up since then.'

He said, 'I'll give you a piece of my mind
And you're not too old to take it.
Just a piece of my mind', oh-ohh

Still he remembers her head
On the pillow of her little bed.
And then all at once she's sixteen
And now she hates him, oh-ohh.

'Don't tell me you don't understand,'
She said, 'What is there to understand?
I've grown up since I was a kid
And maybe, Dad, it's time that you did.'

She said, 'I'll give you a piece of my mind
And you're not too old to take it,
Oh, just a piece of my mind
And not too old
Cause I'm not your baby,
Not your little girl.
Not your baby
Not your little girl.'

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Singular Sounds G - Gin Blossoms

Exhibit A of the first rule of pop which is every band has at least one good single in them. This is the only track have by the Gin Blossoms as they were the kind of American Rock that usually passes me by. They were formed in 1987. This song was written by the former lead singer (Doug Hopkins) before he was sacked by the band and went on to be their breakthrough hit in the US. He later commited suicide.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A year in Books - Beautiful Children

Beautiful Children is Charles Brock's debut novel and follows the lives of the lonely around Las Vegas. This isn't the Vegas of the stag parties or gambling tourists, but the Vegas of people who live and work there. The central theme focuses on the disappearance of a 12 year old boy and the direct and indirect impact that this has on the lives of a disparate bunch of loosely connected characters. Because the book flits between these people, in places it feels like a book of short stories almost a "Short Cuts" for Nevada. As with short stories some characters work better than others. The parents struggling to cope with their confusion , grief and the pain of just not knowing are really well drawn, whereas the struggling comic book artist loses focus and seems to meander to stand still. If you like classic American literature built around relationships (Raymond Carver springs to mind although it is a very loose comparison) then this is worth giving a go. However if you work for the Las Vegas tourist board then I suggest you give it a miss, you are not going to be happy.

You can buy Beautiful Children here

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Life of Live - The Glass Spider

Although I was living in the metropolis that is Leeds, my days of catching a coach to a concert weren't quite over. I was a massive David Bowie fan and although I'd defended him through the dark days of "Tonight" ("Loving the Alien is a great song" was the main defence) I was struggling with he awful blandness that was the "Never Let Me Down" lp. However live surely he could do no wrong?? So it was that one Saturday morning in summer I dragged myself down to outside the poly to catch a bus to Manchester Maine Road to see the Glass Spider tour and my first and last concert in a football ground. Me and the two friends I went with were in one of the stands so it was the usual squinting into the distance to try and make out what was going on. The support was Alison Moyet(who got the biggest cheer when she did a couple of Yazoo songs) and Terence Trent Darby. I cant remember what he said to annoy everyone but people starting booing and throwing stuff after about the 2nd song and kept going until he finished. (It seems weird that for a time he was "a contender")

Eventually the set was revealed (see above) it was meant to be a giant spider and did when it got dark but for most of the concert it largely looked like a mess of scaffolding. Bowie appeared lowered from the heavens in a chair singing into a phone. He was wearing some kind of red jumpsuit and well I was shocked to see he seemed to have some kind of mullet going on. The music was dominated by never ending guitar solos from Peter Frampton that also drowned out any other instrument. Each song featured a cast of dancers (including one apparently called Spaz) acting out some no doubt very meaningful scenarios but from my seat it just looked like alot of people charging around and on the video screen just an excess of comedy miming and gurning.

I'm sure there were some highlights but I'm struggling to remember them. This is still not the worst concert I've been to but certainly the biggest disappointment. I would see Bowie 3 years later after which all was forgiven but that is for another post.

It is the popular myth that Bowie's late 80s were barren years and it wasn't until "Heathen" that he got his act back together. However this ignores some great one off singles he did. Loving the alien is still a great single and the sound track to Buddha of Suburbia is worth checking out. I may be in a minority but Absolute Beginners and This is Not America are among he best songs.

Here is the only redeeming feature of "Never Let Me Down"

Monday, 21 December 2009

Miracle Mile Monday - part 17

Miracle Mile released their 5th lp "Stories We Could Tell" ( a title that would fit perfectly with all their releases) in 2004. Whilst not a radical departure the instrumentation feels a bit broader on this lp where Marcus Cliffe comes into his own (is there anything he can't play!)

First track is Milk Moustache is a case in point with Marcus Cliff eon Glockenspiel and Simon Currie guesting on Flute, Clarinet and Tenor Sax.

You can buy Stories We Could Tell here

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Lazy Sunday - eels

Another sunday , another shuffle and top of the pile is a track by the Eels. This was a "extra track" on the Daisies of the Galaxy lp. What do I like about it , well I defy you to listen to this and not have the tune running around your head for the rest of the day

"Goddam right it's a beautiful day"

Saturday, 19 December 2009

God Like Genius - Lawrence

To be a God Like Genius you need an element of eccentricity. Also it unlike the others in the series a Genius can produce some pretty awful stuff, but this is balanced with the exceptional and never features the ordinary. Lawrence of Felt fits that bill. He deserves his place just for for the fact that he formed Felt and introduced the manifesto of 10 singles , 10 lps in 10 years and then split, which he stuck to.

He went on to form Denim and Go Kark Mozart which i could take or leave. It is Felt that I'll focus on.

Formed in 1979 Lawrence set his stall out in terms of snappy trip off the tongue titles with first lp release - Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty.

Band members came and went but I think they were at their peak when Maurice Deebank was the guitarist with a lot of the songs built around some intricate playing that lifted it above the usual indie fare

The first track I've posted is the 4th single released in 1983 and is a great bit of sing along indie pop

The next 3 come form I think Felt's purple period and 3 lps when they were at their peak

The Second track comes from my favourite of their lps "Strange idol Patterns and other Short Stories"

The next lp "Ignite the Seven Canons" was produced by Robin Guthrie and features Felt's best track the epic Primitive Painters with Elizabeth Fraser from the Cocteau Twins on backing vocals. At the time I thought this would be the breakthrough single (Lawrence's lyrics were often full of intellect and self obsessed self pity - ideal for a 16/17 yr old boy in the fens) but short of doing well in John Peel's festive Fifty it didn't really trouble Gallop

Maurice Deebank left after this lp which naturally Lawrence addressed in the next single "Ballad of the Band"

Where have you been, haven't seen you for weeks
You've been hanging out with all those Jesus freaks

Oh Yeah and I feel like giving in

Where were you when I wanted to work

You were still in bed you're a total jerk

Oh yeah and i feel like giving in

There's a place for abstract and there's a place for noise

There's a place for every kind of sound so come on now and tell me why you re so void

Its all my fault yes I'm to blame

Aint got no money and aint got no fame
And that's why I feel like giving in

And all those songs like crystal ball, dismantled king

You know I love them all

I still feel like giving in

The final track comes from "Forever Breathes the Lonely Word" and with Deebank gone the sound of the Hammond organ is more to the fore.

You can get a compilation lp "Stains on the Decade" here

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Help Wanted - Name that Tune?

Every now and then i get Word magazine partly for the monthly compilation cds that come with it.

I love one of the tracks that I've put on the pc the only problem is that the pc didn't pick up the name of the song or the artist, just that it came from the feb 2007 edition. As the cds highlight new releases it is safe to say that the track came from an lp released around that time.

It is a quiet atmospheric song mainly built around acoustic guitar, piano and some strings. I think its a great song and want to get the lp

any ideas?

Mystery Track

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

God Like Genius - Terry Hall

Another songwriter who gets some of the recognition but not half of the success they deserve. It is difficult to think of many who are a better lyricist. I wasn't that much into the Specials only really knowing the singles, and there was always the feeling that it was Jerry Dammers band. I didn't really like Funboy Three until this came out.

Our Lips Are Sealed - Funboy Three

Which was followed by the next killer single "Tunnel of Love". However this was just a prelude to what was to come next. The First couple of singles by the Colourfield passed me by and I guess like most people it was only when "Thinking of You" (Beautiful South made a bit of a career of following on from this template) one of those perfect pop songs charted that I sat up and took notice

I bought "Virgins and Philistines", loved it and it remains one of my favourites from the time. Verging on easy listening and with downbeat lyrics it stuck out from the bright shiny stuff in the charts, almost the commercial sound of the 100s of "twee" bands that would appear in the late 80s/early 90s. The track I've posted is a hypnotic song with gorgeous harmonies that sounds like it has come from the soundtrack of some long forgotten sixties film.

Hammond Song - The Colourfield

The Colourfield fell apart and their follow up lp "Deception" had a more electronic sound which hasn't dated very well, it still had a couple of great songs on "Miss Texas 1967" the standout

Next was a collaboration with Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics under the name Vegas. Again the backing is a little souless but this is more than made up for by the quality of both the songwriting and Terry Hall's voice that just gets better.

Walk into the Wind - Vegas

Finally settling and recording under his own name the mid 90s saw Terry Hall release two solo lps "Home" in 1995 and "Laugh" in 1997 (ironic title as it mainly deals with the breakup with his wife). The first lp followed some co-writing he did with Ian Broudie for the Lightening Seeds "Jollification" lp with Ian Broudie returning the favour and producing "Home". Collaboration continued in terms of songwriting with tracks on these 2 lps c0 written with among others Stephen Duffy, Damon Albarn, Andy Partridge and Nick Heyward

Forever J - Terry Hall

Ballad of the Landlord- Terry Hall

I've not even touched on his recent flirtation with World Music or the short lived Terry , Blair and Anoushka. It does seem that he thrives best when songwriting with a partner and suffers from itchy feet, however whoever he works with he keeps knocking out songs of such great quality.

The circle now closes and he is back touring with the Specials, great for old mods but it's a shame that this probably means we'll not see another solo lp for a while

you can buy an extended version of Laugh here

As for the Colourfield , Vegas and Home it seems that they are all only know available as downloads or overpriced cds on amazon marketplace which is a real shame.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Cult of the b side - suede

Suede were one of those bands that continued the tradition of the Smiths in that singles all had non lp tracks as b sides. They also gathered them together into a compilation "Sci Fi Lullabies". The other thing in common with the Smiths was a lot of the b sides were better than some of the lp tracks and certainly better than a lot of band's a sides. Two of the best came on the b side of single only release "Stay Together". I prefer both to the a side as they are much more focused whereas the aside saw a never ending self indulgent Bernard Butler guitar solo.

Living Dead is classic Suede ( only stops being the ultimate Suede track as it is one of those rare tracks where the word "gasoline" doesnt feature in the lyrics)

Where's all the money gone , I'm talking to you
All up the hole in your arm, is the needle a much better screw
But what will you do alone because I have to go

Where is this life of fun , that you promised me
Nothing here works but your works and I mean it I have to leave
But what will you do alone because I have to go

My dark Star is also classic Suede in that I've no idea what it is about but it sounds great

My Dark Star - Suede

Living Dead - Suede

Brett Anderson has one of those love it or hate it voices, but I think the vocal on these 2 are among his best.

you can buy Sci Fi Lullabies here

Monday, 14 December 2009

miracle mile monday part 16

The final song from "Alaska". Some songs are so personal that somehow the power of the emotions involves get translated through words and music. Other songs are so personal that it almost feels intrusive to listen.

You can buy Alaska here

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Lazy Sunday - REM

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a track by REM. Every REM lp now is greeted with return to form claims. I'm in an a minority but I really like the stuff they have done as a 3 piece especially the "Around the Sun" lp which was much more reflective and mellow

I like this because it shows they still know how to write a killer chorus

You can buy Around the Sun here

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Singular sounds F - The Fixx

One of the traumas of growing up in the fens was listening to local radio which at the time was called Hereward radio. It was full of DLT wannabes (as if the original wasn't bad enough) and Alan partridge soundalikes. It was so bad one of our annual school reviews spent the entire show taking the piss via being about a local radio Ethlered Radio. (Apols I came over all kids from fame for a moment)

But having said all that they did in 1982/3 have something called the futurist chart, which was basically a chart from local shop Andy's records of i think anything with a synth on. It used to be on for an hour thurs 9 - 10 and I'd sit and listen with finger poised over the record/play buttons of my radio cassette.

One track that came on was The Fixx "Red Skies". This was the days when all I could really afford were singles which might explain why I have this fine red vinyl single but nothing else. They became one of that strange breed of British bands who were successful in America but unheard of here.

I eventually tracked down an MP3 version from a blog (apols I cant remember which one but thankyou whoever you were) thus it is the only thing I have by them. (They just beat Fountains of Wayne and Fred Neil)

It has dated a bit but still has some great "wooohhh woooohhhs"

Friday, 11 December 2009

Why i Love Country Music part 7

Having already been responsible for the lyrics of one great non country country song "Labelled With Love" here is a track from Chris Difford's first solo lp. Co written with god like genius Gary Clark.

the lyrics are a bit tongue in cheek

Cowboys are my weakness

But I still crack the whip

I do the cleaning they do the dreaming

They cant give me the slip

Thursday, 10 December 2009

My indie past - Corn Dollies

One band my friend John , or to give him his full title, the king of obscure indie introduced me to. I've posted their most successful single number 18 in the indie charts in 1987 (is there still such a thing?). I think I read that this was about Morrissey although that may just be wishful thinking on my part. One thing I hadn't realised at the time is that this was produced by Robert Forster of the Gobetweens.

If you like this you may want to visit the wonderful Noisebox blog as there are more corn dollies tracks posted there

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A Year in Books - The Baroque Cycle

At almost 3000 pages of the smallest type I feel like I've been reading this trilogy forever, certainly on and off for most of the year. Neal Stephenson's epic defies categorisation. It can loosely be seen as historical fiction, but that doesn't start to give it justice. All I can say is that you wont have read anything like this before.The action spans decades and continents. It covers everything from the age of scientific discovery, piracy , the birth of stock exchanges, the intrigues of European politics, alchemy and the start of the royal mint, mixed with good old romance, sex, adventure and violence (and this description only touches the surface). It reads a bit like a historical romp but is chock full of ideas that you cant help yourself but think a bit deeper about. It has a cast of 100s, with a vagabond, a republican and an ex slave girl mixing with Isaac Newton, Christopher Wren and the Sun King. The plot meanders all over the place and a bit like heading away from a motorway, it takes longer but it is a lot more interesting a journey . The biggest test is that after 900+ pages of the first book you cant wait to start part 2 and 3.

If you want to be entertained but also give your brain a work out here is where you can buy

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Bigger Than the Beatles - The Pearlfishers

The good thing about having a job that covered the whole of Scotland was that i got to visit lots of small record shops from Ayr to Elgin. One of the smallest and the best was in the City of Discovery and home of Danny Wilson Dundee. On one visit I picked up two 12" eps "Hurt" and "Sacred" (I'm ashamed to say because I liked the covers and the name of the band - The Pearlfishers, as well as the fact that they were 2nd hand and very cheap).

I soon tracked down an lp "Za Za's Garden" (1993) and I've bought pretty much everything they have released since.

The Pearlfishers is the recording name used by "Scottish Brian Wilson" David Scott.

Now if i were to have a chart of most over-rated artists Brian Wilson would feature, always behind Bob Dylan but that is a different matter. However, I do like music that is often described as being inspired by Wilson (I think that basically mean intricate instrumentation, complex production and loads of harmonies). The Pearlfishers fall into this bracket.

Since that debut lp they have released the following on various labels

Strange Underworld of the Tall Poppies (1997)

Young Picnickers (1999)

Across the Milky Way (2001)

Sky Meadows (2003)

A Sunflower at Christmas (2004 and that rare thing a good Xmas album)

Up With the Larks (2007)

Over the years there haven't been any radical changes in style just fine tuning the format of melody and harmony and in fact "up With the Larks" from 2007 is I think the best thing he has done. Although David Scott is almost a 1 man cottage industry Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub has co-written and played on a number of the lps (In fact they played together in 2007 on the sit down and sing tour)

I've posted 3 tracks to show how the sound has evolved. The first "Lord Franklyn" comes from "Strange World" and the next 2 are from "Up with the Larks"

Lord Franklyn - The Pearlfishers

Womack and Womack - The Pearlfishers

The Umbrellas of Shibuya - The Pearlfishers

As ever availability is patchy - HMV has most of the lps , however you can get them here direct from the record company (Marina - it is also worth checking out what else they have)

The bands website is here where you can listen to clips of tracks from all the lps (apart for Za Za's Garden)

Monday, 7 December 2009

Miracle Mile Monday part 15

The third track form the "Alaska" lp is one of the most immediate tracks. The highlight is the weaving of sometime Lilac Time member Melvin Duffy's pedal steel guitar with the Hammond Organ playing of Geraint Watkins

Wilful - Miracle Mile

There's no doubting your experience but I'm out of my mind on common sense

And you call the tune

You can buy Alaska here

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Lazy Sunday - The Men they Couldnt Hang

Lazy sunday and top of the pile this week is a fantastic single from The Men they Couldn't Hang. A tale of 2 people on either side of the picket lines during the miner's strike. Really like the way the violin drives the song along and "Rip that Shirt off you" always went down well live

Hey there Tommy shall we meet again with the morning wet with dew

Me at the gates of the colliery and you in your shirt of blue

Shirt of Blue - The Men They Couldn't Hang

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Life of Live - The Dainties

One of the great things about going to poly was in those endless evenings sitting chatting and drinking in people's rooms you'd get to hear loads of new music, some of which anchored you and your friends to a time and a place. The one lp I used to always put on was Boat Bolivia by Martin Stephenson and the Dainties which I'd bought the previous summer. It soon became a firm favourite with people I knew so when a gig appeared we all went on mass. Life of Live may get a tad repetitive as without a doubt at their peak the Dainties were the best live band going and as a result I saw them loads of time over the next 4/5 years.

What do I remember, well apart from the hat ,the between song stories and banter with the audience, the fantastic playing by Martin and the Dunn brothers , just simply singing along from start to finish. As a front man Martin had the audience eating out of his hand. The band gave that appearance of being a bit ramshackle but very tight at the same time as only people who have played together for a long time can. They genuinely seemed to be enjoying to gig as much as the audience as songs would often veer off into new directions with new verses choruses added in.

I've posted 2 early tracks not on the original lp (both versions from 1983) I think Roll on Summertime was the debut single and Trouble Town was later released as a single although a lot more polished than this early version

Trouble Town - The Dainties

Roll on Summertime - The Dainties

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Not Quite Prefab Sprout - part 2

A few years ago there was a lot of press about bands from Canada focusing on Arcade Fire and to a lesser extent bands like Broken Social Scene. However, i bought a cd "Set Yourself on Fire" by the band Stars again based on Prefab Sprout comparison. In fairness the review said that they were a cross between Prefab Sprout, New Order and St Etienne. It could have been horrible, it wasn't. From the opening track you could see the comparisons, the boy / girl vocals the clever lyrics and the melodies that are never predictable. As the lp went on some of the tracks had a more synth based backing. I then found out out that in fact this was their 2nd lp so i bought the first which was just as good. 2007 saw their last release "In our Bedroom after the War". On one hand this is a more consistent set of songs but on the other nothing is quite as good as the 2 tracks I've posted from the first 2 lps

Heart from Heart

Your Ex Lover is Dead from Set Yourself on Fire (if you only listen to one then this should be the one)

Personal from In Our Bedrooms after the war

Here is where you can buy

Set Yourself on Fire ( I think this must be a re-release as the cover and track order is different to my version)

If you've nothing left to burn you have to set yourself on fire

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Not Quite Prefab Sprout - part 1

Following on from the lazy Sunday posting, I've started thinking of the lps I've bought purely on the basis of the following words in a review ...."sounds a bit like Prefab Sprout".
Sometimes this has led to me wondering exactly which prefab sprout the reviewer meant because it certainly wasn't the one I liked. However every now and then it means getting a real gem.

The best 2 bands I've come across in this way will feature in the next 2 posts. The first is the latest incarnation of Sunday's post "Booley", "Duke Special". This is the current name for Belfast based songwriter Peter Wilson.

As Duke Special he has released 3 eps and 4 lps (one of which collected together tracks from the eps and the other is live performance backed by an orchestra)

The 2 main studio lps are
2007 - Songs from the Deep Forest
2008 - I Never Thought this Day Would Come

It is the first that prompted the Prefab Sprout comparisons. The songwriting is an echo back to the days of Gershwin , Bacharach, etc. There is a sense of almost vaudeville in some of the arrangements and his live appearances (helped by his dreadlocks and dress sense)

I Never Thought is a great lp by anyone else's standards but I feel some of the eccentricity of the first has been lost. The Songs on Deep Forest are the type that after of couple of plays feel like they have been around for ages.

I've posted 2 of the tracks from Deep Forest

You can find his website here where you can currently download a free lp that is a mixture of tracks from the 2 lps, the early eps and some live stuff

So if you like Prefab Sprout give him a go
You can buy both cds here but I'd go for Songs From the Deep Forest

Monday, 30 November 2009

miracle mile monday part 14

The idea of bluer skies and better weather as a barometer to the futre is a theme that pops up form time to time in Miracle Mile's songs. The second track from "Alaska" is "Weatherwise" which features some great pedal steel guitar and has one of the band's best choruses
There he goes, twinkel toes, you should know how to see things my way
Wishing my bluer skies to you
He'll go far, not as far as you are, to see things my way
Weatherwise broken cloud will do
You can buy Alaska here

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Lazy Sunday - Booley

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a track by Booley and comes from the lp "The Bathroom Floor"

It is one those mid tempo crafted melodic songs I love

It's only after I've done a search that I've found out Booley is an early incarnation of Duke Special whose first lp "songs form the Deep Forest" is a bit like an Irish Prefab Sprout

Friday, 27 November 2009

Singular Sounds E- An Emotional Fish

Sometime the sorting on media player is a little odd therefor singular sounds for E ends up being An Emotional Fish

Irish band An Emotional Fish were I think the first signing to U2's label (Mother Records). They released 3 lps which all charted in Ireland and I remember this single got a lot of airplay in the UK at the time of it's release. I still quite like this although it does run out of ideas/steam before the end and I do remember hearing the follow up and not being that impressed, thus this being the only track I have

Thursday, 26 November 2009

My indie past - The Beloved

One of the things I've got against the acid house scene of the late 80s (apart from that smiley face logo and the fact that people felt the need to blow whistles all the time) is that a lot of great guitar bands went to some raves took some e and started to produce some second rate dance music. The Beloved were a classic example. They went from the first track to the second.

One Hundred Words is one of those great lost songs, it reminds me a bit of New Order around time of "Temptation".

Time after Time is a pleasant enough pop song but I missed the band they were

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

My indie past - Treebound Story

Not much to say about Treebound Story except they featured a pre Pulp Richard Hawley. I've posted 2 tracks, the first "My Life's Example" came out in 1986 and I'm pretty sure I first heard it as part of John Peel's festive 50 and the second comes from the next ep released 3 years later and sounds like a completely different band. It is this second poppier track that i think is the best thing they did

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A Year in Books - Chris Steele-Perkins

A bit of a cheat this one as it is a book of photographs. "England my England" collects together a aeries of photographs taken over the last 35 years by Chris Steele - Perkins. It doesn't contain the best or my favourite photos, but together it represents a kind of cultural history that endless "Remember the..." programmes cannot capture. The subject matter on one hand is random , from the Debs ball to the reggae festival and the country fair and yet a theme forms ...all life is here.

I'll leave it to Michael Palin "These are wonderful images, showing just how revealing the lives of ordinary people, doing day-to-day things can be. They are glimpses of a country in doubt, sometimes in pain, but full of an indomitable spirit."

Why I like this book so much I think is that it covers pretty much the time I've been alive as result it seems that on every page there is a memory hiding

You can buy "England My England" here

Monday, 23 November 2009

miracle mile monday part 13

Miracle miles 4th lp released in 2003 is called "Alaska" and more than ever apart from the final track it feels like a book of short stories. Songs let us look into the lives of various characters before moving on to the next. By this stage the band consisted of Trevor Jones and Marcus Cliffe.

Trevor Jones on the band website - " A lot of these songs focus on the tricks that we use, the games that we play, and the skills we develop to stop ourselves becoming unglued"

I'll start with the title track and lp opener. It features some beautiful guitar playing. Lyrically it is the most explicit in terms of the songwriter as an observer and recorder. In this case the pay off is heartbreaking

Alaska - Miracle Mile

"The bundle at her breast, it's all they could hope for
From hair of fading nylon to perfect plastic toes"

On a separate note the band's website has been redesigned and has some great stuff on it.
You can also buy Alaska on the site here

Sunday, 22 November 2009

lazy sunday - the waterboys

Lazy Sunday and top of the pile is a Waterboys epic "Too Close to Heaven". This comes from the lp of the same name (compilation of unreleased tracks that were recorded about the same time as the "Fisherman's Blues" lp.) The tracks on this lp were abandoned in favour of the more traditional Irish sound that came to define this period.

I like it because only Mike Scott can do this kind of freewheeling

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Life of Live + Strange Covers

Going to poly in Leeds meant that it was only a matter of time before I went to see local heroes, The Wedding Present. I saw them 3 times in my 4 years in Leeds and the first time was the best. The later concerts suffered as they got a big LUFC following and there were always seemd to be mass fights breaking out, which for a professional wimp like me tended to spoil the experience. The first time was also to promote the debut lp George Best which I still think has some of their best songs on. I've posted 2 tracks from the re release of that lp

The first is an acoustic version which definitely wasn't played at the concert. It's a great example of David Gedge's lyric writing which is so natural they feel like snatches of conversations. I apologise there is a slight skip about halfway through this track (whenever this happens I always remember compact discs being introduced on tomorrow's world with the claim that they were indestructible - this was demonstrated by for some reason spreading jam on one)

The second is a cover of a Beatles track

Friday, 20 November 2009

Strange Covers - Heaven 17

When you think of Heaven 17 you probably think:

Lot's of synths, music to dance to, over the top backing vocals

When you think of Party Fears Two by the Associates you may think
Lots of synth with off the scale vocal gymnastics

Now forget all that and listen to this stunning cover version. Originally performed at a tribute to Billy Mackenzie it paints the song in a whole new light

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

God like Genius - Stephen Duffy

This God Like Genius is one of this country's most under-rated songwriters. He has

- recorded one of the best early 80s pop singles

- formed a folk band

-been in a britpop supergroup

- written and toured with an ex member of one of the Uk's biggest boy bands

- released an lp with Nigel Kennedy

- been an early singer with a bunch of New Romantics

Most people know that Stephen Duffy was one of the original members of Duran Duran before he left and was replaced by Simon Le Bon. He then went on to form a group called Tin Tin and kept the Tin Tin name as well as one of the songs " Kiss Me" when the band broke up. Kiss me, released in 1985 became one of those singles that everyone probably knows without really knowing much about who recorded it. Rather than post this which I'm sure you can get on 100 80s compilations or 80s blogs I've gone for the other great single from the first lp "Ups and Downs" (which was strangely part produced by Smiths and Blur producer Stephen Street)

Icing on the Cake - Stephen Tin Tin Duffy

After a second failed lp (this time without the Tin Tin in his name) and a one off lp under the name Dr Calculus (with Roger Freeman ex of Pigbag) he resurfaced in 1987 in the Lilac Time a band formed with his brother Nick Duffy. The lp was first released on an indie label before being re-released on a major. I've posted the first single. I remember it being played on radio one in a you'll never guess who this is type section. Against the rush of dance music and rave a gentle folk pop song didn't stand a chance. The single is one of those catchy songs that you think must be a cover as you cant believe that no-one else has come up the tune

Return to Yesterday - The Lilac Time

After supporting Dr and the Medics and appearing on TV with Roland Rat (boy did the record company know what to do with this band) Stephen Duffy started on the second lp "Paradise Circus" released in 1989. In his own words "I was obsessed with Crosby Stills and Nash , Neil Young and Iris Murdoch and thought myself an amalgam of all five" whilst "I would get on the train to Phonogram to meetings that confirmed our belief that they had signed us by mistake. They wanted a hit. On the way home a girl waved. You are the girl that waved at trains through the cool September rain. It didn't even make the top 100"

The lp is a bit of a mixed bag, you can hear the struggle between the style of the first lp and the pressure to have a hit.

Much to everyone's surprise the band weren't dropped and the option of another lp was taken up by Phonogram. This time they called in Andy Partridge of XTC to produce. Again the resulting lp has an element of conflict. There are 6 tracks produced with Andy Partridge who layered harmony on top of harmony. The remainder were rushed out in a week with John Leckie after Phonogram cut the budget half way through recording. The Andy Partridge tracks show a glimpse of what might have been. "And Love for All" was released in 1990 and needless to say none of the singles charted

To promote the lp the band embarked on The Free Love tour.

"It was a shambles, setting up in parks and playing for a handful of people, or Peterborough town square where a clock started to chime as we began playing and continued throughout the set"

The Laundry - Lilac Time

After finally leaving Phonogram, The Lilac Time signed to Creation records for 1 lp "Astronauts" a much more stripped down sound, closer to the essence of the first lp now that the pressure from Phonogram to have a hit was no longer there.

In Inerva Gardens - The Lilac Time

The Lilac Time went into a prolonged hibernation during which time Stephen Duffy recorded "Music in Colours" with violinist Nigel Kennedy (after discovering a shared love of Aston Villa) in 1993 as well as solo lp "Duffy" in 1995.

Natalie - Stephen Duffy and Nigel Kennedy

 He finally also had another hit. After all the great songs he'd written, this was the annoying "Hanging Around" recorded as Me Me Me with Alex James from Blur and Justin Welch from Elastica. Thankfully it was a one off.

1998 saw the release of the next solo lp "I Love my Friends" and one of the strongest sets he has produced. The lyrics felt more autobiographical. The music is a bit of mix of a guitar sound which reflected the trend at the time with gentler acoustic songs more in line with the Lilac Time.

I've posted two tracks that reflect the 2 elements of the lp

In 1999 Stephen Duffy reformed the Lilac Time and since then the band have released 4 lps all on different labels. These records are much more consistent in sound with a big reliance on acoustic instruments

Family Coach from Looking for the Day in the Night 1999

My Forest Brown from Lilac6 2001

We Used To Be So from Keep Going 2003

Happy Go Lucky from Run Out Groove 2007

The final incarnation for Stephen Duffy is the one off Devils lp. The story goes that he found an old tape of songs he'd written with the early version of Duran Duran and after a chance meeting and reminisce with Nick Rhodes the two of them got together and recorded the songs ( not changing the lyrics and using only early synths) and released them on the "Dark Circles" lp in 2002. If you are thinking Rio or Planet Earth then think again. These are more like the early synth bands such as pre Dare Human League , Cabaret Voltaire etc. A glimpse of what might have been and not a whiff of a beach in Sri Lanka.

Dark Circles - The Devils

Signals in Smoke - The Devils

In 2004/05 Stephen Duffy finally hit payday in that he co wrote 2 songs for Robbie Williams greatest hits package and then co wrote the whole of the singers next lp (The one before the career threatening Rudebox). This turned into to touring as guitarist on the accompanying world tour.
Anyone who has followed the downs and downs of Stephen Duffy's career wouldn't begrudge him his time in the sun and the royalties should pay for a few more Lilac Time lps
This post was partly inspired by the fact that a documentary film has just been released. "Memory and Desire - 30 years in the wilderness with Stephen Duffy and the Lilac Time.

As his the lyrics form his last lp says
 My epitaph will be
“In dazzling obscurity
He played his songs for free
And a royalty

Finally his website is worth a visit where he writes a very entertaining if erratic blog with photos
For those that want more a great site is duffypedia