Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Simple Minds

All reviews done are highlighted in orange. Click on an album title to read the review.

Life In A Day (1979)
Real To Real Cacophony (1979)
Empires And Dance (1980)
Sons And Fascination (1981)
Sister Feelings Call (1981)
New Gold Dream (1982)
Sparkle In The Rain (1984)
Once Upon A Time (1985)
Street Fighting Years (1989)

Live In The City Of Light (1987)
5 x 5 Live (2012)

Eric Clapton

Reviews done are highlighted in orange. Click on an album title to read the review.

Eric Clapton (1970)
461 Ocean Boulevard (1974)
There's One In Every Crowd (1975)
No Reason To Cry (1976)
Slowhand (1977)
Backless (1978)
Another Ticket (1981)
Money & Cigarettes (1983)
Behind The Sun (1985)
August (1986)
Journeyman (1989)
From The Cradle (1994)
Pilgrim (1998)
Reptile (2001)
Me & Mr. Johnson (2004)
Back Home (2005)
Clapton (2010)
Old Sock (2013)
I Still Do (2016)

The Four Tops - Soul Spin (1969)


Released in 1969

This was a low-key album release from The Four Tops, in that it contained no hit singles, and was quite "serious" in mood, tapping into the prevalent social consciousness trail-blazed by The Temptations. Indeed, the opening track, the ecologically-aware "Look Out Your Window" is very much like The Temptations in its sound and vocal delivery. Frank Wilson, who also went on the produce The Supremes, was at the controls. He injected a Norman Whitfield-influenced awareness into proceedings.

"Barbara's Boy" is more of a "Bernadette"-style Motown number. However, it touched on the sensitive subject of paternity rights. "Lost In A Pool Of Red" is another hard-hitting number with a killer bass line and, as always a towering Levi Stubbs lead vocal. It has a huge, pounding drum sound too. It seemed every Four Tops album had to contain a Beatles cover. Here, it was "Got To Get You Into My Life", saved by Stubb's vocal. "Stop the World" is more of a Motown stomper, but with a message. The Tops were getting more like The Temptations by the day. Thus far, at least.

"Nothing" is a Smokey Robinson song, again with an authentic Motown feel. and that huge bass line again. This is as far as the Motown material went on the album, the same applied to the socially aware stuff. It was "easy listening" covers all the way now - Burt Bacharach's "This Guy's in Love With You" and "The Look Of Love"; Bobby Goldsboro's lachrymose"Honey"; The Doors' "Light My Fire" and The Mamas And the Papas' "California Dreamin'". all immaculately sung, of course, but pretty inessential. They are nowhere near as good, or as credible as the old "side one" of the album. The Four Tops had continued the trend of putting out an album of a really solid side one and a side two of cheesy covers. They had "previous" on this. 1966's "On Top" was guilty of the same thing. As a completist, I have this album for the side one tracks, but I wouldn't recommend it for anything other than a serious hardcore Motown aficionado.


Kate Bush - The Kick Inside (1978)


Released February 1978

Recorded at AIR Studios, London

Regarding this latest remaster. Personally I have never had a problem with the sound on this album. It has always been sharp as a tack in its treble passages (cymbals etc) and resonantly bassy and thumping in the drum and bass backing. This latest remaster makes those parts even more sharp and even more pulsating. Check out the first three tracks for evidence. I now have both masterings and am happy with both. I would say that the new one is certainly not essential, but that is from someone who was happy with the previous one, so maybe I am not the best person to give advice.

Anyway, I want to comment on the album as well, so here we go. Released at the height of punk/new wave, this completely beguiling, winsome album took everyone by surprise, largely on the back of Kate Bush's deliciously bonkers performance on "Top Of The Pops" of the equally unhinged and totally irresistible single, "Wuthering Heights". The album was an extension of that track - adventurous, creative, poetic, musical, slightly proggy in places, slightly Lene Lovich in others.

The lead-off track, "Moving" is excellent, all perplexing lyrics, crystal clear backing, and some great drum/percussion work from ex-Cockney Rebel drummer Stuart Elliott, as indeed is the appealing, lively "The Saxophone Song", featuring, unsurprisingly, some excellent saxophone. Both these tracks are utterly entrancing. There was clearly a special artist on our hands here. "Strange Phenomena" uses the madcap, high-pitched "Wuthering Heights" vocal style and has some melodic and uplifting piano cadences. "Kite" explores a slightly reggae-style backing underpinning more quirky vocals. Lovely deep bass on the track, enhanced even more by the new remaster.

"The Man With The Child In His Eyes" was a surprising choice for a single, being a beautiful, captivating, plaintive piano and strings-backed ballad. It was a success, though, and is a remarkably mature song from one so young. She was only just nineteen when she recorded the album. "Wuthering Heights" is just wonderful, of course. I loved it in 1977 and I love it today.

"James And The Cold Gun" is the heaviest rock number on the album, with a big punchy beat and a slightly punky squeaky, jumpy vocal. "Feel It" is an incredibly sexually aware song, loved by young men of a similar age back then, like me. Kate sings of her "stockings falling to the floor". I need a lie down. Similarly mature is "Oh To Be In Love" with its Beatles-esque backing in places. "L'Amour Looks Something Like You" continues the love theme on a haunting, piano-driven number. taking Kate's voice out of it, there is something vaguely Elton John-like about the melody. "Them Heavy People" was a single, and has a clunky reggae beat and another now typical Bush vocal. It has a catchy refrain and some odd lyrics about "Gurdjieff and a-Jesu...". As with most of her songs, the meaning is pretty oblique.

"Room For The Life" is an infectious, slowly rhythmic number with excellent percussion and bass and a swirling vocal. This really was very creative, almost ground-breaking stuff for a debut album. The title track is another piano and strings ballad packed with more atmosphere. This really was an impossible album to categorise from an artist who was similarly difficult to pigeonhole. What was not difficult was to realise just what a great album this was.


The Four Tops - The Four Tops Now! (1969)


Released in 1969

As with many of The Four Tops albums, this is a mixture of some excellent singles, some underrated album tracks and probably too many covers (particularly of Beatles numbers). Even in 1969, Motown were still pursuing the policy of trying to win a more "adult" market, hence the "easy listening" covers. Either way, there is no doubt as to the quality of the singing, the instrumentation and sound quality is outstanding too.

On to the music - the three singles are the little-mentioned but impressively soulful "The Key", the harmonious, brooding "What Is A Man", with its superb Levi Stubbs vocal and the wonderful, emotional "Do What You Gotta Do". "My Past Just Crossed My Future", with its Beatles-influenced Eastern instrumentation is an impressive cut too. The classic Motown sound continues with another great track in "Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me". As with so many of The Four Tops sixties albums, it starts really well, and then the covers come along and it becomes a bit less convincing. Here they cover The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby", turning it into a pulsating, Otis Redding/Wilson Pickett-style soul ballad. To be fair, it has its good points, with a great bass line and confident vocal. "Little Green Apples" is slowed down to walking pace at the beginning, although the chorus picks it up a bit, but it lacks the trademark Motown sound that had so enhanced the first few tracks on the album.

The quality is restored with the afore-mentioned "Do What You Gotta Do", however, which is magnificent Motown heartbreaker. I never tire of this song and its evocative vocal. Classic stuff. I have never particularly liked the song "MacArthur Park", but this is one of the better covers of it, deep and soulful and the orchestration toned down a bit. "Don't Bring Back Memories" is a lively piece of "proper Motown".  The same applies to "Wish I Didn't Love You So". "Opportunity Knock (For Me)" is a bona fide slice of Motown soul, made so by another powerful, muscular Stubbs vocal. The cover of The Beatles' "The Fool On The Hill" is not a success, I have to say, unfortunately. It is not a soul song and doesn't translate as one.

Overall, this was a pretty good album, despite the covers, there is still some good, "forgotten" Motown material on here.


Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Big Audio Dynamite

All albums reviewed are highlighted in orange. Click on an album title to read the review.

This Is Big Audio Dynamite (1985)
No. 10 Upping Street (1986)
Tighten Up Vol. 88 (1988)
Megatop Phoenix (1989)
The Globe (1991)
Higher Power (1994)

B.A.D. Live (1992)


All albums reviewed are highlighted in orange. Click on an album title to read the review.

Santana (1969)
Abraxas (1970)
Santana III (1971)
Caravanserai (1972)
Welcome (1973)
Borboletta (1974)
Amigos (1976)
Festival (1977)
Inner Secrets (1978)
Marathon (1979)
Zebop! (1981)
Shango (1982)
Beyond Appearances (1985)
Freedom (1987)
Spirits Dancing In The Flesh (1990)
Milagro (1992)
Supernatural (1999)
Shaman (2002)
All That I Am (2005)
Guitar Heaven (2010)
Shape Shifter (2012)
Corazón (2014)
Santana IV (2016)