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Friday, 31 May 2019
The other side of the mountain....
Released May 2016
After a debut in 2008 that saw Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers re-record some of the early material when they were called Mudcrutch, this time, eight years later they reconvened, this time all of them contributing in the writing of the new material. There is some great stuff on it, probably as good as on any recent Petty albums. Unfortunately, it would be the last new material he would do.
2. Dreams Of Flying
3. Beautiful Blue
4. Beautiful World
5. I Forgive It All
6. The Other Side Of The Mountain
8. Welcome To Hell
9. Save Your Water
10. Victim Of Circumstance
11. Hungry No More
Tom Petty's "Trailer" is a delightful, mid-pace typical Petty melodic guitar-driven rocker, with a bit of harmonica thrown in at the end. "Dreams Of Flying" is great too, a solid rocker that would have sounded great on any Heartbreakers' album. "Beautiful Blue" is a lovely slow burning ballad with an excellent guitar bit at the end.
"Beautiful World" by Randall Marsh is a Byrds/Beatles influenced catchy rocker. Petty's "I Forgive It All" is a folky, Dylanesque acoustic ballad. There are shades of Springsteen about it too. Tom Leadon's "The Other Side Of The Mountain" is a lively, folky early Eagles-ish number. "Hope" is Petty sounding a bit like Elvis Costello & The Attractions in its organ-driven new-wavey thump.
Benmont Tench's "Welcome To Hell" is an infectious piece of solid country blues. Petty's Byrds-esque "Save Your Water" is another solid rocker as is Mike Campbell's "Victim Of Circumstance". Petty's yearning rock ballad "Hungry No More" ends what is a short but perfectly-formed album. If you are a fan of Tom Petty's work, this is highly recommended.
Love bug leave my heart alone....
Released April 1968
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas suffered a little from the abrupt departure of the Holland/Dozier/Holland songwriting team from Motown records (only track 4 is an HDH song). However, this is not too bad an album, as late sixties Motown albums go. Of course, there are the usual covers of contemporarily popular pop standards but there are four great hit singles and a few other good ones too.
The cover sees Martha and the girls looking like air hostesses (with Martha wearing a top hat) in a pose very much of its era.
1. I Promise To Wait My Love
2. Honey Chile
3. There's Always Something There To Remind Me
4. Leave It In The Hands Of Love
5. Love Bug Leave My Heart Alone
6. I'm In Love (And I Know It)
7. To Sir, With Love
8. Forget Me Not
9. (We've Got) Honey Love
10. I Say A Little Prayer
11. Without You
12. Show Me The Way
"I Promise To Wait My Love" is a slightly funky, Stax-sounding soul cooker of a track. This is certainly not "filler", it is a great track. "Honey Chile" was a hit single and stomper it was too, featuring a soaring vocal from Martha and a great backing. "There's Always Something There To Remind Me" had been a hit for Sandie Shaw in 1964, by now in 1968, it already sounds a bit dated, despite its pure pop appeal. "Leave It In The Hands Of Love" is a classic, little-known great Motown song. "Love Bug Leave My Heart Alone" falls into the same category with some classic buzzy guitar and a killer Motown bass line.
"I'm In Love (And I Know It)" is another upbeat Motown number that echoes back to early hits like "Quicksand". Time for another mid-sixties cover - Lulu's "To Sir, With Love". Martha does it full justice. "Forget Me Not" is one of Motown's first songs to reference the Vietnam War. While its sentiments are not anti-war, they are still saying that the singer wants her man back from overseas as soon as possible. It is a moving song. It became a big hit in the UK three years later, in 1971, when it had even more relevance as the war had still not ended.
"(We've Got) Honey Love" was another great single and one not always mentioned. Aretha Franklin's "I Say A Little Prayer" is a brave cover but Martha is a strong enough vocalist to handle it. It doesn't match the original, of course, however. "Without You" and "Show Me The Way" were also both on single releases. The latter is the better of the two. This album was probably the group's last big album as a hit-making Motown group. 1972's "Black Magic" was surprisingly good, but that was right at the end of their ten-year career.
Whenever he calls my name....
Released September 1963
This was Martha Reeves & The Vandellas' debut album, and, while it suffers a little from being a typical early/mid sixties Motown album, i.e. a vehicle for a couple of great hit singles filled out with cover versions of popular songs from the time, this is not a bad offering. The sound quality is good too, stereo as well.
1. (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave
2. Hey There Lonely Boy
4. Danke Schön
5. If I Had A Hammer
6. Then He Kissed Me
7. Wait Till My Bobby Gets Home
8. Hello Stranger
9. Just One Look
10. My Boyfriend's Back
The opener, "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave" is a copper-bottomed Motown gem from the opening drum beat through its joyous horns and beat to its great vocals from Martha and the girls. That saxophone backing too. Awesome. The ballad "Hey There Lonely Boy" was a hit in 1974 in the UK for Eddie Holman in its "Girl" format. "More" was a movie theme that sounds quite dated now as indeed is "Danke Schön" (sung strangely by Martha as "Danke Shane").
The jaunty "If I Had A Hammer" is always difficult to resist. It suits the group perfectly. Then it is time for a couple of Phil Spector numbers, the romantic "Then He Kissed Me" (I still prefer The Crystals' version, however) and the lively fun of "Wait Till My Bobby Gets Home". The latter matches Darlene Love's original. "Hello Stranger" is a nice, typical 1963 Motown smoochy number, with its "shoo-bop-shoo-wop" nods to rock 'n' roll.
"Just One Look" was a hit the following year in the UK for The Hollies and Doris Troy had originally done it. It is much better here as a soulful Motown number than The Hollies sixties jangly pop version of it. The Angels' "My Boyfriend's Back" proves no problem for The Vandellas. "Mockingbird" was originally done by Inez and Charlie Foxx. Once again, it is covered impressively, then we get "Heat Wave" mk. 2 in the similarly infectious "Quicksand". Yes, there are lots of covers on here, but it is still very listenable.
The elephants' graveyard....
Released February 1981
After three patchy but occasionally brilliant albums, The Boomtown Rats started to get very near to rock bottom on this decidedly unimpressive album. Firstly, the sound quality is positively dreadful but that is something that can be alleviated slightly by good material. Unfortunately that is not the case here, not at all. In trying to keep up with contemporary music trends, the always derivative Rats just lost their way, completely. The album is, to put it politely, a total stinker.
TRACK LISTING (this was the original vinyl album track listing)
1. Mood Mambo
2. Straight Up
3. This Is My Room
4. Another Piece Of Red
5. Go Man Go!
6. Under Their Thumb Is Under My Thumb
7. Please Don't Go
8. The Elephants' Graveyard
9. Banana Republic
10. Fall Down
11. Hurt Hurts
12. Whitehall 1212
"Mood Mambo" is a bizarre attempt to "go tribal" as Bow Wow Wow meets Lene Lovich and The Slits at a Taking Heads "Remain In Light" gig. Taken in isolation, it is ok, but I don't quite get the point of it, because nothing else is remotely like it on here. "Straight Up" is lively enough, but its production is appallingly tinny, its guitar riffs overwhelmed by shrill synthesiser ones. "This Is My Room" is a dirge-like mess that requires no further comment.
"Another Piece Of Red" has admirable, anti-British Empire sentiments and is one of the album's higher points, but once Geldof's voice is questionable. "They're calling for an umpire, it really isn't cricket..." is good line, though. Whatever "Go Man Go!" may have had is buried under a weight of muffled synthesisers. When Geldof's vocal kicks in, it is positively awful. I am, as any reader of my reviews will know, a very positive writer on the whole, but, I am sorry to say this is garbage. It is briefly redeemed by a good saxophone solo, but that's all I can say in its favour. They try to turn it into "Rat Trap" at the end and fail miserably too.
"Under Their Thumb Is Under My Thumb" is a strange attempt to ska-up The Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb". Actually, it is one of the album's more listenable tracks, with a Specials sound to it. "Please Don't Go" tries to sound like The Velvet Underground and doesn't really sound like anything. It is terrible. "The Elephants' Graveyard" was a minor hit single and is one of the album's better tracks, with Geldof doing his affected Graham Parker-style voice (but nowhere near as good as Parker's). Indeed he almost sounds as if he is losing his voice on the "guilty till proven guilty..." chorus part.
"Banana Republic" was a big hit single and is undoubtedly the best offering on here. It is the Rats' shot at joining in with the white reggae thing that The Police and The Clash had enjoyed success with. It is atmospheric and effective. It is also the only track on here with remotely decent sound, as if it had been recorded at at a different time, in a different studio (which may well have been the case, as it was a pre-album single).
"Fall Down" is a plaintive piano-backed ballad that shows up Geldof's voice no end. "Hurt Hurts" has a pounding drum sound and some reasonable guitar to half lift it out of its tinny sonic morass. "Whitehall 1212" is actually reasonable "Sandinista!"-style dubby instrumental to end on a high(er) note.
Look, there are several Boomtown Rats tracks that I really like, even "Banana Republic" from here, but otherwise I can't avoid but say it as I hear it. This was a dreadful album in 1981 and it is now.
We are the robots....
Released May 1978
Released at the height of punk, before most post-punk had appeared and before new romanticism, this album, like its predecessor, "Trans-Europe Express", from 1977, blazed a trail for those genres. Funnily enough, though, this detached, cool German electronic music fitted in quite well with the punk thing. Most soon-to-be post punkers loved this. It was hugely influential on groups like Ultravox, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Gary Numan, The Human League, early Simple Minds and New Order, amongst many others. They made pop songs out of extended electronic music like this. It was no surprise, therefore, that the album was successful in the UK in 1982, not in 1978.
Personally, although I enjoy a track or two of it every now and again, a whole album is probably too much. It certainly was in 1978.
1. The Robots
4. The Model
5. Neon Lights
6. The Man Machine
"The Robots" starts the album in unsurprisingly, staccato, robotic, jerky fashion, the sound being all electronic keyboards and synth drums before the futuristic, electronically-distorted "we are the robots" vocal comes in, Dalek-style. "Spacelab" has that "Trans-Europe Express" chugging train feel about it. "Metropolis" gives us lyrics again, at least a Teutonic, doleful chanting of the song's title as the synthesisers rapidly take us through the Düsseldorf night. Of course, David Bowie and Brian Eno will have loved this.
"The Model" was the group's surprising bit chart hit. Maybe not so surprising, as it has a totally infectious beat, quirky vocal and trendy, fashion-influenced lyrics. The synth riff opening is instantly recognisable and is often used as a soundtrack to items about fashion or new technology and so on. The German accented vocals were highly appealing too. "Neon Lights" continues the slightly more poppy feel with vocals once more (at least at the beginning, it's a nine minute track) and a synth riff the like of which would be repeated a lot in the early eighties. "The Man Machine" had some of the sort of sounds David Bowie used in the "Heroes" and "Low" instrumentals. Its vocals are shrouded by sound effects over a stabbing slow keyboard loop.
As I said, a bit of this in small doses and I enjoy it. It is certainly clever and atmospheric. I couldn't listen to nothing but this, though. The sound quality is excellent by the way.
A good night's sleep and a cab fare home....
Released July 2015
While I like The Strypes, and admire their youthful talent and energy, I have to admit that they are very derivative, and wear their influences on their chest for all to hear. Their first album was very Dr. Feelgood, their third Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, Graham Parker and new wave, while this one was owing a huge debt to Oasis, with a bit of 70s heavy rock thrown in. Fair play to them to trying different sorts of music, though, but their magpie tendencies means that they have a bit of a problem developing their own musical identity. You don't hear a Strypes track and think "oh, that's the Strypes".
1. Get Into It
2. I Need To Be Your Only
3. A Good Night's Sleep and A Cab Fare Home
5. Queen Of The Half Crown
6. (I Wanna Be Your) Everyday
7. Best Man
8. Three Streets And A Village Green
9. Now She's Gone
10. Cruel Brunette
11. Status Update
12. Scumbag City
"Get Into It" is a chunky big, industrial, grinding rock number. "I Need To Be Your Only" is very Deep Purple-ish in its big, pounding driving beat. The studenty "A Good Night's Sleep And A Cab Fare Home" is where the Oasis thing first comes in, especially on the big, crashing chorus. "Eighty-Four" is one that is more of their own type of song, muscular, solid rock. "Queen Of The Half Crown" has a searing sort of Joe Bonamasssa-style bluesy rock guitar intro and a great solo in the middle. It is another one with a bit of the group's own personality on it.
"(I Wanna Be Your) Everyday" is so Oasis, it could almost be them, I'm afraid. "Best Man" is a lively, punky romp. "Three Streets And A Village Green" is a sort of Oasis meets new wave and plays a bit of heavy rock. "Now She's Gone" has a quirky, bassy rhythm but the same bombastic chorus shared. by many of the tracks. The music on the follow-up album was far more subtle than what was on offer here.
"Cruel Brunette" follows the same patch, although it has some late seventies influences and a touch of Stiff Little Fingers' early eighties material about it. "Status Update" has an appealing drum sound to it plus some bluesy harmonica. "Scumbag City" is an odd-ish track, with some echoes of The Doors in places.
Overall, this is an enjoyable album, but its lack of subtlety and full-on blast means that by the time its twelve tracks are done, I am fine with that.
Take me now baby here as I am....
Released March 1978
Patti Smith had not released anything for two years after suffering a stage fall and subsequent injury. This was her third album and is the most well-known, largely because of the huge hit single it contained. It was released into the whirlpool of punk/new wave and further cemented her annointance as the "high priestess of punk" - spiritual Godmother to all the Siouxsies, Slits, Poly Styrenes, Gaye Adverts, Runaways and Toyahs out there. At the time, the album was hailed a bit like that - "you like Siouxsie?", now here's the real thing..." and so on. Personally I always found Smith to be more of a rock artist with a rebellious, don't give a .... punky attitude, as opposed to a bona fide punk. This album probably backs that up. It is a rock album, really, with clear punky and post-punk overtones.
Patti liked to make a statement, usually through her lyrics/poetry. Here, she did it by sporting unshaved armpits on the cover. Although to bother about it might be seen as shallow, she knew exactly what she was doing by her pose.
1. Till Victory
2. Space Monkey
3. Because The Night
4. Ghost Dance
6. Rock 'n' Roll N......
7. Privilege (Set Me Free)
8. We Three
9. 25th Floor
10. High On Rebellion
The album kicks off with the punky, riffy "Till Victory" which laid down the markers the album. This sort of thing fitted right in with the milieu of early 1978. "Space Monkey" combines a delicious post-punk sound with a genuine Stones influence and distinct echoes of "Dancing With Mr. D". Patti found time in it to narrate a bit of her avant-garde poetry, briefly, too.
The big hit, of course, was the cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Because The Night". Springsteen, at the time, was still a relatively "cult" artist, particularly in the UK, so it made little impact that this was one of his songs. It was taken in isolation, appreciated for the great rock song it is, and duly charted. It remains Smith's only chart hit. The producer of this album, incidentally, was Jimmy Iovine, who also produced Springsteen's classic "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" in the same year.
"Ghost Dance" is a mysterious, semi-chanted song featuring Native American lyrics in places. It owes a lot to David Bowie, for me, just in its feel, somehow. There was nothing "punk" about it, that's for sure. "Babelogue" is an f-word strewn narration of a stream of consciousness poem, recorded live. Bizarrely, the crowd clap hysterically along to her rabid, rapid-fire utterances, as if to give it a rhythm. The poem morphs dramatically into the magnificent riffs of "Rock 'n' Roll N....." which was actually a pretty good representation of punk, in both delivery and ethos. It is one of the album's high points. "Outside of society...." the song proclaims. If that wasn't punk, then what was, I guess.
Up next is the album's other classic, the Gothic rock of "Privilege (Set Me Free)" which builds up with a churchy organ backing before the riffs and Patti's soaring voice kick in. It is full of religious references and a delightfully rebellious vocal. Great stuff. "We Three" is a beautifully deep, torch song-style mournful but deliciously bassy rock ballad. Smith's vocal is once again superb, as is the atmosphere. "25th Floor" is another great, riffy rock song with a punky undertone and ambience. "High On Rebellion" is a forerunner of grunge, an assault of guitars, drums and angry vocals. The album ends with the grandoise "Easter", featuring Smith's plaintive vocal over a single beat and some superb guitar. Once more, it is full of religious imagery. Smith was eaten up with religious confusion long before Madonna. As for "Girl Power", this was it, nearly twenty years earlier.
Where you gonna run....
Released in 1983
This was the last in a classic run of Peter Tosh albums, dating back to 1976. He would produce one more before his sad passing, but this run of six albums was what his career will always be assessed on. As with the others, it was an album of melodic militancy and was eminently listenable. It was actually the only one of his albums to break into the UK top 50. Personally, there are others I prefer slightly more, but only slightly, it has to be said.
1. Mama Africa
2. Glass House
3. Not Gonna Give Up
4. Stop That Train
5. Johnny B. Goode
6. Where You Gonna Run
7. Peace Treaty
8. Feel No Way
9. Maga Dog
"Mama Africa" sounds like it comes straight from South Africa's Lucky Dube, who was very influenced by Tosh. The female backing vocals are instantly recognisable as those of the South Africa townships. It is a seven minute plus extended groove that just gets into its rhythm and keeps going, without actually getting anywhere, not that it real matters. "Glass House" is more of an archetypal Tosh skank, with a message, but always melodic and catchy at the same time. "Not Gonna Give Up" is a bassy, slow burning number fighting for South African freedom.
"Stop That Train" is, of course, the old Wailers song. Here is is given an updated brassy backing and features some captivating backing vocals. Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" was a strange choice for a cover, delivered as it is in a laid-back reggae groove. It actually sounds really good, as long as you don't think of it as being the song it is. Just think of it as a new song.
"Where You Gonna Run" is a saxophone-powered mid-pace skank. "Peace Treaty" is an odd song. Tosh, as an apparent man of peace, appears to be happy, in an "I told you so" way that a non-violent peace treaty between criminals hasn't worked. Tosh's motives were usually correct, but sometimes they went askew a little. "Feel No Way" gets back on track, while "Maga Dog" sees Tosh righteous again, but, as with so many of his songs, its message is diluted considerably by its addictive, tuneful groove.
Despite Tosh's occasional lyrical indiscretions and sometimes muddled messages, his reggae was superb, and his heart was essentially in the right place. I miss his music, he was a true reggae great.
Released in 1981
After a most agreeable, poppy but righteous album in 1979's "Mystic Man", Peter Tosh entered the new decade with another offering that mixed a militant anger with an innate, instinctive ear for a hook and a melody. This was the final of the three albums Tosh recorded for The Rolling Stones' record label.
1. Coming In Hot
2. Nothing But Love
4. Rok with Me
5. Oh Bumbo Klaat
6. Wanted Dread And Alive
7. Rastafari Is
8. Guide Me From My Friends
9. Fools Die (For Want Of Wisdom)
"Coming In Hot" is a deeper, rootsier groove than anything on the previous album. "Nothing But Love" finds Tosh duetting with disco soulstress Gwen Guthrie on a soul-influenced smooth number, full of sweet horns and a laid-back lush slow disco beat. It is far more disco/soul than it is reggae. "Reggaemylitis" is a rootsy slow skank, with some deep bass and appealing saxophone enhancements. Tosh is often quite humorous in his songs and here he is claiming to have "reggaemylitis" affecting all his internal organs. "Rok with Me" is a typical-sounding Tosh number, full of intoxicating rhythm and a great vocal. It is an excellent, summer-sounding song. A bit Aswad-like.
"Oh Bumbo Klaat" utilises the common patois form of abuse to point the finger at someone who is to blame. Once again, though, the anger is diluted by the delicious melody and vibe of the song and Tosh's moving, evocative voice. "Wanted Dread Or Alive" has some delicious keyboard riffery lurking under its one-drop backbeat and lyrically it revisits the old "I Shot The Sheriff" theme. They're all out to get Peter, those "evil forces". "Rastafari Is" is the first blatantly Rastafarian devotional piece of praise, unsurprisingly, it features traditional Rastafarian drumming.
"Guide Me From My Friends" is a keyboard and bass-driven slow burner. "Fools Die (For Want Of Wisdom)" is a complete departure from the reggae of the rest of the album. It is Tosh singing gently over a keyboard and flute backing about those whom he perceives to have a lack of wisdom. Every now and again Tosh would do a non-reggae song. This one lasts seven minutes plus, which was actually quite unusual.
The original Jamaican and US releases contained the typical Tosh fare of "The Poor Man Feel It", the dubby mysterious skank of "Cold Blood" and "That's What They Will Do" instead of "Rok With Me", "Oh Bumbo Klaat" and "Guide Me From My Friends". Assessing both permutations, I feel the Jamaican version is the slightly more rootsy of the two. The best thing to do is get hold of the modern edition which contains all of them, of course.
Thursday, 30 May 2019
The day the dollar die....
Released in 1979
This is one of my favourite Peter Tosh albums. It perfectly encapsulates his unique brand of melodic militancy. However righteous he gets over a number of subjects he does so against an addictive, tuneful rhythmic skank of a backing that just puts a smile on your face. Some have said that Tosh's militancy was why he didn't make it like his old mate Bob Marley did, overlooking the fact that Marley's 1978 album, "Survival", was, if anything, more full of political conviction and message than this one. Quite why Tosh didn't become more than a cult-ish acquired taste was a bit of a mystery.
It is nice to see him smiling as he unicycles on the back cover, as his expression was normally serious.
1. Mystic Man
2. Recruiting Soldiers
3. Can't You See
4. Jah Say No
5. Fight On
6. Buk-In-Hamm Palace
7. The Day The Dollar Die
8. Crystal Ball
9. Rumours Of War
"Mystic Man" has Peter telling us how he is indeed a mystic man and he doesn't eat frankfurters ("garbage"), or hamburgers, or drink green soda pop. Most righteous, but I enjoy a frankfurter! Sorry Peter. "Recruiting Soldiers" is a wonderfully melodic skank, yes it is pious but it is so catchy too, with some saxophone in it too. The lilting of it shows just how much South African reggae star Lucky Dube was influenced by Tosh. I love this. Love it. Tosh's voice is just so evocative and the whole thing is just great. Similarly impressive is the guitar-driven groove of "Can't You See", enriched by some excellent percussion and backing vocals.
"Jah Say No" continues the trend of presenting Rasta conscious, devotional songs in a most endearing, catchy reggae style. "Fight On" confronts the evils of South African apartheid face to face - freedom, no compromise. "Buk-In-Hamm Palace" is an amusing piece of disco/reggae concerning Tosh imagining himself smoking ganga in The Queen's residence. Musically, it is an interesting merger of the two styles and one that was rarely attempted. At times it has some very Euro-disco keyboards. Check out those disco horns too. This should have been a dancefloor hit.
"The Day The Dollar Die" is a superb track, full of relevance and cutting comment over a rootsy rhythm. "Crystal Ball" is a return to the upbeat groove of the sort that inspired Lucky Dube - all skanking guitars and female backing vocals. "Rumours Of War" is another rootsy number lightened by its innate melody and backing vocals.
This album is a pleasure from beginning to end. If you want to dip into the music of this underrated and sadly missed reggae artist, you can't go far wrong here.
I want to burn again....
Released May 1980
This was post-punk band Magazine's third studio album and is a pretty impressive one, very much catching the spirit of 1980, after punk but before new romantic. Their sound was all jangling, stabbing guitars, pounding drums, mysterious keyboards topped of by weird-looking singer Howard Devoto's classic post-punk voice.
1. Because You're Frightened
2. Model Worker
3. I'm A Party
4. You Never Knew Me
6. I Want To Burn Again
7. Thank You (Falettin' Me Be Mice Elf Again)
8. Sweetheart Contract
10. A Song From Under The Floorboards
"Because You're Frightened" is a superb, lively opener with a riff that sounds a lot like the one The Clash used on 1981's "Police on My Back". This is as loose and melodic as Magazine had been thus far. "Model Worker" was even more so, surprisingly, sounding a bit like The Buzzcocks with its frantic, riffy beat and bleaty vocal. "I'm A Party" is a mannered, posturing post-punk veering to new romantic song. "You Never Knew Me" has distinct echoes of Soft Cell's Marc Almond in Howard Devoto's vocal delivery. The song also features some excellent guitar and bass lines and an atmospheric piano and bass interplay bit near the end.
"Philadelphia" is a very post-punk number that just has that very 1979-81 vibe to it that is difficult to describe but if you hear it it takes you to that era. "I Want To Burn Again" could have come straight from Lou Reed's 1973 "Berlin" album. again, it is very typical of its age and genre. The band's cover of Sly & The Family Stone's "Thank You (Falettin' Me Be Mice Elf Again)" is unexpected, but beautifully and deeply bassy. Post-punkers could do drug-crazed urban funk, it seems. "Sweetheart Contract" is another very archetypal post-punk number, while the slight funky edge returns on "Stuck".
They saved the best to last on this album. "A Song From Under The Floorboards" is a Soft Cell-ish slow burning masterpiece in the style of "The Light Pours Out Of Me". It is full of great keyboard runs, wonderful guitar, bass and one of Devoto's best vocals. Great stuff. Magazine split the following year after only one more album. This, and "Real Life" were their best offerings.
International jet set....
Released October 1980
After such a successful debut album the previous year, The Specials returned with Jerry Dammers' vision of incorporating elements of jazz, lounge music, easy listening and muzak to the fore on this melting pot of styles. Despite some oddball moments, it is not quite as eclectic as has popularly been said to be over the years and quite a lot of the material, particularly in the first half of the album retains the group's trademark ska and brass skanking sound. It is just not as obvious as on the previous outing. The album has been summarily dismissed by many in the subsequent years and, although clearly not as good as its predecessor, it is worthy of dipping into.
Dammers fell out with other members of the band after this and they gradually imploded over time, which was a shame. Not before they had returned with the now iconic number one, "Ghost Town", in 1981, however.
1. Enjoy Yourself (Later Than You Think)
2. Man At C & A
3. Hey Little Rich Girl
4. Do Nothing
5. Pearl's Cafe
6. Sock It To 'Em J.B.
7. Stereotype/Stereotypes Pt. 2
8. Holiday Fortnight
9. I Can't Stand It
10. International Jet Set
11. Enjoy Yourself (Reprise)
"Enjoy Yourself (Later Than You Think)" is a hammy, calypso meets ska romp to start the album with. It sounds more like an album closer to me. It is pleasant and singalong enough, but a bit throwaway, a bit like Dylan's "Rainy Day Women". "Man At C & A", a dubby, brassy number is more like it, full of that doom-laden Specials atmosphere. The bass on this is sonorous and beautifully deep. This is The Specials at their best. "Hey Little Rich Girl" is another ska-style number that continues the vibe from the first album.
The one hit single on here is the delicious, melodic but deeply melancholy "Do Nothing" that is so nostalgic for me of 1980. Wonderful trombone solo from Rico Rodriguez too. "Pearl's Cafe" has a good skank to it, but the vocal is a bit weak, to be honest. The middle in the middle and the funny jazzy vibes make it all a bit of a mess by the end, unfortunately. The sentiments expressed are funny, though, ("it's all a load of .....") as if they were something you would hear at Pearl's Cafe, which is, of course, very true. "Sock It To 'Em J.B." is a cover of a sixties number by I am not sure who and it is updated here to namecheck further James Bond films. it is an upbeat piece of harmless, enjoyable fun.
"Stereotype/Stereotypes Pt. 2" is an extended, inventive, adventurous dubby number with a wonderful dub second half. "Holiday Fortnight" is a joyous, brassy instrumental, with some Mexican mariachi-style horns. "I Can't Stand It" is the start of the run of material which caused people to say that The Specials had gone all jazzy and "lounge bar". It sounds very disposable and incongruous, I have to say, but dig a little deeper and it has hidden appeal. Fair play to The Specials for attempting to diversify a little, much like The Clash did a year later on "Sandinista!".
"International Jet Set" continues the experimentation on a totally odd piece that, once again, requires delving into a bit more. Maybe I'm just fooling myself, maybe it's just rubbish!
Seriously, though, give it a couple of new listens. It wasn't that bad.