Virgin’s Cash Cows

DSC02922

DSC02923

Another album ‘sampler’, from another era. Virgin were selling this for the price of a 45rpm single, and it wasn’t the first time they’d tried a stunt like that – a few years earlier they’d done the same thing with The Faust Tapes, which sold quite well as a result. I believe it was Faust‘s idea originally, though you won’t find those krautrock legends on this record. Branson and Co. had already dropped them like the hot potato they were. But the marketing idea lived on. I paid 99p for it last week, which is roughly the price of a single mp3 download, so not much has changed, really.

The album covers most of Virgin’s 1980 roster, with big-hitters of the New Wave like OMD, Japan, XTC and The Human League nestling alongside less commercially visible acts like Nash The Slash, Valerie Lagrange and Fingerprinz. Not forgetting Magazine, Martha & The Muffins and The Flying Lizards. The old guard were represented by the future-blues of Captain Beefheart sitting uncomfortably next to the trad-blues of Gillan, plus the label’s flagship beardy synth-gods Tangerine Dream. The focus is on album tracks, rather than singles, so there’s actually quite a few tunes on here I’ve not heard before.

Great sleeve, I think. Each act is a ‘cut’ of beef on the side of the cow, whilst a fishnet-clad milkmaid lurks in the background, busily milking the cow for all it’s worth. Piles of money lie scattered in the field, even in the cow-pat – seems there was money to be made from shit, too. Were they making some sort of ironic comment, or just being extremely honest? This was afterall the beginning of Thatcher’s ’80s, when it was suddenly okay for everyone to aspire to being rich pop stars. And Virgin Records, born at the arse-end of the hippy years, was ready to ride the capitalist gravy train all the way.

Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 10:33 am  Comments (8)  
Tags: , ,

Super Stereo Sound Sampler

DSC02924

Turntable + vinyl + sofa + attractive (slightly tipsy?) female = the perfect recipe for a quiet night in.

This record was “designed simply and solely as a showcase – a shop window for a most attractive series of specially designed and recorded LPs. The wide variety of sounds and moods are a cross-section of the albums currently available in Mercury’s Super Stereo catalogue.”

Quincy Jones makes an appearance with his Big Band, and Peter Knight has a crack at orchestrating “Lovely Rita”, but the best track by a mile is “Tally Man” by Big Jim Sullivan, taken from an album called Sitar Beat, which I will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s quite a kitschy collectable among psychedelia fans.

Published in: on November 27, 2009 at 1:41 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , ,

Donna Summer – Bad Girls

DSC02928

I’ve got nearly all Donna Summer’s albums, scored over a long period of time by patient thrifting. 1979’s “Bad Girls” had been proving rather elusive, until I finally found a copy in Oxfam earlier this week, for £1.99, which I thought was exceptional value for a double album in superb condition.

It’s not until you actually have the thing in your hands and you study the sleeve imagery properly that you realize what a bizarre move it must’ve been for a star of Donna’s stature to present herself as a such brazen, tawdry street whore.

I know it’s all meant to relate to the lyrics of the title track (“Bad Girls, Talkin’ about the sad girls, see them out in the street walkin’, picking up all kinds of strangers if the price is right, you can’t score if your pocket’s tight” etc) but Donna sure doesn’t look like a ‘sad girl’ here. She looks like she’s having a ball, really relishing the role.

DSC02929

I’d assumed that Donna must’ve been convinced to do this by her manager or something, it’s such a male fantasy idea, and then I notice in the small print: ‘cover concept by Donna Summer‘. Go figure.

And who are those guys posing as her clients in the gatefold? The sailor with the moustache looks suspiciously like producer Giorgio Moroder…

DSC02930

Published in: on November 26, 2009 at 10:24 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: ,

Freedom Road

DSC02895

This is one of those random records I buy just because it’s dirt cheap (25p) and I quite like the naive sleeve art. At first glance I assumed it was a little-known black vocal group called Freedom Road, but actually it’s a selection of anonymous covers of the sort of hippy, drippy peace ‘n love positivity songs one might expect to hear in 1970, released by Rediffusion, purveyors of, erm, ‘the best budget records in the world’.

Includes such classics as “Melting Pot”, “Love Of The Common People” and a surprisingly sprightly “Young Gifted And Black”, but let’s be honest, this ain’t no lost classic.

I’m left wondering who the three crudely delineated black dudes on the cover are meant to be?

Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 4:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Africana

DSC02884

Polydor presents Horst Wende and his orchestra in “Africana”, a collection of tunes from that mysterious, exciting continent – and all “made in Africa”.

Among the instruments used by Horst Wende in these catchy arrangements one can hear the unmistakable sound of African penny-whistles and drums so popular with both the white and the coloured populations.

Quite what the ‘coloured population’ would really have made of this selection of colonial ditties, performed by a German orchestra to boot, will probably never be known.  Anyone hoping for an emphasis on traditional native rhythms will be sorely disappointed, and as for those new-fangled styles like Rai or Juju.. forget it!

Still, “Alibama” is  “a favourite folk-song of the Cape coloured people that dates back to the time when the American sailing vessel “Alibama” called at Cape Town”, and Wende’s self-composed “Africano” is “a typically African tune based on native melodies”.

Apparently Horst Wende was studying music at the conservatory in Leipzig when his career was ‘interrupted’ by the outbreak of war.  His political allegiance at the time are not recorded in the sleeve notes, though clearly he had a genuine interest in native musics – according to his Wiki page, he was also Roberto Delgado who, you might remember, was entertaining me yesterday with his South American repertoire.

Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Caramba!

It’s Monday once more, and as I stare out yet again at the blustery, rain-sodden English landscape, time to break out some more of those exotic sounds of yesteryear, but this time with an emphasis on big orchestral arrangements of the Latin/Mexican/South American numbers. Nevermind that, if you actually visited most of these places today, you’d be dodging bullets in drug-gang controlled warzones to a soundtrack of gangster rap – just give me The Mexican Hat Dance, The Peanut Vendor, Tequila, and all those old rumba, samba and bossa grooves, as performed by the orchestras of Roberto Delgado, Erwin Halletz, Bert Kaempfert, Ray Martin, Edmundo Ros, Mantovani and others…

DSC02878

DSC02886

DSC02889

Wow, just as I’m finishing up this post, the sunshine suddenly breaks through the clouds. That’s the power of music for you!

Published in: on November 23, 2009 at 12:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Silver Bullet – Bring Down The Walls No Limit Squad Returns

Phew – slow down now – man any faster my ticker is going to pack up and head for the hills.  Yep a full LP of the original UK speed-camera of rap himself – Silver Bullet.  Always absolutely loved this guy back in the day bought both “Bring Forth the Guillotine” and “20 Seconds to Comply” on 12 inch – (both on the Tam Tam label – with essentials  remixes from Ben Chapman) as soon as they came out – and even saw him perform these babes at World Dance – an illegal Rave in some field in East Grinstead back in 1989.  Oh and look what the web turns up – some video footage from that very same event – oh how we partied and chewed our cheeks off back in the day ….

A nice slab of Balearic/Latino mixed in with some KLF/Tony Scott/etc … – good times huh – somewhere buried in that footage are me and my mate Bren (who I know is an occasional follower of these columns) – both of us off to ATP in Minehead in a couple of weeks time for a Nightmare Before Xmas, where I doubt the same vibe will be in action (but who knows) !!

Anyhows – as mentioned old Silver Bullet bludgeoned us with a storming live-set the ext afternoon, along with 808 State and a whole host of other live acts.

So – having never really heard anything much by Mr. Bullet since (apart from the first 2 singles) – how does the LP fair up after 20 odd years?  Very nice actually – the whole thing flows along in a pretty frenetic bombastic way – with tempos and aggression never really letting up throughout.  This one was released in 1991 on Parlophone after he moved from Tam Tam – contains both the singles – and a whole batch of other fine tunes – production is a bit more murky and at times LoFi – with some of the top-end shine taken off – which only adds to the whole thing to these ears …

A fine disc indeed – and a surprise find the other week in a sleepy Somerset village for a mere 25 new english pennies..  Go and hunt down pop-pickers ……

Published in: on November 23, 2009 at 6:24 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Front 242 – Masterblaster 12 inch


All that laid-back Sunday morning stuff is making me itch !!

So……  what better than a right-old bucket-load of electronics to shake things up.

This is a 12 inch dating back to 1987, that I grabbed not so long ago for next to nout at some local car-boot-thing…   What you get for your money are those post-industrial (some may say pretenders) from Belgium ‘Front 242’ kicking up a sequenced storm of a song – all brooding-moody vocals over sledge-hammer beatz.  and very pleasing it all sounds even after 20 odd-years.   Unlike half the lame-ass house-stuff from this period, this really has stood the test-of-time damn well.

Having been over to Belgium a couple of times this year – it is hard at times to correlate the laid-back attitude they give out, with the at times slabs of harsh noise-attack they can propel at your unsuspecting lugs.

Anyway – here is a stream to give you an idea how our place is now sounding mid Sunday morning.

Published in: on November 22, 2009 at 10:42 am  Comments (2)  
Tags:

Mikis Theodorakis – “I Yitonia ton Angelon”

An absolutely superb piece of music – originating I have manage to find out around 1963, on the EMI/Columbia imprint (062-70208).  Research has been somewhat hampered due to all notes/titles etc being in the Greek alphabet and also having gone through some Romanization process to present a form these uneducated eyes can read – trouble is – it would seem there must be numerous methods to do this – and the subtle difference in spellings make online searching a tad tricky ..

Picked this up this week for a quid in that mecca of second-hand vinyl, Yeovil.  The sleeve is totally stunning – with a perfectly framed black-and-white image, half-shadowed – very reminiscent of something that could have graced an early 4AD Records release – absolutely beautiful !   It consists of music conducted/played (I hesitate to say written but probably is) by Mikis Theodorakis, who to say is prolific in output would be ridiculously under-stating the issue!

He is undoubtedly most famous in these parts for the piece of music Zorba (of which the original whole song ‘Srose To Stroma Sou’ starts off this LP); along with having supplied the soundtrack for the film Serpico; these 2 references are only just scratching the surface of his substantial back-catalog.

To be honest the more uptempo Bouzouki pieces are not what do it for these ears – the slower and at times totally haunting numbers are just sublime.  The second track on the LP ‘Penia’ running at a mere 1 minute or so – barely starting a simple solo Bouzouki refrain before ending – is quite stunning – and could be dropped mid set in any gig I played (hence me not getting top billings much these days I suppose!) ..

As you might guess – after an hour or so of searching – I have managed to find some pesky online site – that will sell you the afore-mentioned track for a mere 0.08 Euros, which totally makes you realise how damn nice it is to hold the original (near mint) condition vinyl !

For those of you with no chance to hear this stuff – and I am not going to give any crap MP3 links (you can do all that searching yourselves) – here is one of the numbers to wet the early morning appetites !

Published in: on November 22, 2009 at 7:03 am  Comments (3)  
Tags:

The Sensational Organ Sound of Klaus Wunderlich

No semi-naked gals adorning this one – no sir – this is the real deal – old Klaus is given 4 sides to show just what he is capable of – hit it baby – make me swing !!

So what do we get on this double-LP from 1978 – again on the forceful Telefunken label…

Side 1 – Wunderlich Live
Using nothing more than his bare-hands and a well greased and expertly programmed Hammond – he woos the crowd – cheering, dribblingm and maybe even moshing – into submission with a batch of favorties from the sublime ‘Mull of Kintyre’ through to the stomping-disco-joy that is ‘Disco-Time’ …  oh how they rocked back in the day ..

Side 2 – Wunderlich Pops
Freed from the constraints of live-playing to screaming hoards – and locked away with a studio full of electronic-gizmos – Klaus lays down contempory hits of the day to fine grooving (pulsating even) rhythms – ‘Sir Duke’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Ma Baker’ and a stonking ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ utilizing a clever use of Wah-Wah pedal lays bare the Hammond in all its cheese-n-biscuit glory…

Side 3 – Wunderlich International
A blistering trawl through a selection of styles ranging from uptempo Latin, Swing, Big Band and Smooch (if there is such a thing) – every bachelor pad should have this side – by law !!

Side 4 – Wunderlich Sounds
This is where the fun begins – combining the (lets face it here) rather limited tonal capabilities of the Hammond – with the untamed savagery of a Moog Modular – Klaus at times seems to struggle to control the wisps, farts, burps and blips of white/pink/filtered/distorted and just plain daft Moogisms.  Some very cool and damn funny bits here – which make the whole thing a total joy to these ears ..    For sure he is no Tangerine Dream imitator on this – but forcing electronic experimentation upon the easy-listening masse of 1978 deserves a loud letting of white-noise hiss at the very least – another classic no less !!

Published in: on November 20, 2009 at 9:11 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,