Thursday, February 25, 2010

Robbie in orbit

After his bombastic, overlong and indulgent performance at this year's Brit awards, Robbie Williams is back with the third single from his latest album, "Reality Killed The Video Star".

The video for "Morning Sun", not one my immediate choices for single release, shows RW hurtling his way through space while completely in awe of the insignificance of humans in the grand scheme of things. Or something like that.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

it's only love

Simply Red are no stranger to compilations, especially after a 25 year career which has seen them collect their hit singles on two separate occasions. Now, Mick Hucknall and co. are about to issue their first authorized collection of their favorite love songs on the aptly titled "Songs Of Love".

In yet another move which has seen the band buck traditional distribution avenues, "Songs Of Love", which will be released in the UK on February 28 in order to coincide with Mother's Day, will be exclusively available through Tesco.

Fans will want to pick up this clutch of songs which includes "I Have The Love", a brand new track specially recorded for this collection. It also features "Beside You", which Mick Hucknall originally contributed to the soundtrack to the film, "What Dreams May Come". It has been rerecorded for inclusion here.

The full tracklisting for "Songs Of Love" features the following, twelve tunes:

1. Say You Love Me
2. You Make Me Feel Brand New
3. Stars
4. You’ve Got It
5. For Your Babies
6. If You Don’t Know Me By Now
7. It’s You
8. Beside You
9. Holding Back The Years
10. Smile
11. I Have The Love
12. Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye

Expect the band to promote this album and their recent hits retrospective, "25", as they continue to add dates to their never ending, farewell tour.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

oops upside your head

Paloma Faith keeps her own path with the release of "Upside Down",the FOURTH single from her debut longplayer, "Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?"

Has a bit of a "Hey Ya!" vibe to it. N'est-ce pas?

Not sure why this and the previous single, the title track, were lifted as singles when "Stargazer" and "Play On" seem more appropriate. Perhaps a fifth single won't be far off if "Upside Down" does the business. "Upside Down" seems a little too kitsch and throwaway as a single. However, conceptually, it sits nicely alongside the other tracks on the album.

Glad to see the label is still slogging it out for Lady Paloma!

love among the thorns

Tracey Thorn has emerged from the wilderness with her third, solo longplayer, "Love And Its Opposite", in hand. It's the follow up to "Out Of The Woods" and has a more acoustic feel than the electro folk slant of its predecessor.

The cover art for the new album is designed by John Gilsenan who is responsible for all the acclaimed artwork at Tracey's new label, Strange Feeling Records, and its sister label, Buzzin' Fly, both of which are owned and operated by her long term partner and EBTG cohort, Ben Watt.

John gave the following quote regarding the cover art: "I was inspired by the lyrics and mood of the record - the way family relationships can get more complicated and messed up with time. I found a stock photo - a family portrait - that was formal but also a bit decadent, and then just went to work on it. I tried to capture the same feeling in the typeface - formal but a bit fancy."

Through the magic of the interwebs, you can download the album's opening track, "Oh, The Divorces!", right here if you are so inclined. It's a lovely, subdued, acoustic piano number with Tracey's achingly beautiful voice draped over the top.

"Love And Its Opposite" will be available at all fine "shops" on May 17. The album is ten songs strong. It includes eight originals and two covers - "Late In The Afternoon" by Lee Hazelwood and "You Are A Lover" which was originally recorded by Unbending Trees.

Cast your eyes upon the full tracklisting.

1. Oh, The Divorces!
2. Long White Dress
3. Hormones
4. Kentish Town
5. Why Does The Wind?
6. You Are A Lover
7. Singles Bar
8. Come On Home To Me
9. Late In The Afternoon
10. Swimming

in deepest suburbia

Whether you love them or hate them, the Brit Awards are the yearly tradition for Britain's best in show to slap each other on the back while artists get to strut their stuff.

From the look of last night's ceremony, artists feel the need to give good spectacle rather than concentrate on the music, which has nearly become an afterthought as act after act parade around in more outrageous costumes and less convincing singing. Why do I feel like I'm watching Cirque de Soleil everytime I watch an award show?

So, leave it to the Pet Shop Boys to steal the show without even being there. Neil and Chris took part in a contest sponsored by Mastercard where the winner gets to experience the full PSB, live extravaganza in their living room!

Here is a clip of them performing the appropriately chosen "Suburbia".

The full set list included "Suburbia" as the opener followed by "All Over The World", "It's A Sin" and an encore of "West End Girls".

You can watch the complete gig here.

It's great to see PSB continuing to explore their sense of humor. They are very adept at delivering the unexpected. You would never think they would go for something like this in a million years. An artist keeps people guessing. It's interesting to note that MTV, in it's heyday, used to push the boundaries of music, television and the artists they embraced. These days, it take a corporate sponsor to cough of the cash and partner with an act in order to deliver a bit of watercooler chat.

All of this hoopla coincides nicely with the release of "Pandemonium", the Pet Shop Boys' latest DVD which documents their monumental performance at London's O2 Arena last December during the world tour to promote their most recent album, "Yes". Perhaps you'd like a first look?

These days, MTV isn't terribly inspiring, unless you're ready to expose yourself, flaws and all, for the world to gawk at. Remember way back in 1983 when they gave away a pink house in the middle of Indiana with John "still Cougar" Mellencamp? At the time, we watched him transition into a spokesperson for the American Heartland while promoting his album, "Uh-Huh"?

Sure, there are corporate sponsors involved but they are almost an afterthought tagged onto the commercial like those quick lipped, legal disclaimers in pharmaceutical ads. Hard to believe John Mellencamp being involved in something like that today. I'm not judging him, just pointing out how things in the media have evolved or not over the last 25 years or so.

There is something sweet and "aw shucks" about the promo and those early days of MTV. I think I'm getting a little misty.

Monday, February 15, 2010

lights out

There's a lot riding on the release of "Lights", the debut longplayer from fresh-faced, Brit warbler, Ellie Goulding. It's possibly one of the best pop albums of the year if one takes into account all the tracks that have been floating about over the last twelve months.

Some have made the cut. Others, like "Fighter Plane", the b-side of the limited edition 7" single of "Under The Sheets" released on the Neon Gold label, have been kicked to the curb for the time being.

The sleeve for "Lights" is a bit obvious, IMHO. Lovely photo. Nicely retouched. Very stylized. It reminds me of a fashion ad.

Here's the full, official tracklisting.

1. Guns And Horses
2. Starry Eyed
3. This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)
4. Under The Sheets
5. The Writer
6. Every Time You Go
7. Wish I Stayed
8. Your Biggest Mistake
9. I'll Hold My Breath
10. Salt Skin

By now, we're used to different bonus tracks across various, online, digital storefronts. So far, only the song, "Lights", has been revealed as an extra goody if you purchase the full length album on iTunes. Fire up the torrents!

And here's the complementary sleeve for lead single, "Starry Eyed". Another light show, another page from a swanky, ski wear fashion catalog. I sense a little photo slimming, too. It's very Paula Abdul circa "Promise Of A New Day". Does the label think she's a little too thick in the waistline for the general public? I think she's a natural beauty who doesn't really need that kind of retouching.

The physical CD single for "Starry Eyed" will feature three versions of the song including the epic Russ Chimes remix. Smart move!

All eyes are on Ellie!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

a place where nobody dared to go

Let me be clear about something. I have been a fan of Texas since the beginning. The moment I heard "I Don't Want A Lover", I knew they were special. It was 1989. That single was everything I loved about pop music at the time. Nearly everything from that era is timeless. Still sounds great.

I followed Texas through their subsequent fall from favor. The UK chart didn't hold Texas close to its heart. Thank goodness for the French. For whatever reason, Texas was able to continue to release album after album because they sold incredibly well in France.

Then came their renaissance. They pushed the bird to the front. Remember, "Blondie is a group." didn't do Debbie Harry and co and favors. I still have the badge.

So Sharleen Spiteri hired a hair stylist and got her sexy on. Voilà! "White On Blonde" sold bucketloads all around the world. Everywhere except the US, that is. It certainly helped to have an amazing album on their hands. A lovely mix of Motown and Northern Soul with shades of Blondie and The Pretenders all the while Sharleen cooing through some of the best pop tunes of Texas' 20 year career. A real high water mark. Success at last.

Texas brought back that retro vibe long before Amy Winehouse made it fashionable (again). It was only a matter of time before Sharl put out a solo album. With a little time on her hands she crafted "Melody" and released it in 2008. It's a glorious album that deserved much more attention that it received. It really should have been a Texas album. It was always going to be tough following it up. She couldn't deliver more of the same. She couldn't go down the electro route with anything resembling credibility.

Unfortunately, we're about to get "The Movie Songbook". Eeek! It must be one of the most ill-advised moves in pop history. Trite doesn't begin to describe it. Apparently, her label reached out to Sharl's mighty fanbase and asked them what kind of album they want from her. Lesson number one in rock n' roll. Never ask your fans for advice. NEVER! Always go with your creative gut feeling.

So, Sharleen is gonna have a bit of a faff about with some movie tunes. Oh dear. I love her and Texas to bits. But this is just all kinds of wrong. Karaoke wrong! It was produced by legendary knob twiddler, Phil Ramone, in eight days at Capitol Studios in LA, man.

The tracklisting for "The Movie Songbook" is as follows:

1. Xanadu
2. If I Can't Have You
3. God Bless The Child
4. Between The Bars
5. The Sound Of Silence
6. What's New Pussycat?
7. The Windmills Of Your Mind
8. Take Me With You
9. Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
10. Many Rivers To Cross
11. O' Pretty Woman

Sharleen's movie madness has been documented in the video she recently shot for "Xanadu" which features many bits and bobs from the time she spent inside Capitol Studios. It's a magnificent and magical place. I've worked there a number of times and am always in awe of it's tremendous history.

Here's proof of Sharleen's slide into boredom. Recently, she performed two songs from her forthcoming longplayer - "Take My Breath Away" and the aforementioned, "Xanadu" - on "The Graham Norton Show".

It sounds perfectly nice. As much as I want to like it, the whole thing hits me like a tasteless, glazed donut. Why would anyone want to hear anything other than Olivia Newton-John's original recording of "Xanadu" with the incandescent backing of the Electric Light Orchestra? Do we need ANOTHER cover of the nail that sealed Berlin's coffin? It was amazing and unexpected when they released it. There was a reason they couldn't follow it up.

"The Movie Songbook" seems completely useless. It pains me to say that. Even the title is awful. It's almost like a Nana Mouskouri album. If you're so inclined, you'll be available to plonk your cash down for it in all fine "shops" on March 1.

Apparently, Sharleen is working on a new Texas album as we speak. She'll need to reedem herself after this little excursion.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas

Further to my entry re: The Colourfield, I dug out the one and only album by Vegas, a self-titled effort by Terry Hall and Eurythmics' Dave Stewart. IMHO it's the only other project outside Eurythmics where David Stewart showed true genius.

It really puts into sharp focus the special, musical relationship he shares with Annie Lennox. Nearly everything else Dave has laid his hands on is rather dull and uninspired. And the songs were rubbish. Bless him for trying, though. However, I did like "Lily Was Here", the single he recorded with sexy saxophonist, Candy Dulfer.

Anyway, pick up the Vegas longplayer if you can find it. It's a gem. Three singles were released from it - "Possessed", "She" (the Charles Aznavour classic as opposed to the Boyce/Hart composition covered by The Colourfield) and "Walk Into The Wind".

Here's the video for "Possessed". One of Sophie Muller's finest.

Comedy, irony, plush velvet textures, Pierre et Gilles overtones and cinematic lighting. The full range of Sophie's visual palette.

Then there's the voyeuristic comedy of "She" directed by Tim Pope who lensed many videos for The Cure back in the day. The song's writer, Charles Aznavour, makes a cameo. It gets kind of creepy around the 2.22 mark where Charlie starts feeling himself up.

I wonder if that's the same poodle featured in the clip for "Possessed"? Is it me or do both vids have blatantly gay overtones?

Two videos treatments were produced for third single, "Walk Into The Wind", which features Siobhan Fahey, Dave Stewart's ex and former member of Bananarama. Unfortunately, the embedding has been disabled on YouTube for the first version. Click here for joy.

The black and white version is a rarity. It took quite a lot of surfing to locate it. It has been lovingly featured on Siobhan Fahey's blog. Follow this link for peek. Warning! If you're the squeamish type, there are multiple scenes toward the end of the video which feature shaving.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

spelling error

Sometimes labels do the strangest things. Can anyone shed some light on the new Alphabeat album? It has been out in their native land since the end of last year. It's called "The Spell". For some reason, they have changed the title for its UK release.

Hot on the heels of second single, "Hole In My Heart", the album, newly christened with "The Beat Is...", will be out in the UK on March 1.

Apparently, if you pre-order the album from you will get ver Beat's cover of "Ain't Nobody" which has only been done to death about a gazillion times. But if you purchase the longplayer from iTunes you'll get two, other, bonus tracks, "Til I Get Around" and "365 Degrees" plus one mix each of the singles, "The Spell" and "Hole In My Heart".

Apparently, they've recorded a medley of Lady Gaga's "Telephone" mashed up with "Bad Romance". Would've been nice to include this as an extra treat.

Why the change? "The Spell" is a much better title. Sounds like the label was concerned about parallel imports hence the bonus tracks and new title. Couldn't they have kept the title in tact and just added the bonus material? Le sigh.

Monday, February 8, 2010

fields of gold

As the music biz crashes all around us, the labels seem to be happy to plunder their vaults, either themselves or through third party licenses. This is a good thing since it allows the availability of some albums that had long been unavailable on CD or were never released digitally.

For instance, when I worked at EMI, smack in the middle of the Britpop explosion, I was desperate to reissue the two albums by Terry Hall's third, pop incarnation - The Colourfield. They are two, criminally overlooked, magnificently crafted albums that deserve a place on your shelf or among the zeroes and ones in your iPod. Let's face it. Bands like Blur and The Verve owe a mountain of gratitude to the groundwork laid by Terry Hall's many, pop incarnations.

Finally, someone had the good sense to remaster and reissue "Virgins And Philistines" and "Deception". The closest I got was "The Terry Hall Collection" which I produced in the early 90s. It featured all The Colourfield's singles plus a few, key covers alongside TH's work with The Specials, The Fun Boy Three, Terry, Blair And Anouchka and Vegas. A labor of love!

After the demise of The Fun Boy Three, Terry Hall reconfigured his talents and launched The Colourfield in 1984 with their slightly altered, self titled, debut single, "The Colour Field".

After three singles, The Colourfield released "Virgins And Philistines". Their debut album, all Burt Bacharach inspirations worn firmly on a flower print sleeve, continued to showcase Terry's impressive songwriting acumen. His lyrical bite and wit never once faltering.

The reissue of "Virgins And Philistines" features the original, ten track longplayer with an additional ten bonus tracks rounding out the set. The bonus material includes all the b-sides from the singles, non-album a-sides and extended versions which appeared on the 12" singles.

"Virgins And Philistines"

1. Thinking Of You
2. Faint Hearts
3. Castles In The Air
4. Take
5. Cruel Circus
6. Hammond Song
7. Virgins And Philistines
8. Yours Sincerely
9. Armchair Theatre
10. Sorry

Bonus tracks:

11. The Colour Field
12. My Wild Flame
13. Pushing Up The Daises
14. Windmills Of Your Mind
15. Sorry (Single Version)
16. Little Things
17. You Love Was Smashing
18. Can't Get Enough Of You Baby
19. My Wild Flame (Extended Version)
20. The Colour Field (Extended Version)

For some reason, the extended version of "Castles In The Air" doesn't seem to make an appearance. Hopefully, this is just an oversight. Although, at a gut busting 20 tracks, I have a feeling it has been left off.

Kudos to the hair stylist. You gotta love Terry rocking his best Liza Minnelli look.

I'd love to put up a clip of the rare video for "Thinking Of You". Unfortunately, EMI has disabled the embed code. Not terribly smart for a label that just found itself nearly £2 billion in debt. Instead, here's a lovely performance from "The Old Grey Whistle Test".

Makes me think that is the blueprint for The Beautiful South? Thoughts on a cocktail napkin, please. If you want to check out the original video, click here for joy.

A couple of years later, The Colourfield trimmed down to a duo from a trio. Karl Shale left and Toby Lyons' contributions dwindled. Although, looking at the sleeve, you'd be forgiven for mistaking "Deception", the second and final album from the group, as a Terry Hall solo album.

The two singles lifted from the album were not original compositions. "Running Away" was a daring cover of a Sly And The Family Stone song from their 1971 album, "There's A Riot Goin' On". It features Roland Orzabal from Tears For Fears on guitar. The second single was "She", written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart which was originally recorded by The Monkees and featured as the lead track on their 1967 album, "More Of The Monkees".

The reissued version of "Deception" matches the same treatment given to their debut. It features the original, ten track longplayer with the inclusion of non-album single, "Things Could Be Beautiful" - which was released between full length releases - as well as the rare, single mix of "She" and all the b-sides of which one, "Monkey In Winter", is the earliest Chrysalis recording to feature Sinéad O'Connor prior to the release of her debut album, "The Lion And The Cobra". It's a magnificently produced reissue with only the radio edit of "Running Away" seemingly omitted from the tracklisting.


1. Badlands
2. Running Away
3. From Dawn To Distraction
4. Confession
5. Miss Texas 1967
6. She
7. Heart Of America
8. Digging It Deep
9. Monkey In Winter
10. Goodbye Sun Valley

Bonus recordings:

11. Things Could Be Beautiful
12. Frosty Mornings
13. Pushing Up Daisies (Live)
14. Yours Sincerely (Live)
15. She (Single Mix)
16. Monkey In Winter (with Sinead O'Connor)
17. Running Away (Arthur Baker Dub Version)

Although Terry Hall has often voiced his disappointment with the finished product, "Deception" is still a magnificent album which only suffers slightly when one considers the dated production.

Again, EMI has lovingly disabled the embedding ability on YouTube. Can you imagine THAT job? Scouring the interwebs all day disrupting your own company's promotion abilities. Anyway, YouTube is the repository for nearly every lost video in the universe. So check out the clips for "Running Away" and "She" on the links provided.

Both albums from The Colourfield will be available from all fine "shops" on March 22.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

electro heavenly summit

I had heard about the mighty Heaven 17 and their participation in an electro showcase for BBC 6. Then came word that La Roux would be joining them at Maida Vale studios for the sessions. Everytime these rare performances come together, I wish to high heaven that I lived in London. Let's face it. It's the mecca of modern music.

Finally, all at once, the clips showed up on YouTube. And they are glorious. Not sure in what order they should appear, but it's obvious "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang" leads the proceedings.

Glenn Gregory still sound deep, sexy, soulful and ominous even without one lick of processing. The song still sounds metallic, electronic and funky as all get out. This was the second track I ever heard from Heaven 17. The first was "Penthouse And Pavement". Thank you WLIR and MTV.

"Let Me Go", despite not being their biggest hit in their homeland, is their calling card in the US thanks to saturation airplay of the cinematic, black and white video clip on all music channels in the big 80s.

Their big UK hit, which gets remixed and reworked every few years much in the same vein as other landmark, cornerstone electro classics like "Fade To Grey", featured in the lineup.

Here, new school synth leaders, La Roux, join Martyn Ware and Glen Gregory for a romp through "Temptaion". Not sure Elly Jackson can handle the vocal duties originally supplied by Carol Kenyon. Where Elly's voice is reedy, Carol belted out her diva best which sat in stark contrast to H17's production. That's what made "Temptation" so magnificent and goosebumpy.

Glen Gregory returns the favor by trading lines with Elly on La Roux's debut single, "In For The Kill".

The most amazing moment was "Sign Your Name". Originally a #2 UK hit for Terence Trent D'Arby in 1988 and produced by H17's Martyn Ware, it was given the La Roux production treatment with Elly and Glenn trading verses. This needs to be produced in the studio ASAP and issued as a single! Are you listening to me La Roux and co.?

And finally, a storming run through La Roux's finest moment to date, "Bulletproof".

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sade on the inside

In a career stretching back more than 25 years, Sade hasn't exactly been prolific nor terribly visible. There were always short windows of opportunity to catch a glimpse of her whether it was a new video that might get some late night airplay in the US or in one of very few interviews.

Interviews have been rare at best. Other than seeing her on tour, you almost had to come across a piece of her humanity by accident. That's part of what has made her somewhat enigmatic.

You can imagine my delight at seeing a full, ten minute clip of Sade and her oft hidden band mates talking about their recollections regardging the making of "Soldier Of Love", their tenth longplayer.

There's a certain thrill at watching Sade in her element. The rain. The dark, cavernous studio. Her deep, seductive voice. She has this timeless, goddess like quality about her. Almost frozen in time. She hasn't aged a day. And she's in fine fettle. Her yearning, honey soaked voice still conjures up images of Nina Simone and Billie Holiday but still remains individual, the slight melancholy enhanced by her singing just a fraction of a tone under the note.

It's almost too much to absorb in one viewing. Even her band mates, the stuff of legend, make numerous appearances and speak! It's as if the veil has been lifted after 25 years and we are able to catch a sliver of the real Sade. Needless to say, there probably won't be many more of these clips made available online.

A few things struck me as I watched the behind-the-scenes footage. Sade seems right at home in the studio even though it's an arduous process for the band. I love the shots of her with the wrap on her head. Very cozy and unassuming even in moments of creative seclusion. Interesting to know that they don't see each other or write any material before they enter the sanctuary of the studio.

At 3.34, when Sade, in deep and husky tones, says, "I'm on a boat.", she pauses briefly and I feel like I want her to finish the thought with "I'm on a motherfuckin' boat!". You'd never expect that from her. The thought of it makes me giggle.

Right around 4.12, I feel like she's revisiting the intro to the video for "The Sweetest Taboo". She certainly has a connection with the wet weather.

Just when you think she's going to fade into the background after such invasive camera work we get a fly on the way look at the making of the video for the title track.

I totally love her Mother Earth, equestrian disco look most of all. There's something unexpected and sensual about her dance moves, too. Her aura is real. Her personality is an unusual cocktail of warmth, cool confidence, intensity, joy and slight brooding.

After my first listen to the full album, I have to say there are a few monolithic tracks. They are epic in their subdued grace. A few more spins and I'll unleash my thoughts.