Thursday, 27 August 2015

Bram Tchaikovsky - Strange Man, Changed Man, c.1979

The next album I have chosen to review is a new wave / power pop masterpiece from way back in 1979. Following the demise of the Motors, Bram Tchaikovsky (aka Peter Bramall) set about creating his own band, confusingly also called Bram Tchaikovsky. I had heard a few of their songs, most likely on the John Peel radio show or something similar back in the late 1970's but never owned any of their records. This was all put right a few weeks ago when I was lucky enough to find a copy of Strange Man, Changed Man in a second hand record shop.

Bram Tchaikovsky - Strange Man, Changed Man
Bram Tchaikovsky - Strange Man, Changed Man

Side one opens with the title track, Strange Man, Changed Man, which opens with a beautiful, punky guitar riff, joined later by drums and bass, and then finally the vocals as the song builds into a fine example of later 1970's power pop. It merges almost seamlessly into Lonely Dancer which continues along the same lines. Track 3, Robber, is another strong track with tinges of the Beatles' Dr Robert, in fact you can almost replace Robber for Robert. The next track, Bloodline, starts with an almost heavy metal riff, but of course nothing wrong with that at all, and it's still overlaid with wonderful, power pop / new wave style vocals. The final track on side one, Turn on the Light, ends the side well although a little less power pop and more country rock oriented.

Side two kicks off with Girl of my Dreams. with the opening line of "Judy was an American girl". I'm not sure what it is about the use of the name Judy in songs but in me in conjures up a dream of America that I had growing up as a kid, long before I ever visited, that was also of course bolstered by a healthy does of US 1970's television programmes. I was also reminded of Judy is a Punk by The Ramones, and "Judy's in the bedroom, inventing situations" from Found a Job by Talking Heads, and Judy Says by The Vibrators, although the latter being British rather than American kind of spoils the thread here. Track two, Nobody Knows features a mean and dirty bass sound that would not be out of place on an early Stranglers track. Oddly, the next track Lady from the USA, did not actually evoke any teenage imaginings of the US for me, probably as it's more of a country rock ballad. It's not a bad song but seems a little out of place here. Track four is what I can only describe as a Status Quo cover version of I'm a Believer and sadly reduces a quite wonderful song to monotonous, repetitive chords. Track five, Sarah Smiles, returns with another perfect slice of power pop, before veering downhill again into the final track, Turn On the Light, which seems to be another Quo inspired riff.

Overall though, apart from a couple of blips on the second side, a fantastic album which would sit well in anyone's new wave, power pop collection.

     

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The June Brides - There are Eight Million Stories, c.1985

I only ever owned one June Brides record, which I think was No Place Called Home, but alas that's long gone in what was a somewhat over enthusiastic clear out several years ago. I'm very pleased to say that I managed to pick up up a copy of their album There Are Eight Million Stories a couple of weeks ago whilst crate digging in a London record shop ... and what a delight it is to behold. It's quite a short album, and in fact probably qualifies as a mini-album, with just 8 tracks, but what great tracks they are.

Side one kicks off with The Instrumental which is a lovely, slightly lo-fi, indie pop tune, with guitar and trumpet, and vocals, so not instrumental as the title would suggest, and reminiscent of early Orange Juice and Josef K. Track two I Fall  and the third track on side one, Sunday to Saturday, are both near perfect, jangley, catchy, indie pop tunes. And finally on side one we have Sick, Tired and Drunk, which is quite the indie masterpiece with its fast strum guitars and once again the trumpet, reminding me just a little bit of The Teardrop Explodes.

Side two starts with Every Conversation which follows on from where side one left off. Track two, Comfort, has a rockier feel to it that the other tracks and reminds me a little of Tom Verlaine's Television. Track three Heard You Whisper returns back to the indie groove, with its infectious guitar riffs. The final track on this wonderful album is listed on the label but not on the sleeve. When it started playing I thought I recognised it, and sure enough it was a cover version of the Radiators From Space track Enemies, and a pretty darned good cover too.

The version of this wonderful album I found, of which I've shared a couple of pictures below, is the blue sleeve version. It was also released in a red sleeve.

The June Brides - There Are Eight Million Stories
The June Brides - There Are Eight Million Stories

The June Brides - There Are Eight Million Stories
The June Brides - There Are Eight Million Stories

Every track is a winner.

    

Monday, 3 August 2015

Cowboys International - The Original Sin, Virgin records, c.1979

I have neglected this blog for far too long. 2015 has seen me buy a brand new turntable, a Denon DP 200 USB, for anyone who's interested. Not the highest spec by a long way, but it does the job nicely and has reignited my passion for vinyl. Most of 2015 has seen me ferreting around in second hand record shops looking for records I used to have as a spotty teenager, along with ones I missed out on. A few have not stood the test of time very well, but many still sound wonderful today, and it's those ones that I plan to start writing mini reviews of in this blog.

So, to get things going I have decided to start with Cowboys International, or more precisely, their album The Original Sin. The version of this I picked up recently is the beautifully packaged, UK release on Virgin Records, from 1979, that came in a thin black inner sleeve with orange plastic outer sleeve, which when the inner was inserted into the outer, obscured the blue coloured lettering. The version of this on amazon.co.uk has a completely different cover to the one I picked up, which I've pasted in a few pictures of below, but the tracks are the same.

Cowboys International - The Original Sin, outer sleeve
Cowboys International - The Original Sin, outer sleeve

Cowboys International - The Original Sin, inner sleeve
Cowboys International - The Original Sin, inner sleeve

Side one opens up with Pointy Shoes. Featuring harmonica, guitar, drums and piano, this is probably the album's most new wave track. Something about it reminded me of another artist. I want to say Robyn Hitchcock, but not quite sure that's it. The next track is the very catchy Thrash, is more synth based and reminiscent of one of the early, new romantic bands, before they got famous, and is probably my favourite track on the album. Track 3, Part of Steel, mixes new wave and synth to great effect. Next up is Here Comes A Saturday which to my ears has shades of David Bowie, and yet again I'm hearing Robyn Hitchcock. Side one ends with the title track, The Original Sin, which is another catchy synth-pop track.

Side two opens up with Aftermath, which was the first of the band's two singles from the album, on orange vinyl, the other being Thrash, which appeared later with the non-album track, Nothing Doing, being released in between. I remember this one being played on various Radio One night time shows but remembered it as being slower. Track two is Hands which again has hints of David Bowie in Ken Lockie's vocals, layered on top of a guitar and piano backing track. Next up is the synth-laden M(emorie)62 which again fits more into the synth-pop arena that strictly new wave. Track four is another synth pop, catchy number, Lonely Boy. Nearing the end of the album now, track five, The No Tune, is more of a ballad, and if I'm honest doesn't really sit well on the album, spoiling the flow somewhat. Overall I'd say that side one is the stronger of the two sides, with the album petering out slightly towards the end, with a bit of a recovery in the final track Wish.

Obviously a bit of a cliche but definitely one of the groups that fits the "best band you've never heard of "category. Often cited as a supergroup as the band, amongst others, consisted of Public Image's Keith Levene, Terry Chimes formerly of The Clash, Marco Pironi from Adam and the Ants fame, and Jimmy Hughes from The Banned. Although they were short-lived, only running from 1979 to 1980, quite how this band were overlooked at the time is a mystery.

    

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Stop Making Sense ... not sure I ever started

Oops! I just created a new blog post called Stop Making Sense, so you can probably guess what it's about, but for some reason I posted it on one of my other blogs instead of this one ... I blame the red wine and the man-flu.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Theme Thursday - Tomorrow


Well I was completely stuck for something to fit in with this week's Theme Thursday of 'tomorrow'. Neither my vintage postcards nor my vintage magazines offered any inspiration, but then fortunately I remembered this fantastic psychedelic band called Tomorrow from the late 1960's. On researching into them a little more for this blog post I discovered that they were the first band ever to record a John Peel session. I have read John Peel's excellent biography, Margrave of the Marshes, but must confess to not remembering this fact. Perhaps it's time I gave the book a second read.


Tomorrow - Tomorrow

    

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Deeper into folk - Espers, Meg Baird, Devendra Banhart





I found myself in London again last week, with just enough time to spare to go CD shopping again. I'm still on a folk quest and this time picked up some more recent folk offerings. I had read mixed reviews about Devendra Banhart but the 3 albums I tracked down are all excellent. My favourite after the first listen is probably What Will We Be, closely followed by Rejoicing in the Hands. I also found some Espers, both as a band and in their various solo guises. The favourite of this bunch would have to be Meg Baird - Dear Companion, which is a truly beautiful album and if you've never heard it I urge you to track it down.

Another great find of the week was an album which has been on my wants list for a while now, Jackson C.Frank from way back in 1965. However I'm almost afraid to say that Rendezvous by Sandy Denny was quite a disappointment compared to her other albums. So, apologies to any die-hard Sandy Denny fans out there. I'll give it another listen but for now remain to be convinced.

    

All the links in this post are to amazon.co.uk, but all these CDs are also available on amazon.com

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Folk - acid, free, phreak and psychedelic

Well, I am pleased to say that I finally finished reading Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk. It was a great read and not quite sure why it took me so long. The only downside of reading the book is that I now have an even longer CD wants list than is probably humanly possible to ever listen to. I knew a reasonable amount about the 60's and 70's folk scene from other readings, but was surprised me was how lively the scene was in recent years. I've managed to hear a few tracks by Espers, Charalambides, Marie Sioux, Meg Baird, and a several others which have all made it on to the wants list. The only recent folk albums I've tracked down so far are Joanna Newsom - Ys which is quite different to how I imagined it having read the book, but a great album nevertheless, and Vashti Bunyan - Lookaftering which is also very good.
  

However my highest praise would have to go to a 1970's lost classic which I was over the moon to find, Linda Perhacs - Parallelograms, closely followed by Steeley Span - Hark! The Village Wait.

    

All the links in this post are to amazon.co.uk but all of these recommended items are also available from amazon.com