Loudwire.com 2010 Metal Album Of The Year—-Ghost / Opus Eponymous

Opus Eponymous

 

Ghost is a Swedish heavy metal band that was formed in Linköping in 2008. In 2010, they released a 3-track demo followed by a 7″ vinyl titled “Elizabeth“, and later their debut full-length album Opus Eponymous. The Grammis-nominated album was widely praised and increased their popularity significantly. Their second album and major label debut Infestissumam was released in 2013, debuted at number one in Sweden, and won the Grammis Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Album. The band released their third studio album, Meliora, in 2015, to much critical acclaim and high record sales, reaching number one in their home country of Sweden and number eight in the United States. Its lead single, “Cirice“, earned them the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance.

Ghost is easily recognizable because of its eccentric on-stage presence. Five of the group’s six members wear virtually identical, face-concealing costumes. The most distinguishable member is the vocalist, who wears a prosthetic face with skull face paint, appearing as what can be described as a “demonic anti-Pope”. Each album cycle has brought about a change in the band’s appearance. The vocalist is always portrayed as the same archetype character, but has slight appearance changes and even personality traits are altered from former versions. The band members’ true identities are kept anonymous, as their actual names have not been publicly disclosed. The vocalist calls himself Papa Emeritus, and the musicians are referred to only as Nameless Ghouls.

Opus Eponymous (Latin for the self-titled work) is the debut studio album by the Swedish heavy metal band Ghost. It was released on October 18, 2010, on the independent record label Rise Above. It was released in North America on January 18, 2011, and in Japan on April 6, 2011. The album was recorded in the band’s hometown and produced by Gene Walker. Opus Eponymous was nominated for a Grammis Award. The Japanese release contains an additional bonus track: a cover of the Beatles‘ “Here Comes the Sun“.

The Analysis—-

Deus Culpa—-A huge grand entrance from the band…full of organ style Church music that takes you back to the early Sunday Mornings where you found yourself where you did not want to be….grand and inspired.

Con Clavi Con Dio—-Moving from one mood to the other, I was not quite sure what I was listening to when I first heard this band. It is always grouped in the ‘Heavy Metal’ genre, but falls in to so many other groups as well. The bass lines throughout this track are incredible…the vocal is almost too pleasant as you hear very scary lyrics set to a damn pleasant back set. This is a contradiction….but a pretty damn pleasant one.

Ritual—-Delivering a stronger musical backbone at the onset, the vocal enters and is so damn nice you almost are taken aback…..the lyrics themselves…filled with dark imagery….but delivered with a harmony and pleasant style. This is such a contradiction to all of my senses….but having grown along with the band…I realize now it was nothing surprising…this is classic Ghost…..brilliant.

Elizabeth—-Beginning a bit more aggressive, with a nice heavy bass line, the vocal belies all understanding. This is so pleasant and acceptable to my senses, I instantly fall in love with this all over gain. This is brilliant in construction, delivery and composition. One of my very favorite bands….it is sometimes difficult to take the dark lyrics seriously with the nice delivery….but in a way that makes it all the darker.

Stand By Him—-Really nice drums and percussion kick this off…the vocal enters and has a slight evil tinge to it that I rather like. The words that are delivered are crystal clear and perfect in comprehension. This is huge…I love the almost choir of voices that accompany the song….the tempo changes that lead to a slight mania…then the instant decline…..this is magical.

Satan Prayer—-As we have come to accept and embrace this band in the US, we realize they are never going to become the definition of proper Heavy Metal…..but if you study the lyrical content of the band…they are more Metal than most bands out there today. This song is brilliant….somewhat pleasant and sedate in instrumentation, the words paint such a contrasting picture that you wonder where all of these ideas come from. This is brilliant! I love this song….I like to listen to it very, very loud.

Death Knell—-A bit ominous at the onset…the drums seem to be so in the front of the mix. The vocal enters with words that can’t even be found on a King Diamond record…but delivered in a style that would land them on Top Of The Pops…..[Imagine That!!!!]. The slow and seductive quality to the song is instantly attractive. I love this….the world was turned on its head by this band.

Prime Mover—-Sounding really crisp at the onset, the guitars are bright and loaded with a bit of aggression not yet heard. The drums come out of the din at you…followed by a huge finessed bass line that gives body to the whole thing. This is spectacular. The vocal is bright and sunny….delivered in a sing song type of way that makes you feel nice unless you really listen to the words. This is just a brilliant band….a brilliant concept.

Genesis—-An odd intro introduces the final track on the proper release…but what else would you expect. The sounds come at you and grow and grow…with intermittent crashes of bass guitar and heavy drums. This has a huge buildup….and then everything seems to come together in a perfect synchronicity of majesty……this is brilliant. Melodic….contagious and so damn pleasant….you want to start the entire journey all over again. Just incredible.

Here Comes The Sun [Japaneses Pressing ]—-By now….famous for the cover versions they are always releasing, this does nothing to fall short of the majesty and brilliance of the band. This is huge…well constructed and delivered…perfect harmonies fill the space…and I want to hear The Beatles…this is just fantastic.

***** out of 5

 

 

The Fixx / Ultimate Collection

Ultimate Collection

The Fixx are a rock and new wave band formed in London in 1979. The band’s hits include “One Thing Leads to Another“, “Saved by Zero“, “Are We Ourselves?”, and “Secret Separation“, all of which made the U.S. Top 20, as well as early MTV Video hits “Red Skies” and “Stand Or Fall” and Mainstream Rock chart hits “Driven Out” and “Deeper and Deeper,” the latter of which was featured on the soundtrack of the 1984 film Streets of Fire.

The Analysis—-

Stand Or Fall—-The amazing thing, to me, is that many of the songs that are on this release…could be released today and met with the same relevancy that they had during the Reagan Cold-War era…..we are just a society prone to repeating our mistakes…and this collection seems to prove my point.  Much of the sounds from these early sound indeed define the 80’s….the remarkable thing about the whole thing is the urgency to the words and the power of Cy’s voice….there remains a clear and crisp sound to the music….The Fixx perhaps one of the first 80’s Alternative Rock bands. This has a mournful and powerful message.

Red Skies—-With a direct political message to the era of Nukes and such, this is one thing I always loved about this band. They always remained entertaining while delivering a message to any one that would listen…avoiding much of the synth laden drivel of the 80’s. This means as much today as it did in 1983. Listen to the words and take some good advice. All the while…..revel in the fantastic vocal delivery….the growl and the intensity…I love this band.

Lost Planes—-Cy delivers another stellar vocal delivery….full of urgency and strength. The music sounds a bit dated…..falling into a more traditional 80’s sound…but remember this was really actually the first single the band released. I like that the guitar elements are in full effect and that the drumming is so strong……really nice.

Some People—-A bit more abrasive in sound and showing the age of the song, this is not a favorite…but still manages to play well. I don’t care for the jaunty feel of the vocal….the track only comes alive and sounds authentic to me when Cy actually sings on the chorus. Still….not a throw away track.

Saved By Zero—-Perhaps the most well known track from this band, there is nothing to find at fault here. This was when the band really began to enter the political era and deliver solid messages in the songs that were being produced. Curin sings with a pleading urgency at times that swallows you up. I like the overlays toward the end of the song…my favorite part…I never get tired of listening to this.

One Thing Leads To Another—-Incredibly popular and radio driven, this remains one of my least favorite tracks from the band. Seeming to produce a song that would capture the masses, indeed they succeeded but the new wave elements forced by the record company never played well with me. I can’t believe I still play this album on vinyl!!!

The Sign Of Fire—-A fog and a jaunty guitar plays while the drums lead the track with an urgency. Curin delivers a vocal that is almost pleading for attention. The song lacks a heavy message…but the feel is there. Not sure if this is about love or politics….a fine line right there…lol.

Going Overboard—- I’m at a bit of a loss as to where this track even came from. I think it lacks quality….the vocal is pushed to the back of the mix and sounds hollow…the guitars are tuned very high. The drums sound tiny and the synth lines are to mechanical in sound…..

Deeper And Deeper—-This seems to be a bit of an extended version. I love the staccato delivery of the vocal. Not to mention the damn catchy melody of the song…that always seems present no matter when you are positioned in the song. Curin growls at times….giving his vocal an urgency. There are more synth lines on this track…but it does not suffer from them. This is nice!

Are We Ourselves?—-This version that was pressed on this release sounds odd…there is no fullness to the track..it sounds small and under-produced….unlike the other  versions of the song i have heard. Even the vocal sounds under-whelming. Too bad…..this is a favorite of mine but this version is awful!!!

Sunshine In The Shade—-Reclaiming the classic Fixx sound from the early years, this track is damn catchy and pleasant. The melody that runs underneath the whole thing is rather addictive…and combined with Cy’s vocals add up to a great, great track. The break that introduces the synth line is fantastic…..love this.

Less Cities, More Moving People—-This track has a huge synth feel to it…designed to gt you moving perhaps. This track is just as relevant today as to the release date. The synth line allows for the drums and guitar as well…giving the song a very large feel. This is a nice reminder of why I fell in love with this band.

A Letter To Both Sides—-Slowed down a slight bit and filled with introspective lyrics, I’m not very familiar with this track. I love the notes Cy manages to hit….and the melody plays right into them. This is damn pleasant. I like the message and the delivery. Letters are needed to both sides…..right now.

Secret Separation—-Perhaps my favorite track ever released by this band, The song has the ability to both make me think and smile….there is a happiness o the musical track that is infectious. I love the vocal…relaxed and natural and the guitar sounding very British and authentic. A crowning moment.

Built For The Future—-At this point, the band was beginning to wind down in its original form. The sound of the music seems a bit lacking in enthusiasm. I think everyone involved at this point needed a break and it was beginning to show in the quality of the out put. Not that this track is bad….I love the sound….but it does not stand the test of time as well as others.

Driven Out—-Trying to deliver an ultra modern sound, the band looses some of the power that it had established with its original sound. This track does not sound like a hit…it sounds forced and mechanical. The vocal is great…but the lack of urgency in the music is obvious.

How Much Is Enough?—-Returning to a more retro guitar sound and jerky drum, this is much more what I’m accustomed to. Cy delivers an anthemic vocal that gives you a sense of peace and enthusiasm at the same time…this was when the band should have stopped.

No One Has To Cry—-Sounding way to modernized and fa removed from the roots of the beginning, the band accomplished in driving me away from the later releases as they just were not very good. This is swirly and foggy….even Cy lacks a vigor in his voice. I don’t care for this.

Two Different Views—-Another disappointing track right from the onset, this sounds like an aged band trying to sound relevant in the wrong way. Cy lacks intensity and power in his vocal…the music almost swallows him up. No…..

****out of 5

The Human League / Anthology-A Very British Synthesizer Group [Deluxe]

Anthology - A Very British Synthesizer Group (Deluxe)

The Human League are an English electronic new wave band formed in Sheffield in 1977. After signing to Virgin Records in 1979, the band released two albums and a string of singles before attaining widespread commercial success with their third album Dare in 1981. The album contained four hit singles, including “Love Action“, “Open Your Heart“, and the UK/US number one hit “Don’t You Want Me“. The band received the Brit Award for Best British Breakthrough Act in 1982. Further hits followed throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, including “Being Boiled“, “Mirror Man“, “Fascination“, “The Lebanon“, “Human” (a US No. 1) and “Tell Me When“.

The band began as an avant-garde all-male synthesizer-based group. The only constant band member since 1977 has been vocalist and songwriter Philip Oakey. Keyboard players Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh both left the band in 1980 to form Heaven 17. Under Oakey’s leadership, the Human League then evolved into a commercially successful synthpopband with a new line-up including female vocalists Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley. Since the mid-1990s, the band has essentially been a trio of Oakey, Catherall and Sulley with various sidemen.

Since 1978, the Human League have released nine studio albums, four EPs, 30 singles and several compilation albums. They have had five albums and eight singles in the UK Top 10 and have sold more than 20 million records.

The Analysis—-

Disc One—-

Being Boiled [Fast Version]—-Now…..I will be the first to tell you that I have been a fan of this band for a very, very long time…..but in the same sentence I will tell you that I never paid much attention to the very early works of the band. I thought most of it was rudimentary and frankly unappealing. The best thing Phil ever did was to include the girls in the band and round out the sound of his deep baritone voice. Of course, this track is essential in the history of the band. If this is indeed the fast version, God help us…it is slow, plodding and dark. But the remarkable synth sounds made from such early equipment still remains. The writing was on the wall…this is not the best…but it still plays rather well.

The Dignity Of Labour Pt. 3—-This track has some shinier and brighter synth lines in it…and the pace is a bit more acceptable to me. The missing link is the shine that later material had to it. This is full of space sounds and a dense landscape that is had to grab hold of…..when the piano synth enters, the song becomes brighter…but the dredge is hard to escape from.

Empire Human State—-A nice rhythmic synth line propels this track along at a dance floor pace. The vocal is lone and distant to me….I think the best thing the band ever did was add the girls. The lyrics are shit,,,just pure nonsense and lackluster. I really don’t like this very much…this sounds like Thomas Dolby in kindergarten.

Only After Dark—-Ugh…..I really don’t care for this very much either. The redeeming think about this is the overdubs that combine the vocals  delivered on two different plains…a higher tone and the deep baritone…leading to a landscape of built in harmonies…a shape of the things to come.

Nightclubbing—-This is much in the same vein as the previous ‘singles’ that were released by this band…there is an overriding tone of synth darkness and deep dub sounds that really never appealed to me. The synth effects seem to be on a constant loop that just keep repeating themselves in a monotonous toneless manner. Phil rarely has any vocal inflections and this is really awful to me. Not ready for Nightclubbing!

Boys And Girls—-A dark atmospheric synth opens the track, the big difference is the higher tone of Oakey’s voice…giving the song a lighter feel. The double track vocal adds to the fuller more bright sound of the track…giving the band a seemingly new life and tone. This is much more accessible, and the lyrics really lean towards the crowd that was gravitating to the band….disenfranchised and stigmatized. This is nice.

The Sound Of The Crowd [Instrumental]—-I really would have preferred the version of this track with lyrics. This is not strictly an instrumental but almost like a dub version of the original. You notice the brighter synth tones almost immediately….of course there is a dark underlying tone…but the song was the future of the band…brighter….positive and damn accessible. I love this…a whole new beginning for the band.

Hard Times—-Brighter and full of classic synth sounds of the 80’s, the girls make their appearance and the band takes a dramatic turn toward higher success. The synth sounds are so contagious and the mix of Oakey and the ladies sounds almost like a totally different band. The song is huge in my head phones…taking me back to a time when New Wave was just emerging and we misfits had finally found a band to fall in love with. The slight out of tune synth line makes the track even more charming.

Love Action [I Believe In Love]—-Beginning with an odd synth line that almost meows at you, the layers of sound are fantastic through the headphones. Phil lends his trademark baritone…but the tone just seems lighter and more accessible. The main melody line that pops up in the song will stay in our head and makes me want to pull out all of my old classic vinyl from the 80’s…just fantastic.

Open Your Heart—-Hands down…no argument, my favorite track ever from The Human League. The vocal is extraordinary, the slight out of tune delivery adds to the charm of the song. The energy of the synth line bends my heart into folds. The ladies add to the mix…but it is Oakey at his finest here. This is a classic track that never received the attention it deserved. This IS The Human League!!! You can’t ignore the fantastic synth lines and the jubilant feeling that it gives off…even if the song is not really a happy one……I just love this!

Don’t You Want Me—-Perhaps this song, above all others at the time, helped to define the 80’s synth and New Wave movement. The song still sounds fresh and appealing all of these years on….with a instrumental line that is contagious and ageless. This is the band at the peak of their career…when the cross over to the US was in full swing. A great, great song….but not the best the band ever released…..just the best known.

Mirror Man—-To say that expectations were high after the success of Dare would be an understatement. The band delivered above par music with the release of the follow up EP….short in content…but full of quality singles. The die hard fans snatched it up…..MTV followed it closely…but the band found it hard to keep its place after Don’t You Want Me….for me…the songs like this from that EP were better quality and stand the test of time even better.

You Remind Me Of Gold—-The synth lines of this track are so lively and jaunty…you can’t help but fall in love with it. Phil enters with his trademark baritone and the ladies join him and give the track the warm softer element that it needs. I love all the squeaky lines of the keyboards…this is fantastic…at times the song almost becomes noisy….fantastic.

[Keep FeelingFascination [Extended]—-A shining moment in the bands career for sure. I have some remix versions of this song, where the bass level was so intense the speakers almost shut it out altogether. This is as contagious and catchy as anything the band has ever done. The opening synth lines that mimic Church organs open up to hat huge thumping bass line and the swirls of synth in the background that sneak up on you. The vocals are exquisite…the melody line….unforgettable. This is wonderful. Phil ups his vocal…the overdubs are incredible. Just a fantastic track.

The Lebanon [7″ Version]—-Politically charged at the time and very timely. This track carries a sadness to it….even though the music tries to override that sentiment. The lyrics at the time were very appropriate and could apply to anywhere in the world in this day and age that we live in. This is a pretty intense song when you listen to all the words…but loses some of the power because it is so damn pleasant.

Louise [DJ Edit]—-I really love this song…..being one of those people involved with someone from very far in my past…the song touches me…because real life reunions like this are very possible. The deep tone of the vocal is remarkable….and the combination of all the voices at certain times and certain words give the song a remarkable contagious and romantic feel. This is just a wonderful reminder that anything is possible.

Disc Two—-

Life On Your Own [Single Version]—-This is phenomenal…..the deep bass that propels that song..perfectly matched with the higher tones of the synth line. A slight odd song lies underneath of the whole thing…giving the song a weird flavor that finds a place in my heart. Phil delivers the chorus in his upper register that takes this song to a whole new level. This is just incredible…so nice to hear again.

Human [Extended Version]—-A song that really gave The Human League a second life in the mainstream listening community. Not a favorite track of mine, but it still plays very well today and catches the band at another creative high. The synth line and the bass deliver an unforgettable melody that still manages to pop up in my memory listening bank from time to time….funny….I have a 45 pressing of this song.

I Need Your Loving [DJ Edit]—-Noisy and less melodic, it appears The Human League thought they could copy Prince and deliver a funk fueled dance floor track that really falls flat for me. This is lackluster and the band sounds incredibly bored to me. This did not age well…it plays no better today than it did upon release. I really have disdain for this…..ugh!

Love Is All That Matters [DJ Edit]—-Returning to a more accessible sound somewhat with this single, the funky overtones are still evident. The melody of the song…provided by the ladies voices really give the track the familiar and friendly sound that we are accustomed to. Phil sounds a bit bored with the entire affair…so I still affirm that the main melody and success of this track was the responsibility f the girls….and they deliver very well.

Heart Like A Wheel [William Orbit Remix]—-Helping to add to the nine lives theory, this track helped to bring attention back to a foundering band that needed a new listening base. This is jaunty, happy and full of energy. The synth line is playful and full of energy. The combination of the voices throughout the entire song help to make it sound fresh and invigorating. This is a wonderful track….fantastic!

Soundtrack To A Generation [Edit]—-Odd at the onset, the jaunty almost New Order like synth line takes the song to a nice place. Phil delivers a vocal that sounds a bit strained and forced…..really not the best the band had to offer, I could think of a few other songs that could have taken this ones place. The shout B-52’s like delivery is not the band that we love…this is a waste really.

Tell Me When [Edit/Remastered 2003 ]—-This is a slick return to the shiny and accessible pop lines that the band did the best with. Phil sounds re-invigorated and the ladies are present as always. The pace of the song hearkens back to the early days of the band…this is driving and forceful…but melodic and damn catchy at the same time. The chorus of the song is the key…and it stands the test of time very well. This is wonderful.

One Man In My Heart—-This is fantastic….letting the ladies really have a spotlight on the trademark and necessary vocals that made this band huge. The melody line that runs through this song are almost Do-Wop inspired and make you feel a happiness that you can’t explain. Although Phil does add vocals…this track belongs to the ladies and they shine like an indelible star!

Filling Up With Heaven—-Not sure how I really feel about this song…..at the time of recording, technology was/is so advanced but it seems like the band is still using the same Korg’s and Moog’s that they always used. All of the mass vocals on the chorus are confusing and disjointed and the higher tone keyboards are awful. This just sounds uninspired.

Stay With Me Tonight—-Propulsive synth lines send this moving at a nice pace…then the vocal hits you . At the beginning, Phil barely sounds like himself….but the familiarity emerges. To me, this song is the complete opposite of the last entry…there is so much technology going on that it threatens to drown the band and the necessity of their voices. This is unorganized and messy.

All I Ever Wanted [Radio Edit]—-Not sure why this is here at the end of the release…perhaps a re-issue was in order for the anniversary of the band. This is classic in sound…the deep wavy bass synth is wonderful. The ladies add to the dissonant vocal from Phil…when he breaks into the higher tones it is much warmer and approachable. Nice…but why? Oh…this was from 2001……joke!

Night People [2016 Edit]—-I love this track…this is such a fun and jaunty track. The synth lines are contagious as hell….the vocal is full of echoes and memories of the old days if you will. This is just fantastic…reminding me of the material from Fascination. I love the energy, the sentiment and the mood.

Never Let Me Go—-This is the sound again of a re-invigorated band. he deep deep bass that runs through the underbelly of the song is just fantastic. The ladies lend a vocal line that sticks in your cerebellum…refusing to let go for hours after a listen. This is melodic…huge and driving. I love this…there is just life after life for this band.

Sky [Radio Edit]—-The latest proper new release from the band, this is deep and intense. The melody line that runs through the track is classic and wonderful. I like the combination of the voices and the slight overlays from Phil. This is nice…not the best of the band…but a damn valiant effort showing us that this band is still alive and well. Very Nice!

**** out of 5

 

 

 

 

Dead Or Alive / That’s The Way I Like It: The Best Of Dead Or Alive

That's The Way I Like It: The Best Of Dead Or Alive

Dead or Alive were an English pop band, formed in 1980 in Liverpool. The band found success in the 1980s and had seven Top 40 UK singles and three Top 30 UK albums. They were the first band to have a number one single under the production team of Stock Aitken Waterman. Dead or Alive, which at the peak of success featured a lineup consisting of Pete Burns (vocals), Mike Percy (bass), Steve Coy (drums) and Tim Lever (keyboards), have released seven studio albums and five compilation albums, and became popular in Japan.

Two of the band’s singles reached the U.S. Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100; “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” No. 11 in 1985, and “Brand New Lover” No. 15 in 1986. “You Spin Me Round” peaked at number one in 1985 in the UK, then charted again in 2003 and 2006 following Burns’ controversial appearance on the television reality show Celebrity Big Brother. The latter also became the first of two singles to top the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.

The Analysis—-

You Spin Me Round [Like A Record]—-Steeped in the synth heavy sound of the 80’s dance floor, the thing most memorable for me about this song is Pete Burns himself. One never would expect the deep baritone and wonderful vibrato that comes from his voice box. This was a worldwide smash….played too often it grates on me now…..but you can never question the incredible power of that voice.

That’s The Way [I Like It]—-Taking an incredible chance at covering this K.C & The Sunshine Band track, the band and Burns hit this out of the ball park. By adding trademark sounds…the synth line, but keeping the integrity of the song intact, it allowed legion of fans to fall in love with this song all over again. Again….that voice is just incredible….and the track moves at a great pace.

Lover Come Back [To Me]—-Almost seeming to borrow a Moroder synth line, the song picks up speed as it goes along. Burns adds real live instruments to his songs…giving every track a much larger sound. The chorus is a huge affair with a melody that will settle in the front of your brain and live there for days on end. Pete delivers line after line of sentiments that we have all wanted to mutter to one who has left…this is classic 80’s synth pop that still plays incredibly well today.

In Too Deep—-A bit slower and steeped in the emerging piano based dance hits of the later 80’s, Burns delivers his idea of a love song I suppose. This has always been a favorite of mine…simply because of the double entendres of the message. This is more mellow…with female backing vocals and a big sound. Classic

My Heart Goes Bang [Get Me To The Doctor]—-Returning to full throttle synth speed, Burns and Co. delivers a wonderful track with a melody line that is fuckin contagious and irresistible. When Burns bellows  ‘Get Me To The Dr.’ with that baritone you appreciate his vocal talent as well as his image.I saw him sing this song hanging upside down on the edge of the stage and it was still as powerful and well delivered as it is her on CD. This is fantastic…one of the best Dead Or Alive songs in the vast catalog.

Brand New Lover [Edit]—-Another track that was overplayed….as if it was the only of two songs that deserved airplay. This is much in the same vein as ‘Record’….except I think the melody line is even more contagious. The galloping synth line…pushed to the very backbone of the mix allows the song to travel at an incredible speed. This is exceptional.

Something In My House [7″ Mix]—-With a nice Goth intro, the synth opens up to a static vocal from Burns that moves just as fast as he tap tap tap of the synth line. This song is incredibly fast…but Burns never lags not loses voice throughout the entire thing. There are actual great guitars on this track that shine through…this is fantastic…Burns delivering line after line of tongue in cheek lyrics. Fantastic!

Hooked On Love [La Vie En Rose Mix]—-With a fuller sound garnered by guitars and back ground singers, the standout as usual is the deep delivery from Burns. When he enters the chorus, the voice is so strong and rich it just sucks you in. Of course, the jaunty synth line is here…but the real instruments stand out as well…creating a landscape all of its own. This was a talented man that went far beyond image.

I’ll Save You All My Kisses [Remixed]—-The remix version here of this track is so much better than the original on the record. This has a bigger sound and feel…..although the vocal is almost hidden by the big crashing bass beat. The chorus is a quagmire of vocals that takes away from Burns….and that is the weak point of this track…just way too much going on at one time. Still a great song.

Turn Around And Count 2 Ten—-You know from the onset that this is a later recording from the band. The synth is still present but the sound is more musical and updated…without the huge galloping synth line not appearing until the chorus. This is a very tongue in cheek song that allows me a grin or two…but again…the melody line is just so contagious. Remarkable.

Come Home With Me Baby—-With a nice high synth line and crashes around your head, the style of the song is predictable but has a surprising Erasure style synth piano line that creates the backdrop of the song. Burns is overtly sexual [surprise] but the meaning of the song could go anywhere….depending on your state of mind. This is jaunty and fun….dance ready but not as fast as the earlier 80’s tracks.And an actual guitar solo!!!!

Misty Circles [7″ Version]—-I’m not sure about anyone else, but my actual 45 of You Spin Mr Round has this song as the flip side…how great is that? This has a very dark and goth feel to it….allowing Burns his deep vocal to really shine through. He can sing like you can’t believe…..this is vibrato at it’s finest….with a dark and eerie feel to it.

What I Want [Original 7″ Version]—-This is a song I am not to familiar with…the synth line reminding me of New Order. The pace of the song is brilliant…travelling along fast as light. The vocal is way to the back of the mix….and even the gang style chorus seems removed from the music…still a pretty fantastic song.

I’d Do Anything—-Right from the opening strains of this track, it never gelled with me too well. This takes away from the hook heavy tracks Burns was always capable of and infused all of these other voices that were not needed….ugh!

Lover Come Back To Me [Extended Mix]—-This is obviously built for DJ’s from the ground up…the intro slow to emerge with lots of breaks that allow for flow back and forth between versions. The song really kicks in and becomes itself after the first minute or so…but the vocal delivery is more airy and full of echoes and bass heavy beats. This is a huge mix…I love this version….really great.

My Heart Goes Bang [American ‘Wipe Out’ Mix]—-This is huge…..the bombastic bass beat almost blows the top of my head off at the onset. The synth lines that define the melody sweep under the bass beat though and the guitar plays over the top of it all making this entire thing a grand affair. This is superb…so much larger and more defined than the original. But you never lose that great vocal despite everything going on.

Something In My House [Mortevicar Mix]—-Jaunty and with more effects than the original, the voice is pushed to the back of the dance ready beats a bit….so many special effects going on at the same time. But the pace of the remix is still the same…travelling fast and never losing energy. The remixed synth is so friendly…I am in love all over again. This is a must have if you are a fan.

You Spin Me Round [Like A Record] [Murder Mix]—-Clocking in at 8 minutes, this just might be too much of a good thing…..this mix does not offer much new in the vein of a song that has been remixed hundreds of times…just more instrumental elements and effects that get old after the first few minutes. A nice 12″ though.

**** out of 5

Devo / Freedom Of Choice

Freedom Of Choice

Freedom of Choice is the third studio album by the American new wave band Devo. It was originally released in May 1980, on the labels Warner Bros., and Virgin. The album was recorded between October 1979 and early 1980, at the Record Plant, in Hollywood, California. “Freedom of Choice” saw the band moving in more of an overt synthpop direction, even though guitars still played a prominent role. The album was co-produced by Robert Margouleff, notable for his synthesizer work in Tonto’s Expanding Head Bandand with Stevie Wonder. It contained Devo’s biggest hit song, “Whip It.”

According to the band’s commentary on the The Complete Truth About De-Evolution DVD, the lyrics of “Whip It” began as a tongue-in-cheek anthem for then-president Jimmy Carter. The lyrics were also inspired by Norman Vincent Peale‘s 1952 book The Power of Positive Thinking and the “can do philosophy” espoused within. Devo co-songwriter and bass guitarist Gerald Casale also told Songfacts that the lyrics were written by him “as an imitation of Thomas Pynchon‘s parodies in his book Gravity’s Rainbow.”

“Mr. B’s Ballroom” is a lyric re-written version of an earlier relationship-focused song called “Luv & Such,” which can be heard on the Rhino Entertainment two-disc rarities collection Recombo DNA. The lyric of “That’s Pep!” is based on an early 20th-century poem by Grace G. Bostwick.

The Analysis—-

Girl U Want—-The rudimentary yet full synths that begin this release are as familiar as day….because they define the sound of Devo. The guitars are present but not in the forward of the mix…..the vocal is the defining element of Devo. The melody line that runs underneath of the song is just brilliant. The jaunty and mechanical nature of the music defined the times and opened up the band to a whole new audience. This is classic.

It’s Not Right—-Sounding as if cut from the same cloth as the previous track, the swirls and layers of synths are incredible. The silly yet relevant lyrics are in true Devo fashion. There is something for everyone on this track. When Mark actually sings his voice is damn pleasant. I love this release. The mechanical sound somehow seems so warm….remarkable.

Whip It—-Undeniably, the song that put Devo on the map of millions of households, this has never been a favorite track of mine. The video only served to lead the band to further stardom and made them an MTV staple.If anything really saves this song it is the play between the band members….nice to hear every now and again….this is not about S&M…lol

Snowball—-Beginning with staccato synth lines, the song opens up with a nice yet rudimentary synth melody that is contagious as hell. The vocal…pushed to the back of the mix a bit is double layered and sounds larger because of it. The underlying melody shows the true talent of this band….probably one of the best albums they ever released.

Ton O’ Luv—-Bombastic and larger than the previous track, this adds not only sincere lyrics, but combines it in a fun jaunty style. Again, underneath everything is an undeniable melody line that sticks in your brain. The higher tones of the intermittent synth organ breaks up the song a bit…but the bass line is the star here.

Freedom Of Choice—-Pretty appropriate song with everything going on in the United States these days huh? One of the centerpieces of this release, this has a silly musical edge to it…but a rather serious message despite the sometime cartoon lyrics. The message of the song just seems very timely at the moment.

Gates Of Steel—-Perhaps my favorite Devo song ever…..I love the music in the track but the vocal is even better. The live version of this track is almost better than the recorded version…the visuals are outstanding. The tone of the vocal….a bit higher than usual pounds throughout the song. The music has a downward escalation that last the whole track…like you are going deeper and deeper down yet you stay in the same place. This is a truly fantastic song!

Cold War—-This is a return to full of fun mode….with a jaunty synth line that is full of blips and effects. It is as if at times the synth line stops all together and then a few moments later picks right back up like magic. The vocal is deeper and mechanical….it just reminds you of good times back when this band was just emerging on my College campus and everyone was like…..COOL!!!

Don’t You Know—-Noisier and reminding me a bit more of the earlier experimental music the band made…it is the production that keeps everything light and bright. The voice is fun…the underlying tune of the song is very familiar…but I can’t quite place it.

That’s Pep!—-The guitar and escalating beat of the song hit you right away as the song begins. The stripped down feel of the song is nice after all the heavier synth lines in previous songs. This is much more instrument based….the bass line is fantastic. This is a lot of fun.

Mr. B’s Ballroom—-Returning to the synth line but adding in some actual guitar lines that are a bit fuzzy, again remind me of earlier Devo. The voice…once again seems pushed back from the music…making it sound even more mechanical and robotic. This is not a throwaway track…..just has never been a favorite….although the chorus is damn contagious.

Planet Earth—-Ending the release jaunty and fun but with a bit of nice guitar, the lyrical content makes me giggle. This band….so funny…but so serious at the same time. This is a great closer…leaving you with a good taste in your mouth. Fun and full of classic 80’s swirls.

**** out of 5

 

Orchestral Manoeuvrs In The Dark / Best Of OMD

The Best of OMD

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) are an English electronic music band formed in Wirral, Merseyside in 1978. Spawned by earlier group The Id, the outfit was founded by Andy McCluskey (vocals, bass guitar) and Paul Humphreys (keyboards, vocals); amid rotating line-ups, Martin Cooper (various instruments) and Malcolm Holmes (drums) are the longest-serving additional members. OMD released their influential debut single, “Electricity“, in 1979, and gained popularity throughout Europe with the 1980 anti-war songEnola Gay“. The band achieved broader recognition via their seminal album Architecture & Morality (1981) and its three singles, all of which were international hits. Steadily resistant to celebrity status, the group earned acclaim for their adventurous recordings, which combined sonic experimentation and atypical subject matter with musical hooks.

Although retrospectively described as a challenging masterpiece, the avant-garde Dazzle Ships (1983) eroded European support: the band embraced a more straightforward pop sound on Junk Culture (1984), while continuing to experiment via newly acquired digital samplers. This change in direction led to greater success in the United States, and yielded the 1986 hit, “If You Leave“. A year after the release of The Best of OMD (1988), creative differences rendered McCluskey the only remaining member of the group as Humphreys formed spin-off band The Listening Pool. OMD would return with a new line-up and explore the dance-pop genre: Sugar Tax (1991) and its initial singles were sizeable hits in Europe. By the mid 1990s, however, electronic music had been supplanted by alternative rock, and both OMD and The Listening Pool disbanded in 1996. McCluskey went on to found, and write multiple hits for girl group Atomic Kitten, while Humphreys performed as half of the duo Onetwo.

In 2006, the outfit reformed with Humphreys back in the fold, and began to work on material more akin to their early output. The band re-established themselves as a chart act in Europe, while enjoying a growing international fanbase and a legacy as innovators within popular music. An influence on many artists in diverse genres, their songs have been covered, remixed and sampled by numerous chart musicians, and the group are the subject of two tribute albums. The Oxford Times described OMD as being “among the most important bands Britain has ever produced”.

The Analysis—-

Electricity—-Although at this late date, this first single from the band sounds a bit rudimentary and basic, with the available technology…indeed this was groundbreaking. The synth lines are simple and without huge flourish….but considering the times, this still stands up as a damn pleasant song. The vocal is distant and a bit robotic….exactly matching the music of the times. This is brilliant.

Messages—-Full of swirling synths and promises of the things to come, this single is much in the vein as the previous track. The vocal seems much more present and up front in the song…but never allows the synth and machines to not be the star of the show. This is brilliantly distant and inhuman….while still remaining real and warm. Phenomenal.

Enola Gay—-One wonders how such a morbid topic could be turned into such a brilliant pop song….but indeed OMD manage to do just that. This track is fuller…with a bit of a deeper sound and the emerging technology helping to round out the sound and make it warmer. This was a favorite of mine….and it still plays very well today.

Souvenir—-With a deeper sound at the onset, the high tones of the synth emerge…but this track has a much different sound for me. The underlying melody line is brilliant and the vocal gives me chills. The voice is distant but so warm and harmonious…..I love the entire feel of this track…making me feel warm and incredibly lonely at the same time.

Joan Of Arc—-Eerie and empty at the onset, this is stripped down synth brilliance. The track opens up a bit with brighter keyboard tones…..the vocal sounding way in the back of the mix. The swells of music seem to almost grow as the song progresses…but to me…this is not the best of. The chorus line is catchy….but the emotion seems empty.

Maid Of Orleans—-This was a surprise for me at first listen…the track has a noisy quality as the introduction that seems out of place with the ensuing mellow feel of the synth line. The swirls and atmosphere are heavy…a faux bagpipe sound plays in the backdrop that gives a large yet sad feel to the whole affair. Just wonderful.

Telegraph—-Almost seeming to revert back to the very early synth feel of the band, this is more rudimentary and poppy. This lacks the warmth and the feel of melancholy of the few past songs…instead…almost a step back…a band trying to re-find itself with a Depeche Mode sound that manages to play rather well.

Tesla Girls—-Full of effects, different style vocals and a dance floor ready synth line, this is even more removed from some of the earlier songs. There is that slight lower synth line that manages to conjure up a bit of darkness…but this is bright and brilliant pop music that sounds dated now. I love the smooth vocal…making me think of Spandau Ballet…..not a throwaway…but a step away for me.

Locomotion—-Deeper in tone and with a very odd vocal I really do not care for this song. The horns are an interruption to the basic style that the band helped to create. The female vocals are not needed…to me this was a waste of space on this comp. I really do not like this.

Talking Loud And Clear—-A nice return to form, this song has a deeper synth line that adheres to my sensibilities from the first listen. The vocal is bare and understated…matching the lines of the song in perfect pitch. This is brilliant…that deep hum coming through loud and clear to my ears. This is more to my liking.

So In Love—-Poppy and filled with classic OMD lines, this is wonderful. The swirls wrap you in a blanket of pleasure…the vocal is warmer and much more in the mix. This has a much larger sound and a more updated sound that works really well with the music. This has a lot of similarities with If You Leave…but I will accept it…it is fantastic.

Secret—-Returning with a female backed vocal that does not sit well with me, the song is very dance floor oriented. When the proper vocal enters, it fills me with joy once again…making me feel comfortable and allowing a slight grin to spread on my face. This is wonderfully understated and classic in sound. This reminds me of Book Of Love!

If You Leave—-Perhaps the bands best known work among casual listeners, this is by no means a throw away…but is steeped in 80’s defined sound and a step away from the melancholy feel of the earlier material I really fell in love with. I like this still…but not something I turn to automatically. Sounds much more British….lol

Forever Live And Die—-This is brilliant!!!! There is an almost reggae flavor to the underlying synth line and again makes me think of Book Of Love. This is stark yet full….sad and with a chorus that will stay in your brain for days on end. This is a fantastic….brilliant…wonderful track!

Dreaming—-Delivered at a much faster pace, the song does not suffer for it. The voice is top notch and the synth lines so much more progressive. This is warm and brilliantly delivered with a nice pop sensibility. There is no fault to be found with this single…..its fantastic.

Genetic Engineering—-Robotic and sounding like a Thomas Dolby impersonation at the onset, the song opens up with a galloping synth line that makes me smile once again. The vocal is warm yet distant…magical piece of history and pretty interesting to listen back on these days.

We Love You [12″ Version]—-Steeped in dance floor synths and heavy bass beats, my favorite thing about this track is the classic sound of the vocal….despite the dreaded female backing vocal the song still plays very well….

Le Femme Accident [12″ Version]—-This is ok….I guess….lol. I really don’t care for the Eartha Kitt/Grace Jones style snippets that are included on the track. I would rather have a more stripped down version.

**** out of 5

 

 

A Flock Of Seagulls / The Complete Singles Collection

Platinum & Gold Collection

A Flock of Seagulls are an English new wave and synthpop band originally formed in Liverpool by Michael “Mike” Score(keyboards, vocals) and his brother Alister “Ali” James Score (drums); with their most famous line-up consisting of the Score brothers along with Francis Lee “Frank” Maudsley (bass) and Paul Reynolds (guitar).

The group had a string of international hit singles including “I Ran (So Far Away)” (1982), “Space Age Love Song” (1982), “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)” (1982), and “The More You Live, the More You Love” (1984). They became notable in the 1980s for their video for “I Ran (So Far Away)”. The band has also won a Grammy Award.

The Analysis—-

[It’s Not Me] Talking—-For so many people, this band was all about what appeared as a one hit single and a dramatic flair for hair-do’s and the 1980’s. It is important to note that the first few of the band’s singles helped to usher out the Punk movement…while still encouraging pogo dancing and ushering in the New Romantic period. Despite a bad rap, the band produced many stellar singles such as this. This track is wonderfully wrapped in synth driven mechanic ism and drenched with the robotic vocal from Mike Score. It encouraged dancing by yourself and allowing me personally a new sound that was fresh and innovative. This is so remote and impersonal…it helped define my youth.

Telecommunication—-One of the more aggressive and robotic singles from the band, I can clearly remember the first time I heard this song and how it changed my outlook on the current music landscape. This is both robotic and melodic…driven by synths and the mechanical era..it is a gorgeous precursor to the world we live in today….just listen to it and see how it all relates now.

I Ran [So Far Away]—-I suppose you would have to be dead not to realize the importance and success of this single. The video era helped make this band a sensation based on image…little credit was given to the content of the song…the musicianship and the meaning of the entire damn thing. This …way back then….almost predicted our future. Yes…it is pure pop pleasure as well. The swirling synths and the undeniable chorus….made for a huge single.

Space Age Love Song—-Perhaps for me, one of the most perfect pop songs ever written. The distant but warm lyrics touched me and the swirly synths established a love for 80’s music that has never died. This is pure cotton candy perfection…sad….and touching. A robotic love song made for The Jet-sons. The musicianship is stellar….allowing for drums and guitars to be heard despite the Moog and the keyboards….immaculate.

Wishing [If I Had A Photograph Of You]—-The first single off the second album by the band, this alone proved they were more than just a one hit wonder. Allowing for a bit more warmth in the sound while still remaining true to the mechanical edge, this song has a more human element that brought me even closer to the band. This is a remarkable track…the constant synth line driving the track at it’s own pace while the swirls create a whole landscape of its own.

Nightmares—-Much more aggressive in sound and with a deeper mysterious sound, this was the band at one of it’s finest moments. This is incredibly catchy and adept at capturing the picture of life at the time. Mike Score has never sounded better…the drums are so present in this song as well. The deep reverb on the chorus gives the song a slight sad edge. Just brilliant.

Transfer Affection—-If you can have a love song for the 80’s, than this pretty much sums it up for me. This has an achy quality that leaves you sad and alone but still encourages you to dance….alone. The synths swirl and create it’s own personal atmosphere. This is quality music….too bad it was overlooked as quiche’ by so many.

The More You Live, The More You Love—-Another track that paints a more human side to this band, despite the robotic flavor of the synths there is a real emotional edge to this song. The lyrics will make you sad…but at the same time give you optimism and a purpose for going on. The guitars are more present on this track…the drums seem relegated to an almost kick though…relying on the machine for the rhythm instead….and then in the middle of it all…you hear the propulsion of the drum and realize it was there all along. Fantastic!

Never Again [The Dancer]—-Almost seeming to copy the synth line from the previous track, this track perhaps begins to show the cracks in the bands facade. The melody line of this song is so God-dam infectious though. Mike Score sounds literally brilliant on this and the chorus opens up and fills you with a joy that is unmistakable. Drums….guitars and a melody that will stick in your brain for days.

Remember David—-Listening to this song, you will think that the band took a step backwards…the sound more like the early fodder than the more updated sound three releases in. The vocal is pushed way to the back of the mix…allowing the machines the center stage….not a horrible song, but the production is at the fault here. A great chorus and a noisy backdrop.

Who’s That Girl [She’s Got It]—-Another misstep in the band’s history, this was when everything really began  fall apart within the confines of the partnership. The sound and the song quality suffered as the band faced it’s own implosion. Too bad it had to resort to this. This is not a horrible track…but it lacked inspiration and dedication to the sound the band had made…..it seems like they tried to step backwards….with a disastrous result.

Heartbeat Like A Drum—-The last proper single to be released by the original members of the band before they went their separate ways. This seemed to step away from the mysterious synth sounds of the band and tried to become more dance floor friendly with female backing vocals. This was a terrible song….not sure why it was ever released.

Magic—-More fodder from a band trying to remain relevant despite the proper time for it to all pass. The only standout is the vocal from Mike Score…..his voice is at once recognizable and familiar despite what is playing behind him.

Burnin’ Up—-Released by the revamped AFOS in the early to mid 90’s, this was a favorite album of mine….even if I’m the only one who bought it…lol. It was heavier in synth sound, a bit darker and has a much fuller sound. Score still sounds incredible and I loved this release. The high points of this release were worth the try to once again become relevant. The chorus is magnificent.

Rainfall—-This second single off the last proper AFOS album is incredible….bringing home everything about the band that I loved from the very first footsteps. The melody….the forlorn vocal….the synth. If this was indeed the last swan song…I could never ask for more…this is a beautiful track.

**** out of 5