Berlin / Best Of Berlin 1979-1988

Best of Berlin 1979-1988

Berlin is an American new wave band. The group was formed in Orange County in 1978 by John Crawford (bass guitar). Band members included Crawford, Terri Nunn (vocals), David Diamond (keyboards), Ric Olsen (guitar), Matt Reid (keyboards) and Rod Learned (drums). The band gained mainstream-commercial success in the early 1980s with singles including “The Metro“, “Sex (I’m A…)“, “No More Words” and then in the mid 1980s with the chart-topping single “Take My Breath Away” from the 1986 film Top Gun.

The Analysis—-

Blowin’ Sky High—-For me, Berlin was one of the under-rated and under appreciated bands of the early 80’s. The tight musicianship, combined with the strong and flexible voice of Nunn helped to create a landscape of material and helped the band become mainstays on MTV. Crawford had an unmistakable guitar style that ebbed and flowed around the vocal. This track, never a huge hit…which I don’t understand, has that rhythmic guitar song that drives it to great heights at the chorus aided by super strong drums. This is a standout track.

No More Words—-There is always a remarkable power and slight anger to be found with many of the songs from Berlin. Nunn delivers a huge vocal….full of an underlying rage and betrayal that makes it instantly approachable. The song…full of trademark 80’s synth sounds comes across now as a bit dated. But if you zero in on the vocal and all of the power from the band, you will find yourself hooked all over again. The ‘breaks’ in the song are classic.

Like Flames—-I have never understood the fickle ways of American pop music listeners! For me, this may be one of the best tracks the band ever produced…but it received little or no attention from fans and/or radio. The vocal is so full of emotion…the band plays with a renewed intensity…the hook of the song stays in your brain for days after just one listen. The galloping musical intro of the song is shattered with a ballsy yell from Nunn. The vocal that follows is so strong and filled with emotion…this is by far my favorite track from this band. It literally makes me want to jump up and down and lose control.

 

Take My Breath Away—-Taken from the blockbuster film Top Gun, this track is largely considered to be the reason for the demise of the band. A mega-hit all over the world, it moved from the traditional sound of the band into a sound the rest of the band was uncomfortable with. Berlin was never really known for the ‘love song component’ and this really did not fit the image the majority of the band had set for themselves. I can take or leave this track..it became too huge, too overplayed and too worn out. The vocal is a bit to whispery for me…the arrangement robbed Nunn of that powerhouse alto she had become known for.

Sex [I’m A…]—-The single that primarily brought the band to the forefront of the New Wave movement in the early 80’s, this is laden with a synth line and effects that drive you to the dance floor. The trademark sounds of the song…full of everything that defined the time period, the song was just interesting enough in content to have us all paying attention. The two vocal delivery is really nice and seldom heard from the band. the synth line is straight out of the Moroder playbook. Still plays really well.

Now It’s My Turn—-Driving synth lines introduce the song and finds Nunn delivering another slight wispy vocal that takes a bit to grow on you. there is a strength in the subtle approach she uses, and the double track lay out gives a bit more bolster and power to the song. Not a favorite…but it plays really well with this release. The chorus is catchy and well delivered….combing a perfect mix of drums, guitars and synth lines.

Masquerade—-Another really favorite track of mine, I love the end of the song the most off all…when all the double tracks of the song play at once…giving it an irresistible hook appeal you can’t ever forget. Again, the band finds a brilliant middle ground that is able to deliver fantastic guitars and drums with the requisite 80’s synth sound. The vocal is at the very front of the mix…Nunn truly shines here. A remarkable testament that the band had a true direction and ability to deliver.

 

You Don’t Know—-As the track begins, there is a slight throwback sound to the 60’s style music….it seems to fall away as Nunn begins her vocal. This is a bit of a weak track for me. The sound is less power packed and seems a bit airy to me. I’m glad to have it, but I generally skip over this track.

Matter Of Time—-A nice jaunty synth line opens the track. as Nunn begins to sing in an almost robotic style vocal, it fits perfectly into the 80’s playbook of Pop/New Wave songs of the time. the guitars and drums are much more pronounced and up front in the mix. The chorus is a double track affair that sticks in your head and reminds me of something right off of a Josie Cotton record. This is superb.

The Metro—-Another track that allowed the band to continue stacking up hits and plays on MTV, this is a track that can be found on about every 80’s hits compilation. Recognizable from the very first note, the schizoid synth line is addictive as hell. Nunn delivers a mysterious sounding vocal that as the song progresses really shows the power that she is able to emit. This is addictive…it has that perfect recipe of lyrics…vocals and synth line that still sounds incredible today. A true classic.

Will I Ever Understand You—-Much more powerful and guitar based than the past few tracks, this was the kind of stuff that helped to propel the band past the ‘New Wave’ era of the early 80’s. You can’t listen to this and possibly deny the power packed vocal style that Nunn delivered later in the band’s career. There is such a subtle slight angry edge to her vocal….it is sublime but damn effective.

For All Tomorrow’s Lies—-A bit of a lackluster performance for me here. I much prefer the band when they have that more aggressive sound that attracted me to them in the beginning. This is sappy, syrupy sweet and laden with too much melancholy. The vocal is nice…but lacks a true emotion for me.

**** out of 5

 

The Go-Go’s / Beauty And The Beat

Beauty And The Beat (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

The Go-Go’s are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1978. The Go-Go’s rose to fame during the early 1980s as an all-female band that both wrote their own songs and played their own instruments, rising to the top of the Billboard album charts.

Their 1981 debut album, Beauty and the Beat, is considered one of the “cornerstone albums of US new wave” (AllMusic), breaking barriers and paving the way for a host of other new American acts. When the album was released, it steadily climbed the Billboard200 chart, ultimately reaching No. 1, where it remained for six consecutive weeks. The album sold over 2 million copies and went double platinum, making it one of the most successful debut albums of all time. The Go-Go’s have sold over 7 million records worldwide.

The Go-Go’s broke up in 1985, but reconvened several times through the 1990s and beyond, recording new material and touring. Though their 2016 performances were billed as a farewell tour, the band remains active on a sporadic ad hoc basis, most recently appearing as guests on a March 2017 episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live!.

Beauty and the Beat is the debut album from Californian new wave band the Go-Go’s. Released in 1981 on the I.R.S. Records label, the album was preceded by the single and signature song “We Got the Beat“, which became a massive club hit in Europe and, later, the United States. When the album was eventually released, it steadily climbed the Billboard 200 chart, ultimately peaking at number one, where it remained for six consecutive weeks, ranking second among Billboard’s Top 100 albums of 1982. The LP sold in excess of two million copies and reached double platinum status, making it one of the most successful debut albums of all time. Critically acclaimed, it has been described as one of the “cornerstone albums of American new wave”

The Analysis—-

Our Lips Are Sealed—-There are such remarkable memories in my brain when i hear this song…really, having embraced the New Wave movement as a kid. I fell in line with these girls from the very first listen. This was remarkable…post-pop-punk music from an all girl group that conjured up the beach…the 50’s…the 70’s and the 80’s all in one song. this was a fantastic introduction to New wave…and MTV loved these girls…..Just a wonderful moment.

 

How Much More—-Fully embracing the Beach sound of the huge girl groups of the 50’s. this was addictive as hell for me. The vocal harmonies that are led by Belinda but by the guitar from Jane as well made this an infectious and fum romp through the yesteryear…but a look to the future as well. god…this song had everything.

Tonite—-A bit more aggressive in the guitar delivery. even the vocal from Belinda is more driven. this was really pure pop perfection at the time. I can only try to describe how much stuff like this meant to a kid in the 80’s…this was a whole new world. The song has a dark mysterious element to it…the guitar and the bass line from Weidlin are masterful. This was an is still incredibly well delivered. these girls were not afraid to party…lol

Lust To Love—-Really one of the overlooked songs on this release, it remains a centerpiece for me on the whole release. There is a remarkable dark element to the music and the lyrics..letting you know that this is not all pure fun pop madness. Belinda delivers a vocal that at times is damn dark and menacing. The remarkable magic of the band is still strong…there is a strong pop element to the entire thing…but if you lift the covers and look underneath. you can find the dark and aggression clearly. a pure masterpiece.

This Town—-This was designed to attract everyone from every town…because this song could be about your very home town right? The girls deliver an almost dirty track that is aggressive in nature…but the bass line from Jane gives the entire thing a punk/new wave feel that stayed true to where the girls started. the vocal harmonies almost make it too pretty….the underlying message a but more aggressive than I imagined it back then. This is a pure pop masterpiece…every element…the guitars….the drums…that bass line…the vocal….just incredible.

We Got The Beat—-Meant to be commercial and a massive hit, this kind of steered away from the true message of the band. Of course, it had kids po-going all over the nation. But the song has a dark message to it as well…this fell back into the roots of the band…fast…aggressive and meant to cause mayhem. This is perfect…but I guess I missed the real meaning at the time.

Fading Fast—-Returning to the darker nature of the band….so many of the songs really spoke of Female Empowerment, this is a remarkable track. The vocal harmonies are like a wet dream…never have voices together sounded so incredible. The disappointment that the lyric describes are perfectly transposed in Belinda and her delivery. This is a huge song….the sound…even in 2017 sounds incredible…the harmonies…the bass line…..the drums. This is brilliant.

Automatic—-And again, we keep the concept clear and concise. The dark feel of the song is remarkable…the vehemence that the vocal is delivered with can be no mistake….these might be really pissed off girls…delivering pop mastery set to a wonderful beat. This just shows…that if you trace the roots of the band back to the very beginning….this huge record really never steered far from the original message they were delivering. This is fantastic…..huge…dark…but damn contagious.

You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep [If You Can’t Sleep]—-I love the pop-punk element of this song. The music is jaunty and the joined vocals provide a nice layer to the dark element of the lyrics. The band is so well rehearsed and delivers a stellar performance. Everyone heralds Belinda so much with this band….but damn Jane Weidlin is a fantastic musician. This is a fantastic track.

Skidmarks On My Heart—-Without a doubt, my favorite track on this release. Belinda sounds so damn pissed off when she delivers her vocal. The drums are fucking incredible. The vocal harmonies add a huge feel to the song…but here…yeah…Belinda is the star and she is pissed at the stupid ass Hetero dude….lol.

 

Can’t Stop The World—-Ending the release with the same aggressive pop sensibility that began it, Belinda and the band are in full pogo mode…leaving the sand splashing in your face from the beach as they go in search of the instruments that will make them giants. The drums are fucking magical on this track. Jane and that bass line leads the whole thing…by the end of this classic release…I’m in an exhausted joy.

*****out of 5

Tears For Fear / Rule The World : The Greatest Hits

Rule The World: The Greatest Hits

Tears for Fears are an English pop rock band formed in Bath in 1981 by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith. Founded after the dissolution of their first band, the mod-influenced Graduate, they were initially associated with the new wave synthesiser bands of the early 1980s but later branched out into mainstream rock and pop, which led to international chart success. They were part of the MTV-driven Second British Invasion of the US.

Their debut album, The Hurting, released in 1983, reached number one on the UK Albums Chart, while their second album, Songs from the Big Chair, released in 1985, reached number one on the US Billboard 200, achieving multi-platinum status in both the UK and the US. Their second album contained two Billboard Hot 100 number ones: “Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World“‘, the latter winning the Brit Award for Best British Single in 1986.

Smith and Orzabal parted company in 1991, after the release of their third platinum-selling album The Seeds of Love (1989), though Orzabal retained the Tears for Fears name throughout the remainder of the 1990s. The duo re-formed in 2000 and released an album of new material, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, in 2004. Since 2013, the duo have been working on their seventh album. Tears for Fears have sold over 30 million albums worldwide

The Analysis—-

Everybody Wants To Rule The World—-It is always interesting to look back at the music that helped to form your teen years and see how it stands the test of time in your adult brain. I was disappointed at yet another Greatest Hits record from this band…but it is always nice to hear the classics again. This track is monstrous…melodic and really does manage to stand the test of time. The two voices when joined together are a force. Roland has that remarkable upper register. The synth drive of the song screams 80’s…it is brilliant.

Shout [7″ Edit]—-Laden with every trademark gimmick of classic 80’s pop music, this song..in it’s heyday was an absolute monster. I assure you….it still plays with exquisite flavor in 2017. That classic vocal…the long notes from Roland that adds depths of emotion to the song…still can give you goosebumps even now. This is a remarkable reminder of why the 80’s still live on with a bit of success.

 

I Love You, But I’m Lost—-One of the new offerings that are offered on this release. I listen to this very carefully…looking for the magic that served as the propulsion for the band in the early years. The sound at the onset is dense, giving way to a synth laden happiness that captures my attention. The vocal is a bit odd for me….they sound more like MGMT to me. the chorus is not the huge affair I expected…but the track does not let me down. There is a catchy element to the song that makes me smile somewhere inside my self…I don’t profess pure love…but I don’t hate it either.

Mad World—-I think the key elements of this track were meant to burrow into your cerebellum and just stay there. this is a recipe laden pop song that hits a perfect 10 on every mark. The jungle drums…the static synth line…the guitar line…the beautiful and perfectly clear vocal…the intermittent horns….how can you go wrong here. This is, for me. pure pop perfection.

Sowing the Seeds Of Love—-This for me, was one of the best tracks the band ever produced. the track shows a progression of sound…while still retaining the trademarks that made the band a huge hit. The slight psychedelic feel of the song propelled them further…while the vocal harmonies were stronger and more intact than ever. The horns at the end of the track were incredible. This is a pure masterpiece…a song I never really ever tire of hearing.

 

Advice For The Young At Heart—-I remember when I first heard this song, I though maybe i was hearing a new song from Icehouse or Icicle Works….I was surprised. This is wonderfully layered with that magic emotion the band was able to produce…as well as a chorus that will live with you…even twenty plus years on. This still sounds great…still sounds important as ever…and still plays in my brain like the very first time. Those voices…it’s like magic.

Head Over Heels—-Perhaps the biggest selling single for the band…and the one that sent them way over the top in the 80’s and the video driven world, this still plays as well as it did from day one. The vocals are so strong…the way the band plays off of each other is just pure magic…there is an almost pulley system between the two….where the voice and the guitar strive to be the best. The synth lines are so strong…producing a magical melody that will never leave you alone…this was a pure magical time.

Woman In Chains [feat. Oleta Adams]—-Funny to hear this song with the climate of the nation today. It seems right in line with all of the stuff that seems t be going on. And the vocal guest from the fantastic Oleta Adams is literally heartbreaking and wrenching. This is timely…and should be played everywhere. the soaring vocals give me goosebumps…this is brilliant…way before it’s time.

Change [Radio Edit]—-Another one of those tracks that carries so many familiar sounds of the times. At certain times, the synth line sounds like a pure rip off of Rio from Duran Duran…..but the vocal kicks in and you know this is classic. The long drawn out vocal sounds from Roland gives the song a remarkable emotional quality….even while the instrumentation plays right up in the front of the song. This is brilliant.

Stay—-The second of the two new tracks on this compilation, I find this rather flat and a bit uninspired for my ears. The trademark sounds of the band seem to be largely missing…where is the play of the back and forth between the members. The vocal sounds almost foreign to me….I really do not like this very much….but I’m still glad to have it.

Pale Shelter [2nd US Version]—-This has that nice synth driven sound that is actually aided by the guitar base of the song. I love the vocal…even though it seems almost hollow in this mix. The voice is one of the key elements of this band…and the way they play back and forth with each other. I wonder what would have happened if a band like INXS would have recorded this…..wow….

Mothers Talk [US Remix]—-This has never been a very favorite track of mine….it seemed like the band was really coming apart during this period…adding all kinds of back drop vocals…nor heavy guitars and a distant between Kurt and Roland…you could smell the dissonance between the two here.

Break It Down Again—-Perhaps one of the most aggressive sounding tracks from the band, it is remarkable in melody and truism. The band offers a new bolder sound…but still managed to keep the base of the sound in the song at the same time. this has a nice anthemic quality to it. I really still love hearing this track. Really a nice memory.

I Believe—-Ghostly and full of a magical sadness that still can raise the hairs on your arms, the vocal is so pre and without any effect. The instrumentation has a slight underlying jazz edge to it that lulls you into the lyric of the track…this is so nice to hear….a magical moment.

Raoul And the Kings Of Spain—-Never a favorite track of mine…..I found nothing that was released around this particular period…out side of Sowing that appealed to me. This is so noisy and unorganized to be…like a smash and haberdasher track to satisfy an obligation….ummm….no……

Closet Thing To Heaven—-Again, there are certain elements of this track i really like. but the band seems to have lost a bit of direction here. The sound…the huge sound they always managed to produce…seems to be missing. The chorus is very nice…but the drums are too loud…the vocal sounds a bit weird as well. I like the melody…but where is the key element we love…the back and forth of the vocal and the guitar…..this is not a favorite….

**** out of 5

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Score / Zeebratta

Zeebratta

Michael Gordon “Mike” Score (born 5 November 1957)[1] is an English musician. He is best known as the keyboardistguitarist and lead singer of the new wave bandA Flock of Seagulls. He released a solo album on 1 March 2014 titled Zeebratta.

The Analysis—-

All I Wanna Do—-Let me say right out of the gate, I just ‘discovered’ this solo release the other day…..I was really blown away. I never even knew it existed but since obtaining it, I have indulged at least 50 times. I will never understand why this did not get ANY attention. This opening track is by far what I consider the masterpiece of the release.  This contains every element that made AFOS such a hit in the 80’s. Score delivers a timeless vocal that belies his age. The melody line of the song is contagious as hell. I can’t gush enough about this song…this is pure perfection. Check out the video at the end of the post.

Somebody Like You—-This 2nd track is almost as magnificent as the first. such a strong melody line…aided by the synth from Score produces a classic throwback sound that takes me right into the glorious 80’s. The vocal is clean and crisp and full of emotion. This is a spectacular track that is released back in the band’s heyday would have been a bona fide smash hit. This is brilliant.

Angel—-A fabulous synth line that reminds me of the opening strains of Safety Dance, I still sit here amazed at how crystal clear and perfect Score’s vocal delivery is. This is upbeat…very reminiscent of the glory days…but fresh and showing all the advances in technology.  This is fantastic. There is even a quasi-bagpipe interlude!!!

Xtacy—-Atmospheric and deeper in tone, the synth lines swirls around your head. The vocal is less melodic…almost a spoken word delivery that reminds me of a 80’s Industrial Starter track. Dark and dense….but still fantastic. A great actual guitar solo mid point in the song….Excellent.

The Girl With Black Eyes—-The intro to this track is a bit irritating….the high pitched synth line could easily be omitted. Score delivers a stellar vocal that is magical…once the high pitch disappears and the melody line becomes more apparent, I found myself sucked right back in the mastery of the vocal. The lyrics are intense..the mood dark….just wonderful!

Poor Boy—-More straight forward in the ‘rock sense’, the guitar introduces that song right from the onset. The vocal is WAY removed from the front of the song….placed way back in the mix of shuffling synth lines. This has a lot of layers…which is why I like it so much. This is really nice.

Take Your Time—-A bit of a weaker track, but every release has those right? I love the synth line that runs through the song…the voice is a bit too mellow fro me…I wanted that stronger delivery that attracts me so much. This is still contagious in chorus and melody…and we do get some forceful vocals as the track continues.

I Call Your Name Out—-Delivering an almost trance like feel to the song as it opens up, Score is back in the forefront of the track. This reminds me of material from Story Of A Young Heart. The pulsating beat…mixed with the shuffling synth line gives the song a lot of variety. I like this a lot.

Catsong—-With a gentle reverb filled intro, the vocal is quiet and delivered with a bit of humor to me. This is an odd song for me..it really gives me a different feel…I really think this is about a cat…lol

Home—-This is just brilliant! The swirls of emotions that the synth line produces are incredible…then Score begins to sing…delivering that magnificent dis-embodied feel that makes you feel like he is removed and cold. This has an infectious shuffling quality to the music…and the voice is fantastic. I love this.

Love In—-This has a really nice jaunty feel to it…hand claps and an upbeat flavor that makes you smile. the vocal is a throwback style that reminds me of something I can’t quite put my finger on. This is fantastic…Score seems to be really enjoying this music…that makes everything even better. This has a definite 60’s feel to it…and many references as well.

Money—-A fantastic programmed keyboard line runs through the entire track…giving a very consistent feel to the song. I love that voice…I am just amazed how fresh and wonderful he sounds. This reminds me a lot of classic Depeche Mode…the strange synth and the escalating chorus…I love it.

Valentine—-Again, jaunty and delivery a contagious melody line, this track fits well with the rest of the material on this release. I like the vocal delivery…of course. Score has a way of singing that sounds so sincere…but has a purity to it. The bass line in the song propels it…and the revolving synth line provides the miraculous melody line. The occasional beat breaks in the song keeps everything interesting.

Wasteland—-Sorry to see this release end, hoping that maybe someday, there is still fresh new music inside of the man. This leaves me a bit empty…the song has a desolate and lonely feel to it…but it is still wonderful. There is a bit more guitar noise on this track…a nice surprise….the vocal slow and steady…matching the feel of the lyrics.

****3/4 out of 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

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