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

 

 

 

 

 

Pet Shop Boys / Elysium: Further Listening 2011-2012

Elysium: Further Listening 2011-2012 (2017 Remastered Version)

Elysium (/iˈlɪziəm/) is the eleventh studio album by English synthpop duo Pet Shop Boys. Released on 5 September 2012, it is the duo’s final album with Parlophone. The album was produced during 2012 in Los Angeles by Andrew Dawson and Pet Shop Boys.

As well as the remastered album with original track-listing, the ‘Further listening’ album of additional material features previously unreleased demos entitled ‘Vocal’, ‘She pops’ and ‘In slow motion’, as well as PSB mixes and remixes of ‘Leaving’ and ‘Memory of the future’.

The Analysis—-

Disc One:

Leaving—-From the very first opening strains of this track, you knew that the boys had fully returned to form after a few forays into a bit less that traditional PSB music. Tennant delivers a vocal line that wraps right around the instrumental melody and aided by backdrop vocalists the song becomes even fuller. This is traditional…remarkable and very damn pleasant.

Invisible—-The wonderfully melancholic strains of the song wrap themselves around your head right from the opening notes. Tennant delivers line after line of alienation that is so damn relatable it is almost sad. I love the underlying hum of sadness that runs through the belly of the song…allowing you to submerse fully into the mood of the song. this is a band that seldom does wrong.

 

Winner—-Originally written and performed for the Olympics, this has long been a very favorite track from this band for me. There is a certain empowering and joyous feel to the song….the whole damn affair seems to make me happy and a bit elated. The double track sound to the vocal…and the sing song delivery from Neil gives the song this huge sound.But it is the chorus of the song that truly brings it all into focus….the joy and the happiness is contagious….all the while the low sad hum underneath of everything adds a perfect landscape of a song that should have been HUGE!!

 

Your Early Stuff—-British humor and tongue in cheek delivery is in full effect here. Tennant has a way of delivering self-effacing lyrics that still produce a magical effect. Of course, The Boys must be realizing the length of time of their career and the difference in music as opposed to now and then. this is a wonderful nod to the past and realizing the future. And in the gay world…this takes on a whole new meaning. Tennant has his pulse on human emotions.

A Face Like That—-Building and building, this becomes a stomper right out of the gate. This has the classic Lowe sound to the synth line…full of shuffling beats that are replaced by the rhythmic dance beats that fill a dance floor. Tennant…by now, knows how to phrase and deliver lines that are in tune to the music…this is a wonderful track. The effects from Lowe come at you from all directions. Neil has a vocal that is echoed and removed from the fore-front…but it is still magical.

Breathing Space—-Surprisingly introduced with an acoustic guitar sound, the song is both airy and filled with emotion. Tennant amazes me….this voice never seems to show age or abuse…it is as remarkable as the very first day. when the chorus of this song hits you….the tears threaten the back of your eyes…the emotion comes right through your speakers. Perhaps this is a tale of an aging musician……wonderfully told.

Ego Music—-Delivering a nice break in the more introspective elements of the album, this delivers a nice simple kind of song…un-complicated and delivered with a bit of fun and a nod back to the Very release with the spoken word kind of delivery. Not a favorite…but a nice break….placement is everything. The lyrics speak of the true life of famous musicians everywhere…..classic.

Hold On—-Another huge and joyous song that seems to speak to me in the saddest and most overwhelming of times. The huge choir of voices gives the song an anthemic feel….you can wrap all of your negative energy around it…press play and send it flying out of the window. This is a beautifully constructed, cheerful and empowering track.

Give It A Go—-This opens with a classic Lowe styled synth line that magically gives way to the mellow crooning from Neil. The stark piano that rides on top of the subtle synth line is a PSB magical moment. I love this…it has every element that is required with a PSB track.

Memory Of The Future—-A nice shuffling synth line…..played underneath of a classic Tennant vocal. This track seemed to garner tons of attention from fans….I mean…I like it….but it was never a pure unadulterated favorite from this release. The chorus is huge and addictive…but repetitive and without tons of substance. I like the music more than the vocal…and that is rare with this band.

Everything Means Something—-An odd intro ushers in an almost orchestrated synth feel…..with a steady bass beat in the backdrop. Tennant delivers a vocal that seems less than heartfelt and almost by rote. I never gelled with this 100%. I like the chorus and the way it opens up…it just seems a bit lackluster to me.

Requiem In Denim And Leopardskin—-A classic proper ending to a PSB release. A tongue in cheek nod to the community that buys every minuscule element of the band and a nod to Tennant. This is the gayest track I have heard since New York City Boy…I love all the references and the true understanding of the community that we live in. The chorus is a huge Gay Parade affair that makes me want to dance and proclaim myself at the top of my lungs. A magical moment.

Disc Two:

Vocal [Demo]—-For a so-called Demo, this is well constructed and delivered in classic PSB fashion. There is nothing in the least under-developed about this track. This is a joyous romp through club-land debauchery that makes me happy….allows me to dance all by myself…and fills me with an unmatched joy that only this band can bring. Brilliant!

She Pops [Demo]—-From the very first note, this is literally BRILLIANT. That low mechanical hum that drives the song underneath everything adds to the feel of the song once Tennant begins to sing. This has a nice retro feel that is so damn addictive…I can’t stop listening to it. Why this was not huge is beyond me. This has every single element that constructs a classic synth pop masterpiece.

Inside [Remastered Version]—-Right from the onset, this was a track that I could take or leave. This duo rarely ever steers me wrong…and this is NOT a bad song…but it sounds a bit uninspired and less than driven to me. Even the vocal seems a bit distant to me….not sure what the problem was here…not a favorite.

In Slow Motion [Demo]—-This has such a classic PSB sound to it…it reminds me of every great moment in this career. The lyrics are tender and real…full of emotion and a certain realness. The synth line is true to form..understated enough that they belie emotion in their very delivery. The vocal is as perfect and clear as from day one. A true classic…..

Listening [Remaster]—-Hmmmm….a slow and plodding synth delivery introduces a vocal that sounds a bit empty…until the ‘chorus’ opens up and delivers a slight dark journey through perfect pop music. The synth swells suck me in…the chorus is what makes this masterful…I don’t care for the line to line of the song…but when you get that hook….damn…you are sucked right in.

Hell [Remaster]—-Returning to full on dance mode, there is a nice jaunty feel to this song that sucks you right in from the very onset. Lowe provides enough blips and bleeps to power a space ship. Tennant relies on a slight lazy vocal that seems to fit the mode of the song in a magical way…these two know each other very well. a nice magical moment.

The Way Through The Woods [Long Version]—-Well…..this really struggles to find a place in my memory bank. there is nothing for me that stands out as incredible for me here. I was a bit disappointed…because I never heard this before…but i find it lackluster and that it tries to hard. Not a favorite at all…..sorry

I Started A Joke [Remaster]—-Whomever decided that The Boys should cover this track was a pure genius. This is a spectacular result…the emotions of the original seem to grow even stronger with this version. This is another magical PSB moment. I freakin’ love this cover….it could be huge the entire world over. Tennant delivers a vocal that is so pained and emotional…i actually cry. This is brilliant.

 

In His Imagination [Remaster]—-A huge shuffling and undeniable PSB synth line introduces this track. This is perhaps one of the most brilliant tracks I have never heard from the duo. this is sad…uplifting…emotional…joyous….full on entendres…..dance able……magical…….and wonderfully PSB. I love this track undeniably. That voice! That bass line….that magical quality…..this is wonderful.

Leaving [Believe In PSB Remix]—-Swirls of an almost Soundtrack quality introduce the track that fall away quickly to a deep house dance floor beat. This version begs you to hit the dance floor and become sweaty and trace dance with the magical synth lines….it is so easy to fall into the trance of the vocal delivery. This is magical. I love the breaks and the airy sound of the mix. Quality!

Leaving [Side By Side Mix]—-This offers a much more sonic feel to the song that is obviously designed for DJ mixing and club play….there is nothing new here…except the breaks that allow for extension…..we all have this already.

Leaving [Freedom Remix]—-This is a much. much, much better remix. The galloping beats and the synth sounds that dance from speaker to speaker are fantastic. The Lowe sound replicates an almost Moroder feel to the song that almost makes you wait for Donna to start singing. This takes a track and escalates it to a level that is historic. By far my favorite…this is magical!

Memory Of The Future [New Single Mix]—-What I really like about this remix is that it begins with the chorus in your brain….so it is already laid in there…that magical quality. Even though Tennant delivers the chorus in ‘real time’ it is already in place…..this is brilliant. I have developed a new affection for this track.

****3/4 out of 5

 

 

 

 

Monaco / Music For Pleasure

Music for Pleasure

Monaco was a side project of New Order bassist Peter Hook. Together with David Potts, the only remaining member of Revenge, the band was formed in 1995. The group is best known for the 1997 single “What Do You Want From Me?” and the album from which it was taken, Music for Pleasure, which sold over half a million copies. Hook and Potts currently perform together in Peter Hook and The Light.

The Analysis—-

What Do You Want From Me?—-Of course, I have to admit that the entire reason I fell in love with this band was because it sounded like New Order. There was nothing new from the band and I took it as a substitute. But after numerous listens, you realize the genius of the band…the vocal harmonies, the incredible contagious hooks. The bass is there of course…but the pop fundamentals are incredible…this is a brilliant track…fitting in with the Brit-pop crowd with no problem.

Shine—-Literally, still after all of this time….this song still takes my breath away. At the time this was released….things going on in my life..I felt this track was written just for me. The Hook bass line is present but understated at times…the synth line is magical…the vocal a near Bernard copycat…this still can make me tear up…this is a magical moment for me. The emotional vocal delivery tears my heart out…wow!

Sweet Lips—-The intro to the track is an airy Dance Floor stomper complete with a female singer in the back drop taking things to an even higher level. The unity of voices come together to make it a quasi Gospel stomp through feel good dance floor music. Hook gives the baritone vocal while Potts keeps things light with his magical voice…and then it all comes together to make it a joyous  ‘Come To Jesus’ track that still makes me smile.

Buzz Gum—-The intro to the song sounds like a soundtrack and then becomes a huge Oasis sounding track that somehow manages to still give me goosebumps. The wall of sound is incredible..the Brit pop sound is in place…the feel of the 90’s is everywhere. This is the best song Oasis never sang. The instrumentation is fantastic…Potts sounds so comfortable…this is just wonderful. My God when that trumpet plays at the end…..I’m done!

Blue—-Incredibly beautiful strings open the track…followed by a miraculous lonely vocal from Potts that seems to dig right into my soul. The huge swells of music are just incredible…I sit back and wonder what history would have looked like if New Order had recorded these songs…it would have been historic. This is the saddest and most uplifting track I have heard in years…it reeks of emotion….sadness and the positive. Just a miracle.

Junk—-Not a favorite track of mine, but it fits on this release like a glove. When the synth line kicks in it gives the song a sense of purpose and you feel a bit energized. Hook and his bass line are always there…even if underneath everything that is going on. This is fantastic…I take back my earlier words. Hook has a way of playing bass like few have ever have….the melody is all formed by the deep tones…just incredible.

Billy Bones—-Introducing a slight Ambient sound, the track begins quite airy and atmospheric. Hook enters with his bass line and the Potts delivers a forlorn vocal that brings sadness and desperation to your ears. This is wonderful…placed in just the right spot to make you step back and think about things. I love this.

Happy Jack—–Easy guitar and an addictive bass line come together to produce everything that New Order were not at the time. Potts opens up his mouth and gives his best spot on Gallagher impersonation. For me, I wonder, why was this release not huge? This is a genius of an album. The melody line on this song is as brilliant as anything that was being produced at the time.

Tender—–A bit odd for me….the intro to the song did not catch at first…then the female vocal began and made me think of the other off-shoot band….The Other Two…..lol…always making comparisons right? This is pleasant…I like the feel of it…but it is not a song I turn to on a regular basis.

Sedona—-Swells of music, and the release ends as magically as it began. You can feel the anticipation building as you hear the track forming with the addition of sounds hear and there….when you get those first Hook strings you feel comfortable. The track becomes alive and makes me joyous once again….just in the literal happiness of the feel of the music. A magnificent end to a very over looked release.

*****out of 5

 

 

 

The Shamen / En-Tact

En-Tact

The Shamen (/ˈʃmɛn/SHAY-men) were a Scottish electronic dance music band, formed in 1986 in Aberdeen. The founding members are Colin Angus (born 24 August 1961), Derek McKenzie (born 27 February 1964) and Keith McKenzie (born 30 August 1961). Peter Stephenson (born 1 March 1962) joined shortly after to take over on keyboards from Angus. Several other people were later in the band. Angus then teamed up with Will Sinnott, and together they found credibility as pioneers of rock/dance crossover.

En-Tact is an album by The Shamen, released in 1990. It was the first Shamen album to feature Mr C, and the last to feature Will Sinnott (who died on 23 May 1991). It fused the band’s past psychedelic rock sounds with the rave act it became, developing a style that represented multicultural dance music.

The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

The Analysis—-

Human NRG—-This band, long forgotten by many I’m sure, still finds it’s way to my turntable on a regular basis. The hyper kinetic sound and the addictive electronic melodies were huge for during the burgeoning early House Music days….I fell in love from the first listen and have never left since…even though later material became much more ambient in nature. This track…with the high keyboard tones, the melodic vocal and the understated but hypnotic beats were trademark….classic stuff…it still plays well today.

Progen [Land Of Oz]—-Most people will immediately recognize this track as Move Any Mountain…a huge underground dance hit in the early 90’s. This is hyper kinetic…fast but with a vocal that addictive as hell. The MC that was added gives the band a depth that was missing…this is an incredible song…a footprint in musical history. I love looking back. This laid the framework for bands like Blackbox and C+C Music Factory.

Possible Worlds—-Using a brilliant vocoder before people even knew what one was, this is fantastic. With a slight ambient beat going on underneath the synth line, this is a nice cool-down track for the after party…combining dance and a chill atmosphere the title of the song says it all.

Omega Amigo—-Expanding on the quasi-ambient feel, the track opens with nice synths and a slow pace..but becomes a track that is a favorite of mine. The bass line provides a perfect trance dance rhythm that sucks me in. The vocal is just OK for me…almost too pretty for the song…but it is the music that is the star of the show. There are slight 80’s leanings to the voice that i like…this was a magical time….

Hyperreal—-Really an ambient and airy feel, the song denies the title…lol. This is perfect for those after long night parties at the crib. The vocal is much nicer on this track,,,you fall right into the trace like delivery. This release…in it’s entirety….was truly a masterpiece for the youth of the 90’s who were raving and dropping in…..still fantastic.

Lightspan—-You can almost feel the huge strobe lights and sweaty crowds as this track begins. The staccato vocal is perfect for dancing by yourself like no one cares. I love this…the ability of a band this early in the 90’s to deliver such magnificent technology is awesome. The sound and vocal snippets are perfect for mixing in and out of….just brilliant.

Make It Mine V2.5—-Yet another classic track is you ever perused the dance floors of the early 90’s, this has every fantastic element of The Shaman included on one track. The music…at times can almost come across as angry and ugly…the vocal is literally fantastic…it just seems to float over my head….a brilliant moment in music history.

 

Oxygen Restriction—-With a classic and familiar bass beat at the intro of the track, you have heard it 1000’s of times repeated on rap tracks. The song as a whole is a bit to airy and full f space for me…I was never a true ambient fan…none the less, the song placement is perfect on the record…giving you the needed variety. Really Nice!!

Evil Is Even—-A bit to spacey for my taste, the form of the song takes a very long time to appear and never really becomes much more than a wall of sound and repetitive effects….a downer for me…just not my cup of tea. The quasi African sounds are interesting….but the repetitive nature of the song continues FOREVER!!!

Human NRG [Massey]—-Not differing in a dramatic form from the original, the vocal seems much clearer but the beats sound a bit more muddled. The high tones of the synth with the slight reverb make the track a spacey kind of ordeal..I love the air that magically flows through the underbelly of the song.

Make It Mine V1.3 [Pirate Radio]—-The intro to this remix seems more updated and appealing to the ‘straight’ club crowd that was loving C+C Music Factory and classic New Order at the time. This is a long extended musical version that goes on for a very long time…with just snips of the vocal here and there…a DJ’s dream I suppose…making mixing in and out a bit easier.

Oxygen Reprise V2.0—-Not a noticeable difference in this version. I like the ‘rolling’ synth lines that appear in between the vocal…the hyper beats that play in the background but never take over the song. The vocal seems more sedate….this is preferable over the original actually.

Hear Me O My People [Orbital-Expect Delays]—-Brilliant…..the vocal snippets combined with the static synth lines is just magnificent. I love this track….really forgetting that it was on this release. The track is a huge epic sort that has all of these underlying messages of Apartheid and the urgency of freedom fighters…this is a magnificent track…the message was clear.

****3/4 out of 5

 

 

Pet Shop Boys / Release: Further Listening 2001-2004

 

Release: Further Listening 2001 - 2004 (2017 Remastered Version)

‘Release’, featuring Johnny Marr on guitar, entered the top ten in the UK album charts on its release in 2002. This remastered edition comes with two ‘Further listening’ albums of additional tracks, including unreleased songs ‘Motoring’, ‘The night is a time to explore who you are’, ‘Run, girl, run’ and ‘Reunion’, as well as previously-unreleased John Peel versions of ‘A powerful friend’ and ‘If looks could kill’ and a previously-unreleased cover version of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s ‘Alone again, naturally’ featuring Elton John.

The Analysis—-

Disc One:

Home And Dry—-It was obvious, from the first strains of this track, that this was release going in a somewhat different direction…but change is good for the soul right? The synths are very understated and the guitar playing is very present…something never really heard on a PSB release. It took me awhile to truly embrace this song…but the beautiful voice of Tennant made it easier. This has grown on me over the years.

I Get Along—-For me, this track was perfect from the very first listen. This was, for me, the Boys attempt to embrace the Oasis crowd so prevalent at the moment. This would have been a perfect song for that entity. There is a remarkable brightness to the piano synth line….accompanied by an underbelly of sadness that sucks you in. Neil delivers a wonderful vocal…where he actually sings his way through an entire song. The crescendo on the chorus is just fantastic.

 

Birthday Boy—-A somewhat quaint and touching track. I love the gentle swells of music and the present but understated guitar strums. Neil again delivers a stellar vocal…the man never seems to age…his voice as crisp and clear as the day I first heard him sing. The melody line that runs through the song brings a melancholy feel to the listener…it is very easy to lose yourself in the feeling. The closest they came, at the time, to a Christmas song. Marr delivers a wonderful soaring guitar solo to the song….

London—-For me, this is classic PSB. The vocal play…a slight vocoder delivery is fantastic. I love when Neil really lets his voice soar and sings in that perfect clear voice of his. The song begins subtle but then becomes more lively…helping the fans to feel more at home with the classic Lowe synth sound. I love this track.

E-Mail—-A track that shows it’s age a bit…at the time we were all just becoming so dependent on E-mail for everything. This was timely at the moment…but evolution has dated it. I suppose the sentiment of the song still holds true today. The synth is so understated and simple of this entire CD…but still manages to carry the trademark feel of the band. This is nice to hear again..it’s been awhile.

The Samurai In Autumn—-Right from the onset, the listener feels a bit more comfortable with this track…it has that remarkable Lowe sound to it that literally defines the sound…just as important as Tennant’s vocal. There is always that remarkable sad feeling that runs through the underbelly of every PSB composition. This is a beautifully constructed track…with odd ebbs and flows…but a damn addictive melody line.

Love Is A Catastrophe—-Dense and layered with an emotional melody line that takes place from the first notes. Neil sings with an almost dis-embodied voice at first…then seems to allow his pain to show through. The track has an incredibly lonely feel to it…making you fall right into the despair that is lyrically produced. I really love bands that make me FEEL something. This is brilliant!

Here—-Again, this has a more pleasant and upbeat synth line that is contagious and damn poppy! Tennant phrases his words with such clarity and emotion you truly feel his emotions. The chorus is breath-taking….staying in your head and allowing you to look back on what was a really under-appreciated release at the time. This is a brilliant track. It makes me feel happy.

The Night I Fell In Love—-A wonderfully controversial song at the time it was released, as you know this was an ode to Eminem…without actually coming out and saying so. Tennant delivers a vocal that is almost giddy with enthusiasm….truly speaking of how we all feel about meeting our heroes or whatever..lol. This goes a bit further…but the sentiment is remarkable…I love this memory.

You Choose—-Rounding out the proper release with a track that carries another load of emotional feeling and lyrics. Tennant seems to have been going through something…lol. I like that he is never shy about using the proper pronouns and pretending these intense emotional songs are about women….this is gentle..layered in emotion…but left me wanting something more synth heavy on this release. But it holds up well…after all this time.

Disc Two:

Between Two Islands—-Classic in sound, there is something about the Boys and the sound they have perfected. You can never be mistaken when you hear this band. The somewhat jaunty feel to the synth is really nice. The keyboard produced horns add a body to the song..the lyrical and vocal delivery is the same fare as the proper release….love….wanting love…losing love. This is brilliant.

Searching For The Face Of Jesus—-Sounding a bit more like material from the Release album, there is guitar here…perfectly blended with the synth line that comes and goes. Tennant delivers another higher pitched vocal that to me is remarkable to look back on…it can’t be easy to sing like that. But he is…MASTERFUL…as always.

 

Time On My Hands—-Already included on the Disco 3 release, it is nice to hear this again…simply because it is a huge track. The synth line, the bass…the tempo of the song. This is what the fans crave from this band. This has one of those rare vocal snips from Chris Lowe…and it is addictive as hell. This is a huge romp through Acid House inspired dance…this is a brilliant song. When Tennant adds his voice….it becomes even better!!!

Motoring/Demo—-For me, right from the onset, this is a noisy and somewhat unorganized track. The music that lies underneath the vocal is so erratic and distracting it is hard to pay attention to the lyrics. The chorus…addictive and melodic, saves the track from obscurity. Not a favorite…and that is saying something. This is a band that rarely makes a mis-step.

Love Life—-Fantastic….this has a throwback sound that brings a smile to my face no matter how hard I try to deter it. The music that Lowe supplies is so damn addictive. Tennant seems to float right on top of the synth line…and the back drop vocals gives the song a huge feel. The break in the middle of the song is brilliant….filling the dance-floor in my brain with beautiful boys and wild girls. Magnificent!

Transparent—-Bringing out the vocoder on the vocal again. for me it does work as well on this track. You can hear Sylvia in the backdrop providing a vocal. The music is static and a little erratic. Not a bad song…but the inspiration does not seem sincere.

Sexy Northerner—-Also included on Disco 3, this track is acceptable…at least compared to the previous song. I don’t really understand the British concept of Northerners and such….so this kind of goes over my head. The pace of the song is brilliant…and the magical break in the track makes it standout as it is really unexpected. This is fantastic.

The Night Is A Time To Explore Who You Are/Demo—-I really don’t think I have heard this track before…it has a feeling of unfamiliarity. The vocal is very odd…at the onset it sounds so filtered that you would not even guess it was Neil singing. When the proper vocal comes through, it is a nice melancholy feeling track that breeds an emotional response in my psyche. I like it…but would not pay a lot of attention to it usually.

Closer To Heaven/Slow Version—-A track from the Nightlife release, this has been floating around for a really long time…not sure the necessity of it being included here. I like this version…the subtle piano synths are addictive as hell. The vocal is brilliant…to me the entire Nightlife release was a damn masterpiece. Just not sure why this is on here…..

Run, Girl, Run/Demo—-This track sounds perfectly at home on this collection. The synth lines are familiar and the vocal from Neil is literally breathtaking. There is perfection in this band, and generally they never make a mis-step. This is a brilliant, melancholy, emotion layered track that suck me right in. Masterful!

I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today—-When I listen to this, I automatically think of The Beatles right from the onset…that guitar line is right out of the sound book. When the chorus breaks in…I promise you…you will be singing this song for days. it is a perfect recipe of PSB sounds and a throwback joyous feel of shiny pop mastery. This is brilliant!

 

Always—-Falling back into the more ambient feel of the Release mood B-sides, this is moody has has a lot of dark corners. Tennant delivers a sad and lonely vocal that lies on top of the Lowe synth line and wraps around you like a warm blanket. It is easy to get wrapped up in the emotion of these songs….the ability to transport emotion is remarkable.

Home And Dry/Ambient Mix—-This version of the song is less guitar based and much darker and moody in tone. I actually prefer this version over the original..it falls easily into the PSB catalog than the other. This has a lot of ‘air’ to it…it allows for more emotion and layers of feeling. This is brilliant.

Bright Young Things/Demo—-You can tell….from the very first strains of the song, that this was recorded during the proper sessions of Release. It carries a very familiar synth line…and a familiar emotional feel to the track. This is really nice…not sure that I have heard this…this is spectacular. I have often said…some of the B-sides this band produces are even better than the A-sides…how do you choose? This is wonderful.

Kazak—-This is much needed at this point! This song travels! The speed of the synth line is spectacular…making me want to jump up and lose control. This is brilliant…the energy is literally infectious. I love it. This is a Lowe masterpiece…he always delivers these odd romping tracks that Neil tries to wrap his vocal around…this needs nothing else….just the joyous romp through abandon!

A Powerful Friend/John Peel Version—-This as well…contains an infectious 80’s inspired synth line that fills me with joy and youthful abandon. Tennant delivers such a strong vocal….this is a fantastic surprise. I love the energy…the lyrics…well…we can all relate to that. This is brilliance!

If Looks Could Kill/John Peel Version—-I think this original is also included on Disco 3….but this is different enough to recapture my attention. The feel of the song is different than other versions I have heard before. I love the high vocal and the flowing and romping synth line that Lowe produces. This is wonderfully delivered. I love these guys.

Disc Three:

Try It [I’m In Love With A Married Man]—-ALSO taken from Disco 3….why did I buy it? This is a wonderful track…but I don’t need all of these copies of the same song. The sentiment is almost hilarious…but very relatable to anyone who has been in this position. Kudos to Neil for singing such a blatant track.

Here/PSB New Extended Mix—-Huge addictive synth lines…the kind of ‘remix’ that is a DJ’s wet dream, this has many opportunities to mix…remix….and bring everyone crashing back down in a sopping sweat filled pile. This is brilliant….I love the energy…I love that the melody line NEVER disappears….wish the vocal was more fore front. Mid track the classic vocal lines appear…I love that phrasing.

If Looks Could Kill—-I’m not going to say it again…yes this is a redux…fans already have this. Its pleasant enough…it fit perfectly in the hyper-kinetic energy of Disco 3…I would prefer something else besides redux music. I’m OK with it though…or not.

A Powerful Friend—-Huge swirls of atmosphere…..a wonderful vocal all come together out of the silence and tell a tale of something many of us can relate to. When the swirls of dark fog swirl around the song it just fills me with awe. The slight beat emerges from the dank feel…but never loses the feelings of disdain and helplessness…..this is brilliant!

Party Song—-Hyper-kinetic synth lines with a slight distortion added clear the way for Tennant to come out and invite you to the party. The way he sings/talks is phenomenal here. There are nice back tracks that fill out the track. This is fun and perfect as a filler song late at nite…I love this.

No Excuse/Demo—-i’m not so sure I’m too familiar with this track. This is dark at the onset…but seems to beg to open up as it progresses. Neil enters with a static vocal…it slowly takes shape as it develops. I like this…but this is really a bit odd for me. I like the chorus part of the song…but I would pass this up.

Blue On Blue—-With a intro synth line that sounds like Love To Love You Baby, this captured my attention right away…the familiar line comes and goes but drives the song. The vocal seems pushed to the back and comes across as ‘removed’ from the song…it is the music that is the star of this track….really great.

Jack And Jill Party/Demo—-This has a very familiar feel to it…at the onset it reminds me of If Looks Could Kill…..then it becomes a bit more static. I really dislike the vocal on this song….it is too high…removed from the front of the song and falls flat for me.

Baby/Demo—-Swirling around your head and filled with that classic trademark vocal from Neil, this is a perfect song. I love the Erasure style synth line…and how the beat and energy never drowns out the voice. This is wonderful…I’m smiling again.

Flamboyant/Original Demo—-Outside of the B-side Screaming, I believe this may be my favorite PSB track ever. Why this was never released as a proper single is beyond me. It has everything…an irresistible melody…a remarkable lyric and vocal…this for me is a pure masterpiece of music.

 

Miracles—-I enjoy this track…but it was really a mystery why this was released as a single instead of Flamboyant. I guess the content and the lyrics are more acceptable. The song…after numerous listens has become a nice part of my playlist..it does indeed contains that magical hook and synth line…the construction of a perfect pop song.

Flamboyant/7″ Mix—-There is little to add to what I consider one of the most perfect PSB songs ever recorded. There is a great musical line…a vocal that is beyond compare…lyrics full of irony and hilarity…and realism. This for me is a masterful song.

Numb/Demo—-A track that would find it’s perfect place on the Fundamental release, the demo version is as dark and magnificent as the version that landed on the album. This is a masterful song…allowing you to really feel everything that you might be feeling currently in your life. This can make me cry at the right time…or happy as well…that is the sign of a masterpiece.

In Private/featuring Elton John—-Perhaps one of the most brilliant pairings in pop music, this is a perfect storm of talent. The sentiment of the song is clear…the delivery is cataclysmic. These two phenomenal musical entities created a masterpiece I will never stop listening to. This is brilliant!

Alone Again, Naturally/ featuring Elton John—-Anyone who grew up in the 70’s can easily recognize this song….to consider these two artists tackling it is momentous. I love this version…the emotion…the feeling…the new fresh synth feeling from Lowe…this is a magical moment.

Reunion/Electro Mix—-Not really what I would call Electro, the song is still pleasant and addictive in delivery. I love the vocal…as always….Neil sounds masterful. I consider the music a slight bit downbeat…but it is addictive none the less. Really like having this.

Bright Young Things—-Really dense and intense in tone, I like the intricate synth lines that wrap around the vocal from Tennant. This is wonderfully delivered….the mood swings are subtle enough to provide interest that never ebbs. A favorite of mine…it has an epic feel.

We’re The Pet Shop Boys—-This song has been floating around for a bit…so it is not new and fresh for me….but I like the delivery here…the deep and dense feel of the synth is like the sun coming out in a storm…it develops right before your eyes. This is almost perfect…I love how Neil literally croons….magical.

It’s A Sin/Electro Mix—-I am surprised…I don’t recall ever hearing this version before! This is incredibly fresh and sounds updated…I love this. I love the swirls of music…the slight crashes and the escalating synth line…Brilliant.

*****out of 5