A Flock Of Seagulls [With The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra] / Ascension

Ascension

Ascension is the sixth studio album by the band A Flock of Seagulls, and was released on 6 July 2018.[1][2] It is the first album since 1984’s The Story of a Young Heart that features all four original members. It contains twelve songs (eleven from the first three albums and one new song) rerecorded with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Analysis—-

I Ran—-Let me say, first off, as a die-hard fan of this band from the very first day, I met this project with trepidation and the slight dread of a possible disaster. Joyously, I announce that this release is a triumph….a return of magic and a new appreciation for old songs I never tire of. Of course, the most famous song of the 80’s, what could you do to improve on it? Wait 35 years…..add oboes…strings and horns and the ageless voice of Mike Score…..that’s what. This is just magical…the song retains every key element as the original…but is even larger in this format. This is really incredible. Like time has never passed.

Modern Love Is Automatic—-This orchestrated version bolsters this track, but still manages to keep the quasi-pop-punk sound of the original. The swirls of the added instruments make the song so much larger…the crisp recording when listened to in headphones, transports you into some other world. Mike Score sounds so good on this recording…no altering of the vocal…no down key delivery….the enunciation is even better than the first go around. This is just fantastic.

Telecommunication—-One of my very favorite tracks from this band…I approached this with caution. But there was no need….the slight re-working makes it faster and edgier than even the original…and back in the day, we thought this song was really something. The jaunty strings and drums from the Orchestra are incredible. This is just a moment in time not to be forgotten…wish everyone could hear this release.

Space Age Love Song—–This has been ‘re-produced’ in the most fantastic fashion possible. I actually prefer this version over the original and countless re-recordings. This is epic…in sound…delivery and spirit…..I can’t say enough good things about this….check out the video at the end of this post….please!!!!

Ascension—-This instrumental is the only new track on this release, but it gives me hope for the future. while it can’t come close to DNA…it still has a very nice updated sound and is catchy to my ear…especially with all he added string…pomp…and circumstance.

Wishing [If I Had A Photograph]—-This remains pretty true to form as the original….there are momentary swirls of grand music…but the song remains remarkably untouched….Score…sounding a bit strained here but still masterful and true to form. You catch every word…his enunciation is so much better these days. A remarkable rendition.

Nightmares—-True to form, the strings that are added to this track manage to make things even more dramatic than originally planned. Score sounds fresh and remarkable in his delivery….the synth lines are still there…..bolstered by the slight swells of strings and woodwinds. This is fantastic.

DNA—-Always a very, very favorite instrumental of mine, I consider this almost pure perfection in the pop world of instrumentals. This remains true to form but becomes even larger and more magnificent. The release would not be complete without this included…after all…this 2:30 won the band a Grammy. Pure magic.

Electric—-This at times, sounds a bit watered down to me…but it was never on my top 10 list. I like the energy of the whole damn thing….I can only imagine that the Orchestra must have had a blast with this recording…it just sounds like fun. The vocal is a little removed….but still sounds like it did 30+ years ago.

Transfer Affection—-This rendition is pure magic. The mellow feel of the song is bolstered by the strings that lie in the background of the song….there are subtle horns that give a body to the song. Meanwhile the synth line remains in overdrive…but never overpowers anything. This is a perfect meld of classic and current coming together to create quite a moment. I will listen to this over and over.

The More You Live, The More You Love—-This track becomes quite literally epic with the strings and the swells of the symphony. The synth line rides on top of the swells of music….but the pieces fit together like a well cut jigsaw puzzle. this was a recording meant for this type of treatment. This is another real high point on this recording….just magical.

Man-Made—-This rendition of the song becomes even darker and melancholy…more ominous and havy on your brain with this recording. The original was always pretty deep in sound and intense….this just grows with the added instrumentation. Another really stand out track on this release. It is amazing how the future has come to pass 30 years on…..maybe the band knew what they were doing after all. This is a must have recording if you are a fan of this band or the 80’s!

***** 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Sigue Sigue Sputnik / 21st Century Boys-The Best Of Sigue Sigue Sputnik

21st Century Boys - The Best Of

Sigue Sigue Sputnik were a British new wave band formed in 1982 by former Generation X bassist Tony James. The band had three UK Top 40 hit singles, including the song “Love Missile F1-11” and “21st Century Boy”.

The Analysis—-

Video Trailer Mix—-I suppose this small intro is to remind us that SSS were above all else a multi-media experiment and a very visual band. As I recall, they were the first and probably only band to sell commercials that appeared in between songs on the first proper release. This mash-up of songs basically prepares us for what is ahead.

Love Missle F1-11—-Perhaps the bands best known work, this Moroder produced single embodies the late 80’s sound with spacey synths, sound effects…manipulated vocals and a constant familiar guitar from Tony James. The track is an extravaganza of sound and textures and still plays very well today.

Hack Attack—-The synth line that runs through the under belly of this track seems very Moroder inspired also, reminding me of some classic Disco songs from the late 70’s. The effects are all over the place…the song moves from speaker to speaker in an extravaganza of sound and constant effects. The vocals are almost done in a dub manner….hit and miss with the effects really being the star of the show. This really does sound excellent in headphones and once again is rather timely.

21st Century Boy—-A huge single for the band overseas, this band was never really a well-known entity here in the states. The musical track is a bit noisier…with James really adding more guitar than usual. The effects are all in place…the music from this band rarely deviated from the very first single…so every track suffers a bit from the ‘sameness’ effect. The hits package almost plays like one very long song. It is the innovation that is remarkable.

Buy EMI—-This track really does have a bit of a different sound to it, although the band never steers to far from the trademark sound. With a nod to their record company EMI, this almost reminds me of something Gen. X might have done. There are some nice chord changes in the song that mix up the sound but the synth line is always present. I rather like this track.

Rockit Miss USA—-With a fantastic spoken word intro….including a cameo from Clint Eastwood, the band quickly falls back into familiar territory that mimics the earliest sounds of the band. The effects very upfront…the vocal effects bouncing back and forth and the far back guitar from Tony James always present…seeming to play the same melody over and over. This is not a bad track, but the sound is so predictable. There is little room for variance with this band.

Teenage Thunder—-Coming back at you with the predictable synth line, the vocal begins a bit more subdued and pushed to the back of the mix. The guitar is more present and a bit varied than on previous tracks…this almost plays like a modern synth punk rock track. I love this song.

Suicide—-Darker at the onset, this has a slight different heavier synth line if you will. The low hum that runs through the track gives everything a darker feel. The vocal is again in a dub style that floats behind all of the effects…and the guitar sounds fuzzier and more intense. Not a favorite…rather tedious to get through.

Massive Retaliation—-Borrowing a huge bass line from the rap world, a synth line that reverberates your head and a beat that is different from previous tracks makes for a really great track. This envelops all of the classic sounds of the band but with the use of sampling gives us something really large and different. I had forgotten about this song….really fantastic!!!

Sex Bomb Boogie—-With a really nice guitar intro, the song quickly dissolves back into the familiar and constant synth that plays through most every song from this band. The lack of variance is a bit tedious…but the effects that are layered upon layer make things tolerable. This is a chore after a few songs…but the whole concept of the band was rather brilliant.

Success—-This is so much jauntier, if you will. The synth line is huge and encourages a mass of voices to sing along with the almost joyous feel of the song. This is brilliant…..the pace of the song is increased and the movement is incredible…I really love this track…another song I had almost forgotten about.

Frankenstein Cha Cha Cha—-Another track that offers a nice guitar intro before dissolving into the familiar synth line, this seems to be the same song that we heard earlier with different lyrics. The track plays almost exactly like Sex Bomb Boogie…but the words are a bit different. The chorus is a nice affair…but the self rip-off is evident.

Dancerama—-This has a darker more ‘revolving’ synth line that is quieter and a bit different for the band. To say this is subdued is an understatement. This is nice production placement…it serves to break up the ‘sameness’ effect from this band….allowing you a cool down and a look at the more introspective part of the band. Tony James gives a nice guitar solo mid-point…this is nice.

Barbrandroid—-With a futuristic intro, the classic voice that did all of the commercials for the band introduces the song. This is again, more subdued and sedate with that swirling synth line that makes you think of Moroder and Summer. The deep spoken word is throughout the track and this has a more chill, experimental feel to it. Again, the song placement is brilliant…really breaks up the release.

Albinoni vs. Star Wars [Part I]—-Light and airy at the onset, this is again a bit more low key and filled with huge atmospheric synths that almost sound orchestrated. The airy feel and the light pleasant melody is in sharp contrast to the earlier things we have heard on this release. This plays like a film score….freakin’ brilliant. Mid point is the Tony James guitar…but it never takes from the airy and intense feel of the track.

Albinoni vs. Star Wars [Part I & II]—- Not differing from what we heard on the previous track, I would have rather they included Jayne Mansfield instead of a redux of this track…until the midpoint of the song! It becomes alive and sounds like every fantastic 80’s band that you keep hidden from your friends. This is brilliant…a nice mix of trademark sounds and a laid back mellow sound that you can really listen to over and over again. Fantastic!

Rio Rocks—-Returning to full throttle SSS sound, the synths are back in full swing. The track sounds a bit under produced…the crisp sound with all of the effects are not as present. This plays like a rather dated punk rock anthem that you can sink your teeth into. This is a lot of fun and a bit dated….but still sounds fantastic!

Aliens—-Again, the synth line on the opening of this track is much brighter and less muddled with mass effects…..giving the band more substance and to me credibility in the talent that was there. This is lighter and with more air…..building and building with an almost pretty melody line.

Love Missle F1-11 [Westbam Remix Short Version]—-Removing the loud synth line, this remixed version makes the song a bit more dance floor friendly with the predominate bass line and allowing for contrast between this and the original. I much prefer this…the mid point of the song becomes very alive with a fuzzy synth while removing the vocal to the back of the mix. This is outstanding!

Sputnik Advert—-Just  a short advert for EMI…..classic SSS!

**** out of 5

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

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

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

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

The Analysis—-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**** out of 5

Devo / Freedom Of Choice

Freedom Of Choice

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

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

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

The Analysis—-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**** out of 5