THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF MARC ALMOND (Part 35-40)

And so to the last of this run through of the solo singles issued over the past 35 years by Marc Almond. One thing for sure, you can never accuse him of churning out the same old stuff, time after time…..

(35) Scar
(36) Pleasure’s Wherever You Are
(37) Bad To Me
(38) Demon Lover

(All taken from the 2015 album, The Velvet Trail)

The Velvet Trail is the twentieth solo studio album by the British singer/songwriter Marc Almond. It was released by Strike Force Entertainment / Cherry Red Records on 9 March 2015.

The Velvet Trail is Almond’s first album of original material since Varieté in 2010. It was produced by Christopher Braide and features a duet with Beth Ditto of indie rock band Gossip on the track “When the Comet Comes”.

Almond had previously stated that he would no longer record albums of original material following Varieté, calling that album “a kind of swansong”.He subsequently recorded a number of albums outside of the pop genre which mostly featured songs written by others. During this time he was approached by Braide, known for his work with pop artists such as Lana Del Rey, David Guetta and Britney Spears, who urged Almond to make “the ultimate Marc Almond album”Braide was a longtime fan of Almond and had in fact worked with Almond before, unbeknownst at that point to the singer. Almond explained the situation to Simon Price of The Quietus, stating “it was only afterwards that I realised where I knew Chris Braide from: he’d sung backing vocals on the Soft Cell reunion album Cruelty Without Beauty, and I’d passed him in the corridor”. Braide lured Almond back into songwriting by sending him three instrumental tracks, “hoping to change his mind about retirement”, a plan that worked when “all three were met with resounding enthusiasm”. They continued to work in this manner until the album was completed.

(39) A Kind Of Love (from the 2017 album, Hits and Pieces)

Hits and Pieces was a 35-track compilation of singles covering his entire career, and included Soft Cell hits and collaborations. A Kind Of Love was a new track, one which has been described as “three effortlessly breezy minutes that hint at Almond’s past the ‘light summery psychedelic sounds’ on that mid-60s transistor radio, the Northern soul scene that inspired Soft Cell to cover Tainted Love and What! without really sounding much like anything Marc Almond has recorded before.”

(40) How Can I Be Sure (from the 2017 album, Shadows and Reflections)

From The Line of Best Fit website:-

A title like Shadows and Reflections might make this album sound like a contemplative take on an illustrious three decades for synth pop pioneer Marc Almond, but it is certainly not a retrospective.

Recent success with his Hits and Pieces took care of previously released material; Shadows and Reflections is pure Almond, back on form and seemingly loving every moment. In fact, his new LP demonstrates that despite celebrating his 60th year in 2017, Almond has lost none of his heart stopping irony or youthful dramatic exuberance for mining 1960s back catalogues to create an astonishingly contemporary sound.

The songs on Shadows and Reflections were written or recorded by some of the most influential names in music over the last 50 years; veritable pop royalty including the likes of Burt Bacharach, The Action, The Yardbirds, Bobby Darlin, Julie Driscoll, Billy Fury and the Young Rascals. This impressive list alone stands testament to the reach and considerable influence Almond still wields after more than 30 years in the music industry.

Almond has never been one to shy away from theatrics, and so Shadows and Reflections is a showgirl of an album with sardonic delight bursting from under the petticoats of each baroque-styled pop song. As well as anthemic favourites such as Young Rascal’s “How Can I Be Sure” and gothic pop The Herd’s “From The Underworld” there are also new original compositions that provide “Overture” and “Interlude” to the performance.

When the curtain closes with yet another Marc Almond original “No One to Say Goodnight To” – composed and orchestrated by long-time collaborator John Harle – the dream is over and the tears can begin. For ultimately, in true Almond fashion, this musical nod to 1960’s Italian cinema is as much tragedy as comedy. The real tragedy however would be not to check it out.

And that final line is what I hope some of you will have been doing over the past few months of this series. Marc Almond is, very much, someone who should be in all your record collections and to a greater extent than you likely have.

My huge thanks to those of you who have dropped in to leave comments during this particular series – and yes, Echorich, there were times when I felt I was writing solely for your pleasure but that in itself was something of an honour and far from a chore.

Next up for the Sunday spotlight????  Ah…..you’ll need to tune in next week to find out…..

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #165: JONNIE COMMON

This is how his PR agency sells him:-

Jonnie Common is a Scottish songwriter, producer and performer known for making catchy, digestible pop songs from strange sounds and subjects. With his own special blend of electronic apparatus, acoustic instruments and field recordings, this is an artist who doesn’t quite fit into any box perfectly and that’s just how he likes it.

As you can see from his website, he’s been part of the music scene around these parts for about a decade.  He first came to my notice via favourable noises being made by Matthew, from Song by Toad Records and given he’s a man with fairly impeccable taste, I was soon paying attention.

Jonnie Common is another performer, akin to Adam Stafford, who makes great music on record but is best enjoyed in the live setting.  Given we are in mid-June, it makes sense to have this song, from the 12″ split single that was released on Song, By Toad back in 2014:-

mp3 : Jonnie Common – Summer Is For Going Places

JC

ANOTHER OLD SCOTTISH BAND DEBUTING ROUND THESE PARTS

Turning again to the Big Gold Dreams box set for inspiration and shining a light on Boots For Dancing.

The fact that this Edinburgh band, who were around initially from 1979 – 1982, didn’t appear in the alphabetical rundown of the Scottish songs that appears here most Saturdays is the perfect indicator that I didn’t, until the purchase of the box set, have anything by them in the collection.

Wiki advises that:-

The band was formed in late 1979 by Dave Carson (vocals), Graeme High (guitar), Dougie Barrie (bass), and Stuart Wright (drums). Showing influences from the likes of Gang of Four and The Pop Group, they signed to the Pop Aural label for their eponymous debut single, receiving airplay from John Peel. In the next two years, the band had more line-up changes than releases, first with ex-Shake and Rezillos drummer Angel Paterson replacing Wright, to be replaced himself by Jamo Stewart and Dickie Fusco. Former Thursdays guitarist Mike Barclay then replaced High, who joined Delta 5. The band also added ex-Shake/Rezillos guitarist Jo Callis for second single “Rain Song”, issued in March 1981. Callis then left to join The Human League, with no further line-up changes before third single “Ooh Bop Sh’Bam” was released in early 1982. Barrie then departed, his replacement being ex-Flowers/Shake/Rezillos bassist Simon Templar (b. Bloomfield), and ex-Josef K drummer Ronnie Torrance replaced the departing Fusco and Stewart (the latter forming The Syndicate). The band split up later in 1982.

Between line-up changes, the band recorded two sessions for John Peel’s BBC radio show, in 1980 and 1981. In 2015 they reformed and released The Undisco Kidds, an album of recordings from the 1980s.

An article in The Herald newspaper at the end of 2015, presumably to coincide with the band reforming and the release of The Undisco Kidds , expanded somewhat on this rudimentary information, including the observation that while they weren’t alone in enjoying and benefiting from the patronage of John Peel, they transcended the norm for the simple fact that the DJ was on record as saying they were one of the few bands whose music was liable to persuade him on to the dance floor.

Boots For Dancing were an unusual act, and judging from the constantly changing line-up, one which lived off a fair bit of creative tension. The constant presence throughout was Dave Carson, whom the Herald article describes as ‘frontman, vocalist, proto-rapper and mean mover’ It also refers to the 2015 album, which brings together tracks from the Peel sessions and mostly previously unreleased material from 1981, and gives it high praise:-

“The variety in the music is terrific, ranging from the foot-stomping chants of Get Up and Ooh Bop Sh’Bam that grew straight from that eponymous punk-disco debut, to the lounge supper club jazz aesthetic of Style in Full Swing and South Pacific and culminating in the uncategorisable Bend and Elbow, Lend an Ear. While the skill of the young musicians develops in provocative directions, the common thread is Carson’s way with an ear-catching lyric, cheerfully plundering a hinterland of showtunes, gospel and r’n’b for memorable phrases to repurpose.”

The track on Big Gold Dream is their third single, dating from 1982:-

mp3 : Boots For Dancing – Ooh Bop Sh’Bam

Upon hearing this, I have a feeling that I danced to it a few times back in the days at the Student Union – I probably went to the trouble of finding out who the song was by but wasn’t interested enough to take it further by seeking it out in a record shop. Kind of says more about the real narrowness of my tastes at the time than anything else.

Here’s the Talking Heads-esque b-side of the single:-

mp3 : Boots For Dancing – Money (Is Thin On The Ground)

And here’s a link to where you can pick up a copy of the 2015 album.

JC

THIS MIGHT STIR UP A DEBATE……

Another scroll down through the list of bands who have featured previously on T(n)VV reveals that this will be a debut for The Go-Gos.

It’s no real surprise as they were a band that never really appealed to me all that much in my late teens when they were at their peak.

The Go-Gos formed in Los Angeles in 1978 but were initially better known in the UK thanks to them spending much of 1980 over here, releasing this single on Stiff Records.

mp3 : The Go-Gos – We Got The Beat

This would have been my first exposure to their sound, but I was quite lukewarm about it, not buying into any suggestion that they were a new wave act….they seemed far too pop orientated for that.

The Stiff single didn’t do all that much and the band moved back to LA, going through a personnel change on bass guitar, and finding themselves being courted by I.R.S. Records for whom they signed in April 1981 and subsequently going into the studio to record the debut album.

The five piece now consisted of Belinda Carlisle (lead vocals), Jane Wiedlin (rhythm guitar and backing vocals), Charlotte Caffey (lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Gina Schock (drums, percussion) and Kathy Valentine (bass, backing vocals). The first fruits of their labour became their debut single in the USA:-

mp3 : The Go-Gos – Our Lips Are Sealed

It went Top 20 in the States but was a relative flop in the UK where the most interesting thing stemmed from it being written jointly by Jane Wiedlin and Terry Hall. The duo were quite coy about it all, merely saying they had been able to work together when The Go-Gos had supported The Specials on an American tour in 1980. It later transpired that they had a brief affair but nothing was said at the time as Hall had a girlfriend back home. It’s a fine enough record, certainly with much more to offer than the plodding and basic We Got The Beat, but it was later blown away when Hall did his own version with Fun Boy Three, taking it all the way into the Top 10 in the UK and giving us one of the defining moments of his illustrious career.

What happened next to The Go-Gos was a huge surprise in that a re-recorded and very light version of We Got The Beat, having been released as a single by I.R.S. some six months after the debut album Beauty and The Beat hit the shops, became a huge hit in the States, getting to #2 on the Billboard charts, only being kept off the top spot by I Love Rock n Roll, the clichéd almost cartoon rock number by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts.

I had to laugh at the way the USA went mad for The Go-Gos. The video for We Got The Beat was a big player in the success, enjoying heavy rotation on the fledgling MTV station. It was one of the few promo films to feature home-made talent and of course it was tailor made for the teen audience with girls wanting to be as cool as the band members and boys, well let’s not go there…….; the fact that the song was so dull, insipid and limp was quietly ignored as the LA-based music moguls splashed around in desperation trying to find something that could be promoted to those whose prejudices were such that anything coming out of the UK was by weirdos and for weirdos,

And yes, I know it’s a bit of a two-faced position that I’m taking for seeming to suggest that all American new wave was dull and worthless when that’s clearly not the case. But it’s certainly my take that anything badged ‘new wave American’ which sold in decent amounts was corporately bland and nothing as innovative, exciting or challenging as what was happening here on my wee island.

It’s also interesting to look back and see that the initial reception afforded to the release of Beauty and The Beat wasn’t all that great, but history has been re-written somewhat to take account of the millions upon millions of sales it realised and the fact that it did show an all-female group, playing their own songs, could actually make a fist of things and not rely on the tunes of others.

The Go-Gos released two more albums – Vacation (1982) and Talk Show (1984), both of which went Top 20 in the USA. Interesting to note that other than Vacation managing one week at #75, none of their albums dented the UK charts….they were very much a band whose appeal didn’t cross the Atlantic all that well.

The band split in 1985 since when they have reformed, broken-up and reformed again on a number of occasions, with 2018 allegedly having been of the farewell tour, with summer dates across their home land.

Belinda Carlisle became a household name in the UK in 1987, thanks to the huge success of the awful power-pop effort Heaven Is A Place On Earth, thus ensuring she will always find a place somewhere on the bill on the festivals which make up the nostalgia circuit (sadly, many of my own favourites from the 80s are often alongside her). Of the others who were in the 80s version of the band, Jane Wiedlin was the only one to enjoy any solo success in the UK, with a one-off hit pop single in 1988….a song which is, by a fair distance, my favourite thing Go-Gos related:-

mp3 : Jane Wiedlin – Rush Hour

But having just listened to it for the first time in decades, it’s fair to say that it hasn’t aged well!!

I’ll admit this is an unusual posting from me, in that it’s not the most glowing or positive of things. Some of you out there might agree with my sentiments, but I’m thinking many of you will not. I’d be more than happy to redress the balance with another posting if someone wants to put together a few words in support of The Go-Gos. If not, then this is likely to be their first and last appearance on these pages.

JC

HEAR YE, HEAR YE, HEAR YE…..

I think I’ve mentioned this before on the blog, but I know for certain that any of you who are in the unfortunate position of reading my Facebook postings (under my Sunday name of James Clark) will be aware that I have certain responsibilities at any home matches for Raith Rovers FC, not least pulling together the pre-match music and shouting excitedly and incoherently over the tannoy system whenever we score a goal.

I’ve just finished my second season in the role of ‘Assistant Matchday Announcer’, having been asked by the bloke who has been doing things more or less on his own for 20 years to give him a helping hand and to work as a team in improving things for fans on the day, particularly pre-match and at half-time when he has pitch side duties.

I haven’t gone the whole hog and made all Stark’s Park experience akin to a visit to this blog – to do so would be an invitation to get fired.

It’s all about balance, trying to blend popular/populist tunes of vintage and modern eras of all genres with the remit to being to play ‘upbeat music’, and trying to crank up an atmosphere, particularly in the final minutes before kick-off. On some occasions, the musical choices are taken out of my hands as the club occasionally decides on a particular theme for a day and asks fans to make song suggestions along such lines – although I do get round this a wee bit by submitting my own suggestions but attributing these to the names of some of the TVV regulars – Drew has had his name used on at least three occasions and there’s probably someone in the club offices searching for his address to try and get him to take up a season ticket. I also have no qualms about using Jacques the Kipper for the same purpose, given he is a Stark’s Park regular, but at least it’s always a song that I know he would approve of.

I have managed to throw in a few curve balls at times, and off the top of my head have treated fans to the delights of The Fall, Say Sue Me, The Twilight Sad, Butcher Boy, Kid Canaveral, The Popguns, Withered Hand and Julian Cope among many others.

There are, however, certain traditions that have to be kept. It pains me to say that, post-match, all victories are greeted by Status Quo liking things and rockin all over the world, but there is no way I could ever change things.

For as long as I can remember, the team has taken to the pitch to one or other particular tunes.

Geordie Munro is a traditional song about an inhabitant of Kirkcaldy, the town in which Raith Rovers play their football (look it up on a map and it is on the east coast of Scotland, halfway between the cities of Edinburgh and Dundee). It is the tune which most fans want to hear and is the nearest thing we have to a club anthem. It’s our You’ll Never Walk Alone as sung by the fans of Liverpool FC.

The matchday announcer, over the years had moved away from Geordie Munro being the tune at kick-off on the basis that a modern almost dance version of it had been recorded by a group of fans as a way of raising money for charity and he was getting a bit of flak from them when he played the traditional version – he was on a hiding to nothing as anytime he played the modern version, loads of folk complained about it being an abomination and made the club a laughing stock.

His solution was to revert to another song which is sort of synonymous with the club, harking back to a true story from the early 1970s when a BBC sports presenter, upon reading out that Rovers had won a home match by something like 6-0, then remarked ‘they will be dancing in the streets of Raith tonight’, clearly unaware of the town the club is based.

The matchday announcer has long been a fan of the Live Aid version of the song, and so it was voices of David Bowie and Mick Jagger which were heard most weeks at the stadium. He occasionally did go with the original but would ditch it next time around if it had been aired before a game we didn’t go onto win (which was quite often!!).

I’m very pleased to say that I’ve phased all of that out and found a regular slot for this to air, some 10 minutes before the teams emerge from the tunnel:-

mp3 : Martha & The Vandellas – Dancing In The Street

It’s a belter of a tune and it must be up there as one of the coolest things you’ll now always hear on an visit to any sports stadium in the world. I’ll gloss over the fact that it tends to followed by some chart-hit dancey stuff by the likes of David Guetta, Calvin Harris or Rita Ora in the final few minutes as that’s the sort of stuff the young ballboys and ballgirls want to hear as they line up to form a guard of honour to welcome the teams. Oh and it’s also the music of our matchday mascot, Roary the Rover (whose picture is at the top of this posting) as he kind of likes a boogie just before kick-off and I’m not sure late 70s new wave/post-punk would fit the bill.

JC

SUB-STANDARD VINYL PRODUCT? NO PROBLEM!

It was last August that I happened to be in Barcelona, helping Mrs V to celebrate a significant birthday. Whilst wandering the streets, I found a couple of record shops and decided that I had to find something to take home.

In the end, I bought a 7″ single which had been released for Record Store Day 2016 by one of my favoured singer/songwriters. I had seen it a couple of times in Glasgow stores but had passed up the opportunity to buy it…what I paid in Barcelona was probably a bit more than I would have back home (such has been the lousy rate of exchange this past couple of years), but it did make for a nice memento.

I actually kind of forgot about it till a few weeks ago when I went on a bit of a binge transferring vinyl to mp3s for use on the blog. I broke open the packaging (it came wrapped in a plastic seal) and put it on the turntable. I knew it was a track from the album Summer of ’13 and that it was no different from that previously available. But what I was most disappointed with was the near lo-fi experience from playing this single in comparison to what I’d got from the album:-

mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – You & I

It’s damn near inaudible at times and, as I said nowhere near the quality of that on the parent album

Worse was to come when I flipped it over for the two previously unreleased tracks  Two quiet numbers to begin with, so the poor cut on the vinyl is really annoying. But the thing I can’t get over, and bearing in mind the single was sealed, is that it’s very audibly scratched and damaged for the much of the first 20 seconds or then again just short of a minute in.

If I’d bought it in Glasgow, I’d have taken it back to the store…but then again with it being a limited edition per shop would I have managed to get an exchange?

But here’s the thing…..through a friend, I got directly in touch with Malcolm who was annoyed to hear this, and he very kindly fired over very high-quality rips of the b-side.  Confirmation, if any was needed, that he’s a great bloke!

mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – By Proxy Song
mp3 : Malcolm Middleton – Narky (’13)

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #216 : HOT CHIP

A GUEST POSTING by jimdoes

Ok, this is an unashamedly ‘greatest hits’ based ICA. Because Hot Chip are definitely more of a singles band – their albums are good but, much as I love their music, I don’t think they’ve ever released a truly great album. Whereas I think a ‘best of greatest hits’ would be incredible. If I was introducing someone to the magic of Hot Chip I’d always go with the singles so that’s what I’ve mostly done here – they are always so good and guaranteed to get me dancing. The lead track “Hungry Child” off their new album perfectly illustrates my point – it’s brilliant!

But there are so many good songs, it’s hard for me to cut it down to ten tracks – so I’ve just gone with all my favourites. Hot Chip are one of those bands that remind me of my closest group of friends – they all love them and we’ve all screamed, shouted, whistled, danced and hugged each other while watching them live more times than I can remember.

READY FOR THE FLOOR – A HOT CHIP ICA

1) Ready For The Floor (From Made In The Dark)

Do it do it do it do it now. For Lola my daughter – she first saw Hot Chip when she was 13 – all rave paint and glow sticks at LoveBox.

2) Boy From School (From The Warning)

I’ve no idea why but it took me a while to warm to Hot Chip. Alexis Taylor hasn’t got the strongest voice and they don’t look cool and are just not very rock n roll. And they are not as full-on ravey as the likes of Underworld and Orbital – I guess they fall somewhere between dance and indie without being either. Anyway I hated this song when I first heard it but my friend Suzy always liked them and kept playing this song to me until I was converted.

3) Flutes + Flutes (Sasha remix) (From In Our Heads)

Bit of a cheat here – the original is great but the Sasha remix takes the song into a whole new territory. For my brother Simon as he likes a bit of a dance to this one.

4) Huarache Lights (From Why Make Sense)

Named after a type of Nike Trainer. But the song’s not about shoes. Singer Alexis Taylor explains it as, “It’s about the joy of playing a show. The image of Huarache trainers seemed to sum up how something meaningless can encapsulate the happiness of a moment.” What a lovely thought. For Anna – who I’ve never seen Hot Chip with but she loves them too.

5 One Life Stand (From One Life Stand)

Romantic and soppy – a song with a great sentiment. For Lucie, my wife.

6) Over and Over (From The Warning)

LAAAAAIIIIID BACK. For Darren as he always barks the words to this.

7) Brothers (From One Life Stand)

A song about loving all your male friends – a subject that isn’t touched upon too often in popular music. Always causes a mass hug amongst my friends when they play it live. This one’s for all of them. It’s a wild love that I have for my brothers.

8) Hold On (From Made In The Dark)

For Jessica. Dancing at Brixton Academy. Always.

9) No Fit State (From The Warning)

This is traditionally the first track played in the car on the way back from Glastonbury – started by one of my oldest friends Nick – this one’s for him.

10) Let Me Be Him (From In Our Heads)

EPIC. Uplifting. A fitting end to this ICA. This one’s for me.

Bonus Track

Gabriel by Joe Goddard

Because it’s a truly great record – my favourite song of 2011 and one that still graces long car journeys. I’ve included it because from time to time Hot Chip play it live. Not sure if it counts as a cover version or not – Hot Chip always do great cover versions – 1999, Dancing In The Dark, and on their most recent tour Sabotage.

xxxjim