JUST REALISED…..

……that it’s the end of the first month of 2017 and I never ever got round to sharing with you my favourite record of 2016.

For the first half of the year, I had assumed it was going to be Adam Stafford who would have taken the honour for his wondrous work Taser Revelations which was without any doubt my most played album across the entire year; there was also going to be an honourable mention for Emma Pollock whose In Search Of Harperfield was as classy and enjoyable as anything she had ever recorded in her time with The Delgados and was way superior to her previous two solo efforts.

But in mid-July, Ette released their debut LP Homemade Lemonade which in due course proved to be the one that I fell most for last year.  I wasn’t alone as a number of other Scottish-based bloggers and professional writers (i.e. those who get paid by magazines and newspapers for offering their opinions) also gave it the highest possible praise.

Ette is sort of the solo project of Carla Easton, one of the four members of the all-girl Glasgow band Teen Canteen. She teamed up with multi-instrumentalist, arranger and producer Joe Kane and in just five days they recorded a damn-near perfect, diverse and intelligent pop album.  All ten tunes are memorably catchy, tipping their hat to all sorts of all genres and influences – I hear, among others, the girl-groups so beloved of Phil Ramone mixing it up with Clare Grogan, Kate Bush, Kylie, 80s synth bands, bubblegum, rap and the occasional hint of folk-rock that so many bands from Scotland are proving so adept at.

I was also delighted that it came out on Olive Grove Records, a label that has been on the go for a few years now thanks to the hard work and dedication of Lloyd Meredith, one of the real unsung heroes of the music industry in Scotland; at long last, his label has what I hope is proving to be a reasonably decent selling record after so many top-quality releases over the past five or so years have sold in relatively small numbers.

https://olivegrove.bandcamp.com/artists

No mp3s with this posting – I encourage you all to spend your money on this very fine record which comes in eye-catching pink vinyl (or digitally if you prefer things that way).  Here’s a promo for one of the songs.

I was lucky enough to see Ette at a tiny venue in Glasgow for the gig that launched this album – and had the privilege of actually working on the merchandise stall that night as an Lloyd needed an extra pair of hands given that just about everyone who was at the gig also bought the album such was the quality of the performance from Carla, Joe and the band they had put together for the evening.

Enjoy.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #106 : NEW ORDER : VOL. 3

They were #20 in the series back in June 2015 and I went with these tracks:-

Side A

Age Of Consent
The Perfect Kiss (12″)
Lonesome Tonight
Temptation (12″)
Run

Side B

Love Vigilantes
True Faith
Ceremony
Blue Monday
Leave Me Alone

Just six weeks later, a second New Order ICA was offered up as #28 in the series, courtesy of a guest posting by Martin Elliot from Sweden, that had been a work in progress when my own offering appeared:-

Side A

Blue Monday
1963
Round & Round (KS club mix)
Regret (Sabres Slow n Low)
Age Of Consent

Side B

True Dub
Someone Like You (GD Vocotech dub)
World (Brothers in Rhythm)
The Perfect Kiss (12″)
Ceremony

I happened to put New Order on shuffle on the i-pod the other week and was quickly reminded just how many great bits of music they had put out, particularly in the early part of their career, so much so I thought a record-breaking third ICA would go down well. The only rule being all ten songs this time can’t have been featured at all in any shape in either of my own or Martin’s postings from 2015. Let’s Go……

SIDE A

1. Love Vigilantes (from Low-Life, 1985)

If it wasn’t for the fact that Age of Consent is such a stunning opening to Power, Corruption & Lies than I would reckon many of us would argue that this is as fine an opening, not to just to any New Order LP, but to any LP as there has been. It’s a tremendous bit of pop music and one of the finest ghost stories that anyone could ever sway their hips to.

2. Confusion (rough mix) (single, 1983)

Let’s stay up there on the dance floor with the song that paid tribute to the changing face and sound of NYC nightclubs and hatched the idea for The Hacienda. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, it wouldn’t have happened without the production work and values of Arthur Baker as clearly demonstrated by its similarities to the earlier hit single I.O.U. by Freez, but it was a sound and a technique which New Order were already exploring, the conquering of which would make them as important as any band that has ever emerged from the UK.

3. Thieves Like Us (single, 1984)

I had the b-side to this on the original ICA and while I stand by my claim that Lonesome Tonight is the better song there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a hugely under-appreciated single which in many ways ticks all the boxes – great bass line, unusual and catchy drum beat, the one-fingered keyboard solo and a nonsensical lyric that, by somehow hanging brilliantly together, makes perfect sense. And as an added bonus it has Barney singing in and out of tune….

4. Shame Of The Nation (7″ version) (b-side 1986)

While he’s no Weller or Bragg, I’ll doff my cap to Barney for having a go at writing a political protest song at the height of Thatcherism. It was a single that was widely ridiculed upon its release and which, to be honest, hasn’t date all that well , but the additional work on the b-side, for which producer John Robie is attributed a credit, means it is more than salvageable thirty years on. As far as I know this particular version has never been made available in any other format than the original 7″ vinyl. It’s clearly been edited down from the full-length format with some unwieldy edits but it’s included here given that any Volume 3 of a release needs some sort of rarity to make it appeal….

5. Dreams Never End (from Movement, 1981)

This is inspired by Martin who, in his New Order ICA, pointed out that a brilliant LP opener – Age Of Consent – can also work just as effectively as a closer to a side and make you want to flip the vinyl over without any hesitation. The one where Hooky had a go at being lead vocalist and the one that you know would have made a great Joy Division single.

SIDE B

1. Your Silent Face (from Power, Corruption & Lies, 1983)

This was the one track that I just couldn’t find the room for back in June 2015 which was painful as it is one of my all-time favourite NO songs, but my rule of thumb for an ICA is that it has to hang together as an album and not merely be a collection of tunes. It opens up Side B of PC&L and this is perfectly place right here.

2. Bizarre Love Triangle 94 (from Best Of, 1994)

The rapid advances in production techniques were such that Stephen Hague could take what was one of the band’s most recognisable numbers and make it even more New Order-sounding than the band had managed back in 1986. It was one of four tracks that he worked on for this particular release and helped make it something worth purchasing with the nice little fade out at the end allows a nice lead-in to….

3. Paradise (from Brotherhood, 1986)

The band’s fourth album was something of a disappointment in comparison to the other work that came immediately before and shortly afterwards. It certainly suffered from the decision to put five guitar-based songs back-to-back on side A with the flip side being the more electronic based numbers. I’m not going to argue that all ten tracks are essential but it certainly isn’t as duff a record as I first thought.

4. Vanishing Point (from Technique, 1989)

I’ll long argue that Technique is the band’s finest LP, It’s strange because it came out at a time when I was missing out on so much music and I wasn’t buying much, but as a long-standing fan and having just about everything in the collection I made sure I picked it up when it was released. It came across as such a happy and triumphant record that I fell for its charms on first listen – it seemed to have everything I wanted the band to do with its mix of guitar and electronica with so many that you just wanted to dance to…and yet the tracks that really seemed to stand out early on was this resigned sounding mid(ish)-tempo number. Maybe it was that I was feeling my own life was no holiday and I had personally reached the point of no return. Imagine that…a New Order lyric that proved to be philosophical.

5. Ruined In A Day (from Republic, 1993)

I’m closing things off with a track that I’ve come to love and appreciate only in recent years. I was never fond of much of the parent album and thought it was a sad ending (as it appeared at the time) to the band’s career. I also hated the promo video that accompanied the release of Ruined In A Day as a single and struggled to disassociate the two. But a few years ago, this came up via shuffle while I was lazing out in the garden on one of the few sunny days we get in Glasgow and it just sounded quite lovely through the headphones. It would probably have made a superb Electronic record….just imagine Johnny Marr adding a guitar solo in the middle of it and it would be damn near perfect.

So there you have it. A third volume, and while it is easy to bemoan the lack of some classics, I think it hangs together pretty well.

Bonus track today. It’s featured before on the blog in video form. If you do like this, then I urge you to go and purchase it along with the other four versions that are available:-

mp3 : Mike Garry & Joe Duddell – St Anthony : An Ode to Anthony H Wilson

Just when you thought Your Silent Face couldn’t be bettered. Buy here.

Enjoy

THE UNDERTONES SINGLES 77-83 (Part 10)

The next single was released in February 1982.  I’ll hand over to Michael Bradley from the band to offer his take on it:-

“A strange one : probably the first song we didn’t have live. We hadn’t properly played it before going into the studio. There’s a sort of sequencer or synthesiser type thing going on there. It was a big departure for us. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea. But it came at a time when, commercially, we were down. We were very vulnerable to someone saying ‘This is shite.’ Our confidence had been weakened because Julie Ocean didn’t get into the Top 40, Positive Touch wasn’t as successful as Hypnotised and It’s Going To Happen! was a bit of a disappointment, too. Beautiful Friend was a good song, and we enjoyed it as a development, but it was never going to set the charts on fire, as they say.  The whole new romantic thing was happening, suddenly we were passe. People weren’t interested in boys from Derry playing guitars.”

mp3 : The Undertones – Beautiful Friend

To say it bombed would be an understatement.  It didn’t sell enough copies to scrape into the Top 100, this from a band who less than two years previous had enjoyed a run of Top 20 singles.

It was the first of their singles I didn’t buy.  I thought it was dull and uninspired and I haven’t changed my mind all these years later.

The b-side was a reworking of Life’s Too Easy, a song on Positive Touch.  Here’s Michael’s take on it:-

“Another strange one.  It was contrived. Again, it was us doing something different, possibly for the sake of doing something different. I wasn’t happy with that one.”

mp3 : The Undertones – Life’s Too Easy

(apologies for the poor quality of this track – I had to source it from somewhere else on t’internet – it’s not worth paying 99p for via i-tunes).  Worth mentioning too that Michael was a co-writer of Life’s Too Easy so his criticism of the new version has to be seen as very valid.

The band, on a new label with bosses having high expectations, were at a crossroads.  The new material for the fourth LP was going to be crucial….

 

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #60 : COMMUNARDS

I wasn’t sure whether to include Communards in this series – but using the same logic as I did with Bronski Beat then I’m more than happy to do so.

They formed in 1985 after Jimmy Somerville left his band behind to team up with classically trained musician Richard Coles who was best known as a pianist although he was already familiar to Bronski Beat fans thanks his clarinet solo on the hit single It Ain’t Necessarily So.

Pursuing a left-wing political agenda in their lyrics while making hi-energy dance music proved to be a successful formula. The duo gradually expanded, incorporating, among others, Sarah Jane Morris on vocals and June Miles Kingston on drums, and would go onto enjoy nine hit singles, including a #1 with a cover of Don’t Leave Me This Way and two Top 10 albums.

There was an acrimonious split in 1988, sparked seemingly by the instrumentalist lying to the singer that he had contracted HIV/AIDS.

Jimmy Somerville would subsequently embark on a solo career which has been sporadically successful while  Richard Coles firstly pursued a career as a journalist before training as a priest, eventually being ordained in 2005, all the while maintaining a writing career combined with an increasing number of radio and television appearances, often in the area of light entertainment but increasingly on religious issues.  He’s actually better known and more famous these days than his former sidekick.

This was on the b-side of their debut single back in 1985.  It’s sadly still as relevant and poignant more than three decades on.

mp3 : Communards – Breadline Britain

Enjoy

 

THEY PUT THE FUNK IN FACTORY

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A Certain Ratio were also responsible for the first ever release on Factory Benelux/Les Disques du Crépuscule back in August 1980 with a song that bemused everyone who had considered everyone on, and involved with, the parent label to be doom merchants:-

mp3 : A Certain Ratio – Shack Up

Here’s some other singles from their time on Factory which ended in 1986 although they would continue recording and performing for a number of labels for many more years to come.

mp3 : A Certain Ratio – Knife Slits Water (12″)
mp3 : A Certain Ratio – I Need Someone Tonite (12″)
mp3 : A Certain Ratio – Mickey Way (The Candy Bar) (12″)

You can tell they are a band I don’t actually know that much about!!  Anyone care to offer up some words and tunes via an ICA? (I’m thinking and looking at you Swiss Adam….the fount of all Mancunian knowledge….)

 

 

 

WHICH ONE DO YOU DIG?

If you happen to use a similar browser as mine then underneath this bit of text is Pop Will Eat Itself while the right hand image is Mock Turtles.

 

 

In 1989, the grebo/crusty combo finally cracked the Top 40 at the sixth attempt with this:-

mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – Can U Dig It? (extended mix)

In 1991, the indie/baggy combo enjoyed a #18 hit with this:-

mp3 : Mock Turtles – Can You Dig It? (extended mix)

Totally different songs by totally different bands but which I bet are often mixed-up in pub quizzes.

And getting down to it boppers, I’m in the PWEI camp in terms of preference, albeit it’s not among their greatest 45s. Mock Turtles is just a wee bit too samey as so many other songs by so many other bands of the same era.

EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL THING

I would have been just short of my 8th birthday when South-African musician John Kongos took He’s Gonna Step On You Again into the UK charts in May 1971. I can honestly say that I have no recollection of the record whatsoever and therefore had no idea, until reading about it at the time back in 1991, that Happy Mondays latest single Step On  was a cover.

The two songs are really quite dissimilar and I don’t think may would argue that the Happy Mondays greatly improved on the original. I think the big difference is that the original really does sound of its time while the cover has become genuinely timeless – it does help of course that the production advances over the two decades between them meant that loveable Mancunians could do so much more with the tune but it still doesn’t detract from the fact that they derived a classic.

And yet, the original outperformed the cover – John Kongos got as high as #4 while Happy Mondays stalled at #5 – and it’s likely in pure sales terms that the original did better. What I didn’t know until doing a wee bit of research for this piece is He’s Gonna Step On You Again, according to wiki, is cited in the Guinness Book of Records as being the first song to have used a sample which just goes to show how long that’s been around contrary to popular belief. Having said that, a much later CD reissue of the parent album states it wasn’t a sample but a tape loop of African drumming and so debunked the alleged first.

Also worth mentioning that the Happy Mondays version actually sampled three guitar notes from the original as can be heard easily when you listen to both versions:-

mp3 : John Kongos – He’s Gonna Step On You Again
mp3 : Happy Mondays – Step On

Enjoy.