LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 1995

The great solo career many had predicted for Lloyd Cole hadn’t quite worked out as planned. The fall-out from the poorly received and poor-selling Bad Vibes rumbled on into 1994 with no new material made available. It would later transpire that Lloyd was busy writing and demoing new songs but there was very little faith being shown in him by those who had backed him to this point in time.

There were a number of false starts on the next record which can be evidenced on the finished product with five different production credits listed across twelve songs. This would normally be a sign of a disastrous product with the record going through all sorts of gestation periods and being fiddled around with, but somehow Love Story manages to hang together very well and to be a very enjoyable and listenable album.

It is a record in which LC goes back to basics for the most part, uncomplicated tunes with clear vocal delivery and next to no studio trickery. There’s even a couple of radio-friendly numbers included, one of which actually delivered a Top 30 hit in the UK singles chart, a very impressive achievement at a time when Britpop was dominating. The overall tone, however, is one of melancholy and my initial instinct on first hearing it was that someone should try to somehow have LC hook up with Moz as he’d have been a perfect mid-90s foil and between them they could have given us something ridiculously special, albeit Moz would need to have bowed down and allowed Lloyd to pen some of the lyrics.

It had been just over a decade since Rattlesnakes had taken the listening public by storm and it was not long after Edwyn Collins had made marked his great comeback in the public eye with A Girl Like You. There was therefore something of a renewed interest in Lloyd and the first new single certainly lifted the spirits and offered hope that he would again be a major seller:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Like Lovers Do

It was A-listed on Radio 1 bringing loads of airplay and back on your television screens again after an extended absence, looking just as suave, handsome and debonair as last time around.

Sadly, the next equally strong single didn’t find as much favour with everyone, missing out on the important listing and bellyflopping at #73:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Sentimental Fool

Love Story sold a lot more than Bad Vibes, but not as many as it deserved. It was largely ignored by the music papers and had no chance in the mainstream media who were totally obsessed with the new kids and their electric guitars. It’s an album I reckon would have done incredibly well if social media back in the day had beem more advanced as it was an LP bloggers and the like would have warmed to, given the quality and diversity on display, such as these:

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Be There
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Unhappy Song

There were even some superb songs left off the album and made only available as b-sides:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – I Will Not Leave You Alone
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – The Steady Slowing Down Of The Heart

This surely all pointed to a bigger, brighter future……but the fickle world of pop music doesn’t work that way and instead things got quite messy.

JC

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 1993

Really interesting that Friend of Rachel Worth, whose views and opinions over the years have more often than not been bang-on-the-money, feels that the solo career of Lloyd Cole actually went a bit weird after the release of Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe in 1991.

I certainly concur that the next few years were less than stellar but there would be a subsequent tremendous return to form a few years later as I will hopefully demonstrate in the fullness of time

The commercial failure of the sophomore solo album was a bit of a body low. As I said last week, it’s a tremendous and ambitious record, packed with some of the best songs he’s ever written, but it was very much a case of it being in the wrong place at the wrong time as popular music was going through one of its phases where some sort of new sounds and a movement associated with them was all that mattered. In short, grunge almost killed LC’s career stone dead.

There was no music at all in 1992 and it wasn’t until October 1993 that the new album was released. It was called Bad Vibes which perhaps was Lloyd suggesting he already knew what sort of critical reaction the record was going to provoke…..

I’m thinking back 25 years and recalling that I was bitterly disappointed with the new record, to the extent that I played it three times and put it on the shelf for what I thought would be eternity. I certainly thought that Lloyd’s recording career would soon be over, fully expecting him to be dropped by his companies. Bad Vibes was a million miles away from the Commotions but it was also just about as far again from the first two solo records. It seemed to be a record which was ridiculously over-produced and unplayable in any meaningful sense outside of the studio, with not much to offer in the way of memorable tunes. Sure, there were occasional glimpses of genius in the lyrics, but there were also some banal offerings to match the dullness and clichéd nature of the music emanating from the speakers. All in all, I considered it was a dud.

Nowadays, and with the benefit of having heard a number of the songs played live with much more basic and stripped-back arrangements, I think it’s fair to say that Bad Vibes does have some excellent songs which deserved a better fate than they received in the studio. It would be easy enough to point the finger at producer Adam Peters and mixer Bob Clearmountain but Lloyd has always been a hand-on type of guy in the studio and he would have had a big say in things. I’ve no doubt that the relative failure of the first two solo LPs had led him to again try something different but this was just so far from what I think was his comfort zone that it wasn’t delivered with any real confidence.

There were two singles lifted from the album and these are as good an example as the 1993 songs somehow managing to be instantly recognisable as Lloyd Cole, but not in a way in which you’d perhaps expect or indeed enjoy:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – So You’d Like To Save The World
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Morning Is Broken

Interesting that Lloyd himself has said of this album:-

To be honest, I really didn’t know what I wanted to make with Bad Vibes, but this didn’t worry me. I was simply trying to make a record which would surprise people. I thought that was written into my job description. To start with, both Adam and I were fairly gung-ho about this, but after months of work together I think we gave into the inevitable truth – my voice and my songs are pretty easily recongisable the moment the singing starts, no matter what.

I’m inclined to agree with those final few words, but it still was a shock to hear such plodding and ill-conceived arrangements at the time.

There were a number of b-sides recorded…one of which harked back to something more akin to previous straight forward pop sounds and thus probably left off the album for that very reason:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Radio City Music Hall

It was also interesting that, having sort of hit a wall with the recording and mixing process for Bad Vibes, Lloyd felt he’d be better recording some Marc Bolan and Lou Reed covers for the extra tracks on the singles. He’s since said this is what he wished Bad Vibes had sounded more :-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – The Slider
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Vicious

I’m not convinced that an album of songs akin to these would have impressed me any more than what had been issued on Bad Vibes.

JC

LLOYD COLE : THE SOLO YEARS : 1991

Having bamboozled a lot of fans with the change of image and shift in sound on the debut solo LP, Lloyd Cole displayed a wicked sense of humour by calling his next record Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe, which itself was a quote from author and poet Raymond Carver, thus further contributing to the prejudices of those who thought our singer/songwriter was a frustrated English Lit lecturer.

I have no doubt that this was the LP that Lloyd Cole had been desperate to make his entire career. He and Blair Cowan worked together and co-wrote many of its songs, specifically with the aim of having an orchestra play on them. At the same time, Lloyd wanted to further explore the rock side of things that had been captured on his debut record and so he also kept all of Robert Quine, Fred Maher and Matthew Sweet on board.  The album was recorded at great expense in New York and Los Angeles and it was given a substantial marketing budget. Here in the UK, side one of the record featured all the expansive songs while side two had all the guitar-led material; tellingly, the reverse was the case in the USA with Capitol Records determined to make him a rock’n’roll star.

It’s also worth recalling that 1991 was the year, as far as guitar music was concerned, that grunge and the heavier-end of things became highly fashionable. So it can come as no surprise that the album and the singles from it more or less disappeared without trace.

Which is a real shame, for it was an album that contained a lot of very fine songs, especially if you were prepared to accept that the jingly-jangly pop of the Commotions era was long gone, while the arrangements on the orchestral side brought comparisons with some of the finest work by Burt Bacharach…a man who whose work would become highly fashionable again later in the decade.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Butterfly
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Margo’s Waltz
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Weeping Wine
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – The ‘L’ Word

The last of these is an earlier, and in my view, superior version of the song Tell Your Sister which appears on the album. It was snuck out on a b-side.

Lloyd has never been slow in recording cover versions of some of his favourite songs by some of his favourite singers. He was always a huge fan of Marc Bolan and this was also one of the 1991 b-sides:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Children of The Revolution

JC

 

LLOYD COLE : THE SOLO YEARS : 1990

The ICA World Cup is over and the result of the final will be revealed tomorrow.

One consequence of that is that I now have the time to return Sundays to their purpose of being the day for a regular and in-depth series, which for the most part has been all the 45s of a particular singer or band.  But for the next instalment, I’m going to do down a slightly different road….

I’ve always hankered after doing a Lloyd Cole solo ICA but I’ve had real problems getting such a work down to just ten songs, especially as he has released such a rich variety of different sounding material over the years. I’m therefore going to feature him, not on a single-by-single basis, but on a year-by-year basis (as best I can as there have been some quiet spells where there were no releases). I do hope you enjoy it and stick with it over the coming months.

It would be fair to say that Lloyd Cole is best known for his output with The Commotions – three very successful albums between 1984 and 1987, all of which earned gold discs for sales numbers, and nine singles, none of which, to my surprise, got any higher than #17 in the charts.

The band, after a hiatus when there were all sorts of rumours, announced their break up in 1989, with Polydor Records in the UK and Capitol Records in the USA signing the frontman to a solo contract. There really were high hopes that he would become a major star under his own steam.

The debut material was written and recorded in New York. The singer revealed, in late 1989, that the sound would be a radical departure from that of the Commotions, although he did let on that keyboardist Blair Cowan was someone he was still working alongside but that much of the newer rock-type guitar sound would be the work of Robert Quine, regarded by many as one of the unsung heroes of American guitar music in the 70s and 80s, working alongside Lou Reed, Brian Eno, Richard Hell and Tom Waits among many others.  The other main musicians were Fred Maher (who was another NYC musician who had worked with Lou Reed) and a highly thought of but relatively unknown bass player named Matthew Sweet.

The first Lloyd Cole solo song was a 45 released in January 1990:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – No Blue Skies

There was no mistaking who the vocalist was, but the slower almost AOR pace of the song was a bit of a shock to those of us who danced round the indie discos to the previous singles. It sold in reasonable numbers, reaching #42 but that was probably a disappointment to the label bosses who were putting a fair bit of money into promoting the artist as a solo performer.

The album, entitled Lloyd Cole, came out a month later. The sleeve, featuring a heavily bearded and long-haired frontman, was an instant giveaway that this was not going to be an indie-pop album. Reviews were decent, although just about everyone commented on how laid-back yet harder-edged it was compared to the band material; there were also references to the fact that he continued to be a very fine observational lyricist who would strike a chord with his audience, particularly those who had been with him since the early days and were now appreciating what life had to offer outside the student bubble. It reached #11 in the charts and did, like his band albums, get certified gold.

Its thirteen songs stretched out to over 53 minutes and while there were none that stood out as obvious chart singles, there were some that became instant favourites among fans and remain part of the live repertoire almost 30 years on:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Don’t Look Back
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Undressed

There were in fact three singles released from the album, all of which came with a variety of b-sides that never made it to the album, two of which were as close to Commotions numbers as anything from that period:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Wild Orphan
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Blame Mary Jane

The former, as so many of the great band songs had done, namechecks a celebrity, in this instance Jodie Foster, while the latter with its obvious drug references, could be a rock relation to My Bag.

JC

OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (2)

All the greats eventually get the full-blooded cover version treatment with singers and bands queing up to pay tribute to those who greatly influenced them. The late Leonard Cohen has had his songs covered more than most, including various compilation LPs over the years which have been commercially released or given away free with music magazines. There’s even been specially curated gigs at which some of the great and good have appeared on stage to pay tribute.

So many tracks to choose from, but I’ve gone for one which, in its original recording, is not much more than a gravelled voice and some backing oohs and aahs over a toy synthesiser with its cheap drum pattern:-

mp3 : Leonard Cohen – Tower of Song

The opposite tack was taken by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds who, in a drink and drug fuelled frenzy one day in a studio, eventually cut what became an infamous 33 minute version of the track in which all sorts of musical genres are eventually thrown in. It’s not for the faint hearted:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tower of Song (full length)

An edited version was made available for inclusion of the tribute/compilation album I’m Your Fan, released in 1991:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tower of Song (album version)

Here’s two more versions worth giving a listen:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Tower of Song
mp3 : Martha Wainwright – Tower of Song

And finally, the daddy of them all in which Lenny C is given the shoegaze treatment:-

mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Tower of Song

Outstanding.

SUMMER NIGHTS (TELL ME MORE, TELL ME MORE)

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With apologies for those of you dropping in expecting to hear a loving critique of the Travolta/Newton-John duet that spent 183 weeks at #1 and prevented many a post-punk/new wave act reaching the pinnacle.

Summer Nights is the name given to an annual ten-day festival of gigs in Glasgow, with the venue being the quaint Kelvingrove Bandstand, originally constructed in 1924 and then totally refurbished and brought back into use in 2014 after a quarter of century of serious neglect. The concept is sound in that a well-known singer or artist gets to headline their own outdoor gig, coming on just as the sun goes down and the audience can begin to think about removing their sunglasses. The reality, certainly in 2016, was somewhat different.

The weather for the duration was dreadful. It rained a lot and a cold wind blew through the trees that surround this most picturesque of locations just a couple of miles from the city centre. Indeed, the wind was so strong that one gig had to be postponed and rescheduled due to fears that the audience were in danger from flying debris or that the bank of speakers conveying the sound would come crashing down.

The seating at the venue is entirely made up of concrete or wooden benches, every one of which is open to the elements. The venue is pretty and its natural shape and setting make for a decent sound….but it’s not the most comfortable of places. Oh and the beer and drinks are stupidly overpriced too….as indeed are the tickets which are £30-£40 depending on the headline act. It’s a lot to fork out for what, due to curfew issues in a built-up area, will be a 90-minute show with the minimum of lights due to the small size of the stage and a universal sound system whether you’re a smooth yet bland crooner or one of the usually loudest most kick-ass bands to come from these parts .

And yet…..my two appearances at 2016 Summer Nights turned out to be among the best gigs of the year thus far.

The cost of the tickets, combined with uncertainty of the weather, always means that I’ll restrict myself to one visit per year, deciding which of the acts is most attractive. In 2014 it was Teenage Fanclub and last year it was Roddy Frame. This time round I plumped for Super Furry Animals over other options such as Idlewild, Van Morrison, Lloyd Cole, Primal Scream and Will Young. The reasoning being that despite having long loved SFA I had never managed to catch them live in person, watching only on my TV screen as they played some sort of festival or other over the years.

The rain poured down all day but somehow it went off in the evening about an hour before the band took to the stage from where they delivered a ridiculously entertaining and energetic set tinged with the sort of silly humour for which they are famed. I don’t have everything they have ever released but still managed to recognise more than two-thirds of the songs with almost all my favourites receiving an airing:-

Slow Life
(Drawing) Rings Around the World
Do or Die
Ice Hockey Hair
Hello Sunshine
Pan Ddaw’r Wawr
Run! Christian, Run!
Hometown Unicorn
Zoom!
Juxtapozed With U
Bing Bong
The International Language of Screaming
Golden Retriever
Receptacle for the Respectable
Mountain People
The Man Don’t Give A Fuck

The latter was a 12-minute tour de force. Not quite up there with this epic 22:30 live version, recorded at the Hammersmith Apollo and released as a limited edition CD single in 2007:-

mp3 : Super Furry Animals – The Man Don’t Give A Fuck (live)

If I was to slightly whinge about it, then it would be that it was all over too quickly and they didn’t play quite enough songs from Fuzzy Logic…..but I came away feeling very happy about my decision to go with them than any of the others.

The following day, a dreadful storm hit Glasgow, It was widely forecast and indeed had led to the Lloyd Cole gig being cancelled even before the SFA one had taken place. The upshot of all this was that a friend of a friend could no longer use their ticket as they were otherwise engaged the three nights later when it was rescheduled. I was happy to be the late substitute, especially as this was the first ever time I had been at a gig with the friend who had offered the ticket.

It was actually a two-headed monster as it was opened by Justin Currie & The Pallbearers.  The main man, despite not having enjoyed much chart success since his halcyon Del Amitri days, remains a popular draw in his home city. He’s still a thin and handsome chap, but I’m sorry to say too much of his set, which combined band and solo material, came across on the listless side.  One very notable exception being this…the track with which he closed the set and which was the subject of this great guest contribution on this blog back in September 2013:-

mp3 : Justin Currie – No, Surrender

I should say that things weren’t helped by the fact that it was pouring with rain and it was freezing, so much so that I was wearing a long raincoat and a woollen hat, both of which tend to come out of the clothes cupboard in November….not at a time when it should be more akin to t-shirts and shorts.

Lloyd Cole was being backed by The Leopards, a sort of Glasgow supergroup who are often seen playing alongside Vic Godard on his regular forays north of the border. They are the perfect foil for Lloyd nowadays, capable of doing justice to both the jingly-jangly stuff from the Commotions days as well as the harder and edgier stuff from the solo years. This must have been about the 20th time I’d seen Lloyd on stage and he’s never let me down. This was no exception thanks to a show that surprised and delighted, sticking solely to songs from the Commotions era and the first four of his solo albums, all of which are hugely underrated and under-appreciated.

Rattlesnakes
Jennifer She Said
So You’d Like To Save The World
Weeping Wine
No Blue Skies
Everyone’s Complaining
Ice Cream Girl
Downtown
Sweetheart
Brand New Friend
2cv
Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?
Like Lovers Do
Perfect Skin
My Bag
Lost Weekend
Forest Fire
Morning Is Broken

It was a magical night, but one in which we all felt old when Lloyd, for the acoustic 1-2 of chevaux/heartbroken, was joined on stage by his now 23-year old son William. I think all the blokes in the audience took a look at William and yearned for the days when we were that thin and had that fine a head of hair. Gawd only knows what the women were thinking…..

Too many highlights to mention. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about it. Just a pity that I had to go to work the next day as it was the sort of night where you wanted to stay out for hours on end, making the most of the natural high the gig had provided. I’m far too old and sensible and with too many work responsibilities just now to contemplate a hangover. But I found that I couldn’t sleep when I got in, and so amused myself with watching the baseball live from Toronto (five hours behind us) where the Blue Jays wrapped up a perfect evening with a win. Lights went out at 3.15 am and alarm went off four hours later. Can’t really recommend it.

Oh and it turned out my friend also had real trouble sleeping after the gig. It was her first time ever seeing Lloyd Cole but she’s determined it won’t be her last. Seemingly while I was watching the baseball, she was playing his songs and having a wee dance round her living room. As I said, the sort of night where you really didn’t want the music to ever stop.

I’ve no doubt the organisers of Summer Nights are already thinking ahead to 2017 and I’ll do my usual of picking out one of the gigs and getting myself along. But it’ll be hard pushed to better those of this year….even if the sun does the unexpected and beats down on us from on high.

Cheers Mr Cole; and big thanks to the boys in the band, especially Mick Slaven for his amazing lead guitar work all night.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Jennifer She Said
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Downtown

Enjoy

HE MUST HAVE BEEN HEARTBROKEN……

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…..when this was ignored.

Lloyd Cole has been active in the music business for well over 30 years now. His live shows remain a real treat thanks to a deft combination of new material and the songs he’s most famous for from his days when backed by The Commotions.

It is a real shame that his solo career has never taken off in the way that it should have for he’s released a lot of cracking albums, particularly since the turn of the century when he began to increasingly concentrate on just his voice and his guitar rather than worry too much about the production and arrangements which in all truth occasionally marred his initial solo works after he split up the band.

One of his finest compositions dates from the late 90s. It first saw light of a day on a very underrated LP released in 2000:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – No More Love Songs

The definitive version however, was released three years later and was the only single taken from the LP Music In A Foreign Language (a record in which Mr Cole did a more than passable cover of a Nick Cave classic).

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – No More Love Songs
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Claire Fontaine
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Claire Fontaine (long)

The single is long deleted and hard to get hold of…indeed the b-sides today are actually courtesy of their inclusion on a later box set entitled Cleaning Out The Ashtrays.

Oh and that Nick Cave song I was referring to….

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – People Ain’t No Good

This post is dedicated to Rol Hurst. He’ll know why.

Enjoy