SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #184 -189 : LLOYD COLE

I’ve written many words on many previous occasions, so this time round I’ll just go with some songs, covering what could have been six separate entries along with some background info.  As far as I can recall, none of the six songs have been on the blog before.

mp3 : Lloyd & Will Cole – Perfect Skin

From 2012 when Lloyd and his son Will, having played some shows together for which they had worked out some brand new arrangements (and some variations on some very old ones), decided to drop into a studio and do some live material of said arrangements.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?

In January 2010, Lloyd went into a studio with what he termed his Small Ensemble for a one-off recording of stripped-down acoustic takes on Commotions and solo material, which were then sold as a limited edition CD. The Small Ensemble consisted of Lloyd Cole and Matt Cullen on guitar and banjo, and Mark Schwaber on guitar and mandolin.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Andy’s Babies

B-side to Forest Fire (1985)

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – Impossible Girl

The Negatives consisted of Lloyd Cole (vocals, guitar and synthesizer), David Darby (bass guitar, vocals), Michael Kotch (guitar), Rafa Maciejak (drums) and Jill Sobule (guitar, vocals). They released an album, with eleven tracks, in 2000, a couple of which, including Impossible Girl, also had strings.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & Jill Sobule  – For The Good Times

Recorded for a 2006 tribute album to Kris Kristofferson

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & Robert Quine – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself

Recorded for a 1997 tribute album to Burt Bacharach.

Taken together, these six tracks would have made for a very fine EP.

JC

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 2011 ONWARDS

This is the final part of what I hope has been an enjoyable series for everyone these past few Sundays…going by the comments left behind it certainly seems to have filled a few gaps in some knowledge bases.

Much of what I’ve written up has been informed by Lloyd’s own wonderfully maintained website – http://www.lloydcole.com

It seems fitting to bring the story up to date with a heavy reliance on the timeline from the website:-

2011

Most of the year is taken up with touring the album Broken Record.

In 2002 legendary Austrian composer and krautrock pioneer Hans Joachim Roedelius heard LC’s Plastic Wood and liked it enough to make is own, unsolicited re-mix. Nine years later they finally come up with a plan for a record together – they will exchange ‘unfinished’ tracks, for the other to complete. LC holes up in his attic with his brand new modular synthesizer.

2012

By the end of January LC has finished his work on the Roedelius tracks and has sent his files to Austria. By the end of the year an album is complete.

LC tours with eldest son Will, as an acoustic duo. Later, LC and Will enter the studio to document the arrangements from the shows. The result – Lloyd & Will Cole Acoustic Sessions 2012 , a second white label CD.

Late September LC is back to the attic with notes and ideas for new songs. Fans and Tapete have again funded a new album. A start date in LA with old cohorts Fred Maher and Matthew Sweet is set. LC decides to make no demos, but hopes to have all songs completed before the LA sessions, and then to work ‘Blonde on Blonde’ style with Maher and Sweet. 2 months of solid writing yields an album’s worth of songs. Recording goes to schedule and overdubs begin in Massachusetts in December. Musicians include Will Cole, Mark Schwaber, Matt Cullen, Blair Cowan, Joan (as Policewoman) Wasser and Dave Derby.

2013

Selected Studies Vol. 1, the album from the collaboration with Hans Joachim Roedelius is released in February to great acclaim with Rolling Stone magazine declaring:-

“All instrumental, dreamier than one might expect from Cole and bouncier than one might expect from Roedelius, this is a worthy, surprisingly melodic set likely to surprise fans from both camps. Recommended.”

Work on the more standard album continues and in June 2013, is released with the title Standards is released in June. Everyone – fans and critics alike seem to love it.

2014

Lloyd Cole and the Leopards (made up of some of the very best stalwarts of the Scottihs music scene) perform four UK shows in LC’s first full electric band shows since the early 2000’s with The Negatives.  I caught one of these in Glasgow and it was an astoundingly good show, despite being played open-air in a torrential downpour!

The solo tour resumes and continues all year. In October 2014,  Standards is released in North America by Omnivore Recordings garnering a second wave of acclaim.

2015

April  – Universal/Spectrum release Don’t Look Back, a 20 track compilation of LC’s time at what was then Polygram.

June  – Universal release Lloyd Cole and the Commotions Collected Recordings 1983-1989, a six disc box set.

September  – LC makes his debut as a live electronic performer with two Berlin shows, the first with Hans Joachim Roedelius at a festival celebrating of his 80th birthday. The second was an intimate solo show at Basic Electricity. To coincide with these shows Bureau B released LC’s third full length electronic album – 1D.

These were the last pieces of music to be officially released, but Lloyd has been incredibly busy touring the past three years.  Indeed, in 2016, such was the media focus on his early recordings as a result of the acclaim heaped on the boxset that he decided to  devote the entire year to performances featuring material only from 1983 – 1996. Some shows were solo, others featured The Leopards, and more often that not, his son Will joined him on stage. The show at the Kelvingrove Bandstand in August 2016, with the Leopards and Will all on stage with him, was as fine a show as I’ve ever seen in all the years I’ve been watching him.

2017 and 2018, as one glance at http://www.lloydcole.com/live/ will testify, has been just as frantic and the acclaim all over the world just as high.

I’ve a nice wee postscript of my own to add.

I only ever got myself a download copy of the 11-track Standards – partly as I was wary following my disappointment with Broken Record but also as I was going through a short phase, thanks to constraints on space, of cutting back on vinyl and CDs.  (I’ve since simply taken up more floorspace, much to the chagrin of Mrs Villain). It’s an album that I do love and listen to a fair bit…..there’s just so many moments which feel like a throwback to all parts of his career from the Commotions days to the early solo years to the later stuff when it was just him and his guitars and the voice…..so you can imagine my delight when my trip to Toronto just a few weeks back yielded a second-hand vinyl copy of said album, in mint condition at a very reasonable price.

And given that the LP landed in my hands so unexpectedly while this series was being published, it really did have a sense of karma about it.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Period Piece
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – No Truck

Now……does anybody want to have a go at the solo ICA that I’ve found impossible to nail down????

JC

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 2007-2010

For the most part, the years immediately after the release of Antidepressant were spent on the road in Europe and the USA, mostly perfecting his solo shows where it was just the man on a stool, with a mic and a selection of guitars. I caught a number of shows in this period in a number of locations and, while they tended to follow a tried-and-tested formula, they were always enjoyable and entertaining.

The return to the limelight via the temporary reunion of the Commotions reunion, as well as the very positive reception afforded Antidepressant and the live shows, led to a plethora of releases in the later half of the noughties:-

August 2007 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions Live at the BBC (Vol 1) : 19 tracks lifted from sessions and a live gig at the Hammersmith Palais , all dating from 1994

August 2007 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions Live at the BBC (Vol 2) : 16 tracks lifted from sessions in 1985 and a live gig at Glastonbury in 1986

August 2007 : Lloyd Cole Live at the BBC : 25 tracks, most of which were from a 1995 gig at Hammersmith Odeon plus a radio session that same year

January 2009 : Cleaning Out The Ashtrays – 4xCD boxset of collected b-sides, rarities, previously unreleased or alternative mixes of songs (59 tracks in all covering 1989-2006)

January 2009 : Folksinger Series Vol1 : Radio Bremen – 15 tracks from a set recorded for German radio station in 2003

January 2009 : Folksinger Series Vol2 : The Whelan – 23 tracks lifted from a three-night residency in Dublin in 2008.

In 2010, new ground was broken as fans are asked to crowdfund a new album, the songs of which had been written and tested acoustically on the road with Mark Schwaber and Matt Cullen, two musicians from Massachusetts, with the collective calling itself The Small Ensemble. The response from fans, together with support from Tapete Records, enabled a full band to be recruited and for the first time in the best part of a decade, Lloyd’s brand new album was much more than a solo offering.

Broken Record was released in September 2010. It opens with quite possibly my favourite Lloyd Cole line of all time

“Not that I had that much dignity left anyway”

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Like A Broken Record

The opening track in some ways sets the tone for a very different sort of album, featuring banjos, mandolins, pedal guitars, violins and harmony vocals that make it very Americana in texture and feel.  Sadly, the songs feel sometimes a little bit too ‘Lloyd Cole by numbers’ and to this long-time fan, it jolted somwhat and felt like a damp squib after Antidepressant. Listening again to the album in full recently for the first time in a few years, while commuting to and from work, I jotted down some notes as each song came up…here’s a couple of my thoughts:

Writers Retreat – an intro which rips off Maggie May and has a lyric just too clever for its own good

Double Happiness – this would have mustered as a b-side in the Commotions days…disappointing ending to the album

It wasn’t all negativity mind you. There’s a wonderful ballad – Flipside – which is screaming to be given the full kitchen sink of the wall of sound treatment while Westchester County Jail, Rhinestones and Oh Genevieve ( the latter written with his old sparring partner Blair Cowan) are decent enough listens.

It does seem, however, that my views on Broken Record are not in tune with many others given the critical praise handed out on its release:-

“the most consistent upbeat record Cole’s released in a dog’s age”

“a welcome surprise and a return to peak form”

“Some artists go Nashville to try and cover up for the fact they’re washed-up. But Cole, recording in Manhattan and near his Massachusetts home, never hints at that kind of desperation.”

“There are songs here every bit the equal of those from his glory days”

The last sentence does seem a bit far-fetched given this is on the album

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – If I Were A Song

One I fear wouldn’t be out-of-place on a Coldplay album with a dreadful ‘la la la la’ refrain/chorus added in for good measure.

JC

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 2004-06

2004 saw a renewed interest in the career of Lloyd Cole, thanks in part to a decision to briefly reform the Commotions for a select group of gigs to mark the 20th Anniversary of the release of Rattlesnakes as well as the album itself being re-released in a CD deluxe format with the second disc containing demos, concert and radio performances. There was also a cash-in 21-track compilation of singles from the band era and solo career.

As an aside, the gig at Glasgow Barrowlands in 2004 was as joyous and heart-warming a night as I’ve ever had at that particular venue, stretching back what is now 35 years.

The same year saw Lloyd begin the recording of his next solo record although it would take until August 2006 before Antidepressant was released, again on Sanctuary Records. It was a continuation of the successful formula followed on Music In A Foreign Language in that it was mostly one man and his guitar, albeit there’s a grander production and what feels like a larger budget enabling some strings to be superbly utilised, but where the last album had often been quite a dark and sad offering, there was a lot of fine self-deprecating humour on display across the latest offering, none more so than on album opener:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – The Young Idealists

There can’t have been anyone who heard when they this, either played live or when they bought the new record, who, wouldn’t have afforded themselves a wry and knowing smile. We might like to think that we still, in our mid 40s, hold the same beliefs and values as we did in our mid 20s, but you can’t ignore or discount the lessons you learn along the way.

It’s a relatively short album clocking in at around the 40 minute mark across 11 tracks, but around a quarter of the record is taken up by two lengthy and very wistful numbers, both of which display Lloyd’s ear for a tune and ability to come up with a lyric that Mr Cohen would have been proud of, especially this:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – How Wrong Can You Be?

There’s a very fine review on-line which sums up Antidepressant as “an album of songs about mid-life, its traps, compromises, disappointments, and the hidden delights found in aging. Desire is not absent in these songs, it’s merely channeled differently, and new ones pop up in the gaps where others have either been realized or forgotten.”

An absolute gem of a record and well worth picking up if you don’t already own it.

JC

 

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 2002/3

Having finally cleared the decks by finally getting the old record from 1996 out to the public, not forgetting the sideways trip into electronic ambience, the next two years saw Lloyd Cole turn into something akin to a folk singer, increasingly reliant on his trusty acoustic and his voice.

In some ways it was inevitable as the live shows were nowadays almost entirely acoustic with storytelling thrown in for good measure, increasingly at ease with the aging process and acknowledging that, for the most part, his audience were doing likewise. The old songs always got the loudest cheers and applause in the live setting but there was enough of a devotion from the fans that the new material was well received, enough for Lloyd to have a go at a really stripped down record not far removed from a home recording.

Music In A Foreign Language was recorded in 2002 and released in the UK on Sanctuary Records in June 2003. It was an album I enjoyed a great deal at the time, but giving it a fresh listen again a few days ago for the purposes of this series, I found it a little bit one-dimensional and lacking in ambition somewhat. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy hearing the songs again but they have sounded better played live over the years and the ones which LC has gradually dropped from his sets can now be seen as some of his less-strong material across his career. Lyrically, it’s a fairly straight-forward and unambiguous offer, albeit there are a couple of toe-curling moments of sixth-form prose that he’d never have allowed himself to sing back in his heyday.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Music In A Foreign Language
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Late Night, Early Town

The two most enduring songs on the album are a cover, and a surprising one at that, along with a wonderfully loose and stripped back version of a song he’d recorded and released with The Negatives

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – People Ain’t No Good
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – No More Love Songs

Yup, Lloyd does a fine job on one of Nick Cave‘s brooding numbers from his break-up album The Boatman’s Song. It sounds as if Lloyd is dedicating it just about everyone who he’s ever encountered in the music industry.

JC

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 2001

2001 rolled around and quite incredibly, Lloyd Cole released two CDs worth of music on XIII Bis Records, the label that had ensured The Negatives material got to see the light of day the previous year.

Both albums were released on the same day but they couldn’t have been any more diverse.

Etc. was, more or less, the lost album of 1996 which had been caught up in the record label wrangles I referred to a couple of weeks back. It’s an acoustic, at times folksy/country album, consisting of fully realised songs, demos and covers. Lloyd’s voice had rarely sounded more impressive, almost as if he was determined to make it as much of an instrument within the sounds he was creating, never straining for notes and delivering every word in a clear and concise manner. It’s a beautiful record, one which reflected the way he was now earning his living as live musician, touring solo with just a couple of guitars…no support acts, splitting his sets into two halves with an interval for the audience to enjoy a drink, loads of entertaining stories in between the music as he reminisced about his career and giving his audience the songs that most had come along to hear – the Commotions hits reinterpreted in an Unplugged fashion.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Old Enough To Know Better
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Memphis
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Fool You Are (demo)

The middle track is a cover of the song written by the actress Karen Black that she had performed in Nashville, the 1975 hit movie directed by Robert Altman. Lloyd’s version features Matt Johnston of The The on backing vocals.

The other CD was Plastic Wood, consisting of 19 tracks of ambient electonica across 45 minutes, with all keyboards played by Lloyd himself. It was totally unexpected and unsurprisingly it divided opinion.

I don’t listen to enough music of the genre to determine if it’s very good or an amateurish effort when compared to the acclaimed masters. It’s an album I’ve rarely returned to over the years and indeed I went as far as deleting it from the i-tunes library so as to prevent the tracks getting in the way of any occasion when I wanted a Lloyd Cole mixfest. It is worth, however, drawing your attention to this allmusic review of Plastic Wood with the writer very keen to offer praise.

I looked for but couldn’t find the CD where it should be on the shelf which means I’ve either filed it in the wrong place (and I’ve neither the time nor energy to search for it) or I’ve forgotten about loaning it out to someone at some point.  If it’s the latter and you’re reading this, then I’ll willingly take it back without the imposition of a fine.

JC

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 1996-98

It seemed that everyone at the UK record label was happy with the direction Lloyd Cole was heading in. Love Songs had carved out a bit of a niche for him as a talented acoustic-driven singer-songwriter and he spent much of 1996 in a New York studio carving out a new album along such lines, with a number of old friends, including ex-Commotion Neil Clark, flying in to lend a hand.

The completed album was well received by his direct contacts at the label but was vetoed by the head of the company who instead had a plan to put it on ice for the time being and release it in due course on the back of a new compilation album which would feature Commotions and solo material. The request was also made that Lloyd specifically write some new songs which could be released as singles to promote the planned new ‘Best Of’ collection.

Lloyd tried to play the game but everything got bogged down in record company politics. In the meantime, he got himself in and out of studios to cut songs for compilation albums and pulled together a new band called The Negatives, made up of NYC musicians, with who he played with live as well as putting down some tracks in the studio in the hope of them being released.

It took an eternity to get round to issuing the best of record, during which time Lloyd’s recording career was in limbo. The decision was taken to work with producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley who had delivered Easy Pieces back in the days of the Commotions but it didn’t quite go fully to plan. Stephen Street, with whom Lloyd had worked on Love Songs, was brought into polish things off on two new potential hit singles.

The label bosses were still far from happy and declined to release either of the two new songs, leading to the farcical situation of The Collection (as it was entitled) to be issued without Lloyd being able to get out on the promotional trail. And to add insult to injury, the label further declined to allow the 1996 album to be released….and indeed came to a parting of the ways with the singer.

Messy doesn’t come close to describing the situation.

Here’s some of what was made available publicly available in this period of time:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole with Robert Quine – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself

An ironic song to cover given the circumstances he was in at that time, this was recorded in 1997 for inclusion on a compilation album of Burt Bacharach covers. The other irony being that just a few years after releasing half an album of Bacharach inspired songs on Don’t Get Weird With Me Baby, this cover is just vocals and guitars.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Si Tu Dois Partir

Another contribution to a compilation entitled Pop Romantique : French Pop Classics, this time in 1998. The request had been for a French song but Lloyd felt he couldn’t pull that off and so he went for Bob Dylan‘s 1965 single If You’ve Gotta Go, Go Now but as interpreted and taken into the charts by Fairport Convention in 1969.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Romany Soup

The same folk behind the Burt Bacharach project, which had been part of a series of records under the title of Great Jewish Music, got in touch to ask Lloyd if he’d care to contribute to another album in the series, this time featuring songs by one of his heroes, Marc Bolan. The track selected was from 1969 and the Tyrannosaurus Rex days.

Finally, there were two new songs which made it onto The Collection, with one being a re-working of a song that had been recorded with The Negatives. it was also supposed to be the lead off single for the compilation but was shelved everywhere, except for some strange reason, in Germany:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – That Boy

Really can’t fathom why it wasn’t allowed to be released as a stand-alone 45.

The b-sides of that release included the English version of the track recorded for the French compilation album and a song which had been co-written with Stephen Lindsay of The Big Dish which had almost made it onto Love Songs:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – If You Gotta Go, Go Now
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Rain On The Parade

The other new song had been originally been recorded for the 1996 album that seemed as if it was ever unlikely to see the light of day; again, it would have made for a decent stand-alone 45:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Fool You Are

But, as you may have gathered from the way this series is unfolding, things would take another unusual turn in the coming years.

JC

 

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

MY FRIENDS ELECTRIC (13)

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Today’s friend electric describes herself as a ‘music obsessed cooking freak’ which always makes me laugh.

The blog is called I Sing In The Kitchen and the genius behind it is Tricia.

I say genius and in this case I think it’s an accurate use of the word for it really does take someone special and talented to come up with the idea of a blog which has a daily recipe linked into a piece of music or a singer or band. And she’s been entertaining us in this way since January 2011 never ceasing to amaze with the extent and variety of the recipes and the music.

Tricia has an incredible taste in music and is forever using her blog to recommend all sorts of new stuff with a fair bit of it featuring singers and bands from Scotland, many of which were previously unknown to me. The thing is though….Tricia isn’t from my part of the world – indeed she lives a long long way from my part of the world.   Vermont, USA to be precise and it never ceases to amaze me the depth or her knowledge and the extent of her enthusiasm when it comes to Jock’n’Roll.

By most reckonings, I should be getting as far away as is humanly possible from a food related blog.  My taste in food is about as bland, unimaginative and boring as you could imagine and therefore so much of what Tricia so lovingly describes is wasted on me. My idea of cooking is to remove something from the refrigerator, pierce a hole in the cover and press the appropriate buttons on the microwave.

Tricia though, has a real passion for here recipes and recommendations.  Have a read at this from February 2011 and please note the photos are taken as Tricia prepares and completes the recipe:-

Ooh La La! French Macarons With Raspberry-Rose Buttercream.

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Recently my daughter needed to make a French recipe to share with her French class at school. We decided to have a go at making macarons and I am so glad that we did. French style macaroons, or ‘macarons’ en français, are two delicate meringue style cookies sandwiched together with a rich buttercream or ganache. When you bite into a macaron the crisp exterior of the cookie gives way into a slightly chewy center that in turn gives way to a delectable cream filling. Delicieux.

I had never used rose water prior to this recipe. The buttercream recipe only calls for a quarter teaspoon and the smallest bottle sold at my supermarket was 300 ml! Holy Rose Water! Please, if you know of any other good recipes using rose water send them my way!

Please indulge me while I have a momentary flight of ideas:

Rose + Water= Titanic——>Sinking

Kills me everytime!

Back to the baking.

French Macarons With Raspberry-Rose Buttercream

Cookies:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 cup sifted almond flour

3 large egg whites

2 Tbs plus 1/2 tsp sugar

Filling:

16 oz frozen raspberries

1 cup plus 6 Tbs sugar, divided

2 large egg whites

10 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, softened

1/4 tsp rose water

Directions:

1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment.

2. Sift confectioners’ sugar and almond flour into a large bowl.

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3. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites, sugar and a pinch of salt until medium peaks form. Add egg white mixture to almond mixture and fold to incorporate.

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4. Working in two batches, fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch diameter plain pastry tip with batter. (Batter will be thin and will drip from bag). Pipe batter in 1 1/4 inch rounds on baking sheets, spacing one inch apart. (Cookies will spread slightly). Let rest on baking sheets at room temperature for 20 minutes.

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5. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven.

6. Preheat oven to 375℉.

7. Bake cookies 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325℉. Continue to bake cookies until puffed and golden on top, about 10 minutes, reversing sheets after 5 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets on rack. Carefully peel cookies from parchment.

(The cookies can be made one day ahead. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.)

Filling:

1. Bring raspberries and 1 cup sugar to boil in a large saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook until berries are soft, juices thicken, and mixture measures about 1 1/2 cups, stirring frequently, 7 to 9 minutes.

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2. Measure 1/2 cup of raspberry mixture and strain into a small bowl. Cool strained jam and jam with seeds separately.

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(The jams can be made one week ahead. Cover them separately and refrigerate)

3. Combine egg whites, 6 Tbs sugar and 1/4 tsp salt in bowl of a stand mixer. Set bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water. Heat until candy thermometer inserted into mixture registers 140℉, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes.

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4. Using whisk attachment, beat egg white mixture at high speed until stiff meringue forms and mixture is at room temperature, 5 to 6 minutes.

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5. With mixer running, add butter, 1 piece at a time, beating until each piece is incorporated before adding next. Beat in rose water. Add 3 Tbs seedless jam, 1 Tbs at a time. (If the buttercream should ever appear curdled, place bowl over medium heat and whisk to warm slightly for a few seconds, then remove from heat and beat again. Note: I never had any curdling and have no idea how common a problem that is.)

6. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Using 1/2 tsp jam with seeds for each, spread jam over flat side of half of macarons. (These are super delicate cookies. Handle very carefully or they crush.)

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7. Spoon buttercream into pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch plain tip. Starting at outer edge of flat sides of remaining macarons, pipe buttercream over in spiral. (I had to hold the macaron in one hand and pipe with the other since the dang things would move all over the place if I tried to pipe the buttercream while they were sitting on the parchment.)

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8. Gently press macarons, jam filled side down, onto buttercream coated macarons. Place on sheet. Cover and chill overnight.

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(The macarons can be made 2 to 3 days ahead. Store in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving)

Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine. (They said they got about 3 dozen sandwiched macarons. Even when I realized, early on, that I was piping the cookies too big I still only ended up with about 24 sandwiched macarons.)

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Here are a few French songs to get you in a macaron mood.

Lloyd Cole-Si Tu Dois Partir

Serge Gainsbourg-Sea, Sex And Sun

DeVotchKa-Viens Avec Moi

Cheers!

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I was lucky enough to meet Tricia, along with her incredible family, when they all came over to Scotland as part of a vacation a few years back.  I read on someone’s Facebook page that she’s heading our way again in the not too distant future….my fingers and toes are crossed.

JC