Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ever seen a young girl growing old, trying to make herself a bride? (Mike D'Abo) #532 - 535

Stereophonics Pick A Part That's New/ Nice To Be Out/ Positively 4th Street/ Pick A Part That's New (video)  (V2, 1999)
Stereophonics Just Looking/ Local Boy In A Photograph (live)/ Same Size Feet (live)  (V2, 1999)
Stereophonics I Wouldn't Believe Your Radio/ The Bartender And The Thief/ The Old Laughing Lady  (V2, 1999)
Stereophonics Handbags And Gladrags/ First Time Ever I Saw Your Face/ How/ Caravan Holiday (live)/ Nice To Be Out (live)  (V2, 2001)

Welcome to the first part of a mini Stereophonic-a-thon: this lot comes from around the first flush of the Welsh band's career.

Given they contain interesting covers and/or acoustic versions and/or different interpretations of their songs and/or non album tracks, the CD singles form a nice alternative universe to the parent albums.

All of the A sides are worthy (I tend to like the sing-along football terrace style guitar driven Faces like approach) but I especially love Handbags and Gladrags. For one it's a peculiar song that I've always loved, for another Kelly Jones' voice is a perfect match!

I've included three versions below: Mike D'Abo's original from 1970, Rod Stewart who had a hit with it, then Kelly Jones' version with all round great guy Jools Holland. Hmmm - Kelly does a great job, does he not!

Hidden gems: The covers are where it's really at here: Dylan's Positively 4th Street, Lennon's How and Roberta Flack's First Time are all gems.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

When the beats run dry there's gonna be some blood (Starsailor) #531

Starsailor This Time/ Push The Button  (EMI, 2006)

The jury is still out on Starsailor. For me they are utterly rooted in the Britpop era. That's short hand for 'they are a somewhat dated entity' in the same way that the eighties production (cough) values dated so many of that era's songs.

Still - there are definite elements of worthiness about Starsailor and this song in particular. The poppy approach, the vocals, and the lyrics are all rating on the positive-o-metre.

Hidden gem: A live run through of Push The Button is pleasant but hardly a gem.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

I try to kick the truth (Spearhead) #530

Spearhead People In Tha Middle (live)/ Hole In The Bucket (live)/ 100,000 Miles (live)/ Positive (live) (Capitol, 1995)

Spearhead is pretty much a vehicle for American musician Michael Franti. He produces a heady mix of r'n'b, funk, hip hop and reggae.

His big hit, okay, medium sized hit, was this song. It's a lot like Gil Scott-Heron's stuff to my mind and that's a very good thing!

People In Tha Middle made it into the top 50 in the UK in 1995 and it's easy to see why.

Hidden gems: B sides are live versions that also appeared on Spearhead's debut album, Home; two of them hits in their own right - a bargain package!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

You're cinematic razor sharp (Snow Patrol) #529

Snow Patrol You're All I Have/ The Only Noise/ Perfect Little Secret/ You're All I Have (video)  (Polydor, 2006)

Snow Patrol have taken a load of abuse in their time. Some of it is well deserved: their output since Eyes Open has been poor to say the least.

Luckily this track comes from Eyes Open and it's a storming rocker worthy of Snow Patrol at their best.

The production is certainly razor sharp, the sound: cinematic pop!

Hidden gems: The two tracks on the B side weren't included on the parent album. The Only Noise is somewhat slight but it's still a cool acoustically driven tune.

Perfect Little Secret is at the experimental end of their repertoire and so...not to my taste. 

Experimenting is great if you're King Crimson or, I don't know, Bowie, but if you're a great pop band with a fantastic lead singer - stick to that!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

An offering so sweet (Patti Smith) #528

Patti Smith Summer Cannibals/ Come Back Little Sheba/ Come On In My Kitchen/ People Have The Power  (Arista, 1996)

Gone Again, Patti's comeback album, brought a new sophistication exists to the Patti Smith sound. More layered. More arranged.

Gone (for a bit) was the punk poet/pop goddess/eco warrior to be replaced by an introspective earth mother. I guess death of loved ones (including Kurt Cobain) will do that to you.

Having said that, some of her pop sensibilities are still wafting about this weird track. It's definitely a commercial sounding song and so a natural choice as the lead off single from the album.

Hidden gems: It's a slightly bizarre mix on the B side tracks, which, incidentally don't seem to conform to the UK versions of this single. 

The Robert Johnson song, Come On In My Kitchen is a cool addition to the Patti Smith oeuvre and I'm a fan of the big sounding People Have The Power - although that whole sentiment is a little atypical to her back catalogue.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Try to hold on (Smashing Pumpkins) #525 - 527

Smashing Pumpkins Stand Inside Your Love/ Speed Kills  (Virgin, 2000)
Smashing Pumpkins Try Try Try/ Here's To The Atom Bomb  (Virgin, 2000)
Smashing Pumpkins Untitled/ Try/ Age Of Innocence  (Virgin, 2001)

These three show the band trying to hold on...and failing.

Compared to the songs on the last posting these are nondescript, flaccid, hollow versions of a band I love.

I'm sure there is someone out there right now reacting with apoplexy but I struggle with these three songs. I really do.

Billy Corgan's gift for melodic alternative prog metal deserted him for a time (he got his mojo back I'm happy to report) and so these chunes are NOT his finest hour.

Hidden gems - Ar - no!

The videos are as dire as the songs - Try Try Try is such a depressing couple of minutes that I refuse to support it further, so with some reluctance here's the best of a bad bunch:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What do I get for my pain? (Smashing Pumpkins) #521 - 524

Smashing Pumpkins Bullet With Butterfly Wings/ ...Said Sadly  (Virgin, 1995)
Smashing Pumpkins Thirty-Three/ The Last Song/ the Aeroplane Flies High (Looks Left, Turns Right)/ Transformer/ The Bells/ My Blue Heaven (Virgin, 1996)
Smashing Pumpkins Zero/ God/ Mouths Of Babes/ Tribute To Johnny/ Marquis In Spades/ Pennies/ Pistachio Medley (Virgin, 1996)
Smashing Pumpkins Ada Adore/ Czarina/ Once In A While  (Virgin, 1998)

The first clutch of Pumpkin singles reveals a great great singles band in a purple patch.

Billy Corgan's melodic punk metal schtick saw him making a strength of his whinny voice and overlaying massively distorted guitars into a winning combination.

Bullet (you know the one - the world is a vampire...rat in a cage) fizzes along on great pop sensibilities, Zero (you know the one - wanna go for a ride?) performs the same high wire act, and Ava Adore is all lush gothic romance of a vampiric nature (you know the one - in you I feel so hungry, in you I crash cars). Only the overtly commercial Thirty-Three is an odd bod single choice in this company of weirdos.

Hidden gems: Billy was certainly prolific during this purple patch, which means quality control can be a problem. That said Tribute To Johnny and Transformer would hold their own with anything on any Smashing Pumpkins albums.