Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One-sided wonders

But first....
The more time that goes by, the more stuff comes back to me that I mistakenly left out of my record-store playlist/discography, RECORD STORE DAZE.
Hey, we played a LOT of different music during my three years in the record store. Most of what I've forgotten was stuff I never thought about buying and taking home. Albums that were easy for me to ignore, in other words. Here's a few of them:
Graham Parker -- SQUEEZING OUT SPARKS, THE UP ESCALATOR. (HOW could I have missed the great, angry "Mercury Poisoning"?)
Emerson, Lake and Palmer -- WORKS VOLUME 1: Fanfare for the Common Man, C'est La Vie, Piano Concerto No. 1.
The Foghat and AC/DC albums were just easy for me to ignore, except for Foghat's great "Wide Boy." Believe me, after having The Knack's first album inflicted on me a dozen times a day for a couple months, I somehow learned how to block out the stuff I didn't like.
Not sure why I couldn't hear Graham Parker or XTC -- they just didn't jump out at me back then. And the ELP album was one I bought while hanging out at the record store and just forgot about. I'm told that happens as you advance in years....
Hopefully, this will be all of this forgotten stuff that I'll have to list in the interests of Completeness....

Now then -- a good share of the stuff we played in the record store had one GREAT side, and a second side we hardly ever played at all. For some of what follows, I'm not sure I EVER heard Side 2. Check these out....
* The Records: (1st) (1979) -- The standouts by this '60s-throwback English quartet are the silly "Teenarama" (which would get NO radio airplay today -- it didn't back then, either) and the Byrds-y "Starry Eyes," both of which should have been hits.
"Teenarama" is merely about hanging out with an underage girl for a week -- for kicks(!). And it's hilarious. "Starry Eyes" could be a mid-'60s rocker with nice chiming guitars, except for the lyrics about mismanagement and lawsuits -- the Records' Will Birch and John Wicks sure could write 'em.
"Up All Night" is also a lost classic -- more chiming guitars and great group vocals on a little number about insomnia. Anybody who's ever been unable to sleep can relate. "All Messed Up and Ready to Go" and "Girls That Don't Exist" are OK mid-tempo rockers -- they show some promise.
I don't think I ever heard Side 2 of this more than once -- and nothing jumped out at me. The Records went on to record a second album, CRASHES, which included the airy "Hearts in Her Eyes," which was covered by a late-'70s/early-'80s incarnation of the Searchers.

* New England: (1st) (1979) -- Flashy Stadium Rock, managed by Kiss's management company and produced by Kiss's Paul Stanley. The first two tracks are great -- the melodramatic "Don't Ever Wanna Lose Ya" was almost a hit, and "Hello Hello Hello" is a nice splashy opener. Lotsa loud keyboards and guitars, and guitarist/songwriter John Fannon has a good voice. The production is thick.
The requisite ballad, "Shall I Run Away?," keeps all the plusses of the sound and just slows things down a bit. "Alone Tonight" is an OK fast closer. The one clinker on the side is the stupid "P.U.N.K. (Puny Under-Nourished Kid)," which is too dumb to talk about. I forget Side 2.
New England went on to record two more albums. The title song off their third, EXPLORER SUITE, is above-average art-pop. Where are they now?

* Tarney/Spencer Band: RUN FOR YOUR LIFE (1979) -- This solid commercial-pop album runs the gamut from the flashy-guitar opener "No Time to Lose" to the poppy "Won't'cha Tell Me" to the moody "Live Again." Lots of tasty guitar and solid harmony vocals by the duo of studio-pros -- Alan Tarney would go on to produce Tina Turner and Cliff Richard. David Kershenbaum (Joe Jackson, Tracy Chapman) produced this, the T/S Band's second and apparently last album. "No Time to Lose" got some radio airplay, but not enough to break through. Don't think I heard Side 2 more than once.

* Holly and the Italians: THE RIGHT TO BE ITALIAN (1980) -- Imagine the Ramones with a woman lead singer, and you've got Holly and the Italians. Great simple stuff -- the opener "I Wanna Go Home" is a perfect trashy themesong for anyone who's ever been homesick. "Youth Coup" sounds JUST LIKE the Ramones, with repeated shouts of "Hey!" and some nice silly political lyrics. "Rock Against Romance" and "Just Young" are above-average production numbers, strongest on chant power.
But the real killer is the lost classic "Miles Away," which closes the side. This heavy-drama teen-breakup piece is worthy of Phil Spector or the Ronettes. MTV ran the video for awhile, but this crashingly dramatic brokenhearted lovesong sounds best with the sound turned WAY UP. As does the rest of Side 1.
Except for the catty "Tell That Girl to Shut Up," I don't think I ever got through Side 2....
Richard Gottherer (The Go-Go's, Joan Armatrading) produced this one.

* Spider: (1st) (1980) -- More great crashing trash-pop from Mike Chapman's like-minded trebly-production expert Peter Coleman. Spider's album was Chapman and Coleman's first shot on their short-lived Dreamland Records label. The great, crashing, trebly "New Romance (It's a Mystery)" was a minor hit. "Everything is Alright" tried to follow it up, unsuccessfully.
The one that SHOULD have broken through is the great "Shady Lady," which has memorable group-vocal choruses, great lyrics, and more revved-up guitars and keyboards.
"Burning Love" and "Crossfire" are both crashing, angry, in-your-face pop. Not sure I've ever heard Side 2.
This band had a lot of talent -- they did a second album, BETWEEN THE LINES, then vanished. Drummer Anton Fig ended up in David Letterman's LATE SHOW band; songwriter/keyboardist Holly Knight became a "song doctor." Not sure what happened to singer Amanda Blue and her odd, hiccuping vocals....

* Red Rider: DON'T FIGHT IT (1980) -- The production by somebody named Michael James Jackson is pretty thin for a quintet, but guitarist Tom Cochrane's songs grow on you. The title song is pretty great, and gains power with its repeated choruses. "White Hot" was almost a hit. "That's Just the Way it Goes" and "How's My Little Girl Tonight?" are above-average early-'80s mainstream pop; "Way it Goes" is a pretty good side-closer.
Not sure I heard Side 2 more than once. A little more production savvy --  a few more guitars, keybs and backing vocals tossed-in in the right places -- and this could have sold millions.
Red Rider had one almost-hit with "Lunatic Fringe" a few years later -- then Cochrane hit with the solo smash "Life is a Highway" almost a decade later....

* Judie Tzuke: STAY WITH ME 'TIL DAWN (1979) -- This may just be an elaborate singer-songwriter album with a huge production, but it sounds perilously close to art-rock to me. That's probably why I loved it.
The moody, apocalyptic title song (buried at the end of Side 2) got some radio airplay and was almost a hit. The huge production continues at the start of the album -- with grand, sweeping studio jobs on numbers like "Welcome to the Cruise" and "These Are the Laws," and a hushed almost-a-capella performance on "For You." Tzuke had a beautiful voice, and the players really pile it on. When it's good, this album is a knockout.
"New Friends Again" is kind of a weak side-closer -- but the real sleeper is "Sukarita," with swirling keyboards and choruses that build and build. This could have been a hit, too.
Not sure I ever heard the whole second side. Tack "Stay With Me" onto the end of Side 1, and you've got five songs that are pretty tough to beat -- if you can take the huge production style.
Tzuke went on to record a second album, the less-ambitious and even-less-successful SPORTS CAR; co-wrote a couple songs with Elton John (Tzuke's albums were on Elton's Rocket label), then did an intermittent string of albums released in England. But America should have been listening the first time around....

Hey, it's from a couple years later, but so what -- Camel's THE SINGLE FACTOR (1982) is one of the great one-sided albums of all time. In this case, it's Side 2 that should have been minted in gold....
It opens with the gorgeous guitar instrumental "Sasquatch," then moves into an intense and angry keyboard-heavy tale of schizophrenia, "Manic." Camel hardly ever rocked this hard. It's another lost classic.
"Camelogue" and "Today's Goodbye" sound like daily work-notes from Camel leader/guitarist Andy Latimer, who passes on some of the things he's going through as his band slowly falls apart....
The closer is a 6-minute suite, "A Heart's Desire/End Peace" -- I think "Heart's Desire" is just a BIT too sweet, but the gorgeous guitar work that follows (aided by former Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips) is just perfect -- a marvelous way to end an album.
Too bad that listening to the first side is like plunging off of a cliff....
More soon -- and buy my books, would 'ya...?

1 comment:

  1. I take it you're not a Foghat fan Tad ;)
    Out of all their albums Girls To Chat.....has aged badly like bad cheese. Wide Boy was a fun song but I recall playing Live Now Pay Later and Love Zone quite a lot back around 1981 What pissed me off is that the 45 of Live Now was chopped down but Love Zone was kept in Tact. Boogie Motel uneven as it was, begins the new wave period that Lonesome Dave was going toward but as a songwriter Dave wasn't much one. Love In Motion is a terrible rewrite of High On Love, what the hell Dave singing about, Blow jobs? But Paradise Alley sounded better now than back then. For Those About To Rock, I enjoyed Side 1 with Put the Finger On You and Lets Get It Up, but side 2 is as uneven as they come.

    Squeezing out Sparks was critically acclaimed and maybe so, I like it fine but Up Escalator was dreadfully uneven. But that would be the end of the Rumour as we knew them till 2011 when they got back together. My faves remain Manuevers and Stupidfaction and the Bruce duet Endless Night. But the rest of the album is meh.

    I actually brought Starry Eyes as a 45 single but never did get the first Records album but the 2nd one Crashes was fairly good. I need to pull that record out and hear it again.

    As always thank you for supporting Crabby's Top ten and Musical BS.