Wednesday, 14 July 2010

a-ha reissue first two albums in blaze of glory

Having told the world that after 25 years they were going to go gentle into that good night, a-ha are chucking out a few gems to us just to remind us exactly who they were before they hang up their instruments for good.

First out the gate is expanded reissues of their first two albums 1984's Hunting High and Low and 1986's Scoundrel Days.

While I always viewed Scoundrel Days with indifference (although I loved singles "Manhattan Skyline" and "I've Been Losing You"), I was always a massive fan of Hunting High and Low. I really enjoyed a lot of the material on there, especially the forgotten single - "Train of Thought"  - and some of the other album cuts like "The Blue Sky" and "Dream Myself Alive". It was competently produced and well written pop sung in very accent free English.

The reissue of Hunting takes the album's original 10 tracks and bolts on 31 bonus tracks. This spans the musical gamut of remixes, b-sides, demos, early versions, the works. While there's 5 versions of breakout hit "Take on Me" from original pre-album release to the 1982 demo when it was called "Lesson One", there's also an album's worth of unreleased material.

I have to say, a few of these bonus tracks really start to wear at the sheen of the original album. As with most demo material, the curtain is pulled back a bit on the magic of the final released product as you hear wrong chords, incomplete lyrics and other "not for public consumption" out bursts that really make a demo a demo.

Most of the material on the second disc is pretty forgettable and listening to it make me actually question what it was about the original album that I liked in the first place. Probably not the reaction you want as a band OR a record label putting this stuff out.

However, the remixes for the singles as well as the novelty of the original version of "Take On Me" are always worth a listen as is the demo for "The Blue Sky" (and not just because it's one of my favourite songs on the album).

The band have booked into Royal Albert Hall in October to play the album in its entirety as part of their farewell tour. Here's hoping for everyone's bums' sake they stick to the original album and not the 41 tracks that comprise this release... there may need to be a few intermissions otherwise.

Here's the track listing in full:

1. “Take On Me”
2. “Train Of Thought”
3. “Hunting High And Low”
4. “The Blue Sky”
5. “Living A Boy’s Adventure Tale”
6. “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.”
7. “And You Tell Me”
8. “Love Is Reason”
9. “I Dream Myself Alive”
10. “Here I Stand And Face The Rain”

Bonus Tracks
11. “Take On Me” (Original 7” Version 1984)
12. “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.” (Extended Mix)
13. “Train Of Thought” (U.S. Mix)
14. “Hunting High And Low” (Extended Remix)

1. “Take On Me” (Demo)
2. “Train Of Thought” (Demo)*
3. “Hunting High And Low (Demo)*
4. “The Blue Sky” (Demo)
5. “Living A Boy’s Adventure Tale” (Early Version)*
6. “The Sun Always Shines on T.V.” (Demo)*
7. “And You Tell Me” (Demo)
8. “Love Is Reason” (Demo)*
9. “I Dream Myself Alive” (Demo)*
10. “Here I Stand And Face The Rain” (Demo)*
11. “Stop And Make Your Mind Up”
12. “Driftwood”
13. “Dot The I”*
14. “The Love Goodbye”
15. “Nothing To It”*
16. “Go To Sleep”
17. “Monday Mourning”
18. “All The Planes That Come In On The Quiet” *
19. “Never Never”
20. “What’s That You’re Doing To Yourself”*
21. “You Have Grown Thoughtful Again”*
22. “Lesson One” (Autumn 1982 “Take On Me” Demo)*
23. “Presenting Lily Mars”

Here's the Scoundrel Days track listing:
1.  “Scoundrel Days”
2. “The Swing Of Things”
3. “I’ve Been Losing You”
4. “October”
5. “Manhattan Skyline”
6. “Cry Wolf”
7. “We’re Looking For The Whales”
8. “The Weight Of The Wind”
9. “Maybe, Maybe”
10. “Soft Rains Of April”

Bonus Tracks
11. “I’ve Been Losing You” (Extended Version)
12. “Cry Wolf” (Extended Version)
13. “Manhattan Skyline” (Extended Version)

1. “Scoundrel Days” (Demo)*
2. “The Swing Of Things” (Demo #3)*
3. “I’ve Been Losing You” (Octocon Studio Demo)*
4. “October” (Demo)*
5. “Manhattan Skyline” (Demo)*
6. “Cry Wolf” (Demo)*
7. “We’re Looking For The Whales” (Demo)*
8. “The Weight Of The Wind” (Demo)*
9. “Maybe, Maybe” (Demo)*
10. “Soft Rains Of April” (Guitar Version)*
11. “Scoundrel Days” (Octocon Studio Demo)*
12. “This Alone Is Love” (Original Version)
13. “Days On End” (Demo)
14. “Train of Thought” (Live In Croydon)*
15. “I’ve Been Losing You” (Live In Croydon)*
16. “The Blue Sky” (Live In Croydon)*
17. “Looking for The Whales” (Live In Croydon)
18. “Cry Wolf” (Live In Croydon)*

Tracks marked with * are previously unreleased.

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Morrissey reissues on the way - Bona Drag up first

Cover of "Bona Drag"Cover of Bona Drag
We've known for a while that most of the EMI owned Morrissey back catalogue was to get the reissue treatment. However, firm news has finally been revealed about the 20th anniversary reissue of the a-side/b-side mop up album, Bona Drag.

Hitting shops 27th September, the album will be remastered AND feature 6 previously unreleased tracks:
1. "Happy Lovers At Last United" (Outtake from "Everyday is Like Sunday" sessions)
2. "Lifeguard On Duty" (Outtake from Viva Hate sessions)
3. "Please Help The Cause Against Loneliness" (demo) (Outtake from Viva Hate)
4. "Oh Phoney" (Outtake from Bona Drag sessions)
5. "The Bed Took Fire" (early version of "At Amber")
6. "Let The Right One Slip In" (alternate long mix)

To appease fans as well, apparently the sleeve is finally going to be corrected. Taken as a still from the "November Spawned a Monster" video, Morrissey wore a black top in the video, but it was changed to red for the sleeve. The booklet is also to feature exclusive new photos. No word yet on what else the liner notes might hold.

The full track listing of the reissue is as follows:

1. Piccadilly Palare
2. Interesting Drug
3. November Spawned A Monster
4. Will Never Marry
5. Such A Little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference
6. The Last Of The Famous International Playboys
7. Ouija Board, Ouija Board
8. Hairdresser On Fire
9. Everyday Is Like Sunday
10. He Knows I'd Love To See Him
11. Yes, I Am Blind
12. Lucky Lisp
13. Suedehead
14. Disappointed
15. Happy Lovers At Last United (Previously unreleased)
16. Lifeguard On Duty (Previously unreleased)
17. Please Help The Cause Against Loneliness (Previously unreleased)
18. Oh Phoney (Previously unreleased)
19. The Bed Took Fire (Previously unreleased)
20. Let The Right One Slip In (Alternate long mix, previously unreleased)

 To commemorate the reissue, EMI is resurrecting ANOTHER dead record label just for Morrissey. Fans will remember when he originally signed to the label in 1988 his debut album Viva Hate was issued on the resurrected HMV label. This time round, the label getting the Morrissey kiss of life is Minor Major Records, famed for their 1969 #1 record "Je t'aime... moi non plus" by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg.

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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

It was 25 years ago today - Live Aid

Live Aid at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, 1985Image via Wikipedia
what started out as the reaction by a fading rocker to a news report on famine in Africa culminated 25 years ago today with the greatest music event the world has ever seen - Live Aid.

Showcasing almost every major band in the western hemisphere, the concert was so large it had to take place in two venues in two timezones - RFK stadium in Philadelphia, PA and Wembley Stadium in London.

While the main thrust of Live Aid was to help the famine stricken in Ethiopia, a side benefit of the day was the turning of ordinary bands into superstars... which was bound to happen with a global audience in the HUNDREDS of millions.

Who can forget Freddie Mercury's amazing call and response during Queen's set or the career making U2 set where they actually ran out of time and couldn't play their current single "Pride" (but who can forget that rendition of "Bad"?). Then there was Phil Collins playing at both venues, thanks to Concorde, or the performance by Duran Duran creating a historic howler on the #1 single of the day "A View to a Kill".

It's hard to be cynical about an event that did so much for so many. Most egos were left at the door and it made for one of the most entertaining days of music ever. In some ways, Live8 tried to replicate the magic for the 20th anniversary.

Live Aid was not only a concert with a roster of chart toppers, it was an event of its era and of its day, the greed is good generation giving something back with no strings attached.  That's something you can't replicate - not in 2005 and not in 2015. Just ask those who didn't buy Band Aid II or Band Aid 20.
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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Men at Work ordered to pay 5% royalties on "Down Under"

Having been found guilty this past winter of plagiarism for one of their biggest hits "Down Under", it has been announced this week that Men at Work are to pay a mere 5% of song royalties accrued since 2002, as well as on future earnings.

The track, an unofficial Aussie national anthem, tells the story of a backpacker travelling the world and includes a number of iconic Aussie images - including the narrator being offered a Vegemite sandwich.

Featured throughout the song is a flute riff that has now been proved to be ripped off from the Aussie folk song "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree."

The 5% awarded is a fraction of the 60% royalty claim Larrikin Music, owners of the copyright to "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree" were seeking.

Lead man at work Scottish-born Colin Hay, who co-wrote the song with fellow bandmate Ron Strykert, has maintained that any reference to the Aussie folk song was "inadvertent, naive, unconscious".

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Yazoo to reconnect with live album

For a band that only released two albums and a handful of singles during their very, very brief existence, Yazoo seem to continue to mine their catalogue to come up with new and interesting releases.

This week it was announced that the duo's short "Reconnected" tour in 2008 (which was to promote the 4 disc boxset "In Your Room") is being prepped for a CD release on the 27th September.

The set is scheduled to be released by Mute Records as a 2-CD set, a limited edition 2-CD set with 32 page hardcover book and digital download.

The tracklisting is as follows:

  1. Nobody's Diary (04:53)
  2. Bad Connection (04:02)
  3. Mr Blue (04:03)
  4. Good Times (03:32)
  5. Tuesday (03:04)
  6. Ode To Boy (04:18)
  7. Goodbye '70s (02:53)
  8. Too Pieces (03:35)
  9. In My Room (03:31)
  10. Anyone (03:32)
  11. Walk Away From Love (03:10)
  1. State Farm (04:02)
  2. Sweet Thing (03:55)
  3. Winter Kills (04:22)
  4. Midnight (04:34)
  5. Unmarked (03:31)
  6. Bring Your Love Down (Didn't I) (03:34)
  7. Don't Go (05:56)
  8. Only You (03:06)
  9. Situation (06:23)

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Front Line Assembly chart success

Front Line Assembly @ AllhusetImage by pellesten via Flickr
As a fan of Canadian industrial band Front Line Assembly, I resigned myself to being in the minority. Unlike breakout acts of the genre like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, FLA (as fans call them) never reached the heady heights of mass market success.

Indeed, they've had more success over the years with their side project Delerium, especially a track they did with Sarah McLachlan called "Silence" which seemed to ignite both acts' careers in the UK back in the early 2000s.

Having said that, it was with surprise, bewilderment and joy that I discovered Front Line Assembly not only have a new single out, but that it's charted in the US. Not one of the usual "scraped in at #198 on the Hot 200" that people mutter under their breath.

Oh no, ladies and gentlemen, the new single "Shifting Through The Lens" has reached the heady heights of #13 on the influential Billboard singles chart.

As lead Assembler Bill Lieb told website Side-Line, "We are really happy about the buzz and all the good feedback. This is the first time in many years that we have a release on the Billboard charts."

My hat is off the Bill Lieb and co. So much so that I spent a chunk of today revisiting my favourite FLA album, "Caustic Grip".
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Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Spotify for Android finally updated

Android robot logo.Image via Wikipedia
After what seems like an eon since the iPhone release of the latest Spotify client, news comes today that the app for Android phones has finally been updated.

This latest release, version 0.4.04 is HUGE! It includes all the social aspects of the revamped desktop client as well as the biggie request that's been clogging the internet since the mobile apps were released - Last.FM scrobbling enabled.

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Monday, 22 March 2010

The Cure may finally disintegrate in May!

Disintegration album coverImage via Wikipedia
One of the greatest albums of all time was released in 1989.

Featuring murky, dark and painful material "Disintegration" was the pinnacle of the Cure's musical output of the 80s. Building on the difficult double album "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me", "Disintegration" continued "Kiss Me"'s dark sense of foreboding, and expanding it into one of moodiest, most perfectly claustrophobic soundscapes of recent times.

It's been a long time in coming - especially in the run of Cure reissues which have been coming out in dribs and drabs for over five years - but this masterpiece is finally going to see the light as part of the deluxe edition range in May. There were rumours that due to general declining CD sales and a fallout with their (ex) record label, the reissues of Cure material was ceasing.

A post on The Cure's official website, however, has proven the rumours to be just that.

As if almost re-booting the reissue phase, "Disintegration" is being unleashed in a deluxe THREE CD set in time for the album's 21st anniversary.

The collection will feature a bonus disc of 21 songs in mostly demo form, as well as an expanded version of the "Entreat" live album that originally came out in France. The original version only featured 8 tracks, the reissue now features the entire "Disintegration" album live.

Thankfully most of the online vendors aren't playing silly beggars with the price. You'll be able to grab this 3 discer for under £12 from the usual suspects.



01. Plainsong
02. Pictures of You
03. Closedown
04. Lovesong
05. Last Dance
06. Lullaby
07. Fascination Street
08. Prayers for Rain
09. The Same Deep Water as You
10. Disintegration
11. Homesick
12. Untitled

CD2 RARITIES (1988 - 1989)


# PRAYERS FOR RAIN (instrumental demo)
# PICTURES OF YOU (instrumental demo)
# FASCINATION STREET (instrumental demo)
# HOMESICK (instrumental)
# FEAR OF GHOSTS (instrumental)
# NOHEART (instrumental) *
# ESTEN (instrumental demo) *
# CLOSEDOWN (instrumental demo)
# LOVESONG (instrumental demo)
# 2LATE (alt version - instrumental)
# THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU (instrumental demo)
# DISINTEGRATION (instrumental demo)
# UNTITLED (alt version - instrumental)
# BABBLE (alt version - instrumental)
# PLAINSONG (rough mix)
# LAST DANCE (rough mix)
# LULLABY (rough mix)
# OUT OF MIND (rough mix)
# DELIRIOUS NIGHT (rough mix) *
# PIRATE SHIPS (rough mix) *

03. ENTREAT PLUS Live At Wembley 1989
1. Plainsong
2. Pictures of You
3. Closedown
4. Lovesong
5. Last Dance
6. Lullaby
7. Fascination Street
8. Prayers for Rain
9. The Same Deep Water as You
10. Disintegration
11. Homesick
12. Untitled

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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

6 Music's demise makes me sad

I missed out on the pirate radio revolution of the 60s and the whole radio licence expansion fight led by Xfm and Virgin Radio back in the 90s.

However, I will always remember my first taste of 6 Music, the BBC's digital only bridge between radios 1 and 2. There was just something intangibly cool about the station. It wasn't the way they wore their indie cred on their sleeve, leaving the rubbish one hit wonders of modern pap for radio 1 and the safe somewhat twee pop for radio 2.

I always found 6 Music to be that cool older brother who always had the best records and the cool friends - someone to aspire to. Unlike Radio 1 who was this far away from an ASBO and radio 2 who'd nodded off before dinner with slippers on and pipe in hand.

6 Music would never get the listeners it's siblings got, for the main reason that DAB is still an exclusive club. Sure it's available on the net and through various television systems, but there's a LOT of entertainment competition when you're at your PC or plonked in front of your telly.

The Beeb have always been able to forge in new directions that more commercial ventures wouldn't be able to dare, and in some avenues (iPlayer) they've hit paydirt.

I still believe there's life left in 6 Music, and I tune in from time to time on my PC, as I never did get dabbed up.

If it does die, I will be saddened, as if I had my way Radio 1 would have been for the guillotine around the time of John Peel's (the last surviving reason to tune in) passing.

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Thursday, 4 February 2010

Men at Work lose plagiarism case

Down Under (song)Image via Wikipedia

Men at Work may need to get back to work to pay their legal bills.

The big news today is that Scottish Aussie pop combo Men At Work have been found guilty of plagiarism and a federal court in Sydney ordered compensation to be paid. The old school-exam style crime pertains to their 1981 pop anthem "Down Under" which depicts a backpacker's travels around the world.

The song, seen in some countries as the only hit of a one hit wonder is synonymous with Aussie pride and is played at any event mildly connected to Australia - the closing of the Syndney Olympics, the unofficial anthem of the Australian team that won the Americas Cup in 1983, an iconic Qantas ad and  Australia Day celebrations on any given year.

The passage in despute is the famous flute line that runs throughout the song. It has been deemed this is a direct lift of the children's song "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree," written by Marion Sinclair in 1934.

Music copyright lawyer Stephen Digby told ABC Online he was surprised by the court's decision. "I think it could have gone either way but my initial reaction was always that this was going to be a very hard case for (publisher) Larrikin to win," he said.

With a win in the bag for Larrikin, a court hearing is to take place later this month to determine exactly how much of the royalties for the song Men At Work songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert will have to pay back, as well as and record companies Sony BMG Music Entertainment and EMI Songs Australia. The figure bandied about at the moment is 40-60%.

Let's hope Vegemite don't come calling for unlicenced use of a brand name.
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Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Spotify's related artists

SpotifyImage via Wikipedia
Spotify have been in the news a lot this week. From founder Daniel E's news that Twitter is their biggest traffic source, to the announcement today about a newly rolled out related artist feature.

According to an article on Tech Crunch, Spotify have been working on a recommendation engine to let you discover new music while listening to your favourite acts. This would act as a replacement for the short, rather static list of related artists that appeared on the artist page. According to Tech Crunch, the recommendation engine is "powered by an algorithm that cross-references data collected over millions of user listening hours, not dissimilar it seems to’s ’scrobbling’ of tracks".

Whether the feature will spur you to on to discover any amazing new finds is still up for debate. A quick perusal of the new system finds me on the Pet Shop Boys page contemplating listening to their related artist Brummie metal Gods "Judas Priest" (maybe it's the gay connection they're going for).

Clearly, though, there's still quite a bit of work to do before I'm actually discovering new RELEVANT music using this feature.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

Classic album cover stamps out today

Royal Mail have released their latest themed postage-stamp sets today - Classic Album Covers. Ten record sleeves in all, this collection spans mainly rock and several decades.

With releases like this there's always going to be debate, and I'll start it off by asking why Pink Floyd's "Division Bell" was included over "Dark Side of the Moon" and why Coldplay is here at all. Also, where is Duran Duran's "Rio"? Patrick Nagel did some amazing popart in his time and the Rio cover is his most notable work.

The other covers  are what you'd expect: Blur's "Parklife", New Order's "Power, Corruption and Lies", Rolling Stones' "Let it Bleed", The Clash's "London Calling", Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells", Led Zeppelin's "IV", Primal Scream's "Screamadelica" and David Bowie's seminal 1972 masterpiece "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars".

It's interesting seeing these classic covers this small. It echoes the argument of music artwork when CDs became popular and the 12" x 12" piece of art for a record was shrunk down to fit a 5" CD. Now they quite literally are postage-stamp size.

The cost varies for the set depending on how extravagent you want to be (Presentation Pack, Stamp Cards, Prestige Stamp Book, Souvenir Sheet or Cover), and you can find them all on the Royal Mail site. A collection featuring all the permutations can be had for a little over £12.

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