woensdag 19 januari 2022

Toy. David Bowie


As Bowie fans, we are spoilt for choice with new records, books and gadgets. Much more than our bank accounts can handle, but if you don't buy it right away, you will never find it for the regular price.

At the end of 2021 the 5th box set, with 11 discs of the 90's. Early January the Hunky Dory 50th anniversary album and the album Toy, rejected by the record companies in 2001. Shortly before David’s glorious return to Glastonbury in 2000 Bowie had expressed his intentions to record an album with his tour band. He wanted to make updates of his songs from the 60s. There were 13 tracks but also a new song (Hole in the ground). Halfway the process Bowie’s daughter was born which caused a break of two months. Bowie wanted to do the artwork himself and promised that was going to be very odd. Unfortunately record company Virgin didn’t want to release the album. Finally Bowie started working on Heathen and the recordings were shelved. In 2011 14 tracks leaked onto the internet.

Also a part of these songs were reworked for Heathen and released as B-sides and bonus tracks.

There are plenty releases with the original versions of the old songs. You can also find LPs and CDs with many of the reworked songs. The contents are different each time and not all of them are complete. Songs are: I dig everything, You’ve got a habit of leaving, The London boys, Karma man, Conversation piece, Shadow man, Let me sleep beside you, Hole in the ground, Baby loves that way, Can’t help thinking about me, Silly boy blue, Liza Jane, Uncle Floyd, In the heat of the morning, Toy (later: Your turn to drive) = 15 songs. Uncle Floyd is not on the official box for some reason.

Now that the record has finally been released, we can judge what we would have got 21 years ago. First of all there is this very odd cover, a mixture of a photo of Bowie in 2000 and a photo of him in 1947, as a cute baby. In my opinion, the worst cover ever. He seems to have created it himself.

Disc1: The songs lack the freshness of the 18-year-old enthusiast that David was. As if everything had been slowed down a bit. Of course David had slowed down too and his voice has matured and sounds better. Karma Man, Silly Boy Blue, The London Boys and Shadowman are standing out. Also on the sleeve information. Because the titles are shorter than the others. Larger letters have been used. Rightly so. 

Disc2; Liza Jane is a nice opener. You can hear the stylophone at the end. The first few numbers look too much like the ones on CD1 but there are two more tracks.

Disc3: This is the disc I prefer. The Acoustic versions.

Over all, a must have, but listen to the original stuff too. I treasure the 60’s versions. I can understand why none of the songs became a hit single, but all of them are little gems. It’s obvious that the young David had a lot of talent.

Tineke Guise

 

dinsdag 18 januari 2022

Lookin' Out. The Pulsebeats

More great rock and roll from Spain. Lookin' Out is the kind of album that could be reviewed with a single sentence, even a single word: partytime! As that is what The Pulsebeats offers its listeners, a party from the very first to the very last second.

A band that offers great rock songs in the punkrock, powerpop, garage rock segment and in every song manages to drop a couple of great bass runs, sets itself apart. The whole band kicks in the (effect) pedal with pleasure to give all for a couple of minutes per song. Short, fiery guitar solos, fun vocal melodies, huge, powerful drums. "And the band played on", Nathan Whittle sings in '(She Sings Like) Joey Ramone'. That is the main message I gleaned from listening to Lookin' Out. By the way, don't forget to listen how the rhythm section kicks this song to life!

Joey Ramone, The Ramones may be mentioned, but in my book the songs of The Pulsebeats are far more melodic, if not plain better. Green Day is more like it, with its bass player Mike Dirnt as major influence. The bass as a semi-permanent solo instrument. It sets the scene alright, these examples.

The Pulsebeats are a band from Santander on Spain's North coast. Alejandro Santos, bass/backing vocals, Luis Ibañez, guitars, Nathan Whittle, vocals/guitars and Ral Garcia, drums, are its members and together they cook up a storm. Lookin' Out is the band's third album in 11 years, returning after a five year hiatus. The break sure made sure the band did not lose any of its energy, because it is all here, balled into 13 tracks that will make you jump and shout. I'm fully aware how unoriginal this may sound, but it is the plain truth. The Pulsebeats offers the real thing. Writing anything else would be lying. Should I have a pulse beat like this on a regular basis, I'd be rushed off to hospital immediately. Temporarily, I'm fully alright with it. Partytime!

It's also all you need to know. If you like punkrock with rock and roll, powerpop and garage rock elements infused in all the right places, look no further, as The Pulsebeats offers it all and then a little extra for good measure.

Wout de Natris

maandag 17 januari 2022

Be My Baby. Ronnie Spector (1943-2022)

You heard I'm sure that Ronnie Spector passed away last week. Today's BBC Radio 4 flagship current affairs programme "Broadcasting House" managed to fit a Ronnie Spector tribute in between the dismal Boris and Novak sagas. The emphasis was actually on the thunderous bass drum intro to Be My Baby delivered by Hal Blaine (who was also the drummer on Bridge Over Troubled Water and Wouldn't It Be Nice - amongst many others listed here) -  under the direction of Phil Spector. 

Spector would also put the drum sound up front to great effect right from the start on Instant Karma. Ronnie Spector's single for Apple "Try Some, Buy Some" - one of George's songs of mystic revelation that was left off All Things Must Pass - was a flop, however, something she bitterly regretted doing for her increasingly erratic husband. It was planned by him to be a trailer for a come-back album on Apple that never happened. George subsequently re-used the backing track with his own vocals replacing Ronnie's, for inclusion on his less impressive follow up to ATMP. Living in the Material World. 
Be My Baby probably has the most famous bass drum opening of any pop song and tingled the spine again when it unexpectedly blasted out of the radio this morning - and superbly matched with Ronnie Spector's voice too. She looks fabulous in the classic TV show clip shown on the TV news obituaries. Brian Wilson said it was the greatest record ever produced which is a fitting accolade and memorial for her, for Phil Spector at that time in his prime as a genius producer, and for Hal Blaine who passed away in 2019.
 
Mark Carvell
 
A P.S. from Gary Hunt, a drummer in his own right:
 
Yes Mark, yet another sad passing…. Just on technical point, the drum intro consists of three bass drum beats (single and two double notes) followed by a highly reverberated snare hit. The snare is the sound that really draws your attention to the bass drum rhythm… In those days only one or two mics were used for recording the drum kit and so any processing would be applied across the kit.
Hal Blaine really was the original ’session drummer’, most of his miking techniques were copied by nearly every ‘name’ drummer thereafter and some are still used today… The Spector massive reverb sound was not the first time it was used on drums however, Joe Meek was probably the first to use the idea… in fact Meek had much more technical expertise than Spector, in fact he invented a lot of it… There are unsubstantiated tales of Spector coming to London and being accused by Meek of stealing his production ideas!

 

Child's Play. Alice Phoebe Lou

Alice Phoebe Lou maakte met Glow al een van de betere albums van 2021, maar voegt er met het intieme, sfeervolle en warm klinkende Child’s Play nog een prachtalbum aan toe.

Orbit van de Zuid-Afrikaanse muzikante Alice Phoebe Lou was voor mij een van de allermooiste albums van 2016 en alles wat de muzikante uit Berlijn sindsdien heeft gemaakt doet er niet voor onder. Het leverde vorig jaar het prachtige Glow op, dat voor mij uit het niets, gezelschap heeft gekregen van Child’s Play. Het is een album dat in het verlengde ligt van zijn voorganger, wat betekent dat Alice Phoebe Lou het ene na het andere prachtige popliedje uit de hoge hoed tovert. Soms uiterst ingetogen, soms net wat uitbundiger, maar altijd voorzien van het unieke stempel van de Zuid-Afrikaanse muzikante, die ook met dit album weer betovert met haar bijzondere stem en muziek.

Alice Phoebe Lou is een van oorsprong Zuid-Afrikaanse muzikante, die een paar jaar geleden is neergestreken in Berlijn, waar ze ook met enige regelmaat is te zien als straatmuzikant (vooral bij het metrostation Warschauer Strasse). Met haar debuutalbum Orbit uit 2016 haalde Alice Phoebe Lou de top 10 van mijn jaarlijstje, waarna ze haar talent bevestigde op het in 2018 verschenen Paper Castles, dat misschien minder verrassend klonk dan Orbit, maar wel degelijk de nodige groei liet horen. 

In 2021 keerde de Zuid-Afrikaanse muzikante terug met het prachtige Glow, waarop haar songs nog wat intiemer en broeieriger klonken en werden voorzien van jazzy accenten. Ik schreef Glow een paar dagen geleden alvast op voor mijn jaarlijstje, maar uit het niets is ook nog een nieuw album van Alice Phoebe Lou verschenen. Child’s Play is het tweede album van Alice Phoebe Lou in 2021, iets dat overigens meer muzikanten dit jaar hebben gepresteerd, en voegt nog tien songs toe aan het bijzondere oeuvre van de muzikante uit Berlijn. 

Vergeleken met het ingetogen en melancholische Glow, opent Child’s Play opgewekt met Underworld. Het is een uptempo popliedje met zwierige gitaarlijnen, die helemaal aan het eind van het album nog een keer terugkomen in de titeltrack. De rest van het album klinkt vertrouwder en ligt in het verlengde van Glow. 

Er zijn twee tracks waarin Alice Phoebe Lou genoeg heeft aan haar akoestische gitaar en haar stem, maar in de meeste tracks is gekozen voor het warme geluid dat we kennen van Glow en dat bestaat uit een elektrische gitaar, bas, drums en wat subtiele keyboards. Er zijn momenteel heel veel jonge vrouwelijke singer-songwriters die vooral vertrouwen op een gitaar en een stem, maar Alice Phoebe Lou slaagt er op een of andere manier altijd weer in om bijzonder of zelfs uniek te klinken. 

Haar gitaarspel kleurt altijd net wat buiten de lijntjes en ook de stem van de Zuid-Afrikaanse muzikante heeft iets bijzonders. Op Orbit was het vooral het zweverige karakter van de muziek dat mij aanspraak, maar sinds Glow is de muziek van Alice Phoebe Lou vooral intiem en persoonlijk. Waar Glow nog werd getekend door de kleine en beperkte wereld van de lockdowns en verloren liefdes, gloort er op Child’s Play weer wat hoop, al blijft de muziek van Alice Phoebe Lou vaak wat melancholisch. 

Op Child’s Play laat Alice Phoebe Lou uiteindelijk vooral horen wat ze ook al op Glow deed, wat gezien de beperkte tijd tussen de albums en het werken met hetzelfde team ook niet zo gek is, en ook dit keer ontroert ze met persoonlijke popliedjes vol gevoel. Ik heb sinds de eerste noten van Orbit ruim vijf jaar geleden een enorm zwak voor de muziek van de singer-songwriter uit Berlijn en dat zwak is door Child’s Play alleen maar groter en sterker geworden. 

Ook Child’s Play is weer een album vol mooie, warme, intieme en persoonlijke popliedjes, die makkelijk verleiden, maar die ook de fantasie prikkelen. Child’s Play werd in slechts tien dagen en met eenvoudige middelen opgenomen. Alice Phoebe Lou liet zich bijstaan door bassist Dekel Adin, drummer en toetsenist Ziv Yamin en producer David Parry, die ook mooie dingen deden op Glow. 

Het levert een sober maar ook zeer sfeervol album op, dat in iedere track weer net wat anders klinkt, maar tien tracks lang onmiskenbaar als Alice Phoebe Lou. Net als op Glow zijn de meeste songs op het album ingetogen, maar er gebeurt van alles op het album. De warme en soepele stem van de Zuid-Afrikaanse muzikante draagt hier overigens stevig aan bij. 

Ik heb Glow zoals gezegd al opgeschreven voor mijn jaarlijstje, maar het deze week verschenen tweelingzusje van het album doet er niet voor onder. Alice Phoebe Lou vind ik sinds mijn eerste beluistering van Orbit een uniek talent en sindsdien koester ik alle muziek die ze maakt. Het is niet anders voor Child’s Play, dat weer een aantal nieuwe favoriete Alice Phoebe Lou songs heeft toegevoegd aan een inmiddels prachtige playlist.

Erwin Zijleman

 

zondag 16 januari 2022

The hits of the Bee Gees 1967 - 1969, part 2

Today we continue with the string of hits of the Bee Gees in the second half of the 1960s. There's till some great stuff coming up, I promise you. Aside from that, the pace of the singles, the albums accompanying them, it all suggests the band was writing day and night and using all other time, besides doing promo tours, eating and sleeping, on recording new songs in the studio..

Jumbo/The Singer Sang His Song (1968/2)

I remember liking this song a lot but forgot all about until I ran into the single second hand somewhere in the past decades. In the spring of 1968 there were several fantastic singles. 'Summertime Blues', 'Words', 'Lazy Sunday', 'Lady Madonna', 'Jumping Jack Flash' and Jumbo. Psychedelia had made its way to the band clotheswise, just look at the sleeve pictures of the band's singles, musically that certainly is far less the case, barring the lead guitar and mellotron on 'World'. Jumbo certainly is a psychedelic single; although the sleeve is no longer. Vince Melouney's lead guitar is totally trippy. With the song Bee Gees scored, again, an easy top 2 hit single in NL, which is a bit surprising, listening to this trippy song and comparing it to the band's singles from 1967. Perhaps that is the reason why it is the only single with a double a-side, the far more Bee Gees sounding song The Singer Sang His Song. The record company not really believing in the song. It may be explained by the fact that the band was so popular it could release anything for a while. I can't remember ever having heard the b-side at the time. Jumbo was the hit alright and in 2021 still a good song and no, not because I still think it is about a certain elephant called Dumbo.

I've Gotta Get A Message To You (1968/3)

And now for what always was my favourite Bee Gees single. Hearing them one by one I can ascertain whether that is still the case. Although a kind of ballad, it is the most powerful song of Bee Gees. Once again the lead guitar is allowed to go off in the chorus. Also for the first time the band shows what it can really do with harmonies. For the first time the band gets truly inventive here. Great harmonies, counter melodies and the three brothers fully going for it and not just a meagre ahh in the background. There's a great bass part played by Maurice as well. This is a band and it has gotten to be very good at what it does. A shame that the five piece is already nearly over here. So overhearing it all, my mind has not changed, this is my favourite.

I Started A Joke (1969/3)

Having reviewed a punkrock cover version by Kid Gulliver just a few weeks ago. I wonder how the original will do. It is one of those songs that are with me like forever. Where I have no doubt at all that I know from its release onwards. And it being the new Bee Gees single, it had to be good. Knowing it for certain, because of that sentiment at the time. I was to young to be a fan but certainly waiting for each new single, as I had come to understand that concept in the fall of 1968. I realised that new music was added to what already existed. That is a huge difference with the songs before that. They were there but not conceived by me as "new", just there.

I Started A Joke is a dragon of song, as we call it in NL with the dragon part not being positive or representing strength. A dragon of a song had this not been a Bee Gees song. It is the kind of sentimentality that comes with paintings with a little gypsy kid on them, with a tear rolling out of one of its eyes, that were so extremely in fashion about the same time. Had it not been a Bee Gees single. I can't help liking it. Robin sings it with all his heart and it shows. The prominent acoustic guitar is Vince Melouney's last contribution to the band. He had left the band, for reasons unknown to me, before the release as a single. Another top 3 hit was a fact, but not before much longer the whole Bee Gees were about to unravel.

First Of May (1969/2)

A voice, Barry Gibb, a piano, Maurice and an orchestra conducted by Bill Sheppard, that is what makes First of May. Even more sentimental than 'I Started A Joke' and yet one of those beautiful Bee Gees ballads that spells, big hit. Also the reason that Robin Gibb left the band, as he wanted his song, 'Limelight' to be the a-side. That's the stuff big bands break over, remember their ages, 22 and 20. There was also a story of one brother shooting the other in the stomach at the time. If there's any truth in that, I don't know.

Robin started a short solo career with one number 1 hit, 'Saved By The Bell' and another one later in 1969 before rejoining until the day he died. First Of May simply is a beautiful ballad, there's no other word for it.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow (1969/3)

I know this was a single but I have hardly any recollection of the song. I'm listening to it right now and it is not as if recollections come jumping up and down in my mind. It simply has not made that much of an impression it seems, except for Barry singing "Tomorrow". Listening to it, it is a powerful record but also a bit of both sort of Bee Gees singles. A bit 'Words' and a bit 'World'. The dark piano is there, the orchestra is there and the background vocal aahhss. The intro certainly does not tell the whole story of Tomorrow Tomorrow. It is perhaps the most solid of all the singles, the least poppy. For the chorus it all drops away, making it the cleanest Bee Gees production. Before the orchestra comes in full force. Bill Sheppard can be called the sixth Bee Gee with a reason. Tomorrow Tomorrow is a song that in 1969 perhaps made a short lived impression but also was one of those Bee Gees singles that just disappeared because there were so much more famous songs to chose from. I'm pleasantly surprised in 2021. Great trumpet part too.

Don't Forget To Remember (1969/1)

And here's the final number one single for the band, until 1978 that is. At the time I had no idea of course but we're listening to a country song alright. At the time it was the new Bee Gees single, so it was good. In 2021, and several decades before it, I simply have discarded it as a terrible song. I'm afraid I will never forget the song but it is the only one of the hits presented here, I would not mind forgetting. It's simply to cheesy.

Next Colin Petersen left the band. He can still be heard on Bee Gees second hit of 1970, the dreadful 'I.O.I.O.'. The story is Petersen was fired after calling out the role of Robert Stigwood and the power the manager had over the band, its production, ownership of music and managing. It was all in one hand and Petersen had his doubts. The rest is history.

I'm stopping here, because this series so far is about sixties bands, bands that often did not continue their respective success in the decades after it. Bee Gees did. The band's last chart entry was in 1998 in NL, spanning 31 years. As I wrote at the start of this exploration into the distant past, I have a hard time comparing the band to any other band, except the Dutch The Cats. Listen to singles like 'Lea', 'Why' and 'Marian' and you'll know why. In these few years in the late 1960s the Bee Gees cranked out a huge number of hits that all, except one, made the top 3 or higher, that is an exceptional level of consistency not matched by many, if any bands of the time. In other words the Bee Gees are a part of the 60s pop pantheon.

Wout de Natris