11/28/2013

Kinder, Gentler Rogue Policeman

ANDY SUMMERS
Mysterious Barricades
[Private Music-1988]

Whether he was pursuing a variety of musical tangents out of artistic restlessness or found himself adrift after the breakup of the Police and tried the ‘let’s see what sticks’ approach, Summers’ solo output over the last 30 years has wandered from pop-rock, avant-garde guitar duets with Robert Fripp, new age, modern jazz, Brazilian classics and back to pop-rock again.

But his first time out as a solo instrumentalist, Summers went down a new age road, going as far as signing with Private Music, a label founded by Peter Baumann of Tangerine Dream, and one of the subgenre’s premiere record companies. Mysterious Barricades bears some similarities to Summers’ first collaboration with Fripp, I Advance Masked [A&M-1982]—particularly on “Shining Sea” and “Emperor’s Last Straw”—but from the moment the gentle, peaceful guitars and synths of lead-off track “Red Balloons” make their presence felt, it’s clear this is a less angular, more relaxing endeavor than those alongside the legendary King Crimson guitarist.

Definitely a late night record and an ideal soundtrack to surrendering to Morpheus; and yes, that was a compliment.

Highlights: the aforementioned “Red Balloon”, “Shining Sea” and “Emperor’s Last Straw”; "The Lost Marbles", and the title track.

11/19/2013

We Need More Ambitious Lovers

With a staggering resumé well-known to those versed in New York’s downtown music scene of the ‘70s and ‘80s—which includes DNA, The Golden Palominos, and The Lounge Lizards—“skronk” guitarist Arto Lindsay formed Ambitious Lovers with keyboardist and long-time collaborator Peter Scherer in the mid ‘80s. 

Although much more pop and radio-friendly than anything in Lindsay’s past, the Lovers’ hybrid of funk, new wave and Brazilian music (Lindsay often sang in Portuguese) never took off with mainstream audiences despite being under the auspices a major label. And, sadly, the band’s plan to name each album after the seven deadly sins stalled at three—Envy [Virgin-1984], Greed [Virgin-1988] and Lust [Elektra-1991]—with the Lovers' breakup. 

In keeping with their origins, Ambitious Lovers often featured fellow New York-based musicians Joey Baron, Bill Frisell, Melvin Gibbs, Vernon Reid, Marc Ribot and Nile Rogers, among others. These days, Lindsay maintains an active career as a solo artist, collaborator, producer (particularly in Brazil: Carlinhos BrownAdriana Calcanhotto, Vinicius CantuáriaGal CostaMarisa MonteCaetano Veloso, and Tom Zé are some of the artists he's produced) and often working with Scherer on various projects.


This particular tune, "It Only Has To Happen Once", is an old favorite from the Greed album. 

11/13/2013

It Meant a Lot

KEITH RICHARDS
Talk is Cheap
[Virgin-1988]

After refraining from going on the road for Undercover [Rolling Stones/Columbia-1984] The Stones decided to also not tour behind Dirty Work [Rolling Stones/Columbia-1986], exacerbating the growing rift between Mick and Keith, the former investing much of his time in a burgeoning solo career, of which She’s The Boss [Columbia-1985] was the first salvo. Meanwhile, Jagger had not played guitar on Dirty Work—first time that had not happened since Sticky Fingers [Rolling Stones/Atlantic-1971]; various drummers filled in for Charlie Watts on the album, since he was badly addicted to heroin and alcohol at the time (which was Jagger’s reason to veto a tour in support of the album); and long-time road manager and occasional keyboardist Ian Stewart passed away shortly after Dirty Work was completed. In other words, the Stones were in shambles. So, Keef ended up doing the one thing he’d no interest in ever doing: going solo himself. 


Assisted by multi-instrumentalist/producer Steve Jordan—who’d played drums on Dirty Work and been the drummer in the band Keef put together for the Chuck Berry tribute Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll!—Keef wrote some songs, put together a band called The X-pensive Winos (Waddy Wachtel--guitar, Ivan Neville--keyboards, Charley Drayton--bass and Jordan on drums), signed a deal with Virgin Records and released his solo debut, Talk is Cheap, in early October of 1988. 


Top 25 in the UK, Top 40 in the US, Talk is Cheap got positive reviews and was jokingly referred to as the best Stones record in a while. But the record itself was no joke: among the highlights, leadoff single “Take it So Hard” was classic Keef; “Make No Mistake” a tasty soul ballad; and “How I Wish” is quintessential latter-day Stones at their best. Maybe it was for the best that Mick and Keith went their separate ways for a bit. Nah, strike that: it was for the best; no ifs, ands or buts.

From Genesis to Non Revelations

GENESIS
self-titled
[Atlantic-1983]

We tend to cover album milestones with a certain frequency here. Whether it’s an iconic album, a personal favorite, or both, we’re no strangers to commemorating the anniversaries of records that matter to us. This time we’re going to make an exception and focus on an album that does not meet the above criteria but is worthy of our analysis, nonetheless.


Generally speaking, self-titled albums tend to be debuts. And when they're not, there is a tendency to dig a bit deeper into this particular significance, often ascribing an artist defining, statement-of-purpose label to the decision behind not naming the release. And while there are surely instances of that to be found—'a scattered, sprawling and indulgent piece of work, by a lethargic, yet often brilliant quartet which no longer operates as a unit', seems to be the message behind the nomenclature of The Beatles’ self-titled release aka ‘The White Album’—more often than not, the self-titling of an album, deep into an artist’s career, has no real significance.

In this particular case, the decision to self-title was based on writing the songs as a unit, a valid yet uncommon reason for not naming an album, but then again, these gentlemen used to be bandmates with someone who had a very interesting take on all of this: Peter Gabriel decided his solo albums would all be self-titled; like issues of a magazine, he likened it to. Until his record company put a see thru sticker of his fourth and called it Security [Geffen-1982], Gabriel had managed a trifecta of self-titled albums. That he called his three following albums So [Geffen-1986], Us [Geffen-1992] and Up [Geffen-2002], respectively, probably says more than he wanted to let on about his views on naming albums, but we digress.

Gabriel’s influence pops up on Genesis in the form of leadoff track and first single “Mama”, which harkens back to Gabriel’s third album [Mercury-1980], on which Phil Collins played drums, and which later influenced his own “In the Air Tonight”. The band’s most successful UK single—which contains a maniacal laugh by Collins, inspired by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s hip-hop classic “The Message”, making the song a doozy of a trivia game answer—"Mama" opens the album seemingly implying a more direct return to the band’s art rock roots. No dice.

“Mama” is a ruse; Genesis is the album that marks their official delving into the straight up pop music sweepstakes and the unforgivable “Illegal Alien” is part of that Faustian development. Yeah, towards the end of the album they take a stab at such prog-leaning, Duke [Atlantic-1980] and/or Abacab [Atlantic-1981] approved fare with “Silver Rainbow” and “It’s Gonna Get Better”, but by then the damage has been done.

Genesis is the last of the band’s transitional albums before they unofficially became The Phil Collins Show, which is oddly fitting for a self-titled album, but there you go.