4/23/2021

Over The Moon

FIELD MUSIC
Flat White Moon
[Memphis Industries-2021]

Starting with their fifth album, 2016’s Commontime, Field Music added some indie funk to their angular, prog-informed but highly melodic pop/rock, resulting in their most accessible record to date. 

On this, album number eight, they have weaved together all the elements that have previously characterized their sound in a possibly even more welcoming mix. 

Once again the brothers Brewis (multi-instrumentalists David and Peter) have put together a collection of songs that sounds inviting and familiar while openly displaying their influences without slavish devotion to any which one in particular. 

Highly recommended.

4/22/2021

ANNIVERSARIES: 'Around the World in a Day'

PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION
Around the World in a Day
[Warner Bros]

Perhaps sensing—and rightfully so—that the follow up to the monumental ‘Purple Rain’ [Warner Bros-1984] would not fare as well no matter how great it turned out to be, the Purple Monarch requested that his label keep promotion at a minimum for this one and only release a single after the album had been out for a month. 

Not a bad move considering album number seven was indeed a musical change of pace and ‘Purple Rain’ was still a current record, having been released almost 10 months prior. But despite the precautions anticipating the mixed reception it eventually got, the album did go double platinum and produced two of his biggest hits: “Raspberry Beret” and “Pop Life”, the former a Billboard #2 that once again become a Top 40 hit (#33) in 2016, in the wake of the man’s death. 

Released April 22, 1985

4/18/2021

Field Music: The First 15 Years

Fronted by British singing/multi-instrumentalist siblings David and Peter Brewis, along with a rotating cast of musicians that includes members of The Futureheads (Peter was their original drummer) and Maxïmo Park, Field Music is a heady mix of XTC, Todd Rundgren, Split Enz, Squeeze, a smattering of the Beach Boys and Yes, and a lyrical nod to the Ray Davies songbook. The much-esteemed singer/songwriter Graham Brice turned us on to their second album Tones of Town a while back and we’ve since gone down the rabbit hole. 

So, in anticipation of their eighth album being released this upcoming week, we're sharing brief individual impressions of the studio albums they've released over the band's first 15 years [2005-2020]. (All have been released on their own label, Memphis Industries.) Here we go… 

Field Music [self-titled - 2005]
A solid debut featuring their angular yet sophisticated pop, the Brewis brothers are joined by keyboardist Andrew Moore and Maximo Park drummer Tom English, and come across as a fully-formed act right out of the gate. 

Tones of Town [2007]
It’s no surprise that this talented outfit managed to avoid the proverbial sophomore slump, but this one is actually even more impressive. Plenty of hooks and delightful twists and turns abound here. Highly recommended. 

Measure [2010]
The Brewis boys announced they were going on hiatus after completing their promotional commitments for Tones of Town, citing a desire to explore other musical avenues but making clear they were not breaking up. True to their word, they returned with a 20-song double album divided between the siblings’ respective approaches—David’s is artier/experimental; Peter more of a pop craftsman—but complement each other wonderfully. 

Plumb [2012]
Proggier than Measure but mostly consisting of songs under the 3-minute mark, the album’s 15 tracks explore such themes as loneliness, nostalgia, economic instability and life in an industrial town in that context. Plumb struck a nerve: it was met with rave reviews and was nominated for the Mercury Prize, which is awarded every year to the best album released by a British or Irish artist. 

Commontime [2016] 
David and Peter let their respective children's love of Hall & Oates inform album number five and got funky—for them, anyway. But a certain Purple Monarch took notice, tweeting his approval of first single “The Noisy Days Are Over”. The nod from the President of Paisley Park undoubtedly helped boost media presence for Commontime, which is considered their most accessible record. The band even went out on a brief US tour, their first American jaunt since 2010. 

Open Here [2018]
Although they had explored such themes before, Open Here is regarded as their political record, with lyrics inspired by their anger and dismay over Brexit and particularly their hometown of Sunderland being among the first supporters of the measure. Not a dour listen by any stretch, tho, as it leans a bit more than in the past on a slightly orchestral sound and is likely their most diverse record. 

Making A New World [2020]
Inspired by World War I and how its consequences affect history in diverse ways a century later, the music for this album was originally commissioned for a museum exhibit. And while their angular art pop (think of XTC circa Black Sea recording Apple Venus) is still present, it might not be the best introduction to the band, as it can seem at times more like a soundtrack and less like an album. But a satisfying listen, regardless. 

Field Music’s most recent album, Flat White Moon, will be released on April 23.

4/17/2021

ANNIVERSARIES: 'McCartney'

PAUL McCARTNEY
McCartney
[Apple]

Recorded mostly at home as his first formal post-Fabs musical statement, it was the recipient of scathingly negative reviews but managed to reach and stay at the top spot of the charts for three weeks in the US. (It peaked at #2 in the UK.) The passage of time, however, has been kind to this one: these days it’s remembered as the first of his lone-man trilogy of solo albums and has earned much critical re-evaluation in the decades since it appeared, not to mention being regarded as an influence on the lo-fi/DIY movement. (It’s considered the first “indie” album by the man himself.) And while it comes across, undoubtedly, as a sometimes ragged and somewhat unfinished affair overall, even at his shaggiest and carefree the man was capable of bringing the magic, as evidenced by “That Would Be Something”, “Every Night”, “Junk” and the timeless “Maybe I’m Amazed”. 

Despite being the antithesis of the, in comparison, elaborate and ornate Abbey Road [Apple-1969] (which was the bulk of the negative critiques this one garnered), the homespun charm of this collection of songs has caught the ear of quite a few of his musical peers and descendants, who have voiced their fondness for it over the years, including the likes of Neil Young and Paul Weller. (Even the shit-stirring grouches at Pitchfork like this one!) In late September 2020, the album got a deluxe 50th anniversary reissue three months before the release of III [Capitol], the third installment of his solo trilogy. 

Sadly, while its release date coincides with the death of his beloved wife—who passed away on this date in 1998—I like to think the album’s airy and delicate opening track, “The Lovely Linda” and the aforementioned “Maybe I’m Amazed”, of course, are wonderful reminders of the anchor who kept him from going adrift at this time in his life. And for many years to come.  

Released April 17, 1970.

4/05/2021

Today in Music History (April 5)

1923 - Joe Oliver and King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, featuring a young Louis Armstrong, make the first jazz recordings by an African American band at Gennett Records in rural Richmond, Indiana. 

1961 - On The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet episode "A Question of Suits and Ties," Ricky Nelson sings "Travelin' Man" in what some consider the first music video. 

1964 - The Beatles film the famous opening scene from their first movie, A Hard Day's Night, running away from rabid female fans at London's Marylebone train station. 

1967 - Monkees fans march in London in protest of band member Davy Jones' announced induction into military service. The teen heartthrob is eventually exempted from duty for being his family's main provider. 

1968 - With tensions high the night after Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated, James Brown goes ahead with his concert at the Boston Garden, agreeing to televise the show to help keep calm. It does. 

1969 - The Guess Who's "These Eyes" enters the Billboard singles chart. 

1971 - Chicago is the first American rock band to perform at Carnegie Hall. 

1975 - Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You," with arguably the most famous vocal high note of the '70s, is the #1 hit in the US. 

1977 - David Bowie and Iggy Pop perform together on Dinah Shore's daytime show on NBC. 

1978 - Duran Duran play their first live gig, in Birmingham, England. Singer Stephen Duffy leaves the band two years later and is replaced by Simon Le Bon, shortly before the band are signed to EMI Records. 

1984 - Marvin Gaye's funeral takes place in Los Angeles, with Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones and Berry Gordy in attendance. 

1985 - Thousands of American radio stations play "We Are The World" simultaneously at 10:50 a.m. EST. In the next few weeks, the song goes to #1 in the US and the UK. 

1987 - Jazz drummer Buddy Rich's funeral takes place in Los Angeles, with Frank Sinatra, Artie Shaw, and Johnny Carson in attendance. 

1988 - Tracy Chapman's self-titled debut album is released. 

1994 - Kurt Cobain of Nirvana dies of an apparent self-inflicted shotgun wound at age 27. His body isn't discovered until three days later when an electrician enters to install an alarm.
On the eleventh anniversary of his death, his hometown of Aberdeen, Washington adds the phrase "Come As You Are" to its welcome sign. 

1998 - Prolific rock drummer Cozy Powell, who did time in Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and ELP with Keithe Emerson and Greg Lake, dies at 50 when he crashes his car on a highway near Bristol, England. 

2002 - Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley dies after overdosing on heroin and cocaine. Having lost much contact with the outside world, the 34-year-old singer's body wasn't discovered until two weeks later, when police enter his apartment on April 19 after his parents were notified that his daily bank withdrawl had ceased for 2 weeks. 

2006 - Rock and roll singer-songwriter Gene Pitney dies of a heart attack at age 66 while touring the UK. 

2008 - Leona Lewis hits #1 in the US with "Bleeding Love", her first American hit. 

2011 - Folk musician Gil Robbins of The Highwaymen (and father of actor/director Tim Robbins) dies of prostate cancer two days after his 80th birthday in Baja California, Mexico. 

2012 - The Philip Lynott Exhibition opens at the 02 in London, celebrating the legacy of the Thin Lizzy frontman. 

2017 - Trans-Siberian Orchestra founder Paul O'Neill is found dead in a Tampa, Florida hotel room. The band announces the 61-year-old rocker died from a chronic illness.
That same day, at the age of 73, Barry Manilow comes out as gay. 

2019 - The Aretha Franklin documentary Amazing Grace is finally released in theaters, 47 years after it was filmed in 1972. 

Today’s Birthdays include…vocalist Allan Clarke of The Hollies (79); tropical artist Willy Chirino (74); Abba’s Agnetha Fältskog (71); a couple of drummers: Les Binks, formerly of Judas Priest and Everett Morton of The English Beat (both 70); a couple of singers/songwriters: Peter Case, and Stan Ridgway of Wall of Voodoo fame (both 67); Christopher "Kid" Reid, of Kid ’n Play (57); Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready (55); singer/songwriter Paula Cole (53); Miho Hatari of Cibo Matto (51); Mr. Happy himself, Pharrell Williams (48); and How To Destroy Angels vocalist Mariqueen Maandig Reznor (40).

3/08/2021

ANNIVERSARIES: 'Superunknown'

SOUNDGARDEN
Superunknown

[A&M] 

For rock bands there’s something almost mythical about fourth albums. Album number 4 has been for many, the great artistic pinnacle or the blockbuster. And in this particular case it happens to be both.

Debuting at #1, going on to sell 5 million copies and widely acclaimed as one of the top hard rock records of the ‘90s, it represents the fruit of all the musical strands the band had been weaving. It is, without a doubt, the band’s artistic high point.

On a personal note, this has been a staple of my musical diet since its release—to this day, I listen to it on a regular basis as if it had been released mere days ago. Wish Cornell were still with us to celebrate this milestone in the band’s history, but…well, you know.

Released March 8, 1994.

3/07/2021

MILESTONES: 'Collapse Into Now'

REM
Collapse Into Now

[Warner Bros]

Their fifteenth album was the last on their contract and their final one overall. And yet for a band wanting to go out with a bang, recording their swan song in a series of recording studios (Berlin, Nashville, New Orleans; demos in Portland, OR) with various guest artists (including Lenny Kaye, Patti Smith and Eddie Vedder), its songs were never performed live. Make of that what you will. (Music videos were filmed for each song for promotional purposes.)

A Top 5 album in both the US and UK it is, along with 2008’s Accelerate [Warner Bros], the best critically received record of their 5-album post-Bill Berry stint. But perhaps more importantly, it neatly ties up, both sonically and chronologically, the 30-year recording career that began with the release of the “Radio Free Europe” single in 1981.

Released March 7, 2011.

3/06/2021

ANNIVERSARIES: 'Feel Good Lost'

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE
Feel Good Lost

[Arts & Crafts]

One of the privileged few who have gone thru the reverse sophomore slump—their second album, the Juno Award-winning ‘You Forgot It In People’ [Arts & Crafts-2002] was their critical and commercial breakthrough and set the stage for members Leslie Feist and Emily Haines to become stars in their native Canada—this beloved collective started out as a 2-man operation on their debut album.

Before the group swelled to around a dozen or so members and became an indie rock powerhouse, Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew put together dreamy, mostly instrumental soundscapes that can be as effective a soundtrack for late night seduction as a sober Sunday morning.

Released March 6, 2001.

3/05/2021

ANNIVERSARIES: 'The Land of Pure Imagination'

ROGER JOSEPH MANNING JR.
The Land of Pure Imagination
[Cordless]

After years of beefing up the ole resume with the likes of Air, Beck, and his own Imperial Drag, Moog Cookbook and the beloved Jellyfish, this multi-instrumentalist decided to finally go solo with impressive results. The spirit of the latter San Francisco retro-popsters is quite prevalent throughout this disc, especially the occasionally child-like, Saturday morning vibe of Spilt Milk [Charisma-1993].

But without the input and participation of co-leader Andy Sturmer—who brought a bit more of a rock and roll attitude to the proceedings—it would be a little off the mark to suggest that this is what the third Jellyfish album would’ve sounded like, but it comes mighty close. Unfortunately, despite superb songs with appealing melodies, addictive choruses and first-rate playing, the album can at times make one long for a bit more oomph, while in other spots it veers dangerously close to Burt Bacharach territory. 

That said, fans of Ben Folds, Todd Rundgren’s classic period (1970-72), and of course Jellyfish, will find very little to dislike about Manning’s initial solo outing.


(Note: Completists might want to seek out the Japanese version—released there as 'Solid State Warrior'—which shares the bulk of the songs on the US version but differs on three tracks. Then again, the deluxe US version adds the three songs from the Japanese version as bonus tracks.)

Highlights: “Too Late For Us Now”, “Wish It Would Rain”, “You Were Right”, the title track. 

Originally released March 5, 2005.

3/03/2021

MILESTONES: 'Master of Puppets'

METALLICA
Master of Puppets

[Elektra]

35 years ago, they made their last album with the late, great Cliff Burton (who died in a bus accident in Europe on the tour promoting the album); it was their first to go gold (without the aid of radio or MTV, a feat unimaginable at the time) and eventually sold six million copies. It was also deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" to warrant induction in the National Recording Registry by the United States Library of Congress, becoming the first metal album to be honored in this fashion. Quite apropos for a hands down, metal masterpiece that decades later is still as intense, powerful and transcendent as it was when it debuted. And, quite likely, will always be. Damn.

Which is why despite all the infighting amongst the band faithful all these years, they still love this one unanimously. As it should be.

(On a personal note, it was the first of their albums I ever heard, and to this day, “Battery” not only remains my fave song of theirs, but it rocks even harder every time.)

Widely acclaimed as one of the greatest rock albums of all time, it is undoubtedly one of the greatest metal albums ever made. Not too shabby for a bunch of kids from SF. Yeah...

Released March 3, 1986.