My 10 favorite Dutch albums

Rock in the polder: the 10 best Dutch albums (apoplife.nl)

Rock in the polder: the 10 best Dutch albums

Introduction

So far, Dutch rock is not very prominent on my blog. In the 1950’s and 1960’s the Netherlands were introduced with pop/rock music by Dutch musicians through acts like The Blue Diamonds and Peter Koelewijn. During the second half of the (19)60’s Dutch pop music gets more serious with Cuby & The Blizzards, The Golden Earrings, The Outsiders and Q65, culminating in the global hit Venus by Shocking Blue.

Golden Earring - The Very Best Of (edwinknip.com/apoplife.nl)

Golden Earring – The Very Best Of

In the (19)70’s Dutch pop music becomes popular, internationally as well. Bands like Alquin, Earth & Fire, Ekseption, Focus, Golden Earring, Kayak, Sandy Coast, Solution and Tee Set set the tone with well received albums. The ‘Palingsound’ (which translates into ‘Eel soud’, which refers to the local village of Volendam, where a lot of local fishermen live) rears its head: The Cats are very popular. BZN alters its sound from hard rock and begins a second career in which they dominate the Dutch charts for decades. Each new album turns gold even before they hit the shops.

The Netherlands do well in other musical genres as well: The George Baker Selection scores global hits, just like the (producers) formation Stars On 45. Teach-In wins the Euro song festival and Pussycat has a big hit with Mississippi. Vader Abraham has a huge international hit with a song about the smurfs.

Als Je Haar Maar Goed Zit (Dutch punk compilation) (youtube.com)

Als Je Haar Maar Goed Zit (Dutch punk compilation)

After punk hit the music world, bands pop up in great numbers. Herman Brood becomes huge in Holland. He even goes off to America, but the adventure backfires. During that time a lot of exciting bands come up, among which Blue Murder, Gruppo Sportivo, The Meteors, New Adventures, Nits, Phoney & The Hardcore, The Rousers, Urban Heroes and Vitesse.

Dutch rock (rock with Dutch lyrics) is no longer exotic: Frank Boeijen, De Dijk, Doe Maar, Drukwerk, Het Goede Doel, Klein Orkest, Normaal, Tröckener Kecks and The Scene sing their songs in Dutch and create great music. Nowadays that all seems pretty normal, but at the end of the 1970’s and early 1980’s it was not the thing to do.

The Ex - History Is What's Happening (theex.bandcamp.com)

The Ex – History Is What’s Happening

Within alternative circles interesting things start to happen. Midway through the 1980’s the ‘Amsterdamse gitaarschool’ gives rise to extremely good bands like Claw Boys Claw and The Fatal Flowers. The electronic Clan Of Xymox and Minny Pops do very well within their own communities. The Dutch collective The Ex is internationally renowned for its authenticity and innovation.

But The Netherlands also do well in genres like soul, disco and funk: Mai Tai, Spargo and Time Bandits create good, slick music, that sells well, even abroad. after the breakup of his band Vandenberg, hard rock guitar player Adje van den Berg is enlisted by Whitesnake.

Centerfold - Man's Ruin (musicmeter.nl)

Centerfold – Man’s Ruin

The Dutch ladies trio Centerfold is the Dutch equivalent to Vanity 6. The song Dictator is a huge hit, as well as their cover of Golden Earring’s Radar Love. The Dutch band Loïs Lane perform with Prince and even records music with him. Saxophone player Candy Dulfer is part of several line-ups of Prince’s bands.

The 1990’s start off with international success for the Urban Dance Squad and dance-act Quazar. Bettie Serveert follows quickly. Acts like 2 Unlimited, Ten Sharp, Total Touch and the Vengaboys turn into international pop acts that have hit after hit after hit.

The Netherlands is the birthplace of a sub genre in the early 1990’s: gabberhouse, extremely fast dance.

De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig - De Lachende Derde (ultratop.be)

De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig – De Lachende Derde

In the meantime Dutch hip-hop matures. Acts like Extince, Osdorp Posse and, some time later, De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig improve the overall hip-hop music coming out of the Netherlands and make it exciting and fresh. Spinvis creates some great albums at the beginning of the new century. Acts like Junkie XL, Within Temptation, Ayreon, Armin van Buuren and Tiësto are internationally held in high esteem in their own specialist environment(s).

Nowadays the Dutch rock/pop scene flourishes like never before. The diversity is huge: Typhoon differs from Altın Gün differs from Pink Occulus. And yet, they are all successful and good.

Selecting only 10 albums was difficult. In the end, a lot of the 1970’s acts got excluded because their albums are too inconstant (to me). Therefore, the, arguably, biggest Dutch act Golden Earring is excluded as well. Lots and lots of great songs, but I can’t name one album that fascinates me from start to finish.

Without further ado, my top 10:

 

Ivy Green - Ivy Green (makeafuzz.com)

Ivy Green – Ivy Green

1978

Ivy Green is generally regarded as the first real Dutch punk band. Early 1978 they record their debut album in two days. After three days of mixing the album is done. The Dutch press lauds the album upon its release. However, the sales numbers (2500 copies) are very disappointing to record label Warner Bros. The band is kicked off the label. Slowly, but surely, the band regresses into anonymity.

However, what remains is a great album that still sounds fresh today.

 

Herman Brood & His Wild Romance - Cha Cha (discogs.com)

Herman Brood & His Wild Romance – Cha Cha

1978

See Herman Brood makes two great rock albums in 1 year!

 

Doe Maar - Skunk (bol.com)

Doe Maar – Skunk

1981

Early 1980’s Doe Maar was the most popular band in Holland. It all started with this album and the hit 32 jaar (Sinds 1 dag of 2). Doe Maar led the wave of bands that started to sing in Dutch.

This album is the first one that features Henny Vrienten. Vrienten was responsible for fresh ideas and songs. From 1982 onwards, after the release of the album Doris Day En Andere Stukken, the band is as huge as The Beatles once were (well, in the Netherlands anayway). However, the constant success, playing and lack of privacy overwhelm the band members and in 1984 they are done with it all and announce their disbanding.

On November 2nd, 1999, Doe Maar announces their reformation. Within weeks the whole of The Netherlands is Doe Maar crazy again. One year later the band performs a record breaking 16 (!) shows at the completely sold-out Ahoy in Rotterdam. Since then the band has performed regularly.

 

Urban Heroes - Live (napster.com)

Urban Heroes – Live

1981

In 1980 the album Who Said…Urban Heroes is released. The mix between new wave, ska and funk has great appeal, even in America. The singles Get It and Not Another World War are modest hits. One year later the album The Age Of Urban Heroes is released. The single Habadaba Riwikidi turns into the biggest hit of the band. That same year sees the release of this Live. At the time I played it to death, playing along with the great drummer.

Their success soon ebbed away.

N.B.: The album is produced by Golden Earring’s Rinus Gerritsen.

 

Claw Boys Claw - Shocking Shades Of Claw Boys Claw (audiophileusa.com)

Claw Boys Claw – Shocking Shades Of Claw Boys Claw

1984

And suddenly there it was, in 1984: Shocking Shades Of Claw Boys Claw, recorded within 3 hours and released on the band’s own Hipcat-label. Despite the lack-luster sound quality the album is highly praised. Thanks to shimmering performances Claw Boys Claw quickly turns into the ‘most exciting live-band of the Netherlands’.

In 1986 the band performs at Pinkpop ’86 and is one of the highlights of the day. To this day the band still records and performs. However, they were never able to equal their explosive debut.

 

Tröckener Kecks - Betaalde Liefde (cdandlp.com)

Tröckener Kecks – Betaalde Liefde

1985

Originally a punk band with Dutch lyrics. After the fantastic debut Schliessbaum and follow-up In De Krochten Van De Geest, the best Tröckener Kecks album, Betaalde Liefde, is released in 1985. Everything is good on the album: the lyrics, the music, the production (which is done by The Scene’s Thé Lau) and the guests. A perfect Dutch rock album!

 

Fatal Flowers - Younger Days (northendhaarlem.nl)

The Fatal Flowers – Younger Days

1986

The best rock band Holland has ever known, The Fatal Flowers. Their second album Younger Days is filled with good songs. The Fatal Flowers receives an Edison award in 1987 and they open Pinkpop ’87. In 1988 the band leaves for Woodstock, America for the recording of the successor, Johnny D. Is Back!, produced by none other than Mick Ronson. After Pleasure Ground, which was their most successful album to date, singer, founder and writer Richard Janssen suddenly decides to disband The Fatal Flowers. Sadly, The Fatal Flowers are no more.

 

Urban Dance Squad - Mental Floss For The Globe (mrhipster.com)

Urban Dance Squad – Mental Floss For The Globe

1989

Mental Floss For The Globe is the debut album by the rock-rapgroup from Utrecht. It’s an instant international smash. Urban Dance Squad is innovative and different: the band has a unique sound, mixing rock, funk, rap, hardcore and blues. The combination of a rapper, scratcher and a rock band was completely new and was copied multiple times since then. All stars seem to align for a bright future. In 1991 Life ‘N Perspectives Of A Genuine Crossover is released, and the band loses America in a heartbeat.

In 2000 Urban Dance Squad disbands.

 

Postmen - Documents (genius.com)

Postmen – Documents

1998

A three man group that mixes hip-hop with reggae. They win almost every award Holland has to offer. In 1998 their debut album Documents is released. The album is praised by the press. In 2004/2005 is over and band member The Anonymous Mis has a solo career using the name Postman.

 

The Child Of Lov - The Child Of Lov (ponikuta.com)

The Child Of Lov – The Child Of Lov

2013

See The Child Of Lov.

 

In closing

These are my 10 favorite Dutch albums.

Do you know other (better) ones? Let me know and I will add the cover to the story!

 

Additions

Brainbox – Brainbox / Earth And Fire – Song Of The Marching Children / Focus – Focus II / Golden Earring – Moontan / Kayak – Starlight Dancer / Ayreon – The Source

(1969 / 1971 / 1971 / 1973 / 1977 / 2017)

From Hans (see comments Dutch site)

Keuze Hans (musicmeter.nl)

 

Gruppo Sportivo – 10 Mistakes – Gruppo Sportivo – Back to 78

(1977 / 1978)

From Tom (see comments Dutch site)

Keuze Tom (musicmeter.nl)

 

Supersister – Present From Nancy / Solution – Divergence

(1970 / 1972)

From Peter (see comments Dutch site)

Keuze Peter (musicmeter.nl)

 

Japan – Obscure Alternatives

Japan 1978-1979 (sleepyard.wordpress.com)

Japan 1978-1979 (from left to right: Steve Jansen, Richard Barbieri, David Sylvian, Rob Dean, Mick Karn)

Introduction

In 1978 Japan released their second album Obscure Alternatives. Earlier that same year their debut album Adolescent Sex was released. Both albums are ignored by the members of the group and characterized as youthful errors. But still, Obscure Alternatives in particular is a significant step in the band’s history. With that in mind, this is a look back at the second Japan album.

Adolescent Sex

Japan - Logo (pinterest.com)

In the summer of 1978, just 3 to 4 months after the release of debut album Adolesent Sex, disappointment crept in. Both the band and the record company were unhappy with the abominable album sales in Europe, England and America. What’s worse is that the band was ridiculed based on their image and looks and, as a consequence, was not taken seriously musically.

The band, David Sylvian in particular, was unhappy with the way the band was marketed and promoted. The sexual connotations were not appreciated and deemed irrelevant. David Sylvian wanted more say in every aspect of the band and the music.

Obscure Alternatives

Japan - Obscure Alternatives (bowers-wilkins.com)

Japan – Obscure Alternatives

The second album appeared on October 27th, 1978, just over 6 months after their debut. The album is loathed as well as praised:

  • Loathed, because the sound of Adolescent Sex had all but vanished. Despite the poor sales, that album has quite a large following;
  • Praised, because of the significance in the band’s body of work. The album is a an important intermediate station for the band, because it hints to the coming transformation of the band, which came into fruition on the next album (1979’s Quiet Life).

Obscure Alternatives hid the funk and soul side of the debut and preferred rock music. Still, the sound was more refined. I think the following three songs illustrate that perfectly: …Rhodesia, title song Obscure Alternatives and the closing The Tenant. All three original and very good and the primary reason I like this album so much. Come to think of it, these three songs go against the typical rock-feel of the album.

Japan - Obscure Alternatives - New Zealand pressing (eil.com)

Japan – Obscure Alternatives – New Zealand pressing

…Rhodesia is a reggae/rock song that was part of the concert setlist for a long time. One of the songs on the album that has a tangible funk feel. Obscure Alternatives starts off calmly and is built up ever more during the song. Sylvian even screams, something that was absolutely not done later on in Sylvian’s career. But it turns out great within the context of the song. And, Steve Jansen’s drumming is superb, once again.

The Tenant clearly indicates the next musical step in Japan’s musical journey, culminating in Quiet Life, Gentlemen Take Polaroids, Tin Drum and goodbye live double abum Oil On Canvas. The Tenant is an instrumental song that is built around an effective, simple and moving piano theme, which bears resemblance to the works of Erik Satie. It would have fitted nicely on the second side of David Bowie’s Low.

What makes this album so special, is the introduction of many of the elements that would make Japan so recognizable later on. Sylvian sings in a lower register, Mick Karn’s playing on the fretless bass is flawless. He plays the saxophone for the first time on a Japan album. Richard Barbieri is more outspoken on his keyboards. He clearly feels more comfortable with the instrument and its possibilities. Once again, drummer Jansen is phenomenal. The only one who is seemingly out of place, especially considering what was in store, is guitar player Rob Dean. After this album his role in Japan’s music would diminish considerably. A shame really, for his playing on this album is superb.

Success?

Japan - Obscure Alternatives - Japanese ad (picclick.com)

Japan – Obscure Alternatives – Japanese ad

As was the case with Adolescent Sex, Obscure Alternatives was not commercially successful. But, there was one country where it all did work: Japan. The beginning of a loving relationship between the country and the band, who shared a name.

Looking back

During an interview in 2004 it was suggested to David Sylvian to go over each album he was involved in and that they should start with Adolescent Sex and Obscure Alternatives. To the latter he replied: “You can, I mean, I haven’t heard them since 1982 or whatever. I have no interest”. Did he hate those albums or was he embarrassed by them? “I don’t cringe as much as I laugh, I don’t take it so seriously as to worry about it. I understand the train of thought. It doesn’t bother me”.

Amongst the band members, the consensus on Adolescent Sex is that it didn’t turn out the way they had hoped. No happy memories for that album. It’s very clear that Obscure Alternatives has the upper hand. Richard Barbieri: “I can much more relate to Obscure Alternatives, and were that the debut album I would’ve been quite pleased”.

To me Obscure Alternatives is a great album by a band that is clearly in search of its destiny. And yet, it doesn’t sound at all like the upcoming Quiet Life. The song The Tenant is widely regarded as a precursor to the Quiet Life album. I don’t see it (at all). I think the song has more kinship with the Gentlemen Take Polaroids album (coming after Quiet Life) or even David Sylvian’s later solo work.

Songs

Japan - Obscure Alternatives - Inner sleeves (45worlds.com)

Japan – Obscure Alternatives – Inner sleeves

All songs written by David Sylvian.

  • Automatic Gun
  • …Rhodesia
  • Love Is Infectious
  • Sometimes I Feel So Low
  • Obscure Alternatives
  • Deviation
  • Suburban Berlin
  • The Tenant

Musicians

  • David Sylvian – lead vocals, guitar
  • Rob Dean – guitar, background vocals
  • Richard Barbieri – synthesizer, keyboards
  • Mick Karn – bass, background vocals, saxophone
  • Steve Jansen – drums, background vocals, percussion

After Obscure Alternatives

Japan - Oil On Canvas (discogs.com)

Japan – Oil On Canvas

The first release after Obscure Alternatives was the fantastic single Life In Tokyo, a collaboration with Giorgio Moroder. The same year album Quiet Life was released, on which the band sounded softer, darker and more electronic than ever before. The success in Japan the country kept on growing, while Europe remained sceptical. Reactions to album Gentlemen Take Polaroids were the same. It was only after the release of album Tin Drum that Europe awoke. By then it was too late, the band imploded. The, posthumously released, goodbye album, Oil On Canvas, turned out to be the best-selling record of their career.

In closing

What do you think about Obscure Alternatives? Let me know!

 

Japan 1978-1979 (mirror-image) (sleepyard.wordpress.com)

Japan 1978-1979 (mirror-image)

Neil Young – Comes A Time

Neil Young - After The Goldrush (afyccim.com)

Introduction

On October 21st, 1978, Neil Young released a new acoustic album. The music lovers who were into Young’s After The Gold Rush and Harvest albums sighed in relief. A look back at an ignored album within Neil Young’s entire body of work.

Neil Young in 1978

In 1978 Neil Young was a respected artist, especially in circles of music connoisseurs and lovers. After Harvest, the general public had turned his back on him. Time Fades Away, Tonight’s The Night and On The Beach were called the “Ditch Trilogy”, inspired by a text Neil Young wrote for the compilation album Decade: “‘Heart of Gold’ put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch”. A period of heavy, depressive music followed. Sometimes Young fans call it “The Wilderness Years”. It made for beautiful, oftentimes dark music. Young did have a lot to process at the time, particularly by watching drug (mis)use and its (deadly) consequences. The guilt weighed heavy on Young.

Zuma and American Stars ‘N Bars prolonged the rougher sound, although the latter album did have some lighter moments. In between the ‘rough’ music Young did record acoustic, folky and country-like music (of which last year’s Hitchhiker bears witness), but never released it.

So when Comes A Time turned out to be a return to the quieter, laid-back Neil Young sound, the record company was ecstatic. The promotion department went into overdrive.

Comes A Time

Neil Young - Comes A Time (neilyoungarchives.com)

Neil Young – Comes A Time

Comes A Time is the ninth studio album by Neil Young, which was released on October 21st, 1978. The cd release of the album states that the album was released during the Spring of 1978. I use the date Young himself uses on his website neilyoungarchives.com. The album’s title song was released as a single.

At the time Young played the album to record company Reprise Records it was a solo (acoustic) album. When the execs cautiously suggested re-recording some of the songs and/or adding a rhythm section, Young actually agreed and (contrary to what was to be expected of Young) obliged.

On Look Out For My Love and Lotta Love Crazy Horse played backup. On other songs many of the musicians that had played on Harvest, Young’s biggest hit album to date, played along.

Human Highway had been around for a couple of years as it was offered to his colleagues in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in 1974.

Nicolette Larson can be heard all over the album. She sings many (beautiful) harmonies with Young.

For a while Gone With The Wind was considered to be the album’s title (in the credits all the non-core musicians are still called ‘Gone With The Wind Orchestra’).

Reception

Many reviewers reacted lukewarm to the new album: too romantic, too ordinary and not very exciting. The general public however, was very enthusiastic. Within a month Comes A Time had sold more than every record released by Young since Harvest combined.

But, did the critique have some merit to it? No, according to me anyway. The album sounds great and songs like Comes A Time, Look Out For My Love, Lotta Love and Human Highway are beautiful songs. The only song that maybe ‘over the top’ sentimentally, is Already One, but it still moves, because it’s dedicated to his (sick) son Zeke, who suffers from cerebral paresis (muscle control problems due to abnormal development or damage to the parts of the brain that control movement).

Neil Young - Comes A Time - Gold record (ha.com)

Neil Young – Comes A Time – Gold record

Initial pressings

Neil Young was extremely displeased with the sound of the first (vinyl) pressings of Comes A Time. The master tape containing the recordings used at the pressing plant had been damaged during transport. The problem was that some 200,000 copies had been printed before the mistake was discovered. Although, problem: not to Young. He personally bought every last copy.

So, what did Young do with those 200,000 copies? According to Young’s father, Young himself shot every last one of the copies, rendering them unplayable. During an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine in 2014, Young claimed he used the records as shingles for a barn.

Anyway, based on the sales numbers for the initial pressings alone, the album had reached gold status.

Songs

All songs written by Neil Young, unless stated otherwise.

  • Goin’ Back
  • Comes a Time
  • Look Out for My Love
  • Lotta Love
  • Peace of Mind
  • Human Highway
  • Already One
  • Field of Opportunity
  • Motorcycle Mama
  • Four Strong Winds (Ian Tyson

Credits

Neil Young - Comes A Time - Ad (superseventies.com)

Neil Young – Comes A Time – Ad

Musicians:
Crazy Horse:
Neil Young – guitar, harmonica, vocals
Frank Sampedro – guitar, piano, vocals
Billy Talbot – bass, vocals
Ralph Molina – drums, vocals
Tim Mulligan – saxophone
Gone With the Wind Orchestra:
Nicolette Larson – harmony vocals
Ben Keith – steel guitar
Karl Himmel – drums
Tim Drummond – bass
Spooner Oldham – piano
Rufus Thibodeaux – fiddle
Joe Osborn – bass
Larrie Londin – drums
J.J. Cale – electric guitar
Farrel Morris – percussion
Rita Fey – autoharp
Grant Boatwright, John Christopher, Jerry Shook, Vic Jordan, Steve Gibson, Dale Sellers, Ray Edenton – acoustic guitar
Shelly Kurland, Stephanie Woolf, Marvin Chantry, Roy Christensen, Gary Vanosdale, Carl Goroditzby, George Binkley, Steve Smith, Larry Harvin, Larry Lasson, Carol Walker, Rebecca Lynch, Virginia Christensen, Maryanna Harvin, George Kosmola, Martha McCrory – strings

Recorded at:
Triiad Studios, Ft. Lauderdale
Woodland Studios, Nashville
Studio, Broken Arrow Ranch
Wally Heider Recording Studios, Hollywood
Crazy Mama’s, Nashville
Sound Shop, Nashville

Produced by:
Neil Young
David Briggs
Ben Keith
Tim Mulligan

After Comes A Time

Neil Young - Harvest Moon (neilyoung.warnerbrosrecords.com)

Neil Young – Harvest Moon

Like Young sings in Goin’ Back, “I feel like goin’ back, back where there’s nowhere to stay”, Young would change musical direction fairly quickly after Comes A Time. The next album was Rust Never Sleeps, an undisputed highlight in Young’s body of work, but nothing like its predecessor. After Rust Never Sleeps the 1980’s proved to be difficult for Young. It wasn’t until the end of that decade that Young would regain something of the status he once enjoyed.

It would take 14 years for Young to return to the Harvest idiom with the release of the fantasticHarvest Moon in 1992.

In closing

What do you think of Comes A Time? Let me know!

 

The Waterboys say farewell to ‘the big music’: Fisherman’s Blues!

The Waterboys, Spiddal House, 1988 (mikescottwaterboy.com)

The Waterboys, Spiddal House, 1988

Introduction

In 1988 The Waterboys shocked the music world with the release of their new album Fisherman’s Blues. Gone was the ’big music’, which front man and main composer Mike Scott had worked so hard and diligently on. The sound that drew more and more listeners in. Everyone was convinced that The Waterboys were on the verge of a major breakthrough and were on their way to becoming one of the truly great bands. It all turned out rather differently.

The Waterboys

The Waterboys - Logo (sven-erik.org)

The Waterboys – Logo

In 1983 Scottish musician Mike Scott founded the band The Waterboys. The name was inspired by the Lou Reed song The Kids (…And I am the Water Boy…). In March of that same year the band’s first release appeared: the single A Girl Called Johnny, which is a tribute to Patti Smith. The band’s first performance was in May of 1983: at the legendary English television program Old Grey Whistle Test. At the time of the show keyboard player and singer Karl Wallinger had just been enlisted. Their debut album The Waterboys was released in July of 1983.

The band toured extensively and worked on the successor, which was released in June of 1984: the beautiful A Pagan Place. The new album was preceded by a single: The Big Music.

The Waterboys - The Big Music (single) (eil.com)

The Waterboys – The Big Music (single)

The title was used (by the press) to categorize The Waterboys’ music: grand, vivacious and emotional. After the album’s release touring commenced once again and the band played their first show at the famous Glastonbury Festival.

Recordings for album number three started early 1985. At the end of those sessions Steve Wickham was asked to play violin on The Pan Within (Scott heard him play at Karl Willinger’s home on a Sinéad O’Connor demo). The addition of Steve Wickham would have far reaching consequences on The Waterboys’ future and musical route.

October 1985 saw the release of the third Waterboys album: This Is The Sea, which was considered their best effort to date by many (A Pagan Place remained my favorite). It outsold both predecessors by far. The, beautiful, single The Whole Of The Moon became a hit across Europe and Asia.

The Waterboys - A Pagan Place (mikescottwaterboys.com)

The Waterboys – A Pagan Place

For the upcoming tour Steve Wickham was added to the band line-up. However, friction within the band escalated, mainly due to the solo behavior of Mike Scott, who didn’t allow outside contribution. Karl Wallinger came to the realization his future laid elsewhere and left The Waterboys to start his own band: World Party (more on that at a later time).

In the meantime the (musical) influence of Steve Wickham was growing. Scott moved to Dublin, Ireland, and got more and more involved in Irish folk music, country and gospel. The new line-up of the band, called the“Raggle Taggle band” by Scott, toured the United Kingdom and Europe in 1986.

The band played at the Dutch Pinkpop Festival on May 19th, 1986 and some time later at the Glastonbury Festival for the second time. The concerts showed that the music was changing. The influences, of which Scott was growing fonder and fonder of, were incorporated into the setlist and resulted in beautiful, inspired shows. In 1998 a summary of these “Raggle Taggle band” concerts was released on the very impressive double-cd The Live Adventures Of The Waterboys (see the corresponding paragraph below).

Everything pointed towards Mike Scott saying goodbye to his big music, something he openly admitted to later:

I had got bored with rock and I particularly hated the process of making rock music in the 80s. The clicky drums, the snare drum drenched in echo. You could even hear it on a couple of Waterboys songs where I was battling not to be blighted. Even the promo photos that bands would do against mottled backdrops, looking goody-goody. I just fucking hated all of that.

Mike Scott

The Waterboys were moving in a new direction.

Fisherman’s Blues

The Waterboys - Fisherman’s Blues (amazon.com)

The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues

On October 17th, 1988, three years after This Is The Sea, Fisherman’s Blues was released (number 18 in my album top 50). I don’t remember why, but I bought it later, some three weeks after the initial release (on November 3rd, 1988).

As briefly mentioned before, this album was completely different from everything that had come before. The big music was replaced by ‘smaller’ songs and performances: less is more. The contradiction couldn’t possibly have been bigger. At the time it was far from customary for (promising) pop musicians to create a new sound which comprised Irish traditional, folk, blues, gospel and country. Once again: at the end of 1985 The Waterboys were on the eve of a big international breakthrough. The single The Whole Of The Moon had introduced the band to a much larger audience, that wanted more (of the same?). Scott’s idol Bob Dylan himself called Scott “the new poet laureate of rock ’n’ roll”.

The press was completely lost by the new direction and many tanked the new album immediately. In the end Scott prevailed, because Fisherman’s Blues is the best sold Waterboys album to date.

History

Three years went by before This Is The Sea‘s successor was finally released. Why? In 1986 more than enough songs were recorded for a follow-up album.

The most important cause was the new way of working. Steve Wickham: “I remember we once played all the way to Glastonbury, did the gig and couldn’t wait to get on the bus and start playing again. It was a vibe amongst Irish musicians: ’I am a musician, I play.’ But for Mike – who’d never experienced this in the London rock scene – it was revelatory.”.

Mike Scott & Steve Wickham 1988 (mikescottwaterboy.tumblr.com)

Mike Scott & Steve Wickham 1988

Originally Mike Scott would stay at Steve Wickham’s house in Dublin for a few weeks, but the freedom and being “far away from dry land and its bitter memories”, made him decide to move to Dublin. Mike Scott and Irish music connected big time. Scott couldn’t stop writing. Song after song after song poured out of him. On the first day of recording (January 23rd, 1986) more than enough material was put to tape for an entire album, among them the song Fisherman’s Blues, which was played regularly at the European festival tour of 1986 (as was the case at Pinkpop 1986).

However, the playing itself was so inspiring that the recording sessions went on and on. When recording, many musicians and producers stopped by, with many of them contributing to the end result: hundreds (!) of recorded songs (and versions of songs) for the fourth Waterboys album.

Looking back Scott sighed: “If only I’d known we had enough for a really great album by then. But I was still searching.”. At times, the search for the right feel seemed endless. The song In Search Of A Rose was recorded a mind-boggling 99 (!) times.

But, the result is stunning. The title song, that opens the album, immediately sets the tone for the album: inspired, driven, melancholy and still uplifting. The whole album is soaked in an atmosphere of togetherness, playing together and having fun. It’s not hard to imagine why Mike Scott got hooked to that way of working.

Spiddal House, Galway (mikescottwaterboy.tumblr.com)

Spiddal House, Galway

Spiddal House

The recording sessions that ran from March 30th to June 2nd, 1988 at Spiddal House, Galway are the most favorite memory of the band and Scott. The surroundings were idyllic. The band members were living in holiday cottages around Galway. They cycled to and from the recording sessions. Scott in particular looks back with love and fondness. The recording of the song The Stolen Child, a poem by W.B. Yeats proclaimed by Tomas Mac Eoin, accompanied by music written by Scott, marked the end of the recording sessions for the Fisherman’s Blues album.

N.B.: In 2001 The Waterboys would release the beautiful album An Appointment With Mr. Yeats: W.B. Yeats poems set to music..

Years later Mike Scott would acknowledge he lost sight of the end goal, and Scott was exhausted after two years of recording and reworking. Now the difficult task of reducing the hundreds of songs to an album, commenced. Scott thought it was the hardest thing he had ever had to do. He did feel a bit frustrated by the process, since he had to discard so many songs (this frustration would be relieved later on in his career).

Songs

All songs written by Mike Scott, unless stated otherwise.

The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues - Back cover (juno.co.uk)

The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues – Back cover

  • Fisherman’s Blues *
  • We Will Not Be Lovers
  • Strange Boat
  • World Party #
  • Sweet Thing $
  • Jimmy Hickey’s Waltz
  • And a Bang on the Ear
  • Has Anybody Here Seen Hank
  • When Will We Be Married trad., †
  • When Ye Go Away
  • Dunford’s Fancy ^
  • The Stolen Child poem by W.B. Yeats
  • This Land Is Your Land ¥
Written by
*   Mike Scott, Steve Wickham
  Mike Scott, Anthony Thistlethwaite
#   Mike Scott, Trevor Hutchinson, Karl Wallinger
$   Van Morrison
  Mike Scott, Steve Wickham, Anthony Thistlethwaite
^   Steve Wickham
¥   Woody Guthrie

Singles

Two singles were culled from the album: Fisherman’s Blues and And A Bang On the Ear (a phrase that can be translated to a peck on the cheek).

Mike Scott 1986 (mikescottwaterboy.tumblr.com)

Mike Scott 1986

Review

To be fair, initially I too was somewhat disappointed by this album as well. The fantastic Pinkpop 1986 show did offer a major clue as to where the band was going. But I wanted more of what had come before, great songs like A Girl Called Johnny, Savage Earth Heart, Rags, Red Army Blues, A Pagan Place, The Whole Of The Moon, Spirit, Old England and This Is The Sea.

However, it didn’t take long before Fisherman’s Blues became my favorite album by The Waterboys. I play it regularly and bought all the subsequent (re)releases. As soon as the first notes to the song Fisherman’s Blues sound I get happy and am looking forward to hearing the whole album again. From beginning to end this album is fantastic. The rich music, the beautiful lyrics and all-round atmosphere make this album simply irresistible. This album can not be praised enough!

I wish I was a fisherman, tumblin’ on the seas
far away from dry land and it’s bitter memories
castin’ out my sweet line with abandonment and love
no ceiling bearin’ down on me save the starry sky above
with light in my head with you in my arms…

© 1988 Mike Scott/The Waterboys

The sequels: Fisherman’s Blues parts 2, 3, 4 and 5

As stated above, Mike Scott felt rather frustrated that he had to leave so much music of the recording sessions behind. Luckily, sequels were released, on which large parts of those recordings did get released. A total of 4 more releases would follow, all containing recordings made during the period 1986 – 1988, be it live or studio recordings:

  • The Live Adventures Of The Waterboys (1998)
  • Too Close To Heaven / Fisherman’s Blues, Part Two (2001)
  • Fisherman’s Blues, Collectors Edition (2006)
  • Fisherman’s Box (2013)

The Live Adventures Of The Waterboys

The Waterboys - The Live Adventures Of The Waterboys (discogs.com)

The Waterboys – The Live Adventures Of The Waterboys

This live double album was released in August of 1998. Mike Scott classifies this release as a bootleg, because the company that released the album stopped paying royalties to Scott, yet continued selling it. Initially this album was part of the official discography (located at mikescottwaterboys.com), but was deleted when the payments stopped.

After buying the album, it didn’t leave my player for months. I was (and still am) completely infatuated with this album. Besides the fact that it contains a cover of Purple Rain, written by personal favorite Prince, recorded at Pinkpop 1986, the album is filled with glorious versions of Fisherman’s Blues, This Is The Sea, We Will Not Be Lovers (“dedicated to Atilla the Hun, Adolf Hitler, Michael Heseltine, the Blue Meanies, the Joker, the Incredible Hulk, Mrs.Thatcher”) and the complete Glastonbury 1986 concert (including a genius version of Old England). I remember vividly bringing this album on cassette to Turkey, where I spent my 1999 summer vacation. I can still see myself sitting in the garden listening to this album on my headphones over and over again. Pure bliss!

Due to the legal issues this album is not available anymore, but should you come across it: buy it, immediately. Highly recommended!

Too Close To Heaven / Fisherman’s Blues, Part Two

The Waterboys - Too Close To Heaven / Fisherman's Blues, Part Two (spotify.com)

The Waterboys – Too Close To Heaven / Fisherman’s Blues, Part Two

On September 24th, 2001 the compilation album Too Close To Heaven was released. It contained recordings made during the Fisherman’s Blues sessions. Long desired by Mike Scott, his wish finally came true. Discarding songs when compiling Fisherman’s Blues fell hard on him at the time. This was his first opportunity to release extra songs and he seized it with both hands.

A year later, on July 9th, 2002, Too Close To Heaven was released in the United States under the moniker Fisherman’s Blues, Part Two. The album contained five extra songs, among which was a live version of Too Close To Heaven, recorded at the Paradiso, Amsterdam, The Netherlands on November, 19th, 2001.

Fisherman’s Blues Collectors Edition

The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues Collectors Edition (youtube.com)

The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues Collectors Edition

According to allmusic.com Fisherman’s Blues Collectors Edition was released on August 29th, 2006. Other (European) sources state the months May and June. I am unable to pinpoint the exact release date. All in all, Fisherman’s Blues was released as a remaster in 2006. The Collectors Edition contained a bonus cd, which, once again, contained recordings from the Fisherman’s Blues sessions.

Once more, Mike Scott appeared from the archives with a truck load of recordings he wanted to make public. The reviews at the time praised the extra songs. It re-confirmed the status Fisherman’s Blues had reached in the meantime.

Fisherman’s Box

The Waterboys - Fisherman's Box (stereoembersmagazine.com)

The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Box

On October 13th, 2013, Fisherman’s Box (subtitled The complete Fisherman’s Blues sessions 1986-88) was released. A box containing 121 recordings from the Fisherman’s Blues sessions spread over 6 cd’s. The process the band went through at the time can be witnessed at last. Despite the fact the box doesn’t contain everything that was recorded, the box still is an exhausting experience. It makes Mike Scott’s task of compiling Fisherman’s Blues from all those hundreds of recordings tangible.

It does provide a fairly accurate account of the journey Mike Scott went through. He keeps on digging deeper and deeper into traditionals, folk and country. The instrumentation gets ever more rudimentary. It’s an astonishingly beautiful document of a band searching for something different, something new. It is rather moving (or striking) to conclude how all those different stages are held together by that one defining factor: Mike Scott’s beautiful/powerful voice, which remains recognizable everywhere.

I can understand that Fisherman’s Box isn’t for everyone, but if you like The Waterboys, and Fisherman’s Blues in particular, you can find more than enough to enjoy on this box.

N.B.: Fisherman’s Box does not contain the end result Fisherman’s Blues!

Musicians

On the cover a part of the producers and musicians involved with the album, are mentioned. The complete list of musicians en vocalists who contributed to the Fisherman’s Blues recordings is:

Mike Scott (photo of the 'The Best Of The Waterboys 81-90' cover) (cdworld.ie)

Mike Scott (photo used on the ‘The Best Of The Waterboys 81-90’ cover)

  • Mike Scott – vocals, guitar, piano, Hammond organ, drums, bouzouki
  • Anthony Thistlethwaite – saxophone, mandolin, harmonica, Hammond organ
  • Steve Wickham – violin
  • Trevor Hutchinson – bass
  • Roddy Lorimer – trumpet
  • Kevin Wilkinson – drums
  • Peter McKinney – drums
  • Dave Ruffy – drums
  • Colin Blakey – piano, flute
  • Fran Breen – drums
  • Vinnie Kilduff – guitar
  • Noel Bridgeman – tamborine, conga’s
  • Jay Dee Daugherty – drums
  • Máirtín O’Connor – accordion
  • Alec Finn – bouzouki
  • Charlie Lennon – violin
  • Brendan O’Regan – bouzouki
  • Tomás Mac Eoin – vocals
  • Paraig Stevens – glockenspiel
  • Jenny Haan – vocals
  • Ruth Nolan – vocals
  • Rachel Nolan – vocals
  • The Abergavenny Male Voice Choir – vocals

After Fisherman’s Blues

The Waterboys - Room To Roam & Dream Harder (wowhd.nl)

The Waterboys – Room To Roam & Dream Harder

The band toured behind Fisherman’s Blues and returned to Spiddal House to record the new album. The fantastic Room To Roam was released in September of 1990. Unfortunately, during recording friction arose about the band’s future as Scott wanted to bring back some rock influences. Steve Wickham left before the Room To Roam release. The next tour was fulfilled with the use of an ever increasing number of hired musicians. By the end of 1991 Mike Scott was the only one left. Everyone else had left.

In 1993 Dream Harder was released. The music was recorded using session musicians. When Scott was unable to form a band for an upcoming tour, he left for New York and left the name The Waterboys behind: he started a solo career.

The solo career yielded two great albums: Bring ’Em All In in 1995 and Still Burning in 1997. Both albums are very good, to which the general audience remained oblivious.

But all was not lost for The Waterboys. In 2000 the name was used once more: a new album, A Rock In The Weary Land, a real rock album, and a tour was announced. The band was back. The new sound, which is best described as psychedelic rock, was not to everybody’s liking. In 2001 Steve Wickham rejoined The Waterboys. In 2003 Universal Hall was released, which seemed to hark back at Fisherman’s Blues times. In 2005 the live-album Karma To Burn was released, followed by Book Of Lightning in 2007 and a compilation of outtakes in 2008 called Kiss The Wind.

The Waterboys - An Appointment With Mr Yeats (waterboysstore.co.uk)

The Waterboys – An Appointment With Mr Yeats

The last song to be recorded during the two year Fisherman’s Blues sessions was The Stolen Child, a song that combined Mike Scott’s music with a poem by W.B. Yeats, Scott’s favorite writer/poet. For years, Scott walked around with the idea to follow up on that. In 2010 he finally got around to doing it. From March 15th to 20th, 2010, An Appointment With Mr. Yeats premièred at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, to which W.B. Yeats was closely connected during his lifetime. It was a huge success in Ireland.

The album version was released on September 19th, 2011. It’s a definite highlight in The Waterboys’ career. A rich album with beautiful music and lyrics (obviously). Scott himself called it “psychedelic, intense, kaleidoscopic, a mix of rock, folk and faery music”. The accompanying tour, which stopped by in Utrecht, the Netherlands on March 17th, 2013, was very impressive and I still consider it one of the best Waterboys shows I ever witnessed.

2011 saw the release of a second album, In A Special Place – The Piano Demos For This Is The Sea, followed by Cloud Of Sound in 2012, a cd containing previously unreleased material which was sold at concerts and were hand-numbered by Scott (only 5000 copies were pressed). In 2015 Modern Blues was released, in 2017 followed by double album Out Of All This Blue, which is also available as a three (!) double album. After all these years, Scott is still highly creative and productive.

Read more?

Mike Scott - Adventures Of A Waterboy (bol.com)

Mike Scott – Adventures Of A Waterboy

Should you want to know more about The Waterboys, and Mike Scott in particular, I highly recommend Mike Scott’s autobiography, which was published in 2012, entitled Adventures Of A Waterboy. A very well written, honest, moving story. The same goes for his music: Purchase and enjoy!

In closing

By now, I have witnessed The Waterboys live five times and those were, by and large, beautiful concerts. The band is always tight, Mike Scott’s voice holds up perfectly and the songs as well. In short: what more can you wish for?

What’s your opinion on The Waterboys and on Fisherman’s Blues? Let me know, it’s highly appreciated!

 

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters - Backcover (macrocefaliamusical.com)

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters – Backcover

Introduction

During the early (19)70’s funk and jazz were slowly brought together. Miles Davis was the first to experiment. Herbie Hancock was present during those first symbioses. He wanted to do something likewise for himself as well. Thus the birth of Head Hunters.

Herbie Hancock

Midway through August of this year my first article on Herbie Hancock was published. It was about the 1983 album Future Shock. In that article Herbie Hancock’s career leading up to that album is glanced over, so that won’t be part of this article again.

Herbie Hancock - Mwandishi, Crossings & Sextant (discogs.com/apoplife.nl)

Herbie Hancock – Mwandishi, Crossings & Sextant

Between 1971 and 1973 Hancock released three highly experimental albums: Mwandishi, Crossings and Sextant. According to the liner-notes that accompanied the 1997 re-release of Head Hunters, Hancock grew tired of the music’s heaviness:

“I began to feel that I had been spending so much time exploring the upper atmosphere of music and the more ethereal kind of far-out spacey stuff. Now there was this need to take some more of the earth and to feel a little more tethered; a connection to the earth….I was beginning to feel that we (the sextet) were playing this heavy kind of music, and I was tired of everything being heavy. I wanted to play something lighter.”

Head Hunters

Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters (discogs.com)

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

Herbie Hancock’s twelfth studio album, Head Hunters, was released on October 13th, 1973. It was one of the most important releases of Hancock’s career, as well as within the history of jazz.

Hancock assembled new people around him and created a new band called Headhunters. Hancock played all synthesizers and keyboards himself and decided to exclude guitar (even though it was added at a later stage). The rhythm section was heavily rooted in the rhythm and blues tradition. A great idea, because the laid-back, funky beats made for a worldwide attraction. Combined with the merging of jazz and funk, it made the album to become a recognizable benchmark within the history of jazz: listeners of various genres were invited to explore other types of music.

Of all the songs, only Watermelon Man wasn’t written specifically for this album, since it’s a re-recording of the same song that was originally released on Hancock’s 1962 debut album Takin’ Off. The song Sly is a tribute to funk legend Sly Stone, Sly & The Family Stone’s band leader.

Herbie Hancock - Chameleon (single) (discogs.com)

Herbie Hancock – Chameleon (single)

One single was culled from the album: Chameleon with B-side Vein Melter. Both songs were shortened up to 80% for the single release.

The album was a big smash. It immediately became the best-selling jazz album of all time. It held that title until George Benson released Breezin’ in 1976.

The main image on the album cover, which was designed by Victor Moscoso, is based on an African kple kple mask, that hails from the Baoulé tribes in Ivory Coast.

Reception

Despite the impressive sales figures, the album was frowned upon (to put it mildly) within jazz circles. This was too simple, no real jazz and unworthy of Hancock. Besides, a lot of the instruments were electric, which was suspect by default. Hadn’t Hancock learned anything of the way Miles Davis’ On The Corner was received? Didn’t he take into consideration that it was the most hated album in jazz for a very long time?

Luckily, the answer was no. Nowadays Head Hunters is widely considered to be one the most influential jazz albums of all time, which helped introduce jazz-fusion to a larger audience (in the meantime On The Corner is widely considered to be a classic).

The almost 16 minute long Chameleon in particular is an all time classic, that blends funk and jazz and brings out the best in both of them. The groove is irresistible, still offering ample room for improvisation.

The album was added to the American National Recording Registry, whose task consists of safe keeping “culturally, historically or aesthetically important” soundrecordings of the 20th century.

Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters - Ad (superseventies.com)

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters – Ad

Songs

All songs written by Herbie Hancock, unless stated otherwise.

  • Chameleon (Herbie Hancock, Paul Jackson, Harvey Mason, Bennie Maupin)
  • Watermelon Man
  • Sly
  • Vein Melter

Musicians

  • Herbie Hancock – Fender Rhodes, clavinet, ARP Odyssey synthesizer, ARP Soloist
  • Bennie Maupin – (alto and soprano) saxophone, saxello, bass clarinet, bass flute
  • Paul Jackson – bass, guitar, marimbula
  • Harvey Mason – drums
  • Bill Summers – agogô, balafon, beer bottle, cabasa, conga’s, gankogui, hindewhu, log drums, shekere, surdo, tamborine
The Headhunters - albums (discogs.com/apoplife.nl)

The Headhunters – albums

The Headhunters – the band

The next Herbie Hancock album, Thrust, was recorded (largely) using the same musicians that were responsible for the Head Hunters album.

In 1975 the bandmembers decided to release an album under the moniker The Headhunters, Survival Of The Fittest, the official Headhunters debut album. Straight From The Gate followed in 1977. Early 1980’s the band quit.

The band reconvened in 1998 for the album Return Of The Headhunters!, on which Herbie Hancock contributed to 4 (out of 10 in total) songs. Ever since, The Headhunters played a lot of live shows, of which 2008’s On Top: Live In Europe is a fairly true account. Since then, two more studio albums have been released: 2003’s Evolution Revolution and 2010’s Platinum.

Musically speaking, The Headhunters remained true to Herbie Hancock’s original idea.

In closing

Do you know Head Hunters by Herbie Hancock? What do you think? Let me know!

 

Mazzy Star – So Tonight That I Might See

Mazzy Star (seafoodnet.info)

Mazzy Star

Introduction

On October 5th, 1993, Mazzy Star released their second, moving, album So Tonight That I Might See. The mood is not for every one, but it works fine for me. Melancholy, ‘dreamy’ and intense. The story on Mazzy Star and their best (?) album.

Mazzy Star

Mazzy Star is an American band that was founded in 1989 when David Roback invited friend Hope Sandoval to provide vocals in his band. David Roback had been active in music since the early 1980’s and played in bands like The Rain Parade, Clay Allison and Opal. The last band predated the later Mazzy Star.

Mazzy Star - She Hangs Brightly (discosgs.com)

Mazzy Star – She Hangs Brightly

Hope Sandoval, also, had been active for years. Recordings of her band Going Home found their way to Roback. He was impressed and suggested to produce the band. An album never materialized. When Opal’s singer quit in the middle of a tour, he asked whether Sandoval would be willing to replace her. Mazzy Star was founded soon after.

The debut album She Hangs Brightly was released in 1990. It wasn’t very successful, but it did receive a fair amount of airplay on alternative rock radio stations. The second album So Tonight That I Might See followed in 1993. The song Fade Into You turned into a hit in 1994. The album reached platinum status in 1995. To this day, it is Mazzy Star’s most successful album.

So Tonight That I Might See

Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I Might See (boomkat.com)

Mazzy Star – So Tonight That I Might See

I discovered this album relatively late, but it turned into an ‘all-time favorite’ in record time. Something about the music and mood pleases me greatly. Is it the melancholy, romance, emotion, hypnosis? Probably all of the above. I can not recommend this album enough.

Musically, the album doesn’t differ too much from She Hangs Brightly, but on this album everything fits. The flow, the production, Sandoval’s vocals and the simple, yet effective instrumentation provides the songs with the opportunity to show how good they are. The music is classified as alternative rock and ‘dream’ pop. Both terms fall short in regards to the actual content.

To do the album justice, I will go through the album song by song.

Fade Into You is the best-known Mazzy Star song. The chord sequence resembles Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ On Heavens Door, but as the song progresses it really isn’t that obvious. It is the most ‘traditional’ pop song on the album, and it is one of the greatest songs within Mazzy Star’s entire body of work. It really sets the bar for the rest of the album. The sound is warm, and the sound is rather abstract, yet beautiful.

I want to hold the hand inside you
I want to take a breath that’s true
I look to you and I see nothing
I look to you to see the truth
You live your life, you go in shadows
You’ll come apart and you’ll go blind
Some kind of night into your darkness
Colors your eyes with what’s not there

Fade into you
Strange you never knew
Fade into you
I think it’s strange you never knew

© Hope Sandoval, 1993

The song’s meaning is somewhat unclear. Is it about the disappointment upon realizing that a lover is less ‘good’ as was expected? Is it about someone whose love for another is so great, yet the other is completely oblivious to it? It doesn’t really matter. It’s one of those songs you never really get tired of, because of the emotion and the feel it summons (the same way that Bowie’s “Heroes” never tires).

Mazzy Star - Fade Into You - Video (vidmusic.us)

Mazzy Star – Fade Into You – Video

Bells Ring is a lot heavier than the preceding song, even though ‘heavy’ is relative. A great song with a stop/start structure. Beautiful guitar parts are hidden in the mix.

Mary Of Silence is one of the reasons the band/album is classified as ‘dream’ pop. Beautiful song with a drone like bass and (Hammond) organ, which reminds me of The Doors’ The End, even though it doesn’t really resemble it… One again great feedback and distorted guitars in the background.

Five String Serenade is the only song not written by Roback and Sandoval. It’s a cover of a song by Arthur Lee, who is famous for his role in the 1960’s psychedelic rock band Love. This song clearly demonstrates Mazzy Star’s golden formula. The song is kept very low-key with a strumming guitar, bass and tambourine. It really brings out the best of the song. Goosebumps inducing sad and impressive performance.

Blue Light is equally beautiful. Quiet music played at a slow bluesy pace: There’s a world outside my doorstep.

The second side of the vinyl album starts off with She’s My Baby. Great uptempo song with spoken/sung vocals. Once again intriguing guitar parts hidden in the background. Glorious song.

Unreflected is in complete contrast to the preceding song. Acoustic guitar with minimal percussion. The repetition of the central motif is addictive.

In our memories / We don’t have much to say / We don’t have much to say / We don’t have much

© Hope Sandoval, 1993

Wasted is a blues, which is slow, very slow. A great riff, bass and drums, with dreamy and distant vocals. What is it about (“I felt like I’d been wasted / … all day long”)? Drugs, addiction? As it is a blues song, it contains a guitar solo. Roback gets (and commands) room to let his guitar roar, although it is too short unfortunately.

Mazzy Star - Live Jools Holland BBC 1994 (youtube.com)

Mazzy Star – Live Jools Holland BBC 1994

Words can’t describe the beauty and emotion of Into Dust. From the first notes of the strumming guitar and the swelling sound of a cello, this song grabs you by the throat. Sandoval’s vocals are mixed to the fore. The sad, gloomy mood of the song is enhanced by the images the lyrics evoke, which deal with death (as I interpret it anyway).

Still falling
Breathless and on again
Inside today
Beside me today
Around, broken in two
Till your eyes shed
Into dust
Like two strangers
Turning into dust
Till my hand shook
With the way I fear

I could possibly be fading
Or have something more to gain
I could feel myself growing colder
I could feel myself under your fate
Under your fate

© Hope Sandoval, 1993

Yet again a song that makes this album completely irresistible.

The title track So Tonight That I Might See closes the album on a high note. The lyrics are spoken over a repetitive musical theme that conjures up images of The Velvet Underground’s Venus In Furs. The music shows the album’s strength once more. Repetition works, as well as ‘hiding’ supportive sounds in the background.

Review

Mazzy Star (chriscaulder.net)

Mazzy Star

Well, what is there left to say? If the album just consisted of Fade Into You and Into Dust it would be enough, but the album is even more. The music is minimalist, yet ingeniously produced and sets the mood perfectly time and again. The same applies to Sandoval’s vocals. Her lyrics are not very clear, but nonetheless add to the overall atmosphere. And yet, the album didn’t turn out pessimistic at all. It generally provides a soothing feeling.

The album was released at the time when grunge was in its heyday, a genre this album has no baring with at all. Hit song Fade Into You started to climb the charts after the shocking suicide of grunge icon Kurt Cobain. Maybe fitting, as the comforting music was there at the right time.

Songs

All songs written by Hope Sandoval and David Roback, except Five String Serenade which is written by Arthur Lee.

  • Fade Into You
  • Bells Ring
  • Mary Of Silence
  • Five String Serenade
  • Blue Light
  • She’s My Baby
  • Unreflected
  • Wasted
  • Into Dust
  • So Tonight That I Might See

Musicians

  • Hope Sandoval – vocals, harmonica, guitar, tambourine
  • David Roback – guitar, piano, keyboard
  • Jason Yates – bass
  • Keith Mitchell – drums
  • William Cooper – strings

After So Tonight That I Might See

Mazzy Star - Among My Swan (apple.com)

Mazzy Star – Among My Swan

1996 saw the release of the third album Among My Swan. The song Flowers In December turned into a hit. After a tour Mazzy Star seemed to fade away. Sandoval worked with The Jesus & Mary Chain and Chemical Brothers. Roback started production work for others.

In 2000 Mazzy Star toured Europe. At the shows no more than seven songs were performed. But a new album was not made. Sandoval founded Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions and released an EP in 2000, quickly followed by the debut album Bavarian Fruit Bread in 2001, which was followed by Through The Devil Softly in 2009. She also worked with Air, Death In Vegas and Massive Attack.

In the meantime Roback had started an acting career and wrote music for the first movie he acted in.

Mazzy Star - Seaons Of Your Day (pitchfork.com)

Mazzy Star – Seaons Of Your Day

On October 31st, 2011 a new Mazzy Star single was released: Common Burn/Lay Myself Down. The band toured in 2012 and released their fourth album Seasons Of Your Day in September of 2013. An American tour followed in 2014. That same year two new songs were released to commemorate Record Store Day 2014. At the close of 2014 a short (40 second) clip containing new music was published on the band’s Facebook page.

Once again everything turned quiet. Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions released a single and album in 2016, followed by an EP in 2017. In 2017 Keith Mitchell, drummer on all four Mazzy Star albums, died.

Mazzy Star - Still (pastemagazine.com)

Mazzy Star – Still

In June of 2018 the band released an EP containing all new music, entitled Still and performed at the Sydney Opera House, Australia, three times. At this time it is unclear what this means for the (immediate) future.

Live

Unfortunately, Mazzy Star doesn’t perform much. Singer Sandoval in particular, feels uncomfortable on stage, which is probably the reason the band performs in almost complete darkness at their shows.

Sandoval:

“For me recording is better. Live, I just get really nervous. Once you’re onstage, you’re expected to perform. I don’t do that. I always feel awkward about just standing there and not speaking to the audience. It’s difficult for me.”

In closing

Do you know Mazzy Star and So Tonight That I Might See? What do you think? Let me know!

 

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Outkast – Aquemini

Outkast (factmag.com)

Outkast (André 3000 and Big Boi)

Introduction

As stated before in the article on the great album Siamese Dream by The Smashing Pumpkins, the 1990’s wasn’t the greatest decade for rock music. However, to hip-hop and dance it most certainly was. The third Outkast album was one of those examples. A fantastic hip-hop album, filled with superior funk and raps.

Outkast

Outkast is a group that was made up of Big Boi (real name Antwan André Patton) and André 3000 (real name André Lauren Benjamin), both hailing from Atlanta, Georgia. They released their debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik in 1994. At that time, both Big Boi and André 3000 were just 18 years old. The album turned into a platinum success. Because of the success the group gained a lot more (creative) freedom when making the successor. In 1996 ATLiens was released, on which the group self-produced a great number of songs. The album entered the American Billboard 200 charts at number 2 and sold over 350,000 copies within the first two weeks. Not bad for a second album.

Outkast (reddit.com)

Outkast

After ATLiens‘s release, André 3000 got into a relationship with (neo) soulsinger Erykah Badu. Badu’s waywardness influenced André 3000’s way of presenting himself, which got more outspoken, including wearing enormous glasses, (blond) wigs and uniforms. In November of 1997 the pair became parents to a son. The relationship (which ended soon after) would be an inspiration for a great number of songs on Acquemini‘s successor: 2000’s Stankonia.

Outkast was a part of the ‘Dirty South’: dance-able up-tempo hip-hop, based on the so-called G-Funk, a music style introduced on the 1992 Dr. Dre album The Chronic. However, Outkast was more positive than Dr. Dre. Besides coming from hip-hop, Outkast is highly influenced by James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton, Rick James and Prince. It all makes for highly funky music filled with melodic beauty and ultra fast raps (particularly by André 3000).

Despite the obvious similarities Big Boi and André 3000 share, they are quite different. Big Boi grew up on the Atlanta streets and was no stranger to drugs, theft and other criminal activity. André 3000 is the artistic, flamboyant part of Outkast. He is a vegan, doesn’t use drugs (anymore) and is a very engaged rapper.

Aquemini

Outkast - Aquemini (vibe.com)

Outkast – Aquemini

Aquemini is the third studio album by Outkast, which was released on September 29th, 1998. The title is a compound of the group members’ zodiac signs: ‘aquarius’ (Big Boi) and ‘gemini’ (André 3000), who were also presented as The Player and The Poet. Most of the recording was done at Bobby Brown’s Bosstown Recording Studios and the Doppler Studios, both located in Atlanta, Georgia.

Based on ATLiens‘s success Outkast was granted even more freedom when recording Acquemini. Once again many of the songs were self-produced. An impressive list of musicians took part in the recordings for the album (see paragraph Musicians), many of whom just visited the studio and were asked to contribute. The album is all the more varied and rich because of it. Live instrumentation was used more heavily, which made the music sound warmer.

Much of the music was constructed during jam sessions, during which reggae was a huge influence (André 3000 used to listen to Bob Marley constantly). After the music was done, the lyrics were written, making them fit the ‘feel’ of the song’s music.

Release

Originally, a film was planned to accompany the album. Negotiations with MTV were initiated, but MTV wanted to hire Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes, due to a lack of “star power” from Outkast. The idea for Aquemini was put on hold, but it would ultimately turn into the musical Idlewild, which was released in 2006 and, to this day, remains the last Outkast release.

Outkast MTV 1999 (mtv.com)

Outkast MTV 1999

Around the time of Aquemini‘s release a lot of other hip-hop albums were released (nowadays, almost all of them are considered to be classics): Jay-Z’s Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, A Tribe Called Quest’s The Love Movement and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. Despite the competition, the album did really well, particularly in the United States: 227,000 copies were sold in its first week. In November 1998 the album was certified double platinum, for selling over 2 million copies.

Rosa Parks

The first single from the album was Rosa Parks, named after the human rights activist Rosa Parks, who garnered national attention on December 1st, 1955, for refusing to listen to a bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama. The driver had ordered Parks to give up her seat in the so-called “colored section” of the bus for a white passenger, because all the seats in the “whites-only section” were taken. Parks quickly turned into an icon for the ‘black-rights movement’.

Ah ha, hush that fuss
Everybody move to the back of the bus

© 1998 Outkast

Outkast - Rosa Parks (single) (hiphopdx.com)

Outkast – Rosa Parks (single)

In 1999 Parks started a lawsuit against Outkast and record company LaFace Records because of the song. Parks stated there was insufficient similarity between the title and the content of the song, because the lyrics didn’t reference Parks at all. Parks meant that the lyrics contained the message: “[b]e quiet and stop the commotion. Outkast is coming back out so all other MCs step aside. Do you want to ride and hang out with us? Outkast is the type of group to make the clubs get hyped-up/excited”. The lawsuit was dismissed. In 2001 Parks tried again and, once again, the suit was dismissed. In 2003 the Supreme Court decided that Parks’ lawyers could continue the suit.

In 2004 the suit against Outkast was dropped and was exclusively targeted against LaFace Records and BMG (of which LaFace was a part). On April 14th, 2005, the case was settled out of court. Parks received a secret amount of money and Outkast and LaFace Records agreed to help develop programs target at youths to “enlighten about the significant role Rosa Parks played in making America a better place for all races”. Within six months after the verdict Rosa Parks died.

Review

Next to Public Enemy (see also It Takes A nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black), Outkast is my favorite rap group. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see them live during their heyday, but I was lucky enough to catch them on their reunion tour in 2014. At the time I saw them as the closing act of the Dutch North Sea Jazz Festival. Two hours of Outkast! Even though the group stated (André 3000 in particular) that the tour didn’t entice much enthusiasm within the group, I thought it was brilliant!

Outkast (André 3000) - Reunion tour 2014 (ew.com)

Outkast (André 3000) – Reunion tour 2014

On the album ATLiens Outkast came closer to finding their own sound. Funk with a hip-hop flavor, (fast) raps coupled to a kind of ‘lazy’ swing, which makes the music simply irresistible. Aquemini is the first album that presents Outkast in its true form. The music is rich, warm and different from what was considered to be the norm in hip-hop. The standards, set by the West-coast (Los Angeles) and East-coast (New York) rap, were discarded. No-one could ignore the ‘Dirty South’ anymore.

The album proves that the 1990’s were more than a ‘lost decade’ (musically speaking). The album innovates, excites and stays away from all the hip-hop clichés. Still, the songs have ‘street credibility’. The album’s production makes the music sound very open. The (acoustic) instrumentation provides warmth, without compromising hip-hop’s excitement. On top of that, Outkast experiments. That combination made Outkast discover themselves: live musicians, social commentary, funk and humor. A masterpiece that defied the boundaries on hip-hop and was thé hip-hop album of the year.

Beginning of the end?

Outkast advertising (lugz.com)

Lack of “star power”?

According to some, this album also announces the inevitable end of the group. Big Boi and André 3000 appear to have a lot in common, but ultimately differ to much. The album title is a primary example. The combination makes for a unique blend that creates new music (or words), but the individual input is undeniable. André 3000 was largely responsible for the production and Big Boi mainly focused on the songs’ hooks/riffs. While recording differences of opinion started to show: André 3000 tried singing, upon which Big Boi warned him they might lose their loyal fanbase (André 3000 would sing on many songs on the 2003 album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below).

An argument arose about the order of the songs. Big Boi wanted to open the album with Y’all Scared. André 3000 wanted it to be opened with Return of the ‘G’, because that song didn’t contain outside help. During the final mastering session, which Big Boi didn’t attend due to missing a plane, the running order of the album was determined. Around the time Bog Boi arrived decisions had already been made. André 3000 and the other producers were in agreement. Big Boi was not. After a huge row Big Boi contended.

The following album, hip-hop classic Stankonia, was still a perfect symbiosis of both musicians, but on Speakerboxxx/The Love Below the end of their fruitful cooperation became obvious. The album is a double album, giving Big Boi full control over Speakerboxxx and André 3000 over The Love Below.

Songs

Song   Writers
Hold On, Be Strong    
Return of the ‘G’   Giorgio Moroder, Organized Noize, Antwan Patton, André Benjamin
Rosa Parks   Antwan Patton, André Benjamin
Skew It on the Bar-B   Morton Stevens, Organized Noize, Antwan Patton, André Benjamin, Corey Woods
Aquemini   Antwan Patton, André Benjamin
Synthesizer   Antwan Patton, André Benjamin, George Clinton
Slump   Antwan Patton, Jamahr Williams,Frederick Bell
West Savannah   Organized NoizePatton
Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1)   David Sheats, Antwan Patton, André Benjamin
Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 2)   David Sheats, Antwan Patton, André Benjamin
Mamacita   Organized Noize, Antwan Patton, André Benjamin, Masada Hogans, Erin Johnson
SpottieOttieDopaliscious   Antwan Patton, André Benjamin, Patrick Brown
Y’all Scared   David Sheats, Antwan Patton, André Benjamin, Robert Barnett, Willie Knighton, Jr.Cameron Gipp
Nathaniel    
Liberation   Antwan Patton, André Benjamin, Ruben Bailey, Erica Wright, Joi Gilliam, Myrna Crenshaw, Thomas Burton
Chonkyfire   Antwan Patton, André Benjamin

Extra info

  • Hold On, Be Strong contains vocals by 4.0 (also known as The Four Phonics)
  • Slump contains vocals by Backbone and Cool Breeze
  • Mamacita contains vocals by Masada, Witchdoctor and Buulllllll!
  • SpottieOttieDopaliscious contains vocals by Sleepy Brown
  • Liberation contains vocals by Erykah Badu, Ruben Bailey, Joi and Whild Peach

Samples

  • Return of the ‘G’ contains pieces of Superfly by Curtis Mayfield
  • Rosa Parks contains pieces of Cancion de Amor by The Sandpipers
  • Skew It on the Bar-B contains pieces of Police Woman performed by Henry Mancini
  • Synthesizer contains pieces of Rock Dirge by Sly Stone
  • SpottieOttieDopaliscious contains pieces of Dancing with the Moonlit Knight by Genesis
  • Y’All Scared contains pieces of Air Born by Camel

Musicians (source: wikipedia)

  • Andre 3000 – vocals, kalimba on Hold On, Be Strong
  • Big Boi – vocals
  • Raekwon – vocals
  • The Four Phonics – vocals
  • Erykah Badu – vocals
  • Ruben Bailey – vocals
  • Big Gipp – vocals
  • Pat Brown – vocals
  • Cee Lo Green – vocals
  • Cool Breeze – vocals
  • Delvida Flaherty – vocals
  • Joi Gilliam – vocals
  • Lil’ Will – vocals
  • Goodie Mob – vocals
  • Witchdoctor – vocals
  • Joi – vocals
  • Khujo – vocals
  • T-Mo – vocals
  • CJ Jones – vocals
  • Jamahr Williams – vocals
  • Whild Peach – vocals
  • Charles Veal – concertmaster, orchestra arrangements
  • The South Central Chamber Orchestra – orchestra
  • Marvin “Chanz” Parkman – bass, piano, synthesizer
  • Victor Alexander – drums
  • Omar Phillips – percussion
  • Darian Emory – wind instruments
  • LaMarquis Mark Jefferson – bass
  • Skinny Miracles – bass
  • Kenneth Wright – synthesizer
  • Craig Love – guitar
  • Tomi Martin – guitar
  • Martin Terry – electric guitar
  • Jim Sitterly – violin
  • Mr. DJ – scratching
  • George Clinton – background vocals
  • Sleepy Brown – background vocals
  • Jermaine Smith – background vocals
  • Jim Smith – background vocals
  • Debra Killings – background vocals

Outkast - Aquemini - Dedication (djbooth.net)

In closing

Aquemini was Outkast’s first classic in their body of work. Stankonia and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below would follow later. With those three albums Outkast secured their position within hip-hop: innovative hip-hop funkateers.

What do you think of this album and Outkast? Let me know!

 

Funkadelic – One Nation Under A Groove

Parliament Funkadelic live (onelovemassive.com)

Parliament Funkadelic live

One nation under a groove
Gettin’ down just for the funk of it
One nation and we’re on the move
Nothin’ can stop us now

© 1978 Funkadelic

Introduction

On September 22nd, 1978, Funkadelic released its tenth album. Nowadays One Nation Under A Groove is regarded as one of the best funk albums of all time and as one of the (many) P-Funk classics.

Funkadelic - Walter 'Junie' Morrison & Bernie Worrell - Jaap Eden Hal Amsterdam 12/08/1978 (funkblog.nl)

Funkadelic – Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison & Bernie Worrell – Jaap Eden Hal Amsterdam 12/08/1978

On January 10th, 1978, the Parliament single Flash Light was released. A highly influential song that showed the significance of Parliament. George Clinton’s and his P-Funk circus’ creativity knew no boundaries.

Parliament was a funk group that had signed a deal with Casablanca Records, and Funkadelic was a more experimental group that had a deal with Westbound/Warner Bros. Records. Both groups released albums independently, oftentimes several per year (!). The group of people that made those records were largely the same. Keyboard players Bernie Worrell and Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison had become important players within both groups and also play a huge role on One Nation Under A Groove.

One Nation Under A Groove

Funkadelic - One Nation Under A Groove (discogs.com)

Funkadelic – One Nation Under A Groove

Largely performed at the United Sound Studio in Detroit, Michigan, One Nation Under A Groove is not only Funkadelic’s most successful album, it is also valued the highest, internationally as well. The album is about the strength of the funk and the way it brings together two important things: becoming an open, happy and conscious human being and being a good dancer.

Opening song One Nation Under A Groove was released as a single and, to this day, is Funkadelic’s greatest hit, selling over 1 million copies. To dance is the way to finding freedom. Free your mind and your ass will follow, in reverse.

Groovallegiance is about the fact that mankind should pledge groovallegiance to the funk in the United Funk Of Funkadelica. Great song.

The third song is about Funkadelic the band. It embodies Clinton’s philosophy behind the band: Who Says A Funk Band Can’t Play Rock?!. Musically, the song is a mix between funk and rock. The song addresses the prejudicial thought that a funk band should be confined to playing funk. In the United States this principle was everyday life, as opposed to Europe, where radio wasn’t segregated, as it was (and still is) in the United States. Once categorized, crossing over to other categories (and audiences) was nearly impossible.

Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The Doo-Doo Chasers) is a laidback swinging song with spoken lyrics:

The world is a toll-free toilet
Our mouths neurological assholes
And psychologically speaking
We’re in a state of mental diarrhea

© 1978 Funkadelic

Into You is a ballad sung by Ray Davis, a rare feat within Funkadelic’s body of work.

The closing Cholly (Funk Getting Ready To Roll!) is about a man, named Cholly, who likes music (I dug jazz, I dug rock, anything with a swing) and, thanks to his friends, realizes there is more, so much more: funk!

I would dance, I would sing, I would get lost in my dreams
I would fly, but never too high, cause my funk deserted me
Now that the door is open wide, and all my funk just can’t hide
With the syndrome left behind, no, my funk just can’t hide

© 1978 Funkadelic

Glorious funk with great heavy guitar work.

The EP enclosed with the album contains a rock song with rough guitar playing in the song Lunchmeataphobia. The instrumental version of Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The Doo-Doo Chasers) doesn’t add much. The Maggot Brain live version is fantastic. Even if Eddie Hazel doesn’t play, the song is impressive.

George Clinton - Amsterdam 78 (Barry Schultz)

George Clinton – Amsterdam 78

Review

Often regarded as Funkadelic’s greatest album, it is also their most popular and best sold album. The album is also credited as being extremely important and influential to the later “black rock” movement. The song Who Says A Funk Band Can’t Play Rock?! in particular, was liberating to a lot of musicians. And with One Nation Under A Groove, Groovallegiance and Cholly, another three funk classics were added to the already rich P-Funk discography.

Songs album

The album contains the following songs:

Song   Writers
One Nation Under a Groove   George Clinton, Walter Morrison, Garry Shider
Groovallegiance   George Clinton, Walter Morrison, Bernard Worrell
Who Says a Funk Band Can’t Play Rock?!   George Clinton, Walter Morrison, Michael Hampton
Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The Doo Doo Chasers)   George Clinton, Garry Shider, Linda Brown
Into You   George Clinton, Walter Morrison, William Collins
Cholly (Funk Getting Ready To Roll!)   George Clinton, Walter Morrison, William Collins

Songs EP

The American album contained a 7″ EP. In Europe it was a 12″ EP with one extra song: an extended version of the song One Nation Under A Groove.

Song   Writers
Lunchmeataphobia (Think! It Ain’t Illegal Yet!)   George Clinton, Bernard Worrell
Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The Doo Doo Chasers)   George Clinton, Garry Shider, Linda Brown
Maggot Brain (live, 15-4-78)   George Clinton, Edward Hazel
Funkadelic - One Nation Under A Groove (single) (discogs.com)

Funkadelic – One Nation Under A Groove (single)

Funkadelic Main Invasion Force

  • Throbbasonic Funkgeetarists: Mike ‘Kidd Funkadelic’ Hampton, Gary Shider
  • Banjo’d Muthaplucker: Bobby Lewis
  • Avatarian: Mike Hampton
  • Keybo’ Dans & Synthezoidees: Bernie ‘DaVinci’ Worrell, Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison
  • Rotofunkie Drum & Percussionatin’ Thumpdans: Jerome Brailey, W. Bootsy Collins, Larry Fratangelo, Tyrone Lampkin
  • Bass Thumpasaurians: William ‘Bootsy’ Collins, Rodney “Skeet” Curtis, Cordell ‘Boogie’ Mosson
  • Funkadelic Blamgusta Vocaloids (Voices For Da Nation!): George Clinton, Raymond (Stingray) Davis, Ron Ford, Mallia Franklin, Lynn Mabry, Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison, Cordell Mosson, Dawn Silva, Gary “Dowop” Shider, Greg Thomas, Jeanette Washington, Debbie Wright

In closing

What do you think of One Nation Under A Groove? Let me know!

 

Kiss solo albums: Ace Frehley

Kiss - Solo albums (apple.com/apoplife.nl)

Kiss – Solo albums

Introduction

On September 18th, 1978, 40 years ago today, Kiss released 4 albums in one day: solo albums of all the individual Kiss members. Consequently, Ace Frehley did as well. His album was the best of the four, by far.

Ace Frehley

On April 27th, 1951, Paul Frehley was born in the Bronx, New York. He got his first electric guitar for his birthday in 1965 and got hooked on the instrument. When he saw the likes of The Who and Cream perform in 1967, he decided to become a full-time guitar player. He began playing in bands and was even more determined after witnessing Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. Around this time he took on the nickname Ace.

Ace Frehley - Without make-up 1978 (levyhyllyntakaa.blogspot.com)

Ace Frehley – Without make-up 1978

Despite the good will and hard work his career didn’t really take off, so when he came across an ad in 1972 from a hard rock band that wanted to mix music and theater, he got in touch. Within a few weeks Frehley officially joined the band, that consisted of bass player/singer Gene Simmons, guitar player/singer Paul Stanley and drummer Peter Criss. Together they would form the band Kiss. In the early days, Frehley’s talent for graphic design came in handy. He designed his own (make-up) mask (spaceman) and the famous Kiss logo, replacing the last two letters with two lightning bolts (⚡).

After a period of time where the band barely had enough money to eat, the band found its way to the top after the release of the 1975 (double) live album Alive!. It all changed after that. Everything the band touched turned into gold (and platinum). But, fame caught up with the band. Peter Criss was fired in 1980, because by that time he had become completely dysfunctional. Frehley’s alcohol and drug use escalated ever more. He felt increasingly unhappy in the band. Not just because of his best friend Criss leaving, but also because the band started experimenting with other kinds of music, like disco. Frehley left Kiss in 1982.

It took 5 years before Frehley’s band, Frehley’s Comet, would release their debut album, which was followed by an album and EP in 1989. In the meantime Frehley gave some attention to his graphic design talents. It even led to his work being exhibited at an art gallery.

Ace Frehley - With guitar collection 1978 (imgur.com)

Ace Frehley – With guitar collection 1978

After years of arguments and insults, generally hurled through the press (in public), the original line-up of Kiss reconvened in 1995 in honor of an episode of the music program MTV Unplugged. The band went on tour with that line-up, and they went all the way: make-up, stage and the spectacle of the older days. The result was the very successful (and lucrative) 1996-1997 Alive Worldwide Tour, which I witnessed in Utrecht. Unfortunately, I regard that show, together with a Michael Jackson show a year earlier, to be the worst show I ever saw. This could not be attributed to Frehley in any way.

Ace Frehley - No Regrets (amazon.com)

Ace Frehley – No Regrets

However, things went wrong, again. Peter Criss quit in 2000 and Frehley followed soon thereafter. In 2009 he released the album Anomaly, which was followed by his (auto)biography in 2011, titled No Regrets. It contains an honest and open account of his life and his battle against addictions to alcohol and cocaine, which he kicked in 2006.

The original Kiss members reconvened once again on April 10th, 2014, to commemorate the induction of Kiss into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. The band didn’t perform. In August of the same year, Frehley released solo album Space Invader. In 2017 Frehley was invited as a guest on stage during a Gene Simmons show at St. Paul, Minnesota.

In my opinion, Frehley is highly underrated as a guitar player. His playing has been very important to Kiss, but also for people like Eddie Van Halen, who really listened to Frehley. In the early 1990’s Frehley received high praise from the new breed of guitar players, like Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell.

Kiss in 1978

Up to Alive II the band could do no wrong. However, the end of the golden era announced its arrival soon. The band was everywhere, causing over exposure. The band’s merchandising machine played a huge part in that. It reached its zenith in 1978: Marvel comic books (with real Kiss blood!), a pinball machine, dolls, “Kiss Your Face Makeup” kits, Halloween masks, board games, lunch boxes, cards, bedroom bed sheets and curtains, etc, etc. The official fanclub, the Kiss Army, had more than 100.000 members.

Kiss - Merchandising 1978 (kissmerchandising.com/pinterest.com/apoplife.nl)

Kiss – Merchandising 1978

The first release in 1978 was on April 2nd: compilation double album Double Platinum. Because the album contained a re-recorded version of the Kiss classic Strutter (called Strutter ’78), may fans felt obliged to buy the album.

The band and their manager Bill Aucoin had prepared a strategy for 1978 ensuring the consolidation of their popularity and bringing new experiences for the band and their fans. Besides Double Platinum, four solo albums and a movie would be released in 1978.

Kiss - Giving blood and adding it to the comic book ink (pinterest.com)

Kiss – Giving blood and adding it to the comic book ink

Solo albums

Kiss - Solo albums - Ad (pencilstorm.com)

Kiss – Solo albums – Ad

Each band member would release a solo album on the same day. I was under the impression that the solo albums were partly born out of necessity. The individual members, Criss and Frehley in particular, supposedly felt trapped by the band’s restrictions. In order to keep that discontent under control, 1978 was meant to be a year of minimal band activities, giving the band members the opportunity to release the music they wanted. However, only recently I read that their 1976 contract provided the possibility of releasing 4 solo albums, counting each album as half an album within the 5 record deal.

Besides the novelty of it (no other band had ever released four solo albums on one day), it gave way to offering the members the chance to show and record their own preferred music and songs. The Frehley and Stanley albums were rock orientated and could, musically speaking, be linked to the Kiss sound, but the Criss and Simmons albums deviated quite a lot from the fans’ expectations.

Kiss - Solo albums - Promo (pencilstorm.com)

Kiss – Solo albums – Promo

On September 18th, 1978, the albums were released, under the Kiss moniker. The album’s titles contained the names of the band members. Record company Casablanca spent over $ 2,5 million on advertising and marketing and announced that over 5 million copies had been shipped to record stores. A problem, because none of the albums sold well (especially when held up to the standards Kiss had grown accustomed to) and the stores had to find space for the large amount of albums that couldn’t be sold. Frehley’s album outsold the other albums and the album’s single, New York Groove, was the biggest Kiss hit since Beth. None of the other solo album singles was that successful.

Kiss - Attack Of The Phantoms (comingsoon.net)

Kiss – Attack Of The Phantoms

Film: Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park

The band was going to make a movie, meant to be a hybrid between The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night and Star Wars. Filming started in the spring of 1978. However, the story was embarrassingly thin and underwent many adjustments. The band’s expectations were not met at all.

The movie, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, was broadcast by NBC on October 28th, 1978. after going through many changes (once again) the movie was released in movie theaters outside of the United States as Attack of the Phantoms. At the time I watched it at an Alkmaar, The Netherlands, cinema. If my memory serves me well, I seem to have enjoyed the movie… For years, the band was too embarrassed and annoyed to even talk about the project. By now, they seem to have made their peace with it and the movie was re-released as part of the DVD boxset Kissology Volume Two: 1978–1991.

N.B.: Maybe a separate story on the movie? I’ll keep it in mind.

Successful?

1978 was a pinnacle year for Kiss. Album sales were disappointing. Adding injury to insult, all solo albums were run down by the press, Frehley’s album excluded. If the albums were bad, the movie was from another galaxy of bad. The band was ridiculed because of the absurd story, the lousy stunt-doubles, the amateur special effects and the bad to very bad acting skills. The original plan to consolidate the band’s popularity over the course of 1978, had imploded.

If there was disagreement among the members, that could only have been strengthened during the year. On the next studio album Dynasty Criss would not contribute a thing and Frehley’s discontent grew, as he saw the band moving away from its rock roots (disco entered the sound). Even more serious: the accompanying tour, called The Return Of Kiss, saw many dates not selling out anymore…

Ace Frehley – the album

Kiss - Ace Frehley (apple.com)

Kiss – Ace Frehley

But not everything was bad in 1978. Ace Frehley’s solo album was good, very good to be exact. Frehley contributed songs to Kiss from the very first album. Songs that were considered vintage Kiss, like Cold Gin, Parasite en Shock Me. According to Frehley, his album consists of a number of songs which were originally slated for inclusion on the 1976 Kiss album Rock And Roll Over.

The album is totally focused on rock and contains top notch material, mostly written by Frehley himself. The big hit from the album, New York Groove, has a r&b feel and is a cover. The album was certified platinum in November of 1978. It is also the best selling album of the four solo albums.

With the album Frehley proved he was more that just a supporting guitar player for Simmons and Stanley, who assumed Frehley would fail and offered their help (which Frehley kindly ignored). All songs are equally strong, the album’s vibe is perfect. A great number of songs are about cocaine and booze (Snow Blind, Ozone and Wiped Out). It is a shame that Frehley has never been able to match this superb debut, either with Frehley’s Comet or solo.

Songs

All songs written by Ace Frehley, unless stated otherwise.

Kiss/Ace Frehley - New York Groove (blue vinyl single) (discogs.com)

Kiss/Ace Frehley – New York Groove (blue vinyl single)

  • Rip It Out *
  • Speedin’ Back To My Baby **
  • Snow Blind
  • Ozone
  • What’s On Your Mind?
  • New York Groove ***
  • I’m In Need Of Love
  • Wiped-Out ****
  • Fractured Mirror
Written by
*   Ace Frehley, Larry Kelly, Sue Kelly
**   Ace Frehley, Jeanette Frehley
***   Russ Ballard
****   Ace Frehley, Anton Fig
Gibson Ace Frehley “Budokan” Les Paul Custom guitar (gibson.com)

Gibson Ace Frehley “Budokan” Les Paul Custom guitar

In closing

Do you own one (or more) of the the 1978 Kiss solo albums? Do you consider Ace Frehley to be the best of the four or do you have another favorite? Let me know!

 

30 years ago, the most special show I ever witnessed

Lovesexy Tour (princevault.com)

Introduction

In 1988 I turned 22 years old. I lived in Amsterdam, had my dream job, was a bachelor and had quite a lot of friends and acquaintances around me, who were all very dear to me. It was also the year Prince released his genius tenth album Lovesexy and the accompanying tour that brought him to The Netherlands. On August 17th, 18th and 19th he performed at the Rotterdam stadium. An unexpected and beautiful encore was in the works. After the story on the best concert I ever witnessed, this is my story on the most special one.

News overview 1988 (apoplife.nl)

News overview 1988

What happened in the world in 1988?

The slow disappearing of doom, that had gradually started in 1986, had been executed completely. It had given way to, dare I say it, optimism.

Some of the main news events in 1988:

  • In April The Netherlands officially had three television stations: Nederland 3 airs for the first time;
  • The Boeing 747-400 makes its very first test flight;
  • In May the maximum speed on the Dutch motorways is increased from 100 km/h to 120 km/h;
  • Salman Rushdie releases his novel The Satanic Verses;
  • George Bush sr. wins the American presidential elections;
  • On December 9th the Intifada starts: the resistance against the state of Israel in the occupied territories;
  • On December 21st 170 people die when Pan Am flight 103 explodes and crashes near Lockerbie (Scotland);
  • Radical moslimgroup Al-Qaida is founded by Osama Bin Laden.
Circular cruise Dutch Soccer team Amsterdam (26-06-1988) (parool.nl)

Circular cruise Dutch Soccer team Amsterdam (26-06-1988)

The optimism was omnipresent in The Netherlands. On June 25th, 1988, The Netherlands won the European Soccer Championship tournament in Germany after defeating the Soviet Union in the final. Striker Marco van Basten scored one of the most beautiful goals of all time during the final.

However, the most important match had already been played. In the semi-finals The Netherlands played against Germany (at that time still called West-Germany). On June 21st the ‘enemy’ was beaten on their own soil by the team made up of players like Ronald Koeman, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten. The Bijlmer, the Amsterdam district I lived in at the time, exploded. I clearly remember that from all the balconies toilet paper rolls were thrown to the ground, making the Bijlmer look like it had been completely covered with decorative items.

The day after the final the Dutch Soccer team was honored by an enthusiastic crowd in Amsterdam. Over one million people had traveled to the capital. The houseboats in the Amsterdam canals were almost ruined by the huge number of fans.

Albums 1988 (apoplife.nl)

Albums 1988

What happened in the music world in 1988?

Besides the top album Lovesexy by Prince, a great number of my favorite albums were released in that year: Public Enemy It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, The Waterboys Fisherman’s Blues, EPMD Strictly Business, R.E.M. Green, Timbuk 3 Eden Alley, Ice-T Power, Morrissey Viva Hate, N.W.A.Straight Outta Compton and Dutch own Fatal Flowers Johnny D. Is Back!.

In 1988 The Pixies and Nirvana started their journeys and the first part of the fantastic compilation series James Brown’s Funky People was released. Chet Baker (falls out of his Amsterdam hotel window), Divine, jazz-piano player Gil Evans, Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar player Hillel Slovak and Roy Orbison died in 1988.

What was my world like in 1988?

Concerto (concerto.amsterdam)

Concerto

Midway through 1987 it became clear to me that my studies weren’t going to bring me what I wanted. I applied for a job at Concerto’s soul department and wasn’t hired. Luckily, the owner remembered my name. In August of 1987 I was a member of the Concerto staff, working at the greatest record store in Amsterdam. At the beginning of 1988 I worked at Concerto for 5 months and made some money. Much, very much, of my weekly salary went to music, which I was able to buy with an employee discount. So I did, with great abundance. I finally had the means to catch up. I was stationed at the second hand department of Concerto and had first access to whatever was bought from customers. I purchased lots and lots of great, essential music, for a good price.

Another major advantage was that I was able to build and maintain my Prince collection. During those times I almost completed my vinyl collection.

Prince - Lovesexy (allmusic.com)

Prince – Lovesexy

As written in my story on Lovesexy, I started buying bootlegs in 1988. The organizer of the Amsterdam record fairs was a steady customer at Concerto. In exchange for holding on to special 1960’s items for him, we gained free access to the fairs, prior to the official opening hours. That way I always had first choice with bootlegs. How convenient! The most important purchase in 1988 bootleg-wise was (obviously) The Black Album.

Besides Prince, I listened a lot to The Beatles, Neil Young, George Clinton, Parliament, Funkadelic, Bruce Springsteen and Sly & The Family Stone. I also bought many of the so-called Prince satellite acts, in some cases just to keep the Prince collection complete.

Prince - Lovesexy Tour - Rotterdam August 17/18/19, 1988 (apoplife.nl)

Prince – Lovesexy Tour – Rotterdam August 17/18/19, 1988

What happened before September 9th, 1988?

As explained in the definitive story on Lovesexy the album, Lovesexy the tour and Lovesexy the video, 1988 was centered around the tenth Prince album Lovesexy. His spiritual rebirth produced a new album and tour in record time. On August 17th, 18th and 19th I witnessed Prince at the Rotterdam stadium called ‘De Kuip’. Prince and the, until then anyway, best band he ever had, three nights in a row. The look of the tour was breathtaking, the stage and lighting actively contributed to the musical spectacle brought by the little genius from Minneapolis. I was completely in awe, for days and days (years actually). When the Prince entourage left The Netherlands on August 20th, all music lovers in the country were still shaking with excitement.

Prince - Lovesexy Tour Dortmund - Trouw 08/26/1988 (apoplife.nl)

Prince – Lovesexy Tour Dortmund – Trouw 08/26/1988

On August 26th, one week after the last show in The Netherlands, articles started appearing in the newspapers that Prince was going to add one extra show to the European leg of his tour. On September 9th the last European Lovesexy show was going to take place in Germany. By special request from Prince, tickets were to be sold to the fans in The Netherlands. The show was going to be filmed and broadcast the very same evening. Prince had grown impressed with the Dutch audience and its commitment and participation. Exactly what he wanted for the recordings.

Prince - Lovesexy Tour Dortmund - Advertising Variety 31-08-1988 (twitter.com/housequake)

Announcement in Variety, 08/31/1988

What happened on September 9th, 1988?

En route to Dortmund (apoplife.nl)

En route to Dortmund

Unfortunately, I can’t really remember how I got the tickets, but I do know we were going to Dortmund in a rented van with, amongst others, (namesake) Erwin, Mandy and my good friend Patrick. Before we could leave for Germany, we had to make a stop at Utrecht first, where we originally were going to board a bus (for an organized tour) that would take us to Dortmund. We got our tickets and steered the van towards Germany.

Prince - Lovesexy Tour - Westfalenhallen Dortmund (pinterest.com)

Prince – Lovesexy Tour – Westfalenhallen Dortmund

It was a beautiful summer’s day at the end of the great summer of 1988. I had seen Prince 3 times in Rotterdam, seen Bruce Springsteen for the first time and I had the time of my life with friends and colleagues at Concerto. Great times indeed. After arriving in Dortmund we went about the town for the rest of the day, had some drinks and ate some food before we headed to the venue. The Westfalenhallen in Dortmund is a great location.

Upon arrival it was immediately clear that this show was going to be different from all other shows. The hollering Holland, Holland, which also found its way onto the recordings that evening, started at the entrance to the hall. The Dutch made themselves heard and, influenced by the European Soccer Championship tournament, were not about to quit. Usually I don’t like that kind of (nationalist) sloganism (actually I despise it), but at the time I thought it was rather amusing that it took place in Germany. The significance of the victory over Germany in the semifinals was underlined once again.

After walking into the venue and arriving at our seats we were placed at the side where the basketball hoop was situated guaranteeing a great overall view. The atmosphere inside the venue was divine.

Prince 09-09-1988 concertkaartje (apoplife.nl)

Prince 09/09/1988 concertticket

Showtime!

The lights dimmed and the boomboom/boom beat to the opening song Erotic City signaled Prince’s arrival. In the meantime the entire audience stood on their chairs and Patrick had already fallen off. Even before the first bass notes hit the entire room had exploded. The Thunderbird came round the stage and stopped. Prince got out, smiles self-assured and walked to the center of the stage: Snare drum pounds on the 2 and 4 / All the party people, get on the floor / Bass!. And off we went. The regular, superior set of the Lovesexy Tour followed. The closer of that part, Anna Stesia, normally ended with a lengthy guitar solo, but due to a technical malfunction it wasn’t played this time.

Prince - Lovesexy Tour Dortmund - Start (apoplife.nl/prince.org)

Prince – Lovesexy Tour Dortmund – Start

At the regular shows the second part of the show immediately followed the first, but because of the television recordings, now approximately one half hour passed between the end of part 1 and the start of part 2. Filming went on during that half hour. A small part of that found its way into the original recordings, that were broadcast that same evening in many countries around the world. I am visible in one of those extra shots. Very quickly and very short, but I’m there (see the second last image in this article).

Prince - Lovesexy Tour Dortmund - Prince mimics and leaves (apoplife.nl)

Prince – Lovesexy Tour Dortmund – Prince mimics and leaves

After the ‘break’ the second part of the show commenced and it was even more impressive than it had been at the Rotterdam shows. It was an ‘indoor’ show and the sound was phenomenal. Patrick and I had left our seats and danced along the isles and were getting closer and closer to the stage. During the encore Prince saw us and mimicked our movements. When the show closed and Prince, Sheila E and Cat drove by on the Thunderbird by the stage we were at arm’s length of the car.

Setlist

Prince - Lovesexy Tour Dortmund - 1999 (prince.org)

Prince – Lovesexy Tour Dortmund – 1999

Part 1
Erotic City / Housequake / Slow Love / Adore / Delirious / Jack U Off / Sister / Adore (reprise) / I Wanna Be Your Lover / Head / A Love Bizarre / When You Were Mine / Blues In C (If I Had A Harem) / When You Were Mine (reprise) / Little Red Corvette / Controversy / Dirty Mind / Superfunkycalifragisexy / Controversy (reprise) / Bob George / Anna Stesia

Part 2
Intermission / No / Lovesexy / Glam Slam / The Cross / I Wish U Heaven / I Wish U Heaven (part 2) / Kiss / Dance On

Piano set
When 2 R In Love / Venus De Milo / Starfish And Coffee / Raspberry Beret / Condition Of The Heart / Strange Relationship / When 2 R In Love (reprise) / Three

Continuation part 2
Let’s Go Crazy / When Doves Cry / Purple Rain / 1999

Encore
Alphabet St.

After the show

When the show was over I was on a high. My friend Bram, whom I had met just one week before when he started working at Concerto, can still see me announcing that “my life was over, I had seen everything there was to see in life, it wouldn’t get any better than this”…

Prince - Lovesexy Tour Dortmund - Volkskrant 09/09/1988 (apoplife.nl)

Prince – Lovesexy Tour Dortmund – Volkskrant 09/09/1988

But it was not over yet. We still had to get home. The concert was broadcast on the radio. A peculiar experience to hear the show, that had just ended, on the radio in great sound quality!

When I was finally home in my Bijlmer apartment, morning had already started. My friend Mark-Otto had stayed at my house to record the show on video. After quickly seeing a part I went to bed.

Prince - Lovesexy Tour Dortmund - Rehearsal (npo.nl)

Prince – Lovesexy Tour Dortmund – Rehearsal

Television recordings

Prince - Lovesexy Live advertising (unknown)

Prince – Lovesexy Live advertising

As stated above, a longer break than usual was placed between the two parts of the show, due to the fact television recordings were made. Did that have any further impact? No, not at all. Still, there were 17 cameras and over 100 microphones installed to ensure the right images and sound were recorded. A huge undertaking.

The Dutch director Egbert van Hees talked over some of the camera positions with Prince and test-recorded Prince and band playing in the empty Westfalenhallen. At the Susan Rogers lectures in Rotterdam on May 26th and 27th, 2017, a little part of those test-recordings/rehearsals was shown. Very special, particularly because it demonstrated once again the way that band had been drilled. On the one and it all stopped. Stunning footage.

International Monitor Award (apoplife.nl)

Van Hees, who died in 2017 and recorded quite a lot of concerts (among which Lionel Richie, Madonna, U2 and Tina Turner), regarded the Prince assignment to be the highlight of his career. In 1989, he was awarded the International Monitor Award for his work on those recordings.

The recordings were also used for the release of the video’s Lovesexy Live 1 and Lovesexy Live 2.

What happened after September 9th, 1988?

The official Prince collection was completed in record time and the bootleg collection grew ever more in significance and volume. Hundreds/thousands of Dutch guilders were spent in the illegal markets.

Prince - Lovesexy Tour - Dortmund - Bootlegs (discogs.com/apoplife.nl)

Prince – Lovesexy Tour – Dortmund – Bootlegs

On February 7th, 1989, I received my first two bootlegs on compact-disc: The Black Album and the recordings of the Dortmund show: Love Sexy Live in Germany. Both items were very expensive: ƒ 125,- (€ 56,72) a piece.

125 gulden (apoplife.nl)

I played the latter thousands of times. Year after year the (double) cd was played multiple times every week. On April 16th, 2002, I purchased the remastered version (also a bootleg): Live In Dortmund 1988. The video held up all those years. On July 12th, 2005 I bought the (bootleg) DVD Lovesexy Live.

Prince - Lovesexy Live - Video stills (pinterest.com)

Prince – Lovesexy Live – Video stills

Connection to The Netherlands

After the Lovesexy Tour, Prince’s connection to The Netherlands was more intense than ever before. The first new Prince tour, the 1990 Nude Tour, had its world premier in The Netherlands. In 1992 the Diamonds And Pearls Tour had no less than 7 (!) stops in The Netherlands. When the number of European shows declined, the love lessened as well. In later years Belgium seemed to be Prince’s favorite European country. Not only did he perform more there, his shows were more driven (and longer). The exception to the rule were the three nights in a row during the Dutch North Sea Jazz Festival in 2011.

Prince - Lovesexy Tour Dortmund - Erwin (apoplife.nl)

Prince – Lovesexy Tour Dortmund – Erwin

In closing

September 9th, 1988: a day to remember. The same can be applied to the concert. I’m lucky enough to relive that specific evening time and again. Highly recommended!

Prince - Lovesexy Live - Intro (bilibili.com)

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