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Wednesday, December 31, 2008


3 (MELT) 1980
320 KBPS

Generally regarded as Peter Gabriel's finest record, his third eponymous album finds him coming into his own, crafting an album that's artier, stronger, more song-oriented than before. Consider its ominous opener, the controlled menace of "Intruder." He's never found such a scary sound, yet it's a sexy scare, one that is undeniably alluring, and he keeps this going throughout the record. For an album so popular, it's remarkably bleak, chilly, and dark — even radio favorites like "I Don't Remember" and "Games Without Frontiers" are hardly cheerful, spiked with paranoia and suspicion, insulated in introspection. For the first time, Gabriel has found the sound to match his themes, plus the songs to articulate his themes. Each aspect of the album works, feeding off each other, creating a romantically gloomy, appealingly arty masterpiece. It's the kind of record where you remember the details in the production as much as the hooks or the songs, which isn't to say that it's all surface — it's just that the surface means as much as the songs, since it articulates the emotions as well as Gabriel's cubist lyrics and impassioned voice. He wound up having albums that sold more, or generated bigger hits, but this third Peter Gabriel album remains his masterpiece.

1. Intruder
2. No Self Control
3. Start
4. I Don't Remember
5. Family Snapshot
6. And Through The Wire
7. Games Without Frontiers
8. Not One Of Us
9. Lead A Normal Life
10. Biko


CITY LIFE (1996)
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Avid listeners of Reich will recognize how this album is an evolution from his earlier minimalist tendencies, making for an incredible listening experience. Having many Reich CDs in my collection, "Proverb" is arguably my favorite work - it takes the type of attention to space from earlier works such as "18" or the Counterpoint series and guides it in a newer and fresher direction, filled with quiet beauty, grace, and peace. "City Life" can be seen similarly as an extention from "Different Trains", using samples from the people and sounds of New York City to describe the tragedy of the World Trade Center bombing. The piece is nothing short of brilliant. "Nagoya Marimbas" takes his earlier Phase works and makes it more complex, weaving melodies and harmonies in a rhythmically challenging close canon, giving the work the type of energy for which Reich is well known for and is often imitated, but unmatched. In short, this album is an essential for Reich and "post-minimalist" fans.

1. Proverb
2. Nagoya Marimba
City Life
3. Check It Out (movement 1)
4. Pile Driver/Alarms (movement 2)
5. It's Been a Honeymoon-Can't Take no Mo' (movement 3)
6. Heartbeats/Boats & Buoys (movement 4)
7. Heavy Smoke (movement 5)


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It Isn’t Often that a Jazz Singer of Johnny Hartman’s Calibre (the only singer to have ever accompanied John Coltrane!) is Placed Beside an Arranger as Gifted as Oliver Nelson. In Addition to the Los Angeles, September 28, 1966 "live Studio Date" with Nelson, this Release features the Incomparable Hartman Accompanied by Orchestras Directed by Jack Pleis (1966) and by Rudy Traylor (1958). This Release Marks the First Time that Hartman’s 1966 Session with Jack Pleis is Available on CD. A must try for vocal jazz lovers.

1. Today I Love Everybody
2. T'Aint No Need
3. For the Want of a Kiss
4. Girl Talk
5. Old Black Magic / Matilde
6. If I Had You
7. When I Get the Time
8. Goodbye, Goodbye
9. I Cover the Waterfront
10. Go Away
11. As You Desire Me
Bonus tracks
1958 Sessions w/ Rudy Taylor & Orchestra
12. Mam'selle
13. To Each His Own
14. Sunday
15. Alone
16. Long Ago & Far Away
17. I Should Care
18. Little Girl Blue
19. But Beautiful
20. After You've Gone
21. There's a Lull in My Life
22. How Long Has This Been Going On
23. I Thought About You

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


2 (SCRATCH) (1978)
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The pairing sounds ideal — the former front man of Genesis, as produced by the leading light of King Crimson. Unfortunately, Peter Gabriel's second album (like his first, eponymous) fails to meet those grandiose expectations, even though it seems to at first. "On the Air" and "D.I.Y." are stunning slices of modern rock circa 1978, bubbling with synths, insistent rhythms, and polished processed guitars, all enclosed in a streamlined production that nevertheless sounds as large as a stadium. Then, things begin to drift, at first in a pleasant way ("A Wonderful Day in a One-Way World" is surprisingly nimble), but by the end, it all seems a little formless. It's not that the music is overly challenging — it's that the record is unfocused. There are great moments scattered throughout the record, yet it never captivates, either through intoxicating, messy creativity (as he did on his debut) or through cohesion (the way the third Peter Gabriel album, two years later, would). Certain songs work well on their own — not just the opening numbers, but the mini-epic "White Shadow," the tight "Animal Magic," the tense yet catchy "Perspective," the reflective closer "Home Sweet Home" — yet for all the tracks that work, they never work well together. Ironically, it holds together a bit better than its predecessor, yet it never reaches the brilliant heights of that record. In short, it's a transitional effort that's well worth the time of serious listeners, even it's still somewhat unsatisfying.

1. On The Air
2. D.I.Y.
3. Mother Of Violence
4. A Wonderful Day In A One-Way World
5. White Shadow
6. Indigo
7. Animal Magic
8. Exposure
9. Flotsam And Jetsam
10. Perspective
11. Home Sweet Home


NONSUCH (1992)
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Since Skylarking, each XTC album was carefully composed and crafted, and Nonsuch is no different. Working with producer Gus Dudgeon (Elton John), XTC crafted their most immaculate album to date with Nonsuch. A measured and reflective record, recalling the Beach Boys more than the Beatles, the album retains some of their late-'80s psychedelic flourishes, but those have been integrated into an elaborate, lush pop setting that falls somewhere between Skylarking and Oranges & Lemons. While it lacks the thematic unity of Skylarking, as well as the grandstanding eclecticism of Oranges & Lemons, Nonsuch is in many ways more musically consistent, presenting a set of 17 wonderfully detailed and immediately catchy pop songs, ranging from the relatively rocking "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" to the sweet "Holly up on Poppy." Occasionally, the album dips slightly lyrically — Colin Moulding's "The Smartest Monkeys" and "War Dance" are a little too preachy — but never musically, making Nonsuch a modest, minor masterpiece.
1. The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
2. My Bird Performs
3. Dear Madam Barnum
4. Humble Daisy
5. The Smartest Monkeys
6. The Disappointed
7. Holly up on Poppy
8. Crocodile
9. Rook
10. Onmibus
11. That Wave
12. Then She Appeared
13. War Dance
14. Wrapped in Grey
15. The Ugly Underneath
16. Bungalow
17. Books Are Burning
Bonus track
18. The Smartest Monkeys (demo)


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It was with this critical work, Tehillim (the Hebrew word for psalms), that Steve Reich demonstrated that minimalism had the power to break out of its groupie ghetto and appeal to a broad audience of music lovers. In creating a masterpiece both expressive and approachable, Reich used the oldest trick in the book: he turned to a biblical source--exactly the sort of thing that composers have been doing since the dawn of recorded music. The result is remarkable in every way, and the music's popularity in performance speaks for itself. This recording, effectively with the work's "original cast," is unlikely to be bettered. It belongs in the collection of anyone who cares about the most important music of our time.

1. Part I (Fast)
2. Part II (Fast)
3. Part III (Slow)
4. Part IV (Fast)
Three Movements
5. Movement I
6. Movement II
7. Movement III

Monday, December 29, 2008


1 (CAR) (1977)
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Peter Gabriel tells why he left Genesis in "Solsbury Hill," the key track on his 1977 solo debut. Majestically opening with an acoustic guitar, the song finds Gabriel's talents gelling, as the words and music feed off each other, turning into true poetry. It stands out dramatically on this record, not because the music doesn't work, but because it brilliantly illustrates why Gabriel had to fly on his own. Though this is undeniably the work of the same man behind The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, he's turned his artiness inward, making his music coiled, dense, vibrant. There is still some excess, naturally, yet it's the sound of a musician unleashed, finally able to bend the rules as he wishes. That means there are less atmospheric instrumental sections than there were on his last few records with Genesis, as the unhinged bizarreness in the arrangements, compositions, and productions, in tracks such as the opener "Moribund the Burgermeister" vividly illustrate. He also has turned sleeker, sexier, capable of turning out a surging rocker like "Modern Love." If there is any problem with Peter Gabriel, it's that Gabriel is trying too hard to show the range of his talents, thereby stumbling occasionally with the doo wop-to-cabaret "Excuse Me" or the cocktail jazz of "Waiting for the Big One" (or, the lyric "you've got me cookin'/I'm a hard-boiled egg" on "Humdrum"). Still, much of the record teems with invigorating energy (as on "Slowburn," or the orchestral-disco pulse of "Down the Dolce Vita"), and the closer "Here Comes the Flood" burns with an anthemic intensity that would later become his signature in the '80s. Yes, it's an imperfect album, but that's a byproduct of Gabriel's welcome risk-taking — the very thing that makes the album work, overall.

1. Moribund The Burgermeister
2. Solsbury Hill
3. Modern Love
4. Excuse Me
5. Humdrum
6. Slowburn
7. Waiting For The Big One
8. Down The Dolce Vita
9. Here Comes The Flood


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Skylarking was an ambitious yet concise record, one that recalled such graceful concept albums as Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper, so it wasn't entirely a surprise that XTC embraced psychedelia on its double-album follow-up, Oranges & Lemons, especially if their celebrated Dukes of Stratosphear side project was taken into consideration as well. Oranges & Lemons lacks the singular focus of Skylarking, but at its best, it's just as impressive as its predecessor. Instead of revelling in the form of psychedelic pop, as they did with the Dukes, XTC bring the genre's sensibility to the mature pop of Skylarking, spiking it with a wry, occasionally absurd sense of humor missing from its predecessor. The result is a record exploding with details, not the least of which are backward guitars, sound effects, and head-spinningly eclectic arrangements. It's sonically rich and filled with immaculately crafted songs, but Oranges & Lemons falls just short of being a tour de force, since each song feels like an island — they work well as individual tracks, but they don't form a cohesive statement. However, that's a minor complaint, because Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge in particular are in peak form, contributing some of their very finest songs in "Garden of Earthly Delights," "The Loving," "One of the Millions," "Merely a Man," "Pink Thing," and the elegiac "Chalkhills and Children." Such songs make the relative weaknesses of the album well worth enduring.

1. Garden of Earthly Delights
2. The Mayor of Simpleton
3. King For a Day
4. Here Comes President Kill Again
5. The Loving
6. Poor Skeleton Steps Out
7. One of the Millons
8. Scarecrow People
9. Merely a Man
10. Cynical Days
11. Across This Antheap
12. Hold Me My Daddy
13. Pink Thing
14. Miniature Sun
15. Chalkhills and Children


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Yes, this time consisting of Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, and Alan White, got together for three nights in March of 1996 in San Luis Obispo, CA, to cut Keys to Ascension, the group's fourth live album in 28 years, which is rounded out with two new studio creations. Four of the seven live tracks are covers of songs that the band originally recorded between 1970 and 1974. The group has aged well, and Keys to Ascension is a more satisfying album than 1980's Yesshows. "Siberian Khatru" has less intensity but more lyricism than it did 23 years ago, making it slightly less dramatic — the ending lacks some necessary attack, replacing it instead with more articulate guitar. Tales From Topographic Oceans is represented by "The Revealing Science of God," which shows off some superb ensemble playing on a 20-minute piece that is most difficult to bring off on-stage, with Wakeman the standout among the instrumentalists. Anderson's falsetto has lowered slightly with age, and lost a bit of its power in the process as well, but the ensemble carries the piece successfully to its conclusion. Nearly as surprising is the presence of Paul Simon's "America," a song they cut back in the early '70s, which comes off as a lot more engaging here than it did back when. "Onward" and "Awaken," from the late '70s, are well represented in beautiful live covers. The new songs featured as studio recordings on the second disc are superior to anything on the more recent Union "mega-Yes" album, with soaring harmonies and very spacious song construction.

Disc 1
Live tracks
1. Siberian Khatru
2. The Revealing Science of God
3. America
4. Onward
5. Awaken

Disc 2
1. Roundabout
2. Starship Trooper
Studio tracks
3. Be The One
4. That, That is

Sunday, December 28, 2008


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Deep Purple set the standard for "live" rock `n' roll albums when it released Made In Japan in '72. Until then, live albums were considered gimmicks, mere souvenirs for fans of the artists. But Made In Japan paved the way for others as radio stations began playing the live versions instead of the studio versions of the same songs as sales of Made In Japan went through the roof. It proved to record company execs that live albums were viable, marketable forums for rock music.
With 1996's Live at the Olympia, Deep Purple has raised the bar for live recordings yet again. The addition of Steve Morse on guitar has revitalized a great band that was in dire danger of becoming stale and caricatures of what they once were.
This 2-CD set is an unedited account of the band's show at the Olympia in Paris. Gone are the interminable drum and organ solos and bombastic "LOOK AT ME!" guitar workouts. Instead, we have a crisp 17-song set that includes six tunes from the wonderfully eclectic Purpendicular album (Morse's first studio effort with the band) and shows the band to be having the time of its life ... and that is gleefully reflected in the performances.
With Ritchie Blackmore gone, the band was free to pick and chose material from its vast and impressive catalog of songs. Consequently, while we still have the umpteenth versions of "Smoke on the Water" and "Highway Star" here, gems such as the previously unreleased "When A Blind Man Cries" from the Machine Head sessions, and "Fireball" and "No One Came," from the Fireball album make this a must-have for any Purple fan.
"Maybe I'm a Leo," and "Pictures of Home," two of my favorite numbers from Machine Head, get a rare inclusion in a live Deep Purple set here. Consequently, this live outing has a feeling of freshness and excitement, rather than that of an old `70s warhorse trying feebly to milk the very last penny from its glory years.
The band plays with renewed enthusiasm. Even "Smoke on the Water," gets a fresh treatment thanks to Morse's incendiary playing. On this version, the song gets a beautiful piano coda tacked on to the end that is somewhat reminiscent of the ending of Eric Clapton's "Layla."
This CD is truly a live album in that it is an entire show, from beginning to end, including all of Ian Gillan's inane banter between songs. He was dealing with a French audience that didn't understand much English, but his "Your fantastic! Superb! Supreme-o!" after every darn song gets kind of annoying after a while. However, when he's singing, Gillan sounds as good as ever, though age has taken some of his incredible range. (Don't look for "Child In Time," in any of the live sets any time soon though, if you know what I mean.)
Morse is unbelievable. A true guitar virtuoso, he also appears to be totally ego-free. His presence has helped Deep Purple make two of the band's best albums, both, ironically, in the `90s. (Purpendicular and Abandon.) The live versions of the Purpendicular songs on this CD put many of the tunes in a whole new light. For example, "Cascades: I'm Not Your Lover," was, in my opinion, one of the weaker songs from Purpendicular. However, here, the breathtaking 10-minute workout it's given pushes it to classic status. "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming," with its soaring signature guitar riff, sounds absolutely majestic here. However, "Ted the Mechanic," one of the most popular tracks from Purpendicular, is given only perfunctory treatment.
So, let's review: the band sounds refreshed, renewed and enthusiastic and its reflected in the performances; the set thankfully lacks self-indulgent epic and pointless solos; the song selection is clever and daring. Addtionally, the quality of the recording is dead-on. It's crisp and unmuddled. When I turn it up loud and close my eyes, I swear I am right there in the auditorium pumping my fists with all the other ecstatic Parisians. I can practically smell `em!
If you are a Deep Purple fan or just a lover of classic rock at its veryt best, you are going to weep with pleasure at this one! A must hear.

Disc 1
1. Fireball
2. Maybe I'm a Leo
3. Ted the Mechanic
4. Pictures of Home
5. Black Night
6. Cascades: I'm Not Your Lover
7. Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming
8. Woman from Tokyo
9. No One Came
10. The Purpendicular Waltz

Disc 2
1. Rosa's Cantina
2. Smoke on the Water
3. When a Blind Man Cries
4. Speed King
5. Perfect Strangers
6. Hey Cisco
7. Highway Star


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Arriving after years of sonic bombast in Hüsker Dü, the reflective, acoustic nature of Bob Mould's first solo album, Workbook, was a bold statement of renewal. Like all of Mould's work, it's an intensely introspective record, finding him purging demons left over from the dissolution of Hüsker Dü. Instead of relying on raging guitars, Mould explores a wide variety of styles, from pure pop ("See a Little Light") to reflective folk laced with cellos. It's an astonishing array of styles, and the songs are among Mould's finest. For many observers, the record established him as a major songwriter, but it also established a way for underground post-punk artists to mature — echoes of Workbook could be heard throughout the '90s, from R.E.M.'s elegiac Automatic for the People to Nirvana's use of cellos on In Utero and Unplugged. But Workbook remains a stunning work of individuality, marrying a distinctive body of songs with an original musical vision. Occasionally, the production is a little too pristine, but the power of the songs cannot be diminished.

1. Sunspots
2. Wishing Well
3. Heartbreak a Stranger
4. See a Little Light
5. Poison Years
6. Sinners and Their Repentances
7. Brasilia Crossed With Trenton
8. Compositions for the Young and Old
9. Lonely Afternoon
10. Dreaming, I Am
11. Whichever Way the Wind Blows


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Just at the moment Mott the Hoople were calling it a day, David Bowie swooped in and convinced them to stick around. Bowie spearheaded an image makeover, urging them to glam themselves up. He gave them a surefire hit with "All the Young Dudes," had them cover his idol's "Sweet Jane," and produced All the Young Dudes, the album that was designed to make them stars. Lo and behold, it did, which is as much a testament to Bowie's popularity as it is to his studio skill. Not to discount his assistance, since his production results in one of the most satisfying glam records and the title track is one of the all-time great rock songs, but the album wouldn't have worked if Mott hadn't already found its voice on Brain Capers. True, Dudes isn't nearly as wild as its predecessor, but the band's swagger is unmistakable underneath the flair and Ian Hunter remains on a songwriting roll, with "Momma's Little Jewel," "Sucker," and "One of the Boys" standing among his best. Take a close look at the credits, though — these were all co-written by his bandmates, and the other highlight, "Ready for Love/After Lights," is penned entirely by Mick Ralphs, who would later revive the first section with Bad Company. The entire band was on a roll here, turning out great performances and writing with vigor. They may not be as sexy as either Bowie or Bolan, but they make up for it with knowing humor, huge riffs, and terrific tunes, dressed up with style by Ziggy himself. No wonder it's not just a great Mott record — it's one of the defining glam platters.

1. Sweet Jane
2. Momma's Little Jewel
3. All The Young Dudes
4. Sucker
5. Jerkin' Crocus
6. One Of The Boys
7. Soft Ground
8. Ready For Love/After Lights
9. Sea Diver

Saturday, December 27, 2008


13 (1972)
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One of the rarest of Lee Hazlewood's original LPs, 13 is a surprisingly swinging album completely indicative of the year of its recording, 1972. But though it's undeniably a period piece, in many ways it's dated in all the right ways. The opener, "You Look Like a Lady," is a gem, complete with soaring horn section, a roving bassline, and scads of wah-wah guitar. Oddly, over-production never hurt Hazlewood's gravelly, off-key delivery, and though the arrangements here aren't always sympathetic to the songwriting ("Tulsa Sunday" is particularly jarring), they're usually entertaining. "She Comes Running," a song originally recorded for 1968's Love and Other Crimes, makes another appearance, though with a much more commercial production. The lyrics are vintage Hazlewood, and "Ten or 11 Towns Ago" is a highlight: "Met a girl in Baltimore / Nothing less and nothing more / She was rich and I was poor / So I let her take me on a small vacation" and "One week in San Francisco, existing on Nabisco / Cookies and bad dreams / Sad scenes and dodging paranoia." Not all of the songs are up to Hazlewood's level; "Toocie and the River" and "Rosacoke Street" are both, relatively speaking, duds. But Hazlewood fans will love to hear these songs, especially since none have been collected on the quasi-legal compilations available at the nation's better record stores. Out of print for decades, 13 returned in early 2000 thanks to a reissue campaign by Smells Like Records. The rip comes from this reissue. Enjoy.

1. You Look Like a Lady
2. Tulsa Sunday
3. Ten or Eleven Towns Ago
4. Toocie and the River
5. She Comes Running
6. Rosacoke Street
7. I Move Around
8. And I Loved You Then
9. Hey, Me I'm Riding


14 UPS AND DOWNS (1998)
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Prohibition were a post-hardcore/art-noise-rock band from Angers (France). They released their albums on their own label (Prohibited Records) which became home of the finest exploratory rock to originate from France in the late 90s. "14 Ups and Downs" is their 5th and final album, their most accomplished too. On this one, the band is less noise-oriented displaying something of a mix of Fugazi, early-Tortoise with a jazzy touch that warms up the whole thing. In my opinion, this is the very best the band has ever sounded was its in the mathy/post rocking bursts (A Sceptical Care) or in more atmospheric moments (Few Seconds of Indecision). I honestly cannot see any weak moment in this varied album that will please those looking for something a little more "shaky" than your usual post-rock album. A must try.

1. Swinging round in the wires
2. Figure out
3. Shifting
4. Prelude
5. A sceptical care
6. You make me sing small
7. What else?
8. 163 street noises
9. Last pause
10. Oh my beautiful december
11. Few seconds of indecision
12. Heart is a poison bag
13. Bother
14. C'est un peu court jeune home


HOT ROCKS 1964-1971 (1972)
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It's the rare greatest-hits album that takes on a life of its own. Generally, best-of collections are superceded by updated retrospectives. Hot Rocks is one of the rare exceptions to the rule. Originally released in 1972, it instantly became the Stones intro of choice, elbowing aside Big Hits, High Tide and Green Grass and Through the Past Darkly. Why? It happened to hit the racks when Mick and company were at their creative peak. The 21 tracks found here represent seven years of dizzying growth. From "Time is on My Side" through "Satisfaction" and "Let's Spend the Night Together," on to Sticky Fingers's "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses," Hot Rocks never lets up. The likes of Sucking in the '70s and Jump Back come and go, but this Stones overview will not be moved.

Disc 1
1. Time Is On My Side
2. Heart Of Stone
3. Play With Fire
4. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
5. As Tears Go By
6. Get Off of My Cloud
7. Mother's Little Helper
8. 19th Nervous Breakdown
9. Paint It, Black
10. Under My Thumb
11. Ruby Tuesday
12. Let's Spend The Night Together

Disc 2
1. Jumpin' Jack Flash
2. Street Fighting Man
3. Sympathy For The Devil
4. Honky Tonk Women
5. Gimme Shelter
6. Midnight Rambler
7. You Can't Always Get What You Want
8. Brown Sugar
9. Wild Horses

Friday, December 26, 2008


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Seven years is a long time between records, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that Apple Venus is a significant step forward from Nonsuch, but the sparse strings and circular arrangements of "River of Orchids" nevertheless come as a shock, especially since its slow build-up feels as ominous and intellectual as 20th century classical music. It provides the keynote for the album, setting the stage for an ambitious, unpredictable, and strangely beautiful record. Although there are similarities with the pastoral Skylarking or parts of Nonsuch, there is really no comparable record in XTC's canon, given its sustained mood, experimentalism, and glimpses of confession. Colin Moulding wrote the brightest tunes on the record, and while the bouncy "Frivolous Tonight" and "Fruit Nut" will be endearing to any longtime XTC fan, they don't fit the tone of Apple Venus, which feels like an Andy Partridge solo album — not just a confessional, but a grand outpouring of ideas. Partridge insisted that Apple Venus be released in two parts — Gregory left partially because he believed the album would be stronger if it was consolidated to one record — presumably because all his songs on Pt. 1 are of a piece, sharing similar lyrical and musical themes. Split between orchestral and acoustic pop, Apple Venus is alternately lush and melancholy, sometimes within one song. Some of Partridge's darkest work is here, such as the vindictive "Your Dictionary," yet the album overall has a hopeful note — the perfect aural encapsulation of their long, bitter struggle of the '90s. The strike was frustrating for the band and fans alike, but perhaps the extended layoff paid off in sharpening Partridge's focus, since Apple Venus, Pt. 1 easily ranks as one of XTC's greatest works.

1. River of Orchids
2. I'd Like That
3. Easter Theatre
4. Knights in Shining Karma
5. Frivolous Tonight
6. Greenman
7. Your Dictionary
8. Fruit Nut
9. I Can't Own Her
10. Harvest Festival
11. The Last Balloon

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Anyone expecting Wasp Star: Apple Venus, Vol. 2 to continue the majestic acoustic-orchestral blends of Apple Venus will be disappointed, because it's a straightforward collection of sharp, witty, well-constructed pop songs. Directness is perhaps the oddest thing about Wasp Star - it's unassuming pop from a band that operated on a conceptual plain for nearly 20 years. It could be argued that all the songs that fit a dark, introspective mood went to Apple Venus, XTC's first album after seven years in exile, while Wasp Star wound up as a clearinghouse for everything else. If that is true, it ignores a basic fact — XTC's leftovers are better than most band's keepers. "Leftovers" isn't quite an accurate term, either. These songs are orphans, tunes without a particular project, which may mean that Wasp Star is an album of moments, but there's plenty to cherish here. Colin Moulding is in fine shape, with the spare "Boarded Up" and the clever "Standing in for Joe." Andy Partridge has a few tricks up his sleeve — his compositions are heavy on electric guitars, he builds "Wounded Horse" around a blues riff, and "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful" is just about the breeziest thing he's ever written — but for the most part, he's in pop craftsman mode, turning out expert, layered tunes that may not push his talents but certainly exploit his capabilities to their fullest. After all, most pop bands would give their eyeteeth to have songs as smart, melodic, and memorable as "Playground," "Stupidly Happy," "My Brown Guitar" and "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" as their orphans — and if these constitute an average XTC album, that's a testament to what a terrific band they are.

1. Playground
2. Stupidly Happy
3. In Another Life
4. My Brown Guitar
5. Boarded Up
6. I'm The Man Who Murdered Love
7. We're All Light
8. Standing In For Joe
9. Wounded Horse
10. You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful
11. Church Of Women
12. The Wheel And The Maypole


WU-WEI (1998)
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After the chaotic urgency of "100% White Puzzle", the total change that "Product Technology" and "-Dys" saw, Angers' most peculiar band, Hint, released their fourth and final opus in 1998 with "Wu-Wei". Another radical change of pace for the band, Wu-wei is a subtile and fascinating patchwork of post rock, jazz, electronic and noise rock. Yes, I know it sounds rather strange and, well, it is. What is truly great abou Wu-wei is how the band managed to keep the album coherent from start to finish while including so many varied elements. What you have here is an album that is entertaining, demanding, easy and difficult at the same time. A must hear, no doubt about it, and the great testament of a band which should have had way more success and establish itself internationally. It's not too late to listen to the music though so... Get it now!

1. Mr Investigator
2. From room to room
3. Unlocked
4. Ten thousand things
5. The process
6. Limitless space
7. Wu-Wei
8. Ionizer
9. Beautiful old Betty
10. Sounds of karma


320 KBPS

The easy comparison for Parisian hip hop act Assassin would be Public Enemy: both bands are firmly rooted into politics and used samples that aren't immediatly recognizables unlike most other hip hop artists. In that sense, comparing them is valid but it has to be said that Assassin, if they are as angry as Chuck D's posse, add some more relaxed moments to their 3rd release, L'Homicide Volontaire. Cooked up by DJ extraordinaire Doctor L (who will later pursue a career in melodic electronic music), Assassin's musics are a tad more varied than those of their american model were which makes this album a delight even for non-French speakers. Leading rapper here, Rokin' Squat, is the son of French actor Jean-Pierre Cassel and brother of other French actor Vincent Cassel which means he clearly did not come from the poor suburbs rap originally originates from. This has certainly influenced his writing as when he explicitly says it's better to read a book than burn a car or riot, or when he criticizes the objectification of women in our societies and in rap music in particular. Other themes are freedom of speech (Ecrire contre l'oubli), death (La flamme s'éteint) or relations between rich nations and the 3rd world (Guerre Nord-Sud) all of which are thoughtfully written. A great rap album.

1. L'homicide volontaire - Intro
2. Shoota Babylone
3. L'Odyssée suit son cours
4. L'entrechoque des antidotes
5. Légal ou illégal ?
6. " Ce sont des agitateurs ! "
7. Quand j'étais petit (la psychose infantile)
8. Pays extraordinaire
9. L'état assassine
10. A titre posthume
11. L'égocentrisme de l'Assassin
12. ??Radio?? (Undaconnexion)
13. Entre dans la classe
14. Problème ?
15. Guerre Nord-Sud
16. Undastand ?
17. La flamme s'éteint
18. L'objet
19. Atakamalak
20. Ecrire contre l'oubli

Thursday, December 25, 2008



Born Peter Joseph Andrew Hammill, November 5, 1948, in Ealing, London, to parents of fairly good means, Peter Hammill grew up in the embrace of Jesuit teachings, an element that has continued to affect and influence his songwriting throughout his career as much as his studies of philosophy and art. The drive of his particular muse, fueled additionally by the '60s groundswell of new approaches to science fiction (the so-called "New Wave," with Michael Moorcock, Thomas Disch, Harlan Ellison, and others leading the charge, and ex-Deviants leader Mick Farren on its heels) led to collaboration with Chris Judge-Smith at Manchester University, with Van Der Graaf Generator forming around them -- albeit briefly.

The band broke up after a number of gigs, with Hammill going solo. The arrival of a Mercury Records contract led Hammill into the studio, accompanied by various friends, for a brief but intense recording session. Within a matter of hours, Van Der Graaf Generator was reborn, though minus Judge-Smith, and the band had begun to develop the studio relationship with producer John Anthony that would serve them for the next few albums. The basic monolithic VDGG had not yet come about, but Hammill's writing was already setting the tone -- splintered personalities facing the darkness, cosmic secrets just beyond reach, thresholds beyond which lurk sudden death, light-hearted topics one and all. Even their one single, "People You Were Going To," is essentially a jolly happy romp of a tune with a tone of despair beneath. Hammill would later re-record the song for Nadir's Big Chance.

The new band lineup had its own share of uncertainties, with bassist Keith Ellis departing for an unceremoniously brief stint in Uriah Heep. With new bassist/guitarist Nic Potter in tow, VDGG joined Genesis in signing with Anthony Stratton-Smith's new Charisma label. By this point Hammill had begun to refine his songwriting into longer and more ornate forms, with very good results, with his themes touching on twin points of science and mysticism, with the occasional sidestep into more down to earth territory. The first three VDGG albums for Charisma moved through a variety of shattered and darkened landscapes, with some genuinely chilling moments, such as the science-fiction outing "Pioneers Over C" and "Man-Erg," which attempted to address the dual nature of man in approximately 12 minutes flat.

Hammill's first solo outing, Fool's Mate (both a chess and Tarot reference), came alongside the Van Der Graaf Generator album H to He Who Am the Only One. It consisted, in the main, of an assortment of songs deemed too small for the band, material from his early solo days, and so on, items that he seemed to want to clear out of the way. His in-studio help included members of Lindisfarne, another Charisma signing, and Robert Fripp. In contrast, following the dissolution of VDGG following Pawn Hearts, Hammill's sophomore release, The Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night, was a bleak affair indeed. Hammill seemed to need to strip things down to the bare essentials, recording at home (the first appearance of Sofa Sound) for the most part, his lyrics telling more personal tales -- it's only with the concluding "The Black Room" that things sound familiar. Considering the presence of the rest of the band, and that this had originally been intended as a band song, it's hardly a surprise.

With The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage, Hammill began to find a voice away from VDGG, though his writing had yet to completely mature -- "Red Shift" is another cosmic charge, for example. On the other hand, the album sports several stunning tracks, including "Modern," "Wilhelmina," "Forsaken Gardens," and "A Louse Is Not a Home." In Camera saw him handling most of the instrumental work himself and experimenting with ambient soundscapes.
In 1975, he once again dug into the back catalog of his songs, assuming the leather-jacketed persona of Rikki Nadir for Nadir's Big Chance, a noisy, chaotic album of garage band-styled rock & roll. While not exactly the three-chord thrash outing Hammill seems to have wanted (it at least comes undone with the elegaic "Pompeii," if not with "The Institute of Mental Health, Burning"), the album seems to have had its effect in the British music community, being cited by more than a few in the following punk uproar as an influence -- even John Lydon went public with a degree of admiration for Hammill's work. The cult of adoration built up around Hammill has persisted for years, and is seemingly large enough, worldwide, to support him consistently.
1975 saw the rebirth of Van Der Graaf Generator in a somewhat calmer format, while the songs still extended to epic length, the tendency towards proto-jazz explosions with rock underpinnings had been shorn away, the drumming was more laid back, and the lyrics tended towards examinations of people (though the cosmic did make quite a return on Still Life with "Childlike Faith in Childhood's End," though this one had a narrative voice to it).

The first two releases, Godbluff and Still Life, were fine albums, with one of Hammill's finest songs, "My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)" appearing on the latter, but the third album, World Record indicated trouble ahead -- a fairly weak, lifeless release that appeared to have come from a band that had lost heart. Indeed it had. The band fractured yet again. Hammill took some time to record Over, an intense solo set going over the breakup of his long-standing relationship, performing a set of songs that alternately raged and offered up a bleak view of life. This set the stage for the next version of the band, now known just as Van Der Graaf, a short-lived effort that managed a single studio release, with a posthumous live album, acidly titled Vital, marking the official end of the band.

Hammill returned to his solo efforts again, initially choosing to record A Black Box by himself, but then adopting a band approach for a number of subsequent releases. By this point his writing had taken on a mature focus, with even the lengthier efforts eschewing the cosmic and mystical in favor of the personal focus, often with a darkly ironic twist. He is capable of being utterly sardonic while maintaining a poker face, a brother in spirit, sometimes, to Leonard Cohen. His ability to chart his own course fully stems from his choice to operate his own record label as an adjunct to his ever-improving studio operation -- it's this studio operation, in fact, that allowed him to return to and remaster the Van Der Graaf recordings in 2000, to produce The Box.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas to all!!!

320 KBPS

1. German Overalls
2. Slender Threads
3. Rock and Rôle
4. In the End
5. What's It Worth
6. Easy to Slip Away
7. Dropping the Torch
8. (In the) Black Room/Tower

320 KBPS
1. Modern
2. Wilhelmina
3. The Lie (Bernini's Saint Theresa)
4. Forsaken Gardens
5. Red Shift
6. Rubicon
7. A Louse Is Not A Home

IN CAMERA (1974)
320 KBPS

1. Ferret and the Featherbird
2. (No More) the Sub-mariner
3. Tapeworm
4. Again
5. Faint-Heart and the Sermon
6. The Comet, the Course, the Tail
7. Gog Magog (In Bromine Chambers)

320 KBPS

1. Nadir's Big Chance
2. The Institute of Mental Health, Burning
3. Open Your Eyes
4. Nobody's Business
5. Been Alone So Long
6. Pompeii
7. Shingle
8. Airport
9. People You Were Going To
10. Birthday Special
11. Two or Three Spectres

OVER (1977)
320 KBPS

1. Crying Wolf
2. Autumn
3. Time Heals
4. Alice (Letting Go)
5. (This Side Of) The Looking Glass
6. Betrayed
7. (On Tuesdays She Used to Do) Yoga
8. Lost and Found

320 KBPS
1. Pushing Thirty
2. The Second Hand
3. Trappings
4. The Mousetrap
5. Energy Vampires
6. If I Could
7. The Future Now
8. Still In The Dark
9. Mediaevil
10. A Motor-Bike In Africa
11. The Cut
12. Palinurus

PH7 (1979)
320 KBPS

1. My Favourite
2. Careering
3. Porton Down
4. Mirror Images
5. Handicap and Equality
6. Not for Keith
7. The Old School Tie
8. Time for a Change
9. Imperial Walls
10. Mr. X (Gets Tense)
11. Faculty X

A BLACK BOX (1980)
320 KBPS

1. Golden Promises
2. Losing Faith in Words
3. The Jargon King
4. Fogwalking
5. The Spirit
6. In Slow Time
7. The Wipe
8. Flight

320 KBPS

1. Breakthrough
2. My Experience
3. Ophelia
4. Empress's Clothes
5. Glue
6. Hesitation
7. Sitting Targets
8. Stranger Still
9. Sign
10. What I did
11. Central Hotel

ENTER K (1982)
320 KBPS

1. Paradox Drive
2. The Unconscious Life
3. Accidents
4. The Great Experiment
5. Don't Tell Me
6. She Wraps It Up
7. Happy Hour
Bonus track
8. Seven Wonders

320 KBPS

1. Labour of Love
2. Film Noir
3. Just Good Friends
4. Jeunesse Doree
5. Train Time
6. Now More Than Ever
7. Comfortable
8. Patient

LOOPS & REELS (1983)
320 KBPS

1. A Ritual Mask
2. Critical Mass
3. The Moebius Loop
4. An Endless breath
5. In Slow Time
6. My Pulse
7. The Bells! The Bells!

320 KBPS
1. Just Good Friends
2. My Favourite
3. Been Alone So Long
4. Ophelia
5. Again
6. If I Could
7. Vision
8. Don't Tell Me
9. The Birds
10. The Looking Glass

SKIN (1986)
320 KBPS
1. Skin
2. After the Show
3. Painting by Numbers
4. Shell
5. All Said and Done
6. A Perfect Date
7. Four Pails
8. Now Lover

320 KBPS

1. Too Many of My Yesterdays
2. Faith
3. Empire of Delight
4. Silver
5. Beside the One You Love
6. Other Old Chichés
7. Confidence
8. Sleep Now


320 KBPS
1. I Will Find You
2. Curtains
3. His Best Girl
4. Oasis
5. Incomplete Surrender
6. Fireships
7. Given Time
8. Reprise
9. Gaia

(and a big thank you to Pierre for the "Loops & Reels"'s rip!)