record-reviews

Stupid fucking internet angst. Minutes 4 through 9 of ’Elevation’ doesn’t help. I should post a picture of Pharoah Sanders so white kids will know to hit ‘like’. I’m a white kid too. This has been a passive aggressive Tumblr post. There’s a black hole inside me, that’s where the good things go. I am clinging to him hoping his goodness can save me. If he doesn’t feel the weight of me yet then it’s only a matter of time. He called me back from work, ’Greeting to Saud’ parted the clouds in my head, and then I cried so hard my contact squeezed itself outta my left eye. I’m trying to find a foothold here. Good days follow bad days follow good days. I work sometimes but when I don’t the fear creeps in. I should just stay busy all the time. I should go to the coffee shop where my roommate is. I should finish my resume. I never wanted to need love this badly but holy shit I can’t wait to see his face on my doorstep next week. Now I’m scared again, so much want and need never ended well. An informal poll of my ex-boyfriends reveals they miss my cooking the most. Thank god for his unsophisticated palate, thank god he’s got the patience of a saint. I’m a bad girl trying to be good, he’s a good boy trying to be good but he doesn’t know that yet. I need some sort of combination saint and sanitation worker to deal with all my shit. I’m gonna fuck this up, some kind of shoe is gonna drop. Here comes the fear again, the end is near again. 'Ore-Se-Rere’ is telling me there’s a world outside the one in my head and I should lighten the fuck up. ’The Gathering’ is beautiful and then breaks down and then it gets beautiful again, it wants me to know that that’s just how the world is. I’m still trying to learn shit everyone else figured out when they were five. If I had had more love I’d be stronger by now. I wish I was one of those serene motherfuckers who had nice childhoods and now they’re untouchable. Or one of those tough motherfuckers whose lives were a pile of shit but it made them flinty and wise. I’m having a nervous breakdown almost every day over the stupidest shit. May he never feel like a caretaker or a crutch, may I never be a burden to the one I love, lord don’t let me fuck this up. This has been a really stupid Tumblr post.

Boston’s 1976 eponymous debut sounds like was written at least five years too early, which is maybe why the then-unknown band sold 1M records in a few months and had their NYC debut at Madison Square Garden. Between the showy guitar playing and Brad Delp’s insane pipes, the album is an obvious precursor to hair metal and exists in this bizarro aural universe linking 70s awesomeness and 80s silliness.

Favorite Lyric: “I looked out this morning and the sun was gone, turned on some music just to start my day. I lost myself in a familiar song, I closed my eyes and I slipped away.”

MUST LISTEN TRACK: ‘Peace of Mind’

Spotify: Boston – Boston

Why Don't They Teach Heartbreak At School?
  • Why Don't They Teach Heartbreak At School?
  • Aerial
  • Why Don't They Teach Heartbreak At School?
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Aerial - Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School?

Every so often a record comes along that takes you completely by surprise, blows you off your feet, then helps you up again so you can wear your feet out dancing to it, as is the case with Scottish power pop band Aerial’s second long-player, a mere 13 years after their debut album ‘Back Within Reach’ (!). 

I’m talking the kind of record that makes you want to purchase this band’s record, and all their other records, and their t-shirts, and then more copies of their records so you can give them to other people. That is how good it is.

The unassuming pastel pink cover hides a deceptive dozen new gems that will thrill and delight upon repeated listening. It must be something in the water up Glasgae way: like fellow denizens Teenage Fanclub and Attic Lights, Aerial deal in sweetly melodic rock with big hooks, Beach Boy-esque harmonies and buzzsaw guitars. And let’s not forget the lyrics! In short, the kind of songs that, once they’re in your head, they never want to leave.

[To these ears, anyway, there’s also quite a resemblance to late 90s heroes Silver Sun and Dutch power-pop-punks the Travoltas, so if all of these bands tick your boxes you’ll be all over this without having to read any further].

But for those that need any more convincing: Check the hammering Smithereens-esque guitars and drums on the opening track “Cartoon Eyes, Cartoon Heart” before the too-catchy-for-words title song asks the question that most of us have been asking since the dawn of time (or at least formal education). 

[The band have graciously allowed that track to be shared here for your aural delight, and I can assure you that with one listen you will be as hooked as I was.]

Each successive song is just as good as the last, each with new sounds to get lost in, like the surf guitars on “Great Teenager”, the melodica on “Madeline It’s Me”, the lap steel licks on “More Than Alcohol”.. and so it goes. 

But the last two tracks are my personal highlights: the epic “Where You Are” (which I am totally, utterly, unabashedly unashamed to admit moved me to tears on the first listen) and the heavenly closer - quite literally - “Wave Goodbye To Scotland”. 

I could dissect and describe every aspect of all these songs for you but that would be a complete waste of time; all you need to know is that you need to hear them as soon as possible. If you have ears and a pulse, your life will be improved immeasurably by this joyful record. Couldn’t be more highly recommended - 10/10

Pig River Records is your comprehensive guide to music as it was 50 years ago.

The site was established on the 1st of January 2012, (1962) since which time it has seamlessly reported on the world of music as if it were happening today.

Through both our website and social media outlets (facebook, twitter, tumblr, youtube) we will bring you articles, interviews, singles and full length LP album reviews as well as ‘Pig River Radio’, our regularly updated playlist of songs from the time.

As Pig River Records continues to grow we will make efforts to expand and make changes to help improve your experience as we cover the most remarkable period in music history.

Please feel free to get in contact with us if you are interested in contributing to the site or if you have any suggestions for improvements we can make.

Enjoy.

www.pigriver.com

Pig River Records features artists such as, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Nina Simone & The Crystals.

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PMT 

   Every guitarist has their favourite go to guitar shop. Mine would be PMT. PMT (short for Professional Music Technology) has a number of stores sprinkled across England, and the specific one I am going to outline is in Cambridge. 

The PMT store in Cambridge only opened relatively recently (2 or 3 years ago? My concept of time is obviously flawed here), and it has definitely been a godsend as far as I’m concerned. PMT combines every aspect of popular music, including guitars (acoustic and electric), bass, drums, pedals, guitar accessories, keyboards, PA systems, recording equipment etc. at very good prices, so one never feels ripped off or at a loss when it comes to shopping in PMT. Often they will try and beat or match online prices (even from other countries) which leads in beautifully good prices on a wide range of guitars and other musical goodies.
  
The general ethos of the store is one of inclusion and encouragement. Whenever I go to PMT I feel like I am among friends, and I often end up having long chats about rock stars, guitars, and everything in between with the employees. You never feel embarrassed or shy to play, and there is often a little jam session (or some middle aged balding man belting out Hotel California as if to a crowd of thousands) somewhere in the shop. But, if that is not your forte, you can use the soundproof room to try out gear at your leisure.

Everyone in the shop is so polite and happy to help, it will make you feel right at home. 

Webstite

 Below are the different PMT locations and their respective website pages linked (the Cambridge and Birmingham PMT pages even have virtual tours of the shop, so you can view them from the comfort of your own pyjamas): 
Birmingham 
Bristol
Cambridge  
Leeds
Manchester
Northampton
Norwich 
Oxford
Romford
Southend
Newcastle 

BEST OF THE BEST OF 2012: NPR’S TOP 50

It’s that time of year again: anus itch season. Talkadoodles and decidamathons. Music music guess what’s what. A time when publications that talk about music release their you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours list of artists whose record labels bought ad space or sent free download codes. Or, less cynically: music from the year, presented in a more digestible form than most of the time, cranked out and hastily invoiced by beleaguered critics everywhere, hopefully in time to get the poor bastards on the bottom rungs of the biz a little extra holiday cash, and editors and mid-tier scramblers can wait out the clock until the new year by dicking around on Twitter and calling it business. Yes, that’s the least cynical version I can think of for what happens every December with the lists. It’s a mad dash to be the first to limp to the finish.

The good news for regular citizens is you can finally just read one thing and get some straight answers out of people. Or at least less crooked answers. Most of the time music reviews are complete bullshit, like that timesomebody at Vice didn’t like the new Metz album because apparently in that particular 20 minute chunk of their lives they had a migraine and the drums kicked too much ass for them to handle without pukeyfacing. Music reviews are bullshit because the person writing them is getting paid somewhere between zero and some piddling useless amount of dollars, and therefore there’s no stakes, and therefore say whatever you think is best to keep the piddling useless dollars coming in, and do it quick with the first thought that pops into your head because your opinion will never matter as much as word of mouth plus time anyway, and it’s not like the free download is a huge favor because the internet exists. BUT: end of the year lists pare down all that regular bullshit and focus on the bullshit that these people apparently actually believe.

I am a fan of year-end lists because they serve as a roadmap to what kind of people believe what outlandish bullshit things. I like to take these lists, most of which consist of stuff I never heard of because I’ve managed to limit my informational intake to hyper-specific, reliable filters which generally do not waste my time telling me about stuff I have a low chance of actually liking, and attack them with my own kneejerk bullshit. Why? Because that’s even lazier and more cynical than writing a list of my own, and it results in more piddling useless dollars for me. You’re welcome.

Take for example the alphabetically arranged non-hierarchical list supplied by the poor deluded fucks at NPR. Alright gang, let’s riff. Let’s have an NPRty.

Ab-Soul, Control System

I’m sure NPR likes this because this guy is saying some moderately thoughtful stuff and the beats are less predictable than usual, but who actually wants to listen to a song called “Double Standards”? Why stop there? Why not a club banger called “Airport Security”?

Alabama Shakes, Boys And Girls

Making music your parents would like isn’t just for the Fleet Foxes anymore.

Alisa Weilerstein, Cello Concertos (Elgar & Carter)

Look out Yo-Yo Ma, there’s a new cellist in zzzzzzz

Alt-J, An Awesome Wave

Here’s the first of probably many entries on this list which seems like its primary reason for existing is to be transition music on NPR. Like there’s some report on a Peruvian ballet troupe struggling to make art with their limited resources, and then this pops on for fifteen seconds to help convince you that what you just heard was in fact very interesting and not a desperate attempt at interestingness which combines several things you don’t care about. It is relatively high energy, but stark and dramatic at the same time, and it’s constantly throwing “interesting” sounds at you, like bassoons and toy pianos, and layering everything a million times for no reason. And now here’s Terry Gross with “Fresh Air.”

Andy Stott, Luxury Problems

This is the kind of electronic music you’d hear in a modern art museum and it’s actually more boring than silence.

Astro, Astro

A nice lil’ multi-culti entry for NPR, this one apparently a Chilean version of MGMT. There is actually some very cool shit going on in Chile right now. This is the Wavves to that cool shit’s Thee Oh Sees.

Berlin Philharmonic, St. Matthew Passion

You know who I love? Classical radio DJs. They’re the best. Just in general, when people are only into classical music: the best. I mean, terrible, yeah, but taking the stance that nothing good has happened for over a hundred years is incredible. I can just picture them wincing at the overbearing city noise and fully bear hugging not just their ears but the entire sides of their heads in agony as a wailing ambulance drives by them on the street. Classical-only people are so prim and snooty and delicate they’re like some vestigial form of cultural renegade. I imagine if you pushed one over they would just lie there totally fucked like an upside-down turtle. You’ve got to love it when human society subverts nature and allows people like that to exist.

Meek Mill, Dreamchasers 2

I feel like hip hop at this point is as horrible and predictable and soul-crushing and ceaseless and artless and stagnant as the poverty and violence on the streets it comes from. This guy tells the narrative of how he grew up in a terrible place, sold drugs, and then became successful while so many others didn’t, and his embrace of every trapping of his prosperous lifestyle is fueled by guilt and regret. You may be familiar. Also: you can dance and fuck to it and play it real loud in a car with a lot of bass. Not that NPR listeners are doing those things. Instead they’re nodding their heads to the narrative and saying “oh, isn’t it awful” and “good for him.”

Bobby Womack, The Bravest Man In The Universe

Damon Albarn picked Womack up off the scrap heap and produced this album. It’s kind of like an extremely crappy version of the Rolling Stones reviving Muddy Waters’ career, or a more commercial and electric version of Jon Spencer and R.L. Burnside. I wonder if Bobby knows or cares what the hell is going on here.

Bomba Estereo, Elegancia Tropical

You can guess what this sounds like: an impulse buy CD at a fair trade coffeehouse.

Brooklyn Rider, Seven Steps

If you type “Brooklyn Rider, Seven Steps” into Google, the first results are Amazon, Brooklyn Rider’s website, Brooklyn Rider’s website, Brooklyn Rider’s website, and NPR First Listen. They’re a string quartet, FYI. An extremely well organized one. With a name that sounds like they should be a 2000’s synthpop version of Bachman Turner Overdrive.

Cafe Tacvba, El Objeto Antes Llmado Disco

If a band from Mexico sounds like 70’s Italian prog (think Gentle Giant plus opera) meets Animal Collective (i.e. post-digital American prog), are you allowed to not like it? Not if you’re NPR.

Carla Morrison, Dejenme Llorar

The score so far. Hip hop: 2, soul revival: 2, classical: 3, Spanish language pop: 4, bland Indie pop: 1, minimalist techno: 1, boring: yesalways.

Cat Power, Sun

Cat Power is the musical equivalent of Say Yes To The Dress (the least intolerable reality show my girlfriend watches).

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Titus Andronicus | Dimed Out

In 1940, Woodie Guthrie wrote a series of songs based around the hardship of migrant labourers and put them into an album titled ‘Dust Bowl Ballads’. The record weaved fictional stories, based around the ongoing economic depression in the United States at the time and came to be recognised as the very first concept album within music. Ever since, many of the greatest musicians have toyed with the fictional genre, opting to create fantasy stories to accompany their music and express themselves. It’s here we find Titus Andronicus - not for the first time - as they announce their forthcoming concept album, 'The Most Lamentable Tragegy’, due for release here in the UK on Merge Records.

Four albums in and we see Patrick Stickles and Co have developed a tendancy towards the concept record. Their second release was themed around the American Civil War and was arguably the catalyst to their career. It was an inteligent rock record, as much thought provoking as it was a noisey tribute to angst but it was also criticised by some for it’s bloodymindedness and for perhaps being a little aloof.

Move to the third record of their career and Titus Andronicus turns a corner. Gone is the beard that Patrick Stickles hides himself behind and out emerges a clean shaven, autobiographical songwriter, bearing his soul for all the world to see. In 'Local Business’ we see Stickles tackle personal subjects such as the eating disorder that has plagued him all his life. For me personally, it is the peak of artistic expression to share so openly. Whilst throughout their career, Titus Andronicus have had plenty of ideas, creative flair, intensity, passion and ability; here Titus Andronicus gave us an honest - warts and all - record. At the same time, behind the scenes we see support for the band deminished at their record label, as 'Local Business’ is scheduled for a U.S. release and nowhere else. Here in lies one of the greatest wrongdoings in modern rock music as the world is deprived of a truly great record and thus ends the relationship with XL Recordings.

With their fourth album upon us, I think it’s reasonable to assume that Titus Andronicus’ revertion back into the fictional storytelling style of songwriting, can only be in response to the vote of no confidence given by their last record label. It takes real courage to get up on stage and tell the world your difficult story but I for one am incredibly greatful to Patrick Stickles for doing so. I can only hope that the title of their forthcoming record is a slyly aimed snipe at those who lost faith in them, as Titus Andronicus give us 'The Most Lamentable Tragedy’.

Ian

(photo: my US import copy of 'Local Business’)




Prurient - “Bermuda Drain” (Hydra Head Records 2011)

Man this record is so good.  Prurient has almost completely dropped noise on this album; an album that is full of lush synth melodies and analog drum sequencers.  Some people may be shocked to listen to this if their only other experience with Prurient is say, “History Of AIDS”, but to me it’s been a natural progression up to this album.  Also his job of being lead synth player in Cold Cave I’m sure didn’t hurt either.  

But yeah, this shit is solid gold.  It’s like a heavy industrial/synth pop album with harsh vocals; something you don’t see often in this kind of style.  Maybe some EBM bands do that, but I wouldn’t know. The album is very unlike anything I’ve ever heard. There is even still noise/power electronics on here, check out “Watch Silently”.  

I can't recommend this album enough.  I swear you’ll get a huge boost in hipster points for buying it.  And the vinyl version is so sexy it hurts me to look at it. 

-Log. 

Father To Son
  • Father To Son
  • Ned Brower
  • Great To Say Hello
Play

Ned Brower - Father To Son

Here’s a new pop discovery for 2011: The first solo album by Rooney drummer Ned Brower, recorded in ten days and produced by Mike Viola. Ned’s sweet vocals, last heard on the title track of Rooney’s Wild One EP, are put to great effect on 10 bouncy tracks, the stand-out undoubtedly being this song. Ned has clearly been inspired by Sam Cooke’s What A Wonderful World and lifts the melody line and Sam’s wistful optimism for his own tune. Elsewhere there are echoes of CSNY and Herman’s Hermits on Underneath Your Spell, and the Nick Lowe-aping-Thin Lizzy-aping The Alleyway. Ned has done a fine job making a debut record under his own name. Most of these songs wouldn’t sound out of place on a Rooney album, but Ned’s own take on them is much more relaxed, as is Mike Viola’s production, and it all adds up to a marvellous record. 9/10

Brainwashed on "Strategies Against The Body"

Atlanta’s DKA Records has been quietly issuing vinyl for the past few years that sits on the outside of conventional techno or electronic music.  Impeccable quality with an appropriately dark edge, they received a bump in notoriety last year issuing High-Functioning Flesh’s debut album, which made waves into the conventional industrial/EBM world.  This compilation, featuring them amongst other label luminaries, has a nice throwback feel while sounding anything but dated.

The title of the record alone made me think back to those early 80s compilations like Rising from the Red Sand or The Elephant Table Album.  Current industrial darlings HFF lead off with “Confuse the Call”, a dance floor stomp consistent with the strongest songs on their debut.  Gurgling low quality samples, jagged Ensoniq synths by Greg Vand, and a catchy, memorable chorus by Susan Subtract (who does the best “yeah!” and “ok!”, second only to perhaps Lil’ Jon) has all the makings of another hit for them.  The duo reappear on the flip side of the record with the Dva Damas edit of “Touch Oblivion Icon”, which strips the song down to its most basic vocal fragments, deep kicks and a truckload of dubby echo and delay throughout.

The 1980s nostalgia feel pops up with a few other contributors here as well.  TWINS’ “A Hero’s Body, A Human’s Heart” rides on taut analog sequences and up front 80s Oingo Boingo-esque quirky vocals distill the best of that neon-tinged cyberpunk vision of the future.  The lengthy “The Red Dress (Parts 1 & 2)” from Tifaret emphasizes the darker edge of new wave, rather than the more conventional pop sounds.  Drums seething with reverb and dramatic, nearly goth vocals blend with a mess of industrial clang and chaos, conjuring bits of the Sisters of Mercy and Skinny Puppy without sounding like either one. RedRedRed’s “An Unrelenting Hour” is cut from a similar cloth, with pseudo British vocals, a wonderfully raw synth lead, and a more laconic tempo.

On a song like Tannhäuser Gate’s “Pulse”, the label’s more techno and dance floor oriented sounds come through strong.  With a throbbing beat and brilliant bassline, bouncing from dense to minimalist arrangements while featuring heavily filtered vocals, it could work just as well in the club as it would in a more focused listening session.  Xander Harris’ “Protoculture” heavily utilizes stuttering kick drums and overdriven keyboard leads to again feel slightly more techno-like, but peppered with dialog samples throughout in lieu of conventional vocals.

Considering the quality of the material on here (and the previous releases on DKA) I hope that this compilation, propelled by the rising popularity of High-Functioning Flesh, will push the label into the spotlight.  With an underground aesthetic, but professional quality in terms of both sound and presentation, the artists showcased on this compilation deserve a more significant amount of exposure.


http://brainwashed.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10397%3Astrategies-against-the-body&catid=13%3Aalbums-and-singles&Itemid=133

Sharks - “The Joys Of Living 2008 - 2010” (Rise Records 2011)

This band I really knew nothing about when I bought this.  At all.  The record has a cool cover and it was on colored vinyl and it was $4.  Why the fuck not right?

While it’s not a horrible album, or even a bad album…it’s really just another rock album with a punk (The Clash etc.) influence.  Nothing spectacular.  I will probably have forgotten I even own this record in a few weeks…because thats just how I roll.  Oh yeah, since I bought this I have learned they are from the UK. That’s one thing I know about them. 

-Log.

PS: This post has nothing to do with it being Shark Week, though the coincidence is delightful.  That will not stop me from tagging Shark Week and getting a million new followers for all the wrong reasons.  

RECORD REVIEWS - The Syria Issue

You may be asking yourself, “Hey, where are VICE’s usual pissy yet strangely on-point reviews? I was looking forward to reading about the latest release from my favorite _____-wave band!” Well, this month we decided to do things a little differently, apropos of our Syria Issue. Below, you’ll find reviews of (mostly) Syrian music, written by Syrian Americans, or in the case of Shalib Danyals, a person who has spent a shitload of time in the country. So far, Middle Eastern music hasn’t really had a ton of crossover appeal—unlike J-pop, K-pop, or Yanni, for instance. That said, you’ve probably been exposed to small doses of Middle Eastern music at some point, maybe without even knowing it.

The thing about a country at war is that what you hear on the news revolves almost exclusively around violence, suffering, and destruction. Hence we felt it relevant to offer insight into the listening habits of Syrians. Of course, the volatile political situation does change things and offers worrisome inspiration. Some Syrian artists have reflected on the turmoil of recent months via their songs, while others avoid the situation entirely—probably because weighing in on the conversation can easily get a musician thrown in prison or even killed.

As far as the “scene” goes over there, trends in music aren’t all that much different from their Western counterparts. Saccharine, hook-heavy pop reigns supreme. A couple of singers made popular by the Arabic version of the Idol franchise (Arab Idol, naturally) have risen up the pop charts. Hip-hop in Syria and other Arab states is slowly but surely developing into a legit genre. Since the beginning of the uprising that began about a year and a half ago, protest songs have steadily increased in popularity. And, of course, music that incorporates traditional sounds and instruments always has a strong following. Most Arabic music tends to rely on this sort of sonic commingling, and that’s what makes it unique. Even the catchiest pop song might include a customary dabke rhythm, or the twang of an oud (a traditional stringed instrument) among a plethora of synths and Auto-Tuned vocals.

Of course, because of the ongoing political tumult, there’s just not a ton of stuff being released at the moment. And as far as the standard music industry goes… Well, let’s just say it wasn’t super-easy to confine this reviews section to recent releases. Still, what we did find runs the gamut from slick pop to raucous techno-dance to heart-wrenching folk.

So read on, and give some of these albums a listen. Keep an open mind. Who knows? Maybe you’ll love it. And even if it’s not your thing, maybe when the next hot Jay-Z song drops, you’ll be able to say you know where a certain sample originated. And, if you’re into bragging, that you knew all about it before it was popular. Enjoy.

–NADA HERBLY

Read the reviews

Earthstar - French Skyline (1979) USA


  • A1. Latin Sirens Face the Wall     
  •      i. Sirens
  •      ii. The Amazon
  •      iii. The Flourishing Illusion
  • B1. Splendored Skies and Angels
  • B2. Frech Skyline Suite
  •      i. Morning Song (For Iris and Richard)
  •      ii. Sources Change, Including ‘The Movement’
  •      iii. 3 Dimensional Music
  •      iv. Wind and Sky Symphony/Reprise: Morning Song


US Electronic-Progressive act Earthstar, were cited as being the only band from the United States to join and be embraced by Germany’s Kosmische Musik/electronic music scene at the time of its peak output. 

Earthstar was the merging of founder and multi instrumentalist Craig Wuest and Guitarist Dennis Rea’s already established group ‘Zuir’.The first release ‘Salterbarty Tales’ made some small waves amidst the Berlin School enthusiasts, among them being Klaus Schulze, who after corresponding with Wuest, encouraged Earthstar to make the move to Germany to record. Armed with a recommendation from the great man himself, Wuest sold his piano (which helped him record the debut), and set off for West Germany to create their second and most successful record. 

‘French Skyline’ is an album in the same caliber and style as the greats of the scene. It is an ethereal blending of synthesized instruments which mask (perhaps intentionally) the original source of the instruments to create a sonic landscape that can be described as being as light as mist and as spacious as the cosmos. Its heavy use of Mellotron and a rarer adaptation of the instrument (the Bibotron), helps create this vast and galactic ambiance of reverberated and sustained melodies over some bubbling rhythms. 

Fans of this style of music will be pleased to discover yet another masterwork in the field of Berlin School Music. Although it has been criticized as being a little too much similar to Klaus Schulze (which may have been a little inevitable), i imagine music like this doesn’t aim to compete or outplay any other and is a celebration of Electronic oscillations, knobs and buttons keys and drones which pays homage to a small and brilliant group of innovators. A well worthwhile listen!

Personnel:

  • Craig Wuest - Multiple organs, Keyboards, Minimoog, Melotron, Birotron, Synthesizers, Voices, Percussion
  • Marla Thompson - French Horn, Flute
  • Tim Finnegan - Flute, Templewind
  • Dennis Rea - Electric Guitars, Treated Guitars, Tonewall
  • Dirk Schmalenbach - Sitar
  • Hu Choir: Joan N, Phil. N, Marla T, Craig W.
  • Phil Novac - Violin
  • Louis Deponte - Violin
  • Daryl Trivieri - Whaling Violin, Sheets of Sound
  • Norm Peach - Bass and Devices

1st German Pressing on Sky Records 1979.

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Nobody’s Favorite Record Reviews, #5:
Ringo Starr’s Ringo the 4th (1977)

Ringo the 4th is, I think it’s safe to say, nobody’s favorite Ringo album.

In the middle of the 70’s, no solo Fab was hotter on the charts than Richie, not even Sir Paul. 1971’s hit singles “It Don’t Come Easy” and “Back Off Boogaloo” set the table for the triumph that was 1973’s Ringo, a true all-star affair that had not only performances and songs by the other Lads (even 3 at once on “I’m the Greatest”, sparking reunion rumors anew), but guest perfs by Harry Nilsson, Marc Bolan, and members of the Band as well as production by Richard Perry at the peak of his creativity. He had three top 40 hits with the great “Photograph”, “Oh My My”, and “You’re Sixteen”. ‘74’s Goodnight Vienna with much of Ringo’s cast returning, including Perry once again at the helm, was almost as good and spawned two more hits, “Only You” and “No No Song”. Then, his Apple contract expired as the whole Apple Records thing evaporated, and he was signed by Arif Mardin for Atlantic Records, with Mardin producing his first effort for that label, Ringo’s Rotogravure…but that was a spectacular flop. The magic of '71-'74 had disappeared and the more R&B-flavored album produced no hits, despite (somewhat lackluster) contributions from John, George, Paul, and Eric Clapton. At least it had nice packaging- the gatefold sleeve of that one is more fun than the music.

Undaunted, Ringo went back into the studio the next year, Mardin once more at the helm, and recorded an even more overt R&B-flavored set of songs, with a strong Disco flavor, the Disco movement being in its full flower. No guest star cameos this time, no songs from his mates. Many of the songs were covers, but the six originals were co-writes credited to Starr and his bud Vini Poncia (who had co-written “Oh My My”). Be that as it may, it didn’t sell either- Robert Christgau, one of the few critics who even chose to devote some time to reviewing it, dismissed it as only the Dean can: Less than three months after its release, the Ringo fan in me dutifully played this for a third and last time. Whereupon the journalist began to wonder how many people were buying such dreary music just because it was by a Beatle. And was both saddened and pleased to learn that the answer, for all practical purposes, was no one–it never got higher than 199 in Record World, which I’ll bet was some statistician paying his respects. D

Yep, another Ringo flop album, and he soon was dismissed from his Atlantic contract. In all fairness, this didn’t seem to bother our boy very much- this was at the height of his L.A. party animal phase, and he was always seen out and about and drinking copiously and generally loving life. But a funny thing happened, at least to this still rather ardent Beatle fan…while I took my time picking it up (I really hated Rotogravure) not getting it till sometime late in 1978, when I did get around to giving it a spin, I didn’t hate it, at all. In fact, I found myself kinda liking it.

So, what say we sit back and let me hold forth about this ugliest of ducklings, often cited as the album that killed Ringo’s career? Thanks.

Side One.

Drowning in the Sea of Love. A Gamble/Huff hit song for Joe Simon in 1971. Given a surging, string-heavy, aggressive arrangement with tasteful guitar licks and Disco Dolly (Bette Midler and Melissa Manchester were among the vocalists) backing vocals, and Richie seems to be hanging on for dear life, barking out his vocals drunkenly (height of his drinking period, remember…but he sounds positively sober here compared to some of the other songs, more on that later) as the ladies coo “One time…two times…”. This probably should have been the lead single in the US, but it wasn’t; it was released to radio well after the record’s poor word of mouth had sunk it.

Tango All Night.  Written by Steve Hague and Tom Seufert, whoever they are, it’s pleasant and lighthearted but awfully bland; set at a disco shuffle tempo with a hint of salsa somewhere in the mix. Guess what Richie wants to do in this one.

Wings. The first of six Poncia/Starr originals, and the inexplicable first single release, it’s a plodding mid-tempo track with some chicken scratch guitar by Yoko’s ex and ace session guitarist David Spinozza. Not about one of his former bandmates’ groups. It barely troubled the charts, but it’s not hard to sit through.

Gave It All Up. This one is actually a keeper- a slow-tempo reminisce about love won and lost, punctuated by Don Brooks’ folksy harmonica. Ringo’s vocal is warm and likeable, and I’d rank this with his best solo songs, if I was making a very long list.

Out on the Streets. This one’s a full-on disco boogie tune, with horns and more Disco Dolly BVs, in which Ringo tries to sound streetwise or something. It’s fast paced but ultimately boring,  plodding along until it expires. A rather generic track.

Side Two.

Can She Do It Like She Dances?. The album picks up considerably with this one, in my opinion one of the best on the album. It’s definitely set at a hi-hat heavy disco tempo, but the arrangement reminds me a lot of can-can dancing or something, appropriate given the subject matter, in which Ringo drunkenly (and I do mean drunkenly)  seems to slobber all over the mike as he wonders if the object of his affection can “do it” like she dances, knowwhatImean nudge nudge wink wink. I love the way Ringo sings “And she moved so tender-ly”, sounding gutteral and horny as hell. Songwriting credit goes to another couple of old pros, Steve Duboff and Gerry Robinson, and no, I have no idea who they are/were either.

Sneaking Sally Through the Alley. The Allen Toussaint perennial gets a nicely funky disco-fied workout. It’s a great song, and Richie does it justice, I think. It’s a perfect song for his limited vocal range.

That’s kinda the peak of the record. The last three songs are all Starr/Vini Poncidearo cowrites, and their most common feature is their utter genericism.

It’s No Secret. Pretty much a love song, punctuated with weird synth & string noises. Not unpleasant, but slick and forgettable, and not unlike a lot of songs that did get airplay at the time.

Gypsies in Flight. This one’s even more laid back and strives for a tropical feel with slide guitar and synthesizer keyboard. The melody is weak and Ringo’s vocal is aimlessly somnambulent. Good track to nod off in a hammock on the beach between two palm trees, I guess, but you can say that about a lot of songs.

Simple Love Song attempts to pick up the tempo and close the album on an upbeat note, but unfortunately it isn’t very strong melodically and just kinda disco boogies along until the needle hits the out groove. Ace guitarists and session guys Lon Van Eaton and Danny Kortchmar play on this, but you’d never know it.

After the failure of this record, Ringo wound up signing to a subsidiary of Columbia Records, Portrait, for the mostly-covers followup Bad Boy but no one was having that one either. Starr continued to record for many years after that, even up to present day, and revived his career at least on stage via his popular and lucrative “All-Starr Band” tours. A few interesting records came and went, most notably 1981’s Stop and Smell the Roses, recorded in the wake of the murder of John Lennon and an underrated record if ever there was one, and 1991’s multi-producer release Time Takes Time, which squandered the talents of the likes of uber-hot producer Jeff (ELO) Lynne and Jellyfish’s Andy Sturmer on some real ordinary songs…but was still worth a listen. Of course, there was also the Threetle reunion and Beatles Anthology project; he also got some attention when his tribute song to George Harrison (and belatedly Harry Nilsson), “Never Without You”, made some headlines in the early 00’s. These days, Starr still tours with the A-SB, bringing along a cast of amazing musicians such as Ian Hunter, Todd Rundgren, and many others, and releases the occasional generic popsong album which a handful of fans dutifully buy. I even own a couple of them, obtained this way and that, but I couldn’t tell you what a single song sounds like on any of them. Ringo is thankfully still with us, and incredibly seems younger than other surviving bandmate McCartney. As he is so fond of saying at every opportunity, Peace and Love to him and to all of you for reading this.

As always, apologies to David Weiss.