A Historical Debt (Beechwood Music, 1991)

A Historical Debt

A Historical Debt r

Review
“All tracks have been donated royalty free and money raised by this project will be used to pay back some of the huge historical debt still owed to independent labels and artists from the collapse of Rough Trade Distribution.
In this current recession, therefore, A HISTORICAL DEBT could prove the difference for many smaller labels between survival or collapse. Special thanks to the artists who have donated their songs, and to everyone involved in the album who have willingly offered their services either totally free or at cost.”

And there you have it. A Historical Debt was compiled by Beechwood Music’s guru Tim Millington and was unique in its track selection, offering a wide variety of indie tracks from the likes of Mute, One Little Indian, 4AD, Heavenly, Sarah, Situation Two, Fire, The Foundation Label and Rough Trade themselves. And so we begin with a rush and a push: the breathless energy of Roddy Frame’s Aztec Camera and the succinct pop of Oblivious. “They call us lonely when we’re really just alone.” It’s followed by a nifty live version of Erasure’s Push Me, Shove Me which leads into Depeche Mode’s deeply penetrating Halo, one of many highlights from Violator. An album that turns 30 in 2020; would love a Super Deluxe Edition featuring all the remixes, extended versions, B-sides and maybe a live gig. Back to reality with The Shamen’s wistful Possible Worlds, yet another gem from En-tact. More: the still-fresh-then Pump Up The Volume, the unlikeliest ever record from 4AD.

C81: Scritti Politti’s Sweetest Girl, one of the finest tunes of the post-punk era. File under narcoleptic ska. We get the 5:10 version – longer than the 7″, shorter than the Songs To Remember mix. To Iceland and The Sugarcubes and their debut single Birthday that first brought all the attention – a single of the week in Melody Maker. Even now, it’s an unnerving song which works well with the unnerving shuffle of Flowered Up’s Phobia. From there we slide into baggy waters for The Charlatans’ evergreen The Only One I Know followed by the Inspiral Carpets more reflective Sleep Well Tonight. A totally exquisite anthem from The Beast Inside, a very underrated record that I couldn’t get enough of 1991. Also check out the 14 minute Further Away and searing S&M of Please Be Cruel. A Rosslare Strand memory: “Promise it will never go dark for the people in the park.”

The second half begins with the Woodenstops and the frantic Well Well Well. An average enough track that doesn’t outstay its welcome. Much better are The Dylans and the trippy shimmer of Godlike. Psychedelic shoegaze with beats. Meanwhile Dan Treacy writes a more introspective tune for once with the oddly touching All My Dreams Are Dead. Equally stirring is Sandie Shaw and her 1984 sojourn with The Smiths. Jeane was the bonus track on the 12″ and she really does it justice, a wonderful strum. And then a song to stop you dead: Shipbuilding, where war (in this case, the Falklands) brings prosperity – at a cost. Robert Wyatt recalls: “Geoff sent me a cassette saying this is a pretty good song, you ought to sing it. So I tried it out and it sounded good. The musical setting was nothing to do with me. Elvis had already recorded a vocal for it – very good vocal – and it was going to come out in the same form with him singing on it. I went in and did a vocal in a couple of hours with Mr. Costello producing, and that was it … I had no expectations of it at all. All I thought about was singing it in tune!”

Bradford (1987-1991), supported Morrissey at Wolverhampton. Skin Storm is regarded as the first indie CD single and is an astonishing mix of beautifully mournful vocals and superb guitar lines. Like The LA’s, they only made one album, produced by Stephen Street – which also didn’t appear until 1990. It’s followed by the spine-tingling sweet bass of Let’s Kiss And Make Up from The Field Mice. Subsequently covered by Saint Etienne, the producer Ian Catt worked on both versions and was a long-term collaborator with the two bands. Keeping the groove, the fiery I Wonder Why from The Heart Throbs, shining brightly since I was 18. There’s just time for two more – Loop’s Arc-lite, a single taken from A Gilded Eternity, a double that played at 45pm. Dronescape psych. And back to 1983 for Death Cult and the ghostly dance of God’s Zoo. Shades of Blue Monday.

Favourite tracks
The Dylans – Godlike

The Field Mice – Let’s Kiss And Make Up

Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding

Lest we forget
Inspiral Carpets – Sleep Well Tonight

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Volume One (Volume, 1991)

Volume 1

Volume 1 r

Review
All hail Rob Deacon! Volume magazine was a game-changer for me. While it was well advertised in the music press, my first awareness was seeing a sales assistant at HMV Grafton Street putting it on the racks. As far as I recall it was pricey – £15.99 (that’s Irish pounds) – but the 200 page booklet coupled with the impressive line-up (New Order, Throwing Muses, Shamen, The Orb) sucked me in. We got a real substantial package that consisted entirely of new music – be it a remix, an unreleased track or even a demo. Contributors for the first issue were Adrian Goldberg, Sam King, Graham Linehan, Arthur Mathews, Paul Mathur, Mick Mercer, Ronnie Relevant, Simon Reynolds, John Robb, Dave Simpson, Tommy Udo, Cathi Unsworth. That’s a seriously impressive roster. To design – bear in mind the fish theme – was by Batfish (Royal Charlotte Shoal). And most wonderful are the new release adverts that are so evocative of the era. There’s one for Creation’s “forthcoming long players” including not one but two albums by Teenage Fanclub.

There’s an industrial feel to the opening instalment as we begin with a span new Meat Beat Manifesto track recorded specially for Volume. Love Mad is swirling, breathless and chugs along on a gorgeous “when you leave, take me with you” sample. Fitting like a glove, Papa Sprain’s euphoric remix of Flying To Vegas and Nitzer Ebb’s mutant disco that is Come Alive. Getting back to the writing – John Robb has a hilarious feature on Dance Record complete with glossary. Next, a nice indie diversion as Kitchens Of Distinction re-record Prize B-side Innocent now named Innocence. It’s followed by a great interview with the Throwing Muses (complete with A to Z) who drop a killer version of Red Shoes from their best album, The Real Ramona. A Lower Rathmines Road bedsit jam. D is for Dreams: “On tour Tanya used to sit bolt upright in bed at night and shout, fuck you, fuck you.” We also get a brief career summary of their LPs along with a lovely 4AD advert showcasing their ’91 releases. A sprawling live version of The Darkside’s Guitar Voodoo completes the run.

After a hilarious Band Facts feature we’re treated to an edited version of Dr Phibes’ Sugerblast, now regarded as a key shoegazing work. Elsewhere Glinner gives a decent Popguns interview with good background info on the band’s Midnight Music output. Going Under is a searing slice of heady jangle. Next come The Orb with the delightful Reefer Spin In The Galaxy, a superb and floaty remix of Supernova At The End Of The Universe. The written word gives us 10 Things You Might Not Know About The Orb, 10 Very Ambient Things To Do and 10 Essential Orb-Related Releases. Meanwhile New Order’s Confusion was remixed for Dance Music Club (DMC) and was previously available to members of DMC on September 90 – Mixes 2. The accompanying text spans 25 pages, an exhaustive look back at their career complete with all single and album sleeves. In the wake, another remix of The Shamen’s Hyperreal, by Rico Conning – along with a most interesting Q&A with Will Sinnott, completed just two weeks before his untimely death.

Fortran 5’s XX21 and the Thrill Kill Kult’s Leather Sex work perfectly as a pair, frantic and hedonistic. You can then read about some of The Hacienda’s great club nights before Consolidated’s highly-charged Sexual Politics Of Meat. Friendly Fascism was a great listen back in 1991; the poor-sounding vinyl version trumped by the CD with key extra tracks. Nowadays it come across as hugely angry. Next The Wolfgang Press with the pummeling Sucker. They talk about their favourite albums – a great list for all three. In more reading goodness, Keith Cameron gives us a handy guide of what else is out there – 12 pages of recommendations. On the final lap, Daisy Chainsaw’s self-referencing Upmanship Down, a debut recording. We end with an genuine obscurity – L. Kage’s plaintive Another Story From Raintown, a heartfelt strum reminiscent of the Grove Park midnight walk home.

Favourite tracks
The Orb – Reefer Spin In The Galaxy

Kitchens Of Distinction – Innocence

Lest we forget
L. Kage – Another Story From Raintown

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Moods (Virgin, 1991)

Moods

Moods r

Review
The heyday of the Christmas RTE Guide was 1977 to 1982. 1977 was magical because Christmas Eve fell on a Saturday which meant that two weeks of great television in one channel land lasted the entire duration of Christmas, finishing on 6 January.
RTE Guide 1977

1978 was nearly as good; the highlight being daily runs of Augie Doggie & Doggie Daddy during the second week. 1980 was a leap year which meant that the Christmas TV stopped on 2 January. The Christmas night movie was The Towering Inferno; all my cousins were talking about the following day. By 1982, the calendar had moved against us (as far as possible – or so I believed) and the guide covered the 18 – 31 December period. Of course that meant the run up to Christmas Eve had some special programmes. And who can forget the teary film as we scoffed the Santa sweets – The Champ. By the way – in 1981, we got Gone With The Wind which was immense. In December 1983 I fully expected a return to the glory days of 1977; however when the RTE Guide appeared in the shops a week earlier than expected, it felt like a massive kick in the stomach. 17 – 30 December? You cannot be serious. One of childhood’s biggest disappointments.
RTE Guide 1983

As remembered in Reflections, Christmas was always spent in The Good Room. The tree (always a real one) was generally put up around 7 to 10 days beforehand, the decorations familiar and well-loved: the upright mice with green and red coats, the gold and purple bells, the lights in the shape of windows. Presents would go under closer to the time; sweets, chocolates and biscuit tins wrapped in paper from Nolan’s; their varying shapes a giveaway. Occasionally there were gifts from a relative in the USA. We wouldn’t actually move into The Good Room until Christmas Day so it always had a sense of exclusivity.

I was home last Easter; the harshness of growing old was becoming more pronounced. My Dad wasn’t well but was in good spirits. The emergency doctor assured him and us that it was a mild infection and he would be up in no time. My visit was brief; I was back in my house a couple of days later when the call came through that he had been brought into hospital. Updates continued through the evening, becoming more grave and ominous each time. Finally the 3.00am call; an unsuccessful operation, nothing more to be done. Sleep did not come but the advice was to wait until morning before travelling. And to pack a suit.

I cannot drive in silence; it is unnatural to me. I selected Moods for the journey down, the rationale being that I needed some soothing and relaxing as I prepared myself for saying goodbye and what would happen in the following days. All those arrangements that would have to be made, contacting relatives that I hardly ever spoke to, the prospect of shaking hands a thousand times, dealing with the aftermath and the emptiness. The trip down was a haze, I was down by 9.00am, Mike Oldfield’s cover of ABBA’s Arrival a bittersweet finale.

The meeting with the medical team was blunt, brief and stark. We were given two choices: do nothing and death would follow or a last gasp second attempt at surgery with the odds heavily stacked against us. We voted for action despite the poor prognosis and went back home to wait. The call came that evening, a tentative result. The relief was great. Intensive care, high dependency, all of these became part of our lives over the following 11 weeks as slowly, things started to improve. Hospital and home visits became weekly (sometimes I’d go down twice a week) rather than the previous infrequency. My car racked up more miles than ever before, each journey soundtracked by something different. From Now 100 Hits Forgotten 80s to Give ‘Em Enough Rope via Squirrel & G-Man and a side order of Berlin.

Moods is subtitled “a contemporary soundtrack” and was compiled by Ashley Abram for Box Music Limited. The mournful Gregorian vocals on opening track, Sadeness (Enigma), seemed entirely appropriate on that Tuesday morning drive last April. In 1991 – when I first purchased the CD – this type of music was primarily played in the dead of night, so as not to disturb neighbours in the other bedsits. No escape from television for track 2, Jan Hammer’s gorgeous Crockett’s Theme. Word: “Crockett and Tubbs were cool when cool had nothing to do with tattoos, nose piercings, or untrimmed goatees.” Completing this familiar opening trilogy is Enya’s sweeping Orinoco Flow. All three tracks (and many more on this compilation) would also appear on 1994’s Pure Moods, a re-booted version of this compilation – on the Virgin label and ubiquitous on late night shopping channel adverts.

Elton John’s Song For Guy appears here as the 7″ single mix, 5:02. As the sleeve states: “… As I was writing this song one Sunday, I imagined myself floating into space and looking down at my own body. I was imagining myself dying. Morbidly obsessed with these thoughts, I wrote this song about death. The next day I was told that Guy (Burchett), our 17 year-old messenger boy, had been tragically killed on his motorcycle the day before. Guy died on the day I wrote this song.” Love, death and sadness – such a powerful piece. Conversely, it’s the longer album version of Kenny G’s Songbird that follows before the haunting strains of Twin Peaks Theme (Instrumental). Erroneously credited to Julee Cruise rather than Angelo Badalamenti, this never fails to evoke immense nostalgia for a better time and place. “One day, the sadness will end.” (Catherine E. Coulson 1943-2015)

In keeping with the time of the year, Ryuichi’s Sakamoto’s instrumental beauty Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence is a key theme from the formative building blocks of my record collection. Just as powerful as the vocal version featuring David Sylvian, as Shastri says “this sounds like an old heartbreak that you occasionally revisit at 2.00am, still hurts but you’re okay with it now.” Next is the dramatic Chariots Of Fire theme, the real deal from Vangelis. The second half of the voyage opens with Praise and Only You, initially featured on a Fiat Tempra advertisement. Praise consisted of a London-based trio of accomplished composers/instrumentalists Simon Goldberg and Geoff McCormack and vocalist Miriam Stockley. The track is almost tribal in execution but the ultimate feeling it evokes is one of contemplation and relaxation. Let the sunshine in. Most of the cars will be in scrapyards.

The inclusion of the evocative Lily Was Here means that nine of the opening 10 tracks would also feature on Pure Moods. For something completely different, we look at Van Morrison’s Poetic Champions Compose and the divine jazz of Spanish Steps. We stay Irish for the next number, Micheal O’Suilleabhain’s Ah, Sweet Dancer, a fabulous piano piece. And now to Oxford: the atmospheric theme for Inspector Morse was written by Barrington Pheloung and utilises a motif based on the Morse code for “M.O.R.S.E.” A familiar poster on many student walls of the time was Betty Blue. Gabriel Yared’s C’est Le Vent, Betty buries itself right into your soul, a sublime and enchanting composition. Inevitably where there are instrumentals, there is Chi Mai. Here is no exception. Finally, we end with Mike Oldfield’s stirring take on Arrival, so very Mike but a brilliant salute to the original.

In 1994, the compilation was issued in The Netherlands with an almost identical sleeve. EVA was the label and while there was some crossover, it’s also worth a purchase given that it offers Enigma – Return To Innocence, Art Of Noise – Moments In Love, Alan Parsons Project – Pipeline, Harold Faltermeyer – Axel F, Propaganda – La Carne, La Morte E Il Diavolo, Kitaro – Light Of The Spirit, Roxy Music – Tara, Clannad – Theme From Harry’s Game, Yanni – Swept Away, Jon & Vangelis – Garden Of Senses, Michael Nyman – Theme From The Piano. In a superbly apt white CD tray. Check it out here.

RTE Guide scans taken from the RTE Guide – Classic Issues Facebook page.

Favourite tracks
Gabriel Yared – C’est Le Vent, Betty (Theme From Betty Blue)

Elton John – Song For Guy

Lest we forget
Van Morrison – Spanish Steps

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