Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rock Albums Post XI: Favorites

This post consists of an eclectic mix of albums from a variety of genres and time periods. The one thing they all have in common is they are all ultimate favorites of mine.
- Randall Webb

Chris and Cosey - Heartbeat

History: Domestic partners Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti (born Christine Newby) formed as a duo in 1981 (Chris and Cosey now perform as Carter Tutti) . Previously they had recorded with the English industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle. The duo released their first album, Heartbeat, on Rough Trade in 1981. Heartbeat is a synth-pop collection of songs with machine rhythms and an air of bleak industrial sounds taking over the mood of the entire album.

Best Tracks: "Put Yourself In Los Angeles", "This Is Me", "Useless Information", "Heartbeat"

Randall Webb's Comments: I purchased this album on complete faith. It was 1981 (way before computers) and the ability to sample obscure albums like this one was uncommon. I liked the album cover and I had been reading a good amount of press on Throbbing Gristle and Chris and Cosey and decided to take a chance on it. I immediately grew to love the album. It was so unlike anything else I had ever owned. it was atmospheric, electronic with touches of synth and industrial. It didn't catch on with any of my friends, but it continued to be a favorite of mine regardless.

Chris and Cosey - This Is Me (1981)

Complot Bronswick - Dark Room's Delight (1986)

History: Formed in 1981 in Rennes, France, Complot Bronswick introduced the French to a futursitic sound fusing new wave, electronica and coldwave into haunting sounds of yearning imagery. Complot Bronswick (which translates to Bronswick Conspiracy) became known for their theatrical and image filled live performances which spilled over into their music videos. they've released 6 studio albums spanning from 1983 to 1995. "Dark Room's Delight" is their second studio album. (*** Note: The Bronswick Conspiracy is a fake French documentary in the early 1980's about a conspiracy involving TV sets and people being brainwashed into buying goods compulsively.)

Best Tracks: "Ivory Blade", "Born In A Cage", "Landscape".

Randall Webb's Comments: "Born In A Cage" was the first song I heard by Complot Bronswick. I found the song on YouTube back in 2009. From there I had to get to know as much as I could about this most unusual band. This proved a tough task as there is not a whole lot of information on the band. However I was able to find all their albums and purchased them on MP3 downloads. I love them all but it is "Dark Room's Delight" which has become my favorite.

Complot Bronswick - Born In A Cage (1986)

David Gilmour - On An Island (2006)
History: David Gilmour is the English rock musician, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who is best known as the guitarist, one of the lead singers and main songwriters in the progressive rock band Pink Floyd. In the eary 1960's, Gilmour met met future Pink Floyd guitarist and vocalist Syd Barrett, along with bassist and vocalist Roger Waters who attended Cambridgeshire High School for Boys. In 1962 he joined the band Joker's Wild. He continued with Joker's Wild until 1966. It was in December 1967 when he was approached by Nick Mason (drummer for Pink Floyd) to join the band. Gilmour accepted and joined Pink Floyd in January 1968. Gilmour has released 3 studio albums. The first was simply titled "David Gilmour and was released in 1978. His second released in 1984 was called "About Face" and the most recent "On An Island" was released in 2006.  "On An Island" has achieved worldwide success (as did his first two solo albums). The album reached #6 in the U.S. as well as #1 in the UK and Canada.

Best Tracks: "On An Island", "The Blue", "Take A Breath", "Smile"

Randall Webb's Comments: Pink Floyd has long been a favorite band of mine. I have casually followed the careers and releases of the band's individual members. David Gilmour has always been my favorite in the band. One afternoon, in February 2006, I was surfing wikipedia and decided to check out some stats on David Gilmour. To my joyful surprise I discovered that a new album was going to be released with in the following week. I was on this immediately. That Tuesday (release day) I drove to my local Best Buy and bought the CD. Right from the first listen I loved the album. Every track a winner. "On An Island" is my favorite of Gilmour's three solo studio albums. Gilmour turned 60 years old on the day of it's release and proved that at that age he was and is still in top form both musically and vocally. Gilmour is still every bit as great as he was during the golden days of Pink Floyd.

 David Gilmour - The Blue (2006)

Klark Kent - Music Madness From The Kinetic Kid (1980)

History: Rumor has it that many times Sting (lead singer of the Police) would reject songs presented to the band by drummer Stewart Copeland. In order to get these songs recorded Stewart Copeland created his alter ego Klark Kent and released the album "Music Madness From The Kinetic Kid". The album is full of kwirky and kooky tunes kontaining that fantastic Stewart Copeland humor. Beyond the fun and kraziness of the album the music itself is pretty good. It's very percussiony, but that's what Copeland does best. Copeland wrote all the songs and played every instrument as well as sang all the vocals. This is 100% Stewart Copeland. After listening to this album is quite evident that Copeland's influence over the early sounds of The Police was more than monumental.

Best Tracks: "Don't Care", "Away From Home", "My Old School", "Excess"

Randall Webb's Comments: I picked this up in late 1980 at my favorite local record shop called Licorice Pizza. I had no idea this was Stewart Copeland of the Police. I was a big fan of the Police at this time, but before the days of the internet details about our favorite bands were not as readily available. I did however figure it out pretty quick. I must have played the entire album at least a thousand times in the first month I owned it. I still manage to pull the album out (which I now have on CD via the Kollected Works compilation) and play it every every few months. I most enjoy Klark Kent's finesse on the kazoo. Kent (Copeland) is easily rock music's best kazoo player of all-time.

Klark Kent

Stewart Copeland

Klark Kent - Away From Home

Klark Kent - Don't Care

Kraftwerk - The Man-Machine (1978)

History: Düsseldorf, Germany, Kraftwerk released their first album in 1970 simply titled "Kraftwerk". Right from the beginning their electronically atmospheric albums sold well in Germany, but it wasn't until their 4th album (1974's "Autobahn) that they finally caught on with the rest of the world. The group's simplified lyrics are at times sung through a vocoder or generated by computer-speech software. Kraftwerk were one of the first groups to popularize electronic music and are considered pioneers in the field. Kraftwerk helped shape and influence the electronci new wave movement of the late 70's and early 80's having influenced bands such as Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, New Order, Ultravox, OMD, Visage, Human League and Soft Cell. In recent years they have influenced popular artists such as Kompressor, Orb and Franz Ferdinand. "the Man-Machine" was released in May 1978 and reached #9 in the UK, #12 in Germany, #14 in France, #15 in Austria and Italy. In the U.S. the album reached #130.

Best Tracks: "The Robots", "The Model", "Neon Lights"

Randall Webb's Comments: It was "The Robots" that first got me into Kraftwerk. I forget where I heard the song or who introduced me to  it, all I know is that I loved the song and bought the 7" vinyl single right after I heard it. Shortly after that I bought the entire album. My favorite track for the longest time was the shimmering "Neon Lights", though as time has gone on "The Robots" ends up being my favorite of all of Kraftwerk's songs. I really enjoy their danceable electronic sound. Nobody does electronic as well as Kraftwerk does.

Kraftwerk - The Robots (1978)

Machines of Loving Grace - Concentration (1993)
History: Machines of Loving Grace is an American industrial band who active years spanned from 1989 to 1997. They were a short lived band that only released three studio albums. Despite this they have left their mark on the landscape of industrial rock having recorded some of the most varied and creative music in it's genre. "concentration" was released on September 21, 1993 and achieved a moderate amount of success having gained video airplay on MTV. "Concentration" utilized the band's expertise on heavy beats and throbbing bass sounds.  Unlike other industrial bands, Machines of Loving Grace resist the temptation to smear everything with thrashing guitars. Their use of the guitar is more understated which pulls the other instruments and vocals to the forefront. This makes for a very appealing and somewhat unique sound.

Best Tracks: "Butterfly Wings", "Limiter", "Shake", "Cheap", "Acceleration"

Randall Webb's Comments: Although, I list this album as one of my favorites I don't really know a whole lot about Machines of Loving Grace, except for the fact that I do love this album. I had only discovered them less than a year ago in the summer of 2011 when I found both "Concentration" and their debut album "Machines of Loving Grace" on Cd in a thrift store. I bought them both as they looked interesting to me and I figured at $2.00 each that wasn't too much of an investment even if I ended up not liking them. Fortunately, I did end up liking them quite a bit.

Machines of Loving Grace - Butterfly Wings (1993)

Liam McKahey - Lonely Road (2009)
History: Liam McKahey first met with critical acclaim in 1999 with the London based band Cousteau. The band's sound has been compared to Burt Bacharach, Scott Walker and David Bowie with an updated moody and contemporary edge. Mckahey's vocals have often been compared to Nick Cave. Cousteau started off on a good note with their debut album which included the popular track "The Last Good Day Of The Year". The song was featured in television commercials, movies and documentaries. Though unfortunately after a good start the band seemed to fizzle out with their, "Sirena", second album. It wasn't because of the music as their second album was every bit as good as their first. They went on to release a third album and then quickly disappeared. McKahey, with his deep and resonant voice, continued his career recording with other musicians such as Ian Mcnabb, Allessandro Magnanini and Dead Cat In A Bag. In 2009 he released his majestic "Lonely Road" album which has garnered outstanding reviews from music critics around the globe, but sadly has not caught on with the music buying public.
" Like Nick Cave, the Triffids, Tendrils and Beasts of Bourbon. There's atmosphere and drive on Lonely Road" - Americana UK 
"It's a divinely dark, cinematic outing full of beauty" - Whisperin and Hollerin

Best Tracks: "Unheeded Tidings", "Lovers and Fools", "Fire", "Listen"

Randall Webb's Comments: I was very saddened when I that Cousteau was breaking up. I truly enjoyed their dark and moody style. I thought this would be the end of it and that I would never hear Liam McKahey smooth yet dark and deep voice on anything new again. Fortunately I was wrong. shortly after Cousteau's breakup he released "Lonely Road", which I have to say is the very best work he's done to date. Again, though, I face the uncertainty of possibly not hearing anything new from him. McKahey, who currently resides in Australia, is busy rasing his family (a young son and daughter) and has not announced any new recordings in quite sometime. I continually check his MySpace (yeah MySpace) and facebook pages, but nothing. He is remaining very quiet.

Liam McKahey - Lovers and Fools

Midnight Juggernauts - Dystopia (2008)
History: Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Midnight Juggernauts, is an electro-pop synth rock group. They have been described as anything from 'prog dance meets cosmic film scores', to 'slasher-flick disco' to 'deadpan landscape'. It is hard to define the band's sound as all the instruments are played live through a range of samplers, pads and various acoustic instruments. The band formed in 2004 and released their first EP in 2005 which was followed by their debut album "Dystopia", which was first released in Australia in 2007 and than in other countries around the world in 2008. They've met with a fair amount of success in Australia with "Dystopia" reaching #21 and their second album "The Crystal Axis" reaching #20. Outside of Australia they have achieved only minor success.

Best Tracks: "Into The Galaxy", "Dystopia", "Twenty Thousand Leagues", "So Many Frequencies"

Randall Webb's Comments: Midnight Juggernauts first came to my attention when I was perusing a Columbia music club catalog. I really liked the album cover and the short description listed so I went ahead and ordered it. I often buy new music on faith hoping it will be good when I get it. Most of the time when I take a chance like this, I am fortunately pleased with what I hear. "Dystopia" was unique in that I was not only pleased but elated. This is one of those albums I am able to listen to from beginning to end without skipping any tracks.I hear so many different influences in their music ranging from Giorgio Moroder to David Bowie with hints of shimmering vocal harmonies.

Midnight Juggernauts - Into The Galaxy (2008)

Minus The Bear - Planet Of Ice (2007)
History: Many great bands and musicians have come from Seattle, Washington and Minus The Bear is definitely one of them. Formed in 2001, the group features current and former members of Botch, Kill Sadie, and Sharks Keep Moving. Their sound has been described as "Pele-esque guitar-taps and electronics with sophisticated time signature composition. Pele is a post-rock band heavily influenced by various jazz genres. Minus The Bear released their first album in 2002 too a moderate yet receptive following. It wasn't until their 3rd album 2007's "Planet Of Ice" that they finally caught on in with a larger audience. "Planet Of Ice" broke on to Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart and made it up to U.S. #74 (their 2010 album "Omni" reached U.S. #49). With it's traces of electronics, prog guitar leads and psychedelic accents, "Planet Of Ice" is full of interesting harmonics, polished melodies, and exceptional arrangements. Overall this is a strong, hypnotic effort from the Seattle band.

Best Tracks: "Ice Monster", "Knights", "White Mystery", "Throwin' Shapes", "Double Vision Quest"

Randall Webb's Comments: I went backwards with Minus The Bear. I didn't discover them until 2010 with the release of "Omni" and like with so many others I took the chance and bought it. What can I say I liked the album cover. I liked "Omni" so much that I had to delve into more of their music. I had been thinking about them for a few days and by fate I ran into their first three studio albums and one of their EPs in a thrift store. Of course I snatched them up. It was "Planet Of Ice" that stuck with me more than the others and after several listens became my favorite by Minus The Bear.

Minus The Bear - Ice Monster (2007)

Donna Summer - Crayons (2008)
History: Massachusetts born, Donna Summer is known as the "Queen of Disco". Summer has garnered many accolades including 5 Grammy Awards, three consecutive double albums reaching #1 in the U.S., sixteen #1 hits on Billboard's Dance Music chart and sales of more than 125 million discs worldwide. "Crayons" is Donna Summer's 17th studio album and most recent having been released on May 20, 2008. It's Summer's first full-length studio album in fourteen years since 1994's Christmas Spirit, and her first album of original material since 1991's Mistaken Identity. The music on "Crayons" moves in several directions ranging from reggaeton, dance club, anthem, ballad and Tina Turneresque pop. The album was a moderate success throughout the U.S. and Europe having reached US #17, Germany #73, Switzerland #85, Spain #97 and UK #142.

Best Tracks: "Stamp Your Feet", "Mr. Music", "Crayons", "Fame", "Slide Over Backwards"

Randall Webb's Comments: "I Feel Love" was the first Donna Summer song I paid attention to. A friend of mine played it for me back in 1977, when it was first released, and it just blew me away. I fell in love with it. I guess you can say it was Donna Summer who opened the door to my further exploration of electronic music. From there I started listening to Kraftwerk and Gary Numan. "I Feel Love" was like nothing else I heard at the time and instantly I wanted to buy Summer's records. After more than 30 years of buying Donna Summer records, she records "Crayons" and of course I bought it on the day it was released. As much as I love her mid to late 70's work, it is "Crayons" that ends up becoming my favorite album by the disco diva.

Donna Summer - Mr. Music (2008)

Jennifer Warnes - Famous Blue Raincoat (1987)
History: By the time Warnes released "Famous Blue Raincoat" (a tribute to Leonard Cohen) she had been on the music scene since 1968 with the release of her first album "I Can Remember Everything". Commercial success eluded her until 1976 with her fourth album "Jennifer Warnes" which included the mega-hit "Right time Of The Night" and the semi-hit "I'm Dreamin'". By this point in time, the Anaheim, California resident was a well respected singer-songwriter. "Famous Blue Raincoat" was Warnes' watershed moment where she went from well respected to highly respected. Her next two albums "The Hunter" and "The Well" both garnered praise from music critics throughout the musical spectrum. "Famous Blue Raincoat" (FBR) is also Warnes' most commercially successful album having reached US #72, UK #33 and Canada #8. The album's guest contributors include guitarists Stevie Ray Vaughan, David Lindley and Robben Ford, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, keyboardist Russell Ferrante, arranger Van Dyke Parks and Cohen himself duetting on "Joan of Arc." Despite her success with FBR, Warnes is best known for her popular movie theme song duets, 1982's "Up Where We Belong" (with Joe Cocker) and 1987's "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" (with Bill Medley). Both songs won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. "Up Where We Belong" also won a Grammy Award. Her 1979 recording of "It Goes Like It Goes" (which she recorded for the film Norma Rae) also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Best Tracks: "First We Take Manhattan", "Bird On A Wire", "Joan Of Arc", "Ain't No Cure For Love"

Randall Webb's Comments: My attraction to this album was not immediate. I knew about it from as far back as 1992 when I bought it on cassette tape. I listened to it once (actually did not get past the second song) and never really played it again for about 15 years. It was in 2007 that I plucked the cassette out of a plastic storage container and listened to it again. This time around I really enjoyed it. Maybe it was maturity (I don't know) but I came to really like this album all of a sudden. I am most taken with "First We Take Manhattan", which I consider to be Warnes' single best song in her entire catalog. "Ain't No Cure for Love" is another tasty favorite.

Jennifer Warnes - First We Take Manhattan (1987)

Lenny White - The Adventures of Astral Pirates (1978)
History: Lenny White is known as one of jazz-fusion's most celebrated drummers. He got his first break in 1969 when he recorded with Miles Davis on the historic album "Bitches Brew". In 1972 he joined Chic Corea and Stanley Clarke to form the legendary jazz fusion band Return To Forever. In the same year he also joined the Latin-jazz band Azteca. White released his first solo album in 1975 "Venusian Summer", while still recording with Return To Forever (RTF). By 1977 RTF disbanded and White pursued his solo career full-time. To date he's released 14 studio albums as a solo artist. The Adventures of Astral Pirates is a jazz-fusion masterpiece with a futuristic science-fiction theme.Many critics consider it to be a jazz-fusion essential. This risk taking album blends jazz, rock and funk with elements of Asian music and Middle Eastern music.

Best Tracks: "Assault", "Heavy Metal Monster", "Mandarin Warlords", "Universal Love"

Randall Webb's Comments: Back in 2006 I was looking to expand my collection of jazz-fusion and did an internet search and ran across several bands such as Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever. During this internet search I came across Lenny White's "The Adventures Of Astral Pirates". I recalled having seen this album on vinyl back in the late 70's but had never pursued it. Immediately I had an interest in it and called a few of my local music stores to see if anybody had it in stock as I wanted it ASAP. Nobody had it in stock so I ordered it from Amazon.com. It received the disc several days later in the mail and played it as soon as I unwrapped it. I was more than pleased to hear what I heard. A wonderful blast of music hinging on the experimental side. This was exactly what I was looking for. After getting this album I ended up purchasing two more Lenny White albums, but it is "Astral Pirates" that remains his best.

Lenny White - Assault (1978)

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