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Archive for the ‘New Wave’ Category

TRACKLISTING:
1. Sat in Your Lap (3:30)
2. There Goes a Tenner (3:26)
3. Pull Out the Pin (5:30)
4. Suspended in Gaffa (3:58)
5. Leave It Open (3:25)
6. The Dreaming (4:41)
7. Night of the Swallow (5:25)
8. All the Love (4:35)
9. Houdini (3:52)
10. Get Out of My House (5:30)

LINEUP:
Kate Bush – vocals, piano, keyboards, strings
Alan Murphy – electric guitar (5, 10)
Brian Bath – electric guitar (3)
Ian Bairnson – acoustic guitar (5, backing vocals (1)
Paddy Bush – mandolin, strings (4, ), bullroarer (6), backing vocals (1, 6, 10)
Liam O’Flynn – Uillean pipes, penny whistles (7)
Sean Keane – fiddle (7)
Donal Lunny – bouzouki (7)
Rolf Harris – digeridu (6)
Del Palmer – bass (2, 4, 7, 8), backing vocals (9)
Eberhard Weber – bass (9)
Jimmy Bain – bass (1, 5, 10)
Danny Thompson – bass (3)
Dave Lawson – synclavier (2, 4), string arrangement (9)
Geoff Downes – CMI trumpet section (1)
Bill Whelan – string arrangement (7)
Andrew Powell – string arrangement (9)
Preston Heyman – drums (1,  3,  5, 10)
Stuart Elliot –  drums (2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Esmail Sheikh – drum talk (10)
Gary Hurst –  backing vocals (1)
Stewart Arnold – backing vocals (1)
Dave Gilmour – backing vocals (3)
Gordon Farrell – backing vocals (9)
Paul Hardiman – backing vocals (10)
Gosfield Goers – crowd (6)
Percy Edwards -animals (6)
Richard Thornton – choirboy (8)

After a few weeks’ break, my blog is ready to resume is activity with another milestone release of the early Eighties – proving once again that the  much-maligned decade was not the wasteland for challenging music that many hardcore progressive rock fans purport it to be.

I have been a fan of Kate Bush for as long as I can remember.  Being a woman, I have been able to focus my appreciation of this multi-faceted, highly individual (and often imitated) artist  on her musical and lyrical output, without any considerations on her physical appearance clouding my judgment. A genuinely progressive artist (though seen by far too many people as little more than a purveyor of  intelligent art-pop),  known for her almost obsessive search for privacy and the infrequency of her releases (especially in the past two decades), Kate Bush has blazed a trail for a slew of women artists ranging from Tori Amos to P.J. Harvey – all of them very intriguing in their own way, though rarely as mesmerizing as  Kate can be.

The Dreaming, Kate Bush’s fourth studio album, is generally considered inferior to its follow-up, Hounds of Love – especially by those who find it way too adventurous for its own good.  With multilayered vocals, an impressive, often exotic instrumentation, eerie sound effects, lyrics dealing with intense, occasionally disturbing topics, it is probably Kate’s most progressive album in the true sense of the word, and as such not to everyone’s taste. Indeed, The Dreaming may be effectively compared to her good friend Peter Gabriel’s ’80s releases, which share the pervasive presence of ethnic rhythms  and instruments (immediately introduced in opening track “Sat on Your Lap”), as well as topics like the plight of indigenous populations. The influence of  the so-called New Wave movement  is also quite evident in both Kate’s and Peter’s output of those years, especially as regards the use of electronics – though it is only one of the ingredients of an intensely personal mixture.

There is very little in the way of filler on The Dreaming, although, in my view, the lilting, lighter-hearted “There Goes a Tenner” and “Suspended in Gaffa” are not as successful as the other tracks. On the other hand, the album’s  highlights rank among Kate’s best work. The echoing, heavily percussive title-track is awash with the voices and sounds of the Australian outback; while the achingly beautiful “Houdini” (to which the cover picture refers) sees one of Kate’s most poignant vocal performances, enhanced by plaintive strings and sparse piano.  Kate also explores her Celtic roots with the gentle ballad “Night of the Swallow”, laced with the distinctive sounds of the Uillean pipes and fiddle. However, the album features a true masterpiece in the haunting “Pull Out the Pin”:  with Pink Floyd’s legendary guitarist David Gilmour eerily emoting on backing vocals, the song focuses on the Vietnam war seen from the point of view of a Vietcong: “Just one thing in it, me or him/And I love life…” The lyrics starkly reflect on the absurdity of war, bearing once again witness to Kate’s deep insight into human nature.

The Dreaming is arguably not as easy to get into as either its predecessor, Never For Ever, or the highly praised Hounds of Love. With markedly fewer instances of catchy melodies such as “Wuthering Heights” or “Babooshka” , and an overall experimental feel, it also relies quite heavily on innovative production techniques, which at the time many listeners found rather baffling . However, none of these factors mar the excellence of an album that, even more so than other Kate Bush releases, manages to be soothing and unsettling at the same time – a truly ground-breaking effort from one of the most iconic artists on the current music scene.

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Tracklisting:

1. The Art of Parties (4:09)
2. Talking Drum (3:34)
3. Ghosts (4:33)
4. Canton (5:30)
5. Still Life in Mobile Homes (5:32)
6. Visions of China (3:37)
7. Sons of Pioneers (7:07)
8. Cantonese Boy (3:44)

Lineup:

David Sylvian – vocals, guitar, keyboards
Mick Karn – bass guitar, saxophone, oboe, african flute, vocals
Steve Jansen – drums and percussion, keyboards, vocals
Richard Barbieri – keyboards, tape, programming, vocals

With:
Yuka Fujii – vocals
Simon House – violin

And now for something completely different, though this album and the one previously reviewed have something in common – the release date.

Japan’s swan song, Tin Drum, is an album that does not often get the love (or at least respect) it amply deserves.  There are still people who believe ‘New Wave’ and progressive rock to be two mutually exclusive entities, so that even the slightest connection with the likes of punk or New Wave is grounds enough to dismiss a band out of hand. For what it is worth, I believe there is more creativity to be found in many of those much-reviled Eighties bands (often tagged by hardcore prog fans as ‘guilty pleasures’) than in a great deal of  bands or artists with impeccable prog credentials. Though being progressive has nothing to do with  flinging mellotrons around with wild abandon, or penning 30-minute-long epics on would-be weighty (and often terminally boring) topics, nowadays it seems to be far more acceptable to label a symphonic metal band as progressive than one associated with those two late Seventies-early Eighties movements. A band like Japan, with their suits, make-up and hairspray, in some people’s minds becomes synonymous with  ‘synth pop’,  and end up being lumped together with the likes of Visage or Spandau Ballet.

Released just prior to the band’s split, Tin Drum is undeniably Japan’s most mature effort, and the one which earns them a rightful place in progressive territory. It is no wonder that its four members went on to pursue musical careers that brought them in much closer contact with prog: David Sylvian collaborated with Robert Fripp and Holger Czukay, among others;  his brother, drummer Steve Jansen, followed him for most of his solo career; keyboardist Richard Barbieri is now well-known as member of Porcupine Tree, and bassist Mick Karn worked with jazz guitarist David Torn and legendary drummer Terry Bozzio. Such career developments should be proof enough of the fact that Japan were much more than a mere ‘New Romantic’ band, in spite of their image – which, by the way, is as much related to  David Bowie and Roxy Music as to the likes of Duran Duran, setting the band squarely into the  elusive ‘Art Rock’ tradition.

Virtuoso bassist Mick Karn (one of the truly unsung heroes of his instrument, currently fighting advanced cancer) is probably the real star of this album – his thick, pneumatic bass lines all over the place, working in perfect unison with Steve Jansen’s agile, inventive drumming. Their finest hour as a rhythm section is the 7-minute-plus “Sons of Pioneers”, which displays more than a fleeting Krautrock influence. The album’s highlight, the haunting “Ghosts”, is instead dominated by Barbieri’s sparse synth textures and Sylvian’s brooding vocals.  The Oriental theme evident in both the band’s name and the album’s title shows up most clearly in the intriguingly catchy “Visions of China” , closing track “Cantonese Boy”, and the instrumental “Canton” – even though it can be felt throughout the record, in the lilting, intricate interplay of bass and drums, the use of exotic percussion, and even Sylvian’s highly stylised vocals (an acquired taste for sure,though absolutely perfect for the band’s sound). The overall sound of the album is further enhanced by the contribution of former High Tide and Hawkwind violinist Simon House.

The beautiful, stylish cover artwork is an added bonus to one of the best discs released in the Eighties, full of outstanding musicianship and intriguing lyrical themes. Approach this album with an open mind, forgetting any labels and tags – and you will be surprised by 38 minutes of stunning music.

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