Thursday, November 27, 2008

John Stuart - Summer Breeze

At the height of their success, Sheffield band Chakk had two singers, Jake Harries and John Stuart. Harries had the gritty voice, Stuart the soulful croon. According to Burl Veneer's Music Blog:

Richard Hawley is currently riding a wave of popularity in the UK as the "Sheffield Sinatra," but in 1987 he played guitar behind velvet-voiced ex-Chakk singer John Stuart on Stuart's only solo single, a cover of Seals and Crofts' "Summer Breeze." You will never hear a lusher version. (There's that unmistakable Designers Republic graphic style again.) Rounding out the backing band, billed as The Heavenly Music Corporation, are Dee Boyle (drums, also from Chakk), Darrell de Silva (sax), Jon Quarmby (keyboards), Justin Bennett (percussion), and Heather Allen (backing vocals), with production by Rob Gordon. Alas, that was all from The Heavenly Music Corporation as such. Stuart would go on to be a member of the Lovebirds (with Hawley) and Magic Bullets. He now lives in Barcelona and continues making lovely music as one-half of Forgetting, and on his own as, once again, The Heavenly Music Corporation.
Presented here is "Summer Breeze" and the B-side, "Black and Blue (Parts 1 and 2)"; get the vinyl rip here or here. (Please let me know if the Rapidshare caps downloads at 10 grabs; I am not happy about this new limitation and am looking for workarounds.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

SLAB! - Death's Head Soup

Slab!'s final recording before a 19-year hiatus was 1989's "Death's Head Soup" single, which I will once again let currybet describe:

The final flurry of the band was 1989’s Cameo ‘Word Up - Sucker DJ’ sampling anti-Thatcher rant of knuckle down and eat your “Death’s Head Soup”. With a sole writing credit to Stephen Dray I have no idea whether it was a solo record or not, but it certainly was a long way from “Mars On Ice”...

I've been listening to "Soup" for nearly 20 years without realizing that was a Cameo sample, but now that I read that it's so bleeding obvious! How could I have missed that?! No, it wasn't a Dray solo record, the full lineup was:

Stephen Dray - Vocals
Paul Jarvis - Guitar / Samples
Nick Page - Guitar
Boleslaw Usarzewski - Bass Guitar

With : Dave Bryant - Drums
Kevin Sanderson - Percussion
Corrie Josias - Backing Vocals
Lynne Gerald - Backing Vocals
Simon Walker - Keyboards / Violin

They sure went out on a high note; I could listen to this driving beat and insistent fuzz-bass riff for hours, shouting along "Knuckle down, drink your death's head soup!" all the while. The B-side is the Descension album track "Switchback Ride"; the 12" single added a club mix of "Death's Head Soup." Get the 12" vinyl rip here or here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

SLAB! - Smoke Rings

The "Smoke Rings"/"Abbasloth" double-A-side single, released in 1987, was Slab!'s final recording with a horn section, and it's a killer! The tempo and the rhythm are akin to George Clinton's "Atomic Dog", but everything is so much heavier: the slapping bass, the slamming drums, the scraped guitar a la Sonny Sharrock. It's an amazing melting pot of funk and sludge that demands to be played LOUD. On the defunct BBC Collective website there is a good overview of Slab! records by user "currybet" which contains the following about "Smoke Rings":
“Smoke Rings”Slab!’s third single, “Smoke Rings”, a love song for nuclear missiles from the point of view the military, was a disaster. Later, when I met Stephen Dray, Slab!’s singer, he said that it had been led on by the record company asking for a ‘hit single’ - and it was the first time that Slab! had released an edited 7” single to accompany the 12” release. Mind you he also said that he thought the vocals on their debut single “Mars On Ice” sounded like they had been recorded in a toilet, and it is one of my favourite records ever, so what does he know?
I find it odd to see "Smoke Rings" described as a "disaster", as I recall reading several positive reviews of it at the time, and it seemed to be popular in the cutting-edge dance clubs. Perhaps Mr. Dray can give us a little more of the story?

In addition to "Smoke Rings", the 12-inch also includes a dub version, "Cruise Missile Smoke Rings", and the instrumental "Abbasloth", which has a similar monster beat but substitutes free-jazz horn freakouts for vocals. It is a MUST HAVE. Get the vinyl rip here or here. Check out the new Slab! website here. Check the comments here for occasional updates from Steve Dray (the mosesman) on the progress of the new Slab! album! See here for Slab!'s Music from the Iron Lung mini-LP. Click here for all my Slab! and Slab!-related offerings.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Savant - Stationary Dance

One of the most respected independent electronic music labels of the 80s was Kerry Leimer's Palace Of Lights, on which he released several of his own recordings (as K. Leimer) as well as albums by Roy Finch, Marc Barreca, and Michael William Gilbert. Leimer's music was mostly in the ambient vein; he used the moniker "Savant" for his more rhythm-based works, the "Stationary Dance"/"Sensible Music" single (1981) and the LP The Neo-Realist (At Risk) (1983). Palace Of Lights went dormant after 1983 and Leimer disappeared from the music scene, concentrating on his and his wife's design business, Leimer Cross. After nearly two decades of inactivity, Leimer revived Palace Of Lights in 2002, reissuing his 80s albums on CD and releasing new work by himself and others. I would have expected "Stationary Dance"/"Sensible Music" to be included on The Neo-Realist CD, but it wasn't; the initial vinyl release is all there is. "Stationary Dance" is a classic piece of postpunk art-funk, with an infectious rhythm track (looped?) featuring prominent bass guitar, overlaid with atmospheric synth lines and cut-up spoken vocals. "Sensible Music" is instrumental only, with a slow but insistent rhythm and an overall sound that recalls Jon Hassell's work with Brian Eno. Musical contributors on the record are:
Get the vinyl rip here or here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Jackal - Underneath the Arches

I was going to write "Here's another source record from the Heavy Duty Breaks megamix LP," but it actually isn't, and it's not even on the same label (Criminal Damage instead of Illuminated). The Jackal's mix of sampled and electronic breakbeats with sampled vocal fragments and crunchy guitars would fit right in, though, and it came out around the same time (1986), hence my confusion. So if you liked Heavy Duty Breaks, download this small set (just two tracks, "Underneath the Arches" and "Thunder Machine", nine minutes total) here or here. As with my previous post, the artist is a cipher, real identity unknown, any clues supplied in the comments will be appreciated.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Out - Tough Enough

I had planned to offer up the Sunfeast/Craving 12" by Play Dead offshoot M.A.D., but it turned up just last month on the Ad Nauseum blog; if you like Play Dead or the Danse Society then you shouldn't be without M.A.D. I don't know how I missed that blog before, but there is a lot of good music there. So, moving on to my next 12", here is "Tough Enough" by Out (1984). "Tough Enough" is one of the songs from the Illuminated catalog mixed into the Heavy Duty Breaks megamix LP; this 12" has the vocal mix on the A-side (6:36) and a dub version on the B-side (7:06). It's not as good as the only other track I know of by Out ("Business As Usual" on the Breaking the Back of Love comp), but it's a serviceable bit of midtempo 80s UK electrofunk. And for crate diggers there are plenty of useable drum breaks and synth and bass fills. Once again I have no idea who the band members are besides the songwriting credits of A. Sharkey and P. Butcher. My Lethal Poor post was wildly successful in drawing two of the three band members out of the woodwork; can lightning strike again? Please leave any info on this band in the comments. Download the vinyl rip here or here. (Sorry about the high levels and clipping on the A-side, my soundcard can't attenuate the phono preamp input enough on some of these hot 12" mixes. Guess I shouldn't have cheaped out and bought a preamp without an output volume control.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Umbrella - Make Hell...

Manchester band The Umbrella released this 3-song 12" in 1985, and nothing more. They had a great sound, 60s pop overlaid with raucous postpunk guitar and organ; pretty close to what The Last Shadow Puppets are doing today. I've had this record for over twenty years without knowing anything about the band, but thankfully someone has filled in some history on

James Gardner: Founder member, in 1990, of the pioneering Apollo 440 together with his school friends Noko and Howard Gray, and Howard's brother Trevor Gray. He had previously played keyboards with The Umbrella and a variety of well known artists, including Pete Shelley's band and Luxuria. He left Apollo 440 in 1993 to concentrate on composition, and in 1994 moved to New Zealand where he formed the contemporary music ensemble 175 East. He is an active broadcaster on music for the eclectic Radio New Zealand Concert.

Norman Fisher-Jones: Multi-instrumentalist and sonic visionary Norman Fisher-Jones, aka Noko, had already gigged with The Cure, and The Buzzcock's Pete Shelley before he released his first 12" with his own band The Umbrella. He formed Luxuria with Magazine's Howard Devoto in 1987 and released two albums with Beggars Banquet. Together with original Umbrella member, James E. Gardner, their school friend Howard Gray, and Howard's brother Trevor, he formed Apollo 440 in 1990. An original member, he'd be at The Hacienda if it was still open.

As for the other two blokes in the band, I still don't know who they are; backing vocals (female) are credited to Alex & Julia. Make Hell... was released on Immaculate Records, which also put out some of Pete Shelley's solo singles. The three songs are "Make Hell (For the Beautiful People)", "William Brel", and the instrumental "The Persuaders". Get the vinyl rip here or here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lethal Poor - Trancefloor

This is the first of several posts that will feature just a single rather than a full album (because I have a bunch of singles that I've put off listening to while I've been ripping albums). In most cases the bands I'll be posting never did release a full album, or if they did they didn't include the single in question. While the next posts will be short on quantity, I have some very high-quality rips lined up.

The first is the sole recording by UK band Lethal Poor, from 1985. The two tracks, "Trancefloor" and "Honour", are both in the "gothic funk" style I love so much. Fans of 23 Skidoo, 400 Blows, A Certain Ratio, or The Men should find this right up their alley. The song credits are to "North, Winter, Musker", and I have ascertained that Musker is keyboardist David Musker (now a patent agent), but I don't know who North and Winter are. Please leave a note in the comments section if you know more. Regardless of their identity, this is one ill slab of vinyl; get the rip here or here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Billy Sheets' Undercover - Weekend In Dubrovnik

On This Record!

A MOSQUE IN THE ETHIOPIAN OUTBACK beams a message clear to the Pomona Freeway...

A BASS-PLAYING VAMPIRE stalks his prey in the heart of the Carpathians...

BOSNIAN YOUTHS BENT ON REVENGE besiege the ancient bathing houses of Dubrovnik...

BELEAGUERED TEEN-AGERS pursue masochistic sports... while

A ROVING MINISTER puts aside the cloth for matters of the heart!

So reads the copy on the back cover of this batch of six amusing songs from singer, keyboardist, and accordionist Billy Sheets and his band, produced by Devo's Bob Mothersbaugh and released in 1982 on Big Clock Records. The joke is played out in full on the first track, "Skanking in the Trailerpark," a hybrid of ska and eastern European folk styles. The European vein continues with "Gypsy Camp," and then comes the highlight of the record, the superb faux-spy-movie instrumental "Weekend In Dubrovnik." Side two's three songs ("Skating On Thin Ice," "Love That Lasts," "Downtown B.B.Q. (Shakin' It)") are in a more conventional party-rock mode, a la Joe King Carrasco and the Crowns. The full band line-up is:

  • Billy Sheets: lead vocal, accordion, keyboards, harmonica
  • Kent State: guitar, tambourine, vocals
  • Ricardo de Mayo: bass, keyboards, accordion, vocals
  • Sammy "Vic" Flores: drums (side A), vocals
  • Gajate: percussion
  • Alan Lyle: drums (side B)

Nothing astounding here, just a good solid slice of American new wave with a novelty bent. Get the vinyl rip here or here.