Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Led Zeppelin ‎– Physical Graffiti (1975)

Style: Blues Rock, Hard Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Atlantic, Swan Song

A1.   Custard Pie
A2.   The Rover
A3.   In My Time Of Dying
B1.   Houses Of The Holy
B2.   Trampled Under Foot
B3.   Kashmir
C1.   In The Light
C2.   Bron-Yr-Aur
C3.   Down By The Seaside
C4.   Ten Years Gone
D1.   Night Flight
D2.   The Wanton Song
D3.   Boogie With Stu
D4.   Black Country Woman
D5.   Sick Again

Vocals – Robert Plant
Drums – John Bonham
Bass, Organ – John Paul Jones
Producer, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar – Jimmy Page
Written-By – Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant

By 1975 no one was bigger or heavier than Zeppelin. America was punch drunk after the quadruple whammy of their first four albums, each supported by tours that went from scene-stealing support slots to stadium-filling three-hour marathons, almost overnight. Even the slightly below average (ie: one or two sub-par tracks) Houses Of The Holy (1973) hadn’t dented their reputation one jot. The world, and its attendant pleasures, was theirs for the taking. At this point most modern bands would take 5 years off and forget each others' names. What did Robert, Jimmy, John Paul and Bonzo do? Produced a double album that some still hold to be their best of all time. 
Admittedly, a fair amount of Physical Graffiti was composed of offcuts and work-in-progress from their previous two albums (cf “Houses Of The Holy”) though these were offcuts startling quality. But what really shines out is the sheer genre-defying eclecticism of it all. Far more than just a crowd-pummelling hard rock act with the world’s beefiest rhythm section, these boys were able to do everything from folk (''Bron Y Aur'') and blues ("In My Time Of Dying") to country rock ("Down By The Seaside") and barrelhouse rock 'n' roll ("Boogie With Stu"). In fact Graffiti serves pretty much as a primer of the band’s entire oeuvre. 
And amongst these flights of dexterity we get some of the band’s best-loved numbers of all-time. "Trampled Underfoot", driven by Jones’ stomping Fender Rhodes pulls off the remarkable trick of being both heavy AND funky as hell. "Custard Pie" and "The Rover" are monster axe workouts, and of course "Kashmir" is still a juggernaut of incredible power: a blend of east and west inspired by Page and Plant’s mystical wanderings and underpinned by Bonham’s legendary rumble, famously captured in all its ambient glory in the huge hallway of Headley Grange Manor. And it all came wrapped in one of those fabulously intricate die-cut sleeves that make all people of a certain age long for a return to the glory days of vinyl. 
Nick Kent’s review in the NME casually mentioned that by this point Zep could seemingly turn this stuff out in their sleep. He was right. Six years of touring and recording had honed them into an unstoppable force, but tragedy lay in wait around the corner in the form of death, drug abuse and changing tastes. But Physical Graffiti remains a towering monument to the glory of Zeppelin in their high-flying heyday.
Chris Jones / BBC

Sensible Soccers ‎– Aurora (2019)

Style: Ambient, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Not On Label (Sensible Soccers Self-Released)

01.   Como Quem Pinta
02.   Farra Lenta
03.   Elias Katana
04.   Chavitas
05.   Fenómeno De Refracção
06.   Import Export
07.   Bichos Do Soto
08.   Luziamar
09.   Um Casal Amigo
10.   Telas Na Areia

Bass, Keyboards, Synthesizer, Percussion, Drums, Voice – André Simão
Keyboards, Synthesizer, Drum Machine, Programmed By, Voice – Hugo Alfredo Gomes
Keyboards, Synthesizer, Voice – Manuel Justo
Mastered By – Miguel Pinheiro Marques
Percussion – Jorge Carvalho
Recorded By, Mixed By – João Brandão
Synthesizer, Keyboards, Voice – Sérgio Freitas
Producer – B Fachada

Torch Song ‎– Wish Thing (1984)

Style: Synth-pop
Format: Vinyl
Label: I.R.S. Records

A1.   Don't Look Now
A2.   Telepathy
A3.   Ode To Billy Joe
A4.   Another Place
B1.   Prepare To Energize
B2.   Tattered Dress
B3.   Sweet Thing
B4.   You Said You Were Coming
B5.   Water Clock Secrets

Producer – Torch Song
Written-By – Mayer, Orbit
Performer – Grant Gilbert, Laurie Mayer, William Orbit

The Torch Song debut album arrived like a strange harbinger of the future in 1984 on the least likely label to host such an act. IRS Records was a known and loved New Wave specialty label that signed and licensed many of the better bands working in the Post-Punk idiom, but they never had a penchant for what my friends and I referred to as techno in that innocent time. Synthpop bands using high technology never seemed to fit the IRS roster, which was more comfortable with quirky pop and left-field rock with a New Wave slant. 
This album was the first flowering of William Orbit’s mastery of instruments, recording and production. He plays every instrument here except for sax with Laurie Mayer adding her lilting, feminine vocals. I first saw the video for “Don’t Look Now” on IRS’ The Cutting Edge and wanted this album very strongly from that point on. It took the better part of a year until I found a promo copy of the LP in the used bins. That single lead off the album in a ceaselessly stimulating mix of over seven minutes and that’s but a teaser for the tracks that follow it. The next track, “Telepathy,” was a tour de force of mixing and cried to be heard on headphones. The climax of the song actually sounds like it is being beamed directly into the listener’s skull! 
The next track was the first of Torch Song’s left field electro cover versions. I vividly remember Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe” from the pop charts of my childhood and the notion of a deeply electronic cover version of it had never occurred to me, but it pointed to a fascinating side of William Orbit’s aesthetic influences, namely that of folk music. Most bands making such furiously electronic music wanted to be England’s Kraftwerk. Full stop. On his third album, the self titled “Orbit,” in 1987, he went all out with the only song he ever sang lead vocals on, the impressive “Cluny Ann.” That track is definitely the apotheosis of the techno-folk style that nobody ever asked for! Synthesizers, banjo and a lyric that the Carter Family would have been happy to sing. 
The closest thing to a hit single on this album was the instrumental raveup “Prepare To Energize.” This really does presage 90s techno with the proviso that its not boring and repetitive. Orbit’s directive seems to be lets make the arrangement as stimulating as possible. Trevor Horn famously opined that the arrangement of each verse of a song should stand apart from the ones that preceded it in some way. In this way the listener experienced delight at the unfolding of the song instead of boredom. Orbit reduced that down to a measure from a whole verse! 
The result was a hyperactivity of sound that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is the stylistic glue that makes me treasure the first two albums by Torch Song 28 years later. There was a third Torch Song abum, “Toward The Unknown Region,” from 1995, but that album is just another William Orbit “Strange Cargo” solo album of relatively faceless instrumental electronica. I vastly prefer Orbit’s song-oriented work as evidenced on this album and that of 1986s “Ecstasy.”
Post Punk Monk