Sunday, 15 November 2020

Thompson Twins ‎– Into The Gap (1984)

Style: Synth-pop, Vocal, Pop Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Arista

1.   Doctor! Doctor!
2.   You Take Me Up
3.   Day After Day
4.   Sister Of Mercy
5.   No Peace For The Wicked
6.   The Gap
7.   Hold Me Now
8.   Storm On The Sea
9.   Who Can Stop The Rain

Lyrics By – Alannah Currie
Synthesizer, Congas, Backing Vocals – Joe Leeway
Percussion, Marimba, Xylophone, Backing Vocals – Alannah Currie
Vocals, Synthesizer, Double Bass, Harmonica, Guitar, Drum Programming – Tom Bailey
Written-By, Arranged By – Alannah Currie, Joe Leeway, Tom Bailey
Producer – Alex Sadkin, Tom Bailey

This was the band’s big breakthrough LP in the USA after it was released in 1984. If you want a slice of pure new wave pop, then Into the Gap cannot be bettered. Not because the album was a jolly good sing-along, comprising catchy, well constructed ditties (which it was and remains so) but because so many ideas were utilised to create it. Side A alone offered two hits, the happy go lucky You Take Me Up. If ever a song could not make you smile wide enough then this was it. Packed with percussion and heavy on harmonica, this single only followed another that many a drunks would have sung at full pelt after a satisfying evening, Doctor Doctor!

As each well crafted song follows another, you realise that this is LP has just been waiting to happen. Whether that’s been based on a merging of talents, the maturing of ideas or the conjunction of the stars, there really isn’t a bad track on this classic LP.

There’s no time to relax though because, on Side 2, there are two more magnificent singles to face including The Gap that interweaves eastern flavours and the iconic Hold Me Now, the band’s biggest hit. A unique piece of pop, offering excellent lyrics and rhythms.

Pressed on blue vinyl, this edition is a tour de force from Vinyl 180. The amount of varied percussion on Your Take Me Up, for example, is ripe for veiling in the midrange areas but the mastering provides so much air and space in this part of the frequency spectrum that your ears easily discern even the most subtle of secondary percussive effects. Hold Me Now, in addition, includes a ratchet percussive effect during the song. It’s a very subtle yet effective part of the introduction but the mastering here gives it room to talk and do so very effectively. Lovely stuff.
Paul Rigby / The Audiophile Man

Zara McFarlane ‎– Songs Of An Unknown Tongue (2020)

Genre: Jazz, Funk / Soul, Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Brownswood Recordings

Tracklist :
01.   Everything Is Connected 
02.   Black Treasure 
03.   My Story 
04.   Broken Water 
05.   Saltwater 
06.   Run of Your Life 
07.   State of Mind 
08.   Native Nomad 
09.   Roots of Freedom 
10.   Future Echoes

Written-By – Zara McFarlane
Effects – Jah Reverb, Ras Phaser
Producer – Kwake Bass, Wu-Lu
Arranged By – Jah Reverb, Ras Phaser, Zara McFarlane

It takes courage for a musician to depart from a successful recipe to the extent that the British singer and songwriter Zara McFarlane does on Songs of An Unknown Tongue. The disc is not a complete shift from the paradigm of her three previous albums, but it is a radical spin on it.

First, what has changed. McFarlane's last album, Arise (Brownswood, 2017) was, like its predecessors, an acoustic set played by a band drawn from McFarlane's fellow luminaries on the new London jazz scene. These included guitarist Shirley Tetteh, trombonist Nathaniel Cross, tenor saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd, who was also the producer. Horn arrangements, written by McFarlane, were features of most tracks. Songs of An Unknown Tongue, on the other hand, is fundamentally an electronic set and is played by a wholly new lineup of musicians. These include multi-instrumentalists Kwake Bass and Wu-Lu, who are also the producers and arrangers. Horns, played by Soothsayers' founders saxophonist Idris Rahman and trumpeter Robin Hopcraft , are included on just two of the ten tracks.

Next, what is unchanged. McFarlane's spellbinding, crystalline voice continues to be acoustically recorded and reproduced and the primary focus of attention. Her lyrics, as before, are strong on message and relate to the experience of being a black person in Britain, touching on race, identity and the legacy of colonialism.

McFarlane's performances aside, what binds Arise and Songs of An Unknown Tongue together is her embrace of her Jamaican heritage. What makes them distinct from each other is how that heritage is referenced in the material, lyrically and instrumentally. Born and brought up in London, McFarlane made an extended trip to Jamaica in 2018, when she penetrated further into the country's folk culture and spiritual traditions than she had been able to do on previous, shorter visits. She devoted much of her time to researching the African-derived rhythms that shape the country's folk music. On her return to London she worked with Wu-Lu and Kwake Bass to present them in a modern electro-acoustic context.

On the new album, McFarlane addresses the iniquities of empire head on. Penultimate track "Roots Of Freedom," for instance, talks about "revolution" and even "retribution"—when the British empire finally banned slavery, compensation was paid, not to the slaves, but, incredibly, to the slave owners. There is anger here and it is justified. But Songs of An Unknown Tongue is not a bitter album. It looks forward to a brighter future while acknowleding the past and confronting present. It is deep, immaculately crafted and beautiful.
Chris May / All About Jazz

The Fun Boy Three ‎– The Fun Boy Three (1982)

Style:  New Wave, Ska, Synth-pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Chrysalis, Cherry Pop

01.   Sanctuary
02.   Way On Down
03.   The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum
04.   Life In General (Lewe In Algemeen)
05.   Faith, Hope And Charity
06.   Funrama 2
07.   Best Of Luck Mate
08.   T'Aint What You Do (It's The Way That You Do It)
09.   The Telephone Always Rings
01.   I Don't Believe It
11.   Alone
Additional Tracks:
12.   Just Do It
13.   The Funrama Theme (Extended Version)
14.   Summertime (Extended Version)
15.   Summer Of '82
16.   The Telephone Always Rings (Extended Version)
17.   The Alibi (The Station's Full Of Pipes)

Horns – Dick Cuthell
Instruments, Vocals, Arranged By – The Fun Boy Three
Performer (Co-starring) – Bananarama
Performer (Starring) – Lynval Golding, Neville Staples, Terry Hall
Producer – Dave Jordan, The Fun Boy Three

"Where do we go from here, what kind of sound do we follow?" muses Terry Hall on "Way on Down," a track from the Fun Boy Three's eponymous debut album. It was a question on numerous lips, ever since Hall and his fellow ex-Specials Neville Staples and Lynval Golding announced the formation of their new group. It's doubtful that anyone came even close to the correct answer. The album was built firmly around tribal drumming, whose percussive possibilities were inspiring a number of groups at the time. Most notably, Adam Ant had merged the beats with a Gary Glitter stomp and a military tattoo, and was now riding the rhythms toward world domination. The Boys, however, were taking the same African influence in an entirely different, and even more innovative, direction. Most surprisingly, or perhaps not, considering the size of their former band, was how minimalistic the music was. Many of the songs were stripped down to bare vocals and percussion, while even those tracks which did sport other instruments mostly utilized them as mere embellishments around the showcased rhythms. Long before modern rap and techno placed all its focus on the beats, the Boys were diligently working around this same concept. In fact, the album on occasion brought to light the direct link between African beats and American hip-hop; elsewhere it foreshadowed the rise of jungle, and even hinted at progressive house and techno-trance. At the same time, the vocalists created their own rhythm, which cunningly counterpoints the main beats. The band used both vocals and rhythms to explode genre boundaries, as "Sanctuary" beautifully illustrates. Beginning as an exercise in African choral singing, it subtly evolves into a Gregorian chant, all the while pulsating with pounding tribal drumming. It says much about the state of the British music scene of the time that such innovative music was not only accepted, but reveled in. Three of the album's tracks -- "The Lunatics," "It Ain't What You Do It's the Way That You Do It," and "The Telephone Always Rings" -- snaked their way into the U.K. Top 20. The album pulsated all the way number seven. It also introduced the world to Bananarama, who provided backing vocals on many of the record's tracks. "One of the most wonderful recordings of our time," the album sleeve boldly stated, and it was absolutely true.
Jo-Ann Greene / AllMusic

Fun Boy Three ‎– Waiting (1983)

Genre: Rock, Pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Chrysalis

01.   Murder She Said
02.   The More I See (The Less I Believe)
03.   Going Home
04.   We're Having All The Fun
05.   The Farm Yard Connection
06.   The Tunnel Of Love
07.   Our Lips Are Sealed
08.   The Pressure Of Life (Takes The Weight Off The Body)
09.   Things We Do
10.   Well Fancy That!

Bass, Vocals – Bethan Peters
Cello – Caroline Lavelle
Cornet – Dick Cuthell
Drums, Vocals – June Miles-Kingston
Guitar – David Byrne
Keyboards, Vocals – Nicky Holland
Percussion – Geraldo D'Arbilly
Trombone – Annie Whitehead
Vocals – Ingrid Schroeder
Producer – David Byrne
Arranged By – Fun Boy Three, Nicky Holland
Written-By – The Fun Boy Three, J. Wiedlin, R. Goodwin

For fans bowled over by their debut disc's heady and minimalist mix of tribal percussion, expressionist camp, and distinctly un-ska-like songs (scant residuals here from the trio's time with the Specials), Fun Boy Three's second album, Waiting, with its slicker production and decidedly more pop-flavored sound, was probably something of a shock. But what an enjoyable jolt it was. Along with the Terry Hall-penned "Our Lips Are Sealed" (also a Go-Go's hit), other highlights include the cinematically tango-tinged "Things We Do" and the spookily playful "We're Having All the Fun." The disc also features plenty of the band's wry and spot-on lyrics, which range from the comical strains of the ganja cut "Farm Yard Connecting" to an account of child molestation in "Fancy That." Topped off with David Byrne's fine production work, Waiting ranks way beyond the second-rate status it often gets saddled with.
Stephen Cook / AllMusic