Sunday, August 14, 2005

Jukebox Juicebox #2

Longview “Mercury / Subversions”
This has been around for a couple of years, though I was completely ignorant of the band and album until reviews of Subversions caught my attention. A remix album accompanying a re-release of the original, this was admittedly the draw for me, featuring reworks by Ulrich Schnauss, Mogwai, Andy Votel, Elbow and Jacknife Lee. That and the fact that the CD was lining the Virgin Megastore bargain bins before a renewed marketing assault propelled Longview back into the charts. The cover sticker proudly claims that Mercury is reminiscent of Joshua Tree-era U2, whilst an on-line review has labelled Longview a pale imitation of Embrace. Certainly, in the former, there’s the same bombast and over production, but sadly none of the lyrical intelligence or breadth. Rob McVey’s lyrics and vocal delivery are simple and direct, which is no bad thing in itself. However, the weighty songs suggest an equal lyrical import, and the lack of invention both disappoints and grates after a while. For all that, Subversions shows the songs in a much different (and more positive) light. Admittedly, four of the nine tracks are instrumental, but the vocal versions of album standout Further, plus Can’t Explain, Will You Wait Here and I Would benefit from the (at times, significantly) restructured melodies. Mercury isn’t really awful, just unmemorable, especially when there are similar bands producing better work. However, Subversions shows that a musical spark is in there somewhere. Hopefully, the 2nd album will learn from this.

Grace Jones “Private Life: The Compass Point Sessions”
A 26-track 2CD collection, covering Jones’ 1980-82 work with Chris Blackwell, Alex Sadkin and Sly & Robbie, with the addition of 1985’s Trevor Horn and Stephen Lipson produced Slave To The Rhythm. The majority of these tracks and versions are previously unreleased or unavailable on CD, but provide a fascinating overview of Jones’ incredibly strong body of work. Opening with vocal and dub versions of Chrissie Hynde’s Private Life, Jones’ ability to reinterpret (and ultimately own) other people’s songs continues with Roxy Music’s Love Is The Drug, Bill Withers’ Use Me, Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control, taking in Demolition Man by The Police and Nightclubbing by Iggy Pop along the way and including an unearthed demo of Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire. As good as these are, Jones’ own songs, such as Pull Up To The Bumper, Nipple To The Bottle, My Jamaican Guy and Living My Life more than hold their own. Sly & Robbie’s drum and bass lead an incredibly tight band and it’s hard to imagine how this album could sound better. One small gripe about the inclusion of Slave To The Rhythm. Although a great song in it’s own right, it’s mid-80s, characteristically Trevor Horn/ZTT sound make it an incongruous, glossy add-on to an otherwise dub-inflected set. The gorgeously illustrated CD booklet includes an engrossing piece by music writer Brian Chin. If you’re a Grace Jones fan, you should already have this. For anyone else, get it now, you won’t be disappointed.

Horace Andy “Good Vibes”
There are plenty of Horace Andy compilations out there, but this one takes the unusual step of segueing vocal and dub versions of key Andy tracks from his productive 1975-78 period. Hearing Skylarking followed by King Tubby’s A Better Version or Youths Of Today linked with Prince Jammy’s Jah Youths never feels repetitive, with the extended ‘discomix’ of both Mr. Bassie and Pure Ranking also welcome additions. Andy’s voice is in fine form throughout and it’s easy to understand why Massive Attack subsequently considered him to be a crucial aspect of their sound. The sleeve notes provide an informative overview of Andy’s career, but are lacking in detail about the featured tracks themselves. Apart from that, this is yet another excellent collection from the Blood And Fire stable.

Magazine “Secondhand Daylight”
My first introduction to Magazine was through my brother’s cassette copy of posthumous compilation After The Fact. As a 12-year old, the band didn’t have an immediate impact on me, though I was intrigued by the titles, such as Shot By Both Sides and A Song From Under The Floorboards. My interest in the band was rekindled by bassist Barry Adamson’s 1980s solo work, and a further Magazine CD compilation, Rays And Hail. Secondhand Daylight was my first – and only vinyl – Magazine purchase (in 1992) and, though I have subsequently reappraised their work, this holds a special place in my heart. Lost for many years, I’ve since purchased it again on CD, which has given me the chance to appreciate this 1979 classic over again. It’s almost impossible to fault this record, from the opening Feed The Enemy to the epic closer Permafrost. The sequencing is spot on, with the complex structure of the first track balanced by the more direct Rhythm Of Cruelty, whilst the stuttering false endings of I Wanted Your Heart lead neatly into original Side Two instrumental The Thin Air. The aforementioned Permafrost remains a personal favourite, but it’s hard to single this out when the other eight tracks are so good. I’ve since realised that Magazine were incapable of making a bad album, so their entire back catalogue is recommended, but Secondhand Daylight would be an excellent introduction.