Sun Ra-Spaceways.

The third of the trio of Sun Ra albums released for Record Store Day 2016 was Spaceways. It was released by Org Music on blue vinyl as a limited edition of 2,500.  Originally, though, Spaceways could be found on disc two of Calling Planet Earth, a three CD box set released in 1998. The five tracks on disc two became Spaceways.

It features recordings of by Sun Ra and His Arkestra from 1966 and 1968. During each performance featured on Spaceways, Sun Ra is accompanied by over twelve members of his multitalented Arkestra. They join Sun Ra as he seamlessly combines Egyptian history and space-age cosmic philosophy with freeform jazz.

For Sun Ra, the original version of the five tracks on Spaceways were merely the starting point. What they became, was anyone’s guess? Sun Ra and His Orchestra took the listener on a voyage of discovery, where they were determined to innovate, and reinvent each track. This meant his music headed in the most unexpected directions. Sometimes, it’s a roller coaster ride, and a case of expect the unexpected. After all, all Sun Ra was one of music’s mavericks who was determined to do things his way. The music becomes spacey and sometimes lysergic as Sun Ra and His Arkestra seamlessly combine Egyptian history and space-age cosmic philosophy with freeform jazz on Spaceways. It’s a potent and heady brew, that’s a memorable reminder of a musical pioneer, Sun Ra.


Ted Coleman Band-Taking Care Of Business.

By 1979, Ted Coleman was living in New Jersey, and had founded his own band, the Ted Coleman Band. They had already established a reputation locally, and were regarded as one of the rising stars of what was a thriving and eclectic local music scene. The next step for the Ted Coleman Band was to record their debut album, Taking Care Of Business, which was released by BBE. It was recorded back in 1979.

It featured a talented band who combined funk, jazz, Latin and soul. There’s even the occasional rocky guitar lick thrown in for good measure on Taking Care Of Business. Mostly, though, the music on Taking Care Of Business is funky, jazz-tinged and soulful. It’s also dance-floor friendly. This is in part to the irresistible Latin rhythms and funky rhythm section. They’re part of the multitalented Ted Coleman Band that featured on Taking Care Of Business.

Alas, when Taking Care Of Business was released in 1980, the album never found the audience it deserved. JSR  was a relatively new company, and neither had the resources nor marketing expertise to promote the album. Neither did the Ted Coleman Band. As a result, the album disappeared without trace. Nowadays, this hidden gem of an album Taking Care Of Business has acquired a cult following and is belatedly finding the audience it deserves. It’s a case of better late than never


Teenage Fanclub-Bandwagaonesque.

During 2016, HMV released Music On Vinyl’s  limited edition of  Teenage Fanclub’s third album Bandwagaonesque as part of its Vinyl Week initiative. Bandwagaonesque was released on pink vinyl twenty-five years after years after its initial release in November 1991.

Critical acclaim accompanied Bandwagonesque’s released. It was the first album to feature Teenage Fanclub’s melodic, hook-laden brand of power pop. With their Byrdsian jangling guitars and tight harmonies, Bandwagonesque stood head shoulders above A Catholic Education and The King. Granted, Teenage Fanclub could still rock out, and enjoyed the odd excursion into grunge, however, Bandwagonesque was Teenage Fanclub’s finest moment…by far. Record sales backed this up.

Bandwagonesque charted on both sides of the Atlantic and introducing the Teenage Fanclub’s music to a much wider and appreciative audience. After this, the Teenage Fanclub embarked upon the most successful period of their career. Their unique fusion of indie rock and melodic, hook-laden power pop proved popular in America, Europe and Australia. Teenage Fanclub were one of the most popular British indie bands of that era, with their music influencing a generation of new bands.  However, the Teenage Fanclub’s finest hour was Bandwagonesque, which nowadays, is quite rightly regarded as a genre classic.


Teenage Fanclub-Here.

After a six year absence, Glasgow’s very own Kings of jangle pop, Teenage Fanclub returned with their much anticipated tenth album, Here. It was the long awaited followup to 2010s Shadows. Since then, the members of Teenage Fanclub have been spending much of their time working on various side projects. Eventually, the call came, and everyone returned to the mothership, Teenage Fanclub. That has been home to the Bellshill boys since 1989. This homecoming was going to be special.

From the opening bars of I’m In Love, right through to the closing notes of Connected To Life, Teenage Fanclub never put a foot wrong. The songs are anthemic, beautiful, joyous, melodic and sometimes, even have a melancholy quality. Other times, the songs are dreamy, rocky and ruminative. Always, though, the songs on Here are memorable as Teenage Fanclub roll back the years. 

So good is the music on Here, that it’s akin to a return to Teenage Fanclub’s golden years between 1991 and 1997. Back then, Teenage Fanclub could do no wrong. That’s the case on Here, which was released on Teenage Fanclub’s own PeMa label. It’s a welcome return to form, from Teenage Fanclub who are enjoying an Indian Summer in their twenty-seven year career. Here finds Teenage Fanclub combining balladry, perfect pop and jangle pop with rock and even a hint of country. It’s a flawless fusion where Teenage Fanclub back the years on what’s their best album in nearly twenty years, Here.


The Charlatans-The Limit Of The Marvellous.

Between 1964 and 1969, The Charlatans’ star shawn bright. They were larger than life mavericks who looked like a cross between 19th Century, wild west outlaws and Victorian dandies. This carefully cultivated image soon began to prove popular with the audience at their gigs. Soon, they arrived dressed in similar attire. Meanwhile,The Charlatans were embracing the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. LSD and pot were part of The Charlatans’ diet. It fuelled The Charlatans as they took San Francisco by storm. Commercial success and critical acclaim looked a formality. It wasn’t to be.

By 1969, The Charlatans were no more. They were just the latest band that should’ve enjoyed widespread critical acclaim and commercial success. However, for whatever reason, commercial success passes these bands by. That was the case with The Charlatans whose music wa celebrated on The Limit Of The Marvellous. It was recently reissued by Big Beat Records, an imprint of Ace Records on red vinyl. It’s a fitting reminder of The Charlatans’ finest songs.

Their musical legacy amounted to one album and two singles. It features on The Limit Of The Marvellous. It’s the perfect introduction to musical mavericks The Charlatans, who having taken San Francisco by storm, should’ve found fame and fortune. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. After several breakups, makeups and changes in lineup, The Charlatans, called time on a career that promised much, but ultimately, through bad luck and misfortune, came to little.


The Damned-Machine Gun Etiquette.

By the time work began on Machine Gun Etiquette, The Damned were a democracy as far songwriting went. They wrote songs with lyrics that were clever, controversial, witty and sometimes, full of social comment. Machine Gun Etiquette found The Damned combining music from the sixties, seventies and eighties.

The Damned fused sixties garage rock, pop, punk and psychedelic rock. There was also a more experimental sound Machine Gun Etiquette. It seemed as if The Damned were in the process of finding themselves musically. Helping them to do so, was producer Roger Armstrong. He and The Damned proved a successful partnership.

So much so, that when Machine Gun Etiquette was released it was to critical acclaim. So critics called the album a classic. When Machine Gun Etiquette was released, it was certified silver and became The Damned’s most successful album. They had released one of the most accessible album and finest albums of their career, Machine Gun Etiquette which was reissued on by Ace Records.


The Damned-The Black Album.

 Having just released the most successful album of their career, and one that was hailed a classic, The Damned got to work on their fifth album. Most bands would’ve have decided to pickup where they left on Machine Gun Etiquette. However,The Damned weren’t most bands. Instead, they were about to head off on a musical journey through disparate genres.

The Black Album find The Damned moving towards goth rock, which they went on to embrace throughout the eighties. There’s also a psychedelic influence to The Black Album, as The Damned begin to move away from their punk roots. They didn’t cut the ties entirely, for fear of alienating their older fans, who had been around since The Damned released  their debut album in 1976. A lot had happened since 1976. 

Forty years later, and incredibly, The Damned are still going strong.They’ve had their ups and downs, but still keep making music and have released over thirty albums since The Black Album. However, The Black Album and its predecessor Machine Gun Etiquette are both reminders of The Damned in their prime, when they swaggered their way through albums, displaying a devil may care, rebellious attitude. This resulted in some of the most memorable music of their forty year career. Thos included the classic album Machine Gun Etiquette, and the album where The Damned came of age musically, The Black Album which featured a much more sophisticated and eclectic style.


The Idle Race-The Limit Of The Marvellous.

For many musical connoisseurs, one of the highlights of  Record Store Day 2016, was Parlophone’s reissue of The Idle Race’s sophomore album The Limit Of The Marvellous. It was the followup to The Birthday Party, and found The Idle Race continue to combine pop, rock and psychedelia. They were lead by one of the most successful musicians of the seventies, Jeff Lynne.

He wrote seven of the eleven songs on The Limit Of The Marvellous. That wasn’t his only role with The Idle Race. Jeff Lynne arranged and produced The Limit Of The Marvellous. It was heavily influenced by The Beatles.  They would continue to influence Jeff Lynne when he lead the Electric Light Orchestra. Sadly, The Limit Of The Marvellous never enjoyed anything like the success of Electric Light Orchestra. 

Indeed, none of The Idle Race’s albums were particularly successful. However, The Limit Of The Marvellous is a cohesive and accomplished album which is long on hooks. It finds Jeff Lynne maturing as a songwriter and producer, on The Limit Of The Marvellous which nowadays, is regarded as The Idle Race’s finest album.


The Pictish Trail-Future Echoes.

Four years after the release Secret Soundz Volume 2, in 2012, The Pictish Trail returned with the much-anticipated followup, Future Echoes. It was released on The Pictish Trail’s Lost Map Records, and is the first album The Pictish Trail has released since the demise of Fence Records.  However, The Pictish Trail picks up where he left off on Secret Soundz Volume 2.

Future Echoes finds The Pictish Trail combining elements of disparate genres, and weaving them into a musical tapestry. To do this, The Pictish Trail fuses folk, indie pop, dance music and electronica. Other ingredients include indie rock and even psychedelia. They become Future Echoes, an album where ballads and uptempo songs side by side. Together, they create a potent and heady musical brew. It’s akin to a journey on an emotional roller coaster.

During that journey, the songs on Future Echoes are beautiful, catchy, joyous melodic and memorable. Others are cinematic, dark, dramatic and melancholy. Very occasionally the darkness descends, and on Far Gone (Don’t Leave) the lyrics make for uneasy listening. Sometimes, The Pictish Trail heads into anthem territory, and his hook-laden songs prove irresistible. Other times, he showcases his versatility on Future Echoes’ ballads. Transformed into a balladeer, The Pictish Trail breaths meaning and emotion into the lyrics. They’re a reminder that The Pictish Trail, whose one of Scottish music’s best kept secrets, is a versatile and talented singer who seems to mature with age. 


The Sun Records Rock ’N’ Collection-40 Rockin’ Greats From The Sun Vaults.   

Last year, Sainsbury’s jumped on the burgeoning vinyl bandwagon, and have released a series of limited editions. This includes The Sun Records Rock ’N’ Collection-40 Rockin’ Greats From The Sun Vaults, which was released as a double album by Charly, and retailed exclusively through Sainsbury’s. Only 1,000 copies were pressed on 180 gram orange heavyweight vinyl. It’s a quality release and a reminder of one of the most important record labels in musical history.

It’s the label where rock ’n’ roll was born, and that was home to everyone from Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis to Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and the Silver Fox Charlie Rich. That’s not forgetting Warren Smith, The Miller Sisters, Billy Lee Riley and Earl Hooker. They all feature on The Sun Records Rock ’N’ Collection-40 Rockin’ Greats From The Sun Vaults. Some of their best known tracks feature on this double album, and will be instantly recognisable to music lovers of all ages. They’re joined by some hidden gems from the Sun Records’ back-catalogue. It’s a captivating compilation.

For newcomers to Sun Records, The Sun Records Rock ’N’ Collection-40 Rockin’ Greats From The Sun Vaults, it’s the perfect starting place for anyone whose yet to discover the delights of Sun Records. This should be part of their musical education. After all, Sun Records was one of the most important labels in the history of music.


The Velvet Underground-Loaded-Vinyl.

During 2016 limited edition vinyl pressings were all the rage. One of the albums rereleased by HMV as a limited edition was The Velvet Underground’s fourth album Loaded. This classic album that was meant to be “loaded with hits.” Instead, it proved to be The Velvet Underground’s swan-song. However, it was no ordinary swan-song.

Most critics were won over by Loaded. It followed in the footsteps of The Velvet Underground, which showcased a much more populist, commercial sound. Among  Loaded’s highlights were the hook-laden, Sweet Jane and Rock and Roll. When Loaded was released, it failed commercially. Alas, the album wasn’t: “loaded with hits.” However, Loaded  deserved to fare better. Especially as The Velvet Underground had sacrificed and suppressed their true sound to deliver an “album loaded with hits.” 

While Loaded wan’t an “album loaded with hits,” it had everything going for it. It benefited from a much more commercial sound, and plethora of hooks. This meant that Loaded was The Velvet Underground’s most accessible album. It was also their swan-song. However, The Velvet Underground left behind a rich legacy. That’s despite only recording four studio albums. Each is a classic. From The Velvet Underground and Nico to Loaded, each album features shamanistic performances from those musical shape shifters and high priests of music, The Velvet Underground.


Tom Arthurs and Isambard Khroustaliov-Vaucanson’s Muse.

Buoyed by the success of their critically acclaimed tour, Tom Arthurs and Isambard Khroustaliov entered the studio and recorded Vaucanson’s Muse back in November 2013. However, it was nearly three years before the album was released in late October 2016. Vaucanson’s Muse which was released via Not Applicable’s Bandcamp Page was well worth the three year wait.

From the opening bars of On A Carpet Of Leaves Illuminated By The Moon, right through to the closing notes of Sea Interval,  Tom Arthurs and Isambard Khroustaliov push musical boundaries. To do this, they combine elements of ambient, avant-garde, experimental and improvised music. The result is music that’s variously cinematic, edgy, eerie, futuristic, melodic, melancholy and ruminative. It’s also music that’s guaranteed to set the listener’s mind racing, as Tom Arthurs and Isambard Khroustaliov take the listener on a sonic voyage of discovery.

All the listener has to do, is submit to the music, and enjoy its nuances, subtleties and its plentiful supply of surprises. If they do, they will be richly rewarded. Vaucanson’s Muse finds two musical innovators uniting, to create a groundbreaking album of music, where Tom Arthurs and Isambard Khroustaliov follow in the footsteps of the pioneers of graphic scores.


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