Author Topic: An Album a Week  (Read 1955 times)

westendboy

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Re: An Album a Week
« Reply #30 on: 25 April, 2022, 08:35:19 am »
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    Tony Hadley was supposed to perform on our shores but sadly the pandemic happened and it was postponed indefinitely. I have no idea if the concert even happened eventually.

    Hadley was of course the former frontman of Spandau Ballet who gave us so many monster hits that ruled the airwaves in the 80s like “True”, “Through the Barricades” and “Gold”. I can’t remember how many times I put “True” in the mixed tapes I made for girls (and one boy). The song practically begs for a collision of lips and other parts of the human anatomy. Much later on I discovered SACDs (super audio compact discs) and I had to pay a bomb to get this album off eBay, but it was worth it the moment I played it in my hifi.

    True is Spandau Ballet’s third album. Released in 1983, this one made them bonafide superstars. Heavily influenced by jazz, soul and R&B, it is the perfect amalgamation. Listening to it again feels like a nostalgia head trip to 1983, my 1983 when studies weren’t that important (I just wanted to pass to get to the next level) and immersion in everything pop culture was my lifeline.

    The singles from the album included “Gold”, “Lifeline”, “Communication”, “Pleasure” and of course, “True”. One of my favourites which wasn’t released as a single is “Heaven is a Secret”.







    Another reason why the 80s rule in terms of music is the remixes. I seldom hear good remixes these days and most remixes just throw some EDM to the song for the dancefloor. Spandau Ballet had one incredible 12” remix of “Gold”. Take a listen and tell me you don’t get goosebumps when the beat drops.



    I just love Britpop from the 80s. The bands and singers put so much effort in their look on top of their music. Ultimately, it is their music that stands the test of time.

    Spandau Ballet would hit caustic and acrimonious times in the 90s which led to a drawn out court case and breakup. The band would reform in 2009 with an acoustic album of their greatest hits called Once More which I thought was really good. I once played it softly in the background while meeting parents of my students and one dad came up to me and said the music was really good. I had no idea someone was listening. Perhaps that was the reason no parent gave me a hard time. This is the acoustic version of “True” and there are lots of gems in there.



    Sadly, in 2017 Tony Hadley announced his departure from the band and the band has found another lead singer, but who cares… Hadley was the voice of Spandau Ballet for me.
    « Last Edit: 25 April, 2022, 08:43:47 am by westendboy »
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    AndrewC

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    Re: An Album a Week
    « Reply #31 on: 26 April, 2022, 07:24:56 am »
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  • ... I can’t remember how many times I put “True” in the mixed tapes I made for girls (and one boy). ...


    “Gender-fluid” in your youth were you? Hahahaha….


    My favourite sample of True (they even featured Tony on the vid);

    RIP Prince Be.



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    westendboy

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    Re: An Album a Week
    « Reply #32 on: 02 May, 2022, 09:03:07 am »
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    It’s time to share my first break-up album.

    The year was 1988 and I was knee-deep into the second year of my army stint serving it on the island of Pulau Tekong. Those were the time of pay phones and pagers. It was tough to maintain a relationship on a pay phone when there was always a queue of lovesick soldiers waiting to use the telephone. It was even harder because she was already in the university and life was probably more exciting for her. We said our final goodbyes on the same telephone on the godforsaken island but I remember I didn’t want it to end without trying something. So that weekend when I landed on the shores of mainland I made a trip to Chinatown, to Singapore’s cheapest music stall, and bought Tracy Chapman’s debut on cassette because I wanted the right music to help me pen a letter. I can’t remember what I wrote, only that it was long and I was trying to channel Tracy Chapman’s sincerity and storytelling sensibilities. I made a trip to Bukit Merah and put it in her mailbox.

    It didn’t work.

    A few days later her elder sister met me and told me it was over on her sister’s behalf. I remember she bought me an ice cream to cushion the blow. I have no idea why I remember the ice cream so distinctly, maybe it’s the cruel juxtaposition as I love ice cream. Whenever I play Tracy Chapman lovely memories will flood my mind and I will think back to that year with fondness.

    These days Tracy Chapman’s debut self-titled album is mainly remembered for “Fast Car”. It is a great song especially when you switch on your radio and all you hear are derivative pop songs jostling to grab your attention. “Fast Car” demonstrates that music is another way to tell a story. The song depicts a heartbreaking story about a woman mired in the vagaries of life and getting thrown to the sidelines by her lover.





    I must have listened to “Baby Can I Hold You” on repeat that fateful day I was writing that letter. The words are so simple and Chapman’s singing conjures so much sincerity and truth. No bells, no whistle, no rah-de-la, just that raw emotion shining through.

    These two songs are the ones that are hugely popular, but the album is more than just these two hits. With her debut, Tracy Chapman sings about social injustice, ills, disintegration and domestic violence. Anyone can tell you that is a recipe for failure, but the album was hugely successful, winning Chapman the 1988 Grammy Awards for ‘Best Contemporary Folk Album’, ‘Best New Artiste’ and ‘Best Female Pop Vocal Performance’. It opens with a statement of intent with “Talkin’ About a Revolution” that ‘people are going to rise up and take what’s theirs’.



    There’s another gem in the a cappella “Behind the Wall” where you can really hear her emote her disdain for the police. The storytelling is powerful. It is impossible to listen to it without the scenes of domestic violence and the inaptitude of the police playing at the back of your mind. I also like “If Not Now…” which is about grabbing life by the horns and living in the moment.

    The album’s instrumentation is so simple and the production has no embellishment. The formula is simply to put Tracy Chapman front and centre and let her tell her heartfelt stories. I will always have a fondness for Tracy Chapman not just because it is a signpost to my life but also because it is an important and a necessary album.
    « Last Edit: 02 May, 2022, 12:11:29 pm by westendboy »
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    westendboy

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    Re: An Album a Week
    « Reply #33 on: 09 May, 2022, 07:26:06 am »
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    I can’t remember the year, it has to be the early 2000s, I was in a Bible study group doing a series on the book of Revelation. When it ended, my friend and Bible teacher asked me if I could write about what I have learned and the article would be published in a Christian magazine. I said sure with no idea what I would write, so I needed a launching pad and U2’s The Joshua Tree came to mind. I can’t remember what I wrote but I do remember I bookended the piece with lyrics from “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found I’m Looking For”. I also distinctly remember my friend love the article because nobody wrote in that manner. Now I wish I had kept a copy of the magazine.

    The Joshua Tree is the fifth album by Irish rock band U2. Produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, it was released in March of 1987. With this album, the band went from wannabes to heroes to rock gods. The album sounded like nothing from their preceding four albums. Suffused with spiritual imagery, arena-filling melodies and The Edge’s gorgeous guitar riffs, the album is greatly influenced by the mythical America, filled with sociopolitical spines, rumination on the vast landscape, its ideals on freedom and its fascination with violence.

    I remember strutting down Orchard Road with this album blasting in my headphones. The words from “Where the Streets Have No Name” are so inspiring and they emboldened me: “I want to run / I want to hide / I want to tear down the walls / That hold me inside / I want to reach out / And touch the flame / Where the streets have no name”. Bono’s poetry paints such vivid pictures.









    These four songs are practically staples for their concerts. The Joshua Tree is a bonafide masterpiece but personally I find the album just a tad imbalance with the first half so potent with a grandiosity that is unmatched by the second half. And since I am nitpicking, I own a few pressings of the album including the remastered 20th anniversary boxset, but sonically from an audiophile’s standpoint the recording just doesn’t cut it. The soundscape doesn’t seem to open up and the recording lacks clarity. From a technical standpoint, the album doesn’t reach the musical aspirations of the album. God forbid my hifi is crap. Please tell me I am not wrong. Here’s hoping the next pressing will be the ultimate one.

     
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    westendboy

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    Re: An Album a Week
    « Reply #34 on: 16 May, 2022, 09:33:30 am »
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    Before Purple Rain, Prince was an enigma, a larger-than-life persona wrapped up in some gaudy garb that only he could pull off. Only he could put on eye-liner, donned lace and still project masculinity and sexuality. I thought of him as a drug-addled sex addict, preferring to let his music do the talking. When “Little Red Corvette” from 1999 was banned in my country, it further added to his mysticism. I was never a huge fan of funk, but he made it accessible. But when Purple Rain, his sixth studio album, dropped in 1984 I embraced the genre like it was my bosom friend.

    It’s hard to believe Purple Rain was his sixth album. Most artistes would have found their little cosy corner early on and don’t sway too much from that spot, but not Prince. He constantly innovated and refined his sound, and it isn’t far-fetched to think his first five albums were rehearsals for the superlative act that was to come. With Purple Rain, Prince went from respectable venues to glorified stadiums.

    There is an accompanying film also titled Purple Rain which starred Prince and members of his band. It is a very entertaining film, far from a masterpiece, but it serves to encapsulate Prince’s music. It’s part bio-pic, part concert film and part music video, with lots of family melodrama and romantic rivalry thrown in for good measure. Together with the movie, the album features Prince at the height of his game where all his musical gifts coalesce for one incredible 9-track album that is instantly memorable once heard.

    Who can forget the opening salvo of “Let’s Go Crazy”, the risqué lyrics of “Darling Nikki”, the bass devoid but unique sound of “When Doves Cry”, the self-sacrifial declaration in “I Would Die 4 U” and the masterful gospel-like closer “Purple Rain”? This was Prince at the top of his game with an album for the ages. He would reach for the sky again with Sign o’ the Times in 1987 but that’s a story for another day.






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    westendboy

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    Re: An Album a Week
    « Reply #35 on: 23 May, 2022, 10:52:49 am »
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    Yes, it is autographed by Boy George! That fateful evening in December of 2017, I was so awestruck I forgot to ask the rest of the band to sign it. Culture Club’s second album, Colour By Numbers, is one of my all-time favourites and it is also their most successful.

    Culture Club’s Colour By Numbers touchdown at the tail end of 1983 and found me at the cusp of my misspent adolescence. I was recently reminiscing in a WhatsApp group with 128 members, all guys from my secondary school, about our craze for music then. I have fond memories of my friend listening to Top of the Pop with one earphone while the lesson was going on and scribbling down the latest British charts. Sometimes he would excuse himself to the toilet for 30 minutes! He would write out the latest Top 20 and the chart would be pasted on the notice board at the back of the classroom. At times some of the entries would be some gibberish because he couldn’t make out the words. Once the lesson was done, everyone would flock to the back and at recess time guys from the other classes would pop over to check out the charts. Those 4 years are the era of New Wave and I don’t care what you think, I think the 80s are the best years for music. Boy George came out looking all androgynous as a drag queen but nobody bothered, everyone only cared about their music, and when “Karma Chameleon” arrived like a thunderclap we lapped it up like it’s our favourite ice cream.

    Colours By Numbers in my book is a pop masterpiece. Their first album Kissing to be Clever (1982) spawned 3 solid singles: “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?”, “Time (Clock of the Heart)” and “Ill Tumble 4 Ya”) but the rest of the album were disposable fillers. On the other hand, Colour By Numbers has no fillers, each track could have been released as a single. That is how strong the album is.

    However, simply describing Colour By Numbers as a pop masterpiece would be a mistake. Boy George has said the album was the soundtrack to his tumultuous romantic relationship with drummer Jon Moss, all of it which was hidden from public view. With that in mind, the words to the deliriously happy songs take on a whole new layer. For example in “Karma Chameleon” it goes: “I heard you say that my love was an addiction / When we cling, our love is strong / When you go, you’re gone forever, you string along” and “Every day is like survival / You’re my lover, not my rival.” In an interview with Rolling Stones, Boy George said: “Now people can understand the songs better. They were written about my relationship with Jon, and they were also written about being a gay man in a homophobic world. I was selling this big lie.”











    One of my fave tracks is a B-side to a single that I can’t even remember what it was. The song is actually the namesake of the album and I have no idea why it isn’t on the album. Other than “Karma Chameleon” this is the track I listened to the most. I remember after dinner I would adjourn to my crappy hifi and listen to this track on my cheapo headphones with my speaker also blaring the same track. I just love the airy ambience and I still get goosebumps when the instrumental section comes on. The drums sound gorgeous. It will be years later that I would discover that there are expensive headphones that could create this elusive ambience, but I will always love my way better. The words to the song are beautiful: “When I looked in your eyes / Felt the spirit of man / Demanding more than just a smile / Took a chance for a while / Speaking in tongues / That float us down rivers / The past will remind us / All colours we chose.”



    The band would hang on for two more albums but they never could reach the height of Colours By Numbers. The pressure of fame, the tension from the band and the breakup between Boy George and Jon Moss, all would sound the death knell for the band. It was a good thing they reunited for a slew of nostalgia laden concerts back in 2017 but the crowd that evening was quite miserable. They deserved better. No matter what, we will always have Colours By Numbers.

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    westendboy

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    Re: An Album a Week
    « Reply #36 on: 30 May, 2022, 07:33:39 am »
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    A-ha was one of the first casualties of the concert scene in Singapore back in 2020 due to the coronavirus proliferation. It would have been held at the Turf Club and it would be the first time A-ha would perform here. I was at that time still coaxing the missus to go with me and had not gotten my tickets yet. Still, there was a tinge of disappointment it was not to be.

    If you were into the music scene in 1985, you would no doubt be head-bopping to “Take On Me”. Few songs have reached the level of zeitgeist and this one entered the collective consciousness of the world. Not many people knew that the song was originally released in 1984 reaching #3 in their native Norway but never charting anywhere else. There was an accompanying video:



    While recording their debut album Hunting High and Low, the band re-recorded “Take On Me” with a new video that frankly turned the world upside down with its innovation and creativity. Directed by Steve Barron, the video is a plot-driven amalgamation of live-action and rotoscope-style animation. With this video “Take On Me” became a worldwide hit:



    It is always hard to know how a song can be worldwide hit but I feel the clever video helped it tremendously. It was on heavy rotation on MTV and everywhere I go I hear the infectious keyboard refrain of the song.

    The trio, composed of lead vocalist Morten Harket, guitarist Paul Waaktaar-Savoy (then known as Pål Waaktaar) and keyboardist Magne Furuholmen, formed in 1982 and left Norway for London in order to make a career in music. “We were trying to think of what to call themselves, focusing on Norwegian words people could say in English.” They jettisoned that idea when Morten spotted a song called “A-ha” in Waaktaar’s songbook. “It was a terrible song but a great name,” said Morten and that’s the story how they came to be called A-ha.

    Hunting High and Low is an impressive debut and in my book there are no fillers. It spawned 5 hits but really… it is an amazingly cohesive album and the quintessential 80s New Wave and synth-pop album. While writing this up I listened to the remastered 20th anniversary 2-CD album on repeat and you know what… it hasn’t aged a single bit.

    My favourite song on the album wasn’t “Take On Me”; it was “The Sun Always Shines on TV”, in my humble opinion, the masterpiece on the album. Yes, it’s campy but so was “Take On Me”. This is A-ha going epic and you need to listen to this loud.



    “Love is Reason” and “Train of Thought” have that inescapable 80s feel and they feel like time machine songs to the 80s, my 80s.





    Then comes the only ballad in the album, “Hunting High and Low” and it’s such a gorgeous song. The orchestration elements blend so well with the song and I still get goosebumps when it hits the instrumental break.



    Just for completeness, I will include the acoustic version of “Take On Me” and “The Sun Always Shines on TV” performed on MTV Unplugged recently. Harket’s falsetto is still in fine form. I don’t know about you but I always think those 80s fast-paced songs when sung in an unplugged manner become the world’s saddest songs.





    With A-ha’s Hunting High and Low I have hit the halfway mark of my little creative exercise. It has been very fun revisiting all these albums that I held so dear and most of the time I have no idea what album I will be showcasing until the time to write comes. I still have a few 80s albums I want to share before I hit the 90s era and the 2000s. See ya next week.



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    boxerfan88

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    An Album a Week
    « Reply #37 on: 30 May, 2022, 07:38:58 am »
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  • Nostalgic read…


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    westendboy

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    Re: An Album a Week
    « Reply #38 on: 06 June, 2022, 09:26:35 am »
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    I have hit the halfway mark of my little creative exercise. My plan has always been to showcase 50 of my favourite albums. It would be easy to do a 100 but I think 50 would really make me choose wisely the albums that have been my “best friends”.

    Johnny Hates Jazz’s fabulous 1988 debut Turn Back the Clock is chockfull of infectious hits. There is not a single weak song here, every one of them could have been released as a single. The opening salvo from the album was the monster hit “Shattered Dreams” with a video directed by David Fincher.



    Technically, the first single released was “Me and My Foolish Heart” on RAK Records, which became “Foolish Heart” when the debut album was released on Virgin Records 1988. Altogether, there were six singles and four were Top 20 hits in the UK. It was one helluva slick album, with grooves that became ear worms for me.









    Oh boy… “Turn Back the Clock” always does it for me. It has that elusive magical quality that can do what the title purports to do – turn back the clock. The melancholy is so palpable.

    Turn Back the Clock was such a superb herald of a new band, but at the tail end of 1988, after such massive success on both sides of the Atlantic, frontman Clark Datchler left the band and with it, the heart and soul of the band was gone. The band would release one more album which was unsuccessful and the band was dissolved, but as things would have it, Clark Datchler returned in 2009 and the journey began again, but they would never hit the heights of Turn Back the Clock.

    They were touring just before the world was hit by the pandemic and I nearly went to the concert. For some reason I didn’t go, probably because they didn’t have a reservoir of songs and the tickets cost a pretty penny. While writing this, with the album playing in the background, I do feel a pinch of regret.

    For the 30th anniversary of the album, the band pulled out all the stops. It comes as a deluxe 3-CD digi-pak. The original album has been remastered and sounds excellent to my amateur ears. The third CD contains all the B-sides, demos and extended mixes. The second CD is actually quite cool – it’s the original album redone in acoustic stylings. I like this a lot and in an alternate reality, I can totally envision Johnny Hates Jazz playing the entire album with this jazzy vibe. I was playing “Shattered Dreams” the other day and my wife popped out of the kitchen singing the chorus. Then she asked me: “How come I know this song?” See if you like the unplugged version, but I have to tell you that this deluxe album is out of print. Well… there is always Spotify and the others, but it’s not for me. I preferred to hold and own the music.





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    westendboy

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    Re: An Album a Week
    « Reply #39 on: 13 June, 2022, 07:24:14 am »
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    Brothers in Arms is the fifth studio album by British rock band Dire Straits, released on 17 May 1985. I remember the MTV video of “Money For Nothing” was in huge rotation and it was one of the soundtracks to my life in 1985. The album was a monster success and it made them superstars.

    Many years later, just after the 20th anniversary album was released on SACD, the album would again feature in my life. I was just a baby on my audiophile journey and was invited to a dude’s place for a CD player shootout. It sounded fun and I was tasked with bringing along my Oppo 93. Some other guys were contributing their Oppo 95 and Oppo 83SE if I remember correctly. All the machines were hooked up to some eye-popping setup that probably cost upwards of a princely 5-figure sum and the whole thing was essentially a blind test. The host decided on using the title track “Brothers in Arms” for the shootout. Yes, he actually has 3 Brothers in Arms SACDs! So he would play a minute of the track on each of the CD players randomly and we would have to rank them according to soundstage, details, tone and musicality. My goodness, it was the first time I heard those nouns in this manner and I remembered I didn’t want to sound like a wet-behind-the-ears amateur and tried not to mess up my test. These audiophiles really take their hobby seriously and their passion was so contagious. That was a really fun day and it was officially my first dive into the bottomless lake of being an audiophile.

    The album was way more than just the melancholic sweep of “Brothers in Arms”. It opens with Mark Knopfler’s sweet guitar riff to “So Far Away” and you sit back thinking you can relax. But no, it segues to the monster anthem “Money For Nothing” that just screams for attention. With Sting’s mannered backing vocals, the song defined 1985. The song speaks about rock star excess and the carefree life it brings as opposed to real work. Fun fact: Knopfler wrote the song after overhearing a conversation between delivery men complaining about their hard life while watching MTV in a department store. Knopfler wrote the initial lyrics at the store and the lyrics featured many of the stuff that was said.

    Then there is the oldie-sounding rock-out “Walk of Life” and the saxophone opening of “Your Latest Trick” is just so ravishing to behold. The second half of the album is notably weaker but it does end on a solid closer with “Brothers In Arms”. The words are gorgeous, weaving a tapestry of heartfelt melancholy: “Now the sun’s gone to hell / And the moon’s riding high / Let me bid you farewell / Every man has to die / But it’s written in the starlight / And every line on your palm / We’re fools to make war / On our brothers in arms.”

    This album made me seek out their earlier albums and I can attest Brothers in Arms is not their best album, but it is this one that made them go supernova.

    Finally, back to the results of the CDP shootout. If I am not wrong Oppo 95 was the best sounding, next came the 83SE and my 93 came last. But let me say that my ears that fateful day could only hear subtle differences. These audiophiles would spend thousands and lots of time just to make their music sound fractionally better. I admire the passion. My days of tweaking and upgrading my hifi are over. These days I can just sit back and enjoy my music. Interestingly, that particular Oppo 83SE became mine a few months later when he decided to sell it and my Oppo 93 is still in my chain but these days I just use it to play movies. My current CDP is the Oppo 103D and I hope it will serve me for a long, long time.









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    westendboy

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    Re: An Album a Week
    « Reply #40 on: 21 June, 2022, 16:56:27 pm »
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  • Last weekend, after watching Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Broker, I gave a friend a lift home. In the car my iPod nano randomly plays a song by Leon Zheng and she liked it and asked who the singer was. I gave her a brief music history lesson on the singer and shared that it is from one of favourite mandarin albums. I shared further that I had coincidentally written a piece on the album to feature on my An Album a Week blog and I would share the link with her once I publish it. On Monday morning when I was ready to share the piece I found the article only contain the first two paragraphs. Everything else was gone because I did not press “update”. I was so upset and pissed at myself because I like the piece and I remembered finishing writing it late one night while my wife was out. I kind of “force” her to read it to get comments. Oh well… at least one other person has read it. However, I like this album so much I need to capture lightning in a bottle again and I do want to send my friend a link. So this is me writing it again, trying to get lightning to strike the same spot and remembering to press “update” after every paragraph.

     
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    There are still a few mandarin albums I adore dearly that I might want to write about, so before I hit the final stretch I better do it.

    Leon Zheng’s 2017 debut 《忽然有一天, 我離開了台北》“When I Leave Taipei” was a crowd-funded album which earned 3 nominations at the 27th Golden Melody Awards: Best Newcomer, Best Mandarin Album, and Album of the Year. I can’t remember who won the awards but this is the album I constantly listen to. If you are an audiophile, I am sure you will be amazed with the recording.

    Leon Zheng’s music journey is an interesting one. Hailing from Yangzhou in Jiangsu province, he had studied broadcasting at the Communication University of Beijing. An opportunity for an exchange program in Taipei landed in his lap and he took it. Before long he fell in love with the city and the indie music scene. He continued his studies doing a master’s program at National Chengchi University and it was during his graduate studies that his music career launched.

    Thematically,《忽然有一天, 我離開了台北》is strong. The album is a story of three cities. Suffused with the everyday sounds of an urban city, the songs depict a musical sojourn of a lonely poet from Taipei back to his hometown in China. The sense of melancholy is palpable and he sings of loss, love and homesickness. The words to the songs don’t contain huge statements and they speak of everyday things he saw and about the memories and feelings they conjured. There are mentions of landmarks like 101, the tallest building in Taipei and 罗期福路 (Roosevelt Road), which makes the album like a musical itinerary to off-beat places in the city. Even the booklet contains photographs of quaint places he has visited and pictures of his train and bus tickets. His keen observation is evident in the lyrics as he sings of things he sees out of a moving vehicle. As the songs progress you can feel his heart fill up gently with a buoyancy of hope. His voice carries no artifice, no embellishment and it’s all heart and honesty. It is a voice which lends itself perfectly to the genre of folk.

    If you are an audiophile this album is an aural keepsake. For a crowd-funded project the recording is quite stellar without any bells and whistles. It is quiet when it should be, and because it’s quiet every pluck and strum of the guitar strings reverberates with clarity. Every jazz brush on the snare drum, every hit on the kick drum and every shake of the shaker can be visualised in your mind with lucidity. Above all else what he sings about is succour for the weary soul.

    He can be found on Spotify as “Xing Zheng” and I did compare Spotify and the CD. Let’s just say I will never part with the latter. These are a selection of tracks but nothing beats listening to this album from start to end because the entire album is a goodbye letter to Taipei and a hello letter to Beijing.











    Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

    westendboy

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    Re: An Album a Week
    « Reply #41 on: 27 June, 2022, 09:13:11 am »
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    Level 42 are a jazz-funk quartet from the Isle of Wright. Running in the Family, released in 1987, is their seventh album and it was a huge international success. This was the last Level 42 album of the 1980s to feature brothers Phil (drums) and Rowland ‘Boon’ Gould (guitar), who had cited dissatisfaction with the musical direction of the band and exhaustion as departure reasons.

    This was one of the albums I first owned on cassette. Then I started work and got myself a mini-compo which came with a CD player and I went out to get the album on CD straightaway and my latest is the 25th anniversary deluxe edition. The problem with the cassette was that Running in the Family has an awesome side one that is unmatched by side two so it was a hassle to rewind the tape just to blast side one again. With the CD the problem was eradicated.

    I never got into Level 42 during their first six albums which were chest deep into jazz-funk and soul, but with this one the band completely thinned out their early roots and embraced radio-friendly pop with a hint of R&B vibe. These are not disposable and derivative songs; once heard the tunes will stick in your consciousness. The songs are built around Mark King’s infectious bass-lines and Mike Lindup’s keyboards that come with grappling hooks. The energy is so contagious and it is always a fun album to listen to.

    My favourite song isn’t “Lessons in Love”, neither is it “Running in the Family”, it is a breakup song called “It’s Over”. It is the one song in the album that is not dependent on a jaw-dropping bass-line and Mark King allows his vocals to bring forth the pain of leaving someone he had loved. This is one of the best breakup songs ever.









    Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

    westendboy

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    Re: An Album a Week
    « Reply #42 on: Today at 07:21:43 »
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    I knew when I started writing this series of blog-posts on 50 of my favourite albums, I have to include an album by Depeche Mode, a band that defined the 80s and early 90s for me. I gave myself a rule that I can only feature one album by a singer or band, so when it came to Depeche Mode it was a difficult choice as I vacillated between Some Great Reward (1984), Black Celebration (1986), Music for the Masses (1987), Violator (1990) and Songs of Faith and Devotion (1993). Then came the recent demise of Andy Fletcher which spurred me to have a closer listen to the mentioned albums and Black Celebration immediately stood out because it has not a tinge of pop unlike the others. Depeche Mode’s albums have always had that commercial appeal with chart-topping singles in mind. Not so With Black Celebration, their fifth album, this is the band embracing the dark and the bleak with aplomb.

    During the 80s New Wave phase if you were into mainstream music, then bands like Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and others were your gods. But there were always those folks who sat at the back of the classrooms frowning on mainstream music. They were the outsiders and their music gods would be Depeche Mode, The Cure and the likes. I was no snob and I loved music as long it’s good music. From the start of their music career I have followed them and marvelled at their musical evolution. This is a band that pushes themselves sonically, never allowing complacency to set in. Granted, they are not the prolific band they were back in the 80s to early 90s, they continue to be a superb live act. I managed to catch them in 1994 and still have euphoric memories of that night, most of them have the image of Dave Gahan pirouetting forever with the microphone stand at right angles to his bared body. It was a gig for the ages.

    Listening to Black Celebration again I discerned how cohesive it is unlike the other albums which stood out because of the monster hit singles. The tone of Black Celebration also feels unapologetic with a singularity that has so much stark clarity. It is an experimental album and it almost feels like an album written with no regard to commercialism which is party true. There are some amazing songs here: “A Question of Lust”, “A Question of Time” and “Stripped”, all staples that have to be performed at their concerts. If any of these songs are not sung, you should ask for your money back.

    In my humble opinion, Black Celebration is an important album for the band and it cemented their cult status. Overnight, looking all goth with black eye shadow and having chains as accessories was the coolest look ever.









    I have one last album from the 80s that is one of my all-time faves. If you have been following me it’s probably easy to guess which one it is.
    Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?