Thursday, November 23, 2017

TERRY, BLAIR & ANOUCHKA-Ultra Modern Nursery Rhymes (1990)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: November 23, 2017

"Ultra Modern Nursery Rhymes"—with a quirky album title like that, one can only expect the music contained on it to be equally as such; for me, this was easily the most delightful listen I've had all week! The trio of Terry Hall, Blair Booth and Anouchka Grose are the collective voices behind these fun and super-catchy folk/pop tunes that take on a very bubblegummy, new-wavish persona all on their own. The opening track by the same name as the album itself sets the stage with his bouncy rhythm and sunny chorus, reminding me of some of those old 80's TV sitcom theme songs. In fact, when the lyrics themselves speak about how everything is happier just like in those old made-up nursery rhymes, I compared it to how the actual 80's decade itself made for some happy times.....and for me personally. "Missing" becomes quite the humorous sing-along once you get into the beat and the silly lyrics (the part about the dogs howling and the kids growling got me going).while the pleasantly colorful follow-up, "Fishbones And Scaredey Cats", just reels you in with the funky retro-pop vibe and the oddball, cheeky dialogue exchanged between Terry and the two ladies. The musical arrangements begin to shift on "Lucky In Luv", which has a cool jazzy swing to it with Terry making like one of those rockabilly crooners that make you feel like you've gone back into the Elvis era, before shifting again on the mellow, island-sounding breezes that are "Day Like Today" and "Three Cool Catz" (one I really liked because of the graceful instrumental ambiance, accented by the fluttery flute). That sunny, bouncy glow attracts me again on "Beautiful People" and "Happy Families", while it's the quirky lyrics keeping me hooked on "Just Go", which has that do-the-hokey-pokey, theatrical stage charm to it that makes me think about those children's PBS programs I grew up watching a long time ago. Additional props for "Just Go", as it's nice to hear somebody take a humorous, non-serious approach to presenting a breakup song. Then the concluding 'ultra modern nursery rhyme' is their modern-day take on the CAPTAIN & TENNILLE hit, "Love Will Keep Us Together". Actually, I hadn't realized it was a cover until I did some reading up about this trio.....and I want to say that I'd either never heard or had completely forgotten what the CAPTAIN & TENNILLE original sounded like? Regardless, the instantly-appealing, dancey piano rhythm is the reason I now adore this TERRY, BLAIR & ANOUCHKA version so much:

1. Ultra Modern Nursery Rhyme
2. Missing
3. Fishbones And Scaredey Cats
4. Lucky In Luv
5. Day Like Today
6. Sweet September Sacrifice
7. Beautiful People
8. Three Cool Catz
9. Happy Families
10. Just Go
11. Hush Hush Balooo
12. Love Will Keep Us Together

Monday, November 20, 2017

Billy Falcon-Haunted Guitar (1988)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: November 20, 2017

Something scary has just happened here at "The Music Spectrum": the re-appearance of a rare rock album thought to have been lost in the 80's forever and never to be seen again. But whether or not you believe in ghosts, there is no reason to fear; the songs performed by singer, guitarist and songwriter Billy Falcon are hauntingly great on this 1988 effort, "Haunted Guitar". It kicks off with the fun, dancey rockabilly jam that is the title track, which is something I may not have liked very much back when I was a kid, but is something I totally dig nearly three decades later with me having acquired a better appreciation various forms of music. My favorite cuts, however, are the ones that steer along the road of classic 'hair band' rock, which Billy's powerful, gritty vocals are absolutely perfect for. There's "Knocked Down", for instance—an inspirational tune of sorts where he confesses to being down knocked down so many times, but never knocked out; sounds like it could be a perfect anthem for a "Rocky" movie or some other epic, sports-themed film. I also dig "Fools Rush In", where he serves up a nice analogy of him being onboard the ship of lonely hearts that are heading straight into a storm as they all take a chance on love. Then I like the ones that are touching, particularly the two power ballads: "What Kind Of Love Is This?" (one of Billy's strongest performances overall; his emotional delivery of 'never, never be alone' with the backup ladies echoing him in the chorus gets stuck to you) and "Rainbow" (I love his various interpretations of the colors, comparing red to blood, purple to royalty and gold to victory). I'm filled up with that classic 80's rock spirit further on "Mystery Train" (the fade-in and fade-out sounding like a train approaching from and departing to a distance away is a nice touch), "Good Cry" and the 'Rock Version' of "Spark In The Dark"—the latter two being bonus treats not found on the original ten-track album, but can be found on the remastered edition. "Haunted Guitar"—an impressive 45+ minute show by this multi-talented performer; if you miss out on this one, then you just might indeed find yourself being haunted by it forever.....

1. Haunted Guitar
2. You Know Me
3. Play For Your Life
4. Dance With A Stranger
5. Spark In The Dark
6. Knocked Down
7. What Kind Of Love Is This?
8. Mystery Train
9. Fools Rush In
10. Rainbow

*****BONUS TRACKS*****

11. Good Cry
12. Spark In The Dark (Rock Version)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sheena Easton-The Lover In Me (1988)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: November 19, 2017

That 'just one more' syndrome..... I keep spotting so many goodies to listen to from the 'S' files of my library that I've found it hard to break off into other music ventures lately! And here is another that I had to share by a very familiar voice from my favorite decade whom I've been missing for quite while. Tonight was probably my fifth or sixth time (honestly, I've lost count!) tuning in to Sheena Easton's "The Lover In Me", and it still sounds as great as it did nearly thirty years ago! Of course, I say that about a lot of these old 80's gems, but it's especially the case here. being reminded about how great she sounded vocally upon revisiting the opening track, "No Deposit, No Return" (you put nothing into the relationship, you get nothing back&mash;I miss these simple little throwback tunes). Every 80's pop music lover surely is fond of the memorable title track right afterwards, which is something I myself heard and was played to death on the radio airwaves when I was a kid. Yep, it too is still a thrill, and I've always liked how those backup singers do that stylistic 'shoo-dee-whop' after Sheena's delivery of the memorable words ' let's talk about the lover in me '. Definitely don't remember it being on the radio, but Track #4's "Without You" was and still is a big hit for me! It's one of those I'm attracted to as soon as the music starts—the whole mellow tonality of the chords and the easy-listening pop flow—while her simple declaration that she has no life without the man giving ithe song that totally-80's charm. "One Love" is one that I'm so happy to have gotten a chance to hear again after all this time. I remember loving it the instant I took in the funky synthpop beat, but didn't remember the fun part midway through where her backup singers chant, 'hey Sheena, one love is better than two'. that right? Fun, energetic, delightful and catchy—these four words collectively describe "If It's Meant To Last". But I'd need a few more words to describe a particularly cool track a little further down the album: "101". Moody, unsettling, haunting, mysterious and dark—a song whose title might lead you to think has something to do with getting schooled in a low-level college course or is referencing a hot night in a hotel room turns out to be about Sheena telling her man that, basically, 101% still isn't enough to satisfy her (at lest, that's one possible meaning). I also highlight "101" because she shows off her amazing voice here well, as she's pretty much screaming in angst in the song's most dramatic moments. And if I'm gonna mention songs with amazing vocals, then I gotta make sure I give mention to one that's truly golden: "Follow My Rainbow". An excellent, soulful ballad this one is, and her moving, emotional determination to find her personal pot of gold someday is so captivating:

1. No Deposit, No Return
2. The Lover In Me
3. Follow My Rainbow
4. Without You
5. If It's Meant To Last
6. Days Like This
7. One Love
8. 101
9. Cool Love
10. Fire And Rain

Friday, November 17, 2017

SIX WAS NINE-Zen & Now (1998)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: November 17, 2017

I've walked with the spirits, let it come my way, made a few strokes with a brush.....and now I'm experiencing zen. That opening statement is a play on words in reference to the four-album listening journey I've enjoyed by this soulful SIX WAS NINE duo. At some point, it's a journey that I'll happily take all over again, but for the moment, I'm making my final stop here with their last collection of records, and I've got nothing but more good things to say about them! Seems they might've been headed in a direction closer to the realm of rock—alternative rock, even—given the heavy guitar and drum sounds exhibited early on with the insightful and well-written opener, "Speed Of Light"mash;which is about someone losing touch with reality and trying to run away from it all&mash;and "Like A Rolling Stone", which I somehow expected to be about something else other than the story told about what it feels like to be without solace in a home (perhaps I was thinking about something along the lines of "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", a classic from the Motown music catalog). Great vocals and energy on both of those tracks, and even more so on the album's third offering simply entitled "Pilot"—a very charming love song with a lovely breeze of a flow and thunderously epic production as the lead guy sings about his invitation to be the lady's personal navigator through anything and everything that comes her way. "Turning Wheel": another marvelously-produced song that got me thinking. The songwriter describes his life a simple wheel, but I would bet that wheel is a Roulette wheel, given the references to him saying that he just goes by the way he feels an can't tell heads or up or down; sounds like a gambling man taking chances to me. "Healing" is a real gem. Aside from the cool sound of the slight drum n' bass beat beneath the light guitar and the mellow tonality of the chords, there was something about the delivery of the ;healing words' that struck me here. "Karma Boomerang": I really like the lyrics to this one. Us believers in karma know that sooner or later, you're gonna get what's coming to you, but this German duo takes that idea a little further by saying that it'll find you, remind you and come back around to get you it will find you—just like a boomerang does after it's been hurled in the air. My #1 favorite is definitely "Mission Of Love", a delightfully sunny and charming soulful affair where the earnest confession of only wanting romance without all of the hangups, games and other tumultuous trials and tribulations is made. Been a while since I had that 'now where have I heard that song before?' feeling, but it resurfaced a couple of times towards the end of this twelve-track "Zen & Now" adventure. First on "Surprise Surprise", which I loved the moment the breezy mellow groove met my ears, then on "Drop Dead Beautiful", a great track that tells a rather humorous story about a man who wishes he had his best friend's girl and conjures up all of the excuses he could think of that would make he girl his instead. That's when I realized that I'dd actually heard both songs on a previous SIX WAS NINE album: 1994's "Let It Come Your Way". Not sure if the versions here are the 1994 originals or were brand new re-recordings when they released "Zen & Now", but it was still nice to hear this brilliant pair nonetheless:

1. Speed Of Light
2. Like A Rolling Stone
3. Pilot
4. Wonder
5. Turning Wheel
6. Healing
7. Karma Boomerang
8. Test Of Time
9. Mission Of Love
10. Surprise Surprise
11. Donna Lee
12. Drop Dead Beautiful

Thursday, November 16, 2017

SIX WAS NINE-A Few Bold Strokes Of The Brush (1992)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: November 16, 2017

And perhaps another not-so-pure coincidence that this next treat I'm sharing so happens to come while while I keep on gathering up the 'S' artists in my music library. The albums by this German soul/pop duo that called itself SIX WAS NINE have been among the longest-standing requests. With the pair of albums of theirs that I'd already heard previously—"Let It Come Your Way" and "Walk With The Spirits"—I'd become very fond of these guys, and tonight, I finally had a chance to enjoy the one where it all began with them: 1992's "A Few Bold Strokes Of The Brush". Well they sure are taking some mighty bold strokes alright, given the crisp and high-quality content of the music presented here, with one of the biggest splashes being made as soon as with the funky dance opener, "Born For Trouble", where I would be quickly get reacquainted with the gritty, soulful voice of the lead singer of the pair. Seems that 'trouble', in fact, was the theme to these songs early on, as the follow up, "No More The Fool", is all about him determined not to be tricked into loving the lady anymore while the delightfully chilled groove, "Nightingale", speaks about a love between a man and a woman that's no longer there and "You Do Me No Good" is all about a woman who does exactly what the negative statement in the title suggests. The mood beings brightening on "Real Life", a nice tune that reminds how difficult it is sometimes to believe that wonderful things can truly happen if we live long enough. And there's no doubt that the mood is all good on "No Doubt About It", which I loved the instant the music started (just one of many where the beat is absolutely fabulous!). The message is positive and sweet: ' you're gonna feel love from me for the rest of your life '. Right afterwards is the beautiful liberating anthem, "We Are Free", which proclaims that we can be exactly that if we choose to be; it's a marvelous throwback to that feel-good 90's house era! The songs simply get better after that, with more new favorites coming by way of the powerfully gripping and almost spiritual "Warm And Tender Love", which is what the songwriter wants to wrap the lady up with; "Won't You Be My Lover" (words can lie but the body can't—I like that analogy presented in the chorus) and "When You're In Trouble" (an uplifting song of motivation for anybody listening, showing how you can reach your dreams outside the bubble and telling you to never give up). "Leaving On The Last Train" concludes this ride on a rather bittersweet note (confessions of never wanting to see an old friend ever again), but it is still a highlight in a colorful portrait of an album that's decorated with many of them:

1. Born For Trouble
2. No More The Fool
3. Nightingale
4. You Do Me No Good
5. Real Life
6. No Doubt About It
7. We Are Free
8. Warm And Tender Love
9. Won't You Be My Lover
10. When You're In Trouble
11. All This Loving
12. Leaving On The Last Train

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

S.P.O.C.K.-S.P.O.C.K.: 1999 (1999)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: November 14, 2017

Perhaps not-so-pure coincidence that I'm sharing this next treat while I continue gathering up the 'S' artists in my music library? A bizarre thing happened tonight while I went looking for my copy of SLY FOX's "Let's Go All The Way", the album containing the memorable 80's hit by the same name. While consulting a source to look up some track-listing information on a special re-release of that album, I ended up discovering a list of other synthpop artists, among them this Swedish duo that cleverly goes by the same name as the legendary Vulcan character from the original "Star Trek" universe. Well, at least that's what I presumed, until I realized the acronym 'S.P.O.C.K' true meaning was ''Star Pilot On Channel K'. Hmm—must be something that has to do with a local Swedish television station, but it's still cool that 'Mr. Pointy Ears' is being indirectly referenced. Even cooler than that, though, is the note I read about this duo's songs having a sci-fi theme tagged to them, and I got an early indication of that upon taking in the opener to their 1999 album, "Spacewalk", which is a high-energy electronic thrill where they even mention the famed starship Enterprise in the lyrics! That one's right up my alley, as my renewed interest in all things trek over the past couple of years has led me to doing everything from catching up to old episodes of "The Next Generation" and "Deep Space Nine" to indulging in various trek media outlets, music and otherwise. And I noted something else about "Spacewalk": how their quirky vocals sound quite similar in inflection and style to those by the SLY FOX duo.....well, thinking about how they are when singing on "Let's Go All The Way", anyways. The quirkiness is ever so crystal clear on the follow-up trek-themed "Dr. McCoy", a fun tribute another legendary character from the Captain Kirk era of the Enterprise. In fact, all of this quirkiness made me suddenly realize that what I was listening to for 40+ minutes was straight up bubblegum pop, though of the more electronic variety instead of the proper bubblegum Eurodance I often indulge in. A flashback to the 80's came over me on "Out There"; you can hear it all in the production! Besides that, the duo this time vocally sounds a lot like fellow synthpop duo ERASURE, and even more so with the sunny and sweet flow of the music with both the sci-fi and bubblegum coming by way of their words of describing how everything is beautiful outside and above the atmosphere. Sounding like ERASURE on this track, then sounding so much like DEPECHE MODE on the next: "Dark Side Of The Force". The monotonic vocals, the pounding beat and the chilly feeling created by the Gregorian-style chanting in the background cause me to get that image of a horror movie character being trapped and bound in an abandoned factory's boiler room. If nothing else, it's something new and cool to add to my 'Scary Mix' playlist. "Android's Dilemma": now how did I know that this one would be in reference to Data from "The Next Generation"? That was confirmed with the line 'only knows in theory', as "In Theory" was an episode where Data was trying to experience romance with a female ensign. On a similar wavelength, this song tell a the duo tells a funny story about a girl that wants to be with a robot that can't understand anything about being a man—complete with cheeky dialogue, no less!—which mirrors the exact same themes that centered around Data's quest for understanding human relationships.. "There They Here" shifts the attention from "The Next Generation" to "Deep Space Nine" with the referencing to shape-shifting and the idea that aliens—presumably the Changelings that "Deep Space Nine" heavily focused on—have infiltrated our planet and have been disguised as Humans long before we've even prepare for their arrival; what if it were actually true? "Agent 5": what I like about this one is the beat and the whole glitzy arrangement, which has a slight carnival vibe about it. It too references a recurring trek them: characters who go on missions, only to disappear and/or are never be found by their shipmates ever again. "Star Pilot On Chanel K": the song from which their abbreviated name comes from is both another high-energy thriller and their own personal anthem, relaying what they and their music is all about in a rather brash, angst-ridden, heavy metal rocker's attitude, though without the angst. The song becomes super-catchy with them repeating the title in the chorus, then spelling out their name one letter at a time. Total bubblegum floor-filler! Sooner or later, a nicely chilled tune was in order, and that came in the way of the concluding cut, "Dream Within A Dream".....or so I thought. Starts off slow and easy before the tempo picks up speed and evolves into a full-on synthpop affair. Even still, the song is a pleasant listen, referencing those trek episodes where characters have bizarre things going on in their minds and none if it actually happening. Listen to all eight minutes of it, because you'll feel like you're really onboard a spaceship with the drones of the engine, the computer blips and other spacey sound effects being heard at the very end:

1. Spacewalk
2. Dr. McCoy
3. Out There
4. Dark Side Of The Force
5. Android's Dilemma
6. There They Here
7. Wolf In The Fold
8. Agent 5
9. Star Pilot On Channel K
10. Dream Within A Dream

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sophia Moon-Staring Back At Me (2009)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: November 12, 2017

It's by pure coincidence that I should happen to be sharing this next treat while still in the midst of gathering up the 'S' artists in my music library. "Staring Back At Me", the only album that I know of to have been released by this Korean-American pop singer, had been requested—pun intended—many moons ago. And after getting my own first listen to it tonight—ironically, there was no moon for me to see outside my window due to the cloud-covered sky—I must shed some light on the many highlights that will soon be staring back at you! My ears and I were instantly ignited by the opening dance track, "Echo", which soon became a super-addiction with all of the glitzy production effects and way Sophia echoes the 'echo' in the catchy chorus. I can actually 'echo' that statement for several other fun pop tracks, such as the irresistible temptation that is "Irresistible" (I'm drawn to the techie electro-pop that sparks my senses while Sophia sings about a man whom she and all the other girls can't resist), "Tick Tock", "Reciprocate" (an irresistibly-bouncy trance beat gets me here while Sophia delivers some advice about there needing to be some give and take in every relationship), "Step" (this one so reminds me of DESTINY CHILD's "Lose My Breath" with the big-time drum beat; makes you wanna 'step' to the music alright!) and especially "Fly Away With Me" (I get that 80's funky throwback vibe all throughout this one; sounds exactly like those easy-to-get-into jams from my favorite decade). Though the songs aren't always about fun and games; it's serious times, for instance, when she breaks out with her five-star performance on "Five Star Recovery"—a personal anthem of celebration for having persevered through a rough time in life—and the equally stunning follow-up, "Unbreakable", where she puts on a brilliant vocal display as she vows to never be torn into pieces by anyone or anything ever again. On "Money Can't Buy Love", she offers up the total truth that things are much better and simpler when you have less. The interesting lyrics and like the mellow flow of the music captivate me all the way through (the chords, in fact, remind me of the Brian McKnight/Vanessa Williams duet, "Love Is" which, coincidentally, I've been hearing a lot of lately in my offline Brian McKnight listening binges). "Absent Father": the concluding acoustic guitar-driven piece s a brilliant performance as well, telling a sad story about a man who is missing from his daughter's life. But before that, I'd enjoyed two rounds of "Remember", another one whose lyrics stuck to me as she sings about going from having it all to nothing at all when it comes to love. The Track #10 version is great by itself with the twinkly lullaby sound above the pounding r&b beat, but the remix three tracks later takes it to a higher level in its high-energy thrills, and that's the way I topped it all off!

1. Echo
2. Caught Up
3. Irresistible
4. Five Star Recovery
5. Unbreakable
6. That's Just The Way It Is
7. Tick Tock
8. Reciprocate
9. Money Can't Buy Love
10. Remember
11. Step
12. Fly Away With Me
13. Remember (Remix)
14. Absent Father

Saturday, November 11, 2017

SNAP!-Welcome To Tomorrow (1994)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: November 11, 2017

An unexpected second journey deeper into the ambient/electronic world music genre arose when I moved further along in my project of gathering up the 'S' artists in my library. The popular German Eurodance project that called itself SNAP! may be best remembered for their 90's hit, "The Power" (I can suddenly hear that lady wailing 'I got the power' as I write now), but what Eurodance listeners may not remember is that they also recorded some songs that more closely resemble the likes of ENIMGA, DDEEP FOREST and AMETHYSTIUM—the same colorful trio I mentioned in my previous post of Chorus Of Tribes' "Myth"—than such fellow Eurodance contemporaries as 2 UNLIMITED, C & C MUSIC FACTORY, TECHNOTRONIC and BLACK BOX. I was reminded of the latter fact as soon as I took in the opener to their third studio album, "Welcome To Tomorrow". Ambient trance with a soothing and refreshing air and creating a sense that you're walking among nature best describes what I felt tuning in to "Green Grass Grows (Earth Follows)". Right after that is a piece that flows ever so nicely and contains an encouraging, positive message: "It's A Miracle (People Need to Love One Another)". That ethnic, world music sound reveals itself most prominently three tracks in on "Rame (Beloved)", where there's a groovy house rhythm combined with the voice of a woman chanting all throughout, as well as on the follow-up, "Dreams On The Moon", which I surely had on a past playlist of ambient music favorites because I found myself so drawn to the tribal hollow drum beat, the spacey ambiance and the hypnotic chants of a woman going 'just a dream' all throughout. Perhaps the first real Eurodance cut is the title track itself: "Welcome To Tomorrow (Are You Ready)". Even still, the music has a very smooth, downtempo trance arrangement instead of the harder-sounding jams with the thumping bass line that true Euroance lovers may be accustomed to, but it works well for a song where the leading lady essentially invites you to go along with her on a magical, faraway voyage high above the clouds that only your ears can enjoy. By the time I got to "The World In My Hands (We Are One)", it occurred to me that this album seemed to be set up as a meditative journey, hearing the whispering words of empowerment and motivation in the introductory seconds, then noticing how the title—plus the titles to the previous and subsequent tracks—all have statements that conceptually relate to the theme of mental suggestion, relaxation and liberation. Another great offering for the ambient/electronic listeners is Track #8's "Waves". This one too was definitely a past favorite from an old playlist, as I am immediately drawn in by the dreamy ambiance in introductory movement, then captivated the rest of the way through by the accompanying guitar, which gives the music a sharp, contrasting accent. And just like on "Welcome To Tomorrow (Are You Ready)", the Eurodance is very light, subtle and chilled as well on "Where Are The Boys, Where Are The Girls?. That super high-energy dance sound with the big-voiced house divas singing and the featured MC rappers? You won't find any of that here, but "Welcome To Tomorrow" is still a wonderful listen and will make a welcome addition to your music collection nonetheless:

1. Green Grass Grows (Earth Follows)
2. It's A Miracle (People Need to Love One Another)
3. Rame (Beloved) [feat. Rukmani]
4. Dream On The Moon
5. Welcome To Tomorrow (Are You Ready)
6. The World In My Hands (We Are One)
7. The First The Last Eternity (Till The End)
8. Waves
9. Where Are The Boys, Where Are The Girls?
10. It's Not Over