Tears for Fears – Songs From The Big Chair (Box-set)

16 11 2014

big-chairNo I am not going mad, and slipping back in time to the 80’s to review the second album from Tears for Fears. This is a review of the 2014 six-disc deluxe edition.

It’s amazing that what was initially an 8 song release back in 1985, can justify a 6 disc release in 2014. Songs from The Big Chair threw up so many remixes, edits and alt-takes, and this new box-set collects just about everything you would want to see (and hear) from this part of Tears for Fears history.

Disc one is the original album, with what sounds like the same remaster as the 2006 (2 disc) re-issue. After the 8 songs from the original album, disc one contains some of the key “b sides” from the era, including the Fairlight showcasing The Big Chair and one of my favourite Tears for Fears b-sides, Pharaohs.

Disc two is titled Edited Songs From The Big Chair and opens with non-album single The Way You Are, which surprisingly the band are not keen on. My favourite Tears for Fears song, Mothers Talk, with its driving, hard synth riffs, gets plenty of representation on this box-set, and the single mix is a shortened, to the point take of the song.


Everybody Wants To Run The World, the Sport Aid version of the song from 1986, with it’s amended lyrics and added instrumentation is a welcome addition to the box-set, as is the “Running Version”, a mostly instrumental take. Mothers Talk (video version) has a piano intro verse that doesn’t appear on any other versions of the song.

Disc three, Remixed Songs From The Big Chair – well it’s obvious what you will find on this disc! Standout tracks for me include the wonderful Mothers Talk [Extended Version]. I’ve always loved the delayed bass on the outro to this mix. Broken / Head Over Heels / Broken (Preacher Mix) is notable for having a studio version of the end section (the main album outro section is a live cut).

Everybody Wants To Rule The World [Urban Mix] has a radically different middle section, plus a Simple Minds Waterfront sounding bass riff. This remains one of my favourite Tears for Fears remixes.

Disc four in the set contains Unreleased Songs From The Big Chair. Opening with three Richard Skinner sessions, the highlight of which is a wonderful performance of Head Over Heels (the keyboards sound great on this session cut). Next up are six tracks recorded in Toronto, including The Hurting’s Memories Fade.

An early (vocal-less) mix of Mothers Talk – with some great Shaft like rhythm guitar is a revelation. The Way You Are [Early Mix] is the other highlight on this disc.

big-chair-5.1Disc five – ahh disc five. This is the highlight of the collection. This disc contains a brand new 2014 5.1 surround sound mix of Songs From The Big Chair by Steven Wilson. If you know Wilson’s solo work, or his recordings with Porcupine Tree and no-man, you will be aware that his productions always sound amazing. He has recently remixed albums by Yes and XTC into 5.1 surround sound, and Songs From The Big Chair is another 5.1 success.

Its a revelation hearing the separation on these tracks – bass lines, keyboard layers and guitar riffs jump out of the speakers like never before. As with other Wilson recordings, the album is presented as a flat transfer with no additional mastering. I hate the current trend for brickwall mastering, so this pleases me greatly. This does mean that there are noticeable differences in volume during sections of the songs, so you really notice the performances. It’s a wonderful listening experience, and it’s like hearing a new version of an old favourite.

My only criticism of this box set is that the Steven Wilson stereo mix is not presented in CD format – so if you want to put these 2014 mixes onto your digital device, you are not in luck.

The final disc in the box-set contains a mix of promotional videos, BBC TV appearances and the Scenes from The Big Chair documentary. You also get a replica tour programme and extensive, enlightening notes written by Paul Sinclair from SuperDeluxeEdition, with contributions from the band and key collaborators, plus notes from Steven Wilson about the 5.1 surround mix.

This is the definitive version of an 80’s classic, and a great example of how to put together a value-added re-issue package. Now EMI, how about a Steven Wilson 5.1 surround mix of Kate Bush‘s The Dreaming and Hounds of Love?

Buy the box-set

Songs From The Big Chair – box-set on Amazon

Tim Bowness – Abandoned Dancehall Dreams

11 06 2014

Tim Bowness - Abandoned Dancehall Dreams

A mere 10 years after his debut solo album, no-man / Henry Fool singer Tim Bowness releases Abandoned Dancehall Dreams on June 23rd on the Inside Out label.  And it’s a world away from his debut.

The Warm-Up Man Forever kicks the album off in style – the opening song seems to feed off the spirit of mid-80s Kate Bush, from the urgent Sat In Your Lap toms through to the Hounds of Love referencing strings. Although the pace of the song is definitely cranked up a few notches from these Bush classics – imagine the Siouxsie & the Banshees drummer Budgie pounding away in a post-punk stylee, if you will.

“Cruising the backstage, spitting feathers”

The Warm-Up Man Forever is a great opening song, and has really grown from the version performed on the no-man tour a couple of years ago. A blood-thirsty guitar solo from Michael Bearpark brings the song to it’s end.

In an alternate universe, this is the track that opens this weeks edition of Top of the Pops, pop pickers.

But that was just a phase…

Smiler At 50 slows the pace, and sets the tone of loss and regret that runs deep throughout this album.

“The girl that Dads could laugh with, a face just right for first kiss”

A beautiful, aching string refrain signals the middle section of the song, as it heads towards its unexpectedly proggy ending. Fans of Steven Wilson‘s recent albums will love this powerful, dissonant outro. The songs on this album have really been given the chance to stretch and find their own space, with longer instrumental passages that are missing from previous Bowness solo material.

Picture by Charlotte Kinson

Before you have a chance to recover, the most heartbreaking track on the album hits you. Songs Of Distant Summers is in the mould of the classic no-man ballads of years gone by. Hanging piano chords, underpinned by sweet synth layers and deep bass, with a lyric that touches on the feeling musicians sometimes experience during that intense moment of creativity.

“Sweet songs from fading summers, old friends who grew apart”

For some reason, this song reminds of the wonderful, blissed out classic Winter in July by Bomb the Bass. I remember reading an interview many moons ago, I think it was with Bernard Sumner from New Order, who said he woke up to Winter in July playing on the radio and he thought he had died in his sleep and woke up in heaven.

Whilst Songs Of Distant Summers is virtually beatless, it has that heavenly feel mixed with found-sounds buried deep in the mix, and it takes you to another place. Oh, and I’m always a sucker for any song with rhodes piano.

I’ve been living with the album for nearly six months now, and I really do believe that Songs Of Distant Summers is up there with no-man’s Truenorth as one of the finest Bowness songs.

She sees the factory buildings…

Waterfoot has shades of another Bowness vehicle, Memories of Machines, his collaboration with Giancarlo Erra from Nosound. The lyrics and music reference an industrial Northern England long since disappeared (in a similar way to the excellent Big Big Train). Emotive synths (plus more rhodes, yay) and a lovely acoustic guitar reference Steve Hackett and a little of the spirit of early Genesis to these battle-scarred ears. Waterfoot really grows after repeated plays, and it’s playfulness is a joy.

This may be controversial, but I will fight the corner for Dancing For You being on a par with some of the mid-80s Phil Collins ballads. Yep, you read that correctly. Phil Collins has always been an easy (lover) target – but In the Air Tonight, If Leaving Me Is Easy and Don’t Let Him Steal Your Heart Away are wonderful songs. Have a listen, and let go of your prejudice.

Picture by Charlotte Kinson

Anyway, back to Bowness. The piano and 80s drum machine might reference classic Collins, but the lyrics are much more hard-hitting and direct than anything Mr Sussudio has committed to vinyl.

“She was dancing for you, and you looked away.
Dancing for you, another you, on another day”

The 70s sounding backing vocals and decaying guitar top off probably the saddest song on the album. And the sad songs say so much, don’t you know.

Smiler At 52 finishes the story from earlier in the album’s song cycle, and sadly it’s not ended well for dear old Smiler. Glitchy percussion and a nagging keyboard line underpin the story of a lonely, middle-aged Smiler and her mountain of regret.

“Far from young and not yet old.”

Looped vocals and an engaging bass-line take the song to its fade.

I Fought Against The South is the longest track on the album, and probably the biggest surprise on first listen. It’s the track on the album that really captures that live no-man feel from the recent live dates, and is almost a cousin to one of my favourite no-man songs, lighthouse.

A wonderful, loping beat and heart-wrenching strings and solo violin drive this slow-burning epic track. It’s a perfect headphone track, with great separation between instruments – listen as a dirty, scratched organ smashes into the mix 1/4 of the way through, and then disappears, taking the strings with it.

“The dream was in tatters, so what did it matter? My temper was quick but my movements were slow”

After a few seconds of near silence, the toms usher in the final, powerful instrumental section. Played loud, the fluttering cymbal work and interplay between guitar and keyboards is up there with the finest modern-day progressive music.

Too much is not enough

Normally, I Fought Against The South would be the perfect album closer, but Bowness has chosen to close the album with Beaten By Love. The oldest song on the album, this is the definitive version. A perfect post-punk bookend to the album opener, Beaten By Love is the darkest track on the album, with some fine bass work by current no-man bassist, Pete Morgan. Tim’s partner in no-man, Steven Wilson, as well as mixing the album, contributed the frankly evil-sounding guitar to the album’s menacing closing track.

“So completely, beaten by your love”

Abandoned Dancehall Dreams deserves to be heard by as wide an audience as possible. It’s almost an oddity in the modern era, a throw-back to those carefully sequenced releases from the golden era of classic albums.

Its a release that I think will eventually be considered as a career highlight. The attention to detail is evident throughout the whole package – from the range of wonderful, individual performances from musicians such as Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson), Porcupine Tree‘s Colin Edwin, Anna Phoebe and members of the no-man live band, to the album mastering by Pink Floyd engineer, Andy Jackson.

Potentially my favourite album of 2014? I thought it would be when I first heard the album back in January, and I’ve yet to hear anything released this year to make me think I was wrong.

Picture by Charlotte Kinson

Sounds of Distant Summers

The two CD version of Abandoned Dancehall Dreams contains a companion CD of alternate versions and out-takes. The wonderful Grasscut contribute a string-driven, more percussive take on Smiler at 52.

Ambient keyboard overlord Richard Barbieri (Japan / Porcupine Tree) delivers a colourful mix of Songs Of Distant Summers, seeped in the nostalgic tick of clocks, childrens toys and low, rumbling bass synth.

UXB serve up the most radical alternate mix, with the boy and girl vocals of Dancing for You brought to the fore, and the Bowness lead vocals completely stripped out. It’s almost like an electronic Swingle Singers! Please believe me when I say it works really well.

The 5 remaining tracks are out-takes from the album sessions.  The track Abandoned Dancehall Dream is a bossa-nova beat, scratchy stereogram sounding track over which Bowness croons  “the sound of dead men singing (they love you)”. It reminds me of the music of The Caretaker (think Kubrick’s The Shining), and it’s an intriguing shorter than short song, that whilst it fits the abandoned dancehall concept, sonically does not fit on the main album, but thankfully has found a home on the companion disc.

The same can be said of The Sweetest Bitter Pill – a jazzier song than any on the main album, with some lovely synth work. It featured in early album sequences but always stood out a little, and so found it’s rightful home on disc two.

The Warm-Up Man Forever (band version) sounds like early U2 fed on a diet of Icicle Works albums. It’s good to hear this early take, which sounds like my memory of how no-man performed this track on their last tour, but it’s surpassed by the main album take.

The remaining two tracks are alt-takes of Songs of Distant Summers, recorded during the early band sessions for the album. More guitar driven than the album version, they offer a different perspective, but as WUMF, the seeds cannot compare to the full-bloom.

Whilst you will probably dip into the companion album every now and then, its the main album that you will find yourself returning to time and time again. So treat yourself to a copy from one of the links below.

Order Abandoned Dancehall Dreams from Burning Shed.

Buy the CD from Amazon UK

Buy the CD on Amazon US

Visit the Tim Bowness website

Tim Bowness pictures by Charlotte Kinson

The Opium Cartel – Ardor

6 11 2013

"Ardor" by The Opium CartelArdor is the second album from The Opium Cartel, an outlet for the more pop orientated music of songwriter/producer Jacob Holm-Lupo from Norway’s art-rock band White Willow.

Ardor is inspired by the 80s pop of The Blue Nile, Thomas Dolby, Japan, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, as well as drawing on more modern electronic music by the likes of M83 and Air.

Fans of 80s music will also recognise the warm synth sounds of the Prophet 5, Fairlight, Oberheim OB8, and the PPG Wave, that are scattered throughout the album’s 9 tracks.

Album opener Kissing Moon features Venke Knutson and Rhys Marsh on vocals, and features some wonderful, frenetic percussion and the first appearance of those lovely warm synths!

When We Dream (stream the remixed single version below) has shades of Icehouse and a-ha in the vocal performance from Norwegian singer Alexander Stenerud. The most commercial track on the album, with a very anthemic chorus, and an addictive guitar riff. When We Dream bleed’s pure unadulterated nostalgia.

Silence Instead is an early album highlight, co-written by and featuring  vocals from no-man’s Tim Bowness. A slow-burning song, with some delicious guitar work, and a synth sound that reminds me of my favourite Thomas Dolby track, Screen Kiss. Tim is a regular collaborator of  Jacob’s, featuring on the debut album by The Opium Cartel as well as White Willow’s progressive masterpiece, Terminal Twilight.

“The snowdrifts are real but the mountains are fake”

If you miss a-ha (who split in 2011), you will love Northern Rains, which sounds like a long-lost 1980s ballad from Morten Harket & co, underpinned by the Peter Gabriel rhythm section from 1980.

Sorry about all the 80s references in this review, but it’s fun playing spot the influence, and it helps that the 80s homage in the music is not ironic or cheesey, but playful and pays respect to the creativity and exploration of a much maligned decade.

Watch the Ardor album trailer

Revenant features the only vocals on the album from Jacob Holm-Lupo, and is one of the albums more progressive tracks. I don’t know if it is inspired by the recent French TV series “The Returned / Les Revenants” but there are certainly some nods to the excellent Mogwai soundtrack in the instrumentation.

White Wolf was the first song written for the album, and heralds a change in the album’s direction from this point in, with each track getting steadily more progressive. The middle section is very moving, and veers off into Yes-inspired territory towards the end, with a Chris Squire-like strong, melodic bassline.

The Waiting Ground has the classic synths still present, and features a great performance from Henry Fool (and current no-man live band) keyboard player Stephen Bennett.

“If I run, where do I run to?”

Then Came the Last Days of May is Ardor‘s only non-original track, a haunting cover of a classic rock ballad from Blue Öyster Cult’s debut album from 1972. This is one for fans of Opeth’s Damnation album, and a perfect way to set-up the album finale.

Mariner, Come In is the epic that completes the album. A rare vocal outing for Henry Fool’s Stephen Bennett, this track is more in keeping with recent White Willow, and the latter section of the track is most definitely jazz-rock and proud of it! A wild saxophone solo from Harald Lassen on top of layered synths is reminiscent of parts of the recent Steven Wilson album, and after 11 minutes, the track and the album itself, slowly fades to a close.

Ardor is a very different beast to the first Opium Cartel album, and feels more consistent (even though it has a wider variety of vocalists). It should appeal to a wide audience – from the more mainstream fans of modern electronic / pop to lovers of modern progressive music. Oh, and fans of 80s music!

Buy Ardor on Amazon UK 

Buy Night Blooms  on Amazon UK

Buy White Willow’s Terminal Twilight on Amazon UK

Laura Groves – Thinking About Thinking EP

29 09 2013

"Thinking About Thinking" EPLaura Groves (who previously recorded under the moniker Blue Roses) has released her first new solo material since 2009, with the digital (and vinyl) release of the Thinking about Thinking EP on Deek Recordings.

The opening track, Inky Sea, has a real late night feel, with the dark rhodes piano and layered 80s keyboards reminding me of Cliff Martinez‘s Drive soundtrack.

The music has progressed from 2009’s mostly acoustic Blue Roses album, and benefits from a much wider production palette.

After the beatless opening song, Pale Shadows is driven by a tight drum machine track, and back to the 80s again, has hints of China Crisis The Cocteau Twins in the instrumentation, topped off with a very Robert Smith like guitar riff. It’s probably my favourite of the 4 tracks, with hints of Fleetwood Mac in the chorus (always a good thing!)

Sadly, a by-product of the post-CD age, it’s impossible to tell who is playing on the tracks as there are no liner notes with this digital release.

“When the walls break down, it’s a beautiful thing”

Laura Groves

Easy Way Out sneaks in a crafty bossa-nova beat and a strong bassline to underpin the complex, ever-evolving arrangement, that grabs you after repeated plays.

The title track of Thinking About Thinking slows down the tempo of the EP, and has a real USA West-Coast vibe, with hints of mid-70’s Todd Rundgren seeping through to my wise old brain.

At times, the close harmonies remind me of Prince‘s sublime Sometimes It Snows In April from the Parade album.

I hope the EP is a taster for a new album in the not-too-distant future. If you liked the Blue Roses album, or are a fan of early Kate Bush, this EP will be something you will want to investigate, so go on, treat your ears.

Buy the EP

Buy Laura Groves – Thinking About Thinking EP from Bandcamp

Other releases

Buy the Blue Roses album from Amazon

Buy the Does Anyone Love Me Now? EP (featuring Grammatics) and the excellent First Frost Night on Amazon

Buy the I Am Leaving Single (featuring the wonderful Moments Before Sleep) from Amazon

Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow

15 11 2011

So here it is, the 10th studio album from Kate Bush and the second release this year.  The last time Kate released two albums in one year was in 1978, when The Kick Inside & Lionheart were released.

The Directors Cut, a revisiting of material from earlier albums The Sensual World and The Red Shoes, was released earlier this year. The Directors Cut to me was in some ways the soundtrack to a tour that never was, an album that reworked songs in a way that Kate might have done if she had taken the tracks out of the studio environment and onto the live stage.

50 Words For Snow is an entirely different beast – 7 brand new songs clocking in at just over an hour, and unlike The Directors Cut, an album that demands repeated listening.  It’s also unlike any other Kate Bush album.

Opener Snowflakes rides on a soft synth pulse and simple piano, with hushed, reverb-drenched vocals, subtle strings and guitar.

“The world is so loud, keep falling, I’ll find you.”

Previous Kate Bush albums sound as if they have been put together over many months, or even years, whereas this album sounds very organic, with spaces that in the past may have been filled with instrumentation.  50 Words For Snow uses these spaces to create a unique atmosphere, perfectly in keeping with the glacial theme.

Lake Tahoe starts off like a long-lost Blue Nile track, and features male choral vocals alongside Kate’s.  There are a couple of very unique moments during Lake Tahoe, when the song stops, and after Kate exhales, starts again, which give the impression that you are there, in the room, listening to the performance as its being recorded.

“They say some days, up she comes, up she rises, as if out of nowhere.
Wearing Victorian dress.
She was calling her pet, “Snowflake! Snowflake!”
Tumbling like a cloud that has drowned in the lake.”

The song references the story of a woman who fell into the water, and in later years is seen rising from the lake. The songs focus of attention then shifts to a faithful pet dog, waiting for his owner to return, searching for her, pining for her as he gets more frail. Gorgeous minimal strings underpin the middle section of this song to great effect. Lake Tahoe is one of the saddest songs you will hear all year, and a real highlight of the album.

I won’t talk too much about the subject matter of Misty, other than to say I’ll never be able to watch Raymond Briggs The Snowman again without blushing. To some, this may be this albums Mrs. Bartolozzi moment, but Misty really captures that silent, deepest winter feel, and features some lovely double-bass and playful jazz drumming.

“He won’t speak to me.
His crooked mouth is full of dead leaves.”

The strings are sublime on the latter half of this track, which due to its length (over 13 minutes) has the space to develop fully, with off-kilter piano and guitar added to the increasingly frenetic ending, as the subject of the song looks for her now departed ice-cold lover.

Wild Man was released as the first single from the album, and is the most conventional track on 50 Words For Snow.  Sitars, chorused guitar and whispered vocals take centre-space on this song, unlike the piano led arrangements of the rest of the album. It breaks up the intensity, a little light relief from the emotion of the rest of the album. At times, the percussion almost seems to echo Kate’s 1980 single December Will Be Magic Again. I’m not sure if that was the intention?

“Lying in my tent, I can hear your cry echoing round the mountainside.
You sound lonely.”

Wild Man on Youtube

Snowed in at Wheeler Street is my favourite track on the album.  Kate’s voice is now deeper and with a more husky timbre at times, which suits this song, a duet with Elton John, perfectly. A recurring theme of losing people – lost in the London Fog, in the 9/11 attacks, in the city’s crowded streets, run through this powerful, deeply haunting track.

“I still have your smiling face, in a heart-shaped frame…We look so good together.”

I wonder if the title Snowed in at Wheeler Street is a nod to the Thomas Dolby track Cloudburst at Shingle Street?  Both songs have a similar synth sequence underpinning the track as well.

The title track 50 Words for Snow features Kate encouraging Stephen Fry to list 50 different expressions for the word snow. Backed by what sounds like mid-period Siouxsie & The Banshees, this track is heavily percussive and extremely playful, as Kate encourages the wordsmith Fry “Come on man you’ve got 44 to go!”. It works surprisingly well.

The album ends with Among Angels – another song that gives the impression of being an intimate live performance, with just you and the song. As the strings arrive, the feel of the album seems to change, almost as if the first shoots of Spring are arriving. A lovely end to the album.

As a fan of Kate’s music from way back in 1978, it’s comforting to hear an album as ambitious, as lyrically eccentric and as rewarding as this, so far into her history. 50 Words For Snow is an intense listening experience, this is not background music, and it’s not the sort of album to be scattered amongst other tracks in your playlist.

It’s early days yet, but this could turn out to be one of Kate’s finest albums.

Lake Tahoe
Wild Man
Snowed in at Wheeler Street
50 Words for Snow
Among Angels

All lyrics & images in this review © Kate Bush

Buy 50 Words for Snow on Amazon

Kate Bush website

Patrick Wolf Live

24 11 2009

Sunday Night at the London Palladium

Sunday November 15, 2009

My first gig at this famous London Theatre since Kate Bush in 1979. Though I might have seen a family musical about a big flying car at this venue a few years back. Moving swiftly on.

In fact, parallels could be drawn between both these shows and Patrick Wolf’s performance. Fair enough, there were no child-catchers or flying cars in the Wolf show, but the performance really had a feel of musical theatre, with plenty of costume changes, glitter and atmospheric lighting.

I think Kate Bush is certainly an influence on Patrick’s music, particularly in some of the arrangements. Kate made good use of the large stage back in 1979, and so did Patrick in 2009. The first three-quarters of the show was remarkably restrained and intimate, with Patrick’s vocals really given the chance to breathe.

Highlights of the first half of the set included two of my favourite Wolf songs, Wind In The Wires & the haunting Bluebells.

“Deep in this dream
I let the calmness keep spinning”

Thickets from 2009’s The Bachelor made full use of the accompanying musicians, expanded on the night to to include a choir and string section.

“Just a little further up the hill boy
you’ll be home soon enough”

And then came the promised guest appearance. Marc Almond was unable to perform due to illness, and Patrick kind of gave the identity of the guest away on his Myspace blog “I’m sure my amazing duettist will raise it up! If you know what I mean.” So it was no surprise to see Florence Welch (without her Machine) duetting with Patrick on The Bachelor.

Patrick Wolf & Florence Welch at the London Palladium - by Ravenblakh
Patrick Wolf & Florence Welch

German techno uber-lord Alec Empire brought his box of many synths and trailing wires onto the stage for Battle & Hard Times. The latter song saw the whole crowd rise to their feet, where they remained for the majority of the evening.

The lush, string-driven forthcoming single Damaris was surely made to be performed in an ornate venue such as the London Palladium. The delicate The Sun Is Often Out was dedicated to two departed friends, and the show ended on a real high-note, with the decadent electro-pulse of Vulture, featuring Wolf spinning under a glitter-ball, adorned in sequins and looking like he had stepped straight out of Velvet Goldmine.

A clearly emotional Wolf kept referring to this show as being the best he had ever performed, and how he found it hard to believe that he was headlining the venue after being turned away from the Palladium 10 years ago, where as a teenager, he had had hoped to review a Bjork show.

Patrick Wolf performs "Vulture" at the London Palladium - by Ravenblakh
Patrick Wolf performs “Vulture”

The was a real air of celebration at this gig, and a feeling that Patrick Wolf is shifting up a gear. If finances permit, I’m sure Patrick will want to use strings again in a live setting, as it brought a real depth to the live show. Heres to 2010, a new album and more shows of this quality.

“The Boy is doing fine”


Divine Intervention / Overture / Wolfsong / Wind In the Wires
Oblivion / Paris / Thesus / Who Will / The Shadowsea / Bluebells
Pigeon Song / Thickets / The Bachelor / Epilogue / Count Of Casualty
Battle / Hard Times / Libertine / Damaris / Tristan / Eulogy
Magic Position / The Sun Is Often Out / Vulture

All pictures on this page © Ravenblakh

To see the full set of Ravenblakh’s pictures of
Patrick Wolf at  London Palladium please visit Flickr

Patrick Wolf CD’s on Amazon UK
The Bachelor
The Magic Position
Wind in the Wires

Blue Roses – Moments Before Sleep

7 09 2009

Blue Roses debut album (2009)

One of the best debut albums I have heard in a long, long time. A virtually beat-free album, with layered vocals, underpinned with acoustic guitar, piano and electronics, and hints of folk music.  Laura Groves aka Blue Roses is from Shipley, and there several tracks, such as Can’t Sleep and Coast that could only really come from West Yorkshire.
The albums standout tracks is “I Wish I…” (if this track doesn’t melt your heart, you are made of stone). Just piano and voice, and a string quartet towards the middle of the song, this is one of those songs that could have been recorded at any time in the past thirty years, its untouched by technology, and is all the betetr for it.
“But when he touched my hand like it was gold,
Well I want to pull away and say,
“Look, it’s only…well it’s only made from plain old skin and bone”
The Kate Bush comparisons are an easy (but valid) reference point, but Blue Roses have none of the theatrics of Kate Bush’s early work, and live performances are all about the music, which is powerful and emotive.
Rebecca is the only song to feature electric guitar and percussion, and breaks up the album with its discordant opening, but then the magic kicks in and the song goes to another place.
“Let me sit and watch you working, I won’t be a pain.
You will not notice me at all.”
The album was apparently recorded on a shoestring, with studio-time, borrowed grand pianos and choirs from the local pub, all grabbed when they were available, not that you can tell. There’s a real warmth and clarity to the songs on this album, and the constant touring and support of Radio 2 will hopefully raise the albums profile over the coming months.
The direction of the next album release will be interesting, as recordings released after this album was recorded point to a different direction, with less acoustic guitar and more experimentation with different production techniques.  Single “b” side (is there such a thing anymore, in the digital age?) Moments Before Sleep is a lo-fi wonder, but as magical as anything on the album.  The most recent recording released was an enchanting cover of The Beatles Golden Slumbers from Mojo magazine’s Abbey Road Now compilation.
Greatest Thoughts
Cover Your Tracks
I Am Leaving
Can’t Sleep
I Wish I…
Does Anyone Love Me Now?
Doubtful Comforts
Imaginary Flights
XLCD 411 UK Release April 2009 / US Release July 2009

One of the best debut albums I have heard in a long, long time. A virtually beat-free album, with layered vocals, underpinned with acoustic guitar, piano and electronics, and subtle hints of folk.

Laura Groves aka Blue Roses is from Shipley, and there are several tracks, such as Can’t Sleep and Coast that could only really come from West Yorkshire.

The albums standout track is I Wish I… (if this song doesn’t melt your heart, you are made of stone). Starting off with just piano and voice, and adding a string quartet towards the middle, this is one of those songs that could have been recorded at any time in the past thirty years.

I Wish I… is untouched by technology, and is all the better for it.

“But you’ve got your eye on the door.
This is what my life is for.
I’ll pray that you won’t drop your anchor here.”

The Kate Bush comparisons are an easy (but valid) reference point, but Blue Roses have none of the theatrics of Kate Bush’s early work, and live performances are all about the music, which is powerful and emotive.

Rebecca is the only song to feature electric guitar and percussion, and breaks up the album with its discordant opening, but then the magic kicks in and the song heads off to another place.

“Let me sit and watch you working, I won’t be a pain.
You will not notice me at all.”

The album was apparently recorded on a shoestring, with studio-time, borrowed grand pianos and choirs from the local pub, all grabbed when they were available, not that you can tell. There’s a real warmth and clarity to the songs on this album, and the constant touring and support of Radio 2 will hopefully raise the albums profile over the coming months.

The direction of the next album will be interesting, as the recordings released after this debut was recorded point to a different direction, with less acoustic guitar and more experimentation with production techniques.  Single “b” side (is there such a thing anymore, in the digital age?) Moments Before Sleep is a lo-fi wonder, but easily as magical as anything on the album.  The most recent Blue Roses recording released was an enchanting cover of  The Beatles Golden Slumbers from Mojo magazine’s Abbey Road Now compilation.

Greatest Thoughts / Cover Your Tracks / I Am Leaving / Can’t Sleep /
I Wish I… / Coast / Does Anyone Love Me Now? / Doubtful Comforts /
Rebecca / Imaginary Flights

Lyrics quoted © Blue Roses
XLCD 411 UK Release April 2009 / US Release July 2009

Buy Blue Roses on Amazon UK
Buy Blue Roses on Amazon US

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