Music Reviews

Popular Music CDs - Part 14 - March, 1999

Graham Vine





Picture House

Koch International; 33295-2

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I picked this album up and put it down again a few times before deciding it was worth a try. For some reason the cover wasn't appealing. What a mistake! This is among the best five CDs I've heard in the past six months.

I've only been able to track down one other album by Picture House and that was "Shine Box", which received mixed reviews. Maybe the release of "Karmarama" will bring them the success I believe they deserve.

Dave Browne on lead vocals has a slightly husky sound to his voice and it's very appealing. Always spot on pitch and full of character. Some songs are deep and full of emotion, others full of fun in an Idle Race sort of way. OK, while we're relating the album to other acts, here are a few more. I can hear elements of Squeeze, Crowded House, and even the Beatles in there. One of my favorites, track 3: "All the Time in The World" has that warm guitar sound George used to employ to great effect in songs like "Something" off the "Abbey Road" album.

What else has this CD to offer? An enormous sense of musicality for one thing. Very clever use of tempo in the songs, like on track 2, "Sunburst" when the pace is slowed just enough to make the chorus have even more impact. 3/4 time is used in "Midas" (track 6), and that could have sounded corny, but the guys really make it work. And the use of pizzicato violins adds another dimension. It all just shows how Picture House members are prepared to do whatever it takes to make a song sound 'just right'.

You'll notice that I have given a total of 10 out of 10 as a rating for this album. It's flawless. But fellas, get a new cover artist!

For reference, full track-listing:

1. You and I
2. Sunburst
3. All the Time in the World
4. One in a Million
5. Love in the Streets
6. Midas
7. Only a Friend
8. A Thousand Years of Evolution
9. Raining Stones
10. Got to Let You Go
11. Me, Myself and You

- GV -


"Double Decker Triple Tracker"

Various Artists

Recall; SMDCD 177

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What a brilliant way to put together a '60s compilation! Recall, the record label, has concentrated on eleven acts and brought together three tracks from each. This way we are fortunate enough to have a greater depth of coverage of the performers, allowing us to hear some rather less 'obvious' tracks than might be the case in a typical compilation.

The choice of artists is also wider than might often be the case. Take The Pretty Things, for example. Not frequent chart visitors compared with The Kinks. And yet they are now thought of as being highly influencial in those early Rhythm 'n' Blues days when pop was taking its first tentative steps into the world of progressive rock. Did these ideas lead onto the sounds we now associate with The Yardbirds, or even Cream?

How good it is to hear some live performances captured here from '70s darlings Fleetwood Mac! Clearly an excellent live band and demonstrating on this album some of the roots which led onto that success. It's a band I had always hoped to see in concert at the time but always seemed to just miss. I guess this is the nearest thing to seeing them perform - the atmosphere is certainly captured in the two live tracks "Oh Well" and "Black Magic Woman".

It would be fair to wonder whether the sound quality from those old '60s tapes has survived its transfer to the CD medium. Listening on superb equipment, I can report good results in this department. "Go Now" by the Moody Blues always did sound overloaded, even on the original vinyl. It sounds exactly the same on the CD.

So congratulations, Recall, for putting together a fine '60s compilation. It is more than mere nostalgia, a trap it would have been easy to fall into. No, this is more of an 'anthology', tracing the roots of modern pop music.

For reference, full track-listing:


1. The Small Faces: Itchicoo Park
2. The Small Faces: Tin Soldier
3. The Small Faces: Lazy Sunday
4. The Kinks: You Really Got Me
5. The Kinks: Sunny Afternoon
6. The Kinks: Days
7. The Pretty Things: Midnight To Six Man
8. The Pretty Things: L. S. D.
9. The Pretty Things: Rosalyn
10. Humble Pie: Natural Born Boogie
11. Humble Pie: Nifty Little Thing Like You
12. Humble Pie: Wrist Job
13. Fleetwood Mac: Man of The World
14. Fleetwood Mac: Oh Well (live)
15. Fleetwood Mac: Black Magic Woman (live)


1. Donovan: Colours
2. Donovan: Universal Soldier
3. Donovan: Catch the Wind
4. Status Quo: Are You Growing Tired?
5. Status Quo: Pictures of Matchstick Men
6. Status Quo: Ice in the Sun
7. The Moody Blues: Go Now
8. The Moody Blues: I Don't Mind
9. The Moody Blues: Time is on our Side
10. The Ivy League: Funny How Love Can Be
11. The Ivy League: Tossing and Turning
12. The Ivy League: That's Why I'm Crying
13. Marmalade: Ob La Di, Ob La Da
14. Marmalade: Reflections of My Life
15. Marmalade: The Living Things
16. Chris Farlowe: Out of Time
17. Chris Farlowe: Ride On Baby
18. Chris Farlowe: Handbags And Gladrags

- GV -


"Agony & Ecstasy"

Phil Bates

Don't Panic Productions; DPP 0004

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Agony & Ecstasy - how many performers have felt these (mixed) emotions in the creation of their latest work? More so, perhaps, in the case of this long awaited second solo album from Phil Bates. Holding down a career with one of the world's hardest-working touring bands, ELO Part 2, and yet somehow managing to carve out a substantial solo career as a parallel exercise. And the contrast in styles! More of this anon.

Phil's pedigree is impeccable. Touring extensively in the 1970s with his band Trickster and then free from the confines of a group environment until he was invited to join Bev and the rest in ELO Part 2 as vocalist and guitarist, he left after six years to concentrate on solo and related projects. Writing for Trickster, ELO and himself has also kept him busy, and we, his listeners, are enthralled at the quality of his music.

Very little of the above can give much of a clue as to what we should expect from "Agony & Ecstasy", Phil's new album. I spoke with Phil a couple of years ago, and he explained to me his internal turmoil in loving to work with the band and yet yearning to work outside of the band. I think he has kept his own bluesy style, as his communication with his audience while happy to rock with the best of 'em fronting many of the ELO songs.

This album has a slightly harsher edge to it than "Naked", Phil's first solo album. There are cover versions of some songs and self-penned compositions for the rest. I liked them all, but I had a couple of initial reservations over "Evil Woman" and "Dancing on the Edge of a Knife". Now I've heard Phil perform many versions of "Evil Woman" and liked them all. I'm not one of those people who feel the only valid version of a song is the original. No, my reservation this time was over the looped sampled rhythm throughout the track. Having listened a few more times, I can now accept it.

The other track, "Dancing On The Edge Of A Knife", has a fair bit of 'grunge' to it! Quite a change from the folk-blues and blues-rock flavor of the rest of it. But even this track gets under your skin. Would Beatles fans accept "She's A Woman"? - not the most obvious track of the Fab Four's to cover. John and Paul always approved of covers if they were different enough. Phil's version has little backing apart from a drum machine and his acoustic guitar. This all leaves a great amount of space for the feeling in Phil's voice to come through.

So let's hear it for Phl Bates! Excellent guitar work, clear, expressive, vocals, superb song-writing and production-work. Oh yes, and if you manage to catch Phil Bates in concert you are in for a real treat.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. If That's the Way the Feeling Takes You
2. Evil Woman
3. I Will Follow
4. The Agony & The Ecstasy
5. Superstition
6. Walking on God (Singing Rosie)
7. Dragging Me Down
8. I Don't Want to Be Alone with Myself Tonight
9. She's a Woman
10. Seeds of My Destruction
11. The Beauty of Small Things
12. Grounded
13. Jealousy
14. Gotta Go Home
15. Measure of The Man
16. Just Fell in Love
17. Dancing on the Edge of a Knife

- GV -


© Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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