When Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years” topped the charts here in Toronto I remember a buddy asking ‘Is that Carly Simon?’ No, it was red-head Mick Hucknall. The band’s first lp was Picture Book (1985), which at that time I had as cassette. I have that & Men and Women (1987), A New Flame (1989), Stars (1991) in my collection.
The band was good, if unexceptional, the original songs were good, if unexceptional, the cover songs ditto. It was Hucknall’s voice that sold the work. The music progressed to a more commercial, slick sound & by Stars I lost interest – verging on bland, adult contemporary as opposed to top ten.
Sinclair: Que justice soit faite! (1993), Au mépris du danger (1995): French fun with amazing engineering, & a great singer. Production was done by members of French techno wizards Cassius (whose cds I love). The music is funky, sexy & danceable with songs about love, politics & dancing. I bought these in Montreal when I used to visit in the mid 90’s as a part of learning French. I never really learned much except that lyrics are often irrelevant to enjoyment.
I made a cassette copy of of a friend’s Looking Glass (1987) lp by Siouxsie and the Banshees which I eventually downloaded as mp3. On it the band covers songs by Roxy Music, The Doors etc. They move from their Goth sound to a more alternative rock sensibility & I liked the song they chose to interpret. I’ve heard other lps but they didn’t grab me. I did eventually add Gold: a 2 cd compilation of their ‘hits’ & alternate takes.
By R.E.M. I have as mp3 – Reckoning (1984)/ Life’s Rich Pageant (1986)/ Document (1987) as stand alone Green (1988), Out of Time (1991), Automatic for the People (1992), Monster (1994), New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1998), Up (1998), Accelerate (2008). Before they hit big a friend have me a cassette (remember those?) of Reckoning which didn’t impress me. It had a sort of Byrds like sound I liked but I was no fan as a result.
I picked up a 2nd hand Document cassette & I guess the sound quality was better & I did enjoy it but when they hit their stride with Green I followed their releases for awhile. Their engineering & production improved. I liked the way their music changed from release to release. Lots of keyboards, then almost acoustic, then more guitar, then a touch of mandolin. It must be odd when an alternative band becomes so mainstream. They turned out to be neo-hippies with their strong ecological, political stance.
To round out the mp3 collection I added: Stories: About Us (1973) – an excellent album by a great US band that didn’t survive their fame. Simply Red: Men & Women (1987); A New Flame (1989): two fine adult pop romantic lps by a band that sort of faded away. Huey Lewis & The News: Sports (1983); Fore! (1986) – read hit parade rock pop by a band that was inescapable from in the mid 80’s.
Joe Simon: Get Down – great soulful sexy r’n’b dance music worth searching out. David Bowie: Let’s Dance: obscure lp by an obscure British musician (just joking). Bowie does disco with intelligence & a bit of grit. Finally The Dream Academy – one of the bands that propelled emo into chamber rock – dreamy & sonically rich.