Archive for the ‘Versions, versions’ Category

Bill Nelson – Chimera and Savage Gestures for Charms Sake

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

Two Bill Nelson releases hailing from 1983, both of the mini-album variety that was so very much in vogue at the time. The first of these, ‘Chimera’, capped off Bill’s short but highly productive two year stint with Mercury records, the second, ‘Savage Gestures for Charms Sake’, saw the return to Cocteau Records as a going commercial concern once more. Both very enjoyable in their own way, they were later brought together on a single Cocteau Records CD for re-issue before later being being split apart again with ‘Chimera’ upgraded to a single CD expanded edition in 2005, while ‘Savage Gestures for Charms Sake’, other than a long since deleted stand-alone re-issue on CD in 1989, currently languishes in the wastelands. First up…


‘Chimera’

Bill Nelson - 'Chimera' UK mini album front cover design

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Chimera’ UK mini album front cover design

It has an unusual back story, this album. Recorded late 1982 at The Garden and Riverside Studios, it apparently started life with the intention of being a bridging four track EP between 1982’s ‘The Love That Whirls’ album and the next intended full-length album, but ended up a six track mini-album released around the time the intended album should have been with the addition of two extra tracks. (Production work for amongst others Gary Numan and The Units got in the way…) Four of its six songs have drum tracks supplied courtesy of Yukihiro Takahashi (though apparently five such drum tracks were recorded). Ahead of the game as ever, these were not so much a traditional collaboration where the two musicians were present in the studio together to work on the tracks. No, instead the drum tracks were recorded separately and supplied to Bill Nelson, who then wrote music to fit round them. This worked out extremely well, it’s a strong mini-album. The oddest fit is probably on ‘Glow World’, where Bill has Previously been quoted in interview about having to accommodate the sudden radical change in rhythm with a jarringly different in feel instrumental break.

’Glow World’ also has the wonderfully talented Mick Karn on fretless bass guitar add to its complexity. Similar to Yukihiro Takahashi’s drum tracks, apparently there were two other tracks for which Mick Karn recorded bass, but these were not included but have never surfaced.

We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here though. The album starts off with ‘The Real Adventure’, a cracking, busy little explosion of sound that carries on with the good work of the preceding ‘The Love That Whirls’ album’s synth-driven sonics, if anything that bit more muscular and chiselled by way of Takahashi’s drums.

Bill Nelson - 'Chimera' UK mini album rear cover design

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Chimera’ UK mini album rear cover design

‘Acceleration’ is up next and sets off on a carefully sequenced synth rhythm and Roland TR808 rhythm machine before a much smoother sound develops courtesy of Nelson’s more soulful vocals and his brother, Ian Nelson, joining in to add saxophone throughout.  Had this been a regular length album, it’s not difficult to imagine that this would have been an obvious choice as a lead off single. As it happens, there was a promo-only 7” single at the time. But it was well over a year later that a radically remixed John Luongo US remix and dub saw a release on 7” and extended 12” forms.

Bill Nelson - 'Chimera' UK mini album label side 1 design

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Chimera’ UK mini album label side 1 design

Side one is seen out with the muscular funk that is ‘Everyday Feels Like Another New Drug’, with Nelson’s vocals once again letting go in a looser, soulful vein alternating with a more urgent clip atop the busy musical workout underneath. The latter part of the track manages to wand in the highly amusing radio and television sourced voice collage that makes up a track of its own in the form of ‘The Blazing Memory Of Innuendo’ from the album ‘Chamber Of Dreams (Music From The Invisibility Exhibition)’.

Bill Nelson - 'Chimera' UK mini album label side 2 design

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Chimera’ UK mini album label side 2 design

‘Tender Is The Night’ is quite the contrast to start off side two, a much gentler affair after the crash, bang, wallop funk, with quieter Roland TR808 drum machine providing the rhythmic bed to start things off, while all remaining instruments are played by Bill. It’s followed by the frenzied ‘Glow World’ which we’ve already discussed, which leaves the closing beauty of ‘Another Day, Another Ray of Hope’, easily one of Bill’s most beautiful tracks of the time. At once joyful but with a hint of melancholy, “our silver turns to gold” indeed. Opening to a mesh of e-bow guitar, that Roland TR808 once again fires up and propels proceedings along rhythmically in fine spirit, swathes of synths again present, correct and accounted for, before Preston Hayman’s rhythmic barrage lets loose in the latter stages before the song fades away to reverb-drenched piano – you can almost smell the autumn bonfire in the golden light of sunset at this point…

In the US, the six tracks of ‘Chimera’ were instead released under the title ‘Vistamix’ and padded out with a further four tracks from earlier releases… but that’s a whole other story of its own really, partly touched on in my previous post about the ‘Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam’ album.


‘Savage Gestures For Charms Sake’

Bill Nelson - 'Savage Gestures For Charms Sake' mini album front cover

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Savage Gestures For Charms Sake’ mini album front cover

The story seems to go that problems with Bill’s then management along with record company disappointment at the failure of ‘Chimera’ to chart led to the relationship with Mercury Records reaching an end. So, Bill’s next commercial release came via his own Cocteau Records label (which during the Mercury Records period had still been on the go for soundtrack and ‘Acquitted by Mirrors’ fan club releases.

This copy of the mini-album you see here came to me as a Christmas present in 1983. Albums as Christmas presents had been a very exciting thing for me from 1980 onwards. Happy days.

Sonically, this album was a world away from ‘Chimera’. Where that record was underpinned by rather busy drum, percussion and rhythm box tracks, rhythms here come via the instruments themselves. It’s an adventurous sound from the off, not least with the opening ‘The Man InThe Rexine Suit’, that is propelled rhythmically with abstract electronics and busy marimba and bass synth, plenty of reversed tape sounds in there too, while Ian Nelson’s elegant sax weaves its way through the piano that makes up the melody on top. The rhythm that the following track, the beautifully mournful ‘Watching My Dream Boat Go Down In Flames’, is built upon sounds like a tape loop of some sort and reversed minimal rhythm box, upon which an ever unfolding musical landscape emerges, with Bill’s e-bow guitar taking the lead. It reminds me somehow of some of the work Bill did with Skids round the time of the wonderful ‘Days In Europa’. Side one concludes with the Oriental feel of ‘The Meat Room’. The unmistakable sound if the Casio VL-1’s ‘violin’ preset is met loose here to run free form across the piece.

Bill Nelson - 'Savage Gestures For Charms Sake' mini album rear cover

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Savage Gestures For Charms Sake’ mini album rear cover

Side two gets underway in a calm and subdued mood courtesy of ‘Narcosis’. More backward sounds, slowly unfurling beneath synth me This is closer in territory to the material found on ‘Sounding the Ritual Echo’ or perhaps ‘Echo In Her Eyes’ from ‘The Love That Whirls’. Either way it is quite a beautiful, minimal jewel of a piece.

‘Another Happy Thought (Carved Forever In Your Cortex’) is easily the most rhythmic and dare I say cheery track, built on a Roland TR808 rhythm track it is once again, like ‘The Meat Room’, mining the pentatonic for that Oriental feel as it goes about its cheery ways.

The closing track, ‘Portrait of Jan With Moon And Stars’ is another beauty, though this time in dusk-hued rays it’s almost like a slow-motion freeze frame beat less version of the dying notes of ‘Another Day Another Ray Of Hope’ from ‘Chimera’, elongated into darkness.

Bill Nelson - 'Savage Gestures For Charms Sake' mini album poster - 'The Object Lesson'

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Savage Gestures For Charms Sake’ mini album poster – ‘The Object Lesson’

My version of the LP has the same label applied to both sides, hence why there is only the one photo here…

Bill Nelson - 'Savage Gestures For Charms Sake' mini album label design side 1

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Savage Gestures For Charms Sake’ mini album label design side 1

The record comes complete with an art print, which would later reappear within the pages of ‘The Arcane Eye’, the photo book that was included as part of the 1984 box set ‘Trial by Intimacy (The Book of Splendours)’ – at least it did eventually, as it wasn’t ready when the boxes first shipped and was posted out some months later.

A stand-alone CD version complete with a pretty faithful adaption of the original artwork for CD jewel case format emerged on the US label Enigma in 1989, but I have never come across a copy of that.


In the UK, the only time this mini album has appeared on CD format to date was back in 1987 when it was combined with ‘Chimera’ to fill one disc. Depending on your viewpoint, it’s either a good thing or a missed opportunity that the mini-albums’ tracklists were left as is. So we have the six songs of ‘Chimera’ up first in order followed by the six tracks from ‘Savage Gestures…’ afterwards. Mixing them up a bit might have produced a hybrid full-length 1983 imaginary album… the vocal tracks salted with the instrumentals… or perhaps that’s just crazy talk. Your answers on a postcard to…

Bill Nelson - 'Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake' UK CD

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake’ UK CD

For the packaging however, it was very much a mash-up of the two cover designs. My own copy of this CD is a little mangled from some water damage that led to a less than successful parting of the dried inner pages, as can be seen. Using the illustration by Bill Nelson for the front cover from ‘Savage Gestures…’, the Gill Sans typography from the credits of  ‘Chimera’ was used throughout the booklet which now had the lyrics included. Use of the attractive ‘Albertus’ font used on the titling from ‘Chimera’ was dropped altogether though. Rather than make use of the deep magenta-red colouring of ‘Chimera’, the secondary golden-yellow that had been used for the titling became the predominant colour instead.

Bill Nelson - 'Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake' UK CD - insert rear cover

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake’ UK CD – insert rear cover

Bill Nelson - 'Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake' UK CD - disc label design

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake’ UK CD – disc label design

Bill Nelson - 'Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake' UK CD - rear case design

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake’ UK CD – rear case design

Bill Nelson - 'Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake' UK CD - inner booklet spread 1

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake’ UK CD – inner booklet spread 1

Bill Nelson - 'Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake' UK CD - inner booklet spread 2

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake’ UK CD – inner booklet spread 2

Bill Nelson - 'Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake' UK CD - inner booklet spread 3

^ Bill Nelson – ‘Chimera/Savage Gestures for Charms Sake’ UK CD – inner booklet spread 3

Sources:

Bill Nelson interview in ‘Electronics and Music Maker’, August 1983, archived on Mu:Zines.

Kraftwerk – ‘Computer World’ (Pathe-Marconi EMI, 2C 070 64370, 1981)

Sunday, June 14th, 2020

The French edition of Kraftwerk’s wonderful ‘Computer World’ album of 1981 is unique for its inclusion of ‘Mini Calculateur’, the en française rendition of ‘Pocket Calculator’. This is one of the four language variants of the song officially released on vinyl, the others being German, English and Japanese. The band also recorded an Italian language version (‘Mini Calcolatore’) and performed it in 1981 on the RAI television show Discoring, but this language mix was not released on record. A pity, as it sounds great. (There have been additional live performance variations too, but these were the recorded ones.)

Kraftwerk - 'Computer World' Pathe-Marconi EMI French vinyl LP, 1981 - front sleeve design.

^ Kraftwerk – ‘Computer World’ Pathe-Marconi EMI French vinyl LP, 1981 – front sleeve design.

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Gary Numan ‘80/81’ Box Set – Discs 3, 4 and 5: ‘Living Ornaments 81′

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

In the first part of this look at the ‘80/81’ box set, the focus was on discs one and two, which spread the ‘Telekon’ studio album across a couple of individually packaged LPs. The remainder of the box finds the 1981 Wembley ‘farwewell concerts’ documented by way of the ‘Living Ornaments 81’ album – its only appearance on vinyl to date.


Those 1981 farewell shows are a well established part of the Numan folklore of course. I was still too young to have attended any concerts back in 1981. Instead, it was all lived vicariously through the pages of the music press and the likes of the Numan-sympathetic one-off SynRock fanzine, as well as the immediately preceding ‘Living Ornaments 79 and 80’ box set, which I lavished no small amount of several weeks pocket money on. A few months later came the airing on BBC1 TV (Sunday 6th September 1981) of some highlights from the video recording of the show. Despite being condensed down to only 40 minutes in length, this was A Very Big Deal Indeed for me, in an era of only three television channels airing in the UK. Having to compete with the rest of the family and their viewing pleasures – and with no video recorder yet – was no mean feat. The complete show would be released in full form in 1982 on the oddly named ‘Micromusic’ home video cassette and from which this live recording is derived.

Gary Numan '80/81' Box Set - Disc 3 - 'Living Ornaments 81' sleeve front cover

^ Gary Numan ’80/81′ Box Set – Disc 3 – ‘Living Ornaments 81’ sleeve front cover

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New Order – ‘The Perfect Kiss’ UK 7” (Factory, FAC123, 1985)

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

Rounding out May’s posts is the standard UK 7” issue of New Order’s first single release of 1985, ‘The Perfect Kiss’.

On first sight, and in comparison to many other New Order singles of the ‘80s in particular, it looks quite uninspiring and bland, taking minimalism all the way by being packaged in a high gloss plain black card sleeve, with minimal silver print typography on plain black labels. In the grooves though we find two edits that are unique to only this 7” single and which have never found there way on to any later CD releases.

New Order - The Perfect Kiss UK 7" front sleeve and label design.

^ New Order – The Perfect Kiss UK 7″ front sleeve and label design.

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Side by side: Hard Corps – ‘Metal and Flesh’ album versions

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

This post will look at the various releases of the Hard Corps compilation album, ‘Metal and Flesh’ and its multiple mixes and selections across a small but surprisingly varied releases. I have posted about Hard Corps before, they remain, even after all these years, a favourite. At a time when bands were increasingly content to rely on the clean gleam of the new digital instrumentation wave, Hard Corps were synthesising their own sounds from a variety of elements. In the rhythm department in particular, none of the obvious go-to sources of the era, save for a Roland  TR-808 to provide a basic chassis in early stages of a track’s development, swapped out as they progressed for their urgent, hard, insistent pure electronic beats driving the music. Whether in the more in your face and up tempo signature pieces as ‘Metal and Flesh’, ‘Dirty’ or ‘Desolation Land’, or on the slower, more melancholic works such as ‘The Bell’ or ‘Respirer’. My goodness, how well did Regine Fetete’s abstractions describe in fragments such bittersweet worlds to marry with the music produced by Hugh Ashton, Robert Doran and Clive Pierce.


Hard Corps ‘Metal and Flesh’ 1990 CD

The CD was the first version of the album to appear, I received my copy by mail order on 19th September 1990 (having ordered it from an advert for Beat Route mail order back in August). The Discogs.com entry gives an earlier release date of 18th June 1990 though. I don’t know the background to the album and how it came to be. Seems to gather together earlier, harder and more melancholic tracks along with later period ones where the sound has softened a little over time. I have no idea if it is really as clear cut as that, but a I wonder if there was some kind of change, perhaps related to the period where the band’s period with Polydor must have soured and led to be a barren period of activity. 1986 in particular saw, for example, little if any live activity.

Hard Corps 'Metal and Flesh' 1990 CD - front cover design

^ Hard Corps ‘Metal and Flesh’ 1990 CD – front cover design

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