Friday, October 31, 2008

FDF Volume 2 Issue 114: Big Country - The Crossing

By: March

Album - The Crossing
Artist - Big Country
Key Players - Bruce Watson - guitar, mandolin, sitar, vocals, e-bow. Tony Butler - bass, vocals. Mark Brzezicki - drums, percussion and vocals. Stuart Adamson - lead vocals, guitar, piano, e-bow
Produced By - Steve Lillywhite

Release Date - July 15, 1983 (re-issue in 2002)

What caused me to blow off the dust? - It has been a while, and a reader commented a bit ago they would like to see me give this one a I hope that person is still around.

Overview - This was the first full length album from the Scottish band Big Country.The album would contain the bands only top 40 US single "In a Big Country" but would capture the minds of music fans with a "bagpipe" guitar sound. The band would go on to release eight albums total and never really reach the wide audience one would almost expect. The band would try to re-invent itself later on, but the fans that knew the sound, missed it and the band would struggle with in-fighting, and their label. The band in the 1990's would often perform as opening acts for larger touring bands. In 2000 the band did a final farewell tour and although spirits were high Adamson was dealing with other demos. He would commit suicide in 2001.

FDF Comments (aka the songs). As noted the album was re-issued in 2002 with the "Wonderland" ep on the same disc. This list is for the ten tracks that made up the initial release. A barrage of drums, a shout and some drum rolls bring up the opener "In a Big Country". The guitars are tucked in the back a little until Brzerzicki kicks it all in, then comes that bagpie-esque guitar. The song has its big breakdown and then the guitars really get going again. Upon listening once more with a critical ear the bass line is rather complex keeping with the dynamic of the track. We get the big riffs once more and a delayed shout from Adamson as the track fades. "Inwards" opens a little more minimalistic. One guitar chirps, while the other grinds the strings before the band comes in. Adamson seems to be pushed down in the mix on the track but seems to be a little more at ease. His vocals have the drawl to them and the band is tight, they are a proficient band as evidenced by the tempo changes in the track. A single guitar works up "Chance". We are at a much slower pace on this track. There are moments with steel drums and the guitars don't overdo it. There are never any really flashy moments on the track, it sort of sticks with the verse chorus verse mantra. The pace picks up once more on "1000 Stars" as the band wastes little time getting off. The battle drums and the bass crunch hard as the chiming guitar returns over the top. Adamson gives some strong yells that fit with the track as the buzz of guitars surrounds the listener. A strong track. A single guitar, awash in distortion slowly fades up on "The Storm". All this sort of gets thrown out the window about one minute in as the band falls in to a country feel. Brushes on the drum and a 12 bar blues bass line fill the void before the click of the drums brings the "rock feel" back, but the band changes gears once more and repeats the musical formula. The familiar guitar sounds once more bring up "Harvest Home". The rhythm section sort of holds the guitars from really getting rolling, but they get there. Adamson is once more in strong voice, singing the verses about as choppy as he can, almost chanting the lines. The music will sound familiar as the "sound" of Big Country is there once more. On the intro to "Lost Patrol" on guitar does the slow swirling buildup while the second strikes out a few notes and allows it to resonate. Brzezicki layers the drums down hard while the band explodes over the top. The guitars are less "chimy" this time around, opting for more deeper riffs. Butler still is given moments to flash off a quick bass fill as well. Fuzzed out guitar brings up "Close Action" as Brzezicki once more gives the drum kit a work out. Adamson seems once more laid back in his vocal delivery, but is very strong not hesitating to hit higher notes in his vocal range. The song spreads its wings musically and really the guitar get up, and out there. A soaring track. The widely known "Fields of Fire" follows. The track would not even crack the Billboard top 50 (peaking at 52 almost a year after the album came out). The bagpipe guitar sounds are made with a combination of e-bow and an effect pedal (an MXR Pitch Transposer 129 if you are into that stuff). It clacks off with "1-2-3-4" and the drums swallow you whole. Most readers know this track but if you check it out again, listen to the bass line. I know its hard because the guitars are so cool, often times when the guitars really get up there, listen to what Butler does. Warn your co-workers at 1:54 in you are about to shout "Hut/Hup" along with Adamson. A watershed moment for the band that set the tone for the early days of MTV. The originally released album closes out with "Porrohman" a track close to eight minutes long. The track starts of with guitar and a slow drum build. Single bass notes resonate as the song slowly builds. Its sort of run of the mill honestly until about the five minute mark when the band simply explodes, the tempo goes up and the band really feeds off one another. An epic closer in a pure sense of the word.

Where are they now?
- After 10 years the band was dropped from their label yet the band soldered on. The band would be considering an "opening act". The band would support acts like the Rolling Stones and Who. The band would appear on Roger Daltrys solo record "Under the Raging Moon" and Tony Butler worked with Pete Townshend on "Let My Love Open the Door". The band as a whole would release their final studio album in 1999. Tony is/has worked as a teacher as well as playing with the aforementioned bands. Mark has also worked with various bands including the Cult and in 2004 joined a band called Casbah Club with Pete Townshends brother Simon. The band is currently on hiatus as Simon tours with The Who. In the end Stuart Adamson battled depression and "disappeared" a few times, the final time being in November of 2001. The band and fans pleaded by the web site for any update from Stuart, sadly he was found dead in a hotel room in Honolulu Hawaii on December 16, 2001. Adamson committed suicide by hanging. On a happier note, the band re-formed in 2007 to celebrate their 25th Anniversary with Butler taking over the lead vocal duties. The three are working together once more as BBW with a new album "In Our Name" recently released.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience)
- I never saw Big Country live.

FDF Overall Take - MTV put these guys on the map in the US for sure with the great videos and unique sound. It is a fun listen to go back track by track and really feel the power they were able to convey musically. I personally haven't heard much of the later albums (I think the last one I recall hearing all the way through was their third called "The Seer") but in reading a later record was a return for form that is perhaps worth tracking down. It was a fun walk down memory lane on this. For the casual fans the "hits" are probably more than enough, but this band had some talented guys on board, evidenced by their colleagues having them work, and support them.

Official page here.
Bruce Watson official site
Mark on myspace.
The project the three guys are working on, here on myspace.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The MP3's have been removed....
In a Big Country
Harvest Home
Fields of Fire

All the tracks taken from The Crossing which you can buy here

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.

Friday, October 24, 2008

FDF Volume 2 Issue 113 : Kitchens of Distinction - Strange Free World

By: March

Album - Strange Free World
Artist - Kitchens of Distinction
Key Players - Patrick Fitzgerald - vocals and bass, Julian Swales - guitar, Dan Goodwin - drums
Produced By - Hugh Jones

Release Date - February 19, 1991

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I have been meaning to do this for a long while. When I began to listen to this once more I was remembering the two singles mostly. Some buddies and I spent some time with this record and some beers over the course of the year. Its not a party record, but one you'd put on after most people left. Listening now I am amazed how much of an influence they are on some of the modern rock/indie/alternative bands I enjoy. The guitar work is beyond great as well.

Overview - This is the second release from London based Kitchens of Distinction. The band who got their name from a company that, well, does Kitchens of Distinction. The band made up of three friends would find the most success commercially with this record. The band, sort of pigeonholed as a "shoegazer" band had a different take musically than some of their peers. The band would struggle with later releases due to the lyrical content of some of the tracks. They'd disband in 1996 after a total of four releases.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - The band opens up with a wonderful track "Railwayed". The "full" sound this band gets is amazing. They are not a "power trio" in the strong sense of the word, but the mix is perfect. The guitar solo chimes over the final verse as the track fades out. A great opener. All this leads in to "Quick as Rainbows" which was a radio single (more college radio based) and it slowly fades up to ringing bass and guitar. Fitzgerald is in fine voice with easy croons as the chorus comes up. We hear the great guitar wall on this track that becomes a staple of the record. Its a blend of delay and acoustic guitar that just washes over everything. All this is how the track winds down. On the track "Hypnogogic" the bass brings up the track with some short drum rolls before the full drum sounds covers the track. The guitar doesn't get to flashy as the wispy vocals begin. The drums roll underneath for the bulk of this track. It doesn't have the shimmer as the the two prior tracks, but ends on a strong verse with Fitzgerald pushing the vocals harder and the guitar gets the trademark chime. "He Holds Her, He Needs Her" begins with a bass line under some playful guitar and the track keeps a strong rhythm and for the first time the band almost stops mid song, only to repeat the first verse formula. The vocals are held back until about the 1:20 mark before Fitzgerald "goes for it" hitting higher range than he has done to this point. Swales gives the guitar a good work out once more flashing some guitar god riffs. On the track "Polaroids" the drums get worked on about 3 minutes in before the guitar solo joins in for a massive collection of sound. It mellows out about 4:15 and quietly goes away, a stark contrast from what occurred earlier. The bass is buried a little too much on the intro of "Gorgeous Love" but the pop feel of the track quickly outweighs the mix. After the track gets rolling you don't really strain to hear the bass and realize that the place in the mix it finds itself is perfect. Per the norm the flashes of guitar are evident. The track "Aspray" follows and out of the gate it feels a little different than what we have heard so far. The track sort of plods along from the start. It is not a major departure but the elements of a great KOD song seem to be tossed off to the side. It is not a bad track, but there are better tracks. The track that got me to buy the record in the first place "Drive That Fast" follows. That bass intro still gets me. Its hardly flashy but the few bars before the guitars join in are "skip back moments" both on my player and in years. Fitzgerald starts off rather subdued before the he begins to push himself more. As the chorus comes the band begin to hit a little harder and even stronger vocally. This track gets to me. When the solo just washes over everything...ahhh its Xanadu I tell you. The band hardly slows down as "Within the Daze of Passion" begins. The bass line is strong, yet almost too basic as the guitar and drums feed off the deep groove. At this point it is evident that Swales over dubs the guitars some, but its well worth it. It not fast, its not flashy, but man he works the guitar so well. The album closes with "Under the Sky, Inside the Sea". The track has a slow start with single guitar chords washing over the bass parts, which in and of them self are short choppy notes. This repeats to about the one minute mark before a solo trumpet rings over the band. It then appears moments later, only this time muted and the band repeats the first wave once more.

Where are they now? - The band broke up in 1996. Since that time Patrick has worked under the moniker of Stephen Hero and released a few records. According to a few searches on Swales and Goodwin, the only thing I was able to really find was that Swales moved on to writing scores for film and theater. Feel free to add in the comments any links or updates and I will post them.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I never saw Kitchens of Distinction live.

FDF Overall Take - This album was produced by a guy that had worked with Simple Minds and Echo and the Bunnymen. If you like bands like Interpol and the Verve you should check K.O.D as they are strongly influenced by this band. If you can track this record down its got a few gems and well worth your time. If you are a guitar fan check this record out as well. This one was sort of a breath of fresh air honestly..its been way too long.


Patrick Fitzgerald as Stephen Hero as well as a K.O.D/Hero myspace.

A great fan site is here.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The mp3s have been removed Nov 20, 2008

Quick as Rainbows
Drive that Fast

All the tracks taken from "Strange Free World" which you can buy here

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.

Friday, October 10, 2008

FDF Volume 2 Issue 112: Toad the Wet Sprocket - Bread and Circus

By: March

Album - Bread and Circus
Artist - Toad the Wet Sprocket
Key Players - Todd Nichols- guitar, Randy Guss - drums, Dean Dinning - bass and backing vocals, Glen Phillips - lead vocals and guitar.
Produced By - Toad the Wet Sprocket and Brad Nack

Release Date - July 1989

What caused me to blow off the dust? - This just fits the bill for the overall idea of this blog. When I look at my cd collection each week trying to come up with ideas of what to revisit not only do I look for something that I haven't listened to in ages, but something readers might actually have heard of, at least in name, at one time. Not sure what that says about my choice in music but there are a fair number of cds that when I look at them I SWEAR I am the only person in the world that owns (or still has) said cds (Nudeswirl or Flowerhead come to mind..both are perfect candidates..but this blog has low enough readers as it is) So, I figured some of you readers will know the name "Toad the Wet Sprocket" so here we go.....

Overview - Blending rock and folk California band Toad the Wet Sprocket broke, albeit slowly, on to the scene in 1989 Formed of four high school students at the time the band pulled together the $650 dollars to record the debut. The band drew its name from a Monty Python sketch. Columbia records would sign the band and re-issue this record. The band would lay the ground work for their sound on this record and have the future records continue to sell better than the ones released prior. The band would split (for the first time) in 1998.

FDF Comments (aka the songs)
- The album opens with the chime of acoustic guitars on "Way Away". The drums compliment nicely as they come in rather light before the bass really comes up nice. The harmonies are strong, and this is a nice sample of the feel of the record. The focus throughout will be on the strong vocals of Phillips as well as the strong guitar work. A little more electric at the start "Scenes From a Vinyl Recliner" musically holds back some for the vocals. Some of the verses are "breathy" yet remain unflinching. It follows the same feel to about the three minute mark before the guitars come up and the band really comes together for a strong outro. A single guitar brings up "Unquiet" and the vocals start almost immediately. Phillips has a little more push on his vocals and the guitars seem to have a fuller chorus sound to them. Phillips is right up once more on "Know Me", which is the longest track on the record. Its a single acoustic guitar and Phillips pushes his vocal range up in the opening verses. About 45 seconds in the drums come in and after a few bars the bass drum brings the rest of the guys in. To this point its actually the most up tempo track on the record. There are some nice full guitar runs on the latter parts of the song. "When We Recovered" has a slide guitar feel and is awash with really full vocals. The bass and drum sort of take a back seat to the harmonies and guitar parts on the track, otherwise it is a pretty decent track. Another up tempo track "One Wind Blows" follows and the bass gets a work out on this track. Adding to its zest there are hand claps and really strong guitar portions giving the track a terrific "bouncy" feel. On "Pale Blue" its the drum track that gets the focus. Vocally we hear more "oohs and ahhs" and really hold up strong. The darker sounding, and slower to build "Always Changing Probably" follows. It takes about 3 minutes for this track to really get going and on this track each member sets their own bar of excellence on their instrument. They all get a strong workout, but nothing is flashy or over the top. Complimenting the whole sound is a saxophone section that is neither too long, or too short. The single released from the record, and the song that got me to buy this very cd is "One Little Girl". The lyrics to the song are a little tough to swallow, with a line "One littler girl, beaten till she begs, told that this is love, told that she will have to take it". It is a sad song, but one wonders if the boy and girl have known each other for a while and a relationship has gone sour. The dichotomy of the song has to do with the use of 'little'. When referring to the girl is frail and defenseless, but the man its more weak and disrespectful. The final 30 seconds of the strong build with a furious tension and it all comes crashing to an end. The album closes with a real strong track "Covered in Roses". The chiming guitar and marching drum slowly build up the track and it grows. This is the one song I seemed to come back to 2 and 3 times when re listening to the record again. It might take a moment to get "going" but the payoff is worth it. See what I mean in the down load..that is what they are there for.

Where are they now? - The band has re-formed on various occasions since 1998. At first it was one off gigs, then in 2006 they did a full US tour. Since then a few multi night run of shows have popped up. Todd and Dean formed a band called Lapdog and they released a record but Dean decided to leave the band. Randy then joined the band and they released a second record. Dean has also composed and performed his first film score for the indie film "Desertion". Dean is the current manager of Toad the Wet Sprocket as well. Todd has been working a a producer. Glen has been arguably the most active former member. He began his solo career just as the band broke up and has released three solo albums with an ep due in early 2009. Glen is currently on tour as well, check his myspace page for dates.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - The one and only time I saw Toad the Wet Sprocket live was part of the 1997 HORDE tour. They were on the same bill as Neil Young, Beck et all. I recall parts of their set, but to be quite honest, I don't recall them either wowing me..or boring me.

FDF Overall Take - It was fun to go back and listen to this record. At times, when the band was getting a little more well known, I recall going to parties and people talking about how silly their name was and how even though they had a silly name they sounded pretty good was the general consensus. Phillips has a voice that has that great balance of vibrato and power, the band was tight and played well within their comfort zone. It may have gotten a little sugary for me later down the road, but it might be time to give some of the other cds a listen once more.


The band has an official site as well as a myspace page.
Want to book some studio time where Todd works? Well you need to check here.
Glen has and official and a myspace page too.

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

The MP3's have been removed Nov 20, 2008
Know Me
One Little Girl
Covered in Roses

All three tracks taken from (the now out of print so it seems)Bread and Circus which you can buy used here

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.

Friday, October 03, 2008

FDF Volume 2 Issue 111: EMF - Schubert Dip

By: March

Album - Schubert Dip
Artist - EMF
Key Players - Mark Decloedt - drums. Ian Dench - keyboards and guitars. James Atkin - vocals. Zac Foley - bass. Derry Brownson - Samples
Produced By - Pascal Gabriel and Ralph Jezzard

Release Date - May 1991

What caused me to blow off the dust? - I was putting away last weeks selection and this just sort of jumped out at me.

Overview - The debut album from UK dance and "Madchester" band EMF was named as a pun on the classical composer (Franz Schubert) as well as candy called "Sherbert Dip". Keyboardist Ian Dench also said that when he was stuck for ideas he'd steal chord sequences from Schubert. The debut would contain the track "Unbelievable" and it would bring the band world wide success. Subsequent releases would not fair as well and the band, at least to this point, will be known mostly for the big single. The single has been used in advertisements for Kraft Foods (for cheese) as well as Hallmark Cards. The band name actually stands for "Epsom Mad Funker" contrary to other (cooler sounding) rumored names like "Every Mothers Favorites" and "English Mother Fuckers" Check out their wiki page of even more names.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - There is a long fade up on "Children" with a single droning keyboard until about 1:10 into the song when it gets rolling with police sirens and a punchy piano line. The keyboard and piano remain high in the mix for the whole record, and the vocals have a certain snarl to them as well. Crossing right over is "Long Summer Days" which has a quick intro before the keyboard line. There is more of a crunch on the guitar as the track progresses and it wraps up with what sounds like a drum circle that fades directly on to "When You're Mine". The feel on this track is very light, and the flow to this point has been good for the genre. A spoken word intro brings up "Travelling Not Running" and this has a really strong deeper groove to it. its a little slower than the prior tracks and is the first track to "end" in that it fades out and does not go directly in to the next track. "I Believe" was released a single from the record and is a quick track both musically and vocally. The band is more urgent with the the harder drum beats, and for the first time there is a noticeable guitar solo. The big single "Unbelievable" is next. Opening with the lines from American Comedian Andrew Dice Clay there is little one needs to tell you about this track. It is the second song to really have more guitar up in the mix and its mostly known for the "OHs!" that were sampled from Clay. "Girl of an Age" comes up with a sample of Ernie and Bert from the American children's television show "Sesame Street". This was not released as a radio single despite its groove. This has a similar lyrical feel to the prior song and once again keyboards are the most prominent in the mix. A female vocal sample comes up with electronic sounding drums on "Admit It". The song is strong throughout with a pressing keyboard and piano mix and the female vocal sample is used just the right amount. "Lies" has a strong drum intro before it falls in to a more simple drum tempo. There is a stronger piano lead once more and continues the trend of the keyboards being the focal point with "Lies" being repeated over and over. The album wraps up with "Longtime" that has sampled spoken word before being taken over by a strong bass line and tight keyboard parts. Some versions of the cd contain a hidden track called "EMF". The cd reviewed here does not have this hidden track.

Where are they now? - Doing something I had never heard of before, the band actually has gone on hiatus two times. The band was active from 1989 thru 1997, then 2001 to 2002 with some one off reunion shows and according to web reports the band has reformed once more and they are working on new material. The only omission to the original line up is with Zac Foley. The bassist died of a drug overdose in 2002.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I did actually see the band perform live. It was at what is now UMass Dartmouth. It was a college show but a friends sister went there and was able to get us tickets. The show was November 22, 1991 and it was in the gym. Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine was the support act. I don't recall a lot about this show barring the sort of echo'y sound.

FDF Overall Take - It hasn't aged the best. Much of it sounds very canned for some reason. There are a few fun moments and worthy of a cheap used price if the urge so hits you, but if you are that pressed for some EMF there is a best of collection.

The official site as well as myspace

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

*** the mp3's have been removed***
They were:
Girl of an Age
Search and Destroy (Stooges cover)

This is a cover of the Iggy and the Stooges song. It can be found on the Unexplained EP which you can buy used here

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.