Monday, April 29, 2019

How Up - Every Time I Roll The Dice - No. 208

How Up - Every Time I Roll The Dice

A local band. Very local. About around the corner. One I didn't know existed, for they seem to have thrown in the towel and believe me, it's for the better of us all. The only reason I bought this CD in the first place was, it was a local band (might have said that already!), the other reason, it cost me less than the equivalent of one Euro and, so much for the "only" reason", there's a song called "Down At The Doctors" on offer here.

I'm a staunch supporter of the local scene. Local in the sense that every Swiss band gets a fighting chance, never mind which part of the country they hail from. Sometimes it's amazing what kind of bands exist, or have existed, flying under the radar. There's great stuff to be found and, I'm afraid to say so, even more the redundant and unnecessary ones. Just to get this out of the way, How Up belong to the latter, but let's see.

When a band churns out covers only media (o.k., minus one song, "snore"), I expect at least an original take on the song material. And How Up are indeed original, can I quote Greg Koch with one of his excellent songs "I'm Bored To Tears". This sums it up. All said and done. I just don't understand it when bands play covers in the most polished way, resulting in all life exorcised from the material. "Proud Mary" anyone? Jesus Christ, CCR (and legends of other artists) don't deserve this and even the excuse on record is lame. Most tracks on this CD are not my daily bread anyway, very well known, but if I can circumvent this, o.k. with me. Classic radio will do.

Sometimes I think, the band is trying to bite more off the cake than it's healthy for them, almost choking in the process. "Another Brick In The Wall"? Give me a break, not a very good song to start with (in my book at least), but an amateur band trying to ape the big stage? Thank you, but no, thank you. Or "Come Together"? Believe me, you don't want to hear this Throughout the CD, How Up sound like Eric Clapton on sleeping pills, say "August" era or thereabouts.

But what about "Down At The Doctors" I hear you ask. Mickey Jupp, be glad you haven't heard this, you'd sue How Up to their grave. The song is dead flat in the water. I mean, you must be trying very hard to flog all life out of a song and How Up, you definitely succeeded. I'll keep the CD as a curio and an example of how not to do it. Having said that, it's even more interesting to listen to the band, because they don't sound like amateurs without a clue. Their playing seems competent enough and for this alone they get top rating. Nothing to do with what they cooked up in the end.

And the singer, sorry, but this an absolute no-go. Roger Mottaz sounds like a cheap version of Toni Vescoli (and I can't stand the latter post 1970). This overdone zurichoise pronounciation of English lyrics (with a boyscout guitar in hand, sitting around the campfire at night) is many a Swiss band's downfall. I might be a bit harsh here, but definitely, life is to short for this kind of "entertainment".



Thursday, April 18, 2019

Sunsets/Mindbenders/Lords - 7" Split Release (Iran) - No. 207

Sunsets/Mindbenders/Lords - 7" Split Release (Iran)

Sometimes you'll come across something, you haven't even been looking for. This item is exactly such a WTF moment. But I digress before I've even started. Let's try this again and from the beginning:

German Beat scene anyone? Well, not really, except a boy in Switzerland who got an old-fashioned radio as a gift sometimes in the mid 60s and who listened at night to all these far away radio stations on AM with their strange kind of music. Not that I understood a word, but the rhythms were more than enough to keep me searching for ever more stations. And at night (quite a bit of a wordplay, btw), trying to get Radio Luxemburg and even some solid senders (another wordplay, btw) from as far away as England. Locally there was only a state-run radio with about 30 minutes of Beat music (per week, that is).

Must have been around 1964/1965 when I heard of a band out of Germany (call that exotic) who were kind of top of their league and in a constant battle with another outfit (the latter were called The Rattles). They were an o.k. Beat band, but The Lords was where the real meat lay. In a way comparable to the Beatles vs. Rolling Stones question, you really couldn't like both bands, it was one or the other. And in hindsight, they had one over the Rattles, The Lords had released a cover of "Shakin' All Over" rather early in their career (and later followed this up with an LP called "Shakin' All Over 70").

Times did change and back in the 60's, you were a hipster (the expression didn't exist then - at least not around here) flying the flag for The Lords (or The Rattles). In the 70s, you had to watch out and not show your cards saying The Lords. The Rattles was still ok,, but the former turned into a joke among the "cognoscenti", but I'm proud to say, I never wavered and held the fort against all attacks. No underhand joke nor mean drivel could change my stand. Most of it had to do with Lord Ulli's (the singer) command of the English language. Granted, some of it does sound strange and funny, but hey, it was the sixties and minor matters such as proficiency in a foreign language was not on anyone's top of the list.

In the 60's and at the beginning of the 70's, the band had a rather high profile in Germany which lessened over time and led to the break-up of the band soon after. Lord Ulli started anew with another band called New Lords, but this venture sank without almost any trace (one LP and two 7"s only). At the same time, Lord Ulli kept himself afloat with a number of German schlager releases (they have some cult status nowadays), but really, best to cover this up. Unless you are me.

And voilĂ . after the New Lords were no more, out of the ashes rose The Lords again and kept busy to this day (although they're on their last ever tour now). About 20 years ago, Lord Ulli fell from a stage during a gig, broke his skull and died quite soon afterwards. The band carried on, but was mostly rehashing their old songs. Whenever a new CD was announced, you could bet your whole savings, that it'd be another "Best Of" or similarily named. Some of their releases bordered on cheekiness, because they had the nerve to release a CD with a title that represented the only new song and the rest was the same old rehash again.

Their last two CDs presented a change of direction, although not for the better. Once again a "new" collection of old songs done in a Rock/Hardrock way, but it wasn't The Lords, not by a long shot. The Lords never did Hardrock, they were Beat and Pop, period. It was clear (at least to me), that the ship had lost its course and was steering in to troubled waters. But then, the band is now on the road (and in the studio) for nearly 60 years (in ever changing line-ups) and claiming to be the oldest working band in the world (and conveniently forgetting, that they all had a rather long break in the 70s and I really don't know wether "oldest" band is worth bragging about, but that's me). And noone would have thought that there ever was going to be another studio album with new songs. Think again, to everyone's surprise, they did release exactly the one I'm talking about. It wasn't for me though, Rock/Hardrock again (and although I do listen to the genre, I don't need it from The Lords) and so, in the end, I jumped ship and haven't bought the last two releases.

That's not to say I'm not still interested in their history and music and that's where I'm slowly coming to the end of this piece. Even now, I'm still looking for the odd 7" or even one LP (cover variant) that's not yet in my collection. And sometimes surprises hit hard.

Recently, i came across the one you see in the pictures here. 7" EP from Iran. Iran? Yes, I-R-A-N! I had no idea this even existed. Must have been before the revolution and a major surprise to me. It's actually a split 7" with cheesecake cover and not in the best of all conditions (however, I really doubt you'll find a better copy), but I can easily wait for a couple of decades before another one turns up. As a The Lords follower for nearly five decades, this must be quite the highlight in my collection with regards to this band. Forget the other stuff (which I'm still looking for), this is the real deal.



P.S.: "And At Night" was one of their big hits (see above).

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

V/A - Souvenirs Of Rare French Opera - No. 206

V/A - Souvenirs Of Rare French Opera 

I'm far from being an expert in classical music, but I do like some Opera. Way back, when I was very much younger, I had a boss at work, who was a complete Opera buff and almost all he ever talked about was Verdi and Co. Somehow that stuck with me and decades later, I'm still buying the odd Opera LP/CD and listen to it at home. Not that I understand it or have an inkling as to what the genre really is, it's just the sound that I enjoy.

This here I picked up in a thrift shop for the grand total of CHF 1.00 (that's under 1 Euro). What caught my eye was the fact, that all recordings stem from the very beginning of the 20th century and are certainly not Hi-Fi or audiophile. It's as expected, I have to turn up the volume quite considerably to get a good level and have to watch out to turn it down after listening to this CD, unless I want to kill my speakers with the next CD I slide into the player.

Sounds exactly like a beginning of last century recording. No doubt about it. Great stuff if you're in the mood for this. And although I do prefer Vinyl over Digital, one thing does speak for the CD. About 75 minutes and I don't have to turn a record over. And let's be honest, recordings made more than a hundred years ago, they don't need to be high-end. No Shellac for me, but this'll do quite nicely.

Wether these are great performances in the history of the genre, no idea either. In any case, I don't recognize a single name on the inlay. This is not my only musical corpse in the cellar, but more later. Now back to some other stuff, V/A "We Wish You A Metal Xmas And A Headbanging New Year", although it might be the wrong time of the year.