Wednesday, 12 October 2016

CD88 - including Crazyhead, Bradford, Sweet Honey In The Rock

Format: Double Vinyl/ Cassette/ CD
Year of Release: 1988

Following on from Volume 5 of the Indie Top 20 series emerging on CD came this - CD88, a compilation of tracks from Volumes 1-5, many of which were being made available on compact disc for the first ever time.

CD88 is a rum entry in the Indie Top 20 catalogue in that Beechwood occasionally relabelled it as "CD88 - The Best of Indie Top 20 Volumes 1-5" on the promotional inner sleeves of their other albums. In truth, I don't know that it is a "Best of" as such - for a start, it features four bonus tracks that appear nowhere else in the series. Rather, I think that Beechwood Music realised that there was a gap in the market for lots of much loved indie obscurities being made available for the first time in a digital format.

The vinyl version was labelled "CD88 - The Vinyl" and the cassette version "CD88 - The Tape", and it was noticeable that neither of these lingered around record store racks for very long, whereas the CD remained an ever-present force in the Indie Compilations section. Indeed, it was actually the first ever CD I bought.

Almost all of these tracks have been reviewed on this blog before, but "CD88" was also the first Indie Top 20 album to include liner notes about each track, provided by either music critics, the bands or the bands record labels/ PR department. I've included them below for reference, and also given a quick sniff of a review to the bonus tracks. If you want to read what I originally said about each track, simply click on the relevant link.

1. All About Eve - Our Summer (Eden)

"Our Summer" - the living testament to our sparking the fire of peace and love in the '80s, which we now know as Acid-Folk... can you feel it?" - quote from the band.

2. Cardiacs - Is This The Life (Alphabet Business Concern)

"This single was taken from the Cardiacs successful album 'A Little Man and A House and The Whole World Window'. It stayed in the Indie Charts for 4 months and 'crossed-over' to daytime Radio 1, subsequently entering the Gallup Top 100"

3. Fields of the Nephilim - Preacher Man (Situation Two)

"Albums available: 'Dawnrazor' '...shudders with self-important, bristling energy: an epic, an unashamedly slavering colossus of a disc' - Sounds, 16.5.88
'The Nephilim' ' fascinating, disturbing, and utterly magnificent' - Record Mirror, 3.9.88

4. Danielle Dax - Cathouse (Awesome)

"Unanimously voted Single of the Week by the nation's music press, this number one indie-seller turns rock, pop and glam into a unique blend of sex, metal and mayhem for the 80s, proving beyond doubt that when it comes to 'Guitar Wars' Dax leaves those leather boys gasping at the starting line".

5. Crazyhead - Baby Turpentine (Food) - Bonus Track

"Flat 2, 37 Springfield Road, Leicester, 1986 - chopping down next door's fence to keep warm in front of the epileptic television."

Here's the first bonus track out of the bag. "Baby Turpentine" pretty much picks up where "What Gives You The Idea..." left off on Volume Two, making an unholy racket about nothing in particular. The guitars make an old school rock and roll row (dig that descending and rising fifties double bass styled bassline) the vocals scream, and it sounds like full-on garage rock with a slightly hairy eighties twist.

Given that groups making this sort of noise are all over the Internet these days, it might feel faintly peculiar to remember that we really did get quite excited about this at the time. What innocent days.

As stated on the other entry where we mention this bunch of unmentionables, Crazyhead's subsequent career on EMI was something of a flop, and they quite quickly fell out of relevance, but not before throttling us from both our stereos and from blazing live performances on the gig circuit.

6. The Wedding Present - Nobody's Twisting Your Arm (Reception)

"...surprised everyone by shooting into the Gallup chart at no. 46 and showed that the 'George Best' LP was no fluke".

7. The Soup Dragons - Hang Ten! (Raw TV)

"...became an absolute classic Indie hit single, staying at Number one in the Indie Charts for weeks. Taken from the album 'This Is Our Art'".

8. Rose of Avalanche - Velveteen (Fire)

"The pulsating twilight world of teardrops, mist and mystery, bad company and the illicit thrill of good lovin' gone bad mixed with guitars turned up full blast, all transport you to the furthest edges of the psychedelic firmament in a song that'll take you to heaven and back with the most beautiful girl in the world beside you."

9. Half Man Half Biscuit - Dickie Davies Eyes (Probe Plus)

"Two years on and the jokes and the punchlines are entirely familiar but somehow, like Monty Python, it's the sort of inspired, satirical humour that bears repeating time and time again without losing it's edge and appeal. Poking fun at TV 'celebrities', bringing inner city problems to 'Watch With Mother', extracting the urine from all and sundry (themselves included) with all the dry wit for which Merseyside is so justly famous". Q - September '88.

10. Michelle Shocked - Fog Town (Cooking Vinyl) - Bonus Track

"Taken from the now legendary 'Texas Campfire Tapes' LP which shot to number one on the indie charts in January '87, despite being recorded on a Walkman at Kerrville festival by Cooking Vinyl boss Pete Lawrence for the cost of a tape and a set of batteries".

You know what, readers, I can't find an audio link for this one online, and since Michelle Shocked seems to control her presence online quite tightly, I'm not going to bother to risk incurring her wrath by uploading anything myself. You know how it is. And also, I respect her desire as an artist and creative force to maintain control over her own affairs without the interference from external etc. etc. etc....

If you're curious, "Fog Town" is inevitably a very stripped back, acoustic live track, which struts along moodily and has a claustrophobic, despairing air throughout. Rather like "If Love Was A Train" on volume two, there's an earnestness and worthiness to this which will either repel or appeal to listeners. Certainly at the time, it felt as if her work and presence was a refreshing antidote to the over-produced luxury of eighties pop - in these days where talented acoustic performers can be found at every open mic night in just about every town, however, some of that novelty has perhaps diminished.

11. The Chesterfields - Ask Johnny Dee (Subway)

" still the most appealing slither of sublimeness, it remains a mystery why someone didn't write it aeons ago" - Record Mirror.

12. Wire - Kidney Bingos (Mute)

"Wire specialise in wistful, immaculately crafted avant-songs... it's good to know that Wire have lost none of their taste for the lyrically absurd or their talent for a jolly little tune. The single 'Kidney Bingos' consisted of a string of nonsense-words (although it was probably meant to be rather meaningful) and the album continues in this merry vein" - Record Mirror.

13. Bradford - Skin Storm (Village) - Bonus Track

"This track was the single; receiving a great deal of media interest as Morrissey was quoted as saying of their 'Lust Roulette' track: 'Lust Roulette practically almost made me cry" - Morrissey, Summer '88.

The curse of Morrissey strikes again. With an almost tedious inevitability, every artist the bequiffed one recommends inevitably suffers the near total indifference of the general public, and Bradford, while briefly tipped for success, were no exception.

That's actually a pity, as he had a bit of a point in this case. Mixing soulful vocals with considered and frequently touching lyrics and delicate indie arrangements, Bradford could be a stunning listen when on form. "Skin Storm" really is an example of the band at their peak, a scaling ballad which really could be covered by just about any mainstream pop star or folk performer and still sound affecting - to the extent that I'm surprised it hasn't been.

Still, Morrissey had a stab at it later on on the flipside of "Pregnant For The Last Time". Bradford themselves signed to Sire before being dropped by that label. They then moved to Stephen Street's Foundation label, but success continually eluded them, and the plug was pulled in the early nineties.

14. Sweet Honey In The Rock - Chile Your Waters Run Red Through Soweto (Cooking Vinyl) - Bonus Track

"This five piece all female accapella outfit from Washington DC deliver the goods on this powerful live recording taken from the album 'Breaths... The Best Of' which rode high in various independent charts in Autumn '87. Billy Bragg has also recently covered this track on his LP".

This may well have ridden high in numerous independent charts, but really, I'm sure a great many folk, jazz and reggae albums also had their moment in the sun there - they never appeared on Indie Top 20, so why did this, a gospel track? Only Chet and Bee know.

"Chile Your Waters..." is an a-cappella track which spits out words like "oppression" a lot, and sounds exactly as you'd expect it to. There's a meanness and a definite vitriol to this one despite the limited arrangement, and it's impossible to doubt its righteousness and passion, but it sinks in immediately and definitely on the first listen, and return visits pay very few extra dividends.

Sweet Honey In The Rock remain much loved in the USA, being awarded at the Grammys and generously given a great deal of airtime elsewhere. They are also probably one of the only bands to have a sign language interpreter as a member. At the point of its release, their "Best Of" probably seemed unusual and refreshing in the UK - but really, the group are an institution at home, where they're among the absolute leaders of their genre. Their inclusion on "Indie Top 20" is as absurd as sticking a Miles Davis or Johnny Cash track halfway through.

15. A Certain Ratio - Mickey Way (The Candy Bar) (Factory)

"Taken from their album 'Force", 'Mickey Way' was ACR's last release before leaving Factory Records. Now signed to A&M worldwide, the next album is planned for release early in '89". 

16. Ciccone Youth - Into The Groovy (Blast First)

"...also known as Sonic Youth, in their most rabid Madonna worship frenzy. 'Into The Groovy' was a surprise club and chart hit, it featured Firehose's Mike Watts on frantic bass. 'Into The Groovy' is included on a Ciccone Youth album called The White(y) Album, due for release Jan '89".

17. The Beloved - Forever Dancing (Flim Flam)

"Seriously minimal, minimally serious. Free at last".

18. The Shamen - Jesus Loves Amerika (Moksha)

" a blistering attack on that country's fascist, fanatical, fundamentalist "Christians" - ie - those who wish to transform us into a race of right-wing, brain-dead, bible quoting robots.
Musically, the beatbox groove is harder than ever before, overlaid with frenzied, psychedelic mandolin-like guitar and some of the most righteous samples yet to be heard on disc".

19. Pop Will Eat Itself - There Is No Love Between Us Anymore (Chapter 22)

"The Poppies present another song about love and hate. Remixed from their debut album 'Box Fenzy'. Still available in all good and not so good record shops".

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