Reissue CDs Weekly: The Blue Nile, The Seeds, Dan Penn, Frankie Goes to Hollywood | New music reviews, news & interviews
Reissue CDs Weekly: The Blue Nile, The Seeds, Dan Penn, Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Electronic torch songs from Scotland, garage-punk nirvana, Southern soul heaven and more Frankie than necessary
The Blue Nile: A Walk Across The Rooftops, Hats
The Blue Nile occupy a unique spot in the musical landscape. Formed in 1980 by Glasgow University graduates Paul Buchanan, Paul Joseph Moore and Robert Bell, four albums in 30 years suggests a certain neurotic creative sensibility which resulted in a pretty slim legacy but served the music well.
From their first single – 1981’s “I Love This Life”, included on these expanded reissues – to their last album High, in 2004, a dedicated and deliberate artistic ethos has driven the music. Aesthetically, there is something immensely pleasing about the sound they make, especially on these first two albums, where the lean, pulsing backdrop is carefully animated by live strings and Buchanan’s emotive voice to create a kind of epic electronic soul music. The song titles signpost both the emotional and musical terrain: “Tinseltown in the Rain”; “Automobile Noise”; “The Downtown Lights”; “From a Late Night Train”; “Headlights on the Parade”.
Their debut album, A Walk Across The Rooftops (1984), still sounds utterly unique, seven minimalist pencil drawings-in-sound which push the emerging analogue technology of the age to its limits. Hats (1989) possesses a warmer kind of melancholy and is more accessible: its songs have been covered by Rod Stewart, Isaac Hayes and Annie Lennox, among others. As a piece, it’s a highly romanticised journey through some eternal rain-soaked 4am of the soul.
These Collector’s Editions’ remasters not only improve immeasurably the sound quality of the original CD releases, but also add an extra disc to each album. The band were obviously keen to preserve the carefully constructed sense of mood: the addition of the first single, various contemporaneous B-sides, different studio takes and alternate mixes contain no great revelations, but instead offer up a series of slightly adjusted perspectives on familiar landmarks. And a live version of “Headlights on the Parade” from 1990 proves that, though almost terminally stage-shy, The Blue Nile were no clinical studio operation: they were a terrific live band, too.
The use of The Seeds’ two-chord garage-rock classic “Pushin’ Too Hard” on an ad for sports footwear and the appearance of the twisted balladry of their 1966 debut single “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” in one for male perfume in 2009 are valedictions of sorts for singer Sky Saxon, who died the same year. Saxon’s nasal whine could barely carry a tune, but it bled plaintive sincerity. His band, The Seeds, were as unique. Their minimal throb drew from Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly and the Stones, but sounded like none of them. Punks through and through, their bass-guitar-free line up set the template for fellow LA dwellers The Doors. Their always essential debut album from 1966 has never been hard to find, but previous editions have been wanting. This new version goes to the master tapes for the first time and reveals the band as never heard before, with a bottom-heavy clarity and forcefulness. The copious new extras include a startling 15-minute “Evil Hoodoo” that, although not quite “Sister Ray”, is a hypnotic fuzz guitar-driven storm as Ramonic as it’s relentless. The liner notes are superb and definitive. The last word on this timeless, benchmark album.
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