Monday, January 11, 2010

Ripple Road Trip - Featuring David Bowie, Poobah, John Wicks and The Records, and the Paul Collins Beat

Space Oddity (40th Anniversary Edition)David Bowie -  Space Oddity (40th Anniversary Special Edition)

David Bowie, of course, needs no introduction, being easily one of the most recognizable and influential rock stars of the past 40 years.  But still, it's interesting to see how far the Ziggy-man has traveled on this rocketship blastoff journey of a career.  With the re-release of Space Oddity, we get a glimpse, turning the spotlight back onto one of his first major albums.  Space Oddity, was an an oddity itself when it first came out in 1969 under it's first release as Man of Words/Man of Music, finding Bowie trying on different musical styles, moving away from the late 1960's folk, searching for his own unique voice that'd become so apparent in 1972's Ziggy Stardust.  Many think of Space Oddity as a transitional album, others find it a gem.  Either way, it's still a major stepping stone in the musical cannon that'd be Bowie.

With this re-issue we get the entire re-mastered version of the original album with a second bonus disc of demos, unreleased versions, and rare live cuts.  Since the original album is already designated as a classic, the real meat of this treasure is the strength of the bonus cuts, which certainly are more than worthy of you plunking down your hard earned cash and snapping up this baby.  The bonus disc starts off with a heavenly, previously unreleased, demo version of the album's highlight, "Space Oddity."  Now, I'm a sucker for demos anyways.  Always loved to see how a song evolved from songwriter's ideas to finished product, and this version pays off in spades.  Spartan and airy, it nevertheless captures all the majestic drama that was such an integral part of the hit version.  Bowie's voice is in excellent form, and the slowed down, acoustic version stands completely on its own, even without any knowledge of the finished version.  "An Occasional Dream," unreleased demo, is also a gem, finding Bowie more in his folky, singer-songwriter mode.  Here you can still hear some of swingin' London.  Both of these excellent cuts have never before been bootlegged.

Other standouts include the set of "Let Me Sleep Beside You," "Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed," and "Janine," all performed live on the D.L.T Show, BBC radio.  "Let Me Sleep," particularly captivates, with its ragged, early, high-energy, T-Rex glam.   "London Bye Ta-Ta," jumps right back into that swingin' London vibe without missing a step, big guitars, big pianos, big voices.  Makes one long for mod-skirts and hip hugger pants. This version could only be heard before on the Sound and Vision box set, while later on we get a slightly more subdued, previously unreleased version.  Other tracks like the mulit-part "Memory of a Free Festival" find Bowie exploring what would become his trademark sound.  But still, one of my favorites of the bonus cuts is "Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola," which translates to "Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl."  Some may find it cheesy, but I've always been a sucker for familiar songs sung in different languages, and this is an Italian version of "Space Oddity" released for the European market in 1970.  The version found here was never released and it's stunning.  In Italian, the pure majesty of the melody is inescapable and Bowie's voice takes to the Italian language like an opera singer, gently wrapping around the lyrics, loving them, holding them.  Never sounding forced or coerced.  As a sucker for this stuff, I'd buy the album for this track alone, but fortunately, the entire second disc shines.  A must for any self-respecting Bowie fan.

Buy here: Space Oddity (40th Anniversary Edition)



Poobah - Peace Farmers

Anyone who's read the Ripple for a period of time knows how we feel about the perpetual rocking machine that is Poobah.  Jim Gustafson, who is essentially Poobah, is without a doubt, one of the world's most unheralded, underground guitar legends.  Just check out his stunning reissue of Steamroller, and you'll see what we're talking about.  With fingers that fire at a cheetah's pace and 120 volts of electricity searing through his strings, Jim's guitar work doesn't just slink along, it screams, it wails, it purrs and roars. 

Now, Poobah comes sizzling back with his third release since the Ripple's been rolling.  And whereas Underground and No Control dazzled with guitar wizardry, nothing can match the ferocity that Poobah brings to Peace Farmers.  Wailing on like he's a kid again, Gustafson proves he truly is ageless.  Either someone slipped a case of Red Bull into Mr.s Gustafson's water supply or he found the fountain of youth.  Sure Underground rocked, but in truth, it did so in more of a mellow, post-psychedelic, bluesy way.  Not here, no way!  Peace Farmers screams out of the stereo, aggressive and mean, and burning with the fire of a thousand burning guitars.  Peace Farmers begs for attention.  It refuses to be ignored.

After the stuttering intro of "Ripped," Poobah explodes in full electric glory!  Featuring a mean and nasty, fricking heavy-toned guitar, Gustafson plays his freaking heart out, solo arpeggios, feedback, flurries wailing through the massive riff like screams breaking through a darkened night.  Poobah hasn't rocked this hard to my ears since Steamroller.  No fan of Poobah can resist being sucked head first into this monstrosity from that very first cut.  But it doesn't let up there.  "It Out," keeps the level at volcano-explosive intensity, riding an additively heavy riff, loaded with guitar histrionics to make even the most seasoned rocker drool and marvel.   When I say his guitar leads sear, I mean it's a damn good thing this didn't come out on vinyl cause it'd be melting under the heat of the needle!

And these first two songs are only indicative of what awaits you on the rest of the album.  The next cut, "Mood," keeps the intensity just as fierce, featuring some distinctly trademark Poobah guitar mania, and the album continues on from there.  Without a doubt, Poobah has unleashed a classic of guitar madness with Peace Farmers.  Rather than getting older and slower, Poobah just keeps getting better.  The whole album seems to find Gustafson more focused in his songwriting, tighter and infinitely heavier than his last couple of albums.  Not only that, but this is the best I've heard Jim's voice since the re-issue of Steamroller.   No matter how you cut it, Poobah is a name that long ago deserved much more acclaim and attention that it has ever received, and here at the Ripple we're going to do everything we can to help Poobah get it's due.  Keep tuned here for some big Poobah announcements coming soon!

Buy here:  www.poobahband.com


RotateJohn Wicks and the Records - Rotate 

Talking about timeless performers!  It was way back in 1978 that The Records released the timeless powerpop gem, "Starry Eyes," on the world, and in the process earned the nickname, "The British Big Star."  in truth, that nickname served the band well, as very few could ever match The Records for the shear beauty of their melodies and huge powerpop hooks.  Unfortunately, much like the U.S. Big Star, The Records failed to captivate the world with their shimmering, hooky pop, and after releasing some amazing quality pop from 1978 to 1982, the band never found success and broke up, leaving only a legacy of golden sparkling gems in their wake.

25 years later, after nearly 10 years away from the recording studio, John Wicks jumped back into the fray, releasing this updated, truly remarkable treasurechest of powerpop bounty.   From the first track, "Oh Yeah!" it's clear that Wicks had lost none of his command of melody.  Soaring, sumptuous harmonies and bubblegum-covered melodies positively drip off this disc.  Sparkling, jangly guitars bring us in before the big hooks snag us like a sailfish caught off the coast of Baja.  Wick's voice still soars and rings in his perfect tenor.  Just like way back in 1978, the result is immediately timeless.  "Different Shades of Green," adds a bit more fuzz to the tone, adding a bit more urgency, and the track just bristles with powerpop perfection.  "That Girl is Emily," is another instant classic. With it's traces of gentle psychedelia wrapped around it's lush pop, the song is so timeless in execution it could have been recorded in the sixties, seventies, or now.  It doesn't matter.  Wicks has already proven that time is a relative concept where The Records are concerned.

To make things even better, John Wicks is still at it, now touring acoustically with Paul Collins of the stunning seventies powerpop band, The Beat.  Stay tuned as we keep you updated on their tour with, hopefully, a future stop at the Ripple Office where we'll be broadcasting a live acoustic set of the two songwriters right across Ripple Radio.  In the meantime, don't forget to pick up Rotate.  A true shiny nugget of passionate, meticulous powerpop.

Buy here:  Rotate


Ribbon of GoldPaul Collins Beat - Ribbon of Gold

And speaking of Paul Collins . . . it wasn't that long ago that we at the Ripple professed our undying love for the truly lost classic album that is The Beat's debut from 1979.  Never before had a band so perfectly captured the tension and urgency of punk married to the sweet-as-sweet-could-be melodies of classic Raspberries and Badfinger.   True powerpop may not have been a Beat creation, but damn, if Paul Collins didn't perfect it.

While that debut will forever reign as a pinnacle achievement in powerpop history, it, of course, wasn't enough to get the band the international acclaim they deserved.  But Paul Collins kept on, through various Beat line-ups and his own solo albums, and the cat is still going strong today.  Pope and I will forever be grateful and entertained by the time Paul Collins called us at Ripple Radio, live from the stage and had the entire audience say "Hello Ripple Effect."  Fortunately, we captured that moment of shear rock and roll madness on tape and can spin it endlessly for our own bemusement.

But another thing we're spinning endlessly, is the last album by the Paul Collins Beat, Ribbon of Gold.  Recorded in Sweden (a far journey from the Beat's LA beginnings) Paul proves that he's lost none of his edge over the years as he cranks out a worthy follow-up to that classic debut album.  Everything that people loved about The Beat is here; from the nervous energy of "I Still Want You," to the glorious melodies of "Ribbon of Gold," to the sumptuous, sugar-filled center of "Big Pop Song," this is The Beat, just as strong and lively as ever!

"Hey DJ," is a retro-blast of fun, an ode to the days when radio really mattered, and we lived and cried by whatever was spinning over the AM dial.  "Without You," is a mid-tempo, country-slanted number with big ringing guitars and soaring harmonies.  "Falling in Love with Her," chimes and hums along in its own universe of tight powerpop precision, with its infinitely singable chorus and harmonies, while "She Doesn't Want to Hang Around With You," is a direct descendant of such classic Beat cuts as "Rock and Roll Girl," and "I Don't Fit In."

Paul Collins is a legend in powerpop circles and anyone in the know, and he does himself proud with this effort.  For all you Beat fans, search this one down.  It's worth every precious powerpop moment.

Buy here: Ribbon of Gold













1 comment:

tommylei said...

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