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Genesis – Abacab

Genesis - AbacabI’ve been meaning to review this album for two or three years now, and it’s such an odd beast to get a grip on. This is Genesis in flux, and yet Genesis finding its feet. Several years after losing Peter Gabriel to a solo career, the remaining trio of founding members soldiered on, and yet sometimes you’d think they were clinging to the past. Abacab is an album full of good songs, but it’s also an album with something of a serious identity crisis.

The title track – edited down to little over half of its original running time – received healthy radio airplay at the time of the album’s release, but along with songs like “Me And Sarah Jane”, “Keep It Dark” and “Who Dunnit?”, “Abacab” represents the majority of this album’s personality. Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford seemed to be trying to hang onto the prog-rock sound of the Gabriel era, with meandering song structures (“Sarah Jane” in particular can’t seem to latch onto any one particular melody, trying out several melodic lines and discarding them in turn – it’s almost like early Split Enz). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I quite like “Abacab” and “Keep It Dark”, and they demonstrate that, when he used to try to emulate Gabriel’s throat-thrasing vocal style, there used to be a raw power to Phil Collins’ voice which his latter-day career has carefully buried.

It’s in songs like “Man On The Corner” and especially “No Reply At All” that one finds hints of the future Genesis sound. The latter in particular is bouncy, with some Motown-style brass work and a lighthearted lyric. “Man On The Corner” is again somewhat brooding and dark, with just a hint again of the Peter Gabriel influence, but it’s indicative of my favorite era of Genesis – songs better suited to Collins’ vocal range and style, but falling somewhere between the Gabriel-era Genesis sound and Collins’ later self-styled reinvention of himself as a soft-pop balladeer. It may not be the original sound mandated in the Gabriel/Hackett era, but it was the best possible style for the Collins-led Genesis.

3 out of 4Abacab, in retrospect, is a bit of a mixed bag – but, being a bit of a transitional piece (despite having been preceded by two other albums with the Banks/Collins/Rutherford lineup), it was bound to be. They were really starting to get it here.

Order this CD

  1. Abacab (7:02)
  2. No Reply At All (4:41)
  3. Me And Sarah Jane (6:00)
  4. Keep It Dark (4:34)
  5. Dodo / Lurker (7:30)
  6. Who Dunnit? (3:22)
  7. Man On The Corner (4:27)
  8. Like It Or Not (4:58)
  9. Another Record (4:30)

Released by: Atlantic
Release date: 1981
Total running time: 47:04

The Swingers – Counting The Beat

The Swingers - Counting The BeatIf this album is a good example of anything, it’s a good example of how not to pick the lead track of an album. Counting The Beat is an interesting 1981 set by The Swingers, a band formed by former Split Enz guitarist/vocalist Phil Judd and featuring future Midnight Oil bassist Bones Hillman and guitarist Michael Den Elzen (who later sat in as a session player on Tim Finn’s fourth solo album). The problem with Counting The Beat, however, is wading through the first two tracks before getting to the album’s real meat.

The Swingers sound a lot like Judd’s later band Schnell Fenster, with Judd’s trademark wavering, almost-shouting vocal at the forefront of the group’s sound. Some of the songs here are worth a listen – “Lovesick”, “True Or False”, and “Ayatollah” among them – but something about the first two tracks on the CD (“Practical Joker” and “One Track Mind”) consistently hits me as being unappealing. Others’ mileage may vary, and whether or not you can stomach much of Judd’s vocal style will probably a major factor in whether you like those tracks or, for that matter, the entire album.

Split Enz fans wondering if The Swingers sound anything like that band may or may not find some similarities. Counting The Beat was produced by David Tickle, who helped the Enz cement their sound in the 2 out of 4early ’80s with True Colours, and here it sounds like he’s trying to split the difference between the Enz and the Clash. Sometimes it works…and sometimes it doesn’t.

Overall, a cautious recommendation; it helps if you’ve heard some early Split Enz and perhaps the more melodically inclined (and, frankly, better produced) Schnell Fenster first.

Order this CD

  1. Practical Joker (3:18)
  2. One Track Mind (3:46)
  3. Lovesick (3:47)
  4. True Or False (4:13)
  5. More (3:55)
  6. Counting The Beat (3:04)
  7. It Ain’t What You Dance It’s The Way You Dance It (3:02)
  8. Ayatollah (3:39)
  9. Five O’Clock Shadow (3:43)
  10. Funny Feeling (3:46)
  11. Distortion (3:52)
  12. Hit The Beach (4:01)
  13. One Good Reason (2:50)
  14. The Flak (3:41)

Released by: Mushroom
Release date: 1981
Total running time: 50:37

Lindsey Buckingham – Law & Order

Lindsey Buckingham - Law & OrderThe first solo effort by Fleetwood Mac’s best-known frontman proves that he had a musical voice that was being held back in the structure of the world-famous band. Buckingham’s efforts on the Mac’s Tusk double LP seemed to meet with either indifference or non-comprehension on the part of the listening public, and his contributions to 1981’s Fleetwood Mac album Mirage were, while still experimental, a little bit subdued in places. Law & Order is a demonstration of how brilliant Buckingham can be when set free: the songs retain an experimental feel, but they’re never anything less than commercial.

Some of Buckingham’s fellow Macsters make cameo appearances, with Christine McVie harmonizing on the dreamy “Shadow Of The West” and Mick Fleetwood lending a very recognizable hand at the drum kit for the now slightly-obscure hit Rating: 4 out of 4single “Trouble”. But Buckingham is perfectly capable of shining on his own. The quirky “Bwana”, one of the best things he’s ever done, begs one to put the CD player on “repeat 1.” His cover of the standard “September Song” is a vocal showcase for him, and it’s an interesting contrast to the somewhat more low-key cover of the same song on Jeff Lynne’s Armchair Theatre.

Order this CD in the Store

  1. Bwana (3:06)
  2. Trouble (3:53)
  3. Mary Lee Jones (3:12)
  4. I’ll Tell You Now (4:18)
  5. It Was I (2:39)
  6. September Song (3:13)
  7. Shadow Of The West (3:57)
  8. That’s How We Do It In L.A. (2:52)
  9. Johnny Stew (3:06)
  10. Love From Here, Love From There (2:47)
  11. A Satisfied Mind (2:47)

Released by: Warner Bros.
Release date: 1981
Total running time: 36:25