Levinhurst – Perfect Life

Levinhurst - Perfect LifeAn interestingly retro effort, Perfect Life is a bit of a manifesto for Levinhurst: it aims to bring some ’80s new wave feel back into the present with the help of some modern technology. And Levinhurst does carry the necessary pedigree to accomplish this; leading the trio is Lol Tolhurst, founding member of The Cure, with Cindy Levinson handling vocals and Dayton Borders providing some synth and sequencer wizardry.

If I have a gripe with Levinhurst’s debut effort, it lies more with the track sequencing than anything. Kicking off with a brief, atmospheric instrumental, the album really doesn’t properly start until the percolating intro of “Let’s Go” hits, and while it’s a decent song, it’s very repetitive lyrically, and even those lyrics are pretty lightweight compared to many of the other songs; thematically, I understand why “Let’s Go” is where it is, as an invitation to the rest of the album, but it’s one of the album’s weaker songs, so it really undermines that point. “Sorrow” hits next, and it’s immediately clear when I hear it that this should’ve been the lead track (and the lead single, but I’ll return to that point later). It sweeps into a dark, electronic rhythm worthy of early Eurythmics or Depeche Mode, with Levinson providing some of the best vocals on the whole disc. This song is actually what tipped me off to Levinhurst in the first place (when I heard it on Free Zone on WICR, Indianapolis – just a wee plug there).

The excellent vocals and interesting approach to instrumentation carries over into “Sadman”, another excellent track, and “Lost” is a delightful track that has, compositionally speaking, what I’d describe as musical red herrings – the chord and melodic progressions sometimes lead you to places where you would’ve had no reasonable expectation of the song going. Maybe that’s an example of writing stuff cleverly that only other songwriters would pick up on, or maybe it’s an example of writing in that distinctive let’s-break-the-rules-of-how-this-is-done style of the ’80s, but it’s a neat track all the same. A brief instrumental, “Insomniac”, follows, and it smacks just a little bit of early Depeche Mode, and after that comes the perky, swirling, begs-to-be-danced-to “Despair” – seems like a bit of a contradiction, doesn’t it?

The lead single for Perfect Life is “Hope”, and “Hope” is a decent song, but it’s somehow not as catchy as “Sorrow” or even “Let’s Go”; all I can figure is that the band (or the label) wanted something with an upbeat mood coming out of the starting gate. If they wanted something that sounded “up,” even the last song, “More / Mad”, would’ve fit the bill. After checking the credits in the CD booklet, I wonder if I wasn’t picking up on something else: “Hope” alone was recorded in a different studio and put together by a different producer. Something about it is a little “noisier” than some of the other tracks, with heavy distortion 3 out of 4introduced on some of the synth parts, and it just doesn’t seem entirely representative of the sound established on the rest of the album.

Perfect Life may not be a perfect album, but it does show great promise for Levinhurst. Hopefully they’ll get a chance to follow up on it.

Order this CD

  1. Vinti (1:13)
  2. Let’s Go (3:40)
  3. Sorrow (3:30)
  4. Sadman (5:41)
  5. Lost (4:14)
  6. Insomniac (1:33)
  7. Despair (3:48)
  8. Hope (3:03)
  9. Behind Me (4:09)
  10. Perfect Life (1:31)
  11. More / Mad (7:06)

Released by: Full Contact
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 39:30

dada – How to Be Found

dada - How to Be FoundAfter dada’s terrific self-titled fourth album, the band was dropped by their label MCA; they went on hiatus soon after. Michael Gurley and Phil Leavitt formed Butterfly Jones, while Joie Calio started working on a solo project. The hiatus wasn’t quite permanent, however, and in 2003 the guys got the band back together for an extensive tour. In the new year, they’ve finally managed to pry a group of previously-unreleased songs away from MCA and released How To Be Found. Far from a collection of rejects and outtakes, the album is an addition to the discography on par with the band’s previous efforts.

Most of these songs sound like they’re in the same mold as the tracks from dada, but on How To Be Found the production and mix are a little more spare, a little more raw – very reflective of the band’s live sound. The album is fairly evenly divided between high-tempo rockers, such as “Crumble” and “Nothing Like You”, and more meandering almost-psychedelic tunes, including “I Wish You Were Here Now” and “Love Is a Weird Thing”. Leavitt’s drums feature heavily on a number of songs, totally carrying the high-energy “It’s All Mine “along and blending beautifully with Gurley’s guitar and Calio’s bass on “Any Day the Wind Blows”. “What’s Happening to Steven” blends those elements with some great organ work to give the song a bit of a classic-rock feel that’s not out of place on the album. As always, the lead vocals are handled by Calio and Gurley, and while I love the music these two have done on heir side and solo projects, put them together and their voices support and play off each other to great effect.

I usually prefer dada’s rockers to the slower stuff, and this album is no exception. I can enjoy tracks like “Guitar Girl” and “I Wish You Were Here Now”, but they don’t give me the almost transcendent glee that I 4 out of 4feel listening to “It’s All Mine” or “Any Day”. Two exceptions would be the album opener, “The Next Train Out of My Mind”, which does a great job of “warming up” the listener for the rest of the album, and the wistful “Reason”, which has some great vocals from Calio. This is a solid and very welcome return for one of my favorite bands.

Order this CD

  1. The Next Train Out of My Mind (5:40)
  2. It’s All Mine (4:27)
  3. How to Be Found (3:27)
  4. Crumble (3:07)
  5. Nothing Like You (2:57)
  6. Guitar Girl (4:45)
  7. Any Day the Wind Blows (4:46)
  8. Blue Girl (4:08)
  9. My Life Could Be Different (3:35)
  10. What’s Happening to Steven (4:03)
  11. I Wish You Were Here Now (6:06)
  12. Reason (3:51)
  13. Love Is a Weird Thing (4:32)

Released by: Blue Cave
Release date: 2004
Total running time: 55:31

Battle Of The Planets – music by Hoyt Curtin, Bob Sakuma

Battle Of The Planets soundtrack22 years after the series first premiered in American syndication, this collection of music is finally available, featuring music from Bob Sakuma’s original Gatchaman soundtrack (previously reviewed here) as well as the material composed by the late Hanna-Barbera maestro Hoyt Curtin especially for the extensively re-edited American version of the show.

But like so many things from our childhoods, it might just be that the anticipation for the Battle Of The Planets soundtrack outweighs the actual product. Some of Hoyt Curtin’s music is very good, drawing in equal measure from disco and John Williams’ Star Wars style, while other cues draw more heavily from the former. In places, it sounds like Meco. And while that’s no slight to Meco or to the late Mr. Curtin, who died just last year, it definitely dates the proceedings. To be fair, Bob Sakuma’s original score for Gatchaman also sports some disco stylings, so the two actually dovetail quite well.

For those who splurged on the Gatchaman soundtrack already, you may want to declare victory there – a great deal of the original Gatchaman BGM (background music) release is duplicated on this CD, though with slightly better sound quality. However, you won’t find the cheerful children’s choir singing “Destroy Gallactor!” in Japanese on this CD, so maybe it is worth it to track down both titles. Still, I appreciate the effort to include the original Bob Sakuma score – if not for these tracks, the CD would’ve had a dismally brief (not to mention unjustifiably expensive) running time of just under 35 minutes. Truth be told, only a few purists and fanatics like myself will probably have the original Gatchaman CD, so I doubt very many will be complaining about duplication of material.

Battle Of The Planets soundtrack, 2004 re-releaseIncluded as bonus tracks are the audio tracks from six television promos for Battle Of The Planets, as well as a second version of the theme song complete with robust narration – “G-Force! Princess! Tiny! Keyop! Mark! Jason!” – though this version suffers a lot in the sound quality department. It’s very likely that it had to be sourced from a 22-year-old video master tape somewhere.

Some of my favorite cues from Hoyt Curtin are those composed for the scenes of robot advisor 7-Zark-7 (and his equally robotic dog, 1-Rover-1). As is generally well-known, these robots didn’t exist in the original Japanese series, added at the behest of American syndicator Sandy Frank to further solidify the Star Wars cash-in by including cute robots to comment on the action (and to fill out the vast amounts of program time which were lost with the surgical removal of the original show’s near-legendary violent scenes). The robots’ cues are bizarrely calliope-like, using trippy late 70s synths for what once passed for a futuristic sound.

If you’re ready for a trip back in time, complete with sometimes painful reminders of how discofied incidental music could be back then, then I give this CD a hearty four-star recommendation. But if you’re expecting to compare it to Goldsmith, Williams, Horner and/or Silvestri, maybe you should give up and save your money for something more modern. Despite the disco elements, I thought it was an excellent vehicle for some childhood nostalgia – and, of course, a 4 out of 4full-page ad for Rhino’s upcoming Battle Of The Planets video and DVD releases this fall is included in the liner notes booklet. (The booklet may just be the real prize of this release, with extensive biographical notes on both Curtin and Sakuma and previously unknown facts about their involvement in the series. I was a little surprised to read that Sakuma based his music on the early 70s style of Chicago!)

    Order this CD in the Store
    Battle Of The Planets – music by Hoyt Curtin (1978)

  1. Battle Of The Planets main title (1:32)
  2. Love In The Afterburner (1:29)
  3. Ready Room (2:02)
  4. Alien Planet (2:52)
  5. Phoenix Raising (2:11)
  6. Space On Fire (2:08)
  7. Robot Hijinks (0:58)
  8. Alien Trouble (1:25)
  9. Return To The Alien Planet (3:00)
  10. Melting Jets (0:53)
  11. Romance In An Afterburner’s Light (1:30)
  12. The Robot’s Dog: 1-Rover-1 (0:54)
  13. Firefight (1:35)
  14. Alien Trap (2:20)
  15. 7-Zark-7’s Song (1:23)
  16. More Alien Trouble (1:29)
  17. The Chief Alien Shows Up (0:34)
  18. Come Out, Come Out (1:30)
  19. Victory (1:09)

    Gatchaman – music by Bob Sakuma (1972)

  20. Emblem G (3:10)
  21. Spectra Versions (3:50)
  22. Fighting Phoenix (3:22)
  23. Coral Reef (0:26)
  24. Crescent Moon (3:17)
  25. Holding Up A Shade (3:37)
  26. Zoltar, Fastening The Armor (0:32)
  27. Fighter G (3:54)
  28. Red Illusion (4:37)
  29. The Earth Is Alone! (1:53)
  30. A Vow To The Sky (3:12)
  31. Countdown (3:39)
  32. Like The Phoenix (3:26)

    Bonus Tracks

  33. Promo #1 – The Luminous One #1 (0:32)
  34. Promo #2 – G-Force vs. Zoltar (0:32)
  35. Promo #3 – 7-Zark-7 and Company (0:32)
  36. Promo #4 – The Luminous One #2 (0:32)
  37. Promo #5 – Commander Mark, Jason (0:32)
  38. Promo #6 – Princess, Tiny, Keyop (0:32)
  39. Battle Of The Planets main title reprise with narration (1:31)

Released by: Super Tracks Music Group
Release date: 2001 (re-released by Silva in 2004 with different track list)
Total running time: 73:32