Crowded House – Afterglow

Crowded House - AfterglowOver the years, any band can accumulate enough B-sides and unreleased tracks to fill an entire CD, but Crowded House is a special case. Not only do they have a catalogue of rarities, but unreleased material which basically comprises a lost, never-released album.

In 1989, Neil Finn and his bandmates were struggling with material for the upcoming album which would become known as Woodface. Though they had an album’s worth of material, Capitol Records didn’t feel there was a viable single that could justify the album’s existence. At the same time, Neil was working on a Finn Brothers project with Tim Finn, and the situation was the exact opposite – there was no label pressure (truth be told, they didn’t even have a label for their side project), and yet the songs flowed prolifically and sounded great. Wanting to use some of the Finn Brothers songs on the next Crowded House album, Neil invited Tim to join the band full-time, which he did for about a year. Two thirds of Woodface were replaced with new material from what would have been the Finn Brothers repertoire, and those scrapped songs went unheard in the studio, until the release of Afterglow. While the Finn Brothers material is easily the superior music, most of the abandoned Woodface tracks were at least up to the standards of the band’s first album.

Other gems include a demo of “Lester”, Neil Finn’s ode to his dog upon a near-fatal run-in with a car, and two songs from the Together Alone sessions. “Recurring Dream” finally comes in from the cold in this collection as well, a very early song including original fourth band member Craig Hooper which dates back before the first album; the song had previously been available only as a B-side on an import single, or on the obscure Rikky & Pete soundtrack CD which was comprised of material from numerous Split Enz alumni.

The most striking lost gem on Afterglow is a track called “Help Is Coming”, featuring the Neil Finn/Nick Seymour/Mark Hart/Peter Jones lineup that toured following Paul Hester’s departure from the rating: 4 out of 4drummer’s seat. This song would have been on the fifth album that never materialized; in the place of that album, Capitol released Recurring Dream, a decent greatest hits compilation with three new tracks that included Hester. “Help Is Coming” made me wish that one album had been squeezed out of that new lineup.

Order this CD

  1. I Am In Love (4:38)
  2. Sacred Cow (3:37)
  3. We Can Touch (3:47)
  4. Help Is Coming (4:49)
  5. I Love You, Dawn (3:39)
  6. Dr. Livingstone (3:57)
  7. My Telly’s Gone Bung (3:14)
  8. Private Universe (4:09)
  9. Lester (2:18)
  10. Anyone Can Tell (3:37)
  11. Recurring Dream (3:24)
  12. Left Hand (2:58)
  13. Time Immemorial (4:07)

Released by: Capitol
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 47:12

Schoolhouse Rock Rocks!

Schoolhouse Rock Rocks!This is a rockin’ selection of hysterically funny covers of the immortal tunes from those educational animated shorts that used to give ABC’s Saturday morning cartoons such a distinct identity. ABC tries to brand itself with an incredibly annoying series of banana-yellow graphics these days, but that will never even approach the popularity or instant recognition factor that ABC had with the Schoolhouse Rocks cartoons. Schoolhouse Rocks officially ascends to the status of cultural icon with this cover album, featuring a series of often faithful (and occasionally way-the-hell-out-there) covers performed by alt-rock and rap artists. The original Schoolhouse Rocks theme opens the proceedings, and Deluxx Folk Implosion promptly crashes the party with a very good copy of “I’m Just A Bill”, adding the modern touch of vocals dripping with thick, syrupy sarcasm. It’s hard to bang one’s head and laugh out loud at the same time, but this is a good song with which to try. Other standouts include a very good homage to “Electricity, Electricity” by all-girl band Goodness, and Ween’s very accurate rendition of “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World”. The more rap-oriented 4 out of 4covers, Biz Markie’s “Energy Blues” cover and Skee-Lo’s version of “The Tale of Mr. Morton”, weren’t really to my tastes, but I could actually see the wisdom of trying to introduce them to a new generation with a new idiom. And really, Biz Markie did pretty good with his tribute. I highly recommend this easy-to-find album for those in the mood for a nostalgic belly laugh!

Order this CD

  1. Schoolhouse Rocky – Bob Dorough and friends (0:14)
  2. I’m Just A Bill – Deluxx Folk Implosion (3:26)
  3. Three Is A Magic Number – Blind Melon (3:14)
  4. Conjunction Junction – Better Than Ezra (3:44)
  5. Electricity, Electricity – Goodness (3:22)
  6. No More Kings – Pavement (4:23)
  7. The Shot Heard ‘Round The World – Ween (3:09)
  8. My Hero, Zero – Lemonheads (3:05)
  9. The Energy Blues – Biz Markie (3:10)
  10. Little Twelvetoes – Chavez (3:51)
  11. Verb: That’s What’s Happening – Moby (4:29)
  12. Interplanet Janet – Man Or Astro-Man? (2:47)
  13. Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here – Buffalo Tom (2:14)
  14. Unpack Your Adjectives – Daniel Johnston (3:06)
  15. The Tale of Mr. Morton – Skee-Lo (4:05)

Released by: Atlantic
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 48:29

Claudia Christian – Taboo

Claudia Christian - TabooGood grief! Musically, this two-song CD distributed by the official fan club of Claudia Christian (Babylon 5‘s Ivanova) is quite good, but…whew! Those lyrics! Madonna might blush at some of this stuff. (Or, on second thought, she might join in. Doesn’t pay to think about it.) To quote Rick James, she’s a very kinky girl, the kind you don’t take home to mother. Claudia co-wrote the music and lyrics to both songs, the first of which seems to involve various out-of-the-norm activities (namely, S&M and threesomes). Claudia doesn’t actually sing most of the time – to my surprise, most of the actual singing is ably handled by the powerful voice of Julianna Raye, while Claudia chants/raps/speaks her way through the lyrics; in the case of “Taboo” itself, the lyrics shift into French and back to English numerous times, and Claudia basically moans her way through the French lyrics with her sultriest voice. Rating: 1 out of 4Occasionally, however, Claudia proves that she can, in fact, hit a specific musical pitch. Overall, though it’s a very pricey and very fannish item (face it, Taboo has the content of a CD single and the price tag of an expensive CD at retail), it’s a very tittillating listen, and wouldn’t be out of place belting out of a club’s speaker system.

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  1. Taboo (4:39)
  2. Partners in the Sublime (3:44)

Released by: Zard Productions
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 8:25

Crowded House – Recurring Dream: The Very Best Of

Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded HouseThis bittersweet final album from the band that was the genesis of my fascination with Split Enz and the Finn Brothers is quite a collection; almost exactly like the Alan Parsons live album, I only got this one on the virtue of its three new tracks (don’t you hate it when they do that, and you’ve got to buy those other sixteen songs you’ve already heard…oh, never mind…), but I thought I’d comment on the selection of past tracks as well as the new songs. The three new tunes, “Not The Girl You Think You Are”, “Instinct” and “Everything Is Good For You”, are excellent, if somewhat atypical of the signature sound of Crowded House that fills out the rest of the album. They sound very much like they came from the Finn Brothers sessions, and a glance at the liner notes revealed that they were recorded in the same studio. All three also have a distinctly Beatlesque sound, especially “Not The Girl You Think You Are”. But that is by no means a fault – they’re still nifty new tunes. The remainder of the album has one of the best lineups of material I have ever seen on a compilation – truly the best of, including the singles “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, “Something So Strong” and “Better Be Home Soon” as well as the mesmerizing “Weather With You”, one of my favorites from 1991’s Woodface. Other personal faves of mine here are rating: 4 out of 4“Into Temptation”, “Fall At Your Feet”, and “Pineapple Head”. Highly recommended for those not familiar with the band or without the complete collection. Of the new songs I have to peg “Not The Girl You Think You Are” for its very unusual combination of elements that sound equally like Crowded House and Fab Four.

Order this CD

  1. Weather With You (3:45)
  2. World Where You Live (3:06)
  3. Fall At Your Feet (3:18)
  4. Locked Out (3:19)
  5. Don’t Dream It’s Over (3:55)
  6. Into Temptation (4:35)
  7. Pineapple Head (3:28)
  8. When You Come (4:44)
  9. Private Universe (5:36)
  10. Not The Girl You Think You Are (4:09)
  11. Instinct (3:08)
  12. I Feel Possessed (3:48)
  13. Four Seasons In One Day (2:49)
  14. It’s Only Natural (3:32)
  15. Distant Sun (3:51)
  16. Something So Strong (2:52)
  17. Mean To Me (3:15)
  18. Better Be Home Soon (3:10)
  19. Everything Is Good For You (3:57)

Released by: Capitol
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 70:19

The Cardigans – First Band On The Moon

The Cardigans - First Band On The MoonI’m a bit embarassed about this one, to be honest. I got sucked into the Cardigans the same way I got into Merril Bainbridge – I was wondering “Did they really just sing what I think they just sang?” Mind you, I was already reeling from months of unfortunate radio exposure to “LoveFool”, also known as the “love me, love me, fool me, fool me” song, and I had truly grown tired of it. “LoveFool” annoys me on many levels, not the least of which is the “I don’t care how you treat me, just don’t leave” message that the lyrics present – does anyone really want their daughter or sister listening to something like that? “Been It” just flat shocked me – it’s a much better song musically, and the lyrics are much more cohesive in that they actually mean something – though I think it’s the first time I’d ever heard the word “whore” on top 40 radio before the Cardigans came along. Something about the message woven into the Cardigans’ lyrics bothers me greatly as someone who is aware that people – especially impressionable young people – do receive these messages loud and clear. We already have plenty of “ho” lyrics coming from male rappers…do we really need to hear a female singing “Maybe I was your whore” and encouraging that Rating: 2 out of 4line of thought among women and girls who are listening (to say nothing of the men who are listening)? The Cardigans have the musicianship to hold their own, and Nina Persson’s vocals are effective at both the wispy and the gutsy ends of the spectrum…but the lyrics need some serious work. Later efforts such as “Erase / Rewind” proved that they could do better than this.

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  1. Your New Cuckoo (3:57)
  2. Been It (4:06)
  3. Heartbreaker (3:42)
  4. Happy Meal II (2:37)
  5. Never Recover (3:21)
  6. Step On Me (3:48)
  7. LoveFool (3:21)
  8. Losers (3:06)
  9. Iron Man (4:20)
  10. Great Divide (3:17)
  11. Choice (3:26)

Released by: Mercury
Release date: 1996
Total running time: 39:09

The Cat – Tongue Tied

The Cat - Tongue TiedThe Cat is, of course, Danny John-Jules, who plays the Cat character on Red Dwarf. “Tongue Tied” is a song which opened the final episode of the series’ second season in 1988; it took place in one of Cat’s dreams, and featured some very funny backing vocals from fellow cast members Craig Charles and Chris Barrie. Sadly, this CD maxi-single, released only in the U.K. and now available only through John-Jules’ fan club, is not that version of the song, but a re-recording of it minus John-Jules’ fellow cast members. Numerous remixes of “Tongue Tied” delve further and further into hip-hop and club stylings, and a so-called “kateoki” version is also included, a karaoke version with backing vocals, allowing you to be the Cat (if this is, in fact, what you really want to do with your life). Actually, the real treat here is John-Jules’ rendition of the Red Dwarf end credit song – also available in two Rating: 1 out of 4mixes, one of which is rather cryptically labeled the “Dalek mix.” While I was a bit disappointed that the original recording of “Tongue Tied” wasn’t included – but after all, I suppose the sound quality of that version was just enough to pass muster on television – this new version of the Red Dwarf theme makes up for it. Even so, I only recommend this one to extremely die-hard Red Dwarf fans.

Order this CD in the Store

  1. Red Dwarf theme – tongue tied mix (2:21)
  2. Tongue Tied – meeow mix (5:00)
  3. Tongue Tied (4:02)
  4. Tongue Tied – Tabby Ranks edit (6:14)
  5. Tongue Tied – kateoki mix (4:23)
  6. Tongue Tied – pussy mix (5:26)
  7. Tongue Tied – purrfect mix (5:26)
  8. Tongue Tied – paws mix (5:16)
  9. Tongue Tied – paws mix 7" single (5:16)
  10. Tongue Tied – 7" single mix (3:51)
  11. Tongue Tied – instrumental (4:22)
  12. Red Dwarf – Dalek mix (2:15)

Released by:
Release date: 1993
Total running time: 53:59

Elvis Costello & the Brodsky Quartet – The Juliet Letters

Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet - The Juliet LettersTruly outstanding work here, provided you can handle a solid hour of a string quartet (not difficult) and Elvis Costello singing (sometimes a bit grating). The song “Taking My Life In Your Hands” is amazing – yes, even the vocals. There are no “contemporary” instruments at all, though the Brodskys can really make their instruments do some amazing things. “Taking My Life In Your Hands”, “The Letter Home” and “The Birds Will Still Be Singing” stand out as my favorites, all rating: 4 out of 4rather mournful pieces which make the best of both the strings and the vocals. “Who Do You Think You Are?”, “Swine” and “Jackson, Monk and Rowe” bring some much-needed levity to the proceedings, but within the variety of songs there’s a cohesive and very unique concept. Highest recommendations.

Order this CD

  1. Deliver Us (0:49)
  2. For Other Eyes (2:55)
  3. Swine (2:09)
  4. Expert Rites (2:23)
  5. Dead Letter (2:19)
  6. I Almost Had A Weakness (3:53)
  7. Why? (1:26)
  8. Who Do You Think You Are? (3:29)
  9. Taking My Life In Your Hands (3:20)
  10. This Offer Is Unrepeatable (3:13)
  11. Dear Sweet, Filthy World (4:18)
  12. The Letter Home (3:11)
  13. Jackson, Monk and Rowe (3:44)
  14. This Sad Burlesque (2:47)
  15. Romeo’s Seance (3:33)
  16. I Thought I’d Write To Juliet (4:08)
  17. Last Post (2:25)
  18. The First To Leave (5:00)
  19. Damnation’s Cellar (3:26)
  20. The Birds Will Still Be Singing (4:27)

Released by: Warner Bros.
Release date: 1993
Total running time: 62:55