Friday, July 12, 2024

Various Artists - The Hitmakers Sing Albert Hammond (1974)

Albert Louis Hammond was born on 18 May 1944 in London, after his family had been evacuated from Gibraltar during World War II, and shortly after the war ended they returned to Gibraltar where he grew up. In 1960 he joined Gibraltarian band The Diamond Boys, which had no real commercial success, but played a part in Spain's introduction to pop and rock music. In 1966 he co-founded the British vocal band the Family Dogg, reaching number 6 on the UK Singles Chart in 1969 with 'A Way Of Life', taken from the album of the same name. He also wrote songs for other artists with frequent collaborator Mike Hazlewood, including 'Little Arrows' for Leapy Lee, 'Make Me an Island' and 'You're Such A Good Looking Woman' for Joe Dolan, 'Gimme Dat Ding' for the Pipkins, 'Good Morning Freedom' for Blue Mink, 'Freedom Come, Freedom Go' for the Fortunes, and 'The Air That I Breathe' for the Hollies. In 1970, at age 26, he moved to the United States, continuing his professional career as a musician, although his greatest commercial success was in mainland Europe, with successful singles on Columbia subsidiary Mums Records, including 'Down By The River', 'It Never Rains In Southern California', 'The Free Electric Band' (his only single to chart in the UK), 'Half A Million Miles From Home', and '99 Miles From L.A.'. In 1971, he also sang on Michael Chapman's fourth album 'Wrecked Again', and he worked briefly with the Magic Lanterns on recordings of his and Hazlewood's songs. In 1972 he released his first solo album, 'It Never Rains In Southern California', following the success of the single of the same name, and with his reputation as a successful songwriter already established, other artists soon wanted to cover the songs on it. A couple of them seemed a bit too idiosyncratic to be attempted, and so as there were two that have yet to be covered, I've added some of the afore-mentioned hits from 1971 to replace them.  

Track listing

01 Listen To The World (The Undivided 1973)  
02 If You Gotta Break Another Heart (Cass Elliott 1972) 
03 Brand New Day (Cindy Kent 1973)
04 It Never Rains In Southern California (Sonny And Cher 1973) 
05 Anyone Here In The Audience (Agnes Chan 1973)
06 Names, Tags, Numbers & Labels (The Association 1973)
07 Down By The River (The New Seekers 1972)
08 The Air That I Breathe (The Hollies 1974)
09 Freedom Come, Freedom Go (The Fortunes 1971)
10 Good Morning Freedom (Blue Mink 1971)
11 Mama Sure Could Swing A Deal (The Magic Lanterns 1971)

Low Roar - Low Roar (2011)

Low Roar was a project from singer/songwriter Ryan Karazija, who was originally the singer for San Francisco band Audrye Sessions, who were signed to the Sony BMG sub-label, Black Seal. They had attempts at EP's and albums, but they received mixed reviews at best, and so he re-assessed his life and made the brave decision to up sticks and move to Reykjavik, Iceland, where he thought that his music would have a better fit. Now recording as Low Roar, he released his self-titled debut album on Tonequake Records in November 2011, eliciting comparisons to artists such as Bright Eyes. Like fellow Icelanders, Sigur Ros, he matched timelessness with the cinematic, beauty and uplift with pain and harrowing melody, and there is a distinct Radiohead feel to some of the music. Recruiting drummer Logi Guðmundsson, the two toured Europe extensively, including early appearances at Iceland Airwaves & ATP Festival in 2014, and with the addition of Leifur Björnsson on keyboards, the band released their second record '0' in 2014. However, before the 'Low Roar' album came out in 2011, Karazija had recorded another set of songs which were intended to be the first release from his new band. When 'Low Roar' was released by Tonequake Records, this other collection was abandoned, but they are too good to be forgotten, so here is the record that Karazija wanted to be the first that the general public heard of his new project. 

Track listing

01 Aspirin 
02 The Gardener 
03 Big Parade  
04 Oh My God  
05 Voru2 
06 Son Of Mine 
07 Bergthorugata 
08 Build Up? Build Down? 
09 Not Where My Heart Is  
10 Samples 
11 Let Me Know When You Get There  
12 Butterflies 
13 Conscious, Not Really 
14 Idiot 

Echobelly - Here Comes The Scene (2001)

Echobelly were formed in 1993 by Indian-born vocalist Sonya Madan and Glenn Johansson, a native of Sweden who previously edited an adult magazine called Eros in his home country. Madan was born in Delhi, India, before moving to England at the age of two, and she had an atypical background for a pop star, with her upbringing making rock music an unusual choice for her as a youngster, attending her first rock concert while she was in college. In 1992 she first met Johansson in a pub, and after expressing her desire to sing in a band, the duo teamed up with bass guitarist Alex Keyser and drummer Andy Henderson, who had previously played with PJ Harvey's band. Guitarist Debbie Smith, formerly of Curve, came on board in 1994, and they named themselves Echobelly, apparently from the notion of "being hungry for something". With Madan and Johansson as the band's songwriters, they recorded their debut EP, 'Bellyache', on the independent Pandemonium label in late 1993. The favourable response to 'Bellyache' helped Echobelly secure a recording contract with Rhythm King, which was then part of Epic, and once on board the label, the group released the 'I Can't Imagine The World Without Me' single in June 1994. Their debut album 'Everyone's Got One' was released in October 1994, and reached number eight on the UK Albums Chart. 
As their music received more airplay, Echobelly won admiration from other artists as well, and Madonna expressed interest in putting them on her Maverick label, although existing contractual arrangements prevented that, and R.E.M. requested the group as the opening act for their upcoming tour. They returned to the studio in 1995 to record their next album, 'On', produced by Sean Slade and Paul Kolderie, who had also produced Hole and Radiohead.  Madan's lyrics often ventured into the less explored side of life, addressed in songs such as 'King Of The Kerb' and 'Dark Therapy', and while many of the songs lamented the state of things, others on the 'On' album celebrated the endless possibilities of the human spirit. Listeners in the UK responded favourably to the album, driving three singles from it into the Top 30 of the UK Singles Chart, and sales of the album rose to nearly double that of 'Everyone's Got One'. Health and legal problems interrupted the success of Echobelly in 1995 and 1996, as Madan experienced a serious thyroid problem during a world tour that was potentially life-threatening, but luckily it was later cured. Bass guitarist James Harris joined after Keyser defected because of personal and artistic differences, and the group also had disagreements with Rhythm King after the label moved to Arista, with Echobelly choosing to stay with Epic. In 1996, Madan also ventured away from the group when she sang on a recording of the club band, Lithium, and Smith left the band before the release of the band's third album 'Lustra', which was produced by Gil Norton and issued in November 1997. 
The group then went on a four-year hiatus, which ended in 2001 when they returned with the 'Digit' EP and their fourth album, 'People Are Expensive', which was produced by Ben Hillier, both of which were released on their own Fry Up label. 
In 2004 they released a fifth album, again through their own Fry Up label, with 'Gravity Pulls' being produced by Ian Grimble. In July 2009 Madan and Johansson performed an acoustic show in Manchester, featuring brand-new songs and older Echobelly tracks, and the new material turned out to be part of two mini-albums that had already commenced recording under the alternative name Calm Of Zero. Alex Reeves was brought in to record the drumming and percussion for the albums, and 'Acoustic Sessions 1' was released in January 2011 and 'Acoustic Sessions 2' in October 2012. In October 2015, Echobelly made a successful return to the stage, playing a sell-out gig at the 1,500-capacity Scala venue in London, and in May 2016 it was announced that they were entering the studio to record a new album entitled 'Anarchy And Alchemy', which was released in May 2017. Because they were around in the early 90's they were often linked to the Britpop scene, although they were more on the fringes of it rather than being one of the major bands involved, but they produced a lot of fine music, including many non-albums tracks on their singles, which are all collected here, mostly from their first five years, but also including a few tracks from their post-hiatus comeback in 2000.  

Track listing

Disc I - 1993-1995
01 Bellyache (from the 'Bellyache' EP 1993)
02 Sleeping Hitler (from the 'Bellyache' EP 1993)
03 Give Her A Gun (from the 'Bellyache' EP 1993)
04 I Don't Belong Here (from the 'Bellyache' EP 1993)
05 Venus Wheel (b-side of 'I Can't Imagine The World Without Me' 1994)
06 Sober (b-side of 'I Can't Imagine The World Without Me' 1994)
07 Talent (b-side of 'Insomniac' 1994)
08 Centipede (b-side of 'Insomniac' 1994)
09 So La Di Da (b-side of 'Close...But' 1994
10 Here Comes The Scene (b-side of 'Great Things' CD1 1995)
11 On Turn On (b-side of 'Great Things' CD1 1995)
12 God's Guest List (b-side of 'Great Things' CD1 1995)

Disc II - 1995-2001
01 Car Fiction (b-side of 'King Of The Kerb' - French version 1995)
02 One After 5am (b-side of 'Great Things' CD2 1995)
03 Bunty (b-side of 'Great Things' CD2 1995)
04 We Know Better (b-side of 'Dark Therapy' 1996)
05 Atom (b-side of 'Dark Therapy' 1996)
06 Aloha Lolita (b-side of 'Dark Therapy' 1996)
07 Holding The Wire (b-side of 'The World Is Flat' 1997)
08 Drive Myself Distracted (b-side of 'The World Is Flat' 1997)
09 Falling Flame (b-side of 'The World Is Flat' 1997)
10 Tesh (b-side of 'Here Comes The Big Rush' 1997)
11 Mouth Almighty (b-side of 'Here Comes The Big Rush' 1997)
12 Kathmandu (b-side of 'Digit' 2000)
13 I Am Awake (b-side of 'Tell Me Why' 2001)
14 When I See Red (b-side of 'Tell Me Why' 2001)

Madison Beer - Clumsy (2014)

Madison Elle Beer was born on 5 March 1999 in Jericho, New York, and appeared on the cover of Child magazine after winning a modelling competition at four years old. In early 2012 she began posting videos on YouTube of her singing covers of popular songs, and one of them gained the attention of Justin Bieber, who tweeted a link to her cover of Etta James's 'At Last' to his followers. This caused Beer to trend worldwide on Twitter and gain substantial media coverage, after which Bieber signed her personally to his record label Island Records. In September 2013 she released her debut single and music video called 'Melodies', which was written by Peter Kelleher, Ben Kohn, Thomas Barnes and Ina Wroldsen, and the video featured a guest appearance by Bieber. Beer then began work on her debut album, which was slated to have pop and R&B influences, stating there "will be slow songs, sad songs, happy songs, songs about boys, and songs about being who you are". She released her second single, 'Unbreakable', in June 2014 as a taster for her album, and in February 2015 it was announced that she was set to be a featured artist on a new single by DJ Mako titled 'I Won't Let You Walk Away', which reached number 19 on the Dance/Mix Show Airplay charts in the US when it was released. Two more singles followed in 2017, but there was silence on the album front, and eventually fans had to accept that it had been scrapped, and they had to wait until 2021 for her actual debut album 'Life Support' to appear. Some of the songs recorded during 2013 and 2014 have since appeared online, so if we add those to the early singles we can get an idea of what an album from the then 15-year old singer might have sounded like. 

Track listing

01 Melodies
02 (Don't You Tell Me) You're The One (feat. Justin Bieber)
03 Crimes
04 Smile
05 Hit Me Back
06 Do It Like That (feat. Justin Bieber)
07 Clumsy
08 Unbreakable
09 Valentine (feat. Cody Simpson)
10 Silhouette
11 Out Loud
12 Shooting Stars (Just A Plane) (feat. Tayla Parx)
13 Something Sweet

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Sleeper - This Is The Sound Of Someone Else (2019)

Guitarist Jon Stewart met vocalist/guitarist Louise Wener at Manchester University in 1987 in a political philosophy class, and together they played in a number of bands at university, including jazz outfit the Lime Street Blues Band. After graduating in 1988 they moved to London to seek gigs, with their music becoming increasingly influenced by US bands such as Hole, Nirvana and, most especially, Pixies, and after advertising for new band members in Melody Maker ("Bass player and drummer wanted. Influences The Pixies and The Partridge Family"), they recruited Diid Osman and Andy Maclure. At one point, the band called themselves Surrender Dorothy, after the smoke trail in the sky from the Wizard of Oz movie, but abandoned this idea after discovering that several other bands had done the same thing. They subsequently chose the name Sleeper after the Woody Allen film 'Sleeper', and also because the word has a number of different meanings (a spy, an unexpected hit, etc.). In 1993 they signed to Indolent Records, a subsidiary of RCA Records, and released three EPs and singles before their breakthrough single release, 'Inbetweener', which notably featured UK TV personality Dale Winton in the promo video. Prior to the release of 'Inbetweener' Sleeper had been the opening act for Blur on their tour to promote the 'Parklife' album, and as a result they became embroiled in the whole Britpop movement. 
Their debut album 'Smart' was released in 1995, and was certified gold by the BPI for sales of over 100,000 copies, and it was followed by the platinum-selling 'The It Girl' which yielded four top 20 hit singles in 'What Do I Do Now?', 'Nice Guy Eddie', 'Sale Of The Century' and 'Statuesque'. In 1996 Sleeper recorded a cover of the Blondie song 'Atomic', which was used in the film 'Trainspotting', after Blondie refused to allow the use of the original version. The band's third album, 'Pleased To Meet You', was released in October 1997 and was a UK Top 10 hit, being certified silver even though it had fewer sales than the previous albums. In March 1998 the band split up, after a tour in which venues had been cancelled or downsized due to lower than expected ticket sales, and Wener and Maclure recorded material for a new project, aimed at a more mainstream market, and featuring a guest appearance by George Michael. However, the project was not completed at the time, and Wener went on to have a successful career as a novelist. Stewart moved to Los Angeles, California, where he played with West Coast band UFO Bro, and contributed as a session guitarist to k.d. lang's 'Invincible Summer' and Melanie C's 'Reason' albums. 
Osman subsequently went on to become a session player with Parlophone records band 'Dubstar', and Maclure later ran a "Punk Rock Karaoke" enterprise with DJ Steve Lamacq, but in 2017 Sleeper reformed to play in four British cities in July and August, as part of the Star Shaped Festival, alongside other Britpop acts including Space, Dodgy and The Bluetones. The following year they announced that they were recording a new album in collaboration with their old producer Stephen Street, for release in early 2019, and 'The Modern Age' duly appeared that year, and it prompted Wener and Maclure to compile some unreleased material from previous recording sessions, including the George Michael collaboration, with new material as the basis for a new Sleeper album 'This Time Tomorrow', which was released in December 2020. One of the band's claims to fame is that they were the inspiration for the phrase "Sleeperbloke", referring to the disparity between the glamorous singer Wener and the other frequently ignored members of the band, who tended to be far more anonymous and stood at the back, and Wener revelled in wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with "Another Female Fronted Band". But they also produced some fine music during their career, with a lot of it being tucked away on the flips of their singles or rare EPs, so here they all are, on a great 3-disc collection of rare and hard to find tracks by a mainstay of the Brtipop era.   

Track listing

Disc I - 1993-1994
01 Alice In Vain (from the 'Alice' EP 1993)
02 Ha Ha You're Dead (from the 'Alice' EP 1993)
03 Big Nurse (from the 'Alice' EP 1993)
04 Swallow (from the 'Swallow' EP 1994) 
05 Twisted (from the 'Swallow' EP 1994) 
06 One Girl Dreaming (from the 'Swallow' EP 1994) 
07 Lady Love Your Countryside (original version from the 'Delicious' EP 1994)
08 Bedside Manners (from the 'Delicious' EP 1994)
09 Tatty (from the 'Delicious' EP 1994)
10 Little Annie (b-side of 'Inbetweener' 1994)
11 Disco Duncan (b-side of 'Inbetweener' 1994)
12 Bank (b-side of 'Inbetweener' 1994)

Disc II - 1995-1996

01 Hymn To Her (b-side of 'Vegas' 1995)
02 It's Wrong Of You To Breed (b-side of 'Vegas' 1995)
03 Close (b-side of 'Vegas' 1995)
04 Paint Me (b-side of 'What Do I Do Now?' 1995)
05 Room At The Top (b-side of 'What Do I Do Now?' 1995)
06 Package Holiday (b-side of 'Sale Of The Century' 1996)
07 Oh Well (b-side of 'Sale Of The Century' 1996)
08 Atomic (b-side of 'Sale Of The Century' 1996)
09 She's A Sweetheart (b-side of 'Statuesque' 1996)
10 Other End Of The Telescope (b-side of 'Statuesque' 1996)
11 Spies (b-side of 'Statuesque' 1996)

Disc III - 1996-2019
01 Pokerface (b-side of 'Nice Guy Eddie' 1996)
02 Blazer Sleeves (b-side of 'Nice Guy Eddie' 1996)
03 Motorway Man (Artic Dub Mix 1997)
04 Come On Come On (b-side of 'She's A Good Girl' 1997)
05 I'm A Man (b-side of 'She's A Good Girl' 1997)
06 C*nt London (b-side of 'Romeo Me' 1997)
07 This Is The Sound Of Someone Else (b-side of 'Romeo Me' 1997)
08 What Do I Get? (b-side of 'Romeo Me' 1997)
09 When Will You Smile (b-side of 'Romeo Me' 1997)
10 I Am Not A Computer (b-side of 'The Sun Also Rises' 2019) 

Amelle Berrabah - Save Myself (2017)

Amelle Berrabah was born on 22 April 1984 in Aldershot in Hampshire, and is best known for being a former member of the girl group the Sugababes, replacing founding member Mutya Buena, who left the group in December 2005. She attended The Connaught School in Aldershot and the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, and it was there that she met her managers and formed the group Boo2, with her sister Samiya. In 2003 she won Top of the Pops magazine's Star Search, which gave her the chance to be the lead singer of a new group, but in 2006 she was brought in to replace Mutya Buena when she left Sugababes, having impressed their management when they saw her perform at an American showcase a few years earlier. The first single to feature Berrabah's vocals, 'Red Dress', entered the UK singles chart at number four, but because of the hastiness of the replacement, she could only re-record vocals for three of the tracks on the band's latest album 'Taller In More Ways', making the group a four-piece for this record only. They performed the 2007 Comic Relief single with fellow girl band, Girls Aloud, with 'Walk This Way' topping the UK charts. The first single from their album 'Change', the Dr. Luke-produced 'About You Now', topped the UK singles chart for four weeks, with the album becoming the group's second UK Albums Chart number one, giving them the top position on the singles and albums charts simultaneously.  The group quickly began working on the follow-up to 'Change', and 'Catfights And Spotlights' was released in late 2008, but it was their lowest charting album. 
After the commercial disappointment of 'Catfights And Spotlights', the group started working on the 'Sweet 7' album, signing with Roc Nation and working with their in-house producers in the US. Around this time, Berrabah also featured on 'Never Leave You' by Tinchy Stryder, which debuted at number one on the UK singles chart. In 2009 it was rumoured that Berrabah had left the group, as she had missed two engagements promoting the album, but it was later revealed that in fact Keisha Buchanan had been removed due to disagreements with Berrabah and Heidi Range, and she was replaced by Jade Ewen. Following these events, Berrabah checked into a European health clinic for a three-week stay, citing "severe nervous exhaustion". After the release of 'Sweet 7' in early 2010, Sugababes left Island Records for a distribution deal with RCA Records, and the first single from their next album, 'Freedom', was released for free in August as a gift to fans. A few months later Range announced that Sugababes were taking a break while they pursued individual endeavours. 
Berrabah began working on solo material in 2011 with producer Pete Kirtley, and in January 2012 she announced that she had been working on a solo album in Los Angeles. In May 2013 she confirmed she had nearly completed work on the record, and was looking to release the collection some time in the summer, having written every song on the album apart from two. 'Summertime' was released as the lead single on 21 September 2014, and around this time she also made a series of appearances on reality TV competitions, competing in the BBC celebrity gymnastics show Tumble (with professional partner Douglas Fordyce) in mid-2014, and Celebrity Masterchef in 2016. This effectively put her musical career on hold, as when she listened back to the album, she realised that the music she had made over the previous two years was not to her taste, and so she scrapped the whole record. In 2019 she made her theatre debut with the jukebox musical Club Tropicana, and in January 2022 she was announced as the presenter of the late show on Milton Keynes radio station MKFM, so it looks like it's unlikely that she will ever release an album. That being the case, here is your chance to hear the only one that she made, and to decide if it was as bad as she thought it was.  

Track listing

01 Come On
02 So Complete
03 Never Leave You (feat. Tinchy Stryder)
04 Silly Cow
05 Runaway (feat. Beenie Man)
06 Save Myself
07 How Beautiful My Love Is
08 Testify (feat. K-Syran)
09 Summertime
10 Love Is All We Need (feat. Adam J)
11 Shelter
12 God Won't Save U Now (feat. BBX)

Malik Pendleton - Look Around (1999)

"Zavy Kid" Malik Pendleton is the professional name of Charles Pendleton, and after serving an 11 month sentence in a North Carolina prison for illegal street activities, he got his act together and pursued his true calling in music, which was song-writing. In a productive four year period he penned lyrics for R&B artists like 702, Diana Ross, SWV, George Benson and Zhane, and his teamwork with R&B diva Mary J. Blige on 'Seven Days' for her 1997 album 'Share My World' earned him a 1999 Rhythm & Soul Music Award from the American Society Of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. He also wrote four songs for Diana Ross's 1999 album 'Every Day Is A New Day', including the title track, and that same year he stepped out from the production boards and recorded his own album titled 'Look Around'. The title track was released as a single by Atlantic Records, but despite the beautiful vocals and soulful beds of R&B on the album, Atlantic decided to cancel it, and it remains unreleased to this day. So that we don't miss out on yet another excellent shelved R&B record, here is Malik Pendleton's cancelled debut from 1999. 

Track listing 

01 Bad Ass Little Kid
02 You Remind Me 
03 Look Around 
04 Gonna Love You Anyway
05 Little Bro/Little Sis (feat. Mary J. Blige) 
06 Sum Supa Soul Song
07 No Longer Home 
08 She's Got Papers
09 Lucky Guy
10 February-March 
11 Ain't No Sunshine
12 Make It Right
13 I'm Still Winning
14 You're All I've Got 
15 Little Ghetto Boy 

Friday, July 5, 2024

Various Artists - The Hitmakers Sing Jimmy Webb (1974)

Although 'Sunshower' is considered to be the debut album of Thelma Houston, released in 1969 on Dunhill Records, it could also be classed as a Jimmy Webb album with Thelma Houston as the featured vocalist. It was all written by Webb, apart from a cover of 'Jumpin' Jack Flash', and was also produced and arranged by him, and it charted at number 50 on the Billboard R&B chart. By 1969 Webb had already established himself as one of the best songwriters of the late 60's, with such classic songs as 'By The Time I Get To Phoenix', 'Galveston', 'Wichita Lineman' and 'MacArthur Park' providing massive hits for Glen Campbell and Richard Harris. By 1969 Webb was looking to start a career as a singer/songwriter, but it didn't get off to a very good start when a set of early demo recordings were redubbed and orchestrated by Epic Records without Webb's participation or consent, and released as the 'Jim Webb Sings Jim Webb' album in 1968. None of Webb's hit songs from that period appear on the album, and the sound quality of the recording is distinctly inferior, with Webb later denouncing the release in the strongest terms. He followed this debacle by writing, arranging, and producing Thelma Houston's first album, 'Sunshower', which produced four singles: 'Everybody Gets To Go To The Moon', 'Sunshower', 'If This Was The Last Song' and 'Jumpin' Jack Flash'. The songs were up to his usual high standard, and so it's no surprise that within a year nearly all of them had been covered by other artists, with Frank Sinatra choosing to include his version of 'Didn't We' on his 'My Way' album, released the same year as 'Sunshower'. By 1974 every single Webb song from the album had been added to another artists records, and so here are the best of them, offering an alternate look at Thelma Houston's debut album, without Thelma Houston appearing on it.   

Track listing

01 Sunshower (Affinity 1972)
02 Everybody Gets To Go To The Moon (Judy Singh 1970)
03 To Make It Easier On You (Nancy Wilson 1974)
04 Didn't We (Frank Sinatra 1969)
05 Mixed-Up Girl (Dusty Springfield 1972)
06 Someone Is Standing Outside (The Fortunes 1970)
07 This Is Where I Came In (Richard Harris 1971) 
08 Pocketful Of Keys (Revelation 1970)
09 This Is Your Life (The 5th Dimension 1970)
10 Cheap Lovin' (The Supremes 1972)
11 If This Was The Last Song (Bill Medley 1970)

Protocol - Rules Of Engagement (2006)

Protocol were a British pop group, who were formed in 2005 by John Pritchard on lead vocals, James McMaster on guitar, Steven Oates on bass, David Malik on keyboards/synthesizers, and Dominic Joseph on drums. The five-piece had been honing their craft since meeting four years earlier, and ran their own club night, Vanity, in London. The quickly signed to Polydor records, and released two singles in 2006, 'She Waits For Me' and 'Where's The Pleasure?'. They also toured with New Order, Fisherspooner, The Bravery, and Hard-Fi, and played the Wireless and V Festivals. They recorded their debut album for the label, and promo copies were sent out, but in April 2006 they were dropped from the label and the release of the album was cancelled. Despite this double catastrophe, they continued to tour before splitting up later that year. Joseph went on to DJ and co-produce in Electro Duo Leatherhead, supporting Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers and Pete Tong, but the band's work on their long-playing debut has remained largely unheard, so here is what would have been Protocol's first album. 

Track listing

01 Love Is My Drug
02 She Waits For Me
03 Burning Up
04 Where's The Pleasure
05 Needed
06 Those Things I Do
07 We Both Hurt The Same
08 Don't Make Me Jealous
09 Headaches & Heartbreaks
10 Cover Over You
11 Beautiful Girlfriend
12 Deborah
13 Hot Under The Collar
14 Sorry

Puressence - Think Of The Times (2008)

James Mudriczki, Neil McDonald, Anthony Szuminski and Kevin Matthews met on a bus on their way to watch The Stone Roses play at Spike Island, and after watching The Stone Roses' Gary Mounfield play bass, Matthews bought himself a bass guitar. The rest of the members followed suit and bought the necessary equipment to form a band, although they had little to no musical experience or training, with only McDonald having played the guitar for a number of years, being heavily influenced by Eddie Van Halen. The other members soon caught up, and they decided on the name Puressence, a name which was soon well known around Manchester following paper letters spelling the band's name being plastered around Manchester city centre, on derelict buildings, and on bridges. They quickly signed to 2 Damn Loud Records, who released two singles, the 'Petrol Skin' EP in 1992 and 'Offshore' in 1993, and this brought them to the attention of Rough Trade, who included their 'Scapa Flow'/'Siamese' single in their 7" Singles Club series. Over the next few years they played a series of gigs at Manchester's In The City festival, and their big breakthrough came a couple of years later, when they signed to Island Records in 1995. Their first single for the new label was the U2-inspired 'I Suppose', and their self-titled debut album appeared the following year, drawing favorable comparisons to Radiohead's work on 'The Bends'. Despite this positive reaction, it seemed that the U.K. record-buying public preferred hometown giants Oasis' '(What's the Story) Morning Glory?', and sales were disappointing. With its lighter, pop focused sound, 1998's 'Only Forever' yielded the band's first U.K. top 40 single, with the Who-inspired 'This Feeling', and following that year's acquisition of Island by Universal, the label continued to show faith in Puressence, eventually releasing the ambitious 'Planet Helpless' in October 2002, despite many other similar acts being stripped from their roster. However, 2003 saw the band part company with the label and their manager, as well as with McDonald, who went on to form the Editors-influenced local act Juno Ashes, and a fan of the band, Lowell Killen, was brought in to replace him on guitar. 
The next few years saw only sporadic live appearances from the group, and rumours that they had split were starting to surface when they returned with the 'Pallisades' single on Manchester's Reaction Records in 2006, followed by the 'Don't Forget To Remember' album in September 2007. Recorded at Manchester's Revolution Studios, the album failed to take root on home soil, but helped to spread the word further afield, and the accompanying tour took in their first U.S. dates, and built on the earlier success of 'Planet Helpless' in Greece, where the album placed them back into the Top Ten of the Greek album charts. The retrospective 'Sharpen Up The Knives' arrived in October 2009, prior to the band's biggest ever U.K. headlining gig in front of 3,500 fans at the Manchester Apollo. In October 2010 the band's website announced details of a new album, 'Solid State Recital', which was released on 21 April 2011, but a couple years later, in November 2013, Puressence announced that they had split up. In November 2023, 10 years after their split, the band announced on their Facebook page that their first concert in 11 years will take place in their hometown of Manchester, and they played the Albert Hall last Saturday, 29 June, so now is the perfect time to remember one of the many under-appreciated bands from the early 90's who didn't fit into the Brit-pop obsession of the time, and so didn't achieve the success that they deserved. Over their career they gifted many non-albums songs to their fans on the b-sides of their singles, and so this three disc set collects them all together, along with those rare early singles, for a reminder of what an under-rated band they were.  

Track listing

Disc I: 1992-1995
01 Telekinesis (from the 'Petrol Skin' EP 1992)
02 Suck The Knife (from the 'Petrol Skin' EP 1992)
03 Polystyrene Snow (from the 'Petrol Skin' EP 1992)
04 Petrol Skin (from the 'Petrol Skin' EP 1992)
05 Siamese (Rough Trade Singles Club 7" 1992)
06 Scapa Flow (b-side of 'Siamese')
07 Offshore (single 1993)
08 None Handed (demo) (b-side of 'Offshore')
09 Mist (b-side of 'Offshore')
10 Let It All Go (b-side of 'I Suppose' 1995)
11 Free Fall (b-side of 'I Suppose' 1995)

Disc II: 1995-1998
01 Allstar (b-side of 'Fire' 1995)
02 Gutter Girl (b-side of 'India' 1996)
03 Let Down (b-side of 'India' 1996)
04 A Different Sand (b-side of 'Traffic Jam In Memory Lane' 1996)
05 Sick Of Waiting (b-side of 'Traffic Jam In Memory Lane' 1996)
06 Half The Way You Were (b-side of 'Casting Lazy Shadows' 1996)
07 Fifteen Years (b-side of 'Casting Lazy Shadows' 1996)
08 Think Of The Times (b-side of 'This Feeling' 1998)
09 Walk On By (b-side of 'This Feeling' 1998)
10 Northern Framing Company (b-side of 'This Feeling' 1998)
11 London In The Rain (b-side of 'This Feeling' 1998)
12 Along The Sure (b-side of 'All I Want' 1998)

Disc III: 1998-2008
01 Another Day Another Night (b-side of 'It Doesn't Matter Anymore' 1998)
02 Take A Ride (b-side of 'It Doesn't Matter Anymore' 1998)
03 The Drone (b-side of 'It Doesn't Matter Anymore' 1998)
04 Deathtrap (b-side of 'It Doesn't Matter Anymore' 1998)
05 Moss Side Lonely (b-side of 'Walking Dead' 2002)
06 Only Holy Maybe (b-side of 'Walking Dead' 2002)
07 Emotion (b-side of 'Walking Dead' 2002)
08 Where There's A Will There's No Way (b-side of 'Drop Down To Earth' 2007)
09 Eyes Are Streaming (b-side of 'Drop Down To Earth' 2007)
10 April In July (b-side of 'Drop Down To Earth' 2007)
11 3rd Degree (b-side of 'Drop Down To Earth' 2007)
12 Sold Unseen (b-side of 'Don't Know Any Better' 2008)
13 Bright Eyes (b-side of 'Don't Know Any Better' 2008)
14 You've Already Said Goodbye (b-side of 'Don't Know Any Better' 2008)

Thanks to jman for the suggestion.

Ciara - One Woman Army (2012)

Following the release of the truncated 'Fantasy Ride' album in 2009, Ciara bagged the support spot for Britney Spears's Circus tour, where she performed eight nights at London's prestigious O2 Arena during June 2009. Her performance received rave reviews from critics and fans alike, who noted her dancing skills as being spectacular, and arguably better than Spears'. After a couple of collaborations in 2010, on Nelly's single 'Stepped On My J'z', Enrique Iglesias' 'Takin' Back My Love', and 'How Long' by Ludacris, she released her fourth studio album, 'Basic Instinct', on 14 December 2010. It was executive-produced by the singer, alongside her A&R agent Mark Pitts and writing/production duo Tricky Stewart and The-Dream. and debuted at number forty-four on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, becoming her first album to not peak within the top three. Three singles were released from the record, but neither 'Ride', 'Speechless', nor 'Gimmie Dat' managed to break the Billboard Top 40. In February 2011, following rumours that Ciara had been dropped by Jive Records, she released an official statement to her Facebook page complaining of inadequate promotion and funding from the label, and after asking to be released from her contract, she was removed from the Jive Records website roster in May 2011. 
Two months later she'd reunited with L.A. Reid by signing with his record label Epic Records, and work began on her fifth album. During a press conference with MTV in May 2012, she announced her fifth studio album would be titled 'One Woman Army' and said the lead single, 'Sweat', would be out very soon. The single premiered online on 4 June 2012, but just before it was due to be released via iTunes it was scrapped, for unknown reasons. By August, the official lead single for the album had changed to 'Sorry', which was released in September, and just scraped into the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Top 40. 'Got Me Good' was released as the second single from the album, but nothing more was heard about it until April 2013, when it was announced that it would no longer be called 'One Woman Army', and that the new title was 'Ciara'. Due to their low performance on the charts, the label decided not to include 'Sweat', 'Sorry', or 'Got Me Good' on the tracklist, and with these changes it became a completely different record to the one announced in 2012. 'Ciara' was released in July 2013, and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 59,000 copies in the U.S. Many of the songs which were recorded for 'One Man Army' and which were left off 'Ciara' have since surfaced, and so we can add them to those three abandoned singles and come up with a pretty good alternate fifth album for the signer, so here is the scrapped 'One Woman Army' from 2012. 

Track listing 
01 One Woman Army Intro
02 Wake Up, Turn Up (feat. Future)
03 Sweat (feat. 2 Chainz)
04 Got Me Good 
05 Sorry
06 Boy Outta Here (feat. Rick Ross)
07 Backseat Love
08 One Night With You
09 Livin' It Up
10 Overdose
11 One Woman Army
12 Sorry (Part 2) (feat. Future)

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Kanye West - Good Ass Job (2008)

In 2003, before 'The College Dropout' had even been released, Kanye West announced his intention to release a series of four albums as part of a tetralogy. These albums were to be thematically linked, reflecting West's journey through the stages of higher education and his subsequent experiences in the music industry. The first three albums in this series, 'The College Dropout', 'Late Registration', and 'Graduation', were released to critical acclaim and commercial success, featuring West's signature blend of soulful samples, thought-provoking lyrics, and innovative production techniques. 'Good Ass Job' was intended to serve as the culmination of West's tetralogy, exploring his growth and development following his metaphorical graduation from the music industry. However, just two months after 'Graduation' was released, his mother, Donda West, passed away in November 2007, due to complications following plastic surgery. West was devastated by the loss of his mother, and to make matters worse, in the spring of 2008, he broke up with his former fiancée, Alexis Phifer, leading to a bout of depression, which coupled with his struggle of adapting to new-found fame, caused him to scrap the concept of 'Good Ass Job' entirely. Instead he worked on a completely different sound, and in November 2008 he released '808s & Heartbreak', after which he began working on new material for his then-upcoming fifth studio album. 
He worked on the record throughout most of 2009, but things took a drastic turn on 13 September, when West walked on stage during Taylor Swift's acceptance of her Best Female Video award at the MTV Video Music Awards, took the microphone from her, and stated that Beyoncé had "one of the best videos of all time". As the crowd booed he handed the microphone back to Swift, shrugged, and walked off. The backlash was immediate and all-encompassing, both from the public, as well as several celebrities, including then-U.S. president Barack Obama, who called Kanye a "jackass". West apologized to Swift on his blog, but the damage had been done and he fell into another deep depression due to the overwhelming hate. After the incident, he decided to take a break from making music altogether and ventured into fashion, but before long he had holed himself up in Honolulu, Hawaii to make new music. He invited several artists to his studio, where they were forced to wear black suits, and to obey a list of rules on the wall, nicknamed the "Kanye Commandments", which set the mood for the upcoming album. In July 2010, West announced on Twitter that the album would no longer be called 'Good Ass Job', and instead it would be titled 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy'. That spelled the end for the final record of his tetralogy, resulting in yet another one of his legendary unreleased albums. There are a number of track listings around for it, but most of them use the majority of the tracks that I've included on this post, including the Billy Joel-sampling 'Mama's Boyfriend', and they hang together pretty well, so I'm happy that this is as good a version as any for this particular lost album in the West canon. 

Track listing

01 Shoot Up
02 Hard Horn Nightmare
03 Ghetto University
04 Down Town
05 That's My Bitch
06 Throw Money Everywhere 
07 Hell Of A Life
08 Heartbreaker
09 Mama's Boyfriend
10 Eyes Closed
11 It'll Be Alright
12 Never See Me Again

Jessica Andrews - How Much I Love You (2008)

As I mentioned in my first post from Jessica Andrews, she was unlucky enough to have two albums cancelled when her record labels closed before they could be released, and so here is the second of them, which should have come out on Carolwood Records in 2008. I've had to omit the track 'Settle Down' as the sound quality was completely unlistenable, but it's still a nice 43-minute album so it's not really missed.   

Track listing

01 How Much I Love You   
02 Behind  
03 I Would  
04 Afraid Of My Freedom  
05 What The Whiskey Said  
06 The Clown  
07 Love 
08 Slow And Steady Burn 
09 Fall Like The Rain 
10 Now Or Neverland (with Dave Pahanish) 
11 Did I Make You This Way  
12 Good Time