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A J Smith

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Food, Sex & Paranoia
Food, Sex & Paranoia
Offered by xyxxxx
Price: £55.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Food, Sex & Paranoia, 8 April 2016
This review is from: Food, Sex & Paranoia (Audio CD)
With the 1986 UK hit Brilliant Mind, and the release of the excellent album The Wrong People, it seemed as though Furniture were on the way to success. However, their label Stiff soon went bankrupt, and the band lost their momentum trying to break free of that contract. Afterwards, they signed to Arista, releasing Food, Sex & Paranoia in 1989. Sadly, it wasn't a commercial success, and the band wound down in 1991. The undeserving lack of success, largely caused by an internal upheaval at Arista, eclipsed an excellent album which showed the band developing their sound further.

The most evident feature of Mike Thorne's production on the album is the reverb. His full-bodied style helps bring out the album's sinister edge, and create a general atmosphere that could be described as mystical. The album also uses instruments not usually associated with Western pop music, though the band never use these excessively - Food, Sex & Paranoia is very much a new wave-fused pop album at heart. The band sound tighter than ever, the songs are interesting and varied, and the lyrics alluring and serious. Although the album doesn't quite have the melodic sound and candid nature of The Wrong People, it very much stands on its own equally worthy characteristics and merits instead.

The opener One Step Behind You sets the tone nicely – like the entire album, it is stylish and polished in its sound, and very captivating at heart. It propels along nicely with an infectious chorus and spirited vocal from Jim Irvin. Slow Motion Kisses is as passionate and sensuous as its title suggests. Both tracks were singles and should have been hits. Swing Tender is the one track that makes the most use of the more unusual instrumentation, which compliment the song's rather mysterious and brooding feel. While it isn't the most instantly accessible song, it certainly reveals its qualities after a few listens. A Plot to Kill What Was is similar in its sound - dark and assertive, and makes for another fine track, as does the sharp and impassioned A Taste of You.

A stand-out is On a Slow Fuse, with its jazzy undertones, slick guitar shimmers and intimate vocal. Subway to the Beach, by contrast, is bordering more on indie-pop, with an untethered synthesiser melody boosting the song's feverish, snappish edge. Another highlight is Song for a Doberman, a delightful number sung by bassist Sally Still. The use of a female perspective adds a nice touch to the album, while Tim Whelan's wonderfully expressive lyrics seal the deal. The same can be said for the outstanding Love Me. My personal favourite, this song perfectly combines the key ingredients of the album. The song's striking, embracing sound matches an equally strong lyric that Irvin portrays with honest yearning.

The album's CD version has an extended rather than the standard LP/cassette version of Friend of a Friend. This is a nice, solid album track - somewhat more straightforward sounding than many of the others, with a nice gentle atmosphere too. The closer Hard to Say is led by heartwrenching piano, opening up the opportunity for another of Irvin's intimate, emotive vocal performance. The grieving message, and reflective nature of the song, makes for a haunting finish.

It's a crying shame the album wasn't recognised upon release as the songwriting, performance and production are first-rate, creating a powerful, often soul-stirring album that is as expressive as it is atmospheric. An intelligently written collection, this now out-of-print album is worth finding. While The Wrong People is the best Furniture album to start with, those eager to explore more of their work, or for those who enjoy the sophisticated side of 1980s pop, will find much to enjoy here. Food, Sex & Paranoia is a fine, passionate collection, dressed in a mixture of art pop, sophisti-pop, and new wave.


Yes You Can
Yes You Can
Price: £5.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Yes You Can, 2 April 2015
This review is from: Yes You Can (Audio CD)
Steve Harley's 1992 album Yes You Can was surprisingly his first studio album since 1979's The Candidate, though he did release a few non-album singles throughout the 1980s. This album stems from that decade, when Harley signed to Mickie Most's RAK Records. The sessions around this period produced a number of tracks, but many never saw the light of day, as the label went bust before a planned album, El Gran Senor, could be released. When Harley began to tour again in 1989, he went back into the studio to write and record some new material, and from that point he was pressed by the audience to release an album with the songs that he had performed live since the 1980s.

Though somewhat different from his days in Cockney Rebel, Yes You Can finds Harley mixing some commercial pop-rock with some more intricate numbers - a balance that proves to work well. Irresistible opens the album, and is one of Harley's most overlooked numbers. Released as a single in 1985, and again as a remix in 1986, this version is the full-length Stuart Breed 1986 remix. The song's incredibly catchy keyboard hook, and 1980s-orientated sound, works nicely with Harley's own style. Victim of Love, Promises and Dancing On The Telephone are all strong numbers of a similar nature - full of memorable hooks and a feel-good theme.

Of the slower tracks on the album, Star for a Week (Dino) is a fine pop-rock ballad, and a stand-out track of its kind, with lyrics based on a true story revolving around the loyalty and faith that a mother will have for her son. The Lighthouse is a wonderfully atmospheric ballad, featuring some impressive imagery and a solemn mood. The length violin solo spot, courtesy of Barry Wickens, is nothing short of magnificent. Fire in the Night conjures up a similar slow-burning feel, as does the gentle and intimate, seven-minute ballad, New-Fashioned Way. Rain in Venice is a commercially strong ballad, co-written with Robin LeMesurier. The other track not yet mentioned is the menacing, rocking number The Alibi, which has plenty of bite to it.

Although more commercial, and less mysterious and surreal than Harley's songwriting back in the days of Cockney Rebel, Yes You Can presents itself as a memorable solo effort. It will no doubt appeal to those who feel they are more than just casual fans of Harley's work. The majority of the songs are designed to be commercial and infectious, while Harley's unique lyrical prowess is evident within. This collection of songs stemming from the 1980s decade shows Harley as a versatile performer, and not simply belonging to the 1970s. He pulls off this sound perfectly well, but sadly the lack of a major record company and significant promotion spoiled its chance of success. The mix of commercial pop-rock, and the more reflective tracks, makes Yes You Can a credible solo effort, with a soft approach.


Under Parr
Under Parr
Price: £13.52

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Under Parr, 18 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Under Parr (Audio CD)
English musician John Parr, best known for his 1985 American top charting St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion), is one of those many artists that seemed to disappear from the public eye. After releasing two solid albums during the 1980s, Parr found is commercial popularity fade with the second, Running the Endless Mile in 1986. However this didn't deter him from releasing two excellent albums in the 1990s. Man with a Vision arrived in 1992, on a small European label due to litigation issues. Despite somewhat slipping under the radar, it featured many fantastic melodic rock and AOR gems. Then four years later came Under Parr, again released on a small label in Europe only, and falling into obscurity.

Under Parr features a similar sound as on Parr's previous albums - strong, melodic rock with good hooks and his excellent vocal prowess. However this album certainly moved Parr into the 1990s, with a more contemporary sound and mature theme. This is probably down to the producers that were bought in, and immediately the album's artwork hints at the more mature topics covered on the album. The hooks, the voice and the style are all still there, however the album is dressed up somewhat differently to Parr's previous work, and clearly displayed him trying some new ideas out. On some tracks brass and string sections are included, but these never overshadow the pop-rock style of Parr's own sound. The results make up a strong set of AOR numbers, perhaps not as instantly catchy as his 1980s material, but after a few listens the album soon reveals itself as the underrated gem that it still remains today.

The opener Bad Blood shows off the album's slick, delectable sound, and Parr has never sounded as good. The chorus is a particular highlight. Both Makin' Love To Your Answer Machine, 4 Letter Word and The River Runs Deep are particularly memorable and strong slices of up-tempo pop-rock, while slower numbers such as Secrets, We All Make Mistakes, Time, and Family Tree are performed with soul and feeling. We All Make Mistakes in particular is a wonderful number, as it relies largely on piano, which strips the song to the bare bones of its emotion, before nicely building up nearer the end. There are the typical melodic Parr tracks, slower ballads, and an assortment of other numbers that have their own qualities.

The producers David McKay, Frank Langer, and Alan Roy Scott all make some writing contributions, though half of the songs are solely Parr's work. The tracks that feature the producers are usually the ones showing Parr in a slightly different light, and the album benefits from this as it adds to the variety of tracks. An initial listen to a track like Ball and Chain may slightly surprise the listener, but once it takes hold, it simply doesn't let go. The magic of these songs is the ability to entice the listener in, as they all have alluring features, and glossy production. Many of the songs have lyrical themes of love, relationships and other adult themes. Such songs like Makin' Love To Your Answer Machine, Hours, Minutes and Sex and It Ain't The Size Of The Boat have a great tongue-in-cheek aspect, and are both fun and wonderfully savoury.

It is a great shame such an album slipped through the fingers of many melodic rock lovers, as this album, along with Parr's other work, shows features some wonderfully strong and memorable work. In a 2011 interview Parr commented that his 1990s work was some of his best. However legal issues were taking their toll on Parr's career, and in fact stopped him from releasing any further material for a whole decade. He finally released a new album, Letter To America, in 2011. The album seems to be back in-print again today, or it can be found along with the Man with a Vision album as a double-pack under the name Man in Motion for good value. Overall Under Parr is one AOR album that deserves seeking out - a finely-tuned set of quality numbers from start to finish.


Millennium Collection [Us Import]
Millennium Collection [Us Import]
Price: £4.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Millennium Collection, 18 Jan. 2015
Donnie Iris and his band The Cruisers scored some hits in America through the early to mid-1980s, though they are particularly remembered for Ah! Leah! from 1980. Despite the few hits they scored, the band never really received the credibility they deserved, but that hasn't stopped the band continuing to releasing new material and performing live to date. As an excellent introduction to the band's best-known songs this compilation Millennium Collection makes for excellent value.

The compilation quickly displays the fact that the band have much more to off than simply Ah! Leah! The majority of the songs all show their colours as wonderfully infectious numbers, all with strong hooks, a biting pop sound with a rock edge, and Iris' impressionable vocals. The band make good use of great anthemic vocal for their choruses, which makes the tracks all the more memorable. Though each song is strong on their own merits, one of the top highlights would include That's the Way Love Ought to Be, where the mixing of Iris's lead and the backing vocals are truly fantastic. The final minute of the song sees Iris completely seize the moment with a stunning performance. The other songs, including Love is Like a Rock, My Girl, This Time It Must Be Love and She's So European are just as agreeable. The excellent new wave-styled ballad Do You Compute? is another high point, and the album finishes on a solid live version of The Rapper, a 1969 number written by Ierace, which was a hit for his group The Jaggerz.

Some of the band's greatest pop-rock achievements are spread across this disc, though only twelve songs make up this set. Perhaps an advantage of this is the 44 minute album will probably demand more repeated listens. There are many excellent album tracks that could have been included on the album, as well as the one missing charting single Injured in the Game of Love from 1985. It is a shame many of the band's studio albums are out-of-print today, but they can be found second-hand on the internet. For those curious in the band though, the price and range of tracks on this compilation make it an excellent starting point.


Last Goodbye
Last Goodbye
Offered by DLC_MUSIC
Price: £0.50

5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Goodbye, 29 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Last Goodbye (Audio CD)
Released as a single in 2006, taken from the 2005 album The Quality of Mercy, which was Harley's first studio album in almost a decade, The Last Goodbye was an excellent choice to represent the album. The Quality of Mercy is packed with excellent tunes throughout, and as the album's opening track The Last Goodbye has an appreciable rocking vibe to it, with plenty of energy and bite. At the same time the song fitted perfectly as a radio-friendly track.

Written by Harley and Cockney Rebel's ex-guitarist Jim Cregan, the song displays an excellent, rich vocal from Harley, as well as some interesting, memorable lyrics. The guitars are wonderfully rhythmic, the backing organ adds plenty of warmth, and the drums are particularly thunderous. Robbie Gladwell lays down an excellent guitar solo as well. The B-Side on the single is a live version of Understand - a seven-minute track from the band's 1976 album Timeless Flight. This particular live version is strong and memorable, and was recorded at the Blackheath Concert Hall in London during 2001.

Overall this is an excellent single and a track worth seeking out from its parent album. It managed to scrape into the UK Top 200 single chart, peaking at #186, but deserved to have been a hit. A top quality song from Steve Harley's heavily underrated, more recent output.


EUROPA
EUROPA
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £8.89

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Europa, 29 Sept. 2014
This review is from: EUROPA (Audio CD)
As Holly Johnson's first album in 15 years, Europa does not disappoint. Packed with a nice variety of strong pop tunes, many of which are danceable and very infectious, Europa follows nicely after the previous 1999 album Soulstream. Perhaps most importantly the album successfully manages to present a modern feel, but not without loosing Johnson's pop sensibilities, and a touch of nostalgia through the many vintage synths used to record it. The eleven tracks prove he hasn't lost his unique vocal prowess, nor his songwriting abilities. In fact, there isn't really a bad track on the album.

The lead single Follow Your Heart has a great 1990s feel to it, a great chorus and a catchy melody. The second single In and Out of Love is deliciously infectious - an excellent pop number. The same can be said for the colourful and vibrant tracks; Heaven's Eyes, Dancing With No Fear, Glorious, and Hold On Tight. The title track, co-written back in 1990 with Vangelis, is also a strong number, with a memorable vocal from Johnson, and the kind of lyrics and edge that recall the sound of Frankie Goes to Hollywood. So Much It Hurts is a beautiful ballad, and undoubtedly a highlight on the album. The same can be said too for the personal, and meaningful, You're in My Dreams Tonight. Lonesome Town and The Sun Will Shine Again are two more reflective numbers, but not without retaining the glowing sound of the album.

Holly Johnson deserves some great success with this album - it is a fine collection of songs to return to the current pop scene with. Many of the songs speak of positivity and love, and Johnson never fails to come up with some catchy melodies and great choruses. The deluxe edition of the album is much recommended as you get two bonus tracks. An excellent pop album through-and-through, let's hope that the follow-up album won't take so long.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 19, 2015 4:04 PM GMT


Dan Hartman: I Can Dream About You (UK Import)
Dan Hartman: I Can Dream About You (UK Import)
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £61.95

5.0 out of 5 stars I Can Dream About You, 17 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Dan Hartman has had much success as a performer, songwriter and producer. Sales of Hartman's recordings, group efforts, production, songwriting and compilation inclusions exceed 50 million records worldwide. Yet somehow he remains an incredibly underrated artist, sadly somewhat forgotten, especially since his death in 1994.

Hartman's scattering of solo albums are strong on the whole, but without a doubt I Can Dream About You is the essential jewel in his collection. The eternal magic of the title track still remains as bright - its a smooth, lush piece of 1980s pop. The other nine tracks, co-written with Hartman's songwriting partner Charlie Midnight, are made up of an excellent range of tracks, all incorporating pop, R&B, soul and a bit of rock. Such tracks as We Are the Young, an anthem of youth, I'm Not a Rolling Stone, Rage to Live and Power of a Good Love - all top quality numbers with plenty of passion and fire. The beautiful ballad Shy Hearts is wonderfully crafted, and the grand dance-pop number Name of the Game has its own special underlying edge. On top of this, feel good pop doesn't come much better than with the title track, Second Nature and I Can't Get Enough. In particular the motown-influenced Second Nature is extremely infectious and energetic.

Somehow this album is still out-of-print today - when will some effort be made to give this greatly underrated album a new lease of life? It had three Top 40 hits in America, and rightfully so. Aside from that there is a lot of great material from Hartman still unreleased. Some of this elusive work has appeared unofficially online, and I would highly recommend the unreleased follow-up album White Boy for those who enjoy this album. White Boy was meant to be released in 1986, before MCA Records decided it wasn't commercial enough! I'm not sure why as it has a very similar feel to this album. I Can Dream About You is a much recommended album, from one of the 1980s most gifted, yet forgotten musicians.


Blast (1989)
Blast (1989)
Offered by trec002
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blast, 17 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Blast (1989) (Audio CD)
Having broken away from an unfair contract with ZTT, along with the break-up of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Holly Johnson proved he could make strong waves within the pop scene of the late 1980s. Although Blast doesn't have the same bite and edge as the material of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, each track makes up for a delectable slice of easy-going pop.

There's a nice range of tracks to keep things interesting. Take the funky, energetic opener Atomic City, co-written with the excellent and very underrated Dan Hartman, which is the most FGTH-like piece on Blast. On the other hand pop perfection doesn't come much better than the jolly, bright Love Train, the catchy Americanos, and the lush Heaven's Here. Other songs such as Deep in Love, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., Got It Made, Love Will Come and Perfume all have a strong mix of infectious dance-pop. The closing ballad Feel Good is definitely worth a mention - the atmospheric and grand finale. It isn't hard to see why Blast topped the UK chart on release.


The Love In Your Eyes (4 versions, 1994)
The Love In Your Eyes (4 versions, 1994)
Offered by CD-Blitzversand
Price: £3.34

5.0 out of 5 stars The Love in Your Eyes, 24 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The much underrated Dan Hartman spent his career as a versatile artist, who was unfortunately taken too soon in the mid-1990s from an AIDS-related brain tumour. One of Hartman's final compositions, The Love in Your Eyes easily proves that Hartman was still a master of soulful dance-pop, and he incorporates the early 1990s club and house sound wonderfully here too. A warm, romantic song, Hartman's passionate vocal delivery over the smooth instrumentation is excellent throughout, but the fantastic chorus kicks in with such effect that makes it so immediately infectious. The song can be found on the Keep the Fire Burnin' album, which largely featured remixes of Hartman's previous hits.

The Radio Version and Album Version of the song on the CD single are pretty similar, except that the Radio Version is nearly a minute shorter. The Hip Radio Version was exclusive to the CD single, and adds a slightly different take on the track, as Hartman's vocal kicks the song off right away. The Classic Frankie version - a seven minute remix - is an even more different take on the song, and Frankie Knuckles did an excellent job in transforming the original song into something a bit different, as new backing insturmentation is laid down in many places.

Hartman's solo career saw many excellent songs - some of which remains unreleased, and I believe The Love in Your Eyes to be one that ranks right up at the top. A beautifully crafted love song - romantic, smooth and memorable.


Alphabet City
Alphabet City
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £14.97

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alphabet City, 24 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Alphabet City (Audio CD)
Perhaps capturing the duo at their finest moment of American-influced polished pop perfection, ABC's fourth studio album Alphabet City doesn't disappoint when it comes to smooth, 1980s pop. Martin Fry's vocals never disappoint and Mark White's slick guitar style adds to a very glossy atmosphere. For example the popular When Smokey Sings, a tribute to the R&B/Soul singer Smokey Robinson, is masterfully crafted for radio - smooth, catchy and instantly accessible. The sames goes for the other singles The Night You Murdered Love, and the excellent, sadly overlooked King Without a Crown. The album tracks don't disappoint either, as Think Again, Rage and Then Regret, Ark-Angel, Bad Blood, Jealous Lover and One Day are all strong numbers combining all the themes that make the album work so well.

The album title and several songs were inspired by the Alphabet City section of Manhattan, New York, where Fry and White lived for a time prior to the album's release, and so naturally American influences creep into the album's sound. More so by the fact that Bernard Edwards, best known for his work with Chic, helped produce the album. Alphabet City is a finely tailored album of strong pop numbers, and the smooth, slick feel works wonderfully along the crafted melodies and choruses.


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