The Dream of the Blue Turtles by Sting

The Dream of the Blue Turtles by Sting

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The Dream of the Blue Turtles by StingFollowing a remarkable five years of stellar success with The Police, vocalist and songwriter Sting launched his solo career with his 1985 debut The Dream of the Blue Turtles. With this, Sting worked hard to distinguish his own sound away from the distinct styles of his former trio, bringing in a coterie of jazz, R&B and world style backing musicians. Lyrically, the tunes cover interpersonal as well as topical issues, which work well in some instances but come off a little preachy and pretentious in others.

Sting claims that he decided to leave the Police while onstage at Shea Stadium in New York in August 1983 in support of the group’s top-selling album Synchronicity. The group actually never formally broke up, but all three members focused on their individual projects in the mid 1980s. For Sting, this included working on the 1984 benefit project, Band Aid, and providing the intro vocals for Dire Strait’s hit song “Money for Nothing” from their 1985 album Brothers In Arms.

Co-produced by Pete Smith, the album was recorded both at Eddy Grant‘s studio in Barbados and at LeStudio in Quebec, Canada, a studio used frequently by Rush in the early to mid 1980s. Wanting to move away from the “confines of pop”, Sting’s goal was to erode the boundaries between rock and jazz by using top musicians familiar with both.


The Dream of the Blue Turtles by Sting
Released: June 1, 1985 (A&M)
Produced by: Pete Smith & Sting
Recorded: Blue Wave Studio, Saint Philip, Barbados and Le Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec, January 1984–March 1985
Side One Side Two
If You Love Somebody Set Them Free
Love Is the Seventh Wave
Russians
Children’s Crusade
Shadows in the Rain
We Work the Black Seam
Consider Me Gone
The Dream of the Blue Turtles
Moon Over Bourbon Street
Fortress Around Your Heart
Primary Musicians
Sting – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Bass
Kenny Kirkland – Keyboards
Branford Marsalis – Saxophone
Darryl Jones – Bass
Omar Hakim – Drums

The moderate cool jazz/pop with a good hook off “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” starts things off. Steady throughout, the bridge section breaks out of the main groove as an interesting change on this Top 10 hit. “Love Is the Seventh Wave” follows with highly philosophical lyrics above an electronic reggae arrangement. The song’s title is derived from a popular saying among surfers and sailors and it concludes with a brief homage to “Every Breath You Take” from Sting’s former band. Speaking of The Police, there is one remake on this album, “Shadows in the Rain”, originally released on 1980’s Zenyatta Mondatta. This version starts with an off-beat drum entry and the shout by someone of “what key is it in?”, building tension until the song breaks into an upbeat blues jam with an impressive sax lead by Branford Marsalis.

Co-written by Sergei Prokofiev, “Russians” features a synthesized and ominous vibe with lyrics that are both profound – (“We share the same biology, regardless of ideology / I hope the Russian love their children too”) – and a bit outdated philosophically. Other topical tracks include “Children’s Crusade” is a ballad with lyrics that speak of the devastation brought about by heroin addiction, and “We Work the Black Seam” with a chanting-like melody over some African beats and lyrics that speak of working men and modern industrialization.

Sting 1985

The jazz-tinged tunes continue with “Consider Me Gone”, with fine drumming by Omar Hakim to accompany Darryl Jones‘s bass, which later temporarily breaks into a fine jazz phrase. The title track is a short but entertaining piano jazz jam, with the title itself coming from an actual dream by Sting where aggressive and quite drunk blue turtles were doing back flips and destroyed his garden. Sting provides fretless bass on “Moon Over Bourbon Street”, while some distant horns give the arrangement lots of atmosphere beneath the narrative vocals. Like it begins, the album concludes with a strong pop song, “Fortress Around Your Heart”. This is, perhaps, the most “Police-like” track on Dream of the Blue Turtles with subtle key changes in the verses, animated drumming under the hook and very profound lyrics throughout. Marsalis’ final sax lead closes out the album on a fine note.

The Dream of the Blue Turtles reached the Top 5 in various countries on both sides of the Atlantic, answering the doubts as to whether it was wise to abandon the uber-successful Police. Later in 1985, a documentary film called Bring On the Night was released, focusing on this jazz-inspired project.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1985 albums.

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Peter Gabriel 1980

“Melt” by Peter Gabriel

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Peter Gabriel 1980Peter Gabriel‘s third solo album was also the third to be officially eponymous, although this 1980 record has been given the unofficial title “Melt”. This album is credited as Gabriel’s artistic breakthrough due to its innovative use of electronic effects and gated drums without any cymbals. In fact, the album was released at different time in the UK and US because the original US distributor, Atlantic Records, refused to release and ultimately dropped Gabriel from their roster because they objected to its unconventional sound.

After departing Genesis in 1975, Gabriel took a unique approach to his new solo career. He wanted his record releases to be like issues of a magazine, all using similar typeface but with unique designs by Hipgnosis. Over time, each album received an unofficial nickname based on these cover designs. Gabriel’s 1977 debut was called “Car” while his 1978 sophomore release was called “Scratch”.

After an extensive tour through the second half of 1978, Gabriel dedicated much of 1979 to recording this third album. Co-produced by Steve Lillywhite, the music is influenced by African music and the recordings make inventive use of drum machines and other sequencers with the songs built up from the rhythm track.


Peter Gabriel (1980) by Peter Gabriel
Released: May 23, 1980 (Charisma)
Produced by: Steve Lillywhite & Peter Gabriel
Recorded: Bath Studio and Townhouse Studio, London, England, 1979
Side One Side Two
Intruder
No Self Control
Start
I Don’t Remember
Family Snapshot
And Through the Wire
Games Without Frontiers
Not One of Us
Lead a Normal Life
Biko
Primary Musicians
Peter Gabriel – Lead Vocals, Piano, Keyboards
David Rhodes – Guitars, Vocals
Larry Fast – Keyboards, Bagpipes
John Giblin – Bass
Jerry Marotta – Drums, Percussion

This album’s innovation is apparent right from the jump with the opening track “Intruder”, featuring Gabriel’s former band mate Phil Collins using a new “gated drum” sound that was developed along with engineer Hugh Padgham. While this may seem slightly dated listening four decades on and realizing the fact that it is more effect than melody, the song does feature a few slight breaks of interesting piano and chorus vocal. “No Self Control” contains slightly more structure than the opener with a lot of rock tension built through its various movements and this is followed by the slight instrumental interlude, “Start”, featuring the saxophone of Dick Morrissey over backing synth pads. “I Don’t Remember” arrives in sharp contrast to the smooth intro as the brash and bright new wave track with one of the catchier hooks on this album. An earlier version of this was recorded to be featured on a 7″ single in Europe, but Charisma Records rejected that version on the basis that Robert Fripp‘s guitar solo was not “radio-friendly” enough.

“Family Snapshot” starts as a dramatic piano ballad complete with some fine fretless bass by John Giblin and builds to a more upbeat tune in later verses. “And Through the Wire” seems to be a natural sequel to “Family Snapshot” until it suddenly awakes with a hook above some thumping bass and percussion. Featuring The Jam’s guitarist Paul Weller, this track closes side one on a strong note. “Games Without Frontiers” is the most indelible track from the album with a French-language chorus of “Jeux Sans Frontières”, which is a popular television show based on pageantry and competition which broadcast in several European countries. This song features a masterful potpourri of a marching percussion, a slide electrical guitar, a rap-like verse and a cool, whistling pre-chorus, all making for a beautiful sound collage. “Games Without Frontiers” became Gabriel’s first top-10 hit in the UK.

Peter Gabriel 1980

“Not One of Us” marks a return to synth-driven experimentation with a message that condemns xenophobia in general and the mentality of cliques, more specifically. Jerry Marotta‘s drumming and percussion pattern shine especially in the latter part of this song. “Lead a Normal Life” is built on a long, deliberate synth and piano arpeggio with only a short vocal section in between two long instrumental sections. This is the track where Atlantic’s founder Ahmet Ertegun reportedly asked, “Has Peter been in a mental hospital?” in rejecting this song in particular and the album overall. Then comes the climatic closer “Biko”. While the song structure itself is simple and steady (in the same vein as the Beatle’s “Tomorrow Never Knows” from Revolver, the inventive overlay of sonic effects makes this it’s own distinct masterpiece. Lyrically, this song is a musical eulogy to black South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who died in police custody in 1977, and it was therefore banned in South Africa even while reaching the Top 40 in the UK.

Peter Gabriel‘s third album topped the British charts and charted well in many other places world wide, firmly establishing his career as a solo artist. Another major tour followed the album’s release and extended through late 1980, before Gabriel began work on his fourth (and final) self-titled album, nicknamed “Security” and released in 1982.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1980 albums.

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I Should Coco by Supergrass

I Should Coco by Supergrass

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I Should Coco by SupergrassSupergrass released their debut album, I Should Coco in 1995. This energetic and eclectic record features an array of rock sub-genres from Brit pop to punk to ska to a dash of trippy psychedelia. The album’s weird title is derived from local English slang for “I should think so” and, being that the group members were still in their teens at the time of writing and recording, this album was advertised as “the sound of adolescence” in its day. As a result, I Should Coco reached the top of the UK Albums Chart and achieved Platinum status in sales.

Guitarist and vocalist Gaz Coombes played in the group The Jennifers with drummer Danny Goffey when both were in their mid teens. This group began to gain local notoriety around Oxford, England and they recorded a 1992 live demo to sell at shows. The Jennifers disbanded in 1993 as some members went on to university and Coombes formed Theodore Supergrass with Goffey bassist Mick Quinn. In mid-1994 the group’s name was shortened to simply Supergrass and they signed with Backbeat Records and issued their debut single, “Caught by the Fuzz”, which achieved the rare feat of being both NME and Melody Maker’s “Single Of The Week” status during the same week.

I Should Coco was recorded throughout much of 1994 with producer Sam Williams. Many of these sessions were specifically to record advance singles (three were released before the album), while the rest was captured during frenzied studio performances as the group wanted to catch the energy and excitement of the songs on tape. All songs on this 13-track album were composed by the members of Supergrass.


I Should Coco by Supergrass
Released: May 15, 1995 (Parlophone)
Produced by: Sam Williams
Recorded: Sawmills Studios, Cornwall, England, February-August 1994
Album Tracks Group Musicians
I’d Like to Know
Caught by the Fuzz
Mansize Rooster
Alright
Lose It
Lenny
Strange Ones
Sitting Up Straight
She’s So Loose
We’re Not Supposed To
Time
Sofa (of My Lethargy)
Time to Go
Gaz Coombes – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Rob Coombes – Keyboards
Mick Quinn – Bass, Vocals
Danny Goffey – Drums, Vocals
I Should Coco by Supergrass

The album opens with “I’d Like to Know”, which is strongly tied to a later song on the album, “Strange Ones”. This opening track features pure thumping modern punk, brimming with energy and unambiguous enthusiasm with Goffey’s drumming especially well done and with a few sonic surprises and rudiment shifts. “I’d Like To Know” was derived from “Strange Ones”, a standard punk rocker albeit with some radical timing changes and vocal effects, played backwards on tape cassette. Next comes “Caught by the Fuzz”, the group’s first single written around the true-life incident of lead singer Gaz Coombes’ arrest for possession of cannabis, in that time it was legal as it now when it has been identified as medicinal treatment with CBD bud products. “Mansize Rooster” is the first track on the album that is much more oriented towards ska than punk and it features very choppy use of piano and guitars. The keyboards are provided by Gaz’s older brother Rob Coombes, who at the time was an unofficial fourth member of the group (later to be made official).

The heavy riff-driven track “Lose It” is sandwiched between two pop hits from I Should Coco. “Alright” is an excellent upbeat track with good melody, interesting chord changes and a harmonized guitar lead, which all worked to make this the group’s biggest hit worldwide. “Lenny” was earlier released and became Supergrass’ first Top 10 hit in the UK, as a track which has some absurd lyrics over a real sixties hard rock feel featuring particular animation by Quinn on bass.

Supergrass

The latter part of the album moves away from the single-ready material and towards eclectic compositions. “Sitting Up Straight” features an early Who-like frantic reggae sound, while “She’s So Loose” finds the more mainstream nineties post-Brit pop feel with extended vocal lines using strategic reverb and just a slight bit of orchestration over the major strummed chord changes. The experimental “We’re Not Supposed To” is the album’s low point with some ridiculous pitched vocals, but they swiftly recover with the excellent, sloshy, Stones-like blues rocker “Time”, where Gaz Coombes delivers a completely distinct vocal style. The epic “Sofa (of My Lethargy)” is the album’s climax with thick vocals, slide guitar, mesmerizing organ tones and a later extended instrumental section for a spacey overall vibe. This more-than-six-minute epic then dissolves into the simple and short acoustic closer, “Time to Go”, as an apt final statement.

I Should Coco is credited with impacting the Britpop music scene as a whole and its success launched the group into a year and a half of heavy touring. They would not return to studio for a follow up for a few years and, even though In It For The Money was a platinum-selling success in the UK, they would not again quite reach the heights of their debut album.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1995 albums.

 

Animal Tracks by The Animals, both versions

Animal Tracks by The Animals

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Animal Tracks by The Animals, both versionsIn 1965, The Animals released a pair of albums that were each titled Animal Tracks, a May 1965 release in their native UK and a September release in the US. Aside from sharing a title these two records bore little resemblance in either song selections or effective approach. The UK release was filled with fresh recordings of mainly R&B covers, while the US version featured recent hit singles, B-sides along with other recordings previously released in Britain but not in America, making this a fine compilation of the group’s early career.

The Animals were formed in 1965 in Newcastle, England when vocalist Eric Burdon joined a group led by keyboardist Alan Price. The nickname “animals” was informally applied due to the group’s wild stage act and eventually they made the name official. After much success in their home region, the group moved to London in 1964, a timely move to catch the British Invasion wave. They performed original, dramatic versions of staple rhythm and blues songs from a variety of artists. The group’s 1964 debut was a reinterpreted version of the standard “Baby Let Me Take You Home”, followed by their haunting version of “House of the Rising Sun”, which became a worldwide hit for the group.

Producer Mickie Most shepherded all the group’s recordings through their initial two years in the studio. This included a US-only release titled The Animals On Tour, released in February 1965. Songs that landed on the UK version of Animal Tracks were recorded over the winter of 1964-1965


Animal Tracks (UK version) by The Animals
Released: May 1965 (Columbia)
Produced by: Mickie Most
Recorded: November 1964 – March 1965
Side One Side Two
Mess Around
How You’ve Changed
Hallelujah I Love Her So
I Believe to My Soul
Worried Life Blues
Roberta
I Ain’t Got You
Bright Lights, Big City
Let the Good Times Roll
For Miss Caulker
Road Runner

Animal Tracks (US version) by The Animals
Released: September 1, 1969 (MGM)
Produced by: Mickie Most
Recorded: July 1964 – June 1965
Side One Side Two
We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Take It Easy Baby
Bring It On Home to Me
The Story of Bo Diddley
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
I Can’t Believe It
Club A-Go-Go
Roberta
Bury My Body
For Miss Caulker
Group Musicians (Both Albums)
Eric Burdon – Lead Vocals
Hilton Valentine – Guitars, Vocals
Alan Price – Keyboards, Vocals
Chas Chandler – Bass, Vocals
John Steel – Drums, Percussion

 

The UK version of Animal Tracks sets the energetic and confident pace with the opening cover of “Mess Around”, a boogie tune composed by Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun for Ray Charles, who made it a hit in 1953. The Animals also recorded the Ray Charles 1956 jubilant original “Hallelujah I Love Her So” and his slow blues track “I Believe to My Soul” for this album.

Animal Tracks UK by The AnimalsOther covers on the UK version include a a reflective, downbeat rendition of Chuck Berry’s “How You’ve Changed”, the Major Merriweather blues standard “Worried Life Blues”, a surging and angry version of Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City”  and a cover of Calvin Carter’s “I Ain’t Got You”, a song also covered in 1965 by The Yardbirds. Animal Tracks (UK) also includes a couple of lighter covers, “Let the Good Times Roll” by Shirley Goodman and the closing Bo Didley track “Road Runner”, a tribute to the popular cartoon character.

Only two songs were featured on both versions of Animal Tracks, Al Smith’s “Roberta” a boogie rocker complete with call and response backing vocals and a twangy guitar lead by Hilton Valentine and Burdon’s “For Miss Caulker”, the only original song on the UK album, which is highlighted by Price’s blues club wild, minor-key piano. Price left the Animals due to personal and musical differences in early 1965, making the Animal Tracks sessions his last with the group until they reunited over a decade later.

Animal Tracks US by The AnimalsThe US version of the album featured an eclectic mix of songs recorded and released in the past year with just a few new recordings made in the summer of 1965. The earliest songs on this album date back to the summer of 1964 with the Burdon / Price original “Take It Easy Baby”, a swinging pop B-Side, as well as two tracks from their 1964 self-titled UK debut album, “Bury My Body” and “The Story of Bo Diddley”. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” was an early 1965 single that was a trans-Atlantic hit as an original rendition of a song originally recorded by Nina Simone. The US version also includes the thumping original B-Side of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “Club A-Go-Go”, and also a soulful cover of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me”.

In June 1965, the Animals returned to the studio with new keyboardist Dave Rowberry. Here they recorded the Burdon original, “I Can’t Believe It”, a fun bluesy track highlighted by rhythms by John Steel, a descending bass line and bright organ by Rowberry, complete with a fine lead ending with Burdon’s vocals nicely mimicking the organ notes. The highlight of the album is the indelible “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, a song which reached #2 on the UK charts. Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, the Animals’ version is highlighted by the bass line of Chas Chandler, which intensely backs Burdon’s vocal dynamics and dramatics, which drive the song.

The Animals in 1965

With the departure of Price, the prime early days of the Animals began to rapidly morph. By the end of 1965, the group ended its association with Most and signed a new record deals starting with the 1966 MGM compilation, The Best of the Animals, which became their best-selling album in the US. By September of 1966, the group’s classic lineup had dissipated and they were re-branded Eric Burdon & the Animals, effectively an on-going solo project for the lead vocalist.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration 1965 albums.

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