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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Vikivaki

From what little info I can gather these guys first came together in Götenburg, Sweden in 1973.  Iceland-born brothers Jón-Erik Gíslason (Drums) and Hans Gíslason then got together with Swedes Tommy Eriksson (Bass) and Christer Modin (Guitar), recorded, self-financed and released indie single (limited to 2.000 copies) "Manual Sister Mary"/"Sweet Little Rock 'N Roll" (Plump Productions, PS 004).


A year later, Icelander Steinar Árnason had replaced Tommy Eriksson on bass and the quartet recorded debut album "Oldsmobile", which was then released on Polydor Sweden (#2462 149).
Fast forward a couple of years and a third Gíslason brother Gunnar (Guitar, vocals) had been drafted in, in place of Christer Modin, and Kenny Olsson had replaced Tommy Eriksson on bass, and Vikivaki's best-known work, the album "Cruising", was releasead via CBS Europe (# 82009) in 1977. 


Produced by occasional ABBA collaborator and an all-around Swedish pop legend Claes af Geijerstam, "Cruising" is an ambitious piece of work taking in various music styles, including disco-lite (Sample lyric: "K.C.& the Sunshine Band, Tina Charles and George McCrae.  They turn you on and up the way you want to, and it's all you care to play"), Status Quo-esqe rock and American sounding soft rock.  Meanwhile, image-wise at least, Teen Pop seems to have been the order of the day.  Hilarious 7" promo sampler courtesy of CBS Sweden has to be heard to be believed (scroll down).


"Crazy Daisy" became a minor hit in Sweden, while "Soulstar" caused ripples elsewhere in Europe.  However, major success eluded Vikivaki and the CBS deal promptly expired.

 
Seemingly, by 1979, Vikivaki was down to the trio of the Gíslason brothers and, as such, recorded released their final single in Sweden (and, presumably, in Swedish) only: "Motorcykel"/"Tokyo" (Bohus # BGS 532).
Around that time, I read somewhere that Vikivaki had changed its name to Iceland.  However, then the trail goes cold...(no pun intended :-)
As always, any and all further info would be greatly appreciated.
My appreciation to Musikon.se. 

   


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Dead End Kids / Child / Miki Antony


Nestling snugly, in my CD collection, between Dead Boys and Dead Kennedys, is the sole CD release of Scotland's Dead End Kids: "Breakout"; previously believed to contain all their released output from the late 1976-1979.  That is, until a few months back when I received an e-mail from one Mark Brennan, head honcho at Cherry Red's 7Ts reissue label - the very place that the DEK CD originates from, informing me that he'd actually located a DEK track previously unknown to the both of us, hidden on the B-side of the Japanese release of the DEK single "Breakaway" (CBS/Sony Japan, 1978.  Cat. # 06SP 218).  In other territories "Breakaway" came with album track "I'm Your Music Man" on its flip side, but for one odd reason or another the Japanese got "Girl Dancer" in its place.  (Not to be confused with "Radancer", another, later DEK B-side, originally recorded by fellow Scots The Marmalade).


A song written by Miki Antony and Tom Parker, "Girl Dancer" is also produced by the former, himself a minor pop star in the early '70s, who also worked extensively with ex-Roller Pat McGlynn during the late '70s.
All the material on Dead End Kids only LP "Breakout" (1977) was produced by Barry Blue.  But by 1978 the band had obviously moved on to Miki Antony, and by their last single "Heart Get Ready For Love"/"Radancer" in 1979, writers/producers Dominic Bugatti and Frank Musker were in charge.  My entirely uneducated guess is "Girl Dancer" might be from aborted sessions for a proposed second album in 1978.  But who knows?  If anyone out there does, please do tell.
But there is an intriguing twist to the tale.  On the very first Child album from 1977, there's a song called "State Dancer" - in fact the same song as "Girl Dancer", but with a slightly altered lyric - co-produced by Tom Parker, the other half of the Antony/Parker writing team.
 


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Atack


A couple of years back, when I first wrote about '70s Teen Pop band Child on these pages, I wasn't entirely sure whether brothers Tim & Keith Atack, in their post Child venture Atack, ever recorded a full album as such.  Only known to me at the time were the duo's two single releases "Don't You Believe in Magic" (1981) and "Don't Wind Me Up" (1982).


However, thanks to '70s Teenpop friend Chus, it has now been confirmed that there was indeed a full Atack album issued in 1982.  Tracklisting is as follows:

Side A
Don't Wind Me Up
Time Slipped Away
Maybe I've Been Foolin'
Take 'em Back
Girl it's You
I'm in Danger

Side B
If Only I Could Find A Way
Don't You Believe in Magic
Stay
Why Can't We Talk It Over?
Don't Let The World Run Out of Love
We've Come To Know

Scans of both the cover (above) and back cover (below) also come from Chus.  Many thanks, Chus!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Eric Carmen

 
The lead singer/songwriter for one of the greatest bands of the early '70s, the Raspberries, Eric Carmen went solo in 1975, after what seems to have been a particularly painful break-up within the band.  Having penned - and sung - power pop classics such as "Go All the Way", "I Wanna Be With You", and "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" for his former band, it was abundantly clear that the Cleveland native was no slouch in the singing-songwriting department.  

 
And so, with former Raspberries producer Jimmy Ienner and Clive Davis' newly established Arista Records in his corner, Eric Carmen confidently went out on his own.  And, to make a long story short, his debut self-titled solo album issued in late 1975 is a triumph - a minor pop classic in fact.  The lead-off single, power ballad "All By Myself", quickly hit no. 2 on the U.S. Billboard singles chart, eventually becoming Carmen's best known composition to date yielding covers by both Celine Dion and Frank Sinatra - to name but two.
 

 
Other songs off the album include "That's Rock 'N Roll" (a U.S. Top 10 for Shaun Cassidy in 1977.  The Runaways also included it in their early stage show but regrettfully never recorded it), "No Hard Feelings" (about the Raspberries' break-up), and another power ballad - and a Top 20 U.S. hit - "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again".
 

 
Nothing against Barry Manilow, but as accomplished as the "Eric Carmen" album on the whole was, it unfortunately veered too much towards BM territory at times, which sort of colors many folks' (perhaps unaware of his power pop past) perception of Carmen to this day. 
But to be fair, the Raspberries' repertoire also always had its fair share of blatant balladry.  A case in point: "Starting Over", the title track and a highlight from their fourth and last long player in 1974.  Also, the Bay City Rollers, with the aid and, undoubtingly, under the influence of Raspberries/Carmen producer Jimmy Ienner, took a competent stab at one of the 'berries best melodic moments, "Let's Pretend" ("If 'Don't Worry Baby' and 'Mr. Tambourine Man' had a baby" - Eric Carmen, 2013), which appeared on their 1976 album "Dedication".
 

 
"Boats Against the Current", the difficult second album, was issued in the summer of 1977.  The title track, duly covered by both Frankie Valli and Olivia Newton-John, was yet another piano-based ballad.  The Beach Boys-influenced single "She Did it" went Top 20 in the U.S. while the excellent "Marathon Man" unjustly flopped.  With the album an overall disappointment, both artistically and commercially, Carmen could though find some solace in the fact that Shaun Cassidy hit the Top 10 with another one of his compositions, "Hey Deanie", which was also included on the next Eric Carmen album "Change of Heart" in 1978.  The title track went Top 20 as a single but the album as such flopped miserably.  And thus ended Eric Carmen's association with Arista - for the time being.
 


Although managing a minor hit here and there over the next few years (1980's naughty "Tonight You're Mine" was, well, interesting) Eric Carmen was no longer a viable option, or so it seemed.  That is, until a certain blockbuster movie called "Dirty Dancing" became the surprise hit of 1987.  And Eric Carmen just happened to have a song, "Hungry Eyes", on the otherwise - almost - oldies dominated soundtrack album (one of the other new songs included was "I've Had the Time of My Life" by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes).  And with that, Eric Carmen was back up where he belonged again - in the Top 10...
 

 
1988's "Make Me Lose Control" was an even bigger hit, peaking at no. 3 Stateside - his highest chart placing since "All By Myself"...
 

 
"The Best of Eric Carmen" compilation was issued on Arista.  It did especially well on Compact Disc - the new format all the kids were raving about.  Albums were soooooo out!
And so, apparently, was our Eric.  Instead of following this success up properly he seems to have slipped into a semi-retirement from recording, although touring with Ringo Starr's All Starr Band in the new millennium, and with the temporarily reformed Raspberries a few years later kept him somewhat active in the live arena as time went on.
In 2014 his first new recording for over a decade appeared on a new "Essential Eric Carmen" double CD issued by Arista/Sony Legacy; the Brian Wilson-esque "Brand New Year", where he was aptly enough backed by some of his hero's much lauded backing band: Jeffrey Foskett, Darian Sahanaja and Nick Walusko.  The latter two being also members of power popsters Wondermints.  Let us just hope it is indeed the beginning of something brand new for Eric Carmen...
 
 
Eric Carmen, recommended listening:
 
Eric Carmen/"Eric Carmen" (Arista LP, 1975)
Eric Carmen/"The Essential Eric Carmen" (Arista/Sony Legacy 2CD, 2014)
 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Rubinoos Turn 45!


It's nothing less than mind-boggling to comprehend, but those lovable rascals the Rubinoos are currently celebrating their 45th year as a working unit.  And although only singer Jon Rubin and guitarist/main songwriter Tommy Dunbar still remain from the original pre-teen line-up (bassist Al Chan is also a longish serving/suffering member), it's pretty darn impressive to have stayed together this long, never mind sustained a career out of it (the band enjoys especially loyal following in both Japan and Spain), but to be still issuing albums of new and original material truly tops it all.
Admittedly, although primarily a big fan of their first two albums, 1977's "The Rubinoos", and 1979's "Back to the Drawing Board" (and the career-spanning "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About The Rubinoos" CD box set from a few years back is also a must), I haven't been keeping up much with the Rubes recently.  So, the other day, after reading a favorable review of their latest outing, the simply and aptly titled "45", I found myself inclined to improve on that sad situation.  And, upon heading straight to www.rubinoos.com I dutifully ordered their two latest CD's, the aforementioned "45", as well as 2010's Spanish-import "Automatic Toaster" - not to mention, for good measure, an XL-sized T-shirt.
In 2010 the Rubinoos teamed up with Power Pop legend and former child actor (I'm not even going to mention cousin Oliver here!) Robbie Rist, who not only produced the "Automatic Toaster" album, but also played drums on it.  Clocking in at just under the half hour mark, it's a sparse and to the point effort.  It's also ample in energy and sheer power...pop, as opener "Two Guitars, Bass, And Drums" very ably demonstrates, like this live version from Spanish television perfectly proves.

 
The Rubinoos' goofy, Monkees-like humor is also never too far from the precedings, which might be one of the reasons why "Earth #1" was also recorded for their children's album(!) "Biff-Boff-Boing!" (2010).
 

 
All in all, "Automatic Toaster" is an enjoyable and hook-heavy Power Pop primer from true masters of the genre.  The wheel isn't exactly being invented here but who cares.  Only unnecessary cover "Black is Black" and novelty (children's?) songs "Zombie Night in Madrid" and "Cave Girls" test this listener's patience.
*** (3 out of 5)
 
 
Four years later and we're up to date with the brand-spanking-new Rubinoos album "45".  Off the bat,  it's obviously not quite as energy-driven as its predecessor.  The guitars have been turned down a tad, there's balladry a plenty and the Rubes' love of early pop styles such as Doo Wop is very well served indeed - especially in the sole cover here which comes in the form of Lou Christie's "Rhapsody in the Rain" (their cover of Christie's "If My Car Could Only Speak" from a good decade back is excellent and far exceeds the original IMHO).  Their love of Richard Berry's Garage Rock classic "Louie Louie" is even addressed in, well, "I Love Louie Louie".  But it wouldn't be a proper Rubinoos album without the pure pop hooks and here they are in abundance.
Unfortunately there don't seem to be any videos to songs from the album on the otherwise almighty YouTube, so you, much like I did, just have to head over to www.rubinoos.com and order the ACTUAL CD - you won't be sorry.
**** (4 out of 5)   
And yes, the T-shirt's very comfy.  ***** out of 5, as a matter of fact :-)
 
And just in case you aren't entirely convinced of the Rubinoos proper '70s Teen Pop credentials, here are a few minor, near and non-hits they scored during the latter part of that fabulous decade.  Enjoy...

 
Update, February 10th 2015.
 
I received the following e-mal from Rubinoo Tommy Dunbar yesterday:
 
Thanks for the nice review of our recent recordings, glad you liked them! I only wanted to mention that our drummer Donn Spindt has been with us since 1970. He was off doing other things for a moment in the 80s, but he's been with us almost all of that time. Our bass player (Al Chan) has been with us since 1980. He's the NEW guy! ;-}  
 
Duly noted, Tommy.  And sorry for the blunder!  Rock & Roll on :-) 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Alvin Stardust R.I.P.

 
A chart maker in three consecutive decades, Alvin Stardust first emerged as "moody guy" Shane Fenton during the mid '60s, although he is undoubtly most fondly remembered for his early to mid '70s Gene Vincent-inspired Glam Rock persona responsible for top flight U.K. hits such as "Jealous Mind" (#1, 1974), and "My Coo Ca Choo" (#2, 1973).


And, as if that wasn't enough, he made an unlikely second comeback a decade later with hits such as "Pretend" (U.K.#4, 1981), and "I Feel Like Buddy Holly" (U.K. #4, 1984).

 
Well, to make a long story short, we lost Alvin this past week.  And, according to all accounts, he was an all around professional and a nice guy to boot.  He will be sorely missed.  R.I.P., Alvin Stardust/Shane Fenton...