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Salient. Victoria University Students Newspaper. Vol. 38, No. 4, 1975



Spacewaltz featuring Alastair Riddell (EMI)

Most music writers have completely missed the point as far as Alastair Riddell is concerned. He's a smart cookie: he wants to make good music, something which New Zealand has produced very little of up to now. However, he realises that a local artist cannot lay a 'head'-music trip (for want of a better term) on the public, and be musically and commercially accepted; sadly, the New Zealand public has little faith in the abilities of local musicians. Therefore, he figures, he has to put himself in a strong position commercially - become popular and sell lots a records. He looks around at the music scene and asks: 'What is selling at the moment?' The answer? - Bowie and lesser imitators. So he comes up with a strongly Bowies-que single ('Out On The Streets'), has it backed up by strong airplay and a short tour, and the result: a No. 1 hit. The first of many. Once he has thus established himself he can start laying the real thing on us. Which brings me to.....

Ladeez 'n Gennelmen, the finest album yet made in New Zealand.

Spacewaltz is undoubtedly the biggest step forward rock music in New Zealand has made yet. Yes, we can produce world-class material. This is, of course, Riddell's first album and as such is strongly influenced by the Bowie/ Roxy school of vocalese and instrumentalism. Riddell's biggest handicap is that he sounds like Bowie and Ferry rolled into one. There is a certain sameness about much of the material on this album, which is understandable, but this in no way detracts from the music.

Side one opens with 'Fraulein Love', his current Big Hit Single. (A point: on the lyric sheet, next to the title, Riddell writes in brackets, 'Here I say 'ta' to Bryan' - no prizes for guessing Bryan's surname!) This is a perfect opener for the album; a strong, rousing rocker, a great chorus replete with heavy breathing, and some great guitar licks.

Next up is 'Beautiful Boy', which you've probably heard before. A good song, but it's too obvious who it's about and too cliched. Not to worry, next up is 'Seabird', Riddell's magnum opus on this album. A slowish number, starting off with a solid drum beat before Tony Raynor's keyboards come in (Raynor being better known as Split Enz' keyboard wizard). The song ends quietly with the drum beat again and choir-like vocals. Nice one.

Side one closes with 'Out on the Street' and it is a different land better) version than the single, particularly on the chorus.

Side two opens with 'Angel'. This starts off with some stupid noises from producer Alan Galbraith's ARP synthesiser, which are really quite superfluous. The song itself, though, is quite good. Riddell's lyrics seem very much of the city in content, and the music reinforces this. Harsh, almost depressing in content, they deal with similar themes to some of Bowie's work. Actually, one criticism I have of Riddell is that he is too verbose lyrically and the fact that the lyric sheet is very hard to read doesn't help any.

'Open Up' comes next, a slower number and a very full sound from the group. Nice mellotron [unclear: oc] Then we come to the finest slab of pure rock ever made in New Zealand - 'Scars of Love. This song is simply marvellous. A Strong, stomping rocker with an extremely catchy guitar line and a great chorus all of which is underlaid by a strong fuzz guitar/cowbell beat. This should have been the next single. Eats 'Queen Bitch' and 'Suffragette City' for breakfast!

'And Up to Now' is fairly good and features some solid guitar work and nice organ. The album closes with 'Love the Way he Smiles' which musically is the most interesting on the record. The last half of the track is best, featuring some lovely piano work from Raynor and some tight brass/piano interplay. There is an almost dream-like quality about this last section with its chorused 'hip-hip-hoorays' and the background vocals (courtesy of the Yandall Sisters).

Overall, a good first album. The next couple should prove most interesting. My biggest complaint about this one is the recording quality: some of the most unimaginative engineering I've heard since the Beatles. The drums stay in one place, the keyboards stay in one place—whassamatter with EMI? After all, 'Atom Heart Mother' was done, like this one, on an eight-track machine. EMI should send their engineers overseas to learn how to do the job right.

However the music shines through, and this album, I think, heralds a new age in New Zealand rock music. It's high time New Zealand produced something better than the blandness of Creation, Steve Allen and Co. Alastair Riddell is the best thing to hit New Zealand music yet.

David Maclennan

I Can Stand A Little Rain: Joe Cocker (A & M)

Joe Cocker is a star whose success has always been touched with sadness; a performer whose performing span was limited by the sheer destructiveness of the performance. Only singers of opera, surely, can sustain such an act: and then only by restricting their movements on stage and going easy on the whisky and cocaine.

So Joe was the jaded rock star of 1973/74; like John Lennon forgetting himself in a New York nightclub, Joe's music was going to seed. Only John claims it wasn't like that at all - and Joe didn't lose it completely.

'I Can Stand A Little Ram' features songs by different composers, including Billy Preston, Jim Webb, Harry Nilson and Randy New-seeming contrived or calculated it achieves a seeming contribed or calculated it achieves a stunning unity.

On this album Joe sings the blues: songs of loss, sorrow, ruin, love, making them his own. The songs are uniformly excellent and Cocker's interpretations are for once not merely animated, but inspired.

Photo of Joe Cocker

Two tracks, 'Put Out The Light' and 'I Get Mad' seem awkwardly placed beside the others which are quietly restrained. Yet their presence-illuminates: the contrast between the old raver and the chastened veteran contributes much to the pathos - and there are some nice chords in 'I Get Mad'. The face on the cover, not studied or a pose; just Joe after too many three o'clock mornings: weary, exhausted. Not beaten.

Joe at the centre of the stage - you've seen him in Mad Dogs [unclear: nd] Englishmen, in Woodstock jerking, weaving, [unclear: most]-falling, screwed and screaming; the pathetic figure in the spotlight giving every energy, his whole body. And you [unclear: aw] him as the tour progressed becoming more and more lost, until finally he only nods, smiles. The boy from Sheffield, taken to the edge by Leon Russel on a body-and-mind breaking tour of the USA. And another tour. And another. And after this outrage the performer is too wasted to perform anymore; like a secret drinker exposed, the star experiences new pain: pity and even scorn.

It's good that there's not a trace of self-pity. On this album Cocker renders his failure triumphant simply by embracing it and going on.

'I Can Stand A Little Rain' is an album which confirms the axiom about great suffering producing great art. It's very honest, and it's very good. And while some may see it as the beginning of a new career, I think it's a statement about the end of a career and as such it's probably the best album that Joe will ever do.

Brian King

page 15

Roxy Music: Country Life (Island)

Brian Ferry

Bryan Ferry is 30. If you look hard into the eyes of the 30 Wellington kids who buy his group's LPs, you'll see (for each kid) a period of 365 days tattooed into the actual whites. They live this man's bygone birthdays, every foiled attempt at snuffing the candles and finding bits of string in the icing. Generally speaking, these kids have seen all. Everything. The Light, perhaps. Most, anyway of All.

For sure, these kids, upon request, can recite any number of lines from any Roxy chanson ... and hum it just like The Master.

'In every dream home - a heartache' and 'I would do anything for you, sit in the garden, growing potatoes by the score.'

In the end though, they're Ok. The big-think outgrowth of A Birthday Trip goes by the board sooner or later and they can just as easily take up a night cleaning job or play 'Mandy' on the piano by ear.

So hands-up for this week's party pooper. Who's gonna tell this dedicated bunch of dreamers their favourite bubble just burst? Could You tell them about the business of Finis?

Fair dinkum, 'Country Life' is a heavy 'un. The notion of spoiling England's no-snot-up-the-nose grande maison magazine is a groove but the reality is more than a little off-putting. I sway from piling too much meat into the idea that Roxy these days isn't happily hand-in-hand but the more I think about it, the less happy I feel about the prospects of their listen ability before too long.

Fact is while life rolls on, Ferry stacks it on thick. 'Country Life', the fourth album, is about as bloated a piece of music you could ever hope for. Moreso than, say, Procol Harum's 'Grand Hotel' and a lot. Lot more heavy-handed than the one before 'Life', 'Stranded' (and that was the start of this).

You can call the newest offering a pregnant cow and feel secure in the thought that pregnant cows drop (and get lighter) or, better still, call it an 'interim' and start waiting for the fifth album. Meantime though, you've got this LP and until such time as the cow starts screaming or the 'interim' theory is confirmed, it's mucho lusho and heavy deecay right through.

Thematically, 'Life' is 'Stranded Number Two' like four people have already pointed out, but a theme, per se, don't make good music. Most of the tracks here sound like note-for-note remakes of songs off 'Stranded' and that's disheartening enough (new ground, boys, new ground).

What really grates most is Ferry's voice and that's sad. On something like 'Three and Nine' he sounds so rottenly affected it hurts. On 'Bitter Sweet' it's 'Song For Europe' from 'Stranded' - all over again without the magic and a lot of 'This is such a sad affair (but haven't I said this before somewhere?)'

It's March 1975 now (a good three years since the first Roxy LP appeared) and Ferry walks the same cracked path (but oh, so tired now . . . and sluggish, even), hoe in hand, chip-chip-chipping away at the couch-grass, a tear for every uprooted weed, a groan for every stubbed toenail.

Most of the romance on 'Country Life' is neuroses and most of the psychoses is neuroses and a return to The Genuine Article ('Virginia Plain', for example and the first two albums) seems doubtful. It's chic all right but chic up the boohigh; special but only for its (fairly) dreadful uniqueness.

You want heartaches - you got it. Decadence? that too. Just watch out for the backlash, worse than decomposed Gruyere at hit-the-sack time and it's your Ego taking the punches.

Remember - Your risk.

Richard Best

Tom Jans: Tom Jans (A & M)

I have a number of reservations about the current tidal wave of singer-songwriters. Setting aside your Joni Mitchells and your Bob Dylans, most of the other ranks seem to me to lack wit and skill, although occasionally coming up with a pleasant little song.

From the first minute of the first track this album is clearly in another class altogether. To begin with, mentor williams' arrangements are clear, sparse and well-voiced. The tunes don't have the instant charm of say, Joni Mitchell, but they're not a collection of identikit licks, either. They've obviously been fitted to the words with attention to the dramatic rises and falls in story or atmosphere.

Jans' lyrics are the things which take me, though. I may be making a large claim (but I'd defend it) when I say that this is the first example I've found where the serious, poetic side of modern folk-pop has been tempered and sharpened by the wit and sublety of Nashville lyricism. There are plenty of examples to choose from: 'Margarita', a paean directed at Jans' current love, the snappy 'Tender Memory" or 'Hart's Island', a song dealing with an archetypal 'Midnight Cowboy' character - 'The streets of New York city were his only friend / Fit him like a glove on a fighter's hand . . . The only thing that's worse than dying in disgrace / Is being buried there on Hart's island.'

There are funny songs, love songs, dramatic monologues and others which manage to cram every American myth into their four-minute spaces. It's not just me, either. Artists to record Jans' songs recently include Elvis Presley Dobie Gray, Olivia Newton-John and Helen Reddy. Of the previously recorded songs here 'Loving Arms' impresses me as a superior version, while the initially not-so-strong lyric of 'Free and Easy' benefits from being placed squarely within a sprung reggae framework.

Jans' voice, while not particularly forceful, retains an appealing quality which enables him to transcend the weaker syrical moments. It skips nimbly from dry to sweet and encompasses a widely-scattered range of influences.

His vocal stylings are reinforced by some tasteful, often understated, lead and steel guitar work from Lonnie Mack and Weldon Myrick.

With their accustomed display of efficiency the record companies are releasing too many albums of this type - if not this quality - and don't promote them properly. This one must be on the secret list because I've only seen it mentioned in one other place. It's maddening because it's such a good piece of work - sensitive, literate and accomplished. If you can persuade your dealer that it exists, please get it.

Patrick O'dea