Friday, July 17, 2009

Why So Blue?

There are few things in life as joyously satisfying as discovering new music. (Ok, there are others, but this is a music blog, so c'mon...) The best kind of discovery is a new artist, fresh to the scene, whom you can track from day one, watch them bloom (and, likely, ultimately fade). You buy the album, see the show, wait eagerly for the next release, and so on. Personally, I don't have many discoveries like this these days. Back in the 80's, when I was dj'ing and had access to more new releases than I could count, sure. Even after college, when I had the time to haunt record stores and try things out, maybe. But these days, I just don't have the time. Yes, there are those rare occasions when I spend an hour or two listlessly surfing around, clicking on the online samples, trying to find something new... but I just don't do it that often.

Anyway, that's one kind of discovery. But in some ways even cooler is the discovery of some long-forgotten artist you had never heard of before. No, you'll never know the pleasure of seeing them live, or picking up their next release... but it can be pretty damn cool to have instant access to the artist's entire history, snag their entire catalog at once, a wealth of new (to you) music in an instant.

This is kinda the latter. Thanks to the fine folks at Not Lame (my main source for more power pop and indie pop than I'll ever get around to actually listening to... geez, there's a lot out there, but Not Lame does a better job than any other online store of making it available... sign up for their newsletter today!), I stumbled across a 70's Scottish band called Blue. What, you never heard of them either? Their work is long out of print, but Not Lame got hold of their 1973 self-titled debut and made a limited number available. If you're a Badfinger fan, this is for you... yes, a little Big Star, a little Raspberries, but at root this is the great lost Badfinger album. Catchy, mellow pop tracks with great hooks and gorgeous harmonies. I'd always figured that fellow Scots Teenage Fanclub were entirely Big Star-derived, but I'm guessing they grew up familiar with Blue. Don't get me wrong; it's a flawed album. Too many of the tracks veer into 70's soft pop territory, the sort of thing you might find on a compilation hyped on a late night informercial featuring a hand-holding couple walking on the beach. The lyrics can be sappy boy-girl stuff. And don't get me started on that one faux-calypso track. But, still, overall, one of those albums that on first listen had me thoroughly pissed that I had to wait 36 years to hear it.

Here are a few YouTube samples:

And another one from the debut (no video, just audio):

I also managed to track down their follow-up album, 1974's Life In The Navy, which sounds like it could be a Village People disco album but, nope. (No sign of this being in print, so I had to settle for a vinyl rip someone had posted online.) It's not quite as consistent as the first album, but still decent enough. It's got more of an Americana vibe to it, laid back California country, with a healthy dose of CSN (not to mention a track that's a pretty direct rip of Neil Young's "Down By The River," but lord knows there are worse songs to mimic). If the first album was their take on Badfinger, this one is the great lost Brinsley Schwarz album, country-tinged American music as played by a UK band.

Here's a sample from the second album (one of the songs I like least, but it's all I could find online):

They stuck around for a few more equally obscure albums. At some point Elton John jumped on the bandwagon, producing them (but failing to bring them any additional fame, aside from a lone semi-hit single). Not terribly interested in those albums, based on what little I've read -- more overproduced, a bit glammy and a bit cheesy. You be the judge -- here's something from 1977's Another Night Time Flight:

Anyway, if you can track down that first album through Not Lame (or, if they're sold out, find an online rip)... do it, and do it soon. Don't wait another 36 years.


At 5:56 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Cool. I had never heard of Blue. Looking on YouTube turned up what Hugh Nicholson has been up to lately. Ouch.


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