Sunday, January 31, 2010

Distractions official website

There is now an official website for the Distractions, a late-‘70’s, early-‘80’s quintet from Manchester who sadly disappeared after recording only one overlooked album in 1980. That album was Nobody’s Perfect, one of rock’s lost treasures. (My review of the album is here). The official site is still under construction as of this writing, but it already contains a welcome wealth of information about this little-known band. The site is located at this address:

http://www.thedistractions.co.uk

The most amazing feature of the site is the inclusion of sound clips of five demo recordings from 1995. According to the site, original Distractions singer Mike Finney and guitarist Steve Perrin formed a new quintet with the same name at that time, and “played half a dozen gigs in and around Manchester and Liverpool”. They also recorded studio demos, and five of them can be heard on this page:

http://www.thedistractions.co.uk/Media/Audio/1995demos.html

Surprisingly, these songs sound very much like modern American country music. Still, this description of the original Distractions sound still applies: vintage-sounding pop with a melancholy undertone. The six-minute “Black Velvet” (not the Alannah Myles song) and “Where Were You When I Needed You?” are the most solid tracks among the five, showing that Finney and Perrin were still able to convey musical emotions with subtle power. “Good Girls Don't Get To Paris” was written in 1979 but never recorded until 1995; the demo contains enough guitar feedback to remind us of the Distractions’ new wave origins. The other two tracks, “I Thought You Were Dead Josephine” and “The Land Of Opportunity”, are rougher samples, but both had the potential to be fully developed into strong songs. For those of us (including myself) who never knew that the Distractions ever existed after 1981, these 1995 recordings are a fascination.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Stanley Kubrick’s “Fear and Desire” (1953)

I recently viewed the debut feature by the late, great film director Stanley Kubrick. That film is Fear and Desire from 1953, which is little-seen because Kubrick pulled it from circulation shortly after it was first released and often prevented public screenings many years later. To this day, it has never been (legitimately) available on home video. The longest known print runs 72 minutes, and can be viewed at Google Video. The film is also viewable on YouTube in eight parts, but that version runs approximately 61 minutes.

The grainy low-budget movie is about four soldiers fighting in a fictional war in an unnamed country, who find themselves trapped six miles behind enemy lines after their plane crashes. One of the soldiers is played by Paul Mazursky, who has also become a renowned film director. Another is played by Frank Silvera, who also starred in Kubrick’s 1955 film Killer’s Kiss.

Kubrick was in his mid-20’s when he made this film, which he directed, produced, photographed, and edited. He could hardly have been expected to be a great filmmaker at this age – and he wasn’t, yet. The film is technically amateurish, and its ruminations on life, death, and morality are heavy-handed and muddled. But some scenes are quite potent just the same. Although the violent scenes are not filmed in a particularly profound way, they still manage to pack a strong punch.

Despite its many flaws, Fear and Desire will be of interest to Kubrick’s admirers. It demonstrates how independent-minded the director was from the beginning, and it contains more noticeable embryonic Kubrick elements than, say, Killer’s Kiss. In particular, it would be a fitting companion piece to either of Kubrick’s better-known war films: Paths of Glory (1957) and Full Metal Jacket (1987).

The YouTube clip below contains one of the film's most memorable (and arguably most Kubrickian) sequences. Mazursky's character is guarding a civilian girl whom the soldiers are holding captive to prevent her from revealing their presence to the enemy, and the soldier on guard is going insane.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The surprisingly good soundtrack to Porky's Revenge (1985)

Sometimes terrible movies have good soundtrack albums. One of the most obvious examples I can think of is Porky’s Revenge. You’re reading that right. The third and worst movie of the ‘80’s Porky’s teen-sex trilogy actually had a respectable soundtrack album. It was masterminded by Dave Edmunds, who was able to enlist the aid of many big-name friends.

The soundtrack generally consisted of pseudo-1950’s music, mixing covers and originals. Edmunds’ tracks, however, owed more to the early-‘60’s Beach Boys. One of them, in fact, is a rendition of “Do You Want To Dance” that is faithful to the Beach Boys version. “Queen of the Hop” and “High School Nights” are equally fine examples of pre-Beatles-style party rock. On the other hand, Edmunds’ title instrumental “Porky’s Revenge” sounds totally 1985 to me.

The amazing thing about the soundtrack is the number of big names who participated. George Harrison contributed a tender song called “I Don’t Want To Do It”, a Bob Dylan composition that Dylan never recorded. Two famous ‘50’s instrumentals are covered by modern masters: Jeff Beck does Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk”, while E Street saxophonist Clarence Clemons tackles the Peter Gunn theme with gusto. Carl Perkins sings his own “Blue Suede Shoes” with backing from the Stray Cats rhythm section, and Willie Nelson covers “Love Me Tender” exactly the way you imagine him singing it. There’s even an authentic-sounding cover of Charlie Rich’s “Philadelphia Baby” by a one-off supergroup featuring Robert Plant as its lead crooner.

This surprisingly tasteful soundtrack to a tasteless movie was once available as a Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab CD (MFSL MFCD 797). It is currently out of print, but many of its tracks can be purchased as mp3’s through iTunes. Also, “I Don’t Want To Do It” is available on the 2009 George Harrison compilation Let It Roll.

Various Artists “Porky’s Revenge Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” (Columbia JS 39983) 1985

Track Listing:

1. HIGH SCHOOL NIGHTS – Dave Edmunds
2. DO YOU WANT TO DANCE – Dave Edmunds
3. SLEEPWALK – Jeff Beck
4. I DON’T WANT TO DO IT – George Harrison
5. STAGGER LEE – Fabulous Thunderbirds
6. BLUE SUEDE SHOES – Carl Perkins with Slim Jim Phantom & Lee Rocker
7. PETER GUNN THEME – Clarence Clemons
8. QUEEN OF THE HOP – Dave Edmunds
9. LOVE ME TENDER – Willie Nelson
10. PHILADELPHIA BABY – The Crawling King Snakes (Robert Plant, Phil Collins, Paul Martinez with Dave Edmunds)
11. PORKY’S REVENGE – Dave Edmunds with Chuck Leavell, Michael Shrieve & Kenny Aronson
12. HIGH SCHOOL NIGHTS (reprise) – Dave Edmunds

Bonus tracks on 2004 reissue:

13. HONEY DON’T – Carl Perkins
14. DON’T CALL ME TONIGHT – Dave Edmunds

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Deluxe edition of the Cure's "Disintegration" coming in June

If anyone thought that no more deluxe editions of the Cure's albums were forthcoming: a 3-CD edition of the 1989 album Disintegration is being released on June 8th. (Amazon.com calls it the "20th Anniversary Edition", although the album is 21 years old this year). The first disc will consist of the 12 proper tracks. The second disc will consist of 20 previously unreleased rarities recorded in 1988 and 1989. The third disc will contain all twelve songs in sequence from the concert utilized for the live Entreat album from 1990, which originally contained only eight of the songs. A remastered version of the original 8-song Entreat is intended to be made available online. A full track listing for this edition can be found at the Cure's official site.

And that's not all the Cure reissue news that the site reports. Robert Smith also promises "a lot more remastered Cure stuff in 2010". This would include DVD reissues of the long-deleted concert videos In Orange (1988) and Show (1993), as well as a CD called Mixed Up 2 (apparently a sequel to the 1990 remix album Mixed Up) and a box set(!) titled The Cure @ the BBC. This seems like a lot to release in one year. But even if the release dates get spread out, Cure addicts can at least be confident that more items from Smith's bottomless vault are now intended for future release.

5/20/10 Update: Sorry I haven't been keeping better tabs on the ever-changing release date for the Disintegration set. It's been pushed back twice already! I wouldn't count on those other planned 2010 releases being released on time, either.

5/22/10 update: As of this writing, an official Cure site is featuring streaming audio tracks of 20 additional rarities from the Disintegration era. Here is the site:

http://thecuredisintegration.com/bin/#/altrarities/