A wry view of life for the world-weary

Change The Record – Part Two


The vinyl records have now been sorted into alphabetical order and the cataloguing has begun. I have concocted a spreadsheet into which I am entering the name of the artist, the album, the record label, the year of recording and whether it is mine or TOWT’s and allocating each a unique reference number which will be used to store them and facilitate their retrieval. That’s the theory, anyway.

I have adopted only two rules in cataloguing, aside from the obvious one of observing strict alphabetical order, the principal one being that there is no definite article. So The Who are filed under W.  Perhaps more controversially, solo artists are filed under their first names. So Bob Dylan is filed under B. There was a long and lengthy discussion on this point but I was overruled!

Starting with A I came across two long lost gems in my collection. If I was pressed against the wall or had one of those Desert Island Disc moments and was asked who my favourite group was I would probably have to say Joy Division. At the time – we are talking about 1979 to 1982 – I was besotted by the sounds coming out of Factory records. Following Ian Curtis’ untimely and tragic demise and New Order emerging to pick up the pieces there was a bit of a hole in Factory’s armoury and a group of lads from Wythenshawe called A Certain Ratio manfully tried to fill the breach. Their name came from the lyrics of a 1974 Brian Eno track, The True Wheel.

When I got their albums out of the storage box I was a bit fearful. The cover to their first album, To Each, released in 1981, was a bit bent and warped. Clearly the pressure that it had been under over the years was above a certain ratio but, mercifully, the vinyl played without any problems. The hallmark Factory sound is there – thumping bass and distant, almost monotone, vocals but the funkier edge to their sound and in particular the trumpet seem to get lost in the mix. To my current tastes it led to an unsatisfactory listening experience.


By the following year some of the balance issues of the band had been sorted out and Sextet, with its beautiful picture of a sunset sky, is a more satisfying album. It is still not an easy listen and has an even bleaker feel to it than the earlier release. But at least there is a more discernible funky feel to it interspersed with atonal piano and dissonant trumpet and vocals which seem to be struggling to keep up with the pace of it all. Undoubtedly, the stand out track is the two-chord seven and half minute wonder that is Knife Slits Water. It was good to give the album another spin but, God, I must have been depressed in those days!


After that there was a dire need for some uplifting music. Now funk isn’t really my thing but I always had a soft spot for Defunkt’s Thermonuclear Sweat, their 1982 release for Hannibal records. The album’s title is apposite and they cook up a storm, their style being a mix of James Brown style funk and more conventional jazz riffs. The opening track, Illusion, was always my favourite with some stunning solo interplays between brass and guitar but listening again some thirty odd years after the second track, I Tried To Live Alone, really stood out and kicked some ass. The pace was such that it was a relief to move directly on to the more overtly jazz piece, Cocktail Hour (Blue Bossa). To add to my pleasure in rediscovering this album I found it was worth quite some money.


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