From 1977 through 1993, the Thompson Twins – who in their commercial heyday were, as those who lived through the ‘80s know quite well, composed of three individuals, none of whom were related – were one of the more successful of the so-called “new wave” bands, earning seven top-40 hits during the course of their career, three of them hitting the top 10 (“Hold Me Now,” “Lay Your Hands on Me,” and “King for a Day”).
In 1989, after releasing five albums on Arista Records, the band made the jump to Warner Brothers, recording another two albums,Big Trash and Queer, before evolving into a new musical entity called Babble, but after recording two albums in this guise (The Stone and Ether), Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie – the stalwarts between the two groups, not to mention husband and wife at the time– decided to leave Babble behind them.
With Big Trash and Queer having recently joined Rhino’s digital catalog, we caught up with Bailey by phone and asked him to reflect on those albums, the transition from Thompson Twins to Babble, his semi-retirement from the music industry for the better part of the last two decades, and what led him to finally begin the process of stepping back in, as he’s doing this summer as part of the line-up of the Retro Futura tour.
If you were to merely take a cursory glance at the track listing of the new Herbie Hancock compilation, The Warner Bros. Years (1969-1972), it’s possible that you could find yourself thinking, “The guy couldn’t manage more than 19 tracks in four years?”
Actually, the number’s even lower than that: if you took a slightly longer look at the track listing, you’d see that three of the inclusions are the single versions of album tracks, while two others are edits of songs released on promotional singles which have remained commercially unavailable until now. But there’s one very important thing that you’re not taking into account if you’re being in any way dismissive of this material: the three albums contained within this set – Fat Albert Rotunda (1969), Mwandishi (1971), and Crossings (1972) – are among the greatest piano-led jazz recordings on the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
This week’s Mono Monday release is a 1969 album from a certified blues master. Well, actually, we didn’t ask to see his certificate of mastery, but we respect Freddie King enough to know that he wouldn’t release an album entitled Freddie King is a Blues Master if he couldn’t back it up that kind of bold claim. Also, in case this piece happens to be your introduction to the album in question, allow us to assure you that we’ve heard it, and there’s definitely no case of false advertising in play.
By the time he released Blues Master, King – who died in 1976 at a far-too-young 42 years of age – already had a well-established history of describing his activities in his album titles. His debut LP was entitled Freddie King Sings, and in 1965 he offered up Freddie King Sings Again; between those two releases, he asked of potential buyers Let's Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King (1961), then hit the waves in 1963 with Freddie King Goes Surfin’.
New this week in the Rhino Room at iTunes:
Theodore Bikel, An Actor's Holiday / Folk Songs Of Israel / Jewish Folk Songs / Songs Of A Russian Gypsy / Folk Songs From Just About Everywhere / Bravo Bikel! - Theodore Bikel Town Hall Concert / Songs Of Russia Old And New / From Bondage To Freedom / A Harvest Of Israeli Folksongs / The Best Of Bikel / Theodore Bikel On Tour / Young Man and a Maid: Goodness gracious, we’re tired just from typing all of those album titles, but if you’re a fan of Theodore Bikel’s substantial discography, we can only imagine how thrilled you are to see a dozen – that’s twelve, count ‘em, twelve – of his albums being added to our digital catalog. For many of you, Bikel may be best known as an actor, so this is certainly a wonderful time to dig in and explore some of the material he’s recorded over the years. Granted, if this is your first exposure to his work, it’s only inevitable that the best starting point is The Best of Bikel, but from a historical standpoint, consider how daring it was for Bikel to record Songs of a Russian Gypsy in 1958, when Americans were still in full “Better Dead than Red” mode. As album titles go, if there’s one that most exemplifies truth in advertising – not just for the record’s contents but, indeed, for Bikel’s entire career – it’s Folk Songs from Just About Everywhere: any one of these albums will provide you not only with a musical education but with a cultural one as well…or, in other words, start listening!
In recent years, the sight of a porkpie hat has inspired most people to think of one word – Heisenberg – but prior to the premiere of Breaking Bad, it used to be the chapeau of choice for rude boys... and if you don’t know what a rude boy is, then, boy, do you need to run out and pick up our latest 180-gram vinyl releases!
First and foremost, we’d recommend The Best of 2-Tone, because it’s evident that you need a proper education in ska, and when it comes to a solid sampling of the genre, you need look no further than this set, which features material from The Beat (“The Tears of a Clown,” “Ranking Full Stop”), The Bodysnatchers (“Let’s Do Rock Steady”), Madness (“The Prince”), Rico (“Sea Cruise”), The Selecter (“The Selecter,” “On My Radio,” “Three Minute Hero,” “Missing Words”), The Special AKA (“Gangsters,” an edited version of “Nelson Mandela,” a live version of “Too Much Too Young,” and “The Boiler”), and The Specials (“A Message to You Rudy,” “Rat Race,” “Stereotype,” “Do Nothing,” and “Ghost Town”).