The Jasmine Minks
The Jasmine Minks: Cut Me Deep, The Anthology 1984-2014
(Cherry Red CDBRED608)
Arriving in a world dominated by Culture Club, Pet Shop Boys and their lion-pop ilk in the mid 1980’s, The Jasmine Minks instead stuck affectionately, but not doggedly, to their nervous, scratchy rhythms and their songs of life as lived by the rest of us. This comprehensive 2-CD set by Cherry Red sets out their stall for an age that sorely needs some sense of wakefulness and urgency in its pop scene.
It’s said that if a record grabs you with its first track, it could have you for the rest of the album. Happily, ‘Think!’ is a great wake-up call with its clashing guitars, good fret work, a little reminiscent of the beloved Buzzcocks. It could easily segue into ‘Work For Nothing’ were it not for the mysterious, twangy guitar start to this second track. ‘Where The Traffic Goes’ jumps with both feet into an exciting drum roll and some fine, angry singing, but it’s ‘Mr Magic’ that’s the early standout, with its deft mixture of intertwining guitars, rhythm and great harmonies, that may unintentionally take attention away from the lyrics.
There’s plenty of those beloved winner’s chords in ‘The Thirty Second Set Up’, with a nod to eternal 60’s style rock, which spills over into the L-for Leather ‘What’s Gone Wrong’, with its strong climbing vocal. ‘Somers Town’ is a rare disappointment, the lyrics too lumpen and the delivery weak, but interest is piqued again by ‘Ghost of a Young Man’ with its drum trip opening and ‘House of Love’-like feel, several years early.
More buzzy, nervous fret bothering follows, laced with frustration and anger, with ’What’s Happening’ and ‘Black and Blue’ the latter of which comes to a very sobering dead halt after all its manic thumping. It’s perhaps unfortunate that the boys from Aberdeen didn’t develop their more reflective side, exemplified with the slow, HOL-style intro and two part vocal of ‘Cold Heart’. The followers, ‘Choice’ and ‘The Ballad of Johnny Eye’ demonstrate this even better, the former, a ‘Here Comes Summer’ sort of riff that tries too hard and the latter, a steady but maudlin rocker.
Climbing guitars enliven ‘Sunset’ and ‘Like You’, but the former’s steady rhythm promises too much and descends into ‘la la la’s a little too predictably, whereas the latter fails to capitalise on its strong rhythm. The Minks obviously had a lot of frustration to work out of their system, with blaring horn-ridden tracks like ‘Painting/Arguing’, in between indulging their hippy-ish side with the acoustic strumming, lugubrious ‘You Take My Freedom’.
If you’re impatient for a little variety, you could skip the remaining tracks and go to the second CD, missing little.
‘Cut Me Deep’s ringing guitars and echoing vocal makes good use of the climbing rhythm trick, and leads into the chiming guitars of ‘Living Out Your Dreams’, and the Indian sounding intro to the otherwise steady rocker, ‘Don’t Wait Too Long’. ‘Nothing Can Stop Me’s slow build up and tense, precariously balanced guitars promises some engagement, which it unfortunately can’t live up to, a similar problem to ‘Soul Station’.
Taking a holiday from straight ahead rock, ‘Another Age’ has some good rises, twangy guitar and a definite Country and Western feel. The rest cure seems to have worked, with ‘Sad’s strong start, guitars and organ, a bright production and 60’s figures that make this track easily the best so far. ‘Lost and Living’s funky beat is in pleasing contrast,’ with ‘Little Things’ continuing the theme.
‘Marcella’ shows glorious promise, with its ‘Westworld’ feel, and ‘Misery’, despite its title, is no lament, but a full-on, positive, racing guitar track, leading into some superb wah-wah and fuzz in ‘Take’. ‘Reaching Out’s swinging rhythm and chiming guitars remind you of an agreeable Jesus & Mary Chain, if such a fabled beast could ever exist, its C’n’W beat resolving well. ‘Shiny and Black’s quiet beginning takes us into folksy territory, with an interloping electric guitar, whilst ‘Scratch the Surface’s high, distorted guitar and jerky drum trip take us down a much more perilous path. ‘Daddy Dog’s trip hop rhythm sounds a little out of place here, but its fuzzy guitar is a good counterweight to the Arabic style beat, in a polemic against globalisation.
‘Midnight and I’ benefits hugely from the female back up vocal, in amongst the clashing, gong-like guitars.’Popartgod’s Eddie Cochran –like start belies a slice of freakbeat lunacy.
If you’re new to this Aberdonian quartet or just curious about C86 before it was so dubbed, there’s plenty here to get the feel of the times. Those of you who enjoyed them first time round will need no such inducements. BUY HERE!
Pete Molinari: Theosophy (Cherry Red Records)
Cherry Red’s love of timeless music extends well beyond the reissue of gems from the recent past, and into the realm of young artists who take roots music as their starting point, but with an undeniably modern viewpoint. One such is guitarist and singer/songwriter Pete Molinari, whose ‘Theosophy’ CD, replete with classic riffs, is scheduled for release on 2nd June.
We’re off to a good start with ‘Hang My Head In Shame’, a fuzzy rhythm sound and a guitar solo with real bite, reminiscent of ‘Dirty Mac’ era blues styling, and ’You Will Be Mine’ in hot pursuit, its suggestion of a psyche-feel with a ranging chorus and sweet arpeggios providing a full, satisfying sound.
Initially sticking closely to the revered late 60’s template, with its strong drumbeat and marching rhythm, ‘Evangeline’ throws in the surprise of an early 60’s style guitar solo to catch us off-guard. ‘I Got Mine’ will have the 60’s punk fraternity among you gagging for more, with its Standells/Shadows of Knight feel.
A diversion to a more lush, House of Love-style atmosphere pays dividends, as ‘I Got It All Indeed’ has Pete letting his voice relax in this confection of gently whistling organ, soft drumming and twinkling guitar work.
‘When Two Worlds Collide’s Country style piano and swinging rhythm, with purring, cat-like guitars is another diversion, if a little cliché’d, but ‘What I Am I Am’ more than makes up for it, with its Country/ Gospel-tinged feel, unobtrusive piano and drum and Pete’s sometimes reedy voice is back in relax mode. ‘Dear Marie’ explores this familiar field further, its pleasing descending beat perfectly suiting this sentimental piece about a fondly remembered, but ultimately faithless former lover.
Back in rockier territory, ‘Mighty Son Of Abraham’ has a powerful bluesy-gospel beat, great guitar figures and a solo that will blow away your cobwebs with ease. ‘So Long Gone’s pedestrian, chain gang rhythm is powerfully executed, the Dirty Mac-Lennon voice reprising over good, descending guitar figures.
‘Easy Street’s almost Victorian, silent movie atmosphere has a pleasing echoey voice, with a suitably maudlin atmosphere for this depression-era tale. ‘Winds of Change’ sees Pete’s now highly appropriate reedy tones over a good, churning rhythm in a Dylanesque piece with a great, soaring chorus of Byrdsy aspect that is surely the best track here.
‘Love for Sale’ closes, its huge production with a rising vocal, and a mirror image two line chorus that promises much for the future from this relative newcomer. BUY HERE!
The Deep (Film Soundtrack)
The Deep OST (Hot Shot Records HSRX009)
For someone who has been accused of listening to music which sounds like a soundtrack for a film that never got made, a genuine Original Sound Track is something of a welcome change.
Clearly exploiting the fashion for sub-aqua peril best realised in ‘Jaws’ two years before, which made Steven Spielberg a rich man, it was hoped that ‘The Deep’ would do good business for Director Peter Yates and Casablanca Filmworks and Records. A top musical score writer for this potential blockbuster was called for, and no doubt John Barry’s name headed a very short list. A stellar singer was also needed to push this piece to the young filmgoers, and so the queen of disco, Donna Summer, was drafted in to lend her velvet tones to the lush styling of the theme song.
The story of a happy, adventurous, holidaying couple caught up in a tepid tale of shipwrecks, long-submerged valuables, drugs and (wait for it) hungry sharks is taken far more seriously than the script, by Barry. Opening with a ‘silent ocean’ sort of soundscape, a little reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, with a few delicate piano notes to ease the tension, strings come in and lead into a tense, meandering rhythm, suggestive of a high quality horror film. The strings, still soothing, now hint at danger, as if something is in the distance, out of sight. A sudden, loud clatter, like a squall at sea, gives way to a ‘fog lifting’ atmosphere, leading into a ‘sun rising’ passage, ponderous horns building up into a great wave, soothed by violins and flute.
The music turns nervous once more, tense strings weighed down with heavy piano chords, descending, until a ‘city beneath the sea’ atmosphere prevails, whirlwind synth effects adding another dimension. A sharp, terrible conflagration of whistles, horns and bells comes in, like the crashing of a great ship.
The contrast between the main score and the ‘love theme’ could not be more marked. The plodding beat, with a basic Caribbean, sun-shining rhythm and chuckling guitars all suggest a last minute rush job, and then Donna Summer’s warm croon starts. It’s not long before this basic piece of island beat becomes one of Donna’s characteristic groaning festivals, the sexual equivalent of being short changed in an expensive cocktail bar.
An instrumental version of the theme has triumphant horns and strings a little higher in the mix, lighter in feel and all the better for it.
‘Disco Calypso’ may convince you that the producers and John Barry may have taken temporary leave of their senses, and the return of Miss Summer for another stab at the theme does little to redeem the previous effort.
Bonus tracks are revealing; ‘The White House Years’ a heavy keyboard riff with synthesised sounds and the 12’’ disco version of the theme are time capsules of the muscular, pumping sound that once ruled the world. BUY HERE!