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Aztec Camera  — High Land, Hard Rain (2cd, 2014)

 Aztec Camera  — High Land, Hard Rain (2cd, 2014)

GBR Flag  Aztec Camera  — High Land, Hard Rain 
Formed: by Roddy Frame, 1980 in Glasgow, Scotland
Origin: East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, United Kingdom
Album release: April 1983 (Sire Records), July 9, 1991 (Reprise/WEA)
Record Label: Domino
Duration:     37:42+65:27=> 103:12
Tracks:
CD 1:
01 Oblivious     3:13
02 The Boy Wonders     3:15
03 Walk Out to Winter     3:25
04 The Bugle Sounds Again     2:58
05 We Could Send Letters     5:49
06 Pillar to Post     4:03
07 Release     3:42
08 Lost Outside the Tunnel     3:43
09 Back On Board     4:54
10 Down the Dip     2:26
CD 2:
01 Pillar to Post (Original Single Version)     3:43
02 Queen's Tattoos     2:13
03 Orchid Girl     2:36
04 Haywire     4:00
05 Walk Out to Winter (7”) (Tony Mansfield version)      3:49
06 Set the Killing Free     3:48
07 Back on Board (live on CFNY)     4:23
08 We Could Send Letters (live on CFNY)     6:55
09 Walk Out to Winter (Kid Jensen Session)     3:35
10 Down the Dip (Kid Jensen Session)     2:25
11 Back on Board (Kid Jensen Session)     4:18
12 Release (Kid Jensen Session)     3:49
13 Walk Out to Winter (John Brand unreleased single mix)  3:26
14 Walk Out to Winter (12”) (Tony Mansfield version)      7:49
15 Oblivious (Colin Farley Remix)     3:51
16 Oblivious (Langer/Winstanley Remix)     4:37
AWARDS:
¶   1983 High Land, Hard Rain  The Billboard 200  #129
Personnel:
≡  Roddy Frame — vocals, guitar, harmonica
≡  Bernie Clark — piano, organ
≡  Campbell Owens — bass
≡  Dave Ruffy — drums, percussion
Credits:
•≡  Peter Anderson  Photography
•≡  David Band  Cover Illustration, Design
•≡  John Brand  Engineer, Producer
•≡  Bernie Clarke  Guitar, Keyboards, Organ, Piano, Producer
•≡  Roddy Frame  Arranger, Composer, Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals
•≡  Campbell Owens  Bass
•≡  Dave Ruffy  Drums, Percussion
Review by Ned Raggett;  Score: *****
¶   Some performers never make a bigger splash than with their first record, a situation that the Ramones and De La Soul know all too well. If that's the case, though, said musicians had better make sure that debut is a doozy. Aztec Camera, or more specifically, Roddy Frame, falls squarely into this scenario, because while he has doggedly plugged away ever since with a series of what are, at times, not bad releases, High Land, Hard Rain remains the lovely touchstone of Frame's career. Very much the contemporaries of such well-scrubbed Scottish guitar pop confectionaries as Orange Juice, but with the best gumption and star quality of them all, Aztec Camera led off the album with "Oblivious," a mini-masterpiece of acoustic guitar hooks, lightly funky rhythms, and swooning backing vocals. If nothing tops that on High Land, Hard Rain, most of the remaining songs come very close, while they also carefully avoid coming across like a series of general sound-alikes. Frame's wry way around words of love (as well as his slightly nasal singing) drew comparisons to Elvis Costello, but Frame sounds far less burdened by expectations and more freely fun. References from Keats to Joe Strummer crop up (not to mention an inspired steal from Iggy's "Lust for Life" on "Queen's Tattoos"), but never overwhelm Frame's ruminations on romance, which are both sweet and sour. Musically, his capable band backs him with gusto, from the solo-into-full-band showstopper "The Bugle Sounds Again" to the heart-stopping guitar work on "Lost Outside the Tunnel." Whether listeners want to investigate further from here is up to them, but High Land, Hard Rain itself is a flat-out must-have. (www.allmusic.com)
REVIEW
By Jason Heller; February 4, 2014
¶   In a BBC interview conducted last year in honor of the 30th anniversary of Aztec Camera’s High Land, Hard Rain, the band’s frontman Roddy Frame talked about how “Walk Out to Winter,” his favorite song on the album, drew from an odd jumble of influences. A fan of the 1977 punk explosion, the aspiring singer-guitarist was inspired by the spirit of the Slits and the Fall even as he began picking up on the clean-toned intricacy of jazz guitarists Wes Montgomery and Django Reinhardt. He also loved soul. ¶   In fact, as he confesses in the BBC interview, the silky chord progression of “Walk Out to Winter” was swiped from the Motown classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough". ¶   Seeing as how Frame was 15 when he began writing High Land and 18 when he recorded it, “precocious” is a word that gets thrown around a lot. But the title of album’s opening track, “Oblivious,” could be read as equally telling. Flush with youth, Frame seemed blissfully unaware that these pieces weren’t supposed to fit together. Either that or he didn’t know it was supposed to make a difference.
¶   Frame wasn’t entirely alone. Orange Juice — Aztec Camera’s close comrades on the Glasgow indie label Postcard Records — had already combined some of these same elements before Frame made his Postcard debut, the 1981 single “Just Like Gold.” And the NME’s famous C81 cassette compilation included, alongside Aztec Camera and Orange Juice, Scritti Politti’s “The ‘Sweetest Girl’”, Green Gartside’s first foray into post-punk soulfulness. Rather than an outgrowth of grayish post-punk, though, Aztec Camera was a negative afterimage rendered in pastels. By the time “Pillar to Post,” the group’s first single for Rough Trade, came out in 1982, Frame and crew had become labelmates with another young quartet that featured jangling guitars, crooned vocals, and a snappy rhythm section: the Smiths.
¶   “Pillar to Post”, “Oblivious”, and “Walk Out to Winter” comprise the trio singles released off of 1983’s High Land, newly reissued in an expanded, 30th-anniversary edition. Even if they were the only good songs, the album would still be a milestone. ¶   But every track is stellar. Buoyant and joyous, yet italicized with clever melancholy, “Oblivious” is the most punchy of the three. Frame’s jazzy guitar runs and jubilant arpeggios add a jittery energy to his teenage angst. Unlike Morrissey, he doesn’t have a mean moan in his body. He doesn’t have Morrissey’s depth, either, but that’s easily overlooked when “Pillar to Post” saunters up with funk-pop hook and plants the thoroughly Smithsian sentiment “Once I was happy in happy extremes” on the lips like a stolen kiss. “Walk Out to Winter” is the most sophisticated of High Land’s singles. A whirling, bitterly cheery paean to the death of punk, as Frame explains in his recent BBC interview), it wonders where all the young miserablists of his generation will go now. Singing like a pimply, gum-chewing Glenn Tilbrook, Frame answers his own question.
¶   Singles aside, standouts abound. From the pastoral-folk guitars and jogging bass line to the saucy handclaps and modified Richard Hell line (“Love comes in slurs”), “The Boy Wonders” is more barely coded speculation about what happens when adulthood leaves a child-shaped void in one’s soul. Same goes for the pensive “The Bugle Sounds Again” and even the album’s naked, acoustic closer, “Down the Dip,” a pub-busker anthem that slides a hint of Frame’s leftist, Red Wedge politics — never very pronounced in his songs — in among an atmosphere of spilled pints. The reissue of High Land comes with copious bonus tracks, including the original single version of “Pillar to Post”, which sounds raw and robust compared to the album version’s clean, sharp shimmer. Of the three single B-sides included, “Queen’s Tattoo” is the most intriguing, a twangy, galloping romp that predates Morrissey’s first flirtation with rockabilly, the Smiths’ “Rusholme Ruffians”, by three years. On the other end of the spectrum are the 12” dance mixes of “Walk Out to Winter” and “Oblivious”. As curiosities go, they demonstrate just how pliable Aztec Camera’s riffs and rhythms were; as new-wave floor-fillers, they don’t hold a candle to any given album track by, say, Spandau Ballet. The handful of live radio sessions, on the other hand, capture a barely-legal Frame at his immaculate, brassy best.
¶   Following the success of High Land, Frame had to grow up quickly. He did so, but always in a good way. For the rest of the 80s, Aztec Camera became a more calculated concern, with a rotating cast of session musicians that would include everyone from members of Dire Straits to — perhaps inevitably — a future (if fleeting) guitarist of the Smiths, Craig Gannon. By 1986, the Postcard-inspired C86 movement was splitting the difference between Aztec Camera and the buzzsaw punks that preceded them. Frame responded by removing his own guitar almost entirely from the equation with Aztec Camera’s biggest hit, 1988’s “Somewhere in My Heart.” Despite a back-to-basics rally in the 90s, Aztec Camera folded in 1995; Frame, now fifty, still enjoys a respectable solo career. High Land is not only his first statement of intent as a songwriter, it’s his most innovative, his most influential, and his most timelessly vivid. Peaking early can be bittersweet, but the album is all the better for it. Fortaken: http://pitchfork.com/
Also:
¶   Written by Hal Horowitz February 19th, 2014 at 10:41 am
Score: 4 out of 5 stars
:: http://www.americansongwriter.com/2014/02/aztec-camera-high-land-hard-rain/
Discography:
Studio albums:
¶   High Land, Hard Rain (1983) — UK Albums Chart #22, #154 US Billboard 200
¶   Knife (1984) — UK #14, Sweden #29, #188 US
¶   Love (1987) — UK #10, #193 US
¶   Stray (1990) — UK #22, Sweden #50
¶   Dreamland (1993) — UK #21
¶   Frestonia (1995) — UK #100
Compilations:
¶   In and Out of Fashion (1980) — Pungent Records cassette compilation
¶   New Live and Rare (1988)
¶   Red, Hot & Blue (1990)
"Best of" compilations:
¶   The Best of Aztec Camera (1999)UK Albums Chart #36
¶   Deep and Wide and Tall (2005)
¶   Walk Out to Winter: The Best of Aztec Camera (2011)
EPs:
¶   Aztec Camera (1985) — a 10" US-only release (was also available in Australia) featuring a cover of the Van Halen song, "Jump", plus four tracks that were recorded live at the Dominion Theatre in October 1984.
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Aztec Camera  — High Land, Hard Rain (2cd, 2014)

 

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