Wednesday, February 20, 2013
50 GREAT ALBUMS IN MY 50th YEAR (Part 13)
The Sound of Young Scotland.
Or to be more precise.....the Sound of VERY Young Scotland.
Roddy Frame was born on 29 January 1964. High Land, Hard Rain was released on Rough Trade in April 1983. The maths tell you he was 19 when this masterpiece hit the shops. However, this was more than two years after Just Like Gold b/w We Could Send Letters, the debut Aztec Camera single, had been released on Postcard. Songs that had been written and recorded while the Boy Wonder was 16 years of age...
Have a look around any 15/16 year old kids that you know and consider just how incredible an achievement this was. It was, without any doubt, the work of a child genius.
Many were surprised that Aztec Camera went to another indie-label when Postcard Records imploded. But in many ways, it was the perfect move - where label-mates Orange Juice were lambasted by some for selling-out to the man by signing with Polydor, Aztec Camera managed to retain some street-cred, particularly in the eyes of the writers of the weekly music papers.
The first release on Rough Trade came in the late summer of 1982. Pillar to Post was not dissimilar to the Postcard singles although it boasted a slightly slicker production. January 1983 saw the release of Oblivious which cracked the Top 50 and led to a fresh round of publicity highlighting how the lead-singer and song-writer wasn't old enough to be allowed legal entry into the venues his band were playing.
Each of the four singles had contained b-sides that were just as good as the a-sides, and there was huge anticipation for the debut LP.
Truth be told, it was on first listen a wee bit of a let-down.....but only in as much that some of the material wasn't quite as good as the older stuff. But that's like saying something which gets 9.5 marks out of 10 is something of a let-down......
This was a piece of vinyl that was on very heavy rotation in 1983. And in 1984. And in 1985...at which point this battered and badly scratched copy was claimed by someone else in a messy break-up. How could I argue? She was from East Kilbride, Roddy's home town.....and besides, I could always buy another copy.
Sadly, I never did until I the mid 90s when I bought a CD version. This was on WEA Records to where Roddy had upped sticks within months of the LPs release and as I've written before on this blog, the beginning of a decline in many ways as the major label stripped a lot of the soul and magic from the songs through banal production which has very badly dated. Happy to say though, that many years later I found a second-hand vinyl copy of the Rough Trade LP in a second-hand stall in the Algarve region of Portugal - and yes, it is one specifically for sale in that country...'Editado em Portugal por discos MVM' is says on the back....
Enough of my reminiscing. Let's get to the music.
Side A of High Land Hard Rain is just about as perfect as it gets. If there's to be a grumble it's that the re-recorded version of We Could Send Letters, which is the fifth and final track on the side, is not quite as good as the Postcard version from a couple of years back.
Side B was where I originally thought the LP could have done with the inclusion of something like Mattress of Wire or Just Like Gold....but then again it's likely any re-recordings would have, like Letters, been a bit of a let-down.
Roddy Frame has released many brilliant bits of music over the years, whether in the guise of Aztec Camera or more recently under his own name. But High Land, Hard Rain is his true masterpiece. And quite frankly, every home should have a copy.....
mp3 : Aztec Camera - The Boy Wonders
mp3 : Aztec Camera - The Bugle Sounds Again
mp3 : Aztec Camera - Back on Board/Down The Dip
I've recorded the last two tracks straight from the vinyl so that you get the chance to listen to all seven minutes or so as originally intended. What a way to close an LP......