Saturday, March 28, 2015

Art Pepper: “Neon Art: Volume Three” (2015) CD Review

After seriously digging the first two volumes of jazz saxophonist Art Pepper’s Neon Art series, I was so excited to pop in the disc of the third (and final) volume. And I was not disappointed. Like the first two volumes, the tracks from this CD were recorded live in 1981. And like the second volume, these tracks are from his November tour of Japan, and feature George Cables on piano, David Williams on bass and Carl Burnett on drums.

Neon Art: Volume Three kicks off with a nice, long (just under twenty-five minutes) version of “Make A List (Make A Wish).” It begins with a cool, easy groove on bass and drums, with some thoughts by Art Pepper on alto saxophone. And almost immediately it feels like it’s going to fade out, like we’re catching the end of the tune, which is so interesting. But of course it’s only just beginning, taking its time, pacing itself, easing into things, setting a great mood. And there are some nice early moments with Art and George Cables working together beautifully. Things start building in intensity around the six-minute mark, with Art getting loose, and the band really getting into the groove. And then, watch out! Art might edge toward chaos at a few moments, but never lets things become too messy. He pulls back to that groove. It’s that wonderful groove and mood which are never allowed to be destroyed. And I love George Cables’ lead spot on piano. It’s sweet, almost tentative at first, like he just wants to play around a bit in this world, but not take it over. But then he does drive the band for a while, taking them further in, if not farther out. Eventually that eases into a lead spot by David Williams on bass, and then a drum solo by Carl Burnett. This track was recorded on November 13, 1981, the same date that gave us the gorgeous rendition of “Over The Rainbow” that was included on Volume Two.

It’s followed by “Everything Happens To Me,” a standard written by Thomas Adaire and Matt Dennis. The version here was recorded on November 14, 1981, and it is wonderfully and perfectly sad and contemplative, particularly Art’s work on saxophone. It’s so beautiful. Put this one on late at night when you’re alone and you may find yourself in tears, and you will likely find yourself enjoying those tears.

The CD concludes with “Arthur’s Blues,” which was recorded on November 19, 1981, the same night that gave us “Mambo Koyama” from Neon Art: Volume Two. You can hear the audience get excited the moment the band starts this tune, and it won’t take long before you understand just why. This track is so sweet, so good, with everything working just right. You know the blues are working well when they make you feel good, and this track will have you swaying and casting off any cares. A tune to put things into perspective, or one to make you forget all that entirely and let you just be. I absolutely love what Art Pepper does on this track. And then George Cables nearly tops him with his lead spot on piano, while the rest of the band gently swings beneath him. It’s fantastic. This is my favorite track, and it makes me wish there were a Neon Art: Volume Four to look forward to.

CD Track List
  1. Make A List (Make A Wish)
  2. Everything Happens To Me
  3. Arthur’s Blues 
Neon Art: Volume Three is scheduled to be released on CD on April 7, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings.

You can also read my reviews of Neon Art: Volume One and Neon Art: Volume Two.

Dion: “Recorded Live At The Bitter End August 1971” (2015) CD Review

Dion DiMucci’s career is so interesting. He started with Dion And The Belmonts in the late 1950s, with hits like “Teenager In Love” and “I Wonder Why.” Then as a solo artist in the early 1960s, he had a string of giant rock and roll hits – songs like “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer.” And then the late 1960s saw a big change in his sound and material, and he had a hit with “Abraham, Martin And John,” which had more of a folk feel. In 1971, when the tracks on Recorded Live At The Bitter End August 1971 were recorded, he had dipped into the blues, while also continuing in the folk realm. He did a residency at The Bitter End, performing solo with an acoustic guitar, and a few tracks from those dates were included on his album Sanctuary. Now this new live album, put out by Omnivore Recordings, includes seventeen tracks, giving us a great feel for what Dion was doing at that time, and what his live performances were like. These tracks include some original material, as well as covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and The Beatles. The CD includes liner notes by Dean Rudland, with material taken from an interview with Dion DiMucci conducted in November of 2014.

The CD opens with a Dylan cover, “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind.” Dion's vocal delivery is earnest and passionate. He follows that with “Brand New Morning,” an original tune which was included as the flip side to his single of “Sanctuary.” This song is quite short – he even says so at the end of it – but his vocal delivery has so much power and emotion that it is for me one of the highlights of the disc. There is not a whole lot of stage banter on these tracks, but at the beginning of “Too Much Monkey Business” he talks a bit of his experience as a rock and roll artist and a bit about Chuck Berry. And he jokes, “I usually do choreography with this tune, you know.” He stresses the blues aspects of this song, pulling back from the rock and roll of the original.

He also does a couple of excellent blues covers – Sam Hopkins’ “You Better Watch Yourself” (with the line, “You better stop drinking that wine, Sonny Boy”) and then Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Don’t Start Me Talking.” He does such a great job with the blues.

And of course he performs “Abraham, Martin And John” (joking as he starts it, “It was in tune when I bought it” – I wonder who first used that line), and the audience applauds once they recognize the song. It’s a really nice version, and he includes a little nod to “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” before the Martin verse. “Abraham, Martin And John” was written by Dick Holler, who also co-wrote “Sanctuary” with Don Burnham.

He does a fairly good rendition of The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” though I’m not sure about his whistling at the end. (Around the time of this recording, he also recorded a cover of “Let It Be.”) I have mixed feelings about his cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters Of Mercy,” but that might be because that is one of my favorite songs, and some of the slight pauses throw me. He doesn’t repeat the song’s final line, “We weren’t lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.” And then he says, “Sure” at the close, which I don’t like, for it’s like he’s commenting on the song.

“Your Own Back Yard” is an original song that has a very personal feel, being about troubles with drugs and excessive drinking, with lines like “I lost everything near and dear to me” and “My idea of having a good time/Was sitting with my head between my knees.” In the CD’s liner notes Dion talks a bit about getting sober in 1968. This song was released as a single in 1970. He does several other original tunes, including “Sunshine Lady,” which features a humorous introduction (“I really got into this tune, I was singing it, man, for god-knows-how long… this is the short version”). It’s a totally delightful song. I’m also fond of “Sunniland,” which was released as a single, and “Harmony Sound.”

And if you were wondering, the answer is yes, he does a couple of his early rock and roll numbers: “The Wanderer” and “Ruby Baby.” In his introduction to “The Wanderer,” Dion says, “It's not to be taken too seriously.” This is a cool, slow, bluesy rendition. “Ruby Baby” already had a blues thing at its base, and so this blues version is close to the original, and Dion is clearly having fun with it.

CD Track List
  1. Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind
  2. Brand New Morning
  3. Too Much Monkey Business
  4. Abraham, Martin And John
  5. One Too Many Mornings
  6. Blackbird
  7. Sisters Of Mercy
  8. Your Own Back Yard
  9. You Better Watch Yourself aka Drinkin’ That Wine
  10. Don’t Start Me Talking
  11. Sunshine Lady
  12. Sunniland
  13. Sanctuary
  14. Willigo
  15. The Wanderer
  16. Ruby Baby
  17. Harmony Sound 
Recorded Live At The Bitter End August 1971 is scheduled to be released on April 7, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bread: “The Best Of Bread (Hybrid Multichannel SACD)” (2015) CD Review

The Best Of Bread is one of those greatest hits albums that everyone should have in his or her music collection (you know, along with Abba’s Gold and Bob Marley’s Legend). Originally released in 1973, it includes such hits as “Make It With You” and “Baby I’m A-Want You.” And earlier this month it received a special multichannel SACD release. This limited, numbered edition sounds excellent. By the way, I haven’t been able to discover just how many of this limited, numbered edition were actually made, though my number is 1014, so there are at least that many.

Bread is known for its 1970s soft rock hits, mostly written by band member David Gates. The Best Of Bread opens with “Make It With You,” which was the group’s first top-ten hit, released as a single in 1970 and reaching the #1 spot in the summer of that year. If you’re having trouble recalling the song for some reason, here is a taste of the lyrics to remind you: “Life can be short or long/Love can be right or wrong/And if I chose the one I’d like to help me through/I’d like to make it with you.”

It’s a good song, but I much prefer the album’s second track, “Everything I Own.” This is a sweet and beautiful tune, with lines like “The finest years I ever knew/Were all the years I had with you/And I would give anything I own/Give up my life, my heart, my home/I would give everything I own/Just to have you back again.” This is one of those songs that finds you in tears in your weaker moments. Boy George covered this one, giving it a happier, sort of reggae vibe, which completely changes the tone. Olivia Newton-John also covered it, her version remaining truer to the original.

“Baby I’m-A Want You” was another big hit for Bread, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1971. If you’ve listened to the radio, you’ve heard this song. You’ve also probably heard it in several films and television shows. But in case you haven’t, here are the opening lyrics: “Baby I'm-a want you/Baby I'm-a need you/You're the only one I care enough to hurt about/Maybe I'm-a crazy/But I just can't live without/your lovin' and affection.”  “If” likewise has been used in films and television programs, and is another beautiful song, this one reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. This one was also covered by Olivia Newton-John, as well as by Frank Sinatra, Dolly Parton and Petula Clark. “If a picture paints a thousand words/Then why can’t I paint you/The words will never show/The you I’ve come to know.”

If you’ve only heard Bread’s mellow tunes, then a song like “Mother Freedom” will come as a surprise. This is more of a rock tune, with some really nice work on electric guitar. It kicked off the band’s 1972 record Baby I’m-A Want You, and opened the second side of The Best Of Bread. It wasn’t as successful as the band’s mellower material, reaching only #37 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Down On My Knees,” from that same album, is another more energetic tune, this one co-written by David Gates and James Griffin. “Let Your Love Go” is also more of a rock tune, and was released as a single in early 1971, and also kicked off their 1971 LP, Manna.

One of my favorites is “Too Much Love,” which has more of a folk and country flavor, which I really like. This is one of the few tracks not written or co-written by David Gates. It was written by James Griffin and Robb Royer. This compilation ends with another Griffin/Royer tune, “Truckin’,” a good song that includes a harmonica part.

CD Track List
  1. Make It With You
  2. Everything I Own
  3. Diary
  4. Baby I’m-A Want You
  5. It Don’t Matter To Me
  6. If
  7. Mother Freedom
  8. Down On My Knees
  9. Too Much Love
  10. Let Your Love Go
  11. Look What You’ve Done
  12. Truckin’
This special limited edition of The Best Of Bread was released on March 10, 2015 through Audio Fidelity. 

Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin: “Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play And Sing The Songs Of Big Bill Broonzy” (2014) CD Review

In the liner notes to Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play And Sing The Songs Of Big Bill Broonzy, Dave Alvin talks about how he and his brother Phil got their first Big Bill Broonzy record when they were in their early teens. Big Bill Broonzy was a blues singer, songwriter and guitarist who also dipped into folk and country. He performed from the late 1920s until his death in the late 1950s. Big Bill Broonzy’s music is a life-long passion for these brothers, and you can hear it on every track of this CD, their love for this music. Which is great, because I love this music too. And it’s hard to imagine someone not enjoying this disc. These tracks are so damn good, and this music is designed to get you smiling, get you moving, get you feeling that life, after all, is pretty good. I had the privilege of seeing Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin perform several of these songs in concert last year, and it was one of the best shows I attended. They performed without a backing band, but on this disc they are joined by Gene Taylor on piano, Bob Glaub on bass, Brad Fordham on bass, Don Heffington on drums, and Lisa Pankratz on drums.

The album opens with “All By Myself” (which was the song they opened with when I saw them in concert). This is one Big Bill Broonzy released as a single in the early 1940s, and it’s a seriously fun tune. This rendition by Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin certainly embodies that fun vibe, with both Dave and Phil providing vocals. “I didn’t have no one to help me/I had to do it all by myself.” Of course, they’re tackling this one together, and so it has a really bright feel to it. Plus, there’s an excellent instrumental section. They follow that with “I Feel So Good,” another song that Big Bill Broonzy released in 1941. This version by Dave and Phil has a little more rock to it, a little more swing, and I love what Gene Taylor does on piano. Phil takes lead vocal duties on this one, and Dave provides a very cool electric guitar lead part during the instrumental section. “Tomorrow” also has a delightful country swing groove to it, and features more wonderful work by Gene Taylor on keys.

Things get much bluesier on “Southern Flood Blues,” a song which features Dave on electric guitar and Phil on harmonica. Dave’s lead vocals have a kind of sexy, smooth feel at first, quite a bit different from Big Bill Broonzy’s delivery. “Big Bill Blues” is one of my favorite tracks on this CD. Phil’s vocal delivery is just bloody perfect, and the song has a great vibe, a supreme example of how blues you can you feel so good. “I got up this morning, feeling sad and blue/I lost my baby, now tell me what am I going to do/That’s why I am so lonesome, the way these blues keep dogging me/Yeah, but that’s all right, I will overcome someday.”

“Key To The Highway” is another favorite, and one I saw them play in concert. This one features some more nice work by Phil on harmonica, and vocals by both brothers. Leaving never sounded so good as it does here. This is one to put on your road trip mix CDs. “I’m going to leave here running ‘cause walking is most too slow/I’m going down to the border, down where I’m better known.” And I love the way Dave delivers the line, “So come here, sweet mama, and help me with this heavy load,” deep and low and serious. “Stuff They Call Money” is also a hell of a lot of fun, and features both Dave and Phil on vocals. They are clearly enjoying themselves here.

This excellent album concludes with “Saturday Night Rub,” the CD’s only instrumental track, a joyous, fun number that will likely have you deciding to replay the entire album right away. Yes, it's that good.

CD Track List
  1. All By Myself
  2. I Feel So Good
  3. How You Want It Done?
  4. Southern Flood Blues
  5. Big Bill Blues
  6. Key To The Highway
  7. Tomorrow
  8. Just A Dream
  9. You’ve Changed
  10. Stuff They Call Money
  11. Truckin’ Little Woman
  12. Saturday Night Rub
Common Ground: Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Play And Sing The Songs Of Big Bill Broonzy was released on June 3, 2014 on Yep Roc Records.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band: “Low Ridin’” (2015) CD Review

Jazz musicians have always done interesting covers of more mainstream material, making us look at pop songs from a different perspective and perhaps focusing on different aspects of the compositions. The new CD from Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band, Low Ridin’, finds the group covering some very familiar and beloved rock tunes from the 1960s and 1970s, including material by The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and Lou Reed. It also includes one original tune, written by saxophone player Ole Mathisen. SYOTOS is a Latin jazz band, based in New York, that formed in 1992. SYOTOS, by the way, stands for “See You On The Other Side.” That feels especially apt for this album, as they’re taking us to the other – or at least an other – side of these familiar songs, including “Break On Through (To The Other Side).”

The album opens with a joyful rendition of “Feelin’ Alright,” a song written by Dave Mason and originally recorded by Traffic, but more well known as done by Joe Cocker. This rendition begins with the brass in full control, even as that great rhythm comes in. It features some excellent work on trumpet. The band follows that with War’s “Low Rider.” I’ve always thought this tune was pretty damn cool, but it’s only recently that I’ve heard bands finding different ways of tackling it. Dreaming Bull does a pretty wild cover of this song at their concerts. And this rendition by Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band finds places to groove and swing, and I especially love the keyboard section. Fantastic! A definite highlight of this album.

Perhaps one of the most interesting tracks is the band’s take on Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven.” They explore some darker territory here, and you feel that something could spring out of the song at certain moments and pounce on you. That tone then changes partway through, just as Led Zeppelin’s original went through various sections. What also makes this an unusual track is the mixing in of Duke Ellington’s “Heaven.” This version is quite a bit shorter than the original. They also cover Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”

Also interesting is the band’s rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.” The piano part feels to me like it could at any moment go into Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus And Lucy,” something that never popped into mind while listening to a Jimi Hendrix record. And then partway through, this version takes on a very different and surprising feel. What a great vibe!

I’m also quite fond of their version of “Walk On The Wild Side,” though of course I do miss Lou Reed’s voice and lyrics. There is something kind of pretty and sweet about this rendition, and I like the percussion. It’s the percussion of The Doors’ “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” that makes that song totally work for this sort of venture. That rhythm has a built-in Latin jazz feel, and Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band do some interesting things with this tune. I really like the direction they take this one. They also take Neil Young's “Sugar Mountain” in unexpected directions, and really groove on it.

The album’s final track, “Syotomon,” is the only original composition, written by Ole Mathisen, and it's a great ride in itself, opening with a driving rhythm before relaxing a bit into a good Latin rhythm. But it continually returns to that driving, somewhat anxious section, and the energy from those brief sections is carried over into the solos. This, for me, is one of the CD's highlights.

CD Track List
  1. Feelin’ Alright
  2. Low Rider
  3. Get Up, Stand Up
  4. Stairway To Heaven/Heaven
  5. Manic Depression
  6. Ohio
  7. Walk On The Wild Side
  8. Break On Through (To The Other Side)
  9. Kashmir
  10. Sugar Mountain
  11. Syotomon 
Musicians

Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band includes Chris Washburne on trombone and tuba, John Walsh on trumpet and flugelhorn, Ole Mathisen on saxophone, Yeissonn Villamar on piano and keyboards, Leo Traversa on bass, Vince Cherico on drums and percussion, Oreste Abrantes on percussion, Roberto Quintero on percussion, Isa Washburne on percussion, and August Washburne on electric guitar.

Low Ridin’ is scheduled to be released on April 14, 2015 through Zoho Music.

Roger Taylor: “Strange Frontier” (1984/2015) CD Review

Omnivore Recordings is re-issuing the first two solo albums by Queen drummer Roger Taylor, with bonus tracks. Strange Frontier, his second album, was originally released in 1984, just after Queen’s The Works, an album that included the hit “Radio Ga Ga,” which Roger Taylor wrote. It was clearly a creative period for him. Roger Taylor plays most of the instruments on this album, as on his first release, Fun In Space. But on this one he does get a bit of help from his fellow Queen bandmates, with Freddie Mercury providing some vocals on “Killing Time.” And unlike his first album, this one features a couple of cover tunes. This re-issue includes liner notes by Greg Brooks (along with a short note from Roger Taylor), and the song lyrics.

The album kicks off with its title track, one of its strongest songs and one included on last year’s compilation Best. I love his vocal approach to this song, beginning with a softer, more intimate tone as he sings, “We’re off the tracks/We’re off the lines/You and me seen better times/Now we’re on the borderline/And I wish I wasn’t here.” The song then bursts open, and his voice takes on more passion on the lines, “Freedom fighters/Come and go/Bloody - righteous/And mentally slow.” This song is still quite powerful, and it really raises the spectre of those awful Reagan years when we were all taught to be afraid.

It’s followed by the surprisingly pretty “Beautiful Dreams,” a song also included on Best. This one at first feels almost like a lullaby, or a wistful look back to childhood, but then takes some interesting turns, mentioning “chemical dreams” and then “Colourful dreams we have at night/Nuclear purity/This is the final twilight.”

“Abandonfire” has more of a pop dance feel, yet just as you’re starting to dance around, the lyrics give you pause: “Abandon hope who enter here/Land of hopelessness and fear/A band of gypsies, a band of gold/Won’t save your hide, won’t save your soul.” Certain songs of the 1980s did this so well – making your body move while hitting with you some pretty serious lyrics.

Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan

Roger Taylor does two covers on Strange Frontier, the first being Bruce Springsteen’s “Racing In The Street,” a song originally included on his 1978 record Darkness On The Edge Of Town. It might seem like an odd choice, but it fits with the general mood of this album, with lines like “But now there’s wrinkles ‘round my baby’s eyes/And she cries herself to sleep at night/When I come home, the house is dark.”

The second cover is Bob Dylan’s “Masters Of War,” from his The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Considering the time Strange Frontier was recorded, and what was happening, this cover is less surprising, and completely apt. But what is surprising is what Roger Taylor does with this song. He takes a folk song of anger (with none-too-subtle lyrics: “And I hope that you die/And your death will come soon”), and creates a haunting electronic atmosphere that is kind of frightening.

Bonus Tracks

This special re-issue includes five bonus tracks. The first is an extended version of “Man On Fire,” which was originally released on a promotional record in 1984. It opens with a percussion section that I totally dig, and the song slowly but surely builds from there. It’s nearly two minutes before the vocals come in. That longer introduction really helps, and I actually prefer this version.

The bonus tracks include two versions of “I Cry For You,” the first being the single remix from the British single. The second is an extended remix, which was released on a 12” UK single in 1984. The other two bonus tracks – an extended remix of “Strange Frontier” and “Two Sharp Pencils (Get Bad)” – are also from that same 12” release. The extended remix of “Strange Frontier” is the longest track on this CD, coming in at nearly nine minutes, and it includes a drum solo near the beginning. “Two Sharp Pencils (Get Bad)” is an odd and kind of delightful pop song. Check out these lyrics: “Got stung on the knee by a wasp/When asked if it hurt, said no not a bit/He can do it again if he wants to.”

CD Track List
  1. Strange Frontier
  2. Beautiful Dreams
  3. Man On Fire
  4. Racing In The Street
  5. Masters Of War
  6. Killing Time
  7. Abandonfire
  8. Young Love
  9. It’s An Illusion
  10. I Cry For You (Love, Hope And Confusion)
  11. Man On Fire (extended version)
  12. I Cry For You (single remix)
  13. Strange Frontier (extended remix)
  14. I Cry For You (extended remix)
  15. Two Sharp Pencils (Get Bad) 
This special re-issue of Strange Frontier was released on CD on March 24, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings. This album will also be released on red vinyl.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Roger Taylor: “Fun In Space” (1981/2015) CD Review

In October of last year, Omnivore Recordings released Roger Taylor’s Best, a collection of music from Queen drummer Roger Taylor’s solo efforts. Now his first two solo albums are being re-issued with bonus tracks. Fun In Space, his first solo album, originally released in 1981 when Queen was at the height of its success, features such excellent material as “Let’s Get Crazy” and “My Country.” On this album, Roger Taylor performed all the vocals and played all the instruments (the only exception being that he got some help from David Richards on keyboards). This special re-issue, which was produced by Roger Taylor and Cheryl Pawelski, includes liner notes by Greg Brooks and song lyrics.

Fun In Space opens with “No Violins,” an odd yet fun rock tune that steps outside of the current weirdness to look back at the old weirdness: “Remember when you were angry/About every cause to be had/We weren’t all bad.” But it’s the following lines that really work for me, and make the song interesting: “I’m not talkin’ ‘bout security complex/I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout some monochrome duplex/I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout some new kinda weird sex/I’m just talkin’ ‘bout you and me/The way we used to be.”

Roger Taylor follows that with “Laugh Or Cry,” a kind of sweet and unusual love song, which I bet would work equally well as an acoustic folk song. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “But baby you make me laugh/And baby you make me cry/I don’t mind either way/Now I don’t care why/You just gotta laugh, or cry/Right ‘til the day you die.” There is a short but surprising drum bridge a couple of minutes into the song.

“Future Management (You Don’t Need Nobody Else)” is one of the tracks from this album that was included on last year’s Best. I really like the groove, and also the drive behind Roger Taylor’s vocals. This is a song that I appreciate more and more. The following track, “Let’s Get Crazy,” was also included on Best, and is one of my favorites. It’s just so much damn fun. “Let’s get crazy, let’s get wild tonight.” Hey, that’s all the encouragement I need. And then there’s that cool drum solo to help get us all pumped up. The other track from this album to be included on Best is “Magic Is Loose,” a grand and glorious song that should appeal to Queen fans.

“My Country I & II” is for me one of the best and most interesting tracks on the album. There is a lot going on here. On one level, it works as a simple personal political statement, with lines like “I would not fight for my country” and “Don’t wanna die for some old man’s crusade.” (Remember, this was the early 1980s, a very ugly time politically.) But there is something empowering in the music and rhythm of this song. I absolutely love the percussion. And Roger’s vocals at times have the power of Freddie Mercury’s, as when he sings, “Don’t wanna cry for somebody else’s need.” And I like the line, “Don’t have no part of no partisans.” I could live without the false ending, however.

The album concludes with its title track, “Fun In Space,” a song that opens with a heartbeat and references to science fictions novels. Its first lines are “Strangers in a strange land/In an alien heat.” Stranger In A Strange Land is a famous novel by Robert A. Heinlein, originally published in the early 1960s, while An Alien Heat is the first book of a science fiction trilogy by Michael Moorcock published in the 1970s. And the song certainly has a science fiction vibe to it, and tells us it will be “Stranger than fiction.”

Bonus Tracks

This special re-issue includes three bonus tracks, including “I Wanna Testify,” which was released as a single in 1977 and also included on Best. It’s a seriously fun tune, and is the only cover song on the CD. Its flip side, “Turn On The TV,” is also included, and it has a great, heavy funky vibe (though in one section it oddly reminds me of some of Led Zeppelin's work - “We go to the place over the hill/Where the grass is greener/Where the life is sweeter/But all the time we know/That it never is”).

The final bonus track is the single version of “My Country,” which is significantly shorter than the album version, but still very cool.

CD Track List
  1. No Violins
  2. Laugh Or Cry
  3. Future Management (You Don’t Need Nobody Else)
  4. Let’s Get Crazy
  5. My Country I & II
  6. Good Times Are Now
  7. Magic Is Loose
  8. Interlude In Constantinople
  9. Airheads
  10. Fun In Space
  11. I Wanna Testify
  12. Turn On The TV
  13. My Country (single version) 
This special re-issue of Fun In Space is scheduled to be released on March 24, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings. This album is also going to be released on clear vinyl (followed by black vinyl).