Monday, May 25, 2009

The Twelve Tasks Of ToffeeBoy #5 - Aztec Camera/Roddy Frame


Here we go again - nearly half way there - we've had our ups and downs and I've taken a few knocks along the road but I'm not giving up now. I remain bloody but unbowed.



Allow me, if I may, to remind you of the original premise of this series of posts; namely, to bring to your attention a number of ensembles or solo artistes who (which?) are heavily represented in the ToffeeBoy music collection but are notably under-represented on the RR A-list. The aim was to rectify this situation by bringing the artistes in question to your collective attention

To illustrate the point and at the same time to remind you of the acts selected so far, here's a list of those featured in Tasks 1-4 - the number in brackets being the number of times each act has appeared in the A-list so far:

1. Microdisney (0)
2. Everything But The Girl (2)
3. Coldplay (1)
4. Steely Dan (2)

Two of the five collective appearances have occurred in the past six months although I can't claim the credit for any of them but perhaps I'm getting somewhere with this!

For the fifth task, I've chosen Aztec Camera and I've allowed myself a little latitude by including Roddy Frame's post-1996 solo work - with the possible exception of the first two Aztec Camera albums, Aztec Camera was, to all intents and purposes, a Roddy Frame solo project anyway.

Aztec Camera burst onto the Scottish new wave scene in 1980 when Roddy Frame was just sixteen. Their first singles were released on the Postcard label in 1981 and two years later (now on Rough Trade) they released their debut album High Land, Hard Rain to huge critical acclaim - and a fair degree of commercial success. I've included three tracks from this album together with a fourth (the beautiful Orchid Girl) which appeared as a bonus track on the CD version.

After the success of High Land, Hard Rain, Aztec Camera were courted by a number of major labels and eventually signed for WEA, for whom they released a further five albums. I don't think too many would disagree with me if I said that the quality of the albums steadily decreased - in fact I don't even own the fifth WEA album, nor for that matter, the first of the solo albums so there's actually a nine year gap in the story here.

There are some highlights in this period: notably the UK hit single Somewhere In My Heart which reached number 3 in the Spring of 1988, and the gentle downbeat version of Van Halen's Jump which was released as the B-Side to the single All I Need Is Everything - and let's not forget Good Morning Britain - the heavily politicised duet with Mick Jones of The Clash.

The second solo album saw a dramatic change of direction - Surf is a largely acoustic set and it's undeniably a return to songwriting form. It features the track Small World which was used as the theme tune in the brilliant UK sitcom Early Doors. This is Roddy back to his very best - over twenty years on. A genuine musical coming of age if ever there was one.

The most recent solo album Western Skies was released in 2006, with two live albums bringing us almost up to date.

I always like to recommend an album but I'm going to break with tradition here and recommend two: High Land, Hard Rain and Surf.

Hope you enjoy the music - let me know what you think.A few links:
Wikipedia - Aztec Camera
Wikipedia - Roddy Frame
Fan site
Official site
Roddy's MySpace page

13 comments:

Abahachi said...

Apart from the fact that I thought Jump was a grotesque travesty, no disagreement about this one...

ToffeeBoy said...

OK, it seems like I need to be a tad more controversial if I want y'all to pass comment on my latest effort. So here goes ...

Roddy Frame is without doubt the greatest jazz saxophonist ever to have walked this earth ...

He is also the greatest writer of speculative fiction ever to put pen to paper - the least of his works makes Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five look like a Mills & Boon romance.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ Abahachi - I remember reading a quote from Roddy Frame after he recorded Jump - he said something about having wanted to see if he could make a half decent song out of what he considered to be cock rock of the very worst type - he felt he had failed ...

Abahachi said...

Whereas I regard Van Halen as a great pop-rock band, and consider it a travesty that they haven't ever featured in RR either. Have to say that the quote doesn't do Mr Frame any favours; there are far more extreme cock-rock numbers in the Van Halen oevure, and very many bands that merit that dismissive attitude more than they do. It does suggest that his idea of proper music is depressingly narrow.

ToffeeBoy said...

Which just goes to show ... one man's mustard and all that. Which I suppose is why we're all here.

DarceysDad said...

Toffee - you know how people sometimes say a person "has one of those faces you just wanna punch"? Well I'm afraid RF has one of those voices that raise my hackles in that way. AzCam's output always grated as far too ... cleverer-than-thou smug, I suppose, back in its day.

Although I'm undoubtedly more open-minded / receptive, and appreciative of 'clever' music now, I still have an issue with the voice.

And (in spite of the fact that I loved VH and hated Jump even on release) the quoted reason for Roddy recording his version is kind of more grist to the mill.

Sorry.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ DsD - fair enough - but the more I find out about what people like and what they don't like, the less I understand about why! I mean, I know that Aztec Camera and, let's say, Shack, have no specific similarities but I think that they can broadly be said to sit in the same ballpark (hmmm, imagery not quite working here). We share a common love for Shack and I would have expected you to have at least a nodding appreciation of Roddy Frame.

Anyway, it matters not, one little jot - I'm just intrigued, that's all ...

DarceysDad said...

I'm not being much help with the "Twelve Tasks Of ...", am I?!

In fact, grumpy spoilin' aal'get would appear to be closer to the mark.

I have no idea why this should be, but apologise nonetheless.

Bedtime now, anyway.

G'night all.

BalearicBeat said...

Well, I'm with you, ToffeeBoy, certainly as far as High Land Hard Rain is concerned, although I don't feel he ever reached the heights of that stunning debut again. It was a joy to see Roddy playing guitar with Edwyn Collins last year.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ DsD - I never expected an easy ride. Me ol' mate Hercules warned me it'd be like this ...

@ BBeat - thanks - I certainly agree that it was downhill all the way from High Land, Hard Rain but I do feel that he hit new heights with Surf. Different heights, and possibly more rounded, thoughtful, grown up heights, but heights nonetheless. [That's enough use of the word 'heights' for now. Ed.]

Shoey said...

Didn't realize this thread was a plot to load up the A-Z with Toffeetunes. As we've said before, there are still so many worthy causes yet to get a sniff at our hall of fame. Awaiting our new moderator with interest - it was nice of him to show up this week to blow some smoke up our collective bottom.

Haven't heard Roddy's more recent stuff - so thanks for sticking it up (even though the most overlooked of the Postcard bands is Josef K).

Japanther said...

Finally got some time at home to listen to this today.

Hmm.....not sure what I thought really. I hadn't heard any of it before (except for "Somewhere In My Heart" which has subsequently been in my head all day!). I didn't mind his voice, and I didn't mind the music and lyrics, the less 80's sounding later tracks were more to my tastes, but I wasn't bowled over.

Once again (as with every Task of Toffeeboy so far) i'm glad I heard it though, thanks!

p.s. that "Jump" cover was atrocious though! Sorry!

ToffeeBoy said...

@ Shoey - you should always read the small print. Terms and conditions apply ...

And donds for Josef K - Malcolm Ross was of course a member of Aztec Camera from 1984 to 1986 (ish).

@ Japanther - thanks for listening and thanks for the feedback. No one has to like this stuff (or even listen to it for that matter). I'm just passing the time ...