Gary Steel is slowly compiling all his album reviews in one place. This is a work in progress, or what we call a “live document”. Today is the letter ‘H’.
Nina Hagen – Unbehagen (CBS)
German chanteuse Nina Hagen and her band’s Unbehagen makes for simultaneously stimulating sensory overload and very occasionally irritating listening. 7/10
Disco, even in its waning days, is attracting many formerly credible rock and jazz artists. Pianist Herbie Hancock has a fine jazz pedigree – including stints with the legendary Miles Davis – but his latest album, Feats Don’t Fail Me Now, is disco-drek of the worst kind.
Not only has he filched the title from a Little Feat album, but the music is mechanical, soulless and very boring. Hancock has created a new genre: cocktail disco. It’s not good dancing music.
Only ‘Trust Me’, a beautiful slinky ballad on which he utilises the vocoder (synthesised vocals) recalling 1978’s Sunlight album, is worth lending your ears to. 5/10
This is the perfect companion piece to Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades album. Hawkwind has not changed dramatically since Motorhead’s Lemmy left in the mid-‘70s. In fact, despite numerous personnel changes and a temporary name change to the Hawklords, its music has altered direction little in the 10 years since the classic In Search Of Space.
Its music here, as always, is constructed around simple, heavy riffs. The dressing for these riffs is not the standard staccato, machinegun-type guitar fire one expects from heavy bands. It is, instead, clean guitar solos and squiggly, spacey synthesiser effects.
The sound is far from monotone, what with shadings and shiftings of flow and texture in songs such as ‘5th Second Of Forever’. It is pomp rock-reminiscent hammed up to the hilt. It is larger than life and grandiloquently lush. It is indulgent and irrelevant to the drift of modern music, but an enjoyable diversion.
As with any fiction, one has to suspend one’s cynicism and worldly disbelief in order to enjoy fully. But that is a necessary subconscious process in appreciation of anything larger than life – from King Kong to Lord Of The Rings.
Mention of the new lineup is obligatory. Founder-member Dave Brock sings and dabbles with guitar and synthesiser. Former Cream drummer Ginger Baker joins the band for the first time. Abstractionist Tim Blake operates synthesiser. Huw Lloyd-Langton and Harvey Bainbridge contribute guitar and bass guitar respectively.
Old hippies Hawkwind may well be, but this album seems to herald a revival, however unwelcome it may be to some. 6/10
Heatwave – Hot Property (GTO)
Slick, smooth, forgettable disco. Nothing here up to the standard of ‘Boogie Nights’. 5/10
Light Of The Pacific is without a doubt one of the best New Zealand albums ever. That statement came easily, but I wouldn’t write it if I didn’t mean it. Too often in concert, Herbs find it necessary to emulate – gratuitous Santana-cum-Hendrix guitar solos and an ambience more fitting Maoris On 45 Kulture Cheepnis than the true Pacific identity their blurb would suggest Herbs are forging. That said, this, their second LP, makes me think my misgivings misguided indeed. It has been a long time in the coming, and worth the wait. Five of the seven songs are differing degrees and shades of reggae. Everyone must have heard ‘French Letter’ by now, but not the extended version found here. Likewise ‘Jah’s Son’. While as singles somehow unimpressive, these songs sound fine in album format. ‘Them’s The Breaks’ is the finest piece of reggae on offer, both for its genuinely plaintive qualities and its message. Two very different tracks are the worst and best offerings respectively. ‘Metel’ can be gleaned as little more than fun – a cruisy amalgam of Pacific sounds. The title track is surely the most stunning thing here. Its seven-odd minutes span two very distinct pieces: a calm ballad which would make a great national anthem and a slow funk/soul groove that takes Herbs places I wish they (and other NZ groups) would travel more often. Credit here also goes to the backing cast, especially Corina Fleming’s singing and Gerard Carr’s drum programming. Great sounding, good songs, and somehow very satisfying. That’s Light Of The Pacific. 7/10
Holly Vincent and her ‘Italians’ come from Los Angeles and base themselves in Britain. Their first LP is a modern pop concoction: slight, cheap and lively.
Holly’s fondness for 1960s girl groups is evident in both the songs and her vocals. This aspect of the group is endearing. Listen to ‘Just For Tonight’. Guitar overkill and a careless pressing detract from the fun, but the updated energetic, electric rush here-in compensates.
Much of this material is eminently suitable for radio play, which is its proper environment. It is also great party fodder. But on the home stereo system, songs like ‘Baby Gets It All’, ‘Youth Coup’ and ‘Tell That Girl To Shut Up’ (a hit in Britain) tend to sound too similar.
‘Just Young’ is a pleasantly soulful departure, with Holly coming down with a fit of Chrissie Hynde-itis, and ‘Miles Away’ is pleasing pop dramatics ala Bruce Springsteen in a light moment.
Are Holly & The Italians disposable? In a word, yes. But they are a lot of fun and the cover is definitely worth a peek-a-boo. 6/10
Willie Hona – She Needs You/Rocking Down (WEA 7” 45)
Ex-Herbs man Hona’s attempt at the AM airwaves is a big bad ballad which, though it avoids the vile macho swagger of a Humperdink, equally misses the mark by falling short of Tui Teka in the style and gumption stakes. B-side ‘Rocking Down’ almost sounds like country-rock, but the Charlie Rich of Kiwi Krap Hona is not.
December 1982/IT Magazine
Seven tracks by this year’s Rodents, Wellington’s own soul congregation. Not bad, not bad at all if you’re into loping easy sunny Sunday arvo music. But well, heck, it reminds me so much of another Quincy Conserve, but without the jazz, and so much of it drifts along nicely going nowhere. If I was in a bad mood I might describe this as pub fodder. Enjoyable. 5/10