Japan – In Vogue (Epic 2017 #136)

The Epic 2017 Project #136: 170516

Japan – in Vogue (1996)

Japan formed in 1974 in Catford, South London comprised David Sylvian (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Steve Jansen (drums), Richard Barbieri (keyboards) and Mick Karn (bass guitar). Initially a glam-inspired group, Japan developed their sound and androgynous style to incorporate electronic music and foreign influences, eventually becoming an influence on the UK’s early-1980s New Romantic scene.

They achieved success in the late 1970s and early 1980s, releasing nine UK Top 40 hits, including the 1982 Top 10 hit “Ghosts”, and scoring a UK Top 5 with the live album Oil on Canvas (1983). The band split in 1982, just as they were beginning to experience significant commercial success in the UK and abroad. Its members went on to pursue other musical projects, though they reformed briefly in the early 1990s under the name Rain Tree Crow, releasing an album in 1991.

In Vogue is a post-split compilation drawing on the first two albums (Adolescent Sex & Obscure Alternatives) with a couple of twelve-inchers thrown in for good measure.

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Epic 2017 #135)

The Epic 2017 Project #135: 170515

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

The seventh studio album by Elton John, released in 1973. The album proved to be extremely popular, selling over 30 million copies worldwide, and is regarded as one of his best. It was recorded at the Château d’Hérouville in France after problems recording at the intended location of Jamaica. Among the 17 tracks, the album contains the hits “Candle in the Wind”, “Bennie and the Jets”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” plus “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” and “Harmony”.

Originally intended as a regular single album, the experience in transferring from Jamaica to the château proved to be conducive to producing such quality material that it was released as a double album.

In 2003, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and ranks at number 91 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

JJ72 (Epic 2017 #134)

The Epic 2017 Project #134: 170514

JJ72 (2000)

JJ72 were an alternative rock band from Dublin, Ireland. After forming in 1996, they signed to Lakota Records in 1999, releasing two hit albums before splitting in 2006.

The band was formed by lead singer and songwriter Mark Greaney and drummer Fergal Matthews, while studying at Belvedere College. Greaney grew up in Dublin, where for a time he lived next door to Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy). Matthews originated from County Meath. The name ‘JJ72’ derives from a window at Belvedere College made from 72 jam jars.

After auditioning several bassists they recruited their schoolmate Garvin Smith on bass in 1996. After a few early gigs, Smith left so following recruiting problems for a replacement, Greaney and Matthews entered the studio as a duo in early 1997 to record their first demo. They sent it to local record companies and media but with little response. In 1998 they started university courses, but shortly after starting they decided to concentrate on the band; They played a concert at Behan’s pub in Dublin, backed by a string quartet, and were asked to appear on local television. They then recruited Hilary Woods who, despite having only picked up bass recently, joined as the band’s bassist in January 1999. They recorded a second demo, and targeted the UK, playing several gigs there and getting a write-up in Select magazine This led to interest from the Dublin-based Sony sub-label Lakota Records, who signed JJ72 in mid-1999.

The début single “October Swimmer” was released in November that year, and was named ‘Single of the Week’ by BBC Radio 1 DJ Mark Radcliffe. They were given support slots with The Dandy Warhols and My Vitriol. The band’s first hit though came with “Long Way South” in May 2000, which peaked at number 68 in the UK, and they played at festivals including Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds later that year.

The band released their eponymously titled debut album in Summer 2000. A great critical and commercial success alike, the album has sold in excess of 500,000 copies in their native Ireland and in the United Kingdom, where it reached number 16 on the UK Albums Chart. The album spawned the singles “Snow”, “October Swimmer”, “Long Way South”, and “Oxygen”, and saw the band perform promotional tours in Europe and the US. “Oxygen” gave the band their first top 30 single in the UK giving them a Top of the Pops performance slot.

Following this and, after touring with Coldplay and Embrace, they set out on their own headline tour.They supported Muse on a tour of Europe, headlined the NME Brats tour, and played a few gigs in Japan. But several performances had been cancelled after Greaney lost his voice, and there were further cancellations in 2001 after Matthews was knocked off his motorbike, with Kylie Minogue’s drummer Bob Knight standing in for a few gigs. Matthews recovered in time for the festival season and support slots with U2. The band received an Irish Music Award for ‘Best New Band’ later that year.

Grace Jones – Living my life (Epic 2017 #132)

The Epic 2017 Project #132: 170512

Grace Jones – Living my life (1982)

Living My Life is the sixth studio album by Grace Jones, released in 1982. It was the last of three albums she recorded at the Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas.

Jones had already recorded two reggae-oriented albums with the Compass Point Allstars at the Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, with the most recent, Nightclubbing, becoming her most successful record to date. She went back into the studio in 1982 to record an album which would be her final offering in the unofficial Compass Point trilogy. This time around, Jones recorded only one cover, “The Apple Stretching”, which was originally written by Melvin Van Peebles and used in the Broadway show Waltz of the Stork. “Nipple to the Bottle” was co-written with Sly Dunbar, while, apart from “My Jamaican Guy”, the other tracks were collaborations with Barry Reynolds.

The title track “Living My Life”, despite receiving a limited single release, was ultimately left off the album. Further outtakes included the track “Man Around the House” (written by Jones and Barry Reynolds), and a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”. Both tracks were released on the 1998 compilation Private Life: The Compass Point Sessions.

Elton John – Madman across the water (Epic #131)

The Epic 2017 Project #131: 170511

Elton John – Madman across the water (1971)

This was Elton’s last album to feature his regular touring band (Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson) on only a single song. Later band member, percussionist Ray Cooper, makes his first though. As with allsongs during this period, the lyrics were penned by Elton’s writing partner, Bernie Taupin. This was the last album to be recorded at London’s Trident Studios, although subsequent albums would be remixed or overdubbed there. Caleb Quaye and Roger Pope wouldn’t play with John again until Rock of the Westies in 1975, following Murray and Olsson’s departure from the band.

Madman Across the Water only reached No.41 on the UK Albums Chart, spending just two weeks there, and has been the lowest-charting album of his career to date. The album fared better in North America, peaking at No.8 on the US Billboard Top Pop Albums and placing at No.10 on the year-end list of 1972. It received Gold by the RIAA in February 1972, achieving $1 million in sales at wholesale value just in the United States.

The title song was set to be released on John’s previous album Tumbleweed Connection. However, it was set aside and was re-recorded for this album. The earlier version (with Mick Ronson on guitar) was included on the remastered Tumbleweed Connection CD.

When it was released in ‘The Classic Years’ collection, it was the first album not to feature any bonus tracks. One known track recorded at the time, “Rock Me When He’s Gone”, was released on the 1992 compilation Rare Masters. The song was written for and recorded by one of John’s long-time friends, Long John Baldry. This was John’s first album in which he plays his piano and no other keyboards and the first album on which Davey Johnstone played, a role that would continue for decades, and he contributed acoustic guitar, mandolin and sitar; he would join John’s band full-time for Honky Château.

Madman across the water was Elton’s fourth studio album

Joan as Policewoman – The Deep Field (Epic 2017 #130)

The Epic 2017 Project #130: 170510

Joan as Policewoman – The Deep Field (2011)

Joan as Policewoman is American musician, singer/songwriter and producer Joan Wasser’s stage name. She began her career playing violin with the Dambuilders and played with Black Beetle, Anthony and the Johnsons, and Those Bastard Souls. Since 2004 she has released her solo material as Joan As Policewoman. This includes five studio albums (of which ‘The Deep Field’ is the fourth), one EP, a number of singles and a collection of covers. Throughout her career, she has regularly collaborated with other artists as a writer, performer and arranger.