Verve – A Storm In Heaven (Vernon Yard Recordings)

Artist: The Verve
Genre: Post -rock, Shoegaze, Space Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Brit Pop
Title: A Storm In Heaven (Vernon Yard Recordings)
Label: Hut Records
Musicians: Richard Ashcroft – vocals, bass, guitars, percussion, Nick McCabe – guitars, piano, Peter Salisbury – drums, percussion, Simon Jones – bass, backing vocals,
Additional musicians:Simon Clarke – solo flute, horn arrangements, Kick Horns – trumpets, saxophones, Yvette Lacey – chorus flute, Roddy Lorimer – horn arrangements
Producer: John Leckie
Engineer: John Cornfield
Mix Engineer: John Leckie

The Verve were an English rock band formed in Wigan in 1990 by lead vocalist Richard Ashcroft, guitarist Nick McCabe, bass guitarist Simon Jones and drummer Peter Salisbury. Guitarist and keyboard player Simon Tong became a member at a later date.

Beginning with a psychedelic sound, by the mid-1990s the band had released several EPs and four albums. It also endured name and line-up changes, break-ups, health problems, drug abuse and various lawsuits, you know, the usual stuff. The band’s commercial breakthrough was the 1997 album Urban Hymns, one of the best-selling albums in UK Chart history.  Soon after their commercial peak, the Verve broke up in April 1999, citing internal conflicts. The group’s rise was the culmination of a long, arduous journey that began at the dawn of the decade and went on to encompass a major breakup, multiple lawsuits, and an extensive diet of narcotics”. The band’s original line-up reunited in June 2007, embarking on a tour later that year and releasing the album Forth in August 2008, which spawned the hit single “Love Is Noise”. Amid revived tensions, the band broke up for the second time in 2009.

1993’s A Storm in Heaven was the band’s full-length debut, produced by record producer John Leckie (of Simple Minds, Radiohead, The Stone Roses, XTC and The Fall fame). During this period the band played a number of gigs with Oasis who, at the time, were relatively unknown. The band then played on the travelling U.S. alternative rock festival, Lollapalooza, in the summer of 1994. The tour became notorious for the events of 11 July – Ashcroft was hospitalised for dehydration after a massive session of drinking and Salisbury was arrested for destroying a hotel room in Kansas in a drug-fuelled delirium. However, the band were performing again the very next day. Ashcroft later recalled: “At the start, it was an adventure, but America nearly killed us.”
You can read more here:

A Storm in Heaven originated during the band’s four-week stay outside of Llandudno, Wales. According to producer John Leckie, the band worked until “4 a.m. every night…they were quite a nocturnal band…they didn’t get much sleep. They smoked a lot of dope.” Drummer Pete Salisbury’s percussion was inspired by Dr. John, the Night Tripper’s Gris-Gris album, while the brass section from the Kick Horns on “The Sun, The Sea” and “Butterfly” was influenced by Fun House (The Stooges album). Like the band’s prior EPs and singles, most of the songs on this album are bathed in heavy layers of delay (echo) and reverb, used on both the guitars and the vocals, to give a disorienting psychedelic overall effect.

The problem is that this CD  is slightly thin sounding, but more than that , the guitars are clipped in several spots and the vocals get lost occasionally.

1. “Star Sail”- The timing of this tune is similar to Jane’s Addiction only a bit slower. This makes sense seeing that the Verve’s first American gig was at Lallapalooza with Jane’s Addiction. Unfortunately the vocals get lost at points.
2. “Slide Away” – This is one of my favorites on the album. I just like the structure and the lyrics are great.
3. “Already There” – This song sounds almost shoegaze flavored, but with positive lyrics. The energy picks up about half way through with power choruses, but sadly, this song was poorly recorded in my opinion. Guitars are clipped.
4. “Beautiful Mind” – This tune is definitely psychedelic, but a bit over-done on the echo making it hard to follow and the lyrics unintelligible. One of my least favorite tracks.
5. “The Sun, The Sea” – This has the hard rock, Verve sound familiar from the time of Urban Hymns. I like the bridge of this song, not that it is anything special, but just very appropriate in my opinion. Again, the guitars sound clipped here.
6. “Virtual World” – This tune is more post-rock than anything else and more mellow, but the singing is annoying in my opinion and the instrumentation is not notable either.
7. “Make It ‘Til Monday” – This sounds like filler material to me and rather messy.
8. “Blue” – This is a straight psychedelic rock sound with a nice drive to it. Good tune in my opinion.
9. “Butterfly” – To me this song sounds like psychedelic rock meets delta blues. It’s kind of interesting and I’m not sure what to make of it exactly, but I don’t dislike it. The lyrics pertain directly to the so-called butterfly effect.
10. “See You in the Next One (Have a Good Time)” – To me, this is just an OK ballad. The song is built on a subdued piano motif played by McCabe and atmospheric acoustic guitars played by vocalist Richard Ashcroft.

It’s too bad the production on this CD is not that great.


The Sun And The Sea:

10,000 Maniacs – Blind Man’s Zoo


Artist: 10,000 Maniacs
Title: Blind Man’s Zoo
Released: 1989
Label: Elektra
Format: Cassette Tape
Musicians:Jerome Augustyniak – drums,Robert Buck – electric guitar, acoustic guitar,Dennis Drew – organ, piano,Steve Gustafson – bass guitar, Natalie Merchant – vocals, piano, pipe organ. Additional musicians: Jevetta Steele – backing vocals, Jason Osborn – arrangement, orchestral direction, Krista Bennion Feeney – first violin, Mitsuru Tsubota – second violin, Louise Schulman – viola, Myron Lutzke – cello, Dennis Godburn – bassoon, Robert Wolinsky – harpsichord, Scott Kuney – classical guitar
Frank Luther – double bass
Producer: Peter Asher
Engineer: Frank Filipetti

This is the fourth release from 10,000 Maniacs. The vinyl version was pressed on high quality audiophile vinyl. As you can see from above, my version is on tape (which incidentally, I  transferred to CD). Continue reading

The Alarm – Debut EP (For Freedom)

The Alarm

Artist: The Alarm
Title: The Alarm (Debut EP)
Released: 1983
Label: IRS
Format: Vinyl
Musicians: Mike Peters: Vocals, Dave Sharp: Guitars,Eddie Macdonald: Bass,
Nigel Twist: Drums, Mark Feltham: Harmonica, Angie Knox: Keyboards
Engineer: Jess Suttcliffe

The Alarm are a Welsh alternative rock/new wave band that formed in Rhyl, North Wales, in 1981. Initially formed as a punk band “The Toilets” under lead singer Mike Peters the band soon embraced rock. You can still hear strong punk influence in their music,especially on this debut EP.

The founding members are:
Mike Peters
Dave Sharp: Guitars – Born David Kitchingman, 28 January 1959, Salford, England.
Eddie Macdonald: Bass – born 1 November 1959, St Asaph, Wales.
Nigel Twist: Drums – born Nigel Buckle, 18 July 1958, Manchester, England.

From Wikipedia: In 1982, the band began to record demos for various record labels, but had little success. At this point, they were playing with three acoustic guitarists. The bands were eventually offered a deal by I.R.S. Records. This forced them to make a decision on who was to play which musical instrument, and it was decided that Peters would concentrate on singing, with Sharp on guitar and Macdonald playing bass.
“Marching On” was released as a single in October 1982, and the band’s sound started to become clear. On stage, they would almost always begin gigs acoustically, before finishing with electric guitars. Constant gigging in London helped the band build up a following, and in December 1982, they played four shows with U2. These shows were the first time that Bono joined The Alarm on stage.
A new song, “The Stand”, was recorded in Battersea in April 1983, and was released in the UK as a single. The song’s lyrics were inspired by Stephen King’s novel of the same name. Outside the UK, the song was released as part of a five-track EP, entitled The Alarm. (That is what I am writing about in this review). The EP was released to coincide with The Alarm’s first tour of the U.S. in June 1983.
In June 1983, The Alarm embarked on their first tour of the U.S., supporting U2 on the War Tour. The 18-date tour went a long way in establishing the band in the U.S. (I attended one of these shows, which is how I first heard them).
In fact, U2 really supported The Alarm and believed in them. Here’s proof:

The original line up is no longer relevent sadly.
You can read more here:
Here is the current website:

I also met The Alarm back in the 80’s by chance and surprise. A friend and I were record shopping at a tiny little shop in Huntington Beach called Camel Records, which by the way, is long defunct sadly. It was a great little shop that carried lots of imports and such.
I recall we were looking through the bins around the middle of the shop and there were maybe two other customers there at the time. We were finished and turned to head toward the door to leave when it opened and in walked 4 strange-looking guys dressed for the party, if you will. Startled at first, it took me a minute to realize it was The Alarm. The other worker at the counter went back to get the owner and my friend and I saw that they had some stuff with them they were dropping off. (This was right before the Strength LP and it turns out they were playing a concert that night as well). One of the other customers walked up and started talking to them and they all just kind of hung out for a moment at the front counter chatting. I walked up and introduced myself saying hello somewhat timidly. Turns out these guys were the most soft-spoken characters I ever met and just as sweet as you please. I did not get autographs or anything as I have never been one for asking for such. (I do accept if offered). Just meeting them, being greeted warmly and having a brief chat was enough to burn to memory because they were such nice guys. Quite humble and nice all around, sticking around for a moment to meet folks impromptu. That’s as good as it gets folks.

This EP to me is great rebel music and some of the best punk influenced music ever. You can sense the passion in their songs.

Side One:
The Stand: My least favorite on the EP as the lyrics seem a little religious. Still a great song though.

Across The Border: This has that core punk feel to it, great punk rebel song

Side Two:
Marching On: I like the way this song starts out with the ringing acoustic guitars and Mike Peters making the Declaration. To me, this is a song of courage and hope for a generation. It speaks to the sixties, the current generation and beyond, it’s timeless in my opinion. Great lyrics.

Lie Of The Land: To me, this is a song of hope and encouragement and it’s a call for all to protect what good there is.

For Freedom: To me, this is a call to a cause song and a full-blown song of courage.

Sound: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars