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6.2.09

Aztec Camera




Aztec Camera - Frestonia - 1995 - Wea

Frestonia is full of well-crafted pop rock songs, many with wistful crooning, lush melodies, and romantic themes, written by the very underrated Glaswegian guitarist-singer-songwriter, Roddy Frame. But don't let that description deter you from buying this album. This album is not being compared with "The Best Of Nat King Cole", or Donny Osmond, and this is not "slagging off" these artists' music. Everybody to their own musical tastes, and that's the natural way it should be. The difference here is that Roddy Frame always manages to make these "romantic" themes sound original., and injects much more depth into these songs. Unlike many artists with songs of a similar theme, Roddy Frame manages to avoid the cheesy sentimentality that can be sometimes associated with sugary easy-listening pop. Frame has his own way of avoiding this saccharine coated slushy pop-rock style, and gives "romantic" songs a new twist. "Frestonia" is an album of intelligent songs composed with an eloquent energy, and great insight. There is a good jazzy slant to the album, and it's musical styles goes beyond the average MOR commercial type pop rock. "Rainy Season" is a dramatic kiss-off to a lover. "Beautiful Girl" and "Debutante" are intelligent, well constructed melodic songs, in which Roddy Frame explores romantic issues, without using any sugary layering. It would be a mistake to dwell too much on the "romantic" side of Aztec Camera, as the topic of love is only one element in Aztec Camera's music. The New Wave band gave us many other songs like "Oblivious" , "Walk Out to Winter" , "Pillar to Post", "Queen's Tattoos", and maybe the bands best song, the beautiful hymnal rock gospel sounding "Back on Board". The last few songs can be found on Aztec Camera's great debut album, "High Land, Hard Rain" which is a less "delicate" album than "Frestonia" and much grittier. Some of the band's great musicians have included Rob Mounsey and Paul Carrack on keyboards, and Edwyn Collins on guitar / vocals. N.B: Read the Amazon reviews further down the page. These reviews extol the virtues of "Frestonia" extremely highly.!! Without doubt, they are all sincere opinions about the album. Is this album that good? A.O.O.F.C regards this album as a very good Indie/New Wave" album of it's genre, and would be most interested in your opinions.

TRACKS

1 Rainy Season
2 Sun
3 Crazy
4 On The Avenue
5 Imperfectly
6 Debutante
7 Beautiful Girl
8 Phenomenal World
9 Method Of Love
10 Sunset

All tracks composed by Roddy Frame

MUSICIANS

Roddy Frame - Guitar, Vocals
Yolanda Charles - Bass, Vocals (bckgr)
Mark Edwards - Keyboards
Jeremy Stacey - Drums
Luis Jardim - Percussion
Leo Payne, Audrey Riley, Chris Tombling, Sue Dench - Strings
Billy McGee - String Arrangements
Claudia Fontaine - Vocals (bckgr)

REVIEW

Roddy Frame's last album for the Warner/Reprise stable after 12 years with the company finds him continuing in the low-key vein of 1993's Dreamland. In many ways, Frestonia is akin to contemporaneous albums by Paddy McAloon; like Frame, McAloon had long since given up any idea that his band, Prefab Sprout, was anything but a vehicle for his ideas, and after a third-album stumble (1988's From Langley Park to Memphis, not quite as dire as Aztec Camera's wretched 1987 album, Love), both singer/songwriters had contented themselves with making small records seemingly intended only to please themselves. Frestonia — with its soft pop exteriors, occasional jazzy flourishes, and mellow acoustic vibe — is probably the prettiest album of Frame's career. If anything, though, its only virtue is its prettiness, the way that Frame's unfailingly melodic songs slide peacefully out of the speakers, unhampered by any rough edges in the simple, low-key arrangements. The problem is that other than the two bookend tracks, "Sun" and "Sunset," there's little memorable here either lyrically or musically. For an artist whose early work was so substantial, Frestonia is something of a disappointment, albeit an unfailingly nice one. © Stewart Mason, allmusic.com

A FEW "INTERESTING" REVIEWS FROM AMAZON.COM -

The best album that no-one ever heard, May 4, 2000 by By Longnose Gar, "Frestonia is not only the best album Roddy Frame ever made, it is the best album I own, period. Four stars denote a great album, but the full five should be reserved for a soundtrack that explores a subject deeper, more precisely, more beautifully than ever before. Frestonia is to the disillusioned head beset by the longing heart what Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town was to working class life in America. Frame feels with the romance of adolescence, but observes, sighs with the adult eye: "I would still believe that paradise was there with you, stuck like glue, on the avenue." While the lyric of the denied but undeterred heart is ultimately sad, the music is gorgeous, enhancing the duality, as if the guitar is the one outlet where Frame can still express love with all the passion of innocence. Frame's ambitions are done justice by guitar-wiz producers Langer & Winstanley who meld the four piece band flawlessly while maintaining the forthright sound of a live performance. Put it all together and this is the bible for grown-ups with hearts as big as their brains, for lack of a better term." © amazon.com

Brilliant, July 24, 2003 by By Lincoln J Lounsbury," Having just heard this record for the first time eight years after its initial release, I can't help wondering why I haven't heard it before. It's absolutely beautiful, with great songs straight through. The closest comparison I can make is to Crowded House (and Neil Finn solo). Roddy Frame (like Neil Finn, Karl Wallinger, and Lloyd Cole) appears to be one of the great underappreciated singer-songwriters of our time. Highly recommended". © amazon.com

Greatest Album Ever, Part 2, August 10, 2008 by Crusader, "Here we have a gem that is Proof Of Christ's Father ... the other reviewers are "spot on" but I need to add: "This is the Greatest Album Ever made" . . . and note my previous review of "High Land, Hard Rain" (also of Aztec Camera) which I declared the "greatest album" of all time (which it is, but . . . ) I erred -- this Frestonia is quantum, an unmatchable and blessed creation of Mr Roddy Frame. Track 5, "Imperfectly", is the perfect song ... the "Sun" songs are amazing as "The Avenue", an effort which places you in the shoe soles of another soul, creates new life in your ears. "The Avenue" re-plays your previous world; a reminder of your foundation if you are 35 to 45 years old, or 25 or somewhere on this Planet. Get your life better, buy this CD. It's that good. I promise. " - UPDATE ON AUG 29, 2008: " "Greatest Finest Bestest Most Incredible Thing (aside from my bride) that's ever Graced God's Planet . . . . I could ilsten to this album a thousand times straight . . . . it's on par (better?) with than The Beatles efforts from 63 - 70 because it's PERFECT (and I know and testify J P G and Ringo were the balls) but this is another level of beauty, competence, and alacrity --- it is lucious gorgeousness; this album is love, special and pure, heaven revealed ... I am blessed to hear it; the best ever -- bar none; this is it. The Best". © amazon.com

BIO

For most intents and purposes, Aztec Camera is Roddy Frame, a Scottish guitarist/vocalist/songwriter. Several other musicians have passed through the band over the years — including founding members Campbell Owens (bass) and Dave Mulholland (drums) — but the one constant has been Frame. Throughout his career, he has created a sophisticated, lush, and nearly jazzy acoustic-oriented guitar pop, relying on gentle melodies and clever wordplay inspired by Elvis Costello. Aztec Camera released their debut album, High Land, Hard Rain, in 1983. Before its release, Owens and Mulholland had left the group, leaving Frame to assemble the record himself. Upon its release, the album won significant amounts of critical praise for its well-crafted, multi-layered pop. After releasing a stop-gap EP, Oblivious, the group's second full-length record, Knife, appeared in 1984. Produced by Mark Knopfler, the album was more polished and immediate than the debut, featuring horn arrangements and a slight R&B influence. Three years later, Roddy Frame returned with Love, which featured musical support from several studio musicians. Love was a synthesized stab at pop-R&B, resulting in his greatest commercial success — the album launched four hit singles, including the Top Ten "Somewhere in My Heart." Two years later, Aztec Camera returned to a more guitar-oriented sound with Stray. It wasn't as commercially successful as Love, yet it was a hit with fans who missed the chiming hooks of Frame's early work. Dreamland, released in 1993, followed the same pattern as Stray and achieved about the same amount of commercial and critical success. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic.com

BIO (Wikipedia)

Aztec Camera were a Scottish New Wave music band from Glasgow, Scotland. The band's line-up changed numerous times in its first few years. The constant member has been guitarist / vocalist / singer-songwriter Roddy Frame. Founding members included Campbell Owens (bass) and Dave Mulholland (drums). Craig Gannon was a member from 1983 to 1984. Guitarist Malcolm Ross (formerly of Josef K and Orange Juice) joined the band in 1984, and played on the Knife album. By the time of their third album, Love (1987), Roddy Frame was the only de facto member of the band: this and future albums credited to Aztec Camera were actually performed by Frame and studio musicians hired on a track-by-track basis. The band's first UK 7" single was released by Glasgow-based indie label Postcard Records in March 1981, and contained the songs "Just Like Gold" and "We Could Send Letters". An acoustic version of the latter song appeared on the influential C81 compilation cassette, released by NME in early 1981. A second single, "Mattress Of Wire", was also the last Postcard Records release before the group signed for fellow independent record label, Rough Trade. US releases were on Sire Records. Aztec Camera's debut album, High Land, Hard Rain, was released in April 1983. The album was successful, gathering significant critical acclaim for its well-crafted, multi-layered pop. The band went on to release a total of six albums, although most of these were essentially written and played by Frame. The albums included Knife (1984), Love (1987), Stray (1990), Dreamland (1993) and Frestonia (1995). After the release of Aztec Camera's sixth album, Frestonia, Frame finally decided to record under his own name, and left the major record label, WEA. Popular songs by Aztec Camera include "Oblivious", "Still On Fire", "Walk Out to Winter", "Somewhere in My Heart", and "Good Morning Britain" (a duet with former The Clash guitarist Mick Jones). "Somewhere in My Heart", the second single from Love, remains their biggest hit, reaching #3 on the UK Singles Chart. "Good Morning Britain" could be considered a "comeback hit" for them, as previous single "The Crying Scene" had only reached #70 in the UK, while the former hit reached #19. A 'Best of' collection was released in 1999.

MORE ABOUT AZTEC CAMERA

As founder, musical leader, and sometimes sole member of Aztec Camera, Scottish-born Roddy Frame has created soothing pop songs that have created a long-standing niche in the indie music world, where bands and performers' careers are often short-lived. A somewhat confessional songwriter, Frame is known as a competent poetic craftsman, if at times a bit too idealistic in outlook and naive in imagery, with a particular penchant for love songs. While never a huge success in the U.S. as compared to the UK, Frame and company have been making music since 1980. Born in East Kilbride, Scotland, on January 29, 1964, Frame had his musical introduction at the age of 15 with a punk band called the Neutral Blue, which he left to create Aztec Camera. He modeled the band after the Byrds and the Velvet Underground. After signing with the independent label Postcard in 1981, they started playing in local pubs and began to kindle the flames of success. The first step to becoming successful was leaving the Postcard label. "On Postcard, the whole charm was the groups couldn't tune their own guitars," sniffed Frame to Melody Maker's Steve Sutherland. "I didn't see that as charming--I thought it was crap." The next year the band relocated to London and signed with Rough Trade Records. Drummer Dave Ruffy replaced Mulholland and with the addition of Bernie Clarke on keyboards, the band set out to record their debut album, High Land, Hard Rain, in 1983. The first endeavor won Aztec Camera critical praise and the album made it to number 22 on the U.K. charts. It also attracted the attention of Sire Records, who signed the band to a U.S. contract, and Elvis Costello, who praised Frame's songwriting and invited the band to open for him on an eight-week tour of America. Frame, only 19 years-old at the time, often had to lie about his age in states where the band performed. Aztec Camera's second album, Knife, was released in 1984 and was produced by Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler. More polished and enhanced then the debut album, the addition of horns and studio musicians lent a different quality to Frame's delicate lyrics, a sound that Frame is both proud of and ambivalent towards. "I would have preferred it to sound much more like the original demos, sparser, with more room to breathe," Frame admitted to Paul Mathur of Melody Maker. "But it was interesting to come at things from a totally different perspective." Peter Anderson of London's New Musical Express echoed Frame declaring, "Knife has good songwriting, Roddy's best, the dashes of brilliance that are the mark of one with real talent, but it's all too smooth, too polished." Shortly thereafter, the band then began an extensive world tour to support the album. By 1986 Aztec Camera was almost completely a solo endeavor by Frame, backed by hired hands instead of full-fledged band members. The rotating roster of musicians in Aztec Camera has had much to do with the rather mercurial temper of Frame. "I find it quite hard to get along with people for a long time," he explained to Sutherland. "Some people are a bit stupid. Just to be around them,in a dressing room, in a hotel with them ... they have to go." In whatever incarnation, it took three years for Frame to release the third album, Love, and it was this record which received the greatest commercial attention. The album also boasted many well known producers including Tommy LiPuma, David Frank, and Russ Titelman. Some seven months after the album's release, the single "Somewhere In My Heart" reached to number three in the U.K. and re- ignited interest in the album, which reached number ten in the U.K. and gained platinum certification. "In a half-light {Love} could slip past the entrance trying to pass itself off as Contemporary Rock fodder," Mathur wrote "but whip away the false beard and you're left with an admirably naked celebration." For Frame, the record was a highly personal one, written with an open, albeit guarded, heart. "There's words on the record that I look at and they seem really naive," he confessed to Mathur, "but at the same tme, it was the way I was feeling when I wrote it. There had to be an honesty there to make it worth doing.... If someone hears the record, they know something about me, but not everything, not by a long way." After spending time in America in an ill-fated attempt to write new songs, Frame returned to London where the tunes came quickly. The result was the 1990 eclectic album, Stray. A mix of jazz, pop, soul, and punk, Frame told Scott Isler of Musician that the record, "is the most spontaneous album I've ever made. A lot of songs I didn't even demo. I would just play them in rehearsal or in the studio; we'd change them as we went along, and then put them down." Frame calls the album one of bewilderment with a little anger thrown in, a decidedly different tone than his previous albums. The record also has a lot to do with his adopted country. "When I looked at the lyrics to this album, it occurred to me it was all about Britain," Frame told Sutherland, "but I didn't want to call it Good Morning, Britain {a song on the album}, because that's a stupid name. So I just decided to call it Stray because that's what it is really, just a kind of stray through all kinds of musical territories and different vibes." The song Frame mentions, "Good Morning Britain," was, in fact, a raucous feature of the album, a full-blown politically-irate punk duet with Mick Jones of the Clash and Big Audio Dynamite. Frame also found time to contribute the Cole Porter classic, "Do I Love You," for the Red Hot + Blue AIDS awareness album. Following a tour to support Stray, Frame again took some time off to write and do occasional shows. In 1993, Frame emerged with Dreamland, a collaboration with composer/musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, creating a pairing that raised more than a few eyebrows. "The record company thought {Ryuichi} was going to be some kind of academic professor of electronic music," Frame explained to Billboard's Craig Rosen. "But his approach was incredibly human. It's a strange pairing. I like to think of it as country and Eastern." Frame also explained to Rosen his insistence on continuing to use the group name although he is essentially the only member. "The band isn't basically me," he told Rosen. "When I make records with other people, it's a collaboration. As soon as I get around other people it's a democracy." Besides, he says, Aztec Camera is, "a nice kind of umbrella. I like to think of it as kind of a brand name, but we're not as tight as Levi's and not as sweet as Coca-Cola." In 1995 Frame released the sixth Aztec Camera album, Frestonia, to somewhat mixed reviews. In a review that celebrated Frame's long-standing career, Paul Lester of Melody Maker decided that while Frestonia has few surprises, he's not about to write off Frame, who has spent, "a decade and a half celebrating the romance of pain and the pain of romance." Scott Schinder of Pulse! echoed Lester, claiming Frame undercuts his smooth vocals and compassionate songwriting with "too-smooth studio technique." One rave was from David Roberts of Q, who declared, "Frame has put the soul back into the heart of his music ... with glorious melodies, subtly superb fretwork, and lyrics of instant, effortless articulacy-- all sung in a voice which has lost noe of its quiet poignancy." After a short tour to support Frestonia, Frame learned that WEA had opted not to renew his recording contract. As he set off to write a new album and search for a new label--his new record is due in 1998--it's clear that Frame will continue on in the same way he's had since he was a 16 year-old Scottish kid who started a band. "Y'know, I don't really have the answers to anything but what I do have, I think is the power to express myself," he told Sutherland in 1990. "I hope I've got the power to put something on a record that can be sent off around the world and actually touch people. And maybe the things that I write in my bedroom can touch someone in their bedroom in Tokyo. That's the bottom line really." © Gretchen A. Monette, © 2009 Net Industries - All Rights Reserved

3 comments:

A.O.O.F.C said...

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Frank Leibowitz said...

Not Roddy's best effort, that may be his "Jump" cover version, but a good one nevertheless.

Thanks a lot & Greets from NJ

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi, Frank. Thanks for comment. It is a good album, although not as diverse and consistent as "High Land, Hard Rain". Their version of jumpi is a good one, I agree. Keep in touch