First things first. I am very apologetic it has taken so long for me to write another blog entry/review and I owe this one to my mates David Sinclair in Canada of Straight Lines and the entire band Fairfield Ski especially keyboards man/vocalist Bill Bonham and bass guitarist/vocalist Matt Bridger who all 3 have given me faith, courage, and support that I value as much as life itself when I don't wish I was dead. I have been suffering from flu symptoms, major chronic depression, and a horrible living situation and home where for my own sake only I won't go into detail about my true feelings towards my power mad mother and clueless father. The love has turned to hate and the victim of abuse, mistreatment, extortion, and lies is me enough said. If you want to read any further into that then do so yourself and think about how lucky you may be to be living on your own. I know sometimes my parents love me, but all too often we're fighting over my record addictions and spendings which are the only thing that bring me pleasure and will not be given up on no matter how hard they may try to demolish my dreams. Simple misunderstandings and arguments that shouldn't happen have led to deterioration and depression.
-Straight Lines Are The Best Band And They Also Tell It Straight From The Heart!-
When I am so low that death sounds like a good thing I play one of my favorite records and there is the end of the depression and I find blissfulness while listening. One such band who really bring me up when my life is disgusting is Vancouver Canada's Straight Lines. I was contacted last year by guitarist/vocalist/co leader David Sinclair and he's a really great guy. I admire him very much and this one is for you David and your band. Straight Lines were something of a Canadian supergroup in that all of them (Sinclair, keyboards man/saxophone/backing vocals/string arrangements W. Bob Buckley, bass guitarist/lead vocalist Peter Clarke, drummers Daryl Burgess, Pete Padden, and on their second album drummer/vocalist Geoff Eyre) had been active on the Vancouver scene since the mid 70s and Sinclair had even recorded at least one solo record before Straight Lines.
The band were a five piece on the first and quartet on the second which is called RUN FOR COVER. Both these albums are full of crisp clear harmonies, infectious melodies, brilliant guitar work, and some of the best songs since the heyday of The Beatles and Pilot. The two albums are very different from each other with their self titled first much more progressive pop/rock oriented and RUN FOR COVER more AOR/power pop (lots and lots of Beatles influences). If you want to hear the best Canadian melodic rock ever got go straight for Straight Lines. I'm telling you this band really know how to play like virtuosos and sing like melodic geniuses without once straying into self indulgence.
Their first album from 1980 begins with the somewhat atypical apocalyptic "Heads Are Gonna Roll" which is about inner city violence: "The street's alive you can feel it breathe/If You wanna survive then you better leave/Coz heads are gonna roll" is the chorus. A song of frightening power and real menace it certainly is not like anything else Straight Lines ever attempted. It's on "Flyin' Blind" and Peter Clarke's "Hope I'm Feeling Better" that the Straight Lines sound comes to the fore here on the debut. I'm not a fan of Supertramp so I'm gonna say Queen, Electric Light Orchestra, and 10cc come to mind with more emphasis on piano than synthesizer and let me tell you how much better that sounds! Supertramp had a great piano sound, but shit writing and songs. Straight Lines in a better world would have steamrolled over them, but they did make it huge in Canada. On "Flyin Blind" there's a few throwback passages to earlier California bands and I wonder if that means I could call this "Canadian West Coast Rock?" Maybe. Then again maybe not. Progressive sounds like a better word, but song oriented progressive pop. The guitar of Sinclair throughout both albums is outstanding- melodic, soaring, and majestic. The vocals are crystal clear, friendly to the ears, and also very McCartney a lot of the time and that can only be good. If you, like me, are a big fan of Pilot and New England then Straight Lines are the Canadian equivalent and just as good. Some songs such as "Sweet Water" and "Midnight Woman" mix bawdy misogynistic references with a good dose of playful humour, but in general the sound is just "let's go for a really good lyric and an even better melody."
Everyone in the band gets a chance to take off and fly and that often isn't through solos it's through how well they work together. The playing is never jack off and the vocals are never pretentious. In fact, pretension is something that doesn't exist in Straight Lines. I could go on further about Beatles similarities, but the most consistent one is the freshness. This is palette cleansing stuff and a lot of fresh air when I look at some of the utter rubbish that was being made at the same time although the early 1980s were for the most part a fantastic time for music. I'm thinking of the worst of Emerson Lake And Palmer or Gentle Giant in the 70s era more. I'm a huge progressive fan, but that's the wrong kind of progressive. Straight Lines are clever and they also come up with something rewarding beyond just being clever- when you feel really low and burnt out and destroyed put their albums on and some of the melancholic and also at times uplifting emotional melodies, lyrics, and vocals will put your life back where it should be.
I have my favorite songs on their debut and one of them is Side Two's catchiest song ever written "Roanne" which sounds like New England jamming with Asia! They came before Asia and I think that means that Sinclair and friends were thinking along the same lines as John Wetton before Wetton got there! "Roanne" is easily the catchiest song I've ever heard in my whole life. If The Beatles had had a happy instead of tragic ending this is how an all-arguments-mended Beatles would have sounded like. I've been mentioning The Fab Four a lot and that is because if you want to make great music that is usually the best place to start.
Even heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden have to start with a melodic band to build their music around and the good ones do. It's either The Beatles, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin who always had good craftsmanship, or any of the melodic great bands who you have to begin with and also end with. I'm not a huge fan of Iron Maiden or heavy metal in general because melody and structure are thrown to the dogs. I can, however, appreciate that kind of music sometimes and what I'm saying is that rock is a multifaceted kind of music as much as jazz, classical, or anything esoteric- Rock and Roll is damned esoteric!
There are songs on both Straight Lines albums that are so sophisticated that you know there was classical training involved. If you want the classics meeting pop, rock, and art song in a brilliant collision of sound and emotion look no further than the haunting closing track on their first album "The Things You Didn't Do." Bob Buckley wrote the string arrangement- now you can't tell me this band isn't the work of geniuses. There are some tracks that will please out and out pop rock fans like "She's A Rounder" and "Heart To Heart," but something here cuts way, way, WAY deeper than most of the usual troubled relationship pop. I'd say that Straight Lines understand a lot more about what people can go through in unfortunate situations than most other bands and for a band who for once lack cliches look no further.
RUN FOR COVER comes in one of the worst covers ever. A tasteless front design is made even worse by an attempt to shock by the band appearing half naked with a fake cover over them on the back! Thankfully, if the cover makes you think this is gonna be a disaster the music is the exact polar opposite. RUN FOR COVER moves away from progressive rock towards more AOR and Power Pop, but I have no problem with that as the solid writing and great vocals and playing of the first album are continued in a different kind of style of music. The title track and a few other songs are very similar to the wondrous German/Scottish band Lake especially "Run For Cover" which begins the album with a really strong track. Most people up in Canada will be more familiar with the second album by virtue of the inclusion of the huge hit "Letting Go-" a song that is purely Beatles in conception, melody, and quality. Before that there is the solid melodic rock of "There Are No Secrets" and the brilliant power pop of "It's Gotta Be Tonight." Straight Lines don't make mistakes. How few bands are capable of that, of knowing what's just right and what isn't should really make you think about how special David Sinclair and the rest of the band are. "Letting Go" is really, really sad. I've experienced the kind of sorrow that comes pouring out of this song many times and the beautiful melodies instantly grab hold of you and don't let go for a second. Especially impressive are the vocals which are soft and comforting at the same time that they are highly emotional. There certainly is nothing comforting about the lyrical content!
"Illusions" gets more into the earlier more progressive Straight Lines with a great lead vocal from David Sinclair. Side Two begins with another Lake type of melodic progressive pop track "Lighten Up" which is something we all should do- especially me! The rest of Side Two is heavily geared towards really visceral put down songs that are sharp, clever, and again are bringing to mind The Beatles. They sure don't look it, but the music is what matters and Straight Lines take all the best aspects of that great band and make magic happen with their own creativity. Clearly this is power pop influenced by the band who created that along with just about everything else, but the sophistication of Straight Lines is really astonishing. One of my favorites here is "I've Got News For You" which even features an electric sitar playing George Harrison style licks. If you love Pilot, Blue, New England, those kinds of bands as much as I do then do not miss Straight Lines. If everything is bringing you down and you need something new and exciting look for Straight Lines and grab them if you can find their quite hard to track down two albums. Both Straight Lines records are amazing and I feel really a lot better about myself to know that I have David Sinclair as a friend who occasionally corresponds with me. He's not the least bit full of himself which also is a great thing that I never take for granted when a lot of musicians let past achievements make them think they are something they most certainly are not. It makes sense David is a down to earth guy- this is down to earth music that takes you higher without blowing itself up into some big huge hyped up mess like Supertramp or any number of unworthy bands who sold way more in the States. If Canada has a latter day answer to the Fab Four it most certainly is Straight Lines. They did it not by imitation. They did it through the same kind of quality writing, vocals, and playing. Track their albums down- they are really amazing.
-A followup synopsis of Fairfield Ski- Now The Real Deal Is Available! Rush Out And Grab It!-
Fairfield Ski I have written about in detail several times before, but now their masterful lost in the mist of the dark ages of acetates and a shoddy hack job bootleg album have finally been put to rest as their at-the-time unreleased gem is available from the Guerrsen label in the way it was meant to be heard back in 1973 which means it took 40 years for justice to arrive! Done last year in limited pressing with a great band photo sleeve, fantastic sound quality, and a detailed insert included you need to get this album or you will have a very incomplete collection! Forget Oddesey and Oracle this album blows that out of the water! I better not say anything too mean
about The Zombies as they were a seminal band who led to even better things from Colin Blunstone he of the lovely magic soaring velvet voice and Rod Argent made magic in his own band, but there are issues I have with Oddesey and Oracle or rather one issue. All of Side One is a melodic pop heavenly dream with beautiful songs, wonderful vocals, and a really strong almost spiritual atmosphere, but what goes wrong on Side Two!!!!!!!!????? You get 3 more beautiful songs from the pens of Chris White and Rod Argent and then Chris White decides to turn this Oracle into something more like a living horror movie with the gory, violent, sick, and disgusting rant about the horrors of World War 1 "Butcher's Tale" a track that isn't even a song and destroys the album. It reveals how contrived the whole fucking thing is and how it was thrown together hastily in a way such as to make The Koobas much more satisfactory as an album of throwing the towel in. No, I'm sorry, I'm saying no to this album. The great songs are some of the greatest ever, but contrived. I don't understand why the cover is blown- if this war song is supposed to be an ambush against what preceded it it most certainly makes the point clear.
So I suppose you're gonna ask me if Oddesey and Oracle is neither of those things what is the best melodic UK album? FAIRFIELD SKI! Fairfield Ski are a band who had a very bright and yet very sad kind of a sound and who thanks to painful mismanagement it took ages for anybody to actually hear and most of us heard them through an atrocity called Fairfield "Sky." Yeah, I was one of those people. I find it staggering that something so musically rewarding couldn't get any kind of chance for a release at all at the time, but the music industry can be a really bad curse to many bands and their futures and this is one such band. Nigel Wright sings beautifully with a kind of control usually never heard and there's also some great musicianship from the ultra talented Birmingham foursome. I'd firmly recommend you go out and buy Fairfield Ski in this beautiful edition which features a real cover complete with "flip back" sleeve and that you simply go for Argent or Blunstone's solo career and just listen to something you can string together of the best songs The Zombies made from the revolutionary "She's Not There" through to the great tracks on Oddesey and Oracle. The best songs on Oddesey and Oracle for me are "Care Of Cell 44," "Brief Candles," and "Hung Up On A Dream" and if you're looking for something like the best of that album without the disaster "Butcher's Tale" which butchers the album I'd highly suggest this. Fairfield Ski's album is all over the map with an epic tour de force in "Would You Mind/The Writer," Sweet type power pop in "Circus" and "Man From Galilee" (both sung by my mate Matt Bridger), and emotional pop psych at an absolute peak for the rest of the album. Also, you should do a bit of Brummie music history if you find Fairfield Ski's ultra melodic sound of beautiful soft progressive rock out of character with the hard heavy metal all out attack of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. While it is true that Birmingham is a rockin' city its also a very much well rounded music city that gave us Tinkerbells Fairydust, Fairport Convention, and a whole host of other very different and always great bands. You can't forget Traffic's first album and their best work and really just open your mind a little.
All music can be good music. All parents can be bad parents. Sedentary people set in their ways, nasty, sick, greedy are gonna suck. Don't kill yourself- DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER IT FOR TWO SECONDS! Life is too short. If you, like me, suffer from parental abuse as unintentional as my parents do it or as intentional as yours might just keep your distance and don't let it make you get any stupid ideas. Life can be a pain in the ass there is no denying that, but I've found that through music there is something that makes life worth living. I've been having a horrible time of late, but I'm not about to cave to any stupidity on the part of blind and stupid people (politicians, people I have to deal with every day et. all). To lower myself to the level of insolent adolescent moanings is not something I'm about to let happen. By the way when I was a teenager I was pretty sharp, but I've grown without having to grow out of the best things I had then. If you need help or advice or encouragement and don't have any friends then go out and seek out music- it can really work wonders. I wish you a bright and productive future and I wish myself a way out of Hell and into Heaven.