Tuesday, 9 January 2018
Not His Best
But still head and shoulders above most other things released in 1984.
I spent the weekend looking for an Aztec Camera performance from the Barrowlands in 1984 after a request from Brian over here after his excellent (well apart from the last one) posts on the brilliance that is Oblivious. Alas the tape has not turned up yet of the 84 performance but I did find one from 1988 recorded in Manchester which doesn't sound that great and an absolutely terrible recording of the Barrowlands gig in August 1990 when I was asked who Mick Jones was.
It doesn't take much to nudge me into listening to Roddy and Aztec Camera and so I spent a good part of the weekend listening to various things, apart from Sunday afternoon when I listened to Morning Dove White, possibly the best album of the 1990s, an argument for another day possibly.
We will concern ourselves with an album that caused controversy when it was released, Knife, the second album from Aztec Camera. Personally I have always really, really liked it but I know quite a few others who don't rate it at all. The reason why I like it is probably the same reason as others don't in that it is not High Land Hard Rain part 2. It really is quite different there is a bit of a more poppy danceable feel to it, nothing near the soul lite of its successor, Love but in songs like Just Like The USA and Back Door To Heaven, the weakest track on the album but one I would listen to rather than most singles released in 1984.
I think that one of the main problems with a lot of fans of HLHR is Frame's choice of producer for the album, Mark Knopfler. Now I have severe problems with this man and his band, in fact he was second on my list all through the 80s and the 90s of who come the revolution would have been up against the firing squad. But he didn't turn the band into Princes of Purile Pop never mind Sultans of Swing, and there was never a sweatband in sight. Yes there are synths here and there and some fake horns but no real horrible production, that would come in 1987 where it was a lot more difficult for the worth of the songs to shine through. The track that gets the most criticism I find is the title track which I really don't understand as right from the start I have loved it. It is said that this is the track where Knopfler's influence is felt most, possibly but that doesn't make it any less of a track and neither does the fact that it lasts nine minutes. I do feel that there was more than a hint of musical snobbery in all of the criticism of this album and the production/producer.
So let me have it,
Aztec Camera - Knife
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Don’t expect to “have it” from me. This is no HLHR, but I have found myself defending Knife on other blogs, including a spirited debate at JC’s place a few years ago where Dirk, you and I did our best to sway opinion. Truth be told, I haven’t listened to Knife as a whole in ages. A few songs always turn up on My Roddy mixes though. You have inspired me to give it a go later this evening. I don’t anticipate my mind being changed though. A damn fine album... just not among the few best albums to ever come out of Scotland. That’s where HLHR sits.
I look at the services of Mark Knopfler as more of a curiosity than a detriment to Knife. I too like Knife because it moved Roddy's musical conversation forward and didn't tread water. It is usually a fools errand to compare debut albums to their follow up and this is true here, but Knife stands on its own.
Ha. Payback is a bitch, Drew. I thought JC might stop by.
Totally agree Drew. Its a JC deafspot!
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