Apollo FourForty – Electro Glide In Blue (1997)

FrontCover1.jpgApollo 440 (also known as Apollo Four Forty or @440) are an English electronic music group formed in Liverpool in 1990. The group has written, recorded, and produced five studio albums, collaborated with and produced other artists, remixed as Apollo 440 and as ambient cinematic alter-ego Stealth Sonic Orchestra, and created music for film, television, advertisements and multimedia. Over eleven years, they notched up eleven top-forty UK singles with three top-tens, and had a chart presence worldwide.

Its name comes from the Greek god Apollo and the frequency of concert pitch — the A note at 440 Hz, often denoted as “A440”, and the Sequential Circuits sampler/sequencer, the Studio 440. They changed the writing of their name from Apollo 440 to Apollo Four Forty in 1996, though they switched back for their latest album. To date, Apollo’s remixes number around sixty – from U2 in the early 1990s to Puff Daddy/Jimmy Page and Ennio Morricone a decade later. Among their Stealth Sonic Orchestra remixes are a series of Manic Street Preachers singles.

Apollo 440 were formed by the brothers Trevor and Howard Gray with fellow Liverpudlians Noko and James Gardner, although Gardner left after the recording of the first album. All members sing and add a profusion of samples, electronics, and computer-based sounds.

After relocating to the Camden area of London, Apollo 440 recorded in 1994 with their debut album, Millennium Fever, and released it on 30 January 1995 on their own Stealth Sonic Recordings label (distributed by Epic Records). They have successfully invaded both the record charts and the dance floor with their combination of rock, breakbeat, and ambient.

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The band had been most known for its remixes until the release of Liquid Cool in the UK. However, it was not until the success of the singles “Krupa” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Dub” that their own musical efforts were brought to international attention — particularly the latter single contributed greatly to pushing Apollo 440 into the spotlight.

In 2007, the band played a tribute gig to the late Billy Mackenzie.

Apollo 440’s fifth album, The Future’s What It Used To Be, became available for download on the iTunes Store from 23 March 2012.

Collaborators over the years have included Jeff Beck, Jean Michel Jarre, Billy Mackenzie, Ian McCulloch and Hotei.

Currently, the band resides in Islington, London, having once again moved its headquarters (affectionately labelled ‘Apollo Control’).

Electro Glide in Blue is the second studio album by English electronic music group Apollo 440. It was first released on 3 March 1997 in the United Kingdom by Stealth Sonic Recordings and Epic Records and on 9 September 1997 in the United States by 550 Music. The album features Charles Bukowski, Billy Mackenzie, and a tribute to Gene Krupa; all three of whom had died by the time of the album’s release. Its title is a reference to the 1973 film Electra Glide in Blue.

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Stealth Mass in F#m” was played several times on BBC Radio 1 on 31 August 1997, when their regular schedule was suspended due to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The title track was featured on the soundtrack to the 1998 film Homegrown (by wikipedia)

A more satisfying album than their previous Sony effort, Electro Glide in Blue sees Apollo 440 moving closer to straight-ahead techno and away from commercial pop, a good move considering the electronic atmosphere of the times. Whether it’s the Sony Playstation video-game track “Rapid Racer” or an incredibly well-done duet with former Associates vocalist Billy Mackenzie on “Pain in Any Language,” Apollo 440 proves they’re no strangers to the dancefloor. (by John Bush)

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Personnel:
Mary Byker (Ian Hoxley) (vocals)
Trevor Gray (keyboards, programming)
Cliff Hewitt (drums, programming)
Harry K (turntables, samples, keyboards)
Paul Kodish (drums, programming)
Noko (guitar)
Rej (bass)
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Billy Mackenzie (vocals on Pain)

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Tracklist:
01. Stealth Overture) (T.Gray/E.Gray/Noko) 1.00
02. Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Dub (E.Van Halen, A.Van Halen/Anthony/Roth, Noko) 4.31
03. Altamont Super-Highway Revisited (Noko) 6.33
04. Electro Glide In Blue (T.Gray/H.Gray/MacFarlane) 8.36
05. Vanishing Point (Noko) 7.28
06. Tears Of The Gods (H.Gray/T.Gray/Noko) 6.18
07. Carrera Rapida” (Theme from “Rapid Racer”) (Noko/T.Gray/H.Gray/Hoxley) 6.47
08. Krupa (Noko, T.Gray/H. Gray) 6.15
09. White Man’s Throat (album version) (Noko/H.Gray/Hoxley) 4.55
10. Pain In Any Language (Mackenzie /Noko) 8.40
11. Stealth Mass In F#m  (TGray/E.Gray) 6.36

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U2 – Achtung Baby (1991)

FrontCover1.jpgAchtung Baby  is the seventh studio album by Irish rock band U2. It was produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, and was released on 18 November 1991 on Island Records. Stung by criticism of their 1988 release, Rattle and Hum, U2 shifted their musical direction to incorporate influences from alternative rock, industrial music, and electronic dance music into their sound. Thematically, Achtung Baby is darker, more introspective, and at times more flippant than their previous work. The album and the subsequent multimedia-intensive Zoo TV Tour were central to the group’s 1990s reinvention, by which they abandoned their earnest public image for a more lighthearted and self-deprecating one.

Seeking inspiration from German reunification, U2 began recording Achtung Baby at Berlin’s Hansa Studios in October 1990. The sessions were fraught with conflict, as the band argued over their musical direction and the quality of their material. After tensions and slow progress nearly prompted the group to disband, they made a breakthrough with the improvised writing of the song “One”. Morale and productivity improved during subsequent recording sessions in Dublin, where the album was completed in 1991. To confound the public’s expectations of the band and their music, U2 chose the record’s facetious title and colourful multi-image sleeve.

Achtung Baby is one of U2’s most successful records; it received favourable reviews and debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 Top Albums, while topping the charts in many other countries. Five songs were released as commercial singles, all of which were chart successes, including “One”, “Mysterious Ways”, and “The Fly”. The album has sold 18 million copies worldwide and won a Grammy Award in 1993 for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Achtung Baby has since been acclaimed by writers and music critics as one of the greatest albums of all time. The record was reissued in October 2011 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its original release. (by wikipedia)

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Having spent a good part of the Eighties as one of the most iconic bands in the world, U2 hardly needs to resort to a cheekily absurd title to draw attention to its first album in three years. Then again, subtlety has never been one of the group’s virtues. In its early days and in its basic musical approach — a guitar, a few chords and the truth, to paraphrase one of Bono’s more garish assertions — U2 fell in with other young bands that cropped up in the wake of punk. But U2 immediately distinguished itself with its huge sound and an unabashed idealism rooted in spiritual aspiration. At their best, these Irishmen have proven — just as Springsteen and the Who did — that the same penchant for epic musical and verbal gestures that leads many artists to self-parody can, in more inspired hands, fuel the unforgettable fire that defines great rock & roll.

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At their worst … well, the half-live double album Rattle and Hum (1988) — the product of U2’s self-conscious infatuation with American roots music — wasn’t a full-out disaster, but it was misguided and bombastic enough to warrant concern. With Achtung Baby, U2 is once again trying to broaden its musical palette, but this time its ambitions are realized. Working with producers who have lent discipline and nuance to the group’s previous albums — Daniel Lanois oversees the entire album, with Brian Eno and Steve Lillywhite assisting on a number of songs — U2 sets out to experiment rather than pay homage. In doing so, the band is able to draw confidently and consistently on its own native strengths.

Most conspicuous among the new elements that U2 incorporates on Achtung are hip-hop-derived electronic beats. The band uses these dance-music staples on about half of the album’s twelve tracks, often layering them into guitar heavy mixes the way that many young English bands like Happy Mondays and Jesus Jones have done in recent years. “Mysterious Ways” is a standout among these songs, sporting an ebullient hook and a guitar solo in which the Edge segues from one of his signature bursts of light into an insidious funk riff.

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Elsewhere, as in the fit of distortion and feedback that opens “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses,” Edge evokes the cacophony and electronic daring of noise bands like Sonic Youth. Indeed Edge’s boldness on Achtung is key to the album’s adventurous spirit. His plangent, minimalist guitar style — among the most distinctive and imitated in modern rock — has always made inspired use of devices like echo and reverb; his shimmering washes of color on “Until the End of the World” and soaring peals on “Even Better Than the Real Thing” and “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” are instantly recognizable. But other tracks find the guitarist crafting harder textures and flashing a new arsenal of effects. On the first cut, “Zoo Station,” he uses his guitar as a rhythm instrument, repeating a dark, buzzing phrase that drives the beat while his more lyrical playing on the chorus enhances the melody. Similarly, “The Fly” features grinding riffs that bounce off Adam Clayton’s thick bass line and echo and embellish Larry Mullen Jr.’s drumming.

Bono’s task, then, is to lend his sensuous tenor and melodramatic romanticism to expressions that match this sonic fervor. He announces on “Zoo Station” that he’s “ready to let go/Of the steering wheel”; what follows are the most fearlessly introspective lyrics he’s written. In the past, U2’s frontman has turned out fiercely pointed social and political diatribes, but his more confessional and romantic songs, however felt, have been evasive. On Achtung, though, Bono deals more directly with his private feelings — not to mention his hormones. “The hunter will sin … for your ivory skin,” he sings on “Wild Horses,” and boasts on “Even Better Than the Real Thing” that “I’m gonna make you sing/Give me half a chance/To ride on the waves that you bring.”

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Almost as surprising, and even more affecting, are Bono’s reflections on being an artist. On “Acrobat,” over an arrangement that recalls the apocalyptic frenzy of “Bullet the Blue Sky,” he pleads for inspiration: “What are we going to do now it’s all been said?” On “The Fly” self-doubt gives way to self-indictment: “Every artist is a cannibal,” he sings in a whispered groan, “every poet is a thief.” Squarely acknowledging his own potential for hypocrisy and inadequacy, and addressing basic human weaknesses rather than the failings of society at large, Bono sounds humbler and more vulnerable than in the past. “Desperation is a tender trap,” he sings on “So Cruel.” “It gets you every time.”

That’s not to say that U2 has forsaken its faith or that Bono has abandoned his quest to find what he’s looking for. On the radiant ballad “One,” the band invests an unexceptional message — “We’re one/But we’re not the same/We get to carry each other” — with such urgency that it sounds like a revelation. Few bands can marshal such sublime power, but it’s just one of the many moments on Achtung Baby when we’re reminded why, before these guys were the butt of cynical jokes, they were rock & roll heroes — as they still are. (by Elysa Gardner)

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Personnel:
Bono (vocals, guitar)
Adam Clayton (bass)
The Edge (guitar, keyboards, vocals)
Larry Mullen Jr. (drums, percussion)
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Duchess Nell Catchpole (violin and viola on 06.)
Brian Eno (keyboards on 03., 09. + 12.)
Daniel Lanois (guitar on 01., 03. + 09., percussion on 04. + 08.)

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Tracklist:
01. Zoo Station 4.36
02. Even Better Than The Real Thing 3.41
03. One 4.36
04. Until The End Of The World 4.39
05. Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses 5.16
06. So Cruel 5.49
07. The Fly 4.29
08. Mysterious Ways 4.04
09. Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around the World 3.53
10. Ultraviolet (Light My Way) 5.31
11. Acrobat 4.30
12. Love Is Blindness 4.23

Music: Bono – Adam Clayton – The Edge – Larry Mullen Jr.
Lyrics: Bono

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