Aural Sculptors - The Stranglers Live 1976 to the Present


Welcome to Aural Sculptors, a blog aimed at bringing the music of The Stranglers to as wide an audience as possible. Whilst all of the various members of the band that have passed through the ranks since 1974 are accomplished studio musicians, it is on stage where the band have for me had their biggest impact.

As a collector of their live recordings for many years I want to share some of the better quality material with other fans. By selecting the higher quality recordings I hope to present The Stranglers in the best possible light for the benefit of those less familiar with their material than the hardcore fan.

Needless to say, this site will steer well clear of any officially released material. As well as live gigs, I will post demos, radio interviews and anything else that I feel may be of interest.

In addition, occasionally I will post material by other bands, related or otherwise, that mean a lot to me.

Your comments and/or contributions are most welcome. Please email me at adrianandrews1@sky.com.


Sunday, 21 March 2021

'10' 31 Years Down The Road

 

Little did we know it then but on 5th March 1990 The Stranglers would release '10', the band's tenth studio album and this would be the last by the original line up. The album itself had a difficult birth. Its release was originally scheduled for the previous year, but the product as produced by Owen Morris was considered to be too thin and the band entrusted the task of giving it some additional punch to Roy Thomas Baker, a producer who had to date worked with most of the biggest names in rock. It was he who was responsible for the production on Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody', a song that didn't do so badly.

S.I.S. release notification

The album was preceded by the release of a new single, a cover of ? and the Mysterions 1966 garage classic '96 Tears'. Why this particular track I do not know. It may have been a idea that had been bounced around as part of The Purple Helmets' game plan discussions. Alternatively, it may just have been the case that many elements of the original song fell in quite nicely with the band's own musical modus operandi, the song being underpinned by psychedelic keys, bread and butter stuff for Dave Greenfield. Whist far from the sleazy sexual connotations of 'Peaches', the line 'And when the sun comes up, I'll be on top' may have carried a certain saucy postcard appeal for the band too.

In my opinion, the release of yet another cover to herald the album was a poor choice. The last new Stranglers material was 'Shakin' Like A Leaf', that had been released three years earlier in February 1987. This had been followed by the Kinks cover 'All Day And All Of The Night', followed by a reworking of '(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)' as 'Grip '89'. Perhaps this was an indication that all was not rosy in The Stranglers' camp.

The '10' release announcement (Sounds February 1990)

The thing that hit you first and foremost about the album was the sleeve artwork that featured the ten most prominent world leaders of the day (nine political and one religious). As clever and well executed as this idea was, when I looked at the sleeve both then and now, Mike Yarwood comes to mind, moreover it never was entirely clear to me how this parade of world leaders fitted in with the material on the album. As an aside can you imagine the furore that the site of Jet Black 'blacked up' as Joshua Nkomo would provoke were the album to be released today!

As mentioned earlier, the release of '10' was delayed in order to beef up the sound. In this respect I cannot take the band to task, big, over the top production was the thing in the late '80's so what could the band have done really other than to have followed suit in that respect, so I will concentrate on the material.



As was the case with the preceding two albums, 'Aural Sculpture' and 'Dreamtime', some of the track selections from the album sessions were baffling. Below par tracks made the cut whilst some of the strongest material was to be consigned to B-side status. In this regard how was it that such a strong track as 'Instead Of This' was dropped in favour of say 'Let's Celebrate'? Likewise for 'You', although it was always my understanding that this was a casualty from the 'Dreamtime' sessions, despite the fact that it appeared on the '10' reissue (that's one for a fan with a superior encyclopedic nerdy-knowledge to mine).

Generally, musically I feel that with '10' the band did their best to tap into the commercial sound that passed as popular in 1990, jangly guitars and 'house' style keyboards, which I don't think that they ever really pulled off. In fact, the Judge Jules 12" remix of 'The Sweet Smell of Success' is my low point from the Mark 1 era. The album has two very distinct feels to it, possibly due the different hands responsible for penning the songs. Song like 'Let's Celebrate', 'Man Of The Earth' and 'Sweet Smell of Success', up tempo and upbeat, contrast starkly with the more reflective, almost torch-like tracks such as 'In This Place' and 'Never To Look Back' (as well as the aforementioned non-album cut 'Instead Of This'). I think that this contrast paints a musical picture of two men now heading in different (and opposite) directions.


This parting of the ways that can be heard in the grooves of '10' mirrors the musical flavours of the bass player and guitarist's solo albums, 'Un Jour Parfait' and 'Wolf' respectively, both of which are pretty much contemporary with '10'.

Do I hate the album? No is the answer to that one. In my opinion it is the weakest that the four produced but it has its moments. The stand out track is 'Never To Look Back' and that by some considerable distance. 'Where I Live' is a good track and back in the day 'Someone Like You' was a favourite, welcome in the live set. 'Sweet Smell Of Success' looking back on the 'Yuppie' culture that existed in the UK in the mid to late '80's irritates me (as did the Yuppies themselves!).

Please feel free to share your own thoughts on Hugh's Last Stand.

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