Archive | April, 2021

The B-52’s – Good Stuff (1992)

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The B-52’s – Good Stuff (1992)

Posted on 12 April 2021 by Joe

We resume our album-by-album The B-52’s retrospective with a look at Good Stuff, their 1992 follow up to the huge success of Cosmic Thing.

This was at a time when singer Cindy Wilson decided to take a break from the band and they were carrying on as trio of Fred Schneider, Keith Strickland and Kate Pierson.

Live Julee Cruise replaced Cindy Wilson. A fine stand in, but there’s only one Cindy Wilson with her unique southern states emotional style of singing. It is their only album not to feature Cindy.

Despite their obvious mainstream appeal, they were still being pigeonholed as ‘New Wave’ and ‘alternative’. Incidentally, Good Stuff was nominated for a best alternative album Grammy – eventually losing out to Tom Waits’ Bone Machine.

Cindy, Kate and Fred work perfectly as vocalists. But take one away and its not the same. Therein lies the problem with Good Stuff.

The Tracks

Tell It Live It T-I-Is is bland rock and roll, although Kate’s vocals are great. Hot Pants Explosion is just plain stupid, rather than cool-stupid.

As with their previous album Nile Rodgers and Don Was once again share half the tracks each and the title track is perfect for one of their own albums but falls flat here.

There’s a bit of politics (to be said in a Ben Elton 80s voice) here referencing their own activism, on gay rights, Aids awareness and the environment. Revolution Earth sums this up and ends up being the highlight. Great melody and Pierson again excels. How good would this have been with Cindy too!?

The same can be said of Dreamland. It clocks in at more than seven minutes and sounds great, featuring Strickland’s increasing influences of Buddhism and meditation. Turns out his was a hippy all along. Also, Pierson carries its trance like funk along well. Once again, with Cindy involved this could have been one of The B-52’s career highlights.  

For Pierson fans this album is a must. Vision of a Kiss features another strong  Kate performance, as does Breezin’.

There’s a nod to their earlier days with live favourite Is That You Mo Dean? given a run out. Ends up a bit of a filler track though.

Despite some less than stellar offerings, there’s a lot to like here, some great songs and its got a nice laid back feel to it too.

But without Cindy Wilson there’s a vital cog to their machine missing.

By Joe Lepper

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The B-52’s – Bouncing off the Satellites (1986)

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The B-52’s – Bouncing off the Satellites (1986)

Posted on 05 April 2021 by Joe

Here’s the sad part. Not the next B-52’s album – Bouncing off the Satellites – that we are focusing on over recent weeks.  That’s full of excellent tracks. It’s the story behind it.

Guitarist Ricky Wilson tragically died after the album was completed and prior to its release.

He was one of the many young brilliant men that succumbed to Aids during the 1980s. His guitar playing and song writing were becoming more assured. He had already invented his own tuning and riffed his way through the previous decade or so. But it was to be no more.

Bouncing off the Satellites was in the can and it is full of commercially pop savvy numbers, including upbeat tracks moving into the realms of dance and club music with Girl from Impanema Goes to Greenland, Summer of Love and the ridiculously silly Wig.

Tony Mansfield was on production duties for this one. That may explain why it sounds so radio friendly for a mid to late 80s audience. His credits include Aha’s Hunting High and Low.

But with the band too shocked to tour and promotional appearances limited it failed to make an impact on the charts or the media. According to Pierson, Wilson even kept his illness secret from his band mates. They pretty much disappeared as a band, with Ricky’s sister Cindy particularly affected. They would not come back together for another two years.

This was the first B-52’s album I bought when it came out and it will always be tinged with sadness due to Wilson’s death.

It’s almost as if the songs become sadder knowing about his death. But there are also some beautiful ballads on here, which are the ones I still listen to most regularly.

 

Ain’t it a Shame is a beautifully sad Cindy Wilson number, co-written with her brother and drummer Keith Strickland.

Coincidentally another of my other favourites is She Brakes for Rainbows, also featuring Strickland on writing duties, this time with just Ricky.

The band will need Strickland’s increasingly strong ear for a good tune when they convene again for their next release.

Elsewhere on the album, Theme for a Nude Beach is stupid but strong and I have a soft spot for Detour Thru Your Mind.

The fillers are from Pierson and Schneider respectively, who supplied solo tracks they’d been working on. Of the two Pierson’s Housework is the best. Schneider’s Juicy Jungle feels a little out of place – too solo.

There is some strong music here and makes me wonder what would have become of the band if Ricky was still alive.

**Cindy and her son Nolan recently shared this wonderful clip of them playing She Brakes For Rainbows in her living room from last year. This is one of the great comments that sums up her singing style – “I love the place Cindy goes to as she sings”. I think she always thinks of Ricky when she sings this.**

By Joe Lepper

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