As much as the quirky music of 10cc prepares you for Godley and Creme, the pair suffers from a commercial blind spot that’s baffling or frustrating by turns. They’re capable of writing brilliant snippets of art pop, sampled throughout the record, but insist on subverting their pop sensibilities to wild experimentation. “Random Brainwaves” (one of several tracks featuring guitarist Phil Manzanera), “I Pity Inanimate Objects” and “Get Well Soon” (with Paul McCartney of all people on backing vocals) scratch at the door of greatness, but when the door’s opened they run in the other direction like puerile pranksters. Even with all this, Freeze Frame is more commercial than their first two records and set the stage for the far superior Ismism (a.k.a. Snack Attack). The exotic arrangements are built by treating (or torturing) traditional sounds: vocals are stretched like taffy, guitars are shrouded in effects, and all manner of odd percussion is tossed into the salad. Compounding the confusion are inscrutable lyrics and strange narratives; “Brazilia (Wish You Were Here)” might be about the effects of greenhouse gasses or nuclear destruction, “Freeze Frame” appears to be about a person suffering from some phobia, but pinning any of this down is near impossible. For that reason, “Mugshots” is one of the few tracks that doesn’t escape recollection; it’s pretty catchy and has a storyline you can actually follow. Given the daunting nature of their limited catalog, Freeze Frame is one of the better Godley and Creme records, but it’s still a hard one to warm up to, even after repeated plays. On a different note, the nonverbal credits on the picture sleeve are appreciably clever.
Kronomyth 1.8: HEIRING AID. A year after Live Aid, Midge Ure and a smaller, star-studded cast returned to Wembley Arena to celebrate the 10th anniversary of (and raise money for) the Prince’s Trust Charity. This disc highlights the biggest stars from the concert, including bits by Ure, Dire Straits, Phil Collins, Tina Turner, Elton John, Rod Stewart and Sir Macca himself. As concert discs go, this one is pretty tepid; so was Live Aid for that matter. Performers don’t get a chance to set up the acoustics the way they’d like, they don’t get a chance to warm up, in some cases they’re playing with ad hoc bands (albeit with very good players), all of it conspiring toward mediocrity. The sound engineering on this one isn’t particularly good either; a lot of sound seeps out and what remains sounds thin. So if you weren’t invited to the original party, Highlights is no magic ticket. Some of the performances are good, most of them fall flat. Honestly, if you’re interested in hearing an oldies revue like this, pick up one of Ringo’s All-Starr albums. Speaking of The Beatles, McCartney does a decent version of “Get Back” with Tina taking a few lines and a short, spirited revival of “Long Tall Sally.” (The elpee version featured a bonus single with Sally and I Saw Her Standing There.) As someone who still isn’t completely sold on the merits of live albums, I’m rarely charitably disposed to these save the worldwind tours. The Trust’s Tenth is a great cast for a good cause, but a good live album it isn’t.