Essential Music: Amigos em Portugal, by The Durutti Column

Amigos em portugalThe Durutti Column (aka Vini Reilly) recorded an album in 1983 for a small Portuguese record label. Entitled Amigos em Portugal, this record has been hard to find since its release. (I actually still have an original vinyl copy of it.) Recorded in just a few days, Vini laid down some tracks, mostly instrumental, of some works in progress. The music was similar to what he would soon record on Without Mercy, and Vini made some of his finest music in these few days.

Unfortunately, this album was never really supposed to be released, and Vini never earned any money from it. For many years, it was one of the most collectible Durutti Column albums. Now, Cargo Records has reissued the album, which is available in a package containing an LP and a CD, each of which has been remastered with specific masters (i.e., one for the LP and another for the CD).

If you’re a Durutti Column fan, you must own this. Even thought it’s mostly a collection of sketches, these are some of Vini’s finest songs. (One of my favorites is Wheels Turning, with Vini’s slightly off-key vocals over a piano accompaniment.)

The same label has also reissued Live at the Venue, another limited LP release from the same period. Recorded in 1982 at The Venue, in London, this record features Vini Reilly and drummer Bruce Mitchell. The sound is rough, but it gives a good picture of what the band sounded like live, back in the day.

CD Review: sunlight to blue… blue to blackness by The Durutti Column

For nearly thirty years, I’ve been a fan of The Durutti Column, the name used by multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer Vini Reilly. I discovered The Return of the Durutti Column, Vini’s first album, back in 1980, shortly after it was released, and was immediately hooked. His combination of catchy melodies, his unique style of guitar playing, and his laconic voice give his music a tone that is his alone. So as, each year or so, a new Durutti Column album comes out, I buy it unhesitatingly.

The latest album, sunlight to blue… blue to blackness, is available from Kooky Records, a small label that has released the last few Durutti albums. (It is actually not released until June 23; I got a pre-release copy of it.)

Vini Reilly can be said to repeat himself; but that’s part of the charm of each Durutti Column album. The first track, a heart-rending acoustic guitar piece called “Glimpse”, is a reworking of a few early Durutti Column melodies, but is played with such delicacy and beauty, that it makes me melt. The first five tracks on this album are instrumentals, several featuring themes and riffs from earlier works, and the sixth track is a rhythm-box version of “Never Known”, a great old song from the 1981 disc LC. I’ve never been a big fan of Vini’s “electronicized” music, such as his Obey the Time album, but the song works well. “Ananda” is a beautiful piano-based track, written and performed by Poppy Morgan, with “intrusive guitar” by Vini. “Head Glue” is a very languid duet sung by Vini and XXXX, and “Demo for Gathering Dust” is, as its title suggests, a version of a song on the Idiots Savants disc released last year, in which Vini shows off his acoustic guitar skills (though it gets a bit vague near the end as he riffs out on chords). “Cup a Soup Romance” is another guitar instrumental, and “Grief” is a solo piano piece.

All in all, another beautiful album from Vini Reilly. In a way, though, the three songs with vocals don’t really fit with the other eight tracks; this album would have been a bit more satisfying as an instrumental-only disc. But there’s not a weak song on it, and I’d recommend it to all, fans of The Durutti Column or newcomers.

Essential Music: The Return of The Durutti Column

UntitledFor those who weren’t around or listening to music in 1979, it’s hard to imagine how different the world of “popular” music was. Critics and retailers hadn’t fragmented music into the many genres you see today in stores, and many of today’s genres didn’t even exist. Rap was taking its first steps, ambient and electronic music were considered avant-garde, new age was just budding, and punk and disco were battling it out in the record bins. New wave was just following in the footsteps of punk, as progressive rock was in its final death throes.

Amidst the punk and new-wave music that came out of England, as part of the late-’70s independent music scene, was a now-legendary record label based in Manchester: Factory Records. Its first two groups were Joy Division (which, after the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis, morphed into New Order) and The Durutti Column, but Factory released many other records by little-known groups, and the Factory concept, together with other independent labels in the UK, such as Rough Trade, revitalized a moribund music scene.

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