Scottish indie pop stalwarts the Trash Can Sinatras were founded outside of Glasgow in 1987 by singer/guitarist Frank Reader (the brother of ex-Fairground Attraction singer Eddi Reader), guitarists John Douglas and Paul Livingston, bassist George McDaid, and drummer Stephen Douglas. Initially formed as a cover band, they were performing in a local bar when they were discovered by Go! Discs label representative Simon Dine; their first single, the superb "Obscurity Knocks," appeared in early 1990, evoking the jangly guitar pop crafted by Scottish bands like Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, and Josef K a decade earlier. A second Trash Can Sinatras single, "Only Tongue Can Tell," preceded the release of the quintet's debut LP, Cake, which met with a positive response on both sides of the Atlantic; in the U.S., it became a particular favorite on college radio.
Lindisfarne's second album, Fog on the Tyne fulfilled and expanded on the promise of their debut, offering a brace of memorable folk-rock (or, perhaps more properly, acoustic rock) songs that were compared favorably with Bob Dylan's work and that of the Band, and even the Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds, among others, without ever sounding like any of them. "Meet Me on the Corner" and "Fog on the Tyne" are the two best-known songs here, but there's plenty else that's their equal, including "Uncle Sam" and "Together Forever." The only cautionary element to the album was its short running time, an indicator that perhaps the group was being pressed to hard to get records out too quickly.
After reaching an international level of success with Demons and Wizards, Uriah Heep continued to build their fan base by knocking out another album of prog-like metal before the year's end. The end result, The Magician's Birthday, is not as consistent or cohesive as Demons and Wizards but still offers plenty of highlights. It starts dramatically with "Sunrise," a spooky power ballad that alternates quiet organ-led verses with an emotional chorus and guitar-fuelled instrumental breaks topped off by David Byron's operatic wail…
If Micus’s saga were an ongoing raga, then 1983’s Listen to the Rain would be one of its most inward-looking prayers. All four meditations that make up the album, while externally distinct, are internally connected through Micus’s use of guitar. The Spanish variety plays a particularly active role throughout, with the sole exception of “Dancing with the Morning,” for which he pairs the ubiquitous steel-stringed with the suling, a bamboo flute often heard in gamelan ensembles of southeast Asia. Knowledgeable listeners will recognize both the rarity of the backpacker’s trusty companion in the Micus canon and its elemental necessity in this setting. The ascetic sheen of its metal strings paints a world of shine to which a human presence adds less manufactured colors. The suling’s unclipped wings, by extension, are exhaled into the sky above, circling and darting through the surrounding melodies until they take shape under cover of their own imagination.
With Lights in the Dark, Hector Zazou set out to create accessible versions of the ominous, sacred music of Ireland. Utilizing a talented cast of vocalists, Breda Mayock, Katie McMahon, and Lasairfhiona Ni Chonaola, Zazou keeps the music relatively quiet. Shimmering bells, plaintive flutes, and Mark Isham's mournful trumpet serve mostly as background noises to the passionate, female vocals. There are moments of great power, such as "Song of the Passion" and "In the Name of the Father May We Gain Victory," and other songs where there's just a few too many hallelujahs for most modern listeners. The title of the album is telling.