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John Foxx: In the Glow (2009) and various reissues November 2, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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John Foxx: In the Glow, Shifting City, the Pleasures of ElectricityYes, I’ve posted about John Foxx several times already. But if he keeps putting out albums…

Unlike his four previous releases this year, his latest albums are expanded reissues of previously available material, remastered and in some cases remixed, and shuffling some material previously available on other releases.

In the Glow has the most previously unreleased material, in the form of live recordings from two 1983 concerts. There are no songs that haven’t been released in some form before, but many of these particular versions are new to CD. Nine songs appeared as the first disc in the 2002 double CD The Golden Section Tour/The Omnidelic Exotour, which is now out of print. There are 26 songs on this new release, though many appear twice. There are some differences in the performances, though, which makes the duplication worthwhile. For fans of Foxx’s most commercially successful era, this may be the album to get, as it’s a full band playing songs from The Garden and The Golden Section as well as Ultravox’s Systems of Romance. Sounds like the drummer is playing electronic drums on all the songs, and Foxx seems to be losing control of his voice a little towards the end of the first concert, but for anyone who wanted to know what a live Foxx concert sounded like back then, this is well worth getting. The sound quality, incidentally, is very good. Much better than the bootlegs that have been floating around for years.

After these concerts, Foxx released one more album, In Mysterious Ways, and then disappeared from the public eye for over a decade. He returned in 1997 with Cathedral Oceans, an ambient album, and Shifting City, a collaboration with the relatively unknown Louis Gordon. Shifting City is a bit odd — it’s a guitar-free album, totally electronic, harking back to his Metamatic album, but some of the songs draw on the Beatles and psychedelic influences that were noticeable in his music circa The Golden Section. Songs like “Crash,” “Shadow Man,” and “Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible” are somewhere between techno and industrial, but “Through My Sleeping,” though electronic, is unmistakably influenced by the Beatles’s psychedelic period. There are a couple of forgettable, underdeveloped slow tunes (“Forgotten Years” and “Everyone”), but overall, despite the slightly inconsistent tone of the album, it was a very welcome return. The reissue has been somewhat remixed and remastered, and the first disc has three bonus tracks, a demo version of “Shadow Man” and Subterranean Omnidelic Exotour versions of two Ultravox songs. The second disc of the Shifting City reissue is the second disc of the 2002 Golden Section Tour/Omnidelic Exotour mentioned above. That in itself was an expansion of two very limited edition releases called Subterranean Omnidelic Exotour, which I don’t have. They’re live-in-studio versions of songs played on tour by Foxx and Gordon, released in lieu of an actual live album. Some older songs sound a little thin and flat with only synths; some sound quite good, and some Shifting City songs have a more dynamic feel.

The Pleasures of Electricity was the second Foxx/Gordon album, originally released in 2001. It’s more stylistically consistent than Shifting City, hewing closer to Foxx’s 1980 Metamatic album and classic Kraftwerk. When I first heard it in 2001 I thought it was a bit samey and unoriginal, but over time it’s grown a lot in my estimation. This reissue is a bit odd, though. The first disc is the original album with four songs remixed. The second disc is the original album with those songs in their original form, plus two previously unreleased songs from the same recording sessions. There’s a lot of duplication here, but the album, the alternate mixes of those four songs, and the two bonus songs wouldn’t fit on one disc. This way, at least, fans who missed the original can have both versions of the album. And fans who have the original are already used to having a lot of duplication in our collections.

And speaking of duplication: two other Foxx CDs were reissued recently. Impossible and A New Kind of Man, released in 2008, were originally limited to a thousand copies each, but have been re-pressed due to popular demand. Impossible was largely rerecorded versions of songs from Foxx’s back catalogue, but it also included two new tracks. A New Kind of Man was a live recording from a 2007 tour in which Foxx played his 1980 Metamatic album and some related songs. The only change was that one song on Impossible was remixed; the remix was made available as a free mp3 download, so people who bought the limited edition wouldn’t have to buy the CD again. Very thoughtful and much appreciated, that was.

I’m going to guess that that’s it for John Foxx for 2009, but there’s always the chance something else may pop up. He has several albums in the works and has been talking with other people about starting new projects.The future may yet see collaborations with Leftfield’s Paul Daley, Benge, Vincent Gallo, Harold Budd (again), Robin Guthrie (again)….

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