Wednesday, May 9, 2018

BRAM TCHAIKOVSKY: SPAZ reviews the STRANGE MEN, CHANGED MEN 3CD set!


BRAM TCHAIKOVSKY
STRANGE MEN, CHANGED MEN: 
The Complete Recordings
(3CD)


Bram Tchaikovsky became a Power Pop legend based on the glorious single “Girl of My Dreams.” The song is a serious slice of sweeping, powerful Pop laced with a few delicious hooks and some fine harmonies. However, Bram Tchaikovsky and Co. were a Rock ‘n’ Roll outfit at heart that just so happened to have had a bunch of cracking tunes. No matter what genre he was ultimately filed under, Bram deserved a lot more commercial success than he received between 1978 and 1981. Although his recording career only lasted for a few short years, the legend of Bram Tchaikovsky has continued to thrive in the shadows. Legions of Power Pop and New Wave fans still consider “Girl of My Dreams” one of the greatest singles of the era. He's spent 37 years out of the spotlight but now it is time that Bram Tchaikovsky gets his due...



At long last, fans don’t have to fork over big bucks for out of print CD versions of the band’s debut album because it can be found in Cherry Red Records’ STRANGE MEN, CHANGED MEN: THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS 1979-1981, a three CD set that features all three Bram Tchaikovsky albums plus every non-album track the band released during those few short years. This, my friends, is a treasure trove of pure magic that the fans have all been waiting for! This is EVERYTHING Bram Tchaikovsky released in a three year span! And it is more than worth the wait!

Born Peter Brammall, Bram Tchaikovsky came to prominence as guitarist for UK quartet The Motors.  On the first Motors album, the band played tight Rock ‘n’ Roll ala Status Quo. By their second, APPROVED BY THE MOTORS, leaders Nick Garvey and Andy McMaster had blossomed into top Pop songwriters. Closer to Power Pop than any of these members got, APPROVED BY THE MOTORS was an album that earned the band plenty of attention. And sadly, led to Bram’s departure from the band.


Thankfully, Bram formed a band with the equally talented bassist Micky Broadbent and released a well-received EP. By the time of their debut album on Radar Records, STRANGE MAN, CHANGED MAN, Bram Tchaikovsky was a BAND and not just the name of their main member. Along with former Heavy Metal Kids drummer Keith Boyce, their debut album was produced by Bram’s old boss, Nick Garvey. Chock full of loose, melodic Rock ‘n’ Roll, this debut was fueled by Punk’s energy, Power Pop’s melodic charm, Rock ‘n’ Roll’s roots and, quite possibly, hours spent at the pub. Keith Boyce’s old Heavy Metal Kids bandmate Ronnie Thomas wrote two tracks on the album: “Lonely Dancer” and the massive “Girl of My Dreams” but don’t think for a second that Bram and the band were short on great tunes because that is not the case at all. “I’m The One That’s Leaving,” “Sarah Smiles,” “Nobody Knows” and “Lady from the USA” are top notch slices of Pop pie. The only mis-step is the NWOBHM-lite take on The Monkees’ “I’m A Believer,” which zaps the charm right out of the original. While Bram may have been the leader of the band, he was wise enough to let Broadbent take more than just a sideman position. Micky’s voice often dominates the songs and works well alongside Tchaikovsky’s. At this point, Bram Tchaikovsky was being marketed as a band name and Broadbent’s time in the spotlight shines. Disc One includes the entire album along with loads of rare EP tracks, B-sides and more.


A year later, Bram Tchaikovsky released THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING (AKA PRESSURE in the U.S.), an equally fantastic collection of songs. Boyce was out and another Keith (Line) was brought in. Now a quartet with the addition of guitarist Denis Forbes (who had appeared on their  1979 LULLABY OF BROADWAY EP), this sophomore effort was proof that Bram Tchaikovsky was a band. While Bram still dominates, Forbes sings lead on “Hollywood Nightmare” and Micky handles the rocking “Letter from The U.S.A.” pretty much on his own. Bram and Micky share vocals on other fantastic music tracks including “Let’s Dance,”, “The Russians Are Coming,” “Can’t Give You Reasons” and many more.  While not as loose as the debut album, the tighter punchier sound on this album reveals a band with more muscle and power yet still chock full of great melodies and tight harmonies. As a recording unit, Bram Tchaikovsky had gelled and were a force to be reckoned with.  It was a shame when the band split up and Bram (along with Denis) left Radar Records for pastures anew. Disc Two in this box set features the full album plus plenty of quality bonus tracks.


With Broadbent (and Line) gone, Bram Tchaikovsky was no longer a band but that didn’t stop Bram Tchaikovsky the man from moving forward, musically. Signing with Arista Records, Bram (along with guitarist Denis Forbes and producer Nick Garvey) released FUNLAND, a much more commercial album that stepped away from the straight-ahead Rock ‘n’ Roll of the previous albums and embraced his Pop-oriented side. With Garvey’s Spector-esque production, songs like “Soul Surrender” (previously, part of a Motors B-side medley), “Shall We Dance,” “Stand and Deliver,” “Heart of Stone” and “Together My Love” are big and bombastic Pop tunes that will make you swoon. “Miracle Cure” finds Bram embracing the Rockabilly craze that had taken over the UK at that time. Again, a solid collection of tunes that may not ROCK like the first two albums but they sound a whole lot better once you realize that FUNLAND is actually a solo album while the previous albums were group efforts. Disc Three of this set features the full album plus two bonus tracks.

And then, just like that, he was gone.  Bram jumped off the music industry train and disappeared into the shadows. Still alive and (hopefully) aware of his legacy, this is a grand time to celebrate one of the most under-appreciated and misunderstood artists of his era. This box set is a must have for any and every serious music fan. Bram Tchaikovsky, we salute you. And Micky, too. And both Keiths. And Denis. And Nick.


Keep on truckin',
Stephen SPAZ Schnee


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