BOULEBLOG OPENS A NEW PATHWAY TO ALTERNATIVE REVIEWS WITH OFF THE RECORD; THIS TIME, THE VAPORS LIVE AT THE GUILDFORD CIVIC HALL

The cover of this illusive release. Photo courtesy LiveGigRecordings

This is a thrilling new opportunity for us here at BouleBlog. With the creation of this new category, Off The Record, we can bring you reviews of unique recordings not found at Amazon or your local record store. In essence, yes, these are what the population may call bootlegs. But during the listening process I will determine if the recording is WORTH reviewing and if not, you will be alerted that what was promoted through my Facebook equivalent to this blog, BouleBlog the group: (https://www.facebook.com/groups/bouleblog/) is, in fact NOT worth reviewing. I find it tiring to just type over and over “The audio is unintelligible due to a poor live mix”. I usually post photos of the upcoming acts there, to give a tip-off to those who know about the Facebook group and are members. If you’re on Facebook, request membership to the group and I will approve it unless you are a bot.

However, I can guarantee the recordings I review the first few times will be quality as the source (to be revealed later) has proven to be a reliable one for board recordings (again, for the uninitiated, board recordings are made from a recording that went straight from the concert’s mixing console directly into a recording device) so the next few of these Off The Record reviews will be quality.

We begin this feature with a band who left a distinct mark on the zeitgeist with their breakout single “Turning Japanese”. The pity behind this band is they had such important deep cuts on both their albums New Clear Days and the moving Magnets. The title track for Magnets was a powerful ballad-turned-anthem that details an assassination, even right down to the exit line of one of the later choruses ‘Kennedy’s children are magnets…’.

Then there was the effervescent “Waiting For The Weekend”, a song every working person can relate to. They even give a nod in the direction the United States is taking with the song “Civic Hall”, about being harassed by bobbies (on this side of the pond, we call them cops, pigs, fascists, Nazis, bacon, donut munchers, fat-bags, militant douchebags, oh how I’d love to go on) outside the local civic hall (ironic that this live show was recorded at the Guildford Civic Hall, hometown of the Vapors and most likely the location for the story in the song).

I am not going to go into part-by-part analysis of this performance. I will highlight spots within the songs, maybe even do some (much feared) interpretation of the songs like those examples above. The point of these reviews is to cue the readers to music they may never have known existed before.

It’s not like you can advertise unauthorized recordings too loudly even though most of the major labels no longer have the teeth to fight over royalties, copyright, ownership. Thanks to the spanking Robert Fripp and Sid Smith gave the record label(s) over the illegal distribution of King Crimson downloads.

All the major labels are welcome to sue me if they feel I have violated their copyright reserve. They can have 50% of my bankruptcy.

Now let’s do up our shag mullet haircuts and get out our Gibson SGs  and our Rickenbacker bass and jam out to some Vapors!

The lineup for this concert is the original, that being David Fenton (songwriter, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist), Howard Smith (drummer), Edward Bazalgette (lead guitarist) and Steve Smith (bass guitarist and vocals) at least that’s what Wiki has to say about them. I refer to my discs of their albums.

The following music takes place March 11, 1981. Let’s welcome to the stage, The Vapors!

Some applause and we head right into “News At Ten” from the first album New Clear Days. A mostly faithful version done to sonic perfection. Yeah the vocals are live if you can believe it, a good mix of backing vocals. For the most part, this is note for note against the album. The dynamics into the outro break are dead on through the mix of vocals through the ending.

A brief into that is stepped on by bass and drums ushers in “Johnny’s In Love Again” from Magnets. And yes, that brief intro confirms that this recording is from the tour for their “new album” Magnets. This is also a raw, honest version of this tune. It’s like being in the audience of a giant listening party to songs from both albums. Fenton is a little sloppy into the break, but they pull it back into line for the vocal chorus and into the solo. All four instruments playing separate parts through the verse, but back for the bridge and chorus, tight all the way through to the end.

The into to “Sixty Second Interval” from New Clear Days is faded out but rejoins for the delay embellished vocal about the pondered time between the launching and landing of an incendiary device of sizable damage capacity. The track grows through the second verse, but still remaining faithful to the grooves the song was pressed in on its initial release on vinyl in the early 80’s. More tight musicianship with incredible audio and editing. This disc is fast becoming a treasure in my collection. But then again anything beyond rereleases of the two albums is a treasure.

I’m telling ya, ya gotta check out this supplier!

Smack into the peppy intro to “Jimmie Jones” from New Clear Days about, what else, the Jonestown Punch Party. The grinding bass leading the pounding drums with the light hearted guitar licks that are sometimes through the first chorus. The band is a little shaky on this take. Yes, the audio clarity is such that I can hear many things going on including subtle misses in the performance.

They pick it up going into the final chorus and bridge meld. My system detects low end from the toms, but the bass drum could be mixed higher.

The crowd loves the sped-up intro “Turning Japanese”, the breakthrough hit from New Clear Days. Yeah, they know this song. Outside the sound processing equipment that can’t be brought on tour, this is note for note, fast as fuck. Most likely generated through crowd enthusiasm. Play the hit over and over and you can play it at most tempos short of computer generated super-times.

During the ‘No sex…’ break, they tighten it up, and keep that tight course through the solo to the ending. The crowd very appreciative.

After acknowledging Guilford, they dedicate this song to someone close to the band and the venue, “Daylight Titans” from Magnets. Once again, the band have this song down and are speeding through it. FASTER than the album tempos, like they are late for something. Fenton adds extra vocal ad-libs in the pre-solo break.

They are in their stride now, just in time for my favorite Vapors song, the sobering title track called “Magnets”. Balgazette breaks out the 12-string for the beautiful intro. No backward reverb on the vocal, OK. During the sparse intro, there is no hiss, no noise, outside of the audience, this could be analog studio quality. We’ve all seen our share of initial release vinyl that was noisier than this!

When the band kicks in full, I sat in awe. Even more powerful than the album! Considering the song is about the Kennedy assassination, that’s some hard shit to do…

I can’t find flaw with this to this point. Some live band jitters, but that’s nominal. It’s just like being there, only you control the volume of the show!

I know this version is legit when it brings tears to my eyes as the album version does. Only this version has more killer drum fills! There are also some killer effects on Fenton’s live vocals that come through clean and out front. Bazalgette return to the 12-string for the ‘boys, boys, boys, magnetize’ outro. Note for note perfect!

But it’s all full out about when friends become enemies. “Isolated Case” off of Magnets tell the rather gritty tale with gritty guitars and bass. The bass and drums cut through on this song particularly. The complicated vocal arrangement into the chorus, of the album version is pulled off live! Result!

The bridge change is quite powerful. As if the new found enemy were in the audience. And yes you can feel the tension, accented by many extra non-album bass fills on this take.

A song about the correspondence of our subject with one Hiro Hito of Japan during World War II, “Letter From Hiro” New Clear Days. The intro has a different sound than the album, much more aggressive. You do what you have to, to fill in live. More extra bass riffs. Fenton screams his way into the initial bridge into the chorus, where his letter was found to be mailed too late.

But from this point on, the track is total rock out fest. I wish I could repost an MP3 of this song to let you hear the brilliance of both the band, and my new-found source for some really off the beaten path recordings. The best part is, they are usually still available so you can buy your own.

Sorry to drone on like a commercial, but this version of “…Hiro” is perfect, even into the delay vocal on the ‘too late’ break, perfect and tight as fuck! There’s not much to report here.

I guess this next song is their version of “Cover Of The Rolling Stone”, but the London version with an amped up version of “Live At The Marquee” from Magnets. I mean this is a super quick version, note-for-note, but way faster than the album. Bazalgette gets to stretch out a bit here on the solo.

Howard Smith had to be coked up for this show… Listen to the ending of this track and tell me different.

This next track is about the very venue it’s recorded in! That being “Civic Hall” from Magnets. After a brief encore break, they come back to microphone buzz and they don’t let it bother them. They break out “Civic Hall” with swift precision. This is the afore-mentioned song about being arrested for having a bag of ‘homemade jam’. Sound familiar AMERICA???

There’s a minor flub on guitar going into verse two, but when the chorus pops out, they have the sound down. The wind-down break is executed perfectly except for that mic buzz. They make up for it for the solo break. Backing vocals in tact. The wind-down ending is perfection again.

They can’t wait to bust out “Bunkers” off of New Clear Days. Talk about a speedy version. About a youth living in fear of living in war-era bunkers. It remains faithful if not beefy. The guitars are mixed on steroids into the last verse. The bridge backing vocals are dead-on. That carries over into the chorus structure right to the end of the song, with another wind-down ending with some guitar embellishments.

DONE! All too quickly, but fun.

This is the third disc I have listened to from this particular source. First was a live recording of Robert Fripp/David Sylvian doing songs from their collaborative album On The First Day. Then there was the live disc of one of Peter Gabriel’s earlier performances called Broken Eyes And Contact Lenses. I can compare the audio quality to both acts previous live albums, for Fripp/Syvian it was called Damage and for Gabriel, the iconic Plays Live. I have no meter for the Vapors. But it’s not hard to imagine that if they lasted long enough to put out a live album, it would sound like this.

Next, I think it only fair that you have to opportunity to judge for yourself. Since leaving the syndication situation, I have not really felt a need to push any one supplier. But you won’t find these items through conventional means. I have no qualms about buying bootlegs. Hell, I even had the opportunity to buy some King Crimson bootleg videos! TALK about spitting in the face of the nature of the act! We all know Fripp is koo-koo for chocolate cereal balls when he sees unauthorized photography, still and video, or recording devices of any kind at any KC show. I got those videos by walking into a record store in Bethlehem PA and they were right there in the video rack.

There used to be another small store in Clarks Summit by me, he had all kinds of bootleg stuff. Then the couple places I knew in Allentown… Point is, they’re out there. You just have to keep it quiet. What I am about to do goes against that policy, but this person’s stuff is SO quality, you folks really do need to check it out. All kinds of music, styles, genres. Get board recordings of those acts here: https://livegigrecordings.weebly.com

And if you are worried about the cost of any of the items at the site mentioned above, they come on CD, have quality graphics and hearty cases.

Therefore, in the name of keeping things fair, let’s do something that can help the band directly. I have no affiliation with this project, other than I feel it is worthwhile to promote through this forum. Check out how you can help the band find it’s way to our shores one more time. Go here if you can help: https://www.gofundme.com/fans-of-the-vapors-us

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