Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#564 in the Series) is Aztec Camera, High Land, Hard Rain
This was the first record from Roddy Frame. Roddy, then 19, wrote and produced all 13 songs. A few of the songs were even written a few years before that tender age.
His work on the acoustic guitar is most impressive. This is evident right from the opening track, that being the very catchy “Oblivious.” It was actually the only popular song on the album, at least State side. Roddy’s thoughtful lyrics are accompanied by his underappreciated voice. He’s also backed by a chorus of background singers. His sense of humor is always quite evident live. When I saw him years back, he complained that that the chorus “cost him a bloody quid,” and that he could have hired the “hum along audience” from Cabaret Metro for much cheaper.
The second track comes back with equal appeal and sound. “Walk out to Winter” has as much pop appeal as it does promise. “The Bugle Sounds the Horn” is a beautifully written track that again uses the acoustic guitar in the lead and shows off some serious skills, though strumming and not picking it this time.
The next two numbers pushed Melody Maker’s Paul Lester to say about Frame, “He celebrates the romance of pain and the pain of romance.”
“We Could Send Letters” promises the hope of long distance romance kept alive and “Pillar to Post” promises love that lasts forever.
“Release” and “Lost Outside the Tunnel” are somewhat forgettable, they‘re followed by “Back on Board” which is an instant classic that showed songwriting maturity well beyond the years of a teenager. The chorus, which again gets taken over by a choir, is the kind that sticks in your head in a good, not gooey way. The start of the next song bumps up against its end, and is a sweet ballad where Frame lets his Scottish accent out not accidentally.
This is where the original release ended, but subsequent releases included three songs that Frame had recorded in years earlier. “Haywire” sounds slightly off key by design, “Orchid Girl” is yet another lovely love song, and “Queens Tattoos” takes on an almost rockabilly sound, the kind that is fun to play at the pub with a pint in front of you.
Hard Line, Hard Rain was an extremely solid debut that offered much promise for such a young and talented musician. It is filled with guitar hooks of the acoustic kind and his voice is more sweet and soulful than new wave.
Aztec Camera were far more popular in the U.K. than here in Chicago. The only song that many may be familiar with could be “Oblivious.” If you fall in that category, I say check out the rest of this gem of a record. It’s well-crafted and multi layered, and may get you to the point where you find yourself playing it over and over again. I know I still do!
— John Driscoll, Chicago, Illinois, USA
High Land, Hard Rain was produced by John Brand and Bernie Clarke.
It peaked at #129 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart.
- “Oblivious” 3:05
- “The Boy Wonders” 3:10
- “Walk Out to Winter” 3:20
- “The Bugle Sounds Again” 2:50
- “We Could Send Letters” 5:40
- “Pillar to Post” 3:55
- “Release” 3:38
- “Lost Outside the Tunnel” 3:35
- “Back on Board” 4:50
- “Down the Dip” 2:10
- Roddy Frame – vocals, guitar, harmonica
- Bernie Clark – piano, organ
- Campbell Owens – bass
- Dave Ruffy – drums, percussion
- Official Roddy Frame Website
- See our piece on Roddy Frame, Surf
- See more that we’ve featured from 1983
Live version of ‘Oblivious’