Friday, June 03, 2011

The Compleat Angler

Hailing from Manchester, England, Jon Astley began his career as an assistant to Glyn Johns in 1973. In the late seventies he became a freelance engineer and produced the Who's Who Are You and Eric Clapton's Just One Night. It was Astley who took a 25 minute demo of the classic Who are You track and edited it down to a (still) epic 6 minute track.

He turned his attention to North America in the 80's and produced Corey Hart's first two albums, and then signing to Atlantic records as a recording artist himself. Astley released 2 albums and had two #1 alternative chart hits. If you were around in the eighties then you heard the song Jane's Gettin Serious kicking around somewhere. This song was later used in a Heinz ketchup commercial that featured the debut of actor Matt LeBlanc of "Friends". In the 90's Astley focused his career back to engineering and has become somewhat of a whiz kid at remastering older titles. He is also the brother of singer Virginia Astley and ex brother-in-law of Pete Townshend of The Who. His association with Pete has made him an in-demand producer having already revamped and remastered the entire Who catalog. Based on his excellent working relationship with the sometimes cantankerous Pete Townshend, when it came time to remaster The Who's entire back catalog, Astley got the nod as producer. He has also remastered Led Zeppelin for which he has won an award, George Harrison’s solo records, all 8 Abba CDs, the 3 Tears for Fears records, the 10 Level 42 CDs and also 13 Judas Priest records as well as working with contemporary acts Republica, and Tori Amos.

The Compleat Angler was his second and final album coming out in 1988. Astley was a truly underrated artist; and this album deserves much more than the indifference which greeted it in 1988. On "Put This Love to the Test," Astley adopts David Bowie's midnight-caller croon and the arty new wave rhythms of David Byrne's Talking Heads and is as catchy as Bowie's version of Iggy Pop's "China Girl". The lyrics on this album are pointed and witty. On "I'll Show You Bastards," Astley raises a defiant fist against his critics. "I'll show you bastards with reason and rhyme/I'll make my mark now that you've drawn the line," Astley sings with contempt. He attacks the fickle music industry on "But Is It Commercial?," complaining that "If the man in the chair doesn't care/You are a thing of the past." Both of his albums are very difficult to find and out of print for a long time and any collection of obscure and overlooked 80's albums is not complete without this gem.

Put This Love to the Test
I Dream About You (But I Cannot Sleep)
Funny Toon