Aug 21, 2013

RhoDeo 1333 Aetix

Hello, as we continue the females in the eighties today, those days saw some great female lead bands, alas in the anglo-american music industry looks are everything, as well as strong prejudices towards non american/british acts, Canadians and other former colonies considered hicks. When today's band came along they had another problem they were old enough to have opinions, in the end it cost them a big career outside Canada, and this when it started so well with a big hit form their debut album, they got better but were shunned by their record label not once but twice, ah well by now we know how much these coked up A&R ego's didn't deserve their status. Time to give them another finger and check out Martha & The Muffins music   ......N'Joy

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The group's initial line-up came together in Toronto in 1977, when David Millar asked his fellow Ontario College of Art student Mark Gane to help him start a band. Millar recruited Martha Johnson to play keyboards; Johnson brought in a friend from high school, Carl Finkle, to play bass; and Gane's brother Tim signed on as the drummer. They chose the name "Martha and the Muffins" to distance themselves from the aggressive names adopted by many punk bands of the era. According to Mark Gane: "We decided to use it as a temporary name until we could all agree on something better." The name ended up sticking for the next 7 years.

In 1979, the band travelled to England to record their first album, Metro Music (1980). It contained their 'one hit wonder'  "Echo Beach", that opened doors and created expectations. Later in 1980, the band released their second album, Trance and Dance, which was less successful and didn't give the band any hit singles.
In 1981, bassist Finkle left the band, and was replaced by Jocelyne Lanois, the sister of then-unknown record producer Daniel Lanois. After Jocelyne introduced the band to her brother, they figured Daniel was an ideal candidate to produce their next LP. However, in order to utilize his services as a co-producer, Martha and the Muffins had to agree to Virgin Records' demand that if they were going to insist on working with an unknown producer, they would also have work with a lower album recording budget.

Martha and the Muffins' 1981 album This is the Ice Age, produced by Daniel Lanois and the band, was recorded in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario. More experimental than previous efforts, it also gained significant Canadian radio airplay . However, despite critical acclaim, the album didn't spin off any hit singles internationally, and Virgin dropped the band from their roster. Considering it launched Daniel Lanois' career as a sought after producer, it goes to show how little these music execs are in touch with music.

Dan Lanois produced the follow-up album, "Danseparc", recorded at Grant Avenue Studio during the spring and summer of 1982 with new drummer Nick Kent and the first of three albums to be recorded with Canadian indie label Current Records.With the release of "Danseparc" in 1983, the band embarked on another tour, playing dates in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. After the tour Martha & Marc broke up the band and went on together as M & M, one year later they'd score their biggest hit "black stations/white stations" from the 84 Mystery Walk album, it gave them the financial freedom to record at leisure.

In 1985, Johnson and Gane started work on their next album in Montreal before heading to Bath, England to work with producer David Lord, resulting in the album The World is a Ball (1986), once again their record companies seemed to have lost interest, i.e no promotion. Johnson and Gane took several years to record a follow-up to The World is a Ball. Recording started in Bath, where the couple had moved to in 1987, and it continued in Toronto when they moved back to their home city in 1989. In 1992, they released the album Modern Lullaby. For these and all future releases, the duo revived the name "Martha and the Muffins", they released a babydaughter into the world aswell that year (92) Priorites change and for much of the 90's, they did film and television soundtrack work, but their recording artist days seemed history.

In 1995, Johnson inspired by motherhood released an album of children's music entitled Songs from the Tree House. Credited simply to "Martha", the album was an M+M/Martha and the Muffins project in all but name, as the record was written, arranged and produced by Gane and Johnson. Songs from the Tree House won a 1996 Juno Award for best children's album.

In 2003, the Johnson/Gane duo (augmented by session players) performed at the CFNY Reunion as Martha and the Muffins. Then in 2005, they performed a number of reunion shows in Toronto. A later concert that year also included Jocelyne Lanois on guitar. However, no other former Martha and the Muffins members participated in these 2005 'reunion' shows, which were the first full-length Martha and the Muffins concerts since 1987.

In June 2008, Martha and the Muffins announced that their next album would be called Delicate, and be mixed by David Bottrill. In December 2009, the first single from the album Mess was available on YouTube. The album was released on February 2, 2010, on their own label Muffin Music. It was Martha and the Muffins' first album of new material in 18 years.

In 2001 Johnson was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, but continues to perform and has used this platform to raise awareness in her shows. In 2013 Johnson released a project called "Solo One" with a portion of the proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

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An incredible debut album, and one that both stands the test of time and serves as an excellent sampler of a distinct era and sound called new wave. Hailing from Toronto, though recorded in England by Mike Howlett, the Marthas (there were two Marthas in the original lineup, Johnson and Ladly), and their Muffins recorded energetic and fun pop songs. Just try standing still during the brilliant "Echo Beach" or "Paint By Number Heart." They also managed to write some pretty powerful and intelligent lyrics on this album; just listen to the beauty of "Saigon," featuring haunting vocals from the Marthas, and excellent playing from the band. Mark Gane stands out with his distinctive guitar, featured prominently throughout the album, and Andy Haas provides some very catchy, memorable sax solos. The album also features witty, almost silly songs, such as "Cheesies and Gum," simplistic and hilarious, with a heavy dance beat. Perhaps the only negative aspect of the album is the production; Howlett at times seems to want to focus on the pure pop aspect, while not allowing the band to have their own distinct sound. It is the production that dates the album, but nevertheless, the brilliance of the songs shines through.

Martha and The Muffins - Metro +  (flac 332mb)

01 Echo Beach 3:39
02 Paint By Number Heart 4:23
03 Saigon 4:23
04 Indecision 4:26
05 Terminal Twilight 4:42
06 Hide And Seek 4:00
07 Monotone 2:47
08 Sinking Land 5:28
09 Revenge (Against The World) 3:31
10 Cheesies And Gum3:14
11 Insect Love 4:10
12 About Insomnia 3:10
13 Motorbikin' 2:55
14 Suburban Dream 3:20
15 Was Ezo 4:00

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It all came together on this album for Martha & the Muffins. Working with a new producer, a young Daniel Lanois, and a new bass player (Daniel's sister, Jocelyne), the band seemed to have the freedom to produce their sound their way. And it worked in a big way. From the first track, the incredible "Swimming," to the fantastic closer "Three Hundred Years/Chemistry," this album is a multi-layered, unforgettable experience. Mark Gane wrote the majority of the album, and he branches out both in his writing and his playing, while Martha Johnson produces one of her finest songs, the exquisite "One Day in Paris." The humor is still there, but now somewhat bittersweet, as evidenced in the wonderful "You Sold the Cottage," a wonderful companion piece to their single "Echo Beach" in that it showed just how much this band had grown in two years, and how much more mature their sound had become. A very strong album, one that would appeal to a great many tastes if given the chance; not instantly accessible, but well worth the effort of several listens. There are no real highlights, as the entire album is a standout, and also groundbreaking, with several production techniques still being used today. No wonder then their label Virgin scrapped them.

Martha And The Muffins - The Ice Age  (flac 235mb)

01 Swimming 3:55
02 Women Around The World At Work 3:59
03 Casualties Of Glass 5:17
04 Boy Without Filters 4:59
05 Jets Seem Slower In London's Skies 2:39
06 This Is The Ice Age 7:28
07 One Day In Paris 4:20
08 You Sold The Cottage 4:01
09 Three Hundred Years / Chemistry 7:02

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A new label, and the beginnings of a name change. Working with Daniel Lanois again, M + M managed to produce another album full of beautiful, layered sound, not entirely unlike the previous release, This Is the Ice Age. In fact the two releases are good companions. Mark Gane and Martha Johnson, the writers and main creative forces behind the band, once again expand the pop music form into ambient sounds mixed with solid dance beats, augmented by thought-provoking lyrics and top-notch playing. And, not forgetting the wonderful layered sounds created from a variety of sources, from the powerful, driving "Obedience" to the somber, yet beautiful "Sins of Children" and the almost bittersweet, beat driven yet melodic "Danseparc (Every Day It's Tomorrow)." An excellent album, and once again, the band shows a continuation, yet also a progression from their prior releases. It's also amazing to hear how far they have come since their Metro Music debut a mere four years prior to the release of this album.

Martha And The Muffins - Danseparc (flac 219mb)

01 Obedience 3:30
02 World Without Borders 3:08
03 Walking Into Walls 2:57
04 Danseparc (Every Day It's Tomorrow) 3:22
05 Sins Of Children 5:37
06 Several Styles Of Blonde Girls Dancing 5:52
07 Boys In The Bushes 4:43
08 What People Do For Fun 4:02
09 Whatever Happened To Radio Valve Road? 3:00

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Anonymous said...

Loved this band from the start: they helped show that we Canadians were as musically vital as the rest of the world. They gave a whole lot of American/UK bands a run for their musical money. That their label never gave them the support they deserved is a shame. Many thanks for this well deserved attention. Can you tell me where the five bonus tracks come from?


Rho said...

Yes Brian I Can these stem from the socalled sampler Far Away In Time that Virgin released in 1987 which was basically the integral Metro album with 7 more tracks 2 from the Iceage album which I omitted. It was yet another snub by Virgin that didn't make any effort to make a real compilation of the three albums Martha & Co released thru them clearly the same nincompoops were still running the show there.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe I've found these M+M goodies alive and well here! Thank you for filling some serious gaps in my post-punk collection, Rho, much appreciated!
All the best,

apf said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Could we please get danseparc re-upped in flac?