Aztec Camera

Knife/Aztec Camera

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Aztec Camera's 1984 LP, Knife, is one of those LPs that sounds even better the older it gets. High Land, Hard Rain may have been Aztec Camera's golden egg, but Knife has surprising longevity for an album that was initially slapped by the U.K. press for being over-produced. This CD combines Knife with Aztec Camera's rare self-titled 1985 EP. Leader Roddy Frame's hysterically funny acoustic send-up of Van Halen's '80s metal anthem "Jump" is one of rock's most memorable covers, and while it seems slightly out of place with the adult material on Knife, it does add another great song to a record that was already almost perfect. Although it was released only a year after the adolescent angst of High Land, Hard Rain, Frame is a grown man on Knife; his voice is deeper and his lyrics are even more poetic. The atmospheric nine-minute ballad "Knife" has lovely imagery: "Oh its twists are cruel and hopeless/Like neglect has worn it thin/And it could rip the sky wide open/And let the rain come tumbling in." Because of its length, "Knife" may seem excessive; however, repeated spins reveal the track's shimmering beauty. Aztec Camera took big chances on Knife, embracing country and R&B while sugarcoating the jangling guitars of High Land, Hard Rain with keyboards on "Still on Fire" and "All I Need Is Everything." Horns are added to the group's formula as well. The live performances provided by the inclusion of the EP should please fans preferring a more stripped-down Aztec Camera, but they're just frosting on the cake. Knife cuts deep with or without them.

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