Happy in happy extremes: the best of Aztec Camera

After 1980 Bowie didn’t produce any albums not made by Iggy Pop, and Roddy Frame was neither a session guitarist nor song doctor — your choices, bros. A performer of enormous talent and charm, Frame released a near-perfect debut and spent the rest of the eighties finding appropriate settings for those tunes, which combined a spectacular fluency in flamenco licks and a lyrical sensibility that interpreted Keats as a post-adolescent logorrheic who liked purple in his tea. Although his Rough Trade debut High Land, Hard Rain, produced by company man John Brand, didn’t differ much sonically from contemporaneous work by Orange Juice and the Go-Betweens, these bands didn’t have Frame, who on “Walk Out to Winter” and “Pillar to Post” came off as a sexy motherfucker who’d brush a lock aside while serenading his beloved on a balcony.

Followups wore the usual grooves: Mark Knopfler, recognizing he had a first-class guitarist behind the glass, indulged 1984’s Knife his client. On 1987’s Love, eyeing Swing Out Sister and the Blow Monkeys, Frame went sophisti-pop, hiring L.A. stalwart Tommy LiPuma and a master hair stylist (the video for the swoonable “Somewhere in My Heart” shows Frame at his most fetching). He actually scored a couple of modern rock hits in 1990, including a tune with the Clash’s Mick Jones; when Frame needed to snarl, he delivered. He got Ryuichi Sakamoto’s attention for Dreamland, an appropriate title for an album as out of time in 1993 as Civil War battle hymns.

1. Pillar to Post
2. Somewhere in My Heart
3. Jump
4. Walk Out to Winter
5. The Crying Scene
6. Oblivious
7. Still on Fire
8. All I Need is Everything
9. How Men Are
10. Back on Board
11. The Boy Wonders
12. Stray
13. Just Like the USA
14. Good Morning, Britain
15. Black Lucia

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