LOOKING STATESIDE: 80 US R&B, Mod, Soul & Garage Nuggets: Various Artists

This is the fourth collection in the highly successful LOOKING… series, and the series now takes a trip to the USA for its latest theme. The latest Looking set travels from uptempo R&B and Early Soul to Garage Punk, Northern, Frat Rock, Proto-Psych and wild instro’s. Paying homage to American Mod music from the Sixties. Beginning with turn-of-the-decade R&B, Frat Rock and Proto-Soul on Disc 1, a smattering of bonkers instrumentals, plenty of four-on-the-floor Northern Soul congregated on Disc 2, Nuggets-friendly fare on Disc 3 and tracks which flirt with Psychedelia as this four-hour soundtrack draws to a close. Many of the tracks here are drawn from the prestigious back catalogues of Challenge, Scepter/Wand, Etiquette, Swan, Shell, and Select, and a large number of those new to CD.

The three CDs are packed full of great songs that will get you dancing, wanting to bob your head and just plain rock out. You get some names that you’ve heard of, The Champs, Joe Tex, and Gene Vincent, but the real treat is in finding out new bands that you’ve never heard before and now love. The bad part of a collection like this, is that once you hear a band that you like, you now have to try to find more of their music, and that might be very difficult. The songs are a treat for someone who has never heard them before and has an interest in the more obscure tracks that are out there. The quality of the songs is amazing, with song after song of catchy and fun songs that work perfectly together. The compiler of this collection really did a great job finding these mostly underrated and hard to find songs where there is literally something for everyone, and no time to get bored because of the various styles mixed together on these three discs.

With great sound and a booklet full of stories about each of the songs, this is a collection that will keep you listening to it over and over again. This is a great way to hear songs that aren’t the typical, over-played songs from the time period and learn something new at the same time.




Fronted by glamorous singer Anne-Marie Hurst, The Skeletal Family were at the forefront of the goth rock movement of the 1980s. Compiled with the full involvement of the band, this collection boasts all of the Skeletal Family’s independent recordings for the Red Rhino label between 1983 and 1985, and both of the band’s albums, Burning Oil and Futile Combat are included, alongside all their non-album singles, B-sides and rare compilation appearances. For the first time, many of the band’s unissued BBC sessions for John Peel, Kid Jensen and Janice Long are also included. The fourth disc concentrates on live material, drawn principally from a show at Folkestone Peter Pipers (01-03-84) and a later show with Anne-Marie’s replacement Katrina Phillips. The fifth and final CD boasts a clutch of demos of previously unissued, brand new songs by the modern-day Skeletal Family, alongside earlier demos and some live reunion material.

As you can see, this is a lot of rare and interesting music compiled for your listening pleasure. Starting with the first disc, which is their debut album Burning Oil and some bonus tracks, we can see where they were coming from. The album has a bit of an early, punky Siouxsie and the Banshees sound, but manages to hold its own and you can hear the enthusiasm that they brought to the album. The bonus songs are a treat and give you a bit more insight to the band. The second disc which is their second album Futile Combat sees them growing a bit and stretching out more. You get the terrific “Promised Land” single heard here in both album and 12” versions, and their interesting covers of the Batman theme and Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” The third disc is the BBC sessions that show the raw talent that the band had. This was getting close to when original singer Hurst left the band. Disc four features two concerts, the first has Hurst on great form, and on the second, Katrina Philips takes over vocal duties, including a cover of “Knocking On Heaven’s Door,” featuring the Sisters’ Andrew Eldritch and Wayne Hussey from The Mission. Both have a bit of a bootleg quality to the sound, but they make for a very cool look into the band’s two vocalists. The last disc has the newer music and shows that the band still can come up with great songs and it bodes well for their future.

The sound on these discs is great, giving a clarity to the songs, plus the booklet is chock full of info, pictures and an interview with the band, that makes for a great piece by itself. If you are a fan, this is a dream collection that has everything and more that you could ever want from them. I had heard some of the songs back in the ’80s, but never knew that much about them, but with this box set, I feel that I have a relationship with them that goes deep.





ULTRAVOX!: Ha!-Ha!-Ha!

This was the second album by British pop group Ultravox, at that time known as “Ultravox!” with an exclamation mark, as a nod to Neu!. Although the group would later achieve fame and commercial success with lead singer Midge Ure the band was, in 1977, led by singer/songwriter John Foxx who was accompanied by guitarist Stevie Shears, drummer Warren Cann, bassist Chris Cross and keyboard/violinist Billy Currie. Ha!-Ha!-Ha! was released on 14 October 1977, and was accompanied by lead single “ROckwrok.”

This is the remastered release from Culture Factory and has six bonus tracks as well as clear, crisp sound and a replica cardboard jacket, just like it did when it was on vinyl.

The album sounds great with the beautiful remastering and you get to hear the band still in the punk style that they had before Midge Ure came in as lead singer and they became slicker and more polished. The songs are played with gust and you can hear the excitement and the experimental nature of the band, especially on “Distant Smile.” It has the atmospherics that they became known for and then blasts in a blistering track. The mix of the hard-edged punk, and the slicker new wave mix perfectly on the album with neither overpowering the other, but complimenting each other. The tide was changing in the band as well as on the charts and this still sounds amazing today. This is a collection of songs that grab you right from the start and keep a hold of you right until the end of the album. The bonus songs are a great treat too, something that makes for a longer and interesting album.

If you are a fan of later era Ultravox, you need to hear how they started out and don’t compare them, just enjoy them as almost two separate bands linked together.








PURE HELL: Noise Addiction

Pure Hell was a first-generation US punk band formed in Philadelphia in 1974 and active in New York City from 1974 to 1978. Contemporaries of the New York Dolls, their incendiary sound was inspired by The Stooges and the MC5. They were also the first-ever all black punk band. This set includes a 30 minute live in the studio DVD filmed for a New York cable TV station in 1978 that includes two non album tracks.

The fact that I have been a punk fan for so many years and never heard about these guys is a real tragedy because this would have been a big deal back then. They only managed one single while together, the Nancy Sinatra song “These Boots Are Made For Walking” backed with “No Rules.” These two songs are included on here and “No Rules” actually rules with its amazing guitar playing and the catchy chorus. The songs are played fast, tight and with power to spare, with great vocals from Kenny Gordon who also played rhythm guitar. The rest of the band is no slouches though, they are fantastic and give their all on every track and squeeze emotion out of every note played. The rest of the band was Preston Morris III (lead guitars), Kerry Boles (bass guitars), and Michael Sanders (percussion). Curtis Knight their manager was an R’n’B singer from the Squires, who also featured a young Jimi Hendrix on guitar. He fell out with the band and refused to release the album and until his death, the tapes were lost to time, but they finally surfaced and after 27 years, the album was finally released. The sound is amazing on the studio tracks, and the DVD is rough, but a great memento of them live.

You can’t go wrong with this collection, an album that is both historic and just blindingly great from start to finish. This band has been a very small footnote in the history of punk, but they deserve a place higher and this album should help fix that. Grab some lost classics and play it fucking loud!





Pelican West is the 1982 debut album by British new wave band Haircut One Hundred. It peaked at No. 2 in the UK album charts, No. 31 in the Billboard 200 and was certified Platinum by the BPI. The album featured three hit singles “Love Plus One,” “Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl),” and “Fantastic Day.” This is the remastered, and now expanded to two discs edition. This set also includes the Top 10 hit single “Nobody’s Fool” featuring the 7″ and 12″ versions. Other bonus material includes the previously unavailable in the UK mixes of “Calling Captain Autumn (Special Extended Version),” and “Love’s Got Me In Triangles (Special Extended Version).” The 7″ and 12″ versions of the b/sides “Boat Party,” “Marine Boy,” “Ski Club Of Great Britain” and “October Is Orange (Day 1 And Day 2).” Many of these have never been available on CD. The CD booklet features artwork from both the original vinyl album and promotional magazine plus extensive sleeve notes and a UK discography.

I remember hearing “Love Plus One” on the radio one night while my father was at work doing inventory and I immediately fell in love with the song. Bouncy, catchy and irresistible, I had to have that song! I got out one of the few blank cassettes that I had and got set to record it the next time that it was going to be played, back then, they used to announce the upcoming songs and tell you what they played already. I got everything ready and hit record and played that song over and over again. I went to one of the many local stores, at that time there were a ton of record stores around and grabbed a copy of the album and bought a blank tape and went home to listen and tape it. The songs on that album were every bit as good as the first song that I heard and had me smiling and dancing around my living room, of course trying to be careful to not have the needle skip…lol. After all of these years, I now possess the amazing sounding remaster, as well as a ton of great bonus tracks that I had to find on singles back then, no mean feat. I still have the cassette, and the singles from back then, and this double CD collection holds up just as well as it did when I first heard them, and I’ve played it a ton of times already. The songs are crisp sounding, full of energy and have the feel of a party that you never want to leave.

The album brings back great memories of my youth and even if you only know “the hits,” you should grab this album and let the funky grooves enter your body and get you moving and dancing to the songs.