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.