THE KINGBEES: The Big Rock

 

The Kingbees second album The Big Rock is being re-issued with four bonus tracks. This was the band’s final release on RSO, and it features mostly originally material written by Canadian band leader Jamie James. For this special re-issue, James provides some new liner notes about the album, and has improved sound with the remastering.

Living just outside of Toronto, Ontario back in the old days of the ’80s, I got to hear this album a fair bit since local radio stations played songs from this album. I was surprised and happy to see that this was being reissued and couldn’t wait to hear it again. The remastering is terrific, clean and clear sound that makes the album sound better than ever, and a cool booklet with information about the recording. The band plays a mix of rock’n’roll, rockabilly and has a punky/new wave feel to it that just outs a smile on my face. You just want to get up and dance around when you listen to the album, especially songs like “The Big Rock,” and “Let Myself Go.” The album is a high energy party that deserved to big a bigger hit and hopefully now will reach out to those who missed it the first time around. The band doesn’t stick to a traditional rockabilly sound like later bands like the Stray Cats, instead they use that as a starting point and really just play great music. The songs still hold up to this day, which is a testament to great songwriting, well done production, and terrific playing. They have covers of Charlie Rich, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis on the original album, and a cover of the Burnettes as one of the bonus tracks.

Go out and grab a copy of this album, do yourself a favor and introduce your friends and family to this band and start a rocking party in your house as soon as you hit play. Now I need to go get their first album…..lol.

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CLOSE TO THE NOISE FLOOR: FORMATIVE UK ELECTRONICA 1975-1984

If you were around for the early New Wave era, or just curious about when it was still hungry and vital, then this is a box set that you will love. It showcases the early sounds of the synthesizer used in bands to create sounds, noises and in most cases, songs that still raise the hair on your arms. This collection has sixty tracks across four CD, a great detailed booklet, and has bands that you’ve heard of like the Human League, Blancmange, and OMD, to obscure artists that will make you try to hunt down their music….if you can……

This collection goes from the very experimental, with beeps and other strange noises making up songs, to beautiful soundscapes and early industrial. This was just as punk rock at the time as picking up a guitar, maybe more so, since a lot of these were done on homemade machines and with even cheaper materials. The CDs are packed full of songs that were made in a hurry and not with any eye on being on a chart, just made to do something in the spirit of the times and to create something. To think that a lot of these people have moved on and have forgotten about a lot of this, it’s a great collection to get people to hear things that would have been forgotten except for the greedy and horrible collectors who charge an arm and a leg for these singles online. The big song on here is the Human League track “Being Boiled,” but the others all have their charms and I’m glad to have the chance to hear a lot of music that I never had the chance to hear back then. The remastering is fantastic, especially since some of this came off of cassettes, the sound is clear and makes for a great listen.

I could go on and on about the artists and songs, but you just need to go out and get a copy of this collection. While not being definitive….and how could it ever be? The collection is a great beginning to expanding on your idea of what synthesizer music started out as, as well as being sad at how bad a lot of it turned out later in the ’80s.

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THE BANGLES: Ladies And Gentlemen…The Bangles!

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The Bangles got together and personally picked out these songs, songs from the beginning of their career and remastered for optimal sound. These sixteen tracks are from their debut single, EP, demos, live tracks and compilations. A lot of these are on CD for the first time ever. These songs feature the original line-up of Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson. Vicki Peterson, and original bassist Annette Zilinskas. Michael Steele, who replaced Zilinskas appears only on the live tracks.

I remember seeing their EP back when it first came out in 1982, and could only find it on cassette, so I picked it up and loved it so much. I played it all of the time and waited for new music from them. Of course we got new music a couple of years later and they started to blow up on video shows and radio. This is a great way for me, and those who liked them back them, as well as the curious to hear these great songs. You can hear the youthful energy and pure fun that they had during this period and it’s infectious. You get great covers of The Turtles “Outside Chance,” Paul Revere And The Raiders’ “Steppin’ Out,” and Love’s “7 And 7 Is.” The songs are pure pop that has a nice edge to them and shows that they had the chops to become big……and they sure proved that. It’s great that they have released these songs, and the remastered sound is fantastic too. The album is full of songs that should be classics, and to people who have followed them since the beginning, they are classics.

Yes, they were made in the early 80’s, and they had a 60’s sound to them, but the songs still hold up….good music is good music regardless of the era. Bands nowadays could take a page out of their songbook and realize that you need to do what you love and you will shine, even after all of these years, these songs shine like the sun.

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ALIEN SEX FIEND: Classic Albums Volume 2

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Alien Sex Fiend is a combination of goth, new wave, and industrial that has been a going concern since 1982 and still continues now. The heart and soul of the band is Nik Fiend and Mrs Fiend who are like the Energizer bunny……..they keep going and going and going…….thankfully for us all. This is a remastered collection of four albums, and the second such collection of their music in this format. You get Here Cum Germs, Another Planet, Curse, and Open Head Surgery, which is their fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth albums. You also get remastered music, bonus tracks, a booklet, mini LP sleeves and a clam-shell box to store it in.

A fantastic collection of albums that showcase the band at the end of the 80’s and the early 90’s when they were getting a lot of interest in North America as well as the UK and Europe. It has them getting deeper into sampling and electronics and doing more experimental things, but still sounding like themselves. The albums have a great mix of cartoonish lyrics and manic music that mesh together perfectly. Here Cums Germs has a great continuation of their earlier albums, and a foreshadowing of the more electronic sounds coming on the next bunch of albums. Another Planet is just Mr and Mrs Fiend and they put together a great album of solid songs. From “Bun-Ho!” to the covers of “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones and Hawkwind’s “Silver Machine,” the album is a treat. Curse has the fantastic “Now I’m Feeling Zombiefied,” and a huge jump into techno, hip-hop style music that is strong on this album, but still retains the feel of the band. Open Head Surgery continues on from the previous album with a similar sound and has the band leaving the batcave/goth sound pretty much in the dust. The remastered sound gives the listener the opportunity to hear the little sounds that got lost on the previous recordings, and the cleaner sound makes for a better listening experience. The bonus tracks are a treat and the information in the booklet is interesting to read.

The band has gone through a lot of different styles and sounds throughout their career, but through it all, they still are Alien Sex Fiend. This band changes, but yet stays the same in a lot of ways………thankfully for us.

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THE RAVE-UPS: Town + Country

The Rave-Ups 1985 debut album Town + Country, has received a long-awaited reissue from Omnivore Records. As frontman Jimmer Podrasky noted on Facebook, “I wrote the liner notes for this reissue of a record that was an important part of my musical past. Hearing this stuff thirty years later is a real treat and I’m very thankful to Omnivore Recordings for making this possible.” The Rave-Ups formed in 1979 in Pittsburgh, PA and relocated to Los Angeles in the early ‘80s. The band released two albums on Epic Records before calling it quits around 1990. Town + Country, which has been out of circulation and almost impossible to find for decades, is the jewel of The Rave-Ups discography. This will be its first domestic release on CD.

If you were a fan of the movie Pretty In Pink, then you have heard two of the songs on here, the fantastic “Positively Lost Me” and “Rave-Up, Shut-Up” that were in the club scenes. With these two great songs, you would have thought that they would have been well-known, but that didn’t happen. The album is chock full of great songs with a touch of country edge, but not enough to make you two-step, just enough to give the songs a different sound than what everyone was playing at the time. A real highlight of the album is the great cover of The Byrds “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.””In My Gremlin,” “By the Way,” and the poignant “Better World” are songs that need to be heard. With the terrific remastering, you can hear every nuance in these songs and feel the raw emotion.

This reissue of Town + Country features the original ten songs, plus a whopping eleven previously unissued bonus tracks, including live radio performances recorded for Deirdre O’Donoghue’s influential Snap program on Los Angeles’ legendary KCRW-FM, as well as 1986 material produced by Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) and Mark Linett. A detailed historical essay from the band’s Jimmer Podrasky, complemented by numerous unseen photos from the sessions/era, make this not only a document of time + place, but one that helps document a moment in musical history.

This is an album that needs to be in your collection, one that cries out to be heard, one that you rears will thank you for. Get this and play it often and relive a time in the ’80s when music was in flux and bands were doing all kinds of experimenting with different genres.

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SKELETAL FAMILY: Eternal

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.

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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.

 

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