STIFF LITTLE FINGERS: The Albums 1991-1997

This 4 CD 64 track clamshell box set covers the albums issued by Punk legends Stiff Little Fingers between 1991 and 1997. While not being the classics that they put out when they first got together, these are still strong albums that kick-ass compared to the tons of weak albums released the same time these were released.

Disc 1 is the band’s comeback studio album after breaking up for a time. It was the first to feature ex-Jam bassist Bruce Foxton. Includes the single “Beirut Moon” that was deleted since it was too provocative for the taking on of the government. It also contains great songs like “(It’s A) Long Way To Paradise (From Here),” and “Die And Burn.” A great return to form from the lads. The CD also includes “The ‘Cosh’ (Remix),” “(It’s a) Long Way to Paradise (From Here) (Demo),” and “Stand Up and Shout (Demo)” as bonus tracks. Disc 2 features the band’s yearly St. Patrick’s Day show at Glasgow’s Barrowlandsone, and this is one of the first they ever did. This is the last release to feature original guitarist Henry Cluney. With energy and gusto, they rip into their old and new songs and give the crowd what they want, a great time. Disc 3 and saw the band down to a trio of Jake Burns, Bruce Foxton and Dolphin Taylor. It includes the singles “Harp” and “Can’t Believe In You” and now comes with three unplugged versions of tracks from their early days; “Silver Lining,” “Listen,” and “Wasted Life.” The tracks “When The Stars Fall From The Sky” and “What If I Want More?” are great versions that were heard on the previous CD. CD 4 has the gritty “Tinderbox” and the ska-like tracks “You Don’t Believe In Me” and “Dust In My Eye” that I really liked too. Vocalist Jake Burns has provided liner notes covering this period in the band’s career whilst the booklet contains rare clippings and memorabilia as well as pictures of all relevant releases.

If you are a fan, this is a great continuation of the band’s output, but if you are new, get the previous collection first and then this one. This is one band that over the years has changed a bit, but are still vital and put on a great show.

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ANGELIC UPSTARTS: The Albums 1983-91

After having pretty good success on their early releases, the band started to lose some traction and after the failure of the Still From The Heart album, EMI said bye-bye and they were back to the indie scene. This was a great wake up for them since Reason Why? was a terrific album that brought them back to the punk rock glory that people loved them for. “Geordies Wife” and “Dollars And Pounds” are both politically charged poetry that adds something interesting to the album. The cool part is that you get ten bonus tracks added to the original album. CD2 which again comes with ten bonus tracks, mainly rare studio demos that show the bands raw edge. Along with politically charged punk rock, you get a cool cover of Martha Reeve & the Vandellas’ “Nowhere To Run.” Next up is Live In Yugoslavia, which is basically a greatest hits collection of the band’s songs and played with vim and vigor. Disc 4 is 1985’s Power Of The Press album which now comes with the bonus single “Brighton Bomb.” The album is a little more into the new wave sound of the time but still is a great listen. Next up is the even more new wave sounding Blood On The Terraces album with an included extra seven bonus tracks. The band still has some punk, but there is a lot of sound of the times going on and some controversial titles like “Heroin is Good For You,” and a cover of Kenny Rogers and The First Edition’s “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.” Ending with Bombed Out which saw original guitarist Mond reunited with vocalist Mensi for the first time in nearly a decade. This seemed to invigorate the band and they came back to the punk rock sound again, and the box set ends on a high note.

Although not as mandatory as the first box set, this is still a great collection of songs that sound better on this release than on the originals and will bring back memories to us old guys. The booklet features pictures of all relevant sleeves, liner notes, news clippings, and many previously unpublished photos.

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999: The Albums 1987-2007

 

Jumping from the previous box set that covered 1977-1980, this one skips a few albums and goes right to their most up-to-date album currently. Maybe there will be another collection of the missing albums…we’ll see.

With just four albums over a twenty-year span, the band slowed their releases down a whole lot, but what we have is a great collection all the same. Starting off with the band’s first official full-length live album Lust Power And Money, recorded at the legendary Klub Foot in London, it has a track listing that reads like a Greatest Hits Live with classics such as “Emergency,” and “Homicide” played with energy and power. Disc 2 contains 1993’s You Us It!, their first studio album in eight years which saw the addition of new member Arturo Bassick, formerly of The Lurkers. The band got right back to the harder-edged sound of their younger days and it was a great return to form. Disc 3 is the Takeover album which was originally released in 1997 and is even better than their last album. A classic from start to finish with tracks that stand up to their older gems. The final disc is 2007’s Death In Soho, which keeps up the high standard of punk rock with catchy choruses and great playing that bands more than half their age would be and should be jealous of. This is a great ending to the box set but makes you yearn for more from them.

The 20-page booklet contains in-depth liner notes, pictures of all relevant sleeves plus memorabilia and clippings from the era. The sound is so good and improves on the original releases by a long shot. Although the classic period was in the previous box set, this is still a terrific collection to get and will definitely be something that you will come back to, time and time again.

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BAD MANNERS: The Albums 1980 – 85

This collection is a 93 track five-disc clamshell box set rounding up pretty much all of Bad Manners’ releases between 1980-85. As well as having remastered sound, the 20-page booklet contains detailed liner notes, pictures of all the relevant record sleeves,
memorabilia and press clippings from the time.

Fronted by Buster Bloodvessel (born Douglas Trendle), the band was formed in 1976 while the members were together at Woodberry Down Comprehensive School near Manor House, North London. They rose to prominence in the early 1980s as part of the ska revival spearheaded by the likes of The Specials, The Beat, Madness and The Selecter. Unlike those bands, they were never on the 2-Tone label, but they did feature in the 1981 documentary Dance Craze which is where I first heard them. Their live version of “Lip Up Fatty” was amazing and I was a fan from that moment on.

The first CD is debut LP Ska ‘N’ B which spent three months in the UK charts in 1980, peaking at No.34. Includes the hit singles “Ne-Ne Na-Na Na-Na Nu-Nu” (No.28), “Lip Up Fatty” (No.15) and “Special Brew’ (No.3).” The album is half covers and half originals, and contains Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” the Magnificent Seven theme song, and Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs’ “Wooly Bully.” This album is fun and a great listen even after all these years, and it features five bonus tracks culled from 7” and 12” releases of the time. CD number two is the Loonee Tunes album which hit No.36 in the National Chart in 1980. This one contains the hit singles ‘Lorraine’ (No.21) and ‘Just A Feeling’ (No.13). This one had more originals and helped get the band more visibility with more TV appearances. Gosh It’s album is what you’ll find on Disc 3. It reached No.18 in the UK charts helped by the inclusion of the hit singles “Can Can” (No.3) and “Walking In The Sunshine” (No.10). Also added as a bonus is the No.34 charting “Buona Sera” single plus two tracks from the Party Party soundtrack that are appearing on CD in the UK for the first time. This is the album that really made it for the band with even better songwriting and production. I played this one a lot and you will too! The fourth disc is 1982’s Forging Ahead LP, a No.78 chart entry that includes the hit singles “Got No Brains” (No.44), “My Girl Lollipop” (No.9), “Samson And Delilah” (No. 58) and “That’ll Do Nicely” (No.49). This version includes 10 bonus tracks, lifted from various single releases. This album deserves to be heard since it contained so many great songs, but with ska going down in popularity, it didn’t get the respect that it deserved at the time. Disc 5 is the ultra-rare Mental Notes album from 1985, originally only released in North America / The Netherlands / Australia & Greece. Amongst the ten bonus tracks are five that have never appeared on CD before, culled from rare American only 12” singles. I owned this album because I lived in Canada at the time and played it frequently since I wasn’t too bothered with trends and still liked ska. The album went against their previous ska sound, but still was a pretty good album, especially their cover of Todd Rundgren’s “Bang The Drum All Day.”

All-in-all, this is a great collection for someone who loves 2-Tone and wants to put a smile on their face. The band is and will always be fun and talented, something that we need more of these days.

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THE 4 SKINS: The Albums

This 76 track four CD clamshell box set rounds up all that Oi! legends The 4 Skins recorded between 1980 and 1984. They formed in 1979 and disbanded in 1984 – although new line-ups formed in 2007 and 2008. The booklet features in-depth liner notes and is packed full of rare clippings and memorabilia plus many unseen photographs from the time, plus the remastered sound is great.

The first CD features all the tracks recorded by the band’s original vocalist Gary Hodges. It contains all their contributions to the Oi albums, a rough and ready version of their classic “Clockwork Skinhead,” “One Law For Them” single and various live and demos offerings. It gives a great overview of what the band was and where they were going. The second disc contains their first album with new drummer Pete Abbot and singer Tony “Panther” Cummings joining. Their debut album actually managed to crack the top 100 of the UK charts…pretty impressive. The album was split into a studio and live sides, with the live music being “live in the studio,” not in concert. The album includes great songs such as “Plastic Gangsters” and “Yesterday’s Heroes” which are still terrific after all these years. Disc Three is the Fistful Of… 4 Skins album which hit No.11 on the Indie Chart and saw the band led by ex-Last Resort vocalist Roi Pearce. This is the album that I got into the band with and it holds a special place for me. “Forgotten Hero” and “Johnny Go Home” are classics that grabbed my ears when I first heard them and still sound amazing. The last disc is the rare live From Chaos To 1984 which showcases the band playing their hearts out for the punters.

The band was a great blast of energy and proved that skins could sing about more than being a skin, football, drinking, and fighting, they put a lot of thought into what they did and played as hard as they could. This is a great collection that deserves to be in your house and played frequently.

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COCK SPARRER: The Albums 1994 – 2017

Cock Sparrer is a punk rock band formed in 1972 in the East End of London, England. They are considered one of the most influential street punk bands of all time, helping pave the way for early ’80s punk scene and the Oi! subgenre. This is a collection of their comeback album and more remastered and with bonus tracks added. The detailed 20-page booklet comes complete with rare clippings and memorabilia, informative sleeve notes and pictures of all the releases. The whole project, like the recent 1978-87 The Albums box set – has been overseen by guitarist Daryl Smith. When Cock Sparrer re-emerged in 1994, they added guitarist Darryl Smith to the original lineup and this has remained in place for the last 24 years.

With tight some tight playing and the continued energy that the band is noted for, Guilty As Charged is everything that fans had hoped for in a return. The band gives us songs to sing along to, and great lyrics that the listener was expecting. “Last Train To Dagenham” and “Because You’re Young” are terrific songs that keep the high standard that they are known for, plus you get the complete Run Away EP as well as a bonus. Two Monkeys includes a rare cover version by the band of the 1970 England World Cup Squad’s “Back Home.” “Battersea Bardot,” is a tribute to ill-starred actress Carol White and is not the usual stuff that they do, but shows that they have the skill to include a different sound to their album and it’s a definite treat. Here We Stand is now joined by the 2008 single version of “Because You’re Young” plus a duet with WWF legend Dan Hardy on “England Belongs To Me.” “Gotta Get Out” is a ripper of a tune that I just can’t get enough of, and “Spirit Of ’76” is another fantastic punk song that shows that they have the heart and soul to show the kids just how it’s done. The last CD Forever keeps the high quality going and proves just how vital they are to the scene after all these years.

It’s great to see a band that is still going after all of these years and still giving their all to the fans. They may not be the most prolific band with only seven albums between 1978 and 2017, four live albums, one EP, nine singles and feature on many compilations, but the music is quality and that’s what really counts.

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THE ADICTS: The Albums 1982 – 87

The Adicts formed in Ipswitch around 1975. The band consisted of singer Keith “Monkey” Warren, guitarist Pete Davison, bassist Mel Ellis, and drummer Michael Davison. Taking inspiration from A Clockwork Orange, the band wore all white clothing and black bowler hats topped off with Monkey decked out in white face paint. The band have been recording and touring for many years on and off while being able to keep some of the original members with them. As of 2018, the band is still touring, so go out and see them if you can.

This is a 69 track five CD clamshell box set housing all the recordings by Pop Punk legends The Adicts between 1982 and 1987. Pictures of all relevant record sleeves, press clippings, and in-depth liner notes are featured in the CD booklet which also includes many rare and unseen pictures by Tony Mottram. The band’s debut album, Songs of Praise, was self-released in 1981 and is not included with this set.

I remember seeing pictures of this band in magazines and being intrigued because of their look, and when I finally was able to hear them, the gimmick of the clothes and makeup didn’t matter anymore since the music was so good. Sound of Music on CD 1 is a solid punk rock album from start to finish. The single “Chinese Takeaway” is still fun after all of these years and “Disco” is a fun track that kicks ass as well. The album holds up well and will definitely be one that you will play over and over again. On CD 2 we get Smart Alex, an album with a bit more polish to its sound, but still sounding tight and terrific. The album is not as rough and tumble as the first one on here, but has some great songs such as “Tokyo” and “Bad Boy.” CD 3 gives us Fifth Overture, which takes a sharp turn with the added keyboardist and lightens up the sound a whole lot. If you were to not know that this was the Adicts, you would never guess that it was them, but it was the ’80s and a lot of bands tried to do things differently to get on the charts. The fourth CD is the rarities album and contains 18 non-album tracks like “Viva La Revolution” single and the Bar Room Bop EP plus b-sides and 12” mixes. A very cool collection of songs that are harder to find and add to the fun of this collection. The final CD is a live on and shows the band at the top of their game playing a blistering set that will make you crank it up nice and loud.

With the remastered sound and such a terrific collection of music, putting this one on and hearing a great band is a no-brainer. It’s great that bands like this are still out there and doing what they do best.

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