999: The Albums 1977-80

A 59 track 4 CD clamshell box set gathering together all of Punk legends 999’s releases between 1977-80. Each disc comes in a card wallet featuring a replica of the original LP artwork whilst the 20-page booklet contains detailed liner notes, lots of clippings, memorabilia and record sleeves from the era.

Disc one features the debut 999 album which hit No.53 in the UK National Chart and includes the singles “Me And My Desire,” and the classic “Emergency.” Both singles and both songs that have hooks and sound amazing still. Not as much of a buzzsaw band like other contemporaries of the time, but a talented and hook-filled debut that gets the pulse going still. Disc two has the Separates album from 1978 which featured the anthemic “Homicide” (a UK No.40 hit single) and the band’s ode to their following, “Feelin’ Alright With The Crew.” “Homicide” was the first song of theirs that I heard and it’s still one of my favourite punk songs of all-time. The rest of the album is no slouch either. I owned the Canadian version of this album which had a different playing order, cover, some different tracks and was called High Energy Plan. As an added bonus this album includes the single “Waiting” with the b-side “Action.” Disc three is The Biggest Prize In Sport and it features the “Trouble” 45. This album is one that a friend got me for a birthday present and locked in my love for this band, With a more rock-oriented sound, they were moving away from the tried and true punk sound, but still had the attitude, plus more hooks. The last disc is the rarities album which is a 22-track round-up of non-LP singles and rare, compilation-only, cuts. It includes the Punk classic “Nasty! Nasty!,” the 7” versions of singles such as “I’m Alive” and “No Pity” plus the live mini-LP The Biggest Tour In Sport from their mega coast-to-coast trek across America. This is a great disc of songs that I had heard but never could find back in Canada.

Add in the great info in the booklet, the better sound on this collection and all the music, this is the collection to get! Also, if you have the chance, go see them live some 40 odd years after forming and still featuring three-quarters of their original line up.

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PSEUDO ECHO: Love An Adventure – 2CD Expanded Edition

Australian synth-pop band Pseudo Echo formed in 1982 and were influenced by the emergent British New Romantic bands Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Ultravox. By 1984, Pseudo Echo were second in popularity in their homeland only to INXS. Their international breakthrough hit was their pop-rock makeover of the Lipps Inc track, the disco classic “Funky Town.” This was a worldwide smash hit in 1987 reaching #1 in Australia and Canada, #8 in the UK and #6 on the US Billboard Hot 100. This is a 2-disc expanded edition of their second album, Love An Adventure, that “Funky Town” originally appeared on. The tracklisting replicates the European / North American version of the album that was released in 1987 but with the addition of 18 bonus tracks. The bonus tracks include the definitive collection of the contemporaneous promotional remixes that were hitherto exclusive to North America as well as the B-sides and 12” versions of the singles that were commercially released from the album in the UK and US. Also contains an amazing booklet with tons of pictures and information.

I remember hearing about these guys when their first album came out, and really enjoying the new romantic sound and how chock full of hooks it had, then I saw the video for “Funky Town” and I laughed that they were covering a disco song, but damn it, they did a good job! With a guaranteed hook, synth galore and a touch of rock, this song grabbed me and I was hooked. Adding to the power of this album was “Listening,” another hook-filled song that was a killer remixed from their first album. They also had two more beefed up songs from their first album, “A Beat For You,” and “Destination Unknown.” A bunch of remixes, which everyone seemed to do back then, made sure that you had to get more and more from them. Not to say that the “big” single is the only thing on here, you can’t go wrong with this harder-edged version of the band. Now add on a ton of remixes and you have a double CD collection that will bring back memories, plus get you dancing, singing and laughing with how good it will make you feel.

If you want an album to bring you out of the doldrums, this is it. Put it on, and head to Funky Town all on your own again.

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PETER & THE TEST TUBE BABIES: The Albums 1982-87 (6 CD Box Set)

PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES-THE ALBUMS 1982-87-IMPORT 6 CD WITH JAPAN OBI O23

Ninety-one tracks on six CDs box set featuring the entire P&TTB recorded output between 1978-87…how can you go wrong? The first disc is the debut live album, Pissed & Proud, that hit No.2 in the Indie Chart in 1982. The Mating Sounds Of South American Frogs is on Disc 2 that hit No.7 in the Indie Chart in 1983. Disc 3 features 26 rare non-LP cuts by the band including the Indie Chart hit singles “Banned From The Pubs” (No.10), “Run Like Hell” (No.2), “Zombie Creeping Flesh” (No.2) and “Blown Out Again” (No.40). The 18 track demos collection Loud Blaring Punk Rock is Disc 4, a No.7 Indie Chart Hit. Disc 5 features the Rotting In The Fart Sack EP (No.3) plus the “Wimpeez” (No. 8) and “Keys To The City” (No.19) singles, whilst Disc 6 is the brilliant Soberphobia album from 1987, an Indie Chart No.11 hit. Each disc comes in a cardboard wallet with its original LP art and the clamshell box also contains a 20-page booklet featuring pictures of all the records, rare clippings from the band’s archive and detailed liner notes.

All I can say is wow! So much punk rock goodness and fun that it’s almost too much…almost. I have been a fan for years and have a few of these already, but with better sound, and having all of this music in one spot, how could I refuse? As much as I enjoyed the first live album, their first album proper really grabbed me and I still play the hell out of it today. Such a great true first album of studio tracks that the energy and fun still get the heart racing today. The third disc has a ton of great non-album songs on it, and truth be told, some of their best songs, that it is a hard disc to put down., I mean “Banned From The Pubs” is such a classic. The third CD has a lot of great songs but pales only because I wanted more of the studio music, not demos, but I still like it. Disc five brings back the studio tunes, some live stuff, but a whole lot of humour that will leave a smile on your face. The last CD has more of a smooth sound, still punk, but more pop, and even more catchy, but still great, that it might have made the diehards not too happy, but it’s a great bunch of songs that keep the sound of the band going in a positive direction and still is better than most so-called punk nowadays.

With improved sound, great info in the booklet and great packaging, this is the collection to get. You will laugh, you will want to shout along with the band, exactly the way that the band would love you to do. Result!

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HAZEL O’CONNOR: Sons And Lovers – Expanded Edition

Sons And Lovers is packaged in a deluxe digipack with a richly illustrated lyric booklet containing an introduction from Hazel O’Connor herself. This expanded edition of Hazel’s landmark post-punk album contains three versions of the lead UK top ten single “D- Days,” (the album version, the better known Tony Visconti remixed version and the lesser known alternate version dating from 1981). Hazel O’Connor’s second album followed her movie role in, and soundtrack album for, the feature film Breaking Glass and included songs written mostly before that project. This album produced by Nigel Gray (who had been the producer The Fall and The Police), is referred to by Hazel as being: “really my first album of songs, but it had to wait to be recorded after I’d completed Breaking Glass. The five bonus tracks included in this deluxe package are two live tracks from a 1980 live concert at the Dominion Theatre in London, a reworking of the album track “Ain’t It Funny” and a cover version of David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” which features Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran who, at that time, was O’Connor’s support act. These tracks were originally featured as the B-sides of the 12” single of “Time (Ain’t On Our Side),” the second track to be taken as a single from the album. Another bonus track rarity is the very first version of “Time Is Free” that had been the B-side of Hazel O’Connor’s pre-Breaking Glass debut 1979 single.

Although not very well known here in North America, I was such a fan of new wave and British music that I had heard of her, just not heard her music since no one played it on the radio, and not a video to be seen, so why would I want this album? I did want it because I was just so crazed by the new wave scene, that I had to get as much as I could, and of course this being before the internet, I had to scour the record shops for this until I finally found it, and used too. Someone else knew of her but didn’t want it, so what, I wanted it and purchased it right away. I loved the edgy and tight playing of the album and still do to this day. “D-Days,” the lead single from Sons And Lovers, did get onto the charts in the UK, returning her to the top ten. The song was a perky, anti-poseur song based on her going to the Blitz club and seeing the preening crowd. The song has a good dose of energy and Punky/New Wave instrumental attack that I never tire of hearing. Strangely, the album didn’t set the charts on fire, even though it had a hit song on it, it just never connected with the masses and put the damper on the success that she had previously had. The album had a lot going for it and the songs were catchy and full of energy. The real treat is the bonus songs, especially if you like cover versions; her cover of Bowie’s “Suffragette City” is great and the bonus for Durannies is Simon Le Bon singing with her.

A great package, chock full of info in the booklet and with the added bonus songs, a treat for fans and something for those curious about her music. I think I will put this one in the car and listen to it on the way to work…can’t get enough of it.

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BRONSKI BEAT: The Age Of Remix

A strictly limited edition 3-disc dance remix companion set to the recent Bronski Beat release The Age Of Reason. Steve Bronski has been the driving force behind Bronski Beat for 35 years. This album features their most recent singer; the powerful soul-pop, multi-octave ranged Stephen Granville. The Age Of Remix reorientates Bronski Beat’s recent The Age Of Reason album; itself a contemporary remake of Bronski Beat’s landmark debut album The Age Of Consent. Featuring no less than twenty-five all new and previously unreleased remixes from a plethora of current dance floor remixers. The third disc in this deluxe 3 1/2 hour set is a bonus continuous mix by Sordid Soundz, also known as Bronski Beat programmer Ian Donaldson, which itself contains some exclusive snippets of further previously unreleased mixes.

I remember watching the video shows after school in the early ’80s, waiting to see the newest clips and the exciting new sounds that seemed to come out every week, and low and behold, I saw “Smalltown Boy” by Bronski Beat. What a different and interesting synthpop sound, plus the video and song had meaning to it, the pain and suffering of a gay man growing up. I was fascinated and couldn’t wait to hear more from them. I saw the album in the store, picked it up and was a fan, then the video for “Why” came out and it was great. Now Jimmy Somerville is no longer with the band and has had a great solo career, and only Steve Bronski is left, but he has got a great new vocalist that takes the songs, and adds his own twist to them and does a terrific job with them. So many remixes, so many to choose from and you will definitely find one that appeals to you, I love the ones based on “Smalltown Boy” and “Why,” but I am biased since those songs are so massive and remind me of my youth. The songs are upbeat, full of energy and will cause booty shaking to happen, whether you want it to happen or not. The band did a great job finding remixers and picking great mixes for this collection.

This will get you dancing and loving the songs all over again, and will hopefully get people that weren’t there the first time, to hear them in this collection and get the message and the love for the band. Just so you know, the third CD is one long song that cannot be skipped to the next song, so just put it on and shake your thang…all night long.

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ANDREW RIDGELEY: Son Of Albert

This is the first reissue for Andrew Ridgeley’s debut album Son Of Albert that was originally released in 1990, four years after the breakup of Wham! Andrew Ridgeley as one half of the 80’s Supergroup Wham! sold more than 28 million records worldwide between 1982 and 1986. This Special Expanded Edition includes the nine original album tracks from the vinyl release plus 7 related bonus tracks. This includes “Shake (Hardcore)” that was featured on the CD version of the album.

One day at the record store that I worked at, a label compilation was given to me be the rep and I took a look at it and saw that a solo song from Ridgely was on it and I was interested in hearing it. I cued it up on the old CD player and there it was, the first single, “Shake.”The song starts off with guitar and vocals, then the band kicks in with a catchy chorus and I was kind of shocked that it had nothing to do with the way that Wham! sounded. A lot more rock and not pop at all, so I was interested in hearing more from the album. For whatever reason, the album never seemed to appear in the store and I promptly forgot about it, until one day, Was in another record store and saw the CD in the used bin on sale for 3 for $10. I dug around and grabbed a couple more discs and headed home. When I put this on, was I ever surprised with what I heard! This was a hair metal CD, not a guy from Wham! I had thought that I got a mislabeled CD, until I heard “Shake” and realized that this truly was the real one. Starting off with “Red Dress,” I was shocked to hear a rocking song with more than a touch of hair metal, almost Poison-like in sound. Next was “Shake,” then “The Price Of Love” which is a more rockin’ out tune with an early Alice Cooper vocal sound. “Flame” is a dirty sounding track with ripping guitar playing. “Hangin'” is more pop-oriented, less hard rock and a ridiculously catchy chorus. “Mexico” sounds almost exactly like Poison and is really hair metal. “Big Machine,” “Kiss Me,” and “Baby Jane” all carry on the hard rock sound. I sat there and couldn’t believe that the guy who helped put out songs like “Wake Me Up,” and “Wham! Rap” was doing a metal album now! I can see why that this was not a hit because where would it have gotten air-play? Rock radio would not touch an album from a guy from Wham!, and pop radio wouldn’t play a metal album, so then what? Now, after a lot of years, we get a remastered version with bonus tracks and a chance to re-think the whole thing. This version contains a recent interview with Ridgeley and co-producer Gary Bromham, remastering from the original tapes, the single “Shake” in “Hardcore,” “Accapella,” and “Extended” mixes, second single “Red Dress” which features backing vocals by George Michael, with “12”” and an additional “Extended Mix,” and “Hangin,” with the “Extended” and “Alternative Extended Version.”

“Shake (Hardcore)” is mostly just music and effects added to it, “Acapella” really isn’t since it has a guitar in it, and “Extended” is not as dancey, more open sounding. “Red Dress (12″ Mix)” is a fairly rocking mix that sounds great, “Extended Version” is exactly that, an extended mix. “Hangin’ (Alternative Extended Version)” is more of a dancey track, and “Extended” is, even more, pop-oriented and dancey than the other mixes.

The sound is great, and listening to this again, with al the years between the first listen and today, this isn’t that bad of an album, kind of fun and definitely something that stands as his own statement. Take a chance and give it a listen for yourself.

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TURN UP THE STROBE: THE KLF, THE JAMS, THE TIMELORDS – A HISTORY IAN SHIRLEY

The story of two guys who with talent and lots of luck, destroyed people’s expectations, did ridiculous stunts, pissed off people, and created songs that still resonate with listeners and will be played for decades. The one and only flaw is that both Bill Drummond and Jim Cauty both declined to be interviewed for the book, which might have added a bit more to the story.

Starting off with the lesser-known beginnings of the duo, their younger years and meeting each other, the book gives an insight into where they came from and the earliest projects. It gives a lot of background with Big In Japan, Drummond managing Echo and the Bunnymen and Teardrop Explodes while running Zoo Records alongside David Balfe.  Cauty and Drummond don’t actually get together and collaborate on their first project, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu track “All You Need Is Love,” until almost halfway through the book, but you really need to read about their beginnings to get an idea of where they took ideas to form their later music. I remember hearing about them when they were getting in trouble for including ABBA on their album 1987 (What the Fuck Is Going On?) and being upset that I couldn’t hear what the commotion was all about, of course now you can just do a search on the interweb and there it is. When I heard “Doctorin’ The Tardis,” I was fascinated, for one, I can’t stand Dr. Who and this was the first and only bit I ever liked and how much I loved the damn thing. I was hooked and had to get more, so I went out and got the Chill Out album and starting buying the singles that I could find from them. When the White Room album came out, I was working in a record store and made a sign with the band’s logo advertising it and sold tons of them. Of course, the sheep blood and burning the money all are in the book as well, but regardless of the stunts, the guys just were talented and make for a fascinating read.

Author Ian Shirley gives the reader a well written and interesting book that will keep you reading and being intrigued by the career of a couple of guys who grabbed the world’s attention and still retain my interest now. With all of the tales in this book about their lives and music, there still is a lot more to them then their past and I’m looking forward to their future.

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