FIAT LUX: Hired History Plus 2CD Expanded Edition

This 2 CD collection brings together the entire 1980’s recorded output of synth-pop pioneers, Fiat Lux. The original Hired History album and all of the bonus tracks are appearing on CD for the very first time. Fiat Lux hail from Wakefield and were formed by Steve Wright and David Crickmore in 1982 with Ian Nelson joining soon after. The band released 5 singles for Polydor Records dating from August 1983 to January 1985. The band enjoyed minor hits with “Secrets” and “Blue Emotion.”

As a fan of synth-pop, I was a fan of this band back in the early 80s and had trouble finding their releases back then. Not very easy to find and I just gave up since even news about them was impossible to find. To my surprise, they have been collected and have finally been given the respect that they deserve…many years later. The remastering is great since Cherry Red sourced and re-mastered from the original production master tapes after months of searching tape archives and exhaustive listening sessions to trace the correct versions. So we can finally hear just how great the songs are and get them all collected here. With remixes and a couple of unreleased Bill Nelson versions, this is a great CD. Disc 1 features the band’s commercially released tracks including the band’s debut single for Cocteau Records and the five released by Polydor over the years 1982-1985. Disc Two is the lost and previously unreleased second album Ark Of Embers as the band originally intended it when it was made with producer, Hugh Jones. This album shows that the band got ripped off by the record company because it’s a great addition to the songs you already know. The CD booklet features the original album cover plus extensive sleeve notes written by band members Steve Wright and David Crickmore telling the band’s story from a unique perspective. There is also a foreword written by the producer, Hugh Jones.

A collection that I never thought would come out, but to my surprise, it’s better than I thought it would be. Great songs from a very underrated band.

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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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BREAKDANCE / BREAKDANCE 2: Original Motion Picture Soundtracks

Released in 1984, the movie Breakdance, or Breakin’, as it was named in the USA, celebrated the rise of “b-boy” culture, based around breakdancing and hip-hop. The film was a huge box office hit in the USA, grossing over $6 million on its opening weekend. The soundtrack, originally on Polydor Records, proved equally influential and successful, helping to spread the word about the development of black urban dance throughout the world. The album went on to sell over a million copies, such was its success that a sequel, Breakdance 2 Electric Boogaloo, followed, with another impressive soundtrack.

Back when this movie and soundtrack came out, I was completely involved in the synthpop scene from the UK and heard some electro that had the same sound and feel, and I was kind of interested in the music at least. I never was into the dancing at all, especially since some girls that I was talking to in a park were also being checked out by break dancers and after I got their phone numbers, the breakers came up to me and threatened me with a baseball bat. Not really going to instil any kind of love for breakdancing. Anyways, the music that I heard was “Cut It” by Re-Flex, who I was already a big fan of, and “Breakin’… There’s No Stopping Us” by Ollie and Jerry. I really enjoyed the music and ended up getting the soundtrack and thoroughly enjoying it. Of course, this also is where Ice-T got his start, with the poppy “Reckless” by Chris “The Glove” Taylor and David Storrs with rap By Ice-T. A big difference from where he eventually went with his music. With a lot of great songs, this was something that I really enjoyed and still do, regardless of the changes that happened in music since this was released. Now you know that the second one couldn’t be as good…right? Well, it’s almost as good, so there. My favourite song is “Din Daa Daa” by George Kranz, a fantastic electro track that I searched out the 12″ single for and scored. The songs didn’t get the blood pumping as much as on the first album, but they still sound great and I listen to them as much as the first album. Of course the term ” Part 2, Electric Bugaloo” is what I use whenever a part two is mentioned in conversation. The sound is flawless on this collection and the booklet has a ton of interesting information in it.

If you liked the movies or owned the soundtracks, this is a definite purchase, even if you are just curious, you need to get this set and get some lino or cardboard and start spinning on your head. Another very cool album from my youth that I thought I would never see or own.

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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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KILLER: Volume One, The Mausoleum Years 1981-1990

Whilst the “New Wave Of British Heavy Metal” movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s was raging just across the English Channel, Belgium was fomenting its own highly influential rock and metal scene, at the forefront was Killer. The power trio was founded in 1980 around lead guitarist and vocalist Paul Van Camp, Fat Leo on drums and Spooky on bass guitar and vocals, they released their debut album Ready For Hell on WEA Records. At the end of 1981, Fat Leo was replaced on drums by Double Bear for 1982’s Wall Of Sound album, which saw Killer making a greater impact beyond Belgium. Killer’s management formed the metal label Mausoleum Records, and Killer recorded the Shockwaves LP. The band disbanded in early 1987, with Paul Van Camp releasing his self-titled solo debut the same year. Spooky and Shorty decided to start Killer again in 1989, but with new drummer Rudy Simmons and a second guitar player, Jan Van Springel. Their fourth album, Fatal Attraction, was recorded in Germany and released by Mausoleum Records in 1990. Partly due to the growing popularity of grunge, Killer decided to call it a day in 1991. Killer would reform later in the decade, and were proud to release their seventh album, Monsters Of Rock in 2015, in time to commemorate the band’s 35th Anniversary. With great sound, bonus tracks and a great booklet telling the band’s story, this is a great release that shows the reach and influence NWOBHM had.

A band that only hardcore metal fans really know about, these guys, that are influenced by Motorhead, have left a legacy of great music that can now be enjoyed by more people. With their albums long deleted and going for some crazy prices, this is the perfect time to jump in and take a listen to what you may have not had a chance to hear before. Lots of great tracks, catchy choruses, and tight playing, this is the real deal metal. You get bonus tracks that are definitely a bonus, not just extra tracks that they tacked on because they found some crap sitting in the vaults. The bonus tracks on CD1 are “From Nine To Five,” “Too Wild To Tame,” “Crazy Circus” and “Chinese Woman.” The bonus track on CD2 is “Walls Of Hell.” The bonus tracks on CD3 are blistering live versions of “Shock Waves,” “Scarecrow,” “In The Name Of The Law” and “Kleptomania.”

I put this on, turned up the volume and this just blew me away with the raw power, the raging tunes and the actual enjoyment that came through. This is an essential purchase that will add some old-school metal to your collection and make you a believer that not only the UK had some great bands back in the early 80s.

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ALIEN SEX FIEND: Possessed

Alien Sex Fiend have been playing their goth-industrial mix since forming in London, England in 1982, and have just released their brand-new studio album, Possessed. This is the first new album since 2010’s hugely successful Death Trip album.

So here is a new album by Mr. and Mrs. Fiend, could you believe that when the Batcave started, that this band would still be around, let alone be this interesting still? I am glad that I’m not a betting man and also glad that they are still putting out fantastic albums like this. With a cool intro, we jump into the album and “Shit’s Coming Down” which has a trancey feel to the titled being sung over and over and the beat just flowing over the song. “It’s In My Blood” has distorted vocals, a throbbing beat and has a mellow, but edge to it that sends shivers up my spine. “Carcass” has the feel of a trance song mixed with a freak out going on at the same time…awesome! “Ghost In The Machine” is kind of a twisted spaghetti western mixed with ambient that makes for a strange, but a cool mix. As before, this is a machine that you can’t ignore. “Amnesia” is kind of minimalist and really stood out as an interesting song that had interesting effects and vibe. “Spine-tingler” is a short song with twisted vocals, then “Gotta Get Back” is a mellow track with quiet vocals that eventually gets a bit more full as more sounds start to enter and is a cool track that sounded great as the thunderstorm hit my area. “Invisible (The Beyond Mix)” reminds me of some of their older songs, but there’s nothing wrong with that at all! The interesting sounds mixed with the insane vocal from Nik just make for a song that made me hot repeat a few times. “Neutron” is an instrumental track that has a bit of twangy guitar and swelling synths that just reach for the stars and it almost has a hint of Pink Floyd in it. “Bloody Reprisal” is a version of “It’s In My Blood” that adds to the original track by being spacey and cool. Last track is “Shit’s Coming Down (Monster Mix)” that adds more effects, a thicker dance beat and more insanity that ends the album off perfectly.

The recording of this album had a very troubled bunch of circumstances that made what was supposed to be a quick follow-up to the previous LP Death Trip a very long journey. The death of guitarist Simon “Doc” Milton in 2012, as well as Nik Fiend being involved in a nasty car accident and Mrs. Fiend’s mother passing away, all took their toll on this album getting done in a timely manner. All I can say is that despite all of the hardships, this was worth the wait and is a fitting memorial to Doc and the Fiends commitment to great music. A band that is and has always been an original and just keeps putting out music that thrills.

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