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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ALIEN SEX FIEND: Fiendology – 1982-2017

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Since their emergence in the early ’80s, Alien Sex Fiend have remained one of the most loved and longstanding pioneers of the Goth movement. Fusing themes of horror, humour, inner turmoil and outer space with an industrial and electronic sound years ahead of its time, the band scored countless indie chart hits, found success across Europe, America and Japan and won a dedicated, adoring fan base which exists to this day. The collection is composed of 3 CDs spanning their 35 year history, including five previously unreleased recordings, previously unreleased mixes of “Now I’m Feeling Zombified,” and “I Walk The Line.” There are two brand new tracks from their forthcoming album Possessed, plus artwork by Nik Fiend in the booklet telling the band’s story in pictures, as well as sleevenotes by Kris Needs and Youth.

With the big songs mixed in with album tracks and remixes, this collection gives fans and those curious a look at the band that is without comparison. The band has been in and out of fashion and still marches on to the sound of their own drum machine. Electric and bizarre, they continue to thrill and get people dancing to the mix of strange lyrics and the dance beats that they have been putting out with regularity. The new songs sound right at home, maybe a bit more modern, but fit in perfectly with the sound that they have molded over the years. The booklet has great stories and gives a terrific overview of the band and how they have moved through the years, giving the fans amazing music.

With all of the collections of the band out there, this has to be the one to get, great sound, a collection of obvious and less obvious tracks, and with some rarities added to the two new songs, you just can’t go wrong. Now go out and “Walk The Line” and get Zombified.

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THE MOCK TURTLES: Turtle Soup (Expanded Edition)

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The Mock Turtles are an English indie rock band, formed in Middleton, Greater Manchester in 1985, who enjoyed some success in the early 1990s. Their song “Can You Dig It?” which was released in 1991, charted in the UK top 20 in 1991 and again in 2003. Led by former Judge Happiness singer Martin Coogan, older brother of actor/comedian Steve Coogan, the band began to pick up attention around 1990, with tracks such as “Lay Me Down” and “And Then She Smiles” on the Imaginary label. It was “Can You Dig It?,” however, which gained them wider attention. Originally a b-side to “Lay Me Down,” the band’s new record label, Siren, re-issued it with additional guitar work, and “Can You Dig It?” breached the Top 20 in the UK Singles Chart.

This is a digitally remastered and expanded two CD edition, which represents their complete Imaginary catalogue, all of the Mock Turtles’ non-album singles and B-sides are included, together with the many cover versions they recorded for Imaginary’s popular tribute albums (covering The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, Syd Barrett, The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart and The Kinks). In addition, Martin Coogan has unearthed no less than fourteen previously unissued Mock Turtles demos from his personal archive. Sleevenotes are by Mark Hodkinson (The Guardian, etc.), who was the first-ever journalist to review the band back in the mid-1980s. This collection features a massive forty-one tracks and with the great remastered sound, is a real treat for fans.

Being a DJ, and huge music fan, I was always on the hunt for something new to play in my set, I was downtown shopping and saw their original release as a cut-out in a store for $3 and having heard of them from reading the British music rags, I grabbed this CD and took it home. I played it as soon as I got there and loved what I heard and added it into my rotation and got good responses. Does this still hold up after all of these years? Hell yeah it does! Yes the singles are still as good as before, and the rest of the album still is great, but the bonus songs are what really makes this a winner. The end of disc one is filled out with tracks from the Pomona EP, singles and live tracks. Disc two has tracks that the band recorded for a comeback album in 2003 some of which made it on to the band’s Can You Dig It Greatest Hits CD, the great demos that give you an idea of where the band was both coming from and going, and some great covers of Syd Barrett’s “No Good Trying,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?,” The Byrds’ “Time Between and Why” into one killer tune, and, two Kinks songs, “Shangri-la” and “The Big Sky.”

With so many songs and the great sound and booklet, this is definitely a collection that goes beyond most reissues and is worth every penny. Get this album and relive one of the lost albums of the early ’90s and treat your ears to a listening experience that you won’t soon forget.

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HAIRCUT ONE HUNDRED: Paint And Paint

After a massive first album, Haircut One Hundred were now without a singer, no record label, a backlash against their pop music and in dire straits. This album came out of that difficult time and was not a hit, but has become the holy grail of their music since it has never been on CD, and copies of the album were hard to find. Now we have a remastered and expanded CD that is a welcome addition to your collection.

I loved their first album, playing it on my Walkman over and over again, then waiting, and waiting for more music from them, finally reading in Smash Hits magazine that they had a new single out. I headed out to the record store over and over again in Hamilton to try to buy their music, and finally, I found the single “Prime Time,” with “Too Up Two Down” on the other side. I hurried home, removed the 12″ single from the sleeve while admiring the cool shopping bag that the single was packaged in, and put it on. I was a little bit taken aback that the songs, while good, were so different to the first album, and the singer was a bit different than Nick Heyward, but after a few listens, I was hooked and had to find the album. Well, that didn’t happen for around 5 years because no one carried it and it was not able to be ordered since it wasn’t popular. I did finally find the album on cassette and was happy to finally have it. I played it a lot and eventually hoped to find if on CD, but that wasn’t going to be happening. I was excited to see that Cherry Red was able to get the rights to it and add a second disc of bonus tracks. I put this in my stereo, turned it up and relived the songs that I knew, and enjoyed the way that the album was different than their first one, but still retaining the charm that I loved from the first album. The first disc has the 11 original album tracks plus four related bonus tracks; the 7″ remix of “Too Up Two Down,” the 12″ mix of “Prime Time (Late Night Shopping Version),” and two b-sides “Evil Smokestacking Baby,” and “After It’s All Been Said And Done.” The second disc starts with the 12″ version of “So Tired (Long Slumber Mix),” and its b-side “Fish In A Bowl (Deeper Version).” The next nine tracks were supplied by the band from their own archives. They feature working mixes taken straight from the mixing desk during the recording sessions for the band to listen to at home and work on additional arrangements and brass parts. And at the end, you get four tracks recorded at the BBC for a session on the David Jensen show. They were aired on his show on 13th May 1984.

As you can see, this is an amazing collection of tracks that give the fans an idea of where the band was going and what they were trying to accomplish. Sadly, no matter how good and poppy the album was, fans didn’t buy it and they broke up, but at least we have a collection of songs that hold up and add to the memory of a great band. The booklet has memories of the album and the recording process and was a great read. The added music, along with the remastering has made this a dream come true for fans.

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DIVINE: Jungle Jezebel

Divine….really, what more needs to be said? It’s been remastered, it has remixes, a great booklet with lots of info, and it’s about time.

I first heard Divine in the early ’80s, and it was “Love Reaction” that was my introduction to his music. As soon as I heard it, I knew that this was someone I was going to have to get more music from. The obvious New Order sound, the deadpan vocals…..awesome! I taped the song off of the radio and down to the record store I went. I found a few “12 singles and took them home and loved them as well. Now I have not only those singles and their remixes in one collection, but it sounds even better than before. The songs are still terrific, “Shoot Your Shot,” “Native Love,” which I played to death when I was a DJ, and “Shake It Up.” The songs still make me want to dance and now, having the remixes remastered and on a second disc, I can get more of the music I missed and can hear them finally. This is a collection that will take you back in time and still make you jump up and dance, probably more than you might be able to do anymore…lol.

I am so happy that an album that was hard to find back in the ’80s has now been made available again, and is even better with the improved sound and the second disc of remixes. Grab a copy and make Divine proud of your impeccable taste.

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A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS: Remixes & Rarities

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This remaster of their singles and some digging through the depths of their recorded output to find songs that have been on other compilations, but some new to CD as well. A band that most people know because of a haircut and one song, but actually had a lot more going for them than just being a jokey footnote.

I remember hearing “I Ran” on the radio and loving it, and having to get that song, so on my birthday, my father bought me a K-Tel compilation that I still own, with this song on it. Like most of their compilations, the song was cut short and the sound wasn’t great, but I had that song. I soon after saw the video and at the time, I thought it was great…not so much now…lol. Luckily, I lived in a fairly big city and was able to get the album at a local record store and fell in love with the rest of the songs. Of course, I also became a fan of the band’s continued output and was excited to see this CD come out. I had picked up some of their 45’s, and 12″ singles as I went along in my music hunts and now I can listen to them with the pops and crackles of my old vinyl. So many great songs are on this collection, with single edits, live versions, and remixes that I bought and lots that I never heard before. The sound is terrific with clarity and crispness that brings out the interesting sounds from the keys, and a booklet with an interview from Smash Hits, lyrics for some of the songs and a great discography as well. The remixes are sometimes a bit on the long side such as “Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You)” which is over minutes long and goes on far too long, but still, this is a treat for the fan of this band and the person curious to hear some remixes that add to the enjoyment of the original song. The only things I was unhappy about was that they could have made a third CD of even more remixes and rare songs, and the mediocre cover.

An album that will take you back to the early and mid ’80s and carry you up into the sky with the birds and soar into the clouds. This will make you dance, sing, and smile…a fantastic thing.

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TOKYO BLADE: Knights Of The Blade: 4 Disc Box Set

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Tokyo Blade originally formed in 1982, releasing their self-titled debut in 1983. They formed around guitarist Andy Boulton, he was joined on their debut by Alan Marsh on lead vocals, John Wiggins on guitar, Andy Robbins on bass and Steve Pierce on drums, making a significant impact on the burgeoning NWOBHM scene that had been popularized by Iron Maiden, Saxon, Tygers Of Pan Tang and Def Leppard, as well as finding support in the pages of Kerrang! magazine. This release consists of a four Disc box set of their first three albums, many rare EPs, singles and non-album cuts from the early 1980s, including tracks from “The Cave Sessions”, “Undercover Honeymoon” 12”, “Midnight Rendezvous” EP and “Madame Guillotine” EP. Featuring lengthy and detailed liner notes from note NWOBHM and Tokyo Blade expert John Tucker

Tokyo Blade issued their debut recording in 1983, which was self-titled in the United Kingdom, and titled Midnight Rendezvous everywhere else. The album is classic metal with high-pitched vocals that aren’t too far into the stratosphere like some bands, they are a nice mix of highs and mid-level, the guitar rips throughout the album, the drumming is powerful, and the bass is heavy. The band really sounds like they were having a great time n the studio making this album, with youthful exuberance just dripping from the songs. The songs are catchy and should have been playing out of everyone’s speakers loud. I really liked “Powergame,” “Break The Chains, ” Killer City,” “Liar,” and “Sunrise In Tokyo.” For a first album, you don’t get much better than this.

The Night Of The Blade album arrived a year later, Andy Wrighton having replaced Robbins while Marsh had also left the band. The band was trying to find a new singer for their tour and got lucky with what was supposed to be the temporary throat of Vicki James Wright, but they decided to keep him as singer for the next album. His vocals were a bit more commercial sounding, but the songs were still hard and heavy. Again, the band played tight and really matured since their first album. Songs “Someone To Love,” “Night Of The Blade,” the killer “Rock Me To The Limit,” “Love Struck,” and the more commercial sounding “Lightning Strikes (Straight Through the Heart),” stand out after all of these years.

Blackhearts & Jaded Spades retains the power and singer from the previous album and sounds a bit more polished, but not wimpy. You could hear the band moving towards the huge American market with the added keyboards and more melody than on previous albums. Who can blame them? The market in America was something that pretty much every band wanted to break in and tour and be played on MTV during this period. The hard and heavy stuff was more on underground radio and bands knew where the money was; playing more melodic, adding a touch of keyboards and making the band more in tune with the big bands at the time like Iron Maiden, and Motley Crue. “Dirty Faced Angels,” “Make It Through The Night,” “Always,” are a trio of killer songs, “Loving You Is An Easy Thing To Do” is a blues based track that has a fantastic groove and should have been huge on the radio, “Undercover Honeymoon” gets things back a little heavier, then you get the power ballad “You Are The Heart,” which I could see being thrown in the mix at a high school dance back then, “Blackhearts And Jaded Spades,” “Tough Guys Tumble” get the hard rocking going again, until you come to another power ballad, “Dancing In Blue Moonlight,” which now starts to be a little much, and happily, they end the album with two blistering songs “Playroom Of Poison Dreams,” and “Monkeys Blood.” Not perfect, but still a great album that has more than enough metal to make you happy.

The fourth CD is a nineteen track collection of the band’s singles and EPs.  All of these songs were previously issued on the band’s various reissues, and it’s great to have them all together on a separate disc. This ably illustrates the musical evolution Tokyo Blade underwent from the start of the career, until their third album. Going from a harder sounding band to a more slick and commercial sound, while still retaining the great songs and playing that made you pick up the first album.

With the great liner notes, replica album sleeves and the fantastic music on the four discs, you really can’t go wrong with this purchase. The band definitely is on fire on these albums and even though they still are putting out albums now, the young, hard-edged sound of their hunger is a treasure to behold.

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