RE-FLEX: POLITICS OF DANCING (2CD)

Cherry Red is issuing the first ever expanded re-issue of Re-Flex’s first album. Formed in the early 1980s by musicians John Baxter on vocals and lead guitar and Paul Fishman on keyboards and backing vocals, by late 1982 the band recorded their debut album, The Politics of Dancing. The album, produced by John Punter of Roxy Music fame was released in 1983 through EMI. The album’s title track was released as a single in late 1983 and met with much great success becoming a big international hit in 1984, reaching the Top 40 (and in some cases the Top 20) in numerous countries including No. 28 in the UK, No. 24 in the USA, No. 9 in Canada, No. 25 in Germany and No. 11 in Australia as well as being a success in Switzerland, South Africa, Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy. Five further singles were released from the album each enjoying varied international success. This expanded 2 CD version of the original album release contains a comprehensive selection of extended mixes and B-side bonus tracks many which are appearing on CD for the first time as well as a deluxe 16 page booklet using the fully restored original album artwork.

I was extremely excited to get this CD since I remember seeing the video on TV when it first came out. I bought the album back then and taped a live gig of theirs from the El Mocambo in Toronto off of the radio…still have it too! I played the album to death back then, and when I got this, I did the same thing. The album, of course, has their most famous song on it, but “Hitline,” and “Praying To The Beat” is just as good. The sound is greatly improved on this release and the bonus mixes are what really make this stand out for fans. Yes there are some remix omissions, and it does suck that they couldn’t find them all and put them all on here, but man-o-man, what a great bunch of mixes. The bonus mixes are thankfully all original ones from the band’s heyday, not new versions that you sometimes get stuck with, and they would make the dance floor full if they were played in an ’80s club night. You will want to dance on your sofa when you put this on…I did! The booklet is great, so much info and lots of pictures that I read it a couple of times.

If you are a fan…get this! How obvious is it really? If you are curious as to what else they did besides “that one song,” you need to get this so you can hear a band that took its time and produced a very entertaining and satisfying album that sounds just as good now as it did then.

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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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BLITZ: The Albums 5CD CLAMSHELL BOX SET

Blitz was a street punk/Oi! band from New Mills, Derbyshire, England, formed in 1980 producing albums until 1983. The band signed to No Future in 1981, and their first release was the 7″ EP All Out Attack. Their debut album Voice of a Generation received a five-star review from Bushell in Sounds. The original Blitz lineup consisted of Carl Fisher (vocals), Charlie Howe (percussion), Nidge Miller (guitar), and Neil “Mackie” McLennan (bass). After Fisher and McLennan had a disagreement, Fisher and Howe formed their own band. In 1983 they produced Second Empire Justice on the No Future label with Tim Harris (guitar, keyboards), crediting Mackie. Because of its departure into post-punk and new wave characteristics it did not do well with the original Oi! audience. The album was commercially unsuccessful at the time, the No Future label sank, because Blitz was their main income and with it the Fisher and Howe arrangement. According to Miller, the band split up, because the original members had no interest in “touring, plus they were never really into the music.” It was Miller alone who produced the 1989 album The Killing Dream playing all instruments (guitars, bass, drums) with Gary Bassnett on vocals. This 90 track, 5 disc clam shell box set features everything released by Punk legends Blitz. The 20 page booklet comes complete with detailed liner notes, pictures of all relevant record sleeves and memorabilia and clippings from the era.

I remember hearing the classic “Someone’s Gonna Die” and couldn’t believe hav much I loved it and how thick it sounded, like a jet-liner taking off in my face, I knew that I needed  more from this band. Disc 1 is the seminal Voice Of A Generation album which hit No.27 in the UK National Charts as well as topping the Independent Chart. This album is fantastic with songs like “4.Q.,” which lept me coming back to it year after year, and playing it for anyone who would listen. A great debut that retains the pure power and force that makes it stand out from the pack. Disc 2 is a 29 track collection of non LP singles, B-sides and compilation cuts that was mostly the way a lot of people, myself included heard Blitz mostly. Back then, compilation albums were a great way to hear bands new songs, rare songs and get people to pick up their own releases. This CD is chock full of fantastic songs and will be stuck in your player for hours. Disc 3 is a rare In Concert live recording from 1982. This is an amazing in your face concert showcasing the band playing their hearts out to an appreciative crowd. CD 4 is the No.5 Indie Chart album Second Empire Justice which now features the “Telecommunication” and “Solar” singles as a bonus. This is the album that the older fans just shook thier heads at, “where was the punk, the fire?” The band took a lot of stick for coming across more like Joy Division than the old punk band that they were, but they still had great songs and the album sounds good in the light of years passing. Lots of hooks, and the lyrics were still on point, just let yourself relax and enjoy it. The fifth and final disc is the band’s album from 1990 The Killing Dream, now restored to its original track listing and running order. With a drum machine and still sounding like a post-punk album, it has some good moments, but isn’t the punk powerhouse that people might have been expecting. It still has enough interesting things going for it that I enjoyed it more now than I did back when it came out.

Having this great band collected is such a treat and will keep you happy for hours and hours, just keep an open mind. his is the definitve collection of a vital band that more people need to hear.

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CHARGED G.B.H. : 1981-1984

 

Charged GBH, commonly known as GBH, is an English street punk band which was formed in 1978. 1982 saw the release of GBH’s first LP, City Baby Attacked By Rats which reached number 17 in the UK charts as well as Number 2 in the respected UK Indie charts where the bands singles had also taken up residence, leading to a memorable appearance on legendary UK TV programme The Tube doing “Give Me Fire” (UK Indie chart no 2). This 64 track 4 CD clamshell box set captures the most successful and influential years of the band and has an amazing booklet as well.

I first was aware of G.B.H. back in 1983 and first got an album of theirs in 1985, the classic City Baby Attacked By Rats. I put it on the turntable and was hooked right away with the power and intensity of the album. After all these years, the album still has that effect on me. The raw force of the band comes at you like a freight train and never lets up, a change from the more ’77 punk that I was listening to at the time. I then got City Baby’s Revenge and was happy to hear that they had lost none of the power that I loved from the first album, they had actually become tighter and stronger players. I later got Leather, Bristles, Studs, And Acne and loved the pure fire of the early songs. Disc 1 contains the band’s first release, the Leather, Bristles, Studs And Acne 12” which reached the Indie Chart Top Ten in 1981 and now comes with the addition of the “Sick Boy” and “No Survivors” singles. This is a great jumping off point to hear just how intense the band was at the time and how they still can make your hair stand on end after all these years. CD 2 is debut LP City Baby Attacked By Rats, which now comes with the addition of the UK National hit single “Give Me Fire.” This is one of the best albums I have ever heard and fills me with energy and thrills me to this very day. Continuing on with the speed and devastation of their first album, CD 3 is City Babies Revenge, the band’s second studio album, and an Independent Chart Top Ten smash, and it now comes with the bonus of the “Catch 23” and “Do What You Do” singles. The final disc is a 14 track live in concert from 1983 that gives the listener a taste of what this incredible band was like on a hot night.

The band is still going to this day and will continue to blow the punters away with their in your face performance. This is a dream come true, the best of the best and sounding great after all these years.

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