SQUEEZE: The Squeeze Songbook Tour Paramount Theatre Austin, TX Sept. 17

Squeeze are a British rock band that came to prominence in the United Kingdom during the new wave period of the late 1970s, and continued recording successfully in the 1980s and 1990s. They are known in the UK for their hit songs “Cool for Cats,” “Up the Junction,” “Slap and Tickle,” “Another Nail in My Heart,” “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell),” “Tempted,” “Labelled with Love,” “Black Coffee in Bed,” and “Hourglass.” The group formed in Deptford, London, in 1974, and first broke up in 1982. Squeeze then reformed in 1985, and disbanded again in 1999. The band reunited for tours through the United States and the United Kingdom in 2007. In 2010, they issued Spot the Difference, an album of newly recorded versions of older material. The band’s first album of all-new material since 1998, Cradle to the Grave, was released on October 2015, followed by another album, The Knowledge, in October 2017.

In 1982, my mother and brother bought me a Sony Walkman and I had only a few tapes to listen to, so my brother was taping music for years and I got some from him and started listening to stuff I had never heard before. Squeeze was on the tape with two songs back to back taped off the radio. The first was “Pulling Mussels (From The Shell),” and the second was “Another Nail In My Heart.” I instantly fell in love with the songs and when I heard Squeeze play “Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)” in concert, I got watery eyes, and I had tears coming down during “Another Nail In My Heart.” The band was tight, had a great time telling stories, doing sing-a-longs and just playing their hearts out for the packed house. Having the son of Glenn Tilbrook playing the drums was a great addition and made it feel like a get together with a bunch of friends. The acoustic set in the middle of the show was a nice mellow time, and when they played “Tempted” and had the crowd sing with them and played it mostly acoustic, the crowd was going crazy. Although they didn’t play it straight like the album version, it was given even more emotion this way. The crowd was up on their feet for the encore, singing and dancing the last few songs of the night and gave them a rousing round of applause.

X opened for Squeeze and covered a fair bit of their catalogue and played great, with lots of energy and had the crowd cheering. The show really got going when near the end of their set, they played a bunch of their punk songs and really got the crowd going.

The concert was probably one of the greatest moments of live music that I have witnessed and after 37 years of waiting, I was thrilled to have finally seen them and will cherish this forever. If you have the chance to see them live, go and have an amazing time that will put a smile on your face and joy in your heart.

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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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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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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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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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MIDGE URE: Solo – 3TEN Austin City Limits Live: Austin, TX

Midge Ure, lead singer of Ultravox and solo artist came to Austin for a solo acoustic show at 3Ten Austin City Limits Live in downtown Austin. The weather was great, not too much traffic and away I went to the show.

I did miss the opening act; Robert Harrison of Cotton Mather, but I was really excited to see Ure who I have been a fan of since the early ’80s. The venue is small, intimate and was perfect for this show. Dark atmosphere, cool air blowing on me from the air conditioning system and my growing excitement all made it thrilling and made the hair stand up on my arms when Ure came on stage. With a perfect amount of story-telling, jokes and some aw-shucks moments, Ure thrilled the crowd with songs from Ultravox and his solo career. as well as a beautiful rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Man Of The World.” Ure told the crowd about listening to the song on the radio when he was small back when the UK had one radio station and how much he loved this song. He asked for people to help him sing-along with “The Voice,” but said that if you didn’t know it, please don’t do it, which got a large laugh from the crowd. With his mix of songs, he wove a set of beauty and heartfelt singing that was a pleasure to witness. “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” actually had some tears in my eyes since the raw emotion that Ure gave to the performance was striking. It was actually supposed to be the last song, but he got caught up in it and admitted that he forgot to leave the stage. After a lot of laughter, we were treated to the final song, “One Small Day,” and a standing ovation later, it was sadly all over…except for the buying of the souvenir t-shirt of course.

Having never seen Ultravox live, nor been able to see any of Ure’s previous solo shows, this was a delight and is something that I will never forget. The perfect venue, perfect sound, and perfect performance…what more could you ask for?

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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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