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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THE BEAT FT. RANKING ROGER: Bounce

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The Beat are best remembered for a string of hit singles at the height of 2-Tone/ska boom started in the UK back in the late 70’s/early 80’s. These included a cover of  Smokey Robinson’s “Tears Of A Clown,” “Mirror In The Bathroom,” and “Save It for Later.” They split-up in 1983 and now there are two versions of the band, one led by Ranking Roger in the UK, and another by original vocalist/guitarist Dave Wakeling, under the name of the English Beat in North America. This version is the one founded around original vocalist/toaster Ranking Roger, who is joined by his son Ranking Junior.

“Walking On The Wrong Side,” which was the first single from Bounce has the sound and feel of their original music, just maybe not as frantic sounding as the first album, more like heading into their last one. “Busy Busy Doing Nothing” is next and it carries on with that old school vibe and makes you want to get up and dance, which is a wonderful thing. “Walking On The Wring Side” and “Fire Burn” are two songs that really show the strong lyrics and political side of the band that the Specials and the Beat never shied away from. “Talkin’ About Her” has a nice relaxed vibe that gets you swaying side to side to, then you get the upbeat “Side To Side” with a faster beat that grabs your feet and off you go skanking around the room. The album ends with “Close The Door,” a smooth track that is a more traditional ska song, a bit slower and with a sinewy groove that will surely grab you and get your head swaying from side to side. Ranking Roger’s vocals are as smooth and strong as ever on this album and you can hear the fun he is having here, you can feel it coming out of the speakers and encompassing your ears.

After all of these years, I never would have believed that I would be listening to new music from this band, but I am so happy to have the opportunity to have this release. If you would drop this into a mix of their older albums, you might have trouble picking out the new songs, and I can’t give this album better praise than that.

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THOR: Keep The Dogs Away: Deluxe

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Thor started out as a concept band in 1973. They used the names “Thor,” “Centaur” and “Mikl Body Rock.” These entities were the brainchild of Jon Mikl Thor, a vocalist, musician and body building champion who won titles such as Mr. USA and Mr. Canada. He decided to combine muscle with music and in 1977, they released their debut album Keep the Dogs Away.

This is a remastered and greatly expanded version of that debut album, one that I remember seeing not long after it came out in a record store and bought it because it looked cool, at least to a younger me, and my mom loved body builders and Dobermans. I took it home, showed my mom who loved the cover, loved the cover…she really did, and put it on. It was a bit lighter in the metal, but still had a cool hard rock sound that we both liked a lot. The title track really stuck in my head, from then until I got this CD and heard it again. My mom owned a sub store called Trudy’s Subs and she put that poster up in her store, lots of people bought food there, so I’m sure she helped sell a few copies of the album with her poster placement. So now I sit and listen to the album again after all these years and I’m surprised that it still sounds good, a bit of the times, but still has the hooks and the fun that carries it. I was really surprised at the bonus songs the most. If you just listen to the regular album, it’s full of catchy hard rock, but the bonus songs are a mix of glam rock and punky new wave. I loved the bonus disc so much because it gave me a new side of Thor that I never knew and these songs are amazing. The playing is tight, it sounds like everyone was having fun and the songs could fool people into thinking that they were underground hits back in the old days…lol. The remastering is fantastic with the sound being clear, and clean, the booklet has pictures from when the album came out, information about the album and…a reproduction of the poster that captured my mom so long ago. Not only do you get two CDs, but you get a DVD with a concert from 1980 that is fun to watch. How can you go wrong?

I really am happy that this has been released again, and with so much added to it, giving everyone a chance to see where Thor came from. This brought back great memories for me, hopefully if you are a fan, it will for you as well, and if you are trying just curious, grab this one today! This is a thunder-god that will slay you with melody, not lightning…thank Odin for that!

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CURE FOR GRAVITY: S/T

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Cure for Gravity is Chris Gamper (drums), Joe Markert (vocals, keys, guitars) and Dave Walcott (guitars, vocals), and with Dan Feiszli on bass. Hailing from Berkeley, CA this trio delivers an entrancing amalgam of atmospheric synth/alt rock that is reminiscent of later Tears For Fears in sound and vocals.

I put on this six song album and after hitting play, I was transported back to the late ’80s, early ’90s when bands were still melodic and used keyboards with finesse, before the grunge bands came in and knocked this kind of music out of the charts and out of people’s radar. These guys bring those days back, but still manage to sound modern and exciting with catchy songs with soulful vocals that pull you in and get trapped in your ears. With atmospheric songs like “Tonight,” this band really takes you on a trip that makes you close your eyes and lifts you up out of your plane of existence and carries you to another place that almost puts a tear in your eye with its beauty. To be honest, I really loved every song on here and played it over and over again because I could not get enough of these songs. First single “Black Metal” has a chiming guitar, a smooth groove and fantastic vocals that will grab you.

Coming into this review, I had no idea or preconceived thoughts about this band, and now I am a follower and will be keeping an eye out for them. Funny how you can find your new favorite band this way.

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THE KINGBEES: The Big Rock

 

The Kingbees second album The Big Rock is being re-issued with four bonus tracks. This was the band’s final release on RSO, and it features mostly originally material written by Canadian band leader Jamie James. For this special re-issue, James provides some new liner notes about the album, and has improved sound with the remastering.

Living just outside of Toronto, Ontario back in the old days of the ’80s, I got to hear this album a fair bit since local radio stations played songs from this album. I was surprised and happy to see that this was being reissued and couldn’t wait to hear it again. The remastering is terrific, clean and clear sound that makes the album sound better than ever, and a cool booklet with information about the recording. The band plays a mix of rock’n’roll, rockabilly and has a punky/new wave feel to it that just outs a smile on my face. You just want to get up and dance around when you listen to the album, especially songs like “The Big Rock,” and “Let Myself Go.” The album is a high energy party that deserved to big a bigger hit and hopefully now will reach out to those who missed it the first time around. The band doesn’t stick to a traditional rockabilly sound like later bands like the Stray Cats, instead they use that as a starting point and really just play great music. The songs still hold up to this day, which is a testament to great songwriting, well done production, and terrific playing. They have covers of Charlie Rich, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis on the original album, and a cover of the Burnettes as one of the bonus tracks.

Go out and grab a copy of this album, do yourself a favor and introduce your friends and family to this band and start a rocking party in your house as soon as you hit play. Now I need to go get their first album…..lol.

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