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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BRONSKI BEAT: The Age Of Remix

A strictly limited edition 3-disc dance remix companion set to the recent Bronski Beat release The Age Of Reason. Steve Bronski has been the driving force behind Bronski Beat for 35 years. This album features their most recent singer; the powerful soul-pop, multi-octave ranged Stephen Granville. The Age Of Remix reorientates Bronski Beat’s recent The Age Of Reason album; itself a contemporary remake of Bronski Beat’s landmark debut album The Age Of Consent. Featuring no less than twenty-five all new and previously unreleased remixes from a plethora of current dance floor remixers. The third disc in this deluxe 3 1/2 hour set is a bonus continuous mix by Sordid Soundz, also known as Bronski Beat programmer Ian Donaldson, which itself contains some exclusive snippets of further previously unreleased mixes.

I remember watching the video shows after school in the early ’80s, waiting to see the newest clips and the exciting new sounds that seemed to come out every week, and low and behold, I saw “Smalltown Boy” by Bronski Beat. What a different and interesting synthpop sound, plus the video and song had meaning to it, the pain and suffering of a gay man growing up. I was fascinated and couldn’t wait to hear more from them. I saw the album in the store, picked it up and was a fan, then the video for “Why” came out and it was great. Now Jimmy Somerville is no longer with the band and has had a great solo career, and only Steve Bronski is left, but he has got a great new vocalist that takes the songs, and adds his own twist to them and does a terrific job with them. So many remixes, so many to choose from and you will definitely find one that appeals to you, I love the ones based on “Smalltown Boy” and “Why,” but I am biased since those songs are so massive and remind me of my youth. The songs are upbeat, full of energy and will cause booty shaking to happen, whether you want it to happen or not. The band did a great job finding remixers and picking great mixes for this collection.

This will get you dancing and loving the songs all over again, and will hopefully get people that weren’t there the first time, to hear them in this collection and get the message and the love for the band. Just so you know, the third CD is one long song that cannot be skipped to the next song, so just put it on and shake your thang…all night long.

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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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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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