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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CLOSE TO THE NOISE FLOOR: FORMATIVE UK ELECTRONICA 1975-1984

If you were around for the early New Wave era, or just curious about when it was still hungry and vital, then this is a box set that you will love. It showcases the early sounds of the synthesizer used in bands to create sounds, noises and in most cases, songs that still raise the hair on your arms. This collection has sixty tracks across four CD, a great detailed booklet, and has bands that you’ve heard of like the Human League, Blancmange, and OMD, to obscure artists that will make you try to hunt down their music….if you can……

This collection goes from the very experimental, with beeps and other strange noises making up songs, to beautiful soundscapes and early industrial. This was just as punk rock at the time as picking up a guitar, maybe more so, since a lot of these were done on homemade machines and with even cheaper materials. The CDs are packed full of songs that were made in a hurry and not with any eye on being on a chart, just made to do something in the spirit of the times and to create something. To think that a lot of these people have moved on and have forgotten about a lot of this, it’s a great collection to get people to hear things that would have been forgotten except for the greedy and horrible collectors who charge an arm and a leg for these singles online. The big song on here is the Human League track “Being Boiled,” but the others all have their charms and I’m glad to have the chance to hear a lot of music that I never had the chance to hear back then. The remastering is fantastic, especially since some of this came off of cassettes, the sound is clear and makes for a great listen.

I could go on and on about the artists and songs, but you just need to go out and get a copy of this collection. While not being definitive….and how could it ever be? The collection is a great beginning to expanding on your idea of what synthesizer music started out as, as well as being sad at how bad a lot of it turned out later in the ’80s.

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THE BANGLES: Ladies And Gentlemen…The Bangles!

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The Bangles got together and personally picked out these songs, songs from the beginning of their career and remastered for optimal sound. These sixteen tracks are from their debut single, EP, demos, live tracks and compilations. A lot of these are on CD for the first time ever. These songs feature the original line-up of Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson. Vicki Peterson, and original bassist Annette Zilinskas. Michael Steele, who replaced Zilinskas appears only on the live tracks.

I remember seeing their EP back when it first came out in 1982, and could only find it on cassette, so I picked it up and loved it so much. I played it all of the time and waited for new music from them. Of course we got new music a couple of years later and they started to blow up on video shows and radio. This is a great way for me, and those who liked them back them, as well as the curious to hear these great songs. You can hear the youthful energy and pure fun that they had during this period and it’s infectious. You get great covers of The Turtles “Outside Chance,” Paul Revere And The Raiders’ “Steppin’ Out,” and Love’s “7 And 7 Is.” The songs are pure pop that has a nice edge to them and shows that they had the chops to become big……and they sure proved that. It’s great that they have released these songs, and the remastered sound is fantastic too. The album is full of songs that should be classics, and to people who have followed them since the beginning, they are classics.

Yes, they were made in the early 80’s, and they had a 60’s sound to them, but the songs still hold up….good music is good music regardless of the era. Bands nowadays could take a page out of their songbook and realize that you need to do what you love and you will shine, even after all of these years, these songs shine like the sun.

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