WEATHER McNABB: Cubicle Zombie

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Weather was born in Minneapolis but has spent most of her adult life north of Boston. She has been working on her music since 2012 and has finally been able to get her debut album out.

Having been a cubicle zombie myself at a few jobs that I have had in the past, I can appreciate the sentiment behind this album. The vocals and the sound of “Good Morning” reminded me of Lily Allen a bit, but in a good way. It had that same kind of poppy, peppy sound, but with lyrics that made you know that this person is more aware than the average person. The biting lyrics are a definite plus on this all too short album. You can tell that a lot of thought was put into everything on this album, from the lyrics, the music to the great production. It also reminded me a bit of Carole Pope from Canada’s Rough Trade in the expressiveness of the vocals. The whole album is just a great listen and every track is a definite keeper, the quality behind this release is amazing.

For a first album, this is just incredible with how well everything is presented. Most female vocalists are too wispy and boring, this has power and emotion to it, something rare these days and for one, I’m so glad that I got the chance to hear this…now you need to get this for yourself…go ahead, it’s worth it.

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ANDREW RIDGELEY: Son Of Albert

This is the first reissue for Andrew Ridgeley’s debut album Son Of Albert that was originally released in 1990, four years after the breakup of Wham! Andrew Ridgeley as one half of the 80’s Supergroup Wham! sold more than 28 million records worldwide between 1982 and 1986. This Special Expanded Edition includes the nine original album tracks from the vinyl release plus 7 related bonus tracks. This includes “Shake (Hardcore)” that was featured on the CD version of the album.

One day at the record store that I worked at, a label compilation was given to me be the rep and I took a look at it and saw that a solo song from Ridgely was on it and I was interested in hearing it. I cued it up on the old CD player and there it was, the first single, “Shake.”The song starts off with guitar and vocals, then the band kicks in with a catchy chorus and I was kind of shocked that it had nothing to do with the way that Wham! sounded. A lot more rock and not pop at all, so I was interested in hearing more from the album. For whatever reason, the album never seemed to appear in the store and I promptly forgot about it, until one day, Was in another record store and saw the CD in the used bin on sale for 3 for $10. I dug around and grabbed a couple more discs and headed home. When I put this on, was I ever surprised with what I heard! This was a hair metal CD, not a guy from Wham! I had thought that I got a mislabeled CD, until I heard “Shake” and realized that this truly was the real one. Starting off with “Red Dress,” I was shocked to hear a rocking song with more than a touch of hair metal, almost Poison-like in sound. Next was “Shake,” then “The Price Of Love” which is a more rockin’ out tune with an early Alice Cooper vocal sound. “Flame” is a dirty sounding track with ripping guitar playing. “Hangin'” is more pop-oriented, less hard rock and a ridiculously catchy chorus. “Mexico” sounds almost exactly like Poison and is really hair metal. “Big Machine,” “Kiss Me,” and “Baby Jane” all carry on the hard rock sound. I sat there and couldn’t believe that the guy who helped put out songs like “Wake Me Up,” and “Wham! Rap” was doing a metal album now! I can see why that this was not a hit because where would it have gotten air-play? Rock radio would not touch an album from a guy from Wham!, and pop radio wouldn’t play a metal album, so then what? Now, after a lot of years, we get a remastered version with bonus tracks and a chance to re-think the whole thing. This version contains a recent interview with Ridgeley and co-producer Gary Bromham, remastering from the original tapes, the single “Shake” in “Hardcore,” “Accapella,” and “Extended” mixes, second single “Red Dress” which features backing vocals by George Michael, with “12”” and an additional “Extended Mix,” and “Hangin,” with the “Extended” and “Alternative Extended Version.”

“Shake (Hardcore)” is mostly just music and effects added to it, “Acapella” really isn’t since it has a guitar in it, and “Extended” is not as dancey, more open sounding. “Red Dress (12″ Mix)” is a fairly rocking mix that sounds great, “Extended Version” is exactly that, an extended mix. “Hangin’ (Alternative Extended Version)” is more of a dancey track, and “Extended” is, even more, pop-oriented and dancey than the other mixes.

The sound is great, and listening to this again, with al the years between the first listen and today, this isn’t that bad of an album, kind of fun and definitely something that stands as his own statement. Take a chance and give it a listen for yourself.

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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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BETTY BOO: Boomania

BETTY-BOO

Betty Boo’s original breakthrough came with the release of “Hey DJ / I Can’t Dance (To That Music You’re Playing)” as The Beatmasters featuring Betty Boo on Rhythm King in 1989. Her debut album Boomania followed in 1990 peaking at # 4 in the UK album charts and achieved platinum status of 300,000 sales. This Deluxe Edition includes the twelve original album tracks, plus fourteen bonus tracks, it has been remastered using original master tapes, and the sixteen page full color booklet features an expanded design of the original artwork, extensive sleeve notes written by Michael Silvester and a full UK discography featuring Betty Boo’s front cover images.

I had originally heard the Beatmasters featuring Betty Boo, and was intrigued when the news of her own album was first put out. I had been into house for a while and was looking forward to her album. The good news was that it was every bit as good as her song with the Beatmasters and actually improved on the sound by being even more infectious and attention grabbing than before. Of course you get the hits “Hey DJ / I Can’t Dance (To That Music You’re Playing),” “Doin’ The Do,” “Where Are You Baby?,” and “24 Hours,” but the crazy amount of remixes makes this a treasure trove for those that wore them out back in the day, or couldn’t find/afford them all. The mix of pop, rap, and dance/house kind of dates the music, but if you were there, it sounds glorious to your ears still. It just shows how the charts actually had a mix of music back then, as well as happy music mixed in with the dour sounds of grunge, or what the media was improperly calling punk back then. The songs and the videos had a sense of sixties kitsch to them, and the hooks were huge, so big that just the titles on here alone will make the song creep into your head again and get stuck all day. The remastered sound is cleaner and clearer, adding to the sounds and effects on the album, and giving it a touch more depth.

The great mix of styles, the hook laden tracks, and the pure fun of this album will make you smile and dance a hole into your carpet. It brings back the fun and the excitement of youth, not just your own, but youth in general, hearing the songs again, or for the first time for the curious. This truly is a treasure trove and will be getting lots of plays around my house.

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THE ARCHIES: Sugar, Sugar – The Complete Albums Collection

Finally, all five of The Archies albums are released on CD for the first time which will make fans quite happy. I was, and still am a fan of the comic books and I owned two of these albums on vinyl way back in the old days. The sad thing about this collection, which I have only as a download, so I can’t comment on the booklet, is that they are sourced from vinyl, not remastered. You would think that such an undertaking would have them doing that one step to take this over the top.

Well, onto the music, which is a delight, a complete joy to listen to and will put a smile on your face and get your toes tapping and you will sing along, yes you will. Of course you get the huge hit “Sugar, Sugar,” but there is so much more on her besides that. “Jingle, Jangle” is every bit as good and I love that damn song. The songs are of course bubblegum, and I have no problem with that, but they also went a bit weirder and got into social statements as the albums progressed, so take that people who dismiss this band. Other standout songs are “Archie’s Theme (Everything’s Archie),”  “Feelin’ So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y.-D.O.O.),” “She’s Putting Me Through Changes,” “Get on the Line,” and “This Is Love.” The male vocals for the group were provided by Ron Dante, who started his career as a member of the Detergents who did “Leader Of The Laundromat,” and was also the voice of  The Cuff Links. The albums truly are a delight to hear again, and not just have a greatest hits collection that just gives you a few songs, this gives you all of them and you can hear the band progressing and changing. Maybe they never rose to the heights of “Sugar, Sugar” again, but this is definitely not throwaway music, this is a bit of history that will never be repeated, a time of crazy pop music aimed at kids that grew up and still sounded great.

While maybe not the perfect box set, this is a pure delight that will give you smiles and if you were there, memories that will come back to you and make your heart happy. In these strange times, isn’t something that makes you happy worth owning? I think so.

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THE LIVESAYS: Hold On… Life Is Calling

The Livesays (pronounced “the le-vah-sees”), are a four piece band from Florida who play a mix of pop/rock, that has soulful vocals, catchy hooks, and tight playing. The vocalist/guitarist Billy Livesay, has toured with the E Street Band’s Clarence Clemons’ band Temple of Soul, releasing two albums, and the second one has Bruce Springsteen singing. Drummer Eddie Zyne has toured and recorded with Hall and Oates, Desmond Child and Rouge, the Monkees, Rick Derringer and Foghat. Victor “Cuqui” Berrios, who grew up in New York, and brings his Hammond B3 and impassioned vocals to the band. Bassist Jorge Laplume, originally from Havana, Cuba, brings a bass sound that is both funky and thunderous.

You can hear the talent that this band has as soon as you start to listen to the album. The songs are played with feeling, the band is tight, but never stiff, there is a lot of emotion put into the songs, especially on “It’s What I Have To Do.” The song has smooth vocals and you can hear the heartache just dripping throughout the song. “Pop Star” is a great fast paced song that will get you singing along to. Don’t think that is the only song to get you to sing along with, the album is chock full of catchy songs that will stick in your head for hours and make you want to listen to the album time and time again. The band has a feel of those great, good time songs from the ’80s and plays them like every one of them could be a single, and they all could be singles…they’re that good.

If this was another time, this album would be all over the radio, making your head bob along and getting stuck in your head, but radio sucks now and you have to find the good stuff on your own……..luckily, these guys found my ears and I’m thankful for the opportunity to play this over and over again. Grab a copy and make a blah day into a great day by just hitting play.

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BETTY BOO: Grrr!

This is the long-awaited reissue of Betty Boo’s second album Grrr!, a whole twenty-four years after its original release. This Deluxe Edition includes the ten original songs, plus twenty bonus tracks all sourced from the original master tapes. The CD booklet features the original album front cover plus extensive sleeve notes and a UK discography. Betty Boo’s original breakthrough came with the release of “Hey DJ/I Can’t Dance (To That Music You’re Playing)” as The Beatmasters featuring Betty Boo (real name Alison Clarkson) on Rhythm King in 1989. Her debut album Boomania followed in 1990 peaking at #4 in the UK album charts and achieved platinum status of 300,000 sales.

This second album had a more mixed bag of sounds than her first album, more jazzy and of course the rap and house music that she’s known for. “I’m On My Way” is a peppy little dance song that includes a jazz horn section that turns into The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna.” The actual horn section on the original version, led by Ronnie Scott is playing on this track. The next song “Thing Goin’ On,’ has a jazzy backing, and her rap flowing effortlessly. “Hangover” which was another single, is a mid-tempo, hip-hop shuffler that is built around an orchestral sound that sounds like it could have come right out of a spaghetti western. The album also has the catchy “Wish You Were Here,” and “Gave You The Boo,” to keep the dancing and party going. The remixes are a real treat on here with “Hangover” including the album and 12″versions plus the Streets Ahead remixes – Saturday Night & Sunday Morning. The Sunday Morning remix was previously unavailable in the UK. “Thing Goin’ On” includes the album version, the radio remix, club mix and the Underground mix by US DJ/Producer MK (Marc Kinchen). Three of these mixes were previously unavailable in the UK. “Catch Me” includes the album and David Morales’ 12″ version, also the original version and the London Underground mix feature. Three of these mixes were previously unavailable in the UK. The remastering of this album makes it sound fuller, more clear and crisp than before.

An underrated and lost album that although isn’t as immediate as her first album, is still worth looking for and exploring. The songs are fun and make for a great listen, grab this one and re-live the early 90s.

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