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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WANG CHUNG: Mosaic: CD

Mosaic - Paper Sleeve - CD Deluxe Vinyl Replica - Import

Mosaic is Wang Chung’s fourth album and third on Geffen Records. Released in 1986, Mosaic was commercially successful due to three singles: “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” (reached a high of #2 on the Billboard Hot 100), “Let’s Go!” (#9 on the Hot 100) and “Hypnotize Me” (#36 on the Hot 100). Mosaic earned a Gold rating by the RIAA, and hit #41 on the Billboard 200 album charts.

Now that we have the stats out-of-the-way, let me just say that their second album, Points On The Curve is an album that I can listen to over and over again and hasn’t dated as much as this one has. Yes, this has “That Song” on here that everyone knows and thinks is the only hit that they had…WRONG! Sadly the song was cheesy when it came out and people laughed at the chorus then, as they still do now. I blame you Peter Wolf! Once you get past that song, (luckily it’s the first one on the album), you get better songs that are more deserving of your attention. “Let’s Go!” is the standout track for me since it does have a more pop sound than their previous album, but it still retained the spirit of the band’s sound, a classic track that stands the test of time…and you can dance to it too. “Hypnotize Me” and “The Flat Horizon” are a pair of great tracks that keep you wanting to hear them over and over again. “The World In Which We Live” is another song that I hit the replay button to hear again. These are the standouts to me, the songs that are truly ones that haven’t out stayed their welcome and are always a treat to hear. The other songs are alright, nothing to get crazy about, some slower tracks and some that are just nice, but they still deserve to be heard. The band sounds tight on here, not a note out-of-place, but it was the ’80s and by this time, there was no messing about in the studio, the producers were throwing everything into to sink and hoping it would work. The sound is great on this remaster, clear with the ability to hear little nuances that you couldn’t hear before, plus the way that it looks just like it did on vinyl is too cool.

So, an album with one of the most familiar and played (played out), songs is out there with a great sound and excellent packaging, just beware of “THAT SONG,” it may drive you crazy, but it’s worth the effort to hear the others on the album. I’m a fan of the band since I first heard them back in the early ’80s and always will be, so I’m glad that I get the chance to hear this album again and give it another shot.

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ROMAN HOLLIDAY: Cookin’ On The Roof: CD

Roman Holliday is a British band that started in 1980, whose style of music was a mixture of swing and pop. They are best known in the UK for their hit single “Don’t Try To Stop It”, which reached number 14 in the UK Singles Chart in the summer of 1983, a follow-up, “Motormania,” peaked at number 40, and in the United States, the group achieved exposure through MTV, which aired their “Stand By” video. The single went to number one on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart in November 1983.

This is the first time that Cookin’ On The Roof has been on CD in the UK (it was only previously issued in Japan). It’s remastered from the original tapes with six bonus tracks. Original members of ROMAN HOLLIDAY are helping out with this long-overdue reissue, contributing rare photos and pictures for the booklet as well as being involved with the sleeve-notes.

Highlighted by the warm voice of charismatic lead singer Steve Lambert, the group created a killer debut, fueled by the singles “Don’t Try To Stop It,” “Motormania,” and “Stand By.” Don’t think that these are the only good tracks on the album, the rest of the disc is remarkably consistent, including the ballad “Serious Situation” and the delightful “Midnight Bus.” This stuff predated the swing revival by years, but is more energetic and original than almost anything to come out of that scene. The good part is that you can hear that even though this was the ’80s, the time of contrived and put together bands, these guys had heart and soul, plus a true love for what they were doing. The album sounds great with the new remastered sound and includes a ton of bonus tracks such as; “Don’t Try To Stop It (Acapella),” “Round And Round,” “Motor Mania (Acapella),” “Beat My Time,” “Don’t Try To Stop It (Extended Club Mix),” and “Motor Mania (Extended Club Mix).

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STRANGE CRUISE: Strange Cruise: CD

Strange Cruise was a short-lived 1980s British pop rock group, fronted by former Visage singer Steve Strange and Wendy Cruise (aka Wendy Wu, the former singer of The Photos). The band released only one, self-titled album in 1986 and it has been remastered and expanded because of the rarity and demand by fans.

Well after all these years this hard to find album is out in the shops and it really is an artifact of the time period. The production is over the top, the songs are in the vein of the poppiest of pop from the era, it’s a mix of Haircut 100 and Culture Club, and about as deep as a puddle after a light drizzle. Yes it’s interesting to hear the mix of Strange’s and Cruise’s voices, but is it really what the man who fronted the preeminent new romantic band’s desire to do this the way it’s presented? I guess you can only be influential and not too well off, when bands like Duran Duran, and Spandau Ballet who started as new romantics had become worldwide sensations and insanely rich as well, and you are standing on the sidelines watching this unfold in front of you. Strange said that the label didn’t get behind the album, but maybe it was the choice of singles that were picked poorly, “Animal Call” is a pretty good song, very catchy, “Hit And Run” was another one that could have been a single, as well as “Love Addiction.” The singles chosen were wrong in my mind “Rebel Blue Rocker” and “The Beat Goes On” are very weak and overdone and don’t give this a great light to shine on the rest of the album. The sound is fairly clear, but being this is from the era of loading the album full of overproduction and tons of layers, it still is clear and crisp.

The album is a must for any completist of Steve Strange’s music and also if you are a fan of The Photos, but don’t think that you will playing this as much as either of those artist’s other albums. It’s sad that Strange has passed away, but at least we got another Visage album from him so we wouldn’t be stuck with this a his farewell to us.

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