FIAT LUX: Hired History Plus 2CD Expanded Edition

This 2 CD collection brings together the entire 1980’s recorded output of synth-pop pioneers, Fiat Lux. The original Hired History album and all of the bonus tracks are appearing on CD for the very first time. Fiat Lux hail from Wakefield and were formed by Steve Wright and David Crickmore in 1982 with Ian Nelson joining soon after. The band released 5 singles for Polydor Records dating from August 1983 to January 1985. The band enjoyed minor hits with “Secrets” and “Blue Emotion.”

As a fan of synth-pop, I was a fan of this band back in the early 80s and had trouble finding their releases back then. Not very easy to find and I just gave up since even news about them was impossible to find. To my surprise, they have been collected and have finally been given the respect that they deserve…many years later. The remastering is great since Cherry Red sourced and re-mastered from the original production master tapes after months of searching tape archives and exhaustive listening sessions to trace the correct versions. So we can finally hear just how great the songs are and get them all collected here. With remixes and a couple of unreleased Bill Nelson versions, this is a great CD. Disc 1 features the band’s commercially released tracks including the band’s debut single for Cocteau Records and the five released by Polydor over the years 1982-1985. Disc Two is the lost and previously unreleased second album Ark Of Embers as the band originally intended it when it was made with producer, Hugh Jones. This album shows that the band got ripped off by the record company because it’s a great addition to the songs you already know. The CD booklet features the original album cover plus extensive sleeve notes written by band members Steve Wright and David Crickmore telling the band’s story from a unique perspective. There is also a foreword written by the producer, Hugh Jones.

A collection that I never thought would come out, but to my surprise, it’s better than I thought it would be. Great songs from a very underrated band.

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RE-FLEX: POLITICS OF DANCING (2CD)

Cherry Red is issuing the first ever expanded re-issue of Re-Flex’s first album. Formed in the early 1980s by musicians John Baxter on vocals and lead guitar and Paul Fishman on keyboards and backing vocals, by late 1982 the band recorded their debut album, The Politics of Dancing. The album, produced by John Punter of Roxy Music fame was released in 1983 through EMI. The album’s title track was released as a single in late 1983 and met with much great success becoming a big international hit in 1984, reaching the Top 40 (and in some cases the Top 20) in numerous countries including No. 28 in the UK, No. 24 in the USA, No. 9 in Canada, No. 25 in Germany and No. 11 in Australia as well as being a success in Switzerland, South Africa, Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy. Five further singles were released from the album each enjoying varied international success. This expanded 2 CD version of the original album release contains a comprehensive selection of extended mixes and B-side bonus tracks many which are appearing on CD for the first time as well as a deluxe 16 page booklet using the fully restored original album artwork.

I was extremely excited to get this CD since I remember seeing the video on TV when it first came out. I bought the album back then and taped a live gig of theirs from the El Mocambo in Toronto off of the radio…still have it too! I played the album to death back then, and when I got this, I did the same thing. The album, of course, has their most famous song on it, but “Hitline,” and “Praying To The Beat” is just as good. The sound is greatly improved on this release and the bonus mixes are what really make this stand out for fans. Yes there are some remix omissions, and it does suck that they couldn’t find them all and put them all on here, but man-o-man, what a great bunch of mixes. The bonus mixes are thankfully all original ones from the band’s heyday, not new versions that you sometimes get stuck with, and they would make the dance floor full if they were played in an ’80s club night. You will want to dance on your sofa when you put this on…I did! The booklet is great, so much info and lots of pictures that I read it a couple of times.

If you are a fan…get this! How obvious is it really? If you are curious as to what else they did besides “that one song,” you need to get this so you can hear a band that took its time and produced a very entertaining and satisfying album that sounds just as good now as it did then.

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PSEUDO ECHO: Love An Adventure – 2CD Expanded Edition

Australian synth-pop band Pseudo Echo formed in 1982 and were influenced by the emergent British New Romantic bands Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Ultravox. By 1984, Pseudo Echo were second in popularity in their homeland only to INXS. Their international breakthrough hit was their pop-rock makeover of the Lipps Inc track, the disco classic “Funky Town.” This was a worldwide smash hit in 1987 reaching #1 in Australia and Canada, #8 in the UK and #6 on the US Billboard Hot 100. This is a 2-disc expanded edition of their second album, Love An Adventure, that “Funky Town” originally appeared on. The tracklisting replicates the European / North American version of the album that was released in 1987 but with the addition of 18 bonus tracks. The bonus tracks include the definitive collection of the contemporaneous promotional remixes that were hitherto exclusive to North America as well as the B-sides and 12” versions of the singles that were commercially released from the album in the UK and US. Also contains an amazing booklet with tons of pictures and information.

I remember hearing about these guys when their first album came out, and really enjoying the new romantic sound and how chock full of hooks it had, then I saw the video for “Funky Town” and I laughed that they were covering a disco song, but damn it, they did a good job! With a guaranteed hook, synth galore and a touch of rock, this song grabbed me and I was hooked. Adding to the power of this album was “Listening,” another hook-filled song that was a killer remixed from their first album. They also had two more beefed up songs from their first album, “A Beat For You,” and “Destination Unknown.” A bunch of remixes, which everyone seemed to do back then, made sure that you had to get more and more from them. Not to say that the “big” single is the only thing on here, you can’t go wrong with this harder-edged version of the band. Now add on a ton of remixes and you have a double CD collection that will bring back memories, plus get you dancing, singing and laughing with how good it will make you feel.

If you want an album to bring you out of the doldrums, this is it. Put it on, and head to Funky Town all on your own again.

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MIDGE URE: Solo – 3TEN Austin City Limits Live: Austin, TX

Midge Ure, lead singer of Ultravox and solo artist came to Austin for a solo acoustic show at 3Ten Austin City Limits Live in downtown Austin. The weather was great, not too much traffic and away I went to the show.

I did miss the opening act; Robert Harrison of Cotton Mather, but I was really excited to see Ure who I have been a fan of since the early ’80s. The venue is small, intimate and was perfect for this show. Dark atmosphere, cool air blowing on me from the air conditioning system and my growing excitement all made it thrilling and made the hair stand up on my arms when Ure came on stage. With a perfect amount of story-telling, jokes and some aw-shucks moments, Ure thrilled the crowd with songs from Ultravox and his solo career. as well as a beautiful rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Man Of The World.” Ure told the crowd about listening to the song on the radio when he was small back when the UK had one radio station and how much he loved this song. He asked for people to help him sing-along with “The Voice,” but said that if you didn’t know it, please don’t do it, which got a large laugh from the crowd. With his mix of songs, he wove a set of beauty and heartfelt singing that was a pleasure to witness. “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” actually had some tears in my eyes since the raw emotion that Ure gave to the performance was striking. It was actually supposed to be the last song, but he got caught up in it and admitted that he forgot to leave the stage. After a lot of laughter, we were treated to the final song, “One Small Day,” and a standing ovation later, it was sadly all over…except for the buying of the souvenir t-shirt of course.

Having never seen Ultravox live, nor been able to see any of Ure’s previous solo shows, this was a delight and is something that I will never forget. The perfect venue, perfect sound, and perfect performance…what more could you ask for?

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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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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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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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