HOWARD JONES – The 12″ Album & 12″ers Vol. 2

Since the release of the ‘Human’s Lib’ box set in 2018, the Howard Jones reissue programme from Cherry Red has been very well curated, but in terms of giving the bigger fan something long overdue and exciting, a five disc box set of BBC recordings (released at the end of 2021) proved essential. It rounded up lots of early radio sessions and also gave an official release to a couple of oft-bootlegged gigs, creating a listening experience that felt comprehensive without being overwhelming. Also, by being offered at a sensible price, it showed how a premium product need not be exclusive to those with deep pockets. In many ways, this collection should set the benchmark for a decent box set. [Read a full review of the Howard Jones BBC box here.]

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FASTER PUSSYCAT – Babylon: The Elektra Years 1987-1992

Before the arrival of grunge, the US was awash with sleazy bands sporting huge hairstyles and huge attitudes. Guns N’ Roses would go on to achieve world domination, and MTV made huge stars out of many others, including Ratt, Motley Crue and Poison. For every band that hit the big time, of course, there were many that didn’t achieve quite the same levels of success. Kik Tracee, Tuff, and Jetboy were bands that very much fell into this category, along with LA’s Faster Pussycat, but even these “also rans” gained more than their fifteen minutes of fame at the height of the music television boom.

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HOWARD JONES – At The BBC

Beginning with their massive box set celebrating ‘Human’s Lib’ issued in November 2019, Cherry Red Records have really gone the extra mile with their Howard Jones reissues. Each release has been afforded a wealth of extras, including bonus DVDs featuring archive live footage and TV appearances where available, and the addition of demos and alternate takes accompanying the main albums has been a fan’s dream. It was especially pleasing to see some love for Howard’s 1992 release ‘In The Running’, an album which saw him transition from 80s synth pop hero to a slicker, older singer-songwriter. Although overlooked by many at the time, it now stands proudly as one of the most enduring albums in the artist’s catalogue.

Complimenting the vastly expanded studio albums, this five disc box set of live materials allows for a different kind of exploration of HoJo’s past, but in hearing performances recorded between 1983-87 it really brings home the fact that he was, arguably, the greatest synth pop performer of the era.

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Listen: Marillion – Buffalo, July 1983

For years, the ‘Recital of The Script’ VHS was only available document of Marillion’s earliest live shows. Recorded at Hammersmith Odeon in 1983, the gig was drummer Mick Pointer’s last public appearance with the band. Although visually brilliant, the performance is rather slow in retrospect, not always doing full justice to some great material.

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JON ANDERSON – Animation

After leaving Yes in 1979 following the tour for their ‘Tormato’ album, Jon Anderson barely rested. Between 1980 and 1982, he split most of his creative time between his own solo projects and collaborations with Greek keyboard virtuoso Vangelis, which brought the vocalist some UK chart success with the commercial new age/synth pop singles ‘I Hear You Now’ and the much-loved ‘I’ll Find My Way Home’. By the summer of 1981 and with the second Jon & Vangelis album ‘The Friends of Mt. Cairo’ having barely hit record shop shelves, Anderson was back in the studio working on the material that was soon to become his third LP ‘Animation’.

Upon release in June 1982, ‘Animation’ was a cult hit among fans, but not especially a commercial success. It marked the first time since the 1960s that Anderson failed to break the top 40 of the UK albums chart, and yielded no hit singles – which might seem weird considering his recent success with Vangelis – but, in all fairness, ‘Animation’ is a really complex animal. On the surface, it’s shiny pop oriented sound and extensive use of the technologies of the era make it appear as if it should’ve been much better received, but closer inspection reveals a sometimes challenging album that often delights in being busy, sometimes for the sake of it, and very occasionally at the expense of obvious hooks. However, it’s one of those albums which, with enough time invested, will eventually present a lot of brilliant material. Some of it is about as singalong as the more excessive bits of ‘Topographic Oceans’, but as is often the case with solo Jon, there’s far more at stake cheeky pop tune.

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