SHOES – Elektrafied: The Elektra Years 1979-82

To a legion of power pop fans, Shoes are legendary. To a lot of other people – and especially those in the UK – they remain a largely unknown entity. While some fans will claim that 1977’s ‘Black Vinyl Shoes’ is the Shoes masterpiece, it merely shows a band on the rise. It’s a record with some good songs, a lot of enthusiasm and a certain amount of DIY charm – and it’s likely that DIY “cool factor” that makes it so highly prized by those vocal champions. In terms of consistency, it’s somewhat hit and miss. If you’re looking to discover a band at their peak, look no further than the three Shoes albums recorded for Elektra Records between 1979 and 1982.

This 4CD compilation presents each of those albums in full, alongside a massive vault of bonus tracks – fifty four in all – making ‘Elektrafied’ the ultimate Shoes package for the uninitiated.

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Ken Hensley 5CD set to be released March 27th

After leaving Uriah Heep in 1980, multi-instrumentalist Ken Hensley embarked upon an often overlooked solo career.  On 27th March 2020, Cherry Red Records/HNE Records will release a five disc set collecting his extensive recordings made between 2012-2013.

The new set follows Cherry Red’s previous Hensley anthology (‘The Bronze Years’) and brings together two studio album, an acoustic live set and various live recordings made with Ken’s band Live Fire.

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THE IDLE RACE – The Birthday Party

Long before joining Roy Wood and Bev Bevan in The Move, a young hopeful named Jeff Lynne became a member of a Midlands beat group named The Nightriders. Soon after Lynne’s arrival, The Nightriders mutated into The Idle Race, a move reflecting a gradual shift from 60s beat group sounds to the burgeoning psychedelic scene. Despite releasing two albums and a handful of singles, The Idle Race failed to make much of a commercial impact in the 60s, but due to Jeff’s later megastar status as the leader of Electric Light Orchestra and part time Wilbury, their work has built a cult following.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS – Crawling Up A Hill: A Journey Through The British Blues Boom 1966-71

On the surface, it would seem that the British blues boom has been well served by compilation discs over the years. On closer inspection, that hasn’t really been the case at all: the best anthologies tend to be label specific (Blue Horizon’s ‘The Blue Horizon Story’, Decca’s ‘The Blues Scene’ and Immediate’s ‘Blues Anytime’ series, later repackaged as an excellent four CD set by Charly Records). The bulk of the rest seem too concerned with repackaging bits of ‘Blues Anytime’ with cheap, inferior packaging. There hasn’t ever really been a decent compilation covering a lot of ground from different labels, or one unafraid to dig a little deeper beyond the usual suspects.

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RATT – The Atlantic Albums: 1984-1990

Armed with the swagger of Motley Crue, the crunch of mid 70s Sweet and a bunch of great choruses, Ratt briefly became massive stars in the US during the mid 80s. With a couple of videos gaining heavy rotation on MTV and a best selling debut album, they were among the melodic metal/glam scene’s most successful acts.

None of that applies in the UK, even though Ratt got of lots of positive press from the rock magazines. With MTV Europe barely off the ground, they were without an outlet for their videos and a rock-averse radio system meant the singles got no real airplay. As a result, Ratt were unknowns outside of the keener rock fans’ community; the closest they came to a hit was having their second album scrape the top fifty of the album chart in 1985. It’s hardly a surprise that, for UK record buyers, most of their albums have spent most of their life in an out of print limbo. For those British fans, most Ratt discs – save for 1990’s ‘Detonator’ – were procured on vinyl, as cheap imports from cut-out bins.

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