In the summer of 1979, several young bands with a political conscience and an ear for the Jamaican sounds of the late 60s began to storm the UK charts. The British music scene subsequently experienced one of its most exciting post-punk movements when bands like The Specials and The Selecter became the “new cool” with their brand of energetic ska music. By October, the new movement had reached fever pitch when no fewer than three bands associated with the 2-Tone label appeared on a single edition of Top of The Pops. Decades on, it’s still possible to understand the incendiary effect these bands had when revisiting that footage. Much has been said about Madness’ abilities to give the studio a party atmosphere, but it’s The Selecter’s first appearance playing ‘On My Radio’ which, perhaps, best sums up the pure energy of ska’s second wave in a little over two minutes, with Pauline Black, Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson and Charley Anderson giving it the full on skank throughout.
Between a world of cancelled and postponed gigs and time spent in lockdown, 2020 has been a troubled year, but nevertheless, time marches on. Unbelievably, we’ve reached December and our traditional countdown to Christmas has begun.
Chris Rea’s extensive catalogue has never been given the credit it fully deserves. While many of his albums have remained available in various territories, only a few have been reissued in a deluxe format. In many cases, that’s not even because there isn’t a lot of non-album material. There are live shows sitting in Euro TV archives, which could be used for both audio and visual extras alongside various b-sides and other material. With a few of the bigger albums receiving 2CD editions in 2019, it would be a real treat to see Rea’s third album, 1980s ‘Tennis’, afforded an expanded reissue. Continue reading
When The Rolling Stones released ‘Steel Wheels’ at the end of the 80s, they’d spent the better part of a decade coasting off the back of some average albums and a lot of goodwill. Although when heard many years later the album now sounds like the Stones on autopilot, in 1989 it sounded sharp and vibrant; streets ahead of both 1983’s ‘Undercover’ and 1986’s absolutely turgid ‘Dirty Work’. The singles ‘Rock & A Hard Place’ and ‘Mixed Emotions’ harked back to solid rockers like ‘Start Me Up’ and ‘Little T&A’ from almost a decade earlier, while tracks like ‘Hold On To Your Hat’ proved the veteran rockers were still more than capable of cutting loose.
A great album deserves a great tour, and in that department, the Stones really didn’t short change their fans either. The ‘Steel Wheels Tour’ of ’89 – renamed the ‘Urban Jungle Tour’ in 1990 – took the band around the globe and saw them visiting the US shores for the first time since 1981. Fans have already been able to revisit the Steel Wheels tour via a widely circulated show filmed at the Tokyo Dome in 1990, but the earlier show from Atlantic City in December ‘89 outdoes that in almost every respect.
Andrew Gold had a prolific career, but to many people he will be best remembered for three songs. The schmaltzy MOR pop of ‘Never Let Her Slip Away’ gave Gold a massive hit in 1978; his ‘Thank You For Being A Friend’ eventually became an evergreen number thanks to being re-recorded as the theme for hit US comedy The Golden Girls and 1977’s ‘Lonely Boy’ became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. A genuine pop classic, that song’s multi-layered kitchen sink arrangement ensures it sounds as good now as it ever did – a rival to the complex pop of 10cc and a track that gave Jellyfish every reason to exist. It’s a four minute joy: a world of stabbed pianos and a story-telling verse leads into a massive chorus full of whoahs, which in turn gives out some great staccato guitar work and ultimately one of the greatest guitar solos you’ll ever hear. If that sounds overly indulgent, it surely is – but it’s also power pop perfection.
‘Lonely Boy’ takes pride of place within this box set – presented in no fewer than four versions – but that’s only a small part of the picture. This anthology provides the ideal opportunity to explore Gold’s four albums for the legendary Asylum label, along with a host of extras within one lovingly curated package.