Iron Maiden’s second album ‘Killers’ was released in the UK in February 1981, just ten months after their debut LP. Not so much “born into a scene of angriness and greed, dominance and persecution” as born of haste following EMI’s request for a speedy follow up, it was a “second album” in almost every conceivable sense. Faced with the prospect of having to deliver a new product amid relentless touring, they looked to their archive of already written material and plundered it for all it was worth. Years of honing their sound on the road and the fact the debut included just eight tracks, they found themselves in the fortunate position of having a cushion of material – and while it’s sometimes obvious why some of the tracks were not considered first division material when compiling the debut, Maiden’s “leftovers” were still strong, with some tracks having already become firm fan favourites by the time Steve Harris and company re-entered the studio.
Coming to prominence as part of the second wave of ska in the late 70s, The Selecter will seemingly always be best known for their early singles ‘Three Minute Hero’ and ‘On My Radio’ and their 1979 full length ‘Too Much Pressure’. As one of a dozen or so albums released on the 2-Tone label, it achieved instant cult status and sounds just as fresh decades after it was recorded. The years passed and The Selecter endured shifting line-ups but, during an on-off career, continued to make great music and never lost their edge with regard to live performance.
In 2011 Leeds-based stoner metal merchants Black Moth unveiled their debut album ‘The Killing Jar’, an excellent riff-based affair that impressed on first listen and thrilled on each subsequent play. The result was one of the year’s best metal releases. With their US equivalent Ruby The Hatchet releasing a strong and similarly themed debut the following year and Earthless releasing a giant, sprawling double set ‘From The Ages’ in 2013, the standard for doom and stoner grooves remained at an impressive high, thus giving Black Moth much to live up to upon their return.
After demo sessions in 1979 turned sour, long-serving vocalist Jon Anderson departed from Yes after a decade of performing as both frontman and songwriter. Keyboard player Rick Wakeman departed at the same time, thus leaving the band without two of their key members. They filled the void with vocalist producer Trevor Horn and keyboard player Geoff Downes who, at that time, were both members of pop duo Buggles. The new Yes line up of Horn (vocals), Downes (keys), Steve Howe (guitar), Chris Squire (bass) and Alan White (drums) clicked, but the resulting album – ‘Drama’ (released in August 1980) – is a release which polarises fans.
Although primarily thought of as a ska outfit (and often dismissed as a “bit of fun” and a novelty band), over the course of six album releases between 1979 and 1985, Madness showed their musical palette was far broader than that of their early ska revival peers. In fact, from their third album (‘7’) onward, Camden’s favourite sons all but ditched their ska roots and continually moved forward, crafting a unique brand of pop music along the way. With each passing album, it’s possible to hear the band becoming more comfortable in their shoes as pop’s master craftsmen, and parts of their fifth album, ‘Keep Moving’ (released in 1984), arguably captures the post-ska Madness at their finest.