PETER BARDENS – Long Ago, Far Away: The Recordings 1969-71

Keyboard player Peter Bardens first achieved wide recognition as a member of UK prog band Camel, but prior to their formation in 1971, he had already taken major steps towards a full time musical career. He was first a member of Peter B’s Looners – a blues and soul band that eventually became Shotgun Express and featured future megastars Mick Fleetwood and Rod Stewart – before joining Irish rhythm and blues band Them in time to record their debut album. By 1969, he’d become a member of the short-lived band Village, which also featured future Sutherland Brothers & Quiver bassist Bruce Thomas, later to achieve genuine stardom as a member of Elvis Costello’s Attractions. For anyone with a keen interest in the history of British R&B, these musical ventures would be enough alone to secure Bardens a place within a pantheon of cult musical figures.

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VENUS 5 – Venus 5

Another act from the conveyor belt of Frontiers’ manufactured talents, the thinking behind Venus 5 was to create a “credible metal version” of the ultimate girl group. Label boss Serafino Perugino had obviously thought about the sales potential of multi-voiced pop acts and figured that a huge harmonic potential could be transposed to something heavier and still work. In some ways, he isn’t wrong, since this debut album never sells the listener short on massive vocals. He isn’t necessarily right either, as there are times throughout its eleven tracks where being constantly confronted with all five voices most of the time can be a little wearing. It’s not that the girls can’t sing; each member has a very strong voice, but the opportunities to hear them performing apart aren’t always so forthcoming as they perhaps could have been.

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REAL GONE GOES OUT: Electric Six – Booking Hall, Dover, Kent 2/6/2022

It’s barely seven months since Electric Six last visited the Kent coast. In November 2021, the Detroit legends packed out the tiny Music Hall in Ramsgate, and tonight it’s the turn of its slightly larger cousin, the Booking Hall in Dover, to play host to the ever quirky Dick Valentine and his assorted friends. Unsurprisingly, the show is a sell out. Unbelievably, the band have attracted a few people in the audience who are seeing the Electric Six bonanza for the very first time. Using the Ramsgate show as a benchmark, whether a casual observer or died in the wool fan, everyone is in for a genuine treat.

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THE SILVER LINES – Sleaze EP

London based rock band The Silver Lines sometimes convey a very retro sound, but unlike some, they’re keen to take a few key influences and at least try to twist them into something new. On their debut EP, you’ll find swathes of retro indie jangle, even a heavy dose of funk, and yet the band never sound as if they’re settled within either camp. Their sound can seem a little busy, yet remains focused; their song writing is hooky, but never anthemic. You might say that The Silver Lines sound absolutely natural – and that would certainly be true of frontman Dan Ravenscroft’s unmistakably British vocal delivery – but whichever way you approach their music, there’s something interesting lurking beneath the surface.

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STRANGEWAYS – Complete Recordings Volume 1: 1985-1994

When thinking about 80s AOR, there are a few bands that immediately spring to mind: Journey, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, and Survivor. Legends all, but rock’s most radio-friendly subgenre spawned a truckload of other great bands, and during the 80s, this most American sound even influenced a few British musicians. FM remain one of the best known and most successful exponents of the UK contingent; much has been said about Magnum’s most commercial period from 1986-90, and at the end of the decade, Little Angels scored chart success by taking an AOR core and injecting it with a couple of rockier influences. For all the hitmakers, there are several great bands that aren’t mentioned anywhere near as much. And the greatest of those? That, without doubt, would be Scotland’s Strangeways.

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