Sunday, January 29, 2023

Silverhead - More Than Your Mouth Can Hold - The Complete Recordings 1972-1974

The son of a Marquis, Michael Des Barres started acting while he was in private school with an uncredited role in Drop Dead Darling with Tony Curtis and his first credited role in To Sir With Love with Sidney Poitier among his early appearances.  In 1971, Andrew Lloyd Webber saw him performing in the musical The Dirtiest Show In Town and asked him if he had written any songs.  While he hadn't actually written any, he told him he had and went home that night and wrote the song "Will You Finance My Rock 'N' Roll Band".  He then played it for him on acoustic guitar the next day and with the support of Webber and Tim Rice, the wheels were set in motion.  They then set out to find the remaining band members which ended up being guitarists Rod Davies and Steve Forest, future Blondie bassist Nigel Harrison and drummer Pete Thompson.  Unfortunately, the band was a little ahead of their time and ended up being short-lived, releasing two killer albums, both of which should have been huge, but instead had minimal commercial success.  Thanks to the new six CD box set More Than Your Mouth Can Hold - The Complete Recordings, both of these albums have been compiled in one collection along with Live At The Rainbow, which was released in Japan in 1975 (after the band’s demise), two cuts recorded for the abandoned third album, single mixes, B-sides, a couple early Des Barres single tracks, tracks from the BBC’s In
Concert and three live discs.  

While their appearance definitely screamed glam rock, and there are elements of that to their sound (look no further than the hook-heavy, gritty glam of “Rolling With My Baby”), to call them a glam band would really be an injustice.  They make their presence known right out the gate on their eponymous debut with “Long Legged Lisa”, a sleazy, down and dirty, bluesy rocker that has some great slide guitar.  A couple other tracks, like the gritty, Stones-y ballad “In Your Eyes” and “Sold Me Down The River”, a slow and slinky cut that’s fleshed out with horns and piano, also tap into their blues side.  Other highlights include “Underneath The Light”, which has a bit of a Deep Purple feel (along with some cowbell), the straight-ahead “Ace Supreme” complete with some killer power chords and a hint of The Who, and “Wounded Heart”, an epic sounding ballad with a strong Faces vibe with keys that take it to another level.  Then there’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll Band”, the song that under its initial longer title, was the simple acoustic guitar and vocals track Des Barres played for Webber that resulted in him managing him.  Clocking in at just under six minutes, it starts off as a no frills straight up rocker with a bit of a pub rock feel, before turning into an everchanging track that shifts into a slower Stones-like bluesy section, then into an instrumental section with a really solid guitar solo, then a jam-like singalong between Des Barres and the background singers, accompanied with handclaps.  Also include on disc one of the box set are three bonus tracks, the seven-inch versions of “Ace Supreme” and “Rolling With My Baby”, both of which have a somewhat crisper, fuller production (especially the latter) and “Oh No No No”, the b-side to the “Ace Supreme” single, which is a good straight-ahead rock track with a touch of glam.

When it came time to record their sophomore album “16 And Savaged”, guitarist Forest had quit the band and was replaced by future Robert Plant guitarist Robbie Blunt.  They kick things off with “Hello New York”, a definite album highlight, with the glam of T Rex (complete with horns) meshed the the blues rock of The Faces.  The influence of The Faces is also evident in the next two tracks, “More Than Your Mouth Can Hold”, which also throws in a little Stones, and the soulful “Only You”, the album’s sole ballad.  After starting off with a bluesy glam groove, “Bright Lights” shifts into a hard charging Led Zeppelin flavored tune that keeps picking up the pace until it’s bordering on punk towards the end.  The following two tracks find the band showing a little of their funk side.  “Heavy Hammer” is a solid rock track with a slinky funk groove and “Cartoon Princess”, another album highlight, is a rocker with a hint of a funky swagger and some outstanding slide guitar that gives it a bit of an Allman Brothers feel.  They miss the mark a little on the next two track, “Rock Out Claudette Rock Out” and “This Ain’t A Parody”.  They aren’t bad cuts, but there just isn’t really anything about them that makes them stand out from the pack.  Closing the album out is the title track, “16 And Savaged”, which musically is another really strong song shifting back and forth between galloping blues rocker and slower Zeppelin-like passages, but lyrically the track has not stood the test of time and is rightfully very politically incorrect today.  Disc two has four bonus tracks, starting with two that were recorded for their abandoned third album.  It’s a shame this album never saw the light of day, because based on these two tracks it might very well have been the one to break them open.  “James Dean” is a catchy, hard-charging rocker with strong elements of glam and a punk edge, while “Marilyn” follows a similar path, but is a little more on the mellow side.  The other two bonus tracks are from Des Barres’ first solo single that was released following the demise of the band.  “Leon” and “New Moon Tonight” were both written and previously recorded by singer/songwriter Phillip Goodhand-Tait.  Des Barres’ versions are very slickly produced pop tunes and quite far removed from anything Silverhead recorded.  

Disc three kicks off with their 1975 live album Live At The Rainbow. This eight song set was recorded in London on November 9, 1973 while the band was opening for Nazareth and features a good mixture of tracks from both albums as well as the unreleased “James Dean”.  Having said that they don’t sound like an opener.  The show was professionally recorded and sounds great.  Their performance is very high energy and extremely tight and Des Barres definitely has command of the stage.  Also included on this disc is a previously unreleased five song set recorded at Paris Theater in London on August 31,1973 for BBC In Concert.  The performances here are just a strong as the others, but since they were for the BBC and not feeding off a live crowd in a club they are a little more restrained.  

The final three discs contain the rare and hard to find live albums Show Me Everything, recorded on July 29, 1973 at London’s Alexandra Palace (along with six more recorded in Japan on January 19, 1974), Berlin Backlash, recorded on February 2, 1973 at The Sportpalast in Berlin and Live In Japan, recorded at Nakano Sunplaza in Tokyo on January 19, 1974.  All three discs are bootleg quality, and as stated in the liner notes, “Whilst every effort has been made to produce the best possible audio, limitations in some of the material used for the bonus tracks means that the quality may not be up to the standard usually expected. All tracks have been included for their historical importance.”  Having said that they are very listenable and again show just how good they were live.  Most notable is the Tokyo show, which not only sounds the best but also is a full one hour and thirteen minute and the band comes across like they are long-time music veterans.  It's a performance that allows them to stretch out the songs with plenty of solos (check out the near eleven minute version of “Rollin’ With My Baby”).  While they never got their just due, it's obvious that plenty of bands that made it big after them were paying attention to what they were doing.  As usual, Cherry Red and HNE hve done a great job compiling this collection and I would highly recommend giving it a listen. 

(HNE Recordings

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Lazer Beam - Lost In Oblivion

Lost In Oblivion is the outstanding sophomore release from Locust French, released under the name Lazer Beam.  If you are familiar with the amalgamation of desert rock, grunge and pop from his self-titled debut and are expecting more of the same here, you are in for quite a surprise. While those elements can definitely be found throughout the new album they are just the beginning.  First off there are the songs themselves.  French is an outstanding songwriter and if you strip most of these songs down to the basics you would still be left with some insanely infectious pop tunes.  He proves this right out the gate with album opener “Sorry For The Headache”, a massively catchy dreampop song with a light stoner rock undercurrent and gentle electronic effects and beats. It will definitely have you swaying your head back and forth, and in a perfect world would be blasting out of speakers everywhere.  The electronics driven dreampop vibe continues on the title track, but this time around he moves in a slightly heavier direction.  The hooks are still in full-force with “Skate On By”, a nostalgic track that moves in a bit of a melancholic indie pop direction but is given his own refreshing unique spin.  “Dandelion Wishes And The Knight Of Wands” is a hypnotic, slow, doom-like soundscape that really showcases French’s guitar work.  Hearkening back to his debut, “Lower Your Guns” is a more straight-ahead stoner rock / desert rock track.  Meshing slow, downtuned guitar with upbeat pop hooks, “I Really Want U Slowly” brings to mind the Stoner Rock sounds of Queens Of The Stone Age.  “Vultures” is a very powerful song full of great guitar work and layers of sound.  It is a slow building cut that builds and builds getting more and more intense as it goes.  Featuring the distinct, dark and very deep guest vocals of PatrĂ³n, which complement the song perfectly, “Derelict” is a slow and dark, haunting, yet very captivating cut.  Shifting direction one final time, the album closes with a gorgeous, subtle electronic music enhanced, dark acoustic guitar driven folk-ish cover of the Devil Makes Three track “The Graveyard.”  This is an outstanding release that definitely deserves to be heard.  

(Lazer Beam - Facebook)

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Modern Eon - Fiction Tales (Expanded Edition) 

Originally forming in Liverpool in 1978 as Luglo Slugs and releasing two tracks on Street To Street - A Liverpool Compilation, Modern Eon changed their name and self-released the four-track EP Pieces.  Over the next four years they released one album and a handful of singles before calling it a day while working on demos for their second album.  This new expanded edition of their sole album has been remastered and marks the first time it’s ever been available on CD and also includes a second disc containing single versions, B-sides and some previously unreleased tracks that were recorded in 1982 prior to their breakup.

Fiction Tales was quite an impressive and sadly underappreciated debut.  It’s largely a very dark record with a lot of experimentation and was a bit before it’s time.  The band was greatly influenced by composer Ennio Morricone and even approached him about producing the album, but he advised them that he didn’t work with rock bands.  That influence is very apparent on several tracks like “Second Still”, a taut cut that sounds like Morricone meshed with Joy Division, and “Waiting For The Cavalry”, a sweeping, cinematic song that has a darker edge to it and is a definite album standout.  That cinematic feel also comes out on “The Grass Still Grows”, which starts with tribal drumming and has some nice keyboard washes and some sax towards the end that gives it a mystical vibe that’s not so unlike Siouxsie and the Banshees.  Other tracks like “Playwrite”, “Watching The Dancers” and “Real Hymn” are very interesting cuts with odd rhythms that are at times a bit jerky, with throbbing bass and layers of synths and other noises (including sax and Chinese Horn on “Real Hymn”) that definitely take a few listens to really sink in. Then there is “In A Strange Way”, a slow, sparse and haunting soundscape comprised of vocals, piano, sustained bass and found sounds.  While a lot of the album is experimental there are a handful of tracks that could be considered more accessible and almost radio friendly.  “Child’s Play”, which was released as a single, and “Choreography” are both very catchy tracks with a dreamy, almost ethereal, early shoegazer sound, “Mechanic” is very reminiscent of U2 with a little Joy Division and “Euthenics” is completely different than anything else on the album, sounding a lot like Death Cult / Dreamtime-era The Cult.  

Kicking off the bonus tracks on disc two are early versions of four songs that would later appear on the album, the 1979 versions of “Second Still” and “Choreography” from the Pieces EP (unfortunately the other two cuts aren’t included) and the 1980 single versions of “Euthenics” and “Waiting For The Cavalry.”  While they are all structurally close to the album versions, the production is rawer and less polished, which actually gives some of them a warmer sound, and in the case of “Euthenics” there is a sax throughout this version that isn’t on the album.  Next up are a couple of B-sides, both of which are good enough to have been album tracks.  “Cardinal Signs” is a hooky tune that’s very percussion driven with a plentiful sax, while “Visionary is a tempo shifting, twisting turning track that’s a little more on the adventurous side.  The single version of “Mechanic” is up next and sounds like it's been rerecorded with some changes to the guitar and synths, while it’s flipside “Splash!” is an interesting track with a very similar feel to the a-side (almost like it has been reimagined), but with a spoken word vocal and some dub bass.  The final four tracks are all previously unreleased starting with the demo of “After The Party”, which was recorded for a possible second album, and is another darker track with some swirling synths and U2 flavored guitars.  Two dub versions of "After The Party" are up next, including a 2021 mix from frontman/guitarist Alex Che Johnson, that are nice additions.  The demo of “Garland Leaves” closes the disc out and does a great job of taking some of the more experimental elements of their debut, while also maintaining the hook-heavy catchiness.  Rounding things out is a very informative booklet with a lot of detailed info on the band and lots of pictures.  It is unfortunate that a few tracks were left out, but other than that this is an outstanding release that hopefully will introduce this underappreciated band to a whole new audience.  

(Cherry Red Records)

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Interview with The Backyard Casanovas

The Bonn, Germany four-piece The Backyard Casanovas recently released their stellar debut album Backyard Stomp.  I had the chance to talk to them about the new album, their numerous other gigs, including playing with Cat Lee King, Germany's 50's Rhythm and Blues and Rock 'n' Roll scene and alot more.   

Can you give me a little background on the band and tell me what drew the four of you together to pursue this style of music?

We originally formed our group named Cat Lee King and His Cocks. Some of us knew each other from school and sessions at the local blues club. We all love the old Blues, Rhythm & Blues and Rock & Roll stuff. We really enjoyed playing together so we decided to go for it.

The four of you are also Cat Lee King’s band. How would compare being his band versus doing your own thing?

We wouldn't say that one band is Cat Lee King's thing and the other is our thing.  Sure we play different subgenres of rhythm and blues in the bands, but we're still a sworn group and into the same kind of music. With the Casanovas, we get to play another facet of rhythm and blues. And that's why with the Backyard Casanovas we also deliberately chose a new name.

Were you already a band before you teamed up with him?

We had been touring as Cat Lee King and his Cocks for several years and were scheduled to perform at a good friend's wedding reception. Since Cat Lee King was out of the country at the time, we decided to perform without him. The performance was very well received by the audience, and thus the Backyard Casanovas were born.

What kind of impact did the pandemic have on the band?

Many concerts were postponed or cancelled altogether. This was a hard reality for us as a semi-professional band, but we used the time well and Cat Lee King recorded his solo album "The Quarantine Tapes" and we recorded our first album "Backyard Stomp". We also tried our hand at a livestream and a car concert, but of course all this is not the same as a real live concert with an audience.

About half the disc is covers. What went into choosing what songs to cover?

When we rehearsed the band for the wedding, we only had cover songs. In the end, they are all songs that we personally like a lot and that fit our concept. Some are not as well known as others, but we try to give our personal touch to the covers.  Little by little we added our own songs from our drummer Rene Lieutenant and our singer Tommy J. Croole.

I love that you cover Hasil Adkins’ “Big Fat Mama”. I grew up about 30 minutes from his hometown and was lucky enough to experience him live, which was definitely something to remember. How did you come across him and what made you choose that song?

Hasil Adkins has always been one of our idols. In the end he was the first punk long before there was punk. His energy and charisma are unique. We hope he would like our cover version.

Three of the tracks are credited to Christoph Seidel. Who is that?

That´s the real name of our lead singer Tommy J Croole.

This isn't a question, but I wanted to compliment you on the originals. The album flows so well that if you don't know they are covers you really can't tell what is a cover and what is an original.

Thank you very much. That was also our intention when we put the album together.

Is there a big scene in Germany for 50’s era Blues and Rhythm and Blues?

We would say yes. In Germany the 50s Rhythm and Blues scene is very much alive mixed with the 50s Rock'n'Roll scene and forms a common one. Together it is already a big scene with many events and festivals all over Germany, but of course it would be nice if the scene becomes even bigger.

I love your YouTube videos on the Bopflix page. Can you tell me a little about those?

We recorded the first Bopflix videos in England at Rhythm Riot. That's our favorite 
festival in our music scene. The other Bopflix session we recorded in Bonn at the Musikclub Session. We recorded the music ourselves and Chris Magee from Bopflix did the filming and post production. He has a very good hand for it and his Youtube channel is already the best music archive of current Rock'n'Roll and Rhythm and Blues bands. He has become a very good friend of ours. We look forward to working with him again soon.

How would you describe a live show from The Backyard Casanovas?

It is difficult to describe it ourselves, since we can only see it on video afterwards.  We always try to play with the highest energy and commitment possible and hope the audience will see, hear and feel this and respond to it. Hopefully in an ecstatic way.

What are your plans now that the album has just been released?

Waiting... Waiting for the vinyl record. We hope that it will be available in the summer, but the production times are very long at the moment. And until then we play as many gigs as possible.

I know it’s a massive undertaking, but do you see any dates in the US in your future?

We would love to do that. We have also received several requests for Cat Lee King and his Cocks and also for us as Backyard Casanovas, but of course this is a big undertaking with high costs and needs a lot of planning and especially a good tour manager in the States who can organize a tour for us.

Are any of you involved in any other projects in addition to your work with Cat Lee King?

Besides "Cat Lee King and his Cocks", Cat and Tommy also play in the "Cat Lee King Jazz Trio". Our bass player Lucky Luciano also plays in the Rockabilly band "High Steppin Daddys". Our drummer Rene Lieutenant also plays in the Rock'n'Roll band "The Ballroomrockets" and often in the Ryhthm'n'Blues band "Ray Collins Hot Club". Our rhythm guitarist Sidney Ramone also plays in his Rhythm'n'Punk band "Restless Ramone". Tommy also plays drums in several bands in Germany. So it's all a bit interwoven here. Theoretically, you can book us and we can play as three to four different bands for you.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

We hope many people can enjoy our music and we are always happy to perform live. After this pandemic, it is important that a going-out mentality emerges again.  The bars and clubs really need it. Support your local bars and bands!


Sunday, January 08, 2023

The Mirage - The World Goes On Around You – The Mirage Anthology

After numerous years going through various incarnations of different bands, the members of the Hertfordshire band The Mirage released their debut single in 1965.  Over the next five years they released nine singles (some under pseudonyms) and then in 1970 released a full-length album under the name Jawbone, followed it up with another single and then called it a day. The World Goes On Around You is a new three-disc box set that compiles all these singles and their one album and also contains a multitude of unreleased demos, outtakes and BBC sessions.  

Disc one kicks off with the eighteen tracks that comprised the nine singles they released between 1965 and 1968.  While there are a lot of really great originals amongst the singles, unfortunately they were often delegated to the flipside.  This was usually due to the record company owners and execs being out of touch or in some cases greedy, as some of the songs were written by them as opposed to the band.  The first original they released was “Just A Face”, a tune driven by chiming guitars and a hint of psychedelia, and the flipside to their second single “Go Away”, a bouncy, upbeat track that was actually a previously unreleased song written by The Hollies.  The next single was their take on The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”, which did a good job of capturing the feel of the original but was a lot more stripped down and sounds more like a demo.  This was once again accompanied by an original with “You Can’t Be Serious”, a Beatles-esque track meshed with a mod vibe.  The next two singles finally contained nothing but originals with the high points being the laid-back ballad “Can You Hear Me” (written by band bassist Dee Murray who would later become a member of Elton John’s classic band lineup) and the stellar “The Wedding Of Ramona Blair”, reminiscent of early Pink Floyd.  The next single was the epitome of the band being mishandled by their label.  “Mystery Lady” was a very cheesy bubblegum pop tune that just wasn’t very good and was written by the owner of the label, who had never written a hit song.  On the other hand, the b-side “Chicago Cottage” was a blissful pop gem that had all the makings of a hit and is one of the best songs they ever released.  With singles under the name The Mirage continuously falling short in sales they decided to release the next one under the name Yellow Pages.  “Here Comes Jane” was written by former Plastic Penny frontman Brian Keith and was a catchy bubblegum singalong with a hint of rock, while “Ding Dong Bell”, musically a catchy tune, but lyrically extremely cheesy, was again co-written by label owner Larry Page.  Their next single, and last under the name The Mirage, was “Carolyn”, which was again penned by the label owner and is a horrible track with a really bad oompa oompa beat that is basically the demo because the band thought it was so bad, they walked out of the session.  As had happened over and over, the original on the flip, “The World Goes On Around You”, was one of the band’s best tracks that, thanks in part to the organ throughout, has a bit of an early prog sound.  Following the single’s release, the band “broke up” then reformed with a new bassist, a new label and a new name, Portobello Explosion (the breakup and name change was apparently a ruse to get out of their previous record deal).  “We Can Fly”, the only release under the new name, is a hypnotic, dreamy psychedelic pop tune that is another definite highlight, while the b-side is a great cover of Bubble Puppy’s “Hot Smoke and Sassafrass”, a psychedelic hard rocker that shows some hints of early acid rock.  Closing out disc one is six tracks from BBC sessions.  Along with versions of three of the songs they released on singles are a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Another Saturday Night”, “Ebaneezer Beaver”, which ended up becoming “Jeremiah Dreams” on the Jawbone album, and “Strange Feeling”.  For the most part the sound quality on these is a little muddy and there isn’t anything in the liner notes giving any details on them, but they are definitely a nice addition.

As further proof of just how much potential The Mirage had, disc two contains twenty-three studio out-takes, the majority of which are originals that were never officially released.  The main drawback is that most are demo recordings, so they aren’t quite studio quality recordings.  While some are definitely better than others, pretty much everything here is better than the songs they were forced to release as singles, and there are plenty of highlights. Quite a few of the tracks show the influence of The Beatles from “Gone To Your Head” and “I Love Her”, both of which harken back to their earlier days, to Mrs Busby, which is more reminiscent of their later psychedelic side.  “I See The Rain” and “My Door No. 4” (aka “Lonely Highway”) are both gorgeous sixties pop tunes, with the former having a bit of a west coast feel and the latter enhanced with strings and woodwinds, sounding a bit like early Bee Gees.  A quirkier side to the band comes out in “Hello Enid”, a pop track with a touch of psychedelia and some harmonium, and the jaunty “How’s Your Pa”, which kicks off with some honky tonk piano and is an extremely catchy and a really fun listen.  “What Do I Care” is an uptempo pop track that has a bit of a rock side to it, while “Cathy Must Fly” (aka “Katherine”) is a simple little stripped down acoustic cut with a hint of psychedelia.  They venture into a little sunshine pop on “You And Me Baby, a track that is actually the band backing an unknown singer and highlighted with some outstanding harmonies.  The aforementioned “Ebaneezer Beaver”, a really good psychedelic track with some similarities to The Beatles’ “I Am The Walrus”, shows up here twice in both electric and acoustic versions.  While there are also a handful of tracks here that somewhat miss the mark, overall these unreleased tracks are well worth the listen.

Unhappy with their new name and with a slight change in membership, the band returned as Jawbone, releasing the eponymous album found here on disc three.  Not only did they take their new name from a song by The Band, they also were a very strong influence on the musical direction the band took here.  This is apparent right out the gate with opening tracks “Honeysuckle Redwood Cabin”, which sounds like The Byrds playing with The Band, and “Homestead” with its strong vocal harmonies and organ fills.  “How’s Your Pa?” is the first of three tracks from The Mirage days that’s been rerecorded here, and is a quirky, yet extremely catchy track that has a vaudeville / circus vibe reminiscent of both The Beatles “Your Mother Should Know” and “Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite.”  Really setting itself apart from the other tracks, “Brave White Knight” is a gorgeous medieval folk rock ballad highlighted by harpsichord, acoustic guitar and Simon and Garfunkel like harmonies. After “Bulldog Goes West”, a more straight ahead rootsy rock track is their take on The Beatles’ “Across The Universe."  According to the liner notes, the band had an acetate of Lennon’s demo and The Beatles didn’t seem interested in recording it, so Jawbone did, only to have The Beatles end up releasing their own version.  While not as effects laden, this one still maintains the spirit of the song and is really quite an impressive track.  “Million Times Before” is up next and is a little reminiscent of both Dylan and The Byrds, followed by “Money Is," a catchy tune with some slightly funky keys, that at times brings to mind “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind” from the Lovin' Spoonful.  With “Mister Custer” the influence of The Band is definitely in the forefront again, while the largely acoustic “Song For Sonny” is very Dylan-esque with some nice pedal steel.  Closing out the album are two more rerecorded tracks from The Mirage with the psychedelic pop gem “Chicago Cottage” and The Beatles-ish psychedelic “Jeremiah Dreams” (a revamped version of “Ebaneezer Beaver”).  Both tracks benefit from better production here, giving them a warmer, fuller sound than before.  Following the album’s release, the band gave it one more go with the final track here, the single “Way Down Down”, another rootsier song in the vein of The Band, although a little more on the pop side.  Rounding out the box set is a booklet with a detailed essay and plenty of pics.  Once again Cherry Red and Grapefruit Records have done a stellar job giving us a chance to discover another sadly overlooked band.  

(Grapefruit Records)

Abrasive Wheels - Abrasive Wheels (1981-1984)

After forming in 1978, kicking around for a few years and going through quite a few personnel changes, May 1981 saw Leeds’ Abrasive Wheels self-release their three-song debut single, a short blast of fast, energetic punk with raw chainsaw guitars.  Over the next three years they would release several more singles and two albums and hit the UK Independent charts numerous times.  Abrasive Wheels (1981-1984) has compiled all these tracks from that first era of the band.  They followed with two more singles before their full-length debut was released in late 1982, and while those singles definitely fell in line with the first one, there is a somewhat noticeable improvement in the production as well as the songwriting, most notably on “Vicious Circle” and “Voice of Youth,” the latter of which would also show up on the album.  With the release of their debut album When The Punks Go Marching In, which hit number three on the UK Independent charts, they upped the ante once again in the production department and while they definitely didn’t lose any of what made them who they were, there was a little more diversity.  Songs like “Burn ‘em Down” “First Rule (No Rule)” are extremely catchy with really strong hooks, and you can hear The Clash coming through on a few cuts like “BBC” and “Just Another Punk Band.”  In 1983 the band released two singles and it was apparent from both their clothes and the music that there was a shift coming.  First up was a cover of “Jailhouse Rock,” which added a little punk aggression to the original, but really not much more.  On the other hand, the flipside, “Sonic Omen” was a gritty tune with plenty of hooks that reminds me a little of Social Distortion.  The next single was “Banner Of Hope”, which at times sounds a lot like The Skids, while the b-side “Law Of The Jungle” (also a track on the second album) was more or less a rockabilly track.  Early 1984 found the band releasing their sophomore album, Black Leather Girl, and while it still managed to reach number eight on the UK Independent charts it was quite different from their debut.  Looking back today a lot of their fans now say they really like it, but at the time it was not what they were looking for.  The high energy was there, but the faster pace was largely replaced by a more muscular sound that was melodic and bordered on rock instead of punk.  The production was vastly improved as well (it was recorded at 10cc’s home studio Strawberry Studios) and there were a lot more vocal harmonies.  There really isn’t a bad track to be found with songs like “Maybe Tomorrow”, “The Prisoner” and “Black Leather Girl” among the highlights.  A couple of other strong cuts that really set themselves apart are the title track, which has a saxophone throughout, and “Devil On My Shoulder”, driven by some excellent percussion.  Both have a really cool rockabilly thread running through them and are somewhat reminiscent of The Cramps.  Following the album’s release and some extensive touring, the band came home and started work on album number three, but by that time the scene had changed and according to guitarist Dave Ryan - "it just wasn't spontaneous, we were having to think about it too much,” and the band broke up (a new version of the band did reform in 2003 and appears to still be playing today).  Rounded out with a booklet full of pictures of the band, their singles and albums, plus a great interview with guitarist Dave Ryan this is an outstanding collection.

(Captain Oi!)