July’s picks also feature The Finn Brothers, Wu-Tang Clan, Swing Out Sister, Orbital, Ash, Idlewild, Keane, Paul Weller, µ-Ziq, Alt-J and Beastie Boys
Hello! It’s July! Woo! Or whatever. Hope you’ve been well. Everything’s still going to shit so we might as well brightside it with some joy and pop music. What say you? Good. Get your chops around this lot, lovers – it’s gonna be a fast ride. Or something.
An album any sane human should own, and indeed one of the greatest albums ever that’s celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is The Chemical Brothers’ Dig Your Own Hole. Upon release in 1997, it contained the duo’s two chart-toppers – Setting Sun and Block Rockin’ Beats – and was their first No. 1 album in the UK, going on to sell a couple of million worldwide. It took them from the backrooms to the main stages, and turned them into an essential live act, indeed one of the greats who still manage to thrill and headbend large audiences now.
Okay, well I’ll admit that ‘I quite like them’ and have seen them about 30 times since 1994, and so I’m not bullshitting when I declare how important this album is to me, and numerous others who I’ve connected with over the years due to our shared love of it. Anyway, it’s now back out as a 3LP and 2CD offering, with the third disc/ second CD offering five unreleased tracks and mixes from the era. There’s a conventional 2LP minus the bonuses too. Hell, there’s t-shirts, chargers, polaroids and record bags available on their official store if you’re stuck for gift ideas for, well, someone like me (my birthday is in October btw). What a fucking group. Essential stuff.
Being 30 years old this year, it’s only fair that Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head gets a bells ‘n’ whistles reissue, yes? Thing to remember was that the trio’s stock was so low when this album was originally released, that no one gave much of a stuff about them. Having upset everyone and sold millions with Licensed To Ill, and followed it up with the vastly underselling (but eventually far more important influence-wise) Paul’s Boutique, no one was on the edge of their seat for a Beastie Boys album.
In some ways, that was a good thing, as Check Your Head’s stock grew by word of mouth and reminded the general public how amazing Ad Rock, MCA and Mike D really were. The album saw a bit of a return to their punkin’ roots, with the Beasties putting most of the samples aside for live instrumentation, as well as being home to crackers such as Jimmy James, So Wat’Cha Want and Pass The Mic. Anyway, it ended up doing very well in the end-of-year lists and kickstarted the second wind of the band’s career. This iteration is a reissue of the rare-as-hens-teeth version that came out in 2009, that included live tracks, remixes and whatnot, and now comes in a 4LP fabric-wrapped, stamped box set available exclusively through their website. Hurrah!
That pesky lockdown buggered up Orbital’s plans to celebrate their 30th anniversary, so better a little late than never there’s now the cannily titled 30 (Something) (which makes my teeth itch as it shares a title with a Carter USM album, but that’s not for here) and it contains reworks, remakes, remixes and re-imaginings of landmark Orbital tracks based on the duo’s unrivalled live show, and by jingo it is unrivalled speaking as someone who was at Glastonbury 1994 and ‘possibly on drugs’ can attest. They’re all here: Satan, The Box, Impact, Belfast and more all reswizzled in new forms with remixes by David Holmes, Yotto, ANNA, Jon Hopkins, Dusky, Joris Voorn, Logo 1000, Eli Brown, Shanti Celeste and more. A work of art. Again.
Fell From The Sun: Downtempo and After Hours 1990-1991 fell off the June page by accident, which was remiss of me I know. Maybe I was TOO excited. So, let’s address that stupidity now. It’s the latest collection by Saint Etienne‘s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs and it’s utterly glorious. Think back to the groovy optimism of the start of the ’90s when crystal-wielding types were finding their dance elements and inspired by The KLF’s Chill Out and Primal Scream’s Loaded, they were handing over their toe-taps to DJs for a reswizzle, creating laid-back moods that seemed like a world away from the stuff that, due to some law being passed, had to have a Soul II Soul beat.
It’s full of 98bpm wonders with sighs, mellowness and delicacy for which one might have enjoyed some light drugs to BITD, or maybe even heard as a soundbed to some home improvement or holiday TV shows. I wistfully recalled my fringe hearing BBG’s Snappiness, The Aloof’s Never Get Out Of The Boat, Soul Family Sensation’s I Don’t Even Know If I Should Call You Baby, and – oh God – the epic and wondrous Fallen by One Dove. If, like me, you had the majority of these on the original 12 inches, and you probably got The Grid’s Floatation for 99p in an Our Price new release bin, then this round-up is highly recommended.
Gotta Get A Good Thing Goin’: The Music Of Black Britain In The Sixties is an essential document (or if you’re being pedantic, a 4CD box) of some of the acts that don’t necessarily get their dues when historical documentaries flick through that era. Some of the homegrown R&B and soul by the likes of Geno Washington, Jimmy James, Carl Douglas, Madeline Bell, Ram Jam Holder and Cleo Laine as well as ska/ reggae types Laurel Aitken, Winston Groovy and King Horror were a bit overshadowed by their US counterparts, and while they would enjoy a level of success to a degree, this collection aims to highlight what a hotbed of aceness the UK’s black acts were.
It’s a wide-reaching affair even taking in familiar names such as Shirley Bassey, Winifred Atwell, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Geoff Love (here with his hit version of the Coronation Street theme) were all huge in their respective areas. With faithful sleevenotes and biographies, as well as many tracks here making their CD debut, it’s fair to say you gotta get Gotta Get A Good Thing Goin’.
The Daddy of DadRock, Paul Weller, continues to reissue his albums on vinyl, with 2008’s 22 Dreams and his 1998 Best of Modern Classics being the latest. Something of return to form, Weller’s ninth album 22 Dreams was a sprawling double with guests such as Noel Gallagher onboard.
This new edition features a poster and an eight-page booklet with a Simon Armitage essay. It’s back out this month, and following in August is Modern Classics, which rounded up his blinding first decade of his solo career, and now comes with a second disc of Live Classics recorded during a set at Victoria Park.
In all honesty, there’s never any need to ‘dust off the Now Desk’ around here, for they have been on an absolute roll in the last couple of years. Case in point: Now Yearbook has hit 1980, and they’ve gone and bloody done it again. Let’s examine the gloriousness on offer this time – ABBA’s Super Trouper AND The Winner Takes It All! Dexys’ Geno! The Jam’s Going Underground AND Start!! Judas Priest’s Breaking The Law! Billy Joel’s It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me! Stephanie Mills’ ecclesiastic Never Knew Love Like This Before! Change’s sublime Searching! Crown Heights Affair’s You Gave Me Love! Paul McCartney’s Waterfalls! Rupert Holmes’ Escape (The Pina Colada Song)! Martha And The Muffins’ Echo Beach! Sheila & B. Devotion’s Spacer! Lipps Inc’s Funkytown!
Oh God, I could go on.
Okay, Babooshka! Baggy Trousers! Brass In Pocket! Ace Of Spades! Behind The Groove! Too Much Too Young! It’s Different For Girls! My Old Piano! Honestly, it’s like the playlist of dreams. I can’t begin to tell you the pleasure these Yearbook editions have brought Now fans, and the fact that previous ones are starting to go for dumb money shows how sensational they really are. Anyway, snap this up on either an 85-track 4CD book/ norm and a 47-track clear vinyl 3LP.
And that’s not all Now-wise, for this month also sees the arrival of the 1981 Yearbook Extra. Now, you may recall that I’m presently in a serious relationship with the main version, and so therefore the prospect of even more goodness has made my heart swell. Let’s look at the facts, shall we? The 3CD set has 66 tracks, and the highlights, which is a Sophie’s Choice type matter in itself, mops up the other two key Human League Dare era toe-taps (Open Your Heart, Sound Of The Crowd), The Jam’s utterly demented Funeral Pyre along with Absolute Beginners, PiL’s Flowers Of Romance, OMD’s Joan Of Arc, Teardrop Explodes’ Treason and Passionate Friend, Soft Cell’s Bedsitter, Shalamar’s Make That Move, New Order’s Ceremony, ANT RAP, Susan Fassbender’s Twilight Café and the I-won-it-on-12-inch-on-a-radio-quiz-went-off-it majorly-for-years-but-now-really-love Hooked On Classics. That’s just a few of the ones I could pick out without sounding like I’m a stalker. Essential. Essential. Essential.
*In earpiece* What’s this? ANOTHER Now? Why yes, it’s the 2CD reissue of Now 12 from 1988! Quite frankly, if you’re going to wave a reissue at me that has Theme From S’Express on it, then I’m all yours. Plus! There are wonders by Scritti Politti, Timelords, Sabrina, Morrissey, Iron Maiden, Hazell Dean, Bananarama, Salt-N-Pepa and Danny Wilson among others on this glorious time capsule too.
Regular viewers will recall that Roxy Music have been reissuing their studio albums in marvellous and sexy new vinyl editions with glossed up covers and remastered loveliness, like some ‘month-by-month it builds up into a collection with a free binder’ magazine thing.
Anyway, this month sees the final two of the catalogue – 1980’s sublime Flesh & Blood and 1982 elegant futurist touchstone Avalon – arrive this moth to complete the set. Honestly, enough tickling, what a fucking catalogue that is.
Are you Keane keen? I think we all are really. Well, I quite enjoyed them in a sort of a-ha way, as in a strong first album and a decent string of great singles level. Which is quite handy really as the band are issuing their 2013 round-up The Best Of Keane onto vinyl for the first time.
It’s a 2LP set starring all the bangers such as Somewhere Only We Know, Bedshaped, Spiralling, The Last Time and Everybody’s Changing plus what were two new tracks back then – Won’t Be Broken and Higher Than The Sun (no it’s not that one). Anyway, it appears that the original coloured vinyl editions were snapped up but good old fashioned black vinyl versions are available and just as pretty.
Ash are reissuing their terrific debut 1977 on a black and white splatter vinyl edition this month, heralding the launch of the rest of their catalogue in the months ahead. First released in 1996, 1977 is absolutely terrific. Chockfull of smashes like Oh Yeah, Goldfinger, Girl From Mars and Kung Fu, it deservedly was a No. 1 smash back then, possibly helped by competitive pricing too, which was something that used to happen but seems unthinkable now.
I bought the vinyl for £3.99 on day of release while I was being an old man at university. £3.99! The CD was £6.99 too. Actually, I might have even bought the cassette for £3.99 too. The full set! And there you have ‘getting a No. 1’ – the basics. Can you even imagine buying a brand-new album for that price nowadays? No. No you can’t. So yeah, it’s marvellous and significantly more than £3.99 but well worth it for the RUSH.
I tell you who were utterly marvellous, Swing Out Sister were utterly marvellous. And what is a randy and superlative showcase for all that marvellousness? A new box set entitled Blue Mood, Breakout & Beyond – The Early Years Part 1 is. Collecting together the albums – the chart-topping It’s Better To Travel, Kaleidoscope World, Get In Touch With Yourself and Live At The Jazz Café, alongside four additional CDs of remixes and B-sides, it’s ruddy super.
There are songs in this collection among the finest ever written – literally, You On My Mind is up there with Brill building geniusness and hearing it once ahead of a Saint Etienne Christmas concert among some equally magic pop old and new, was a giddy treat. So, reacquaint yourself with the Swings’ catalogue with this collection. Marvellous marvellous marvellous.
I dunno where Dudley is this month, so it’s up to me to discuss the 40th anniversary of Talk Talk’s The Party’s Over which is back out as a white vinyl (or Grey if you order via Dig). Of course, Talk Talk would go on to be one of the most celebrated acts of their time once they abandoned their early Duran Duran-ness, but The Party’s Over is a very period-specific bit of magic and you can only marvel at that they went from this to Laughing Stock in essentially 10 years. It’s just a drag that there wasn’t any more.
Needle Mythology have formed into a magical little label over the past few years, and their latest release is another treat for anyone collecting the set (that’s everyone, yes?). It’s the first time on vinyl for the critically acclaimed Finn set from Neil and Tim aka The Finn Brothers.
It’s not only an absolute wonder in its own right on 2LP (and eventually a 2CD variation) this reissue also features sleevenotes from Radioheader Ed O’Brien as well as a second disc of Finn demos, from 1989’s legendary Murchison St sessions, which among them include Four Seasons In One Day, It’s Only Natural and Weather With You (which features an extra verse) and led to Tim joining Crowded House, so it’s a bit of genuine history right there pop pickers. Yaroo!
Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave is back out on vinyl this month. You remember it don’t you? Tesselate! Breezeblocks! It won a Mercury and everything! Well, regardless of your memory, it’s now a whopping 10 years old and spearheads the reissues of the follow-up This Is All Yours too. So that’s all jolly. We like Alt-J here.
Liza Minnelli news now, and her apparently ‘lost’ album Live In New York 1979 has been found! It was probably down the back of the sofa, the silly sausage. It was recorded on the first night of 11 sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall by the Cabaret warbler, a record she held until she, um, broke it in 1987. What a dame.
Anyway, she was backed by ‘twelve fellas’ (lucky her) and the show was recorded by Minnelli herself as she wasn’t on a label at that time, and she sold a limited run of them at her 1981 shows but it wasn’t officially released for wider consumption. You can’t move for exclusiveness with this release as the first disc features Mike Milchner’s remastered version of the original vinyl release (never before available on CD), and discs two and three host the never-before-released complete show. Liza kept pristine multitrack tapes of all three nights recorded at Carnegie Hall (September 4, 5, and 6, 1979). On it she trills through the standard Liza fare as you’d imagine – there’s a nine-minute version of Cabaret for a start – with peculiar extras such as her version of Jimmy Bo Horne’s incredible Dance Across the Floor.
It’s absolutely joyous and the sleeve features her iconic Warhol portrait, and it also comes with a 36-page book full of unseen photos and tributes from Exclusive tributes from Liza’s friends and collaborators including Joel Grey, Chita Rivera, John Kander, Ben Vereen, Alan Cumming, Donny Osmond, Billy Stritch, Nancy Sinatra, Melissa Manchester and more. I mean. I can’t DEAL with this level of fabulousness, darling.
The Cribs have announced a ‘comprehensive re-issue campaign of their first three albums’, just in case you missed them the first time. The albums – for which the description ‘landmark’ is doing some heavy lifting – are 2004’s The Cribs, 2005’s The New Fellas and 2007’s Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever and arrive on vinyl and as 2CD expanded variations this month.
It’s 20 years since Idlewild’s third album The Remote Part! It is! So THAT explains the street party. It was the band’s big breakthrough album and featured the single American English. Now back out on vinyl for the first time in two decades, as they probably only pressed up about 15 copies BITD, it’s a tremendous collection of songs from the ‘wild, who should’ve been bigger than they were, but as you know in this life, we can’t have everything.
Wu-Tang Clan, if you recall, ain’t nuttin’ to fuck with. And it’s in that spirit that I must report that their Wu Tang Forever long player is being reissued for its 25th anniversary. There’s, as always, a ‘bundle’ involving the 4LP album with a lyric booklet, a silver coloured 7-inch single of Triumph with Heaterz on the B-side in a picture sleeve, and a reissue of the double cassette in a slip case. All these items are also available individually. I did have a promo of the album on cassette, although it was blighted with someone saying ‘this is a promo, sunshine, so don’t get any ideas and make copies to sell off down the market’, which I would say I got used to, but in reality I ended up binning. Of course, the fucking thing is probably worth millions now. Life. Oh life.
µ-Ziq! Makes the people! Come together! Yus, let’s rewind back to 1997 (oh, we’ve just been there, but still) when Mike Paradinas issued his fourth µ-Ziq album Lunatic Harness. Fusing drill ‘n’ bass and breakcore together – worra marriage – and a giddiness and disregard to convention in general, into what was one of the cheeriest albums of the era while others like Squarepusher and Aphex Twin were working everyone’s last nerve with more abrasive texturing, and it’s about the closest to pop that Paradinas had ever gone.
Make no mistake, it’s still the sort of thing that might scare the dog, but Lunatic Harness really warrants an encounter even if the overall whole may seem daunting. Now in a 4LP box set or 2CD expansion, it’s the ideal opportunity to embrace a very, very good album.
Earl McGrath was the ultimate ’70s dude: an art collector who stumbled into the record business and discovered Daryl Hall and John Oates, Jim Carroll and whose personal carpenter (and dealer) was Harrison Ford(!). He was given his own label, Clean Records, by Ahmet Ertegun and Mick Jagger hired him to run Rolling Stones Records in 1977. Now the ever-brilliant Light In The Attic have brought out Earl’s Closet, a 1CD, 2LP collection of some of the tracks that journalist Joe Hagan unearthed from McGrath’s archives after he died in 2016. Featuring rare bits from Daryl Hall and John Oates, Warhol superstar Ultra Violet, ex-New York Doll David Johansen alongside loads of other nuggets.
It’s 20 years since Liars moseyed into our lives! Golly! Originally lumped in with that early 00ze Brooklyn scene where the ability to hold a guitar had anyone touted as the new Strokes, Liars gravitated far away from that narrow valley into something far more enticing.
Anyway, they’ve entered the arena of the reissue with their debut They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top coming out as a recycled vinyl. Recycled vinyl? Oh yes. In a bid to save waste, the band have melted down their rivals (not literally) to make copies of their own album. Or in the words of now-sole Liar Angus Andrew, “It feels like the sweat and tears from every other artist’s work is blended into ours – imbuing the recycled vinyl with supernatural integrity and power.” Which is the sort of comforting commentary from a man behind such toe-taps as Grown Men Don’t Fall In The River Just Like That Anyway and Nothing Is Ever Lost Or Can Be Lost My Science Friend. Anyway, it’s utterly bracing and fantastic stuff, and you should get on it. You heard. Then you’ll be ready for when the next album – the superb They Were Wrong, So We Drowned – arrives in Autumn.
The ballad of The House Of Love goes like this: they were utterly terrific for an album and a handful of singles on Creation and then Alan McGee needed some cash and sold them to a major label and they failed to become as big as U2, and the same label had better joy with making James a thing and so promptly gave up. That’s the basic plot. Although hold up a moment – that first Fontana album was really good and the subsequent albums – Babe Rainbow and Audience With The Mind – were both jolly good too even if the band were a bit out of step with what else was going on.
To be honest, revisiting these albums – honey, I bought them back then even if YOU didn’t – was quite a treat, and a new 8CD box, Burn Down The World, is testament to that. With singles such as the rebooted Shine On, Never, Feel, The Girl With The Loneliest Eyes and the released-on-80-different-formats Beatles And The Stones alongside smashing album tracks like Hannah, there was some proper strumblesome marvels. The box features the three Fontana albums plus the B-sides round-up Spy In The House Of Love now augmented with a further two Spy discs – collating a lot of stuff never before on CD – and two live albums from New York, London and Leicester. You could do a lot worse than revisit Guy and chums’ early ’90s incarnation. I saw them live about five times and so if that’s not a recommendation then I don’t know what is.
Dio now, and their iconic Holy Diver debut from 1983 is being pushed out in a whopper of a box set. Legendary leather-lunged metalsmith Ronnie James Dio – who also served time in Black Sabbath and Rainbow among others – would have been 80 this month and this comes out a couple of days before that auspicious birthday.
The 4CD affair features two mixes of the album – a reswizzle by Joe Baressi plus the original, alongside a live album recorded at Fresno and a fourth disc of singles, B-sides and period flotsam. There is a 2LP also scheduled but what with vinyl manufacturing issues, is not due to arrive until some point in the future.
Right, I think that’s more than enough for this month. Come hang with me in August when we’ll be celebrating a whole year of nobody reading the monthly findings* (*rants) by ‘a new and important voice in reissues and compilations’ when the likes of George Michael (who WAS on this round-up until a last minute delay), Madonna, Pavement, Basement Jaxx, Bobbie Gentry, David Bowie, Blondie, Faust, Neu!, Lou Reed and Steps will be among the turns under the spotlight. Until then, badger me at @wadeywade and stay loose.