February’s gathering-up is upon us, also featuring Funkadelic, Joy Division, Paul McCartney, Cat Stevens, Los Campesinos! and more than a little Mod action
February, yeah? It’s November-esque in its briefness, almost a runway towards spring really. Still, look, I’m not dismissing anything happening in February as insignificant – not if I want to end up single, that is – but it’s BAM! Shrove Tuesday, Valentine’s Day and occasionally a bonus leap year day and then it’s all over. Anyway, that’s enough, um, introduction, let’s chat about the magic of Felt…
It’s only a couple of years since Felt’s catalogue was remastered and reissued, but in all honesty any excuse to discuss just how incredible Felt were is welcome, plus this column wasn’t about back then, so my house – my rules. Basically, each album sleeve has been redesigned by designed by the Shanghai Packaging Company (aka Lawrence) – using the idea that various classic paperbacks get redesigned every few years for each new audience. They’re very sexy-looking things, and have a pleasing cohesion designwise.
So, now these beauties are all in reswizzled sleeves: Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty (1982), The Splendour Of Fear (1984), The Strange Idols Pattern and Other Short Stories (1984), Ignite The Seven Cannons (1985), The Seventeenth Century (originally known as Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads To Death but was retitled by Lawrence because he thought the original title was one of his biggest regrets) (1986), Forever Breathes The Lonely Word (1986), Poem Of The River (1987), The Pictorial Jackson Review (1988), Train Above The City (1988) and Me And A Monkey On The Moon (1989). Personally, I’d go for THE LOT, if you’ve got £100 handy. If you’re on a budget and never been near a Felt album before but finding my words wooing you, then go for Ignite The Seven Cannons and Forever Breathes The Lonely Word as starting points, because if you haven’t got Primitive Painters in your collection then we can’t be friends.
Celebrating 40 years since its original release, Joy Division are punting out a special crystal clear vinyl version of Still as a limited edition of 10,000 with a ruby red sleeve. Fancy! It’s exclusive to New Order’s official webstore, and kinda sexy.
It was a combination of unreleased odds and sods alongside a recording of the band’s last ever concert. It basically put Joy Division to bed once and for all, just as New Order were becoming very important indeed.
*flicks lamp on over at the Now desk* Right. Another ’40 years on’ vibe comes from Now Yearbook ’82, which has broken out from the order of the previous Yearbooks by going back BEFORE Now was invented. It’s quite a canny move seeing as the team have already been reissuing the early compilations and probably didn’t want to repeat themselves.
Also, let’s be clear here: 1982 was a BRILLIANT pop year. Examine the evidence: ABC’s The Look Of Love, Wham!’s Young Guns, Malcolm McLaren’s Buffalo Gals, Soft Cell’s Torch, The Human League’s Mirror Man, Dexys‘ Come On Eileen, Madness’ Our House, Imagination’s Just An Illusion, Blancmange’s Living On The Ceiling, ABBA’s The Day Before You Came, Hungry Like The Wolf by The Duran Duran, Japan’s Ghosts, Fun Boy Three & Bananarama’s It Ain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It, Evelyn Champagne King’s Love Come Down, Haysi Fantayzee’s John Wayne Is Big Leggy, Dionne Warwick’s celestial Heartbreaker and a special mention as it’s one of my mum’s favourite songs, A Little Peace by Nicole.
I could go on, and very nearly have, but seriously it’s amazing. One of the greatest years in pop (yes, I know I said that about 1984 and 1981 too, but ’80s-wise it’s genuinely top tier New Pop-tastic. If you don’t find yourself grinning your tits off at the sheer joyous MANIA of Meat Loaf & Cher’s Dead Ringer For Love then you’re a bit weird (spookily, I wrote that bit two days before Meat Loaf died too – brrr). It comes in the cheeriest yellow triple vinyl with 44 tracks or an 84-track 4CD basic pack or deluxe hardback book edition.
As if that wasn’t enough woo Now-wise for a month, they’re also releasing Now That’s What I Call 12” ’80s Remixed, the third in a series of what’s seen a wealth of treats, and on this 4CD, 44 track edition they appear to have unearthed some exclusives that should have fans salivating, with some rare reswizzles making their CD debut such as Elton John’s Wrap Her Up, Eurythmics’ There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart), Paul McCartney’s Once Upon A Long Ago and Red Box’s Lean on Me. And the those that aren’t on streaming – Freddie Mercury’s Love Kills, The Police’s Don’t Stand So Close To Me,
Olivia Newton-John’s The Rumour, Laura Branigan’s Shattered Glass, Chris Rea’s On The Beach, Malcolm McLaren’s Waltz Darling, Jellybean’s Sidewalk Talk and Pat Benatar’s Love Is A Battlefield. That’s without some of the legendary numbers by Divine, Bomb The Bass, Boys Town Gang and both Agnetha and Frida solo bangers. For under a tenner too! I know!
Let’s get clear of the ’80s for a bit and travel in time to the mid-’90s where, for a while at least, the ability to a hold a guitar the right way up brought fame and fortune upon us all. First up, there’s Dodgy, who are releasing and 8CD/4LP box set called The A&M Years detailing their time on, um, A&M Records. I’ve often wondered how it must be for bands who toiled the toilet circuit, playing literally anywhere, suddenly finding themselves on Top Of The Pops, and still, years on, their entire struggle is atomised into literally a couple of songs. It must play with the psyche, but also the PRS pays the rent, so swings and roundabouts really.
Dodgy were properly great though, as someone who saw them a handful of times in his hometown, watching them become an ‘in at the Top 10’ act was quite a jolly thrill, and this set reminds me that Dodgy had oodles of great songs that didn’t get the uniquity of say, Stayin’ Out For The Summer or Good Enough. Stuff like In A Room or If You’re Thinking Of Me fr’instance, were really great. At their peak, they were a bit like a weeded-up beachbum Hollies. They may have had moments where they would rather drive a drill into their own feet than play Good Enough again, but The A&M Years showcases that there was more to them than that.
Another mid-’90s turn perhaps fearing that they might have been reduced to a soundbite of a couple of songs are The Divine Comedy who release Charmed Life this month as a 2LP/3CD/2CD edition, collecting 24 of Neil Hannon’s best known toe-taps (the 3CD set has a further 10 previously unheard tracks, kicked off with the tremendous I’ll Take What I Can Get).
It’s all a reminder of what a great songwriter Hannon is, and you believe him when he claims that a lot of stuff had to be left off the album in order to showcase Peak DC. Insomuch, if like me, you were rather partial to Love What You Do, then you’re out of luck as that fell off the tracklist, but hey, you don’t notice it’s not, as there’s more than enough hits-wise here.
What’s that? You want to stick around in 1996 for a little bit longer? Really? Well, if you insist. I’ve got this ‘ere pair of Northern Uproar reissues if you’re interested. Yep, the Stockport band were a bit of a thing briefly when anyone a bit northern in a cagoule was shoved into the NME to be a bit gobby or onto TFI Friday to perform a song in front of a suspiciously overenthusiastic audience.
Their two albums, the self-titled debut produced by James Dean Bradfield and Dave Eringa, and the follow-up Yesterday Tomorrow Today, are now back out on limited edition clear vinyl.
British Progressive Jazz is a label that’s barely been going a month, but well worth keeping an eye on. They’re unearthing albums that have either been unavailable for decades, unreleased or just fallen down the back of music’s sofa. While there’s no physical product as yet – CDs possibly in the coming months, but with vinyl plant waiting times at the moment so insane you’d be lucky to see anything this side of Christmas – but they’ve set up home on Bandcamp and reissuing some proper gems.
The first four releases feature the beguiling anglo-Indian Indo Jazz Fusions with Larry Adler from 1970; Don Rendell Sextet’s The Odysseus Suite – an unreleased cycle based on Homer’s Odyssey also from 1970 (mate, you can’t get more British Progressive Jazz than THAT); John Taylor Sextet’s Eye To Eye, a previously unreleased live set from 1971 which features Kenny Wheeler on trumpet, and also unreleased and live from 1971 is John Dankworth Orchestra’s Composition With Colour, which not only features Wheeler again, but a veritable supporting cast of musicians such as Chris Spedding on guitar and Ray Cooper on percussion.
It’s all very encouraging and a venture worth keeping an eye on, and definitely a site to drop in on whenever Bandcamp Friday swings by, as all releases are reasonably priced and you can grab their entire discography for bum-pattingly welcoming £22, and as the label is lovingly and enthusiastically run, it’s a good point to explore hidden gems and build a collection knowing that they know their onions, beetroot and possibly turnips.
“Whenever a new one [synthesizer] would come out, we would have to buy it immediately, otherwise someone else would get their hands on that sound.” Not my words, but those of Hamid El Shaeri. At the beginning of the eighties, Hamid left Libya to pursue his career in Egypt via a detour in London, and took in some of the delights of the era, such as live shows from Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson.
He returned to Cairo ablaze with all this wonder and recorded five albums for the SLAM! Label, and now, after some time accessing them for release, Hamid’s music from this period now appears on Habibi Funk 018: The SLAM! Years (1983-1988), the latest Habibi Funk release (as you might have gathered). It’s on CD or LP and it’s, as always with this label, amazing.
The key track, Ayonha, has been deemed as an essential Habibi track, and you can see why, but Maktoub Aleina sounds like crazed, joyous crackling energy from a different planet and Reet sounds like an Egyptian Tina Charles. I dunno about you – well I don’t, do I? I’m just some humble yet enthusiastic waiter guiding you through the myriad of options on the Today’s Specials board of old pop, babe. I know my place – but this is beyond recommended. Get down and get with it this instant.
Now, let our thoughts turn to Dudley over on the Futurism Desk. Alright Dudders, watcha got for the forward-thinking synthesists this month, bro?
“Do I look like a ‘bro’ to you? Is that what I’m reduced to? ‘Bro’. I ask you. Anyway, look: Tomita and Snowflakes Are Dancing. It was one of my brother-in-law’s favourite albums, primarily because it was precision designed for (mostly) men of a certain persuasion who’d happily spend a small fortune on hi-fi equipment, so it feels slightly ingrained on my psyche from a young age.
“Originally released in 1974, Snowflakes consisted entirely of Tomita’s arrangements of Claude Debussy’s tone paintings, performed on a Moog synthesizer and a Mellotron. It was the halfway house between acceptable classical music for anyone who couldn’t be arsed with Boccherini or Stravinsky, but fancy something a little ‘above’ pop music. Plus doing it on synths added some sort of ‘LOOK! I’ve mastered this wild and unruly futurism! Enjoy my take on Wagner, bitches!’ So much so that Snowflakes was massively popular, sold billions and was nominated for four Grammy Awards. From this distance it has a peculiar nostalgic warmth, the future of the past type-vibe and is now yours in crystal clear or white vinyl editions. Treat yourself. I will!”
Thanks, Dudley, you uptight outta sight pretentious so-and-so!
“I am still here you know. I am not your punchline or device to inject some character into your column, dear boy. ‘Bro’ HONESTLY. Be gone with you! Adieu!”
Right then, let’s turn to matters of the far out, and the news of a Silver Apples album entitled Selections From The Early Sessions. In short, the first two Silver Apples albums are the sort of things that every home should contain, and this vinyl reissue is effectively those first two Silver Apples albums but with an exchanged track in the form of Anthem, that was Jimi Hendrix accompanied by Simeon on a bass oscillator.
Before you get all ‘hang on a sec, surely the Jimi Hendrix estate or whatever would dismiss such a cosmic collision, yeah?’ it’s been confirmed that it is in fact the legendary guitar burner on the track. As a great man once said ‘dance before the police come’ and grab a copy.
Harold and Maude was one of those films that would rarely perk up on late night TV, but way before any unifying other moments of culture, it seemed to have an effect on a whole generation that saw it. The cult of it has become such that the original soundtrack was unavailable for, like, years. But no! Last year saw a vinyl release of Cat Stevens/ Yusuf Islam’s original soundtrack as part of the Record Shop Day excitement, and now it’s coming out properly for people who can’t be arsed to queue up at 4am for records* (*No shade here at all – I’m in your corner brethren, but a lie in is a lie in).
Anyhoo, it features Cat’s nine original songs as well as dialogue from the film, I say ‘nine original songs’ as it comprised of mostly gear from his own Mona Bone Jakon and Tea For The Tillerman albums alongside two tracks Don’t Be Shy and the sort-of film’s theme If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out, and it was mostly because of Cat’s reluctance at reissuing old stuff and two new songs that he wasn’t wild about, that he demanded that the soundtrack wasn’t released (the clot). It’s been out before albeit in very limited quantities, so hopefully this time around it will hang about a bit in order for the wider public to hear it. Hurrah!
Celebrating 50 years is Funkadelic’s utterly FANTASTIC Maggot Brain, which Ace are reissuing as a double vinyl package with a 12 inch that features the live version from Meadowbrook from the same year that the studio album came out as well as the BMG Dub. Good lord, where to even start with the genius of this album. It’s an elegy for Earth and radical, unhinged, spaced out, funky as fuck and the closing collage Wars Of Armageddon was WAY ahead of its time.
Perfect to Getir some drugs in and do a double-bill of this and The Undisputed Truth’s album and blast off into space the next time your other half visits his sister. (Not that I speak from experience, but I *might* have been at a party once where a hooky CD of Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow was playing but kept skipping back and forth, and therefore felt like the title track lasted approximately two hours, but I *might* have been too consumed by hoofing amyl to notice.) I digress, but yes, buy buy buy.
Another album chalking up the half-century is Paul McCartney and Wings’ Wild Life, which now comes out as a half-speed mastered vinyl edition. The album, while not containing any singles, saw Macca coming to terms with his new solo career; however it’s not without its charms. Anyway, it’s the latest in the McCartney ongoing reissue campaign that’s been artfully curated, and it’s only available in shops, which is an incentive to leave the house if anything.
One release that slipped past my radar for January’s column – hey, I was trying to write this column in December while dealing with a family bereavement, I’m sorry – was Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins’ Rabbit Fur Coat. Originally released in 2006, this semi-solo debut by the lead lungsmith from Rilo Kiley was quite a treat and was on regular rotation – rotation is a weird world, but regular emittance sounds a bit urgh – back in the day and personally reminds me of quite a happy period.
Originally recorded in bursts of recording activity all over the shop, it features a handful of contributors such as M Ward, Conor Oberst and Ben Gibbard, as well as obviously Chandra and Leigh aka the Watson Twins. It features a neat cover of The Traveling Wilburys‘ Handle With Care and has now been issued on vinyl.
Back in the mid-to-late-’80s, there were three singles comps that all others called Sir(s). There was The Cure’s Standing On A Beach obviously, New Order’s Substance goes without saying, and the third was Echo & The Bunnymen’s Songs To Learn & Sing. Now, while we wait for side two of Standing On A Beach to be put on vinyl to make a double-pack for Record Shop Day (oh come ON, it’s up there with ‘sticking Summer Night City on ABBA Gold’ as a no-brainer), the Bunnymen have decided to reissue their collection on vinyl for the first time in 35 years.
What an absolute treat it is too from Rescue to Bring On Dancing Horses via Never Stop and The Killing Moon. Boy, what a fucking group. Anyway, there’s a conventional black vinyl edition, or the exclusive to Dig version that’s on splatter vinyl with a free 7″ of Pictures On My Wall/ Read It In Books. Go on – you deserve it.
One of the releases that your beloved columnist really dug last year was Gary Crowley’s Lost ’80s Vol 2, which was a terrific box of joy celebrating stuff that bubbled just under the surface of the decade, and had my heart for including Funkapolitan’s As Time Goes By. Now, while a third collection is no doubt being put together, the original GC (Gary Crowley, not that wretched TOWIE creature) is issuing a pair of albums that are regularly missed out from the canon.
First up, 1985’s The Bad And Lowdown World of The Kane Gang, which is known primarily for the two medium-sized hits Closest Thing to Heaven and Respect Yourself. And, guess what? I actually bought this at the time from my local newsagent. I know! This column is not without insider knowledge, baby. A very good album even if it suffered a bit by being released a bit after the event. Anyway – knock yourselves out as it’s back on green vinyl.
The other is Blue Rondo A La Turk, and their Chewing The Fat, which was reissued a few years back as an expanded CD edition featuring mixes by Youth and Andrew Weatherall. Now, it’s back on translucent vinyl. It was very much a product of London clubland of the time, combining jazz. Salsa and Latin flavours and bequeathing us a couple of members of Matt Bianco, and the Rondos had their fingers across all of early eighties pop. Anyway, check it out. You’ll be swished back to the era, and be buying large suits and in the mood to form Sade or something.
Over in Lagos, Ofege were a band formed by some teens who had a thing for Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, as well as local(ish) turns such as BLO, The Funkees and Ofo The Black Company.
Due to this brew, they were the ultimate West-African psychedelic funk band and became one of the most legendary Nigerian groups of all time. Try And Love was their debut released on EMI Nigeria in 1973 while most of the band were still at school. Only now is it being reissued officially by Tidal Waves, and this vinyl reissue (first time in almost 50 years) should stem some of the silly money that original copies tend to go for.
All Turned On! Motown Instrumentals 1960-1972 is another bag of grooviness that Ace have compiled for this month. Instrumental Motown is not only a splendid opportunity to upgrade your karaoke skills (although, frankly, karaoke is the undiscussable), it’s also a glorious showcase of some of the era’s finest musicians. Featuring Northern soul toe-taps such as San Remo Golden Strings’ Festival Time, Stevie Wonder’s Eivets Rednow alias and the marvellously titled Great Google Mook by The Mysterions. If you’ve been down with the previous Motown Boys and Motown Girls collections, then this is a no-brainer.
If you’ve never heard of The Winstons, you certainly would have heard The Winstons at some, even several points, in the last 50 years. Tucked away on this as track 13 on this reissue of Color Him Father is a track called Amen, Brother which first cropped up as a B-side to the single of the title track, and, well, the particular break went on to be what’s commonly known as The Amen Break, or one of the most-sampled drum moments of all time.
Now Soul Jazz are reissuing the album – out of print for over 50 years – on vinyl. The Winstons were formed from the backing groups to both Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions before they came into their own spotlight, and the most sampled drummer of all time, George Coleman, went on and joined Brick (whose Dazz is one of the best disco tracks of all time). The whole collection is a breaks-fest (as opposed to breakfast) and is a one-off repress with a bonus 12″ with an extended version of Amen Brother. Woof.
It’s good news for any residents of Modley Mod this month. I once knew a mod postman, who I convinced myself owned a mod post office in the village of Modley Mod, where talk of Small Faces B-sides and whether Paul Weller has lost it or not would be the key subject of conversation of its patrons. They’ll be thrilled at the news that Eddie Piller – a man who knows his mod onions, and possibly mod beetroot (is celeriac mod?) – has compiled British Mod Sounds of The 1960s, a new 100-track bumper pack in either 6LP or 4CD editions.
If that’s too much mod for you, or you’re a mod lightweight, merely dabbling in the shallows of true mod, then a 34-track double vinyl is on offer too. It’s absolutely gear, as I believe the vernacular goes, kicking off with The High Numbers’ I’m The Face (aka The Who) venturing through tracks by Tom Jones, John’s Children, The Hollies, PP Arnold, Dusty Springfield, David Bowie, The Fleur De Lys, Manfred Mann and The Creation. Back in the ’60s, mod was often the vehicle that many acts, most of whom rose up from the blues circuit, such as Rod Stewart, The Yardbirds, Marc Bolan and Bowie, all dabbled in before becoming massive pop stars in newer forms, so this is a ‘before they were famous’ type round-up which is also a fantastic lesson in the timeline of music in general.
There’s a similar crossover here with I Love To See You Strut, a 3CD set that shares a fair few acts with British Mod Sounds, but also brings in freakbeat and psychedelia, or Hammond-led Tamla Motown played in a shed-type stuff with vibes such as Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity’s Indian Rope Man, Plastic Penny’s It’s A Good Thing, Spencer Davis Group’s Possession and Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera’s Flames. There’s 85 tracks here, and stick that together with Eddie Pillar’s box, and that’s a whole lotta of mod, post-mod, mod-adjacent and general modness to keep the residents of Modley Mod happy for a couple of months or so.
Less mod is the news that Welsh indie seven-piece Los Campesinos! are reissuing their 2010 set Romance Is Boring and 2011’s Hello Sadness albums on limited vinyl this month. I know! The download card also includes their All’s Well That Ends EP (2010), and any pre-orders come with a copy of The Universe Replied: An Oral History Of Romance Is Boring, a whopping 35,000 words on the album. The Hello Sadness reissue comes with new artwork and is pressed on transparent blue vinyl and limited to 1,000 copies.
As part of Vampisoul’s Discos Fuentes reissue series, Michi y Sus Bravos’ sixth album Salsa Con Monte is their latest reissue. A child prodigy, at 17 Michi had his own band and by 1967 his Bravos were competing with local sound systems and radio stations that were playing the new generation of Latin records from New York, Caracas and San Juan, namely salsa, descarga, charanga and boogaloo. Vampisoul are calling it an instant tropical Latin dance party and I’m not about to argue here, and the sleeve alone makes me want to get out and throw Latin-y boogaloo shapes.
I don’t know an awful lot about Spirit, but I do know Spirit’s Twelve Dreams Of Dr Sardonicus, their fourth album, first released in 1970. Mainly because one of Ride said it was great in an interview years ago, and being a Ride fan, I duly headed to the local record library and checked it out. That’s what happened back in yore – you got really into a band, and whatever they said influenced them, you’d feel duty bound to investigate.
Anyway, it was quite far out. Indeed it IS still very far out. It was produced by David Briggs, who worked with Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and whom Neil suggested to Spirit. It didn’t really do much chartwise, but has gone on to be considered a bit of an art rock classic. Now it’s BACK in a 2CD form, with 11 bonus tracks and a whole disc of a previously unreleased live performance from Filmore West. While some people are no doubt giddy about this, if I can recommend something that you should hear but haven’t before, then let it be this.
Right that’s your lot, lovebirds. See you in March with my crackpot thoughts on Franz Ferdinand, Electribe 101, Sonic Youth, glam rock, Pink Floyd, Linx, Suicide, that paragraph I originally wrote about Broadcast for this month and more.