Saturday, 4 June 2016

Wah! ‎The Handy Wah! Whole Songs From The Repertwah! The Maverick Years 2000


Wah! The Handy Whole Songs From The Repertwah! The Maverick Years 2000 CD1/CD2

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Pete Wylie, a mouthy Scouser with an unerring knack for penning anthemic pop songs, has been making records for more than 35 years now. As the sticker on the cover of this long-awaited compilation of his entire recording career says, "Pete Wylie is The Mighty Wah! - the exclamation mark ever-present (one of those legacies of the 1980s, but forever appropriate for such impassioned music). Which he is, of course, and has pretty much always been despite the pretence of their ever being an actual band set-up - the early releases did feature other musicians, but only one person was ever calling the shots and pulling the strings. The name kept altering through the years, as though Wylie's restless spirit couldn't help but fiddle with moniker-changing and continual relaunches. Perhaps it eventually counted against him, for in the aftermath of their massive breakthrough hit "The Story Of The Blues (Part 1)" in early 1983, Wylie never truly capitalized on his burgeoning status as a brilliant new voice - even though he'd been kicking around the Liverpool scene since the late 1970s. His peers were Julian Cope (Teardrop Explodes), Ian McCulloch (Echo & The Bunnymen), Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes To Hollywood) and Pete Burns (Dead Or Alive). Each had their time in the spotlight, but it's no exaggeration to claim that Wylie had possibly the most potential of all to really make a name for himself as a bona-fide modern pop icon...his songs were heartfelt, hook-laden walls of sound. In an alternate universe, several of the track featured here would have been Number 1s. As it was, the #3 peak of "Story Of The Blues" proved the commercial pinnacle of his achievements. "The Handy Wah! Whole" - a typically overblown and punsome title - is nevertheless a celebratory experience, rather than a bitter bout of reminsicence of what might (and should) have been. 31 tracks in chronological order, and not one filler among them. This retrospective begins with a clutch of lesser-known tracks from the early Wah! EPs (in those days, EPs were the thing for emerging bands on Independent labels). They serve to chart Wylie's progression from standard post-punk pop - Better Scream, Hey (Disco) Joe - to the sweeping grandeur first evidenced on The Death Of Wah! and continued throughout the rest of his output. Chart-followers will be most familar with the string of 1980s classics that enjoyed varying degrees of success. The Story Of The Blues was folllowed by Hope (I Wish You'd Believe Me) - which sent the train slightly off the rails by only reaching #37, the magnificent Come Back! (#20 in July 1984), Weekends (a caustic dig at the popstar lifestyle "Or swan on a beach in Sri Lanka, just like Duran Duran...."), Sinful! - probably Wylie's best-known song having been a hit twice over in 1986 and 1991 (when he was joined by the then-huge outfit The Farm), Diamond Girl (appearing on an album for the very first time here), If I Love You, and the simply gorgeous Fourelevenfortyfour. Mini-epics one and all. These songs alone would make any Wah! collection essential, never mind the rest. But the rest also happens to feature some overlooked gems. Sleep (A Lullaby For Josie) dates back to 1983, and ranks among the highlights on offer. I Know There Was Something, the 8-minute standout from 1984's A Word To The Wiseguy album, has lost none of its intensity...an amibitous but fairly bleak experience which Wylie - in the extensive and candidly entertaining sleeve notes - can't stand listening to now. I Know There was Something closes proceedings on Disc 1...which has 18 tracks and runs for 77 minutes. The next single - Sinful! - would not be credited to any form of Wah! whatsoever, being released under his own name, and so makes the sensible start to Disc 2. It was a new era, and a time for change, as Wylie himself notes. Most of the latter tracks on the second CD, which despite containing 13 tracks also runs for the same length of time as the first, will only be familar to the most die-hard Wylie fan. 1991's Don't Lose Your Dreams was his last high-profile single - although, naturally, it underperformed spectacularly when it deserved to make the Top 10....at the very least. In light of many other great 80s acts' subsequent exile from the nation's consciousness thanks to a scandalously selective and unfairly prejudiced media, Wylie's plight is nothing particularly untoward. Brief dabblings in dance-friendly textures on Getting Out Of It made way for post-Verve guitar based string-laden ballads such 1999's Heart As Big As Liverpool, yet not even the major resurgence of such music gave him that elusive shot at a triumphant comeback. It seemed as though Wylie was now forever consigned to the sidelines, a footnote in modern pop as that lippy bloke from Liverpool with the big tunes. The Handy Wah! Whole is probably not going to reverse that, sadly, but it should hopefully remind a good few people just what the man is, has been, and always will be capable of,This is his story, and he's sticking to that. Good for him.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

many thanx for sharing
these pete wylie albums
much appreciated

richie

Anonymous said...

Oh Monsieur, you are spoiling us with your Wylie offerings.

Anonymous said...

much appreciated, loving the Wylie

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