Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Moloko Catalogue

Moloko Catalogue

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Released three years after their final album, Statues, a Moloko best-of was long overdue. Fortunately, the straightforwardly named Catalogue delivers an impeccably edited collection of the duo's eclectic, ahead-of-the-curve music, gathering their biggest hits and key album tracks. Gorgeous romanticism, drop-dead style, and a funky sense of humor -- not to mention Roisin Murphy's charismatic vocals and Mark Brydon's forward-thinking production skills -- were the key ingredients in Moloko's freewheeling mix of dance, pop, and rock, all of which are on display throughout Catalogue and especially on its first five tracks, which are, not coincidentally, the duo's most popular singles. "Fun for Me" and "Pure Pleasure Seeker" are quintessential examples of Moloko's sexy, mischievous take on dance anthems; "The Time Is Now" and "Familiar Feeling" are searching-but-glamorous ballads; and of course, the pair's breakthrough single "Sing It Back" is as alluring as it is inventive. Unlike some best-ofs, which have to stretch to fill out an album's worth of tracks, Catalogue is a welcome reminder of how strong Moloko's overall body of work is. From Do You Like My Tight Sweater?'s "Day for Night" and "Where Is the What If the What Is in Why?" to the title track of Statues, each song on the collection holds up. Catalogue's only flaw -- if it can be called that -- is that it doesn't include many of the flights of fancy that made Moloko's albums so distinctive. The closest the collection gets to the duo's deeply kooky side is the cryptic but irresistible shuffle of "Indigo" and the playful pop of "The Flipside." This is a minor drawback though -- Catalogue is a great Moloko primer, and any newcomers charmed by the songs here have even more to discover on the full-length albums. [The 2006 Echo edition included a live set from Brixton on a second CD.]

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Various ‎12"/80s Chilled

Various12"/80s Chilled

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This collection focuses on the 'chilled' and more relaxed sounds of the '80s. Includes tracks from a-Ha, Duran Duran, Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw, Soft Cell, Japan, Culture Club, Level 42, Hall & Oates and many others

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Various ‎12"/80s Electro:Pop

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The three CD set showcases electronic, synth and drum machine 80s genres from electro to synth pop to new romantic to new wave to hip-hop--all in their full-length 12" extended mix glory. Featuring a mix of the classic and the underground, this back to basics collection includes seminal 80s 12”s from such legends as New Order, Human League, Simple Minds, Grandmaster Flash, Soft Cell, Japan, Afrika Bambaataa, Heaven 17, Yazoo and Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Various Clubbed To Death

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Clubbed to Death paints a definitive picture of the vibrant, eclectic club culture of Britain in the ’90s. The album’s three discs cut across the years and genres of that decade, unity tracks with a common thread - the inspirational left-of-centre electronic sound that warped its way out of the US hip hop and house scenes and ended up as the foundation for some of the biggest careers in dance music. Far from being a nostalgia trip, Clubbed to Death shines a light on the endlessly experimental period of dance music that happened in the UK at the end of the millennium. From Bristol to Brighton via Madchester and the capital, club soundsystems shook to a grab bag of sounds – stoned and broken breaks and beats topped with twisted analogue noise – and just for a short while, people bought the records they were hearing in their droves. Featuring some of the very best music of the era released on labels like Mo’Wax, Warp, Skint and Creation, Clubbed to Death looks back at a time when the UK’s nascent Balearic scene would rapidly make Top 10 singles out of club hits (Bass-O-Matic, the Beloved) and when wide-eyed indie kids loosened up and began to experiment with electronics (Primal Scream, Saint Etienne, Happy Mondays); a time when well-respected rock’n’roll stars surrendered their mastertapes to young, free-thinking mixers (Paul Weller, Everything But The Girl) and some of the country’s most uncompromising underground producers would go on to create award-winning, truly panoramic music (Goldie presents Metalheadz, Roni Size). It’s a timely reminder of a time when the cutting edge of electronic music was the sound of the Top 40 as well as the country’s most forward thinking dancefloors. Clubbed to Death comes with specially written sleeve notes by Rob Dougan (the man behind the iconic titular track Clubbed to Death).

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

101 Punk & New Wave Anthems

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101 Punk & New Wave anthems is a whopping compendium of hits that includes the most iconic Punk Rock artists ever including Sex Pistols, The Jam, The Ramones, The Stranglers, Buzzcocks and many others. The album takes us smoothly from one musical defining era to another and introduces the best of the New Waves artists including Simple Minds, Human League, The Fun Boy Three and Adam And The Ants.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Various Millions Like Us The Story Of The Mod Revival 1977-1989

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Spread out over four discs and lovingly packaged, Cherry Red's Millions Like Us tells the tale of the mod revival, one of the most insular and focused music scenes to ever come out of the U.K. Inspired by the success of the Jam, who played with all the pent-up energy of the Who and sported the dress sense of the nattiest '60s mods, and the release of the film Quadrophenia, England exploded with bands eager to follow in the Jam's wake, and Millions collects up most, if not all, of them. From the most obscure corners of the scene to the bands who almost made it (the Lambrettas, Secret Affair, the Chords, Squire -- each of whom get two songs), there are tons of groups made up of young lads in stylish gear looking to express their frustrations, celebrate their small freedoms, bash out ringing chords, and impress the young modettes in the crowd. For the most part, the bands involved play with enough energy and fire to obscure their obvious debt to the past, and the Jam, and the collection is filled with tons of great songs. Split between rave-ups about scooters, bank holidays, and girls, and empowering mini-epics about the "kids" and the scene, there's a positivity to the music that must have provided a nice alternative for people who wanted loud and aggressive music, but also wanted to hear good melodies and look smart. To that end, a great deal of the songs here share a lot with the power pop scene that was operating in the U.S. at the same time. Check out Secret Affair's "My World," which sounds like it could have been on a Raspberries album. There's also a strong R&B thread running through the scene, mostly in a good Northern soul/Motown-inspired way, sometimes in a corny, overly reverent way (like the Q-Tips' tepid cover of "S.Y.S.L.J.F.M [The Letter Song]"). The set takes a few interesting detours here and there, gathering up some music on the fringes of the scene like L.A. band the Untouchables' "Free Yourself," the twee pop psych of Direct Hits' lovely "Modesty Blaise," the modern girl group snap of Dee Walker's "Snap Back," and the bubblegummy pop of the JetSet's "Wednesday Girl." These diversions show how far the mod revival's reach extended, and it keeps the set from being merely four hours of bands who wanted to be the Jam's little brothers. The fourth disc shows that this urge was very strong and long-lasting, since even by 1989 there were still bands in deep thrall to the classic mod sound, though peppered by psychedelic leanings (the Leepers' "Paint a Day") and early acid jazz (the James Taylor Quartet) too. Like most box sets, Millions Like Us isn't perfect and goes on a little too long, but overall it's a fun, exhaustive, and inspired look back at a vibrant scene that tends to be overlooked, but really shouldn't be.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Jam Direction Reaction Creation

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Direction Reaction Creation is the ultimate Jam package, offering 117 tracks over five discs -- essentially the band's complete studio recordings. With a strict adherence to chronological order, the box presents each single followed by its B-side(s) (six of which appear on CD for the first time, including the brilliant "See Saw"), followed by the proper album tracks -- oddly, though, the album versions of the singles are chosen in most places. Unfortunately, this approach sometimes disrupts the flow of the albums, especially in the case of All Mod Cons, which loses three tracks to the treatment, and Setting Sons, which loses "Eton Rifles" to a separate disc. This is a small point for purists to debate -- the difference is really unnoticeable in light of the truly great music found on the discs. In addition to the regular studio tracks, disc five offers over an hour of studio demos -- 22 previously unreleased tracks of considerably different takes of better-known material, a few never-before-heard Weller and Foxton originals, and some interesting covers like "Rain," "Dead End Street," and "Every Little Bit Hurts." A lavish 88-page booklet accompanies the set with great liner notes, an extensive band chronology and discography, and the band's complete gig list, along with plenty of rare photos and memorabilia. The Jam, simply put, were one the finest bands in rock & roll history, and Direction Reaction Creation offers the proof, showing both their remarkably rapid growth and their incredible consistency

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Paul Weller Hit Parade

Paul Weller Hit Parade

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Teenage rock & rollers often don't last. Certainly, they rarely keep performing into middle age, but Paul Weller has never been ordinary. From the outset, Weller was different -- too tense, too difficult to fit into the crowd even when he was the most popular musician in Britain, as he was when he led the Jam at the turn of the '80s. That ornery side gave his music an edge and also gave it a riveting humanity that earned him a passionate, devoted audience who stuck with him through a roller coaster of ups and downs in his career, from his abrupt disbandment of the Jam to form the slick, soulful Style Council to his comeback as the trad-rocking Modfather in the '90s. It's one of the great careers of the post-punk era, and the four-disc 2006 box set Hit Parade is the first attempt to tell it in its entirety, from the bright, brilliant early years of the Jam to his role as an elder statesman in the new millennium. Given the great wealth of music that Weller made during these three decades, the compilers picked the simplest and best solution to whittling down his rich, complicated career to the basics: they picked the A-sides of all of his British singles. This means that there are great songs left behind -- whether it's the Jam B-side "Tales from the Riverbank" or the soulful "Can You Heal Us (Holy Man)" from Wild Wood -- but that's the nature of hits compilations: great songs get left behind. What's impressive with Hit Parade is not what's absent but what's present, which is not only enough to make a case for Weller's strengths as a songwriter and restless rocker, but which helps explain the transitions in his career in a way that may be revelatory even for longtime fans. For instance, in this context the stylized café-soul of the Style Council seems like a natural outgrowth of the high-octane Motown-pop of the last Jam singles, and while it's hard to argue that the Style Council didn't drift in its latter years, it's easier to hear how revitalized Weller was as a solo artist when "Into Tomorrow" follows the fallow final gasps of the Council. Then again, by trimming his career down to the singles, the weak patches in his career aren't as evident: even when Weller's albums were patchy, the singles were often strong, and when they're taken together they aren't just an enjoyable, exciting listen, they tell one of the greatest stories in rock history, one that provides revelations even to those who have been with him since the beginning. And that's what makes Hit Parade a truly great box set.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

The Style Council The Complete Adventures Of The Style Council

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Given the blockbuster success of the Jam's exhaustive box set Direction Reaction Creation, perhaps it was inevitable that Polydor would give the Style Council a similar treatment, but the 1998 release of the five-disc box set The Complete Adventures of the Style Council was still a bit of surprise -- there never was much interest in their catalog following their 1990 disbandment. Fortunately, Polydor took a chance and assembled The Complete Adventures, a lavish box set containing all of the group's singles and albums, minus the live Home & Abroad but including the notorious unreleased 1989 record A Decade of Modernism, which the label allegedly rejected because it found Weller turning toward house music. As it turns out, A Decade of Modernism wasn't that far afield from what the Style Council was exploring from their inception, as the chronological running order of the set makes clear. The sequencing is a blessed occurrence, since it's easy to trace their development over the years. Instead of an aberration, the Style Council seems like a natural extension of the Jam's final record, The Gift, and every one of their subsequent records makes more sense than before. That doesn't mean the music is always compelling. No matter how interesting some of Weller's ideas were, they didn't always work, and he wrote way too many pompous, directionless songs to have The Complete Adventures rank with Direction Reaction Creation. (There are also too many Mick Talbot instrumentals, but that's another story.) For most listeners, including some serious Weller fans, the Style Council is best appreciated as a singles band, but for the dedicated, The Complete Adventures reveals that the Style Council, no matter how maddening they could be, were a group that continually reinvented themselves, occasionally making some remarkable music along the way
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