A SILLY PHASE I’M GOING THROUGH:
It is quite possible that you have something by Eric Stewart in your music collection at this very moment without even realizing it. Eric was a member of Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders, eventually singing lead on their 1966 hit “Groovy Kind Of Love” after Fontana had left the fold. By 1969, with the Mindbenders in his rear view mirror, Stewart was recording backing tracks for Bubblegum hits at his Strawberry Studios facilities. His recording mates included hit songwriter Graham Gouldman and multi-instrumentalists Lol Creme and Kevin Godley. In 1970, Stewart, Creme and Godley released the surprise hit “Neanderthal Man” under the group name Hotlegs. Two years later, American singer/songwriter Neil Sedaka arrived in the UK in hopes of recording new material and making a comeback. His backing band featured Stewart, Gouldman, Godley and Creme. Sedaka and this quartet of talented musicians recorded two albums together, both directly responsible for the enormous success that Sedaka and 10cc would achieve within a few short years.
In the late ‘70s, the Rock world was being turned on it’s head by Punk and New Wave. The pretentious ‘old guard’ (i.e. Prog rockers, Folk singer/songwriters, Pop stars, etc.) were
handed their walking papers by the press, who latched onto the shouty, belligerent Punk kids. By ’79, you were more likely going to read about the exploits of Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash before you’d stumble upon a review of ELP’s latest live gig. And by that time, reviews of ELP, Yes and the like were leaning towards scathing.
However, while the press fell over themselves to discover the latest Punk craze, Pub Rock and British Rhythm & Blues was also a happening thing. Dr. Feelgood were already established and Nine Below Zero were on their way to becoming legendary. While not always recognized as such, The Inmates were certainly one of the best of the Pub/R&B bunch (in fact, they still are!). With Cherry Red’s three CD box set, THE ALBUMS 1979-1982, The Inmates are finally receiving the credit and attention that they deserve. Containing the band’s first three studio albums (plus bonus tracks), this is a long over-due look at the band’s excellent early output.
It has been 33 years since Bronski Beat arrived on the music scene with their remarkably emotional debut single “Smalltown Boy.” Jimmy Somerville’s soaring falsetto was quite a wonder to behold but the music performed by Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbachek was equally enthralling. Equally enchanting, the band’s debut album THE AGE OF CONSENT was Synthpop at it’s finest. Inspired by classic Disco and the Electronic Music scene that was sweeping the UK, the trio blended their influences into a wondrous brew. Add in their thought-provoking lyrics that focused on gay-related issues and you had a band that not only made you dance but also made you think. Surprisingly, in 1985, at the height of the band’s popularity, Somerville abruptly quit, leaving Bronski and Steinbachek to carry on without him. The following year, the band returned with new vocalist John Foster and released the Pop-errific sophomore album TRUTHDARE DOUBLEDARE. Although “Hit That Perfect Beat” and “C’mon! C’mon!” were hits, the album didn’t fare as well as their debut and the band left their label (London Records). Foster left the fold and Bronski and Steinbachek’s continued to work together throughout the rest of the ‘80s and into the ‘90s. They released their third album, RAINBOW NATION, with new vocalist Jonathan Hellyer and additional musical assistance from Ian Donaldson. However, the band quietly split in 1995 shortly after that album’s release.
Kashif Saleem – formerly a member of Funk giants B.T. Express – was at the forefront of synth-fueled smooth R&B in the early ‘80s. He was one of the first artists to embrace modern technology when it came to creating Soul and Funk music yet he still managed to make it sound human and heartfelt. While his name may not be as well-known as many of his technology-loving contemporaries like Stevie Wonder, Kashif helped usher in a new kind of sound that changed the course of Soul and HELP YOURSELF TO MY LOVE: THE ARISTA ANTHOLOGY is all the proof that you need. Spanning the years 1983-89, this is ‘80s electronic Funk/Soul/R&B at its finest.
Haircut 100 was quite the band in 1982. Their debut album, PELICAN WEST, was the product of six very different personalities that came together to create one fantastic album. From Latin to Funk to Pure Pop, the album blended the band members’ musical influences perfectly. The thought that the album was created by a group of kids just barely into their 20s was quite astounding. Even today, that timeless album is just as thrilling as it was when it came out 35 years ago. The lads in H100 were in the midst of recording their second album when lead singer/songwriter Nick Heyward left to pursue a solo career. For a brief moment, it seemed like that was the end of the line for H100 members Marc Fox, Les Nemes, Phil Smith, Graham Jones and Blair Cunningham. Thankfully, the lads still had something to say…
WHERE THE LIGHT SHINES THROUGH: THE BIGGER PICTURE 1981-2017
If you are familiar with veteran UK band Sad Lovers & Giants
, then I am confident that you are already a fan. For those who have yet to experience SL&G, then pay close attention – they are soon to become your favorite new/old band. On May 5, 2017, the always-amazing Cherry Red
label will be releasing WHERE THE LIGHT SHINES THROUGH: THE BIGGER PICTURE 1981-2017,
a five CD set that is a must-have if you are a fan of SL&G and ‘80s Post-Punk and New Wave music in general. The band’s legacy is celebrated in this set which contains pretty much all the tracks from their albums EPIC GARDEN MUSIC
(1982), FEEDING THE FLAME
(1983), THE MIRROR TEST
(1990), TREEHOUSE POETRY
(1991) and MELTING IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME
(2002) plus singles, EP tracks, radio sessions and rarities. A stunning set to say the least.
The Doctors Of Madness Will See You Now:
When I bring up the name Rex Smith, many people – usually over 40 years of age – instantly remember him as a teen idol, soap actor, balladeer, hard rocker, TV host or stage actor. Oddly enough, they are all absolutely correct! While he may never have achieved ‘household name’ status all over the world, he is still fondly remembered for quite a few things. For the time being, I’m going to set aside his TV, film and stage work (Street Hawk, Grease, Solid Gold, As The World Turns, Pirates Of Penzance, etc) and focus on his Rock/Pop music career in the ‘70s and ‘80s, all of which is included in the six CD box set ROCK AND ROLL DREAM: 1976-1983.