AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: THE MYSTERY OF THE BULGARIAN VOICES/BOOCHEEMISH

While many musicians can wring emotion out of their instrumental weapon of choice, there’s no denying that the most emotional instrument of all is the human voice. The song’s melody and lyrics mean nothing if the voice does not connect with the listener. A notable example would be Gospel Music – the soaring voices of a church choir can melt the heart of the most hardened atheist. However, the best example belongs to The Mystery Of The Bulgarian Voices, a female choir that has mastered the art of the voice… and I don’t use the word ‘art’ lightly here. The sounds these voices make are soul-stirring and heartbreaking in equal measures.

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THE TOY DOLLS: The Chancellor reviews the 5CD set, THE ALBUMS: 1983-87

Looney tunes, indeed!

The chaps in The Dickies have a wicked sense of humor and The Adicts know how to have fun as well… but The Toy Dolls are the true court jesters of Punk Rock. So, if you are looking for a good time, you can either call one of those phone numbers written on the bathroom wall or you can do the right thing and hustle on down to your local Pop shop and grab THE ALBUMS: 1983-87, a delicious five CD box set that gathers together the first four albums by The Toy Dolls as well as a fifth disc of rarities!

Led by the always excitable Olga (AKA Michael Algar), The Toy Dolls has gone through several line-up changes over the years but they’ve never lost the spunk ‘n’ spittle that made them so fun when they released their debut album DIG THAT GROOVE BABY in 1983. While some may have thought of the band’s music as a parody or a humorous homage to Punk, there’s no doubt that Olga and the boys are true Punk rockers. However, they just chose to take Punk – and everything else for that matter – a lot less seriously than everyone around them. This debut includes classic tracks like “Glenda And The Test Tube Baby,” “Dougie Giro,” “Up The Garden Path,” “Stay Mellow”, the title track and “Nellie The Elephant.” While some may be put off by the over-the-top goofiness of the band’s approach to Punk, their catchy melodies and exceptional musicianship cannot be denied.

Two years later, the band released A FAR OUT DISC, another hook-filled Punk fiesta. Highlights include “My Girlfriend’s Dad’s A Vicar,” “We’re Mad” and so many others.  IDLE GOSSIP was released in 1986 followed a year later by BARE FACED CHEEK. On both albums, Olga leads his crew through some thrilling and entertaining Punk nuggets. No matter what, The Toy Dolls’ music was always refreshing, exciting and inspiring. The first album may be their most popular full-length but the band are always reliable when it comes to making great records and each and every one of these albums needs to be experienced.

The fifth disc here is chock full of non-album tracks including 7” version, songs from compilations and so much more. This final CD includes the ‘hit’ version of “Nellie The Elephant” that received the most airplay over here in the U.S. There’s more fun involved including the smile/dance/sweat-inducing “Everybody Jitterbug.” Crazy, cool and fun, The Toy Dolls may never get the same respect as bands like The Clash, but they certainly deserve your attention!

Look, if you prefer your Punk political and/or pretentious, go elsewhere.  If you want some hook-filled, shout-along Punk anthems with a sense of humor, then THE TOY DOLLS will satisfy all of your cravings. Ten fold. Captain Oi and Cherry Red have given us yet another set that should occupy a very sacred place in your collection!

(NOTE: The first four discs in this set represent the original albums when first released. They do NOT contain bonus tracks. However, all the bonus tracks from previous CD reissues of these albums are gathered on Disc Five).

Keep on truckin’,

Stephen THE CHANCELLOR Schnee

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: TOM RUSH/VOICES

With this 2018 release, Tom Rush doesn’t hesitate to get back to business. Now 56 years into his career as a Folk and Blues legend, Tom may not be prolific but he sure hasn’t lost any of his passion. Like a comfortable pair of overalls or a warm blanket on a chilly night, Tom’s music may be comforting but that doesn’t mean that he plays it safe. On VOICES – the first album in his career consisting almost entirely of originals – Tom Rush presents an album that embraces the spirit of his early recordings with the maturity that time has graced him with.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: THE RADIATORS/WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE

Celebrating their 40th Anniversary as a band, New Orleans’ The Radiators release WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE, their 20th album overall. Their first studio album in roughly a decade,  WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE is a welcome return for the band that also serves as a reminder of their much-missed talents. While the band no longer operates as a full-time outfit, all the original members reunite each year to play the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Instead of letting their 40th Anniversary pass them by, the band decided to head back into the studio and record a handful of new tracks mixed with a healthy dose of songs that have littered their live set for decades but have never made it to an album!

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: GUIDED BY VOICES/SPACE GUN

Remember back in the mid ‘80s when practically every R&B and Pop record released seemed to be performed or written by Prince? From his own albums and singles to songs by The Bangles, The Times, Cyndi Lauper, Vanity 6, The Three O’Clock, Sheena Easton and Sinead O’Connor, Prince was everywhere. It seemed as if he was the most prolific musician and songwriter in the world for at least the second half of the ‘80s… Well, folks, indie singer/songwriter Robert Pollard’s mega prolific output over the years makes Prince look like a lazy bastard!  But unlike Prince, the fruits of Pollard’s insane work ethic is not locked up in a dark vault somewhere, never to be heard by the public. In fact, just the opposite – Pollard has released hundreds of songs under his own name as well as under the names of the many side projects he’s been involved with including Circus Devils, Boston Spaceships, Ricked Wicky, Phantom Tollbooth, Teenage Guitar, and, most importantly, Guided By Voices.

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ALTERED IMAGES: The Epic Years (4CDs) reviewed!

Regardless of what the naysayers think, the ‘80s was an extremely exciting decade for music. From Punkto Post-Punk, Power Pop to Synthpop, New Wave to New Romantic, there was so much creativity in the air. Punk had come along in 1976 and levelled the playing field, allowing bands to create new musical genres, of which there were many. On any given week, you could buy new releases from artists like A Flock Of Seagulls, Gang Of Four, The Icicle Works, Peter & The Test Tube Babies, Spandau Ballet, XTC, Squeeze, Culture Club, Split Enz, Madness, Blancmange, PiL, The Clash, The Human League, The Jam, Siouxsie & The Banshees and so many other remarkably talented bands. Sure, there were second and third tier bands that seemed to jump on whatever bandwagon was the most popular at the time but by and large, there were many unique bands that really stood out from the pack. Altered Images was one of those bands and THE EPIC YEARS (4CD) is all the proof you need! This box set contains the band’s three studio albums (with bonus tracks) plus an additional CD containing nine extended remixes. THE EPIC YEARS is the definitive Altered Images collection and should be a part of any serious music fan’s collection. Ahem, that means YOU, the reader!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: CINDY ALEXANDER/NOWHERE TO HIDE

For two decades,  singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Cindy Alexander has been crafting albums of emotional strength and delicate beauty. Thankfully, the string of albums that she has released over the years have not gone unnoticed. In 1998, she was named Songwriter of the Year and nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Music Awards. Her debut album SEE RED was nominated for Independent Pop Album of the Year. Since then, she’s received many more awards and nominations including Songwriter of the Year –JPF Music, Best Female Rock Vocalist – All Access Music Awards, and Special Achievement Pop Artist – Los Angeles Music Awards. She was offered a major label recording contract thanks to her appearance on NBC’s Star Tomorrow but she chose to have more control over her career and rejected the offer.

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: BLOODSHOT RECORDS’ 13 DAYS OF XMAS!

     I’m either the right guy to be writing a review of a ‘new’ Christmas release… or I’m the wrong guy. You see, I’m a connoisseur of Christmas music and I’m extremely picky about the holiday music that I listen to.  I don’t care who performs the song or in what style – I’m looking for the FEELING of the season in the song. And for someone who loves Christmas music, there’s very little that has tickled my fancy since the ‘70s. There are exceptions but my favorites tend to be random singles (XTC, Band Aid, Status Quo, etc.) and very few albums. Sure, I appreciate the attempts to create a new classic Christmas album but it is very obvious to me when it is merely a cash-grab by the artist or the label. Or almost as worse – when an artist is only interested in celebrating their own voice and not the holiday they sing so joyfully about. So, sadly, I now approach every Christmas album with trepidation and fear. And suddenly, Bloodshot Records’ 13 DAYS OF XMAS landed in my lap and I needed to take some anxiety medication before I could even listen to it….

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AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: BIG HEAD TODD & THE MONSTERS/NEW WORLD ARISIN’

In the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll, it is rare for a band to hit the 31-year mark with all original members intact. Big Head Todd & The Monsters is one of those rare beasts. Formed in Boulder, Colorado in 1986, Todd Park Mohr, Rob Squires and Brian Nevin (along with longtime member Jeremy Lawton, who joined the original trio in 2003) have achieved commercial and critical success, sold boatloads of albums, traveled the world and built up a huge, devoted following. And on their 2017 album NEW WORLD ARISIN’, they prove that they still have something to say.

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: THE WAILIN’ JENNYS/FIFTEEN

 
From the haunting a capella opening track, “Old Churchyard,” you can tell that there’s something special happening on FIFTEEN, the fourth full length studio album from Canadian Folk trio The Wailin’ Jennys. Celebrating their 15th anniversary – hence the album’s title – the three hugely talented ladies that make up the band create a sound that is both intimate and spacious. Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Heather Mass have recorded an album of covers that they have most definitely made their own. It is a delectable treat for the ears and the soul.