A few years back, it wasn’t a shock to see that British singer/songwriter Nick Lowe would be touring with American instrumental Rock combo Los Straitjackets. Both Nick and the ‘Jackets occupy the same musical universe although they are on opposite ends of the galaxy.
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.
For over three decades, BMX Bandits has been creating some of the most melodic, thoughtful Pop music of the Alt-Rock era. From their humble independent beginnings in Scotland during the C86 movement up through their albums on Creation Records in the ‘90s and beyond, Duglas T. Stewart and the boys & girls in the band have never steered away from their Pop purpose. Unafraid to show their humor and sensitive sides, the Bandits’ albums could go from whimsical to reflective without batting an eyelid. The Bandits have always managed to play with your emotions using plenty of charm and wit. While their albums have been pretty eclectic affairs over the years, the band’s revolving line-up (with Duglas being the only constant member) has continued to shine even if they weren’t always in the spotlight. And with at least nine albums and a few dozen singles behind them, BMX BANDITS FOREVER might be their most truthful and honest musical statement to date.
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…
If your only encounter with Modern English is “I Melt With You,” then you need to sit down, kids, because there is more to this British outfit than meets the ear. The band’s moody and artsy Post-Punk beginnings were a perfect match for 4AD, the label that released their first three albums. However, by the second album, 1982’s AFTER THE SNOW, the band had matured and were writing better songs, moving away from their dark past and gaining a lot more confidence in the process. That second album contained some of their best moments to date including “Someone’s Calling,” “Life In The Gladhouse” and, of course, “I Melt With You.” The latter song became one of the tracks that truly defined the ‘80s and became a blessing and curse for the band. Modern English next album, RICOCHET DAYS, was nearly as good as AFTER THE SNOW but did not contain a hit like “I Melt With You” and the band found itself falling out of fashion. Another album – STOP START – came and went and the band split. Over the years, vocalist Robbie Grey and various line-ups of the band have recorded and toured as Modern English, even releasing some very fine albums along the way, In 2010, four of the five original members – Grey, Gary McDowell (guitar, vocals), Michael Conroy (bass, vocals) and Stephen Walker (keyboards – reunited for a few tours and received a hero’s welcome by fans. Seven years on, have finally delivered TAKE ME TO THE TREES, the first studio album since 1984’s RICOCHET DAYS to feature these four core members. While the band wisely continues to avoid attempting to re-write “I Melt With You,” they certainly haven’t lost the desire to re-explore dark places with melodic flair.
While not the only lead vocalist in The Moody Blues, Justin Hayward is the most recognizable. His silky smooth voice can be heard on nearly all of their hits including “Nights In White Satin,” “Your Wildest Dreams,” “Tuesday Afternoon,” “The Voice,” and many others. One of Rock’s finest front men, Justin Hayward has also released a handful of fantastic solo albums over the years that have come and gone without much notice by commercial audiences. That is definitely a shame since Hayward always has something interesting to say and he has a lovely way of saying it.
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.
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.
The Adventures rose like a phoenix from the ashes of Irish Punk/New Wave band Starjets. Vocalist Terry Sharpe and latter-day guitarist Pat Gribben formed the Pop-oriented outfit (along with Pat’s wife Eileen, Spud Murphy, Tony Ayre and Paul Crowder) and released their debut album in 1985. Depending on which country you were in, the album was called THEODORE AND FRIENDS (in the UK and Europe) or THE ADVENTURES (in the U.S.). While essentially the same album, each version featured different mixes of the core tracks (“Send My Heart,” “Another Silent Day”, etc.) and different artwork. The album’s shimmering, glossy production accented Gribben’s melodic flair and Sharpe’s vocals. The addition of Eileen’s vocals added a nice depth to the harmonies, of which there were plenty on display. While the album received good reviews and they earned significant airplay on both sides of the pond, The Adventures didn’t achieve the success they so richly deserved.