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THE INMATES/The Albums 1979-1982 (3CD set) reviewed!

     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.
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BRONSKI BEAT: An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with Steve Bronski!

     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.

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HOWARD JONES/Best 1983-2017 (3CD) reviewed!

     While he  achieved a lot of chart success early in his career (1983 to 1989) and still tours and releases new music, Howard  Jones’ musical legacy has been somewhat overlooked since his heyday. While he certainly hasn’t been forgotten, he has become increasingly difficult to categorize… which is both a good and bad thing. He’s been labelled a Synthpop artist, a teen idol, a New Waver and an Electropop pioneer while also being  lumped into the Adult Alternative category. Some have even pointed out his Jazz-influenced  chord progressions and R&B leanings. In all honesty, Howard Jones is all of this and more.  And thankfully, Cherry  Red has just released the three CD BEST 1983-2017, which really  showcases Howard’s many talents. A set this comprehensive reminds the listener  that Howard Jones is much more than an “’80s relic”. He was never a one-trick  pony and this release backs that statement up.

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An EXCLUSIVE interview with Country Music icon CHARLEY PRIDE!

     For half a century, Charley Pride has been one of Country Music’s hardest working and most beloved entertainers. Ever since his 1966 debut single on RCA, “The Snakes Crawl At Night,” he has forged a path that has been consistent and rewarding to his fans and those that love traditional Country Music. With over 50 Top Ten Country singles to his credit – 29 of those reaching #1 – Charley is one of the most successful Country vocalists of all time. Against all odds, he has outlasted nearly all his contemporaries from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s and he shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. MUSIC IN MY HEART, his first album in six years, is an album steeped in Country tradition yet still sounds fresh and invigorating. With this album, Charley has delivered one of the most consistently excellent albums of his career. Now, if only Country radio still celebrated the traditional sounds of artists like Charley Pride…
Produced by Billy Yates and featuring songs written by Merle Haggard (“The Way It Was In ‘51”), Bill Anderson (“You Lied To Me”) Ben Peters & Justin Peters (“Natural Feeling For You”) and many others, MUSIC IN MY HEART is an essential listen for those that love Charley’s classic recordings as well as his more recent output on the Music City Records label. Tracks like “It Wasn’t’ That Funny,” “New Patches,” “I Just Can’t Stop Missing You” and the previously mentioned titles will remind you of the days when Country Music was about life, love and loss and less about glamor and gloss. MUSIC IN MY HEART is an instantly lovable and timeless collection of songs that will no doubt be considered a classic in Charley’s catalog.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to catch up with Charley Pride and spend a few minutes chatting about the album and more.

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Five MUST-HAVE releases on Wounded Bird Records!

      For nearly 20 years, Guilderland, NY-based Wounded Bird Records has been quietly reissuing a plethora of CD titles that are generally geared for collectors but most definitely appeal to causal music lovers as well. Not a label to focus on one genre, Wounded Bird has just about every musical style covered – from OC punks Agent Orange to Jazz legend Joe Zawinul. In between, you’ll find releases by the golly-ricious Jim Nabors, Hard Rock heroes Montrose, former Eagles members Don Felder, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmidt and way too many others to list. In the early days, Wounded Bird was a straight reissue label – no bonus tracks or liner notes. However, over the years, they’ve started adding bonus material to some of the releases, which makes them even more exciting.

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LOS STRAITJACKETS/What’s So Funny… review!

     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.

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KASHIF/Help Yourself To My Love: The Arista Anthology review!

 
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.

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BMX BANDITS FOREVER review!

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.

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HAIRCUT 100/Paint And Paint (Deluxe Edition) review!

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…
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MODERN ENGLISH/Take Me To The Trees review!

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.

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