Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Specials: Make Their Albums Extra Special

The Specials’ two albums are being reissued on March 30, alongside The Special AKA’s album In The Studio.

The expanded editions are the first time that founder songwriter and keyboardist Jerry Dammers has given his approval to anything surrounding the band since the rest of the line-up reformed without Dammers’ involvement in 2007.
Each remastered album features all of The Specials’ B-sides, EPs and non-album singles as well as assorted BBC live sessions as well as sleevenotes by music journalist Lois Wilson and previously unseen pictures by photographer Chalkie Davies.

1979’s self-titled debut adds the three-song "Too Much Too Young" EP, plus an 11-song gig recorded in Paris in December 1979 originally aired for the BBC In Concert series.

The following year’s "More Specials" album adds non-album singles Rat Race and Ghost Town, the single version of Do Nothing, and the B-sides of those three singles as well as Stereotypes’ flip side – Rude Boys Outa Jail, Maggie’s Farm, Racquel, Friday Night Saturday Morning and the extended version of Why. Rounding off the release are Radio 1 session versions of Stereotypes, Sea Cruise and You’re Wondering Now plus a Rude Boys Outa Jail remix featuring guitarist Neville Staple in his guise as Judge Roughneck.

Dammers, drummer John Bradbury and bassist Horace Panter formed The Special AKA after The Specials split in 1981, recruiting singer Stan Campbell, guitarist John Shipley and former Bodysnatchers vocalist Rhoda Dakar. Their 1984 album "In The Studio" adds the B-sides The Boiler, You Just Can’t Get A Break and Jungle Music, plus a three-song John Peel session and six instrumental versions.

Blancmange: Take the Fifth

Blancmange release their fifth album Semi Detached on March 23.

It’s effectively a solo album by singer Neil Arthur, as it’s the first without keyboardist Stephen Luscombe, who has longterm health problems.

The 10 tracks include a cover of Can’s 1976 song I Want More and the instrumental MKS Lover, with the first single Paddington out on March 9. Guests include Kate Bush’s guitarist David Rhodes, while the self-produced album was mixed by Babyshambles producer Adam Fuest.

The eight-minute opening song The Fall is named after the band, who were an early inspiration to Arthur.
He said: “I sent Mark E Smith our first EP and we exchanged a few letters, his being ones of humorous encouragement.” Speaking of the song Deep In The Mine, Arthur said: “I imagined a cavernous yet claustrophobic space with endless passages running off it.”

Simple Minds: Sparkling Again

Simple Minds release a five-disc reissue of their 1984 album Sparkle In The Rain on March 16.

Produced by Steve Lillywhite, the album contains the hits Waterfront and Up On The Catwalk, and is the first to feature drummer Mel Gaynor. Kirsty MacColl guests on the songs Street Hassle and Speed Your Love To Me.

The reissue features B-sides and 12” remixes on disc two, a previously-unreleased homecoming show at Glasgow Barrowland from February 1984 on discs three and four, a three-song Radio 1 session and the album’s videos and TV performances from Top Of The Pops and The Oxford Road Show on disc five.

The set also features a 5.1 surround sound version of the original album, which has been remastered at Abbey Road by guitarist Charlie Burchill.

Burchill and singer Jim Kerr are interviewed as part of the set’s 36-page booklet, which also features memorabilia and rare photos from the era. The reissue is available as a 5CD or 2CD version, as well as digital download, vinyl and Blu-Ray formats.

Manic Street Preachers singer James Dean Bradfield said of the album: “it’s a genius stadium album, still with their pretension and ambition. Waterfront was about the decay of working-class industry. Try and find anyone writing a song like that today.”

Marc Almond: Royal Birthday Plans & The Velvet Trail

Marc Almond has revealed his 60th birthday plans of a concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Almond releases his new album The Velvet Trail on March 9, but has already begun plans to see in his 60th birthday on July 9, 2017.
He told us: “I want turning 60 to be a great celebration. I’ve already provisionally booked The Royal Albert Hall to play a concert that night.”

There are also plans for a wealth of reissues to coincide with Almond’s landmark birthday, including a Soft Cell box-set, a career-spanning singles compilation and an anthology of Almond’s own favourite songs. He said: “I’m fighting to get some of the rights back to some of my old singles, and that’s slowly going my way. I want to be able to say ‘This is what I’ve done over the past 40 years.’”
He added: “So much of my work has been missed out over the years. I’d love to do an anthology of my personal favourite tracks, as I’ve worked hard to make a good varied body of work. As for Soft Cell, I’d love to do a box-set. I’ve got loads of live concerts from our early days that no-one has heard, even if some of it’s on not-great-quality cassettes.”

Almond’s new single Scar is the first taste of The Velvet Trail, which was made with Lana Del Rey/Rihanna producer Chris Braide, a lifelong Almond fan.
Almond said: “Scar is a big, polished ballad, the type of song I don’t often get to do. I was flattered and honoured that Chris sent me such great songs to write lyrics for and sing. He deliberately picked bits from throughout my career so that it sounds like a Best Of. With me feeling nostalgic, planning the birthday celebrations, I was ready to embrace that.”

Almond goes on a 12-date tour, ending on May 1 at London Shepherds Bush Empire.

Neal X: New Band, The Montecristos

Sigue Sigue Sputnik singer Neal X has formed a new band, The Montecristos, who release their debut album Born To Rock N Roll on March 26.

The six-piece features Emma Goss (double bass), Gemma B (trumpet), Hugh Wilkinson (drums) and saxophonists Sophie Freeman and Orlando La Rose. X said: “I’m still totally head over leopard-print high heels in love with rock & roll. I wanted to form a band that took the energy and spirit of Little Richard in The Girl Can’t Help It and make it look and sound totally contemporary for the 21st century. It’s glammy, trashy, classy and sexy rock & roll – driven by my fist-sized overactive adrenal gland.”

In recent years, X has been guitarist and co-writer for Marc Almond, who guests on the song Brand New Cadillac. The album also features a version of Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s hit Love Missile F1-11.

The Pretenders: Time to Pretend

The Pretenders’ first eight albums are being compiled into a self-titled box-set.

Released on February 16, the box-set takes in the band’s albums from 1979’s self-titled debut to 1999’s Viva El Amor, with a wealth of B-sides, live songs and demos across the albums alongside DVDs for each album featuring TV appearances from shows such as Top Of The Pops.
Videos for all the album’s singles are included on the bonus DVDs, taking in hits such as Brass In Pocket, I’ll Stand By You, Back On The Chain Gang, 2000 Miles and Don’t Get Me Wrong.

Each album comprises two CDs and a DVD, apart from Packed and The Isle Of View, which feature just one CD and a DVD, with the relevant B-sides as those albums’ bonus tracks.