Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The CHERRY Best: Strolling Through The Cherry Red Catalog Part Two




You can read Part One of my Cherry Best series HERE

Anyone that knows me is fully aware that I LOVE Cherry Red Records and the myriad of labels under it's umbrella.  From the Punk classics that make up ANAGRAM RECORDS' catalog to the constant flow of great R&B/Soul/Funk reissues under the BBR banner, I have nothing but pure, unadulterated love for what they do.  Each label is run by folks that seem to share the same passion that I have for music.  I admire and envy everyone involved with all the label imprints that Cherry Red releases. Yeah, I'm a fan to say the least. 
Cherry Red is more than just about music distribution: it's about music education.  There are so many genres to choose from: Country, Rock, New Wave, Metal, R&B, Bossa Nova, Post Punk, Prog Rock, Jazz, Punk and any other genre you can think of.  Their releases are mostly reissues (with bonus tracks!) but they do unleash new music by veteran artists and up and coming acts alike.  

As for me, I've been an avid collector of reissues, mostly stuff from the '70s and '80s, on labels such as Cherry Pop, Lemon, BBR, Hot Shot and others. Almost everything I have from the label were titles that I used to own the vinyl when they were first released.  But with bonus tracks and liner notes, I obviously upgraded my collection and now own them on CD.  I'm not one of those that bothers with the 'vinyl vs. CD' sound quality debate.  I think CDs sound great and Cherry Red releases are worth every hard earned penny you pay for them.

I've decided to list some of my favorites below.  There are titles that I've written about elsewhere on this blog (check them out here) but these are releases that I may have acquired before I started blogging or maybe they are things that I finally got around to purchasing recently.  Either way, I wanted to share them in a series of posts and bring them to your attention.  I've listed them alphabetically to make it easier to read/skim through...

(Expanded Edition)

While late to the Synthpop party, Frazier Chorus' 1989 debut album was a fantastic collection of Electronic Pop that may have been too late to compete with the brilliantly coiffed early '80s Synth brigade, but they made it up with great tunes, Synths, honest to goodness real clarinets, oboes and flutes, a keen sense of humor and leader Tim Freeman's whispered vocals. While the rest of the UK were gearing up for the whole Baggy/Manchester scene, Frazier Chorus were creating Pop gems that defied categorization yet were zesty enough to be huge hits.

They did release an earlier single on the 4AD label, but by the time Sue was released, the band were a full-fledged Pop quartet with the potential to be a worldwide success. They did achieve some success, but the fickle public were too high on Ecstasy to notice that a great band was in their midst.

Imagine The Dream Academy with a sense of mischief and keyboards instead of gently strummed acoustic guitars. Then add a bit of Morrissey's dry humor (minus the pretentiousness) and you're only half-way to understanding just how fine Frazier Chorus really were. There are moments here that are astounding as well as outstanding.

Cherry Red's CD reissue adds eight bonus tracks including their brilliant cover of "Anarchy In The UK", some more b-sides and three extended mixes. Stunning.

(Expanded Edition)

The '80s were full of fascinating and colorful artists who came, saw, conquered then quickly faded away. Being a fan of many of those one or two hit wonders, there were some that deserved only a moment in the spotlight, but then there were artists like vocalist Paul King, who had plenty of talent and a lot of potential, but his audience moved on, leaving him and his King bandmates behind. But while they were in the spotlight, the quartet made the best of their 15 minutes and cranked out some wonderful tunes.

Influenced by '70s artists like Marc Bolan and David Bowie and spurred on by the sights and sounds of their '80s contemporaries, King cranked out a some memorable hits and videos and it looks like they had the time of their lives doing it.  Their debut album, Steps In Time, features their two biggest hits - "Love And Pride" and "Won't You Hold My Hand Now" - and some extremely enjoyable album cuts that seemed a bit more advanced than what their teen audience was prepared for.  The band certainly gave it their all on tracks like "Fish", "Trouble" and the oddly titled "I Kissed The Spikey Fridge", three more highlights from this thoroughly enjoyable album.

Their next album, Bittersweet, would prove to be a better album, songwise, but Steps In Time was a pleasure from start to finish. With seven bonus tracks including non-album b-sides and remixes, this is a treat for '80s fans... and King fans, of course.




The musical landscape is littered with bands that released albums that should have reached a wider audience but somehow did not.  But what about bands that had the potential to make their mark but never released an album to begin with?  The bands that instantly come to mind are The Donkeys, New Hearts (who morphed into Mod favorites Secret Affair) and Tours.  Of all of these bands, Tours, led by Ronnie Mayor and Richard Mazda (later a solo artist, producer and actor), were the hottest band in the UK for a brief time...

With an indie single, "Language School", in their back pocket and support from John Peel, the band signed a multi-album deal in 1979 with Virgin Records and set about recording demos for their debut full-length, which was never to be released.  Egos and clashes with Virgin caused them to split even before an album could be properly recorded. They did manage to release one single for Virgin - "Tourist Information" - but the rest of their studio work languished in the vaults until Cherry Red and the band went back and put this excellent compilation together. 

Featuring 17 tracks, The Album Of The Year... (That Never Was) is chock full of edgy Power Pop and Punk Pop. Both sides of their two singles are included along with loads of other melodic nuggets.  One of the other standouts, "Can't Get Through", should have been a single and was possibly earmarked as such... if the band had survived long enough to release it.

Constant comparisons to The Undertones are not entirely accurate since Tours' didn't always rely on the Ramones-like guitar attack that the great 'Tones did.  On the other hand, their tunes are short and snappy, so its safe to say if you like the 'Tones and the aforementioned Donkeys and New Hearts, you're going to love Tours!

(Expanded Edition)


Though Tracie Young may not have scaled the charts in the U.S., she most certainly made her mark in the UK during her short career.  Some may remember her as guest vocalist on The Jam's last single, "Beat Surrender" and The Style Council's debut single, "Speak Like A Child" but it was her solo album (and singles) that showed her true talents.  As one of the first signing's to Paul Weller's Respond Records label, 
Tracie was a Weller protege who released only one album but it remains the most popular of all the releases on Respond.  

Recorded and released while Weller was fronting The Style Council, Far From The Hurting Kind has his fingerprints all over it.  The songs are soulful, melodic and very Style Council-like, although that band's intricate and tight arrangements are not as apparent here.  Far From The Hurting Kind is filled with soulful Pop tunes that are not unlike some of the Council's better b-sides.  While that may not sound like a compliment, judging by Weller's top notch output a this time, it is high praise indeed.  In fact, the tender "Spring, Summer, Autumn" was an actual Council b-side (albeit a completely different recording with Weller on vocals)!

High points on the CD include "The House That Jack Built" (which wasn't on the original UK vinyl LP but has been added as the first track here, where it truly belonged) and the touching "(I Love You) When You Sleep", which was penned by non other than Elvis Costello! With a load of non-album b-sides, a few newer interpretations of album tracks and more, this edition is loads more fun than the extended Japanese version released many years ago.  

For fans of '80s girl pop, The Style Council, The Jam, Paul Weller and Respond Records releases!

Peace, love and POP!
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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