Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases. This week we take a look at Cockney Rebel, The Toy Dolls and 70s Back To School.
The Human Menagerie (Chrysalis tbc)/The Psychomodo (tbc)
Fronted by the enigmatic but sometimes infuriating Steve Harley, Cockney Rebel released their debut album The Human Menagerie in 1973, and follow-up The Psychomodo the following year. Widely regarded as among the band’s best work, both have been out of print for some time, with the former last appearing on The Beat Goes On in 2004 and the latter on Capitol in 1998. Their absence from catalogue is nicely addressed by the release of newly remastered editions both in six-panel CD digipack editions and 180g heavyweight vinyl editions. The integrity of the original albums is restored, with no bonus tracks included. While critically acclaimed at the time, The Human Menagerie failed to chart and didn’t feature any hit singles, though it does feature one of the band’s best songs - the towering Sebastian, an episodic and bombastic but brilliant cut that runs to nearly 10 minutes and features a 50-piece orchestra. Overall, The Psychomodo is stronger, however, with the band inhabiting some middle ground between glam, pop and rock. It also provided the band’s second hit, the quirky Mr. Soft, which followed on from the non-album cut Judy Teen. Cockney Rebel were to achieve major artist status shortly afterwards, with the release of third album, The Best Years Of Our Lives, wherein could be found their signature song and only No.1 Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) – but that’s another song for another time.
The Toy Dolls
The Albums 1983-87 (Captain Oi! AHOYBX 350)
Hailing from Sunderland, The Toy Dolls were a punk band with a difference, replacing angry invective with a tongue-in-cheek sense of fun, an endearing trait which won over not only godfather of punk Garry Bushell but also John Peel, who even trekked to the North East to see them in their natural environment. They released more than a dozen albums, of which the first four – originally released between 1983 and 1987 – are included here, alongside an album of contemporaneous rarities in a box set, alongside replica sleeves and liner notes. To most people, The Toy Dolls are known for their cover of the old children’s favourite Nellie The Elephant. Performed at breakneck speed, it failed to chart when first released as a single in 1982, but rocketed to No.4 on reissue in 1984, providing them with their only hit single. Much of their repertoire is made up of amusing original songs with titles like Spiders In The Dressing Room, The Lambrusco Kid and Yul Brynner Was A Skinhead but – as Nellie proves – they couldn’t resist personalising and speeding-up familiar favourites, hence the inclusion of a frenetic and somewhat deconstructed Blue Suede Shoes (Carl Perkins) and Wipe Out (The Surfaris). Wholly disposable but great fun.
70s Back To School (Crimson CRIMCD 612)
A companion release to the 80s Back To School set reviewed here a couple of weeks ago, 70s Back To School follows the same template, although with the obvious difference that it covers the 1970s, with 60 bona fide original recordings from the era, spread across three CDs, priced to sell for less than £10 and housed in a triptych gatefold sleeve. Although very unlikely to sell as many copies as the 80s set, it is nevertheless more densely packed with bigger hits and, to these ears, is superior. In fact, 59 of the songs present charted – the one exception being Get A Little Sand Between Your Toes, a lightweight but likeable composition by (then) top songwriter Tony Macaulay that was recorded by the all-singing, all-dancing troupe The New Edition, who graced many a TV variety show at the time, and have no connection to the later group featuring Bobby Brown. Leo Sayer contributes a lively Thunder In My Heart – a No.1 hit when issued in a new mix in 2006 - while South African band Clout’s anthemic Substitute and The Kursaal Flyers’ Spectoresque Little Does She Know are pleasing punctuations to proceedings, and the only hit for either band.