Reissues (December 11): Marillion, Wings and more

Reissues (December 11): Marillion, Wings and more

Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases, including Marillion and Wings...

She’s A Doll! – Warner Bros. Feminine Sides
(Ace CDTOP 1532)

A pleasing label-centric companion to Ace’s successful and ongoing Where The Girls Are series, She’s A Doll! deep-mines 24 femme-featuring 1960s recordings from Warner Bros. and the associated Loma label. Opening with The Three Degrees’ solitary Warner Bros. single Contact – a rare, catchy and complex Philly soul cut with lyrics alluding to space travel that is embellished with some suitably out of this world sound effects – the album is both faithful to the girl group sound and eclectic at the same time. Barbara English, for example, offers the stunning All Because I Love Somebody, which is based on Beethoven’s Ode To Joy, while The Honeys’ He’s A Doll is an uplifting tribute to a ‘gorgeous’ boy, and sounds like e female version of The Beach Boys. The fact that it was written and produced by Brian Wilson, and that his future wife Marilyn was one of The Honeys is probably relevant. Cathy Carroll’s You Lied is a typical Brill Building confection, written by Ellie Greenwich & Tony Powers, and all too short at 109 seconds; Stay With Me hitmaker Lorraine Ellison’s In My Tomorrow – the only self-penned track on the set – is a rousing ballad; and Ramona King’s playful version of Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil’s Western-styled Chico’s Girl is a splendid, previously unreleased track. Lengthy liner notes and copious illustrations complete an excellent set.       

Clutching At Straws
(Parlophone 0190295605049)

Regarded by fans as Marillion’s second best album – 1985’s Misplaced Childhood shades it, apparently - their fourth studio album, Clutching At Straws was denied the honour of topping the album chart in 1987 by Whitney Houston. Home to the hits Incommunicado, Sugar Mice and Warm Wet Circles, it is now the subject of this bells and whistles five disc (4 CD plus one DVD) book set, which includes the original album beautifully remixed by Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh, an Edinburgh Playhouse concert from 1987, previously unreleased demos, promo videos, a 60 minute documentary and a 60 page booklet. It is hard not to mention the fact that although Marillion were an extremely important, influential and mostly distinctive band in their own right, they did have some similarities to Genesis. Luckily they had their own enigmatic frontman in Fish - though Clutching At Straws was to be his last with the band – and his engaging style was crucial to their success. Tracks are lengthy, swirling, sometimes bombastic but never over-indulgent, especially Sugar Mice, which was a single despite its near six minute playing time, and tells a whimsical story set in a bar on a rainy Saturday in Milwaukee. Typically priced to sell for less than £40, this should find its way into the stockings of many fans this Christmas.      

Wild Life
(MPL/Capitol/USM 6772089)/Red Rose Speedway (6772116)

The 11th and 12th installments in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection makeovers, with limited deluxe editions including remastered original albums, previously unreleased demos, rare and previously unseen video content, exclusive books containing new interviews with McCartney and more, Wild Life (1971) was the first McCartney album to be released as by Wings, and Red Rose Speedway (1973) was the second. Appearing little more than six months after the chart-topping Ram, which was credited to Paul & Linda McCartney, Wild Life was considerably less commercial than its predecessor and became the first McCartney album to fall short of the Top 10. It is not, however, without its charms – the quirky original Bip Bop wins no prizes for lyrical or musical substance but it very enjoyable, while the Bo Diddley/Buddy Holly hit Love Is Strange adapts well to reggae, and the closing Dear Friend  - an olive branch to John Lennon – is warm and affecting. Red Rose Speedway is a much better album, from the rousing opener Big Barn Bed to the suitably delicate Little Lamb Dragonfly to the huge hit ballad My Love.  Wild Life comes with a stunning 128 page book and 25 bonus audio tracks, including rough mixes, singles edits, b-sides and the like., while Red Rose Speedway also has a 128 page book, and 35 bonus audio tracks. The bonus tracks across the two releases include McCartney’s controversial single Give Ireland Back To The Irish – an interesting counterpoint to former colleague John Lennon’s Luck Of The Irish – plus the similarly banned Hi Hi Hi, some interesting work in progress versions of his Bond theme Live & Let Die and some rocking live recordings. Beautifully realised, of course, though Wild Life is priced at £129.99, and Red Rose Speedway at £159.99, making them very much collectors only releases in their fully expanded editions, although 2 CD and 2 LP versions of both are also available and more modestly priced.  

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