Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Stranglers - Compilation LP's Pt 2

As mentioned in my last Stranglers article in 2011, the departure of Hugh Cornwell in 1990 was the catalyst for a never ending stream of “best of” releases in the decades that followed. Some seemed to serve a useful purpose, others just seemed to be there in an attempt to exhume more money from the completists.

This article looks at most of the comps that were issued during the 1991-1999 period. As before, anything with the band logo on the front is included, anything without is not. Just to clarify, box sets and “live” compilations (old gigs newly released) are excluded, the latter may well be the subject of their own article in future.

All Twelve Inches
(CD, Epic 471416 2)

Back in the 1980’s, it had almost become law that if you were to release a single, then it would have to be issued on 12”. The 12” format may well have had it’s origins in the Disco scene, but it was now becoming a mainstream chart format. Some acts saw it as a way of resurrecting the spirit of the EP, or the Maxi-Single, both of which had fallen out of favour in the 70’s, whilst other bands began issuing their latest a-side in extended form, claiming that there had always been a “dance element” to their music.

Whilst modern day remixing usually involves taking the original song, disposing of it entirely bar some of the vocals, and then adding your own music, the 12” mixes that appeared in the 80’s were usually variants of the original album mix. But mid way through, there would be a strange echo-y drum solo, the verse would repeat itself, the song would suddenly go backwards, all in order to make it longer than the original, thus making it an “extended” mix. Usually, these mixes were unbearably messy, taking perfectly good songs and ruining them in the process, but they kept coming.

It was probably psychological. A 12” single was, obviously, bigger than a 7” in terms of actual size, so it was almost as if the labels figured they had to make sure they filled up the a-side of the record. And if that could not be done by having extra B-sides, than an extended mix of the single would solve the problem. Having only dabbled briefly with the 12” format prior to their signing to Epic, The Stranglers would find virtually all of their singles issued by the label would be the recipient of a 12” mix.

In 1992, with the Mark 2 lineup now fully functioning, various labels decided to get in on the “retro” side of the band. A label called Newspeak cobbled together a load of old bootlegs for release as “The Early Years”, whilst JJ worked with EMI on the release of the “Live At The Hope And Anchor” CD, a 1977 London gig that had only appeared officially in bits and pieces, with most of it previously unreleased. Epic decided to offer up an alternative history of the band’s singles for the label with “All Twelve Inches”, a collection of most of the band’s extended mixes from the period.

Not everything the band released as a single on Epic was the recipient of a 12” mix. Indeed, “European Female” wasn’t even issued on 12” at all, but for every Epic single where a 12” mix existed, a mix was thus included on the album. Repetition was “out”, so you only got one of the three “Sweet Smell Of Success” mixes that were originally released in 1990, and the 1990 12“ remix of “Always The Sun“ was also absent, whilst EMI singles from the era were out of bounds, so no “Grip 89” extended mix here. In an attempt to reel the punters in, the album included a previously unreleased 12” mix of “Was It You”. Originally planned to be released as the fifth single from 1986’s “Dreamtime”, new mixes of the track were made - one for the 7” and one for the 12 - but the release was pulled, possibly due to the fact that the preceding singles lifted from the LP had been less than successful, so Epic probably figured they were flogging a dead horse by this point. The 7” mix would remain unreleased for a few more years.

Of all the Stranglers comps on the market, I will stick my neck out here and say this is the most important. Virtually everything here was making it’s debut on CD, and since it’s release, few of these mixes have appeared again, whilst the inclusion of “Was It You” makes it an essential purchase. I love the sleeve, and the album itself does a good job of showcasing the madness that was the 12” “extended” mix during the 80’s. By the 1990’s, the CD Single had become the format of choice, and most CD Singles used album mixes as the lead song, with the extra playing time being padded out with B-sides, rather than extended mixes - although several Mark 2 singles did include “long” versions of the a-side at times.

Track listing: Midnight Summer Dream (12”)/Skin Deep (12”)/No Mercy (Cement Mix)/Let Me Down Easy (12”)/Nice In Nice (Porridge Mix)/Always The Sun (Hot Mix)/Big In America (Texas Mix)/Shakin’ Like A Leaf (Jelly Mix)/All Day And All Of The Night (Jeff Remix)/Was It You (Unreleased 12” Mix)/96 Tears (Tearaway Mix)/Sweet Smell Of Success (Indie-Pendence Mix)

Strangled From Birth And Beyond
(CD, SIS CD001)

This is the odd one out. It’s a comp, yes, but consists almost entirely of songs that any prospective purchaser may not have already owned. Originally issued in 1993, this was a fan club only release (SIS stands for “Stranglers Information Service”) cobbling together odds and sods from both the Mark 1 and Mark 2 lineups. “Strangled” was the name of the magazine they issued.

It includes 10 songs - some previously available, some not. Not everything is a true Stranglers recording - tracks 3 to 6 inclusive are solo recordings, or side projects. The first two tracks had originally appeared on a 1980 fan club 7”, whilst “The Beast” was an instrumental recording from the “Aural Sculpture” sessions, and never before available. “New Day Today”, originally lined up for inclusion on 1990’s “10” had appeared as a fan club flexi after Cornwell had left the band, whilst the last two songs were outtakes from the Mark 2 album “Stranglers In the Night” (“Mr Big” had also featured in the band’s live sets for a while).

A “proper” full scale release was conducted in 1998, when the album re-appeared in the same basic packaging, but with a new catalogue number. It is now deleted, but all of this material has since reappeared on a later compilation, 2002's "The Rarities".

Track listing: Tomorrow Was The Hereafter/Bring On The Nubiles (Cocktail Version)/My Young Dreams/Goebbels Mosley God And Ingrams/Waiting For The Trees To Grow/Gone Are Those Days/The Beast/New Day Today/Mr Big/I’ll Be Seeing You

The Hit Men
(CD, EMI CDEMC 3759)

Although Epic’s “Greatest Hits 1977-1990” had been a reasonable - and very popular - stab at covering all of the Mark 1 years in one go, it was nowhere near comprehensive enough. So in 1996, EMI had a go. I would like to think the title was taken from the 1987 b-side “Hitman”, but as that was from the Epic years, I doubt this was actually the case.

As the title suggests, this was - for the most part - a singles collection. Thing was, the band had issued too many singles to squeeze onto a single CD, but not enough to fill up a pair. So, the decision was taken to include “selected album tracks” to pad it out time-wise. Fair enough. But, unsurprisingly, all of the album tracks came from the EMI days (bar the “new” 7" mix of “Was It You”) and this results in a rather uneven listen. Yes, they were more prolific between 77 and 82, but for disc two to start with material from 1981, resulting in a sort of “race to the finish” once the Epic material kicks in later on, well, it all just seems a bit cheeky on EMI’s behalf.

Some notes. Edited mixes, usually, were used for the latter period stuff in preference to the album mixes where such things exist, although the sleeve notes seem, at times, to contradict this - there is no mention in the booklet that it’s an edited mix of “Paradise” here, simply claiming it’s taken “from Feline”. Feel free to contact if you think the listing below is incorrect, but I have played it recently and compared and contrasted where necessary. Two different sleeves were also used, one in a “crosshair” target sleeve (thus tying in with the title of the album), one in a “normal” sleeve. And in the case of “Grip” and “Always The Sun”, the later 1989/90 remixes of these tracks were included over the original 7”/Album mixes.

Track listing: Grip 89/London Lady/Peaches/Go Buddy Go/Hanging Around/Choosey Susie/Something Better Change/Straighten Out/No More Heroes/English Towns/5 Minutes/Nice N Sleazy/Toiler On The Sea/Mean To Me/Walk On By/Duchess/Nuclear Device/Don’t Bring Harry/The Raven/Bear Cage/Who Wants The World/Waltzinblack/Thrown Away/Just Like Nothing On Earth/Let Me Introduce You To The Family/Golden Brown/La Folie/Tramp/Strange Little Girl/European Female/Midnight Summer Dream (Edit)/Paradise (Edit)/Skin Deep/No Mercy/Let Me Down Easy (Edit)/Nice In Nice/Always The Sun (Sunny Side Up Mix)/Big In America (Edit)/Shakin’ Like A Leaf (7” Mix)/Was It You (Unreleased 7” Mix)/All Day And All Of The Night (7” Mix)/96 Tears (Edit)/Sweet Smell Of Success (Edit)

The Collection
(CD, EMI Gold 7243 8 56239 2 9)

I have mentioned elsewhere on this site about the major labels’ budget imprints. EMI have had several over the years (Fame, Music For Pleasure) and by the mid 90’s had another, EMI Gold. This 1997 collection typifies how a lot of these budget releases worked - a slightly random looking track listing, some rarities here, some common stuff there, with the release seemingly pitched at “must have them all” collectors and possibly nobody else.

Following the excellent reissue campaign of the EMI era albums in 1987 and 88, and the release of the “Rarities” album, all of these had been deleted by the time this CD was issued. The band’s first two albums had been reissued in 1996 to celebrate the 20th anniversary (or thereabouts) of Punk, even though they were both released in 1977, and although they added relevant bonus tracks, a lot of the old B-sides had by now disappeared from the catalogue as the other EMI era albums were left in limbo.

And so “The Collection”, despite featuring nothing you might not already have, is kind of interesting. Bearing in mind that the likes of “Walk On By” and “Straighten Out” were non-album singles, this is more or less a full blown B-sides and rarities set (save for “Grip”). Indeed, had one or two of the singles been excluded, all of the EMI era flipsides could have been on here. But budget albums were never designed to be “tick box” releases, so just think yourself lucky it’s as good as it is. This release was followed, a few years later, by a release on Disky called “Collection”, offering a less than inspired track listing, and a logo-less cover - hence it’s non inclusion here.

Track listing: Walk On By/Go Buddy Go/Top Secret/Old Codger/Maninwhite/Rok It To The Moon/Love 30/Shut Up/Vietnamerica/Mean To Me/Cruel Garden/Yellowcake UF6/5 Minutes/Sverige/N’Emmenes Pas Harry/Fools Rush Out/Grip/Straighten Out

The Best Of The Epic Years
(CD, Epic 487997 2)

I also quite like this one, despite the fact that it claims everything is a radio edit mix, when most of them aren’t (I think).

A sort of “short mixes” version of “All Twelve Inches”, it includes some items of note. When the Epic era albums were re-released a few years later, most of the b-sides from the period were tagged on as bonus tracks, but the original mix of “Hot Club” was missing. No worries, it’s here instead. You also get the 7” mix of “Always The Sun” (it was the 1990 single remix that appeared on “The Hit Men”) and the 12” 1990 mix of it as well (not previously available on CD). The 12” mix of “No Mercy” near the end seems a bit random, but as the album mix of this same song was also tagged onto the end of the “1977-1990” set as a bonus track, maybe that explains it’s inclusion. The sleeve also claims to be giving a CD debut to the "Strangled House Mix" of "Sweet Smell Of Success", but it actually plays the same version already to be found on "All Twelve Inches".

Track listing: European Female/Midnight Summer Dream (Edit)/Paradise/Skin Deep/No Mercy/Hot Club/Let Me Down Easy/Nice In Nice/Always The Sun (Edit)/Big In America/Shakin’ Like A Leaf/All Day And All Of The Night (7” Mix)/Was It You (Unreleased 7” Mix)/96 Tears/Sweet Smell Of Success (Edit)/No Mercy (Cement Mix)/Always The Sun (Long Hot Sunny Side Up 12” Mix)/Sweet Smell Of Success (Indie-Pendence Mix)

The Masters
(CD, Eagle EABCD 111)

By 1998, the Mark 2 lineup had issued three studio albums, and a live one, and would issue “Coup De Grace” before the year end (an album I, unlike most people, adore - but that’s another story). But there was little in the way of compilations, maybe, I suppose, because there seemed to be no call for them.

This one was the first. But due to circumstances outside the labels’ control, it’s a bit pointless. The band’s eleventh album, 1992’s “Stranglers In The Night”, had appeared on China Records, before the band joined Castle Communications. But - until recently - there were problems in getting this material available for compilation releases on other labels. And so what you have here, is a mix of material from “About Time”, “Written In Red”, the live album “Friday The 13th” - and nothing from “SITN”. Hmm.

You do at least get the two singles from those two studio albums, plus a load of album tracks, and - to reel the punters in - Mark 2 doing “Golden Brown” and “No More Heroes”. Had material from “SITN” appeared as well, it would have made a bit more sense. For completists only.

Track listing: Summer In The City/Valley Of The Birds/Golden Boy/Face/Daddy’s Riding The Range/Paradise Row/In Heaven She Walks/Still Life/Money/Lies And Deception/Joy De Viva/Skin Deep (Live)/Golden Brown (Live)/No More Heroes (Live)

Hits Collection
(CD, EMI 7243 498749 2 3)

A follow up, I guess, to “The Collection”, albeit with a number of the same songs on here as well. But the title is a bit of a misnomer - not only are there album tracks on here, but b-sides as well. “Hits Collection”???

More pointless than “The Collection”, there’s no denying the quality of these songs, and the inclusion of the non album stonker “Who Wants The World” is a nice touch, but really, what’s the point?

Track listing: Peaches/Go Buddy Go/Top Secret/Maninwhite/Walk On By/Golden Brown/Shut Up/Mean To Me/London Lady/Cruel Garden/Strange Little Girl/Fools Rush Out/Old Codger/Love 30/5 Minutes/Grip/Dagenham Dave/Who Wants The World

Hits & Heroes
(2xCD, EMI 521 0892)

Another EMI compilation concentrating on EMI only stuff, this 1999 comp was, for a short time, a (near) definitive overview of the band’s A and B sides from the period. But it was deleted within a couple of years.

It’s a 2 disc affair. Disc 1, is the “hits” disc featuring, as you’d expect, the hits. Disc 2, the “heroes” disc, is more or less a sort of retread of the old 1988 “Rarities” album - B-sides, foreign language singles, the “Bear Cage” 12”, etc. You also get a couple of videos on the CDRom part of disc 1, and a previously unreleased track taped circa 1981 at the end of CD2 - don’t worry, it’s been tagged onto numerous reissues since.

What is most noticeable about this release, apart from it’s mightily impressive artwork, is how 1981’s “Meninblack” album has been airbrushed out of history. Neither the two singles from the LP, nor their corresponding B-sides, are on this record. It’s almost as if somebody knows just how brilliant and underrated that album is, and so has decided to add to the cult by ignoring it entirely. Later pressings of this album neglected to include the second disc, thus making the title slightly odd yet again.

Track listing: Grip/Peaches/Hanging Around/Go Buddy Go/Something Better Change/Straighten Out/No More Heroes/5 Minutes/Nice N Sleazy/Walk On By/Duchess/Nuclear Device/Who Wants The World/Golden Brown/La Folie/Strange Little Girl/No More Heroes (Video)/Duchess (Video)/Golden Brown (Video)/Choosey Susie/Peaches (Edit)/No More Heroes (Edit)/Mony Mony/Mean To Me (“Celia And The Mutations“ version)/Rok It To The Moon/Shut Up/Walk On By (Edit)/Sverige/Old Codger/Fools Rush Out/N’emmenes Pas Harry/Yellowcake UF6/Bear Cage (12” Mix)/Shah Shah A Go Go (12”Mix )/Tomorrow Was The Hereafter/Bring On The Nubiles (Cocktail Version)/The Meninblack (Waiting For ‘Em)/Vietnamerica/Love 30/You Hold The Key To My Love In Your Hands

1 comment:

  1. Re: "The Masters". The Stranglers switched labels from Castle to Eagle in late 1997, and the LP's issued on Castle, via their When Records imprint, were repressed by Eagle in 1998. "The Masters" was issued as a sort of 'story so far' release as regards the material released on the two labels up to that point.