Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Stranglers - Compilation LP's Pt 3

Come the millennium, and The Stranglers Mark 2 became The Stranglers Mark 3, following the departure of guitarist John Ellis and his replacement by Barry “Baz” Warne. From an outsiders point of view, this change did not seem to have much of an impact - for many, this was still a Cornwell-less version of the band, and a change of guitarist wasn’t going to mean much to them.

Indeed, at first, the band still seemed like very much a cult concern. Following the release of 1998’s “Coup De Grace”, the band were now label-less, and the Mark 3 line up made their debut via a live album on the German SPV label, “5 Live 01” - to be fair, The Who did a similar thing a year or so later. It was then followed by an album of acoustic re-workings, “Laid Black”, issued as a mail order only release - which was either the sound of a band giving something special back “to the fans”, or a group thinking to themselves, “we have no chance of getting somebody to release this for us, we’ll have to do it ourselves”. But by 2004, the band were back in the public eye - they were resigned to EMI, had a critically acclaimed LP out in the form of “Norfolk Coast” and even managed to get back into the singles charts with a top 40 hit in the form of “Big Thing Coming”, which by charting at number 31, was thus a bigger hit - at least statistics wise - than the likes of “Who Wants The World” or “Big In America”.

In the years between Ellis’s departure, and the release of “Norfolk Coast”, various labels continued to mine the band’s back catalogue. You can’t help but think that this was possibly a bad thing, it almost gave you the impression that the “old stuff was the best” and that these releases were possibly damaging the reputation of the group. Indeed, some of these releases were woeful in terms of their design, even if the music was actually good, and it didn’t really help that the band’s history was being slightly dented by shabby unauthorised jobs like “Out Of The Black” or “Gold”.

This article looks at most of the comps issued in that inbetween period from 2000 to 2003. As ever, anything with the band logo on is included, but anything that does not and seems not to have been released on a label affiliated with any of the band’s former labels are not listed. Maybe another time. Boxsets are excluded, we are really dealing with single or double albums concerning themselves with previously available material.

The Stranglers
(CD, Armoury ARMCD 053)

Before we look at this 2001 collection, it makes sense just to cover briefly the Mark 2 years as regards recording contracts.

After Cornwell’s departure, the band’s deal with Epic came to an end. It seems that nobody was interested in signing a Hugh-less version of the group, and so the band formed their own Psycho Records imprint. They inked a distribution deal with China Records, and their eleventh studio album, “Stranglers In The Night” appeared in the late summer of 1992, although it had been completed many months earlier.

Although the album went top 40, none of the singles did, and it was considered that the failure of these 45’s was due to a lack of marketing and other faults at China, and the band jumped ship. In 1995, they were signed to Castle Communications, a label primarily associated with video and reissue releases, but they had created a new imprint, When Records, and The Stranglers would see their new material being issued on this label. Their twelfth studio album, “About Time”, became the first release on When, and 1997’s “Written In Red” also appeared on this imprint.

At around about this time, a number of Castle employees split off to form their own company, Eagle Rock Entertainment. Like Castle, Eagle Rock would become quite well known for their video output, but an audio imprint was to be created, Eagle Music. Similar to when Bowie moved from Philips to Mercury in 1970, the band were shifted sideways from When to Eagle, and their next LP, a live record called “Friday The 13th”, appeared on Eagle. The Castle material then fell under the ownership of Eagle Music. 1998’s “Coup De Grace” was the only new Stranglers studio album to be issued by Eagle.

Armoury were a sister label to Eagle, and this originally titled comp was, to be fair, an interesting release, as it showcased what the Mark 2 lineup got up to during the second half of the 90’s. I would like to think that it’s lack of a title was a nod to the fact that “Rattus Norvegicus” famously only had it’s title printed on the spine and rear cover, but I doubt it. But the slight problem is that because the China material was missing - a combination of licensing issues, and I guess, the fact that several Mark 1 comps sometimes offered only EMI or Epic material, so you get a similar story here - it’s only telling you part of the story. Nice, although the track listing seems a bit random (why isn’t “Valley Of The Birds” at the start, like it was on “WIR”?), but the trouble was, this was the start of an onslaught of China-less Mark 2 releases, none of which really did anything that this one didn’t already achieve.

It is also worth mentioning that, for reasons never fully explained, The Stranglers recorded two completely different songs with the same title on both “Written In Red” and “Coup De Grace”, a track called “Miss You”. Most of the Mark 2 comps that followed usually included one or the other, and the relevant version is listed where necessary.

Tracklisting: Money/Golden Brown (Live)/Still Life/Paradise Row/No More Heroes (Live)/Lies And Deception/God Is Good/And The Boat Sails By/The Light/Joy De Viva/In A While/Miss You (“WIR” version)/In The End/Blue Sky/Valley Of The Birds

Lies And Deception
(2xCD, Snapper SMDCD 373)

Aside from simply putting all of the Eagle material into one big box, which one label did at one point in the Noughties, the only other way you could argue for the need for another comp from this period would be either for one to include the B-sides from the period (which none bothered to do), or to issue a double CD’s worth of material. This 2002 one goes down the latter route.

It comes in quite a nice cover, and is split into live and studio material. CD1 includes the entire “Friday The 13th” set (at least, as regards the original CD release - the VHS included extra tracks), whilst the second CD is a random trawl through the three studio albums, including both the Mark 2 singles that Castle issued during that period. It also includes the other version of “Miss You”, and ends with “Summer In The City”, which had been a Stranglers set closer in 1997. This really should have been the final word on post 1994 Mark 2 material, but really, it was only the beginning.

Tracklisting: Waltzinblack (Live)/Valley Of The Birds (Live)/Skin Deep (Live)/Always The Sun (Live)/Face (Live)/Daddy’s Riding The Range (Live)/Strange Little Girl (Live)/Still Life (Live)/Let Me Down Easy (Live)/Golden Brown (Live)/Lies And Deception (Live)/European Female (Live)/All Day And All Of The Night (Live)/Duchess (Live)/Down In The Sewer (Live)/5 Minutes (Live)/No More Heroes (Live)/Face/Coup De Grace/Blue Sky/Valley Of The Birds/God Is Good/Lies And Deception/Known Only Unto God/Golden Boy/In Heaven She Walks/In The End/Still Life/Miss You (“Coup De Grace” version)/Sinister/Summer In The City

Peaches: The Very Best Of
(CD, EMI 7243 540 2022 3)

In 2001, EMI had reissued all of the United Artists/Liberty albums again, having previously reissued them in the late 80’s before deleting them in the 90’s. The following year, this best of appeared, I guess, as a sort of companion release, although it actually covered the full Mark 1 period from 1977 right through to 1990.

Again, I kind of like this one. It’s got an impressive cover, it reminds me of the Mexican “Sticky Fingers” cover, and although the running order is a bit random, you could almost imagine hearing the band play these songs in this order on stage, and it sort of runs in chronological order - it starts with “Peaches” and ends with “96 Tears”.

OK, so there’s nothing massively rare, but there are a few nice things - “Straighten Out”, my favourite Stranglers 45, the radio edit of “Walk On By”, the 1989 remix of “Grip” and the 1990 short remix of “Always The Sun”. It is biased towards the UA years, as you might expect, but at least the really big hitters from the Epic years are here. Of course, given that 1996’s “The Hit Men” had covered the same ground, and in greater detail, it does sort of make this one a bit defunct, but it still has something.

Tracklisting: Peaches/Golden Brown/Walk On By (Radio Edit)/No More Heroes/Skin Deep/Hanging Around/All Day And All Of The Night (7” Mix)/Straighten Out/Nice N Sleazy/Strange Little Girl/Who Wants The World/Something Better Change/Always The Sun (Sunny Side Up Mix)/European Female/Grip 89/Duchess/5 Minutes/Don’t Bring Harry/La Folie/96 Tears (Edit)

The Rarities
(CD, EMI 7243 541 0792 4)

When the UA/Liberty years albums were reissued in the late 80s, selected rarities from the period were tagged onto most of the reissues (although “Rattus” got none). The majority of the band’s B-sides et al were then put together on the rather excellent “Rarities” set from 1988, although the vinyl edition featured a shorter track listing.

To coincide with EMI‘s revamped reissue campaign of the early noughties, the decision was taken to issue a new companion rarities set. Given that most of the stuff on the 1988 job was now on the reissued LP’s, this 2002 edition - complete with totally new cover - went down a far more obscure route. Basically, anything that had been issued somewhere before but had not been tagged onto the reissues, was shoved onto this one instead.

As such, it’s quite eclectic. What do you get? Both sides of the “Tomorrow Was the Hereafter” fan club 7”, the two foreign language 45’s from the 70’s, the edits of “Walk On By”, “Heroes” and “Peaches”, “You Hold The Key” from the now deleted “Hits And Heroes” set (although it did also make the running order of the reissued “La Folie”), the Celia & The Mutations single, and everything else from the “Strangled” CD from 1993, including the “non Stranglers“ solo material. The slightly odd thing is, whilst the reissues obviously just covered the EMI years (77-82), this one included “The Beast” (from 1984) and “Mr Big” (a Mark 2 outing from 1991). Strange but true. No radio edit of “La Folie” by the way, but as it was included on an EMI singles boxset issued round about the same time, that might explain that omission.

Tracklisting: You Hold The Key To My Love In Your Hands/Bring On The Nubiles (Cocktail Version)/Tomorrow Was The Hereafter/N’Emmenes Pas Harry/Sverige/Walk On By (Edit)/Mean To Me (“Celia And The Mutations” version)/Mony Mony/No More Heroes (Edit)/Peaches (Edit)/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

Sweet Smell Of Success - The Best Of The Epic Years
(CD, Epic 5099 750 982624)

Not to be confused with the earlier “The Best Of The Epic Years”, this 2003 release is a curious addition to the catalogue. Given that the earlier 1997 Epic Years set featured all the singles, in order, plus more, you do have to wonder what else you could do with the songs from this period. Well, what this one does is firstly put the 13 singles from the period in reverse release date order, and the leftover space is then taken up by some live material, taped during the band’s time on the label.

This allowed the label to shoe horn on material originally recorded during the band’s tenure on United Artists, so several big hitters from that period - “Peaches”, “No More Heroes”, “Golden Brown” - are thus, rather cheekily, able to squeeze onto this release. The version of “Peaches” is a version that was taped in France during the band's time on Epic, and previously only appeared on the 2001 expanded edition of “All Live And All Of The Night”, whilst the other live tracks are sourced from the same album, either being songs on the original 1988 release or bonus tracks from the 2001 edition that had previously appeared as B-sides whilst the band were still on Epic. Although one of my earlier blogs referred to this version of "Peaches" as being from the 1990 tour, it may actually date from 1985 - on that particular tour, Cornwell used to alter the line "is she trying to get out of that clitoris" with a reference to a type of car, which he does as well on this version, and given that several French shows from April 1985 were officially recorded by the band, a 1985 recording date seems more likely.

Tracklisting: Sweet Smell Of Success (Edit)/96 Tears/All Day And All Of The Night/Shakin’ Like A Leaf/Big In America/Always The Sun (Edit)/Nice In Nice/Let Me Down Easy/No Mercy/Skin Deep/Paradise/Midnight Summer Dream (Edit)/European Female/Strange Little Girl (Live, Reading Festival 1987)/Golden Brown (Live, 1987)/Who Wants The World (Live, Reading Festival 1987)/Nuclear Device (Live, Alexandra Palace 1990)/Nice N Sleazy (Live, 1987)/No More Heroes (Live, 1987)/Peaches (Live In France)

Live N Sleazy
(2xCD, Music Club MCCD 533)

Hmmm. Whilst I have to admit the title is quite clever, it’s difficult to know what this 2003 set is trying to do that “Lies And Deception” didn’t. Disc 1 is, again, the “Friday The 13th” set, albeit with one song missing, for some reason. Disc 2 is another slightly random trawl through the post-”Stranglers In The Night” Mark 2 days, although the songs do appear chronologically, which is a nice touch.

But what is a bit strange, is that neither the two 45’s from the period appear in studio form, so this is a full blown ‘best of the album tracks’ trundle. Can I just say that I really like some of this stuff (“Face”, “Joy De Viva”, “Coup De Grace”), but it’s still a slightly pointless release.

Tracklisting: Waltzinblack (Live)/Valley Of The Birds (Live)/Skin Deep (Live)/Always The Sun (Live)/Daddy’s Riding The Range (Live)/Strange Little Girl (Live)/Still Life (Live)/Let Me Down Easy (Live)/Golden Brown (Live)/Lies And Deception (Live)/European Female (Live)/All Day And All Of The Night (Live)/Duchess (Live)/Down In The Sewer (Live)/5 Minutes (Live)/No More Heroes (Live)/Paradise Row/Sinister/Face/Golden Boy/Money/And The Boat Sails By/Lucky Finger/Summer In The City/Joy De Viva/Miss You (“WIR” version)/Wonderful Land/Coup De Grace/No Reason/The Light

Miss You
(CD, Membran Music 220779-205)

There are some that will tell you this is technically a German only import, but it’s always been difficult to tell what the difference is between a European release, and a record pressed in Europe for release in the UK and beyond. But I like the cover again, so here it is.

It’s another 1994-1999 Mark 2 job, released in 2003. Coming on the back of several double disc sets, it’s automatically going to fail because it’s a single disc job. So you get a few “Mark 2 do Mark 1 at the Albert Hall” cuts again, one Mark 2 single, some random album stuff seemingly in a random order, and that’s it. Not much more to say really.

Tracklisting: Silver Into Blue/No More Heroes (Live)/Blue Sky/Joy De Viva/Coup De Grace/God Is Good/No Reason/Miss You (“Coup De Grace” version)/Little Blue Lies/Golden Brown (Live)/Valley Of The Birds/Lucky Finger/Strange Little Girl (Live)/Always The Sun (Live)/Summer In The City/Lies And Deception

(2xCD, Deja Vu Retro R2CD42-57)

Now, of all the Mark 2 comps, this one is famously the most controversial. Issued in 2003, it comes in quite an impressive looking front cover, and is a double-CD set in a thick double jewel case, inside a slipcase. So it all looks quite posh. Then flip it over...wait a minute, isn’t that Hugh? Yes it is. A Mark 2 comp, featuring nothing but photos of the Mark 1 lineup throughout! So either somebody putting this together had no knowledge of the band, or they thought they could somehow dupe somebody into buying this on the basis that it was a load of unreleased songs from 1978, that all just happened to share their titles with Mark 2 songs. Bizarre.

That said, listen to it from start to finish, and it’s quite enjoyable. A certain amount of thought seems to have gone into the track listing - “Waltzinblack”/”Valley Of The Birds” opens proceedings, “All Day” ends disc 1, “God Is Good” opens disc 2, “Down In The Sewer” appears near the end, but quite whether you need this record in your life is another question.

Of note, and this may apply to some of the other best ofs that have only selected live tracks from the RAH gig, is that the intro to “Always The Sun” on this one fades in, thus creating a mini rarity.

Tracklisting: Waltzinblack (Live)/Valley Of The Birds (Live)/Strange Little Girl (Live)/Summer In The City/Lies And Deception (Live)/Here/Tonight/Miss You (“WIR” Version)/Always The Sun (Live)/Known Only Unto God/Wonderful Land/Let Me Down Easy (Live)/Joy De Viva/All Day And All Of The Night (Live)/God Is Good/No Reason/5 Minutes (Live)/No More Heroes (Live)/In Heaven She Walks/The Light/Blue Sky/Golden Brown (Live)/Down In The Sewer (Live)/Jump Over My Shadow/Coup De Grace

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