Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Stranglers - Compilation LP's Pt 4

As promised at the end of last year, here is part 4 of what I think will be a 5-part look at The Stranglers compilation albums. As ever, the usual rules apply - either a band endorsed release, something on an affiliated label, or something with the band logo intact, with a running time of no more than 3 CD’s in length and designed for release in the UK. The releases we have here take us from where we left off last time, somewhere around 2005, through to the end of 2009.

Other comps did surface on various labels during the same period, but either tick none of the above boxes, or were technically “overseas” releases (such as the EMI endorsed “10 Great Songs“), so they are exempt again. So many releases appear online nowadays that you never seem to see in the shops, and given that these albums are being made “in the EU” rather than in the UK, it makes it difficult to know what only appeared here as an import - so I have tried to make a judgement on what makes the list. I am not 100% certain that these releases appeared in the order I have put them in, but it should still be vaguely chronological.

The Very Best Of
(CD, Sony 82876 862092)

After “Norfolk Coast” brought the band back into the public eye again, it allowed for a whole new angle on the typical Stranglers comp. The band were back on EMI, the same label who owned the rights to the early period Hugh stuff, and with Sony and EMI now more or less all part of the same big record company, the powers that be obviously couldn’t resist a comp which covered the EMI and Epic years, along with the hit that had previewed “NC”, “Big Thing Coming”.

Now, as a fan of the Mark 2 years, it is difficult for me to look at this one with anything other than a sense of bewilderment. Yes, there would be licensing issues over the China material, but with any chancer being able to get hold of the Eagle stuff, then it wouldn’t have been too hard for Sony to have done the same. But, a combination of ‘trying to keep it within the limits of the label(s)’ and an acceptance that Mark 2 never really had any hits, means that what we have here is a comp that basically jumps at one point from 1990 to 2004. Couldn’t we at least have had “Lies And Deception” and “In Heaven She Walks”?

So this is a Mark 1 and Mark 3 compilation. Trouble is, the average punter wouldn’t be none the wiser, given that there is no mention - nor photo - of either Paul or Baz in the artwork. Bit crap if you ask me. JJ was apparently disinterested in this release, and only agreed to be interviewed about it if he could promote the nearly finished “Suite XVI” in any interviews. As such, a plug for said LP does appear within the booklet.

Apart from the obviously great tunes, the rest of the package feels a bit cheap. Dull title, bizarrely boring cover - if the logo had been printed normally, it would probably have at least worked in a sort of minimalist fashion - and, in all honesty, another best of that, Mark 3 inclusion aside, simply covers the same bases as before but just in a different order. 2002’s “Peaches” feels a bit more ‘classy’, whilst “The Hit Men” is a lot more expansive. Within a year or so, EMI had released another collection, a sort of “superseded best of“, and this one got deleted, so copies aren’t always easy to hunt down. Some edits are included, but not necessarily the ones listed in the CD booklet.

Tracklisting: No More Heroes/Something Better Change/Peaches/Golden Brown/Nice N Sleazy/Duchess/Grip/Nice In Nice/Hanging Around/Skin Deep/All Day And All Of The Night (7” Mix)/Strange Little Girl/European Female/No Mercy/Big In America/Let Me Down Easy/Midnight Summer Dream (Edit)/Walk On By (Edit)/Big Thing Coming/Always The Sun (Edit)/96 Tears (Edit)

10 Track Collectors Album
(CD, Bigtime no cat no)

This release is either the band indulging in a subversive manner, or was done without their knowledge. This 2006 newspaper freebie was given away with “The Mail On Sunday”, a notoriously right wing paper that politically, seems to be the polar opposite of everything The Stranglers stand for. Perhaps the band just wanted to get their music to an audience that didn’t really know about them, or maybe, given that this is a Roberts-era compilation released after he had left the band, it appeared without the group even knowing.

Either way, it’s an unusual release in that the sources used for the material are not the usual suspects - a lot of this is Mark 3 doing Mark 1, and so rather than the old trick used on most Roberts comps of lifting material from the Royal Albert Hall gig, the recordings here are from a varied mish mash of sources. A handful of songs potentially could have come from several different releases, I have tried to list where I think they came from. But even if I am wrong, all of the material here is previously released somewhere, so it shouldn’t matter too much.

The last 4 songs on the CD can only be played as a CD-Rom, and are of the “limited play” variety - a handful of freebies at the time were released like this, whereby a count would be made of how many times you played the songs, and once you’d reached your limit, that was that. I suppose this was designed to get you to buy the regular LP upon which these songs appeared, which in this instance, was the most recent studio effort “Norfolk Coast”.

Tracklisting: Golden Brown (“Laid Black” version)/Walk On By (“Laid Black” version)/European Female (“Laid Black” version)/Peaches (“On Stage On Screen“ version)/Something Better Change (“Euro Live“ version)/Big Thing Coming (“On Stage On Screen” version)/Strange Little Girl (“Laid Black” version)/5 Minutes (“Euro Live“ version)/Always The Sun (“On Stage On Screen” version)/No More Heroes (“On Stage On Screen” version)/Norfolk Coast/Long Black Veil/Lost Control/Mine All Mine

In Retrospect
(CD, Elap 5048671 2)

Whilst you might have thought there had been enough “Eagle era” Mark 2 comps by 2007, somebody somewhere obviously thought otherwise, and this single disc job dutifully turned up. Suffice to say, it doesn’t really do anything that all the others hadn’t already done, but it does look quite nice - the logo, the same typeface as that used on “Friday The 13th”, it looks quite neat. But, of course, it doesn’t include anything that you probably don’t already own, and the slight randomness of the thing means it doesn’t really tick many boxes.

As such, when I bought mine, it was shrinkwrapped, and so it stayed shrinkwrapped. To clarify, it’s a mix of live tunes from “Friday”, both of the Mark 1 and Mark 2 vintage, and a few bits and pieces from “Written In Red” and “Coup De Grace”. I think it may actually be a German only release, with UK copies theoretically imported over from the EU, but it’s here anyway because I can‘t prove otherwise and I like the cover. The album itself shows a 2006 copyright, but net searches suggest an early 07 release.

Tracklisting: No More Heroes (Live)/Waltzinblack (Live)/Valley Of The Birds (Live)/Always The Sun (Live)/God Is Good/All Day And All Of The Night (Live)/Coup De Grace/Summer In The City/Wonderful Land/Golden Brown (Live)/Lies And Deception (Live)/The Light

(2xCD, Primo PRMCD 2004)

In my last compilation albums blog, I referred to 2003’s infamous “Gold” release. Well, it seems as though somebody pretty soon realised the bloody big mistake that had been made on that one, and decided to take the two discs and repackage them more “correctly”.

2007’s “Anthology” is thus the very same album, but in a new sleeve with new title. Calling a compilation that runs from 1995 to 1998 only “Anthology” is a bit of a misnomer, unless the inclusion of a live “Down In The Sewer” (by Mark 2) is used to claim that this therefore “covers” a period from 1977 onwards. No it doesn’t.

Trouble is...the front cover looks nice, and features a quite impressive image of four shadowy Meninblack. And therein lies the problem. This is either a reference to the original Mark 1 lineup, or the by-now new Mark 4 line up, but this is a 5-man Mark 2 job from start to finish. Black crosses all round again then. My copy is sealed, so no idea what it looks like inside, perhaps Hugh is lurking in there once more.

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

The Story So Far
(2xCD, EMI 397 2972)

Now, I don’t own this one, it seemed to get deleted quite quickly to make way for the - unreleased - “Forty Two Forty”, so I can only tell you what it says on the tin. Another Mark 2-less EMI release, this one is arguably even more bizarre than “The Very Best Of” given that it covers the EMI years only, and thus makes an even bigger jump by leaping from 1982 to 2004. At least Baz makes it onto the cover this time.

A sort of alternate history, album tracks appear in place of some of the big hits, with a couple of live tunes from “Live X Cert” thrown in for good measure. I guess, if you were one of those who “rediscovered” the band in the noughties, then this one might be for you, but a compilation claiming to be “The Story So Far” that is missing both “Still Life” and “Too Precious” (amongst countless others) is a bit of a head-scratcher, IMO. Nice to see “Bear Cage” here though.

Tracklisting: Peaches/Grip/London Lady/Ugly/Dagenham Dave (Live)/I Feel Like A Wog/Bring On The Nubiles/Bitching/No More Heroes/English Towns/Peasant In The Big Shitty/Tank/Sweden/Nice N Sleazy/Mean To Me/Walk On By/Shut Up/In The Shadows/Nuclear Device/The Raven/Don’t Bring Harry/Duchess/5 Minutes (Live)/Bear Cage/Just Like Nothing On Earth/Thrown Away/Waiting For The Meninblack/Non Stop/Strange Little Girl/Tramp/La Folie/Golden Brown/Big Thing Coming/Norfolk Coast/Unbroken/Spectre Of Love

The Best Of
(CD, Eagle STRUP 1)

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure if I should include this one, given that it’s more of a mini album, but it seems to be a newspaper freebie (Daily Star Sunday) release in conjunction with Eagle, so it sort of meets the criteria.

The band logo also appears, although it seems to be an “artists interpretation” of it, as it looks a bit squashed. And despite the title, this is nothing more really than seven Mark 1 hits performed by Mark 2, from the RAH once more.

Why only seven songs? Well, at the time, a lot of these newspaper freebies were surfacing where the second half of the disc was taken up by material by what seemed to be an unsigned act, I guess the idea was you would listen to it and if you liked what you heard, then you would try and find out more about them. But I never did.

Tracklisting: Golden Brown (Live)/Strange Little Girl (Live)/Skin Deep (Live)/Always The Sun (Live)/No More Heroes (Live)/Duchess (Live)/All Day And All Of The Night (Live)

(CD, Camden 88697 556802)

A real oddity this one. As the title suggests, this compilation features material from the ten year period leading up to Cornwell’s departure, from 1981 to 1990. But given that this means you have a compilation covering all of the Epic years, and part of the EMI ones, what exactly is the reason behind this insanity?

One argument is that it represents the more “pop” period of the band, away from all the gobbing and snarling that accompanied the earlier releases. But it still seems a bit random. The opening two songs do admittedly come close to what follows - “Golden Brown” famously was never released in the US when first issued as a single in the UK, but was then shoehorned onto the American copy of 1983’s “Feline”, whilst “Strange Little Girl” was of course the EMI swansong 45. But still, the link between these two and the remainder of the album - Epic era hits and album tracks - seems mightily tenuous.

It looks nice, and some of the songs are making it onto a compilation album for the first time in their career, but whether or not you need this in your life is another question. It was released on the RCA budget label Camden, so copies shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg if you are interested.

Tracklisting: Golden Brown/Strange Little Girl/European Female/All Roads Lead To Rome/Skin Deep/No Mercy/Spain/North Winds/Always The Sun (Edit)/Nice In Nice/Was It You (Unreleased 7” Mix)/All Day And All Of The Night/96 Tears/You’ll Always Reap What You Sow/Never Say Goodbye/Never To Look Back

The UA Singles 1977-1982
(3xCD, EMI 50999 968843 2 4)

Here’s the thing. If we ignore boxsets, those of the “four CD’s or more variety”, then there had not been one Stranglers comp by 2008 that had managed to get all the EMI era B-sides into one place. 1988’s “Rarities” had stuck a few of them together, and 1997’s “The Collection” had come close to achieving it, but not quite. And so it was that this 2009 release had the honour of finally putting all of the Mark 1 EMI b-sides into one collection.

What we have here, in essence, is a repressing over three discs, of the two early-noughties singles boxsets that EMI had issued. Those two boxes had included, quite unusually, album freebies and overseas singles alongside the usual standard UK 45’s, and this set takes everything found on those boxes, and crams them into a triple CD bundle.

As such, there is actually TOO MUCH here. “Walk On By” appears in both it’s jukebox edit and full length form, because - of course - it was released as both a freebie and a commercial 45. In order to account for this curio, one of the discs in the boxset opted to include the radio mix instead of using the album mix as per the other disc, to avoid repetition. And thus, both mixes appear here.

You also get the radio edit of “La Folie” for, I think, two reasons. In some countries, the single was pressed using the UK catalogue number, but played the shorter mix. UK copies also listed the timing for the edit on the label, but played the album version. So, both versions appeared in the original boxset, and so, both appear here. Also here are the two foreign language 45’s, and the entirety of the “Don’t Bring Harry” EP, meaning you get a Cornwell solo tune and a live Burnel one thrown in as well. Also in are the 7” and 12” mixes of both sides of the “Bear Cage” single. Bonus. If you are new to the band, I would suggest trying to find the original boxes, but they’re probably worth a fortune now, so this is the best place to start with the early years. It took even longer to release an album with all the Epic flipsides in one place (only this year, in fact), and we shall look at that release in a future blog.

Tracklisting: Grip/London Lady/Peasant In The Big Shitty (Live)/Choosey Susie/Peaches/Go Buddy Go/Something Better Change/Straighten Out/No More Heroes/In The Shadows/5 Minutes/Rok It To The Moon/Nice N Sleazy/Shut Up/Walk On By/Mean To Me/Tits/Walk On By (Edit)/Old Codger/Tank/Duchess/Fools Rush Out/Nuclear Device/Yellowcake UF6/Don’t Bring Harry/Wired/Crabs (Live)/In The Shadows (Live)/Bear Cage (7” Mix)/(12” Mix)/Shah Shah A Go Go (LP Mix)/(12” Mix)/Sverige/N’Emmenes Pas Harry/Who Wants The World/The Meninblack (Waiting For ‘Em)/Thrown Away/Top Secret/Just Like Nothing On Earth/Maninwhite/Let Me Introduce You To The Family/Vietnamerica/Golden Brown/Love 30/La Folie (LP Mix)/(Edit)/Waltzinblack/Strange Little Girl/Cruel Garden

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