Wednesday, 6 April 2016

"Classic Album Selection: Six Albums 1977-1984" by THE BOOMTOWN RATS (2013 6CD Box Set With 2005 Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...




"…Happy Mondays…" 

Almost a tale of two cities - the three Seventies CDs in this mini box set rock - and a lot better than many would want to credit. But the three Eighties CDs that follow are only redeemed by occasional great singles with the rest of it smothered in dreadful Eighties Production techniques and a distinct lack of tunes. Still it's presented well (gatefold card repro sleeves) - all discs feature the 2005 JON ASTLEY Remasters (he did THE WHO catalogue) - and all have retained their bonus tracks. And at fifteen quid from some online retailers - it's cheap too. Time to do the rat...

Released October 2013 - "Classic Album Selection: Six Albums 1977-1984" is a 6CD Box set on Universal/Mercury 374 275-7 (Barcode 602537427574) and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 - "The Boomtown Rats" - 56:29 minutes:
1. Lookin' After No. 1
2. Mary Of The 4th Form
3. Close As You'll Ever Be
4. Neon Heart
5. Joey's On The Street Again
6. I Can Make It If You Can [Side 2]
7. Never Bite The Hand That Feeds
8. (She's Gonna) Do You In
9. Kicks
Tracks 1 to 9 are their debut album "The Boomtown Rats" released September 1977 in the UK on Ensign Records ENVY 1 and in the USA on Mercury SRM-1-1188.
To sequence the American LP use the following track listing - Side 1: 1, 4, 5, 7, 2 - Side 2: 8, 3, 6, 9
BONUS TRACKS:
10. Doin' It Right - 1975 Live Demo
11. My Blues Away - 1975 Live Demo
12. A Second Time - 1975 Live Demo
13. Fanzine Hero - 1975 Live Demo
14. Barefootin' - Live In Moran's Hotel Dublin, 1975
15. Mary Of The 4th Form - Single Version (November 1977 second UK 7" on Ensign ENY 9)

Disc 2 - "A Tonic For The Troops" - 50:13 minutes:
1. Like Clockwork
2. Blind Date
3. (I Never Loved) Eva Braun
4. Living In An Island
5. Don't Believe What You Read
6. She's So Modern [Side 2]
7. Me And Howard Hughes
8. Can't Stop
9. (Watch Out For) The Normal People
10. Rat Trap
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 2nd album "A Tonic For The Troops" released July 1978 in the UK on Ensign ENVY 3 and in the USA on Columbia JC 35750.
The US album was a mixtures of tracks from the first two albums - you can sequence it as follows - Side 1: 10, 7, 3, 4, 1 [Disc 2] - Side 2: 2, 2 of Disc 1, 5, 6, 5 of Disc 1
BONUS TRACKS:
11. Neon Heart - John Peel Session
12. Do The Rat - non-album track, B-side in the UK to both "Mary Of The 4th Form" in November 1977 on Ensign ENY 9 and "Rat Trap" in October 1978 on Ensign ENY 16)
13. D.U.N. L.A.O.G.H.A.I.R.E  (non-album track, Ireland-Only B-side in 1978 to "Like Clockwork" on Mulligan Records LUN 716. Dun Laoghaire is an area in South Dublin. The LUN in the catalogue number refers to DONAL LUNNY of THE BOTHY BAND who owned the label and Windmill Studios in Dublin where U2 recorded some of their earlier albums)
14. Rat Trap - Live In Stroke

Disc 3 - "The Fine Art Of Surfacing" - 53:03 minutes:
1. Someone's Looking At You
2. Diamond Smiles
3. Wind Chill Factor (Minus Zero)
4. Having My Picture Taken
5. Sleep (Finger's Lullaby)
6. I Don't Like Mondays [Side 2]
7. Nothing Happened Today
8. Keep It Up
9. Nice `N' Neat
10. When The Night Comes
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 3rd album "The Fine Art Of Surfacing" released October 1979 in the UK on Ensign ENROX 11 and in the USA on Columbia JC 36248
11. Episode No. 3
12. Real Different
13. How Do You Do? - non-album track, B-side to the UK release of "Like Clockwork" in June 1978 on Ensign ENY 14)
14. Late Last Night - non-album track, B-side to the UK release of "Diamond Smiles" in November 1979 on Ensign ENY 33
15. Nothing Happened Today - Live In Cardiff

Disc 4 - "Mondo Bongo" - 53:53 minutes:
1. Straight Up
2. The Elephant's Graveyard
3. This Is My Room
4. Another Piece Of Red
5. Hurt Hurts
6. Fall Down
7. Go Man Go
8. Under Their Thumb Is Under My Thumb
9. Banana Republic
10. Whitehall 1212
11. Mood Mambo
Note: The above 12 tracks are how this (2005) CD sequences the songs - however the original British and US LPs `both' had different song line ups. The British LP released December 1980 on Mercury 6359 042 can be sequenced as Side 1: 12, 1, 3, 4, 8 and 9 - Side 2: 6, 2, 10, 7, 5 and 11. The US album on Columbia PC 37062 replaces 11 ("Whitehall 1212") at the end of Side 2 with "Up All Night" which is on "V Deep"- Track 7, Disc 5.
BONUS TRACKS:
12. Cheerio
13. Don't Talk To Me -
14. Arnold Layne - Recorded For TV (Pink Floyd cover - Syd Barrett song)
15. Another Piece Of Red - Live In Portsmouth

Disc 5 - "V Deep" - 58:52 minutes:
1. He Watches It All
2. Never In A Million Years
3. Talking In Code
4. The Bitter End
5. The Little Death
6. A Storm Breaks
7. Up All Night
8. House On Fire
9. Charmed Lives
10. Skin On Skin
11. Say Hi To Mick
Tracks 1 to 11 are their 5th studio album "V Deep" released May 1982 in the UK on Mercury Records 6359 082
BONUS TRACKS:
12. No Hiding Place - non-album track, B-side to the UK 7" single of "Charmed Lives" released June 1982 on Mercury MER 106
13. House On Fire - 12" Dub
14. Up All Night - Long Version

Disc 6 - "In The Long Grass" - 55:09 minutes:
1. Dave
2. Over And Over
3. Drag Me Down
4. A Hold On Me Another Sad Story
5. Tonight Hard Times
6. Lucky
7. An Icicle In The Sun
8. Up Or Down
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 6th and final album "In The Long Grass" released December 1984 in the UK on Mercury Records MERL 38 and in the USA on Columbia PC 39335
BONUS TRACKS:
9. Dave - Single Version - released November 1984 in the UK on Mercury MER 179
10. Walking Downtown  - non-album track, B-side to the UK 12" single of "Tonight" released January 1984 on Mercury MERX 154
11. Precious Time - non-album track, B-side to the UK 7" and 12" single of "Tonight" released January 1984 on Mercury MER 154
12. She's Not The Best - Home Demo

Most fans will notice that each CD mirrors the 2005 JON ASTLEY Remasters (he handled The Who back catalogue) - they're the same and each has superb sound quality. Songs like "When The Night Comes" and "Kicks" sound amazing - full of power and muscle. Speaking of the first album - I've always thought a lot of Punk snobbery came into play when discussing the Rats in the beginning. I think it's a bit of a minor masterpiece of the time. I saw them live in Dublin and they were spitting at old Hippies a year before the Pistols had even debuted their "Never Mind" album. While the punky hits "Lookin' After No. 1" and "Mary Of The 4th Form" are well known - album nuggets like the venomous "(She's Gonna) Do You In", the Willie Nile sounding "Joey's On The Street Again" (with those fabulous guitar breaks towards the end) and best of all "I Can Make It If You Can" - not quite Rock - not Punk either - but somewhere in-between - a lonely Blues with a mean edge.

They went stratospheric with the smart "Tonic" album - a leap forward in songwriting talent and dare we say it - fun. "Blind Date" could well be The Clash on a rocker tip while the break-neck guitars of "Don't Believe What You Read" still stand up and virtually defined that `Rats' sound. But the album is dominated by three great singles - snotty punk wonders "Like Clockwork" and "She's So Modern" and of course the mighty and complicated "Rat Trap" - a British Number 1 in October 1978. The remaster rocks on all of them too.

"The Fine Art Of Surfacing" opens with of my favourites - the slyly infectious "Someone's Looking At You" while the lean guitars of "Diamond Smiles" comes on like Joe Jackson's "Look Sharp!" meets Elvis Costello's "My Aim Is True". "Nice `N' Neat" and the superbly musical "When The Night Comes" end the album in style (those acoustic guitars and keys to the fore like never before). And again the record is dominated by another huge single - "I Don't Like Mondays" - another Number 1 in 1979.

I can still remember the shock of the "Mondo Bongo" LP - I thought it was discordant rubbish. It quickly made the £1 bins only years later and was only saved by two good singles - "Banana Republic" and "The Elephant's Graveyard". Things improved with "V Deep" and tunes like "Never In A Million Years" and "House On Fire". But by the time they got to "In The Long Grass" no-one was listening anymore which is a damn shame because both "Dave" and "A Hold On Me" are excellent even if they're overcooked on the Eighties Production front. The rest of it is drowned in monster production trying to hard to impress.

It's not all genius by any means but when Bob Geldof and his gang hit those sweet notes - they made a racket that still stands up to this day. And I think I met Mary Of The 4th Form in Moran's Hotel in Dublin in 1979 at a Jimi Slevin gig - she was wearing a "Do The Rat" button and spitting at the bouncer on the door (luvverly)...

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