Thursday, 25 February 2016

"A Step in The Right Direction: Singles, Demos, BBC Live, 1983-1984" by THE TRUTH (2016 Cherry 3CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...No Stone Unturned..."

Arising out of the ashes of two British R&B bands – Dennis Greaves of Nine Below Zero and Mick Lister of The Stowaways formed The Truth in 1982 – aligning themselves with Mod Revivalists like Paul Weller's The Style Council and Kevin Rowland's Dexy's Midnight Runners. A bidding war ensued and they went with Formation Records (a part of the Warners Group) – where they promptly pumped out three hugely revered sevens before being dropped (the Formation album never materialised). The Truth then signed with I.R.S. Records and released three LPs proper in 1985, 1987 and 1989 ("Playground", "Weapons Of Love" and "Jump").

This rather stunning and in-depth mini box set from those pioneering chappies over at CHERRY RED has decided however to concentrate solely on their FORMATION RECORDS beginnings and all that surrounded it. You therefore get the first three singles (45s and 12s) with some demos and a whopping two whole discs full of incendiary live concerts from 1983 and 1984 – all of it spread across three fully kitted-out CDs. There's a lot of Mod good stuff to contend with - so once more unto the short haircuts, tight shirts and white boys with big dreams of black music...

UK released 22 January 2016 (29 Jan 2016 in the USA) – "A Step in The Right Direction: Singles, Demos, BBC Live, 1983-1984" by THE TRUTH on Cherry Red CDTRED675 (Barcode 5013929167537) is a 58-Track Mini Box Set with a 20-Page Booklet and 3CDs that play out as follows:

Disc 1 – THE SINGLES (53:36 minutes):
1. Confusion (Hits Us Everytime)
2. Me And My Girl
Tracks 1 and 2 are the A&B-sides of their debut UK 7" single released June 1983 on WEA/Formation TRUTH 1

3. A Step In The Right Direction
4. Beat Generation
5. What You Want Me To Say
6. Second Time Lucky
Tracks 3 to 6 are A&B-sides of their 2nd UK 7" single – a 4-Track EP released August 1983 on WEA/Formation TRUTH 2E. Producers Steve Jolley and Tony Swain wrote the A-side - the other three are Truth originals. See also Track 13...

7. No Stone Unturned
8. Flesh And Fantasy
Tracks 7 and 8 are the A&B-sides of their 3rd UK 7" single released August 1984 on WEA/Formation YZ1

9. Don't Tell Me
Track 9 is the 2nd B-side to the 'red' vinyl UK 12" single for "No Stone Unturned" released August 1984 on WEA/Formation YZ1T

10. Love A Go-Go (Live)
11. From The Heart (Live)
12. Nothing's Too Good For My Baby (Live)
Tracks 10 to 12 are the B-side of the 12" single for "Confusion (Hits Us Everytime)" on WEA/Formation TRUTH 1T (the two A-sides are tracks 1 and 2). The B's were recorded 27 March 1983 in The Marquee, London. "From The Heart" is a Truth original song - but "Love A Go-Go" is a cover of a 1967 US 7" single on Westwood W 12367 by THE LIME – while "Nothing's Too Good For My Baby" is a cover of a 1966 Stevie Wonder 7" single on Tamla T 54130 written by Smokey Robinson (with others). The A-side (Track 1) and the three B-sides (Tracks 10 to 12) were also issued as double x 7" single pack on TRUTH 1F.

13. I Get So Excited (Live) – 3rd B-side on the August 1983 UK 12" Single for "A Step In The Right Direction" on WEA/Formation TRUTH 2T

14. Come On (Demo)
15. If I Ever Find Love (Demo)
16. Instrumental (Demo)
17. Look My Way (Demo)
18. Sweet Sensation (Demo)

Disc 2 – LIVE AT THE BBC (73:58 minutes):
In Concert at the Paris Theatre, London 19 Nov 1983
1. Exception Of Love
2. Listen To What I Say
3. Always On My Mind
4. Is There A Solution?
5. Beat Generation
6. The Sweetest Feeling
7. You Play With My Emotions
8. Second Time Lucky
9. A Step In The Right Direction
10. I Just Can't Seem To Stop

Live at Goldiggers, Chippenham (Broadcast 14 Jan 1984)
11. Confusion (Hits Us Everytime) (excerpt)
12. Exception Of Love
13. Listen To What I Say
14. Always On My Mind
15. Is There A Solution?
16. No Stone Unturned
17. A Step In The Right Direction
18. Second Time Lucky
19. It's A Miracle
20. You Play With My Emotions
21. I Just Can't Seem To Stop
22. Flesh And Fantasy

Disc 3 – LIVE AT THE MARQUEE (62:24 minutes):
1. Love A Go-Go
2. Listen To What I Say
3. Me And My Girl
4. Out Of Darkness
5. Always On My Mind
6. Is There A Solution?
7. Confusion (Hits Us Everytime)
8. You Play With my Emotions
9. What You Want Me To Say
10. It's A Miracle
11. Don't You Just Know It
12. Come On
13. I Just Can’t Seem To Stop
14. Nothing’s Too Good For My Baby
15. Reach Out I'll Be There
16. I'm In Tune

17. Ain't Nothing But A House Party (Live)
18. I Get So Excited (Live)

Compiled by the mighty JOHN REED (with his ever-impressive knowledge and passion for the music) - the outer slipcase, three 5" card sleeves (all with different live shots) and 20-page colour booklet with liner notes from LOIS WILSON (of Mojo Magazine) is all very tastefully laid out (and tactile too). Lois features interviews with principal band members Dennis Greaves and Mick Lister while the text is peppered with memorabilia from the period – badges, 7" single picture sleeves, press reviews, trade adverts, set lists, concert posters and tickets (supporting The Kinks in Aylesbury) and even live shots from The Marquee gigs. It looks and feels very Mod revivalist and obviously has had input from the band. SIMON MURPHY has done the Remasters at Another Planet and everything rocks along like a 60ts Soul gig. These CDs sound great...

From the get-go you're hit with the Dexy's comparisons. The very British Pop Soul of "Confusion (Hits Us Everytime)" comes at you like Haircut One Hundred finding a pile of Stax singles in Dennis Greaves' sister's house. On both it and "Me And My Girl" – the Bass is right up there in the mix (I often thought the B-side better than the more popular A). "A Step In The Right Direction" is so Style Council it might actually fall over Paul Weller and Mick Talbot's untied shoelaces. Far better for me is the Monkees-happy flipside "The Beat Generation" – a song that like The Clash's "Train In Vain" makes you just want to dance and throw undignified Eighties shapes despite the possible jail-sentence they might elicit. Again you get big Slap Bass with "What You Want Me To Say" - the song sounding clean and punchy (the Steve Jolley and Tony Swain production is very polished).

Of the live stuff – it becomes apparent pretty quickly that The Truth were 'tight' as a band onstage – rip-roaring with palatable passion through British Mod Soulful takes of The Equals hit "I Get So Excited" – all the studio restraints of the band lost. Hot like Graham Parker's Rumour or Elvis Costello's Attractions - they goad the crowd to sing-a-long to the wickedly good "Love A Go-Go" (which they do enthusiastically). Live staples like "Exception Of Love", "Always On My Mind", "It's A Miracle" and "You Play With My Emotions" would eventually turn on the first I.R.S. LP "Playground" in 1985 (I.R.S Records MIRF 1001) - while the bopping "Out Of The Darkness" would become a flipside for the first I.R.S. single "Exception Of Love" (IR 103).

Featuring half-decent studio quality - sonically the 'demos' are in far better shape than I thought they would be. "Come On" pounds out of the speakers with intent easily capturing their combustible 'live' excitement - while "If I Ever Find Love" could be The Jam circa “The Gift”. The tape announces 5 October 1982 as the recording date for the imaginatively entitled "Instrumental" which is – em – an instrumental. The tape source is a tad wobbly for sure but it still sounds good (great guitar and rhythm). 'Pretty' is the word to describe "Look My Way" - while "Sweet Sensation" returns to Organ and Drums with a bopping vengeance.

It's hardly surprising Cherry Red have used two whole CDs to give fans the band in a 'live' context – because this is where they 'rock'. There's plenty of space and oomph in Paris Theatre recordings where Greaves sounds not unlike a very musical Joe Jackson on the lovely "Always On My Mind". The live version of "Sweet Sensation" takes the crowd by storm – bopping like some joyful Tamla seven – very cool and very tight. The audio on the Goldiggers gig drops a fraction it has to be said but even after three decades the whole concert still feels fresh – "Is There A Solution?" and the ballad "It's A Miracle" coming off best.

Fans are going to love this release and wonder what could have been had Formation Records gotten that album out. Well done to Cherry Red for keeping the truth...

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