The Inmates: The Albums 1979-1982 (Captain Oi!/Cherry Red Records)
During a recording career that is spanned in this 3CD box (1979-1982) U.K. quintet The Inmates managed to enjoy the succulent taste of chart success for a short but sweet moment. The band didn’t actually boast a unique sound for the time yet they successfully carved out a special place in the hearts of many post pub-rock music fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Considering the overt Dr. Feelgood/Rockpile vibe going on with this band they still had a lot going for them and that is what should get your money flowing in the direction of this set as soon as possible.
The box contains the first three albums in reproduction album jackets along with a 20-page booklet. Both “First Offence” and “Shot In The Dark” were commercially available at the time of their release but third album “Heatwave In Alaska” was only released in France due to a record company change at the time. As CDs the trio have only ever been available in Japan so to have them all together in one neat unit is a boon to fans, myself included. Each disc has bonus material.
“First Offence” contains their only (U.S.) hit single in the cover of The Standell’s 1966 garage rock stormer “Dirty Water”. The album was produced by the legendary Vic Maile (Motorhead, The Pirates, Dr. Feelgood, The Who) and there is no doubt that he felt the band under his guidance could become the new, younger Dr. Feelgood sans the personality and songwriting challenges that band presented. With guitarist/songwriter Peter “Gunn” Staines heavy on the pen “Mr. Unreliable” is a real standout here as it reaches back just enough to sound like old school garage rock yet has enough modern attitude to get high marks. The overt slow blues of “If Time Could Turn Backwards” finds the band in a distinctive mode yet one in which they sound completely comfortable and right. The album also features The Rumour horn section on a few tracks including the Feelgoods’ homage “Love Got Me”.
“Shot In The Dark” (1980) continues the themes of balancing Staines originals with fittingly cool cover songs. Obviously “Talk Talk” (origin. 1966 The Music Machine) was geared to replicate the success of the previous album hit “Dirty Water”. While the song is wonderfully done here it couldn’t duplicate the path cleared by the previous work and when the band was touring behind the album in the U.S. the murder of John Lennon found “SITD” pulled from playlists due to its unintentionally insensitive title. With their momentum stalled The Inmates returned to the U.K. to find that their label Radar Records had been folded into the monolithic WEA brand. There are a lot of great songs on this album including this writer’s personal favorites “Tell Me What’s Wrong”, “Why When Love Is Gone” and the memorably charming “Crime Don’t Pay”.
1982’s “Heatwave In Alaska” was only released in France likely due to the aforementioned label change leaving the band absorbed into a sea of talent that kept them at a tier below new label mates and heavy-hitters Rockpile, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. It’s a solid album nevertheless. The songwriting expanded to include drummer Jim Russell (“Three Little Sisters”) and bass man Ben Donnelly for the album opener “She’s Gone Rockin’”. Gunn/Staines again offers the albums’ best tracks: “Broken Hearted” a soul blues blend that singer Bill Hurley nails perfectly and the similar tough/tender “Unhappy Boy”. There are signs of the band extending their reach just a little here and new producer Stuart Colman (Shakin’ Stevens, Jeff Beck) did a good job attempting to modernize The Inmates.
In the end, as always, it comes down to being in the right place at the right time and The Inmates, sadly, missed those occasions by a hair’s breadth. For fans this box is a pleasant reminder of what could have been and a testament to the solid songwriting and sound of this band.
(Disc 1 – First Offence: 44 minutes/15 tracks, Disc Two – Shot In The Dark: 50 minutes/17 tracks, Disc Three – Heatwave In Alaska: 44 minutes/14 tracks)
V/A: Night Comes Down – 60s British Mod, R&B, Freakbeat & Swinging London Nuggets (Cherry Red Recordings/RPM)
This expansive three CD collectors’ set aims to connect the dots between artists that may already be in your collection and the bands that they may have been members in the so-called “time before”. With pop music becoming hugely popular during the 1960s’ there were enormous quantities of young (and older) people working hard trying to get their songs recorded, pinning hope against hope that they could perhaps become stars in their own right. For a lot of the bands on this compilation the gold ring of wider success would be forever beyond their grasp yet when you cherry pick the best songs, as the seemingly untiring and wise John Reed has done on “NCD”, it feels as though the times were perhaps just a little unfair. The box set is so utterly extensive and wonderful that it’s rather difficult to drill any deeper than Reed and crew have done. The liner notes are detailed and include dates, places, times and players practically perfectly. Some of the names contained herein will be recognizable to even the most casual fans: Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, The Moody Blues, Chad & Jeremy, The Deviants, Spencer Davis Group, Twiggy(!) and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown all made some waves beyond the U.K. scene. On balance though “NCD” digs deep into the vaults of long forgotten independent labels like Ember and President Records while the greats and near-greats like Decca, Track, Polydor, Parlophone and Columbia are here in full force as well.
While it is difficult to pick favorites when faced with a set that contains 87 tracks repeated listenings would have you loving some of these songs instantly while others will move quickly into the grower category. Obviously, those songs that feature players that moved on to bigger and better opportunities after these releases get the highest relevance rating for deep collectors. Look for names like future-state Deep Purple dude Ritchie Blackmore (Heinz and The Wild Boys), Motorhead man Lemmy Kilmister (The Rocking Vicars), early Manfred Mann-er Mike D’Abo (A Band Of Angels), Yes guitar god Steve Howe (The In Crowd) and Mott The Hoople and Bad Co. axeman Mick Ralphs (Doc Thomas Group). Having said that anyone that has any more than a cursory interest in collecting obscure freakbeat, R’n’B and instrumental music will be happy to find the specific nuggets they need here to further their awareness and perhaps even springboard off into more exclusive vistas of musical discovery. You too could become the next collector of rare The Gnomes of Zurich, Oliver Bone, Rusty Harness, The Brothers Grimm or The Clockwork Oranges singles and elpees!
(CD One: 30 tracks – 79 minutes, CD Two: 30 tracks – 79 minutes, CD Three: 27 tracks – 79 minutes).
Each CD comes in full colour cardboard sleeve with track listings plus 36 page full colour booklet featuring detailed notes on each track.