The Stranglers – The Classic Collection

6 03 2018

Take a stroll over to your CD cabinet. Do you have a copy of the first 7 albums from The Stranglers? Nope? Ok now is your time to rectify this. Parlophone have reissued the bands 1977-1982 studio albums under the name The Classic Collection.

The Raven

These reasonable priced reissues (all single discs) have unfortunately not been remastered, which is a bit of a missed opportunity. So if you already own the albums, you will probably stick with what you have, but I would recommend purchasing the new expanded version of Live (X-Cert) which has an additional 8 previously unreleased on CD tracks from the original concerts at The Roundhouse in 1977 and Battersea Park in 1978. I dare you to listen to the version of Nice ‘n’ Sleazy from Battersea on this reissue without picturing in your mind the on-stage antics from the video. You know which one I mean.

If you don’t have the albums, The Classic Collection offers a quick and easy way to collect some of the finest albums of the late 70s / early 80s. Key non-album tracks from the period are included on each album, along with lyrics (that are more readable than previous CD releases), pictures from the era and a history of the band written by David Buckley (the same history appears in the sleeve-notes of each individual album).

The band’s debut album Rattus Norvegicus still sounds dangerous and raw, 40 years after its original release.

From the violence of Sometimes, the harsh beauty of Goodbye Toulouse through to the new wave classic Hanging Around, the band’s debut still delivers on so many levels.

Every time I hear Peaches, I’m transported back to my school-days, and album closer Down In The Sewer is a dripping with acid, punk-Prog powerhouse of a song.

1977 also saw the release of No More Heroes. The title track is one of the band’s enduring classics, but the album contains often overlooked tracks such as Bitching and English Towns.

This re-issue includes two of my favourite early Stranglers tracks, the edgy paranoia of Straighten Out and the precursor to the post-punk sound of the bands 3rd album, the single 5 Minutes.

“Got anything to say? No? Well shut up!”

1978 saw the release of the bands 3rd album, Black And White. To me, this was the best sounding Stranglers album. There is a real consistency that runs through every single song.

Always a great singles band, Nice ‘n’ Sleazy was one of their finest. Like the earlier Peaches, Sleazy is a mutated version of reggae that is simply a classic Stranglers single. Outside Tokyo slows the pace before the snarling Sweden (All Quiet On The Eastern Front).

All 4  band members sound amazing throughout this album – with my favourite Hugh Cornwell guitar sound and the mighty barracuda bass from JJ Burnel. There is a beautiful symmetry on the epic Toiler On The Sea, and this reissue is topped off by the inclusion of yet another classic Stranglers single, their cover of Bacharach & David’s Walk On By. Better than the original, yes I think so.

As I mentioned earlier, the 2018 re-issue of Live X-Cert is the definitive version. The album captures the band in their most raw state.

Highlights include an incendiary 5 Minutes, a venomous Straighten Out and a speed-driven Hanging Around.

The extra tracks include a breakneck speed version of Down In The Sewer, with Bitching, Peaches and my favourite live version of  Nice ‘n’ Sleazy.

My only tattoo is of The Raven logo on my arm, so you can probably tell that this is my favourite Stranglers album. One of my few regrets is that there was no official live album released from this period, as the band switched up to another level live in 1979-1980. Track down footage of the band from this period on YouTube, you will not be disappointed.

The title track is many fans favourite song. To my ears, The Raven features JJ’s best vocal and some wonderfully inventive guitar lines from Hugh, topped with a driving, almost jazz-like percussion track from Jet and inventive, rhythmic synth lines from Dave Greenfield, delivering an absolutely beautiful song that I never tire of hearing. And I’ve heard it a lot.

Although I followed the band from early 1977, I was not allowed to see them live (my parents hated the band!) until 1979, with their gig as special guests of The Who at Wembley Stadium in August 1979 being my first live MIB experience. Hearing songs from their soon to be released album The Raven was a great way to start a long list of memorable Stranglers gigs.

nmh

Anyway, back to The Raven. Ice and Baroque Bordello still send shivers, and the band did not let up with the string of classic singles, delivering two more in the shape of Nuclear Device and Duchess. This 2018 reissue also includes the single and extended mix of one of the bands best later period singles, Bear Cage.

The most experimental Stranglers album, (The Gospel According To) The Meninblack was released in 1981. Apparently featuring a guest appearance from some bloke called Charlie, this album heralded in the darkest period in the band’s history. Just Like Nothing On Earth still sounds like the future, and Two Sunspots really should have been released as a single. Second Coming has grown into my favourite song from the album over the many years since the albums release.

Another great single (which cost me 79p back in the day, fact fans) is included on this 2018 reissue – Who Wants the World, along with a track that was only available at the time on a US import album,  Vietnamerica.

The final album in The Classic Collection reissue series is from later on in 1981, La Folie. Most people will know this album from the huge hit Golden Brown, but the album offered much more than this iconic single. Let Me Introduce You To The Family may not have performed well in the charts, but it was a great single, and sounded amazing live. Tramp, with its powerful chorus, is the one that got away, and should have been the follow-up to Golden Brown.

Ain’t Nothin’ To It and The Man They Love To Hate were standout album tracks, and the fine production from Tony Visconti gives the band a new edge for the emerging decade.

So there you have it – a welcome reissue of the first 7 classic albums from one of the UK’s best bands.

Buy The Classic Collection on Amazon

Rattus Norvegicus (1977)

No More Heroes (1977)

Black And White (1978)

Live X-Cert (1979)

The Raven (1979)

(The Gospel According To) The Meninblack (1981)

La Folie (1981)

 


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