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THE RECORDS Music On Both Sides On The Beach Recordings, FOAMCD 8 (2007)

The Records

'Music On Both Sides' was the third album by British power pop group The Records and was originally released by Virgin Records in March 1982. The album represented a last chance saloon for the band as they had been expecting to be dropped prior to Virgin demanding another album.

The Records are best remembered for their magnificent debut single, 1978's 'Starry Eyes', which inexplicably failed to chart in the UK. The track was co-written by drummer Will Birch and guitarist/vocalist John Wicks, who had both previously been members of The Kursaals (previously Kursaal Flyers) before forming The Records.

The group's first two albums 'Shades In Bed' and 'Crashes' have both previously been reissued on CD by On The Beach and contain copious amounts of bonus tracks. The former is a recommended starting point for newcomers. The sparkling 'Music On Both Sides' reissue follows their lead by adding a generous nine extras, seven of which are previously unreleased. The CD is housed in a neat foldout digipak, complete with Barney Bubbles' original LP artwork. Will Birch's in-depth notes document the period and reveal plenty of hitherto unknown facts.

By the time of this album, the band had recruited new vocalist Chris Gent from London power pop combo The Autographs, as well as new guitarist Dave Whelan who had responded to a Melody Maker ad. Birch, Wicks and Phil Brown remained from the earlier albums, although Birch brought in Bobby Irwin on drums (who in turn brought along Paul Carrack to play keyboards) so that he could focus his attention on co-producing the album. Gent's arrival was fuelled by critics and observers belief that the band lacked a 'frontman'.

This reissue kicks off with the melodic gem'Your Own Soundtrack', which is reinstated here as the opening cut (as originally intended). The first side of the original album is particularly strong, starting with the single 'Imitation Jewellery' and 'Heather And Hell', which Birch notes were both influenced by the then-in-vogue electronic arm of rock. 'Selfish Love', 'Not So Much The Time' and 'Keeping Up With Jones' are three more killer tunes.

'Music On Both Sides' is a somewhat different sounding record to the previous releases. Examples of this are the XTC-esque psychy vocals of 'Third Hand Information', 'Real Life' which has a more new wave than power pop feel and would probably be a smash hit if covered today by Razorlight, and the spooky instrumental 'Cheap Detective Music' which sounds unlike anything else in The Records' output.

Of the bonus tracks, there are demos of three songs that ended up on the album, all of which feature a John Wicks lead vocal instead of Chris Gent. A fourth demo, the punchy Phil Brown-penned 'On Time' is previously unheard in any form. There are also three live tracks from the 1978 Stiff tour (on which the band accompanied Rachel Sweet) and, to complete the package, Miss Jane Aire (described by Will Birch as Rachel Sweet's Akron nemesis) joins the band for a 1980 studio recording of Michel Pagliaro's power pop classic 'Lovin' You Ain't Easy'.

The Records eventually went their separate ways a few months after the release of 'Music On Both Sides', with Birch notably going on to write the definitive history of pub rock 'No Sleep Till Canvey Island' and Wicks returning with a new line-up and releasing the excellent 'Rotate' in 2007. 'Music On Both Sides' still sounds fresh today and is strongly recommended to fans of melodic guitar-based power pop with harmony vocals aplenty!


Review by Jim Henderson

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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