Edsel [Release date 02.03.15]
To most, Ian Dury will always be remembered as the cheeky chappy who – in 1978 – had a massive hit with ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’. Dury’s Blockhead-related albums are now collected and re-formatted as handsome casebound editions with abundant bonuses, lyrics, and essays from Dury biographer, Will Birch.
1977′s New Boots And Panties!! includes the essential non-album ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’ along with three more bonus tracks whilst the bonus disc of demo versions appeared first in 2004.
The album was the start of Dury’s new lease of life after Kilburn & The High Roads. In the later stages of that band keyboards player Chaz Jankel had joined and in the newly configured Blockheads both Jankel and Dury spearheaded a fresh, funky approach. *****
This style was further expanded on the follow-up Do It Yourself (1979) which also benefitted from the band’s constant gigging at the time. This reissue rounds up the non-album singles including his other best-known tracks ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’, ‘What A Waste’ and ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3′.
The combination of Dury’s wry and often ribald observations on anything from his own condition (he contracted polio at the age of 7), to sexual proclivities and allied to a sharp jazz funk backbeat was a unique and infectious formula.
The bonus disc includes demos and the complete gig from the 1977 ‘Stiff’s Live Stiffs’ tour. *****
By the time of the next album Laughter in 1980 Jankel had left and Wilko Johnson arrived on guitar. This version features the three non-album singles (including ‘I Want To Be Straight’) whilst the bonus disc has three album outtakes and 13 demo instrumentals. Overall, this album lacks the continuity of the previous two and is less overtly funky. ***
In 1992 Dury hitched up again with the Blockheads although the album The Bus Driver’s Prayer & Other Stories was billed under his name, not the band. The sheer novelty of ‘New Boots…’ was never fully repeated and this “reunion” effort was largely co-written with Mickey Gallagher. However his Music Hall whimsy and largely spoken word delivery may not suit all, although ‘Have A Word’ (here transposed with ‘London Calling’ in the track listing on the back of the cover) and ‘Your Horoscope’ is rather fine. ****
Several more years elapsed before the Blockheads re-convened with Mr Love Pants (1998). The album is made more poignant as Dury had been struggling with cancer diagnosed in 1995. Overall, this has all the Blockhead trademarks of jazz-funk tinged backdrop to Dury’s worldly observations. ***1/2
Completing this series of reissues, a December 1990 gig recorded at London’s Brixton Academy pulls together a “greatest hits” set culled mainly from the iconic ‘New Boots…” album. ****
Dury died on 27 March 2000 and these handsome Edsel reissues (although available in different form in 2004) are an excellent introduction to the best of his Blockhead years.
Review by David Randall
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