BMG [Release date 16.10.20] 3-CD
Reasons To Be Cheerful? Well we certainly need some of those and who better than to supply a cheery soundtrack to covid-crocked times than the cheeky chappy from Harrow. Ian Dury may have died in 2000 but his recorded legacy still sounds relevant two decades later.
BMG have acquired the rights to most of this legacy and Hit Me!.. is their first salvo. I assume the back catalogue will be reissued in time.
This 3-CD set brings together a mix of his earlier work with Kilburn And The High Roads (7 tracks) but as you would expect majors on the Blockheads. This kicked in with the single ‘Sex, Drugs & Rock N Roll’ in 1977, a non-album track, followed by the album ‘New Boots & Panties’.
Dury made two albums with Kilburn And The High Roads who briefly existed 1974-5 and presaged the punk movement a few years later.
With the Blockheads, more “new wave” than punk, Dury was able to graft his music-hall inspired delivery to an increasingly funky backbeat. His fellow musicians included Chaz Jankel (keyboards), Norman Watt-Roy (bass) and Charley Charles (drums) with John Turnbull and Mick Gallagher on guitars and Davey Payne on saxophone.
New Boots & Panties is something of a classic album and is included in its entirety. The follow-up Do It Yourself (8 out of 10 tracks featured) took the funky blueprint a step further with songs such as ‘Inbetweenies’ and ‘Dance Of The Screamers’.
Whilst it could be argued that those first two albums are all you need to own from Dury’s output, this anthology signposts the easily overlooked later period cherry picking the standouts. Dury made several more albums with and without the Blockheads but with varying degrees of commercial success.
This latest compilation is not comprehensive, presumably rights weren’t secured to the two Polydor albums in the 1980s and the album ‘Apples’ (1989) is not featured save for a demo version of ‘England’s Glory’ (an old Kilburns song).
Dury made two albums in the 1990s and ‘Mr Love Pants’ (1997) yields three tracks. As the decade progressed Dury – already stricken by a childhood polio – was diagnosed with cancer and he died in March 2000.
“Hit Me!..” is useful in that it brings together the Blockheads singles which were not included on any studio album release such as ‘What A Waste’, ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ and of course ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful Pt.3′ (here in it’s 12″ version). The latter is also available for the first time digitally.
For those wanting light relief during a pandemic they could do no better than seek out classic Dury tracks like ‘Billericay Dickie’, ‘Clevor Trever’ and ‘Plaistow Patricia’. At his best, Dury was a gifted tunesmith and this compilation is a very acceptable introduction.
For deeper investigation the series of Edsel reissues in 2015 with copious, informed, liner notes, lyrics and bonus tracks beckon, although we assume BMG will do their best to maximise the latest bout of recycling. ***1/2
Review by David Randall
Album review (2015 reissues)
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