Album review: THE VIBRATORS – The Albums 1985-1990

THE VIBRATORS – The Albums 1985-1990

Captain Oi!/Cherry Red

One of the finest bands of the original punk era, the early years of The Vibrators have already been comprehensively collected by Cherry Red in two previous box sets. Their commercially successful years were well behind them by the time they signed to FM-Revolver in 1985, their recordings for whom are brought together in this 5CD set.

The energetic, rough and ready “Live” was their first ever live album, recorded in Germany and England. The set list mixes earlier classics like ‘Automatic Lover’, ‘Baby Baby’, ‘Troops of Tomorrow’ and ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’ with more recent songs such as ‘Rip Up The City’, ‘Blown Away By Love’ and ‘Crazy Dream’. There are also a couple of tracks from the underrated “Alaska 127” album, ‘Amphetamine Blue’ and ‘Baby Blue Eyes’. The line-up for this recording included three original members – Knox, Eddie and John Ellis – and was produced by the fourth, Pat Collier.

Ellis had left by the time they started recording sixth album “Recharged”. Incoming were guitarist Mickie Owen and ex-Dogs D’Amour bassist Mark Duncan. Released in January 1988, catchy single ‘String Him Along’ is a great opener. Other highlights include the haunting ‘Every Day I Die A Little’ and the fiery ‘Too Dumb’. ‘Rip It Up, Tear It Up’ has a Rolling Stones swagger, and a live version of ‘Disco In Mosco’ is added as a bonus track.

The ever-prolific band released a second studio album of ’88 in November with the same line-up (plus Waterboys sax man Anthony Thistlethwaite), entitled “Meltdown”. ‘The Other Side Of Midnight’, ‘Dynamite’ and ‘Danger Street’ are a trio of melodic gems. The folky Faces-esque ‘Letting You Go’ and rockabilly vibes of ‘Let’s Go’ are something of a departure, but effective. The excellent ‘Wasted Life’ was originally issued on the cassette format, as well as the German issue of the CD, and is included here as a bonus track.

By 1989’s “Vicious Circle”, Mickie Owen had been replaced by ex-Members guitarist Nigel Bennett. ‘No Getting Over You’ is a killer power pop cut, comfortably up there with the very best of the band’s output from any period. ‘Rocket Ride To Heaven’, ‘Ruby’s Gotta Heart’ and ‘No Mercy’ are the pick of the other self-penned tracks, while there are also worthy covers of Goffin/King’s ‘Halfway To Paradise’ and ‘Slow Death’ by The Flamin’ Groovies. Bonus track is the B-side ‘Drive’, featuring Darrell Bath on guitar.

1990’s “Volume Ten” was, appropriately enough, the band’s tenth album. The mellow ‘World In Your Hands’, written by Mark Duncan, should have given some of the ‘indie’ guitar bands of the time a run for their money. In a similar vein is Knox’s atmospheric ‘Out Of My System’, while ‘Don’tcha Know Now’ and ‘Can’t Have It All’ are classic Vibrators. Continuing the covers theme, the band take on Buddy Holly’s ‘Rave On’.

This set is well worthy of investigation for fans not familiar with this period of the Vibrators career. It comes with a 24-page booklet containing original artwork and comprehensive notes, with the discs themselves slotted into in miniature replica sleeves, all housed in an outer clamshell box. ***1/2

Review by Jim Henderson

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