From Affinity to Zzebra, Angel Air (www.angelair.co.uk) has been responsible for some genuinely exciting releases.
Great swaths of the old Vertigo catalog have been supplemented by highlights of those same artists? work beyond the confines of the familiar swirl label. The Mott The Hoople family tree has been lovingly tended, and such unsung heroes as Mo Foster and Ray Fenwick have been revealed as having a finger in more musical pies than you ever dreamed.
The label marks its 10th anniversary this year, and its celebrations take the form of a weighty hardback book, the very sensibly titled ?Angel Air is 10: 1997-2007,? by James McCarraher (Sarum Publishing, www.mccarraher.co.uk). This doorstop of a tome is a fitting tribute to a label that has been described, with good reason, as ?the Indiana Jones of the music world.?
The 350-page book serves up biographies of every artist that has appeared on the label (and there?s an awful lot of them), reviews of almost every CD and DVD released so far, photographs and more. It?s a wonderful read that?s perfect to dip in and out of when the mood strikes you, and it?s an excellent introduction to a mountain of music.
Angel Air also is continuing its sweep through Maggie Bell?s archive. This time, it emerges with ?Live Montreaux July 1981,? a 13-song DVD that captures Bell and her Midnight Flyer band ? bassist Tony Stevens, guitarist Ant Glynne, drummer Dave Dowle and keyboard player Chris Farren ? at their dramatic peak.
With guests Albert Collins and Taj Mahal helping out on a couple of numbers each, it?s a fiery performance that is dominated by Midnight Flyer?s own material ? ?Hey Boy,? ?Sweet Little Jimmy,? ?French Kisses?? and highlighted by dramatic versions of ?Rough Trade,? ?Penicillin Blues? and ?Stormy Monday Blues.? It proves that a decade on from her emergence aboard Stone The Crows (also the subject of an excellent Angel Air DVD), Bell remained one of British blues? most scintillating performers.
While Bell was howling the blues in Switzerland, something a lot darker was creeping out of the London club scene. Gothic Rock never has had a fair trial at the hands of history: too much makeup, too many pretensions and too many bands leaping aboard what they thought was a surefire commercial bandwagon ultimately rendered the genre a joke, and that was before it started getting silly.
But Goth remains a vibrant lifestyle even today, with a larger (and, perhaps, more sincere) following than it ever enjoyed in the past, so it?s probably not a bad idea to look back at where it all came from. In Goth Daze (Cherry Red ? www.cherryred.co.uk) is a CD/DVD anthology that goes a long way toward reminding us just how timeless the music is.
Though it draws only from Cherry Red?s own (admittedly voluminous) archive, In Goth Daze does a remarkable job of summarizing the movement?s 1980s flowering by rounding up contributions from such crucial players as Specimen, Alien Sex Fiend and Play Dead, with Nico to represent the older influences, and Flesh For Lulu to confirm the Goth movement?s mainstream limits. Across 17 songs, the CD offers a remarkably clear snapshot of life before the cliches slipped into place.
Even better, though, is the accompanying DVD, which reminds us why Goth?s impact was so far-reaching. Bands like former Vice Squad singer Beki Bondage?s Ligotage, the Virgin Prunes and anarcho-punk disciples Rubella Ballet had little musical linkage to the accepted Goth norm.
But visuals and aesthetic were important as well, and the disc (21 tracks) weaves in a lot of unexpected treasures while it rounds up another choice selection of primal movers and shakers.
Absent from In Goth Daze, but a vital part of the early Gothic scene, is Play Dead, a northern English band that released three albums between 1