Title - 'Initial Success: Expanded Edition'
Artist - BA Robertson
For those not in the know, Brian Alexander "B. A." Robertson is a Scottish musician, actor, composer and songwriter. He had a string of hits in the late '70s and early '80s, characterized by catchy pop tunes and jaunty, humorous lyrics, most notably 'Bang Bang', a tongue-in-cheek commentary on famous historical and fictional couples.
He also wrote with Mike Rutherford the Grammy-nominated and Ivor Novello Award-winning 'The Living Years which became a #1 hit in the USA, Canada, Australia and Ireland; reaching #2 in his native UK.
BA Robertson enjoyed his most commercially successful period while signed to Asylum Records in those aforementioned late '70s and early '80s. Indeed, during that period, BA was rarely out of the charts with hit singles.
Amazingly, BA's Asylum Records recordings have never officially been reissued on CD - until now! Compiled by BA himself with remastered sound, new sleeve-notes by Eddie Harrison and each reissue boasting numerous bonus tracks, BA's Asylum Records albums have finally been treated to the reissue program they deserve.
OK, before we begin I have to fully admit that I loved everything that BA put out back in the late '70s and '80s. Adored this debut album so much that it was quite easily my go-to-vinyl album to play whenever I wanted to hear some good music. The beats, the lyrics, the whole musical deal made this debut of his a magical one, that's for sure.
So, with that said, first issued in 1980, Initial Success was promoted by the hit singles 'Bang Bang' (No. 2), 'Knocked It Off' (No. 8), 'To Be Or Not To Be' (No. 9) and 'Kool In The Kaftan' (No. 17), all of which helped propel the album to #32 on the UK charts.
Among the wealth of bonus tracks here on this fantastic Expanded Edition are three non-LP B-Sides, a unique interpretation of 'Bang Bang' by the Portsmouth Sinfonia and three recordings captured at a rare live performance by BA at Edinburgh Festival in 2004.
1. 'Gonzo for My Girlfriend'
2. 'Man or a Mouse?'
4. 'Fallin in Luv'
5. 'Kool in the Kaftan'
6. 'Bang Bang'
7. 'Eat Your Heart Out Sandy Nelson'
8. 'The B Side'
9. 'To Be or Not to Be'
10. 'She's a Beezer'
11. 'England's Green & Pheasant Land'
12. 'Walking Rover'
13. 'Knocked It Off'
14. 'Here I Sit'
15. '2(B) B Side the C Side' (B-Side)
16. 'Sci Fi' (B-Side)
17. 'Baby I'm a Bat' (B-Side)
18. 'Goosebumps (Single Version)'
19. 'Bang Bang' (By the Portsmouth Sinfonia)
20. 'Language of Love/Hot Shot (Live at the Venue, London, 11/4/80)'
21. 'Bang Bang (Live at Edinburgh Festival 2004)'
22. 'To Be or Not to Be (Live at Edinburgh Festival 2004)'
23. 'Kool in the Kaftan (Live at Edinburgh Festival 2004)'
OK, one more truth here is that as much as this CD was ready to play, the entire original album obviously coming before the bonus tracks, I actually unleashed the old vinyl copy of this album to listen back to instead. Man, it felt SO good to listen to these songs again, every one of them a true BA gem to behold. Flashed me straight back to my youth and to times I never thought would ever change.
Anyway, first up is 'Gonzo for My Girlfriend', a track that opens with a choir-like introduction before heading into a song chock full of complete and utter nonsense ("She swings from the rafters in black bra and garters. I'm in high heels and stockings, hey I hear you mocking me. But my girl says when at home, relax in ladies clothes.") Anyway, next up is the frenetic Costello-esque anthemic 'Man Or Mouse?' and that's backed by the methodical soft rock of 'Goosebumps,' and then the Motown R&B feel of 'Fallin' In Love.'
Next up is the first of the four hit singles, the brilliant Eastern-flavored 'Kool In The Kaftan' (as for what it's about, try and listen to the "announcer" as the song plays out) and that's followed by another one in 'Bang Bang.' A humorous commentary on the pitfalls of love, it also includes, weirdly, a reference to John Fruin, who was head of Warner Music Group at the time!
Man, just these two songs alone flash me right back to when I first purchased this album. It's still one of the best albums that I own and if you don't own it, either on vinyl or cassette, I urge you to buy this splendid new Expanded Edition CD.
Moving on and next up is the very clever, very addictive 'Eat Your Heart Out Sandy Nelson,' a tribute of sorts to one of the best-known American rock drummers of the early 1960s, and that's backed by an alarm clock awakening, combined with an announcement about that latter songs chart place, before we get BA doing his best Elvis impression on the buoyant 'The B Side.'
A chance to be at one with the Bard, 'To Be or Not to Be' is another of his hits, and a lovely, still wonderful to hear freeflowing jaunt of a bubbly song. That's backed by the upbeat, raucous even 'She's a Beezer', and that's followed by the quiet, low brow sermon-like, 'England's Green & Pheasant Land'. The original album then rounds out with low pop bounce of 'Walking Rover', the big chart hit 'Knocked It Off', and then the short 'Here I Sit.'
Into the bonus tracks we fall and we get three B-Sides in a row, beginning with the upbeat rockabilly of '2(B) B Side the C Side', a pop blast of fun in 'Sci Fi', and then the slow roll of 'Baby I'm a Bat.' A Single Version of 'Goosebumps' sounds just like the album version to me and then comes a genuine curiosity for me, 'Bang Bang' (By the Portsmouth Sinfonia). In truth, I seriously wanted to love it, like it even, but it's just a horrible mess of a track! Seriously, it sounds like everyone is off key, not on the same musical page, and half the Sinfonia never even showed up! Not unsurprisingly, and since having performed this track, the Portsmouth Sinfonia has remained dormant for the past 36 years!
Moving steadily on and the quite brilliant 'Language of Love/Hot Shot (Live at the Venue, London, 11/4/80)' is along next. As I never got to see BA perform live, this is a real gem for me to now behold and it's followed by three acoustic piano hits performed at the Edinburgh Festival 2004: 'Bang Bang,' 'To Be or Not to Be,' and then this Expanded Edition album rounds out with 'Kool in the Kaftan.'
Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
'Initial Success: Expanded Edition' CD Purchase Link