Ian Dury's primary appeal lies in his lyrics, which are remarkably clever sketches of British life delivered with a wry wit. Since Dury's accent is thick and his language dense with local slang, much of these pleasures aren't discernible to casual listeners, leaving the music to stand on its own merits. On his debut album, New Boots and Panties!!, Dury's music is at its best, and even that is a bizarrely uneven fusion of pub rock, punk rock, and disco. Still, Dury's off-kilter charm and irrepressible energy make the album gel, with the disco pulse of "Wake Up and Make Love With Me" making perfect sense next to the gentle tribute "Sweet Gene Vincent," the roaring punk of "Blockheads," and the revamped music hall of "Billericay Dickie" and "My Old Man".
It’s a wonderful irony that the two lyricists who most embodied punk’s libertarian role in helping banish the last vestiges of straight-laced Victorian values in the mid-70s were the two who most resembled a Dickensian nightmare. Johnny Rotten and Ian Dury both sought release from a social system designed to keep working class oiks like them in their place, and although one approached the task through head-on confrontation and the other with art school nuance, the message was the same: Think For Yourself.
Stiff Records was a maverick among British independent record labels, partially responsible for starting the punk and new wave revolution of the late '70s. Under the guidance of house producer Nick Lowe, Stiff turned out an enormous number of seminal punk and new wave singles in their first years, including classic tracks by the Damned, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, the Adverts, Ian Dury, and Lowe himself. But what really gave the label its wild, original flavor were minor artists like Ian Dury, Wreckless Eric, Tenpole Tudor, the Yachts, Lene Lovich, Rachel Sweet, and Mickey Jupp, who turned out a series of raw pop gems that were everything good rock & roll singles should be – catchy, energetic, and memorable. Over 100 of Stiff's finest tracks are collected on this wonderful four-disc box set.
The Greatest Show on Earth - Horizons (1970). The Greatest Show on Earth were one of the more stylistically original signings to EMI’s legendary Progressive label Harvest. The band was formed in 1968 and featured brothers Garth and Norman Watt-Roy (who played guitar and bass respectively), along with American vocalist Ozzie Lane, Mick Deacon on Organ, a horn section of Dick Hanson, Tex Philpotts and Ian Aitcheson and drummer Ron Prudence. Initially beginning life as a Soul outfit, the band’s musical direction changed when vocalist Lane returned home to New Orleans in early 1969. Replaced by Colin Horton-Jennings (who also played guitar and flute), the band began to take on board more "progressive” influences, incorporating rock, jazz and acoustic music into their sound…
An enormous commercial success, 1981's The Dude is a cross-cultural success blending jazz, Latin music, soul ballads, and straight pop into an admittedly slick but never over-produced or soulless stew. The album opens with a surprise: "Ai No Corrida" is a synthesizer-driven yet still funky Latin dance track written by Chaz Jankel of Ian Dury & the Blockheads, suggesting that unlike a lot of musicians his age, Quincy Jones kept his ears open to new music. The proto-rap title track accomplishes the same thing. The rest of the album is more conventional, with James Ingram and Patti Austin trading vocals on a smooth collection of tracks highlighted by the masterful love ballads "One Hundred Ways" and "Just Once," staples of adult contemporary stations, and the haunting Stevie Wonder-penned instrumental "Velas." The Dude is an outstanding collection that was massively influential on the '80s R&B scene.