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  • Strip
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on 27 May 2001
Thrilling acoustic album from a band who bettered the likes of U2. Lead singer Mark Burgess does sound a little dramatic at times -- a touch of tongue-in-cheek theatre perhaps? In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, Strip makes for outstanding listening. An excellent CD to play in the car by the way. And whilst you drive and sing along you can ponder why the likes of The Chameleons and The Comsat Angels never receive the recognition they deserve.
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on 8 January 2001
Never thought it would happen, but after numerous rehash albums The Chameleons have reformed and totheir credit produced new material that melts beautifully into their traditional style. This album however has one noticeable difference, its acoustic, and produces an interesting insight and sound from the band, that is hauntingly so familiar. Of course it is worth buying even if you have never experienced The Chameleons music, and will leave you with the thought I must here more of this! Provided the lads keep it together no doubt there is more to come, in their typical style of this music was meant to be played loud, so turn it up! We are waiting impatiently,Mark, so get writing! (And why can we only vote up to five stars!)
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on 17 October 2000
With 'unplugged' albums, where old favourites are whittled down to their acoustic bones, you always run the risk that it ends up sounding like a busker walking the walk and talking the talk outside Camden Tube Station on a rainy Monday morning. Thankfully, The Chameleons have proved that this need not always be the case; this album is very much the exception rather than the norm when it comes to such projects I'd suggest.
So, Manchester's finest band return after some fourteen years apart with a handful of live shows in May and June and a new 'unplugged' style CD. 'Strip' was recorded earlier this year (in February and March) by group members Mark Burgess (vocals and bass), Reg Smithies (guitars and percussion) and Dave Fielding (guitars and occasional harmonica / didgeredoo (!)) whilst they waited for drummer John Lever to come aboard.
The tracklist, for anyone that picks this up from under 'C' in HMV or Virgin, will bring back nods of remembrance. Even fleeting Chameleons fans (is there such a group? I very much doubt it) will recognise a few gems. Eight of the songs are old favourites from their sublime back catalogue and all get the acoustic 'stripped-down' treatment. However, two new songs (the all-too-short but mythical 'Road to San Remo' and the gigantic drum-fuelled 'Indian') also appear as an added bonus for the many Chameleonites who will snap us this new release.
From the opening guitar 'skiffle' and all-knowing line 'I must have died a thousand times' that introduces 'Less than Human', you know you are in for a special fifty minutes or so. The crisp production on 'Strip' is quite superb and needs to be heartily congratulated. Each note and chord is picked up in superb clarity. The same applies to the powerful delivery of the vocals from Burgess; each word spills out from his lips with renewed determination and energy so you understand that he really does mean what he sings. How could we even doubt him?
Tracks from each of the three 'official' studio albums are featured on 'Strip'; 'Here Today', 'Pleasure and Pain' and 'Less than Human' from the debut 'Script of the Bridge' (1983), 'On the Beach' the sole track from 'What Does Anything Mean? Basically' (1985), whilst 'Soul in Isolation', 'Caution' and 'Paradiso' come from 'Strange Times'(1986). The other track, 'Nathan's Phase', is a very early recording that has appeared on the collection 'The Fan and the Bellows'(currently available on Dead Dead Good Records (1996)).
For this reviewer, perhaps controversially, it is the songs from 'Strange Times' that are best suited to the new acoustic arrangements. You get a sense that as the band progressed and matured in their songwriting the more the songs 'work' in their naked form as they appear on 'Strip'. Common comparisons to The Beatles take on new meaning with this release. I would also say that the main ingenuity and innovation lies within these three songs; for example on 'Soul in Isolation', as Burgess whispers 'come here, a word in your ear...' we get some plaintive didgeredoo and haunting guitar effects that take the piece to new emotional heights.
This is not to downplay the other songs on 'Strip'; far from it. All contributions play their part in making up what the album is all about. Indeed, 'Pleasure and Pain' or 'Here Today' illustrate that even without the required push and direction of John Lever's drumming they remain as potent and on target as ever. They provoke the senses which is what good music is all about, isn't it?
The master stroke on this album though is the not only stripped down but completely reworked version of 'On the Beach'. The original version of this song was always a favourite of mine but here it works even better. The changes - from the new guitar effects and slowed down tempo to the different lyrics and mood - all combine to produce something of beauty; it is a work of art in every sense of that overused word.
The closing track 'Indian' shows listeners, literally, 'signposts to the sun'; we can see the direction that their new material may be going in. I take from this song a lot of comfort; it sounds wondrous(in an early James fused with 'Revolver' Beatles kind of way) and was well received by those attending the recent gigs. Things can only get better.
In sum, this album is a welcome addition to The Chameleons catalogue and I'd recommend it without a monent's hesitation. It is, in every way, a testament to their recent reunion and what they still have to offer us in these musically barren times. It serves as a glorious taster for the future. More please lads; and don't leave it fourteen years next time eh?
By Colin Clark.
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on 22 February 2002
Having been a Chameleons fan for nearly half my adult life now,I was really pleased when they reformed and released Strip. As I have always enjoyed acoustic versions of songs I was thrilled to hear many old favourites sounding so fresh and clear. Soul in Isolation has always been one of my very favourite songs and it sounds brilliant here.I would really recommend this cd for anyone, not just fans,it's just a good chillin'out listen.Pleased to be able to say that their new stuff is good too. Indian is a great track, Mark's voice sounds better than ever much more rounded and mellow. Well done lads, Keep it up!
Sonja in Knaresborough N.Yorks
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on 21 August 2000
As far as I am concerned, the single biggest tragedy in the music scene was that the Chameleons did not take off like some of their less-quality contemporaries. Now, with Strip and a new mini-tour, hopefully music fans will not let this happen twice! Run out and buy this album! Quickly! It is so much more than an accoustic album, the songs have been brilliantly rethought and masterfully performed. With so many other, um... 80s bands, rushing out reedited garbage in a cheap attempt to cash-in on one or two hits, it is perhaps the Chameleons single greatest gift that they have not taken to underestimating the intelligence of their fans. My personal favorite on this CD is "Less than Human", the guitar work alone is worth the admission price. Try as I might, I can not recommend this CD strongly enough. Buy it. Buy it now!
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on 7 July 2000
Well, after the pleasant surprise announcement that the Chameleons were to reform, this album was inspired by acoustic rehearsals for the recent reunion gigs. And bless the heavens that they recorded these tracks! In the opinion of this writer, the songs that have been re-recorded here have always been timeless, and are as fresh and inspirational now as they were when they were first written in the 1980's; and the acoustic versions of some of the classic recordings give the songs a different angle of beauty. New acoustic versions of songs taken from all 3 of their original studio albums, "Script of the Bridge", "What Does Anything Mean Basically?" and "Strange Times" are here, as well as 2 completely new songs entitled "Road to San Remo" and "Indian". I can assure you that "Strip" has not left my CD player since purchase, and all of the tracks, new and old, are fantastic. The songs that stand out for me particularly are "Caution" which has goosebump-inducing guitar melodies and "On the Beach" which displays acoustic guitar at it's most beautiful along with soothing yet powerful vocals, and "Soul In Isolation" which has some really nice and powerful acoustic guitars backed by didgeridoo. Closely followed by "Paradiso", "Pleasure and Pain", "Less than Human", erm...all of them actually. Superb! Chameleons fans will love it, as will those who appreciate great music which touches the soul. Buy it!
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on 20 October 2000
I've just returned from seeing them live after 14 years of anticipation; worth every moment. Strip was an excellent foretaste of the new gigs, and like the reviewer below I think the stand-out track is the stunningly reworked On the Beach (also a highlight of the live show). This album had me rushing to play the old ones and finding new favorites among them. The year 2000 isn't looking so bad after all!
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on 14 December 2008
I agree with everything positive written here, and if it helps you try to find this (rare) album, then you might need to know that On The Beach IS actually from their best work (in my opinion) What Does Anything Mean... despite what the the Amazon review states.
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on 4 January 2001
There was a point in my life at which The Chameleons were the quintessential "to die for" indie band - stroppy, moody Northern ne'er do wells with intelligent lyrics, a screw-you attitude, whose weakest songs would knock anything that the likes of Oasis will ever produce into a cocked hat... oh, and they had *that* incredible, ethereal-but-ballsy guitar sound which influenced everyone from Kitchens of Distinction through to the nascent Stone Roses. They had a sound, they had a point, they had about *one* good idea but it was a bloody good one.
In brief, they were *my* band for a few blissfully short years, beautiful albums, and were the soundtrack to my life for a while.
The death of their manager Tony Fletcher, the man who'd held them together or so long, finally allowed their internal politics to get the better of them just as they were beginning to enjoy the acclaim they genuinely deserved. I loved 'em to bits, and still do... still, all the good bands die young.
After that, there followed the usual litany of offshoots and career-motivated opportunities, some better than others, some best ignored... some were big in Germany, which just about speaks for itself <g>.
Enough of the history lesson, except to say that if you haven't enjoyed any of their albums prior to "Strip", their toe-in-the-water acoustic return, then now's the time to check them out, pronto... before the deletion fairy gets hold of them.
There's a little idiom which says a truly great song will sound great however it's played, and the Chams had some truly great songs despite the trademark wash of geetar FX smothering everything, which actually formed a large part of their appeal...
...so why they chose to showcase acoustic versions of some really early "learning centre" material which only worked becuse of its jagged, angular, effected appeal... well, Christ only knows. "Less than Human", "Nathan's Phase", "Here Today", "Pleasure and Pain"... (hell, even "Soul in Isolation" to an extent) suffer from a complete lack of the haunted tension so evident in their earlier album versions.
OK, some of those tracks are twenty years old this year, but they just do *NOT* work acoustically... similarly, "On The Beach" suffers in that it was never a very good electric song, and translates poorly into an acoustic paean to nothing.
So why the hell am I, a supposed "big fan", writing this?
Simply because there are two tracks on here which are absolutely essential for any Chams devotee... "Caution" and "Paradiso", which actually left me breathless. These tracks alone are proof of how good this band was, and how much they had to offer before they called it a day.
Yes, I'm speaking in the past tense... if the much vaunted new material "Road to San Remo" (an acoustic doodle from Dave, I think) and "Indian" are anything to go by, then I won't be rushing out to buy their next studio album.
If you're already a fan, then don't buy it for the new material because you're wasting your time - get either of Puressence's superb albums instead. Just get it for "Caution", which is worth the asking price alone.
If you're not a fan, check out "Return of the Roughnecks" (a "best of") if you can still get it, or better still go straight for the albums "Script of the Bridge", "What Does Anything Mean Basically?", and (essentially) "Strange Times".
If you hate 'em, you can bill me.
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on 3 October 2016
One of the most underrated band of the 80's performing great acoustic sessions.
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