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5.0 out of 5 stars
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5.0 out of 5 stars

on 11 August 2007
Well after all these years, Guillotine theatre is finally seeing the light of day on cd.
The The Best of the Cuddly Toys compilation was a wonderful surprise for Toys fans, but that, we thought, would probably be it. So thanks to Jungle for giving us the full, first Cuddlys album on cd.
Except in truth, this wasn't QUITE the first album. Back in the late '70s, when Raped changed their name to Cuddly Toys from a conscious decision to try to reverse the hostility heaped upon them from every quarter, they were gigging furiously but had no released output to their name.
A whole heap of demos had been recorded at Kingsway Studios with production by The Spiders from Mars' Woody Woodmansey, and reputedly, backing vocals by him and Ian Gillan. Glam's high profile in Japan, not to mention the wonderfully and incongruously named Japanese drummer; Paddy Phield, meant that 'Guillotine Theatre' got it's first release in that country. Indeed it is the cover for this version that has been used for this cd release. Only available on import at vastly inflated prices, Toys fans never-the-less snapped-up copies when ever they became available. In an effort to bypass the high prices, a bootleg version of the album did circulate for a while, with a cover, which according to singer Sean Purcell, was of such high quality, that it far outshone the official release.
Meanwhile, the band continued to gig heavily in their own right and over their five year career, supported the alternative glitterati of the age: Bauhaus, Psychedelic Furs, Classix Nouveaux, even Gary Glitter (who was even seen sneaking in at the back of one of their own shows in Fulham!)and as I'm sure some band members would rather forget, Adam and The Ants. What a hostile crowd were at that show! As a result of their high profile, one member of the press dubbed them 'the greatest support band in the UK'.
In 1980, serious rifts began to appear within the band. Sean felt that the level of musicianship within the band could not sustain them if they were to progress any further, so he and bassist Tony Baggett began assembling a new line-up of Cuddly Toys. A second album, Trials and Crosses was the result. This far more commercial and contemporary-sounding album has now been released together with an extra Cd's-worth of rare and unreleased material.Trials and Crosses/Someone's Crying: Plus Lost Recordings
Now, Cuddly Toys have been accused,usually unfairly, of being inept. So it didn't do them many favours when, in 1981, a year after the split, Guillotine Theatre got it's official UK release! By this time Sean had assembled a totally different line-up and was touring a completely new set of material.
So this is the album which we finally have on Cd. It was often criticised at the time for its heavy Ziggy era influences. One look at the dvd which comes with the album will show that this was the world's worst kept secret! But to dismiss it as a copy would be to miss the point. Guillotine Theatre and Cuddly Toys were, in retrospect, pioneering the glam revival by the likes of Hannoi Rocks, Twisted Sister and even Japan, at a time when, unfortunately for them, recent memory of the original caused much derrision to come their way.
Listening to the album from this distance, reveals a fresh, sharp sound, and a production at least as lavish as its supposed mentor. The digital transfer is a supreme work in itself. The sound is open and bright with only the slightest hint of 'print-through' from the original master. The drums on Astral Joe sound marvelously round and 'bassy' here and Join The Girls sounds twice the song it was on the old vinyl.
The opening 'Introvenus' can still send a shiver down the spine, with its ghostly piano and slicing guitars. The sudden ending slams directly into 'Brain saviour'. Fast, powerfull, and surprisingly contemporary. Originally the album was very much made up of two 'acts', sides 1 and 2 having very definate beginnings and ends. It is a nice touch therefor, that Jungle have devided the tracks into Act 1, Act 2 and even an Epilogue for the bonus tracks! Side 1 ends with the sublime Fall and Decline. With its decending keyboard motive and building tension, it is perfect as a closer.
The rest of the album veers between light and shade. Ghostly fairgrounds, haunted cinemas, and crumbling theatres, mix effortlessly with a song about cross-dressing, another about an Alien; Bowie-style complete with Mick Ronson homage guitar solo. Oh and the excellent single 'Astral Joe'.
The most infamous track on the album is of course, 'Madman' which has the distinction of being written by and unreleased by Marc Bolan and David Bowie. It was one of a number of demos which were....."liberated" from Marc's house in the hours after his death. A copy was passed to the band and it was properly recorded. Never actually that good a song, it was however great live. The album ends in a whirlwind of drums and guitars and it was, and most definately still is, a GREAT album.
The extra tracks are realy welcome. Of the original Japanese release, most of the tracks were heavily remixed or even re recorded for the UK version. Two were dropped altogether and it is these that are included here. 'You Keep Me Hanging On' far outshines the Kim Wilde effort from a couple of years later but definately sounds 'pre' this album as does 'Front Page News' which has the distinction of being guitarist Faebhean Kwest's only (credited) contribution to the Toys recorded work. An effort for which he was paid about a fiver! It's actually pretty good and missed the chance of being a good single. Neither track realy fitted-in with the more lush sounds on offer on the rest of the album.
The rest of the tracks comprise the odds and ends recorded after Guillotine Theatre had been completed. 'Sound of the Sirens' (which was known as 'Pillowtalk' at one stage) has a fast, brash stab at moving the band forward. 'Bring on the Ravers' a camp melodrama, was later re-recorded (and vastly improved upon) by a kind of interim line-up of Cuddly Toys for the b-side of 'Someone's Crying' and 'Holocaust', a stark and weirdly disjointed venture, was later completely reworked as the unparalleled 'Trials and Crosses' for the album of the same name.
Jungle are to be much praised for including all the video footage from the time. But here comes the only gripe. Why have they compressed the picture into a letterbox format? Everyone in the band looks about four feet tall! It really looks most bizarre. That aside, the dvd mostly comprises of promos made (so legend has it) on the set of the first Alien movie. It actually looks similar to the set used by Marc Bolan for his own tv series a couple of years earlier! They are great to watch though and all the reasons why Cuddly Toys were so loved and loathed at the same time are here to see! 'Astral Joe' shines here. It is a moment of uncharacteristic fun and lightheartedness. All the other tracks reflect the flamboyant and decadent stage show of the time. Lots of mime, colour and Kate Bush moves. The live footage was shot at one of their many shows at The Camden Palace, then called The Music Machine. Don't expect to much here as it was only filmed on Super-8 cameras. It is however, a vital recording of The Toys stage show of the time. Big, colourful and shambolic.
Also included is the priceless clip of Sean being asked about his musical influences. He's reclining at his most decadant on a park bench, holding a glass of champagne, and whilst intending to nonchalantly reply; "Bowie....Eno..." his words come out, Stanley Unwin style as "BONEY M !" Also there's the interview where no one apart from, ironically a totally unintelligible Paddy Phield, will answer any of the questions. It's been somewhat chopped-up for this release, but it does make it more 'happening' !
So there it is, Act 1 in the Cuddly Toys story.
Anyone who has discovered the band in recent years through the internet could be forgiven for thinking that the story of Cuddly Toys began and ended with this album and this line-up. This however is FAR from the truth. When the band split after making it, Sean put together a new line-up and along with the new members came a new level of sophistication. The frivolous nature of the earlier band had gone, Sean started taking the whole affair more seriously. Stage shows became BIG extravaganzas, the new songs had a depth and sound far outstripping what had gone before. Effective though Faebhean Kwest's guitar playing undoubtably was, it could not compete with the virtuoso of Terry Noakes. The drum sound not only had a new power but a fine-tuned deftness with Paddy's replacement, 19 year old Robert Barker. The mesmeric keyboard sounds and a lot of the band's new direction would come from David Kovacevic, replacing Billy Surgeoner. Sean of course would still be the driving force and creative leader. His writing became stronger than ever. Arguably, the only thing that was missing was the inventive, driving thud of Tony Baggett's bass lines, but Paul Wilson's slap style was perfect for the time. That was the point when the Toys became a SERIOUSLY great band, both live and in the studio.
This was a fun time to be a music fan and this is still a great album. Sean is very much missed by all the people who knew him. A story goes that his girlfriend at the time of the Japanese release recorded the blood-curdling scream at the beginning of 'Introvenus'. When the album was released in the UK, Sean had a new girlfriend and therefor insisted that the scream be re recorded by her! This is a band who, given their relatively small stature, had so many stories, incidents and history attached to them. Enough to rival many big-time bands. Someone really should write the book! And if any members of Cuddly Toys mk.3 are reading, remember Sean's cry of "BUY ME SOME TROUSERS!" ?
Buy this Cd and enjoy it and then buy Trials and Crosses/Someone's Crying: Plus Lost Recordings, because THAT is a truely great album.
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on 21 June 2016
A brilliant CD at long last
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on 8 September 2007
...it's the muts nuts!

Just buy it, it's great, the band were great, Ian Mcdougall's got good taste and so have I.

Cheers,

Adam.
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